Sense of Sound

There is no other place in the world where you can hear this sound. Close your eyes and it will take you 1000 miles away. To a place of peacefulness and tranquility. It’s the sound of waves crashing on the beach.

All the other sensory perceptions to be experienced at the beach can be duplicated, but not this one. I’ve been jonesing to go to the beach for quite some time and I’m at a point where I can convince myself that everything I notice at home is something like I’d find at the beach.

If the sun is shining and it’s hot outside, I tell myself that the beach is hot and sunny. If it’s cloudy and an afternoon storm comes up, well, that’s like the beach too. When I cut the grass I can almost convince myself that it smells a little bit like the beach. It doesn’t really smell anything like the beach, but that’s what I tell myself. And I do have some sand in my yard. If I’m standing in the backyard and look out over the pond I can tell myself the ocean looks just like that. Except the pond is flat and doesn’t have noticeable movement whereas even the calmest ocean has waves and moves. Movement, ever changing and never the same twice. But it’s the sound that can’t be duplicated. That loud crashing sound.

You don’t know how loud it is until you get down there and try to have a conversation with someone. Or try to listen to music. But I don’t want to listen to music when I can hear the sound of the ocean. I am part of the ocean and the ocean is part of me.

When I’m here at the beach I feel like I’m at home. If I didn’t know better I’d think I was a fish. And when I’m not at the beach I’m a fish out of water!

If I were going to be an animal in the ocean what would I be? Obviously I want to be at the top of the food chain so that I would last for a while. So maybe a blue marlin. Or a hammerhead shark because it’s so weird looking. Or a sperm whale because you get to roam the seven seas endlessly. Even into the depths. Or maybe a sea turtle. Old and wise, traveling far and wide.

When I come back I think I want to be one of those animals rather than a cricket or blade of grass. I love the ocean.  That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Honor

Dozens of fresh flags were flying across the landscape. Red, white and blue American flags. Each one deliberately placed.

The landscape was a cemetery, running out of space for new residents. The flags were there to identify veterans of the United States armed services. It was mid July so these were left standing to celebrate the Fourth of July and the many veterans who had fought and died to protect this nation.

I didn’t look at all of them, but there were a lot of World War Two veterans here. There are still a few living, but they are rapidly vanishing. The youngest ones would be in their nineties now. And I’m sure there are a number who are over 100 years old.

I served in the Navy, but my experience was nothing like theirs. I was on a ship that participated in skirmishes for a couple of days, but these men and women were on the front lines for years!

In my family I know that several people survived plane crashes and another who survived not one, but two ship sinkings. And they all went because they knew it was the right thing to do.

I don’t think we could fight a war like that today. For one thing our modern weaponry would allow us to annihilate each other from thousands of miles away. You can just about hit an individual grain of sand from a thousand miles away. Just like a video game. And secondly, people wouldn’t sign up for that kind of “call of duty.”

Lets just say that people have a different outlook today. I have other words, but I won’t use them here.

The “Greatest Generation” should be remembered not only for their heroics, but for their selflessness.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Last Known Residence

Mom lives up on a hill now. Looking out over a beautiful green valley. Nice view. But it’s not really her, it’s her remains, laying under a rock with her name on it.

Cemeteries are strange places. When you think about what’s there it’s kind of creepy. And that’s why graveyards get such a bad rap. But within these boundaries there can be great tranquility and beauty. Headstones range from very simple to fabulously ornate statues and mausoleums. A nice cemetery has well manicured grounds, but many are overgrown with weeds and forgotten.

There is a lot of history there. Sometimes family groupings and sometimes the whole family tree.

My mother didn’t choose this spot. My father and sister chose it for her. And for my father. I visit when I am in the area, on a trip back home. I had placed several things on the tombstone to represent my mother’s life. Things I thought she’d appreciate. But they’ve disappeared now. Stolen? Scooped up for safe keeping? Or maybe run over by a lawnmower. I don’t know.

Just symbols. Like the rock. She’s not really there. For me, she is everywhere.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Roadside Attraction

In 1965 Congress passed what is commonly called the Highway Beautification Act, or Ladybird’s Bill. It was inspired by the First Lady of the United States, Ladybird Johnson. She firmly believed that beautifying and cleaning up the roads would make the United States a better place to live.

The idea behind it was to control outdoor advertising, including the removal of certain types of signs along the nation’s growing Interstate Highway System. It also required certain junkyards along Interstate or primary highways to be removed or screened and encouraged scenic enhancement and roadside development.

Lets face it, driving down a slab of concrete or asphalt with nothing to look at but billboards and junkyards, weeds and trash, isn’t very conducive to encouraging tourism and sightseeing.

And today we often see many attractive plantings along the highways. Flowering trees and shrubs inside the paved loops of exit and on ramps. Beside flyover bridges. And flowers in the median.

In my neck of the woods I think of the highways of North Carolina as the prettiest.

On all of my travels up and down these roads over the years I had never noticed this one thing before. But on this journey, I saw this particular thing everywhere I looked.

It was Centaurea Cyanus, which you might know by the name of cornflower, or bachelor’s button. The flower itself is a brilliant blue color delicately sitting atop a tall stem. It has a long history as a weed, and more recently as a decorative plant. The flower has been used to make dyes, as a political symbol, as a romantic symbol and, as it might be most popularly known these days, as the symbol of Corning ware.

Some of what I saw were displayed in a decorative way along the roadside. But much of it was obviously growing wild.

It’s a beautiful color. My mother loved it. I remember a pen and ink drawing she did once depicting cornflowers in black and white. Without the color it was still easily identified as blue cornflower. And yes, my mother loved corning ware!

I’m not sure what happened to that drawing. For a while it was framed and hanging in my parent’s home. They have since moved, as has the drawing and I’m not sure where it went. Maybe it’s in a pile of pictures I have around here somewhere. Or maybe one of my siblings has it.

No matter. When I see a blue cornflower, I think of that drawing. And my mother.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Long Way Home

GPS is a great invention. How did we ever find anything without it? You had to kind of know where you were going, and how to get there. Street names and where to turn. Looking back, I’m amazed that I’m even here today and not lost in some wilderness.

Oh sure, Lewis and Clarke found their way from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. But they had Sacajawea as a guide. And she had some inside information, and could speak the local lingo. And the Vikings found Canada, but I think that was more luck. And a bit of celestial navigation. Sailing west they had to run into something eventually. So great discoveries were made without GPS, but it sure makes life easier.

My travels, both near and far, tend to be on secondary roads. Interstates are boring and I can find much more to look at if I take the back roads. On my latest trip to Pennsylvania from way down south I decided to once again avoid the freeways as much as possible. I’ll be able to find more antique shops to poke around in that way.

So I put in the destination and set the route options to avoid highways. Sometimes the definition of a highway kind of baffles me because even with this criteria set I can find myself on four and six lane roads with speed limits over 55 miles per hour. But this time the techno gizmo really got me.

It translated avoid highways into avoid paved roads. At least that’s how it seemed.

Most of the roads I was lead to were two lanes with a double yellow line down the center. The speed limit was pretty good at 55, but it did drop to 15 in a few places where there were sharp curves of narrow bridges. Beautiful scenery. Forests and farmland. Streams and pastures. And I didn’t see many other cars along the way.

Not too surprising because I never even saw a town along the way! I was glad I had a full tank of gas when I started.

After about 200 miles like this I was starting to get a little frustrated. Beautiful scenery, but zero antique shops. Not a hint of human activity.  Nice, but not what I was looking for.

Like I said, the definition of highway is sometimes a little unclear. But on this day, avoid highways meant stay on anything that’s passable. Tomorrow I’m going to modify my route a little. It can be lonely out there!

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

 

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Ready for Everest

Climbing Mount Everest is a bucket list item for quite a few people. Most of whom have zero business trying to accomplish this feat. The summit has only been within man’s reach since 1953, and since then many an experienced climber has lost their life attempting the trek…

So, it’s not on my bucket list. But I wouldn’t mind seeing it some day. I’m the kind of climber that would take a helicopter to the summit!

I do like to hike in nature though and I recently drove up into the North Georgia foothills to make a full frontal assault on a grand waterfall. It’s nearly two-hundred feet tall, drops straight down in several ribbons of water, and ends up splashing up on some huge boulders forming a nice little pool. And then it continues its winding way down the narrow creek bed.

But this one is a noted killer. In 1977 the dam at the top of the falls collapsed after torrential rains. A thirty foot tall wall of water came crashing down and swept through the campus of a small college. Thirty seven people died that day.

Looking at it today the manmade structures are mostly rebuilt. And the waterfall, while certainly impressive, doesn’t look like it could be responsible for such devastation. But when you look around on the ground you can see the huge boulders that the rushing water had moved. And moved quite far. Twenty feet across and ten feet high. Granite. Pondering that I can understand a lot.

The college still owns the land where the falls are located. There is a designated parking lot for visitors and hikers. After registering at the visitors center, and going through the little gift shop, you can begin your journey to the base of the falls. It’s a narrow path. Rocky. And perilously close to the edge of a cliff with the river below. Such a dramatic scene!

In reality, the river is about eight inches deep and three feet wide. The path is manicured and there is a guardrail. Its wide enough for two people to walk side by side. And it gently rolls for about two hundred yards to the base of the falls.

But the falls are still nearly two hundred feet tall and there are big boulders to climb on to get a closer look. It’s a very nice little walk in the park.

So, now that I’ve made this trek, I am ready for Mount Everest!! By helicopter…

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Clear Cutting

Open fields are great for farming. And for wild animals to roam around in. But when I see bulldozers and logging trucks cutting down forests I have to wonder…

Sure, they could be making new farmland. I’ve seen that done. Maybe they are harvesting the crop of trees for lumber or pulp. They may just be clearing the land in preparation for building something. Great. A gas station. Or a strip mall. Certainly worth sacrificing a forest of life giving trees for that!

Or maybe it’s for some kind of housing. New apartment complex. Subdivision perhaps. Usually when the developers cut down a lot of big trees they are required to replace them with something to be considered green space. Some seedlings or maybe something as big as ten feet.

Trees don’t all grow fast so it may take twenty or thirty years or longer for those little sticks to get as big as the ones they replaced. In the meantime, homeowners and apartment dwellers get to have these sticks in their yard providing beauty on a small scale. And limited shade, and oxygen purification.

Makes me sad. Where I live now is surrounded by a forest. Big trees. Old trees. With new seedlings and smaller trees growing up among them. A beautiful oasis. Especially with the lake out in the back.

When I built my last house nearly twenty five years ago the builder cut down the trees that were inside what would be the footprint of the house, but left all the rest. It might be easier to just cut them all down, but he did it the right way. The whole neighborhood was like that and although mine was one of the first houses built there, the setting looked very established and elegant. And of course I quickly got to work planting some more trees. After nineteen years the trees I had planted were grand indeed. And then I moved. Deeper into the woods.

Cutting and even burning can be used as a means of forest management. But I’ve never seen anyone out sweeping the forest floor. And on a recent trip I saw a plot of land that had been stripped of its hardwoods. After the pine saplings had been burned off. Wow. Whoever owns this was really going after the trees I thought.

Then I saw a sign… This land was part of a national forest! The big brown wooden sign stood there surrounded by charred remains and hacked off stumps. I thought it so ironic that the forest service would do this to their trees, but I guess they know what they are doing. I’d rather see them do the clear cutting for forest preservation than to know that someone else had done it to make a buck.

I love trees. That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

 

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Treasure

The business card has a name, and the occupation is listed as “explorer.” Sounds a little silly maybe, but it’s true. I explore people, places, and history. The description is perhaps not totally accurate though. Because I’m also a treasure hunter.

Maybe not Heinrick Schliemann looking for the lost city of Troy. Or Indiana Jones questing after the Holy Grail. Not even Robert Ballard finding the Titanic’s ruins.

My explorations, and treasures, are on a smaller scale. But to me, no less significant.

I look high and low for what others might call junk. But to me everything is a treasure. And on a recent trip to Asheville, North Carolina I had to check in with a number of places potentially hiding vast riches.

There is the wonderful high-end mid-century modern shop. And the huge, dusty old barn filled with antiques. I popped into a traditional antique shop with true eighteenth and nineteenth century furniture and glassware. And jewelry. And a dusty junk shop.

All of them hold shiny things. And glowing wooden things. Old and older. Some clean and some dusty. But my eyes, with their coke bottle spectacles and vivid imagination dig deep, under the dust and grime and furniture polish. And I see potential everywhere.

Don’t think I’m a snob, or a yuppie or fit nicely into any other category. I’m an explorer and treasure hunter. And you never know where you’ll find something fantastic. So I go to thrift stores and yard sales too. I love the smell of a yard sale in the morning!

And this day I did find treasure. Not in something that others might covet. And not in a fancy place. It was a little house, down a very steep and narrow driveway, perched on the banks of a decent sized creek. A thrift store dedicated to generating cash for animal rescue. The proprietor is a veterinarian.

It housed all the usual things. Dishes, clothes, glassware, pictures and books. Here and there were scattered some interesting things, but nothing I’d consider a treasure.

But then I saw it. Exactly what I was looking for, except until this very moment I didn’t know I was looking for it. Serendipity indeed.

And what exactly was this incredible find? A lawnmower! A reel type push mower. No engine, just people power.

My daughter owns a nice little house with a small yard. I’ve been hauling my gas powered mower over there weekly to cut her grass. I enjoy cutting the grass, but not hauling the mower around. It doesn’t fit well on my motorcycle. So, this was perfect. I could leave it at her house. No noise, no pollution. And maybe she would even try it out!

For a small donation it was mine! I’m quite sure that when I told the folks working there why I was in Asheville, antique hunting, they thought it very odd that I was so overjoyed with my lawnmower treasure. But I was…

I’ve used it several times now and it works great. Never know what might seem so fabulous. Something simple and mundane works just as well as riches and jewels. Look about at what surrounds you. You may find real beauty and joy somewhere.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

 

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Four Corners

A crossroad in the country poses some interesting questions. Two roads, two lanes each, cross at a ninety-degree angle. Four stop signs.

Where the heck am I? These are roads I travel often, but seldom look at closely. Just the road to the shop. But at this juncture I wonder, where do these roads lead? Four directions, infinite possibilities. More countryside. Towns and cities. Depends on how far you go.

Why do they meet here? There must be some reason that these two roadways were built. And built in this place. To get from here to there. Obviously. But where is here? And where is there? And what was the lure that made people want to go between the two?

This is farm country. Between several small towns. Some very small. But the smallest one has a cotton gin. Ahh, that’s a big clue. Farm land, cotton gin. Deep South. Let your imagination run.

This corner and the one diagonal have flat fields. Fenced. There are cows, but I know that some sort of crops grow here also.

Two corners are fields. A third contains a barn. More of a shed. Or what’s left of it. Made of wooden slats. The roof is intact but the walls have gaping holes. Strangely it looks like this is still in use by the farmers who own this land. Some rusty old farm machinery inside, under the lean to roof. And scattered about. But no real sign of recent use other than the weeds being kept down.

Why am I so intrigued with this intersection today? The color. On the southeast corner there is a huge display of purple flowers. Not on the ground but way up into the trees as well. Spanning many, many branches and trees. It’s wisteria, and this time of year it blossoms prolifically around here.

But why and how here? Look more closely. Into the dense hedgerow of bamboo. There is a house. Its overwhelmed by bamboo and wisteria. Old. Wooden clapboard siding. Its been abandoned and is falling apart. There is a strong brick chimney standing tall, soon to be the only remnant of this place. There is a fence around the property. Otherwise I’d go in to look around.

Who lived here? What did they do? Where did they go? And why is it being left to nature for reclamation? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but I can make up a story. Or do the research to find out.

Since I’m just passing through today, I’ll make up a story. You can make up your own. It will be here for a while for me to research in the future.

But better not wait too long. The roads and stop signs and fields will be here for a while, but the house and shed won’t be for long. Like the wisteria, its season will soon end. Vanishing history. Maybe it will become a strip mall. Or a subdivision. In the future…

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Haunted Buzz

When you push the button all hell breaks loose. There is a whirring sound like a big machine getting ready to do something.  And then there is the roar of the engines.  And the rumbling vibrations.  Then it happens…

No, not a mushroom cloud.  The sound of immortal words spoken by the voice of adventure…To Infinity… and Beyond!!  Buzz Lightyear is one of my heroes.

Yes, I know, he’s not real.  I do have real heroes, but Buzz is my favorite animated hero. So it’s no surprise that when I saw the extra large version of the Buzz Lightyear action adventure toy I had to have him.

He’s wearing a spacesuit and on the front he has several push buttons.  On his back he wears a jet pack with wings.. And of course his Apollo astronaut-like helmet.

I have several smaller Buzz action figures, and when you push the buttons, noting happens. But as hope springs eternal, I pushed the blue button on his suit and it started to make a whirring sound.  And I couldn’t turn it off.  I was hoping the batteries would quit, but after a while the toy shut down.

Into the car to continue my journey.  And he starts making more sounds.  This tine I didn’t push any buttons!  The next time he turned himself on he began to speak. “Starship Command this is Buzz Lightyear.”  And “To Infinity… and beyond!”  Plus quite a few other short phrases as he pleased.  And I never touched any of the buttons again.

So Buzz Lightyear may be a fictional character, a plastic toy, but he speaks to me in a human voice when he feels like talking.  Don’t try to tell me he’s not real.   And don’t let me go on a tour of a nuclear missile silo, because I’ll be wanting to see if anything happens when I push the red button…

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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