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Mystery Bird December 31, 2016

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I have only a few more hours to add bird species to the 2016 list. But I woke with the dreaded cold, stayed in bed til 10:30, and it’s already noon. Unless something exotic comes to my feeder (which needs to be filled) in the next few hours, my list is done.

We had hopes on Monday. We got word from friends of a snowy owl sighting, so we dropped everything and went. Found the bird, which was hundreds of yards away. But something was off. It was all white, but it didn’t look like an owl. It was shaped more like a hawk, and it’s eyes were definitely not owly. We tried to get closer with our scope, but between us and the crows, it got spooked.

It was not a snowy owl.

The best we could come up with via our guide was a white morph of a gyrfalcon. It truly looked like it could be this—even though it was all white—and it wouldn’t be impossible, but it would be unlikely. No one would believe this if we claimed it without photographic proof. Still, we’d never seen a gyrfalcon and were excited that that’s what it could be.

I also wondered if the bird was just an anomaly. Its eyes were dark, so I figured it wasn’t albino, but when I got home I started researching that to be sure. That’s when I discovered that birds could be leucistic—loss of pigment, but not in the eyes. And it became clear that what we saw was almost certainly a leucistic red-tailed hawk.

That’s not a bird I can add to my species list, but it was cool.

We went back yesterday to look for it again—nothing.

Really wish we could have gotten a photo.

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Chuck’s Santa Story December 26, 2016

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Quoted here because I don’t want to forget it.

My dad: “Santa doesn’t like eggnog.”
Us kids: “What? We always leave eggnog and cookies, and he always drinks it.”
My dad: “No, he doesn’t. I drink it so you think he drinks it. But he never wants it.”
Us kids: “Well, what does he like?”
My dad: “Santa likes Scotch.”

Christmas Music December 24, 2016

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In general, I don’t really like it, because it’s overplayed. But because I’m such a nonshopper, I’ve managed to shield myself from it more and more.

Our CD collection is too large, and now the classical/recorder/holiday music has found a home upstairs on a bookshelf, away from the stereo. Between traveling and not being someone who thinks about Christmas music, I sometimes forget I even own any.

But today I should get out those very few CDs I have and try to play each one over today and tomorrow.

It turns out that “very few” means thirteen (or fifteen, depending on how you count). That seems like a lot of CDs for someone who doesn’t really like Christmas music.

They are The Brown Bird Christmas Album (released just after the death of one of the duo, likely the last holiday album I purchased); The Chieftains/The Bells of Dublin (one of my earliest); Crabtree & Evelyn/Wish: Holiday Music (just great jazzy classics); Bob Dylan/Christmas in the Heart (a lot of people hated this album, but I find it hysterical); The Festival Consort/Renaissance Glory: Christmas with the Festival Consort (a recorder CD burned for Tim—I don’t have recollection of this); Garcia/Grisman/Christmas (at least that’s what Sioux scrawled on it when she burned this for me—looks like it must be David Grisman’s Acoustic Christmas); Vince Guaraldi Trio/A Charlie Brown Christmas (because it’s the best ever); Jingle Bell Jazz (excellent jazz, a favorite of a friend’s); Pink Martini/Joy to the World (OK, I’m a fan of theirs, so I bought their Xmas album); The Roches/We Three Kings (possibly my first Christmas CD, or maybe my second, because the Roches); Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields/Tchaikovsky/Nutcracker Suite (if I want to play it at all, I better play it today, because my ex-dancer sister hates it deeply and she will be here tomorrow); A John Waters Christmas (yes, it’s as cheesy and shocking as you’d imagine); and The Boston Camerata/With Joyful Voice: Christmas Music of Eight Centuries (three CDs, medieval, renaissance, baroque—a beautiful recording that has barely anything on it that we’d identify as Christmas today—just fantastic music).

Music and cooking to begin in 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . .

Music 2016 December 23, 2016

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I don’t mean to brag, but in 2016 I went to see Mavis Staples, Dave Grisman and Del McCoury, MorganEve Swain, Pink Martini, Richard Julian and Rosita Kess, Lake Street Dive, the Horse Flies, Samite, CeeLo Green, Clara Baker, Trombone Shorty, Dayna Kurtz and Robert Mache, Jack Williams, Ruby Amanfu, David Bromberg Quintet, Elvis Costello and the Imposters, Crack the Sky, Upstate Rubdown, and Handel’s Messiah.

Maybe I do mean to brag. Well, maybe not brag, exactly, but just note How lucky am I?

Seven of those events were house concerts, which are amazing experiences, and if you ever have a chance to go to or host one, you should.

It was my Christmas wish last year for less stuff/more music, and I clearly got my wish.

All of these concerts were so good that I can’t possibly pick a favorite experience, but a definite highlight was walking past a venue in Annapolis, seeing who was playing there that night, realizing that it was a band I’d worshipped in my formative years but had never seen, finding out there was one ticket left, and buying it (abandoning everyone I was with, with their understanding blessings). I had the time of my life and left with an autographed guitar pick.

The biggest disappointment was Chris Isaak’s tour cancellation (pneumonia), especially because I had scored front-row seats. If he ever comes back to these parts, I hope he gives me a heads up and even insists that I sit front and center.

Hawaii (2) December 22, 2016

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Early this month, on Ellen’s birthday, I was writing a birthday message on her Facebook wall when I noticed a familiar name—the name of someone I worked with in D.C. more than 20 years ago. He has relatives in this area, and soon after I moved here we got together once, but that was probably 20 years ago, and I hadn’t heard from/about him since.

I asked if he was the one I knew from our previous place of employment.

He was, and we had one of those fun chatty reunions. Within half an hour, he was on his weekly radio program in Hawaii, so I was almost immediately hearing his voice again. He plays great music, and he mentioned me by name (we were Facebooking during sets), and he wished Ellen a happy birthday multiple times, and it was cool.

Then two weeks passed, but last Friday he put me on the reminder list that the show was on, and I tuned in (oh, the wonders of the Internet). I can’t listen to music if I’m reading or editing, but I had enough filing/bill paying/gift wrapping to do that I justified listening the whole three hours. I was commenting on the show via Facebook again and got another shout out.

I mention this because in these darkest days, there is something about hearing my name on Hawaiian radio and knowing that other people are hearing my name on Hawaiian radio, including real Hawaiians, that feels . . . warm. Light.

Dark December 21, 2016

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It’s dark up here in the northern hemisphere. Cold too. But solstice happened before I got up, 5:44 a.m. local time. In about six weeks, maybe I’ll start to notice the gradual lightening that begins today.

One bright spot in this often-dark town is that a rundown but adorable building was just purchased by some artist friends as a studio. The absent owner had turned down offer after offer all the years I’ve been here, but apparently he realized he wouldn’t be coming back to use it and sold it to some great people. They’ve started the salvage/fix-up, and tonight they are having an open house to celebrate the new space.

The open house starts at 6, so it will be very, very dark.

153 December 20, 2016

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It’s amazing how often I see the number 153.* It seems to follow me around. I see it on receipts, in headlines, in all sorts of random places I’m not able to think of now.

Yesterday, it was this headline: “Obama has granted clemency to a historic number of federal inmates, commuting 153 more sentences today.”

Maybe I should start reporting 153 sightings. But now that I’ve mentioned it, it will probably stop.

 

 

*At first blush, 153 looks prime to me, what with that 53 sticking out at the end. (I’m sure it doesn’t look remotely prime to Bridgett.) But you have to divide it a bunch of times to get to 17.

Sheep, Winter December 19, 2016

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There was a poem in the Writer’s Almanac today, Tom Hennen’s “Sheep in the Winter Night,” one bit of which read, “In the darkness of the barn their woolly backs were full of light gathered on summer pastures,” which put me in mind of Millet’s Le parc à moutons, clair de lune, which I kept returning to in the Musée d’Orsay to get lost in and which, online, pales in reproduction to the painting itself, of course. Here are a couple I found on this very cold winter morning.

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No Tree December 18, 2016

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It’s looking like we’re not going to get a Christmas tree this year.

I mean, it’s Christmas in a week. A week. Jeez.

We got one in 2009, then not again til 2013 (when we at last stayed home), then another in 2014. I thought we had gotten one last year—but we didn’t stay home last year. We traveled. We hosted a New Year’s Eve party, though, so we decorated with an indoor wreath and garlands and lights. But no tree.

Tim got garlands the other day so we’d have something when he hosted some friends for dinner last night.

I’m a little hung over from last night.

But now there are no more weekend days before Christmas weekend to get a Christmas tree, and it seems like a lot of bother, and there are so many other things to do, so I don’t think we are going to get a Christmas tree this year.

What I’ll miss: my ornaments, especially my pickle ornament from Helen (and here it is its second year). Also goatcycling when the tree comes down.

Maybe next year.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things (4) December 17, 2016

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