Saturday, February 18, 2006

Watching birds flying in a gale, and getting happy about sunlight and FLA!

I took this picture looking down Houston Street looking west on Tuesday night. My official work day is 9 to 5, but I tend to more commonly leave at six or seven, so it's a wonderful thing when I start seeing LIGHT when I'm leaving after work. It says summer's on the way - and the tail-end of sunset at 6 is especially cheering! Winter did make an emphatic reappearance this weekend as another storm came through - I had hoped to get in one more two or three hour paddle in today, but by Friday morning the marine forecast for Saturday had completely deteriorated & was talking gale-force winds all day. If you're in the US, you may have read about this one even if you weren't in the area that got it (sounds like they got it in Wisconsin) as this one was definitely not as bizarrely well-mannered as our nice recordbreaking but non-lethal non-commute-disrupting snow storm was. This one actually came in on Friday morning - I'd left for work on a fairly balmy springy morning, and then sometime in midmorning, I decided to go up to the cafeteria for some coffee. I don't see any windows from my cubicle, so I never know exactly what's going on outside, but the minute I stepped into the open central stairwell of the building I knew something furious was going on outside - the stairwell is topped with a structure of translucent skylights, and you could hear the frames that hold them creaking in the wind battering against them, and there are also 2 square windose that look out on the terrace that's open in the summer - there are a couple of trees in containers out there & their branches were lashing. The company cafeteria is actually a great place for watching a storm - not as good as my old east-facing window on the 96th floor of the World Trade Center (I'll never forget watching the ice riding the tides in and out of the East River, or seeing summer thunderstorms sweep by and head off flashing into Brooklyn), but still quite respectable; it's called "The Greenhouse" and it's actually a structure that was added to the roof when the company had the HQ redone after striking it rich with a certain boy wizard. The eating area the highly-paid architect gave us is all high windows looking out on the rooftop terrace; the building is about the same height as the surrounding offices; you can't quite see the river but you can see the full sweep of the sky.

Friday was post-close, so it was a quiet day of tying up loose ends before vacation, so I was able to take a storm-watching break - I was actually going back down the stairs when in one of the windows, I spotted a seagull fighting to work its' way into the the wind & had to go back up to see how the bird did. I find it so fascinating to watch birds fly in stormy conditions, maybe because the way a bird handles strong winds looks incredibly like how a paddler deals with a strong current, only of course they are better at it than the best kayaker in the world (and swallows are like the whitewater paddlers of the bird world, I watched at Pier 63 on a windy day - it had found a corner behind the building that must've been the avian equivalent of a surfable hole and this guy was in there looping back and forth looking like it was just flat-out having fun). In this case, it seemed like most of the gulls were trying to avoid flying straight into the wind, mostly traveling in directions where they were taking the wind from forward of ninety degrees (I'm tempted to use the sailing terms & say they were reaching - your various reaches are fast & pleasant points of sail, and they were zipping by like lightning) - the one that caught my eye was one of the exceptions to that rule - it was trying to head into the wind; it was barely able to make progress, and seemed to gain ground only through quick, controlled sideslips. After a little time, a lot of effort, and not much gained ground, the gull apparently decided that Weehawken was perhaps a better destination than Hoboken, and fell off & went zipping away on a much more comfortable-looking course.

Winds kept up today & I ended up spending a quiet day at home (I'm sort of glad all my plans fell through because I found that I just wanted to sleep all day - think the week's bout with the flu & accompanying asthma plus a rough week at work wore me out more than I was wanting to admit to myself (the asthma is especially tiring, adding even a little extra work to that fundamental non-optional work of getting oxygen gets to be wearying, and earlier in the flu the extra effort was substantial - never quite got to emergency-room bad but much worse & I would've been thinking about it). Tomorrow I go into the city to get my gear out of my boat and (this could be fun) then I have to go buy a tent! Whee! Yep, after all the hemming and hawing, the weather made the call for me, Lyn was going to bring her tent to the paddle that didn't happen today & I just decided that it would simplify this & any future camping possibilities if I just went ahead & got one. I'll only consider this a bad decision if somehow it never ends up getting used again.

Have to say, weather in St. Pete's looks miiiighty nice - could rain on the symposium, but it looks like the BCU/greenland week crew are in for partly sunny, high 70's all week! I'll still be packing my drysuit as the water's in the 60's, but even so, I'm really happy to be heading down there!

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