Saturday, September 21, 2019

Zinnia art

I spent most of the day today learning about bees. Yesterday was informative, but today it got down in the trenches.

The most important thing I've learned is that I don't know much about beekeeping. The thing is, most of the master at the craft say the same thing.

It was fun.

I'll leave you with Zinnia art.




Friday, September 20, 2019

Learning about bees

Jilda and I got up early this morning and headed a few hours south. The annual state beekeeping conference was in Clanton this weekend.

Planners packed the day with speakers whose topics ranged from backyard beekeeping to using bee stinging therapy.

Being new to beekeeping I'm sure there was a great deal of information that whizzed over my head like UFO's heading to Area 51.

Like learning most new things, you sometimes must let the information wash over. You'll pick up bits and pieces and then somewhere down the road it will click.

The session just before lunch ran a little short, which gave Jilda and me a chance to get close to the front of the chow line. Call me anything, except late for lunch.

When we finished, we headed outside to spend some time in the shade. 

The temp had dropped considerably today and there was a breeze out of the west. We blissed out for a while before heading to our afternoon sessions.

I was a fun and informative day.


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Ceremony

I had an assignment to take pictures at a VFW ceremony honoring soldiers who were prisoners of war or missing in action.

Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts were on hand to offer assistance by passing out programs and commemorative flags.

Thankfully, a bank of clouds shaded the courthouse square during the ceremony.  The crowd gathered was attentive even when the PA system hummed annoyingly. They always do that no matter how solemn the occasion.

When a woman sang the National Anthem, you could tell the veterans in the crowd. While most people covered their heart with their hands, even ancient veterans stood statue straight and saluted. 

As the speakers talked about POWs and MIAs, I surveyed the crowd, and many had tears in their eyes. 

I love that our town takes time to remember and honor the sacrifices that were made for them. 


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Need some rain

There is no rain in sight so I did the first step in my Bring On the Rain routine. I washed my truck. In years past, this is practically a sure-fire way to make it rain.

A few years ago a local weatherman said he would bet the farm that there would be no rain. That afternoon, I washed my truck. Pulling out of the carwash it started drizzling. A few miles down the road, it poured.  My windshield wipers clicked all the way home. The weatherman now lives in a house trailer at the edge of town. I hated to do that to the guy, but we needed rain.

If it doesn't rain within the next few days we'll move to phase two and start using our grandmother's joo-joo-moe-joe spells.  We don't do it first because once when we did it, we got locusts instead of rain.

The last thing we do is the midnight butt nakid' backyard rain dance. It's not pretty, but when the ground is dry and as hard a slate, I'd do just about anything to bring on the rain.



Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Barbed wire

I got a text from my nephew today. I guessed what he was asking but I couldn't help but have a little fun at his expense. It went like this:

Nephew: Do you have and barbed wire around the house?

Me: No but I have bad dogs. Should we install barbed wire around the house?

My nephew ignored the reply but I knew it made him smile.

Nephew: I just need an inch or two.

Me: Don't we all?

As it turns out, he needed a little barbed wire for a promotion that he was working on.

The thing about the barn is that there are many farm-related things down there that have not been used for 30 years but I keep them just in case.

Today was a perfect example of why I do.


Monday, September 16, 2019

Looking on the bright side

Jilda and I wrote a song with our friend Tracy Lea Reynolds several years ago entitled Look on the Bright Side. In the past, when we performed the song at festivals and coffee house, it seemed to make people smile. But something has changed in our country and looking on the bright side is getting harder to do these days. It seems that people are angry, and all they see is the dark side of every issue.

I can remember in the not too distant past when relationships could be represented by two circles. No two circles were an exact match, but there seemed to be an area where the two circles intersected. Inside this area is where people shared ideas, beliefs, and values. It was common ground.

Coming to a complete agreement was sometimes tricky, but when there was common ground, there was a place to start. There was a path forward.

When there is common ground, there is room for negotiation…for consensus. An agreement can have components that each person values. A win-win.

When I was in graduate school, we studied a theory called the zero-sum theory. This is a mathematical representation of a situation in which each person's gain or loss of utility is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the utility of the others. To put it simply, if I win, you lose. This theory, like so many other theories from over-paid consultants, proved to be flawed. 

I think some people today are clinging to the zero-sum theory and it explains why some people are so angry. "This is especially true when the topic is one of the hot-button issues like politics, religion, and guns. On these issues, there is no middle ground.

There was a time in my life when citizens and politicians recognized and addressed problems. While each end of the political spectrum felt they had the best solution, they were civil in their approach. They looked at where they disagreed and found areas where their views and values were similar.

Once they found common ground, they could map out a plan to solve the problem that both sides could live with. America won. I miss those days.

Perhaps it's because most people get their news instantly on their computer of phones. But I tend to believe that social media is playing a huge role.

Reading Facebook and Twitter comments these days has become disheartening. Even a simple opinion often generates a thread of snarky, rude, and sometimes threatening comments.

By reading some of these threads, it's easy to determine what cable news talking heads they follow.

It seems that reading and contemplating an issue from various points of view takes way too much time. It's much easier to just to latch on someone else's opinion that agrees with your own. Seeking common ground is out of the question.

We're headed down a rocky road, and it doesn't have to be that way. We live in a garden. If I win, you don't have to lose. If we sit down and find common ground, we can solve almost any problem.

Lyrics to Look on the Bright Side
When all you see is doom and gloom
And there's no end in sight
No matter how long and dark the tunnel
Somewhere there's always a light.


Sunday, September 15, 2019

Optimistic leaves

We had to walk early this morning. Even at 7:30 a.m. there was not a tinkle from our windchimes.

I didn't bother looking at the thermometer this afternoon. Normally, the hummingbirds are tanking up to head south for the winter, but either they left early or they called in drunk today to avoid the heat.

I did manage to snap a sweetgum picture. I think these leaves are being optimistic but just looking at them made me feel a little better.

This is a busy week for us so it will be bedtime soon.

Y'all bee sweet.



Saturday, September 14, 2019

Science

Jilda and I attended a gala for the Main Street organization a few weeks ago. It was a few hours north of here in a city that straddles the Tennessee River.

Cooks Museum of Natural Science was the venue for the event. It didn't take long for Jilda and me to realize that this was a place that our great nephew Jordan would love.

His mom was tied up today, but his grandmother was up for a road trip.

We spent almost three hours going through the interactive exhibits. It was fascinating. Jordan had a large time.

We took a moment to shoot a selfie next to the entryway to the bird exhibit.

It did my heart good to see so many kids thrilled about science.



Friday, September 13, 2019

Nailed it

I walked out tonight to get a photo of the Friday the 13th full moon. The sky was overcast. It feels like it hasn't rained since Nixon was in the White House, but tonight, it's cloudy.

I know what you're thinking. With no picture of the full moon that he practically promised last night, he has to go with the goldenrods.

Nailed it.


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Moonshot

I had to cover a city council meeting this evening. The business was short and it lasted less than 30 minutes.

On the way home, a turn in the road opened up the eastern horizon. The moon in the sky was beautiful. I held an imaginary camera up to my face and clicked the shutter with my tongue. Click click.

Tomorrow is the full moon and it's also Friday the 13.  I think I'll take the tripod out at dusk and wait until moonrise to see if I can get another moonshot.

I took the one below last year not long after I got my new camera. When I saw the results of those pictures, I smiled.


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Dog doc

The past several weeks I've noticed that Caillou has been restless at night. His bed is in front of a box fan and normally he sleeps for most of the night, but it was almost like he couldn't get fixed. When he did lay down, he plopped down.

This morning when we walked, I noticed he was having issues. Hook brushed by the Caillou and knocked him to the ground.

I've read that one of the first things a collie has trouble with is the hips.

After breakfast, I loaded him up for a trip to the vet. He's a gentle dog and the vet techs always faun over him when he goes down there.

The vet confirmed that the problem is with the hips. She gave him his annual meds, but she also gave him some medicine to help with the inflammation in his hips.

After settling up with the bill, I led him outside and opened the door. He hopped in the truck unassisted.

When I got home I started looking through our records to see how long we've had him.

He was full-grown when he chose us in March of 2011. This means he's at least nine years old and maybe older.

This evening he walked much better. I'm hoping the meds keep him comfortable for a long time. Experience has taught me that often times this is not the case, but I don't want to think about that now.

We plan to enjoy our fur-baby as long as possible.


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Days work

September is National Recovery Month and the paper is working on a series of stories about addiction.

We had a meeting today to discuss the project and I think it will be compelling. 

I interviewed one woman who has been in recovery from alcoholism for several years. This past week, I interviewed two people who both lost parents to opioid addiction.

This is a hard topic because many feel the addiction of a family member is embarrassing. I think it's even more so here in the south.

The stories will begin running this weekend.

On another note, it rained all around us. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Mother Nature will smile on us tonight with a shower.

I took the picture below today on my way home from the office. I noticed purple blossoms on some kind of plant. I'm not sure what kind, but it's beautiful


Monday, September 09, 2019

Remembering 9/11

This week marks the 18th anniversary of 9/11. Even now, thinking about that day makes me feel melancholy. The world changed that day. It became much smaller and more divided. 
I remember within a few feet, of where I was standing on the morning of September 11, 2001. I was in Birmingham, attending a training class. Arriving early, I'd just poured a cup of coffee and was getting ready to sit down in the break room to wait for the class to begin. Several other people were drifting in.
A TV mounted on the wall was muted until we saw those first images on the screen. Several of the people who worked with me were in the Steven Covey training class – What Matters Most. Let that sink in.
The course description said it teaches how to do self-evaluation and gives students the tools to determine what is important in their lives. You can understand that some of the things that seemed important to me changed that day.
We all stood there, silently watching the screen and trying to wrap our minds around what had just happened. 
At first, I thought it was a small plane. But then the video clips began looping across the screen. Then another airliner struck the second tower. There were no dry eyes in that breakroom.
That evening when I got home Jilda hugged me as I walked through the door. 
We had friends that lived in Manhattan. Getting through to them was challenging, but we learned they were safe. Forever changed, but safe.
Neither of us had much of an appetite that evening. Stepping out to the back deck, we sat lost in our thoughts as the ice ticked in our tea glasses. 
We live in the flight path for the airport in Birmingham. The planes come over high, but almost any time of the day you can look up and see aircraft whispering across the sky dragging contrails behind them. 
After the attack on the World Trade Center, the government ordered all aircraft grounded.
On that afternoon, the thing that I heard most was silence. I know that doesn't make sense, but the silence was profound. Even the hawks, crows, and sparrows seemed to be in mourning. I will never forget that day.
Another thing I remember is how our country pulled together. Other countries from around the world hurt with us. 
There will be many tributes to 9/11 this week. People who were old enough to remember will reflect on the events of that day.
I'm not sure I can add anything significant here, except to say that there was one tribute from a few years ago that resonated with me. It was a slideshow with haunting pictures. The slideshow was set to the Simon and Garfunkel song, "The Sound of Silence." A heavy metal band performed the song. The power of those words and images brought tears to my eyes.
Googling that tribute, I watched it again today. Afterward, I took a mug of coffee to the back deck and sat for a long while. Before 9/11, I'm not sure I’d ever REALLY heard the sound of silence.
  

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Scores of chores.

Today was chore day here. It seems that every off day we've had for the past month has been spent doing unfun things.

All are commitments - promises made. Important things. And then, of course, there was healthcare. I never realized that staying healthy took so much time and energy.

When we went to the eye place on Friday, I asked the folks there for my mail. "Yes, I'm spending so much time here now we've decided to start getting our mail here. They laughed.

Today, Jilda looked at me with narrowed eyes. "You don't have anything on your calendar today do you?"

I have a feeling that had I said yes, I would be eating Kibbles and Bits tonight.

As it turns out, we both did chores. Scores of chores. It's things that have been piling up. For me, it was things that took little mental effort. When I do this kind of work, my mind goes to another place. I zen out doing the work. 

One of the things I did was pull up all the ragweed on our property. In one area, I noticed goldenrod getting ready to bloom.

I shot the picture below a few years ago when I was interviewing an old veteran out in the country.




Saturday, September 07, 2019

Loss

We attended a funeral first thing this morning. It was in north Alabama. Jilda read a Facebook post on Wednesday morning that said she was having fairly minor surgery.

That afternoon, one of our mutual friends posted that she died during the surgery. She was three months younger than me.

Her husband seemed to be holding up, but I suspect that he hasn't fully processed what's happened. 

We stood in the receiving line for almost an hour and when we walked out, there was still a line waiting to pay their respects.

I have no point of reference for how to handle this kind of loss.


Friday, September 06, 2019

At that moment

I cut the day before the rain set in last week. The yard looked like a golf green. When the rain moved off to the east, the sun came back in full force. The combination of rain and sun turbocharged the grass. Today it was ankle-deep.

We had to run into Birmingham to get new contacts for Jilda and we stopped at COSTCO. We love that place.

After lunch, I tanked up the John Deere and mowed a patch of grass roughly the size of New Hampshire.

When I finished, I got a glass of cold water and stepped out front to the bench and took stock of my life and whatnot.

Over to my left, the water fountain and the small birdbath was buzzing with bees. They are polite critters. Some buzzed around while others perched on the water's edge and drank their fill.

At that moment, things seemed to be as they should be.


Thursday, September 05, 2019

Change of venue

I've been struggling with a column idea for weeks. I've written it no less than five times. Today, I pulled out one of the old drafts and started writing. The first part flowed, but then I lost the buzz. The writing fell flat. I saved it in my WORK IN PROGRESS folder and closed my laptop.

Today is Jilda's early day so she headed out after lunch. I loaded my laptop into the truck and headed to the office to pick up my mileage check. Rather than sit around the office, I decided to stop by the coffee house and grab a seat by the window.

Sitting there watching people go by on the sidewalk, I remembered that 9/11 is this week. Opening my laptop, I wrote the first draft of my column while my coffee cooled.

Sometimes it just takes a change of venue to get the juices flowing.

Leaves and gravel

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Cameraboy

This morning after coffee, I headed to the screen porch with my laptop. Normally, Wednesday is a slack day for me, but the holiday threw me behind and I had a stack of stories that wouldn't write themselves.

I knocked out one story before it got warm enough to flip on the ceiling fan on the porch.

Standing and stretching so hard my back popped, I decided it was time to walk the dogs. I know when it's time because the two big dogs sit on either side of me while I'm writing looking up into my face expectantly. CAN WE WALK NOW? NOW? WHAT ABOUT NOW? They are relentless.

Walking into the living room, Jilda was ready to walk too. She snapped the leach on Taz and we were out the door.

I walked ahead and let Jilda and the little mutt amble. Standing at the edge of the zinnias, I noticed a swallowtail butterfly as big as my hand. Gently leaning over with my camera, it flitted off as if to say, Nice try cameraboy.

I didn't give up. It fluttered down toward the beehives and then on toward the barn. It landed on a young tulip poplar tree. That's when I leaned in and capture a closeup.

Soon, these babies will be gone. This much I know for sure - I will miss them.


Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Autumn is coming

Autumn is coming. Even without a calendar, some signs provide hints. The days are getting noticeably shorter, hummingbirds are tanking up to fly south, and the wind out of the west feels different. Soon we’ll be singing “California Dreaming” along with the Mamas and Pappas – “All the leaves are brown, leaves are brown, and the sky is gray.”

When I was a kid in Sloss Hollow, there were different signs that summer was ending.

The high school was a few miles away. Toward the end of summer, the Bulldog Marching Band began to practice each afternoon. I remember hearing the sound of drums and tubas echoing through the hollows.

I learned that those drums meant that my days of running barefoot and half-naked were numbered. For that reason alone, I dreaded autumn.

The chores that time of year were no picnic either. Raking leaves as a kid was a form of parental torture. I think I would have preferred going to the dentist and having him jab a needle the size of a kindergarten pencil into my gums. 

The years have changed the way I view the season. These days, I look forward to the early signs of autumn. This week I began noticing the signals.

Jilda leaves early on Thursdays for work. After she left, I decided to take the dogs for a walk. On the first lap of the walk, I noticed that the tulip poplar trees were dropping their leaves. Their color is a shade of yellow, almost the color of homemade ice cream.

Behind the barn, there is a hickory tree thick with muscadine vines. When I walked around the barn, the ground was covered in wild purple grapes. I picked a fat one up, shined it on my pant leg, and popped it into my mouth. The memory just now made my mouth water.

Last summer we put a bench down in front of the old house and the barn. It sits facing toward the sunset under the shade of an ancient oak that someone planted over a hundred years ago. We named it the thinking bench. On the last lap, I sat for a while on the thinking bench.

Closing my eyes, I listened for tree frogs or cicadas. They weren’t droning yet, but when I looked at a nearby pine, I noticed a poison ivy vine as thick a rope that weaved its way up into the upper branches. The leaves were turning crimson. I’d love to have a car that color.

College football starts this weekend, and all that implies.

Soon, the holidays will come tumbling toward us. Jilda and I ran into a store recently, and they were already putting out Christmas items next to the Halloween section.

I’m not sure about you, but I like doing my holidays one at a time, and I don’t like skipping over Thanksgiving just because it has less commercial appeal to the big-box stores.

The older I get, the more I want to hold and suck the marrow out of every day. Life is too short not to enjoy each and every day.


Monday, September 02, 2019

Finding peace

There's a place I go to 
When life moves too fast
And my brain moves too slowly to keep up 
It's a place that's quiet enough 
to breathe 
to unwind
to think
About the important things
And to cast out the unimportant
A place to find balance
To focus
To find peace




Sunday, September 01, 2019

It's September

It's hard to believe that it is September, and yet the calendar does not lie. Jilda and I've both worked around the house this weekend. 

Today, we had company come over for a pre-Labor Day meal. Jilda whipped some ribs, brats, dogs, and her world-famous potato salad.

We were yawning before everyone left. Their cars were barely out of the driveway when I took my contacts out and put on my PJs.

I should have taken a picture of the folks here, but I didn't. I did find a picture of Desoto Falls that I took six years ago today.


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