Saturday, February 06, 2016

Taxes

I finished the first draft of the profile I'm writing for the paper before lunch today. Afterwards, I decided to jump into the next thing on my to-do list that I've been dreading...TAXES.

After about four hours sifting through drawers, online records, and filling out spreadsheets, I had to take a break. The wind was cool but the sun was warm so it was a cinch getting my 10k steps. At one point, the sun highlighted a broken limb with fungi the color of porcelain.

Afterwards, I made myself a cup of hot peppermint tea and headed back to the office into hell.  Jilda called to me from the kitchen after 6 P.M. saying dinner was served. Those words were like a song to me because I was about three decimal places away from jabbing a #2 pencil  into my temple and twisting it.

Why can't the government simply take my word for it. Hey dude, I think I owe you about 25 bucks, do you take checks?

But NO, they want proof. Receipts that I trip over in December, but become completely invisible when it's time to do the taxes.

I tell you I'd rather have a wisdom tooth gouged out with a Phillips-head screwdriver while donating a kidney than work on taxes...!@#$$#$%^^&!!!&&&&&.


Friday, February 05, 2016

Screen doors

I moved Jilda's yoga blankets from the back seat of her car to the side porch this morning before heading to town to buy groceries. As I reached for the porch handle, I noticed that the bottom section of the aluminum door had a place that looked odd. A closer look and I realized the material used as the core for the door is separating and soon there will be a hole there.

I'm a little miffed because this is the second door I've installed out there. Both were aluminum storm doors and both had issues in about the same place.

Driving to town, I made up my mind to buy an old fashion door made of wood and screen. We had them in the old place where we grew up and they worked just fine.

I smiled as I recalled that old screen door. One hidden benefit of the door that didn't appear in the advertising literature is that I could tell my mother's mood by the sound the old screen door made as it closed.

She was usually content in the evenings when she stepped out on the front porch to wait for my dad to drive into the yard after work. The keeper spring made a sound that was almost like a yawn, and she'd catch the door with her fingers so that it would lightly tap the jamb.

If on the other hand, she was aggravated at me or one of the other kids in the neighborhood, the spring made a sound like a guitar string being tuned WAY too high and when the door slapped the jamb it sounded like a gunshot. That old door lasted until they tore the old house down.

So the next screen door I get will be made of hickory or pine. I'll keep it varnished and it will outlast me.

Ivy on an oak tree by the gate to the barn.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Spidering the sky

I knew it would be a beautiful day today by the color of the dappled light coming through the front windows where we drink our morning coffee. The birds got busy early at the feeders eating seed and pecking at the frozen fountain. 

When I headed to work, the windshield looked as if it were covered with a gauze blanket. I had to scrape frost as thick as a playing card off before I could back from the driveway.

By midmorning, the sun had warmed things up nicely. When it came time to eat a bite of lunch, I took my soup out to the courtyard and sat alone at one of the picnic tables. I had to weigh down the napkins to keep them from blowing off with my crackers and stick cheese. The wind reminded me that it was still February and not yet warm enough to swim. But still, it felt fresh and rare.

After work, I headed home but Jilda had just left for her job so I focused on the profile I'm writing. I'm waiting on sources who once worked at The Washington Post to call me back but it didn't happen today so I filled in other gaps in the piece.

Still short a few steps, I decided to walk before sundown. I put on sweatpants and a sweatshirt but without the sun, it was a chilly walk.  

I snapped a photo of the sky just after sunset. I know I've shot similar pictures before, but the creative ones I tried to shoot looked lame, so I trashed them and went with the trees spidering the sky. It's hard to go wrong with pictures of the sky.


 

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Picture post

I walked this morning and caught the sun highlighting the trunk of an old hickory tree in the barnyard. Moss and ferns have hit a growth spurt on the old tree, but I don't think it minds. I'm fresh out of words tonight, so I think this will be a picture post. I'll do better tomorrow.




Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Weather walking

The threat of bad weather closed the schools early today. The college where I work closed early as well, so I headed home to work for a while.

Once finished, I decided to get some steps in before writing.  After a lap, rain began to fall, so I cut my walk short so not to get my Fitbit wet. 

A few minutes later, the rain moved off, but the high-level roar of the wind sounded like distant thunder.

After a few more laps, the skies brightened a few stops (a photographic term), and I sat on the concrete blocks that form the flowerbed around the wild black cherry tree at the barn.

During winter with the leaves on the ground, I can see for miles to the south. The clouds today were stacked on the horizon, and the upper layer looked like a sooty meringue. One moment the air felt warm as early spring, and the next it felt December like.

Tonight we spent time watching the weatherman, but we just got the all clear, and hopefully we'll get some sleep tonight. 

For the folks north of us, keep your eyes on the sky.









Monday, February 01, 2016

Cracking walnuts ~ My column from Sunday's paper

It’s interesting what triggers memories. An aroma, souvenir, or a ticket torn in half from a movie I saw in 1993 can unleash a flood from somewhere deep in my brain, and for a few moments, I relive that experience. I had one of those recently, and it gave me the idea for this column.

Last week while on my way to New Orleans, I stopped at a place in Meridian, Mississippi to eat. As I stood in line at the counter waiting to pay for lunch, I saw a muffin under glass. It called out to me, and I had the waitress put it in a bag for the road. 

A few hours later when the road stripes began to hypnotize me, I stopped at a fast food place and bought a hot coffee. Once on the road, I pulled the muffin from my brown paper sack and took a bite of heaven. It tasted like my mama's banana nut bread that she made with black walnuts.

There are few things I like as much as banana nut bread with black walnuts though I’ve had a few muffins through the years that came close. The muffins with pecans aren’t bad, and the ones with blueberries are tasty, but if given the choice, I go for the ones with walnuts every time.

There was a grove of black walnut trees standing near the old homeplace where I was born. We didn't live there long, but we always lived within a short bicycle ride away. Every year in late summer and early fall, my mom would send me down there to gather nuts the size of lemons. 

The only downside was a dark substance that coated the shells which made them a little messy to handle. After an afternoon's work, my stained hands looked as if I'd been spreading tar on the roadbed. 

Gathering the walnuts was the easy part. Next came the real chore. Cracking the armor to get at the goodie required heavy tools like hammers and anvils. It was brutal work. 

After the demolition phase came the most delicate operation of digging the goodie out with a knitting needle, and the final inspection. The inspection process took special care because one piece of the shell, which I’m convinced is harder than diamond, would crack a tooth. I learned this the hard way.  

I don't think anyone could have paid me enough money to do this job, but as I sat there beating my thumb and fingers bloody cracking nuts, I could smell the aroma of my mama's banana nut bread baking in the oven, and taste the warm bread as it almost melted in my mouth.

These days, the work of gathering and cracking black walnuts is automated. Machines go about whacking and through some automated magic, separate the meat from the hulls.

Most of the time progress is great, and technology can make our lives much easier, but I doubt a banana nut muffin on the road to New Orleans would have triggered such a vivid memory had they not bloodied a finger or two cracking black walnuts.


Me behind my older sister near the old place.



Sunday, January 31, 2016

Bipolar blues

I think Mother Nature was off her meds today because the sky was bipolar. One moment it was the color of a topaz ring and the next moment it looked like a thunderstorm was imminent.  

We had errands this morning but were napping on the couch before having a late lunch. After eating, Jilda did things around the house as I compiled research on a story that'd due this coming week.

Cabin fever set in so we headed out for a walk. I had on a short-sleeve shirt, but the wind out of the west was a little chilly, so Jilda jacketed up.

By the time my band buzzed saying I'd reached my daily goal of 10K steps, my shirt was wet enough to ring out. 

This evening, I finished up with the first edit of my next book. I fixed all the errors that my friend Marti found, and I printed out an updated copy for Jilda and my friend Asa Faith. They take another look at the manuscript to see what they can find.

If there's one thing I've learned as a writer, it's that you need eyes on your work before it goes to print because afterward it's too late.   I'm grateful for friends (and my lovely wife) who are willing to help me be the best I can be.

I hope you all have a remarkable week.


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