Tag Archives: birds

West Goose Creek

We’d driven to St. Marks to watch shore birds. It was a lovely day in every way, a day free of cares with Charles and I exploring the area on no particular time table. A good sea breeze was up and sunshine disappeared as clouds moved in. A light rain encouraged us to climb back in our car. Charles wondered out loud where West Goose Creek might be. He knew it was somewhere nearby. We tried with no luck to find it on our car’s GPS.

It was about 2:00 when we ordered grilled shrimp in a folksy restaurant right on the St. Marks River. Dogs were allowed on one side of the restaurant and not the other, an interesting feature to me. Charles asked the waitress why the difference in sides, both seeming equally open. She guessed it was because one side was nearer the kitchen so it might be a health issue. Then Charles asked his real question. Did she know where we might  find West Goose Creek. She had never heard of it. She asked another fellow but he didn’t know either. We needed someone with some age on them. All those folks were too young.

It was delightful eating by the river with raindrops freckling the water. As we nibbled we remembered times at West Goose Creek.

Charles’ family, consisting of him, his parents and his siblings, as well as Uncle Lewis and almost the whole clan of Morrises, made an annual trek down from Thomas County in the fall to buy fresh fish from seiners at the seinyard and then cook them right there. His memory is of cool air, a long wait for fish to “come in,” resulting in plenty of time for cousins to chase and play on the beach before the fish fry started.

“It was always Uncle Lewis’s idea,” Charles said, sipping iced tea. “Mama and her sisters brought side dishes–potato salad, baked beans, pimiento sandwiches, chocolate cake, all that stuff. We’d get so hungry waiting for the fish, we kids tried to slip bits of food from under the covers but someone nearly always caught us.”

I remembered going myself with the family once after Charles and I married, probably about 1966. It was great fun. I enjoyed the adventure, seeing the stretch of Gulf beach, the warmth of the fire as the sun went down. I thought we might do that every year, but that was the last time, I think because Uncle Lewis moved away.

We really wanted to see if we could find that place after all these years. “Let me see if my phone GPS can locate West Goose Creek,” I said.

And there it was on my screen. The directions indicated it was only nine miles away.

It wasn’t an easy nine miles. The last three or four were lonely narrow mud and sand roads with only an occasional mailbox and even fewer visible houses. It was beautiful but not a place you’d want to be when you ran out of gas or had a heart attack. Finally we drove clear of the tangled forest and found ourselves in an opening onto a small cove. There was an old ruins, a very well kept informational sign about West Goose Creek and Wakulla Beach, and several big water birds shopped for tiny crabs and fed among grasses in a stretch of wetland. We saw a limpet (I think!), a couple of ibis, a willet maybe. There were, of course, big brown pelicans diving into the sea, and I saw at a distance some little ducklike birds swimming and then disappearing for whole minutes in the waves. I was thrilled to see all the birds and compare them to pictures in our guide book.

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The birds were amazingly unafraid. These two ibis let me follow them at a distance.

 

We both learned a lot more about West Goose Creek, Wakulla Beach, and East Goose Creek.

In the 1880’s, according to the historical marker, folks from north Florida and South Georgia traveled to Wakulla Beach/West Goose Creek to seine for mullet. They went in wagon trains (the wagons made into covered ones with stretches of tarp) at the end of the harvest season, as described by William Warren Rogers in “Thomas County 1865-1900.” Many groups would stay as long as a week. When the schools of mullet “ran,” the men would pull them in with great seining nets, then everyone pitched in salting the fish down in barrels to take home. At night the harmonicas and fiddles were brought out. A bonfire glowed brightly by the shore. The singing and storytelling, sometimes even dancing, went on for hours.

The marker indicates that West Goose Creek Seinyard was the last to close down and that was when Hurricane Kate, in 1985, destroyed all the sheds.

The ruins we saw were of a pretty sophisticated tourist hotel having had columns, a concrete foundation and plumbing. Seems it was the dream, actually the third of three dreams, of Daisy Walker, wife of Senator Henry N. Walker, Sr.  Daisy dreamed of a town, East Goose Creek, and even laid it out in streets. But today it’s only a ghost town covered by vines, palms and scrub oaks or live oaks. The first hotel, built in 1915, became the Walkers’ home after a few seasons of welcoming guests. They built another hotel which seems to have been destroyed in a tropical flood in September, 1928. Then they built the hotel, remains of which are still there. It was a two story building with kitchen and dining room on the ground level, sleeping rooms above.

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Ruins of an old hotel at West Goose Creek. (Don’t miss that foraging bird in the background.)

 

I was telling a friend about our adventurous day and he became quite interested in the actual creek of West Goose Creek. I had to admit I didn’t see a creek. Maybe he will discover it and, if there’s a trail to it, I’d like to see that. On some other adventurous day!

 

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I’ve Got the Joy!

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Some cousinly joy

 

Remember the song called “Joy In My Heart”?

“I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart…”

What has brought you joy lately?

There are plenty of things that have splashed pain and suffering, caused disillusionment and disappointment, spurred anger or brought on bewilderment, horror and grief. Hurricanes, earthquakes, threats of war and more war, heartaches, surgeries, accidents, deaths….

But stop right now and consider what has caused you joy.

Here are a “couple” of joy moments I’ve experienced lately.

Six-year-old Charli, my granddaughter’s daughter, asked Jesus to be her Savior a few weeks ago. I was privileged to be the one to talk to her and pray with her the night she announced she wanted to give her heart to Jesus. We all rejoiced with her and her big sister the day they were baptized. Last Sunday was her first opportunity to participate in taking the elements as our church gathered for what we call “The Lord’s Supper.” Charli sat beside me and I explained to her the meaning of this symbolic meal and manners for same, stressing that it is a time to remember what Jesus did for us. It was a joy to receive unleavened bread and grape juice with this little girl for her very first time. She was filled with awe and was very careful to hold her tiny glass steady until the very right moment to drink.

Another joyful moment occurred this week when I made my weekly visit to a nearby assisted living facility. We talked about fears. We all have them, some worse than others. Following our discussion about how we need so much to trust in Jesus when we are afraid, we sang “He Keeps Me Singing.” These folks usually enjoy the singing but not all of them open their mouths and actually sing. That day everyone, even Jack, sang the words: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know. Fills my every longing, Keeps me singing as I go.” Some of their voices were weak and quavery, but their faces were full of light.

One morning recently Charles called me to see something out the breakfast room window. I didn’t get there in time. He described the bird, said it had been swinging on the hummingbird feeder. A few minutes later I saw the bird myself, and incredibly beautiful black headed bird with orange breast, similar to an orchard oriole or a black headed grosbeak but not matching either one. The sight of that beautiful bird brought me joy as did the sharing of that special moment with my soulmate.

The phone rang. My friend had called to tell me our mutual friend’s son had just died in Washington State. As Sue and I prayed and cried together, the word joy didn’t come to mind. But later, as I thought about the sorrow we shared, I realized what a joyful thing it is to have a Savior Who understands our deepest griefs–and to have human friends, too, with whom to cry.

I turned 75 last Sunday. I have received such thoughtful gifts, cards, phone calls, and Facebook messages. What a joy to have dear caring friends and family! Charles even took me on a jaunt to the sea coast which brought us both joy, mystery, and adventure. More about that another time.

What has been your most recent moment of joy? Think about it.

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10d

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Springtime Treasures

Someone told me she was collecting waterfalls. She meant that she and her husband hunt for accessible waterfalls, she takes pictures, and then can recall each trickling or thundering one of them. I was intrigued. Now there’s a collection that would be such fun to build and wouldn’t have to be dusted. The same could be said for a collection of springtime treasures, even without the pictures. See if some of mine are in your collection.

  • A hillside covered with daffodils…Was it Robert Loveman who wrote “It’s not raining rain to me, it’s raining daffodils”?
  • A Japanese magnolia in full vibrant bloom, its pink blossoms of various shades the shape of tulips. (Of course our wonderful corner tree is in full leaf now but a few weeks ago it was a glorious sight and many neighbors mentioned how it cheered them on their way.)
  • Azaleas of pink, red, fuchsia and white blooming in stages so we enjoyed them for months. They were so beautiful, it made me want to do something!
  • Purple wisteria looking like bunches of Caleb’s grapes high in a pine tree letting us know we haven’t gotten rid of all the vines yet.
  • A bluebird reveling in a merry splash of fresh cool water in the bird bath.
  • A mother hen followed by fluffy yellow cheeping biddies. I’m remembering the spring when my two kids were little and talked me into getting them biddies at the feed store. Thunder and Lightning, they named them!
  • A mulberry tree alive with birds and squirrels nibbling on new leaves and berry buds.
  • A little child offering a fist full of iris blossoms, the ones which you’d finally coaxed into blooming.
  • A wide field with rows and rows of tiny corn blades barely showing against the Georgia red soil.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal literally sharing a worm right before my eyes (now as I write this).
  • A hummingbird finding our feeders and whirring off to tell his neighbor.
  • White puffy clouds piled high in a perfect blue sky with sunlight casting shadows so the clouds look to have valleys and caves and mountain slopes.
  • Strawberries and tomatoes and crookneck squash displayed in abundance at the market.
  • My Mamma years ago happily planting her garden; the smell of disturbed tomato plants trying to put down roots; or the smell of tiny wild strawberries on our fingers after we’d picked enough for a shortcake.
  • The sheer happiness of my two whittling brothers making whistles of sourwood when the springtime made the wood supple and right–and their vigorous competition to see whose whistle blew the loudest.
  • The first pot of fresh English peas on Mama Graham’s stove and Papa Graham in his overalls hoeing grass out of the peas and corn.
  • The scent of fresh mown grass and wild onions.
  • The sight of my veterinarian standing at the door covered literally head to toe with blood, mud, and whatever else a herd of cows causes–and grinning from ear to ear, ready for a shower and supper.
  • At Pinedale, my home place, bluets on Tulip Hill, flame azalea by a north window, the sound of tree frogs as we went to sleep, the huge crabapple at the east turned from a wintry black skeleton into a fantastic pink princess.
  • At Lane of Palms, our home for forty-two years, red azalea bright against pine and palm, blueberries budding, jonquils around a northern pecan tree, a dog named Sam, red Irish setter floppy ears flying as he chased a bumble bee, and day lilies putting on a show along the driveway.

Now back to the collector of waterfalls, I wish I could remember who that was so I could find out how many she found, where they are, and what their names are. Ever hear someone talking about a waterfall collection? I think they’d have to choose some of the ones we know: Toccoa, Ruby, Dry, Amicalola, Panther Creek….

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. Song of Solomon 2:12

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Porch Sitting

I don’t consider myself a lazy person, at least not most of the time. But I really do love to sit on our porch watching the birds, enjoying pine trees against the sky, reveling in the rich watermelon color of our young crepe myrtle and listening to the cicadas putting on their dynamic concert in the pines and magnolias.

Actually, there’s more to porch sitting than immediately meets the eye. In fact, ladies and gentlemen, the art of porch sitting has many facets.

It is very likely true that porch sitters, or variously those occupying porticos, patios, canopied walkways or even front walls of courthouses, have had a very great deal to do with electing presidents, solving peculiar mysteries, erecting high rises, and identifying rare species of birds. We’re being positive here so we’re not going to mention the characters that may have been defamed unjustly or achievements marred by disgruntled tongue wagglers. We’re talking about peaceful porch sitters.

Consider the porch. It is a place set apart from the rest of the house, at least to some degree. It is outdoors, but at least partially protected from the elements. It is a place where one can talk to a solicitor or other stranger without inviting them in. It can be a private place for a cup of coffee and a talk with the Lord. Or it can be the scene for an informal party decorated with hanging ferns, or for a gathering of friends and neighbors any time, any day. It’s a good place to serve lunch on a workday when men appear with sawdust on their britches and children cluster up with a great aptness for spills and crumbs. In other words, it is a gathering place, an informal one, not at all stiff as a parlor might be, but comfortable with a swing and rockers and lots of fresh air.

Speaking of porch sitters–there are very active ones. They can be snapping beans, peeling peaches, knitting a scarf or, even, telling stories. I once came upon a lady busy at her quilter’s frame on her small porch. The other day when my sister Suzanne and her husband Bill came from North Georgia they brought me a basket of green beans straight from their big bountiful garden. We sat on the porch and exchanged tales as we strung (should that be un-strung?) those wonderful beans. Their eight-year-old grandson Matthew happily tried out our sports rider, an exercise device that we find helpful, even challenging. For him it was way too mild, though, so he gave it up soon and tried out the swing, giving it some good exercise before he took off to try out any bike or wheeled object he could find. We could watch him while we filled our pot with beans for supper.

There are also the not-so-active porch sitters who are actually not idle at all. From a distance, two people rocking can appear to be simply taking in the evening when, in fact, they’re having a very deep discussion. An author may be sitting alone on the porch looking as idle as a tractor in a shed when, really, she/he’s planning a deep plot or searching for the very best simile. And there are the readers and the puzzle workers and the scientists with binoculars to their faces. And the knitters and cross-stitchers and knife-sharpeners and, in the case of some of our grandchildren, young artists busy sketching.

A little porch sitting usually leads to ideas for a lot more work to be done! Charles and I sit down under our porch fan for a nice evening chat after supper. Soon we find ourselves imagining new landscaping endeavors, or we notice a bird feeder is empty, or Charles suddenly remembers something he wanted to see about in his shed.

A porch can even be a good place for a snake show. Yes, that’s right, a snake show. I am mortally afraid of snakes but it’s amazing what love propels us to do! The first time my grandson, Charles Douglas, brought a small corn snake to see me he brought it in the den wrapped around his wrist. I threatened him with his life if he let that thing get lost in the couch. He and his friend Hannah were passing it back and forth between them! But then only a few weeks later I asked them to bring snakes for young Matthew and other young cousins to see. I stipulated they couldn’t be in the house. Charles D insisted the “visitors” would have to sit up on a shelf in the dining room while we all ate. But not to worry, he said, because they would be in their fabric carriers. He failed to tell me the carriers have windows through which the snakes can stare at you! But I lived through that–then we moved to the porch and I closed the door firmly.

Charles D and Hannah put on a very educational and entertaining show for everyone with their snakes center stage on our porch! There was a Brazilian (some other name I’ve forgotten!), and a couple of boas, one of which is about five feet long and wrapped itself lovingly (!!!!) around Hannah and eventually around almost everyone there. But not me! I did touch one and took two pictures of them which, for me, was pretty good. The only tears shed were from little two-year-old Kaison who was so upset because he was too small to hold the snakes. The next time he came over he looked around hopefully saying “Snake, snake!” as if perhaps one might have stayed behind.

I like to see people enjoying their porches. It shows they’re taking time to breathe deeply, to notice birds feeding, to absorb a sunset, and to dream a little. When the air turns frosty and folks start leaning their porch chairs against the wall or storing them somewhere, I feel somewhat sad. Another year of porch sitting all over and done. But, for me, I sit on the porch even in the winter. I may be huddled in a big coat or have a blanket around my shoulders, but there’s nothing more inviting on a Saturday morning than a cup of coffee on the porch swing!

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The Mulberry Tree

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This is not a botanical dissertation. It is not an advertisement of fruit trees. I claim no academic knowledge concerning the subject. It is not a cookbook or a health issue or a devotional. It is not a poem or an essay or a short story. I have no intention of trying to make you a lover of mulberries or to persuade you even to bake a mulberry pie or tart.

I simply want to tell you about my mulberry tree I discovered just this week.

We’ve been so busy moving in and adjusting ourselves and our furniture, pictures and other belongings to our new place that I hadn’t studied every tree in the backyard. But I noticed several times in coming and going that squirrels and birds really were doing acrobatic performances in this one particularly graceful tree. Squirrels sometimes inched to the ends of very limber limbs and then all but fell trying to get something that was obviously very important to them.

I finally set out to find out what the important things were in that tree. That’s when I found it was loaded with the most interesting berries I’d ever seen. Similar to blackberries in size, but not as black. Very juicy when I tried to pick one, softer than a blackberry. Knowing I’d found no dead squirrels around, I deduced the berries must not be poisonous. I tasted one. Delicious! I went for another and another. I began to get excited. What did we have here?

In the yard where we lived across town we had satsumas, oranges, figs, blueberries, kumquats, and pecans. Here, we didn’t have the first fruit tree, I thought. Until I discovered this beautiful tree on the inside of our circular driveway. I brought some berries in to show my guys, my husband and 19-year-old grandson.

My grandson, who is not botanically inclined, immediately guessed those might be mulberries. I was duly impressed. (He must have listened when I sang “Here We Go Around the Mulberry Bush”!!!) His granddaddy agreed that maybe Charles D was right, but said he didn’t know enough to make a guess.

I broke a branch and brought it to my computer so I could compare leaves, fruit, arrangement of same to examples on internet. It seemed like a good match, even to the fact that the leaves vary on mulberry trees, of which there are about twenty species worldwide. Leaves may be lobed or not, smooth on top or hairy. The berries can be red or black or stages approaching those including a stage on nearly all mulberries when they are white.

I had just decided that the next thing I would do would be to find a recipe for making mulberry pie.

That’s when Sally came over to pray with me about some urgent needs in our families. As she got out of her vehicle, she called out to me (this is the honest truth), “I’ve just made a mulberry pie and we ate nearly the whole thing. Natalia and Clay brought me some.”
My mouth dropped open. I hadn’t heard until then of anyone in our neighborhood or town who was either growing, harvesting, cooking, or eating mulberries.

I do remember one little mulberry tree in the meadow of Pinedale where I grew up. We had picnics around it. I don’t remember there ever being anything on it!

Needless to say, I did get a recipe and proceeded out to the tree to pick mulberries. I needed three cups. After trying from the ground, I hauled a step ladder out. Perched precariously, I tried to snag enough berries to make a pie while birds and squirrels began to protest. After twenty minutes all I had were about a dozen berries. I surveyed the situation again and got down off the ladder. I believe that tree belongs to the birds and the squirrels. I’d rather not have that pie than to end up in the hospital with a broken back. I brought in what I had and they were very delicious on cheerios for breakfast this morning!

Have at it, squirrels and birds! I’ll just enjoy your acrobatic shows and forego the mulberry pie–unless some kind, adventurous soul wants to share some with me!

P.S. Thanks, Sally, for the “out-of-this-world” slice of mulberry pie Charles and I each enjoyed at your house last night after church! The taste is milder than blackberries, a subtle, soothing taste. I may, after all, have to try again to pick mulberries. Sally said Natalia and Clay drove their truck under the limbs. Sounds like a good thing to try.

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