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Branches in the Power Lines


There is a tree that stands in the yard, tall and wide, unaware of its beauty and grandeur. It’s been there, growing, since at least the Civil War. Maybe even the Revolution. Its trunk is at least four feet in diameter.

In the spring purple leaves burst forth, turning to green in summer. Fall has those same leaves turning a shining copper color. And in the wintertime it’s bare branches create a mass of silver colored arms, twisted and entangled in each other.

And then came the power lines. In the 1920’s the area was electrified. Modernized. And the power lines ran along the side of the road. And next to the tree. Every year the tree grew closer and closer to the wires and eventually the electric company wanted to prune the tree limbs.

And for thirty eight years my mother protected the tree, chasing away the men with their buzz saws. They might snip at it here and there, but she kept them from taking out big chunks.

But there are a lot of trees that have no guardians. And you can see them everywhere. They have their tops chopped off. Or one whole side shaved off so they look very lopsided. Maybe they have their middle hacked out so their branches seem to cradle the wires. You can even find them with a notch cut in their side, just big enough for the wires to fit through.

The power company, or their representatives, come through with s giant circular saw that will make short work of a century of tree growth. Whiirrrr! Off come the limbs. Not with the skill of a surgeon. Barely with the brutality of a butcher. Branches shredded. Shape and form disregarded. Done with a disdain for the trees and a secret desire that all greenery would die.

I get it. The power lines need to be protected from the trees. A fallen limb or entire tree will snap the wire and leave hundreds, thousand or even millions without power. In the dark. Returned to the stone age.

But sometimes I see the wires threading their way through a tree or two. Why are these preserved?  Perhaps someone spoke up for them.

Trees grow where they will. Mother Nature plants them as her spirit sees fit.  But people plant trees too.  Sometimes for ecological reasons.  Or perhaps to create an aesthetic mood.  All good. But word of advice to human planters : plant many, but not near the power lines.

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


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Blue Spots

Thoughts and ideas come and go so fast that it’s hard to keep up with them.  So it’s important to always have something to write with nearby.  See something that gives you an idea?  Write it down.  Or have a fresh thought? Write it down.  Before you forget.

Ideas come to me all the time.  Sometimes I’m half asleep and tell myself I’ll write it down when I wake up.  Oh sure, I’ll remember.  Nope. That’s whey I have something to write with nearby all the time.

These days you don’t have to have a pen or pencil. No need for marker or crayon.  Use the smart phone.  Just talk to it and it will “write” down your thoughts.  Although I must admit that my smart phone isn’t always as smart as me.  It writes down some really weird sentences and ideas.  Things I never would have thought of.

I prefer to use pen and paper.  The biggest problem with that is that I’ll write on any old piece of paper.  And am endlessly searching for that note covered scrap.  The other of course is having that writing instrument at hand.

When I was in the Navy as a Supply Corps officer our motto was “Ready For Sea!”  Which was often modified to “born ready.”  And so I was.  Ready to write.  I never go anywhere without a pen, or two or three in my possession.  They are everywhere!

They get stationed in places like my trouser pockets, shirt pockets, stuck into the placket of a button up shirt, down the collar of a t-shirt or polo, and if I have a pocket with a flap, I’ll hook it to the flap.

My clothes unfortunately show signs of all these pens hanging off of me everywhere.  Ink stains from pens that leaked.  Or from shoving an uncovered pen into my pocket.  My jeans have several little dark spots on the outside of the front pockets.  And as I sit here typing, I’m looking at no less than a dozen blue spots of various sizes lining the lower seem of my chest pocket.  I prefer blue ink so the spots are always blue.  Except with my fountain pens.  I like brown ink with them, but never carry them in a pocket.

The ink stains won’t come out so I gave up worrying about them.  These clothes are just going to get more stains.  I can’t afford to toss some article of clothing just because it has an ink stain.  I look at it as a badge of honor.  Better than a pocket protector.

I do try to remember to cover my pens before they go into a pocket.  And to take them out of my pockets before my clothes go into the laundry.  That makes a real mess.  But I do sometimes fall asleep with a pen in my pocket and if I toss and turn just right I can create a fabulous design inside my pocket.  Or on the sheets.

I’ve tried tricks and games to make my memory better.  But the older I get, the more tricks my memory plays on me.  So I will always need to write things down.  One way or another.  So I’ll have to keep a pen handy, and hope that the ink only goes where I direct it.

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

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Crossword Puzzles

My father is one of those very rare people who actually does know just about everything. A rocket scientist’s rocket scientist if you will. Makes me feel so stupid sometimes. But that’s another story…

He’s one of those folks who can sit down with the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle and have it all finished up in less than an hour. He’d do it faster but at age 93 he writes very slowly. Me. Hell, I need all week to work on it. And may still not quite finish it. Not because I don’t have time. No. It’s because I don’t know the answers. But I do it in ink to pretend I know it all.

But it was by my dad’s example that I grew so fond of crosswords. I can’t do a sudoku to save my life, but I’m getting pretty good with the crosswords. It’s a matter of knowing a lot of stuff. Including the answers to oft repeated clues. I have a puzzle dictionary somewhere. But I don’t know where.

For me, starting each puzzle is a little like watching a baseball game. After the first pitch my stress level rises dramatically. Because I know that in slow progression there will be several hundred more pitches. Each carrying tremendous importance. In a perfect world the pitcher should throw three balls per inning. Yielding three pop flies. And three easy outs. But of course it’s a game of balls and strikes and foul balls. Walks and runs, hits and errors. And it takes several hours of throwing, catching, hitting and running to get it over with. All while I root for my team.

So it is with the crossword. The first clue. And many to follow. Hopefully filling in the squares with letters spelling words. Go through all the across clues and fill in what you can. Then the same with the down. Then try to build something off of the few letters I’ve filled in. It’s going to take forever!  And I wish I knew more words!

Once things start filling up it gets a little easier. The answers are more apparent when you have half the letters staring at you. Maybe. At least it’s easier to guess.

And eventually all the boxes are filled and I’m done. There may be some very strange spellings in there. And there will certainly be big blobs of ink where I’ve changed my mind and the letters. But it’s done.

And some days I’ll do five or six or of them. Provided the first one doesn’t throw me for a loop. I love baseball. And crossword puzzles. Sometimes it’s just hard to sit through them calmly.

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

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The Saxophone

So many excuses to use!  Not a single one good.  Time to step up and get it in gear I guess.

Several months ago, for some unknown reason, I told myself that I was going to learn to play the saxophone.  Yeah, it was a big surprise to me too.  Not like I have any great musical talent.

Back in fourth grade I played the baritone horn in the school band.  I wanted to play the drums but the band director saw a chubby boy and said baritone horn.  I spent three years in the school band.  But I was never really very good.  The high school band didn’t recruit me very hard.  Not a bit actually.

My mother made me play the piano in junior high school. That was even worse.  Just no desire.  Can’t sing.  Can’t dance. So what possessed me with this saxophone thing?

Maybe it’s the music I’ve been listening to lately.

Not going to mention any names, you gotta choose your own music, but the sax has been right in there making a big sound.  I like the shining brass, the booming sound and the way the sax player moves on stage.  Looks like fun.  Maybe I can do that.  Turns out that there is a lot to playing the sax.  Even thought some say it’s the easiest instrument to learn.

First you have to decide on what kind of sax.  Size matters here.  Alto, tenor, baritone, soprano and base.  And maybe a few more. Each with a different sound.  Then you have to find one.  And be able to afford it.

I chose an alto.  Used.  Some high school band dropout told his mom to get rid of it.  So I got a deal.  Also need some reeds so the thing will actually make a sound.  Online.

And then of course there is learning to play the thing. With my musical inability, I wasn’t going to learn by ear.  Lessons, like the horn itself, are expensive.  So, once again, I went online.  In search of free lessons.

You Tube has dozens of them.  You can see what the instructor is doing.  And can hear the results.  But you miss out on the instructor reaching over and putting your finger where it belongs, or squeezing your cheeks to get the right form in exhaling. The personal touch that is.  But I found a good lesson program.  And its freee.  And includes music.

Now I have a sax, and a lesson plan, so why isn’t the thing making music?  Because you gotta blow into it first!

Excuse: I’ve had a respiratory ailment and I cough a lot and am short of breath.  Pretty strong, but not good enough.  Excuse: don’t have time to do this every day.  What else am I doing?  Not like my dance card is full.  Excuse: fear. Now that’s a good one!

A saxophone in the hands of a beginner can make some terrifying sounds!!  Trust me, I’ve made one.  Dude, I say, you don’t know how to play the thing.  Of course you suck at it.  Practice.

OK, so that’s it.  No more excuses.  Gotta run now- I like good sax!

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

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Up In Smoke!

Fire in the hole!  A warning cry meant to save your life.  If you hear this, you better duck.  Or at least pay attention to what’s going on around you.  There is about to be an explosion.

It’s an expression used by miners when they are about to open up a new area.  They dig, or drill, a hole in the ground and stick a piece of dynamite in there.  As they prepare to push the plunger, or light the fuse, they holler fire in the hole.  Its lit and gonna go boom.  And lots of rocks are going to go flying.  So look out!

Of course like many specialized terms this one has made its way into everyday language.  It just means be ready for some action.

On this particular day it meant that I was lighting a fire to burn some yard waste.  Sticks and leaves.  I don’t normally do this because I don’t like all the smoke, but I was cleaning up in the yard and woods and had a pile of rotted old sticks and last fall’s leaves.  What do you do with that crap?

The best answer is to just leave it to do what nature does with it.  But that can sometimes look messy.  And since this is my front yard I wanted it to look decent for any visitors.  Last time one showed up was…well, I don’t remember. Anyway…

Or you can pile it up and haul it off to the landfill.  Biodegradable so I don’t mind doing that.  Except that I don’t have my truck anymore so I have no way to transport it. So, the alternative is to burn it.

I have a chimney in the back yard so I thought I’d do a little burning in that for a little while.  This wasn’t going to get rid of all I had piled up.  It was more just some entertainment.

So I lit it off and told myself fire in the hole. I knew I was going to have to stay right there with it.  There was a bit of a breeze blowing and I was concerned about hot sparks flying out of the smokestack.  The air temperature was just so, which made it warm enough to not need a fire, but cool enough to enjoy its warmth.

So I sat and relaxed, occasionally tossing some more sticks and leaves into the fire.  The leaves made a lot of smoke.  And there was a strong smell.  I knew the neighbors would be curious about the fire.  They couldn’t see what was going on from their houses.

Sure enough, one of the neighbors came over to check it out.  He asked me what I was burning.  When I told him sticks and leaves he said I should just make a big pile in the yard and burn it there.  Douse it with a gallon of gasoline or so and fire it up.  He assured me that the burning leaves wouldn’t get blown away into the woods that are filled with dry leaves and rotting sticks.  An image of scorched earth came to my head.  I’ll just do it my own way.  Inefficient as it is.  I just wanted to get the leaves out of my flowerbeds.  And keep them from blowing back in later.

I used the mulching lawnmower on some of them too.

When I was a kid one of my neighbors would always pile up his leaves in the gutter at the edge of the road and his yard and burn them there.  Often without actually being there himself.  They would just burn slowly.  And smoke like crazy.  I’ve never understood how you can make a pile of leaves or logs burn slowly and safely. But I see it all the time.

I’m not a firefighter, but I have a little experience with fire.  It’s unpredictable and has a mind of its own.  It’s dangerous.  And not to be toyed with.  So I am very careful with it.   I’m not gonna use an accelerant to make it exciting on the edge of the forest.  I’m not Smokey the Bear, but I listen to what he says.  My niece’s husband said he’d come by and pick up all the sticks and logs I need to get rid of.   And take them to the landfill.  Rot and roll baby!

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

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Angelic Surprise

Surprise!  Sometimes the reaction to this word is good. Sometimes not.  Depends on what it is.  And who you are. When Ed McMahon shows up at the door with a fist full of Publishers Clearinghouse money it’s a good thing.  If it’s the cops at the door with handcuffs, not so much.  It may just be that the surprise throws you off your routine. Or changes your life. Neither of the above examples have ever presented themselves to me, although I’m still waiting for the Publishers Clearinghouse thing, but I’ve had plenty of surprises. Good and bad I guess.  Cant really remember too many of them off hand.

This one is still fresh in my mind.  Partly because it was very recent.  But also because I don’t recall having such a positive reaction to anything lately.

Scouting around at yard sales and junk shops takes a lot of my time.  Because I love it.  Any day when I can hit more than one is an especially good day.  But I’m always anxious because I know that if I can’t be at every sale as soon as it starts I’m going to miss something.  Some fabulous treasure. Of course I can’t be everywhere at the same time, so yes, I miss out on great finds here and there. The thing is, if I’m not there and someone else gets the fabulous treasure that I would have wanted, I’ll never know about it.  But sometimes I see people walking out with that great thing and I’m jealous and disappointed. Damn!  Missed another one.

This is especially true when you see the item, and then you see another persons hand reach in front of you to grab it.  So close!! But that’s the way it is and its ok.

Most of the time.  There are some losses that I can’t help brooding on. Such was the case this day.

I don’t even know where I was.  Somewhere in the middle of central Georgia.  Out in a field along the side of the road.  Tracing the steps of the Peaches to Beaches world famous yard sale.  There are a thousand yard sales along the two hundred mile path.  And of course, you can’t do them all in the two days allotted.  So you pick and choose.  Sometimes while slowing down a little bit and driving by.  Chances are that a stop with numerous vendors has good potential.

And I stopped at this one because there was a circus sized tent.  And lots of cars.  I looked and looked and looked.  And maybe I found a trinket or two.  But it was what was hidden behind the checkout desk under the tent that got my attention.

Two, yes, a pair, of blow mold angels.  With big wings and bright colors.  They looked perfect from where I was standing.  So I asked the woman behind the counter if they were for sale.  Only to find that some woman had just this very moment purchased them.  Daaaang! This was the worst.  I had to further torture myself and ask how much they had sold for.  So little that I cant even speak the words.  With my jaw dragging the ground I walked away.

Damn.  Oh well.  But really, damn!  Oh well…

Approaching the car I ran into my wife who had gone her own way when we arrived.  I asked her if she’d seen the blow molds.  We both have a thing for those things.  And she said no.  I told her my tale of woe and she mustered an oh well…

She’d gotten something so I opened the hatch of the van to put it inside.  My eyes bugged out.  Those two angels were standing there just as pretty as could be!  She was the woman who beat me to them.  My heart was warm and my spirit soared.  From so low to so high.  I even broke out into a smile.  Cheshire cat style.

When I think back on it, the fact that I had really scored the two angels wasn’t what was making me so happy.  She might still want to keep them for herself.  It was the surprise that my wife had played this wonderful trick on me.  I knew what she had paid for this item.  And she got a great deal.  But even if she hadn’t, the surprise was priceless.

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


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The Shower

The coach said hit the showers.  Meaning that the day was done.  Time to wash off the sweat and take a break.  But I usually take a shower to begin my day.  Don’t like to go to bed with my hair wet.

A nice hot leisurely shower is always such a treat.  Let the warm water run all over you and take plenty of time to lather up and rinse off. And just stand there enjoying yourself. There have been times when warm wasn’t available.

I was in the Middle East one summer working on an historic site.  Digging in the dirt.  Each day the temperature hovered in the one hundred plus degree range.  And I was always sweaty.  So at the end of the day, hitting the showers was a treat. Especially since the water came straight from a spring and there was no way to heat it.  It was a shock to jump in, but felt damn good once you were numb to it.

And then there are the showers that are very hurried.  I had been working at something, I don’t remember what, and the time had slipped away from me.  I was going to be late for my appointment if I couldn’t get in the shower, and out, within five minutes.

Since I moved into this house my showering had always been very relaxed, so this insane rush was going to be a first.  I probably wasted four and a half minutes wondering how the hell I was going to get done in five.

But I wasn’t really a stranger to rushed showers.  Nope. There was a time when every morning found me rolling through the three S routine  all within three minutes.  Scuse my French, but it was shit, shower and shave, you got three minutes sucker! Navy Officer Candidate School. Four months of fun.  I was never really empty.  Nor clean.  Or well shaven.  I missed one hair on my chin one morning and got demerits at inspection.  But everyone was in the same boat so the imperfect hygiene soon went unnoticed.

The freaky thing about the showering though was that you weren’t alone.  And I’m not talking about the kind of showers you have in a gym. The ones that are a big room with twenty shower heads.  No, what we had was a three foot by three foot stall, with one shower head.  And two guys.  It wasn’t like you went in together and came out together.  You just jumped into any stall that only had one guy in it, ran some water over yourself and jumped out.  There wasn’t time for order or lingering.  You had somewhere else to be ASAP.  With watchful and judgmental eyes everywhere.

I was out of practice, after all it had been just over thirty years, but I knew I could get it done in five minutes.  At least it would be a good challenge.

Go!  Turn on the water and jump in.  Don’t wait for hot water.  Wet, lather rinse.  No repeat. Dry.  Mostly.  Dress. Run a razor over part of my face and comb my hair.  Brush teeth. Check mirror.  Make sure the hair is laying flat…

And out the door.  Unbelievably, I was early for my appointment. Damn.  I was even late for my wedding!

I can still do it.  If I really need to.  Or want to.  But I’d much rather take a nice leisurely warm shower.

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


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