Thursday, May 17, 2018

My Running Route

I have always been a runner.  I can attest to the fact that running offers all kinds of benefits to well-being.

As a youth, I was one of the faster guys in track and baseball and tennis.  I became more serious and disciplined about running itself in college.  I ran some marathons in my twenties and have continued to run some distance regularly to this day.  My knees are not as forgiving as they were when I was younger so I limit myself to about 3-5 miles these days.  This past winter I experimented with a series of short, fast sprints since the amount of daylight I had available after work was scarce.  Sprinting offers some benefits over running.

But this time of year I can run every day if I choose.  Often my schedule does not allow it but I try to run 4-5 times each week.  Since I live in the countryside I simply run along the roads near my property.  There is very little traffic to worry about.  Sometimes when I run on Sunday mornings there is no traffic at all, which is a tranquil way to enjoy all this space.

So, I thought I'd share my running route with you.

The starting line, so to speak.  The road at the end of my driveway, facing north.  There is a very slight rise in the distance.

From the top of the rise I continue on to the intersection of another road.

I make a left turn at the intersection and run through the shade of some beautiful old oak trees that line the road.  There is a small hill in the distance.  We are facing west.

From the top of that hill it is a straight shot through some open pasture.

The road curves near a second intersection.  I turn around at that point, which is roughly 1.5 miles from my house.

At the turnaround point.  Facing east now.

And I run back through the wonderful open pasture space toward the hill again.

At the top of the hill facing east back through the line of old oak trees.

Then I make a right turn back onto the road by my house.

From the top of the small rise looking back toward where my driveway connects with the road.  This little 3/10's of a mile stretch is where I often do my sprinting.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Campaign for Atlanta: Resaca and Cassville

The situation on the evening of May 16, 1864 as indicated in my Atlanta Is Ours! wargame.  Johnston has retreated from Resaca and is heavily concentrated around Calhoun.  Sherman has taken up command at Resaca and has ordered Schofield's army and Hooker's corps to cross the Coosawattee River and threaten the Confederate right flank.  Meanwhile, he has also detached Davis' division (the lone Union unit to the right of this photo) to advance on Rome, Georgia. 

Close-up of the Confederate concentration and the Union flanking maneuver while McPherson's army attempts to hold Johnston in place.
Note: This is part two of an overview series on the 1864 Campaign for Atlanta.

Skirmishing continued for a few days around Dalton while McPherson's Army of the Tennessee dug in around Snake Creek Gap.  Sherman decided to send the bulk of his forces through the gap, following McPherson, before moving further south.  He also detached General Jefferson C. Davis' division from General John M. Palmer's Corps of Thomas' Army of the Cumberland to move independently toward Rome in order to secure that important city, which is where Confederate reinforcements were arriving from Mississippi and other points west of the campaign.   Schofield's Army of the Ohio, augmented with a couple of divisions from Thomas' army, tried to fix Johnston's fortified army in place.

By May 13, it was obvious to Johnston what Sherman was up to.  Having already sent three divisions south to Resaca, the Army of Tennessee disengaged from Dalton during the night and marched to Resaca, forming a concentrated defensive line protecting the lone bridge remaining over the Oostanaula River.  McPherson advanced again, this time along with Generals Joseph Hooker and Palmer, through Snake Creek Gap and eastward toward Resaca, driving a Confederate picket line back as the rest of Johnston's army entrenched.  

The ensuing Battle of Resaca was fought in several assaults by each side on May 14-15, 1864. The result was a tactical draw.  The Federals broke the Confederate line near the river, but the southerners managed to stop the Union advance short of the town.  The capture of a couple of small hills in this attack resulted in the Union taking up artillery positions and shelling the bridge at Resaca in an attempt to seal off Johnston's line of retreat.  General Leonidas Polk, who had now reinforced the Rebel army with one full division (General William W. Loring's) and several other assorted regiments, mounted a counterattack but failed to retake the lost hills.  As darkness fell, the continued shelling of the bridge at Resaca failed to score a hit, however.

A botched attack on General William J. Hardee's position by General Henry M. Judah's division in support of General Jacob D. Cox's division on May 14 resulted in heavy northern losses and, ultimately, in Judah's dismissal for mishandling his troops.  We know from his memoirs that Cox suffered about 700 casualties in this attack.  Judah's losses must have been greater.  Meanwhile, an advance by General David S. Stanley to secure the Union left flank was met with a counterattack by two divisions under General Hood.  Most of Stanley's men were routed but only one of Hood's divisions ever made contact with the Federal troops.  By the time the Confederates regrouped for pursuit it was late in the day and they were halted by Union artillery fire.

Probably the fiercest fighting at Resaca took place around a Confederate four-gun battery positioned to offer counter-fire against Union artillery.  In this engagement General Daniel Butterfield's division managed to drive the Confederates back and capture the guns.  These were the only artillery pieces captured by either side until the fall of Atlanta itself.  A second attack was planned by Johnston for Hood's corps on May 15, but was countermanded shortly after it began as Johnston received word that Union troops had successful fought their way across Lay's Ferry south of Resaca.  Once again Johnston's communications was threatened and he stealthily abandoned Resaca on the night of May 15.

Except for the Battle of Atlanta itself, the Battle of Resaca was the bloodiest of the Atlanta Campaign with more than 7,000 casualties in total.  The fighting convinced Sherman that using his superior numbers to attack entrenched positions was a bloody waste.  The battle informed his planning.  It would be another six weeks before he would attempt to attack Johnston again on such a scale. 

Johnston retreated to Calhoun and thought he might make a stand around Adairsville but the ground was not suitable for defense.  So, after another skirmish, he continued further south, and attempted to lay a trap for Sherman.  At a fork in the road, Johnston sent Hardee to Kingston to draw the bulk of Sherman's pursuit that way.  Meanwhile, Hood and Polk (now reinforced with another 4,500 troops, bringing the Confederate total to about 63,000) set up an ambush position near Cassville.  The hope was to attack and destroy the detached Army of the Ohio and Hooker's Corps.  But when Union cavalry arrived on Hood's right flank the attack was called off for fear of being enfiladed.  The "affair at Cassville" was aborted.

Much to the consternation of the Confederate government, Johnston continued to retreat.  His hope, which he never communicated to Richmond, was that with the bloody nose Sherman received at Resaca and the necessity of the Union armies to detach troops to protect each rail station, there might be an opportunity to concentrate a sizable portion of the Army of Tennessee against a fraction of Sherman's scattered armies.  As the Confederates received reinforcements and retreated closer to their source of supply, Sherman's army would grow somewhat weaker and further from his supply and communications source.  Sherman was well aware of the risks, however, and was cautious to avoid any engagement with the Confederates as long as his troops could outflank them.  
By May 23, Sherman crossed the Etowah River, moving south as rapidly as he could while protecting his wagon trains and the vital railroad. Johnston found more favorable terrain around Dallas and New Hope.  After failing at Adairsville and again at Cassville, it was there that the next stand would be attempted.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

My Daisies This Spring

Early each spring I start scouting my property for the first signs of daisies.  Every year I avoid mowing over them, allowing them to grow to their fullness.  Only after the seed head turns black with the mid-summer heat do I mow them down, hopefully ensuring that there will be plenty next spring.  I posted an example of their prolific nature back in 2013.

Their fullness and abundance naturally varies depending upon weather conditions.  2013 was a banner year in some respects, with a couple of large sections of daisies in my front yard and lower field.  I had similar luck in 2016 but we experienced an extended drought late that year and then an exceptionally cold winter after that. Most of the seeds I mulched into the ground just roasted in the sun or failed to get an early start due to the bitter chill.  There were few daisies last year.

But, thanks to more rain and better weather conditions, this year the daisies are once again fairly abundant.  This is my version of "gardening."  The past couple of years I have seeded Black-eyed Susans as well in the lower field.  After unimpressive beginnings it looks as though they are going to be abundant later this summer.  I'll post some photos of them when the time comes.

Spring is my second favorite season after fall.  The daisies are beautiful and tranquil to behold, adding to the overall feeling of place and beauty that I experience on my property.  Here's a sampling of what things look like this spring...

Compare this photo taken this past Saturday with the one above it from the Saturday before.  You can see the subtle changes that place over the course of one week's time.  More and more daisies are popping out every day this time of year.

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Campaign for Atlanta Begins

The May 10 situation for the Atlanta Campaign as depicted in my new wargame.  Johnston is fortified against Sherman along the rough high ground surrounding Dalton.  You can see the Confederate Supply Depot in Dalton and the Union Railhead at Tunnel Hill.  The red line is the railroad leading south (up) to Atlanta.  Hood is in command of a hodgepodge of Confederates digging in at Resaca.  McPherson is grouped at the mouth of Snake Creek Gap.  A lone Southern division with cavalry escort is positioned near McPherson.  

As you can see, Union troops are (dangerously) situated far to Johnston's rear with only a collection of various Southern forces to defend the vital rail bridge at Resaca.  All the bridges and ferries along the Oostanaula River south of Resaca have been destroyed as a precaution.  The campaign has begun but the heaviest fighting lies ahead.  North is to the lower left.
By 1864 our nation was showing signs of fatigue with respect to the Civil War that had engulfed it since early 1861.  In the North, men who enlisted earlier in the war were letting their term of service end, refusing to reenlist.  Draft riots would take place in New York City that summer.  The desire to subdue the rebellious South was at its lowest point since the war began.  Despite numerous Federal victories on battlefields from Gettysburg to Vicksburg, the heart of the Confederacy and its capital, Richmond, were no closer to surrender than it had been the previous three years. 

Meanwhile, Southerners were discouraged by one military defeat after another and by the economic hardship, high inflation, and a general lack of basic goods wrought by the successful Union blockcade of Southern ports.  But there was also cause for hope.  The election of 1864 was coming up.  President Abraham Lincoln was as unpopular in the North as ever.  Could it be possible to find peace through his defeat in the November election?  Hopes for a continued stalemate dissolving what was left of Northern will to fight were not unfounded.

So it was that Lincoln summoned his most reliable general, Ulysses S. Grant, to Washington in order to direct the overall war effort.  In the east he would accompany General George Meade's Army of the Potomac in relentlessly attacking General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.  In the west, Grant elevated General William T. Sherman to command of three armies, totaling 110,000 men against the Confederate Army of Tennessee with the dual objectives of preventing the Southerners from reinforcing Lee and to capture the major Southern transport hub at Atlanta.  It was hoped that meeting these combined objectives would be enough to give swift victory to the North.

Against Sherman, the Confederacy placed General Joseph E. Johnston in command of about 53,000 troops.  Entrenched around Dalton, Georgia, the Southerners rebuilt their army, shattered by the overwhelming defeat at Missionary Ridge in late 1863, into a force capable of delivering telling blows and tenacious defense, even if their numbers did not allow for an offensive into Tennessee for which politicians in Richmond hoped.

Sherman had three "armies" arrayed against Johnston.  The largest was the Army of the Cumberland commanded by General George H. Thomas with about 60,000 troops, larger than the entire Southern army and comprising over half of the total Northern force.  This was complimented by the Army of the Tennessee (Union armies were typically named for rivers while Confederate ones were name for States) under the command of General James B.  McPherson, brought east from Mississippi.  The Army of the Ohio (in fact little more than a reinforced corps) served under General John M. Schofield to round out the Union ranks.

Sherman's plan was pretty simple.  Fix the Confederates with probing attacks, keep them in place with the bulk of his forces while sending McPherson's army around Johnston's left flank to either cut it off from its communications and kill it or to force the Southerners to retreat.

By May 7, Sherman's armies approached Johnston's strong defenses along the ridge lines around Dalton.  By May 9, as heavy skirmishing continued at Dalton, McPherson emerged from Snake Creek Gap, an unguarded minor road leading through the mountainous area into the valley below.  McPherson approached the rail station at Resaca with the intent of driving the Confederate rearguard away and effectively cutting off Johnston's supply line and best route of retreat.  

McPherson grew cautious, however, when he discovered Resaca more fortified than he had previously thought.  Sherman failed to send more than a single regiment of cavalry with McPherson.  Without these "eyes" to scout and gather intelligence about the surrounding terrain, McPherson feared his attacking troops would be cut off from Snake Creek Gap, thus becoming trapped by their own maneuver.  

In reality, Johnston knew something was up near Resaca, though he had no clue as to the extent of the danger.  While the bulk of his army skirmished against the Federals around Dalton, he dispatched General John Bell Hood to command the assorted regiments assembled there and he sent a large Confederate division south to either reinforce Resaca if needed or return to Dalton if Sherman decided to launch a heavier assault.

Meeting heavy artillery and gun fire at Resaca from what appeared to be numerous troops in a heavily fortified position, McPherson decided to retreat back to the safety of Snake Creek Gap in order to protect his flank.  When he learned of McPherson's choice, Sherman chastised his subordinate that he had missed "the opportunity of a lifetime."  In fact, on May 9 the Federal troops outnumbered the Rebels at Resaca by more than 4 to 1.  That would soon change.

On May 10, Sherman decided to begin a general maneuver south.  If he could not take Resaca by surprise, he would attempt attempt to assault it with force, while making the most of his superior numbers to seek a crossing of the Oostanaula River and, once again, threaten Johnston's fragile and exposed line of communications.

The first major battle of the Atlanta Campaign was only a few days away.  This is the situation depicted in the photo above.  First contact in the campaign occurred 154 years ago today.

A couple of weeks ago, just in time for the historical recreation of the campaign, Multi-Man Publishing released Atlanta Is Ours! a game from their excellent Great Campaigns of the American Civil War series.  I own most of this series, which began to be published in the 1990's, and have played these games off and on for the past 25 years.  In future posts I will detail the Campaign for Atlanta as it historically unfolded and compare that history with what is depicted in the game.  My intent is to cover the history and the game in a series of blog posts all the way through the fall of Atlanta and beyond.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Bull Story

Some things have changed since I last posted about my dad's misadventures with his bull.  That bull was born on our family farm and has serviced cows on it for a number of years.  The bull was rather docile in its early life except for periods of breeding excitability, only occasionally causing problems with busting through fences.  Recently, however, the creature's rambunctiousness caused my dad to take more serious actions.

The bull exhibited more spiritedness than usual over the past breeding season.  My dad's fences and his pens for capturing and loading cattle are not in as good repair as they used to be and they are certainly not designed to handle an huge animal that has started acting crazy at times.  

It all started late last year when the bull kept getting into Reagan's adjacent property.  Dad reduced his total farming acreage by two-thirds in recent years, selling most of his land to Reagan about four years ago.  Reagan is one of the few "big time" cattle farmers left in the county.  He owns hundreds of acres and leases hundreds more to keep is farming business thriving.  But the bull kept roaming over into Reagan's land and humping Reagan's cows, getting into stomping fights with the other bulls who were just minding their own business (and taking care of the ladies) in that adjoining 60-acre section of pasture.

At first it was a mystery how the bull was escaping.  Dad could not find a downed section of fence anywhere.  Wherever the bull was getting out, he was also getting back in the same way, as cattle usually do when they wander outside the property.  They might stray but they usually come back for the feed and salt blocks and water.  

Finally, dad found a spot where two adjoining fence poles were bowed in a slight V-shape.  The bull was sliding through there.  He repaired the opening as best he could but the bull only found another way to get out.  This time it was along the fence near the main road.  You don't want your bull to be rambling in the midst of potential traffic.  That is unsafe for the bull and whoever might hit him.  

So when my dad got the bull back into his pasture he decided that matters had reached a point where it was more trouble than it was worth.  He wanted to sell him.  But his first attempt to catch the bull in the cattle pen resulted in the bull tearing down and leaping over the makeshift corral wall, knocking my dad on his back as it happened.  Luckily he was unharmed but he became more committed than ever to getting rid of the stupid animal.

I repeatedly offered to help my dad but he had already spoken to Reagan who agreed to assist.  After all, Reagan has several bulls of his own and he does not need someone else's bull breeding his cattle.  At first Reagan brought his cattle trailer loaded with a couple of cows in heat, thinking the bull could be enticed into the trailer.  The bull was definitely inspired but his crazed lust to mount the heifers faded when he realized the situation.  The bull attempted to get at those two cows every way except by going through the trailer gate. 

Time for Plan B (or maybe C in this case).  Reagan brought over some sturdier panels to make the pen more resilient to a bull gone wild.  It didn't matter. Working together, my dad and Reagan and one of Reagan's hands failed to get the bull into the makeshift corral.  It smelled a trap and was now skittish, even less cooperative than usual.  So the saga continued with the bull occasionally tearing through fences and generally aggravating my dad.

Then suddenly last week my dad happened upon a bright idea.  The bull was familiar to dad approaching on his tractor or in his truck.  The moment the bull figured out my dad was interested in him, he took off running down the fence line away from dad.  Many years ago, when my daughter was old enough to handle it, dad bought her and her cousin a golf cart to ride around the farm, have fun, and learn a little bit about driving.  Since then all the grandkids have used it but none recently since most of them have outgrown the thrill of that phase in their young lives.

Dad wondered whether the bull would react the same way if he rode over into the pasture on the golf cart instead of his usual means of transport.  So he got the old cart out, did a little maintenance on it and proceeded to the back pasture.  The golf cart is relatively silent, its bouncing around and electric propulsion were quiet compared with the truck or tractor.  So the bull didn't really notice my dad's approach until he was practically upon the animal.

The bull snorted and bolted.  He didn't like the golf cart one bit.  My dad smiled.

Soon enough, dad discovered that he could use the suddenly menacing golf cart to drive the bull back toward the corral.  The bull was so unexpectedly intimidated by the cart that dad actually had little difficulty getting it into the corral this time.  With the reinforced panels brought over by Reagan and a couple of his hired hands, this time the bull was unable to escape his containment.  As soon as he realized this all hell broke loose with the bull stomping and snorting and butting against the side of the pen.  Everything held.

So dad called Reagan, who shortly appeared with his large gooseneck cattle trailer.  This time they were able to drive the bull onto the trailer much to the consternation of the bull.  The animal bellowed and stomped and shook the whole trailer side to side.  Dad told me that it would have completely demolished his cattle trailer and he was glad Reagan had this larger, newer one.

Reagan hauled the monster off to a cattle sale about 30 miles away.  And that was the last my dad ever saw of the bull he had successfully used relatively  trouble-free for so many years.  Beef still fetches a decent price at the market and my dad was glad to have a decent paycheck for something that had caused him so much worry of late.  He probably split part of the proceeds with Reagan for his trouble.

For his part, Reagan, like the rest of us, was amazed that, after all this trouble, dad managed to intimidate his bull and guide it into the pen armed with nothing but a golf cart.  Something about the otherwise benign contraption struck the bull as strange and even threatening.   You never know what will induce a troublesome cow or bull into cooperating.  At 81, my dad is still persistent and likes to think outside the box when all else fails.  It paid off handsomely this time.  

Next time dad wants to breed his cows, he'll have one of Reagan's bulls take care of business.  Hopefully, that won't cause a new set of problems.  But, for now, peace has been restored to the small family farm.  Dad has had a couple of calves born recently - the last hopeful progeny of a bull that is now someone else's problem. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Watching American Beauty

I recently re-watched American Beauty for what is likely the tenth time or so, though it has been several years since my last viewing.  The film is a truly rewarding with an outstanding screenplay, direction, a fantastic soundtrack, and high-caliber performances by everyone involved from the smallest supporting role up to the big named stars Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening.

The film's style is a wonderful mix of drama and comedy.  Its subject matter is serious, even philosophical, but there is plenty of sarcasm and dead-pan humor to lighten the load and give the viewer a richly entertaining experience.  At bottom, American Beauty is a coming of age tale in two respects.  Most obviously, it is the awkward daughter, Jane, who discovers love for the first time and is drawn into a relationship that helps define her.  But also, both Lester (Spacey) and Caroline, his wife, (Benning) each find themselves moving along separate paths, Lester, particularly, changing his lifestyle and becoming, for the first time, who he truly is - at age 42.

The film plays with a tapestry of classic and contemporary philosophical questions.  What is the meaning of life?  How do we deal with the numbing consumerist mentality of suburban America?  How are we imprisoned by modern life and, more importantly, how do we find redemption?  What constitutes "beauty"?  What does it mean to follow the direction prescribed by American culture versus discovering and following your own unique path?  

Sexuality is a huge part of the film.  The allure of youth and the allure of power as well as the allure of misfits genuinely connecting with someone are all explored in the various character situations.  My sister-in-law once derided the film as "it's just about sex!"  Well, it isn't "just" about sex.  It is "about" the wide variety of things I just mentioned.  But sex both as an erotic well-spring of inspiration and as a perverse objectification of what is human are both front and center in this powerful film. American Beauty is a sensual and aesthetic experience but there is very little actual sex in the film (one laughable scene with Caroline and her real estate mentor in bed is the exception) .  It is more about human aspirations, fantasies, perversion, and coping with unrealized expectations than it is about the act of sex.

One of the many memorable scenes of the film is when Caroline comes home in the afternoon to find Lester leisurely enjoying the day after he has quit his job and bought a new sports car (classic mid-life crisis stuff).  They are home alone and Lester feels that the spark is not yet completely dead between them.  He starts to make out with his wife on their living room couch when, just as things look like they might heat up, it all comes crashing down.

Caroline Burnham: Lester you're gonna spill beer on the couch.

Lester Burnham: [Pauses, gets up] So what? It's just a couch.

Caroline Burnham: This is a $4,000 sofa upholstered with Italian silk! This is not just a couch!

Lester Burnham: IT'S JUST A COUCH! This isn't life! This is just stuff. And it's become more important to you than living. Well, honey, that's just nuts.[she leaves] I'm only trying to help you!

How our marketing-driven, materialist consumer culture invades our very Being is a theme that is explored repeatedly and effectively in the film.  If anything, this topic is even more timely today than it was back in 1999 when the film came out, which is one of many reason American Beauty still rings so fresh and relevant.

More than anything, however, the film strikes me on this most recent viewing as being about how different people connect with and react to beauty.  Beauty means different things to different characters in the film.  For Ricky, Jane's confident odd-ball, free-spirit, perpetually videoing, pot-pushing boyfriend, the most beautiful thing he has ever witnessed (and captured with his video camera) is simply a plastic bag whirling in the wind around and around in an empty ally way for fifteen minutes.  As Ricky describes it:

"It was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing and there's this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. And this bag was, like, dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. And that's the day I knew there was this entire life behind things, and... this incredibly benevolent force, that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video's a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember... and I need to remember... Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in."

For Lester, Jane's hot cheerleader friend Angela, is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen.  But his erotic attraction to her ultimately breaks down into compassion and then he has a sort of catharsis before his tragic demise in the film.  Lester, who narrates the film from a post-mortem perspective, sums it up this way at the end of the movie:

"I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me... but it's hard to stay mad, when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life... You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry... you will someday."

As a viewer I actually do have some sense of what he means.  But most people never discover how to relate to the life in this fashion and are, thus, the impoverished, ignorant spectators that Lester treats with such disdain through most of the picture but more gently in the end with his attempt to articulate what might be called "mindfulness" today.

American Beauty investigates a lot of things and tries to make a statement without being overly preachy.  With the exception of Lester's narration after he has died, all the characters, including the living Lester, are stumbling around trying to make sense of things, to understand their feelings and to find contentment in a often unsatisfying and empty world.  Some enjoy a measure of success along that path, but most of the characters just continue on as usual, trapped in a cultural landscape they don't even bother to question.

The film masterfully manages this without being preachy at all.  It doesn't provide clear answers.  Instead, mimicking real life, the film addresses the nature of our private struggles, both mature and youthful, as on-going concerns.  More importantly, it reminds us that beauty is to be found everywhere, in the simplest of moments.  And each moment can be authentically precious if we just open up to the fullness and possibility or the interrelated nature of things. 

This is film a solid 9.  I'd place it in my Top 50 movies of all-time if I actually had such a list.  It received Oscars for Best Picture, Best Directors, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor (Spacey), and Best Cinematography.  As I said, the entire cast should have been nominated for acting and supporting awards.  I can't believe Annette Bening did not win Best Actress.  Chris Cooper also gave a remarkable performance in his supporting role as the retired USMC Colonel Frank Fitts, Ricky's overbearing, abusive, homophobic father. As I mentioned, the soundtrack is exceptionally good. American Beauty is thought-provoking, stylistically distinctive, humorous, sad, and sensual.  It feels as fresh today as when it was originally made. Few films offer to touch the viewer so deeply on so many levels and fewer still stand up so well to the test of time.  

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sweet Shrub Redux

Sweet Shrub in bloom.
I blogged previously about the sweet shrub on my property.  Since then it has proliferated in the heart of my woods, covering about twice the space as before along a jagged ravine in the forest.  I watched the budding of the shrubs with great interest this year, visiting them every day in an afternoon or an evening.  

Last Sunday came the first few blooms.  By mid-week you could smell that unique, sweet and citrus-like aroma - but faintly.  On Friday the weather was warmer and the blossoms exploded.  You could catch a whiff of the the fragrance hanging in the air as you approached them and stood among them.  

I picked the best blooms I could find on Saturday and they refreshed my study with their presence the rest of the evening.  But they wilted during the night as it rained, washing away the thick yellow pollen and bringing a 25 degree drop in temperature from yesterday.  Checking the patch today I still found a lot of blooms but no scent of any kind.  The cool weather changed things, and sweet shrub is fickle, never lasting very long anyway.  Still, the memory of the fragrance latches on me like a vine wrapping around and not letting go.

A close up of one of the most fragrant blossoms this year.  I kept it in my study last night.  The scent gently filled the space. 

The Lady Banks Rose is robust this time of year, covering a large section of the holly bush row I planted many years ago.

Countless cascading creamy roses.

Individual blossoms are tiny and not fragrant.

It was warm but overcast yesterday.  The spirea in the back yard seemed to glow a light green light.  The back of my house is peeking through the background.