Friday, January 9, 2015

Longing for the Dark Side

Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine
Used to a boy could slip off to the back yard after evening chores and stretch himself out under a Texas sky. There, with a soft summer breeze or biting arctic breath, she could watch and wonder at the Greatest Show Above Earth.

Earthling Ancients were lousy at dot-to-dots. A seasoned veteran of countless dot-to-dot books before I was 6, the figures I found overhead were far better than the classic constellations.

Explosive urbanization this last half century has robbed kids today of a back yard full of stars. Our artificial light is eating away the last of the dark places.

But not quite all of Texas' best night spots are losing to the light. Just up US-287 N 'bout an hour and a half is, to my mind, one of the best little state parks in Texas, Copper Breaks State Park

"Texas state parks remain among the few public places where the starry heavens can still be viewed in all their glory with minimal intrusion of artificial light," Rob McCorkle writes in the cover story for the current issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine.

Just this past summer Copper Breaks and Enchanted Rock State Natural Area were the first two parks in Texas to be designated as International Dark Sky Parks by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).

What say we slip off to Copper Breaks for a little dot-to-dot after dark?

“Some praise the Lord for Light,
The living spark;
I thank God for the Night
The healing dark.” 
Robert W. Service

Saturday, November 1, 2014

It's National Novel Writing Month!

Frost nailed the punkin this morning for the first time this 2014 fall season. This is the kind of weather that makes you want to fill a thermos with hot cocoa and make camp around a roaring fire, even if it's just in your own backyard. Of course, such fire worship goes much better if you've a little something with which to lace and brace that thermos besides chocolate.

With cooler days and chilly nights upon us, Mrs. Miller and I have launched into our respective fall projects. She is crocheting squares for a blanket for the daughter. I'd post pictures, but Mrs. Miller has a deep and abiding aversion to being photographed. Anyway, this will be the second blanket she has knotted together from various hues of yarn. She completed her first one some years ago while occupying the tourist seat of a cross-country freight hauler while I drove.

For my project I have taken the challenge to write a 50,000-word first draft of a novel in 30 days as November is National Novel Writing Month.

The idea is fairly simple and straight forward. All one has to do is bang out a minimum 50,000 words that more or less tells a story with a beginning, middle and end. Sounds easy enough, right? Try it, and get back to me.

This, of course, is not my first venture into novel writing. It did, however, seem to be an interesting vehicle to ride toward actually completling a first draft--rough though it no doubt will be--of a novel manuscript. This is something my alter ego, David Forest, has been nagging me to do for years, ever since I launched him on his first adventure (never finished) lo these many, many years ago.

If you care to follow along on this adventure, point your browser to my NaNoWriMo Page.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pecan Fall, or, Check your gratitude to fix your attitude

Couple or three fall seasons ago, in a rather flippant mood, I posted on Facebook,

Anyone know how to break a dog from eating pecans?
Good, bad or indifferent, Beano hoovers up the pecans that fall
on our patio from the neighbors' tree.

Beano, for those of you who are new here, is our aging boglen terrier, and to this day he crunches and munches his way through pecan fall if I don't get to them first.

Within moments of posting the above, my country cousin commented,

Pick 'em up.

Nothing like being taken to school by a little girl, huh.  

What falls from our neighbors' tree are what Gran'dad Saunders called "no count" pecans. That is, they aren't worth the effort it takes to bend down and pick 'em up. They are the product of native trees, trees that go season to season without "proper" spraying for pests, "proper" fertilization or "proper" irrigation.

In other words, we're talking native Texas pecan trees that get by year to year solely on the gifts that fall from heaven. And as for being "no count", Ma'maw Saunders made killer pecan pies every Thanksgiving and Christmas from a solitary old tree that shaded their home on the corner of 14th and Grace Streets.

Those "no count" pecans wouldn't take any ribbons at the Wichita County Fair, but Ma'maw's pies were forever swathed in blue silk.

So drop by the backyard these days; the pecan can is out. The drought continues to take its toll on the crop this year, and squirrels are as relentless as ever about getting to 'em before they fall.

But Beano eats a lot fewer pecans.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Just in time for Mrs. Miller's Birthday!

Coming to your neighborhood record store November 10

Three days after Anniepie's humpty-blimph birthday. 

I've been planning a trip down to Matagorda Bay for that weekend. Some might call that "slumming" for a San Francisco Bay girl, but Mrs. Miller has taken more than a few strolls on the wild side.

She's gonna kill me for this, by the way. Says, "I ALWAYS READ ABOUT IT IN FACEBOOK FIRST!" 

Last night, right in the big middle of GOTHAM, she mentions how we never made it to Memphis, TN, like we talked about once upon a time. Hmmmmm (I wondered), could it be I was looking for a road trip in all the wrong places?

So I am putting it to you, sports fans, just to see who might be reading this and STILL NOT FOLLOWING my blog!

Which way would you go on a four-day road trip in early November?
Please vote MATAGORDA or MEMPHIS and tell me why in 144 characters or less in the comments below.

She hates it when I call her "Anniepie" in public, too.

Lantana Arrives Amid the Redbuds

Texas Lantana

Lantana urticoides blooms where we least expected. 
Mom's house on York Street was anchored in Texas Lantana along front walk. This bed beside the postage-stamp sized porch was vigorous, to say the least, and I have trimmed it back into a sembelence of submission more than a few summers.

I took cuttings from this mass of Calico bush from time to time. There's a small patch of it, as I recall, on Pennsylvania Road where we lived before we went off touring the USA in a freightliner.

Lantana urticoides is a tough little plant that can take the heat and endure through dry spells. "Urticoides" comes from the leaves which resemble the Urtica nettles clan. Originally she was called horrida for her pungent odor, particularly when the shrub is perturbed. They say Lantana's smell can take out a sensitive sort of being, but butterflies and bees can't get enough of her yellow-orange-red flowers.

Like any true Texas native, Lantana thrives on abuse and neglect, and she can be down right aggressive. Some even say she's invasive.

I took a few cuttings when Mom died to transplant at our current location, here in Brook Village. For whatever reasons, the cuttings didn't make. I thought about going over to the York Street house to try again, but new folks are in there now. Still, bringing Lantana, even if not Mom's Lantana, into our yard remained on my mental to-do list.

So a couple days ago, I'm doing the morning routine in the back john when a flash of golden orange nicks the corner of my eye. I look out the window, and there in the far corner of the lot just under the Redbuds is a solitary Lantana head where no Lantana had been seen before!

Going on four years, now, Annie and I have staked our claim on this plot, and that plant never showed itself until now, going into October and under a blood moon.

Thank you, Lord!

Some old timers call Lantana urticoides "bacon 'n eggs" for the yellow-orange-red range of her flower petals, according to the folks at the Native Plant Society of Texas. Her agrobusiness-bred cousin they dubbed "ham 'n eggs", Lantana camara, whose colors are pink and yellow. So if you are looking for the true Texas native, pass on the pink and go with the red!