Getting My Ducks In A Row

wood duck box

I always hate to see fall and winter go. As lovely as spring is, the hot sticky summer is not far behind. And yet I remember loving summer as a kid, when school got out, and we lived in swimsuits and spent our evenings chasing fireflies.
But late winter and early spring is when the wood ducks nest on our pond. My husband David put a nesting box (just the right specifications) barely in view of the kitchen window. We clean it out every year and fill it with cedar shavings, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the outlandishly colored males trailing their gently colored ladies, hoping to be the chosen one.
Once they mate, she spends an inordinate amount of time figuring out how to get into the box; sometimes standing on the roof and trying to climb in upside down; sometimes hanging at the opening. Once she realizes the runway principle of flying from at least 40 feet out, she begins laying an egg a day for 8-10 days. Then comes the hard part, sitting on them for 30 days, only leaving for short times to feed in the swamp, then back on duty. When she flies off, she calls to her mate with a sharp lilting “who-week” to follow her. When she is in residence, the male sails around underneath the box, patiently guarding his family.
On the 31st day, we notice the female circling round the box looking upward. I call into the office and tell my staff I will be late coming in that day. The babies stand at the opening momentarily and jump to her, falling like dandelion fluff. They immediately imprint on their mother and follow her wherever she goes while the rest take the plunge. Somehow she can count, and leads them single file, in circles until everyone hatches. The mother swims to the far bank, with all in tow, climbs and crosses the dam and heads down the spillway to the safety of the swamp.
With the loss of the hardwood forests and the growth of the Georgia pine monoculture, there is little natural nesting for these creatures. Since we choose to move into their habitat, it only seems fair to help preserve theirs. What a privilege it is to live amongst them, if only for a short time.

The Loss of “Nothing”

yellow cab

I want my tenure as President of NCIDQ to stand for something. After long discussions with the other officers and staff, I chose to make it about leadership. As the volunteer leader of this non profit board that certifies interior designers, I want this team to work like a well oiled machine. So at our first board meeting of the year, which was face to face in Washington, DC, I gave out homework. Each board member was required to bring a song that identified who they are. The playlist was very interesting and spread across the generations from Aretha Franklin (since Interior Designers are always seeking “Respect” for our profession) to Kelly Clarkson (“Miss Independent” and “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”). We learned a lot about each other from our music choices.
I chose Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi because I am an environmentalist at heart. The music speaks to my soul. I remember overhearing a cowboy in Wyoming one time lamenting the loss of his personal wilderness: “When I first moved out here there was nothing, and now it is all gone.”
My belief in stewardship led me to buy a Toyota Prius recently. I couldn’t pass up this cream puff vehicle, a 2008 with 21,000 miles on it. My other vehicle is a Chrysler Town and Country van for hauling sofas and antiques. But I never feel myself in a van, as I am definitely not a soccer mom type. I go zipping around in my Prius getting 49 mpg and singing ” you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone”. I notice people are passing me when I am going 92! It feels like I used to feel after one drink too many in college, driving along going 12 with one eye closed, wondering why everyone is leaving me in the dirt. Or is it similar to life which seems to be going faster and faster while I struggle to stay current? Then I realize that I have accidentally hit the kilometer button instead of the trip odometer. It helps to read the manual…

Lime Squeezer

lime squeezer

Everyone needs a lime squeezer!

I work 50- 60 hours a week as an Interior Designer and handle estate liquidations on the side. I figure it is better than wasting time watching TV. Besides, if you are having fun, it doesn’t fell like work! Several years ago, I was liquidating a living estate for a widow whose sons had moved her close to them during her beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. The day I met her was a good day, and she was bright and present. Because she was moving certain furniture items to an apartment in North Carolina, the dining room table was full of displaced items. There was a pair of silver and ivory tongs on the table that were particularly intriguing. I called the son and asked if his mother or he remembered anything about this item, because I felt it might be significant. They did not know what I was speaking of and told me it must have been some of her late husbands’ family items. (She loved her things and thought his things were just stuff!) I asked permission to pull them from the sale and do some research when time allowed. After the sale was conducted, I looked up the mark “M. Price S. F.” I found that the item was made by Michael Price, a well known knife-maker during the gold rush in San Francisco. There was a push dagger that had brought $13,000 in 2008, but Price was known for knives, and the economy has crashed in the meantime. I spent months contacting people who knew people in the San Francisco antiques market looking for a potential buyer. After several months of trying to get a call back from Bonhams auction house in San Francisco, they answered and agreed to consign the item into their November armament auction, with an estimate of $3000 to $5000. Having felt that I had done the best for the client, I worked in a nearby town the day of the auction. When I returned to the office, I logged onto the Bonhams website to check the results. Anyone within three miles heard me hoop and holler that day when the “lime squeezer” fetched $29,000! When someone asked me how often this happened to me, I answered “once in a lifetime” and I had my turn. I hope I am wrong. I am out there looking for lightning to strike twice!

Chuck Will’s Widow

lmilogoI was born a city girl raised by city parents. My mother did not want to live with old furniture or carry a stick of firewood, because she grew up in the depression. My father considered “roughing it” carrying his own golf bag. But we must be born with certain affinities, because I am happiest in the wide open with my critters. When  I established my interior design firm, Laurie McRae Interiors, I wanted a timeless brand. I chose a rising whippoorwill as my logo, a symbol of the hope of spring. When I developed a line of clothing embellished with antique and vintage linens, I wanted to continue the brand but with a twist. So I named the venture “Chuck Wills Widow”. The name started as many conversations as the clothing ever did. A chuck will’s widow is a closely related bird to the whippoorwill, both in the family of night hawks. There is a week or two of time in the south when you can hear both birds call their own name.  The whippoorwill call is fast and constant, while the chuck is slower and lilting. So listen late next May for the hope of spring and the promise of summer during that short time when their migrations overlap. I think I will name my next company “Goatsucker”.