Friday, September 30, 2011

Fridays are Golden

A hummingbird struck the side of our house and fell to the deck.  It sat there upright but a little stunned.

Lucy immediately ran to the window to see the bird.  She sat there watching it until it flew away.  Every time the bird moved, Lucy would wag her tail as if she were cheering it on.

Ellie joined Lucy for a look-see.  Then she walked away, apparently less concerned about the outcome.

Pardon the lousy photograph.  I took it through the door since I didn't want to disturb the hummingbird and make it try to fly before it was ready.

I cannot understand why the hummingbirds remain so territorial, guarding the feeders passionately and challenging any other hummingbird that comes around.  They have such a long and strenuous path to travel.  One would think it in their best interest to conserve the energy they expend fighting.  I often wonder if any of them gets much nectar.  This particular bird was in a duel with another when it struck the side of the house.  The bird recovered very quickly so perhaps he will live to fight another day.

Autumn is upon us at last.  Our Jewish friends are observing the high holy days of Rosh Hashanah.  We are putting away the summer things and preparing for the cooler days ahead.  Only ninety-two days remain in the year 2011, so you might need to review and/or revise the list of things you set out to accomplish this year.

When your life feels too complicated and busy, think on this:

The most important things in life are not things.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Glimpse of Things to Come

This morning we went hiking on one of the trails off the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The air was crisp and the view spectacular.  It was amazing to note the differences in the amount of color as we rounded one curve after another.  You may want to click to enlarge the photographs.

Not a lot of color in the distance, but beautiful anyway.

 The area near Graveyard Fields always seems to have the earliest color.

We stopped by the Pisgah Inn for lunch after our hike.  We left just in time to see two busloads of tourists stopping.  (Note to self:  You got lucky this time.  Don't have lunch there during leaf season.  Breakfast is a better time to stop.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Pretty Complete Education

My name is Carolyn and I am a book lover.  I last bought a book less than a week ago.  I love not only the contents but also the look and feel of books.  (Yes, I have a Kindle.  And yes, I do download and read books on it but it will never replace a real book for me.)  Not surprisingly, we own a lot of books.  We have a small library, and we have more books than the library can handle.  We recycle books periodically to make room for more.  A stack of books is always waiting to exit to friends or organizations.

Given my love for books, it is no wonder that I especially love collections.  There is one collection that I especially enjoy not only for the contents but also for the history behind the collection.  The Harvard Classics was published in fifty-one volumes in 1909.  With more than twenty-three thousand pages it is a very comprehensive collection.

Our own set of Harvard Classics

 Some say the collection is fifty books.  The additional book is an anthology of lectures that completes the set of fifty one.

My paternal grandmother introduced me to the Harvard Classics when I was a small child.  Grandma was a school teacher and a book lover and she valued her set of Harvard Classics above all books except for the Holy Bible and her dictionary.  She managed to have nine children and still teach school.  On occasion she taught in a neighboring county.  She took the school-aged children with her to board for the week and attend her one-room school and employed a live-in housekeeper to care for the house and the smaller children.  She and the children would come home on Friday afternoon and return to the boarding house Sunday night.  Grandma wasn't much for cooking and cleaning and she treasured her years as a teacher and a life-long learner.

Grandma allowed me to read some of the books, but only when I was the only grandchild around.  She didn't want her books damaged.  When I was a teen, she started receiving the "Reader's Digest" Condensed Books.  She had always said I should not read condensed versions of anything because the editors did not always know what parts should be eliminated in the process.  When I mentioned that to Grandma she said, "Well, I'm getting pretty old and I may not have time to read all the things I want to read.  Reading a condensed version is better than not reading the book at all."

I regret that I did not get to have Grandma's set of Harvard Classics, but I always think of her when I pull one of ours from the shelf.  Like many others, Grandma bought the Harvard Classics from a traveling salesman.  It was common in the early 1900s for peddlars to visit rural areas to sell their wares.  Grandma saved a little money every week in order to purchase the next book in the collection.  I'm not sure how long it took for her to complete the set.

You will find the contents of the Harvard Classics absolutely mind-boggling.  Here is a quick summary.  Edited by Charles William Eliot, the collection was also known as "Dr. Eliot's Five Foot Shelf."  His stated desire was that the collection would be "all things to all men."  (Remember the time here folks.  Gender neutrality wasn't even a dream back then.)

Who knows how many young men and women enhanced their educations and broadened their thinking with the Harvard Classics?  The collection is amazing more than a century after it was published.  Wonder why no one has come up with an anthology like this for the twentieth century?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fridays are Golden

Autumn has officially arrived!  Subtle signs are everywhere.  The leaves have lost their glossy shine and the sourwood trees are turning red.  I do so look forward to the changing seasons.  The Golden Girls are happiest in fall and winter when they can romp in the crisp air and when there aren't so many people on the hiking trails.

Ellie in her Rin Tin Tin mode. 

 Lucy giving her most innocent look.

Lucy is getting ready to nap on her favorite pillow. 

 Yes, the favorite pillow is Ellie.

 When Ellie decided to get up, Lucy barked at her.  THE NERVE!

I hope you are planning a good weekend.  We have had a lot of rain, getting more than three-and-a-half inches just last night.  More is predicted for today.  Every now and then the sun comes out and when it does we always look for a rainbow.  We don't always find one, but we are reminded of one of our favorite sentences from Maya Angelou:

Be a rainbow in someone else's cloud.

So as you go about your life, try to seek out others who might be having a difficult time and living under a cloud.  Try to be a rainbow for that person.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Just Passing Through

No matter how big our problems seem to be, watching the birds is a balm for what ails us.  We truly enjoy our resident birds who hang out with us all year long.  The migrants we see for only a short while are as welcome as the ripe apples in the fall.  One of our earliest migrants is the Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  My husband and I always want to be the first to see one.

I saw the camera on the table when I came home from shopping.  The smug look on my husband's face told me he had seen something good.  I checked the camera and knew he had won this fall.  The first sighting of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Arriving in mid to late September, the males arrive first.  The plumage is not as brilliant as their spring adornments, but they are beautiful just the same.  The males will stay around for a week or so and then be joined by the females.  The males will take leave and the females will be here for another week or so and they too will leave us.  We envy those of you who live in the nesting area.  It must be a treat to see these birds all summer long.

Photographs taken by  my husband.  Thanks, dear.

First spotted in the tree, the grosbeak is much larger than most of our visitors.

As he peeked from behind the feeder there is no mistaking the first grosbeak of the autumn season.

Yes, he is gorgeous even with his muted coloring.

And thus life moves forward.  These birds will winter hundreds of mile away and it will be spring before we see another.

You are likely aware that convicted prisoner Troy Davis has lost his final appeal in Georgia.  Options for his getting clemency are pretty much gone and he will almost surely be executed this evening at 7:00 EDT.  (Click here for the link)  Please spend a few moments around that time to reflect on your feelings about the death penalty.  Keep thoughts for the family of Troy Davis this evening.  Thoughts also for the family members of the slain police officer who are convinced that justice will be served with the execution of Troy Davis.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Don't Kill This Man

Update September 20:  After hearing testimony of defense attorneys and the officer's family, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles ruled in favor of the prosecution and determined that the execution will proceed tomorrow.

There was no forensic evidence in the case.  Eyewitness testimony alone convinced the jury in 1991 that Troy Davis was guilty in the 1989 slaying of a Georgia police officer, Mark MacPhail.  He was sentenced to execution.  Multiple appeals have not changed that fact.  For the past twenty years, execution dates have been set and then appealed.

I do not know for certain whether or not Troy Davis is guilty.  I do know for certain there is enough reasonable doubt to warrant a new trial.  Seven of the nine eyewitnesses have recanted their testimony, all saying they were coerced or threatened into the erroneous identifications.  Of the two remaining eyewitnesses, one has been said to have admitted to several other people that he, not Troy Davis killed the police officer.

At the present time, Davis is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, September 21.  (Yes, day after tomorrow.)

Amnesty International has led efforts to obtain a new trial for Troy Davis.  (You can access the Website here.)  Read the information about Troy Davis and if you are so inclined, sign the petition.  If you are not inclined to sign the petition, please keep positive energy that Troy Davis will not die Wednesday evening.

Photograph from Internet
Protest marches for Troy Davis.

Also, please think of the slain officer's family.  They are convinced that Troy Davis is guilty and truly believe the only thing that will give them closure is his execution.  It is a very sad time for all concerned.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fridays are Golden

We try to take the Golden Girls to places where they can run, uninhibited by leashes or forest.  One of their favorite places is around a lake and over the dam.  Several times during these off-leash frolics, we call them back to us.  We hold both hands in the air as a visual cue.  Often we have little treats for them; other times the treat is only praise.  The purpose of doing the recalls at unexpected intervals is to reinforce to the dogs that coming when they are called is a good and necessary thing.

Here you see the laughing girls in the shadow of my huband.  He is holding two little treats and they are waiting patiently, not yet sure but hoping there is a treat involved.

The girls really do get excited about these tiny treats.  We use them for practicing commands and during grooming because they are small with few calories.

We take water and a collapsing bowl for the girls.  One water dish is fine when we are traveling since they would both use the same one even if we had two.

Tuesday morning we put the girls in the car.  They thought we were going for a fun outing.  Well, we were indeed going for an outing.  But not the outing the girls expected.  Lucy, our drama queen, always whines in delight as we go down to the main road.  She suddenly became silent.  I know she was thinking, "That's where we are supposed to turn!  Dad!  Pay Attention.  You forgot to turn.  Oh dear, this may not be good."  There was not a sound from either dog for quite a while.  Then Lucy started to whine again; not the happy whining like before, but mournful whining as if she were heading to her doom.

Close, but in reality it was simply a trip to their veterinarian for their annual physical exams and innoculations.  We select our veterinarian with the same care with which we selected pediatricians when the children were small.  Dr. B is wonderful, kind and patient with our dogs and we are so lucky to have him.  He pronounced both dogs very healthy.

Dr. B has a dog of his own.  He trained the dog to respond to the word "dead" by dropping down on the ground, all four feet stuck straight up in the air.  He selects a sports team (for my husband he would choose "Carolina Tarheels.")  He would then ask the dog, "Would you rather be a Carolina Tarheel fan or would you rather be dead?"  You can figure out how the game works.

Whether from the excitement of the exam, or a side effect from the injections, both dogs were rather lethargic that afternoon and into the evening.  I practically had to prod them to get them to come for their bedtime business duty outside.

This is Ellie's pitiful look, guaranteed to get someone down on the floor with her.

This is Lucy's zombie, ready-to-sleep-don't-bother-me look.

Fortunately both girls were in fine shape the next morning.  All of us, human and canine, are enjoying some cooler weather with new signs of autumn appearing every day.

We are trying to rise above the constant, often stupid political rhetoric we cannot seem to avoid.  North Carolina, like many (if not most) other states is having huge problems with the state's budget.  We have heavy unemployment.  More than 15% of our population go to bed hungry every night and awaken to hunger during the day.  The numbers of people visiting the food pantries are at an all-time high.  Neglected repairs of aging infrastructure are certain to cause problems in the near as well as distant future.  Simply put, we are in a crisis mode.

So what does our first-time-in-150-years-Republican-majority-in-both-houses government tackle as its most pressing agenda item?  It goes something like this: "It threatens the sanctity of marriage. 
What are we going to do with those gay and lesbian couples who think they should be treated like everyone else?  It's already against the law for them to marry, but we must amend our State Constitution to make it harder to change."

[NOTE:  I apologize for lumping all Republicans together.  There are many Republicans who do support the same civil rights to all citizens.  But I can tell you that the previous Democrat-led State Congress struck down this proposal each time its ugly head reared.]

So this week, the words "tolerance" and "courage" are running through my mind.  I cannot recall who said it, but I think it rings true:

The true test of courage comes when we are in the minority.  The true test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Not all Babies are Beautiful

We love seeing the fledglings and juvenile birds that grow up in our woods.  We often can tell them apart.  We have one juvenile cardinal that looks rather strange.  I'm not sure what it is about the bird, but it is goofy-looking.  Clearly able to feed itself, the parents of this large baby are still feeding it.  Perhaps it looks weird because the bird is so much bigger than either parent.

I wish the bird had turned around.  The frontal view is the one that makes it look weird.

 My husband calls this bird a "special needs cardinal."

I do hope your weather is as good as ours.  Beautiful sunny days and crisp cool mornings.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mountain Moonshine

He came to Transylvania County from Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  A self-proclaimed mountain man and chainsaw artist, Uncle Buck opened a place of business on US 276 just outside our community.  He called the business "Uncle Buck;s Rustic Treasures" and utilized space on both sides of the road.

Hearing that Uncle Buck got busted for selling moonshine, I drove over to his business for a look-see.

I ignored the sign and parked there even though I am NOT a redneck.

An old shed has been converted into a workshop and display building.

While he makes other figures, Uncle Buck's bears are his most popular items.  Behind this very large bear you can see a small pond.  You can rent a paddle boat if you wish.

Some more of Uncle Buck's bears.  He will make custom signs for the bears while you wait.

This is the barn which got Uncle Buck in trouble with the law.

You see, Uncle Buck has a working moonshine still inside the barn.  The local sheriff's office received several complaints from citizens alledging that they saw Uncle Buck selling some of the 'shine (no doubt to tourists).  A sheriff's deputy made a visit and found two quart jars full of liquid.  He questioned Uncle Buck as to the contents and Uncle Buck admitted it was moonshine from his still in the barn.  The deputy informed Uncle Buck that it was against the law to sell the liquor.

The sheriff called the Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) agent.  Yep, Uncle Buck was reported to the revenuers.  The ALE and the sheriff's department worked together investigating Uncle Buck and his 'shine.  On three separate occasions, Uncle Buck sold the illegal moonshine to undercover ALE agents.

The authorities conducted a search of Uncle Buck's property.  In addition to the moonshine, they found a marijuana plant, a pipe with marijuana residue, and a Ziploc bag of marijuana.  Uncle Buck was arrested and charged with three felony counts of selling non-tax paid liquor, a felony count of growing marijuana, and a misdemeanor count for possession of marijuana.  Uncle Buck was released on a two-hundred dollar secured bond.

Thinking this might be a story of interest, I decided to drive down to Uncle Buck's and see what I could find.  I asked my dear husband if he wanted to go with me and he politely declined.  I must admit I was a bit reluctant and already had several stories to explain why I was there taking photographs.  I am really not a good liar, so I had practiced all three explanations beforehand and planned to use the most appropriate one for my confrontation with Uncle Buck.

I need not have worried.  I walked all over both sides of the road and didn't see a single soul.  I did note with amusement the new sign on one of the bears.

You just have to smile, don't you?

Stay tuned for more about Uncle Buck.  I think he wants to make a name for himself.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fridays are Golden

This has been a beautiful week here in the mountains.  Finally we have seasonal temperatures with significant cooling in the evenings and crisp sunny mornings.  The Golden Girls love this kind of weather and are much more active.

After a long walk or extended playtime outdoors, the girls love to curl up and snooze.  And they are often sharing one bed despite the number of beds we have around the house.

Lucy lies down and Ellie must share the bed.  Here she is deciding whether or not to move.

 Deciding not to move, Ellie snoozes while Lucy watches the birds outside.

 Lucy lays her head on Ellie and Ellie puts her paw on Lucy.

 Lucy thinks Ellie makes the best pillow ever.

 Sunday marks the tenth anniversary of a day that changed our country far beyond the expectations of the perpetrators.  You remember how our Nation came together on that day.  How can it be that we have become so divisive in ten short years?  It is frightening indeed to hear the negative comments from our leaders in Congress.

George William Curtis, nineteenth century writer and public speaker said it well:
A man's country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.

On this weekend of rememberance, let's all focus on the principles on which our country is laid.  We must all strive to come together, work together, and respect each other.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sailing in Cardboard Ships

Give a group of club members five large sheets of heavy cardboard, a very large roll of plastic, a large roll of masking tape, six bolts and nuts and what happens?  Whether high school teens or somewhat older adults, those items scream for a home-built boat and a Cardboard Regatta.  Our community regatta involves more than building and launching a boat.  Entrants also write and perform skits to entertain everyone beforehand.  (It is always better to do any activity PRIOR to setting out in the boats.  Some of them are surely going under.)

The largest of our four lakes is the scene for the Cardboard Regatta.  Teams are made up of the many clubs within the community.  There are two primary categories; single sailor and two sailor.  There is also a contest for the largest number of sailors to go down in one ship.

The fire chief leads everyone down through the park to the water's edge.

The crowd gathers by the lake.

These sailors made it high and dry.

These sailors did not...but they surely had just as much fun.

Trophies are awarded and everyone moves to the pavillion for hot dogs and hamburgers.

Community spirit abounds here in our community.  There is always something to do.  We have a club for almost every activity you can imagine.  And if we don't have a club for can get a bunch of people together and start one.  We recently added a Pickle Ball club.  (I must admit I had never even heard of pickle ball before the club was organized.)

While everyone enjoys being a club member, not all the clubs are designed for sports or fun.  We have a "Good Neighbors" club that provides meals when someone is not well, whose members will drive others to appointments, pick up medicines, etc.  They organize cookie bakes for a nearby prison.  The cookies are sent so the incarcerated parents can share homemade cookies with their children when they visit.  Perhaps best of all they maintain two large lending closets.  They have accumulated a large amount of therapy supplies, wheelchairs, walkers, shower chairs, lift chairs, and even hospital beds that residents can borrow if necessary.  In response to the number of grandparents living here, they also maintain a large inventory of cribs, playpens, strollers, etc. that residents can borrow when little grandchildren visit.

Life is good around here.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Celebrating 150 Years

It is very likely that Fernando de Soto walked the hills of Transylvania County in 1540.  Cherokee Indians populated the land and made trade routes around and through the mountains.  In the early 1700s pioneers began to settle in the area, living peacefully with the native Indians.

In 1838 United States Government policy mandated removal of the Cherokee from many areas, the western North Carolina mountains included.  The Cherokee were forced to march to lands in what is now Oklahoma.  Some Cherokee escaped deep into the mountains to avoid the "Trail of Tears."  Those Indians and their descendants were later recognized as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.  Most of them settled on lands that became known as the Cherokee Reservation.

The North Carolina Assembly passed an act on February 15, 1861 establishing Transylvania County.  With origin in 1861, Transylvania County is celebrating its sesquicentennial all year long.  This Labor Day Weekend included a big celebration for the 150 years of Transylvania County.
[NOTE:  I did not attend the celebration and all photographs are from Online newspapers.

The official logo for the 150th Anniversary

A big cardboard cake.

 A big REAL birthday cake made by a local bakery.  The cake included the Transylvania Courthouse and was made to feed two thousand people.

 These flags have lined the city streets most of the year.

Little farmers get some practice driving tractors.

 The children got free balloons.

The day concluded with a concert and fireworks.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Fridays are Golden

Before we go to the dogs, I want to tell you about a free book you might find of interest.  I don't often mention books I haven't read, but this one is free so you have nothing to lose.

Bob Edwards was for many years the voice of NPR's "Morning Edition."  His abrupt termination a few years ago left many NPR listeners (including me) very angry.  He moved on to another successful career in radio and we moved on with our anger and returned to listening to "Morning Edition"  because it was better than most alternatives.  But please don't mention that to NPR.  They think I am still boycotting "Morning Edition."

Bob Edwards has written a memoir called A Voice in the Box: My Life in Radio which will be published on September 21.  This book is available right now as a free download to your Kindle or Nook, or other electronic reading devices and you can read it prior to the book release.  How cool is that?

Being cool brings us back to golden Friday.  Sometime ago we purchased canvas beds for the dogs to use when we were out on the porch.  I must say, they were not exactly a big hit with the girls.  This spring we had our decks stained again and the newly-stained boards can get quite hot in the bright sunshine.  We decided to move the beds up to the deck so the dogs wouldn't have to lie under the table for comfort.

Lucy is in love with the beds.

She will lie out on the deck even when the rest of us go inside.

Ellie does not seem to be especially fond of the beds.

She will lie on them when it is hot and sunny, but prefers the deck floor when it is cooler.

Dinnertime finds both dogs lying under the table next to the person most likely to accidentally drop something.  (Hint:  Those are NOT my legs.)  I'm just sayin'.

And here we are in September, although it doesn't feel much like it around here.  So many people in our nation and in other countries across the globe are struggling and in pain.  Think of them this holiday weekend.  And stay safe.