Sunday, November 23, 2008

Giving Thanks

The family, except mom who's taking the photo

This week I celebrate the love of family and the miracle of continuance. You may recall that Elgin recently left us to be with Bill, which in my mind is yet another reason to celebrate. The family came from all over to attend Elgin's memorial service. The service began on a somber note, but as we all got up to talk about her and share stories we laughed through our tears at the funny tales throughout their lifetime of love.
One of the funniest stories was of Elgin right after Bill's passing. She was in the hospital and I had to stay with her for 2 days because she wouldn't stay in the bed and I didn't have the heart to have her restrained. So, I sat and we talked for two days. On day 2 at our weariest, Elgin began to talk about Bill as though he'd just left the room. "He's gone down the hall to play poker with the boys," she said. "Well, I'm sure he'll be home on time," I responded. She began to share with me her opinions about these particular men, which grew less flattering as the hour went on. She became more and more distressed, wanting Bill home - I was wondering how to handle it. Suddenly, she gave me this conspiratorial look and motioned for me to come closer. I did. She whispered to me that she's suspicious of Bill's actions. "....what?" "I'm suspicious of those other men," she confided. ".....why?" "I think they're taking Bill out and smoking marijuana!" she blurted.

You have to know Elgin to understand why that's so funny. She was the consummate lady who never had a harsh word to say, never raised her voice, always wore matching clothes, and had her hair and nails done in classic fashion. She was A Lady. Both she and Bill were the epitome of "gentile." Bill had a stroke before his passing and I believe that was the only way she could process his odd behavior at that time. Her mind tended to blur the past together as one big movie, but occasionally her mind was crystal clear. Amazing.
As I processed the photos and burned CDs for all who attended I became quite touched by each face, remembering their words and laughter and tears. Remembering old times and anticipating times ahead already noted on the calendar. I've been blessed, and I give thanks for each and every one of them. This humble Thanksgiving novella is dedicated to them.

Jessica and Kayla

Baylee, Monica & Jeff

Sister & Bro-in-law Linda and Mort and their daughter, Elizabeth

The sibs - Laurie, David, Jeff and Elizabeth

My husband, Bob and me

Sam & Ben

Jim & Laurie, plus little Evie (Sam & Ben's folks)

My sweet mother and Jessica

Mom and me

There are a few family members who could not come to the memorial services. Their presence was greatly missed and I give thanks for them and their love: Lance and Shannon, Glenn & Robin & Madison, Kym & Steve & Kids, and the spouses who kept the home fires burning - Joel & little Owen, Crystal & the kids. These are the main family but others revolve around like bright satellites. I repeat - I am blessed.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Virginia Sweetspire in Autumn's blush

Autumn brings such joy. Yes, the trees and shrubs are going to sleep for the winter, but while they slumber above their roots are stretching and growing beneath the surface, ensuring a surge of physical growth next year. This transition is necessary for most plants though there are some who do not require it depending upon the variety and zone. I'm not talking about annuals, of course and this isn't really about Botany anyway. For most plants downtime is necessary for future growth.

This truism translates well into the human existence. Quiet, reflective time is necessary for our bodies and souls. An artist cannot create their art without allowing time to stop and soak up Life experiences. A writer cannot write without observing and experiencing the ebb and flow of our world. To do these things one must make time to sit and look or read, smell, hear and taste. A song writer and musician eventually must face that blank page, which may come after months or years of touring. That is the time one creates, and is the time most fear, but it indeed comes at a time of stillness. This is probably why Sting won't stop touring as he's admitted a fear of that blank page, but I digress. Time of reflection, observation, meditation, reading, listening, tasting, hearing and really seeing is mandatory for our inner expansion and awareness.

It is in those quiet moments that our ideas and thoughts begin to stretch and grow beneath the surface so when the spring of our creativity comes these ideas are ready to burst forth into the world much like the flowers we so adore.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Waking before dawn to a subconscious thought that followed as I ventured outdoors to walk, it came to me - today, I must be a part of something bigger than myself. It became a need, a loud bonging bell, not a tap on the shoulder but a silent shout in my ear. Today will be meditation and reflection upon things bigger than myself and my issues. Seeking a quote to reflect how I feel led me to this:

"An individual has not started living
until he can rise above the narrow confines
of his individualistic concerns
to the broader concerns of all humanity."
Martin Luther King, Jr

I wish for each of you peace today and everyday.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Saying and Singing What It Knew: I Can

“A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me —
a sky, air, light: a being.
And before it started to descend
from the height of noon,
it leaned over and struck my shoulder
as if with the flat of a sword,
granting me honor and a task.
The day’s blow rang out, metallic —
or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.”

Denise Levertov, Variation on a Theme by Rilke
(The Book of Hours, Book I, Poem 1, Stanza 1)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

October 29, 2008

Cocculus carolinus

As promised, here are photos and information about the red-berried vine we saw the same day as the Virginia Creeper. I've since learned, thanks to Harvey Cotton, Director of the Huntsville Botanical Garden, this is Carolina Moonseed, Snailseed or Coralbeads. Cocculus carolinus.

This vine didn't have lovely fall coloration, but our colors here were only beginning to turn when these shots were taken. However, amid the green leaves these vivid red berries shone in the sunlight like christmas lights on a tree.

Carolina Moonseed is a deciduous vine native to the Southeast. It's easily grown in full sun to part shade and is tolerant of a wide range of soils and growing conditions.

The berries are not toxic to humans, but they are bitter and cause a tummy ache. Birds love the fruit, especially Northern Cardinals, White-throated Sparrows and Mockingbirds.

Cocculus carolinus means "little berry from Carolina," which I find charming. Commonly called Snailseed here, you can see why in this photo from Hilton Pond, where you can also link to read more about this beautiful vine.

I plead

For flowers, smiling fairies of the ground;

For birds, on wings and breezes skyward bound;

For trees, the lofty spires of hills we roam;

For beasts, still persecuted in their forest home.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Bluebirds for Robin

Female Bluebird
"You lookin' at ME?"

For Robin at Robin's Nesting Place who thinks she may be coming down with the flu but was rejoicing in bluebird sightings today. May these bluebirds bring you cheer, Robin, and joy and good health and chase away the icky flu!!!! We hates the flu!!!

But we loves the bluebirds. The male, below and the female, above, were photographed only days apart in February, 2007. I hope you enjoy them and that they bring you good health, Robin!!!
Male Bluebird perching on my Shepherd's hook.
No Photoshopping was done to enhance his coloration.
Just a perfectly gray day and the perfect angle of reflection.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

October 29, 2008

My bestest buddy Carroll took me off into the wilderness Thursday. We'd read many of the Looper's blogs and some boaters mentioned following the American White Pelicans southward along their journey. On this day I got my new camera body - a Canon 40D - so we thought we'd see if we could spot some white pelicans at the dam.

We arrived to a very windy, choppy lake below the dam. Fishing boats were rocking in high waves. Fishermen struggled to keep their balance as they threw their lines out into the chop. The Great Blue Herons were having a convention and we spotted a couple of cormorants and coots, but not one white pelican. We know of a trail through the brush that sometimes reveals "pelican island" when most of the leaves are gone. We give it a shot, but no pelicans. Obviously, they're not here yet.
Walking back along the trail we spot some beautiful berrying vines draping the trees like holiday garland. The glorious Virginia Creeper was in full autumnal glory with its deep, garnet red leaves and blue-black berries with red stems. This is one of my all time favorite vines.

This particular area is listed in the North Alabama Birding Trail and it's easy to see why birds of all manner are attracted here. There are high limestone cliffs upon which eagles and osprey perch watching for fishes. Herons and ducks and cormorants and loons and coots and all manner of water fowl are here as well for the great fishing. Songbirds twitter high in these trees thanks to the abundance of food and shelter. These Virginia Creeper berries won't be here long.

Several species of Sphinx moths rely on Virginia Creeper as host plant, and a variety of bees are attracted to the nectar and pollen.

Virginia Creeper is not poisonous but does tend to tangle in the wild with Poison Ivy, which you can see in the photo above. Poison Ivy has three leaves whereas Virginia Creeper has five. Poison Oak doesn't grow in North Alabama (so say the experts), plus it has whiteish berries, so if you see a five-leafed vine with blue/black berries in the wild it is Virginia Creeper. We also saw a brilliant red-berried vine with which we were unfamiliar. After consulting with our local Botanical Garden director we now know what it is. That'll be the next post.

For me, I love the autumn color of this vine and think it's fall finery makes for some pretty shots. So...what do you think? Are these photos clearer than my 20D photos? I wanted more resolution and the 40D is 10 pixels versus the 20D's 8 pixels. The 40D has lots of new tricks I've yet to learn, and I can't wait to play with it more. (...fair warning)


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