Monday, November 30, 2015

Red Birds on a Gray Day

When the goldfinches have dulled and most of our birds are wearing muted winter coats, the Northern Cardinal sports the brightest color in the forest.  While the males are truly brilliant, the females are lovely as well.  My mother never called them "cardinals."  To her they were always "red birds."  I was in fifth grade when I learned the real name of the red bird.

We are having rain, fog, and mist here in the mountains.  Almost everything seems the same shade of gray.  But when our native Northern Cardinals appear, they brighten up the forest and warm our hearts.

They sit in the trees in the early morning and late afternoon, waiting to dine at our feeders.
The male has a beautiful color that can only be described as "cardinal red."
This angle does not show his topknot.

 The females are not as brightly colored.  Some of them even appear gray.
But they are still lovely birds.

On rainy winter days I always think of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, "The Rainy Day"
And it's on my mind today.
Here is part of it:

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

I have always loved poetry.  I memorized tons of poems when I was a child and can still recite most of them.  My Kindle is packed with anthologies and complete works of many poets.  I love the fact that I can carry the works of so many great poets in such a tiny convenient space.  I often pull them up and read them again and again.  And I have audible books with some contemporary poets reading their own work.  Oh, so lovely.  Often I sit on the deck watching the birds and listening to poetry readings.  So peaceful.

Hope you have a good week.  Make a promise to yourself that you will not let the season turn you into a shrew.  For Christians the countdown to Christmas has begun.  For Jews, Hanukkah begins next Sunday at sundown.  This should be a season of reflection and peace.  Don't let it become chaos and despair.

Friday, November 27, 2015

We Love Lucy

November is almost over.  I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving.  Ours was very nice and the weather has been great.  Lucy enjoyed a long run in the park and a couple of shorter trips to the back yard to play in the leaves.

She has a basket of toys.  She used to forage in there and bring out a long-neglected toy but rarely does that now.  She's less interested in the tennis balls Ellie was so fond of, and she ignores most of her toys altogether.  The exception is a blue tug.  It's quite old and the center connecting piece is long gone.  She and Ellie had hours and hours of fun with it.  Our daughter bought an identical red one so they would have a replacement when the blue one finally broke.  The red one gets ignored.  Perhaps there are some good smells associated with the old blue one.  [Note to self:  take those other toys to the local shelter.]

Most often the toy is a toss and retrieve but occasionally my husband will let her win a tug-of-war.

 I love to hear her low growling as she pulls for the tug

 She obviously needs no toys when we are in the yard.  She runs and sniffs the air and the ground.  She especially loves it when there are leaves on the ground.  The back yard is natural woods, so we do not clear any leaves.   They are deep and fun.  Lucy loves to run through them although she hates it when they get caught in her rear feathering.

 Something has caught her attention.  We have a variety of wildlife passing across the back near the creek.
Who knows what she might be smelling?

And so Thanksgiving Day was wonderful.  The only negative came at the end of the day when our Packers were defeated by Da Bears.  At Lambeau.  On the night Brett what's his name's jersey was retired. (Sorry, I have a long memory.)  In the presence of Bart Starr.  And fans suffering in the blinding rain and wind.  True to his gracious nature, Aaron Rodgers did not place any blame, simply saying that he and his receivers need to be on the same page.

Last night they did not look like they were even in the same book with pass after pass falling either to the ground or into the arms of the bears.

Today's quote come from English essayist George Colman:
Praise the bridge that carried you over.

So let us all be thankful for all those who came before us and built the bridges that allow us to cross. 


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Turkey Day

We always have a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving Day.  This year it's only the two of us.  But there is still a big turkey to eat, for leftovers, for sandwiches, and some to freeze.  And we have plenty of turkeys decorating our home.  Here are a few.

Tom comes out every November

We just love the bouncy head on this one

And, of course, we fly a turkey flag.



Monday, November 23, 2015

A Little Dark Humor

No real reason for this post except I loved this cartoon and wanted to share it. It made me laugh out loud.

I have followed the late Jeff MacNelly's cartoons for years.  His cartoon, "Shoe" continues, now written by his last wife (I'm not certain but I think she was his fourth wife) Susie MacNelly and his co-worker Gary Brookings.

Known for his dark humor and political satire, Jeff MacNelly won many awards, including two Pulitzers
His cartoon continues after his death with the same flavor.
This was the syndicated cartoon for yesterday's Sunday papers.
[I could not find a way to get permission but I'm clearly crediting the work.]
(You may need to click to enlarge)

 MacNelly was educated at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) and named his most famous cartoon series "Shoe" in honor of Jim Shumaker (nicknamed "Shu") who was his editor and mentor at the Chapel Hill Weekly as well as a professor of UNC-CH.

Jeff MacNelly was such a hard worker that he continued to produce Shoe until his death, although he had turned over the creative side of Shoe long before then.  Literally on his death bed, MacNelly was producing editorial cartoons on the very day he died.  From his hospital bed on June 8, 2000.

Friday, November 20, 2015

We Love Lucy

Our weather this week has run the gamut.  From bright sunny days to bleak and rainy days.  From above normal temperatures to much below normal temperatures.  From shirtsleeves to jackets.  And to those of you in the midst of terrible snows and storms, we are not complaining.  We know we have it better than most.

Our Lucy takes the weather in stride except for the rain.  She hates going out in the rain.  And she hasn't yet caught on that the longer she delays what she needs to do the longer she has to be out.

She constantly rearranges her bee and bone pillows.
And sits in the sun on nice days.
You're not going to make me get up, are you Mom?

 And when it's rainy and dreary, she cuddles with the pillows.
Too bad she can't enjoy a good book, but snoozing seems to work just fine.
We don't tell her rainy days mean really bad hair days for Goldens.

We have all listened to far more rhetoric from politicians about the refugee crisis than most of us care to hear.  I am especially appalled at the candidates who suggest that only Christians should be allowed into our country.  (I am fairly certain they deliberately excluded non-believers.  But I do wonder if they intentionally left out members of the Jewish faith.)

While I am not often wont to spin religious, today's quote comes from the Holy Bible.  Jesus was talking about who will enter the kingdom of heaven.  I wish those bible-thumping, pray loudly in public, high and mighty folks would take heed of these words their very own leader gave to them centuries ago.  This is what Jesus said it really means to be a Christian.  (This is only part of the text.  For the full text read Matthew, Chapter 25)

"Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take as your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. 

For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat;  I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink;  I was a stranger, and you invited me in;
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."




Monday, November 16, 2015

Je suis Fran├žaise

Today we are all French.  What happened over the weekend in France, and recently in Beirut, in Kenya, in Iraq, and other countries saddens us beyond words.

In times like these, we stand by all those affected.  We grieve for them and hold them in our thoughts.  Not only for the victims in France but also the victims of terrorism all across our planet.

Let us not give these terrorists any religious connection as many (including prominent politicians) have done.  Islam does not condone these acts.  Allah does not lead them.  Let us not become even more prejudiced against any religion or ethnic group.  And please let us not respond to these attacks incorrectly (as our Nation has done before).  But let level heads prevail.

It is not tolerable, it is not possible, that from so much death, so much sacrifice and ruin, so much heroism, a greater and better humanity shall not emerge.
-Charles de Gaulle

Friday, November 13, 2015

Remembering Ellie

On November 10, 2013 our dear Ellie died suddenly.  She had been the picture of good health.  "Passed" her physical with flying colors a month before.  My husband had taken the two Golden Girls for a walk and all seemed fine.  As he approached our driveway, Ellie fell down and could not get up.  We rushed her to the nearest animal hospital where they found bleeding into the sac around her heart.  She died on the operating table from the large hemangiosarcoma on her heart.  She was ten.

Ellie was the gentlest and most obedient dog we ever owned.  She learned quickly and was always eager to please us.  She was so very tolerant of our higher-strung Lucy and was a subtle alpha dog.

No matter what attracted her, she did not break a "sit" command

She was frequently seen with two tennis balls in her mouth.
She could carry three but seemed to prefer two.

She allowed Lucy to use her for a pillow, never growling or disturbing her

The last photograph of the Golden Girls together.
It was a gorgeous late fall day and they had been running and playing.
We made them stop for some water and to rest.
Who would have dreamed that this healthy dog would be dead less than two weeks later?

This is my favorite photograph of Ellie, now the wallpaper for my laptop.
She was not allowed in the hallway leading to my study.  So she stood patiently at the door hoping to catch my attention so I would come out and play.

Ellie's breeder had the following sign above a photograph of one of his favorite Goldens.  It has been attributed to Dr. Seuss, but that is not definitive.  It is very appropriate for our memories of Dichi Sirius Eleanor Rose:
"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

And we take comfort from the words of Kahlil Gibran:
 "When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart.  And you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight."

Oh, dear Ellie, you truly were my delight.



Monday, November 9, 2015

The French Broad is not a Woman from Paris

A couple of weeks ago, we walked a trail alongside the French Broad River.  This wondrous river begins right here in our county at the Eastern Continental Divide only a few miles from our house.  Called Aqiqua (broad), or Tahkeeosteh (racing water) by the Cherokee, the French Broad is one of the oldest rivers in the United States. Unlike most mountain rivers, the French Broad did not cut its way through the mountains; it is an antecedent drainage basin, meaning the river was here before the mountains.  So the river is older than the Blue Ridge Mountains themselves.  And the Blue Ridge Mountains began forming over 400 million years ago.

Such a lovely river

The French Broad, unlike most rivers in the United States, flows north rather than south.  (I believe there are only two rivers in the eastern US that flow north; the French Broad and New River, also in North Carolina.)  [Addendum/Correction:  As KG Mom noted in her response, there are several rivers, including some in the Eastern United States that run north.  Sorry, I was relying on my grade school study of North Carolina.  At least I did say "I believe" noting that I was not certain.]   The French Broad flows from here in Transylvania County to Asheville and then north to Knoxville, TN.  In Tennessee the French Broad joins the Holston River to become the great Tennessee River.

Gently flowing with relatively mild rapids, the French Broad is very popular for kayaking and canoeing

In pioneer days, the French Broad was used extensively for transporting crops for trade.  The Buncombe Turnpike was a dirt road following the French Broad through the mountains.  A major trade route for livestock, the Turnpike contained several inns and brothels along the way.  Often the livestock drivers would become unhappy with their bosses and stay at the inns, waiting to join up with another drive.  Some called the Turnpike a "river of hogs" because of the number of pigs driven on the hoof from the farms in Tennessee to the mountains of North and South Carolina and areas further south.

The route benefited the NC farmers as well since they could take crops to the Turnpike to sell to the hog and cattle drivers.  Thus the Turnpike played a major role in the economic development of the mountains.  And with its opening in the early 1800s, people of western North Carolina were no longer isolated.

A small island divides the French Broad here

My husband grew up in Asheville and when he was a youth, the French Broad was so contaminated it looked murky and was not fit for swimming or other water sports.  Major initiatives, led by author Wilma Dykeman, worked to clean up the French Broad.  Today it is clear and pure.  Major breweries have moved to our area and Asheville to take advantage of the fresh and clean waters from the French Broad River.

The French Broad doesn't look so broad at this point because of the island dividing it

Such a soothing sight.  I could spend a day just watching this river.

In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time.
Leonardo da Vinci

Friday, November 6, 2015

We Love Lucy

Halloween is over and we're marching forward to Thanksgiving.  Our weather this week has been rain, mist, and drizzle with very brief glimpses of the sun.  If there is sun, Lucy will find it and enjoy it for the time it stays.

For a dog who loves pillows, she also loves to rest with her head lower than her body.
Perhaps in this case it is to get more of herself in the bright sunlight.

Most areas of our country held various elections on Tuesday.  We live well outside the city limits and there were no county-wide or state-wide elections for us this year.  I always watch the "off" year elections keenly since they frequently give us a glimpse into the future.  And unfortunately, it does not look all that bright.  We are getting a bit of fatigue associated with the upcoming Presidential election process.  I do not recall such vitriolic rhetoric from people who would be President in my life.  I've seen many elections so I know about the half truths and power of negative advertisements.  But usually the candidates themselves do not shout offensive slogans...they let their PACs do the dirty work.  [And once again we thank SCOTUS for the Citizen's United decision.]

Sadly, the path to the White House this year will get even uglier.  I shudder to think what foreign leaders think when they hear some of the outrageous statements from some of the candidates.  I fear they are both laughing at us and preparing to be our enemies.

Autumn days are waning rapidly now.  We've lost most of the leaves with the rain and wind and the mountains are looking more and more like winter.  It has been a wonderful Autumn and we have enjoyed it.

Our quote today comes from Chinese poet Lin Yutang:

"I like spring, but it is too young.  I like summer, but it is too proud.

So I like best of all autumn, because its tone is mellower, its colours are richer, and it is tinged with a little sorrow.

Its golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring, nor the power of summer, but of the mellowness and kindly wisdom of approaching age.

It knows the limitations of life and its content."



Monday, November 2, 2015

Transylvania Halloween

As regular readers know, we live in Transylvania County, so named because the mountains and trees reminded folks of Transylvania, Romania.  Perhaps because of the county name, our town goes all out for Halloween celebrations.  There are couple of streets downtown so popular with trick or treaters that merchants put out collection boxes for donations to help the residents supply treats for all the little ones brought to their streets for the fun.

Halloweenfest draws us downtown every year.  It is so much fun to see all the costumes and visit the street vendors.  Several blocks of the intersecting main streets are barricaded for the festivities and it has a wonderful small-town flavor, the sights and smells of Halloween.

One of our flags we see as we leave our driveway

 The day was unseasonably chilly.  Sales of handmade scarves were high

 I loved the little farmer and his John Deere tractor.
He did not let go of his little brother's hand the entire time we saw them

 A fantastic Audrey at a booth selling plants

 The display in front of our toy store, O.P. Taylor's

 A quick visit to our Farmers Market completes our outing.

It goes without saying that I took far too many photographs of people in costume, the musicians, and the festivities.  I can't imagine going back from digital to film.

It's chilly and dreary here with more rain stripping the remaining leaves from the trees.  By the end of the week it will look more like early winter around here.  Our rivers are high and we are under a flash flood warning as is most of Western NC and Upstate SC.  I'm glad the trees are getting a drink but I'm ready for the sun to return.