Monday, June 29, 2015

Corrupted Symbols

Discussions about the display of the Confederate Battle Flag are widespread, heated, and controversial.  This discussion has been recently brought to prominence following the shootings of nine churchgoers in Charleston, SC.  The murderer had previously posted many photographs of himself honoring the Confederate flag.  And the flag flies on the Capitol Grounds of the very State in which the massacre occurred.

To many Southerners, the flag has been a symbol of respect for the Southern men who fought and died during the American Civil War, and for the sacrifices of the loved ones left at home.  In some states, the flag is incorporated into the State Flag.

As a child growing up in the South, I never thought much about the flag.  I passed the statue of the Confederate soldier on the courthouse grounds without a second thought.  I strongly suspect that my black brothers and sisters did not regard it in the same way.  But I was just a child.  We sang "Dixie" with gusto in school and proudly proclaimed our Southern heritage by naming ancestors who fought in the war.  When I went off to college, the television station in Raleigh, NC, ended its programming not with the National Anthem but with a moving rendition of "Dixie."  And still I gave little thought to the use of Civil War songs and flags.

I was in my mid-twenties when I truly appreciated how corrupt this symbol of the South had become.  And when a symbol becomes so corrupt, its original intention is totally lost and can never be regained.

Take the swastika, for example.  For more than 3,000 years, this cross was seen as a symbol of life, power, and especially good luck.  Buddhist and Hindu religions considered versions of the swastika as powerful and meaningful religious symbols.

In the 1920s Adolf Hitler decided the swastika would be a perfect insignia for the rising Nazi Party.  It became their flag and adorned their uniforms.  It was used so successfully that within a few short years, 3,000 years of historical significance were erased from most memories.  Few people recalled any other use of the swastika than as a symbol for Hitler and the Nazis.  A symbol so corrupted it would never be used in its original context again.

Photograph from the Internet

In a similar manner, the Confederate Battle Flag has become corrupted and is seen by many as a symbol of racial prejudice.  (And NO, I am not comparing the Civil War with the Nazi regime.)  The flag can no longer  be considered only a symbol dedicated to the Civil War dead, and it hasn't been for some time.  It has been corrupted and the meaning has forever changed.  When I was in middle school, the history books in the South taught that the American Civil War was fought not over slavery but over States rights.  That is pretty much hogwash.  However, it is true that many, if not most of the Confederate soldiers from North Carolina and some other states were not fighting for slavery.  They were fighting because their State and their countrymen were at war.  More than half the soldiers killed at Gettysburg were from North Carolina.  Should we not honor their bravery?  Yes, we should honor them.  But not with the Confederate Flag.

Photograph from the Internet

I do not personally know anyone who displays the Confederate Flag.  But I do see the flag with regularity here in the mountains.  Sometimes it is at a house.  More often it is on a pickup truck.  And we have NC specialty license plates using the flag for "Sons of the Confederacy."  [It is of note that NC also has specialty license plates for almost every university, club, or profession you can imagine.]  Seeing the Confederate Flag displayed like this brings certain negative feelings to my mind.  I can only imagine how much those feelings are magnified when my black friends view it.

So, the Confederate Battle Flag is such a corrupted symbol that it cannot be displayed any longer in public places.  Obviously I am in favor of anyone's right to display the flag on his or her personal property.  But I would encourage them to think about the message it may send about them.

So let's take down the flag.  But let's not try to erase history.  Americans in the North and in the South suffered and died during the Civil War.  It happened and is part of the making of our union.

Several Confederate monuments have recently been vandalized with spray paint.  I fear such extreme reactions will be met with equal or worse reactions from white supremacists.  Already several black churches have burned by arsonists.  Such actions from these racialists minimizes the egregious killings of those nine innocent people and gives credence to the desires of their killer.

So fellow Southerners, keep the Confederate Flag and other Civil War memorabilia if you wish, but keep them in the privacy of your own home or in museums.  Not in public places.  The time has come to take down the Confederate Flag from all public forums.  It is too corrupt a symbol.

Friday, June 26, 2015

We Love Lucy

Summer arrived here with a week of unseasonably hot temperatures.  It is extremely rare for us to approach 90 degrees even in August.  We've had thunderstorms most afternoons which briefly (VERY briefly) cooled the air then made everything worse with the higher humidity.  As the old saying goes, "When it's hot in the mountains, it's HOT."

So our Lucy goes for her run very early in the morning.  Then she stays inside except for those necessary little trips outdoors.  With her two coats of hair, she does not tolerate heat well at all.

 She lies around most of the day.  For some reason she likes to rest her head on the rung of a chair.
(Yes, I do dust them.  The pictures were taken before cleaning day.)

She peeps out under the chair

 This is where her head lies

 So what?  I'm not ashamed to be here.
Silly dog

Today's quotes comes from a song I loved half a century ago.  I still love it and still play the vinyl by The Youngbloods every now and then.  (Yes, I have kept many of my old LPs and have a reproduction stereo that will play them.  There's something so soothing to listen to them and reminisce about the good old days.)
It was written by American songwriter and singer Chet Powers (who was also known as Dino Valenti)

Listen to the song I sing
You will understand.
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your own trembling hand.
Just one key unlocks them both
It's there at your command

Come on people now,
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together now
Try to love one another right now.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Empty Nest

My husband called me to come out to the garage one morning last week.  I put on some shoes and walked out.

He pointed to the top of the garage door lift.  Imagine my surprise when I saw a really large nest of some sort built right on top of the lift.  We both looked at each other trying to figure out what animal or bird could have built such a nest there.  It surely had been built over a 24-hour period.  There is no chance we could have missed seeing it for more than a day.  We always enter the house through the garage and this thing was rather large.

We close the garage door every evening when we bring in the bird feeders.  We close the garage door anytime we both are away.  How could this have been constructed so quickly?  And what in the world built it?  It was far too small for a squirrel and our flying squirrels always build their nests in cavities.  It seemed really big.  What could it be?

The nest covers most of the lift motor

 Some of the materials are weaved into the wiring

 Who could have put it there so quickly?

 Our questions were soon answered as a rather small sparrow flew in and quickly out of the garage as we stood there.  A sparrow?  Really?  We rarely see sparrows around here, yet this one had decided to build in our garage.

Now the question became what to do.  We decided that there was no way the sparrow could have laid any eggs.  She was still constructing the nest.  The nest simply could not stay there.  It was not a good place for the sparrow and certainly not a good place for us.  The lift is in the middle of the garage and we walk under it many times a day.

The little sparrow was furious and chirped at us with a loud voice.  We got out a stepladder and bucket.  My husband put on gloves and climbed up to remove the nest.  As we expected (and hoped) there were no eggs inside the nest.  He removed the nest and placed it gently in the bucket.  It was tedious work removing the last twigs and leaves that had been woven amongst the wiring.

What should we do with the nest?  The sparrow was watching from a nearby tree, chirping non-stop.  We decided to place the nest deep among the branches of a tall shrub close to the garage.  Had there been fledglings in the nest, the sparrow might have returned.  We had no idea whether or not she would return to any empty one.

 I spread the branches to get a picture of the nest.  With the branches back in place, the nest is obscured.

In the end, the sparrow decided she had had enough of us.  She did not use the nest in its new location and decided to build another.

But we kept the garage door closed the entire time for the next couple of days.

Just in case.

Friday, June 19, 2015

We Love Lucy

We encounter box turtles every now and again.  Usually dogs become quite excited at seeing them.  Even the best trained bird dogs will point a turtle in the field, much to the dismay of the hunters who are expecting a covey of birds.

 My husband spotted a turtle the other day.  He was crawling across the driveway looking, I am sure, for his brown-eyed lady friend.  (The turtle, friends, not my husband.)

When Lucy spotted the turtle, she ran right up to sniff it.

You may need to click to enlarge the following pictures to see the turtle.

The turtle made the slightest move.  Lucy jumped back to give it plenty of space.

She was clearly fascinated by the turtle but she didn't dare to approach it.
She stood at attention and watched as the turtle disappeared under the shrubbery. 
Silly dog.

Our thoughts go out to all of those suffering in this world.  We are especially thinking of the friends and family members of the victims at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC.

It is fitting that our quote for today comes from a eulogy delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963.  He was speaking at the combined funeral service for the four little girls who also lost their lives in a church.

"And so today, you do not walk alone."

I wish I could believe that this senseless act, yet another in a continuing string, would stimulate our leaders to do more for gun control in our country.  I fear it will not.  I wish we would stop proclaiming that racial discrimination and hatred has ended.  It has not.  We must all try to find ways to make this country safe for every citizen.  We must stop white-washing the truth and look at the reality of our culture.  When, oh when, will we ever learn?


Monday, June 15, 2015

Summer Birds

We are lucky to have so many different birds visit our feeders.  And a little walk in the woods gives us glimpses of many more.  The weather here has been hot and the birds have been active.

White-breasted Nuthatch doing some tricks

 The Downy Woodpecker is feeding herself now
She hesitates a bit before taking off for the suet

 There seems to always be a goldfinch at the birdbath

 The juvenile Red-bellied Woodpecker is getting a little bit of red on its gray head

Watching the birds helps to soothe us when we get too caught up in the politics of our state and nation.  The birds don't make demands or break promises; they just go about living as birds should live.  And providing us a respite for a while.

Friday, June 12, 2015

We love lucy

We've had a rather quiet week here on the mountain.  For several weeks we had workmen of one sort or the other and now they've all finished and gone.  The days have been bright and sunny with thunderstorms most evenings.

Lucy gets to go for a run by the lake nearly every morning.  She loves the freedom of running off lead.  After she runs and runs, she walks along the lake looking and sniffing.  Sometimes she looks as if she is stalking some prey but we have yet to actually see what it is that grabbed her attention.

Sneaking up on something she never finds and we never see

 This park by the lake will be filled with families in a few hours
But for now it belongs to Lucy

 Lucy is not at all concerned with thunder and lightning.  She loves to sit with us on the porch and watch the storms.  When we come inside she lies on her bed looking out at the rain falling on the deck until she starts to snooze again.

 And so the dog's life goes on
A pretty good life if you ask me

This weekend is expected to bring us some very hot temperatures.  When it's 90 in the mountains, it feels even hotter than 90 in much warmer places of the south.  Needless to say, we will stay inside except for the early morning hours.  At least it will be cooler then.

Today's quote is a familiar one by James Russell Lowell:

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune
And over it softly her warm ear lays.

I hope heaven lays softly on your June days.



Monday, June 8, 2015

Woodpecker Fledgling

Our woods are home to several types of woodpeckers.  We have at least two pairs of Red-bellied Woodpeckers coming to our feeders.  They have predictable patterns that signal that they have fledglings.

First is the parent loading its mouth with suet and flying swiftly away.  We think this is food for a bird in the nesting cavity.  Later we see the parent taking the food into the woods.  Occasionally we glimpse the offspring in a distant tree.  As time progresses, the woodpeckers bring the little ones closer and closer to the house.  And that is when we finally see the little birds and occasionally are treated to a feeding.  Unlike the parents, who have red heads, the head of the fledgling is gray at first.  As the season progresses, the gray begins to turn more and more red.

The fledgling sits patiently while the parent gets some suet

 Note the color contrast between the parent on the left and the fledgling on the right.
The fledgling's gray color and stripes blend in well with the tree trunks.

We feel very lucky to be able to watch the little woodpeckers as they become more and more independent.  Finally, one day the parent will go to the suet and fly into the woods, leaving the little one confused.  It finally occurs to them that the free meals are over and if they want suet they will have to fly to the feeder to get it.  Their early attempts are rather humorous, much like a human baby taking those first wobbly steps.

Friday, June 5, 2015

When Fridays Were Even More Golden

I think of our Ellie every day.  But recently she has been on my mind more than usual.  Perhaps it is because of a dream I had several weeks ago.  I dreamed Ellie and I were in a beautiful meadow amidst a profusion of wildflowers.  I wanted to photograph her among the flowers but she kept following me.  Then she looked at me and said (animals talk in my dreams) that she had been away from me for too long and she was not going to leave my side.  It was a sweet dream of my sweet girl.

Ellie was older by two years and she and Lucy were never far apart.  Here are some photographs of the two Golden Girls.

Running in tandem up and down the stairs to a dock on the lake

Patiently waiting at a down/stay while I answered the door.

Running like mad through a local cemetery.
Ellie was a little bigger and a lot faster.

 Taking a little break

 Snoozing in the sun with Ellie serving as Lucy's pillow.

Friends and neighbors ask us regularly why we don't get another dog.  There are several reasons.  Our house is not well designed for training a puppy so our next dog will be an adult.  While Lucy is definitely friendly with other dogs, she never enjoyed playing with them as much as Ellie did.  At the dog park, Lucy tended to gravitate from owner to owner while Ellie romped with the other dogs.  Bringing in the wrong dog would be devastating to Lucy, especially as she is getting older.  Last (but not least) we plan to move into a comprehensive retirement community within the next five years or so.  We hope to be independent and active there and if Lucy is no longer with us we will definitely get another dog.  Our home would never be complete without a dog.  But we fear disrupting Lucy's happy life by bringing in another dog right now and we won't take that chance.

So we have our Lucy, our sweet and goofy Lucy.  And the memories of our wonderful Ellie.  And for now that is enough.

Today's quote is from Omar Kayyam:

"Be happy for this moment.
This moment is your life."



Monday, June 1, 2015

Birds by the Lake

We have several lakes in our community.  And I love to linger near the shores at twilight and watch the mist rising.  I especially like to watch the antics of the Barn Swallows as they skim just above the water's surface catching insets.

Barn Swallows are amazing birds and nest in the summers throughout the United States.  They are the most common swallow of all.  They are beautiful in flight with their scissor-tails and darting movements.  Legend says that the forked tail came about because the swallows dared to steal fire from the gods and bring it to the people.  The gods were furious at the theft and one of them hurled a fireball at the swallow, burning away its middle tail feathers.

Swallows tend to live in caves or under man-made structures such as bridges, sheds, and (of course) barns.  They carry mud and dab it on the nest until it is large enough.  They are amazing birds and I enjoy them.  I secretly cheer every time they catch an insect.

Typical Barn Swallow nest made of little dabs of mud from the lake.

 The forked tail, punishment for giving fire to humans

 Finally she tires of my being around and shouts for me to go away

The little Barn Swallow fledglings are adorable.  They have white circles around their little mouths and look for the world like they are wearing clown makeup.  Like several other birds, the first brood may stay around to help with subsequent broods.  They are indeed lovely birds.