Sunday, March 24, 2019

A walk in the woods

The temps were in the 70s here today. Last night we had the heat on, but by lunchtime, it was almost warm enough to swim.

Each day as we walk we find more things blooming. Today, we saw this tiny bouquet nestled between the roots of a giant oak.

In the hollow, a small dogwood had blossomed out. The flowers were too high in the branches to photograph. I made a mental note to look at the other dogwoods around our property in the coming days.

If you live in the south, keep an eye on the sky tomorrow. We could have some nasty weather.






Saturday, March 23, 2019

Early morning call

Today has been a good one. It started out early with a ringing phone.

Jilda's father always called her at the crack of dawn every year because he wanted to be the first to wish her a happy birthday.  He died in 1993 a few months before her birthday.

The morning of her birthday that year, the phone rang. The call was unexpected. We weren't asleep, but we were still lying in bed. The phone rests on a table on my side of the bed. She lunged across me and answered the phone.

The caller was her younger brother Ricky. He knew how much that early call meant to her and he decided to continue the tradition.

He's never missed a birthday since that day.

Below is a picture of Jilda and her dad at the beach the summer before he died.


Friday, March 22, 2019

Happy birthday, Jilda

Tomorrow is my lovely spouse's birthday. I could tell you her age, but that might cut my life short.

I first met her when she was in junior high school. She was dressed as a pilgrim and playing a pump organ for a fall festival.

Her cousin introduced us.

We've celebrated a few birthdays since then.

Here's the thing – her pilgrim dress was yesterday.

Even if you live for a long time, life is brief. 

Do yourself a favor and be here now.

Burn all your fuel.

Celebrate at every opportunity.

Happy birthday, Jilda.




Thursday, March 21, 2019

Beauty is ephemeral

Fluctuating temperatures have not been kind to the camellias blooming by the backyard fence. When they first bloomed, they were hard to miss.

But beauty is ephemeral. This morning when I walked by earlier this week, most of the camellia blossoms had fallen.

This morning, this one was splayed out underneath the bush. It was as if she were saying, I gave it my all.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Pollen munchers

One of the best things about living where we live is the fruit. The peaches, apples, pears, and figs make living in the sticks more palatable if you'll excuse the pun.

They've been popping out more and more each day. Today, the pear tree was showing out. The bees were down with this latest development. You could hear the buzz.

I tried to shoot pictures of one of the little pollen munchers but they didn't have time to pose. The picture below is from our morning walk.

I wrote my column for Sunday today. It's about the bees. That's probably a shocker to you all.

Here's hoping your Wednesday was a good one.




Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Goofed

I did something yesterday that I haven't done before. I missed an appointment for an interview. Actually, let me be more specific – I forgot that I'd made the appointment.

I'd somehow put the appointment down on the wrong day so my reminder was waiting to remind me. 

The photographer sent me a text asking if I was OK. It was embarrassing to tell her that I'd messed up.

Later, I called the gentleman back and told him that I'd screwed up and asked if he would consider rescheduling. He's my age and chuckled a little and asked if we could do it today. I told him I would come at his convenience. 

I met him at the small airport in Jasper. We talked for over an hour. He was a Vietnam veteran who flew combat missions. 

The story will go in the quarterly magazine that will be published in April. I will share it then.

This evening, I got home as Jilda was leaving for work. There were several stories that I needed to write. After the first one, I took the dogs for a walk.

Not far from our front steps, I noticed tiny white flowers on anorexic stems. The looked beautiful in the shade of the sweet gum tree. I snapped a picture.

It's getting beautiful here. The temps will be near freezing tonight. I'm hoping all the blooming things have a sweater.


Monday, March 18, 2019

Movie biz

I knew it was a long shot, but I thought I'd give it a try. The mayor called me over the weekend to say that a movie company was shooting a few scenes of a movie in Old Dora.

I dug my press pass out of the bottom of my camera bag. Most everyone here where I work knows me and I never have to show the pass so I've never actually used it.

Heading my truck into the gates, I eased up to the edge of the parking lot where the crew was assembling.

I casually got out of the truck as if I owned the place. Strolling around, I shot several pictures. When I started toward the carts with the cameras a young man approached me. I showed him my press pass, but he wasn't impressed. He asked me to leave.  I did.

A few minutes later my phone buzzed. The mayor sent a text with the phone number for the publicists. She gave me the scoop and apologized for the closed set. But I understood. They didn't want a thousand locals coming to the set wanting to be extras.

I got a story and the few pictures I'd taken would be OK.

On the way home, I drove on through the old town. I've written about this tunnel in the past. I've never driven through it without blowing my horn.

Today, as I snailed through it, I stopped in the middle. School kids have spray painted their names on this tunnel ever since spray paint was invented. Apparently Ben loves Alexia. And Bro did something disgusting with XXXXXX. The "with" name had been sprayed over.

There are small towns all across this country. All of them are full of history. If they could talk (or write screenplays), there would be thousands of compelling movies.

I smiled at that thought as I headed home to write my story.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Bee watching

I have an old metal folding chair that my neighbor gave me a few weeks before he died. It's been leaning against the pear tree out back.

Today, I dragged the chair down and placed it under the peach tree just a few feet from the beehives. This afternoon, the sun was high in a cloudless sky. I think it got warmer than the weatherman predicted.

I sat in the folding chair and watched the bees. A few of them flew up and landed on my pants leg to get a better look at me. I sat still and talked in low soothing tones.  They considered me for a long while before zipping up to suck on a peach blossom.

It's peaceful sitting there and listening to the drone. They rarely rest when there's work to do.

Ol' Hook sat beside me and helped me keep watch. He learned to respect flying insects last year when he tried to dig up a yellow jacket's nest.

As the sun drifted behind the oak an poplar trees, I stood to walk to the house. A Canadian Swallowtail butterfly almost landed on my shoulder. It changed its mind and fluttered around just ahead of me. Hook chased its shadow.

It flew all the way to the collard plants by the back deck before swooping down to check out the yellow flowers on the bolding plants.

It paused just long enough for a portrait.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

New friends

I set the clock for 5:30 a.m. this morning which is something I rarely do.   Setting an alarm pretty much gaurantees that I will not sleep well. But, I needed to be on the road early.

The beekeeper called earlier this week and said that Saturday would be a good day to come get my new hives. Bees do better when you move them when the day is young.

My nephew Haven agreed to help with the heavy lifting. I was at his house at 6:30 a.m.

The weatherman said it would be sunny, but the morning skies were ash gray. A wind out of the northwest was biting. I'd started to the truck in a simple long sleeve pullover but it only took a few steps outside to realize that the thin shirt was not going to cut it.

We arrived at the beekeeper's house before 7 a.m. His dogs greeted us when we pulled into the driveway.

The beekeeper had closed up the entryway into the two hives last night trapping the bees inside. When we lifted the hives off the stands this morning, they were not happy. I could hear their wings beating in a syncopated drone. I think the note was a B-flat (sorry for the pun) The hives vibrated as we carried them to the truck.

It's over 20 miles from the beekeeper's house to ours. I drove slowly. We set the stand up facing east. They are situated among our peach, apple, and pear trees.

I let them settle in for about an hour before I put on my beekeeper suit. When I took the narrow blocks off their entryway, the bees flooded out of the hives. Several of them lit on the vail and said some unkind things to my face.

Soon, they settled down and got down to the business of scouting the territory to look for food, and water.

This evening, Jilda and I walked down to the hives slowly without protective suits. A couple lit on my pants leg but after looking me over, they headed to the pear tree which is in full bloom.

Jilda and I are both excited about friends.





Friday, March 15, 2019

Color me sad

The storms came through yesterday afternoon. The wind chimes sounded angry as the first line of storms swept through. Then the power blinked out. 

I did my blog in the dark last night...on my phone. Jilda didn't bother doing her blog.

We planned to do several things today, but our great nephew Jordan wasn't feeling well so our plans changed. He spent the day with us.

After breakfast, he wanted to go for a walk. We shoe'd up headed out. Down in front of our old house, I was taking a picture of lichen on a limb that had fallen to the ground. Jordan looked up into the ancient oak in front of the old house. 

He said, "Something scratched that limb on the oak." When I looked up, my heart sank. What he'd seen was unmistakable. During the storm last night, lightning struck the oak. It looks as if one of the higher limbs was shaved with a pocketknife. 

I want to believe that it will be OK. Time has taught me that it is hard for trees to survive lightning strikes.

Color me sad.





 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

In the dark

We’re in the dark this evening. Storms blew through a few hours ago and took our lights with it. Jilda was at work and I sent her a text that it was heading in her direction.
I told her that if she saw our lights to please tell them to get back home.

She called just before 6 to say she was on the way home. I drove down to the main road to make sure she could get through.

Down at the main road there were huge oak and hickory trees blown down. When they fell they took power lines with them.

I’m posting this on my phone so it will be short.

Happy Thursday.



Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Wednesday

We had baked garlic chicken with chickpeas for lunch today. Jilda cooks almost every meal we eat.  She found this recipe in a magazine that featured Mediterranean dishes. I could say it was scrumptious but that would be a disservice. 

Wednesday is an off day for me, but Jilda teaches one yoga class at the rehab center.

We decided a nap after lunch, would be just the ticket. We were right. I think I may have drooled on my sleeve.

Later, I walked out on the back deck. The sun was warm. Wind out of the west played a concerto on the chimes hanging on the eve.

I sat in the sun drinking ice tea and eating pistachios. There must have been twenty redbirds on the fence waiting for their turn at the feeders. There are probably better ways to spend a Wednesday, but none come to mind.

The picture below is one I took of our camellia by the back fence. It was a little blurry so I decided to have some Photoshop fun. This is my "impression" of the camellia.






Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Mystery plant

The rain moved out yesterday. Through the great room windows, I could see the morning sunlight turning the trees a light shade of fuschia.  

After coffee, we put on our walking shoes and hit the trail. Down by the barn there were tiny violets blooming. Jilda beat me to the draw on that one. You have to be photographically quick to beat her.
I did see some blooming purple plant. I don't know what it is but I have an app that might identify it but I have to shoot it against a white background. Needless to say, I didn't have a white background. I'll do that another day. Until then it's a mystery plant.



Monday, March 11, 2019

Career Fair Fun ~ my column from Sunday's paper

There is a window of opportunity in the lives of most children when it’s possible to inspire them to reach higher. Young children will often listen, but they get lost in the words. Older kids get to a point in their lives where they know everything. They hear you and understand what you’re saying, they just think you’re stupid. The sweet spot is around the age of 14 years old. This seemed to be a good time to plant seeds of opportunity.

I think it’s no mistake that Bevill State Community College offers a career fair each year for eighth graders.

This past Friday, I helped with the Mountain Eagle booth at the career fair on the Sumiton campus. Students from Valley, Lupton, and several other schools sent busloads of students to learn about available career opportunities here in Walker County.

The students came into the auditorium in waves. Once inside they coalesced into groups of three or four and wandered around as if they were Christmas shopping. Many were attracted to the robotics demonstrations, law enforcement booths, and the Alabama Power booth. These all can be exciting careers.

The Eagle didn’t have any bells or whistles in the booth to grab the attention of students. The sign read – News Reporter. I have to admit that when I was 14 years old, news reporter would not have appealed to me either.

I used the old fashion method often used by old folks which is – “Hey kid, come here and let me ask you something important.” The question I always ask young people is, “What do you want to do when you grow up.”

The question never fails to make them think for a moment. Some of the students today came back with quick answers. One young woman said, “I want to be a pediatric nurse.” A young man said without hesitation, “I want to be a preacher, and raise stock for rodeos.” He was wearing a belt buckle as big as a Buick bumper. It was a buckle like I’ve seen rodeo professionals wear. I expect that this young man will do what he said. You could see it in the set of his jaw.

More often than not, the young folks said, “I have no idea what I want to do with my life.” I told them that most people don’t know at that age. I’m 68 and I’m still not convinced that I know what I want to do.

Then I gave my spiel about working for a newspaper. I told the students that a better term for the field was media and graphic design. All the students I talked to knew about Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. I told them what the media does is tell stories using words and pictures. The Mountain Eagle uses a newspaper, but you can tell stories with Facebook or Instagram. I talked about the six-year-old boy that made $11 million in 2017 reviewing toys. All of a sudden, media field sounded a little more appealing.

I ended my pitch with this: Storytelling is a valuable skill no matter what career field you select. Most successful doctors, lawyers, and business owners use storytelling in their work.

If you ask Google about the most important skill in business, the first skills listed is communication.

One of my last pitches was to two young women. What I told them must have resonated because when it came time to leave, they came back to our booth and said that my talk had been their favorite. I told them I felt like they both would do remarkable things in their lives.

Driving home, I felt good because I think I planted a few seeds.





Sunday, March 10, 2019

Time Change Blues

I'm not a fan of this time change. I know. I've heard all the arguments. I'm still not a fan. Both Jilda and I were a little prickly this morning. The coffee helped but we kept our distance from sharp objects.

We didn't have breakfast until 10 this morning. After cleaning up the kitchen, we took the dogs out for a walk. Midway through the first lap, the sun peeped out from behind a hedge of clouds. Sunshine always helps.

I took the picture below yesterday. It was raining. The light falling on the barn looked odd. In regular light, all the boards are the same shade. As you can see, that was not the case this time. Maybe it was the carpet of moss.

I'm thinking about writing a song entitled: There is No Cure for Time Change Blues.


Saturday, March 09, 2019

Somewhere in between

I was in Birmingham this week.  Tuesday I had an appointment with my doctor.  Her office is on 20th street. It’s one of the main streets running through town. The complex is about halfway up Red Mountain. Vulcan stands at the crest of the mountain and The City of Birmingham spreads out at his feet for as far as the eye can see.

The Iron Man is a symbol of the Magic City. The statue was commissioned by the Commercial Club of Birmingham. The Italian-born sculptor Giuseppe Moretti started building the statue in 1903. 

It was one of the first places I took Jilda when we started dating in the summer of 1968. The view of the Birmingham skyline from that statue is breathtaking. 

The picture below was taken a few years ago from The Club which is an exclusive country club within a stone's throw from Vulcan Park. I was there with my friend Dan who is the publisher of several newspapers in the area. 

Looking out over a city always makes me feel small. At any given moment you're looking out over hundreds of thousands of people. 

Each of these people has different hopes and dreams. Some are at the top and some cannot sink lower. And from my vantage point, I fall somewhere in between.




Friday, March 08, 2019

I found a photograph in the back of an old photo album yesterday and it set off a thread of memories as rich as homemade divinity candy.

In November 1975 I worked for The Community News. It was a small operation that published a paper weekly. My buddy Dale Short was the editor and I was a staff writer/photographer. We had a couple guys selling ads and a receptionist.

Jilda helped me shoot football pictures during the fall and we spent most Friday nights in the darkroom printing pictures for the next issue. I loved that job, but even with an Army subsidized paycheck (retraining program), we probably qualified for food stamps.

Jimmy Carter was elected as president that year. I made a bold prediction. "1976 would be a great year for freaks and farmers," I said. I committed to growing a garden and a beard.  The picture below is the last photograph taken of me without some kind of facial hair.

The guy in the picture is Doug McGraw. He was stationed with me in Panama. I taught him to play guitar over a long Memorial Day weekend. Jilda and I have visited him in Virginia and he's been to Alabama a number of times.

Several months ago, I found my old phone finder. That's one of those metal devices that sat next to our phone back before smartphones. We kept our phone numbers in there. Back in November, I came across the finder and I flipped down to the M. His number was one of the first listed.

Picking up the phone, I dialed his number. He answered on the second ring and it was like I'd seem him last week.

I know this is a rambling post, but that's what happens when I come across old photographs.






Thursday, March 07, 2019

A way into our hearts

Dogs are funny creatures. We've had a multitude of mutts through the years and no two were the same. They all found a way into our hearts.

Ol' Hook joined me this morning when I got up to brew the coffee. I'm not sure what it is about the fireplace that he loves but every time we turn it on, he stands close enough that I'm afraid his whiskers will burn.

Hood reminds me of Ol' Red. We had Red about eight years ago. He was one that when he got too sick to care for someone brought him down our dead-end road and dumped him out to die. But he didn't die.

He lived on the fringe. He came into our yard after our dogs had eaten and looked for any scrap of food they may have left.

Jilda saw him at first. We already had too many dogs. When she fed our dogs, she would step to the edge of the yard and dump out a few cups of food in an old hubcap. The dog would wait until she went inside and the shyly come up and eat.

Our neighbor had a German Shepard that was a bully. He would come into our yard, pee on all our trees, chase our smaller, weaker dogs and strut.

One day, Jilda and I were sitting on the back deck. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the shepherd coming from next door. Our dogs were on the defensive. When the bully got to the edge of the yard and was about to harass one of our critters, I saw Ol' Red come from out of the edge of the woods and hit the shepherd like a professional linebacker.

Within a few seconds, the old Red dog had the bully on his back. I was afraid I'd have to call our neighbor with bad news but somehow the shepherd managed to squirm out from under Ol' Red and hightail it back toward his house. We never had another problem with that dog.

With that one act, Ol' Red enjoyed the last few years of his life.


Wednesday, March 06, 2019

It was cold last night. This morning, the collards in the raised beds out back droop as if they were ashamed...and they enjoy cold weather. This morning a breeze out of the north made it feel even colder. 

The waterer in the chicken pen was as hard as marble. After I fed the girls, gave them water, and collected the eggs, I stepped over to the fence and looked into the heavens to the south. 

The cloudless sky was topaz. The contrails of two passing jets made an X. It looked like they were playing Tic Toe.

I should have taken a picture but I was charging my phone. I held the make-believe camera to my eye and clicked a few imaginary frames.

Later, we drove into Birmingham to visit COSTCO. We buy quantities of some things that we use. Beef and chicken stock as well as olive oil, washing detergent, and such. It was a beautiful drive.

We decided to enjoy the sunshine while we could. Storms are forecast for Alabama again this weekend. 

The weather gets wacky this time of year. Maybe it's upset about the time change.

More fungi photos from yesterday.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Good books and Lime mushrooms

I'm reading my eleventh book of the year. It's by an author I've been reading for many years. It's New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke. Most of Burke's work is crime novels set in and around New Orleans.

It's not just the who done it that appeals to me, but the description and language Burke uses. Each time I read one of his novels, it makes me want to work harder to become a better writer.

I'm listening to this book on audio. When I pulled into the driveway earlier after a meeting at the newspaper office, I switched off the engine sat in my driveway listening. 

Finishing his books always makes me a little sad. Not at the story, but that the story ended.

That's when you know you've read a good book.

The picture below is a mushroom growing on tree stump down at the barn. I would have missed it, but Jilda pointed it out on our walk yesterday. I would miss a lot of pictures if it weren't for her.



Monday, March 04, 2019

Life is a water pipe ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Life is a water pipe. It may be hard to wrap your mind around this, but it’s true. It will take a little “splaining” but bear with me.
This past week the sun and blue sky made me feel like it was springtime. The wind out of the north reminded me that the vernal equinox was still a month away. 
I had a list of chores as long as a hoe handle. As the afternoon progressed, several things moved from my get r’ done list to my got r’ done list. It felt good.
I worked up a sweat. After drinking a bucket of water, I decided to take a shower to wash off the grime. Something happened while I was standing there that made me think of the complexities of life.
You may be asking what could have happened while showering. It was like this: I was blissing out in the warm water when Jilda punched the start button on the dishwasher and the clothes washer. The water coming out the shower head slowed so much that I had to do a kind of dance to wash off the soap. Then she flushed her commode. Had she decided to put water in the bird feeders, my shower stall would have had less water falling than a desert. 
So what does a shower have to do with life and what not? There is just so much water (or life) that can go through the pipe at the same time. 
Most plumbing pipes used in homes are relatively small. When you crank up the dishwasher, and the washing machine while taking a shower, they all have to compete for the water flowing through the small pipe. Metaphorically speaking, it’s the same with life.
There is a finite amount of time and resources in your life. If you’re in college, you can study, party, or hang out with friends. You can do all these things at one time, but you won’t do them well. I learned this one the hard way back in 1968 during my first semester of college. I aced partying, but I wound up taking freshman English three times before I passed it. Wish I’d understood more about waterpipes back then. 
The same is true later in life. Most people have families, careers, friends, and spiritual needs. When I commit too much time to one of these areas, it takes away time from the others. There’s an art to juggling life. I sometimes think I can pull it off, but I often struggle. The pipe is just not big enough to do everything at once.
Through the years I’ve seen families that suffered because a husband or wife spent most of their time and life energy on their careers. It’s possible to make complicated lives work, but it takes balance. It’s best to focus on what’s most important first and invest quality time there. Then work on the other things that matter.
If you doubt my logic here, I dare you to wash clothes, do laundry and take a shower at the same time. You better hope no one flushes the commode.




Sunday, March 03, 2019

Bolting collards

We planted collards in our homemade planters in the fall and we've had several meals of their tender leaves. Caring for them is easy. Just make sure they have water and a little food every few weeks.

Earlier this week when the sun was out, I looked over and saw they were blooming. Soon they'll bolt (put on seeds). These are heirloom plants. The parents of these seeds are older than most of our nieces and nephews.

Last week I planted milkweed, chives, and lavender in our grow-light container. The chives did well. The milkweed not so good. But the lavender showed out. Almost every peat pot had multiple shoots that sprouted.

We plant to plant milkweed for the monarch butterflies, the lavender for our bees, and the chives are for us.

I guess you can tell from this post that it's been a slow news day today.





Saturday, March 02, 2019

Looking into the sun

I came across a picture tonight I had forgotten. It was taken almost 60 years ago. It's my cousins and me and was taken near our old house in Sloss.

We were a gang back then. I'm the one to the left in the back and my cousin Regina is standing next to me. Mickey and Robby are in the front and were a few years younger. Both of them are dead now.

I'm not sure why, but most of the pictures taken in my youth were looking into the sun. I think there must have been instructions somewhere that said to do that. As a result, my face was perpetually scrunched up in most of the pictures taken of me.






Friday, March 01, 2019

Red tips

I interviewed an exchange student from Italy this week. This afternoon, I took a few pictures of her with her host sister. The sister lives a few houses away.

This young lady is delightful. She speaks four languages and speaks English as good as most of the folks I know.

I also had an opportunity to interview a young lady that was launching a new design business. She was excited, afraid, and confident at the same time. I think she'll do well because it's work that she loves.

Tomorrow, I'm on call at the paper. There's no telling what's on the board. I never know from one time to the other what I'll be covering.

On the walk this afternoon, Jilda pointed out that the red tips are blooming I snapped a picture.

Soon the weather will break which will widen the photo choices. Right now, I have to take what I can get.

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