Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Lifetime

Fire in the belly
running with the wind
chasing shadows with a dreamcatcher
trying not to sin.

I never saw the answer

but the question broke my heart
I wished upon a star for you
I wished the new would start.

I waited by the water 

skipping stones until you came
if you’d lost me in the moonlight
I’d love you just the same.

I listened to your echoes

to your song and to your cry
there’s a story in the thunder
there’s a lifetime in the tide.

When the shadows deepen

when the dark is near
I’ll be waiting in your wonder
I’ll be fighting with your fear.

And in each blissful sunrise

in our laughter and our calm
we’ll find peace between the storm clouds
we’ll find hope to keep us warm.

But if far woods do beckon

and if perchance I have to go
bright birds will sing my song for you
I’ll be the sparkle on new snow.

~Becky Robbins


Photo: "Painted Trillium", Naples, Maine by Becky Robbins.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Show Must Go On


The moon only chases us around 
nothing better to do I guess 
And the stars just sit and blink while they watch our every move.
We're the reality show of the universe.

Dramas and tragedies 
chaos and love 
sex and suffering 
A soap opera for comets. 
Broadway for the nebulae. 

They bust out the cosmic tissues during the sad parts 
and lean forward en masse 
star-dusted brows raised 
when things get really juicy. 

Laughing and crying with us 
Giving a galactic cheer when we're great 
Groaning and throwing their tickets 
into black holes with disgust 
when we bore or disappoint. 

Some of us are celebrities on the universal stage
I'm sure 
The stones and mountains are their paparazzi 
auroras and rainbows their awards. 

And who can fault them for so shamelessly tuning in? 
Where else in this grand sea of matter and space 
can you catch such spectacular theatrics? 
The spotlight is on us and we, 
in all of our glory and misery, are the real stars. 
Break a leg.

~Becky Robbins

Photo: "Trickey Pond", Naples, Maine by Becky Robbins.



Friday, October 28, 2016

Inspired

She was withered, she was wasted
she was aching. Incomplete.
She was bowing to a master
begged for mercy at his feet.
He held logic like a dagger
pressing sharp against her back.
She feared ruin and dishonor
her soul, once light-filled, now was black.

She could run from his cold shallows
into the depths of Mystery.
But in a cage of her own making
this desperate heart could not be free.

Inspiration came like springtime
he was bright and warm and new.
His strong hand was on her shoulder
his quiet voice was clear and true.
She let go and held the answer
she walked boldly toward the door.
The master watched her go, bewildered
the dagger dropped down to the floor.

She is free now from her prison
no longer clinging to her fears.
Springtime came and Inspiration
picked her up and dried her tears.

~Becky Robbins

Photo: "New Year", Waterford, Maine by Becky Robbins.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Lullaby

Red red leaves
          and a bright blue sky

wind through trees
          whispers and sighs.

Silent now
          neither rustle nor shake

sleep sleep sleep
          in the spring we shall wake.

~Becky Robbins

Photo: "Autumn Maple Leaves", Paris, Maine by Becky Robbins.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Blue Jay

Blue Jay
24"x18" oil pastel on canvas

This beauty frequents our backyard and we've watched each other enough that she doesn't raise her crest in alarm when she sees me anymore. Such a joy to paint - it's a finger painting!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

My Maine


Photos of beautiful Maine that I've taken over the years. Music by Dave Mallett.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Black-capped Chickadee

This handsome little fellow flew into my window and was stunned. He was almost unconscious when I found him, all crumpled and cold and wet in the grass. He pretty much passed out in my hand and I kept him safe and warm while he recovered. After about 10 minutes he flew away. While I wish windows weren't so dangerous for them, I must say it's an amazing feeling to have a wild bird take off from the palm of your hand. And I love a happy ending!


 So forlorn

He pretty much passed out in my hand



Starting to perk up


He flew away about 2 seconds after I took this shot :)

Great Golden Digger Wasp




"Within the insect order Hymenoptera, family Sphecidae, is the Sphex genus with over 130 recognized species and subspecies. One of the larger and more impressive thread-waisted is the Great Golden Digger Wasp or Sphex ichneumoneus. Aptly named, as the term "ichneumoneus" is Greek for tracker, these robust wasps are known for tracking their prey. Great Goldens are one-half to over an inch in length, though some sightings have reported seeing them as large as two inches. Great Goldens are easily spotted during the summer. Their black head and thorax are covered with short golden hair. Half of the back segment of their abdomen is also black with their front segment and legs a reddish-orange.

"Occurring in North America, Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean, Great Goldens are usually seen in parks, gardens, fields and meadows - anywhere that is sunny, has compacted clay and sand, flower nectar for adults to feed on, and crickets, grasshoppers and katydids for their larvae. The adult wasps subside strictly on sap fluids and a variety of flower nectars that bloom during their flying time. Spotting them is one thing, but observing them can be dicey. Great Goldens do not linger around a bloom for very long and are quite wary of anything larger than they are. Fortunately, though they may look scary, these wasps are not aggressive unless handled and should be left alone. Great Goldens are solitary wasps, live independently and do not share in either nest maintenance or in the caring of their young.




"Between May and August, the female Great Golden, in preparation for egg laying, constructs as many as half a dozen nests. The building of, and provisions for, the nests is done in a concise, methodical manner, which she never deviates from. Rarely is there vegetation around the nests. Most sites are exposed to the sun in an open locale. The female begins digging, almost vertically, by cutting the earth with her mandibles. She walks about an inch backwards from the nesting site with a section of soil between her forelegs and head and flips the soil with her forelegs beneath her body, scattering it to the sides with her hindlegs.


"Great Golden nests have a cylinder shaped main tunnel that is one-half inch in diameter and four to six inches deep. From the main tunnel, she extends secondary tunnels that lead to individual larval cells where she will store anesthetized prey. The cells are broader than the tunnels and parallel to the soil. Once completed, she temporarily closes it after excavation by using the earth that remains by the nest entrance. The female throws it towards the entry with movements identical to those she made when she dug the nest.


"After constructing the burrow, she flies from the nesting area to open fields and hunts for any number of small locally available species of Orthoptera. Great Goldens hunt for crickets (Gryllidae), grasshoppers (Trimerotropis) and katydids (Tettigoniidae) to serve as a food source for her young. Upon capturing a suitable prey, the female Great Golden will paralyze it with toxins in her sting. If the prey is small, she flies it directly to the nest. If prey is too large to transport aerially, the wasp will walk with it across the ground. The prey is clasped beneath her body by grasping its antennas with her mandibles. Once the Great Golden reaches the opening of her nest, she sets the paralyzed insect down. Leaving the prey outside, she goes into the tunnel for inspection. When satisfied that all is well, she comes partially out from the nest and again grasps the prey's antennas pulling it backwards into the nest's interior where it is deposited in a cell with its head turned to the bottom.






"Though the prey is permanently paralyzed, it is able to eliminate feces and slightly move its antennas and mouthparts. Great Golden females close the nest each time prey is placed inside. When she re-enters for egg laying, she emits a set of buzzing sounds as she compacts the earth closing the entrance.

"After the Great Golden has dragged all her paralyzed prey into the nest hole, she lays one egg on each insect, placing it horizontally on the prey's thorax. The eggs are yellow, less than a 1/2 inch long and has a slightly curved cylindrical shape. They hatch within 2-to-3 days of oviposition, and without moving, they begin to feed on the prey's abdomen or at the junction of its leg. The feeding phase is very rapid. In one of the observed cases, the larva consumed even the more rigid parts of the prey's exoskeleton.


"Unfortunately, homeowners, who have these foraging wasps around their landscape and dig holes in their lawn, usually reach for a can of insecticide. Great Goldens are benign, do not defend their nests, are not aggressive and definitely do more good than harm. Hold that can for a moment and realize that like many other wasps, the Great Golden Digger Wasp is quite beneficial to both gardeners and farmers. So please leave them alone to do their job."**


**Text by Candice Hawkinson:  http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/beneficials/beneficial-54_great_golden_digger_wasp.htm


All of these photos are mine, and I feel super lucky to have been able to witness it. This wasp built her nest in a sunny spot at the edge of our gravel driveway here in western Maine. Still hoping for a shot of one flying with a katydid in her arms!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Damselfly and Blueflag

I went to have my trucks's windshield replaced and there was a 2 hour wait. So I took a stroll down a side road near the shop and found a very pleasant little trail off into the woods, and followed it down to the Little Androscoggin River. I soon found myself in a secluded spot on a flat rock, sitting with my arms crossed over my knees, when a damselfly landed on my arm. I watched her, very close up, for a minute or so before she jumped up quick and came back and settled back on my arm with a kicking mosquito in her mouth. I watched her eat it (surprisingly quickly for such a large-ish meal), and then watched as she did it again and again - my own little bug repellent friend! Endlessly interesting to witness - and she really kept me from getting bug bites! We were like a team - I attracted the mosquitos and she gobbled them up. The 2 hour wait was over before I knew it. As I was about to walk away, she posed for me on this wild Blueflag Iris at the water's edge.

Photo: "Damselfly and Blue Flag", South Paris, Maine by Becky Robbins.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Emerge


At the end of a lovely getaway weekend near Rangeley, Maine, we packed up our gear and headed down to the warm, sunny little beach near our campsite to sip coffee and say goodbye to the lake. We watched a Common Merganser paddle by with her string of ducklings chasing along, taking turns riding on her back, and laughed at their fluffy antics as they appeared to run across the water as fast as they could to keep up. And then Clay noticed a big green dragonfly on the edge of the water in front of our chairs. There was something about its wings...they seemed normal enough stretched out in the light breeze, but they were tender and fragile looking, and I realized this dragonfly was brand new. So we looked around the beach and sure enough we found another brand new dragonfly. This one, the one in my photo, was so new that it hadn't finished emerging from the body of its nymph form. Amazing!
Dragonflies lay their eggs in water and the eggs hatch into tiny nymphs that spend as long as 5 years hunting for prey and growing. As many as 15 times in their underwater form, dragonflies will outgrow themselves and rip through their own backs, molting into a larger size. Dragonflies undergo a different sort of metamorphosis than butterflies, it's more gradual and skips the cocoon stage. With every molt, the hump on their back gets larger - a hint of the four wings to come. But it's not until they climb out of the water into a warm and sunny morning, that they rip through their exoskeleton one last time. This time with wings! Spectacular flyers and hunters, with huge eyes that can see from any angle and wings that allow for a stunning array of maneuvers that has inspired our own methods of flight.

They only live in this final, winged form for a few weeks to maybe a few months before they die - 5 years in the water to get a few weeks in the air. This makes me think of our own life cycle. How many of us look back at previous decades of our life and realize that we'd never have reached any heights at all without those years of growth and the inevitable pain that came with it. Maybe it seems like a rip off - to live so long completely unaware of what it feels like to fly in the sunshine, only to be allowed to experience it so briefly compared to all that time spent in the dark. But not every dragonfly nymph lives long enough to grow its wings. The statistics are not in the nymph's favor. Gradual metamorphosis takes time, and time is doled out differently for us all. So. If you see a fully developed dragonfly, recognize what a rare treasure you have before you. See in them all the years of pain and ignorance that, miraculously, led to that one bright morning when they bravely left behind the only world they'd ever known, bursting at their own seams to find some new way of being. Their outer shell was shed for the last time and their final and most wondrous form took flight - displaying the glorious potential inside us all.


Photo: "Emerge", Rangely, Maine by Becky Robbins.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Old Friends

Lemon-yellow Iris
Iris flavescens

I rescued these antique irises from an abandoned farmhouse in Sebago that was being demolished and leveled. That was in 1992. And this is the sixth home I've brought them to - leaving a trail of beautiful, lemon-scented beauty behind me :) I can't imagine a spring without their pale and pretty splendor any more, and I'm thrilled to see them thriving wonderfully here after having been transplanted last fall - they've grown happily everywhere I've planted them. They're called Lemon-yellow Irises (Iris flavescens) and were first developed in 1830. I'm not the only one who's found them forgotten - Lauren Springer in Passionate Gardening tells of collecting them from an abandoned homesite and writes, “Perhaps someday they will be all that remain of my house and garden.”

Photo by Becky Robbins.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Yellow Flag Iris

Yellow Flag Iris
Iris pseudacorus

These Yellow Flag Irises (iris pseudacorus) are growing in the little drainage pond behind our house. This is a non-native ornamental iris that's escaped cultivation and invaded wetlands all over North America, choking out native plants including the cattails - an important species for many wetland animals. Yellow Flag have been banned in some states, including Massachusetts, because they're so difficult to eradicate once they take hold. But the plants are still widely available to purchase for gardens. Native to Europe, Great Britain, North Africa and the Mediterranean region, these hardy escapees can now be found growing wild throughout most of the US and Canada. They truly are beautiful, though, and brighten up the little frog pond nicely. There's no marshes around here so I don't think there's much threat of spreading, but I'll keep an eye out.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Queen of the Flowers


This queen was exhausted from banging into the dining room window all night trying to get outside, so I scooped her up and brought her out to the grass where I see lots of these. But she was too tired to move, so I stayed and guarded her from birds or whatever. She couldn't attack me so I had a chance to get real close, and we looked at each other for a long while.

Photo: "Queen Bumble Bee", Paris, Maine by Becky Robbins.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Trout Lily

Trout Lily

Erythronium americanum


We found some big patches of trout lily growing near the Appalachian Trail in Grafton Notch yesterday. These flowers take 7 years to bloom and the patches can be up to 300 years old. Their seeds have a special little tasty treat for ants attached to them. So the ants take the seeds to their babies and feed the special food to them and then, ants being a clean and organized animal, they take the rest of the seed to their designated trash heap. And the trash heap is the perfect fertilizer for new trout lilies to grow out of. This reminds me of a concept I've been pondering lately - how the dark, negative experiences of our lives can be metaphorically thrown onto a compost pile (once we've learned the lessons and important parts - the tasty treat) and from this rich, hard-earned fertilizer new and sweet and positive and beautiful things can grow.

Photo: "Trout Lily", Grafton Township, Maine by Becky Robbins.

Phoebes in the Honeysuckle

A while back a pair of phoebes nested in the eaves of our old house on a wall that was part of our dog pen, and we got to watch them fly back and forth caring for their eggs and then their nestlings. When their two babies fledged things got a little nerve wracking - they were terrible flyers and had no knowledge of the dangers of a trio of dogs. I first discovered them sitting on the top step in front of the door just as I was opening it for the herd of canines to plow through on their way outside, and had to scramble to yank the dogs back in before tragedy occurred. After that I kept the dogs inside and spent the day watching the sweet and beautiful babies practice flying, and kept an eye out for predators or some other calamity. After a while a gentle rain started and they ended up making their way to a sheltered branch in our honeysuckle where their parents would come and feed them.


I recently finished this painting of these two little fledglings and I call it “Phoebes in the Honeysuckle”. The whole process - from witnessing the event to putting color on canvas - was a wonderful blessing and a treasured experience.

Phoebes in the Honeysuckle

 9"x12" watercolor on canvas 

Red Trillium and a Sneaky Spider

The stone walls along our road are lined with red trillium right now. They don't all have spiders hiding behind them, though 🕷

Imagine

Have you ever heard of imaginal discs? They're tucked away inside caterpillars during the embryonic stage and carry all the genetic information necessary to be a butterfly. But they lie dormant until the caterpillar spins its cocoon and releases enzymes that literally dissolve its entire body. From this goo only the imaginal discs, and enough nerve cells to keep the memories of life as a caterpillar, remain. And from these imaginal discs grow a whole new creature - new eyes, new wings, new legs, new organs, new everything. And for some caterpillars the imaginal discs start to develop into butterfly parts before the cocoon is even spun. You can't see it from the outside, but inside wings are beginning to grow.

Maybe humans, probably only on a metaphysical level but who knows, have something like imaginal discs lying dormant inside of us, too. I suspect I've maybe even known some particularly wondrous treasures whose metamorphosis began before they curled up for that last and deepest sleep. Walking amongst us, they look perfectly ordinary from the outside. It's only when you look far far inside that you realize they've already got everything they need to fly.


~Becky Robbins

Baby Red-backed Salamander


Baby Red-backed Salamander

 20"x16" oil pastel and mixed media on canvas


This friend lives in my backyard. He was just a tiny one inch long baby when I found him under a log last fall :)

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

 12"x12" watercolor on canvas


This was the fine fellow I hung out with last spring after he flew into a window and was dazed for 10 minutes or so. This is my very first watercolor on canvas - super tricky and fun!

Higher Ground

Smashing and crashing
reaching and preaching
Too cold by the window
too hot by the fire
Too bad for your pedestal
too good for your pyre
I’ll race you through fields
I’ll splash through the streams
you’ll find me in the willow
you’ll tell me your dreams.

I’m sick of blue skies

the gray winds should blow
I want empty beaches
I want barren white snow
I’ll pass you on the mountain
reach the top all alone
You’re angry with my attitude
you don’t like my tone.

Bashing and flashing

teaching, beseeching
You’ll wait by the front door
you’ll call me a liar
too good for your hatred
too bad for your choir
I’ll run across tightropes
I’ll balance on beams
But you’ll walk on the water
your golden ark gleams.

Searching for sunlight

I’ve faced every foe
I’ve found the arrow
but where is the bow?
I’m higher than eagles now
headed for home
You’re right there beside me
and this mountain’s our own.

~Becky Robbins


Photo: "Singepole Mountain", South Paris, Maine by Becky Robbins.