Where’s Meridian, Texas?

It’s northwest of Waco. Where’s that? It’s near the Magnolia Silos. Anyway, this tiny county seat of Bosque County is near Meridian State Park, where I am sitting and listening for golden cheeked warblers.

Only birds spotted so far are this motley crew.

We left the ranch in the capable hands of the other residents to give them some couple time, Lee some truck-driving time, and me some nature time. We even got here before dark!

The only problem with our campsite, which even has sewer hookup, is a distinct lack of cell towers. The little connectivity I get is from the public park wifi. Eek. Oh well. What did I expect in the middle of nowhere?

Beauty. I expected beauty.

I have a feeling the work I intended to do tomorrow may not happen. I guess I can go to the park HQ and sit outside?

Or I could go look at this lake, if it isn’t raining.

That’s ok. I have flowers to enjoy, including some new ones, and trails to hike. I’m thankful once again to the Civilian Conservation Corps for building so many beautiful parks for us to visit.

And places for Lee to drive to.

If by some miracle, this uploads, enjoy these floral beauties.

The Real World for Elderly Hermits

The morning today was like in some princess movie, with dozens of little chirping birds surrounding me with songs, plus a loud and strikingly beautiful red-bellied woodpecker. I’ll remember this brief retreat at Lake Somerville for a long time.

It’s impressive how much beauty you can find among bare branches and the promise of spring flowers. But these things must end, and I turned my focus to work as we left for home.

My office with seat belts!

I missed getting to evaluate the horse camping area because I was concentrating on work, but from what I saw, it could be fun. I was thinking of my precious pets, though, as we stopped at Tractor Supply for horse and hen food.

It’s a little squished in travel mode, but under the RV you can store a lot of pet food.

After a happy reunion with all the pets (you should have seen the horses galloping up from the back pasture when they saw me!), reality hit me and Lee with a thud.

I’m able to rest comfortably now that y’all are back!

Yeah, the people who sell Medicare supplements came by to help Lee with his Part B and supplement selection. That’s painful. I’m just getting A until my job ends, so I mostly sat there wishing the government made ANYTHING easy for people. Being elderly hermits isn’t for wimps.

There was just so much chatting and chit chatting as we filled out forms and made decisions. I missed the silent campsite! But the folks we are working with are nice, not high-pressure sales people, and knowledgeable. I shouldn’t complain. They made it easier to know what to get and what not to get, for our specific needs. It truly feels weird to be old.

Oh and one more thing. Wow, people have a lot of opinions on this delicate topic. I’m glad I know some smart folks. Just whatever you do, don’t make decisions based on the ENDLESS television commercials about Medicare. If I were younger I’d be throwing things at the television to make the commercials go away. I’d like to now, too. So deceptive! And incessant.

Thank goodness for hugs.

I hope your mortality isn’t staring at you today, that you’re safe from flooding if you’re on the West Coast of the US, and that you have something or someone to hug, even virtually. We all need support for one reason or another.

Excellent Birds! Unusual Plants! Nature Fun!

Today we stayed at Lake Somerville State Park, which was a lovely place to work. I enjoyed my lake view from the mobile office and had no problems with internet or anything like that. I got lots of work done AND saw so many wonderful things on my breaks and after work. I could get used to this.

It’s so great to see NO ONE when camping

I went out early in the morning and was thrilled to see two different bald eagles in trees. It turns out the local high school mascot is the eagles, since there are lots at this lake. It’s always great to see them. And as I went on the walk, I was greeted by additional raptors. I first saw a peregrine falcon, who came out even blurrier than the eagles did, then another merlin showed up. I got to see it really well with the binoculars, even though my photos aren’t great.

But whoa, I did NOT expect the next thing I saw. I was looking at a pretty group of ring-neck gulls through my binoculars when I realized one of those gulls was awfully big. It was a beautiful white pelican! I watched it swimming around and diving for fish for a long time. Then, as I was sitting outside doing a call, I saw a bunch of big, white birds. The pelican had friends. They were a LONG way away, so forgive the blurriness of the photos.

By the way, the sandy outcropping where the gulls and pelicans were also had other cool birds. I saw greater yellowlegs, killdeer, grebes, and two beautiful white birds with black and white wings. They had a black bill and long legs. I swear they are American avocets, though they aren’t supposed to be here right now. I did check, and they have been seen here, so I’m not imagining things.

This is what the birds look like. Borrowed from mombliss on iNaturalist.

As I mentioned yesterday, there are lots of woodpeckers around here. I saw two more types today, a flicker and a big ole pileated woodpecker, which I managed to photograph as it flew off. It’s SO loud. Since I saw the yellow-bellied sapsucker yesterday, it means I saw the smallest and largest woodpeckers in the US!

I also saw lots and lots of chickadees and cardinals. Of the sparrows I saw, I could ID a chipping sparrow and a white-crowned sparrow. There were also phoebes, a yellow warbler, and some very entertaining vultures, both turkey vultures and black vultures. I enjoyed watching them flying, roosting, and preening.

I also saw some butterflies and moths, which surprised me. There were sulphur butterflies, buckeyes, a black or pipevine swallowtail (hard to tell), and lots of little moths. Most of my photos were just blurs. The best insect I saw, though, was a leafcutter ant carrying a leaf it had cut. I’d never seen one of those!

The only mammal I saw was a big, fat squirrel. But I saw evidence of deer and coyotes (plus coyotes woke me up at 5am).

I enjoyed looking at lots of beautiful trees as I hiked and saw excellent mosses as well. Many trees are dead, but lots of them were from when they made the lake and it was higher. I think it will be higher once it rains some more again. The dead trees sure look like they host many types of life. I passed one tree that was literally abuzz with bees and others with holes in them for animals to live in.

And the silence was glorious, at least until a whiny child hiked by. Literally ONE child is in the area, and it’s loud enough to be heard all over. Wow!

I saw one spider, this gray jumping spider

Lee and I are heading home tomorrow in between meetings, but this stay has been so enjoyable and restorative. I’m glad for the chance to travel more.

Hopefully I can see more stuff like beard lichen.
Or whatever this lichen is. So pretty.

Learning to Be an Ally of My BIPOC Friends

Today my head’s all full of learning, because I attended the Texas Master Naturalist program’s latest in the Be the Change series, which is a part of our diversity and inclusion initiative. The things I learned completely dovetailed with some of the things I’ve been observing and thinking about in my time in South Carolina, so I’m just processing away.

Where I am not.

I’m one of those “well-meaning white people” who want to help create a more diverse world and be good allies (or co-agitators, as someone said today). I know that some of our good intentions do not go over well, though, so I’m in the learning stage (which today I discovered to be a good thing).

The speaker I listened to today was Alex Bailey, of San Antonio, who founded the Black Outside organization.

Black Outside, Inc has one simple mission: Reconnect Black/ African-American youth to the outdoors through culturally relevant outdoor experiences

Black Outside website

Bailey did a great job of coming across as friendly and funny, even when he was making points that could make listeners uncomfortable. One of my favorite things he reminded us was that, although many of today’s black youth have little camping or wilderness experience, that was not always the case. As he pointed out, Harriet Tubman just didn’t pile all those people into an SUV and drive them to safety. He also reminded us that rural black folks have a rich history of fishing, hunting, and living off the land.

Digression

This is where things I’ve observed in South Carolina at this snazzy resort come in. I’d say at least 50% of the people here are black, or other BIPOC folks. It makes sense, because Myrtle Beach is a quick drive away from some of the most affluent and well educated black folks in the US, those in the Atlanta metro area. There have been lots of black and mixed families and couples lounging around and in the pool, as well as out on the beach swimming and relaxing. Nothing controversial about that, unless you’re someone my age.

A variety of beach-goers of different skin tones.

You see, when I was a kid, black people didn’t go swimming. My mother was of the opinion that black people couldn’t swim, which didn’t make sense to me. When I was in high school, though, the conversation in PE class turned to why we didn’t have a pool at our school. The black girls made their happiness at that very clear. At least a few of them also thought black people couldn’t swim. Eventually, enough people who could swim were remembered, so we all decided there must be some reason none of them had learned.

We were teens, so what did we know. But, our guesses were that telling kids they couldn’t swim was an easy way to keep them safe and out of the water. And besides, there weren’t any pools in the black neighborhoods. (That has, of course changed.)

Everybody looks the same from up here. Plus a nice kite.

So, I have to say I was pleased to see people of every skin color happily enjoying the water here. Which takes me back to the talk I attended today.

Learnings from Black Outside

While Bailey talked to us about the importance of observing, learning, and reflecting (see graphic below for his actual words) before trying to bring the outdoors to young people of color, he gave us a lot of insights, including some about swimming. He pointed out that well meaning event organizers often include water activities without letting the families of the black participants know they are coming up. Why is this a problem?

This great graphic comes from work by Barbara J Love, so I figure I can borrow it, too.*

Hair. That’s the problem. In my day, that may have been an issue, too, because swimming, afros, and Afro-Sheen didn’t go together well, That’s nothing compared to some of the elaborate hair styles young black people have today. You know, those braids could be ruined under water. And if you do an activity that requires a helmet (in or outside water), well, some styles won’t fit, period. Young people might miss out on fun, just because they hadn’t prepared a water-friendly hair style. (And yes, a lot of black women where I am today are NOT dunking their heads.)

That’s just one example where pausing to learn about cultural differences can lead to better experiences. And that’s one reason why Bailey suggested that, rather than volunteer to teach black kids directly, allies can provide materials or training to black mentors who can then work with the kids, who really benefit from seeing people who look like them in positions of authority about nature and the outdoors. That makes a lot of sense to me!

For sure, this was a very helpful step in my journey toward being a good BIPOC ally, and it reminded me how much I still have to learn. I’m quite glad for that!


*After looking at the graphic Bailey shared, I looked up more about Barbara J. Love and her work on liberatory consciousness. Her website is fascinating! Here is her definition:

Developing a Liberatory Consciousness

Liberatory consciousness is a framework used to maintain an awareness of the dynamics of oppression characterizing society without giving in to despair and hopelessness about that condition and enabling  us practice intentionality about changing systems of oppression.

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