Life quick and slow

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See this bird. Here is a creature lovely to look upon, a snowy egret fly-walking across water, stirring up small fish near Green River Parkway the other day.

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Ready, aim, fire.

Among the most elegant of the herons, the slender Snowy Egret sets off immaculate white plumage with black legs and brilliant yellow feet. Those feet seem to play a role in stirring up or herding small aquatic animals as the egret forages.

The oldest snowy on record was 17 years old.

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These Green River pond cypress trees (Taxodium ascendens) are young, but they can live to be 1,000 years old.

The oldest known cypress tree, The Senator, was about 3,500 years old when it was burned and killed by a stupid girl.

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See the tree. Cypress trees have “knees” that stick up out of the water. They are beautifully sculptural.

Their function is unknown, but they are generally seen on trees growing in swamps. Some current hypotheses state that they might help to aerate to the tree’s roots, create a barrier to catch sediment and reduce erosion, assist in anchoring the tree in the soft and muddy soil, or any combination thereof.

Magic light

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One of our oldest ornaments, the little pine cone house.

We bought this on a cold November trip to visit one of my sisters when she was in college in Minnesota and we were first married. We flew standby, which was easier back then. Our first house, in the Piedmont woods of central North Carolina, was about this size. Cozy.

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This morning the light from the rising sun came low and far into the living room and sparkled parts of the Christmas tree. The light led my eyes to certain ornaments and sparked thoughts and memories.

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It is Epiphany. I bet the Magi wish they had a magic horse like this when they were traveling very far.

The word Epiphany is from Koine Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epipháneia, meaning manifestation or appearance. It is derived from the verb φαίνειν, phainein, meaning “to appear.” In classical Greek it was used of the appearance of dawn, of an enemy in war, but especially of a manifestation of a deity to a worshiper (a theophany). In the Septuagint the word is used of a manifestation of the God of Israel (2 Maccabees 15:27). In the New Testament the word is used in 2 Timothy 1:10 to refer either to the birth of Christ or to his appearance after his resurrection, and five times to refer to his Second Coming.

Alternative names for the feast in Greek include τα Θεοφάνια, ta Theopháneia “Theophany” (a neuter plural rather than feminine singular), η Ημέρα των Φώτων, i Iméra ton Fóton (modern Greek pronunciation), hē Hēméra tōn Phṓtōn (restored classical pronunciation), “The Day of the Lights”, and τα Φώτα, ta Fóta, “The Lights”.

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In the morning, the light moves and shines here and there, illuminating, getting me to look. I looked at books. They are a little like the tree ornaments, recalling things we did, learned and enjoyed… and things we love.

Going to church at 11 a.m.

Something to listen to for Epiphany: Bach’s church cantata Sie werden aus Saba all kommen. I need more Bach in my life.

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Adoration of the Magi, by He Qi. (Link.)

North Fork cruise

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First alligator of the day.

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The North Fork of the St. Lucie River is a bit of Old Florida wilderness flowing through urban St. Lucie County. It was designated an aquatic preserve in 1972.

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I joined friends yesterday afternoon on a 34-passenger pontoon boat with River Lilly Cruises for an informative guided nature tour.

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The St. Lucie River is a 7-mile-long estuary linked to a coastal river system in St. Lucie and Martin counties in the Florida, United States. The St. Lucie River and St. Lucie Estuary are an “ecological jewel” of the Treasure Coast, central to the health and well-being of the surrounding communities. The river is part of the larger Indian River Lagoon system, the most diverse estuarine environment in North America with more than 4,000 plant and animal species, including manatees, oysters, dolphins, sea turtles and seahorses.

Further up the North Fork is the aquatic preserve. Click to investigate, zoom in, etc. We launched from River Park Marina.
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Yellow-bellied sliders are the turtles we had as baby turtle pets back in the 1960s, keeping them on our tabletops in plastic aquariums with little plastic palm trees.

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My best alligator photo. Lots of expression in that toothy reptile face.

We saw five gators, a couple of different kinds of turtles, a green iguana, leaping mullet, osprey, vultures, a yellow-crowned night heron, kingfishers, an anhinga, and many great blue herons. A few more photos on Flickr: North Fork of the St. Lucie River.

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It was a beautiful, peaceful ride. I’m glad they saved this part of the river nearly half a century ago.

What will we wish we saved in another 50 years? The missing links of the The Florida Wildlife Corridor, for one thing. More habitat and green space, in general.

Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you. – Wendell Berry

Sunrise and star cookies

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Sun topping the clouds, looking east over the Atlantic Ocean from Tiger Shores Beach on Hutchinson Island, in Stuart, Florida. I woke up and took coffee, camera and dog there first thing yesterday morning.

Three-point-two miles from home, six minutes by car.

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Broken sand dollars are all over this beach, and sometimes whole ones… quickly claimed by beachcombers.

Sand dollars are sea urchins and related to sea stars/ starfish. It’s their skeletons, calcium carbonate tests, that we covet for the round cookie or coin shape with five-fold radially symmetric pattern that looks like a flower or a star.

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The clouds hiding the actual horizon sunrise were probably over the Gulf Stream, which is about 10 miles offshore here. East winds over that warm, fast current help moderate the Florida climate.

Breezy south winds today, with temps climbing to an atypical-for-winter 87 degrees. Then we’ll get a cold front and daytime temps will be in the mid-70s through the weekend, with north winds.

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Here’s my dog, Radar the 3-year-old German Shepherd, loping straight toward me with his typical semi-maniacal look.

An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. – Henry David Thoreau

 

It’s rarely busy at Tiger Shores Beach, especially on weekdays in any season, and there are no lifeguards. Couple of fisherman and a few people early-morning walking.

Amenities include a sandy parking area, one trash can, a sturdy boardwalk through vegetation over dunes, a shower and foot washing station where the dog first learned to drink from a spraying spigot.

 

What do they want from me?

Animals that got up in my face today…

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White Ibis

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Common Gallinule

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Yellow-bellied slider? This turtle came out of the freshwater pond at Indian Riverside Park and started turtle-walking toward me. Weird. Okay, I’ll take your picture.

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Gopher tortoise. Actually I was in his face just a little, to get a photo. He was nibbling grass, minding his own business, on the one-mile loop trail at Kiplinger Nature Preserve.

Click to enlarge the Snowy Egrets and Roseate Spoonbills at Kiplinger…

 

 

I bird blogged some Red-breasted Mergansers today but I will probably bird blog the spoonbills tomorrow.

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All of nature talks to me, if I could just figure out
what it was trying to tell me… Listen!
– Laurie Anderson, from “Sharkey’s Day” on that cool old album I used to love, Mister Heartbreak

Time to listen again.

New Year here, Christmas is a wrap

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Today our snowman melted away into a box in the garage. Christmas got put away, except for the tree.

I got this snowman at Home Depot a few weeks ago, and put him together myself. I try to avoid buying too much Christmas Crap, but this fellow appealed to my bird-loving aesthetic. Plus he lights up at night. My husband and I enjoy walking the neighborhood after dark and looking at everybody else’s lights, so I thought it would be nice to add to the cheer this year.

 

 

“First bird of the new year” is a thing with me. This year I had two.

I heard but did not see Fish Crows while having morning coffee on the screened porch. Then I walked out the front door with my bird camera and immediately spotted a Red-tailed Hawk in our Norfolk Island pine. Crow landed in the same spot 10 minutes later and cawed, impossible to ignore, until I came out with my camera again.

I blogged the birds in my bird blog. Hawk spirit and crow spirit for this new year! The old year was vultures, I’m not even kidding.

I had the urge to bake something today. With all the ingredients on hand, I made Easy Rosemary Focaccia, from a recipe on kitchn. It was easy, and pretty good. I sprinkled it with my favorite sea salt, Maldon, and that was probably the best part.

In the cabinet with the flour I also found an old bag of wide egg noodles and had an urge to make a casserole. When it was done I said to John, “Can you believe I just made a Chicken Noodle Casserole topped with buttery ritz cracker crumbs?”

“You must really have a hangover,” he said. Why, yes. Yes, I do.

I texted photos of my focaccia and my casserole to my daughters. We had such a nice Christmas visit with them last week. I wish they didn’t live so far away. They flew in from New England and we celebrated on the 26th, when John got back from London.

John was here for New Year’s Eve at least. We attended a lively, champagne-y party at a friend’s house in nearby Palm City. We ate Alaskan king crab legs too, which is a tradition among the friends in that neighborhood called Four Rivers.

I bet John’s been home for half, or less, of New Years since he started flying for American in 1987. Ditto Christmas. But at least we can open gifts a day before or after, feast and make merry on “airline pilot Christmas.” The New Year does not wait for the pilot to come home. The ball drops, the year comes anyway, on time.

“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” – old-time American newspaper columnist William E. Vaughan