Sunday, July 31, 2011

Where There is Smoke, There are Mountains

If you've ever wondered why the Great Smoky Mountains are called "Smoky", here is the reason.

This isn't a botched photo. This is the view from our deck this morning and has been the view from our deck every morning for the past week. How about a few trees for some perspective?

When we're not socked in by the "smoke", this view looks like this.

Don't feel sorry for us with our clouded views. The smoke burns off mid-morning and we do get this view frequently and all day long.

Unknown Mami

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bowling Angels

My grandfathers were bowlers. This was back in bowling's heyday in the late 1950s and 1960s. They bowled like dads today mow the yard and watch ESPN, frequently and avidly. They both passed away before I had the chance to meet or really know them.

As a child, thunderstorms were scary for me. My mother told us, as she wrung her own hands in fear of storms, that the rolling claps of thunder were nothing more than our grandfathers bowling.  How can you be afraid when conjuring images of angels bowling in heaven?

I hadn't thought of the bowling angels in many, many years. I have quite a different view of heaven now than I did when I was seven. But last night there was a major thunderstorm, a bowling tournament in heaven, and the bowling angels came to mind. We were perched atop our favorite ridge in East Tennessee, lying in bed, listening to celestial strike after celestial strike.

There was a new member joining the league last night. I never knew her to bowl but I guess in heaven you can pick up a new sport pretty easily. Unencumbered, anyone can bowl. Bowling angels is a silly metaphor but I do like to think of my mother-in-law being free and easy and as happy as a bowling angel.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fresh, Free and Flavorful

One of the best things about summer is the abundance of fresh veggies. We didn't plant our garden this year but we have been fortunate that a few of our neighbors have extra produce from their gardens. And they like to share. This bowl is fresh from two of our neighbors' gardens and is only a small selection of what we were given.

So what do you do with all that zucchini? This morning we had this for breakfast.

It's a heavenly combination of eggs, cheese, flour, onion and zucchini. Yummmmmm. Want the recipe?

And then for a mid-morning snack, we had one of these muffins.

Who knew white chocolate chips went so well with zucchini?

And then for dessert tonight, we had some zucchini bread.

I'd say we got our recommended allowance of veggies today. Thank you neighbors! I will be dropping some of these treats off to the neighbors. Got to make sure to keep those veggies coming our way.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thank You For Not Biting Me

I can admit when I am wrong. I submit that I do not know everything. I concur that my knowledge has limits. But I was really sure I knew what I was talking about this morning. I was confident in the answer I was giving my children. I thought their question was an easy one and answered it without any labored thought. My answer came out automatically, from the deep recall section of my brain. I don't know when I learned the answer I was giving. I have just always known the meaning of the idiom "don't look a gift horse in the mouth."

My boys wanted to know what that means. So I told them, from the deep recall section of my brain I remind you, it means to be wary of someone bearing gifts as they might have ulterior motives behind their gift giving and thus acceptance of said gift may come to "bite you" later (hence the mouth reference.)

When I was finished answering, my husband said almost mockingly, as you are probably saying right now, "No, it doesn't."


This is the meaning I have been carrying around with me since before I can remember. And now at the age of 43, I am learning that I am mistaken? Appears so.

My husband explained, from the deep recall section of his brain too, the real meaning of the saying. Apparently, it means to not criticize or refuse something given to you. A gift is a gift and should be accepted as such.

After the peals of laughter subsided, my husband Googled it to prove it to me. Okay, I concede my error. But I am left wondering who gave me this misinformation? Or did I make this up long ago as a child, embarassed to ask the meaning myself and then letting my imagination run wild? Regardless of its origin, thankfully now I can stop worrying about mean people bearing gifts and being bitten by rabid horses. It happens, you know.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Precarious Balance

This world is a wonderful place. Amazing things abound. Even in a place that you have visited countless times before, you can be surprised. My family and I were surprised this weekend. We were back in the Smokies, hiking a trail we have hiked many times before. On the Middle Prong trail, we found this rock scuplture left by some other hiker.

We thought it was a neat find on the trail. And we even tried our own balanced scuplture.

We did pretty well for amateurs on our first attempt.

The drive to and from this particular hiking trail follows the Middle Prong river. As we drove along the river after our hike, my oldest son spotted something unusual in the river.

Someone had balanced a variety of river rocks atop other river rocks.

We stopped for a closer look...

...and found a modern mountain Stonehenge.

It was all very surreal.

All known laws of gravity and physics appeared to be broken, but still the rocks stood unaided. The scene had a mystical feel.

I researched a bit and found that rock balancing is an art form and hobby. At the river, all of us tried to balance rocks with various amounts of success. None of our sculptures were as impressive as the ones we found. But here is Helios' example of balanced stacking style.

I wonder how long all these stones will remain standing? We'll be back in the Smokies again in a few weeks and we plan to check.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Cubpthskout Camp

We went to Cubpthskout Camp last week. That's the phonetic spelling of Cub Scout Camp and the way many of the attending campers pronounced the name of the weeklong event. In addition to hordes of tween boys, there were lots of tongue thrusts present at camp. Speech therapists would have had a field day at camp. I personally thought it all very cute. What's not cute about an eight year old having a grand old time at...where are you again?...

Cubpthskout camp!

The theme of camp week was Medieval Adventures and it was a perfect theme for the eight year olds I was assigned to. They got right into the spirit of dragons, King Arthur and Camelot. The boys got to test their skills in archery, BB gun shooting, fishing and various sports. There were plenty of arts and crafts, woodworking and nature lessons just like a good summer camp should offer.

On the last day of camp there was a jousting demonstration. This jousting was one-sided in that the jousters were not jousting others but rather attempting to hit targets. This jouster speared a ring the size of a Life Saver candy.

Apparently jousting is a big deal in Maryland. The state boasts the oldest jousting society in America and jousting has been the official state sport since 1962. Who knew?

Anyway, back to those cute Cupthskouts. After the jousting demo, they each got to try their own jousting skills.

Sticking your tongue out really helps your aim.

Straight to the heart!

After jousting came a Castle Storm raid in the form of a wet sponge battle, just the thing to cool off overheated, overstimulated knights.

The cool sponges only served to ignite the fires of fierce competition and old-fashioned medieval rage in some.

Good thing they weren't armed with maces or lances.

Or were they? They next moved to sword fighting which thankfully utilized inflatable swords. No worries. It's just a flesh wound.

To counterbalance the primal killer instincts spawned by the water and sword battles, the boys were offered an opportunity to display their humane traits of teamwork. The agility training required good communication, patience, listening skills...things that all eight year old boys have mastered.

Back in the medieval day, they would have made good oarsmen.

Camp ended with King Arthur's feast complete with roasted turkey legs (really) and the traditional camp skit performances by all camp units. The tradition of such camp performances requires that the audience not be able to hear the performers' dialogue and the skits typically don't make sense even if the dialogue could be heard.

Not sure what was going on here but my son is the one who just performed a face plant. I assure you it was all very Shakespearean.

In the end, Cubpthskout Camp was a huge hit with my little knight. He can't wait to go again next summer.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Beach Book

Every year for the last ten, I have read the same beach book. I have not been to the beach every year in those ten. In fact, I can only remember two or three beach trips in those years. And as I read my recurring beach book this year, I sit in the mountains.

I think of a beach book as a mindless, escapism read. One that will pull you out of your own life as a strong tide pulls you further from the shore. A good beach book then plops you back to awareness when reading time is done as the rollers randomly spit shells on to the sand. The next beach day, you can walk right back into a beach read as easily as walking into the surf. A good beach read leaves nothing heavy in your head and can be brushed off like dry sand with only a slight lingering grit to remind you where you've been.

My annual beach read is all the above with some exceptions. It pulls me in like the tide, but I don't float out of its grasp as easily as a shell coughed up by a wave. The coughed up shell is empty, its contents long forgotten in deep waters, but I am full of deep thoughts and reflections.

My annual beach read is never the same. Each year, it brings me something new. Even though I've read the words many times before, their meanings change each year. A new message is floated to me from far off shores every time I read the book. The messages are gifts for me to ponder, cherish and gaze upon all year long.

My annual beach read is Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

Lindbergh's book was originally intended as a private, personal essay written on a solitary vacation at the beach. But after sharing her essay with a few and discussing its contents with others, the universal and timeless concepts it holds became evident. Lindbergh turns a shell-collecting walk on the beach into an analogy for life, equating beach finds to life stages and the treasures those stages hold.

The book speaks to me differently each year as I find myself floating in, out and through life stages. I find certain chapters resonate stronger with me than in previous years. I still relate to the streamlined simplicity offered by the channelled whelk and his compact home with all he needs on his back. But in reality, I am in the oyster bed stage where the outside shell is marred by other small clinging shells and sea debris and the shape is random and bulky. Such is the quality of marriage with children. But the untidy appearance of the oyster shell is complemented by its strength and solidity and the possibility of special treasures within.

As with the different meanings I gain each year from my beach read so are the outward views I have as I read it. This year as I look up from my beach book, I gaze upon the waves and rolls of the Smoky Mountains. The view is inspiring. Maybe when I am wise, I will write the companion book to Lindbergh's. I'll call it Meaning in the Mountains.