Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Quiet Night's Lightning

I like to sit in a dark room and listen to music; especially if I can look out on a night sky.  Tonight’s sky is echoing the silent lightning that would be missed with closed curtains and indoor lighting or TV.
Silent lightning has no thunder or rain to call out “Look at me!”  But Mother Nature's silent flashes take a beautifully dark sky and fill it with rolling echoes of pulsating light.  This quiet night’s lightning filled my dark room with energy to write.

I never left the house today; I’d like to call it a chore day but I can’t quite make that claim.  I do declare though that I will never again own a stick house with three toilets!  I’d rather clean an RV toilet any day.

Tomorrow brings June and a daytrip to acquaint myself with a new tow vehicle.  I tried to study the owner’s manual today, but could not find focus without sitting in the truck’s cab.  Tomorrow I’ll give it my full attention.  But it will take me a good while before I’ll declare this new vehicle to be a trusted friend. 

I’ve had some long-lost folk on my mind today.  I’ve wondered today if one definition of growing old has something to do with outliving those loved ones who best know us.  Or maybe they didn’t know me any better than others know me, but they certainly held me close within their lives.  And now it is I who hold them.

We Americans seem to thrive on busyness.  And busyness usually surrounds us with a flurry of people.  But when the busyness goes quiet, so too will the flurry of people.  These good folk are not the ones who stay with us during the quiet years of our lives.

Flurries of people are not the ones who hold our lives close to theirs.  Seems flurries of people are like curtains closed; making it harder to focus on the quiet lightning of lost loved ones. 

But if I look hard enough, especially in a dark room listening to music, the energy of those loved ones brings me to turn on a lamp; to turn on the computer.  Their energy gives light to this dark day, and so I write.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rain, Caffeine and TP

Sometime late last night I realized I was almost out of two of my life’s necessities:  caffeine and toilet paper.

By late night the torrential rains of yesterday afternoon had come and gone, but a whole lot more rain was forecast for today, and the next several days.
And so I woke up really early this morning and immediately turned on the TV.

I have a favored local-weather channel, not prone for exaggerating weather conditions.  The early-dawn TV screen greeted me with a Doppler-radar image depicting a thickly-bowed red band of rain, preceding the favored yellow-band that would be the welcome good soaking to this Texas drought.

The not-overly-excitable weatherman spoke his mind:  the first front, the red band, was likely to bring dangerous road conditions and localized flooding.  “Stay off the roads, when it hits, if at all possible.”

I looked at the location of the red band, out west in the Katy area, and guessed I had an hour or maybe a bit more, before the torrent hit my neck of the woods.

I rolled out of bed, donned glasses and street clothes, and headed to the grocery without so much as washing my face.

By 6:30 a.m. I was checking OUT of the grocery, with my most-needed supplies and a few extras.  At the last minute I’d decided to treat myself to the purchase of a bottle of wine, thinking it would be a nice accompaniment to multiple days of rain. 

To my embarrassment, the check-out lady told me that she could not sell me alcohol before 7:00 a.m.  She took the bottle to later return to its shelf. I tried to convince myself that she wouldn’t judge me harshly—seems if alcohol were my addiction, I’d know when I could and couldn’t buy it. 

Thankfully this checker had no issue with my purchasing a bag of chocolate.  And believe me, rain or no rain; I’d have stayed until 7:00 a.m. if I couldn’t walk out with my caffeine and TP!

Just as I returned home, put away supplies, and sat down with my favored form of caffeine, the sky opened up and the red band of rain emptied a deluge over my stick house.

As I’ve shared before, I love rainy days—if I don’t have to drive somewhere.  There is a reason that the old children’s book “It Chanced to Rain” is one of my all-time favorite reads.  The sound of rain has been a part of my Gulf-Coastie life in the same way that seagulls have shared the treasured images of my days.  

But the problem with rainy days is that I tend NOT to be productive.  I just want to sit and listen; to sit and watch; to sit and wonder about the making of this day. 

Some days I embrace my solitary lifestyle.  I give thanks for the freedoms that come with this one life of mine.  Some days I struggle with my solitary lifestyle. I wonder at the twists and turns and impacts that I never saw coming; that leave my voice mostly silent.

And more recently, I face some days with an excitement over my very-own RV arriving next month.  And other days I wonder:  What am I thinking to undertake such travels?

Today's rain continues and my typing is slow; but I know that I can sit and drink all the caffeine that I want.  And whether ready or not, tomorrow will bring tomorrow’s wonderment and challenges.  And ready or not, I should soon find myself RVing on a wonderfully rainy day.

And if my own history is all that shares my future, I most likely won’t sit inside the RV and listen to any daytime rain.  I’ll don rain gear and binoculars, and wander on down a favored trail, giving thanks that it chanced to rain.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Chicito or a Wilson's Plover?

I’m not riding my bicycle often enough to better recover from each two-hour bike-ride’s exercise.  But yesterday morning I enjoyed a two-hour ride, weaving from neighborhood to neighborhood, and noting the many American flags, placed in front yards, honoring this Memorial Day. 

My two-hour bike ride again left me mostly useless the rest of yesterday.  I did manage to spend a good bit of time washing my car as it was covered in a plethora of dead Love Bugs, victims from my Friday’s hour drive to Brazos Bend State Park.  This month has brought as many Love Bugs to the Texas coast as my memory allows.

I’ve decided not to write about Memorial Day this year, but that doesn’t mean that the thousands that have died in our country’s wars with others, and war with ourselves, is not on my mind.  Seems Memorial Day should be called a holy day rather than a holiday.  With holy meaning a day set apart, to remember our fallen and wounded men and women, and to contemplate and discern a path to a more peaceful today and tomorrow. 

Today simply finds me settling down to develop photos and to work a bit on my writing.  I thought I’d post a quick blog before I get started.  

My photos today are of a delightful Wilson’s Plover that gave me great amusement, on a recent trip to Rollover Pass.  This plover seemed to enjoy watching me as much as I enjoyed watching him:

But the best time was watching this plover run.  It ran EXACTLY like a family member’s Border Collie, Chicito.  If you’ve ever seen a Border Collie in action, you’ll recognize the pose this plover claims in the last photo:

I hope you’ll find time to go out and spend time looking at the feathered Ones—they may just remind you of your loved ones!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Brazos Bend, with a Friend

My good friend Debbie joined me yesterday, for a lovely daytrip to Brazos Bend State Park.  Debbie is not a focused birder, as that would be too limiting of an adjective for her extraordinary life.  I’ll share with you one of her many extraordinary attributes:

She is planning a trip to Antarctica.  No, no—that’s not what’s most extraordinary.  Here it is:  when Debbie visits Antarctica, she will have spent time on EVERY continent of this great big world.  Can you imagine? 

Although not a birder, she is an extraordinary outdoorswoman, and we had a great time.

It was a treat for me to have a friend in the field, who shares a love of Mother Nature’s creation.  And Brazos Bend’s summer residents put on their own extraordinary showing for my friend:

The bird of the day was certainly the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, or as Debbie nick-named them:  those Stormy-Night Ones:

We had great fun watching the locals move about the springtime-fresh Lotus plants:

And do you see it?  This one is what makes this park memorable to most visitors:

See it now? 

And if you know the name of this beautiful flowering vine, please share:

The summertime Purple Gallinules were out and about:

And a lovely Great Egret displayed for us, in a purple-blooming field of Water Hyacinth.  Do you know which one doesn’t belong here?—and is terribly destructive to the habitat?

And the Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks gave Debbie a good show throughout the day, with their unique face, behavior and whistling calls:

Thanks, Deb, for joining me.  What a fun day! I hope Brazos Bend memories will help keep you warm when traveling to Antarctica…

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The 25th 22nd

Your life is in that place that wants to go out,
And find sacred ground, unknown.
You see most of your days ahead, and you wonder:
Does my path embolden passions I hold dear?

Tired of those thought purposed to teach
You ache to learn life all on your own.
You go, letting loose those deep waters inside you;
Those longings, which have made you their this-day home.

Will you hold close Mother Nature’s wise counsel?
And keep distant what your careful heart warns?
Going can give new life to returning:
To pursue and cherish YOUR life’s work.

May your search hone your passions and loves;
And honor your foremothers’ hard-farming lives.
They exampled lifestyles that may guide you
To THEIR sacred ground; this one, your Sure-footed home.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

2014 Spring Migrants II

I’m migrating my daily schedule from cool-weather’s afternoon walks to warm-weather’s morning bicycle rides.  This week is my first of many to spend with my bicycle.  These last several months I’d let my bicycle become a forgotten friend. But as with most long-term friendships, we readily found our familiar relationship and routine.   

It’s quite embarrassing that this week’s two-hour bike rides have left me mostly useless in the afternoons, with little writing or photo development.  Cross-training, they call it.  New-old sore muscles, is what I call it.
I rewarded my sore muscles with a yesterday’s renting of the 2013 movie “Labor Day.”  Call me a hopeful-romantic, but I really liked it.  And hey, it was a modern day exception:  the kid was really good to his mom, even in high school, and even after growing up!  (But yes, the movie still fit into the repeating, popular genre of a story that includes a low-functioning mother.  At least this story gave good reason.)

My yearly migration of daily schedule, to live in peace with coastal heat and humidity, is not an easy transition for me.  I don’t like rolling out of bed and immediately going out for exercise.  Unless, of course, the exercise is my favorite arm work:  raising binoculars and camera to the feathered ones.

But I’ve got to tell you, getting up for outdoor exercise surely beats 30 years of career clocking.  I’ve let my 5:30 a.m. alarm clock become a forgotten never-friend.  Say yea!

So I thought today would be a good one to share a second set of spring migrant photos.  As mentioned with my April 29th post, 2014 Spring Migrants I, the photos are not great—but the birding was stellar.

All photos were taken on multiple April trips to Lafitte’s Cove in Galveston.  As always, click-on photos to enlarge.

A Northern Parula:

I was rewarded with long looks at an Ovenbird when I moved away from the people-crowds:

And when facing the crowds and elbowing a turn’s view of the water feature, I was rewarded with a lovely Philadelphia Vireo:

Magnolia Warblers would not sit still for my camera:

But I happened onto the quiet stillness of this Red-eyed Vireo, in heavy cover:

And two Warbling Vireos made their way across my view, with this one's better photo:

But the American Redstarts seemed not at all tired from their long flight migration. They would NOT sit still for a photo, giving me this best-in-class rear shot:

May all your days be birdy days!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Love-Bird Tenderness

Tenderness comes in all shapes and sizes: the steadfast caring of an elder friend or relative; the calming of a crying baby; the tender voice and encouraging hug from a friend, during those hard times in life.
And most of us, at some moment in our lives, experience that tender love that brings a deeper meaning to mating.

I’ve quite literally stood in awe when sighting those rare springtime demonstrations of Mother Nature’s feathered ones, publicly displaying tenderness with their pre-mating dance.  I don’t believe we humans have cornered the market on Love-bird tenderness.
But when I think of the tenderness of two mate’s love, Laughing Gulls would not readily come to my mind. 

I grew up with the Texas Gulf Coast and Galveston Bay as my extended backyard.  I’m surprised by the specificity of my post-toddler memories of riding the Galveston-Bolivar ferry; of making beach-side sandcastles, and of taking hand-and-knee-scraped spills when running about the Texas City Dike.

And with all of these childhood memories, I see and hear a constant presence with me:  Laughing Gulls.  My memories include the sounds of gull noise and in-fighting; the cries of food grabbing, and the raucous vocalizations in their large-group dynamics.  But tenderness between two is not what I would express as Laughing Gull behavior.

All that changed with my recent daytrip to the Texas City dike. I watched two Laughing Gulls demonstrate a so-very-tender affection to each other, not followed by mating.

Their bill and chest touching was slow and tender.  Neither displayed an act of dominance nor submission. 

At this one moment in time, these two Laughing Gulls became an artistic expression of the most-tender love.  I hope they bring your own good memories to mind (click-on images to enlarge):

May all of your days be birdy days...

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Turnstone's Manna

The word “manna” is not-so-often used in twenty-first century Texan-speak.  But this age-old word is one of my favorites to visualize. 

A professor of the Hebrew language taught me that many folk would define this word in terms of the miraculous food provided to the Israelites, during those very difficult years of wandering about the desert (that famous story of the Exodus from Egypt).  

And so folk-of-today might guess at a definition for manna to be:  miracle food, gifted from the Creator. But this professor also shared a more basic definition that should be understood.  Manna is a word that may simply mean:  What is it? 

Now friends and family know that Mother Nature “gifted” me with a sense of humor that delights in wondering about what I’ll call “orthogonal views” to commonly held concepts.  (While at the same time never wanting my sense of humor to hold even a hint of ugliness or disrespect; and unfortunately, at times, my shared humor has caused me to show symptoms of foot-in-mouth disease) 

With this “gifted” sense of humor, I have my own personal (and respectful) visual image of that age-old desert wandering.  I like to visualize large to-go bags of Tex-Mex food being dropped down onto those tired and hungry nomads.  As the Tex-Mex food is unwrapped and opened, those hungry humans gather around and call out:  “Manna?  (What is it?)”

And the answer by those closest to the miracle-drop is quite obvious:  “We don’t know, but it sure-does smell GOOD!”

And so my imagery of this miraculous Tex-Mex food came to mind while on a recent birding trip to Rollover Pass, on the Bolivar Peninsula.

It seems I happened onto a spot that a fisherman vacated, leaving behind the remains of his expensive fresh-shrimp bait.  And surprisingly, the gulls were not the first to find it.

A Ruddy Turnstone, wandering about the shoreline, came upon this shrimp.  I swear that Turnstone looked at the shrimp, and then looked right up at me and said:  “What is it?”

And of course I replied, “Try it, you may like it.”

The Turnstone walked around the shrimp, looking hard at it, and then I swear looked right back up at me and said:  “No really, Manna?”

I just quietly chuckled and said:  “Try it, you may like it.”

And the rest of the pictures best tell what this Ruddy Turnstone did with this gifted delicacy.  This manna was devoured in that same way that most Texans eat fried shrimp, including one particular closed-eye expression of epicurean pleasure.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Fun: Bayside Art

May my artistic rendering, of the bayside locals, bring a smile to your day (as always, click-on photos to enlarge):

A Shrimper's Life:

The Great Egret:

The Ruddy Turnstone:

The Green Heron:

The Black-necked Stilt:

The Willet:

Black Skimmers:

Black Skimmers:

May all your days be birdy days!