Thursday, August 31, 2006

Nature's Circus Comes to Town




(The image above is but one small aspect of the story to follow, but try if you will to let your mind fill the rest of the picture.  And if it does, I dare you not to smile!)



As I lay in half slumber this morning, not yet fully awake yet no longer asleep, I became aware of an angry droning sound originating just outside the bedroom window.  As my mind slowly focused, it appeared that a swarm of hornets had somehow settled upon the front porch – and my curiosity was such that it was enough to draw me from the warm bed toward the cool air of early morning flowing through the window.


I slowly crept forward and crouched low before the bow window so as not to disturb whatever was making such a racket.  Upon first glance, there was nothing particularly out of the ordinary.  There were three tiny, immature brown birds with the general shape and beak configuration of nuthatches sitting in the burning bush just outside the window and a pair of titmice nearby – yet the noise continued unabated.


But as I watched, those three tiny birds began to busily hop from branch to ground to porch to brick arch and back again – mouths wide open as they moved in rapid and apparently random fashion.  And from this trio of less-than-fist-sized wonders  all of that noise was originating.


I watched in fascination as they fluttered and bounced from perch to perch, uttering their most unpleasant cries continually.  What their mission was I can only imagine, but it seemed that their cacophonous ruckus had woken more than just me. For as I looked, it appeared that all of nature had suddenly descended upon my vista:


A chipmunk jumped upon the woodpile and began loudly proclaiming himself its king as he perched upon hind legs and began the continuous clucking sound that requires such force that it shakes his entire small frame with each outburst.  In the woods to the right, I could see two squirrels chasing each other noisily and effortlessly as they zipped from branch to branch and tree to tree.  Further in the distance, the red-tailed hawk’s piercing cry echoed over the treetops.


There were silent visitors as well.  As the eye became more keen and the clutter of life dropped away and allowed the eye to truly see,  the lazy path of the bumblebee came into sharp focus.  To its left, a butterfly gracefully fluttered from marigold to marigold – resting and preening for a moment and gathering the morning sun upon her wide-spread wings before moving further into the yard.  A flash of bright green zipped by and then materialized as a hummingbird, hovering as if frozen in time by the feeder – and then gone again in an instant.  And below the feeder, the tiny toad who lives in the impatiens bed crept back to the safety of his home.


And then, in what seemed the blink of an eye, there was silence - and all the activity, all the commotion, all the glorious clatter was gone.  There was no movement save for the lazy dance of the leaves in a gentle breeze, no sound but the low rumble of cars from the road behind the house, and an occasional solitary cry from a distant chickadee. 


The show had packed its tent and moved on – but it would be back, in endlessly changing configurations.  And what a show it had been.


Friday, August 11, 2006





(The photo above is from a recent Tall Ships festival.  There are more images from that event and some other miscellaneous sailing images in the album in the right column).




For someone who doesn’t swim well and who has never owned a boat or known someone well who has, its interesting that - as I look back on life -  some of the memories that stand out the strongest are all linked to being out on the water. 


Moonlight shimmering in a silver path over gentle seas to the exact spot on the ship’s rail where I stand.  Awakening in my blanket on a cool teak deck to see a billowing white sail catching the breeze directly above my head – the ship’s cat nestled snugly at my feet.  Quiet moments in contemplation as pungent salt air fills my lungs and cleanses my soul.  Watching from the balcony as green forest along the banks slowly transforms into the breathtaking dunes of the high desert.  Hoisting the sails at sunset as the ethereal sound of bagpipes signal both departure and hope for the new dawn. 


Each memory – some now more than 20 years past – deeply engrained to the point where I can taste the remnants of a tang upon my lips if I close my eyes long and tight enough.


Sometimes when life seeks to overwhelm, those are my favorite memories to evoke – for rarely have I felt as free and easy as when the sea breeze is in my face.   As I write this, I am there once again, hoping for that same healing strength to descend once more.


We all need that special place to which to escape now and then.  I sincerely hope that yours is as pleasant as mine.