The Fall of the Courtesan

Cove of the lake.JPGFall is not mistress of her own domain this year.  Instead of strutting in with lower temperatures, less humidity, and  a bright mass of colors, she has imitated August’s lack of rain, higher daytime and nighttime temperatures, and stick-to-your-skin humidity.  The grass and leaves are still a mixture of browns and greens. Summer does not want to leave and Autumn is letting her stay as long as she wants.

Autumn at Linden.JPGNormally Fall enters as a brassy strumpet-vibrant  look-at-me colors, skirt lifting breezes, a cricket crescendo to mark the waning light and declining temperatures.  The light is waning, but most of the temperatures are not.  The only insects trying to sneak into the house are the unwanted stink bugstink bugs.  These primitive looking insects seem to hark back to an earlier  age.

This year fall is doing a subtle strip tease.  The wind haphazardly scatters  random handfuls of brown leaves–enough to litter the porch and sidewalks, but not enough to create a pile worth raking, burning, or jumping into.  She can’t seduce with us overwhelming sensory sights, sounds, and smells.  She musts entice with a hint of color here, a murmur of leaf crunch there, the brief scent of composting leaves early in the morning, the occasional relief of a cooler breeze on our still bare arms.Lake at Peaks of Otter.JPG

Front of Peaks of Otter Lodge.JPGApple cider, pumpkins, and chrysanthemums have become the produce of choice at local farm stands.  Many of the regional farmers’ markets will  shut down in the next week or two, unless the absent frost prolongs the growing season.  Wineries have completed their grape harvest, except for grapes like petite manseng which are normally harvested last..

The leaf peepers keep pushing back the weekend of peak foliage. Normally the 3rd weekend of October for Central Virginia, this may be one of the years where many trees still have green leaves at Thanksgiving.


Will fall make an appearance this year, or will it silently slip away?  Will  Winter  suddenly announce itself with frosty breath and blackened plants?  Meteorological winter does not arrive until December 1, but the season seldom read the calendar.

Join in the conversation with your view about whether this is a typical fall.




Squirrelly in the Fall

 From “When Fall Comes to New England”
by  Cheryl Wheeler

The frost is on the pumpkin

The squash is off the vine

And winter warnings race across the sky

The squirrels are on to something

And they’re working overtime

Foxes blink and stare and so do I.

squirrel had been digging in potThe squirrels have become frenetic in their urge to  bury  nuts.  Flower pots, dirt under the back porch, any seemingly random spot in the yard can at least temporarily, catch a squirrel’s attention as burial spot for nuts. They are caching nuts–which can produce future nut or oak trees or squirrel food for the winter.  “Researchers from the University of Berkeley found that the rodents organized their nut stash by quality, variety, and possibly even preference. The arrangement is referred to by researchers as “chunking.”

Squirrels, aka tree rats, are members of the Sciuridae family and are a form of rodents that include tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, woodchucks, and prarie dogs.  People seem fascinated with the little pests.  One of the best ways to see them is watching someone feed them directly under a “Don’t Feed the Squirrels” sign.  Children and senior citizens appear to be squirrels biggest fans.

Marvel Comics launched a new girl superhero in 1991, when LA high school student Doreen Green, became Squirrel Girl after being bullied by her classmates because of her mutation.  She has since teamed up with other superheroes.squirrel girl costumed

Squirrels are found on every continent but Australia and Antarctica.  January 21 is Squirrel Appreciation Day and was founded in 2001 by North Carolina wildlife rehabilitator Christy McKeown.  Squirrels have brought the power grid down more often than hackers because of their four front teeth that can grow up to 6 inches a year.

What is your squirrel story?  Do they make you squirrelly with their antics?  Join in the conversation and vote whether you think that squirrels are cute or just tree rats with a better marketing campaign than other rodents



Prey for the Dead

When I was  a child around Halloween we used to chant “Pray for the dead ’cause the dead can’t pray for you.”

Pray  (verb) – address a solemn request or expression of thanks to a deity or other object of worship.

Pray (adverb) – used as a preface to polite requests or instructions as in pray continue.

Prey  (noun) – an animal that is hunted and killed by another for food.

Prey (verb) – hunt and kill for food.

zombies word

zombie world walkI started thinking about prey for the dead.  First I thought Zombies, which might be Prey for the Undead.  I have an avatar friend whose persona is a Zombie in Second Life.  Llud told me that Zombies prefer live victims because they like the screaming and running around.  Since a zombie avatar is the only zombie I know, I can’t refute her logic

Then I thought about vultures.  Dead things are their prey but they are still alive  Same thing with maggots and other rotten flesh eaters.

Like any other curious 21st century information seeker, I then turned to the  Google.

I found a Prey for the Dead: Walking Dead trailer on Youtube.

prey for the dead posterA poem entitled “Aprey for the dead books the Dead Prey Upon Us” by Charles Olson.  Prey for the Dead, Book 1 by C.A. Earl on Great Reads. Prey for the Dead musical group on Sound Cloud.

Then I found something called Tertiary Consumers.  This may finally be my answer to Prey for the Dead.


Do you ever think about praying for the dead?  Day of  the Dead is celebrated from October 31 through November 2. It is a Mexican holiday and has also become very popular in the United States.  Disney/Pixar is making a movie to premier around Thanksgiving Day, called Coco about La Muete or Day of the Dead.  Join in  the conversation and share your thoughts about Day of the Dead or Zombies or just Prey for the Dead.


The Cons of Prose

reading glasses, proseHave you ever read prose by a writer that was clearly no pro? Or did he/she prose on and on?  It could be badly written or a boring topic.  Was the synopsis misleading? Have you ever read a best seller and found out the topic, author, or approach was just not for you?

Self-publishing used to be called vanity press,trump but that is no longer a good indicator of how good or bad a story or essay may be. Instead of a vanity press, it may be publishing-on-demand.

Have you ever read a hooker’s autobiography?  Would that be a Pro’s Prose  or  Ho’s Prose?    If her story were about her conviction could it be a Pro’s Con or the Con’s Prose?  If you are curious enough, Barnes and Noble has a list of sex worker biographies.

Sex Workers – Biography: Books

They range from well known people like Gypsy Rose Lee and Xavier Hollander, the Happy Hooker to the victims of human trafficking.  There are 102 titles listed as of the end of September.  Books are in multiple forms:  hardback, paperback, and Nook.

Prose (noun) – written or spoken language in its ordinary form, without metrical structure.  Can also be a term for sequence

Prose (verb)  – talk tediously or to convert or compose into prose

Con  (noun) – an instance of tricking or deceiving someone.  Also short for convict.

Con (verb) – persuade (someone) to do or believe something, typically by use of a deception.

Washington, DC has a delightful bookstore called Politics and Politics and Prose Book StoreProse.  This DC institution has been around since 1984.  It has a wide variety of events including author talks,  classes, day trips, and book groups. It also has self publishing option called Opus Self Publishing.  The Den houses The coffeehouse and wine bar in the basement.

denblacklogo What prose have you read that you thought was a con?  Was it the premise, the promotions, the review that you disagreed with?  Do you just prefer poetry? Join in the conversation about the cons of prose or the prose of cons.  ( Would that be cell block best sellers, something from Johnny Cash, or something written by one of the FBI Most wanted?)

October Roads

Well I’m-a going back down maybe one more time
Deep down home, October Road
And I might like to see that little friend of mine
That I left behind once upon a time

“October Roads” by James Taylor

DSC00489During my college years, and, except for the four years immediately afterwards when I was financially exiled to California, for many years after that I was fortunate to spend all or part of October in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Most people are partisan about “their” part of the country—referring to it as God’s country. North Carolinians may have the strongest claim when they say that God must be a Tarheel because the sky is Carolina Blue.  Since the Blue Ridge Mountains run through both Virginia and North Carolina, that is one bit of bragging I might agree with.  Mr. Cohen, one of my high school English teachers, used to say “It’s not conceit, if it’s true.”  So maybe those Tarheels are not bragging.

DSC00488If there is any place that can draw me back when the air has the intoxicating smell of just uncorked champagne, orange leaves flame against a sapphire sky, and hawks soar effortlessly in endless circles, it is the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Four states call themselves Commonwealths—Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. According to Wikipedia “This designation, which has no legal meaning, emphasizes that they have a “government based on the common consent of the people”[5] as opposed to one legitimized through their earlier royal colony status that was derived from the monarch of Great Britain.”

UVA logoVirginia’s Blue Ridge is home to dozens of colleges, both great and small.  Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1819.  It was near his home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, VA.  He was so proud of his accomplishment that he included in his tombstone. “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of  American Independence, Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and Father of the University of Virginia.”  UVA is celebrating the centennial of laying the cornerstone on the first weekend in October.

UVA with JEfferson's statue

VT logoVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, more popularly known as Virginia Tech, is a land grant college founded in 1872 in Blacksburg, VA.   Unfortunately, it is probably more famous for the massacre that took place on April 16, 2007 when Seung-Hui Cho killed 72 people and wounded 17 others in two separate attacks before killing himself.  Katie O., one of the students who survived the shootings,  believes that this may have been one of the earliest uses of social media by college students to communicate among themselves about what was happening on campus and to find out if their friends were unharmed.

VMI logoVirginia also has many small schools that began as teacher’s colleges.  Originally called Normal Schools, these colleges were integrated in the 1960s and often single-sex until the 1960s/1970s.  The last single-sex public post-secondary school in Virginia was Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.  The Supreme Court rendered a decision that VMI must admit women in 1996 (20 years after the national military academies) with the first women matriculating in 1997.

VT footballMany people combine a visit to the Blue Ridge with their college homecoming.  Interstate 81 is s  two lane in each direction highway for most of its route along the western edge of the Blue Ridge.  Around Blacksburg, the two lanes become six where the Hokie faithful return each fall to follow Virginia Tech football at Lane Stadium.

October is also Virginia Wine Month.  Virginia is the 5th largest wine producing state.  Many of those wineries are located in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  One of my favorites is Glen Manor Winery, located on a century-old family farm on the western side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, about 70 miles west of Washington, DC and in the shadow of Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park.  A glen is a small, secluded narrow valley.   Glen Manor is surrounded by mountains ranging from 1400 – 3400 feet, with 3 different steep, well drained vineyards on the property.


You arrive at Glen Manor winery up a curving, stone and  dirt covered driveway, just  past the road that goes up to the farm house.  A sign hints that this is a quiet place, where no limousines or buses are permitted, groups are limited to 6 people, and smoking is not allowed.  At the top of the drive, the glen spreads out in front of you.  You first see a verdant lawn dotted with green Adirondack chairs and small wooden tables.  Immediately beyond that, the Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP) of  native warm weather plants provide habitat for quails, turkey, bear, deer, rabbit, and fox.  Finally, vineyards and forest climb the steep hills up to the Skyline Drive.

DSC01317On a fall afternoon, you can see hang gliders take off from a cleft above the Drive.  One afternoon, a hang glider waited several minutes for the right time to jump off. As soon as he did, a sudden gust of wind blew him into the arms of a tall pine tree.  He hung there for about 20 minutes waiting to be safely rescued.

Jeff White, the winemaker and owner, planted the first vineyards called Hodder Hill in 1995.  Grapes include sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot. In 2006, a second vineyard was started on the site with petit manseng, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot.  The third vineyard was begun in 2013, with grapes planted in 2016.  He planted cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot and nebbiolo.


Jeff in the cellar of Glen Manor.JPGJeff is a ‘terroirist’, letting the land and the growing season determine what type of wine he makes each year.  Glen Manor’s tag line is ‘Wines with a sense of place.’  Since his family has been growing things on this plot of land for over 100 years, the grapes may have picked some of that legacy up.  His goal is to grow the best grapes possible.  He meticulously cares for the grapes during each step from bud burst through the harvest—cutting back leaves, shoots, and clusters to give each grape the best chance to develop with sufficient air to deter rot and enough leaf canopy to preclude sunburn.


Jeff’s wife Kelly manages the tasting room.  She talks vivaciously about the grapes, the farm, and how the wines are named.  Hodder Hill, the top level Bordeaux style red wine that won the Governor’s Cup in 2012 for its 2009 vintage, is named after Raymond Hodder Rudacil who married Ruth Ardelia.  They were Jeff’s grandparents and the second of four generations to farm Glen Manor.

KDSC01803elly maintains the beautiful flower and herb gardens that add visual and scented beauty to the grounds. To bask in the October sun while watching hang gliders and hawks soar over the orange, crimson, yellow and brown crazy quilted hillsides, savoring a rich burgundy Hodder Hill or a crisp refreshing Sauvignon Blanc, feeling the tease of a light breeze across your bare ankles, and smelling the rosemary and sage from Kelly’s garden is to immerse your senses in some of the things that make life worth living.  One time when we were there, we saw a flock of wild turkeys in the adjacent woods.  You could hear their clucks and chuckles.

skyline drive from tasting room

Before taking over management of the tasting room, Kelly used to be the executive chef of the Inn at Valcluse Spring in Winchester, Va.  Since Jeff wants to focus on the wine, the winery does not serve any food except Kelly’s delicious homemade focaccia bread.  Guests are invited to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy with their wine and the spectacular view.


Oh Deer, My Hart is Breaking

Deer familyFall is the season of the deer.  You see them crossing the roads–first an inquisitive head poking through the leaves and then one or more deer dashing across the road.  At twilight you can see them grazing calmly among the tombstones in the old churchyards that abound in Central Virginia.  Once in a while, you unfortunately see a carcass of  a deer that won’t be coming home again.Deer- buck

deer crossingDeer crossing signs are common along country roads.  Occasionally you will hear the urban legend about someone who calls into a radio show to complain that they should relocate the deer crossing signs because so many deer are getting killed trying to cross at that particular spot in the road.

It is truly hart breaking to hear people fawning over the poor deer.  They want to spend big bucks, no need to save doe where the deer are deer hunterconcerned.  Supposedly there are more white tail deer around now than when the  first European settlers got here in the 1600s.  I think man and his vehicles may be their most dangerous predator.  (We will not address hunting season here.) Coyotes deer carcass and bald eagles feeding.JPGare known to kill deer, especially  when there is snow to help wear the deer out during the chase.  Other predators include bear, wolves, mountain lions, and jaguars.

Deer are not endangered.  Where the deer (and the antelope) play is unfortunately next bambito roads. In urban and suburban areas, deer love to graze on plants.  Are deer friends or foes?  Was your perception of deer, shaped by Bambi?  When you see a deer, do you think venison?  Join in the conversation and share whether deer are neighbors or nuisances.


Happy New Year

happy new yearHow many New Years are there each year?  The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, has just ended.  The U.S. federal fiscal year starts on 1 October. (It used to start on 1 July prior to 1976.)

The Celtic New Year, Samhain, is around Halloween and is tied to the end of the Harvest season.  It begins on October 31 and ends on 1 November 1 since the Celtic day begins and ends at sunset.

For many people, the new school year in August or September is the start of  a new year.

Happy New Year --Chinese

Happy New Year of the DogThe Chinese or Lunar New Year will be celebrated on   February  16, 2018.  It will be the Year of the Dog.   According to Wikipedia:

A lunar calendar is a calendar based upon cycles of the Moon‘s phases (synodic months), in contrast to solar calendars whose annual cycles are based only directly upon the solar year. The most commonly used calendar, the Gregorian calendar, is a solar calendar system which originally evolved out of a lunar calendar system. A purely lunar calendar is also distinguished from lunisolar calendars whose lunar months are brought into alignment with the solar year through some process of intercalation. The details of when months begin varies from calendar to calendar, with some using new, full, or crescent moons and others employing detailed calculations.

2017 Lunar Calendar.png

Because each lunation is approximately 29.5 days (29 days,12 hours, 44 minutes, and 3 seconds, or 29.530588 days), it is common for the months of lunar calendars to vary between 29 and 30 days. Because the period of twelve such lunations—a lunar year—is approximately 354 days, 8 hours, 48 minutes, and 34 seconds (354.367056 days), purely lunar calendars lose around 11 days per year relative to the Gregorian calendar. In purely lunar calendars such as the Islamic calendar, the lack of intercalation causes the lunar months to cycle through all the seasons of the Gregorian year over the course of a 33-lunar-year cycle.


Gregorian calendarIn the west, people originally used the Julian Calendar. Many now use the Gregorian Calendar.  Even though the U.S. uses the Gregorian Calendar, it still uses Julian dates to track certain expenditures.  The U.S. Naval Observatory explains Julian dates.

Julian dates (abbreviated JD) are simply a continuous count of days and fractions since noon Universal Time on January 1, 4713 BC (on the Julian calendar). Almost 2.5 million days have transpired since this date. Julian dates are widely used as time variables within astronomical software. Typically, a 64-bit floating point (double precision) variable can represent an epoch expressed as a Julian date to about 1 millisecond precision. Note that the time scale that is the basis for Julian dates is Universal Time, and that 0h UT corresponds to a Julian date fraction of 0.5.

It is assumed that 7-day weeks have formed an uninterrupted sequence since ancient times. Thus, the day of the week can be obtained from the remainder of the division of the Julian date by 7.

For many people, Spring is the season of new beginnings and new life.  Meteorological Spring is March 1 while the Spring Equinox is March 20.

What do you consider the start of your new year?  Do you base it on a lunar calendar, a solar calendar, or a personal belief system?  Join in the conversation and share when you feel the New Year begins.


More word musings

Could devoted mean you have lost the right to vote?   That surely isn’t a form of love.

Is revolting charging your phone twice or getting hit twice by a lightening bolt?  When you say he or she is revolting, do you get a charge out of saying it?

How many Californians does it take to screw in a light bulb?  Californians don’t screw n a light bulb, they are more likely to screw in a hot tub….

If you change coarse, do you move from one uncouth individual to another?

Bathroom sign--long waitTweety bird on calorieswhen-things-start-to-happen

Does hare restorer, increase the rabbit population or are they already populating rabbitly?

Why do they call short heels kitten heels?  I’ve heard of Puss in Boots but never Kitten in Heels.  Bet you have met a few heels of the none shoe variety.

Notice how many female problems start with men–menstruaton, menopause… Mental problems are issues for both sexes.


But Ugly

at least im not youHow many times have we promoted ourselves by saying “But I least I’m not….”  Is it human nature to put some other group, person, situation, etc down so that we can claim the moral high ground by excluding ourselves from whatever we are denigrating.

But (conjunction) -used to introduce something contrasting with what has already been mentioned or used to indicate the impossibility of anything other than what is being stated.

But (preposition)–  except; apart from; other than.

But (adverb) – no more than; only

But (noun) – an argument against something; an objection.

butt (verb) – to hit (someone or something) with the head or horns.

butt (noun) – buttocks or rear end, target of a joke, a joint or tail end of a cigarette, or a cask


butte (noun)–may look like butt but prounounced abyo͞ot, an isolated hill with steep sides and a flat top (similar to but narrower than a mesa).  Also the capital of Montana.

butte montana

It’s butt ugly to put other people down.  Yet most of us are guilty of doing it.  One of my favorite Winston Churchill quotes is a putdown to either Conservative MP Lady Astor or  Socialist MP Bessie Braddock.  I have heard the quote with and without the but.


But where do you stand on the issue?  Join in the conversation and share you favorite or least favorite but or butt comment



Weather or Not

Hurricane imagesWhether you get your weather report from the your Grandma’s arthritic knee, the Weather Channel, the Internet, or reading weather signs yourself, the past few weeks have been a doozy.  The Atlantic Hurricane season has expanded over the years from June 15 through October 31  thru the current dates of June 1 through November 30.  (The Pacific Ocean has different hurricane dates.)

According to Live Science,  the World Meteorological Organization comes up with a list of 21 names each year.  Currently the list is through 2022.  They don’t list names for Q, U, X, Y or Z  because there aren’t enough names beginning with those letters.  If we are Hurricane eye from space(un)lucky enough to have  hurricanes after Jose  (Katia slammed into Mexico rather than than the continental  U.S.), they will be Lee, Maria, Nate, and Ophelia.  If the name is attached to a particularly heinous hurricane like Matthew in 2016, the affected country can ask that the name be retired from the list.  If there are more than 21 storms, then the storms are named in alphabetical order, according to the Greek alphabet.

In 1953, the U.S. began using female names for storms.  In 1979, they used both male and female names. Names are easier to remember, especially if there are multiple storms at the same time (we recently had Harvey, Irma, Katia, and  Jose.)

Weather (noun) – the state of the atmosphere at a place and time as regards heat, dryness, sunshine, wind, rain, etc.

Weather (verb) – wear away or change the appearance or texture of (something) by long exposure to the air. Or come safely though a storm.

Whether (conjunction ) -expressing a doubt or choice between alternatives.

Wether (noun) – castrated sheep

(Sheep joke) Every ewe has lambs but you, Wooly Bully.  I was a little under the wether last winter.

Whether or not you take the weather seriously, if you are in the sheep business, ewes don’t want to be under the wether.