A Small Price to Pay

Leslie and I got back from our first vacation in nearly two years not too long ago.   Dawn rented a house near Newport, Oregon, for a week and an invitation was our Christmas present.  We also got to see Sydney, our Colorado granddaughter, for the first time since we saw her two summers ago, which, coincidentally, was just a few miles down the beach.  Perhaps it’s not entirely coincidental since it was the same area Paula and I used to take the kids on vacation there for many years in a row.  It’s definitely one of my favorite places.

The timing was perfect; we had seven rainless days.  We had a couple of days of complete sunshine and a few more foggy days, and we were spared the 90+ days that they were having in Tacoma while we were gone.  I’ve been to the beach often enough that  I expected the fog, but was pleasantly surprised by the sunshine. 

We didn’t walk every day, but we did get in some serious walks.  Four miles in the sand is more challenging than four miles on the sidewalk, as it turns out. That wasn’t challenging enough for the two girls who preferred a less-traveled route.

Best of all, Lael and Sydney aren’t as blase´ as we old folks so we ended up seeing things we haven’t noticed for years.

Lael also showed that she hadn’t wasted her time sorting my photos the last two summers by spotting, and correctly naming, a Black Oystercatcher, the only bird other than a gull that we spotted on this trip to the beach.

We also visited several art galleries, both high-end ones where we viewed art work that we could admire but couldn’t possibly afford and more casual stores where I bought the grandkids inexpensive artwork to remember the trip. I suspect, though, that there favorite shop was the Sock Shop that I was dragged into and ended up buying nearly a $100 of much-needed socks. 

Actually, though, much of the trip was spent inside playing board games and card games where I was reassured that the competitive gene I inherited from my father has been passed down at least two generations as I was reminded that kids and grandkids alike delight in beating Grandpa in games.  It didn’t help that grandpa has never played some of the games that everyone else seemed to know by heart and that very few of the games relied on words to solve them. Despite having the lowest score on three major card games, I’ve learned to take pleasure in just watching how competitive the grandkids are and the strategies they developed to win.  Win or lose, I wouldn’t have missed a moment on the trip. 

However, I would have gladly missed the frustration I experienced trying to get Sydney home and the cold/flu that I picked up from Dawn.  Sydney was originally scheduled to depart from Portland airport on our last day at the beach, Friday.  Leslie and I dropped her and her grandmother at the airport in plenty of time.  After waiting an hour or so in Vancouver to hear if she had any problems, we headed for home, only to get a call about an hour later that her flight had been canceled because of “weather conditions” in Denver.  Luckily, Dawn and Lael were behind us and picked her up.  Dawn took her to the Seattle Airport the next day to try again.  About halfway home, she got another call saying that the flight had been canceled, too. Sunday I took her to the airport well before her scheduled flight because Tyson called and said earlier flights had empty seats.  We did manage to get her on a flight an hour earlier than her scheduled flight, but I ended up spending 6 hours at the airport waiting for her flight to take off. Apparently, Southwest Airlines canceled over 1,000 flights between Friday and Saturday.  Weather conditions might have been a factor, but it turned out they had laid off so many workers during the Covid epidemic that they couldn’t keep up with the demand once people were vaccinated.

Waiting at the airport wouldn’t have been quite so miserable if I hadn’t caught Dawn’s cold/flu, the first one I’ve had in over a year and a half.  I was running a fever the whole time I was at the airport; when I got home around six that night I went straight to bed and woke up around 10:00 am Monday morning.  It certainly didn’t help that I got that cold in the middle of our record heat wave.  I suspect my fever had as much to do with the heat as it did to my body reacting to a virus since it is generally higher on hot days.

The trip ended a year and a half of staying home, or, at least, staying within a few miles of home.  Perhaps not surprisingly, that time was also my healthiest period in the last ten years; I didn’t get a cold or the flu the entire time, the longest I’ve gone in a long time.  I can only conclude that if I were to become a hermit and recluse I would probably live a much longer life — if I didn’t, literally, die of boredom.  In the end, though, the cold and the long wait at the airport seemed like a very small price to pay for a delightful week at the beach.

Fly Away

When I was younger, my favorite part of going to the beach was flying kites, the bigger the better.  I loved that sense of being pulled into the air.  At 79 I don’t fly kites anymore, but I still feel that pull when I watch flocks of shorebirds streak down the beach, burst into the sky,

swoop back over the water, 

change directions, 

head back toward the water

only to settle back down a short distance from where they took off.

(There’s supposed to be a sentence here, but I didn’t like the way my first attempt sounded and I couldn’t come up with anything better, so this entry has been sitting here several days now and I don’t think I’m ever going to find a better way to say what I wanted to say no matter how long it sits here.  So, I’m just going to post it with this gap in it. Perhaps you can find the perfect transition to the next sentence.)  Feeling it second-handed keeps me grounded.

Common Loon

In a chaotic year where little seemed to go as planned, I searched harder than usual for signs that the natural order of things was unaffected by mankind’s pandemic.  While the very fact that I had to search harder than usual was not reassuring, in the end it seemed Nature was still on schedule.

Observing Common Loons in breeding plumage at Ft. Flagler and, particularly, Westport has become one of my favorite traditions since I saw one there in 2010.  I saw my first Common Loon in breeding colors at Ft. Flagler on April 6th — unfortunately, it was a long way away.

Inspired by that sighting, I went to Westport on April 11th and found a single Common Loon in breeding plumage.  Luckily, he was a very cooperative loon and posed a few feet away,

rising out of the water, flapping his wings to reveal his full beauty.

Unfortunately, he insisted on keeping the sun right behind him.  I had to wait until my May 8th visit to get a photo that shows the green band around its throat.

When I returned May 15th in a final attempt to catch the Shorebird Spring Migration I only found a single juvenile 3rd year Common Loon,

It would probably seem unimportant whether or not I got a shot of a Common Loon in breeding colors since I already have twelve years of shots, but, if I’ve discovered anything this year, it’s that small habits, small traditions can become quite important.  

I’ve done a lot of birding this year, perhaps even more than normal, but it hasn’t felt the same because I couldn’t stop at the restaurants I’ve always eaten at in previous years.  A trip to Ocean Shores isn’t the same without stopping at the Galway Bay Irish Pub after a morning of birding.  Birding the Port Orchard Marina isn’t the same without stopping at La Palpa without my Lime Jarritos and Chile Relleno. 

This year may well have been a disaster, but it did remind me that those “unimportant” traditions may be much more important than we realize. 

No, Bullshit

Nearly three months ago I discovered the Canadian “folksinger” Jon Brooks while watching the Canadian Show “Being Erica.” After hearing the song, I immediately searched for Jon Brooks and bought his album entitled Moth Nor Rust II and spent hours listening to it. When I began to tire of merely repeating the same songs, I purchased Delicate Cages and spent hours switching between the two. Then about a month ago I purchased No One Travels Alone and got hooked on this song.

The way things have been going in my life lately I think this may become my new theme song, just as Ray Charles’s If It Wasn’t For Bad Luck (I wouldn’t have no luck at all) became my theme song 30 some years ago.