Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A beautiful place

I started therapy on my knees a few weeks ago. Each year, doctors inject the joints with my knees with a substance designed to add cushion. For a five or six months my knees are not bone on bone. The needle used for these injections feels like it's as big as a Dixie straw, but that's probably just me being a wimp.

The injections are followed by therapy. My niece Samantha is a physical therapy assistant. She cuts me no slack. When I start to complain, she gives me that "suck it up whiny baby" look and I buckle down.

This morning's session was at 9 a.m. and by 10:30 I was on my way home. My windshield view was a perfect late-summer sky. Blue sky and clouds that looked like the innards of a home-cooked biscuit.

At one point, there was a field of corn on the crest of a mountain. I've pulled into the entryway to this field during fall and winter. When I walk to the edge of the garden and look toward the west, it looks as if I could see Mississippi. It's a beautiful view. 

Pulling in today, walked to the edge of the field, the corn was as thick as thatch. I didn't want an observant farmer mistaking me for a critter, so I stepped back and settled for a picture of the sky.

I'll shoot another picture from this vantage point in late Autumn when the corn is plowed under, and the leaves have fallen. I think you'll agree that it's a beautiful place.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Passing of time

I have a program on my laptop. It has only one function. It reminds of passing time. The program on my laptop is set to sound a Tibetan gong every 30 minutes.  When I hear this soothing sound, I stand. If I'm extremely busy, I remain at my desk a stretch. If I'm between task, I walk a lap around the hallways. But strangely, the gong helps keep me focused on the important tasks.

Most of us think nothing about the passing of time. I know people who watch TV for hours and only stand up when they need to go pee.

The sound of this gong makes me aware that time is passing. Two gongs and an hour has passed.

I read a feature on two Irish businessmen who started Square. Square is a small credit card reader that clips into the earphone jack of a smartphone. The software behind the little reader makes it possible for small businesses across the world to accept credit cards for their wares. When I started accepting credit cards at my book signings, my sales tripled.

These amazing brothers are two of the youngest billionaires today.

One of the brothers has a clock on his wall. It's not a regular clock, but one that shows how much life he has left. He did research on his expected lifespan and programmed his clock to count down. At any given moment he can tell theoretically how much time he has left. Obviously, this does not take into account, disease, accidents, or disasters. But it for this young man, it serves to remind him that there are only a finite number of days, hours, and minutes left.

This kudzu flower has nothing to do with passing time, but I shot it two years ago today. That in itself was a wakeup call because I didn't realize it had been that long.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Back Roads

Back roads are the best route. For years I've looked for the fastest route between point A and point B.
Cutting off ten minutes here, and three minutes there made my day. Then I realized when I arrived early, I often wasted the saved time looking at unimportant things on my phone or some other trivial activity.

After I retired, I slowed down. It's hard seeing things when you're in a rush. I rarely stopped in those days to take a picture no matter how remarkable the light was on the subject. The last few years have been different. I slowed down and took the scenic route even if it took five minutes longer. And if I saw a photo op – well I'd have to arrive a little later.

After work today, I headed home. One road that I don't often take has a pond that is almost hidden. Cars pass within 20 feet of the pond and most drivers don't slow down enough to look through the mimosa trees lining the soggy banks.

In the past, I've seen ducks sitting on the railing by the road. The must have tired of swimming and climbed on the rails to watch the passing cars. Today, I pulled in and parked at a wide spot next to the road.

Gravel crunched under my boot heels as I stepped out of the truck. I heard a squawking sound coming from toward the water. Three Muscovy Ducks were coming up to greet me. I'm guessing they thought I was someone bringing them a treat. I squatted down and tried to coax them closer but they wanted no part of that.  So, I apologized for not bringing food and stood up. They continued to look at me expectantly. Pulling the phone from my pocket I snapped a few frames. It almost seemed as if they were posing for me.

As I shoved the phone back into my pocket, I thought to myself as I climbed back into the cab of my truck, "You don't often see this stuff on the Interstate."

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday stuff

I know Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, but Jilda and I haven't stopped today. We had had lunch with Jilda's sister Pat. Jilda cooked a meal for our nephew James's family. They have a newborn and the mommy is having issues. Plus we had invited company for dinner this evening.

I worked inside and out to get the house in shape and Jilda has cooked for most of the day. When our company left this evening, we looked at each other and without a prompt, we went to put on our pajamas.

The kitchen was a mess as you might imagine. We don't go to bed with a dirty kitchen, so that was the next flurry of activity. After a time, the kitchen was as tidy as an Army barracks.

I almost played a get out of a blog, free card.

Below is a picture from the archives. I wish I knew the name of this plant but tonight I'm too tired to look it up.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

From out in left field

I'm here brushing the dust from between the G and H on my keyboard and Jilda's sitting not three feet away writing her blog. Her keyboard sounds is if it has a woodpecker on it. She makes me mad sometimes.  I want to lean over and smack her upside the head.

Of course, I'd never really do that because I'd have to go to sleep some time and there's really no telling what misfortune she's heap upon me. Also, I'm very fond of her cooking and I'm certain I'd never get a chance to eat any more of her food unless it got REALLY cold in hell.

So, I got a grip and stopped blaming my lack of ideas on her. Soon this squirrelly idea came to mind and I went with it.

I'm stuck on butterfly pictures. I know they must be tanking up right now. They are swarming the zinnias like mosquitos around a fat baby right now.

When I stepped down this evening to dump the scraps into the compost bin, I saw a swarm of butterflies and walked over to snap a few frames. Tonight, that's all I have to give.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Eclipse is a coming

I'm not sure if you've noticed, but I'm a  celestial-esk kind of guy. I love the sun, stars, and most anything up there beyond my reach. The upcoming solar eclipse has me psyched. 

The last eclipse I saw was on May 30, 1984. It wasn't a total eclipse, but it was close. It was only a few months after we moved into our new house. We hadn't built the back deck yet. Jilda and I sat on the back steps for a long time. The warm May temperature seemed to drop while the sun hid behind the moon. It was just after we moved into our house. Jilda and I sat on the back steps and experienced it. I had my dad's old welding goggles so we got to see it while it happened. It was just before noon, but it looked like that twilight time just between dusk and dark. The roosters crowed. The birds and other critters didn't know what to make of it.

I didn't blog back then, but I wrote about it in my daily journal. The upcoming total eclipse happens here on August 21, 2017. The timeline looks like it will be total around 2ish.

Looking on Amazon, I found 10 pairs of eclipse glasses for just over $8. I was pretty sure neither Jordan or his mom would think to get glasses and I didn't want them to miss it. There won't be another total eclipse in my lifetime or theirs. I'm just hoping it's not cloudy.

Our glasses arrived today. Jilda snapped this pic of me on our deck looking skyward.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Fishing report

The college was a ghost town today. The kids and teachers won't be back until next week. This left the staff to keep the ship tethered to the educational dock. My work involves people over 50 who aren't really students. 

My calendar was clear today which gave me time to catch up on all the things that kept getting pushed to the next day, next day, next day, next day. It was refreshing just checking things off.

Once I left for the day, I stopped by the forks of the river to get the fishing news. It seems that the fish weren't biting. That's common during the Dog Days of summer. I could have told them that no self-respecting fish would bite because the cows are laying down. I verified that in the picture I posted yesterday. I should probably explain that there's an old saying that proclaims: If the cows are laying down, the fish won't bite. I wonder if that means the fish don't bite when the cows are sleeping either? I'll have to ask an old geezer about that to verify. No wait, I'm an old geezer. 

So, the news from the forks today has been independently verified. 

In my broadcast voice – Don't bother fishing today because the cows are laying down. No self-respecting fish would dare bite.

Enough of that drivel. I shot another picture of a butterfly. I can't help it if I love these little critters.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Cows and bitterweed

The sun's been hiding for the last several days. I won't wish away the rain. After going through a drought last year, I promised myself I'd never curse the rain...but still, I miss the sun when it's on vacay. 

This morning was no different. When Jilda left for her early morning class, the fog was thick as meringue. 

I'm doing physical therapy for my knees, and my appointment was at 9 a.m. in a town twenty miles to the east. The fog had lifted, but the sun was still MIA.  I saw some possible pictures, but the muted light made the subjects look as flat as onion skin. 

Just after lunch, Jilda, our great nephew Jordan, and I drove to Aldi's for produce, chocolate, and chips. We somehow walked out without the chips. We don't eat a lot of chips, but we love those carried by Aldi's.

On the way home, the sun peeped through the clouds. Jordan who was buckled in the back seat rolled down the window and looked out. I think he missed the sun too. 

Passing a pasture, I noticed cows lying around enjoying the afternoon sun. I slowed as I passed. Pulling into the driveway of a nearby barn, I turned around and parked on the roadside. 

The cows were interested, but not enough to stand. The just laid there munching and mooing. The name of the yellow plants in the foreground is bitterweed. 

Since I hadn't shot a fresh photo in a few days, I thought it was time.


Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Wus report

I put in highway miles today. An early-morning community access TV show had me yawning while I drove. 

The day didn't slow down until about 10 minutes ago. I passed a number of photo ops, but the clouds hung low keeping the scenes unphotogenic. So I opted to go the way-back machine and snag a picture from ten years ago this week. I think it's the last time we grew chili peppers.

Although it's only 6:30 p.m., I've removed my contact lenses and put on my pajamas. As I've aged, I've adopted a new mantra – It's never too early to "jama-up." Sure, in my younger years I was a naysayer. I'd fight bedtime like a rabid beast, but I'm no longer among those ranks. 

Call me a wuss if you want but I'll be vegging out soon. I dare y'all to join me.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Happy Birthday Ol' Hook ~ my column from Sunday's paper

One year ago this week, a bulldog appeared in our yard. He was thirsty and starved. I could see his ribs. He had mange, and the white hair left on him was full of fleas. My conscience would not let me drive him from our yard hungry. I checked with a few neighbors, but I knew the answer before I asked. A heartless person had abandoned the animal, hoping that he would starve, or that someone would put him down. It broke my heart. But the story doesn’t end there.
I took the dog to the vet with the intention of putting him down. The dog, not the vet. The vet looked him over and read out a long list of maladies. The worst things on the list were heartworms and the fact that he was deaf. Even without the benefit of hearing, the dog followed the conversation between the vet and me. The critter somehow knew his life depended upon the outcome. When I looked down into his sad eyes, I could not do it. Pulling the phone from my pocket, I called Jilda to let her weigh in on the decision. She said we didn’t need to go to the beach right now anyhow. I handed the vet my Visa card.
This pic is a rerun. Please forgive.
The vet tech stood nearby and stepped closer when the doc left the room. “You know, quirk dogs are the best ones,” she said. It turns out, she was right. He is a quirk dog, and he’s one of the best critters we’ve ever owned.
The treatment included a round of meds and surgery to neuter the mutt. When I picked him up afterward, he hopped up into the cab as if he’d been doing it forever. He then looked over at me as if to say, “Let’s go home, Daddy.”
It took a while for him to figure out where he fit in with the other two dogs, but it was much easier than I thought. It wasn’t long before his quirks began surfacing.
He went out with me one night to close the chicken pen gate. When I flipped on the flashlight, he ran around the yard barking and chasing the light beam. He will do it ‘till he drops. He also chases the shadows of butterflies.
He can’t hear me calling him, but when we’re walking, he responds to hand signals. The collie Calliou and the Yorkie Taz rarely come when I call unless I’m holding food.
His bed is in front of our great room windows. This position gives him an unobstructed view of the front of the house. When squirrels scamper down the trees to raid the bird feeders, he watches and quivers with rage. I can almost hear him thinking, “Daddy, those fuzzy critters have the gall to eat our bird seed! If you will open the door, I’ll put a stop to that.” Sometimes I do open the door for fun. He’s on top of those squirrels in a millisecond, but they are much too fast for him to catch one.
The other two dogs are terrified of fireworks and thunderstorms. Ol’ Hook sleeps through all of that.
A while back, a bounty hunter knocked on our door. We don’t get many visitors here, so I opened the door with caution. The guy stood well over 6 feet tall and had tattoos all over his arms and neck.
He was looking for someone I didn’t know. The bail jumper had left a nearby address. Ol’ Hook walked to the door and leaned against my leg as he evaluated the visitor. When the bounty hunter’s eyes fell on the dog, he involuntarily took a step back. “Is he mean?” he asked. I told him he could be if someone bothered my wife or me. “I can see that,” he said. He thanked me for my help and backed away toward his truck.
Since we have no idea how old Ol’ Hook is, we celebrate his birthday the first week of August. While I can’t comprehend why someone would abandon such a beautiful, loving creature, I am grateful he found his way to our yard.
Happy Birthday, Ol’ Hook.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

New figs

The lawnmower I bought four years ago is having major problems. It's underpowered for the amount of grass on our property. It will go see the lawnmower doc this week. I think I will need its appendix removed along with some steering bushings.

The grass on the adjoining property is almost knee deep. I may have to invest in a goat.

When we walked today, we waded through the grass and rounded the fig tree. It got a head start on spring, but a late frost bit it back. I was afraid it wouldn't have any figs this year, but I was wrong. As we walked by, I saw several figs the color of a bruise. I plucked one off an popped it into my mouth.
I LOVE fresh figs.

We picked about a quart and there will be more to pick later in the week. Jilda will toss some in our morning shake.

There are two more young fig bushes we planted beside the old one that's been there for years. Soon, we'll have figs-o-plenty.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Welding goggles

Last night I mentioned my trouble in coming up with a topic for the blog. When that situation arises, I do goofy things. This process sometimes kicks dormant synapsis into creative action. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Last night I put on my dad's old welding goggles. It didn't work. My blog buddy Joe asked to see a picture of me wearing the goggles. This awakened one of my sleeping synapsis. The result follows.

My dad wore a hood when he did arc welding.  When he used an acetylene torch, he wore these goggles. For decades they've dangled on a hook in my home office. Every now and then, I'll pick them up and slip them over my head. The world is a much darker place when looking through them. The only things visible are surfaces that reflect the ambient light in the room. It's like one of those horror movies. 

The goggles give a different perspective on the familiar things around me.  I tried wearing them while I typed, that was an unproductive experiment. 

So, I usually just put them on for a few minutes and see if anything happens. The company where my dad worked, issued these goggles to him in the 1950s. He took care of his stuff. When he retired in the early 80s, his supervisor gave him his work gloves and these goggles.

Last night, I closed my eyes and held the elastic bands close to my nose. I wanted to see if a trace of him remained.  Either time had taken his scent away, or taken my ability to smell it.

Usually, the only thing that happens when I wear the goggles is that it makes me a little sad. My dad was not a yapper. When he said something, it carried weight. I didn't always listen, but I should have. 

When you're in your 30s, you can't imagine that you're parents won't always be with you. I wish I had been wiser then.  I had no idea cancer would take him so soon.  Now, all that's left are memories, old pictures,  and an old pair of welding goggles.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Inspiration on vacay

Some days it's a struggle coming up with a topic. I rifled through a box of souvenirs, read a book of quotes, and flipped back through old pictures. Nada. 

I sat gazing out my office window. I put on my dad's old welding goggles, and twisted the key on a tiny music box on my desk. I hadn't heard those tinkling tones in a long time. It didn't help, but I enjoyed those few moments of music.

So, I went back in my Google Photo archives to August of 2009 and picked a picture at random to post. And tonight, that's all I have. Maybe tomorrow inspiration will come back from vacay.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Telling stories

I heard something today that made a great deal of sense to me. Stick with me on this one.

One of the folks in my program expressed an interest in grant writing. In a serendipitous fashion, shortly after my conversation with him,  I received an email from a local community foundation announcing an upcoming grant-writing-training session. I forwarded the email to the candidate that wanted to learn more about the skill.

He's an educated person, and he asked the training facilitator during the session, "What makes some grants successful and other grants fail? He said he got a very technical answer from the facilitator, which is what he expected. But an attendee at the training who actually approves grants for community projects or denies them gave him a more interesting answer. Fast forward to today.

Today we had a coaching session and I asked how the training went. He said it was a very good session and he learned a great deal about how to write grants.  He said he learned the nuts and bolts of the process, but the community rep gave him the most valuable advice.

The grant reviewer told him that any grant that expects to be approved have to answer the basic questions, but the grants that get approved not only answer the questions, but they must also tell a better story with their words.

I smiled when he told me that. I've known it for years, but it's always good to have validation. We as a species love stories. Some people can tell stories and some people give you the facts. 

The most valuable thing I've learned from blogging for over 10 years (every day) is how to tell a story. Sometimes my stories are lame. Sometimes they resonate. But it's doing it daily that helps develop the writer's voice. It's that voice that has the ability to tell stories. And that's what it's all about.

I know you are wondering when I'll get a fresh topic for my photos. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Wednesday on the homefront

Ol' Hook jumped a rabbit on our afternoon walk and he was off. My first impulse was to call him back, but since he's deaf that would have been wasted wind.

We finished out walk and came back inside to cool down and hydrate. Normally, Ol' Hook comes back after he realizes he outrun his backup and hustles back to the gate. This evening, that didn't happen.

After about an hour, I was concerned. Jilda and I both slid on our shoes and headed back out. Our old bulldog Taylor went missing several years ago in August. The weather was brutal.  We called for hours and she did not return. After several days, I walked through the wood in the hollow beside the barn. I expected to find her body. I found her half buried. She'd chased a rabbit in a hole and tried to dig him out. She was still alive. I had to run home and get a shovel to dig her out. I took her to the vet, but they weren't sure she'd make it. Thankfully she did. But that's what I envisioned for Hook.

Thankfully, when we rounded the barn and started back up the road, we heard him running as fast as his legs would carry him. I guess he smelled our presence on the wind and decided it was time to head home. I scolded him, but it's hard to stay mad at this goofy dog.

On the way back, I saw some tall grass at the edge of our garden. The setting sun was highlighting the tips of the grass. Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a few frames.  I'm not sure what I did before I got a phone with a camera.

I hope you've had a good Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

What my eyes saw

It's been beautiful here again today. The morning was cool for summer here. I had another early-morning appointment so I was off before sunrise. Passing a mountain top cattle farm, I slowed and rolled my windows down. The road is not much more than a pig trail so there was no traffic in either direction.

Pulling to the side, I watched for a moment. I switched off the engine and looked at the cattle pond in the distance. The only sound was the wind and the lazy sound of a mooing cow. It sounds as if they don't have the energy to make a substantial sound.  They were making their way to the water for a morning drink.

I was afraid it was too dark to get a decent picture, but with a little adjustment it came out OK. The iPhone camera is good, but I don't know it well enough to adjust for exposure. With a DSLR camera, I can evaluate the light and make choices with exposure. By selecting the right aperture and shutter speed one can take perfect pictures without Photoshopping. But then I can't pocket my DSLR camera which weighs about 7 pounds when it has the telephoto lens attached. So you'll have to forgive my tweaking. This picture is close to what my eye saw.

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