|Thursday, November 29, 2018|
|My last blog was all about gratitude, as I posted shortly after Gratitude Day, which is also the International Day of Peace, and which we mark as the first day of autumn. Now nearly two months have passed, we just celebrated our national Thanksgiving holiday, and once again the theme of the season is gratitude.|
Those who know me know that gratitude isn’t seasonal with me. It’s not a holiday, it’s a way of life that combines the elements of prayerful dialog, awareness of and connection to the natural world, and alertness to daily synchronicities, some of which I seek by intention and others that come as surprises. You will see some of all of that in this edition.
I didn’t write at the end of October because I wasn’t outdoors much at all! I have a sunrise series from October 2 and the full moon on October 23rd and not much in between. I hadn’t fully realized until this minute, sitting to string together images and words into a garland of autumn delights, how spare my offerings for October are, and how much my not-getting-outside influenced my emotions all month. Some of you know October was extra stressful with Pete not feeling well; he is better now after finally getting on the right antibiotic, but medical worries predominated my time and my heart in October.
In early November, SeaDragon’s founder and my good friend Paula invited me along for a whirl of a ride—literally. We drove out to Wilson’s annual whirligig festival, the best part of which was our long conversations there and back again, and seeing the gigantic whirligig creations of Vollis Simpson. The town has set aside a public space for his wind machines, and that central square was the hub for a street festival of vendor craft and food booths. I came home with a locally made metal whirligig, a yellow wooden duck as a nod to both shops, and a bobbing metal bird for the garden. While there, I got a ride in the power company’s bucket truck so I could view the town and the whirligigs from above. All in all, great fun and a playful start to November, which I truly needed.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, I noticed several Bufflehead ducks in our cove, one male and a bunch of females. By the next day, the odds had evened out and there were three pair. Fast forward a few days later and we had more Buffleheads than I have ever seen before in one place—more than 80! I was astounded—until I processed a more recent image for this blog. I had to enlarge to count the tiny heads, photographed on a drizzly gray afternoon, to learn that this huge group numbered more than 150 and that females outnumbered males about 4 to 1. I am really anxious now to see how many stay all winter in our area of Duck. We have been having a small flock spend the winter in our cove alongside Canada Geese and a couple dozen Tundra Swan. As impressive as a huge flock is, the Buffleheads really dazzle up close. The males have bright white sides, and white atop their heads, while the rest of their head feathers are iridescent jewel tones of green and purple. The females are not entirely drab, as they have a small white patch on the sides of their heads. These are diving ducks, so they bob up and dive under constantly for food, which makes counting (and photographing) in real time a happy challenge!
Birders who browsed the gallery Thanksgiving week told me that the Tundra Swan and White Pelicans were present at Pea Island, so I took one afternoon and drove down shortly before dusk. I have had reports of a few swan in our little cove but I have not seen any there yet myself. But Pea Island was loaded with birds! I had about an hour to walk the berm between north and south ponds and watch the comings and goings. Most swan were a long distance away with a few at closer range. I saw a few Buffleheads, but nothing like the large groups in Duck, and I saw a lone White Pelican. Tricolor Herons, an immature Night Heron, and lots of Ibis flew by while I watched. Way, way off in the distance over the Sound a huge flock of somebodies appeared as a large pulsating almost-murmuration, one of my favorite bird formations to watch. They are much more impressive as video than as still images, so if the notion of undulating dancing shapes of birds intrigues you, google the phenomenon.
I had to stop by local artist and friend E M Corsa’s house to pick up some paintings for the gallery and while there, she pointed out in the tree by her house a life list bird for me, a White-winged Dove! This is not the first year a lone White-winged has overwintered at her house. It is way out of its usual range, as this is a western bird that has slowly been making its way eastward. What an unexpected gift!
The day after Thanksgiving, I walked the Nags Head town trail which begins at the end of Barnes street (you can access the trail from behind the Y as well) and ends up at the Sound on another late afternoon, again spontaneously, as I was completing some errands and had just enough time for a brisk walk out and back. It’s an easy trail, about 20 minutes one way walking at a good pace. I meandered more going out, noticing the splashes of fall color amidst all the green and brown. Our wet autumn has meant less color than usual. You have to appreciate it when you glimpse it!
But my favorite unplanned surprise occurred day before yesterday. I was in the gallery, even though we are closed at the beginning of the week now, as our season winds down, for my fire department inspection. Shortly after the firemen left, Ray Matthews called. He was—spontaneously—on his way north to Carova, as the day was clearer and prettier than he anticipated, and did I want to ride along? Since I was already in the gallery and since he was well on his way, I was able to say yes, and we had a pleasant afternoon looking for horses. The light was pretty but the harems were elusive. What we did notice were huge flocks of gulls – no terns, no sanderlings at first. We saw no horses until we headed back down the beach and finally spotted a lone stallion grazing behind the dune who very quickly trotted up and over to the beach side.
First, he grazed on very sparse grass growing on the other side of some sand fence. A little ways south was a small clump of grass with a couple sea oats, growing right beside a house’s walkover and stairs. The horse wandered over there. But south of that was the prettiest clump of sea oats I had spotted all day. Gee, I thought—and said to Ray—if the horse would just wander a little further south to THAT clump, that would be perfect. As if reading my thought, and maybe he did, the horse pretty quickly abandoned the first clump and did just what I had wished for. We spent the next 45 minutes watching and photographing him. Offshore, some of the nine shrimp trawlers we had seen earlier in the day passed in and out of view. Those dragging nets had large flocks of gulls flying all around them. I spotted my first Gannet of the season; they always mean “wintertime” to me, and Ray and I both remarked how the angle of the light, the one horse, the trawlers offshore, the beach pretty much to ourselves, and the last of the season’s sea oats all set a winter scene.
We came off the beach to an unexpected sunset glow, given how clear the sky had been most of the day, and both of us enjoyed photographing the birds and clouds in the wave wash.
What are you grateful for? In October, I was grateful Pete’s sudden spiking fevers finally abated with the right diagnosis and medicine. And while in the middle of that situation, I was grateful for the caring support of my staff that let me be absent from the shop and present at home. In November, I have been grateful that we both feel much better, that we have had a wonderful first season with Yellowhouse in Duck, and that I have been able to spend more time outside. My takeaway from both months is simple. Life sometimes gets complicated, and very quickly. I know what to do to take care of myself, my spirit, my body, and my soul, even as I take care of others and a bustling business. I just need to commit the time and resources I need to do that. Even the most stressful and complicated situations have a way of smoothing out if I remember to stay grateful, stay connected to God, stay connected outside.
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|The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park in downtown Wilson, NC is a delightful grownups' playground--though all the kids seemed to be having fun too. Notice the scale of the wind sculptures.|
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|The largest flock of Bufflehead ducks I have ever seen seems to be getting larger and larger in Duck.|
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|I wish I had been close enough to tell exactly what these birds, I assume some species of duck, are. Can you see the tiny heart shape within the larger flock?|
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|In spring, we can usually count on seeing large harems resting--or running--by the water. Today we were grateful to spend part of our afternoon with this bachelor stallion. |
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|The soft sunset glow produced the perfect conditions to highlight the pelicans flying back toward their evening roost and the gulls still standing in the wave wash. |
posted by eturek at 9:37 PM