Sunny Saturday in Sarasota

Most of Florida’s highest elevations are at the tops of buildings, mostly expensive condos with views of the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean. Sarasota is officially 16.08 feet, but just out of town at the celery fields is a ridge of land with a heliport at the top that is a whopping 100 feet above sea level. Except from the top of the tallest building around here, 26 floors I’m told, you can’t get any higher anywhere within perhaps a hundred miles. I walked up and took a picture.

It was a pleasant walk, but not exactly my kind of photo op, so I took the short loop trail back to sea level and found a Tri-color Heron fishing, I snapped three pictures in little more than a second as he struck at something and missed.

Better luck next time.

Young Grandpa Keith

Cousins

These Ibises, the Roseate Spoonbill, and the Wood Stork are close relatives. In fact, the Wood Stork is not a stork at all, but a type of Ibis. The Spoonbill is also cousin to the White Ibis. They were all feeding together at the Celery Fields today.

I came upon a woman escorting a group of kids. She was consulting a Florida Water Birds book and concluded that one solitary long-necked white bird was a Cattle Egret as it lacked any of the telltale markings of either the Snowy or Great Egret. I asked if I could see her book and together we continued looking at possibilities until we discovered that  the bird is actually a young Little Blue Heron with only a hint of developing dark blue plumage. 

Young Grandpa Keith

Oliver Osprey

I paid my first visit to Sarasota’s Ken Thompson Park of this Florida stay. On the observation deck overlooking the estuary I came upon an Osprey resting on the railing and doing some people watching. He hailed me asked to have his picture taken. We entered into negotiations.

His name was Oliver. He claimed to be the patriarch of the Ospreys who hang out around the mangroves in the park. We agreed on a price and he gave me a full on pose and a look at his best side. Pending his approval of the proofs I will collect a fee for this shoot.

A few other cooperative water birds allowed photos; a Green Heron, a Little Blue, and a Snowy Egret. A solitary Great Blue flew in and posed against the Mangroves on the edge of the water.

Young Grandpa Keith

Third Cup of Coffee

In a little while the sun riding low in the winter sky will be so bright that the closed vertical blinds of my south facing window will fail to cut the glare enough for my comfort. I left them open until the sun appeared in the southeast just above the trees and shined directly in my light sensitive eyes. It could be cataracts that have lurked in my eyes for years may be advancing. My ophthalmologist will let me know. My annual exam is in a few weeks. I’m going to put on sunglasses and a cap and go for a walk.

I last night I sifted through photos from yesterday’s Rookery visit and found two more to post for the benefit of non-Facebook followers. The up close and personal shot of the Great Blue Heron was the first picture I took. It was fishing on the edge of the lake and concentrating on his prey oblivious to gawkers. I’m sure Great Egrets are good for more than just standing around being beautiful, bit if not I’ll settle for that.

Young Grandpa Keith

Same Old, Same Old

Some Hole News readers are not Facebook followers where these photos were first posted, so for their benefit here are the keepers from yesterday’s visit to the Venice Audubon Rookery. A most handsome Great Egret showing off for potential mates, and the proud parents with their Great Blue Heron triplets.

Young Grandpa Keith

Still Beating the Alternative

The last time I served as pastor was as interim for two small United Methodist churches. One board member frequently lunched and coffee-ed me as he filled me in on rules, official and otherwise, I needed to follow to avoid stress. If we sat long enough a gimpy arthritic hip set to paining him and he had to walk and talk. Always he remarked that getting old is the pits, but it beats the alternative. I never hear or say that without thinking of him.

On this Tuesday, remarkable for being my 71st birthday, I am happy to say I am still beating the alternative with little reason to observe that getting old is the pits. My blood sugar number was a respectable 117, my blood pressure was 120/71 without benefit of drugs. All you like me who live by the numbers know what these mean. For those who don’t, these are good.

So, as I contentedly sip my third cup of coffee and let my breakfast sandwich (egg, bacon, and cheese on toasted multi-grain bread) settle, I feel pretty good for an old guy. I’ll go back to perusing the birthday wishes trickling in to my Facebook page. The first ones were there before I logged in shortly after 5:30 this morning.

Young Grandpa Keith

For non Facebook followers hear are pictures from my first visit to the Celery Fields wetland preserve this season. One Great Egret just because, and three shots of the first American Bittern I’ve seen not hiding in the grass refusing to pose. This one was most cooperative. 

More about Santa and his Mom

My Christmas Eve Eve post is as much truth as fiction. The two people in the posted photo are mother and son. I did not make that up. “Santa” is a retired letter carrier. His beard is genuine and the red suit is his own. He was Santa, never for pay, for years and cultivated the beard as much for that purpose as any. Gerry, his mother, was a regular at the bingo games I called. Santa sans the red suit was frequently there to help her.

Santa and his wife are not Hole News readers, so I emailed the original post to them hoping they would be pleased. They were. I learned from Santa’s wife that her husband dearly loved being Santa but arthritis was making it harder and harder for him keep it up. He was in demand every December.

Santa came one more year to Life Care and I took the usual pictures. It was his last delivery. At the urging of his wife he put away the red suit and accepted using a wheel chair that took the pain out of getting around. His mother, who really did cheat at solitaire, has since died. I haven’t seen Santa in a long time. But, my second childhood is upon me, so I’m keeping my eyes peeled.

So, there you have it. Santa is real. I have the pictures to prove it.

Young Grandpa Keith

Christmas Eve Eve

My most amazing photo, reposted from 2012

Each year two days before Christmas Santa pays an exclusive visit to Life Care Center to deliver presents. I hide out and follow him on his rounds. This is no shopping mall Santa stand-in. This is the genuine article. Despite his iron clad no pictures policy he granted me an exemption and paused with each resident for a photo.

Because elves only manufacture toys for children these presents are provided by staff and friends of Life Care. I took a name from the giving tree where all the residents’ names were hanging. My person was Gerry who loves to do word search puzzles and play solitaire. She’s been playing with the same deck for several years and refuses to change to a new one, so I got her Word Search books and and nice smelling lotion and soaps. Gerry only took a fleeting glance at the sweet smelling stuff, and immediately opened a puzzle book and set to work.

When all the all gifts were distributed Santa and his stand-in elves took a cookie and punch break. I mentioned that Gerry had plunged right into one of the puzzle books. Santa told us that Gerry unabashedly cheats at solitaire. I figured he knew this just because he is Santa and knows everything. Then he gave us all a final “Ho! Ho! Ho!” and disappeared in a sparkly cloud.

Afterward I was told that Gerry’s true last name is Claus. She is Santa’s mother. That explained the special attention Life Care gets from Santa and his intimate knowledge of Gerry’s card playing habits.

Don’t tell me there is no Santa Claus. I have the pictures.

Young Grandpa Keith

Fall’s Last Hurrah

My house in the woods is easily seen from the road now that the trees have surrendered all modesty and are nearly naked. The next picture will be with snow if we get any before I flee to Florida.dsc_5995-web

But in town this morning one tree in front of the house put on a late fall spectacular display of red. Most of the leaves will be on the ground tomorrow morning. If there is any wind or rain all of them will. dsc_5990-webjpg

Young Grandpa Keith

Homecoming

My return to Life Care Center as a volunteer has been too long deferred. Eleven months had passed when I went there Friday as clergy support for the Veteran’s Day ceremony. Things went off without a hitch. I played my part adequately. I accepted thanks and a cup of coffee for my fee.

One man interrupted my walk to the exit to thank me for talking loudly enough. Betty, who sang enthusiastically if not in tune during the patriotic sing along, finally remembered me and asked me how my father is and has he made any more harmonica recordings and how come I didn’t have my camera. And then I saw Orville.

Orville has lived at Life Care almost since the day it opened 15 years ago. He has been my happy heckler, my weight gain/loss monitor, and front row attendee at every event I’ve been a part of at Life Care. Orville spends his days in what amounts to a Lazy Boy on wheels. He’s never without his oxygen supply. His legs and left arm are paralyzed. And, he has the world’s most engaging handshake.

The latest picture I took of Orville was a year ago Father’s Day with his daughter.orville

Those nearby during our brief encounter smiled compassionately at my tears as only reluctantly I let go of his hand. There were more tears as I walked the 4 or 5 blocks to my house in town. I reflected that home may well be where your heart is. But more particularly it is where your friends are. That’s the same thing, isn’t it?

Young Grandpa Keith