layers – SOLC 2017 #31

A while back I took a class in Adobe Illustrator. I learned what it felt like to be at the (very) bottom of the class. (I learned so many other things, too! After all, there was no where to go but up.) It was all new to me, including the concept of designing in layers. I didn’t know that so many of these eye-catching works of art that I had admired were often built from layers stacked on top of each other, allowing easy changes to one part without disrupting the entire creation. I was smitten by that new idea (even if I never mastered that technique)!

This morning I looked out my kitchen window and actually SAW the layers in my view. There was the far-off background of the cloud-dotted sky, the next layer of trees in the distance, the closer and larger trees near by, the fence and shrubs in my own backyard, and last the dogwood right outside my window. What really caught my eye was the redbird that went from one layer to another. Closer, then farther away. (If I were using Illustrator, I would have to decide in which layer he looked best.)

On TV an advertisement for tourism in another city announced: “Come. Shed life’s layers in Asheville.” I could feel myself relaxing just pondering that idea. So often, stresses and responsibilities pile up in us and on us very quickly, but yet, when we have time off, a few days are needed until we fully unwind. The tension often has to be pulled away, layer by layer, uncovering our true self, one tier at a time.

This year’s SOLC has not heaped more layers of pressure onto my schedule. Instead, it has uncovered the layers of observation, and thoughtful consideration, and word play that often get concealed by everyday life.

All these thoughts about layers have caused me to think about the pieces required to make the Slice of Life Challenge work:

  • I can’t even begin to imagine the time spent in setup, getting the rules in a clear format, finding inspirational quotes and posts, recruiting Welcome Wagon helpers, and soliciting and distributing prizes.  Once the challenge starts, it requires checking daily, especially at first, to insure things are running smoothly for all.
  • There are so many different writers (and those amazing teachers whose classroom students are also writing!) and that means there is the time, thought, and talent that each one puts into his/her writing, each and every day.
  • The comments from around the world are like the glue that holds all this individual effort together – they unite us as writers and give us the firm foundational assurance that what we say matters, and that our voice is heard and appreciated by others.
  • As I contemplate my own writing, how one post can spark another, and how the history of this little blog overwhelms me when I see how long ago it was begun, I see many layers here, and I realize how much this opportunity means to me.

Layers upon layers.  Many thanks to ALL who have participated in the 2017 Slice of Life Challenge. I leave March a better person than I was when the month began.

for this place I am thankful – SOLC 2017 #30

Our county is shaped like our state – quite long from east to west.  And also like Tennessee, there are differences that distinguish the areas of our county and make each of them unique. Our county is growing fast. We have a contrast of old and new everywhere we turn. As I drove throughout this beautiful landscape today, I thanked God for the variety I saw everywhere I traveled:

the land

  • hills and hollows that twist and flow into each other with just enough opening in between for viewing more and more of the same
  • wide flat treeless fields sliced by fence paths that reflect the care that’s been given them through the years
  • wooded hillsides leaf deep with rocky outcroppings, falling down to a flat grassy field, or sometimes almost to the road itself

the water

  • creeks that twist and turn and parallel the road until they slip under and out the other side on their downhill journey to the next watering hole
  • the chameleon we call the Harpeth River that appears where you least expect it and reflects different shades of green or brown depending on the depth of the water or the height of the bank or the speed of the flow
  • manmade ponds with sparkling fountains shooting up proclamations – fresh and cool and clear water can be found right here, all around

the roads

  • wider and wider spaces with more and more lanes for the ever-growing numbers of residents to make their ways to work, and then back home again at the end of the day
  • curvy potholed country lanes that follow the fencerows and property lines and are sheltered by the canopies of old growth trees
  • square plotted lines across former farms that bring civilization to the middle-of-nowheres of just yesterday

the houses

  • antebellum jewels with columns and porches that shimmer in the light of preservation, or droop in the shadows of neglect
  • new construction of the grandest order, at times overlooking small shacks with asphalt shingle siding or peeling paint and crumbling foundations
  • a Disneyland of perfect cottages and townhomes with meandering sidewalks, luscious landscapes, and seasonal décor on every doorway

the barns

  • arts and crafts styled with stained wood corbels, exposed beams, stacked stone walls, and paved drives
  • stair step sizes, all the same barn-red color with white tin roofs and sliding metal doors, situated like a circle of wagons protecting the inner corral
  • weathered wood structures standing only because of the trees that have grown up around them or because of the vein of sheer determination found in the hardwoods they were constructed from so many years ago

the people

  • farmers in trucks or tractors driving slowly down the middle of roads, with a wave and a nod for any and all – strangers or friends – that they happen to meet as they survey the day’s demands
  • hipsters with skinny jeans and knitted caps, or the thinnest of moms in workout clothes or yoga pants, coffee mugs always steaming, focusing on phones that are glued to their hands
  • professionals and laborers with a brisk walk, a smiling face, and a helping hand


This is my place – my home – my world.



a tell-tale tail – SOLC 2017 #29

You must be from the wildlife control service. I am glad you could come today.

Yes ma’am. Hello. Where are your squirrels?

I guess they are in the trees. I don’t have a problem with squirrels. I called about a skunk odor in our house.

Oh, sure. We get lots of calls…. Well how long have you had the stink?

It actually isn’t smelling now. It lasted just a short time one day last week. That’s when I called you.

Yes, ma’am. We sure have been busy. So – it ain’t stinking no more?

No, but this happened around this same time last year, and that time it lasted for a couple of days. But it went away when I aired out the house. Recently our neighbors have seen skunks nearby, and since the smell returned last week, I’d like you to check things out.

Sure thing, ma’am. Happy to. How do I get into the crawl space under your house?

Well, I don’t think the skunk is actually under my house. I think maybe it just sprayed outside, over near the HVAC unit, and the HVAC fan brought the smell into the house.

That’s what everyone says, ma’am. Nobody wants to think a skunk’s under there. But there almost always is. Let’s go look at your AC unit. I can usually spot skunk hair on the entry points. If any skunk hair is caught on those, we will know you got a skunk underneath there.


Yes, ma’am, here it is. There is hair that got hung when the skunk crawled in and out. What we can do is close up all but one of these holes under the HVAC unit, and then set the trap on the one that’s still open.

You mean I have a skunk under my house??

Well, it may be under there now, or not. It may just use this as a vacation home to come and go from time to time. Or it may have made a nest. Might be getting ready to have babies. It is mating season you know. That’s why you see so many dead skunks on the road this time of year. They just go crazy. Either way it has definitely been here and it will come back.

So why are those holes there under the HVAC unit anyway?

They are basically for the arms on the skid steer (forklift) to get under them at the warehouse so these heavy units can be moved around. But the holes for that leave openings when the unit is set in place at your house. The skunk or whatever critter can scoot in here and then go into your crawl space. Unless that opening into your crawl space is closed up. Let’s just look (shines a flashlight). Nope, yours isn’t screened off so the animal can go in and out from this space under the HVAC unit back and forth and underneath your house, too.

Oh, dear. I guess we were lucky not to have more odor all the time?

Yes, ma’am. Coulda been worse. And sometimes they chew up the duct work and/or insulation. I’ll check out your crawl space under there after we catch the skunk. I can fix all that for you too.

So… you quoted me a price of $95?

Yes ma’am that is for us putting these panels on to cover the holes. The panels are made of sturdy metal – we screw them in place and they are guaranteed for as long as you own this home. Now, we also charge $175 to set the traps and $75 to remove each animal we catch.

I see.

Tell you what, we will only charge you for removal of one animal no matter how many we catch.

Oh, my. Well, I don’t want a skunk under my house and I sure don’t want my home to have that scent again.

All right, we’ll get right to work then.


Ma’am we decided to set three traps once we saw the skunk.

You SAW a skunk today?

Yes ma’am we musta scared her when we screwed in those panels. It makes a loud noise for sure. She tried to back out of this little slit on the side here but it was too small. We’ll catch her though.

You mean there’s a skunk under my house right now.

Yes ma’am. See here:

Well we can’t have that. No indeed. Oh my goodness.

(Are you wondering if they just stuck a skunk tail in there like that? Just to make me think there was a skunk? That’s what I was wondering, but then again, we had definitely had that smell…)

So, ma’am, we set two traps in case there’s more than one skunk but we know there’s one in there for sure. And we set a third trap to catch another one if it tries to get back in.

Oh my goodness, how many do you think there are??

Well, probably just the one, and we’ll catch it. But if there are more we’ll get them too.

Oh, dear. Well, thank you for your help.

We’ll come check on things but you can call us if you see a skunk in the trap.

You want me to go over there and look into those traps?

Yes ma’am if you would.

But what if, … I mean,… could I get sprayed?

The skunk can’t spray once it gets caught in there because the trap ain’t tall enough for the skunk to lift its tail. It has to lift its tail to spray. You can stand back away from the trap and you might not see the skunk real good but if there’s one in there the container of peanut butter will be moved.

You use peanut butter to lure them in the trap?

Well, you can use a lot of different things, but the peanut butter works real good.

OK. Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then. And hopefully we will catch a skunk.


Afternoon, ma’am.  Did we catch anything?

No, I did check from time to time, and I would have called you, but there was nothing there as of the last time I checked.

That’s ok, it’ll get hungry before long. I’ll go take a quick look and I’ll check back tomorrow.


The next morning I checked the traps and sure enough there was a skunk in one of them. It was hard to see but definitely there. And not smelling – yet.

I called my new best friends, and they came by that afternoon and removed the trap and the skunk without incident. They left the traps for five more days but no other skunks came in or out. When they came the last time they removed all the trappings and closed up the last hole. They found no damage under the house either.

I am thankful for people who are willing to do this kind of work. A job well done. Money well spent.  Now to get that hanging limb out of the tree before it falls on our neighbor’s shed. That’s a tale for another time.

ghost trees – SOLC 2017 #27

On a cloudy, showery day

with overcast and gloomy skies,

the wooded spaces have a certain gleam –

an otherworldly brightness

in contrast to the dark.


As spring returns,

the ghost trees linger:

holding tight to leaves from yesteryear –

no sign of green among them,

only sun-bleached transparency remains.


Are they reluctant to let go

of memories of warmer times

and sunnier, carefree days –

or are they protecting the tiny buds

that soon will come, again?


Either way, they know and value

the reason for their existence –

providing a sheltered place in the forest

filled with life and growth –

for that which was, and also is to come.


American beech trees hold tightly to their dead fall leaves until the new spring buds are ready to open and start anew.


the written word – SOLC 2017 #26

Our local Library Foundation supports the work of the six libraries in our county system. The board members work to gather support for programs above and beyond what public monies can supply. (With 75% of our taxes going to education, the library shares what remains with roads, recreation, law enforcement, utilities, etc…)

Our next event is a reception for the second annual Student Art Show. One piece of fourth grade art from each of the thirty schools in our county was submitted by the school’s art teacher. These pieces will be framed and displayed in the local libraries for the next year. This is a project that spotlights the art programs in the schools, and adds happy child-created art to the library spaces.

Here are a few pieces from last year:

One of our board members suggested that everything we do should have a connection to the written word, since that is what we are promoting at the library. What a great idea!

So, we are excited to have Linda Ragsdale, an author/illustrator, joining us to help the students (and adults!) make the connection between art and literacy, and to show how art is part of the “real world” beyond school years. Linda has an enthusiastic and encouraging spirit, as well as a touching life story. She is the founder of the Peace Dragon project, and you can read more about her here.

If you happen to be in Franklin, TN on April 6, come join us in our celebration!


a simple reminder – SOLC 2017 #25

Last fall is was our privilege to host the rehearsal dinner for our friend’s son. There are many reasons why this was a special opportunity for us, but suffice it to say that this friend is a treasure.

So we set to work to get our house and yard in order for the 70+ guests. One of the things I did to prepare for the party was “refresh” the plants in my outdoor pots. (That means I mostly threw out many of the spindly, ragged specimens and purchased new ones. These are not easy to find in early fall.)

One pot I filled with two beautiful “coral bell” plants. The lime green and plum were a perfect combination. This pot hung on our porch, and I was pleased to note during our warm winter that it never died. Recently it has begun its spring growth, and is looking better than ever.

Now when I look at this plant, it reminds me of that fun evening (with no rain – an answer to prayer!), and the cute couple celebrating their marriage, and mostly our sweet friend who was so pleased with how things turned out.

I am thankful for the privilege we had to do what friends do.