Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Yard Work...Before & After


I have friends who love to do yard work. I've written about yard work before and many who know me know my feelings on the matter. But, I also understand the importance of taking responsibility of a homeowner.

This year, as with many of you, there have been very few days where any work in the yard could be done. This weekend, however, the clouds parted and for several hours Friday and Saturday we worked in the yard. My mother-in-law came and helped for which we are very grateful. I took some before/after shots before we began.





I remember as a child thinking I'd never get all the weeds (living on a mountain we never wanted for weeds...). I suppose it's with anything in life, it takes work--constant, vigilant, hard work--to stay ahead of the weeds...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Topaz, Chapter 2

Topaz, Chapter 2

Topaz, Chapter 1: Here

It takes several minutes for the man to reach the bus stop three houses down from his brick bungalow. Two teenagers obviously evading school react to an adult entering the sidewalk, but their eyes turn from the shock of being discovered to relief, and then patronization as they see the octogenarian slowly move toward them. As the children pass their elder, they mock the man with those same eyes that moments earlier feared his supposed authority.
The man reaches the bus stop and sits on the convenient bench supplied by taxpayers for just such a purpose. Through lenses tinted to darken in the brightening sunlight the man turns and sees a city bus rumble lazily down the tree-lined street. The vehicle’s brakes, long overdue for servicing, screech as the large transport void of passengers stops obediently at the curb directly in front of the waiting commuter. With the teenagers gone, no one save the bus driver notices the old man painfully climb the required three stairs and sit among the bus’s empty seats.
The bus stops and deposits its singular rider at the shopping center three miles from the house where the cat only now leaps from the comfort of the old man’s bed in search for food. The morning sun beats down upon the old man’s shaded head. Small beads of sweat escape into the hat, darkening the fabric. The perspiration continues until after the automatic doors of the shopping center close, engulfing the man as he continues his task.
An hour after the building swallows the man, the same doors expel him—the pace of his gait exactly the same as when he entered. The man again finds a bench on which to sit and wait for another bus. Once seated the man removes his hat and pulls out a cotton handkerchief. He daps moisture from his exposed scalp, replaces the hat, and checks his watch. A moment later the old man looks up and is greeted by another bus, the sounds of its diesel engine mix with those from automobiles, motorcycles, and of airplanes overhead. With the aid of his cane the man stands while the bus stops before him. He boards the bus.
Once aboard the diminutive man chooses the same seat he chose an hour earlier. This bus is not empty. The old man finds himself sitting across from a fellow rider, a younger man dressed in work attire sleeping, his strong shoulders swaying gently in tandem with the rocking of the bus. The old man notices the young man’s clothing, work boots caked with a thin layer of dried mud, the man’s jeans worn and tattered, his flannel shirt adorned with sweat and coffee stains. A hardhat and lunchbox sit silently beside the sleeping worker, on the man’s lap rests a magazine, a large earth-moving machine adorning the magazine’s back cover.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Headstone On The Hill

This headstone lies on a hill. Though the pictures don't reflect the landscape with any topographical accuracy, a hill exists. This picture looks east, up a hill...

...and this picture looks west, down the hill.

Nearly in the middle lies a simple marker, a slab of granite which denotes a destination. As with anything in life, there's a story behind the headstone. As you can see, my father passed several years before my mother. After my father died it came time for us to make the proper arrangements. The town where the cemetery is located banned all raised headstones. My mother didn't like that, but what can you do?

The city, of course, changed policy some years later and allowed headstones in all shapes and sizes. Our family discussed changing the headstone several times, but we never did. My mother always complained that she didn't much like the headstone.

Things changed when my mother got sick. Suddenly, the headstone didn't seem so bad.

Today we clipped snowballs from our snowball bush and placed them at the headstone. As always, it was good to get together as a family. At the cemetery there are scattered among the many neighbors and friends resting temporarily on this hill, pioneers, frontiersmen (and women...), and even civil war veterans. As a child I feared the place. Now, I think it's beautiful.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Topaz, Chapter 1

I learned today that a short story I submitted to an anthology was not chosen... No big deal. I liked it so I'm splitting it up into a few chapters and including it on this blog. I hope you enjoy it.
Interesting…thinks the old man as he watches his cat stir in the morning sun as rays filter through a century-old window. The cat--its genealogy from any specific breed long ago filtered by generations of births--lies at the end of the bed, the soft down comforter warming the animal from beneath while it waits for the celestial orb to provide heat from above. The cat stretches his paws, the claws extend and become translucent as the nails touch the rays of sunlight. The cat yawns then retracts his claws and paws, arranging them while lowering his chin to rest his sleepy head atop the newly formed pillow of legs and fur. The old man continues to watch as the cat wraps his tail around his body, the tail’s raccoon stripes coming to rest just under the cat’s pink and black-spotted nose. The old man knows the cat will remain as the sun rises and warms his body. He also knows he cannot linger, but must rise and meet the responsibilities of the new day.
With shaky hands the old man reaches for his thick eyeglasses and gently places them on his face. He rises from his bed, the creaks and sounds from the wooden bed frame mix with those from the old man’s bones, their sounds filling the air like the flecks of dust lightly wafting throughout the small bedroom. The man’s small feet shuffle across the wooden floor toward the bathroom. The door closes and the cat twitches as the infinitesimal weight of a dust particle lands silently on a long white whisker.
The door opens and the old man returns, his pajamas replaced by dark slacks, a cotton shirt and light jacket, his slippers exchanged for white sneakers. A slight squeak comes from the sneakers as they cross the floor. The cat does not move as the old man leaves the room.
The old man eats his breakfast in silence, his diet consisting of corn flakes and a myriad of medications. As he eats he checks his watch, the passage of time triggers no reaction from the man’s wrinkled face. Random sounds of life existing outside his house pass between cracks in the door and window frames. The man finishes his meal, rinses the dishes, checks his watch one more time, then prepares to leave the house.
The old man stops before the oak door that protects the man’s scant earthly possessions from outsiders and takes a faded Panama hat from a hook on the wall, the blue band surrounding the hat matching the color of the his jacket. He places the hat over hair—hair once jet black and full, but now gray and thinning. Before he opens the door, the man reaches for his cane, his weathered hands embrace the carved ivory cap and the bamboo shaft dutifully supports his weight as the man exits the house and locks the door behind him.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Snowballs And Cemeteries...

I don't recall exactly when my mom planted a snowball bush in front of our house, but she did and because it was planted directly in front of a downspout, the bush received a lot of water. Over the years the plant has evolved until only the upper branches sprout snowballs. It's kind of a weird-looking bush right now, but I still love it.

Since snowball bushes always seem to bloom around Memorial Day, we would always clip off a few snowballs and take them to the cemetery to place on my father's headstone. It was always nice to take something from our yard as a memoir for a loved one.

Following my mother's example, we planted our own snowball bush and we placed it directly in front of a downspout. This weekend we'll clip snowballs--twice as many--and take them to the cemetery. And, again, I'll feel good taking something from our yard to honor my parents.

Of course, within a few days there will either be a heavy rainstorm, or windstorm (or both...) and all the pretty white petals will go away. But, for at least for one weekend, they will look beautiful.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

They Died 40 Years Apart...A Memorial

Almost every day I drive by a memorial. I could tell from the road the markers were for fallen UHP officers, but that was all I knew. I had an idea the other day that I should stop by, snap a picture or two for my "Picture Of The Day" feature and with the upcoming holiday, it all seemed perfect. I'm glad I did.

From a distance the crosses don't appear as large as they actually are, but as I got out of my car today and approached the massive structures, the size adequately honored the fallen officers. I don't know why I thought I would, but I didn't recognize either name embossed on either cross. But, living in this incredible technology age, I assumed I could do an internet search and learn more of these gentlemen. I was right.

I searched for Trooper George Dee Rees first. His story (as are all the officers whose name if found on similar markers throughout our state) is both tragic and fascinating. Officer Rees passed away due to a traffic accident in 1960. Because of a misunderstanding Officer Rees left a roadblock set up to catch two car thieves and died when the two felons driving the stolen car hit him head-on. The force of the impact sent Officer Rees's car back 80 feet. He was only 41-years old. I found two websites that provided information on what happened: Site 1, and Site 2. I don't know anyone who knew Trooper Rees, but he has a kind smile.

The second memorial marker is for Trooper Lt. Thomas Rettberg, and I vaguely remember the passing of this officer. Officer Rettberg died in a helicopter accident after a 25-year career in law enforcement. While on a training run a piece of the helicopter he was in fell off which caused the craft to slam into the ground, killing both Officer Rettberg and a maintenance mechanic Thomas Bohoravitch. A pilot of 22 years, Officer Rettberg was cremated and his ashes were spread over Mt. Timpanogos. Information about Officer Rettberg can be found here: Site 1, and Site 2.

These men (and others...) died while serving us, the public. This weekend we turn our attention to those who gave their lives so that we can continue to do so. I don't know these men, but I feel somehow connected to them. Maybe it's because my father was a police officer...maybe it's because their ultimate sacrifice is on display for me to see and hopefully, appreciate. I should stop by and check out memorials more often. I'm a better man for knowing a little bit more about these men.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Short Poem (And Pictures of Slinkies...)

When dusk slowly approaches and the day fades to night
When the children return home and deny the mosquito's bite

When parents, tired and spent from all the duties done
When abandoned dishes dirtied dry in evening sun

When all who live together are safely home at last
When sleep arrives to family another day has passed

I hope you all had a wonderful day. If not, I had a video of some kids in a dojo playing dodgeball, but it wouldn't download and I'm too tired to wait up anymore tonight.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bold Choices...

Bold Choices Take You Where You're Supposed To Be...

If you look carefully in the above picture, there's an F-16 streaking across the cloud-covered sky just right of the glass building. I know it's a bad picture (if you click on the picture and zoom in, you'll see it...). I've tried to take a good picture of those jets as they rip by at several hundred miles an hour. I work next to the air force base and am fortunate enough to see and hear these planes every time I work. It's hard to get a good shot, but I'll keep trying...

My friend organizes an air show in Wendover, Utah--not every year, but almost (info on this year's show can be found: Here). We went a few years back and I watched an F-16 demonstration, the plane originating from the same base as the one you (can barely...) see in the picture. What I saw at that show was amazing. The pilot guided and glided that incredible jet like it was a boat floating over a calm lake.

Tonight, as I watched TV, I saw an advertisement for a popular liquor and the tag line went: Bold Choices Take You Where You're Supposed To Be. I thought of the pilot cruising in the clouds and to him I say, amen.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Daughter Making Dinner...

Regressive Gene? Perhaps... There was a time when I cooked and baked. This may come as a surprise my wife of almost two decades, but I can cook and probably should prepare food more often. One reason I don't is because my wife is such a fantastic chef, cook, and baker.

Our oldest is taking classes at the local college--his subject of study? Culinary Arts. Because of his food-making success , the next in line has tried his luck in the kitchen. The boy makes a mean (and by 'mean' I mean 'delicious'...) pan of brownies.

Tonight, our daughter whipped up a batch of mini-pizzas. She's pretty amazing considering she stands just above the counter and the electric griddle. She made the dough herself (from the recipe she wrote down...), she made the sauce herself, grated the cheese, put them all together and fried them up. When the cheese is sufficiently melted, they're done and ready for the hungry family to chow down.

After dinner I watched another storm roll in. Even it you're sick of the rain, it makes for a beautiful vista.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Storm Clouds Roll In...

A co-worker who dabbled in photography once said he likes clouds, because a sky is a little boring to a photographer without clouds. That was something I had never thought about before.

Our day began with rain, but by the afternoon, the sun came out. Here's the mountains looking east.

We heard a storm was on its way so here's what the west looked like earlier.

And here's what the west looked like when the serious clouds came in.

I snapped a few shots because the serious clouds looked so cool!

While I waited for the storm to hit, a couple of hummingbirds decided to drop by.

In between feeding I actually spotted the small bird resting on a tree branch. I have never seen that before.

I had to wait while the storm rolled in for the little bird to return and eat so I could catch video of the event. Hopefully he's found shelter as our day ends the way it began...wet from rain.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Day At The Theater(s)...

Theater, Anyone?

Yesterday and today were filled with theater-related activities. Actually, I began Thursday night when I went to a 2-hr rehearsal.

I rehearsed this morning from 9am to noon. I then picked up a script for my son's next acting assignment (he's Samuel...).

I spent the rest of the day, 12:30pm to 9pm at a community church where my two oldest children participated in a Shakespeare play, A Comedy of Errors. My wife and I helped backstage with the sound and music cues.

The kids put on three plays, one last night, a matinee today, and a show tonight. One son wanted to put his own special touch on his curtain call. Last night he threw his hat and tried to catch it. For the matinee he threw a prop baby doll and tried to catch it, and for tonight's show he combined the two...he threw the prop baby and tried catching it in his hat (see video...). Though he successfully caught the various items in practice, unfortunately, the items were not caught in front of an audience. It's been a long, but pretty good day.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Full Farmington Creek

Since, according to some, our existence--our world ends tomorrow, let's look at something that wiped out almost all human life once before...water.

If you live where we do you know there's been a lot of rain falling in and around our area this spring. Personally, I love the rain and desperately miss rain during the height of summer when the heat seems to seek out the top of my head to cause painful burns when I forget to bring along a hat.

The largest venue to channel water from the snowpack thousands of feet above us in the mountains is a creek named after the city where we live. I've driven over that creek many times this spring. This morning I got out of my car and took some pictures. I know to many--if not most of you--this is a puny excuse for a river (hence the "creek" label...), but the rivers that flow in our state can be dangerous if they're not respected.

I noticed only a few steps from the flowing waters was a small flow of water, a mini-creek, if you will...

All of us that reside at the base of the mountains hope the threat of flooding remains low. The city has recommended that no one sleep in the basements of their homes just in case the water and/or mud comes rushing in. Better safe than sorry...