Those Birds

Almost magical is the bachelor’s night song from high in a tree

Then the lilting symphony of morning trills as

He and his new-found love pipe forth to

Awaken the brilliant mountainside dawn.

Those talented Northern Mockingbirds.

HsFin (1 of 1)
House Finch male

 

Late afternoons in the dry, cracking heat of summer

As the faltering breeze dessicates all in the desert

I hear scratchy hooting that sounds like a hoarse owl

When no self-respecting owl is out.

Those blue eye-shadowed White-winged Doves.

 

WCSp
White-crowned Sparrow

Mother called us to the window, Come quietly, she’d say

Listen. Can you hear that piercing high trill of notes?

They are busy little moms, feeding their young

All day long, they are. Watch for their flitting.

Those tiny little Jenny Wrens.

 

In a winter blanketed by a sudden snow the bushes sometimes

Come alive with the chick-chick-chick-chick-dee-dee-dee

Sounds of hordes of winter winged acrobats

Who dart and flutter among the frozen red holly berries.

Those lightning-fast Black-capped Chickadees.

 

And on those lazy summer afternoons as the sun lingers late

In its low-angled final stretch of western sky, we hear

The clarion call of cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheer up from the pine trees

That signal night is falling, time to rest.

Those loveable American Robins.

© October 3, 2017 by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.

 

 

I love the wisdom of Rumi:

Oh, bird of my soul, fly away now,

For I possess a hundred fortified towers.

And then, Victor Hugo:

Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.

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“Creed”: Thoughts too good to hide

I love this poem by Adrian Plass — “Creed” — put to music in the wonderful “City of Gold” soundtrack. Enjoy!

I cannot say my creed in words.
How should I spell
despair, excitement, joy and grief?
amazement, anger, certainty and
unbelief?

What was the grammar of those sleepless nights?
Who the subject? What the object? –
of a friend who will not come,
or does not come,
and then
creates his own eccentric special dawn:
A blinding light that does not blind.

Why do I find you in the secret,
wordless places where I hide
from your eternal light?
I hate you.
I love you.
I miss you.
I wish that you would go
and yet I know that long ago
you made a fairy tale for me

About the day when you would take your sword
and battle through the thicket of the things I have become.

Your kiss to life…my Sleeping Beauty
waiting for her Prince to come.

Then I will wake
and look into your eyes
and understand.
And for the first time
I will not be dumb
and I shall
say my creed
in words.

Carpe diem. Life is eternal.

Different Dances

Dancing is an activity enjoyed around the world. And for the dances of the world, diversity is a descriptor that springs to mind. The word “diversity” is a noun that denotes or means the state of being diverse; variety.” The connotation for that word these days, especially in the press, is narrowly limited to trigger points of ethnicity, gender, race, political and sexual preferences. But the broader connotation of “variety” is much more helpful.

When I think about diversity, friends and family come to mind. In my immediate family, there are physical characteristics that mark us as being kin, yet the talents, interests and outlooks represented are much broader. And although my extended family and friends include racial and ethnic diversity, the differences that bind us together go way beyond that.

JTK-4Take a look at this photo of 1st graders at a Fall school festival and think of the amazing range of talents, sizes, skills, experiences and families represented in the group. The kids in the class were circled, singing and cheering in their face-paint and flower garlands. There were high voices and low voices, some with obvious musical talent and others who seemed to be tone-deaf or, at least, equipped with ears untrained to distinguish various pitches.  Some exuberant, others shy and tentative. Some were clearly leaders who will likely mature into leadership positions in life. Others will become artists, mathematicians or scientists, business leaders, teachers, engineers, etc.

Narrow the group to two individuals with very different personalities who, nonetheless, are very close friends. Who knows what they may someday be and do? JTK-6Both of equal human value, both with definite inclinations and abilities that already show, yet both accepting and ENJOYING each other. That’s how friendship works.

Break it down to an individual level, and one may begin to see the potentials represented in each small human. Or do we really only see the tip of an iceberg that gives small hints of reality yet to be? There’s much yet to be discovered about individual personalities, talents, interests and development.

JTK-7Diversity is a wonderful — and wondrous  — consideration that goes way beyond the dumbed-down concentration on the physical traits of gender and skin color. We cannot begin to fathom the range of differences that each child or person brings to the table until we get beyond the surface and spend lots of quality time in interaction with, and appreciation of, each person’s unique gifts, qualities, thought patterns, physical and mental skills, emotional makeup, and preferences in an infinite number of realms and qualities. How do they see their way to meaning in life? What do they like to do most? Least? What do they like? Aspirations? The list goes on and on.  JTK-8

I think about so many amazing people I’ve met in life — children, school friends, neighbors, colleagues at work, artists and musicians, politicians, clients, students, professors and teachers, and family members — with such a huge array of differences, yet all enjoying and, more importantly, CONTRIBUTING to make life and the world a better place to live.

Here’s to my friends and family who make my world a better place each day; who challenge me to change for the better, to be a better friend and family member, to offer what I can offer to the world without hesitation, knowing that I am enhanced by the sharpening effect of those around me. THANK YOU!

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© September 25, 2017, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.

Leaning

So much to say
Why shouldn’t I say it?
Things need to be said
Why not leave them alone?
Things sure need doing
But I don’t want, can’t do them
That thing should be done
Why not go it alone?
Have skills to do it
But never enough, see?
By gosh, I’ll not do it
But who, if not me?
Fact is, I’m some nice
‘Cept when I’m selfish
And I could sacrifice
‘Til it feels self-defeatish
So where now, what’s up?
What if I leave it alone?
If I avoid the pain
And skedaddle on home?
© July 18, 2017, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.

Rough Road in Cochise Country

A cold, wet wind swooped in, so I took flight eastward on horseback through the valleys, up across hillsides thick with low forests broken by patches of native range grasses, down washes and draws and into country once “owned” by the Chiricahua Apache. No land deeds necessary, physical dominance sufficed then. Cochise, Geronimo and Mangas Coloradas — who gave mortal hell to the U.S. Army in over a decade of raids and warfare to defend their traditional lands – leaders in the Apache Wars of 1861-1872.  Another angle of view of southeast Arizona.

The horseback was only in my mind. Mid-February had found me wanting a new view. My Lovely was away in Washington, the Phoenix metroplex was tiresome. Then two near-perfect days watching birds at Patagonia Lake ended abruptly with rain and high winds. But I had spotted and shot several firsts in my bird photo collection, including –

Red-naped Sapsucker (Yep! They really do “suck” sap. Look it up); Ladderback Woodpecker; Gilded Flicker; Vermilion Flycatcher (what a showy fellow!); White-throated Sparrow; Pyrrhuloxia; and White-winged Dove. And there was a huge plague (official label) of Great-tailed Grackles.

Birds may not like storms any more than humans do, but I reckon they don’t complain about it. (Due to the wind, these photos are a bit blurry.)

As said, I lit out for the remote Cochise County, Arizona’s extreme southeast corner. Stopped first, though, in the funky-but-literary town of Patagonia for coffee and a quick browse at their public library, which I’d visited before and found good local color – old-timers spinning out verbal yarns real-time. No disappointment this time, either. Walked away from listening to some fun conversations after a bit and passed a lot of western nostalgia along the road.

The 30-mile stretch of Highway 83 to Parker Canyon Lake from the wide-spot town of Sonoita doesn’t earn the “highway” designation. It’s a contorted, climbing, plunging and primitive route that cuts secretively into the rolling mountains as if trying to escape. Only a slight departure from that time in history when roads often snaked through ranchland and farmland in 90-degree turns made along owners’ boundaries to avoid bisecting a rancher’s or farmer’s grazing lands. “Hit weren’t allowed.”

Antiq-2
A time almost gone.

Sliding through a funnel, narrower and still narrower, mile on mile, the pavement was mostly free of markings – just choppy, tooth-rattling surface through beautiful steep-rolling foothills, grasslands and forests of juniper, manzanita and scrub oak with a spreading habit like live oak. A refreshing departure from the desert terrain of most of Arizona. In winter months like February, the grass stands golden at about two feet high, thick and swaying with the winds … unless covered by snow.

Deer bolted across the road in front and then stopped to stare as I passed. Their coats had an almost sage green hue – either my imagination or their adaptation to local habitat with lots of rocks and lichens of similar hue and the Hairy-seed Bahia, Common Mullein and Desert Marigold plants that abound.

I got there about an hour before dusk. Parker Canyon Lake, Cochise County, about 10 miles north of the border with the State of Sonora, Mexico. Heavy clouds got there first and soaked the place, and rain was still pelting down with a vengeance. Finding the most remote site, I began dinner prep as thick, falling snowflakes caught my attention out the window. No worry. Forecast was for temps hovering at 42, even at this elevation of 5,375 feet, so I dug in to my meal like a ravenous wolf. Only, I had a glass of good red wine.

Inclement weather can cause one to default to a too-rare solitude. There’s a reprieve from “city campers” who in good weather shift their urban way of life to lakeside with electronic gadgets, dogs and noise that spoil the serenity of remoteness. As dark fell, I shortly fell soundly asleep in the Coronado National Forest south of the Dragoon Mountains (where Cochise hid with his warriors) and west of the Chiricahua Range that borders with New Mexico. The stormy night was so dark that I could scarcely see my hand in front of my face. No stars, no outdoor lighting. Perfect for camping.

* * * * *

On the way out next morning, I happened upon a Border Patrol officer sitting off to one side of a 90-degree turn. I remembered the highway signs I’d seen on the way in an afternoon earlier, about every three miles — “Caution: Rough road next 4 miles” — and just before I’d run out of rough road, another such forecast appeared. Exaggeration, but not by much. The rutted washboard macadam could beat a vehicle and its driver to premature death.

But since morning traffic was nil (same as afternoon), I stopped in the middle of the narrow road and opened my driver’s window. The officer took the cue and rolled down his.

“Hey,” I smiled, “you may want to tell the ADOT folks they’d save a lot of money on highway signs if they just put up signs that say, ‘Watch out, smooth road surface for two miles ahead.’ They’d have to make and maintain a lot FEWER signs!”

He gave an exuberant thumbs-up and “Great idea! Have a great day, sir!” Big smile back. Folks in the countryside are relaxed, independent attitude notwithstanding. Most of Arizona is welcoming. The first smile is easy to come by, and if you return it freely, you’re welcomed back.

Then, in another 90-degree turn, I dropped into another time warp. A roadside sandwich sign absent the day before told of a Sunday rodeo at the Canelo Cowboy Church.

A cold morning mist stung the face, bad enough weather to keep a lot of city churchgoers at home. But hardy ranch kids, girls and boys, were out with parents in well-worn western gear complete with spurs and chaps, riding steers and broncs out of the chute for time and competing in goat-tying contests. The simple, physically-challenging fun of rural life exceeds the wildest imagination of urban indoor electro-kids. I found a pullout, hiked back along the road and took some shots of the folks having Sunday fun being bucked off faunching animals poked with hotshots while clowns in ridiculous attire cavorted all round the enraged animals. Pretty easy to classify those folks within Will Rogers’ humorous depiction:

There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. ~ Will Rogers

Sometimes those forgotten, back-corner, out-of-the-way places of life deliver wonderful unexpected entertainment – the refreshment we need.

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© May 6, 2017, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.

A Steadying Hand

“His mind had no horizons. He was interested in everything.” ~ John Steinbeck, About Ed Ricketts

In response to my expressed hope of remaining healthy for years to come, a friend remarked, “And relevant!” He’s about my age, and we share both desires. Conversation followed among a group of longtime friends whose company we particularly enjoy, not only for the joie de vivre that accompanies, but also the far-ranging topics, by turns dead-serious and lighthearted, sometimes simultaneously and always at length.

I was immediately transported in mind to another of John Steinbeck’s eloquent descriptions of his good friend, Ed Ricketts, marine biologist. He put it like this:

“Although his creativeness lay in receiving, that does not mean that he kept things as property. When you had something from him, it was not something that was his that he tore away from himself. When you had a thought from him or a piece of music or twenty dollars or a steak dinner, it was not his – it was yours already, and his was only the head and hand that steadied it in position toward you. For this reason no one was ever cut off from him. Association with him was deep participation with him, never competition. hdbd-1

“I wish we could all be so. If we could learn even a little to like ourselves, maybe our cruelties and angers might melt away. Maybe we would not have to hurt one another just to keep our ego-chins above water.

“There it is. That’s all I can set down about Ed Ricketts. …”

Marine biologist Ed Flanders Robb Ricketts the man, as known by John Steinbeck. My sense is that “relevant” applied to Ricketts’ life.

From About Ed Ricketts by John Steinbeck, apparently published in the early 1950s as a bio-preface to The Log from the Sea of Cortez.

efrw-humboldt-squid
Ricketts holding a Humboldt Squid

   See also http://www.carmelmagazine.com/archive/13wi/ricketts.shtml

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© January 19, 2017, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights to my original work reserved.

Can We Talk?…

I am reflecting yet again on the kindness that all of you, my friends, show day to day in your comments on my Facebook posts. Your support, encouragement, your patience and even your challenges sharpen my thinking and attitudes. How could anyone ask more of friendship?

“Social media can be criticized …, but … it enhances freedom and democracy. It puts the 4th Estate* in the hands of the people.”

As I look back over the last year and forward into the full length of this new one, I am struck by what one of my friends, West Doss, articulated so well a few days back. He said, “Social media can be criticized in certain areas, but there is no doubt that it enhances freedom and democracy. It puts the 4th Estate* in the hands of the people.” Great point, as I will show in the next few, short paragraphs. talk-5

2016 was full of surprises and changes some of us could not have imagined before now. The mainstream press was outed as purveyors of “fake news,” half-baked truths and outright lies in their efforts to influence the 2016 election. Many things that should have been reported to the public were not, many things that were relatively un-newsworthy were reported and discussed ad nauseum. But I digress – back to the Internet.

The worldwide web, including social media, is an important channel for all sorts of stories to be ferreted out and reported informally. Even if they’re misreported or fabricated (both inevitable, given the wide range of freedom), the fact that tons of stories and commentary get out means that newsworthy stories will be researched by diligent folks, “commoners” if you will, who will ultimately suss out the truth. By this route, everyone is free to find out the truth without the spin, and without dependency upon a corrupted press. So as West said, we individually become owners of the Fourth Estate.

***

Now turn the corner with me. Today’s January 17, and three respected friends, all of whom I appreciate, have challenged me in one way or other to “move on” from presidential politics because the election is over. Meanwhile, last week I posted short snippets on the about-to-expire presidency of Obama, including concurrent comments on his Chicago farewell speech. One friend characterized my comments as “full of hate” because I took Obama’s remarks to task with facts. I am “hateful” because I question bald assertions made on national TV with facts?!  Is there nothing — not anything — to be learned  from a close-hand review of a presidency about to end?

Another friend said this in response to my post of the Harvard University chart-analysis of Barack Obama’s “economic recovery”:  “It is time to stop looking through a pinhole. We need to swing the door wide open, look farther back and at the same time farther into the future.” Exactly what does that mean — “farther back and farther into the future” — that he’s frustrated because his candidate lost? Looking through a pinhole?  Arguably, that’s all it would take to see the whole of Barack Obama’s positive achievements in the White House, but why should we stop talking about the lessons of his eight years?

We seem these days to have lost the ability, the clarity of mind, to argue politics outside of emotions — i.e., feelings are all that matter. But why are feelings so important, so relevant, when we ignore facts? How is it possible that how one feels becomes more important than actual facts? So one’s feelings about his political party of choice having lost a national election becomes a reason to shut down discussion of an outgoing president’s record in office.

Interestingly, historians and writers still study the working histories of the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman et al. Take the writings of Amity Shlaes, a Yale scholar and contemporary author of four non-fiction books, three of which have been New York Times Bestsellers. Of the three, one was about the Great Depression and the New Deal, one about the history of taxes in America, and the third (publ. 2013) was about President Calvin Coolidge.

Talk about “pinholes!”  What could be more boring and out-of-date than looking anew at the presidency of Calvin Coolidge (August 2, 1923 – March 4, 1929)?  Unless, of course, one wants actually to learn something about the man who, upon the death of Warren G. Harding, succeeded to the presidency and restored confidence to the office. Hmmm. talk-6

In summary, each of us has different gifts, talents, points of view, interests, political and social values – and even our own share of biases. Why do I personally write about politics? Why do I post opinions and information gleaned from a variety of sources? Why can’t I “just be a positive good ol’ boy” and stick to posting humor, photographs and what I’m eating tonight?

BECAUSE … I have a vital interest in our nation, our politics, our culture, our future. I like to share, to DISCUSS facts, to hear feedback from varying viewpoints. I love to consider the views of others, but I also appreciate and enjoy the right of all of us to see things differently, to approach matters from a different angle, to engage and chew on the stuff offered by others before reaching conclusions. I urge us as a nation to return toward that model.

That’s the way the cookie crumbles in a free land. Long live that freedom!

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© January 17, 2017, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights to my original work reserved.

*  The Fourth Estate (or fourth power) most commonly refers to the news media, especially print journalism or “the press.” ~ Wikipedia and Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Wanna Play?

“Three and your toll!  Three and your toll!” said the crier. A nearby competitor offered only two.

marbles_akro-agates-1920-1951
Akro agates, mfd. 1920-1951

“Quick decision, assess carefully,” said your mind. “Lookit how small and shallow the hole is, its slanted sides, number of trenches protecting its perimeter, and how far back the lagging line is.” Skill and derring-do matter, but no more than luck. “Can I do it? Am I good enough? Do I have enough marbles to risk? Can I win more easily at the hole with less reward?”

Ah, the fast-paced child’s game of “lagging” with marbles, and always the go-to at recess. Quick game, quickest way to build up a marble collection – or deplete it. A pretty simple game that nonetheless required some skill and confidence. One enterprising boy would dig a small, cup-sized hole and then offer rewards to those who pitted their skill against his construction. If your marble – your “toll” – tossed from a specific line some paces away (typically 5-10 feet away), rolled into and stayed in the hole, you’d win what he offered – three marbles plus your toll back. He kept everything that missed. So if it took you 15 marbles to find your range, then you needed to hit the jackpot, so to speak, five times in order to break even.  Gambling?

Refinements to the lagging hole included making it smaller — or larger and much shallower — with gentle sides, cutting little trenches in front and alongside the hole as barriers, and trash-talking the participant about his lack of skill.

Girls weren’t prohibited, but I don’t remember any in our elementary school or neighborhood ever playing. Knew better than to sully themselves with rowdy boys’ silly games? You decide.

“Marbles,” the generic category. Ringers, chase, lagging – some of the games; steelies (shiny ball bearings), cateyes, agates and log rollers (over-sized marbles), the tools of art.

marbles-cateyes
Cateyes of the ’50s

Hours and hours spent on knees, wearing holes in our jeans and eventually sporting sewn-on (early days) and then iron-on patches (modern contrivances) over those holes to extend the life of the jeans. And ALWAYS a well-worn bare spot in the front yard of at least one boy’s house in the neighborhood, evidence of serious addiction.

Grimy, earth-stained knuckles on the back of the shooting hand and bulging jeans pockets were also clues of advanced involvement. We’d show up with front pockets loaded with marbles at school (or church, if parents were permissive — or unaware), ready to play before, at recess and lunch, and after. Dare not let them escape your pocket during class or church, though!  In the days of wooden floors in sanctuaries and classrooms, official confiscation was immediate and sure, along with corporal punishment and a note home — guaranteed.

Players’ rules were atop the pecking order in all marble games, though they varied from yard to yard, neighborhood to neighborhood, school to school, even day-to-day, and were based on the players’ skills and previous experience, plus their acquired knowledge of the other players’ reputations. So agreeing on “the rules” usually involved lots of haggling and protests of “not fair,” but if you wanted to play the game, you had to go by the rules, SOMEONE’S rules. If you didn’t like those rules, better use your powers of persuasion to enlist enough guys to start a new game with the critical mass necessary for fun. Not unlike the “game” of business and life in general, come to find out.

Common rules included “liners are inners” (or “outers,” alternatively), “no steelies allowed” and “no slippies!” So many times, a boy would poise to shoot, only to have the marble slip and trickle out without any force. If you hadn’t called “no slippies” before the game, then he’d yell “slippies!” and would get another chance at the shot.

Playing “chase” was a way for two or more kids to have fun with marbles. Just shoot your marble off the line and then pursue the other players’ marbles through the grass and dirt. If you were good enough or lucky enough to hit someone else’s marble with your shot, it was “captured’ and you were its new owner.

marbles_concentration_rocco-morabito
Morabito, Rocco. Concentration, a young boy playing marbles – Jacksonville, Florida, 1961. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

Transportation of one’s marble stash was an issue to be reckoned with. With jeans pockets maxed out, the serious marble player found a sack or bag of some sort to tote his treasure. I remember graduating to a canvas bank bag, olive-drab in color, that had a drawstring top, courtesy of First National Bank of Fort Smith. My initials were scrawled by my hand in ink on the top. Large enough to hold about a quart in volume, the bag was originally made to carry coins from business to bank. But ideal, in a kid’s marble world, for toting the rewards of play.

“Ringers” was the game of choice in my circle of friends. We started by scratching out a large circle in the dirt with a stick.  Then each boy would have to drop in the agreed ante in marbles all at once, letting them fall where they would. If they stayed in the circle, they were fair game, but if they fell outside the circle, you had to re-drop them inside. When all players anteed up, the shooting began based upon a predetermined order reached by a separate competition like lagging to see who got closest to another line scratched in the dirt, or odd-manning by drawing straws, flipping a coin, or rock-paper-scissors.

The object: by firing his shooting marble, fixed between thumb and forefinger, from anywhere along the outside of the ring, the player attempted to knock all the marbles out of the ring, one at a time. No “fudging” was allowed –no sneaking your hand slightly into the circle to gain an unfair advantage – and if you fudged, you lost your turn. As long as you knocked a marble out, you got to keep shooting until you missed. And if your shooting marble stuck inside the ring when you knocked another out, you gained the advantage of being closer to your target. We all hoped to “stick,” and certain marbles were believed to have greater stick-ability. If you had a “sticker” and the skill to use it well, you could fill up your marble sack pretty quickly. Your sticker became your “doogie” (not the same definition as the modern Urban Dictionary). Hence, we sometimes invited play by saying, “Hey, wanna shoot some doogies?”

If you missed your shot, the next person in order would shoot, and so on until all the marbles were knocked out of the ring. Any marbles you knocked out became yours, so the object was to “go for all the marbles.”

marbles_by-star1950-on-flickr
Marbles by star1950 on Flickr

All sorts of shooting innovations were imagined and tried, always causing a proliferation of new rules designed to counter them in the next game. One such invention was to stack your shooting hand on top of your non-shooting hand elevated off the ground in spider fashion, in order to be able to shoot downward at a sharp angle with the hope of being more likely to stick in the ring. It didn’t take long for prohibitions like “no steelies” to preempt those who wanted to use shiny ball-bearings as shooters because of their extra heft and durability.

Other difficulties could be introduced through making larger rings (thus requiring harder, better shooting) and putting various trenches inside the circle to deflect shots. But if you created a circle like that, you usually weren’t going to have very many players for very long.

Child-play without electronics, … back in the good ol’ days. Get some kids in the great outdoors today, and they’ll still invent games to engage each other. Just sit back and watch the fun as they “go for all the marbles,” then consider a big reduction in screen time — yours and theirs. Just sayin’ …!

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© December 7, 2016, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights to my original work reserved.

If I Had a Ship

There’s always a reversionary dimension to our lives, isn’t there?  You surely know those times when fond memories or vivid nightmares come stumbling back from the deep recesses of heart and mind, sometimes called up by the slightest word or sight – things that maybe you haven’t thought about in decades, right?

Living lately on the Seattle shore, where I take daily rambles along the active waterfront, often under threatening banks of clouds, past marinas and fishing docks dense with working and pleasure watercraft of all sizes, descriptions, purposes and levels of maintenance, and the varying humans and dogs that populate them, I enjoy observing some of the endless detail that sets the boats and their masters and animals apart from each other. Small sailboats and large sailing yachts, catamarans, power yachts and commercial fishing rigs, runabouts, dinghies and dories, rowboats and kayaks. Paint colors, material textures, manners, languages, relationships to others around, big scruffy dogs and small, manicured and coifed lap dogs, all are part of the mix.

slbt-2
Last stop before heading out to sea.

Some of the details come and go quickly, while others stick and draw my thoughts again and again, even prompting re-visits for a second or third look. Reasons aren’t always immediate apparent to me.

bt-4

Take, for instance, this boat (larger one, and that’s her in the header photo). The yellow “for sale” sign caught my eye, but only secondarily. Her sleek lines and curves, her air of utter competence, those were the magnets. Up close, she looked fit for challenging seas, and I was so curiously taken by her that I contacted my seaman brother-in-law, a man with years of sailing experience and a professional captain’s license under his belt. Just to learn, mind you. Didn’t even have her make or model, just her photo and a guess that she’d be a 40-footer or so. Love at first sight!

He advised she’s a Wallace yacht, no longer in manufacture but one of the better makes out there, up near the top of the chart on price, too, depending on equipment and size/class. I dreamt, strains of a familiar old song from my teen years coming front and center, carried by The Kingston Trio, 1965, “Stay Awhile” album.

Stroll down by the sea

Take a stroll down by the bay

Sit and ponder the endless waves

If I had a ship, I’d sail away

(Chorus):

If I had a ship, I’d sail away

If I had a ship, I’d sail away

Leave my sorrows where they lay

If I had a ship, I’d sail away

Stroll down by the sea

Where the windsongs softly play

Lean my back on a driftwood tree

If I had a ship, I’d sail away

Stroll down by the sea

Stand beside her misty spray

Though I know ’twill never be

If I had a ship, I’d sail away

Songwriter: MASON WILLIAMS, one of my faves of the ‘60s and ‘70s; think “Classical Gas,” “Baroque-A-Nova,” “$13 Stella,” “Long Time Blues,” et al.

bts-3I’m afraid seagoing is not in my future, much as I enjoy dreaming about it. Past experience sailing on a large lake in a serious storm reminds that I don’t do well in rough seas. “If you can’t run with the big dogs, better stay on the porch.”

But if I had a ship ….

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© December 1, 2016, by Michael E. Stubblefield and StubblefieldImages. All rights reserved.

Friday Farrago: A Peek Behind

Just now returned from a disappointing nighttime photo escapade into the mountains to “film” this year’s version of the Perseid Meteor shower.  More like a slow-dripping faucet than a shower. Skies were clear, but stars were so brightly abundant that the occasional meteor was, as old-timers used to say, “a flash in the pan.” Non-event.

But as the morning broke, I did capture a working ranch windmill that set the tone for the day. And in a few hours, I’ll be off to the first full day of the 29th Annual Cowboy Poets Gathering. Oughta be fun! WM-1

Bird Feed. Outside early yesterday morning to accomplish chores left by the previous night’s monsoon storm,  I was chastised fiercely by a Canyon Towhee on the ground near the gate to the backyard where the bird feeder sits, apparently because I was late with feed.  When I turned and saw her, I said, “Okay, okay, I’ll be there in a minute.” She then hopped – as if leading me – through the slats in the gate and down the breezeway.  LARGE AND IN CHARGE! This same bird, three months ago, would barely appear at all if I was in sight. She’s moved up in the world!

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Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.  ~  Lord Acton, English historian & writer

Cycling Reflections: An Amazing Woman  

Ran across an old magazine today, vintage February 2006, while clearing some boxes. We lived in Ventura County, California at that time, having moved there from central California’s San Joaquin Valley and the nearby Sierras, where I rode (usually a distant last place) with an amazing bunch of young cyclists, several of whom were competitors in stage or criterium races on the Master’s circuit. All of them were guys. But there was one rider who occasionally joined us – but only for short distances – because, after some lively, good-natured conversation, she would leave the rest of us standing in her dust, ESPECIALLY on mountain climbs. She was SO GOOD she blew all of us away, always smiling and waving as she lept on the pedals and accelerated out of sight. CB-1

I tried to keep up with her in the news afterward because she – Catharina Berge, the “Bumble Bee” – was so exceptional, so spirited, so strong and talented and, above all, so dedicated to the sport.  With multiple degrees including a Ph.D. in preventive veterinary medicine, she grew up in Sweden and Belgium, took her DVM degrees in California, and is now back in Belgium practicing, where she also coaches ultra-cyclists. During her racing days, she set several national or international records. You can read more about her on her website:   http://www.bergevetconsulting.com/ultra-cyclist.html

More reflections:  For a fun trip back down the Yellow Brick Road, try these gut-buster excerpts from “Dave Barry’s year in review: 2009,” The Miami Herald, Dec. 26, 2009:

“January, … during which history is made in Washington, D.C., where a crowd estimated by the Congressional Estimating Office at 217 billion people gathers to watch Barack Obama be inaugurated as the first American president ever to come after George W. Bush. … President Obama then delivers an upbeat inaugural address, ushering in a new era of cooperation, civility and bipartisanship in a galaxy far, far away. Here on Earth everything stays much the same.”

“The No. 1 item on the agenda is fixing the economy, so the new administration immediately sets about the daunting task of trying to nominate somebody – anybody – to a high-level government post who actually remembered to pay his or her taxes. BG-2 Among those who forgot this pesky chore is Obama’s nominee for Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, who sheepishly admits that he failed to pay $35,000 in federal self-employment taxes. He says that the error was a result of his using TurboTax, which he also blames for his involvement in an eight-state spree of bank robberies. He is confirmed after the Obama administration explains that it inherited the U.S. Tax Code from the Bush administration.”

“February. The Academy Awards are a triumph for Slumdog Millionaire, which wins eight Oscars, only to have them stolen by Somali pirates.”

“The stock market hits its lowest level since 1997; this is hailed as a great investment opportunity by all the financial wizards who failed to let us know last year that the market was going to tank. California goes bankrupt and is forced to raise $800 million by pawning Angelina Jolie.

“April.  In another embarrassment for the White House, New York is temporarily thrown into a panic when Air Force One flies low over Manhattan for a publicity photo shoot. Responding to widespread criticism, White House Press Spokesperson Gibbs notes that President Obama inherited Air Force One from the Bush administration.”

“In other international bad news, North Korea launches a test missile that experts say is capable of hitting Hawaii, based on the fact that it actually hits Hawaii. The United States swiftly pledges to issue a strongly-worded condemnation containing ‘even stronger words than last time.’”

“October. On a happier note for the White House, President Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize, narrowly edging out Beyoncé.” BOBG-1
“November.  In a troubling economic development, the U.S. dollar, for the first time in history, falls below the lentil.”

“December. President Obama, after weeks of pondering what to do about the pesky war situation he inherited, announces a decision … in which he will send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, but will name their mission Operation Gentle Butterfly.”

“In sports, roughly 40 percent of the U.S. bimbo population announces that it has at one time or another hiked the Appalachian Trail with Tiger Woods.”

Ain’t Life Grand?!

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© August 12. 2016, Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights to my original work reserved.