Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Something we don't know

Walking this week we heard a droning sound as we walked through the canopy of pin oak, buckeye, and pine.
We keep the path trimmed but the trees keep reaching for sunlight. The result is almost like a tunnel through the underbrush.
The further we walked, the louder the droning sound became. Finally, at one end of the "tunnel", stood a sumac bush with a bloom the color of freshly churned butter.
Those blossoms contained thousands of bees. Some were honey bees, some were bumble bees, and there were other bees I can't name.
This has been a strange summer, and I can't help but thing that something's up. They're tanking up earlier than usual.
It's the same with our hummingbirds. We kept nectar out all spring and summer and saw only a few visits a day.
The last week they've been drinking almost a cup of nectar a day out of the two feeders by our windows.
You're taking your life into your own hands if you walk close to the blazing star, bleeding hearts, or old maids. You'll get cursing hummingbirds saying unkind things about your linage.
Normally we don't see this level of activity until late August. It's hard to say, but maybe they know something we don't know.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


I had meetings today and afterwards, a therapy session for my ailing shoulder and knees, so I headed out early.
Jilda handed me a honey-pickup list for the grocery store, so I left with a plan.
The air was humid, and my shirt went limp before I made it to the truck. Once out of the driveway, I cranked down the window to feel closer to the day.
I could smell freshly mown grass, and a hint of wood smoke. It seems a lot of people decided this week to clear and burn debris.
When I rolled onto the bridge crossing the Sipsey Fork of the Warrior River, I glanced in my rearview to make sure no one was behind me, then I slowed to a crawl to get a better view of the jade-green water flowing its circuitous route southward to the sea. Note to self: go fishing soon.
After my errands, I headed home. I unloaded the few bags of groceries and took them inside before returning to heft the 40 pounds of birdseed out of the back of the truck.
When I leaned over to drop the tailgate, I noticed something blue out of the corner of my eye.
I stepped back over to get a better look and saw that it was the feather of a jay. I picked it up by the quill and rolled it between my thumb and index finger.
I tucked it behind my ear and hefted the sack of birdseed out of the truck and took it inside.
Jilda loves blue jays so I laid the feather on her computer.
An odd gift I know, but one I knew she'd appreciate.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Fear is not my friend ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

Franklin Roosevelt was an inspirational leader. During the Great Depression, at one of the darkest hours in America’s history, he said, “There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

With the economy in shambles, that was a pretty gutsy thing to say.

His quote got me thinking this week about fear and how it affects us. Fear is one of the most destructive emotions in the universe. It’s worse than anger.

While anger usually subsides after the cause is removed, fear remains inside and grows like a tumor,
unless you confront it.

The fear of mice, snakes and spiders seems to be hardcoded into our DNA.

I know for a fact that most non-poisonous snakes are beneficial, and some even kill poisonous snakes.

But if you ask people why the snake crosses the road, many of them will say it’s because he wants to die a horrible skid-marked death. Many feel that ANY snake is capable of eating small children and pets.

While sneaky, crawly creatures top most people’s fear list, there are many other documented types of fear for the more discerning “frady cats.”

People are afraid of everything from Ablutophobia, which is the fear of washing or bathing, to Zelophobia, which is the fear of jealousy, with dozens of phobias in between.

Fear of what other people will think or say is perhaps the most brutal of all.

People told Jilda in the past that they would never come to a yoga class because they’d be afraid that people would look at them.

They’re afraid of looking foolish.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve looked foolish, I could have retired out of high school.

So where does all this fear come from? Wikipedia defines fear this way:

Fear is an emotion induced by a perceived threat, which causes entities to quickly pull far away from it and usually hide. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger.

Children, for the most part, are fearless. They’ll try anything. If they hear music, they will start bobbing their heads, they will start moving their legs and dance a little jig whether they can dance well or not. They couldn’t care less if someone laughs at them.

But somewhere along the way, we learn to fear. There are people who would rather donate a kidney than to look stupid.

I’m not immune to fear either. I consider myself a writer and I’ve been working on some projects for a few years.

I’ve outlined, mind mapped, daydreamed, and sketched out three separate novels. I’ve written about 40 first chapters, but there’s a copper headed rattle moccasin that’s preventing me from finishing my first draft. What could I be afraid of? Failure?

Simply writing these words has been therapeutic, because I’ve actually written down what I could not bring myself to say.

I should have been listening to the words of a song that Jilda and I wrote over twenty years ago.

Keep your feet on the ground as you reach for the sky

It’s no sin to fail until you fail to try

When bad seeds are planted, the harvest is thin

You can’t fly like an eagle on the wings of a wren.

My new mantra is: Fear Is Not My Friend.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Good Riddance

There's been a mountain of debris in our yard from the storms that raked through in March. I knew the fire would be substantial so I kept waiting for the right time.
It's rained a great deal since then, but this morning after I fed the chickens, I carried a cup of coffee outside, pulled a lounge chair from the shed, and sat outside enjoying the morning. I licked my finger and held it up to gauge the wind. The wind today would have made a nervous pilot smile.
I pulled out my phone and checked the calendar to make sure we had nothing planned for the day. The calendar was a clean slate so I made a management decision to fire that yard-sore up.
The underlying wood was still moist from all the rain so the fire was a controlled burn. I've spent the day out in the fresh air feeding the fire with remnants of the storm.
I knew going in that it would take some time, and that's one of the reason it's been sitting in my back yard so long.
But it was one of those things that's hard to ignore. Each time I drove into the driveway I would chide myself...I've got to burn that stuff. Not only was it an eyesore, but it was a constant reminder of a difficult time in our lives.
So this evening, my knees are screaming, my muscles are spent, but that pile of wood is now smoldering ash.
Could I have found a more productive things to do with my time today? Perhaps, but it was one of those Important, but not Urgent tasks.
It feels good to strike that one off my list.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A humbling experience.

Jilda and I performed at a charity event tonight to raise money for a program that gives food on the weekends to kids living in poverty.
Our friend Leneda discovered several years ago that an alarming number of kids did with out food on weekends.
She got some people and local businesses involved to donate and distribute food. It's a worthy cause.
This year she asked several local authors to sell books at the event and donate part of the proceeds to the charity.
It really wasn't a book-buying event, but even so, I sold some books which provided some money to the charity.
The best part for me was when a young man came up to the table and picked up a copy of Remembering Big. "Hey, I know this book," he said.
He explained that his dad sent him a copy when the young man was deployed in Iraq. "It was like a taste of home," he said. It made my night.
We never know where our words will end up, and what impact they have on people that we don't know and may never meet.
It was a humbling experience.

Summer Sunset

Friday, July 26, 2013

Life goes on

Some students in Jilda's Monday night community yoga class gave her a gift certificate for a visit to the local spa today.
Sensing a chance to eat out, I volunteered to drive her in for her morning appointment. Before I left, I grabbed my laptop.
On the way to the spa, we drove through the area hard hit by tornados in April of 2011. I noticed when crossing the bridge over the Sipsey Fork of the Warrior River, that many of the tree that had been stripped of limbs and leaves, had new growth which made the tree trunks look fuzzy. The tops of a few looked like green afro wigs.
Seeing how the trees coped with the wrath of Mother Nature, gave me an idea for a column. Life goes on.
I had Jilda jot the idea down on my iPhone notepad while I drove.
I'd planned on visiting one of our friends in the hospital while the spa girls were working my tensed-up spouse over, but as it turns out my friend was in therapy and couldn't have company.
Instead of visiting, I drove over to Micky "D's", ordered a hot Mocha, and grabbed as seat toward the back.
I shoved my headphones in my ears to drown out the sound of squealing youngun's enjoying the fun room.
When I sat down to write, events of the last few weeks came flooding into my mind creating a perfect mind storm. The column flowed like honey on a hot biscuit.
I won't say much here, but I'll post the column after it runs, but I can say I'm happy with what I wrote.
I hope you all have a blessed weekend.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Chip Away

I've been sending out queries this week to newspaper editors across the country. Most of them have gone unanswered. I expected that. Cold calling is the toughest, but without a personal recommendation, it's often the only option.
I had a few in Alabama that I felt good about. I sent out emails earlier in the week and two of them responded.
I exchanged a few emails but the digital conversation lagged.
Yesterday, I slipped out of bed, started the coffee brewing, and slid into the chair at my desk. It squeaked under my weight and it sounded much louder in the silent house.
I'd woke up early thinking about what to write. When I started, the email flowed. I tried to be as honest as I could. I wrote that one concern that editors have had, was that I was a "Local Writer" whose work might not work in places away from my hometown.
I tried to address this concern by telling the editor that I've been blogging since 2005 and have followers all across the planet.
I wrote that my work seems to resonate with the 40 + crowd and that even though I don't have numbers to prove it, I think that crowd is the one that still buys and reads newspapers instead of getting their news on an iPhone.
I fretted a little after clicking on the send button. My fears were in vain because in less than 30 minutes, the editor sent me a note back saying they'd try my column for three months to see if it fit.
If he'd been close enough, I would have hugged his neck.
As it turns out, I picked up a second paper today too. Grand total for this week, three new newspapers now running my column.
Tomorrow, I have another group of emails going out to papers in Ohio, Iowa, and Arizona.
Chip away.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Jilda had a treatment today so I set up shop in the back of the cafeteria. Normally I can work there as easily as I can at my office at home, but my mind kept wandering.
I stuffed headphones into my ears and cranked up the "creative focus" mp3 I have on my laptop for just such an occasion, but it didn't work.
I had the good fortune a few weeks ago to have a number of ideas that I wrote and placed in my Works In Progress folder. 
I picked one and about an hour later I had a solid piece for Sunday's column.
I wish I knew why some days my mind is fertile as a bunny rabbit and some days it's as if my mind has been sprayed with Roundup.
If any of you have theories about this, or cures for it, I'm all ears.
Befuddled Rick
Our First Sunflower of 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Old Flowers

We have some old flowers. There's a bleeding heart that Jilda got from her grandmother who had grown it from a cutting in the 1960s.
We have several citrus and avocado trees that Jilda's mom planted some twenty years ago.
But one of my favorite plants is the Blazing Star. It's been in a pot on our deck for as long as I can
In the winter it dies back to a a few stems jutting up from the soil in the pot. Each spring the new shoots sprout up and put on serrated leaves. I had a cousin visiting from up north one summer and he thought we were growing pot on our deck. I never realized the leaves of the blazing star resembled cannabis.
This year we decided to plan it in the flower bed next to the deck. It seemed to sulk for a few weeks but yesterday, it decided to bloom.
I saw it when we headed out for our morning walk. I pulled the iPhone from my pocket and shot this photo and then turned it into a painting with Photoshop.
With a little love and care, maybe it will live another 50 years.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Chicken Wings

Back in May, we lost both our hens the same week. One had health problems and a raccoon, or possum got the other one.
Zeus the mighty rooster was lonesome and you could hear it in his wakeup crowing each morning.
About a month ago Jilda and I got up early one Sunday morning and went to Lacon, which is an old timey flea market where you can buy fresh tomatoes, watermelons, parched peanuts, a used outboard motor, a hoe handle, or practically any small farm animal you can name (and some you can't).
We found two beautiful hens and brought them home. Since Zeus was named after one of the Greek gods, we decided to name the hens appropriately. So we call one Iris and the other Isis. Zeus was a happy boy.
Then last week, Iris noticed the bugs were bigger on the other side of the chicken wire so she flew over and began scratching pine straw and capturing nice fat red worms.
Isis soon followed. Our back yard is fenced so no neighborhood dogs could get to the chickens, but then they started flying over the chain-link fence too.
I spent a great deal of time shooing them back into their pen. I finally decided tonight to try and resolve the problem by clipping one of their wings.
I helped my mom do this many times when I was a kid. The idea is that with the long feathers of one wing trimmed, they can't get lift when they try to fly. That part works. But mom always said that even when the feathers grow back, the chickens won't try to fly out again because they forget they can fly.
To be honest, I don't remember if it works or not, but I'll know in a month or so.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

My Last Respects

Some people consider being asked to serve as a pallbearer a pain. I've heard men say that it's right up
there with serving on jury duty, or donating blood. But I've never looked at it in that light.
I consider it an honor. It's one last thing you can do for someone on this earth. 
My sister-in-law, that I've known almost as long as I've known my wife, asked if I'd be a pallbearer for her only son.
It wasn't a hard decision. In fact there was no hesitation in my voice when I said I would. It was an easy decision.
I have a photograph of him when he was about five. He was sitting on the hood of his dad's 1961 Chrysler Imperial with his two older sisters. They were all smiling as children do.
In the years when my marriage was young, all our nieces and nephews spent as much time with us as possible, because we were "the cool aunt and uncle."
Even when were were broke, we had hotdogs, some chips, and ice tea. We also had vinyl records of the music they loved.
We introduced John Michael and our other nieces and nephews to The Eagles, Queen, The Doobie Brothers, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan.
I thought about all these things yesterday standing in the sweltering sun beside the graveside of John Michael. 
He must have had an inkling that his days were numbered, because he'd told his kids that he wanted Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen played at his funeral.
His mom is a religious woman and didn't feel comfortable with the song being played in the chapel. But she was OK with it being played by the graveside.  His ex-wife Diane produced a small boombox, and punched the play button with her index finger.
All of a sudden, Freddy Mercury was singing to all that was gathered. The clergy frowned noticibly, and the undertaker squirmed. But I found myself smiling as Freddie sang: 
Mama, ooh,
Didn't mean to make you cry,
If I'm not back again this time tomorrow,
Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters. 

RIP John Michael

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Year of the Mushroom

The humidity was as thick as a damp blanket today. On the way in to Homewood for our gig this evening, it rained so hard that traffic on the Interstate slowed to a crawl. All the cars were riding their
breaks which made a thread of color in the distance that looked like strings of red Christmas lights.
I know I've mentioned this before, but it's rained a lot this spring an summer. The weatherman said this week that if we didn't get another drop for the rest of the year, we'd still have a surplus of rainfall for 2013.
When the weather is damp, mushrooms thrive. I've seen some of the most beautiful color I've ever seen in mushrooms.
I shot this one when we were on our morning walk. I guess you could say, it's the year of the mushroom.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Spider Tales

Our great nephew Jordan is afraid of spiders. It's not an irrational fear where he runs away screaming at the site of the little eight-legged creatures, but if he sees a web, he moves away and will not be back until the web is removed.
He comes by the fear honestly, because his mom, who we also helped raise, was afraid of spiders too.
This past week he stayed with us when his grandmother, who keeps him during the summer, had a doctor's appointment and asked if he could stay with us a while.
When he arrived, we had breakfast on the screened porch. Every thing was copacetic (his new word), until he spied a spider crawling up the screen. He grabbed his banana and apple juice and headed inside.
When he finally told me that he'd seen a spider, I went through my little routine to explain about spiders and that they too had a place here and a job to do.
I told him that spiders captured moths and stinging bees in their web. I even pulled up a YouTube video that showed a small spider capturing a wasp, but he wasn't buying it.
Finally I had to get the broom and sweep the spider and all the cobwebs off the porch before he'd consider returning.
Jilda cooked tacos tonight and after dinner, I cleaned the kitchen. I had a bowl full of scraps to dump into our compost bucket on the bannister of the deck.
As I stepped outside, I got a face full of spider web. What's worse, I could feel the spider crawling up my forehead.
I spewed out a stream of obscenities that are still reverberating off the hills and hollows of central Alabama.
The spider had set up shop just outside our garden doors this evening. Apparently the living room light filtering through the glass is a magnet for moths.
I normally won't bother any spider except for black widows and brown recluses, but I have to tell you, a spider on my face is a little too close for me.
I thought of Jordan after I'd raked the spider off my head and tossed him into the night. I'm glad he didn't see my little jig, because he's smart enough, even at five, that he might have pulled up the YouTube video on spiders and lectured me about why they are here.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Whiney Baby

Did I mention that I've been going to therapy? I know, many of you are probably saying, "I knew he was a little off his rocker," but it's not that kind of therapy.
About six weeks ago, my niece's dog Lady, who is an overgrown pup, jumped on the pit bull next door. She was playing, but the pit, who is a good natured dog herself, didn't realize it was play time so she got rough. Her mate, who is also a good natured bulldog, joined the fray.
I took a broom out and separated the melee. The neighbors dogs scurried home but Lady was on the ground and I wasn't sure how bad she was.
I scooped her up (all 80 dead-weight pounds of her) and brought her inside to see how bad she was.
She was bleeding a little, and she seemed almost unresponsive. She had her eyes open, but it was like she was in shock.
We dressed her wounds and began making preparations to take her to the vet when she came around a little. After a while we fed her some sandwich meat and water and it looked as if she would be OK.
I, on the other hand, pulled something in my shoulder and it hurt.
I've pulled things before and usually after a day or two, I start mending, but the old shoulder didn't come around.
I saw my doctor and he did all the range of motion tests, and prescribed therapy. I've been going for almost a month and I've discovered that physical therapists are closet sadist. I'm actually going where my niece (who owns Lady) works as a physical therapist assistant.
At home she is a sweet child, but put her in a therapy room and BOOM, she made me howl like a drunken spider monkey.
I might complain, but I must admit that after a month of seeing her and her team, my shoulder feels great. It's almost as good as new, so perhaps she was justified in calling me a whiney baby.

Collard Field

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sad Day

I'm a little empty tonight. We lost a nephew; a son of Jilda's sister Pat. I have a picture of him and his two sisters when he was about five years old.
They were sitting on the hood of their dad's red Chrysler Imperial. It was an early 60s model and as long as a barge. All three kids were grinning at the camera.
His health had waned the last few years, but he was just in his 40s and he died way too young.

I'm on a roll so tonight I'm posting another picture that doesn't have much to do with the blog post. It was taken near Pebble Beach, California.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Grow little trees grow

I've spent a great many cycles these past few weeks working on syndicating my column. I'm learning that syndication is easier said than done.
Several years ago when newspapers across the country were rocking and rolling, they could be choosy about their content so syndication was difficult. 
Now with the world wide web, and people getting "up to the second" news on their phones, things have changed, and newspapers are in the process of focusing on their core mission, and being mindful of every dollar spent. You guessed it, getting a column syndicated is still easier said than done. 
I have an old friend who was a newspaper publisher for years, once told me to forget it.
I was thinking about that today as I perused through some old photographs that I shot several years ago when Jilda and I visited San Francisco. 
I came across one of costal pines that I'd used to make an art photo. It was growing out of rock. I'm sure there's some soil in there somewhere, but they're surviving.
Their fore-arbors would have told the young saps, don't try to grow on the rocks. Be sensible. It's a hostile environment there by the sea. 
But as you can see, the young saps stayed true to their calling, and I'm glad they did.
Tonight, sitting here with the rejection emails mounting, I feel a little like these trees must have felt when they were much younger.
But this much I know: If becoming a columnist, a painter, a doctor, or a great teacher were easy, everyone would be doing it.
Grow little trees grow.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Random Stuff

I love it when a blog turns into a column. I had a feeling when I finished last night's post about the dove
I shot this photo near San Francisco,
it has nothing to do with this post :)
in my chicken pen, that it would wind up in a column.
This morning I poured a cup of java, grabbed the laptop and headed to the screen porch to write. The words flowed and I finished Sunday's column in about an hour.
As I typed, I heard a chirping sound. At first I thought a bird had gotten inside the screen, but as I moved around searching for the source, I realized it was coming from our ceiling fan.
Before I got through editing, the fan began to slow down. I stepped inside and flipped the switch to put that baby out of its misery.
This afternoon I headed out to Home Depot and picked up a replacement. A few hours later, the new fan was installed.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


I went out this evening to sit outside and enjoy the waning light of the day. I poured a glass of red wine and stepped out to the stone benches in the yard.
I heard a commotion in the chicken pen, so I set my glass on the bench and walked down to assess the situation.
I peered through the wire front of the roosting shed and saw a turtle dove on the ground. Apparently the scratch feed that I put in the feeders for the chickens had lured her in, and she couldn't find her way out.
Snow Doves from my January 2011 post
Zeus, the mighty rooster was cackling, scratching and he must have looked like a bear to the dove, cowering in the corner.
I stepped in the fence and walked toward the roosting shed. Zeus apparently hasn't grasped the concept of size yet because he stood ready to repel me out of the shed. I put a tennis shoe on his behind and he flapped out, chicken cursing me all the way. 
The young dove threw herself against the wire fence enclosing the shed, in an attempt to escape. You could see terror in her eyes.
I inched in, talking in a low even-toned voice. She'd been evading Zeus, and trying to free herself from the room so long that she was exhausted.
I leaned over slowly and scooped her up gently in my hands. I stepped over to the door and opened my palms.
She sat there for a moment before launching out of my hands. She landed on a nearby branch, and turned to face me for a long moment before flying off.
I wish there was some way of knowing what was going through her head. She may have been saying, "You just wait mister, I'll leave a gift on your truck tomorrow." 
Or she might have been saying, "Thank you for your kind deed." 
I choose to believe, that like most of us, that she was grateful for a helping hand.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Your Favorite Song

Someone asked me recently what was my favorite song. That's a toughie. To sift through all the music I've listened to and loved and somehow pull one out of that pile would be difficult.
So maybe I'll try to do one per decade (even this approach will fall painfully short).
Jailhouse Rock (recorded by Elvis)
All Along the Watchtower (written by Bob Dylan, but I like Jimi Hendrix's version)
Let it Be (The Beatles)
Faithfully (Journey)
Time of Your Life (Greenday)
You're Beautiful (James Blunt)

When I looked at this list, I've already seen a dozen songs that could easily have been on the list, but it's time to go to bed.

What's your favorite song?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Onward and upward

I spent quality time thinking today.  It didn't take long to put yesterday into perspective. Jilda had an appointment for a haircut and color. That usually takes some time, so I decided to ride up to the Sipsey Fork and see what the water looked like.
I'd called the automated Lake Level hotline so I knew the turbins were on and the water below the dam
where the trout live would be rushing faster than class 5 rapids, but I wanted to go to the water anyhow.
When I got to the entry road to the angler access, there was no one at the fly shop. Normally the lot is full. Not a good sign.  I clicked on my blinker and eased down the access road.
I rolled the window down and the breeze coming off the water was cooler than the air blowing from my air conditioner. The vegetation by the river was as thick as a rain forrest, and the smell of damp earth and moss reminded me of the smells I experienced as a kid at our cabin on the Warrior River.
The area was a ghost town, but fishing wasn't the purpose of my visit. I found a shady spot near the pump house, slipped on my vest, fished my fly rod and reel from behind the seat and walked down toward the water.
I'd forgotten my lure tying glasses so I had to squint to thread a piece of clear filament the size of a human hair through the eye of a hook that was not much bigger than the hole in a sewing needle.
After a few tries I got lucky and tied the tiny lure on my line. The river was up about ten feet so I stood on the access ramp and made a few tentative casts. On the third cast, my fly snagged a low-hanging limb and when I tried to pull it free, the line snapped. I didn't even cuss.
I reeled the line back on the reel, laid the rod across my lap, pulled my shoes off and dangled them in the frigid water, and sat on the ramp for a long while.
You'd be amazed at the level of focus you can attain when you're close to the water. It felt good on a level that's hard to articulate.
After a while, I could tell it was getting close to noon because my stomach became angry, so I slid my chilly feet back into my shoes and walked back up the ramp to my truck.
I got home before Jilda but she phoned saying she was on her way. While I waited, I remembered a contact of a lady that did a story on Jilda and me a few months back when we played a coffee house just south of us.
I dropped her a note to ask who to talk to about getting my column in her paper. She must have been at her computer because she responded within a minute. She gave me the email of her publisher.
I dropped him a quick email, and we exchanged messages all afternoon.
I'm not getting my hopes up, but I'm encouraged.
I also just learned that the Star Herald in Kosciusko, Mississippi will start running my column next week.
Onward and upward.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I feel better already

I've been cranked for several days now. I'd been exchanging emails with the publisher of a daily newspaper in the next county and he seemed excited about the possibility of running my column in his paper.
He asked about the awards I recently won for articles I'd written. We even talked some about pricing.
We managed to get our calendars together and I was in his office at 2 p.m. today. When he asked what he could do for me, I told him I wanted him to publish my column in his paper.
The meeting did not go as smoothly as it had played out in my head. In fact, he gave me a half dozen reasons why he wouldn't run my column.
He said something like: "Well your writing is good, and I can see why it does well where people know you." When I told him that I wrote for newspapers and magazines all across Alabama, and that I have blog followers all across the planet, he took a different approach.
I feel like I addressed every concern he had, but when he said: "I won't spend a dime on anything
Random picture that has nothing to do with post :)
unless it adds readership to my paper," I knew I didn't have a prayer. After all, who or what can guarantee that anything will improve readership.
I told him that he could run my column for a month free of charge to see if his readers responded. But at that point, the conversation was already over. I gave him an autographed copy of my book, shook his hand and walked away.
Am I disappointed? Yes. I really thought I had a shot at that opportunity, but it looks as if that won't happen.
Disappointment is a part of life. You set your sights on a goal and sometimes you fall short, but you only fail when you quit.
Tomorrow I'll brew a pot of coffee and start over.
I feel better already.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I was writing on the screened porch just before lunch this morning when I heard Jilda say, "Rick, come here!"
I've come to understand that could mean anything to, from I just severed my left hand with a case knife, to I just got an email saying we got the gig at the coffeehouse.
Fortunately, today she was calling me to the kitchen window to see visitors under our apple tree. When I got to the window and looked out, there were two young deer eating the corn that we leave for them down there.
They munched leisurely, before scampering down toward the barn. We haven't seen these twin bucks in a year and they've grown.
I snapped a photo with my iPhone before heading into my office to fetch my camera with a telephoto lens.
By the time I returned, they were gone.
Note to self, keep the camera close at hand.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The Right Direction

I've never considered myself to be slothful, yet I'm not sure what else to call it. I work hard to establish
worthwhile habits, and then the law of diminishing intent overwhelms me, and all of a sudden, I'm drifting too far from the shore, as the old gospel song goes.
I'd gotten into the habit of doing yoga each morning while the coffee brewed. It makes me feel great. Afterwards I feel centered and less affected by the random noise that is around me. My coffee and the food I eat tastes better.
But I skip one day because of an early meeting, or I'm out of town, or on a cruise, and the next thing I know, yoga is the last thing on my mind and stuff comes at me like I'd just stepped into a yellow-jacket nest.
I think a lot of people struggle with this same issue. We work hard to get our ducks in a row, and then life happens and throws us off course. Soon we're adrift without map or rudder.
This week I've gotten back on course, and I'm feeling more focused and stronger.  When I woke up this morning, I grabbed my mat, and headed out to the deck. I tossed it while holding one end and it popped before settling down like a rubber blanket.
I did yoga as the morning came alive, I could smell the flowers and herbs in the pots around me, and off in the distance, I heard the barn owl down in the hollow. He seemed to be saying Who, Who, Who's headed in the right direction now.
This picture has absolutely nothing to do with these words, but I think posts are better if they have a picture.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Jackson Hole, Here We Come

Our friends Wes and Deidra invited us to join them in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in the fall. We've never
Promo Picture from the web
been there and when they asked, it resonated.
I'm betting there is a trout out there that is mocking me at this very moment.
"Bring it on you hillbilly," squirting cold mountain stream water from his gills as he snickers. "You couldn't catch me with dynamite and a net."
I say, wait and see my little scaly friend, I'm coming with my fishing face on.
We've been doing some research and apparently it's between peak tourist times; after summer and before skiing season.
That's perfect for me because it's hard to soak up the ambience when there's too many people around.
I booked our flight today with reward travel miles we've accumulated over the years on our AMEX card.
The photographs I've seen online have been stunning, so I can't wait to snap a few frames for myself.
It is out intention to spend our wedding anniversary next year in Ireland. We may have to knock off a liquor store to fund the trip, but you know what they say, "fun ain't cheap."
I hope you all have a remarkable week.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Doggy Trauma

Our dog Caillou has had a difficult time this week.  Normally he's a laid back dog that is polite and well
behaved. In fact when people come up in the yard, for the first time since I can remember, they can get all the way to our door without getting barked up by a yard full of dogs.
His main vice is that he likes for people to be together. Whenever we have kids or other company visiting, he likes for them to stay contained. When a kid begins to wander off, he springs into action and heads them back to the herd.
But on the night of Fourth of July when the fireworks began, Caillou was not happy. The booms from the fireworks was unsettling for him on a level that he'd never experienced. At one point when we missed him, I walked into my bathroom and he was curled up in my shower shivering.
I spent a lot of time consoling him but he did not do well. If the fireworks had stopped on Thursday, we could have dealt with that, but apparently the kids out here bought a LOT of firecrackers because we're still hearing them from time to time.
Last night Jilda and I were watching the weather before going to bed. As we sat on the leather loveseat in the TV/Laundry room, the explosions started again. Caillou came in nuzzled up close and then before either of us could react, he jumped onto the loveseat into our laps. He now tips the scales at 75 pounds and I can tell you he was a lap full.
We haven't heard any firecrackers tonight so hopefully they've shot them all. Caillou is resting at my feed as I write.
I'm calling the vet tomorrow to see if she will prescribe some doggy downers for next year.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Not Today

Today we picked blackberries in the rain. Jilda and I walked after lunch when there was a pause in the wet stuff, and saw the vines were hanging full.
But toward the end of our walk the clouds opened up and it began drizzling. We walked faster with the ground squishing under our shoes. This is the fourth day of rain here, but after the drought five years ago, I made a promise to never whine about the rain.
We finished our walk, but we both felt it was a shame to leave the berries to the rain. If left unpicked, they grow soft and fall to the ground.
Jilda stepped inside to fetch a small round market basket that we use to gather berries. By the time we got back to the barn we both looked as if we'd showered. 
As we picked I could hear drops of rain ticking on the oak and hickory leaves. Down in the hollow, the creek that's usually just a trickle in summer, was roaring like a muted train from all the rain.
In the trees I could hear the jays and cardinals cursing at us -- "That was my berry he just picked. I've been waiting all week for it to ripen."
The birds love the berries as much as we do, so we always leave a generous helping of ripe berries for them.
Jilda will make us one of her blackberry pies tomorrow. 
Some days you work as if you're putting out fires, and at the end of the day when you look back, you have little to show.
But not today.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Old Photographs

Jilda's mom and dad wasn't sure about me. I was from the "other side of the highway" and I'm not sure they trusted someone with long sideburns.
Somehow she talked her parents into letting her ride with her friends Dale and Debbi, to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The only catch was we had to be back home by bedtime.
That was long before sleep-overs were permitted without a marriage license. 
It was the Friday after Thanksgiving 1969, and Gatlinburg was a 5 hour drive so we headed north at daybreak. It was cool in Alabama, so we took warm clothes.
On the trip up we all listened to music, talked about our hopes and dreams and offered solutions to most of the world's problems.
Dale was driving a 1968 Ford Maverick and it was cozy in the back seat. 
The air got thinner as we climbed higher into the Smokie Mountains. We saw so many deer and wild turkey that we stopped counting. We saw a black bear and pulled over to the side of the road to watch him at a distance.
Just after noon, we noticed tiny particles of ice ticking on the windshield. Soon a light snow began to fall.
We pulled over at a wide place in the road for a photo op, and to eat a picnic sandwich.  Dale, who later taught me about photography, shot this picture of Jilda and me. It's one of the first, if not the first picture that was ever taken of us. 
That was on November 28, 1969.  In this photograph we both looked as if we could see into the future. I'm not sure we saw all the twists and turns that we'd go through, but I think we saw that most of the journey would be smooth sailing.
As I said before, I love looking through old photographs.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Happy 4th of July

We invited Jilda's family over this afternoon to eat some ribs, brats, baked beans, and potato salad.
Our sister-in-law baked a peach cobbler, and our niece brought some kind of sweetbread that we ate with vanilla ice cream.
We ate ourselves into silence and sat for a long time watching the rain fall outside our windows.
This July has been the coolest in over 75 years here in Alabama.
After everyone left, and we cleaned the kitchen, Jilda and I stepped out to the screened porch to listen to the rain on the roof and the sound of fireworks in the distance.
As I sat there, I reflected on America. It's actually a miracle that our country survived its infancy. I know I read about this in school, but a few years back I spent a great deal of time reading about American history through the words of David McCullough who wrote (among other books) 1776 and the biography of John Adams.
He brings our our history to life in a way that I've never experienced it before. It was only through the dogged commitment of our forefathers that we are here today shooting fireworks, and eating BBQ.
I am grateful for their sacrifice.
I hope you all have enjoyed a remarkable holiday.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Blame it on our parents

Several days ago, while watching the weather channel for a forecast, I noticed something I hadn't heard before. It was a clicking sound coming from our freezer. 
It's a small seven cubic foot freezer that we bought second hand back when the first Bush was in the White House. It's been sitting there in the laundry room keeping our food frosty for years. 
But I noticed that every few minutes it would click, and the compressor would kicked on for about five seconds before clicking off. Hmmm, I thought, this just didn't sound right.
When I stepped over to investigate, I knew immediately that something wasn't right. The hamburger meat, instead of being as hard as granite brick, was mushy. 
I quickly shut the lid and broke the news to Jilda. 
On Sunday afternoon, I started cleaning out the freezer and tossing food into huge garbage bags.
It hurt me deeply to throw away a quart of blackberries I'd picked last year. Along with the berries, were countless containers of apples from our tree, peaches, black-eyed peas, corn, and okra that we grew last year.
We had several hundred dollars worth of meat: chicken, fish, hamburger, and a rack of ribs. 
I didn't have the heart to actually tally everything up. Suffice it to say, replacing the freezer would be much cheaper than replacing the food.
Both Jilda and I had parents who lived through the Great Depression. Our families were very conscience of waste. All of them made promises when times were tough that if they made it through the depression, that they would never go hungry again. 
My mother could not bring herself to toss an aluminum pie plate once the pie had been eaten. Jilda's mom was just as bad. 
They both had freezers brimming with food. Back when Jilda and I first married, and were as broke as a politician's promise, the food in those freezers helped us make it through.
Perhaps something passed down to us both via the DNA of our parents. We look for good buys on food and even if we can't eat it right away, we pack it lovingly in our freezer knowing that it will help get us through the low times.
Today I picked up a new freezer which is much more efficient. The old freezer will be on the way to the recycle place on Monday.
Over the coming months, we'll slowly build up our food reserves. Some people may call us crazy, and that's probably true, but you can blame it on our parents.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Fountain Pens

It's interesting what people are drawn to. Jilda loves shoes, and vintage jewelry. Many of her friends go for diamonds and pearls. 
I, on the other hand, love fountain pens. I had the good fortune to work for a company that gave generous gifts for milestone service anniversaries and most of the time I selected fine fountain pens.
I use my pens when I'm writing in my private journal and when I autograph books. 
Cerulean ink as rich as velvet seems to make what I write more substantial. Even moments after the ink dries, it's like the words were written long ago.
Another thing I love about fountain pens is that they're not disposable. I've had some of my pens for over 20 years. 
A few years ago I signed books at a library and I left one of my pens on a side table where I'd stepped away to make a call. I was on my way home when I realized I'd left my pen. I immediately turned around to retrieve it. Driving 32 miles round trip for my pen seemed like a small price to pay.
Today when I pulled out one of my pens, the ink was sluggish and skipped. It was a Christmas gift that Jilda gave me several years ago, and it's one of my favorites.
I removed the nib, immersed the delicate instrument in warm filtered water and let it soak. After repeating the process three times, the water ran clear. I installed a new cartridge and now the pen is like new.
I think every writer should have at lease one fountain pen.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Magical time

I walked outside class tonight to wait on Jilda who was catching up with a few of her students. Grey-blue clouds were stacked on the horizon like a pile of dirty dungarees.
As I stood there, the clouds slowly shifted and the sky turned rose as the sun sank lower.
I love that time of day…those few moments between daylight and the evening sky.
Author Carlos Castaneda called it a magical time. I tend to agree.

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