Sunday, July 31, 2011


July 31, 2011

If you wanted you could travel the world and inspect the Seven Wonders of the World (which you will realize, if you click the link, that there are actually 28, which would probably take a very long time to see.  I have viewed three in person in my first fifty years, which is a nice trifecta, but doesn't bode well for clearing the table.).

If instead, you work on the list of "Makes You Wonder(s) of the World" you don't have to travel so extensively.  Here are the three I saw this morning when I made the walking loop near our hotel:

Muffler Tree Art?

Balloons Waiting to Escape and Find a Party?

I didn't get a photo of the third Wonder.  I saw it approaching on the walking trail at a jog.  At first I couldn't tell what it was--something bundled up from head to toe in several layers of clothing, bulky, puffy, almost like the Michelin Man.  Head covered with both a knit cap and a hood.  It's cool here, but even I was wearing shorts.  As it passed, I decided the small, young man running by was not an old woman as I had thought, but was probably a slightly heavy jockey trying to make weigh in for this afternoon's races at 1:00.

All three of these sights made me wonder what Erin would have quipped if we had been walking along together.  In fact, if any of you ever wondered, there is absolutely no way to count how many different times or ways your mind touches on someone who is gone and won't be coming back.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hike or Walk

July 30, 2011

Walter and I went on the Southfork trail in the White Mountain Wilderness of the Lincoln National Forest this morning and went further up the trail than we have ever gone.

On the way back down the trail we came across a big dog party.  I took their picture because they looked like they were having so much fun.  I'm sure Teddy, Willie, and Uma are having just as much fun.  They tended to play a lot of Twister and Mah Jong when we leave them alone:

Can someone explain the difference between "hike" and "walk"?  Is it a matter of equipment?  Terrain?  Changes in elevation?  Length?  Something else?  Or are they the same?  I felt like I did both.


Length--6 miles
Change in Elevation--2,700'
Degree of Difficulty--Difficult (though it starts out easy enough for children)
Water Crossings--lost count (but none deep enough that we had to change out of hikers into water sandals)
Time on Trail--3 hours

Friday, July 29, 2011


July 29, 2011

File under things that make me say hmmmmm:

We past several 50-wheelers on I10 yesterday.  Seriously.  I counted the tractor trailer wheels and there were, 50 total wheels on the ground, not 18.  I couldn't even find a Google image to illustrate for you.  And they were so long and moving so fast (The speed limit was 80 mph) I didn't get a photo myself.

I drove with both hands on the wheel when passing them, though if the big things they were carrying had decided to roll off in the high cross winds, having both hands on the wheels would not have saved us.  

Today I am looking forward to watching the car's external thermometer start to gradually drop (after we turn left at Roswell and head towards the mountains).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dry (Up)

July 26, 2011

About six weeks ago, I spotted some unfamiliar water birds on my morning walk around the lake.  When I say unfamiliar, I don't mean to imply that I can't tell the difference between herons, ibis, ducks, and geese (these were definitely geese), but rather they were new on the lake.  Of course, migratory birds fly through and stop over with some frequency, but they usually leave after a night or two and don't become part of our  neighborhood.  We don't give the ones in transit nicknack names like we do for our permanent wildlife (we call our most senior great blue heron Bird Friend, because he was the first and for a long while only animal around the lake that didn't immediately run or fly away from Willie when he first arrived and tended to romp around heedlessly and with abandon).

The first morning I noticed eight of them, swimming some distance from the shore, always staying way out of range for a good look (or, I suppose, a good shot).  I figured they were four couples on a fam trip or if they were Brant geese, perhaps they had some sort of package tour of Texas outposts or maybe they just got a bad placement on their RCI timeshare option.  Anyway, if figured they were just passing through.

The next morning I spotted the group way out in the middle of the lake, but it only looked like there were seven of them.  Where had the eighth one gone?  To the convenience store for beer and cheese whiz?  Kicked out for cheating at the evening bunco game?  Perhaps scouting for a new home like the father in Robert McClosky's Make Way for Ducklings (in which case, I would not have to strain myself with names for the remaining ones:  Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Oack, and Pack, but I would have to admit that I had missed the mark on identifying them as couples).

The third day it was obvious that the seven weren't moving on and the eighth wasn't returning.  They were accommodating new neighbors, floating serenely out in the lake, letting me get close enough to admire, but not close enough to harm.  So I had a new piece to my morning ritual.   I wouldn't look for them until I entered the picnic area on the far side of the lake (which is the first time I can really see the full expanse of the lake).  Then, I would scan, search, and count, just to make sure they had all made it safely through the night.

Of course, if you count up seven geese (not six a-laying, as in the "12 Days of Christmas") every single day, day after day, your mind begins to wander.  You begin making up things about them.  First, you wonder if they are really The Brady Bunch looked after by Alice in disguise.  Then you squint, and try to tell if they are really four hobbits, a man, an elf, and a dwarf or maybe more obviously just seven dwarves.  They might be The Seven Samurai. . . or The Magnifcent Seven.  You can't imagine how quickly your mind begins to round up things that come in sevens:  are they a metaphor about The Seven Breakthrough Solutions, or the Seven Deadly Sins?  Maybe they are a water polo team?  I really hope that they don't represent the seven signs of the apocalypse.

Why did they come to my lake and why are they staying?

My theory is that they came from a smaller pond somewhere in the area that has disappeared because of the drought.  Here's what has happened at our lake this year (driest November to May in a hundred years and barely a drop since the first of June).  I think they are safe for now because we have a couple of very deep spots on the lake that probably won't run dry:

I took this photo in the backyard.  The Louisiana irises in the bottom right of the picture stand in water in the winter.

This is our dock.  When the lake is it's normal level, the ramp is parallel to the attached part of the dock to the right and the floating part at the left of the picture is attached and floats even as well.  We had to unhinge the floating part so that the ramp wouldn't torque. 

We have cypress trees planted lake side to keep erosion down.  In this photo, I'm standing in the lake bed, shooting back towards the shore.  All of these knees are usually underwater.

The water is usually way over my head off the end of my neighbor's dock:

The national weather service has the following predictions through October 31, 2011:

We live just south and a little west of the arrowhead labeled "Persistence."  They plan on issuing an update on August 4.  I sure hope they add some diagonal striping to my part of Texas.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Enliven and Vitalize

July 18, 2011

I felt a blog post coming on yesterday.  You may want to watch this video before reading further (I write, knowing most of you will skip right over the video when you notice that I have requested nine and a half minutes of your time, plus whatever few ticks of the clock it will take you to read my mighty exposition of it), and be forewarned that there may be more than the usual meandering before I get to my ultimate point. 

This story starts yesterday, but goes back many years.  Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture was the first actual piece of music I purchased with my own shekels.  I had listened to my parents records and had even talked them into buying me some 45s:  The Beatles "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and Three Dog Night "Joy to the World" come to mind.  I didn't own my own "stereo" until high school, and since record albums cost about three times my hourly wage and I was pretty stingy, I satisfied my listening urges by listening to KRBE (for pop music) and later KLOL (for my more sophisticated "album rock" tastes) and by pirating cuts off the radio onto cassettes. 

So what led me to buy Tchaikovsky:  1812 Overture (Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta with Orignal Civil War cannon, bells and carillon by Maas-Row Carillons--I know this is exactly right because I am holding the original on my lap as I type)?  I thought it was the most delicious and blood pumping fifteen minutes of music I had ever heard!

It didn't even matter that I had a somewhat embarrassing history with that piece of music (skip the next five paragraphs if you tend to leave the room when Beaver is about to make a decision that will get him sent to his room to wait "until his father gets home" or if awkward middle school moments give you the hives).

Awkward Middle School Moment

A few eighth grade band kids (the usual suspects--suck ups and goody-two shoes) got chosen/selected/anointed to sell programs at all the home high school football games as a fund raiser.  Our reward was to go with the high school band when they performed at a University of Houston game, alongside the Cougar Marching Band (under the direction of Dr. Bill Moffitt!!!) and also alongside at least a couple of dozen other local high school bands invited to the exclusive halftime presentation (I can only imagine the innovative minds needed to build a crowd for U of H to fill the Astrodome in the early 1970s).

There I was, dressed in my junior high band uniform (no, they didn't find real uniforms for the eight of us little kids to wear), consisting of a pair of black pants, a white turtleneck, and a black jacket with orange piping.  No big, furry hat with the bill drawn two fingers above the slope of my nose.  No big brass buttons to catch the glint of the lights in the Astrodome.  Just a plain black apprentice waiter outfit, duly marked with bright caution tape on the seams to avoid mistaking me for the real thing.  

As luck would have it, we were the band staged to the immediate left of the college band (I think we were organized alphabetically and Alvin trumped Angleton) between two yard markers near the center of the field.  They also decided to put the middle school kids at the front of our group (I guess to keep uniformity) and because we were short.  They also put me on the very first rank so I wouldn't jab anyone with my trombone slide--though that wasn't too likely, since they didn't issue the eighth graders any music.  

So, there we were at the pre-game practice playing (you guessed it) the 1812 Overture.  The drum majors had climbed tall ladders so everyone could see them, the tom toms, the timbali, and the bass drums in every band were banging out the finale, the scantily clad, but oh-so-beautiful twirlers were tossing their batons impossibly high, and the strains of the very familiar tune were echoing around the domed stadium.  I cheated.  I listened to the music and figured out my part (at least in places), and when the final minute or two of the piece reached its crescendoing thunder, I was playing along!  And feeling quite excellent!  Until I pushed my slide out to distant sixth position

Somewhere between HERE:


And then accidentally, I let go of my slide and it continued on its forward trajectory and landed at the foot of a twirler, eyes to the heavens awaiting the return of her high-flung baton while whirling round like a dervish with a toothy smile showing between her impossibly (and unnaturally) red lips.  The whole left side of the Fightin' Cougar Band took their instruments from their lips/mouths and stared, just like you do when you think you're about to witness a car crash, leaving the high school bands to soldier through alone to the end of the piece.

End of Awkward Middle School Moment

Yet, even that moment, seared in my memory forever, did not diminish my love for that song.  
I heard it yesterday on the way to church.  As soon as I recognized it I cranked up the volume.  By the time I made it to Finfeather, the familiar last two minutes boomed around me.  I did my best Zubin Mehta, Leonard Berstein, Seiji Ozawa conducting the orchestra---great big arms, hitting the downbeat especially hard, and singing the trombone countermelody.  And smiling!  Smiling bigger than a dog with her head out the window on the highway.  

And of course, this makes no sense.  Offically called The Year 1812, Festival Overture in E flat major, Op. 49, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed it in 1880 to commemorate Russia's defense of Moscow against Napoleon's advancing Grande Armée at the Battle of Borodino in 1812.  I am not a guns and battle kind of girl.  You know I don't love wars, generals, or much of that martial stuff at all, but there I was having a viceral experience and absolutely loving it.

When I got home after back to back to back meetings, I went to my computer to listen again.  And again.    Sometimes to the whole thing and sometimes to the last two minutes or even the last minute.  Sometimes with recorded cannon.  Sometimes with live 105 mm cannon.

Every time I listened, I thought, why do so many rousing songs celebrate battle?  And then, instead of getting mad at the waste of a really good song (or several, if you think about it), I started thinking anew.

Why doesn't some (or many) great (or near great) composer write songs that enliven and vitalize in this heart-pounding, visceral, I-have-to-wave-my-arms-around-and-direct for another equally heroic cause:  childhood cancer?

Think of a rip-roaring song that makes you feel proud, bold, ready to act, urgent, defiant of odds.  You kind of get sucked into the music and the way it makes you feel, before you know what it is really all about.  Your senses engage, then your brain engages.

Last year, a local congregation commissioned a composer to write an anthem in Erin's memory.  We were honored.  We visited with the sponsor.  We showed them what Erin was, what she stood for, how she lived.   We got a lovely chorale piece, but not a stirring one.  A pity because it was an opportunity missed.  

What I want is a celebration and call to action for all the children.  I want a song that makes me feel like this one does.  Here's another version that is edited down to the final minute, in case you skipped the longer version up top.  

Anyone willing to give it a try?

Friday, July 8, 2011


July 8, 2011

Monday will mark the 45th anniversary of the premier of Bob Eubank's The Newlywed Game.  Add bonus points if you knew that it was the last commercial U.S. network series to premier in black and white.

Why do I mention this?

I didn't watch The Newlywed Game too often and probably didn't know what making whoopie was, but I do remember thinking how dumb the couples were.  I distinctly remember a question that some of the couple got wrong that I figured everyone would match on:  How many outside doors does your current home have?  

They were newly married, for goodness sakes.  Even if they had only lived there a short time, how big could their houses be?  How hard was it to count the front door and the back door?  Or if they lived in an apartment, just the front door?  

Fast forward to 2011.  Walter and I are newlyweds of almost 27 years.  We have lived together in the same house for a little longer (don't read this, mom, I'm exaggerating for literary effect).  I set myself the task of painting all the outside doors including the two shed doors as a summer project.  One evening before I started, Walter and I were discussing how much paint I needed to buy.  We each mentally counted the external doors at our house and almost in unison spoke the number:  "8" came out of my mouth, "7" out of Walter's.  No points awarded.  If I had had my answer on a piece of poster board, I would have had to clobber him over the head for forgetting the utility closet door.

We bought the paint, and I started on the two shed doors (half garage doors each) that had their original white paint exteriors which didn't do much to match the rough cedar siding.  I figured I tackle the big ones first and then move on to the six regular doors that were already green, but in desperate need of new top coats. 

I actually began a couple of weeks ago when Davis was home.  Summer is no time to paint outdoors everyday, so I figured I would work a little each morning after breakfast and knock off after a couple of hours, so that I could make consistent progress and still get other projects done each day.  First, I scrubbed the shed doors to remove a decade of grub and grime, then I gave them a good going over with a pre-paint cleaner and prep.  I also did a bang-up taping job so that I wouldn't ruin the trim.  

When I finally started painted, I discovered that eggshell finish was not what I wanted or needed, but it was what I had.  I put the first coat on, and even though I was painting the doors green, A LOT of the white primer showed through.  I re-did the two doors the next day to very unsatisfactory results.  Still plenty of door showing through, and brush marks galore.  I had expected more from Forest Wonder, Pro-Hide Gold.  I guess I didn't realized that when you bought the "professional" brand, instead of the "homeowner" brand they were letting you in on a trade secret:  painters charge by the hour and do not not mind in the least if they have to put coat after coat after coat on a door.

Little did I know that my 30 day challenge was going to be painting doors every day rather than reading poetry.

I put on what I hoped was the third and final coat yesterday morning before I left town.  And I was wrong.  I will need to apply a fourth when I get back AND at that  point IF I am finished, I will have two of the eight doors done.

If you see me walking around town looking like this:

Don't assume I am Iranian or that I just voted.  And don't assume this is the only place on my body that I have green paint.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


July 6, 2011

All I can say is that I believe this video was staged, because I just don't believe corgis would have the incentive to do this unless food were involved.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Try (Something New)

July 2, 2011

After I finish this post, I'm going to squeeze into the closet where I keep Erin's American flag (the one that flew over the capital on her birthday in 2006) and put it out to start the holiday weekend.

Yesterday, I watched this TED video talk by Matt Cutts, called Try Something New for 30 Days.  I have seen people do thirty day challenges on Facebook--giving up sugar or taking photographs, but until I listened to Cutts explain what you might get out of such an endeavor, I wasn't moved to try.  

I sent the talk to Davis to gather his thoughts.  We mulled it over.  Walter, my mom, and I considered the possibilities during happy hour last night.  If you know Walter at all, you know what his suggestion for the next 30 days was, but instead, I decided on a poetry challenge (not writing, reading).  So, until the end of July, I am going to read at least one poem each day.  

I'm not exactly sure what that will entail.  I have never been entirely comfortable with poetry (especially the way I was taught in public school).  I do think, however, I may be missing out on something if I don't give it a shot.  I can't say I even know where to begin.  This is where I need your help.  

I would love your suggestions.  You don't have to start with haikus just to make it easy on me, but likewise, I'm probably not up to tackling Beowulf or Leaves of Grass straight out of the gate either.  If you have something that you think I should add to my list send the title and poet to me (hopefully, I can find a link online, if I don't already have it on my scant poetry shelf.).  I will add a column on my left bar to let you know what I have tried.

Thank you.