Although it was a late night, my oldest best friend, her wife, and I all managed to pull ourselves out of bed in the morning and go to the beach! You HAVE to go to the beach at least once when you visit Florida. It’s mandatory and non-negotiable. It was fabulous! We ended up a Jax Beach, where we used to go when we were in high school! WOW has that place changed! The beach still looks the same, but the town development is off the chart. Did not recognize anything. All our childhood landmarks were either gone or so much changed they were unrecognizable. Crazy! Busy too. We eventually found parking and lugged a bunch of accouterments down to the sand: chairs, sand blankets, boogie-boards, beach towels, umbrellas, cover ups, sun hats, sunscreen, drinking water, snacks, and some other stuff. And we had a marvelous time relaxing in the sun and shade, romping in the surf, swimming, boogie-boarding, and walking down the beach searching for shells and shark’s teeth. My heart beats in time with the pounding waves, my souls sings in tune with the roaring surf, my breath sighs with the water as it washes over the sand and shells. The beach is pure energy, I absorb it and make it part of me. When you touch the water of the ocean, you touch the whole world, and the world touches you. A sweet salty caress of sand, salt, and surf that transcends time and space, to hold in your physical memory so you can return to it when winter’s darkness closes in.
So I went to my high school 30 year reunion today; the first high school reunion I have attended. My best friend from childhood and her wife are staying with my parents too (they live in Texas); they have another family function to go to and met me there later in the evening. I had no idea what to expect. The three of us with help from my mother all had fun getting ready; what to wear, how to accessorize. I don’t usually spend very much time thinking about these questions on any given day, just throw something comfortable on and go, but I wanted to look confident, outgoing, and fun loving for this shindig. I was kind of a wall-flower weirdo in high school. I even took my old yearbook had people sign it again. I though was a nifty idea, and although everybody did sign it, nobody else had their old yearbook with them. Although. Now that I think about it, most of them have been to several (or all ) reunions and had seen each other relatively recently. Most of the people there still live in Jacksonville or close by and are still friends with each other, and see each other all the time anyway. There were only about 20 classmates there (out of 110 from our graduating class) with their spouses. I remembered a few of them, but I would not have been able to pick them out of a crowd. It seems that the gang I hung out with in high school have all dispersed all over the country (and world). It wasn’t feasible for them to come to this reunion. One (used to be) close friend did show up (from way out of state as well) and I was pleasantly surprised to see her again. We spent the evening catching up, telling stories, laughing, dancing, and eating. Eventually my oldest friend and her plus one meandered in and the four of us had a lively discussion reliving the silliness of high school antics. We closed down the party and then moved to a the nearby Air B&B where our close friend was staying and continued our remembrances late into the night. Old friends can just pick up where they left off no matter how much time has passed. Friends keep us strong, keep us young, and share our memories.
It was hard to leave my friend’s house this morning. I always feel like time is too short when we get to spend time together. It was a nice visit: my friend, her family, and I hung out for the evening. We all went for a leisurely walk a mile or so upstream looking at the rain swollen creek, then had an awesome cookout.
This morning I drove south through the heart of the West Virginia mountains, a trip I have done many times in the past when headed to the Gauley River. It was definitely a trip down memory lane. So much has changed in that area. The road has grown wider and the towns are bigger now. However, the pure essence of the place is still there. Green rolling mountains topped with mist and Appalachian history; the Summersville dam (releasing its roaring waters through the giant tubes to explode into the river blasting against the rocks as a class IV rapid at the put in still thunders in my memory); and the reservoir with its towering cliffs standing erect over the calm deep lake. I am flooded with nostalgia as I pass through this region, vivid visions deluge my consciousness, the Gauley River, its rapids, the absolute beauty down inside the gorge, the crazy six week long guide party that is Gauley season, the intense revelry of Gauley Fest, friends, food, camping. Twenty year old memories as bright as if they happened yesterday. West Virginia; on my mind and in my soul.
Although I came home two days early because I didn’t want to face an ice storm in the Adirondacks in a tent, it feels like Spring here in the Catskills. The sun finally came out around noon, after the snow squalls dusted the mountain and blew themselves out. The temperature rose to above 50 degrees and I decided to spring clean my car. This is an annual event I participate in before the first raft trip of the year, so that my car starts the season off clean. I pull everything out, vacuum it, shake out the floor mats, clean the inside of the windows, wipe down all the hard surfaces, and spot clean the upholstery where needed. Then I pack the car for rafting season, which means I stuff camping, hiking, and rafting gear into my trunk and back seat. Then everything I might need is wherever I am. This year, I didn’t have the energy to clean the car out before my first trip up north to set up camp, so I had a lot of gear to move around. The weather canceled the raft trips the last two weekends, so technically I did the car cleaned out before the season started. If feels good, a satisfying accomplishment to watch all the dirt, dust, sand, and junk get sucked up into the shop-vac. It’s like sweeping away all the old, worn out, and now useless junk and cobwebs to make room for all the new adventures waiting on the horizon. There was some nostalgia as the I said good-by to the copious amounts of the South Carolina Santee River Solar Eclipse sand that was still occupying the back seat, floor, and trunk areas. This year, I have road trips to Florida and Texas planned, so I am sure I will pick up more sand as the year plays out!
Black Vultures are very similar to Turkey Vultures in many aspects: size, shape, habitat, flight patterns, migration habits, and food preferences. Their main differences being Black Vultures have black heads (Turkey Vultures have red heads), and Black Vultures don’t come as far north as Turkey Vultures do. They are not supposed to be in New York. About 7 years ago I thought I had seen one while headed to work. It flew directly in front of my car. I felt I had gotten a good look at it as I was braking and swerving trying to hit it. But can one really be sure of the color of the head on a bird in motion you saw for about a second? I had forgotten about that bird until today! This Black Vulture was standing in a snow filled ditch on the side of the road feasting on a dead deer. It did not fly away as car whizzed by. I watched it as we approached, got a good long look, and turned in my seat as we passed by. No doubt, its head was black. Black Vultures have ventures as far north as Albany, New York! Function of global climate change? Or are they just expanding their territory? Don’t know, but it is pretty neat to see them again. When I was raft guiding in West Virginia 20 years ago, we would see Black Vultures regularly, sometimes with Turkey Vultures hanging out on the rocks in the Potomac River near Harper’s Ferry eating dead fish. Amazing memories of crazy fun times!
Another grey snowy cold day. I fill the bird feeders; the Chick-a-Dees are on it before I finish and walk away. The always appreciate fresh bird seed! Later inside, I glance out the window while coming down the stairs as see a magnificent bright red male Cardinal swinging on the feeder, eating his fill. I love watching the Cardinals, their color a joyful contrast to all the grey. I try to take some pictures through the window, but they don’t come out they way I want so I give up and just stand in the window petting a cat and watching the bird show with delight. The female eventually shows herself as well, the Chick-a-Dees, and Juncos swarm around, flitting and twittering. I stand and watch until something spooks them and all the birds fly away, scattering in a zillion directions, disappearing into the bare tree branches. My paternal grandmother loved the Cardinals too, and I think I understand, my heart reaching through time, space, and memory.
Driving over the crest of a tall hill, the road drops steeply down and out of sight around a curve, a vista opens out across the valley, winter sunlight streams from a crystal blue sky, bare trees look black against the snow covered ground, their long thin grey shadows slanting across the forest floor. The horizon is dominated by a mountain ridge across the way, half way up there is a snow line, it reminds me of seeing snow line up high on summer trips through the Rockies in Colorado and of how snow line would oscillate up and down the distant peaks the winter I spent in Portland, Oregon all those years ago. Reminiscing startles to a halt when science kicks in, how can I see a snow line when there is snow at my present elevation? I take a more scrutinizing look at the mountain ridge and realize that I am looking at probably a frost line or frozen precipitation line of some sort. Although there is snow cover all the way down in the valley floor, the trees up top are covered in a frozen layer that is gleaming white in the slanting winter sunshine. The trees below that elevation do not have a coating of ice or frost, so they are dark and black against the ground. Above there, all the branches are coated in a frosty icing, blending into the snow covered ground giving the illusion of a snow line. A visual representation of the temperature gradient as elevation changes! Mother Nature is freaking awesome!