Sunday, July 04, 2010

Fourth of July Wander

My usual Sunday constitutional took a few not-so-normal twists today, and I ended up in a place I don't usually visit before coming back to where I left off. Don't worry, that'll make sense in a little bit.

The first visit was to Ballard Park, where this very obliging male American Goldfinch posed for me on the branch of one of the Quaking Aspens in the grove in the Quarry Meadow. I left the park soon after taking these pictures because the place was invaded by a gang of loud, noisy, foul-mouthed college age types who spoiled the atmosphere and sent all the critters (except for the clouds of Dragonflies cruising over the tall grass of the meadow) running for cover.

I headed down Hazard Rd. toward Gooseneck Cove when my birding buddy Mark pulled up next to me, with Leo (his 14-year-old Jack Russell) in the passenger seat, both with looks on their faces that said "C'mon, you know you want to go for a ride!" But first we took a look at the Egrets - a Snowy and a bunch of Greats - and a Belted Kingfisher who were hanging out. I got a shot of the Snowy, but we'll come back to that because I came back after the rest of our trip was done.

Meanwhile, we went down the road and visited Tern Rock down by the Green Bridge along the southern end of Gooseneck Cove. The fuzzy little Common Tern chicks were out and about on the rock, but not yet old enough to start learning to fly.

After that we went over to Brenton Point State Park; unfortunately the place was packed solid with no place to park. There wasn't much to keep us there anyhow; there wasn't enough of a breeze to get the usual contingent of kites in the air, and who wants to watch people cooking hot dogs on grills? So we went over to Castle Hill and walked out to the Castle Hill Light. Since the last time I was out there someone has added some weathered wooden Adirondack chairs in strategic places for viewing the light and the Narragansett Bay beyond.

Mark decided he wanted to sit in one of the chairs for a portrait with Leo in his lap. After I got that I turned around and shot the scene they were looking at. Believe me, it had gotten hot enough by then to really want to be out on the water in one of those boats!

And of course I got a shot of the main reason why we went out there - the Castle Hill Light. It's a well-known landmark on the Newport coastline, and sailors certainly see it as a welcome home after a long spell out on the water.

After that Mark needed to get back home to get some work done, so he dropped me back on Hazard Rd. at the Cove. By now the Great Egret crowd had grown to six and the Snowy was still hanging around. So to finish off our walk for the day, here's the Snowy (top left), a Great Egret (top right), and a trio of Great Egrets fishing in the Cove (bottom).

Since it's the Fourth of July, the celebration of the declaration of the US's independence from Great Britain in 1776, I thought I'd touch on a subject that's apropos to the holiday. As many people who know me are aware, I really think we need a new national anthem. Let's face it, in the eyes of the rest of the world, "The Star Spangled Banner" is an embarrassment! The words are about a battle that really had no undying importance in the war in which it was fought, and it's set to an old, traditional British drinking song called "Anacreon in Heaven"; the part where the melody soars into the stratosphere is where all the drunks would raise their mugs and howl. And as the character Belize in the play and movie Angels In America (played so well by Jeffery Wright in the movie) says about the song: "The white cracker who wrote the National Anthem knew what he was doing. He set the word free to a note so high nobody could reach it. That was deliberate." Yeah, I'm with him; it really needs to go for something more appropriate.

My vote is for "America the Beautiful". The words were written in 1893 by Wellesley College English professor Katherine Lee Bates after a trip to Colorado Springs, and first published two years later in The Congregationalist, to commemorate the Fourth of July.
O beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties

Above the fruited plain!

America! America!

God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet

Whose stern impassioned stress

A thoroughfare for freedom beat

Across the wilderness.

America! America!

God mend thine ev'ry flaw,

Confirm thy soul in self-control,

Thy liberty in law.

O beautiful for heroes proved

In liberating strife,

Who more than self their country loved,

And mercy more than life.

America! America!

May God thy gold refine

Till all success be nobleness,

And ev'ry gain divine.

O beautiful for patriot dream

That sees beyond the years

Thine alabster cities gleam

Undimmed by human tears.

America! America!

God shed his grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea.
Now that's more like it! Much more visual, lots of pointing out great things to look at. and touching on some of our history, not just one battle. The poem was eventually set to
a hymn tune composed by Samuel A. Ward, and that's how we sing it today. And it has been especially well preformed by the late, great Ray Charles. I really think the official version of "America the Beautiful" as our national anthem needs to be Brother Ray's version. Somebody give me an "AMEN!"

My fellow Americans, have a great Fourth! And eat lots of hot dogs and drink lots of good beer!

Photos & text © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger


  1. America the Beautiful would be a big step in the right direction! I love those Adirondack chairs--perfect 7/4 outing.

  2. Agreeing with John here( I'll rest all political comments at this time... )

    Love, love, loooove the baby Egret pic...and th' lighthouse :)

  3. Gorgeous photos and beautiful day. Isn't it funny we're both not enamoured of our national anthems. I agree that Star Spangled Banner is bloody awful. As for us, Advance Australia Fair has us 'girt' by sea whatever that is! Yep America the beautiful is pretty good and easy to sing. Although I can't tell you how much I hate any patriotic lyric that brings God into the picture.

  4. This land is your land, this land is my land
    From California to the New York Island
    From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
    This land was made for you and me.