All Good Things

snowI’ve started a Good Things Jar this year and thought I’d pass the idea on. The idea came from my friend Milka. When she mentioned it on her blog a few years ago, I thought it would be a lot of fun but didn’t get around to doing it. Now that so much in the news is focused on the negative, it seemed to be a good year to start.

The idea is that you designate an empty jar as the Good Things Jar. You put it out somewhere in the house. Then whenever a good thing happens, you write it on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. At the end of the year, you sit down with family or friends and read through all the pieces of paper as a way of celebrating the past year.

It’ll be interesting to see if there will be good things in there that are forgotten by the end of the year. Who knows, maybe doing this will get anyone who tries it to get out there and do good things more often.

snowSo far one of the good things revolved around a snowstorm that happened in early January. After shoveling the driveway for a while, we somehow still had the energy to go cross-country skiing. The snow was perfectly slippery for gliding adventures around the park.

There hasn’t been snow here since then, but we’re expecting six to twelve inches tomorrow. Snow always means the possibility of more time for reading and writing. So I’m looking forward to more good things…

Are you doing a Good Things Jar this year or something like it? Do you have any suggestions for snowbound reading?

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Sharks and Jaws

sharkThis shark was found smiling on Martha’s Vineyard, where parts of the movie Jaws was filmed. Humans have a strange relationship with sharks. We idolize and look up to them even as we fear and continue to hunt them.

Sharks have more of a reason to fear us. Humans kill between 50 to 100 million sharks each year, but sharks only kill a handful of humans. After surviving for 450 million years, sharks may be gone within the next few decades.

Author Peter Benchley wished he never wrote Jaws, according to this Boston.com article.

Now his widow is the president of the board of Shark Savers.

The Shark Research Institute found that the populations of eight shark species declined more than 50 percent from 1986 to 2000. We don’t know how much Jaws might have contributed to that, but the movie didn’t help when it amplified a public perception of sharks as monsters.

Shark tournaments like the one held on Martha’s Vineyard until last year don’t help either. After the Humane Society targeted the tournament and officials grew tired of the rowdy crowds, it moved off island to Newport, which doesn’t make things any easier for area sharks.

But the worldwide decline of sharks is due to shark finning more than anything else. Each year, up to 73 million sharks are killed for their fins, according to Oceana. A shark caught for finning has its fins sliced off, often while the shark is still alive, then it’s tossed overboard to bleed and die.

Sharks do much more for us than we do for them. They keep fish populations healthy by selectively eating sick or slower fish. When sharks are removed from the sea, we lose commercially important fish and shellfish. Those fish help maintain the health of coral reefs and the ocean.

shark friendAccording to a Shark Savers study, when shark populations were destroyed off the mid-Atlantic, cownose rays, a former shark prey, grew out of control. The rays then depleted the scallops, ending a 100-year-old scallop fishery.

In the wake of the 40th anniversary of Jaws, maybe it’s time to put our fears aside and become a friend to sharks. Let’s do what we can to protect and respect sharks and the ocean. Before it’s too late.

What do you think of sharks or Jaws? If you wrote Jaws, would you wish you hadn’t?

If you’re wondering what you can do, please sign this petition asking GrubHub to remove shark fins from its menu.

Related Post:
Sharks Facing Extinction

Gift Card Winner: Instead of doing the old fashioned hat thing, I assigned a number to each comment from the last post, then generated a number from random.org to find the winner. And the winner of the $25 Amazon gift card is….#3 Jill Weatherholt. Congratulations! I’ll send you an email so we can figure out the details of your gift card delivery. Thank you to everyone for visiting and for your friendship. Happy reading to all!

Cape Cod Whale Watching

whale spoutWe saw the spouts from far away: distant puffs of water, an array of fountains spurting out messages to anyone who ventured near. We crept closer.

Springtime is feeding time for whales off Cape Cod. They spend the winter in the Caribbean, where they don’t eat, so when they arrive in the spring they’re hungry. The whale watching boat wandered into a feeding frenzy of humpbacks, finbacks, and dolphins. We could see their slick bodies arch above the surface as they dove through the waves. whale surfacingFinback whales are the second largest animals to ever live on Earth. The only animal larger than a finback is a blue whale, which can grow to about 100 feet long. Finbacks are a close second, reaching up to 80 feet.

Humpbacks work together to capture food. One humpback will create underwater bubbles in a donut shape to disorient krill and fish. The prey ends up in the middle, surrounded by bubbles. Then another humpback will surface with an open mouth for a feast. A few daring seagulls might dip in for a fish before the mouth closes. The humpbacks take turns creating bubbles and eating. DSC04012_3Whales can be recognized by their unique patterns. Naturalists onboard keep track of the whales while recording their activities and health conditions. They name the whales and know their habits and companions, so it’s a continuing saga to see what each one is up to.

whale watching boatOn a cold day in May, we saw a humpback teaching her calf how to feed, repeating the steps while the calf mimicked them. A young adult whale showed fresh cuts on his skin from a recent fishing line entanglement.

A hunting moratorium went into effect for humpbacks in 1966 whales archingwhen the population fell by 90 percent. Since then, the population has recovered to around 80,000 worldwide. In April, fisheries managers proposed that they be removed from the endangered species list.

whale tailNorth Atlantic right whales haven’t been so lucky. Today, only about 400 remain in the world, according to the nonprofit organization Defenders of Wildlife.

A hushed quiet and a sense of peace came over us as we watched the whales glide through the water. We could hear their muffled sighs as they came up for air and feel their struggles for survival.

Back in the 1800s when a whale beached, people would run out with knives and buckets for the oil. Now we run to the beach to save the whale. Maybe things have progressed at least a little.

Hyannis Whale Watcher boats cruise by Sandy Neck while going out to Stellwagen Bank where the whales feed. It’s much easier to take pictures of the houses and lighthouse than the constantly moving, appearing and disappearing whales.Sandy Neck, Cape CodSandy Neck, Cape Cod

Humpback whales have been known to sing continuously for up to 24 hours. Whales in the same region all sing the same song and that song gradually changes from year to year. I wonder what their songs will be into the future.

Have you ever been on a whale watch? What do you think of whales?

Earth Day, Every Day

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“A human being is a part of the whole that we call the universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. This illusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for only the few people nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living beings and all of nature.” – Albert Einstein

I went for a walk along the ocean a few days ago. I’ll usually look for any trash to pick up along the way. Sometimes an entire trash bag can be filled. Too easily. This time, I could only find one bottle cap and a tiny ribbon from a balloon. That gives me hope.

How did you celebrate Earth Day? How will you celebrate it throughout the year?

Hiking through Words

Reading and writing are adventures of the mind. So it makes sense that they can easily be compared to hiking or mountain climbing. Each word is a step. There will be curves and cliffs, mountains and canyons.

Arizona hiking trail

Bell Rock hiking trail

You can stay on the path or wander off in a new direction. You might get lost. Just don’t look down.

Devils Bridge looking down

You can map it all out beforehand or let yourself be surprised. Remember to look back to see how far you’ve come.

Devils Bridge trail

Arizona hiking trail

No matter where you end up, you’re better off for taking those steps. Enjoy the view.

Devils Bridge trail

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharlal Nehru

“Adventure is not outside man; it is within.” – George Eliot 

The Beauty of Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

When I first heard of the most recent oil spill in Lake Michigan, my thoughts flashed back to the beauty that can be found there while hoping it won’t be destroyed.

Lake Michigan

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of gallons of crude oil discharged into Lake Michigan from an Indiana refinery last week. BP recently doubled its oil spill estimate to up to 1,638 gallons.

Lake Michigan

Every time something like this happens anywhere in the world, it feels like something has been lost. It’s not going to be the same. The environment has been altered again. And it’s our fault. And we keep doing it.

Lake Michigan

I visit my dad there often. The water along the Michigan side is crystal clear. I can see the sand at the bottom even when I’m out over my head. My dad worked on Lake Michigan freighters that hauled cars between cities in the early 1960s. He remembers when they would siphon water right from the lakes and use it as drinking water. It didn’t need to be purified.

Lake Michigan

Seven million people in and around Chicago still use Lake Michigan for drinking water. Although some parts of it look clean, I doubt if anyone would risk drinking right from the lake these days. But it wasn’t that long ago when people could do just that. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could turn everything around and go back to the days of a cleaner, healthier environment? If we could, would we take it for granted all over again?

Lake Michigan

Melting Into Words

melting leaf

Frozen gray skies melt into blue. Signs of life appear: a singing stream, babbling birds, ducks visiting the birdfeeder.

visiting ducks

ducks in the woods

Ducks don’t usually visit a house in the woods. But somehow, these ducks sniffed out the birdseed from their lakeside home. Now the springtime sound of chirping combines with quacks, reminding me how funny life can be.

frozen pond

As the snow glaciers retreat, we smell the Earth again. It smells like life. We inhale it. Slices of green delight poke through the ground, waiting to bloom. Cranberry bogs that served as skating rinks over the winter are thawing out.

cranberry bog

I’ve been revising and tinkering with the novel through the winter, but it still seemed frozen into place while I knew it needed more. Lately though, whatever was frozen has been melting into words. Whether our words drip or flood in, it’s progress. Every word, every revision, brings us closer to a finished book. It takes time but that’s true for anything worth doing. If your words were frozen over the winter, I hope they’re melting.

stream

“Spring drew on…and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.” – Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

“As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.” – John Muir

Happy Spring! Have you ever had a pet duck? Does the weather affect your creativity?

Loving Life and Visiting Friends

flowerThere are so many things to love about life that it can be overwhelming when we stop to think about it.

When Britt Skrabanek asked me to be a life enthusiast, my mind whirled with all the possibilities. Britt is one of those easy to love people and her Life Enthusiast series reminds us of all there is to love. If you’re up for an adventure, let’s hop on over to Britt’s site for my Life Enthusiast guest post. While you’re there, I highly recommend following Britt if you haven’t already. Her posts always make me smile. I’ll close comments here and will hope to see you there for some fun while we stop to inhale the flowers.

Collaboration: Pavement and Paint

Today I’m collaborating with a wonderful photographer from Ireland: Meticulous Mick. He sent this image along with the challenge of putting words to it. The photo is filled with so much feeling that I’m not sure I can do it justice but here are a few thoughts that came from staring at it:

photo by John Grant/Meticulous Mick

plodding pounding
searching
for something
other than
pavement
and paint

there are doors
that could lead
away
but they are always
closed
so I keep
plodding pounding
searching

I don’t even try
to open the doors
anymore
nothing can lead me away
nothing
but my own mind

For more Ireland scenes and photos filled with feeling, visit Meticulous Mick. If you’d like to collaborate with him, visit his collaborations page.

What does this photo make you think of?

View from a Park Bench

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Whether we choose to stroll or run through life, a park bench is the ultimate stopping place. Sometimes we need to sit and breathe and watch as life continues to scuttle on by.

On this day, a tiny dog trotted by while wearing a backpack. Other dogs on leashes dragged their owners along as they chased squirrels up trees. Girls in frilly dresses joined in on the fun and chased more squirrels up trees. I started to feel sorry for the squirrels but in a flash they were back to find food among the fallen leaves. Off in the background of it all, the trees gave out a last gasp of color and glowed with all the stored up energy of summer.

Boston Public Garden

Boston Public Garden fall leaves

squirrel photographer

“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” – John Muir

On an unrelated goat note, thank you to Britt Skrabanek for this post and thank you to the Goat Club for making me laugh. Anyone can join as long as you like goats and really, who doesn’t?

Pumpkin Potential

My Wednesday posting day just happened to fall on the day before Halloween. So to continue with this theme and in case you missed it the first time around, here’s a Halloween poem. Yes, I’m obsessed and I really don’t want to have to change out of this witch costume. Happy Halloween!

Halloween pumpkins

pumpkins glow as sundrops
pumpkinswaiting for a face
to be placed
forever upon their skin
will it be a crooked grin
or howling mouth
with eyes wide open
to look at the world
with pointed teeth bared
or a permanent smile
which will glow more
which will show more
of the candle within

Halloween pumpkins

jack-o-lantern

The Beach, a Bonfire, and…a Movie?

bonfire

Wood smoke mingled with ocean spray. Our bonfire crackled and popped, contributing exclamation points to the conversation. Sparks drifted up to the stars as the waves swished in song. Everyone huddled closer to the fire as the sky darkened.

setting up firepitWe laughed when the people in the encampment near us whipped out a large movie screen and set it up so that it blocked their view of the ocean and sunset. They had a bonfire going but turned away from it in favor of the technicolor fireentertainment. A family with young children. Why wouldn’t they want to use a chance like that to talk with each other? We laughed at a lot of things that night. I didn’t hear laughter coming from the movie encampment.

It’s getting harder to get away from it all when everything can be carried in a cell phone. Maybe some things have been gained with more and more technology to entertain us, but what have we lost?

What are we losing when we continue to block out the sky, the stars, and the sound of the waves?

beach sunset

The Giver Series: Learning from Fictional Societies

The GiverThank you to Milka for recommending The Giver series by Lois Lowry. I enjoyed The Giver so much that I launched into the next three: Gathering BlueMessenger, and Son. All four young adult novels are short, easy reads so they’re great for those of us most likely to fall behind on reading challenges.

Different communities are described in each book and it’s fun to compare them with each other, and then with our own society. The Giver shows a futuristic society that at first seems perfect. There are no wars. There’s no such thing as pollution, poverty, or hunger. Everyone rides bicycles to get anywhere within the community and there’s never any reason to leave.

But the characters never make any choices, which leads to having no real emotions, including love. A council decides everything: a person’s future career, spouse, children, meals. Individualism is discouraged. They think they’re content, but they’ve never known anything else.

Gathering Blue is then a surprise because the community is completely different. It’s a rougher place, with people living in huts and squabbling over territory. People act more on instinct or their own desires. They occupy themselves mostly with finding food through farming or hunting, though there is never enough food. Possibly because of this, they think nothing of ostracizing those with physical deformities, leaving them to die.

Messenger shows another, more balanced society. This one is based on welcoming outsiders, people who had to escape other places. Everyone finds a way to contribute to the community and it feels more like a family.

Then someone called the Trademaster appears. He has things people have never seen before, materialistic things, and they begin to trade the best part of themselves for those things. Materialism makes them more individualistic and they begin to worry that, with all the outsiders coming in, there won’t be enough resources for everyone. They vote to build a wall around the community. Outsiders are turned away. They don’t notice the connection between the Trademaster and the changes in their society.

Son ties everything up, with characters appearing from all three books like long lost friends. My favorites were The Giver and Messenger, mostly because of the unique communities but also because I loved Matty, the main character in Messenger.

Speaking of communities, I’m thankful for the friends I’ve found here. Milka (who recommended these books to me) has two great blogs: Perfecting Motherhood, a humorous look at parenthood with reviews of adult and children’s books, and a nature photography site where she finds beauty everywhere.

What do you think a perfect community would be like? Can we learn from fictional societies like these?