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Friday, January 20, 2017

Blogging Blessings

In my six-plus years of blogging, I've been blessed to get to know so many other bloggers from around the world, people that I might never meet personally in this life but with whom I've found some wonderful virtual friendships. But the big surprise to me is how many unexpected visitors to my blog have come as a result of various photographs I've posted or stories I've told. Here are some examples:

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I've already written here about the renewal of a friendship with the girls in the above photo, a friendship that had lain dormant for nearly fifty years.
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In my posts about my horses and about Kerrydale Ranch, I spoke of Lauren, from whom I'd purchased my first horse, a Half-Arabian mare named Gayranna. After Gayranna's death in 1981, Lauren and I lost contact with each other. But, one day, about a year and a half ago, as Lauren was poking around on the internet, she typed in Gayranna's name and voila! She was led to my blog, where she found my email address and contacted me.
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Another woman, Melanie, was led to the same post about my horses when she typed the name of her horse, Sera Diamond, into the search engine. Sera Diamond was one of those foals produced by my beloved Half-Arabian mare. Melanie and I exchanged emails, and she sent me the above photo of Sera Diamond. Here is what she wrote: "Sera Diamond, Sammy to me, was my horse in the 80's. We showed the Arabian circuit and took many wonderful trail rides. He was amazing! We loved to play tag in the field and he always loved a good carrot! He made the 'teen years' much easier." It was such a pleasure to hear from Melanie and to know a little bit about the life Sera Diamond had after I sold him.
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My post about our family's summer vacations in Canada during my growing-up years was discovered by the daughter of the current owner of the property. Recognizing the property from the photos, she contacted her parents; and her mother emailed me and even sent some pictures showing what the place looks like now.
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The Bureau of Land Management contacted me, asking permission to use my photo of Split Rock (above), an important landmark on the Oregon Trail, in a technical brochure. When the brochure was published, they were kind enough to send me a copy.
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Another photo is scheduled to be included in a camping brochure to be published later this year. I don't feel the freedom to be more specific about that since the brochure hasn't been finalized yet. There's always a chance they'll decide not to use my photo. That happened once before when a company asked permission to use one of my images in an Indiana tourism publication. In the end, they didn't include it in the final product. But it was still a thrill to have had one of my photos considered for the project.
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I did a post  here about two country bands that I'd seen and loved in the sixties: Ray Corbin & the Raymen and Waylon Jennings & the Waylors. The son of Ray Corbin found that post and shared some of his memories of both his dad and Waylon.
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My post about Portland Arch (pictured above) drew a contact from a man named Michael, who had accumulated a detailed history of that area, which he kindly sent to me. About a year and a half later, a man named Bob emailed me, reminiscing about his experiences at the Arch and even including pictures from when he had been there as a Boy Scout. I sent him a copy of the history that Michael had provided and put the two of them in touch with each other.
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One of the most amazing things that has come from the blog started with a contact from Jordan Liles, asking permission to use some of my photos from our first trip to the Smokies in 1990, in a video he was making. If interested, you can view his video here.

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Wonderland Hotel, Great Smoky Mountains National Park-1990
Soon after Jordan's video went public, the Huffington Post picked up the story, and my stats skyrocketed. Next, Yahoo News ran the story, and the stats jumped again. About a year later, the story resurfaced on social media, although greatly distorted. Nevertheless, it again resulted in a jump in page views on my blog. To date, at 16,207 page views and climbing, the post about the beginning of our love affair with the Smoky Mountains is the most viewed post on my blog.
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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.


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