Monday, December 28, 2009

Walking St. Augustine - The Oldest US City

The oldest city founded by Europeans, actually.  Had a great walk up and down historic St. George, Marine, and Aviles Streets visiting the shops, historic buildings, and eateries, visiting Castillo San Marcos, eating at little out-of-the-way restaurants, and strolling beneath the Christmas light bespangled live oaks at the old slave market.  It was a magical night, reminiscent of the Christkindlmarkt visits our family made in Europe years ago.  The highlight of the evening walk was a ride (and then another) on the old antique carousel; with its century- and decades-old horses.  When it turned cold, we found a Polish/Greek restaurant to eat hot vegetarian Borscht soup with mushroom pirogies floating like wontons in an oriental soup, spinach/feta pie, and a Greek salad.  English was sparse in that mom/pop establishment!

Walking beneath the canopy of lights was thrilling.

Holiday spirit abounds!

Festive tree in the old slave market.

Maggie and her father.

Maggie and Deborah, our dear friend.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Yuletide - Winter Solstice

Happy Yuletide all.
Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year.  May the light of the season reside in your hearts all year.

(Payette Lake, McCall, Idaho)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Walking Stick Wisdom

Here's an original poem wood-burned into a walking stick that I made a few years back:

Wander frequently near or far.
Seek joy and beauty in each breath and step.
Dear traveler obey your heart's wise behest
And in life's journeys discover the soul's true rest.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Florida Fall Color

Winter hasn't quite arrived in Florida.  A cool snap during the last couple of weeks has brought out the colors of Fall.  Hickories and elms have turned yellow.  Sweet gums range from bronze to maroon to a decent orange color.  In this photo of an upland tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) one sees a pleasing medley of hues.  This is one of my favorite Florida trees.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sneaking Around Christmas Walk

I had a very enjoyable night-time walk with a dear friend last night along the limerock country road she lives on.  Our task: sneaking a fresh pear dressed up in a bag with a bow-tied ribbon onto the porches, gates, and mailboxes of a dozen of her rural neighbors.  Sneaking around whispering and giggling in the dark was great fun.  It's the 12 Days of Christmas.  Tonight's stealthiness involves Dove-brand soaps and 2 turtles candies for "2 turtle doves..".  Hoping for a repeat of the whispery, giggly fun, and continued luck not getting caught, or shot.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Swan Falls Dam on the Snake River, Idaho

Just after Thanksgiving my father, youngest brother, and I walked across Swan Falls Dam on the Snake River southwest of Boise, Idaho and hiked for a few sunny hours along the river and the basalt cliffs that form the canyon walls.  It was a wonderfully crisp day and the cold wind, sweet with the fragrance of big sagebrush tugging at one's clothes and washing over one's face, was a long-anticipated soul-cleansing.  Cold-smudged by Nature in the dry desert of SW Idaho, as it were.

This area of the Snake River lies within the 600,000 acre (Morley) Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, home to the most diverse and dense concentration of raptors in the United States.  Among the 24 species of raptors encountered in the cliff and tablelands are peregrine and prairie falcons, the American Kestrel (also a falcon); red-tailed, ferruginous, Swainson's, sharp-shinned and rough-legged hawks; the golden eagle, and the northern harrier.  We saw quite a few common ravens on that cold day, but few raptors.  Along the cliffs high above the river we encountered many fish bones - evidence the birds were catching or scavenging fish from the river and taking them to safe perches in the cliffs to consume them or to feed to nestlings.  Favored perches were identifiable by the white stains on the cliffs below choice alcoves and/or nest sites.  At one site at the base of a cliff formed from water-lain ash and basalt cobbles I found a collection of owl pellets and jawbones of the Piute/Townsend ground squirrels that are so ubiquitous on the flat tablelands above the canyon.  Great horned and great gray owls are found here as well, as well as diminutive burrowing owls that inhabit abandoned ground squirrel or badger burrows on the flatlands about the canyon.  Morlan "Morley" Nelson was a famed falconer and tireless champion of raptor rehabilitation, preservation and research who lived in my home town of Boise until his death in 2005.  It is quite fitting that this important conservation area is named after him.

Portrait of a happy hiker.  It was so nice to go a-walking with Dad and Brother, to exert myself in the cold air.  Toward the end of the hike we flushed two big mule deer.  They bounded away with effortless speed and purpose that was the picture of grace and strength and agility.  Would that we humans could move like that through the world.  The graceful part, anyway.  We might, if we tried harder in body and spirit, I say.

As a parting gesture, or following a personal tradition, rather, I gathered a shock of sagebrush to take back to Florida before we left the area - one of my favorite fragrances in the whole world to savor in the weeks and months ahead, and to perhaps smudge my 1935 frame house with.  A strong reminder and precious memory cue of my happy youth in the West, the sweet smell of my home country.