Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Making Waves

These are crazy days. Buying cases of wine at 9 p.m. Forgetting my lunch.  Making lists of lists.

Still, the mind observes. Even when in crazy mode, the mind is active, laughing at its own craziness and finding the world an interesting place to be.

This morning on the radio, I heard a segment on artificial waves, how a company has been perfecting them, will sell its technology to indoor wave pools, the estates of sheikhs. Few details of this report have remained in my brain, but one phrase did. "We're carving water," said the wave creator.

The poetry of that sets the mind to spinning.  An ultimately futile task, one would think. And yet someone makes a living from it.

What do you do? I make waves.


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Monday, August 29, 2016

Summer, Still

These are the bonus days of summer. Every warm afternoon, every sliver moon peeping through the trees as it rises in the sultry August sky. Every thin crescent moon that sees us through till morning.

Summer has been hot this year, and I haven't minded. It's warmed my bones, and if it keeps warming them a few more weeks, I won't complain.

It hasn't been the most relaxing summer. Creating a backyard wedding venue has taken care of that. But it has been rich in people and in feeling and will not be easily forgotten.

The day lilies are drooping now, the cone flowers are fading. There are a dozen mum plants cooling their heels in the house. They'll be planted when the temperature dips below 90.

Until then, until next Tuesday for sure, it is still gloriously, indisputably ... summer.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Darkness Into Day

Took a pre-dawn walk the other day, so I started with a flashlight, swinging with my stride. A visual metronome, light marker. Its circle of light is paltry, just enough to see the way. But it flows with me, and is comforting.

All around are the sounds of nighttime, crickets chirping. A bat flits through the sky. I think nighttime thoughts, am tuned to every forest sound.

By the time I round the corner toward home, though, I no longer need the flashlight. Without knowing it I've been walking from darkness into day.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Happy Centennial!

They are a ridge-top trail along an old mountain. A path winding perilously down a near-sheer canyon wall. A hot walk through the hoodoos in Bryce.

These are just some of the strolls I've taken in national parks, which celebrate their one hundredth birthday today.

While it's wonderful enough just to glimpse the Grand Canyon or Zion or Yellowstone, it's even better to walk through these places. To inhale the piney air and feel the sting in your calves from trudging up an incline.

National park hikes are some of the most treasured walks I've ever taken. And today I think of them, and of all the protected natural beauty that makes them possible. Happy National Parks Centennial!

(Photo: Wikipedia)

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Burma* Buzz

I'm a tea drinker, but yesterday was all about coffee — and the debut of Burmese specialty coffee on the world stage. I was too busy to sip the stuff, but I sampled some the day before. It's "complex," as they say. A more savvy taster described it this way: hints of chocolate, cranberry and nutmeg.

It was a work function filled with government officials, a former ambassador, and coffee growers from Myanmar.  An odd mix, to be sure, but one that worked. At its root, a simple principle: to connect poor farmers with the flush and fully caffeinated, a feel-good way to spread some wealth.

And it worked. I bought a bag of expensive beans, and so did many others. The coffee sold out.  And the farmers who grew, dried and processed the beans will have more food on the table, more money for their children's school and more to invest in next year's crop. So a lot of buzz, but good buzz.

(*For "Seinfeld" fans: "They call it Myanmar, but it will always be Burma to me.")




Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Wood Smoke

I took a walk last night as the light was fading, the smell of wood smoke in the air. At first I thought I was imagining it. The acrid scent went along well with the slight nip in the air. Was it real? Or was I was so accustomed to the two together that I made it up.

But no, there actually was wood smoke in the air. Neighbors were burning brush in their fire pit — something frowned upon by the home owners association, though you won't catch me telling.

The smell of wood smoke is the aroma of autumn. The only scent more autumnal is the smell of tobacco wafting from the drying barns on Angliana Avenue in Lexington. Barns that have been gone for decades, I believe, along with the tobacco that used to fill them.

Still, wood smoke is an evocative aroma, and one I was happy to get a whiff of last night. It was calming, redolent of campfires and coziness not danger and destruction.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Clouds

Looked up from the page I was working on Friday to see these clouds. They looked vaguely Sistine-Chapel-like, with the wispy upper-right-corner one the pointing finger of God and the fluffy white left corner one Adam reclining in his new human splendor.

An exaggeration, of course, and hard to reclaim that Friday feeling on this Monday morning.

But if nothing else it's a reminder of the summer sky, its blue-beyond-blueness, its white clouds shining.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Invasive

One of my tasks today is to be a poison ivy spotter. Not a poison ivy eradicator; I'm too allergic to the stuff. But I do have an eye for it. I can spot it glistening in the myrtle or spreading beneath a sea of stilt grass.

Poison ivy vines are another matter. They hide everywhere, including underground, and it's hard to imagine complete eradication. Still, I'm all for trying.

So I've spent a lot of time this morning bending and crouching, looking for three leaves rather than the five, seeing the poison plant as a shark underwater, the spiky leaves the fish's fearsome teeth.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

The Venue

Today the wood chips were unloaded. Tomorrow they will be spread and smoothed. There will also be touch-up painting, massive cleaning, planting, you name it.

I just moved my shell collection, a row of whelks atop the deck railing. People may want to set their drinks on the deck railing — although, now that I look at it, the deck railing is warped. Another item for the to-do list, the endless wedding to-do list.

Back in the winter a backyard wedding seemed a lovely idea. The yard was in pretty good shape, I told myself.  (Of course, it was hidden under two feet of snow.) We would just have to take down a few dead trees, be liberal with the mulch and a bit more attentive to the garden and — voila! — instant venue.

Now the wedding is two weeks away and the instant venue is looking pretty shabby. This despite countless hours of yard work, poison ivy eradication, weed-pulling and garden spraying.

One thing I know from meeting countless work and home deadlines, though, is that it will be ready. Somehow, some way, it will cease to be a backyard and become ... a venue.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Layered

An early walk this morning before the true heat sets in. I think about how well I know this place, my regular route, my neighborhood.

I remember when four sycamores were planted in the yard of the yellow house. It seemed such an extravagance at the time, trees already past the spindly stage.

The homeowner has since moved out, but I can see him there at the edge of the yard, surveying the work, his lanky frame not unlike the tall sycamores.

It is what one hopes for in a neighborhood, that it be layered with memories and associations, so much more than a suburban streetscape. A living, breathing record of life.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Reading for Life

An article in this morning's newspaper reports on a study that shows that people who read books survive almost two years longer than people who don't.

Intriguing, to say the least. Do readers stay sharper, calmer, more engaged in life? Or do they simply conserve energy by all that sitting and reading?

The study was conducted by Yale University researchers and published in a journal called Social Science & Medicine. The 3,635 subjects, all older than 50, were surveyed for their reading habits and divided into three categories: those who never read, those who read up to three-and-a-half hours a week and those who read three and a half hours or more.

The conclusion: After accounting for education, income and health, book reading still confers a "significant survival advantage."

I didn't need an excuse, but it's good to have one, just the same.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Triple Digit

After three triple-digit temperature days in a row (that's real temperature, not heat index, which was more like 110), we're having a cold snap today ("only" 95).

I know I should hate it, should be hunkering down indoors with a cool drink and the AC ratcheted to 72, but it's summer, after all, and I think about how cold our winters have been lately and how really, truly, sweatily alive I feel when pulling weeds in a buggy backyard with the sun beating down on my back.

Weird, to be true, but something I dream about when the cold winds blow. Which they will ... soon enough.

(What's blowing these grasses isn't a cold wind but a hot breeze.)


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Friday, August 12, 2016

Falling Stars

The Perseid meteor shower had good press this year. Some reports said the celestial event would produce up to 200 shooting stars an hour. This raised all kinds of hopes and set off visions of Van Gogh's "Starry Night."

But this number didn't take into account the ambient light of the megalopolis, the heavy tree cover and the lateness (earliness?) of the hour.

Still, I managed to see a few streaks of light flash across the late summer sky.The first couple seemed a trick of the eye — a blink, a quick gleaming stitch in the firmament. But the last couple were bonafide star blasts. They illuminated not just the night sky, but all the possibilities it offers.

Not "Starry Night" — but not bad.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Beach Grass

Still thinking about the beach — the fine white sand, the walks along the shore, the sunsets and early mornings, the downy plovers like so many bits of fluff.

And thinking about the entry to the beach, too, the green bulwark one passes through on the way to the strand.

For Atlantic beaches it's a stroll past dunes and dune grass. But in Florida's semi-tropical clime there are beach grasses and scrubby palms and maybe a spray or two of bright pink bougainvillea.

The path through the grass is not just a prelude and change of scene. It is, I like to think, a place for mental readjustment, too. It's where I shed the landlocked me and prepare for the freedom to follow.

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