Simple Pleasures

We had 3 widely-spaced friends (read that as you will) over for a porch visit yesterday evening to become reacquainted as the good friends we had been before covid. And what we rediscovered was how interesting ORDINARY used to be, full of simple pleasures.

As we sat and chatted, a deer approached within 30 feet of the porch and positioned herself under our one apple tree. She is a regular there. She will be back. So we named her Gala. She’s back this morning, I see.

The storm I dreaded might spoil our porch time (and the grilled chicken) never came. But the clouds piled up in interesting shapes. Pareidolia Party, anyone? And as the sun went low, a bright prism popped up: Sundog! I declared. What? they said?

I thought everybody knew sundogs. They are formed from sunlight shining through a gently-settling layer of “diamond dust” way up, bending the light exactly to a pair of focal points 22 arc degrees to either side of the sun. Why sundogs? Why not sun-cats? Because they “dog” or track the sun. Maybe? Parahelion is another name.

A lone-wolf sundog, west of Floyd

Then, out of nowhere around 6pm appeared a gazillion “blind mosquitoes” rising and falling in dense clouds against the dark woods, moving like wraiths of fog, slowly northward. It was a midge orgy. If you’ve missed this experience: congrats.

Midges are spindly weak-flying insects (they are not flies, not gnats, not mosquitoes) that start life in water, some species as “bloodworms” and are important food for dragonflies, bats, water beetles. Not so good for windshields.

I suspect our swarm of the hour emerged from a marshy section of Dodd Creek that passes under the hardtop, a half mile from here. They used to arise by the thousands out of Goose Creek, fifty feet from the house. Not our favorite natural happening.

Final zoology note: Turns out that a midge is the largest land animal in Antarctica. So we don’t recommend stopping at the Greater Antarctic Petting Zoo when you’re in the area. You’ll be disappointed.

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fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

2 thoughts on “Simple Pleasures”

  1. Gorgeous photo, Fred, and no, I had not heard of “sundogs.” I agree that socially distanced small gatherings with deer that pose at just the right time are sublime.

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