Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

Archive for November 2009

EMPTINESS

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I go searching for something to blog about on this cold, grey November day. Thoughts always come to me when I’m out and about.

Ice fog is lifting off the Sauble Beach Parkway, hovering over the tops of the trees waiting to see if the sun can squeeze through the clouds to burn it away. The ceiling is too low though and it looks like rain.

The parking lot of my favourite breakfast spot is empty. Since we are well into the off-season I fear they might be closed. They’re not. But they are empty. Its a strange feeling given the crowds they cater to from May 24 to Thanksgiving. From my window seat I can see that ’emptiness’ is all around me.

Main Street Sauble Beach is shuttered up tight for the winter. The plywood and such covering the windows and doors of the gift shops and restaurants add to the tackiness of the scene. This street screams ‘beach town’ at the best of times. You don’t notice it that much in summer because of the crowds. Summer people come here in droves and bring their big city ways with them filling in every ounce of space on both the street and beach.

I’ve always wondered why Southampton and Port Elgin don’t suffer this fate. They seem to rise above it. I’m not being critical here…just a personal observation.

But, it doesn’t matter now. The town is empty. The beach is empty. The stores are empty. I drive an empty shore road and a great calm descends on me. I realize why I love this time of year. It is still. No crowds madly rushing off in all directions at the same time. No craziness.

I drive on to the beach. I can park wherever I want and not pay the customary fee.  Walking in solitude I get lost in the emptiness.

The peace and quiet of the approaching winter is on the land.


Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

November 29, 2009 at 10:07 PM

BIRDING

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Snow geese

Early on a November Sunday.

The sun had melted the frost that came by night and the remaining moisture hung in a haze over the Sound. The grass was still green. A few leaves, drained of colour remained on the trees. The day started out warm and comfortable. It was a typical ‘British Morning’. So says Peter, our guide for the day.

I am here looking out over Owen Sound with Birders from the Owen Sound Field Naturalists. Now, I am not a birder. Far from it. But, I am outside, under an unbelievable blue sky, in the company of people who find staring at waterfowl from a distance, fascinating. They come armed with books; binoculars and spotting scopes, which make birding, look like a very expensive hobby.

As the day, progresses, and we scoot from location to location, literally circling the Sound from one shore to another searching for different species of ducks, geese and biggest genus of sea gull in the world…I am impressed. I am impressed with the fine points of difference between ducks and greater and lesser geese recently arrived, thanks to the shift in jet stream, from different parts of Canada’s north.

And there were firsts for me as well. I saw pure white Snow Geese for the first time. I had never seen Snow Buntings before. They’re big. And their winter plumage gives them hawk-like colouring. Across from the grain elevators on the foreshore just in front of the weeds a Great Blue Herron stood silent as a sentry.

Its regal head turned slowly as if watching me watching it through the binoculars. It too, is big.

I learned that is it OK to talk, but softly, as you approach birds sitting close to shore. You won’t spook them this way. They know you’re not a threat if they hear and see you. Why? Because predators move swiftly and silently.

I learned that birders never stop birding. A prime example of this happened on Grey Road One as we drove past Cobble Beach. Peter, from the open window in the lead vehicle, frantically waving and pointing skyward, suddenly pulled off the road. We scrambled to follow suit without a long rear-ender. He jumped out and ran from car to car. There up in the sky, just above us, a Bald Eagle was gracefully riding the wind off Georgian Bay in lazy circles. It must have been a crazy sight to the motorists that zipped by us…14 people with binoculars trained on a dark, white-headed bird who couldn’t care less.

Birders know what to look for and where. They love nature. They love the land. They know what they’re doing. And I would follow them again just to be amazed at a world most of us tend to ignore.

Peter discovered this epitaph on a grave in Suffolk. The author was not recorded but the date was 1560:

The wonders of this world,

The beauty and the power,

The shapes of things,

Their colours, lights and shades:

These I saw.

Look ye also, while life lasts

Good advice.