As I sit here enjoying a peanut butter and banana sandwich, made in the preferred manner, of course, I want to inform my readers of something new. Serenity Exists is the blog just started by one of my very good friends. I invite you to click over to Bryan’s place from time to time, read, relax, and respond if you are so inclined. Doing so, you might find your day has improved.
Keep a close eye on your bird feeders, everyone. This is an irruption year for northern finches, which means that we are more likely to encounter certain species that usually don’t come very far south. Just this morning there were two Pine Siskins on my feeders. On Christmas day there was a female Purple Finch on my parents’ feeder. A friend had a flock of Evening Grosbeaks a month ago, or so, and birders all over the Carolinas are hoping for Common Redpolls, Red Crossbills, White-winged Crossbills, or the absurd excitement that a Pine Grosbeak would start. Be alert, and you might see something that won’t show up again for several years. And if you live in the Carolinas or Georgia and DO find a Pine Grosbeak, contact me quickly, please (SCBirder@aol.com).
Tonight is another family Christmas gathering, and tomorrow is the fun of the Spartanburg Christmas Bird Count. Early winter birding is one of the good times, and I’ll let you know if something special emerges from it.
I have appreciated your readership of Balance this year. Your comments and e-mails have contributed much to what has become a pleasant community in this small corner of the internet. Whether the content is serious or silly, I have enjoyed your interaction and hope you have enjoyed each other.
Today is December 24, and Christmas begins tomorrow. That can mean so many things. You might face the season with stress and dread or with relief and joy; either way, I wish for you some elegant moment in the midst of the clatter:
Perhaps laughter, and the smell of bacon frying,
conversation, deep and uncontrived,
a quiet smile you weren’t meant to notice,
music bad enough to ridicule all week,
music good enough to make you forget what you were saying,
and love at your elbow, holding on.
I wish you a gladness for the darkness, with early January frogs,
the sound of cards being shuffled,
and a dog who won’t leave you alone,
a savior Who is obvious,
a friend who is not,
the power of something strong left unsaid.
It’s that time of year when preparing for Christmas programs takes over. That’s what I’ve been doing this morning, even though it is Friday. And I’m faced with a question that irks me every time Christmas music is played:
Why do so many Christmas hymns and cantata pieces claim that the angels sang?
Kayaking in December is not something you can count on. But the weather all week had been very inviting, temperatures in the upper seventies and lower eighties, clear skies, light winds. It was also a week of steady work, without a break long enough to get away. I knew the mild weather was coming to an end, with cold, windy, rainy conditions predicted for Saturday and Sunday, so I made an effort to do some paddling on Friday. Even though Friday is my day off each week, emergencies can tend to emerge, involving me so that I don’t always get very far. In fact, this time, my journey to the river was slowed by a couple of unplanned hospital visits.
Still, I made it to the Hwy. 9 landing at 10:30 and was seated in the cockpit by 11:00. The Catawba River did not appear low, despite the extensive drought that has brought the Southeast to the edge of desperation. I went downstream, facing the sun, cutting a path through floating brown leaves. Occasionally, the front end of the kayak would begin to splash through the water rather than smoothly cutting the surface; I realized that leaves were getting caught against the blunt bow, disturbing the hydrodynamics of the Q700X design. A boat with more rocker (and less waterline length / less speed) would not catch leaves as easily. If the leaves didn’t fall off after a little while, I removed them by stopping, paddling in reverse for a few feet, and then continuing.
It was such a beautiful day to be on the water! I paddled farther downstream than I had been before, going past all the islands and into the big water of Fishing Creek Reservoir. Plenty of Double-crested Cormorants, Ring-billed Gulls, and Great Blue Herons kept me company. I also saw an Anhinga and several Bonaparte’s Gulls on the Chester County side of the river, both of which were new for my list in that county, bringing my total there to 123 species.
This was the first time I ever remember being chased by dogs while paddling. From homes along the lakeshore, two different pairs of canine beasts charged down to the water’s edge to decry my presence. Funny animals!
I alternated short sprints with long steady cruising (of approximately 5 mph) and got a great workout in the process. And sometimes I just coasted to a floating stop, feeling the oddness of sitting alone in a place where no one can walk up to me and start talking. Total distance was about ten miles. Besides at the landing, I never directly encountered another boat, although there were duck hunters and fishermen out. I would have stayed out several more hours, but I was to babysit for my brother Lee’s three children that evening, and some further preparations were in order. I’m ready to go again, but the uncertainty of weather in the winter might mean a trip to Florida is necessary if I’m to paddle before April. This could be my new winter game…watching the weather for paddleworthy breaks.
With the temperature hitting the 80s for several days, I’ve been trying to spend some exercise time outdoors. Each occasion has been brief, but even a little bit of exertion helps. Exercise is one of the best mood enhancers and stress managers, and that becomes important during dark, cold, wet months that winter tends to be. So far I’ve not been able to grab a chunk of time big enough to put the kayak on the river, but there’s a chance for that tomorrow. This morning before office time and hospital visits started, I took the basketball to the concrete court in the church yard for a round of Speed 100
My time was 15’06″78. That’s a long way from the sub-thirteens I get when I’m in better shape and better practice, but still decent, considering I haven’t played since August. Plus, I hit five out of the ten speed bumps…better than average. By the way, I’m not sure I’ve ever played during the month of December before; the weather is usually not very inviting for it. Speed 100 is more of a backup workout plan, something I do at home when I can’t afford the time of the drive to the fitness center. When I DO hit the gym, raquetball is the battle of choice, along with weights, running or bicycle machines, and sometimes pickup basketball. I plan to get back to the gym in a few weeks, making sure I stay ahead of the winter/holiday sludge. A good assessment of that for me is to weigh less at the beginning of January than I did before Thanksgiving. So far, I’m there!
Sweat is a good thing!
There was a good bit of interest in the previous posting which displayed photos of December 4’s sunset, and I appreciate all the feedback. Here is one of five photos of tonight’s sunset clouds that I have uploaded to my Flickr site. To see the others, click on the photo. When you arrive at Flickr, click a photo to see it better, and then click “All Sizes” to see the largest version.
Colorful things happen in this sky we breathe.