Friday, May 30, 2014

We Love Lucy

We love to spend time in our  front yard.  Because it is well buffered from the street with plants and boulders, Lucy can be off lead and explore the smells.  Our Ellie loved to pose for photographs, but Lucy does not like to sit still in the yard.  So she always looks a bit disgusted as if we have interfered with her fun.

The plant on the left is a cultivated type of laurel.
Shorter but fuller than the native laurel

 Sitting on this bench is no fun at all.

 Nope.  They are not going to make me smile.

It is fitting that our quote for the week comes from Maya Angelou who left this earthly life a few days ago.  I haven't the words to eloquently express how much this fine woman meant to so many people.  I will leave that to others.  Fortunately, Maya Angelou will continue to live on in her writings.  I'm glad that future generations will understand a bit more about the segregated south and Jim Crow by reading her remarkable words.  They will know that "still we rise" and they will be motivated and inspired by this courageous woman.

Read some of Maya Angelou's books or poetry this weekend.  You will find them fascinating.  You can read and listen to one of my favorites;  her "On the Pulse of Morning" which she composed and read at Clinton's inauguration in 1992.   (here) 
[NOTE:  Click on the cassette player below the photograph if you simply want to listen and not download.]


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Roses Everywhere

Roses in full bloom.  Last week we went to the Biltmore Estate specifically to see the rose gardens.  It was the weekend for the International Rose Trials.  And we were not disappointed.  The day was quite hot, overcast, and humid.  For the first time in my memory there was not even a small breeze.  But we were not there for the weather.  We were there for the roses.

Kahlil Gibran said,
The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns,
The pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious to the roses.

We were not oblivious to the roses.  And since one is obviously forbidden to touch them, we didn't even think about thorns.  In the age of digital photography, one cannot stop taking pictures.  Far too many to share, so I will show you a sampling of the gardens.

One single beautiful rose

 I especially love the "old world roses."  The roses in this part of the garden are from centuries-old stock.

 Lots of climbing roses, displayed in beautiful forms

Roses everywhere
Of all sizes and colors
And each one lovely

 We wandered above the rose garden and found more beautiful flowers.

 I especially loved the pansies.  Such sweet little flowers

A person could spend hours admiring the gardens

Despite the oppressive weather, we had a great time.  And the weather made the ice cream all the more delicious.  After all, what's a visit to the Biltmore Estate without a stop at the dairy bar?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Pausing to Reflect

They are dead
But they live in each Patriot's breast,
And their names are engraven
On honor's bright crest.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Friday, May 23, 2014

We Love Lucy

Our Lucy has always been a very active dog.  A little "high strung" she is not as mellow as our Ellie was.  Yet she is pure Golden Retriever through and through.

Even after taking a long walk with my husband, she speeds down the driveway to greet me if I am outside.

There's Mom!  Gotta run, gotta run to meet her.

 And she often selects rather unusual places to rest.  Here is one of her favorite resting places, chin on a chair rung under the kitchen table.

 Seems uncomfortable, but she is fast asleep

The White Squirrel Festival has nearly eclipsed the meaning of Memorial Day Weekend here in Brevard.  I suspect that if you ask the average person in the streets what is special about this weekend, they would be much more likely to say, "The White Squirrel Festival" than "Memorial Day Weekend."

Tomorrow morning there will be rather limited attendance at our small Memorial Day Parade and the placing of the memorial wreaths in front of the monuments on the Courthouse Square.  But the streets of Brevard will be closed and jam-packed with people for the two-day Festival.  Music, food, entertainment, craft vendors, contests, and the White Squirrel Derby (soapbox style) will attract the crowds.  I wonder how many people will pause in front of the monuments and wreaths to remember exactly why we have Memorial Day?

Rather than a quote this week, I will share part of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

Your silent tents of snow
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.

The memory is indeed ours.  I hope all of us will set aside some time this weekend to ponder how many brave men and women have given the ultimate sacrifice to this country.  And to thank them silently.



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Keeping Up With Common Usage

Tweep, Yooper, fangirl, freegan, gamification.  These are a few of the 150 words added to the 2014 editions of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.  Many of the new words are related to electronic communications.

This is the first year that "selfie" was added even though it was the word of the year for Oxford Dictionary in 2013.  The editors explained that they prefer to wait until it is certain the word will be used for the long term.  They don't like removing words from the dictionary.

In keeping with the times; hashtag, selfie, social networking, unfriend, tweep, catfish, are among the new words.

hashtag - a word or phrase preceded by the symbol # that classifies or categorizes the accompanying text

selfie - an image of oneself taken using a digital camera, especially for posting on social networks

social networking - the creation and  maintenance of personal and business relationships, especially Online

unfriend - to remove (someone) from a list of designated friends on one's social networking Web site

tweep - a person who uses the Twitter online message service to send and receive tweets

catfish - a person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes

The new dictionary

 Words, words, words

So what on earth is a Yooper?  It's a native or resident of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, used as a nickname.  "Freegan" is an activist who scavenges for free food (as in waste receptacles at stores and restaurants) as a means of reducing consumption of resources.  And "gamification" is the process of adding games or gamelike elements to something (as a task) so as to encourage participation.  [personal note:  We did this in the 80s calling it teambuilding.]

Other interesting words that caught my eye were:

crowdfunding - the practice of soliciting financial contributions from a large number of people, especially the online community

fangirl - a girl or woman who is an extremely or overly enthusiastic fan of someone or something  [personal note:  I think this one is sexist.]

turducken - a boneless chicken stuffed into a boneless duck and stuffed into a boneless turkey  [personal note:  this one surprises me because we ordered turducken fifteen years ago from Grasch's Market in WI.]

One change that I really don't like is the second use of the word "literally."  For years I have hated the use of the word when "literal" is far from the real meaning (I literally died laughing.)  Now the editors of Miriam-Webset have listed a second use for the word "literally."  It now means, "in effect, virtually."  And the example given is; <literally
turn the world upside down to combat cruelty or injustice---Norman Cousins>;  [personal note to Miriam-Webster:  long-term use of the wrong word doesn't make it right.]

While the new Miriam Webster includes "dubstep" (a type of electronic dance music having prominent base lines and syncopated drum patterns) it seems to have excluded the word Miley made famous, "twerking."  Perhaps next year.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Azalea Gardens

We visit the Biltmore Estate in nearby Asheville frequently.  Typically we go to see one certain area and spend a couple of hours enjoying the magnificent gardens.  The focus of this trip last May was the azalea gardens.

They were spectacular

 Many varieties and colors

 I especially loved this one

 Oh, and there were a few tulips as well

We'll be heading back to the Biltmore on Thursday specifically to see the rose garden.  Friday and Saturday the Biltmore hosts the International Rose Trials so we expect the roses to be in full bloom.  The weather is supposed to be unseasonably warm (as opposed to our unseasonably cool weekend) and sunny.  I can't wait.

Friday, May 16, 2014

We Love Lucy

Lucy is a bit like the physics principle of a body in motion staying in motion and a body at rest remaining at rest.  When she is active, she is moving at full speed.  And when she is resting, she is quite reluctant to get up.  Instead she looks at us as if saying, "Really?  You really think I'm going to move?"

She is never interested in making that last trip outside just before bedtime

 How can you ask me to move from my sunbeam?
I'm WAY too comfortable to get up.

While we're not sure how she knows, she can tell the difference if we are going for a walk or driving to the park.  I'm sure there are some subtle changes in behavior that she interprets.  Unfortunately, she sometimes misinterprets and thinks she is going to the park when, in fact, we are going out to run errands and she is staying home.  She gets very excited until she realizes we are leaving her behind.

When my husband is downtown she thinks she hears his car several times and runs to the door to wait for him.  Often she is actually asleep when he drives up so she doesn't hear him drive up.

We have no idea if she is aware of Ellie's absence or not, but she is definitely more inclined to follow my husband upstairs or downstairs than she was when Ellie was here.  Perhaps we are coddling her too much, but we don't leave her alone as often as we left the two of them.  I'm sure she sleeps the entire time we are away, except when the dog walker comes, but we feel more anxious when we leave her more than an hour or two.

As we come to the middle of May, our thoughts continue to be with those suffering in the world.  The people affected by the wildfires in California, the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who don't even know who drove them from their homes, the young girls kidnapped by the despicable Boko Haram in Nigeria, those suffering from storms and drought, and all those victims and relatives of victims of tragedy throughout our planet.

The author of today's quote is unknown:

"The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running."



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Getting Outdoors

It is fitting that the new visitor center in DuPont State Forest should be named in honor of Aleen Steinberg.  Originally from Wisconsin and later living in Florida, Aleen Steinberg retired to nearby Cedar Mountain, NC.  A tireless devoted fan of the outdoors since childhood, she took a special interest in our natural resources here in Transylvania County when she moved.  Her family had vacationed here for many years and moved here full time fifteen years ago.

She, along with several other interested people founded the "Friends of the Falls" committed to fundraising and improving DuPont Forest.  The project increased in popularity and is now known as "Friends of DuPont Forest."  (You can link to the Website here)

When our daughter visits, we always take the short trip to DuPont State Forest to see the waterfalls.  On her last visit, we also visited the new Aleen Steinberg Visitor Center.  Inside are topographical maps of many of the trails, along with maps and brochures.  The center is staffed by volunteers from Friends of DuPont Forest.

The Aleen Steinberg Visitor Center

Establishment of the Friends of DuPont Forest has led to many improvements in the area.  Twice each year, the Friends sponsor tour buses to provide access to people who could not otherwise visit some of the waterfalls.  And that is a wonderful thing.

However, in my opinion Aleen Steinberg's greatest project was co-founding a non-profit organization known as "Muddy Sneakers."  (You can link to their Website here.)  The mission of Muddy Sneakers is "To awaken in children a deeply felt connection with the natural world, one that inspires learning, and brings new life to classroom performance."

 Photograph from the Internet, not credited

The program started in 2008, partnered with Pisgah National Forest and Brevard Elementary School.  Fifth graders were taken to a new classroom as big as all outdoors...nature.  Since then the Muddy Sneakers program has spread to four other counties in the NC mountains.

 Photograph from the Hendersonville Lightning

The children learn about native trees, insects, and all manner of flora and fauna.  Day camps are now running during the summers.

Photograph from Laurel of Asheville

How exciting and promising it is to have children learning more about nature and its wonders.  And that's where it must start, isn't it?  With the children.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Scenic Highway through the Gorge

US Highway 64 from Highlands NC to Franklin NC is designated a scenic highway.  The road twists and turns through the Cullasaja Gorge following along the Cullasaja River.  There are several waterfalls within easy distance on this stretch of road.

I remember trips here when I was a child.  In a non-air-conditioned car.  Arguing with my brother about the imaginary center of the back seat and which side had the better view.   I was always excited when we came to Bridal Veil Falls because the highway actually went underneath the falls which dropped on the other side of the road.  If there were no cars behind us, my daddy would stop briefly under the falls.

One of many waterfalls in NC called "Bridal Veil"

Today the regular part of the highway  passes by the waterfall but one can still park and walk on the old highway under the waterfall.  In 2003 a large boulder fell and blocked part of the entrance on the old highway.  In 2007 a private contractor removed the boulder so people can once again drive under the waterfall.  Few people, except for motorcyclists actually drive under the falls because there are usually people walking there.

 The water drops over the old highway

 A short drive from Bridal Veil Falls brings one to Dry Falls.  Improvements have made this waterfall much more accessible than before.  The parking lot is spacious, there is a handicap-accessible viewing area and a paved path all the way beneath and beyond the waterfall.

Folklore says the waterfall got its name because people can walk behind the waterfall and stay dry.

 Upper Cullasaja Falls known as Dry Falls

 Differing references give its height as 65-80 feet

We did not walk behind Dry Falls because there were just too many people.  Waterfalls lose a lot of their appeal close up if there are too many people around.

 The tiny people in the bottom left are getting ready to walk behind the waterfall.
(You might need to click to enlarge)

The drive back from Franklin towards Highlands is quite beautiful and there are at least three waterfalls that can be viewed.  On the day we were there, the turnoffs were full, so we couldn't photograph them.  We will definitely make this trip again.

Friday, May 9, 2014

We Love Lucy

We have had such great weather this week with near-record breaking temperatures.  It has felt more like August than mid-May.  Great time to get the flowers out on the deck, set up the bird spa, and plant the little herb garden.  The grosbeaks have traveled on and we are waiting for more of our migrants, most of whom are a little later this year.

Lucy has been to the park almost every morning and just loves it.  Occasionally there is another dog or two and she runs and runs.  She runs and runs even if there is not another dog.  Times like these are when we miss Ellie even more than usual.

Lucy enjoys the deck, but is not much for posing

 She snoozes happily in the den after a morning run

 She really hates being left inside when we are outside.
She stood at the window the entire time it took my husband to set up the fountain.

I often get frustrated with the wrongs in the world.  And then I recall a quote I heard as a child.  It is attributed to several different people, most commonly Helen Keller:

I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything but still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

We all know our abilities and resources are finite.  But that must not stop us from doing the somethings that we can do.  We are all on this planet together and if each of us does what we can, it will make for a better world.




Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Not Pleased to be Number One

North Carolina has the dubious distinction of leading the nation in outside money influencing our elections this year.  More than 90% of political advertisements and phone calls were funded by "outside" money, not by citizens living here.  Yesterday was our primary and yes, I voted as I always do.  I was given an extensive information sheet that the 2016 elections will require voter identification and asked to sign a sheet as to whether or not I actually had "valid" identification.  I was not asked to show any form of ID.  (Our recently passed Voter ID laws are processing through the court systems.  They are far more limiting that those in other states.)

Encouraged by the recent rulings by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), money from undisclosed citizens has poured into NC this year.  Koch brothers and the Republican States Leadership Committe, among other conservative groups, poured more than a million dollars into advertising aimed at a single target; unseating an incumbent on our State Supreme Court.  Keep in mind that elections for Supreme Court Justices in our states are NON-PARTISAN.

The scene for making our Court more partisan was set by our newly bought elected governor.  More than a decade ago, the General Assembly created a fund for campaign financing for candidates for the State Supreme Court.  This funding was accepted by the vast majority of candidates and helped to diversify our Court.  One of the Governor Pat McCrory's first official acts was to zero out the funding.

It comes as no surprise that huge amounts of outside money are pouring into the State to defeat our incumbent US Senator Kay Hagan.  And that will only increase now that she handily won the primary.  It will be more vindictive and vicious for the general election in the fall.  NC is considered on of the "vulnerable" states in which the Republican Party might gain a Senate seat.  Her performance is not an issue; her political party is the driving force.  And how sad that is.

One of my favorite political cartoonists who is always right on the money

 So why target North Carolina?  The answer for 2014 is relatively simple.  One party dominates the General Assembly (made up of State Senators and Representatives) and the governor is a member of the same party.  Much of the legislation passed by this General Assembly is being appealed through the court system.  What better way to block and delay appeals than by filling the Supreme Court with ultra-conservatives with agendas far beyond justice?

As for the Senate race, we are a Red state with a Blue Senator, and a female one at that.  The republican primary winner is Thom Tillis, the current Speaker of the NC House of Representatives.  He led the General Assembly to the hard right views of government.  As for those of us who dare oppose his agenda?  His comment is "What I see from the folks who are opposing our agenda is whining coming from losers."  He has vowed to appoint only anti-abortion judges.  In a statement to a group of Republicans in 2011, Thom Tillis said that Republicans must "divide and conquer the poor."  He is very proud of stopping the Medicaid expansion in NC, leaving more than half a million NC citizens without health care.  He insists they "don't deserve it."

Many unhappy voters decided to vote blindly against any incumbent in 2010 without regards to performance.  (Akin to throwing out the baby with the bath water.)  And as is always the case, voting districts were redrawn following the census.  For NC this meant they were redrawn to favor the party in power.  And the lines are strange indeed.  Liberal Asheville was moved into a more conservative district to lessen their impact.  Gerrymandering is always common after the census, but this redistricting was worse than usual.

Why am I ranting so once again?  Because I am FURIOUS that more voters from my state don't bother to find out where candidates stand on the issues.  I am FURIOUS that North Carolina was once known as a progressive moderate state and is now extremely conservative.  I love North Carolina but truth be told?  I would not have returned to retire here had I foreseen the political climate we are now facing.

I grew up here and came back here for my retirement years.  I love North Carolina and I want my state back.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Kids in Spring

Connemara, the Carl Sandburg home is one of our favorite local trips.  The grounds are lovely in all seasons and there are great hiking trails and points of interest.  But in Spring it's all about the kids.  That is what draws us there in April.  This year we were not disappointed.

Carl Sandburg's wife was an award-winning goat breeder, and generations of offspring from her original herd still live at Connemara.  You can read more about the Sandburgs and the home which is now a National Park here.

One of the new kids on the block

 Still nursing, but the kids already nibble on grass

 The farm cat doing what farm cats do

 The little kids huddle together despite the warm weather.
Their mothers were in the meadow right then.

 The males are kept separate from the females.  The brown one seems to be the alpha.
He re-directed this one for no apparent reason other than that he could.

It is humbling to stand in places where the Pulitzer Prize winning author walked and lived and wrote.  He lived at Connemara for 22 years and died there in 1967.  His wife Lilian was determined that his home in Flat Rock should be preserved in perpetuity and the site officially opened as a National Park in 1974.

The Golden Girls loved the trails at Connemara even though they could not be off lead.  Here they are taking a rest in April of  2012.  Princess Lucy is, of course on top of the stump.

Friday, May 2, 2014

We Love Lucy

No sooner did we see our second hummingbird than we witnessed conflict between the two.  They twirled around each other like tiny helicopters and one of them fell to the deck.  Lucy was lying in her bed and watched the recovery.

Lucy reflected in the glass

 She attentively watches the little bird

 She stands and her tail wags each time the bird moves

It's hard to believe the first quarter of 2014 has passed already.  This winter and spring have brought very unusual weather to us here in the mountains and to many areas around the globe.

We have so much to be thankful for as we note how many people on our planet are suffering and dying.  Natural disasters have taken a toll and humankind perhaps a larger toll.  Our thoughts turn to those in pain around the world.

Today's quote comes from Maya Angelou.  They are words we should all heed.

"During bad circumstances, which is the human inheritance, you must decide not to be reduced.  You have your humanity, and you must not allow anything to reduce that.  We are obliged to know we are global citizens.  Disasters remind us we are world citizens whether we like it or not."

So think of your fellow citizens of the world.  Help those in need, here and abroad.