this sign…

… in front of a little brick church on Third Ave. is always interesting. I am impressed with the fact that someone puts forth the effort to change the wording on the sign each week. It is not directly on my route when I travel from home to the YMCA Nut. Center, but I can see it when I stop for a light before making a turn. Well enough to know that there has been a change, but not clear enough from the corner to be able to read what the new ‘thought for the day’ is. Assuredly reminding us to step up, show some gumption, demonstrate our ‘better selves’ to the world as high-minded moral citizens.

Readers will know I put a lot of stock in daily gratitude, being willing to take ninety-second out of the day to ponder on blessings. Just a breath or two to mediated on something (or many things) we have each day that we need to be thankful for: even breath! Lately it has been beautiful weather, with bright sunshine, sparkling blue skies, and cooler temperatures perfect for walking the neighborhood, among other daily essential but often overlooked reasons to feel blessed.

In my travels yesterday, driving across town, I saw a man rolling down the sidewalk in a wheelchair with only one foot. Reminding me to be thankful for mobility, and the fact that I do have all the parts I need to get around under my own steam. It is possible the man I saw is aware he could be much worse off, confined to his home due to limitations, appreciating the freedom that he has as a result of such an interesting invention as a chair with wheels attached. Equally possible that he does nothing but complain about his circumstances and sorry lot in life.

Meanwhile I will be thankful for a gloriously sunny, with the sunshine in the brilliant cerulean blue sky. Appreciate feeling safe to get out in the streets, with the health and mobility to roam the neighborhood. That hurricane ‘waaay off down in the Gulf, wreaking havoc on the island of Cuba is also creating a refreshing breeze here in south-east TN. We might not be thinking of it as ‘refreshing’ in a few days after it bullies on up the mainland through FL, and the Carolinas before loosing strength, but today: perfect weather for being out in the world.

on the bright red penta…

… blooming in a container just outside my door. I know the things I planted in pots in an effort to attract pollinators have proven successful as I have seen bees, humming birds and those little yellow butterflies industriously working their way around the blooms gathering pollen and nectar throughout the summer months. I thought the photo might be a Monarch, but know there are a couple of others that are similar in color and pattern that closely mimic the endangered Monarchs, so not sure if it really is or an imitator.

There are still lots of blooms as I have been diligently snipping the spent ones off to make the plant produce more bright red flowers. The individual flowers are very small, but they bloom in clumps with a tiny trumpet shape that is most appealing to butterflies with their fascinating long proboscis that will unfurl and dip into the tubular shape to extract nectar from the bottom of each narrow bloom. And humming birds love them as well. Along with the red saliva I have kept watered all summer long they seem to enjoy.

happenstance…

…according to the Webster’s dictionary: “a circumstance that is especially due to chance.” Which is precisely what occurred yesterday when I went out in the neighborhood for a walk and came back to my street, to see three inflated balloons that had mysteriously appeared under my auto. I was completely baffled, as I could not imagine who, in my absence, would have brought me such a nice surprise, and then failed to secure them with the blue ribbon so they would not haphazardly blow away. I was quite pleased to find them, while being puzzled at who might have remembered it was my birthday to bring me such a nice unexpected treat, and not stay to greet me with THE birthday song?

I did not retrieve the balloons, but got distracted and was later informed they were blowing away down the narrow space at the side of the house. I got them and tied the three, slowly loosing inflation on the light fixture close by my door, for passersby to see and enjoy the cheerful sight. You too can now smile as we all do when we see birthday cake, merry-go-rounds and kids blowing bubbles that drift away in the breeze.

Later informed there was complete bedlam in the house that is directly behind me: where there must have been a party for a kid with friends invited. There is a sort of tree-house/hideaway up on poles/stilts in the back corner of the lot there where the family lives, and there was apparently a Nerf-gun war between the youngsters up in the club-house versus the attacking force on the ground. I have it from a good source there were some adults involved: what dad would not be able to resist getting his best shots off with a nerf-gun shooting foam rubber, harmless bullets to overcome the attackers?

I did not become privy to this information until the battle was over, but am fairly certain they would not have allowed me to participate.

seen at the fest …

… sponsored by the county agent’s office at the Master Gardener event on Saturday.

…. and here, found on the internet, a quote from another source, that does a better job of summing up better than I can, describing how important it is to be in a mode of perpetual thanksgiving.

“Gratitude is the secret to contentment — that wonderful serene place where we find satisfaction and joy in choosing to enjoy what we have, not what others have or make us believe we should have.” In our society so attuned and focused on consumerism with advertising in every direction you turn, it is hard to be that person who isn’t influenced.

Advertising everywhere encourages us to want to spend, buy, possess, occupy our lives and homes with more stuff. Even when we tell ourselves it is all just ‘stuff’, and find it so easily takes over, filling ever corner and crevice until we are overwhelmed. Time to put the breaks on, and be willing to be less concerned with appearances, accumulation and the overwhelming piles of things that fill our homes.

Apparently the thing that makes them ‘birthday’ is the addition of sprinkles in the mix to make it look like confetti?

book review: “Cloudy in the West”…

… in the form of a little paperback I picked up weeks ago and just read in the past couple of days. Other things on hand from the library were dense, heavy-reading and the tale of cowpokes and the old West seemed like a good way to interrupt the non-fiction. By Elmer Kelton, it was first published in 1997, and lists ten other books he has published. I suspect the plot-lines are very similar, with a change of names of characters, locations and minor alterations in the crises they survive to live to ride another day.

Blurb on the cover would have you believe the author is the most best western writer ever, but isn’t that Louis L’Amour? Not being a consumer of this genre I can’t say, but I know how much my dad read and enjoyed L’Amour and can imagine there are many who deposit their characters in the time period of western expansion when the country was being settled and cattle roamed without impairment of fencing. I’d have to say my favorite is Tony Hillerman, even though his characters inhabited a more recent century.

The cover art and title seem to have nothing to do with the story line, but I read to the end. It will go on to the next reader who picks it out from a Little Free Library.

Joey, age twelve, lives on a ranch/farm in east Texas with his dad, stepmother and an old black man who works with his dad. Joey’s dad soon dies, and his dad’s wife, Dulcie seems to be intent on eliminating Joey in order to inherit the property. The black man who is beloved and almost like a family member soon dies under mysterious circumstances, and Dulcie re-marries a man, who she had claimed to be a cousin. Joey, fearing for his life, runs away, looking for his dad’s cousin, hoping a blood-relation would come to the family farm and help him with the work.

The cousin is found in jail, mooching off the county’s good will, and not interested in Joey, his plight or the idea of working. The sheriff wants to rid himself of the frequently drunk, worthless Beau, and frees him to accompany Joey. Outlawery ensues, the two kill the new husband of Dulcie when he comes looking for Joey, causing the cousins to run to avoid jail and prosecution. A number of town names, now well established in Texas, are mentioned in the narrative, making the tale more believable, although the time period is when they are little more than dusty villages, set along riverbanks. Bastrop, Austin, Fredericksburg, ElPaso in this era would be small settlements that would often be lacking in amenities, law enforcement and little to welcome settlers wanting to establish farming communities.

With the author being proclaimed as the ‘greatest’ of the genre, I would probably read more if I came across the other books listed. Plenty of action: bank-robbers, bandito hide-outs in the slot canyons, horse-stealing miscreants to keep the story moving and pages turning. Light entertainment.

making a donation…

…of time when the local group of Master Gardeners associated with the Hamilton County Extension Service had a Fall Festival on Saturday. Listening to people with knowledge and experience in the local organization I find that the group has a big event in the spring, that has a high-profile in the community, attracts many vendors as well as customers from the area. It appears the Festival yesterday is their first time of sponsoring an event of this sort where the Univ. of TN office of the county agent is located. In the past there was some level of participation with the county fair but due to a change in location the MG choose to break away and have their activities in the vicinity of the Extension office.

Meaning the event is new, new to this location, and also that I am new to the Hamilton County group, so we were all inexperienced in one way or another. They seemed to be remarkably well organized for this being the first time of sponsoring such a wide variety of programming in the green space and parking lot of the county agent’s office. Lots of vendors selling plants and implements, some non-profits that had set up small canopy tents to provide information to passers-by, and both education and entertainment available from groups of MG in designated areas. Topics like how to compost, samples of invasive species and information about how to start gardening in raised beds or containers for people who came to pay a small fee and enjoy the events scheduled for the day.

I signed up to be with the group you see here, selling crafts produced and donated by members of the MGers. I was sorely tempted, but able to resist, so did not take my wallet out of my pocket. My assignment was from ten a.m. when the event started until 1 p.m., when others would come and take my place. Proving I was much more clever than I realized: I would leave at one, and the event would go on until four, so I would be long gone before it was time to clean up, sort/store, break down tables and haul leftovers to the parking lot. The person I reported to, who was obviously experienced with her chosen assignment said the prices would be reduced as the day progressed, so hopefully there was not much left to have to sort or store at day’s end.

Plus I see now that the best position for a volunteer is being one of those people who spend their whole shift sitting in a chair under the tent (as you see in the far right of the photo) offering free advice and information. And as we all know: advice is worth what you pay for it, so …..

a surprise…

… was delivered on Friday. Interesting to note that there was a tremendous amount of packaging. In a fairly good sized corrugated cardboard box, there were two plastic gel packs that were still semi-frozen, obviously included in the box to help maintain a cool temperature. Reusable, they went into the freezer to apply to my slowly declining knee joint with the hope that they will reduce chronic swelling and help maintain mobility.

In the insulated wrapping keeping the cool in, there was a box of delicious chocolates. Briefly sampled to insure good quality, and now discreetly tucked away in the hope I can save for future enjoyment rather than overindulge and be miserable from too much goodness. In the middle of the box is a ‘turtle’, which is caramel and pecans drenched with chocolate to vaguely form the shape of the reptile for which it is named. If properly assembled, the nut halves surrounding the blog of caramel in the center will create the feet and head of the turtle: a delicious delicacy.

See the ‘turtle’ shape in the center. The last time I was gifted with a chocolate turtle, I sliced it into half-dozen pieces hoping it would last longer, but it was not successful.

The box when opened, with all the delightful mysterious choices, made me think of my grandmother Rosa. Someone in the community would occasionally visit, with a box of candy in hand as a gift. Often I would go to her house to discover she was the recipient of a box of Whitman candy, all chocolate, called a ‘sampler’, with a variety of different concoctions tucked inside. The yellow box was decorated on the outside with a design that actually gave the appearance of an old fashioned sampler, of the sort that young girls would do to improve their sewing skills, practice different types of stitches, trimmed with cross-stitch lettering.

There was usually a ‘map’ in the inside of the lid to let you know what your mouth could expect with each different shape to avoid the gummy ones that were little more than filler. Small children would be offered a choice from the box, only to find that many, if not all, of the various selections had been poked with a finger on the bottom to determine the filling, with the undesirables carefully put back in the little brown paper liners.

My box of Godiva chocolates came with a little slip of folded paper that provides the same helpful guide, showing different shapes and designs to let the purchaser or recipient know what is inside the small tasty treat. Mostly nuts, and hopefully nothing unpleasant as gummy or gooey is likely to be returned to the box.

book review: “The Dictionary of Lost Words”…

…by Australian author Pip Williams. Based on the history of the first modern English language dictionary, printed in many volumes when all the typesetting and page printing as well as bindery of books was done by hand. Started before the first World War in London, laboriously assembled and completed after the end of the war. Well researched, with a lot of the fascinating details included at the end of the book, most of the characters who appear in the story were living participants of the period.

I did not mean to get it as an e-book, but started reading and could not put it down. The time period includes quite a bit about women’s suffrage and limitations the men of the era put on what women could do, how they could be employed and what they could do both in the home and out in public. The lead character Esme is the daughter of a man, Harry Nicholl, who works for Dr. Murray tasked with assembling the entirety of the English language into a set of books that provide spelling and usage of each work. Harry takes Esme to work with him to a small building behind the Murray home, in a gardener’s shed where the group of men spend their days putting the words received from many sources in order to provide the printer with the proper sequence for printing the many volumes.

A precocious child, Harry talks to Esme as if she were an adult, teaching her to read, write, understand the language. Esme eventually starts to work as a errand runner for the Murray’s and eventually becomes a reader, helping to assemble the book. The ‘lost words’ are pieces of the language the readers, including Harry, Murray and others on the team choose to omit. Many improper, obscene, not used in polite company, but very much in common use of the people. Words that well-raised, society women would never use, but very much the language of the working class in London. When the words are cast aside, or provided by new acquaintances to Esme, she keeps them in a chest, in order to save them from disappearing from the English language.

These forbidden words are discovered, assembled into a book, set in type and printed by a friend who presents the book to Esme as a gift, by a man who proposes marriage. Gareth goes off to war, Esme continues to work with the group who are assembling the Oxford dictionary word by word. I thought I was reading a book of fiction. But at the end discovered most of the characters in the story were historical, involved in publishing the dictionary, or well known figures in the women’s suffrage movement in the UK in the early 1900’s. Really interesting.

one of the first…

… small signs of the change of seasons. Today is the autumnal solstice. Days are obviously getting shorter after months of still having enough daylight to be out as late as nine o’clock at night. Weeks ago I was out and walking along the bike path at six am, and now it’s too dark to see! So I put on a white shirt to keep from getting run over by school buses and early risers heading off to work and go out to put in my time.

Found on google: ‘The word “equinox” is derived from the Latin words meaning “equal” and “night,” referring to the roughly 12-hour days and 12-hour nights that occur twice each year. It indicates a moment of stillness before the Earth shifts directions.’ “At the equinoxes, the Sun is exactly above the equator, and both hemispheres receive (nearly) equal amounts of sunlight. In other words, day and night are (almost) equal in both hemispheres. After the autumn equinox, we start to receive more darkness and less daylight.” The equinox can occur anytime between Sept. 21 and 24.

The fact that the planet tilts on an axis and changes to create seasons, and has done this since before recorded time is nothing short of astonishing. That in itself should make every one on earth a believer in something much bigger than our silly little mortal selves.

Picked this pretty maple leaf up while walking. How do leaves know to turn colors? Certainly not some little man in elf shoes with a bucket of rainbow colors and a paint brush!
I picked this one up in the street several days after the red one, but it could have come from the same tree! 9.27.22

up on the corner…

… just across the street, there is a large shrub blooming that has the most wonderful aroma, making me think this is surely what it will smell like when we are all que’d up waiting for the interview before admission through the Pearly Gates. The bush is at least fifteen feet tall, with dark green leaves, and tiny little blooms you barely notice until you catch a whiff of the scent and think: ‘what IS that?’ Then follow your nose over to the edge of the property until you get to the large shrub planted too close to the edge of the wide porch on of that big two-story blue house.

Not noticeable when they first start to open, so small you really don’t see them until enough of the tiny flowers open to create that wonderful fragrance that draws your attention. The blooms are about the size of the head of a corsage pin, really small, but when they open and create that delightful aroma, it wafts around the neighborhood capturing the olfactory notice of passers-by.

I noticed it creating that delightful aroma a couple of days ago, but more tiny blossoms have opened since, so that with a breeze you can smell it a block away, wafting across the street and down the block. Not sure of the botanical name, as all I have ever heard is Tea Olive. They bloom several times a year, spring and fall, depending on weather, and stay green year-round.

There was a big one planted in the landscaping of my parents house, much too close, that was often whacked back to keep it away from the building. Two more planted when they were small, about the diameter of a pencil, in one gallon pots, once again: planted much too close to outer-walls about twelve inches away now that they are tree sized. Likely creating problems with foundation of the house built on a slab, with roots growing under the structure, interfering with plumbing. How we fail to visualize how big they will get in maturity seems to be a universal problem.

But when the weather starts to cool, and you can open the windows to get in a fresh cross-breeze blowing through the house. The sun is shining, the sky is blue. The tea olive perfumes the air with it’s delightful scent, making the idea of heaven seem so appealing and the world in general seems to have reached perfection.