“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

Night of the Fairies

 

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I saw the first lone glittering light just after dark one evening last week, but the nights are still cool, going down to the low 40s. Still, I know the Night of the Fairies must be close; a few seasonably warm days and nights is all it will take. I will watch each night.

(Above) Rockwell Kent's illustration of Titania, from A Midsummer Night's Dream for The Complete Works of Shakespeare, the Cambridge Edition Text, 1936

 

I first saw this phenomenon in 1999, I think. It was astonishing. This event happens each year sometime after the spring equinox depending on how early we begin to get warm days and nights. Late March and early April days and nights in the lower South can come as a surprise. They whisper a promise just as winter is dying. Most of us gardeners end up planting our flowers too early in still cold soil, and they end up damaged or dead from the last inevitable cold spell.

This night was in early April, when the days warm up and linger for just a while into the night, nights for a fire in the patio fire pit, for wrapping up in a shawl, and for just sitting. This night I could barely see at the edge of the woods the silhouetted trees’ new growth. Spring would come.

My eyes on the wood’s growing darkness, dusk turned into early evening. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the darkness was transformed with small, twinkling lights rising in unison up from the earth.

A million glittering stars against a dark sky. A Fairy Woodland come to life. Shakespeare’s Titania and Oberon waking in spring before their midsummer night’s dream. Thumbelina. Tinkerbelle. Fairies from the children’s books my grandmother read to me. A spectacle of diamonds and crystals.

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(Left) Thumbelina's lily-leaf raft. Engraving from Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, 1872

 

 

 

As the glittering mass rose up from the wood’s bed of moist leaves, they began to float away from each other, some higher and higher, some drifting into the backyards of the surrounding houses, some toward the patio. They magically became fireflies for the upcoming summer.

“It must be the night they rise from hibernation,” I said out loud to no one. I stood transfixed.

The cold air caught my attention and I moved closer to the fire.

The fireflies continued this fantastical ritual for some nights to come, but as spring became early summer, they emerged from this place in fewer and fewer numbers. They simply appeared in the summer nights.

I wondered that night if this performance was some kind of gift or sign, never to return again, like a rainbow’s pot of gold.

Each year I have waited for this Night of the Fairies. It has returned year after year. It could happen tonight or tomorrow night.

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(Left) Available from the Web

 

 

 

 

But this special gift also brings some sadness. Several years after this first event, I asked my daughter to watch for it with me. It happened. I thought this kind of beauty could add something to my daughter’s dismal existence that was dominated by her addictions to drugs. She watched in what I thought was a sense of wonder.

“Oh, man,” she said. “This is cool. It’s like being on LSD.”

I think that night was my first intimation that my daughter’s kind of addiction is a lot bigger than herself and me and her father all put together. By then it seemed that the addictions were also bigger than treatment programs.

Unfortunately, that fear has been borne out.

Anyway, I will be watching the woods for the next several nights, waiting for this annual gift. I look forward to showing it to my granddaughter, Joanna Leigh.

 

ClipArtFairy3 (Left) Available from the Web

 

The Worm Moon 2010

Tonight, March 29, 2010, is the night of the Worm Moon. It sounds awful, but it’s beautiful. This year’s Worm Moon brought back memories of last year’s spring moon, which Spittin’ Grits explained in the September 6, 2009, post.

If it interests you, go over to the right column under Archives, beneath the Profile; click on 2009, September, and the title will be listed.

Another phenomenon happens in the next few nights that I call The Night of the Fairies; it will be the subject of the next post.

 

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Bumps and Bruises in the Night

The other night I came down the stairs well after midnight. As I stepped down the last stair, I heard the cow mooing. I walked into the den. It mooed again. Then the damned plastic penguin said, “Just smile and wave boys. Just smile and wave,” which it does when it shifts or moves.

I wanted to throw the animal puzzle into the fire along with the Happy Meal penguins, popular after the movie “Madagascar.” I kicked something in the dark. Whiiiirrrr, whirr, whir. It was that hateful little blue train engine again. It always took me a few minutes to figure that one out. I thought it might be the DVD player still running and eating up the DVD.

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The puzzle has a battery in it. When you lift up the frog and replace it in its shape, it goes, “Ribbit, ribbit.” The cat meows, the cow moos, etc., etc. I won’t be getting another talking puzzle.

Another of the penguins says something else every time you walked by. I turned it to the wall.

So, here I am, in my golden years, tripping over our almost three-year-old granddaughter’s puzzles and toys when falling and breaking a hip can be serious business.

I tripped over her a few nights ago. She was sitting on the floor of the kitchen just behind me, and I turned to walk away from the sink. She grabbed her leg and started crying. I’ve tripped over Patty the cat and Maggie the dog, but Joanna Leigh can say, “Mama Jo, why you do that?”

She wouldn’t understand if I said, “Sweetie, I’m just not very agile anymore.”

Last night I was looking in the cabinet under the sink for the roll of garbage bags. It was gone. I looked everywhere; I accused my husband of using them for something and forgetting what he did with them. This hacked him off. Then I got down on my hands and knees to peer deeper into the cabinet. When I still didn’t see the roll, I struggled to get back up.

“What you doing, Mama Jo?” said Joanna Leigh behind me.

What could I say?

Then my husband hit on the probable answer to the missing roll of garbage bags. “I’ll bet the baby threw them in the garbage.”

Bingo, I thought. She has seen us put a garbage bag from the roll “into the garbage can.” So, she put the whole thing in the garbage can. More is better.

Grandparents’ raising a grandchild is serious business, as the reasons a child is not with the parent(s) are usually because of bad situations. I expect that the 2010 Census will reveal many more than the supposed 6 million grandparents living with grandchildren.

So we get our laughs where we can.

 

Your Head in Virtual Clouds

Once upon a time several years ago, a computer-user, me, lost everything in a hard drive crash. It was a terrible lesson to have to learn. It felt like having been beaten up by some criminal. This computer-user had just enough saved on disks to get most pictures back. She had the operating system restored and some data; then she got an external backup drive that backed up automatically. She also stored some video and photos manually on this external drive.

But even with all those good intentions and actions, it happened again. She discovered that restoring from the auto back-up drive was a real pain. The files were recovered in some formats that just added to the aggravation.

But now, having gotten a new computer with Windows 7 and all the data restored, she discovered Clouds. And she lived happily ever after, so far.

So, what are Clouds?

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Photo: Cubi Da Montare by Francesco Marino

Clouds are these places on the Web that are yours, where you can stash your data, including documents, pictures, and videos. Then if you travel to Katmandu or Timbuktu,  all you have to do is get to a computer or have a smart phone and you can get to your stuff. You can make some public, so that if you are having coffee at a bookstore, you can call up pictures of your children and grandchildren. If you’re having a meeting, you can access last month’s minutes or an excel spreadsheet at your accountant’s office. If you want to make announcements to club or organization or school members, you can create a public documents folder with a password for members to access with.

Big Three Plus

The major players – Microsoft, Google, and Apple – have Clouds. Adobe has a Photoshop Cloud for their photo and video editing software users, of which I am one, which holds both photos and videos; while there are limits on Photoshop.com’s storage space, you can purchase more, which is important for storing video files, which are huge.

Most sites offer free storage, usually enough, especially if, like me, you use several different Clouds for different purposes. Naturally, you have to create an account at these sites, but that should be second nature now.

If you have an iPhone, you can pick up Apple’s MobileMe, their Cloud site, for about $100 a year. It offers iCal, iDisk for storage, e-mail, photo gallery, and other services. I will likely let MobileMe go when my account date expires.

If you have a Google gmail account, you have what amounts to a Cloud. After signing in, go to the upper left corner and click on “Documents.” You upload documents to this site. Its site for stashing and showing off photos is Picasa.

Microsoft’s offerings win the prize, however, but it can be confusing. Thanks to Tom Pogue at his New York Times blog, Pogue's Post, I understand the concoction of offerings.

First, go to www.windows.live.com. There you can set up an account. Once done, go to the top bar, go right, and click on “More.” On the drop-down, you’ll see “All Services.” That will give you an overview.

Here’s the concoction: There are two categories of Windows Live stuff – first, “Essentials,” software that you download on to your computer. Some is really good stuff, like a photo gallery, Messenger, Movie Maker, and Live Writer (which I use to create the posts for “Spittin’ Grits"). Movie Maker is used for turning your video clips into coherent “movies,” and although I now use Adobe Premiere Elements, MovieMaker is a good way to start out.

The second group comprises Live’s services, essentially those Clouds located on the Web rather than on your computer and accessible from everywhere you can get on the Internet. These include Events, an invitation service; Groups, a place for organizing and communicating with your groups, whether they are writing groups or book clubs or a family reunion space. Its Skydrive is the storage space, offering a lot of free external hard drive space.

Now, there’s actually a third component, Windows Live Mesh, which is still in beta (being developed and fine-tuned), but the up-and-coming thing in syncing folders located on different computers and devices. Storage and number of folders allowable to be synced is a bit limited, but will likely grow. You add your devices to a “desktop.” It looks like this:

Figure 1 Mesh Live Desktop

You register your “devices,” like your main computer and your laptop, and your data is synced.

What a happy ending. I love technology!

Road Trip to Grits

We were on a mission, MHM and I, when we set out last week headed north. The goal? Grits, really good grits. We entered some information into the GPS and set out for Wilsonville, Alabama.

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Never mind that we didn’t have a specific street address. We figured if we got to the Coosa River, we'd gone too far. We were just counting on something working out.

I discovered the existence of Wilsonville and its treasure in Glorious Grits by Susan McEwen McIntosh (reviewed in the November 22, 2009, post, categorized under Books and Grits in the right column of Spittin’ Grits) -- organic, stone-ground grits. I soon went on-line and ordered some. But that is simply not the same things as going there, to this small, Southern, little-known town with a population totaling in the very low thousands.

From Tuscaloosa, head north on I-459 around Birmingham and turn east onto highway 280 toward Atlanta. Wilsonville is as the crow flies due east of Tuscaloosa, but either no roads or bad back roads make it almost necessary to go north to get east. Keep going until you run out of all that built-up area that has made highway 280 a nightmare road. When sprawl turns into countryside, look for county road 25 South and turn right. Then just go, even without a street address, until you get there. You can’t miss it. It’s Coosa Valley Milling.

Wilsonville Grist Mill, McEwen & Sons

It all worked out. Notice THE traffic light in the lower left corner of the picture above.

The business, now a grist mill and hardware store, started out as a custom feed mill where farmers brought their grain to convert into feed for the animals. Bought in 1978 by father and son Ralph and Frank McEwen, the store today offers, in addition to the expected hardware products, Koi food, toys, equipment for the “discriminating horseman,” original Muckboot Scrub Boot, handmade silver jewelry, and the McEwen & Sons corn products. There’s no water wheel.

We were there for the corn products, beautifully packaged in blue foil adorned with the family crest. Very Southern indeed. To become products worthy of the packaging, organic corn kernels – yellow, white, and blue – go through the stone burr grist mill and are ground between two granite stones. The result is corn meal, grits, or polenta with all the natural germ, oil, and bran left intact. They should be refrigerated or frozen.

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Frank McEwen at the grist mill 

Frank McEwen (above) at the grist mill.

 

 

 

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The grist mill at work.

 

 

I’ve become a fan of yellow grits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Really, really good yellow grits cooking on my stove.

 

According to Frank McEwen, some of Birmingham’s best known chefs, like Frank Stitt, owner of Highlands Bar and Grill, are regular customers.

If you can’t get to Wilsonville, you can order on-line at www.mcewenandsons.com.

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