Category: Birds


Yesterday afternoon, we headed over to Empire to witness the release of an adolescent eagle back in to the wild.  Despite not having the characteristic coloring of an adult eagle, she was still a beautiful, powerful presence.  A few hundred people were there and we all cheered as the magnificent bird soared skyward.  

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Following the eagle, Erick and I took the girls over to the big lake and collected stones and watched a lone freighter pass quietly in the distance.  The water was a vibrant hue – a turquoise blue.  

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The sun was setting as we left for Boones in Glen Arbor (yum).  And on the way back, I captured my farm at dusk.  The wind turbine moved slowly on a light breeze.  Love that place.  

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The girls were sleepy on the way home.  

And finally, a photo of Grandpa and me at Thanksgiving.

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Today we visited the Riverbank Zoo in Columbia, SC. The girls rode ponies and saw a hatchling flamingo.  They also sang with monkeys, fed goats, petted tortoises and heard a tiger MEOW.  (And I even had the opportunity to see several leopard sharks up close and personal).  The zoo is also somewhat self-sustainable with massive gardens full of veggies and herbs.  

This was our first visit in the daytime to the neighboring city to the south and I was impressed with how tropical it felt.  In only an hour and 45-minutes, we went from the mountains to a place that felt much like Florida with its native vegetation unlike anything I had seen before, as varied and bountiful as the tropics (there was a tree with leaves far larger around than the length of my hand).

The all-time cutest exhibits were the koala bear and meerkat habitats.   The koalas were napping and had curled themselves up comfy into the arms of tree-branches.  One meerkat took a fascination with me and I swear behaved as if we were doing a Vogue photo-shoot.  

When asked what the girls enjoyed most, for the older two it was the pony trail-ride (although milking the fake cow was right up there).

Our littlest giggled when the goats literally climbed the fence to eat out of her hand.  They were sweet-natured and beautiful goats with shaggy colorful coats.  And what personality!  

We crossed a bridge over the Saluda River (Columbia marks the convergence of the Broad and Saluda) and saw the old stone foundation of a bridge that was burned during the Civil War.  In the peace and shade on the other side, we rested (and remembered the automatic features of my camera).

Afterward, we visited the elephants, giraffes and the sea-lion a little boy emphatically suggested we see.  I was certain the elephants were Asian elephants for their size, but through the crowds, I read something about Africa on the signs.  We were on some kind of deck above the enclosure, so perhaps the elephants appeared smaller.  Regardless, they were gorgeous creatures caught red from bathing in the Carolina clay.  

And how difficult it must be for a giraffe to eat grass when it feels so inclined!  We saw first-hand how they do it.  

We concluded our day with a visit to Erick’s uncle’s 18th century stagecoach house where the girls enjoyed tractor rides around the property while we sat on the front porch sipping iced-tea.

 

There’s a man I pass often on my morning walks with Celli.  He looks like a young Morgan Freeman, always wearing a blue shirt and dark blue pants, with a worn, wise look across his face and sometimes a hat; sometimes not.  Always, he smiles warmly and says hello.  This morning, as he passed, I was busy listening to the foreman yelling at the Mexican men brought up from Texas to work on the condo development next door.  The foreman’s voice carried well, “What are you doing?  Don’t speak like that.  Don’t speak Spanish here!”

I was about to ball him out, when the Morgan Freeman man passed and I watched as he shook his head and smiled at the foreman.  It sort of took the wind out of my sails, and yet as I watched one of the Mexican men smile back I knew we were all in the same frame of mind.  The foreman was a creep, but we weren’t going to let it ruin our day.

Celli finished sniffing some shrub and I walked swiftly to catch up to the younger version of Morgan Freeman.  As I caught up, he looked down at me and raised his cup of coffee.  I said, “You look like you’re enjoying yourself.”  His walk was slow, his gaze always turning to take in the next sight.  He didn’t walk like the rest of the Uptown lot – with their fast-paced, eyes-forward, ears plugged into the iPod strapped around their pin-stripped arms.  “I take it all in,” he said gesturing to the magnificent city before us glittering in the new sunlight.  “Hmmm,” I said, “It really is the most beautiful part of the day.”  

“Yes it is!” he agreed, his stride not once faltering.  

I was holding a green bag full of smelly dog mess, so I felt it rude to continue walking beside him.  I hurried ahead to drop off the bag in the receptacle, but afterward, I stopped and let Celli sniff the grass.  I looked up at the city, at the trees framing it, and I listened for a moment to birds, the train, the sound of high-heels on concrete, of traffic, horns, a lawn-mower just over the hill cutting grass.  My stride was slower as I walked toward the building.  I was taking it all in.

Plastic bags are very difficult to recycle and very few make it to the recycling phase.  Most end up in landfills, or scattered across the country-side and in our waterways where they are ingested by smaller and smaller creatures until there’s a level of petroleum detectable all the way up the food-chain.  SO, the next time asks you whether you prefer paper or plastic, bring them cloth or tell them paper because it’s easily recycled.  Donate bags, if your store will accept them, or encourage a friend to bring his/her own bags when shopping.  It all makes a difference.  

Yesterday, when I asked the Home Economist about going to paper, I learned that this is the first week they are plastic-free!  I spoke with them about bag donation (since I think slowing the purchasing of paper bags (which come from beautiful CO2-absorbing trees) is a good next step).

This afternoon we drove out to Grandfather Mountain and did some exploration in the rain.  It was a **beautiful** trip and I hope to return sometime soon.  At the peak, Grandfather is over one mile high and there’s a suspension bridge leading to the peak that spans a forty-foot gorge one mile deep!  The girls enjoyed the wildlife – cougars, an eagle, bear, an otter, some deer and a muskrat that crossed the road while we were leaving.  Celli accompanied us and seemed to enjoy the mountain as much, if not more than anyone. 

Driving to the peak was exciting.  Our back wheels slid against the sharp inclines, and our truck was far too big for some of the 180-degree turns, but we managed and made it to the top with time to spare before the storm.

The storm hit hard some time after Hickory and seemed to be firing water and lightning at anything that moved.  In the city, the thunder roared and ricocheted between buildings – like War of the Worlds, only really wet. The rivers were swollen to twice their size – I guess this happens quickly down here.  Everyone drove with their hazards because the water was so deep on the roads and you couldn’t make out the other cars very well.  One of the things I love about this region is the rains storms – they last for hours, unlike Michigan where it seemed we would get bursts of a storm, but they would quickly fizzle (except in the winter when the snow seemed never-ending).  

We’ve enjoyed some fireworks in the city – reminds me so much of Harbor Days back home.  What a wonderful end to such an adventurous trip.  Tomorrow we hope to see the ocean!

Happy holiday everyone!  Have a safe, adventurous weekend.

The girls take a break beneath split-rock – One serious bolder.

Okay, they weren’t really wild like I told my mom.  They were as tame as could be and waiting for hand-outs from visitors.  

Popo and I take a break in the rain for one quick photo 5000+feet in the air.  Photo by Wolfy.

The Mile-high “swinging bridge”

 

The storm was raging by the time we reached Charlotte.  Cars, trucks and motorcyclists especially crowded under overpasses to wait for a clearing.  Visibility was crap and here you can see the hazards on the car ahead of us.  

My favorite stop along 321.  The only truly affordable and fun, hand-made locally shop I’ve found.

I love the drive into the mountains for all of the old farmsteads and homesteads, fruit-stands and the views!

In the heat, Celli cools off by lying on any concrete surface she can find:

May 30, 2008

Beneath our fourth-floor-flat; somewhere on the sidewalk or in a nest fitted into the canopy of some tree, or maybe over the top of a gutter; I hear a mockingbird chic crying.  Well into the afternoon he or she utters peep after tiny peep into the thick air until you learn to ignore it as you might ignore the fire alarm with a low battery:  Beep…  beep.

Into the night, the chirping continues, though by this time I am only loosely aware of the sound emanating from some poor hapless creature outside my window.  It isn’t until after midnight, when my family is sleeping and the soothing fan is oscillating from its post across the room that I rediscover the little peeper in my head. 

“Peep,” it calls out; lonely.  “Peep,” it says, “I’m hungry.”  As the night wears on it begins to think, “Peep,”  “Come on guys; this isn’t funny.”  Where are you?  The little bird has been abandoned.  I consider getting up to investigate- but I am tired and my youngest child has a fever and has spent the day in the ER, so I wait it out.  Maybe the little bird will go to sleep. 

After midnight:  Peep, peep.  Peep.  Peep.  “Help me, I’m all alone!”  Poor bird.  I should get up and help it.  I am walking into the heat of the southern early summer, through the heavy fire door of my fourth-floor flat, down cement halls, barefoot and cautiously aware of my vulnerability.   I float into the smoky elevator that quacks at every floor and out through the gated door where I stand looking up at my darkened windows feeling very alone in the world.  Peep, I think to myself, peep.

“Peep” the bird cries and awakens me to the fact that I am only standing at an open window four protected floors above him.  Peep, I cry out inside.  

Celli and I bundled up against anticipated cold. Friday was near 90-degrees, then temperatures dropped into the 40s for the rest of the weekend. When we stepped outside into a thick fog, the air felt warm and wonderful and I decided then that springtime in the Carolinas is noncommittal. We go through the seasons during this time, as if to reflect on each. As though we needed reminding of our gratitude for the warmer months by showering us with a cold autumn rain or a sudden severe winter wind. It definitely helps. I’m loving these days when the air is gentle and the birds seem to be singing out joyfully in a backdrop of blossoming shrubs and trees.

Erick and I ventured out to the music store with the girls yesterday. I met some really neat people in the woodwind/string section while Erick was playing the bass across the store with the girls. I’d really like to make some friends down here sooner than later. I miss that connection we had up north. It will likely get easier when we know we’re settled somewhere, but I’m still going to try. I know there are a lot of people feeling much the same in this great expanse of city and I think the same thought frightens us all away from committing to a friendship. I think it’s the choices – the sheer numbers. There are so many new people we meet each day only never to see them again, you feel sort of awkward asking one of them out to coffee without looking like you’re trying to pick them up. Even the store seems to rotate through employees so fast I have trouble keeping track of faces, let alone names.

There was that guy who wanted to know all about Michigan. He was Greek, but had lived here most of his life. I told him about the Mackinac Bridge. He had never heard of the Mackinac Bridge and he was so intrigued! I could have easily gotten along with him, but I’ve never seen him since. And there was the woman from Russia at the train stop with two small children. We hit it off instantly, but I hesitated to give her my number for the same reasons I mentioned above. Would I ever see her again even though she lives only one street down? I have not yet.

The nice thing about all this variety is that I’m feeling more comfortable around strangers. I’m able to be direct, communicate and laugh with them. I love them for their potential to be great friends. And there are just so many beautiful people in this city, at times, you just want to observe them. The diversity of culture is incredible, welcome. The languages sifting through the great halls that connect Wachovia One with Wachovia Two remind me of the songbirds lining the electric cables powering the light rail. Their songs mingle to form one flavorful medley. When the train passes Celli and I in the morning, though the engineer and I have never met face-to-face, we wave and smile. We connect and that connection lasts long after the rails have quieted in my contemplation of what could be, what will be given a little patience and time.

Today has been strange.  This morning began well with three good walks around the neighborhood – two with Celli and one to feed the birds.  I think I may have a sunburn!  Spring has arrived in Charlotte.

Around noon I went in for my scan.  This PET was far different than my usual.  They gave me a sedative and a diuretic which made me sleepy, but with the need to pee every five minutes.  The benefit, however, was that I slept through the entire scan!  Afterward  I came home where Erick served an amazing lunch and then I drooled myself to sleep for another five hours.  The rest was welcome, however, I’m not sure I’ll sleep tonight.

So, I feel a bit strange that the day has passed when it still feels like noon to me.  I’m glad to have it over with and I’ll have the results tomorrow.  They really have it together down here – a huge perk for cancer survivors tired of the week wait to find out whether or not they’re in the clear.  [Fingers crossed.]

Oh, and I’m not glowing in the dark, for those who wondered.