I was transfixed by an array of zinnias in a formal garden at the New Jersey State Botanical Garden (yes, there is such a place in Ringwood State Forest located in the relatively unpopulated northwest part of the state) when a large, dark shape edged into my line of vision.
“Pets aren’t allowed here,” I thought as my brain sorted through breeds to match the shape. Just as I settled on “Afghan Hound . . . ,” I heard Linda gasp–“Bear!” It was about 20 feet away and oblivious to us–what a thrill. A day later, we were walking along the beach to the end of Barnegat Peninsula in Island Beach State Park (one of my all-time favorite walks) when we got a good long look at a black & white shore bird with a long bright orange bill that we had never seen before. “That’s an Oystercatcher,” I said, having no idea where I got that name, except perhaps from the gazillion of books I’ve read with Sophie about animals and nature.
Driving out of the park, Linda shouted “Fox!” And there it was, close enough to the car to reach out and pet, which of course we didn’t!
On our way home, we stopped at the Ben Franklin store stuffed with everything from trinkets to towels to toys to books. Holding a copy of a book, Linda exclaimed, “It was an Oystercatcher!” And there it was illustrated by Barbara Patrizzi on the cover of her book O is for Oystercatcher: A Book of Seaside ABCs. Delighted that I had somehow from somewhere retrieved that name, I bought the book, which is a beautiful book published by Down the Shore Publishing, a reminder of what readers give up when they limit themselves to Kindles & Nooks (which I’m not against, but there is something so special about the look, the feel of a carefully, lovingly written, illustrated, produced book.)