Saturday, July 14, 2018

Thinking of Dad in the Desert

  It was 114 degrees at the airport in Phoenix when we picked up our rental car and headed up the Interstate toward Flagstaff.  As we drove out into the desert I began to think I was sitting on something wet.  Nope.  Our car had cooled seats!  I had never heard of climate-controlled seats.  What a welcome luxury. 
  Before we left home I had been working pretty intensely on my Dad's book.  As we experienced the hot and barren landscape south of Phoenix, I began to think of the reality of the seven scorching months my dad spent in desert training in WWII.  His training camp was located in the Sonoran Desert just across the Arizona border in southern California.  Dad wrote:

  "This is some place. 2200 ft. above sea level. We’re in the mts. but it is flat and a regular desert up here. We’re living in tents and the closest little town is 26 miles. All around us is nothing but high peaks, desert, and scrub. Everybody hates it. The heat is like a blast furnace. They warned us to watch out for the snakes, scorpions, cactus, and other stuff. No trees or shade or lights, washroom a ½ mile away and all the dust and sand there is.

  We had a twenty mile hike today. It lasted all day. We climbed two mts. It was sandy and rocky going and my shoes are really cut up from all the sharp rocks.  We dug three gun positions in 120 degree heat and last night we were all about dead. I shoveled enough dirt to last me the rest of my life as far as I am concerned. 


 At [the next]  place we dug in and stayed about 16 hrs. We dug from 11:00 at night till about 6:00 the next morning and took turns sleeping and digging the next day. There was a lot of rock or shale and we had to use picks and that’s what took so long.


 Man it’s so hot I can’t see how we stand it. You leave water set out for a few minutes and it’s hot enough to wash dishes in it."

And not even a fan to move that hot air around!


I was riding along, feeling pretty grateful for the cool air conditioning blowing on me and that cool seat when out of the flat and monochromatic land, bright  red cliffs rose up on either side of the road. In the distance was a big, red dome-shaped landform.  After hours of flat brown, we were entering the Red Rock Scenic Byway south of Sedona in the Coconino National Forest. 

Right, a closer look at Bell Rock and Bell Rock Trail, from Courthouse Vista (4900 ft)

  You can see how it got its name -- it looks like a giant red bell melting into the desert.  With the sun and blue sky so intense, the orange-red rocks almost seem to glow.

According to the sign the red rocks are a thick layer of sandstone found only in this area, deposited there (from where, I don't know) in the Paleozoic Era nearly 300 million years ago.  

We continued on our way, stopping often to exclaim over the red rock formations, through the villages of Oak Creek and Sedona, climbing several thousand feet in elevation to Flagstaff where we would be staying the next few nights.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Trip and a Wedding

We are just back from a trip to Arizona.  Our first stop was Flagstaff, for a wedding. 

The last time I was in Flagstaff I was just out of college, visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon about this same time of year, and got a temporary job for a few weeks stopping cars to warn them of the extreme fire danger.  On our day off, we (we being one of the flag girls and any fire fighters who had the same day off) would go 80 miles into "Flag" to replenish our grocery supply and have a restaurant meal.
I wasn't too surprised that Flagstaff had grown by leaps and bounds and looked a lot different than it did 40+ years ago.  
The first road through the territory was built in 1857 - 1860 and traveled by the adventurous headed for California and a few sheep ranchers who settled there among the San Francisco Peaks at about 7000 feet.  By 1882 a new railroad carried a population moving west.  Some disembarked near a flagpole in the desert, made their homes, and named the settlement Flagstaff.  

The men who built the railroad were nicknamed "Gandy dancers" from the Gandy brand of tools they wielded and the rhythmic chants they used to 
to work together.  There is a memorial to the men near the old Flagstaff train depot.  
The town became a wild railroad town, filled with saloons, dance halls, gambling houses, and hotels for the travelers passing through.

The Weatherford Hotel is one of the early hotels still in use.  Its builder arrived in 1886 in a horse and buggy, which he traded for two lots in the new town.  He ran a saloon, then a livery stable, then a "gents' furnishings" store which he later turned into the hotel.

My usual favorite thing about a town -- the art -- was once again my favorite thing.  Lots of well-done murals, the first one below juxtaposing the old and the new:

And the main event!  L to R, brother of groom, groom Spencer, bride Alexis, bride's mother, bride's father - The Writer's brother.  It was a beautiful wedding, outdoors in a flower garden following a rain shower that cooled everything off. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Gee, Thanks, Blogger!

Call this a Public Service Announcement.  I am going to pass on some information from Blogger/Wordpress that has had my stymied for awhile and another fix for a problem from a change that will happen next week.

1. I haven't been able to get email notification on comments on my blog for weeks and the info on the forums and Blogger was no help.  This is from DJan's blog, DJan-ity,
and an easy fix, in case anyone else is having the same problem.  She says:
Open your blog dashboard, that is where the compose button sits and all those buttons are on the left, along with the list of your posts, published and drafts. Go down to Settings and click Email. If you were receiving emails of blog comments, your email address will be there in the box next to 'Comment notification email'. Delete your email address within the the box and at the top right, click 'Save Settings'. It has been suggested that you should close down and restart your computer. Do so if you wish. 
Then, go back to where you were at, Settings/Email and add your email address to the box 'Comment Notification Email' and again click Save Settings.You will receive an email and within the email there are two options. Select 'Subscribe'. Voila, you will now receive an email when someone comments on your blog. It may take a little time to start working though.

2. And I received this this morning from Silver Willow at A Gentle Breeze.  I hope I have forestalled another Blogger problem-to-be.

According to Blogger yesterday, Blogger blogs that don't change their https settings by the end of the month, well, in their words  "Otherwise your blog will no longer work properly in popular web browsers starting next month."

So/but don't worry.  I followed the easy directions, and within 5 minutes all was fixed and working properly.  But I want to explain to you here

1.  how to determine (if you don't know) if you need to do this,
2.  how to fix it if you do need to
3.  what to do if you have a private domain name and need to fix it to.  It's easy.  :)

First, this applies only to Blogger blogs.  But if you have a or .com, you might want to check with them re https settings, if they aren't already set up.

To know if you, as a Blogger user, needs to do this, look at your url line.  Does it start with https?  If so, you must've made the changes Blogger told you to make and didn't ignore then 'x' out of the Admin Panel notice a couple months back.  But if you DON'T see 'https', please follow these directions.  Also, if you have a private domain, please still check the steps below, just to be sure.

1.  Go to your admin panel, and click 'settings' and then 'basic.'  
2.  Scroll down to 'https availability.'  
3.  In the first box, if it says 'no, change it to yes.  Then you will get a notice that it could take a few minutes to activate.  Wait a few minutes-up to five minutes, but it was only a few minutes for me.
4.  when it seems to be done (it will tell you to wait, otherwise), then click the 2nd box 'https redirect' to yes as well.  Once it takes a moment or two, to permanently change to 'yes', you are done.  There were no hiccups for me, and that's it.

Apparently this all has to do with the British or Europe changes taking place, web safety wise, next month, whether you live in that area or not.  So you definitely need to make sure you are set.

It seems like Blogger could do a better job of explaining fixes in plain English (or German. Or Dutch.  Or Urdu).  As explained above, it was easy and quick to do.  And hopefully next month my blog will still work now!  
Sunset last night from the beach last night after an afternoon storm.  

...and a box turtle in the driveway when we got home.

Aren't her colors and markings gorgeous?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

On the Beach

The grandboys were here for a week on their first beach vacation. It was their first time seeing the ocean and they loved everything, but especially ... catching things.  Fish, stingray, starfish, sand fleas for bait, all kinds of crabs, and so on.  

Stingray they caught on their fishing line.

Crabs of all sizes, from hermit to blue
Lots of small sharks (or was it one shark, over and over?)

The big fish (below) comes with a fish TALE.  They woke their dad one morning at 6 to take them fishing.  He helped them set up poles in the surf and left them to go back to the house to get a cup of coffee.  While he was gone, this big red drum hit the line.  These two managed to bring it in it all by themselves!  We had it for dinner and it was amazing!

Peeling shrimp
A Low Country boil: corn on the cob, potatoes, sausage, and shrimp two hours out of the water.  


Anna and Donnie, Pawleys Island

They left for Minnesota yesterday, and I really miss all those sandy hugs and kisses!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


Sunday we took in an exhibit at the Gibbes Museum in Charleston.  The museum itself  is an old Charleston mansion and is across the street from the historic Circular Church pictured below.  
The artist, Radcliffe Bailey, is from Atlanta with deep family roots in the South. The title of the exhibit is "Pensive".  I think it's a very good title because I am still feeling pensive and contemplating the meaning of the pieces.  He describes the exhibit as, "exploring the themes of race, ancestors, and memory," in hopes of "inspiring understanding and healing of history." 
The signature piece of the exhibit is called "Storm at Sea. "

Splintered  piano keys holding an African sculpture and charred-looking ship represent the turbulent waves that tossed a slave ship crossing from Africa to America, and the loss of lives of slaves before setting foot in America.

Entitled "Ebo," the next work depicts the journey of one of Bailey's grandfathers on the Underground Railroad.  Ebo is one pronounciation of Igbo, a tribe of Nigeria, and I guess the masked figure, which seems to be a photograph, is African although it looks Oriental to me.  

The handwoven bag contains raw cotton and a lantern, used to make signals on the Underground Railroad.  I liked the three glass windows.  To me they represent looking into the past, present, and future freedom of Bailey's grandfather.  

The taxidermied alligator on an old canvas tarp was called "On Your Way Up."  The birth and death dates of the artist's grandfathers are embroidered on it in handspun cotton, along with some unknown symbols done in red fiber.  I didn't really "get" this one.  The Writer is writing his comments in a book left there for that purpose.  I should have peeked to see what he said!  
The next piece is the one that most spoke to me and brought tears to my eyes.  On one side a door is painted shiny gold with an elaborate lock and huge, multiple keys, and the other side has peeling old paint and rusty hinges and is hung with shackles made of bottle caps. 

It's called "Fourth Ward," which was is  an historic area of Houston for African American life in the early half of the 20th century.  I think the door represents another kind of freedom, the break out of segregation.  The Black night clubs of the Fourth Ward with jazz music and dancing drew whites in.  The bottle caps represent the role of the night clubs bringing the races together, a step into the end of segregation.  The door itself came from a house in the "projects" of the Fourth Ward.  

The interpretations of the pieces are solely my own, I'm sharing only what the art says to me.  But then, that is the fun of good art, isn't it! 

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Cats of Georgetown

There is a problem here with homeless cats. On one side of the problem are the dumpers and on the other side, the rescuers.  

Even though it is illegal, people abandon cats everywhere.  There's a big warning sign at this popular dumping place -- the road to the old abandoned bridge that is a favorite fishing spot.  Other favorite spots for dumping are the Walmart parking lot and the docks where the shrimp boats come in. 

I don't understand people.  There are three rescue groups within two or three miles of that sign where cats are accepted and cared for.

Saint Francis is a no-kill shelter right in town, endowed by a caring lady back in the 1980s.  The other day when we stopped by for Bob's flea and heartworm pills we got there at breakfast time for some of the outdoor crew.  

The parking lot has far more cats than cars! 

There are far too many cats to house them all inside.  Arrivals are given shots, spayed or neutered, and allowed to decide if they want to live in one of the many little shelters or the woods.  Some cats, those that are sick and injured or under treatment by the vet, do stay in the facility in cages for awhile.

I'm not allowed to come here alone.  

I'd come home with a carload of cats!  😍😍😍😍
Who could resist?

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Decoration Day

The first Decoration Day came about in the U.S. after the Civil War.  With the deaths of some 600,000 soldiers, 600,000 new graves scarring the countryside, families needed an official moment to honor the dead, to grieve in concert, to consecrate the sacrifice. When I was growing up there were no war dead in our family -- lucky us -- so on Decoration Day it was our duty to accompany my grandma and flowers to the cemetery to decorate all the family graves.  

The flowers came from Gram's yard.  Real flowers.  Homegrown flowers in Mason jars.  (Artificial flowers would have sacriligious to her, an abomination.) We brought peonies and lilac boughs that filled the car with the heady perfume of spring and resurrected  life. 

Grandpa drove, parked the car, and waited.  Gram, Mom and my aunt, my sister and I, would visit each grave, the resting place of Gram's brothers, her mother, her father, her first husband.  Sometimes things would have changed a bit and there were false starts and discussions of missing landmarks, but eventually each grave would be found.  

To visit meant to pull weeds, brush off the flat stone with tender, loving fingers, find a water spigot, and arrange the flowers in a metal vase stuck in the ground by the grave. Bouquets delivered, our little group of the living would hunt for the graves of more distant family, friends, and neighbors.

The saddest and most frightening was the grave of my cousin, Buddy, who died as a toddler and whose death my great aunt never seemed to come to terms with.  The marker, half-buried in the grass, was a stone lamb.  I was anxious to move on: if Buddy could die and be in a box under the ground, what was different about me?  

At each grave, we paused to remark on whether or not so-and-so's family had brought flowers yet and how lovely they were.  Gram would remind us who each person was in the family lore and my mom or aunt would sometimes tell a story, proffer a little memory for us to keep.  It was a small repertoire of stories and after a few years' repetition, they were firmly a part of us, my sister and me, too.  

I haven't returned to the cemetery to leave flowers since I left home nearly 50 years ago, except on the day my grandma was buried there.  We are all scattered now, across states and countries.  Not a single one lives near, so there is no one to brush the dust from the graves, no flowers to show that the person under the stone is loved and remembered. 

I like to think their spirits have followed me here, that I can make the offering of loving memory with a bouquet of hydrangeas and roses on the mantel. I carry them in my heart no matter where I am, as long as I have this memory of tending their graves with Gram on Decoration Day.