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!
When Rich and I left Rod and Trish, we headed east out of Missouri towards St. Louis. Rich wanted us to see the “Archway to the West” and as we rode I-64 I was able to get some decent shots of the archway and the St. Louis skyline. Then we crossed the state border into Illinois going almost halfway across to spend the night in Mount Vernon. We attended Mass in the lovely church of St. Mary’s on Saturday 27 August which left us free to have a small lie-in on the Sunday before making tracks for Louisville, KY and Richard’s family.
Like most of the days on this trip, God blessed us with perfect weather for riding as we finished crossing the state of Illinois, clipped the bottom of Indiana, and rode into the blue grass state of Kentucky. I could feel Richard’s excitement mounting as we rode closer to “home”. The plan was to head to his sister Rose’s home, unpack the bike, then head over to the Kentucky State Fair with Rose, her husband Ronnie, and their kids, Megan and Kalin, to meet up with another sister, Robin, and her daughter, Brittany, and his brother, Robert and his wife, Sylvie, and their son, Patrick. Wow, what a reunion!! I had not seen some of these folks since Thanksgiving 2004!
We spent several fun hours at the fair. I found some great HOT dip mixes and some wonderfully decadent fudge, while Richard ate a Krispy Kreme hamburger?????? (yes, that was a hamburger between two doughnuts!!), and later he could not resist trying some “fried Koolaid”. While some of the others went to a concert they had booked to see, Rich and I strolled around the rides for a while. We had fun tempting the “guess your age” guy who made my day and gave me a “prize” after guessing me to be 15 years younger than I am. Whether he was being truthful or gallant in his guessing I’m not sure, but I was happy. Then the tiredness of the ride hit in and we headed home to get a good night’s rest. We needed to get our beauty sleep because the next day we were putting on a Bar-b-q for the family and even more people were coming.
So on Monday we went shopping then got busy cooking and preparing food. By 4pm yet another sister, Rhonda, arrived with her daughter, Ginny, followed shortly afterward by Rich’s step-Mom Ruth, his step-brother Ryan and his step-sister Rachel and her husband Michael with his son in tow. The crowd was rounded out when Robin got there with her son Dustin, and finally we were able to tuck into all that good food. A little later, as we rested full tummies, Kalin took Dustin and they went to pick up Brittany and her girlfriend who had been attending a school sport meet-up. By that time we were ready for some dessert and enjoyed some wonderful concoction that Sylvie had made.
Our final day in Louisville, Rich went to get his (final?? who knows) tattoo in honor of his retirement. Of his eight tattoos, Lucky in Louisville has created 5 of them. This one he actually created around a small existing one of a dolphin that Rich had done in Washington, DC some years ago. Lucky extended the water/wave line under the dolphin , then added the letters USN over the top of everything with a sunrise and the year Rich entered the Navy at one end, and a sunset with his retirement year at the other. It’s really beautiful.
That evening we hooked up with Rose and Ronnie and the kids, Robin, and Richard’s old school friend and partner-in-crime, Fonda with his wife Sherry. We had a great meal and wonderful socializing at a very good Mexican restaurant, where we all ate a bit too much because the food was great!.
Next day, Wednesday 31 August, it was time to load up our faithful Harley, say our farewells, and hit the road again as we headed towards North Carolina. It had been a good visit with family and hopefully it won’t be so long before we see each other again.
It seems very fitting to be coming back/starting back into my writing on the first day of the first month of the New Year. Yes, it really has been since 1 December 2010 that I last wrote. I really wanted to write yesterday. It was warm enough in the lanai, after a bit of a lie-in, to do my quiet time outside for the first time in a month. Florida, the “Sunshine State”, has been rather stubborn in following last winter’s cold trend. Actually the whole country has been ridiculously frigid for the month of December, with crazy storms and blizzards throwing themselves all over the States.
But, joy of joy, when I came outside at about 9am yesterday the temperature was already at almost 60F degrees. So I put on my new purple, fleecy house- jacket that “Santa Richard” brought me and enjoyed my first quiet time in the lanai for a month. The air was tepid, but warmed up by the minute and I was pulled in so many different directions all at once.
I wanted to just sit and savor the glory of the Lord, breathe in His precious air and all the various perfumes of the outside. I wanted to do my meditational readings and engage in my intimate time with God. I also wanted to write and get out the words that had been hiding in my heart and mind over the past few weeks. And I also wanted to let the world know why I had not written during this period – or at least give them my version, which may or may not be the “reason” but perhaps an “excuse”. Who knows what goes on at subliminal levels in my brain!
I did do my readings and spent some quiet time with God. I did enjoy just sitting there and breathing and watching the myriad tiny birds fluttering round the feeders and hopping through the grass below. I even saw a couple of butterflies and I surely heard at least two, although I think there were more, hawks screeching loudly as they swooped back and forth through the pine wood out back. A blue jay was also jump-dropping from branch to branch in one of the pine trees (I’m not sure how else to describe the strange way Blue Jays have of starting on an upper branch and then dropping-jumping-flying-flopping down from one level to another until they drop out of sight behind the fence line).
I did not get my lap-top out to the lanai however, because Richard and I had a planned date/appointment to go and have brunch together and then do some post-Christmas bargain shopping. Part of me was a little irritated because this was the first time I had felt driven to write in so long. But I enjoy my dates with Richard when we can manage them so the irritation was minimal and quickly disappeared as we enjoyed some time together, and we did find some good bargains. What was even better was that it wasn’t just “acquiring more stuff”. We found some things that we needed or had been looking for and we saved some big bucks.
So, why haven’t I been writing? It’s rather a mish-mash of things, so here goes. The day after Thanksgiving, while we were still enjoying our week in Orlando, Rich and I went bowling at the Boardwalk near Sanford. At some point I was getting ready to unleash a strike (I like to think it would have been a strike!!). I made my run up to the line, planted my left foot to bowl and as I did that something just “torqued” in my upper outer left thigh. I dropped the ball as I gasped in pain then, in a moment, it suddenly didn’t seem so bad. However, it was. A few steps later a flash pain ran up my thigh. And so it went on and off over the next day as we prepared to return home. Thank God for Tylenol Extra Strength!!
When we got home I was able to treat it with different things that I had on hand. I also had a massage booked with Michael and he worked his usual skillful magic and, fortunately, within eight to ten days it was healed. Unfortunately, about 6 days later I noticed my right knee was sore and within 24 hours I was limping quite badly. I did all the things I had done with my thigh two weeks earlier hoping for the same results. Alas, a week later the situation had not improved so I went to the doctor. Happily, after testing it in every direction, he informed me that “the knee was not compromised” and sprained right tendons were diagnosed and I was sent home to “rice” (rest, ice, compress, and elevate) and given an anti-inflammatory to take for 3 weeks.
Now we’re talking about the two weeks leading up to Christmas here. With all there was to prepare for (I had seven people coming on Christmas Day) I was supposed to “rest and elevate”? Well, the anti-inflammatory partly took care of that because it rendered me pretty useless within half an hour of taking the dose (thank God I was taking it in the evening), and although I was not left with “hangover” symptoms the following morning, after a few days I noticed that the overall effect was one of “sludge-in-my-veins”. Add to this the fact that our normally mild Florida temperatures were dipping dangerously close to freezing several nights in a row and not getting much higher in the day time, and I was ready for total hibernation!!
The whole pace of my life slowed to a snail’s pace. What does this have to do with not writing, you may ask? Well, what little useful time I had available (read – time that I was really awake and one hundred percent brain alive!) needed to be dedicated to the things that were necessary to be done to get through each day and handle the plans that were in place. The freezing cold saps me of all energy and desire to do just about anything other than curl up on the couch and stay warm, plus it tends to numb any inspiration and seems to send the Muse running to warmer climates. Every once in a while a small creative idea would do its utmost to bubble to the surface and I would even find myself thinking that my lap-top must be feeling totally abandoned. But the anti-inflammatory and the couch won that battle every time
My knee is still bothering me. In fact I went back to the doctor last Monday and I have an order to get a CAT scan this coming week and I’m also waiting for a call from the physiotherapist. Because I have a little arthritis in some of my fingers and the physical feeling in my knee joint is similar to that in my finger joints, I personally think arthritis is the culprit and not sprained tendons. But we’ll see.
In the meantime, Mother Nature has decided to be kind to me and has served up some warmer temperatures. Today is as warm as yesterday. It is 3pm and I’m sitting in my lanai dressed in jeans and a tank top and I’m aware that my whole inside – heart, body, soul, and mind – is revved up on a different level. I feel lighter and happier than I have in the last month. Muse has been tapping on my door since yesterday and today my schedule is such that I can let her out to play.