Category: Animals


Yesterday afternoon, we headed over to Empire to witness the release of an adolescent eagle back in to the wild.  Despite not having the characteristic coloring of an adult eagle, she was still a beautiful, powerful presence.  A few hundred people were there and we all cheered as the magnificent bird soared skyward.  

dsc_0050dsc_0051

Following the eagle, Erick and I took the girls over to the big lake and collected stones and watched a lone freighter pass quietly in the distance.  The water was a vibrant hue – a turquoise blue.  

dsc_0075

dsc_0073dsc_0070dsc_00721

The sun was setting as we left for Boones in Glen Arbor (yum).  And on the way back, I captured my farm at dusk.  The wind turbine moved slowly on a light breeze.  Love that place.  

dsc_0085dsc_0101dsc_0102

The girls were sleepy on the way home.  

And finally, a photo of Grandpa and me at Thanksgiving.

dsc_0021

Yesterday, Dianna and I went out to a farm west of town and met a couple who have two beautiful horses boarded there.   It wasn’t all that far from the house, but off the road a ways and tucked between other larger farms so that you felt like you were in the middle of nowhere.  I befriended a thoroughbred gelding who was cribbing.  When my hands reached through his new winter coat, I found nothing but ribs.  His hips protruded through his new coat.  He had no muscle mass on either thigh.  

Cribbing is defined as a “vice in which the horse bites or places its upper incisor teeth on some solid object, pulls down, arches his neck, and swallows gulps of air which go into the stomach, not the lungs.”  It generates a high for the horse and can kill them over time when the air in their stomach makes them feel “full” and reduces their urge to eat.  

There are cribbing collars which prevent the horse from angling their necks out and taking in large gulps of air.  Why this horse isn’t wearing one at this stage is beyond me.  I hope to find out in the next few days if there’s some way of getting him one to save his life.  Unfortunately with the economy in this shape, horses in particular are suffering. 

I’m also wondering about animals seeking out a high.  I’ve seen hot-blooded horses do this by pacing – they get a sort of “runner’s high” from it.  And I wonder how anyone could think horses aren’t intelligent when they search for the same way out so many humans seek out when it seems there is no way out.  

For now, my focus is that gelding.

On August 24th, 79AD, one day following Vulcanalia, the Roman festival for the god of fire, Mt Vesuvius erupted and buried the town of Pompeii in layers of ash and pumice.  At the time, those living in Pompeii were not even aware that the beautiful mountain dominating their horizon was an active volcano.  In fact, the hadn’t even a word yet for volcano in their vocabulary.

Charlotte, NC was one of only four cities in the United States granted permission to display for the next few months artifacts and the body casts of people, pets and even livestock uncovered in Pompeii.  

Today I took the girls to the exhibit.  I knew I couldn’t fully explain the devastation, so I did my best to help them understand what we would be seeing once we entered the exhibit by showing them a BBC film about the disaster and also by talking about what life would have been like for people living 2000 years ago.  

Inside the museum we saw frescos – (and we learned the word fresco translated into English means “fresh” and described the method of painting murals while the plaster was still wet, or fresh) – preserved by the hot ash ovens with bread still inside, jewelry, currency, and several types of amphorae which were large ceramic vessels that held oil, wine, fish or grain.  Inscribed on one of these amphora was the Latin word “Auctus” which gave rise to our English word meaning auction.  The writing also described the day the piece was sold at auction, “under a blue sky” and the name of either the buyer or the seller.  This information was relayed to us by a scholar and actress dressed as if she had just walked out of the first century.     

I didn’t realize we would be seeing the body-casts.  We were lead down a dark hall into a darkened room where only the eerie white casts of bodies could be seen.  These casts were made by Giuseppe Fiorelli who excavated the site during the nineteenth century.  According to Wiki, “During early excavations of the site, occasional voids in the ash layer had been found that contained human remains. It was Fiorelli who realised these were spaces left by the decomposed bodies…”  Fiorelli devised a way of injecting plaster into the molds thus preserving the bodies of victims of Vesuvius down to the expressions on their faces.  

Even I was not prepared for the emotions that swept through me.  And my youngest begged to go home.  The sight was both compelling and humbling:   The dog chained and without hope of surviving; the couple holding each-other in one final embrace; the slaves whose legs were bound; the woman who tried in vain to cover her face with a cloth against the toxic plume; the pig whose ribs shown through patches of thick skin.  The images will haunt me for some time.  Not in the bad way you might imagine, but in a way that reminds us of our own mortality and keeps us present in the moment.  These casts are the ghosts of our history and they tell their own stories to us individually.  

A walk through uptown concluded our day in Pompeii where our cityscape, though taller, is not all that different.  We still build monuments to ourselves of marble and adorn these buildings with art and sculpture.  We walk the crowded streets full of bustling commerce.  And we walk among those more or less fortunate than ourselves in that imaginary hierarchy that means little in the scheme of things; for the slaves of Pompeii are remembered and revered alongside the wealthiest and most influential members of their society. 

Above: Bronze statues at Trade and Tryon, the Hearst Tower (my favorite building)

And I can’t leave out the gals who had a splendid adventure.  I love that Wolfy is just fixated on the Bank of America tower.  You can’t see the top when your standing at street level – it’s pretty magical for a little person.

 

Eight years ago this afternoon, I got married to this man in a beautiful ceremony on the shoreline of East Grand Traverse Bay on a narrow strip of sandy peninsula uncovered by low water levels that year.  Grandma Maxine (Marker) had commented to me one afternoon, as we swayed on the old porch swing overlooking the bay, that this peninsula only appears once every 75 years.  I thought it would make a beautiful spot for a ceremony!  One that would reminisce on its own long after we were dead and gone from this earth.

Josh walked me down the isle and doted on me the whole afternoon, having never fully approved of any of my male counterparts – he was reluctant to let enter into the confines of matrimony.  We walked barefoot down the beach as we had done many times before, only this time Josh wore a tux and I lifted my satin skirts above my ankles to protect the dress lovingly made for me by my close friend Kate.  Kate made all of the dresses in our wedding by hand and I love to this day that she so resembles Audrey Hepburn in all the photographs. 

Later, I would run into acquaintances from school who had heard I had finally married that Joshua Marker boy because people had seen us walking together across the street at our wedding.  Close, I would say, but not quite.

 

I think for both Erick and myself one of the most beautiful things about our ceremony was the love poured into every detail.  We had only $1200 to spend on the big event and asked for help in every aspect of preparation.  Kate’s mom made us a delightfully tasty cake (carrot – Erick’s favorite), Kate made the beautiful dresses and subsequently made them priceless, Uncle Doug made his famous ribs, everyone brought a dish to pass, the Markers outdid themselves offering their home for the reception – and decorating it splendidly, Erick’s father serenaded us down the isle and my step-father brought down the table he had crafted by hand to hold our cake.  It was such a fun occasion and I will always remember the people who made our day special. 

And it is the people still we remember more than anything.  So many have gone.  My uncle, who in the photos looks vibrantly healthy, died of cancer that winter.  My grandmother and Grandma Maxine, who called me (and everyone who joined her on the porch swing) “Darlin'”, Sandy Bottoms, Uncle Jack, Anne and others – it seemed this gathering for our family was one of the last to include so many of our elders.  And in such, we have some wonderful photos that we will always cherish.  

One of my favorite memories of that evening was Erick sitting down with my Uncle Craig to play some music.  They played together well into the night.  Erick’s father later joined in and the music transported us into the same nostalgic state I feel whenever I see the photos.   

Here, we’ve just uncovered the beautiful table made by my step-father.  A cottonwood slab balanced over the base of a large cedar stump.  Wow, we say, wow!

 

We didn’t get fancy with the guys.  Just black and white with attitude.  Behind John and Andy, you can see the sandy peninsula where the ceremony took place.  We were married unintentionally on Friday, the 7th in the seventh month (July) at seven o’clock.  Lucky us.  We were embarking upon the adventure of becoming a family.  Today we can look back and see how the fabric was carefully woven to include not only our children and immediate family, but also our friends and people who entered our lives after this date who will always be a part of the journey. 

*Please note, these are some of the few digital photos I have of our wedding.  The majority of photos are still packed away in boxes up north, but whenever we land somewhere, I’ll scan and share some of them here.

This afternoon we drove out to Grandfather Mountain and did some exploration in the rain.  It was a **beautiful** trip and I hope to return sometime soon.  At the peak, Grandfather is over one mile high and there’s a suspension bridge leading to the peak that spans a forty-foot gorge one mile deep!  The girls enjoyed the wildlife – cougars, an eagle, bear, an otter, some deer and a muskrat that crossed the road while we were leaving.  Celli accompanied us and seemed to enjoy the mountain as much, if not more than anyone. 

Driving to the peak was exciting.  Our back wheels slid against the sharp inclines, and our truck was far too big for some of the 180-degree turns, but we managed and made it to the top with time to spare before the storm.

The storm hit hard some time after Hickory and seemed to be firing water and lightning at anything that moved.  In the city, the thunder roared and ricocheted between buildings – like War of the Worlds, only really wet. The rivers were swollen to twice their size – I guess this happens quickly down here.  Everyone drove with their hazards because the water was so deep on the roads and you couldn’t make out the other cars very well.  One of the things I love about this region is the rains storms – they last for hours, unlike Michigan where it seemed we would get bursts of a storm, but they would quickly fizzle (except in the winter when the snow seemed never-ending).  

We’ve enjoyed some fireworks in the city – reminds me so much of Harbor Days back home.  What a wonderful end to such an adventurous trip.  Tomorrow we hope to see the ocean!

Happy holiday everyone!  Have a safe, adventurous weekend.

The girls take a break beneath split-rock – One serious bolder.

Okay, they weren’t really wild like I told my mom.  They were as tame as could be and waiting for hand-outs from visitors.  

Popo and I take a break in the rain for one quick photo 5000+feet in the air.  Photo by Wolfy.

The Mile-high “swinging bridge”

 

The storm was raging by the time we reached Charlotte.  Cars, trucks and motorcyclists especially crowded under overpasses to wait for a clearing.  Visibility was crap and here you can see the hazards on the car ahead of us.  

My favorite stop along 321.  The only truly affordable and fun, hand-made locally shop I’ve found.

I love the drive into the mountains for all of the old farmsteads and homesteads, fruit-stands and the views!

In the heat, Celli cools off by lying on any concrete surface she can find:

 

Happy Father’s Day!  The girls surprised Erick with hand-made sock-puppets and drawings this afternoon.  It was fun watching them assemble them in secret.  I stood back and didn’t interfere and, as often happens when I don’t interfere, all went smoothly.  The girls are creative beings.

  

To help with sock-monster production, Erick bought me a Singer.  It’s my first real sewing machine (besides the one back home, circa 1904) and fairly dummy-proof, so I’m very happy using it.  I can now sew the bodies and the appendages with the machine, bur still enjoy sewing the monsters together by hand.

  

Above is the new “Americana Monster” alongside another “doll.”  I’m loving the names people are sending for their monsters.  I’ve decided not to name them because people have been so creative and fun.  We’re now beefing up our inventory – trying to produce and sell somewhere near 80 monsters by December.  

Below:  The new Wachovia tower is reaching 20+ floors and counting.  When finished, it will reach 55 stories.  

Our second child celebrates her 6th birthday today!  She was born at home – a very fast delivery and has surprised us often with her tenacious approach to life.  With such a peaceful birth, we expected a quiet child, but our little Offy-offess is bold, curious, and pushes the envelope at every turn.  As we grew to know this boisterous child, we were equally surprised to see a most delicate and tender side to her as she approached people who were sad or bandaged a boo-boo on her older sister’s knee.

While still in MI, I would take the girls out after a hard rain and we would collect worms in buckets (saving them from the road) to transplant into the garden beds.  Po-po, the older of all three had devised a system where she pointed to the worm and Wolfy would retrieve it carefully for the buckets.  I didn’t know for some time that the Po had never even touched a nematode!  

Wolfy likes to take charge and she knows when she is needed.  She wasn’t worried about her sister’s fear of worms; she was genuinely concerned for the outstretched earth worms flattening themselves out over the long expanse of asphalt.  For Wolfy, it was a true rescue mission.  

And so today Erick will bake a Sponge-Bob square cake and we’ll make dinner and celebrate another journey around the sun with our wee-beeb and wolfiest one.

Things are really heating up here in the south.  I’ve heard it rumored that running in the summer air down here is like swimming.  Only underwater, you try not to breathe – outside, you haven’t a choice. It’s a challenge to get enough air right now, but I think this will only help in the long run (pardon the pun). 

I’m amazed at all the support coming in via email and comments regarding the upcoming fund-raising and half-marathon and all I can say is **Thank-you!**  It means a whole heck of a lot to see both friends and strangers reach out with encouragement.  Agreeing to run a marathon is not an easy decision and in this case it’s compounded by the fund-raising goal.  I’m in a new town where I know very few people and I’m not a natural runner.  As with the cancer-battle, this isn’t an act of physical endurance as much it is pure determination.      

This morning, near the end of my run, I thought about the people I’ve met who’ve inspired me.  Thinking of them took away the awareness of my fatigue and allowed me to make one more stride after one more stride until I crossed the imaginary finish-line.  Out of breath from trying to breathe in the thick air, I thought to myself, only twelve more miles to go!  Right now it doesn’t seem possible, but with each stride I’m a little closer to my end goal.  And as a team of mothers and fathers; sisters and brothers; husbands and wives and children; taking on this disease and running full tilt toward a cure; stride by stride, we’re that much closer to our goal for a cure.  

Tomorrow, Celli and I are walking for a cure for human and canine cancers: The 2008 Dogs Walk Against Cancer.  Lymphoma is a common cancer for dogs, so we’re proud to be taking part in an event to raise money and awareness for we two-leggers and our four-legged friends.

Thank-you again for your support!

In addition to the Carolina house, we’re considering an old farmhouse a little closer to Charlotte (still a 40-min commute).  It’s a neat house with a slate roof and a fireplace in every room along with some of the worst wallpaper of the century (and cats- lots of cats).  The house comes with 2.76 acres and some old out-buildings, nut trees, peach and apple trees and road frontage named for the farmstead.  

Asking price is well below recent appraisal and the house seems very solid, but I didn’t get the same warm-fuzzies I get with the Carolina Ave. house.  I think mostly, it’s the presence of the people and the wallpaper detracting from the original structure. I’d show you additional photos, but the rooms were in a very messy state.  The house has been updated and is “move-in ready,” as they say.  Even our youngest has been spouting real estate lingo:  “Location, location, location,” she repeated over and over again last night. 

For photos, please visit our flickr site


 

May 30, 2008

Beneath our fourth-floor-flat; somewhere on the sidewalk or in a nest fitted into the canopy of some tree, or maybe over the top of a gutter; I hear a mockingbird chic crying.  Well into the afternoon he or she utters peep after tiny peep into the thick air until you learn to ignore it as you might ignore the fire alarm with a low battery:  Beep…  beep.

Into the night, the chirping continues, though by this time I am only loosely aware of the sound emanating from some poor hapless creature outside my window.  It isn’t until after midnight, when my family is sleeping and the soothing fan is oscillating from its post across the room that I rediscover the little peeper in my head. 

“Peep,” it calls out; lonely.  “Peep,” it says, “I’m hungry.”  As the night wears on it begins to think, “Peep,”  “Come on guys; this isn’t funny.”  Where are you?  The little bird has been abandoned.  I consider getting up to investigate- but I am tired and my youngest child has a fever and has spent the day in the ER, so I wait it out.  Maybe the little bird will go to sleep. 

After midnight:  Peep, peep.  Peep.  Peep.  “Help me, I’m all alone!”  Poor bird.  I should get up and help it.  I am walking into the heat of the southern early summer, through the heavy fire door of my fourth-floor flat, down cement halls, barefoot and cautiously aware of my vulnerability.   I float into the smoky elevator that quacks at every floor and out through the gated door where I stand looking up at my darkened windows feeling very alone in the world.  Peep, I think to myself, peep.

“Peep” the bird cries and awakens me to the fact that I am only standing at an open window four protected floors above him.  Peep, I cry out inside.