Monday, August 29, 2011

No More Sunsets—Maybe

Driving up to western Michigan this week for some R&R (that’s retirement and romping), I promised myself that I’d skip taking photos of that big, hot glob of gas. I’ve expended way too much film (in the old days) and too many electrons in the past 20 years on pictures no one wants to see. Or, they’re tired of seeing them, especially in those dreaded PowerPoint presentations.
I stuck to my guns and held out for all of 15 or 20 minutes the first night. The sun is picturesque and such a willing subject. I figure she likes to have her photo taken because she’s still a hot babe (with the occasional hotter flashes), lives out of town—way outta town, and everyone talks about her being the center of the universe.
So I really had no choice. I had to take some pictures—maybe just one or two I told my 99+-year-old mother-in-law. She didn’t pay any attention to me because sunsets are the reason she comes to western Michigan each summer as she has for more years than anyone can remember—including her.
As those of us from Cleveland are so fond of saying, just wait ‘til next year.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

When the Going Gets Good …

The bee balm still offers food for migrating hummingbirds

Maybe because I’m a creature of habit, I enjoy the habits of other creatures. In particular, the migration habits of birds. I had a reminder this evening that The Great Mandala is still in spin.
I was minding my own business, trying to get some reading time in while watching Common Grackles head to their roost, and Chimney Swifts and Tree Swallows seine the air for bugs too small for me to see (go get ‘em guys!), when a Ruby-throated Hummingbird chose to hover about 12 inches from my face.
Whoa there, buddy! Do I look like a flower? Not hardly.

Don't need GPS to find Central America

I blinked once or twice and he was on his way—but where? We’ve had a healthy crop of hummers all summer and they are a pleasure. Too bad we get only one species here in Ohio. But ya take what ya can get. I commented to Susan just a couple nights ago that it seemed like suddenly we had a lot of male hummers hanging around, make that chasing around, the feeders the past few days.
Sure enough, in spite of the record-setting high temperatures (or maybe because of them) hummingbirds are on the move, headed for Central America, mostly. According to available data, hummingbirds start moving out of this region as early as July. It’s all about available food supplies and these guys need as much food as possible since they really don’t store fat for the multi-thousand-mile trip like other birds.

Look Ma, no hands!

In fact, don’t look now, but almost all the migrating birds are on the move. Shorebirds from northern breeding grounds, local nesters and first-year birds from all over are making a pit stop here in Ohio, on their way to the places where they spend most of their lives. We have them here for a short time, breeding season, then one day you go looking for Red-wing Blackbirds for example, and you learn the train has left the station.
Better check the garage this weekend for those snow shovels.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Voice at the End of the Tunnel

As an early adopter of GPS technology, about the first thing I did after installing the device in my car was to turn off the voice that tells you what to do every driving moment. I’ve heard the voice referred to as, “the bitch in the box,” in my estimation an apt description by those who opt for the female rather than male voice. I’m not sure what the male voice is called, other than irritating.
Recently, two friends added GPS devices to their lives—for better or worse. Both these people are the kind who would resent (for lack of a better term) someone telling them what to do, especially when it comes to driving.
After the second of these folks extolled the virtues of the voice in breathless terms “… and she knew right where the ally was!” I decided to re-examine my life as it relates to the pleasant British-accented lady in my GPS, aka, the bitch in the box.
On a recent 350-mile trip that had a total of six turns to get me to my destination, I opted to turn on “the voice.” Packed and ready, humming the opening bars of John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads,” I backed out of the drive as “the voice” delivered her first instructions. I was ready to shut “the voice” off within 50 feet. “Honestly lady, I know how to get out of my own condo complex!” I said to the colorful, glowing box and the stunned neighbor who happened to be walking her dog near the spot where I began my rant.
For hundreds of miles she rode along, pleasantly enjoying the endless miles of corn and soy beans, didn’t have much to say and made only a few, unnecessary interruptions to the book I was listening to. It was at the point where she was telling me to go straight (I wanted to say, “Go forward, never straight,” but I didn’t think she would appreciate the humor.), the protagonist of the story was in a heap of trouble and my cell phone was ringing with such enjoyment I thought it would leap off the dashboard, that I decided she had to getouttathecar!
Fortunately, this all happened as I was about to enter a rest area. I managed to push the wrong button on my fancy new phone and dispatch the caller. Ooops. Next, I sent the finely tuned British babe packing so I could pay attention while my hero extricated himself from a jam that would have taken my life.
So, the experiment lasted only a few hours, probably not time enough for true evaluation. Guess what? I don’t care. I dug around in the four, count ‘em folks, four, map pockets in my car for a map of Indiana. Then, like a blinding flash of the obvious, it hit me: Why would a car manufacturer carefully engineer four map pockets into a car with only two doors? Duh.
I unfolded the map of Indiana, a state more vertical than horizontal, which makes it easier to drive and read while you’re going 70 miles per hour and don’t have a passenger to hold the steering wheel.
First thing that hits you is the aroma of a map. Like that first cup of coffee in the morning that awakens your senses in anticipation of the mysterious, unknown day that lies ahead. Second, there’s the peaceful pleasure of paper maps—they don’t talk back. They allow you to make your own decisions.
And maybe best of all, paper maps can be shown to people who might not otherwise speak the your language, like folks in North Carolina where you’re trying to find some trout stream that does not seem to exist.
Take me home country roads.