Aug 19

Perfect timing

Last night I was sent on a mission to dig up two photographs from 19 years ago. I found one of them. But I also found others, from 18 years ago. One of them is now here, because two weeks ago, I spun together a tale of a book I’m reading and my great-grandmother. It’s a pretty fantastic post, and I think you should read it. Anyway, this is that great-grandmother, Flavil:

While searching an old hard drive for other old pictures, I re-re-re-discovered this rich vein of photos I took just before moving out of the state for work in 2001. I’d taken the time to go see all of the family and visit and laugh and eat and take pictures, and such.

A few weeks later I was in Little Rock for a new reporting job. I’d been there about three days on September 11th. No one in the newsroom knew me or trusted me yet (Indeed, the news director at that station had a stunned look on his face a few days prior when I filed my first report. Maybe I was wrong, but I interpreted it as “He’s literate?”) and I saw the first cut-ins and had to tell the morning anchors.

The lead story that day had previously been the local zoo re-gaining its accreditation, and one of the anchors had spent part of the morning making animal noises on air. (My literacy was not the problem in that shop.) I imagine my great-grandmother probably watched her local stations go to the network feed right there in that chair, but all of that was still almost a month later.

It was gray the day we took that picture, you can see it in that south-facing window in the background, and I remember the rain was coming in later in the evening. When it gets gray there, the ceiling moves in for sure, but it never seems too low, and the sky always seems full of … possibility, I suppose. This storm could be a gentle shower, a toad strangler, a gully washer, the wind could really blow, lighting could strike. It could move on without an explanation. It probably wouldn’t get very bad, not in August, not like the spring and late-autumn storms I spent several years covering, but every cloud looks familiar if you’ve been through some of the bad storms. There’s a sense of energy there in watching a storm roll in, and I don’t just mean the perceptible feeling of the barometric shift. Plenty of places have that sort of experience, but not every place, and somehow even under perfect cloud cover the sky can still seem somehow bright.

Usually there would be a small group of us going to visit her. We’d sit in her tidy little house and exchange pleasantries and speak up, and ask and answer a few questions. It might have just been me that day. I always enjoyed visiting with her, she had candy after all, and I know she appreciated when her family came over, but, in retrospect, I was usually young and loud and in a hurry. By then I was smart enough to finally slow down a bit and listen a little. I was somehow brighter for it, too.

The young person’s lament: I wish I’d caught on to that earlier.

Do you know what I just caught on to, just now? Look at the date stamp on that photo.

Aug 19

Catching up

Run! Run into the weekend! Run away from last week! And farther from next week! That is why you run!

That was a Saturday run. Well, she ran, I walked through the woods. Still can’t run. Maybe another month or two. Which is fine, I prefer a good walk anyway.

Here’s some moss and grass in the park where The Yankee and I took our engagement photos. You won’t see this in that photo shoot from 2008, however, because we took those photos in the middle of a Nor’easter.

It’s also the park my wife played in as a child, so maybe she’d hopped around on this stone:

Perhaps she picked the berries off this tree and flicked them into the sky:

I had about an hour to goof around with while she ran, so I walked through the woods behind the park and watched the light and shadows highlight the little details of the plantlife:

I found an out-of-the-house fly:

It’s fun to wonder what this will grow into, and how many people may walk by it before the weather turns in a few months:

The park has some nice landscaping, too. When you take in the whole place this stuff comes off almost as an afterthought:

The bees dig it! (When you look at flowers, stick around for a few minutes to watch the bees.)

Tomorrow I’m going to share videos from the weekend, and talk about rock ‘n’ roll. Be sure to stop back by for that. Until then:

Aug 19

One out of three isn’t bad for a Monday

This is just a little update today. I’m starting a new theme today, because it wouldn’t be a Monday without a theme with no real purpose or obvious end date.

The idea: celebrate Small Victories. The everyday ones. We’re not talking about Inbox Zero, here, no. (Though I am presently at Inbox Zero in one account and have four in the other.) Nothing quite so amazing here. We’re talking the very small indeed. This is not the sort of thing you’d make mental note of to share with friends or family the next time you gather. No, somewhere between that and the slightly less impressive and semi-irregular achievement of deleting three apps you don’t use anymore.

I had this idea with three such items in mind. I’d already planned a long bike ride and aspired to build a small thing this evening. Thinking of those plans earlier in the day, I was working my way up a stairwell at the office, thought up a good joke and had the opportunity to use it almost immediately when someone coming down the stairs perfectly set up the punchline. That’s a small victory.

There was a bike ride, this evening but it was not a long one. I didn’t feel so hot, so I turned for home at the 12 mile mark, much earlier than I should, and licked the proverbial wounds, realizing I should have gone for a morning ride instead. But there’s always tomorrow’s ride. We had a fine pork chop dinner, I washed dishes and then went to the hardware store to pick up a few pieces of lumber. I have an idea for a quick test project, a quick and dirty proof of concept, if you will.

Only, by the time we left the hardware store it was dark. It was about 9:30, after all, and the days are sadly getting shorter again. I decided, wisely, that I was too tired to play with power tools. So that small victory will wait until tomorrow as well.

So one-out-of-three. Doing that every day would get you a contract extension in the majors. Of course, my baseball equivalent of small victories would probably be going to the plate with my bat and not someone else’s. A bad simile, indeed. I’ll work on that for tomorrow.

Also on tomorrow’s small victory agenda: cleaning up some bookmarks and deleting a few things from the Netflix queue. It’s best to start these things out … small.

Jul 19

Yeah, have some more flowers why don’t you?

Did you like the pretty and flowering things I shared last week? Well, good sir and madam, you are in luck. Because things are still flowering and blooming and looking nice this week as well. It’s a small window of time, it seems like, before we begin to lament the changing of all outdoors, so let us concentrate on it intently. Shall we?

I’d like you to meet my friend, Eryngium yuccifolium, but if Latin isn’t your bag, you can call it the far superior Rattlesnake Master.

It is a tall grass prairie land plant, and if it wasn’t in a landscaped box on the corner of a city street you might still see it around these parts. It is one of those prolific parts of the parsley family. Sometimes you can find it in places as far away from the prairie states as Florida and Delaware.

The common name, by the way, comes from the plant’s use in some Native American cultures. It has nothing to do with the balls of the fruit, which don’t rattle, or the way they can feel like you’ve been hit by a viper, but part of the plant was used in some instances as a snake venom counteragent. Also, this plant is great for restorations and sends out a 50,000 watt signal to insects. It is very popular with bees, beetles, butterflies and any wasp that can make it over for a visit.

Fibers from that plant were also used in making shoes. The Internet is just full of useful information, if you ask me.

You might also enjoy this Hibiscus grandiflorus, or swamp rose-mallow hibiscus. They sport five large petals, they’re all velvety soft, as you would expect from a hibiscus. The shrub itself can grow to about six-feet, but this particular guy is a long way from home. Usually you’ll see this in the Gulf Coast states and in more swampy, wetland areas. Why it’s growing in an alley here is a mystery.

There’s probably a holiday gift story behind it. A present sat on the back window of a car on the drive back up here. And then the thing died, and someone put it outside at work. The next time somebody noticed there was a new growth, and then the flower crept up, sickly and weak. Some good shade, some good rain and now it’s sitting right there on the corner of the property. An aunt’s neighbor shared a cutting and now it is in a tiny alley behind a side street of a small business and it’s just waiting for its next act.

Pixar would do movies about this sort of thing, you know, if plants had mobility. The animators could give them all the agency in the world, and the flowers would be great clues to their personality. You know this one would be the biggest diva in the second act of the movie. There wouldn’t be a spinoff character, but there would be a laugh, and some plastic toy version, modeled after the animation. So it wouldn’t be quite right, but it would be close enough. But since this flower didn’t get the really poignant stuff, like the rose, or the active shots, like the ivy or daises or the daffodil, it wouldn’t sell well. You’d see it in bargin bins at knock off stores within a season, and no one would buy the things. Just another bit of plastic to step on in the middle of the night and inspire a new hit from Kraftwerk. And then one day there would be a revival. These things which they couldn’t move for eight bucks, so they discounted to three on account of the lesser displays and the damaged packaging, would suddenly be pulling down $45 or 50 dollars, more in the original packaging. And a kid would scream. The kid would have to have it. They’d just diiiiie if they couldn’t get it and the Gen Z parent would think back on when they had almost the complete set of these guys and they’d roll their right into their kombucha when they got a Gryzzl alert about a live action movie remake. Hollywood has no new ideas anymore, they’ll say, and meanwhile the kid is hyperventilating because Jan has it and I neeeeeeeed it and Jan! Jan! Jan! And sure, that’s not even grammatical, but kids these days, am I right? And then you’d hit on the idea! It’s perfect! It’s cheaper! And it’s beautiful! “Let’s just go, honey, over to the greenhouse and get you a real hibiscus. Your grandma can show you how to re-pot it.” And that’s when you’ve lost your kids forever.

Stupid Pixar movies.

There are 1,500 species in this particular family — including okra, which we enjoyed as a part of our dinner last night — and some of these mallows range into Canada. Maybe this particular one just needed some space.

Tonight we enjoyed tostadas, so I fully expect to run across some tortilla plants or pepper, onion or bean bushes tomorrow.

Jul 19

What a different a thunderstorm makes

Here, like many places around the country in this totally unexpected, unpredicted and entirely without historical precedent of a month called … let me make sure I have this right … Ju-ly … have been enjoying some warm temperatures. On Saturday evening I went for a bike ride early in the morning and it was already 100 degrees.

Sunday evening I took another short spin. There was a new road I wanted to try, and when you get those in your head they are difficult to shake. There are generally two approaches. You could cheat and look at a map, or you just ride the thing. Well, I just road the thing. Again, it was meant to be a quick ride, and while I looked at the temperature, again offering a heat index of an even 100 degrees, I neglected to look at the radar. So I got rained on a bit:

And while that only increased the humidity, it cooled things off considerably. It was 78 degrees when I got back home, and that drop happened in about 30 minutes. And just like that, this most recent heatwave was broken.

By the time I got back to the house and cleaned up, it was time to run a few errands. I mis-timed one store’s closing hours, which is fine because that probably saved me $20. But, still, there’s always another store to go to.

Turns out there were two more stores to hit, because the first didn’t have what I was after. That only happens every other week.

On the way back in, I looked in my mirror and realized that I haven’t tried a sunset-in-the-mirror photo in some time. It’s probably been three-plus years. How often are you driving west at just the right time of day with a clear view behind you? If you live west of where you’ve been, don’t answer that. It’s unusual for me now, as a pure happenstance, which is fine. One really only needs this shot every so often, anyway.

I bet the ever-changing symbolism is still changing.