Monday, April 30, 2007

"Are We Too Busy For Beauty?"

(NOTE: the title above was the headline from the Charlotte Observer 4/29/07, with a link to the original Washington Post article below that piqued my interest for today's entry)

When you think of golf, you think "Tiger Woods", the penultimate golfer of the day, record-setter extraordinaire, and at such a young age...

In the world of classical music, especially the violin, you in likeways (should) think of Joshua Bell, stringed maestro that began his prodigious career at the ripe age of 4 and is on top of the heap at just 39 years old.

Such was the premise for a Washington Post 'experiment' last January that placed the super-star Bell, garbed in blue jeans and a Washington Senators baseball cap, in a D.C. Metro subway station (L'Enfant Plaza) during the morning rush hour, playing his 'best of the best' for passers-by...for all "in the know" to hypothesize and actually 'see' what the public response would be.

Who'ld a thunk it. The irony of it all, extraordinary almost beyond comprehension. A master, in street clothes, up against a subway wall, playing a 1713 Stradivarius worth $3.5 million, to throngs of rush-to-work-ites, emanating the classical greats among his repertoire. Virtually no one noticed. Or bothered to listen, much less stop. Here is the best of the best, amongst scads of people deep into daily habits and 'blinders', and the mediocrity of blindness won out hands down...and what does that say about society at large?

Oh sure, a precious few of the almost 1,100 people stopped and listened (7)...27 threw in some change...and one lone wolf actually recognized Joshua Bell for who he was. In the course of 1,097 people passing by in 45 minutes, his open violin case grossed $32 and change...for this, a man who makes as much as $1,000 per minute in performance fees...

Everyone else went on their way...iPod buds in their ears, cell phones to their face, checking their watches to count to the very minute they had to be at a particular destination...when the undercover Post personnel followed up on some hidden observations with a phone call, many never recalled a violinist playing at all even just feet away...which is odd given the voluminous rich voice of the rare Stradi violin...

To me, one of the saddest commentaries dealt with the children that passed by...ALL were observed wanting to crane their necks and stop and listen...and ALL were observed pulled along post-haste by their parent/guardian without so much as acknowledging the very music that pulled their tyke's little my mind, the greatest tragedy of this experiment.

(You can read the full article from the Washington Post, written by Gene Weingarten HERE .)

In scarily like manner, though on a much more humble scale, I have vended my flutes at major regional art shows, standing and playing my flutes to passers-by...and watching far too many children pass by who become immediately mesmerized and wanted to listen to the eerily beautiful sound of the Native American flute, even asking their parent(s) outright if they could stop a minute...only to have a thoroughly 'blind' parent see/hear none of it and jerk the kid to keep moving as they went from point A to B...never looking at me, never acknowledging the music just 10 feet away...and worse, totally out of touch with their child. That's very, very sad.

I'll admit I'm a non-parent. But if I were, I would understand the value of wonderment children feel, appreciating the fact that they're not old enough to have screwed everything up like most adults...yet many are raised to repeat their elders' foibles and less than exemplary habits.

Mind you, those sad moments are replaced with the incredibly magic ones when parents DO allow their children to 'connect' with something that really trips their trigger. The light shining in their eyes says it all, and somehow you just know you gave them a very important Spark in their young, formative life.

May we ALL take time to stop and smell the proverbial allow for a 'change of course' so that we're in not so big of a rush that we can't investigate a 'side road'...and to always hold open the possibility that our Youth know a helluva lot more than we think they do at certain times. Never judge ANY situation by its '"cover". Understand that Magic is everywhere around us at ALL times. Always. In All Ways. But first we must be OPEN to that concept, of course...

So do yourself a favor, today. Look deeply into your pet's eyes as you gently give them a head rub. Watch a bird fly or build a nest. Look closely into the center of a flower. Listen to some beautiful music that makes you feel good. Even if but for a moment, take time to experience wonderment, in whatever context it may be. It's good stuff.

Friday, April 27, 2007

"A Little Friday Inspiration..."

It was last year on Labor Day weekend when I met and made a wonderful new friend. I had my Ugly Boy Flutes booth set up at the annual "Matthews ALIVE!" arts festival and over the course of the 3-day festival got to know a fellow vendor down the way. Dave Cook. Excellent pot thrower from Rowan County, NC. Creative, too...but much more importantly, he is a good Soul.

Dave just celebrated his first year, not to his lovely supportive wife Beth, but to his commitment to completely overhaul his health. His story is like that of many others who battle their thing leads to another, and little by little over the long haul we shape-shift and become a physical being that is not in line with Who We Are. As that path progresses you start to battle secondary issues of self-esteem, complicated health issues, and myriad problems that come with the territory. Some let it defeat them and give up trying. But not Dave.

Being a former minister, Dave has a heart of gold and a heart the size of San Francisco, to boot. He cares genuinely about others...and a year ago he decided to care for one of the most important persons before him: himself. Here is the 'start' of his Journey... Death Valley which was an appropriate place for Dave to begin his "re-Birth"...

...and here is the new Dave decidedly more fit and trim one year later, on his "first re-birth anniversary"...

(as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!!!)

What's interesting is that he didn't accomplish this by throwing money at surgical treatments or expensive methods...he took one of THE most basic tools ANYone can use: the tool of Choice. He chose to start eating healthy. He
chose to make himself exercise and walk, even if for a short distance. He chose not to give in to cravings and go back to square one. He chose to PERSEVERE. Daily. Weekly. Monthly. In short, he chose Life.

It's amazing how simple things can make a huge difference. No sweets. No bread. Load up on fresh vegetables and salads, as well we all should (and many don't). Get up off your duff and DO something instead of sit. And just tell yourself that it took- time to go on and it will take time to come off...just persevere...take baby steps if you need to, but keep on keepin' on...persevere...

Well done, Dave!

Congratulations on your 'new you' and thanks for the inspiration you have given to others...including me!

Yep, I've been a moose for many moons...reached the 6'3" +200 pound barrier in 7th grade and then quit growing taller shortly thereafter...have had a bad knee problem the past 20 or so years, which significantly went downhill after this past Christmas, to the point where it's all I can do to hobble from A to B anymore. Exercise became impossible, and the weight started to add on with ease...but I took Dave's philosophy of not 'dieting' but simply 'changing' what I eat...and by golly it works! Been dropping weight even though I can't exercise, and today, I have my 3rd left knee operation which will hopefully buy me another 10 years...and I'm going into it healthier with healthier habits. LOTS of fresh veggies. Staying away from sweets. Counting my blessings every day and know that I'm going to bed each night in better shape than I was when I woke up.

Can't wait to see your 2nd anniversary picture, Dave! God bless!!!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Travelogue: Wildflowers of the Black Hills"

Dateline: July 3rd, 2005...Black Hills, South Dakota.

...a time of Pre-Sturgis Rally-goers, a National Holiday, and a mass of humanity...

Where to go to escape the crowds?.......

graveled back roads!!!!!........

I got SO spoiled adventuring on the weekends that I found myself floundering over what to do at the big July 4th holiday when everyone wanted to hit the "Hills" and watch the 4th of July fireworks at Mt. Rushmore (just not me!)... I hit the 'go forever' gravel back roads and found my own beauty that everyone else rushed past....the glow of naturally flowering beauty all around. This was my tribute to the Black Hills wildflowers that I now share with you in today's Travelogue blog...especially after the killing freeze in the South recently...

The "Common Sunflower" above served as the album cover of my first CD release "Kiwani - The Awakening" is a spectacular flower in every respect, although 'common' in nature there...

I'm a sucker for dwarf irises, like this little bugger...tall and proud, even given it's short stature...

...and looking at the fields of flowers, you could look more closely and find a whole 'nuther world of intimate beauty to watch and admire...

This yellow flower below could not have been taller than 2-3 inches at most...and yet it looks as if it's a giant among its surroundings...

And so I found my solace afterall...just by getting off the beaten path. I highly recommend that route, if you ever run up against it! As I always say....

Walk in Beauty...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"Humor? At What Cost?"

Laughing is good for the Soul, as they say. It can help boost your immune system, lower your blood pressure, and provide other salubrious effects. In daily life, we each have a 'default' behavior we go to in awkward situations...mine has always been humor, and to really appreciate good humor you have to be vulnerable to make fun of your own self. As I like to say, that's the easy part since I have no pride!

But humor gained by making fun of someone else at their expense is not humor in the slightest. OK, maybe a comedian can get by with it in a comedy club because you basically pay to expect that type of banter...but the latest from the world of radio shock jocks shows there remain many with no class whatsoever.

CBS has suspended and may well fire "The Doghouse with JV and Elvis" crew (Vandergrift and Dan Lay) for allegedly making prank phone calls on-air to Chineese restaurants in New York City, using various lewd comments and stereotypical language to provide 'entertainment' for the listening audience. Don't need to go into detail about the 6-minute phone prank that was rebroadcast last week across the U.S. You can find too many solid journalistic accounts of it on the web yourself.

Ironically (and I dare say not coincidentally?), this all took place just one day after Imus's famed comments per the Rutgers women's basketball team, with the two suspendees having mounted a support drive to keep Imus on the air after the fact. Birds of a feather...

I fail to see entertainment value in that type of boorish behavior. Making fun of someone else at their expense and publicly displaying that feeble attempt is nothing less than shameful. We all should take responsibility to be better than that...a lot better. And it's not a matter of "hey, if you don't like it change the station"...back-handed bigotry and racism should not be tolerated on public airwaves. Period. Nor should it be tolerated at all, but in the private domain you have make your own choices in how to respond when you are in such a situation with others.

"Speak your mind,
even if your
voice shakes."

- Maggie Kuhn

Great quote from a great crusader. As the country music lyrics go, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." CBS head Leslie Moonves was quoted as saying he was "trying to root out a culture of permissiveness that allowed people to be demeaned." And well he should.

And well we all should.

OK, I don't want to end on a somber introspective here are a couple of cartoons forwarded to me yesterday that I, as a dog lover, got a good chuckle over...

Monday, April 23, 2007

"I just HAD to buy it..."

Went to WalMart for my weekend foray for necessities and a few non-necessities. On Saturday I had seen this TV ad with a woman casually talking about this neat outfit she was wearing, that she had gotten at WalMart... "Organics", a new line of environment friendly clothes that didn't require a drop of pesticides in reaching the stage of finished clothing. At WalMart. Gave the web address for it, too.

With my upcoming surgery Friday, I thought a nice light pair of black organic lounge pants might do nicely when I return to on-air work, assuming my leg is still healthily I began to snoop around...and snoop....and snoop...even in the ladies department just to see if they had this line...but there was nada, zip, zilch. I found an associate and asked her if they had the "Organics" line in a particular area, and I got the classic deer-in-the-headlight look, blinking eyes and all. She quickly asked a nearby associate who also gave that glassy, empty " I don't have any idea what you're talking about" look...and so they called a supervisor who quickly arrived and gave me my third resounding "Uh...what?"

Just found it odd that here was a TV ad campaign running in this market and this local supercenter had no knowledge of the ad, the "Organics" line, etc. I realize that not all stores will carry it, but when you run a regional or even national ad campaign and your very stores haven't the foggiest idea about it, you have a real marketing problem.

So I went to the website, and there it all was...kinda sorta...the page gave a place to enter your zip code to find a 'participating' I entered my zip...and here was the message I got upon clicking (yesterday and again today):

Sorry! The page you're looking for is either temporarily unavailable or no longer exists.

Good waste of expensive TV advertisement, if you ask me.

But it got going through the grocery aisles, I thought about picking up a 12-pack of Diet Cokes, but the price was back up to it's $3.98 level which was not the best deal out there. However, in scanning the labels, there was one type of Coke product that was $1 I hadn't seen before. Diet Coke Plus. (here we go...)

I burst out laughing in the aisle. Anyone who had thought I was crazy to begin with would have had all doubt removed. I am well aware that Diet Coke is an amalgam of chemicals that certainly are of no benefit to my body and arguably best avoided...until now. The picture speaks for itself.

Gosh, now I can be healthy drinking chemicals since it has been fortified "with vitamins and minerals"... Now, maybe you don't sense the extreme irony of it all, and it is rampant in our society at large, these buzz words and phrases that 'tell' you something is healthy. Far too few people take the time to read the nutrition label and list of ingredients, because if they did 3/4 of foods out there would disappear when noone would buy them. It's almost a guarantee that if a food is "fat-free" it has a high sugar content...and if it is "sugar-free" it has a higher fat content...the bulk of kids' cereals are notorious for being 'enriched' yet still carrying a too-high sugar level. Most fruit juices are a sham for that same reason (I'm primarily speaking of packaged drinks for kids on the go).

I can see it coming, to a neighborhood near us all...

"Mommy, can I have another doughnut?"

"Now Timmy, you know that's not the right word. We call it a 'sweetened bakery product' now."

"Well, can I have another? I know dinner is an hour away, but I'm hungry from playing all those video games!"

"Well, since they ARE fortified with vitamins and minerals, sure, you can have can something that good be so bad?"

Sunday, April 22, 2007

"In Memorium..."

Melissa Greer Polsky

(from WBTV's website)

Last Friday we had to let go of a valiant weather comrade, meteorologist Melissa Greer. At the un-ripe age of 27 she lost her battle with an extremely rare form of cancer, but not before giving birth to her son Conner, leaving him and her newlywed husband Roger behind.

She had been the weekend meteorologist at WBTV 3, and even after her cancer diagnosis and subsequent radiation treatments, returned briefly to on-air work with her proud new 'do'. She made the Energizer Bunny feel second-rate...

At times like this we mourn and are saddened at such an untimely loss...but we must remember that each of us has their own particuluar Journey in this Life and that all happens as it needs to, in perfection. We must respect and honor that process.

Melissa, we warmly smile up to you, wiping away tears. I bet your weather is FAR more predictable in heaven!

Friday, April 20, 2007

"Once Upon A Time..."

Thag had just moved his family into a new cave at the base of a cliff overlooking a beautiful, verdant valley. In a matter of days they had made it a nice, protected home for Mrs. Thag and their four Thag-lettes.
And they were glad they had that new fortress, for one night there came a fierce storm, with rapid lightning strikes pounding all around them, the deafening roar echoing off their solid walls...but they knew they were safe. Suddenly there was a thunderous crash with a giant boulder falling in front of their cave's entrance.
While the boulder did not block the entrance totally, it did make getting in and out a less than easy process. The next day, after the storm was long gone and the sun returned, Thag sat outside and thinking of how he might move that large boulder. Thag was a pretty strong Caveman for his P.G. species (Pre-Geico), but he knew better than to try and push the boulder.
The storm had downed some nearby he sat and glanced at a nearby tree...a novel idea came to his mind: use the tree like a lever somehow to move the boulder.
So he got a sapling, drug it over, put his muscle into it and ***SNAP*** went the tree. So he went and got a bigger tree to use....once again, when he put pressure on it, ***SNAP*** it went, too. He was barely able to drag an even larger tree over, and...well, I guess you can guess what happened next. The tree idea simply wasn't going to work.
Dejectedly, Thag plopped back on the ground to think. Just then, he saw a familiar lumbering sight, a friend he had not seen since last fall's group hunt. Big Nate. And 'big' was an understatement. Bears were known to run from him, though he had a heart of gold.
He ambled up and spoke to Thag about the family and their winter's tales, and saw the predicament his friend was in. Thag asked him what he thought would work...
"Thag no worry. Big Nate go move boulder for you!" Like a heavyweight lifter in the Olympics, Big Nate stood in front of the boulder, mentally prepared his body for the strain and crouched down for his Herculean effort to come. With a mighty roar of his fearsome voice, Big Nate's muscles rippled and began to shake as he slowly ...slowly ...slowly began to move the boulder. Soon he had built enough momentum that with one final heave the boulder rolled away from the entrance - their doorway was now fully open!
Thag was both overjoyed and awestruck over his friend's sheer strength. The Thag-lettes were running in excited circles. Mrs. Thag hugged Thag mightily.
The big guy wiped the dust off his arms and body as he walked back
over and said...
"Better Nate than lever!"

Have a good weekend, y'all!!!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

"Travelogue: Medicine Wheel, The Bighorns, Wyoming"

(click pics to enlarge...2 are panoramas)

Welcome to a very unique, sacred site known as "Medicine Wheel" in the Bighorn Mountains of north-central Wyoming. The site is clearly marked off of Highway 14-A in the northwestern ramparts of the Bighorns. Evidence suggests that this location has been in use for as long as 7,000 years... this roughly 80-foot circumference ancient site still serves as a gathering point for many sacred Native American ceremonies and rituals, with rock alignments also closely tied to major celestial events, as well.

Sitting on a high alpine plateau at an elevation of 9,642 feet, this site yields vistas of such areas as the Bighorn Basin, the Absaroka Range, the Wind River, and the Pryor Mountains. Given the geographic location, I can't imagine the fickleness of weather conditions at the Spring and Fall Equinoxes, or the Winer Solstice...but this "Circle" was quite active during it's time. A long time.

There are 28 spokes to the wheel...believed to be the (average) 28 days to a lunar cycle...two of the 6 cairns mark the horizons of sunrise and sunset...while the remaining four cairns mark the rising of the brightest stars...

It was not a location unique to an individual tribe; most feel it was an area of religious significance to more than 70 tribes, mostly Plains Tribes (especially Crow and Shoshone in recent history).

It has a cultural and historic significance far beyond that of an observatory, though those elements clearly exist to this day. Of notable chiefs using this site was Chief Joseph, of the Nez Perce nation, who fasted at this site for his spiritual revelations. Clearly, such an indigenous and sacred site was worth immediate preservation, especially with the spike in tourism felt in the 1970s. 8-9 months out of the year, snow prohibits access, which puts tremendous pressures on the site in the summer months.

The 'preservation factor' is far from secure, however. Local logging interests continue to oppose the landmark designation decrees, and propose that their nearby logging will not hurt "spiritual interests." As recently as 1988, when the US Forest Service took public comments on proposed land-use changes at the site, 85% of the 775 responses were on a petition from Native Americans...and the Forest Service counted those 659 responses as one. One. There was even an option which called for the wheel to be bulldozed, but thankfully that was averted in favor of continued protection.

Sadly, there has been a high turnover of USFS management personnel in that district over the past 20 years as a result of the on-going racism that flies in both directions there (including death threats to one supervisor); as well, there is the continued legal pressure from the logging industry, filing lawsuits against the USFS to open the area up for timber operations. To say the least, protection of the Medicine Wheel site has been, well...hare-raising.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"The Yin and Yang of Life..."

Yin and Yang.

We've all seen the symbol, whose origin is from Chinese philosophy and a cornerstone of Taoism...and a concept that is found in virtually all cultures, though described in different words and symbols.

There is a Light and Dark to all things, all people, all situations, all conditions...All That Is. Though many think of it in terms of Good vs. Evil, it is representative of all supposed opposites...Night vs. Day, Feminine vs. Masculine, Summer vs. Winter. And while the symbol shows them separate, they are also entertwining with each other as they have in them the essence of the other. There is a time when Night walks a tightwire to become Day, and Day, Night, for example.

In Native American culture, the concept of the Circle/Wheel is applied to Life's Journey, as opposed to a linear timeline approach. We walk the circle daily as well as through Life, and at any given time there is an opposite side to the wheel...for every West there is an East, and every Spring a Fall, for every Child there is an Elder, for every Life a Death. There are times when we feel balanced and in a Good Place, and then we have those days and times where we are clearly not in a Good Place, and we find ourselves on the other side of that Circle. Next is the challenge to walk the circle and return to our Balance, necessarily traveling with our 'eyes' wide open...

Life inhales and exhales at every turn, and the more we are aware of, and appreciate...and honor...that all of us are related, inter-connected, from One Source...and that Oneness is not limited to other humans but to everything in the world around us...the environment and all lifeforms...the air...the more we understand and accept that concept, the more Love we will have for every part of our daily life. With that love comes a natural peace, and with peace a harmonious balance. The Lakota have a 2-word prayer that embodies all of this: Mitakuye Oyasin.

Balance is what a lot of us don't necessarily feel right now. The shock at Virginia Tech, wrought by a student who fell deeply into Yin, who was so distraught, so angered, so full of venom that he ended not only his own life but many other innocent ones in his path. That's dark beyond dark.

But it's not limited to southwest Virginia. Happens everyday in Iraq with suicide bombers, only the bombers sense some sort of sick honorable duty in blowing people away as opposed to some line-snapping tumult into human Darkness. The end result looks the same.

The answer? If I tell you how I try to keep balanced, and you followed, you would end up where I am, not where you should be...we need to each find within us the 'markers' for balancing our walk in Life. Balance has to begin within, not on the outside. From that inner balance comes a strong love and respect for all things, all people...and that is from where the beautiful and necessary healing emanates into the world, touching everyone and everything.

Mitakuye Oyasin. Walk in Peace.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I will have no post other than this for today,
which more than likely goes for all of us...

Monday, April 16, 2007

"What a day, what a day..."

Saturday afternoon I got the word from my chief meteorologist Jeff Crum that he had "pulled the trigger", meaning (as I had anticipated) going into active work mode for Sunday in anticipation of what was then expected severe weather overnight. My particular forecast office has no person hired to do 'live' weather on weekend mornings, so when severe weather threatens we make contingency plans. You roll up your sleeves and have at it...

Walked in the door at work at 2:15 AM Sunday...and walked out the door at 2:51 PM Sunday. That almost says it all. Even if you don't live in the Carolinas, you are most likely even remotely aware our weather exploded toward the noon hour. What was originally a tornado watch box in eastern NC quickly was expanded by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, OK (SPC) to cover virtually all counties but the mountains, through 8 PM. What had been a classic, quiet 'dry slot' in the water vapor imagery over the Triad in the morning (with an exception) became a radar field of 'hornet' cells that literally swarmed the radar screens.

(damage reports from Sunday through the SPC -
click to enlarge)

The 'exception' was my first uncomfortable tip-off. Thought the tornado watch box was east of the Triad by a couple of counties, a line of cells exploded from Montgomery through Randolph and up into Alamance Counties on the Triad's eastern fringe. And they were impressive, with warnings popping left and right shortly after 9 AM. While not in the watch box, those cells were uncomfortably close to it, though admittedly my radars did not reveal one single rotation marker...just 60 mph straight winds, large hail, and torrential rain. You could have taken an Exacto knife and cut the western edge of the storm line, with the rest of the Triad either dry or with the lightest of showers falling. Just an eastern thing.

But what made me uncomfortable were the high dewpoints. In that zone the dews approached 65 degrees, with dews of only 52-55 degrees one to two counties away to the west and north. That bubble of instability held it's ground, and helped in feeding the maelstroms that erupted just a few hours later.

A boundary aloft began working roughly parallel to the NC-SC border and slowly progressing northward around 11am...and at the snap of a finger storms grew along that line and moved with it northeastward, many cells creating warnings in very short order. It was painfully obvious my day was far from done until Monte Montello came in to pick up duties for the second half of the day.

I've never ridden a bronco, and I have no plans to ever do so. But if you are in weather, such an event has some have a short countdown and you give it all you've got, holding on for the wild and unpredictable ride...only there isn't the pain involved of hitting terra firma. Below I've listed a few selected storm reports from the NWS, as well as some preliminary data upstream in the northeast...many reports have yet to come in, but this is what I dug up at 1 AM from various sources:






Other notable reports I found:

Boone, NC 1AM wind gusts of 61 MPH
Ashland, Ashe County, NC 6" of snow at 730 PM Sunday
Charleston, SC - Ravanel Bridge - 71 mph wind gusts
Weston, CT - 7.50 inches of rain at 11PM and still falling heavily
Warren, VT - 17.0 inches of snow at 9:45 PM and still falling heavily

Mount Washington, NH - 18 degrees, with winds gusting to 99 MPH.

Friday, April 13, 2007

"It's Triskaidekaphobia Time!!!"

Fearful of the number 13, are we? Things have power only if you allow them to, and a day like today, Friday the 13th, is like any other day to me. Well, that's not entirely true...I like Fridays better than I like Mondays, and especially Fridays that are pay-days!

Well, here are a couple of words that you are all on your own to pronounce...per the title, triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13, of course...but what about the fear of a Friday the 13th in particular? These were new to me....



And in digging even deeper into where this superstition came from, there is virtually no hard evidence that the particular "Friday the 13th" ideology existed prior to 1900. Plenty of 'unlucky' things happened on Fridays that were also 13s back through ye olde ages, but the association of the two as one idea is, well, just not substantiated.

One factoid I saw said some 17 million people actually do fear Friday the 13th...that is a LOT of wasted energy and time, sad to say. We can never lose sight of the immense power Thoughts have in creating our own Realities...when you so focus on something, you invariably draw that energy to you.

Just in case you want to know, July of this year will have another Friday the 13th...and then we won't see another one until June of 2008. There, now you can sleep better at night...unless you want to worry about that!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

"Travelogue: Toadstool Geologic Park, Nebraska"

Welcome to Toadstool Geologic Park in northwest Nebraska...

What I remember most about this area is the number of long-term South Dakota residents who knew nothing of this unique area only an hour south of Hot Springs, SD, just over the NE border.

Full of fossils and unique "toadstool" formations, this special geologic attraction is well worth visiting if you are anywhere close by. There is even a very comfortable (yet small) National Forest Service campground there, albeit with primitive support services...and a sod house reproduction, to boot (the park is part of the Oglala National Grasslands).

Some call it Nebraska's Badlands, though the scope of the formations is much smaller in size compared to its SD and ND siblings. Still, the formations are quite unique in their own right, providing wonderful photographic opportunities at every turn.

On a sunny summer's day, Toadstool will cook and tan you brilliantly, given the whitish reflective surface of the sandstone and siltstone formations which make up most of the park. Once formed and then carved by rivers long gone, you can see the layering and rounded erosion forces quite clearly. Aeolian (a.k.a. Eolian) forces (wind-driven erosion) have added their final artistic flairs, as well.

Age-wise, the geologic formations were deposited from the late Eocene to the Miocene age 30-40 million years ago...starting about 10 million years ago, this region began the uplifting process which dried up the riverine sources, leading to the formations seen today. The sandstone layers are far more erosion-resistant, creating mushroom 'caps' when overlying the softer siltstone formations.

FYI, the photos shown were taken with an older camera, which shot much smaller images than the large ones you are used to seeing from my newer camera in many of my prior travelogues. For TV and computer screens, they still look quite nice...but for printing onto paper, they're simply too small. So enjoy them on the blog!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"Wednesday's Word: Wacky"...

It's as if everything is out of kilter, ain't it. Inside, I know I am. Outside, there is the persistent wintery weather in the upper midwest with baseball games being called...because of snow....and a doozie of another winter storm brewing in southern the ever disparaging news revealing yet more devastating crop damage from the Southeast's record cold last weekend, and some growers reporting a 100% loss already.

At least the freezing is gone in the South, as much needed rainfall is starting to trickle from the sky. I tried to get as much sanding and such done outdoors yesterday before battening down the hatches for today's showers, tonight's thunderstorms, and tomorrow's very windy conditions. March came in like a lion, went out like a warm lamb, and now in April is acting like a Tasmanian Devil. The weather apple cart has definitely capsized.

Feeling that way inside a bit, myself. My plate, per usual, is almost overloaded with things I need to get done, but the weather has played a major role in reshaping what I can do when. Too, pulling a bit more double-shifts than usual, like today, which throws a few wrenches into 'normalcy'. And for those of you who deal with daily pain, I figuratively and literally feel your pain. While I have knee surgery slated for the end of April, I've been unable to walk without pain for several months now, and pain simply wears you down over the long haul...kind of like being in a NASCAR race and having your car break down on the back stretch, opposite the pit area...

I am excited over a new flute I began sanding down yesterday...a couple of years ago I obtained some absolutely stunning curly Myrtle (Oregon), and this will be the second flute I've made from it...I'll be sure to post the pictures of the intense figuring in this pale yellowish wood when I finish it, which may not be until next week. Pretty, pretty wood.

Blog inspirations have been spotty at best, lately...kinda like going go through the motions, but you can't make the fish bite. You hope they do, but there is no forcing a hooked outcome. And so it has been of late. But as you regular readers know, on Thursdays (that's tomorrow) I take you to some neat place and share my photography with you...tomorrow's post will be some of the unique formations from Toadstool Geologic Park in northeast Nebraska. And I bet you thought it was all flat corn and wheat fields...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"Mark My Words...."

Actually, I should have titled it, "Mark, His Words"....

Good ol' Samuel Clemens, Sammy C who goes by Mark T, as in Twain. I'll rank him right up there with the wit of Will Rogers for providing us with tongue-in-cheek humor that toys with Life's topics much like a cat that endlessly toys with a mouse instead of pouncing on it once and for all.

One of my favorite Twain quotes goes something like this:

"There are 3 types of lies in this world: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

Amen to that...the veritable rubber band of truth, statistics. I recently ran across one statistic that said 5 out of 4 adults have trouble with fractions...and another that said with 100% surety that if your grandparents couldn't have children, you couldn't either.

"The man with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds."

Truth be told, I'm working on some big, new ideas/plans, and I'm 87% sure I've got male PMS today as a result of the whole planning and efforting process...

Just the other day I was in the grocery store and heard, 2 aisles over, two little kids screaming and running up and down the aisle...I glanced over at a vendor stocking a shelf and said, "And where is the mom or dad???" He mused back that they had just come down his aisle and if I were to go look for myself I'd understand 'why'....I knew I'd best not go see for myself, since I had a good chance of saying something...alas, I was garbed in my fire engine red News 14 coat and thought better of when I read this baseball story I had to laugh...

"To the Public:
TWO HUNDRED & FIVE DOLLARS REWARD--At the great baseball match on Tuesday, while I was engaged in hurrahing, a small boy walked off with an English-made brown silk UMBRELLA belonging to me, & forgot to bring it back. I will pay $5 for the return of that umbrella in good condition to my house on Farmington avenue. I do not want the boy (in an active state) but will pay two hundred dollars for his remains. -
Samuel L. Clemens."

I am a big proponent of being all you can be (no, that doesn't mean join the Army), taking advantage of open doors, or when you hit a shut door that you look for a couple of open windows follow your dreams and truly 'live' your Life. This Twain quote is another pearl of wisdom for us all...

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Good advice. How will you know you lived to your fullest?

"Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry."

Good ol' Mark Twain...

Monday, April 09, 2007

"When You Think of Easter in the South..."

(as always, click pics to enlarge) do NOT think of this!!!

(Mom and Roger's fireplace getting a rare April workout...)

The cold temperatures came, and in most places they conquered with lows well enough down in the 20s Easter morning to kill new buds/blooms/growth at my sister's home in Tryon, NC...

Her one plant that did fare well, however, was her hardy phlox...

Yet, just 10 or so miles away at Mom's home, the temperature hovered at 30-31 degrees Sunday morning, that pocket or relative warmth sparing her azaleas and other plants, which were mostly already in full bloom. Over 2 decades ago my grandfather planted myriad species of azaleas, which I can only tell you are the 'yellow ones', the 'red ones', the 'large pink ones', etc., most blended in the edge of the yard against the woods, with some striking ones along the house...

Mom also loves to bring the profuse color into the house, which was a nice if not odd contrast to the wintry-like temperatures...

The dogwoods were also adorned in their regalia, though a few had some freeze burns...

Interesting what lighting can do for a shot...the dogwoods above against the cobalt blue sky in direct sunlight...versus the almost painting-like look of the same tree late in the afternoon (below) with the roof of the house blocking the direct sunrays...the lighter blue of the sky almost matching the typical shadowy blue cast of the flowers, making them look almost transparent...

If you didn't have a thermometer and didn't step outside, you would think the balm of spring were running rampant this past Easter weekend...alas, reslient Nature will continue to do what She does best, arise from the frozen ashes where needed....

We now return you to your regularly scheduled spring weather....!