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Author: Jamie (Page 2 of 58)

Off-Topic: Winter’s Feathered Royalty

snowy owlOver the past few weeks, Ipswich has been visited by some rather impressive royalty of the feathered persuasion. The chance to catch a glimpse of these avian arrivals has coaxed many to venture out into the cold bleakness of the New England midwinter. Those lucky enough to make a sighting will tell you it was worth the effort.

The better known of our two visitors is the Snowy Owl. Hailing from Canada’s far north, these regents of the bird world are the largest owl (by weight) in North America. Adult birds can grow up to a height of twenty-seven inches and have a wingspan of four to five feet! These stunning raptors travel south in the winter, but only come as far as Ipswich if there is a shortage of their primary food, lemmings.

This year, three Snowy Owls have taken up seasonal residence in the dunes along Crane Beach. Sadly, one female was found dead (she appears to have starved to death, something a visiting birder hypothesized may have been the result of a disease caught from pigeons a few towns away), but the other two owls have been drawing intrepid birders of all ages, even on the most frigid days.

I have been told that seeing a Snowy Owl is good luck. I choose to believe this is true, although owls are not always perceived to be harbingers of good tidings.

It is because the warrior goddess Athena chose the owl as her companion that we associate these birds with wisdom and learning, but they carry other folklore on their silent wings as well. In many cultures, owls are symbols of prophecy and intuition. In some traditions, these noble birds are thought to be omens of death.

However you choose to interpret their presence, owls deserve respect simply for the longevity of their species. Scientists have discovered owl fossils dating back to the Miocene era. Owls are also featured in 30,000-year-old European cave paintings, ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, and Mayan murals. This is a bird with a long history.

Our other feathered tourist is, though less striking to look at, causing even more of a stir than the Snowy Owls. If you have driven down Argilla Road recently, you may have noticed a roadside gathering of well-equipped birders training their highly magnified gaze on a distant flock of Canada Geese.

It wasn’t the Canada Geese that had these birders all in a flurry; it was a small, white goose that had taken up with the flock – a Ross’s Goose. Like Snowy Owls, Ross’s Geese breed on the tundra of far northern Canada, primarily around Hudson Bay. Their winter migrations take them to parts of California and New Mexico.

The misplaced fellow hanging out with the local flock of Canada Geese is what birders refer to as an “accidental winter vagrant.” We will never know what caused him to be a couple of thousand miles off course, but dozens of birders are glad he decided to drop in.

Apart from anomalous cases like our “vagrant” tourist, most geese have exceptional navigational skills. They are also fiercely loyal (most species form lifelong pairs) and protective (don’t ever mess with a mama goose).  If one goose in a flock is injured and unable to fly, one of its companions will stay behind. For these reasons, geese are associated with fidelity, fellowship, and teamwork.

Whether you get to see them or not, it’s nice just to know that these fascinating birds are about town. With their snow-white feathers and arctic heritage, they bring a little extra magic to winter just when we need it most.



This post was originally published as a “Just a Minute” column in The Ipswich Chronicle
Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar via Compfight cc

Tell me again why I should care.

brick wallTell me again why I should listen to you.

Tell me again why I should care.


You told me once before, but I’ve forgotten what you said. It was just too much to remember.


I’m busy and overwhelmed and late for something. (I’m always late for something.) I have forty-seven yet-to-be-done things on my To Do list and I still don’t know what we’re having for dinner.


What was it you wanted again?



I know you said you did something with somebody and I should really check it out because, because …

That’s the part I can’t recall.

Tell me again why I should care.



It’s not that I think you’re doing a lousy job. I actually think you’re pretty cool. It’s just that I have so much on my plate and there’s so little time in the day and I only have the energy to address the really important things.

Is your thing really important?

Tell me again why it’s important.

Tell me again why I should care.


I don’t mean to be rude and what you’re saying is fascinating, but do you think maybe we could just cut to the chase?

Are you trying to change the world?

Are you trying to change my world?


Really? My world?

Hang on.

Can you tell me more? What is it exactly that you do again?




Background Image: Wikimedia Commons 

Off-Topic: January Quiet

take it slow

From my Pinterest board, “Quiet & Solitude”

As much as I enjoy the season’s glittery chaos, my favorite day of the holidays is the day after Christmas. Even as a child, I preferred December 26th to the main event. I have always loved way the hustle and bustle grinds to a sudden halt, like a bullet train finally pulling into the station after a marathon sprint across the country. Christmas is a blur. The day after Christmas is like coming home and having time to savor the little things.


And then, on the heels of the 26th comes January.

January, even when its days are full, has always brought a wintry quiet that is a welcome counterpoint to December’s spin cycle of joy. Even though most of us resume normal routines after New Year’s Day, January still seems to be a month in repose, its days stretched long and languorous by the absence of holiday tasks.

To the uninitiated, this shift in energy can come as a bit of a shock. Our tendency is to continue barreling forward, fueled by the momentum of the previous months. We become ambitious cleaners and organizers, dive enthusiastically into planning and new projects, try to catch up on old tasks, or get a head start on new ones.

In short, we completely miss the point.


Even in a small town, it’s easy to fall into the trap of hopping right back onto the treadmill. We’ve become used to cruising at 100 mph. It almost feels natural.

But, it’s not.

What’s natural is a moment of respite – hibernation, fallow fields, cats who sleep for hours after a brief but rousing game of chase. We all need time to regroup and revitalize. We need time to do nothing.

The thing is, doing nothing is surprisingly hard. Modern life has knocked us out of sync with our natural rhythms. We may not live in a big city, but the thumping, grinding beat of life in the fast lane seems always just outside the door, even in our little, historic town.

I wonder how the townspeople who inhabited this land three hundred years ago spent their Januarys. I imagine that although winters were hard, they still offered more time for pause and reflection than the more temperate months. The cold and snow of our New England winter would have blurred the edges of the landscape, muffled the sounds of the natural world, and clogged the gears of daily life.

There is nothing left to check today’s always plugged in pace, nothing standing between us and being forever busy. Industrial and digital technologies have tamed January so that we need never slow down. We have machines to clear the snow, chemicals to melt the ice, and electricity to keep us productive all through winter’s dark night. We have invisible connections that tether us to the distractions and obligations of the whole world. Though these modern marvels offer convenience and safety, if we’re not careful they exact their price from our precious moments of solitude and reverie.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it.

I don’t want to turn time backwards and face life without the comforts and luxuries of the twenty-first century, but I would like to reclaim January’s gifts for our own. January is about the pause between endings and beginnings. It’s about quiet and the art of letting go. Like the day after Christmas is a day for curling up with new books and leftover treats, January is a month to sink into the stillness of winter and surrender to being instead of doing.

I hope your holidays were full of joy and I wish you a January full of peace.

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