Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Spring Overflowing

Geneva, Switzerland. Picture by Stephen.
(Click picture to enlarge)
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"The cistern contains: the fountain overflows." ~ William Blake (English Poet, 1757-1827)

My brother was in Geneva in the early spring, when days were just warm enough to stroll through the wide avenues under the budding green trees and when early flowers were shyly welcoming the climbing sun. It probably wasn't a day that would prompt me to jump in this fountain.... but today is... at least in Virginia. Projected high? 97F. But, no rain.... yeah... so the construction continues.

I have had one person suggest that we show you Stephen's winter garden room construction... I suppose it might be interesting and perhaps my cousins who designed it, might pick up some interest in their business. We will see. Right now though, it seems to be at that point where I can see the light at the end of the tunnel... I just can't tell if it is sunlight or an approaching train.

So, today I will have to try and remain calm and collected and cool; staring at this picture might help a little as will seeing what other folks are doing with their Watery Wednesdays.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Roses Among Thorns

A sea of roses....adrift in time. Norfolk Botanical Gardens
(Click picture to enlarge)
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Let me show you
Sweet smell of a delicate whisper
Behind the vision of gardens
Go and read of your life
Tiny ripping at the heart
Drunk from a rose.
~ Erica Caitlin Lee

I miss the June days of mild heat.... in the 80's... and lower humidity. Surely, these are the draining dog days of summer. Funny though.. then I thought it was sweltering as I strolled through the botanical gardens. The rose garden is phenomenal, a sea of color across the green lawns and along the stone bandstand, a wall of red. White, yellow, pink, orange, bicolors, striped, speckled.... and of course red... deep dark red. They are intermixed, not segregated by color or size and floribundas mixed with climbers and hybrid teas as well. Here the dragonflies bask in the aroma and dancing bees flit from bloom to bloom. Soon the careful gardeners will be preparing them for the short winter rest we have around these parts... and next May the blooms will appear again, brighter and more beautiful than ever.

But will we survive the 95 degree temps with 100% humidity today? Thank goodness the air conditioner people were able to fix the unit this morning....just in time for Ruby Tuesday!!!

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Moody Mellow, Macro Yellow, Monday

Black-eyed Susan. Rudbeckia hirta
(Click to enlarge)
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"Where beams of imagination play,
The memory's soft figures melt away."
~ Alexander Pope

It's a "moody mellow, macro yellow Monday" here with a bright sunny day... finally! A usual August brings dry weather and the wish for rain, but this year we had 5 inches of rain in the first 15 days of the month and oppressive humidity and high temperatures on the days without rain. It is the prevailing "Murphy's Law" scenario... if a construction project is in full swing and you need several days of dry weather to complete many odds and ends of outside work, then you will be guaranteed to get torrential rain storms coupled with prolonged periods of drizzle and light rain...everyday except one. Of course, this will be the day that no one shows up to work. And the project drags on.

It is too hot and humid to go to the botanical gardens right now, but I had this black-eyed susan picture from my last trip in July. It is cheery and bright, inviting to butterflies and bees, as well as to we humans who need a break from the rain and the cares of life. It will have to do for Mellow Yellow Monday and Macro Monday as well.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Talking Heads

"Families are like fudge... mostly sweet with a few nuts." ~ Author Unknown

Clockwise from top right: Rick, Stephen, Dave. Posted by Picasa

"What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life - to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories." ~ George Eliot

I've been a little busy. Stephen has been home for an extended period to rest (right!) and oversee his building project for a while. Our cousins from Illinois, who are masters at woodworking, came to do the inside trim, beams and some skirting on the new deck as well as build a trellis for the wisteria. They also brought gorgeous walnut furniture that they made for the room. So they have been busy with cutting, hammering, climbing, clear coating, painting and various other woodworking things. I took a break from the decision making for the project and plunged into the chopping and cooking for the workers.

My two cousins are thin and tall. How they remain thin I do not know. If I ate a minute fraction of what they eat, I would gain ten pounds in two days. Since Rick is mostly a vegetarian, we did a lot of rice and stir fry and salads. I chopped celery, carrots, bell peppers (green, red, yellow and orange), purple onions, snow peas, mushrooms, broccoli and cucumbers. Tons of salad greens were washed and spun. Boxes and boxes of brown rice cooked. Green peas, corn, fresh thin green beans, slivered almonds, black olives and bean sprouts were added. Our huge wok worked overtime... as did Stephen, for he is the master cook. I made fruit salad with fresh pineapple, bing cherries, cantaloupe, blueberries, mango, apples, and watermelon. We cooked salmon, catfish and chicken. And this was just for one day!

In addition.... a black walnut cake, carrot cake, cheese cake and a chocolate cake with buttercream icing were consumed. The cousins were here for two weeks.

Now, the chopping has taken a break... the meals are back to what seems like a minimalistic production... time for a little rest. And a little blogging.

Oh, this picture? We went to the beach... in the evening and with the flash and a little post production, I ended up with this strange floating heads shot. But that's a family!

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Gems Of Morning

A bug's eye view of morning dew... (Click to enlarge) Posted by Picasa

"How cunningly nature hides every wrinkle of her inconceivable antiquity under roses and violets and morning dew!" ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

How intimidating is this dewdrop poised atop the blade of grass like a street light that magnifies the rays of the morning sun? What if you were the lowly ant.... and the giant sphere quivered, then dropped... on your head? The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

We, the giants in the land, tramp through the wet morning grass, scarcely thinking of what bustle of activity is happening beneath our feet. How our treading shakes the ground... earthquakes! Our wells and sprinkler systems soak the grass.... floods! Lawn mowers roar and rumble and large blades swish back and forth, ever closer to the ground... guillotines! What monsters the ants and beetles and other ground bugs must think we are!

I love taking the ground level view pictures. It reminds me of that old movie.. Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. At Universal Studios in Disneyworld, they have a playground that lets children and adults alike, feel like they are in this world where the miniature becomes the gigantic.... this picture reminds me of that park and oh, my!!!! Are those the eyes of a huge spider I see back in that jungle? Get me out of here!!!

"Dew-drops are the gems of morning,
But the tears of mournful eve!
~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Youth and Age

This little or huge droplet... depending on YOUR perspective... will do for Watery Wednesday this week... it also fits nicely with Macroday's "fluid" theme as well.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Flowers Fiery Charm

Lantana sp. a favorite of the "flutterbys". Norfolk Botanical Gardens.
(Click to enlarge)
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"To analyze the charms of flowers is like dissecting music; it is one of those things which it is far better to enjoy than to attempt to understand." ~ Henry Theodore Tuckerman

The local botanical gardens have a new exhibit this year... a butterfly garden. While they have always had a beautiful huge outdoor butterfly garden filled with wildly and wonderfully unkempt flowers and bushes to attract the "flutterbys", they have added a mesh greenhouse exhibit where the butterflies are treated to all the nectar plants they love. Here they lay eggs, eat with larval abandon and form green dangling pupae on the mesh domed roof. The curators lovingly remove these to a viewing area where children and adults can watch the magic of metamorphosis occur, up close. And then the cycle continues. It is lovely, yet a little sad. These delicate creatures seem to long for their cousins that flit freely outside.... and though the lantana, black-eyed susan, holyhocks, yarrow, coneflowers, and copious numbers of butterfly bushes are available both within and without the enclosure... that unspoken call of freedom draws them to the mesh barriers over and over. Truly the grass is greener and the flowers more vibrant... on the other side of the road.

These lantana were so bright and beautiful... brilliant crimson and golden yellow. Some varieties have mixtures of these colors along with a hot pink and even white bloom. The nectar must be sweet... "flutterbys" love them. Teacher Mary at Work of the Poet hosts Ruby Tuesday each week... the reds you find there will certainly lift your spirits.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

SPH: The Rocks Cry Out

Shorelines and streams... rock.
(Click pictures to enlarge)

"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters." ~ Norman Fitzroy Maclean, A River Runs Through It

"As hard as rocks" or so the saying goes; yet, combine them with soft lapping water at the shoreline or the melodic gurgling sounds of the flowing stream and together they stir the emotions and soften the heart. In each of these places, it is easy to relax and breath easy... letting the cares of the day slip away.

Bridges, walls, gardens.... rock.

"The beautiful must ever rest in the arms of the sublime. The gentle needs the strong to sustain it, as much as the rock-flowers need rocks to grow on, or the ivy the rugged wall which it embraces." ~ Harriet Elizabeth Beecher Stowe

Rocks denote strength... "as solid as a rock". Giant stones form a sturdy bridge in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, a retaining wall at Norfolk Botanical Gardens and a foundation for beautiful plants in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Strong, holding firm... no one is afraid to walk on or beside these rocks.

Large boulders or small gravel..... rock.

"A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind." ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I wondered where this huge basket of rocks was headed... to build a gorgeous Gothic chapel or a beautiful fireplace or possibly to accent the front of a mansion. And these small smooth gravel fragments that form that driveway... to the library, to the new school, to that first home. Just a pile of rocks... until someone has an idea.

Colorful tumblers.....rock.

"We can throw stones, complain about them, stumble on them, climb over them, or build with them." ~ William Arthur Ward

Who knew rocks could be so colorful? Of course the colors you see in granite countertops, marble fireplaces, and in various semi-precious stones are all here. When I was a child my folks got me a rock tumbler one Christmas. With a little sand and water and time spent rolling together, all those sharp edges start smoothing away... the colors start to emerge and the dull, bland rocks morph into works of art. Aren't we like that.. rough and sharp on the edges, but with the irritations and abrasions of life, a little time under pressure and a little cooling off.. we smooth out, relax and let the inner beauty out. Hmm. Where did that rock tumbler disappear to?

Gold and diamonds and jewels....rock. Posted by Picasa

"She is mine own,
And I as rich in having such a jewel
As twenty seas, if all their sand were pearl,
The water nectar, and the rocks pure gold."
~ William Shakespeare

"Look at that rock on her finger!!" Some "rocks" sparkle and shine.. especially set in gold. Wouldn't it be nice if all of these were real? Just a thought!

Tennessee Chick graciously hosts Saturday Photo Hunt each week... and this week's theme is "rocks".

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cow. 'Nother Cow. Actually, I Think That Was The Same Cow!

May 13, 2009.. Ponca City, Oklahoma Tornado
Picture by Nyssa.
(Click to enlarge)

"Predictability: Does the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?" ~ Edward N. Lorenz

My daughter has become a free spirit, majoring in both English and Geology at William and Mary; now getting a masters degree in meteorology and going on for a doctorate.. well, in something related to both. In May, she took a two week course in storm chasing. Nyssa and seven other grad students along with two professors took off in the Mississippi State University van and headed to the state of her birth... Oklahoma. Other students, parents and the universe in general could follow their escapades on the MSU Storm Chase site. First there was a little grumbling about the much hyped Weather Channel Vortex2 project... there were going to be too many chasers... they have so much equipment and we don't.... the roads are going to be crammed with vans and trucks from this. But as it turned out... this was a very slow May for tornadoes in "tornado alley".

Nyssa called about a few near miss sightings and unusual cloud formations... but no tornadoes. They drove through Oklahoma to Texas and back again.. eventually traversing Kansas, Nebraska and up into Colorado. The web site had a handy GPS tracking map that showed where they were in real time.

They evaluated their maps and computer print outs and forecast predictions and decided to set up shop in Ponca City, Oklahoma for a couple of days. Meanwhile, the Vortex2 groups and Mike Bettis from the Weather Channel headed west, far west to Clinton, Oklahoma and the panhandle of Texas in search of the elusive tornado. Then, finally, on Wednesday, May 13th, I received a text message.... "MOM!!! I just chased my FIRST tornado... COOL!!!" Pictures and a video appeared on the website later that evening.

Now, I must tell all grad student storm chasers out there... it is not a good idea to video a tornado chase with the sound on.... you could cause your parents great harm; especially when they hear..."Wow, look it's headed right for us!" Don't blog that, please!!! Another thing... it probably isn't the greatest idea to pose for a picture with the tornado still in the background... that doesn't help a mother's heart either.

May 13, 2009.. Ponca City, Oklahoma Tornado
Picture by Nyssa.
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Nyssa survived.. they all survived, they even had a mention on the Weather Channel one evening. I noticed the group was in Alliance, Nebraska and so was Mike Bettis when he came on with his update, and said.."You never know who you'll run into out here. Today, I met up with a group of grad students from Mississippi State in MacDonald's and they showed me their pictures and video of the Ponca City tornado. All I could do was stand there and cry..." You see.. the Vortex2 group with all its huge equipment and sophisticated trucks had miscalculated that day... they went west when they should have gone north, and they missed this tornado that day.

So, with Nyssa's help... she took the pictures and I cleaned them up... this is my Skywatch Friday submission for this week and I leave you with this alternate scale for evaluating the strength of tornadoes... do you think it will replace the Fujita Scale anytime soon?

Moojita Scale

M0 Tornado - Cows in an open field are spun around parallel to the wind flow and become mildly annoyed.
M1 Tornado - Cows are tipped over and can't get up.
M2 Tornado - Cows begin rolling with the wind.
M3 Tornado - Cows tumble and bounce.
M4 Tornado - Cows are AIRBORN.
M5 Tornado - S T E A K ! ! !

Addendum: Shutterday photo this week was weather and this was definitely WEATHER!

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Eat Your Fruits And Veggies

An odd sort of food.... Yankee Candle Company
(Click picture to enlarge)
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"It's a very odd thing—
As odd as can be—
That whatever Miss T. eats
Turns into Miss T."

~ Walter De La Mare (1873-1956), British poet. Miss T. (l. 1-4). FaBoBe. Family Book of Best Loved Poems, The David L. George, ed. (1952) Doubleday & Company.

I wonder what Miss T would look like if she ate a few of these funny fruits and vegetables? These orange cats, cauliflower sheep, gourd geese, pear seals and banana octopus are strange and adorable figurines found in one of the shops at the Yankee Candle Company in Williamsburg, Virginia.

This is a wonderful place to shop that keeps families in mind. From the outside it looks like a large warehouse with facades of different houses painted in different colors and with different roof lines. When you walk into the front door, however, you step onto the mainstreet walkways of a bygone era, when people shopped in small towns, sat on wooden benches in front of the stores and strolled beneath old fashioned ornate street lamps. Above the curved ceiling is painted with blue skies and fluffy clouds and a full size flagpole stands in the center of "town" replete with a full-sized American flag. To the sides various shops open onto the street.. some selling candles, others include bed and bath items, decorative wall hangings, knick knacks, and stationary products. There is a toy store and a candy store with large bins of penny candy and clear plastic bags to shovel your finds into. High above the town square runs a toy train, the tracks weave in and out of the various stores and all around the outside walls. Town square hosts cookie shops, fudge shops, snack shops and small ice cream parlor chairs and tables to rest and watch the mechanical town clock clang. On the hour the clock opens and a group of automated puppets appear for ten minutes of music, song and jokes for the kids.

It is always Christmas here, as one shop specialized in ornaments and Christmas lights... it is guarded by a large nutcracker and boasts a bridge over a frozen pond where penguins and polar bears frolic in the snow. This room has a dark night sky with thousands of tiny twinkling star lights shining down and Christmas carols are always, always, always playing.

The Yankee Candle Company is a magical place to visit... so be sure to take your camera... photos are welcomed there.

Last week I was very late for Carmi's theme... so this week I'll try to be a little more prompt. His theme this week is "odd", things that are odd, unusual or funny. I also think these critters are quite colorful... in more ways than one.. so check out the other colorful creations at Color Carnival.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

From A Distance

... winter beach scenes. Virginia Beach.
(Click picture to enlarge)
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"One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star." ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

Distant time. You would not see this specific scene in summer. No wind swept empty beaches. No bundled children atop plodding horses. No empty fishing pier or cold frothy waves finding not bathing bodies but simply the shore.

Distant space. Specks against the beach and ocean... they are dark, bobbing slowly up and down. Horses and humans... that is for sure but at this distance are they young or old, are the jackets plaid or plain, are they laughing or simply staring off into the distance.

But, even at this distance.. somehow I know they are having fun... I would be. It is one of many fantasies I have that will not ever be... to own horses and have a deserted beach on which to ride with the wind at my heart's content. Not practical or possible, but a dream nevertheless.

Carmi's theme this week has been "distant" and with the crashing surf of our Atlantic Ocean... Watery Wednesday comes to mind.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Birds At My Feeder Part 4: Rubies In The Sky

House finch, male (Carpodacus mexicanus)
(Click picture to enlarge)
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"Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come." ~ Chinese Proverb

The house finch or common finch spends the entire year in our area. They have nested atop our large front columns and fill the air with a lovely warble each morning and evening as the male sits at the tip of the gable. These small birds are similar to the purple finch, except they are more ruby than magenta and they have underlying stripes on their breasts while the purple finch does not. Here, the purple finch is only seen in winter. These little creatures love our feeder, especially the platform where up to seven or eight may gather for sunflower chips and cracked corn. Very social, they mix well with goldfinch, sparrows... practically any other bird of its size. As with many species.. the female tends to be a dull brown in color a very like many different types of sparrows and the female pine siskin.

The day is always brighter when these small carolers show up... no matter what the time of year! Many other rubies may be seen at Ruby Tuesday each week.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday Medley

Black-eyed susan, Rudbeckia hirta
Common Fleabane, Erigeron philadelphicus
(Click pictures to enlarge)

"I wish more people felt that photography was an adventure the same as life itself and felt that their individual feelings were worth expressing. To me, that makes photography more exciting." ~ Harry Callahan

Gray days give better colored pictures... less glare and fewer shadows in the way, a softer light. But these Black-eyed Susans shine and gleam on their own as if they grabbed every tiny molecule of light on this cloudy day and concentrated it into the substance of their yellow petals; enough shine to make their own shadows. Sharing the stage are the small white fleabane, with tiny yellow suns dotting the background. I can imagine laying on the ground looking up at a canopy of these wildflowers overhead, smelling the warm fresh earth and watching as they sway hypnotically back and forth in the light summer breeze. What a joy to experience nature through childlike eyes!


Nicky...the Clark Gable of Cats

"Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever . . . it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything." ~ Aaron Siskind

I have a lot of cats, I've had a lot of cats down through the years and they have all lived to a relatively old age. They go through the stages of life as we all do. Kittens play and jump and tumble an are quick, often too quick for the camera.. little blurs running around. Then suddenly, they drop... sound asleep, like babies have to take small naps in between making large noise. In young adulthood the cat is most interesting to photograph; a bit slower with more refined movement, he is interested in everything and often provides moments of comic bliss to capture on film.

Now, my cats have entered the "golden years" of life; all five are over 11 years old and no longer enticed by the latest catnip toy. They have developed sophisticated wants... a certain banana shaped catnip toy, a certain ball and mouse... all others lay dormant and untouched. Life is slow... no more fast movements, high leaps or intense curiosity... except for Mr. Rhett.. but that is a different story. Now, the cats sit for portraits, sometimes I think you could leave the shutter open for four or five seconds and they wouldn't move; the most difficult task is getting them to open their eyes for a good look at those baby blues. You wouldn't believe how many shots I get with eyes half open.

Soon, all too soon, they will pass on to be with the others who have gone before and I cannot stop time... except in pictures. So, even if the portraits tend to look the same and they sometimes show less than suave perfect fur... I still try to see that little spark behind the eye.. that shows how different each cat remains even now. And they are...unique... beautiful... friends.

Sepia Serenity... Camellia (Norfolk Botanical Garden) Posted by Picasa

"When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence." ~ Ansel Adams

Sepia or black and white photos speak of age and wisdom. Our eyes and brains interpret what we see in color... and because of this, only the monochrome pictures can reveal mysteries that our eyes miss. These shots level the playing field for the flower... a lowly, dull, looked over plant brings as much beauty as the vibrant red rose. I love the colorful camellia flowers in our botanical garden.. they give life and warmth to the winter months here in Virginia. But I also love the delicate yet strong look that this sepia shot gives.

I chose three very different pictures for three different memes today... Mellow Yellow Monday, Blue Monday and Monochrome Maniacs (Monochrome Weekly).. these sites have many more participants with gorgeous photos. Please visit them to feast your eyes.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Finding Shade In The Shadows

Smiling on the outside, melting on the inside.
Daisy: "Hey! Mom! When can we go in?"
(Click picture to enlarge)
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"He that will enjoy the brightness of sunshine, must quit the coolness of the shade." ~ Samuel Johnson

I don't think Daisy will be moving from this shade anytime soon. It was hot and sweltering, humid and with a temperature of almost 97 degrees. The heat index was well over a hundred and we were only outside long enough to fill the bird feeders... but that seems to be too long for a certain cocker spaniel. She did her "business" in record time and wanted back into the cool den with its gently rotating ceiling fan. Here she could cuddle up on the loveseat or in her padded bed and snooze in comfort. But I wasn't finished with the job at hand. So what is a "hot dog" to do? Find the nearest shade of course, even if it is the smallest of trees, only planted a couple of years before...shade is shade. She grins as the shadows dance across her body and her face. I wonder...does Daisy think she can catch these sunbeams? No.. she just wants me to quit with the pictures and fill the feeders ... it is simply too hot to be out...

Did you find yourself a shadow to rest in today or is yours simply following you around being no comfort at all? More shadows are at Harriet's Shadow Shot Sunday.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

SPH: Tip-Toe Through The Trash

Not much room left for dumpster diving here.
(You may click the picture to enlarge...
but why would you want to?)
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"My wife is always trying to get rid of me. The other day she told me to put the garbage out. I said to her I already did. She told me to go and keep an eye on it." ~ Rodney Dangerfield (American Comedian, 1921-2004)

I didn't have many pictures of actual garbage this week... though I have thrown away my fair share of pictures that were essentially garbage. This is it... the dumpster that currently resides on the street just outside our fence. It has been emptied once... and for a long time, there wasn't much in it. But that changed a lot this week and now it is filled with construction garbage..discarded wood fragments, stones, broken brick, patio pavers, wooden pallets and a variety of trash..oh, yes... and a few odd broken plastic chairs and a really raunchy door mat.

My next door neighbors are Navy and are being transferred clear across the country. Last week they had a dumpster delivered; now there are two... dueling dumpsters. But my dumpster is prettier, by far.

Tennessee Chick graciously hosts Saturday Photo Hunt each week... and this week's theme is "garbage". I am sure there are many more takes on this theme than my muddled mind could come up with this week... make sure to check them out.

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