Winging It

Female Great-Tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus)

Having packed, moved, and unpacked, I’m left with piles of stuff to sort and store as well as a realization that, not having been out in the world for nearly three weeks, I have no idea what nature’s been up to.

Lacking current photos, I decided to wing it, and begin posting again with a few backward glances: this one, to last summer’s splendor at Galveston’s Broadway cemeteries.

Each of the seven cemeteries is rich in history, filled with traditional statuary and markers designating the resting places of notable individuals, but in two or three, seasonal wildflowers are allowed to flourish until they go to seed:  a display that calls to humans as much as it pleases the pollinators. Which flowers appear can vary; last year, Coreopsis and Gaillardia predominated.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

Each year, as wingèd creatures of various sorts gather around the angels, it’s easy to imagine those concrete wings twitching a little — who wouldn’t want to join the butterflies, bees, and birds in a flight among the flowers?


Comments always are welcome.

67 thoughts on “Winging It

  1. That’s a great grackle picture, even if the bird look a bit bedraggled, or maybe in part because it does. You know how fortunate you are to have those wildflower-covered cemeteries so close at hand.

      1. I had a sense you were off traveling somewhere, because of changes in your posting and commenting routines. Happy — and safe — travels to you and Eve.

        Your ‘look’ made me smile, not because of the typo, but because it brought back memories of Liberian English. There, the same statement probably would have been phrased, ‘that bird, he look a bit bedraggled.” It always was fun to hear the different constructions.

    1. I wondered at the time whether it might be a young bird, in the process of feathering out. I’ve seen that cut-velour texture in the feathers of other young birds. Of course, I might have caught it in the process of ruffling its feathers, too. In any case, I’m quite fond of the photo.

  2. The butterfly is fabulous and so are the flowers in the cemetery. The old cemeteries are wonderful if they are just sort of partially kept. There is no need for utter neatness when the flowers are allowed to bloom and to brighten the old moss covered tomb stones. I love old places like the one in your post. Sometimes one can find beautiful old roses and a lovely grouping of naturalized flowers that seem to be so at home among the weathered stones.

    1. One of the great delights last spring was the number of flower-filled cemeteries around the state. I have a list tucked away for next spring, just in case conditions are right for a similar bloom. It may not happen, of course, but it might — and there could be new places to discover, as well.

      At the Broadway cemeteries, the ones that are allowed to flower are next to those that have been trimmed within an inch of their little, lawn-like lives. It’s instructive, to say the least. Apparently every cemetery caretaker who allows the flowers to bloom hears from people who don’t like the ‘weedy’ look, but it’s a great opportunity for education about the importance of native plants, pollinators, and such.

  3. Beautiful butterfly. Your camera is great. Love those old cemeteries with the old tombstones covered in lichens. I think old cemeteries are interesting and you never know what you are going to find, especially in the spring. I lost my first comment so I made this one brief.

    1. Well, the lost has been found! I was glad for your mention of the lichens. Old, weathered stones can be beautiful, and the mosses and lichens certainly add to the effects. Sometimes I wish they were a little less weathered and mossy, so that the text was more readable, but most of the time the names and dates can be figured out if they’re studied a bit.

    1. That’s interesting. When I lived in Iowa, robins were that sign of spring. Sometimes, they’d show up a bit early and have to contend with snow and frozen ground, but they coped.

      Here, coots, ospreys, and white pelicans are the ones I watch as signs of turning seasons. Every year, I’ll see two or three coots show up at the marinas two or three weeks before the bulk of them arrive to enjoy their southern winter. I always wonder if they’re scouts, or if they just were impatient and wanted to get on the road. There are a few who don’t leave in spring, either. In the August heat, I wonder if they’re reconsidering their decision.

      1. The robins are the first to arrive here as well, followed quickly by grackles and starlings. The snow is in retreat at that point but not gone. The grackles take over the bird feeders. In fairness, they aren’t aggressive toward other birds, just bigger.

    1. These cemeteries are wonderful places to explore even in mid-winter, but in spring, when they’re blooming and filled with bees and butterflies, they’re simply marvelous. The flowers don’t care a bit about fences, either. Traveling around the island, you’ll come across vacant lots or street-sides filled with them. Main thoroughfares are manicured, but the side streets run a little wild.

  4. I hope that the move went well and that you are now settled into your new digs. I have read enough recently about unscrupulous moving companies that the experience of moving can be made even more stressful than it inherently is.

    1. I’m not entirely settled, as my day’s still filled with rhetorical questions like, “Now, where is that (fill in the blank).” But the boxes are gone, each piece of furniture has found its place in the new space, and the plants all have been repotted. I don’t have a single complaint about the moving company. Eventually, I did find a few scratches on the furniture, on table legs and such, but I can easily repair them, so it’s not an issue.

  5. I have seen that cemetery and I’m glad they don’t mow and let the wild flowers grow. Moving is always difficult. We didn’t move, but had our house painted and had to empty out rooms. It really opened up our eyes to thinning out 20 years of stuff.

    1. I’m laughing — in my old apartment, the management was more than willing to put in new carpet and repaint, as long as I moved everything out so they could work. Now, I have new paint and plank flooring, and all it took was moving to a different apartment. I’m not sure it wasn’t easier.

      But aren’t we glad that nature’s so full of “stuff”?

  6. I’m very glad that your camera wasn’t misplaced during the move. Back to your usual excellence! Lovely shots; I love the splash of yellow in each photo–a very nice wake-up!

    1. When the first squirrel showed up, there was a brief moment of panic when I couldn’t find the camera. Then, I had no idea where the lenses were, even though I’d seen them in the past hours. Then, I was sure I’d put my card holder here, but it seemed to have moved to there. Let’s just say reaching the point where those objects have found their permanent homes has been a blessing!

      The yellow is cheerful, isn’t it? Our seasonal holiday colors are lovely — red, green, and blue — but there’s just something about that summertime yellow that’s especially pleasing.

    1. It was pretty nice yesterday, and today’s projected to be warmer, and the weekend is hitting the ‘glorious’ end of the spectrum. It’s time to get outside, for sure. The only question is which place to visit — with Sunday’s warmth, the coast sounds good.

  7. These are lovely photos, Linda. Great shot of the butterfly, and the bird, even if a bit disheveled, also looks inquisitive and friendly. I cannot imagine anyone objecting to the beautiful wildflowers, I wish all the cemeteries could be like that.

    1. ‘Inquisitive’ is just the right word for that bird. Obviously, it didn’t hear the advice to not ruffle its feathers! As for the butterfly, I was pleased to get a photo that made identifying it so easy: the two ‘eyes’ are one clue, as well as the little white spot inside the larger orange patch just above.

      I’ve decided the serious complainers about cemetery wildflowers fall into two general camps: the obsessives, who trim the grass along their sidewalks with scissors to ensure every blade being arranged just so, and the general complainers, who find fault in absolutely everything. I could be wrong, but I’m not sure any of them has experienced being made happy by a flower.

      1. ha! I like that about not getting your feathers ruffled. The objectors to wildflowers should also smooth their feathers, take off their hair shirts, un-stick their craws, stop feeding their bugbears & pet peeves, and don’t let it get their goat. :)

    1. I agree, although I might make one tiny change, and say “How fitting to allow the lands of the dead to look like the Elysian fields.” The flowers are more than willing to do their thing, if humans will allow it.

  8. I really find the background for your slightly fluffed grackle unique. I’m used to my greens and browns wetlands backgrounds but not vibrant bands of red and yellow and green etc. Very effective image. All images are amazing but I do really like that butterfly also.The colors of the butterfly with the flowers is just really appealing.Really nice.

    1. This might amuse you. While the yellow banding is made up of flowers, the red band in the first photo is a brick wall that separates cemetery sections. I was a little surprised by how effectively that blurred background worked. I was trying for it, but didn’t expect such success. While I’ve dipped my toes into black and white with a couple of images, it’s still color that I prefer, and photos like this are a reason.

      I was pleased to discover I’d captured the marks that are most often highlighted for identifying the butterfly, too. I’m sure I’ve confused the American Lady with the Painted Lady in the past. Now, that’s less likely.

    1. We do have quite a few butterflies and flowers remaining, although these photos were taken in late spring and early summer. What you say about the unpleasant humidity is on target, for sure. “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” is a cliché because it’s absolutely true! Of course, we have humidity in the winter, too, which is great — if you like fog.

  9. Our grackles are a different breed, Quiscalus quiscula, and generally empty our feeders when they pass through. Our cemeteries are definitely of a different breed. We plan on cremation, but if we could fertilize those Coreopsis and Gaillardia fields we might have to rethink our plans.

    1. Grackles can be greedy birds, no matter the species. They’re assertive, too, even when they’re gathered in environments like our grocery store parking lots. They’re as likely to make a dive for the doughnut you’ve carried out of the store as a gull would be.

      I’d never asked a search engine whether human ashes are as useful in a garden as wood ash. In short, the answer’s no: this was the first article I came across, and it was very interesting. Now I’m wondering about the chemical composition of Miss Dixie’s remains, which still are hanging around on a shelf. I think I’ll put exploring that issue off until after the first of the year.

      1. Hmmm. We had intended to have our ashes mixed, including our dogs, and cast to the breezes (hopefully with no upwinds for the designated spreader) atop a mountain that is mostly bare rock. The idea being that we would end up nestled in fissures as the wind scattered us about. My folks are scattered in the Atlantic Ocean. Probably didn’t make the water any saltier than it already is.

        Three women in a local town started a business with loved one’s ashes embedded in blown glass spheres that they could keep on a mantle or elsewhere. Not sure I’d want part of me stuck in glass for whatever future the planet holds until our sun goes poof. But at that time it most likely won’t matter on any level. I think we’ll stick with our plan as scattered ashes would have less effect being distributed thinly over a large area. But I do appreciate the shared link for learning what the consequences of spreading ashes might be.

        1. It intrigued me because I had my mother’s ashes buried next to my dad in Iowa. I’d always assumed that burying was as good as scattering, but apparently that’s not so. One of these days I’m going to have to decide what to do with Dixie Rose’s ashes.

          The most amusing anecdote regarding such matters involved a friend in Salt Lake City who was in the last stages of terminal disease, and who spent many hours discussing things with her kids. I’ll never forget the day she fixed them with a steely eye and said, “Just don’t scatter my ashes over water.” When they asked why, she rolled her eyes and said, “You know I can’t swim.”

          1. Swimming does seem a moot point at that final stage.

            I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it to you before, but probably have since I can’t remember who I told what to, that we will be cremated also and our ashes mixed with those of our dogs (sadly I buried Cassie’s before we decided on our plan) and scattered on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia, a place we love. The dogs were never there but, as dogs do, they would want to be with us. It’s in our wills along with a nice bit of money for a weekend getaway for the friend, much younger than we, and his family to enjoy Bar Harbor and the park. In this case, you can take them with you.

    1. Many thanks, Maria. It was fun going back through the images from that time. The history contained on some of the stones is as interesting as the flowers are beautiful.

    1. That’s good, because I know I’ll be doing more “here’s one from the archives.” For one thing, when things begin to bloom, there can be so much arriving, so fast, that there’s just no way to keep up with chronological posting. Besides, there’s nothing so much fun in deep January as going through photos from other seasons — and looking forward, as well as back.

  10. Your photo of the American lady is fantastic, Linda — such clarity! And don’t fret over not having time to get out and about while your stuff is still in boxes — I, for one, am perfectly content to revisit the sunny and warm days of several months ago!!

    1. And I’m glad for that, Debbie. For one thing, I have some really wonderful photos I haven’t shared yet, and want to. There’s just so much out there — when everything is blooming like crazy, it’s easy to pile up photos, but hard to pick which ones to post.

      At least the boxes are empty now, and disposed of. Even better, there aren’t many piles of stuff just sitting around, waiting to be given a home in a drawer or closet. I even have my Christmas tree up — I just need to get the lights and decorations on it. Maybe tomorrow!

    1. I have a friend who never sees a pelican or raptor soaring without saying, “I wish I could do that.” I tell her she has the Icarus gene — maybe you do, too!

        1. No, I never have. I’m usually beating around some old unpaved back road or field in something like a falling-apart landrover or some kind of old pickup with wing windows and truly impressive rust.

    1. I’ve never found cemeteries gloomy or ghostly, and I think having a few wildflower-filled ones around is splendid. Besides, that old expression about “pushing up daisies” had to start somewhere. Maybe it’s rooted in the old burial grounds that weren’t so obsessed with meeting standards as strict as the strictest HOA.

  11. Stunning evocative photos! Sp pleased to hear all went well with the move, it sure is hard going though so can easily see how you lost three weeks to it. Good luck with the sorting, it’s always hard finding places for things in a new

    1. Everything is sorted, now. The grandmother clock has been restarted, the Christmas tree is up and decorated, and the plants that needed repotting have fresh soil. There are still a few pictures to be hung, and a few changes surely will be made, but once a good cleaning is done, I’ll be ready to declare the “moving” chapter closed. It already feels like home: now, to get the bird feeders up and invite a few feathered guests!

      I so enjoy these cemeteries. I was more than pleased to see all these wings collected there, along with the flowers!

    1. By Sunday, the boxes were emptied and disposed of, and I actually got out for an hour at a local nature center — where I found the berries tucked into the disintegrating tree stump. Now, the Christmas tree’s up, the gifts are mailed, and the closet’s organized. This Sunday, I’m looking forward to an entire day roaming the countryside.

    1. I was pleased to get such a clear look at the particular marks that help to identify the American Lady — and, yes, that grackle is quite a sight. I didn’t realize at the time how disheveled it was.

      I’m pretty much settled. The piles are gone and the bookshelves are up — tomorrow night I’m having my first dinner guest in the new place, since the stove and oven work. I’m still shuffling pans around a bit, but I always do that.

  12. This was such a beautiful post, and now here at KFC (so great for healthy eating but they have good wifi) I am able to send you a thumbs up! The colors in that first image are stunning, and any leisurely stroll through a peaceful wildflower-adorned cemetery is a peaceful one.

    So glad you’re in your new GPS location, in time for enjoying Christmas and seeing the New Year arrive!

    1. I like my new spot, for a variety of reasons. One is that the patio turned out to be much larger than I realized, and it will be nice during sitting-outside weather. I’m not so fond of having no direct sunlight into the place, but it is the darkest time of the year. I’m hoping that as the sun begins moving north again, I’ll have more morning light. Of course I can go outdoors, but that’s somehow different. I’m just glad I didn’t make the move while Dixie Rose still was with me — she loved laying in the sun, and that wouldn’t be possible here.

      Sorry to hear about your trials and tribulations with WP. I remember that I got thrown into the new block editor when they made a CSS change to my theme, and it took some time to find my way out of that mess. Hearing about your experience, I bookmarked my stats page, the post editing page, and the admin page for both of my blogs, just in case.

      1. Battery ran out of juice, I picked up a few groceries, went home and gave the computer a boost and am now at the nearby restaurant to get that next post out of drafts. Smart gal to bookmark, which I did and it worked until about six months ago. Wonder why they keep trying to herd us into ‘the herd’ instead of letting the renegades do what they want?!!!

        So glad you’re in the new place, new light – and yes, that sun surely moves a lot there from solstice to solstice, and it is very dramatic here. In June the western sun is so strong that no paintings can hang on the far wall, yet now the sun does not consider drifting in that direction!

        Dear Dixie Rose; her spirit stays with many of us, thanks to you!

  13. I love when cemeteries are allowed to go a little wild. Is that greenthread in the last shot?

    I hope you’re all settled in now! Call Scott and me if you happen to venture out to San Bernard or Brazoria it Galveston for some naturing. We’d love to join you.

    Merry Christmas, Linda!

    1. I think those flowers are tickseed, or goldenwave: Coreopsis basalis There was a huge field of them out at Brazoria last spring; one of the prettiest spreads I’ve ever seen.

      I am settled. The only thing I can’t find at this point is a collection of cloth napkins, but I know they’re in the house somewhere. When I put the Christmas stuff away, I’ll do another good inventory of what’s where, and they’ll turn up. I’m really eager for the new year, and a little more routine. More routine means more free time for roaming, too — I’ll be sure to give you a call!

      Merry Christmas to you and Scott, and the whole clan. Here’s to a great new year!

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