Friday, July 31, 2015

We Love Lucy

Lucy rearranges the two pillows on her bed frequently.  She seems to have a specific purpose for each.  The blue bone is for snuggling and for her head.

 While the bee pillow is for resting her chin while she gazes out the window.

 I've had dear Ellie on my mind lately.  I miss her especially during the summer when she and Lucy would lie on the deck while I sat out to watch birds or do some reading.  We bought two canvas beds for the deck so they wouldn't have to lie on the wood.  But both dogs seem to prefer the wood over the beds.

 No matter how big the area, the Golden Girls were never far apart.

We haven't done as much deck sitting this summer as we usually do.  And certainly not in the middle of the day.  It continues to be much warmer than normal for us.  And the air is often still and humid as well.  So deck time is late evening and early morning.

I've been doing a lot of reading this summer since it's too hot to be outdoors.  In addition to my regular best sellers, I am reading some "classics" that I somehow never read.  Right now it's "Watership Down" and I must say I am really enjoying it.  It's one of my daughter's favorites since childhood and she couldn't believe I had never read it.  Next up will be "Anne of Green Gables."  It's another one I somehow missed.

Our nation and our world has been much troubled this past week.  Angry outbursts seem to be the response of the day.  Road rage that ends in murder.  Angry police officers whose egos get in the way of justice.  A police officer senselessly killing a motorist stopped for a minor violation, followed by lies about the incident.  A dentist wounding and then killing a well-known lion, lured from the protection of the reserve so the "big-game hunter" could kill him for no reason other than to kill him.  (The dentist had already killed at least one other African lion as well as several other large animals.)  Continued unrest over Southern monuments to the Civil War dead.  People losing their lives try to escape from terrorists.

Today's quote is a fitting one from the Dalai Lama:

"Anger and hatred lead to fear;  compassion and concern for others allow us to develop self-confidence, which breeds trust and friendship."

Oh, that we could become a more trusting and friendly world.



Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday Washday Blues

"This is the way we wash our clothes, so early Monday morning."  Remember that little song from grade school?  Wash the clothes on Monday, iron the clothes on Tuesday, scrub the floor on Wednesday, mend the clothes on Thursday, sweep the floor on Friday, bake the bread on Saturday, go to church on Sunday.  And go around the mulberry bush every day.  Truth be told, I do not wash clothes on Monday and I hardly ever iron the clothes at all.

But on this washday Monday, we expected delivery of a new washer and dryer.  We bought a new refrigerator not a month ago and now a new washer and dryer.  (I'm counting the washer as number 2 and the dryer as number 3, so that's it for a while.)  No call early this morning from the appliance delivery crew.  So I called them.  After many starts and stops, incorrect information and confusion, it became clear that there had been a snafu and we were not on the list.  After waiting an hour for them to decide how to proceed, I called them back and told them to simply cancel today's delivery and bring the appliances on Wednesday.

A relatively minor frustration with customer satisfaction, but not a big deal in the overall scheme of things.  After all, I don't really wash the clothes on Monday.  But I used the confusion to play housework hookey for a while and sat on the deck with my second cup of coffee watching and listening to the birds.

We live in the woods so we have few sunny spots in which to grow flowers and herbs.  So we grow them on the sunny deck.  Our little herb gardens provide us enough fresh herbs for the summer.  And we have flowering plants to provide beauty and color for us and nectar for the hummingbirds.

One of the plants has really "taken off" and has been growing and blooming like crazy.  While the plants always do well, this one has exceeded all expectations.

When we first put the plant out, the blossoms did not cover the planter.
Now they drape far over the sides.

 They even extend beyond the planter onto and over the deck railing.

 The bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are grateful for this plant's nourishment.
And we are grateful for its beauty.

This plant, and its mate on the opposite side of the deck will give us such joy all summer long.  Then, too soon it will be done and replaced with autumn mums.  Time does fly by.

Friday, July 24, 2015

We Love Lucy

July is winding down.  Most of the berries are gone except for blackberries.  And the corn and tomatoes are wonderful.  My mother kept a large garden and I can remember many a summer day spent helping my mother can and freeze vegetables.  It was hot in the steamy kitchen with no air conditioning.  So we often ate dinner outside. On many of these days when we put up vegetables, dinner consisted of a big bowl of fresh corn on the cob and slices of heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers.  I thought it was the best supper ever.  And I still do.

Today's Lucy photograph is one that was taken a few years ago.  We were hiking on one of our favorite trails and we stopped to allow the dogs to get some rest.  I love this photograph because it shows just how much Lucy was enjoying herself.  What a great day to be a dog.  We should all take such pleasure in simply being alive and active.

 The next photograph is one that someone sent to me and I have no way of crediting the photographer.  But it makes me happy to look at it.  And it is inspiring to see.  A photograph that makes one smile and provides inspiration is a great photograph indeed.  So I decided to share it.

These ladies are having such a good time in spite of their ages and sizes.

One of my favorite people, Fannie Flagg wrote the following:

Hazel had said, "If you're still breathing you're ahead of the game."
And she'd been right.  Life itself was something to look forward to and so for whatever time she had left she was going to enjoy every minute---wrinkles and all.  What a concept.



Monday, July 20, 2015

The "Book"

A skeptic by nature, I was blown away when I first heard some time ago that a "forgotten" and "mislaid" manuscript of Harper Lee's first novel had been found.  While I have no idea whether or not  she actually wanted this manuscript published, I strongly doubt that it was forgotten by Harper Lee all these years.  I cannot imagine any author being unaware of the location of the first manuscript she presented for publication.  In any event it has indeed been published and released this past week as the most talked-about book in some years.  Pre-orders sent the book to the top of the best seller lists.  I refer, of course, of "Go Set A Watchman."

When I first heard that the book would be published, I made a quick decision that I would not help line the pockets of the publishing company and Ms. Lee's agent.  I would simply not buy the book.  When early reviews painted Atticus Finch as a racist my decision not to buy the book was confirmed.  Atticus Finch a racist?  Might as well tell me there is no Santa Claus.

So am I writing a post telling you why I'm not going to read "Go Set a Watchman?"  Not at all.  I'm writing a post to tell you I DID read it and what I think of it.

How did this change come about?  I was in my local book store where I saw copy after copy of the book.  I knew the book store had already paid the publisher for the book so my buying it meant money for the book store, not the publisher.  And anyway, I plan to give the book to a friend who would otherwise buy it.  Make sense?  Not to me either.  I bought the book because I am a reader.  An avid reader.  And I often feel compelled to read controversial books.

Few books have affected me in my lifetime more than "To Kill a Mockingbird."  I tend to re-read this wonderful novel every year or so.  So how could I fail to read another book by the same author?

I begin by telling you that the Atticus Finch of Mockingbird and the Atticus Finch of Watchman represent two sides of the same coin.  Both are honest men, leaders in the community and avid defenders of the law.  Atticus of Mockingbird is viewed through the eyes of his adoring six-year-old daughter.  Most little girls at that age view their father as a perfect man, a Superman who knows everything and can solve all problems.  Atticus of Watchman is viewed through the eyes of his twenty-six-year old daughter who has moved away from her home in Alabama and lives in New York City.  Like most of us in our 20s, we begin to recognize the shortcomings and faults of our parents and we realize they are human after all.  Watchman is set 26 years after the time of Mockingbird.

The Watchman Atticus represents the views of most people in the South at the beginning of the civil rights era.  Separate but equal was the common cry.  My own parents would never have been unkind to a black person.  They never considered themselves racists or bigots.  I remember them taking food to a black family in need.  My mother played the piano at the funeral of a black friend.  They taught me to treat all adults with the same respect whether they were black or white.  But my parents believed in racial separation in schools and (heaven forbid) marriages.  And they honestly thought the civil unrest was caused by Northern agitators coming down South to stir up things.

The Atticus in Watchman believes that the civil rights movement is dangerous on several counts.  He believes that the Southern blacks are not sufficiently sociologically advanced to govern themselves.  That they are "backward" and simply unable to participate and accept the civic responsibilities the Civil Rights movement would impose upon them.  So he honestly believes his stance against civil rights is only to protect the blacks and also his county by keeping these people from making uninformed and bad decisions in block voting for candidates and reducing the quality of life not only for themselves but for all citizens.  Was his thinking flawed?  Of course it was.  But it represented the thinking of the day by many citizens and civic leaders in the South.

The adult Jean Louise remembers her days as a young Scout sitting on her father's knee.  He shielded his true feelings from her and she now feels angry and deceived.  Why did he not share his views with his children?   How could she have spent so many years not knowing what he really believed.  He led them to think that blacks were equal.  In truth he felt they were entitled to equal protection in the court system...a far cry from believing they were equal to whites.

The writing in "Go Tell a Watchman" is not polished and is not as lyrical as "To Kill a Mockingbird."  It is a mediocre book at best.  The publisher who sent Harper Lee back to re-write the story did her the biggest favor of her life.  Watchman cries out for editing.

But the story is nevertheless interesting and gives us another view of the man whom we so idolized in "To Kill a Mockingbird."  In no way does it diminish my love for Mockingbird.  I will continue to re-read it periodically.  I won't likely read "Go Set a Watchman" again in the future.

I had in interesting discussion about Watchman with my son who is also an avid reader.  He says he is not yet ready to read it.  He was too impressed with Atticus Finch when and since he read Mockingbird.  I gently reminded him that Atticus Finch is not a real person.  That he is a fictional character.  His answer?  "I know that.  I also know that "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" is fiction as well.  And he's an animal, not even a person.  But I surely hope that no one finds a Roald Dahl manuscript describing Mr. Fox as a child molester.  And if they do I'm not going to read it."

Well said, son.  I'm certain many people share your opinion.

Do you have particular views about "Go Set a Watchman?"

Friday, July 17, 2015

We Love Lucy

Mid-July already?  Around here it feels more like mid-August.  Our weather in a word?  HOT  The days are mostly sunshiny and the major storms in the mountains passed us by, giving us a light and sound show but very little rain.  Worst of all, our famous mountain breezes have been more stilled than usual.  It is strange indeed to look out the windows and see the leaves quiet and still.  And our typical evening cool down is still 70 degrees or so.  I do hope this is not the new normal.

Summer is moving on.  Already we can hear the sounds of some katydids.  Few in number, they will soon be joined by a host of others making a lot of noise during summer evenings.

Lucy spends very little time outdoors in weather like this.  An early morning run and our usual evening walk and the occasional trip for necessary processes.  But other than that, she much prefers the coolness of the house.  So do we.

Smiling at the camera for a change
Hey Mom.  I'm just trying to help you out here.

On a positive note, I am getting a lot of reading done.  (But on a negative note, I should be using the time to clean my closets.)  Somehow the reading is much more fun.

Our quote today comes from the Dalai Lama:

"Whether one believes in a religion or not,
And whether one believes in rebirth or not, 
There isn't anyone who doesn't appreciate kindness and compassion."

Sometimes I fear we are becoming more and more rude as a nation and less and less compassionate.  It seems that more people are too self-absorbed with their electronic devices to be courteous to others.  People seem less interested in admiring the beauty around them and more interested in taking a selfie of themselves surrounded by the beauty they have ignored.  We seem to be raising a generation who have been praised so much for being mediocre they are happy enough with the status quo and feel entitled to praise and cheer.  I hope we can change the path we seem to be traveling.  And fortunately, the previous statements do not apply to all so I am a bit more optimistic.

I hope this is a good summer for everyone.  And that you are able to enjoy it.



Monday, July 13, 2015

The Trees are Nice and Full

In the old television series The Andy Griffith Show one of the consistent fan favorites is the episode in which Opie hand-raises three little birds after he accidentally kills their mother.  When the birds are ready to fledge, Opie takes them out of the cage and they fly to the trees.  He laments to his father that the cage seems awfully empty.  And wise Andy says, "Yes, but don't the trees sound nice and full?"

As summer continues, we are blessed with a variety of birds that nest in our woods and visit our feeders.

Stations all filled with American Goldfinches

 A Hairy Woodpecker waits in the tree

 Hummingbirds drink the nectar

 It's a bit unusual to see an Eastern Towhee at the feeder
I'm not sure the goldfinch is pleased to share

 A White-breasted Nuthatch challenges a chickadee

We love seeing the birds at our house.  Most of them pay no attention as we sit on the deck.  Occasionally the woodpeckers will squawk at us and wait for us to go inside.

Around here the trees do indeed sound nice and full.

Friday, July 10, 2015

We Love Lucy

Once again the South is under a severe heat advisory.  We will approach ninety degrees today and for the weekend.  The parks are filled with families having fun in the cold mountain streams.  The prime picnic tables fill up early in the morning.  Rescue worker are busy indeed rescuing people who do foolish and dangerous things.  Like taking a two-year-old tubing on the river.  Really?

Usually we have a significant cool-down at night.  But last night when I took Lucy out at nine, it was still seventy-five degrees and muggy.  Very unusual.

Lucy gets her morning run in very early.  She is full of energy and runs like a puppy.

Here she comes on a recall.

 Here she is running free.  Leaping with delight and full of the joy of living.
And being a dog.

 When she first returns from running, she drinks more water and then plops on the cool tile or hardwood floor.  Then she heads for a nearby bed.

 She stretches out to rest

 And falls asleep.  Who knew she would love that bone pillow so much?

I'm going to take an unusual turn and give you a favorite recipe.  We eat a lot of baked or grilled fish and crabcakes, especially in the summertime.  The recipe comes from Paula Deen and is especially good now that we have fresh dill and parsley growing in our herb garden.

1 cup mayonnaise  (I strongly recommend Dukes or Hellmans or homemade)
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 TBSP fresh chopped dill
1 TBSP fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
seasoned salt to taste

Whisk all ingredients and put in small bowl.  Cover and refrigerate.  Sauce will thicken in fridge.  Serve with any kind of fish.  It's refreshing and yummy.

This week's quote comes from Russell Baker, journalist and Pulitzer prize winner:

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



Monday, July 6, 2015

The Biggest Baby

We have a variety of baby birds around.  We enjoy watching them make their attempts to get food from our feeders.  One little Tufted Titmouse ran along the top edge of a suet feeder trying to figure out how to get to the food.  It finally discovered that it must fly and land on the grids of the feeder.

By far the biggest baby bird we see is the Pileated Woodpecker.  By the time they leave the tree cavity, they are as big as the adults.  But they still have the same learning curve as the smaller birds.

The young Pileated waits on the tree to be fed.

 When the parent did not come to feed the bird as usual, it decided to try on its own.  It landed on the arm of the feeder and cried out for the parent.

Then it flew back to the tree, having given up on this attempt.  Fortunately the parent came to the tree once again to feed the big baby.  But very soon the parent will stop feeding it and it will eventually figure out how to fly to the feeder.  Often this involves antics such as clinging to the side of the building or landing on the deck railing.  But like most youngsters, it will finally the basics.

In the meantime, it gives us a lot of pleasure to watch the attempts.

Friday, July 3, 2015

We Love Lucy

Our little firecracker, Dichi Lemonade Lucy was born on the 4th of July.  She has always been an active dog, very smart, and with quite a sense of humor.  We had planned to name our second Golden "Abigail" for Abigail Adams since our Ellie was named for Eleanor Roosevelt.  But we feared the names "Ellie" and "Abby" were too similar and we would end up calling the new puppy by the wrong name.  We shouldn't have worried.  We called her "Ellie" half the time for the first three months of her life anyway.

When we selected her at the breeder we thought she looked a lot more like a "Lucy," so in keeping with First Lady names, we named her "Lemonade Lucy" for Lucy Hayes.  [Lucy Hayes was known as "Lemonade Lucy" because she banned alcoholic beverages from the White House and served the guests lemonade instead.]  While we are very fond of Eleanor Roosevelt, Lucy Hayes happened to be the only First Lady with the name "Lucy."

Lucy was very playful right from the start.  One of her favorite toys was a very large hard plastic ball.  She would push the ball around the yard with her nose and paws and tumble over it.

Little Lucy and the red ball

 Ellie was two when we got Lucy.  Because of the size difference, we had to control the play between them so that Lucy would not accidentally get hurt.  Lucy took advantage of that.  One of the best days in Ellie's life came when the veterinarian finally said they could play without restraint.  You cannot imagine the look of surprise on Lucy's face the first time Ellie flipped her over when she started to jump on Ellie's back.

 Dear sweet patient Ellie, so tolerant of this new little brat

 Lucy's first day in her new home.

 So Lucy is now ten.  She's slowing down a little but is still active and playful.  She has a basket full of toys but rarely plays with any of them except a blue tug or tennis balls.

 Paws crossed, she breathes a prayer for peace.
(You might know she would peep)

 It seems very likely that we will have a cool and rainy Independence Day here in the mountains.  I hope the rain will hold off for the celebration downtown.  But our little town will celebrate even if everyone is under an umbrella.

Today's quote is from Abraham Lincoln and is frightening appropriate for today:

"America will never be destroyed from the outside.  If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."