Sunday, September 24, 2017

Out and Indoors

Outdoors: The seasons are shifting.  It's in the air, even though it was as hot as summer today.  While I do not miss the hurricane, I do miss the cool air it brought.  I took these pictures after the storm, when everything was wet and people were out walking around assessing the damage and just finally getting out of the house.

Outdoors: We spent time today gathering up more fallen limbs and sticks and stacking them up for the yard trash collection tomorrow.  I admit that I hauled out some much older logs that have been laying around, ones that fell sometime ago when there was no special yard trash collection to take them away.  I have a lot of trees--I lose count when I count--but more than 20.  This means a lot of falling branches, falling pine cones, falling leaves, and continuous maintenance.  But I love my trees.

Indoors: While I was home for the hurricane days, I did not grade any papers.  I brought them home, but they stayed in my bag.  I don't know what the problem was.  I just couldn't bring myself to look at them. So, last weekend I had to catch up.  Essays are such a mountain for me.  I love working on them when I am with the students, reading and helping them as they go, but when they all get stacked up in front of me--eh!  I'd rather not.

What I did do, was work on finishing up my sweater.  I had to do one sleeve over again because for some reason I thought I could do it while I watched TV.  Ha!  Of course, this thing isn't done yet and it is still all out of shape and wobbly.  But!  It is going to get done.  I can see that now.

Indoors: Today, I made Rosh Hashanah honey cake, even though we really don't celebrate Rosh Hashanah.  It made the house smell like cinnamon and honey and spice--so good! 

Also!  We scooted out to eat Korean food--one of my favorites, especially at this place that brings the hot coals to your table.  So fun and delicious!

We'll see what this next week brings.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Tai Chi/Qigong and a Few Other Activities

I have been taking tai chi/qigong classes for a little over a year now.  I practice this for health and relaxation. The focus is on breath, balance, and alignment, both physically and metaphorically--or spiritually.  It has become popular these days to speak of "mindfulness"--and that's what this kind of tai chi is.

So this weekend I went to a workshop focused on meditation and sitting qigong.  A lot of it was way out there for me (observe the "microcosmic orbit"!), but it was interesting to think about and gave me a starting place for meditation.

I have found that I really like "moving meditation"--which can be done through tai chi.  It is a wonderful way to clear my head.  I don't know the whole 24 form yet, but that is not essential to being able to breathe and move and focus thought.  I know I sound like a wacky old lady new ager, but seriously, I have found this practice has been resoundingly beneficial to my physical and mental state.

Happily, I found a little time to knit this weekend.  I know this barely resembles a sweater, but I am plodding ever onward in faith that it will block out much better than the mess it looks now.  Some weeks pass and I don't even touch it, so my poor summer sweater will have to wait to be worn until next summer.  Grief!  I have no idea how I will ever get through the pick up and knit part with this lace weight yarn. Alas. One step at at time, right?

Today, before I went off to the workshop, and before we secured all the outdoor blow-away-ables in case of high winds, I made a tiramisu. It is so easy to make!
The lady fingers come in these huge packs and the tiramisu only takes 6 of them, so this is my second one and there could be two more in the near future.  Hopefully, I will get some help in eating it!

We're bracing for wind here and falling down trees.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Labor Day Weekend

The shift in the air has happened.  Coolness has come in at last like a deep sigh through the trees. Goodbye summer heat!!
Yesterday I planted broccoli and brussel sprouts, my first go at winter gardening.  This morning two of the broccoli plants had been snipped off wild rabbit style, so up went the fence.  Cumbersome, but at least I have it and it works (well, so far!)

I got discouraged last year with the planters on my front porch.  For the last few years I have struggled to keep flowers alive, they seem to wilt out and resemble cooked spinach.  I used to have impatiens flowers that mounded beautifully and lasted until Christmas, but something happened to these flowers.  People don't really even have them in their yards anymore.  I'm wondering if the pesticides the flower centers were using to treat plants with had something to do with this.

Anyway, I decided to just put some flamingos in the planters and with shells.  That looked ok for a few weeks, but then pine straw kept falling into the shells, and they weren't really clean shells to begin with (they were real beach finds) and the planters started sort of reminding me of ashtrays.  So, I got some green plants and now the planters look great to me.  Of course, I realize plastic flamingos are not for everyone, but I like them.  They remind me of my grandmother.  She had them, and various other yard ornaments.

On Saturday, we wandered out to the big wholesale farmer's market here in town, just scoping it out because I am thinking of going there to buy masses of little pumpkins to use for a school thing.  It smelled at times like over-ripe and rotting fruits, but I loved looking at the gigantic sacks of peanuts and rows of tomatoes and mangos, and the mountains of watermelons.  It surprised me how hispanic the market is--pinatas everywhere and Jarritos, horchata, manteca, and masa flour.  To be political here: Our country is a much more vibrant place with a mix of many people, and Mexican culture is a vital part of what makes the United States wonderful.

Also, this weekend I detoured from health food and gobbled up hot wings.
I know when people think about Southern food they think about soul food like black-eyed peas and collard greens and fried chicken and fried green tomatoes.  But I think the modern southern food (and maybe this is particularly urban) is hot wings from a scrappy hot wing shack.  This place is a little more than a shack, but it is way down scrappy and delicious.

Not to be confused with the chain called American Deli

Also, this weekend I finished reading this amazing book.  I cannot recommend it enough.  If you have the least interest in trees or growing things, in science, or in literature, then this book has something for you.

Whew!  I wrote a lot.  Have a happy week!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Blur of August

Well, school's back in session so I'm on that breakneck pace that starts each weekday at 5 a.m. and runs full steam ahead until I'm back home around 4 p.m. too tired to do much aside from collapsing.

Three weeks in and I'm still in the teacher's honeymoon zone, in love with my students, the school, and my place amongst them.

My youngest packed up and went back to college.  I miss him, but I know he does not miss me or being home. He's out in his adventure, as he should be.

Not a lovely picture, but a true one.

On the weekends, I've been catching up on house cleaning (joy!) and trying to relax.  Last night, for example, I joined one of my dearest friends for a few rounds of bowling.  My bowling is abysmal, but that doesn't stop me from loving to play.  (I'm horrid at ping-pong too, but I don't like that so much because I end up chasing that infernally light-weight, nervous little ball all over the room.)

Look!  She has her own old style bowling shoes.  I am soooo envious!
I know this isn't much to write and the pictures are only so-so, but I wanted to check in at least.  Hope you are doing well!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Abraham Lincoln's Birthplace and Boyhood Home

While we were in Kentucky, we decided to go down the road a little ways from Mammoth Cave to visit the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln in Hodgenville.  There, an elegant neoclassical monument is built over his families' little log cabin house.

It is always incredible to me to think about families that lived in these tiny little homes and worked the land. Think how different these people were from people today who have such big houses, and then need to rent storage units to keep even more of their possessions! 

When I read the Lincoln Farm Association's idea about the symbolism of this monument, I wondered if this is really a true idea today.  Do people in my country continue to believe this?  Does our current political environment support this ideal?

Lincoln's birthplace also includes a natural spring in a subsurface grotto. The land here is full of the sink holes that characterize the geography around Mammoth Cave.  Lincoln's family only lived here a short while and then moved down the road a ways.  We also visited this next house, which is a reconstruction but is on the actual land and sits where the house originally sat. 
Abraham Lincoln and his family lived here for a short time until moving on to Indiana.
Imagine this little house for a family of four!

As a girl I always liked the idea of these little settlers' homes.  I had this idea that I wanted to be Heidi and live in one with my grandpa (an imaginary grandpa as I wasn't really close to either of my real ones), and cook soup over a fireplace like this one, and cut bread and cheese on a simple wood table, and climb into a loft to sleep.  Of course, a big part of being Heidi would include being a shepherdess and tending sheep and goats!  And it would snow in winter.  And it would be Switzerland.
--That's what I thought of whenever I toured these early American homesteads!  I also used to imagine it at night when I couldn't sleep.  I'd pretend I was upstairs in the loft of the little house.

Interesting to think that people come to visit this piece of earth where a boy once worked.  The earth, and the seeds of these trees, and the stones--oh especially the stones--were here before him and after him, and will be here long after you and me too.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Visiting Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave National Park is in Kentucky, a state not too far from mine. Like many people, I have been to many of the far flung National Parks and foreign cities, but I have neglected some of those nearer to me.  So, this summer, being both tight on time and cash, Mammoth Cave seemed like a good idea.

Interestingly, Mammoth Cave doesn't seem to get a lot of the big PR like Yosemite, Yellowstone, or the Grand Canyon.  One reason I think this is, is that, being a cave, the park doesn't offer many great photo opportunities.  It is dark in a cave! It is rocky and close and otherworldly, and really hard to photograph.  Even if you can get a picture, it doesn't translate into a feeling about the experience like big, open vistas do.  (I think Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park suffers in this way too-)

Historic entrance to the cave
We first took the historic tour which goes down into the big cave opening.   The National Park was at one time farm land covered with sink holes.  The land today still rises and falls.  When farmers first discovered caves on their land in the low ground, they opened these caves to tourists.  It is frightening to think how they went about exploring these caves with little more than curiosity and lanterns.  Many of the cave explorers and guides were slaves.

Going down into the sinkhole

Here, the large man in the doorway seeks reassurance from the guide that he will fit in the narrow passageways.
After lunch, we took another tour of a different part of the cave (the cave covers over 400 miles and is still being actively explored!).  This involved riding on a bus, trekking down into a sinkhole and going through a cave opening not nearly as romantic as the historic entrance we went into that morning.  This was a tour called Domes and Dripstones.

After entering this through this door, we walked down long, long, long, single file staircases through a twisty narrow crevice in the earth.  We crouched along passageways, and sucked in our stomachs, and watched our heads for jutting edges of rock.  It was fantastic!  Utterly adventurous feeling, without really being totally adventurous--I mean, there was the possibility of danger, but not the likelihood of danger.  I had visions of Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and--of course!--Dante--as we wandered through various chambers and high ceilinged splices of earth.  Really, really awesome!  If you get a chance to go see this, you should!
Our little cabin

Circle of cabins
We stayed in cabins which have been park since 1913.  Unlike many national parks, Mammoth Cave does not have a beautiful historic lodge.  It has a boring hotel that was built sometime in the 1970's (or maybe the late 1960's). The cabins are the only remaining historic lodging.  Luckily, our set of cabins had window unit air-conditioning!  I loved their cozy simplicity (no TV or wi-fi), but the woman in the neighboring cabin was not so enamored of her experience.

Returning to her cabin one evening, she happened to look down just as a snake was waking up and deciding it was finally cool enough to come out to do some hunting.  She shrieked.  I heard her say she'd seen a snake, so, being something of a snake enthusiast, I hurried to identify it and snap its picture.  It was a copperhead (venomous).  I was thrilled, though also very aware that my neighbor was lucky not to have stepped on him for she very likely could have been bitten.  I contacted the ranger, who sent some other rangers to come collect the snake and move him off away from people. The rangers could not assure the woman that she would not encounter more snakes (they even could not assure her that she would not encounter one IN the cabin--though I know that this would be highly unlikely).  She declared she had had it with rustic domesticity and would be leaving in the morning.
My nervous phone picture of the snake as it came out of from under the metal flashing under the door.  Beside him is the corner of the welcome mat.
All in all--it was a wonderful adventure.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Island Ford Trail

Today we braved the heat and damp and went for a hike.  Island Ford Trail is a short, easy trail (3 miles) in an urban woodland that often runs parallel to the Chattahoochee River.  Today, being Saturday, groups of people were out with inflatable rafts heading into the water to relax to cool off.  I think you can even rent a canoe at the recreation office there. Even though the trail is shaded, the forest holds moisture and when the path veered away from the water, the humidity was particularly oppressive.

One of several granite alcoves along the way.

We were lucky to see deer several times along the route.

Gross slug in this picture was unintentional at the time!

It came pouring rain about half and hour after we left.
"And the rain it raineth every day," (from Twelfth Night) is definitely the motto of this summer.