Fall is moving by quickly in Norfolk. Although maybe that’s not entirely accurate, because we’re still having warm, sunny days. What we’re also having in between are some really wet, rainy days. Thanks to those days, the bright orange, red, and yellow leaves lasted what felt like a nanosecond this year. At least I got to spend some time with my favorite farm animals, as I typically do every fall.
I feel incredibly grateful to have a friend who lets me soak up the restorative power of being around animals in nature. It’s a tonic for life that everyone should be able to access. I wish it were enough to get me safely across the sea of narcolepsy symptoms that continue to ebb and flow in my life. It’s not, but this time with Hammy, Frankie, and Sheldon, does help me stay afloat a little easier.
Hopefully by the next time I write on this blog, I’ll have started a new/old narcolepsy treatment. It worked wonders for several years and then it didn’t so I stopped taking it. I’m hoping my body will have reset enough that it will work wonders again. Wish me luck!
I’m especially grateful to the mama bear of this baby bear!
You can watch a short video of this baby bear snacking on clovers and dandelions here.
Thank you, mama bear, for choosing our yard! And special thanks for not being grumpy at me when I finally got out of my car and ran to the front door.
At least, I think she wasn’t grumpy at me. I don’t know as I never actually saw her! Talk about a suspenseful moment of my life. After watching the baby bear for several minutes – my stomach complaining loudly the entire time that I needed to get inside and start working on my dinner – I pulled in as close to the front door as possible, put Heath on videophone just in case, and then ran to the front door and unlocked it faster than a bear licking a pot of honey.
It’s funny to think that just a few years ago my “Norfolk Bear Story,” was that I’d never seen a bear in Norfolk. It felt like everyone else had some sort of bear story. Bears showing up in their yards. Bears splashing in their ponds. Bears crossing their paths in the woods. Bears going through their garbage.
I didn’t think I was EVER going to see a bear like that, and, in fact, the first time I did see a bear in the wild it was at the Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming in the summer of 2018. The experience wasn’t as magical as I hoped, since we saw signs warning park guests that bears were out and about, and then park rangers stood on the side of the roads controlling the crowd of onlookers. It totally lacked the wonder and awe that I crave during those sorts of natural encounters.
But here we are in May 2021 and now my Norfolk Bear Story is, “I’VE SEEN SO MANY BEARS.”
Here’s a bear outside my bedroom window!
Here’s a bear crossing in front of me while out for a walk!
Here’s a bear looking at me as I snap their picture from the safety of my car!
And, of course, the baby bear in the yard!
When I first encountered the baby bear, I called Heath on video phone so he could see the baby bear, too. He really couldn’t see it from where I was in the car. So I took plenty of video and pictures to share with him later.
Heath, who has SO MANY MORE wildlife stories than I do thanks to his job at Great Mountain Forest, shared these photos with me a few days later.
I CAN’T BELIEVE I MISSED IT!
I have since asked Heath TO STOP HAVING WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS WITHOUT ME!
I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of bear encounters. I always feel like the luckiest person in the world when a bear graces me with their presence. It makes me wonder what else is waiting for me in my future? And it serves as a good reminder that just because something you want isn’t happening right now doesn’t mean it never will.
The best part? When it finally does happen, it may even be better than your wildest dreams!
Last week, I attended a New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators writer’s retreat at Whispering Pines in West Greenwich, Rhode Island. In addition to making new friends, chatting with and learning from industry professionals, and eating New Orleans French Toast for the first time in my life (YUM!), I found out about something VERY IMPORTANT:
How did I NOT know that every Tuesday social media encourages us to post pictures of animals with their tongues sticking out?
Special shout-out to my new friend, Kathy Halsey, a children’s book writer, school librarian, and dog mom to one Wiley Corgi, who first told me about #TongueOutTuesday.
Since I’ve been missing out for who knows how long, I am pleased to present you The Kelly Kandra Hughes #TongueOutTuesday Catch-Up Compilation. This is not an exhaustive list. If it were, we’d be here all night.
Cody, Naperville, IL
Phyllos and Rafiki, Joliet, IL
Lilu and Rafiki, Joliet, IL
Lukas, Jackson Hole, WY
Stella, St. Albert, Alberta
Sam, Murfreesboro, TN
Horse at the PA Farm Show
Annie and Dodger, Norfolk, CT
Chance Long Nose, Norfolk, CT
Moon, Norfolk, CT
Tobey, Norfolk, CT
Smudge, Norfolk, CT
Faith, Norfolk, CT
Bruno, picture courtesy of my husband Heath, Kalispell, MT
PS – Are there any other animal-related social media hashtags I should know about? Let me know in the comments or you can email me at genesispotentia(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)gmail.com.
I spent three full days in Washington DC last week and logged nearly 37 miles of walking, which is the equivalent of 87,954 steps. Most of those steps took me to one place – the National Zoo!
I know there are so many wonderful educational and cultural opportunities available in DC, yet every day I couldn’t bear not seeing the pandas (pun totally intended). Although, I did experience some angst that first evening as I debated where I should visit the following day.
After “shoulding” on myself for about half an hour (i.e., I should go here, I should go there), I realized I had a choice to make. I could visit several museums or monuments that are iconic of DC and have a rich and storied history, or I could go back to the zoo, visit the pandas again and see all the other animals I didn’t get a chance to because I literally spent hours watching Bei Bei sit in a bucket that first day.
The choice wasn’t really a choice at all. I went with my heart and headed to National Zoo again on Tuesday and then Wednesday, as well.
I know what makes me happiest, and even though I value intellectually enriching experiences, at this point learning about art and history is not a priority in my life.
As I wrote about in my blog last week, I feel some sort of shift coming in my life, especially as I relate to the natural world around me. My few days at the zoo reaffirmed these feelings.
I know some people may think of zoos as an awful place, a jail where animals are held in captivity. But I like to think of zoos as the proverbial Noah’s Ark of the 21 century. Some animals will not survive without the work zoos are doing on a daily basis and many zoos are the bridge that first connects people, especially children, to these wonderful animals. Without these connections, we stand to lose even more animals, habitat, and natural resources that are so precious and necessary for human survival.
Most zoos today are leaders in animal science and conservation. They have accrediting bodies with standards and quality of care for the animals they house and every day they devote time, money, and personnel to scientific advancement and achievement. I celebrated these facts for three days as I marveled at the animals I observed, loving every minute of it, and smiling along with the other zoo guests.
Seriously, if you’re ever feeling depressed, head to a zoo and listen to people watching the animals. Their laughter and joy will warm you from the inside out. I felt nothing but gratitude and inspiration at the chance to experience such exuberant joy
Those three days in DC were a wonderful gift. I’m so glad I know myself enough to not waste time on anything else that’s not going to fill my heart with joy. Next time, I hope to completely skip the “shoulding” on myself and head right for those bears. I sure do miss them. I wonder if they miss me?
Thanksgiving is now behind us! I’m delighted to report I’ve kept nearly all my daily habits, including writing, exercise, and mindful eating for the entire time we’ve been at my parents’ house. Not only does it feel good, but the positive reinforcement motivates me to keep going.
We’ll see what happens when my family and I head to Hersheypark’s Christmas Candylane today. I suspect there may be a peanut butter hot fudge sundae in my future.
One of the best parts of being in Harrisburg is that my 21-year-old niece is also visiting. She’s a junior Chemistry-Economics double-major at UT-Austin, and the smarty-pants that she is, she’s participating in the Archer Fellowship in Washington DC this semester as a science policy intern. Note: NOT scientology, which is what my Dad heard her say at the Thanksgiving table.
My niece seems to be fully embracing my anti-consumeristic, eco-justice, pacifist tendencies. She also seems to be passing me on some levels of intelligence, which is both scary and awesome. Although, I will never let her live down this sentence that she wrote for a class paper a few summers ago when she was feeling more than a little burnt out: War is wrong and bad.
Someday I hope to have this saying printed on a t-shirt.
But, honestly, how could I not be proud of someone who creates Snapchats like this:
My niece and I are going to take a bus back to Washington, DC tomorrow so we can hang out a little bit longer. On our agenda are the National Zoo and a walking tour of the National Monuments. I can’t wait to see the pandas! Although I appreciate our Founding Fathers (and Mothers, but you don’t see much representation of them), they aren’t quite so roly-poly:
When I was younger, I used to have a fantasy that I’d be famous enough to be a guest on a talk show that coincidentally happened to be the same day Jack Hanna was also a guest. And he just happened to have brought roly-poly baby animals with him.
Okay, maybe I still have this fantasy, but as an animal lover I just can’t help. I think this is why my niece and I get along so well. We both feel a kindred sense of connection with all creatures great and small.
As I get older and become more aware of my place in this world, I’m realizing just how much my love for animals is a major driving force in my life. Before I developed a host of health issues, I was a vegetarian because I felt hypocritical for loving dogs and eating cows.
Now that I’ve regained good health, I slowly find myself returning to my vegetarian ways. But because I did have such severe health problems, that return is limping along at a snail’s pace. I suppose it’s partly fear – I don’t ever want to be that unhealthy again – and partly selfishness – animal meat can taste delicious.
This year I’ve stopped eating pork and next year I plan to stop eating fish. I suspect giving up fish will be quite easy as most fish now consume so much plastic that’s been dumped in the ocean, it’s found in their bodies in significant quantities. So gross! Humans can ruin everything, including the ocean.
Whenever I start feeling depressed over our ravaging of the environment, I remind myself of the incredibly bright and motivated people, like my niece, who are working to protect our planet. Sometimes I’m also one of them.
Lately, I’ve been thinking I should be doing more. I feel some sort of positive shift coming with my connection to the natural world. I don’t know what exactly and I’m feeling excited. I’ve had a couple of ideas that I’m slowly refining, with some forward progress. I’m not quite sure what it’s all about right now, so I can’t really share more.
In the meantime, I will keep my eyes and heart open to the natural world around me. Perhaps something will inspire me, or I’ll receive guidance from an unexpected source. Maybe I’ll get to hold a baby animal at the National Zoo? Probably not, but I’ll never stop dreaming.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! My love, gratitude, and appreciation for your continued support and encouragement.