Exploring the Wrightsville Beach Loop, Unmoored

via Daily Prompt: Unmoored

I don’t enjoy housework. I don’t live in filth and I enjoy the finished product of a clean house, I just don’t like the process of getting it that way. It’s overwhelming to me. After working full-time, attempting to stay in shape, keeping up a yard and trying to find time to write, the last thing I want to do is clean house-which is ironic because I have many ideas about things I want to do with my home. I dream of a life where I am unmoored from housework, where I have lots of time to explore and write, to be active and creative. Lately, I’ve started putting some thought into what I can do to solve this problem. How can I have it all? In my own small and humble way, I have found some avenues for “outsourcing” some of my housework. Today, I benefited from taking those avenues and was able to tend to both my domestic duties and my need to get outside and poke around. I did two things: I ordered my groceries online and I offered to pay my cousin to come over for three hours to help me clean.

Did you know that for $5, you can order your groceries online and someone will do your shopping for you? All you have to do, at least for Harris Teeter, is set up an account online, select your groceries and select a time that you would like to pick them up. I ordered my groceries last night and opted to pick them up this afternoon. Earlier this week, I set up a time for my cousin to come over today and help me clean. By doing those two things, I freed up my morning to go for the 2.45 mile walk around  Wrightsville Beach Loop  and to explore Lee’s Nature Park along the way.

Parking for the Loop is located at Wrightsville Beach Park. WB allows two hours of free parking for anyone using the park or the loop. I parked my car, got my parking ticket and set off on my walk. Lee’s Nature Park is located along the Loop. I have walked the Loop many times and just recently noticed the nature park. Today, I detoured off the Loop to slip down the path into the park for a few minutes. It was small but quaint. I could see myself reading a book or eating lunch there. A sign at the entrance of the park states that it was created as a bird sanctuary and is home to egrets, brown pelicans and many types of butterflies. I did not see any of those creatures today. I guess they were either off hunting for food or quietly observing me from the trees. The park overlooks the marsh and is quite peaceful.

After I examined the park, I got back onto the loop. Today was overcast, but there were still plenty of walkers and runners out. When I crossed the bridge over Banks Channel, I saw boats, paddle-boarders and canoes dotting the waterway. I made my way along the back of the loop until I traveled to the opposite side. I looked over and spotted a path leading down to the marsh. I glanced at my phone and confirmed that I had enough time to check it out. Like the park, it was also a quiet excursion from the primary loop. I looked across the marsh and saw a row of canoes which presumably belonged to a business that rented them out. Good to know. Standing on the edge of the marsh, I remembered the Fort Fisher Hermit who lived in the marsh at Fort Fisher. I headed back to the loop but instead of walking on the sidewalk, I took the beaten path which runs parallel to the loop through a row of large swooping trees.

 

After the loop I collected my groceries and came home to meet my cousin. She was an ENORMOUS help to me. We listened to 80s music and chit-chatted while we worked which made the housework so much easier. Together, we thoroughly cleaned several key areas in my house and tonight I am breathing a sigh of relief to have gotten some of my housework done. Plus, I didn’t miss any fun 😉

 

 

Greensboro Writer’s Conference

This weekend, I did something very writery and attended the NC Writer’s Spring Conference. Located at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the conference offered exhibits and book sales, a choice of one morning and one afternoon workshop, faculty readings, open Mike readings and more.

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It was actually a busy weekend in Greensboro as an annual Furniture Market was also taking place. After driving over three hours to Greensboro on Friday afternoon, I was glad to have secured a room early at the local Hyatt as rooms were scarce and overpriced in response to the crowds.  While I sat at the hotel bar sipping a rum and coke and dining on chili and spinach salad, I overheard a few people at the front desk trying to get a room, only to be told that there were no rooms available. I felt very fortunate for mine.

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I slept well on Friday and arrived at the conference on Saturday morning early enough to peruse the exhibit tables. Small publishers and independent bookstores filled their tables with books from NC authors that they had published or were affiliated. A few of them offered information on writing contests. I met a woman who offered to put my name on an email list for an online critique group for people who write children’s books.

 

Next, I attended my first workshop at the conference. The topic was building poems that editors will publish. In the workshop, we discussed lyricism in poetry and finding one’s unique voice as a poet. The author and editor leading the workshop gave us some insight on what she looks for when she screens poems for her press.

 

Afterwards, we broke for lunch. I had never been to the UNCG campus so I googled restaurants close by. There were two within walking distance. As I stood inside the Old Town Draught House, a fellow workshopper from Charlotte, Reita, offered me a look at her menu. A gentleman behind us told us that in order to be served we simply needed to sit down at the bar. We decided to sit together and order. I dined on the Turkey melt with veggies and sweet tea and conversed with Reita over lunch. By the time we finished eating, we had exchanged contact information. We walked back to the workshop and parted ways. I went on to listen to a few faculty readings.

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My afternoon workshop, geared towards children’s authors, was titled “Exercising the Imagination”.  We discussed ways to tap into our personal passions and take our stories in new directions. The author leading the workshop gave us some ideas for exercises that we could use to access our imaginations. He was also a good source of information regarding future conferences.

 

Before I left for the day, I decided to pick up a book from both of my workshop presenters. They were on sale at the exhibit tables and were reasonably priced. Running Music  by Crystal Simone Smith is a book of poems and The Nine Pound Hammer  by John Claude Bemis is a YA fantasy book that explores American mythology. I look forward to reading them both.

 

Before I hit the road, I googled the closest Starbuck’s and picked up a Starbuck’s Mocha and a cookie. Probably not so wise as I’m trying to lose a little weight, but I’ll start over tomorrow. I had a long ride ahead of me and kind of wanted something special to take the edge off the commute.

I’m really glad I went to the conference this weekend. It was a great source of instruction and information, and I met a lot of pleasant people. Plus it was empowering. I don’t often travel alone overnight and it was kind of nice to go on my own. It was also nice to take another step towards fulfilling my desire to be a writer.   

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Brunswick Nature Park

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I encountered Brunswick Nature Park a while back when I passed it leaving Brunswick Town. I had heard about the park in the past, but I had never explored it. As I hadn’t intended upon exploring it when I did, I wasn’t wearing the best walking shoes; but they were good enough for a quick look around so I decided to check it out.

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Brunswick Nature Park is located in Winnabow NC, along Town Creek, on 911 acres of land. It includes three hiking trails (my biggest interest): The Long Leaf Trail (beginner level), the Live Oak Trail (beginner) and the Dogwood Trail (intermediate) and four bike trails, including an advanced obstacle course. Hikers are allowed on the bike trails, but I am sure you would want to be mindful of bikers and exercise both caution and courtesy when walking on those trails. In addition, the park offers picnic shelters, kayak launches and scenic overlooks.

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I parked my car near one of the overlooks and decided to venture just a little ways onto the Live Oak hiking trail which is 1.44 miles long. The scenic dirt trail, marked by red dots on the trees, is not too difficult but you do want to watch your step. The terrain is a little more hilly than we locals generally encounter in our flat beach communities-which I love- and is strewn with branches, roots and all kinds of vegetation. I’m sure there are plenty of critters out there, as well. In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw a gator sign on the way into the park (although he probably hangs out near the creek) and if I was a snake I would certainly choose to live there. Despite that, as I walked along the trail I found myself wanting to go deeper and deeper into the woods, there was so much to see and explore. Had I been wearing the proper shoes, and maybe had a buddy with me, I could have turned it into a very good hike. I’m certain that it is also a great place to watch for birds and other animals. I was fortunate enough to have my camera with me so I took advantage of that and snapped some pictures. At some point, because of my shoes, I cut the hike short and turned around. I walked back to the overlook, where a family sat by the water, and looked at the creek for a while.

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My trip to the park was brief, but it was long enough for me to soak up some of the magic of the outdoors. I left feeling more relaxed than when I came and with a greater sense of well-being (that tends to happen to me outside) and it was also long enough for me to establish that I will go back to visit again when I’m better prepared, perhaps take a pair of binoculars and a picnic lunch. You might want to check it out, too, if you are in the area!

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Saints Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church

Saints Peter and Paul Russian and Greek Orthodox Church resides in St. Helena, NC about 26 miles outside of Wilmington. I was introduced to the church by my parents a while back when they found out that I was writing and taking pictures of churches.

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Called The Disappearing Church, there are currently only three members: Ann Debaylo Mizerak, her son, David and her sister, Mary. When Ann and Mary are no longer able to help care for the church, David will care for it along with some cousins. They have not had a full-time priest since 1998, but they meet loyally every Sunday at 10am.  *Check out the short video documentary at the link above for more details. I personally found it rather haunting in a good way.*

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According to an article in Our State Magazine Sts Peter and Paul church is the oldest Russian Orthodox Church in North Carolina. In 1905, a developer from Wilmington, Hugh McRae, purchased land in Pender County, NC for the purpose of creating small, European-style farms. He hired immigrants from various ethnic groups to do the farming and between 1923-1932, several Ukrainian and Russian families made their way to St. Helena. In 1932, McRae gave them a deed for land so they could build a church. The church was once thriving, but throughout the years, as families moved away or children assimilated and moved on, attendance began to wane.

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Some unique features of the church, at least for this area, are the gold dome architecture associated with Byzantine churches and the triple-barred cross. The triple-barred cross has three cross-beams: the top one is a title bar where “Jesus, King of Jews” was written, there is the center beam standard to Christian crosses and the bottom beam which is a foot rest.

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Currently, Sts Peter and Paul Church is in the process of being placed on the National Register of Historic Places. I would like to see that happen as this church contributes a unique and fascinating story. It would be a shame to forget it.

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St. Philip’s Church at Brunswick Town

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I first started writing about churches at the beginning of Lent. In some countries, it is customary to visit seven churches during Holy Week. I knew that I could not visit seven churches in one week, but felt like I could talk about seven different churches over the season of Lent. So far, we have talked about:

St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Wilmington, NC; Santo Thomas Catholic Church in Chichicastenango, Guatemala; Chapel of the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Sedona, AZ, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist Episcopalian Church in Savannah, GA and Ann Street Methodist Church in Beaufort, NC. 

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The sixth church on my list is St. Phillip’s Anglican Church. St. Philip’s is not an active church anymore, but rather ruins of a previous church. It was occupied for only 8 years, from 1768-1776, when the British set it on fire during an attack. The walls of the church are the only thing that remain. The church is located in Brunswick town, a “colonial ghost town” along the Cape Fear River in an area that was originally inhabited by Native Americans who were defeated in the Tuscarora War in 1715.  

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In 1862, during the Civil War, Confederate Army soldiers built trenches and a fort in Brunswick Town. It was eventually named Fort Anderson.  In 1865, when Union soldiers attacked and defeated Confederate soldiers at Fort Anderson, some of the graves at St. Philip’s church were desecrated and Confederate bodies were left inside the church.

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In the 1950’s, archaeologists began excavating the area around St. Philip’s and Ft. Anderson. They were able to find many historical artifacts, including the foundations of various structures, old bullets and “bombproofs” which were shelters used during enemy bombardment. Excavations are still ongoing and archaeologists continue to find artifacts.

In 1978, the area was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and more recently the television show, “Sleepy Hollow”, used the site as a set location for some of its episodes.

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(Yikes)

I visited the site in the 1980’s as a teenager and did not return again until recently, when I decided to write about it. I walked around inside the shell of the church and toured the grounds. Due to the multitude of historical tragedies that occurred in the area, an air of creepiness hovers about the site. Honestly, that is probably what drew me there as a teenager. However, and on the other hand, it is genuinely fascinating and quite lovely, as well. There is ample space for walking, a trail that extends along the river and lush, old trees all around the property.

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Ann Street Methodist Church and Old Burying Ground

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My introduction to the Ann Street Methodist Church occurred when I visited the Old Burying Ground in Beaufort, NC. Beaufort, founded in 1709, is the third-oldest city in North Carolina. It is a town rich in history with stories from the civil war, pre-civil war and even Blackbeard the pirate who ran his ship ashore in 1719. The Old Burying Ground, the town’s oldest cemetery,  is located between two churches on Ann St: First Baptist Church and Ann Street Methodist Church which was established in 1778.

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(Photo credit: Ann Street United Methodist Church)

Ann Street Methodist Church has its own stories. During the civil war, Union soldiers moved into the church. The sanctuary was used as a field hospital then later it was also used as a hospital during the yellow fever. The cemetery entrance is to the side of the church with the grounds stretching behind the church.

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Upon entering the burying grounds, one can take a brochure which highlights the graves in the cemetery. I, myself, am a fan of cemeteries, not because of some morbid curiosity, but rather because of the stories that they tell. Each grave is a snapshot both into someone’s life and into the times in which they lived. Here are a few interesting snapshots taken directly from the brochure:

 

Pierre Henry (1812-1877) — and Annie Henry (1816-1904) African Americans who were leaders in the education of emancipated slaves and their children at the Washburn Seminary. He was born free during the period of slavery. The school was one of many established in the South by the Congregational Churches of the North following the Civil War.

 

Captain John Sabiston (1800’s) — Died near Charleston, S.C. and was brought home by his crew. People gathered by the wharf at the foot of Turner Street as his body was taken off his ship. They followed as it was taken on a bier through the dark streets of town to the graveyard and lowered into the readied grave by torch light.

 

Sarah Gibbs (d.1792) & Jacob Shepard (d.1773) — Sarah was married to Jacob Shepard, a seaman. Jacob’s ship went to sea, but never returned. He was presumed to be dead. Later, Sarah married Nathaniel Gibbs and had a child with him. After an absence of several years, the shipwrecked Jacob Shepard unexpectedly returned to Beaufort to find his wife married to another man. The two men agreed that Sarah would remain with Gibbs as long as she lived, but must spend eternity at the side of Jacob Shepard.

 

“Crissie Wright” Common Grave — “Cold as the night the ‘Crissie Wright’ went ashore” is still heard around Beaufort. The sailors who froze to death after the wreck of that ship in January, 1886 are buried together in this grave. It is said this tragedy led to the establishment of the Cape Lookout Lifesaving Station in 1887.

 

Girl in Barrel of Rum — Here is the grave of a girl buried in a barrel of rum. In the 1700s an English family, including an infant daughter, came to Beaufort. The girl grew up with a desire to see her homeland, and finally persuaded her mother to allow her to make the voyage. Her father promised his wife he would return the girl safely. The girl enjoyed her visit to London, but died on the voyage home. She would have been buried at sea, but her father could not bear to break his promise. He purchased a barrel of rum from the captain, placed her body in it, and brought it to Beaufort for burial.

 

Can you imagine the reaction to a story like the Girl in Barrel of Rum if it were to happen today?

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(Photo Credit: Old Burying Ground)

If you ever get the chance to visit Beaufort, I encourage you to stop by the Old Burying Ground behind Ann St Methodist Church. Afterwards, there are several quaint restaurants and coffee houses in case you are hungry or just need a little pick me up. I’m particularly fond of the Chai Latte at the Beaufort Coffee shop on Turner St.

Have a great weekend, all!

Eating (drinking) up the stash

So today, which is almost yesterday (it’s 11:56 pm), I cleaned out my cooler to prepare for my delivery from The Produce Box. I mentioned previously that I subscribe to a service called The Produce Box which delivers fresh local produce to my door every Thursday. This morning, while wiping down my cooler, I decided to take inventory of what I already had. When I did, I realized that I still had quite a bit of produce left over from the delivery last week. I needed to eat it so that it would not go bad and before I received another full box. This led me to look into some creative ways to use the old produce before digging into the new batch. Fortunately, until Easter, I am eating a strong vegetarian diet supplemented by fish and eggs so if I have to eat a lot of veggies to clean out my refrigerator, this is the season to do it.

 

One of the best ways to consume large quantities of fruits and veggies is to make smoothies. I love smoothies and have found that you can dump a large variety of items into a blender and still create a yummy smoothie. Today, I created a smoothie, which I actually named, using some items in my refrigerator that desperately needed to be eaten.  I figured I would share it with you. Here it is:

 

Wendy’s Mint Chocolate Strawberry-Banana Smoothie

Blend:

Chocolate almond milk (about a cup…or so 🙂

5 strawberries (that’s how many were still good)

A banana

About 5 little mint leaves

A few leaves of collards

Ice cubes

 

It was delicious. I looked up the ingredients on My Fitness Pal and found that my little concoction is about 250 calories, has no cholesterol and is packed with vitamin C.

 

I still have quite a bit of mint left over. I definitely do not want that to go bad so I started looking for creative ways to use my mint. I found that I can dry it in the oven and use it for teas and also for, get this, insect repellent. Apparently, ants and flies do not like mint. So tomorrow, I will pull out the freshest mint leaves and make some mint water with them. Then I think I’m going to dry the leaves that look to be in peril, use some of them for tea and sprinkle the rest around as a repellent. Why not? Below are some links that offer creative ways to use mint in case anyone is interested. And below that is a picture of my delicious smoothie.

http://www.naturallivingideas.com/21-ways-to-use-mint/

http://www.meghantelpner.com/blog/10-amazing-things-you-can-do-with-mint/

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Well, it’s Friday now so Happy Friday y’all! I hope to post on my 2nd of seven churches this weekend. 

 

Sunday Visits

via Daily Prompt: Vivid

Earlier this week, I wrote a little bit about the season of Lent and referenced a Wikipedia article. After my post, I decided to read back over that article. I noticed a sentence that intrigued me: In some Christian countries…the faithful attempt to visit seven churches during Holy Week in honor of Jesus Christ heading to Mount Calvary.

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It gave me an idea. I’m not going to visit seven churches during Holy Week, but it occurred to me that I can find seven churches to highlight during this season, whether they be churches that I have attended or saw on vacation or noticed as I was passing by. Armed with my next idea, I decided to head to downtown Wilmington to take some pictures. I already had a church in mind and I also wanted to visit a bookstore at the Cotton Exchange for a separate mission. While I was at it, I figured I would grab a coffee. 

 

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I recently bought a new camera and figured it would give me an opportunity to break it in. Unfortunately, since I did not plan the adventure ahead of time, the camera was not charged. I read the instructions and realized it would take 310 minutes or something like that to fully charge the camera. I did not have time to wait so I decided to go forward and put my best effort into taking the most vivid pictures possible with my phone camera.

My first stop was a small local bookstore, Two Sisters Bookery, where I bought a book about a character who used to live by the salt marsh at Carolina Beach. I will discuss him more at a later date.

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Next, I headed to Java Dog Coffee House, where I purchased a chai latte and some fruit. I ate the fruit in the cafe then strolled the riverfront for a few minutes while I sipped the latte.

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Finally, I headed to St. Mary’s Church, where I attended school in 7th and 8th grades. I parked on the street by the church. As I approached the church, I noticed the beauty of the architecture, a Spanish Baroque style, in a way that I didn’t really appreciate as a kid. It really was a beautiful building. I did a little research beforehand and apparently, St. Mary’s was designed by the same architect who worked on the Biltmore Estate and Duke Chapel. I walked around the block, circling the church and the school. Memories flooded back to me.

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St. Mary’s was the place where I met my friend, Mary, when I was twelve. We used to walk around the schoolyard on our breaks and talk about the things that fascinated us most: Duran Duran, makeup, Tiger Beat magazine and even books. We are still friends today.

St. Mary’s was the place that introduced me to the nuns: Sister Lillian, a large woman who was also a softie; Sister Patricia, a tomboy who used to play dodgeball with the boys; Sister Josephine who didn’t seem to have any sense of humor at all and Sister Mary John, a tiny little bulldog of a woman. 

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St. Mary’s was the place where I experienced my first real crush. The first time I met someone and actually felt like I was in love. Of course, I wasn’t; I was twelve, but I thought I was.  Unfortunately, it ended very badly. I didn’t belong to the right clique. Friends of the boy poked fun of the situation, and in an effort to diffuse the attention from himself, he turned on me one day and chased me off the playground, calling me the worst name I’ve ever been called in my life. It was a pivotal experience for me. 

St. Mary’s was the church where I first attended a funeral for a classmate. When I was thirteen and in 8th grade, one of my classmates, Martha, along with her mother and a sibling, was killed in a car accident. I remember the parade of caskets at the funeral. It was pitiful.

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As I walked around the building, I saw the courtyard where we played as children. The gate was open.

After a few moments of reflection, I decided to leave. On the way back to the car, I saw my shadow on the sidewalk. It reminded me of something. I belong to a little meditation group and I remembered our instructor talking a while back about something called shadow work. Without getting too deep, the idea is that everyone has a shadow self, a part of himself or herself that doesn’t always feel, do or react the way that we want. The idea is to get to know that part of yourself instead of avoiding it like we all do; and then eventually make friends with it, if possible, since it is part of who you are and there for a reason.

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It occurred to me that maybe I had kind of done that by visiting St. Mary’s. I had added St. Mary’s to my list of churches partly because it was local, and I did have a history with the church. I knew it was a beautiful building; I knew that the architecture was impressive; but I also had a wide range of experiences there-good, bad and ugly, as they say- during some very formative years. My little field trip made me ponder many things beyond architecture. It helped me to look at my complex relationship with St. Mary’s church. 

 

 

Birds and Bar Flies

Halligan’s is an Irish pub near my house. I‘ve been there a few times and I like it for several reasons. First of all, the food is delicious. My favorite dish is the chicken boxty. Chicken boxty is chicken, mushrooms and spinach over a potato cake in mouthwatering cream sauce. It’s to die for. Halligan’s also has an assortment of beer and they have a great outdoor seating area that faces a man-made pond surrounded by birds. There is a very large crane that hangs out around that pond.

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One of the great things about living in NC is that we have sporadic spring days in the middle of winter. It can be 30 degrees one day and two days later it will be in the 70’s. A few days later, it might be freezing again. When random spring happens, we all head outside; we go for walks, ride down to the beach or sit on a patio somewhere having dinner and drinks with friends. If you don’t watch it, the fluctuating weather will make you sick, but it’s usually worth it.  

One spring day in winter, I met a friend at Halligan’s. We sat on the patio and ordered food and beer. I can’t remember what kind of beer I ordered that day, but it was probably something like Blue Moon or Bud Lite Lime (don’t laugh, they’re very tasty) or a cider because those are what I usually drink. Or a ginger beer. It could have been a ginger beer.

After ordering, I sat talking with my friend. As we caught up, I noticed a fly buzzing around my glass. I waived it away but it kept coming back. I had only had a couple of sips when I noticed the fly in my beer, flailing and fighting for his life. I sighed. “I can’t drink this now,” I said then wondered what to do with the fly. On any other day, you could have handed me a swatter and I might have flattened him, but on this spring winter day, as he scrambled for his life in my glass, it just seemed senseless to watch him drown.  At least when they get flattened, it’s like they died in battle. There’s no dignity in drowning in wimpy beer. I picked up the glass and walked to the edge of the patio. I poured the fly onto the grass and watched him lay there in the sun. When I returned, the waitress was at the table with my friend.

“I decided to try to save a fly’s life, if you can believe that,” I said, “but I think he’s going to die, anyway. He’s not moving”.

“He’s probably too drunk to move,” laughed the waitress.

“Maybe he has alcohol poisoning,” I said.

“I’ll get you another one.”

She took my empty glass and returned with a fresh beer. My friend and I sat on the patio and finished our food and drinks. “Let’s walk over to the pond before we leave”, said my friend, “maybe we’ll see that crane or some turtles”.

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There is a little bridge that crosses the pond. As we headed for the bridge, we saw a row of white coastal birds sitting on the rails. At the time, I thought they might be herons, but after a little research, which consisted of me googling on my phone, I convinced myself that they were a type of bird called white ibis. We crept very slowly toward the bridge so that we would not scare the ibis. I was able to take a few pictures of them as we moved closer, but eventually they moved away from us.

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We were not alone for long, however. A group of Canadian geese on the far end of the pond noticed us, probably noticed my friend’s to go box, and started swimming and honking their way across the pond. One fat goose, in particular, acted like he’d never eaten a meal in his life. My friend succumbed to the pressure and pulled some bread from the to go box.  We pulled off just a little bit of bread and threw it in the water, but we quickly realized that the fat one was a bully who ran off the other birds and gobbled up all the bread for himself. Survival of the fittest. We devised a plan to throw a decoy piece one way for the chubby goose then throw another piece the other way for the other birds. Once we felt they had been given an adequate snack, we closed the box. Some kids appeared on the other side of the pond and the geese quickly kicked us to the curb.

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As they swam away, I marveled at the day, at how the sun reflected off the water and reflected the images of the geese onto the water.  I felt so blessed for being able to take advantage of the day.  

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Since that encounter, I’ve read that you aren’t supposed to feed bread to the birds. That’s a bummer. I guess in the future, I’ll have to keep the bread to myself. It’s going to be really hard to say no.