Tag Archives: spring

Memory Triggers


Memory Triggers by Nancy Eady

The best writers in any genre use setting to create moods with a few deft sentences.  Their ability to create moods through language is amazing given the many different ways memories are evoked in people.

Take the example of a blooming pear tree.  February is winding to a close here in the deep South, and Spring is making an unseasonably warm appearance with the trees, shrubs and flowers blooming in swift succession.

The first signs of spring are the daffodils and the forsythia bushes, better known as yellowbells.  Shortly after or while they are blooming, the tulip trees burst out with their pink and white blooms, and then the pear trees.

The flowers of pear trees are white and small compared to the large tulip tree blooms but they still show up because nothing else much is blooming and because they fill up the entire tree.  A pear tree in bloom throws itself into the process.  It doesn’t dally, shilly-shally, or shyly peek forward a bloom at a time.  It personifies the verb “to blossom.”

Pear trees always remind me of my dad-in-law, who passed away in 2001.  This is an odd association in some ways, because he didn’t particularly love spring flowers or pears.  Like most people, he was always glad to see signs that spring was coming, but he didn’t rejoice in the flowers the way I do, the way that makes my teenage daughter look at me sideways and say, “Mom, get a grip.”

So where does the association come from?  For the five years I was in law school (I went part time, three nights a week with two summers off), he and my Mom-in-law fed me supper every night I had class – and they were happy to do so.  They enjoyed having me there.  One day in March in the mid-90’s during supper, Mark’s Dad mentioned to me that he had seen some of the white flowered trees blooming in a field.  He said they were dogwoods, but I was pretty sure it was too early for the dogwoods to have started.  So I drove by the field that afternoon on my way to school, and realized that he was talking about the wild pear trees that had colonized the abandoned field and turned what would otherwise have been an eyesore into an attractive harbinger of spring.

I don’t know what makes that memory stand out, but ever since then, when I see the pear trees in bloom, I not only celebrate the nearness of spring, but also remember fondly a man who meant a great deal to me.

What sights and sounds do you see that trigger memories in you?

Note:  This post was first posted Monday, February 26, on the Writers Who Kill blog.  If you find it interesting and are curious, take a trip to www.writerswhokill.blogspot.com and see what my fellow bloggers and mystery writers have on their minds.  And for those of you who gave me advice on which picture to choose to demonstrate my nefariousness, you’ll see my selection on the left hand side of the page at the bottom.
Have a good day everyone!
Nancy
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Southern Spring Show


Good morning Everyone!

While this spring has sported unusually cool weather for Alabama, the azaleas had a brief chance to put on their usual fireworks show.  Here are just a few of them:

2013-04-17_07-58-25_284 2013-04-17_07-58-32_49 2013-04-17_07-58-36_512 2013-04-17_07-58-41_412 2013-04-17_07-58-43_790 2013-04-17_07-59-01_961 2013-04-17_07-59-05_590 DSCN1264 DSCN1244 DSCN1243 DSCN1242 DSCN1240

Have a great day!

Nancy

You Know You’re from Alabama if:


Hi Everyone!

Alabama, maps

Map of Alabama, from the Texas Public Library Collection of maps

An email encounter with someone from out West started me thinking about what it really means to be from Alabama, and so I compiled this list.

You know you’re from Alabama if:

handshake, introduction, greeting

From http://www.clickartonline.com, all rights reserved

1) Your first reaction upon meeting someone from any city with a population of over 1,000,000 people is to ask them if they know your sister’s neighbor’s daughter, Betty Sue, who moved to that city five years ago.

Lynyrd Skynyrd. sweet home Alabama

Lynyrd Skynyrd in Concert in 2010. Photo from Wikimedia Commons, by Andrew King.

2) The opening riffs to “Sweet Home Alabama” raise your heart beat and give you the uncontrollable urge to sing along with Lynyrd Skynyrd. 

3) You think Jimmy Buffett’s rendition of “Stars Fell On Alabama” should be the state song.

falling star

from http://www.clickartonline.com by Broderbund. All rights reserved.

4) You are surprised to find out that neither “Sweet Home Alabama” nor “Stars Fell On Alabama'” are the state song.

5) Your definition of a “mixed marriage” means that one spouse is an Auburn fan and the other is an Alabama fan.

head scratching, wondering, thinking

From http://www.clickartonline.com by Broderbund. All rights reserved.

6) You wonder why in a state with a large NASA facility in the north of the State, state of the art automotive manufacturers sprinkled across the center of the state, a state of the art steel plant and Airbus plant in the south of the state and several major universities,  the national news media can only find the least educated and articulate of us to interview on television.

Fan, summer, air conditioning

From http://www.clickartonline.com by Broderbund. All rights reserved.

7) Air conditioning is a necessity, not a luxury.

8) You do not think running the heat at night and the air conditioner during the day in the spring and fall is odd.

9) You get your  coat and car keys, not a tool box,  when your husband tells you he is fixing to go somewhere.

10) You know perfectly well that there are three second person pronouns:

“You” – second person singular, as in “why don’t you come with me?”

“Y’all” –  second person plural, as in “Why don’t y’all come over to dinner?”

“All y’all”  – second person plural heightened, to be used when you are inviting large groups of people to do something instead of groups of five or less.

Picture by Torsten Bolten, on Wikimedia Commons.

Picture by Torsten Bolten, on Wikimedia Commons.

11) You think that basketball and baseball are just something they do to kill time until football season rolls back again.

12) You have ever considered the date of the Iron Bowl as something to be avoided when scheduling important family functions such as weddings, births and funerals.

13) You don’t have to ask what the term “Iron Bowl” refers to.

flag, usa map

From http://www.clickartonline.com by Broderbund. All rights reserved.

14) You are astounded that the man who invented air conditioning does not have a national holiday named after him.

Have a great day everyone!

Nancy

A Rose By Any Other Name?


Good morning everyone!

They (ie., William Shakespeare) once said that “a rose by another name would smell as sweet.”  Due to an unfortunate encounter with perfume that was loved by another not wisely, but too well, I have been thinking about that quote, and I just don’t believe it.  If I offer you a rose, I am offering you not only the physical object in my hand, but the centuries of allure, legend and mystique that travel with the word “rose.”  If all I was offering you was a “rosa berberifolia,” I don’t think you would be nearly as impressed!  Even if you were, the name “rose” sounds better than “rosa berberifolia“.)

To further prove my point, I offer you edited versions of the following famous (ie., taught in most English classes nationwide) poems:

Daffodils

From William Wordsworth’s “Daffodils”:

I wandered lonely as a cumulus
That floats on high o’er depressions with predominant extent in one direction and natural land elevations, usually less than 1000 feet above its surroundings, with a rounded outline.
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden Narcissus pseudonarcissi;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the air in slight motion relative to the earth.

Tiger

From Robert Blake’s “The Tiger”:

Panthera Tigris! Panthera Tigris! Combusting bright
In the forest of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

lark, flight

From Tennyson’s “Come Spring” ( Excerpt from the second stanza):

Up leaps the passerine, gone wild to welcome the season beginning with the March equinox and ending with the summer solstice,
About her glance the Paridaes, and shriek the Cyanocitta cristatas,
Before her skims the jubilant Melanerpes erythrocephalus ,
The  Carduelis cannabina’s bosom blushes at her gaze,
While round her brows a woodland Columba palumbus flits,
Watching her large light eyes and gracious looks,
And in her open palm a halcyon sits
Patient–the secret splendour of the brooks. …

Question Mark

They just don’t have the same ring to them, do they?

Have a great day everyone, a good holiday weekend!

Nancy

A Touch of Spring


Good morning Everyone!

Today we are going to switch gears just a little bit, and take a moment to share some of the early signs of a Southern spring.

A patch of daffodils, also called jonquils, in full bloom

These pictures are extraordinary, not just because of the beauty of the flowering plants involved, but also because I took them the first week in February!

Tulip Tree in full bloom in central Alabama the first week of February - extraordinary!

Normally, the yellow bells and daffodils start their show towards the end of February in the third or fourth week, and the tulip trees in late February/early March, but not this year!

Yellow Bell (aka fuchsia) Bush

It is easy to miss the beauty of the yellow bells, and very hard to capture it on camera, but this close-up may help:

Camellias are a bit different; each bush seems to bloom on its own schedule.  The small camellia bush by our front door likes to bloom in December, but these pictures are from a bush in our town square that has decided to put on a bit of a show this year.

Camellia bush in full bloom

The camellia is the state flower of Alabama, and here you might be able to see why.

Camellia in full bloom

I think it would be fun to sketch that bloom in watercolor pencil, one medium I haven’t tried yet.

Here are some buds in various stages of bloom.

Camellia buds

The problem, of course, with blooming this early is that a frost is almost certain to occur sometime in February and early March, if not later, and this year was no exception – a week after I took these pictures, we had a night where the temperatures got down into the 20’s.

One last look at the tulip tree before the frost took care of the flowers

That finished off every tulip tree that was blooming, but the daffodils/jonquils survived, as did the yellow bells (also called fuchsia.)  Yellow bells are amazingly cold-resistant; I have seen the blossoms survive and flourish after experiencing temperatures down into the low 20’s.

A branch from the amazingly cold-hardy yellow bell bush

I heard another sign of spring this weekend – somewhere in the woods, one of the woodpeckers was back and active.  The “tat-tat-tat-tat-tat” sound of a woodpecker pecking is pretty unmistakable, even with the other birds’ songs thrown in.  I learned the rhythm involved last year, when we had a pretty, but very confused, woodpecker who sat on top of the street-light across from our house and kept trying to peck into its top.  It was a persistent bird; he or she kept at it for about three days before going to search for more malleable wood.  I like to think that it was that same bird, older and wiser now, that I heard Saturday.

Have a great day!

Nancy

Updates: Roadkill, Rites of Spring (I) and Grumpy


Hi Everyone!

Sorry this is a little late, but I am having problems with my internet access at my house.  I thought I would update you on previous posts today.

Darwin and Mandy

  • Roadkill

I’ll start with the dogs.  You may remember the stuffed animal toys that had been keeping Darwin and Mandy out of trouble for at least a week?  Well, the two of them finally discovered both the stuffing and the squeakers in the animals and in the space of about three days managed to remove both.  We haven’t (although we probably should) thrown any of them out yet; even though a deflated stuffed dog toy looks a lot like roadkill, Darwin still really loves them and I hate to take them away from him yet.  On the other hand, Mandy’s consumption rate on handkerchiefs and other items has started to climb back up.  The other night I didn’t get the kitchen cleaned in time, and before we knew it, she had helped herself to left-over steak and fries for a hearty night-time snack.  Once we caught her at it, she came trotting back over to the den, but she wasn’t particularly sorry about what she’d done, either. 

Tyra is slowing down a little bit, which isn’t unusual for a dog her age.  Part of her problem is the canine glaucoma she has in her left eye; I don’t think she sees very well out of it anymore, so to go anywhere in the house she circles around the long way so she can see where she’s going through her other eye.  She ended up sulking last night, which I have never seen her do before. 

Tyra in the Kitchen (Mandy and Darwin are in the background)

Mark likes to play the piano.  She likes to stand beside him while he plays and expects him to play one-handed every so often so she can get petted while he plays.  Last night, however, he didn’t stop to pet her.  After about 20 minutes of that, Tyra walked over to Mandy’s carrier and went and sat inside it with her face pointing away from Mark at the piano.  The only explanation was that she was sulking.  When he finished, he went over to the carrier and coaxed her back out.  

  • Rites of Spring (I)

The Way My Garden Groweth (NOT!)

In my March 23 post, “Spring, Roosters & Butterflies”, http://wp.me/p1mXHZ-4U, I mentioned that the first rite of spring was going into a trance at a garden center and walking out with all kinds of spring flowers.  That was three weeks ago.  As of today, the pansies that I bought are still alive outside, but have not been transplanted into the planters on the porch (I have instead hidden the normal planters and left the pansies in the pots they came in), and the grass seed, caladium, gladioli and lily bulbs still remain in the trunk.  Hopefully I will get a chance to work on it Saturday! 

  • Grumpy

While yesterday morning, sweet child made an appearance, this morning saw the arrival of grumpy, crying child.  The first cry came over the fact that she had “nothing to wear.”  For those of you who don’t know us personally, trust me – the child has plenty to wear.  For some reason, she didn’t appreciate it when I proved this fact to her by pulling out a pair of shorts and a shirt for her.  The second cry came while she was brushing her hair in the bathroom; when I went in to investigate, I discovered her brushing her hair so hard with the hairbrush that it almost amounted to her hitting her head with the hairbrush.  Further inquiry established that the problem was that neither her bangs, nor a section of hair would lie down flat.  Although my suggestion that she use some “no tangle” spray on the rebellious sections was scorned at first, I noticed that the problem was fixed exactly the way I had suggested.  When she finally came out of the bathroom, she announced she was not going to have breakfast at home because she was sure they were going to have cheese grits for breakfast at school.  The third sulk (not a cry, because Mark was out in the great room by then, too) was over the fact that I refused to let her take ginger ale in a thermos to school.  School rules specifically state that soft drinks are not allowed, so we made her pour it out.  She decided to take lemon-lime Gatorade instead, but absolutely insisted on pouring into a thermos.  When I asked why, she said that all her friends drank their drinks in cool containers like that, and she wanted to do likewise.  She chose to take the thermos we purchased the one time we took her on an overnight cruise, so I suspect she will be the only child at school drinking her drink from a Royal Caribbean insulated tumbler.

Mark finally managed to cheer her up before they left, but we were definitely having a Monday morning on Friday!

Kaylas Spring School Picture (Age 9)

Have a great day and weekend everyone!

Nancy

Spring!, Roosters and Butterfly Farm


Good morning everyone!  We have made it to Wednesday, and the weekend is in sight. 

  • Spring!

The same thing happens to me every spring – no, I don’t mean allergies.  At some point in the spring, I find myself wandering through the garden section of  the local Wal-Mart or Home Depot, looking at all of the flowers and vegetables that are available.  Even though I know any flower I plant has a less than 40% chance of survival (it’s the whole watering thing that gets me), visions of luscious gardens on a par with those at Calloway Gardens or Bellingrath gardens dance through my head, causing me to fall into some kind of a trance.  I wake up from the trance headed toward the car with a buggy full of flowers to plant that probably will die since they are not cacti and can’t live without watering.  Sigh.  I did manage to restrain myself somewhat this year; I got two big pots of peonies for the front porch (last year I managed to keep two similar pots alive through about June), some grass seed and fertilizer to use on bare spots in the back yard, and then caladium, lily and gladioli bulbs for two specific (small) areas in the front.  I envy all of you out there who are great gardeners!

  • Roosters

On to the roosters – here are two pictures Mark took for me of a rooster in Key West.

The most unusual thing about the roosters of Key West is the fact that is it not unusual to see one – they (and the hens and chicks) wander the streets freely and are protected from any harm by a city ordinance.  I never did quite figure out why there are so many of them and why they are allowed the run of the city streets, but they don’t bother anyone  and their colors are striking.  We not only saw a lot of roosters, but a couple of hens with their chicks following them at various places.   I was trying to imagine what it would be like for our family to live in Key West, and couldn’t get much past the image of No-no (Mandy) and Bad Dog (Darwin) repeatedly escaping from our yard to chase the roosters, and being brought back by the Key West police with multiple citations for us to deal with!

  • Butterfly Farm

For those of you who were wondering where Kayla was in the middle of all of this, she was having a great time with her Grandma Dottie.  One day, for example, they went to the butterfly farm, where no less than three butterflies landed on her! 

Mom said that Kayla sat still as long as this butterfly was sitting on her foot, and that that was several minutes!  One of the attendants was kind enough to take their picture together.

You have to look really close at Kayla to see it, but there is another butterfly on the foot that is toward the front, which is why she is standing so still. 

Kayla likes a lot of insects.  About the only ones she doesn’t like, and won’t handle or come near, are stinging insects like bees and wasps, spiders and cockroaches.  I have learned how to kill spiders if called upon to do so (revolutionary though that is to those who knew me in my youth) but I still won’t do cockroaches.  Mark has to be called in for a job like that.  Fortunately, we have only had one to kill the four years plus we have been in this house, and it conveniently appeared on a night when Mark was home!

Have a great day everyone!

Nancy

The End at the Beginning, Vegetarian (Not!) and The Beginning after the End


  • The End at The Beginning

For those of you who didn’t know, or couldn’t guess from the pictures on Friday, Mark and I had the chance to go to Key West and stay for a few days during Kayla’s Spring Break, since Kayla wanted to spend Spring Break with my mom in Florida.  Key West is a long way from Alabama, so we finally got down there last Monday.  The very first thing we did once we got there was to drive to the end of U.S. 1.  This is a picture of the sign marking the end of U.S. 1.   It gave me quite an unreasonable sense of accomplishment to have driven to the end of U.S. 1, but doing so,  and traveling by car down the entire length of the Keys from Miami to Key West, are two things I have always wanted to do, and I finally got to do both on Monday!  Hence, the title:  at the end of U.S. 1, our vacation began!

  • Vegetarian (Not!)

As with any good trip, the journey to the destination had its moments, also.  The funniest came on the first leg of the trip, when we met my Mom and Kayla ( who were driving back to Mom’s house in a separate car) for lunch at the Cracker Barrel in Tifton.  Because St. Patrick’s Day was approaching, Mom decided to have corn beef and cabbage, which Cracker Barrel usually only sells during the first part of March.  Kayla finished eating before the other three of us, and was looking at what Mom was eating, so Mom, deducing that Kayla would not be interested in the corned beef or the cabbage, asked her if she would like to try some of the potatoes or carrots that came with the corned beef and cabbage.  Kayla looked at her and said emphatically, “I am NOT a vegetarian!”  Mark and I had to laugh!

  • The Beginning After The End

We reached home Saturday, and so yesterday we spent just kind of catching up on things.  While we were gone, pine pollen season arrived in Alabama.  Pine pollen season is extraordinary; a fine yellow-green dust covers everything that is standing still!  For example, here are two pictures of one of our cars from Sunday.  It is a black car, and had no pollen on it when we arrived at the house on Saturday.  After only one night of sitting outside, this is what it looked like:

Pollen Close-up

 

The plus side of pine pollen season is that it also means that the roses in front of our house have started blooming again.  For someone like me, who has a brown, not a green, thumb, (It’s the watering part that I fail at – as well as the weeding once the temperatures around here reach the mid to upper 90’s and stay there until at least September) the roses around the front of our house are a dream come true.  They are called Knock-out Roses:  they need no work (I know this because I have done nothing with them the entire time we have been in the house, except to have the  man who works on our yard for us to trim the bushes in the fall) and they bloom profusely all but about two months out of the year!

It was nice to have the roses greet us when we got home!

I have a lot more to say about Key West, and will spend several days saying it, but for now, it is time to get ready for work.  

Have a great day everyone!

Nancy

The First Small Bloom


Today’s post is provided by my first guest blogger, my husband, Mark.  He wrote this about a year ago.  It is very touching and well worth reading!

The other weekend I took my daughter to visit my father’s grave. Dad died before Kayla was born, so she only knows him through my stories. She has often asked me where he was buried, but I’ve never taken her to see his grave. Instead I’ve always reminded her that he’s not there so why visit an empty house. But last Saturday we found ourselves in the area with some time on our hands, and I felt the time was right for us to visit.

I drove by the cemetery and stopped on the road about 100 yards from where my dad was laid to rest. It was on the top of a small hill under the shade of some pecan trees. Someone had hung wind chimes in one of the trees and there was just enough breeze to make music. Kayla asked me how I knew where to stop since all the tombstones looked alike. I explained to her that some things you just never forget. As we crossed the distance from the drive to the grave I noticed her leaping and criss crossing in every direction. “What are you doing”, I asked. She said “I’m trying not to step on someone else’s grave, but I’m not sure which way everyone is buried”. So, I gave a brief description of how to know where to walk and within a few minutes we knelt beside my dad’s grave. She noticed that my mom’s name was inscribed besides Dad’s and that really bothered her, until I told her the name was okay as long as the dates weren’t filled in. That took a little time to sink in, but she finally got it. She wanted to know why my mom’s name was written with a first initial, and I told her it was because Mom hated her real name and never used it. Very few people even know it. The notion that my mom had a secret name really seemed to blow her mind. She tried her best to get me to tell, but I refused. So, Mom if she ever finds out, she didn’t get it from me.

She asked several technical questions, as only kids can, about what a funeral was like and how you bury someone. I was patiently explaining the answers to her when she noticed a grave near Dad’s that had my friend’s last name on it. I told her that was where his dad was buried. She asked me how I knew, and I told her that I had been a pallbearer at his dad’s funeral just as he had been at mine, that it was one of many shared experiences that have bound our friendship over the years. She asked me if I missed Dad and I told her yes, but that I knew I would see him again one day and that when I do we will never have to be separated again. Sounding a bit alarmed she asked if that was going to happen any time soon. I reassured her that I was in no hurry. I was enjoying life with her and her mom way too much to leave just yet. She asked me if I thought my dad would have liked her and what will he say when she meets him in Heaven one day, and I told her that he will welcome her with open arms and lots of love. She liked that, and so wanting to end the visit on a happy note, we got ready to go.

Just as we were arriving back at the car, she noticed a small flower blooming at the edge of the cemetery by the woods. It was one of those precious early flowers that bloom just in time to remind us that spring really is on the way and things will be brighter soon. Suddenly she took off running to pick the flower and take it to Dad’s grave just as fast as her little legs would carry her. When she returned to my side, she said, “I wanted to make sure that Grandpa Bill knew I want to meet him someday”. Then she stopped, hugged my leg and with tears in her eyes said, “No, that’s not right.” “Dad, I did it because I love you and I know you miss him.”

I don’t know if my dad could see her that day, but I do know my Heavenly Father did. And I’m sure it touched His heart as much as it did mine.

Spring: Scene II, The Mangled Toothbrush and The Assembly After-Party


Good morning everyone! 

  • Spring:  Scene II

It turned cold again yesterday, but down here we did just avoid freezing temperatures, so the blooms are still out in full force.  This has been one of those rare years when the tulip trees have been able to bloom for weeks without being cut short by frost.  Most of the tulip trees have finished blooming, but there are a few late starters who are just beginning to reach full bloom.  

The second act of spring is in full swing with the spectacular show being put forth by the Bradford Pear trees.  Just to give you an example, here are pictures of Bradford pear trees in full bloom.

The yellowbells finally made their appearance about two weeks ago and they are blooming well, too.  For those of you who wondered what a yellowbell looks like, here it is:

Finally, I have seen a number of the following bushes blooming, also.  I have no idea what their real name is, but I have made up the name “Snowball Bush” for them.  They have their own beauty.

Spring is always spectacular in the South, and this year may be special if we can avoid a killing frost.  The next act:  the dogwoods and the azaleas! 

  • The Mangled Toothbrush

Apparently toothbrushes can be added to the list of things that dogs can eat without getting sick.  When Kayla took her bath Sunday night, she decided to put both Mandy and Darwin in her bathroom, but then she made the mistake of leaving them alone in there with the door shut for about five minutes while her water ran.  When she came back in, one of them (my bet is Darwin, because the toothbrush should have been too far back on the counter for Mandy to reach) had pulled a toothbrush onto the floor, and between the two of them they had chomped through the plastic top and managed to eat about seven eighths of the head of the toothbrush.  Neither Mandy nor Darwin looked the worse for wear, although the toothbrush was in a sad state! 

The Mangled Toothbrush

  •  The Assembly After-Party

While I showed you yesterday the pictures that Kayla painted for Mark and me Saturday and Sunday, I didn’t get a chance to tell you how those pictures were presented.  Kayla announced at about 4:30 p.m. on Sunday that she was calling an assembly for Mark and I that would take about two minutes.  Shortly thereafter, she had both of us seated on the couch and she began to speak.  She told us that her (pretend) school was running a charter program for art, and that these paintings were the work of two of her students and she wanted to show them to the whole school.  Mark interrupted her to say something, and she gave him a very stern eye and said, “Obviously they run assemblies differently at your school!” and continued talking.  She continued speaking for about four minutes, at which point she was gently reminded that she had said the assembly was going to be two minutes.  She responded with an airy wave of her hand, “Okay – the assembly’s over; now it’s time for the after-party!” and walked off into the sunset, aka the kitchen, in search of the dogs.

Have a good day everyone!  

Nancy