The coming of winter means black skimmers

I’ve never been very good at the whole New Year’s reflection and resolution-making routine. I’m more of a cycles person. I prefer marking time by watching the seasons come and go, and enjoying the uniqueness, and the familiarity, of each.

This is the start of my third winter in Jax, and I’m getting the hang of what to expect.

Winter in Jax is cool enough to empty the beaches of swimmers and sun worshipers most days, leaving plenty of room for walkers, runners, cyclists, fishermen, kite-fliers, treasure hunters swinging metal detectors hoping to find something wonderful hidden in the sand, and sea birds. Large flocks gather on the beach during the winter months, most of them a mix of two or three types of gulls and terns, sandpipers and willets.

Black Skimmers and sea birds pic

Black Skimmers and friends on Jax Beach, 2012

Winter also means groups of Black Skimmers will gather along the shore. Their dark feathers and bright orange beaks jump out in contrast to the whites, greys, and browns of most of the shore birds, sand, sea foam, and cold weather surf. This is the only time of year when the black skimmers are local and they don’t stay more than a couple of months before moving on. But while they’re here, they add a bit of interest to my shoreline walks.

More skittish of humans than our year round birds, the black skimmers tend to stay bunched together and when disturbed they usually fly off and land again as a group. During one of my walks last year a flock repeatedly flew beautiful black and orange arcs out over the water each time I got close. I’m looking forward to their return later this month, just as I anticipate the flowers dotting the dunes in spring, the summer heat that restricts my walks to early or late and prompts beach goers to set up rainbow and gem colored umbrellas, and the fall nor’easters that rough up the surf and send ashore all kinds of things previously claimed by the sea.

These patterns and routines free my mind so that I can create and build worlds with words. The occasional splash of color, wheel and swoop, beds of shells and sea glass, or stray beached baby shark, remind me to notice the different and unique among the known and familiar. I need both, in the right balance, to inspire my best writing.

My business writing happens year round, of course, on the client’s timetable. But my personal writing tends to be a bit seasonal. In the winter I mostly revise, refresh, and plan new projects that I’ll tackle in the spring and hopefully complete by late fall.

By the time the skimmers arrive I’ll have already settled into my winter beach routine and the windy, chilly days when I walk more briskly and with my hood up will be commonplace. Wonderfully familiar but customary, until I see that first black skimmer. Then my imagination will fly.

Black Skimmers pic

Black Skimmers fly by on Jax Beach, 2012

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