Wednesday, July 31, 2013

On a Brighter Note...

We're having more sunshine and it is most welcome.  Mostly afternoon and evening thunderstorms with more sun during the day.
We are really fortunate this year to have at least three pairs of Pileated Woodpeckers who come to our suet feeder with their fledglings.  We can identify one of the adults by his/her bald head.  Yes, bald head down to the neck.  So bald you cannot tell if it's a male or female.  So we see this weird bird feeding a chick.  Yesterday we noticed a red line at the top of its head so we hope the feathers are growing back.  We have another pair who had two fledglings and sometimes we see all four of them in the trees at once.  The third pair had only one fledgling.
We can tell when the birds have hatched by the feeding frenzy with the parents grabbing large amounts of suet and rapidly flying off into the deep woods.  Later, we can see the fledglings down in the woods as the parents feed them.  As time passes, the parents bring the fledglings closer and closer to the deck.  There is a tree quite near the suet and this is the usual feeding place.  The parent will eat and then will fly to the tree to feed the youngster.
This little one waits for his lunch.
He preens his gorgeous feathers while he waits.

Camera at the ready, I stood silently watching, waiting to capture the moment of feeding.  Wouldn't you know?  The silly little bird scrambled toward the back of the tree and all I got was the parent's back, leaning down to feed.
Curses!  Foiled again.

No matter how often we see these wonderful birds, we always stop and look.  And listen to their jungle-like cries in the woods.

And so life is good.  It's always better in the mountains.  Closer to reality than Raleigh.

Monday, July 29, 2013

What Do These Have in Common?

A city playground;

A public park;

A hiking trail in State or National Forests;

A crowded bar*;

A quiet restaurant*;

A public recreation area;

A summer festival;

A carnival or county/State fair;

A funeral procession;

A Fourth of July parade;

A protest rally;


What do all these places have in common?  They are some of the places you may legally carry a concealed weapon in North Carolina with the newly passed legislation from our General Assembly.  You may also bring a gun onto public school property or government parking lots, but you must store it in a locked car.

*Bar and restaurant owners can prohibit guns in their establishments with prominently displayed signs.

Schools may use armed volunteers as safety officers to patrol their schools.  There are no specifics for required training.

The new gun legislation is likely to be signed into law by our governor who so far has danced with the ones who bought brought him.

Our General Assembly has been hard at work this session, working late into the night with hastily called votes to ensure passage.  Voice votes in committees have been challenged but over-ruled by the chairs who refused to honor requests for a vote count.  Bills severely limiting women's health services are added to a motorcycle law.  Large contributors have been given plum jobs and the voices of the people are being hushed.  More than 900 people have been arrested for peaceful and lawful protest in Raleigh and the good ol' boys are determined to control their "little ladies" health.

The next time you complain that your congress is doing nothing---take a look at what the NC General Assembly has  done this year.  Sometimes you get what you asked for and it is uglier than you imagined.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

It's the last week of July as 2013 continues to fly by.  The "scattered" evening thunderstorms seem always to hit our area.  We've had rain every evening and hail on Thursday.  The rivers continue to run high and dangerous.  July has seen seven river rescues in our county with one death from a waterfall and one critically injured eight-year-old whose parents took him tubing on a swollen river.
Most mornings and afternoons are sunny however, and we have really enjoyed that.  We had half our deck stained yesterday morning.  With an inch-and-a-half of additional rain last night, the other half is too wet to do today.  Based on the forecast, it may remain wet for a few more days.  The section of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Craggy and Mt. Mitchell is closed with a six-inch crack across the highway.  The crack is several feet deep and is attracting a lot of foot traffic since the road is closed.  Several other roads are closed with landslides and the Department of Transportation is way behind on scheduled maintenance.  Clearing the landslides and repairing those roads obviously take priority to filling potholes.
And life for us goes along pretty much as usual.  We have managed most days to get the dog walks in between the showers.
Ellie stretches almost in a play bow when called downstairs to be groomed.
We have no idea why she does this.

The two dogs enjoy playtime in the den.

And Lucy takes advantage of the sunshine with her nice soft pillow.

The quote for the week comes from one of my favorite columnists, the late Sydney J. Harris:

"When I hear someone sigh, 'Life is hard,' I am always tempted to ask, 'Compared to what?'


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Right Feeder

Confused when they begin to feed themselves, juvenile birds are fun to watch.  They fly all over the deck, pecking at everything.  Eventually they seem to find the right feeder. 
Sunflower seeds for the little cardinal

He decides to try out a different feeder.
He still has a sunflower seed in his mouth.

He sits there not knowing exactly what to do.

Finally he determines that his beak is not going to work with this feeder.  So he goes back to the sunflower seeds.  This little bird tends to take a seed and fly to the deck railing to crack it.  Perhaps because that's where the parents fed him for a while.  And then, despite his long and noisy protests, the parents ignored him.  And so he learns.  Just like other little ones.

Monday, July 22, 2013

No, Not That Sybil

A new cat has adopted my son and d-i-l.  They noticed a kitten out in their yard.  Unusual for their neighborhood where cats and dogs do not ordinarily run free.  The kitten seemed young.  When they saw it a second day, they put out food and water.  The kitten would not approach them.  After a couple of days, the kitten sat outside the kitchen door, apparently having made a decision to declare this as home.  They opened the door and the kitten came inside.
They took the kitten to a guest bedroom to keep it isolated from their other cat.  The kitten seemed amazingly tame for a feral cat.  They took it to their veterinarian who examined her for a microchip but found none.  He then told them the kitten was not all that young at all; she is simply quite small.  He guessed her age to  be around seven or eight months.  She appeared in good health and the veterinarian sadly said she had likely been "dropped" in the area within the past week or so.
So they got her chipped and immunized and arranged to have her spayed.  They decided to name her Sybil.  Why Sybil?  Because they were finally emptying their unwatched DVR and were on the Downton Abbey episode regarding Sybil.
Sybil deciding to make her home here.

My son already has a cat.  You notice I said, "my son" rather than "my son and d-i-l."  That's because the cat belongs only to my son.  She was abandoned as a tiny kitten.  Only the presence of a nursing cat at the shelter kept the kitten alive.  My son adopted her when he was a new graduate, working as a newspaper reporter.  He named the kitten Biko.  Biko is unlike most cats.  She really doesn't care for people other than my son.  When you visit, Biko does not come near you much less climb into your lap.  She was definitely not pleased when my son married.  Biko was not happy to find another princess in the house.
It will be interesting to see how Biko and Sybil will get along.  The veterinarian suggests that since both are females they might simply ignore one another.  Time will tell.  Right now Sybil is still in the guest room although both of the cats hang around the door, each aware that there is another cat behind it.
My son would have you believe that Biko has perfect manners.  Perhaps she does.  And perhaps this photograph my d-i-l took of the Thanksgiving table was photo-shopped.  But somehow I suspect not. 
 At least she is on the very edge of the table.

Neither my son nor his wife were eager to have another cat.  But an adorable little calico won their hearts.  So little Sybil has found a home.  Hopefully Queen Biko will be willing to share it peacefully.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

The dogs go on alert.  They stare out the door to the deck, standing stiff as boards.
We're on guard duty!

And what has put them on high alert?  A squirrel sunning on the deck as if we had no defense.  Just lying there taking a sunbath.
Dratted squirrel

Of course, the squirrel runs away immediately when I open the door to release the dogs.  Ellie doesn't follow the trail, but Lucy stares down to watch the squirrel in the trees.
See?  I made him leave all right.

She sniffs and sniffs where the squirrel was sunning.

Both girls prance inside, so proud that they got rid of the squirrel.  They immediately go over to the treat canister for a reward.  We try not to say the word, "squirrel."  If we do, the girls run to the door and then wonder why we don't open it for them.

July is passing by so quickly.  There are only 165 days left in the year 2013!  It has been a strange summer here in the mountains.  While we are seeing more and more sunshine, we are having almost daily afternoon/evening thunderstorms.  I don't think we will dry out for a while.

Today's quote comes from satirist and author Russell Baker:

"Ah, summer; what power you have to make us suffer and like it."

I hope your summer is going well and your 2013 goals are half met.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Sun is Out

The sun is shining and we are finally drying out.  It's warmer than normal, but we won't complain.  Yet.  The birds are out and life is good.
Red-bellied Woodpecker parent and child

Juvenile Pileated Woodpecker

Eastern Towhee after taking a drink

Ruby-throated Hummingbird guarding the nectar

American author and poet Maya Angelou once said something that sticks with me in troubled times.  She said:

"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."

So in these troubled times, I'm going to sing more even though I have no answers.  Matter of fact, I'm going to sing even though I don't always have a song.  It surely can't hurt.  So after you have written lots of letters, put your iPod on the Bose and sing your heart out.

Monday, July 15, 2013

What do Sharia Law and Motorcycle Safety Have in Common?

Remember the Miller Analogies Test you took for grad school?  If presented with the words, "Sharia Law" and "Motorcycle Safety" what might you determine the two had in common?
That's a difficult one, so I will give you the answer.  Both of these words were "covers" for bills in the NC General Assembly to which abortion restrictions were added.
Two weeks ago the Senate passed a bill regarding Sharia Law to the effect that NC does not honor Sharia Law.  (Duh!)  Without notification to the public or interested parties, severe restrictions on the rights of women to obtain abortions were added to the Sharia bill.  The bill included such severe restrictions that it  would effectively shut down every reproductive health provider providing abortions in the entire state except for one provider in Asheville.

The governor (who ran on a platform that he would not support ANY additional restrictions on abortion) indicated that he was not pleased with the manner in which the bill was rushed through the Senate.  He called for discussion and stated that he would veto the legislation if it came across his desk as written.
So the NC House of Representatives brought forth a motorcycle safety bill last week.  Western NC Representative Joe Sam Queen was really surprised when he opened the folder regarding the motorcycle safety bill.  The bill contained seventeen (yes, 17) words on motorcycle safety!!!  The remainder of the bill was about abortion restrictions.  Again, no notice to the public.  Apparently not even any notice to the Representatives on the committee.

The House version of the bill changed very little from the Senate bill.  One change was that a physician needed only be present for the FIRST DOSE of RU-487, not the entire time.  But the restrictions on providers included in the bill would still have the effect of closing all providers except for the one in Asheville.  (NC is a very long state.  The drive from the NC coast to Asheville is more than eight hours.)  The governor, contrary to his pre-election statements, has indicated that he will sign the House version of the bill.
Protests continue every Monday in Raleigh, at the General Assembly.  Hundreds have been arrested during these peaceful and lawful demonstrations.
(The following two photographs from the Raleigh News and Observer)

She definitely looks like a criminal in need of handcuffs, doesn't she?

Many have suggested that the peaceful protesters should receive nothing more than citations, if that.  It certainly appears that the arrests are politically motivated.  But the General Assembly Police Chief denies that they are political.  He says they are "necessary to disperse the weekly crowds."
Take a close look at the following photograph of a Moral Monday arrest.  Look closely at the number of people and their composition.  How many police officers does it take to arrest a single non-violent woman trying to take a legal stand against an oppressive leadership?
Oh, she looks dangerous as well.

It's not just abortion rights and it's not just me, friends.  The Editorial Board of the New York Times recently printed an op-ed titled "The Decline of North Carolina."  (You can find the July 9 editorial here)  The piece ends with the following sad words:

"North Carolina was once considered a beacon of farsightedness in the South, an exception in a region of poor education, intolerance and tightfistedness.  In a few short months, Republicans have begun to dismantle a reputation that took years to build."

This is my State and I still love it and don't want to live anywhere else.  It breaks my heart to see my State take away from the poor and disadvantaged and give more to the rich pigs who bought the seats in our General Assembly.

Humorist Jim Hightower said,
"You will never clear up the water until you get the hogs out of the creek." 

I hope that if we all speak up we might be able to do just that.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

And so it goes.  We continue to have daily rain, almost three inches again in the past 24 hours.  The constant rains and swollen rivers have profoundly affected our tourist industry.  The rafting, kayaking, and tubing companies cannot put people on the flooded fast-moving streams during this, their otherwise busiest season.  Tomatoes are rotting on the vines.  Corn stalks are knee deep in water.  Slides have closed several roads and houses are being undermined and threaten to come crashing down hillsides in some areas.
So I should not complain because we are truly very little affected by all the rain.  Just more and more dog towels to wash. 
Lucy is bored.  Her bed is wet because she just ate an ice cube.
She looks out the dining room window.

Still raining

Ellie doesn't even look out the window.

It's too depressing.

I'm reminded of Longfellow who said that "Thy fate is the common fate of all;  into each life some rain must fall."

Today's quote is from Marcel Proust:
"Let's be grateful for those who give us happiness; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls bloom."


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Come Rain or Come Shine or Both

Generally speaking, I love the rain.  I love to sit on the screen porch and watch the rain.  I love to sit in the library and watch the rain.  I loved the rain when I was a kid, especially the summer rain at my grandpa's farm.  Sitting in the barn listening to rain on the tin roof.  The only time in my life when I didn't like rain was when I did home care visits in the inner city.  Trying to juggle equipment, arriving at the door dripping, rain is not a friend to home care nurses.
We have had so much rain lately that I really can't say I still enjoy it.  But yesterday around sunset brought a beautiful rainy sight.
(You will need to click on photographs to see the rain)
 The setting sun was shining through the rain in the yard.

 A change in camera settings almost obscures the rain.

Large drops falling straight down 

 We certainly didn't need more rain, but it was beautiful.

Longfellow said it best,
"The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain."

Monday, July 8, 2013

Science Be Damned...

The North Carolina General Assemby has been extremely busy making laws to address issues we do not have and defying scientific evidence.  Take religion, for example.  The Assembly has decreed that NC has a right to establish a state religion if so desired.  According to the "logic," only the Federal Government is prohibited from establishing religion but individual states are not specifically prohibited from doing so.  And if not specifically prohibited then it must be allowed.  No one suggests establishing a state religion...only that a state COULD if it wanted to.
And a new bill states that NC does not follow Sharia law.  (We needed that bill to attach limits on abortion rights.)
And in case you thought you might order a TESLA electric car, we have a law prohibiting direct sales of automobiles except through a dealership.  And since TESLA does not have dealerships, you'll have to spend your hundred thousand dollars (or more) to get another car or get your TESLA out of state.
In one of its first acts, the NC General Assembly voted to deny the results of a scientific study indicating the rising sea levels along the Atlantic Ocean.  The reason?  It would be bad for business development along the NC coast.
Our General Assembly has mandated that the school curriculum (beginning in seventh grade) MUST include teaching that one cause of pre-term birth is previous abortion.  This, despite findings to the contrary from the Centers for Disease Control and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.  So science be damned!
And we have a new bill that allows complete secrecy in chemicals used for fracking shale.  The companies do not have to disclose what toxins they may be pumping through the lines, and possibly leaking into the ground water.  Earlier the General Assembly voted that companies may pollute the ground water UP TO THE PROPERTY LINE without consequences.
I wouldn't be surprised to see a house bill stating the earth is flat and both the sun and moon revolve around it.

After the 2010 census, the General Assembly gerrymandered districts so that many of our citizens are not really represented in voting districts that are divided so as to favor one party over another.  And in response to the findings of NO VOTER FRAUD in NC, our General Assembly wants to shorten the early vote, not allowed early voting on Sundays, and require photo identification prior to voting.  To prevent a problem that does not exist?  Or to disenfranchise some voters.
But the true passion of the old farts  representatives in the General Assemby seems to be to deny a woman's right to make the most difficult decision of her life.  But let's call it something else.  Here are the names of some of the bills:
- Women's Right to Know
- Insurance and Health Care Conscience Protection
- Family Faith and Freedom Protection Act
The effect of these bills, if passed into law will CLOSE every reproductive health center providing abortions in the entire State except for one provider in Asheville, NC.  Regardless of your personal feelings, the State should not make this choice for women.  I am old enough to remember when abortions were not legal and I know the consequences this can have.
So heck.  Maybe I'm the one who is wrong.  Perhaps the world really is flat.  And at the rate we are going, our ship of State will soon sail off the edge.

A fellow Tarheel has written a song that pretty much sums up my own feelings about our General Assembly.  You can find it here.  (Apologies upfront to anyone offended by the eff word.  But sometimes it is the only one that works.)

My State is changing in ways I do not like, but I will hang on until the end.  Despite what is happening in Raleigh, most of the people are good people with good intentions.  I only hope that the voters will recognize what is going on and get rid of the worst offenders.  To steal a movie line:  WE'RE MAD AS HELL AND WE'RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

If you have access to news and weather it comes as no surprise that western North Carolina has seen a deluge this past week.  Here at our house we have measured 11 inches of rain since last Sunday.  Many roads in our county are closed and the French Broad River Basin is out of banks in several places.  In other nearby counties slides have completed closed some highways.  And it's not over yet.  Few people recall this much rain absent a tropical storm.
This is what's in store for us.
Photograph from The Weather Channel
The downtown Independence Day festivities went on in the rain although we did not attend.  Rather, we celebrated at home with my favorite food...HOT DOGS!  We never eat hot dogs so it was quite a treat.  And they were fantastic!
July 4th marked Lucy's birthday as well.  She is eight years old although she still thinks of herself as a teenager.  We had two choices when we selected Lucy from the breeder.  She immediately came up and started chewing on my husband's shoe laces while the other puppy moved to a corner of the room.  My husband was hooked forever from that moment.  After we made our choice, the breeder brought out another female from the litter.  They could have been twins both in actions and in looks.  He said he wanted to keep a female from this litter and had not been able to make up his mind between these two dogs, finally deciding only 30 minutes before we arrived.
Baby Lucy loved to crawl over and push this giant ball. 

 She ran and played until exhausted.

She never did like to have to sit on command. 

Ellie shared her tennis balls. 

 She is a great dog to take hiking and will go and go, smiling all the way.

Lucy brings great laughter and joy to our lives.  She has quite a sense of humor and is very creative at amusing herself.

Our quote for the week comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson who penned the words during the Civil War.  They apply no less to our situation in America today:

"The reason why the world lacks unity and lies broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself."


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Celebrate Freedom

Remember how much our liberty and freedom really mean.  And have a happy and safe Independence Day.
Photograps from Internet



Monday, July 1, 2013

We Grieve...

Nineteen firefighters lost their lives yesterday fighting a fire in Yarnell, Arizona.  Nineteen.  We grieve for them and the ones they left behind.
(Photographs from the Associated Press)

The fire, started by a lightning strike, now covers more than 6,000 acres

"Sorrow makes us all children again---destroys all differences in intellect.  The wisest knows nothing."  Ralph Waldo Emerson