Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Photo Bin - September 2014

I turned sixty this month. Celebrated it quietly with a mid-afternoon movie matinee and a nice dinner out with my Mary. It was low-key, in part, because that's how we do such things and had nothing to do with the fact that we'd blown it out a couple of nights earlier at my friend Paul's sixty-fifth birthday bash. No small affair, that. Seventy of his closest friends, surrounding an outdoor shed/stage full of local musicians.

Rock-and-roll isn't dead. It's just got a touch of gray.

And you couldn't have dropped the party in a better place; Paul and Alicia's back yard. Country livin' at it's best with good friends, good food, and kickin' music into the wee hours.

I can't let this shot go by without mentioning the house. Built for passive solar utilization, note the large, windowed southern exposure that opens onto space floored with four inches of decorative concrete; a solid thermal mass that helps heat the place throughout the winter months. Our home is very similar - and it should be. Paul and Alicia built it too.

Speaking of country living, there's no shortage of this kind of scene around here. There's no real significance to this shot or this place except as a reminder that I need to carry the camera out more as I wander about the county. There's peace and tranquility in such rural remnants. Something we'd all do well to remember.

And there's no better time than the Fall to get out and find these quiet places. It's still green here, but the dogwoods are getting ruddy and the maples are beginning to drop the occasional leaf. It's, without doubt, my favorite time of the year.

Some peppers from Robin's garden, for no particularly good reason beyond that I'm fascinated by their colors. Wouldn't eat one of these though, wuss that I am about hot stuff. But they're darn sure pretty.

And finally, this. Our dearest friend and closest neighbor is about to embark on a fearful journey; a journey with ramifications that have her digging down deep for strength and looking with renewed earnest, and urgency, at her long bucket list. As of Monday, there's one less item on it.

We watched her take flight and had no idea where she'd land for she was firmly in the hands of the winds. But her pilot was capable and, while their old cow pasture landing was bumpy, he brought her safely to earth. May her doctors be as steadfast, and the winds just as kind, in the uncertain weeks to come.

What is a Photo Bin?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Mighty Mo

After a week of imprudent and uninhibited British Columbian cutthroats, Mark's advice hit me like a punch in the gut. Technical and Presentation. Four letter words, however they're spelled.

Montana's Missouri River rainbows and browns have seen it all. And with the tricos coming off so thick that you kept your lips pinched tight lest you breakfast on bugs, there was no lack of natural fare. Hell, the floating mats of expired spinners could carpet my house. Anything the slightest bit off was ignored.

I throw a lot of off.

So when the frustration of refusal-upon-refusal by actively feeding fish got to be too much, it was good to fall back on the scenery. One of the meccas of our sport, and deservedly so. The Mighty Mo.

Enjoy the view.

Monday, September 8, 2014

We Went Awalkin'... Again

Prelude: I turned sixty last week and, quite honestly, I've spent the past several days trying to come to terms with it. I've started a handful of posts - some humorous, some more introspective - but I simply have not yet wrapped my head around this milestone. My mind keeps returning to something I'd written nearly three years ago, so, with apologies to you who have been around that long, I think that I'll fall back on it now. It's as true today as it was when I wrote it, and just a little bit closer to real.

We went awalkin’, Sammy and I, up the ridge, along the narrow gravel road that passes our woods, over the ridgeline, and through the tunnel of redbuds, so robust and full in the spring yet now so gaunt and so naked in winter's approach. We went awalkin', Sammy and I.

His vet would be pissed.

We’d taken Sammy to the local country doctor, fearing that age, arthritis, and the effects of a life-long liver condition had finally begun to squeeze the joy from the feisty little terrier. She made the expected pharmacological recommendations to ease his aching joints and suggested that, with limited activity, he should be comfortable for the foreseeable future. But she knew.

We know.

He sleeps a lot. And we carry him down the steps to the back yard so that he might sniff the 'coon tracks, stare into the woods, and unsteadily mark his now meager boundaries. It’s still his turf, after all, though he squats like a girlie dog, his leg-lifting balance gone the way of eyesight and stamina. And, at the end of each constitutional, he stands and looks up the drive, towards the road, up the ridge, to the redbuds, where we’ve walked together a thousand times - but walk no more.

Today, instead of just looking, he began to climb the hill, like before.

I called to him, to steer him back to comfort and ease, but he did not hear. Maybe he can't. More likely, he pretended not to. I called again, more urgently, and he stopped, but did not turn. Instead, he paused, then looked back over his shoulder as if to say, “Are you coming?

I sighed. And I came.

For a half-mile he was Wilderness Dog Sammy again - scourge of squirrels, chaser of deer, defiler of tall weeds. There was spring in his step and sparkle in his eyes, his ears and tail pointed to the brilliant blue sky. He led and I followed, noticing that his haunches, once as sturdy and full as the redbuds in spring, were as thin and bony as the stark, bare canopy above. But, for a half-mile, he was the alpha dog once more. For a wonderful half-mile...

… until he slowed. I called his name, like before, and he stopped, waited, and allowed me to pick him up – a concession unimaginable in times gone by. His walk was complete, miles short of his good days, but he accepted my bearing without shame. His ears remained perked, his nose thrust forward as if to lead us along the path, his spirit taking us where his legs could no longer. We walked our old haunts together, one more time. Even in my arms, he was still the Wilderness Dog.

And, on occasion, he looked up and licked my face, his eyes still sparkling despite clouding lenses, and he seemed to say “Isn’t this glorious?

It was.

This evening I expect that Sammy will pay for the excursion, the drugs unable to blunt the ache as it does most nights. He’ll lie in his bed, at out feet, and hurt a little more than usual, but I’m certain that the discomfort will be more than compensated by his restored canine dignity, by the walk through his old woods. I regret his pain, but I’m glad that we went for we both were able to remember the Wilderness Dog, if but just for a little while.

And, if you please, do the same for me. When my vitality wanes, when my life is diminished by whatever prostration chips it away, I hope that on that day when the woods call to me once again, you allow me to answer. Allow me to follow that ridgeline as far as I am able - wisdom and doctor be damned. I will accept assistance, if offered, on return, but first let me go. I will accept the inevitable pain, the price, but first let me go. Let me relive the fullness of my spring, the redbuds in bloom, for just that little while, and then I will again accept my limitations, accept the arrival of my winter. But first, let me go.

We went awalkin’, Sammy and I, up the ridge, through the tunnel of redbuds.