This morning I met a friend out at Sullivan's Island - he was passing through Charleston, after being in the state for a Boykin Spaniel field trial. This friend, a former colleague, taught me how to sail when I lived in Florida - and I hadn't seen him in a long time. Time has passed: we are both older, sail less than we wish we did, and the dogs we had then are different than the one's that we have now. That's life I guess. He talked about his divorce a few years back; I talked about my Mother's illness. We both talked about science and what our lab's were doing. It was fun catching up with him - and the people that we knew in common.
On the beach were several jellyfish - and another palm tree root ball. I've been fascinated by them before - I found myself fascinated by their pattern again today.
It was a dreary day - breezy and cool (I don't think the highs got out of the low 50s) - cloudy, but they weren't clouds that produced rain - much needed rain, so that was a disappointment. Sullivan's Island was quiet - there were a few clusters of labradors, that one miniature dachsund - and a beautiful young german shorthair who was just running and running and running.
I took Stanley - who loves the beach and at eight years of age is well-behaved. Yes, he runs around. Yes, he pees on everything. And yes, he sniffs every butt that he can. But he always stays near me.
The Wild Dog also came today - but she was kept on a leash. While she has been making alot of progress over the past few months (oh, you know - the basics: she no longer jumps OVER the couch, she sits for her dinner, and she doesn't torment the cat) - our biggest problem, and the one that worries me the most is that she is a bolter. That is, when she gets loose, she takes off - and she's fast and she doesn't look back.
So stupid me today dropped her leash while at the beach.
It was just one of those split-second things: there was a cute little kid with a plastic wheelbarrow walking down the beach, and Stanley and my friend's dog were playing with the kid and the kid was laughing and the next thing I knew the Wild Dog was a quarter of a mile down the beach.
I'll tell you the ending first: the Wild Dog is sound asleep on her bed as I type this, so she is fine. But let me just say that what happened today is my worst fear - that little 42-lb crazy thing took off down the beach and my friend went off after her and about 45 minutes later and a couple of miles, he got her. But he didn't get her because she came up to him when he was calling her, or because she wanted to hang out with Stanley or my friend's dog. Essentially my friend was able to sneak up on her, from behind a rock wall - and put his foot on the Wild Dog's leash.
I'm a horrible disciplinarian with my dogs. I don't tolerate biting. Or much growling. And you have to respect the three-legged cat. I'd prefer for them not to jump on guests. But other than that, life is good, right?
So I sit here tonight thinking to myself that this sweet Wild Dog and I both need some serious training. I need to be firm and consistent with her - and I need a class. I laughed with my friend today that I didn't think a class was going to help us - that perhaps we needed complete immersion, like a dog and dog owner boarding school. This is one intense little alpha dog that I have rescued. I tried to sign up for a course last month, but my schedule wasn't compatible with the times - so I am going to try again this month or next for something.
You see, I need to start thinking about things like countertops.
Awhile ago, I became enamored at a Charleston 'home show' with a local product, Vetrostone and Oysterstone. (The images you see if you go to the links are good ones - but this stuff is much more beautiful 'in person'.) It was quite expensive too (more than granite if I remember correctly) - but I lost a bit of my enthusiasm when I called to request a sample of both materials, and they took all of my information over the phone so that they could send it to me - but the samples never arrived. I guess I've become one of those shoppers that you get 'one shot' with - I'm just too busy to have to follow-up on stuff.
So last Thursday evening I joined a friend for dinner - and I took the sample with me. We ended up sitting at the bar and eating, while the bartender graciously helped us test the sample - you know, the old soak-the-sample-in-red-wine test - and, as you can tell by the image above (taken today), it passed. Now maybe I'll squish a few blueberries on it - and try to cut something (with a sharp knife) on it. You know, test the stuff.
Using a recycled product for the kitchen counters would be good with respect to the LEED stuff (obviously) - but regardless of all that, I still want the countertops to perform well - and to look nice. So far I'm pretty impressed by how this material performs - and I was glad to see that the range of colors had increased since I had last looked at the stuff (and I like the incorporation of shells into the matrix). In the next week or two, my architherapist and I are going to head over to Fisher Recycling and check out the place - and hopefully see larger examples of this material as countertops. It might be a nice option.
This morning I woke early, and went outside and roamed the garden with the Wild Dog and Stan - yes, we roamed PamDaniStan (as it has been recently named by the eclair-making postdoc over a lunch of Folly Road mexican food), grateful that it was a Saturday, grateful that we didn't have to rush off somewhere, and grateful for - the reality that everyday - for days - that cedar waxwings have been hanging out in the side garden, never far from the Savannah Holly - a tree once covered in red berries (with far fewer berries on this Saturday morning).
The waxwings have relaxed a bit - they don't rush off when I walk around, or when Stanley and the Wild Dog are outside - they've come to realize that it is unlikely that we will sprout wings and join them in the upper branches of the chinese tallow trees. As a result their personalities have become more evident, their interactions with one another more apparent, and their expressions - they are just remarkably expressive, a trait most likely enhanced by their distinct markings (those eyes!).
While I wish they could stay, I know that they will move on soon. I always miss them for awhile after they go.
The week was busy (as the waxwings enjoyed the berries and the fragrance of the wisteria roamed the upper deck). There was a good meeting with my architherapist - we have a good plan, but we are still working on an area towards the back of the house where the kitchen and pantry and stairs (to both the downstairs and upstairs) and a door to the back deck all merge - I need to think about this over the weekend. There were other meetings, with my students, other students, colleagues -- a quick read-through of the eclair-making postdoc's poster presentation for today's meeting, last minute edits to a student's project summary for her doctoral dissertation proposal (that is now in the hands of her committee), edits to another student who is working on revisions to her dissertation, and a meeting with two colleagues to discuss statistical issues related to an awkward dataset. There was, as there always is, a mid-week meeting of the laboratory - where a new member of the laboratory mentioned an article that we all seemed to have missed (on changes in coral microbial communities with disease - but more importantly, one that showed recovery). So we talked, and listened, and talked - while leftovers from an Easter dinner last Sunday were shared and the wisteria continued to bloom and the waxwings continued to eat - and Katherine, who had been pondering the passage of time lately, shared a poem with us.
Any sun that comes, even one not ours, could have these lakes to drink out of, any time.
And other laws could come besides the ones we have, all springing from a force that makes them right.
The lives we have, while we have them, can measure time, before and after today, to use or give away.
On earth it is like this, a strange gift we hold, while we look around.
But it is a Saturday, and although I have to attend a meeting for a few hours later this afternoon, as I look around the garden - I realize that I need to begin the annual ritual of the oak leaves. Time has passed, and it is once again spring. With six large live oaks in my yard, I am now immersed in my southern roots and raking leaves in the springtime seems normal. Thank God for my leaf blower - a gift from my Father a year or so ago that makes the task annoying (think snowmobile loud) but that gets the job done so much more quickly. I don't bag the leaves, they all get placed around the camellias and dogwoods and azaleas and gardenias - and whatever else needs a nice layer of mulch (that tends to be acidic). I think that live oak leaves are perhaps the perfect mulch - and when I see them bagged and placed on the road for pick-up, I generally think 'how odd' - why would one do that?
Why is it that the thought of a beautiful painting (of a guy we could all easily forget, except for, perhaps, using his life as a bad example) - why is the thought of this painting being destroyed so repugnant, yet we accept the destruction of vital habitats on our planet? Yeah, we whine about it a bit, perhaps donate some money, do a little research saying that the loss of this habitat would be bad - but if someone came into a gallery and destroyed a painting, perhaps used it for fuel to cook a rib-eye, wouldn't there be an enormous amount of global outrage? I know, it would only be outrage for a short while, and then we would all forget.
But I came across Wilson's quote today, and found it to be a thought-provoking one.
What do we value...and why? As individuals...and as a society?
So I haven't spoken in awhile, in a long while, about my pending Airstream lifestyle.
It's still out there, on the horizon (and literally in the back corner) - and tomorrow morning I meet with my architherapist and I'm hopeful.
When my Mother's cancer started spreading...over a month ago now...I decided that the new house was something that would happen - when it happens. It's given me time to accomplish a few things that will ultimately make Airstream Life more pleasurable.
(I know, I know - you're thinking - what could make such a luxurious life...more luxurious?)
Now, living in a 27.5 foot aluminum trailer is sounding nicer and nicer as time goes by - it sounds, well, - simple - and today in lab meeting I caught myself saying that I'll probably be spending alot of time in a chair, under the Airstream's awning, drinking any beer that is on sale and sold in cases. I can see it.
So I've been, over the months, simplifying. I'm getting by with less and less.
It's not such a bad thing, really - it isn't.
But the most exciting thing that I have accomplished of late is that I have copied all of my CDs into my iTunes library - over 25 GB's worth. I love it. I've never been a huge fan of iTunes, but I am now a huge fan of easy - and so now all of my CDs are packed away - yet I still have access to everything - and I also now have an adapter for my car so I can play my iPod through my car speakers.
I feel so musically organized.
And having all of this music - all of my music - with me in the Airstream is extremely comforting. I would hate to be musically-deprived.
(Now, if I could only squeeze my clothes washer and dryer in there somehow...).
Perhaps one of my favorite (somewhat) recent purchases for my garden is the two-winged silverbell (Halesia diptera var. magniflora).
It is really quite beautiful.
So far, so good - it is sheltered from afternoon sun, and is heavily mulched with live oak leaves - and this is the second spring that I have been graced with these white bells - abundant (and silent) bells covering the entire tree.
Tonight, during a playful conversation with a friend - a reference was made to General Patton - a reference that came a bit out of left field (at first), but one that led me down the ever-so-engaging road of procrastination (from editing, editing, and more editing) since at some point this evening I felt the need to read a few Patton quotes, of which this one perhaps needs to be placed on the laboratory door:
If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.
Okay, so perhaps there is something to this battle-speak. I can dig it.
Last Saturday, while in Virginia, my extremely patient brother and I drove down to the University of Virginia campus while my Mother was taking a nap.
I hadn't been in awhile - where we actually parked the car across from the Rotunda and walked around the grounds.
My brother made the comment as we were walking that he can perhaps understand why UVA folks get a bit arrogant from time-to-time -- with the white spring-flowering magnolia in full bloom in front of Brooks Hall -- and the white columns of the Rotunda easing into the smaller columns on the lawn -- and of course the serpentine wall that Jefferson incorporated into the architecture of the place (discussed nicely here) -- it really was quite beautiful.
But as someone born and raised in Charlottesville, with family littered all around the surrounding counties, and having spent a summer as a tour guide at TJ's Monticello - well, I suppose I am a bit biased (and arrogant about it) as well. But it had been too long since I'd actually walked the grounds - admired the brick - reminded myself that Poe was only there for a semester, and thought about how Jefferson's original intent for this 'academic village' was for it to be a place where one could study agriculture.
Tonight I'm back in Charleston, in a town equally arrogant about it's own place in history, equally protective of it's buildings and bumpy stone roads. Once again I brought Virginia rocks from my parent's land back with me to my South Carolina garden - three smaller ones this time, at least in comparison to the beauty that I returned with during my prior weekend visit - but wonderful additions to the garden nonetheless. This evening, before it was dark, I wandered the garden and immediately noticed that the cedar waxwings were still here (and still enjoying the Savannah Holly berries). The bluebirds were still on lookout, perched on the top of the purple martin house pole -- and the yard was still in need of mowing and there were still abundant patches of florida betony, mocking me in the sun.
My Mom reminded me today that all of the daffodils in her garden came from bulbs that I brought down one fall from Michigan - and then I remembered that bulb sale, sponsored by the Michigan State University Hort Club - and how on the last day of the sale they were pretty much giving bulbs away, and how I just happened to walk by (the lab where I did my doctoral research was on the 5th floor of the same building as the Hort Dept). Neither my Mother or I kept a list of what's-what - but maybe I can slowly figure it out myself. I'm guessing that there are at least 12 different kinds - perhaps as many as 15.
My Mom has felt better this weekend than she has in over a month - she's on a medication to increase her appetite, and it is working - and the increased appetite means that she is enjoying meals again, and feeling stronger. She is scheduled for another chemo treatment on Tuesday - but tomorrow her oncologist will decide whether or not she is strong enough for it. These decisions become stressful, and important ones - as we brace ourselves for another 'round' - this new chemo drug is not as problematic however as the possibility of another round of radiation treatments, and this week the cancer that is in her bones will be re-evaluated.
I remember when my brother and I felt that we were taking things 'one-month-at-a-time - now we are definitely at one-week-at-a-time. For now, we are grateful for a quiet and uneventful weekend - he and I got the leaves out of her perennial beds, cut back some of the dead material - and today I helped my Father put mushroom compost on his small raised bed, and we then planted several types of lettuces and peas.
And of course, all the while, the daffodils were blooming like crazy things.