Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kites, Coyote and a Bounty of Rain

Remember those standardized tests we took as kids?  The ones where we had to discern which item did NOT belong with the group of items?  Well, I could ask that question with the three items in the title to this story.

My best recent days have been Sunday mornings with my “just over” two hour bicycle rides.  Sunday mornings have little neighborhood traffic (except a few cars speeding through neighborhoods at 9:20 a.m., apparently stressed over late arrival to some 9:30 a.m. church service).
I give great thanks that Sunday mornings are mostly a day of rest for the commercial lawn crews.  Six days they work neighborhood yards with their commercial-grade mowers and “leaf” blowers that blow the neatly-cut grass into the furthest corners away from the yard at hand.  I wonder about these hard working men.  I wonder if their labor provides income that respects their hard work; I wonder if their labor provides medical insurance and sick leave.  I wonder why their companies are allowed to expose them to noise with no hearing protection, and flying yard debris with no eye protection.  Where is OSHA for the laborers that labor the hardest? 

But oh how I love my peaceful, noiseless Sunday-morning bike rides.  “Biking with God” is my new form of worship.  But I still long for cooler Fall temperatures when Sunday mornings will find me “Birding with God” (or Mother Nature as I like to call Her).

This not-so-great photo shows the stark contrast of sun and shade.  Most of my bike ride wanders through heavily-shaded streets, with Live Oaks much older than these:

I see a good number of birds when biking these Upper Gulf Coast, heavily wooded neighborhoods:  Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Robins, Cooper’s Hawks, Jays and Mockers are the norm.  The Mockers screaming and chasing away the Cooper’s from their wee ones is definitely the norm. 

But  I’ve especially delighted by repeat sightings of Mississippi Kites.  In two adjacent neighborhoods I’ve witnessed low-overhead flights of  an adult Mississippi Kite, with their cleanly marked white head and white secondaries, and a juvenile Mississippi Kite, with their rufous-colored leading primaries, looking as if they’ve donned a Halloween costume to mimic the larger, uniquely-different Red-shouldered Hawks.

But my favorite surprise was two Sundays ago, riding through a heavily-wooded neighborhood that backs up to a bayou and green space.  I rode quietly along, with houses on one side and woods and green space on the other.  And out of wood and into the sunshine popped a beautiful coyote; so beautiful I’ll call her A Her.  As I rode past, I was certain she disappeared, but I couldn’t resist turning my bicycle in a slow circle, coming back to stop where I'd first sighted her, with a bit of hope as my quiet companion.

And there she stood—quietly staring at me with mirrored interest of my quietly staring at her, from stopped bicycle and underneath my birding hat.  I can only hope she thought that I was as lovely as her display of color and elegance and innocent wildness.  “Funny hat” I could almost hear her say.  “At least I’m not wearing spandex bike shorts” I wanted to reply.
With one foot on the ground, and the other resting on my bike’s pedal, the pedaled foot made the slightest squeak; the sound of plastic and metal parts moving against each other under the weight of my foot.  And with that smallest of noise, not native to Mother Nature’s creation, the coyote turned and wandered back among the wood.  But I’ll hold her memory as long as memory holds. 

And so which of the three items in this story’s title would now seem to NOT belong?  Well, that would be the bounty of rain that has eluded Texas during the ongoing multi-year drought.  But oh what a wonderfully rainy summer we’ve enjoyed!  Almost daily the rains have come:  good soaking rains with little flooding.  Evening thunder bumpers as I call them, bringing dark clouds and rolling thunder and flashes of firework-pedigree lightning.
I sit by an upstairs north-facing window each evening.  I turn out the lights as dusk approaches, and watch and listen to that day’s thunder-bumper display of sight and sound.  The rains come and pound the sidewalks; steam rises.  The Live Oak trees delight and stretch their limbs upward with their lime-green tops showing-off a wet season’s extravagant growth.

And this morning at 5 am I gave up on sleep, turned on the TV and watched the local weatherman’s weekly forecast.  Mr. Mario was beaming and grinning ear-to-ear as he shared his drought map for the entirety of Texas. 

All of East Texas, including the Upper Gulf Coast was OUT of drought conditions.  And much, much of Texas was in better shape than in a long time.  Austin, the RGV and west Texas, including the cattle-rich Pan Handle area are still hurting.  But not SO severely as a year ago.

Kites, Coyote and a Bounty of Rain—this summer, they all belong in my neck of the woods.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Doctors and Dentist: It Must Be July

I haven’t posted a blog in over a week as I’ve done just about NOTHING of interest.  It is July, and I’m quite good at adding insult to injury (when it comes to my life).  And so what do I spend these hot humid days doing?--yearly medical and dental appointments, of course.

I could bemoan the worst blood draw I’ve ever experienced and the huge bruise on my arm.  I could share the creeping upward of my weight, as judged by the doctor’s digital scales.  (And my excuses, of course, were a pocket full of keys, heavy belt, shoes, and such.  But then my blue jeans quietly told me a few months ago about my middle expanding!)

Or I could share that my medical insurance allows me to walk into my yearly appointment, with a General Practitioner, and walk back out with a co-pay of $0.00.  Or I could share that my medical insurance allows my doctor to order yearly blood work and other tests, and as long as I go to my insurance’s approved provider, I walk out from those tests with a co-pay of $0.00.

Don’t get me wrong.  I pay a fee for my medical insurance.  And other than my yearly “well-check”, I do have a small co-pay.

But as I drove away from these yearly checkups and tests, I wondered how it could possibly be controversial for all American citizens to have medical insurance.  The details certainly need some fixing; but what initial contract doesn’t? 

And if the idea of medical coverage for all citizens somehow riles folks up, seems the age discriminator could be questioned.  Is it the most common form of age discrimination to provide medical insurance for those 65 and older, and not for all?  Does it take turning 65 to “deserve” medical benefits?

Or if that idea still riles folks up, maybe the alternative would be for none of us to have insurance.  Seems that might bring down medical costs a bit.  Just wondering…

Instead of sharing those thoughts, I will share something a bit personal.  I’m sharing because this something is apparently quite rare for U.S. middle class citizens. 

Here it is:  I haven’t taken antibiotics in TEN years.  How about that? 

My not taking any antibiotics, since June of 2004, has nothing to do with some kind of personal belief system.  I just haven’t needed any.  Maybe that is my belief system:  I don’t take medicines that I don’t really need.

 I’ve understood for a good many years that colds and flu are viral, and antibiotics does harm rather than good.
I’ve understood for a good many years that if you go to a doctor with these viral symptoms, the doctor is likely to prescribe antibiotics because who wants to leave the doctor empty handed?  To prevent “complications” is the justification by a patient’s request.  But antibiotics, by definition, causes complications. 

This doesn’t mean I haven’t been sick.  I've had a couple of colds.  I had a really bad case of the flu a few years ago.  I missed a week of work; I ran a multi-day 102 degree fever; and I felt like my muscles were detaching from my bones.  

What did I do?  I stayed home and I tried not to share (don't you just love when someone shakes your hand and then obviously shares that they have a bad cold?). I gave myself rest and hydration and over-the-counter fever reducers (and I certainly grumped to myself over those lost days from life’s better days).  And if I'd developed any symptoms of a bacterial infection that my body's health couldn't overcome on its own, off to the doctor I'd gone.

Anyway, pending no medical news other than a probable reminding of the cholesterol and triglyceride issues of my high fat, high sugar diet, I’m glad my July medical appointments are behind me.

Aren’t you glad I usually write about birds and travels?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Black-crowned Night-Heron

Between this week’s bounty of rain, drenching but not flooding my little corner of the Texas Upper Gulf Coast, and the unexpected treasure of out-of-town company, I’ve not made a recent day trip into the field.  And I learned a good many years ago to avoid outings on holiday weekends, so my yearning to be out with camera and binoculars will wait a few more days.

I must admit that my almost-daily writing practice got sidelined after my fruitless trip to purchase an RV.  Time normally spent playing with words, phrases and sentences has given way to therapeutic Google searches, as I’ve tried to work my way into a future plan.  

It’s been 13 months since I spent the night in an RV.  No current solution is a welcome mat for despair; sometimes Google searches bring hopeful ideas--and sometimes they don’t.

I have no answers and I’m bouncing all over the place:  motorized RV to travel-trailer to truck camper.  Nothing jumps out as a new answer as it was extensive research that first took me to a 25’ motorized RV (that bore unforeseen issues this past winter), and then last month’s 23’ trailer that I was certain would be the answer, until it was not.

Maybe I’ll blog soon about my wants and don’t wants, my needs and don’t needs, and then perhaps someone will have a suggestion that will put air back in my sails.  But for now, I must admit I’ve got nothing.

And so there is stillness to this summer.  I have no better way of surviving the heat and humidity of a Gulf Coast summer than knowing the fall season is the reward, and the best of Texas state park travels are in the planning stage.  But not this summer as I don’t have the RV to point west or north this upcoming mid-September.

My stillness brought me back to photos, from this past March, of a wonderfully still Black-crowned Night-Heron at Brazos Bend.  There is a fine line between getting the photographic view and NOT bothering the bird.  I try very hard to err on the side of not bothering the bird.

But this Black-crowned Night-Heron seemed almost as interested in me as I was in this One’s crowned jewel, that gorgeous ruby-red eye:  

She seemed to pose for the camera while trying to politely hide a smile, as I slowly and awkwardly dropped to the ground, to put my camera at her eye-level.  

She asked if she should wash her bill and feet, to remove the green slime of her habitat. But I said, “Oh no, wear your world proudly!”  And then she really did give me a smile:

May all your days be birdy days!