Wednesday, July 29, 2015


I feel a little wilted today, but thankfully the Zinnias like it hot. It seems the hotter it gets, the more they thrive. They are like okra with beautiful blossoms.

Today was the deadline for my column. I had the first draft written last week (I was on a roll), but when I looked at it today, it seemed ragged as a beggars jacket.

I must have written and rewritten the column a half dozen times before it got close. When Jilda read over it, she found a number of issues.

So it was back to the drawing board. A few hours later, I was sick of it and sent it on its merry way.

Afterwards, I put on my walking shoes and went outside. Long before I reached the barn, it looked as if I'd entered a wet tee shirt contest...actually, that conjured up a picture that is better left in the mind's closet.

On the way back to the house, I passed the garden and the row of Zinnias that Jilda planted. She'd posted a beautiful picture of them on her blog a few days ago, but I decided to do a copycat tonight and shoot one for mine.

The weekend is supposed to be cooler. Let's hope the weatherman is not on crack.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A room with a view

My office at work was small.  No, our kitchen is office was tiny.  It was slightly larger than the closet across the hall where the maintenance guy kept his mop, but it was cozy.

The assistant to the college dean came to me a few weeks ago and told me they'd found a better office for me but it would take a while to get budgets approved, and work scheduled. The office needed painting and flooring.

This week the maintenance guys were toiling away down the hall. I wasn't sure what project they were working on, until the maintenance supervisor asked me yesterday if I was ready to move.

When I walked down to check out my new space, it was much bigger than my closet and it had a window. I smiled when I stepped inside and sat in my new chair.

There's something about having a window. I noticed students coming and going across the courtyard. I couldn't hear the birds, but I could see them flitting from limb to limb in the cherry trees just outside my window.

I have shelves, and cabinets to store all the supplies I use for my job instead of having everything crammed in boxes under my desk and in the corner.

My office now has good feng shui and what not. I think the move may have made me smarter.

At one point I got up and walked outside to stretch my legs. I snapped a photo watermelon colored crepe myrtles blooming in the courtyard.

When I returned to my desk, I launched the streaming app on my computer and listened to cello music while I worked. I love having a room with a view.

Monday, July 27, 2015

When a tree falls ~ my column is Sunday's paper

The storm that blew through last Tuesday took two trees down in my yard. When I went outside with the flashlight I expected the worst, but as it turns out, they did only minor damage to my fence and chicken pen.

I was feeling a little smug about the whole thing until I walked outside the next morning. The wind had broken another tree off at the ground and it was leaning toward the house.

I called the guy who does tree work for me but he was slammed. He said he would not be able to get to me until the following week. I still felt like I was beating the odds.

Perhaps the god of mirth thought I was taking the leaning tree of Empire too lightly. Or maybe she thought I had nothing better to do on a Sunday morning so she had some fun at my expense.

Jilda and I were getting ready to go to the outlet mall in Leeds to buy me some new shoes. I think the first Bush was in the White House the last time I bought shoes, and they served me well but were looking a little gnarly.

The weather app on my iPhone chirped at 9 a.m. announcing a heat advisory. It was already as hot as Satan’s sauna with the mercury lifting upwards more rapidly than the last NASA space launch. The air was as still as a vacuum.

We’d debated whether to simply stay inside and drink ice tea, but I really needed shoes.

Our niece Samantha and our great nephew Jordan decided to go with us and she volunteered to drive.

We told her we’d leave at 11 a.m. Most of the time she keeps a tighter schedule than Amtrack. I think she wears an atomic watch on her right wrist and consults it frequently. Jilda was folding her yoga blankets, and I was updating a website before we headed out. Just then we heard cracking sounds, followed by a WAAUUMMMPPPPPHH!

Jilda bolted out of the laundry room, which is the closest room to the driveway, and yelled, “The tree fell, the tree fell!”

My heart lurched to my chest because I knew it was time for Samantha to be pulling into our driveway.

I bolted out the front door and ran...yes even with gimpy knees, I ran out the front door with my heart pounding. When I got to the driveway, I drew up short, leaned over with my hands on my knees.

I was thankful Samantha and Jordan weren’t in my driveway, but the tree had centered the roof of my truck, smashing the top of the cab down to the steering wheel. Only pine needles had brushed the side of the house.

Standing for a moment to let my heart retreat from my throat back to my chest, I took a mental inventory: The house was unharmed, our youngun’s were safe and the vehicle is insured. Believe it or not, I was thankful.
Picture from the screen porch with my old truck in the back ground.  It was
taken last spring.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The upside

It's been an interesting week so we had nothing planned today. It felt good to resolve the vehicle dilemma by finding a good truck and a good price. But the yard was still a mess.

Thankfully the insurance company paid to have a tree guy come and remove the tree from my old truck and clean up the driveway, but I still had a mountain of debris in my yard. The initial storm blew down two trees that did no structural damage to our property, but they left a mess to clean up.

My mission today was to eliminate snake havens so I needed to burn pine mountain. I got on it early and soon flames were reaching over 20 feet into the sky.  The tops of nearby pine and sweet gum trees danced and swayed as the heat from the flames rose.

I pulled a chair out of the radius of heat, but the day needed no help from the fire to be hot. Walking over to the outside faucet, I turned the hosepipe on my face and neck. The sweat had already soaked me to the bone, so a little city water wouldn't hurt.

A breeze out of the east kicked up and it almost felt good outside.

After the rage left the fire, I left it to burn the pine slowly. All it would need would be for me to step out from time to time and rake the ends toward the center.  By this evening, all that was left was a hump of gray ash.

Our niece Samantha and her son Jordan came over to walk this evening. I heard him squealing at the front door before they knocked.

"There's a cloud over YOUR house," he announced. "And it's raining." I'd just looked at the Weather Channel and rain seems as rare as a pearl in an oyster. But when we stepped out back for our walk, I saw that Jordan was was raining.

We were all still a little wilted and decided a little rain would do us good. Halfway through our walk,
the bottom fell out and drenched us. We all started laughing uncontrollably. I'm not sure why, but we did. The rain felt refreshing on my skin.

Tonight I stopped at the sink to drink a glass of water before heading to the office to write this entry. When I looked out the window, a deer was under the apple tree munching on the corn I'd left there earlier.

It occurred to me that life throws stuff at you each day and you have a choice. You can get all stompy-footy and pout, or you can look for the upside.

I've learned that it's a lot more fun looking for the upside.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Happy camper

Thanks to all you well wishers out there. The ony snafu about the truck deal was that since I'm not from the town where the truck was located, they wanted cash. I knew that yesterday after talking to them briefly about the truck.

So at 8:30 this morning, I was at the bank's drive through cashing a very large check. The window drawer looks like the mechanical jaws of some prehistoric creature. After sliding the check into the jaws, the head teller came over to my window. She had a pensive look on her face as if she were about to deliver some bad news. I feared she say they would have to wait until the insurance check cleared before cashing my check. But that didn't happen. She said, I'm going to have to give you some of this in small bills. I breathed a sigh of relief.

A few moments later she shoved an envelop stuffed with cash through the jaws. I feared it looked the proceeds from selling a trunk full of drugs. I'm guessing that had I been stopped by police, they would have assumed I was a dealer and beaten me senseless with a hose before I could explain that I was only going to buy a truck. Thankfully, there were no authorites in the area.

When I got to the used car dealership the truck sitting at by the road looked exactly like my truck. Jilda parked the Honda and we got out for a look. The truck was as clean as my old truck. When I looked at the odemeter, it had almost half the miles as my truck had. There was one small dent in the hood, otherwise it looked great.

The center of the seats were tan where mine were gray and the truck was an automatic with cruise controll. Otherwise it could have been mistaken for my truck sitting there...well except for my truck now has a caved in roof, bursted windshield, back glass, and a bale of pine needles in the bed.

I drove it around the block and everything worked as expected.  It wound up costing me $300 more than my settlement because I'd forgotten to include taxes and other expenses associated with transfering ownership to me. But this truck had tires and a battery that were practically new.

When I pulled onto the Interstate, I rolled down the windows, jacked up the stereo, set the cruise controll, and pointed that baby home.

I am a happy camper.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Truck hunting

Truck hunting was a little depressing today. It seems most of the places I looked were quite fond of their used trucks. In fact, I could buy a new truck for what some of them wanted for a 5 year-old-truck.

I had not made payments on my old truck in 10 years and making payments is something I do not cherish.

I came home hot and tired. Jilda made me a glass of ice tea and I was cooling my brow when I decided to see what I could find on Craigslist. As it turns out, a dealership up near Berkeley Bob's Coffee House has a truck exactly like my old truck. When I checked the mileage and price, the truck had 80,000 fewer miles and was less that $200 more than my settlement check.

Jilda and I are going up tomorrow to check it out. If it looks as good as the pictures, I'll drive that baby home.

I'll say a little truck prayer tonight.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Magical time

Dusk is a magical time. Carlos Constanada wrote about it in his books, but I knew it long before I read his words.

At the intersection of light and dark, the sounds, smells and things you see are more vivid. And if you were to frame them in visual terms –– more vivid.

Bats dart and dance using advanced built-in radar technology to find and eat their weight in mosquitos.

The hooting of owls is also deceiving. You can't tell if they are distant or near. Whooo, whooo, whooo. Sometimes if you listen closely you can hear the female answer. Whoo, whoo. And the courtship begins.

Jilda didn't feel well today, so I ran to the nearest Chinese restaurant for some chicken and vegetables ans well as a helping of hot and sour soup, which is known to have restorative powers, at least in our household.

The sky was turning from blue to light grey and I decided to take an extra moment to swing through the parking lot at the forks of the river.

There was still a few fisherfolk tossing lures into the emerald water trying to catch a fish.

I rolled down the window and snapped a few photos before darkness fell. I know Constanada wrote about the desert, but it's hard for me to believe it's more magical than the river at dusk.

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