So, as I said at the end of my last posting, I waited patiently for my regal visitor, the Baltimore Oriole, to return to to his breakfast spot in my bottle brush tree. However, it was already day four of his continued absence and I was somewhat heavy-hearted for his loss. It was later in the day, more like mid-morning snack time than breakfast, when I heard a new call. At first I thought it was him, but then I realized that this call was richer and the notes kind of tripped over each other.
Grabbing the binoculars I headed out into the garden. I judged the call to be coming from a couple of houses down and began to play the binoculars back and forth in the direction that it seemed to be coming from. A sudden flash of scarlet caught my attention in a tree that grew in the pine wood out back immediately behind the fence of the third house to our left.
The calls continued and I kept my eyes focused on the tree. Suddenly I saw him, a very large, jet-black bird with very distinctive white markings around the face and neck, and a few smaller white markings on the shoulder area of his wings. But what was striking was the brilliant red crest atop his head. He was at least as big as the American Crow if not bigger, probably eighteen to twenty inches from head to tip of tail.
His movements were very unique. He would lightly run up the trunk and, when he came to a halt, would twist his neck round almost 360* as he pecked at what I presumed were insects. Or else he would hop out onto a branch and would then hang upside down. Every once in a while he would stop in these activities and let out his rippling call. He was quite something to see and it made me marvel at the variety of creatures that God has created.
I checked him out in my Kenn Kaufman book of birds and discovered that I was seeing the Pileated Woodpecker. I was thrilled to read that he is an all-season bird for our region and quite surprised that I had not seen him before. I have spotted the Red-bellied Woodpecker and also the Red-naped Sapsucker in the pine woods out back, and both are about half the size of the Pileated. Here is the best picture that Rich could grab of him. He moved around a lot, but this view of his back clearly shows the white markings and his scarlet crest and also shows how he grips onto the trunk.
And so my knowledge of birds for this area is growing. Now is definitely the season for bird-watching because they are all in a spring-time frenzy of mating and creating nests. And that fact will lead nicely into my next posting because we have a pair of Carolina Chickadees who have decided to make their home in our back yard. I get to be a Grandma one way or another!
Finally I get to sit outside in my lanai with my laptop and my Muse. The temperature out here today at almost 1.30pm registers seventy seven degrees Fahrenheit. It was already seventy one degrees at about 11am this morning:-). I was able to enjoy sitting out here in the warmth, with the birds singing and eating greedily from the feeders in the yard, the breeze sighing gently through the pine trees, and truly appreciate my quiet time.
That done, I prepared my breakfast and brought it out here. Because it is Sunday my husband is home with me, and he too made some breakfast and came out to join me in the lanai. It is such a simple thing, a husband and a wife sitting and quietly enjoying breakfast together in the open air, but it brings me much joy.
I am happy!! There is nothing I enjoy more than to be out in God’s creation, breathing in the fresh air and watching His creatures in their natural habitat. My head seems much clearer. Not sure what it is with artificially controlled air, whether it be winter heating or summer air conditioning, but I do not feel right in my head when I am forced to breath in that kind of air on a regular basis.
The sun has been shining on and off all morning. But even now, with gray clouds obscuring the sun, the underlying feeling is one of natural warmth and life. I can even smell the warmth in the air. Real oxygen energizes me in a way that nothing else does and the warmth makes my body feel alive, open, and at the same time, comforted. I could just sit outside and experience this all day, every day, and feel totally content. I guess I am a very simple person at heart.
Yesterday I added a new bird feeder to the garden. This morning it was swarming with birds. A short while ago my husband put up another hook and we added yet one more feeder. The little guys have yet to discover it, but I’m sure it won’t take them long. And as I watch them, a black butterfly with bright markings flutters outside the lanai screening as though trying to enter: good morning Mamma:-)
And in the meantime, Mokka cat is also enjoying the gift of this wonderful day. She is lounging luxuriously on top of the storage chest here in the lanai, basking in the sun’s warmth. Her tail is swishing slowly from side to side as she watches the bird activity outside the lanai. From time to time her nose or an ear twitches, and I am wondering what is going on in her cat brain.
There is nothing exotic or grandiose about all this, and that is the true beauty contained therein. I do not need riches or an extravagant lifestyle nor do I need to be surrounded by material wealth in order to feel rich. I just need a day like today and the undeniable gift of being able to enjoy it.
I have already mentioned in another posting, Self Nurturing- GrillSmith Of Tampa, FL, that I really appreciate good food. I think the preparation of food is an art of its own. Good cooking is definitely a God-given talent. The skillful combination of the flavors, the colors, and the textures of different kinds of food along with the pleasing presentation to the client is as creative as painting a picture. So just imagine blending these two creative arts together!
In the past couple of months I’ve established a new routine for myself that brings me much joy. On the first Sunday of each month I go to St. Augustine, Florida to walk and meditate in the labyrinth that my friend Lorelei creates in the wet sand at low tide. It is a wonderful time of going inwards to my God-centered self. I shared that experience in a previous posting, Labyrinth Meditation At The Beach. What I didn’t mention in that posting is what I do before I get to the labyrinth.
Part of this new routine includes a stop at another location in St. Augustine to have brunch. It’s a restaurant called Zhanra’s which is just across the Bridge of Lions on Anastasia Island. Richard and I tried Zhanra’s about a year ago when we went to see Michael W. Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman in concert at the St. Augustine Amphitheater. We had an excellent dinner and were very impressed by the menu choices, the presentation, and the good and friendly service. The prices were very reasonable too.
The restaurant itself is very welcoming and warm. The decor does not follow the usual pattern or design of most of the “chain” restaurants. It is very simple and unique. When you walk in there is a long serving counter on the wall immediately opposite the front door. To the right there is a very accommodating bar that has tall tables and stools where you can also dine, while to the left is the main dining area.
But what adds to the decor and makes Zhanra’s so special is the art work on the walls. It is bright and beautiful and very eclectic and showcases a great variety of artist’s work. These paintings are up for sale, so while you are eating you can also appreciate and even acquire a great piece of art. Because the art is sold, or because the artists choose to rotate their work out from time to time, new pieces appear from one visit to another.
An interesting feature connected to the art work is found in a corner of the main dining room. A small working space is set up and I believe that some of the artists come in from time to time to work on a piece while the diners are enjoying their meal.
When Richard and I made our first visit to Zhanra’s we knew we would be back again because it was very good and because it was different. So when we learned that they offered a Sunday brunch from 10am to 2pm we chose to make it a stop on one of our Harley rides. And we were hooked! We have been back twice as a couple and I have returned twice with friends and yet another time we both went back with a small group.
So let me walk you through the brunch process. You are seated by the host/hostess and a server takes your drink order immediately. Large and small plates are provided on the table and you can go to the buffet freely. However, we always wait so that we can put in our order with our server for waffles or French toast. I have never eaten the waffles because I am so addicted to their French toast which is, in my opinion, food of the gods!!
The long serving counter that I mentioned in a previous paragraph is laden down with all things scrumptious for the brunch. There is a chef at one end who will cook omelets to your specifications. As you proceed along the counter there are hot containers with quiche, grits, scrambled eggs, apple smoked bacon and sausages (my personal favorite!), fresh melt-in-your-mouth biscuits and gravy, and the best home-fried potatoes I have ever tasted. And just in case you need to start your brunch with a soup there are two offered, one of which is usually a great gumbo.
But it doesn’t stop there! As you turn the corner of the buffet counter there are several large trays. One is piled high with a mountain of freshly cut fruit in season. Another contains pre-cut bagels of every description, and beside that there is a tray full of different Danish pastries cut up into bite size chunks so that you can try the different types. Yet one more container holds muffins just to round out your choices.
All this for the princely sum of $9.99 plus drink. It has to be the best value and one of the best dining and creative art experiences that I have ever enjoyed. By the way, I forgot to mention that the art exhibits continue on into the bathrooms and Zhanra’s offers another creative art form too. Most nights there is different live music to enjoy. So go and satisfy the artist in your soul. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.