29 March 2011

A second look

Oh, it was such a busy morning.  Sun to enjoy, squirrels to keep out of the yard and those wonderful stump holes to explore.  But, it began to cloud up shortly after lunch. 

Then came the promised bath.  Now, the name "Whitby" and the term "strictest supervision" are synonymous. 

Some dogs ...

Three days of rain and having to stay inside was more than Whitby could stand.  When this morning dawned clear and cold he and Belle went outside after their breakfast and snooped around the yard for a long, long time.  Tal decided to investigate and this is what he found!

A very dirty, but extremely happy, dog.  His entire body looks like his face.

Our weeks working in the pine grove have revealed numerous deep holes -- left when a pine tree died or was cut and the stump rotted over the years.  Both dogs love finding them and upending themselves in them.  Precisely what Whitby did this morning.  An activity made even more glorious by the recent rain.

I started to give Whitby a bath immediately.  But, since Tal's going to work outside today while I do inside tasks, we decided waiting would be a good thing. 

A bath is not hard; we have a deep utility sink in the laundry room.  The real trick will be keeping Whitby from shaking while still wearing muddy bubbles.  He does that and the entire room -- and I -- will look like he does in the photograph.

28 March 2011

A mere four degrees

We enjoyed our third day of rain.  Averaging a inch a day.  Late this afternoon we ventured out for a walk on the promenade to find the path along the pond pretty nearly under water. 

In addition to the precipiation the temperature was stuck on fairly miserable, the low over night having been 42 degrees and the high only 46.  Spring seems to be hiding from us.

Whitby, looking back, seems to be saying that it's OK for us to proceed
on the narrowed promenade.

27 March 2011

Choices to make

I've not written in several days. It's not that there was nothing to write.  Too much is more like it.  Too much to write and a distinct lack of motivation.

My sister-in-law observed years ago that when she had three major things going in her life she could handle two fairly well.  The third pretty much had to suffer along on its own.  At least temporarily.  Until one of the other two took its place.  Again, temporarily.  Relationships, work, material responsibilities.  Spouse, children, home.  I can still hear her talking and have found that to be true since she pointed it out.  I am grateful to her for stating the dynamic so succinctly.  I would have taken me a long, frustrating time to figure it out.  To be honest, even knowing it, I have been frustrated ...

Our efforts in the pine grove through the end of winter and into spring have dominated our days.  Spending so much time outside has been intoxicating.  And, our progress is obvious and satisfying.  While I have managed to feed us both two or three meals a day and have picked up the camera every day, those outside hours have come at a price.  The house, though neat, has not had a thorough cleaning in I don't know when and I am too tired to keep up with the reading I want to do.

Until this week I had written pretty consistently.  That consistency had required staying up late, waiting until the house was quiet.  I loved sitting in my little circle of light at the end of the sofa or at the desk.  But, I ran out of steam.  Lots of thoughts.  Many interesting observations.  But, no desire to put any of it into words, sentences, paragraphs, posts.  Every night but one since the first of the week I have gone to bed before Tal and have slept deeply for hours and hours.

My sister-in-law and I both know what we do is dictated by the we choices make.  Or the importance we assign the options put in our paths.  Being outside with Tal has trumped cleaning house (a no-brainer, I assure you).  Getting that image each day has been more important to me than curling up in a chair to read.  But, neither is granted precedence automatically.  I have to remember that I can and must make the choice.  Even if it's something so basic as sleep.

20 March 2011

Ah, spring

Even though I have commented (sounds nicer than complained, which is the truth of what I've done -- endlessly) about how cold a winter it's been, yesterday was a shock.  After Tal and his son fished in the morning, we continued our work in the pine grove during the afternoon -- and finished, by the way. 

The high temperature was 89 degrees, a record for this part of the world.  I was so hot.  My glasses stayed slipped down my nose; the long sleeves I was wearing to protect my arms from briar thorns contributed to my misery.  When we'd called it a day, I couldn't resist getting my feet out of my shoes and wiggling my toes in the greening up grass!  Ahhhh ...

Today's been cooler.  Very nice.  The pollen has begun to accumulate in earnest, making everything a yellowish-green.  We watch every morning now for our two pairs of wood ducks in residence on the pond and see them nearly every day.  The windows are open despite the pollen.  Hearing the birds begin to waken to the day even before it's really light out is such a pleasure.  This afternoon I pushed Tal's golf bag and toted the camera for nine holes. 

The ball is in this photograph -- above the left sand trap.

It's interesting to me that through all that is wonderful about these days, I am aware of a vague sense of unreality.  Our happy busyness, be it visiting with family, working in our yard, seeing friends, reading, watching spring's arrival, pursuing a bevy of interests that require our concentration, is tempered by something else.

The only way I know to describe that something else is the world's pain.  There's earthquake-shaken, radiation-threatened Japan; another war, this one in Libya; South Carolina's lamentable state of being.  There's illness and sadness and the consequences of bad choices.  An endless list.  While I am living my life -- grappling with problems, of course, but for most part incredibly rich, I cannot, must not pretend the rest of it does not exist.  The questions that helps me the most are ones like this:  Who would I be if I were in Japan at the moment?  How would I feel were I fighting for freedom in Libya or were I a supporter of the government?  What would it be like to be facing surgery this afternoon?

No, I'm not trying to weigh myself down by fretting or with unnecessary, pointless worry.  But, I cannot blithely pretend that everyone on the face of the globe shares my good fortune.  While I cannot not acknowledge the fact of chaos and unrest and sadness, I cannot not live life where I am, either.  That would be a waste.

As I said, a vague sense of unreality.  The price of being alive and of being human, I suppose. 

19 March 2011

Super moon

With all the news and talk about the super moon scheduled to rise early this evening I had myself all organized to try out the various articles I have read about photographing the moon. 

It's difficult to get a superior single shot because of the disparity between the moon's brightness and the night's darkness.  One either gets good detail in the moon and nothing else but black or a clear night shot with the moon completely blown out.  The solution to that problem is to make at least two exposures, one metered for the scene and the other metered for the moon and then merge the images into one.

My plan was thwarted by the weather.  In the late afternoon the day's clear skies began to give way to high clouds and by dusk it was overcast.  Shortly after 9:00 with a noisy storm building in the west, however, I noticed moonlight outside the east-facing front windows.  Indeed, there the super moon was in a break in the clouds, but situation was changing quickly.  Because of slight fog the moon was not clear, so I didn't set up for multiple shots.  Rather, I took advantage of the trees to provide atmosphere and some texture to the scene.  Within ten minutes my opportunity was over.  Whew.

The storm is plowing through now -- loud, bright and wet.  I'm glad to have the image to prove to myself that I saw what I saw. 

18 March 2011

Functionally obsolete

NO, not me ...  Although, that's an angle I might yet pursue.

I drove to Columbia today for lunch with a friend.  He lives in a comfortable apartment overlooking the Congaree River between the Blossom and Gervais Street bridges on the river's west side.  I left home early in order to have a few minutes to spend in a small park on the Three Rivers Greenway at the west end of the Gervais Street Bridge.

It was the bridge I wanted to see, up close and with the camera in hand.  Again.  While I am drawn to bridges wherever I go, this particular one -- opened in 1927 and built at a cost of just over half a million dollars -- is a long-time favorite.

I found those details and many more on the SC Department of Archives and History's web site.  It was on another web site, Bridgehunters, that I picked up one fact about the bridge that both irked and amused me simultaneously.  It's in good repair, well maintained and in 2008 carried 27,500 vehicles every day.  But it's functionally obsolete.  That is, it does not function in the manner that it did originally.  So, for example, when it was new it boasted the widest roadway in the state.  Obviously, that's no longer true. 

I suspect, however, that functionally obsolete means that, despite its graceful beauty and its continued usefulness, it doesn't move traffic as well as a newer, wider bridge would.  For now, though, it's still there.  I'm glad, first of all.  And, secondly, I'll stand and admire it as frequently as I can.

17 March 2011

A grind of (internal) gears

Tal's family -- siblings and cousins -- gathers almost monthly for lunch and time together.  It's an occasion to which Tal looks forward.  I appreciate how deliberate they are about staying in regular contact.  We make it more often than not.  In February the group assembled at Susie's home near Hopkins and this month Tal's sister, Pam, offered to host.

Last night, since it was mid-month already and we'd not yet heard a date, Tal made a telephone call and learned that the gathering was, indeed, scheduled -- for tomorrow (that is, today).  Tal was surprised, almost speechless, but only momentarily, chatting for several minutes and promising that we'd see everyone in the morning.

I, on the other hand, didn't do so admirably.  With my bottom lip poked out over having not been included/invited/wanted (the usual mental stuff I start with) the screeching I was hearing in my head was the internal braking and u-turn I'd gone into over all the things I had planned for today and wasn't now going to get done (also part of the usual).  And, for about 20 irrational, all-self-righteous minutes, I considered not going.  Staying irked and making Tal go alone, though, wouldn't do anyone any good, so off we went to Sumter at 10:00 this morning.

Arriving shortly after noon, we thought it odd that, while the front door was open in welcome, the driveway was empty.  Evidently, when the date had been set, we weren't the only ones not notified!

In the end we had a very nice lunch with two of Tal's sisters and a cousin.  The 225 mile round trip pretty much did me in, though.  Enough for one day.  I'm giving it up for the night. 

We're hosting in April.  Do I need to say I going to design a little postcard?

16 March 2011

Two days, two venues

Yesterday was a spent outside, except when the rain forced us to retreat indoors.  Conveniently, those times coincided, first, with an early lunch and, second, about the moment when all we really wanted to do was fall in a heap.  With the rainfall during the day and through the night we are grateful that our part of the world is a inch wetter. 

I don't know what it is about the projects we take on.  They grow from a straightforward task -- like thinning and limbing up the pine trees in the grove -- into an exhausting, multi-day (translated multi-week) scheme -- in this case involving digging up briars, Japanese honeysuckle, small sweet gums and winged elms, hacking down permissions and expanding the area of attention well beyond the grove.  I'm even talking about weed-eating the entire three acres.  JUST STOP.  Our saving grace in cases like this is age-related physical limitations; we cannot work as hard and/or as long as we used to.  We have to stop.  

Anyway, today was less physical.  With Tal at the golf course I set my sights on another venue, staying inside to tend the laundry, putting the office in order, placing a bunch of telephone calls, seeing a directee and producing a pleasant, thoughtful supper.  While the rice microwaved and the rolls baked, I stepped outside into a glorious late afternoon, a luscious twenty minutes, with the camera.  I didn't want to come in, but I didn't want to hear the smoke alarm more.

So, enjoy some of what I saw.  

The maples along the edge of the pond are putting on a huge show. 

The bark's rather nice to look at, too.

On Tuesday Tal began mowing the lawn to clear away the winter's accumulation of leaves and finished up yesterday.  It looked so serene this afternoon as I walked back up to the house.

14 March 2011

Row your boat

Today was a day of simple firsts.
  • The Tevas came off the shelf so my toes could revel in the warm air along with the rest of me.
  • Whitby and Belle (in an effort to send a message to that pesky German shepherd across the pond, I suppose) both ended up in the water -- Whitby up to his belly and Belle in for a real swim.  They were banished to the garage until they dried.   
  • Tal and I lifted the canoe off the rack and put it in the water before supper.
  • While on the pond, I caught a fish -- a small and eager bass, my first of 2011.
Oh, and we drive to McCormick this morning to deliver our tax materials to the accountant.

Yesterday was great. Today was better.  What else can I say?

The far end of Country Club Pond as seen from the front of the canoe late this afternoon.
The brilliantly red trees are maples.

13 March 2011

Saving time

What a fabulous day.  The first thing I remember?  Being surprised as I awoke that it was just getting light and that it was nearly 8:00.  It'll take a day or so to reset my inner clock.  Or, if I need a stronger remedy, I could break down and set an alarm. 

It was sunny and warm, our warmest day so far.  That we wore heavy shirts and jackets on our walk in the Congaree Swamp just yesterday seemed rather distant and odd.  We opened the windows across the back of the house and used enjoyed the screened porch through the afternoon. 

In the late afternoon we strolled the promenade and up through the pine grove in which we've been spending so much time of late.  Tal -- bless him ... I was still in need of an image for the day -- spotted tiny flowers on low trashy plants we'd not yet cut down.  They were bare green stalks all winter and, not remembering them at all, we were holding off to see what they were going to do.

Suddenly today there's a profusion of urn-shaped blossom at the ends of each sprig and branch.  Leaves are just beginning to emerge.  I'm hopeful we'll be able to identify it, but I don't think even a name will save the vast majority of the low shrubs through the grove.

I don't know that we saved any time today, but I sure didn't want it to end.

12 March 2011

Among the big trees

Tal and I have long talked about visiting South Carolina's only national park. Today with camera, binoculars and a picnic tucked into the back seat we set out for Congaree National Park, a 24,000 acre track southeast of Columbia, designated in 2003. To quote the National Park Service brochure "it encompasses the largest contiguous area of old-growth bottom land hardwood forest remaining in the United States."

The low boardwalk through bald cypress and tupelo. Though
difficult to see, small, pale green leaves were beginning to emerge.

It was a bright, warm day. The park was very busy, the visitors ranging in age from about six-months to ... well, old, from young families to black leather clad Harley riders. We took in the Harry Hampton Visitor Center and chose the 2.5 mile Boardwalk Trail, one -- and the easiest -- of the six opening up the center of the vast park.

Tal standing at the base
of the national champion
loblolly pine
-- 167 feet tall,
14.5 feet in circumference.

Both of us have something of a past with this park. We visited together while I was in seminary when the destruction after Hurricane Hugo was at its worst. It was a national monument at the time. As a young man in his 20s, Tal used to fish and to hunt for turkey in the swamp with Harry Hampton, a newspaper editor in Columbia and the long-time driving force behind the eventual protection of the tract. My father, in the late 60s or early 70s, camped in the swamp, working with Mr Hampton to begin measuring trees and to estimate the number of champions on the property. Although the park truly is a marvel, the plants, animals and acreage too much to take in, it was those old connections that gave the day its distinct quality.

The brightness of the day made photography a challenge, but I liked this one.
The bald cypress and their knees, thought to be both anchor and oxygenator,
in this part of the swamp were very thick.

11 March 2011

Wrung out

This photograph of my work gloves drying on the handles of the edger in our garden house pretty much describes my state as I write this post.  It's been a good day, don't get me wrong.  But, it's been an emotionally and physically challenging day.

I had a long conversation with a friend this morning at a beautiful old Methodist Church in Ridge Spring.  It was a meeting that, to quote my favorite prayer in the Book of Common Prayer, demanded my "best efforts."  My friend's a deep and fearless thinker.  Being a companion to her in her spiritual inquiries requires that I be present, attentive and prayerful, a state that takes energy, an energy I am happy to give.
In the back of my mind, and set aside for that meeting, was concern.  My niece, by brother's oldest child, is in Hawai'i.  When I left the house for Ridge Spring, the news out of Japan was terrible and the warnings for the Pacific, the islands and the west coasts of South and North America dire.  My brother didn't know his daughter's status when I left for Ridge Spring.*

The pine grove beckoned when I arrived home.  I worked two hours -- thinning and limbing, stopping when Tal came home from his golf round to spend some time with him, to rest and to enjoy a little lunch.  Then, we both went back out for another three hours.  We are making great progress; there is an end in sight.  At least to this heavy manual labor. 

The real sight to behold is the size of the pile we are creating.  It's a green Everest much taller than Tal.  Now it takes his using a pitch fork to launch the refuse to the top.  Fortunately, our county has a DHEC-approved compost facility where our mountain will go when we're finished adding to it -- and end up providing many rich soil several years from now.

Tonight I am a good, satisfied tired.

*  My niece is safe and headed to the west coast.

09 March 2011

Peter J Gomes

My one and only encounter with Peter Gomes came during a three-day clergy conference at the Hotel Hershey (yes, the chocolate people) while I was canonically resident in the Diocese of Pennsylvania.  My response?  From that day on I knew what kind of person I wanted to be, what kind of thinker I wanted to be, what kind of preacher I wanted to be.  I had been in the presence of it.  No doubt.

That was in the late 1990s; I've made little progress.  But, Peter Gomes, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard University and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard, has remained a favorite, as well as a spark for my imagination and a measure of my integrity.

The voice, the delivery, the wit, the intellect, the passionate proclamation of truth was silenced on February 28th, from complications of a stroke Mr Gomes suffered in December of last year. 

Beyond my personal admiration of the man, I am sorry he has died.  He death has an affect on us all in a way.  Perhaps a line from a benediction he used at a Harvard graduation will help with a brief explanation.  "God grant you life until your work is done, and work until your life is over."  Peter Gomes was articulate and well-reasoned and kind (as opposed to nice -- big difference); he did not demean, undermine, cast suspicion.  He was direct; he did not stoop to inuendo. The nastiness of our public discourse -- of our discourse in general, actually -- needs the influence of people like Peter Gomes.  He left us too soon. 

He did have work until his life was over, but his work most certainly was not done.  RIP   

An Associated Press photograph borrowed from
"The Washington Post" web site, 1 March 2011

08 March 2011

A day for a drive ... or two

Call me an angel of mercy or a glutton for punishment.  Both might be true.  I drove nearly 200 miles today and hardly left the Ridge.

A dear friend contacted me several weeks ago about a scheduled colonoscopy.  Would I be her driver?  I wrote that date on my calender.  In ink.  The day was fabulous. 

It helped that I wasn't the one going to that particular doctor.  Beyond that, however, it was comfortably warm, with bright sun and, well, very pink.  Driving the Ridge, from home, through Johnston, Ward, Ridge Spring, Monetta, Trenton, Eureka was like driving through a cotton candy cloud.  The peach trees are in bloom.  You have to be here to believe it.

We were in Augusta traffic at mid-day, so that was easy.  My friend's procedure went well, well enough that we had a late lunch of salad and a tasty pizza at the Olive Garden as we headed to the interstate and back to our pink wonderland.

Home looked good at 5:15 when I rolled through the gate.  But, the day wasn't over yet.  Our sister-in-law is in the hospital in Aiken and we wanted/needed to check in on her and Tal's brother.  The drive to Aiken in the dusk showed me a completely different view of the Ridge, the rolling geography pronounced by the sun's low aspect and the peach trees ever so soft in the day's fading light.

Our late supper was a low key meal of oatmeal, toast (made from homemade sourdough bread) and bacon (left over from Sunday's breakfast).  Delicious as it was, I sort of slept through it. 

I wonder.  Will I dream of the steering wheel and the eight knuckles I've had in my line of sight all day or will my dreams be sweet and tinged with pink?  I'll know soon, very soon.     

07 March 2011

Bumper sticker theology

Today has been pretty terrific.  And, I managed to comply with this directive (above) which I saw on a car parked near Johnson Square in Savannah last week. 

A good breakfast was followed by putting the kitchen in order and making the bed.  I saw a directee during the late morning and then prepared lunch for Tal who had been working in the pine grove.  While he rested after lunch, I wrote several notes, responded to emails and made telephone calls.  Then, we both went to the pine grove for the remainder of the afternoon.  Preparing supper (delicious, if I say so myself), making my image of the day -- a macro of a wasp nest I found in the pine grove, and reading the paper finished things up.

None of today's activities were particularly important, but they were all good stuff, all honorable, engaging pursuits.  And, most of them afforded me the chance to be aware of my surroundings, to enjoy being alive and to think.

Think.  About?  The friends to whom I'd written notes earlier in the day, the middle east, fuel prices, civil discourse, strands of songs that floated into mind as I clipped, lopped and hauled, the book I'm reading.  And, appropriately, a second bumper sticker I saw in Savannah, this one on a car at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Considering myself warned ...

06 March 2011

Thanks, you blockhead

Good ol' Charlie Brown has clarified something for me.

Yesterday in writing about what a nice Saturday I'd had, I mentioned that rarely did I have such days.  I have looked at people playing Frisbee in a park or spending a morning shopping together or engaged in conversation and sipping coffee in a cafe and have wondered what it would be like.  I have wondered what it would be like to be like that.  My standard inner conversation included that one day, when I had the time, I'd do those things.  That's what made yesterday so pleasant.  I did have the time.

This morning Charlie Brown -- in "Classic Peanuts" -- gave me another insight.  He's standing in line to buy a ticket for the movies.  In each frame he is one spot closer to the box office.  "I feel guilty," he's saying.  And, all the reasons for that guilt follow, frame-by-frame.  He should be at home helping his mother; he should be working on his schoolwork -- the book report, the ten pages of arithmetic.  He should just go home.  In the end he buys the ticket, even though he knows his guilt is going to keep him from enjoying the show.

That's it!  I have sipped coffee and sat on a park bench with a magazine and watched old movies.  I have bought that ticket just like Charlie Brown did.  But, the list of stuff I had to do and my guilt at not working on it overshadowed -- even ruined -- the time not devoted to work.  Somehow in my life I have managed to adopt the idea that one simply cannot play until all the work is done.  When I dared decide to break that rule I didn't enjoy myself and the work didn't get done either.  The thing that always seemed to go unacknowledged is that the work will never all be done. 

In my advancing years I have come to another and perhaps more important conclusion about the work.  True, it'll never all be done.  But, just as true is the fact that not all work is created equal.  Just because I -- or someone else -- put it on my list, doesn't mean it's actually worthy of being done.  On time.  Or before some play.  Or at all.  Ever.  As a means to get people to do things, guilt is a powerful weapon and an overused (abused?) one.

I need to filter that "to do" list.  There are lots of items on it.  Some of them are vital -- like getting the tax backup and workbook to the accountant or getting in a walk and a photograph every day; some of them are nice -- like writing letters and keeping the house presentable; some of them are nothing more than busy work, activities that will make me feel obnoxiously virtuous -- like sweeping under the shelves in the garage or making sure the blinds are at precisely the same angle at each window in a room. 

I am doing better.  Really, I am.  Yesterday is a testament to that.  But, not continuing to monitor and to sort and to purge the list could be dangerous, both to health and to happiness. 

I want to enjoy the work I take on.  And, I want just as much to be able to enjoy the show.

05 March 2011

An ideal Saturday

I have probably written about this before.  Despite the fact that for 17 years I was involved fulltime in parish work and rarely had a weekend off, during those years I continued looking forward to Friday's arrival just as I had before going to seminary.  I'd laugh at myself and the juxtoposition of those feelings of welcome anticipation and the fact that the hardest days of the week for a priest are Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

And, I remember seeing television shows like "Mad About You" and feeling sad and sort of resentful.  Jamie and Paul sat and drank coffee, read the newspaper in sidewalk cafes or on the front steps of their apartment building.  How did they have time for that and I didn't?  Of course, it was a half hour situation comedy and an idealized view of a couple's daily life.  But still.

Today I got my turn.  Today was what I would call an ideal Saturday.  Tal and I were up early for coffee.  Tal's son arrived for fishing with his dad.  It rained.  I love rainy days.  A good friend and I had lunch in Ridge Spring at Juniper, an amazing local restaurant.  After we'd eaten we wandered through an antique shop.  Then we went to the Art Center of Ridge Spring where we enjoyed a reception honoring watercolorist Gwen Power and where I saw folks I'd not seen in months.

That's what I'm talking about.  Just being -- with no other purpose.  Just being -- letting that be accomplishment enough.

What a good day.      

04 March 2011

High, thin clouds

Rain was suggested for today.  I didn't go to bed counting on it last night, but whether our little part of the world was wet was the first thought I had when my eyes opened this morning.  As I wandered around the house doing the coffee and breakfast routine, I was struck by the light in the dining room.  I stepped out onto the front walk to feel the day and to determine the source of the light.  It was not raining and the sun was not out, but the morning was luminous, the clouds thin and very high.  The air smelled damp.

I wasn't through with the dining room.  The shamrock had begun to bloom while we were in Savannah.  Its fragile-looking, pale pink-to-purple blossoms were bathed in that wonderful, magical light.  I put the macro lens on the camera, man-handled the tripod into submission and spent some enjoyable time in a 1:1 world, looking very closely at those flowers.


03 March 2011

Such a lot of world to see

What a true line that is -- such a lot of world to see.  It sets my heart to singing.  Tal and I -- "two drifters off to see the world," especially in the years since I retired, are doing what we can to get as much seeing the world in as we can.

My menu and a view of
the table from our meal
at the Moon River Brew-
ing Company last night
We have learned alot about Savannah since Sunday afternoon, from those who founded Savannah and those who are today's leaders to unique geographical features and architectural landmarks.  The fact that has delighted me the most, though, is learning the name Johnny Mercer and its wonderful associations. 

I had been wondering about the references I'd seen to Moon River -- a restaurant, an actual river, a bike rental enterprise.  Every time I saw one of those references I heard Andy Williams' voice.  Johnny Mercer wrote Moon River (which, contrary to my long-time misguided belief has nothing to do with the the Mississippi or Huckleberry Finn) and more songs than I can grasp.  I grew up on many of them.  Sweetly, his wife's grave marker includes the words "you must have been a beautiful baby."

The newly reclaimed Ellis Square, the heart of Savannah's downtown and an increasingly popular gathering place for locals and tourists alike, includes a charming statue of this favoite son.

Heartwarming.  And, appropriate, I'd say. 

Alarmed, but not by a clock

Our hotel room this week was very pleasant, something of a suite, a half wall separating the bed and sitting areas.  The heating/air conditioning unit, however, is a bit of a design flaw.  It's hard to adjust the temperature and blows directly on the bed, the trajectory of the air not adjustable.  Blessedly, the window will open.  Problem solved.

We wanted an early start home this morning, so I had set the cell phone to wake us at 5:45.  With the window open during the night I could feel that the weather had changed, a cool dampness that made drawing up the comforter just the right thing to do. 

Shortly after 5:00 I came completely out of the bed, very nearly in a panic.  What?  What?  Tripped at the end of the bed trying to get to the phone.  The most ungodly, outrageous sound.  No, not the alarm.  Outside.  With a pounding heart I peered through the drapes into the socked in dark.  To my left I saw the outline of a huge container ship's load slowly moving up the river -- intermittently sounding a fog horn.

I did turn off the alarm before crawling back into bed.  But, I didn't go quite back to sleep after that.

Breakfast in the hotel dining room, boisterous goodbyes until next year, heading over the bridge shortly after 8:30.  Home, with stops for fuel and milk, before noon and back into our normal routine.           

02 March 2011

Even a blind hog ...

It's one of Tal's favorite sayings, one he teases me with when I've done something about which I am feeling particularly proud.  The end of that phrase is "finds an acorn now and then."  Our route through parts of the historic district helped us to do just that during the early afternoon.

Mosaic in bottom of
holy water font
in the cathedral
We set out for a walk after breakfast to take in a site or two from the ground as opposed to yesterday's trolley view.  Several churches (the First Bryan Baptist Church and surrounds near our hotel, the Lutheran Church of the Ascension, the Independent Presbyterian Church and the Cathedral of St John the Baptist) gave us pause.   And, we spent time in three squares the names of which I can remember (Ellis -- more about that one in another post, Johnson and Chippewa).  Savannah is, indeed, a beautiful city.  Its ongoing revitalization does my historic preservation heart good. 

Steeple of Independent Presbyterian Church

Approaching Johnson Square
on West St Julian from Ellis Square

View through Johnson Square along Bull
looking toward Forsyth Park

After an early lunch we decided to return to the hotel via the riverfront hoping to sit on a bench and watch a container ship moving up or down the Savannah.  No such luck.  As we headed toward the bridge, Tal noticed a man holding a camera with a very long lens looking down stream.  When we looked more closely ... a sailing ship, its sails furled, flying a New Hampshire flag, moving toward town, obviously powered by a small engine.  We walked back to meet it, the Lynx.  

We learned from people in the crowd that it will be in Savannah for a month.  It'd been in all the papers -- which we'd not been reading -- and on the local news -- which we'd not been watching.  Lucky for us we'd wandered back to the bluff when we did.  Even a blind hog ... 

01 March 2011

Stroll on a mild evening

About half of the "reuning" group went to dinner together within waking distance of the restaurant this evening.  It was dusk when we left the hotel and full night as we made our way back.  I had the camera with me which meant that poor Tal was stuck walking much more slowly than he might have liked -- especially since my efforts at night photography are rudimentary at best.  The image of an empty courtyard is the attempt I liked the most.

Squares and stairs

We did not get an early start this morning.  Neither of us could get comfortable during the night -- not enough cover, too much cover, AC blowing too hard when it was on, the room stuffy when the AC was off.  Generally fitful.  Both of us.  Although we went down to breakfast shortly before 7:00, it was after 11:30 before we left the hotel.

Our major activity for the day was an overview of historic Savannah from an trolly/bus.  Old Savannah Tours even came to the hotel and picked us up, a real plus for me since it meant I didn't have to move the car.  Our driver was clear and informative, told really bad jokes and introduced us to at least half of Savannah's some 24 public squares.  In my heart of hearts I'd like to explore each one, but settled for catching glimpses.  An on/off tour with 15 stops and with an all-day pass, had we wanted to we could have gotten off at any of those stops, explored a bit and caught another bus to continue the tour.  But, it was a sense of Savannah we were after, so we stayed aboard.

We did get off the bus at its next-to-last stop -- Factors Walk, an intermediary level on the bluff above the river, named for the brokers (called factors) in the Cotton Exchange, Savannah's long-time major commercial enterprise.  I was fascinated by the bluff, its architecture and how the various levels were used.  On the river side the buildings are six or so stories high, the lower levels used back in the day as warehouse space.  From Bay Street the buildings look two stories high are are reachable by foot bridges over Factors Walk, which serves the middle floors.

There are multiple sets of steps and ballast-paved ramps leading from one level to another along the bluff, some of them more spacious and less treacherous than others.  The one pictured here at the extreme east end of the plaza along the riverfront is among my favorites.  Another one that I especially liked is a double set accessible from River Street under the Masonic Temple, the left side being the image I posted today on my Flickr page.