Down the River

It is September once again and Labor Day weekend here in the US heralds the unofficial end of summer. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, we should expect a “Polar Coaster” this coming winter. Meaning, it will be freezing, frigid, and frosty.

So my friends and I went for an adventure last Sunday to take advantage of this fleeting summer. Did we go biking? No, done that. Hiking? No, done that too. We went kayaking!

I have never done kayaking before. I have been in a canoe a few times, but not in a kayak. The only “kayak” I have gotten into before was the search engine for cheap flights and hotels. Our group, three teams of father and son, were mostly first-timers, except for the one who planned this trip.

We went to this little Iowa town to meet our guy who would provide our equipment. We then drove through a winding dirt road and came to one access boat-ramp by the river where we parked our car. Then we were taken by a truck, with our rental kayaks, a few miles up the river where we were dropped off to start our journey.

The river was relatively quiet with only a gentle current. No big scary drop-offs, just a few rapids. Since it was also the end of summer, several portions of the river were shallow, so shallow that you could get stuck in some rocky portions.

It was the perfect weather for being outdoors that afternoon. Not too hot, nor too cold, and the water was cool and inviting for a swim, if in case your boat tipped over.

When we were dropped off the river, we were told that we were going to paddle 5 miles down the river to the station where we parked our car. We were given landmarks to watch out for. We were told that when we passed the first bridge, that meant we already travelled 4 miles. And when we passed the second bridge, that meant our destination was only half a mile away. If we missed that access ramp, we could end up paddling for several more miles to the next access ramp (or to Missouri?), so we had to be vigilant.

After some time paddling, we got the hang of it, and were able to drive forward, instead of going in circles. For me, a kayak was much easier to maneuver than the other paddle boats I have tried. It can be tiring though, yet it is a good work-out for the arms.

It was a great adventure to travel down the river. We saw several herds of deer drinking at the river bank. There were lots of birds flying above us and we even spotted a bald-eagle. There were fishes swimming around us, and thank goodness there were no piranhas or alligators in this river. There were other smaller creatures, like water-striders that glided across the surface and dragonflies that zipped above the water. We also passed some people fishing and saw two men who set up a camp in a secluded area of the river.

We stopped once to take a break and to take a leak. While resting, we also ate some snacks and took a drink of water (no, not river water, we’re not that adventurous). We tried our skills at skipping stones on the river as well. My son proudly said that he was able to skip a stone almost 20 times. Though that may sound impressive, the world record is 88 skips, so it was not even close.

We were enjoying our time together, leisurely paddling and floating down the river, but we got really excited when we saw the first bridge. Maybe it was reassuring to know that we were making good progress and that we were nearing our destination. After that, it did not take us long to pass the second bridge. It took us a little less than 3 hours to cover the 5 miles. Not bad at all.

The last mile of our trip seemed to have more rapids, which made us go faster, but I got stuck on the rocks in one of those rapids. And no amount of paddling or maneuvering could get me free. So I got out of my boat, waded in the river, and pulled my kayak out of the shallow waters.

When we reached our destination, two from our group took an unintentional swim as they were getting out their kayak. Or maybe they really just wanted to cool off before we pulled our boats up the boat ramp.

It was an exhilarating experience, and what a nice way to end this summer. Our arms may be aching, but our hearts were swelling with joy. We enjoyed it so much that we promised that there would be a next time.

Floating down the river,

Pinoytransplant

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(*Photos taken with an iPhone; I was ‘brave’ to bring my phone in this boating trip, knowing that my phone might take a swim.)

Bugging Critters

Since it’s summer, I have been spending some time outside sitting in our front porch. In fact, that’s where I prefer to read as I prepare for my Boards (read previous post). I am taking advantage of the warm season while it last.

But while I am studying, I have been distracted by some critters, and I cannot help but take photos of them.

One morning, I was bugged by this little bunny (above photo). I thought I heard it say, “Hey, what’s up doc?” Maybe it was only in my head as I was thinking of another famous “bugs” bunny.

Moments later, another rabbit passed by the driveway and he seems to be exchanging stories with the squirrel (photo below). Maybe they were discussing what they want for breakfast: “I crave for a 24-carrot delight,” said one. “I go wild for nuts!” said the other.

There were also lots of birds, and they were noisily chirping around as if they were intentionally disturbing me. It was alright by me for I can’t hush them anyway. “Ssshhh, this is a study area.”

Here’s a cardinal at the bird bath. He seems to be contemplating if the water is cold and if he should take a bath. “To bathe or not to bathe.” But he did eventually.

Below is a mother deer and her fawn. The fawn was taking a drink at the bird bath, “Mmmm, taste like a cardinal punch.” “Oh, don’t drink that!” warns her mother.

I took the photo before I got out to the front porch, but they scurried away the moment I opened the door.

Lastly, there were other critters that were buzzing around me, including bugs that bite. Bzzzzz….”Ooohh, happy meal!” They left their marks on my legs, which I am annoyingly scratching now.

Damn critters!

Summer Colors

Summer has arrived as temperature in our neck of the woods is now climbing consistently into the 80’s Fahrenheit. Though the official start of summer, which is the summer’s solstice – the longest day of the year, is not until tomorrow. I am sure our mercury will rise above 90’s F (above 32 C) or even in the 100’s F (37.5 C and above) in the days to come.

Here are some of the summer colors I captured in the past week:

The first photo was taken in downtown Kansas City, when we made a stopover here on our way to visit our son who is working for two months in a summer camp in Missouri.

The next photo was taken in the downtown Botanical Garden here in Des Moines when we checked it out a few days ago.

My wife also got new planters and have started planting annual flowers that hopefully will not just last for the dog days of summer but late until the cold winter wind blows. Here are some flowers in our deck:

The photo below was taken two days ago when I drove down to southern Iowa for our outreach clinic. As you can see, even a summer’s day can become foggy, dull, and gloomy.

However. even if the day gets gray, there is still a possibility of beautiful colors shining through. And that is true in all aspects of our life. Photo below was taken from our front porch:

I am wishing you all a fun, delightful, and colorful summer.

(*all photos taken with an iPhone)

Eating Out

It is officially summertime in our area. Summer solstice was June 21, so our days are long and hot. Time for picnics and grilling outside.

A couple of days ago, I came home early and my wife asked me to accompany her to the grocery store. She said she’s going to prepare a special dinner and needed to buy some items.  She saw in the internet this “summer dish” and wanted to try it.

After we got home and after some time and much loving effort, our dinner was ready. The new dish my wife prepared is called the Italian grilled vegetable salad. I am not a food blogger, so I’m not enumerating the ingredients needed to make this dish nor would I pretend that I know how to prepare it. Though I think some of you can figure it out just by looking at the photo below.

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I know it’s a deviation from our usual Filipino food we have at home. Where’s the pancit? Where’s the adobo?

It rained heavily early that afternoon so it cooled down a bit. The temperature outside was very comfortable and did not feel like an oven. We checked the forecast too and there should be no more rain the rest of the day.

So to make it a perfect summer dinner we decided that we should eat out too. No, not eat out in a restaurant. I mean eat out, outdoor in our deck.

The earlier downpour plus the strong winds also drove the insects away. Many times there are lots of flies around that you can’t eat out without having a fly swatter in hand. Besides, the rain already washed our outdoor table and chairs clean.

Eating outdoor is popular during summer time. Even fancy restaurants here have patio outside where you can dine. However, I still feel uneasy sometimes when the tables outside the restaurant is near a street where people passing by can see your every bite or can even grab your food. Maybe it’s just me.

After elaborate preparation – setting our table and taking all the food out, we were ready to eat. Of course we took a photo first before we chomp down the food (photo below).

IMG_6707.jpgNote how presentable and artful our table was. It was Instagram worthy. For you readers, I want to let you know that we usually don’t dine like this. Most of the time we scoop our food to our plate directly from the pots and pans. And knife and table napkins, who need those? Please also note the tomatoes, not on the table but on the planter near the table. They are not ripe yet though.

After saying grace and after we literally took our first bite, the rain started falling. Yes, rain! Darn! Can’t trust those weather forecasters.

We hurried back and carried all the food inside. We ended up eating inside our home just like we do everyday. Our “perfect” outdoor dinner was ruined by the rain. Though it would take more than rain to ruin our evening or break our spirits. We remain thankful, after all, it was still a very satisfying dinner.

At least we can claim we ate outside. Even for one bite.

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(*photos taken with an iPhone)

View Through a Battle Shield

I sat quietly surveying my field of vision like a pilot of a battle tank. And I realized that I was looking at a killing field. It mostly happened last night, but it was veiled in the darkness. I had no idea that it was this vicious, until I saw it in the morning light.

In front of my eyes lay several casualties. Perhaps in the hundreds. They were all dead. Crushed and mangled. Their innards scattered on the battle field.

Life is short. I know for them it is shorter. And it just become even shorter. Life can be unfair sometimes.

All they want is freedom. Freedom to live. Freedom to propagate. Freedom to roam on a beautiful warm summer’s night.

But I want my freedom too. And my freedom to roam clashed with theirs.

I don’t like it. Nor did I plan it. It was not my intention to annihilate them. No, not at all! They were just in the wrong place, and in the wrong time. Or was it me that was in the wrong place and in the wrong time?

Dang it! My windshield is splattered with dead bugs again!

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(*photo taken with an iPhone)

Doorhenge

If you live near the equator, the time of the sunrise is almost the same throughout the year. When I was living in Manila, the earliest sunrise is about 5:30 in the morning, and the latest will be at 6:30. The more distance you live above or below the equator, the more the difference in the times of sunrises and sunsets through the year.

Where I live now here in Iowa, the earliest sunrise is at 4:40 (Standard time) in June, but due to Daylight Saving Time from March to November, so the adjusted time is 5:40 in the morning. We have about 15 hours of daylight at this time. Then the latest sunrise is at 7:40 in December, and have only 9 hours of daylight.

Have you also noticed that the sunrises and sunsets are not in the same spot on the horizon all year? This is due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis of rotation, which is tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees (sorry, I’m such a nerd). As a result, at some points in the orbit of Earth, the north pole is tilted towards the sun, and at other points it is tilted away from the sun, making the location of sunrises and sunsets different depending on the time of year.

By the way, that specific tilt of 23.5 degrees of Earth is also the reason for the different seasons of the year. But that is a subject of discussion perhaps for another time.

With regards to viewing sunrises, one enigma of our civilization is the ancient structure, the Stonehenge. One theory is that it was built as a celestial observatory. Though it could be an altar or some kind of sacred monument as well. In any case, it is built to have been perfectly arranged to face the midsummer sunrise, and midwinter sunset. So if you stand in just the right place inside the Stonehenge monument on the day of the northern summer solstice, you’ll see the sunrise align through those pillars.

A similar phenomenon also happens in New York City, when the setting of the sun aligns perfectly with the grid-pattern streets of Manhattan, which happens twice a year, typically in May and July. This is also known as the Manhattanhenge.

Interestingly, I have a similar event in my house here in Iowa. That is on a certain time of the year, the sunrise perfectly aligns with my front door and shines directly through the corridor and into our living room.

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When this happen, I know that we are halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice. Or this is just time to let the sunshine in and start a new day.

Have a good day everyone!

(*photo taken last weekend with an iPhone)

 

 

 

September Sunrise

It’s been more than a couple of weeks that we have returned from our trip to the Philippines.

I have fully recovered from the jet-lag. My tracks of the mosquito bites were all gone. My sunburn have healed. The stash of the butong pakwan (watermelon seed) that we brought back is almost gone. And all that I have left are the sweet memories of home.

I miss the Philippines.

As September rolls in, heralding the end of summer, we brace for the coming cold season. Yet waking up to this beautiful morning, is not bad at all. Not at all.

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(*photo taken in our neighborhood, with an iPhone)

Bite Me

Summer breeze is now blowing here in the northern hemisphere. Yesterday, we had our first 90-degree-Fahrenheit day for the season, and it is predicted that it will be the same today. Summer has arrived in our neck of the woods.

I went out for a run in our neighborhood this morning. Just my usual 2-3 miler run. Nothing extraordinary.

With the warmer air, I felt it was harder to run. Though I am not fond of the cold, I will admit, that running in the colder weather can be better. Personally, I feel that 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit is the best temperature to run, especially when doing longer distances.

As I was struggling this morning on a steep uphill climb, but was nearing the top, suddenly a fierce-looking black bulldog came out from a neighbor’s yard.

The dog was not barking. It was just charging towards me!

They say that there are two ways to react when faced with danger. The first response is flight.  But as I said, it was uphill, and it would be very difficult to sprint ala-Usain Bolt. Plus I am not sure I can outrun a charging bulldog.

The second response is to fight. Me fighting a menacing-looking bulldog? But I don’t have my Black Ninja sword with me. Would my Kung-Fu deter this attack dog?

Confronted with danger or in an excited state, the flight or fight hormones (adrenalin and the like) will be secreted by our body. With these body juices rushing, individuals can do extreme feats, like carrying a refrigerator all alone during a fire evacuation, or clearing a high fence on a single bound when being chased by a vengeful lover.

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Fight or Flight (as in flying!) response

Well, some people say that there’s another response in facing danger. That is to freeze. Like a deer caught in a bright headlight.

Scientists say that standing still or playing dead is a real mode of defense mechanism. It is employed by many creatures in the animal kingdom. Best known is the opossum. They freeze not just because they are gripped with fear, but rather they are using nature’s way of self-preservation.

And that’s what I did. I stopped running and stood still.

But the bulldog did not stop on his charge. It was rampaging straight for my legs! I saw it open its mean snout……

And then it licked my leg! No bite. Just a friendly lick.

I must be like Kentucky Fried Chicken to that bulldog. Finger-licking, ah, er, leg-licking good!

(*photo from the internet)

Summer is Gone

I woke up this morning to the sound of howling winds. I may have left one of the windows open. It rained all day yesterday and most through the night. At least the rain had stopped. But it was still overcast. It was a gloomy day.

The temperature also plummeted to 45º F (7º C) this morning and did not rise much above 50º F today. Though I heard it was above 100º F today in Los Angeles. But this is Iowa.

Tomorrow the forecast is that we will be in the 30’sº F in the early morning. This probably would be our first frost of the season. Time to bring in the outside pets and potted plants. Time to bring out the jackets. Maybe we also need to throw a blanket over our tomato plants in our garden tonight, which still is producing a lot of fruits, so it would not freeze.

We had a good summer though, and for the past few weeks we have experienced warm weather, even if it was already September. So we really cannot complain.

In fact last weekend my son went camping with other scouts, and he grumbled that he should have packed shorts instead of thick pants for it was hot. He said it was warm inside their tent that he did not zipped up his sleeping bag when he slept.

But it is October now. Almost overnight, the summer ended. Cold autumn is here to stay and bone-chilling winter is not very far behind.

The cold winds have blown off most of the leaves in our trees, and our yard is a scattered mess. Is it time for a fall clean up as well? Yet, I must confess that my kids like raking leaves and playing in the pile of leaves that they have gathered.

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my son raking leaves (taken 2 autumns ago)

Fall can be a beautiful season though. With the bursting colors of the trees’ foliage, people wearing fashionable jackets and trendy boots, the farmers enjoying their bountiful harvest, and with the much celebrated Thanksgiving holiday and feasting, it is not hard to imagine why this time of year is the favorite of many people. Not to mention, it is also time for many bargain sales.

But not for me. I am kind of summer guy. I like wearing shorts and t-shirts. I may complain about the heat, but I can bear it. I grew up in a tropical country, for crying out loud!

Yes, I know that summer is gone. Yet in one last act of defiance, I refused to wear my jacket when I went out today.

Of course I was cold!

 

 

A Perfect Day

I was on-call last weekend. It was not particularly busy that I was drowning in work, but enough to keep me occupied in the hospital most of the days during the weekend. I had more toxic calls before, so I really cannot complain.

I was making my rounds in the hospital and making headway on my long list of patients to see. I have seen all the ICU patients and working on the rest of the patients in the hospital. On my way to the other side of the hospital, I passed the crossway that overlooks the center garden of the hospital.

I stopped for a while and gazed longingly at the garden.

our hospital's central garden

our hospital’s central garden

It was already early in the afternoon. It was sunny, but the temperature outside was not hot, nor was it cold. It was just right. It was early September after all, when summer and autumn are in their crossroads.

It was a perfect day to be outside.

I could have been outside. I could have been sitting outside in that garden with the beautiful flowers in bloom. I could have been outside shooting hoops with my son. Or could have been outside having barbecue with my friends. Or could have been outside riding my bike on some engaging bike trail. Or could have been outside just lying on a hammock under a tree. I could have been outside……

Instead, I was inside the hospital walls. Working.

The next stop on my rounds was the Oncology floor. I entered the room of our patient who has history of rectal cancer and was treated several years ago. But now found to have his cancer come back with vengeance, spreading to his lungs. I was suddenly reminded of my mother who has the same circumstances.

My patient was having difficulty breathing. It was quite obvious that even with high flow oxygen he was struggling. Every movement was an effort. He has been hospitalized for some time now, with no clear indication of when he can go home. Or will he ever?

As I entered his room, he was looking at the window. He was looking at the same central garden that I was looking at, a little while ago. Perhaps he had the same thoughts that I had: I could have been outside enjoying this beautiful day.

But he can’t. And perhaps he never will.

That’s when a thought dawned on me. There’s a reason why I am not outside. I was placed here inside these hospital walls, for a sacred duty to care and give comfort for people who cannot enjoy a beautiful day outside, just like today.

It was a perfect day indeed.

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(*photo taken with an iPhone)