Thursday, February 18, 2010

Spring Break Redux

OK, so it's not really spring break; it's still winter. And none of us had off from school (in fact, most of us are not even in school). But still.

Day 1

Before I realized my camera batteries were running low, I took some pictures from the plane. (Contrary to my preference, I had a window seat; so why not take advantage?) I liked the way this one came out:

Day 2:

After dinner, we went for a walk on the beach:

Of course, when small children are involved, there is no such thing as a quiet walk on the beach. Everything becomes a game of "Chase me!" (at nightfall) or "Come see what I found!" (in daylight):

Though the weather was unseasonably cool, with some threat of rain, this resulted in spectacular skies:

Day 3

I went skating solo in the morning, with the chance to listen to the new mix of songs on my new iPod (it's got a lot more memory) and saw two immature ibises and an immature anhinga or cormorant.

Later we went to the pool. C loves the water, but she is still learning to swim. What she was doing in the pool made me think almost of a reverse evolution (rather than a water creature using its fins to learn to walk on land, we have here a land creature using its arms to learn to walk in water):


In the afternoon some of us went for a small bike ride. This bird was just hanging out in the little pond in someone's front yard, near several turtles.

On the bike path behind Rabbit Road, we saw this alligator, though the jury's still out as to whether it's real or not. It was not in the water, but instead at the top of a hill near some houses, and we didn't see it move - and unfortunately could not see its eyes (which might have given the game away).

C found a shell at the library; this one is definitely fake:

Day 4

This morning three of us went bright and early to the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. We forked over $1 each to bike through. We were lucky enough to meet up with a USF&W person at the first big viewing point. She was cataloging the red knots who were passing through, but she let us look through her high-powered scope and told us about some of the birds we were seeing. (She had been using the scope to read the green tags on the legs of some red knots who were passing through.) She told us about the tide control in the refuge (they're keeping the water on the left side of the drive at low tide right now for the migrating birds), and mentioned that -- unlike flamingoes -- the coloring of the roseate spoonbills is genetically determined (reflecting age rather than diet). In this area, we saw three roseate spoonbills at different stages of development. I liked this one:

The one on the left is apparently the youngest of the three:


One of my all-time favorite plants, the mangrove:

We again ran into an inter-species gathering of white birds, squawking up a storm and in constant motion. A few still photos may help give a sense of the commotion:




By the cross-dike area, it was a lot more contemplative:

Brown pelican in the tree:

Here, we had the pink and black (more roseates, but perhaps with cormorants among them - I couldn't quite tell what the black birds were):

A fisherman landed this fish as his first catch of the day...

But I found myself asking, who watches the bird-watchers? There were quite a few people -- all men, I believe -- with some pretty serious cameras, waiting for the perfect shot. The hunting instinct never entirely dies, does it? They're just shooting the birds with film or pixels now.




I kept looking for alligators in all the ditches along Wildlife Drive, especially toward the end where we've often seen them before. Didn't see any this time, but I loved this reflection of sun & clouds:

Things only got better when we got to the beach later on. There was a dolphin close to shore, which even rushed at us for a bit, apparently hunting. Plus we saw some stingrays - if you look closely, you may see the tips of the rays' fins sticking up on the left side of this photo:

L and C were enthralled with the rays, the dolphin, the sunshine & the warmth (the hottest day so far) and had a great time:

Afterward, a multi-tasking Yahtzee player is able to accommodate two girls during a fiercely contested game:
Yahtzee was not part of my childhood growing up, but it was part of R's childhood, and L absolutely loves it (especially when she rolls five of a kind!). The game is very individualistic, in the sense that each person depends on his/her own luck and skill, and opponents cannot interfere with one's chosen strategy. But it also seems to be educational, and I see that L is practicing addition and getting a sense of probabilities. It's cool to see that although L is naturally disappointed when she doesn't do well, she is showing good sportsmanship and actively wishing other players well.

Day 5

This turtle was in the bike path. His face made me think of the tin man from Wizard of Oz:

5 a.m. Farewell

Didn't get to take a picture on the spiral staircase, but I snapped two parting shots. Let's just say we were all deeply tired, but alert and watchful:




Still have videos to upload, those will have to await another time. It was so good to be in Florida again; just to be in one another's presence and have time to enjoy skating, biking, and relaxing, to read Narnia stories and the Hobbit out loud (or listen to other grown-ups reading them!), to observe the interactions and see how much the girls have progressed. I'm so proud of everyone. And I just love that C spontaneously counts in French from time to time -- even though L is the one taking lessons.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Another magical visit (and my eighth post on the garden so far). There was green in the park, along with the stark black and white -- rhododendrons and bamboo, in addition to the various pines. Also ivy; it was climbing up on the southern exposure of tree trunks, which is the sunnier side. The north side was not only bare of ivy but usually had snow that the sun's rays had not managed to reach. It almost looked as if the ivy and snow were battling for control of the trunk, each trying to creep around to the other's turf.

A few tracks in the cherry orchard, with a little snowman:

Rising above the gate to the Japanese hill-and-pond garden:

The frozen pond:


The color coordinated sign says "DANGER THIN ICE" - but I suppose it's ok for those who can walk on water:

I liked these backlit:

Can these be the first spring buds? Surely it's too early and too cold for that!

I thought my picture-taking was all done, but then I saw this sculpture-like tree:


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow City, Brooklyn

I spent my whole snow day indoors, but in the evening I went for a walk. It was still snowing. The monuments in Grand Army Plaza were lit up, as usual, but were extra impressive with the snow swirling around them:


I couldn't quite capture the lavender floodlights on the columns, but snowflakes caught in the flashbulb look like glowing balls (along with a few streetlight globes in the lower half of the frame):


It was really striking how differently the trees were decked out with snow - it depends, I suppose, on the configuration of the branches, how much wind and from what angle, etc. Though it's hard to see in the photo, this tree had long stripes of snow on its trunk:


This one gave more of a magical wonderland feeling, as if each branch had been dipped in frosting:


Many folks were walking or playing with their dogs, some were carrying sleds (oddly, I didn't see anyone actually sledding).

But toward the southwest corner of Prospect Park, I came across a series of eerie snow figures. For some reason, they made me think of a greening ceremony or maybe a neo-pagan ritual. This figure had a carefully crafted face and was standing with open pine-branch arms directly before a park lantern (streetlight):


Stepping back a bit for the full effect in black-and-white:

Two other figures were beneath a tree on the other side of the path from the first one:

(I liked that the little one was standing on a big ol' log - it made me think of a surfboard.)


In black and white you can see the surfer-dude's mohawk a bit better:


This picture gives more of a sense of the three figures' spatial relationship - although there were other figures nearby that I could not include in the photo:


A little further down, at the southwest entrance, I found almost a dozen people building a snow city. They'd started a huge igloo (seriously thick walls, but no roof yet), city gates (a bit rough, but very fortress-gatelike), and a bar (very smooth and lovingly defined, with cupholders next to all the built-in benches)! The bar was already in service; folks were sitting on the benches and enjoying their beer. They invited me to join them, and even offered to sell me a beer for $4. I told them I'd forgotten my wallet, and offered to pay them in snow. They said they'd have been more tempted by that offer yesterday. Alas, timing is everything in this world.

There were also 3 folks rolling a snowball just about as big as they were over to the snow city ... but I think it was supposed to be a friendly amendment rather than Armageddon.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Progress

I set some priorities last weekend, and have mostly made progress in reading / watching / listening in French every day. Moderate progress in staying on top of chores and QT. (Though I'm 1 week behind in TBLTY reading.) Went to yoga this morning, which felt really great. Other items... not so much.

New word of the week (since I heard it in class AND in a Buffy episode): le boulot

New expression of the week: M├ętro, boulot, dodo. (Basically: work, work, work - but literally subway, work, sleepy-time.)

It's nice to see architectural details of the brownstones all highlighted with snow, though I'm sorry there's not enough accumulation for snowshoeing.

It was also great to have a small, select mahjong game last Sunday. Hadn't realized it was so long since G-san and U-chan were at my apartment. They hadn't seen my bookcase, and that's well over a year old. Then again, I didn't host many shindigs at my place last year (and the few I did host, they weren't able to attend). It's strange how much Z has influenced my views of things. Under his influence, I became perhaps less social and had more a sense of rattling around chez moi. These and some other attitudes, not entirely helpful, have lingered. Not entirely clear on the next step. I can see: staying put (yay, inertia!), moving into the city, or moving away entirely (Boston the most tempting, but Chicago and San Diego each have their draw). I'm not sure moving into Manhattan would do what I'd like it to do for me. I'm just not a New Yorker, when it comes down to it. Right now I feel like California could do me some good (note to self: NOT Sunnydale). Or then again, why not go where the hiking is? Sigh - inertia will definitely have its way in the short term, at least, but I'll keep the eyes of my heart open.

U-chan made some delicious Earl Grey cookies, and G-san gave me a lovely chocolate mouse: