August 19, 2010

This morning has been a useful time of creative spiritual churning. And if feels natural to come to this blog and tell you that.

Releasing oneself through the helplessness of prayer is such a good start.

Published in: on August 19, 2010 at 9:31 am  Comments (3)  

Kayaking on Sunday

Maybe this should be titled “Silliness on Sunday.”

It began during the river trip on Saturday with this:

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…a basketball floating down the Catawba river, like thousands of others have done in the past. After determining its species (Spaulding), I released it to continue its migration.

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When I finished on Saturday, I didn’t take the kayak off of the Frontier, hoping I might have a chance to go again on Sunday after worship. And that’s the way it worked out. The upper body exercise from the paddle movement felt great, and the seasonal scenes again blessed my awareness.

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Suddenly, there was this:

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I don’t have a football, so I thought this might be a cool, free find. But when I picked it up, water squirted out along the laces; it was too far gone. It posed for this shot before jumping back in.

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Very shortly after the football, there was this:

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Yes, folks, that’s a Care Bears ball. I wonder how long that’s been waiting in the woods for a flood to set it afloat.

I continued into the river’s western curve around the big island, different from Saturday’s eastern route.

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On the way back down the eastern bank, something caught my eye over by the grass.

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Until the very end of 2008, I don’t think I ever had a soccer ball of my own. That’s when I found a nice one in the dunes at Ocracoke, while exploring with Debra, Bryan, and Laurie. Then, when kayaking with Debra on the Catawba River back in the summer, I found one that was in pretty good shape, and kept it. Now here was a solid blue one just waiting to be found, like a watermelon in a cotton field. I manuevered the kayak close to shore, between the two stumps and clump of roots, hoping the ball was not too waterlogged.

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Now I have three!

And just before heading in to land, this floated by:

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(Here’s an article that gives a little background of this phenomenon.)

(And this one has a related picture.)

Published in: on November 17, 2009 at 1:24 am  Comments (4)  

The Four-Day Weekend, Part 1

I picked up Debra at 3:55 AM on Friday morning, and we headed for Lugoff. Lex was waiting when we got there, and we started loading his car with all our equipment. We were on the road again before 5:00, heading to Florida. The three of us were taking our best shot to see the Greater Sandplover, a stray bird that normally lives in Asia and Africa. This individual is only the second ever recorded in North America, and we hoped it would still be there. Storms with gale-force winds and abundant rain earlier in the week had made finding the bird difficult for some other birders, and rainy, windy weather was still partly in the forecast.

At 10:15 we pulled into Hugenot Memorial Park and found a place to leave the car. (This is located east of Jacksonville, out on the coast of Duval County.) We grabbed our scopes, binoculars, raincoats, and started walking. Other birders were standing around a large group of mixed shorebirds, and we knew we were in the right spot. The bird had been cooperative all morning for those who were there earlier, so we had good hope. We didn’t have to wait. It was among several hundred plovers and sandpipers, but with a little pointing and scanning, we all picked it out and had leisurely, upclose scope views. That was nice. Here’s a picture of the scene (the Greater Sandplover is in this group, but too far for the camera to show detail):

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We continued there for a few more hours, enjoying the bird and the people who came long distances to see it. One gentleman had just flown in from Rhode Island to see it; he liked watching the bird through the scope. As we stood there searching the birds for something different, a Red-necked Phalarope flew in, and we got great scope views of this normally pelagic species. That, also was a new one for me.

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Lex

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Debra

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Lex and me

On the walk back to the car after noon, rain started, and wind pelted us with sand. We were gritty and soaked on the way to find something to eat. Not knowing the area, we solicited recommendations from the locals. Both people we asked said the Sandollar was the place to go. We did, and it was worth it. Debra tried the cashew-crusted curry grouper; Lex and I had grilled mahi with dill and caper sauce…all of it very good food!

I saw two guys come to the buffet line and recognized them as birders from Tampa who had shared part of the morning with us. I walked over to see what else they had found after we parted, and they told about finding Leach’s Storm-Petrels over the surf at Little Talbot State Park. That is another pelagic species not normally seen from land. So after finishing at the restaruant, we headed up A1A to Little Talbot.

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I find it hard to take unblurred photos of armadillos; they’re deceptively quick.

If you are ever in the area, pay the small entrance fee and just drive through this unspoiled fragment of coastal Florida. It is a beautiful place. We parked and walked up onto one of the boardwalks so we could scan the ocean. After a little while I found dark slivers of movement cutting over the waves. As they came closer, even flying over the beach itself, we were able to get positive identification as Leach’s Storm-Petrels, my third new bird for the day. It has been a long time since I got three new birds in a single day east of Texas.

It was mid-afternoon, and we had seen what we came to see. So we drove back home. I only had two-and-a-half hours of sleep the previous night, but the adrenaline kept me going all day. We made the vehicle transfer back at Lex’s house, drove to Lancaster, dropped Debra off, transcribed my bird records, and I was in bed by 12:15. That was a great way to spend a Friday!

Published in: on May 28, 2009 at 10:02 am  Comments (1)  

Two Minutes of Ocracoke Rain

Waking up this morning with a need to write, the blankets had a soothing weight, so I stayed where I was. The reading light clipped to the top of my notebook was a small halogen sun rising over the pillow. Today, I’m in my own bed, but exactly one year ago I was five days deep into my vacation on Ocracoke, and that has been on my mind. Searching for stashed inspiriation, I reached for my voice recorder and began listening to my own voice, my own collected thoughts. Clicking through the digital files, a different voice met my sleepy ears, and I recognized it as one of last October’s rain storms, recorded while I was writing on the porch of the Ocracoke rental house. That was the sound I needed to hear, and the flow began for the piece I was writing.

Here’s a wave to the friendly folks on the island. As my involvements keep me working this fine week, please enjoy some oysters at sunset for me.

Published in: on October 28, 2008 at 10:37 am  Comments (4)  

October Eve

Notice, please, this change into the next grace.  It kisses those who do.  From new moon’s dry cool fire, soft air reaches across fields of weeds, touching skin, calling awake what dreams were dreamed when climate was less perfect.  Notice, and respond.  This is your time to live.

Published in: on September 30, 2008 at 8:52 pm  Comments (2)  

A Morning in Florida Last Week– from My Journal

I’m standing on the beach, looking onto the Gulf of Mexico from the shelf above surf reach. Breakfast will come later. Today’s primary amazement is out there in the clear green water. Countless tiny fish in thick schooling swarms pock the overhead view like shadows of clouds. They are too many and wonderful. Glass minnows, someone told me they were. Each group, some as big as a whale, moves slowly westward, like a dark furry amoeba.

For more than an hour, I’ve watched them, unmolested. Now some Brown Pelicans have begun to dip their faces full of them. (But that’s not how they feed. White Pelicans dip; Brown Pelicans plunge. Am I seeing a new behavior?) Black Skimmers and Black Terns cruise the plenty.

Being here in the presence of all this is why one vacates. These clouds and this wind pull at me, tugging at a primal gear within me like the gravity of a flywheel. On this beach of empty decision I look out into the doorway of storms and imagine I smell morning glories. It’s the time of year for it, but not here. Sequences and cycles overlap one another’s realities when the right breeze rustles one’s shirt.

I need to be here more than my life can allow. The edge of storms… The edge of migrations and other soul movements… Sand that scrapes away the dead layers, exfoliating… Moisture on the wind, hydrating. It doesn’t matter whether the gild is tarnished or the tarnish is gilded — scrape it away! Stand still in a moment when everything else is moving, and re-become. Air, clouds, birds, water, sand, words. Be there, until standing beside you is one who knows and loves your kinetic stillness without needing you to advise her why.

Elijah knew something about this, I think. Foam needs to form and settle, sometimes. Clouds need to gather and rain.

Published in: on August 11, 2008 at 9:35 am  Comments (6)  

For Those Who Like a Little Symmetry in Their Balance

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Published in: on July 23, 2008 at 2:47 pm  Comments (7)