Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mid-April Cold In East Tennessee

Here in Knoxville, we managed to avoid a replay of last year’s April hard freeze (when every tree’s new leaves and flowers totally froze, turned brown and crispy, and fell to the ground). Following a couple of weeks of balmy, warm weather, it turned raw, rainy and cold this past week; the rain was followed by several nights of freeze warnings, as a cold weather system settled in.

So out of the closets came the bedsheets, beach towels, and quilts to cover the azalea, lilac, mock orange, newly-planted blueberry bush, and flowers. Into the house came the hanging baskets of flowers and the houseplants that had been so happy to go back outside on the porch when the balmy weather had showed up two weeks before. My house looked like a jungle for three days with all the plants camping in! Although we got awfully close to freezing temperatures outdoors, thankfully, things hovered just above that mark and plant-life was spared ... even my treasured smoke tree (which was too large to cover).

While I’m talking about plants, I’ll mention that I’m looking for a good home for a two-year-old maple tree; I grew this tree from its spinner seed. It’s in a grower’s pot, is about 3 feet tall and very nicely shaped. I have no space in my yard for another shade tree. This tree would like to get into the ground this season.

Make A Garden Spot

Have you noticed the rise in food prices? There are many trickle-down tentacles that are resulting from our nation’s economic and international trade problems. Have you also read the headlines about people in various nations rioting in the streets over food prices? It will undoubtedly get worse as the populations and need continue to increase.

Here in our country, I honestly believe we have put ourselves at risk by becoming conditioned to getting all our food from grocery chain stores and restaurants. What if the trucks couldn’t roll to deliver food to stores and restaurants (maybe due to gas prices) or if food imports were curtailed (a lot of our food is imported and our own farms are being devoured by developers and housing) due to famine, economics, government feuding?

At a time in our not-too-distant past (my grandparents and parents actually did this when I was a tot), people grew food in their yards and canned it every autumn. It supplemented what they bought at the store ... or maybe it was the other way around. We’ve attained the convenience of just selecting and paying for what we eat and driving home with it ... but forgotten or never learned how to produce it. I think we need to remember or relearn how to farm. Now if this idea catches on, we can possibly expect the prices of seeds, tillers, and vegetable plants to sky-rocket. So I plan to get in on the "ground-floor" so to speak. That huge, back-yard-sized, fenced dog run (which is mostly unused by the dogs who prefer to be leash-walked) is my future garden or farmette spot. I think I just coined another word.

Herds (this is more interesting than it sounds)

The animal herd instinct to follow the leader is based on the desire to survive. Of course, animal leaders are chosen for their strength, courage, and ability to lead. Survival isn’t always the outcome though, if the leader doesn’t choose the right path of escape, the right location to breed, etc. In the face of danger, some of the herd might escape at the expense of the frail, infantile, or just unfortunate members. With humans, whoever the leader is has the ability to majorly impact every facet of our lives. This we’ve especially realized under the rule of the arrogant Bush team. A leader needs to know (and care) about much more than how to wage or continue war. So if Americans are swept up by herdism this November, our entire population can suffer the consequences. The "polls" being published are an affront to us. Their authenticity and credibility depend on their origins. For example, a poll that originates with Fox (even if elsewhere published) will reflect their strong Republican leanings. The intent of published political polls is not to inform, but to influence.

If McCain is really on a poll par with Obama, something is really askew. If we’re to believe that most Americans want change regarding war, economics, torture, and health care, how can we then also believe that many of those same people would vote for a man who is steeped in war, knows nothing about economics, and doesn’t have a plan for health care? Polls are propaganda tools being passed off as legitimate information. Mentioning the word "torture" above reminds me that I recently read the post of a fellow-blogger (and one whom I greatly respect) that says there are now reports of Rice being considered as McCain’s VP; the post also reminds us about Rice’s sanctioning of torture.

Getting back to my thought on herds and "herdism" (I was tempted to look that word up to see if it exists, but decided to just go ahead because you know what I mean), for the love of whatever we hold dear, please let’s be thinking people and not follow herds and pollsters.


This past Sunday I had to drive across town to meet with a friend. I allowed a bit of extra time so I could stop in the Hallmark store there (where I often shopped when I lived in that area). With about 20 minutes to spare after Hallmark, I drove past my former house and property to view "my" (they’ll always be mine) trees. With about two acres of what was partially wooded when I lived there (the new people are cutting things down), I’d planted many additional trees, mostly ornamentals, and named each of them. So I had to drive around the block three times so I could cruise by from different angles and check on Brenda, Maggie, Gerald, Clara, Harry, Marc, and all the others. Sadly, one of them (none of the above-named) had died, probably from last summer’s drought. It was still a young tree and would have needed some watering to survive the severity of the drought. Nostalgia is such a bitter-sweet thing, isn’t it?

Here In The City

In contrast to my former abode, residing in the city offers its own pleasant features (besides city services which are lacking in the county suburbs). Here neighbors communicate with each other. If you happen to have good neighbors, this is really nice. While covering my trees and plants the other night (see post above about freeze warnings), my neighbor, John, was also covering many of his plantings, carefully wrapping them and neatly fastening the coverings so they wouldn’t flap in the wind (unlike some of mine that were indeed trying their best to flap). He commented to me about what plant-lovers we are. Moments later, the voice of Chris, my neighbor on the other side, rang out with a comment typical of his style: "This weather’s crazy, man", as he shivered with no jacket.

Spring Cleaning

Removing all cobwebs, literally and figuratively!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Is She Calling You?

Is she? Yes, she is! This is the title of my just-done CD, which is named for its opening track. The song's genre is Latin-Jazz. Audiences liken it to a Santana sound, even when I’m playing it solo on split keyboard (with bass). The lyrics refer to the Lady Wolf (me) and the wolf’s expressive vocal intonations and range. I love this song. Of my dozens of original songs (all of which have various elements of my feelings and experiences in them), this is the only time I found myself writing a song about myself, although the listener probably doesn’t realize that until near the end of the song.

Also on the CD are two 12-bar blues tunes: I Remember The Day and Clara’s Slow, Steamy Blues (it is); a light classical ballad called Spring Is In The Air, another classical song called Shadow & Light, a new age instrumental named Call To The Day; kicky jazz Ba da ba da ba da; my peace/protest/activist song (eclectic blues) called One Woman’s Blues, and the completed arrangement of a very special song, a ballad, called I Could Really Fall For You, which I’ve described in my promo article with the following words: "In 2001, a singer-songwriter-guitarist-recreational drummer, who was destined to become my drummer and close friend, gave me the lyrics and minor key music progression for this song, along with his request that I complete and sing it. When I’d spent a bit of time with it, I realized it needed a bridge renovation (different chords) and asked him if it would be OK for me to do that, so the song would work for me. He agreed to consider it – but then I didn’t bring it up again and time marched on. We went on to develop a solid music commitment together and a deep, meaningful friendship. He died in September 2006, after a valiant battle with cancer. A year later, I rummaged through my boxes of music sheets in my basement and found the crinkled, yellowed lead sheet he’d given me ... I knew it was time for me to complete the song and sing it! Here it is with my intro, bridge, and major key 9-bar ending ... and Philip’s beautiful and haunting lyrics and minor key theme. Here is my tribute to the vast talents and beautiful heart of the late Philip Knight."

If you’d like a copy of this CD, or any of my others, please let me know via e-mail at

Save The Wolves

The May issue of Men’s Journal magazine has a poignant and compelling ad and an article; the items are about two related travesties – the Bush Administration’s plan to slaughter hundreds of gray wolves and the Bush Administration’s handing over our public lands for use and abuse by off-road vehicles. In each case, pandering to political and industrial special interests and friends is responsible.

You may recall the post I put up recently (please scroll down) about the wolves and I promised I’d post about them again when I learned more. The Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund headline "Using Tax Dollars To Shoot Animals On The Endangered Species List? The Bush Administration In Action", begins the one-page article that sums up the situation well. A visit to the organization’s website tells us more and goes on to say "Bush Administration Takes Aim at Wolves – In Greater Yellowstone and across the Northern Rockies, gray wolves are facing mounting habitat destruction from industrial development and other harmful activity. Nonetheless, the Bush Administration recently stripped these wolves of endangered species protection, leaving them vulnerable to mass killing. Both Wyoming and Idaho are planning to use aerial gunning, as well as baiting and trapping, to exterminate hundreds of wolves.The comeback of gray wolves in the Northern Rockies is America's greatest wildlife recovery story. But the Bush Administration's ‘License to Kill’ plan could drive these wolves back to the brink of extinction".

Gray wolves were almost completely wiped out of existence by every vile means imaginable. Finally put on the Endangered Species List, there are now about 1,500 of these beautiful animals in the northern Rockies area, where they have revitalized the region’s environment and enhanced the tourist industry. Bush has recently removed the wolves from the Endangered Species List and now plans to sanction a wolf-kill, in which wolves would be mass-killed by any horrific means. We must let Congress know we do not want this to happen.

The Bush-Cheney Administration has done and continues to do damage of epic proportions to all things environmental, ethical, and humane. Now is the time to speak up in defense of the wolves. The truth is that there is not an over-abundance of wolves; additionally, ranchers already have the right to kill any wolf that may harass livestock; and the elk population is at an all-time high across the northern Rocky Mountains, providing plenty of elk as targets for "sport" hunters to shoot at. The Bush Administration is obviously determined that not one component of our ecological and natural heritage be left unmolested ... using our tax dollars to fund the killing and destruction.

Please visit the website of Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund at
for all of the facts and to tell your U.S. Representative to oppose Bush’s wolf-killing plan.

Public Lands

The related article chronicles the devastation of land and resources and the dangers to and injuries of hikers at the hands of or, I should say under the wheels of, off-road gas-powered recreational vehicles. Bush has pandered to the self-serving political interests of friends and allies in the motorized recreational vehicle (gas-powered) industry. Of course, given today’s situation with high gasoline prices and the belt-tightening we ordinary drivers are faced with at the gas pumps, the ORV issue stands out as a particularly sore thumb.

Fragile desert lands and forest ecosystems are being destroyed ... and other land users such as hikers are fleeing from dangers such as being run over by "a 12-year old on an ATV he can’t control". The report goes on to tell of cows being run to death; extensive vandalism and intentional destruction of flora and land; the seeming ineffectiveness of BLM (Bureau of Land Management), the agency charged with overseeing this and other public land matters; and the Forest Service’s shrugging off of complaints they say they can’t do anything about. Bush has opened these previously protected lands for this plundering use and, of course, it’s an industry dependent on gasoline and ... you guessed it ... Oil.

Hard Times & Good Times

There is what I'll call a Value System that I try to keep in mind, for myself and in relation to others, particularly in times of financial stress. Regarding money and feeling balanced, it is this:

Pull in spending,
Sock some away, and
Give some away.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Footing The Bill -- U.S. Economics

You know, if you or I go out and run up a huge bill on our personal credit cards for a luxury item or a needed item, we then need to pay our bill but we can, at least, look at that item, use it, wear it, drive it, whatever ... and know it is the source of our debt. We in the U.S. citizenry have a huge, mind-boggling national debt; the ironic question is, what have we lavished on ourselves to incur this debt? Our national debt is our bill – the tab we are paying – for an ill-begotten war, corrupt politics, cronies and the good ol’ boy thing. The "items" we can look at and experience for this expenditure of ours are the millions of home mortgages in danger of or actually in foreclosure, business collapses, lost savings, a blatantly abused and suffering environment, neglected bridges and roadways, White House-sanctioned torture, invasion of our privacy, a badly damaged national reputation, and a horribly deformed and unbalanced health care non-system. Now there isn’t enough time left to impeach the scoundrels – the administration that brought our economy from a surplus into a deep and terrifying deficit.

The next president will have a fearsome job righting the wrongs committed over the past seven years and those currently ongoing, some of which probably cannot ever really be fixed. Hopefully, we won’t find ourselves with a Bush-like new president. McCain has admitted he knows nothing about economics (but he knows lots about war). Folks, the country is at the brink of economic disaster. I know it’s too scary to think about ... I don't want to think about it, but it’ll be even scarier if we just coast along the way we are. We need to think about it, talk about it, write about it, and vote about it. Vote for sound economics, a national health care system, peaceful resolution to political and world issues, honesty, true ethics, humane treatment of U.S. citizens and political prisoners, protection of our earth (forests, oceans, animals, air, rivers). Put our tax dollars to work on positive national efforts.