Sunday, August 31, 2014

After the Gold Rush

I remember within a few feet where I was standing when my taste in music changed. Before August of 1971 my favorite artists were Frankie Valli, Tom Jones, Jose Feliciano, as well as The Mamas and Papas. 

I still love that music, but that August as I walked down barracks row at Fort Monmouth, I
heard Neil Young's,  Tell Me Why which was on his After the Gold Rush vinyl LP. 

I went inside and followed the music until I found a GI lying on his bunk playing the record on the record player he kept locked in his footlocker.

I told him I heard the song playing through the open window. The barracks weren't air conditioned then, so most of the windows were open from May through mid September.

He smiled as he tossed me the album cover. I sat on the edge of the bunk across the aisle and read about Neil Young. 

As it turns out, I had also become interested in photography at that time, and I recognized that the album cover was actually a negative.

Even though I didn't own a record player at that time, I went to the PX and bought the record.

My friend Ken Runnels who lived in the bunk next to me had a record player and when I returned to the barracks, we listened to the record over and over.

It was as if that music opened a new window for me. Soon  I was listening to Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, and the list went on.

It was then I really began to appreciate music. The songs I listened to then had a profound impact on me, and the music I've written since then.  I'm so thankful I heard Tell Me Why on that steamy August day. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014


It's been a long time since we've had rain. Clouds to the west and east had drenched swaths of Alabama, but none here.

When I looked at radar this morning, it looked as if today would be no different, but Jilda woke up with aching shoulders and wrists. As I wiped sleep from my eyes with the back of my hands, she rolled over and said, "It's gonna rain today." But as added insurance, I washed my truck.

I'd worn my shoes so thin that you could have thrown a soccer ball through in places, so we went in to town to buy me a new pair. I'd actually rather have shingles than to buy new shoes, but I knew resistance would be futile. So we loaded up and headed into town to shop for footwear.

Jilda's sister Pat went with us, and after buying a new pair of spiffy new shoes, I treated the girls to lunch at the new Cracker Barrel that opened out on the freeway.

We took a seat by the window and as we waited for food, we could see rain in the distance. It looked like fog, but you rarely see fog at noon in August here. The temps were in the 90s but off to the east, you could see cloud to cloud lightning.

It rained for a moment at the restaurant, but only long enough to turn the parking lot into a steam room. I wondered if the rain had passed us by again.

When we got home, it was overcast and I could hear thunder off to the west. Soon I heard it coming. It started out like static on an AM radio station with the dial slightly off station. Then as it came closer, we opened the doors. On the screen porch, the wind drove wisps of mist through the screen and onto my face.

At first the rain puddled on the hard clay of the yard, but the persistent drops began to soak into the roots of the water oak. You could almost hear it sigh.

Radar shows more showers headed in our direction and soon the temperature will drop enough to make it comfortable sleeping with the windows up.

As my lovely spouse often closes out her blog: Good night, sweet dreams.

Summer Weeds

Friday, August 29, 2014


Years ago, long before bits and bytes painted pictures on screens not much bigger than a postage stamp, I learned to take pictures.

A photograph then was an investment, so I spent a great deal of time on setup. I'd check the light on the subject, check for stray hair, or wrinkled clothes. And then I'd spend a few seconds thinking about things like, shutter speed, f-stop, depth of field, and focus. Shooting a spontaneous picture was rare for me.

Then came developing and printing photographs in a small cramped darkroom with a dim orange-yellow light which was the only color light that wouldn't harm photo paper. 

I'm sure the smell of those toxic chemicals were the cause of the third ear I had removed from the middle of my forehead back in the late 70s. (OK, I'm kidding but I couldn't resist.)

I didn't take a lot of color pictures in those early years, mainly because I couldn't develop and print them myself because I didn't have the supplies and equipment.

When I did take color pictures, it was rare I'd take a full roll at one time so I'd make a mental note of the number of shots I took. I would then roll the film back into the small canister and write the number of shots I took on the roll. When I got ready to shoot more color pictures, I'd put the used roll into the camera, leave the lens cap on and shoot off the number of photos I'd already taken. That way, the pictures I'd already taken would be double exposed. And then I take the new pictures at the end of the roll. I know that seems like a lot of work, but color film wasn't cheap, and I was broke most of the time then so cutting corners was routine.

Once I had forgotten to make a note of the number of photos I'd taken when I loaded a roll of color film into my camera. 

Thankfully the photos I shot were for fun, because shot over about a half roll of film which resulted in about 18 photos that were unintentionally double exposed.

Most of them were throw aways, but as serendipity goes, a few of the pictures were stunning. I still have them stashed in one of my picture boxes.

The process changed with digital photography. Now you snap of a half a hundred pictures at the drop of the hat and simply delete what doesn't work.

The downside to the new way is that a lot of people take pretty good photographs, but they don't really know how they did it. Or if the light is tricky, they don't know how to compensate.

Below is a picture I shot with the double exposure app on iPhone. It took less that 10 seconds.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Backup plan

I've struggled with focus this week. I know my updates have been as thin as corn silk, but no matter how hard I tried or how hard I focused, the words would not come.

That is the ebb and flow of writing. My column was due yesterday afternoon and at lunch, I still hadn't written the column.

After lunch, I sat still on the couch and meditated. Each time one of my mental voices chided me, I pulled it like a weed in my garden and tossed it in my virtual compost bin.

When I sat back down at laptop sitting patiently on the table on the screen porch, I managed to pull a column together.

When I addressed the column to all the newspapers awaiting it, I breathed a sigh of relief, and vowed to do something about the drought.

This morning, I fired up the laptop and did some research while sipping coffee as thick as pine tar. I came across several resources with column ideas. I also came across a link to a Life column that runs in the New York Times. After a few clicks, I found how to submit my work for consideration.

Maybe I'm a dreamer, but I'd love to be published in The New York Times.

Before I shut down my laptop, I'd document 10 killer ideas for columns. This afternoon, I took one of them and wrote it within an hour. This gives me one in my hip pocket in the event I hit a dry spell again.

I know it's not Friday yet, but I'd like to be the first to say, Have a great weekend. And while I'm at it, since it's almost the first of September, I will also wish you a Merry Christmas.

In honor of National Dog Week, here's a photo of my
faithful companion Caillou

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Blooming moss

When I see blooming moss in summer, I think of my great grandmother. She and my grandfather didn't have much. They were in their late 80s, living in a three-room house. It was built of second-hand pine and listed a little to starboard when the power company hooked their house to the electric grid.

They were on social security, living from check to check, but one thing she did have an abundance of was flowers. 

During the spring and summer months, her porch looked like a rustic botanical garden. She had flowers planted in most any container that held dirt. Someone had made planters from old car tires. 

They'd cut the edges in a way that when turned inside out, the container looked like a lower itself.

She'd totter down creaking steps into the yard each morning before sunrise, pulling weeds and deadheading petunias. There were many plants she couldn't name except with the old names used by her mom.

My favorite flower was blooming moss. She had an old coal scuttle that served as a hanging basket and the moss draped over the edges. The blossoms looked like candy.

I found this photo I'd taken last summer of blooming moss and and it triggered the memory of my great grandmother.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sad garden

The wet-spring garden was slow to develop, but once the weather warmed, it was off to the races. However this year, it went from warm to hot and for the most part dry. Soon much of the garden was dry as tinder. It seems during dry summers, that no amount of city water makes it thrive.

So this has not been a banner year for bumper crops. It is my intention to experiment with raised beds with a small irrigation system. Raised beds are work intensive on the front end, but when built and laid out correctly, they tend to be less trouble over the long haul.

I stepped down this evening as the sun settled in the west. There's little left except a few puny tomatoes, and peppers. For some reasons, peppers love summers here.

I snapped this picture over the fence of the outer edge of sad little garden. It would probably be best to put it out of its misery and simply bush hog the entire plot.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Problem with tobacco ~ my column from Sunday's paper

It’s a wonder I never got hooked on tobacco. Most of the people I adored during my formative years smoked, dipped or chewed, but for reasons I’ll explain later, I never did.

I remember my grandpa Charlie Watson smoking as he sat in his overalls on an oak stump the size of a No. 3 washtub. None of those sissified filtered smokes for him. No, sir. He rolled his own.

He did a lot of work for the mines in those days, and he had a blacksmith shop behind his house. He’d heat and beat orange-hot strips of metal into U-shapes. These later became shoes for the mining mules. When his arm tired from beating hot metal, he’d sit on the stump, which also served as a workbench, and take a smoke break.

From the bib of his overalls, he’d pull out his Prince Albert tobacco, which was in a can as red as a stop sign. Curling a thin rolling paper with his index finger, he’d thump in a little tobacco, snap the can closed with one hand and place it back in his pocket. 

With practiced motion, he’d twist a cigarette as tight as a ready-roll and seal it together with a lick of the tongue.

The routine was almost a ritual. Somehow, the act of rolling his own cigarettes gave him time to think. As he blew smoke skyward he’d sometimes wax metaphorical and say, “These dang (I cleaned that word up) thangs are nails in my coffin.”

My Grandma Watson never smoked, but she always had a spittoon within arm’s reach. She often spent evenings on her front porch dipping and reflecting on life. 

She’d put a pinch of Bruton snuff just inside her bottom lip. After a while, she’d make a V with her middle and index finger, raise it to her mouth, lean toward the edge of the porch and spit an amber stream the size of a pencil into the yard.

My dad and my brothers also smoked, but thanks to an invaluable life lesson, I decided tobacco wasn’t for me.

Little-league baseball was a part of every summer when I was a kid, and one day just before practice, a teammate offered me a chew. 

“You want some of this? It’s great,” he said with a bulging jaw. He looked like he’d lost another fight with his older sister, who was as mean as a snake with an abscessed tooth.

“Sure,” I said a little too quickly. Appearing naive was a big concern at that age, so I reached into my jeans for my Old Timer pocketknife to cut off a corner. “Just bite it off,” he chided. I slid the knife back in to my pocket and took the plug from him. 

It looked a little like a chunk of cow dung and didn’t smell much better.

Almost breaking a tooth, I gnawed off a corner. Thanking him, I handed the plug back to him. Not wanting my friend to think I was without vices, I didn’t ask what to do with the juice.

I chewed the tobacco for a while but instead of spitting the juice out, I swallowed it. 

Practice was short that day. My head began to swim, and my stomach churned as if I’d swallowed a live eel. I threw up so hard that muscles throughout my body ached for a week.

That one episode was all it took to realize that tobacco was not for me.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Dog days

The Dog Days of summer are hard on my creativity. I love summer and all that it brings, but instead of thinking stories and blog posts, my mind is at the beach, or the mountains.

Each day, Jilda and I get email updates from San Francisco, Sedona, Telluride, and Tullamore, Ireland. The temps in all these places are incredible. In the low 70s and80s during the day and down into the 60 at night. It danced with triple digits and after five minutes in the sun, I could fry a can spam on the hood of my truck.

In years past we had an abundance of butterflies, but they headed out early. I'm not sure where they went, but it's probably some place cooler, with a pool and drinks in frosty glasses with umbrella stirs.
I actually shot this picture last year about this time. It was enjoying a respite on a zinnia in our garden.

I know I'm whining a little and soon fall will be here, but a little rain to cool things down would be nice.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Phone post

The Internet and technology is woven into my life now.

It didn't happen overnight. In fact it moved glacier like from a passing fascination, into a tool that I use every day for my livelihood.

I remember my friend Ken Owens sitting at his desk one evening where we worked. That would have been in the mid 1980s. "Have you seen this?" 

He tapped an icon labeled "Prodigy" on his desktop. Through a tiny onboard speaker I heard the modem dial and a modem at the other end connect. Then ever so slowly pictures and text began to appear on the crude color screen.

He talked me through how various site around the world were linked together via the Internet.

I was an early adoptor. 

Through the years my involvement and understanding grew. As the Internet matured, the applications and things I did with computer (and later smart devices) became more sophisticated. 

Internet connectivity became almost like tap water or the lights. You flip a switch, or click a button and your talking to someone on the other side of the planet.

Not having a connection tonight is almost as bad as the power being off. After I post tonight, I'll do what I used to do before the internet, I'll read a book.

I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Blue sky day

Today was hotter than satan with a windburn. The mercury was pushing triple digits, with humidity you could sip using a straw.

We drank coffee on the back deck before sunrise and even then, it was hot. The cloudless sky was solid blue.

Later when we headed out for a few errands, I noticed that clouds had moved in. At one stop, while Jilda was inside, I snapped a photo.

I've been in a bit of a rut recently. I used to panic when I got the bla's, but I've come to understand that it's only temporary. The it's best not for fret. So I just keep tapping keys.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Thursdays don't get a lot of press. Wednesday is humpday and when the day is done, people know they have the week on the run. Of course, Mondays for most people are the most dreaded, fear, and cursed. 

Even Tuesdays are sometimes celebrated, if on for proving that you survived Monday. 

Even though Friday is a work day, a lot of people are winding down getting ready for the weekend. 
Most people live for the weekend, but Thursdays are a little sad.

These are the thoughts oozing across my brain like a drunken spider.

Yes, I know this post would have been a total waste of your time if I hadn't had the good fortune to snap a picture of the evening sky.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It's a mystery to me

If you've ever studied quantum physics you probably know that on the quantum level, we are all energy and information. All the molecules of our bodies vibrate in a quantum dance.

One of the books I read talked about how some people vibrate at a higher frequency than others. It gave Mother Teresa as an example.

It went on to say that we all vibrate at a higher frequency when we're happy, and lower when we're feeling sad or down. 

I'm not sure how much of this is scientific fact, and how much is new-age hooey, but I do know that when I'm in the company of someone truly happy, it lifts my spirits too. 

If this is true for people, I can't help believe that it's also true for society as a whole. 

I can't watch the news these days because it seems that each channel is in competition with the other to see which one can report the most depressing story.

How is it that a society can make such phenomenal progress in medicine, technology, communications, earth sciences, etc., and not learn how to somehow get along with each other?

It's a mystery to me.

A pumpkin for your thoughts

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sad garden

My garden is beginning to look sad. The heat over the past several weeks baked the earth. The soil here contains a lot of clay, so the surface of the garden is pretty much pottery. 

Water from the faucet doesn't seem to get deep enough to give the roots a drink. It keeps the plants alive, but not much more.

We still have a few tomatoes, okra, and pepper. But for some reason, scorching heat doesn't seem to bother pepper. But the pods are so hot they're almost inedible. Maybe that's a function of the seed, but I think the sun plays a role.

At any rate, this afternoon when I stepped down to pick a few tomatoes for supper, the evening sun played on the weeds growing in the border. The light caught my eye so I snapped a photo.

Tomorrow's Wednesday. I have an appointment to see the doc to see what's going on with my aching knees. I'm sure the treatment will involve needles as big as pencils. 

I'm excited.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The start of school ~ My Column from Sunday's paper

School starts back this week for many areas around the country, and I spent time reflecting about my early days in school. 

Some kids would rather step barefoot on a rusty nail than go back to school in August. Fortunately, the first bell didn’t ring until after Labor Day when I was a kid, and I was excited to begin my education.

My mom ordered most of my clothes from the Sears & Roebuck catalog, but the week before school started, she took me to town to pick up a few last-minute items. 

My new school booty included a football-shaped lunch kit and paste that smelled great, even though I suspect it was toxic. The metal scissors were sharp enough to lash off the fingers of a careless kid.

The pencil was my favorite. It was fat as a link sausage and each time I sharpened it, I could smell red cedar. It was a comforting smell, and holding it made me feel important. People wrote things down with pencils. Important things.

My mom wrote things down all the time. She had a notebook where she scribbled down recipes for confections, fruitcakes and good dishes she came across. She also wrote letters to family members who’d moved off up north. I think this fueled my love of writing.

Even though I was excited, it was scary at first. One kid cried from the time we got there until we left that afternoon. The teacher’s voice purred like a kitten trying to sooth his jangled nerves, but for him, school was too much too fast. 

My older brother Neil didn’t want to start to school either. He was chubby for his age and the overalls made him look even bigger. He was self-conscious by nature, so I can understand why he wasn’t excited about school.

He spent the first week of class under the train trestle that ran behind the old grammar school. He probably would have missed the whole year had a neighbor who’d walked the rails to town not seen him napping under the trestle. 

That first hooky experience didn’t turn out well for him once word got back to my mom.

What I remember most about the old school is how it smelled. The halls and classroom floors were made from heart pine. The maintenance guys used cottonseed oil to clean and preserve the wood. Even now, I can close my eyes and remember how they smelled.

The wainscoting on the walls reached up to my shoulder and was the color of tobacco. Once when I walked down the long hall alone, I could hear my footsteps echoing off the walls at the far end. 

The old clock that hung on the wall by the entryway looked as big as a refrigerator with hands that pointed to Roman Numerals. 

Mr. Evans was the principal the years I attended Dora Elementary. He wore thick black-framed glasses and bought a new Rambler automobile every few years. 

The teachers there were good ones and they laid the foundation for my education. I was happy there.

I hope years from now, the kids entering school can look back with fond memories of their first day of school. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The ocean

When doing yoga this morning on the deck, I had Pandora playing a meditation stream of music. One piece began with the sound of a gentle surf. 

The sound coming through those tiny speakers made me realize we haven't been to the ocean since January. We both miss it. There's something primal about that sound of surf on the sand. It's timeless and as the saying goes, "Is woven into the fabric of our lives."

Not long after Jilda and I started dating in the summer of 1969, her family went on vacation. She invited me down for the weekend. Not to stay with her, after all she was 16 years old and had parents who kept an eye out for rift-raft like me, especially those with skinny legs. 

Later when we married, we spent our honeymoon in a small cottage made of cement blocks which was a few hundred feet from the beach. At night, with a pallet on the screen porch, we fell asleep to the sound of the surf.

In Panama, I lived on a finger of land separating the Bay of Colon from the Atlantic Ocean. The barracks didn't have glass in the windows, only screen. My bunk was on the second floor. Each night I fell asleep to the sound of the surf on the breaker wall. During gentle seas, it was like a whisper that ebbed and flowed. On nights when the seas were angry, the surf sounded almost like thunder in the distance.

When we were newlyweds, we loved going to the ocean during summer, but we both looked much better in swimsuits then. 

These days we prefer to go to the ocean in autumn, or winter. The crowds have fled north leaving only snowbirds from Michigan and Canada. We fit right in with these folks. 

Jilda talked to her sister today and she's getting ready to head to the beach this week. We both were happy for her, but a little sad for ourselves. It's been too long since we've heard the sound of the surf.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Afternoon visitor

As Jilda and I sat reading and sipping green tea this afternoon, we had an afternoon visitor. This little doe wandered up in the yard and ate birdseed from our feeders. While she drank out of the birdbath, she looked through the glass curiously, as if to say, "What's for supper?"

She usually waits until nightfall because of the dogs. We can always tell when she visits because the feeders are licked clean. During this hot-dry spell, they usually drink the water from all our fountains at night.

We love watching our little visitors. A few days ago, about a dozen wild turkeys strolled through the garden long enough to munch corn. Later when we looked out, there were three young bucks dancing around.

I think they feel when it's time for the hunters, because they move deeper into the woods and you rarely catch a glimpse of them.
I'll miss them when they're gone.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A night for a quote

Since I got a break from jury duty today, my mind decided to take a break. I've tapped keys until I'm tired so I tonight seems like a great night for a quote about autumn which is just over four weeks away.

There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been! ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Time is the most precious resource we have. It's more valuable than you car, your house, or the figures penciled in at the bottom of your checkbook register.

If you have time, most any possession can be replaced. Relationships can be mended. Wrongs can be set right. You can start anew.

But without time, the most valued possession will seem trite and insignificant. What good is a gold watch, if your life-long friend is estranged over something goofy, and won't be with you in an hour of need?

The only time we have is this moment. The last one is long gone and the next one we may never see.

Time. It's the most precious resource.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Working for the people

It's been a grueling day at jury duty, working for the people. Though I spent most of the day sitting, I feel as though I've plowed the back 40 acres with a tablespoon.
When I got home at 4:30 I decided to stretch out on the couch for a moment. An hour later, the phone jangled me back to consciousness and it took an incredible level of restraint to keep from tossing it through the window.
I decided to walk around a little to stretch my legs so I headed out to get a scoop of corn for the deer. Jilda stood at the garden door and said "Look."
Out under the apple tree were three bucks with racks on their heads that looked like rocking chairs. I grabbed my iPhone to snap a photo, but it doesn't have a zoom and the moment passed. I think they sensed we were watching them because they whirled and within a matter of two seconds they all three hit the treeline and were gone.
I stepped down to toss out the corn and I snapped a picture of the apples.
I'm hoping the new iPhone  6 has telephoto capability.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Out in the tall weeds

I've been at the courthouse the last few days. As I wrote in my column (posted last night,) I have a process that I follow.

Being in court has knocked me off course and I've found myself in the tall weeds somewhere beyond the outfield fence.

My column is due tomorrow, and it's still not finished.  I've written some at home, some on the lawn of the courthouse during one of the delays, and another segment while sitting in the courtroom waiting for the judge.
When Jilda did a first-read tonight, she got this scrunch line between her eyebrows, which I know from experience, is NEVER a good sign.

To be honest, I didn't need her to say a word. I'd written and re-written the column a half dozen times and it still didn't flow.

When she began telling me the issues, I was almost relieved. I'm sick of looking at it tonight, so I plan to get up early and fix it when I'm fresh in the morning. I can't dally because I have to be back in the jury room a 9 a.m.
So, I'm off to bed. Don't try to stop me our there'll be problems. I'm not kidding. Court makes me testy. I'll tell the judge and he'll send the sheriff after you. 

You've been warned.

Monday, August 11, 2014

How I come up with this stuff ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

People often ask how I come up with column ideas. Back in 2007, it was easy. A zillion ideas floated around in my head like yellow jackets on an apple core in summer, but I've written, tossed or forgotten all those.

These days my ideas tend to evolve, and if I were paid for all the time I spend writing each one, I’d be a wealthy man.

Monday is set aside for the first draft. I let the words stew for a day or two, which allows the verbs, nouns, pronouns and adjectives a little time to blend like homemade vegetable soup.

This morning I took my coffee out to the screen porch to finish the second draft. A cool front moved through overnight making it so chilly I had to step back inside and flip off the ceiling fan. Settling in, I noticed steam from my coffee drifted up like incense smoke.

Often when I edit the second draft, I find words and phrases that chafe like a cheap leisure suit.  These are the first to get the ax.

After the first draft, the writer’s knife comes out to whittle the fat, tired and lonely words. Ideally, what’s left is a piece that’s strong and lean.

When I’m completely satisfied, my first editor (Jilda) takes a look. She often points out faux pas so goofy they make me snort coffee out my nose. It’s hard editing your own work.

Writing is tricky business. You have to find what process works and stick with it. My process involves tapping keys, listening to birds and swilling coffee as thick as roofing tar.

Some people believe that writing is a gift. When I read the words of Rick Bragg, or my friend Dale Short, it’s easy for me to believe that too.

But I think either of these writers would tell you that writing involves a lot of factors, none of which come in a box wrapped in fancy paper that’s given to you at birth.

Dale told me that it’s vital to read great writers. He also said studying the craft is vital, and whenever possible, weave emotion into the words so they wrap around the reader like a warm blanket in autumn.

Daily practice is essential. I took Dale’s advice, and in looking at my writing style through the years, I can tell it has improved since I began in 2007, though some of you might disagree.

Writing is rewarding work but it can be lonely. I’m a social person who loves spending time with friends, eating, sharing and laughing. During the hours spent writing, I’m alone with my thoughts.

But writing is the path I chose, and I love what I do. I have no regrets, although as I daydreamed about the writing life through the years, I always imagined it would be more lucrative.

Jerry Ryan of the iconic Birmingham band Three on a String nailed it when he said: “We didn’t get into music to make a lot of money, and so far it’s worked out real good.”

I could say the same about writing.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sumac Sunday

A thunderstorm moved through earlier this evening. The lights blinked tentatively but the came back strong.
As the storm moved through, the thunder rattled my chest as lightning strobed to the north. Fortunately we didn't lose power.
I have a summons for jury duty tomorrow. I'm not real excited about it. Several years ago I received a federal summons.
There were over 30 others, but when the final selections were made, I was one of 13 left sitting in the box. There was no excitement, but felt it was my duty.
As it turns out, it was for a group of defendants in Birmingham accused of racketeering, and I spent over three months on jury duty that I thought would never end.
I didn't just fall off the turnip truck. I served in the military overseas, spent time in Chicago, New York, and in a third-world country, but I heard and saw things during the trial that were shocking.  In the end, I knew for sure my second career would not be in law.
Serving on a jury is important work, but I'm hoping that I won't be selected to serve this time.
Sumac Sunday

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Things are changing

Today was as hot as a blister. Although the air at times felt as heavy as a wool blanket, I could feel something in the air. 
The hummingbirds were in a feeding frenzy. Stepping down to check the mail, they buzzed around the feeders like jets at Laguardia in New York. For an instant one hovered close enough to kiss. Stopping mid step, it hovered a moment before starting to chitter. I'd love to know what it was trying to tell me. Probably something like, "Get out of my way or I'll poke this beak through your eye." Pound for pound, these tiny creatures are the pit bulls of the genus.
Later as we walked, I could also tell the light was changing. The canopy not as lush, and tinges of crimson had crept into the leaves of the sumac.  Soon autumn will be here and the games change. 
Soon the goldenrod will enter stage right and we'll be looking through the closet for sweaters. And we'll be wondering where summer went.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Strange summer.

It's been low key this week since Jilda's treatment last Wednesday. So far, so good. Last month was a bear. Doctors decided she had something called serum sickness, which they feel was caused by too much medicine. They reduced the dose, hoping that would curb the symptoms.
She's done fine since Wednesday but she's rested a good bit more too. Today, while she got her haircut, I ran to the bank and did a few other errands.
Afterwards, when we got home we took a long leisurely Saturday afternoon nap. The phone jangled me back to reality. It was her brother and she talked for a few minutes before handing the phone back to me.
She was asleep again before I placed the phone on the coffee table. I lay back on the sofa, but I was awake.
A few moments later I heard the sound of rain rattling the roof. Rolling off the sofa, I stepped to the garden door.
I realized it was raining on our house. Less than three hundred feet away, the sun was shining on our apple tree.
It's been a strange summer.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

I wish I'd said that

To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour 

~ William Blake

I'm a collector of quotes. When I find a good one I read it time and again.  This one by William Blake is humbling.  It's only two lines of poetry that speak volumes.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Wednesdays at the Watsons

As the coffee brewed this morning, I leaned over the sink and looked out the kitchen window. Walking walking across the garden was a half dozen wild turkeys . I tried to snap a photo, but without a decent telephoto, the picture looked like crows so I trashed it. Note to self: I really need to invest in a good telephoto.

We headed out after coffee and spent most of the day at the clinic today. It was treatment 32 for Jilda. She was excited on the drive in.

This evening we took a long nap when we got home. I woke up as the sun was setting and I stepped yawning to the garden door.

It felt like a sauna outside, but I sat on the wrought iron deck chair to watch the evening fall. I'm not sure how I failed to notice it, but down under the apple tree was a doe standing on her back legs trying to get to an apple.

They've already gotten most of the low-hanging fruit, but apparently she stood on her tiptoes because she got another one and stood there eating it.

I hadn't put out any corn today so, I stepped to the shed for a scoop. She stood and watched me until I got close to the back fence before she bounded off toward the barn. From out of the brambles came a spotted fawn dancing around its mom.

The next few months will be tough on the wildlife because the land adjoining our property is owned by a large holding company and they're about to come in and thin timber. Screaming chainsaws and beeping equipment will be in their space.

I wish I could sell a few hundred thousand books so I could buy that property. Maybe someday.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

A picture is worth a thousand words

All my life I've heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. I think that's why platforms like Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram have exploded. We are a visual people.

You can write about a beautiful river, describing the water grass and distant mountains. People will read those words and form an image in their minds.

Some argue that a mental picture is better, and to some extent that's true, but add a photograph and the story reaches a new level. 

When someone who's not good with words tries to describe the scene, so much is lost. Whereas anyone with a camera and a few basic skills can capture the moment and share it. 

I shot a lot of regular photographs in Jackson Hole, Wyoming last fall and they are quite beautiful, but I also shot pictures with the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone and then tinkered.
It's hit and miss. 

Monday, August 04, 2014

Life at the forks ! My column from Sunday's paper

There are places in this world that seem magical. The Cliffs of Moher, in Ireland, Cathedral Rock in Sedona, and standing at the edge of the Pacific just off Highway 1 near Half Moon Bay in California come to mind. There are places much closer to home that may not be as scenic, but they too are special. 

Jilda worked late this afternoon, and I’d been to a community meeting. On the way home, I came to a stop sign near where the Sipsey Fork and the Mulberry River join to form the
Black Warrior River, which flows through the heart of Alabama.

Home was to the right, but a stone’s throw to the left is a finger of land separating the two rivers. I decided to swing in to see what was happening at the forks.

To the casual visitor, there’s not a lot to see. There’s a huge parking lot, a public boat launch, and a few picnic tables under the shade of pine and poplar. But this particular spot is a unique place on earth. It feels magical at times in the evening when the angle of light reflects off the water, making it look as if the river is flowing into the sky. 

I’ve never read the history, but I understand that Native Americans made their home on this land back before Alabama became a state. 

Standing at water’s edge as the lazy rivers amble toward home in the Gulf of Mexico, it feels magical. It’s easy to see why Native Americans loved it here.

These days, people congregate at the forks year around. In summer, you see kids from the community fishing. When it gets too hot to fish, they strip off their shirts and dive into the cool water. When they tire of swimming, they lie back on the bank and bake like turtles in the sun. 

In the spring, you’ll find fishermen from all over Alabama who come to the forks to try their hand at landing a trout, stripe or hybrid bass. Many species of fish migrate upstream to spawn in the cool waters. 

Early-morning Jon boats putter upstream through mist as thick as a veil for a chance to catch a stringer full of stripe.

My old friend Leo Smith is the unofficial mayor of the forks. Most days you can find him fishing, running trotlines or dispensing advice on sloughs, bait and fishing techniques.

Years on the water have baked his skin the color of mocha. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that his veins flow with the water of the Warrior. It seems he can look at the water, the position of the sun, factor in air temperature and tell you if the fish are biting.

People come from all over to fish, but some come to stand and talk, with conversations ranging from pontoons to politics.

Sometimes you’ll see families with young children come to be close to the water. 

The kids run around barefoot catching dragonflies and chasing June bugs while their mothers spread a picnic lunch on blankets in the shade.

Today when I parked, there was a lone fisherman in a canvas lawn chair near the edge of the water. He had a cooler within arm’s reach and was tending a line hoping to catch a stripe for supper.

Standing at the forks for those few moments, it felt magical.

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