Monday, March 30, 2009

River Art

The dock building continues. I have enjoyed so very much getting to know this crew, watching them work together as a team, seeing how much respect they have for each other and the talents each bring to the table. To me, it's fascinating. I would apply for a job with them if a) I had any natural balance, b) I didn't get motion sickness, and c) I were younger. I'll post some of my favorite photos of the OVER 1,200 TAKEN one day. But, not today.

Today, the concrete truck arrived and I watched in awe as they poured the top and bottom levels. Many photos ensued. At one point I walked over to my neighbor's dock several houses down to take photos. Sometimes the crew was just standing about waiting for the next concrete truck. That's when I'd take photos of the water, a passing barge, flying ducks, whatever struck my fancy or caught my eye.

It was a clear, cold morning. Freezing, actually. My hands were red, my nose running, my eyes watering in the frigid winds. Still, the sun was rising and the sky cobalt blue. The water was beautiful and hypnotic during those times of waiting. It was very quiet. I took several photos from my neighbor's dock, pointing into the waters, at the rocks, at the reflections.

I admit, these are my favorite photos of the day. They look very much like paintings or lithographs. But they're simply photos.

One of my favorite posters as a hippie college kid was one that said "Stand Still and Look Until You Really SEE." The poster looked like a little girl picking flowers, but if you looked closely you saw that the flowers were really people. I thought that cool at the time, and very profound.

That poster came to mind today when I was processing these photos. Stand still and look until you really see. What do YOU see?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Chilly Sunday

Brrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!! Yesterday's storms turned out to be a non-event in our area. Most of the storms developed east and south of us - I hope there wasn't any damage. This morning's walk stunned me with fierce winds that made the power lines whistle and vibrate. No snow. The photo above was our only snowfall this year, and the blue berries in the lantana were striking. Today, just gray skies and cold temperatures and a hellish wind gusting to 25 mph that's rattling the rafters. Where'd Spring go???!!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tornado Watch

Somewhere in this photo is a tornado. May 8, 2008 was a sunny, blustery, sticky day. Gradually, huge blinding white clouds began popping up with ominous charcoal centers in our brilliant blue skies. The clouds grew thicker and thicker, and the winds stronger, humidity was high. As the clouds finally closed like a curtain on the final act, the weather radio alerts us that we're under a Tornado Watch. No kiddin.' A squall line had formed to the southwest and was crossing the river around dusk. The tornado siren went off. Local channels have excellent radars and the best weather teams, so we were glued to the set to see where the "hook echo" was. We could see exactly where the tornado was - between our house and the eastern shore. Normal people take cover, and we did, but before doing so I shot a few frames into the gloom hoping to capture the funnel.

This afternoon we're under a Tornado Watch once again. Our "safe place" is ready to receive us should a tornado come our way. Since moving to this river we've seen our fair share of tornadoes. They seem to follow the waterways and roadways, though not always. One went right through our marina, stacking up the docks like dominoes. It formed right outside our houses on the river, so quickly that the National Weather Service didn't see it. No sirens. No Watch. I was outside spreading mulch and came in right before it hit, but only because of the rain. We had no idea. We've also experienced an earthquake that measured 6.4. That was unexpected. We've also seen flooding, and the river turn bright red from the clay soil erosion. It was red for weeks. The past three years we've had drought, which seems to be coming to an end. We've witnessed the wave of Japanese Beetles coming through as they moved further northward into our country. We celebrate each year the hatchings of Mayflies, which are indicators of a clean river. We suddenly had midges here, whereas we didn't before. Bird migrations have been unusual due to the Gulf of Mexico hurricanes, Rita and Katrina.

Mother Nature never ceases to amaze me even as she humbles me. Our planet is a miracle, and we are its stewards.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Red Sky at Morning...

Sailor Take Warning, Red Sky at Night, Sailor's Delight...

Spring storms are rumbling through and I'm so grateful that they are. I adore a good thunderstorm although I'm not fond of the occasional tornado. These storms bring beautiful gifts of colorful clouds and fresh, clean air. Rains cleanse the air of pollen, so much so that our roadways are mushy with the greenish-yellow stuff. Cars leave their tracks within it much like snow slush.

Glowing sunrises alert us to rains on their way. The plants are all greening up, sprouting, blooming, reaching for the skies as their roots dig deep into the drenched soil. Happy Spring!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Will Trade....

Here it is. My usual Spring post about Red Buckeyes blooming. They are in the bud stage now - this image was captured last week when the spidery leaves were emerging. The little white flowers are some pretty little weed, but they go nicely together, don't they?

Red Buckeye Seedpod - November 2005

I was pondering what new bit of information I could possibly say about them this year so I Googled "Red Buckeyes" and found an ad: "Will Trade Red Buckeye Seeds for Feeders." Really? For heaven's sake. There are apparently people out there interested in Red Buckeye seeds. Red Buckeyes bloom in the spring just in time for the hummingbird migration. It's the first thing they see here in our neck of the woods, so I've let those on our riverbank grow wild. Every Spring I'm entertained by a riot of red blooms with hummers flitting about and every Autumn there are an abundance of seeds, which are huge, beautiful, cinnamon colored pods.

Red Buckeye seedpods in my hand - November 2005

Is blogger acting up, or is it just me? Anyway, seedpods work best planted in the fall while they're still plump and moist. I have a pottery bowl filled with dried ones just because I think that they're pretty. That, and I'm a sticks & twigs kinda gal - I have rocks and driftwood and shells and rocks and feathers and dried leaves and ... did I mention rocks? all over my house. They make for great decorations. Once Elgin thought my bowl of dried buckeye pods were chocolates and plopped one into her mouth. She spit it out immediately, thankfully, and told me my chocolates had dried up, bless her. So here it is - the Red Buckeye Post.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Byer's Gold Possumhaw Holly

I chose a Byer's Gold Possumhaw Holly as my "signature tree" when we first moved to the lake. I have 4 possumhaw hollies in my yard - Ilex Decidua, Winterberry, the Byer's Gold and a very happy male who pollinates them all. The hollies this winter were outstanding. The gold berried is still laden with berries even as the spring green shoots emerge. The Mockingbirds are in heaven.

One mockingbird keeps trying to nest in this tree but the continual flow of people too and from is too frustrating to him. Still, I always find him perching in the gold berried holly, laying his claim to it.

Everyone loves to shoot spiderwebs drenched in dew, and I'm no exception. One foggy morning last week the fog and dew were extraordinary. Naturally, I have to share since my blog is so random.

I love the quiet stillness of a damp, foggy morning. Providing I do not need to drive in it, that is.

You can see the gold berried possumhaw in front of the window. In hindsight, I wish I'd planted it about a foot further into the yard as I have to continually clip branches that threaten our eyesight. But this tree is a show-stopper. The winds that whip through the narrow opening between the houses have twisted the tree and made it lean. I'd no idea the winds would be that strong on the lake - lesson learned. See the little fence to the right? It's always all bent up as well after winter and has to be adjusted. There are two of them hiding an ugly utility box where I planted two Knockout Roses, one on each side. That'll be my next task - weeding and mulching. Spring is here!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Baylee and Dakota Valentine

Baylee watching me take photos of the dock building process.
She can barely contain her excitement.

This is a story of two dogs. Baylee, my "Berniel" and Dakota Valentine, my mom's new sheltie. For the sheltered among you, a Berniel is a cross between a Bernese Mountain Dog and some sort of Spaniel....and a few other breeds. Kayla and I made up the breed name 'cause we just think Eukanuba and Westminster dog clubs should make Berniels official. But that's not the story. The story is about the developing friendship between these two dogs.

Baylee is very laid back. She lumbers here and there, but can get all excited. It's not a good idea for a 55 lb. dog to get excited when her mama (me) is only 5'2 and little.

Dakota is NOT laid back.

Little spirited Dakota Valentine has fallen in love with Baylee. He thinks she's beautiful, this tall, leggy brunette with bedroom brown eyes and a breath that is so stinky. And other parts that smell good to Dakota. They romp and play; Dakota turning quick circles around Baylee who gets bewildered and does her best to keep up. They love sitting on my mom's "sunny beach porch" while she and I have a bit of the grape. This was their first porch sitting.

Dakota is like "Hey, I like you! I really like you! Can I smell your breath? Look at me! Can't you see me? Hey, I'm down here! Hey, I really like you! Hey! Hey! Look down here! Hey, Baylee, play with me! Let's run some more! Oh please oh please oh please!!!!!"


Dakota isn't ready to stop. "Hey!!!!! Hey!!! Ruff!!! Ruff!!! Baylee...let's pllllaaaaaaayyyyyy!!!!

Finally, Baylee wins and Dakota stops. For a minute. Then the playing begins all over again. These two are so funny together! They love walking together and chewing on sticks together and chasing birds together.

Dakota and Baylee sittin' in a tree....kis, nah...just kidding. They're both, um, fixed. LOL!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dock Building Continues

Glowing in the sunset

The dock building continues, and I'm forever thankful that it is. When the process began my first thought was of the birds, both waterfowl and songbirds. The songbirds visit my feeder just as regularly as before, the coots swim around the construction and waterfowl land on the structure finding it an extraordinarily handy perch for finding fishes. Speaking of fishes, they collect underneath it and the fishermen can be found casting their lines nearby. All is well on the riverbank as this structure just seems to add to both the ambiance and the ecosystem. This progress is nothing but good.

As you can see, they've made great progress. The upper framing is in place and today they are putting in the stairs, seen to the left. Taking photos from the bank the foreman smiled and asked me if I was "that lady with the long lens?" Yep...that would be me! He seemed thrilled that they're being immortalized. These guys are very nice and are true professionals. We have all been impressed with the way they treat the river and land while building this remarkable structure.

Here's today's crew. The company is Bubba's Marina Construction. An unfortunate name, but it works in this part of the country I guess. Bubba Doss, the owner, is as professional as can be and he is THE authority on dock building on these rivers. He works closely with TVA following all their rules and regulations, so you know your dock is up to code, made well, and made right AND put in the right spot - which is critical. The foreman is to the left, two workers in the middle and the crane operator is in the red shirt. These guys clamber around the iron structure like gymnasts on a balance beam. They seem unfazed by the height or narrowness of the beam. Like a well-rehearsed dance, they communicate mostly by hand signals and arm movements, and each has their specific job which they do without much talking. They just do it, and do it well. When they weld and sparks fly, why that's my favorite part.

As of today, 953 photos. Seriously. This is cool stuff.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Comfort Box

My buddy Diane recently wrote a wonderful post about a Simple Abundance passage concerning "comfort drawers." Check it out at Alberta Photography.

That particular book will never, ever gather dust at my house as it's constantly at my bedside and referred to often. I remembered the passage, read it again and thought about Diane's challenge. If I made a comfort drawer for myself I would never find it again, plus weird things would begin to show up in it like a screwdriver, old batteries, and lots of dog hair. I don't need a comfort drawer.....I need a vacation.

But I know someone who could use a comfort drawer these days - my mom. She has been through a couple of rough years physically and emotionally, but we think now that she's on the mend. She has finally, FINALLY received what we believe to be a correct diagnosis and medications that are actually working. It's been a journey for her. A scary journey, a frustrating journey, a maddening journey. Not a good journey. She needs a comfort drawer for those nights she still wakes in fear, thinking the worst in the dead of night all by herself, alone in the quiet with only demons whispering in her ears. She needs a comfort drawer.

However, like me my mom has precious little space in her cottage. So, instead of a comfort drawer I created for her a comfort box. I have these little wooden purses with pretty brass latches. They're lined with felt and ready to be filled with whatever one chooses. One became her comfort box.

My mom and I are what we call "sticks & twigs people." We find tremendous comfort in the gifts of our earth. Both of us bring home rocks and feathers, seed pods and seashells, driftwood and lichens and flotsam and jetsam from our travels. Mind, our travels could be the riverbank or the backyard. However, for my mom's comfort box I went through my various and many wooden bowls and boxes and baskets to retrieve items to remind her of our good times together. A hawk feather and "dove" (homing pigeon) feathers found in my yard here; rocks and shells and a mussel shell from our riverbank; scallop shells from our summers on Holden Beach, North Carolina, a rock and palm tree seeds from Bill & Elgin's yard in Arizona; Indian Bead Corn from the house I grew up in; a red buckeye seed pod from my yard here; a gold crystal bead that belonged to her mother. These items were wrapped in a handkerchief made by her Aunt Gracie that my mom gave to me long ago. These items were wrapped in the cloth, atop which I placed an old, small book of mine that she has always adored called "Springs of Oriental Wisdom."

Baylee and I took it over to her and presented it to her on the front porch. She was so surprised and delighted, taking out each and every piece while I explained to her where it came from and why it was included. She didn't cry, but instead laughed along with me as we relived some of the best times of our lives together. She'll add to it as we share more adventures together.

Before the stories began, she brought out a glass of wine and we "dinked" to our special bond and friendship. I've got the best mom in the world!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Perch of Kings

A casualty of progress are the gnarled trees cascading off our 25' riverbanks that serve as perches for Kingfishers and other waterfowl. Kingfishers are easily recognizable by their rat-a-tat-tat-tat calls on the wing, long beak and Sting-like haircuts. Their steel blue feathers, russet breast markings and dapper white collar lends a debonair appearance to the riverside, much like wearing a tuxedo to dine at a local catfish restaurant.

This striking tree branch is now serving as safe haven for fishes in the waters downstream, as the tree had to be removed for dock building. The Kingfisher will have a higher perch when the dock is completed, but the dock's steel posts can't compete with this crooked branch for natural beauty. Ah, progress.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Monday morning we wake to a deep rumbling sound out on the river. A bright white tug is pushing a short barge close to shore. They stop and lower those huge pilings into the soft mud below; the tug disengages, then turns westward leaving a crew of men. They're building our neighbor's dock.

I've been spellbound. The process has completely captivated me this week. I've taken close to 400 photos and the crew has only just begun. They're still working on the lower level's iron skeleton. Watching them weld the iron is amazing. These guys have it down to a science; it's a well-rehearsed theater. I promise my blog won't turn into a play-by-play, but I'll update you from time to time.

The upper shot shows their arrival and the lower shot is how they left it before the rains came today. The tug came back, hitched up the barge and headed for the safety of the bay during our storms. They'll be back when the lake calms down.

So this post isn't about buckeyes or butterflies, buttercups or baking, babies or birds, but it sure is bodaciously fun! ( me, anyway!)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Friday Evening Bird Sighting

Sandhill Cranes
(not black swans)

Late yesterday afternoon, hubby and I were sitting outside on the deck enjoying our first glass of wine on the deck in a breezy late afternoon waning sunshine. It was windy enough for a jacket, but the temperature was temperate and nice. Steady gusts of air kept hair in my eyes and rippled the surface of my Merlot. Gulls are abundant now. They look like the fluffy stuff of milkweed and dandelions floating on the surface of the lake far away. We meditated about the red headed woodpeckers that were romancing each other in their usual raucous fashion, hoping they choose the dead limb overhead again for their brood this year. Bluebirds were feisty and in love, and a robin flew to a high limb and serenaded us during our few moments outside. Goldfinches and house finches scolded us for disturbing their dinner hour, although we were sitting on the opposite side of the deck. They've been spoiled, the finches. High overhead, well above the tree tops, a pair of long necked, slender, solid black birds glided westward. The setting sun set their red beaks on fire. What were these things? Not cormorants - too big and the wing flaps were all wrong. Not frantic enough, and the birds were larger than cormorants. Not turkey vultures. Too slender and fine with a very long neck. Not sandhill cranes - wrong coloration.

It bugged me all night and into the next day. E-mailing my naturalist buddy with TVA didn't solve the problem. He suggested I check my bird guides, so I did. Audubon bird guide, Birds of North America and the Sibley Guide to Birds. I became obsessed about identifying these birds. What the heck WERE they? No common and indigenous birds were standing out. Finally, because I was so obsessed, I checked each guide page by page. (yes, I'm nuts) The only bird that looked like what we saw were ... black swans.

They're from Australia, I know. They're not indigenous, I know. There's no reason for them to be here, I know. However, parks and botanical gardens purchase them so I can only imagine that's where they came from. I still don't know for sure. Carroll finally said to me "JUST SAY THEY'RE BLACK SWANS AND BE DONE WITH IT!!!!" I reckon that's just what I'll do.

So..........I saw black swans yesterday!!! Woo hoo!!! (don't burst my bubble......) No, I didn't get pictures. I was drinking wine, but had JUST started sipping my first glass. Am I nuts?

Friday, March 6, 2009

New Look for Spring

The blue was depressing me. Maybe it was just me, but every time I came here it felt all dark and gloomy, like the inside of a cave or something. And the tree was scary looking. Ick. It just felt all wrong and "not me."

So, I perused other blogs for inspiration, heading to Rachel's at Blue Algae Creative. She just rocks. Her photos, her prose, the entire feeling of her blog is a soothing balm for my soul. Always has been. The sheer beauty of it makes me want to linger. The colors are soft and inviting and subtle, like sea glass. Sea glass. That's exactly what her blog reminds me of. When I visit there I feel as though I'm walking on a beach at sunset, soft twilight colors of sky and sea and sand. Shells and rocks and sea oats and the sound of gulls. Driftwood and seaweed. I can smell the ocean, the salty air, the briny scent, and hear the waves crash, feel the sea foam cross over my toes as they sink into the wet sand.

I digress. Sorry. As usual, Rachel has tweaked her blog with a new banner and I just love it SO very much that I borrowed her concept. Mine is not as good as hers as she is a true artist. Everything in her blog flows together like a river, but I like the size for a change of pace. I also love that Bird Girl exhibits her camera, so I added my own like she did. When one isn't capable of being creative, one mimics their mentors. It's a compliment.

So, thank you Rachel for your inspiration. Thanks for sharing your talents with us. Enjoy the Pacific Northwest for me, okay? Thank you Bird Girl for giving me the idea for the camera.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Creative Slump

I cannot seem to shake this creative slump I'm in. I've no interest in taking photos or writing. Part of the reason is that my car is sick and we're not going to repair it because it's old with high mileage and the repairs would be in the thousands. So, I'm trapped at home unless the hubby or daughter are home and I can use one of their cars. Long story. I love my house on the water so at first this wasn't much of a hardship. However, over time I've started feeling trapped. I'm used to taking spur-of-the-moment adventurous road trips in my trusty All Wheel Drive Subaru Forester (love that car) and discovering places I've never seen. I can't do that now. Yes, I can take photos of the water and sunrises and all that stuff but I've "been there, done that" and am feeling the call of the wild. I can't even go see the pelicans or drive to the dam and watch the cormorants. I'm home bound. It's messing with my mind and my spirit.

I was whining recently to my artistic road trip buddies, Carroll and Bobbie, and one of them threw me a challenge. She basically kicked my butt and told me to start photographing things I'm not used to photographing. Mundane things that normally hold no interest for me. Be creative with the mundane. Yeah, yeah...I know, I know. Preaching to the choir. She threw down the gauntlet. "Send me creative photos of SHOES."

Well, I didn't do it. One morning she sent me this missive; "I've rushed to my computer every day, anxiously awaiting shoe photos. I imagined a shoe in a tree, a shoe peeping from beneath a big rock, empty, ragged shoes walking down the middle of the road, and on and on. Where are they?? Come on, Debi, show some sole! If shoes don't spur your creativity, find some lizards :)" I laughed out loud!

It was raining, but I immediately donned my rain jacket and L. L. Bean dog-walking shoes and went outside. This oily puddle beckoned. In 5 minutes I was back inside downloading the first spur-of-the-moment photos and sent it to Bobbie. My first thought was "good, now she'll stop bugging me," but I really want her to bug me. She wrote back "That is so great! Debi, do you see how the scalloped-like trim on the shoe matches the patter of the water? And the face is incredible! I know you see the face at the toe of the shoe. Turn the photo upside down and the shoe becomes the "hair" of the face. The face in the water reminded me of someone, and THEN I remembered -- looks strikingly like Wilson in Castaway!!! There is a lot of stuff in that photo and it's all good." Bobbie is a painter and has a wonderful sense of color and playfulness. She saw something that I didn't see.

Creative people need coaches and cheerleaders. Artists, photographers, writers, designers, gardeners, cooks, weavers, quilters, sculptors, architects and managers - all of us create on some level. We each get into creative slumps and need people to shake us up. One cannot create in a vacuum, one needs input and fresh air, new surroundings, and occasionally a kick in the pants. Thanks, Bobbie, for a must needed boost.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow Day


March roared in like a lion - literally! Local weather prognosticators were predicting a Winter Storm Warning Saturday evening into Sunday. Yeah, we haven't heard THAT one before. Southerners are not used to winter storms so whenever the weather dudes say SNOW that means run to the store and stock up on toilet paper, milk and bread. Every. Time. Oh, and get a bottle of wine while you're at it, honey. Just in case.


Waking Sunday morning to several inches of pristine white snow covering everything, while large fluffy cotton balls continue to fall for hours ... well ... it was like Christmas in March. We can't drive on the stuff and sure can't walk on it and don't have the right clothing for it, but still... we slipped around and took photos and fed the birds and sat with warm cups of coffee at the windows just watching the show. And what a show it was. A snow show.

Mourning Dove

The birds appreciated the sunflower seeds and thistle and even the crappy cheap seed I had left over from something. A gazillion goldfinches swooped in to gorge themselves and would flit back into the trees when it came time to refill the feeders, looking like little yellow Christmas ornaments in the bare branches.

My northern friends understandably get sick of this stuff and I am positive I would, too, if I had to deal with as often as they. However, here in our neck of the woods the sun was out and the snow was gradually melting by mid-afternoon. There are still icy pockets hither and yon today as the temperatures remain in the 20's. We enjoyed our day of snow fall and bird feeding tremendously. It was the perfect day to just sit and be, read and meditate, or crunch around outside in the wrong shoes getting all wet and cold then coming inside for hot chocolate. It's the stuff that makes memories.


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