Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Colorful January

That sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it! “Colorful January.” We usually think of white snow, a scene dominated by blues and cold grays, or else we think of tan, brown, gray, and more tan. At least around here, anyway.

But Sue and I have been hiking as much as we can (post-holiday fitness attempts). And we’ve been seeing things. Maybe we’re just being mighty hopeful, looking for signs of spring wherever we might find them, and imagining we see them when we don’t.

Anyway, on Saturday, we went for a nice little hike at Spring Creek Gap Conservation Area. And we did see some color!

For one thing, there’s the beautiful coppery shine of the many clumps of Virginia broomsedge, or broomsedge bluestem (Andropogon virginicus), one of our native warm-season grasses. I have always admired this plant, recognized it as being quite different from other grasses, long before I knew its name. It’s quite common, but it really shines in winter, after its bluish-green leaves have cured to a glorious copper color.

And as we hiked a little further, we started noticing there were several fallen logs with an eye-popping orange bracket fungus on them: Cinnabar polypores! These tough polypore brackets are bright orange-red above and below.

. . . As you can see.

With fungi this bright and colorful, you almost don’t miss the flowers.

In the creek, there were delicate patches of bright green filamentous algae, flowing after rocks like mermaid hair.

And here are some pretty little mosses and lichens. The tiny goblets are the reproductive structures of the lichen. Lichens, you know, are a life form that comprises both a fungus species and an algae and/or cyanobacteria species, living in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Yeah, yeah, whatever. . . . But mostly, we love them for their cute little pale blue-green fairy goblets, which contrast so nicely with the yellowish greens of the nearby moss!

As the afternoon went on, the sun drifted behind some milky white clouds. Once the golden beams disappeared, it was as if the color had been sucked out of the landscape. The sky was dull white, and it was hard to tell how close we were to sunset.

As we hiked back on the main ridge trail, the sun repaid us for its earlier shyness by dipping down below the clouds that had offended us earlier. As the sun sank below the horizon, its beams poked the bellies of the clouds, tickling them pink and orange, revealing their ripples of relief.

We just stood and took pictures!

What a great day!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Watch This Blog: “The Five Pillars of Health”

It’s a new year, and naturally most everyone is thinking (after the holidays): “I need to focus on my health again.”

Well, here’s some good mind-chow to help you with your goals: Doc Bea’s The Five Pillars of Health. What are these five pillars? Love, Sleep, Water, Play, and Eat.

Notice that “diet and exercise” are not named (per se) in that list. And there’s a reason for it, which you’ll learn about in Doc Bea’s January 14 post, “Secrets of Good Health from DOT Drivers.” (I know, you’re thinking, “What-what-what?? Is she talking about truckers?!”)

Well, yes, as a matter of fact, she is.

My disclaimer, here, is also a big part of my endorsement for this young blog (which started in December): Doc Bea is a personal friend of mine. I went to high school with her, and for this reason I’m biased. But it’s also the reason I know this is a blog to watch. Bea (Beatrice) has led an interesting life. She comes from an interesting “place,” with her strong Greek heritage which in several ways set her apart (above, actually) from the rest of us silly, more Americanized high schoolers.

Bea was writing (very good) poetry, excelling in all her classes (even math!), and debating politics and philosophy while the rest of us were obsessing over our silly boyfriends and girlfriends, worrying about who was sitting next to whom during the football games, and hyperventilating over the new Star Wars movie.

While the rest of us were contracting our tight little circles of friends, Bea was expanding hers. She befriended all the kids—including the immigrants, the nerds, the holy kids, the atheists, the shy kids, and the loudmouths. Bea has an insatiable curiosity; she listens carefully, and cares deeply.

Doc Bea is getting close to age 50, yet she’s only recently gone to med school and earned her medical degree. She had already pretty much raised her children. She was a caregiver for her grandmother who had Alzheimer’s, and her father, who died of colon cancer. She has struggled with her own health problems, surgeries, weight issues, and she understands the difficulties of common people leading busy lives, who are trying to find some way to stay healthy.

As she says, “I have lived medicine long before I even considered going to medical school, . . . and I chose to take this journey because I made my dying father a promise to do so, and he made me promise, because he was comforted by my care and advocacy and wanted this for others. I was a non-traditional (aka OLD) medical student in my 40’s. I had a 14-year previous career in Information Systems as a Help Desk Analyst. I helped people to fix their computer issues. Now I have graduated to life issues.”

Actually, Doc Bea has always been involved with life issues, and that’s why I’m watching her blog. Don’t expect the status quo from her. She has strong feelings about the medical and insurance industries, and she has even stronger feelings about the dignity and rights of patients.

So check out her blog. Bookmark it, add it to your blog feed, friend it on Facebook. Because this is one to watch!