My children are back at college now. I miss them keenly, but at least they left a bit of themselves behind. Ariel, her wonderful new paintings (if only we had more wall space!). And Benjamin, a CD of some of my favorite guitar pieces he plays (including Ave Maria that he plays in the style of the late, great Chet Atkins). And, too, I have my pictures from our weekend birthday roadtrips. I smile as I look through them—-remembering a quiet moment shared, a new wildflower discovered, or how red my face got on the climb to Waterrock Knob. The photographs seem almost like postcards I’ve sent to myself from the past. Having a great time! So glad I was here! Love, Beth
For his birthday roadtrip, Benjamin chose to explore a place we only recently heard about—the Sandy Mush Game Land. It contains 2,600 acres that are actively managed with clear-cutting and controlled burns by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to provide a favorable habitat for certain animals. The best thing is that it is open to the public, and they even provide parking. It’s apparently quite popular with birdwatchers, which is how we discovered it in a wonderful book that recently came out called The North Carolina Birding Trail: Mountain Trail Guide. It comes in a Piedmont and Coastal Plains version, too.
Long-time readers of my blog may remember that Benjamin is a very enthusiastic birdwatcher. He’s always liked birds and watched them intently even as a baby, but developed an obsessive interest in them around age four. That’s when we discovered he could read (very well indeed, too!) when he started reading to us from one of our bird books for adults. So we bought him bird song tapes and more books, and before long, he could identify most birds by hearing just a few notes warbled from the trees. I recall one sentence in particular from the bird tapes (which I remember because it really caught Benjamin’s fancy and he’d rewind the tape and play the sentence over and over):
The Eastern Kingbird very often sings while sallying forth in quivering flight.
Of course, we all love birds in our family, and Ariel is quite knowledgeable, too (possibly from hearing Benjamin play his tapes over and over). But Benjamin is the real Birdman. When we’re out hiking and hear a bird, I’m likely to say something inane like, “Hey, that’s a real pretty birdsong, isn’t it?” But Benjamin will stop, cock his head to the side (looking a bit like a bird himself) and say, “Hey, that’s a warbling vireo!” And then I’ll nod my head sagely, as though I knew it all along. Not that I fool anyone.
We didn’t really see any unusual birds on our trip—just an indigo bunting or two and a galaxy of goldfinches on the gossamer seedpods of the bull thistle. But no matter. We had the forest and fields and mountains and birds to ourselves this time. And we had each other. And that’s a gracious plenty.
(Tom in the drill sergeant hat he got at the surplus store and Benjamin in the Stevie Ray Vaughan hat he got at a yard sale)
(The partridge pea flower. I think. Please correct me if I’m wrong)
(Ariel on the light-spangled forest path)
(We could see remnants of an old farm there)
(The gossamer seedpod of the bull thistle)