Monday, September 30, 2013


The weatherman promised an overcast morning with sun this afternoon. It has taken all day for that forecast to come true, but ten minutes ago, just for a moment or two, the sun briefly appeared.

No matter. In spite of the persistent cloud cover, through some rare trickery of light and season I don't pretend to understand, this has been a day filled with magical golden illumination. Not overpoweringly yellow-gold…just a tinge, a delicate over-wash that seemed to suffuse the very air itself. 

Still, I noticed it this morning the moment I stepped out with the dog for her early amble. Lovely, though I thought it due to the sunrise invisible somewhere to the east beyond the clouds. Yet the colored light was still golden-tinged come midmorning, remained unabated at noon, and continued adding it honeyed luster to my riverbank world later in the afternoon when I made a snap of a sulphur butterfly investigating the few remaining zinnias along the walkway. 

I can offer no logical explanation, except it doesn't seem directly related to season—at least not as a reflected effect of changing leaf color, most of which are still unchanged and decidedly green. However, it sure feels and appears autumnal…an October investiture, maybe; a sort of luminous compliment in pure, pale gold.

For me—and most surely today—a much appreciated gift of wonder and delight. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013


The other night, a few minutes after 3:00 a.m., I woke up, shoulder and lower back aching, and decided to adjourn the bed for a session in the living room recliner. Unfortunately, between creeping time, the arthritis that runs through my paternal family line like a blood curse, and several decades of self-inflicted though mostly accidental abuse, getting what now amounts to a good night's sleep regularly entails such moves.

I have gotten pretty adapt at managing to shuffle at fair speed, without a light, from the bedroom, through the kitchen, to the living room in the post-midnight darkness—without whacking my hip on the cookstove, taking out a kneecap on the media table, or tripping over the dog. It helps that Moon-the-Dog is predominately white; I've learned to avoid the furniture through painful trial and error.

I can make it from bed to chair, grab a blanket and pillow from the couch, and be comfortably kicked back and returning to sleep in maybe 90 seconds…except when there's a demented cricket or katydid sharing the room and frantically repeating its monotone rhapsody at a volume capable of shattering tooth enamel! 

This happens more often than you might think. At least twice in the past ten days…er, nights.

After a few minutes of such torturous screeching I'm usually thinking of retrieving the thirty-aught-six and firing off a few rounds in the critter's direction—until it occurs that unleashing 180 grains of high-powered lead to possibly go pinging around inside a stone cottage, probably isn't an appropriate response. Certainly not the safest, anyway. Not to mention the fact that, if a ricochet didn't get me, Myladylove—apoplectically startled from her enviable deep sleep—just might.  

Hey, don't get me wrong. I enjoy a good insect fiddler as much as the next guy. Like my fellow Boomers, I grew up singing along with Jiminy Cricket on When You Wish Upon A Star. But Disney's debonaire fellow knew where and when to sing! 

The common meadow katydid I shared the room with the other night didn't know to shut up. A sweep of the flashlight, and later a hurled cushion, provided only a temporary fix. In the end I buried my head under the blanket, tried to ignore the barely muffled intrusion, and somehow, eventually, managed to get back to sleep—admittedly taking a sort of perverse glee knowing a few more weeks of chilly nights will put the quietus on such disruptions. 

His engagement is blessedly limited.

Then, I'll have only Moon's snoring, those noisy stars twinkling beyond the clerestory windows, and my own aches and thoughts to keep me awake.     

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Autumn's here. Are the hummers gone?

I made the two photos in this post, of a ruby-throat hummingbird checking out a canna lily near my workroom window, a couple of days ago. Yet even as I captured the moment, I couldn't help but wonder whether they won't turn out to be the last shots I'll make this year of summer's delightful little hummers? 

Perhaps not, though last night's low dipped into the mid-40˚s, and it's now coming up on noon and the temperature is still only 58˚F. Not exactly hummingbird weather. Most, I suspect, have already deserted these parts, heading southward toward Central America where they'll spend the winter. 

I'll certainly miss their zippy antics, whirring wings, and living jewel flashes of iridescent emerald. But procrastination in commencing this long migration can prove fatal. Everything has its season—and for the tiny hummer, that time hereabouts has probably drawn to a close. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013


The first splash of sunlight on the riverbank across and just downstream from the cottage. 

We've had clouds and a bit of light rain this morning. Yesterday afternoon and last night, the rain was much heavier and included thunderstorms. Now, though, it looks like the sun is coming out. 

Sycamores & woodbine.
Walkway looking east.
We needed the rain. Plus the fact is, I like these cooler temperatures, none of this is offered as a complaint.

A couple of mornings ago I took a few photos around the cottage. The early light was warm and soft, no doubt diffused by humidity—a harbinger of those above-mentioned storms. 

Dew on bamboo.
Since it's been awhile, I thought you might like to see a few recent stream and yard views. 

View from cottage, looking upstream.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Someone has to be the first, set the trend, lead the way. Of course those who never miss an opportunity to voice their opinions will weigh in on whether you're an astute early-bird or just an overly eager jump-the-gunner. 

Not that anyone with pioneer spirit pays much attention. Trailblazers tend to follow their own whims, choose their own paths and timing.

If you're a tree—perhaps an oak or maple, maybe a walnut or willow—being the autumnal torchbearer means donning the seasonal dress of orange or red or yellow while everyone else is still decked out in that same old been-there, done-that summer green. 

Yup, somebody always has to step up and get things rollin'…

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


I learned to recognize jewelweed as a kid for two reasons…the first being its folksy entertainment value, and secondly its usefulness. 

The entertainment part came from the fact the plants produce what's called "projectile" seeds. From late summer onward, when things have matured, a mere touch to the pendant seed pods causes them to burst open, flinging out the ripe seeds contained inside. To this day, I still find it amusing to act as the catalyst for this delightfully explosive moment of reproductive scattering. 

It's also the reason another name for jewelweed is touch-me-not.

Jewelweed's useful-ness arises from its long history and scientifically proven efficacy (sources which claim otherwise simply aren't up on the latest research) in treating all sorts of skin irritations, including poison ivy dermatitis. It's especially valuable to anglers and anyone who regularly visits stream-banks and moist woodland paths where stinging nettles are regularly found.

Should you inadvertently brush your bare legs or arms through a nettle patch and subsequently start to feel their burning stings, quickly look around for a bed of jewelweed, which—nine times out of ten—can be found growing nearby. Then, pull off a handful of jewelweed—leaves and stems, even flowers—crush them a bit to extract their juice, and rub the pulpy mash on the affected area. Instant relief.

The most common species is orange jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, though around these parts, I routinely find yellow jewelweed, Impatiens pallida. Both will often grow in the same patch.

In addition to being entertaining and useful, jewelweed is also quite pretty. A gem of a plant, if you will…aptly named.

Monday, September 16, 2013


Just up the road from the cottage, Heath Aster blooms in palest lavender.

Ever have one of those weeks you're glad to see fading in the rearview mirror? That's how I feel about last week.

First off, I managed another leg injury…this time a wound about the size and shape of a cell phone. Fairly substantial. The doc's best guess is 6–8 weeks healing time, providing the new round of prescription antibiotics prevents infection long enough to give things a running start. So I've restocked my first-aid drawer with several packages of appropriate-size non-stick pads, plenty of gauze and tape, and antibiotic cream to apply afresh with each dressing change.

Second, I had several long writing projects to finish and get off, in addition to my usual columns. Plus, being a Board member of our community health centers, I had to attend two Strategic Planning meetings, each four hours long, on subsequent evenings. This is a once-every-three-years affair where we hammer out the focus and health-care service goals for our six county-wide facilities. All this in addition to the usual running around, chores, luncheons, and such that generally manage to eat up half my available time during a good week.  

Finally, Moon-the-Dog hasn't been doing too well. I've spent every night for maybe the past two weeks "sleeping" in the recliner in the great room because she seems more comfortable bedding down out there—plus her restlessness and occasional whining doesn't keep Myladylove awake. Moon won't sleep in one room if I'm in the other. She's doing a bit better now that temperatures have dropped from highs over 90˚F to more September-ish 70˚s, so perhaps I'll manage to sleep in a real bed soon.

Yep, some week's are best forgotten. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013


I don't pretend to know the identity of this colorful fly—and I don't have it in me this morning to flip through a gazillion images on BugGuide.Net—the best insect ID-ing resource I know—in an exasperating attempt to key it down as to exact species. I suspect it's a member of the Calliphoridae (Blow Flies) family, also known as Bluebottles and Greenbottles.

Calliphoridae comes from the Greek: callos, "beautiful," plus phor, "bearing." A fly bearing beauty. Which is certainly the case. For it was indeed the small fly's dazzling metallic coloring that first caught my eye—turquoise and emerald and ruby-red, shimmering like a jewel in the sunlight. 

As I held the camera to my eye and adjusted the fine focus of the lens, I noticed the tiny twisting green vine—scarcely larger in diameter than a human hair—off to the right and adjusted my framing to include it in the photo. And no, I don't know what it is, either.

Ignorance can still be bliss. I do know I like the juxtaposition of the vivid fly and curlycued vine. A bit of mystery only enhances their beauty.