Storm Warnings from Charleston

Earlier this month, Henry and I decided to take a little vacation to visit Charleston (SC). We haven’t been on any trips since we moved up here 6 years ago and both of us were craving some good fresh fish, which is hard to come by up here in the mountains.
Back in the 80’s, 1st husband and I used to go to Charleston every November to binge on seafood and walk the streets lined with beautiful old homes. Henry has never been there so it seemed like a good idea for a get-away. And I thought the week before Labor Day wouldn’t be too awfully crowded…maybe.
So I got on-line and found a lovely historical B&B on Broad Street and booked 3 nights. It’s a 6 hour drive so that would allow one day to explore the city and one day to go out to Folly Beach. Then we would fill up an ice chest with fish and head home.
But then…
Three days before we are to leave, Henry calls me from the grocery store. The car won’t start. He gets a jump and goes to Wal-Mart to confirm the battery is dead. No problem. Much better we find this out now and here than on the way down at some rest stop. Lucky us!
Two days before we leave, some unhappy former restaurant employee in Charleston goes on a shooting spree complete with hostages. OK. It’s not a terrorist attack and the shooter is in custody so no worries.
One day before we leave I go on line to make dinner reservations for our 1st night in town at a neat little restaurant I’d been to before. It’s just a few blocks from our hotel, easy walking distance to stretch our legs from the drive and has good low country cuisine in a lovely Victorian house. Oddly, they are closed for the entire three days we’re there. I have two other picks for the two other nights so I start searching for a third restaurant that specializes in seafood. It is a coastal town so it should be easy, right? Most of the restaurants have one or two seafood listings on their menus but it’s usually shrimp and grits or Alaskan crab legs. I want local fish…grouper, snapper that sort of thing…and I’m not finding much. I finally settle for an oyster house/raw bar at the Market and make reservations. It’ll be good, I’m sure.
Then the night before we leave…we’re all packed and have a pet sitter briefed…a little storm system that’s been sitting off the coast of Florida for days decides it’s time to move out…up along the coast of SC and NC, turning into a tropical storm in the process, before heading out east. Now it might just blow through quickly Monday night with no damage and Tuesday could dawn bright and beautiful but I don’t gamble on tropical storms. It could just as easily flood the city and knock out power for days. Or, like Harvey in Texas, it could stall out for the entire time we’re there.
After a bit of primal scream therapy (much to the discomfort of husband and cat), the thought occurs to me…perhaps someone is trying very hard to tell me something…

“DON’T GO TO CHARLESTON, YOU IDIOT!”

Each small event is, on its own, a minor, random occurrence of no real import, but taken as a whole it sounds like an air raid siren to me. Maybe it’s my guardian angel or God or Fate trying to get my attention. Or maybe it’s just my imagination running wild as it often does. Whatever or whoever it is, I cannot ignore it. I dare not ignore it. And as soon as I make that decision, a sense of relief washes over me. It is settled. I’ll likely never know what would have happened or not happened, but sometimes you just have to listen to the voices in your head.

Postscript…The owner of the B&B wouldn’t issue a refund of my deposit because today (Tuesday) was a beautiful sunny day in Charleston. Huh?

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Mardi Gras

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It’s almost Mardi Gras time! Although the festival is celebrated in many cities, for me, New Orleans is the only place to be on Fat Tuesday.

Way back in 1973, I “ran away” with a handsome bad boy to New Orleans. We lived on a dime, drank Boone’s Farm wine, ate beans and rice and avoided the landlord when the rent was due. When tragedy struck, I found out that people on the river are indeed happy to lend a helping hand to someone in need. I always wanted to go back to the city with enough money to really enjoy it in style.

That opportunity came in 1998. My husband and I won a spot on an American Express trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. We stayed at the Windsor Court, a beautiful five star hotel on Gravier Street, where a discreet gentleman was happy to serve your morning coffee to you in bed. We ate in the best restaurants, watched an entire day’s worth of parades from a lovely old home in the Garden District and often had a police escort for our tour bus. We walked the Vieux Carré where I had partied and panhandled so many years before. On Fat Tuesday, we dined in a huge warehouse where the Orpheus Krew parade ended. I learned how to pronounce Tchoupitoulas and the proper way to yell “Trow me sumpin mister!” to get the best beads from the floats. No, I did not have to flash anybody. A smile was sufficient to get more beads than I could carry. I still have a bag full of beads and  wonderful memories.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

Into The Woods, Part 2

11667273_957066297686892_2928056787341790768_nThis is the second of my series of quotes about the woods and nature. I hope you enjoy them and I hope they wiggle their way into your mind and make you consider the beauty of the natural world and how we are connected to it.

“Until we understand what the land is, we are at odds with everything we touch. And to come to that understanding it is necessary, even now, to leave the regions of our conquest – the cleared fields, the towns and cities, the highways – and re-enter the woods. For only there can a man encounter the silence and the darkness of his own absence. Only in this silence and darkness can he recover the sense of the world’s longevity, of its ability to thrive without him, of his inferiority to it and his dependence on it. Perhaps then, having heard that silence and seen that darkness, he will grow humble before the place and begin to take it in – to learn from it what it is. As its sounds come into his hearing, and its lights and colors come into his vision, and its odors come into his nostrils, then he may come into its presence as he never has before, and he will arrive in his place and will want to remain. His life will grow out of the ground like the other lives of the place, and take its place among them. He will be with them – neither ignorant of them, nor indifferent to them, nor against them – and so at last he will grow to be native-born. That is, he must reenter the silence and the darkness, and be born again.” (pg. 27, “A Native Hill”) ~ Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

“When we lose these woods, we lose our soul. Not simply as individuals, but as a people.” ~ Kevin Walker, These Moments Pass: Poems

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”   ~ John Muir

“Man’s heart away from nature becomes hard.”  ~Standing Bear

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”  ~John Muir

“Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars… and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful.  Everything is simply happy.  Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance.  Look at the flowers – for no reason.  It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are.”  ~Osho “Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”  ~Kahlil Gibran

“The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man.”  ~Author Unknown

“If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.”  ~Vincent Van Gogh

“I am not a lover of lawns.  Rather would I see daisies in their thousands, ground ivy, hawkweed, and even the hated plantain with tall stems, and dandelions with splendid flowers and fairy down, than the too-well-tended lawn.”  ~W.H. Hudson, The Book of a Naturalist, 1919

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”  ~John Burroughs

“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life.”  ~John Burroughs

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Into The Woods

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I think this shall be the first of a series of quotes extolling the virtues of woods, mountains and nature in general. The quotes say it much better than I can.

I’ll start with twenty quotes by John Muir (April 21, 1838 – December 24, 1914) , a Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His activism helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is a prominent American conservation organization.

  1. “Most people are on the world, not in it. ”
  2. “Who wouldn’t be a mountaineer! Up here all the world’s prizes seem nothing.”
  3. “Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.”
  4. “The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”
  5. “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
  6. “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
  7. “In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
  8. “This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”
  9. “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”
  10. “There is a love of wild nature in everybody, an ancient mother-love showing itself whether recognized or no, and however covered by cares and duties”
  11. “I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.”
  12. “One day’s exposure to mountains is better than a cartload of books.”
  13. “Most people who travel look only at what they are directed to look at. Great is the power of the guidebook maker, however ignorant.”
  14. “I never saw a discontented tree.”
  15. “None of Nature’s landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild.”
  16. “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
  17. “Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.”
  18. “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”
  19. “The mountains are fountains of men as well as of rivers, of glaciers, of fertile soil. The great poets, philosophers, prophets, able men whose thoughts and deeds have moved the world, have come down from the mountains – mountain dwellers who have grown strong there with the forest trees in Nature’s workshops.”
  20. “Going to the mountains is going home.”

Number 20 is my favorite of this bunch.

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Chopping Tomatoes

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I was in the kitchen just now peeling and chopping about a dozen tomatoes from our garden. They are mostly small this year for some reason but the flavor is still wonderful.

So they go into boiling water for 15 seconds then into ice water, then pull the skins off and coarse chop them to make salsa and to freeze for soups this winter. Half way through I’m thinking this is a lot of work and quite messy, too, with the seeds and juice all over the cutting board and little bits escaping the cutting board and skittering across the counter to the floor.

That was when Mom popped into my head. I remember her spending almost every summer evening of my growing up years in the kitchen blanching and peeling fruit and vegetables to can or freeze. And I’m talking bushels of them at a time, not just a dozen or so. My Dad was on a salt free diet because of a heart condition and back in the 60’s salt free canned goods just weren’t common. And the few that were available were expensive. So Mom and Grandma canned and froze produce all summer so we had them during the winter when fresh produce wasn’t available. She did this after working all day, fixing dinner (from scratch) and cleaning up the dishes (by hand, no dishwasher). I don’t remember her ever watching TV with Dad and I after dinner; she was always in the kitchen working or studying for the night classes she took or filling orders for her Avon customers. Dad couldn’t always work because of his health issues so Mom did what she could and had to to support us. When I think of how hard she worked, it puts me to shame.

In between work, she made time to take me to majorette practice, parades and competitions, check my school work and teach me to cook and sew. I think there must have been more hours in a day back then because surely she couldn’t have done it all in just 24. But somehow she did. And she managed to look beautiful while she did it.

So when you come home tired and complain about having to whip up a box of Hamburger Helper or toss a frozen pizza in the oven, think of our mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers and those before them who worked all day, every day, caring for their family and home without the advantage of modern conveniences and often without electricity. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do it all.

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For the Love of Dogs

If you’re owned by a four-legged fur baby or three like I am, you probably love to spoil them. These are some of my favorite beautiful, cute, and even useful accessories for (and about) dogs from Etsy shops. Just click on the item to find out more about each one. Enjoy!

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In The Good Old Summertime

Almost everyone has some fond memories of summertime when they were growing up. These are some of my favorites.

Every summer we would go to local farms and orchards to pick beans, tomatoes, corn, peaches, strawberries, apples, anything fresh we could find. Money was always tight and the U-Pick-It places were always cheaper than the store. Better and fresher, too. At the peach orchard, I would be allowed to go off on my own with a basket to pick. Most of what I picked, I ate, and I would return to the car covered in sweet sticky peach juice and followed by a swarm of yellow jackets.

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Some of the fruit we picked went into homemade ice cream. We had an ancient (OK, it wasn’t that old then) hand cranked ice cream churn made of wood and stays like a barrel. Dad would go to the ice house in town and get a big block of ice that we put in a burlap bag and broke into pieces with the flat side of an axe. Mom filled the metal canister with the cooked custard she made and we layered the ice chunks and rock salt around it. I always took the first turn at the crank while it was easy to turn. As the custard froze, it got harder to turn. I would finally have to stand on the metal top, one hand on Dad’s head for balance, to keep it from moving while Mom or Dad finished cranking. Then we heaped more ice on top and covered it with the burlap for maybe a half hour. Most often we couldn’t wait that long. The dasher, the blade that turned inside the canister, was pulled out and scraped down. There was always some left on the blades and Dad and I would clean it off. Then we got bowls of wonderful homemade ice cream. No commercial product can come anywhere close to what we made in our back yard. Dad’s favorite was banana. Mom’s was peach. Grandma’s was strawberry. Mine was peppermint. But we loved them all.

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Fresh strawberries also went into strawberry shortcake. Mom made a larger version of her Kansas biscuits (they weren’t the light and fluffy “cat heads” they make in Tennessee, instead they were flat and dense). We’d split them open while they were still warm and pile on fresh sliced berries, put the top back on, spoon on more berries and, defying gravity, top with as much Carl’s Frozen Custard as we could. Carl’s Frozen Custard was a wonderful soft serve ice cream that could only be bought at a little stand in town and it was the only thing that could rival our homemade ice cream. Every night from Memorial Day to Labor Day people waited in a long line that went once and sometimes twice around the little stand to get a cone or dish or shake. We didn’t have any fast food places in town until the late 60’s so if we wanted to buy an ice cream cone, it was either Carl’s or Howard Johnson’s. It was always Carl’s for me.

We had cook-outs in the back yard sometimes to give Mom a break from cooking. Of course she still had to make the burgers and potato salad and whatever else we had so she still had a lot of work to do, but it was always fun (for Dad and I anyway). He had built a big old cinderblock grill with a chimney down in the yard and we had a picnic table there. No fancy gas grill for us, this was strictly charcoal. Usually we’d have watermelon for dessert and Dad and I would have a seed spitting contest. He always won. Mom thought it was gross, which made it more fun.

For a couple of years we had an old single wide mobile home set up beside a dock on a creek just off the Rappahannock River in Virginia as our “vacation home”. Dad and I would spend the day out in his little boat fishing on the river and, as often as we could, we traded our extra fish to a neighbor for his home grown corn and tomatoes. What feasts we had sitting out in front of that trailer beside the creek with a little camp fire blazing! Pure heaven! Our favorite fish were called sugar toads by the locals and considered a nuisance fish. They had buck teeth like a rabbit that could easily sever a fishing line and rough skin that had to be pulled off with pliers like a catfish. When they were frightened they would puff themselves up into a big ball by swallowing air or water. I would have to bounce them on the deck of the boat to deflate them. Their meat was mild and tender with a flavor similar to frog legs. A few years later I saw them for sale in a grocery store labeled “Chicken of the Sea”. Later still I learned their more correct name is northern puffer fish and they are a non-toxic relative of the honorable fugu fish so highly prized in Japan. We didn’t know all that back then, we just skinned ‘em, fried ‘em and enjoyed ‘em.

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Playing baseball with neighbor kids in the field across the street till dark, then chasing fireflies with a mason jar until we were called inside for bed. Climbing trees and sitting high up in the branches, trading secrets with my best friend. “Stealing” tomatoes from the garden and eating them out of hand while they were still warm from the sun. Burrowing down into the hay bales in the barn at my uncle’s farm and falling into the spring trying to fill big cans with water for the cows. Long hot days with not a thing in the world to do except a few chores.

Do kids these days get to do all those neat old fashioned things? I hope at least some do…they will have sweet memories to pass on to their grandkids when they get old.

A Few of my Favorite Etsy Finds

As you probably realize by now, I have a shop on Etsy.com. I also do a lot of browsing and shopping on Etsy. There are so many beautiful handmade and vintage items, as well as crafting supplies to be found in the shops that it’s hard to resist buying at least a few things here and there. So here are just a few of my favorite purchases from the shops on Etsy.

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Mountain and River Necklace from Stormy Road. This pendant seemed to be the perfect symbol of my love for the mountains and rivers. I took the pendant off the cord and strung it on a silver chain along with a wire wrapped amethyst point and a kyanite charm to make a personal amulet necklace. I get lots of comments on it, mostly because the pendant is so unique and beautiful.

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Large Waxed Canvas Log Firewood Carrier from Rugged Material. While we don’t depend on our fire place to heat the house (unless we lose power in an ice or snow storm, which happens at least once most every winter), we do enjoy the warmth and beauty of a fire on a cold night. That means we cut, split and stack a lot of wood every year. And all that wood has to be carried into the house. Many of the log totes we saw were too flimsy to carry a heavy load but this tote means business! It will hold more than the two of us can carry and shows no sign of failing after two long cold winters.

il_570xN.360789240_hq6rWire Beaded Angel from A Twist of Art 2010. My mom was in the last stages of Alzheimer’s disease when I found this little angel. At my request, Laura made one with amethyst crystals…it was beautiful! I hung it over Mom’s bed in the nursing home and when she passed, I hung it beside my own bed. Thank you Laura, for your caring concern and lovely creation.

il_570xN.492156418_e6tlMulticolor Crystal Bracelet from JavaJaneJewelry. Years ago I had a bracelet of different colored crystals that I loved and lost. Since then I’ve kept an eye out for something similar. This dainty little bracelet was part of a set but Jane was kind enough to sell me just the bracelet alone. It’s so lovely and perfect to stack with other bracelets , like the next one.

il_570xN.750059676_7txqMini Rose Gold Heart on a Silver Chain by Lyndy Lou Designs. I love small, delicate bracelets and I love mixed metal jewelry. This sweet little bracelet is both. And it looks great with the multicolored crystal bracelet. Lindy Lou Designs is one of our Team NORGA shops.

il_570xN.278684986Tawashie Scrubbie from Yimmeke Design. These are crochet eco friendly kitchen scrubbers that replaced the sponges I used to use to wash dishes. Besides being prettier than sponges, they’re also more hygienic because I just toss them in with the laundry once a week. And I don’t have to keep buying new ones because they last. I bought an extra set to use in the shower…they make great body scrubs, too! Yimmeke is also a NORGA shop.

il_570xN.553715094_4hczNatural Pain Relief Lotion from A Couple of Old Goats. Hubby, HR, does the woodworking for our shop and the hours spent slaving over saws and sanders really take a toll on his back. This lotion takes care of the aches at the end of a long day in the shop. I just give him a good back massage with this and no more pain. I’ve also used it on my knees when they get sore from gardening. And the goat’s milk is great for the skin.

il_570xN.577279670_a3dqWhirly Wrap Bracelets from Whirly Wraps.  I had been longing to become a “Whirly Girl” For some time but I just couldn’t decide which bracelet I wanted most. Last Christmas I finally picked out two to ask Santa for. Sweet Santa obliged and I am now a double “Whirly Girl”! So cool! (The bracelets, not me). Whirly Wraps is another NORGA member.

There are a couple of craft items I must add to my list because the shop owners were so sweet and their products so lovely.

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One is the fiber bundles from Fish Bay Elements. These are bundles of 13 textural elements, each strand 2 yards long. They are a mix of yarns, custom fibers and ribbons that are grouped to form a beautifully harmonious color theme. I bought the Faerie and Desert Wine Elements to use in my dream catchers but I really want one of each!

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The other is the wire wrapped beads and Swarovski crystals that Char of CharsBeads4U made just for me. I had purchased some swivel clips from her and as a gift, she included a little phone plug with a charm and a wire wrapped bead. When I made my Faerie Gypsy Wagon, I wanted some little sparkly dangle to hang in the doorway so I contacted Char and asked if she could make some in different colors for me. She made some with pearly beads and some with Swarovski crystal beads and said I could take my pick. I just bought them all!

So if you’re looking for something unique, one of a kind, vintage or crafting materials, check Etsy. And if you don’t see exactly what you want, don’t be afraid to message a shop owner. We love to hear from you and will do whatever we can to make or find just what you’re looking for.

And you’ll be supporting small independent business owners. Shop local, shop global, shop Etsy!

Cranky Old Man

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When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in an Australian country town, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value. Later, when the nurses were going through his meagre possessions, They found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital. One nurse took her copy to Melbourne. The old man’s sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas editions of magazines around the country and appearing in mags for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem. And this old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this ‘anonymous’ poem winging across the Internet.

Cranky Old Man

What do you see nurses? ……What do you see?

What are you thinking .. . when you’re looking at me?

A cranky old man, … …not very wise,

Uncertain of habit .… … . .. with faraway eyes?

Who dribbles his food .. . … . . and makes no reply.

When you say in a loud voice . .’I do wish you’d try!’

Who seems not to notice …the things that you do.

And forever is losing … …… A sock or shoe?

Who, resisting or not … … lets you do as you will,

With bathing and feeding … .The long day to fill?

Is that what you’re thinking?. .Is that what you see?

Then open your eyes, nurse .you’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am … . .. As I sit here so still,

As I do at your bidding, .… . as I eat at your will.

I’m a small child of Ten . .with a father and mother,

Brothers and sisters .… .. . who love one another

A young boy of Sixteen … .. with wings on his feet

Dreaming that soon now …… a lover he’ll meet.

A groom soon at Twenty … ..my heart gives a leap.

Remembering, the vows .. .. .that I promised to keep.

At Twenty-Five, now … . .I have young of my own.

Who need me to guide … And a secure happy home.

A man of Thirty . .… . . My young now grown fast,

Bound to each other …. With ties that should last.

At Forty, my young sons .. .have grown and are gone,

But my woman is beside me . . to see I don’t mourn.

At Fifty, once more, .. …Babies play ‘round my knee,

Again, we know children … . My loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me … . My wife is now dead.

I look at the future … … . I shudder with dread.

For my young are all rearing .… young of their own.

And I think of the years … And the love that I’ve known.

I’m now an old man … … .. and nature is cruel.

It’s jest to make old age … … . look like a fool.

The body, it crumbles .. .. . grace and vigour, depart.

There is now a stone … where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells,

And now and again … . . my battered heart swells

I remember the joys … . .. . I remember the pain.

And I’m loving and living … … . life over again.

I think of the years, all too few …. gone too fast.

And accept the stark fact … that nothing can last.

So open your eyes, people .… . .… open and see.

Not a cranky old man . Look closer … . see .. .…. …. . ME!!

Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within. We will all, one day, be there, too!

PLEASE SHARE THIS POEM! The best and most beautiful things of this world can’t be seen or touched. They must be felt by the heart!

Very Respectfully,

Scott Sonnon

http://www.breathinggift.com/

A FOX IN THE TREE

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Back in 1993, my first husband, Ron, and I built a house up on the side of a mountain just outside of Pigeon Forge in east Tennessee. We had rented a house there some years before and liked the area so much that we bought a lot. Our property was on a very steep grade but it faced south with an amazing view over the valley with Clingman’s Dome and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the distance. I had designed the house and we talked the contractor into letting us help the crew build it. We probably weren’t much help, when you get right down to it, but we learned a lot about how houses are built. And we were there to tell the guys exactly where we wanted the light switches and outlets and a million other little details.

The construction took place during the spring and summer and the crew always got to the site before sun up to take advantage of the long days. The supervisor told us that some mornings he would be watching the sun rise, finishing his coffee, and would see some kind of animal leaping down from a tree. He said it moved like a cat but it had a long bushy tail. It’s grayish color blended in so well with the early morning shadows that he couldn’t get a good look at it. Maybe a raccoon? No, too sleek and agile. A bobcat? Nope, wrong color and bobcats don’t have a long bushy tail. And so the sightings remained a mystery.

We finished the house in the late fall and spent the winter settling into our new home. Late one night the next spring we heard some high pitched yippy yappy sounds coming from our back yard. We quietly went out on the screen deck to see what kind of critters were out there. It was a full moon and down below the deck we could just make out five animals, two larger and three smaller, romping in the moonlight. Obviously a family, but of what? They were just shadows leaping and tumbling. The next day I looked through the books I had on wildlife (this was before the internet put all the information in the world at our fingertips) and finally came to the conclusion that they were gray foxes. We had foxes, gray ones, in our back yard! How cool was that! And the description of them matched the mystery animal that the construction guy saw, too. Urocyon cinereoargenteus, commonly known as the gray fox has grizzled gray fur with a bit of rusty orange and some black, they have long bushy fox tails and they climb trees like a cat. The mystery was solved.

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I wanted to put some food out for them but had no idea what would be appropriate so we went down to the feed store to see if they knew. They said they had another customer who fed foxes on his property and sold us a bag of the dog food he used. There were some big bounders piled up on one side of the yard and one of them had a fairly flat top so I put a pile of the kibble on it and waited to see if the fox family would like it. They did. At first they only came out to eat at night but eventually they felt comfortable enough to venture out during the day. They were so beautiful!

We also had raccoons in the area and it wasn’t long before they discovered the free food. They came to eat and brought all their friends. We were afraid the foxes would shy away from such a crowd but they surprised us. One afternoon two raccoons were busy eating when the fox pair came wandering up the path from the woods. The raccoons seemed undecided as to whether it would be better to stay and eat or wiser to give up the bounty and leave. They opted to stay, gulping down the kibble while turning on point like two wind vanes to keep an eye on the foxes who were now casually circling the boulder in opposite directions. The foxes appeared to ignore the raccoons, occasionally stopping to sit and sniff the breeze or scratch a flea. One of the pair stretched out on a nearby rock to soak up a bit of sun. This game went on for maybe 30 minutes, with the raccoons becoming more and more agitated and the foxes studiously ignoring them. Who would win? Finally the raccoons broke under the pressure and scurried (waddled, actually, they were very fat critters) off into the bushes. I swear the foxes laughed and high fived each other before they went to finish the kibble that was left.

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I had read that some foxes actually enjoy outwitting the dogs that try to trail them. We saw our pair do it with some beagles one day. We heard the dogs barking and baying down the mountain, then the foxes came out of the woods and meandered back and forth, crisscrossing their paths, in and out of the bushes, in and out of the trees, casually laying down a very convoluted scent trail before heading out in different directions. Pretty soon the dogs came charging up into the yard. They thought they were hot on the trail but were soon whining and going in around circles trying to follow the trail. They finally gave up and went back down the way they came, looking very dejected. When they had gone, the foxes came out of the bushes and laughed at the ineptitude of the dogs.

When I was growing up, I saw a red fox in the woods near our house. Since then I’ve seen foxes of different types at five of the fifteen places I’ve lived, including my last two homes in Florida and our current home here in Georgia. So I’ve taken the fox as my totem animal. Does anyone else have a totem animal?