Behind the ubiquitous lilies I was startled to see this plaster head, looking out from the corner of a neighbor's front yard. It was another unique touch I found in a neighborhood of similar-looking brick ranch homes.
How much we need, how much we get, is such a delicate balance, like the colors in this picture. So far this season, just about every other day has been cloudy. Last summer, we had drought conditions, the thunderheads of anticipated storms passing just to the north, lightning within the clouds serving only to accentuate the heat.
This year, we would, if possible, share some of our rainfall with the people in the Southwest and Florida, to put out the brush fires and save their homes from burning. Folks along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers have, once again, been losing their homes to flooding. I'm sure they want the rivers to retreat to their banks. A lot of this can be attributed to our human conceits, attempting to impose controls that have, in many cases, reached up to bite us in the ass. Have we gone too far to ever achieve some sort of happy medium?
When you want to add a new porch, driveway and sidewalk to your home, it's nice that you can draw on the skills of your friends and family to help out.
After all, you will need someone, maybe your brother,
who can help with the pour...
Maybe your wife will help to level and spread
the new approach to the drive...
...while you and your son screed ...
...and your co-worker friend from the fire department floats the new cement, leveling and sealing it from too rapid moisture loss.
After you edge and finish the new concrete, cover and wait for it to cure, you'll be planning for the remaining, slanted portion of the drive and the second step of the porch. You'll share your adventure in concrete pouring over some ice cold brews and a great meal, as well as cement bonds
There beneath the hosta the kitty lay, absolutely certain that he could not be seen by passers by. Shaded from the summer sun, he listened to the conversation I had with Ms. Sami, the Speedway woman with whom he's taken up residence. It seems Kitty's home of record is actually around the corner, but he left after deciding he could no longer comfortably share his human with three other cats and two dogs. So he went looking for a new human in the neighborhood and, after checking the homes of two other Speedway ladies, has just about adopted Ms. Sami as his own.
On the front porch of her home, Kitty snacked on kibble, knowing he is welcome there. He does not come in the house, but he will join Ms. Sami on her front porch settee, lick her hand, rub his head against her to show his appreciation. Ms. Sami did not have any cats and Kitty wanted a human he did not have to share.
Just before I went on my way, Kitty turned around and came out greet me. I scratched his chin, stroked his flank and told him what a handsome boy he his. He purred, "I know, I know," then turned around to allow me this portrait of him under the hosta. I felt honored.
I saw this patch just outside the post office and thought the yellow-green
shrub against the fuchsia and purple flowers was so vibrant as to be almost overwhelming. I dunno. Sometimes I think a lot of people just see patches of anonymous petunias where I see a visual pornucopia of color. I didn't take the picture because I found the flowers in themselves to be beautiful; I was amazed at the intensity of the color and wanted to remember it. Click.
Speaking of anonymity, this is a section of the strip mall where a lot of Speedway residents do their grocery shopping, pick up shoes for the kids, buy gas. It's neat and clean and has been around since 'way before I moved here in 1978. It's been remodeled, updated and added to several times. Stores close, stores open in an economic ebb and flow that the little mall seems to have weathered pretty well.
I suppose when the surroundings are so bland, I turn inward, looking to my own little world for color -- or I keep looking for it in tiny wads like the petunias and their brushy neighbor.
The picture above is of the stained glass rotunda of the Indiana State House. The capitol building was renovated, restored and just overall rescued from numbing drabness in the 1980's. Now it is beautiful, but what has been going on in that building this past legislative season is not at all attractive. It seems that certain people have forgotten that their job is to govern in the best interests of all the people, not just their own. The next pictures show the interior of the main hall and a detail of one of the chandeliers.
The picture below shows a statue of Governor Oliver P. Morton (1861 - 1867), facing east towards Monument Circle. Officially, it is the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, dedicated in 1901 to honor Hoosier veterans of the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. Located in the center of the city, the Indiana Civil War Museum is located inside the monument.
A couple weeks ago, the statue representing Lady Victory was taken down for much needed repairs and renovation. Plans are underway to remodel the street and sidewalk area around the Circle, but the final design has yet to be determined.
The grass is longer than it should be compared to the other homes, the leaves are wadded against the foundation, matted in the shrubs and clotted in the corners where the fence meets the house. The little bicycle is propped against the garage door waiting for its boy, who isn't coming. The windows have the look of sad, empty eyes. Even the "For Sale" sign in the yard seems forlorn. This house doesn't seem to be as much for sale as it seems to represent the disappointments of so many people who have been caught up in the fraud and mismanagement of the mortgage market and the resulting economic doldrums.
The homes in Speedway are not McMansions. Since there is little open land in town, there are very few lots available for new building. For the most part, all the homes are well-tended and cared for, showing the pride of their owners in the carefully trimmed lawns and painted shutters; when one of them is neglected, for whatever reason, it quickly becomes obvious. Sadly, there are several places like this in the area, most of them with the tell-tale notice in the window ..."Here lies a shattered dream."
I do not think the dream of owning a home is strictly an American idiosyncracy. I think everyone the world over wants a place, however humble or spare, where they know they can peacefully raise their family and safely rest their head at night. To assume otherwise seems mighty condescending, and to abuse those dreams for the chance to make it big on Wall Street, talking people into spending more than they can afford, is past callous ...
Even more so when it means a little boy has lost his beautiful bike.
I couldn't help but smile. I passed a garage during my walk where I looked up to see this happy skeleton. Was she preparing to take part in a marching band routine? Was she a member of the percussion section, where she played the xylophone? Complete with party beads, shades and a feathery, glittered shako it would have to be a rattlin' good time!
I found her at Sam's garage, a tidy storage area with an interesting mix of miscellania, including room for actual vehicles. Sam graciously allowed me to take pictures of his skeleton, his bike and barber chairs. Shiny chrome, meticulously polished, and a sense of humor under the same roof. I thanked him, shook his hand and went on my way.
At this time, the creek is too deep from heavy rains to see turtles as the water's covering the rocks on which a they might bask. But the rain brings a proliferation of color, such as these pink flowers. Delicately hued, hiding from public view by the creek, their beauty is enjoyed by red-winged black birds, mallards, blue herons, butterflies and, yes, the occasional human.
Since early morning it's been so gloomy the street lights have been on all the damn day. The weather forecast was for "light rain" but there's not been much rain to speak of and the light from the lamp has seemed feeble, too. We can't seem to catch a break here. Either it's so hot and bright you need to apply a sunscreen just to look out the window, or the phrase "a few storms may be severe" has begun to seem like a friendly reminder on the order of "Oh, and don't forget your galoshes."
What happened to pleasant days, those times when you enjoyed time outdoors without returning exhausted? This spring has been like Washington politics - heated or frosty, stormy or downright sere, winds carrying dangerous shards of debris or a becalmed indifference. If I had to vote right now, it would be "none of the above" because I want moderate. I want warm days with gentle breezes, that middle of the road weather that Mother Nature seems to have forgotten. However, there's no lobbying Mother Nature; she has her own agenda.
If this has been our spring, what does summer have in store? Tuesday marks the Summer Solstice. The forecast is for rain. Of course.
"A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are for."
- Benazir Bhuto
I have to be up front: I borrowed/stole this quote from Pasadena Daily Photo, a blog belonging to Petrea Burchard. She has just completed her first novel. Having conceived of the idea, she wrote it, polished it and, rather than hide it away, she's sent it off in search of a publisher. The manuscript is now making the rounds of the editors, risking being sent back with a rejection slip. That takes courage. But she's doing it. She'll never know whether she might get to enjoy seeing her book published unless she's willing to risk its rejection.
I am working on my own book, struggling to put the words in the correct order, to clearly express my ideas. This writing stuff is hard. I research, take notes and try to shape the story in a way that is both compelling and interesting, so that the reader will just naturally want to do further reading beyond my own small book. It scares me. It's taking me away from the comfort zone of dreams into the real work of achieving a goal. I try to maintain the courage of my conviction, as stated in the above quote.
A friend and I had a saying, when talking about our own boat, that "there are two kinds of boat owners - floaters and boaters." Floaters kept their boat tied to the dock, maintained it, shared beer with their buddies and rarely took it for more than a short spin around their "pool," while boaters left the marinas for long trips. For years, we worked on our boat, upgrading it, repairing it, painting and scraping it (my job!), but it was never "ready." We were in danger of becoming another pair of the dreaded "floaters," until we realized the boat would never be ready, we'd just have to go. And so we did.
The picture is from one of those first trips. Along with several other sternwheel boats we traveled the Ohio River from Marietta, Ohio to Wheeling, West Virginia. It became an adventure, one that, for me, helped me to find a sense of confidence that's never left me, and helped me to realize that I could achieve far more than I'd ever thought possible.
I try to keep that in mind as I work on my book. Every day.
It rained all night and was gray all day. Ordinarily, that would make for a gloom-fest of high order, but it was such a relief after days of the sun's glare I was glad for the opportunity to take a long walk without being worried about dehydration.
For my efforts, I did get pictures of these nice, white flowers and one of a mama mallard, nibbling grass along the shaded creek bank with the remains of her brood.
On Tuesday, teachers and counselors from the Hawthorne Community Center brought their small charges to Speedway's Meadowood Park. As you can see there were a lot of happy children climbing, swinging and clambering over the various slides, swings and walls. Sadly, this visit was a special event for the children, who do not have access to comparable facilities in their neighborhood.
Obviously, they were all using every possible moment from this excursion to try out the climbing walls and a contemporary version of the "monkey bars" I enjoyed when I was a kid, before climbing on the waiting school bus to return to their class rooms, then home.
As an adult, I found the best, most surprising part to be that tan pavement you can see in the third picture. When I stepped on it I was really startled because it felt as though I was standing on my bed; it is springy and cushioned to absorb the contact from stumbles and falls, I suppose like a gymnast's floor exercise mat.
It seems as though everybody who has a yard or a porch with planters has a hibiscus bush or two. I just happened on this one flower, reaching its perfect self towards the sun. Beautiful lines, beautiful light. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
I went out today looking for one thing, but ended up with quite another. I saw kids playing at our neighborhood park, people doing yard work, and others toiling away at home improvement projects. But wouldn't ya know, the thing that struck my fancy was this little guy basking on a piece of stone. He's a spiny soft-shelled turtle, official name Apalone spinifera, that I first thought was a leaf, fallen on the stone in the middle of the creek.
The turtle I saw was about the same size as it appears on screen, which means he's probably immature; apparently they can become quite large, with females of the species living up to 50 years. Their shell is not hard, but flexible, especially at the edges. According to the information I read, they're really graceful in the water and like to eat such things as minnows and worms. They can lie submerged for hours, with just their snout above water, waiting for a juicy tidbit.
What I find odd is that I had gone looking for the common snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina, but found this little fella instead, which habituates the Mississippi River drainage area, including the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers. The urban creek where this guy resides is about 90 to 100 miles inland from the Ohio River.
Hmm, more research and additional inquiries needed.
I just received an E-mail from Sarabeth Klueh, a herpetologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, who identified the turtle as a spiny soft-shell, rather than a smooth soft-shell turtle. She said that projections can be seen just behind its head. I've changed the copy to reflect that information.
At first glance, I thought a wind gust from an overnight storm had blown a welcome mat from a neighbor's doorway onto the sidewalk. Instead, it was a manhole cover, it's grooves filled with little seed thing-ys from a nearby tree. In the morning light, the cover had taken on a tufted appearance, full of spring color.
Say "Hello" to Matt and Freddie, who between them have nearly 50 years' experience as sign painters. These men were spending their work day installing signage on a local business, which consisted of a lot of very large graphic decals. While the men are grateful for the work, they have watched over the years as their skills have become marginalized and unappreciated.
In a world where everything seems to be done by computer graphics programs, then printed both in large scale and large volume onto sticky-backed vinyl, their ability to limn a design onto a wall, then control the flow of paint from their brushes is becoming a lost art. Still, not just anyone can apply these graphics; their attention to detail, sense of proportion and design ensure that the job will be correct, all the pieces matched up, the bubbles smoothed out.
Say "Hello" to Matt and Freddie, not just guys sticking decals on a window, but craftsmen out of place, making a living, taking pride in a job well done.
Just outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway there's a small grove of trees that becomes an RV parking lot when races are held. The rest of the year the place stands quietly in the shadow of the main grandstand, visited only by occasional walkers like me.
I go there to visit the trees, to check on their welfare, not in any arborological sense (is that even a word?), but more to see whether they are still standing, dancing with the rhythm of time that has turned them over the years, as they reach towards the sun.
When the race-goers come in the summer with their RV's and campers, they think they're getting a parking lot with trees.
As a rule, street cars bore me until they begin to look like this ...
Or maybe this...
I live near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which on Wednesday hosted a stop on Hotrod Magazine's 2011 Power Tour. There were a lot of participants gathered in the shade, such as it was, of the IMS Pagoda, with cars and trucks from all across the country, who participated in at least one stop of the tour. Representatives from all aspects of the industry were there, primarily those who manufacture aftermarket parts for people who restore and modify vehicles. One company makes tires, so owners can keep shoes on their vintage babies.
I wandered around the grounds for hours, where I saw cars of all kinds, from all eras, in various stages of restoration and/or modification. All the work had been lovingly done. They may have have begun their lives on an assembly line, but each of these automobiles is a one-of-a-kind creation, reflecting the vision and creativity of their owners. These people come from all backgrounds, from all around the country, but when they come together they they have something to talk about.
Here's the IMS Pagoda, which on race days is the administrative hub where timing and scoring is done and media is housed. Below that is a shot of the main straight as it looked yesterday, and another from before the start of this year's Indy 500.
Okay, I have to admit it, I want to know what's going on when I see holes being dug, streets being scraped, men going down into openings in the street. Agatha Christie's Miss Marple called such people "nosy parkers," and I guess I'm one of them. After all, "inquiring minds just want to know." When I saw these men with their big truck with all the dials and indicators, I couldn't resist.
As it was explained to me, the truck is a rolling vacuum cleaner of sorts, which they use to suck stuff out of the city water lines. The sections of tube were attached to an opening in the water line, then connected to the truck. When the vacuum was turned on, things such as gravel that might have eventually blocked the line were sucked into the tank on the back of the truck.
Duly impressed, I thanked them for their information, then asked if, when they were done with their shift, they might come over to vacuum out my place; it needs more help than Hoover, Dyson or Oreck can handle.
During my walks, as I try to watch where I'm putting my feet so I won't trip over a pebble, I also try to remember to look at what's over my head. Sometimes I see something like this, a tree so beautiful, so colorful, the shape of its leaves so exquisite ... it makes my eyes dance with pleasure.
It's a Japanese maple tree. There are several varieties of them around my neighborhood, all of them colorful at all times of the year. Some start off as bright green with little red seeds, others start as a brilliant red, while still others seem to be varigated. One homeowner has planted several red ones. In spring they are scarlet, but none of the pictures I've taken over the years has ever shown that wonderful color; my camera does not see what my eyes enjoy.
Just before the storms rolled through Saturday evening, I looked outside my back door to see the crayon-shaped and colored bounce park, full of happy kids. Off to the side was another group of kids, taking turns whacking a pinata. Its evasive actions were being controlled by a dad holding the cord, adjusting the pinata's height to suit each little basher. The crowd seemed equally divided between parents and kids, with the adults ringed around tables, watching as their kids had all the fun. And then the rain came.
Nope, the castle didn't get tilted by the wind, but pinata needs a tilde. Please, imagine it.
Today was the day. If you cared to endure temperatures in the mid-90s, you could make the rounds of the neighborhood garage sales and do everything from buying your wedding gown for $40, furnishing your home, finding clothing and playpens for the new baby. You could get some "illuminated" Christmas ornaments for the yard and the Christmas puppy (a big sweetie!) who was auditioning real hard for a new home. Oh, yeah, if was to be a shotgun wedding, you could find those, too. Several of 'em.