Friday, June 29, 2012

Fridays Are Golden

After last week's post my daughter sent some photographs of Ellie as tiny puppy.  Since she is such a special dog, I will devote another post in honor of her birthday last week.

Little Ellie sits and watches.

She always loved sticks.

Some of you may recall that Ellie was injured shortly after she was born.  Somehow she managed to squeeze under a freezer.  During the process she cut her head and was rushed to the vet.  The breeder called us and told us about the incident.  He said the puppy was fine but would have a remaining scar.  Since she was the only female available to us, the breeder offered to allow us to pass and said we could have first pick of the next litter.  We told the breeder that a scar was not a problem for us and that we would still like to take the puppy.  So the breeder gave us a discount.  (But we never told Ellie she was marked down from her original price.)

When we brought her home we really had to watch her closely.  She still liked to squeeze in narrow spaces.

She loved to lie between the sofa and end table.

Nine years later she hasn't changed much.  Instead of a ten-pound puppy squeezed between the sofa and end table she is a sixty-five pound adult squeezed between the recliner and the end table.

It is hot even here in the mountains.  We are expecting record-breaking highs for the next several days.  Our hearts go out to those displaced by the Florida flooding and the terrifying wildfires in the west.

Can you believe it is the end of June?  2012 is half over?  As we approach our Independence Day, our quote is from Mark Twain:

Patriotism is supporting your country all of the time;
and your government when it deserves it.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Let's Just Look at the Birds

For just a few minutes, let's pretend that Congress would set about to do the people's work.  That's supposedly why they were elected.  Then health care would not be a political issue but a people issue; women's rights would not be a political issue but a people issue, immigration would not be a political issue but a people issue, the rights of people of all sexual orientation would not be a political issue but a people issue.  [BTW: my conservative brother and I rarely talk politics for obvious reasons.  But one day I mentioned something about women's rights.  He exploded, "There is NO SUCH THING as women's rights, all of us have the same rights and should be treated equally!"  I calmly pointed out that when men have babies in equal numbers as women then I would agree with him.]

And now, for a few minutes, let's simply enjoy the world around us and watch the birds.

American Goldfinch, one of our most common birds.

An Eastern Towhee visits at dusk.

A hawk considers our birdfeeders the best source of fast food.

Warblers of all types are in our woods.

Tufted Titmouse builds in our gourd.

And the mountains, oh, the mountains in spring.

Unfortunately we can pretend only for a minute.  Our country is polarized and EVERYTHING becomes a political issue.  The SCOTUS has given its stamp of approval for the very wealthy to control the rest of us.  (Remember the history of the copper barons in Montana?)

Mother Nature herself is hitting our country hard.  The wildfires in the west are devastating and make us very afraid.  The rains in Florida have disrupted the lives of many.  And oppressive heat is covering the country.

From an old nursery rhyme:

"Oh, Lord help us and save us," cried Mrs. O'Davis.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Good First Novel

If you ask me the single best thing about retirement, I would likely respond that I now have time to read as much as I want.  I love books.  I cannot remember a time when I did not own and cherish books.  My taste in books tends to change with the seasons.  During winter I read novels with more complex plots and rather heavy non-fiction.  Somehow I enjoy them more in front of a fire with a cup of tea or coffee.

But when the winter turns to spring, my reading habits lighten up along with the daylight hours.  During the transition I try to find books by authors whom I have not read.  I prefer books by southern writers and particularly favor those in North Carolina.  An added bonus is when the setting of the book is North Carolina, especially the mountains.

I found the perfect "transition" book in the form of A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash.  This is Cash's first novel and it is clear that he knows the people of western NC.

Told in the first person by three different characters, the book gives us a taste of mountain folk and their ways.  Jess is a young boy who sees things happen at home and at church...things he was never meant to see.  Adelaide who in her seventies has seen and heard the preacher and members of the church over many years. Clem, the middle-aged sheriff sets about finding the truth about a young boy's death and also about his own feelings and past griefs.

Cash develops the characters and the plot lines very well.  Each of them becomes important and the story flows nicely.  Although unsettling at times, this book is a good read.  I will look forward to more books by Wiley Cash.  You can read more about Cash and the book here.

And I'm writing this because I truly don't understand it.  I must be the only person in the country that just doesn't get it.  A video goes viral and an adult school bus monitor is seen on the video being verbally abused by teen-aged boys.  Within days she has appeared on every "news" show.  Contributions poured in (currently more than half a million dollars) along with free airline tickets, etc.

Now, I do understand that the teens were horrible.  They said horrible things and no doubt made the woman feel terrible.  But does being on the receiving end of this taunting qualify her as a hero?  Or deserving of large sums of money?  Believe me I truly do have empathy for this woman...but...wasn't she supposed to be the bus monitor?  Perhaps I totally misunderstand the concept of school bus monitor.  But I kinda thought it was an adult to monitor behavior on the bus and to stop this sort of thing before it escalates.  Would she have remained so passive were the boys yelling like that at another student?  Perhaps an adolescent girl?  If so, why bother having her as a monitor on the bus?  I'm serious here...I don't get it and if you can enlighten me (preferably without calling me a heartless stupid bitch) I honestly would like to understand.  Really.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fridays Are Golden

Ellie's ninth birthday was yesterday.  No, we didn't celebrate.  But we did feel extra love and gratitude that this amazing dog is part of our family.

Ellie has an exceptionally sweet personality, even exceeding the typical Golden Retriever.  She is totally committed to pleasing people.

Ellie is from Dichi Goldens (here), a breeder known for high quality, intelligent, and healthy dogs.  Some people criticize us for buying from a breeder rather than taking in a shelter dog.  Ellie was the first Golden Retriever we had, having had English Springer Spaniels before.  We were nearing retirement and knew we wanted a puppy.  While good health is never a guarantee, Ellie came from five generations in which there was no evidence of any of the abnormalities common to Goldens.  In truth neither I nor anyone else owes an explanation as to why they chose a certain pet.  So there!

She loves to sit on the big rocks.

Dichi Sirius Eleanor Rose on her first day with us.

The little yellow duck was in her crate to welcome her home.
She carried it everywhere.
 Alas, that Christmas she learned how to find the weak spot and disembowel the stuffie she got in her stocking that year.  So excited about this new skill, she systematically destroyed every single stuffie she owned.  The little yellow duck was replaced with tennis balls.

She loved the snows in WI.  She would run and run and roll around in the white stuff.
She looks so grown up at only six months of age.

I don't think I will ever love a dog more than I love Ellie.  She knows my every mood.  Of course, I thought the same thing about my first heart dog.  I never expected to find another dog that would become my soul mate.  And then came Ellie.  How lucky can one woman be?  (And yes, my husband loves her every bit as much as I do but she feels more like MY dog and Lucy is more like HIS dog.)

Today's quote comes from author Dean Koontz:

...we cherish dogs because their unblemished souls make us wish-consciously or unconsciously- that we were as innocent as they are and make us yearn for a place where innocence is universal and where the meanness and betrayals of this world are unknown...


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Birds with a Bad Hair Day

Baby birds are rather ugly little things when they hatch.  As they grow their flight feathers they look very funny indeed.  And so it is with this second brood of Barn Swallows in our neighborhood, when every day is a bad hair day.

The little clowns look like the original angry birds.

You're not our mother.

The nest is so full I had difficulty counting the little ones.  I think there are five or possibly six of them in this nest.  Ain't Nature grand?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Small Town Festivals

Memorial Day kicks off our summer festival season.  Milwaukee had huge ones by the lakefront.  Ours may be small, but the festivals in Brevard are lots of fun.  In fact, we close off main street so many times you really need to know the detours if you want to travel through.  On the other hand, why would you want to travel through and not stop?

Our two largest festivals are the White Squirrel Festival held on Memorial Day weekend and Halloweenfest (since we are in Transylvania County).

Folks and vendors on Main Street looking West.

Two of these guard our really cool toy store.
(Its name is O.P. Taylor's.)

A new booth at the festival.
The Transylvania Tea Party

This little guy is 21 months old.
And yes, he could put up his feet and coast on it.

The Transylvania County Court House
at a surprisingly quiet moment.

The wreaths in honor of our war veterans.

Looking east on Main.

There are always activities for the children and a big White Squirrel Soapbox Derby down jailhouse hill.  Lots of young people build and race their cars.  We have separate races among the various downtown merchants.  They really go all out.

I go to all these festivals and love every one.  In Milwaukee we tended to avoid them because of the huge crowds.  At our festivals we have plenty of room to walk, to stop and to socialize.  Best of all...I have never once had anyone spill a beer on me.  If you want to experience that, go to Milwaukee's Summerfest.  The music is fantastic, the fireworks are among the best, but the crowds are loud and often obnoxious.  And occasionally you can catch the waft of smoke from the weed smokers, smoking grass on the non-seated grassy section of the amphitheater.  A good thing or a bad thing...just depends.

Fine, call me geezer.  That's why I live in the quiet mountains.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fridays Are Golden

Golden dogs amid golden flowers, running on a sunny day.  What could be better than a day in June?  We try to take our dogs to quiet places within our community where they can run with abandon.  They get plenty of normal exercise with three walks every day, but nothing beats being able to run free.

As usual, Lucy takes off like a rocket and then sprints back to us, smiling all the way.

Ellie runs through the wildflowers.  She is all smiles as well.

The girls race up and down the hill.  I get tired just watching.

Trotting now instead of running.  They have made the trip up and down the very big hill several times.

Ellie walks on her final trip up.

Beautiful days such as this one allow our minds to wander as freely as the dogs.  For a while we forget all our worries and concerns and just enjoy the happiness that comes with being out with the dogs.

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to all the fathers out there.  Hope it is a good one for all of you.

The quote for the week is credited to Nathaniel Hawthorne in some places and to Henry David Thoreau in others.  I'm choosing Thoreau because I like him better:

"Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it eludes you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder."

May happiness find you and sit on your shoulder this week.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bird and Baby

We do so enjoy the birds, especially the ones who bring their fledglings nearby to feed them.  Fathers of most of the woodpeckers play an active role in the nesting and feeding.

The little Red-bellied Woodpecker waits for some food.  Notice the faint red on top of his head.

We call this tree the "launching tree" because almost all of our woodpeckers bring their fledglings here.
Initially, they feed them deeper in the woods and then bring them closer and closer.
This is the last step before the fledglings must find their own way to the suet.

The adult brings food to his little one.

Notice the "little one" is almost the size of the parent.

The quality of the photographs is not great, but the sentiment is there for you to see.  Call it instinct or call it nurturing.  No matter what you call it, it is amazing sight every single time.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Airborne Fire Fighting Runs

We are not near any major airports and rarely see airplanes in our skies.  One week last month we were treated to the sight of many planes in the air.  The NC Air National Guard held training sessions in their job of assisting with wildfires in the mountains.

Military pilots flew at least fourteen flights per day, carrying water to drop on target areas in Pisgah National Forest.  Almost all of them flew directly over our community.  What a treat to hear and see the huge planes, especially when the maneuvers were practice.  (They are doing the real thing for the fires still burning in the west.)

The planes used are Lockheed C-130 originally used for transport of troops and equipment and for medical evacuation.  Some of the planes were converted to airtankers for firefighting.  They carry water or fire-retardant chemicals.  They flew low over our house but we got only a glimpse because of the trees.

So I went down to the lake to see if I could see some of them coming in.  I saw one coming before I parked my car.  I quickly grabbed my camera for a few quick photographs as the plane was already passing by.

The camera caught the props looking quite still but they were turning.

And it quickly flew away, off to Pisgah National Forest to dump its load.

This photograph from Wikipedia shows the C 130 dropping retardant.

The sight of so many of the planes during the week of training was wonderful.  Especially since we knew they were only practice runs.  Living in the mountains we always have a fear of wildfires.  It's comforting to know that our military is ready to help us when we need it.

Our thoughts are with those in harm's way right now because of fires.  Especially for those in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fridays Are Golden

Finally the seat protector arrived and the Golden Girls got their first ride in the new car.

They are not at all sure they are allowed to get in.
But if they are Lucy is going to be first.

My husband had to encourage them to get inside.

Lucy jumped in and then Ellie climbed up.

As they settle in, Lucy notices that the seat protector is the wrong color.
The one we wanted was back-ordered and this one, while not matching the car, does match the dogs fairly well.

Yeah!  We like it!  We like it!

Ellie found her usual spot and we're ready to go.

The girls ran and ran and ran.  It was such a beautiful day.

Exhausted, they head back in tandem to the car for water.
The rest of the afternoon they spent flaked out but happy.

We didn't see Venus passing in front of the sun, but I did follow it on my computer.  (Actually there was an app for it to view real-time but I thought that was a bit much.)  It is fascinating to know that we witnessed an occurrence that will not be present again until 2117.  Even more amazing is the genius of early astronomers who used the passing of Venus to measure the earth-to-sun distance and estimate the size of our solar system.

The quote for the week comes from Marcus Aurelius:

Concentrate on what you have to do.  Fix your eyes on it.  Remind yourself that your task is to be a good human being; remind yourself what nature demands of people.  Then do it, without hesitation, and speak the truth as you see it.  But with kindness.  With humility.  Without hypocrisy.

While the wise words apply to all of us, I wish they could be sent to every politician in the country.  Especially the mid-west governor who deliberately polarized his state and now proclaims he wants to bring people together.  And most especially for our North Carolina Senators who have ignored scientific research and passed a bill allowing fracking in our fragile shale.  And the NC Senate committee that has a measure to ignore the scientific research about the effect of rising sea levels on our coastal area.  They say stricter regulations would hurt the coastal economy.  The full Senate will vote on the measure next week.

Perhaps Grover Norquist might want to make the words of Marcus Aurelius into a new pledge.  One that will have far more meaning that is current one.  And have the Democrats sign it as well.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Let's Try This One

I have developed a method of accessing my blog again.  I still haven't decided whether to stay with blogger or move but at least I now have a way to let you know if I move.

It's been stormy here which seems appropriate to me this D-Day, especially given the political storms of yesterday.  I love to watch the storms passing the mountains.  Such beauty in the distance.

Lousy shot of the Red-bellied Woodpecker feeding the baby.

Finally the Pileateds have begun to bring their big baby to the tree near the feeders.  Unfortunately, they invariably move to the back of the tree to feed.  But I'll keep my eyes out.  And we have chickadee fledglings all over the place along with the White-breasted Nuthatches and goldfinches.  One fat cardinal fledgling is feeding himself now.  Unfortunately, he takes the sunflower seeds to the deck rail where his father used to feed him.  Makes a big mess all over the railing.

Hope this fix continues to work for me.  Thanks, savvy daughter for the suggestion.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fridays Are Golden

This has been a quiet week for the Golden Girls and for us.  The seat protector for the new car was on back order, so we switched to a different color.  It doesn't match the seats but we didn't want to keep waiting.  Unfortunately it has rained every day so the girls have not yet been in the new car.  Dog hairs in a new car we can deal with.  We are not yet ready for wet dogs and muddy paws.  So we have taken long walks and some running in the woods.

I've been a little blue this week thinking about people I know only through their blogs.  It seems that many of our blogger buddies have recently lost their pets, or are facing that uncertainty of deciding when it's time to make that dreadful decision.  My heart goes out to them because we have traveled that path before.

When we got Lucy to join our family it marked the first time we owned two dogs at once.  It is definitely double the fun.  But this week I have thought of the awful time when we might lose one of them.  In addition to our own grieving, we would have a dear friend remaining who is also grieving the loss of her sister.

Someone once said, "One reason a dog can be such a comfort when you're blue is that he doesn't try to find out why."  That has been ringing true around here.

You might think that the girls are blue as well when you see the photographs.  But that is definitely not the case.

Lucy looks so solemn

And Ellie has crawled between the chair and the table.

Whatever could be on Ellie's troubled mind?

We see these looks on our dogs every evening around 4:30.  That means it's almost time for dinner.  My husband sits in the chair and they are waiting for the signal that it's finally time.  We watch re-runs on television from 4:00 until 5:00.  The girls know that the commercial break after 4:30 is the cue.  The man will finally arise and see to his most important duty.

So while the girls may look sad, they are actually anxious about having dinner.  I assure you they have rarely missed a meal but they seem concerned about that possibility every single day.  Mornings are easy.  Get up, take a walk, come back to breakfast.  But they have to anticipate the evening meal.  And they do.  From 4:00 on.

Today's quote is attributed to someone named Cheryl Zuccaro.  It has been floating in my head all week.

"It came to me that every time I lose a dog, they take a piece of my heart with them.  And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart.

If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog and I will become as generous and loving as they are."

What a wonder that would be.