A Different Kind of Outdoors

I’ve been a quiet blogger lately, mostly because we’ve been on vacation, visiting family in Southwest Florida.  The sunshine was a welcome break from our Northern NY skies that spit snowflakes well into April.  For the past five months, spending time outdoors has meant cold, crisp air, jackets, and gloves…ice-covered lakes and snowy mountains, so it was almost like exploring an alien landscape when we visited Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and enjoyed a 2.25 mile boardwalk hike through stunning Florida wilderness.

Because it’s been such a dry season, the swamp wasn’t as swampy as usual though.  Many of the lakes were dried up or reduced to small ponds with muddy alligator trails leading from one to another.

We did eventually find water, and with it, a couple lounging alligators and dozens of gorgeous wading birds.

The birds here were incredible.  We spotted so many species we just don’t see at home…wood storks, roseate spoonbills, great egrets, black and white warblers, gray catbirds, pileated woodpeckers, and red-shouldered hawks.  We never saw them, but we heard barred owls calling to one another, "Who?  Who? Who-cooks-for-you?" 

E and I enjoyed the trail so much that we left the boys sleeping the next morning and came out for an early morning walk.   This time, a fog sat over the swamp, lacing spiderwebs that had been invisible on our first visit.

Just as we were about to leave, an older woman who was walking a ways behind us called out in a loud whisper, "Come back! There’s something here you’ll want to see."  She was right.

We stood silently with her and watched the red-shouldered hawk until it flew off to a different treetop.

I thanked her for calling us back and asked if she lived nearby. 

She nodded.  "I come here every morning." 

I didn’t need to ask why.  Walking out of the swamp with her that morning, I could tell she feels the same way about this place that my family feels about Lake Champlain.  When a landscape is home, you have a special appreciation for it — not a visitor’s wide eyed wonder, but a deeper connection…a sense for how it breathes and grows and changes every day.  There was a reason she spotted the hawk that we missed, even though he was right along the boardwalk.  Calling us back was her way of sharing a little bit of her morning turf with visitors, and we’re so very thankful that she did.

Feeding the Muse

I’ve been a mighty quiet blogger lately — not because I’ve been busy writing…but because I’ve been busy NOT writing.  Laurie Halse Anderson calls it “filling the well,” taking time to do things that aren’t writing, things that feed our souls in different ways.

For me, that included visiting with writer friends at the New England SCBWI Conference in Nashua last weekend.  I attended fantastic workshops presented by

, who talked about the ins and outs of writing a series,

, who explored the concept of improvisation as a writing strategy, and

and Charlesbridge editor Yolanda Leroy, who teamed up to present two fabulous hours on writing nonfiction. 

The day after the conference, we left for a trip to Florida’s Gulf Coast to visit family and do more well-filling.  It was a wonderful week of long, morning coffee conversations and play time on the beach.

E and I spent a whole afternoon finding just the right sparkly shells for our sand-mermaid’s fin and gathering enough seaweed for her hair.

We all loved the fabulous and far-fetched sights of Sarasota’s Ringling Circus Museum…

My husband swears that if I’d been with the circus in the early days, I would have been the woman being shot out of the cannon.  Do you suppose he means that as a compliment?

My favorite part of the trip was the morning we spent in the Everglades.

This week it’s back to school and back to the drawing board, with a middle grade novel revision that I started tackling on the plane trip home.

My muse is happy tonight, full of play time and nature and Nana’s chocolate chip cookies (no, wait…it’s me who’s full of those).