Saturday, December 14, 2013

Wreaths Across America

Today was National Wreaths Across America day, when Christmas wreaths are laid on graves in national cemeteries. I was lucky enough to be spelled in the Visitor Center so I could go to the ceremony. We had a bit of bad news first thing today when we learned that the 250 wreaths that were to be delivered are stuck in Maine or New York or Virginia someplace because of the weather. We somehow had a few on hand, however, so it wasn't a total disaster.

I've seen photos of Arlington on wreath day and it always looked like grave after grave was decorated, but that's Arlington. The smaller, lesser-known national cemeteries don't have the donations that Arlington has, and consequently the number of wreaths is much lower. 

Today the ceremony was carried out by cadets from a local Civil Air Patrol unit. Each one carried a wreath dedicated to a different branch of the military.

The second cadet carries the US and Marine flags on his wreath. Semper fi!!

Families have been allowed to place decorations for the holidays since December 1. I took some time before the ceremony began to look for these individual tributes.


Husband and wife are on the same marker, one's name and dates inscribed on the front, the other's on the back. The family brought a wreath for each side.

The color that breaks up the sea of white, though, only calls attention to the thousands of graves that remain unadorned. A $10 $15 donation to Wreaths Across America will put one on the grave of your choosing next year. Choose one at a small cemetery.

Thought of the day:
To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen. To be lost is not the worst that can happen... to be forgotten is the worst." -Pierre Claeyssens (1909-2003) - See more at:

"To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen. To be lost is not the worst that can happen... to be forgotten is the worst." -Pierre Claeyssens (1909-2003) - See more at:
To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen. To be lost is not the worst that can happen... to be forgotten is the worst." -Pierre Claeyssens (1909-2003) - See more at:
To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen. To be lost is not the worst... to be forgotten is the worst. (Pierre Claeyssens, 1909-2003)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A thousand little sadnesses

The other day I was walking home from work and out of nowhere came the thought, the happy thought, that I would call Bob. [12/13: I've gotten some questions on this one: did I want to call, did I call? No. Hell, no. What I poorly explained was a thought zipped into my consciousness, unanticipated, undesired, but it was just like the thoughts I used to have when I looked forward to talking to him. As quickly as it came into my head, reality also came to me and the desire was gone. What it amounted to was a sadness that that part of my life is gone.]

I was cleaning out old photos from the computer and stumbled on a cell phone shot from Costco. It was a photo of a label for a sofa that we thought of buying for the loft at the house.

My gmail gigabytes were filling up and I started going through Sent mail until I got into the ones from a little over a year ago. I couldn't look at them one by one and had to just delete everything.

Amazon, for good or ill, remembers everything you ever bought. While looking for something else, I uncovered things I'd bought for our motorhome when we were going to spend last winter in Arizona.

I contacted my oral surgeon to get a summary of charges for this year and her staff included everything for 2012 as well, during months I didn't have a clue what was coming. One date was just before a weekend we spent in Cannon Beach, Oregon with friends.

I see months from last year in the notebook in which I record books I've read, and remember what we were doing and what our plans were. I remember. I also see the months that are empty, when I couldn't concentrate long enough to read a sentence.

My co-volunteer here talks of an upcoming trip to Australia and New Zealand, a reminder that we were to go this past March. All the tickets had been acquired and reservations made, the itinerary complete.

While summarizing copays for my healthcare this year, I saw one to my therapist on March 27, the day I left my house for good.

My telephone's photo roll has screen shots of places we were going to visit on upcoming trips. I haven't been able to pick my way through those yet.

I had to turn off the iPod when the Christmas music I was playing came to one particular song. That one song. He would take me in his arms, dance me around the kitchen, and sing it softly just to me.

I see an Asian woman and my heart turns to ice, to stone. How irrational is that?

I don't go looking for these reminders. I've been trying hard to look forward only, but they appear like knife-edged specters from my past that cut me with a thousand little sadnesses.


Thought of the day:

I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance. (Beryl Markham - West with the Night)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Shards of color

Some of the most unusual stained glass designs I've seen were at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield, Illinois. I spent a couple of days in Springfield between visiting my kids and my sibs so I could tour Lincoln's tomb, to go to the well-done Lincoln museum and the presidential Library, and found I had some extra time to check out the cathedral. I know the windows are good when I walk in and the first thing I think is, "Wow!" See if you agree.

The simple exterior of the church belies what shines inside.

One thing I love about stained glass in churches is their uniqueness. Unless (usually) small churches buy identical windows off the rack, so to speak, I've never seen the same windows from one church to another.

What makes these so wonderful is how they seem made of shards of glass. The angular shape of the pieces is so different from traditional shapes.

The pastel colors are also unusual. There are no pure jewel tones here.


A contemporary design like the one below is truly unusual. The National Cathedral in Washington, DC has a window that reminds me of this.

One of my favorite tricks, to get the reflection in a gleaming floor.

Stations of the Cross are also unique from church to church. I've never seen a set repeated elsewhere. This photo doesn't do justice to the gleam on the gold.

Not a Station but another, different style of mosaic. The pieces are much smaller.

Another mosaic.

I've photographed lots of churches over the years and looking up the aisle is one of my favorite shots. This church isn't as spectacular as some from this perspective, but the windows make up for it.

This place was a real treat to discover. I'm always grateful to those parishes and congregations that keep their buildings open.


Thought of the day:

Mere color, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways. (Oscar Wilde)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Callaway Gardens

It must have been in the middle 1980s or so when I first heard of Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia, and it probably was because of an ad in Southern Living magazine. I was living in southeast Texas then with hardly two nickels to rub together, and going there seemed as attainable as going to the moon. Then one day last month I was in the state visitor center in Plains and found a flyer for the Christmas lights at Callaway and almost immediately bought a couple of tickets and made reservations for a ride on the trolley. I was going to the moon.

My friend and I got to the garden well before dark and had time to drive around and see the sights. We got there in time to catch the birds of prey show and it was darn good. The young woman who narrated the show must have done this dozens or scores of times but made it sound like she was giving a talk to friends in her living room. She was a natural. She and another woman brought out four birds for us to see in action.

The first bird was a cute little barred owl, but she assured us that none of the birds we would see that day were of the cute and cuddly nature. 

All of the birds respond to hand signals from the trainers, who kept them flying back and forth, back and forth, over the heads of the people in the audience. More than once I saw wing tips brush through people's hair, the birds were swooping so low.

The second bird was a red-tailed hawk. All of the birds at the center have been "damaged' in some way. Some were picked up and taken away from their natural habitat by well-meaning people who thought the bird was injured and then the bird became imprinted on its new "mother." This red-tailed hawk was hit by a car when it was feeding on something on the side of the road, and was blinded in one eye.

The third bird was a horned owl. The "horns" help the bird to blend into its surroundings in the forest by blurring the outline of its head.

Here's not such a great picture but it shows the owl heading right toward me, just as it left its perch. If I remember correctly, this bird's feet exert a force of 150 pounds per square inch. Imagine being a mouse.

The last bird is this beauty and I can't remember what kind it is. David Shaffer, if you're out there, can you identify it for me? This bird actually flew away from the center one day and was gone for a few weeks. They learned it had flown about 25 miles away, into the yard of a man who'd seen the show. He identified the bird as one belonging to Callaway and performed the hand signals toward it after wrapping his forearm in a t-shirt. Sure enough, the bird came to perch on his arm and he was able to keep it safe until someone from the garden could retrieve it. They now put transponders on most of the birds and especially this one.

Next stop was the butterfly center. They grow their own butterflies:

There weren't a lot flitting around, which was something of a disappointment, but it was overcast and that affects butterfly activity. This is all I got.

We also stopped at the Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel and were the only ones there. At one of the gift shops I'd seen a magnet shaped and colored like the window at the chapel and wanted to see it in person. We were the only people there and it was nice to have it to ourselves.

Its design was inspired by 16th century Gothic churches and is built of local materials, including fieldstone quartz. The windows reflect the changing seasons of the surrounding forest and are really lovely.
The big attraction, of course, was the Christmas lights and I got not one usable photo. Some of the displays were just stunning, like a long stretch where two curtains of white lights were strung parallel to the road, one curtain behind the other, a pair on each side. The simple design was interspersed with snowflake designs and created depth that didn't seem possible. It started to sprinkle as we boarded the trolley and then it rained in earnest, blowing in on MY side of the seat. I was soaked by the end of the ride but I've also been on walking tours of Christmas lights in really cold climates, so the wet seemed like something of a trade off.

We had a nice time, weather and bad wi-fi at the hotel notwithstanding. I'd love to see the gardens in full bloom and maybe I can if I swing back through the area at the right time of year.

Thought of the day:

You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down. (Toni Morrison - Song of Solomon)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Savannah on my mind

Savannah is one of those places you can return to time after time and find something new with each visit. I spent my three days off at Thanksgiving there, hoping it would be as good as I remembered, and it was.

My discovery this time was a locksmith's shop, Bradley's. It reminded me so much of Busy Bee Hardware in Detroit that I had to go in.

Who could resist a place with witty sayings like the ones on the sign?

In addition to scissors and knives, get your axes sharpened here too. I know there's a legit reason for sharp axes, so why did Lizzie Borden immediately come to mind?

The owner is a collector, as evidenced by the shoeshine chairs to the right. Why does he have them? Well, silly, it's a place for customers to wait while their keys/locks/axes are being attended to.

If he don't got it, you don't need it. See the skate key on the lower right? Who's old enough to know what it's for? The answer "skates" doesn't count.

Across the room from the red chairs is this collection. No idea. No idea why, no idea what. Just no idea.

I didn't see this on my way in, my eyes too busy looking through the door, but caught it on my way out.

If you saw my post on Tucumcari, New Mexico, you know I love old signs. The fading signs like the first two are called Ghost Signs, I think. If not, they should be. I love spotting them and catching them in pixels because they won't last forever.

Nicely preserved, don't you think?

Savannah is a very walkable city, and going through the neighborhoods always rewards with scenery like this. I'm not sure I'd like my garden wide open to public view, but I appreciate the people who allow me to admire their property.

Detail from a county building.

Pirate's House was full up for Thanksgiving dinner so I went on Wednesday instead. It turned out to be a good thing because while walking around on Thursday night, I saw lots of flashing lights on lots of fire trucks on the street next to the restaurant. A nice guy took my picture while I waited for my meal. I appreciated his shaky hand because it blurs the lines and wrinkles. I'm a little wind-blown, in case you're wondering about the coiffure.

It was cold and it was cloudy most of the time but a walk along River Street when it cleared some showed me this nice sunset.

There was also time for Bonaventure Cemetery. Remember Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil? Weird movie. This is the place where some of the action took place. The "Bird Girl" statue from the cover of the book and shown at the end of the movie has been moved to a city museum because she was being loved to death. 

Here are just a couple of views from Bonaventure. I can't wait until I can go back.


Thought of the day:
I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the City of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton. (William Tecumseh Sherman, to President Lincoln, when he captured Savannah in December, 1864.)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A good man

Tonight, thanks to the Andersonville bookstore manager, David, a few of us went to Plains, Georgia to the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site's visitor center. He said there was going to be a community Christmas carol sing-along and what's more, the date had been changed from next week to today. His guess was the change was to accommodate President and Mrs. Carter's schedule. 

What luck. The sing-along was fun, with the audience alternating songs with community groups and church choirs. The first group was a rousing gospel chorus that I wished would go on for hours. The last group was from Georgia Southwestern State University. Their first song was a madrigal and I thought, oh, crap, because I really don't like madrigals but they proved me wrong. It was wonderful. They performed four songs and partway through I noticed that two of the performers, as well as the director, looked pretty familiar to me. Because I don't get out much I didn't have to think hard to figure out that they all played parts in a performance of White Christmas I saw in Americus last week. This is a small community.

The real stars, though, were President and Mrs. Carter. We scored seats two rows back of where they sat. Right behind them were two Secret Service agents, and that was the extent of their protection detail. No clearing the building, no metal detectors, no wanding. Everyone just walked into the auditorium and sat wherever, except for the four seats reserved for the Carters and their security.

Before they took their seats they came down our row to greet us. Thank heaven I put on a clean shirt. And after the show they spent time with anyone in the audience who wanted to speak to them. I asked one Secret Service agent if I could take a picture of President Carter and my friend, a World War 2 vet, and he said I could ask the President myself. Imagine that. I did and he said, "I'm a World War 2 vet myself."

This is how close I was sitting to the Carters. Yeah, I'm a star-gazer.

The Carters with part of the University group and its director. These young folks are so talented - beautiful voices and they mastered difficult music.

The World War 2 vets, born five months apart and still going strong.
It was a fun time, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I said afterward that President Carter is the only living President I'd choose to shake hands with. He's always struck me as a good, decent man. I'm so happy to have had the chance to meet him.

Thought of the day:

People make a big fuss over you when you're President. But I'm very serious about doing everything I can to make sure that it doesn't go to my head. (Jimmy Carter, and he's done a good job of it)