Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sleep Advice

I was intrigued by a letter to the "Annie's Mailbox" column today. It seems a lady in her 50s is having trouble getting a good night's sleep. She has arthritis, a husband who listens to his iPod, and a cat who scratches on the mattress so she'll get up and feed him. Here's part of her letter:

My husband is up until the wee hours. If by some miracle I have fallen asleep, he wakes me up fiddling with his iPod. Then my cat wakes me by scratching the mattress for an early morning feeding.

The "Annie's Mailbox" gals suggest this:

Keep the bedroom door closed so the cat cannot get in. Explain to your husband that you need him to be sensitive to your sleep problems.

Now, as someone who used to write an advice column* and has a both a gang of cats and a husband with an iPad (actually my iPad!), several scanners, and a couple of ham radios, I also think this woman—with only one cat and a husband with only one electronic device—doesn't have much of a problem. I can also tell the advice the gals gave her so ain't gonna work.

Chloe, Foxy, Eddie-Puss, Camilla, Jim-Bob

Closing the door on the cat only means that the cat will find other ways to make his needs known. Dylan, our senior male cat, has mastered the knack of rattling doors while yowling. Once he broke the latch on the storm door by hurling himself at it when he wanted out. I'm pretty sure if I closed Dylan out, he'd have the door off the hinges in no time. If I ignore his yowls and rattles, he pees on whatever strikes his fancy—the sliding glass door, the computer screen, etc.


Jim-Bob walks up my body and sits on my shoulder to get my attention, Eddie-puss purrs loudly, Camilla bites, etc. Plus, Chloe and Jim-Bob are both screamers if they don't get their way.

Chloe & Jim-Bob

For the cat problem, I suggest the lady invest in a couple of automatic cat feeders or at least fill a couple of dishes with dry food before she goes to bed. Otherwise she needs to realize that the cat calls the shots, and she can take an afternoon nap if she needs more sleep.

If the husband is in his 50s, he's beyond the age of trainability and sensitivity. The lady needs to explain that if he wants to enjoy his iPod, he needs to do it in a separate room—preferably at the opposite end of the house and while wearing earphones. Otherwise the iPod might disappear mysteriously or suffer damage (she can blame it on the cat).

If the husband takes naps during the day, she should run the vacuum whenever he naps. Maybe then he'll decide to go to sleep at a decent hour.
*I used to write an advice column—well, sort of. You can find the last year's worth of columns on my Peevish Advice blog. My first couple years worth of columns are in this book, and a few more years' worth of columns are in this one. These books make great Christmas presents for people you can't stand but are obligated to give a gift to.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Half Broke Horses

I became a Jeanette Walls fan at the James River Writers Conference a few years ago when I heard her speak about—and read from—her memoir, The Glass Castle. I enjoyed The Glass Castle so much that I figured I'd like other books she wrote. A few weeks ago, I read—and indeed liked—Half Broke Horses.

Half Broke Horses, described as a "true-life novel" about Walls' grandmother, is pretty much a biography of Lily Casey Smith—and it's a doggone good read. Lily Casey Smith was a liberated woman before the term "liberated woman" existed. She was a cowgirl at six, a school teacher at fifteen (she rode her horse five hundred miles to take her first job), a rancher, airplane pilot, wife and mother, and survivor of various disasters.

Good reviews of Half Broke Horses abound on the Internet—The New York Times and The Washington Post are two—so I won't repeat what other reviewers have written. I enjoyed the book immensely for its content, feisty protagonist, and Walls' wonderful writing style.

In this video, Walls discusses Half Broke Horses:

I highly recommend her both her books.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Frisbee Fail 2

Once again, Maggie's frisbees have not fared well. This red one was usable until a few days ago

Maggie: Aw, c'mon. You could throw it if you really wanted to.

Me: Sorry, Maggie.

Maggie: Wait—let me see if I can find a substitute. Here's one. It's just a little frozen in my pool, but I think I can get it.

Me: Maggie, this won't work. It's only half a frisbee. And it's stuck in the ice!

Maggie: I've almost got it!

Maggie: Half a frisbee is better than none!

Me: I stand corrected, Maggie. But I wish you weren't so hard on your toys.

Maggie: Never underestimate the power of a border collie!


Friday, November 26, 2010


I'm not surprised that Emma Donoghue's novel Room just won the Hughes Hughes Novel of the Year prize. It's an excellent book, a compelling book, an I-can't-put-it-down-until-I-finish-it book. Positive reviews can be found all over the Internet: The New York Times, The Observer, The Washington Post, and many others.

Room is told from the viewpoint of five-year-old Jack, to whom an eleven-foot square room—actually a fortified garden shed—is the only world he's ever known. He was born there. He calls the place "Room;" inside Room are Bed, Rug, Wardrobe, and other furnishings important to Jack. He shares the room with Ma, who was kidnapped by "Old Nick" when she was a 19-year-old college student. Jack hides in Wardrobe when Old Nick makes his nightly visits to Ma.

  This article summarizes the plot (and tells about Donoghue winning the award), but the book trailer below gives you the feel of the book:

A video of Emma Donoghue discussing—and reading a bit—from Room:

I found the above video, and much more about Room, here:

One of my favorite passages from Room is this from page 287, after Jack and Ma have been out in the world for a few weeks:

In the world I notice persons are nearly always stressed and have no time. Even Grandma often says that, but she and Steppa don't have jobs, so I don't know how persons with jobs do the jobs and all the living as well. In Room me and Ma had time for everything. I guess the time gets spread very thin like butter all over the world, the roads and houses and stores, so there's only a smear of time on each place, then everyone has to hurry on to the next bit.
One of the best sites about Room is Room: The Book, in which you can explore an interactive diagram of Jack and Ma's room:

A few days ago, I thought The Help was the best book I've read this year—and, granted, it was a doggone good book.

  Room, however, is even better.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Help, the 60s, & RPI

I've just finished reading The Help, the best-selling and lavishly praised debut novel by Kathryn Stockett. After my friend Sally Roseveare couldn't put the book down, I figured I'd better read it. I'm glad I did. The Help, set in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi, is absolutely wonderful.

After I read The Help, I couldn't help thinking about my own experiences in the 60s. Unlike the white women in The Help, my family didn't have a maid. My first experience with black maids was at  Richmond Professional Institute (now VCU). I lived in Founders Hall, a Victorian-era mansion turned dormitory, on the corner of Franklin and Shafer—the edge of Richmond's Fan District.

From my sophomore through senior year, I lived in the part of the dorm called second front. Our maid on second front was Adeline Brooks, a big woman who looked after her girls. She was good not to tell on us to the housemother if we had anything in our rooms we weren't supposed to have. When I read The Help, I pictured Aibileen looking exactly like Adeline.

During my junior year (1965-66), my roommate Polly had a hard time getting up for her morning class. I didn't want her to flunk out and—on my way out to my own morning class—asked Adeline, who was sweeping the hallway, to make sure Polly got up. Adeline took her job seriously. She'd poke Polly with the end of her broom, entreating, "Miz Polly, Miz Polly, Miz Becky say you got to get up." Polly wasn't too thrilled, but at least she didn't flunk the class.

In my senior year, Adeline was transferred to a boys' dorm. We missed her and I reckon she missed us. If she happened to see one of her girls on the sidewalk, she'd run to us and give us a big hug.

As Bob Dylan sang a couple of years earlier, "The Times, They Are A-Changin'." And they changed in Richmond, too, but we were too sheltered to notice much. We knew there was a war in Viet Nam, but only those girls with boyfriends in the army kept up with it. We knew there was a civil rights movement, but we didn't keep up with it, either. Most of us didn't get a newspaper, and—except for the Kennedy assassination coverage—we rarely watched the  television in one of the dorm's three parlors. Our radios stayed tuned to music stations—usually WLEE. There was only one phone on second front, and the fourteen girls on second front had to share it with the girls on second center.

The dorms—and the RPI undergraduate programs—were segregated until my last two years. Then they integrated without a hitch. RPI was pretty liberal as Virginia colleges went.

However, when a black girl, Beatrice Wynn, was voted Harvest Ball Queen, it made headlines. As I remember, the Richmond paper sensationalized it a bit, but many students barely noticed.

After all these years, I can still see what second front looked like. My room was painted green, and had one dresser, two small wooden desks with chairs, a small sink, a closet, one window that overlooked the entrance to the basement cafeteria, and two twin beds with no headboards. I had the bed closest to the door. We shared a bathroom with the room next door. The old-fashioned tub was small. There was no air conditioning, and the radiator pipes rattled loudly when the heat cut on. Once we had a mild earthquake, but everyone thought it was just the the radiators.

Here are a couple of Founders Hall pages from the RPI yearbooks from 65-66 and 66-67:

Notice that the housemother, Mrs. Manning (top left, above) was smoking. A lot of the girls smoked too. But notice how prim the girls in the bottom picture were sitting, but how casual they were in their rooms. We always wore dresses or skirts to class or on campus. Any art students who had painting studio had to cover their jeans with trenchcoats.

I'm actually in one of these pictures—I'm the one in the foreground with a towel. Here's a close-up (Notice the caption!):

The road to beauty was indeed rough. We put on makeup before we went out. We wore stockings (This was before panty hose!). We rolled our hair up every night and slept with the uncomfortable rollers in our hair.  Notice how many have rolled-up hair in this late-night Christmas party in December 1965:

And here's a shot in someone's room. The people below are (from right top down) Mary White, Gus Thompson, Mary Hu Bridges, Marena Grant, and Polly White. Paulette McCall is on the left.

Now I'm in my mid-60s. Hard to believe my college days were 45 years ago. Times have indeed changed.

And books like The Help remind us just how much.
The RPI yearbooks from 1930 until 1960s can be read online at The Internet Archive.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

My First New Car

Warning: Nostalgia post follows—a long and rambling nostalgia post. But there's a cat.

As of a few weeks ago, Pontiacs won't be made anymore. That's a shame. They made great cars. One of my favorite cars—a 1967 Firebird—was made by Pontiac.

Actually, the 67 Firebird was a 67-and-a-half, because it came out a bit late to be a true 67. My yellow Firebird was the first car I ever bought new, and it replaced the 61 Ford Falcon that I'd been driving during my last two years of college.

My new Firebird in my mother's driveway on Floraland Drive in Roanoke.
The first time I saw a Firebird, I coveted it. In early May 1967, right after I signed my first teaching contract with York County Schools (to teach at Poquoson High School during 67-68), I ordered my new Firebird—canary yellow with a black interior. My daddy's cousin, Guy Brown, who worked at the Pontiac dealership on Williamson Road in Roanoke, sold it to me for $3,550. My payments were slightly over $50 a month, but I figured I could swing it because I'd get a whopping $5,500 per year from York County, which was one of the highest-paying school systems to which I'd applied. (My take-home pay was $355 per month. You'll notice 1967 was a year marked by 3s and 5s.)

Anyhow, I had the car a couple of weeks before I graduated from Richmond Professional Institute (which became VCU). Dorm students weren't supposed to have cars, but I'd kept the old Falcon on the streets of Richmond for two years without getting caught, and so the Firebird lived on the streets for a month, too. (Yeah, I checked on it a couple times a day.)

I put some miles on that Firebird. It took me to Newport News, where I lived in the Dutch Village Apartments (and where I met my husband at the swimming pool). It took me to Poquoson every weekday for work and to William & Mary during June and July 1968 for a graduate class in modern fiction.

That August, the Firebird took me to Charleston, SC, where hubby had been transferred, and it took me from North Charleston (where we lived in the Royal Palms Apartments) down the Ashley Highway to the Citadel where I went to grad school. The Firebird wasn't air-conditioned, so I drove with the windows down during the sweltering South Carolina summers.

When I got a job at St. Andrews Junior High for the 69-70 school year, it took me to work. During one of the hurricanes, someone ran into the back of it and left a small dent on the left side under the bumper. We never bothered to get it fixed.

The Firebird didn't take me to Massachusetts were we lived for a few months in late 1970, but it was back on the road when we moved back to Newport News. In 1972 we moved to Roanoke, so it took me to work at James Madison Junior High. When the odometer passed a hundred thousand, I bought a new 1977 Pinto (a truly dreadful car). But the Firebird stayed on the road off and on until 1980 when it went to live in my mother's garage. Once, a guy passing by saw it and offered $4,500 for it. We decided not to sell.

When we moved to Franklin County, the Firebird came along, albeit on a flatbed. It lived in the equipment shed next to the horses' run-in shelter for over a decade (Twiggy had her kittens under it), and it became coated with Franklin County red dirt.

When hubby cleaned out the shed a few weeks ago, he pulled it out. Since he needed the flatbed to move hay, the Firebird was unloaded on the lawn. The last couple of rains have washed most of the dust off.

With the dust washed off, you can see where it's starting to rust.

The Firebird is showing its age. It's an antique now.

So, I guess, am I.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Olive Kitteridge

I finally got around to reading Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout. I'd heard others praise it highly; now I know why.

I can see why this novel-as-a-series-of-related-short-stories won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. It's compelling and beautifully written. Olive, who appears as a major character in many of the stories and as a minor character in others, is complex and multi-layered.

Many reviews have already been written about Olive Kitteridge, and I can add little to them. The New York Times review is here; a good synopsis of the plot with links to numerous other reviews is here.

I highly recommend this book.


Friday, November 19, 2010

November Flowers

Is it mid-November already?  Then what's will all the flowers? Near the gazebo, roses still bloom. Granted, the gazebo probably sheltered them from the frost.

These yellow ones were tucked behind the rosemary.

The pasture is full of daisies. Shouldn't last week's frost have killed them?

This looks like a summer pasture. It can't be November 19, can it?

Well, there is one sign that winter is coming. . . .

I've never had roses and daisies and red holly berries all at once before. This has been a strange fall.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Musing (With Lemons)

a short story by Becky Mushko

"Musing (With Lemons)" placed 2nd in the 2010 Virginia Writers Club Golden Nib Contest.  It will soon be available online from the Virginia Writers Club website.

My favorite muse, Gertrude, left me last year. I was sitting in a wi-fi enabled coffeeshop, surfing the net, pondering an idea for my great American novel, and sipping my third cup when she flounced out.
“Look,” I think she might have said, “if you’re gonna sit on your butt, guzzle house blend, and make a feeble attempt to look like a writer in public, I am so outta here.”
I didn’t look up from my laptop. I didn’t need her drama.
“Besides,” she said with a sneer, “I’ve done all I can. With me to guide you, you became assertive, brash, cocky, persevering, out-spoken, confident, and bitchy. You stopped taking crap and could even dish it out when required. Thanks to me, you get paid for what you write. Thanks to me, you go to conferences and hobnob with people who might know a lot more than you. Thanks to me, you can self-edit a damn sight better than you used to. And you can almost query and pitch ideas that make sense. I made you who you are!” She pointed her immaculately manicured index finger at me. “And don’t you ever forget! But, you’ve still got a long way to go, Babe!”
Then, she turned on her stilettos and was gone.

Gertrude was one in a succession of muses I’ve had. The first, Annabelle Lee, was a wimp. She was the one who gave me bad advice under the guise of encouragement. She told me to “share my feelings” and encouraged me to write poetry that I now realize really sucked. Because of Annabelle Lee, I got suckered by the International Library of Poetry and thought I was really published.
“That’s OK,” she’d murmur softly as she sipped a cup of chamomile tea. “You tried. That’s what counts. And you are a semi-finalist in their contest. Your poem is even ‘Editor’s Choice.’ That’s so special.”
Annabelle Lee made me think that all my words were golden, that I didn’t need editing, and that anywhere I submitted work was just wonderful. She told me that I shouldn’t expect to be paid for my efforts—what I did was so special and wonderful and anyone who couldn’t see it was just jealous. All I had to do was type out more drivel and—someday— someone would see how wonderful my words were and I’d be a big name author. All I had to do was spew my wonderful words of wisdom to the world and wait. (Wonderful was her favorite word.) Sometimes, she’d grab a page right out of the typewriter and gush over it.
“Wonderful!” she’d say. “It touched my heart. You’re just so special.”
She convinced me that writing a self-absorbed column—for free!—for a local publication that did no editing to speak of was a good idea. She consoled me when I didn’t win writing contests.
 “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” she’d murmur. “Look for the silver lining. Keep trying. Keep your eyes on the prize.” What she said seemed to make sense—even though she used a lot of italics and clichés.
Annabelle Lee was warm and positive and wonderful. She hovered over me and stroked my ego as I typed.
“Dream big,” she’d say. “Build those castles in the air! There are no limitations to your imagination! The world is waiting for your special wonderful words!”
She was, in short, a clueless twit.
Fed up with her patronizing and italics, I realized what I had to do: I kicked her out. She pulled herself up by her special bootstraps and limped off, no doubt to inflict her wonderful warmth and encouragement on another clueless writer-wannabe.

My next muse was more practical. Maud arrived in the box with my first computer.
 “Look,” she said, puffing a Benson & Hedges menthol, flicking her ashes onto my floor, and grinding them into my carpet with the heel of her Doc Martens, “you gotta be practical. Computers let everybody think they can write. Who’s gonna read all that drivel, tell me that?” She leaned forward and blew smoke into my face. “Look,” she said, peering over my monitor, “you wanna make a go of this writing gig, you better get a clue. First, do your homework!”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said. Frankly, Maud scared me a little.
“Nobody gives a fig about sharing your feelings,” she’d say. “People don’t want to think or feel. They want to be entertained. They want a good laugh.” She blew a couple of smoke rings over my computer. “Look—when life gives you lemons, realize that any schmuck can make lemonade. You’ve got to do something different. How about redneck humor? You could probably do that.” She snubbed out her cigarette butt on my keyboard.
I nodded. And I started writing a redneck humor column. The crap actually sold.
While I hacked out my column, Maud flipped through my novel. “This is a long way from finished,” she said. “Look—you need another chapter or two to wrap it up. And get rid of those clichés. Sheesh!”
Eventually I got used to Maude’s cutting remarks and her over-use of the word look. “Cut the adjectives!” she’d say. “And the adverbs. My Gawd! Look! What’s with all this explaining? Cut it!”
If I didn’t do as she said, she’d grab my keyboard and either refuse to relinquish her hold on my delete key or else blow smoke until I couldn’t see what I was doing.
Finally, she gave up on me. I knew she was gone when I saw the writing on the Post-It note on my monitor: “Look—you need more help than I can give you!”

A few days later, Elvira came in the mail with a rejection slip. She was all business. Peering over her horn-rimmed spectacles and sipping a martini that she said she’d saved from her last lunch with an editor, she insisted I go to readings by professional writers and ask them questions afterward.
“Find out how they did it,” she’d say. “Then you do it.”
She gave me a reading list and expected reports. “How are you going to write if you don’t read what’s selling?” she’d say.
She assigned me agents to research on the Internet, told me to look at other writers’ websites, and forced me to create a website of my own. She showed me how to detect scammers.
“Listen, my dear,” she said, “If an agent or publisher says they ‘welcome new writers,’ run the other way—as fast as your chubby out-of-shape legs can carry you! Don’t you see, anyone who solicits ‘new writers,’ is really saying, ‘Welcome, sucker!’”
Elvira didn’t stay long. One day I found her business card on my desk. On the back, she’d written: “We’ll do lunch sometime. Meanwhile, if life sends you lemons, make a lemon meringue pie and copyright the recipe.”

A few days later, Gertrude crawled out of the keyboard when I opened my new laptop. She had an agenda: either I’d get serious about writing or I’d get out of writing. She gave me a list of what to read. She signed me up for conferences. She was all business—or else. Her advice: “If life sends you lemons, make something of them, market it, and move on.”
She perused my website and found it lacking. “Lose the purple background and the yellow text!” she insisted. “Whatever were you thinking?”
“It was a template,” I said, “My service provider provides free web space to—”
She cut me off. “Nothing is free!” she said. “Now, get rid of the fluff. Combine and condense. Make it business-like. Writing is a business! A website—and one that has your name in it—isn’t enough. You need a blog!”
While Gertrude barked orders, I redid my website, sent out query letters, networked at conferences, rewrote several works-in-progress, gave up my column, and blogged. Before long, I had over 2,500 profile look-ups and a couple dozen followers. Blogging was cutting into my writing time, but Gertrude insisted it was necessary.
The day after she’d abandoned me at the coffeeshop, she left an anonymous comment on my blog: “Remember what I said about lemons.”

A few days later, I was browsing at Books-A-Million when Aurelia popped out from the pages of Networking for Dummies.
“I’m your new muse,” she said. “Friend me.” Then she followed me home.
“The blogging isn’t enough!” she declared. “Social networking is the key! You need a Facebook account. And Twitter. You should Tweet everyday.”
I continued to blog, but I also Facebooked and Tweeted. Aurelia had a long list of people I should friend and follow. It was all I could do to blog, mention on Facebook that I’d blogged, network my blog, Tweet about my blog, and then blog that I’d mentioned it on Facebook and Twitter. I rarely had time to actually write—and if I did, Aurelia made sure that I blogged about writing.
But it wasn’t enough. Aurelia thought I should freelance and then blog and Tweet about the articles I’d written, which would lead to more freelance assignments that I could post about.
“I can’t do all this!” I complained.
 “A good writer can multi-task,” she insisted.
Later that afternoon, I saw the writing on my Wall: “If life gives you lemons, make sure you Tweet about how you shared those lemons.” Then Aurelia unfriended me.

My latest muse, Melvin, arrived as an email attachment the day after Aurelia Tweeted that she’d dropped me as a Facebook friend.
“Add more humor to your blog,” he said. “Folks like that. But it’s not enough.” He plopped his ample butt down in a chair next to my desk. “OK, here’s the plan,” he said. “Ya gotta good platform—what with the blog and Facebook and Twitter. Maybe ya oughta Link-In, though. Digg it?” He snickered at the puns he’d made. When I didn’t respond, he continued, “Parlay that platform into readership for a novel. Research the market and see what’s hot in fiction. Write a novel that fits. Polish it. Then pitch it. Any questions?”
I shook my head and stared at my computer screen. I was too busy revising an article I was working on, surfing the ’net in between reading emails, updating my blog, checking my status, writing on my Wall, and Tweeting to pay much attention to him.
“Oh,” he continued, kicking off his cowboy boots and making himself comfortable, “before ya get busy, ya think you can make me a cup of tea?”
I signed off Twitter and Facebook to go to the kitchen and make his tea. He took a sip and smacked his lips.
“Tasty,” he said, “but needs a slice of lemon. Ya mind?”
I returned to the kitchen where I took a lemon from the refrigerator and a knife from the drawer. I brought them back to my study where Melvin now had his feet propped on my desk while he read my email.
I didn’t slice the lemon. Instead, I brandished the knife under Melvin’s nose.
“Well,” he said, removing his feet from my desk and leaning back, “no reason to get testy. After ya give me a proper slice of lemon, I’ll see if I can give ya a little inspiration that might pay off. Maybe help ya cut that last article ya wrote to a workable length. But I’m not making any promises, mind ya.”
“Get out!” I said, pointing the knife at his throat. “I already know what to cut.”
Melvin sat the teacup on the edge of my desk. He eased himself out of the chair, grabbed his boots, and edged toward the doorway. “No reason to get testy,” he mumbled.
“You’re being redundant,” I said. “Out!”
He left.
As he ran down the sidewalk with his boots tucked under his sweaty armpits, I hurled the lemon at him. Then I went returned to my study. The aroma of him still lingered. I held my nose and got back to work.

“Who needs a muse anyway?” I Tweeted.
I could use a heavy-duty air freshener, though. Possibly lemon-scented. Maybe one of my Facebook friends can recommend a good one. . . .


Monday, November 15, 2010

Frisbee Fail

Try explaining to a border collie why you can no longer throw her broken frisbee.

Maggie knows you could figure out a way to do it.

You could at least try! So what if the frisbee is in several pieces? It's just getting (ahem) broken in.


When something is beyond repair, it's best to give up on it.


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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Seeing Red

The colors haven't been as intense this fall as other years—especially the reds.

Several of my blogger buddies have posted pictures of leaves in their neighborhoods: Blue County Magic and Blue Ridge Gal are two counties over from me and I think they've seen more intense color.

Nevertheless, we did have a bit of color at Smith Farm a few days ago, but not much red:

So—where did I see the red color of fall? Maybe on a foxhunter's coat where the Smith Mountain Hounds were hunting.

Or maybe in my own backyard—like this burning bush at the end of my bottom driveway.

Sometimes what you're looking for is right under your nose. Or in your own backyard.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Little Oak

This is a close-up view of a little tree that grew of its own accord—or its own acorn—near my front porch. It's been here a couple of years now. It looks pretty big in this picture.

When you look too closely at something, do you really see it for what it is? Let's move back just a little. 

Doesn't look quite so big now, does it? But it still dominates the landscape. Let's move back a little more.

Has the oak gotten smaller? No, but our view now takes in much more than part of one little tree. Let's step back even farther.

Now we see where the oak is in relation to the porch column, the shrubbery, the woods beyond the field across the road, and Smith Mountain in the distance.

Perspective matters. If something seems to dominate your view, perhaps it's time to stand back and look at the big picture.