Monday, March 31, 2014

Inconsiderate People ~ My column from Sunday's paper

As I’ve gotten older I’ve found that I’m slow to anger, but standing in line at a fast-food restaurant recently an inconsiderate young woman in front of the line pushed me over the edge.

She was chatting on her cellphone while the order-taker stood there tapping keys waiting to take the talker’s order. Instead of telling the person on the phone to hold on while she ordered, she held up her index finger, which apparently was a sign to the cashier to wait while she finished chatting with her friend. 

It was lunchtime, and the place was packed. I’m sure the blood pressure of the five people standing with me behind the woman surged to dangerous levels.

I could have had a stroke standing right there, and I’m sure she would have been unmoved until the sirens of the rescue squad became so loud that she could no longer hear about her friend’s date last night. 

The cashier finally said, “Next in line please.” This got the woman’s attention and she told her friend she’d have to call back and then dropped her phone into her purse. She was obviously annoyed at the lack of patience of the cashier. I felt like clapping. I’m not sure where that sense of entitlement comes from. 

It’s like when there’s been a wreck on the highway and some yahoo drives down the emergency lane to get ahead of drivers who are patiently waiting to get around the accident. 

Apparently the inconsiderate driver thinks his or her time is more important than yours. 

I don’t get it. Where did that idea come from? Is that something they learned at home?

I can promise you it’s not a trait I learned growing up. In fact, if my mother had seen me being unkind or inconsiderate, she would have blazed my bottom. She simply would not have allowed it.

But even then, in the late 50s and early 60s there were selfish, inconsiderate people. 

They were the ones who cheated, bullied, cut in front of you in the lunch line and made sure you got the short end of the stick in any dealings you had with them.

You learned to acknowledge them for what they were, and you gave them a wide berth. Life is too short to have someone like that too close.

One of the benefits of getting older is that I’ve developed a kind of antenna and filter system. I have the ability to recognize people that grate like squeaking chalk on the blackboard of my psyche, and I can simply avoid them as if they had whooping cough. 

I guess it was serendipity that our young friend Laken Laird sent me a link to a song by the Alternate Routes that she thought I’d like.

I actually love the song, but I doubt our inconsiderate talker would understand it.

“We are love.

“We are one.

“We are how we treat each other when the day is done.

“We are peace.

“We are war.

“We are how we treat each other and nothing more.”

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Greening of Empire

Even though the temps are chilly at night, spring has arrived. I say that because the hundred year old oak trees at the barn that are as wise as Ben Franklin are greening.
Years of fickle winter weather has taught them to be patient.
This morning as we walked, the new leaves looked almost like moss on a wet rock. Soon the sun will bear down on the red clay and the days will be hotter than satan's poker, but the area near the barn under the canopy of the giant oaks will be a respite on our daily walks.
This afternoon we drove northward to the home of a friend and played a few songs for visiting dignitaries who are in town scouting locations for a future national conference.
My friend made the group a round of stiff mint juleps and they sipped while we played. Sometimes it's hard playing for people you don't know but this group of folks were gracious and seemed to enjoy our music.
I hope you soon see greening in your wise old trees too.
No particular reason I used this picture.


The songwriter workshop we attended this evening was exceptional. Kevin Welch is not only an incredible songwriter and performer, but also a good teacher.
Jilda and I've been to a lot of workshops through the years. Some of them were great, but many were a waste of our time.
It takes a special person, with a command of the language and the ability to relate abstract ideas in a way that you can understand. Kevin is one of those teachers.
We got home late and we're both running out of steam, but I have a notebook full of new ideas to ponder and assimilate.
I hope you all have a remarkable Sunday.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The city

I had a meeting in Birmingham today. Jilda had to work so I had some time to kill. After my meeting, I pulled out my trusty iPhone and asked it for directions to the nearest coffee house. I was in the mood for a hot mocha. As it turns out, there was a Starbucks about three hundred feet from where I stood.
I paid for my mocha and when they called my name, I collected my drink and stepped out to the tables on the sidewalk to sip the java and soak in the ambiance of the city.
Five Point South is a vibrant area of Birmingham. I sat there a long time enjoying the energy. There were the usual city sounds....metro buses and the honking of impatient horns, but I also heard the cooing of pigeons jockeying for bits of food dropped from sidewalk tables. I also heard the sound of the guitar of a street musician. He was singing his heart out for everyone and no one. His guitar case served double duty as his tip jar.
On the way back to the truck, I passed some young panhandlers. "Hey man, can you spare some change? We're on our way to Mobile." It was two young men around 20 and a woman that could have been a model.
I fished $2 from my pocket and handed it to one of the guys and told them to travel safe. I hope they used the money toward a hot meal, but it's hard to say.
I love the solace of our small farm and the peace it affords, but every now and then you need to reconnect with the city to recharge your batteries.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


We've got an opportunity to attend a songwriter workshop with Kevin Welch this weekend.
He's a remarkable artist and songwriter and he'll be doing a house concert at the home of a friend.
We'll be included in a small group to discuss the art and craft of songwriting. Both Jilda and I've been writing for many years, but the more we learn, the more we realize there's so much more to know.
But learning is not so much a goal, but a journey. You get to a place where you learn and grow and you absorb what that place has to offer and you move on.
I'll share more about the workshop later this weekend.
Happy Friday.

Gnarly flower bed on oak roots

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The gift of clouds

Another gift that life lays in your lap is clouds. At any given time day or night, you can look at
the sky and see a picture that no one has ever seen before and will never see again.
Even someone standing next to you will have a slightly different perspective.
The angle of light or shadow will differ slightly.
Tonight as I looked up at the sky, I saw the ribs of one half of a torso.
I snapped this picture as my battery ran down, so I stepped inside an plugged it in to charge for a while.
When I stepped back outside, the clouds had changed and the sun painted the horizon a color somewhere between rose and amber. It was simply stunning.
I looked at it for a long time, held an imaginary camera up to my eye and snapped a mental photograph.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Another exciting day in Watsonville

Jilda's car Ingrid is in the shop this week so we're down to one vehicle, and since she is still working she's been driving my truck.
I didn't have appointments or errands so it hasn't been an inconvenience but yet, it's been many years since I haven't had wheels at my disposal and it's felt a little odd this week.
Finishing my column for Sunday early left the afternoon open, so I spent the time cleaning out my shed. 
The last time our great nephew Jordan went in there, I heard him remark to his mom afterwards, "It was a mess in there." He nailed it. It's like a tornado got trapped inside and had its way with the interior.
Today my intention was to simply straighten up a little, but I wound up spending a few hours in there. I hauled two huge garbage bags full of junk out. I still have a ways to go, but it feels good to be able to enter there for a rake and not break a hip in the process.
Afterwards I took the plastic container and scooped it full of corn for the deer. Caillou always goes with me when I step down to the garden so once I dumped the corn out, I tossed the plastic container a few times to let him fetch it. He loves playing that game.
We then walked down to the barn and I snapped this photo of the trees which are still bare as a skeleton. 
The weatherman says we'll get frost tonight and I'm not sure how that will play with the blueberries and peaches which are in bloom. I have my fingers crossed that the wind will keep the frost off the blossoms.
All in all it's been another exciting day in Watsonville.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Our yard is our sanctuary ~ My column from Sunday's paper

You won’t see our yard featured in Southern Living magazine, nor will you see a beautification award posted by the drive, but through the years, the yard has evolved and seems to have taken on the quirky personalities of Jilda and me. It suits us.

We don’t use poisons in our yard on things that attack our trees and shrubs. We pull the critters off and stomp them with a tennis shoe. 

I like to think it sends a message to the other bugs cowering among the leaves and branches, but with their limited communications skills, I doubt they get the message.

I’ve found that birds, squirrels, chipmunk and other critters seem to like the poison-free zone we maintain.

One of the “features” of our yard is a bottle tree filled with colorful bottles. Sometimes in late evening when the sun filters through the oak and pine and finds the bottles, it casts off colors that don’t have a name, but they are beautiful.

Many of the plants and flowers in our yard came from the yards of Jilda’s mother and grandmother. Some of them are over 50 years old.

When I built the flowerbed around the giant water oak in our front yard, the rocks were stonemason straight. But oak roots have shifted the stones through the years and now they dip and weave like an Irish limerick. 

One thing that’s consistent in our landscape is our fruit trees. When we moved here in the early 1980s, we lived in a 12 x 65 foot trailer that had cracks around the windows big enough to toss a small dog through, but even though we couldn’t easily afford them, we bought and planted fruit trees.

One of the first was a Stark Brothers apple tree that now looks as old as time itself, but the apples are still sugar sweet in October. 

Through the years, we’ve bought peach, pear, pecan and a ton of blueberry bushes. We also have a persimmon tree in our front yard that was barely head high when we moved here but now stands 50 feet tall.

The peach tree and blueberry bushes ignored the wacky weather and bloomed this week.

Jilda’s birthday is this month and her sister Nell loves gardening as much as we do, so her birthday gifts came with root balls.

She brought Jilda an English walnut tree, a plum tree, a tame blackberry bush and a fruit cocktail tree. The fruit cocktail tree is supposed to bear apples, pears and peaches on the same tree. I’m not sure if she’s pulling our leg or not, so I’ll write more about this one later.

But one of the most interesting trees that she gave us was a Hawthorn, and I knew little about them. 

When we started researching the Hawthorne, we found that it has a colorful history. Folklorists call it a fairy tree, but others call it the tree of hope. Tree of hope has a nice ring to it.

Some people find a sense of pride in having a yard that looks like a living magazine picture. I think they’re beautiful too, but our yard is more like a sanctuary for us. 

It’s a peaceful place with birds and bees and a Hawthorne tree.
Hipstamatic Sunset

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Happy Birthday Jilda

My first date with Jilda was in May of 1968. She'd just turned 16 and I'd asked her to be my date the night I graduated from high school.
I've helped her celebrate most of her birthdays (except for a few years when I was away in the army) since then.
In the past, we've had a birthday bash or two, but this one was much more laid back. Her sister and niece cooked her a delightful lunch and baked one of her favorite kinds of cake. 
She turned 62 today and she doesn't look it. Several years ago we went to the state fair and there was an age guesser there.
He scratched his chin for a long time until he looked over and saw me. He asked her she was married to me. When she said yes, he said well you're older than I would have thought. She howled, but I started to poke him in the eye with a corndog.
So happy birthday to my lovely spouse.

I shot the picture below not long after we married. 
She was driving our old Chevy truck.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Nothing more

Our young friend Laken sent a note today suggesting that I listen to a new song by the Alternate
Routes. She doesn't recommend a lot and I've found through the years that she has great taste in music and anything she shares is worth a listen.
In a world that's wound tighter than a banjo string, this is a message that everyone should heed.
It's a little over three minutes long, but I promise it's time well spent.
The video is good too.
The title of the song is Nothing More.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Where ideas come from

I realized I've been so cranked lately that I hadn't taken the time to sip and read so I slipped on my shoes and stepped down to the mailbox to fetched the morning papers. It seemed like a good morning to read while we java'd up.
What's interesting is that two stories triggered unrelated thoughts which led to ideas for future columns. I've been whining like a wet baby about being in a slump, and then BAM. Two excellent ideas.
I think ideas are kind of like floaters in your eye. You can't really see them if you're TRYING to look at them, but when you relax they appear.
I've gotten ideas from watching movies, listening to music, and hearing snatches of conversation. But by far the most frequent idea generator is reading. I have a subscription to the Oxford American magazine that is basically about the south, but the articles are written by some of the best writers on the planet.
If you've never read one, I suggest you pick one up at a bookstore and give it a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
I'd be interested to know how you come up with ideas for blog entries or stories if you don't mind sharing.
I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.
Jilda and I performed last night at a benefit for two local animal shelters

Thursday, March 20, 2014

First of spring

Today is the first day of spring and it felt like it here today.  Jilda and I got busy after coffee and had a late breakfast.
After we ate, we stepped out to the back deck to sit in the sun for a moment. It felt warm on my skin and after what seems like weeks of chilly weather, the rays warmed my bones.
I feel a little badly writing about this considering all the snow and cold weather my friends to the north have gone through, but hopefully the sun will reach them soon.
I've done a great deal of soul searching these last few days. It seems the ideas I've had and shared aren't as good as I'd like them to be. When I start writing about something, it begins to feel tired and trite.
I've discarded more than I've written, but it seems I go through a slump from time to time. I should understand this, but I'm still troubled when my work seems as stale as a cracker left on the sink after a party.
I feel like a road trip might be in order. Maybe I can talk Jilda into taking a few days off and head for the hills or maybe we could make a long overdue visit to an old friend.
At any rate, a change in the weather is a good start.
Happy Spring.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Our house is now her home

Back in February I wrote about a little dog that came to our house one night when the temps plunged into single digits.
She belonged to a neighbor so the next morning after it warmed up, we petted her profusely and put her out before we left for our appointments.
When I returned mid afternoon, the little dog was on our couch. I called Jilda to see if she'd let her back in before she left, but she hadn't. Apparently the dog (we named her Taz) came around the back of our house, scooted under the fence gate and came into our house through the doggie door.
I think the little critter was heaven sent because last month was a difficult months for Jilda. She spent many hours on the sofa resting. Taz would not leave her side.
We were crazy about Taz, but Jilda fell in love with her.
This week we finally talked to our neighbors and they told us that we could keep the Taz. We both did a little happy dance when I hung up the phone.
We are thrilled that she made our house her new home.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

New addition

We planted a camellia bush a few days before the temps dropped into single digits last month. When it warmed up enough to go out and check things out, the leaves a buds looked bitten and sad. I didn't write it off, but I had low hopes for it.
As it turns out, it survived and the warm weather this week coaxed the buds out, and they're beginning to bloom. It will be a beautiful addition to our yard.
The column I wrote yesterday for next Sunday is about our yard. You won't see a beautification award by the drive, but it suits us.
I'm running on empty tonight. I'll do better tomorrow.

Monday, March 17, 2014

My Father's Face

I got up earlier than usual today. Jilda and I both had doctor appointments, so I slipped out of bed and jabbed the brew button on the coffeemaker with a sleepy finger before heading to the bathroom to get ready.

As I splashed hot water from the sink on my face to shave around my beard, steam fogged
the glass, so I wiped it with the heel of my hand. 

Once the mirror cleared, I leaned in close to get a better look and realized I was shaving my father’s face. 

The thought took me aback for a moment. So many times as a kid, I saw my lather-faced dad lean in close to the mirror scrunching his face this way and that to get at all the hard to reach places.

Last week, the title of my column was things get older, but the focus was on “things” and not people. Seeing my father’s face in my foggy mirror made the fact clear that I’m getting older, too.

I’m within a few days of how old he was when he died in May 1986. That’s a sobering thought.

The question that comes to mind for me is: Where did the time go? I can read back through my journals and look at the thousands of pictures that document my life, and know I wasn’t magically teleported by the mirror from 1964 until today, but it doesn’t seem as though it’s been 50 years.

Another piece of evidence that shows my age is an article I read today about the Ford Mustang turning 50 this month. 

I remember seeing my first Ford Mustang in late March 1964. 

I was in junior high school at Dora, and one morning as I walked toward the concession stand, which stood at the side of the old stone gym, I saw the Mustang glide up the hill and back gracefully into a slot toward the end of the parking lot.

The morning sun glinted off the front bumper for an instant and it was almost like the flash of a Kodak Brownie camera. Even today, that image is as clear as a picture from my photo box. 

Apparently I wasn’t the only person to notice it because by the time I reached the end of the lot, there were a dozen other guys drawn toward that metallic blue beauty.

It was stunningly beautiful to me and unlike anything I’d ever seen. I fell in love with that car.

The picture in the mirror and the Mustang memory were solemn reminders that life is short. 

When I look back, most of the things I wrote on my bucket list 10 years ago are still there hanging on my office wall. Very few of the things have been marked off the list.

Someday has arrived. 

I think if my dad were alive today, he’d be the first to say, “Son, time gets away. You need to do the things that are important to you now.”

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunday stuff

I woke up before dawn this morning to rain drumming on the roof. When we remodeled our house a few years ago, we added extra insulation in the ceiling and the sides.
Normally you can't hear a lot unless a noisy car drives by, lightning strikes close, or it rains really hard. So I knew we'd gotten a lot of rain.
When it was light enough to see outside, I stepped to the garden door and saw a small lake in the lower garden.
The cloud cover moved off to the east just after lunch and the afternoon sky was as blue as I've ever seen it.
Jilda's sisters came up this afternoon to bring gifts for her birthday which is next Sunday. Her older sister Nell loves gardening as much as we do, so our gifts from her are always things we enjoy.
She bought us a fruit cocktail tree, as well as several other fruit and nut trees. The fruit cocktail tree is supposed to bear apples, peaches and pears. I'd never heard of one before today, so I'll be reporting more on this later when we've had a chance to see what fruit it actually bears.
This evening before dark, I planted all the new trees Nell brought. Our yard has been a little sad since the storm swept through last March and blew down many of our trees.
But when you live in a place for a long time you experience the ebb and flow of the landscape. Some years things are spectacular and other years you feel you need to read your yard the last rights.
But I feel good about this spring. It hasn't heated up too quickly and we've had sun and rain. I'd love to ease into summer with no violent weather.
I shot this picture on the river last year at this time of year.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Boats have been a part of my life for as long as I remember. When I was really young, my dad would take me fishing in a small flat-bottom boat at a slough off the Black Warrior river.
It didn't have a motor, so we'd paddle around on water as flat as glass.  We'd nose into some lily pads and dad would fish for bream, perch, and small-mouth bass.
Later he bought a small plot of land on the banks of the Warrior and we built a small cabin. By that time, he'd saved money and bought a 14' V-bottom aluminum boat with a small Evinrude motor.
I learned how to water ski behind that boat. I was driving that boat long before I was old enough to drive a car.
My dad was comfortable enough with my skills that he'd lie down in the stern and look up at the sky and the canopy of trees hanging out over the river while I captained the boat.
Back in the 1980s Jilda and I met Tom and Judy Camp. They had a place on the river, and they also had a boat. We spent many weekends on the water.
Tonight as I looked for a topic, I came across this picture of docked boats that I took several years ago when Jilda and I spent the weekend at Wheeler State Park in north Alabama. It's what gave me the idea to write about boats.
I hope you all have a chance to spend some time on a boat in summer. It may be the closest you'll get to heaven as you can get while you're here on earth :)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Working on the roof

Today was a day of routine. I had a list of things on the "B" list that I've needed to do for some time.
Just because they were on the "B" list didn't mean they weren't important, they just weren't urgent. 
Sometimes things are both so they get pushed up to the top of the list. 
John F. Kennedy captured this thought when he said, "The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining."
I think many of us are living at the speed of life and we're almost to the point of being adrenaline junkies. We fool ourselves into believing that we're efficient and productive, but all we're doing is swatting at flies.
I hope you all take some time out of your busy schedules to work on the roof.

Ornamental plum trees in the back yard 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Soundtrack of our lifes

One of Jilda’s cousins died recently and we attended the funeral. He was a quiet, unassuming soul who worked hard, raised his family the best he knew how, and died just as he was set to retire and enjoy life. It’s a heartbreaking story that’s repeated much too often.
We sat close to the rear as the service began. I heard a familiar song coming from the speakers. Free Bird, was one of his favorite songs and his wife chose to honor him by playing it one last time.
I’d just mentioned the words to that song recently in a column, but hearing it in this context was particularly poignant.
I got to thinking as I sat there about soundtracks. These days, the music soundtrack makes a good movie even better, but I found myself thinking about the soundtrack to my life. 
So what follows are 10 songs that would be in my soundtrack. Obviously they aren't the only songs that would make the cut, but I think I'll start with my young adult phase.
1. California Dreamin'
2. Turn! Turn! Turn!
3. Cowgirls in the Sand
4. All Along the Watchtower
5. Need Somebody to Love
6. Brown Eyed Girl
7. Wild Horses
8. The Times They Are A Changin'
9. Father and Son
10. Landslide

What songs would make the soundtrack of your lives?

I shot this photo yesterday at the restaurant
where we ate  on the way home after Jilda's treatment.
I'm not sure what kind of ornamental tree this is.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fifty Years Ago

It was treatment day for Jilda so we spent the day at the clinic. My brain is fairly numb and I was unsure what I'd write about until I flipped through a magazine that pointed out something that caught my eye.
March 1964 was a banner month for TV.  Debuting 50 years ago this month were The Adams Family, Flipper, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Bewitched, Gomer Pyle, Peyton Place, and while I'm on the topic of lust, another show that started airing was Ginger. OK, some people chose to call it Gilligan’s Island, but my eyes were glued to Ginger who was shipwrecked on the Island with Gilligan, the captain, the professor, Mary Ann, and the Howells. Television at it’s best. 
Those old shows were classic, and pure gold to people born in the 50s and early 60s.
That’s why many of them have been in syndication somewhere on the planet for years.
I’m guessing most kids today think those days are hokey and maybe they were, but those things captured my imagination. 
This has nothing to do with TV,
but our blueberries did start blooming today

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sad content

Today I Google'd - where writers go when they're fresh out of ideas. I learned that a lot of writers are just like me. They've created some decent stuff, but there are times when an angry skunk creates better smelling stuff than what I'm writing. 
That's comforting to know, but it's not putting words on the page. 
Yesterday's post which ran in papers on Sunday, generated a ton of feedback via your comments, Facebook, emails from people across the southeast, and a grunt from my sister. I wrote that column from the seeds of something I wrote on this blog about a week ago, and I was so unsure about it, I almost didn't send it in.
I think I could get rich if I knew in advance what things resonate and what sits there like a fly on a canned biscuit.
Maybe if I were smarter, better, younger, and had more hair I'd know the answer to these questions and others, like the meaning of life, and how to attain world peace and true happiness.
Porch picture.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Things get older ~ my column from Sunday's paper

There’s an old pickup truck behind our barn that was once the color of a spring sky, but years of dust, bird droppings and a tarp of atrophy has changed the color to a dappled blue. It must have been beautiful when it was new, but things get older.

The first few years Jilda and I were married, neither of us made minimum wage so our first car was an old Plymouth Valiant. It must have been white when it was new, but by the time I got the title, it was the color of old piano keys.

Even though it didn’t have air conditioning, it was a decent car and the odometer clicked off the miles like a slot machine. The mileage gauge finally stopped a year before the old workhorse died, so I’m not sure how many miles it had on it.

A few years into our marriage, I landed a paying job with MaBell and we bought our first new vehicle. 

It was a Datsun pickup and it was the first air-conditioned vehicle we ever owned.

On the drive home we both giggled at the new-car smells. The aroma was a blend of dye in the carpet, and the interior components. It took a while to realize that we couldn’t smell old cigarette smoke in the seats.

Something else that was different was the whisper of the engine, and the clicking sound we heard when I flipped a switch. These are memories that settled in a good place in your mind.

The first few months we noticed the odometer when it flipped over the first 100 miles, then the first 1000. Soon things began to change when we got the first ding in the door at the grocery store, and I found myself going a few weeks longer between washings. Before I knew it, I’d spilled coffee on the console, started tossing candy wrappers in the floorboard and pulling peanuts from the crack in the seat when I was fishing for my seatbelt. Things get older.

That’s not always a bad thing because with age, comes good things too. You feel a comfort in the confines of your car. You learn just how far you can go when the gas gauge starts bumping the E. You know if the old beast has enough pep to get around a Sunday driver on a short two-lane straight away.

Your favorite CDs are all within reach and you can manage to find your favorite radio station with the punch of a button without taking your eye off the road.

But the best part is no car payments. I think a car actually rides better when there’s no bank toting the note.

Both of the cars we now own have been paid off for a number of years. We've learned to live with the quirks and smells that seem to change with the seasons. 

We add a little oil every now and then, and I'm amazed at how good my truck looks when I hand wash it.

Our vehicles are almost like old friends. Jilda's Volvo, Ingrid is a 1996 with almost 300,000 miles, and we decided at the first of the year that she must be replaced (the car I mean), probably by summer. It was a difficult conversation because like an old friend, it will be hard to let that car go.

We’re looking for a newer vehicle that will take us into the next phase of our lives.

Jilda will retire within the next few years and we plan to hit the road, playing music and seeing the real America, which is only visible from the highway. It’s something we’ve dreamed about for most of our lives, and we’re finally getting to the age where it will happen. Like old cars, there are some benefits of getting older.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Magical afternoon

Our songwriting group met at our house today for our monthly meeting and we wanted to do something special.
The weather was incredible again so this afternoon, I put charcoals on the grill for hot dogs, and I put fresh wood in the firepit.
Jilda whipped up a gallon of her lemonade and when everyone arrived, we sat around the firepit, sipped lemonade, ate hot dogs, and played music until our fingers were tired. Jilda and I played a song we'd just completed a few hours before.
It was a magical afternoon.

And speaking of magical, I have another photo I shot at the river on Friday. I used the hipstamatic app on my iPhone and a new lens/film combination. I think it turned out well.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Spring forward

I thought I'd be posting a photo of the blueberries in bloom tonight. They were on the verge, with buds to the point of bursting but when I walked out this evening they were still undecided. So instead I shot a picture of winter sage which isn't nearly as interesting.
Maybe tomorrow.
Don't forget to spring forward tonight or you'll be late for breakfast. Have a great weekend

Friday, March 07, 2014

First glimpse of spring

I couldn't see spring before today. I saw signs in early-blooming flowers and the angle of light, but today I could see spring in the river. 
Tiny bugs hovered above the water doing some kind of vibrating life dance that was driving the trout crazy, and blue herons fussing at fishermen had spring written all over them. And of course the ever-so-slightly greening of trees was like a climatological telegram.
The up and down of the weather these last few weeks weighed heavily on my psyche putting me into a creative malaise. 
But today, I'd gotten caught up with all my projects and chores and had time on my hands.
Jilda was sick of my long face and said WHY DON'T YOU GO FISHING! She said it slowly, emphasizing each syllable so there was no chance of being misunderstood. 
She never gives me orders, but this request felt very close to one, so just after noon, I grabbed my fishing hat and boots and headed to the river.
I'm so glad I did. I didn't catch any fish, but I got a chance to be on the water and to get my first glimpse of spring.
My spirits soared. 

Thursday, March 06, 2014

What's good?

What's good? Is this movie good? I love this side of town, is the food good?  I've heard a lot about this book. Is it good?
It's a question I get as well as one that I've asked many times. Is it good? When I recommend a book or movie or food, I'm recommending something that somehow managed to weave it's way through my prejudices, emotions, shepherded on by my affections, preferences, psychological meanderings, and political leanings. I can tell you, "that's a hard row to hoe" as my grandma used to say.
I can't tell you the times we've been told that something was good, but were sadly disappointed. We've clicked off movies, turned off songs, or tossed books in the Goodwill box because we thought whatever it was, was awful.
So what am I getting at here? Well, it's that no matter what it is you do, there is someone out there that things you are the cat's meow, and there are some that think you suck.
You know what? That's OK. You do suck, and you are good.
My advanced training in the military was in electronics and radio. One of the things I learned was that in order for the signal to be received, you had to have an antenna in the right place to receive it.
Your message (song, words, food, pictures) can't be received by poor antennas. That doesn't mean the signal is bad, it means the antenna is not properly grounded or in a place where your signal can be received....that's all.
So these days when someone gives me grief about something I create, the first question I ask is: "Are you properly grounded." Most people don't get it, but that's OK.

I shot this photo of a small sapling that broke in the wind last March
and is now the home of fungi. Is the picture good or does is suck?

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

A gift

A thin veil of fog and low-hanging clouds burned off around 10 this morning and the bashful sun made an appearance.
My spirits lifted even though we were driving to the funeral of Jilda's cousin. After the ceremony, we had lunch and headed home.
I stepped to the deck and fell into my favorite deck chair to let the sun warm my face. I must have dozed for a few minutes because when I stood to go back inside, my face felt a little flushed. I didn't get sunburned, but had I stayed out a while longer I might have.
I did some work and a few hours later it was time to put corn out for the deer. When I came back into the yard, I noticed the setting sun highlighting the Babies Breath bush that stands against the south wall of the house.
I whipped out my phone and snapped this photograph. Soon the buttercups and yellow bells will follow. It's still a ways until spring, but I can tell you that in winter, days like today are a gift.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


I read a quote by Jonathan Perelman that said, "Content may be king, but distribution is the queen and she wears the pants."
The quote struck me funny because it is so true. You can have the best idea on the planet, but if you can't deliver, it's wasted. Nothing happens until you do something. 
We went to the funeral home tonight to the visitation for one of Jilda's cousins who passed away earlier this week, and one of the folk in the back of the room recognized me. I stood for a moment to talk while Jilda approached the front to speak to the relatives. 
He said that he read my column each Sunday in the paper and went on to say, "I would give anything to write like you. I have some great stories that need to be told." 
I was flattered at the comment but when I asked him how often he writes, he admitted that he could rarely find the time to write. I wished him well, but as I walked away I thought about the Perelman quote above.

Monday, March 03, 2014

It’s not about the money ~ My column from Sunday's paper

There’s a game I play with Caillou (our collie) each evening when I step down to feed the deer some corn. I call it “fetch the can.” 

Unlike a tennis ball, the plastic can is too big to fit in his mouth. So when I toss it, he has to wrestle with it for a while to get his mouth around it. I should YouTube this sometime because it’s hilarious watching him.

But once the can is secure, he brings it to me. I’ve never rewarded him with a treat for this trick, but I always praise him profusely.

When he hears me say, “Good Boy, that’s a good boy,” his gait changes. He doesn’t trot back to me. It’s more of a prance and it looks as if he’s smiling. He will fetch that can until my arm’s tired.

For some reason, a quote by Khalil Gibran popped into my head tonight as we played: “There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.”

I think this explains why some of us do the work we do.

I’d say schoolteachers fall into this category. Anyone who thinks they get paid enough probably snorted too much art glue as a child.

I doubt soldiers, firemen or law enforcement professionals think of their motivation in terms of joy, but most of them would agree that they love their work. It’s likely their motivation comes from love of country and sense of duty. 

All I know is that money is not a motivator. Truth is, we probably couldn’t add enough zeros onto the end of a paycheck to properly compensate them for laying their lives on the line each day.

Some bosses believe that the way to make employees more productive and happy is to pay them more, but that old adage simply doesn’t work in real life.

Studies conducted during the last century confirmed that increased rewards rarely correlate to better performance or job satisfaction.

I’m a prime example of this. I had a well-paying job for years. I worked hard because that’s what I do, but getting higher wages didn’t make me happier. I longed for something more.

I love the work I’m doing now, but if I tallied all the hours I have spent writing columns, songs, marketing books, managing websites, writing newsletters, and playing music, the math would show that my wages compare to what workers made back during the Great Depression. 

This past week I got emails from a few readers of my column and they said the words resonated with them. I smiled like Caillou fetching the can.

Young songwriters approach Jilda and me asking about the music business. Many of them have heard stories about songwriters who’ve made a fortune writing songs. 

Jilda and I’ve had songs recorded by artists and enjoyed some success, but with all things considered, we didn’t make that much.

We tell young songwriters to write what they know and to write from the heart. 

But we point out that if they’re going into songwriting to make a killing, they might want to choose another field because like teachers, soldiers and writers, it’s not about the money. It’s about doing the work you love. 

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Odd year

I was coming up short tonight as I tried to think of a topic. I decided to flip through some older photos to see what I could find.
iPhoto does a good job of grouping pictures. I viewed them by date and I shot the photo below a few years ago on March 2.
That was a strange year here in Alabama. It warmed up early and these pear trees couldn't resist. The air was unstable to the point that each afternoon I found myself getting a little antsy.
The weather remained a little weird even for Alabama and then on April 27, one of the worst tornadic outbreaks in history ripped scars across our state that still haven't healed.
But this year has been much different. Like most other areas in the country, it's been COLD. We've had snowfall a number of times, and it's rained every few days.
This afternoon it was warm enough for me to sit on the back deck in shorts without a shirt (I know, that's probably and image you could have lived without.)
Tonight, the weatherman says we could have freezing rain by dawn. I'm weary of the cold, but I'll take it any day over angry winds.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Plain view

The deer have been hiding lately. I know they're still around because each evening I pour a scoop under our apple tree and each morning when I walk, the corn is all gone and it looks as though they've licked the ground.
I did get a glimpse of them a few weeks ago at dusk. Had I not been looking, I would have driven right by without noticing them.
It's a short post tonight but I have a lot on my mind.  Two of our dear friends are facing difficult health issues and each time I try to write, my mind wanders.
I hope you all have a blessed week.

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