Before the Solstice

Sunrise in the Couturie Forest, November 18, 2018

So, winter officially begins this Friday at 4:23 pm local NOLA time. According to an article I found on mentalfloss.com, this specific time corresponds to the moment the North Pole is pointed furthest away from the sun. It’s also the specific moment when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.

I’m not a huge fan of winter. I’ve probably stated that here before. It doesn’t get super-cold in New Orleans, and we rarely have to deal with the problematic logistics of trying to get to places dealing with snow and ice, so I understand that there are worse places to winter. But it does get cold here. . .a windy and damp cold. And it still gets dark early.

But that leads me to the thing I love to celebrate about the solstice—it’s the turning point. After Friday at 4:34 pm, the nights will start getting shorter. Ever so gradually, until we all find ourselves at 10:54 am on Friday, June 21, 2019. (That’s the next summer solstice, when we’ll have the longest day and the shortest night).

The impending change of season has me reflecting on the one just past. Speaking for myself, the Fall of 2018 was a good one! I was blessed with the opportunity to reconnect with distant, long-time friends (Tamara, Stacey, Carol, and Christine); I traveled to Houston and Amsterdam; the Saints are having a phenomenal football season. And, oh yeah, MY SECOND NOVEL RELEASED.

Again, personally speaking, getting #2 out into the world was a huge boost to my confidence as a writer. Now, I’m sure I will still get in my own way, writing-wise, on a daily basis. But I also know what I can do—and continue to do— if I simply persevere.

Those feel like nice words to conclude my 2018 posts. . .I’m taking a break next week for the holiday, and will resume in the New Year. Happy Holidays, everyone, and thanks for reading!

In this post, I’ve shared some pictures from Fall 2018, that never made it to any social media outlet. . .

Superdome, November 18, 6:42 am
Red berries near City Park, November 18
Black and Gold carpet in the Couturie Forest, December 1
Sunrise in City Park, December 12
Everblooming Azaleas, December 12
Near Popp Fountain, December 16

An Auditory Detour

I heard a woodpecker somewhere in those trees

The hawks were yelling at me. I don’t think I stumbled upon a quarrelsome moment amongst the raptors; I’m fairly certain they were aiming their shouts my way. And I’m pretty sure they were telling me to “Go away.”

It all began when I went out early one morning, just after sunrise. Just a jaunt around the neighborhood, to get a bit of exercise.

Headed north on Marconi Drive, I strayed to see if I could get a better look at Popp Fountain and the Arbor Room. I’ve seen Popp Fountain before, it’s one of those City Park staples that’s been around since 1937. But I’ve yet to see the Arbor Room from the inside, it’s one of the newest event venues in City Park.

As I approached an oak tree near the fence line, I heard a very distinctive cry coming from its branches. Not a chirping, not a raven’s “caw,” but similar in cadence. Higher-pitched and not as caustic as a raven, and it finished with a bit of a whistle.

Looking for the source, I spied a large bird with a white speckled breast, maybe twenty feet dead ahead and twenty feet above. A hawk! I scrambled for my phone, but the best I was able to capture is the picture at the end of this post. The hawk took its squawking to a higher, less visible branch of the oak tree right after I took that photo.

But it got me thinking–so much of what I love about meandering through City Park are the sounds.

So in the interest of “show, don’t tell,” here’s an attempt to “show in words” some sounds I noted on that same jaunt.

  • The haunting notes of a train horn, miles away
  • The staccato beats of a woodpecker across the lagoon
  • The caustic caws of a pair of ravens (yes, I realize I’m re-using that description)
  • The subversive trill of crickets below
  • The “ga-dunk” of cars passing overhead, as I traversed under the I-610 overpass (yes, this is a direct reference to my novel, The Incident Under the Overpass)

As I concluded my exercise loop, I returned to the hawk’s oak tree, to see if the bird of prey was still there, hoping to get a better photo, if so. And to conclude this post’s loop, I’ll go back to the beginning. Said hawk was still there…with reinforcements. And they were yelling at me. At least two birds aimed their plaintive cries my way. And by plaintive, I mean pretty wretched. My guess is they were protecting a nest, and didn’t want curious bi-peds (or predatory quadrupeds, for that matter) lollygagging around.

I got the message.

Natural camouflage, indeed