Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thinking about the beach

Looking back at images from the past is interesting. This is a picture of me taken in the summer of 1969. Jilda's family had gone to the beach for the week and I was working at night while going to college. I sort of invited myself to go at the same time.

I headed out Friday afternoon with my cousin Tommy. I had a 1965 Impala SS at the time. It was fire engine red with an engine so powerful, it rattled the windows of nearby houses. We got a room at a hotel down the beach from where Jilda's family was staying.

I was as thin as a refugee when Jilda snapped this photo with her Brownie Instamatic. The color is washed out in this picture, but the gulf water was green as liquid jade. 

Even now as I close my eyes, I can smell the salty surf and hear seagulls squawking as they patrolled the sand seeking crabs and small fish on the shore.

It was before I understood the importance of sunscreen so hours after this picture was taken, I was red as firebrick. My cousin Tommy called me lobster-boy for the rest of the summer.

During the early years of our marriage we spent most every vacation at the beach because it was some place we could go that didn't cost an arm and a leg.

These days we only go once or twice a year.

We plan to go for my birthday in a few months and I'm looking forward to time on the water. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Autumn walk

Last night the temps dipped to 17 degrees which is frosty in this part of the country. Tiny ice crystal formations settled around the bottom edges of the great room glass at the front of our house which faces north.

Even though the sun stood tall in a cloudless sky today, the wind out of the west would cut you like a scythe.

This afternoon I walked with the howling wind and screaming knees. Even when Arthur is kicking my tail, I try to get my exercise in. Setting my timer for 25 minutes, I set out.

When I got to the apple trees, there were about a dozen apples the size of softballs lying on the ground. They'd been basking in the autumn sun at the top of the apple tree, just out of reach of ladders and lifts. But the cold weather brought them to earth.

As I walked past today, I scooped one up, brushed it vigorously on my pant leg as if I were shining it for my favorite teacher.

When I sank my teeth into this apple, I stopped in my tracks and let the juice trickle down my chin as I chewed. It was, without question, the best apple I've ever put into my mouth.

I picked up several more apples and stuffed them into my pockets, knowing that Jilda would make something amazing with them when she got home.

I snapped a photo as I rounded the barn. It's just another example of light, shadow, and too many shades of color to name.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Old photographs

One of my accomplishments this week was cleaning out my closet. Back in the corner where only spiders and wintering mice fear to tread, I found a plastic storage box as big as a footlocker.

Inside the box was a cache of old photographs that belonged to Jilda's mom. We found it store in the back of her closet after she died.

Jilda and I started dating when she was only 16, so I witnessed much of her life and that of her family, but some of these pictures I'd never seen.

I decided to scan these and share them with family, but as I worked Jilda would comment on her memory of the photographs.

The experience was moving. In fact, it's the subject of the column that will appear in Sunday's paper.

I know it's a cliche, but I'll say it once more: Old photographs are what add color to the tapestry of our lives.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ushering November in right ~ my column from Sunday's paper

We had a cookout on the first day of November. It just didn’t seem right that Halloween fell on Friday night and the following day, the kids were still cranked on high fructose corn syrup and their costumes were barely wrinkled. Halloween should definitely be a two-day holiday.

Jilda realized the opportunity a month or so before the end of October and started making plans. Its seems most of the parents were excited about such an event because it would be an opportunity for the kids to run off some of the sugar buzz left over from Halloween.

A call to our niece who is all about fun with the kids was in, and started ordering outside games for kids to play. I’m sure her credit card holders were smiling.

Our nephew Haven was all for it too. This was important too because he has the tractor and trailer we needed for the hayride.

Soon the commitments began rolling in. Jordan, his friends and cousins were excited.

The morning of the hayride, I gathered a truckload of oak and hickory from behind the barn to feed the fire pit. I put fresh charcoal in the grill and took another swipe at sweeping the deck even though I knew by party time it would be thick as a 1970s shag carpet with dried leaves and acorns.

That afternoon, Jilda put on a percolator of hot apple cider. If you’ve never smelled the blending of scents from vases of fresh flowers and brewing hot cider, you still have something to live for. There’s nothing better on a cool autumn afternoon than a cup of warm cider.

The weather was perfect. It was cool in the shade, so the grownups kept moving chaise loungers and chairs to keep them in the afternoon sun, which felt warm to the skin.

The fire pit was a great addition to our yard because the hardwood logs added an almost subliminal soundtrack as they snapped and crackled.

The kids would play until their hands got cold then run up to warm their hands over the fire before darting off to meet the next challenge.

Ella, one of Jordan’s friends from first grade came and stood close to me with her back to the fire warming her legs. I could smell the aroma of wood smoke in her hair and sweater.

It was that kind of day.

When the kids were about to spew from eating hot dogs, s’mores and leftover candy, it was time for the hayride.

Haven fired up the hay-strewn tractor and pulled it up the back of the fence. The trailer quickly filled with kids, grownups, and dogs that weren’t about to miss the excitement.

The tractor slowly puttered down around the barn and up the driveway that is lined with oak, hickory and pine. This time of year the foliage creates a colorful canopy reminiscent of the Old South.

The kids made a game of snagging scarlet and amber leaves as we passed.

When we were almost back to the gate, Haven steered the tractor under our apple tree.

His wife, Alesha, hopped into the tractor bucket, and he lifted her to the upper branches where a few choice apples were hiding. She picked one for all the kids and grownups and a few left over for an apple pie. Ella’s mom later commented on Facebook it was the best apple she’d ever eaten.

By the time everyone left, Jilda and I were whupped, but it was one of those memorable days. We hope the kids that came will remember it with fondness too.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fun gig

We played a gig in Muscle Shoals tonight. It's like music Mecca here in Alabama. The history and tradition here run deep.

Many of the songs you've heard and loved throughout your life were recorded here. There's a PBS special on Muscle Shoals that came out earlier this year and even though I knew the place had a rich history, I had no idea of the depth and breadth.

At any rate, we played a few hours at the The Shoals Songwriter Showcase. After our set, the stage opened up for songwriters in the audience. Almost everyone in the audience was a songwriter.

The support shown at this venue is humbling.

I hope we have the opportunity to play here again.

It rained on the drive up and only got harder as the evening wore on. By the time we loaded up to head for home, I needed water skis  on the Volvo.

Even through the rain, the autumn color was all around us.  The cold weather this week will probably take most of the color with it when it moves on toward the east.  I won't complain because it has been absolutely stunning here.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Cool day in Empire

The weather today's been picturesque. Even with full sun, it was cold enough to wear a jacket when we went out before lunch.

Jilda found an incredible deal on corduroy blazers yesterday, so I slid my arms into the black one today. I felt all distinguished and what not.

When we got back home, I took the dogs for a walk. They love this weather. Both of our critters have a lot of hair and struggle during hot weather, but today they ran with wild abandon.

The coldest weather of the year is marching toward us, so over the next few days I'll need to seal up the chicken house for winter, and wrap the outside faucets.

Thanksgiving will be here before we know it.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Point of view

Life is all about perspective. In time, I've come to understand this simple fact. At 50 thousand feet we all look the same. But a closer look reveals that none of us are exactly alike.

I shot several frames of fall foliage earlier in the week and settled on one particular picture to post here for you.

But tonight as I scanned my recent photos, I came across the frames I didn't pick that day, and an idea twinkled, slightly out of focus,  at the edge of thought.

At the moment I chose the earlier picture, I thought it was the best view, but upon reflection, I wonder.

What is the best view?  Some people like the wide view that shows the entire picture so they can get a sense of the time, place, and feel of the picture.

Others like all the distractive elements cropped out leaving a more austere picture that represents the essence of the subject.

The point is this: Almost everything we hear, see, feel, touch, or taste can be rubbish or exquisite. It depends upon your point of view.

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