January thaw in February

Infeed melt

It was a lovely day out today, sapphire blue skies, warm golden sunshine, the snow melting into little rivulets of water along the road, the smell of spring in the air. I was hearing recently that this is the first year in a while that we haven’t had a January thaw, and that January misses having one in only one year in ten. This would be that one year, I guess. Or, perhaps, our January thaw just came a week too late to count.

I walked Raven up the road and down the next, over to where it severs Canoe Lake from Eel. I’m not convinced that these two lakes weren’t at one point, decades ago, a single body of water. These days they are joined by just a single outflow from Eel, a metal conduit that channels the water under the road and down a short run of rocks into Canoe. The separation between the lakes isn’t much more than a causeway, at its centre not much more than a foot above the water level. I suspect the road floods in spring.

With the warm weather, the flow of water had opened up a large pool in the ice cover of Canoe. The mouth of the conduit has been open all winter, but during the coldest days it was only a foot or two wide. Now it’s several meters across, perhaps ten or more long. Ah, it’s good to see open water again. I imagine the waterfowl are thinking the same thing. It’s been a tough year for ducks and geese as even Lake Ontario was freezing up more than it usually does.

Speaking of birds, this past Thursday I and the Bird #93 went up at Vickie Henderson Art. Head on over and check it out!

February sun

It’s still winter, though. Aside from the snow on the ground, the sun is still sinking below the treetops by mid-afternoon. This photo was taken at 2:30pm. Five months from now, the sun will still be hanging high overhead at 2:30. It’s amazing how much the sun swings back and forth in the sky over the course of a year.

Back in December I had to be heading out with Raven by about 3 pm if I wanted to get back in before it started getting dark. Now I can leave it till nearly 4:30 (which is a good thing for my productivity, since I don’t have to interrupt myself if I get into a groove). I’m looking forward to sunset being after 9pm in a few months.

On a different note, my mom started following a few blogs last year, and has recently been inspired to start up her own. With the move to the new house, and now that she’s mostly settled in, she felt the timing was right. It’s a glimpse of life on a hobby farm in rural eastern Ontario. She’s named the new place Willow House, and so these are the Willow House Chronicles.

Muddy road

The first glimpse of wet earth I’ve seen in a couple of months. Calling it earth is being generous. Although we weren’t here last spring, I have a feeling that the packed dirt of these roads will become thick mud once the snow really starts to melt.

Over on Facebook I was tagged a few times by others to do a “25 Random Things You Didn’t Know About Me” meme. Despite writing in a personal tone here on the blog, I haven’t talked a lot about myself. I thought my readers here might find it interesting to learn a little more about the person behind the keyboard, so I’m sharing it here, too.

1. I have a Facebook account, and I generally accept friend requests from everyone who friends me, but I don’t use it as a social networking tool all that much. More often I use it as a handy contact list for people whose email I don’t have. And to see how all those people from my past are doing now. But mostly I use it to play Scrabble (aka Wordscraper for legal reasons). I’m always up for a game if you are!

2. I have never been a very social person. I like small groups – one on one with friends is best – and am usually very quiet among larger groups. I tend to be very shy in new situations, but especially with people who are older than me or in positions of authority. I am also usually too shy to make the first overtures to potential new friends or romantic interests (at least the latter isn’t a concern these days). For this reason I rarely take the initiative to add new friends on Facebook or such things.

3. I blame this shyness on my pre-teen school years. From about age 9-13 I was the kid that got picked on by everyone else. It was enough of a torment to me that one day my mom even let me stay home from school because I couldn’t bear going. It took me a while to build up my self-esteem following that, but I think I’ve mostly recovered. :)

4. I suspect kids picked on me both because of my unusual name, my coke-bottle glasses (this was before featherweight lenses had been invented) and my smarts. I was the only kid from my school that was invited to participate in the “gifted” program. Not a good thing when you’re pre-teen, though I enjoyed my time in it anyway.

5. I love my name now. I get a lot of compliments on it. I’m the only first-name Seabrooke I know. When people ask my name and I answer with “Seabrooke”, they often ask, “And what’s your first name?” Seabrooke is a fairly common last name. It’s originally Old English for “the brook by the sea” – unsurprisingly.

6. I was the narrator in my kindergarten play because I was the only one who knew how to read already. I have to credit my mom with my love of books and reading – she taught all us kids how to read before we went off to school, and continued to encourage us later.

7. I don’t read nearly as much as I would like to anymore. I could happily spend the whole evening, every day, curled up with a book, and heaven knows there are enough on my shelves waiting to be read to keep me occupied for a while. Seems like there’s always other things that need doing, though.

8. My favourite authors are Scott Weidensaul, Tim Flannery, David Quammen, and Bill Bryson. I love the non-fiction combination of interesting science with travelogue, which these guys all do exceptionally well. Interestingly, they’re all men. I know of very few women who write these sorts of books.

9. When I was in high school I had originally planned on becoming an architect. When it came time to go to university, I ended up in zoology. Through university I thought I’d become a professor. When I couldn’t secure any scholarships for grad school, and couldn’t find a prof to take me without one, I shifted my focus into doing fieldwork researching birds. After five years of trying to cobble together enough jobs to make a working year (tough in the winter when the birds have all flown south), and often having to travel to find a job in my field, I began to want to settle down. So my career direction changed once again.

10. However, I hate offices. I hate the 9 to 5, the having to go to another location to work, having no control over your surroundings (offices are always too cold, regardless of season), having to book time off to take your pet to the vet or go to the dentist, having to either pack lunch or eat out. I have always been firm in my resolve that I would hold out against an office job for as long as I could. Self-employed was the way to go, even if it meant a little less security.

11. To that end, I started investigating ways to make a living that didn’t involve going to offices, or travelling to work for someone else. A friend of mine, who was an illustrator, had a couple of leads on bird illustration projects that he passed on to me and I took. I then ended up convincing this same friend to partner on a field guide to moths, which we managed to land a good home for last year. The success with landing the moth field guide encouraged me to follow up with the possibility of doing other writing projects. I am now working with the agent who represented us on the moth guide to develop an idea I have for a second book. I’m beginning to envision my future long-term career as a writer.

12. This brings me back to #8. Someday, eventually, I would like to write the sorts of books that Scott Weidensaul et al do. It would be a dream of mine to be considered among the ranks of my favourite authors. And as a woman among men.

13. As for other random stuff about me (it is supposed to be 25 random things, after all)… I played tenor sax until about grade 11, when I decided to take a trumpet home for the weekend and teach myself, because a guy I really liked played trumpet. I started on trumpet in the next week’s band practice and never did return to tenor sax. I ended up dating the trumpet player. And I played trumpet right through my final year of university, long after we’d broken up. Unfortunately, I haven’t played it since. It’s a tricky instrument to play by oneself, but see #2 above regarding joining a local band.

14. Probably some 20,000 individual birds have passed through my hands since I got into bird banding in 2003. These range in size from the diminutive Ruby-throated Hummingbird all the way up to the bulky Red-tailed Hawk. I’ve banded about 120 species of birds from both sides of the continent. Most banders complain about grosbeaks and cardinals, whose seed-crunching bill can deliver an awesome bite, but the one I like handling the least is the cowbird – they seem to have all the crunching power of a grosbeak, but with a little narrow bill to amplify the pain, the way pulling just one or two hairs on your head hurts way, way more than if you grab a fistful.

15. I have visited many places, including the Pacific Northwest, the Great Plains, the Great Basin, the Sonoran Desert and other parts of the temperate northeast. My favourite place, however, was undoubtedly the rainforests of Ecuador, where I spent two weeks as part of a university course. I’m scheming on how I can get myself back there. Also to the southeast – I’ve never been south of D.C. or east of Arizona (though I apparently visited New Orleans before I was born) – and to eastern Canada. And to the territories. And just about anywhere overseas.

16. I spent one summer during university working for a professor of mine. Half of it was spent plucking and counting flowers from teasel inflorescences. The other half was spent assisting his grad students with their fieldwork – on honeybees. I learned how to smoke and open a hive, and pull out combs to look for marked individuals. The first few outings wern’t too bad. We wore bee suits. However, the bees would still sting if they got caught in a fold in the fabric. And as the summer wore on I got increasingly phobic about it, to the point where I was only good for the first five minutes. Once the bees were all up in the air and we were sitting in the middle of a swarming mass, I would be bordering on having a panic attack. Even though the bees were generally fairly docile unless they got pinched. Eventually I was pulled from that fieldwork because I stopped being a helpful worker. ;)

17. I can’t stand the smell of frying mushrooms. I’m also not a big fan of eating them. Or tomatoes (except as sauces). Or seafood (except canned tuna). However, I do really like brussel sprouts. And peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches.

18. Despite all the photos of Raven on my blog, for the longest time I was very much Not A Dog Person. I grew up with dogs, but the last one died when I was around 11 or so, and my family never replaced her. I had some bad experiences with dogs (bites), and poorly behaved dogs that jumped and slobbered and barked incessantly and stuck their nose in your crotch (a problem particularly for women). Then I watched The Dog Whisperer. And it suddenly became clear that it wasn’t that I didn’t like dogs, it was that I didn’t like bad dog owners. And that the power was all in my hands for shaping the dog’s behaviour to what I wanted it to be. I may be a little biased here (the way a mother is about her kids), but Raven is the best dog I’ve ever known.

19. I’m still a cat person at heart, though. If I could only have one animal to live with, it would be a cat. Growing up, over the years, I lived with about a dozen cats. Only one lived to a ripe old age of about 19 or 20. Most were outdoors cats that disappeared after a couple of years to either coyote or cars (my parents’ cats are all indoor cats these days).

20. I drive a standard transmission car. My sisters and I were all taught to drive on our family’s two automatic transmission cars, but when I was in university my dad bought a standard. We learned to drive it, but it took a while for it to grow on us. Now, all three of us girls own standard cars. They’re cheaper, use less gas, and are a bit more fun to drive. Unless you’re in traffic jams a lot.

21. I’ve driven my car across the continent to the west coast. Three times. By myself each time. My longest day in the car was a 16-hour day on my way back from a work stint in BC. It was the last day of the trip, and I just really, really wanted to get home after being gone for two and a half months, so I pressed onward. I was so glad to get out from behind the wheel at the end of that day. My car doesn’t have cruise control, so I ended up spending about half the time with my left foot on the gas pedal to give my right leg a break.

22. I’ve been to only two weddings – my only older cousin’s and my best friend’s – and have never been to a funeral. My dad’s father died when I was about 8, but my parents didn’t take us kids. I find it remarkable that somehow in three decades I’ve managed to avoid having anyone else really close to me pass away. As for weddings, there was a period in high school, when I was convinced I was eventually going to marry my boyfriend of three years, that I was afraid the first wedding I’d attend would be my own. (Obviously that didn’t happen.)

23. My favourite colour is red. Through to about high school it was blue. Then sometime in high school it became red. Without reading too much into it, that was probably about the same time that I started getting some real friends and opening up and coming in to myself. I’m not sure what specifically triggered the change in preference, or if there even was a trigger.

24. I am afraid of the dark. I have trouble stepping outside at night even to grab a couple logs of wood from the woodpile without my chest clenching up. Those nights when I’d walk home from babysitting for the neighbours were awful (we were in the country, so no streetlights), even though there was nothing to rationally fear. I’m gradually getting over it as I grow older, but it still helps to have Raven or someone else out there with me.

25. Ironically, I am a night owl. With no schedule and no alarm clocks, I have a tendency to stay up well past midnight and sleep in till well after the sunrise in the morning. I do my best work in the evening hours. I find myself often too distracted during daylight hours to work efficiently. I would like to get up earlier in the morning so I can enjoy the bird activity, but unless I am getting up for a purpose, such as fieldwork, I just find it too difficult to get to bed in time.

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5 responses to “January thaw in February

  1. So nice to get to know you better. I am looking forward to your books.

  2. Pingback: travell logs » January thaw in February

  3. With regards to #8, you might try Ayun Halliday’s book, No Touch Monkey! And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late. Do you like Cahill? Some of his earlier writings are pretty funny (Pecked to Death by Ducks).

    Also, I find Facebook to be very addictive (in terms of updating my posts). ;-)

  4. Thanks, Beth. I’m really hopeful regarding the books!

    I’ve never heard of either author, Phantommidge, but I’ll have to check them out!

  5. It hasn’t been announced on my blog yet, Seabrooke, but E.g.’s already in Saint John. She’s out looking at a two-bedroom apartment this very moment. If we can help you realize your goal of seeing a bit of Eastern Canada, we’d be glad to put you up for a few nights.

    Oh, and I recognized your mum’s last name in her e-mail address when she first visited my comments section. I think her blogname hasn’t been “turned on” yet, though, because I didn’t realize she had a blog until she gave me a link. Not surprised she taught you to read; you and she have quite similar writing styles.

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