[caption align="alignright" width="200" caption="Photo by Alice Liles"]
There were already a few cars parked beside the road when weÂ arrived at the site. One of them belonged to an accountant from Brenham, who had set up two tripods, one with a camera and the other with a spotting scope. Wearing a heavy coat and wool cap to ward off the cold wind, he had obviously been there a while. He invited us to take a look through the scope, and filled us in on the latest activity in the nest. He said at present the two eaglets were visible in the nest.
I looked through the scope, and sure enough, I could see theÂ backs of two little heads peeking up above the nest. Not much to see at thatÂ point, but still, two mounds of fluff in a nest of twigs and branches. AÂ squirrel running around the edge of the nest and under it made it easy to tellÂ that this was one huge treetop construction. Several of the spectators madeÂ jokes about the squirrel not being very smart, considering the parents couldÂ come back at any time and make a meal of him. But maybe he was smarter than we thought, and eagles intent on feeding their young aren't looking for squirrels.
Alice and I took turns looking through the scope with the otherÂ spectators and a few new arrivals. The accountant welcomed one and all and proved quite knowledgeable about birds and the history of the nest. He saidÂ he'd spent a lot of time watching the eagles over the years; he had a notebook full of photographs that he'd taken to prove it. I figured he was setting us up to buy some of his photos, which were quite good, but no, they weren't for sale. He took them just for his own and others' enjoyment.
Later, as I was looking through the scope, I saw one of theÂ parents swoop in and land on the side of the nest. What a dramatic arrival! ItÂ caused a mild commotion among the group, all of whom wanted a glimpse of the majestic creature. Thanks to the spotting scope, everyone had a chance to see him. (And yes, the accountant thought he was a male.)
As we huddled around the scope, waiting for our next turn, we visitedÂ with our companions. It turned out that there were several schoolteachersÂ in the bunch, and a couple of people figured out that they had gone toÂ Stephen F. Austin State University together a few decades ago. I couldn't help but think about the unusual nature of this gatheringâ€”total strangers connecting on the side of a road as they enjoyed watching a family of birds.
By the way, the accountant/roadside birder told us that the eagles would probably stay around until at least April or May. If you havenâ€™t made it to the viewing yet, itâ€™s worth a trip.
For my son's seventh birthday, we forewent Chuck E Cheese, and packed up the car for a San Antonio daytrip. Our main destination, the San Antonio Zoo, which we had only half-explored when he was three. I visited the zoo many times as a child on summer stays with my grandmother, who, in the interest of preserving my good time, gracefully masked her sadness over the pacing cats and other creatures in tight enclosures.
A few months ago, I joined a group of my girlfriends at the Blanton Museum of Art for one of the museum's monthly "Third Thursday" programs. We enjoyed the opening of a new exhibit, a stroll through the museum's permanent collection, and live music in the foyer, but the main draw for us was the opportunity to take a yoga class in one of the galleries, surrounded by beautiful paintings. The refined ambiance lent a whole new energy to our poses, and we were able to view the works from a new perspective. I mean this quite literally, as we were standing on our heads at least once during the class.
Looking to put an little extra love in that card? Consider sending your sweetheart a valentine postmarked and stamped from Valentine (Texas, that is). More than a dozen post offices across the United States - including Valentine, Texas - offer special postmarks for the lovely occasion, to help impress your loved ones. This special touch is easy as pie to achieve, and the effort could yield priceless benefits.
Everything's big in Texas, in fact, Texas is so big, it's gone global. ;) Or so it's been pointed out in a Facebook thread that started with "Good morning, Texas!"
New Mexico and Australia chimed in - "What about us?!" To which we replied with the simple truth: "If you love Texas, you ARE Texas. That good morning goes a long way. That's how Texas rolls. :)
So now, I'm curious where, in the world, are you if you're not living in Texas now? Did you use to live here? Just wish you could live here? What is it you love so much about it?
Having just made my annual end-of-January trip to southeast Texas, I can report that despite any prognostications from Punxsutawney Phil, the signs of spring's approach are visible in at least parts of the Lone Star State. I didn't see any wildflowers except for dandelions and henbit, but peach trees are beginning to bud and lettuce is harvest-ready in backyard gardens. Best of all, bluebonnet seedlings are popping up in pastures and along roadsides.
I know, we've got at least a month of winter left and probably some nasty weather ahead, but I love the anticipation of February. It doesn't hurt that we're now working on our annual wildflower story in the April issue, 22 pages that spotlight four wildflower drives in different parts of Texas. My prediction: If you don't already have wildflower fever, you will by the time that issue arrives, in early March. Anticipate it, and be ready to take a drive.
The trailer-café craze that has consumed Austin tends to be a mostly daytime affair, with many if not most in my neighborhood rolling up their windows by sunset. I was delighted to discover that Odd Duck Farm to Trailer at 1219 S. Lamar begins serving at 5 p.m., perfect for "cook's night out" (the "cook" in this case being me).
We're starting to put together the April issue, and one story about sustainable travel especially holds my interest. The author makes the point that people in general are growing more aware of lessening their impact on the environment when they travel, and she provides suggestions on restaurants that source their food locally, hotels that make an effort to be energy-efficient, and destinations that focus on conservation. It's a topic I suspect we'll revisit from time to time, especially since most places don't expect us to relinquish any of our creature comforts. In most cases, after all, conservation is about efficiency.
I just received word that the Texas Department of Agriculture's wine-marketing folks are celebrating the 1st anniversary of its popular "Winery Passport" promotion with additional incentives for wine travelers.
A few years ago, when economy woes hit the headlines and everybody reined in their vacation spending, travel-biz folks started talking up the concept of the "Staycation" (whooping it up close to home) and its related concept, the "Daycation." But I just now received the strangest email, from a company promoting what it calls a "Haycation” aimed at city dwellers who want to explore the country, assuming, I guess, that all country adventures include a hayride.