CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - AUGUST 2017
08/30/17 - dark clouds moving in
08/25/17 Cool and pleasant all day today in the High Ozarks. Two wildlife notes from hikes that book ended the day. First this morning, while I was out with the pups on our stroll at first light. We came upon five deer in the big meadow a mile from the cabin. It's the hot spot on this mountain for deer activity (and sometimes elk too). We always play games - we appear, they run away. They always win. If we're driving, they will run directly in front of the vehicle, trying to see how close they can get. I've tried hundreds of times to get picture of them since they frequently strike photogenic poses in the big meadow, often against a skyline of sunrise or sunset - but they ALWAYS bolt as soon as a camera appears.
But this morning was different. The deer did not see/hear/smell us approach. We walked within about 50 feet of them, then walked right on past. The deer continued grazing/playing. And the pups - who normally will take off running at the first scent of deer - never knew the deer were there - the pups just kept hiking, deer kept grazing. I just stood there in disbelief. It was like we were all in different worlds. Quite amazing. This was a group of bucks - two with pretty nice racks, two with small racks, one with nubbins. Most likely all young bucks. And of course, I did not have a camera with me - if I had, they certainly would have known that and run off.
And later in the evening with my lovely bride, we noticed an owl sitting on a tree branch out there in the forest at the edge of a meadow (we've been hearing them a lot lately, especially in the evenings). The owl was easy to spot since the meadow was lit up by the setting sun while the forest and the owl were in shadow and silhouetted against the bright meadow. Sometimes owls will just sit and watch - or rather stare at you with those giant eyes, moving only the head on a swivel when you walk by. But this owl remained stoic, not moving a feather as we passed. So just to show you how great of a wildlife expert with wonderful vision I have, I left the trail and creeped into the woods towards the owl to get a closer look. I walked right up to within ten feet of him before I discovered he was just a bunch of dried leaves!!! Shhhh, don't tell my girlfriend.
Saw the first walnut on the ground today - a mature one that was that perfect walnut green color. We have a pawpaw grove that must be getting ripe about now - I plan to visit it in the next day or to and see. And also saw a brilliant RED berry that came from the fruit of a cowcumber tree (cucumber magnolia). The fruit is quite different from anything else in the forest - I'll see if I can take a picture for ya.
My back doctor in Little Rock had previously told me I had "multiple" bulging disks after an MRI in April. Looking back, I know exactly when that happened - it was two years ago this week when I unloaded and moved around three heavy steel bench seats by myself out of our new bookmobile van I'd just brought home - one of the seats was 200 pounds, the other two 150 pounds - used to not be a problem for me moving things that heavy. I knew at the time it was a stupid move by an aging dude - I'm older and wiser now, but it is too late. These past two years since then have not been fun. Now I know why. Yesterday we gained access to the actual results of the MRI scans and doctor findings about them. Turns out I have SIX bulging/damaged disks, including one that is pretty bad and had been up against a nerve and leaking fluid. Bulging disks are not fixable as far as we know, and the medical procedure (nerve block injection) I had a month ago has not given any relief. We don't know where to go from here, but do know we'll just have to adapt to a new way of living and working.
Speaking of the future, I've posted our upcoming holiday slide program schedule here - we still have a few dates/locations to confirm/add, but this is the main list so far. Cloudland has bee full of MUSIC lately as Pam has been busy reviewing literally thousands of pieces of music and has selected a couple of hundred songs for potential slide show sound track tunes. We will further refine them down to a couple dozen of the songs that seem to fit the new photos, then I'll sit down and begin the process of selecting the final music and matching it all up with the photos for the new program.
We also have some dates for when the Canvas Gallery and Pam's Pastel wall will be open - there are several November and December dates here - subject to change.
All fall photo workshops are full and we don't have a spring schedule set up yet.
Finally, all three of our new publications have been created and the shipping journey from the printing house has begun. We expect to have all of them in our warehouse and ready to ship to you sometime in early October. I'll be posting links for pre orders in the next few days, including for our HOLIDAY SPECIAL package. Everything looks really good, and includes some of my most favorite photos that you've probably never seen.
Many Journal readers are in the path of destruction during this horrific storm going on right now in Texas and the gulf coast. Our thoughts and prayers and special Cloudland MoJo are with you....................
I'm reposting the deck cam photo from this morning because - well, because I just love it...
08/22/17 Cool breezes on our hike this evening at dusk - felt like a storm front might be moving in, and oh my goodness it felt GREAT. Cicadas and crickets and frogs galore. I had to dodge a bit or two that came ripping through thee open forest corridor around me. Bats are great - they eat a lot of skeeters. The pups and I put in about three miles; my lovely bride took them on a three-mile hike in the early afternoon as well - that means the pups must have hiked about twenty miles today!
Yesterday was mostly like every other work day in August, being warm and humid and sunny and bright. Pam decided to build a eclipse viewer out of a box of bran flakes. I've always loved raisin bran, but these days they put so many raisins in there it is just too sweet (please don't repeat me ever saying something was too sweet). So my daily cereal of choice for awhile now has been pain old generic bran flakes - simple with a touch of sweetness, just like me. In face we even snack on them - kind of weird I know, but so what.
Anyway, when the big moment came we ran outside and were able to see the shadow moving across the sun via the cereal box viewer - it worked just as described. Although seeing an out-of-focus tiny image got old after a while, so we all retired to the bench on the back deck just to enjoy a few degrees of coolness.
Then we realized there was a much better eclipse show than the cereal box going on - literally right at our feet. I've seen this before, but at the time many years ago did not know what was happening. This time I did. The sunlight through the tree limbs above that normally cast typical "dappled" sunlight on the deck was transformed into the crescent shape of the eclipse itself. There were hundreds of them, each one moving and dancing to the rhythm of the swaying branches. As the minutes passed, the shape and angle of the crescents changed, and even took on different colors - someone said a rainbow of colors. It was quite AMAZING to sit (or stand or run around) and be part of that spectacular light and motion show. We were happy campers!
One thing I noticed when I picked up a camera and started to take a few photos, was that as you moved around to different sides of the deck, those crescent highlights looked completely different sideways and upside down - so I kept going 'round and 'round until I got dizzy. The pups just sat in the swing puzzled by all the action.
There is this guy, Eric Rhoads. He has been the driving force behind an ever-increasing interest in "plein air" painting in the United States and around the world. He is a great artist and art collector himself, publishes at least three art magazines (including PleinAir magazine), puts together several large group gatherings a year for plein air painters, and is simply one of the most enthusiastic artists you'll ever know. He has a weekly podcast, and also a Sunday mailing - always quite inspirational and informative. One of his stated goals in life is to help get 1,000,000 people to start painting. Wow, that is quite a lofty target - and I bet he does it. Eric is one of those once-in-a-lifetime types of people.
Anyway, the painting "camp" that Pam attended in the Adirondacks in June was one of Eric's events (75-100 artists basically got up at 4:30am and painted outdoors all day and on into the evening - no workshops, to teaching, no competition - just PAINTING and having fun). This past Sunday, as part of Eric's weekly e-mail note to untold thousands of devoted fans, was the following:
A Handwritten Card I Just Received
This is highly unusual. Cards and personal notes, are, well, personal.
Not to be shared.
But this one has a message I wanted to share for those of you who may feel you need a place to belong. Therefore I sought permission from artist Pam Ernst to send this.
There are no words that I could say that others have not already said that could possibly convey my gratitude for you and the Publisher’s Invitational retreat. I know that organizing the camp is a great deal of work, and I am forever grateful.
I signed up for camp dreaming of seven days of nothing but painting and came away with so much more. Never in my life have I walked into a room not knowing a soul, but feeling like I was immediately part of a family. I made friends that will last a lifetime, was inspired not only by the scenery and the art, but by every single person there, and I found my true self again. All in a week … a week I will treasure forever.
I meant it when I said you have transformed and inspired thousands of people, more than you can possibly ever understand.
Thank you, Eric, from the bottom of my heart. See you next year at the convention and again in the Adirondacks.
I do two events like this a year — once in June, in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York near Lake Placid, and once in Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park in Maine, during the peak of fall color in October.
If you’re looking for a painting family ... and a week of nothing but painting beauty, I encourage you to sign up for the next event, Fall Color Week.
You can learn more at www.fallcolorweek.com.
Eric Rhoads, Publisher
That's my girlfriend - think we'll keep her around for as long as she'll have us...
08/21/17 Horsefly horrors. I've related this story from years ago before, but it seems appropriate now and bears repeating. We are experiencing one the worst plagues of horseflies in the Ozarks right now that I've ever witnessed - not only in the numbers and the SIZE of these giants, but also in their varicosity. While standing next to the road talking with a young lady yesterday I looked down and saw a steady stream of blood running down her leg - a giant horse fly had opened a wound and was having his fill.
Many moons ago I had an assignment to hike the entire 165-mile length of the Ozark Highlands Trail - twice - all during the month of August, whish is typically the peak of horse flies season here. My job was to first eliminate/remove all trace of the up to 11 different types of trail blazing, which included many different colors of paint, wooden markers, and metal markers. And to place proper paint blazes at necessary intervals along the trail using lead-based sprat paint and a template, after I scraped a smooth part on a tree. (the lead paint lasted a long time). I did all of this via dayhikes, doing one section of a trail in one direction, then turning around and doing the other section of the trail going the other directions until I reached my car (so I hiked each section of trail twice). It was a one-man operation that lasted all 31 long day of August. At night each day I would return to Fayetteville to tend to medical needs of my mom who needed eye drops and bandage daily. I also pushed a measuring wheel in front of me to locate and establish official mile points and put up mile markers from one end of the trail to the other. Pushing an actual surveyor's wheel along the trail was and still it the most accurate method of getting the correct trail mileage.
Anyway, one very long day near the eastern end of the trail between Richland Creek Campground and the Stack Rock area, it began to pour down pretty good so I took refuge under a giant boulder overhang. It was great to crawl back in there and sprawl out on top of a thick layer of DRY leaves when all else was soaked to the bone including me. As soon as I landed, the horseflies that had been following me for miles moved in for the kill. It didn't matter how many layers of clothes I had on, they found a way to bore and chew a way through to my skin, then take a chunk out of my skin - me always letting out a yell. What first started as a game to see how many of the horse flies I could kill with my bear hands, quickly turned into an exercise in survival - the horse flies were winning, and drawing a lot of blood.
Several times I would smash a horse fly under my fist, then I would grind the body into nearby rocks until there was little left of a whole bug. Much to my amazement and utter shock, some of those mangled body parts got themselves back together somehow, picked themselves up, and then just TOOK OFF, flying away like nothing had happened to them. (must have been where the inspiration for a "transformer" came from?) I looked close and saw completely dismembered and smashed horse flies come back from the dead and fly off. I've never seen anything like it before or since.
When the rain poured harder, more flies dined on my flesh. I ended up with a pile of "dead" horseflies at my feet, with one of two of them taking flight again out of the rubble. I could only stand this long enough, and finally I swatted them all away, packed up my limited gear, and fogged off out into the rain and up the trail, making off the mileage as I went.
As noted before, I love June bugs, but you can keep horse flies...
08/20/17 A blast of cool air smacked me in the face while hiking up the hill at dusk yesterday. Sometimes the heat and humidity of the day is stifling, but that just makes it all the more special to be out and about in the evening when that cool wave hits ya. The edges of day are usually the most beautiful LIGHT, at least to me, but also have the best quality of the air (cool and sweet).
Lots of folks are asking about my eclipse plans, and/or how they can take pictures of it. I have no clue and don't have any special plans. If we're here, we'll probably be able to peak out the windows and see it. There are many articles online for help, and no doubt there will be billions of photos and videos of the event tomorrow. For those that travel into the zone, I hope you all have n amazing experience - it should be pretty terrific.
08/17/17 While outside taking a shower this evening it was tough to hear the SCREAMING bugs/frogs over the ROAR of the Buffalo River far below - or was it the other way around? We've had heavy rains here most every night this week, and river music too. 'Tis the first clear night here in a while, so I'm going to step out onto the back deck and take a picture of the Milky Way - I'll post it at the end of this if it turns out.
Today we received BOTH a custom, handmade strawberry/cream cheese pie AND a custom, handmade chicken pot pie - someone is spoiled! Each dish was quite delicious, but by the time I got the strawberry pie home to Cloudland to my bride, half of it was GONE. Must have been some critter in the photomobile got to it while I was driving.
The husband of the pie maker just happens to be a terrific electrician - an extra-special treat for us to have a talented electrician and pie maker move into the region (pie maker is an electrician too). Good electricians are hard to come by, especially in the wilderness like here, and I can highly recommend him for any job, large or small, commercial or residential - although I'm not sure that the pies are included with the regular service (Boone, Searcy, Newton counties and more). Shane fixed a major electrical problem here at Cloudland that no one else would touch - never a question about how, if, or when - he just showed up and got to work. He also has been working on the new canvas gallery building. I've got his number now - 479-316-4520 C.R. Electrical Service - or EMAIL.
OK, photo taken. It is really BRIGHT outside tonight - the STARS are brilliant. Recent storms have swept the air clean and cool temps with lower humidity make it even clearer. Kind of like being at 10,000 feet right here in the Ozarks. (except it is REALLY noisy outside with all the bugs, frogs, and the river)
Do you remember "Aspen's hickory" tree? It's the big old hickory next to the Faddis cabin where I sat quite lonely one moonlit night more than 18 years ago longing for the friendship of a great dog (and of course a life mate too). I've photographed that tree many times since, and enjoyed the company of Aspen and also Wilson, Lucy, and Mia - not to mention the love of my life. Anyway, as the pups and I hiked past that hickory this evening I noticed there wasn't a single hickory nut on it - or at least I didn't see any. There has been two or three times this summer then first small and then larger green nuts have some reining down - I wonder if all of them have been lost, or if new ones are just hiding in the leaves? Time will tell - in another month or two the road should be covered with "wild hickory nuts" and I hope so.
08/14/17 We arrived home yesterday to cool temps (67), light rain, and lots of WONDERFUL fog - YIPPIE COYOTE to all! Few things are as great as getting back home again, especially when you live in the middle of the wilderness. While most folks would rather not come back home after a road trip, we do.
And I must say that the outdoor shower here at Cloudland is the BEST shower on the planet! And yesterday evening was especially nice with the foggy forest spread out before me - so lush and beautiful.
We have more fog low in the canyon this morning with colorful clouds above, and it feels more like an early autumn day than the dead heat of August. I LOVE Monday's - gives me all week to get things done, so I'm out the door to get started on the day's lists. Hope you have a GREAT MONDAY too...
08/12/17 One funny note from early this morning before we head home. Our little springer spaniel, Mia, woke me up about 2am. She was standing up looking out the window. Then she jumped off the bed and ran to the side door of the van, so I got up and let her outside. A very bright moon lit up the landscape and I watched her run around all over the place, then she came back and I let her in. 30 minutes later, she did the same thing - had to get up and go outside, ran around a little, then came back. At 3am she was up and out again - was she bothered by the lynx that may be roaming around, or what the heck?
While sitting in the front seat of the van waiting on her to return, and looking out the window at the moonlit landscape, Venus, and lots of stars, I began to see quite a few meteors. And then it hit me - this was one of the peak nights for the Perseid meteor shower. Two things came to mind. First, not too far away from our campsite on a clear August night, is when/where John Denver got the inspiration to write his most famous of all songs - Rocky Mountain High. "..I've seen it raining fire in the sky..." He was out in the middle of a lake near Aspen with his guitar in the middle of the night during the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. 'Twas the brilliant Perseid meteors that got him going.
The second thought was that Mia must have been seeing the meteors too, and that is what had her so exited and wanting to get outside and run around. Mia and John Denver - kindred spirits...
08/11/17 sunrise this morning.
Yesterday we drove to the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge where I dropped off my lovely bride and her pastel gear. She spent the next couple of hours creating another work of art while the puppies and I did laundry in Monte Vista. When I got back to the refuge Pam was under attack - HORSE FLIES had arrived in large numbers. Luckily she was wearing two layers of long-sleeved shirts and long pants and a hat so she was able to complete her pastel (which looked TERRIFIC - I could even see that as I was driving up - better than the original scene). When I got out of the car to help her pack up, the horse flies immediately covered me and the pups.
We made a fast exit and headed to a little pizza place in Del Norte (Three Barrel Brewery) to pickup lunch as we passed through town. First off, we LOVE the pizza there - only one size (10"), wood fired, cheap, and fast. Our plan was to each get an $8 pizza - 1/2 for lunch, other 1/2 for dinner. Then we realized that even though we have lived a combined 100+ years and never had a calzone, we decided to get one calzone - $7. Turns out we split the calzone for lunch, had 1/2 pizza for dinner, and NOW I'm getting ready to have the other 1/2 pizza for BREAKFAST at dawn this morning - YIPPIE! So three meals for both of us under $30. And this is REALLY good wood-fired pizza and calzone - we'll be getting more of those.
I also selected my annual beer - they are a micro-brewery, so of course the product is really good. Being highly allergic to yeast, and not really being a beer guzzler anyway, I've only had two or three beers in the past ten years. But their beer is worth taking the risk of an allergic reaction. So after dinner last night, I sat down and sipped my one beer for 2017 and loved every taste. (THANKS LUKE for letting me know about this! Let us know if you want some delivered...)
Yesterday afternoon was filled with one spectacular cloud and light display after another. And after the sun went down then the color really got going. In the span of ten minutes the sky went from just plain beautiful to INCREDIBLE and then back to gray all around. I just sat and soaked it all in and didn't take a single picture. Sometimes you just gotta do that.
Today will be the last day in Colorado - we're headed home tomorrow. Since we'll be going from 9,200' to 2,000' at Cloudland, I guess the trip will be all downhill and we should get really great gas mileage in our aging bookmobile...
Moonset yesterday morning behind our campsite -
08/10/10 It's 4am today and I swear that Venus is SO bright that it is helping light up the landscape - is that possible, for a planet to bounce enough light to earth like that? Probably not, but it sure is bright this morning. Of course the moonlight is plenty to hike around all by itself right now.
We made it to our little campsite in the mountains of Colorado, which is located near Wolf Creek Pass and little community of South Fork at the edge of the Rio Grande National Forest - about 9,200' in elevation. We will only be here for a few days, then will head back home to Cloudland. It is VERY quiet here day and night. In fact the nighttime is so quiet compared to the LOUD forest in Arkansas at night you almost can't sleep - where are all the summer bugs and frogs that scream at night back home? Also the clouds are opposite - at Cloudland they are in the canyons below us much of the time; here they are above us, running around the mountain ridges of peaks - clouds in both locations put on quite a show. I love clouds - and yes Judy, I've looked at clouds from both sides now, and I still love your song!
Seems like I've been spending a lot of time in the woods lately with my eyes closed - the opposite of what normal humans do. But I find it sometimes increases the enjoyment even more, so why not. Our little campsite here in Colorado has a couple thousand young aspen trees growing very close together - I mean sometimes you have to turn sideways to get in between them. Most are only 2-4" wide, but up to 15' tall already. This spot was almost totally burned to the ground by a massive wildfire in 2002, so all of the aspens are all no older than that.
Anyway, on a warm afternoon I ventured out into one of the little aspen groves and laid down right in the middle for a nap. There was a cool breeze, and the sound of the "quacking" aspens soon put me right to sleep. When I awoke a while later the breeze was stronger, and holy moly those little aspens were dancing wildly! And the sound they were making was much more than quacking. I found that when I closed my eyes again I could hear a great deal more depth to the music of the wind, and could even visualize how the trees were moving. It almost put me right back to sleep.
But when I did open my eyes I discovered another delight. The trees were so thick that I could only see a small patch of sky through the limbs/leaves directly above me. It had been a clear pure-blue sky day, but that wind brought in clouds, and they were streaking across the sky above me. Focussing on the clouds through the sky hole caused them to visually move faster and faster - a continuous procession of shapes and color. I highly recommend spending time on your back in the forest just looking up at the clouds...
Most mornings here are perfectly clear, but by mid afternoon thunderheads build up and it often rains. Our view to the south and west are blocked by a tall ridge in the national forest that begins at the back of our campsite land - so we never really know what sort of weather is lurking up there. Often it will be clear blue all around in front of us, then five minutes later it is pouring, and we usually don't see it coming. Kind of like life.
Those afternoon rain showers often produce rainbows to the east, and we had a spectacular one a couple of days ago. It was a classic double rainbow that spanned the entire view from north to south. I had just stepped out of the shower and was, well, still wearing my shower clothes when I saw the rainbow. I grabbed my camera, hastily set up the tripod and tried to capture as much of the rainbow as I could. 'Tis one of the problems of being a nature photographer - I get into photo mode when such sights happen, and I just zone out and focus on the trying to take the IMAGE and little else. That means that often I don't really get to just sit back and experience how beautiful it all is. I remember two things quite clearly when the rainbow began to fade and I put my camera down. One, I looked at my lovely bride (who was laughing out loud) and commented that one of these days I should just LEAVE THE CAMERA ALONE and stop to enjoy the moment. And two, she pointed out that she had really enjoyed the show - I was completely naked. Like I said, I kind of zone out when in photo mode. Oops. Good thing we don't have any neighbors up here on our little patch of hillside...
Yesterday we had a "Cloudland moment" while sitting in the tent having dinner. There is a meadow just below us in front, and it seems to be a crossroads for local wildlife. Out of nowhere, what was probably the most beautiful fox I'd ever seen just magically appeared in the middle of the meadow. Her face was scarlet, body a mix of reds, oranges, and tans, and her tail ended with a bright white tip. She was obviously on a mission, and dashed from point to point in the meadow after small critters. At one point she leapt up and pounced, then started to dig, then quickly rushed off. Back and forth she went, always in constant motion. Then the ran almost all the way across the meadow and stopped dead still. We could only see her head, and she was intently focused on something. I swear she remained there perfectly motionless for five minutes. We tried making noise and even yelling to try and get her to look at us, but nothing. And then in a instant she took off and disappeared. I wonder how many little critters she had for dinner?
It's breaking dawn now in the mountains, with an orange horizon to the east and deep blue sky above. All the stars have gone to sleep, but Venus still shines brightly - it looks almost unnatural how bright it is, especially being the only object in the sky (the moon is behind the ridge). I hope this new day brings you good health, happiness, and peace...
08/07/17 - sunrise from our campsite in Colorado this morning (below).
Lucy came with us...
Our campsite (above), and the view from inside the tent looking out (below)
08/06/17 *sorry to be so long to post - I'm playing catchup here so have several days in a row in this single post.
How can a simple little bug bring so much joy? I'm not a bug person, but ever since childhood I've been fascinated with June bugs - you know, those chunky green-shelled guys with tiny legs. They were kind of like pets to me, and I would spend hours playing with them on hot summer days in the front yard of our home on the outskirts of Fayetteville. With the exception of butterflies, June bugs are probably the only bug of any sort that I ever warmed up to. A big part of my childhood I guess, yet they've been pretty scarce in the decades since - or perhaps I never took the time to look for them and pay attention.
There was a June bug yesterday on the roof of the sun room, just below the back deck of our cabin. The poor guy had flipped over on his back (a common position for them) in a shallow pool of standing water. I could not reach far enough to upright him (can't walk out onto the roof of the glass sun room, at least not a fat boy like me), and for a few hectic minutes I feared he would drown if I did not save him. Sticks and other nearby tools were too short. A mild panic in me was building up - but really, it was just a BUG. But he was a childhood friend that I could not let down. Finally I found an old hiking stick in the corner, reached way out over the deck railing, and after several attempts I was able to get the little guy over onto his feet again - it was one of those YIPPIE COYOTE moments. Then I realized the old gray stick was the very same stick I had found on the bank of the Buffalo River far below the cabin during the search for Haley Zega more than 16 years ago. So in a way it was Haley who helped save the little June bug.
The sky grew dark and gloomy, and often I like to wander out into the forest and roam around to be with the trees as storms approach. When the first clap of thunder arrived, I decided to find a comfortable spot to lay down - in a poison-ivy free patch of forest beneath towering trees where the forest floor was mostly open and void of vegetation. The thick carpet of leaves were soft and felt GREAT - I sunk in a couple of inches. I closed my eyes and listened and could hear rumbles in the heavens. The music would build and sweep through the forest, sometimes reverberating on and on. And then there was a FLASH of lightning, and moments later a BANG (I counted down the time between, and knew the storm was at least a couple of miles away).
There were more rumbles and flashes and bangs, and the earth absorbed it all until the air grew silent. I strained to hear - anything. If you stop and think a minute, there really are few times in our lives when we experience total silence. This was one of those times. Soon there was the ever so soft lullaby of small raindrops in the distance, with the sweet aroma of rainfall. And then, gentle pitter patter of those tiny drops on my face. Cool and refreshing.
BANG!!! And and I knew it was probably time to get up on my feet and mosey on back to the cabin as the raindrops got larger. I took a few steps, surveyed the scene in front of me, then closed my eyes again and started to move slowly and deliberately through the forest, one small step at a time - reaching out to feel my way through with my feet and my arms. Sometimes I would reach a large tree and put my arms out and feel the bark all around - yup, I'm a tree hugger. It probably took me ten minutes to travel 100 yards, and of course by then I was kind of wet, but people dry off easily, so no big deal. Getting to experience a summer thunderstorm one-on-one at a slow pace is one of the great joys of life - you should try it sometime. (Only make sure if you do this with your eyes closed that you are not wandering near a cliff, angry bull, or electric fence!)
My lovely bride has been keeping a jar in the laundry room to collect stray change and dollar bills that came out of the wash for the past 16 years. When I would find cash in the dryer I would usually put in right into my pocket, but Pam would always deposit it in the jar. We've been trying to get away from the daily grind here for a few days this summer but one thing led to another and another, and with our bank account running on fumes we've just never been able to get away. When I came upon the laundry jar a couple of days ago and realized it was full of $1 and $5 bills, I cooked up a plan to use that stash as gas money. It didn't take much to convince my bride to pack up the pups and hit the road - we REALLY needed a mental break.
We got as far as Guymon, Oklahoma, and spent the night at the city park. (There is free overnight parking there with fresh water and even an RV dump station.) The sunset was beautiful, temps were cool and breezy, everyone we saw in the park was friendly and happy. It was a breath of fresh air all around. And for perhaps the first time EVER we had pretty calm driving conditions crossing the plains - normally we have gusty winds blowing our camper van all over the road.
For lunch we dined on baloney sandwiches in a Wal Mart parking lot. Pam discovered a special type of bread during her painting camp in the Adirondacks in June, and she found the exact same bread on the shelf at Wal Mart. Kind of like the June bug, a simple meal of baloney, cheese, mustard, with potato chips, brought back fond childhood memories that were just delightful. For dinner at the city park we both had a "Famous Bowl" from Kentucky Fried Chicken (and the pups got a few chicken strips) - once again simple and cheap, and we all LOVED it! Atmosphere and state of mind contribute to such things I'm sure. We were happy campers all around.
So we are headed west for a few days - not sure where or for how long. But our caretaker at the cabin will keep all the bears away. Book orders will be processed and shipped as normal, and all wholesale orders will ship normally too (Pam's dad has been enlisted to take care of all that.) Pam will still have to do all the online paperwork each day and e-mail files for her dad to print out - receipts, packing slips and shipping labels) - so she won't get any actual days off. So for at least the next few days we won't have any Cloudland Deck Cam photos to post, and I'm not sure how much I'll be able to update the Journal here. Looks like the next week will be cool and wet at Cloudland - hope everyone gets to get out and enjoy...
08/02/17 We awoke to an amazing view out every window - a sea of clouds in the canyons below were being lit up at dawn, turning pink and yellow and gold. The softness of the scene was quite lovely - it was the sort of LIGHT that stops you in your tracks and makes you just want to sit and soak it in. So I did. Sometimes those clouds below just hang out above the main Buffalo River, but this morning they were all the way up into Whitaker Creek. The very first rays of sunshine that peeked through the clouds lit up the bluffs and ridges in the upper reaches of that drainage. It was just all, well, BEAUTIFUL.
The air was soft too, and cool, and inviting. And that feeling lingered as long as I did. August mornings in Arkansas sure are nice........
08/01/17, 12:03am. OK, so I may be getting a little early start to writing this month, but what the heck - Mia and I are still up, it is a BEAUTIFUL, cool night outside, and the night bugs/frogs are SCREAMING!!! The 1/2+ moon is peaking out between clouds as they move across the sky, and I stop and stare at that moon for a little while. I've just been reading some of the journals and looking at high-resolution color photos from the surface of the moon written/taken during the Apollo moon missions. Oh man THOSE were the days!
While out on a short hike I came up to a lightning bug that was kind of hovering there in space, blinking on and off. I cupped my hands, reached out slowly, and sort of moved them up around the little guy. Then he did the most wonderful thing - he lit up and illuminated the inside of my hands! I've read that this lightning bug thing is some sort of mating ritual, so I guess we are engaged, although I'm not sure if its a he or she, but I'm sure we'll be happy.
Speaking of HAPPY, my lovely bride in real life just got notice that one of her newest pastels has been accepted into a JURIED art show - that is worth three !!!'s. Her first time ever. It is a small pastel - only 5"x7" - but the color and warmth of the scene and wonderful feeling you get from looking at it - well, that is why the judge picked it. Needless to say the artist's boyfriend is VERY excited. We have a genuine artist in the family.
At 4am Mia got all of us up and out to see what she was baking about - we never found anything. I sat down for a few moments and realized there wasn't a single sound. All the nighttime bugs/frogs had gone to bed. Later in the morning, before dawn, a lone bird began to sing - a beautiful lullaby to celebrate the new month, and especially the cool temps and coming of some moisture. An hour later - after the pups and I took our three-mile morning stroll, it began to rain ever so softly. The air was moist and sweet...
*i updated the July Journal with a final post last night.