First winter storm of 2017

As often happens, this area is right where things change, and just a few miles can make a difference between the 4-6″ of snow in the counties to the north, and the dusting we got here in Laurens County.

Actually, I saw the first snowfall a week ago on December 31, 2016. We had to go to 9500′ over Oconee County to find it, but it was there, and it was falling, even if it wasn’t reaching the ground.

On helping

A friend sent me a story that got me thinking. I know, sometimes I just can’t help it. Warning: this is a bit of a rant.

As the story goes, a man was in a hurry to get through a supermarket line because he was on his lunch break and didn’t have much time. People weren’t too enthusiastic about letting him go ahead, but were curious why he was buying all these toothbrushes and toothpaste. When he explained that he was taking them to a nearby shelter where people evacuated from a wildfire were staying, and how nobody ever thinks to take a toothbrush when they have to evacuate, they all stepped aside and let him through. And soon everybody was buying something for the evacuees. The store owner even donated goods for the shelter.

I’m still hearing of stories like that from the floods that hit my own state of South Carolina over a year ago, and more recently the wildfires. Many, many people stopped and helped each other, often with little regard for their own property or even safety, working to make sure everyone was safe and taken care of. It seems we’re at our best when things are at their worst.

This time of year so many people volunteer to serve meals to those who have no food. People open their doors to neighbors who are alone. Charities are bolstered by people’s generosity. Toys are donated by the truckload.


I know what you’re thinking: of course people help each other when they’re in trouble. That’s not what I’m questioning. Turn that around.

What I’d like to know is, why do we do these things just when there’s a calamity, or a certain date shows up on our calendars? We’re pretty good at stepping up when disaster strikes (at least as individuals), or the “season of giving” rolls around. But what about the rest of the time? Why can’t we have at least some degree of that caring, that what-can-I-do-to-help attitude, all the time?

We fuss and fume about the way that idiot up the road cuts their grass, but if there’s a fire, illness, or some other catastrophic event, we can’t do enough to help them. Then, when it’s all over, they’re back to being an idiot. Ok, maybe there’s good reason they shouldn’t cut their grass that way, but that doesn’t make them an idiot or not worthy of our care and consideration.

I’m not saying that we need to call out the National Guard every day, but I think there are plenty of opportunities to help each other out in smaller ways. Maybe you see someone in the supermarket checkout line who’s a little short of cash for their bread and milk. Maybe someone could use a hand carrying or picking up something. Maybe a neighbor is having car trouble and could use a ride or two. Maybe you could hold the door and smile for someone. If we’re so concerned about our neighbor’s safety when a tornado hits, shouldn’t we be just as concerned as we drive by their house where their children are playing?

Wouldn’t the world be a whole lot better, wouldn’t YOUR world be a whole lot better, if we stop calling each other names and instead said “Can I give you a hand with that?”

Rant ends.

Pinnacle Mountain flight

A nice sharp clear fall Saturday morning, light wind out of the west, a brisk departure to the west off of Greenville’s runway 28. With a short flight planned, light on fuel, and we just about could have busted the class C airspace if we had a mind to.

By the time we leveled out at 4500′ I noticed we had a lot of headwind, and a groundspeed of only 89 knots, which helped to steepen that initial climb. We climbed up and circled the Pinnacle Mountain fire area, with due regard to the TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction).

For those who may not be aware, there’s been a fire burning in this area for almost two weeks now, and is reported to be the largest fire ever in Pickens County. Smoke does not make for good picture-taking conditions when you have to keep some distance, but you get the idea.

That’s actually a cloud on the right. There was a pretty good cloud deck to the north of the area. Unfortunately, they weren’t rain clouds.

Heading back east, we got the wind behind us and promptly hit 177 knots groundspeed. By the time we got back to the airport, that wind was mixing down to the surface, giving us winds gusting to 20 knots and not aligned with any runway. We managed to land without too much excitement, though, which is a good thing.

Creature Feature 2016 #5

First, a few fall pictures of this living planet we have here. Cool mornings while the water is still relatively warm gives rise to early morning steam fog.

But once the sun starts to get up, the fog begins to dissipates and the sunlight makes the early fall colors stand out.

From the birds-eye view (if the bird is flying really high) the sun can make for some contrasting scenes and, combined with the wind, patterns on the water far below.

Now, back to the less-than-planet-sized creatures. I saw this large bird and grabbed the camera. I thought he was an Osprey, just because of the silhouette, size, and location, but I realized I was mistaken when I saw the photos.

Yes, that was the Bald Eagle. A bit later I found the Osprey, cavorting around the eastern side of the lake.

Have I mentioned how hard it is to get a good picture of a Kingfisher in action?

Nope, no Heron pictures this time. I saw a couple around, but maybe it was a bit early in the morning for them.
As usual, you can click on the pictures to get to a full-res version. I had to change photo sites because of problems with the previous one. Older pictures are still there, but henceforth anything new will probably end up on the new site.

Creature Feature 2016 #4

So much of our universe runs in cycles.

Some cycles are very artificial, of our own making. Like the workweek/weekend cycle, or election cycles (and that’s all I’ll say on that topic).

Some of these cycles are so short that we hardly notice. Like the day/night cycle. It happens every day, and we take it for granted.

Some cycles aren’t so regular. It rains, then the sun comes out, until it rains again, etc…

The lunar cycle is a bit longer, although if you’re not out much at night you might not notice. The tail end of a full moon is visible in the morning daylight.

Some cycles are so long that we might not even notice that there is a cycle going on. Haley’s Comet comes around every 75 or so years, making it a once-in-a-lifetime event, but still it’s a cycle. Clouds of gases collapse to form a star, that burns for a while, explodes into a cloud, that collapses… A cycle that probably no one is going to see in it’s entirety.

This time of year the season cycle is very much in evidence. The lake is noticeably quieter now as the resident residents prepare for the winter, and the transient residents begin to migrate to their winter homes.

With all that going on, there’s still plenty to see out on the lake. Like this Kingfisher:

or this Killdeer caught in flight:

This time of year is when I see Egrets around the lake (another cycle). This one had just made a short hop of a flight. Almost sort of a literal “puddle jumper”.

As I was paddling up the lake, I saw a large bird coming towards me. I grabbed the camera and just held the shutter button. I wasn’t sure at the time, but the pictures confirm that this was a bird that I’ve only seen a few times over the years.

Yes, that’s a Bald Eagle.

Gotta throw in a gratuitous Great Blue Heron picture:

Creature Feature 2016 #3

It’s interesting how all the divisiveness among humans contrasts with what goes on in the rest of the world. Sure, there’s competition and predation, but it’s all based on the needs of survival, and nothing more. Nobody is going at each other’s throats or calling each other names just because of an abstract concept, like the color of their plumage.

This Great Blue Heron was just strolling through a whole flock of vultures like it was no big deal, because it wasn’t:

Granted, these two species are very different and their needs don’t really overlap. On the other hand, this Egret and Heron do very much compete, and here they are within a couple wing-beats of each other:

Obligatory Heron action shot; that’s a lot of bird to land up in a tree, but the extreme control they have makes it look easy:

And, from the clouds-as-creatures department, here’s some of those:

Creature Feature 2016 #2

I know, where have I been? I’ve had a lot going on, a lot of which could be the subject of a Caregiving Thoughts post. But, finally, I have some creature material (as usual, click on a picture to get to a higher-resolution version).

The first creature featured is a Beaver, but unfortunately, I didn’t get the camera pointed before he splashed the water and disappeared.

The Osprey were much more visible at their nest on top of the water system’s intake structure. I’m guessing these two are the parents, and they seemed quite intent on what was in the nest.

A third Osprey was hanging out on the other end of the structure, keeping an eye on me. Perhaps he’s a family member helping out?

Now, ordinarily, I wouldn’t think much of encountering a spider web, but this one was on some old tree branches sticking out of the water a good 6 or 7 meters from the nearest shore. Can spiders swim? Or maybe she just ballooned out there and set up shop. Given the insects caught in the web, I’d say, so far, so good.

Of course, the obligatory Great Blue Heron picture. I got a lot of pixels on this one….

…just before he decided to take off and go to warp.

In another encounter, while out cycling, I crossed paths with a little Mockingbird, probably not much older than a fledgling. She was small and more stubby-looking than the normally slender adults, but the wing markings left no question that this was a Mockingbird.
In an encounter of a different kind, while we don’t think of clouds as creatures, the way the move, shift, grow, and change they can seem alive. Taken from high above Laurens County:

Creature Feature 2016 #1

Finally, I had a chance to get out on the lake. It was a foggy morning.

During the winter I noticed that the osprey nest on top of the water system’s intake structure was gone, perhaps due to stormy weather. They’ve rebuilt and are back.

This beaver was swimming back and forth, seeming to keep an eye on me.

One of the ways these critters communicate is by slapping the water with their tails. Wait for it…

It makes a really loud noise when they do this. It sounds a lot like someone dropped a bowling ball (and I don’t mean candlepin bowling) in the water.

Connections, Creation

The other day I was hanging out with a friend and there was a Christian radio station playing. The music was good, but the stations tag line, something like “Music that makes you feel connected to God”, made me think. For me, it’s not so much music, but views like this (near Sugarloaf Mountain, NC, USA):

or this (mini creature feature, over Lake Hartwell, SC, USA):

that does it. This, to me, represents the direct handiwork of God, no translations, no interpretations, just the straight story of Creation.
As usual, click on the pictures for full-resolution versions.

Caregiving Thoughts #A

Transitions are special times. Dawn and dusk, when the world changes between night and day. The change of seasons, when the world changes between green and brown. The day your advanced-in-years cared-for moves out of the house, and everything changes.

Conventional wisdom is that people should stay in their homes for as long as possible, but there may come a point when, all things considered, that’s no longer the best option. When that happens, a transition is necessary.

I wrote in Caregiver Thoughts #9 about selecting a new home. Once that’s done, it comes down to execution.

Like any move, it starts with what to take and what to leave behind. Moving from a house to an assisted-living home (somehow the term “facility” just doesn’t work for me) will likely involve leaving a lot behind. If there’s not a lot of distance involved, this is a lot easier, as you can always swap things back and forth as necessary.

While the move might be accomplished in a day, the transition will take much longer. It’s a project. While you will have sorted out the major items (room, medications, schedules, etc…) pretty quickly, there will be a million little things that will only show up after the move. It’s just impossible to identify every little thing that needs to be taken along or left behind or changed. The important thing is to expect this.

Probably the biggest thing will be adapting to new routines. The cared-for will need to learn how things work at their new home: when are the meals, meds, what activities go on, how to get assistance, what’s this thing I’m supposed to eat? etc… The caregiver will need to take over things that the cared-for might have been taking care of around the house, adjust to making visits to the new home, work out how to stay in touch, provide those things that the new home doesn’t.

The caregiver’s role will change, but not really diminish. While I’m not as concerned now about being there every day to dispense meds, or having to jump out of bed in the night or rush off from work to handle some urgent issue (there are professionals there now 24×7 who can handle those immediate things), I am taking a larger role on the financial and paperwork side. Of course, I’m still my cared-for’s patient advocate, attend all medical appointments, keep up with what meds are for what, etc…

As patient advocate, it’s also important to coordinate with the home’s medical staff. Any notes I take from a doctor’s appointment need to be forwarded on along with any specific doctor’s orders. Everybody needs to have the appointment schedule, especially if the home will be providing any transportation.

I think it’s important to set expectations at the outset. It’s probably not going to be practical to visit in person for hours every day, so take a shot at what’s doable and work towards that. Having electronic communications can help to fill in any gaps there. While staying fully in “the loop”, I think it’s in everyone’s best interests to push as many routine things onto the home’s staff as practical. The staff is there 24×7, and if they can provide a favorite food, that’s one less thing that’s subject to disruption if I get diverted.

A lot of “givens” will need to be tossed overboard. Just because something was done a certain way, or in a certain sequence, when cared-for and caregiver were living together doesn’t mean that’s now the best way to handle those things. This can leave both feeing a bit lost as that structure evaporates, and before a new pattern begins to settle in. You just have to keep going, get done what needs to be done, and see how things play out. Keeping a to-do list (at least for the caregiver) can be handy, as it gathers in one place all those things that needs to be sequenced.

Right now we’re in the middle of the northern hemisphere winter, but I know we’ll be transitioning to spring soon. The only thing that doesn’t change is change.