Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Another good day

The garden needed more attention today. That's not unusual for this time of year. Most people lose interest in gardening when the temps climb into the 90s, and weeds spread like a common cold at Walmart.

Also, the soil over the last few weeks baked harder than beginner's biscuits, and I could almost hear the roots gasping for air.

So before the sun cleared the pines to the east this morning, I aerated the roots of the tomatoes, watermelon, peppers, squash, and okra. 

Dried leaves left over from autumn from a shady area under the water oak would make perfect mulch I decided. So I raked and loaded them into the wheelbarrow, before hauling them to the garden.  

Each plant got a healthy pile of mulch around their roots to protect the area from the brutal sun of August. Uncoiling a length of hosepipe, I soaked the roots through the mulch. This should keep the area around the roots moist, so they need less water over time

Perspiration soaked through my clothes by the time the mail lady ran. Stepping down to the box, I pulled two checks from the stack.  Freelancer's love when money comes in instead of going the other direction.

Back in the yard, I saw a purple rose-a-sharon sunbathing, so I snapped a picture for the blog. I decided to have fun with Photoshop. I hope you'll forgive me.

A cool front moved through this afternoon, sweeping the atmosphere clean of the haze that hot weather puts there. Scattered white clouds made the sky look like the skies out west. 
All in all, another good day here in Empire.

Monday, July 28, 2014

An old Army Buddy ~ My Column from Sunday's paper

A dream last night about an old Army buddy sparked an idea for this week’s column. We haven't talked in over 20 years, but I think about him often.

Doug McGraw and I transitioned out of the Army in early spring 1973. I moved back home that spring and tried to find work so I could begin the next phase of my life. The phone rang one evening and my mom answered it. She chatted with someone for a while before calling me to the phone. It’s your friend Doug.

“Why don’t you come visit? The weather’s nice here in Virginia, and there’s a lot to see,” he said. That sounded like a great idea. I packed my duffel bag with a change of clothes, and fetched what money I had from between the pages of mama’s Bible. The only fly in the ointment was I didn't have a car.

The next morning I walked down the hill from our house to the main road and stuck out my thumb. Hitchhiking can be a tricky business and I'd mentally prepared myself for a long wait, but after a few minutes, a Lincoln Continental slowed. The gravel crunched under the tires as he steered off the road. The automatic glass on the passenger side whispered down and the driver leaned over to size me up through the open window. “Where are you headed?” he asked.  I told him I was on my way to visit an Army buddy in Virginia. “You're in luck. Throw your bag in the back and hop in,” he said.

As it turns out, the traveling salesman was ex-military and he was heading through Virginia on a sales call. He drove me to my friend’s front door. It was serendipity.

One of the things that brought Doug and me together in the first place was music. I played guitar, and he wanted to learn.

Often when someone thinks they want to play guitar, they see themselves in a room of adoring fans that shout out requests for the old songs that everyone knows and loves. The luster quickly fades when the tips of their fingers blister as if they were burned. This is when most people stop practicing. Soon their guitars are stored in the corner behind the exercise bike.

But Doug was different. He understood the price he'd have to pay and agreed to take the mangled fingers like a Marine. The hurt would be temporary, but the gift of music would be life long. So one weekend while visiting Fort Sherman, I went with him to buy his first guitar.

It was a long holiday weekend, and on Friday afternoon, we sat down to begin the guitar lessons.

We started with finger positions on the basic chords G-C and D. You can play practically any old country standard with these three chords.  He was a quick study and he “manned up” when his fingertips got tender.

We stayed up from Friday until Monday afternoon by swigging beer and chasing it with mess hall coffee.   We spent a lot of time that weekend laughing, cursing, and having the time of our lives.

By the time he boarded the train to head the 50 miles back to Fort Clayton, our heads were buzzing, his fingers were bleeding, and we were walking zombies, but he knew all the basic chords, and could play any song that Hank Williams ever wrote.

I plan to call Doug tonight to catch up on old times. Hopefully we can plan a road trip and meet somewhere in the middle. I'd love to brew some coffee, tune our guitars, and play music all night.

Zennia Art

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A days work

It was hotter than satan with a sunburned  here yesterday and the weatherman predicted it

would be even hotter today. 

I stepped down to the garden just after coffee to pick tomatoes, squash, pepper, and cut the okra. The soil crunched as I walked through it and  it was obvious it needed a drink. So I watered this morning too. 

After garden chores, I decided to make a couple stepping stones so I mixed up a 40-pound bag of concrete and poured two decorative stepping stones. 

Jilda called down from the deck to say that her sister Nell still had blueberries if we wanted to come pick them. Loading the truck with baskets, we headed out to pick berries.  A gallon later, and we both were wilted. 

By the time we got back home it looked as if we'd hosed each other down. I'm not whining about the heat, just making a statement. 

This evening when the sun went down, I pulled Jilda's Volvo and my truck into the back yard and washed them both.  

Right now, my knees are aching, and my muscles are sore, but I can look around and see the result of a day's work.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Caption this

When I  was in junior high school, I did something bad. I'm hesitant to speak of it even today because I think the high school history teacher, who was ancient at the time, is still living and I fear what he might do if he were to learn of my indiscretion.
I put my own captions on pictures in history books. Most of the captions I can't repeat here. I thought they were hilarious and they made my friends laugh. One friend laughed so hard he snorted RC Cola out his nose. Who knew history could be so entertaining.
I had George Washington saying something obscene on a painting of him  crossing the Potomac. The caption was infantile, but I'm guessing it would be funny to most grownups even now, and disturbing on another level. To pimply kids, humor is an artform.
I also rearranged the "Give Me Liberty or Give me Death" painting into something insightful and perverse. I was gifted at captioning pictures.
I haven't done any captioning in a while but I came across this old photograph of Jilda and me from the 1970s and I thought it might be fun to give you an opportunity to try your hand at captioning pictures..
So my blog friends, below is a picture of Jilda and me. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to caption this photograph.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A magical place

One afternoon this week, Jilda was working late and I'd been to community meetings. 

On the way home I came to a stop sign near the fork of the river. It's actually where the Sipsey Fork and the Mulberry River join to form the Black Warrior River that flows through the heart of Alabama.

Home was to the right, but a stones throw from the stop sign is the finger of land separating the two rivers where they join. I decided to swing in, as if often do, to see what was happening at the forks.

There's a public boat launch here but this particular spot is a unique place on this earth.

Native Americans made their home on this land back before Alabama became a state, but even now  standing there as gentle waters flow to the south feels almost magical. People congregate there year around. 

In the spring when trout, hybrid  bass and other species of fish head upstream to spawn, you can catch fish as big as small children.

My old friend Leo (white shirt) comes here every day. It's almost as if the water of the Black Warrior flows through his veins. He can look at the water, the angle of the sun, mentally calculate the air temperature and tell you if the fish are biting.

People come from all over, park their cars in the shade of pine and poplar trees and fish. Some come to stand and talk. Most just want to feel the magic of this place.  

Pulling in for a moment this week, Leo (pictured in white tee shirt)  told me they hoped to catch a few strip bass. 

Sometimes when you go down there, families with children running around barefoot will eat a picnic lunch on the grass. 
I love this place. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Doctoring up my Coke

While walking early this morning, a butterfly fluttered in front of me as if showing the way. Stopping at the front porch of the creative space, I sat for a while to watch. 

The flitting creature had the same idea and alighted to rest its wings a few feet on the lip of an old Coca Cola bottle the color of emerald.

It flexed its wings as if sizing me up. When it flew away, I continued looking at the Coke bottle. A memory arrived slowly in my conscientiousness like a Polaroid photograph developing.

I was 15 years old at the old high school during break time. Each day I'd buy a Coke and a pack of Tom's roasted peanuts. 

After drinking a few sips to make room, I'd pour the salty peanuts into the Coke and watch it fizz to life. Slurping the frothing soft drink was part to the fun. I loved that combination.
I tried several other things too. M&Ms, and the Kool Aid that came in multicolored striped straws also found their way into my Cokes.

School systems didn't worry that much about cranking the kids up on sweets between classes in those days. But then most of the kids that schooled with me, had stay-at-home moms and ate healthy breakfasts and dinners. 

It's funny what crosses your mind while out walking.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Things I've never done before

Just after coffee, I stepped down to the garden to do some weeding. I stayed on top of it early on, but got busy on several projects for the last two weeks which turned the garden into a jungle. 
I got into the Zen of garden maintenance and a while later my shirt looked as if I'd showered with my clothes on.

I went inside to hydrate and set in front of the box fan we keep in our bedroom for white noise at night.
I cooled off, but before I showered, I decided to do yoga. I've been on a roll the last several weeks and I wanted to continue the trend until it becomes habit.

I headed to the back deck, lit some incense, dialed up some meditation music on Pandora and started my postures.

About five minutes into the session, I felt a cool drop of rain hit my shoulder. Instead of fleeing inside, I put my phone in my pocket to keep it from getting soaked and moved into a warrior one. Looking into the sky, I could see sun off to the east, but overhead were clouds as thick as wood smoke.

The rain picked up, and I focused on the wind in the chimes, and rain ticking on the metal roof. 
I'd never done yoga in the rain, but it felt great. 

By the time I wound down, the clouds had moved off to the west (they usually move in the opposite direction) and the sun bore down

After twenty minutes of meditation, I picked up my mat and laid it across a banister to dry before going inside to shower.

I love doing things I've never done before. 

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