How I Spent My Summer Lockdown

Being a writer almost always means feeling guilty about carving out time alone with a blank page of paper or a white computer screen. At the same time, being a writer means almost always feeling guilty for not creating time dedicated to empty paper/laptop.

And the corona virus crisis hit, and in March we went into lockdown….

I finally filled our balcony with planter boxes of flowers and herbs. We have more bees and pollinators than I’ve seen in years. Nature is loving this “Stop everything” business! And I got down to serious construction of Book #4, a collection of short stories.

This was lockdown, so it’s not like I could go anywhere else, right? Wasn’t the Universe handing me exactly the time and space I needed to write my next book? I took my pages or laptop out the balcony and went to work.

I don’t know about you other writers out there, but the Muse makes me toil for months on end before she grants me an audience. I write every day, drudge work, one word after the next for my daily quota. Trust me: this is not inspired writing. It’s showing up and doing the job. I spent a few months planting my ass in front of my computer or my pages to revise, thinking, “What the hell ever made me think this will be any good?”

I stayed committed to the writing, because past experience has taught me that it eventually (seldom right away, but, always, always, eventually) gets rewarded.

And one morning I was eager to get back to it. Half a day passed before I noticed how much time had gone by. I began to dream plot twists. The writing stopped being drudgery and even contained occasional flashes of inspiration.

Now, half a year later, I’m getting ready to publish. This is my corona virus book; I could even title it, How I Spent My Summer Lockdown.

I’m going to title it something else. I’ll keep you posted on when the new ten stories are ready to meet the world.

NOTES: Text and  Photos © Jadi Campbell 2020. To see Uwe’s  photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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Notes from the Lockdown

March-April  2020

We’re still in lockdown in Germany, with the restrictions slowly easing. I took these photos on March 23rd when I went for a long walk to get some sunshine and stretch my legs:

Lots in bloom as a cold wind blows. Petals rain down on me as I walk by. The birds sound happy, anyway! Yeah, it’s spring outside. I have the empty streets and garden paths almost completely to myself.

Pretty and peaceful out on the side streets

Then comes the disconnect: a children’s play area is marked in red and white tape. No entry! Closed due to the Novel Corona Virus!

I become aware of an intense fluttering sound. It takes me a minute, but finally I identify it: the wind is blowing so hard that it shakes the police tape around the other children’s Spielplatz. The tape’s rattling is the only thing I can hear beside the birds.

I shiver and pull my hat further down over my ears. I’ll walk again when it gets warmer. But, as I turn to head back home, I remind myself again of this: It’s springtime. The birds are singing.

Sun falls slant but bright in the March afternoon

Now, in April, the yards are beautiful. Stay safe everyone. Stay healthy.

NOTES: Text and photos © Jadi Campbell 2020. To see Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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Things are Different

Things are different now. Life goes on, I keep up my routines: Stretches of writing with occasional bursts of creativity. When the Muse does show up, it makes the trudgery worth it! Sporadic house cleaning (and when did our kitchen floor get so dirty?). Long walks out in the gardens five minutes from our apartment, those walks a get-me-out-of-the-house plea for freedom.

Some of the differences I can handle. Kind of. Stay at home to keep the world safe? I’m down with that idea. We are so all in this together.

But the small changes… those are the ones that make my stomach queasy. Here are the changes that are itty bitty things, letting me know life is altered:

  1. We know the owners of Diverso, the best Italian restaurant in our town. They initially had to close, of course. On the day Heidrun and Pasquale began offering takeaway, a Thursday, we ordered pizzas. We’ve done this every Thursday since then. Because we want to support our friends, because this is now the closest we can get to going out to eat, because Pasquale’s gourmet pizza includes gorgonzola cheese and shaved white truffle, and because there is nothing like cold pizza for breakfast the next day. Nothing.
  2. I use two ply of toilet paper now. I don’t know how many I used on average before the lockdown: I do know that the roll gets counted out now that it’s so hard to buy.
  3. There is a book exchange by the UBahn metro stop. It’s wonderful! – a red British phone booth, transformed into a spot to get new books and drop off old ones. I detour and go check it every single time I walk in that direction, because you never know when English language books might be on the shelves. I’ve seen Russian, Polish, French and Spanish books along with the majority German ones. After the first week of lockdown, I had a stack of finally-read books to pass along, and headed over to the phone booth. I entered it and when the heavy door swung shut, I thought “I just stepped inside a Petri dish. Ohhh shit.” I held my breath, shoved my books onto the top shelf where the foreign language books go, and got the hell out of there. Since then I scan the shelves for potential reading material before I open that door. I try not to breathe as I’m looking. And I hold the door open until I’m done.
  4. And then I use the little bottle of hand sanitizer that I began to carry everywhere with me. Touch a surface? Sterilize your hands. Repeat, as many times as needed.
  5. We have bottles of wine we got as gifts, or I’d been saving for a special occasion. Honey, if the current world situation doesn’t meet the definition of ‘special occasion’, nothing does. So I’m pulling those wines from the cellar to drink. I hope that if it’s a good bottle I won’t give into my desire to chug it. I want to treat life right now as special. If this is it, I want to celebrate the fact that Uwe and I are safe, and healthy, and have a roof over our heads, and are connected to everything.

 

 

Stay safe everyone. Stay healthy.

NOTES: © Text and photo Jadi Campbell 2020.  To see Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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Quetzal

Happy April Fool’s Day! What’s quetzal, anyway? A noun, a verb, a symptom brought on in quarantine for the corona virus?

Glad you asked. The quetzal is a legend, a myth, a member of the trogon family, and one really cool bird. It’s also very, very elusive.

And what the hell is a trogon? Let’s start at the top. Until just now, I didn’t know. The term comes from the Greek and means ‘nibbling’, because quetzals carve through rotting wood to make their nests in tree trunks. The trogon family of birds is an exclusive club: they are the only animal with a heterodactyl toe arrangement. [1] The resplendent quetzal lives only in a narrow range of cloud forests at high elevations in Central America. They don’t migrate, and like altitudes of 4,000–10,000 ft (1,200–3,000 m).

A lot of people think it’s the most beautiful bird in the world. The quetzal was sacred to the Aztecs and Mayans. The Aztecs associated the bird with the snake god, Quetzalcoatl. Kings and nobles wore quetzal feather headdresses for special ceremonies.

And oh my god, those feathers…. The head and back of the bird are a brilliant green, the belly feathers are bright red. The female has more gray on her chest, and black and white in her tail, while the male has incredibly long streaming tail feathers that trail up to three feet (!) behind him. These don’t grow until the bird is at least three years old.

The quetzal’s big, about 36-40 cm or 14-16 inches long. But its brilliant green feathers are iridescent and blend perfectly into the cloud forest foliage. For a large bird, the quetzal is surprisingly hard to spot.

So when we planned our trip to Costa Rica (I write this in March, after two weeks of the virus lockdown, and it feels like a different life time that we took that trip, not just a few weeks ago), we hoped we’d get lucky enough to spot a quetzal. We went to the Monteverde cloud forest region. One day we joined a tour to the smaller and less crowded Curi Cancha Reserve. Amazingly enough we saw a pair of quetzals! Quetzals are monogamous – and there they were, male and female! Thank god for the guides that day, because there’s no way we would have sighted the birds on our own. They’re just too perfectly camouflaged. I only have one photo for you, but hopefully it was worth reading this post to get to it.

We present to you in all its shy glory: THE QUETZAL! This is the female, a brilliant emerald that dazzles the eye. Believe it or not her partner is much, much gaudier

It was magic to see a quetzal pair. We got lucky that day.

NOTES: [1] Dictionary.com explains heterodactyl is “having the first and fourth toes directed backward, and the second and third forward, as in trogons”. Well, what do you know. This is my second new word for the week. Trogon was the first. PS: This post is not an April Fool’s joke! Resplendent quetzal © Jadi Campbell 2020. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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Let it Rain!

What a difference a few weeks or even days makes… Today most of the world is on lockdown. A month ago I was in a cloud forest for the first time. I look at Uwe’s photos and am filled with wonder.

The first of many hummingbirds we saw in Costa Rica

February 2020

Monteverde in northern Costa Rica is one of the few cloud forests left on the planet. We arrived yesterday, using a bus service to travel from the hot, sunny Pacific coast. Now we’re at a higher (and definitely colder) elevation. Winds from the Caribbean smack into currents from the Pacific. The results are a steady light mist all day.

Green crowned brilliant

Or, like this morning, a heavy falling rain. Uwe and I both wear the super-duper, Chinese-made raincoats we bought last year in Borneo for a $1 apiece. We unfold them and discover that these are thin, glorified garbage bags with holes cut out for our arms and heads. I’m glad to have mine – it’s still pouring. Uwe’s bummed. It’s raining so hard that he has to leave his  camera equipment in its special backpack. It’s windy here, too! His camera’s way better protected against the weather than we are….

Magenta-throated woodstar

The park guide tells us about primeval forest, secondary growth, the Quaker settlers who came here and founded this nature preserve. We see almost zero wildlife, and that’s because everything is hunkered down against the shitty weather. He points out an orchid the size of my thumbnail as my sneakered feet and my blue jeans grow damper. It. is. cold.

Violet sabrewing

Uwe’s face is glum. His cellphone camera is a poor substitute for the Nikon. I try hard not to think about how little fun he’s having. Then the guide points to a pale slender green object on a leaf. I peer closer in the rain.

Purple throated mountaingem

It’s a walking stick! I haven’t seen one of these in the wild since I was a kid! I’m suddenly a kid again myself, I’m way beyond excited. “Any biosphere that’s got walking sticks is an intact one for sure!” I exclaim. Oh my god! I stand there and stare at it, wetter by the minute.

Thirty minutes later we’re back at the park entrance’s buildings. The downpour vanishes. Uwe gets out his telefoto lens to capture the 7 varieties of blue, emerald, crimson, orange, purple hummingbirds darting in and out to the feeders on the porch. A white nosed coatimundi scurries under the hummingbird feeders, licking up the sugar water that’s dripped down onto the floorboards.

“A walking stick!” I murmur.

Everybody’s happy.

Green crowned brilliant
Empress brilliant. The feathers overlapped in a way that made me think of snake scales

NOTES: I’m still mad at my spousal unit for not taking a photo of that walking stick with his cell phone! Monteverde orchids and hummingbirds © Jadi Campbell 2020. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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The Animal Kingdom: 33

We’ve reached Installment #33 of my blog thread describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

  1. How did the farrow fare?
  2. The ballet performed a water ballet.
  3. Oh, no! The piddle piddled again!
  4. The rumpus caused quite a rumpus.
  5. The circus is no circus.
  6. The brace braced itself against the leash’s leash.
Braces and leashes, Montréal, Canada
  1. Farrow of piglets
  2. Ballet of swans
  3. Piddle of puppies
  4. Rumpus of baboons [1]
  5. Circus of puffins
  6. Brace (2), or leash (3) of dogs [2]
Farrow, Sagaing, Burma

NOTES: [1] Hooray! Baboons are listed as “Least threatened”. I am overjoyed when I can list a species as not about to go extinct. African Wildlife Foundation [2] A brace refers to 2 dogs. A leash of dogs is 3 in number.  © Jadi Campbell 2017. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. Fun animal names from en.wiktionary.orgwww.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com.

SPECIAL NOTE: If you try to comment in the wordpress.com reader and get the message “Sorry – there was a problem posting your comment”, click on the title of this post to get to jadicampbell.com and post your comment there. Sorry for the ongoing problem.

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Let Them Eat – Elk?

Tradition is a fine thing. I’ve hung on to Thanksgiving even though I live overseas. Actually, I hang onto the holiday probably because I live overseas. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas.

The Annual Eating of the Elk tastes as good as it looks

Our traditions include what I grandly call The Annual Eating of the Elk. The Germans involved in this ritual just refer to it as Elchessen, or the Elk Meal. Whatever.

For years, the Spousal Unit spent two weeks out of every single December, January, February and March up in northern Sweden. The Artic Circle in the dead of winter doesn’t offer much in the way of culinary pleasures. The highlights were these:

  • Going out for pizza in a pizza parlor run by two Iranian refugees who had fled SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police, and ended up staying. The pizza was meh but every order came with a free dish of cabbage cole slaw. Because cole slaw is traditional? Because cole slaw is Italian? Because cole slaw provides a desperately needed source of Vitamin C?
  • Fresh reindeer blood, available by the vat in the local grocery store (say Yum everyone!)
  • White bread that is sweetened
  • Smoked salmon
  • Rumps of elk

It became tradition that my husband and his colleagues always packed German bread and bottles of whiskey in their suitcases before they flew north. Because alcohol is expensive in Sweden, and nights up there are reeeeeally long.

It became tradition that the engineers returned home with packages of elk roasts.

Thorsten, Spousal Unit, Konrad and Gerhard all used to work in Sweden. Only Gerhard still does that gig: he’s now responsible for bringing back the elk. Eventually, this evolved into an on-going 20+ year (!) tradition that Thorsten cooks an entire elk dinner for the engineers and their mates Bettina, Heike, and yours truly. *

It’s almost impossible to find a common weekend free when you’re trying to get a group of Germans together. Those 6 weeks of vacation time they’re famous for getting? Germans take every single minute of that time. Good luck coordinating 7 people’s schedules and pinning down a night when everyone’s available to meet for a dinner. We still talk about the year we ended up eating elk roast in August. It was the hottest day of the summer and over 90° in the apartment. (Thorsten’s kitchen had heated to way over 100°.) The heavy meal and accompanying heavy red wines were deadly.

But, Tradition muss sein.

Thorsten has it down to a culinary science, an art form. He marinates the elk in red wine and spices for days. Then he puts it in the oven to roast until it shrinks to about half the original size. Thorsten serves it with gravy, homemade Knödel and cooked red cabbage.

I asked Thorsten for his recipe and have translated it  for you here, just in case you have 5 pounds of elk roast hanging around in your freezer.

You’re welcome.

20 Semmelknödel

20 Teile Baguette (ein Teil etwa so gross wie ein kleines Brötchen) abschneiden. Brot in kleine Würfel schneiden. In warmer Milch einweichen. 5 Eier dazugeben, ebenso 250 Gramm gewürfelten und angebratenen Speck. Ebenfalls 2 klein geschnittene und angebratene Zwiebeln dazugeben. 2 Bund Petersilie kleinschneiden und dazugeben, salzen und Muskatnuss reinreiben. Die Masse gut durchmengen bis ein homogener Teig entsteht. Falls die Masse zu trocken ist Milch dazugeben (Teig muss gut durchgezogen sein).

Tennisball grosse Knödel formen und 20 Minuten in Salzwasser ziehen lassen.

Wer keine Zeit hat kann die Petersilie schon fertig geschnitten aus der Tiefkühltruhe nehmen. Ich nehme immer 2 Becher a 40 Gramm.

20 Bread Dumplings

Cut about 20 small bread rolls into small pieces. Soak bread in warm milk. Add 5 eggs and 250 grams of diced, fried bacon. Add two small diced, sautéed onions. Add 2 bunches of chopped parsley, salt, and grated nutmeg. Mix the dough well; add more milk if too dry. Make 20 big dumplings the size of tennis balls and cook them in simmering saltwater for 20 minutes. If you don’t have the time or can’t find fresh parsley, use 2 packets of frozen parlsey.


This was only Round One. We always go back for seconds

2 kg Elch

2 Beutel Sauerbratengewürz anrösten und mit 2l Rotwein ablöschen. Kurz aufkochen lassen, Beize abkühlen lassen und Elch für 4 Tage einlegen.

Elch abtrocknen, salzen und von jeder Seite 1 Minute scharf anbraten. Fleisch aus Bräter herausnehmen. Wurzelgemüse und Tomatenmark im Bräter anrösten. Rotwein-Beize dazugeben und aufkochen lassen. 8 Teelöffel gekörnte Brühe dazugeben. Bräter in den auf 180 Grad vorgeheizten Backofen geben und Fleisch ca. 2 Stunden schmoren lassen. Fleisch herausnehmen, Flüssigkeit durch ein Sieb in einen Topf abgiessen. Sosse etwas einkochen lassen mit braunem Sossenbinder zur gewünschten Konsistenz abbinden. Zum Schluss 150 Gramm crème fraiche unterrühren.

4-5 Pound Elk Roast

Roast two packs of Sauerbraten spices and add 2 liters of red wine (a bottle of red wine is ¾ of a liter). Let the marinade cool and then marinate 4.5 – 5 pounds of elk in it for 4 days.

Remove and dry the meat, salt it all over, and sautée in oil 1 minute per side. Roast some root vegetables and tomato paste; add the marinade and let the mixture come to a boil. Add 8 tablespoons of broth concentrate. Place roasting pan with elk in sauce in a 180° C (375° Fahrenheit) oven and cook for 2 hours.

Remove the elk. Purée the sauce or pour it through a sieve. Cook down the sauce to your desired consistency; add corn starch if needed. Before serving, stir in 150 grams of crème fraiche.


If you make the same dish for the same people for enough decades, one of two things will happen. You become the Master of the Meal known as The Annual Eating of the Elk.

Or you order take-out pizza from the 2 Iranian guys.

NOTES: *Not their real names. All other details are accurate. Got to the following posts for related foolishness: It was a Bitterly Cold -22°, My Mother-in-Law’s Cookies, The Rose Colored Windows that Weren’t, Christmas Markets © Jadi Campbell 2019. Photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

It’s a Wrap

Whether you’re getting ready for the holidays or the end of 2019, another year is coming to an end. This post is my annual round-up of the year’s musings and in-jokes.

My blog thread about names for animal families that I began in honor of my dad Bobbo 3 years ago still isn’t finished: The Animal Kingdom 27, The Animal Kingdom 28, The Animal Kingdom 29, The Animal Kingdom 30, The Animal Kingdom 31 , The Animal Kingdom 32

Uwe and I explored some new places: Malaysia and Borneo Wild Orangutans, Frog Paradise Part One, Frog Paradise Part Two, Shaman Medicine. I wrote about spots we previously visited: Xi’an and Speyer

I bitched about a place: Brunei and moaned when I got sick in What? I Can’t Hear You

At some point during the year I always talk about food: The Foods of Fall and Love Tea and about traditions: Pour Wine and Oil in my Grave

I wrote a piece about memory, and that turned into a moving thread that got tons of comments: His Name was Bond, PS: Have a Nice DayBonds of Kindness

I got to boast when 2 of my One Page Plays were accepted for performance! My play Baby You Were Great tied for runner-up as Best Comedy! The One Page Play Festival

So, it’s a wrap…. as 2019 ends, I invite all of you who have read my books to please write reviews for them on Amazon. These are vital to authors. And – if you haven’t read them – please consider buying my books as gifts for yourselves or your loved ones. As always, thank you for following me and being such a great tribe.

See you in 2020!

—Jadi

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2019. Photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to purchase my books.

Love Tea

I’m sitting down to drink a cup of tea. If you don’t hear from me again, please notify my husband.

I’m going to try dittany or diktamos. The Cretans call it erontas or erondas, from the word eros. As you know, Eros is the Greek god of love and sexuality. The Greek is diktamos (δίκταμος) or erondas (έρωντας).

Diktamos is an herb that grows only on remote, rocky hilltops on the island of Crete. The name comes from the Dikti mountain range in the Lasithi region of East Crete.

https://i1.wp.com/phyto.gr/assets/Origanum_dictamnus_2.jpg?w=840

The use of dittany goes back into the mists of history. It may be the plant featured in the fresco of garlands at the Minoan palace of Knossos. Hippocrates prescribed it. Homer, Euripides, Aristotle and Theophrastus, Plutarch and Virgil all wrote about the herb.

When Aeneas is injured, his mother Aphrodite (Venus) uses dittany to cure him:

A branch of healing dittany she brought

Which in the Cretan fields with care she sought:

Rough is the stern, which woolly leafs surround;

The leafs with flow’rs, the flow’rs with purple crown’d,

Well known to wounded goats; a sure relief

To draw the pointed steel, and ease the grief. [1]

Even characters in Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows use dittany. The herb is considered an aphrodisiac (okay, maybe not in Harry Potter). Suitors collected the wild dittany flowers and gave bouquets to prove their love. The young men were known as “erondades (love seekers) and were considered very passionate men to go to such dangerous lengths to collect the herb.” [2] Traditionally, diktamos was given to newlyweds to inflame desire.

It can be used both internally and externally: a poultice, an essential oil, for application on wounds, an herbal tea (my chosen method – I bought a bag of dried herbs when we were on Crete this fall), to disinfect wounds, chewed, or as toothpaste for a sore throat and to clean the mouth and teeth. Dittany is distilled and used as a bitter in vermouth or martinis (for example), and in cosmetics. [3]

Finally, before I drink my brewed cup, I give you my favorite fact. Dittany/Diktamos is also known as the burning bush. I leave it to you to decide why I’m drinking it.

NOTES: [1] Book XII.411–415 of Virgil’s Aeneid. As the poem mentions, Cretan mountain goats nibble on diktamos to heal their wounds. [2] botano.gr. The flowers of the Dittany plant are hermaphroditic with both male and female organs. [3] This rare and protected little plant gets around! ©Jadi Campbell 2019. Photo courtesy of phyto.gr. To see Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

“Dittany contains an essential oil called Carvacrol, which is a natural antibiotic, 50 times stronger than penicillin. In the leaves, there is furthermore a substance called Dictamin, which is used for cardiovascular diseases. In all, there are 70 different curative substances in the plant that can be extracted and used for medication or cosmetics.” — ilovecrete.eu

“Compounds of Dittany are powerful antioxidants. The essential oils have also antiseptic and anti-fungal properties and are often used in ointments to treat burns and skin ailments. Tea made from dittany is used to relieve tension headaches and as a relaxant. Dittany is also used to relieve indigestion, colic, stomach cramps and bloating. It is also thought to be a diuretic and to combat fever.” —greece-is.com

To learn more:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origanum_dictamnus

https://www.we-love-crete.com/dittany-of-crete.html

http://www.elenaoncrete.com/oregano-origanum/

 

The Animal Kingdom: 32

I give you Installment #32 of my blog thread describing what to call groups of animals! … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

  1. The durante MUST be named for Durante.
  2. A raffle is perfect for a Thanksgiving raffle.
  3. Have you ever heard a drumming drumming?
  4. An orchestra plays their orchestra on summer evenings.
  5. A trip seldom trips.
  6. I’d love to see an aurora during an aurora.

Long Beaked Bird on Brown Wood Near Forest

  1. Durante of toucans [1]
  2. Raffle of turkeys
  3. Drumming of grouse [2]
  4. Orchestra of crickets
  5. Trip of goats
  6. Aurora of polar bears [3]
Trip

NOTES: [1] I had to check that this one was real because I instantly thought of Jimmy Durante and his famous schnozz with this definition for the big-beaked toucan… [2] Drumming comes from the birds’ mating call, generated with the wings [3] Could the name be any more wonderfully appropriate for an animal that lives at the North Pole?!

© Jadi Campbell 2017. Durante member photo courtesy of Pexels. Goat photo © Uwe Hartmann.To see Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. Fun animal names from en.wiktionary.org, www.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.