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"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls bloom."
Marcel Proust



Perspectives in Shadow and Light

December 22nd, 2010

Perhaps we’ve turned that corner… passing the shortest day of the year.   Maybe in other ways too?    I had a comment recently from someone enjoying one of my older photos that prompted a little searching around, and smiling at the beauty of life around here just a few years ago.   I found some perspective, of winter shadows and light, from late winter of 2007.  

Winter Shadows in Ice and W

I love the contrasts between the ice and water, the shadows and patterns from the landscape.  Everything changes, and all is beautiful- even if such moments are fleeting.  It speaks to me of peace and change…  and for how we see and experience the world around us…   and how that world may be viewed in such different ways by different people.  

Contrasts of Ice and Shadow

May you have a Blessed Christmas and Holiday Season, and a wonderful New Year!




First Snowfall for Chickens

December 12th, 2010

 

Chickens Looking at Snow 

“Uh, well you go first, okay?”…        “Me?! Why me? I don’t know what that stuff is either!”




A Happy Dog…

November 24th, 2010

Happy Labrador

I am just a happy dog.   I get to play outside, and swim and roll in the grass…   life is great!

 

Those Who Have and Are Serving Still

November 11th, 2010

“Oh, what a glorious morning is this!”  

Samuel Adams to John Hancock, April 19th, 1775 – On hearing gunfire at Lexington

Veterans Day 2010

Samuel Adams and John Hancock were en route to Philadelphia as delegates to the Continental Congress and were staying in Lexington at Hancock’s aunts home.  The story is that Paul Revere rode to the house sometime after midnight to warn the two Patriots that British troops were on the way to arrest them and send them to London to be tried for treason.

Men standing guard outside of the home warned Revere that he was making too much noise, and that the two delegates were sleeping.  Revere is said to have replied, “There’ll be noise soon enough! The Regulars are coming!”

Hours later, John Hancock and Samuel Adams watched from a distance when the “shot heard ’round the world” rang out on Lexington Green as Massachusetts Minute Men and British troops exchanged fire in the start of the Revolution.

 *******

So many other mornings, and sunsets through the generations… and those who have served their nation far from home.   

My brother, and many others, are serving still in the Middle East and all around the world. 

Morning Far From Home

Worth reading in USA Today:  “WWII vets still deserve our attention”

“These veterans are leaving us. Now in their 80s and 90s, they are dying at the rate of 797 a day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.  I urge families to seek out these veterans.  Thank them for their service. Ask them questions.  Let your children listen.”

*******

From a personal view…

In 1996, I was stationed overseas in Japan,  deployed on board the now decommissioned USS Independence, and flying the F/A-18.  Living and flying in Japan was a wonderful experience, and I had the opportunity to review much of our WWII history in the Pacific. 

I will never forget the times our squadron flew to the remote island of Iwo Jima, the site of the famous flag-raising on top of Mount Suribachi.  We flew there to practice landings for a few days before actually flying off the aircraft carrier.   We  would fly to Iwo Jima, rotating aircraft every few days, totaling a week or two with the air wing, and living in a small dormitory. 

That tiny island, less than 6 miles in length, and marked by the single prominent volcano was the site of some of the fiercest combat, and most challenging combat efforts of the war in the Pacific.  In all, over 6500 Americans were killed on Iwo Jima, and around 18,000 wounded, most of them Marines.   Around 22,000 Japanese soldiers died in the fighting as well.

When I was visiting, so many years from the scene of that carnage,  many of us would try to explore the island firsthand with few more than a dozen of us there at one time.  I can hardly describe what it felt like to wander off alone on that island, walking through the underbrush and seeing pieces of equipment left forgotten since the war’s end.  A truck tire here, a piece of rusted metal there… And even walking by caves which lay undisturbed for more than a half-century, and said from stories to be filled with remnants of such things as ammunition or eating utensils, or more.  I wouldn’t find out, and was unwilling to walk beyond the sunlight and trespass across thresholds of death.  It was both moving and unsettling.

I woke up early one morning as the sun rose and walked the very beaches where the landings were made some 52 years before.  I walked alone,  into the surf and climbed the steep slope of sand…   they were tiny smooth black pebbles that made your feet  slip with nearly every step, falling to one’s hands and knees to make any progress up the slope of the beach.

There I was in 1997, alone on a piece of beach on a tiny island in the Pacific, trying to scramble up a hill of slippery sand.  In the distance loomed Suribachi, and my heart pounded as I imagined young American soldiers 52 years earlier, weighed down by heavy equipment, trying to scramble up the very same beach- while being shot at from every direction.  I could only imagine what courage it took, and what determination to even keep moving.  I could only imagine that every one of those valiant men knew inside that they had every chance of dying on that island, far from home and family, and many did.

Later I spent a late evening on top of Mount Suribachi with several friends.   Like military folk do, we brought some beer along and each of us quietly surveyed the island from on high as the sun sank slowly beneath the horizon.  It was our way to toast in remembrance to those who were there before, and those who never went home.  

I spent many other days flying over that tiny island. Each time I practiced landings in my small fighter jet I would gaze in heartfelt amazement that so many had fought and died over a foothold on such a tiny piece of land…

*******


November 10th marks the 235th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps…




March of the Seasons and Halloween Fun

October 30th, 2010

The days come and go…  I seem to remember one of my grandmothers, while visiting her in a nursing home more than a decade ago.   She kept repeating, “Time and tide waits for no man…”   

And she would smile when I asked how she was.   “About as fine as could be I suppose…  Time and tide waits for no man…” and she would laugh a little.  She was 99 years old, and passed away a few months later.  She had a remarkable memory for verse, poem and song.  One of these days I’ll share some of them.

 We decorated around the house the other night… it was fun.  Putting up spider webs and lights.  I don’t remember such festivities for Halloween while growing up, but that’s okay. 

Happy Halloween

It was also the first “freeze” of the fall season the other night.  I went around getting the house and a few other things ready this week, and then picking green tomatoes and bell peppers… sad to see the garden fade away, and there’s even some lettuce and beans still growing.   The chickens are having a great time pecking through the litter- they’ll be great to keep the garden area mulched.   A few of the plants were hit pretty hard by the frost. 

Everything changes…   but it looks like the week ahead will be nice still, so we’ve had a gentle transition to colder weather this year.

October Peppers

It’s fun to wander around to see how different the landscape looks.  The leaf colors have given way to browns and yellows.   A lot of leaves on the ground, but the majority are hanging on.  The boy loves to play and the dog is more than willing to accomodate his spirit…

Afternoon fun

I’m still working on a few things at home that have focused my attention elsewhere this year.   I just haven’t had time to get around and visit, or even get outside as much as I would like.   That will change too eventually!  I hope you are all doing well.   Enjoy the season and have a Happy Halloween…

And late entry,  isn’t this great!?  I strung one of the webs where he wanted it in front of his room. The spider theme was his own idea…  makes for an interesting hallway at night! :)

Happy Halloween Spiders




Seasons Bring Change

October 15th, 2010

Autumn changes are happening even faster now.   The beauty of the landscape always amazes me… I love watching the seasons change as a physical reminder of how we too change and grow.

DSC 1149

Across the decades we can embrace that change and shape our lives.  With that change looking outward, there’s always change within too, and it’s time for me to ponder such things.  I’ve taken a break from writing and sharing my thoughts here at Fox Haven, but I hope to be back soon. In the weeks ahead I look forward to catching the leaves that have started falling, jumping in leaf piles and playing the kind of games that we often leave behind as the years pass… games inspired by the imagination of a child, and in this case, a young boy.  I trust you too will enjoy the fall season wherever you may live…



A Boy’s Life and Dad’s Memories

September 30th, 2010

We were up playing on a swing set the other afternoon, and watched the yellow lab nosing around – we quickly realized that our little persimmon tree already had ripening fruit this year.  In the past it only had a few persimmons, but this year there is a couple of dozen all over the tree.   The boy loves to gather persimmons!

Persimmons

I’ve read that a good rule-of-thumb is persimmons are ready to harvest around the time of the first frost.   That must be a more northern axiom because a bunch of these were early this year, and we gathered them from around the tree and even picked a few.  Hooray! We’re going to make persimmon jam this year!

Not to be outdone, the chickens are also doing great.  I managed to put a light with a timer in the coop now, so all we have to do is feed, water, open/shut their door, gather eggs… clean… ah, well okay- we’re still pretty involved in the chickens lives.  But they’re giving between 6-8 eggs every day, and the eggs just keep getting bigger.  The boy loves feeding and handling them… and getting the eggs!

Boy and chickens

He gets home later from school this year, but the first thing he does is run out to play with them.   It’s a lot of fun, and the chickens are fairly tame.   They cluck and fuss, but generally we can catch and pick them up.   A little scratch has them following us around like lost puppies.

Besides persimmons for jam and jelly, it was also time this week to harvest some autumn berries.   The boy and I went to pick them off the shrubby trees- he calls them “Diamond  and Ruby Berries” because they’re so pretty.  These trees are actually invasive, and grow like weeds.  But they certainly produce alot of berries.   And they do make for a delicious jam.

autumnberries

*******

On a different note, there’s something about birthdays, especially for our children.   We watch them grow up so quickly, and are amazed at the passage of time.  We’ve had that kind of week here, and enjoyed sharing a birthday for the young boy.  I thought I’d share a few more memories…

Once upon a time, a little boy went fishing with his Daddy.  They caught a nice little Bass and the boy was amazed.   After Daddy showed him the fish, the little boy looked at it and pointed to the water where he came from… maybe saying, “Put it back!”  They watched the fish swim in a little pool for a while and then let it go.

Dad and Son Fishing

Ever since that time, the little boy has grown up fast.  But one thing he really likes is to go fishing, or well… mostly catching fish!   Naturally Daddy doesn’t mind this at all, and looks for opportunities to help fill that desire.

Sometimes the boy acts silly when they catch a big one…  like the other night.

I caught a Big Bass1

And then he laughs.  Isn’t it great when you can do fun things together!?

Happy Catching Fish1

I hope he will always have some time to enjoy fishing.  I will never forget the brief times I spent with my grandfather, my father’s father.  We lived around the country while growing up, and only saw the grandparents a few times each year.   I was eleven or twelve when my grandparents came to visit.  My folks took us fishing at a local reservoir- and dropped off grandfather to watch us while my brother and I would fish.   He sat in something like a wheelchair, and just watched.  I remember showing him a tiny little bluegill, and he just smiled.   He had a strong love for the outdoors.

I remember visiting later at my grandfather’s 72nd birthday celebration… upstairs in a tiny 3rd floor rowhouse in Pittsburgh, Pa.   He was in a wheelchair, and my younger brother and I had picked out a special card with a picture of a fish on it- an outdoor theme about fishing.   He couldn’t talk or move very well, perhaps from a stroke, and we gave it to him and he just read it for a time with his head down.

I’ll never forget how he then looked up at us, with a difficult smile and he had tears in his eyes with a penetrating gaze that spoke volumes about how much he appreciated some measure of understanding for his love of fishing and the outdoors- and his family.

It may have been the first time I realized the connections and shared ideals we have within our lives and those we share them with.   I also felt a bond that was so strong in terms of our shared love for nature and the outdoors.  It was such a special moment, even now its hard for me to write about it without choking up a little.

He passed away within a year of that time, just short of their 50th wedding anniversary.   I still have a little prayer card from the funeral.  I felt sad for my father- we lived in California at the time, and he was called to come see his father in the hospital who was gravely ill.   He traveled across the country as quickly as could be and arrived five minutes too late.

*******

And now our little boy is growing up- family connections and threads that tie us all together.  We celebrated his 10th birthday this week.   His Daddy remembers when he was not quite three years old, living in Japan.  After months at sea in the Middle East the little boy was there waiting for me to get off the ship. :)

Navy Homecoming 2002

Memories… my favorite is the time I met them in Hong Kong.  The aircraft carrier pulled into port, and they arrived in an airplane from Japan.   I was waiting in the airport after several months at sea and wondered if he would still recognize me.

When you’re in the military, little kids see so many other parents on base in uniform that they often think they see Daddy or Mommy.  I’ve watched other young children run up to a complete stranger and begin hugging their  legs, quite startling the adult.   The look on those kids faces when they see that it isn’t Daddy (or Mommy) is heartbreaking.   They came through the gates amidst a throng of passengers, and I saw a little boy walking with his Mom… he saw me and yelled “Daddy!” and came running.  I’ll never forget that moment.

Or these ones…  we’ve spent so much time working and playing outside together- the boy loves it.  This was a couple of months ago in the garden.

On Daddys Shoulders1

I have to say he’s an amazing kid, and I’m so proud of him. And so is his Memaw! He loves to visit her house just a few miles down the road. Yesterday when we went to watch a cross-country meet where he ran (he did great!), and his eyes just light up when he sees her.  This was last Christmas… the time passes so quickly.

Visiting Memaw at Christmas

He knew my father for a time- a few short years before he passed away over five years ago.  I love this picture… it’s from around 2003.

Memaw and Bepaw

 The boy’s memories will be brief, but I’m glad they had some time together.

One of these days I’ll share more about our journey.  For now the boy is loved and I know will grow into a fine young man.  I hope his experiences will help him learn and develop so that he makes positive, constructive choices in his own life.

Cub Scouting1

He’s a Webelo Scout this year, and as the den’s leader I take such pride in watching all the boys grow up.   It’s the stuff of God and Country, but in scouting they learn so much more, especially about character, sportsmanship, leadership and the values we share in life.   I have about 12 boys in our den this year- and most of them have been together for the past three years.   When I see the littlest ones, I can hardly believe they were ever that young.

The next decade is a big one… I pray the excitement, challenge and exploration that he’s bound to experience are tempered with sound judgement, courage and faith.   And a little common sense along the way :)

I suspect my writing may slow down a little as we catch up on priorities at home.   I’ll try and get around a little more, and be back here when I can…   Best wishes for a wonderful Fall season.

 

Captain Jack the Australorp Rooster

September 24th, 2010

Have you ever had a rooster?  They really have a certain charm and liveliness that gives character to their home environment.  Perhaps a little noisy at times.  Maybe really early times at that.   ‘Ole Captain Jack is quite the jaunty fellow…  as I write this he’s announcing the morning inside the coop.  When I open the door he’ll continue his pronouncements for a bit.  He even likes to crow when we come home…

Black Australorp Rooster

He does his job well, looking out for the hens, and making sure they get the best treats first.  He looks at me funny now and then, but doesn’t seem to mind being picked up at times.  I’ve read that Australorp roosters can be fairly gentle compared to others.  I’m glad for that, and hope he stays this way.  It seems he grows a little more handsome every day :)



Crossing Decades with Health and Good Cheer

September 21st, 2010

I have always been amazed and heartened by longevity.  Not simply that things, or people, can be very old.   It’s something more about the fact that as we age, the history of the world goes with us.   That and the nature of how we age are simply interesting to me.

I was amazed to read today that the World’s oldest man has marked his 114th birthday in Great Falls, Montana.   How incredible!

Walter Breuning was born on Sept. 21, 1896, in Melrose, Minnesota, and moved to Montana in 1918, where he worked as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway for 50 years.

His wife, Agnes, a railroad telegraph operator from Butte, died in 1957. The couple had no children.

Breuning inherited the distinction of being the world’s oldest man in July 2009 when Briton Henry Allingham died at age 113. Allingham had joked that the secret to long life was “Cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women — and a good sense of humor,” according to Guinness World Records.

Now there’s some advice I could never imagine that would help to foster longevity!  Mr. Allingham must have lived a charmed life.  And hey, who am I to argue with success and a 113 year old sense of humor?

The Guinness organization and the Gerontology Research Group each have verified [Walter] Breuning as the world’s oldest man and the fourth-oldest person. Three women were born earlier in the same year as Breuning.

“Walter wasn’t in last year’s edition,” Young joked. “He was too young.”

The Great Falls Tribune reported that Breuning gave a speech before about 100 people at an invitation-only birthday party at the Rainbow Retirement Community, with a guest list that included Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and representatives from Guinness World Records.

Breuning was helped up to a lectern from his motorized cart, appearing somewhat frail but speaking with a strong voice.

He recalled “the dark ages,” when his family moved to South Dakota in 1901 and lived for 11 years without electricity, water or plumbing.

“Carry the water in. Heat it on the stove. That’s what you took your bath with. Wake up in the dark. Go to bed in the dark. That’s not very pleasant,” he said.

How simple and abundant our lives have become.  I think of the water he mentions, and what we take for granted today.  We flush the toilet a half a dozen times each day, take showers whenever we feel like it, cook, wash and clean using a seemingly endless supply of fresh water, use the hose to water plants and gardens outside the house, and even fill up the chickens’ and pets water dishes…

He [Breuning] said men and women may be able to enjoy life, but they can’t be content without a belief or faith. His parting message to the crowd was one of tolerance.

“With all the hatred in this world, in this good world, let us be kind to one another,” Breuning said.

Breuning has celebrity status at the retirement home, with visitors waiting in line to see him, Ray Milversted, 92, told the Tribune.

Before his birthday party, Breuning declined to name a favorite among the 114 years he has seen.

“Every year is the same,” Breuning told the Great Falls newspaper.

But he criticized one modern invention — the computer.

“When the computer came out, that was one of the worst things,” Breuning said. “They laid off all the clerks on the railroad.”

But, he added, “Every change is good.”

My goodness, what a spirit this man has.  Some of the notes about his life were fascinating too:

  • Breuning is in excellent health, even after a lifelong habit of smoking cigars, completely quitting in 1999.
  • He is able to walk, and eats two meals a day. He still maintains a sharp mind and accurate memory.   For example, he can remember his grandfather talking about his experiences in the American Civil War when he was three years old, and remembers the day President William McKinley was shot as the day “I got my first haircut”.
  • He has no prescription medications. In November 2007, at the age of 111, Breuning was fitted with hearing aids.
  • On his 112th birthday, Breuning said the secret to long life is being active: “[if] you keep your mind busy and keep your body busy, you’re going to be around a long time.”
  • In a recent interview, Breuning said, “Every day I exercise. Every morning I do all my exercises.”

During his 113th birthday celebrations, Breuning said:

“Remember that life’s length is not measured by its hours and days, but by that which we have done therein. A useless life is short if it lasts a century. There are greater and better things in us all, if we would find them out. There will always be in this world – wrongs. No wrong is really successful. The day will come when light and truth and the just and the good shall be victorious and wrong as evil will be no more forever.”

I can hardly imagine the things this man has seen and experienced. But I also wonder about his feelings for not having had children.

Obviously we don’t really know how long we’ll live, and truthfully I don’t have a feeling about that, other than to say I’d like to live a happy, healthy life that is long enough… whatever that may be.

Maybe that’s a timely declaration as I have lately become more interested in my health, and working to live a more constructive life.   I’d like to share that with others, especially my son, in terms of helping him to achieve a baseline of character strength and well-being that will carry him through his own life in a positive fashion.  He’ll be ten years old soon… and as time passes so quickly, the mark of his life will be up to him.

Our lives are filled with change. There is no other way. Like Walter, I strongly believe that change is good, in that we can embrace uncertainty. We can indeed move forward with courage, faith and the conviction that better days will surely come as we face the inevitable challenges that the years bring to our lives.

Walter Breuning is 104 years older than my son… just think, many of our children could live out their years spanning two centuries from Walter’s birth.   We can only wonder what the world will look like one hundred years hence.

Walter,  may we all share in your wisdom and age as gracefully as you have… and Happy Birthday!




September Joys… and Flowers!

September 18th, 2010

I have to ask.  Does September seem like a really busy month to everybody?  For some reason I seem to be running around in circles trying to catch up with myself.   Classes and elbows trying to get things done, if you know what I mean :)  I can hardly contain myself with all the things I’d like to do.   Ah, like writing a little more.  This has been a slow year for the written word, perhaps a year of change.  I’ll get there, and my friends I hope you’ll go with me…  this is the start of such a beautiful season!   

I see change all around, and feel the pace of insects and birds hurrying a bit more, gathering all they can before the fall begins.   Another season of color…

Harvest Chrysanthemum

A few days ago I was enjoying watching a few of these Yellow-collared Scape Moths (Cisseps fulvicollis) flying around the goldenrod and this white flower in the Aster family.    The moths were very slow flying, almost like helicopters, and the wings opened up wide just before take-off.

Cisseps fulvicollis moth

I finally remembered the plant is called White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) and is tremendously abundant at this time of year, along with the goldenrod, which is great for the bees and other pollinators.  So far I’m excited about the season in terms of pollen and nectar for the bees.   We’ve had a few rains, but mostly warm sunny days for the bees to forage, which means a nice fall nectarflow so they can really work to strengthen their hives.  

Honeybee on Goldenrod

Last year we had so much rain in autumn that I couldn’t feed the bees enough to carry them through winter.   But now, things are looking up! 

In the picture below a bee is carrying a white colored pollen into the hive (and another one along the bottom-left corner of the picture).  I thought it might have been from the snakeroot flower, but I didn’t see a single bee gathering pollen from that plant- it may only have been something from which they gathered nectar.

honeybee white pollen

Later I realized with a Doh! that the bees were getting the white-colored pollen from our very white Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora), which is growing all over the shed next to the chicken coop.  

Sweet Autumn Clematis

Sweet autumn clematis is very easy to grow and has an amazing fragrance with a profusion of white flowers.  I watched the bees fill their tiny pollen baskets with white pollen and fly right back to the hive a hundred yards away.     Each year when the clematis is finished flowering, I cut it back within just a few feet from the ground.  All that growth is just one season!   And I even cut it back a little in July to try and train it around the top of the shed… alas it has a vigorous, wild nature!   It’s covering one window and half the door…

This year I plan to cut it back a little earlier so that I can paint the older shed to match the chicken coop, and fix the rickety old door.   I need to repair and paint our brown garden fence as well.  Some of the cross bars have rotted where they join the posts.  Maybe I can salvage it for a few years more with a little stain/paint and not too much expense?

Sometimes it seems as if everything needs fixed!   Well a lot of them do… and it’s time to get that weedeater out again and really take some of the brush and weeds down, clean up the garden, work on the engines, clean up the barn and garage, organize the desk and downstairs, decorate a little, etc.  

And you know what?   I feel really lucky… really blessed, to be here…  to be able to be in good health, to have so many things to do that need done.   Simply to wake up and watch the sun rise.   Here’s wishing you a great week ahead!

“The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Chrysanthemums.
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.”

- John Updike, September

  September Morning




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