Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Where ideas come from

The idea for my column this week came to me when I visited Walmart. I know what you're thinking - I need to get a life, and you are correct, but still,  it was a good idea.

There was an elderly gentleman standing beside his ancient truck, leaning against the buggy return corral. I always park my truck close to the corrals so that I don't have to push a cart around the world to return it after I've loaded my groceries.

When I stepped out of the truck and locked the door, I got a slight whiff of cigarette smoke. Normally I don't pay much attention to it, but whatever he was smoking smelled exactly like the cigarettes my granddaddy smoked when he was alive.

The man wore a pair of overalls, and a baseball cap that was red at one point but had faded into a shade of coral. He stood there as the smoke lifted lazily into the morning sky. Looking into the distance, it appeared that he was trying to work out a complicated problem in his head.

It was Deja Vu. He reminded me so much of my granddad. The scene triggered a memory from when I was a kid watching Pap working in his blacksmith shop.

I'd made up my mind to ask if I could take his picture when I returned to my truck, but he was already gone.

By the time I arrived home, I'd written the column for this coming Sunday in my head. I have a picture of Pap, but I'm going to wait and use it when I post the column next Monday evening.

I did shoot a picture of some  berry flowers we found on our walk today.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Days of our Lives

I said goodbye to an old friend today. He  was a good bit older than me and married with kids, but his mom and dad lived across the road from me when I was in grammar school. He was there a great deal, and I became close to his kids.

Once I graduated from high school and started to college, I had to work nights to pay for school. It was during this time that he was laid off from his job. An electrician by trade, I suggested he put in an application where I worked.  He did and they hired him on the spot. He worked there long after I was drafted into the Army.

Later, we saw each other occasionally at funerals and/or community gatherings but lost touch in the last several years.

When my sister called to tell me he had died, I thought of him. Not in the later years, but back in 1969 when he was young and strong as a bull.

I know these last few posts have not been uplifting, but the title of the soap opera said it best - these are The Days of Our Lives.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Getting older with gratitude ~ my column from Sunday

I should have seen it coming. If all the offers in the mail for motorized scooters and Viagra weren’t enough, the squeaking knees should have awakened me to the fact that I’m getting older.

But this past Thursday when I received a letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it was like seeing the last nail go into the coffin of my youth. It was my Medicare Card.

Slumping on the couch, I examined the letter closely, rubbing my thumb over the writing, hoping that it was a prank. But no such luck. It was my name, my social security number, and they seemed to know a great deal about me. How could this be? Where did the years go?

 The last years of my father’s life, I remember thinking each time I visited that he looked so old. He wasn’t well in the end, but it was more than that. He was worn around the edges like an old leather jacket. He died in 1986 at the age of 63. I will be 65 my birthday.

 My blog buddy Jack nailed it when he said, “The kids at the fast-food register and at the gas station have known for years that you are old.” I snorted with laughter at that comment on my blog.

 Perhaps it was fate that led Jilda and me to an online college course in mindful meditation from Coursera.

 Mindful meditation grew out of the teachings of early Buddhism in India over 500 years before the birth of Christ. By the time it took root in the West, it lost most of the spiritual leanings and modern mindfulness is practiced primarily as a mind science and as a tool in healthcare.

 In the course, one of the things taught is pondering the concept of impermanence. Nothing lasts forever. Seasons change, people move from one place to the other due to changes in jobs, health reasons or to see if the grass is actually greener at the new locale.

As I’ve come to understand with clarity, the longer we live, the more we realize how fragile life is. We begin to lose our pets, our friends and family. From the moment we arrive on this earth, we are moving down the path to our grave.

 The crux of mindful meditation is not to dwell on death but to view the concept of impermanence through the non-judgmental lens of detachment. The idea is that by observing impermanence as a witness, you can get a better sense of how it fits into the larger tapestry of life.

I wasn’t sure about this piece of the practice, but as I spent more time reflecting on my life, and the path I have taken, I found a peace that helped me come to terms with growing older.

In fact, I made up my mind to follow the advice offered by Geo, another blog buddy who said the best counsel he received at 65 when he got his Medicare Card was from a 78-year-old gentleman who suggested that he laminate the card. That sounded like great advice to me.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Happy Eclipse

It will be a miracle if we see the eclipse tonight. At 8:30 pm, a blanket of clouds is covering Empire, Alabama.

I walked to the field to get a better look at the horizon and at the fringes I could see patches of sky. So there is a remote chance it might clear, but I wouldn't take any bets on seeing the lunar event tonight.

Well, I stand corrected. Had I bet, I would have lost. Our view wasn't the best because we had to stand on tiptoes, but we could see it through openings in the trees.

I couldn't get a picture, but fortunately, NASA took one for me :)

Happy Eclipse

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saturday report

It's been cloudy here today. There were moments when the dusty clouds swirled off to the east allowing the sun to find me, but those moments were rare.

I took the opportunity to mow a little grass while it was cool. In the field next to the apple tree, goldenrod leaned toward the open space to get a little sun. Stopping the mower, I snapped a photo.

Jilda had an appointment to get her hair cut at 5:30 this evening so I ran to the grocery store to pick up a few things for supper while she was getting all purtyfied (is that a word?).

As I walked out of the store, my cell phone chirped with a text saying she was finished. A few minutes later we were heading home.

At a red light before we turned onto our pig trail, we saw the moon peeking over the eastern horizon. It wasn't full tonight, but it was close. Hopefully, the clouds will be as cooperative tomorrow evening for the eclipse. We're excited.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Missing the water

Jilda's sister Pat and some of her youngun's are at the beach this weekend. We're starting to see pictures come across Facebook and it looks like the weather is excellent.

We rarely go to the water until winter. The rates drop like a stone when it's time for the Snowbirds. There's no waiting at most of the restaurants, and you can spend quiet time on the beach without getting stepped on, which can be a hazard in summer months.

Hopefully, Jilda and I will be heading south before year's end. We're being considered to play a couple songwriter festivals down there, but we haven't gotten word yet whether we've been selected.

Tonight I looked through photos I shot at the last year and saw one I don't think I used back then. I shot it with the Hipstamatic app on my phone.

Y'all have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Parting shot

I spent a few hours this evening cleaning up our old Volvo. It's been sitting faithfully in the yard ready to spring into action at a moment's notice. About once a week I crank her up so the battery stays charged.

She runs great but needs a little work before I put the For Sale sign in the window. It's still the prettiest cars we've ever owned but with over 300,000 miles, it's time to let her go. Our driveway will be a little sad when she's gone.

Monday evening I snapped this picture just before yoga class. It was almost too dark. The underexposed shot made the grey clouds turn green.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


I had another meeting in "Cloudville" today. Afterwards, I stopped at a filling station to gas up before the long drive home.

The gas cap clicked as I unscrewed it from the mouth of the tank and I poked the nozzle into the throat.  The gas tank on my truck is on the driver's side (as God intended) so I feel comfortable engaging the automatic wedge under the lever to let it fill on its own. 

This moment of inactivity gave me a few minutes to reflect on events of the day.

Leaning back against the truck, I took a long slow look at the sky. The clouds were stunning again today. As I topped off the tank and hung the hose back on the pump, I noticed a cemetery across the road from the station that I  hadn't noticed before.

Ripping the receipt from the pump, I got in the truck and pulled it to the edge of the lot before stepping across the busy four-lane to get a better look at the statue in the cemetery.

I stood there for a long moment watching butterflies flit from flower to flower in the bed at the base of the marble figure.

Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a few frames but I wasn't sure about the play of light and shadow. I liked it better than I thought I would.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Autumn is almost here

Autumn will slip in on us while we're sleeping this year. At 4:21 a.m., the switch is flipped that triggers all the celestial magic. Leaves change, birds head south, neighbors rake and burn. The smells change and the angle of light shifts.

The south, which trails in so many ways, tends to see color and other signs of autumn before most other parts of the country. At first it will be a shade of green in the leaves that's not as vibrant. Then one day, the swarm of hummingbirds dwindles down to a single stubborn ruby throat that prefers the taste of our nectar to that of flowers further south.

It's easy to miss if you're unobservant, but I've been watching. The oak below blew of summer and decided to take an early nap.

It's a lovely time of year. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Doggie door

One thing I’ve learned through the years is that kids find interesting uses for things that grownups could never imagine. If you don’t believe it, leave bubble wrap or a few large boxes lying around and watch what kids do with them. I’m constantly amazed at their ingenuity.

A few years ago a dog adopted us. At heart, he was a big ol’ puppy, but if a stranger walked into our yard, he would light them up.

It became obvious that if we didn’t want to be sued and have our homeowners insurance canceled, we’d better fence in our backyard. That turned out to be pricey, but in the scheme of things it was worth it.

The fence kept the dog contained, but each time we looked out the garden door, the sad-faced dog was looking through one of the windows wanting in. The problem was solved when we installed a doggie door.

The dog was not “the sharpest tool on the roof,” and did not immediately take to the doggie door. I’d crawl down and poke my head through the flap to try coaxing him into the house, but he wasn’t having any part of it. He couldn’t see what was on the other side so he refused to come through.

Finally, I physically dragged him through the opening and rewarded him with a Slim Jim treat. From that day on, he came and went as he pleased.

Then on a warm spring morning a few years ago, our great nephew Jordan who was about four-years-old at the time, walked over with his mom for a visit and to have hot dogs on the deck.

As we sat there eating, one of our dogs got tired of begging for food and decided to go back inside for water.

He disappeared through the doggie door. I saw Jordan’s face light up.

A moment later, he crawled through himself. We could hear him giggling from inside the house. Then he crawled out, and then back through the pooch door.

His meal was finished for the day. He spent the entire time following the dogs in and out of the house.

Later, he taught the disappearing act to his cousins Anthony, Stone, Breeze, Daisy and Joy.

Whenever a cousin comes to visit, Jordan demonstrates the coolest way to get in and out.

My great-niece Cassie has three kids at her house. Peyton, Parker, and Kay Lynn rarely come through the front door since they learned about the doggie entrance.

Even my great niece Zoe who is now “growny-fied” (is that a word?) has gone through our doggie door, though I’m guessing when she reads this, she’ll deny it to her friends.

This week when Jordan came over, he told me the doggie door was broken.

When I checked it out, the thick plastic flap had torn loose from its hangers. I’ll be going to the hardware store today to get a heavy-duty replacement.

The main thing I need to ensure is that it’s big enough for kids to fit through.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


I had a milestone event this week. While flipping through the mail Thursday, I noticed an official-looking letter from the government. Pulling the Swiss Army knife from my pocket, I slit the top edge open with the small razor-sharp blade.

It took me a second to realize it was my Medicare card. Not an offer, not information, but the actual card.

This can't be right! I thought. I'm not old enough for one of these. Stepping over to the couch, I sat for a moment to let the information sink in. As I sat, my knees squeaked slightly. Dang, I am old enough.

I'd been kicking around ideas for my column this coming Sunday, but when the card arrived in the mail, I knew without a doubt what the topic would be. Stay tuned.

Fallen sumac branch on the walking path this morning.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Saturday stuff

We walked early this morning to beat the heat. The weather has moderated here, but by noon, it was steamy.

The class we're taking requires 8-10 hours a week of study, so we chose to do our class work while it was warm.

This evening when we'd had enough, we went for a nice walk. 

Stopping at the old house to rest for a moment in the shade of the oaks, I tried to snap a picture of Caillou, but he was camera shy today. I shot the photo anyway.

I hope you all have a remarkable Sunday.

Friday, September 18, 2015


The sky was remarkable again today. I'm not sure what changes in the atmosphere make clouds so billowy.

I kept my eyes on the road while tapping the top right-hand corner of the screen of my phone. When the camera engaged, I held it up and blindly snapped a few photos. I laid the camera down without looking to see the results.

Tonight as I prepared to post, I flipped through the pictures. I had a few that were interesting. Sorry I didn't have more tonight, but both Jilda and I are taking an online college meditation course and my brain is full.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


I had meetings on the edge of Alabama today. At one point when I crested a hill, I thought I caught a glimpse of Mississippi.

Driving there this morning, there were miles of corn, cotton, and soybeans. Harvest season for corn has passed and most of the barren stalks standing were the color of hay, but it's cotton pickin' time here. The angle of the sun made one stretch look like the farmer was growing a field of clouds.

On the way home after the meeting, I passed one field filled with yellow daisies. I slowed to get a better look, but a chicken truck was closing fast and I could not tarry.

I drove about a half mile, but I hit the blinker,  turned around and headed back. This time there were no approaching vehicles, so I pulled to the side of the road.

Gravel crunched under my shoes, as I walked to the edge of the field to get a better angle for a picture.

Wading through thigh-high brush, I took several shots with my phone.

I stood there for a long moment drinking in the sight. The sun was warm on my face, but a westerly breeze made it comfortable. I could hear crows cawing from somewhere to my left, but I never saw them.

As I turned to leave, I noticed daisies that had escaped my noticed, so I changed my vantage point to get them in the bottom corner of the picture and shot a few more frames. I'm so glad I did.

Our brains are wired to notice everything, but through time we've trained the grey matter to only bother us with important data such as, "Is that donuts I smell?" or "Is that a snake?"

As a result, the brain doesn't send us those pesky notifications like, "HEY! LOOK AT THE LIGHT ON THOSE FLOWERS!!! THAT'S INCREDIBLE!!!!" They are usually filed in some dark fold of our memory and rarely recalled.

I'm glad my brain escalated the notification today.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Flipping pages

This evening I looked down at the table next to my computer where there's a desk calendar. I love the calendar there because when I'm talking on the phone, it's big enough to jot down dates, numbers, and  other information while I'm talking. I buy one every year.

When I looked at the calendar just then, it still had Julys calendar displaying. I had not flipped August or September over. Turning the old months over, it occurred to me that time seems to be moving at the speed of a flipping page.

One moment I'm looking forward to the warm sun and budding trees of spring but before I know it autumn is upon us with the holidays just around the corner. And so on.

I guess that's a function of getting older. Perhaps that's why I take so many pictures. It's a way of documenting that I've been here. 

This morning during our walk, I snapped this picture of sun on a beauty berry. I'm thankful I didn't sleepwalk by it too.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Mama's bench

This bench came from my mom's old house. I'm not sure where it came from, but it sat on her front porch for as long as I can remember. 

The old coats of white paint look as thick as a pancake. In fact, I think the paint helps keep it together.

After she went into the nursing home, we went to down there to sort through her things. Most of her old furniture found homes with grandkids and great grandkids, but no one wanted this old bench.

There's no way it was going to the dump, so I loaded it onto my truck and brought it home. The front porch of our creative space seemed to be the perfect spot. That's where it's been sitting for the last several years. 

Sometimes in spring and autumn, I'll go down there and sit on the old bench and drink ice tea. It's a great vantage point for watching the world go by.  I know my mom would be happy to know that it found a home here.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Quality versus quantity

Quality and quantity are two concepts we face almost daily in our lives. We find ourselves making decisions based on one or the other.

For some, quantity is key, but some prefer quality. The reasons we choose one or the other are many. And sometimes these choices are not easy.

Just after Jilda and I were married in 1974, we spent our honeymoon in Panama City, Florida. The Quinns, an older couple, owned Quinn’s Cottages on Laguna Beach. The cottages weren’t air conditioned, but they were cozy and we could afford the rent for a week on our pauper’s pay.

On the second day we were there, the Quinns invited us to lunch, their treat. We agreed and at noon, we wheeled into the parking lot at Duff’s. It was one of those all-you-can-eat cafeterias.

I ate pork chops, catfish, shrimp, hush puppies, cake, pudding and soft ice cream over a brownie. You could almost hear the cholesterol clogging my veins.

I was so full when we left I needed a wheelbarrow to get to the car. Quantity was the objective that day, so Duff’s was a good choice.

But quantity versus quality isn’t always as “cut and dry.” Sometimes the choices require a tradeoff. Our friend Mary is a good example.

She discovered in 2003 that she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This diagnosis kicked off years of chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants and experimental drug therapies. Thankfully, treatment added years to her life.

As it turns out, cancer kept invading her body. Each time it did, she weighed treatment outcomes, and even though she knew the chemo would make her life miserable she decided that feeling miserable for a year was worthwhile if it could add years to her life. She opted for quantity instead of quality.

During the time she underwent treatments, she was a hostage in her home. Even a small infection that for most of us would be quickly cured with steroids and antibiotics could have been fatal for her. Her friends understood her struggle, and we kept her in our thoughts and prayers.

When Mary and Bryan drove into our yard for the fish fry last year, we were delighted. She was as happy as I’d seen her in years.

About 30 friends and family members had gathered to enjoy a beautiful spring day. We ate fried fish and hush puppies. Afterwards, we sat around in the shade of the oak and pine in our backyard and enjoyed each other’s company. It was a quality day.

As the shadows grew longer in the evening, people began saying their goodbyes. Mary had gone to the bathroom before the drive back to Birmingham and that’s when Bryan told us that Mary’s cancer was back.

After a lot of soul-searching, Mary made the decision along with Bryan to forego treatment. Doctors told her that without treatment she could expect to live about a year. She decided that she’d come to a point in her life where quality was more important than quantity.

Mary and Bryan made the most of the last months of her life, and she died in her sleep at home instead of in a hospital tethered to tubes and beeping machines.

We all face choices as we move through life. Some of the choices are no-brainers, but some of them are much more difficult.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


 One of our hens has one baby chick that we noticed in the yard yesterday. The hen is not much bigger than a pigeon, so her baby isn't much bigger than a moth. Our great nephew Jordan was out of town yesterday, but Jilda shot pictures of the new critter and sent them to Jordan's mom.

He was sooo excited. When he came over today he wanted to catch the tiny bird and pick it up, but the hen is a game and she wouldn't allow it. The hen appeared in our yard about six months ago. Game chickens are bred to fight. Even though the practice is illegal in most places, game chickens are still commonplace.

Obviously we don't raise fighting chickens, but we figured she ran away from someone who does and found refuge in our yard. She seems happy now.

Our other great nephew Anthony stopped by too to get a look at the baby.  The grownups sat around at talked while the kids ran around the yard exploring.

They decided to collect feather. All of a sudden, they would run to the porch with a handful of feathers to show us.

Both of them wanted plastic bags to take their feathers home with them. We were happy to oblige, though their parents weren't excited about taking the feathers home. I don't get it :)

Saturday, September 12, 2015


We ran to the pharmacy to pick up some scripts and swung back through Home Depot to find a replacement doggy door. Through the years, the pups have worn the flap hangers out and now it's only attached by one corner.

Yesterday after our walk, Caillou reached the deck before we did and was standing in front of the door looking at it as he was embarrassed to have to enter such a sad excuse for an entryway.

The Home Depot had plenty of doors, but none big enough to get his big butt through. He now weighs 82 pounds and is as wide as an Edsel.

On the way back to the car, Jilda suggested we swing through the garden shop. I got an uneasy feeling in the wallet area but agreed on the detour.

A few minutes later we left with a back seat full of mums that were beginning to bloom. When we arrived home, I unloaded the mums on the walk. We'll do potting tomorrow.

Below are a few of the pots we bought, I couldn't get them all in the picture. We'll turn this place into Mumville before the first day of autumn.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Rain's a comin'

The post tonight will be a short one. I hear thunder in the distance and radar shows a blob of red hurtling toward us. Sometimes storms take our electricity east with them when they tromp through, so I figured I'd write early so I wouldn't fret if we lose power.

I shot this picture a few days ago at a pond not far from here. I could see rain moving in so I didn't have a great deal of time. Rolling down the window of my truck, I snapped the shot out the window before darting towards home.

The clouds make it a little dark, but that's not always a bad thing.

I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Jilda had a late class tonight so she sent me a text and asked if I'd fetch dinner. So I was off like a shot to get Chinese food. We're fortunate because we have a really good restaurant about 10 miles away. 

I called ahead and although they were packed, my food was ready so I was headed home in record time.

When I pulled into the drive the yard was in shadow except for a beam from the setting sun that somehow found its way through a thicket of pine, sweet gum, and hickory trees to highlight the barrel of impatiens at the entrance to our drive.

I pulled in and tried to snap the picture through my truck window, but the truck blocked the sunlight and spoiled the shot, so I pulled further into the drive, parked and walked back to snap the photo.

Welcome to our home.

There you have it. My sad little update for Thursday, September 10, 2015.  

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

School bus trauma

I had people from Washington D.C. in today review the program I'm working with at the college. We had a great meeting. The woman who manages the program is smart and I walked away at the end of the day with a list of things I can do to be more effective.  The day zipped by and I began to unwind on the drive home.

Traffic came to a screeching halt a few miles from my house. When the cars ahead of me began to creep around the curve and down the hill I couldn't see what was causing the commotion.

When I got near the foot of the hill, I saw that a school bus had been involved in an accident. Believe it or not, I'm not a gawker. I simply refuse to slow down and look at the carnage.

After I passed the accident, I called my brother-in-law who works at the school to ask if he knew anything about what happened. As I expected, he had the scoop...he always does and I'm not sure how he does it. But a driver hit the bus and left the scene of the accident. There were no children hurt.

Breathing a sigh of relief, I drove on toward the house. The scene dislodged a memory from my childhood.

I rode the bus when I attended grammar school. The bus picked us up and then drove down a one-lane red rock road to pick up some of my friends who really lived in the sticks. 

They let high school juniors and seniors drive in those days and they weren't much older than me. Our bus driver was bullet proof and he drove with his foot on the floorboard to and from school. The buses had governors on the carburetors in those days which prevented them from going over 45 miles per hour. 

One morning we stood on our front porch waiting for the bus because it was raining. When the bus pulled to a stop, all 20 of us darted off our porch and onto the bus. The bus driver didn't let any stinking rain slow him down. His foot was on the floorboard as he approached a narrow wooden bridge.

Something distracted the driver long enough for him to veer too close to the edge and the right front wheels went off the bridge.  The bus slammed to a stop on the far bank of  a narrow creek. There were no seatbelts in those days so all 20 of us were tossed from our seats, and ended up in various locations on the bus.

Thankfully none of us got hurt, but we found ourselves with a new bus driver after that.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015


They often come out at night like friendly ghosts. But sometimes during morning coffee they walk right up to drink from the birdbath not 20 feet from our windows, licking birdseed from the feeders with twitching tails and ears as they peer at us through the glass. They look at us curiously as if we were interlopers. In a sense, we are.

Usually, they are camera shy. If I step to our windows with a camera while they are feeding or drinking, they'll dart off as if I caught them skinny dipping.

We'll feed them for a while longer, but hunting season starts soon and they'll have to rely on Mother Nature for their food. But meantime, we'll enjoy their company.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Long-forgotten memory

I’ve been in a rut lately. When this happens, my column ideas get stale and I find myself taking pictures of the same subjects over and over. The solution this time was to visit somewhere I’d never been, but when I found the new place, I uncovered a long-forgotten memory.

The place I chose was a rustic park I pass each time I go into Birmingham. I would see the entrance gates and think to myself, “I need to go in there sometimes when I’m not in a hurry.”

This past week, I had an unhurried day, so I drove into the park gate at Five-Mile Creek, which is owned by the City of Graysville. About a quarter-mile from the gate, the road ended at an old concrete bridge crossing the creek.

Rocks as big as a Volkswagen Bug blocked the bridge so that vehicles could not drive over it. Of course the rocks make a perfect canvas for graffiti. The class of 2015 was well represented. The names were proudly scrawled for eternity…or as long as acrylic-based paint lasts.

The city used an old roadbed from the original highway 78 that closed in the 1950s when the new highway opened. The park was designed for fishing and for launching canoes.

It was peaceful there aside from the drone of traffic off in the distance. Walking onto the bridge, I stopped midway and leaned over the concrete rail to look at the water 30 feet below. Kudzu grew to the water’s edge in places. The vines had plum-colored blooms that smelled like grape Kool-Aid.

Leaning over the edge, I could see minnows and small-mouth bass playing in the shallow water under the shade of the bridge.

After a while, I headed back toward my truck and when I saw the incline of the old highway, I experienced déjà vu. Then slowly realized that it wasn’t déjà vu. I had been on this bridge when I was a small child.

My family headed into the city late one afternoon and I was riding in the back seat of our old ‘47 Chevy. The two-lane road was wet from a light rain.

We were the first car behind a caravan of tractor-trailer trucks that inched up the steep grade as slow as snails. Dad inched toward the centerline to get a look to see how far it was before we could get around the trucks. An oncoming car whooshed by inches from his side window, so he fell back in line.

I got on my knees and turned to look out the back glass. Behind us was a line of traffic as far as I could see.

I imagined there were drivers inventing creative new combinations of curse words, but no one tried passing the line of trucks on that hill and if there were blaring horns, I didn’t hear them.

Memories are sometimes buried beneath years of facts, figures and mountains of useless information. But they are like motion sensor lights that turn on when you walk nearby. Mental treasures triggered not by motion but by sights, tastes, smells or sounds. I love it when one of these jewels light up my mind.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

End of summer

I know summer won't officially be over for another few weeks, but tomorrow is the symbolic end of summer. This weekend TV screens filled with college football and yesterday as I drove to the grocery story, which is 11 miles away, I smelled the unmistakable aroma of BBQ grills.

Jilda and I played a community festival not far from our home at 2 p.m. yesterday. The temp was around 97 with wind out of the...well, there was no wind. A kite would have laid on the ground like a stone.

When we walked off stage, we'd perspired so much it looked as if both of us looked had hygiene issues.

The clouds moved in the late afternoon and the rain cooled things down a bit, but we both took headaches from the head to bed.

This morning it was much cooler so after our morning walk, I jumped on the lawnmower and cut the field. The place now looks like a golf course.

We lunched with Jilda's sister Pat, and she has an amazing Lantana bush and I couldn't resist snapping a picture.

Both Jilda and I are off tomorrow and we plan to rest. I hope you all have a remarkable holiday.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Fallen Limb

There's an 80-foot oak tree in the front yard of the old house at the back of our property. In spring and summer when the leaves are full, it looks as big as Rhode Island.

One of the bottom limbs which is 20 feet off the ground once had a swing hanging. According to an elderly neighbor, the kids in the community played on that swing for years.

By the time we moved here in 1980, the seat of the swing had rotted and the ropes were no longer hanging from the limb. But standing under the canopy I could see where the ropes had choked the bark for years. I've been saying forever that it would only be a matter of time before the limb fell. This past week, my prediction came true.

The thunderstorm that rumbled through brought the limb down. What's interesting is that even though the limb has been dead for years, there was a lot of life that called that limb home.

Thankfully the higher limbs on the old oak are still sound, but I'd love to get up there to see what else is living there.

Friday, September 04, 2015


I'm a sucker for those lists. It's hard to say why, but I am. This one was a challenge from the BBC which said that most Americans had read six or fewer books on their list of 100 important books.

I went to the list and began looking for ones I'd read. There were several that I had not read, but when I finished clicking, I'd read 28. I was a little embarrassed that I hadn't read more of them.

For many years, I focused on Self Help books. I could get those free at the library where I worked. Later I migrated to best sellers and they were enjoyable, but few of the best sellers never end up on lists of "important books."

Then after I retire and focused more one writing, I began to read more of the classics. One book on the list from the BBC that was also on my "Reading List" was 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.

I bought the book this week and began reading it. I'm about 100 pages in and I found that I'm enjoying it more than I thought.

If you're up to the challenge, click on the link below and put a checkmark in the boxes of the books you've read. I expect a full report from each of you :)

Have a great Labor Day weekend.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

No idea

I searched for the name of this roadside grass, but I couldn't find it. One picture I found called it  Pennisetum but when I searched on that name I got a different kind of feathery grass.

I shot this picture yesterday on the way home. The sun to the west was highlighting it and a quick look in the mirror showed no cars on my bumper, so I pulled to the side, hopped out and shot a few snaps.

So not only do I have no idea what kind of grass this is, I also have no idea of what to write tonight.
What do you write about when you have no idea?

Wednesday, September 02, 2015


A lonesome stand of ironweed grew stealthily at the edge of the garden. I walked by it daily and never noticed it until today when I glimpsed a patch of purple out of the corner of my eye.

Stepping to the edge to get a better look, I could see the ironweed had just begun to bloom with grape-colored blossoms, but many of the nodes had not yet opened.

I actually didn't know the name of the plant until I Googled it. There are so many of Mother Natures gifts that I cannot name. A while back I'd stopped by the bookstore and bought a book on wild plants and trees of Alabama. I remembered that book this afternoon and pulled it from my shelf and put it by my computer for reference. 

One of the things writing coaches recommend is to be more precise in your writing. That's easier said than done. I think knowing the names of some of the plants I write about would be a good start.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The thing to do

Finishing up at work on time today, I headed home arriving just as Jilda was walking out the door to go teach at the rehab center.

I spent an hour writing on the screen porch. I'm working on the column that's due tomorrow and after a while, I could feel my muscles and joints were epoxafying (is that a word.)

Walking to the back deck, I grabbed my walking stick and headed out toward the barn with Caillou. The last several days of low humidity and cooler temps had spoiled me. Today, neither were a factor. While it wasn't oppressively hot, the humidity was as thick as grits.

By the time I'd made the first lap, my shirt looked as if someone had hosed me down.  After walking up the road in front of our house to check for litter,  I swung down through the yard. The mammoth water oak in the front yard keeps the noonday sun at bay, making the house cooler.  But the evening sun slips beneath just before it disappears below the horizon and bathes the flower garden in a few precious moments of sunlight.

It was during those moments when I walked by the flowers sitting by our front walk. I snapped a picture of the impatiens in the rock vases.  A gurgling fountain was just out of the picture.

Finding a place on the side porch steps, I sat for a while because it seemed like the thing to do.

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