Birds of a Feather?

Normally I don’t use the word blessing when talking about this time of year, but this Saturday was one of those wondrous days we occasionally have in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Warm and bright for a late January day.  Warm and bright enough to melt the left-over snow and ice from a few days ago…I hope.  The sky a brilliant blue and there is not a cloud in the sky.  A great day for a walk…or a great day to sit in the backyard with a Blue Moon and a Dutch Master contemplating nothing of any importance.  I did both instead of gathering up and disposing of the winter yard waste from the wildlife refuge that is my backyard.  My wife is out visiting…hopefully, she won’t notice that I have done nothing except deal with my own mental self-health.

I’m watching my birds now.  I can claim them as my own…I feed them, and they live close by.  They love the black sunflower seed I dutifully put in my bird feeders and are flitting hither and yon. The squirrels and chipmunks like it too…and I don’t care.  Redbirds, titmice, chickadees, wrens and my favorite, the little upside-down birds, the nuthatch and downy woodpeckers all visit, eat their fill and fly off to who knows where.  There is a redhead woodpecker and a pileated woodpecker that visits occasionally.  The pileated woodpecker seems to laugh at me with its distinctive and goofy call.

Underneath the feeders, I see robins, their red chests lying about the nearness of spring.  They are joined by brown thrashers, mourning doves and an occasional tanager.  The cooing sounds made by the doves are somewhat forlorn but not so forlorn it ruins my bright mood.  I’m also sure the tanager will tell his friends.

Occasionally I see an indigo bunting or a bluebird, the reflected sun flashing blue off its tiny body as it zips through my yard.  For the life of me, I can’t entice them to stay.  I see them on the fence looking in at the free-for-all at the feeders.  Are they resting or trying to make up their minds about the food I am offering?  They seem to prefer the open, flat area around my garden.  Oh well.

It won’t be long until the feeders draw the gold and purple finches.  I’ll start adding thistle to the feeding area when I see my first one.  I thought I saw a male goldfinch this morning except for the red topnotch.  Turns out it is a refugee from more northern climes called a redpoll.  I guess he was lost or just looking for warmer temperatures.

With the spring, if it ever gets here, there will be others making their presence known.  The whistle of “my” redtail hawks, the clucking of turkeys, the lonesome calls of the whippoorwills along with owls hooting from the hillsides behind my house.  Even with the hum of mosquitoes, I can’t wait.

My grandmother was a lover of birds, watching the feeder as she made biscuits in her kitchen or listening to their calls while working in the field.  Telling her oldest grandson that we were hearing a mockingbird or a catbird.  She loved them, filling up spiral bound notebooks with descriptions, buying stamps with images of birds and painting pictures of the birds that populated her environment. It has taken me to my autumn years to appreciate the birds that populate my environment.  One more connection I have with my grandmother I guess.

I don’t reckon my birds are very concerned about government shutdowns, Dreamers or border security.  A wall is probably not going to keep them out…the birds I mean.  I think I’ll try to be more like my birds.  If it’s not a sweet sound, I’m probably not going to make it or allow myself to hear it.

Don Miller is a multi-genre writer who has written two fictional novels and four books of non-fiction.  If you are interested in further readings, please access his writer’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The picture of the pileated woodpecker came from the National Wildlife Federation at https://www.nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife/Food/Supplemental-Feeders.  It was taken by Beau Liddell.

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Walkin’ in the Snow

There was a time…a time when I ran in the snow.  We don’t get much snow here in the foothills of the South Carolina Blue Ridge.  You Yankees think we are crazy, running out and grabbing all the bread, milk and toilet paper we can carry.  Don’t tell anyone, I think we’re crazy too.  Why grab milk and bread when you can just as easily grab Jack Daniels and pulled pork barbeque.  I just got off subject, but I do agree with the toilet paper part of the equation.

We are lucky (unlucky?) to receive one or two four-inch snows a year…if that…and we go batshit crazy when we get it.  Few of us really know how to drive in it and those who do have to worry about those who don’t.  Don’t worry too much though.  If you find yourself in the ditch a “good ole” boy with a four by four and a tow rope will be by directly.

I go crazy too but for other reasons.  I enjoyed going out in it and running.  Years ago, before retirement, I would go out before sunup and tackle it…getting a run in before getting the word school had been canceled.  Snowflakes reflecting in the light of my running lamp against the backdrop of the darkness.  The way the snow seemed to glow on its own when I cut the lamp off.  A man against the elements…no.  Putting on my running shoes and going out on a cold morning was “against the elements” enough.  There was something about sticking my tongue out allowing snowflakes to land., the muted sounds of the event, even the frozen toes due to the ice buildup on the toes of my shoes.

I can’t run anymore…maybe…I still have hopes and dreams that cause me to hobble out daily.  Today I went out and walked my old running trail, up to the top of the hill, down to and around the lake before reversing again.  I DID wait until several hours after sunup.  It was colder without the exertion of my running but at least my toes didn’t freeze, my thermal hiking boots made sure of that.  Sounds were still muted, and I still caught snowflakes on my tongue.  The snow was powdery and light, easy to walk in…not good for snowmen or snowball fights but enjoyable to walk in.

A young man riding on his ATV disturbed the silence but was thoughtful enough to stop and ask if would like a ride.  I smiled and thanked him.  I told him I was enjoying my walk too much to spoil it with a ride.  He smiled too before riding on into the white.

If you enjoyed this might like to stop by Don Miller’s writer’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38G

The picture is from Run-Karla-Run and is credited to Phil Hospod.

A Broken Kaleidoscope

One of the reasons I write is due to my depression…it helps give me relief…EXCEPT FOR RIGHT NOW!  Normally writing gives me insights into the broken kaleidoscope that is my mind.  For some reason, it ain’t happnin’.  I find myself in a conundrum?  I write to offset my effects of my depression, yet I’m unable to write or rather finish my writing, because of my depression.  Did I mention I’m tired of winter?  The days are lengthening.  Hey look, there is a spider on the window sill.  Is that Aretha playing…the Godmother of Soul?  I smell peanut butter.  Wow, it’s colder than owl sh!#.

See the problem?  I can’t hold a thought.  Its as if my thoughts are sliding down an iced-over driveway in flat bottom leather soled shoes.  It took twelve minutes to write twenty-seven words…and as I reread, not very good words.  That’s slightly more than two words a minute…correct?  My math skills have all ways been suspect…I did calculate last night’s tip in my head…sh!# I did it again!

I have three “novels” in the can…except I can’t finish them.  I guess that means there really not in the can…STOP IT!  If I were talking to you and I said that I had three novels, I would have probably used air quotes…”Novels.”  Writers go through stages.  I’m in the “Your writing sucks”  stage of being.  I don’t know if it’s because of my depression or is it because my writing “sucks”.  Last week I was thinking, one of these is going to be the breakthrough.  The great American novel.  What happened?

Occasionally I’m introduced as “the author.”  This is usually by caring family members who say it with misplaced pride or those who are attempting to make me feel worthwhile.  I always counter with, no I’m the writer because I think authors must actually sell their books to be considered an author.  I keep telling myself I’m not writing for the money, a good thing because I’m not making any. I’m not writing for the gratification I receive from the adulation of my adoring fans, also a good thing.  Why the f@#$ am I writing?  Look!  There’s a…STOP IT!

Wow!  “The Rantings of a Fractured Mind?”  That might make a good title…I did it again…For those of you who think depression is being a little blue, it’s not even close.  I could stand being blue, it’s the broken kaleidoscope of my mind.  No matter how much I twist it, the patterns don’t quite fit together and there is nothing I can do except wait until it passes…if it passes.  The fear of it being permanent is always there.

Hey, sorry!  I’m Donnie Downer this morning.  As I hit “Publish” I hope my depression will fly off into cyberspace with it.  Have yourself a great day.

Image from Marion Paul Bruin, the Kaleidoscope King at https://www.pinterest.de/pin/118852877642184769/?lp=true

For some of my “more” lucid thoughts try my writer’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Stumble, Fumble….

I despise the New Year.  My birth year ends in a zero so it’s easy to figure out your age and realize the path behind you is significantly longer than the path ahead.  I’m not concerned about my age…well…maybe I am since I’m posting about it.  Okay, I’m not concerned about my death…unless it is lingering and painful.  Okay, okay!  So, I’m concerned.

I despise the New Year because of the resolutions I make that I know I’m going to break or stumble over…” stumble, bumble, fart, and fall….”  Odd things that stick in your head.  It’s the fourth and I’m already stumbling…and I’m always smelly.

I made simple resolutions.  Easy to accomplish even if a few roadblocks arise.  Maintain or, notice the “or”, improve my fitness.  Maintain my 2016 weight which I was unable to maintain in 2017.  That means losing the ten pounds from last year that I picked up when I was supposed to be maintaining.  Just walk a little more…we got this.

I wish I had told my wife.  Obviously, her New Year’s resolution is to cook this year.  The veggie and beef homemade soup, following the traditional greens, peas and pork roast on New Year’s Day.  Would have been healthy…maybe…but she had to make cornbread.  I love her cornbread…did I have to have the second piece?  Yes, I did…and the third.  I just forgot about her tomato pie…oh my.

Well, I expect her to break her resolution soon, “I’m not cooking anymore this year!”

“But….”

“But nothing!”

My second resolution was also a simple, easy to accomplish, I want to be a better person and make a difference.  You know, better for the wife, daughter, grandkids, asshole brother…sorry, non-asshole brother.  Not best…just better.

My beloved has thrown a roadblock in front of that too.  Thirty-one years together and I still find a way to not be able to get out of my own way.

“I need for you to…”  fill in the blank.

A “better person” would simply go do it.  A “better person” would not wait until he forgot what she asked him to do in the first place.  A “better person” wouldn’t want to hear, “I asked you six months ago to…” fill in the blank.  So, with a hand driver, I jumped on it!  Bam!

“What are you doing?”

“You asked me to….”

“I didn’t mean now.  You are in my way.  Go do something else.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Don’t ask me questions now, can’t you see I’m busy?”

A “better person” won’t use the hand driver as a weapon.  Great, resolution accomplished!  Maybe this isn’t as hard as I thought it would be.

For more of Don Miller’s musings, try the following link: https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Kicking and Screaming into 2018

 

Is it just normal to be this hopeful for the upcoming year or is this just because 2017 was such a bloody hemorrhoidal tissue kind of year?  2017 was like a cockleburr suppository and I didn’t much like it.

Don’t get me wrong, I have much to be thankful for.  I survived!!!!!!!  2018 has got to be better…didn’t I say that about 2017?  I guess I did and 2017 was the worse year since 1968 in my humble opinion.

I don’t do resolutions…I do have ambitions like certain fitness goals, and once again I have fallen short as 2017 closes.  It’s not my fault I’ve gained weight.  My body just doesn’t absorb doughnut calories as well as it used to…could be that bone on bone rubbing in my knee slowing calorie absorption down.  It is also keeping from doing any kind of running so the marathon is probably out.

Back to the subject. I don’t do resolutions but if I did I would use the trite, too often used, “Be the man my puppies think I am.” While I am good to them, I treat them better than I treat my fellow man.  I realize that I need to be a part of something bigger than me and my puppies.

Our world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket…but in my little part of the world, I’m not sure that is true although I know there are many people suffering.  My puppies don’t think it’s true.

I watch the people I interact with and see what their love can do to improve the world I am lucky enough to live in.  My best friend, Mike Hawkins, carries blankets around to give to the homeless he runs into.  My brother, Steve Miller, saw a need and works tirelessly to support a soup kitchen. Leland and Emily Browder models what it means to be a follower of Christ and have passed on their beliefs of service to their God and humanity to their children and grandchildren.  I give thanks to them and others.

In a climate that seems to breed boorish behavior, that seems to extol disrespect for those who you disagree with.  When humility is portrayed as a weakness rather than a strength, men, and women like Mike, Steve, Emily, and Leland go about their daily business of doing good.

Watching their efforts has made me aware of my shortcomings as a caring and gracious human being.  It is time to get off the sidelines and quit watching.  We all need to start acting,  get into the game and leave our political beliefs in the stands.

I’m not going to attempt to start a movement, run for office or pontificate ad nauseum.  I’m just going to try and make a difference, one person at a time.

For more of Don Miller’s pontifications, you might be interested in clicking on the following link:   https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

PINK COCONUT AND OTHER CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday to all.

cigarman501

Normally when I can’t run, it is a bad thing. My head, knees or hips won’t let me. Today it was a good thing to quote Martha. My running interfered with where I wanted to be in my head. Usually, I create stories when I run to avoid the pain endured while running. This was not the case today. In my head, I was remembering the “Ghosts’ of Christmases Past.” Consider this a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday present to you regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas or not. I don’t think it will offend anyone’s sensibilities and, rest assured, I love all your sensibilities…and idiocrasies. Peace on Earth! We can all agree on that along with good will toward men…and women. I miss my wide-eyed wonderment during the Christmases of my youth. Having to grow up was and is a trap and I have been caught in it for…

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Remembering Sandy Hook

Thank you lobotero!

In Saner Thought

My Closing Thought–14Dec17!

This week we remember the heinous attack on the school at Sandy Hook…..that unless you are a mental midget and fall for the crap that the killings never happened that the deaths were nothing more than actors……it is silly!

A video depicting a local news broadcast about a school shooting that has yet to occur is the latest public service announcement created by Sandy Hook Promise to help bring awareness to the warning signs often displayed by people who are at risk of hurting themselves or others.

In the minute-long video, which was released just days before the fifth anniversary of the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, a reporter interviews people about “tomorrow’s shooting” involving a 15-year-old boy who kills four students and two adults before committing suicide.

Classmates, teachers and parents all reveal warning signs, including bullying, social media threats and…

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Waiting for the Sun

I feel the cold seeping into my bones. The cold and the darkness. The same ambiance that makes our home such a wonderful conversation piece is freezing me to death. Behind those beautiful beadboard walls is…nothing…but the cold.

I wonder…how much my shivering is the old farmhouse’s lack of insulation and how much is just me. There was a time when all it took was a minimal movement to create heat and perspiration. A byproduct of my weight loss or my age?

I am depressed…it makes the cold worse. I shouldn’t sit in the dark, but I am desperately searching for a hint of light on the southeastern horizon but it is not yet visible through my French doors. Maybe when I see it I’ll turn on the overhead light. I despise the winter, I hate the cold.

I often wonder about the people who lived here before me and how they survived the cold. There are five fireplaces in my old home. I doubt the former tenants could have kept them all fed because the one I still use, the one I sit close to warming my feet, has a voracious appetite. I have a chainsaw…they had crosscut saws and axes. My chainsaw wears me out…quickly…but it does cause me to sweat. Splitting the wood makes me sweat. Firewood heats you several times I guess.

I think I know where the people before me congregated, trying to stay warm, trying to sit out the winter…although I doubt there was much sitting as they cut the wood to feed the fireplaces. The beadboard in the old dining room is darkened from what I suspect is the many wood fires lit in its double fireplace. There or in front of the old wood burning stove I found in rusted pieces in a ravine behind my house.  I can visualize the former tenants wrapped in handmade, patchwork quilts sitting close to the fireplace attempting to warm themselves. Shivering as the north wind made its presence known…basking in the feeble light.  With it dipping into teens in the South Carolina mountains, I think you can keep your good old days.

I need to go walk. My armor against depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder. The southeastern horizon has lightened but I wait for the sun to peak above the tall trees on the hillside’s crest.  We are still eight days from the winter solstice and the shortest daylight of the year.  Seven hours, forty-five minutes and a few seconds before the days begin to lengthen again.  With the mountains in the west, less sun for me I think.  It seems a lifetime until the summer solstice.

I’m reminded of an old Sunray’s song,

“I live for the sun (sun sun sun sun)
Because it makes fun (fun)
Pretty girls with their guys
Such a love you can’t buy
Baby, we all live for the sun.”

A cheesy, wannabe Beach Boys kind of song. I don’t know about the fun but the sun gives me hope and the illusion of warmth. “(I) live for the sun.”

Don Miller is a multi-genre, Indie writer.  Please drop by his author’s page on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/cigarman501.

The Old Man

The old man sat on the top step of the porch and watched the movement of children as they played tag. His vision was bad and he squinted attempting to see. The cataracts had thickened, reducing the children to ghostly apparitions. Too much time spent in the blazing sun. He could still see their blurry forms and could discern the gaily clad little girls in their summer dresses from the little boys in their shorts and long pants. Thank God! My hearing is still good.

Someone wanted to take a picture with their new-fangled camera. Something called a Brownie. He sat a bit slumped, his hands resting on his thighs. An eighty-year-old…today. His once red hair was now white as the cotton bolls bursting in the fall. His beard, years ago red and sparse had thickened like his cataracts. White and long, it spread to the middle of his vest. Tobacco juice from years of chewing, stained the sides of his mouth.

His gaze shifted to the distant horizon. His once blazing, blue-green eyes had faded but his vision was still sharp…with the visions of the past. He smiled at his thoughts. He couldn’t remember what day it was, but his memories of times now past were as sharp as the old boning knife he once carried. He spent most of his time gazing back at the past. Mostly he spent his time with the memory of Lucretia, now dead nearly fifty years.

He had been lucky. He had loved three times. Three fine women had warmed his bed and brought him comfort and joy. Lucretia, Genevieve and Josephine. He had loved them with all his heart. The old man had been unlucky too, he had outlived all three. He cherished the memories of them all, but Lucretia was special. She had been his first…. He liked to remember her in the emerald green ball dress. High waisted, it bared her shoulders and dipped low showing her décolletage. An emerald ribbon held her mother’s cameo and brought attention to her long slender neck. He remembered slowly taking her out of the dress…Damn I almost felt something stir.

Timmy, Tyler James’s youngest, sat down beside him. A chap of six,  he recognized the boy’s voice when he asked, “Whatcha’ thinking about Grampy?” He was John William’s youngest grandchild. John William was not the old man’s grandson but his grandnephew, Arlo and Stella’s boy. He had sired no children but had been adopted by John William and his brood.

“Timmy, I was thinking about Grammy Lucretia. I wish you had the chance to meet her. She was a special woman.”

“As special as Grammy Josey?” He asked as if he might be worried about my answer.

“Oh yes, oh yes she was…and Josephine loved you very much.”

“I miss her…’specially her molasses cookies.”

“I miss her too…and her molasses cookies.”
He missed his friends too. All were gone. Sean, Arlo and Stella, Alexandre’ and Shailene, James. All had been gone for ages. “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” from the book Momma Edwards had taught him to read from. He had been here too long. It was time to move on.

“Tell me a story Grampy.”

Well, maybe it’s not quite time to move on quite yet.

Finis

I’ve always wondered about the picture I used to illustrate this fictional piece that may or may not become a novel. It is a picture of my great, great-grandfather, Marion DeKalb Rodgers, who was born in 1842. I have no idea when the picture was made…and it really doesn’t matter. It’s his tanned and weathered face, along with the squint, that captivated my thoughts. I wondered what he was thinking and what his life was like, the sights he saw. I understand he was a farmer and a carpenter. I know as a seventeen-year-old he went off with his father to fight in the Civil War and was one of the lucky ones who returned. Again, I just wonder.

Don Miller is a multi-genre, Indie author. He has just released his second work of fiction, South From Sutherland’s Station. It along with his other works may be purchased or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM.

SOUTH FROM SUTHERLAND’S STATION

Excerpt from Don Miller’s soon to be released historical novel, South From Sutherland’s Station.

As he traveled down the Ohio to the Mississippi, the side-wheeler made stops along the way: Cincinnati, Memphis, Greenville, Vicksburg, Natchez, and finally New Orleans.  Over and over, it loaded and unloaded cargo, livestock, and people.  Vicksburg, Tennessee, and the flanking Delta, Louisiana, were the worst.  Despite having been out of the fight for nearly two years, the people who met them on the wharves still bore scars from the war.  Few young men met them, just older men, colored and white, stooped from both age and abuse.  Underweight and hollow-eyed children begged and faded Southern Belles twirled their parasols, all dreaming of a time now past.  Any joy of being near his home soil was offset by the gloom covering the landscape like the thick fogs off the river.

The easiest way home would be to disembark at Vicksburg, cross the river to Delta and then catch a stage overland the seventy miles to Edwards’ Crossroads.  Going on to New Orleans meant having to catch a riverboat traveling back up to the Red River and onto the Ouachita but his promise to Wyatt ate at him worse than a case of the quickstep.  Allen Kell knew if he did not make the trip to Wyatt’s mother and sister, his promise would continue to gnaw at him.  Maybe he could find some work to get enough money to get home.  Anytime offered work to load or unload the side-wheeler, he had volunteered.  Despite his efforts, he had less than five dollars of army script in his pocket.

Allen Kell sat on the barge and brooded.  He wanted to be happy the war was over.  Memories of the killing and disease seemed to sap his resolve.  He was empty inside, a shell.  Allen Kell knew but refused to admit, he missed the killing.  He had been most alive making the charges against Federal lines, looking down barrels of death pointed in his direction.  The vicious hand to hand fighting sent adrenaline pulsing through his body, leaving him spent and at peace when it was over.  Allen Kell’s ruminations were interrupted as the side-wheeler’s steam whistle went off.  Moments later, just around the next bend, the New Orleans’s wharves came into view.

Allen Kell agreed to trade more labor for meals, a piece of deck to sleep on and passage back to Vicksburg later in the week.  He would end up with more army script to go with what he had.  After spending part of his script on some new clothes-a union suit, one pair of tough canvas pants, two shirts, one flannel for work and a muslin to visit Wyatt’s family in-Allen Kell went to the community baths to bathe and shave.  He kept the officer’s slouch hat he had picked up off the battlefield at Gettysburg, the red Garibaldi shirt he had been issued in Baton Rouge, his braces and his boots, and trashed the rest.  When he looked at his reflection while shaving, Allen Kell was shocked at the gauntness of his face and realized he had the same hollow-eyed stare he had noticed on the faces of the people of Vicksburg.  It had been the first time he had seen his face in over a year.

South From Sutherland’s Station is a novel of the chaotic days following the Civil War and ex-Confederate soldier, Allen Kell Edwards.  It will be available for purchase in early December.  Until then you may go to Don Miller’s author’s page at http://amazon.com/author/cigarman501