A little back story, first:
I've been through some tough shit in the past year. In the past few months, I've had over five surgeries, eight hospital admissions and a hell of a lot of pain, fear, and tons of anxiety. I am now fourteen days post-op from my last surgery. Another very dangerous, scary, painful, and emergent surgery. I'll leave out the lovely details for now - I am writing a book about my experience - but this recovery has been hell on not only me, but my husband and children as well. It's been slow. Last Friday, I was in so much pain from a necessary medical device that I had to wear home - Okay, you are grown, you can handle it - a Foley catheter. Again I won't go into details about that... you have Google if you wish to get the general idea. I had it removed on Friday and let me tell you, the angels sang on high. I was instantly relieved from horrific pain. I still had - and still do have - the normal pains from my surgery to contend with, but they are much better, now. I was released from hospital with stricter instructions to not do anything but wash a few dishes (by hand, not bending to load the dishwasher), and to walk, walk, walk. Until today, I walked to the patio. It was such a lovely day... I needed to get out.
Rob and I had no idea what to do or where to go. I then remembered that the store where we purchase our bird seed, suet, and other wild bird items was having their annual Birds of Prey show. Free great hot dogs, lemonade, and the chance to see these amazing creatures - most that have an injury and have been rehabilitated - up close. So, we both grabbed our cameras and headed out to Mother Nature's.
As soon as we arrived, we saw a small crowd surrounding a blue tarp. As we approached, we passed by the owner of the store. He greeted us happily and welcomed us back (yes, we shop there a LOT). We made our way toward the small crowd and saw the sweetest spotted owl resting sweetly on the arm of her owner. Seems this owl was injured some thirteen years ago and is blind in one eye. Rob and I both adore owls and this particular creature was so sweet. Her owner caressed her wings and her little head would turn in ecstasy as she enjoyed a scratching. She would even snuggle her human. It was precious.
|That's Rob taking photos! Cuddling her owl, owl nuzzles mom.|
After I finished taking photos, I wandered to the side of the building. Mother Nature's is located on the corner of 6955 Oakland Mills Road in Columbia. The owners have turned the grassy area into a bird lover's paradise with lots of different feeders and bird houses. When you shop in the store, you can look out the windows and see the many different aves coexisting happily.
Since I 'liked' the store on Facebook and that we also receive their email newsletters, we were shocked and very saddened to learn that a while back, two of the young granddaughter's of the store owners were tragically killed in a car accident. I personally did not read this news when it came out because I was in hospital. When I did finally see it, I was so sad to learn about this. I sent a card of condolence to the store owners - a lovely married couple. From what I understand, they have only just returned to the store having gone to support their daughter as she and her husband and surviving young daughter grieved.
I saw a hand made poster that had a few photos of the three sisters. The two youngest were the ones that perished. There were pens available to add a note to the poster. We both signed it. I then noticed something new in the grassy area; a bench. It turns out that members of the community got funds together to purchase a memorial bench for the couple at the store. Had I known about it, I surely would have contributed. I still want to in some way. Someday.
A hot dog, and then we went in to do our shopping. Then we left. Sitting in the car, I didn't want to go home. I was - for the first time in a very long time - feeling great and I didn't want to just sit at home and do nothing.
"Let's just go. Somewhere. Anywhere." I said. Rob was all for it. The only concern was that the suet we purchased might melt. "It's wrapped up tight in plastic. I'll throw it into the fridge when we get home."
As Rob drove, I told him about a discussion I had with a nice man and his young daughter at the suet station. I told Rob that I mentioned that while we are new to using suet, we love the new varieties of birds that now come... except the damn Grackles! The man agreed. I was glad it was not just us that had the problem with these birds dominating out suet feeders.
Soon we found ourselves trying out roads we had not traveled, only to find ourselves in familiar territory.
"I don't want to go home." I repeated.
"Don't worry." Rob assured me.
We drove until we hit route 216. Then Rob smiled.
"Hey, remember that Azalea trail that was closed by Brighton Dam? Do you think you feel up to a tiny walk? If we find that it's too much, we can just bird a little?" I was thrilled. And, it was OPEN!
I have come to Brighton Dam on numerous occasions and have never traveled through this area. I'm not even sure my parents, who loved this area, even knew about it. The Brighton Azalea Gardens are so pretty. The only problem was, they hadn't really come into bloom, yet. But that was okay because on the trail, you could basically go anywhere. Near the water.
|Yep. Had to dip the feeties into it.|
Then I saw something I had never seen before. A grouping of tiny purple butterflies. I gently walked toward them and suddenly they would flit away all at once and then land together in another spot. I managed to get a picture of them. The photo does no justice to the coloring - almost a pale lime green with deep purple spots. They were the sweetest little things I had ever seen! Then I got brave. I slowly put my hand down toward them. They did nothing. I got braver. Yeah, it hurt to do this but I was intrigued, now. Rob was now watching me but was not thrilled about me bending like this. Suddenly, one of them turned and, I suppose, looked at my finger. I shushed my husband. I don't do that a lot, but this warranted a hushing. Then, it raised a tiny leg (or arm) and touched my finger nail. I dared not move, breathe, wince, nothing.
I showed Rob this photo, and as did, I heard people approaching. I noticed that they were looking where Rob was photographing. He photographed a few Eastern Tiger Swallowtails and this group was watching. A woman then spoke up.
"You see butterfly?" She asked, pointing toward Rob. I nodded. I then approached her; a lovely Chinese woman. I showed her the photo above of my finger. She got very excited and began speaking in Chinese. She brought her sister and brother-in-law to me so that I could show them my photo. They looked and then laughed. The married couple spoke quickly. The sister translated.
"So funny and beautiful. You will have good luck, they say." She then told me that they were visiting her from China. The woman her sister, and her sister's husband. She was married to an American.
"His name is Frank." I beamed.
"Oh! That was my father's name!" She smiled brightly. She then pointed to my earrings, then to my pendant that I was wearing.
"So beautiful. Matches your blouse perfectly." I thanked her. "Where you buy?" She asked.
"I made them myself." I said, smiling. Suddenly she grabbed her sister and brother-in-law and again began speaking Chinese. Suddenly the married couple approached me, touching the earrings. The sister spoke.
"She say, this will sell in China. Make lots of money." I nodded. "You're very talented. Very beautiful." I had picked a bit of Honeysuckle on the trail and she looked at it. She added, pointing to it, "that very good luck. It's called Jin Yin Hua. That means "Gold Silver Flower." We use it for medicine; to treat sore throat and fever. And it smells lovely." I told her that it was my favorite scent. We continued talking until her husband appeared. I asked them if they would like for me to take a photo of all of them together.
"Oh, please? Thank you!" So I took two (never take just one... take two.) I then asked them if it would be okay for me to have a photo taken with them. The woman asked her sister and she then became very excited along with her husband.
"Yes, yes! Come stand with us!" So Frank took photos of us with his camera and with mine:
I know I'll never see these lovely people again, but it still made my day. Unlike my husband, I am a total people-person. I thrive on meeting new people. I think that's why I hate being home so much. I need people - old friends and new ones - around me. I consider myself a pretty good judge of character. It sometimes frightens me how open I am to strangers, but somehow I know who I can approach. Like these lovely folks. I could have stayed with them all day. The woman next to me was the Chinese-American woman. She said, "Oh, I thought I was smiling... I was smiling inside!" That's fine.
Well, that was just half of my lovely day. It's now 2:30 am and I should get some shut-eye. I'm keeping the two Alexs awake, too. And yes, I still feel great.
Part two in a few hours.