Monday, May 30, 2016

A Time to Honor

In the words of our President, Barack Obama in his 2016 Memorial Day Proclamation:

Today, and every day, let us remember the servicemen and women we have lost, and let us honor them by rededicating ourselves to strengthening our Nation's promise.

With love, grace, and reflection, let us honor our fallen fellow Americans, known and unknown, who sacrificed their freedom to ensure our own.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Fridays Are Golden

I'm staying away from "news" as much as I can.  I have some really strong views about the "debate" being so widely discussed and I won't let that ruin my Friday.  Nor my weekend.  The television will play only movies or Memorial Day celebrations this weekend.  No talking heads.  No "news."

Ellie has been much on my mind lately.  It was about this time of year that we learned from our breeder that "our" dog was going to deliver and that we were second in the selection process.  My husband and I purchased a dog early in our marriage and were rarely without one.  Our sixteen-year-old Springer Spaniel had died two years before.  We knew we would be retiring to these NC mountains in a few years and decided that a Golden Retriever or two would be great dogs for all the activities our new lifestyle would afford.  After much searching and interviews, we selected Dichi Goldens (HERE) and set up the process.  After filling out an extensive application and meeting the breeder in person we were approved and wait-listed for one of their puppies.

That puppy came into our hearts and lives.  Our dear Ellie (Dichi Sirius Eleanor Rose) was joined two years later by another Dichi Golden, our Lucy (Dichi Lemonade Lucy).  Ellie was always a gentle soul and quickly became my heart dog.  On a recent episode of the Netflix series "Grace and Frankie," Frankie made a comment that Golden Retrievers were "like living hugs."  She was absolutely correct.

From an early age, Ellie carried things in her mouth.  In her younger days she carried stuffies.  But when she learned how to disembowel them, she switched to tennis balls.  She could easily scoop up and carry two tennis balls at a time.  We always had to make certain she had dropped them before we went outdoors.

No toys in the great room.
Except for tennis balls, which will not be thrown

Ellie carried the tennis balls around as casually as could be.

Heading downstairs for a drink.  Often the tennis balls were left by the water dish.
And new ones brought up.  We had a lot of tennis balls for her.

Lucy, dear.  You don't look very regal with those tennis balls in your mouth

Lucy tried and tried to pick up two tennis balls at once.  On the extremely rare occasion that she succeeded, she dropped them almost immediately upon raising her head.  Interestingly enough, since Ellie died, Lucy no longer tries to pick up two tennis balls at once.

Lucy, your mouth is simply not designed to pick up two balls at once.
I know, and it's not fair.

This is Memorial Day Weekend here in the United States.  In Brevard, it will also be one of our biggest festival weekends, "White Squirrel Festival."  Streets will be closed off and there will be vendors and performers of all kinds all day Saturday and on Sunday afternoon.  One of the featured events will be the Squirrel Box Derby, an old-fashioned soapbox derby down Jailhouse Hill.  (No, the jail is no longer at the Court House at the top of the hill, but it's always going to be Jailhouse Hill.)  There are two categories; one for children and the other for merchants.

Photograph from the brochures about the festival
That building behind the cars is not the courthouse; it's the newspaper office
The courthouse is on the opposite side of the street.

A freaky giant white squirrel will roam around the area and local booths will have activities for children.  The quality of food has increased with the number of food trucks we now have.  It's a lot of fun.  And we will definitely be there for the action.  We try to purchase a few things from local vendors and we love to watch the people.

The day begins with a parade and the placing of wreaths on the memorials in front of the courthouse.

Sometimes we arrive sufficiently early to watch the ceremony
As we did in this photograph I took some years ago

We try not to get lost in the carnival atmosphere.  Memorial Day is, after all, a weekend to honor those who gave their lives in our country's wars.

Today's quote is from 19th Century poet Wallace Bruce:

Who kept the faith and fought the fight;
The glory theirs, the duty ours.



Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pictures I Have Missed

We have at least two pairs of Pileated Woodpeckers (and perhaps three pairs) who regularly come to our suet feeders.  We knew they had nestlings because the birds would eat, then grab a mouthful of suet and fly off.  Last week we saw our first fledglings.  They were being fed deep in the woods.

Now the fledglings are coming a bit closer and I've tried time and again to capture them being fed.  I saw one of the "babies" sitting patiently on a branch.  They are as big as the parents, but they seem to have more puffed up tufts of red hair.  And the pupils in their eyes are so big they seem to be dilated.

The fledgling is sitting in full view.  The parent is at the suet feeder.
I've got the camera at the ready.

 Just at the right time to snap the photograph.  The parent flies back.  But instead of landing on the limb beside the fledgling, the parent moves to a limb slightly above it.  The baby moves over behind the leaves.

 The parent is completely obscured by the leaves.
If only the parent had landed on the same limb and just to the right of the bird...

 The little one moves to another limb while the parent goes back to get more suet.

 Another great view.

Unfortunately she moves higher up on the tree and once again disappears behind the leaves.  The parent flew in with the food but only the tails are visible below the leaves.  Just one more photograph opportunity down the tubes.

I'm still hoping to photograph the feeding but the odds are getting smaller.  The little ones will soon be making their way to get the food for themselves.  Even when we fail to get the photographs we want, our birds do give us a great deal of pleasure.  Great rewards for a little investment in feeders and suet.

Lucy and I are a bit more cautious when I take her out for the last time before bed.  Our neighbor spotted a juvenile (probably a second-year) bear not far from our house.  When he got to his own driveway he saw a second bear.  Likely the mother is involved with this year's cubs and is sending these two off on their own.  The neighbor's spunky little Jack Russell Terrier barked and the bears fled toward the lake.  That is good when the bears are fearful of the dogs and humans.  Not a smart move by the Jack Russell, but Belle thinks she is a giant and owns her property.  I suspect our Lucy would have remained quiet.  But I hope I don't find out.

And another reminder that we are wise to bring in the bird feeders every evening.  They are placed inside a large closed garbage container in the garage until morning.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Price of Admission

It started as a trip to Old Fort, NC to see a new traveling exhibit about the great flood that submerged much of the land in western North Carolina in 1916.  The 100 year anniversary of that flood will be in mid-July.  The result of two hurricanes, the flood brought the heaviest sustained rainfall recorded at the time.  Railroads, bridges, houses and farms were carried away by the flood waters.

The North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources is sponsoring a traveling exhibit so our daughter and I decided to drive to Old Fort to see the exhibits.  We drove down the mountain in pouring rain and arrived at the Mountain Gateway Museum in Old Fort shortly before 11:00.  The doors were locked and the museum was dark despite the hours posted as "9 a.m. to 5 p.m."  My daughter called the number listed.  The person responding said she would be there in 10 minutes.  So we waited.  A young woman arrived in about 15 minutes, short of breath and loaded with grocery bags.  Without any apology or excuses, she simply opened the door and said rather tartly, "It's a self-guided tour."  We found the room with the flood exhibit and were quite surprised.  The exhibit was in a very small room and consisted of four large panels displaying information and grainy photographs.  A small screen laptop had a short touch-screen message recorded by one of the survivors.  And that was the entire exhibit.  I don't know if the exhibit is better in larger venues, but this one was limited in scope.  One could learn much more in five minutes on the Internet.

Flooded valley in Asheville.  The floodwaters carried away part of the bridge.
(Photograph from the Internet)

Well, that was a bit of disappointment.  But I knew there was a famous geyser in Old Fort so we set out to find it and salvage something from our trip.  The sun started shining and we took that as a good sign.

We drove along a winding old US 70 to the geyser.  At certain places, signs advised us to blow our horn since there was no visibility around the curve under the railroad tracks.  Fortunately we did not see even one other car.  We were in no hurry and drove leisurely (no other way on that winding road) and were treated to a gorgeous Kingfisher that flew past us.  Then my daughter spotted a turkey hen with tiny little poults in the grass.  I've never seen such little ones before.  We saw several other wild turkeys in the fields by the road.

We have a saying in our family when we see something thrilling.  "Well, that was worth the price of admission."  So seeing these lovely birds and driving this lovely road definitely was worth the free admission of our trip.

We came upon the geyser (called Andrews Geyser) in a large field that is actually a Civil War engagement site.  The geyser is man-made and was built in 1885 by Alexander Boyd Andrews to honor the men who built the railroad through this treacherous area of the mountains.  The building of the railroad took the lives of 120 men.

 Andrews Geyser shoots water 80 feet into the air.

 Andrews Geyser is in a park that was a standoff during the American Civil War.  A brigade of Stoneman's Raiders was pushing through western North Carolina in April 1865.  When the Yankees reached the Old Fort area they were met by 500 Confederates in Swannanoa Gap.  Felled trees and munitions turned the Stoneman's Raiders in another direction.  There was no real battle.

 The information plaque near the geyser

 The park is lovely with picnic tables and benches carved from mountain stones.

There was another reason for Andrews Geyser.  The railroad had a 20-acre retreat for executives near the site.  The geyser provided a lovely feature for the retreat.

Sometimes a day turns out far differently than planned.  And that's why we take it easy.  We do indeed believe that the journey is often the destination.

Friday, May 20, 2016

We love Lucy

We are finally having some soaking rains.  Most of us are happy about that although we don't care much for the chilly weather.  In mid-May our high should be much higher than 50.  Our Lucy enjoys the chilly weather but she hates the rain.

I enjoy the rain.  I have a great raincoat with an inside pocket to hold my iPod so I can walk and not get myself or my music maker wet.  I have canvas bags for the groceries so I don't even have to worry about bags breaking when I go shopping.  And when all the chores are done, I love to sit on the porch and read while watching the rain and the birds.  We have three baby Pileated Woodpeckers being fed in the woods, along with two or three Downy Woodpeckers and a Red-bellied Woodpecker as well.  I can see them deeper in the woods from the porch.  Hopefully they will soon come more near the house so I can get some photographs.

Lucy prefers to lie on her bed in the great room, snuggling with her pillows while she looks out at the rain.  She looks as if she is wishing the rain away.

Rain, rain, go away.  Little Lucy wants to play

In these days of crazy politics and dangerous laws being passed by our own State as well as others (yes, I'm talking about you Oklahoma) I envy Lucy in her carefree world.  I often think I would be better off if I could simply turn away from it all.  But it draws me like a train wreck and I cannot seem to look away and let it go.

 Lucy tires of looking out at the rain and settles in for a snooze.
She is lying between the blue bone and the white bone in a little nest she made.

Tomorrow is Armed Forces Day here in the United States.  A day to honor and pay tribute to the men and women who have served and are currently serving in our Armed Forces.
So fly your flag and participate in your community's activities to honor these brave men and women.

Three quotes for today.  The first two are for all politicians:
"If it is not right do not do it;  if it is not true do not say it."
 Marcus Aurelius

"Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters."
Albert Einstein 

The third is for all of us:
"Live your life so you wouldn't be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip."

I must admit that if we had a parrot, that bird might have learned some colorful language this political season at our house.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

More Springtime in the Mountains

Few people appreciate the extraordinary beauty of the mountains in Spring.  As the various trees leaf out, the mountains are filled with the wonderful colors of Spring.  Although not as bright as the Autumn foliage, the leaves of Spring are nonetheless spectacular.  Especially when fluffy white clouds dance across the sky, making shadows on the mountains.

[Click on the photographs to appreciate the colors]

Cold Mountain, made famous by the book of the same name and infamous by the movie based on the book and the reality television show, "Hillbilly Blood."

Distant view of  Looking Glass Rock

 A bit more green in a lower elevation

 And bare trees as the road climbs higher

We travel the same sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) time and time again and never tire of the views. Like wide-eyed tourists, we stop at lookouts.  And take picture after picture.  We are indeed blessed that we live so near this amazing National Treasure.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Spring Color

I had a nice break entertaining family and friends.  Eating wonderful meals, taking multiple day trips and simply enjoying Spring in the mountains.

Folks flock to the mountains in Autumn to see the color.  Many of them do not appreciate that the unfolding Spring offers color of its own.  The dogwoods, mountain laurel, mountain magnolia, azalea and other flowering trees join the leafing trees to bring a  palette of color.  A special benefit of driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway  (BRP) through the western NC mountains is the change in elevation.  In some areas the trees are leafed out and the flowering trees no longer blooming.  In higher areas, the tree limbs are bare but the flowering trees are in full bloom.

At 4,000 feet, the green trees cover the top of Looking Glass Rock like a cap on a hazy day.

Further west, the BRP climbs higher. Some of the hardwoods are bare while others are leafing out in color.  Such a contrast to the greens at lower elevations.

Such lovely muted color near 6,000 feet.  I do love Spring in the mountains.

And what's a trip on the BRP without a stop for breakfast or lunch at the Pisgah Inn?  Yummy food and distant mountain views.

I turned my camera on the parking lot rather than the mountains.

We've had significant temperature changes during late April and so far in May.  Many associate the much cooler weather to "Blackberry Winter," the time when the blackberries are blooming.  Whatever the reason, we made multiple changes from air conditioner to heat in the past several weeks.  I finally decided the heat would not be turned on again and mandated heavier clothing and fireplaces in the early morning chill.

And we are still embarrassed that our beloved State is making onerous headlines by passing a law that denies civil rights and trying to disguise the action as wanting clarification of discrimination.  Seriously people?