With standards and falls that endure, never torn.
Gently floating above the fans and the fray.
Bloom after bloom, many seasons in the sun,
Until your 'living days are artfully done.
I claim no glory for the gorgeous deep-purple Clematis vine that climbs a small trellis outside my back door.
As in, I didn't plant it. I don't plant things because if I dare, they die.
Neither of my thumbs are green so I am thankful for an index finger that is photographically inclined. I can push the button and memorialze what others have taken the pains to plant.
With my new Nikon AF-S DX Micro-NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G lens, I've become chronically nosy with anything that happens to bloom in my yard.
The yellow and purple bearded iris will poke their glamorous heads up soon. Look out, perennials!
And that is all for now.
Yesterday I walked into the family room and happened to glance out into the adjacent sun room.
Dagny has been here, I thought. And indeed she had, on Saturday afternoon.
Upon entering the house jabbering -- Dagny is always talking or singing; try to stop her -- Dagny makes a beeline for Rizzo. And me. Mainly because where you find Rizzo, you usually find me.
Sighting Rizzo for the first time, she bursts into a belly laugh. Rizzo's mere existence makes Dagny overflow with mirth.
Hi Rizzo! Hi Rizzo! Hi Rizzo! She chortles, over and over again as though he's deaf.
Hi Dag, I say.
Hey Mamaw, she adds.
In due time Dagny is encouraged to let Rizzo be alone with his chew toys, and proceed to the sun room where her own toys reside, divided between a wire basket and a Lego bucket.
She splits her time between dumping the Legos out onto the family room floor and building a tower or a house, and staying in the sun room where she plays vigorously with the stuffed animals, a few bouncing balls, a canister of buttons (do not open it!) and an old wireless phone.
Among her favorites in the stuffed critter category are her yellow teddybear (it comes out Lello Teyberr!), two keyrings with tiny puppies attached, a small stuffed Dalmatian, a diminutive bear wearing a Nummer One! teeshirt, and two Chihuahuas left over from the late-'90s Yo Quiero Taco Bell ad campaign.
The Chihuahuas still talk: The one with the rose in its mouth says I Think I'm In Love and the other one repeats Drop The Chalupa as many times as you care to squeeze its chest.
And yes; we bought these soft-taco dog dolls around 1998. Around the same time we got Javier. And yes; the acquisitions were connected.
I stood there laughing at the way Dagny had left her ammals when she took her leave on Saturday. Sometimes I find them lined up on the bench; this time they were grouped on the floor, with Lello Teyberr propped on the bench leg.
The keyring puppies are situated cheek-by-jowl, as are the Chihuahuas -- one standing, the other in an eternal sitting position. Nummer One bear is perched in Lello Teyberr's garish furry lap. Small Dalmatian takes up little space at the rear of the arrangement.
The plastic eyes stare without sight but somehow still manage to convey a message of life and the sort of cuteness that entrances children.
I wondered where kids get the idea to arrange objects the way they do. What does it say about their personalities? What induces them to organize and compartmentalize and form cozy tableaux?
Still musing, I went upstairs to make coffee. And noticed my own dining table.
I know the real meaning of Easter. But I also love bunnies and have a small collection. I bring them out in late March, where they stay, decorating various surfaces, until I go all patriotic for summer.
My bunnies' eyes are sightless but they delight me with the whimsy and sweetness they convey.
I guess that's your answer, I thought.
Hey. Little eyes (the kind that really see) are watching. I may be wrong, but I think they get most of their ideas from us -- those among whom they live and learn. Those from whom they're bound to take many cues.
I think that's very cool. I believe I'm up to it. Are you?
And that is all for now.
For my birthday earlier this month, my family gave me a new toy: a Nikkor 40mm micro lens.
I developed a hankering for this special glass after my friend Mari at My Little Corner of the World posted a picture of the inner workings of a snowflake.
A single snowflake! I drooled. Not over the snowflake, but over the sort of lens that could photograph a snowflake and make it worth your while.
Never mind that I have no snowflakes to photograph. There are other things in nature that bear up very well indeed under close photographic scrutiny.
As in, you almost feel you've never seen them until you see them this way!
I speak of flower petals and stamens and tiny budding things and raindrops hanging like jewels from the edges of leaves, and of the purple veins of ground cover no bigger than a fairy's pinky fingernail.
In search of these types of photo opportunities, and the weather being particularly lovely, I set out a few days ago for a stroll around my yard.
Out front, to the left of the garage, I concentrated on the infinitesimal tightly-wrapped magenta-colored buds swaying in the breeze on an azalea bush.
Next I crossed the yard so as to invade the inner life of our lush twelve-foot-tall viburnum (snowball) hedge, the creamy faces of which only nodded vaguely to acknowledge me.
From there, I got a bee in my bonnet to capture the breathtaking beauty of our fluffy pink dogwood tree, which stands sentinel at the point where our road makes a sharp dogleg curve.
(Our white dogwood, closer to the house, had a rough spring due to the vagaries of the elements and only produced flowers on the tallest branches. The lower ones are bare.)
I don't know why.
But across the street from our heavily-laden pink dogwood is a white dogwood with so many snowy-showy flowers, it's basically a blizzard of blooms.
Having been under the weather lately but feeling very happy and good in the gentle sunshine, I crossed the street to get all up in that dogwood's grill.
I looked both ways. There was a car coming but its driver was in no hurry and I had plenty of time.
Stepping fourteen inches, give or take, past the curb and into our across-the-street neighbors' yard, I found my nose in the white dogwood branches.
I lifted my camera to my eye and zoomed in on a white petal. I snapped but it was breezy and the branch was moving so I waited.
It was then that I heard the car approaching. And stopping. Behind me.
An unfriendly female voice said: Can I help you?
Not nice! She did not say it nice. You can say Can I help you? nice but she did not. She said it aggravated and annoyed.
I turned around. Can you help me? I answered her question with another question, because I was truly confused. Did I look as though I needed help?
My neighbor (to whom technically I've never been introduced and to whom I have never before spoken, although both she and her husband know TG) glared up at me.
You're taking pictures of my house, she said.
Uh, no, I corrected her. I'm taking pictures of this here tree.
She declined to respond, only powered her passenger window back up and proceeded into her driveway.
Sorry if I offended, I said to her right-rear bumper.
I should tell you now: The lady's not from around here. Hails from way, way up north. And not in a good way.
Sorry not sorry.
So I took my devious skulking trespassing self back across the street and up my driveway and into my house. I closed the garage door. I may have pouted for a moment or two.
I wished I'd said: Ma'am, if you knew anything about photography, you'd know that I wouldn't stand in a tree with flowers practically up my nostrils to take a picture of the house behind it.
I wished I'd said: Ma'am, I can look at your house any time I want by glancing out of my front window or stepping onto my porch. I have no need for pictures of it.
I wished I'd said: Lady, what if I WAS taking pictures of your house? How exactly could that harm or even affect the house, or you? What could I do with those pictures? Do you think anybody would want them?
I wished I'd said: Lady, I go to great lengths when taking photos in my yard, to make sure your house is never in them. So why would I lurk in the dogwood at high noon to capture your domicile in digital?
But I shook it off. Consider the source, I said. Some people aren't happy unless they're unhappy.
I went out back where I gathered a flossy not-quite-blown dandelion and some tiny purple ground cover with its green accoutrement. I also took pictures of the inside of a riotously blooming hot pink azalea.
The stamen tips look as though they've been dipped in mercury!
The next day, it rained a lovely spring rain.
Afterwards, I went into the back yard to capture dripping ivy leaves, that same azalea full of raindrops, and the ruffled petals of a rain-spangled dianthus given to me earlier in the week.
If you come over, I may have to aim my new lens inside your eye! So look out. We'll find just the right light.
And if I trespass by attempting to photograph the brain behind your pretty eye, I'm sure you'll let me know.
And that is all for now. I'd better remind Mr. DeMille that I'm ready for my closeup.
Happy Friday :: Happy Weekend :: Happy April
I can confidently confirm that spring has not come to Appalachia.
TG and I spent much of last week in Pittsburgh.
Why we were there is a longish story but it resulted in a late-winter sojourn that was lightish on sojourn but heavy on winter.
As in, it was so cold, I feared I'd perish.
Yes; I am given to hyperbole. It's how we roll on I'm Having A Thought Here. Deal or click out.
(It's funny because I am often colder in my own house than I was in Pittsburgh. I keep it cool in my house; bring a sweater and an extra pair of socks when you visit. Year round.)
But I have a barely-used warm winter coat and having lived in the Chicago area for many years, I know how to dress for cold. Ergo I was bone-chilly only a few times and not for very long.
Still. You may have it because I don't want it. The cold weather, that is. I'll keep my winter coat.
So anyway. Pittsburgh.
OK it's a fetching city -- mountainous, cold (did I mention?), steel/rust belt, seriously industrial-north vibe notwithstanding. It has a certain wild, raw appeal.
In another post I'll tell you about the time we spent within the hilly chilly confines of the city's historic Allegheny Cemetery -- initial interments circa 1844 -- and the way I clambered around massive monuments in wind-driven snow and temps in the twenties, not knowing where to aim my camera first.
It was almost too much to take in.
But that was the whole first day. I'm still trying to get the photos edited. On day two (second verse colder than the first), we visited the world-famous Duquesne Incline.
Upon seeing how steep the one-hundred-fifty-year-old transportation system actually is, I nearly declined to board said incline.
But it was so freakishly frigid on the platform (and on the stairs and overpass leading to it from the parking lot), I was happy for the relative warmth of an unheated antique trolley car clinging to the side of a snowswept mountain.
Once perched on a time-worn wooden bench in said bright-red car, I aimed my camera out the window at the view. You can see the reflection of the windows in this photo.
Also the sun had emerged briefly from the clouds scudding across the blustery blue-gray sky.
Have I even mentioned the wind? A man from Canada remarked to TG that it's cold where he lives but not as windy as Pittsburgh.
Be that as it may, I have been to Canada in the winter and you are welcome to that whole scene too.
But it was fun as long as you didn't look down. And I didn't. Only up and out, and mostly through my camera lens. The single degree of separation helped.
Once at the tippy top, TG and I emerged into a small building that serves as the station, up on the mountain in a neighborhood known as Duquesne Heights.
Apparently the wind had died down for a moment. Note the flag lying limp. Trust me: it was a momentary lapse.
We took a tour of the inner workings of the incredible feat of nineteenth-century engineering that is the Duquesne Incline. Where they change the lifting/lowering cables every two years whether they need it or not.
The trolleys run (one up and one down, at the same time, passing one another at one point in each ascent/descent) three hundred sixty-five days a year.
Except on Sundays and holidays -- when the trolleys are fired up at the decadently late hour of seven -- the transport begins churning every day at five forty-five in the morning and the last runs at twelve forty-five the next morning.
Then the twin trolleys take a five-hour breather before reviving for the continuous ups and downs of a new day.
We took in the breathtaking views of the town known for its bridges, for the manufacture of glass, for the University of Pittsburgh, and for the Pirates and the Steelers, from the outdoor overlook.
We plundered the gift shop, buying souvenirs for ourselves plus the children and grandchildren. I got a miniature replica of a red trolley to hang on my Christmas tree later this year.
After that, there wasn't much else to do. A few restaurants cling to the mountainside, offering magnificent views of Pittsburgh poised at the confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela Rivers.
But they were expensive and besides, it was too early to eat. So we boarded the next departing trolley and were carried back down the mountain where we once again traversed the overpass and descended the stairs to our shivering car.
We'd bought more parking time than we could use, so TG gave our dashboard ticket to a young couple just arriving. It was our way of helping to make America great again.
Then we drove around with our seat-warmers on, and actually ended up back out at Allegheny Cemetery. In the post where I tell you about that, I'll reveal why we were drawn there twice in two days.
Altogether it was a uniquely interesting and most informative and supremely enjoyable trip.
I sort of wish you could have been there with me but since you couldn't, now I sort of feel that you were.
And that is all for now.
So it turns out my new dog isn't perfect after all.
He has a teensy-weensy flaw.
Or maybe we would be more accurate in describing it as a condition.
He suffers from a particular canine malady known as Pica.
Although we probably should not characterize him as suffering.
Because Rizzo glories in it.
To quote the Internet:
Pica is a medical issue referring to a dog's craving of a non-food item and the subsequent eating of that item.
Rizzo's got a king-sized case of Pica.
As in (I've reported this to you before) he loves to eat everything outside.
To include: pine cones, pine needles, tree bark, sticks, flowers, acorns, grass, leaves, dirt, and even rocks.
Yes; rocks. My dog is a rock star.
(I say this although I have never actually seen Rizzo ingest a rock. But I have seen him with a rock in his mouth and I'm pretty sure you'll agree that this begs the question: What's next?)
(Swallowing is what's next.)
But try ridding your yard of every one of those things! A massive White Oak towers over our house in front. The back privacy fence is ringed with conifers just as towering.
The climate is sub-tropical. This may as well be a jungle. And that means a 24-hour buffet for a dog with Pica.
I've had Rizzo for seven weeks and you don't want to know how much natural-type detritus I've had to clean off the back steps leading to the deck and pool, just outside our kitchen French doors.
Stuff he leaves there after he's done snacking: Chunks of wood. Flower stems. Half-eaten acorns. Mangled sticks. Remnants of leaves.
I tried going outside with him and barking Leave it! every time he even sniffed at something.
He just looked at me before playfully cavorting with another pine cone, or bringing a stick up to the steps for a nosh.
Rizzo! You'll get splinters! I admonished.
Splinters schplinters, his expression replied.
This from a dog who, when inside the house, will chew only on his own chew toys. He has never shown the slightest interest in a shoe or the leg of a table.
Also he is housebroken. And I didn't have to do it, which is good, because I have no clue how to housebreak a dog.
Like I said: He's all but perfect. Until it's time to go outside.
By the way: I do plan to tell the vet about Rizzo's unusual dietary propensities when it's time for a checkup. But I think you'll agree that to avoid an emergency visit to said small-animal medico, a stopgap measure was needed.
So now you know my problem. And I'll tell you how I solved it.
First let me say, I considered a muzzle. They're cheap and (I suppose) effective. Dogs can't pick anything up in their mouths while wearing one.
But neither can they sniff, bark, pant, or drink. Also they just generally hate it, not least because they love sniffing, barking, panting, and drinking.
And how would you like to wear a rubber muzzle every time you go outside?
No? I thought as much.
So, up on the Internet, click click click I went.
(I'm intrepid in the Google wars.)
And look what I found: The OutFox Field Guard.
It was made specifically to help dogs who live in California avoid entangling their snouts and ears in something called Foxtail Grass.
We don't have that in the Southeast. But the clever inventor had an Aha! moment when thinking about other dogs in other places who may not encounter Foxtail Grass but who have a weakness for feasting on local flora.
After reading testimonial after glowing testimonial, and even though the item was a trifle pricey, I ordered an OutFox Field Guard in Extra Small for Rizzo.
My reasoning was, it's about ten times cheaper (at least) than taking my dog to the vet with a rock in his belly.
I told Rizzo his pine cone-eating days were seriously numbered. He was grasping one between his paws at the time. I took it away from him.
He looked over beyond the pool, where approximately eight thousand six hundred thirty-nine pine cones lay on the ground.
And where, scarcely six months from now, a quarter-million fresh acorns will be underfoot.
A few days later, our OutFox Field Guard arrived. I sussed out the process involved in installing said device on my dog.
At first, I got it wrong. I attached the two Velcro straps under his collar correctly but didn't pull the elastic cords tightly enough.
Rizzo ran away downstairs to the TV room and by the time he was down there, the mask was flopping around his feet. Paws.
I tried again. I pulled the elastic tight and pushed the purple plastic toggle down towards Rizzo's neck. I put a finger underneath to test and make sure he wasn't strangling.
I opened the door. Rizzo stepped out onto the deck steps. He looked bewildered.
For at least twenty minutes he sat, barely moving, just staring. I worried that my actions had plunged him into deep depression.
I could almost hear him thinking: What will I do now for fun?
That was a short session. I removed Rizzo's Field Guard and stayed with him while he checked his messages and sniffed around a bit.
But after that? So easy, it's like falling off a log. I learned to put the Field Guard on him correctly (even popping a few treats down inside for him to eat) and he learned how to have fun even though he can't eat anything not placed by me inside the mask.
He runs around, sniffs, plays, tries to pick stuff up, realizes he can't, and moves on to something else. He has even figured out that he can drink from his outside water dish that I fill with the hose.
I've seen the Field Guard dripping.
Rizzo once more struts around the yard like a boss. A boss who can't endanger his own health because he's too dumb to leave rocks alone.
When he's tired, he sits and basks in the sun -- something he adores.
Now? When it's time to go outside, Rizzo waits patiently and even lifts his head for me to outfit him with his OutFox Field Guard.
I still occasionally put a treat or two inside for him to enjoy an al fresco snack.
It works like a charm.
How often do things work out so beautifully?
Not as often as I'd like. But I'll take it.
And that is all for now.
Happy Thursday :: Happy March
Hello. I've been so busy.
One thing I had to do last Friday was show up at an imaging facility to have a routine diagnostic test. The kind that takes scarcely two whole minutes.
But that doesn't include your time in the waiting room.
My appointment was set for two o'clock. That's what the nice woman at the front desk told me when I made said appointment.
I arrived for the two o'clock appointment at one forty-five. I had already filled out my papers so all I had to do was hand those over.
Oh and produce my driver's license. Ostensibly to prove that I am who I say I am.
I am. Every single time.
(How do the poor ones in our society who howl about the unfairness -- like voter suppression -- of having to possess a valid photo ID, do anything? I have to pull mine out two or three times on a day of errands.)
Anyway. I sat down. A show was on the TV that featured people who had won the lottery, picking out their new luxury living arrangements. The first couple doing the picking were both of the male persuasion.
Two o'clock came and went. Two fifteen passed into eternity. I had noticed a sign at the front desk reminding patients that they do all sorts of tests there, and that if someone who came in after you got called before you, not to read anything into that because they may be getting a different sort of test.
But to certainly say something if you had been waiting for more than fifteen minutes.
Okay. Wanting to work on the virtue of patience, I said to myself, Jenny, watch the (now hetero) lottery-winning couple picking out their new house. (I had a favorite). If they don't call you before two-thirty, you'll get to see if they picked the one you wanted.
I waited. Having decided it wouldn't be practical to blow practically their whole million on a house, the man and his wife didn't pick the one I wanted.
(Yes; my favorite real estate was the most expensive. Don't judge.)
Two thirty post meridiem on Friday, February twenty-fourth, two thousand seventeen, became history.
So I went to the desk. I said, Hey. My appointment was for two o'clock and it's after two thirty. Will I be seen today?
The extremely kind and courteous lady engaged her keyboard in a spate of tapping and consulted her monitor. She told me it would just be another minute or so.
I went and stood near the door that would open when it was my turn.
It opened as promised after only two minutes. A woman glanced up and said Jennifer Weber as though she'd rather be cleaning out her refrigerator.
I waved and began walking behind her. No niceties were exchanged. She kept her head down, looking at some papers in her hand.
Then she said it: You know your appointment was for two thirty; right?
What I don't know is how to describe the way her words, and the way she said them, made me feel. You've probably already felt it. Let's just move on.
But I replied: No; I know my appointment was for two o'clock. That's what the front-desk people told me.
Well this paper says two thirty, she said.
I doubt that, I said. Because it was for two o'clock. I turned into the dimly-lit appointment room and set my purse down on a chair.
You walked right past the dressing room, she said.
I turned around and began walking back towards my accuser/temporary jailer and (somewhere) the dressing room.
Get your purse, she said. Hearts and flowers pointedly omitted.
I retrieved my purse. I was shown into a three-by-four dressing room where I changed into a scrub top and removed my new Pandora necklace.
The scrub top was so comfortable, I made a mental note to buy one to wear on days when I have the blissful experience of not leaving my house and/or talking to anyone besides TG and Rizzo.
When I left six-and-a-half minutes later, I asked the kind lady at the front desk what time my appointment had been for.
Two o'clock, the nice woman chirped after consulting her screen.
I told her in a faintly aggrieved tone (I'm good at that; you should watch me work) that the woman in back had been under the impression that it was for two thirty.
We were backed up, she said. It's not your fault.
I gave up. I mean, I knew it wasn't my fault. But sometimes you take what you can get and move on. 'k bye.
Next stop -- freedom! -- was the Dollar General where I needed a large gift bag in which to place the giant fire-engine-red remote-control car we'd bought our only grandson for his fifth birthday. Also a card for him.
At the gift-wrap wall there were two racks stuffed with huge brightly-colored Happy Birthday! gift bags. The big sticker tag affixed to the end of the racks announced their cost:
Booyah. I picked the happiest bag and made my way to the birthday cards, where I selected a cute one-dollar version with dinosaurs that wished Andrew his best birthday in ages.
Two minutes later I was face-to-face with the cashier, a tall young black man who greeted me courteously and rang up my purchases. I had a five-dollar bill in my hand and had unzipped my wallet's change compartment -- because the total should have been three dollars and twenty-eight cents, and I wanted to get two singles back -- and waited.
That will be four eighty-two, the cashier said.
Wait. What? My hand holding the five went numb.
How much was that card? I said.
A dollar, he said.
Well how much was that bag? I said.
Three fifty, he said.
The sign clearly says those bags are two dollars, I complained. but I handed over the five and he took it and gave me back eighteen cents. I think it was obvious that I was not happy.
The cashier at DG should trade jobs with the technician at the imaging center because he was so conscientious.
I'll go look, he said. And he walked back to the gift wrap wall. In about two minutes, he returned.
You're right; it says they're two dollars, he said. But it's wrong.
I just stood there. Captain Jack Sparrow's sage advice came to mind: Close your eyes and pretend it's all a bad dream; that's how I get by.
But then he said: I'm going to refund you the difference. Because it's not your fault.
Well I know -- never mind.
I was refunded a dollar and sixty-one cents. I thanked him and he bade me a good day. What a sweetheart.
I won't say I ran a victory lap but I did go home and sit down. TG walked into the house two minutes later.
We got ready and went to Charlotte for little Andrew's birthday party. We reminisced about the time when he was only two.
Dagny inquired even of strangers inhaling Butter Burgers at Culver's (as she does everywhere) if they are two, because she is in fact two.
Do you want my two cents worth?
It's all good.
And that is all for now.