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)  

Wildlife at Forty-Acre Rock

I was helping two of my college students video some scenes for their creative video of rules for the upcoming youth retreat. While there, I went into one of the caves to look around, and here are the residents I found. Across the top of the cave and in crevices throughout were these crickets. They looked like camel crickets, but I seem to remember there is also a cave cricket species– don’t know if they live around here or not.


And walking back to the car, I found this prickly pear cactus that was in bloom.


Beauty takes so many different forms. I’m thankful that the Creator of it all also saw fit to create capacity to notice and enjoy it.

Published in: on June 1, 2008 at 5:57 pm  Comments (2)  

Body Challenge, Spirit Challenge — Another Season Completed

Seven made the journey uphill. Steep, rocky, and long, the trail has become familiar. So have the faces and paces, now that some years have met us, together. There were some sections where trees were fallen, a momentary disarray that is part of the longer term of beauty. None of us look exactly like we did, nor feel the same in muscles that answer less enthusiastically than once. But all of that is okay, because Table Rock is where we belonged that day…not because of where, but who.

Here are some of the small animals that shared with us their mountain.


a garter snake, calm and fat


Henderson’s granola, and the one removing it


a fence lizard, also well-fed, miles from the nearest fence


toward life that is next


It’s like singing a cappella when a Steinway is in the room.


This moth was caught in a spider web between two window panes of our cabin. After rescuing it with a stick, I took this bad picture with my left hand. I was preparing to take a better one when it flew away and started bashing itself into the light fixture.

And seven pastors woke up the next day, got in their cars and went back to their churches.

…but slowly.

Any pace quicker than what a mountain allows is faster than what one’s spirit should expect of itself away from the mountain. Don’t we bruise time with our hurry? Don’t we bash holes in our souls as we uselessly flail into the glare of expectations that God did not invent? Yeah. So we walk, breathing and sweating our way across holy incline where, together, we come to remember how small the rest of it is.

Published in: on May 24, 2008 at 4:51 pm  Comments (7)  

Reptiles at Rest

It was a bird field trip at a bird festival, but my pictures are of scaly things. Friday and Saturday I was scheduled to lead field trips for the 1st Annual Santee Bird Festival, in Santee, South Carolina. I had to cancel my participation on Saturday because of the funeral to which I alluded in my previous posting. But on Friday afternoon, nine birders plus myself hiked the loop at the Pine Island unit of Santee National Wildlife Refuge. We had a great time, locating 55 species of birds in three-and-a-half hours, while walking about five miles. The conversation was lighthearted, educational, refreshing. Here are two critters we found in between bird moments.

A greenish rat snake! It is an intergrade between the black rat snake and yellow rat snake. It only occurs where the ranges of black and yellow meet. I got very close to this one, but it never moved.

This one also never moved, but I did not get very close to it. It was maybe ten feet long and quite fat. A larger one in a different area remained mostly submerged and harder to see. (This photo was actually taken during my solo morning scouting walk of the area. As I walked along quickly but quietly, startled alligators would thrash their way into the water and disappear. My peripheral vision caught one as it went airborne toward the water — leapin’ lizards! My afternoon group got to see this large gator, too, but it sank into the water before we got this close.)

Published in: on April 21, 2008 at 4:45 pm  Comments (6)  

More Nature from Last Weekend

These two fox squirrels were beside the entrance road to Brookgreen Gardens. [All photos were clearer before uploading to Flickr.]


Who feels like counting ducks?

Resurrection fern on live oak.

A Bonaparte’s Gull paddling deftly near the shore of Winyah Bay charms me. I want to be in a kayak beside it, stroking my harmony to its melody, its delight with water.

Among gulls, these are some of the most elegant when flying. They possess utter control of their bodies, whether dancing an inch above the water’s surface, shuttling in loose columns to a distant lake cove, or soaring hundreds of feet up on a pre-migratory thermal. Yet this one folded its wings and let gravity and buoyancy settle their own result. I cannot know what thoughts a gull might have when thus reposed, floating upon its own uncertain reflection. My guess is that thought plays little or no part of it, nor feeling…but only being, a sequence of glory to the God who thought webbed feet would be a good idea.

I feel invited.

Published in: on February 8, 2008 at 12:11 am  Comments (1)  

Ocracoke Vacation — Day Six, October 29

Perhaps you read my slight posting entitled “Hello from Ocracoke.” Well, this is when I wrote it, at breakfast using Michael’s laptop computer and the wireless internet connection at Ocracoke Coffee. I spent some time there five different mornings, conveniently located as it was just down the road from my house. No, I don’t like coffee, but there were other items worth drinking, like protein smoothies and orange juice. There was also a selection of teas, but none were marked as decaffeinated; requesting help in determining such met with willing assistance one day and resistance the next (there was some variety in the friendliness of the personnel). Also, one day, my orange juice arrived in a cup completely filled with ice — you don’t do that!

For part of the morning we visited a few of the shops Michael had not seen yet. As we approached the door to one place, a woman exiting paused slightly and looked me in the face before continuing. A minute or so later I noticed the woman was back in the store talking to the clerk, and she seemed to be indicating something about me. I was moving in their direction at that point, and she must have thought I had overheard, because she explained that she was trying to determine if I was someone on television…that I looked like someone she might have seen on TV. I kind of laughed a little, and said I hoped it was someone good. She said it wasn’t someone she could name, but I just looked like I might be famous. Michael is beside himself at this point trying not to laugh out loud, and I was probably blushing a little bit. I assured her that I was not famous. But then Michael, ever ready to prolong such a moment, added, “You know, that’s exactly what a famous person would say!” When she left again, she seemed a little excited and embarrassed, and not really sure whether I was unfamous or not.

After lunch we took advantage of the nice weather and walked the Hammock Hills trail. Beautiful stands of old pines grew out of tall dunes, while myrtle and bay and cedar created thick dark patches of shelter for wildlife. There were not many bird species evident that day, but lots of individuals, mostly Yellow-rumped Warblers. Some others were Eastern Phoebe, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Winter Wren, Dark-eyed Junco, and Song Sparrow. And there was an Eastern Mud Turtle in the grass beside the trail. This is the same kind of turtle that bit my sister Karen on her lip when, as a toddler, she inspected it a little too closely.


After the walk, we took the beach back toward town. The blue sky was a welcome feature.



It was back to the Back Porch Restaurant for dinner where the people were friendly and the food was delicious. TV and conversation took up the rest of the night…a good day.

Published in: on November 6, 2007 at 7:59 pm  Comments (5)  

Things that Slither at Church

Walking from my office back to the house today, one of our new residents caught my eye between the choir room and sanctuary. This lovely four-foot Black Rat Snake has been hanging around for a few weeks, now. I missed it when it first appeared, but a conscientious church member used a long-handled implement to remove it to the weedy field behind the kitchen. (No, it wasn’t the candle lighter!) It prowled around the prayer garden area for a while, possibly looking for a lunch of Five-lined Skink, which are always here.


Isn’t this a beautiful animal?

Reflected in the eye is some of the roofline of the church buildings.

Here you can see more of the overall length. It has been so dry that I wasn’t sure if it has been able to find enough liquid. I put out a bowl of water in case it was desperate. Frankly, I don’t know if snakes drink regularly or just obtain their liquid from their prey.

It disappeared up into a hollow vertical catwalk support. When the church secretary was leaving at noon, I told her where it went, and she doubled over in laughter, imagining Sunday morning when it pokes its head out at one of the little old ladies.

Published in: on October 23, 2007 at 8:39 pm  Comments (5)