What Dog Days of summer?

waitingforharvestbybrucestambaugh
Waiting for harvest. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The summer of 2014 was so cool and quiet that the Dog Days hardly even growled, until recently. Even then, it wasn’t much more than a whimper.

Of course, there are scientific theorems and meteorological terms that offer up logical reasons for the unseasonably cool summertime weather we have experienced here in northeast Ohio. I won’t pretend to describe or pronounce them. To do that, I’d actually have to understand them first.

I did hear a meteorologist say that the weather system in place over us was akin to the polar vortex that vexed us all winter and spring. With these late summer steamy days, I think I finally thawed out from that inhospitable experience.

I never imagined that that strong system would continue to influence our weather well into the summer. But it did, and I’m glad. Hot, humid weather and I aren’t best buddies.

After all you could always put more clothes on if you’re too cold. But you can only take so much off when summer throws a temperature tantrum.

summeroasisbybrucestambaugh
This has been a recurring scene in Holmes County, Ohio this summer, with saturated lowlands, and verdant hillsides. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

After the long, cold, snowy winter followed by the extended, chilly, wet spring, I feared a mostly hot, dry summer. That happened at too many other places around the country and the globe, but not here. The greater Holmes County area has been transfixed in its own little verdant oasis.

Despite the last minute warm up, this summer may turn out to be one of the coolest and wettest on record. If it is, I won’t complain. Then, again, my basement didn’t flood either.

Anecdotal evidence supports my assertions. Even horse drawn reapers couldn’t get through their hayfields to make the first cutting. The extra tall and thick legumes they attempted to mow bound up the machines.

The number of days the high temperature hit 90 could be counted on one hand. No 100 days were recorded. I was awakened at night more by cool breeze blowing through the screens than the air conditioner winding up beneath our bedroom windows.

I packed clothes for all four seasons for our weeklong family vacation on Lake Erie’s southern shore. My layered attire proved most practical.

flowergardenbybrucestambaugh
Flower garden. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

My wife’s flower gardens were gorgeous, the blossoms bright, big and beautiful. Our heirloom tomatoes seem to love this weather as well. They are the largest and most plentiful we have ever grown. The load of manure our Amish neighbor delivered probably helped, too.

Lawn care professionals, excavators, painters and construction workers struggled to keep up with their promised jobs. The grass grew so fast even the earthworms had to get out of the way.

It was so cool driving along the interstate in New York, I was certain snow was drifting on Lake Erie’s ice pack. My passengers assured me the drifts were huge whitecaps breaking. Nevertheless, I still wore my hoodie when we stopped for a much needed break.

I realize that summer isn’t officially over yet, and additional heat and humidity is still possible. But with both the bird migration and the new school year in full swing, the time has long passed for summer’s warmest days.

Besides, if you’re sharp, you’ll notice that the leaves on some luscious deciduous trees have already begun to blush their warm fall colors. Minute by minute, sunrise is later each day, and sunset sooner.

With that in mind, the Dog Days of summer, as tardy as they were, should stop barking any day now. For me, it can’t be too soon.

dogdayssunsetbybrucestambaugh
Dog Days sunset. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

Laundered rainbow

launderedrainbowbybrucestambaugh
Laundered rainbow. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

I shot this photo rather quickly. I was on an errand when these colors caught my eye. I stopped my vehicle, and took the photo out the window, zooming in between several trees.

Though mostly pastel, the colors appeared bright hanging on the laundry line in the late evening sun. It wasn’t until I downloaded the picture to my computer that I realized the personal aspect of the colors. They told a story all their own about the style preferences of the woman or women in this Amish family.

“Laundered rainbow” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

Feeling guilty about surviving cancer

foggyridebybrucestambaugh
Life sometimes is a foggy ride. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I wasn’t surprised when I got the word. Three years after my successful prostate cancer surgery, I remained cancer free.

Of course, I was glad, ecstatic really. But after getting the all clear from my doctor, I never celebrate, and I don’t gloat. I know I am one of the fortunate ones. Far too many people diagnosed with cancer never hear those blessed words, “cancer free.”

I had excellent doctors who expertly monitored and guided me through my journey. When it was decided to do the robotic surgery, I hoped and prayed for the best results.

rainbowbybrucestambaugh
A sign of promise. © Craig Stambaugh 2014.
Fortunately, my prayers were answered. Those of too many others with cancer have not been, will not be. At times, I feel bad about that, guilty even, sometimes to the point of depression.

I never know when those feelings will arise. I’m not even sure what triggers them. I just know at times I feel really sad for others, and guilty because I made it while others did not.

I recognized that an important first step in fighting this negativity was to personally acknowledge my situation, and seek the appropriate medical and therapeutic help. It’s good to be honest, especially with yourself.

It was also reassuring to learn that my anxiety propensity is fed by a genetic disorder only recently diagnosed. Medicine and diet help balance my emotions. That doesn’t eliminate my remorse, however.

Whenever I share these survivor guilt feelings with others, reactions vary from understanding to bewilderment. Some question the idea entirely, and wonder how in the world I could feel the way I do.

There is no easy answer, just like there is no good cancer. Cancer is cancer. Guilt is guilt, whether it is justified or not. Like so many other survivors, I ask the obvious questions. Why was I saved? Why were others not?

I am not sharing for sympathy. I do so for understanding, not for me so much as for all the others who suffer similarly.

I am not alone in dealing with this survivor’s guilt syndrome. The condition ranges far beyond the circles of cancer victims. Firefighters, military personnel, first responders, victims of violence all hurt likewise.

hopebybrucestambaugh
A sign of hope. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
The good news for me, besides being cancer free, is that I try not to let my sporadic despair overwhelm me to the point of hopelessness. I always have hope, and always hope the best for others.

I tell my own story when asked. But I found a pair of other actions far more helpful. Simply being there, and listening to others are both critical to cancer victims, their families and friends, and to survivors, too.

I have found a sincere presence, and kind, active listening beneficial healing approaches to all touched by this horrible disease. Such support encouraged me during my ordeal, and I try to do the same for others in need when and where I can. There seem to be too many opportunities lately.

I greatly appreciated the encouragement given by my loving wife and family. I also belong to a very supportive small group with other cancer survivors and victims. We share openly and honestly with one another, without judgment or shame. We meet regularly to stay in touch with how each of us is doing on our cancer journey.

Still, when that dreaded guilt shows its ugly face, I know what to do. I visit and I listen. Purposeful focusing on the needs of others helps me heal, too.

liferenewingbybrucestambaugh
Life renewing. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

Dancing denim

dancingdenimbybrucestambaugh
Dancing denim. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

This laundry line on an Amish farmstead near Mt. Hope, Ohio caught my attention. The faded red barn siding and the bright white of the roofing nicely highlighted the blue-gray of the homemade denim pants sailing in the evening wind.

“Dancing denim” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

Walking runs in the family

longputtbybrucestambaugh
Our son, second from left, hits a long putt on one of the 100 holes of golf he played recently in one day. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I have found walking soothes the soul. It’s my favorite form of exercise.

As I’ve shared before, I wander regularly on a nearby township road that runs east and west down into a wide, fertile valley. The majority of the land serves as pasture and cropland.

A few residences stand along its path, close to the frontage. Long gravel lanes grace a couple of the homesteads, one on a hill overlooking the splendor, the other where an unnamed creek lazily flows beneath the chip and seal roadway.

redheadedwoodpeckerbybrucestambaugh
Red-headed Woodpecker. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
It’s there that Red-headed Woodpeckers squawk from an ancient sugar maple tree, and swoop across the road to groves of black locust and black walnut trees, locusts on one side, walnuts on the other, the curvy creek trickling in between. There, too, Holsteins often slurp the pooled water they have just muddied.

I usually keep to the center of the road where the footing is flatter. Even with my diminished hearing, I can detect motorized vehicles and horse-drawn carts and buggies long before I need to scoot to the side.

It’s the quarter mile from my house to my walking road that scares me, which is why I wear a bright yellow hat and a reflective armband, even in the daytime. Still, I step aside when cars and trucks whizz by.

I enjoy my walk for more than exercise. Melodious songbirds, dashing flycatchers and gregarious swallows seemed to have grown used to me. They seldom leave their perches on phone lines and tree snags as I pass. Even the horses and cows pay me little heed. I embrace their acceptance.

Given all that, I appreciated a challenging trek my son, Nathan, recently completed even more. I walk for personal, positive health. Nathan’s effort was for a regional charity, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of East Central Ohio. They connect volunteer mentors with children desiring proper adult guidance.

Nathan walked 100 holes of golf in one day. He wasn’t alone.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For the second year in a row, Nathan and another member of the charity’s board of overseers completed what is officially titled the Hundred Hole Hike. Each golfer recruited people and businesses to pledge money for the event to raise funds for this good cause.

If you’re familiar with the game, golfing 100 holes in a single day sounds insane. The sponsor organization’s rules required they walk the entire time.

The two had excellent assistance throughout the day. Caddies kept them hydrated in the hot August sun, and provided energy foods along the way. To save time, they also produced the right club to play each shot.

morningridebybrucestambaugh
Morning ride. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
Even then, the entire effort took 13 hours, and for Nathan, 424 shots. They started before sunup in the fog, and finished in the twilight beneath the glow of a brilliant, ivory half-moon.

By then, Nathan and his partner were exhausted. Their feet were blistered and their muscles ached. They logged 33 miles each.

My wife and I, riding in a golf cart, joined them for the last 20 holes. The fairway gallery also included three deer, russet in the evening sun. At the last hole, we joined other supporters in congratulating Nathan and Josh as they concluded the humanitarian, fatiguing endeavor.

I’m grateful to live where I can walk regularly in a lovely rural setting. I’m even more grateful for a son who cares enough for others that he walked far beyond the second mile for them.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

On the fence

onthefencebybrucestambaugh
On the fence. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

This decorative arrangement of birdhouses on this backyard fence in Lakeside, Ohio really caught my eye. My wife and I were on a tour of various cottages in the quaint Chautauqua town. As we exited a cottage into the backyard, the sun beautifully illuminated this eye-catching display.

“On the fence” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

An international rendezvous

sailboatbybrucestambaugh
Salient scene. © Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

When a friend learned that I was traveling across the border to the Niagara Falls region in Canada, she lightheartedly instructed me not to create any international incidents. She need not have worried.

My wife and I traversed a bridge over the churning Niagara River for peaceful purposes only. We had scheduled a reunion with some Ontario friends. The historic town of Niagara-on-the-Lake served as the point of rendezvous.

As it turned out, it was the ideal spot for our gathering, especially given the historical implications of the town and our connections with our acquaintances. We had known one couple, Ken and Ruth, for years. The other friends, neighbors to Ken and Ruth, we had met only last winter in Fernandina Beach, Florida of all places.

historictownbybrucestambaugh
A typical scene in Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
Ken and Ruth’s neighbors just happened to winter on Amelia Island, Florida. Knowing that we spent part of the winter there as well, Ruth suggested we meet up with Don and Gail. What a blessed suggestion it was, too.

Neva and I immediately hit it off with them. Just like we did with Ken and Ruth, we shared common interests, and enjoyed each other’s company and conversation.

After touring the historic Niagara town and enjoying a lovely lunch, we sat on two benches, men on one, women on the other, just like three old couples would in a park. That’s probably because we were three old couples, and we were in a park.

Old, of course, is a relative term. We were all grandparents, but to hear us cackling on that glorious day, we more likely resembled teenagers. Life has those golden moments you know. When it does, you want to harvest their nurturing bounty.

Sitting under those giant shade trees, we laughed, inquired, listened, observed, and pondered what life had brought us, and would bring us still. It’s what good friends do no matter what nationality.

friendlystrangersbybrucestambaugh
Friendly strangers. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
The setting, Queen’s Royal Park, seemed more than appropriate. Located along the town’s waterfront where the mouth of the Niagara River opened into Lake Ontario, sailboats, fishing boats and speedboats glided by.

On the opposite shore stood historic Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown, New York. This particular location had been the scene of many battles since the 18th century. We had a clear view of the impressive fort, and heard muskets fired during a battle reenactment.

Multi-nationalities had claimed these lands and waterways over the centuries. Native Americans, French, English, and Americans had all fought for this once strategic military position.

circleoffriendsbybrucestambaugh
This circle of colorful chairs in a side yard near the park symbolized our gathering. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
Though our little group represented several countries, our meeting was more than congenial. Among the six of us, one was born in England, one Bermuda, two in Ontario, and my wife and I in Ohio.

Our weapon of choice was sarcasm. I blamed the cool, wet summer weather on imaginary Ontario icebergs. My friends returned volleys of witticisms of their own. No injuries resulted from the friendly bantering.

During any visit to the Niagara Falls region, the global attraction to this magnetic place is obvious. We encountered cultural dress, various native languages, and many ethnicities wherever we went.

When we asked a stranger with a Caribbean accent to take photographs of our group, he gladly obliged. I wasn’t surprised. He and his companions were enjoying the same fair weather, agreeable setting and pleasing vistas as us. It was the perfect recipe for an amicable afternoon reunion of international friends all around.

The only significant shots we fired were with our cameras.

oldfriendsbybrucestambaugh
The rendezvous. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.