The Bridge of Flowers

Visiting Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts

Once a trolley bridge across the Deerfield River carrying goods between Massachusetts towns, the Bridge of Flowers has been transformed into an amazing garden of blooms and twisting vines open to foot traffic. The bridge was originally built in 1908 and fell into disuse after the rail use ended. To spruce up the “eyesore” of the weed-covered bridge, the Bridge of Flowers idea was born.

 

Poppy WP

 

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Skinny Iris WP 6-10-16

 

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©Photos Copyright of EN Love. Use without express permission of the artist is prohibited.

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The Moderate Birder

I profess to a love of watching and listening to birds.  I enjoy studying their behaviors and identifying the different species I see throughout the year, marking the seasons by their migrations, and seeing the next generation take flight. Observing the natural world offers therapeutic relief from the stresses of the human world and replenishes my spirit.

I’m not a The Big Year type of birder, spending countless dollars and vacation days jetting off to bird hubs just to get a glimpse of different species (this would only add to those human stress factors). I hang feeders in my yard with various types of bird favorites and watch them come and go. I listen to the cardinals, goldfinches, sparrows and blue jays as they swoop in and out for lunch or extended snacks. I drive around the lake looking for ducks, eagles, and sandpipers or along county roads looking for hawks, turkeys, and meadowlarks.

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird

When I’ve seen all I can see from my car and when the weather warms to a reasonable temperature, I take more deliberate outings walking the streamway trails and footpaths that make up the recreation system in our county. Away from noisy roadways and the congestion of people, birds are abundant. With my binoculars or camera in hand (I can’t carry both at the same time), I can spy the smaller varieties of feathered critters hiding among the trees and prairie grasses. With over 250 species coming through or residing in Eastern Kansas, I find a few new species each year that I haven’t seen before.

For birds outside my local area, I catch them on trips I’ve already planned for the family. Driving east or west, I may be able to spot hawks and songbirds along fences and at rest stops. Since we’ll be heading to Maine this month, I’m looking forward to finding some particular species I’ll never see in Kansas, such as puffins and storm-petrels.

I’ve been lucky this year to capture some of my observations with my camera, including the ever-elusive pileated woodpecker who swooped onto a utility pole while I just happened to be nearby. Birders know how exciting it can be to finally spot the one bird you’ve been looking for!

 

Cliff Swallows
Cliff Swallows

So far this year, I have over 70 birds on my yearly list, including several new varieties. And exciting as it is to find those new ones and the old favorites, the true joy of bird watching is just knowing they are out there and taking the time to listening to the natural chorus they sing.

 

2016 Bird List

 

Road Trip Activity Books

ROAD TRIP time is coming and, when you spend long hours in the car, the kids need something to do. (You can make these for adults, too!)

Activities and coloring pages are available for all ages and interests, from your child’s favorite characters to educational activities for Math, Science, and Reading and Writing.

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Kids’ Activity Books

Materials and what to do with them:

3-ring binders: 1/2″ to 1″ for ease, any color. Use the kind with the clear outer layer to slip in a cover. Create personalized covers for each child with suitable clip-art.

Attach a pen or pencil with string to one of the rings.

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Slip-in Page Protectors: Collect Map, Tickets, Brochures, etc.

Slip-in page protectors: for collecting maps, ticket stubs, and travel info at rest areas, visitor centers, and fun stops.

Pencil bag to hold colored pencils or markers. I selected the Large All Purpose Zipper Bag by Cumberland Concepts to hold enough for two artists. Crayons will melt in a hot car, so you may not want to pack those in the car books.

Activities (a short list of places to look):

Download Junior Ranger booklets from the National Park Service. Great even if you aren’t heading to a National Park on your trip. If you are, the kids can get a head start on earning a Junior Ranger badge. There are different booklets for different parks.

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Junior Ranger Motto

Educational Worksheets:

primarygames.com

educationalcoloringpages.com

Coloring Pages:

(Downloads)
crayola.com
bestcoloringpagesforkids.com (print straight from browser, lots to chose from)

activityvillage.co.uk

family.disney.com

Mazes:

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Mazes

activityvillage.co.uk

leapfrog.com

Or search the internet for more amazing options. The sites listed above were the most user friendly and easy to navigate. I found many other sites with potential, but wading through ads and incorrect pathways made them less than ideal.

When you’re finished with one trip, you can take out the used pages and fill the book again with new activities!

 

Bad Reviews

On social media, especially on Facebook writing or author groups, I frequently come across authors asking for this kind of help.

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An author received a one-star review and asked for fellow authors in the group to report the review as abuse.

In order to report abuse, one must prove that the reviewer acted in a malicious manner against the author or retailer in an effort to affect their sales, or that the reviewer did not actually use/read the product in question. Asking for any poor review to be reported as abuse is, in itself, an abuse of the system, stripping reviewers of their right to put forth their honest opinion.

As authors, we want and even need reviews for our publications. In the digital world, reviews potentially improve sales of a book over time. Reviews are the digital version of word-of-mouth advertising.

A review is simply another person’s OPINION.

Asking other authors to gang up on a reviewer sounds like gearing up for battle, a war on our readers.

As a reader, I understand how it feels to suddenly be attacked by an author for posting a negative review. After posting a two-star review of a particular book, the author badgered me for days to change my rating, giving reasons why I must be wrong or why I should give the book special consideration. (The author found me through one of these social media groups.) That author also asked for help from others in compelling Amazon to remove my review, along with asking me to remove it myself.

I am not a troll. I don’t have time to be a troll. I purchased and read the book in its entirety and could not muster more than a two-star rating from my conscience. My review went against over a dozen others that praised the book with four and five-star ratings. I read those reviews and looked for the highly-praised traits noted, but I did not see them.

Had the author remained silent, I may have chosen to purchase another book. I didn’t hate the first book; it fell flat against what I was promised in the blurb, and too much of the book was spent on irrelevant subject matter. I may have given the author another chance by picking up a more recent output to see if improvements were made in style and storytelling. Instead, after being hounded, I refuse to even consider reading a blurb by this author.

One problem is that reviews are completely subjective. The only guideline given by retailers are two- or three-word solutions “I hate it. I like it. It’s okay. I love it.” There is no objective rubric for rating a product. A one-star review may mean the reviewer just doesn’t like the subject matter and/or it wasn’t what they expected at the time of purchase. We all feel put out when we waste time and money on something we end up not liking.

Another problem is the annoying presence of what we call “trolls” and “haters,” people who apparently have nothing better to do with themselves than throw insults at the virtual livelihood of authors and retailers. Perhaps they struggle to gain an once of control in this power-hungry world, or they desire a moment of attention from a mass audience. Whatever the reason, they muddy the playing field with worthless claims. But, just because a person speaks out negatively in a review does not mean they are a troll, not even if they appear to speak out negatively on a frequent basis. More likely, they really don’t know what they are looking for or they may hold high standards for certain products.

As writers, we are taught the importance of constructive criticism and relaying our opinions with a certain amount of dignity for ourselves and the authors we review. Not every reader cares about being careful with their words. They have no vested interest in sounding supportive or even nice. We have to accept that.

Unfortunately, with a small number of reviews, a negative review can have a large impact, even if it shows up as a complete outlier of the popular rating. The higher number of positive reviews on a book’s profile, the less threatening such negative reviews become, and the more obvious that the reviewer doesn’t conform to the popular opinion. This is a waiting game, hoping that enough reviews will essentially shove the negative review into precipice of oblivion.

It is best to remain quiet about these reviews. If you feel you must comment, do so at your own risk. The author who posted this Facebook thread won’t be getting a look from me. I don’t want to be on the receiving end of a smack-down if I decide I don’t like the book.