A southeastern October has its own beauty. It's not about a riot of color like in New England, nor a bracing-for-winter harvest of the midwest. Down here, trees will keep their leaves for another month or so, and some flowers and crops will continue thriving into winter.
But the light is different. The haze of summer has lessened. Shapes and colors look crisper, more vivid. Most years, October brings sweet relief from summer's oppressive heat, but this summer the problem wasn't so much the heat as the near-constant rain. With a relatively dry autumn, we can actually enjoy being outside to see things.
Here are a few beauty shots I've taken while out and about recently.
I'm a huge fan of dogs. I grew up with and around dogs, and loved them all. As an adult, though, I became a full-on cat lover because dogs just don't fit my lifestyle very well. I appreciate the independence of kitties. Sorry, dogs--I know my limits, and I just can't meet your needs. It's not you, it's me.
Having said all that, I'm pretty shameless in my adoration of other people's dogs. I've been known to cross the street for the chance to pet a cute dog. So when I got this super deal on Braves tickets and could choose any home game I wanted, I purposely chose Bark In The Park day so I'd be able to meet some canine sports fans.
During Bark In The Park, the dogs hang out in the Sky Field area, where the stadium sets up wading pools to help the critters keep cool. There's a special seating section for the dogs and their humans, which is not where our seats were. But did that stop me? Of course not. I took a break from the game, hopped on the elevator, and headed upstairs to where the action was. (Click photos to enlarge the cuteness.)
So. much. fun! It was a magical doggie wonderland up there. Canines of every size, shape, and color. Smooth dogs, fluffy dogs, accessorized dogs. Everybody was so well-behaved, and the people were more than happy to let non-dog-section tourists (I wasn't the only one) give their four-legged friends some love. What a happy afternoon.
As for the Braves, they lost. But we don't need to dwell on that, because...DOGGIES!
I hope everyone in the U.S. had a fun Labor Day weekend. Mine included meeting Congressman John Lewis (a true American hero) and writer Rob Sheffield at the Decatur Book Festival, then celebrating my birthday at the Braves game and a favorite Italian restaurant. What a great way to end the summer. Bring on fall!
After yesterday's sad post, I wanted to share some happy news with you. A while back, I told you that my workplace was fostering some kittens this summer. Well, I'm very proud to report that we found permanent homes for all three of them, and then we got three more, and now all of those have been adopted, too! We're kitten-free at the moment, but will probably be fostering more babies soon.
This wasn't my foray into fostering. Long-time readers might remember these little munchkins who appeared under a rosemary bush at Boogaloo Acres a few years ago. And back when our cat Little was a stray, she brought us her babies and Anthony and I fostered all eight from both of her litters.
Fostering is a wonderful experience, and I urge all pet lovers to try it at least once. There are so many animals in need, and this is a great way to help them without making a lifetime commitment. Or, who knows, maybe you'll fall in love with your foster critter and end up with a new best friend yourself!
This brings up the main objection I hear from people when I mention fostering: they're afraid it would be too hard to say goodbye to their fosters when they get adopted. I won't lie--adoption day can be a bittersweet occasion. But you have to go into the fostering experience with the attitude that these aren't your pets. They're defenseless creatures in need of help, and you're giving them a safe place to crash until their "real" families come along. And when they do...
So many happy faces! So many wonderful years of animal companionship ahead! And you, as a foster human, made that happen. That makes any sadness 100% worth it.
Whether you foster through a formal program like my workplace has been doing with Dekalb County Animal Services, or just help a stray animal in your neighborhood find a permanent home, you'll know you've made life better for a critter and its new people.
A while back, I posted a list of my favorite music of the year so far. Holly Williams's album The Highway has been in heavy rotation on my playlist since I discovered it quite by chance back in April (thanks, Paste!). Last night I had the great pleasure of catching Holly's acoustic show at Park Tavern as part of their Unplugged in the Park summer music series.
It astounds me that this woman isn't a superstar already. Her songwriting chops and soulful voice are truly wonderful. But until the world discovers how great she is, I felt very lucky to be able to experience her talent and warmth in such a small venue.
This guy, Anderson East, provided harmony vocals. His voice complemented Holly's beautifully. Annie Clements (of Sugarland, apparently--I'm not familiar enough with them to have known that if Holly hadn't said it) played bass. For some reason I didn't get any photos of her, even though she was standing right in front of me. Oops! Bad blogger!
Holly's songs tell moving stories about travel, heartbreak, and her friends and family. She spent most of her childhood with her mother's family in Louisiana, but oh by the way, her father and grandfather are Hank Williams, Jr. and Sr. While she's clearly proud of that lineage, she's also frank about the fact that she never knew her grandfather (he died decades before she was born), and that her dad put her family through "a lot of shit."
After the show, Holly encouraged the crowd to stop by her table and say hi. She was gracious enough to sign my CD and thank me while I babbled something about the show being wonderful. We both look kind of giddy in this photo. Probably we're both just basking in the glow of her awesomeness.
I've written a lot on this blog about the challenges of living on a tight budget, but one thing I never regret splurging on is good music. It energizes and inspires me, and I feel great knowing that my dear disposable dollars are supporting artists, venues, and local music sellers.
Here's a taste of what Holly's live show is like. If this is your kind of thing, I urge you to catch her if she plays anywherenear you!
Last night we scored some free tickets to a Braves game (thanks, Lisa!). Our seats were in the Upper Box, and while they were up high, we still had a great view of the action. I have to say, we've had seats in lots of different parts of Turner Field for various games over the years, and they've all been good seats.
The fun part about being in the Upper Box was exploring the top level of the stadium for the first time. Before the game, we walked around "Sky Field" (basically the roof) and got a cool perspective of the huge ads that are made to be seen from all over the stadium and beyond.
Yesterday we took advantage of a rare non-rainy day off and checked out the Imaginary Worlds exhibit at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
Before visiting the exhibit in person, I mistakenly thought these living sculptures were a type of topiary. I learned they are actually called mosiacultures. They aren't pruned into shapes like topiary, but rather built with plants over steel armature. The varying types of plants create different colors and textures, much like in a two-dimensional mosaic.
You can see lots of beautiful, professional shots of the exhibit elsewhere. I won't attempt to compete with those. These are just a few fun photos of our day at the Garden.
Sassy strawberry and friendly blackberry in the Edible Garden. Small human woman shown for scale.
Earth Goddess emerging from the Cascade Gardens. This sculpture weighs 29 tons!
These butterflies weren't really menacing Anthony. I think he was just having a yellow jacket flashback.
Now, this cobra, on the other hand...yeah, that's pretty scary. You should probably run from that.
Imaginary Worlds includes many other sculptures, including a unicorn, two dancing fish in a fountain, and a very life-like shaggy dog. Check out the exhibit if you get a chance. It's really cool, and it runs through October, so you have plenty of time!
Last night Anthony and I went to the Decatur Library for an author talk by Mark Kurlansky. (The event actually got moved to the church next door because the library's air conditioner wasn't working. Ironically, the church was freezing cold.) I haven't actually read any of his books, but Anthony has, and I'm always up for a good literary event.
Crappy photo. The lighting in there was wonky.
Kurlansky spoke about his latest book, Ready For A Brand New Beat: How “Dancing In The Street” Became An Anthem For A Changing America. Yes, the whole book is really about this one Martha & The Vandellas song, its creation, and the socio-political context in which it became popular. He did extensive research, interviewing everyone from the songwriters (well, not Marvin Gaye...) and Martha Reeves herself, to DJs who helped make the tune a hit, to H. Rap Brown, who adopted it as a Black Power anthem.
While Martha swears that when she recorded it, she thought of "Dancing" as only a fun party song, it quickly morphed into something much bigger than that. With this book, Kurlansky wants to examine that eternal artistic question--who really creates the meaning of a song/painting/novel/etc.? If the writers/singers/etc. intend it to express one thing, but other people get something else out of it, is that alternate meaning any less valid than the original one? And what happens when the new meaning begins to overshadow the artists' original intentions?
I'm fascinated by people like Kurlansky, who can completely immerse themselves in one extremely specific subject, because that is sooo not me. Kurlansky is the same guy who wrote Salt: A World History and Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, among others. The whole time Anthony was reading Salt, he was constantly regaling me with salt-related trivia (spoiler alert: apparently everything that has ever happened, everywhere, basically happened because of salt). It was surprisingly fascinating.
Although I personally don't have the resolve to delve deeply enough into the history of any single topic to write a whole book about it, sometimes it's interesting to read about the world as seen through that kind of very precise lens.
Do you like micro-histories? What are some of your favorites?
Today our friend Shawna invited us to join her and her kids at the Georgia Aquarium. Strangely, Anthony and I had never been there. We felt like tourists in our own town!
There's nothing like a visit to an aquarium to remind you what an incredible world we live in, full of so many weird, wacky creatures. Such a huge variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and amazing adaptations.
There's also nothing like a visit to an aquarium to remind you how hard it is to photograph wildlife, even when it's in captivity. But I did my best.
Manta ray "flying" overhead as we walked through the tank tunnel.
If there's anything cuter than an otter, I don't want to know what it is.
This guy is the Grumpy Cat of the frog kingdom.
Giant tank of Pacific Sea Nettles. One of the coolest things I've ever seen.
Seriously, I could have stared at the Pacific Sea Nettles for hours. I really wished I had a better camera to capture their amazing colors and textures. Here is a video of some at another aquarium. They are so very strange, but so graceful and mesmerizing.
Now, I might not be a great nature photographer, but if there's one type of photography I excel at, it's shots of me and my loved ones being wacky. So we have plenty of those from this outing as well.
My husband made a new friend.
Shawna's kids liked posing for this photo okay, but...
...not nearly as much as Shawna and I did. :)
Gift shop sword fight!
More antics in the gift shop.
The pictures I'm in, Anthony took those, while rolling his eyes and making his "I can't take her anywhere" face. But he did it anyway, because humoring me is one of his superpowers.
All in all, a fun and fascinating day at the Aquarium. And to top it off, when we came back outside, we saw this:
First time in a week we've had blue sky for more than five minutes.