It still doesn't seem quite real, but a week ago today we lost long-time Dawn Chorister Julie Waters (previously known as juliewolf). She was far too young, but she packed a lot of living into the years she had.
Over the years, she's been an important part of this community, both as a commenter and as a frequent guest host. (I almost asked her to host last weekend when I was having my internet connection problems.) She was often one of the first to comment each week, eager to share images of a new sighting or a familiar favorite.
Though she'd been having health problems, it seemed like things were getting better; her death took us all by surprise. Just two days before it happened, she was hanging out in C&J, cheering the fact that she was back at work. No doubt it was a relief to be improving in time to enjoy spring migration.
We weren't the only community she was active in - KosAbility, Photography, LGBT issues. Being active in so many different groups was a benefit to all of them - she had over 300 followers, and when she wrote on one topic, she could get attention from people who followed her from other groups. That sort of cross-pollination helped make her more effective as an activist. If there was one of her diaries on other topics that really stands out for you, I hope you'll share it here. I'll start by recommending one about with marriage equality that she wrote as a newlywed in 2009.
Julie shared a bunch of her photography with the DKos Photo Collective. She wrote about it here. She also shared her music with us, but with my tin ear I'm not a good judge of which ones to include here - suggestions welcome.
Julie was the one who got the Birds and Birdwatching Group going, and she was also the one who kept this diary series going when I needed some downtime in 2010. Over the years, she's hosted Dawn Chorus many times. If you'd like to look back, here's a list:
10/20/11 - The Little Dawn Chorus that Could
7/3/11 - All-American Birds (our first attempt at a joint diary)
6/26/11 - Worst. Dawn. Chorus. Ever. (note: her title!! not mine!!)
5/29/11 - Occam's Warbler (a photo-quiz diary; answers here)
12/26/10 - Bosque Del Apache
11/28/10 - Fall in New England
10/3/10 - A week on Plum Island
7/25/10 - An Exhibit
6/27/10 - Vermont's Northeast Kingdom
5/30/10 - of Warblers and Weekends
4/25/10 - In Memoriam
1/17/10 - Far reaching wanderers and weary travelers
5/23/09 - This week in warblers
9/27/08 - The mountain and the hawks
[I think I got them all, at last, though there might have been one or two posted without the "Dawn Chorus" title in the earlier days. She also has dozens of bird diaries that she's written at other times - way to many to list here.]
I have to admit to being surprised by how hard I took the news about Julie. I have been sad to hear about some other losses here, people whose voices I always appreciated - Granny Doc is the one who jumps to mind immediately. It's like opening the paper and seeing that a writer or artist that you've long admired is gone. You're sad for their family, and feel a loss yourself because you know you won't have the joy of seeing new work from them again. Losing Julie, though, was losing a friend. It was a new thing to understand - losing a friend that I've known only through pixels and the written word. We'd never actually spoken, though we did have hopes of meeting up someday for some birding. When I talk to my friends IRL, I refer to the people I know through Dawn Chorus and DKos as "my imaginary friends", in the sense that I've never actually met or spoken to most of them. This brought home to me just how real those "imaginary" friends are.
And a little story to share: When I first read the news last week, I posted this comment. Over the years, she'd mentioned wanting to see golden eagles several times. I told her, hey, all you gotta do is come to California - to the Bay Area - and we'll go see eagles. Yesterday I went to Mines Road, one of the places I would have taken her to see them. We saw more goldens yesterday than I can ever remember seeing there before - easily a dozen. Each one made me think about her. One that we saw late morning did something I've never had the chance to witness before, a beautiful series of display dives high above a canyon. We were transfixed. After it finished its display, the bird flew closer to us... and I somehow just knew.
Update: I just now realized that the link to radical simplicity's diary in my tip jar didn't work. That diary explains how you can make a contribution to the Greater Falls Warming Shelter in her memory, if you choose.