Monday, March 28, 2011


 Back when we moved to Pinehaven, nearly 25 years ago, I roamed the property to get a general feel for the land. To our north, on land we did not purchase, was this structure. I thought it was the original outhouse that went with the farm. I christened it "The Schmidt House" (for The S--T House), thinking it a pretty good tag.

 I realized, of course, that it was way too short for an outhouse but I figured part of it had either been cut off or was buried. Now I'm told it might have been a shelter for hogs. There's ample evidence that hogs were raised here at one time: a concrete feeder, nose rings and even a fence which is now buried where it stood.
 The metal roof on this structure is identical to the one that was on the house for most of our years here. We had it replaced a few years back [see blog entries in May 2008]. The house also has similar wooden siding beneath the brick veneer. So it made sense that it was a sort-of-coordinated outhouse.
 Regardless, the poor old structure is slowly decaying into the soil. This must have been the spot for the original farm's "junk pile". Scattered in the dirt are broken bottles, pieces of cracked porcelain, chips of dinner plates, even an entire lock assembly for a door. Most appear to be antiques. It'd be a nice place to conduct an archeological dig ... the history of Pinehaven slowly pulled from the soil ... unearthed.

 Nearby and even more ancient is a large rock, perhaps pink granite, that surely has stood in that same spot for centuries. Nowadays it is not even seen except when I walk by. And that has been a decade, I'll bet. It sports a family of lichens, slowly eating its surface, helping it turn to dust. Yesterday in the late afternoon sun the depth of the pink, speckled with clear quartz, was striking. The lichens provide a contrasting and yet complimentary gray.

 Did Samuel or William Fisher walk by this stone after they had purchased the property in 1841? Did they appreciate its rare beauty? Were the lichens already set down to lunch? In the intervening years, what farmer found the stone blocking his path? What young children played upon its surface? How many storms have battered its surface with pounding rain, covered it with ice and snow?

 Where will it be a hundred years hence when I too have turned to dust?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Flowers for Mom

 My mother is not a particularly emotional person and yet she was brought to tears when she received this wonderful bouquet of flowers yesterday. Who could have possibly sent them? She opened the card and saw the note from Josie, a dear friend in England. Tears ran down her face ... and mine, too (and I heard Dad's voice break also) ... that such a thoughtful expression of love could come from across the Atlantic.

 We have placed the bouquet on our dining room table. It is perfect for this open space and easily enjoyed by everyone. Isn't it marvelous?

 In the bouquet are a number of these wonderful salmon-colored roses, so fresh they look like they should have dew running across the petals. I have not seen a rose of this exact shade before.

 A type of miniature mum, I think? There are clusters of these in the arrangement.

 And these lilies (r), too, are beautiful beyond belief. Look at the small red berries (lower left). They are not artificial but attached to living stems, complete with tiny leaves. I have no idea what they are but they are about the size of cranberries.
 How lucky we are to have friends. Josie - who we have never met in person - is one of our dearest. My mother's illness is made so much brighter by this wonderful gesture of love. Thank you, Josie.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Fearful Day

 You know the day's not going to be a good one when you're awakened from a deep sleep by someone yelling, "Come quick! I've hurt myself! I'm bleeding!". I remember dreaming when I crashed to consciousness by the frenzied call of Mom up the steps to my bedroom.
 I jumped out of bed - fully awake in an instant - and ran down the steps. She was standing there with a bloody bath towel wrapped around her left hand. "What did you do?" I asked. She explained that she was trying to get out of the bathtub when she found one hand beneath herself. The skin on her hands and arms is like wet tissue paper and tears as easily. She lifted the towel away and I saw a large flap of skin folded back. Blood dripped from the wound.
 There was no way I was going to repair an opening of this sort. A few Band-Aids weren't going to do any good, either. That's when Mom suggested a sterile gauze bandage that we kept in the upstairs bathroom. I ran back up, grabbed the pad (still sealed) and applied it to the wound, using paper tape to hold it in place.
 She proceeded to dress while I did the same. We headed for the Emergency Room at Sycamore Medical Center (Miamisburg) just after 7 a.m. We went through triage and because our injury wasn't as serious as others, waited. A doctor eventually closed the wound. I don't know how many stitches it took - I was present but I wasn't watching - and I know his little machine clicked many times. Rather than thread, I imagine the wound was closed with some type of staple. We'll know when we look at it again. But - please! - not now!
 The doctor wrapped a slightly elastic bandage over the new gauze and said we were free to go.

 This is how Mom's hand looks this morning. That's one part of her that doesn't hurt.
 To make matters worse, yesterday was the day she was scheduled for hernia surgery (same hospital) at 2:30 p.m. We got out of the ER at about 10:30 am so we just stayed. We were told to be at Admissions by 11:45 am. By 1 pm Mom was being prepped for surgery. My brother, Bob, joined me at about 4:30 pm (he had a meeting in Cincinnati that we asked he not cancel). The doctor came out to give me an update at about 3 pm. He said Mom came through the operation fine but that she was very groggy and that it would take a while before she could go home. Could I care for her if he discharged her? You bet!
 We left the hospital about 7 pm (12 hours after the day began). Mom had an exceedingly hard time getting around the house, in an out of bed, etc. I literally had to lift her or offer support with every step. By 10 pm I had set up a cot in our dining room; Mom and Dad slept in the living room.

 I mostly laid awake much of the night, listening to her every groan. I got her up at 1 am and again at 4 am for the bathroom ... actually a portable toilet beside her bed. I'd get her up, leave so she could have privacy and come back to tuck her in again. Dad, meanwhile, needed tucking it, too. His arthritis is flaring up and he is in extreme pain also.
 Nothing is normal but it's a new day and things look brighter. The hernia is, at least, a hernia: no more.
 Trouble is, the pain down into her leg is no better. She'll need X-rays to check the bones there. "Why did I have this done?" she asked me. "Because you needed it done," I answered. She's had the hernia for many decades. We'll just keep whittling away until we find the source of her pain. It'll take a while.
 During the night, two bands of storms passed through. I'd hear the thunder approach and listen to the rain tap on the window beside the cot. It was a pleasant sensation, actually, knowing that the natural world goes on whether we're well or ill, here or gone. While our own lives are of the utmost important to ourselves, the universe at large has no interest in the individual. The storms come, they go and life moves on.
 At least our family is still intact. While the storms passed east, our own storm subsided. All was quiet. A new day had begun.

Additional: On 03/25 I removed the bandage on Mom's hand so that it could air. If you're squeamish, don't look!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Picoides pubescens

 "Our" little downy woodpecker is a nice addition to any day. Usually he'll work the suet feeder, chasing other birds away with his mere presence. On March 19, I was doing dishes (what else?) and saw him hanging upside down under a branch of the maple tree.

 I believe this is the sharpest photo I've taken of the downy. Usually he's pecking at suet, scanning the horizon or doing that usual jerking motion that is common for downy's and squirrels alike. I don't think I've ever seen him being completely still.
 But there he was, holding himself beneath the branch and absolutely motionless. I grabbed my camera and here's the shot.
 I thought for a moment he was "stuck" there and had given up hope of escape. But, no, when I came back he had flown away. I was just given a rare opportunity to see him resting, I suppose.
 Of course the tiny downy - the smallest of the eastern woodpeckers - is extremely common. I see both males and females at our suet but I feel I know this one. It could be that I see dozens and think every one the same. I love to listen to his short call - described as a 'pik'. He often talks to himself.
 If there's compensation for doing the dishes, it is not just clean plates and cutlery. It is the likes of this guy, too. What better companion could I have when washing the dishes?

A 'Super' Moon

 I'll show you the final photo first. It ought to be enough to get your attention. This is the "Super Moon" or "Perigee Moon" on March 19. This shot is enhanced (the final picture in this series shows the shot as it was taken). I wanted to bring out the beautiful colors ... the vivid orange of the moon, the slight clouds lit from behind (which took on a similar glow), the black woods against the purple-blue sky.

 As the moon began to rise (8:09 pm), It began to show itself behind the "Shell Farm" which is east of Pinehaven and on Venus Road (Jackson Twp.). It's about half a mile from here. The moon had the color of a blood orange and was a rather startling apparition when seen shining through the tree line.

 Can you imagine never having seen the moon before and have this orange thing approaching you from the east? It'd certainly be time to turn tail and run! I like the single lit window in the old farmhouse and the truck parked in the yard. You know there are people going about their lives, enjoying their Saturday evening there.

 Now, from my south lawn, I see the moon rising both behind the distant tree line and also behind trees which are in my own yard. This shot has a Halloween feel, I think.

 Finally the moon has cleared the trees and hangs starkly in the open sky. It is not clear - there is a slight haze in the atmosphere and gathering clouds have already obscured the moon by the time I went to bed (10 pm). The moon was the closest to earth than it has been in 18 years (221,565 miles at 3 pm EDT, just 50 minutes after the moon was full). It was said to be 14% larger and 30% brighter than other full moons.

 In fact, I saw little difference. The moon always impresses me. I took the picture above on March 16, just three days before the super moon and it was as impressive as could be, even with the hazy atmosphere. The craters are smoothed out by both the "front on" light and by the thin clouds. Even so, it was an impressive sight.

Lemon Chiffon Flowers

 Our meadow is now alive with clumps of daffodils and jonquils. I step carefully as I tread through the deep grass. It is a bit startling, as though the sun is shining beneath my feet. Each year these yellow beauties multiple ... a bulb or two becomes a dozen. Why the squirrels leave these alone I don't know. They must not taste as nice as they look.

 The flowers were mere buds on March 19, just three days ago. Then, on the 20th they began to open. Yesterday the majority were in full bloom. Today it is a veritable explosion of yellow.

 Clumps of these solid yellow daffodils are most prominent. But look in the background of this shot and you'll see the beautiful white jonquils, too.

 And here they are in a bugs-eye view. I placed the camera beneath them, nearly on the ground, folded out my LCD viewfinder and composed the shot. The bare trees stand overhead ... the partly cloudy sky threatens a spring shower ... another year silently unfolds.

 I cut two of the flowers - one yellow, one white - and added a few lanceolate leaves to a cut crystal vase and placed it on the windowsill. Such an intricate structure ... delicate, with a multitude of tiny folds and complicated structures. It is spring and our earliest heralds are these wonderful bulbs.
 I wonder how they work underground for fifty weeks of the year. Their time is short but they make the most of it. There is no mistaking their season.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Frequent Flyers

 I'm washing the lunch dishes when this White-breasted Nuthatch begins working the suet feeder. He's just one of many of them, who take turns at the combination of seeds and fat within the suspended wire holder. It is an aerial zoo watching them come and depart quickly ... grab a quick morsel ... and push off again.
 This guy, though, has decided to stay a while and he pushes his beak into the suet and when he pulls it out, it's encrusted with seeds and sticky fat. He'd lick his chaps ... if he had any to lick.

 On the ground below the feeder, the usual Red-bellied Woodpecker gleans the same from the winter-dry grass. He's particularly careful, looking up at me behind the reflecting glass while he throws sideway glances about the yard. To be a surviving bird is to be ever vigilant.

 At one time, our neighbor had small chickens that had the exact same feather markings as this bird ... striations of black and white. What pretty garb, almost a prisoner's uniform. In the sun, his head looks like Victorian velvet, something that might have covered a plush sofa in the late 1890's. Why has nature painted his head with such a bright hue? Why have humans called him "red-breasted" when this red is nearly impossible to see, while all the while his head is aflame?
 My suet feeder is busier than the highest traffic airport. Takeoffs and landings are underway nearly constantly. And yet without controllers, they manage these flights in such a restricted space without collisions. Every now and then, I'll hear one crash into the window pane but that is not their mistake. Where in nature has clear air ever turned suddenly solid?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Father's Hands

 "Jesus Christ, these hands," I hear my father mumble as he picks pills out of bottles, depositing one after another into yet another bottle. This single bottle is where he gathers his day's worth of medicine, where he'll again pull them out in a schedule known only to him. I trust him to take them when he should; the numbers add up at the end of the month.

 Usually, as he combines them, one or two will drop into the wooden drawer of what was once my grandfather's smoking stand, now a personal pharmacy of sorts. Dad would line every pull bottle up around his chair, cover a nearby stool with them if he could. But he can't; Mom says so. "They're better in the drawers," she will tell him. "Hidden from view. All in one place."

 But it isn't the pills which commands my attention nearly so much as my father's hands. They are gnarled and disfigured with rheumatoid arthritis. He first noticed the aching when we was in his mid-30's, after he had taken his first dose of the polio vaccine. That's what he blames. But who knows?

 From the late 1950's, when those pains began, to now, time has twisted his fingers, gnarled his knuckles, literally bent his hands sideways. When he tries to pick something up and can't, he'll turn to me and say, "Look at these hands. They're not good for anything."

 He used to love playing the piano. I tell him we could have one custom built, with keys angled to fit his hands. He laughs when I say this. He knows that it's true.

 It was these hands that first held me over six decades ago, that pointed to right and wrong, that pet our beloved dog, that caressed my mother with love. I clasp these "good for nothing" hands when I take him to the doctor or help him to the garage or assist him into bed at the end of every day.

 They're not pretty to look at. The don't work well any longer. And yet seeing those hands reach out to me for help are one of the grandest sights I see each day. They remind me of perseverance. Their soft touch is still magic.