It’s been strange weather for January – today was in the 70′s and humid. We had a lot of rain last night and more forecast for tonight, with some bright weather in between.
On my way home from a meeting, the light was strange and yellow. I drove along the bayou and found some atmospheric January light:
“Pay attention!” AdventureMan nudged me, hard. I was trying to find the Star of the East that Father Neal Goldsborough had just pointed out on our Christ Church dome, but I couldn’t find it. And I WAS listening, I was paying attention, I just also wanted to see the star, the special star on our dome, signifying the star that the wise men followed to find the child Christ.
I see a lot of other heads swiveled to look up, searching the dome for that special star. It’s one of my favorite feasts of the year, Epiphany; I can hear those camels grumbling and sputtering as they clop across the hard roads, I can feel the bite of the cold in the deserts (yes, in the winter deserts can be bone-freezing cold), and I can imagine the wise man consulting as to exactly where that star is leading.
Later after the service, a kind Christ Church parishoner shows us where the star is – painted with more gold, shining brightly just over the horizon in the dome of Christ Church. It is beautiful, subtle, and it makes me happy to know that one star is special.
In this photo, you can see the hanging lamp that obscured my view of the star during the sermon, and you can see a slightly brighter star in the center of the lower dome:
A little closer, and the star shines even more brightly:
I saved these for the last, for the last day of the year (where did it GO ??????) because I love sunsets even more than I love sunrises No, these are not taken over the Arabian Gulf, but over the Wakulla Springs, as the sun sets in the cold dark days of winter time:
Some mornings, I am astonished at how wonderful it is to live in a place where we have the luxury to set aside wide tracts of lands to preserve our natural heritage. St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge evokes that response in me. It’s even more astonishing that because a couple years ago I bought a lifetime Senior Pass, getting into the national parks is free – for the rest of my life. What a great country we live in.
It is a cold and frosty morning as we load up to head out to St. Marks for some serious bird watching and photographing. Serious, that is, for AdventureMan, who actually does birding trips with other serious birders. I am a bird-appreciator, as in I know what a cardinal is, and a blue jay. I can pretty well recognize a buzzard. Hey, show me a painting and I can probably tell you who painted it, but birds . . . not so much.
I love being outdoors in Florida on a wonderful clear cool day with fabulous conditions for taking photos. I love just wandering along some of the birding trails and seeing what we can see. It’s an amazing place; in some of the areas where we stopped to wander, it reminded me of places we like to go in Africa, of Zambia, of Namibia, of Botswana . . . some of the habitat is so alike, I can almost hear those tectonic plates creaking apart, drifting, and wonder how much of the flora is directly related to African flora.
We had these in Tunisia; we called them Prickly Pear, and the Tunisians used them for borders to separate their lands. They also made jam with the prickly pears, and they skinned the leaves and fried up the meat from inside the thick prickly pear leaves. I think what a great border they would make in Pensacola, but a very unfriendly border. Good for keeping away thieves and burglers, but not very attractive, and not very welcoming . . . but very very African:
Some fishermen, probably setting some crab traps near the shore:
The St. Mark’s lighthouse:
Every now and then you have a lucky moment, and I happened to shoot this heron just as he had a wiggling sparkly fish in his beak, just before he swallowed it. I admit it, I wasn’t trying. If I had been trying, I could never have gotten it just at the right moment:
Some very clever park person went around and made all the deer crossing signs into Rudolph signs, LOL!
The park is full of very serious-faced people carrying HUGE lenses on cameras attached to seriously sturdy tripods, lenses meant to capture the details of the pinfeathers, cameras to document a rare sighting. These people don’t talk about ducks, they talk about Merganzers and Koots, and the rarely seen such-and-such, and I just listen and keep my mouth shut while my head spins.
For me, it’s enough to see these wonderful creatures, free of fear, safe in their migrations. It’s enough to have a cool day, a great day for walking, and NO mosquitos. It’s a great day for my kind of birding, which is very non-serious to be sure.
Sometimes I can be too exclusive, literally, for my own good. The first time I saw this place, I said to myself “no no no no no.” The sign says it all. Not my kind of place. Full of things that are bad for me. Bad! Bad! Bad!
And yet, when The Black Bean was not open, and we were on our way to St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge, one of the coolest places on earth, we needed breakfast. I needed coffee. You need a little fuel to run the engines, you know? So, sighing, we pull into Savannah’s.
As soon as we walk in, I realize I might have made a big mistake, meaning, if we hadn’t come here, we never would have known how cool this place is. Sometimes snobbery can get in the way of having a good time, you know?
It’s exactly the kind of small town breakfast place – and restaurant – that I grew up with in Alaska, and my husband grew up with in his small southern town. The furniture is all locally made. The place is full of town folk, local people who all know one another, and a few birders on their way to St. Marks. There is a large menu of choices; yes, I don’t see any healthy choices, and at some point, it just becomes irrelevant. This is a great experience.
AdventureMan orders the Biscuits and Gravy, a sort of quintessential Southern breakfast dish and I order a biscuit breakfast sandwich. It takes a long time – they are baking fresh biscuits. The coffee is good, not fancy, but well brewed and fresh.
When the breakfast comes, it is delicious. The biscuits are crumbly and flakey. The sausage is tasty. Yep, Pork Fat is Where it’s At.
Savannah’s Breakfast Buffet gives you an astonishing breakfast at very reasonable cost, great service. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and you can learn a lot about the community by listening to the local discussions. Here’s how you find Savannah’s:
I’m kind of a weather nerd. It goes with liking Geography, and maps, and navigation, I guess. You can see a series of truly amazing photos at SKYE for AOL.
Here is one of my favorite photos – a long time ago, I lived in Heidelberg, and I can remember the Neckar river freezing, but not this hard.
Here is another, taken in Florida, called Fire Rainbow. I have never seen this kind of reflection, but oh . . . I would love to see it!
It’s an amazing series of photos, taken round the world, of weather related phenomena. Go see for yourself.
Just a couple shots from a beautiful and isolated state park at the end of a long peninsula:
“I love this place,” I sighed, as AdventureMan and I sat out on our balcony at the Sunset Inn, a little Mom and Pop motel hidden between the towering condos of Panama City Beach. We were watching the sun go down. Little does it matter that as I sat out on the balcony watching the sun go down, or watching the pelicans in the morning, I was probably increasing my quota of mosquito bites, mais tant pis.
“I know you do,” AdventureMan replied, sipping on a cup of hot Christmas punch and sharing the moment with me. We’ve always loved sunsets. Or sunrises. We think of them as one of those great gifts, so wonderful that it is hard to believe they are free.
For some reason, some of the best sunsets we’ve ever seen have been from this motel. Here is the first sunset, the day we got there, Tuesday:
I am not kidding, I haven’t done a thing to that photo. I haven’t cropped it or enhanced it in any way. Who can improve on a sunset like that? I liked it so much I will show you another, again, untouched. This is using the telephoto, but no enhancements:
The next morning, we were greeted by pelicans. I adore pelicans, those throwbacks to prehistoric times, so primitive, and so dramatic, plunging beak first down into the waters and then flying back up with a fish in their beak. These ones aren’t plunging, just floating around letting breakfast come to them:
We missed one sunset, and here is what we caught on Thanksgiving after the feast:
Here in sunset on Friday night, our last night at the beach:
Drama drama drama!
All quiet at the Sunset Inn . . . .
One reason to love the beach – sunsets!
My quilting friend Hayfa hand-dyed the most gorgeous blues I have ever seen. A storm is rolling in tonight, and the blues of the storm remind me of Hayfa’s blues: