Finding color in the dead of winter

Creek, marsh, and forest.

For the last few years, my wife and I have avoided winter’s harsh weather by escaping to our beloved Amelia Island, Florida. Amelia is a barrier island located as far north in the Sunshine State as you can get. It’s not balmy, but it’s never snowed there either.

We rent a condo on a beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Ideally, that setting should be retreat enough for me. I guess I’m just too fickle for such pleasantries.

Great Egret.
My favored place to commune on Amelia is Egans Creek Greenway. It’s an environmental paradise inside a paradise. Situated in the northeastern section of the 13-mile long island, Egans Creek meanders in multiple channels through a salt marsh wetland of grasses, reeds, and various plants and trees.

The greenway is a dedicated green space designed to protect the original environment for animals great and small. Part marsh, part maritime forest, part waterway, the greenway provides habitat for shorebirds, wading birds, birds of prey, songbirds, and mammals of all kinds.

Of course, it serves as a multi-purpose outdoor recreational gem for us humans as well. The greenway has dedicated paths for bikers, hikers, walkers, birders, and the just plain curious. Benches are placed every so often for people merely to rest and enjoy whatever comes along.

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The nature preserve changes character with the tides. It’s brackish waters invite gorgeous birds, like herons, egrets, ibises, and roseate spoonbills.

As you might imagine for any marshland, reptiles thrive as well. On warm January days, I search for sunbathing alligators. Families of turtles and discreet but playful river otters also are fun to watch if you are fortunate to find them. I seldom see snakes.

In all the years we have been vacationing here, this year by far has been the most colorful on the greenway. The hues, however, were a curious mix of spring and fall.

Usually in dormancy for the winter, the greenway grasses showed green, delicate flowers bloomed, and leaf buds swelled pink. Others displayed brilliant yellow and red leaves of autumn. Vivid impressionistic landscapes displayed around every turn.

Cedar waxwings trilled high in the trees, waiting on the light blue cedar berries to darken to ripeness. American robins chirped in the thickets, unable to hide their distinctive call. Eastern bluebirds decorated barren branches.

Grey catbirds and northern cardinals shuttled from one bush to another like hyperactive children. A phoebe flicked its tail on an elevated tree limb, took to the air, grabbed an insect, and returned to the same spot.

Clapper Rail.
At high tide, a clapper rail came out of hiding in the reeds and swam across the creek only to disappear again. A stately osprey hovered silently overhead before snatching a dusky female hooded merganser off the surface of the water.

Thousands of yellow-rumped warblers chipped and darted from cedar to pine to maple and back again. In the shallow waters below, pure white great egrets with their sturdy yellow bills and stick-like, coal black legs waded in search for a fishy lunch.

A red-shouldered hawk perched on a snag in the middle of the marsh, unphased by the two-legged intruders that stood in awe snapping photos or zipping along on bicycles or walking their leashed dogs. With only predatory priorities, the buteo paid no heed.

Viewed altogether, the trees, the flowers, the bushes, the birds, the reptiles, and the bikers, even the dog walkers created living exhibits in an interactive art gallery. They painted the greenway an even lovelier retreat than I had expected.

It’s why I keep going back.

Colorful alligator.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2019

In this household, pink is the “in” color

Baby Maren by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Forget what the color coordinating gurus in New York City and Paris have to say. Pink is the in color, at least at our daughter’s house.

Her daughter, Maren, our three-year old granddaughter, has her own fashion priority, especially when it comes to color. There is only one. Pink.

Our daughter doesn’t say much. Then, again, what can she say? Her daughter is as independent as she was at that age, and just as blonde.

As soon as our daughter and son-in-law knew that their third child would be their first girl, I distinctly recall that pink clothing for her daughter was discouraged. I think there was a serendipitous association of pink with prissy.

Well, three years later, guess what? Maren’s favorite color is pink. Pink may have been her first spoken word. Maren just loves everything pinkish.

Pink balloons by Bruce Stambaugh
Maren loves everything pink.
That really shouldn’t be any surprise at all. When she was born three years ago in Austin, Texas, Maren was a pink bundle of squealing joy. Everything about her was pink, her hands, her feet, her tiny toes, her long, skinny fingers, her lips, her nose, and her rosy ears. Her face was pink until it changed to red when she wasn’t real happy or necessitated a diaper change.

I have a picture of Nana holding Maren wrapped in a white baby blanket with blue and pink strips. The sign attached to her hospital nursery crib with her name and birth statistics was printed in black letters on pink paper. A delicate pink rose even adorned her mother’s hospital room.

The sleeper Maren wore home from the hospital was infused with dainty pink flowers. The decorations, wall hangings and fabrics in Maren’s room were brown, silver and, yes, pink. The baby blanket Nana made for her was brown and pink. A pair of pink cowgirl boots sat upon her pink-trimmed dresser. The girl never had a chance.

Second birthday by Bruce Stambaugh
Maren with her pink Razor.
Less than a year later, the pink Texan became a pink Virginian when her family moved to the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. Maren celebrated her first birthday with a pink barrette atop her towhead.

For her second birthday she wanted a Razor scooter just like her big brothers had. She had conditions of course. The wheels and handlebars had to be pink. What option did Nana and Poppy have other than to gladly comply?

If there was any doubt about Maren’s color preference, it evaporated when Nana recently took her shopping for her third birthday present from us. Maren wanted a CD player, a pink soccer ball, or a pink bicycle helmet. She got all three, plus a pair of pink polka dot shoes.

Pink helmet by Bruce Stambaugh
Maren, ready to roll with her pink “Barbie” safety helmet.
What really got me though was that the pink helmet had “Barbie” scrolled across the front if it. And this from a girly little girl who wears only pants. Maren likes dresses, and they don’t have to be pink. She just doesn’t wear them.

Like most grandfathers, I enjoy teaching the grandchildren their colors. They must tire of me always asking, “What color is this?” Not Maren. For her, everything is pink even if it really is red or green.

If the sunrise in the near future comes up all pink, don’t blame New York or Paris. You’ll know that Maren’s birthday wish came true.

This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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