Life as I know It

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

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Little Birdie Told Me...

I love these words. This is the way I feel when I watch the birds in my garden. I am not interested in building a list of birds I've seen. What I want is to KNOW the birds–recognize their flights, their lifestyles, their songs. Putting a bird on a list, or checking a box that shows you've identified one, does not mean that you recognize them as you would a friend in a crowd. I want to know them like friends.

Our tiny laundry room is a perfect bird blind. Perched inside I can watch the birds without them noticing that I'm spying.

Adjusting the close-up setting. Darn it, the birds turned out blurry in so many photos. Patience, just like in gardening and writing, will turn out to be my salvation, but I have a long way to go before I get any good shots.

Sweet little Anna's hummingbird (male). They love the bubbling fountain and arrive there for morning baths (without fail) at 7 a.m..

In flew the female, who chased away the male,...

...who returned and chased away the little female.

My tame Western Scrub Jay, who knows EVERYTHING that is going on in the garden.

The House Finch is checking out the feeder, where...

...the White-crowned Sparrow picks through the seed in the nyjer feeder tray.

Goldfinches take over.

High in the olive tree the shy Hermit Thrush watches quietly. I don't know why, but I think this might be my favorite bird. So understated, but with a song that will break your heart. Check out (scroll down) to hear some of the songs and calls.

This is a sweet, little 3 1/2 inch Bushtit. Tit comes from the Old Icelandic word titr, which means small.
These birds are sociable and always found in flocks. Within seconds of this one landing, the others flew down to join him. 

I call the Bushtits little bells, for their constant, ringing contact calls.

Often the Chestnut-backed Chickadees mingle with the Bushtits.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee on left, two Bushtits hide in the shadows, and a Yellow-rumped Warbler sits on the right side. 

A Townsend's Warbler bathes in my Nonie Clarke's birdbath. I bought the birdbath for my Nonie in 1965. When she passed away, it came to me. This is the favorite bathing/drinking spot of so many birds.

Upside down and caught in the middle of a shower.

I think that the elusive warbler on the left is a first year Yellow-rumped Warbler, but I am not sure. This was my first sighting of this bird in my garden. 

Here is what I hope for you. I hope that you nurture an interest and love for all the creatures that visit your garden–even the moles and beneficial snakes and spiders. Start learning about their lives, quietly watch them, photograph or draw them. You'll be rewarded by living a life that is far richer than you ever imagined possible. The birds and other visitors will become your friends, asking for nothing, but appreciating water, food, and myriad plants.

Enjoy every day,


P.S. Husband Jeff here. Read the interview with Sharon in The Tribune
Listen to "The Morningline" on Newstalk 105.9, WLNI in Lynchburg, Virginia, Wednesday morning, January 30th, at 8:35 a.m. (which means we'll be up at 5 a.m.)

P.P.S. The winner of the fabulous book and gloves is FlowerLady Lorraine, a Grimy Hands Girls Club member. Congratulations, Lorraine!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Gatherings and Give-Aways

Despite the cold, cold nights, the trees keep producing.

I never take it for granted when I pick a fruit in my own garden.

Hello dear friends,

Thank you for your e-mails, cards, letters, and the photos of My First Bird Book and Bird Feeder, which you've been snapping and sending to me from bookstores all over America!

January has been a time of many changes and much reflection, a busy time for work, garden, and gatherings, so this will be a short posting, and it sort of jumps around–a bad habit I have and one which my grandmother Nonie Clarke called "jumping around like a fart in a skillet."

The old farm table is set for our New Year's eve supper. Rosemary, the herb of remembrance (and believe me, all at the party were doing lots of remembering of friends and loved ones) is garlanded down the table. We hadn't planned a gathering, but our friend Bruce had a mother in a local care facility, another friend had a husband in the hospital, another just wanted to be with us, so we all came together for an evening of friendship.

I always drape the dining room chandelier in olive branches to bring peace to the new year.

Susie Bassetti (my cooking class co-teacher), John Gonyer, and my Jeff.

Susie Bassetti brought their first pressing of virgin Taggiasca olive oil (an absolutely amazing taste), and a bottle of Bassetti wine. Ginny helps prepare the salad.

We all cooked and contributed and later we had a huge fire in the fireplace. Our friend Ginny passed on the tradition of writing what you want in the new year on one side of a piece of paper. On the other side, we had to write what we wanted to erase from the past year. We all did that, wished each other well, and tossed our papers into the fire.

Nights grew freezing cold. Around midnight, Jeff and I would drape citrus trees, succulents, and lemon verbena in sheets and my nightgowns.

Don't the nightgowns look like they're hugging as they do their job of protecting the succulents?

And everything survived the 32 degree weather (colder than in Maine).

January has mostly been about work, getting over colds, and resuming a normal life after the hectic holidays. Since I work alone all the time, it is a special joy to welcome my Kiddie Writers Group to my home for the first meeting of 2013.

Only my girlfriend Sherry Shahan (Ice Island just released in paperback) would bring me a newly sprouted avocado as a hostess gift. I love it.

Elizabeth Spurr (my Lizzie) has a new book out called In the Garden (pre-school board book), and another just being released, At the Beach, also a pre-school and both published by Peachtree.

Artist/illustrator Helen K. Davie, author Cindy Rankin, author Elizabeth Van Steenwyck, who is the author of more than 65 books for children, one movie, and a zillion magazine articles.

Author/illustrator Stephanie Roth Sisson shares a storyboard for her new illustrated children's book, which will be published by Roaring Brook. Steph has a long line of books to her credit, but this will be both written AND illustrated by her.

The group does very clear, instructive critiques. Always done with love and the interest of YOU doing your best work possible. They spent 45 minutes critiquing a synopsis I have been slaving over for two weeks. A synopsis–what could be so hard about that??? Everything. You try to encapsulate 250 pages in just two pages. And, it has to be exciting, have a narrative arc, AND make an editor WANT your work. Yikes. (Cynthia Bates, who won "Most Promising Manuscript at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, is a fantastic writer, who has had things published, but is awaiting word on her novel). Good luck Cynthia (she is behind the book lampshade)

Enough already. I have gone on too long and must get ready for a birthday party for an 80 year old friend. 

Please do leave a comment, and you will be eligible for the drawing of this gorgeous Timber Press book, Garden to Vase by Linda Beutler, which will lead you to creating fabulous and unusual bouquets from your garden.

And, if you are a member of the Grimy Hands Girls' Club and you are drawn for the book, you'll also receive a bonus of these fantastic, hand-saving, Royal Horticultural Society gardening gloves, which were donated to the drawing by Gardener's Supply of Burlington, Vermont, one of my favorite companies (employee owned and operated). I have a pair, and they've saved my hands from bramble and rose scratches, from cold and water, from everything. They're wonderful.

Thank you for stopping by. Please leave a comment so that you're eligible for the drawing, which will be held one week from today.

Simple joys,


Thank you to Country Gardens (Early Spring 2013) for featuring My First Bird Book and Bird Feeder in your pages. I love all the birdie products and stories. You're the best.