Wednesday, May 26, 2010

WAKE UP CALL

I don't mind getting older, truly, but there are little things that do tend to make you sit up and take notice. The most recent and frequent reminder: labels. I am still trying to reconcile the fact that I must now hold small print farther away from my face, not closer, in order to read it. And yes, I do have reading glasses. Quite a few pairs, actually, scattered in strategic locations throughout the house (and office and purse). Using them consistently is another matter entirely. I will admit to being of an age to need them, but I'm not quite ready to admit how frequently these days the need arises.

I have always been a morning person (just ask my mother) and, once I outgrew a neurotic tendency to not want to get out of bed as a baby (my mother blames herself for that; it seems that morning person or not, once upon a time I was difficult to put to bed and in some twist of toddler logic therefore didn't want to get out of bed in the morning. Mom also accepts the blame for my quite early interest in birdwatching; she used "Let's go look at Daddy Redbird!" as a means to entice me out of bed), getting up in the morning has never really been an issue. (Well, not for me, anyway; my college dorm mates may have thought otherwise. It's lucky the cleaning crew never found me tied up and left in a shower stall; it's possible this never happened merely because no one else was ever awake enough at six in the morning to take me on. I scheduled all of the 8 am classes I possibly could, and mourned [and moaned] the entire semester when a class I wanted or needed was only offered in the afternoon…) Add to this fine-at-5am/sh*t-for-brains-after-3pm trait a very good internal clock (on the whole quite convenient, unless for some reason I want to sleep in late) and I have been quite content over the years.

Unfortunately, whether due to age itself or sleep apnea or whatever, bouncing out of bed upon waking has not been an option for some years now. My body, perhaps, is finally realizing how pleasant it is to simply doze in that wonderful state of not-quite-awake, but not-really-asleep-either. The cats, for the most part, allow me this little luxury; they may start to get restless when they realize I am not completely unconscious (they catch on slightly sooner than I do that I'm waking up) but they haven't yet figured out that lying on my chest is not conducive to getting me out of the bed. (First Cat Franklin, if he's feeling pushy, applies the somewhat more effective method of pat-pat-patting me on the face; this generally works, so long as he is not lying on my chest while doing so…)

This morning was typical of our start-of-the-day routine—me dozing, two cats perched on my chest, Franklin somewhere on the bed deciding if face-patting was in order—when we received an unusual (but not quite unprecedented) wake-up call. As I've mentioned before, living in the country brings with it circumstances not typical for the average urban or even suburban person. The neighbors' roosters don't really count; the dove and pigeon I keep in the house are better at announcing imminent sunrise (although they are not always reliable; the firehouse siren half a mile away will set them off, even at two or three in the morning when someone who is drunk or too tired to be driving misses one of our blind curves). This morning we were forced into more-or-less complete wakefulness by the heavy drone of an aircraft engine seemingly flying right through the back yard. "Aha, the mosquito commission is out bright and early today!" The following-on thought to that was "Hmm, that's a pretty solid-sounding engine for a skeeter commission helicopter." (They have those dainty little helicopters that look a bit like insects themselves.)

Now, living where I do means that we have very active airspace in addition to the mosquito commission's fleet being located just down the road. Being on the Mid-Atlantic coast puts us under pretty much every eastern continental route north to south and transatlantic flights west to east. Being on a peninsula in a state with many military facilities makes for quite a variety of overhead vehicle traffic above and beyond domestic flights. (On slow migration days, the guys counting hawks on the Point also tally aircraft.) Being on one of flight paths out of Dover (the aircraft that come out of there are sometimes just downright scary, and the really big ones seem to come in at least pairs or even threes) and the in/out routes of Philadelphia, with minor airports scattered about as well, simply amplifies the effect. Living a few scant miles (as the crow—or helicopter—flies) to the only regional hospital, a respectable amount of undeveloped land, and a Coast Guard base means semi-frequent fly-overs by med-evac (twice yesterday alone), police and search-and-rescue helicopters of many persuasions. Add news filming choppers, banner planes, and the occasional ultra-lite or stunt plane enthusiast (yes, they still exist although I haven't seen one in some years) and we do indeed have very busy airspace. (Not to belittle the significance of the event, but the clear and quiet skies after 9/11 were absolutely incredible…)

So the close deep drone of an aircraft engine winging past my window at a bit after 6am, although somewhat earlier than perhaps was polite, wasn't unusual in and of itself. But the particular sound it was making, and the fact that it came around again for another and then another pass, was. In my half-awake state I finally decided it was too smooth to even be a helicopter. "If it's a banner plane practicing its pick-up runs this early and this close inland" (there seems to be a landing strip or two for this purpose over the marshy areas close to the Delaware Bay but none near my place that I knew of), "I won't be happy." That thought was quickly followed by the realization, as I gave up and got up, that the engine was far too, well, healthy sounding to be that of one of the banner planes. (What keeps those nasty little things in the air is anybody's guess; at least one a year is forced to make an emergency landing somewhere in the county.)

As I stumbled my way through the house (the necessity of coffee to really get my day going is another of those "you are getting older" signals I could do without), I continued to hear the rumble of an aircraft flying back and forth close by. The brain finally kicked into gear—without caffiene!—but it took me a bit longer to decide to grab the camera and run out to try for a shot at photos or, preferably, video for this blog post. I had finally figured out what was I hearing.

This morning was one of the few times I curse the desire for trees that led me to this place. I couldn't actually see from the house or yard what was making all of noise for the blasted trees! And I should know better than to ignore the low battery light on my camera; it always goes when you need more power for, say, lots of photos. Or video. (Luckily, I do keep the extra battery charged so I can quickly change out the dying one.) And although not at all self-conscious about my appearance, standing on the shoulder of a major highway in nothing but a fleecey pink robe covered in hearts is beyond something even I would do, so I wasted more precious moments scrambling into clothes. Then there was the decision to make whether to walk or drive up the road for a look-see. How close was he, anyway? There's that field right next door, but I can't be certain where he actually is because I can't see for the trees! Arrrrgh.

Driving was the faster option. Too bad I live on a really busy highway—and who knew so many people went to work so early? I missed an excellent opportunity to have had a re-enactment of North by Northwest (sans Cary Grant, more's the pity) to show you! But by the time I parked (the second time) safely and out of the glare of the rising sun, naturally the plane had made its last pass and was gone.

Rats. Back home I went to start our daily routine (which included making a pot of coffee). I had just managed to get medicine into my four feline patients (two routine, and the two ill ones who are recovering nicely) and was ready to begin serving out the morning meal to all (but hadn't yet managed to pour myself a cup coffee) when I heard the rumble again. Sorry, kids, be right back… I chose to hoof it this time. (I do drive a monster truck and I try to limit its use to limit its impact. One brief unnecessary and unsuccessful trip this day/week/month was enough.)

Hee-hee-hee. Yes, six in the morning is perhaps a bit early for it even living in the sticks, and it certainly can't be very "green" (simply being human in today's world isn't very green, if you want to split hairs), but being able to watch a prop-driven, yellow bi-plane crop-dusting in the light of the rising sun on a bright spring morning, especially in these days of high technology, is still pretty damn cool, don't you think?

NOTE: For the full effect, make sure your sound is turned on...

video

[Apologies for the rough video; at least it actually posted! I wasn't sure it would, given the frustrations of getting it from the camera to the web and that this was the first time using a newer edition of a software program I never learned how to run properly in the first place, which wasn't being as intuitive as I expect most of my Mac stuff to be. (I may have, however, figured a way to re-orient a vertically-shot video! If I can find the command again and if the program actually does what it says when it offers an "orientation" setting...)]