Sunday, July 19, 2015

Our World Tuesday: History Buffs on the Loose

Nothing makes a history buff happier than being on the loose with another history buff at a historical site.  So it was with me and my nephew Alex a few weeks ago, when we spent several hours at the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina.  This is the largest privately owned-residence in the U.S.  The Vanderbilts are responsible for the tax bill of this cozy country estate.

It took about three hours to tour the house before we were let loose on the grounds.  My nephew and I took the audio tour, and we were geeky enough to listen to every last word of the recording along with the footnotes and the footnotes on the footnotes.  It's amazing what you find out about people when you press that pound key.  (We did not end with the people we started out with. So it goes.)
After the house tour, we had lunch so that we would have the energy for the gardens.  After our hot dogs and pretzels, we had a look around the grounds, where we were free to take pictures.  I thought these two looked an awful lot like me and and Adella way back in the day.  I wisely kept that thought to myself and thereby escaped any argument.
The Vanderbilts could afford just about every kind of water lily known to man, and the had them there.  

 I could have spent the day in the gardens, but my nephew was out of gas after our history tour, so I took in the flowers and the green house fairly quickly and called it a day.

A hard day's work will get you some time with a hibiscus or an orchid.  A good life and a hard day's work will get you the same in the company of someone you care about.  That was me that day with my nephew.  I am no Vandberilt, but I sure did feel like the richest person in the world to jump into that splendor for a little while with someone who was equally happy to be there.

How I wish the people who are out to destroy us--and civilization itself--could appreciate this.  A day's hard work followed by pretty flowers.  It's that simple, and it's that amazing.

Our World Tuesday

Friday, July 17, 2015

Skywatch Friday: Good Morning!

This year has been wild with sharks in North Carolina, so we've walked the beach and made the most of the view.  It's always good.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Our World Tuesday: Birds at the Beach

Nothing beats morning on the beach.  In this unofficial Year of the Shark, the only people on it are the fishermen, the die-hard fitness people, and the turtle folks who make sure the beach is clean and any turtle nests are marked.  There are no bad days on the beach.
 I cannot identify this bouncy little songbird that has taken over the osprey nest on Topsail.  He (she?) struck up quite a pretty tune while behaving like an osprey by hovering over the nest and stretching out the ol'  wings.
This pigeon wasn't looking well when I cam across him under the pier.  He didn't mind me, and he seemed to feel safe in this under-the-pier cathedral.

This willet--well, I think his name is Echo.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Summer in the South

The recent spate of shark attacks has kept many a swimmer out of the sea.  At Topsail, that means there is more room on the beach for turtles this time around.  This summer, there are three nests on this length of beach, which saw many false crawls last year.  The beach then was loaded with vacationers' debris:  chairs, umbrellas, shade tents, toys, you name it.  This year, the sharks have tipped the balance.  The rain has helped.

I was down for a few days when my nephew and I headed for the hills to visit Adella at Brevard Music Institute.  She has rehearsed and heard and performed with some amazing talent, including TheBoston Brass.  She and I heard Sarah Chang play.  She has been in concerts, been to concerts, and directed parking for concerts (as part of her work-study commitment).  She has been learning under some great and kind teachers and directors and one grouchy, mean conductor.  She has made some great friends and endured some lousy food and crude accommodations, and smiled the whole time.  The kid is growing up.
Despite her schedule, we found time to go looking for the white squirrels of Brevard--critters that ran away from, rather than to, the circus in the 1940s and thought the place was pretty enough to call home.  Here is a picture of the one spirit squirrel we set our eyes on:
Brevard College, founded by Methodists, is a liberal arts college with art on its lawns.  Adella and Alex found this piece quiet comfortable:
We took a brief drive in the mountains and watched the sun set on the French Broad River.
Back in town, we joined the townies at the K-Mart parking lot for the July 4 fireworks.  The supermarket and Starbucks were busy selling refreshments to us patriots gathered under that big, red glowing image of commercial success:  the K-mart sign.  There were noisy pick-ups with overlarge tires sporting both the US flag and the Confederate battle flag roaring up and down the lanes of the parking lot as if they were bearing news of some great battle.  

They were, of course.  We will look back on this year some day and wonder how conversations about why the dangerously mentally ill go about unsupervised and why guns are available on every street corner became a conversation about a battle flag.  Perhaps in a few years we will be able to ask why we let the people who desecrate life itself with hyper-inflated, nonsensical rhetoric about the right to bear arms and the right to free speech--rhetoric that betrays a simplistic, outmoded interpretation of our Bill of Rights--overrun any thoughts of the greater good. We might understand then how the splendid, revolutionary statement full of promise, "We, the People," gave way to, "Me first, and to hell with the rest."

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Our World Tuesday: Nonnewaug Falls

For the first time in a long time--and the last time in Connecticut until the end of summer--we took the dogs for a good, long walk.  They appreciated the change in scenery, that's for sure.  They checked out the buttercups and the future berries.

 They did not try on the pink lady's slippers, which were everywhere, but they did check out the Nonnewaug.
 They took a drink under this white birch, which they seemed not to notice towered over them and turned a right angle as it reached between the pines to enjoy the light.

 Maeve and Clyde never wander far from Adella, though Clyde did pick up a scent that had him bouncing around, Dachshund style, in the ferns for a few minutes.  Nothing beats the beautiful aroma of puppy jerky, though.
We made it  back to the car for a cool drink before we made our way to the ballpark to watch my nephew's baseball game.  Nothing quite like a Sunday in June.

Our World Tuesday