The Amazing American Eel

By Regina Montana – Nature Friend Magazine, February 2023

The Amazing American Eel

by Regina Montana | Feb 1, 2023 | 0 comments

View the February 2023 Nature Friend Magazine

American eels swimming
American eels. Photo © Michael Wood/Dreamstime.com.

Far away in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is a sea called the Sargasso Sea. It is a gigantic clockwork of currents called a gyre, where millions of American and European eels are born every year. Over one hundred species of fish, snails, crabs, turtles, and eels make their homes and are born in the mats of seaweed called sargassum. These mats of seaweed can stretch for miles. The baby eels, called larvae, ride the ocean currents till they reach North America and Europe, sometimes taking up to a year to arrive on the American shores. Scientists do not know why some larvae drift toward American shores while others drift for two more years toward Europe.

Now one of nature’s most incredible transformations begins. The skin and internal organs of the eels change in order to adapt to living in fresh water after living in salt water.

Following the larva stage, the eels become glass eels. They are now 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm) long with elongated bodies, prominent black eyes, and developed fins. They are between seven and twelve months old when they reach coastal water.

Glass eels then turn into elvers. They grow several more inches and develop pigmentation, becoming dark gray, and form a thick and slippery mucous layer. If you try to pick one up, you will learn they are as slippery as an eel!

The elver stage is followed by the juvenile or yellow eel stage, and finally by the silver or mature adult eel, which can reach lengths of 2-5 feet (.6-1.5 m) Their coloration can vary.

The American eel usually hunts at night. During the day, it hides in gravel, sand, masses of plants, or other forms of shelter. In the winter, eels burrow under mud and enter a state of torpor, or inactivity. However, they may become active at times.

These eels can travel up to 4,000 miles (6,400 km) in a lifetime. American eels can live up to thirty years, and, at the end of their life, they swim back to the Sargasso Sea. Some scientists believe the Earth’s magnetic field helps eels find their way back home. Once again their bodies undergo dramatic changes. They stop eating; their skin thickens; their eye size doubles, improving their vision in deep, dark water; and their pectoral fins enlarge for the long swim back. After months of travel, they produce new offspring. These larvae will begin their life’s journey. The adult eels’ work is done.

Now that is one fantastic voyage.

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ADULT AMERICAN EEL – Photo by John M. Casselman, Dept of Biology, Queen’s University, Ontario, Canda


Read to Me

sad dog

Read to Me

by Regina Montana

An article about a new program sponsored by the ASPCA recently appeared in the newspaper.  It described how volunteers are reading to abused dogs in preparing them for adoption.   I was very moved and wrote the following poem.

Read to Me

People hurt me.

I never knew why.

I want to forget.

I have to try.

I’m in a shelter now.

It’s different here.

They bring lots of books.

I have less fear.

If you read to me,

you’ll see my heart.

Your voice will heal.

I’ll find a new start.

I’m just a dog.

Don’t throw me away.

Please read to me.

I’ll be whole one day.




Black Racer arrives

On July 2, 2016 an uninvited guest showed up in our front yard.  I was aghast as my husband called out to come quickly to the top of our driveway.  He had been weeding alongside a small evergreen tree when his gloved hand came within an inch of a four-foot long black snake that then slithered away from us as we looked on in amazement.  But not before it stopped and coiled up, ready to strike in case we dared come any closer.

I grabbed my iPhone and began to videotape the snake as he made his way toward cover, narrating for my grandson the arrival of this most unwelcomed visitor.  Attempting to mask the fear in my voice, I told him the snake was just being a snake and trying to get away from us.   We watched as the nearly 48-inch-long, maybe even 60 inch-long, black creature disappeared into some low-lying brush.

My cousin, a Master Gardner, later said it might be a Black Racer and if it were, it would be beneficial for our yard since this species will eat small rodents, frogs and voles.  I have to admit it’s a very cool name for an animal that does not summon a lot of positive feeling when seen in the wild, or in one’s backyard.  I like to think of my surroundings as a haven for robins, cardinals, chipmunks and squirrels, not crawling reptiles.

I prefer to see them in a controlled environment – behind glass in a zoo.  I have no problem with an occasional garter snake;  they are fairly cute.  Last year one made his home in a narrow opening between a sliding door and cement step leading out to a patio.  I could peer out at him every so often and see him in the crack where he apparently enjoyed some welcomed shade.   I made up stories about him for my grandson and named him Sherman.  When we no longer could find him, I explained he had most likely returned to his family in the woods.

This year may be different.  I’ll have to come up with an endearing story, this time about the four-footer.  It won’t be easy, but calling him a Black Racer (even if he is not that species) will light up the eyes of this five-year-old, hopefully making him less fearful and allowing his imagination to run wild, conjuring up all kinds of possibilities as to the snake’s whereabouts and activities.  I, on the other hand, will be very happy never to see him again.  The reality is, however, that he is very likely somewhere in the yard, as afraid of meeting me as I am of him.

Black Racer makes it into our local newspaper, The Gazette

Black Racer.JPG


My mother-in-law Marie

Marie Montana

On December 16, 2015 we lost our beloved mother, grandmother, great grandmother, mother-in-law and friend, Marie Montana. She will be missed forever by many people and looked up to as a role model by just about anyone who had the privilege of knowing her.   I loved her as if she were my own mother and will remember her gentle style, loving care, concern, modesty and kindness.  She had it all and then some.   I have no memory of a negative or critical comment toward me, her daughter-in-law.   Sandy, Jerry and I all called her “Mom” since there was never a question in our minds that she was like a mother to each of us.  She would always say, “Isn’t that beautiful” if you related the most ordinary event to her.  Of course looking back some of the ordinary events in life are the most beautiful.  Thank you, dear mother Marie, for all you gave and all you were to us.  We will never forget you and we look forward to being with you again in heaven.


Refugee Children Project

pinkSometimes you are called to act.  As I was passing by my daughter’s bedroom a few  years ago, I was focused on her doll cabinet, filled with dolls that hadn’t been played with in years.  I thought how sad it was that they sat there month after month, year after year with no one touching them or enjoying their beauty.  It was then that I remembered the hundreds of refugees pouring into Germany and an idea was born.   All these children arriving in the middle of the night, after treacherous journeys must be filled with lots of emotions and traumas after leaving their homelands.  What joy it would be for them to have a small doll or stuffed animal greet them in this foreign country, now their new home – at least for a while. And so on December 6, 2015 at 9:00 in the morning, a church project began as parishioners brought boxes of toys to our hall to be sent to Passau, Germany.  The city of Passau lies in southern Germany and migrants were arriving and crossing the border.  I know that these donations of toys from my parish of Holy Name of Mary will brighten the faces of children who had to flee the violence of their homes and serve as a small welcome gift as they arrive in this new country.

Dec. 22, 2015 – Today we received word that our boxes have arrived and Frau Beate Heindl sent some photos of children with the stuffed animals. We are so thrilled to share the following photo.

June 1, 2022 – So today it is 7 years later and a story called  A TEA PARTY FAR AWAY has undergone many revisions. This picture book will tell the story of Maddie, a second grader, who has to decide whether to donate her treasured possessions when her teacher suggests a drive to send toys to children arriving at the southern border of the U.S.

DSC_1549 (1)


Dr. Wayne Dyer passes


One of the world’s most famous self-help gurus and motivational speakers, Dr. Wayne Dyer, passed away on August 30 at the age of 75.  A prolific author, Dr. Dyer published over 40 books, the first of which “Your Erroneous Zones,” sold over 35 million copies.  My favorite quotation of his was the following :

          ” When you change the way you look at things,  the things you look at change.”


15 Life-changing Lessons to Learn from Wayne Dyer


Republished with permission from Purpose Fairy

“We are not our bodies, our possessions, or our career. Who we are is Divine Love and that is Infinite.” Dr. Wayne W. Dyer ​(1940-2015)

There are people in this world who can touch our hearts in really profound and meaningful ways, and that’s exactly the impact Wayne Dyer had on me.

Wayne W. Dyer, you were one of the most beautiful, humble and authentic people who ever walked on this Earth. And I learned so much from you. You taught me how to be humble, how to live in love and truth, and how to always honor who I truly am underneath it all. You taught me how to be better than I used to be and I will always be thankful for this. Thank you for sharing your love, your knowledge and your wisdom with all of us.

The world was, is, and will be a better place just because you have lived. You will be greatly missed.

Rest In Peace!

1. Cooperation is healthier than competition

Work on improving your own person and be so busy doing so that you don’t have time to compare and compete with others. We are all in this together and this sense of separation will only weaken us, creating more pain and suffering.

“If you’re always in a hurry, always trying to get ahead of the other guy, or someone else’s performance is what motivates you, then that person is in control of you.” ~ Wayne Dyer

2. If you love people you don’t try to change them

When you love somebody you love them for what they are not for what you want them to be, without imposing your will and without constantly trying to change them.

“Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you.” ~ Wayne Dyer

3. Ignorance is not bliss

Allow yourself to expand your mind a little more day by day, give up labels and you will be happier. If you constantly say NO to “strange” ideas, things, events, people, how can you expect to progress through life? Try new things, if it makes your life better, stick to it and if it doesn’t, let it go. It’s that simple.

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” ~ Wayne Dyer

4. You are not a victim of the world

When you affirm things like, You make me mad, this situation is upsetting me, I can’t believe you are treating me this way, etc., you start playing the victim game. Take responsibility for your own thoughts, your own feelings and actions and by doing so you will no longer give your power away to forces outside yourself. When something negative comes your way, you will pause and instead of reacting, you will RESPOND, to everything and everyone. You will no longer be a victim, but rather a person who is aware of his/her inner strength and power.

“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.” ~ Wayne Dyer

5. You find yourself in solitude

If you are comfortable in your own skin and really love your own person, you will not be afraid to spend time alone. You will enjoy the time you spend alone as much as you do when you are surrounded by people you dearly love.

“You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.” ~ Wayne Dyer

6. Rejection makes you stronger

If you trust and listen to your own heart and intuition, you will always know where to go and what to do with your life. No matter how many doors close in your face, you will not give up and you will allow rejection to make you stronger and better, not bitter.

“Be grateful to all those people who told you no. It’s because of them that you managed to do it all yourself.” Wayne Dyer

7. Self worth cannot be verified by others

If you constantly seek outside yourself for approval and validation, you will never be happy. We are all different and we all perceive things in different ways but your reputation is not something you can really control. Your reputation is not really in your hands, so stop trying to please everyone around you and start pleasing your SELF. You are the person who matters the most and if you yourself are not happy with who you are, chances are others will not be happy with you either!

“Self-worth cannot be verified by others. You are worthy because you say it is so. If you depend on others for your value it is other-worth.” Wayne Dyer

8. You don’t attract what you want in your life, you attract what you are

People often think if they focus long enough on something they want, with the Law of Attraction and everything, they will get whatever they want in life, but that’s not how things work. If you purify your mind and heart, you will attract many beautiful things into your life, and abundance will not be something you will have to chase because it will chase you. On the other hand, if your mind and heart is full of negativity, negativity in all forms will show up in your life.

”If you’re obsessed with defeating the other guy and winning at all costs, then you’re guaranteed to attract the vibrational equivalent of this thinking into your life — even if you do yoga and stand on your head chanting mantras everyday.” ~ Wayne Dyer

9. There are no limits to what you can achieve – you are a no-limit person

There are no limits to what you can achieve, only those you choose to impose on yourself.

“When you argue for your limitations, all you get are your limitations.” Wayne Dyer

10. “Heaven on earth” is a choice you must make, not a place you must find

Focus on the BAD and that’s all you will see and attract into your life; focus on the GOOD and that’s all you will see and attract into your life.

“Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world.” Wayne Dyer

11. No need to stress over everything

Believe it or not, there is an invisible force who created the whole world, the whole Universe and this force becomes available to us the moment we stop trying to do it all by ourselves, the moment we decide to allow events to take their natural course and just go with the FLOW.

“Good morning, this is God. I will be handling all of your problems today. I will not need your help. So have a miraculous day.” ~ Wayne Dyer

12. All that you need is already within you

In this moment you have it all, right NOW and right here, there is nothing lacking. Take time to be quiet at least 5 minutes per day and in time you will discover that you do have access to HAPPINESS, PEACE, ABUNDANCE and all that is good at all times.

“You have everything you need for complete peace and total happiness right now.” ~ Wayne Dyer

13. There is no end to personal growth

Personal growth doesn’t end when you finish school. The moment you’ve stopped growing you can say that you’ve stopped living. Individuals who use self-labels are stating, “I’m a finished product in this area, and I’m never going to be any different.”

“If you’re a finished product all tied up and put away, you’ve stopped growing.” ~ Wayne Dyer

14. Be realistic, expect miracles

There is a great power in the Universe, the Source of it all, and this power makes itself available to you the moment you align with who you really are deep down inside, creating miracles for you and those you love.

“Once you believe in yourself and see your soul as divine and precious, you’ll automatically be converted to a being who can create miracles.” Wayne Dyer

15. Follow your heart and you will be successful

There is a great power in the Universe, the Source of it all, and this power makes itself available to you the moment you align with who you really are deep down inside, creating miracles for you and those you love.

“Doing what you love is the cornerstone

Compliments of Mindvalley Academy.


Some inspiring words from children’s book author and illustrator Tomie dePaola

Tomie dePaola

Tomie dePaola is celebrating his 60th year as a working artist, 50 of which have been filled with illustrating books for children, as well as his other projects including many one-man shows of paintings and drawings. He is the recipient of the 2011 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award honoring an author or illustrator whose books have made a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.


I studied Illustration at Pratt Institute in the early 1950’s.  It was the best thing I ever did.  It turned me from an art student into an Artist (not a children’s book illustrator yet—-that would come later).
In 1955, I spent the summer at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture where I met Ben Shahn, a visiting faculty member. He noticed my work and for two weeks, he personally “mentored” me daily.  I learned so much from him, but there was one thing he told me that I would like to pass on.  Ben said, “Being an artist is not only what you do, but how you live your life.” 
There is something else I’d like to share with you, too. This is a quote from Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. It’s applicable to anyone who is trying to create.  “As you unfold as an artist, just keep on, quietly and earnestly growing through all that happens to you. You cannot disrupt the process more violently than by looking outside yourself for answers that may only be found by attending to your innermost feeling.”
And a final word from me. COURAGE!
Compliments of SCBWI – Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

“Mignon – Diary and Letters of a Jewish Nurse in Vienna 1938 – 1949”


     As a German major in college, I had no idea how many roads I would travel and the people I would meet while learning the language and teaching it to American students. After living as a student in Vienna in 1967, I would make many trips back to this place I call my second home.   My host family, the Bazants, invited me in 1974 to come teach English at an Austrian gymnasium, a combination middle and high school.  I learned a lot about my own native language that year, along with the Austrian school system while teaching at Sacre Coeur in Pressbaum, Austria.  Over the years I continued to study this language that I spoke for two years, hoping not to forget it.  And every time I thought I was done, finished with studying German and ready to give the books away, something would happen to alter the course of things.


        “It’s in those moments of supreme happiness that one should remember the tears.”   

Mignon Langnas, Vienna, August 18, 1943

           Approximately seven years ago I had the good fortune to meet George Langnas.   In late December 1939 at the  age of 4 George arrived in New York from Vienna with his sister Manuela, age 6, accompanied by a family friend. His mother  Mignon (shown above) stayed behind in Vienna to take care of her sick and elderly parents.  It was seven long years years before Mignon would be reunited with her family in New York.  His father Leo sailed from the port of Hamburg on the USS St. Louis  in early 1939.   After being denied entry into the port of Cuba, the ship sailed up and down the coast of Florida.  It was not able to land on U.S. soil and was forced to return to Europe where the passengers were assigned to the countries of France, Belgium, the Netherlands and England.  Fortunately, Leo ended up in England.  He would finally make it to the U.S. to be reunited with his children in 1940.   Over the years George lost all knowledge of his native language German.   Around the age of 50 George uncovered extensive family material including letters and a diary related to his mother’s experiences while living in Vienna from 1939 to 1946.  With this new material George co-authored a book entitled  Mignon – Tagebücher und Briefe einerdischen Krankenschwester in Wien 1938 – 1949  (see translation above) with the assistance of Viennese researcher Elisabeth Fraller.  A paperback is available as an Ebook entitled “Mignon Langnas” -Tagebuch und Briefe 1939 – 1949.”  It is the family’s hope that the English version of Mignon’s story will be published.  It has been my privilege to work with George over the years, helping him relearn the language he spoke as a child.  In 2010 he was able to realize the dream of telling his mother’s story – a long journey of tears, separation, strife, survival and the devastating price that many paid during World War II.

Kinder im Waisenheim

Above is a picture of Manuela and George Langnas with their father Leo during a visit to the orphanage where the children lived for a short time.


We were Sisters


We were Sisters

                                                                  By  Regina Montana

Seventh grade girls aren’t always mean on purpose.

“It’s snowing down south!” said Marguerite.

I just stared at her, not understanding why she and the other girls were giggling.

I followed their eyes to the source of the joke and realized my slip was showing.

I had never heard that expression before and had no clue as to its meaning until now.

But on that morning I didn’t care about being the center of unwanted attention.

My baby sister had just died.  She lived for only ten hours.

Those girls could not have known.

I just grimaced as if I got the joke and looked away.  I don’t really remember if I

was going  to church or to class that day.  It’s all a blur now as I try to recall that moment.

Time kind of stood still and I felt numb.

Earlier that morning when I asked if we could visit mom and the baby, my father said, “Regina, the baby didn’t make it.”

No one took me to the hospital to see my baby sister and she was never talked about again.

Her grave marker simply read “Baby V.”  Only one word and an initial to mark a short life.

My two brothers and I would be the only children  mom and dad would have.

A few weeks after the death of my sister, I came home from school to find a priest from

our parish talking to my mother in our living room.  I could only hear whispering and I

knew it was private, so I did

not linger.  I needed to figure out a way to live without my sister.

In the weeks that followed the girls in my class apologized to me when they

heard about the baby that died. I told them it was ok, that I was ok.

Nothing was further from the truth. I would not be fine for quite a while.

Had she even existed, even if only for a few hours? There was a lot of

silence in my house. I would have to deal with my loss in private. And that

is the path I chose, even till this day, many years later. I say a prayer for her

soul and I think of her every now and then. I know I will see her in heaven

one day and I picture our reunion. That brings me joy and is enough for




“All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.  I remember her prayers, and they have always followed me.  They have clung to me all my life.” –     Abraham Lincoln

My mother Carmel “Dolly” Visconti passed away in January of 2015.  I share the sentiments of Mr. Lincoln.

Thank you for expressing what I could not.mom1