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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Charles William

My dad's mother died when Dad was a baby. His father subsequently moved to another state, where he remarried and had two daughters. Dad remained in Indiana and was raised by his maternal grandparents. As a result, I've never had a close relationship with any cousins on Dad's side of the family.

Fortunately, though, there were close cousin relationships on my mother's side of the family.

My mother had two brothers, Charles and Howard.

Uncle Howard had two sons: Charles, who we called "Charles William" to distinguish between him and our Uncle Charles; and Howard, who we always called "Bub." I'm not sure where that nickname came from.

Uncle Charles had three sons and a daughter: Bill, Steve, Rick, and Debi.

And my mom had a boy and a girl: Phil and me.

So there were eight of us cousins. We lost Phil in 1967, in a car wreck. We lost Steve in the same way in 1975. Bill died in a motorcycle accident in 2013. Then, in November, 2015, I received word from Charles Williams' wife that he had died two months earlier, apparently from cancer.

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Charles William and wife, Evelyn
(This photo is probably from the seventies)

The last time I'd seen Charles William or his brother, Bub, was in 1989, at the time of their dad's death. There had been virtually no contact with them since that time. I wrote each of them a letter in 2009. Bub's was returned with a sticker saying that the forwarding order had expired. Charles Williams' letter wasn't returned to me, so I presumed that he'd received it.

But it wasn't until March, 2015, that I heard from him. He called one night, out of the blue. He had received that letter and had put it in a drawer and kept it all these years. That night, he said, the time seemed right for him to call me. We had a nice conversation, and I was glad for the chance to reconnect with him. I sensed, though, that the reason he had finally called was that he believed his time on earth was growing short.

Charles William was estranged from everyone in the family, including his two grown sons and his brother.

When I learned of his death, I contacted his ex-wife, who had not known about it. She notified his sons. I also called the last number I had for his brother, Bub. I reached Bub's wife and learned that they had been divorced several years ago. She gave me his new number, and I was able to renew contact with him and let him know about his brother's death.

So, the eight cousins are now four. On the positive side, we've now reconnected with Cousin Bub. And, as my cousin, Debi, dryly pointed out, she and I are no longer a minority.

If there are any estrangements in your family that are within your power to heal, I would urge you to consider starting off the new year by making that effort. Family is important and grows even more so as that family begins shrinking.

I wrote a draft of this post right after learning of Charles Williams' death over a year ago but, for whatever reason, never published it. It seemed right to do it now, before any more time passes.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas

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To all of you who so faithfully support and encourage me here on this humble blog, thank you and Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 02, 2016

Fantasy Forest at Leila Arboretum

Doug's brother, Dennis, lives not far from the Leila Arboretum in Battle Creek, Michigan; so the three of us occasionally visit there together. I had previously posted about the Fantasy Forest at Leila Arboretum here; but, on our most recent visit this past October, we found that several more sculptures had been added.

There is so much detail in these sculptures that they really need to be seen from all angles, but then you'd be bored silly with all the pictures.

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Backpacker Moose

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Paul Bunyan and His Blue Ox, Babe

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Gnome Village

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I'm not sure what fantasy figure this one represents.

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Lady of Leila

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Beware the Kraken
According to Wikipedia, the "Kraken is a legendary sea monster of giant size that is said to dwell off the coasts of Norway and Greenland." A closer look at the sculpture reveals a ship in the creature's tentacles.

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Ship Held Captive in the Tentacles of the Kraken

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Genie

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Troll Totem

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Saber-toothed Tiger
The Saber-toothed Tiger carving is not in the Fantasy Forest but sits, instead, near the entrance to the Kingman Museum in the Leila Arboretum.

The Fantasy Forest was born from a grove of ash trees killed by the Emerald Ash Borror. Rather than remove the trunks of the dead trees, it was decided to invite wood-carving artists to work their magic. Those artists have truly created a Fantasy Forest to delight "children" of all ages.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

White-tailed Buck and Station 66

On November 10, Doug and I visited Doug's brother, Dennis, in Battle Creek, Michigan. After a meal in a restaurant, the three of us were taking a drive around the area when "eagle-eye" Doug spotted this beautiful white-tailed buck just emerging from the woods. I hurriedly pulled my camera from its case and snapped two quick shots before the deer vanished back into the woods again.

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A favorite stopping place for Dennis is Station 66, located in a rural area outside of Battle Creek. They have lots of goodies there, but the thing that drew us on this day was ice cream.

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And it was worth the stop!


Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Praying Mantis and a Garden Spider

A few weeks ago, Doug came in from the yard and said he'd found a Praying Mantis in an ornamental tree we have in front of our house. He knew I'd want to get a photo. (I've got him trained.) 

I took several shots of the little creature and wasn't thrilled with any of them. They were dark and grainy. In an email conversation with my blogging friend, Petra, I told her about my frustrations with my photography skills and sent her one of the Praying Mantis shots as an example of my failings. Within minutes, it seemed, Petra had returned "my" image, having edited it into what I think is a beautiful photo. See below:

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Encouraged by the improvement Petra had made in that image, I experimented with one of the others and found I could improve it significantly, although not with as beautiful a result as Petra's editing had accomplished. 

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While I was photographing the Praying Mantis, Doug found another subject for me: a Black and Yellow Garden Spider, occupying an elaborate web between our azalea bush and an evergreen shrub.

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This is the underside of the spider.

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And this is the top side.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Fall in the Smokies

As most of you know, Doug and I love the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and try to visit there every spring and fall. Our fall visit for this year was the last week of October. The colors had peaked the week before, but there was still enough autumn beauty to stir the awe in our hearts for God's wonderful creation.

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The above photo collage shows two pictures of Laurel Falls, shot on different occasions. The one on the left was taken in April, 2006. The one on the right was taken during our recent October visit. The area has experienced a drought this year, and there was very little water flowing over any of the waterfalls we visited. I just had to include the shot from 2006, so you could see what this waterfall looks like in years with sufficient moisture.

There is actually a dual meaning to the title of this post. Not only is it the fall season, but it was also a falling season for Doug and me. We both took tumbles on the Laurel Falls trail, which is highly embarrassing since it's a paved trail. Doug's fall occurred at the base of the waterfall, where the rocks have been worn smooth by many feet and much water. Mine happened when I was stepping to the side of the trail to let some other hikers pass. It's amazing how quickly a crowd can gather when a white-haired woman falls on a busy trail.

Neither Doug nor I suffered more than a scrape, a bruise, and some major humiliation. Another hiker has convinced us of the wisdom of carrying trekking poles on future hikes.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Old Fall River Road

August 23rd was our final day at Rocky Mountain National Park. Entering the park by way of the Fall River Entrance Station, we drove up the 11-mile, one-way, unpaved Old Fall River Road to the Alpine Visitor Center, located at an elevation of 11,796 feet (3,595 m) above sea level.

Just after entering the national park, we saw two bull elk alongside the road. One stayed partially hidden in the bushes, but the other one was a more cooperative photo subject.

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Elk Near Fall River Entrance

Before starting up the Old Fall River Road, we stopped to walk over the boulders to a waterfall in the Alluvial Fan area, created during a 1982 flood caused by the failure of the Lawn Lake Dam. For more information on that flood, click here.


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Alluvial Fan

Next stop was the Alluvial Fan Picnic Area, where we used the restrooms and had lunch before starting up the 11-mile Old Fall River Road. In the picnic area parking lot, Doug struck up a conversation with a woman who was wearing a University of Michigan jacket. In the course of the conversation, we discovered that the woman is from the same area where Doug grew up in Michigan, and she now lives about 20 miles from where we currently live in Indiana. She knew some of the people Doug knew in Michigan, and we have mutual friends here in Indiana. It truly is a small world.

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This Stellar's Jay was just one of many little beggars at the picnic area.

There are several beautiful cascades along Old Fall River Road, as well as Chasm Falls, a lovely waterfall viewable from a platform a short hike down the hillside.

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Chasm Falls
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A moose and her calf were relaxing in a meadow.
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Several bull elk were feeding together in another meadow.
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This one had been rubbing his antlers on bushes, attempting to remove the velvet covering. A strip of the velvet can be seen hanging from his left antler.
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This is the view from the Alpine Visitor Center

After reaching the Visitor Center, we returned to Estes Park by way of the paved Trail Ridge Road.  At one scenic overlook, a Clark's Nutcracker proved to be an irresistible beggar.

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Clark's Nutcracker
The bird would sit on the informational sign at the scenic overlook until it selected a target from whom to beg. That would be us. He came and sat on our outside rear view mirror, begging quite vocally. Demanding is more accurate. Now, we know the rules against feeding wildlife, but how could we resist this one? Doug yielded and gave him a peanut from our trail mix. The bird continued to sit on our rear view mirror as we pulled away from the overlook until becoming convinced that he would have more begging success by returning to his original perch on the sign.

As we neared the end of Trail Ridge Road, approaching Estes Park, we were treated to sightings of a bull moose lying in a meadow and a herd of elk grazing near the road.

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Here are some video clips from August 23, in Rocky Mountain National Park:



We had planned to visit Mount Evans the next morning, August 24, before starting for home, but the weather was awful there. So we pointed the car toward home and put 500 miles behind us before stopping for the night in Salina, Kansas.

A text from a friend that afternoon said that a tornado had touched down near our home. My niece, Beckie, and her husband drove out to check on the house; and, thankfully, all was well. The worst of the tornado damage was about four miles away. It didn't even look as if the wind had blown at our house. 

Beckie did text this photo of our mailbox to me, though, with the tongue-in-cheek comment that she didn't think this damage was due to the tornado:

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I texted back, "Any mail?"



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