Friday, January 3, 2014

Follow the Bouncing Tree

This is the sad tale of the bouncing tree. About two weeks ago, I was working in the loft; my husband was working in our basement office. We both heard a loud thunk. Really loud. Really close. We thought something had fallen next door, so Terry went for a walkabout around two houses. He didn't see anything. Nothing on the road. Nothing in the driveways. Nothing new lying on the ground.

"Must have come from across the cove," he said.

A week later I came home from coffee with a friend. I noticed what looked like fresh wood on a tree about 20' up from the water. I started down for a closer look. I'd taken no more than a dozen steps when I realized I needed my camera. The top of a 60' tall tree was missing.

You can see the stumpy top. It's right there in the middle of the pic. A few weeks earlier, this was a proud tree with plenty of leaves. Who knew it was getting ready to jump.

And jump it did. The top took one gigantic bounce. Right on top of the aluminium canoe. Which is no more. My first clue that we had a slightly bigger problem than missing the top of the tree.

Terry and I walked around the mess. The canoe is definitely a goner. Nothing is going to fix it, so to the dump it goes when we feel like loading it on the boat and taking it to the boat ramp. No way am I going to drag the sucker up the hill. Nope. Not going to do it.

So we wondered what happened to the top of the bouncing tree. Seems it launched itself off the canoe, went airborne and ended upright through a corner of the deck at the water's edge. About four boards have to be replaced. Did I say it landed upright? Sorta. It's leaning against the roof
of the boat lift. No damage except a bit of rubble on the roof. I'm really happy the boat lift protected the boat. It could have been much worse, but all we have to do is call the tree removal dude (who has become our neighborhood's best friend) and have him remove the bounced part and the 30' or so that is still standing.

A really careful look at the debris field around the canoe told us the tree had been lying all along about its health. Two very large oval holes where some of our resident Woody Woodpeckers nested were waaay above eyeline. I guess being ecologically friendly has its price. This time was a canoe. Well worth it to provide nesting places for birds.

What did you discover over the holidays?

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Open Door by Keith Martin

Thanks to my friend and fellow writer Keith Martin for permission to share this with my friends on this blog. And thanks to the Roanoke Time for printing it on Aug. 31, 2013. All of you who have children leaving for school know the feelings he shares.

The buttery shafts of sunlight shining through the open bedroom door startled me this morning. It’s been a while, at least eight years — on any regular basis, that is.
This morning was different. The door should be shut. It’s never open this early in the morning, sometimes not until noon.
When I built this house, my wife was pregnant with our first girl. One of the things that sold her on this plan was the elliptical transom windows in the front. It had been my intention to strike the transoms from the plan as a cost savings, but quickly learned that you cannot argue with a nesting woman, particularly if you are married to her. That was 18 years ago.
For the first few years, this was a guest room, the place where Ma Maw stayed when she came to visit, or for out-of-town friends when they came for the weekend.
It stayed a guest room for a few years after little sister was born. They slept in the same bed in the other room, preferring the comfort of each other’s company over the privacy of their own room. Those were the story-telling days. After teeth brushing and prayers, a bedtime story, a kiss on the forehead, nightlight left on and door cracked. All was well in the house.
Once the turf wars began, it was time for each little girl to have her own room. Big sister took over the guest room. It became her domain. Little sister painted her room, just to prove that she didn’t care about being left behind.
For a couple of more years, when I stepped into the hall in the morning I would see that first shaft of sunlight from that elliptical transom spilling into the hallway. Peeking in, I would quietly close the door, then do the same for her sister. A short while later, they both began to shut their doors at night.
Throughout the teenage years, the shut door meant they were home. I could open the door and see them, talk to them, fuss over clutter or just give them a hug.
The open door surprised me this morning; I’m not sure why. We took her to the university two days ago.
There is comfort in a shut door. You know she is in there, safe and secure. The shafts of sunlight were taunting me to call her to see that she was alright. To be sure that we had done the right thing by leaving her in that foreign place called college.
How could we be so stupid? Is she OK? What the hell have I done?
I shook my head to clear it and walked by the open door without looking in. I started to close it, to cut off the offending sunlight, but that didn’t seem right either, so I turned and went to the kitchen.
I contemplated this door situation all day today. Twice, I have gone in there just to reassure myself that she is OK, to see her familiar things. “It’s just college, dammit, she’ll be home in a few weeks.” The words seem hollow. I know things have changed.
She will be coming home, often at first, then less and less. In a couple of years, her sister will follow suit. It is God’s plan.
College, careers, marriage, kids. The cycle will continue. There will be good times and bad, highs and lows. Through it all, there will be love of family, because that is who and what we are.
The sunlight will continue to come through the elliptical transoms each morning, lighting the hallway with memories. I’ll leave the door open so those memories can flood the rest of the house. I’ll relish the times when the door is shut. That means she’s home.
I love you, girls. Be safe.
— Dad

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Comcast Outrage

You read that right. Comcast outrage. And outage too. It's been 13 days since we lost our cable service. And I am NOT happy about it.

We were away for a few days earlier in the month. When we got home, nothing. Snow, static. No signal. Luckily we have an external antenna (remember those?) so we could hook up one set for local stations.

I called Comcast on Tuesday, August 13. A recorded voice said there was an outage in our area (well, like, du-uh) and that service would be restored at 11:22 am on Thursday, August 15. No fooling. A precise time. 11:22 came and went. I called again and every day since.

On Friday, Aug. 16, a customer service rep called me. He said there was an outage in my area. Again, like, du-uh. When I asked what the problem was, he said there was a break in the fiber-optic cable. When will it be fixed? We don't know. Why not? This is his answer: "Aren't most people in your area summer people?"

That's what's caused my outrage. Yes, many are summer people, but Comcast doesn't offer a "summer" rate. It offers a full-priced subscription for an entire year. Comcast hasn't had any difficulty cashing my checks. This "customer service" rep implied that we didn't count, but he did say we'd get a credit for lost service. I don't want a credit. I want the service, crappy as it is, that I'm paying for.  He told me to keep checking the website to keep on top of the problem. Guess what: there's an outage in my area. What am I, stupid or something?

Right now, I'm looking for any alternative, including staying with my antenna and buying more for my other sets. With service like this, I wonder how Comcast stays in business.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Nature on the Rampage

In recent weeks, nature has been on the rampage. Floods. Fires. Tornadoes. Tropical storms. All over the world. I don't know if this is global warming or not. Probably is, but too many don't or won't believe that humans have a role in putting too much pollution into ecosystems. We have a role in seeking a solution, one person at a time.

We are all at fault. We drive our cars when we could take public transportation or walk. We produce too much trash per capita and lament when it has to be trucked or barged out of state when local landfills are overflowing. We create electricity using fossil fuels instead of renewable fuel sources.

The fire season in the U.S. started early this year. Tens of thousands of acres burned, too many houses destroyed, firefighters and civilians dead. It happens every year. When I lived in Southern California, fires were part of life. My canyon didn't burn while I was there, but friends in Malibu Canyon lost property twice. I have dreadful memories of racing down toward the Pacific Ocean on horseback, bareback, leading six terrified horses behind me, just as the fire crested the ridge. We got out safely and met up with other riders and evacuated horses on the sands. We should expect fires out there because nature designed the hills of Southern California to burn. Overpopulation in danger areas, drought, high temperatures, Santa Ana winds--not easy to find a solution, but it will take all of us.

Floods have devastated parts of the central U.S. when the Mississippi flooded. The Army Corps of Engineers manages the river through a series of levies and dikes. Control measures worked to minimize flooding this year. Not so in Canada and India. Calgary is under brown flood waters. Property is destroyed, but few people drowned. Not so in India where a storm slammed against the Himalayas and dumped and dumped and dumped water on hillsides. Flooding today has taken over 1000 lives. We all grieve for those lost and their families who remain. We may not be able to do much about floods. Maybe we can control them better, but who thinks to build levies where you've never had disastrous flooding before, as seems the case in Calgary.

Air pollution, ah, there's something we can do something about. We can drive less. Yes, even you can cluster your trips. You can buy more gas-efficient cars. If you live in a city, try walking or using public transportation. We can encourage our government to invest in alternative energy. Every household that gets its electricity from alternative sources is one more not burning fossil fuels. We can turn off lights. I mean, the coffee pot doesn't give a hoot about what's on television. It isn't watching. Turn off the TV. Unplug your power strips when you go on vacation. You can't imagine how much electricity all your power chargers drain every day.

Recycle. Try to put at least 40% of your trash in recycle bins. If your community doesn't recycle, lobby for it to change its practice. Since we don't systematically process methane from land fills, we mess up the environment twofold. We could reuse methane for fuel across the country. We could recycle. We can compost garbage.

We are to blame. So we need to suck it up and fix the problem, one person at a time. I challenge you to pick one way to help nature and get started.