Thursday, December 21, 2017

2017 - The Last Gasp

December snuck in almost without notice.  The winter coats came up from the basement to be at the ready, but more use came from the still-handy T-shirts.  Occasional early-month 'arctic blasts' made feeble attempts to settle us in for the winter, but they were short-lived and hardly worth setting up the bird bath defrosters for, and certainly no reason to lay a good fire in the fireplace.  In fact, birds that should have been long gone, such as the rose-breasted grosbeak spotted at the Wellfleet Bay sanctuary, have experts scratching their heads and worrying about their survival.  Winter germs have had no problem settling in, however, as we're told the flu epidemic is in full swing in Massachusetts, and this year's flu vaccines are estimated to be only about 10% effective.  Gardening has waned for the time being, with the exception of sporadic attempts to move leaves to where the wind will carry them away.  Work smarter, not harder, I always say.  There are fresh lights on the boat, Ron's design this year, and around the centuries-old beams in the kitchen.  But, the winter solstice is not something open to debate.  It will be here at the appointed time, whether snowy, or not, it will be cozy and bright inside with family gatherings to follow celebrating my favorite season.  But wait...   

We may have missed the big blizzards that have been roaring through the country, but were finally treated to our first three, fluffy inches of a winter wonderland.  It even arrived a week prior to the winter solstice, with more forecast in the next few days.  Dare I stow the T-shirts?  
2017 Bird of the Year!
For the past 8 years, we've been treated to a new bird species siting at our feeders every year.  I was beginning to accept the fact that the year was running out without a new species coming to call.  And then, this apricot lovely took a liking to our suet feeder.  I had just woken up and was raising the shades when with bleary eyes I noticed a color I hadn't seen since the end of summer.  I quickly grabbed a shot of it and emailed It off to my go-to bird guy, Mike at the Orleans Bird Watcher Store.  I knew it couldn't be an Oriole because, for one thing, all the ones I've photographed in the summer had black heads, and for another, it was December and they should all be sunning themselves on feeders in Costa Rica by now. It turns out I was wrong on both accounts when Mike replied, "Cool Oriole...and I mean really cool!"  Apparently, there are usually a few each year who flap to the beat of a different drummer and try to winter over on Cape Cod.  Their survival is a bit questionable, but with plenty of suet and a heated birdbath, I guess they have as good a chance as any right here at Crosswinds Bed & Bird Breakfast.  So, for tenacity alone, I hereby name this Oriole as my "new" bird of the year.  

The 14th Annual Christmas Cavalcade to benefit the Cape Cod Homeless Shelter
On Becoming an Elf
Everyone has their favorite holiday traditions.  Going to see the big department store window displays downtown and sitting on Santa's lap at Miller & Rhodes was a big one for children in Richmond, until suburban malls brought on the demise of downtown.  As a child, I personally recall being on the kitchen metal grater detail, transforming potatoes and onions and usually little pieces of my fingers into Chanukah latkes batter, which would eventually go into a hot frying pan and coat the kitchen in a film of oil, and blissfully feed our carb addictions.  In Boston, strolling through the Commons after the lights had been put up was always a magical treat.  Some people make special cookies [really, as if any cookie isn't...], and somewhere in the universe, someone probably still makes fruitcakes and mincemeat pies.  But, since moving to Cape Cod, our new favorite tradition is attending our friend, Chandler's Annual Christmas Cavalcade for the Homeless.  This is the 14th year he has brought local musicians together for a joyous entertainment spectacle in the hood, with all proceeds to benefit Cape homeless shelters.  But, it almost didn't happen this year...  I wasn't in on the details of why that was, but when I found out there was a change of heart and it would go forward after all, with little time to spare I threw my elf hat into the ring to help.  I was immediately sucked into a brilliant vortex of sister elves to brainstorm, pound the pavement, and make crazy quick magic and new friends.  The end result was finding out that we raised a little over $10,000 having the funnest evening of winter.  Go Team Elf!    

Chandler Travis and the "Athol Thingerth"
One of my favorite parts of the Cavalcade is a reading, well more of a rant really, by Christine Rathbun-Ernst, in which she shares her perspective of the state of holidays and humanity, in general, always to a standing ovation and a few tears.  I can never listen to the ad for holiday hoodie/footie PJ's for the family and pets on NPR without thinking about how she tied it in to her poignant message a couple of years ago.  This year was no different, and as I strolled my cart through the aisles of Stop and Shop, I took her message to heart about just trying to be kind to people every day of the year, not just before Christmas.  I smiled at everyone who was willing to make eye contact with me.  For all I know, it was reported to management that there was an unusually smiley person roaming the aisles who needed to be watched, but I threw caution to the wind, Christine.  I didn't hold back.  The grumpier looking, the better to share kindness.  And, I'll do it again, too.  
Eastham Buoy Tree
On Cape Cod, there is a long, Yankee tradition of using what you've got, combined with a whimsical sense of humor and creativity.  Our holiday decorations usually involve the seashore in some way.  Provincetown and Orleans have annual lobster pot trees.  At Nauset Marine, Santa sits in a boat ready to deliver gifts to Cape Cod families.  Goose Hummock's roof is ablaze with lights depicting Santa's sleigh pulled by a team of glittering sharks.  But extra kudos go to this tree in Eastham this year, made entirely from colorful, found buoys.  Well done, and it lights up, too. 

A Solstice Sunset
May you find joy in whatever you choose to celebrate.
And, try to be nice, especially to the grumpiest people who need a little nice.

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