Archive for December, 2021

Dec 15 2021

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Bluebirds of Happiness

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During a short spell of relatively warm, sunny days, Judy and I went birding. We went birding just to get out of the house. We first stopped at Shelburne Bay, where various waterfowl had been spotted recently. We saw mergansers and buffleheads there, but they were too far away for Judy to take good photos. So we walked the LaPlatte River Trail next, instead of lingering along the lake’s edge waiting for ducks to draw nearer.

The trail following the LaPlatte River was muddy, but we had donned hiking boots before leaving the house in anticipation of that. We took our time, moving ever so slowly over waterlogged boards.

When I first saw movement through the trees, I assumed that the fast-moving, airborne creatures were robins. They turned out to be eastern bluebirds – half a dozen of them passing through. A pair perched temporarily on power lines not far away, making it easy for me to identify them with my binoculars. Incredible! This time of year? A few moments later, one landed on a nearby tree branch, giving Judy an opportunity to snap shots of it.

Bluebirds of happiness. Just what we needed. Deep into the second year of a pandemic, with all kinds of depressing news both locally and worldwide, and one week shy of the darkest day of the year, a little happiness goes along way.

In Russian fairy tales, the bluebird is a symbol of hope. In Navajo culture, it’s associated with the rising sun just as it is in ancient Chinese myths. The bluebird of happiness dates back to the Middle Ages in European folklore – a tale retold by Madame D’Aulnoy in L’Oiseau Bleu. Yeah, the upbeat symbolism of bluebirds is nearly universal. How lucky were we to spot them?

We went to Delta Park after that, catching a brief glimpse of a wren in the dense underbrush along the lake’s shore. Judy didn’t even have time to raise her camera for that one. No matter. The clouds had cleared out by then, exposing a perfectly blue sky an hour before dusk. We went home happy. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to feel that way.

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Dec 05 2021

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A Good Day to Get Outdoors

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I hunkered down to work as the length of day slipped below 9 hours, but I could feel myself sliding into a funk all the same. I needed to get outdoors. After a week of wintry conditions, with snow covering the ground and temps staying below freezing, I looked for a window of sunshine in the forecast. It came Friday morning as promised – the sky breaking open after a snow squall at breakfast. I took care of what business had to be addressed then headed for Niquette Bay State Park.

Niquette Bay, on the shores of Lake Champlain, isn’t exactly deep woods but I figured the snow covering the ground would be negligible here, unlike the mountains. Sure enough, there was only a trace of white stuff left. Rain the day before had washed away most of it. I had tucked a pair of Microspikes into my jacket but didn’t have to use them. My boots provided traction enough as I hiked at a brisk pace across the half-frozen ground.

The clouds cleared out during my walk, allowing sunlight to wash over the landscape. That’s what I came out for primarily, but stretching my legs and breathing in the cool, clean air also felt good. I cut my pace, in no hurry to do the three-mile loop around the park. A short climb uphill gave me a bit of an aerobic workout. After cresting the summit of the hill, I stopped long enough to enjoy a good view of the snowcapped Mt. Mansfield looming over the Champlain Valley. That and the forest sprawling at my feet reminded me why I live in Vermont. Nature struts its stuff here.

Life is good when the sun is shining no matter what time of year it is. The days are short this time of year so smart Vermonters get outdoors and enjoy the sunlight when they can. Like everyone else I’m a thinking creature, comfortable enough with indoor life and all my abstractions. But I’m a creature all the same. The elements leave their mark on me, and most of the time that’s a good thing.

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