Entries in Sunset (7)


The Beach in January

I had business in southern Alabama this week. Lou accompanied me, and we decided to drive on down to Gulf Shores and spend the night at the beach. Our beachfront condo had great views:

We enjoyed panoramic views. We could see not only the Gulf of Mexico but also the Intracoastal Waterway that separates the coastal city of Gulf Shores, Alabama, from the mainland. Charming cottages and condos occupy the area.

There had been a recent storm, but the day we were there, the Gulf was calm with the water gently lapping at the shore:

There were some dramatic shadows created by fencing that had been blown over by high wind:

This American flag on the beach reminded me of the famous "One small step" moonscape photo with astronaut Neil Armstrong.The sun was shining, but the air was cold enough for coats. So what does one do at the beach in January?

Hunt for seashells; many were washed up by the storm:

How about some extreme kite flying?

This man was flying a drone:

Fishing is always popular:

Did you see the Grey Heron? (In many of these photos his feathers have a golden glow from the sun as it is setting.) We were amazed at how tame he was as he posed for me and others. He seemed to be a part of the fishermen's community and stayed in the same place for almost an hour!

The heron was very territorial and would chase other birds away from his spot. As the sun sank into the horizon and the fishermen began to pack up to leave, we discovered why. They gave the heron their leftover bait! Apparently this was something the heron was accustomed to. When the last fisherman left, so did the heron.

Sunsets at the beach are always beautiful.

The next morning we wakened to more splendor as the horizon was once again flushed with color, this time from the sunrise:

Another day, and too soon it was time for us to leave. Before heading home, however, we drove over to Mobile Bay, where we saw the big platforms that are used for drilling for natural gas.

We also saw some dramatic colonies of sea oats.

Finally, we turned north. This had been a quick trip, a last minute decision. We met people visiting Gulf Shores from as far away as Wisconsin and Michigan and Texas. We are fortunate to be less than four hours from this great beach. It had been an unexpectedly delightful winter pick-me-up, and now we want to do it again!


Winter Views

Winter blew in last night, real winter that clutches the throat and burns the face, single digit winter that can burst water pipes if one doesn't leave the faucets dripping, winter that can kill plants in the ground, winter like we haven't seen in years here in my part of the world. It will only last a few days, unlike some unfortunate parts of the country that must deal with frigid weather for prolonged periods of time. Temperature is expected to drop as low as 9 degrees tonight. The lowest temperature in my memory was 4 degrees, back when I was a child. This morning I saw some snow flakes, and I dug through the closet to find my heavy coat.

Cold air does something to the heavens. Clear days are sharp and icy blue. Cloudy days are cloaked in heavy gray, but is any sky more beautiful than a winter sunset of violet, sulfur, and copper red?

Cold weather has brought the hawks closer to the house, perhaps looking for food. I hate to tell them, but all our ground squirrels are safely tucked into their warm burrows, sleeping through the cold spell. We hear the hawks shrieking all day. This Red-shouldered Hawk sat on a branch while I took my photos, no doubt eyeing me, too:

Despite the snowflakes this morning, I have no snowy scenes to share. A few days ago when I walking in the garden, I did find a little iceberg in a birdbath. I also found a couple of winter collages of hickory nuts, leaves, and rotted wood, so typical of this time of year; but I like the earthy color and shape combinations:


Winter shadows transpose tree forms across the garden:

While I walked, I found a few seed heads from last year, still clinging to weary, old branches. This one holds promise of future toad lilies:

As dusk approached, I took some shots in the woodland garden, stripped to its winter bones:

As you see, my garden is never completely bare, because there are many evergreens. Here are some plants that provide color and interesting leaf form in the winter garden, as well as through other parts of the year:Clockwise from top left: I was happy to see Arum italicum poking up through the leaf litter. I planted it two years ago and had not seen it since; Yew is beautiful in all seasons; I planted several varieties of epimedium, then transplanted them around. Now they are all mixed up, and I don't know which is which. I like this one's winter coloration; This native holly fern sprouted of its own accord in just the right place.

What is your weather like? Whatever it is, may your home be happy; and may your garden prosper in this new year!