Life as I know It

My photo
San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Lamp in the Window

Hurricane Irene approached, and we were as ready as we could be for her unwelcome arrival. All the boats were safely stowed and the harbors emptied. Lobstermen worked frantically and hauled out their traps.

The stern of this lobster boat is piled high with traps he is hauling out before the storm.

We piled firewood onto the porch, bought batteries, extra flashlights, a crank radio, emergency candles, a Coleman lantern, and food for ourselves and the birds. We made a final foray to the South Bristol Town Hall and drew our water out of the town artesian spring.

Gamage Shipyard in the Western Gut is empty!

The winds howled. The surf rose and ripped through beds of seaweed, then hurled it onto the rocks. The waves pounded, roared, thundered against the ledges in front of the cottage, and tossed their spume hundreds of feet from the sea.
These rock ledges protect us from the storm surge.

A Mourning dove feeds on black oil sunflower seeds while the waves crash beside him.

Goldfinch riding out the storm and eating

We were uneasy. Would a tree fall on the cottage? Was our car okay parked in the driveway? Would the old Fresh Air Camp, after years of standing on the edge of the sea, finally be engulfed by waves? And what about the birds? The little warblers, thrushes, sparrows, and hummingbirds were migrating steadily above us. How would they fare in this weather?

Watch closely for the hummingbird trying to visit the feeder

By midnight, the shriek of the wind through every crack and crevice in our house was grating. We crawled into bed and stared out at the gray night, lit by the whiteness of the breaking waves. The flash of the Pemaquid Lighthouse (built in 1827) punctuated the darkness every six seconds. Sleep was impossible.

I wandered the house and thought about the birds. Years ago, the Audubon Society had honored me with a scholarship to Hog Island Ornithology Camp in Maine. I got to help with the banding of warblers, caught birds in mist nets, identified migratory species, and learned so much about their migrations (which still remain mysterious and magical to me).

Late these August nights when we are on our walks, I can hear the sounds of the little birds migrating. Although they usually fly at an altitude of 500 feet (and up to thousands), sometimes they dip lower (depending on weather conditions). I hear their peeping, their whistles, their piping calls. They tug at my heart.

I learned long ago when working on the 102 foot Royal Polaris along the coast and lagoons of Baja, California, how birds will fly toward a light and take shelter during foul weather. We would awaken in the morning after a storm and find scores of rare birds perched on lines, cabins, and equipment. This same phenomenon occurs when night migrants see a lighthouse or a strongly lit building. They fly toward the light for shelter.

So last night I turned on the lamp in the window by the sea. The winds blew and tossed the 'Heavenly Blue' morning glory and tugged it from the trellis. And there in its place? A wood thrush, the bird who serenades us with its overlapping songs of "ee-ooh-ee-ooh-lay." This songster has a syrinx, which on us humans would be like having two sets of vocal chords. (Click here for the song of the Wood thrush.) He is able to sing and trill using both sets at the same time. He had seen my welcoming light and fought his way through the winds to a small harbor of peace.

My 'Heavenly Blue' morning glories are torn to shreds and coated with salt spray. The Wood thrush has taken wing and moved on to feed during the daylight hours.

Tonight I'll sleep lightly and send up a prayer in hopes for safety for all the people along the coast and for all the migrating birds wending their way south. Good luck and faretheewell.

Thank you for all your warm and caring e-mails, letters, and comments. We've made it so far and are thankful for the protective ledge of giant rocks in front of our cottage. Until next time, I wish you well.


P.S. Won't you stop by for a quick visit to my Lowe's blog posting? This one is about fragrant plants to include in your garden. Please leave a valued comment.


Anonymous said...

oh so sad about the morning glories, they took a real beating, I'm glad it didn't do more damage.This was a scary time for you, so scary.Mother Nature is a strong force, she shows her strength and forces us to repect her.I hope you have a super week,

Rebecca said...

Thankful you weathered the storm along with the birds. What an interesting post...the hurricane seen from a unique perspective.

Dawn said...

Thanks you for this update, it's good to know that you, Jeff, and the critters are faring well despite the powerful storm. Very grateful for those big rocks of protection.

Please continue to keep us posted!


Marigold Jam said...

So glad that you all weathered the sotrm with only the loss of the morning glories. It must have been really frightening for you and the wildlife.

Ginny said...

The birds amazed me in this storm. I had taken down my hanging feeders as I was afraid they'd be blown down but the birds were still flying to where they normally hang. It was hard to watch so I found another way to feed them (you can see it on my blog at
I didn't know that birds would fly toward a light to take shelter during a storm - but am so glad to know that now.

From the Kitchen said...

Sharon: Glad to hear that you and those tenacious little birds survived Irene. When I think of the meaning of Irene, Peace, I think it was a poor choice for a hurricane! Our younger son and his wife live in North Attleboro and we were quite concerned for them. They came through with just a lot of leaves and twigs on the ground. I haven't heard if they were able to make it to their jobs this morning. He works in New Bedford and she in Providence. While worrying about all our loved ones, we were basking in sunshine and 78-80 degree temperatures.


Rebecca said...

I'm glad the storm has passed and hopefully the clean-up will go quickly. It's amazing how wildlife can persevere... Thanks for sharing the videos--I especially liked the goldfinch holding on tightly, but eating at the same time! Take care :)

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

Thank God you and Jeff and the birds are safe. Not just a rainstorm but the wind must have been scary! I was hoping someone had morning glories this year! Ours are just not blooming! Wait, maybe I should go check! xxoo Nancy

AnaGF said...

I'm glad to know that everything is OK with you. Irene is on the news everyday and I always think of all my far away blogger friends, hoping they are doing allright.

LindyLouMac said...

Thankful that you and the birds are ok, Take Care.

Anonymous said...

I love the thought of leaving a light on for the little birds Sharon....what a kind heart!! I'm grateful you are safe!

Lori ann said...

i love that you took care of these birds sharon. the little wood thrush had certainly realized his lucky day when he came upon your welcoming porch.

i'm so glad you survived the storm with nothing more than frazzeled nerves and morning glories (and hopefully both will be better soon!)

love to you,

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Dear Sharon ~ Hurricanes are so scary. We went through Frances, Jeanne and Wilma, Wilma was the worst. I'm glad you and your DH were spared.

How neat about the birds coming to light, and that you left a light on and a wood thrush found your haven.

Love and hugs to you ~ FlowerLady

cheris said...

Whew! That's a relief. We would've gladly taken some of that wet down here in Texas!
Cheris, Violet & Graham in Austin


The videos were amazing. I felt like I was right there with you, watching the waves crash and foam against those monster rocks. I'm sorry you didn't get much sleep but now that the worst has passed you'll be able to make up for lost time. I wonder if many of the migrating birds could sense the impending storm and fly a safer inland route. They say animals have a sense about these things. Just wondering... Have a great day Sharon.

Carol said...

I'm so happy that Irene wasn't as bad as predicted. Your little hummer is a brave soul. Thank you for sharing today.


Stacey said...

I am new to your blog. My children and I have read your books many times; they are perennial favorites. I live in Southeastern PA and Irene's flooding rains resulted in the cancellation of my children's first day of school. I went out yesterday into the wind and rain to check my vegetable garden. My tomatoes and their supports were leaning precariously. While looking over my shoulder continuously in case a tree or large branch was zooming my way, I fixed them as best as I could. They were still upright this morning!

Tinker said...

Though sad for your morning glories, I'm so glad you are safe. I didn't now about the light phenomena. Bless you for providing them a safe harbor. Stay safe and be well!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Stacey dear,

Welcome!! Glad your tomatoes survived and SO happy you've used my books through the years.

Keep visiting!


Blondie's Journal said...

I'm so relieved that this didn't turn into the storm that was predicted and that you are safe, Sharon. You have such a kind heart to worry so about the birds, but I understand. Your pictures and videos gave me a better idea of what you were going through. I hope you have had a good night's rest. Thinking of you.


Marguerite said...

Glad to hear you made it through the storm all right. I had no idea that birds would fly to light in a storm.

Gill said...

I am glad you are safe

Doc Chery said...

Wonderful Sharon! thank you- great videos and pics- wonderful blog as always

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting pics and videos - I just returned from Ocean Point ME to PA on Saturday - was heartbroken to have to leave - big part of me is still there! Glad you are safe. Enjoy your blog and books!

Dan said...

Gosh, it must have been a terrifying time Sharon! I hope the birds have escaped unscathed! Sorry your morning glories took such a battering.

Pat said...

Your vivid description of what must have been a very long night is incredible. Happy to know you are all well and safe and that your beloved cottage withstood the howling winds...a testimony to the excellent carpentry skills of the builder.

Cindy (Applestone Cottage) said...

Oh wow Sharon!
You took me a long for the ride!
You are an excellent writer my friend, so glad your safe and sound!
what an experience indeed!

kj said...

sharon, this post is precious.

"birds will fly toward a light and take shelter during foul weather."

i didn't know this factand i'm glad i do now. i welcome such a reason to leave the light on (ha! the name of my first book: the light stays on) :^)

the thought of you banding and holding and caring for wee birds is so lovely: i love birds and only wish they would let me get closer .

i'm glad there was no damage and i'm glad you were able to hear the wonderful sound of the wind and waves. we are still lucky ducks.

stay warm, my friend. no doubt it's quickly time for socks


Beverly said...

those waves were crazy! So glad you are ok...the news tonight was not good for some in New England....

Donna OShaughnessy said...

So glad you fared well enough. Your videos made me appreciate the calm we have here in the midwest this week. Thanks for sharing even though I am sure you were very frightened.

Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

So glad to hear you, your cottage and those seeking shelter there made it through the storm.

Storybook Woods said...

I am so glad you are safe xoxo Clarice

Lili said...

What a harrowing night it must have been for you two! But now it's under your belt... you made it, you survived! And you were there to comfort that sweet little bird too! I did not know that about birds being drawn to light, I'm so glad you shared that with us. What a beautiful gesture to have made on that dark and stormy night, it put a lump in my throat when I read that. So sweet. xoxo ~Lili

Pondside said...

It's good to know you're safe on the coast. I feel for the people of Vermont and Quebec, both places so badly battered.

Lap Dog Knits said...

I'm a new follower today...
I'll be reading along with all your adventures on the coast - hopefully, not another hurricane for quite a long time for you to write about - thanks for sharing!

La Table De Nana said...

I have two posts to you that didn't appear:(

The first talked of the fact that your post was so evocative of what you were feeling it was like reading a book..or watching a movie..we watched The Lightkeepers(I think that was the name) last night and your post reminds me of the movie.
Glad all is well.. We had no power for almost 24 hrs.. but no damage..just howling winds and pelting rain..

The second post mentioned I received your book from Amazon today:) ..but wonder if it is the same as my friends..I don't remember Moon Garden.. Giants Galore..

It seems different from hers..
Do you know why?
Thank you Sharon..

The scond post mentioned

Unknown said...

Dear Sharon,
Happy to hear you weathered the storm on the edge of the deep blue sea! Our little cottage is not on the beach but set back at the highest point of land between the ocean side and the back bay. We always worry about the road to our place and this time the ocean pushed sand inward toward the dunes instead of robbing them of more much needed footage. I love your care for birds and plants. Animals seem to know how to handle these things better than we do especially if people like you and Jeff remember to think of them too when winds fly and rain falls.
sending love,
Deb and Boz

Shelley said...

We've been reading about the wild weather over there on the east coast lately. That and the extreme heat in the midwest. All we have to complain about here in England is the cold and damp (heat and long underwear in August, I ask you!). Your post title reminded me back to when I first set up my own home. A lamp in the window was about the only decorating idea I knew! It was nice to be reminded of that idea. Glad you are safe after Irene.

Kay Guest said...

Sharon, I must admit that I was worried for you. Thanks for your videos of the birds fighting to eat in that wind. Amazing!

Zuzana said...

These are wicked storms and I have been through two hurricanes myself, so I know how you felt.
Nature is beautiful and awe inspiring, but can be just as cruel and unpredictable.
I am glad you are safe.;)

jerilanders said...

I am glad you are safe and sound, Sharon, and the little Wood thrush too. I am sure your morning glories dropped plenty of seeds for next year before they departed for parts unknown.

Jude Walsh said...


I'm fairly new to your blog. May I ask what camera you use? I'm ready to purchase a new one and love your photo quality, especially the bird photo!

Great blog~

Mozart's Girl said...

Dearest happy to have this update and to know that you, Jeff and your little home are all ok and got through Irene (what a benign name for such a fury!) Loved the little bird, still going for food...that survival instinct is so strong. Love to you both xoxo

Sharon Lovejoy said...

I owe so many of you responses the very kind e-mails of concern, but will you settle for this?

We are fine and feel so very lucky to have escaped major damage. My heart goes out to anyone who was injured by the storm or flooding...and my beloved Vermont! I am so sorry for the loss of life and for the loss of farmlands, which washed away, and for the loss of covered bridges (which I adore).

Please know that you are in our hearts and minds.


Sharon Lovejoy said...

La Table de Nana,

No, I don't know what could be different about Roots Shoots Buckets & Boots, but I do have other books in print and maybe you saw a different one??? Possibly?



Vee said...

I'm glad that you fared better than your poor morning glory. Mine is a bit bedraggled, too, but nothing like yours. You so perfectly described how the storm wore on you toward midnight. It wore on me three hours sooner and so I was abed and didn't know that the power had gone off. We're trying not to think much about Katria...I certainly hope that she fizzles out.

Kay Guest said...

Hey Sharon!
Love the English robin at the top of your blog!

Kay Guest said...

Will you show the English robin and the American robin in your bird book?

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi dear Kay,

Thank you! I love it too. This is the little robin that visited with me at Hilltop, Beatrix Potter's charming and enchanted home. I spent quite a bit of time with this little guy.

I won't be showing the difference between our robin and the British one because this will be for youngsters of 5 to 9 years and it will focus on the birds easily seen at a feeder or in a backyard. I want them to grasp the basics I'll concentrate on about 40 or 50 easy-to-id birds for the young'uns.

Thanks for your visits!


Val said...

Here I was enjoying your blog and wondering why your name was so familiar when I saw your sidebar of book titles: I have given your gardening books as gifts before. :) 'So happy you have a blog and that your home was spared from the worst of the storm. Love to you, Val :)

Kay Guest said...

How much I would have loved your bird book as a little girl! Come to think of it, I will love it just as much at the age that I am now. Oh and of course, the book is aimed at youngsters...but I must tell you, many adults cannot identify nor appreciate what is in their own backyard. We try our best to help those unfortunate souls, don't we?

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Kay dear,

I feel that appreciation is MUCH MORE important than identification. Although, when kids identify a bird they'll be more likely to consider them "friends" and to treat them well.



Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear Lori Ann (Lori Times Five Blog),

Thank you, thank you for the wonderful antique Mt. Katahdin postcard. WE LOVE IT!

Here is a small world story:

Jeff and I had JUST spent the hour before the mail arrived pawing through antique postcards of East Boothbay, Maine for a friend's wedding. We're framing five of them in a long frame.

Jeff picked up the mail and there was your great card.

Thanks so much and lots of love,


Casa Mariposa said...

What an interesting perspective about light and birds. I've always thought that it was better to keep the lights off at night to help diminish light pollution, but now that I know how much birds depend on them during a storm, maybe I'll need to revise my thinking!

I'm glad you made it through. :o)Irene brought us much needed rain and tonight Lee is bringing more.

Here I Am Carrie said...

So glad to hear you weathered the storm and may have provided a place for the birds to come to. May your seas be calm for awhile.

rebecca sweet said...

I was in Indianapolis last week (GWA symposium) and thought about you lots as we heard news of Irene and here wrath. So glad that she left you alone (somewhat). Love your video snippets, too. What a scary time for you and the poor birds!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Rebecca dear,

I sure thought about you all at GWA in Indianapolis. Was it wonderful? Maybe next year I will be out of book production mode (or promotion) and able to attend.

Sending love,


Vicki Boster said...

Hi Sharon - by now, of course Irene has come and gone - I know it was a tough time for you all up there. We had torrential rains here as well ( in KY). We returned home from 3 weeks of travels to find a downed tree in our yard and limbs scattered everywhere. Not nearly the mess that you all have had - but a big fat mess all the same. Mother Nature is a powerful force to reckon with~~

I am glad that you are safe and sound after that storm!


Carol said...

Oh Sharon, Your heart is so huge . . . your light to help little birds caught in a storm . . . precious. You give me hope for the human race. It must have been so frightening . . . not knowing what might happen with waves crashing over the rocks so close to your cottage. I so enjoyed your videos. Carol

Anonymous said...

Well said. I never thought I would agree with this opinion, but I’m starting to see things from a different point of view. I have to study more on this as it seems very interesting. One thing I don’t understand though is how everything is related together.