Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Total Eclipse of The Mind

On August 19 and 20, 2017, my spouse and I traveled by car from our home near Binghamton, New York to Columbia, South Carolina to view a total eclipse of the sun that would take place on August 21, 2017.  It's a distance of about 750 miles (1,207 kilometers).

We almost didn't make it there, because I lost my nerve somewhere in Virginia.  I haven't admitted that up to now.  If it wasn't for my son, traveling ahead of us in his car, we may never have made it.

We were familiar with the route.  We had made the trip to South Carolina several times; to Columbia, once.  We would take I-81 to I-77 to Mt. Airy, North Carolina.  The next day would be a short drive to Columbia.

That is, until we hit the traffic jam in Virginia.  Much of the trip in fact, is in Virginia.   We are talking around 234 miles from (approximately) the northern border of Virginia to its intersection with I-77, and then there is still more driving after that. 

We knew many people were traveling south to watch the eclipse, but hadn't imagined this would happen.

The traffic jam stretched as far as the eye could see.  No construction was in sight, nor was an accident. 

My son called, a few minutes ahead of us.

"I pulled off and stopped at a gas station.  The attendant told me the traffic jam stretches to the Virginia border." he calmly told me.

Oh no.

We would never make Mt. Airy.  We would never make the eclipse.  We would never.... negative thoughts filled my head.

We got to the gas station.  We talked to someone pumping gas at the next pump.  "Yes", he confirmed.  "It's the traffic going south to see the eclipse.  It's all jammed up."

I called my son, visions of a 200 mile long traffic jam curdling my thought processes.

"I don't know..." I began. "I'm thinking of turning around..."

"Mom!" interrupted this young man in his 20's.  "You aren't going to give up now, are you?  I'm not giving up!"

This is what my son did.  He got off of I-81.  He had never been in the area. He had no routine, no preconceived notions.  He went for broke.  He used Google Maps on his phone to find a Virginia state road that paralleled I-81.  It was rural, and it was slower, but what was the alternative?

Believe it or not, after we started to follow him, we got back on I-81 a couple of times, and quickly found ourselves back in the traffic jam.  Finally, the wisdom of what he was doing sunk in.

That night, in Mt. Airy, in the motel room we shared, he told us of his adventures.  He had fallen in love with that part of Virginia, especially after someone flagged him down to tell him his gas cap was open.   He talked about the beauty he saw.  He's definitely a blue highway kind of man.

The next morning, the road to Columbia was clear.

I learned so much about myself during that trip.  I'm stuck in my ways. I have to unstick myself.

I have to relearn being flexible.

Not where I viewed the eclipse but I'm sure it was fun for the fans
If I had listened to myself, I would have missed this.

Columbia, South Carolina, day before eclipse
And this.

And this.

South Carolina State Museum, where we watched it, at totality
And this, one year ago today.
The horizon at totality
And this.

Sometimes, you just need a good kick in the pants from your son.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Times of our Musical Lives #MusicMovesMe

It's tribute time.  It's Monday and time for #MusicMovesMe, and we've lost still another music great.

Who are the #MusicMovesMe bloggers? Every other week we have a theme, and on alternate weeks, we can blog about any music we wish.  We are headed by our head Engineer XmasDolly, who will be taking a break for a month or so (please keep her in your thoughts as she will be undergoing some surgery).  Her co-conductors are:  Callie of JAmerican Spice, (who right now is only able to post occasionally due to vision issues - please keep her in your thoughts as she takes this journey) and ♥Stacy of Stacy Uncorked♥   Also, co-conducting  is  Cathy from Curious as a Cathy although she will become a temporary head Engineer starting this week while XMas Dolly recuperates.   And, (last but not least), there's little ol' me.

Our rules here are simple:  
We really want to boogie with you, so please keep in mind that this is a blog hop and open to music posts ONLY!
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It's been almost a week since Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, left us.  Tribute after tribute has been written.  What can I possibly add?

Pancreatic cancer has taken other musicians and talented people (in addition to many "just folks" that keep our world spinning, so to speak).  I wanted to pay tribute to some of them, too.

First, a couple from Aretha - not her biggest hits, but songs from earlier in her career.

Aretha covering "Try a Little Tenderness".  This song originally dates from 1932, way before Otis Redding had a hit with it.  Here is Aretha.

A performance from 1970 "I Say a Little Prayer".

Now, others taken from us by pancreatic cancer.

Two kings after the Queen: Luciano Pavarotti (with James Brown) singing "It's a Man's World".

Dizzy Gillespie "A Night in Tunesia".

Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer "Lucky Man".

Michael Landon, better known in his roles on Bonanza and Touched by an Angel, sings "Shenandoah".
Ray Price, "Heartaches by the Number", from 1959.


I will end this with Patrick Swayze in the famous "Time of My Life" dance of his character Johnny Castle with Baby in "Dirty Dancing".

RIP to all those taken from us by cancer.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Mystery Butterfly of the Blueberries?

I hope someone can help me name this butterfly.

I found it in a blueberry bush when I was picking blueberries near Castle Creek, New York today.  He (or she) actually stood still long enough that I wondered if the butterfly was somehow stuck in the blueberry bush.  Unfortunately, I could not get the entire butterfly in the picture.

Here's another view, taken right before the mystery butterfly took off.

I'm thinking, from this web page, common buckeye but it doesn't seem to have round spots you see in the picture.

Considering how much I love flowers, I know very little about butterflies, but I'm confident one of my fine readers will give me an ID.

And the blueberries?  It's late in the season, but even with all our rain, they are still coming.  (Had to dodge some sweat bees and yellow jackets, though.)

Incidentally - I made my pictures a little larger.  If you find these hard to load on your mobile device, though, please be sure to let me know.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Pancreatic Cancer

Several years ago (I don't remember exactly when) I heard a rumor that Aretha Franklin had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

On Thursday, sadly, that rumor proved itself correct (I will do a musical tribute post to Aretha Franklin on Monday).

Pancreatic cancer is personal for me.  It killed an aunt, an uncle and a great aunt (both sides of my family have been touched).  Someone I walked with at lunch for years lost her brother in law to it.  A former boss lost her sister to it.  And on and on.

Pancreatic cancer is personal to the purveyor of the best fried fish in the universe, too.

Back in November of 2009, the food truck of a restaurant located in upstate New York, Doug's Fish Fry, did a month of pancreatic cancer fundraisers.  A portion of proceeds were donated to PANCAN.

I wrote most of the following post in November of 2009.  To me, it is shameful that pancreatic cancer remains one of the most deadly, if not most deadly, of cancers.  It's hard to detect early, which would be a key to early treatment.

One day pancreatic cancer will be as easy to diagnose as breast cancer, or cervical cancer.  We can always dream.  And pray.  At one of the fundraisers back in 2009, we saw an information plaque which gave various facts about pancreatic cancer.  One of them was pretty sobering:  it said that the state of pancreatic cancer research is approximately where breast cancer research was in the 1930's.

Well, we who were alive in the 1970's know how much the fight against breast cancer has advanced since then.

Circa 1960's, if a woman was suspected of having breast cancer, she went under the knife.  Many times they did something called a frozen section biopsy while the woman was under.  If this biopsy was positive for cancer, the mastectomy was done then and there.  No counseling, no opportunity for the woman to make a treatment decision, no warning, no nothing.  The woman woke up minus a breast.  Who cared about her feelings?

How grateful we women (and men, as men get breast cancer, too - did you know that?) should be for the amount of progress made since then.

Now it is time to apply that same can-do spirit to pancreatic cancer.  Why?
1.  There was no early detection method for pancreatic cancer (as of 2009, and I believe that is still true).
2.  (partially as a result of #1) this is one of the most deadly forms of cancer there is.  We were talking an approximately 4% survival rate after five years in 2009.  Now it's up to 7%, according to the American Cancer Society.

It is not unknown for people to die less than a month after diagnosis.  That is devastating to the family, never mind the person with the cancer.

3.   Not that celebrities should be more important than the rest of us but do you remember:  Michael Landon?  Jack Benny?  Donna Reed?  Rex Harrison?  Joan Crawford?  Fred Gwynne? Luciano Pavarotti?  (some of these are more baby boomer icon names). How about Sally Ride? Patrick Swayze? Steve Jobs? Bonnie Franklin? Pernell Roberts? And now, Aretha Franklin?

The sad but true fact is that it is the loss of celebrities (or the famous) that call people to action.  Although, as this article points out, there aren't too many "famous" spokepeople for this illness-they don't survive long enough.

If a cause isn't (excuse the expression) "sexy", it doesn't get the money.

Pancreatic cancer certainly doesn't get money for research the way some other cancers do.  Not to take away the importance of any cancer, but I believe funding must become more even between types of cancer.

That would be such a wonderful way to honor the memory of the Queen of Soul.

(Written in honor of my aunt Trudy, who died from pancreatic cancer in August of 1974).

Friday, August 17, 2018

#SkywatchFriday - Mushrooms and Sunsets

I'm always looking for a novel way to watch the sky.

But before I show you my newest method, I want to thank everyone who has visited and commented on my blog over the past couple of days.  The wacky weather the Northeast United States has been experiencing has led to flooding in many places.  Tuesday, it was the turn of my area of upstate New York to experience flash flooding.

I am not personally affected but we have more rain in the forecast for tomorrow, and we are not too far from the possibility of river flooding.  If you read my blog posts of September, 2011, you will learn how a flood impacted the life of many in our area, including my spouse and me.

Just one story out of many thousands.

So today, I watch the sky for many reasons.

Take last Friday for example.

Last Friday, we had a "calm before the storm" sunset.  Red sky at night - it was a sailor's delight, but not for long.
I think we were being given a message.  Or a warning.

But what about my newest method of watching the sky?


This is a yellow (the yellow didn't show up too well) mushroom I found growing Wednesday on the grounds of the Broome County Courthouse near where I work in downtown Binghamton, New York.

See the center?  It is full of water from the rains of Tuesday.  And, in that water, the sky is reflected, clouds, trees and all.

Join Yogi and other bloggers watching the sky every Friday on #SkywatchFriday.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Will the Farmers Survive the Flood?

On August 14, flash floods hit a number of upstate New York communities, including the small community of Nichols, New York.

One farm devastated is a family owned operations called Englebert Farms.  It is believed that they are the oldest organic certified dairy in the United States.

This farm, according to Facebook posts, faces an uncertain future after the flood that hit them on Thursday.  Today, I repeat a post from October of 2017, when my spouse and I toured the farm.  It was a wonderful experience.

I wanted to show you a couple more pictures I didn't publish the first time.
A calf.
Pigs.
Your local farmer always needs you, but they need you more than ever after disaster strikes.

Please, support your local farmer today.  They aren't the only farmers suffering; it's just one story I'm aware of.  And now, the post from October 2017 with small edits:

These pictures were taken two Saturdays ago at a Tioga Farm/Art Trail open house at Engelbert Farms near Nichols, New York.

As far as they know, this farm is the oldest organic certified dairy in the United States.The land has been in possession of this family for well over 100 years.
Here are some of their "girls". The barn they are in, by the way, is a shelter.  The cows have free access to the outdoors. 
A farmer feeds a cow.

The milking parlor is antiquated, but fulfills the needs of the farm.

As I spoke with one of the family, and met some more family members, it became obvious just how hard these farmers work. Dairy farming is quite labor intensive, apart from the fact that cows must be milked twice a day, each and every day. 

This farm has a farm store which sells produce in season.

Engelbert  is locally famed for  delicious organic cheese products such as cheese.  They are a bit expensive, but we also buy their cheese from time to time.  If you ever wonder why these products are expensive, you should meet, and talk with, a small farmer.

As we left, the family member giving us the tour said "Feel free to ask questions anytime!"

It is a wonderful thing to meet and talk to a food producer, to see where your food really comes from, and how hard these farmers work to put food on your table.  And if Dutch Hills Creamery (whom I blogged last year-AM) can not get back into operation after a disastrous fire (August 2018 update - sadly, they did not recover), our community will be poorer for that.

Support a local farmer today!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day August 2018

Devastation all over our area from flooding.  Not our house, but others, many others, mainly to our south, east, west.

I woke up at 4:30 this morning.  The skies were clear.  But, several hours before, it was a way different story.

The rain came again.  Rain storm after rainstorm.  Like much of the Northeast, we have enough rain to spare where I live (zone 5b) in the Binghamton area of upstate New York.  As I write this, the county I live in is under a state of emergency (although my house is safe - at least, unless it rains again.) but our area managed to make the NBC Evening News. 

I wrote my post the day before"just in case".
Here are some soggy pictures for your enjoyment for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.  I was astounded to find I still had one daylily blooming, and my turtlehead had its first bloom opening.

So I decided to also run some pictures I took a couple of days ago, before the flash floods started.  These are all still blooming but just aren't photogenic right now.

Black petunia.
Glad.
White marigold.
Dahlia.
Tall phlox.
Cleome.

As far as that rain:  You hear so many people say "I've lived here 30 years and I've never seen anything like this."  Well, yes.

This isn't like rain I've ever seen before. Day after day, the sky is dark, and when the rain comes down, it comes down.   And now I think, what if a tropical storm comes through?


So many Americans have survived floods and fires and my heart goes out to those facing those situations today.  Some may even be participants in this monthly Garden Bloggers Bloom Day meme hosted each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.  On the 15th of each month, we show what is blooming in our houses or gardens.

I would much rather think of beauty, and flowers like these double impatiens.

Now, please go and visit others participating in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, while I continue to hope that the rain finally stops, before anyone else in my area makes the local news because they are homeless, or because their hamlet was wiped out by floods.