Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cooler Climes

Jilda does not summer well. She was in hog heaven since spring with rain and temps in the low 80s.
But this week, the rain dissipated and the days heated up. The okra loved it, but Jilda was not happy.
Today she opened her weather app on her iPad and began perusing the temperatures in Gallway, Ireland, in Telluride, Sedona and of course San Francisco.
She acted like the morning weather girl as she chirped out the highs and lows for each city. She ended her forecast with, "Here is Empire, Alabama the current temp at 7 a.m.  78 and it's expected to be slightly hotter than the hinges of hell today, with 300 percent humidity.
She then turned to me and said as she sipped her coffee, "You can stay here if you want to, but I'm moving where it's cooler."
At 8:30 p.m. and it's still 82 degrees here. When I looked at San Francisco it's 66. Maybe it is time to move.
I shot this photo of sailboats in San Francisco Bay.



Friday, August 30, 2013

When we win

We had our friend Fred over for steaks tonight. Jilda had whipped up some of her killer brownies and afterwards we sat in the great room blissing out.
We bought lotto tickets several weeks ago and we always get one number good for 10 draws. The jackpot is now up to almost $150 million.
Tonight as we conversated, we talked about all the things we're going to do when we hit that baby.
One of the things is we're going to build log cabins on the back 40 near the water, and start a singer/songwriter community.
It was a fun way to aid digestion.
One of the cabins will be on this creek bank.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Proposal Stories

We learned today through Facebook that a friend's daughter became engaged to be married. She'd gone to Scotland with her fiance and he popped the question at Dalmor Beach on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.
A photo showed the two wrapped in windbreakers, standing at water's edge beaming. I smiled when I read the post and saw them there. That will be a story they'll always remember.
Everyone has a story.
My grandmother Willie Watson told me her story many years after my grandpa died. She said she attended the small Baptist church near the #10 coal mine here in Walker County.
It was a Sunday in late spring and the preacher had raised all the windows as high as they'd go, to allow the breeze to stir. There were no screens.
She was sitting on the back pew holding her long black hair off her neck with one hand and fanning herself with the other. It was one of those cardboard fans, with a picture of Jesus on one side.
She glanced out the window and noticed a young man looking in at her. She quickly turned back to look at the preacher in the pulpit. When she looked again out of the corner of her eyes, he was gone.
She didn't think anything else about him until a while later he reappeared outside the window, except this time he'd stepped a little closer and tossed a red rose into her lap. A few months of courtship and they were married.

I've told the story of how Jilda and I met and married, so I won't retell it here, but you can read about it here if you'd like.
I'd be interested in hearing your story if you'd like to share it.




Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bottle Trees and Blazing Stars

Growing up, it would never have occurred to my parents to buy yard art. That's not to say our yard wasn't a pleasant place to spend time, because it was full of roses, old maids, daisies, and irises.
I spent many summer hours lying on my stomach looking for four-leaf clovers, and playing games with my friends..
Some of the flower beds were made from old car tires cut in a way that when turned inside out, their rippled edges made them look like huge blossoms. I think today they are known as redneck planters. They looked great to me.
An old wooden swing we'd inherited, was fitted to a frame fashioned out of three-inch pipe that my dad welded together. You couldn't buy one built that solid these days. It hung under the shade of mimosa trees in our yard. The house and landscape wasn't much by today's standards but it
Bottle Trees and Blazing Stars
was home to me.
Since I got married, I've spent a small fortune on beautiful things for our yard, and it would be so easy to spend a great deal more.
A while back, I didn't see the point in Pinterest, until I learned what some people were using it for, which is to get ideas.
I started a board called New Yard Improvements and then when I got a spare moment I scanned to see what others were doing in their yards. I
When I found something interesting, I repin the ideas onto my board. I still surf Pinterest from time to time.
Some of the ideas are stunning, but I can't fathom what it would cost to do some of them.
We found this bottle tree last fall at the Frog Festival.

This morning as we headed out for our walk,
I snapped this photo with the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone. I titled it Bottle Trees and Blazing Stars.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Kid Games ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

As I sat on my screen porch at dusk this evening trying to come up with a decent idea for this week’s column, I noticed the sky beyond the screen was changing.

Grey-blue clouds began stacking on the horizon like a pile of dirty dungarees.

Then they slowly shifted, and the sky turned rose as the sun sank lower.

I love that time of day, those few moments between daylight and evening when lightning bugs blossom on the humid air like tiny garden lanterns.

Author Carlos Castaneda called it a magical time. I have to agree.

I was lost in thought when I heard my great nephew Jordan out in the front yard.

His Nana had brought him over to chase lightening bugs.

He was running around jumping, laughing and squealing with joy. He was catching the little flickering critters and putting them in a jar that his grandma Debbie held for him.

He’s a very smart 5-year old, and he’s better with computers and electronics than most adults, but he’d rather be playing outside.

Hearing his laughter and watching him play gave me an idea: a column about what kids did
before TV, iPads, electronic games, and computers.

We had a black and white TV when I was growing up, but it would never have occurred to me to sit inside during summer to watch it, no matter what fuzzy images crawled down the outside antennae and into the old RCA Victor.

For one thing, if I was inside my mama would find something for me to do, and nine times out of 10, it involved things I didn’t like doing. “Go clean out under the chicken roost,” was her favorite chore for an idle kid.

So to avoid clamping a clothes pen on my nose and shoveling a half-ton of fresh chicken manure, I made myself scarce. 

My friends and I spent the long summer hours playing games that most kids today have never heard of.

I decided to do some informal research, so I posted a question on my new “Rick Watson columnist” Facebook page: what games did you play as a child. I got a ton of feedback.

It was obvious reading through the comments that many people had similar experiences when they were younger.

Linda Parker Spears said she and her friends slid down hills on cardboard boxes. Mike Sawyer said they played on a Flying Jenny, which is a homemade merry-go-round. 

We spent countless hours spinning on our flying jenny. Everyone who rode that baby a few minutes stumbled off as drunk as Cooter Brown.

John Bender said he and his friends played kick-the-can. Kick the can is basically a game of hide and seek, with home base being three cans stacked one on another. 

The one that’s “IT,” had to find the other players and then race back to touch home base before that person (or any other player) kicked the cans. If the cans got kicked, everyone was free to hide again. 

I loved that game.

Times have changed and technology has made our lives easier, but that’s not always a good thing.

Many of our kids weigh too much. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think they would be better off if they would lose the remote and spend some time chasing lightning bugs.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

They don't make things like they used to."

My sister has had the same air conditioner in her sewing shop since the first Bush was in the White House. It wasn't much to look at, and she'd resorted to using duct tape around the edges of the fan for poor-boy insulation, but for years it kept her shop frosty.
It began making an odd sound a few weeks ago like a squirrel had tossed a hickory nut in the fan. Then when the days began to climb into the 90s here, the unit started blowing toasty air into her shop which made it as warm as a sauna.
She went to one of the big-box stores a bought a new unit and called me this morning to see if I could help her son-in-law do the switcheroo this evening.
When we removed the tape and started trying to wrestle it out of the window, we determined that it weighed just slightly less that a 1957 Buick Roadmaster.
There was no plastic in that old A/C and you could tell the parts were made to last.
Back in the day when we made things in our country, they were mostly built that way. Then it became popular to outsource, downsize, and right shore operations to reduce costs and to bring consumer better value for their money.
I know I'm over simplifying a complex situation, but the bottom line is that we don't make things any more.
One result is that we buy things with a planned obsolescence.....disposable things. We use it for a while and then toss it into the trash and buy another one.
I was thinking about this while I walked this evening. As I rounded the barn, I noticed my nephew had pushed my old bicycle out of the barn and leaned it against the truck that once belonged to Jilda's dad.
The bike and the truck both look rough, but with a little maintenance, both of these would be ready for service.
I know I'm sounding like an old timer, but I think it's true to say, "They don't make things like they used to."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sedona

We wanted to go someplace special for our 30th wedding anniversary in 2004. We'd been to San Francisco, Seattle, and L.A., as well as many places on the east coast.
Jilda began doing online research and was intrigued by Sedona, Arizona. We checked our frequent flyer miles and had enough for two tickets. We booked the trip so that we'd be in Sedona for our anniversary on Cinco De Mayo.
We touched down in Phoenix just after noon, and the temps were over a hundred. While it was hot enough to scramble eggs on the hood of the rental, the air was dry which was a huge change for us.
Jilda, who struggles to breathe air heavy with humidity, smiled when she breathed the hot dry air.
We headed out of town up Interstate 17 north toward Sedona. The terrain was the color of Alabama clay. The landscape in places was as stark as a moonscape with cactus.
Like all of our vacations, we didn't take any tours but headed the rental in directions that interested us.
The rock formations in Sedona were stunning. We found ourselves standing for long periods of time without talking, trying to wrap our minds around the forces of nature that help form that part of the country.
Some of the tourist handouts said that "in every direction is a picture postcard view."
Most tourist flyers stretch the truth, but this one was on the money.
Toward the end of our visit, we drove north through Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon. We pulled to the side of the road and shot this photograph of a snow capped mountain west of Flagstaff.
We've seen the Grand Canyon from the sky as we flew out west, but standing on the rim was an experience I will never forget.
Our blog buddy Granpappy Miller lives in Arizona, and we'd love to visit he and his wife Shirley in the future.
When Jilda retires, we plan to keep the roads hot. Who knows where we'll end up.
I hope you all have a blessed Saturday night and Sunday.

Friday, August 23, 2013

For the birds

Here in Watsonville, we feed the birds year around. It's not cheap, but it's a small price to pay.
When people visit, we usually put on some soft music, pour drinks and sit in the great room and "conversate."
Most people are fascinated by all the activity just outside our windows.
Right now, the hummingbirds are still in a feeding frenzy. 
But there are also plenty of doves, wrens and sparrows.
The only bad think about having a glass wall in the living room is that with all the live plants we have inside in winter, the birds try to fly inside. There is always a tale tale THUMP.
I always walk over to check on my feathered friends. Usually it just knocks the wind out of them. They'll sit on the ground looking around as if saying, "Hey, who was driving that truck." Then after a while, they'll come around and fly off. 
But sometimes when we hear a WHACK. We know a bird has died. 
Last September we heard that sound, and when I looked outside, a dove was lying by the walk. 
I took it out back and buried it beside our beloved pets. When I walked back into the house and looked up at one of the windows near the apex of the vaulted ceiling, I saw what looked like the outline of a tiny angel where the dove had hit the glass.
That's the downside of having windows like that.
The upside is getting to watch birds up close and it's very hard to place a monetary value on that.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pfiltered Photos

The sunflowers know that summer is fading. Back in early June they stood proud during the morning, and turned their faces away from the evening sun as if they were embarrassed.
Now they look as if they lost their best friends. The bees and butterflies won't give them the time of day. No wonder they look sad. The Zinnias on the other hand are still standing proud.
This evening when I went down to pour a scoop of corn under the apple tree for the deer, I saw something out of the corner of my eye, dart toward the underbrush.
Just before it made cover, I realized it was a tiny spotted fawn not much bigger than a house cat.
I dumped the corn and turned toward the house bumping the corn can on my thigh to knock out any remnants of corn.
When I got back to the garden, I saw an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly dancing among the Old Maids.
I pulled my phone from my pocket and inched my way up to the flower bed. The Swallowtail flitted to another flower.
I crept even more slowly and managed to quickly get a photo before it found another flower. The photo was a little blurry, which made it a perfect candidate for my Photoshop magic filter.
Jilda said that you all were probably tired of my Pfiltered Photos, but I couldn't resist on this one.
I hope you all have a great Friday and an even better weekend.
Let's all do something remarkable.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A good day to fly

Today was a nice day here. After I started the coffeemaker, I stepped out on the back deck to get a feel for the day.
The air was heavy with humidity, which is normal for this time of year.  The rain was gone, and I could see pieces of the moon peeking through the pines. 
There were a few high-level clouds tinted pink by the rising sun.  
After coffee, we had to move more quickly than usual because Jilda had treatment #19 today. She was excited (sarcasm). 
After her treatment, we ate lunched at Nikki's which is one of our favorite restaurants. On the way home, I rolled the windows down for a while to let the fresh air blow through my hair (sarcasm).
On one stretch of highway, as we looked at the blue sky and white clouds we both fell silent.
I made sure traffic around us was clear and snapped this photo with the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone.
Jilda declared that it would be a good day to fly.
I had to agree.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Just the facts

I've spent a lot of time writing about myself today. I wasn't in a narcissistic mood, but I did have two requests for a bio for upcoming music gigs, and my blog buddy Michael Estey is profiling me on his Dog Brindle Barks, blog.
He was kind enough to review my books Remembering Big and Life Happens on his blog, on Goodreads, and on Amazon.
He does book reviews and many other things on his blog, and we talked about doing a profile on me.
I find it easy to write about the things I do, but when I try to write about accomplishments etc, it makes me a little uncomfortable.
I guess it's my mother's voice I hear in my head, "Let your deeds speak for themselves, there's no need to brag."
I should be getting used to it, because I've done some in the past. My blog buddy Janie Junebug, interviewed me for her blog a while back, and she too did some great reviews of my books.
At any rate, I got through the bio's and I'm proofing the interview.  (Michael, if you're reading this, I'll send the interview tomorrow.)
Here's a photo I shot this afternoon of evening flowers.


Monday, August 19, 2013

The Prodigal Sun

I awoke this morning with the sound of rain on the metal roof. It's a sound I've become accustomed to this summer.
When I rolled out of bed, I headed to the kitchen to flip on the coffeemaker, but realized I'd forgotten to get it ready before we went to bed the night before.
I fished the filter out of the holder and stepped onto the deck to toss the old grounds into the compost bucket. I tried to stay under the eve, but I leaned a little too far out and a small stream of rain running off the roof, went down the neck of my tee shirt. Even though it's August in Alabama, I shivered a little as the water rolled down my spine.
I'd made up my mind a while back to stop whining about the rain and simply deal with it, so I shook it off and finished making the coffee.
Our friend Fred was off today and I'd planned to do some recording at his house. We have most of our CD completed, but now comes the tedious part which is fixing all the little glitches in the recordings.
We worked until noon and my stomach started growling like I had a live wolverine inside trying to eat his way to freedom.
When we stepped outside, the sun was high in the sky and I had to squint as I walked to the car.
I'd almost forgotten what the sun looked like.
Tonight after yoga, I noticed more clouds on the horizon, with forks of lightening jabbing at nearby clouds, and I knew we'd probably get more rain in the night.
The sun did hang around long enough to paint the evening sky and for that I am thankful.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Purple Flowers

My great grandmother lived in a small two-room house next door to us when I was in first grade. The outside of the old house was covered in black tar paper which was held in place by nails that were driven through thin disks of tin the size of golfballs, to keep the siding from blowing off in a stiff wind.
They had cardboard tacked on the interior walls of the house and I never knew why, until much later.
The house had no insulation, and the cardboard helped keep the north wind from blowing through the cracks in winter.
She had grey-yellow hair that she wore in a bun the size of a soccer ball  on the back of her head. Her dark-framed glasses had lenses as thick as magnifying glass. Her head wobbled a little as she talked to me.
They didn't have much in the way of material things, but she kept small bags of popcorn in a breadbox on top of her refrigerator.  She bought the treats from the coffee man that came to their door every other week.
She and my grandpa liked the popcorn, but mostly she bought it for me.
The foundation of their old house had settled, and her porch listed to starboard, but she had the most beautiful flowers I'd ever seen.
The back wall of their bedroom had shelves lined with canned beets, pickles, tomatoes, okra, corn, and apples. The summer garden was what got them through winter.
I was trying to think of a subject for tonights post, when I came across this photo I shot a while back and it made me think of my great grandmother. This picture is in memory of her.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Side trip down memory lane.

For most of my young life, this tunnel was the only passage from Sloss Road to Dora, and Birmingham. Mr. Higginbottom lived in the first house on this end of the tunnel, and when I think back, it's a wonder he didn't go postal.
The acoustics in the tunnel acted like a megaphone. When cars with busted mufflers drove through, it was louder than a Phantom Jet at takeoff.
I know this for a fact, because I went to see him one sunny autumn afternoon.
He rewound the copper in old generators, bringing obsolete parts back to life.
When the generator on my 1946 Plymouth died, buying a new one wasn't an option.
I started parking the old car on hills and other places where I could roll it off, pop the clutch, and crank the beast.
Once when I did that, it didn't crank, and none of my buddies were around to help me push it off, so I decided to get it fixed.
I got up early on Saturday, pulled the tools from the trunk and loosened the two bolts holding the oily generator on.
I borrowed my mom's Buick and headed down to Mr. Higginbottom's house. As we stood in his shop talking, one of my friends came through the tunnel in a souped up Ford. He punched in the clutch and revved the motor. The sound echoed out of the tunnel and off the hills and hollows around the old town. Before he exited, he blew his horn.
It was a ritual repeated ALL DAY AND ALL NIGHT LONG, according to Mr. Higginbottom. Apparently he'd learned to tune it out, much like one tunes out a grandfather clock that chimes on the hour.
Now as I think back, I can honestly say that I have never driven through that tunnel without blowing my horn.
The state built a bypass back in the late 1960s, and all the businesses in the old part of town, moved to the new highway.
These days about the only people who drive through the tunnel are people taking a side trip down memory lane.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Old Library

I went exploring a few years ago for a relic from my past. It was the old Dora Library. I'd heard about
the old building for years and that it was on a hillside behind the old fire station, but I'd never seen it.
Jilda was working and I had some time to kill, so I took Ol' Buddy with me on the quest to find the old building.
We parked next to the ruble of the old Dora Motors building. Ivy as thick as thatch covers what's left of the old structure.
It's easy to see why the old town never really grew, because it was situated on a narrow slip of land between the L&N Railroad Line (I don't think it was called that back in the day) and  a large hill that is one of the toes of the Appalachian Mountains.
I let Ol' Buddy hop out of the truck, fitted the key into the lock, and secured the truck with the turn of a key, before heading up the hill toward the fire station.
We walked up to the abandoned building and stepped toward the back of the old structure where we saw a set of stairs ascending into the underbrush. It was hedge and honeysuckle which was thick enough to block out light from the sun.
We wove through the brambles and came upon the remains of the old library. It was about 25 feet by 40 feet, and I knew at once that it had been built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back during the depression.
I knew that the moment I saw it because the frames of floor to ceiling windows with interesting arches were built with stones dug from a nearby quarry. The same kind of stones that were used to build the gym where I went to high school.
Me and Ol' Buddy sat in one of the windows for a long time admiring the beauty of the old library. I could almost see the books lining the walls, and people there sitting at tables reading about far away places while shafts of evening light filtered through those windows onto the heart-pine floors.
I wondered why someone hadn't bought the property and restored the old library. I did some research and discovered why it hadn't happened, but that story is not nearly as interesting.
I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mossy Window

One of my first memories as a young boy was sitting in the window sill at our old house on Sloss Road.
Brown asphalt siding of simulated brick was rolled on the heart-pine planks of the old house, which stood waist-high on cinderblocks. I spent many rainy days playing in the red-clay dust under that old house.
The siding didn't insulate much, but it kept the winter wind from whistling through the cracks in the walls, but the cracks around the windows were another story.
There were windows on every wall of the house. Each window had two four-paned panels; one on top and one on bottom.  The windows were part of our cooling system in summer.
We had a huge box fan inserted into one of the living room windows and each night before we went to bed, we'd open the windows by our beds a few inches, and turn the fan to exhaust.
It was powerful enough to suck the cool night air through the cracks, and across us as we slept. We didn't get air conditioning until many years later.
We have the same kind of windows in our old house at the back of the property. Last year when we were renovating, I removed one of the windows and leaned it up against the ancient oak anchored in the yard.
It sat there for a few weeks, and when it came time to put it back into the frame, I noticed a thin sheen of moss growing on one of the panes and I snapped a photograph with my phone.
Tonight as I struggled with a topic, I came across this photograph. I know the story is thin, but I love the picture.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The year of the mushroom

Walking through the yard this morning I got a whiff of something that smelled like a tennis shoe that has been damp for a week.
I looked around me, but there were no wet shoes of any kind. Then under the hemlock tree, I saw several mushrooms. It's been the year of the mushroom here.
Our great nephew Jordan spent some time here today and on our walk, we came upon this mushroom in front of the barn. I've never seen a mushroom quite like it.
If we grew the kind you eat, we could have made a fortune this summer.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Changing Sky

I had meetings early this morning and when I stepped outside, I heard something buzzing near my head.
I glanced over tentatively and saw a female hummingbird not much bigger than a moth flapping her wings (I looked this up) at 33 times a second. That's almost a thousand times a minute. No wonder they basically live on sugar.
I thought for a moment that she might alight on my sleeve, but instead she darted up and landed on the branch of one of our lemon trees that's summering outside in front of our great room windows.
Driving west I noticed the light has changed. I saw crimson sumac leaves. They usually lead the charge to autumn.
It's been an unusual year. I don't recall it ever having rained this much, but Jilda assures me that we had a wet summer back in the early 90s. I had to take her word for it.
I looked in the photo archives and found a picture of an October sky. I thought I'd share it tonight.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Problem Solving

Sometimes we make problems harder to solve than they should be.

Let me explain.

We got new chickens recently. Our old ones went over the chicken rainbow; one at the
Picture has nothing to do with this blog post :)
hands of a nasty chicken hawk, and the other had eating issues. She couldn’t stop. At the end of her life, she waddled around the pen like the Aflac Duck.


I found her one morning next to a feeder lying on her back. It took a while to dig her grave (yes, we bury our chickens too).

Our rooster Zeus pined over his lost lovebirds, so we vowed to find him some mates.

About a month ago, we had a free weekend so we headed up to the Lacon flea market shopping for chickens.

I walked by a vendor selling parched peanuts for a buck fifty a bag. They were still warm.

I rotated a “three nutter” until the spine was under my thumb and index finger. A gentle pressure popped the nut open and the three nuts rolled into the palm of my hand. I tossed them into my mouth.

This guy knew how to parch peanuts because they were roasted to perfection. Over-roasted peanuts are bitter, and under roasted ones are soggy. But the ones done right crunch between your teeth and taste buttery.

We browsed around the livestock for a while looking for hens that suited us. We saw goats, geese and fluffy bunny rabbits.

We knew we didn’t want game hens. The last one we had took issue with me collecting her eggs and buried her beak into the soft part of my forearm. I “bled like a stuck hog,” as my granddaddy used to say.

I wasn’t that sad when Mr. Raccoon had a late night snack at her expense, but I did install an electric wire around my pen to prevent future dining at Watsonville.

At the flea market, we chose two beautifully colored red-rock laying hens. Since Zeus was named after a Greek god, it seemed fitting to name the new hens Iris and Isis.

Everything was blissful on our fowl farm until a few days ago when Isis escaped.

I stepped out, scooped up a handful of corn and coaxed her back to safety.

The next morning both hens were out. 

The storm that blew through in March had blown pine trees down on the fence. I’d made repairs but it sagged in a few places. I reasoned that this must be where they were escaping.

I fixed the fence and afterwards, smiled at my handiwork. I rounded up the chickens and went inside for some sweet tea.

As I stood at the sink sipping tea and looking out the back window, the chickens were already out.

They must be flying over, I thought to myself. 

That night, with Jilda’s reluctant help, we went into the pen, caught the hysterical hens one at a time and clipped the feathers of one wing. 

This keeps chickens from flying. I knew it worked because I’d helped my mom do it many times when I was a kid.

The next morning, they were scratching for worms at the edge of the driveway in the front yard.

Again, I put on my chicken-wrangling hat and got them back in the pen. This time, I fetched a lawn chair out of the shed and sat under the pines a few yards away to observe.

As I watched, one of the hens walked to a back corner, ducked under the fence and hopped outside.

Apparently the storm had not only pulled the top part of the fence down, but also torn it loose at the bottom in a place that made it hard for me to see.

A few minutes with a staple gun and the chickens haven’t been out since.

All problems have a solution, but sometimes it’s the easiest solution that solves the problem.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Summer light

The light this summer has been stunning, when it's not raining. These weeds grew at the edge of my garden and I let them go each year. 
It would be easy to whack them down, but then I wouldn't get a chance to take a photograph like this one.
We live on a remarkable planet; where the angle of evening light can make the most mundane things come to life.
When I think back to my art history classes, I seem to recall that most of the great masters spent a lot of time studying light and how it plays with the world around us.
How remarkable is it that we not only get to see subtle beauty each day, but we can also smell, taste, hear, and feel it too. 
We have senses that allow us to experience life on many different levels. 
I think Albert Einstein said it best: "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

The harvest is thin

Our harvest this year has been less than stellar. The okra we planted should have started baring a month ago, but it only started blooming today.


We got a half dozen squash, one pumpkin, and an eggplant that looked more like a thumb that had been smacked with a hammer.
The exceptions are blueberries and tomatoes.
We got enough blueberries to put several quarts in the freezer. And the tomatoes are still coming in.
Back during the Master Gardener's class, I planted tomato seeds. I didn't realize it then, but they were cherry tomatoes.
The have grown like crazy. 
Jilda has used them in vegetable soup mix, and she's put several quarts up.
The peas would have been ok, but the deer are jumping the fence into the back yard and munching them each night.
Caillou the wonder collie lays with his head sticking out the doggie door and observes the deer from a distance.
NOTE TO SELF: The next dog we get should not be a "Pretty Dog" but a mutt that knows he's supposed to keep critters out of the back yard.
I'm sure the constant rainfall has kept the plants confused and reduced our harvest, but we're enjoying the things that we are getting.
Jilda and I have been in the recording studio for most of the day so we're both brain dead.
I hope you all have a remarkable Sunday.

Friday, August 09, 2013

A better way to spend my time

I saw a rainbow today. You'd think with as much rain as we've gotten this year, that rainbows would be a dime a dozen, but that hasn't been the case.
Today was the first one I've seen this year.
I don't take things like rainbows lightly. I pulled to the side of the road, cranked down the truck window and shot this picture with my iPhone.
People passing glared at me as if I'd swerved to run over a kitten.
I wanted to tell them, slow down, look at the rainbow. Maybe they saw it, and dismissed it as if it were a telemarketer calling during dinner.
I might be wrong, but I think rainbows, like second chances are rare and beautiful things that you should not take for granted.
After all, if you're not awed by rare and precious gifts, what are you awed by. Even when I worked at a job that was just slightly less stressful than an air traffic controller, I noticed things like rainbows.
Several years ago while driving home after work, an angry bank of clouds rose in the west and rain began to fall. You could see lightening jumping from cloud to cloud.
 I'm not sure if it's this way in other cities, but here in Birmingham, Alabama drivers speed up to attain better traction with their slick tires. I know, it's a fact that we keep close at home.
During this particular episode, I got in the slow lane and drove at a speed that I knew I could stop if I needed to.
When I looked off to the east, I saw a double rainbow over the city. I knew it was ill advised, and even dangerous, but I pull to the emergency lane and took a picture. I sat there for a long while with the truck idling, trying to absorb the beauty.
It took a while to get back into traffic, but the detour was worth it. Like today, I couldn't think of a better way to spend my time.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Muse M-I-A

Even with all the rain, my creative well is running low. I've straightened up all my computer wires, and Q-Tipped my keyboard and still no idea.
I flipped through the photos on my iPhone and saw a photo of Sumac berries that I shot this morning. Normally they are the color of rust, but these looked like tiny Concord Grapes.
Of course I used the oil filter on Photoshop to "art it up."
Maybe the muse will be back off vacation tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Change of plans

I had work to do today as I mentioned in yesterday's post, but things change. Our great nephew Jordan needed a place to stay today, so we shelved our plans for something more important.
Jilda had an eye appointment so we had to drive in to Birmingham.  Her eye doctor's office is at the mall so while she was seeing the doc, Jordan and I stood out in the open area on the second floor surveying the crowd. It's interesting watching a child processing things. Nothing goes without notice.
He asked a lot of questions, which I always try to answer honestly. Sometimes he gets it and sometimes I'm not so sure.
When Jilda came out we navigated the escalators which was a little tricky, before heading to the food court. 
There we found most of the fast food establishments. Pizza, Chick Fil A, and a Haagan dazs were represented, but my money was on Micky "D's".
When we asked Jordan what he wanted, he opted for the Farmer's Market  Basket which was a place that served fresh veggies along with chicken, fish, and other stuff. I couldn't believe it.
Afterwards he asked if he could have desert, I figured he'd go for the ice cream, but again he surprised me.
What he wanted was a watermelon flavored snow cone. They didn't have those in the mall but one of the workers there directed us to a free-standing place nearby.
Soon we were sitting under a covered deck munching on shaved ice flavored with sugar water. 
When we got home........well, you'll have to read about that over on Jilda's blog

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Onward and upward

I spent eight intense hours today working on music for the new CD that Jilda and I are doing. We've been working on this project forever, but it's been delayed by one thing or another for much too long.
We have the basic tracks down and now we're polishing.
Our goal is to have a CD in our hands when we play our gig on September 7th. It's an ambitious goal, but one we intend to meet.
It will take a lot of tedious editing and by the time the CD is through, I have a feeling I'll be sick of the songs, but there's no other way that I've found to do it.
I'll have to put it away for a while in the morning and write my column for Sunday. But I've pretty much cleared my schedule of all but a few meetings this week.
Onward and upward.
Flowering plant by our bottle tree

Monday, August 05, 2013

Life Goes On ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

Our family has gone through some hard times lately. We’ve had sickness, misfortune and one of our nephews died way too young, but life goes on.

I was thinking about those things today when I drove through an area hard hit by the devastating tornados in April of 2011.

Up on a ridge high above the Sipsey Fork of the Warrior River, where the storm scraped through the community, there were trees that were stripped of limb and leaf. After the storm, they looked like stone pillars jutting up from the clay.

But today as I drove through, those trees had leaves growing from their trunks. The tops of some of
them looked like green Afro wigs.

Further up the hill as I drove through the community, I realized that many of the houses that were swept away in the wind have been rebuilt. The houses that weren’t totally destroyed have been repaired. Most of the houses have new roofs.

It occurred to me that Sipsey is a living metaphor for the phrase, “Life goes on.”

It’s hard to think about this age-old wisdom when you’re in the depths of despair.

Our nephew, John Michael Greathouse, died a few weeks ago at the age of 47. He wasn’t a child by any means. In fact, he has grown children, but to my sister-in-law Pat, he was the baby, the only boy, and the first child she’d ever lost.

My mom lost two of her five children before she died. I once heard her say at my baby brother Darrin’s funeral, “A mother is not supposed to lose a child.”

A friend I worked with at MaBell had a son riding along with three other teens in a convertible on Interstate 459 in Birmingham when a baseball cap blew off one of their heads.

The driver braked, pulled to the shoulder before shoving the car into reverse, and racing backwards to fetch the hat. He lost control and the car veered tail end first into the path of a FedEx truck killing all four instantly.

My friend’s life changed in that moment and it’s never been the same again.

Even after five years, he still struggles with the loss.

We invited him to come hear Jilda and me play at a local coffee shop recently, and he looked well. It did me good to see him smile. He’d be the first to tell you that life goes on.

My lovely wife is an inspiration because she knows about hard times too. Even after 18 monthly infusion treatments for a defective immune system, she’s more driven now than she’s ever been.

The treatments knock her for a loop for a few days each month, but afterwards she’s back at work helping others deal with their demons at a local drug and alcohol treatment center.

We’ve also played more singer/songwriter events than ever before in the past. “If not now, when?” she asks.

Sitting in that big green treatment chair each month among people with conditions much more grave than hers has given her (and me) a unique perspective.

Looking at those trees today was comforting. It reminded me that no matter how bad things get, life goes on.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Rain or shine

It felt like I was in Panama today. When I flew into Howard Air Force Base in January of
1972 the sun was high in the sky with white fluffy clouds as big as Rhode Island. 
I deplaned down steps onto the tarmac and walked toward the terminal. 
"Whoa," I though, this jet wash is brutal. But it was like that the fourteen months I was there.
At some point I got used to it, and I found that I missed the heat when I got back home to Alabama. It took some time to adjust to milder temps. 
This afternoon as I walked down to dump a quart of corn for the deer, I looked into the blue sky it looked as if it couldn't make up its mind whether it wanted to rain our shine.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Made in the shade

I used to fret because our front yard was barren, but it hasn't always been that way. When we first
moved a trailer on our property in 1980, the grass in the yard was thick as a cheap toupe in summer.
Of course we had few trees in those days. The small dogwood, oak, hickory and pine were young wood, casting little shade.
But as time moved on, the trees took root, and began to thrive. Where shade thrives, grass strives but usually without success.
Soon we built stone walk ways through the clay where the grass once lived.
Several years ago we built a flower bed around the giant water oak at the corner of the house. We've tried several species of plants, none of which survived very long, until we planted hastas and caladiums.
They've added a subtle beauty to our yard. You might even say they have it made in the shade.


Friday, August 02, 2013

Out of context

Sometimes when things are taken out of context, they become more stark. They may seem
out of place and it takes time for your mind to wrap thought around it.
But sometimes it takes removing context to see things more clearly, in new ways. 
Some of the most remarkable inventions in history were common things; things that had been there forever and taken for granted, until someone saw it in a new way....in a new context.
Our minds are programmed to find patterns. It's a tool that has evolved in mankind to help make sense of an ever-changing environment, and to keep us sane. 
We tend to get comfortable, which can easily slide into lazy, and all of a sudden, life is dull and uninteresting.
But then we have an opportunity, to see something out of context, and we see life in a whole new way.


Thursday, August 01, 2013

Coffee River

I was pushing a cripple shopping cart through Walmart yesterday. Push, push, bump bump through the garden department where I picked up birdseed and suet.
On the way out, I saw a table with reduced-priced items. I stopped to browse for a second, and down on the bottom shelf, I saw a dust-covered rain gauge.
The gauge didn't cost much new, but the package had been opened, and someone had secured it with scotch tape that was losing it's grip. I picked it up for $0.97.
Once home, I peeled the cardboard and cellophane away, walked out to the deck, and shoved the sharp end into a flower pot on the edge of the deck.
We checked the weather forecast before bed last night and it showed a chance of thundershowers. This morning around 3 a.m. I woke to the sound of thunder.
The house was dark but lightning flickered on the walls of the bedroom like a strobe. Caillou was freaked and I realized he was standing beside the bed shivering. He is not a fan of thunderstorms.
This morning when the storms passed, I stepped out to the deck to check the new rain gauge, and
poured out over 4 inches.
All that water has to go somewhere. When I drove to Jasper today to lunch with a colleague, I noticed the river was up.
On the way home this evening, I pulled into the boat ramp just down from the house to get a closer look at the river.
The clouds had moved off to the east, and the sun was summertime warm. I pulled down close to the water and cut the engine.
I set the emergency brake and stepped down to the water's edge. The river is deep there, and it was the color of rich coffee.  It was full of leaves, limbs and dead trees, sweeping by toward the south.
I sat down on the bank and watched in amazement at how efficient Mother Nature is at housekeeping.
"Well, this old tree has been here far too long. I think I'll move it down to Mobile Bay."
Sometimes it's hard to do the math, but four inches of rain in my gauge, means that folks down river should probably be thinking about moving to higher ground.



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