29 September, 2019            Calming


I snapped (in a manner of speaking) that picture at Pony Pasture this morning at 8:50. A moment later I sent it to Yuki’s owner to show her what he’s missing! She wrote that it’s a “beautiful calming pic… nice to see first thing in the morn.” It’s a beautiful calming pic at a beautiful calming place and that’s why I’ve returned there week in and week out for decades. Whatever other disruptions have bounced my life around in the past thirty years or so, it’s always calming for me to look forward to that river Sunday mornings. 

I started back flying this week for the first time since early June; it’s always a treat to be back in the air. We flew to Tappahannock-Essex County Airport (KXSE) on Tuesday evening. There were no other planes or people in sight so we landed, did a U-turn and taxied back up the runway, turned back into the wind and left. The runway at Tappahannock is 4,300’ long, or about a thousand feet shorter than Hanover, but those little Tecnams could easily take off and land in half that distance. It’s thirty miles each way so we climbed up to 2,500’ going there and heading back. We average about 80 mph. 

I believe it’s difficult to grasp just how calming it is to fly. Or anyway it would have been difficult for me to grasp before I really began to do it. Flying (at least at my level) demands such total concentration that your mind becomes entirely calm. Plus if you’re say a thousand feet (or more) in the air, you have to get back to the ground – hopefully close to your car – safely. Landing at the airport is so peaceful. Getting in my car and merging onto 95 on the way home, not so much. I flew a Tecnam P92 Eaglet Tuesday: 

Tecnam P92 Eaglet N162SF, ready for pre-flight

Of course I saw a hawk or two or more this week. A great deal of my attraction to hawks is how calm they appear to be – always. If you imagine birds can have emotions, it’s easy to imagine birds that are nervous or anxious. Probably beginning with wrens or maybe hummingbirds, although they normally look comfortable near humans. But they’re not calm. They’re always in motion. Raptors, especially buteos like Red-tails and Red-shoulders, hunt by sitting still. They perch and wait. Sometimes they soar and wait, but they’re tough to photograph. This Red-tail was on the cross at Discovery United Methodist Church. I don’t know what it means when the hawk is sticking its foot out like this. Maybe it means it’s anxious! But I doubt it: 

Red-tail perched on cross sticking foot out – I do not know why

I saw a second Red-tail at Westhampton cemetery the same day. This is a male, and unfortunately I was on the shadow side of his face: 

Male Red-tail stays incognito in the cemetery:

It’s calming – it’s really calming – to watch the moon at night or during the day. All this predictable, reliable stuff – the river flowing, the moon waxing and waning, the hawk behavior – it’s reliable and predictable and it doesn’t change in response to meaningless squabbling. It’s relentless, in the best possible sense of that word. 

This was the crescent moon (it’s waning) rising on Wednesday morning at 5:50, just as I was sitting down to breakfast. It had risen at 3:00 that morning and was about thirty degrees above the horizon. It’s 26 days old in this picture:

The moon is always calming. It would be hard to look at the moon and feel anxious at the same time.

I saw a skink (a few skinks really) this week, and a snake the same day. They’ll still be around for a while, but we’ll see less and less of them. Friday (9/27) in Richmond was the first day this season when the sun was above the horizon for less than twelve hours. Speaking of predictability. It’ll stay stay above the horizon for less and less time every day from now until late December. All the plants “know” it, the birds do, the insects, snakes, salamanders, everything knows. Soon there will be no more skinks in 2019! Here’s one from this week. It’s a no-no to post a picture where you can’t see the eyes – I don’t care for them anyway – but this tail is wonderful: 

Amazing that color appears in nature

Here was a mockingbird on my feeder this week – always a pleasing bird to look at. Calmer (IMO) than a wren or a hummingbird, but not in the same league with raptors: 

Mockingbird visited for a real brief instant

I almost left this out – Evelyn’s flowers are still attracting butterflies in the last week of September. I’ll bet some will be out there in October! I apologize for not taking the time to identify this beauty [this just in, post-edit, Evelyn says it’s a Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)]:

If opened my window I could lean out and touch this:

The pawpaws are finished for 2019 – they are really, really quick. But here’s a bunch of walnuts we saw this morning near the river. And they’re all over the ground; that’s a lot of calories there. Except for the seeds, pawpaws are mostly sugar; that’s why they rot practically while you look at them. Also their skins are like tissue paper. These walnuts are filled with high calorie fat and protein and they’ll keep for ages: 

Walnuts ripening – more calories and last longer than a pawpaw (or any) fruit

Have a calming week! Come back next week! All best,


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 Birds, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, Insects, James River, kofp, love, mockingbirds, moon, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), Tecnam and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Calming

  1. Jackie says:

    Perfect way to end the day,
    very beautiful! ❤️

  2. Jody Bee says:

    You are calming- verbal Champagne (classy, bubbly, unique, and rare)

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. Rob Martin says:

    Love Evelyn’s late breaking report identifying the Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)!

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