Armchair Peregrinations

December 30, 2002

The rains have been abundant this fall, and this past week, so I knew the water would be there in the cypress swamp at Caw Caw Park. It's usally so dry with this drought we've had for several years. But that seems to have ended.

I ventured out there Saturday afternoon with anticipatiion because each trip in winter is magical. There are always surprises.. New birds to see. New feelings and sensations. The cold, brisk air and wind that makes me pull my parka over my head. The skies are always inviting and appeal to my longing for gazing into the blue vastness, or watching clouds over the marshes and former rice fields. I do love to be at that place.. My sanctuary.

Saturday, I walked into the small cypress swamp on the boardwalk which winds its way past some nice tupelo trees in standing water and a few rather large cypress, but mostly it's a young swamp forest, not like Four Holes Swamp where the giant cypress are located. Still, it's very nice to be in this special place. i wanted to take photos of reflections of the tupelo and cypress in the dark water which was completely still that afternoon. No wind at all. So the reflections were almost perfect. I did this for awhile with my camera gazing into the water. It was fun to look for new patterns and abstractions, especially when a slight breeze moved the reflections, changing them. Those mirror images are fascinating. And the water seemed so deep and mysterious when reflecting the trees.

At the end of the boardwalk I rejoined the main trail and made my way to the waterfowl area, the most open and expansive area of the park, and took out my binoculars to do some bird watching. The main bird I love to see is the Great Blue Heron which has such a majestic wingspan, but which is so very shy. It never lets you approach within any reasonable distance before taking flight, long slate- blue wings helping this magnificent creature float through the air as it settles in another part of the marsh, off a ways off and by itself -- alone and regal.

December 27, 2002

The other day I went to the old corner grocery store near downtown and bought some of their famous homemade okra soup and a loaf of French bread freshly baked. What a good feeling to walk back toward the house, package in my arms, bread sticking out like a French baguette. I could have been walking down a street in Paris, coming from a neighborhood bakery.

I looked at the Christmas wreaths on the doors of the old Charleston houses. I saw the bare branches of trees against patchy blue December skies. It was cool. A nice Saturday to be out walking. It was only a few blocks to the store, but I could have kept walking and thinking to myself what a perfect day it was. It was so good to feel the "rightness" of this city I now call home.

December 15, 2002

While walking a trail at the nature preserve the past two times I have been there, I've noticed a curious phenomenon. At the point where two trails meet, there is a large live oak tree, underneath which is a bench where I like to sit and rest and write in my notebook. It is a peaceful spot.

Today, as before when I passed it, I turned and noticed the small cluster of shrubs adjacent to the tree, a small island of vegetation that has not been mowed or cut down as has the surrounding area.

In the afternoon about 3, the sun is at an angle such that it illuminates the shrubs and makes their small, delicate leaves glow like silver. But only from a certain vantage point can I see these lit-up shrubs. They continue to glow and sparkle in the light of the lowering afternoon sun, beneath a huge limb of the live oak. I observe this with curiosity and wonder.

All around the shrubs, there is shadow and very little sunlight. But the shrubs are illuminated, and then I walk past a little further along the trail that leads back to the visitor center, and turn to look and it is just an ordinary patch of dull olive, blending into its surroundings. Mysterious. Beautiful. For its brief moment in the setting sun

December 11, 2002

Clouds, and rain and cold continue, but at least it feels like December. The Christmas lights and decorations are up everywhere, and the gray skies don't seem to bother me too much. I just like this time of year.

The other night I was out running some errands, and everytime I would get out of the car I felt the most pleasing and delightful wind that was not cold or harsh, but just invigorating and cheering. Cool and bracking. It was the kind of night I was just so gald to be alive and out in. Little moments like that make me like winter a lot, although there are times when I am counting the days until spring.

December 5, 2002

A cold, rainy and wet December morning. I am off from work today and happy at least to be able to be indoors where it is cozy and I can do all the reading and writing I want. We missed the ice and sleet storm that passed to the north, thankfully, but it is a classic winter December day. Raw cold last night. The kind of cold where it seems to take forever toget the car heated up inside. Brrrrr.

I shouldn't complain. Look at the weather they are having in the Midwest and New England. Some snow would be beautiful to look at, however. I have forgotten what it is like to experience the utter quiet of a snow-covered landscape.

When I lived in Edmonds, Wash., ten years ago, it snowed five times one winter, and every time it did, it was like it was happening for the first time. I could not get enough of that lovely snow. A lifetime wondering what it was really like to get out in a real snowfall was satisfied that winter. I can still see the big wet flakes and the smaller, drier ones floating down out of lead gray skies. I can hear the crunch of the snow and feel the icy cold grip of a snowball in my hands. I wish it would snow here. Just once.

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