CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - February 2017
Cloudland Cabin Cam, February 24 - warm and dry
Print of The Week special (above)
02/24/17 It is clear and warm and STARRY outside early this morning before first light. We know spring is really here - not because of all the trees and flowers blooming - but because the main winter constellation "Orion The Hunter" is setting way before dawn. Soon it will be gone from the night sky until next fall, when it will once again dominate the winter sky.
We had a Cloudland Moment of sorts yesterday, my lovely bride and I. Not really a nature moment, but a significant moment for us just the same. We've been trying to move all of our tons and tons of books from the old warehouse over to the new warehouse, which is located on the other end of the new Canvas Gallery building. We're downsizing from five buildings here to just two at the new place - a combined gallery/warehouse building and a cabin that will be smaller than our current Cloudland cabin (not built yet, or even started). The warehouse space for our books is also much smaller than the entire building we have had here for the past 20 years, so we've had to add pallet racks inside - these are giant shelves that will allows us to stack as many as three pallets of books high (some of the pallets weight 2,000 pounds).
We bought a very old and beat up forklift last year to be able to lift pallets, and it has been working great (when we can get it started, ha, ha). Anyway, not being a pallet-driving guy myself, I've always had Jeff, or Billy, or Jason, or Pam's dad drive the forklift. But now it is up to me. Yesterday my lovely bride and I moved two pallets into the warehouse, and one of them needed to the lifted and placed at the very top of the rack, a full 8' up in the air. It was a game of inches, with a ton of books wavering in the balance. And after about 15 minutes of trying to position it just right - reminded me of the first docking of a Gemini space capsule with a drone vehicle in the 1960's - we were able to successfully get the pallet into place without knocking out a wall or tearing the entire pallet rack down - YIPPIE COYOTE!!!!! Piece of cake for those who do this all day, but a real pucker moment for me...
And one funny moment for me a couple of days ago. During a trip to the Newton County Recycle Center in Jasper with a couple tons of old books/posters/calendars to be recycled, I stopped at Amber's old "Honeymoon" cabin along the way to take a picture. There was dense fog on the mountain, which often turns the forest and other things into a magical kingdom. It had rained some overnight, and the blooms of the "heirloom" daffodils in the front yard of that old pioneer cabin were soaked with tiny drops of rain, which when viewed up close gave them even more character than normal. Heirloom species are those planted ions ago that continue to bloom and thrive and provide beauty and smiles for all to see.
I ended up down on my belly looking up at the flowers, using my elbows as a tripod to help steady the camera. While I was down there taking pictures, I realized that passing cars were getting a full view of my butt, which was sticking high in the air to balance the front part of me. What a sight it must have been! Sorry to all who passed by who had to witness. The photo is the current Print Of The Week, and I love the personality of it all...
02/23/17 HOWLING winds tonight, clear skies, warm temps, and spring PEEPERS seems to be EVERYwhere! (tiny frogs) I know it's gonna get cold, but we continue to enjoy a wonderful early spring here on the mountain. Hope you get the change to get out and explore for yourself somewhere this weekend...
02/19/17 We just learned of the death of our very good friend, special workshop assistant for many years, and all around good egg, Angela Peace. I share this photo of the Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse for two reasons. First, I borrowed the gigantic lens that made the picture possible from Angela (it was nearly as tall as she). She was with me during the long and frigid night as the eclipse was happening (to guard her lens!) - it is as much Angela’s photo as it is mine. And secondly, I think this helps illustrate the fact that even when darkness fell, Angela was such a brilliant, colorful, and beautiful light for so many people she touched during her lifetime, and now beyond. Peace to you Angela, shine on forever...
02/17/17 It was one of those afternoons when I had to get out and away and sit a spell. When I built our Cloudland Cabin I wanted it to be a vacation spot in itself, so that I really didn't need to go elsewhere, and so like I've done a few times before, to "get away" today I simply walked out the front door and into the woods.
It was warm and sunny with a slight breeze, and my leg muscles stretched and I leaned into the hillside. There were flashes of white, black, and brown fur all around me - the puppies had joined me on this hike and were having a blast! Soon we were racing across the East Meadow, engulfed in waist-high golden waves of broomsedge grass. Then back into the forest again.
Young beech trees hold onto their leaves all winter, and today there were thousands of golden jewels sparkling in the sunshine. The trees were so close together I made a swishing sound as I passed between them, those leaves brushing against me. I went down the hillside and headed into nearby Dug Hollow, past several dozen towering mature beech trees - and the forest floor around them opened up - it was like walking through a park!
One of the pups gave out a yip, and the race was on - they'd found a squirrel. I knew better than to try and pull the two dogs away from some prime playground enjoyment, so I decided to find myself a comfy seat and watch the show. Usually the squirrel always wins, but the pups go about it like they have a chance, running around far below, jumping all over the place, tongues hanging out and smiles all around. The squirrel races across the top of one tree into the next, then over to that one, then back to the first. This goes on for ten minutes. Twenty minutes. And when I woke up it had been 45 minutes, and still there were puppies and a squirrel playing tag.
We were in the bottom of a hollow with a beautiful stream flowing, tumbling over polished sandstone boulders, with quiet pools reflecting blue sky in between. The music of this little stream was quite refreshing and relaxing at the same time. I'd just spent a couple of tough hours in physical therapy in town this morning, and all of this - the sunshine, squirrel circus, and the babbling brook were music to my soul (and the nap helped rest my ailing back too).
Several days ago ace helpers Jeff and Jason spent the day helping organize and load up pallets of books for later shuttle over to the new book warehouse building next week. And oh yes - they packed up BUBBA. Bubba has been my main work table in the print room here for almost ten years - it took up half of our living room in the cabin for a year before that. Bubba is a full 4.5' x 8' x 3' tall, weighs probably 500 pounds, has a couple dozen large flat shelves for storage of individual prints, and is topped with a 4'x8' cutting mat (custom built like a tank by Pam's dad, Ron). Jeff and Jason have lifted/moved many things here in the past, but nothing as large or heavy as Bubba. They had to remove its six casters just to get through the door. Then the BIG UMPH - up into the bookmobile van, which swallowed Bubba whole. Later in the day the boys unloaded Bubba and wheeled him into the new warehouse building, where he will continue to serve as my work table for hopefully many more years to come. Good job done by all - THANKS GUYS!
Yesterday my bride and I got up early and left before dawn and headed to the Oklahoma/Texas border to run an errand, and then BACK home to Cloudland before 10pm. It was a full 12 hours of driving, and three fuel stops. Sometimes on these long drives we listen to "Yours Truely Johnny Dollar" marathons, books on tape, or 60s-70s music. But on this trip there was just silence - although there was a steady chatter going on between the seats. About an hour before we arrived back home, one of us brought up a trip we had taken many moons ago and how great it was. That trip led to the discussion of another trip, which led to another Years and years worth of trips. By the time we had arrived home we'd been through dozens of road trips we'd taken together, recalling so many great times, incredible places we been to and moments we'd shared. Life is GRAND when you're on the road with your very own personal valentine...
02/14/17 I awoke to the gentle sound of rainfall on our metal roof - with the landscape getting so parched of late it was some of the best MUSIC to wake up to! But then it was also a lullaby that sent me back into deep sleep. Supposed to rain much of today and I think that will give the landscape a very nice drink all across the region. Hum, might even get a few waterfalls back up and running again!
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!
02/13/17 An incredible fiery moonrise last night - about as brilliant orange as the moon can get I bet! Hoot owls seemed to appreciate it and I heard several calling out their approval from hollar to hollar as the pups and I made the rounds in the forest and meadows surrounding Cloudland before going to bed.
We were out again early this morning at dawn, and there was more color in the eastern sky that began along the horizon and spread up and across the heavens. A few moments later the sun appeared and colors got back to pure blue above. It was a little nipper this morning, with temps just above freezing - still higher than normal for the middle of winter. That bright sunshine felt pretty good, but we're looking forward to some rainfall that is supposed to move in tomorrow - that should soften up the ground a bit so robins and other birds will have easy pickins' when worms come to the surface to drink.
It's MONDAY - my favorite day of the week - hope you have a GREAT ONE!
02/12/17 'Tis warm and humid again this morning - getting to be more and more warm winter days in February around here - in fact lots of trees beginning to bud out to go along with flower stems and ground cover thinking that spring has arrived - hope they don't all get shocked back into winter along the way! We've seen some entire hillsides up here in the mountains budding out - must be some sort of early-date record.
We've been on the road a lot these past few days, including one very long day on Friday - 12 hours of driving round trip to north of the Kansas City area for a three-hour meeting, then turn around and back home again by 10pm. I spent one day in Fayetteville collecting a collection of steel pallet racks we're going to use in the new warehouse building - these will hold the 25 tons or more of our book pallets that have to be moved from our old warehouse here at Cloudland. Friend Jeff and his son did all of the heavy lifting to get those pallet racks moved in and set up in place. This is a completely new experience for us - previously for the past 30 years all of our book pallets have been on the floor, always being moved either one case at a time by hand, or with the aid of a pallet jack. But since we don't have much room in the new warehouse building, we have to go UP and stack pallets two-three high using an old forklift we purchased a few months ago.
Yesterday we gathered troops and began the pallet-moving process and spent the day wrestling with the first batch of 1,500-2,000 pound pallets. I mostly just stood around and watched and friend Jeff and The Woods Boys made all of that happen - not an easy feat, and there's no way I could have done it without them. By the end of the day the process worked and we had successfully moved and stored 12 of the largest pallets to the next warehouse building - YIPPIE COYOTE! My back hurts this morning just thinking about what those guys did!!! It will take us a while to get the rest of the books moved over, but sometime later this spring we'll switch our wholesale shipping activities over to the new building (which is the same building as our new gallery building - just at the opposite end).
FYI, the "Woods Boys" are the same as the waterfall that bears their name, and they are kind of like that waterfall too - they seem to always be there, ready and willing to help, expecting and receiving nothing in return - giving whenever there is a need. They were one of the families that carved out civilization in this part of Arkansas, taken great care of the land and resources, and continue to work and care for all the things we hold near and dear. The world is a much better place because the Woods Boys live here, and we are luck and proud to have them as our friends - I don't know how you could do any better.
The wilderness landscape surrounding us continues to be a sense of peace and harmony and joy - from the new buds and signs of spring to the beautiful music the Buffalo River that continues to drift up and engulf the cabin, to the absolutely stunning morning and evening color sky shows we've been having. The world is in harmony here, and seems to run at a different pace - a correct pace.
Oh and shhhh, please don't tell anyone, but for only the second time in Arkansas I saw a real live cougar last week. He/she was crossing a meadow about 100 yards from me, and I got a very good look for about a minute. Classic long muscular body, and very long low tail and curved up at the end. Kind of exciting and spooky at the same time. I did not have any sort of real camera with me so didn't get any pictures. That, and the fact that most folks would disbelieve me without any proof, means this will probably be the only place you will hear about this. There are more and more reports of big cats in Arkansas now, and the Game & Fish Commission has recognized that we do have wild cats in Arkansas, but they still remain extremely rare - I've only seen two and have been on the lookout for more than 40 years! It was a thrilling moment for sure - only problem is that now every time I pass that spot I have to stop and scan every inch of the meadow to see if the big cat has returned! (of course, that will most likely never happen again in the same spot)
02/09/17 And winter did return a little bit last night, with the temps dipping into the 20's. It was rather chilly while I was out wandering around in the moonlight, but also quite refreshing, especially with each wind gust up my skirt! Stars, Venus, and the moon were brilliant - and oh so many of those terrific moon shadows - or more accurately moon-lit tree shadows. I find myself moving much more slowly through a moonlit forest - not because I can't see as well - quite the contrary - I can see much BETTER I think. Glaring sunshine has never been good for me. Moonlight allows me to use more of the full spectrum of my eyesight (well, not colors, but "interest" value to me). Even simple shapes and patterns are often quite interesting - I keep going back to tree shadows. They were there during sunny days of course, but there is just something special, magical about them at night.
I've had back issues now for more than a year and a half that have been the source of constant, often debilitating pain. I've spent much of the past month on my back just trying to cope - and as a result have wasted away much valuable time. Yesterday I finally took steps to get on with the program and started a series of physical therapy sessions. So many people have back problems, and I know I'm preaching to the choir, and know your pains are probably much worse than mine (my lovely bride's for example - she's had two surgeries and still one bad disk). My issues are all muscle related and "fixable" - I'm told my spine is just fine (although some folks call me spineless, but I think they are talking about something else!). Funny, but one of the activities that has impacted me the most (i.e. causes me great pain), is setting up a camera on a tripod and taking pictures. As I begin my 43rd year as a professional nature photographer next month I'm hopeful that with a lot of work and Physical Therapy I'll be able to get myself back into good order and get back to the real work of my life of taking pictures.
02/08/17 Another eagle day at Cloudland. I was sitting on the back deck the other afternoon, when a bald eagle came floating by right at eye level to me. He was folded up in an odd way, not soaring or playing, but rather just on cruise control with eyes straight ahead. He got over the main Buffalo River channel, banked to the right, then gently drifted out of sight. Ten minutes later a second eagle came by and did pretty much the same thing. Then a third, only this guy was headed in the opposite direction. I thought perhaps they were the same bird, but at least once I saw more than one at the same time.
These guys were followed by four or five red-tailed hawks over the next 30 minutes. Each of the hawks were soaring and playing and generally using the air currents to move up and down and all around. I wonder if hawks hunt in pairs or groups? The sun was shining and each time one of the hawks swooped up and was backlit against the bright blue sky, their red tail feathers really lit up.
We had another day and morning of very dense fog, making everything in the landscape dripping wet. It was also pretty warm, and we opened up all the windows and doors to the cabin and let the fog roll right on in and through. I like to do this now and then to let the logs soak up some moisture. It continues to amaze me that the logs inside our cabin look literally as good as new - still after 20 years of constant living. (three coats of polyurethane applied back then)
And then we had several hours after midnight yesterday of EXTREME weather roll through - waves and waves of thunder, lightning, and hail - it was really LOUD! And according to the map, our immediate area received 2.5" of much-needed rainfall - YIPPIE!!! Yet when I got up and out early to survey damage, I did not see any sign of hail on the van - not even a tiny scratch on the dusty surface of the hood. And the landscape was mostly dry - or at least not saturated and running. But soon the creeks did begin to flow and sing and dance and get muddy. It was not a dream after all. Also phone and internet service got knocked out during the storm all over our part of the county. We never lost power though. Luckily the phone company folks were out early and had everything back up and running again by mid-morning. YIPPIE COYOTE!
My lovely bride discovered that our historical (pioneer) day lily beds all beginning to pop out of the ground. These are SUMMER flowers - my goodness! No doubt we are in for a rough month ahead I bet - ice and snow and no telling - we have to get that since the winter has been so nice and warm! We'll take it either way, especially if we have some nice rainfall to go along.
Late last night I started off on a hike up the lane, but only made it about 200 yards before I was forced to stop. The 3/4 moon was shining brightly and causing all sorts of tree shadows - one directly blocked my path. So I had to retreat and return with a camera and tripod, then spent the next 20 minutes trying to get a photo that would share the feeling of standing there in the moonlight with stars and the moon and a sparkling VENUE directly ahead. I have not looked at the pictures I took, but hope to post one to show you later this week.
Still lots of WINTER ahead for us, but do get out and enjoy these spring-like days when we get them - I absolutely LOVE any transition days no matter what the season, even if it goes back to winter for a while the very next day...
02/04/17 I know it is the middle of winter and the temp is in the 20's this morning, but there are many signs of SPRING all around in the forest - how can that be? Many places I've walked past this week have changed - from the standard winter brown to hints of green; some areas have significant green ground cover - tiny plants that are peeking out to see what this warm weather is all about. Not seeing any budding trees yet, but if we get a few more very warm days I bet there will be some bud-nipping going on. Not much air movement, and it has been dry - dry and dusty. Deer herds have been much more visual lately - I mean we've seen a lot more deer this past week, and they remain in their darkest color phase of the year - probably to soak up as much winter sunshine as possible (but, of course, they wish they had lighter coats on many of our 65+ degree days!). Lots and LOTS of hawks and eagles playing, hunting, just sitting around on snags enjoying the day.
And in contrast to my signs-of-spring report, it is downright FRIGID outside this morning at dawn! That is mostly due to high winds sending the wind chill down.
02/01/17 Today was an eagle day - a bald eagle. I first saw him this morning, just after sunrise. He came by the cabin fast with his wings, legs and feet tucked, and just sort of leaned to the right to make it around the corner from the Big Buffalo River Canyon on up into the Whitaker Creek Canyon - shhhoooossshhhhh past the treetops. And then he was gone. A couple of hours later I saw him again - this time riding the wind currents higher, still not putting much effort into it, a little sunshine sparkle in his eyes. Then late this afternoon - just as the shadows got so long that they began to disappear - I looked up from Mom's Meadow and there he was - perched in the top of a tall tree looking down directly at me. Today would have been my dad's 104th birthday - he was a private pilot in civilization life, and served in the Air Force during WWII (called Army Air Corps back then I think). I wonder if there was a connection - just dad stopping by to pay a visit so I could wish him a HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I wish every day of my life that I could get to see him just one more time...(My brother, Terry, is also a private pilot.)
Dads view of Cloudland this morning - He put out his hand, and touched the face of God. (remembering my dad on what would have been his 104th birthday today)
And speaking of pilots and my dad, there was a NASA Day of Remembrance last week about the Apollo I, Challenger, and Columbia tragedies, along with a link to a video that used to sign off the local TV station in my hometown back in the 1960s - a video that included a reading of HIGH FLIGHT, a poem by pilot John Gillespie Megee. This same poem was read by my brother-in-law (Richard "Corky" Cecil) - another Air Force pilot - during my dad's funeral back in 1979. I have no idea how he kept a dry eyes - there weren't any others in the church. We have a lot of heroes in this country - THANK YOU ALL!!!
Utube link to the video- well worth watching
High Flight, by John Gillespie Magee, Jr
"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."