Tuesday, March 31, 2015

End of the day

I worked on the Jasper campus of Bevill State College today, which is about 20 miles from here where I live. I led an information session. Eighteen people signed up, but threatening skies and raging thunderstorms in the area kept most of them home.

Five people braved the weather and we had a good session. I can always tell when I get it right, because people linger after the presentation ends to chat and tell their stories. I enjoy it when this happens.

These people usually have bruises and scars, that help forge them into who they've become.
After everyone left, I packed my case and headed home. As it happens, I have to pass by the forks, so I wheeled into the boat launch to see what was going on.

The Mulberry River flows into the Sipsey Fork of the Black Warrior River in Sipsey. The Mulberry is a shallow river and when it rains, it sends a cloud of muddy water that mixes with the deep emerald water of the Warrior. 

During spring, when the striped bass head upstream to spawn, they look for food in that ragged muddy seam where the two rivers join together.

There must have been twenty people fishing as nightfall closed in. I was only there long enough to snap a few pictures, but two people caught bass as I stood there.

A pearl-colored mist hung over the water like a cotton blanket. It was a stunning scene to behold.

Jilda prepared a nice tuna pasta with artichokes and olives. 

I think I'm going to make some hot tea, and veg out before bed. I hope you all have a remarkable Wednesday.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hitting the culinary jackpot ~ my column from Sunday's paper

I had no idea back on May 5, 1974, that I’d hit the culinary lottery, but I did when I married my lovely spouse.
You would never have known it because she was as thin as a reed and could have passed for someone who spent time in one of those malnourished Third World countries. My grandma went as far to say that she looked a little wormy. But even then, that girl could cook.
Long before she learned to drive, she was baking biscuits and frying fritters. Her mom and dad both worked, so rather than snack on sandwiches, she learned to rattle those pots and pans.
Before we married, my grocery bill consisted of a buggy full of tin foil covered dinners that contained crunchy green peas that rolled around the soggy cardboard plate like marbles and some kind of mystery meat. The chicken tasted just like the beef so I never looked to see what kind they were when I went shopping.
When we moved into our trailer, things changed in the fridge. One thing I learned is that that big block of frost at the top of the fridge wasn’t for show and if the unit was defrosted occasionally, I could keep ice cubes up there. Every day was a school day.
Soon after Jilda arrived, the pantry had matching plates. The green mess hall plates I scored at the Army Surplus store were in the garbage and replaced with plates with tiny blue designs around the edges.
We both worked full time, but every evening when we got home she’d go into the kitchen and soon the scents wafting through our tiny tin house made my mouth water.
These days, we love entertaining our friends. At dinner parties, it seems everyone congregates in the kitchen to watch Jilda prepare the food.
I think it’s because the art of cooking and dining involves all the senses. The sounds of celery being chopped, wooden spoon pinging on a pan, and the soft gurgling of soup as it begins to boil are all pleasing to the ears.
I sometimes close my eyes as I eat to experience the different tastes and textures of the food as they blend together harmoniously.
The best meals are visually pleasing. We usually have fresh flowers and candles that make shadows dance on the wall. Our cloth napkins are antiques and soft as silk.
Jilda has a knack for selecting foods that not only taste good, but fit together like a well coordinated outfit. The plates of food often look more like art, which makes them almost too pretty to eat.
Many people love eating in restaurants and I include myself in that group. But for us, it’s a treat. We have friends that eat out almost every night and that is expensive.
For me, it’s rare to find a restaurant with better food than what I routinely eat at home, for a fraction of the price.
I’ve seen stories on TV about people who travel the world looking for that “great food.” By sheer luck back in May 1974 when I hit the culinary lottery, I have to look no further than my dining room table.
Fuschia-colored Flowers

Sunday, March 29, 2015


The jasmine on our front arbor is blooming which makes our entryway inviting in spring and summer.

The confederate jasmine has blossoms about the size if your thumb. It's both beautiful and anxious. It's always the first out of the shoot in spring but doesn't have the fragrance of the white jasmine.  When the air is thick with humidity, the fragrance of the white jasmine lingers in the air like a subtle perfume which makes our entryway enchanting.

We thought the winter of 2013/14 had killed our white jasmine.  When it didn't bloom in May of last year, I started looking around for replacement plants but the nursery where we bought it had sold out. "Oh, well." I thought. "I'll get some early next spring to replace it.

But then later that summer while sipping coffee on the front steps, I looked down. Tender shoots were poking up through the leafy mulch around the old roots.  

After coffee, I stepped inside to fetch my shoes and work gloves. The cold had nipped the massive vines on the arbor, but roots of the white jasmine had survived. Over the next few months, I pampered it like a teething baby.  It's healthy again and hopefully it will show out this summer. 


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Fun gig

Jilda and I played tonight at Hart & Soul Coffee House in Homewood. It was almost like homecoming because a ton of our friends and family came by to support us. Our friends the Spook House Saints played on the bill took. Our buddy Fred helped us tweak the sound.

It was hard leaving at the end of the evening because some of our friends we rarely see.

We just got home so this will be a short post. Happy Sunday.

Fred and me at Hart & Soul Coffee House

Friday, March 27, 2015

Greening of Alabama

We drove about an hour south today to go to Cosco for some shopping. The landscape was much greener there than it is here.

Most of the trees have leafed out and the cherry trees are in full bloom. It's interesting how different things are the further south one travels.

Here, a few trees are putting on leaves.  The temps will dip down close to freezing tomorrow night and the tender things will fret, but I don't think it will be cold enough to harm them. We'll see.

The blueberry bushes here are in full bloom. I shot a picture, but apparently I moved when I took the picture because it was blurry.

Not to worry, I ran it through the Oil Paining filter in Photoshop and while it's not as stunning as it would have been had it been in focus, it has to do in a pinch.

I hope you all have a great weekend.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

It doesn't take a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

The weatherman says cooler weather is moving in, but I would have known without his forecast, because today when I went outside to lunch on the picnic tables, I could feel it in the wind.

Clouds as grey as ash swept across the sky toward the northeast.  The sun was warm, but you could feel the atmosphere changing.

Thankfully the front moved slowly and there wasn't a lot of moisture in the air.  Together those two things add volatility that can be violent here.

Tonight when I stepped out to dump scraps into the composter, the mercury had dropped 20 degrees and rain had started to fall.  Tomorrow night the temps will drop down near freezing, so I'll be saying a little prayer for the peaches.

I hope you all have a remarkable Friday.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The tax man cometh

And speaking of the government, I've spent the day doing my taxes. I don't actually do my taxes, I just take all the information I've collected throughout the year, organized it, and summarized the numbers so that it won't be a pain for my accountant.  I could let him do that work, but he charges by the hour and it would get pricey.

Today was another beautiful day here. I did get outside to stretch and walk in the warm sunshine.

I snapped a picture of this little purple iris (I learned that this is a  hyacinth. Thanks y'all for pointing that out) that started blooming recently. Jilda will call me a Cheater, Cheater, Pants on Fire because she shot a similar picture and posted on her blog, but I couldn't resist...even though I am a copycat.

I hope you all have a remarkable Thursday.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

One fine day

Today was one fine spring day. Cold weather is moving back in over the weekend, but I can't think about that now.

At lunchtime, I took my soup into the break area to nuke it. Standing there waiting for the microwave to ding, I glanced out the window. The sky was clear as crystal with fluffy blue clouds slowly drifting off to the east.

When I headed back to my desk, I couldn't take the pressure. I had things to do, but the warm sunshine was calling to me and my todo list would have to wait.

With my drink and soup in hand, I stepped out into the courtyard and walked toward the picnic tables. I couldn't believe I was alone. It is AEA here and only the staff is working, but still.

Placing my lunch on the table I sat and absently spooned the soup into my mouth.  After what seems like weeks of rain, the sun was finally out, and I couldn't take my eyes off of it.

I wish I knew what kind of trees were blooming in the courtyard, but I couldn't put a name with them, but that wasn't required to enjoy being in their presence.

Monday, March 23, 2015

My life long love of wheels ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Creativity is a fickle thing. I go weeks without a decent idea for a column, and then they’re swarming around like mosquitos on a warm summer night.

Last week when I logged onto my computer to write, I was unsure of a topic. Then I
remembered reading it was Peanut Butter Lover’s Month so I was off and running.

I felt smug after finishing that piece and decided to take a long walk to enjoy the sunshine. Before I reached the barn, I had three more killer column ideas. I love it when that happens.

That’s how I came up with the idea to write about wheels. If you’re like my lovely spouse, you’re probably saying, “Huh?” But I’ve loved wheels all my life.

I learned to roller skate not long after learning to walk. When I was younger, there were a couple of skating rinks where we lived. 
Every Saturday afternoon, my mom would take my older sister Mary Lois and me to skate. I thought it was because she loved us, but I came to understand it was to get a few minutes of peace.

I later graduated to bicycles. My first bike was a 26-inch Huffy as red as a barn with what looked like a fuel tank between the two braces that ran from the seat to the front forks. I often clipped playing cards on the forks with clothespins, lapping it over enough so that one edge of the card flapped against the spokes. It sounded like the Huffy had an engine. It was lame I know, but it didn’t take much to amuse me then. The bike brought a sense of freedom. I loved that bike.

Then when I turned 15, I thought I’d died and gone to Heaven.  My mom gave me a car on my birthday. It was a 1946 Plymouth Coupe. She didn’t actually buy the car. It came into her possession when my brother couldn’t repay the money he owed her. He borrowed heavily to paint the old car, buy new tires, and moon hubcaps as shiny as silver dollars. 

He was about to move to California to work and couldn’t come up with the cash to repay the loan, so he regretfully gave her the car. 

That was just before my birthday, so she gave it to me. That old car was a peach. It had mohair seats, that smelled like an expensive sweater….not that I knew what an expensive sweater smelled like back then, but later when I did smell one, the memory of how that old car smelled came rushing back.

It also had what looked like an ivory gearshift knob, and a pair of fuzzy dice slung over the rearview mirror that swayed like a hula girl as I drove down the road. 

The cigarette lighter still worked as well as the radio. The face of the dial was cloudy and amber colored from age, but when I’d turn the radio on, it buzzed and crackled until it warmed up. When the tiny red indicator bar crossed WVOK or WSGN on the dial, they came through loud and clear.  

I loved that old car too, but my dad got tired of looking at it while I was serving in the Army and sold it.

Everyone has things in their lives they love, but for me, I’ve always loved the freedom that comes with wheels.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Waiting for spring

This is the hard part. The waiting. When the winter winds blow, you push the thoughts of spring to a place in the back of your mind. You know it will come when its time.

Then the first warm days toward the end of February, are like a promise that spring is not far way.

Then the sun in mid-March, coaxes the anxious buds from their nap, and with a yawn and a stretch, they burst open like Mother Nature's fireworks.

When I see those blossoms, I begin to get antsy, spending time in the shed sharpening hoes and repairing handles, but I know from years of southern experience, that spring is still has a way to go. 

The peaches, blueberries, golden bells, and buttercups, have all bloomed over the last several days, but in viewing historical records, we've had frost here well into April.

It's the waiting these last few weeks for spring to arrive that seems the hardest part for me. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

An old rainy day

The sunny skies made an appearance this morning but only for a short while. The clouds moved in quickly and rain began to fall before we finished our first lap.  By that time, we didn't quicken our pace. Had it been a little warmer, the rain would have felt good on my face, but the wind out of the north sent goosebumps up my arm and the back of my neck.

I've been getting nastygrams from Google about some of the websites I maintain. In the automated message, it tells me some of my sites aren't "Mobile Friendly."

Most of these sites were built when mobile was just a town by the bay in south Alabama. Now, more people view content on their phones and tablets, than on their desktops.

But, I spent the rainy hours working to make the sites mobile-friendly.  

I did knock off mid afternoon and drive to the nursing home to see an old friend of ours who isn't doing well.

I'm glad I did. His health has been failing for years, and he's been low before, but I've never seen him like this. We talked for a while until another one of his friends stopped by. I excused myself and headed back home. When I got in the car, I said a silent prayer for him and his family.

The picture below is one I used to do a art photo a year or so ago. When I came across the picture tonight, I realized it looks pretty good the way it is.

Have a great Sunday.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Weather report

We may have gloated too much about sunshine and blue skies these last few days because the rain moved in yesterday.  Today the sky was grey as ash and, even though, the mercury didn't dip too low, I was chilly for most of the morning.

I shot a few pictures today, but they were uninteresting. Flipping through some photo folders while I was on hold to talk to the local newspaper about our subscription, I came across a picture taken at 35,000 feet back in January. 

I was on my way to California. It was cold in Birmingham when I left, but the weather was kind on the left coast and the flight was smooth. I've taken a lot of pictures from planes, but the one I took this trip wasn't half bad.

I'd like to work in the yard some over the weekend, but we'll have to see if the weather cooperates.
I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The winner is:

And today, the day before spring, the peach blossoms came. We walked yesterday before we headed out of town.  As we walked, I checked the buds on the blueberries, pear, and apple trees. While they were swollen, none seemed ready to pop out.

I would have laid three to one on the blueberry bushes being first out of the bud, but I would have lost.

While the blueberry bushes did put out leaves, none put out the blossoms. 

Our vacation was a short one and we headed out on our return trip before lunch. This evening we decided to walk to stretch our stiff legs. 

We ambled down around the barn giving the dogs a chance to roam and ramble. On the way back toward the house, I heard Jilda say, "Look!"

When my eyes followed her finger, I saw the pink blossoms of the peach tree at the edge of the garden. It was in bloom.  Stepping over, I snapped a few photos with my phone.

Things will get interesting here over the next few weeks. I'm hoping we don't have a killing frost. I'd love to have some fresh peaches this summer.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Festival weather

Soon it will be festival weather. Our dance card is filling up with gigs for spring and summer. We both love festivals, and through the years, we've played at many. 

One of the first festivals we attended together was Horse Pens 40. It was a bluegrass venue, but they had all kinds of folk and acoustic music there too.

We'll be playing Art in the Park soon. It rained when we played there last year so we ended up in the gym and the sound was dodgy. The only thing you can do when the sound is dodgy is to circle the wagons, stand close enough to each other that you can hear  enough to stay on key. 

We had a friend that played with John Denver and he taught us that trick. Once they played in a huge venue when the stage monitors went out.  They all gathered close, and John began clicking time with the heel of his boots. He said it wound up being one of the best shows they ever did.

I hope you all have a great Wednesday.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Preview of spring

I meditated this morning. It started off fitful, but I pulled the sporadic thoughts as if they were weeds in my garden. Soon I settled into a zone somewhere beneath conscience thought.

When I do that, I tend to be more mindful for the rest of the day. I guess that's why I noticed the jet aircraft off to the east when I stepped onto the deck before sunrise to dump coffee grounds. Normally I do that chore at night, but I ran out of steam last night and forgot.

The air was crisp, but not uncomfortable even though I was barefoot with a short sleeved shirt. In the sky, high enough to catch the first rays of the morning sun, I saw a jet wink and whisper across the sky toward the west with a contrail spreading out behind like white cotton yarn. I watched it until it disappeared behind the trees.

The day warmed quickly and when I ran out for lunch to grab a sandwich, the bank sign blinked 84 degrees. It didn't take a blinking bank sign to tell me it was warm. When I headed back to work after picking up my sandwich, the cab of my truck was hot enough to bake croissants.

Tomorrow the rain moves in, and the temps will be more seasonal, but the quick-on-the-trigger trees around here sure loved the preview of spring.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Peanut Butter Lover's Month ~ My column from Sunday's paper

March is Peanut Butter Lover’s month. Now there’s a holiday I can sink my teeth in to. Jilda and I love peanut butter.

Back during the lean years when we first married and lived in the trailer, we ate peanut butter out of necessity, but that wasn’t really a sacrifice.

Like many of you, we grew up on PB&J sandwiches. Each day when my mom packed our lunches, she’d lay slices of Merita white bread in a row. Then she’d slather on a layer of peanut butter as thick as my hand and add a scoop of jam from the pantry that she’d canned the previous fall. My favorite was blackberry jam, even if it did leave tiny seeds stuck between my teeth.

We really didn’t trade lunches at school back then because everyone had the same thing.

When I unwrapped the wax paper, I left enough at the bottom to hold the sandwich while I ate it. One bite and a rope of peanut butter would ooze out from between the crust. This required that I constantly lick around the edges while I ate.

Sometimes I’d get a thick glob of peanut butter stuck in the roof of my mouth, which caused me to talk funny.

We usually bought our groceries at the Piggly Wiggly or Jitney Jungle in Sumiton, but some of my neighbors received government assistance each month and they got commodity peanut butter. It came in what looked like gallon cans. That peanut butter was thick and rich. It smelled better than our store-bought stuff.

Nothing goes better with peanut butter than sweet tea. A memory that stands out in my mind is one summer afternoon when I visited a neighbor’s house. His mom had just made a gallon jug of sweet tea.

She added the sugar and stirred it with an ancient spoon.

She folded a dishtowel and placed it over the mouth of the jar to keep the flies out before placing it on the counter to cool.

The afternoon sun coming through the screen door in the kitchen highlighted the twirling sugar in the jar turning it into an amber-colored snow globe. I stood there watching until the sugar dissolved.

That scene stuck in my head.

My friend washed his hands and dried them on his britches before snagging a few biscuits left over from breakfast.

He scooped some peanut butter inside and squeezed them closed. His mom set a couple of glasses of ice on the cabinet.

The cubes popped and cracked as she poured the glasses full of warm tea.

We sat on their back porch with our legs dangling off the edge and enjoyed our peanut butter biscuit.

In the past, I’ve had peanut butter and banana sandwiches, as well as some peanut butter and dill pickle.

These days, I eat peanut butter and wheat crackers as a snack. When apples are in season, Jilda slices them into wedges and puts them in a bowl with a glob of peanut butter on the side. We then dip the ends of the sweet wedges into the peanut butter.

It’s a great snack that is good for you.

As your culinary advisor, I recommend you have a peanut butter sandwich today in honor of Peanut Butter Lover’s Month.

Bradford Pair Trees March, 2015

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Ides of March

The Ides of March brought skies that were remarkable today. The temps were in the mid-seventies, and the sun made my skin tingle at times.

We had a long slow walk mid-morning, Samantha and Jordan came over to walk with us. We walked slowly and observed. Sometimes when I walk, my mind doesn't choose to join me. It insists on fretting about things that never happened, but today was different.

With all the recent rain, the moss down around the barn is green and thick as expensive carpet. I stopped to shoot several pictures that I thought would be really good, but when I uploaded them, they weren't that interesting so I went with the old bottle on a bench picture.

This week it will warm into the low 80s. Bradford Pairs and Tulip trees are in full bloom right now. Blueberries are hours away from blossom. I'm excited.

My column in today's paper was about peanut butter and I got a ton of emails and comments. I mentioned in the column that I sometimes eat peanut butter sandwiches with dill pickles. A neighbor stopped by to give us two jars of dill pickles that he's wife canned last summer. We'll be trying some of those soon.

I'll post the column here tomorrow night. I hope you all have a remarkable week. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Doing your homework

I went with my niece Samantha to buy a new car today. The last brand new car I bought it was fairly painless. I walked around,  kicked a few tires, signed a few papers, shook hands and drove away smiling.

Today, the selection didn't take long at all. Samantha did her homework and knew what her car was worth. She knew the least amount they'd take for the car she wanted.  The salesman shook his head, wrote her figures onto a piece of paper and headed our for the sales manager. 

He came back with a new piece of paper that was $765 more than her figures. He told us he would only make $56 on the deal.  

I looked at her and I could see by the set in her jaw that it was a matter of principal. "We're going to drive a car at a competing dealership just down the road. 

As we walked out the door, he said, "We could give you an additional $500 trade-in on your old car."
The gap dropped to $265. "We're going to drive the Ford," she said. And we left.

It turns out, the car we left to drive wasn't what she wanted, so we sat in the parking lot and thought.
She tapped her steering wheel for a long while before we headed back to the original dealer.

In the end, she didn't want to walk away from a car she wanted because of the $265 difference.  

I was proud of that youngun. She used her brains and did her homework prior to the purchase.

That's something I haven't always done for myself in the past.

Friday, March 13, 2015

New read

I'm reading the The Crafting of the Personal Essay, by Dinty Moore and I've found it enlightening. Some of the things the writer suggests, I already do, but he makes suggestions throughout the book on how to give you ideas for topics, and how to make your work stronger.

One thing he suggests is something that struck home to me. Often when I'm describing a walk, or a visit to some place I've never been, I'll write about the trees, shrubs, or birds in general, but Moore suggest that the writer spend some cycles learning the names of things. Instead of tall pine, it would ge a Loblolly Pine. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail or a Giant Swallowtail.

He said when you study things that interest you, it will open up more ideas for topics.

Moore also says that changing up your routine helps stimulate parts of your brain responsibile for creativity. When I think back, I realize my best work has been when I've tried something new.

I'm about 3/4 of the way through the book, and I'm happy a writer friend recommended it to me.
This is a digitally enhanced, yellow lily.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Blooming plans

Stepping onto the front porch this morning to shake the dust from my bathroom rug, I noticed s fleck of color out of the corner of my eye. 

There on the arbor, jasmine buds as yellow as a spring sundress were peeping out of their shoots. I wouldn't say they were blooming, but promising to bloom.

I smiled because soon, our entryway will smell like warm Heaven. 

When Jilda and I walked, she grabbed for the phone in her pocket as if she were dueling with an unseen photographer who was trying to beat her to the shutter button. It was the yellow bells (Forsythia) and they, on the other hand, were in full bloom.

It was like that for the rest of the day. But she's more familiar with what blooms when and I never had a chance. I had to settle for a pansy on the back deck. 

Recently when snow blanketed us here in Empire, the pansies were happy. When the snow began to melt you could see the purple blossoms peeping through.

I know Old Man Winter is not finished with us yet, but Mother Nature is marching forward too with her blooming plans.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Wishing I had a window

Originally I thought my office at work would have a window, but that didn't happen.  As it turns out, I have a small space near the restroom, which in my case is fortunate. It's also close to the coffee maker. The two assets above are almost as good as a window, but not quite.

I learned that when you have an office without a window, you should fill the wall across from your desk with photographs.

So the last few weeks I've been flipping through my pictures to see which ones will eventually make the wall. Of course, I'll have to knock off a liquor store to afford the cost of printing, but in the scheme of things I think it will be worth it.

I often look out the window of our home office at birds playing in the rhododendron bush outside. And when writing on the screen porch, I look off into the distance when I'm thinking. It's relaxing to see what Mother Nature is serving up.

Once I select a group of pictures to display in my office, I'll post them here to get your feedback.

I hope you all have a remarkable Wednesday.

Monday, March 09, 2015

The things we leave behind ~ my column from Sunday's paper

There is a cemetery at the end of our road I pass so often that I rarely notice it these days. But last week after Old Man Winter’s visit and it was safe to drive, I headed into the office.

Stopping at the intersection to look for oncoming traffic, I noticed the cemetery as if for the first time. Snow covered the graves like a cotton blanket and I thought to myself, “Is there anything colder than a cemetery in snow?”

The scene reminded me of a tiny spiral-bound notebook I found in the dash pocket of my dad’s old 1978 Chevy truck after he died.

He was not a fearful man. In fact, I don’t recall him ever being afraid of anything, but after his death, I learned that was not true. He was afraid of dying.

He only finished the fifth grade, so his words were not eloquent, but they were poignant. He’d written that he could not stand the thought of “Being laid to rest in the old cold ground.”

Each year he volunteered to work at the cemetery where our people were buried. He also served as a gravedigger long before they used backhoes to scratch graves from the clay.

Although he spent a lot of summers working in the cemetery while he was living, dying weighed on his mind. According to the notebook he left behind, he didn’t look forward to spending eternity in the old cold ground.

As I sat in my idling truck lost in thought, a car eased up behind me and tooted the horn, which brought me back to the present.

On my drive to work, I started thinking about the things we leave behind.

I remembered finding my brother Darrin’s Ray Ban sunglasses at my mom’s house after he died. He loved nice clothes, watches, and sunglasses. The Ray Bans were expensive. Even someone who never knew my brother could look at those glasses he left behind and understand that he enjoyed nice things. I still have those glasses in a case on my dresser.

My Grandpa Ferguson was a thrifty man. He died when I was young and I don’t remember him, but I remember what he left behind.

My mom kept his lavender and white plaid handkerchief with four wheat pennies tied into one corner.

I have no idea why he did that, but the handkerchief was in his pocket when he died.

Mama loved and collected crystal bells and other knick-knacks, which she displayed on her mantle and curio cabinets. Toward the end of her life, she told the kids and grandkids to write their name on nickel-sized stickers and stick them on the things they’d like to have when she died. It was a great way to share the things she left behind.

There is a 1949 Ford tractor in our barn that belonged to my father-in-law Sharky Phillips. He loved tools and things to make his work easier.

Sometimes when I’m down there, I’ll climb up on the old metal seat to think for a while.

Even though it hasn’t been cranked in years, we would never consider selling it because it belonged to Sharky.

We all go through life collecting things along the way.

The people who come after will learn a great deal about us through the things we leave behind.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Time change

The time change has wonked (is that a word?) up my day. I'm not sure how setting the clock forward can affect my body's rhythms, but it did.

I arose at 6 a.m. to drip the coffee. While waiting, I leaned over the kitchen sink and looked out the window. The moon which is almost full was bright as a halogen lamp shining through the pine and sweetgum trees. I stepped onto the deck to get a better view, and yawned as I admired it.

We are by nature, creatures of habit. Getting out of one's comfort zone is often a good thing. It causes you to perceive things differently and sometimes it opens new creative vistas. But I'm not certain a time change falls into that category because this morning I didn't feel creative at all, I just felt snippy.

The weather this weekend was beautiful. The wind out of the west was cool enough for sleeves, but the sun on my face was like a kiss from Mother Nature.

My intention was to shoot a picture this evening, but rain moved in early and when I stepped outside the sky was gray as a government cubical.

I found this picture I shot when we visited the beach for my birthday in January and decided to use in.

Am I alone when it comes to whining about time changing? Your thoughts?

Saturday, March 07, 2015

An afternoon in the park

Like most of the U.S. (except for my blog buddies Janie, and Fran who live in Florida and California respectively), Alabama has been cold and rainy for most of the year.

But today, the sky was remarkable. We joined Jilda's brother along with his kids and grandkids for an afternoon in the park.

We had originally planned to take them bowling, but today was bowling league tournaments, and there were no open lanes. 

Plan B was to head to the park. The kids were a little disappointed until they hit the playground in the park.  Apparently everyone south of Birmingham had the same idea because we had to park in overflow parking.

It was great fun just watching the kids run wild, but I was happy to get home. Jilda had her special recipe of spareribs, sauerkraut, and new potatoes cooking in the crockpot. The aroma was incredible.

I went into the kitchen and whipped up a pone of cornbread. I'm not sure a better meal was available at any  price :)

My nephew James shot this photo of his son Stone with my camera.
He was about to dive for the finish line.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Blue jay

I flipped through photographs tonight to see if something tickled the muse. Coming across this picture I'd taken last spring, I decided it would do just fine.

I don't think blue jays stay here year around. They make an appearance in the spring and early summer, but they must head toward cooler climes when it gets hotter that satan eating salsa.

They are beautiful birds. This one stopped in for a while to munch on the birdseed on our banister.

One of the characters in Harper Lee's iconic novel had this to say: 

“Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.”  But most seem to believe the line is not about shooting birds, at all. I'm not a Harper Lee scholar, but I did love that book....and I also love blue jays.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

It won't be long

Last evening I whined a great deal which reflects in my blog update. Woe is me, the ice is coming, and what not. But as it turns out, it was all for naught.

It seems the rush of moisture collided with the frigid temps about seven miles to the north and west of us.

We did get sleet and traction on the deck was treacherous at one point, but our power never flickered. For that, I am grateful.

The mail brought several seed and gardening supply catalogs. I sipped coffee and "lusted." It was all I could do to keep from picking up the phone and ordering one of each thing in the catalog.

As some of you pointed out in the comments from last night, spring is just around the corner. Soon I'll be firing up the tiller and breaking ground for the garden.

Below is a picture I took of our strawberries last spring. When I looked inside the planter barrels today, I could see tiny green shoots poking their head out of the pine straw mulch, and  looking for sunshine.

It won't be long my green-thumb friends, it won't be long.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Classic dodge

I've been slammin' and jammin' since 7 a.m. this morning. I wrote my column that will appear in this Sundays paper, put together a newsletter, did two phone interviews for another newsletter, and set up an appointment for a story I'm doing for a magazine.

Just now, when I looked to my right at the wall calendar, my neck groaned like a rusty hinge on a horror house door.

I had every intention of writing something profound tonight for this blog, but I'm tired and uninspired, so I've reverted to plan "B" which is to get something down and beg forgiveness.

If we have electricity after the ice storm sweeps through during the early morning hours, I'll write something profound tomorrow night. Otherwise, I'll drive to McDonalds, swill a few caramel mochas, and write something trite.

The weather radar showed most of the country getting snow and ice tonight. I hope you all stay safe and warm.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Good to see the sun

It's been as dark as a Tolstoy novel the last several days. Apparently the sun was vacationing in the tropics.

Some people seem to be unaffected by sunless periods, but I struggle. It's not melancholia, but I will say my spirit longs for light.

I headed out to a luncheon today, and I had to dash from the office to my truck to keep from soaking my sox and afterwards, when I returned it was raining even harder. NOTE TO SELF: If the weatherman says there's a good chance it will rain, take the raincoat even if it's not raining when you leave home.

Finishing up at five, I snapped my laptop closed and packed my briefcase for the trip home. Outside the building, the sky was butterscotch.

The road in front of the college offered an even better view. I picked up the iPhone from the seat beside me and snapped a few pictures.  It seemed fitting to simply sit there for a while drinking it in.

Even though we'll be getting more rain during the night, those few seconds of sunlight made my spirit soar.

Monday, March 02, 2015

New Age Music

Jilda and I listen to New Age music as we sip our morning coffee. Most of it is instrumental. The ones with vocals somehow weave the words into the orchestration so that the voices sound like another instrument.

There’s a difference between New Age and elevator music. It’s hard to explain, but to me, most elevator music is bland, whereas New Age is more lilting and often ethereal.

I remember the first time we were ever exposed to New Age music. I was in Boston on a training trip and Jilda tagged along. We did all the touristy things — walked the Freedom Trail, visited the Old North Church and ate Boston baked beans from a white porcelain cup at a small cafĂ©.

We chose a window seat so that we could watch people strolling down the streets on that beautiful spring day.

That afternoon, we drove to Salem, Massachusetts. We learned about the Salem Witch Trials and toured the House of Seven Gables Museum. The house was the setting for Nathanial Hawthorne’s book by that name.

Later, we visited a small shop owned by Laurie Cabot, who is the official witch of Salem. The shop was a unique experience. It had lamps, candles, and crystals. She also offered music CDs and books on history, spells, chants and therapeutic spanking….OK, I’m kidding about the spanking.

While we browsed, we heard angelic music wafting from hidden speakers. When we were ready to check out, the woman tending the shop appeared. She was Laurie Cabot’s daughter and had dark flowing hair with obsidian eyes. Her dress was made of lace that looked as delicate as a sparrow’s wing.

When I asked about the music playing, she told us the artist’s name was Enya.

I made a mental note to buy our own copy of her music.

Jilda chose a book on herbs, and the woman placed the book in a beautiful bag with a few stems of sage, and some glitter. It seemed like something Glenda, the good witch in Wizard of Oz, might do. We’ve bought thousands of books, but I don’t remember any of those transactions in such vivid detail.

When we returned from our Bostonian trip, I headed to the local music store and bought a copy of the Enya recording.

Since my introduction to New Age music, I’ve discovered many other talented artists that fit nicely into our Sunday-morning routine.

I listen to the music while I’m writing. It usually keeps me engaged without derailing my train of thought, but sometimes the music sidetracks me to interesting places and the words follow along for the ride.

Often when people visit new places, they only see the bad parts. They see the crazy traffic, the congestion, rude people and unfriendly weather.

But when Jilda and I visit new places, we tend to look for the good things…the food, the sights, and the smells. What I remember from our trip to Massachusetts are the best baked beans I’ve ever tasted, glitter in our bag and New Age music.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

White Dove

Last Sunday morning Jilda and I were listening to music as we sipped coffee on the couch. The birds outside our window needed an aviary traffic controller. The redbirds and sparrows came in early to feed at the feeders. Soon afterwards, the jays and thrushes had their turn. Before turning the area over to the doves. It's a pretty amazing show.

But as we watched the doves feed on the split logs and corn off the ground, we noticed one that was unlike any we have ever seen before.

We have seen white doves at weddings, and funerals, but I've never seen one in the wild. While this one was not totally white, it was fairly close.

I think it was a harbinger telling us to go get bread and milk because the snow is on its way.

Have you ever seen a white dove in the wild?

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