Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer Morning Hike ...

The weather was so wonderfully cool last week I decided to go to one of my favorite places for a hike. This is Ivy Creek which feeds into the South Fork Rivanna River Reservoir on whose banks I live. The Ivy Creek Natural Area which borders on the creek, is about two minutes from my doorstep. Many years ago, in another lifetime, I was a naturalist/guide here and spent many glorious mornings guiding elementary school kids, teens and adults through the more than 200 acres of woodlands and fields.

This is a special place. Long ago the farm belonged to freed slave, Hugh Carr, who turned it into a show place for the Virginia Extension Service. Much later, after he died and his children and grandchildren moved on, the property was put on the market. When a developer seemed to be interested in the land, local environmentalists banded together getting the Nature Conservancy interested in buying the property. The Conservancy turned around and deeded it to the City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle to be used as an undisturbed natural area where people from the region could hike and become aware of the value of wild green spaces. It is managed by the Ivy Creek Foundation, which keeps up this wonderful outdoor classroom.

Today, Ivy Creek Natural Area sits in the middle of a booming population intent on building huge homes and having all of life's commercial assets at their finger tips. I've lived in the area for well over 20 years and the changes are phenomenal. The South Fork Rivanna River is silting in at an incredible rate and the future of the drinking water supply is in jeopardy. Government approved plans for rebuilding and expanding another area reservoir puts the future of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir in question. Neighbors and friends often find themselves with differing views as to whether the the river should be dredged to save it as the sole drinking water supply and as the pleasurable recreational facility that it is.

During the 1950s, the South Fork Rivanna River was dammed, drowning the village of Hydraulic, where a mill ground grains from local farms into flour. It became "the reservoir" from which water was treated and piped in to the city of Charlottesville. Beyond the city's supplier of drinking water, it serves daily as a special fishing spot for many area residents as well as the place where the University of Virginia rowing teams practice and race.

The reservoir has never been dredged to maintain its flow and like the arteries of many human bodies walking the planet today, is at risk of clogging up ... becoming unusable as a water supply or a recreational playground. I believe that it should be dredged and maintained as both. It does not need to be the only source of water to fill the needs of the people who may live here in 50 years, but it was built at the expense of those people who lost their land and livelihoods to it. Like the Ivy Creek Natural Area, it is an important and special place,
reminding every one that beyond the asphalt and concrete cityscape around us, there is a quiet undisturbed place where people can find the peace and the quiet of the natural world.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Thoughts On Family And Home ...

I'm back home after a eight day trip up to New England to visit with my brother who is recovering well from surgery. He has another health issue discovered after the surgery ... a damaged heart and the eventual need to implant a defibrillator that will shock his heart if the rhythm goes wrong. But he is now at home and eating on his own. Hopefully he will begin putting on some weight.

He seems to be in good hands both medically and at home where Lee, his significant other, dotes on him, cooks lovely foods and tries to keep him interested in at least tasting things. Because the tumor in his esophagus was so close to his stomach, part of it was removed in surgery. Now, because his stomach is smaller, he has to eat many "little" meals during the day instead of the large three that most of us are used to consuming. Many morbidly obese individuals are successfully having a similar surgery done these days to help them lose weight. He has always been as thin as a rail so this was not exactly what he needs. However, in order to live healthily this is what he is gifted with.

While there we also had a chance to visit with my other brother and his significant other, Iris, who is just the sweetest person imaginable. We had lunch together along with my nephew, Jesse and his wife, Amanda. Little Anya was with her great grandparents, allowing her mom and dad to have a peaceful meal. But we did get to spend time with Anya the next day when she and mom, Amanda, came to our hotel to visit.

Anya just turned one a few weeks ago and is a wonderful bundle of loveliness. But she can also be a handful if she doesn't want to do what you want her to do. It seems she's inherited a bunch of family "stubborn" genes. She seems to be as slippery as an eel and if she doesn't want to be held, there is not much you can do to hold on to her.

They say that home is where the heart is and I'm home right now in Virginia where a large part of heart lives, while all these family members are about 750 miles away. I also have other family members in North Carolina. Since parts of my heart are with all of them, I suppose you might say, I have a number of homes. fortunately, my son and his wife live about 15 minutes away. We spent a lovely time with them yesterday on Father's Day. Mark had baked a delicious bread pudding for the occasion and we simply relaxed as family.

I do wish that the others, so far away, were a bit closer so that we could see them more often. But I do feel grateful for all of my family members and my many homes!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Things To Be Grateful For ...

I'm slipping off to New England to see my brother for a few days. Things are looking up. His breathing tube has been removed, his lungs are clear and the incisions are healing well. The biopsy news is good and hopefully the cancer will not return. He passed a "swallow" test today with flying colors indicating that there is no leakage from the esophagus when liquids are taken. So he'll soon be on a liquid and soft foods diet. Hopefully he'll be out of the ICU tomorrow. The problem with his heart remains and to my understanding there is no plan as yet to deal with it ... but I'm sure something will be recommended in the coming days.

I am so glad that the primary season is over and at last we have a presumptive candidate. And I'm grateful it's Obama. My husband predicts that now the real down and dirty stuff will begin. I'm going to try to keep myself away from the television as much as I can. I find these battles to be very disturbing and hopefully Obama will continue to be able to wage his campaign in the dignified, presidential way that he has so far. I do not want to wish time away, but it certainly will feel good in November when we know we will have him in the White House come January.

I'm also grateful for the rain in the last two days ... not a lot, but things are wet and still growing. I have tiny tomatoes on the vine and wee green peppers beginning to appear. I've come up with a new location for these goodies this year and so far ... knock on wood ... the deer and rabbits haven't found a way to get to them.

More and more wonderfully delicious produce is beginning to appear at the farmer's market. Last week I found tiny baby beets, sugary carrots, spring onions, broccoli and the first of the local strawberries ... small red jewels. These fabulous vegetables and fruit grown in good old Virginia soil are so much better than the very best grocery store produce shipped in from California or further. More and more people in the area are beginning to grow there own and to buy what they can't grow, within the region. Sweet summer is here and for me it's a festival of favorite foods!!

See you next week!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Summer Storms ...

It's been hot and humid the last few days. It will cool down tomorrow and then it looks like summer will be upon us with more summer-like temperatures and humidity levels. The rain teases as it has in past summers ... a 2 minute downpour then nothing more. It seems we're back in the same weather patterns we were in before the drenching rains of April and May. Everything that is growing so well now will slow down again and we will begin to take seriously the new patterns that are emerging as the climate changes.

The last two days have brought worrisome news of my brother, even after his successful surgery. Yesterday he was diagnosed with pneumonia. Today it seems his heart was causing trouble. He's apparently had some chest pains in the past 6 months but never mentioned them to his doctors. After extensive tests, they believe he's had several small heart attacks. One part of his heart shows permanent damage with one artery completely clogged. Two of his life support systems are being compromised and we don't know what will happen next. He is currently in stable condition and we pray that both problems will be fully addressed and taken care of so that he can lead a normal life.

Please ... if you ever have or have been having physical symptoms that could be a sign of serious illness, see a doctor at once and have it checked out. The earlier that problems are addressed, the greater the chances of recovery.