Sunrise on Dauphin Island

Sunrise on Dauphin Island

A month ago, I wanted to write an end-of-2016 post: a reflection back on my year, calling out the high points, and maybe acknowledging a couple of the lows, too. I started it, then scrapped the whole idea. The year was too long. It included too much. I would have had to write for days and even then, I’d miss things. I decided, though, that in 2017, I’d write a post at the end of every month, reflecting back on the high points, on the moments I wanted to remember. I even put it into my calendar.

The alarm went off a few minutes ago: Write a best of the month post now. Okay, self, following orders: The best of the month is right now, right here.

I like that in a month. 🙂 I like that in a life, actually, to have the very best moment be the moment that you’re in.

I did have a lot of other nice moments in January, all of which can be summed up as “spent time with friends and family, mostly eating.” I’ve blogged about a lot of that already–sushi with R, new foods with my brother–but interesting pizza with C, grilled pork chops with J, and then E & A, & dinner with my writer’s group (where the food was utterly forgettable but the companions were wonderful) all fall into that category, too. All of the rest of January has fallen under the shadow of the Audubon Bird Sanctuary, though.

Today is my fifth day here and every day I’ve roamed through more of the sanctuary, exploring new and different trails. The birds are incredible. It reminds me of the aviaries in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, birds everywhere, flitting back and forth across the path in front of me, sitting in trees, standing or floating in the water, lined up on the rocks, swooping across the sky…

And the noises! Dozens of different sounds, tweets and chirps and trills and taps. Honestly, it feels like living inside a video game. Some of their calls sound like words to me — there’s one that says, “Secrets, Se-crets,” and another that says, “Here! Here, here, here!”

I could see the Disney connection and the video game as a sad commentary on my life. Why do the real sounds of nature make me think of unreal things? But yesterday I found the front entrance to the sanctuary and it turns out that this is recognized as one of the top four locations in the entire United States for bird viewing. So yes, the number of birds here is sort of unreal, if spectacular. And this isn’t even the season for them! Their peaks are during spring and fall migrations, not mid-winter.

I’ve mostly abandoned my attempts to photograph them, though. Yesterday, I was on the beach at sunrise, trying to take a photo of one of the birds lifting off from the water. The birds were dark against the rising sun, so graceful, so magical, and there were so many of them. The sound of the waves was like the heartbeat of the world, punctuated by the cries of the birds. It was still, barely a breeze, and cold enough that I was bundled up, wearing my scarf and gloves and coat, but not so cold that I was uncomfortable. And Zelda was bouncing around like a puppy.

But I couldn’t get a bird in a photo at all — they were too far away to be anything more than dark spots — and Zelda’s tugging at her leash kept bumping my phone so my photos were blurry, anyway. Fortunately, I realized I was feeling frustrated and annoyed, and that trying to save the memory was getting in the way of enjoying the sunrise and appreciating being on the beach with my dog. Not a good plan, so I stopped trying. I did take a few shots, today, though —  more in the “lift the phone, click, see what you get later” mode, while I kept walking — which is where the top image comes from. My new photography plan is to not put any effort into getting the perfect shot, just take a bunch and hope to get lucky.

Unrelated (except in that I want to remember this) I made a gluten-free meatloaf using finely-chopped sauteed mushrooms instead of bread crumbs, but otherwise following a typical meatloaf recipe (egg, mustard, salt, herbs, onion, garlic) and it was delicious. I ate it once with roasted cauliflower and once with mashed white sweet potatoes, and will definitely be making it again.

I also made rice noodles, mixed with green onion, cilantro, mushroom, chopped-up hard-boiled egg, lime juice, and a little hot sauce, and it was not bad for a meal using the dregs of the cupboard. I meant to stop at a grocery store on my way here last Friday and I didn’t get around to it. I haven’t left the campground since, so it’s a good thing I’m headed out tomorrow. The freezer is empty and the protein sources are getting… oh, wait, I’ve got canned chicken and canned fish. Eh, I’m good for a few more days. But I’m still heading out tomorrow. Alabama has been spectacular, but I am looking forward to discovering Mississippi, as more than just a drive-through state.