How do our fine-feathered friends withstand the snow and cold?

We just got hit with a couple of back-to-back snowstorms, bringing back painful memories of last winter here in the Northeast (four feet of snow!). I love to feed the birds and have often wondered how they survive blizzard-like conditions.

Just to show how wonderful creation can be, here is a very informative article about how birds survive storms. They may appear to be small and helpless, but obviously their Creator has equipped them well for survival.

Bryce Mullet Winter Robin
Bryce Mullet Winter Robin, Flickr Creative Commons

Here’s a tease:

With threats of a monster blizzard barreling towards the Northeast this weekend, many people are stocking up on supplies and planning movie marathons. But how will the birds survive the storm? The answer is threefold: Location, preparation, and adaptation.

Shelter in Place

When bad weather hits, birds generally seek shelter in microhabitats, such as inside a thick hedge, or on the downwind side of a tree—in this case, being petite has its advantages. Hunkering down in these spots can protect them from wind, rain, and even cold (it’s warmer closer to the ground). Birds that nest in cavities, including woodpeckers, bluebirds, and chickadees, can also hide out in their tree holes.

Click here to continue reading.

If you’ve never fed birds before in the winter, give it a try! You can be surprised with some amazing visitors:

bluebird on suet-640
Rare February visit of the Eastern Bluebird (5 of them came to the feeders!)

As you can imagine, this made me quite late for work!🙂 God’s creation is a wonderful thing.

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Finding light and life in the midst of January stillness and cold

My January column for the Catholic Free Press

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The long Christmas break (along with the mild weather) is over and reality comes back with a thud. The prospect of a long winter ahead is daunting especially with memories of the epic snowfall amounts of last year still haunting many of us.

I once anticipated January with dread. Winter can be dark, oppressive and confining: the arctic air and biting winds… the deep snows burying the landscape … ice covering the streets and sidewalks … darkness that greets us when we rise and meets us at the end of each work day.

January is a quiet month. Birds don’t come to the feeder; their songs no longer greet me in the morning. Crickets and locusts have gone silent at night.

January was a month without life.

outermost-houseThen I read Henry Beston’s classic, The Outermost House. Beston chronicles a year of his life spent in solitude in an isolated one bedroom cottage which he built and christened the Fo’castle. Built in 1925, the 20 ft. x 16 ft. cottage was located at the edge of Coast Guard Beach in Eastham (now part of the Cape Cod National Seashore). Named a National Literary Landmark in 1964, it was washed out to sea by the Blizzard of ’78.

Originally planning to spent two weeks at the cottage, Beston was so taken with the “beauty and mystery of this earth and outer sea … that [he] could not go.” During that year he wrote of the change of seasons and its effect upon his surroundings: the birds, animals, and insects; vegetation; the sand and the waves; the stars in the night sky. His prose is poetic, painting vivid pictures of color and texture. He describes the chaos and despair aroused by a devastating blizzard which nearly washed away his cottage, putting his life in peril. Yet even in the bleakest of settings, Beston’s writing inspires wonder and awe.

The Outermost House changed my perception of January because of Beston’s descriptions of arctic birds migrating down from the north, resting on the beach in the dead of winter. That description lifted me out of my own small circumstance and reminded me that life still goes on around me.

Brian Gratwicke Arctic tern, Flickr Creative Commons
Brian Gratwicke Arctic tern, Flickr Creative Commons

There was not only life, but light in the darkness: “Light came slowly into the world, coming not so much from the east as from some vague, general nowhere – a light that did not grow brighter but only increased in quantity.” It reminded me that by the end of January, the sky becomes pink again by the time I leave the office. The days are growing longer and the light, brighter.

January is not unlike time spent in the womb, waiting to be born. The caterpillar metamorphoses into a butterfly within the confines of the cocoon and breaks through into the sunlight. The baby, its delicate features forming nine months inside the dark, protective womb of its mother, emerges into the light at birth.

We just celebrated the coming of such a baby who brought his eternal Light into the world. His Light pierces the darkness and brings new life.

Ivan Saracino Christ's nativity, Flickr Creative Commons
Ivan Saracino Christ’s nativity, Flickr Creative Commons

So, rather than give in to the melancholy that can come with the conclusion of Christmas and the reality of winter, I seek instead to embrace this Light. It may be cold, snowy and dark outside but within, that Light will increase in brightness and quantity as I take advantage of the quiet of January to bask in it.

The arctic birds are returning to the Outer Cape. The days are growing longer. In the repose of January it is time to partake of the Light of Christ.

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The aftermath of Superstorm Sandy

This is what happened to us … and yet I feel blessed.

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We knew this tree would fall. In the last post I showed how one half of the tree fell during a microburst. The tree that fell yesterday was leaning east and the wind came from the east. Inevitable.

It so happens our neighbor cuts up trees for firewood and he came right over and dug in. God is good.

I do feel blessed when I see the unending tweets of all that has happened in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Twitter was my lifeline yesterday after the power went out, keeping me connected with the rest of the world.

Because my son lives in Brooklyn, I was paying special attention and was horrified when I read of the fire at Breezy Point on the Rockaway penisula that wiped out 80-100 homes, homes that had already been flooded! Seeing the photos of streams of water flowing into subway tunnels and streets reminded me of the suffering that New Yorkers will be enduring over the next few weeks.

New Jersey took the direct hit and Atlantic City was totally flooded. Details, I’m sure, will be forthcoming on the extensive damage in that state.

Last night I was glued to my emergency radio listening to the Connecticut governor who was beside himself over the catastrophic flooding taking place on the southern side of the state.

I couldn’t pray with words. All I could do was depend upon the Spirit to supply the prayers for me as I thought of the suffering going on because of Hurricane Sandy.

It is good that God will supply us with all we need, including the prayers to pray for others.

How did you make out?

Click to Tweet & Share: The aftermath of Sandy – why I feel blessed http://wp.me/p2D9hg-ii

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Waiting for Hurricane Sandy …

As a weather nut, Hurricane Sandy is a fascinating thing to watch even as I wait nervously for her arrival. I live in Central Massachusetts and as you can see on the chart, we are going to get hammered.

Our yard is populated with oak trees and one in particular at the end of our driveway is of concern. That tree used to be two trees together. During a microburst several years ago, we lost one half and it barely missed our neighbor’s house!

The other half stands menacingly close to our house; should it fall, hopefully it will fall away from the house; the trajectory seems to suggest that it would.

http://www.weather.com/weather/hurricanecentral/storms/2012/SANDY

Winds around here are going to run between 40-60 mph and last two full days! That can do a lot of damage. Needless to say, whatever leaves remain on the trees will be down for cleanup next weekend.

I am concerned too for our son, Stephen, who lives in Brooklyn, NY. The storm surge in that area is predicted to be quite dangerous. As you can see from the map, if the ocean waters surge into the bay, they have nowhere to go but towards the East River and Manhatten. Brooklyn is close by …

blog.weathernationtv.com/2012/10/26/hurricane-sandy-potentially-devestating-for-the-northeast/

Still, despite the concern, I also have an insatiable and morbid curiously about this storm. The last time a storm of this magnitude happened was in 1991; it was dubbed The Perfect Storm. Immortalized through the book by Sebastian Junger and the movie starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, this Halloween Nor’easter was a combination of tropical moisture from Hurricane Grace and two other storms. Among the casualties was the crew of the fishing vessel, the Andrea Gail.

Hurricane Sandy is taking a similar path. Blocked by a large high pressure ridge over Greenland, the storm has nowhere to go but straight at us. Taking an unusual curve inland, it will merge with a powerful cold front advancing from the west. The crashing of tropical into arctic air will cause the hurricane to explode, forming a super storm. The strong winds and rain will extend out over 800 miles covering the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Weather.com provides all the details.

Needless to say, we are hunkered down with water, canned goods, LED lamps and an emergency wind-up radio.

http://www.weather.com/news/weather-hurricanes/hurricane-sandy-superstorm-20121027

Let’s all hope and pray that everyone in the affected area will come through unscathed.  Fr. James Martin, author of Between Heaven and Mirth and My Life with the Saints, offers the following prayer for the over 60 million people in the path of this storm:

God of the Universe, at the dawn of creation, your Spirit breathed on the waters, making them the wellspring of all holiness. You created the oceans and rivers, and all that dwell within them, and at your word the wind and the waves were born. The seasons follow your plan, and the tides rise and fall on your command. In both calm and storm, you are with us. On the Sea of Galilee, even when the disciples began to fear, Jesus showed that he was Lord over the waters by rebuking the storms, so that all would know that even the wind and the waves obey him. Creator God, we ask you to calm the wind and the waves of the approaching hurricane, and spare those in its path from harm. Help those who are in its way to reach safety. Open our hearts in generosity to all who need help in the coming days. In all things, help us to remember that even when things seem dark and stormy, you are in the boat with us, guiding us to safety. Amen.

Click to Tweet & Share: Waiting for Hurricane Sandy … and a prayer for the 60 million+ in her path http://wp.me/p2D9hg-hS

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