BOONE, N.C. (Aug. 5, 2020) – Three years ago today, on Aug. 5, 2017, Timberley and I drove from Charlotte to Morganton at the end of her third hospital stay in just over a month. We had set up three webcams around the house to keep an eye on the place—well, actually, on our trouble-making kitten, Scout—while we were gone. Her brother, Jem, always behaved and still does. Scout was aptly named.
The other day I was looking through the photos and videos on my phone, and I happened to run across all 12 of the 30-second clips that the webcams recorded that day. In a number of those clips, the motion sensors were simply tripped by flashes of light from the street that reflected in the window and bounced off the living room walls—at least, I hope those were headlights. I don’t know. Maybe they were haints.
MORGANTON, N.C. (July 31, 2020) – All my life, I’ve felt like a dandelion in a field of sunflowers. So about a year ago—it was in early August—I ordered two packets of dandelion seed from Amazon and decided to become a dandelion farmer, as if anyone needed help to grow the little yellow buggers.
Now, I knew better than to plant those seeds right then. Dandelions are spring wildflowers. But that’s how I am. I start thinking ahead, and then I begin gathering all the supplies I need to do whatever I’m planning to do. When the time’s right, I want to know I can meet whatever deadline I’ve set for myself.
Last summer when I started this book, I had big plans—besides growing dandelions and then feasting on dandelion greens and dandelion wine. I’d also bought some dandelion tea from the supermarket—it was supposed to do wonders for me—but one cup was all it took to quench my thirst for dandelion tea.
Timberley and I were also going to buy fishing licenses and go trout fishing once winter passed and the weather warmed up. We planned to dust off our golf clubs, shine our golf shoes and play regular rounds of golf. But then the pandemic hit and shut everything down, and we got to know life under quarantine.
BOONE, N.C. (July 21, 2020) – Mango Madness’s first fiery blossom of the summer opened Sunday in Morganton. As I’ve said before, that dahlia was our Most Valuable Plant last year off the mountain. He bloomed from July to November, and all his mango-colored blossoms were photogenic, catching rays of light just right no matter how he lined up to the sun. But this year he’s playing catch-up in the AFL.
Yes, that’s the Adams Floral League, which opened in March despite the novel coronavirus quarantine. The AFL’s Dahlia Division took the field in May with the blooming of our burgundy beauty, Midnight Dancer, who finished out of the money last year in fourth place behind Mango Madness, The General and Yellow Star. This year a newcomer, Crazy Love, has taken an impressive lead in our garden.
BOONE, N.C. (July 15, 2020) – Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams and old coaches—in my case, a handful of good men who molded me as we pursued our shared goals.
As far as dreams go—I’m referring to sleeping dreams now—I remember only one that seemed to deal with life goals and, in fact, has guided my decision making at various crossroads. To paraphrase the old Yankee catcher, coach and philosopher Yogi Berra, whenever I came to a fork in the road of life, I took it, but I kept an eye peeled for a good roadside diner where I could put that eating utensil to its best use.
The Yankees were, in fact, the first sports team I was aware of as a child, probably around age 5. I liked the names Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra for obvious reasons, as I’m part of the TV Generation weaned on Mickey Mouse and Yogi Bear cartoons. Weaned? I ate all my meals off a little Hanna-Barbera plate bearing the image of a pic-a-nic at Jellystone Park with Yogi, Boo-Boo, Ranger Smith and their friends.
MORGANTON, N.C. (July 5, 2020) – Like everything else this growing season, our dahlias bloomed early—about two weeks earlier than in 2019. Beginning in late May and blossoming until the second week in November, our dahlias outdid themselves last year, especially the purple-and-white one that I refer to as The General, two glowing yellow, spiky-petaled ones that I call Crack Dahlias, and a flame-colored beauty that consistently yielded perhaps the most photogenic blooms. Our dahlias were prime.
Actually, prime probably isn’t the right mathematical term to describe dahlias. I’d never heard of what’s called the Fibonacci sequence until a couple of weeks ago after I posted on Instagram a closeup picture of a new dahlia called Crazy Love that Timberley planted last fall and some other flowers from our yard here. A friend liked the post and commented simply, “Nice. Fibonacci.” I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what that term meant, and, therefore, I wasn’t entirely sure which photo he was referring to.
I looked the word up—yes, on Wikipedia—and read some articles on Fibonacci numbers, the Fibonacci sequence, the Golden Ratio, and the Golden Spiral. I won’t even try to explain it all—I’ve always hated math—but, basically, the Fibonacci sequence of numbers deals with a pattern of growth or construction that results in an ever-widening spiral, something that is seen everywhere in nature and often mimicked in art and other man-made things. I guess my friend saw it in my closeups of the dahlia and coneflower.
BOONE, N.C. (June 30, 2020) – I’ve mistakenly called them mystery lilies over the years, but they’re actually rain lilies; or,zephyranthes. Other names are zephyr lily, fairy lily, magic lily and rainflower. Timberley corrected me the other day as I was babbling about them. She’s my own personal Wikipedia. I’m always asking her what that pretty flower is and what those nice plants are, and she always knows.
Like our bogus mystery lilies in Morganton, I’m treading on dangerous ground or thin ice or eggshells or whatever writing about one’s spouse for public consumption is called. Those lilies grow in a single, unlikely spot in a thin strip of earth between our asphalt driveway and stone retaining wall. It sure is a mystery to me how they survive from one year to the next, but they pop up each June, like clockwork.
Here in Boone, our daylilies are just starting to bloom. For the past decade or so they have been, by far, the most prolific flowers in our Rutherwood yard, especially the common orange variety that Timberley says some folks call ditch lilies, a fact also supported by Wikipedia that she noted as we traveled to and from Morganton this past weekend. We also have yellow and purple lilies, and Turk’s caps at our house.
MORGANTON, N.C. (June 20, 2020) – I kind of wish PGA legend Tiger Woods and LPGA rising star Lily Muni He would get together despite the difference in their ages and procreate a supergolfer for us. They could name the child Tiger Lily, and he, she or they could take over the golf world and Instagram.
Like Lily Muni He, a 22-year-old Chinese model with a sexy backswing, 44-year-old Tiger Woods has stood in the worldwide spotlight and been the focus of media photographers since his youth, as a golfer and as a product influencer, as He—that’s Lily Muni He—is called now. I’m even one of her followers.
I’m not entirely sure what product Lily is selling—well, besides her good looks—but you can bet I’ll be watching the next LPGA event that’s televised on Free TV. Timberley will probably be glad that I (may) stop yelling “Creamer!” every time veteran golfer Paula Creamer, my former favorite, comes on-screen.
BOONE, N.C. (June 15, 2020) – “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin” (Matthew 6:28, KJV). That verse is in all red letters.
Even though that’s the translation preferred by most evangelical Christians, I’ll go ahead and interpret it for folks who have heard the verse all their lives but don’t really understand what Jesus was saying in it.
Why are you worried about what you wear and how you look? Think about the lilies that are blooming everywhere now—how they grow on nothing but sunshine and rain, maybe a little fertilizer. Lilies don’t work for money to buy a wardrobe. They don’t even make their own clothes.
BOONE, N.C. (June 10, 2020) – Things aren’t always what they seem. Take that rhododendron-like shrubbery outside our basement door here in Rutherwood, for example. As I’ve said before, I initially thought it was a regular rhododendron and then a variety called punctatum before I did some research and found that it’s actually mountain laurel, in the same heath family but of a different genus.
In everyday terms, that’s like saying you and I are both American, but, say, your ancestors came here from England, so you’re British, while I’m Scots-Irish. My mother’s ancestors were Lowland or Ulster Scots, Protestants who moved to Ireland to escape the Church of England, then emigrated to America for religious freedom. Twenty U.S. Presidents, including Barack Obama, were at least part Scots-Irish.
In case you’re wondering, Donald J. Trump is of German ancestry on his father’s side. In 2017, CNN broadcast published reports that “Trump’s father repeatedly sought to conceal the fact that he was the son of German immigrants.… [He] sought to pass himself off as Swedish amid anti-German sentiment sparked by World War II.” So the Donald’s phony heritage is consistent with everything else in his life.
But I’m getting off track. I was talking about our mountain laurel, at least the one that didn’t get crushed by a neighbor’s tree a few winters ago. When I was telling that story a couple of weeks ago—about that ice storm—I noted that the row of bushes consisted mainly of Catawba rhododendrons, but last week when their blossoms finally started popping open, I saw that the most damaged shrub is actually a mountain laurel.
By their blossoms and fruit we shall know them, right? And we can also consider their leaves and bark.
MORGANTON, N.C. (May 31, 2020) – Rhododendrons have been the laurels of education throughout my life. Ever since grade school days, my visits to one particular university have had as a backdrop this evergreen, even though its bright pink or purple balls of blossoms may or may not have been in season.
Appalachian State University was the main reason that Timberley and I moved from Ocean Isle Beach to Boone back in the summer of 1997. We had a history with the institution—Timberley had graduated from its College of Business in 1982; I had dropped out as a junior with a 4.0 GPA in 1980. Yeah, I did.