Friday, July 21, 2017

Heading for the Hills to Beat the Heat

Early in the week we drove north and west about 6 hours to the mountains of North Carolina to get away from the heat and humidity for a few days.  This is the area where we lived 35 years ago, where we bought 33 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains and built a log and stone home with our own hands.  

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina on the crest of the Appalachian Mountains between Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  There are scenic overlooks every few miles, cars move leisurely along, and it's one of the most beautiful places on Earth.   

The parkway was begun in 1935 and the last section finished in 1987.  The land and views along it are protected, with no advertising or commercial businesses, and since the altitude was 3200 feet to 4300 feet, the air was cool and fresh.  
Ah, just what we needed!  

Grandview Overlook, 3200 feet

Milkweed in bloom, Stony Fork

We drove down a primitive one lane, steep (and scary!) Pisgah National Forest road to a parking area and hiked out to Wisemans Bluff Overlook.  This view shows Table Rock, Hawksbill, and Shortoff Mountains.

There were two overlooks built out on rock cliffs where you can safely walk out over the edge to photograph.

There were blackberries along the trail but birds 
or other hikers had gotten to the ripe ones first.

At the bottom, some 4000 feet down, is Linville Gorge and waterfall.  

The bushes in the foreground with the red cone shapes at the top are sumac.  You can make a sort of lemonade-tasting drink from them and it's very good.  Pretty too as it is a bit pink.  

On the way back to our inn we stopped here to see if we could buy some horehound candy and sure enough, they had some!

Horehound is an herb in the mint family and it has a taste somewhere between root beer and licorice.  It soothes your throat and when I was a kid my grandpa would pull some out of his pocket, wrapped in twisted brown paper, and dole out a piece if you were a good girl. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

My Book

When my aunt died I became the keeper of the letters my dad wrote home from the war, 
World War II, 

from 1942 - 1946.  

There are somewhere between 800 and 1000 letters, my dad's plus one year of letters written to him by his family.  

He was only a teenager when he left the family farm 
but he was a very good and honest writer.

(Dad in his uniform and his sister on the farm)

The summer after I became the keeper of the letters, I began to read them.  

It was soon too difficult and emotional (my dad was very ill and died that fall) and I had to give it up before I had even finished the first year.  

But l had read enough to know that I was in possession of a little bit of history
 that should be preserved.  

It took me another four years, 
four years of distance from my father's death,
 to dive in again. 
 I had no idea of how to begin what seems like 
a very large project, how to approach it, what direction the telling should take.  
To tell you the truth, I still don't but I knew I had to start somewhere and I have.  I am trusting that the letters will tell me the story I need to tell.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


It's been a long time between posts, maybe the longest ever.  What happened is ... I had a little medical situation and then I STARTED WRITING A BOOK!  So let me catch you up.

Grandson Jack (one of the twins) had a very successful baseball season with his team placing first in their division and going on to play in the city championship tournaments  last Saturday and Sunday. That's Jack in the red batting helmet.  His little brother wandered up to the bench to get some brotherly love.  They are 8 and 3.
Daddy and Mason were the announcers for the games.  The Astros came in second, just barely losing a heart breaker in the championship game. 

I must say, it was tough not to be there!

My medical situation involved several tests over a couple weeks and eventually a biopsy.  I waited another week for the results of the biopsy ... and waited ... waited ... waited.  Happily, the verdict was: benign. And the consensus: we will keep an eye on it. Not fun.
This weekend we needed to get out of the house, away from medical stuff.  

Friday night The Tams, a 60s beach band, was playing in Georgetown at Shaggin' on the Sampit.  
The daddies of these guys were pretty famous in their day, even had a couple national hits.  Of course you've heard  "Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy" haven't you??

It was hotter than blazes and the bugs were biting, but these guys were dancing fools.  I don't know how they didn't pass out.

Saturday night we headed to the beach to sit and commune with the full moon.  


I'll leave you with a little music from The Tams.  
On your feet everyone! 
 Let's (with apologies to my British friends for whom shagging does not mean dancing) shag!

P.S. More about my book next time.  

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

America's Birthday 2017

This year the Fourth  of July holiday feels different.  Rather than celebrating America's past and present, I'm in a more reflective frame of mind about its future.
I don't want to rain on anyone's parade (or picnic, or fireworks) but I am going to share some of my thoughts.  

Part of me is grieving for the America I believed the country was created to be,
 the one where the poor and the oppressed were welcomed and aided, were grateful to be here and sought to assimilate, 
where "anybody" could become President (or Congressperson, or mayor) and money didn't buy the political offices of the land.  
One where science was respected and acknowledged as the way to a great future, where people didn't pollute their Earth home,
 were polite to each other and  
learned from their differences.
An America where the poor and elderly, the mentally and physically ill, weren't blamed for their situations but assisted with the most basic needs of life.  
A country where the President was respected and didn't 
make a fool of himself to all the world.

You know -- the America I wish I could leave
 to this little guy and the rest of our grandchildren. 

 I care so deeply about these issues and scramble to avoid succumbing
to negative thoughts.
So, last night after the summer crowds left for dinner we sat on the beach. 

The beach is our go-to thinking place.

We weren't alone, there were a few families left, taking photos, playing in the waves, walking purebred fancy dogs, walking mutts, speaking Spanish, speaking English.  People who were a rainbow of colors (mostly red - from sunburn!) smiling at the children (one little guy would not keep his swimsuit on!), greeting  each other
on a gorgeous clean beach, the surf in front of us, a spectacular array of clouds above, the sunset behind. 
I thought about Leonard Cohen (1934-2016), a Canadian, who wrote some pretty wonderful songs and poems about America's democracy.  He believed that the achieving of it was an ongoing thing and that democracy wouldn't be put right through governments and laws but through the protestors and left-behind workers of the heartland, the oppressed women from the deserts (Middle East), the feminists, and the real Christians, the ones who patterned their lives on Jesus. 

Sail on, sail on, he sang,
Oh mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squall of Hate.
Sail on, sail on.

Need, greed, hate -- they are rampant and it's gonna be a rough trip.
 I do hope we make it through, and soon!

πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ ❤️ πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ
We don't have any celebration plans.  Too many traffic jams and tourists, the family picnic is in the Midwest, 1300 miles away.  We'll go to the gym, grill some turkey brats and corn on the cob, and go about our regular Tuesday business.  
Whatever you do, I hope you enjoy your day.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Back to the Charleston Aquarium

Here is the little alligator from my last post and apparently no one spotted him there between the second and third pickets of the rice gate.  He's just a baby and it took us a few minutes to find him, too.  

There were a couple of questions about the albino gator in the comments.   Alabaster is eight years old.  There is a group of alligators in a remote swamp in Louisiana that regularly produces albino alligators. An alligator hunter keeps his eye on the nests and when he spots an albino hatchling he has a permit to catch it and provide it to a zoo to be cared for.  Most of the 50 albinos in the US have come from this one place. 

I really do enjoy reading your comments 
and I thank those of you who take the time 
to leave a few words!

Here are a couple more creatures of the deep from the Charleston Aquarium.

Moon Jellies

A favorite snack of sea turtles and certain fish, moon jellies can grow up to a diameter of 12 inches, depending on how much they have eaten.
Depending on what they have eaten, they can turn transparent purple or pink.
Because of the depletion of ocean fish and sea turtles, jellies are increasing in alarming numbers.  

Sea Nettles

The graceful swooshes on the left come from the body in the center of the photo, swirling down and back across the body in slow and graceful movement as it floats. 
These tentacles have stingers on them that are used to paralyze its prey.  The prey gets caught on the tentacles and the jellyfish pulls it into its stomach in the bell.  The bell can grow up to eight inches across.  
These pretty things sting many swimmers over the course of the summer.  
It won't kill you when they do but it sure hurts!

Monday, June 26, 2017

'Wait! It's Real?'

We walked up to an exhibit at the Charleston Aquarium Saturday where, looking for all the world like a plastic figure in a creepy blackwater swamp diarama, a huge white alligator posed motionless on its back legs in the glass window.  Every bit of him was bright white except his pink eyes, which suddenly ...
Meet Alabaster, a rare albino alligator, one of only 50 in the U.S.  

There are no albino alligators in the wild because UV rays in sunlight are deadly to them.  They are reptiles and need the warmth of the sun to regulate their body temperature but sunlight will burn them because of their lack of pigment.  In the wild they die within 24 hours of hatching.


Alabaster has lived in a temperature-controlled dark tank for his  eight years of life.  

He is 8 1/2 feet long and still growing. 


"Grandma, what big TEETH you have!"

One more alligator in the Coastal swamp exhibit.  Can you find him.

🐊 🐊 🐊 🐊 🐊 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Fire Towers

The use of fire towers to spot forest fires was in its heyday from the 1930s through the 1950s.  Located on a high point of land, they towered over the trees in forested and rugged landscapes, manned by seasonal employees willing to live in remote and rough locations, forming a network of communication across America.
This abandoned tower is located on Forest Service land just outside of Georgetown.  It looks like it hasn't been used in a very long time.

Many of the towers and rough roads to them were built by the CCCs (Civilian Conservation Corps) created by President Roosevelt in the Great Depression.

Early communication took place  by telephone, carrier pigeon, and a machine that sent Morse Code signals by flashes of light.

I climbed a few of these towers when I was a kid and when I was in college the Forest Service recruited for summer "fire lookouts" on campus.  I looked into it but took a job at a scout camp instead.  As I remember, the pay would have been a lot better but the jobs were out west and transportation was a problem.
There are many fire towers still in use today, manned by humans using technology a bit more sophisticated than carrier pigeons, I imagine.  

 The Forest Service also rents out unmanned towers during the summer for about $40 a night.  Be prepared to hike in (and up!) carrying your own water, equipment, and supplies!  

This one in Oregon looks pretty inviting to me.