Today is my birthday, as some of you have already noted (thanks! ♥), and I am spending it at work preparing slides for my literature review talk at our group meeting tomorrow. This is despite it being a university holiday, fall break, and my birthday! Oh well. This is still better than that birthday I had where I had a midterm, a talk, and a cold.
I did have a really nice weekend though. On Saturday Ben and I drove to Cape May, New Jersey; it is on the southern tip of New Jersey between the Atlantic and the Delaware Bay, and it has lots of nice beaches and Victorian houses. We started out at the Cape May Wildlife Refuge, on their beach and dunes trail, which was a 2-mile roundtrip with lots of plant identification placards and sea birds, and some tiny crabs and a big horseshoe crab skeleton. Ben kept picking up bits of crabs and poking me with them while I was trying to take pictures of them. Then we went to the Emlen Physick Estate, which has a big Victorian house that you can tour. They also had glassblowers and a mechanical organ outside. The inside of the house was beautiful and well-preserved, though unfortunately photos were forbidden. There was also a guy impersonating the original house's owner, who gave this short speech that was supposed to teach you about the time period. Ben said it well, that "it was like PBS assaulted me and I couldn't escape"; really hard to keep a straight face during something so cheesy. But it was interesting and the decor was really elaborate and cool. Then we went to the Cape May Point State Park, which had lots of trails along the beach and through a coastal forest, a big lighthouse, and lots of birds! Cape May is prime birding territory, with lots of birds' migration paths going through the area. We saw swans, egrets, sparrows, gulls, plovers, ducks, mockingbirds, and we actually saw a Cooper's hawk attack a group of sparrows, catch one, and drag it into the bushes to eat. (We saw this from a platform with maybe 30 birdwatchers and a couple park rangers on it who exclaimed about what was going on.) Then we went to Sunset Beach, which faces west over the Delaware Bay, and watched the sun go down while nearby, a couple got married and there was a flag ceremony using a casket flag from someone that died in WWII. The sunset was amazing.
I had a great time, but one fun part of the day is that I got a new toy for my birthday, a camera to replace the one I've had for 6 years. It is such a colossal improvement. What's funny, though, is that at such a big birding place and also at Sunset Beach, we saw so many multi-thousand dollar cameras that people had for their hobbies. Ha, well, I still like my new camera. :) The great zoom enabled a lot of photos that I just couldn't have gotten on my old camera. And it has lots of features I am already using, and a lot more for me to figure out.( photos! )
So I'm officially 24 now. I am so happy with my life and the last year. I married my great love, I made a lot of progress and learned a lot in my job, I'm training for a marathon (I went 19 miles yesterday!) and in good and getting better shape, I adopted two sweet and wonderful cats, I grew tasty food in my backyard and made delicious food at home, I got to go to new places in the U.S. and outside of it (Crater Lake and Turkey, chiefly), I'm preparing a piano recital for December (more about this later), and I've gotten to see almost all my old friends recently because of the wedding and make some new ones too. It is easy to get frustrated with yourself or some aspect of your life you aren't happy with, or to be frustrated over circumstances you can't change. It's important to remember the good things, and to appreciate them as much as you can. And to always work for and aim for improvement, for a crescendo instead of an arc. To become more complex, more intricate, more knowledgeable and more balanced, able to see and connect as much as possible, to recognize beauty and joy and integrate them into yourself. There is wonder in all things.