Sunday, August 19, 2018

Mother Nature's work

There's a solar light that hasn't shined in a few years. It's almost hidden under the Jasmine vine by the front arbor. The Jasmine was a tiny vine when I first staked the solar light by the steps. It served nobly alighting the steps at night then bathing in the sunlight during the day to refresh the batteries.

Then, it stopped working. I kept meaning to order some replacement batteries but I never did. The jasmine continued growing and hid the light.

Today, I was out there sitting on the front steps watching the hummingbirds do battle for their sugar water. Looking down during a pause in the action, I saw the old solar light. Mother Nature turned the inside of the globe into a terrarium. 

Without any coaxing from humans, beautiful work is happening all around us.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The coast

We helped a friend celebrate a birthday this evening and just rolled it. It's almost past my bedtime. Looking through pictures from almost 20 years ago, I came across one of Jilda and me taken near Sausalito, California.

I will do better tomorrow.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Fish are biting

There's an old saying that I've heard for years. Like many old sayings, it's easy to say that's an old wives tale. But when you start sorting through the facts and fiction, there's often a level of truth behind the sayings. 

My old friend Leo at the Forks of the river is the first one I heard say it. We were riding through Sipsey and past an old barn with a weary barbed wire fence. It was in late August and the sun was brutal. He glanced out the passenger window at cows in the pasture and said, "The cows are laying down. That's means the fish ain't biting."

I've never researched that particular saying, but I still think it when I drive by cattle in a pasture. 

I also bend, spindle, and mutilate old saying. For example, when I'm trying to explain how simple something is to do, I say, "It's not rocket surgery."  Another example is, "You can lead a gift horse to water, but you can't look him in the mouth." Or, "He's not the sharpest tool in the elevator."

At any rate, I learned today when I drove by cows standing knee high in bitterweed that fish were most likely biting.

Thursday, August 16, 2018


It didn't seem fair that Mandy got all the accolades last night. Flo was hurt. It was obvious in the way she would lite on a moss flower not three feet away and slowly waggle her wings. I think that's the way she seethes.

She wasn't jealous of the pictures I took last night but miffed in the tone of my words.

This beauty let me know that she and Mandy were "just friends."

At any rate, after raking me over the coal for a while, she posed on the butterfly bush.

Tomorrow I think I'll use my DSLR with the telephoto lens to take a picture of Flo and Mandy together.

I've reached out to the National Enquirer and they were chilly to the idea of a love fest on my back porch, but they said if they couldn't dig up another angle on Hillary's emails that they might buy the story.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

There is a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly flirting with our Mandavilla on the back deck. Jilda named the butterfly Miss Flo, and she named the Mandavilla Miss Mandy.

I drank my last cup of coffee on the deck this morning. We had early appointments, but there's always time for coffee.

Miss Flo has been flitting with Miss Mandy for days. Apparently, it's an illicit liaison because each time one of us steps over to snap a picture, Flo flies away and heads for the butterfly bush in the flower bed.

When we become distracted, Flo will flit over nonchalantly and then they are kissing – right there in broad daylight. We keep telling them we try not to judge, but apparently, with the state of social media, they choose to keep their activities secret. I'm guessing they have their Location Services turned off too.

But Jilda and I are patient. We will get a picture of both of them together.

For now, all I have is a picture of Miss Mandy. She looks a little lonely if you ask me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The gift

We have a basket of shells on our bookshelf that we've had for over twenty years. I remember the day we found these shells as if it were yesterday.

Usually, when we go to the beach, we'll find a few decent shells. Most of them are as small as thimbles. Every now and again, we found ones that were a little bigger.

Our friends Kaye and Ron had just bought a new house at Blue Mountain Beach, near Seaside, Florida. We'd gone down a few days after Christmas that year with plans of bringing in the New Year on the beach. On New Year's Eve, a storm came in from the south. Lightning jabbed at the empty beach. The lights in their new house flickered like candles. Thunder rattled the champagne glasses on the table.

Sometime after midnight, the storm moved off to the north leaving a sky full of diamonds.

The next morning, it was warm for January. I wore a thin sweater with shorts. When we started walking, I saw a shell in the surf and scrambled to get it between waves. Then I saw another one a little deeper. Rolling my shorts up even higher, I waded in after the shell. Jilda squealed and snagged another one. Soon all four of us were picking up more shells than we could carry.

Kaye, who was an experienced beachcomber, had thought to put a net bag in her pocket. We found more shells that morning than we've ever found before.

Through the years, we've given some of the bigger shells to friends and family but we still have baskets.

The shells remind us of the gift that day gave us.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Knees and Rainbows ~ my column from Sunday's paper

August is a slow month for Jilda and me. That’s why I chose it to do something I’ve never done before.

It will be the first time I’ve ever been in the hospital. I’ve visited people in the hospital more times than I care to remember, but I’ve never been in myself. I’m excited. (Could you feel the sarcasm dripping from that last sentence?)

Today, I had an appointment for pre-admission testing. Soon, I’ll be going into the hospital to get a new knee. I’m fond of my old knee, but in the last few years, it has become about as useful as a cassette player. During the visit, I had knee school. It talked about all the things I can expect after the installation of my new knee. Many of the things I had already thought about. Some I had not. 

My niece Samantha is giddy with anticipation. She is a physical therapy assistant. She will be doing my therapy when I come home. I thought of all the fun I’ve had through the years giving her a hard time. I have a feeling that payback will be hellish. I’m a big boy. Not only can I dish it out, but I can also take it. I will have to put my big-boy-panties on, as they say.

Today, while driving back from the appointment, the August sky was spectacular. Even smoke and smog couldn’t dampen the deep blue sky. At one point, the sky looked like a zoo. I saw a walrus, a whale, and a bear the size of Rhode Island. A few miles down the road the zoo was gone, and it looked like piles of cotton sheets scattered around a dorm room.

When we got home, Jilda had to get ready for work. By the time she’d changed and had a glass of water, our rescue collie Caillou tried to get in her lap. He can hear thunder in Mississippi, but this time it was much closer. I took him to his safe place before stepping out on the screen porch for an analog weather report. The clouds to the west no longer looked as playful as they had an hour before. 

A moment later, the whisper of raindrops in the leaves got louder.  Then came a downpour so hard I could barely see my truck which was less than 30 feet away. 

I had unwritten stories to work on for the paper and now seemed like a perfect time. Fetching my laptop, I flipped it open, clicked on my writing playlist on Spotify. 

The rain began to ease up, and to the west, the sun poked through the rainclouds. Then synchronicity happened. My playlist served up Israel Kamakawiwo’s cover version of the iconic song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." On a whim, I stood and walked to the screen and scanned the sky to the east. Sure enough, I saw a rainbow for a brief moment before the sun ducked behind the clouds.

I took the synchronicity of the song and sky as a good luck sign.

I shot this pictures 10 years ago this month.

Sunday, August 12, 2018


We have a new swing in our backyard. It's actually an old swing that someone gave us. They were going to toss it. 

I picked it up before they changed their minds. We found a place in the shade of the pine and sweet gum trees. 

Jilda and I have never had a swing of our own. We have lawn chairs, loungers, and benches but no swing.

Both our parents had swings on their porches when we were growing up. They came as standard equipment even on old camp houses. Some of them didn't have indoor bathrooms, running water, or air conditioning, but they all had swings on their front porches. 

Sometimes late on summer evenings after dusk chased off most of the light, you could hear squeaking chains on front-porch swings. 

I missed our old swing. Jilda and I kept saying we were going to get one, but we never did...until yesterday. 

After unloading the old swing, we found its resting place. It was covered in some kind of sap that hid most of the yellow paint. Taking the pressure washer, I washed off most of the sap. The rest seemed to be embedded. I headed for the shed for sandpaper, but Jilda insisted we leave some of it on the swing. "It makes it look used," she said. I nodded my head in agreement.

The heat index was over 100 today. This evening, a breeze out of the west began to blow. I took a glass of ice tea out and sat on our new/old swing. It felt right.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Heat was on but fun was had

We had an outdoors gig tonight. The weather people said the temp would start dropping by 7 p.m. But had there been children around they would have chanted liar, liar, pants on fire.

We had several of our old friends playing with us tonight. It was the last outside gig of the summer.

Happy Saturday night and happy Sunday to you.

Friday, August 10, 2018

New Uke

A few mornings ago while drinking coffee in the great room, I was catching up on my reading and blissing out. Suddenly, I heard a song that I love.

Jilda was watching a video that had come across her Facebook timeline. It was Somewhere Over the Rainbow sung by Israel "Iz" Ka'ano'i Kamakawiwo'Ole. Judy Garland's version is incredible, but it makes me sad. Iz's version, on the other hand, always makes me smile.

This was a video I'd never seen before. As always it made me smile. But toward the end of the video, I heard cheering. Hmmm, I thought. Then I realized it was a video of his memorial service in Hawaii. He died years ago, but I did not know about it.

As the video showed his friends scattering his ashes in the Pacific, the video showed the beach and there were hundreds of people there cheering and blowing conch shells. They were celebrating the remarkable life of Iz. The video brought tears to my eyes. Click here to see it on YouTube.

I hummed the song for the rest of that day. And the next day.

Yesterday, after I left the eye docs office, I made a management decision. I stopped at the music store and looked at ukeleles. They had one acoustic/electric uke that had been scratched. Originally, it cost more than a hundred dollars. They had marked it down considerably.

I pulled a C-note out of my mad-money stash and plopped it on the counter. A few minutes later, I was walking out the door strumming my new uke.

Thanks, Iz for convincing me to buy an instrument that I should have bought years ago.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Point and shoot

I covered a city council meeting tonight, and on the way home I realized I hadn't taken a picture for my blog tonight. 

A hard rain had moved through earlier and was moving off to the north. I snapped this picture out of the windshield of my truck. I was driving so I didn't even look at the scene before I snapped the photo. I just pointed and hoped for the best. Sometimes it works out well, and at other times it's just sad.

I haven't decided which this one is.

Earlier in the week, my days were well planned. When I scratched my eye, everything changed. 

Driving back to Birmingham after lunch, I got in to see my eye doc immediately. I was thankful for that. She looked at my eye with her looking glass and said the meds had worked and that the scratch had improved dramatically. That was good news.

Tonight, I am road weary. So I'm about to drink some Sleepy Time tea and hit the hay.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Called in drunk

Not much in the noggin tonight. I think the muse called in drunk. I normally write my column on Wednesday, but it didn't happen. I've tapped enough keys to have written War and Peace. Instead, I have a lot of characters like ^%GH*&%ZZ65^&& F. And another thing – +)J^^!#Bzkdrv

So, I looked back through my photo archives and found this redbud bloom that I shot six years ago in August.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

The eye has it

I somehow got something in my eye last night when I took my contacts out. I couldn't see anything and when Jilda had a look she didn't either.

It felt a little better before going to bed, but this morning it was much worse.

My calendar was packed, but I rescheduled some things to fit in an appointment with my eye doc.
She didn't see anything, but she did see where something had been. I had scratches and that was causing the problems. She prescribed some eyedrops that were laced with gold dust. Not actually, but the thought crossed my mind when I paid the copay.

I didn't have any pictures so I found one of Caillou last summer. He looked much different at the first of this summer when he got a buzz cut, but he's looking more like the dog in this picture every day. I'll take a followup picture of him early in September.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Traveling the last miles alone

I have an elderly neighbor who is going through some changes in his life. Before he lost his wife a few years ago, they kept the roads hot. The loss of his wife took the wind out of his sails, as the old saying goes.

These days he spends his time in his recliner with the TV tuned to the channel that shows Westerns 24/7. On days when the temperature is bearable, he sits in a swing in the shade of a hickory tree in his front yard. It’s a good place to watch life go by.

His only family is a daughter who lives in Texas. He doesn’t talk to her much these days. She knows his health is declining and a while back she tried to convince him to move into an assisted living facility nearby. “There will be people your age there, and the staff can help you keep up with your medicine,” she reasoned. 

His pride and a stubborn streak as wide as the Mississippi made him resistant to the point of harsh words. Since then his phone does not ring as often as it did before the spat. He told me this recently as I sat with him on his creaking swing. 

He has two older dogs that are always by his side. He pointed to the nearest one and said, “I could never leave my dogs. They are the only family I have here now,” he said. 

He pointed out correctly that the assisted living places wouldn’t let him keep his dogs. 

I could tell he was down. 

The next day, I sent his daughter a text and told her about my visit. I asked if she’d like to talk to him if he was agreeable. She was thrilled because she’d been trying to call him for weeks, but there was no answer. She assumed he was still angry with her. 

When I walked over there, he was in his living room watching "Gunsmoke." The volume was loud enough to rattle glasses on his coffee table. I asked if he wanted to walk outside for a moment. 

Once outside, I told him his daughter had been trying to call him. He looked surprised. When I looked at his phone, his ringer was set on silence. His old phone had died a few weeks earlier, and he hadn’t figured out how to make the new one ring. 

Pulling out my phone, I dialed his daughter’s number and put the call on the speaker. When he heard her voice, he beamed. “Hey baby, how you doin’?” It was like they had never quarreled. 

He smiled as the call ended and sat up a little straighter in the swing. 

I know the call was just a reprieve. There is no getting around the fact that age is robbing him of his health, his hearing, and his mental acuity. At some point in the near future, hard decisions will have to be made. 

There are no manuals for aging. There are plenty of books and talking heads on the TV that can offer advice, but people have to travel the last few miles of their life journey alone. 

Many of us will take those steps if we live long enough. 

Sunday, August 05, 2018

I've been there

An afternoon interview this past week took me down a road I hadn't traveled in years. When you travel familiar paths, it seems much of the landscape is invisible. Something out of the ordinary would have to draw your attention to bring you back to mindfulness,

That's not the case when you travel places you haven't been in a while. I found myself looking for landmarks and trying to see what had changed.

I came across a wide spot in the road and on one shoulder was a patch of daisies. A quick glance in the mirror verified there was no one behind me.

Pulling to the edge of the road, I stepped out long enough to snap a couple pictures.

Soon someone did come into view. They slowed when they saw me parked in the middle of nowhere. I'm guessing they wanted to see what I was up to.

When the guy pulled up next to me, he slowed to a stop and rolled down his passenger side window. He saw that I was taking a picture of the wildflowers. He said he traveled the road daily and hadn't noticed the daisies.

I smiled knowingly as he drove off. "I've been there," I thought.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

A good Saturday

I hit the ground running this morning. The legs on a bench I built about 15 years ago had gone south. It lives on the deck. It holds flowers and herbs year around. Jilda painted it with morning glory vines. We love that bench, but the legs had rotted at the bottom.

I used a pattern to cut the legs when I built it. Since it's not like me to throw something like that away, I figured I still had the pattern stored somewhere in the shed. I was right. I'd bought the 2x12s earlier in the week. This morning I traced the legs from the original pattern and buzzed the pattern with my angry saw. 

The battery-powered screwdriver made short work of removing the rotten legs and installing the new ones. In less than an hour, the repaired bench stood proudly on the deck and ready to serve. 

Next, I cut grass, weed-whacked the back fence, and around the blueberry bushes. I will get up early in the a.m. when the temps are still bearable and lay down the pine bark mulch around the blueberry bushes.

Next, I cut about five acres of grass. On the newer property, I noticed some leaves getting a jump on autumn. I pulled up and snapped a few pictures.

These items that have been languishing on my todo list for weeks.

After a lunch, Jilda and I both showered and took a nap before heading to Zuzu Petal's first birthday party.

Tonight, we grilled a couple steaks and we're laying low. It's been a good Saturday.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Looking forward

My lower back has been wonky. I've been putting off going to the chiorpractor for a few weeks, but this morning I decided to go.

After walking in and filling out a ream of paperwork, the bonecracker called me back. When I told him the issue he shook his head knowlingly.

I know it's your back hurting, but it's probably because your left knee needs replacing. I think I already knew that.

He did an adjustment and it feels a little better, but I think it my back will get better immediatley after the knee surgery later this month.

It's been hot again today. We walked early, but it looked as if I showered in my clothes. We should start seeing changes in the next several weeks.

I would never wish a moment of my life away, but I think it's OK to say that I look forward to cooler weather.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Not for me

I'm a little claustraphobic. My older brother locked me in the trunk of an old Chevy parked in our backyard when I was in kindergarten. The little prank cost my brother a butt-whuppin' from my mom, but it also left a memory etched on my brain like as homemade tattoo.

Fast forward - Today I covered a media day event for the local college. It was to talk about a class for new miners. The 15 that graduated start to work tomorrow for a coal company. The average starting wage is $85 K. Experienced mine electrictions routinely make $150 K and more. 

The presenters took the media through a mine simulation environment. Mentally, I knew it was a metal building configured to look like the inside of an underground mine. But my childhood experience made this the longest 45 minutes of my life. 

I remembered what my lovely wife teaches. Just breathe. I did. Soon I stopped feeling my heartbeat in my throat and temples. I never got comfortable, but I managed to make it through without bolting.

When I got outside, I looked into the sky and thought, "I know miners earn a lot of money, but the work is not for me."

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Fun day

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain drumming the metal roof. Our house is insulated, and we don't often hear what's going on outside, but the rain is different.

It sounds like distant drumming. There's a rhythm, but it's unlike the sounds made by the human hands. I laid there for a long while listening. I find it meditative.

The clouds were so thick the streetlights were still lighted. Slipping out of bed, I punched the brew button and then set the timer on my phone for 15 minutes.

I spent those minutes alone meditating.

When my phone chimed, the coffeemaker was ready and I poured myself a cup and one for Jilda. She has nasal radar and almost sleepwalked to the living room toward the aroma.

We sat for a long while watching the rain.

After a while, the dogs became interested in something outside. It was our great nephew Jordan running from his mother's SUV. I opened the door just in time for him to launch in and onto the couch. With one practiced move, he dove under the comforter and became a human cocoon.

His mom came in bringing his iPad and a few other things. He would be spending the day with us.

We had a great time. I wrote most of the morning, and Jilda entertained him. After lunch when she got ready to head to work, I stepped in.

The rain had moved off to the east by the time she left for work so Jordan and I decided on a roadtrip.

We ran by where his mom works and she familiarized me with the exercise equipment I will be using soo for my therapy.

When we left there, we headed to the bookstore. They were having a huge sale. We lit on that place like locusts. Afterward, we stopped by Yogurt Mountain, which is one of his favorite places.

We got two cups of yogurt with all the toppings. When I paid the tab, I almost had a heart attack. I had no idea it would be so expensive.

As I always say fun ain't cheap.

On the way home, the clouds began moving back in. I stopped a few miles from our house to snap a picture of the clouds.

These clouds look menacing, but they were actually just rain clouds.

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