"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks."
John Muir

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Umpire's Wife

I know what you are thinking--
today is Halloween and this is a costume
of a scary man.
Sorry.  No.
This is my husband.
He may be scary and mean to some--
like the boys standing with a bat at home plate.
But this isn't a Halloween costume.

You see, I married an umpire.
He wasn't always an umpire.
He was a coach for quite a while.
That was nice.  I knew the players on the team and cheered them on. 
I sat alone, however, as I really didn't care to 
hear the backseat coaches (parents)
 murmur their criticisms.

But then he became an umpire.
The least loved person on the baseball diamond.
No matter which decision he makes,
half the people playing or watching the game disagree.
And are unhappy.

 He shared that he likes me to come to his games.
Probably because he wants someone on his side.
So I go.  Sometimes.
Once again I try to sit alone.  Out of earshot.
I don't know the teams.
I don't know the players.
I don't know anyone but the umpire.
I watch him and this is the view I get.

 Or this one.
He enjoys his time on the field and I like seeing that.
And I've never heard anyone call out, "Kill the umpire!"
Not even close.  They are nice crowds, for the most part.

But there are subtle ways that civilized people 
can get their point across.
This sign pointed to a row of parking.
All the umps were there, talking and strapping on equipment.

Then I noticed another sign, posted on the fence
exactly where the umpires were told to park.
Maybe not quite so subtle.
"Strike three!  Yer OUT!"

Said umpire just read this blog and requested that I include a little poem he learned somewhere.
It helps define the tough skin needed to do this job:

An umpire is a lonely man.
His calls are known by every fan.
No one calls him Henry or Sam,
They simply call him names.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Deer Autumn Story

My grown children tease me about my National Geographic photos and videos.  The countless numbers of them featuring birds fluttering at a feeder;
chipmunks skittering between openings in the stone wall;
the stark shadow of the bare oak branches reflected 
on the snow by a midnight December full moon.
I love them.  They mock them.

This post is another such wildlife story.
But my photo journalistic tendencies are edited, G-rated national Geographics--the good, 
not the bad or ugly.
No creature hunts down and eats the weaker.
No baby gets separated from its mother and wanders in the Sahara until its demise.  No sir.  Not mine.
Mine are sugar-coated.
You can say, "Awwwwwwwww" now.


Summer has passed.
Once again the subtle signs outside declare its passing.
Without a sound.
Not only in the first leaves beginning their turn to yellow
or the tall grasses shades of purple...
but colors and lifestyles of our quiet co-inhabitors.
I like to call them my back yard neighbors.
The predictability of their life cycles speaks peace
among a world often chaotic.

Just a few months ago
one of our mama deer looked like this.
Lovely, don't you think?
Note the roundness to her belly.
I wonder, did she suspect that change was coming?

Because one late spring day she showed up to show off.

Her sweet new baby could hardly walk.
Perhaps it was his very first day in our world.

At the same time another mama had twins.
We watched them all grow.

Weeks passed, the sun grew stronger,
the days grew longer and hotter,
and these young, tottering fawns grew bigger,
and faster, and bolder.

But ALWAYS stayed close to mama.
How does she teach them what to eat,
how to run, 
 be alert to danger from camouflaged snakes,
hungry coyotes, stabbing cactus?
Cars?  People?   
Without words or time outs, they learn.
This may sound silly to you, but I ponder these things.

As summer days slid into official autumn
I noticed that the "babies" no longer wore their distinctive spots.
I wonder why they are born with spots splattering their backs and sides?
Do you know?

 Now, as November whispers for me to turn the page on the kitchen calendar,
these youngsters look so much like their mothers that I can barely distinguish them.
They have all grown a shade darker brown and the youngsters are larger.
But not quite AS big.
They don't walk the slow, dignified, watchful way their mama does either.  Rather they sometimes jump and dash around just for the fun of being a child.

Meanwhile, Mama is being courted by our proud, large and heavily antlered bucks.
They remain elusive until just this time.
Every year.

These youngsters still stay close to mama.
They have all winter to learn from her,
be cared for by her.
But later next spring, much to their surprise, they will be forced to go it alone
as a new wobbly, spotted fawn (or two) takes their place at her side.
I've watched this happen, how they linger nearby,
following their mama from a distance,
not sure how to behave.
Then somehow she lets them know they have grown up.
And they pull away and fit into a new subgroup of yearlings. I call them the "teenagers".

I appreciate our quiet neighbors.
Even when they eat the roses. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Who Wouldn't Like a Little More Cash?

I was just looking over the post I wrote about
my little buddy and grandson turning 6.
Although I like the pictures of him as a toddler,
I felt I didn't give much description of him as the great little boy he is today. 
So, I'm letting you see a bit of the funny, creative fellow he really is.


Cash likes to build things.
He is crazy about legos.
With the help of his dad, he completely assembled this wooden tow truck in one sitting.
This takes concentration and patience, which he has.

 But another moment he is filled with energy
and goofiness!  Such a clown!

 To blow out all these candles
takes a very BIG breath.

 Hold that thought!
Time to make a wish.
Wishes are serious things when you get one per year.

 He didn't want to rush such a momentous time
as pondering his wish. 
The candle wax was melting onto the frosting. 
(I noted a tinge of blue to his cheeks, I'm afraid.)

Wish completed, the big huff and puff took out all 7 candles.
Seven, you say?
Why, of course.  6 for his years and 1 to grow on.

 And being 6 and all that hype that goes with the age,
the Birthday Boy entertained us with a goggle show.

 And since one pair got a laugh from his audience,
might as well go for two.
That's our funny man.
One can never have too much Cash, after all!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

cash is 6

Cash, you have turned 6!
How did that happen so fast?

At 6 you are strong and smart and funny.
I see that charming sparkle in your eyes.

Of course, as your grandma, it was just "yesterday"
that you visited our house and drooled your way into
my heart.

When you turned 1, 
Gigi helped me bake you a special cake that 
(sorta) looked like a baseball.
I think you liked it!

Even as a babe, you brought fun and joy into our lives.

As grandparents, we get to relive our childhoods
in a much more carefree way than parenthood allowed.
Like enjoying the way the wind is in our hair as the little train chugs through the park

and relishing the taste of peppermint candies that
should rightfully have been put ON the little gingerbread house.

From a young age, visits to our home meant watching for the deer and wildlife 
that roamed the woods and fields out back.
You always get excited to see our animals
and have learned to reign in your enthusiasm and be nice and quiet so they aren't frightened away.

And digging in the dirt.  
That is real boy stuff, right Cash?
You could correctly name all the different diggers
and big equipment before you were 3, 
teaching this old grandma such things.
Since new houses are always being built here,
we make time to visit construction sites and
watch your joy over the noise and sounds.

Actually sitting up high in one of those trucks is serious
business.  Wonder what you're imagining?
Garbage trucks are your favorite and whenever a visit
ends up on Friday morning you patiently wait out in the driveway in your pajamas for a long time.  
Once, when you were younger, I asked you what you were doing, you answered,
"Listening for the garbage truck, Grandma.  
It's coming soon!"
Your patience was rewarded when the workers honked horns and waved and called to this little fellow in his footie pj's, making your day!
And I'll bet your smile made theirs, as well.

Cash, you are my favorite parade buddy.
You add extra spark to fun things I love to do.

Your enthusiasm and laughter lighten my world.

Only one problem:
you have a habit of growing up too fast. 

I love being included in your adventures.
I love being your grandma.
You are my favorite 6-year-old!
Happy birthday, Cash Man!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Searching for Athena

We learned there is more to Nashville than country music.
Back in 1897, for the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition, a full-scale replica of the Parthenon was built.  The city wanted to be known as the "Athens of the South".
Why?  I don't know.
But I'm so glad they did.

 The original Greek temple, now crumbled ruins in Greece,
sits proudly and complete in Nashville.
A perfect replica.
Who knew?  

Just think--this is the cast from one of the sculptural fragments that was taken from the ruins to England in 1801.  With pieces like this, writings and ancient historical documents, sculptors Leopold and Belle Kinney-Scholz recreated the complete pediments on the Nashville building.  What imaginations!
(This torso happens to be part of Poseidon, the sea god.)

Then the large characters on the pediments that decorate the two outer ends of the building were meticulously re-sculpted and sized down so the mythological characters can be studied and viewed
by tourists like us.
Pretty awesome, I must say!

This strong beauty is Iris, goddess of the rainbow.
There were square pegs in her shoulders that alerted the        sculptors that she once had wings 
(and a head and arms and legs and such, I might add!)
Can you pick her out in the completed pediment above?
Hint: she is reaching toward the horse's mane.

 Details of whom each one is thought to be and their relationships to one another are fascinating to read.
Neptune, Mercury, Zeus, Diana--the whole gang is there.
Plus so many more.  

What or whom we really were searching for was Athena, goddess of wisdom, who had originally been created in the 5th century BC.   Alas, she is now lost, but her Tennessee image was finished in 1990, gilded and painted with 8 pounds of gold.  Everything about her-- her large shield, spear and helmet reveal tales of Greek mythology, bravery, battles and strength.
We just couldn't find her as we roamed around the art galleries of the building.
Hmmmm, where could she be?

How we laughed when we finally entered her room!
Dazzling!  She stands 42' 10" tall!
The little figure perched in her hand is Nike, 
goddess of victory.
"Little" Nike is actually 6' 4" tall!!
And Hillary and I stand like microscopic creatures in front.
To think we honestly almost MISSED finding Athena!!

This can be so true for our lives.
We hurry about focusing on distractions
and missing the glorious!
Today try to find Athena, my friends.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rainy Fun in Nashville

                A while ago, 3 months to be exact,
        (I know. I know.   But who ever said blogposts 
            and calendars must be perfectly aligned? 
                           Who, I ask you?)
        we coordinated a July 4 vacation with our New Jersey "kids". 
 Our Alaska girl did the planning, thanks to the internet and her expertise, and traveled vicariously through us.
We each drove approximately 850 miles to meet in the middle. This happened to be Nashville, Tennessee.
Known for having the 4th best firework display in the USA.


The first night we stopped in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Bill Clinton's presidential library is in this city
and we especially like visiting presidential libraries.
You can learn A LOT about not just the president,
but the culture and world issues of that era.
And sit in the presidential chair around the cabinet's
personalized table.  
*Note that his chair is a bit taller than the others.
Just in case you wondered who was in charge.

We were so excited to connect in Nashville-
and we did so at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
It was raining.  Hard.  Soggy puddles hard.
And whether the holiday weekend or the wet weather,
EVERYONE wanted to go there.  
The lines to get in went on forever.
Hillary and Drew arrived before us and did the waiting.
By the time we got there, they had our tickets in hand
and we just waltzed right in.  Nice, huh?

The sunshine you see here is fleeting.
We had a few moments (literally) at the famous
Grand Ole Opry when we needed sunblock.
(Doesn't our rock star son-in-law look like he just belongs 
in front of that famous music hall??
The smiling fan with him thinks so!)

99% of our holiday weekend was spent under
one of these big umbrellas.
This heroic man saved the day for us by running
quite a ways to the car in the sudden downpour
to retrieve said umbrellas 
(which we had not thought to carry) 
while we waited in Andrew Jackson's home, 
all dry and cozy.
(After all, Hill and Drew HAD waited on the line the day before.  Only fair...)

Once we opened these big umbrellas,
we realized that slave cabins had doorways much
narrower and it took quick twists and ducks to get in and out of them without getting drenched.
Look closely and you can see the torrential rains.
Good thing the audio tour headsets were waterproof.
(At least I hope they were!)

Thank you to marketing that provided us
such great umbrellas.  All 4 came from the trunk of the Texas car, I might add.  The state that NEVER has any rain!

Getting soaked isn't fun,
but drying off in a cozy coffee house is!
Warm cocoa was yummy
and this extra artistic flair made it even better.

We spent hours there--drying out,
playing cards, laughing and eating.
And photographing smiling strangers, apparently.

We have so many memories of that weekend.
Adjoining rooms and consequent silliness prevailed.

4th of July night continued to rain.
We coerced the manager of our hotel to let us "borrow" a random room on an upper floor that overlooked the Titan's stadium, where the firework display was.  The Nashville symphony had recorded its synchronized concert (Violins don't do well in heavy rain.  Neither do musicians, for that matter.)
so we turned on the radio and oohed and ahhed
Then happily (and dryly), 
we took the elevator back to our rooms.  
How easy was that!?