Pausing for Bumblebees

Covered in pollen in a zucchini flower
Bliss in a zucchini flower

It is the height of summer blooms. Bumblebees are to be found everywhere about my yard.  I find them in the cool of the morning sleeping in flowers, drunk from the previous day’s feeding.  As the day warms I pause to watch them at their work, mindfully probing into pistils within blooms sucking out nectar.

They are especially fond of compound flowers, those in the genus, Compositae, the daisy family, the largest example being a sunflower. These are flowers within flowers.  Look closely in the middle of a dahlia, zinnia, daisy, dandelion sunflower, etc. and you will find multitudes of tiny flowerets surrounded by showy petals. It’s like one-stop shopping for bees.

Bumblebees make up the genus Bombus with 255 different species.  Generally, they are black with varying stripes of yellow and sometime red. They make nests near the ground under logs, duff in small colonies.  They are honey producers but in smaller quantities.

Though bumblebees don’t get as much press as their smaller cousin, the honey bee, they are extremely important pollinators.  Bumblebees are particularly good at it. Their wings beat 130 times or more per second, and the beating combined with their large bodies

photo courtesy
photo courtesy

vibrate flowers until they release pollen, which is called buzz pollination. Buzz pollination helps plants produce more fruit.  Bumblebees flap their wings back and forth rather than up and down like other bees. Researcher Michael Dickinson, a professor of biology and insect flight expert at the University of Washington likens wing sweeping like a partial spin of a “somewhat crappy” helicopter propeller,

They are gentle bees, single-minded in their work and rarely sting which is good because their sting can be particularly nasty.  I have never been stung even though I sometimes gently pet their fuzzy backs then they are immersed in feeding.  Such sweet bees.


In Praise of Bumblebees

They probe dreamily in the center

Of pie sized yellow flowers that nod towards the east

Keeping me company

As I work in the garden


These tiny winged beasts do their work

Heads up down, up down

Placing in precision their needle-like proboscises

In a sea of stamen and pistil


Gentle black creatures

Intoxicated by pollen and nectar

So immersed in their work

My finger can stroke their furry backs


I find them in the morning exhausted

Dozing in the midst of flowers

Dusted with yellow

Dreaming bumblebee dreams


Buzz and bumble

Find purpose in my zinnias, my dahlias

And sleep until the warmth of a new day

Calls you to your tasks again


Fun facts thanks to









Of a Different Feather

daiga-ellaby-h43VqtlnV7U-unsplashA cup of steaming tea in hand

From my padded perch with propped up pillows

I gaze out the bay window

Observing morning activity at the feeder


Among the usual finches, chickadees, & nuthatches

Author’s photo

Unusual activity catches my eye

A petite junco carefully feeds seeds to a juvenile robin

Three times its size


Wait, this cannot be!

This bird is of another feather

With no natural obligation

But my eyes do not lie


This little junco is clearly committedimage2977637_web1_shaw-1

To care for this young robin

As another to its own

From mindful feedings

To standing by at the edge of the concrete bath

As the youngster bathes and drinks


I wonder, what is the story of this orphaned robin

And how did it come under the junco’s care?

I would like to think mercy to save another not of its kind

2018_bird_week_15_dark-eyed_juncoI can only conjecture

But still, I find hope

In the actions of this tiny little bird

And its very big heart


*Note: According to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, “cross-species” feeding is a very rare thing to observe.  You can read more about it here.



A Serving of Good News for the Environment

Remote rives in GAARYou don’t often hear positive news of the environment- especially in the U.S. these days, so when an email from the Natural Resources Defence Council of a similar title showed up in my inbox yesterday, I thought I would share some heartening tidings.  BTW, the NRDC is one of the strongest environmental lobbies in this country, if not the strongest.  I have been a monthly contributor for years and am also one of their email activitists.  That means numerous times a month I send out emails to urging government officials to support environmental legislation.

The NRDC has filed 87 lawsuits against the current administration since its inception 2 1/2 years ago.  On average that is one lawsuit every 10 days.  Of those, 47 of those have been won in favor of the environment with only 3 setbacks. The others are still in litigation.

Some recent  groundbreaking legal wins include: (Copied directly from the NRDC newsletter)water-3340044_1920

  • Defending our natural heritage in the Southwest: A federal appeals court ruled in our favor, finding that the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) illegally approved the drilling and fracking of oil and gas wells in the Greater Chaco region of New Mexico, a spectacular landscape sacred to indigenous tribes. The court reversed the approval of 25 drilling permits, and the landmark case has national implications for BLM decisions to allow drilling. Read more here
  • Forcing energy giants to pay up: Another court blocked the Interior Department from trying to repeal regulations closing loopholes that enriched fossil fuel companies at the expense of taxpayers. The repeal would have let oil, gas, and coal companies avoid paying millions of dollars in royalties for mining and drilling on our public lands. Read more here
  • Upholding President Obama’s permanent ban on offshore drilling: A judge ruled that Trump illegally sought to reinstate oil and gas leasing in the pristine, sensitive Arctic Ocean and wildlife-rich Atlantic deepwater canyonsRead more here
  • Opening the door to protecting threatened giraffes: An NRDC lawsuit finally forced the Trump administration to concede that giraffes may warrant protection under America’s Endangered Species Act. Giraffe populations have plunged by 40 percent in the last 30 years. And America is a big importer of giraffe hunting trophies and bone carvings. Read more here
  • Protecting whales on the brink: In the face of NRDC legal pressure, the Trump administration finally listed the Gulf of Mexico whale as endangered after dragging its feet for years. An estimated 22 percent of the species were decimated by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and there are only 33 of the whales left on the planet. Read more here

The NRDC is still waging dozens of other critically important courtroom battles: lawsuits to save the Clean Power Plan, protect national monuments like Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante, restrict the use of bee-killing pesticides, stop the climate-busting Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, and so many more.

Consider contributing to environmental causes no matter what country you reside in.  I like the NRDC since most of the money received from donors goes directly to the cause.

Together we can make a difference.  For more information go to



Defending our air, water, communities, and wild places requires more than a single voice. Join the movement.

On Not Minding My Own Business

erika-fletcher-YfNWGrQI3a4-unsplashI’m going back to just making art and not being an artist.  Having had the goal for years of being a successful artist, I recently woke up to the fact that indeed, I had arrived.  That means I’m good with where I’m at.  It’s kind of like where to stop on a painting without overworking it.  Once I attained the label of “Artist” it came with art fairs, shows, social media, websites, marketing, basically business.  I am NOT a business person and am an introvert on top of it. Looking back I had way more satisfaction when I was just playing around and gifting my work to friends and family. Seeing looks of delight on their faces was payment enough.

I used to think that being accomplished was something akin to notoriety, copy-3129360_1920profit, fame, status or similar. Now, I’ve come to the conclusion after many years, that for me, fulfillment is in the creative process and the sharing. Monetary gain is just an added bonus. It’s kind of like fishing.  It’s great being out in nature no matter what and if you catch a fish- even better.

Now that I have less of my life before me than behind me, I am becoming very mindful of how I spend my life’s energy.  Do I want to spend hours at my computer marketing my work on Facebook, Instagram, & Etsy?  What am I giving up to do that?  After experimenting withbranding_131 all that the last few years, it’s felt too sleazy, like dressing in clothes that aren’t me. Do I really need to brand myself?  Seriously, I don’t want to fit in a box like Ritz Crackers. Art galleries are there for a reason.  They take 50% of sales but they could work on the selling while I could be out hiking.

Author Marsha Sinetar, famously said in her 1989 book titled the same, “Do what you love, the money will follow.”  Well, maybe.  For me, it’s turned out to be “Do what you love because you love it- and get a day job that you can tolerate”. Retirement works too. Otherwise what you love may turn out to be another form of the daily grind.

It’s an individual thing crafting a creative life.  THEY (whoever THEY are) may say do this and that, but ultimately it’s very personal what being successful is.  For some, they are content with the time invested in marketing themselves.  Their time is justified. I applaud them. But for me, creativity is a spiritual experience. Monetizing it takes away the joy.   So with that realization, I am taking the priority of selling my art out of the img_2831equation.

My last public show will be the local Art Harvest Studio Tour in the first two weeks in October.  Lately, I’ve been in the studio doing lots of work.  I will have an array of mixed media prints, found object sculpture, and ceramics on display.  After that, my remaining pieces will be in local galleries and online light.  Then, I’m going to design that patio and walkway I’ve always wanted, write more, play more music, and do more hiking. See you on the trail!

To check out my page on the tour go here

follow your nose