Wednesday, August 25, 2010

125 Pounds of Gear - Second Lieutenant in the House

Over thirty years ago we vacationed around Victoria on Vancouver Island - across from Vancouver, British Columbia. While there, we toured a replica of Anne Hathaway's home; she was William Shakespeare's wife. I remember our tour guide telling us about the meaning behind some Olde English sayings that we use today. A notable one was the "pitter patter of little feet" which back then referred to the sound of wooden elevated clogs that were attached to the bottom of shoes to keep ones' feet out of the swill that was often on floors - so particularly the sound of women's feet pitter-pattering while doing their tasks in the house, and not the sound of the little feet of children running about.

Our bedroom is upstairs in the house, so we don't regularly hear the sounds of our youngest son the Ensign who has been living with us this summer while he has performed his temporary duty after graduation
and while waiting to report in October to begin his flight school. It is pretty much the same for his company-mate who already has begun The Basic School at Quantico for Marine officers, but who often comes to our home on weekends to get some sleep, eat, and do his laundry. He stays in our first floor guest room - the one with the sign over the door indicating it is for Second Lieutenant
Mahuna - but sleeps in a lot (kind of like Plebe year all over again). Both are pretty well mannered, and do a good job of cleaning up after themselves. But this week had a new twist - week-long field training in torrential rains necessitated him taking his gear to a car wash for hosing down before coming to our place. His equipment was then laid out across patio chairs and table to dry out. We understand when fully outfitted with gear including armor, weapon, and ammunition - a marine weights an additional 125 pounds. It is hard to imagine how one walks quietly over hill and dale, and through brush thickets and down trails.

Needless to say, Saturday morning I woke up to the sound of rain falling and immediately remembered "rain/Jason's stuff/outside." Primal instincts kicked into gear - my wife and I jumped out of bed, dressed quickly and dragged everything into the house so the drying process wasn't a total loss. Later at breakfast, our Junior Officer called it situational awareness - me, I think it is a vestige of still being a parent, even though the four kids (plus a marine) are all grown up. As for Jason - he was still asleep; quite aware of his surroundings: peaceful environs and hopefully sweet dreams.

In a few weeks we will for sure be birders with an empty nest. And in a modern sense - will miss the sounds of the pitter patter of little feet. No matter how large the souls of the shoes.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Turn in the Weather, Season

I heard on the news while driving to work yesterday, that the D.C. schools open in two weeks - the 312th day of the year. Straight-forward reporting that gives a clue that the summer in winding down, as well as the little things like the HVAC on Georgetown East Elementary School occasionally turning on after being off for the summer recess; comments on a local radio talk show about an upcoming interview with the District's superintendent of schools; and so forth - all tell-tale signs that summer is on a downhill slope. Our garden is showing similar signs of decline - many kinds of flowers have passed their prime, so the gold finch are spending as much time on them eating as on the finch feeder - cone flower, black eyed Susan, and sunflower.

The impatiens and spearmint plants are still in flower, as is the Rose of Sharon shrub - and with them, some new pollinators have appeared as well. This morning I saw a Pearl Crescent butterfly (a), a yet- to-be-identified bumble bee, perhaps Bombus bimaculatus (b), and a Sphinx Moth (c). All persistently going from one flower to the next. There was also the same butterfly I
saw last week - I just haven't been able to get a picture yet and make a positive identification - larger than the pearl crescent, but with somewhat similar coloration. This morning there were also Herring Gulls flying far over head, even calling as they passed by. A murder of American Crows were in the tree across the backyard fence squawking as they do, until I got too close and the flew off down the back of the row of houses in our neighborhood, and then back again. There was a House Wren on the fence between our house and our neighbors, along with some invertebrates clinging to the tree next to the fence.

The nice weather outside, the casual watering and weeding around the garden; a quiet Saturday afternoon walking around and looking for sights I haven't noticed before; barbecue for the Navy ensign and Marine second lieutenant who are here the weekend - a nice way to think about the summer starting to come to an end.
Travel Schedule Quiz

I have three significant work trips over the next three months - not including vacation to the Central California Coast where I will make a serious attempt to try and figure out sea birds. I usually have no time to do any serious birding with my schedules on these kinds of trips, but it is fun to imagine what it would be like to sit around for a couple of days and just spend time looking. Given the three options in the neighboring panel, guess the order of the trips and match the appropriate field guide:

1. China (a)          
2. Argentina/Uruguay (b)
3. Hawaii (c)
The answer is a fact error found earlier in this blog entry.