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Bronze girl statue with butterfly

Bronze girl statue with butterfly

Almost home now.  Only eighty miles of driving before hugging Barry “hello!” and hearing what’s been happening here in the Upper Peninsula during the past five days.  But first:  must eat dinner and have an outdoors adventure. What better outdoor experience than to sit overlooking Lake Superior here in Marquette, eating the most lovely gourmet salad at L’Attitude and writing a blog?  It’s probably 75 degrees and so beautiful!  Who would believe this is the first full day of autumn here in North Country?

Butterfly

Butterfly

Part of me still remains back in Georgia, wondering how all the folks are handling the flooding.  It’s really dicey in some of the northern Atlanta suburbs.  At last count, six to eight people had died in the flooding following torrential downpours for days.  The shuttle driver was even a little apprehensive about getting us to the airport safely and on time.  He drove over flooded highways yesterday evening and seemed a little cautious. 

We all eyed the Yellow River as we passed over.  It lapped hungrily just a few inches from the busy highway.  “If the Yellow River crests,” our shuttle driver said ominously, “We’ll be cut off from Atlanta.”

Luckily, the river only churned in its red-orange-brown fury of too much rain.  We crossed over the bridge and made it safely to the airport.  The other problem involves the shallow root system of the trees.  With the drenched soil, many big trees are toppling, slamming into houses and roofs.  Not a good scenario.

Butterfly (2nd view)

Butterfly (2nd view)

But let’s backtrack to yesterday.  Back to the state Botanical Gardens in Athens.  Oh, it was a lovely time in between rain showers!  And have you noticed what elusive image was captured digitally?  A butterfly with wings opened and closed!  I have been furtively stalking butterflies all summer, with very little success.  They land, nibble on flowers, and depart, all before the camera is properly aimed.  Thank goodness for an entire garden of flowers!  They grow lazy there, drunk on nectar.  And I got a shot at them.  Thank you, Butterfly, for cooperating.

Pink flower over tile

Pink flower over tile

The two flights back home proved enjoyable today.  No fuss.  No real delays.  If you have Gypsy blood and travel a lot, you experience all sorts of challenging experiences on airplanes and airports.  I could write a book, I tell you, of traveling adventures!  How you learn, over and over and over again basic lessons about trust and faith.  (Even this morning, when the Mind tried to worry about flooded culverts and bridges and swept-away roads…it was necessary to surrender to something beyond the Mind’s tendency to worry and exaggerate and fuss.)

Statue called "Peace"

Statue called "Peace"

This statue of a dove of peace in the gardens summarizes this very well.  Our minds create peace or war.  What do we choose in each moment?

Family of red flowers

Family of red flowers

Right now I choose to eat some more salad.  Excuse me.  Excuse these Lake Superior flies too.  Must keep swatting them away.  Lovingly, of course.

Black rain-soaked leaf

Black rain-soaked leaf

This black rain-soaked leaf looked so stunning.  Almost mystical.  Let’s make this leaf our transition between summer and autumn, between Georgia and Michigan,between rain and sunlight.  Hope everyone enjoyed their fall equinox!

Steer in the University of Georgia fields

Steer in the University of Georgia fields

Every day since Friday we have driven by the University of Georgia fields.  Interested car passengers can admire horses, sheep, pigs and cows.  My in-laws often point out a giant steer lumbering slowly along the right side of the road, back behind one of the barns.  “There’s Tex!”  they say.

Today someone suggested I might photograph the steer with his curving long horns.  Perhaps it was even I who mumbled something like, “Do you think we should have a photo of old Tex?”  Disclaimer:  Tex is not his real name.  My mother-in-law says his real name is a “sissy” name like Sugar or Honey or something. 

However it happened, I found myself out of the car and headed back behind the barn toward the fence.  Having completely pushed yesterday’s memories of the cow adventure out of my mind.  You think I would have learned.  STAY AWAY FROM COWS.   You might get soaking wet (it never stops raining down here) or shunned by the giant beasts or heaven knows what.

Today I leaned forward and snapped the rather long-distance shot of Tex and smugly headed back to the car.  Until…oowwww!!  Pain in the sandal.  I pulled off the sandal, fast and discovered…two very angry red ants.  Biting my tender northern skin.  Alas.  No more photographing cows.

State Botanical Gardens

State Botanical Gardens

Instead let’s go to the more tame state Botanical Gardens.  Marion and Jim dropped me off with instructions to phone them on the cell when either a) I was done touring the grounds or b) it started raining yet again.

Bronze statues part of a display called "Recess"

Bronze statues part of a display called "Recess"

This is not the first time I’ve stood before this collection of statues.  My mother-in-law just informed me it’s called “Recess”. She remembers that because she was an elementary teacher.  The following photo is dedicated to her (and to all of you readers who are teachers.)

Teacher

Teacher

On to the gardens.  You can choose several different areas to explore. There are the following gardens:  International, Native Flora, Flower, Shade and Heritage garden.  Plus special collections. 

I kept a wary eye trained at the horizon and monitored the sprinkles.  You have no idea how much it’s rained down here in the past week.  People are getting flooded out in northern suburbs of Atlanta.  After years of drought, the heavens have opened up and rain continues to pour.  Wonder if anyone has thought of building an ark… 

But, pardon this mental rambling.  I’m wandering in thought beyond the flower and plant photos.  Now you shall view a handful.  And since there are so many, you’ll see more tomorrow.  PLUS a photograph of something I’ve been stalking all summer.  Stay tuned for that find tomorrow!

Oh, pretty!

Oh, pretty!

Splash of red/orange flower

Splash of red/orange flower

"Flying Dragon" Hardy Orange

"Flying Dragon" Hardy Orange

P.S.  I called my father-in-law to drive the five minutes over to the botanical gardens and pick me up.  We got home and guess what?  Pouring rain!  Splashing drenching earth-soaking pouring rain!  Guess that’s no surprise to any of us…

Stuffed 'coon behind glass window in park ranger office

Stuffed 'coon behind glass window in park ranger office

My favorite brother-in-law Craig (my only brother-in-law…but I’m sure he would be my favorite one, anyway) took me on today’s outdoor adventure.  We started out in the rain in his pickup truck, headed for Watson Mill Bridge State Park.  He even stopped at Jittery Joe’s Coffee Shop so I could buy a latte for the road.  He’s a good brother-in-law.

This particular state park contains the largest original-site covered bridge in the state, spanning 229 feet across the South Fork River.  Built in 1885, the bridge is supported by a town lattice truce system held firmly together with wooden pins. (Who can tell I’m typing word-for-word from the brochure?)  At one time, Georgia had more than 200 covered bridges; today, less than 20 remain.

We ambled through the covered bridge, siding up along the edges when cars crept through next to us.  We remembered what the park ranger said to us.  “Look up in the rafters,” he said, “if you want to see plenty of bats.”  Then he paused.  Looked us straight in the eye and added, “A Boy Scout troop went through earlier this week.  Guess what was up in the rafters with the bats?  A pine snake, having lunch.”

“Oh, neat!” I said enthusiastically.  Craig raised an eyebrow.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see either the bats or the snake.  But we did admire the covered bridge.

Craig and covered bridge

Craig and covered bridge

Craig urged me to photograph the dam, next to the bridge.  I walked carefully and slowly atop a high stone wall to capture the following image.  Tried not to imagine falling in.

Dam and waterfall

Dam and waterfall

Chatting away, we drove on down the road.  I mentioned casually a passing desire to photograph cows.  Craig, apparently, decided I was serious and parked the car in front of a field of black and white cows lying down, looking relaxed and comfortable in the drizzling rain.

I sighed and hurried through wet whipping hip-high grasses toward the fence to capture the snoozing cows. 

Yeah, right!

Cows running away...

Cows running away...

They moved a short distance away and turned to observe the soaking photographer with briar cuts on her legs.  It almost looks like they were judging the situation quite intelligently, doesn’t it?  Thinking the photographer probably should have stayed safe and dry in her truck.  Yep.

Cows turn to stare at a safe distance

Cows turn to stare at a safe distance

Once at home, we all enjoyed a cook-out.  Craig and my father-in-law manned the grill, cooking shish-ka-bobs and shrimp.  (All outdoor activities have been accomplished in between raindrops during the last few days.  We’ve had about five inches since my arrival on Friday, with more expected tonight and tomorrow.)

Father-in-law, Jim, and Craig

Father-in-law, Jim, and Craig

After dinner I walked down to the creek, admiring a few moments of sunlight.  Even though it was still sprinkling.  All the creeks are running red and fierce after so much rain.

Sunlight on creek

Sunlight on creek

Walking home, I saw the most lovely red flower.  It’s a mystery what kind it might be.  However, I loved this nameless flower instantly.  Don’t you, as well?

Mystery red flower

Mystery red flower

See the deer on the red earth?

See the deer on the red earth?

Hello.  Yawn…  OK, I’m in Georgia.  Yawn again.  3:30 a.m. came mighty early.  But what an uneventful two flights through the friendly skies.  First we landed in Detroit.  Then Atlanta.  Then a shuttle transported three of us to the Holiday Inn in Athens.  Where my father and mother-in-law waited in their car with hugs all around.  Here!  What a delight.

Twisty vine

Twisty vine

After a cup of tea and short nap (I fell asleep for forty minutes like a dead person) I scurried outside for the day’s outdoor adventure.  Headed out their back door and ventured into the woods.

It’s hard going in unfamiliar woods.  You need a compass, or a keen eye on the sun’s angle.  You don’t want to venture too far from the house.  And you certain don’t want to step on any Georgia rattlesnakes.  Oh no.  Not any southern lazy rattlesnakes lazing on the earth. So you keep your eye trained very carefully where your feet want to travel.  You will not step on a rattlesnake unwittingly.  You will not.

About five years ago, on another visit to Georgia, a long sleek black snake decided to crawl up near the house.  My father-in-law and I spotted it.  We shooed it off, promising not to share this particular information with the rest of the family who might be more nervous about long black snakes.  My daughter lay her beach towel in the sun near where the rat snake previously slithered, and I stood watch during the time she lay innocently basking.  No snake would get her! 

"Farmer Brown" with Crepe Myrtle tree

"Farmer Brown" with Crepe Myrtle tree

Deer pranced in the back, looking a bit different from Michigan deer.  There was black by their tails.  Squirrels played.  The woods sounded with insects and August trills. 

Encore azalea

Encore azalea

I toured around the house, letting the camera capture the flowers and bushes and trees.  When I arrived earlier today it was raining.  This area has been experiencing a drought for about four years, and it started raining this week.  The ground is eagerly soaking it all in.  The weather forecast for the next ten days looks like this:  Scattered Thunderstorms, Scattered Thunderstorms, Scattered Thunderstorms.  We’ll see if it does anything but rain during my time here.

Magnolia bud and leaves

Magnolia bud and leaves

Two family members called/emailed to say:  “We heard it was a flood zone in Atlanta!”  It may have been, but somehow I avoided it.  The shuttle drove through some rain, but by 5 p.m. my mother and father-in-law and I were sitting out on their patio sipping a glass of wine and swapping family stories.  It is so nice to see them again!  They are the best in-laws in the world, hands down.

My in-laws Marion and Jim

My in-laws Marion and Jim

I told them right away:  we need a pic of you guys for the outdoor blog.  They didn’t look too enthusiastic.  “But didn’t you like seeing photos of my mom and dad and brothers and nieces and nephews and kids?”  Ha!  What could they say?  Of course they liked that.  So their picture was taken so you all can see what lovely folks they are.

What else?  It’s 8:34 p.m so bedtime must be approaching within a couple hours.  I wish the rest of the family could be here, too.  But am grateful for this opportunity to spend a few days in Georgia.

P.S.  Guess what?  You’ll never believe it!  I hooked up to FREE wireless Internet up there in the friendly skies somewhere straight above Tennessee.  How fun!  It was a little restrictive with Miss Ellie (the laptop) on that tiny shelf and me yawning and really wanting to snooze.  But I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to explore cyberspace from “almost” outer space.

How high is that roof?  Relative to what?

How high is that roof? Relative to what?

Sit down.  Are you ready for this?  I am about to explain the theory of relativity to you. 

If you believed that one, you’re at the wrong blog!  What I’d like to discuss today in the theory of weather relativity.  Temperature relativity, to be precise.

As I was wandering around outside this morning, with the temperature warmed up to a toasty 20 degrees (soared upwards from a frigid seven below zero) I marveled at the warmth.  Tropical.  Comfortable.  Almost time to shed the heavy warm winter coats for lighter fleece jackets.  Forget snow pants!  Forget toasty-warm mittens and neck warmer!  It’s balmy.

Now take a fellow from Georgia who comes to visit Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  He lands in this balmy 20 degree day and do you think “balmy” is the word he’ll use to describe it?  (He actually might when he arrives on the plane tonight as there’s been SNOW in Georgia this week, but we’re discussing ordinary March Georgia weather behavior….)

A person arriving to our snow-covered land from 50-70 degree temperatures is NOT thinking 20 degrees is toasty.  His body may be shivering.  He may be bundling up in the warmest possible attire.  He may be thinking he’s reached the North Pole.

How could two perceptions be so different?  Same temperature.  One thinks it’s warm; the other knows it’s cold.  Therein lies the theory of temperature relativity:  the body adjusts to whatever temperature occurs in the particular climate where it lives. 

People in Alaska probably think seven below is tropical after a cold stretch at 40 below.  They’re probably wearing shorts to the post office at zero.  (I still wish I had that photo of the guy wearing shorts to the post office back in December…)

Do we believe this huge mitten in downtown Hancock?

Do we believe this huge mitten in downtown Hancock?

I’m suddenly thinking of trips down to Florida.  Especially my first trip in second or third grade.  We flew into Miami in the middle of the night.  Unsuspecting, we stepped off the plane, walked through the terminal and opened the door.  Sultry hot temperature immediately infused throughout our entire beings.  Our bodies gasped with the shock of it.  Then, melted completely.  It was as if we stepped from a freezer into a furnace.  Yet the furnace didn’t burn…it suffused with delightful warmth and pleasure.

I still feel that during middle-of-the-winter trips to Florida.  Not with such intensity.  But it’s still present.  It feels like we northerners burrow deep within during winter months.  We’re not even fully aware of what deep internal insulation we carry.  We’re not fully aware of  our body’s work to protect itself from ice and snow and cold.  Until, suddenly, we’re standing in 70 or 80 degrees and wearing shorts and sleeveless t-shirts and feeling like we’re shedding layers and layers and layers.  We remember Summer as a body-sensation.

Hmmmm, do I sound like I’m dreaming of summer?  Just when I’m trying to explain to you how tropical twenty degrees felt this morning?  It’s all relative, dear reader, it’s all relative…

P.S.  just picked up that relative from Georgia at the airport in Marquette.  Barry’s brother-in-law is here for five days of ice fishing.  Hope he enjoys the “balmy” weather…

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