Monthly Archives: March 2016

Nature Nurture

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Most of us know that we feel better after a walk in the woods, but now science is actually quantifying the fact that simply being outdoors improves our health.

A Japanese researcher studied people after they had walked in a forest and found that overall they showed a 16 percent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, a 2 percent drop in blood pressure, and a 4 percent drop in heart rate.DSCF0184DSCF0186Dutch researchers found a lower incidence of 15 diseases – including depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and migraines – in people who lived within about a half mile of green space.

University of Michigan researchers found that a 50-minute walk in an arboretum improved attention skills, such as short-term memory.DSCF0185Yet, American adults spend less time outdoors than they do in their vehicles and only about 10 percent of American teenagers spend time outside each day.

Let nature nurture you.  Go outside and take a walk.

Listen to The Old Lady!DSCF0173NOTE:  All information taken from an article titled This Is Your Brain On Nature, by Florence Williams, in National Geographic magazine January 2016

Moovin’ on Up

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It was near Newberry, Florida, that The Old Lady observed the very rare Feral Florida Forest Cow.DSCF0170Not the shy, gentle creatures of fertilized and homogenized green pasturelands, these tough, stringy, and wily bovines have broken barns and fences to return to the wild pinelands from whence they came.DSCF0172The Old Lady did not approach too closely lest she risk the Forest Cows’ instinctively vicious defenses.

Besides, she felt a certain respect for their desire to wander and be free of fences and barns.DSCF0175

“A Prisoner in Malta”

PrisonerThe plot of this latest mystery novel from Phillip Depoy takes the reader on an incredibly intricate journey of deceptions, double agents, and triple crosses in sixteenth-century western Europe.  It’s the sort of story that could only be created by a mind worthy of winning the Edgar Award, mystery writing’s highest honor… which Depoy did win, in 2002.

The protagonist of “Prisoner” is Christopher Marlowe, a historical figure about which not much is known for sure, which leaves the field wide open for Depoy to flesh out the young Marlowe’s first foray into spying.  The stakes are high and include the very life of Queen Elizabeth.

Not only does the plot deeply involve the reader and the action spice up the story, there are many things about Elizabethan England to be learned from this book.  What’s not to like?

The Old Lady highly recommends this book.

You can buy a copy at http://www.amazon.com/Prisoner-Malta-Christopher-Marlowe-Mystery/dp/1250058422/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459284303&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Prisoner+of+Malta

To find out more about the author, visit http://www.phillipdepoy.com/

Photo Courtesy of artsatl.com
Photo Courtesy of artsatl.com

Kebab Café

West of I-75 exit 39
West of I-75 exit 39

The billboard said Sunrise Diner and Kebab Express. How could The Old Lady resist?DSCF0063

The truck stop is unassuming, a bit old but freshly painted, and the bright signage clearly indicates the Sunrise Diner. The Old Lady wandered inside and asked a woman pushing a broom where the Kebab Express could be found.

“What kind you want, beef or chicken?” she asked. Then, squinting suspiciously, she demanded “How did you know about our kebabs?”

A toothless lady with her hair in an unkempt bun cooked the chicken on a grill. It was served on hot crispy buttery-tasting flaky bread, with a cup of what the cook called “chutney” but which looked more like a thin tzatziki sauce, green and herby.

The food was delicious. It was perfect road food, hot and easily eaten out of hand, leaving a spicy aftertaste that sent The Old Lady happily back out on the road.DSCF0065

An Ancient Ritual

DSCF0033Every spring an ancient ritual is performed in extreme south Georgia.DSCF0040DSCF0049The annual Blessing of the Crops at the BCT Gin in Brooks County draws on the time-shadowed tradition of asking for greater-than-human help in the success of the seeds sown by farmers.

Father Jim Elliott, Vicar of St. James’ Episcopal Church of Quitman
Father Jim Elliott, Vicar of St. James’ Episcopal Church of Quitman

The Brooks County event is Christian in nature because this is, after all, rural south Georgia and Muslims, Buddhists, and members of any other non-Judean belief system are mighty scarce. But the tradition predates Christianity. This ritual in its various forms continues from time immemorial through every land and every culture on the globe.

Seeds for principal products of Brooks County, GA (clockwise from top left: cotton, peanuts, soybeans, corn, and wheat)
Seeds for principal products of Brooks County, GA (clockwise from top left: cotton, peanuts, soybeans, corn, and wheat)

After the 2016 Blessing Van Murphy, who is the General Manager of BCT Gin and a pragmatic man who knows a great deal about crops in Brooks County, talked about some problems with last year’s harvest due to late rain. But he went on to say that “In December, we had two weeks of beautiful spring-like weather. I believe that was God’s doing, to allow us to get in the rest of the harvest. What we’re doing here, it works!”DSCF0057

Wild Childhood Mysteries

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Remember the wild places of your childhood, those mysterious spots where you could escape your parents and forget the adult world existed? Remember those wonderful destinations of long, unsupervised Saturdays and summers in a time when it was not only accepted but hoped that children would be neither seen nor heard until suppertime?

The Old Lady does, and she revisited one of the wild places she remembers from her childhood in southwest Atlanta.DSCF9922Cascade Springs lies far down the hill from the house The Old Lady grew up in, and was at that time hidden in the thick woods that used to surround many Atlanta suburban neighborhoods.

The Ancestral Homeplace of The Old Lady
The Ancestral Homeplace of The Old Lady

Turkeyfoot Creek runs under Cascade Road, down a series of small waterfalls, and is then fed by the Springs. The Old Lady was delighted to spot turkey foot tracks on a tiny sandy beach!DSCF9924DSCF9925The Old Lady’s big brother (He Who Holds Her Undying Adoration) and his buds used to hunt snakes and crawfish in Turkeyfoot Creek. When he got older, he used to take his metal detector through the area seeking Civil War relics. The Battle of Utoy Creek was fought in the area, part of the defense of the city of Atlanta against General Sherman’s army. The remains of a trench could be seen in The Old Lady’s backyard, and her mother often dug up century-old minie balls and bullets while gardening.

Left, minie ball; right, bullet.
Left, minie ball; right, bullet. Photo courtesy of The New York Times.

The springhouse is now part of the Cascade Springs Nature Preserve, and The Old Lady found the once-overgrown spot tamed and domesticated. The wild woods have been cleared, showing clearly the boulders that are the exposed elbows of the granite skeleton that makes up the underlying geology from Stone Mountain through the entire Atlanta area.DSCF9923Trails have been cut and marked. The springhouse, which used to be shrouded with bushes and vines, has been exposed so that the little side grottoes with benches can be clearly seen. Imagine how delightfully cool these niches would feel on a hot summer day!DSCF9928DSCF9933DSCF9931Tamed and domesticated it may be, but Cascade Springs still gave The Old Lady that same spooky and mysterious feeling she had as a child, almost as if one were being watched by the spirits of the Spring and the souls of slaughtered soldiers.  DSCF9926

‘Tis Spring; Come Out to Ramble

DSCF9785So says A.E. Houseman, and the Old Lady is quick to heed.

Spring, and the Old Lady’s heart turns to poetry:DSCF0009Spring has sprung

The grass has riz

I wonder where

The flowers is.DSCF9962Now ‘tis Spring,

The bird is on the wing.

That’s absurd!

The wing is on the bird!DSCF9800And one of the Old Lady’s very favorites:

Spring has sprung

Fall has fell

Winter’s here

And it’s cold as all get-out.DSCF9917