Friday, February 28, 2014

Things get older

Jilda and I've had the good fortune to own a few new cars. I mean ones with stickers you have to scrape off with a razor blade. But you wait a few days before removing them so most of your friends realize you have a NEW car.
The smell of the interior, the clicking sound when you flip a switch and the whisper of a new engine are sensory things I remember.
The first few months you notice the odometer when it flips over the first 100 miles, then the first 1000.
But here's the thing. Even a new car, when you drive it off the lot, is then a used car.  Soon you get a ding in the door at Walmart, and you find yourself going a few weeks longer between washings. Before you know it, you pull candy wrappers and peanuts out when you're fishing for your seatbelt.
Things get older. That's fine with me because with age, there are some learn just how far you can go when the gas gauge starts leaning on the E. You also have your favorite CDs in the glovebox and you can find your favorite station with the punch of a button.....and the best part is no car payments.
Both of our cars have been paid off for years. We've learned to live with the quirks, and the smells that seem to change with the seasons.  We add a little oil every now and then, and I'm amazed at how good my truck looks when I hand wash it.
Our vehicles are almost like old friends. Jilda's Volvo, Ingrid is a 1996 and we'll have to have a newer car by summer. She loves that car and it will be a sad day when we have to let her go, but things get older.
My father-in-law's old truck that was
new when Carter was in the White House.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Spring can't be too far behind

It seems for the most part that we've been in shadow for most of this winter. We've had sun, but we had a lot of rain and went weeks with skies as gray as woodsmoke. The last few days were the exception. 
I arose this morning and teetered into the kitchen to punch the brew button on the coffeemaker.
The days are getting longer now and I noticed the light on the persimmon tree outside our window as I sat down on the couch to check my email on my phone.
It's been a while since I've seen that quality of light. I stepped close to the window and shot this picture through the glass. Surely spring can't be too far behind.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Road is Long

I sent my column for this week off this afternoon after much struggling, whining, fretting, and saying wordy-durds (kind of a pig latin thang). I often get my ideas over the weekend and write the column on Monday or Tuesday. If I don't have it by then, I feel the deadline noose tightening around my throat.
The times when I run out of fresh ideas I get to questioning my creativity and abilities. I sometimes wonder if I should throw in the towel. 
The ideas didn't come over the weekend and I started and trashed four different ideas on Monday. 
Yesterday I had an appointment and I was gone until late yesterday afternoon and when I got home, I didn't want to look at a computer, much less try to think of a decent idea for a column.
But later in the evening when I went out to feed the deer, Caillou went with me.
When I dumped out the scoop of corn, I tossed the plastic cup like I do every day. Caillou bolted after it and brought it back to me. I threw the cup until my arm got tired.
It was then, during this play with my dog that the idea came.  I won't say much here, but I'll post it next Monday evening. 
As I typed the final edit this afternoon and sent the column to all the newspapers I write for it occurred to me that what I say all the time is actually true and not just words on paper.
When you set out on any journey, sometimes it rains, sometimes the heat is brutal, there will always be rough patches along the way, but you should always remember, the road is long.
Shot through the windshield yesterday south of Montgomery.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Down south

I recently got a contract to do some media work for a company around Montgomery and they wanted to meet with me today to discuss details. Jilda and I had early coffee and I was on the road south before sunrise.
The weatherman said we'd have rain this morning and I drove through a few patching of light rain, but not enough for wipers.
The toes of Appalachia which dominate the terrain here, fade into fields and farms south of Birmingham. The red clay which is predominant here gets sandier (is that a word) the closer to the gulf you get. The drive was nice and uneventful. 
I had a great meeting and then had a late lunch with my old friend Wes before heading home.
Outside of Troy, Alabama I saw trees at the edge of a marsh that looked as if they were alive until I realized it was only Spanish Moss blowing in the wind.
I could see forever ahead and behind me so I stopped on the rural road and snapped a few pictures.
Jilda's off tomorrow and we're going to see if we can find something fun to get in to.  I hope you all have a great Wednesday.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Why am I here? ~ My column from Sunday's paper

Have you ever asked yourself the question “Why am I here?”

I sometimes feel like I’ve moved along as though I were floating down the river of life on a
rubber raft. Bad weather and torrential rains changed my course and often tossed me onto the rocks, but when the flood subsided, I was adrift again.

There’s a part of me that envies those who know early on what they want to do with their lives. When the water gets rough, they reach under their seats for a lifejacket and weather the storm without ever getting off course.

I’ve met people who thought they knew what they wanted but learned later in life that they were actually chasing someone else’s dream. 

Drug and alcohol treatment facilities all over the country are full of people who are unhappy with the paths they’ve chosen. They never asked and answered the question: Why am I here?

There are doctors, lawyers, nurses and icons of business that have spent their lives heading in the wrong direction. The sadness they feel is usually unspoken, which over time turns into an emotional cancer with symptoms like depression, dependence on alcohol, sex, drugs or other compulsive behavior. Some of the stories are heartbreaking.

It’s only when these people hit bottom that they come to terms with their demons and the reasons those demons are in their lives.

The folks that recover often have to change priorities, locales, partners and sometimes careers. 

Why is it so hard to figure out why we are here? 

I guess I was fortunate as a kid because my parents didn’t set the bar too high. They wanted me to go to school, find a job, get married and raise a family. They gave me a lot of leeway to make those decisions on my own.

The world to me has always seemed like a big ol’ smorgasbord laden with the best life has to offer and for the most part, I’ve eaten well. But I sometimes wonder if that’s enough.

This might sound strange, but I read a lot of obituaries. You can learn a great deal about how a person lived by what’s written about them when they’re gone. 

Even people who aren’t well known sometimes do remarkable things. It’s easy to feel small if you’re not careful. 

I think people are here on earth for a number of reasons. 

Some envision, some create, some build and some tear down. It takes all kinds to make the world go round.

I’ve worked hard all my life, but the jury is still out as to whether I worked smart.

The road is long but in the end, I think all that anyone can hope for is that when everything is tallied up that our obituaries will say we left this world a better place.

I think Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd summed up my feelings nicely with the opening lines to the iconic song Freebird: “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?”

I think being loved while we’re here and remembered when we are gone is the best we can hope for.

Read more: Daily Mountain Eagle - Why am I here 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Called in drunk

I've been a slug today. There, I admitted it. I had work to do, but I chose not to. Hey, I'm the boss of my life and I'm not about to fire me for taking the day off.
As a matter of fact, I'm going to call in drunk tonight and write a short blog post too. Just kidding, unless you can get drunk on green tea.
I hope y'all have a remarkable week.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Buy Local

These last few days have been beautiful. Before we left Friday, I stepped down to check the blueberry bushes and they are very close to blooming. They're beautiful, but it's unfortunate they want to get a head start on spring, because winters not finished yet.
Next week the temps are plummeting again so I'm afraid my blueberries will lose ground.
Yesterday evening as I unloaded our sound equipment I noticed the sun setting to the west. The restaurant where we played is on the square created by the courthouse.
I pulled the iPhone from my pocket and snapped this picture. There wasn't a lot of time for evaluation, so I shoved the camera back into the pocket of my jeans and hefted one of the 60-pound speakers inside.
Today as I called the photo up, I was surprised at how the picture turned out.
Kosciusko is a small town in Mississippi that's trying to revitalize the downtown area.
Like most small towns, it's an uphill battle. Even though people want a vibrant downtown area, they often opt for convenience and spend their dollars at Walmart and other big-box stores out on the highway.
People want the most for their money, but sometimes they look at the short view. For example, last fall we needed a mop. I could have bought an American made mop from the Lion's Club for around $10, but it wasn't convenient.  So, I bought one made somewhere overseas at Walmart for five or six dollars. It was convenient.
A few days ago I spilled some chicken broth and when I fetched the mop to clean up my mess, the red paint flecked off the handle and a sliver sliced into the skin between my thumb and forefinger. Ouch. A little over three months (less than a dozen uses) and the mop must be replaced.
Had I opted for the less convenient option and bought an American made mop from the Lion's Club, I could probably have put the mop in my will to pass on to my heirs.
I said all that to say this -- there's a lot to be said for small businesses on the town square. Most of them sell products and services that are made here. They may cost a little more, but when you look at the long view, and realize they are better products, they are a bargain. Buying these products creates jobs, and deliver better service to your over the long haul. So whenever possible, buy local.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Long day

Jilda and I were on the road this morning shortly after our second cup of coffee. We stopped for breakfast in town before heading west to Mississippi.
I'd set up a book signing at the newspaper office, and then a gig at Frenchies Restaurant in Kosciusko, Mississippi. By the time we finished playing this evening, our rears were dragging, but we pointed Ingrid home. I thought I would have to scrap my contacts off my eyes with a fingernail file. I can tell you a bed has never felt so good.....then we realized we forgot to I go.
I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Missin' Mom

I've been a little down this week. One look at the last few postings and you can tell the pickins' have been thin. Back when I first started blogging, I fretted when I hit a dry spell because I wasn't sure if the condition was temporary or if the muse felt my case was hopeless and fled into the ether cursing her luck because I was such a dim-witted writer.
Time taught me that creative droughts always pass, the key is to keep working....and I always have.
I realized this morning as I looked over my calendar that my mom died two years ago today. That would explain my melancholy mood.
We may lose loved ones, but they're never really gone. I can't drink punch,  eat apple pie, cornbread or butterbeans without thinking of my mom.
Whenever I face a tough decision, or a situation I'd prefer to avoid, it's her voice inside my head that says, "It won't get done by itself." She worked hard all her life and it's a quality she instilled in all of us kids. It's a gift that has served me well all my life.

I shot the picture below this evening when I stepped down to the apple tree to dump out a scoop of corn for the deer. I use this old push plow to lay off rows in the garden. I saw it out of the corner of my eye and it looked as if it had been there forever.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hints of spring

The day was overcast today but I see hints of spring. I'm not getting overly excited because I know more cold weather will come, but today when I stepped out on the deck to put food scraps in the compost bucket, I noticed the Baby's Breath bush that's up against the south wall of the house is blooming. Tiny white flowers not much bigger than gnats popped out all over the bush. And later when I stepped down to get the mail, the buttercups shot up almost overnight. They won't bloom for a while but green shoots ankle high are awaiting further instructions from the morning sun.
I shot this photo on my morning walk yesterday.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Field

My mind is like a forgotten fallow field tonight. I've spent the last several days in high-intensity focus collecting records, organizing receipts and double checking figures that there's been little room for any creative thought to seep in.
I've tapped the asdf-jkl; keys until they are thin as a politician's promise and still no decent idea.
So, I'll leave you with a picture I shot today. I call it: The Field.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Good storytellers are hard to find ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

The best history teacher I had in college was a master. He had the class hooked the first day when he told us he preferred to think of history as HIS-Story.

He explained that the history of early cultures, before we humans learned to capture written history on typewriters and computers, was passed down from generation to generation verbally through storytelling.

Historians learned this by studying pictures carved on cave walls with sharp stones. 

I didn’t learn my family history by reading cave paintings, but I did learn what I know by sitting at the knees of my grandparents as they told how “their people” lived.

Granny Watson, my great-grandmother was born just after the Civil War and by the early ‘60s, the years had taken their toll on her frail body, but her mind was still sharp. 

Her head wobbled a little as she spoke in a craggy voice about how her family had eked out an existence trying to grow crops in the red clay.

I remember Pap (my dad’s father) sitting on the porch telling stories. The stubble on his chin was gray as ash and rough as a rasp. His words came slowly, almost as if he had to search for them in dimly lit corners of his mind, but once he started I hung on every word.

Some folks are gifted with a natural sense of pace, timing and the right amount of detail that makes the listener feel as though they were there when the story happened.

A well-told story allows the listener to smell, taste, hear and feel the action as if they were there. The scene comes alive in their mind’s eye. 

I sometimes worry about the impact technology is having on the stories of our lives.

News travels at the speed of light. The volume and velocity of information is compressed down on smartphone screens to the size of a pack of cigarettes, which we often read while sitting at stoplights … or worse, while we’re driving. 

My favorite newscaster when I was young was Walter Cronkite on CBS Evening News. 

Old Walt knew how to tell a story. His delivery of the news was like a window that gave me an opportunity to see how people lived in other parts of the world. 

Each night he ended his broadcast with, “And that’s the way it is, on Feb. 16, 1963” (or whatever day it was).

After listening to the beloved anchorman, we all knew that what he said could be taken to the bank.

These days it’s hard for me to watch the news because the truth of the stories seem to vary depending upon what side of the political fence you stand on. 

I think ALL the stations are in a competition to see which one can stoop the lowest. 

In listening to the news today, it would be easy to become jaded and start believing that there’s nothing good happening in our world today. 

I know that’s not true. I think it would help if we had more storytellers like Walter Cronkite and my grandpa.

This is a Hipstamatic photo that I did with random lens and film.
I call it sunset surprise.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Low-key Sunday

Today was a low-key day as all Sundays should be. We slept in....well, I slept until 6:10 but I slipped out of bed to allow Jilda a little more slumber.
I got the coffee dripping and then stepped out onto the deck to get a feel for the day. It was still chilly outside, but the sky was a dark blue, but had tinges of crimson on the tips of the oak and hickory down by the barn. I had a feeling it would be a beautiful day and I wasn't wrong.
We did some routine Sunday morning chores after coffee before taking the dogs for a walk.
We holed up on the couch, reading the Sunday papers, and blissing out.
This evening I looked through the garden door at the evening sky and it was more stunning that the sky this morning.
I wasn't sure if there'd be enough light for a photo, but I snapped one anyhow. As it turns out there was.
I hope you all had a great Sunday too.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Happy Birthday Darrin

My baby brother Darrin was a restless kid. I could see it in his eyes when he was still quite young.
He never seemed to fit in, and even when he was 12 years old, looked as if he were late for an appointment. He was looking for something, but he couldn't seem to wrap his mind around it.
He worked as a co-op at a local AM radio station while in high school and stayed around for a while after graduation, but I got a sense each time we talked that he would only stick around for a while.
When he landed a job at the largest FM radio station in Birmingham, he moved away from home.
Since he was the baby and the last to leave the nest, it broke my mama's heart to see him drive away. His apartment was less than an hour to the east, but to my mom, he might as well have moved to the moon.
 He loved the job and felt at home in the industry. Some time later he received an offer to work for The Weather Channel in Atlanta, Georgia which is about three hours away. It was a young company at the time but Darrin fit into the culture and excelled at his job.
At some point he hurt his back in a freak accident. He took prescription pain medicine to help him get by.
It was during this period that his life began to spiral out of control. The details are not important, except to say that one day he had the world by the tail, and then the roles reversed.
We buried him at the age of 35 in a shady plot next to my father at Davis Cemetery in November of 2000.
It  breaks my heart he died before he found what he was looking for.


We made plans a month ago to go to a restaurant for dinner tonight. The place not only has great home-cooked food, but they also have music on the weekends.
Jilda was supposed to have her treatment this past Wednesday but the weather closed the roads and as a result, her treatment was rescheduled for today.
So after a day at Princeton (clinic) we got home in time to freshen up for the trip back to Birmingham for dinner and the show.
Tonight, I am a TardPuppy and I'm about to call it a night. I did have one other picture of the snow I thought I'd share.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Alabama Snow

Last night before we went to bed I flipped on the light on the back deck and snow was as thick as a poundcake on the bannisters.
By this morning, we had almost 6 inches which is more than we've had in a very long time. The thing is, most Alabama snows are different than say, an Ohio snow.
We got out this morning and played with the dogs and our great nephew until we couldn't feel our feet.
The sun came up and painted the snow in the trees a most incredible color. We shot a bunch of pictures before coming in to the fireplace.
Jilda whipped up some hot chocolate and then started frying bacon. I whipped up some waffles and all
ate in silence as we looked out the garden doors at the beauty just beyond.
By lunchtime the snow was gone for the most part and it felt almost warm enough to swim.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Snow Day

I kept thinking the snow would pass us by. The radar showed clouds all around us but in my mind, I kept seeing how it could miss us. I was wrong.
It started snowing about 4 p.m. and there's a good three inches on the deck. It will probably snow all night.
The weatherman says the temps will rise tomorrow and the snow should melt off as the day wears on, but that will remain to be seen.
I finished up most of my work today, so tomorrow I'm taking a snow day and playing with our great nephew Jordan.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Round two

Point of yellow arrow is pointing to Rick and Jilda's house.
We dodged the snowbullet last night. I heard sleet tapping the roof so I expected the worse around midnight when I got up to check, but as it turns out it wasn't that bad.
This morning I discovered we had a little freezing rain and some snow which made navigating our deck touch and go, but otherwise we were unscathed.
But the weatherman says we're not out of the woods yet.
An old cold rain is moving in later tonight, and tomorrow. The temps will drop steadily all morning and by midday there's another opportunity for us to have snow and freezing rain.
This radar projection is showing where the line is between freezing rain and snow. The green area is just rain. The yellow arrow is pointing to our house.
On a up note, I shot this photo this morning on our daily walk.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Color is all around us ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

NOTE: This is a blog post that evolved into a column.

During the coldest months of winter, when the silhouette of bare trees look stark against a grey sky and dried leaves as thick as thatch cover the earth, it’s easy to forget that color is everywhere.

We don’t have the usual palette of color provided by flowers, fashion and gardens, but it is
still there if you know where to look. 

There's color in the scent of pine, in the aroma of dark-roast coffee brewing on cold mornings and warm bread baking in the oven. 

There's color in the near-silent sound of falling snow, birds chattering as they scavenge for food late in the evenings or Canon in D Major playing softly as background music to the movie of your life.

There's color in the feeling of warm sun on your face. I experienced this first hand today when the sun came back with a vengeance. The cold weather retreated to the north and let the temps creep back into the 60s. 

I rolled up the legs of my sweatpants and the sleeves of my sweatshirt and sat on the deck for a long while with my face tilted toward the sun. A jet so high the sound was lost in the wind left a chalky diagonal line across the blue sky. I took a mental snapshot to capture the color.

Later when I'd finished my work, I stepped back outside to take corn down to the field for the deer.

The low-slung sun cast long shadows, but a beam of light filtered through the canopy and spotlighted our bottle tree in the empty flowerbed by the deck. I slid the iPhone from my pocket and snapped a photo.

People here in the south, for the most part, aren’t crazy about cold weather and it’s often hard to think of anything that puts a positive spin on the season. 

After weeks of the coldest weather we’ve had in over a decade, I’ve heard a lot of people say, “I wish it were spring.” 

That’s one phrase you will never hear me utter. I’m at the age now that I don’t want to wish away a second of my life, much less a month. 

The thing is that in August when the mercury is knocking the top off our thermometers here, those same folks will be wishing for cooler weather.

Life moves fast and in the scheme of things, none of us are here for more than the blink of an eye. 

I’ve written about this before but it fits here. My fifth-grade teacher had a little poem that she always recited whenever she heard someone wishing their lives away:

As a rule, man’s a fool,

When it’s hot, he want’s it cool,

When it’s cool, he want’s it hot,

Always wants what he ain’t got.

It was hard seeing the wisdom of those words when I was 10 years old, but I’m blown away at just how profound they are. 

Do yourself a favor during the coming weeks and look for the things that add color to your life in winter.

Sunday, February 09, 2014


We have a new guest in our home. She showed up one night about two weeks ago at 9:30 p.m. as we readied for bed. It was the night when the temps plunged into single digit territory.
She lives across the road with neighbors who've lived there for several years. We wave as they drive by on their way to work and exchange Christmas cards in each other's newspaper boxes, but we've never been introduced and to be honest, we don't know their names. I know that sounds unsouthernlike (I made that word up) and in fact I'm a little embarrassed about it, but it's the truth.
Anyhow when we opened the door, this little three-pound dog was standing there shivering. We let her in and wrapped her up.
I stood on the front porch for as long as I could stand it to see if the neighbors would miss her and call her up, but they didn't. I'm guessing they'd let her out to do her business and then forgot to let her back in.
I got back inside and called my brother-in-law to see if he by chance had their phone number but he didn't. There were no lights on at their house, so we made a management decision to let her stay in overnight.
The next day Jilda and I both had appointments so I put the little dog outside so that she could go back home.
When I came back after lunch and opened the door, she was sitting on the couch. I sent Jilda a text to see if she'd let her back in before she left but she had not.
Somehow the little dog had climbed under our back fence and come back into our house through the doggie door.
Later that afternoon I wrote a note and put it in the neighbor's mailbox letting them know the pup was at our house. I put our phone number on the note so that they could call us and arrange to pick her up....but they didn't call....they still haven't.
I'm hoping they will let the dog live with us because she has stolen our hearts. I know I'll have to have a conversation with the neighbors so we'll know one way or the other but since the little dog has a "key to our house." I'm not sure how they'll keep her home.
More to follow.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Gray tree beards

Interstate 65 dissects the state of Alabama right down the middle until south of Montgomery when it tails off westward toward Mobile Bay.
It's there, south of the Alabama River that many of the oak and hickory trees have a kind of moss the color of a wasp nest, that hangs from the limbs like gray beards.
You can't see the moss in summer because of the leaves, so I'm not sure if it's green too, but in autumn when the leaves fall, the trees with moss look like wise old men.
A few years ago when I drove to the bottom corner of Alabama to do an interview for one of the papers I write for, I took the slow route home. At one point I passed an old barn, and found the scene so striking that I pulled over and took pictures.
Outside the truck, I could hear the wind whispering through the trees and see the moss gently swaying on the breeze.
Standing there made me feel almost as if I'd stepped back into an earlier time before Interstate highways and mobile communications.
I saw the gray bearded trees when we drove to the beach a few weeks ago, and I thought about the old barn. Tonight as I clicked through my photos, I came across this picture.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Spring is not that far away

There's been times this winter when spring seemed a lifetime away, and that I might never feel the warmth of the sun again.
I know deep down that it's good for the earth; this frigid weather, as the roots of fruit-bearing trees, and perennial flowers need the cold so that they can live, prosper, and bear fruit. The cold also keeps bugs and biting critters from getting a head start on summer.
But the older I get, the harder the cold is on my knees, hips, and disposition. As the days pass without the sun, I sometimes find myself feeling a little melancholy.
But then comes a day like today. The wind was cold, but the sun made me feel warmer.
We had errands in town this morning, but when we returned, I saw this redbird on the bannister of the back deck.
I held the camera up close to the glass of the garden door and snapped this photo. Seeing him there highlighted in the sun, pecking seeds from the rail, made me realize that spring is not that far away.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Old town

The weather's been dreary here the last few days. Photography is about light and shadow and I tried to shoot a few photos when I walked today but wound up deleting them off my camera.
When I don't have fresh pictures to post, I have to mine the archives. You probably already guessed that by the photographs I've posted over the last few days.
I shot today's picture last summer when the editor of a magazine I write for was in town. He was looking for a setting for a photo shoot about days gone by.
When he told me the idea, I knew at once where I'd take him. This picture was taken in Old Dora. This old building is where everyone paid their power bill.
It's one of the few buildings that remains intact. The years have eaten away at most of the other structures.
When the new highway ( I call it that even though it was completed over 40 years ago) came through, all the businesses located in Old Dora raced to grab land by the highway.
It's a story that was repeated often throughout the country.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Beauty all around

And another thing about Sedona. We'd read a great deal about it before we journeyed there. One of the new age things we heard time and again was about energy vortexes. 

There are people who swear that Sedona is alive with these vortexes that you can actually feel. 

Some describe their experience as a spiritual awakening. Some say the experience made the hair on their arm stand up.

We walked all around Bell Rock which is said to be one area where energy vortexual experiences are common, but we didn't pick up any vibes.

We walked over half of Sedona, and while we didn't vibrate differently we found that it was unlike any place we'd ever been.

At one point we walked a path and saw several stacked stone markers. I'm not sure if they were put there by other tourists, Native Americans, or tour guides. 

We walked around one side of a formation, and saw these flowers growing between the rocks.  While we found no evidence of energy vortexes, we did find that beauty was all around us.


Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Red rock

I dreamed about the desert last night. It could have been something I ate, but what's more likely is a snippet of a conversation I overheard as Jilda talked to our great niece.
She told Jilda that she'd never been further west than the Mississippi River. Jilda began telling her the places we'd been. 
We drove through desert when we visited Arizona several years ago. We spent our 30th anniversary in Sedona, Arizona. It was an amazing week and we have tons of pictures. Our great niece said she'd put Sedona on her bucket list.
Here's a photo I shot of the red rock.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Lonely Beaches ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

NOTE: The seeds for this column came from a blog post last week. That's one reason I love blogging -- It's a great way to develop story ideas.


I was stationed at Fort Sherman in Panama in the early 1970s, which was a remote Army complex on the Atlantic end of the canal. The fort was situated on a small finger of land separating the Bay of Colon and the Atlantic Ocean. 

There were several barracks and some housing for officers, but less than 30 full-time residents lived there. The soldiers worked at Battery Pratt, a communications bunker dug into a cliff at the edge of the Atlantic. 

The isolation drove some of the soldiers in our barracks crazy. Most of them came from big cities or other places surrounded by lots of people, but it suited me just fine.

The best part was that I could walk outside the barracks and throw a rock into the Bay of Colon.

Every day was sunny and the ocean was a short walk away.

Palm trees grew almost to the water's edge, and it was not uncommon to find fresh coconuts ready to crack open with a rock. The beaches were narrow in places and the sand was brown as a lunch sack, but there were seashells as big as my hand.

It was an easy duty station and I got off at three each afternoon. Every weekend was free except for the occasional drill. So I spent a lot of time walking on lonely beaches. 

I had basic training at Fort Campbell, Ky., and my advanced electronics training station was just outside of New York City at Fort Monmouth, N.J. 

Kentucky wasn’t too bad, but New Jersey was like an anthill, and the drone of traffic was ever present.

My time in Panama was almost like a silent retreat. I dedicated a lot of my free time to snorkeling, which is a beautiful solitary experience, or walking on the beach alone. 

Most afternoons I’d sit by the ocean with waves washing my feet, thinking about my life and feeling small in comparison to the world around me.

When I got out of the Army after 18 months in the tropics, I was “as brown as a hickernut” as my father-in-law Sharkie used to say. 

I was glad to get home, but when my life got crazy, I missed those silent walks on lonely beaches. I still do.

This past week was my birthday and to celebrate, Jilda and I went to Gulf Shores to spend a few days in the sun and sand.

It was beautiful all three days, but the wind off the water was as cold as a snow cone, so we bundled up each time we walked.

If you like solitude, winter is a much better time to go, but even then, the beach is a long way from being isolated.

I did a web search for Fort Sherman when I got the idea for this column, and it looks like the place has changed since the early 70s. 

There is a hotel situated on my lonely beach. That makes sense, because I’d bet there are a lot of people like me who’d love to have a chance to walk on a lonely beach.

I shot this photo last week when it snowed. I
 liked the photo, but it has nothing to do with lonely beaches.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Rhythm of the rain

I was born in a house with a tin roof, and the place in Sloss Hollow where I spent my childhood had one as well.
Summer rains played the roof like a band of Trinidad drummers. It played metallic lullabies when it drizzled and rock and roll when the bottom fell out. 
When Jilda and I first married, we lived in a small house trailer and the best part of living there was the sound it made when it rained.
Later when we built our first house, a metal roof wasn't an option offered by the builder so we settled for shingles. But a metal roof was on our list of things we REALLY wanted.
The year I retired, we began to notice small water spots on the ceiling where rain seeped through the brittle asphalt shingles. 
The price of a metal roof was about 25% more as I recall, but we'd saved a little money and decided invest in a roof that would last the rest of our lives.
That's a purchasing decision we've never regretted because not only does it look good and added value to our home, but also each time the clouds roll in,  Mother Natures plays music for us to the rhythm of the rain.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Day of networking

Jilda and I were on the road before the chickens left the roost this morning. I know that because when I stepped down the feed them this morning, they were still on the roost.
They cackled me up as I freshed up their water and filled their feeders with scratch feed. They're used to be feeding them a few hours later each day.
We were in Birmingham by 8 a.m. for the Local Author's Expo at the Birmingham Library. Sometimes these events are really successful and sometimes it's more about the networking. Today was a networking day.
Our friend Brenda snapped a pic of Jilda and me as we manned my table. Tonight we're both whupped.
So this will be a short update. I'll do better tomorrow.

Please consider sharing

Email Signup Form

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required