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Shelter From the Storm

Most osprey nests are built high in the forks of cypress snags, ideally one rooted in the water to avoid snakes and raccoons from raiding the nest. A moat is an adequate defense from terrestrial enemies but the water itself can become an enemy.

This nest was built less than six feet above Chocowinity Bay’s normal level. From its size, the nest had been occupied for successive years. Then the storm came, driving the water before it. 

Osprey nest before Hurricane Florence.
Osprey nest before Hurricane Florence.

After Hurricane Florence, nothing remained but the bitter end of some roots.

The nest after the storm.

The osprey that inhabited the nest had already migrated south for the winter. If they return, they’ll have to begin again…or steal another bird’s nest.

Dark Carnival

Have you never felt your life was set on a stage with players and props and painted scenery and when you moved from place to place, playing your part, speaking your lines, the painted scenery was moved as well, providing a thin semblance of depth and continuity? But what lies behind the familiar painted screens? What exists beyond the stage props? What occupies the shadows past the blinding footlights?

Carnival_clownPhoto credit: flickr

Something is stirring but I don’t know what it is. Some rough beast may be slouching toward Bethlehem again. Magic is alive, God is afoot, but are we sadly mistaken about the nature of both?

At some point magic comes head to tail
with science like a snake devouring itself.

I am not a religious man. I suspect the purpose of organized religion is to efficiently control people’s behavior through fear. But I begin also to suspect the world is far more mysterious than we’ve imagined and that religion may be a more appropriate response to the mystery than science.

In subtle and unexpected ways science and religion are approaching common if uncertain ground. At some point as the scientific focus becomes more and more specific, as the particles examined by quantum physicists become more and more elusive, magic comes head to tail with science like a snake devouring itself. Mystery escapes its cage of scientific incredulity.

But magic isn’t all wonder and delight. There’s a darkness that occupies the heart of everything living just as there is light. Each strives to consume the other. It’s only in the balance of opposites that we survive. And we’ve long been out of balance.

By the pricking of my thumbs…

The memory of crows

Crows remember the faces of people who’ve wronged them. They have a long memory and they share their memories with other crows. Researchers disguised as Dick Cheney when banding crows were afterwards mobbed by the same crows when they returned. Crows that weren’t witness to the original harassment also came to recognize the danger posed by Dick Cheney. Wherever Cheney went on campus he was mobbed and met with shrill derision.

Posted via email from Charles Thrasher’s Lifestream

Miles From Nowhere

After 58 years of memories, many of them crowded out of awareness by the sheer volume, the jostling mass, there are several that always remain salient. They are like familiar faces at the front of the crowd. One of those is of the coast north of San Francisco. It was 1969. I was 19. The Coast Highway was a two lane road threading the edge of the continent between cliffs falling away to the wide Pacific and old hills rounded by time and shaded by live oak. I was hitching on an empty road in the company of a few sheep. The scattered clouds looked like fleece. I had new camping gear and a sleeping bag I’d bought in Haight Ashbury. I threw my rucksack over a rusted barbed wire fence and climbed to the crown of a hill and laid down in the summer grass that waved in the sea wind. The sky was pale blue, as fragile as egg shell. The skirling cry of a hawk carried down the wind. I was utterly alone, free of the past, unburdened by the future, without expectations or demands. I was perfectly, completely in that moment, of that moment, and nowhere else. But the moment was unsustainable.

I slept there that night without a fire or tent, laying in the grass, at the bottom of a sea of stars. They seemed a vast adventure.

I felt like a taut string vibrating with the tension between solitude and the need for community. Those are conflicting demands I’ve never resolved. Perhaps the function of life isn’t resolution but living within the tension like a water ouzel swimming in a mountain torrent.

The sound track of that moment is always Cat Steven’s song Miles From Nowhere.

Posted via email from Charles Thrasher's Lifestream

Flying Refrigerators

There is a piece of debris the size of a refrigerator in a decaying orbit around the earth. It’s expected to re-enter the atmosphere sometime in the early morning hours Monday, November 3, in the sky above someplace other than Antarctica.

Upgrading the International Space Station

The debris was jettisoned from the International Space Station. It isn’t actually a refrigerator but a 1400-pound ammonia reservoir pitched overboard in July, 2007. It does give an entirely new slant to the rural tradition of leaving refrigerators in the front yard. What could be more rural that the Space Station?

The orbiting refrigerator is expected to end in a spectacular fireball. They’re just not sure where or when. NASA has determined that it won’t burn above Antarctica, give or take 15 hours.

The falling refrigerator brings to mind – at least, my mind, – stories of frozen pooh falling through the roof. It’s likely an urban myth but the story goes that commercial airliners once routinely dumped the contents of their holding tanks while underway. At high altitude the pooh froze instantly into a block hard as Portland cement. One piece ultimately crashed through the roof of some luckless bastard who was watching re-runs of The Beverly Hillbillies in Peoria. Or so the story goes.

It’s always wise advice to keep a weather eye open for falling refrigerators…or frozen pooh.

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Birth of an Island

I’m late to the party here but sailing through a sea of pumice deserves comment.

Yesterday reported (also picked up by About: Sailing) on a boating blog kept by the crew of the Maiken enroute from San Francisco to Australia. On the passage east of Fiji the boat sailed through an ocean of floating stone and took pictures. The following day they sited a volcanic island rising from the sea and sailed close to photograph it. Frankly, closer than I might considering the amount of pumice they sailed through the previous day. 

I haven’t yet read the blog but the photos are phenomenal and well worth viewing.

Wake through a sea of pumice.
Wake through a sea of pumice.
Photo attribution: Frederick Fransson.

Burning Man YC

I was casting about for a way to re-enter this blog after an overlong hiatus–short of trailing flames and broken heat tiles–when I came across this entry on the Proper Course. Just the thing to distract from my lack of diligence.

For those who’ve been in a cultural funk for the last few decades and haven’t heard about Burning Man, it’s an ephemeral event that occurs annually in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, the artistic equivalent of a running skirmish. It’s an education in performance art just thumbing through the 1,720 images archived on the 2006 event’s official web site.

I suppose the founding of the Burning Man Yacht Club (BMYC) was inevitable, although frankly it never occured to me.

Founding members of the Burning Man Yacht Club, where brevity is valued as a virtue, at least in the official club uniform.
(Graphic courtesy of

 “At Burning Man, safety really is first,” Dustin Fox was quoted in an article published by the Orange County Register. Dustin is apparently one of the flag officers of the BMYC, although it’s difficult to be certain given the lack of insignia. “Our yacht club would like to report that there were no drownings at Burning Man this year.”

Dustin Fox poses in little more than a fanciful pirate’s hat beside another BMYC member more demurely dressed in a barrel. (Graphic courtesy of

Thank God there’s still a sense of humor among sailors, and a fondness for rum.

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