“Autumn Leaves” was one of the songs I had to learn to play when I took piano lessons as a grader schooler. It was torture! Not because it was a bad song — it’s gorgeous — but because I have two left hands when it comes to making music.
I make better music with my camera. Here are some photographs of autumn leaves and flowers taken in mid-October in my neighborhood. I took some of these photographs in a nearby woods that is, unfortunately for us and the animals that live there, slated for development.
Be sure to take the poll at the bottom of this post. And listen (see below) to Eve Cassidy’s hauntingly beautiful version of “Autumn Leaves,” which bears no resemblance to the plunky sounds I made as a mediocre pianist.
I didn't see the Cloudless Sulphur butterfly on the sunflower on the left when I was taking this photograph. Very clever, these butterflies, to look like petals and leaves.
Poison Ivy is very beautiful in the fall.
A tiny beetle hangs out on this thistle.
Asters are a home for all sorts of insects. It's the Waldorf Aster-oria.
I don't know what this flower is called, but it's certainly beautiful.
The crabapple trees in the neighbhorhood are weighed down with fruit.
This is a scenic spot along the walking trail I like to take.
I don't have to tell you what kind of leaves these are! Without red maple leaves, we'd have to cancel autumn.
An abundance of crabapples.
Pampas grass turns a lovely shade of purple in the fall.
Eva Cassidy’s version of “Autumn Leaves.” Beautiful, but very meloncholy. Get out your hankies.
A hard freeze is forecast for tonight so I’ve been washing off my outdoor potted plants and rolling them indoors in my decrepit little red wagon. I’ll worry later about finding them sunshine in the walkout basement.
I just cut the last of the basil to make pesto. Basil is the first to die when the temperature hits freezing, so I couldn’t dawdle any longer. Making pesto is a pain in the posterior, but I’ll be sorry if a freeze kills my basil. The bees love the basil flowers, so I hope they can find hardier flowers tomorrow. Eventually, they’ll tuck themselves in for the winter. Where, I wonder?
My pesto recipe is to throw all of washed leaves (picking off the leaves is tedious) into a cuisinart with some olive oil and pine nuts and then whirl until it’s finely chopped into a paste. Form into balls on a plate and freeze. (My fingernails turn green….) Remove the frozen balls from the plate (sometimes I have to hack them off) and put into a bag to store in your freezer. You can toss onto hot pasta or into a marinara sauce later when you want a taste of summer time. You can add garlic and Parmesan cheese, if you want. Salt to taste.
John F. Kennedy’s opening statement during the 1960 presidential debate.
My first airplane trip, my first (and, thankfully, only) airplane emergency landing and my “sighting” of John F. Kennedy all happened on the same day. That day began my fascination with politics. Fortunately, it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for travel, either.
November 20, 1959. I was seven years old. My father’s father had just died, and my mother, baby brother and I were on our way to the funeral in Sturgis, South Dakota. My father and a sister and brother were already there. I missed my grandpa, but I was excited about my first airplane ride.
A poster like this one greeted my mother and I at the Wichita, Kansas, airport, in November 1959. Kennedy had stopped by to speak to supporters.
Our trip began at the airport in Wichita, the air capital. My father was an engineer for Boeing in Wichita, and his enthusiasm for airplanes was infectious. Airplanes roared overhead all day, every day. I loved the noise. It thrilled me. Now I was going to fly in one of “my father’s” airplanes.
As we walked to our gate, my mother paused at a poster of a man with a huge smile.
“John F. Kennedy is speaking here today,” she said. “He’s running for president.”
Kennedy hadn’t officially announced — he’d do that in January 1960 — but he was gathering support across the country. I’d heard his name during the last time we’d visited my grandfather as the relatives talked about current events. Here was a Catholic candidate who had the first real chance to be president. I wasn’t sure what the problem was. Nearly everyone I knew was Catholic. How could that be bad?
Even so, not all of my Catholic relatives voted for Kennedy, I later learned. They didn’t let religious affiliation trump their political views, although they felt an affinity to Kennedy.
As Catholics, my relatives were also talking about the Third Secret of Fatima, which was supposed to be revealed in 1960. What was the secret? Would the Soviet Union be converted to Christianity? Would it be the end of the world? I was fascinated and scared.
We settled into our seats on the TWA Boeing jet. The first leg of our trip would take us to Denver. My mother held my nine-month-old brother as we buckled in and waited to take off.
“Do you see Kennedy?” my mother asked, looking out the window of our airplane.
I saw a large crowd gathered on the pavement beyond our airplane.
She pointed. “There he is. See?”
After Kennedy was assassinated, I mailed a drawing and a letter of condolence to Jackie Kennedy. Like the rest of the country, I was deeply shocked by his death. I received this photograph in return. I was eleven.
Everyone was so small, I couldn’t tell one person from the next. I nodded anyway. I wanted to think I saw him. I definitely was going to tell all of my friends at school that I had.
I didn’t realize we were witnessing the beginning of a new age in campaigning. Kennedy and his staff used all the modern tools of the day: air travel, television, advance men who arranged for huge, friendly crowds to meet him and then make sure these crowds were depicted in the news. It was the first modern campaign, according to Gary A. Donaldson, who wrote a book by the same name.
My mother, brother and I took a Frontier propeller airplane from Denver, headed for Rapid City. A stewardess came by, offering us water, milk or hot cocoa. She also asked us in Spanish and French. We hadn’t been in the air very long, when smoke started to fill the airplane. One of the engines was on fire. The pilot made an emergency landing in Alliance, Nebraska, where we crammed into a tiny airport for twelve hours. At first there was nothing to eat but glazed donuts brought in from a nearby shop. Later, sandwiches were delivered, but I was already stuffed on donuts. (Homer Simpson would be proud.) I didn’t have anywhere to sit so I lay under my mother’s chair. She had my baby brother to tend to. Now that I’ve had my own children, I know how stressful the experience must have been.
I was so excited when I saw this envelope (cropped) in the mail. I wondered why there wasn't a stamp or a postmark, but my mother explained that the envelope was "franked" with Jacqueline Kennedy's signature. Jackie Kennedy was allowed to mail envelopes without a stamp to respond to all of the people who wrote to her with their condolences.
We finally made it to Rapid City on another airplane. When we got there, we found out that the airline had told my father that we were spending the night in Nebraska, so he’d left. Luckily, a family friend who’d been on our flight from Denver drove us to Sturgis, where we met my father and grandmother at my grandparents’ hotel. It was one of the last times I’d ever stay at the Fruth Hotel, a scene of so many happy childhood memories. We said good-bye to my grandfather, who had been an important figure in my life.
You don’t forget something like an engine fire, but even at my young age I realized that Kennedy was the most exciting part of the flight. Everyone at St. Mary’s grade school was excited about Kennedy’s candidacy when he finally announced it. Even though I was just a second-grader, I felt I was a part of history because I’d kind of, sort of, maybe saw Kennedy.
Students named Kennedy and Nixon attended our grade school, so we had informal mock elections. Even though it was a Catholic school, we were in a Republican state, so it wasn’t entirely one-sided. My parents had followed the career of Dwight Eisenhower when we lived in Alexandria, Virginia, where I was born. They had gone to the airport once to see him arrive with Mamie and get into a limousine. And now we lived in Eisenhower’s state.
Jackie Kennedy: A Front Runner's Appealing Wife. Life Magazine, August 24, 1959.
The students in my school cheered when Kennedy was elected. His words “Ask not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” rang across the country and are still often repeated.
This was the time in my life when I began to look to the wider world. It was an awakening, which was both engrossing and frightening.
A couple of months after his inauguration, Kennedy established the the Peace Corps. The Bay of Pigs invasion disaster a few months later in April 1961 took the shine off of the new president’s glow. More anxiety was created when the The Berlin Wall appeared on August 13, 1961 (my birthday).
We trooped to the school cafeteria to watch rockets launched into space. We worried about the Soviet Union surpassing us in the space race.John Glenn orbited the earth in 1962. Also in 1962, The Cuban Missile Crisis was the first time I was really frightened and realized that the world could be a very dangerous place. There was a growing interest in fallout shelters. Eighteen Titan II Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) complexes were located in the farmland around Wichita, adding to our anxiety. (I later toured a silo with my Girl Scout troop during high school.) We knew that nearby McConnell Air Force Base and Boeing’s military airplane factory could be targets. There were many who didn’t like Kennedy and much we didn’t learn about until later, but in my world, his presidency marked the first and last time I was enthusiastic about a president. Perhaps, it was the naivete of youth. Cynicism creeps in as you realize how fallible our leaders are. The Vietnam War darkened my outlook even more.
The launch of astronaut John Glenn's "Friendship 7."
The American people fell in love with Jacqueline Kennedy. Her charm, beauty, sophistication and glamor was as appealing, if not more so, than her husband’s. I was crazy about her, myself.
Jackie Kennedy seemed to be on the cover of every popular magazine. She wanted to make sure the White House was a private home for her family but recognized that it as also a national institution. She formed the White House Historical Association to help in restoring the building. Her filmed tour of the redecorated White house was broadcast to 50 million people on television on Valentine’s Day 1962. I was one of those 50 million. She received an honorary Emmy Award for her achievement. I remember her efforts towards the preservation of Egyptian antiquities from the flood waters of the new Aswan Dam in Egypt. I became very enthusiastic about Egypt when I saw it featured in Life Magazine, a major source of my news about the world (along with National Geographic.) I became enamored of Elizabeth Taylor and her role as Cleopatra. She and Jackie seemed to alternate on the cover of popular magazines.
Jacqueline Kennedy requested the eternal flame for her husband's grave. Above is Arlington House, the home of Robert E. Lee, who left it at the onset of the Civil War. He and his family never returned, and now the land is the site of the national cemetery and the Pentagon. I visited Arlington for the first time as an adult this year.
Four years after that day at the Wichita airport, I was cutting out paper turkeys in my sixth grade art class for Thanksgiving decorations when an ashen-faced Sister Kathleen came into our classroom to tell us that President Kennedy had been shot. It was November 22, 1963. Over the next few days, we were in shock as we watched the events unfold on television. Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in, Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, the funeral cortege with Jackie, Caroline and little John John saluting as his father’s casket passed, the horse with the backwards boots. It was the first national mourning for a president on television.
For more about John F. Kennedy, including links to audio and video clips, go to John F. Kennedy.
Here’s a video about Jacqueline Kennedy, including her work on the restoration of the White House. The next video is more of the Kennedy-Nixon presidential debates.
All Hallow’s Eve. Lost, we creep along a dark road toward a lighted porch. A chilly wind rushes past, dry leaves dancing in its wake. We shiver. Is it the cold? Or is it fear? A dog howls. We hear rustling in the brush.
“Hurry!” We almost reach the porch. My foot is on the step. The porch light begins to flicker. Behind us, the rustling becomes shuffling and scratching. I turn to see horrifying creatures descending upon us, staggering, groaning, screeching, grunting, howling and hungry. “Let us in,” we bang on the door.
What are these monsters? Zombies! We’re doomed.
Zombies have taken over the scary scene, devouring all of the other frightening creatures in the night. Ghosts, vampires, witches? Old news. There are even acting and make-up classes for zombies to get that just-dead look in the eyes and the right amount of blood dripping from the mouth.
But what is a zombie? Popular culture says it’s a flesh-eating re-animated dead person. But the original flesh-eating creature is the ghoul, from the Arabic ghul, which means “to seize.” A ghoul is an evil spirit or revived corpse that robs graves and feeds on human corpses.
Zombies traditionally weren’t cannibals. Zombie refers to the “living dead” who were revived by sorcerers, according to folklore. Others never died but had their souls stolen by evil magicians. Zombies are docile, have glassy, empty eyes and lack will, memory or emotion. They aren’t the flesh-thirsty demons of the movies. A neurotoxin from a saltwater fish, called tetrodotoxin, can also induce a zombie-like state and may have led to some zombie stories.
Why are people so fascinated with zombies.? Could it be that their vacant humanity can be more frightening than any alien monster? The worst zombie (actually a ghoul) is someone you once loved who has now turned on you. Who can’t relate to that horror? Scores of books and movies have been written and made on the subject. Last year, a nephew requested “The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead” for Christmas. You never know when a zombie might show up looking for more than a turkey leg.
To sort out the differences, history and legends, go to Zombies and Ghouls.
This honey bee found a paradise at a local nursery.
After waiting in vain with my camera for butterflies to pass through my neighborhood a few weeks ago, I went to a very large local nursery that features hundreds of thousands of plants. (It sounds as if I spend way too much time chasing butterflies……) Even there, I didn’t see many butterflies, so I focused on bees, which were loaded down with bright orange pollen. For more of my bee and butterfly photos, scroll down to the next post or use my search box for other posts. Click on the photos for a better view. If you’ve visited my blog before, you know I’m big on pushing the protection of pollinators. Here are two informative sites: Monarch Watch and The Pollination Partnership.
So many flowers, so little time.
This Cloudless Sulphur butterfly knows where to find lunch.
Several ruby-throated hummingbirds appeared at this feeder almost as soon as it was hung at a waterfront home at the Grand Lake of the Cherokees, Oklahoma, in mid-September. Hummingbirds are territorial so they all fought to make it their personal feeding station.
In 2007, there weren't many bees in my garden. This year, a "swarm" of honey bees appeared, along with carpenter bees, in my basil plants.
My enthusiasm for bees sky-rocketed last year when I discovered that I wasn’t getting any squash, because I had no bees to pollinate them. I had to do the job myself with an artist’s paintbrush. My harvest? Ten squash. I’m a terrible match-maker! It’s easier to attract bees to do the work. They know what they’re doing. They’re like match.com for fruits and vegetables.
Pollinators are essential to our food supply, and not just in our backyards. Eighty percent of the world’s food crops depend on some kind of pollinator.
I already miss the ruby-throated hummingbirds and butterflies that passed through our yard or made it their home this summer and early fall. The bees are still busy in the basil flowers, so I’m waiting to cut the plants for pesto. I’m also lazy.
My husband took down the hummingbird feeder a few days ago after not seeing “our” ruby-throated hummingbird for more than a week. The tiny bird has left Kansas City and is on his way to southern Mexico for the winter. Adios! I loved watching him come to the feeder at the window. Occasionally, a visiting hummingbird would stop at the feeder, and there would be a “dog fight” in the air as the resident bird dive bombed and chased the intruder.
I didn’t see as many butterflies this year as last. We had a colder, wetter spring, which reduced their numbers. Hopefully, their numbers will bounce back after our lush, wet summer resplendent with flowering plants.
A male carpenter bee on a basil flower.
What I really want to show you are my photographs, including those below. Don’t miss them! Be sure to click on them to get a better look. For my other posts and photographs on ruby-throated hummingbirds, butterflies, caterpillars and bees, use my search box.
Two honeybees find nectar on wildflowers in a park. Wild areas provide much-needed food sources for bees, but more natural habitat is being lost to development. Too often beautiful native plants are mowed down.
A Monarch butterfly finds nectar in the greenhouse at Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas.
A Zebra butterfly flutters in the greenhouse at Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas. I saw a Zebra flt through my yard this year. It flashed by so quickly I almost thought it was an hallucination -- or wishing thinking.
There are 3,500 species of skipper butterflies, and they seem to be be everywhere. They aren't very flashy, though, so you might not notice them. However, these mating skippers are making a spectacle of themselves in front of the Monarch Watch building at the University of Kansas. You can't not look!
I was so excited when this female ruby-throated hummingbird stopped by our backyard for a few days to visit the cardinal flowers I planted to attract her. She and butterflies pollinated these flowers, which are already forming seeds that I can plant next year to continue the cycle.
A Cloudless Sulphur butterfly is just a blur on an aster as it flits from flower to flower in the native prairie on the Sprint World Headquarters in Overland Park, Kansas. Sixty percent of Sprint's 240-acre campus is devoted to green space, including 60 acres of prairie grass and wildflowers and seven acres of ponds and wetlands. It's a wildlife paradise.
Here's why this beautiful flowering shrub is called "Butterfly Bush." These butterflies are in the butterfly garden at Powell Gardens in Lone Jack, Missouri, east of Kansas City.
Text and photographs by Catherine Sherman, all rights reserved, October 2008.
Vote for Me! I'll fix everything! I know what to do! Barack Obama and John McCain look unusually happy during their second presidential campaign debate on October 7. What kind of personality does it take to think you've got the right stuff to be the President of the United States?
If you think you’ve got what it takes to be the President of the United States, you might be a narcissist, according to a new study (See link below.) Wall Street traders and CEOs of financial companies might also score high on the narcissist chart. Congressional leaders, too. If only a big ego meant competence. But it doesn’t, as we’ve so unfortunately seen lately.
Narcissists like to be in charge, but the new study shows that narcissists don’t outperform others in leadership roles. Narcissists are egotistical types who exaggerate their talents and abilities and lack empathy for others. Their egos tell them that they can’t be wrong, even if they are. They don’t like to be questioned. They don’t tell the truth if a lie would be better. They need followers, known as “narcissistic supply.” Worst of all, they think it’s all about them and nothing about you!
Can we avoid them? It might be hard. They seem to gravitate toward leadership roles because that’s where the power and recognition is. Narcissists can be so charming at first. It’s not until they get into office that we find out the bitter truth. The best thing is to have a realistic attitude. These people are human, after all. Don’t expect miracles. Expect mistakes. Take action for your own life. And maybe we’ll get lucky and elect a president who really does want to serve the people.
Yes, I admit it. I was very excited when I saw this toad by the side of the road last week. When I was a child, I saw toads and frogs all of the time during the summer, but now it's rare to see them even though I'm outside almost as often.
This is the Year of the Frog. Although it’s late in the year, it’s not too late to raise awareness about the serious problems facing amphibians. Scientists believe that one-third to one-half of the earth’s 6,000 amphibian species, which have thrived for 360 million years, are in danger of extinction.
Habitat destruction is one serious threat, but the most immediate cause is a parasitic fungus called amphibian chytrid, a disease deadly to hundreds of amphibian species. It is quickly spreading, currently unstoppable and untreatable in the wild. The World Conservation Union called it the worst infectious disease ever recorded among vertebrates.
Amphibians are an essential part of the ecosystem as both predator and prey. We can’t lose them.
It may not be the prettiest cake, but it can be ready in five minutes. That's what makes it so dangerous.
Chris B. emailed this recipe to all of her friends, and we’re so grateful. She tells us we’re now only five minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or night. This makes it one of the most dangerous cake recipes in the world.
FIVE-MINUTE CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE
1 coffee mug
4 tablespoons flour (plain, not self-rising)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
some chopped nuts (optional)
small dash of vanilla
Add dry ingredients to mug and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips and nuts (if using) and vanilla. Mix again. Cook in the microwave for three minutes on high. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don’t be alarmed!
Allow to cool a little. Tip out onto a plate, if desired, or spoon it right out of the mug. This can serve two people, if you’re willing to share. It’s very rich and dense. It reminds me of a fallen chocolate souffle — nothing wrong with that! Let it cool a little, but it’s best warm.
I used a soup mug for the cake in the photo. The cake didn’t rise above the rim, but it still baked well. I’ve made a vegan version using egg substitute and replaced the milk with water, and it was still tasty. Just don’t skimp on the cocoa!