Just when I think Winter and I have had it — friendship over — she does something like this sneak-attack snow at the end of January. I’m suddenly up for another month of ice and cold if it means getting up early for more adventures in the white-out woods before work. Watercolor sunsets. And fierce icicles that make xylophone melodies when you kick them off the bottom of cars.


It’s -13 windchill today, I’m eating clementines and driving fast enough to watch snow fly off the car in dream-sparkle-unicorn clouds.


The birds.

When I was in middle school, I wanted to be an ornithologist. I even remember an eighth-grade writing prompt that had us assigning our friends the jobs we thought would be the best fit. A and I whispered our dream professions to each other so we could turn in our worksheets with some exact answers: She would make a perfect speech pathologist, I wrote, and Z would make a damn-good ornithologist, she explained. Probably not in so many words.


A is now a perfect speech pathologist, and I am damn good at admiring birds from afar. My parents’ first visit to my place in Iowa included an amateur bald eagle watch along the Des Moines River, and I’ll be the first to point out owls roosting in treetops at dusk (and then get over-excited and put on my 5-year-old-at-birthday-party squeal and scare the poor thing away). The Hall of Birds exhibit at the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History bowled me over with its display of hundreds of avian friends, from tiny iridescent hummingbirds with pin-thin beaks to my favorites, fierce falcons and other birds of prey, and all the bright tanagers and blue-footed boobies in between.








I’d like to revise that eighth-grade class work to say “Zoe M., journalist and professional bird appreciator.” I don’t know if I’d be more or less amazed by these creatures if I knew the precise mechanics of flight and miles of migration, but I’m happy with the way things turned out and with the abundance of wintering flocks this time of year allowing me to flex my wonder muscles.

Two weekend skies.


And one ground: A creepy-cool, nearly intact deer skeleton @ Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area.


I’m playing around with new photo-editing software, so bear with me while I force scenes of Iowa on you, friends. It’s a great state — top 15 easy, even in January, because we’ve got this space and these seasons and all the bitchin’ cloudscapes a girl could want.


I had a dream this weekend about a museum that preserved sunrises. Visitors stood on an observation deck and looked out of those extra-strength windows they have in monkey houses at the sunrise on Nov. 11, 1918 — the one that rose on the day that ended World War I. It was beautiful, but it gave me a queasy feeling.

January blues.

It’s been hard to get up in the morning. It’s been hard to go to work, and then get through work (K and I are calling the minutes between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. “the Dark Times”).

We’ve been quiet, sometimes cranky, and maybe a little bored/boring. We’re hungry all the time and sleepy by 8 o’clock because at that point it’s been dark for three hours and nothing’s going to get done anyway and it’s so hard. It’s hard to get excited and to create life and variety out of this frozen-mud, negative-windchill month.

Maybe it’s slightly SAD; maybe it’s a decrease in sunshine-fueled melatonin and 1,000 other mysterious physical functions creating a psychological kinship with my droopy houseplants these days. Our personalities and epidermises suffer (so itchy all the time).  This is the most neutral of months.

IMG_0073A stubborn sense of wonder remains, though. There are deer in bleak woods. There is dancing and closeness. There is snow in the forecast. There are weekend hike plans. And every once in a while, in small and sneaky ways, there is the hint of spring in wet earth smells and bicycling daydreams. In a few months we’ll be swimming at the lake and drinking out of condensation-beaded beer bottles on my porch. Until then, I’m trying to keep my dry and heavy afternoon eyes to the sky.


On cam-er-a.

My new camera (“Lil G15” to his friends) is pretty cute and powerful and appears to be able to take a beating — good because I’m prone to stubbed toes and stubbed lenses. The last one served me well, from its first shots freshman year Thanksgiving 2006 (I was 18, still dating my sweet-but-totally-wrong high school boyfriend, on the cusp of realizing some major things — that’s everybody’s freshman year story) through family vacations in the upper Midwest, Spain and a Mediterranean tour, and finally China and Mexico in one blitz of a 2012.

IMG_0062Lil G has much to live up to, so we took a lunch break photo field trip to a local parking garage to get to know each other better.

IMG_0056IMG_0059Room for improvement, but I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.


photoJournalists receive a lot of weird/wonderful press packets from over-eager PR people that journey far beyond the standard glowing announcement and publicity photo. These releases generally includes books, CDs (always with the goofiest album art) or low-budget documentaries to review, but I’ve heard tales of weighty mystery packages that reveal miniature porcelain toilets, one (just one) bejeweled shoe, condoms (sent to the college newspaper) or jars of moonshine.

As a features editor in college, we handled mostly music release information, and this Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials band photo is by far my favorite journalistic acquisition. The ridiculous pose speaks to me. I’ve held on to the picture for 4 years and four apartments, but just now listened to any of Lil Ed’s musical offerings. Here’s some cheesy blues for your Monday afternoon:




In the first two weeks of 2013, I’ve snacked on cookies with a bubbly 17-year-old baker, hung out in a barn that smelled like hot, wet meat with a group of truly welcoming Mennonites, chatted with two young couples who started a small CSA operation (lately I’ve been desperate to get a goat herd of my very own and eat cheese with every meal), and lounged in the lobby with the head chef of a fancy hotel. I’m one lucky duck.