We didn’t see our shadows

2 February, 2012        We didn’t see our shadows
Roux and Turner and Mackey and I were a few minutes late getting to the river this morning but we still arrived before sunrise. We stayed a long time after sunrise but it was gray and misty and drizzly and we still never saw our shadows. Not being groundhogs I am uncertain if that holds any meteorological significance, so you’ll have to decide for yourselves. Speaking of forecasting by groundhog, I just read about Punxsutawney Phil on Wikipedia. The entry was notable for this assertion: “He is considered to be the world’s most famous prognosticating rodent.” Is it just me, or does anyone else wonder about the identities of the other, less famous prognosticating rodents. That category, “prognosticating rodents,” is one I confess  I am not familiar with.

This picture of the river this morning will give some indication of why there were no shadows:

Notice the lack of shadows

I also got a picture of a hawk when we got back to the parking lot after our hike. My friend Kim thinks it’s a juvenile red-shouldered hawk, although a precise ID is difficult in this light from this angle. Any of you birders, please offer your opinion:

Attractive, whatever she (or he) is

Gender is very difficult to tell without knowing the precise size or (as Kim pointed out) watching it lay an egg.

I haven’t put up a post since my “Day tripper” post of a week ago today. Evelyn and I have been to the river a time or two since then; we had the opportunity for a rare Saturday trip last week. We would have seen our shadows that day:

If you don’t like a. rivers or b. the color blue, (or c. dogs), perhaps this won’t be your favorite blog

I “caught a wave” that day too; this is a pretty picture:

Isn’t it easy to imagine a 1″ tall surfer hanging ten on the front of that wave?

We made it to the river again on Sunday. The light was beyond compare but I didn’t take a lot of pictures. The light was so white it even seemed tinged with blue. But this was the only picture I saved; it’s not colorful but I like it:

Betsy, the “ball” is in your court – what is this? A hickory? I don’t know. Please enlighten me.

I went again on Monday with a friend; my broken arm has me walking at times I would otherwise be swimming or cycling. I got a long-distance shot of this duck Monday; I haven’t asked anyone for an ID yet. So – can anyone identify this attractive bird? Let me know:

Nice racing stripe. That’s a very fast looking duck. Any idea what it might be?

I was so focused on the river I almost forgot a picture I took yesterday at a friend’s house. I had just stopped by for a minute to drop something off and fortunately I had my camera under the car seat. She’s got a little bird bath or water bowl outside her house; there were robins everywhere. It was very small and I guess only one robin could use it at once; perhaps that’s what these two were discussing:

I can’t tell for sure, but that doesn’t look very polite.

A final shot of the hawk from the beginning of this post:

If I was a chipmunk and that eye was looking at me, I’d want to disappear fast

= = = = =
Client 2, the prequel. Or maybe this is the sequel; I’m confused:

I never like referring to the people I work with as “clients.” They’re my friends – without exception. But for the purposes of this blog I’ll stick with the more generic form. In the 18 years I’ve done this work, I’ve had close to fifty “clients.” Every one has been my friend.

In the future I will write more about the first person I described. The first person I “worked” with. I’ll always refer to or at least think of this as “work” in “quotes”  because it’s not labor. It’s where my education and training and experience have led me, but it is not work. Since the first moment I did it I’ve always looked forward to it. I’ll get up tomorrow morning at 5:00 to do it again, eighteen years now, and I’m looking forward to it as much tomorrow as I did on that first day. That’s why it’s difficult for me to think of it as work. It’s just too rewarding. Every time. It’s a privilege, not solely because of the people I get to work with. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to support myself in such an enjoyable fashion. To not “work” for a living.

The second person I worked with came around not much after the first one, I suppose early 1995. He was much different from the first person. If he heard voices (“auditory hallucinations”) he couldn’t tell you because he couldn’t speak. He could make noise, and he was a gifted communicator, but he couldn’t speak. He couldn’t walk either. He couldn’t crawl either. But smile. Wow. Unless you’ve ever really come across a real, true, elite level smiler, you have no idea of the power. This guy really only had one limb that worked like most of ours do, his right arm. It’s not easy to get around with only one arm. But that smile could get him things that all your limbs and your charming voice put together can’t get  you. I used to say – I still say – he is the only person I ever met who could get a date going through a toll booth – even while using an EZPass! He is unreal. He lives in North Carolina now and he turns 33 a week from today. Unfortunately (for me, anyway) we don’t get to hang out as much as we used to. But I first met him when he was fifteen and we were usually together a couple of days a week until he was thirty. That’s when he moved down to NC.

His mother and his grandmother are both unbelievable cooks; every meal is a feast. The ingredients were always fresh, the kitchen smelled fantastic, I’m amazed even now. They were organic and local long before everyone else was. But he loved to go out on the town for dinner, I think because he liked to meet girls. He loves to eat. We ate at Fuddrucker’s a lot; he could put away some hamburger. Pizza was another huge favorite; we were regulars at Bottoms Up. We ate a million slices there. I have no idea how many waitresses he charmed. You’ve never seen anything like it. If George Clooney took him out for pizza the waitresses wouldn’t give George Clooney a second glance. This guy is magnetic. He’s a true individual in an era where it sometimes seems they’re becoming harder to find. I’m fortunate to know him.

He taught me a lot; I am a mobile person and he isn’t. I can talk a blue streak; he can only babble. He knows how to be happy. And the things we think of as making us happy are inconsequential to him. He doesn’t know the difference between  buddhism and banana cream pie but he could teach any of us about living in this moment. He never thinks about the past or worries about the future. When we’re coming up to that toll booth, he’s not thinking about it. But for that instant we’re stopped, he draws people to him. After we pull away, he doesn’t think about it again. He’s not thinking about what we’re going to do next – he’s thinking about what’s happening right then. In “The Present.”

We’ve spent a decent amount of time together since he left here in 2009, although not as much as I’d like. But a scene from our last dinner together always sticks with me. I suppose it was a coincidence that it happened on our last meal together. Maybe since I knew he was about to move, it stayed with me more. Because when I was with him, people said stuff like this a lot. I know they all meant well, but I also always knew they were misguided. It never bothered him at all, and that was something he always taught. If it didn’t bother him, it obviously should be of no consequence to me. But on his last night in town before he left for NC, we had our last meal together and of course we went down to Bottoms Up. You can eat pizza with only one hand but it’s not easy. Try it next time you have a slice. If you were dying of starvation you’d figure it out but it’s a hassle, so I always fed his pizza to him. And just as I’m feeding his pizza to him on our last night – I just looked in my journal, this was Friday, April 24, 2009 – I feel a heavy hand rest on my left shoulder. I turn and it’s a grave, jowly, earnest, concerned, sixty-something man, walking with his wife between the tables at Bottoms Up. She may even have been his sister; they might have been twins. He was very sincere. He puts his hand on my shoulder and says in a somber, approving voice, with a knowing nod of his head, “God’s gonna’ bless you.” I just nodded and said thank you. I was incensed. My buddy wasn’t; if I were  a better student I wouldn’t have been incensed in the first place. That’s why he’s the teacher and I’m still practicing. Because in my head I’m saying “God is GOING to bless me? This IS God! THIS is the blessing – right here, right now, at Bottoms Up, with the pizza, and with that pink lemonade. He loves pink lemonade. You probably didn’t know that.” Probably if my buddy could have talked he would have told me to switch to decaf.

= = = = =

About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
This entry was posted in Fun, People, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!). Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to We didn’t see our shadows

  1. Betsy Slade says:

    The hawk is a Red-shouldered Hawk. A Redtail has a light belly with a slight black band.
    The seed pod is from a Sycamore tree. The duck is a female Bufflehead; the male is mostly white, and in the winter is the most common duck on the river. They are usually in large groups and as you look at them, they all disappear beneath the water–making it difficult to count.
    The sun is out, the sky is blue–all groundhogs and woodchucks can see shadows—so what is the significance–early spring?, late spring/ spring in 6 weeks? or even spring today?
    Did you know that Feb 2 is one of 4 cross-quarter days?–half way between the solstice and the equinox. The others are May Day, Aug 2(observed in Great Britain), and Halloween.
    More useful info for the first cross-quarter day of 2012.

  2. Evelyn says:

    I remember a pair of sycamore seed pods that looked like earrings – they are so pretty. Nice wave, it’s forming a tube, surf’s up. And decaf’s not a bad idea on occasion.

    • They would make unique (in my experience) earrings. Very pretty. And yes that was a beautiful wave. Perfect for Stuart Little to take a surfin’ safari. Have a great day,


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