When the dogwoods are in bloom, I try to drive down Old 86 as often as possible. I love this dogwood (Btw, dear husband was driving, and these were taken through the van window so they're not as clear as I'd like):
This morning, we were looking down at one of my favorite places at Ayr Mont - the rock in the Eno River. It's a beautiful, peaceful place to sit.
Moomin Light (to my back)(which is having major problems this week*): It'll be fine. There's nothing about going down there that will hurt.
Moomin Light (to back while sitting on the rock): See, you're fine!
Moomin Light's knees: Starting to grumble.
Moomin Light to knees: Shut up!
View from the rock:
Spring has been colder and drearier this year so I'm really enjoying today's sunny, warm weather.
Here are some more pictures from our walk at Ayr Mont:
Spring beauty flowers (below, too):
Ipheon, with daffodils in the shadows
Garden behind the historic house
* An accident happened right in front of me as I was leaving church after choir rehearsal last Wednesday. A car was turning into the side road I was on, but the driver mis-judged the traffic and was hit by an SUV that couldn't stop. The car spun within a few feet of my van, and bits of the SUV's front bounced off my van's hood. Fortunately, nobody was injured in either vehicle. There's a lot more to the story, but I've gone over and over it in my head and don't really want to write it.
Every muscle in my body went Sproing! when it happened, however. My back has been really bad, and I'm getting through on Advil and Ben Gay. I already had a massage scheduled for yesterday, which has helped.** I also got a CPAP a week and a half ago. I'm gradually getting used to sleeping with it, but my sleep is all broken up (even more than usual) as I do so. I've had a lot of really tired days this last week, and I've started blog posts which will never be finished.
** At one point, the massage therapist could tell that my attention had wandered: "Where are you right now?" "Back next to the car, trying to comfort the lady who caused the accident." "Give yourself permission to set that aside for later."
"Mommy, you're making me tired!" - from younger son during dinner. I'm full of energy because I've had a wonderful evening. I was bouncing around singing my favorite anthem of the ones we're working on in choir. I haven't been to choir regularly this fall due to trips, illness, allergic reactions, and asthma. I wasn't sure how much I'd be able to sing tonight because I haven't sung at all for the last few weeks - ever since the new mail-order pharmacy messed up my inhaler prescription and my asthma flared up nastily. My chest still hurts sometimes when I breathe, even though I've been back on the inhaler for three weeks. I was going to try singing last night, but, somehow, I got distracted by the news.
However - it turns out that going to Zumba right before choir really helps. One of my favorite Zumba instructors is starting a regular Zumba class on Wednesday evenings. It's at the gym at the Catholic School in Chapel Hill* - and just a short drive to our church. Zumba's from 6 to 7, and choir starts at 7:30. Perfect!
Throwing myself into Zumba really loosened up my breathing and my chest. I sang far better than I expected at choir!
Even though I'd just finished Zumba, I was able to be sedate enough at choir - although I ended up chattering older son's ear off all the way home. Usually, he's really energetic after choir. Tonight, however, he was really tired after Zumba and choir. This is the first time he's ever tried Zumba. He said that, from about halfway through, he kept thinking that he was really tired and he would only stay for one more song (which turned into another, and another...). He's not going to try again between now and the end of the semester because he's got so much work to do, but he would love to try it again after the semester is over.
A few of the anthems we're currently working on have more complicated rhythms than usual, which I love. The chorus of this one is quiet, bouncy and light. I love the contrast with the verses, which are louder and dramatic. Even though I only sang it at one other rehearsal, a month ago, I found that I had most of it memorized already. Here's the Master's College Chorale singing "Soon Ah Will Be Done." by William L. Dawson:
* If you're in the area, it's 6pm to 7 pm at St. Thomas More. Click here to find out more about her classes.
I should post the rest of these pictures before we get to this weekend.*
Sunday morning, a week and a half ago, it clouded over and fogged up. It was still a beautiful time to hike. Since the views in higher places would be fogged in, we decided to hike the part of the Tanawha Trail (which parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway) off of Holloway Mountain Road (if you look at this map, we hiked the section where the "3.8" is on the eastern end of the trail).
Even in (or maybe because of) the fog, the wildflowers were beautiful.
I think the goldenrod flowers were at their peak.
The gate to an old cemetary. We were talking to a ranger later in the morning, and she said that there used to be a cabin in this area.
An early taste of fall
Later, we asked the ranger if this field has a name. It doesn't.
View from the bottom. The field is so beautiful that it really should have a name.
Assassin bug nymphs on a milkweed pod
Before we got back to the van, it started to rain in earnest. We drove out to the viaduct, but it was totally fogged in. We stopped at the Viaduct Visitors Center, talked with the ranger, and watched a drenched cyclist drying out in front of the fire in the fireplace. It turns out that there was a Bridge to Bridge cycling event that day. The ride went for 25 miles from Lenoir to the Grandfather Mountain swinging bridge. As the Bridge link says: "100 miles of pure hill." It wasn't a good weather day for it!
We went back to Blowing Rock and had lunch at Mellow Mushroom Pizza. Sadly, they had taken doughnads off the appetizer menu since the last time we were there. They were small spheres of baked dough with garlic butter and parmesan. There are no photos of them on the internet. I should have taken a picture of the ones we had last fall.
We wandered around Blowing Rock for a bit before heading home.
Gardens in front of the playground
High Country Candles is one of my favorite stores in Blowing Rock. They've got wonderful candles, and the conversations we have with the people there are always interesting. We bought some tapers last fall and liked how dripless they really were. I wanted to make sure we brought home some more.
We bought locally grown apples at Sunset Tees and Hattery. We get them every fall because they've got much more flavor than apples from the grocery store. You can choose your own, but we always forget what kinds they are so this time, I took photos.
That was the end of the trip. However, I didn't post some photos that came before the kayaking photos. They're kind of strange to put at the end of these foggy day photos.
The first morning, we had breakfast next to Price Lake...
...and watched the mist rising off the water.
It turns out that they rent kayaks there. How nice!
* Which includes the Duke Gardens fall plant sale, the NC Pride Parade in Durham, and the Carrboro Music Festival (which all mean lots more photos).
Dear husband and I had a wonderful weekend. Of course, there are lots of photos!
For the first time since... I can't even remember, dear husband and I went camping - just the two of us. Older son was too busy with schoolwork to be able to go, and younger son decided to stay home too (he's been too tired lately to deal with trying to sleep in a tent).
We camped at Price Campground on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC. It was a bit noisy - there were drunken (we assume from the sounds) campers late both nights. We were so tired that we only briefly woke up.
Saturday morning, we headed over to Rivergirl Fishing Co. in Todd, NC to rent kayaks. We've been kayaking twice on the Eno River in Durham and once on the French Broad River in Asheville, but this was our first time kayaking in the area where we usually spend our fall vacation.
Rivergirl is in an old train depot:
They have already decorated for Halloween, and Petunia was out front:
The temperature was in the lower 70's, and the day was beautiful:
There were wildflowers all over the banks:
The water was very clear, and it was very shallow in parts. We got stuck on rocks fairly often (not here, of course) because the water is low this time of year.
More beautiful scenery:
Steve took some pictures of me. Here's my favorite:
I have spent countless hours over many years wandering the back roads of North Carolina. Mary Chapin Carpenter's song, I Am A Town, is amazing in the way that she captures Carolina small towns:
I'm a town in Carolina, I'm a detour on a ride For a phone call and a soda, I'm a blur from the driver's side I'm the last gas for an hour, if you're going 25 I am Texaco and tobacco, I am dust you leave behind I am peaches in September and corn from a roadside stall I'm the language of the natives, I'm a cadence and a drawl I'm the pines behind the graveyard and the cool beneath their shade Where the boys have left their beer cans, I am weeds between the graves My porches sag and lean with old black men and children My sleep is filled with dreams, I never can fulfill them I am a town
I'm a church beside the highway where the ditches never drain I'm a Baptist like my daddy, Jesus knows my name I am memory and stillness, I am lonely in old age I am not your destination, I am clinging to my ways I am a town
I'm a town in Carolina, I am billboards in the fields I'm an old truck up on cinderblocks, missing all my wheels I am Pabst Blue Ribbon, American, and "Southern Serves the South" I am tucked behind a Jaycees sign on the rural route I am a town I am a town I am a town
I had I Am A Town in my head all of yesterday (older son and I sang it at one point).
We spent the day at the NC Transportation Museum. One of the first things you pass on the way in to the museum, is a silo with "The Southern Serves the South" painted on it.
"The Southern Serves the South" was the slogan for The Southern Railway (merged, in 1982, into Norfolk Southern). In southern trains, you can still see boxcars painted with the slogan. The museum (more on that later this week) has one of The Southern Railway's diesel engines in the roundhouse.
For this post, I tried to find out anything about how Mary Chapin Carpenter wrote this song so I Googled "I am a town" and "writing." Along with posts about her, I found that a number of writers like to listen to this song while they write. I also found an interview where she said:
...a song that I wrote years ago that started out as a poem. It's called I am a Town. And I had the complete lyric for that for months and months and months and I never could find the right music to go with it and then one day, just kind of stumbled on this very circular kind of moody thing and I knew that I had it. But it was constructed, you know, very separately. Music and lyrics very different times but then they found their way together.
...A song that, for whatever reason, at the end of the final fade, allows you to somehow be more ready than you were before to face the next moment, the next day? It’s a miracle that we ever find one...
No internet, except for, every evening, laboriously checking Ray's Weather Center on my stupid not-smart* phone.
No computer for most of it (I did bring the netbook along so I could look at the photos on my camera, but gave that up after one try. I didn't want to look at a screen).
No ads of any kind except for those in the two issues of the Mountain Times and the one issue of Our State that I read.
Lots of outdoors, hiking, and weather (more on that later). Lots of time with family and long conversations after meals, or on mountaintops, or by lakes. Younger son and I did two puzzles and played numerous games of Blokus and Carcassonne - all of which he won. This is a new development.
I read His Majesty's Dragon, which older son had recommended. I heavily recommended it to dear husband. He read it in a few days, and then he turned around and read it out loud to younger son. I listened to it also - that's how good a book it is. It's kind of like Master and Commander but with dragons. We're still quoting from it.
Older son and daughter were both there for a few days on their fall breaks (you know how HAPPY that made me). We did their favorite hikes those days. We repeated the Rough Ridge hike (below) again later.
I took over 1200 pictures. I got some new filters for the camera so I was experimenting with them. That's why I thought of looking at photos on the netbook. Instead, I'll be looking at the results over the next few days.
With the new filters, this sunset photo over Price Lake turned out better than it usually would.
The sky is bluer with the filters, and the distant mountains are much more apparent (Blue Ridge Parkway viaduct around Grandfather Mountain).
The weather ranged from tank-top-and-shorts hiking weather (in the 70s near the Bass Lake at the Cone Manor)...
...to freezing temperatures while wandering through a fairyland of rime ice on Mt. Mitchell...
...and these were only two days apart!
Dear husband says that I'm not ready to come back from any of our October vacations, but, to me, it felt like it was even harder this year. I've been running for months, and it took me most of the two weeks of vacation to slow down and relax. I found it much harder at first to really focus on reading like I usually do on vacation, although, by the end, I was back to my usual rate of one book a day.
Now that I've slowed down, I don't want things to go back the way they were.
Of course, the first few days back have to be focused on getting cleaned up, organized, and going through mail and e-mail (Note to self: Turn off Freecycle e-mails next year. They were half of the 700 e-mails I had). After I get settled in, I have to rethink how I do things.
Even though we had a wonderful walk around Hillsborough last weekend and good conversations with neighbors, I still wasn't ready to get back to our regular schedule. I didn't really get used to that until Monday evening when I drove to Broadway dance. I headed past Duke's East Campus and all the joggers & walkers on the trail that dear husband and I like to walk in the winter. Then I passed the spot on Broad Street where we watched the parade last month. I turned on to Ninth Street and parked in front of Francesca's - where we've gotten ice cream since before I was pregnant with older son. That's when I was happy to be back where I... belong?
We've been to a number of aquariums including the ones in Boston, Baltimore, Camden, and Charleston, and we've enjoyed them all. I'm a sucker for sea turtles, puffer fish, sharks, and lobsters. We've been to two out of the three NC Aquariums, and I'm still trying to find time to go to the one at Roanoke Island - particularly since that's the one with the river otters.
One friend recently mentioned on Facebook that she's been told that the NC Aquariums aren't that great. I don't argue on friends' Facebook walls, but I couldn't totally let that pass. Over the years, we've had lots of fun at the NC Aquariums - starting back in the early 80's when the one near Atlantic Beach was just a large room with small tanks around the walls and a touch pool in the center. It's lots larger now.
I'll admit, the NC Aquariums aren't as big as some of the large northern aquariums, and they focus on North Carolina aquatic life rather than more exotic species (although they do have some of the exotic aquatic species). That actually makes them seem more personal to me.
We spent last weekend in the Carolina Beach/Wilmington, NC area. The Aquarium at Fort Fisher is relatively uncrowded on a Sunday morning:
You're greeted at the entrance. This is how I feel when people criticize our aquariums. ;)
I love the way this exhibit is put together.
The salamanders are so cute.
Luna, their albino alligator, is sitting under a heat lamp. In the wild, albino alligators don't survive long because they have no protection from the sun and they don't have camouflage (more about albino alligators here).
The bobwhite quail run around freely outside Luna's enclosure.
The Eastern box turtle wanders around his area - behind a low wall. The creatures don't feel as distant as they can in the larger aquariums.
I haven't mastered taking pictures through glass yet. This alligator was right up next to the glass. In this section of the aquarium, just about all of the exhibits go down almost to the ground. Overall, I'd say at least 2/3 of the exhibits can be viewed by a mobile toddler or preschooler. Both of the times we went to the Baltimore aquarium (a must-see if you like aquariums) we had a preschooler. A large number of the exhibits are at older kid/adult height, which meant that my arms were about to fall off by the time we were done. If you have a child who likes to talk about each fish, name them, and discuss their families, an aquarium where the child can do this on their own two feet is a wonderful experience.
Now, of course, all three kids are taller than I am so this hasn't been an issue for years. I did have some difficulty this time because, to get some of the photos I wanted, like this one, I had to do a lot of squatting. On its own, that wouldn't have been a problem. However, after also playing for a long time in the ocean the day before and going to Broadway dance yesterday evening, my good knee wasn't happy today!
One sea turtle came out (older son took this one).