Monday, April 30, 2012


Most of the time the numerous great blue herons, which daily frequent the shallows of pool edges and riffles near the cottage, are highly intolerant of company. Just open the door leading to the side deck and they'll be flapping off in alarm, squawking in disgust with every wingbeat. 

Making a good photo is pretty much a matter of luck and quick shooting.

But every once in a while a bird will surprise you. Yesterday evening, midways between twilight and full dark, as the sky dimmed and a few stars began winking on through the skim of clouds, the heron above came winging up from downstream. The big bird landed on the edge of the pool directly across from where I stood—smack in the open, as hulking and highly visible as a bear in church, my canine sidekick Moon-the-Dog alongside, who, being mostly white, glowed like a neon phantom in the dusk. After eyeing me warily for several minutes, the heron waded carefully out to the middle of the riffle to a favorite fishing-platform rock. 

I made a few cautious photos. Sometimes, as if responding to the sound of the shutter, the heron would pause and spend a few moments speculatively rechecking us out. Still, while it was certainly aware of our presence, it didn't seem particularly anxious.

What was causing the heron problems was the slippery stone. We haven't had much rain this spring to keep things scoured clean. The river is low and the riffle's rocks are slick, making footing precarious and problematic for all us fishermen, feathered or not. More than once the big bird's foot slipped on the slimy stone, causing it to flap desperately in order to regain balance and not wash over into the four-foot depths directly downstream. That's what's happening in the image above.

After making a few additional shots, I decided to remove Moon and myself from the scene as possible distractions, in case we were more contributory than I thought. I know if I'm destined to take a pratfall, I'd rather do it without an audience, let alone what amounts to riverside paparazzi.     

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Bright. Windy. Cold. That pretty much sums up the weather for the past couple of days—though over the weekend it was simply cloudy and cold. We've had a hearthfire every evening and relished every BTU. 

Yeah, the term "cold" is used relatively speaking. Some days the high has made it into the 50s˚F, which certainly isn't cold compared to mid-winter temperatures. But doggone, it sure feels a lot colder than those upper-70s˚ and mid-80s˚ we've been enjoying for weeks. Moreover, I know that has actually been a record-setting unseasonably warm period for this time of year…but a feller gets used to it, unseasonable or not.

My mother would have said we were simply experiencing Dogwood Winter. Like a lot of the older hill-country folks of the Southern-Appalachians, in her natural scheme of things Mom recognized various "little winters," small seasonal regressions which occured with enough regularity that they acquired a name. Others I learned from her were Blackberry Winter, Redbud Winter, and Locust Winter. 

The different names reflected a phenological tie-in to peak bloom-times of common local plants—i.e., redbud, locust, and dogwood trees, along with blackberry briars. Each plant's bloom comes at a slightly different time in the spring. 

Weather specialists call these fluctuations "singularities." Before a singularity is given any sort official sanction in their scientifically ordered world, it must happen at least 50 percent of the time. Probably the most widely acknowledged such weather singularity is autumn's Indian Summer.

Tomorrow's high is predicted to be 67˚F, which is more like it, and might finally give me a chance to thaw out. It will certainly be more comfortable for doing yard chores, while enjoying all the blooms and birds—including warblers—that form the glorious vernal setting for my favorite of all seasons. 
Incidentally, I've been sort of going though my own personal Dogwood Winter this past week or so—which is why I've been so negligent in my blogging. At the core is a potentially serious and life-altering health issue—though at the moment, the jury is still out on things. I'll expound on all this when I know where I stand. In the meantime, your prayers and thoughts will be be appreciated.

Friday, April 13, 2012


I hear the sweet, tho' far-off hymn
That hails a new creation;
It finds an echo in my soul—
How can I keep from singing?

This sprite of a Carolina wren put on quite a performance recently, just beyond the great room window. Loud, boisterous, the ebullient little songster was simply filled to overflowing with the joys of spring and life—singing of love and territory, the wind in the trees and the sparkle of morning sun on the enduring river flowing just below his perch. It was all there, in every ringing note.

Standing, watching, listening, I couldn't help but be reminded of a beautiful old hymn that's been around at least a century and a half, though is nowadays seldom heard. I also thought, with no small degree of shame, how often I grumble and complain about this ache or that pain, about things I lack, opportunities missed, roads not taken. 

Why do I find it so easy to focus on the negative while overlooking the positive? 

Why can't I be more like the singing wren? After all, we share the same gifts. 

I, too, have those who love me and a place to call home. The wind in the trees is equally mine, along with blue sky overhead and the purling river sparkling in April's sunlight as it journeys merrily along.

There is abundant music in my soul. Should my life end tomorrow, the good will have exponentially outweighed the bad. I have been so greatly blessed, and I am humbly thankful.   

How can I keep from singing?


Sunday, April 8, 2012


He is risen!

He is risen, indeed!

Happy Easter!


Friday, April 6, 2012


Spring's many blooms aren't the only thing to catch the eye.… 

Isn't this lovely? I certainly thought so when I saw the way the strong afternoon sunlight looked streaming through the new leaves of my little purple smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria) near the driveway. A perfect example of nature's stained glass.

In case you're wondering, we're still working on the retaining wall. Obviously only a little bit at a time, given the slow progress—though we put in the hours and muscle power, and pay the aches and pains aftermath. There is every hope we'll finish the dratted thing before next winter. Maybe.    

Sunday, April 1, 2012


For the past couple of weeks, I've spent almost every spare minute working on various outdoor projects in the yard. One was to clear out a large overgrown and too-long-neglected corner on the hill bordered by the driveway and my neighbor's yard. This began by raking up and carting to the compost heap perhaps a hundred wheelbarrow loads of leaves and similar organic debris. Then a hundred or so semi-boulders—up to basketball size—mostly buried, but sticking up high enough to catch the mower blade; all had to be pried/dug/wrestled from the grounds and carted/carried/rolled off. The remaining craters had to be filled in afterwards.   

After that, I laid out and began digging a new planting bed at the base of the raw bank where the neighbor's property drops off to mine. Once the bed was fashioned, additional fill had to be dug and wheelbarrowed over from a mound of topsoil I have in another area of the yard. That is still ongoing. So is the cut limestone blocks border I'm building to surround this new bed. 

Finishing this bed had been put on temporary hold because my uphill neighbor and I decided to put in a retaining wall out of railroad ties on the area of raw, eroding bank on the steep part of the slope between our two yards. I said I'd do most of the work if he bought the ties. We just got started on that on Friday—and so far, have two ties more-or-less in place. I'd guess we'll need a dozen or so to complete the job. 

It rained Friday evening and was in the 40s˚F and cloudy all day yesterday. Myladylove, who had the day off, built a hearthfire and we worked inside. It's supposed to reach the low 70s˚ today, but may rain, so we might not get much outdoor work done today, either. Which is okay by me, as my body can use another day of not lifting spine-cracking boulders and those mule-herniating railroad ties. 

I did manage one photo yesterday, of a great blue heron who fished around the pool in front of the cottage. I watched him off-and-on for the better part of an hour, but never saw him take a single fish or even make a stab at anything. Finally, he flapped off to try his luck a hundred yards downstream. I hope he eventually managed to nab his supper.