LIFE'S BETTER IN THE MOUNTAINS

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thanksgiving Wishes


I am having significant problem posting on my blog or commenting on others.  So I will go dark for a while until the problem is fixed, which may involve getting a new laptop.  Until then, I will read your blogs on my tablet but will not try to post anything.  Too much hassle here at the holidays.




















I hope everything goes well with you until I return.  And even after I return.


Friday, November 18, 2016

We Love Lucy


Wildfires continue to burn across western NC.  Our community is not in immediate danger but our air quality waxes between orange and red alerts.  The air is acrid and the smoke is occasionally so thick it looks like fog rising from the valleys.  The weather has brought temperatures much above our average but we are expecting a cold front which will bring our temperatures back to normal.  Unfortunately, the front will bring high winds along as well.  We owe a great debt to the many men and women who have come from across our nation to help with fighting the fires.

Most mornings we can find some time to let Lucy run in the park.  But the rest of the day she remains indoors to protect her from the smoke.  She is content to lounge around the house snoozing in various places.  Sometimes she falls asleep in a sunbeam and awakens to find it has moved.

That's funny.  I could have sworn I was in the sun.
.




 Mom, do you know what happened?

Only 43 days remain in this year and I will be more than glad to say good-bye.  (Good-bye won't be my actual words.  Before I say "Happy New Year" I will scream, "F YOU 2016" several times.)

It is fitting that our quote comes from the late and much beloved Leonard Cohen.  This from his song, "Anthem."

The birds, they sang
At the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
Has passed away
Or what is yet to be


Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.


HAVE A WONDERFUL WEEKEND
 
HELP YOUR NEIGHBOR



 


[I'm trying.  I really am.  But when I look at the character of the people DJT is appointing, I am very sad indeed.]

Monday, November 14, 2016

Sapsucker Recovery


It was late in the afternoon when I heard that heart-sickening "thud."  It's a sound like no other, varying only in intensity.  A bird hitting the house.  From the sound I knew it was a large bird.  I quickly looked out to find it was a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker.  Dang!

The good news was that the bird was sitting upright and was not gasping at all.  She did not seem to have been injured, merely stunned.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker recovering on the deck.



 In less than a minute the bird flew into a nearby tree and sat absorbing the dwindling rays of sunshine on her body.  She stayed on the tree for a few moments and they flew away.


Sapsuckers are relatively common in some areas of the NC mountains, but we do not often see them.  We've never had them visit our suet feeders.  So we were especially delighted that this bird recovered so quickly and without apparent long-term damage.


[So a white supremacist will be the new White House Chief Strategist to DJT.  So much for bringing the Nation together.]

Friday, November 11, 2016

Remembering Ellie


Two lovely Golden Retrievers on a beautiful Autumn day in 2013.  Our Lucy on the left and our Ellie on the right, taking an enforced rest break from romping in the leaves.  Both were the picture of health.  In fact they had their annual exams a month before and the veterinarian pronounced them perfect.  October 30 was a perfect day in DuPont State Forest.



 The pedestrian bridge over Little River near the trail where the dogs were running.  It was new then.



 The wide and empty trail ahead.

Who could have predicted on this gorgeous Autumn day that our beloved Ellie would be dead in less than a fortnight?  November 10th.  It was on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  My husband had taken both girls out for a walk.  They were both active and happy.  When they got back to the house, Ellie abruptly collapsed at the top of the driveway.  She would not or could not get up.  My husband ran inside and we quickly put her in his SUV and drove to the emergency hospital, calling them on the way there.

When we got there the veterinarian told us immediately that she suspected a massive internal bleed from a hemangiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood vessel walls.  It is usually on the spleen or lining of the heart.  This cancer is more common in Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds.  Mean age is 9-12 years old.  The first symptom is often a sudden collapse.  Ellie definitely fit the profile.

They rushed her back to the operating room, but she died on the table.  She had bled into the lining of her heart.

She was a lovely dog, but her looks were unimportant compared to her temperament.  She was the very definition of loyalty.  Quick to learn and eager to please.
The closest thing to a perfect dog that we will ever see.


 She never wandered far, always stopping and looking back for us



 Trying her best to look regal while holding her tennis balls.
She carried at least one ball and usually two most of the time.



 Like all Goldens, she was an adorable puppy.

Ellie was the canine love of my life.  We will have other dogs, but there will never again be a bond such as the one between Ellie and me.  She understood my every mood.  And I will miss her forever.

Today's quote is attributed to Dr. Seuss.  It gives me a great deal of comfort.

Don't cry because it's over
Smile because it happened.


Our thoughts go out to our neighbors in western NC where the mountains are ablaze.  The air is hazy here but none of the fires are sufficiently close to put us in danger at present.  We remain very concerned because of the exceptional drought conditions (the category worse than extreme) throughout the mountains and no rain in sight.  Rivers are carrying less than half their usual flow volume.  The fallen leaves are very dry.  The pine needles are brown and falling off, making for frightening tinder for a potential fire.  Thousands of acres are burning and only one of the fires is more than 15% contained.

HAVE A WONDERFUL WEEKEND, EVERYONE
THIS IS OUR COUNTRY
WE WILL GET THROUGH IT
This is Veteran's Day here in the United States.  We honor all of those who serve, now and in the past.

[You remember when I said last week I wanted the election to be over?  No matter what the outcome?  I LIED!  It is so much worse than I feared.  I'll never look at my fellow citizens in the same way again.  Ever.]


 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Nature Connects


Sean Kenny spent many happy hours of his childhood playing with his LEGO™ bricks.  He was so interested in them he wondered if he could actually make a living creating sculptures with the bricks.  Turns out he could.  He became the first LEGO™ Certified Professional.  He designs and builds art for many companies in several countries.

Here in Western North Carolina we were privileged to have his "Nature Connects" series of LEGO™ brick sculptures on display at our NC Arboretum in nearby Asheville from late July until the end of October.  There were fourteen massive sculptures made entirely of LEGO™ bricks.  And these were the "normal-sized" bricks, not the larger ones.

The day was periodically overcast when we went, but the sculptures were absolutely gorgeous anyway.  We were greeted at the entrance by a very large Ruby-throated Hummingbird sipping nectar from a flower.


The first exhibit, near the entrance of the Visitor Center


 A lovely Monarch butterfly sitting atop a flower


 The large sundial and the bird.  All made with the bricks


 The American Eagle stood out in the sun with the overcast skies above.


 
 A larger-than-life gardener worked in the soil.


Yes, we did indeed find every single one.  I'm not certain why I selected only these but perhaps I will show you some more of them at another time.

I've never been one to try to define art.  I've always maintained that art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.  Some purists might argue that a sculpture made of children's building blocks does not qualify as "real" art.  Who cares what they say?

I will give you the definition of art in the Oxford Dictionary:
1. [mass noun]  The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

I can assure you that these sculptures do indeed provide appreciation of their beauty and bring powerful emotions.  They do indeed connect us with Nature.  If you are near a Sean Kenney display, you should definitely visit.  Whether you call it art or not, you will be impressed by the size of the sculptures and the number of bricks in each one.  (They did list how many bricks were used to create each sculpture but I was so caught up in the beauty I barely noticed.)

Friday, November 4, 2016

We Love Lucy


Yet another very strange week here in the NC mountains.  It began with the effects of a fire in the Colonial Pipeline.  Yes, the very one whose flow was interrupted two months ago.  And yes, the one that supplies gasoline to the southern and southeastern states.  As they are wont to do, people heard about the fire early Tuesday morning and rushed to the gas stations to top off their tanks.  By Tuesday afternoon there was no gasoline in our county.  The week continued with much higher than normal temperatures...reaching 80 degrees here.  The temperatures have moderated a bit, but are still much warmer than normal.  And we are in a severe drought with no rain in sight.  Fire dangers are extremely high.  We are more than 18 inches short of our normal rainfall.  The trees are stressed and the pines are dropping needles.  For these and many reasons, the folks around here seem tired and weary.  I went down for early voting yesterday and while things ran smoothly, everyone seemed a bit lethargic.

I saw a blurb this morning that 85% of Americans are "disgusted" with this election.  Wonder if the other 15% are comatose?  Our state is more important to this election than it usually is, so we have been treated to some of the most horrible of political advertisements and robocalls.  In addition to the Presidential election, we have a hotly contested race for Senate and a very close gubernatorial election as well.  Lies, half-truths, and innuendos lead the messages of the day.  I don't even turn on the television for weather reports any longer.  The weather news is depressing as well.

I am trying to enjoy the mild weather, but truthfully, it simply feels wrong.  To turn on the air conditioner in November?  At least the mornings are cooler and Lucy can still enjoy her romps in the park.  And so she lives in her insulated world, happy as can be.

Lucy, you look quite regal.
Thanks, Mom.  That's part of my job.




Today's quote is from author Abigail Thomas.  I have it written down and review it often.

I watch my dogs.
They throw themselves into everything they do; even their sleeping is whole-hearted.
They aren't waiting for a better tomorrow or looking back at their glory days.
Following their example I'm trying to stick to the present.

These words echo through my mind as I try to ground myself and insulate myself from all the campaign rhetoric.  So I'm definitely going to stick to the present.  Four days from today will be Election Day.  And we will deal with what comes after soon enough.

Try to find alternatives to occupy your time.  Return to your favorite hobbies.  Get out your Thanksgiving decorations in spite of the temperature.  Try some new recipes.  Personally, I'm settling down each evening with movies and an extra glass of wine.


HAVE A WONDERFUL WEEKEND, EVERYONE

MAKE CERTAIN YOU CAST YOUR VOTE

THEN RELAX AND HOPE FOR THE BEST 
 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Another Halloween


Halloweenfest is one of our town's biggest street festivals.  Vendors line the closed streets offering all sorts of craft items and foods.  The stores are all decorated.  Music fills the air.  And the laughter of the children is heard everywhere.  It is such a fun time.

Our little town has many hills and there are three streets that are the best for trick or treating. The streets run parallel to one another and have lots of houses in a concentrated area.  Because so many children trick or treat on these three streets, the whole town helps out.  Various stores have boxes for donations of treats or money to purchase them.  These are distributed to the folks living on these three streets and in some cases people volunteer to assist giving out candy if needed.  Most of the children limit their trick-or-treating to this area.  Safe for the kids.  Easy for the parents.  And community participation.  What a great little town.

I'm sure that one reason we celebrate Halloween with such vigor is that our county is Transylvania.  Many cars have stickers of bat silhouettes and proclaim, "Transylvania County.  Bite Me!"

There are so many things for the children to do at Halloweenfest.  The usual face painting, cookie decorating, tractor rides, bouncy houses, etc.  But my favorite by far is the Great Pumpkin Roll.


The event is called the Great Pumpkin Roll
But almost everyone in town calls it the punkin' roll.




Local farmers donate the roundest pumpkins for the roll.
The pumpkins vary in sizes encouraging speculation as to which is better, the small ones or the larger ones.
Everyone has a "scientific" reason one is better than the other.




 This is the top of Jailhouse Hill
(Yes, the hill that no longer has the jail.)
There are bales of hay at the bottom where the street is barricaded.
No, there has never been a pumpkin making it to the bottom of the hill.




 The kids line up and lots of folks cheer them on.
Wave after wave of children participate in the pumpkin roll.




 I especially love watching the children gesture and shouting encouragement to their pumpkins.

When I was a child, we went trick-or-treating at night and on Halloween night.  Most communities now have designated hours the weekend before.  In the daylight.  I know that is how it must be but I'm sorry that children no longer have the scary fun of going out in the dark.

We also had large Halloween Carnivals at school.  I'm not sure if they do that anymore, but I still remember those peeled grape eyeballs, spaghetti brains, and the fortune teller who looked remarkably like my friend's mother.  What a fun time.  Thank goodness our little town still celebrates Halloween.

So today is actually Halloween.  And we are in the 70s here in the mountains.  We may set another record for high temperature this last day of October.  And the heat is expected to continue all week.  Seriously?