Fall Foliage Is Here … Or Almost Here

A friend of mine brought this piece to my attention, and since I get excited about the color change in my own front yard, I thought I’d pass it along.

The front yard, Tennessee, October 2014.

The front yard, midmorning, Tennessee, October 2014.

Fifty small (American) towns with beautiful fall foliage, it says. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys a Sunday drive—and I am—you’ll enjoy scrolling through this list. Around here (Middle Tennessee), folks often go to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge (both on the list) in East Tennessee. And hey, if you’re that far east, drive on into Cherokee, North Carolina (on the list too). I’m a fan of Asheville, North Carolina, myself—and this list mentions Weaverville, “just minutes” away.

My friend—we grew up together in California—was pleased to see Mount Shasta on the list, but noted two other California sites for enjoying fall foliage: the Sonora Pass (the second highest highway pass in the Sierra Nevada) and Hope Valley (located on the south side of Highway 88 not far from Lake Tahoe). I don’t know, however, what the wildfires may have done to these locations this year.

They’re talking about an early winter here, so don’t waste any time once the leaves begin to turn. Get out from behind the computer, drive slow and safe, and report back. I’m hoping to see some nice fall colors when I’m in Ireland next month. And I’ll take photos!

Same tree, different angle, October 2013.

Same tree, different angle, late afternoon, October 2013.

 

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In Our Suburban Backyard … We Had a Hawk

We were just finishing breakfast and Jesse looked out the window. “Is that a hawk?” he said. It was. This is not something one sees in one’s suburban backyard.

Just perched right there on the fence, probably 30 feet away.

Just perched right there on the fence, probably 30 feet away.

So I grabbed my little camera (Canon S120—just a point-and-shoot but with a powerful zoom; I use it to take photos of the songbirds birds at the feeder from inside the house) and started shooting through a window with a SCREEN on it (thus the soft focus! ha).

It was his breakfast time too.

It was his breakfast time too.

The hawk was eating something—a small bird or a mouse—holding it clamped against the fence as he tore it into pieces. He ate all of it. Then he cleaned his beak and feet, stuck one leg up under himself, and rested.

Wind blowing his feathers.

Wind blowing his feathers.

He sat there so long I snuck onto the deck and took a few more. He was very comfortable there, and I have a couple dozen shots taken during this time.

For perspective.

For perspective.

Then I thought—duh—I should get out my big camera (Canon EOS 70D). Well, the battery was dead. And it’s brand new to me so I haven’t actually used it yet. So I frantically changed the battery, switched lenses (to a 300mm zoom), and snuck back out onto the deck.

He preened a little.

He preened a little.

What’s that? He could hear the camera clicking.

What’s that? He could hear the camera clicking.

Look up, look down …

Look up, look down …

… look all around.

… look all around.

He was beautiful.

He flapped a little.

He flapped a little.

Oh, wait, that was a practice run. Oops.

Oh, wait, that was a practice run. Oops.

Hope nobody saw that.

Hope nobody saw that.

I knew he was about to fly and was trying to be ready, but still, this isn’t focused. I was a second too late.

I knew he was about to fly and was trying to be ready, but still, this isn’t focused. I was a second too late.

I know now that this was a sharp-shinned hawk—and a juvenile.

Later, I walked out on the driveway to see what I might see.

Well, I know now it wasn’t a mouse he was eating.

Well, I know now it wasn’t a mouse he was eating.

A random death.

A random death.

It was a little shocking, the feathers scattered everywhere.

It was a little shocking, the feathers scattered everywhere.

It was a bird from my feeder, probably a sparrow. I’ve learned that the sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks commonly prey on feeder birds, and there’s always lots of activity at our bird table. Easy pickin’s.

Three days later and it seems we may, indeed, have a lurking hawk. This afternoon I found all the feathers and nothing else of a something larger than a sparrow (a mockingbird, I think) on the lawn, right under a tree branch where the hawk would have sat, pulling it apart. It was almost a perfect circle of soft gray. This was not a feline-induced death, which does sometimes happen in this yard; the cats leave the body, though—for them, all the charm is in the hunt.

I’m very much of the opinion that all God’s creatures gotta eat … but … I’d prefer that this beautiful young hawk go out to the fields that surround our subdivision and eat mice and voles and other rodents. I may have to stop feeding for a while while he forgets us.

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Flying Is Both a Blessing and a Curse

Sunday, 28 June 2015
We got up extra early and were at the restaurant for breakfast early—6am—and then caught the shuttle at 7am. I was checking a second piece of luggage, so we had to wait in line for that. (They didn’t charge me! Three years ago I had to pay extra to bring a second piece of luggage, but now the American Airlines website proclaims that the second piece is free. When did that change?)

Gerry walked me right up through the security gate and watched me pass through. (sigh) Watched me, in fact, until I rounded the next corner and couldn’t be seen.

It was very, very busy. The lines were long to check in, to go through security, to pass through U.S. Customs. Tourist season, remember. I don’t usually travel during the height of the tourist rush, so I know now I should have allowed more than the recommended two hours (and I was there two and a half hours early). I didn’t have time to do my VAT forms or get anything in the duty-free.

There are no electric plugs in the Dublin Airport, except in one little room that had two plugs (what’s up with that?)—and I’d forgotten to charge up the Kindle the night before (partly because I was using my adapter for other things: CPAP, for example). But all the lines I stood in took so long that they’d started boarding by the time I arrived at my gate.

Honestly, flying is a miserable experience. It used to be exciting and fun, back in the day. Today it felt like the seats had gotten smaller since my arrival—in the last eleven days.

That said, one of the nice things about flying is the view from above. This last view of Ireland always makes me a bit melancholy, though.

That said, one of the nice things about flying is the view from above. This last sight of Ireland always makes me a bit melancholy, though.

And then I got to Chicago. My Kindle and phone were both dead. I needed electricity, stat. JFK was so civilized: every hundred feet or so there was a huge column with a dozen or more outlets. Electricity was easy to find in New York. But Chicago had only one electricity supply area per concourse: little desks with four chairs and four measley outlets, and at first I was just glad to get a seat. Until I realized that the guy next to me was having an argument with his girlfriend while his phone charged. He absolutely did not care that there were three of us sitting there, unable to escape from his verbal posturing and strutting. Oh my goodness, it was painful. He was an idiot.

And then … Nashville. Home.

My friends Jenny and Kevin were waiting to pick me up in mid-afternoon; they’d been visiting Middle Tennessee friends and house-sitting for me.

At the Nashville International Airport: me, Kevin, Jenny.

At the Nashville International Airport: me, Kevin, Jenny.

• • •

That wasn’t the end of the excitement, though. My son and his girlfriend were in the process of moving to Tennessee from Phoenix. The next day, they crossed the state line.

Heading east over the Mississippi River at Memphis. Welcome home!

Heading east over the Mississippi River at Memphis. Welcome home!

I ran to the farmers market to get ready to greet them in the best way I know.

I ran to the farmers market to get ready to greet them in the best way I know.

Supper!

Supper!

It was definitely very good to be home.