Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005: The Wrap-up

It's New Year's Eve - time to look back at the year that was before the next one comes crashing down on us.

What a year. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Mostly it was a time of hard work, major setbacks, and big changes.

In January I met Michelle. In February we were engaged. In March she moved in with me (funny how fast things can happen). Since then we've had to deal with medical emergencies, a few minor crises, and a natural disaster or two.

In April the birding world was rocked by the announcement that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was alive and residing in Arkansas. The initial excitement of the discovery has since then been dampened by months of unproductive searching, a lack of definitive proof, and growing skepticism about the validity of the original sightings.

Intrigued by the possibility that IBWOs might also persist in the riverbottoms of southeast Texas, I began following the trail of old unsubstantiated reports, and made a few tentative trips into the Big Thicket this past summer. I explored some interesting habitat and enjoyed the birding, but found no trace of IBWOs. I had planned to continue searching in the fall, but as John Lennon once said, "life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." There are those unexpected - usually unwanted - events that come along and change everything. All plans came to a sudden halt when Hurricane Rita slammed into the Texas Coast in September.

We evacuated to Tyler, TX., and took up temporary residence in a handball court at Tyler Community College. A disaster area awaited us when we finally returned to Lumberton. By some miracle our home was intact (although it'll need a new roof), but many big trees uprooted and fell, and there was destruction all around. At first we were without electricity, but thanks to Troy we had a generator until power was restored. Life has slowly returned to normal (cleanup and repairs continue), but the last three months have been a very stressful and unsettling time for everyone.

Throughout this trying time Michelle also had the task of planning and organizing our impending wedding, which will take place next month in Mandeville. Unfortunately, Mandeville is one of the communities near New Orleans that was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. As might be expected, there have been a few setbacks. But through it all Michelle remained determined, and managed to overcome the obstacles that the fates have conspired to put between us and marital bliss. The wedding will proceed, come hell or high water (and I mean, literally, come hell or high water). Hurricane Rita further tested the strength of our relationship, and I'm glad to say we weathered the storm(s).

As I sit here, writing, the quiet is occasionally punctuated by the loud bangs of rockets detonating, and barrages of what sounds like mortar fire. There's a burn ban in effect due to drought, but fireworks are very popular around here. In fact there's a fireworks emporium located directly across the highway from our home in the swamp, and they must be having a busy night there. The store is closed for most of the year, but opens up for New Years and July 4th.

Well it's getting late, the year 2005 is now passing into history, and I must go to bed before long. I'm looking forward with hope and optimism to a better year ahead - bring on 2006!


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