No longer a daughter but blessed to be a mother – Happy Mother’s Day

mommy walnut hill yearbookMother’s Day has been problematic since my mother died. I am sure other daughters who have known a close with their mothers experience that special tinge of melancholy that greets this day.

We are no longer daughters. But we are still mothers even if we don’t have children of our own. There are “children” in our lives from our nieces and nephews to friends in the neighborhood or students at school if you are a teacher. Many of you likely mother pets as well.

Mother and daughter
Mother and daughter

I am blessed to have two grown children of my own. This year my daughter Meredith gave me a gift that will assure that this holiday will have sweet memories along with the bitter. For every pang of grief I feel at missing my mother I can reflect upon the beautiful memories Meredith gave to me this mother’s day simply by giving of herself.

She took me yesterday to Mount Auburn cemetery in Cambridge, MA, just a short drive from her home. Serious birders from around the world know the reputation of this cemetery as being a mecca for the observation of the spring migration. Dozens of species of beautiful songbirds, most of them warblers, spend a couple of weeks at this picturesque and historic cemetery before moving northward to build their nests. The cemetery has trees and flowering bushes from all around the world; a perfect haven in the middle of the city for these migrants.

mt auburn 05-2011Birders have flocked to this cemetery since its inception; our family did as well ever since I was a little girl. It was our way of celebrating Mother’s Day since it was my mother who passed along her love of birding to the rest of us.

Meredith had never expressed any interest in birds but she is the keeper of the flame when it comes to family tradition. Rooted deeply within her, it prompted this special invitation to enjoy the birds, flora and fauna together.

Although we arrived at mid-morning, there were still plenty of birds to spot (experienced birders usually come at the crack of dawn). We saw or heard several warblers including the Tennessee, Yellow Rumped, Black Throated Blue, American Redstart and the Ovenbird. We also heard or saw the Warbling Vireo (heard) and the Scarlet Tanager (saw, thankfully). We saw and heard a small flock of Baltimore Orioles.

tennessee yellow rumped black throated blue redstart ovenbird

We lucked upon a robin’s nest at eye’s view full of babies. There were several turtles at Willow Pond sunning themselves including a baby on top of its mother. There was a turkey nestled on top of a mausoleum tucked into the hillside of the Dell; we think she may have been sitting on a nest for she was very still.

A Tom Turkey, all fluffed and fanned out, strut his stuff in front of three females. He was fat and haughty-looking and the ladies paid him no mind at all.

turkeys

We also took the time to look at the stones. As I suspected, Meredith found them fascinating. She does not find death to be morbid. She is blessed in that way (and in many ways). We read many of the fascinating stories on the stones and kidded around about how only the “rich and famous” (or as I said, the rich and historical) were buried here. She appreciated the scenery and took many pictures.

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Meredith has inherited my mother’s thoughtfulness. Her gifts to me get better and better each time. This latest one took some effort and sacrifice but not as much as I would have thought; she enjoyed our excursion as much as I did and kept mentioning that she and her boyfriend should take walks there. She was interested in looking at birds, fed by her appreciation of the family tradition. It has become sacred to her as it has been to me. To share that appreciation together was the greatest gift of all.

Since she has been living on her own, our relationship has changed. We have more in common now that we are both keeping house. Now that there is some distance between us both in time and place, there is a renewed closeness. The card she gave me for Mother’s Day was most indicative of that. It was a serious card, not overly sweet but very meaningful. It stated in a factual way the way she felt about me and I will treasure it always. I half-expected a joke when I opened the inside because she loves a good laugh and when I mentioned that to her boyfriend, he chuckled with understanding.

There is no greater gift than the gift of oneself. The time and effort that Meredith put into this year’s gift will not be forgotten. She is merely carrying on the tradition of my own mother who also gave of herself in such wonderful ways.

p.s. I also have a wonderful son who just left me a touching and funny tribute on Facebook. Thanks Stephen, you’re the best!

I hope that all of you have a Happy Mother’s Day too!

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Birding at historic Mount Auburn Cemetery, circa 1960

Mother’s Day in our family was always celebrated with a trip to Mount Auburn Cemetery for the Spring Warbler Migration. It’s a magnificent trip to a truly historic place awash in beautiful mature flowering shrubs and trees surrounding three different picturesque ponds. And the birds! Warblers are tiny, often colorful wonders with a wide variety of songs to challenge the most experienced birder.

willow pond mt auburn 05-2011-4

On lucky trips, you might even catch site of a Great Horned Owl nest with owlets, or there might be a tiny owl wedged in the hole of a tree, blending in seamlessly.

owlets mt auburn 05-2011-1

It’s time outdoors, time spent with historic figures, and time spent enjoying a competitive, stimulating and truly fun hobby. Here’s a look at birders from the famous Brookline Bird Club at Mt. Auburn in 1960: http://www.mountauburn.org/media-archive/bostonglobejune1960/

Click to Tweet & Share: Birding at historic Mount Auburn Cemetery, circa 1960 http://wp.me/p2D9hg-tA

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The thrill of birding: the game, the competition, the beauty and the art

My brother-in-law (the same one who gave me the Daktari DVDs) has lately been sending me spectacular images of birds from his friend Matthew Faughnan. I enjoyed these pictures so much that I wanted to share them with you (see below for gallery).

West Coast, East Coast

Since I am an East-Coaster, these birds from the West Coast are all new to me. It is particularly interesting to see the western counterparts of familiar birds such as the Blue Jay, Towhee and Goldfinch.

the big yearInspired by a movie

Matthew and his wife have only been birding since December of 2012 and have made remarkable progress. Their interest began after seeing the Steve Martin movie The Big Year about three men from different backgrounds who take a year off and travel together competing for the highest count of bird identifications. Equipped with binoculars and a bird guide, they began the fun of identification. The addition of a camera created something more. Check out the gallery at the end of this post.

Fun competition

As depicted in The Big Year, birding is indeed quite competitive, whether it’s against others or competing against yourself. It brings out the braggart in me, that’s for sure!  It’s a game and a thrilling one at that, with the bonus being that it is done in the most exquisite outdoor environment.

Spring migrations and fall outs

from onejackdawbirding.blogspot.com
from onejackdawbirding.blogspot.com

My sister now lives in Alabama and reported that the spring migration of warblers is passing through, soon to come northward. I live for the spring migration, something my mother was passionate about, passing it down to her children.

The dream of every birder is to experience a fall out and my first was last year right near my house (a fall out is when several species “fall out” of the sky and settle all in one place for several hours, a rare occurrence. In my fall out I saw 12 different species!).

Boston’s Grande Dame of birding

For two weeks in May I drop everything to go birding. Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA is a favorite place, a gorgeous haven in the city where the migrants gather among breathtaking flowers and exotic budding trees, nestled between historic grave sites.

640 mt auburn chapel 05-2011-1

640 willow pond mt auburn 05-2011-4

Visiting the cemetery on Mother’s Day was a treasured family tradition. Mount Auburn is crawling with birders, many of them experts and we’ve often tagged along behind them to listen to help us identify what we’re seeing. Now that my parents are gone and my sister has moved away, I hope to carry on the tradition in their memory. Always competitive, I prefer now to strike out on my own to see what I can identify.

West Coast birding

Matthew has been able to do what I cannot – capture stunning closeups of birds, transforming his hobby into art. Shows what a little passion will do. Enjoy!

Click to Tweet & Share: The thrill of birding: the game, the competition, the beauty and the art http://wp.me/p2D9hg-rJ

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