On the Road – Day 2

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Tango by one of the many Union and Confederate cannons.

Today Tango and I crossed the states of Alabama and Mississippi, stopping in Vicksburg on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Vicksburg is notable for being the spot where the first Coca Cola was bottled in 1894. It was also the site of one of the critical battles of the American Civil War.  In 1863, from May 18th until July 4th, the Union forces laid siege on Vicksburg.  The armies totaled 110,000 men–more than twice the current population of Vicksburg.  Causalities were more than 37,000–a number that does not include the civilians of Vicksburg who were trapped along with the Confederate soldiers.

Vicksburg’s strategic place along the Mississippi made it a “must win” for the Union. Abraham Lincoln declared Vicksburg “the Key” to winning the Civil War.

Today the land on which the Yanks and the Rebels squared off against one another is preserved as a National Park.  With close to 150 years of recovery, the landscape no longer resembles the war-ravaged land of 1863.  Monuments grace the 1,800 acres and the Park Service clearly has its hands full keeping the grass trimmed back.  You can hardly believe there was ever the carnage and suffering that is depicted in the exhibits.

Why visit such a place, you might ask?  Why care about a war that is long gone and that many college students can’t even tell you who won (it was the Union)?  It has to do with perspective, I think.  There are many who feel these are the worst of times in the U.S.  But there was a time in this country when we set about to slaughter one another and did a darn good job of it. Estimates are that 620,000 people died in the Civil War, which was only four years long.  Do the math…155,000 a year, 12,917 a month!  Add to that the mammoth destruction of property in the South.  It was a horrific time….

Yet today soft green grasses of spring wave peacefully on the hillsides. The trees have that rich color of new growth and birds are everywhere collecting the makings of their springtime nests.  Butterflies flitter about and dozens of people, like me, stopped by to pay their respects to this hallowed ground.   Things may be a little tough right now but let us hope we never return to the horror that was the American Civil War.  ❖

 

 

On the Road Again ….

Cue the Willie Nelson music…Tango and I are on the road again.  We are headed out on our second transcontinental trip, from East Coast to West with a few stops along the way.

Today we finally made it out of Florida after driving for close to eight hours.  Florida is a long state, we all know that. But it is also a wide state when you turn west on I-10 and head towards Alabama.  We arrived in Daphne, a bit east of Mobile and are settled in for the night.

For the next few days we will continue west with a few stops on the way.  We need to be in Pueblo, Colorado by Friday…plenty of time before then for some fun and a few pictures with my new Selfie Stick. Stay tuned. 

We Need A Little Christmas

55069-christmas-spiritIn recent years I haven’t been very “big” on Christmas. The conflicted messages that emanate at this time of the year have become too much for this aging soul.  I recall being so fervent as a child, anticipating the birth of baby Jesus, marveling at the tale of the three wise men and, of course, anticipating Santa’s visit. Even in to middle age there was still a lot enjoyment centered around the holiday. But over-commercialization coupled with learning the truth about how our religious documents were not the contemporary reportage that we might have thought, have made this writer cynical about it all.  As the media focuses on the “new phenomena” of  “fake news” let’s not lose sight of the fact that religions have practiced fake news for years.

This year things seem especially grim.  Many are choosing to “drop out” because, honestly, it has become impossible to know what is real and what is not. On Facebook this morning I saw a Canadian journalist who claims that the U.S.A. is fabricating stories about Syria, that the “White Helmets” are not a humanitarian group but a well-funded paramilitary organization, and that we don’t have a clue as to what is happening in Aleppo because there are no reporters in the city.  She noted that one prominent source on conditions in Aleppo lives in Coventry, England!  She seemed incredibly well versed and was particularly articulate about the dreadful war in Syria but who is to say that she is reporting the truth?

Ironically it is this unsettled state of mind that turns many people to religion but it seems our various cultures have plenty of faith in various gods…we simply have no faith in each other.

And so I found myself humming, “We Need a Little Christmas,” from the musical “Mame.”  It’s a cheerful ditty and I hadn’t heard it in a while so, as is my wont, I was inspired to have a listen on Spotify.  I wonder if these lyrics resonate with any of you, dear readers?

For I’ve grown a little leaner,
Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,
And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder,
Need a little Christmas now.

Angels, alas, are in short supply but in the Christmas tradition I can send you a star, a Florida star.

christmas-star

A Florida Star

This photograph is one of our lovely Florida grasses with a crown of morning dew.  Nature always soothes me and brings things into perspective. And today that perspective is right in-line with Mame’s:

For we need a little music,
Need a little laughter,
Need a little singing
Ringing through the rafter,
And we need a little snappy
“Happy ever after,”

Need a little Christmas now.

Trump Election – A Suggested Coping Mechanism

The wonderful Tina Turner

Simply the Best

So, we are more than a month removed from the national election.  Donald Trump is president-elect. For some it was a victory. For others, this writer included, it was a profoundly sorrowful moment.  The scenes from Clinton’s post-election “party” definitely told the tale. Seldom have I seen such sad faces. The sad truth is that this sorrow we feel will not easily go away because there are four years ahead of us.  A coping mechanism is so necessary.  For some it is as simple as no longer watching the news.  Others are actually emigrating to Canada and other countries.  My own method of coping is wrapped up in the divine Tina Turner.

Several days after the election, while watching one of the several Obama slideshow collections that are making the rounds on Facebook,  I started humming the Tina Turner song “Simply the Best” and did a quick search on Spotify for the song. There I  found a wonderful, previously unheard, recording of a live Tina concert in Arnhem, Holland.  I cranked it up and Donald Trump faded away.  Soon Tina was filling the house with music on a regular basis.  I would sing along, get up and dance, play a little air guitar and, generally, feel good.  I recommend it to everyone.

But Tina, as we know, is hardly a one-facet lady.  So, after listening to the rock-and-roll Tina for several days I then turned to a recording entitled “Beyond”. This particular Tina Turner album is not as well known as her rockers but it has transported me to other dimensions on many occasions.  It is a collection of Buddhist and Christian Prayers sung by Tina, Dechen Shak Dagsay and Regula Curti.  There is also commentary by Tina, complete with her Southern dialect, in which she talks about the ability of singing to “take us beyond.”  It’s a beautifully soothing recording and Turner’s urging to “Start every day singing like the birds/Singing takes you beyond” is advice that I try to take to heart.  Music connects us to a higher level of consciousness and puts our life in perspective.

So, if The Donald is still getting you down, crank up some music that you love and just let it go, my friends.  Bobby Kennedy once said, “Like it or not, we live in interesting times.”  Such is our fate. ❧

The Summer Retreat(s)

SW Wall Before

SW Wall Before

My summer retreat is a 30-year-old mobile home in the hills of Franklin, North Carolina.  Retreat is a very good word.  When I finally manage to get up here in the summer months the rest of the world melts away.

This year has been a joy. My sister has visited more often and during August she and her husband Wes were here for more than a week.  I’ve been writing almost non-stop and, in the last week, I finally saw the path for this book idea that has been clanging around in my head for months.  I’ve had numerous articles published at Cannabis Now and Huffington Post.

The solitude of my home on Fawn Hill has been a treat but summer is gone and obligations call. Soon I will be traveling to medical cannabis seminars and giving speeches which are being prepared in this quiet place.  Back to work. Back to Florida.

But before I leave behind these hills for another year I wanted to share my  Zen.

Each summer I have spent time working on “the wall,” an old stone wall that runs the length of the house. It was in horrible disrepair when we first took possession in 2013. The first year I could barely get near it for all the poison ivy. But I have rebuilt two significant sections over the years. This year I didn’t think I had it in me. My back ached, my knees ached, the bone spur on my left ankle was cranky and a big part of me said, “Let it go.”  And I did for the first four weeks.  But I kept looking at that section (above) and eventually, like the wall, I crumbled and began tearing it apart. Once you do that you’ve made a commitment.

It has been a six week project.  Two sections that I thought were done got torn out and re-done.  The process of building with stone is, I’ll grant you, laborious. But there is something about the process that I find so soothing and, if you’ll indulge me, a bit genetic. The Irish are well known for their proclivity towards stone work. I swear I can feel that sometimes.

My neighbor and dear friend Bonnie calls this work “my Zen.”  And I think she is correct. One day she heard the stones clacking around and thought about coming down to offer help but she decided against it. “This is your Zen time,” she said.  She’s right.

I finished today.  I’ll drop some fill dirt on it and let the rain and snow of winter drive the dirt down into the new structure.  I needed to buy some rocks to finish the job and it was odd to work the “newcomers” into the mix.  But here it is, the finished project.  Farewell to Fawn Hill for 2016. It has been grand.

SW Wall After

SW Wall After

My Three Bro’s: Great Customer Service in the 21st Century

Frequent readers will remember my previous post about my Squirrel Buster bird feeder’s unfortunate encounter with a hungry bear.  It was fun to write and share.  I never expected much to come from it except some cute comments and sympathy.  So, imagine my surprise when I received a comment on my website from the Customer Service Department of Brome Bird Care, the manufacturer of the Squirrel Busters, asking if I needed a replacement tube.

Replacement tube on the left. Bear-mauled tube on the right.

Replacement tube on the left. Bear-mauled tube on the right.

It had been my plan to order a replacement tube but I had not yet gotten around to it.  I was still in shock that something could come along and so efficiently maul something so innocuous.

I replied that I had not yet done so and fully expected to receive an email with a direct link to their parts department. Instead I received this reply:

Alice,

Normally bear damage is not covered by your warranty. However, as a goodwill gesture, we will send a seed tube free of shipping/replacement charges.  Please provide us with your address. Thank you for your interest in  our product.

Well, hot dang, that is just a nice thing to do, don’t you think? In an age that seems to be spinning out of control with companies doing every last thing they possibly can to extract yet another few pennies from the consumer, here is a company that has a true Customer Care Department.

A few days later the tube arrived and it was a simple matter of swapping out the damaged tube for the new one.  Brome also sent a new top, which I would not of thought to order.  The old one looked fine but I discovered it would not attach properly because of a slight bend in the hanging rod.  Brome obviously has more experience with this than I.

The repaired Super Squirrel Buster on the left, Classic, and Standard.

The repaired Super Squirrel Buster on the left, Classic, and Standard.

So a heartfelt “Thank You” to Brome Bird Care.  I love your products.  I have had the Classic Squirrel Buster for at least five years, maybe more.  Here is a picture of My Three Bro’s, all filled and ready to go.  It is particularly nice to have the Super model back in business.  It is fledging season here and the feeders are packed with nervous young birds learning to make their way in the world.  They are eating like all children do…incessantly.  Having the Super Brome back in service means a little less work for me in terms of keeping up.

And also “Thank You” to Maureen McKinnon, Customer Care Manager at Brome, for reaching out to me with a little help from Google Alerts.  The 21st Century has given us so many new tools that can be used in so many ways — some good and some bad.  For those unfamiliar with Google Alerts, they allow an individual to set a specific phrase or topic of interest and receive notifications of any new activity on the Web that relate to the topic.  It is a great tool that I often use.

The birds of the air may never sow or reap but manufacturers do and I think Brome will continue to reap goodwill and loyal customers because they 1) make great products, and 2) they care.  The only one who loses is the squirrel.  ❧

 

Squirrel Buster, Yes! Bear Buster, No!

 

 

IMG_0727Back in North Carolina, getting a late start on the summer season but better late than never.

This return to our summer place was made extra easy because my sister arrived the day before I did and had the house open, the refrigerator stocked, and my bed made.  How cool is that!

As I got settled into things I realized that the large Squirrel Buster bird feeder I had bought last summer was missing.  I also had a very bent hanging rod.  These two things were a mystery because I knew I had put away all my feeders.  And the I remembered getting a text from my neighbor who thought I was arriving in late April and told me she had checked the house and filled the bird feeder for me.

It occurred to me that something took the feeder…something big!

IMG_0726I found the feeder down the hill in the woods and if a squirrel did this to my feeder it may be time to head south again!  🙂

No, the answer is clearly a bear.  One that saw an opportunity and, literally, grabbed it.  With no people, lights or dogs the feeder was easy pickings, just pull it off that pesky hook and away he went.

The feeder is repairable and, yes, I will continue to feed my fine feathered friends.  But feeders will be locked up tight as long as the house is empty.  Sorry bears.  ❧