Thursday, May 31, 2012

In the Moment...Recap and Revelations

My In the Moment experiment comes to an end today.

At the beginning of May, in an attempt to live more in the moment, I decided to use my camera as a tool to stop living so much in my head--photography requiring immediacy, eyes open to possibilities, awareness of your surroundings.

For the most part, my experiment was successful.  Almost from the beginning I found myself looking--no, seeing--more than usual.  On the daily walks with the dogs--boringly familiar, my steps following the same worn path of routine--I began to notice things: simple, beautiful, often ordinary things that made me feel awake, alert...

...I smiled at a face in a tree; a broken weather vane filled my head with a Dylan song; I lost my ticket to ride a fantasy train; carefully backed away from a demon cat

The days took on a certain sparkle, my camera swinging from the strap around my neck, the weight a comfortable reminder to keep myself focused.  My daily life morphed into something else, more a voyage of discovery than just another grain of sand dropping through the hourglass.

But halfway through the month came the test, when I opened The Box.  It seemed then that all the days prior were for naught.  I fell off the wagon and found myself face down in the dirt, sucking in the dust of all the paths I had taken in my life, with the pictures and souvenirs to prove it.  I struggled for days with the onslaught of memories, regrets, wants and wishes, do-overs and desires.  Floundering, I could barely think straight--let alone get back in the moment--while my mind was lost in the cavernous, deafening echoes of the past.

And mindfulness?  Oh, my mind was full all right.  To the brim and then some.

The purpose of meditation is to calm the mind, the spirit, to find the silence within.  I couldn't settle my thoughts long enough to find the path, and believe me I tried until I had a headache.  It's self-defeating when you try too hard to accomplish something that will only work if you let go and allow it to happen freely.

Lotus position on the floor--pushing, pulling, forcing--when this realization came like a strong wind, blowing my thoughts apart, reminding me that I know better than to compel.  My eyes popped open and immediately I felt the tension across my shoulders, in my hands, clenched and white-knuckled in my lap.  My Buddha tattoo seemed to be laughing at my foolishness.  Climbing stiffly to my feet, feeling sore to my bones, I walked into the kitchen for water.

This revelation seemed to have broken a logjam in my brain.  As I began to relax, I looked at the beauty of the landscape from my windows.  The Valley is verdant, lush, green like emeralds after all the days of rain, the mountains in the distance look like silhouettes cut from black paper, their ragged edges smudged in the heat haze.  I walked out onto the back deck, soaking it in.  

My turmoil about the past had become, at that very moment, tempered by the reality of my present.  I'm exactly the woman I am today, right now, because of the paths I've walked, the people I've known, the life I've led.  It can't be changed, altered, or erased, it just simply is.  I can only embrace what has come before, be mindful in the present, and look forward to discovering new roads to travel in my future.

I spent a long time sitting out on the deck yesterday afternoon, absorbing, feeling, making peace with myself, reviewing the month.  I'm very glad I did the experiment, and even think I may have passed the test of The Box--at least, I don't think I totally failed, though it might have been close once or twice.  It's been a most revealing and interesting time, one that has given me clarity and insight, painful as that process was. 

And simplistic as it seems--often the simplest can be the most important--I found my ultimate truth:

I am the sum of all my parts:  past, present and future.  A triad of equal value and meaning that constitutes a life.  Mine.

BTW:  Some of the photos that I took this month, if you're interested.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Another cool celestial event is coming, next week in fact, and this one--to my mind, at least--is an even bigger deal than the solar eclipse we just had.

The Transit of Venus.  The planet crosses between earth and the sun, a visible black dot cruising along for about six hours with the sun as backdrop.  I've been trying to get some solar eclipse glasses, and a hefty lens for my camera, but I think I waited too long.  One major dealer of these specs is still sold out from the eclipse and another only accepts orders in bulk.  Now, if I were having a big Venus party, 25 solar glasses would be fine.  Too bad I'm not.

This is a pretty important event--whether you're into astronomy or not--because it won't happen again until 2117.  I'm fairly certain most of us won't be around for the next viewing.

Here's the map showing the trajectory.  Except for parts of Africa and most of South America, nearly everyone else on the planet will be able to see the Transit, either June 5th, or June 6th, depending on where you are in the world.


Yesterday at the VA, where I walked the boys in the morning, all the flags were out for Memorial Day, lining the road that meanders through the whole complex.  It always looks so beautiful to see hundreds of American flags, waving in the breeze.

The Rhododendrons are in massive bloom everywhere on the grounds, too.  Here's a shot of just one of the Federalist-style buildings that make up the VA compound.  I swear, some weekends, when it's very quiet, not a soul to be seen, I can just imagine Thomas Jefferson strolling out the huge front doors of this building and down the steps as I walk by.

Playing with my Macro...though handling two leashes at the same time made it pretty tricky.  I attempted the Super Macro, but with the dogs vibrating at the end of their patience, I just couldn't hold still enough.


Ozzy had an appointment this morning with the groomer.  He equates grooming with the vet, two things he hates the most.  He starts shaking and shivering a mile before either place; I have to practically jackhammer him out of the back seat, then unpeel him from my neck as he winds around me like a monkey.  It's grim for everyone.

However, when I pick him up two hours later he's ready for the red carpet...maybe his paw print at Grauman's before lunch at Prego?  He prances, he smiles, he knows he's handsome.  

Max was very worried for his buddy when I dropped Ozzy off, and we drove away without him.  Thankfully, he doesn't need a groomer as his hair is short, and I can bathe and brush him myself. 

Later, after we picked Ozzy up and came home, Max had a good long sniff, then they shoulder-bumped each other--a guy thing, I guess--and he plopped down on the floor, exhausted from all the excitement.  He watched me take a picture of Oz, then before he could react, I turned and snapped one of him; his only acknowledgement was the twist of one ear.  We have made such great strides since the early days when he would run in terror the minute I picked up the camera.

He looks like such an old man, doesn't he?  But he's only four.  I wonder if he's always had that white around his face and paws, or did his past bring that about?  I'll never know, though for a long time after I rescued him, I used to imagine his story based on his reaction to the things that terrified him.  He's such a good dog, I'm glad I was the one to give him a home.


The weather is changing.  We're going from cool rain to scorching heat.  Today is the interim:  warm, gentle breeze, blue skies.  I have the doors and windows open, the overhead fan slowly whirling, the soft scent of Papier d'Armenie wafting in the warm air. 

(Read this wonderful post from Mr London Street about this paper.  I used to buy it at this great little shop in Aberdour (a village in Fife, Scotland), though here in southern Oregon I can only buy it from Amazon.  Still.  At least I have that option.) 

The smell fills my head with images of mysterious, shadowy alleys in Marrakesh, ripe with the odors of exotic flowers and spices.  I always think of The Arabian Nights--in particular, that most excellent movie with Dougray Scott and Mili Avital--a film I've probably watched a dozen times.

And hmmm.  Speaking of that...I think, while the scent of mystery lingers in the air, that I'm just going to go and make that a baker's dozen...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Stars, Quotes and Stickers...

I was reading an article today about Starfish.  Scientists are debating changing the name of these beauties because they're not related to fish at all, but rather belong to the same genus as sea urchins.  Their name will likely become Sea Stars.  And can I just cast my vote for that most excellent choice?  How perfect, a star living in the sea.


I get these daily quotes from GoodReads, a site I subscribe to because I wanted to do the Book Challenge (a task I am sorely failing at this juncture).  I've saved a few to share at some point.  This is that point.

And, stuck in holiday traffic on my way to walk the boys this morning, I had nothing  better to do than read bumper stickers.

So, because I haven't done a blasted thing today except make a big pot of chili, walk the dogs, and read a book, now seems like the right time to post a few tidbits from both sources since I've got zip otherwise:


Each moment is a place you've never been.
                                   --Mark Strand

The past is never where you think you left it.
                                  --Katherine Anne Porter

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.
                                  --Ralph Waldo Emerson

The most courageous act is still to think for yourself.  Aloud.
                                 --Coco Chanel

Bumper Stickers:

Support Search and Rescue:  Get Lost!

Don't suffer from insanity.  Enjoy every minute of it!

When you're in hot water.  Try Ice. 
(website for the Jewelry Xchange at the bottom)

Hug a musician.  They never get to dance.
(love this one)

What if the hokey pokey really IS what it's all about?


Hope y'all are enjoying the three-day weekend, whether you're out and about, or staying home.

For myself, I would love to be sitting around a campfire right now, the smell of wood smoke and pine in my nose, anticipating a soft, squishy toasted marshmallow as night falls...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Moments in a Day...

I put my flag out this morning for Memorial Day.  When I was a kid, this was the weekend that meant camping, s'mores, fishing with my Dad, school soon to be just a bad memory, Summer beckoning like a Siren, her song filled with heat and hot dogs, skinned knees, sno-cones, picnics and BBQs, Mom's potato salad, reading a book while swaying in Dad's old canvas hammock, laying in the cool grass late at night waiting for shooting stars. 

I'd love to have that sense of joyful anticipation sweep over me again, though I'm probably too jaded these days to really feel that excited flutter in the belly, realizing there are long days ahead, stretching into the endless future--Fall, too far away to imagine in the freedom of the moment.

As I turned from placing the flag, I noticed the wind had broken off one of my Iris stems.  I brought it inside and put it in a olive oil bottle that I'd saved because I loved the shape.  I have a beautiful collection of vases: vintage, modern, eclectic, rustic and primitive, and yet, the long, elegant stem of the flower just seemed to fit perfectly in this recycled container. 

Zen in a bottle.

I was getting my stuff together to take the boys on their walk, when I thought I saw movement out the front as...something...walked up the road.  I went to one of the windows, and sure enough, there was a large bird strolling along the verge.  I grabbed my camera, mainly for the telephoto, so I could get a closer look.

Pretty sure it's a female wild turkey.  There's a big population that live in these mountains, though I haven't seen any of them since last year.  Why she would be wandering around by herself, easy prey with no back-up, I don't know.  I took this shot, then watched her just meander up the road like she didn't have a care in the world.

Decided to walk a different area of the park today.  I miss being able to go out the Valley to the County Park, so for a change of scenery, we parked across the river, away from our usual place.  Wandering along the river bank, in the quiet, the dogs exploring new territory, I spied this lovely, wild Bearded Iris growing close to the water's edge.  This particular color reminds me of old grandmothers and small town America, and "the good ol' days" (whatever those were).  It's an old, old variety, though I don't know the name.  Somehow it found a home along a river, blooming alone in its beauty.

Back from the morning adventures, I wandered out back to check on my soggy veggies.  We've had so much rain in the past week, it's a wonder my raised bed boxes haven't ended up sliding down the mountain.  I'm standing on the deck, coffee cup in one hand, camera in the other, when this bright spark of red flits by.  I slowly turned, stayed very still, waiting.  And bouncing around my flowering cherry tree came this handsome guy.  I got several shots, though half were totally blurred from his amazingly rapid woodpecker taps.  Seriously, this guy was a machine.

Later, checking my emails, I received one from a family in Germany, part of the Postcrossing deal I'm having such a great time with.  I had taken a photo of a chipmunk at Crater Lake National Park last year, the cutest wee thing, who came right up and seemed to pose for me.  I made the photo into a postcard and sent it to these two little children.  They got the card, and loved the chipmunk so much, they have it in their living room where they can see it every day.  That really made me smile.  Here he is...

The moments in a day.  So interesting the things we feel, and see, in the course of a few hours.  It's truly a wonder...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tale of Two Ten Dollar Bills

Yesterday afternoon I had two things happen: one made me very angry, the other made me smile; both involved a ten dollar bill.

As anyone knows who has followed my blog, I live on top of a small mountain with 16 other homes spread across this long, twisting ridge.  I know a few people up here, but for the most part, everyone pretty much keeps to themselves.  I'm familiar with some names, faces, and will stop to chat if I bump into anyone, but other than my immediate neighbor, and two women further along the ridge, that pretty much covers it.

So.  Wednesday afternoon.  I'm sitting at the laptop, next to the windows that look out at the road and front garden, when this Barbie look-a-like comes tearing up my stairs.  The dogs wig out, I'm trying to figure out where she came from, who she belongs to.  There's no clue how she has just appeared out of thin air.

Open the door, ask her how I can help her.  She's young, too perky, too chatty, too blond, too...everything.  She puts me off, totally, though I rein myself in for judging her on appearances.  In the course of her hyped-up spiel, I get the drift that she wants me to buy a magazine subscription, the money to go toward helping the military overseas; the benefit to her is earning points to help in her scholarship to UC-Davis. 

The bottom line: she wants $50.

I scoff, tell her a soldier in the Middle East is not going to be reading magazines, and even if he were, I could order 4 magazines for the price she's touting for one.

Oh, but she's smooth.  She immediately has a rebuttal:  The magazines are for the military nurses.  The $50 is divided between the subscription and her scholarship.  She has these innocent, guileless baby blues that would've had a guy on his knees, wallet outstretched, begging her to take what she needs.  This just puts me off even more--I never had a Barbie doll, and never wanted one.

I ask her how she came to be on the ridge, it's private, there's a big ol' sign at the entrance to our road that says no solicitors. 

Ah, and here's the good part people, here's how she hooked me.  She says, no hesitation at all, that her grandparents live back around the curve--about five houses removed from mine, toward the head of the road.  Their names roll off her (forked) tongue.  I don't personally know those folks; they travel, are rarely here except during the Summer months.  I ponder this for a minute, remember that just this past weekend I saw their car, and they're back in town.

I'm not happy about this whole deal, but crap.  She's got a little folder stuffed with bills so someone has already given in to her wiles.  I have a weak moment, wondering how long it will take the grapevine to hear that I tossed Barbie off my porch, refusing to help the poor girl get to UC-Davis in the Fall.  With a sigh, resigned, I get my wallet.  Amongst my change, I have two ten dollar bills.  Begrudgingly, I hand her one of them.  She squeals (I kid you not), throws herself at me, bear hugs ensue, she thanks me profusely, then runs down my front stairs.

I try to get back to work, but I can't shake this... feeling.  I stew.  An hour or so later, I get out the phone book, find Barbie's "grandparents" and call them.  I explain the situation to the woman who answers the phone.  I'm nice, apologetic even, just in case my intuition is groundless.

Of course it's not. 

These people don't have a grandchild her age, or description.  How she got their name and knew they were old enough to be grandparents, I haven't a clue.  It's creepy.

Scam Barbie got me for $10.  I was really pissed.  My only consolation?  It was just ten bucks.  But still.  And what was with the frigging hug???  Are you kidding me???  Rip me off, then hug me as the final insult???  I swear, if too much time hadn't already passed, I would have gotten in the Blazer and gleefully hunted down that conniving little witch.

I found out later I wasn't the only sucker.  Big whoop.


Last year, when the house was painted, the guys removed all the gutters and downspouts.  After painting, they put everything back up, though from last year to this, I've noticed that two corner units weren't properly reattached so water leaks out where it shouldn't.  Then, last week in one of the storms, the top of the spout that connects to the gutter came away.  Of course this is in the front of the house, right at the driveway.  It looks very much like the Griswalds live here, gutters leaking, downspout waving in the breeze.  All I need is the rusty trailer and a chicken or two to complete the picture.  I would just fix it myself but I don't have a 25-ft ladder.

A couple of months ago, I had all the outside windows cleaned by this guy, Jeremy, who specializes in really high, nearly inaccessible windows.  He did a brilliant job, even climbing on the roof to clean the four skylights.  He told me that if I ever needed any help that required tall--very tall--ladders, to give him a call.

I called on Monday.  He said he was really busy, but would try to come by at some point this week.  I didn't really care when he could come, just that he would.

Yesterday, after Scam Barbie and still fuming, his truck comes up the drive.  He unhooks his tallest ladder, climbs up, reconnects the pipe to the gutter, fixes the loose screw with a new, thicker one, and within just a few quick minutes, everything is good.

When I asked him how much I could pay him for doing this, he smiled and told me it was a freebie.  I went inside, got my wallet, and gave him the other ten dollar bill.  He refused, I insisted.  It was more than worth the money to have him come so quickly, and fix it better than it was before it fell off in the first place.  He left happy, and I have an ace in the hole if I need him again.


I smiled as he drove off with a cheery wave.  His act of kindness after Barbie's act of deceit was such a contrast for one little afternoon.  I thought about those two ten dollar bills, wondering about their journey after leaving my wallet.

Do you think there's karma in how money is acquired?  In this instance, I really hope so.  I'm going to imagine something good will come to Jeremy with his $10.

You don't want to know what I'm envisioning for Barbie.

[And hey.  So much for my non-day post, huh??  Perhaps the cows were sending me a warning...]

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Moment...with Cows and Clouds

Today has been one of the those...non...days, if you know what I mean.  Just a day.  Nothing memorable, noteworthy, or relevant is going on, other than you're breathing.  How many of our days are like that?  Days where just living, breathing, ticking the date off a calendar are all that mark them.  I'm not saying that's a bad thing.  Really, don't you think we would implode if every day were fraught with intensity, meaning, significance?  I would, for sure.  I need those down-time days, to recharge, think, find balance in a tilting world.

It's been stormy here.  Whilst having lunch, I noticed this great, angry cloud over the Valley.  I took the camera out onto the back deck to get a shot of it.  The sky was growing darker as I stood there, the cloud starting to look tornado-like.

Then, from way down below me, there was this sudden cow commotion.  I don't have a clue where they were--there's nothing but white oak and pine trees for hundreds of feet down my ridge.  A large herd used to live in the Valley, but the farm was sold last year and is now a vineyard.  I can't imagine what they were doing down there. 

It made me laugh to listen to the bellowing, so I switched the camera to video.  Can you hear them?  Well, really, how could you not?

They were truly upset about something.  In their world, I guess this isn't a non day.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Struggling In the Moment...

I'm having a hard time recovering from jet lag after the time travel that overwhelmed me in opening The Box.  Things are stuck in my head, in my heart, causing me problems.  I was doing so well with my In the Moment experiment, too.  I need to get back in sync with this reality, so I'm going to do some manual labor, work out in the garden even though it's raining, find my way back...somehow.

The front garden looked really good this morning, Iris plants growing like crazy, everything so green and lush after a heavy rain during the night...

Because the front is doing fine, I'm going to concentrate on the slope in back, on the other side of the fence.  It's very overgrown with nettles and thistles and weeds.  I will no doubt regret this big idea, but maybe not...maybe groveling in the dirt will ground me, bring me home.


Oh, and by the way:  I didn't have much luck with the eclipse the other day, though managed two pictures in spite of the weather.

This one looks more like Mars.  I had a red filter that I used over the camera lens.  It didn't exactly work out as planned--too blurry and overbright--though still, it has a cool weirdness to it.

The moon had nearly covered the sun at this point.  The clouds had just opened up, so I quickly put the camera on the highest ISO to take the picture as fast as possible, hoping I wouldn't burn out my lens by not using a filter. 

The photo looks like a half-moon in a stormy sky instead of an eclipse.  For a hand-held, telephoto shot, I think it's a real testament to how great my camera is that this is so clear and sharp.

I was disappointed not to get the full eclipse, but right after I got that last picture, the clouds rolled over the whole works and I missed the rest of the show.  I was really just happy to get what I did.


Okay, off to get some dirt under my fingernails and the past out of my head.  Nettle stings will probably help with that...Nature's version of shock therapy.

Monday, May 21, 2012

So Not In the Moment...

My mother stayed on at the house for several years after my father passed away.  A few years ago, she decided it was time to scale down and move into a smaller place.  This decision meant months of sorting and sifting through a lifetime spent with a husband, having four kids, and all the detritus, paraphernalia, and mementos that glue a family together.

Couple years on and she's thinking of downsizing again, making things even easier for herself.  She really doesn't need as much space to take care of and instead of chores and maintenance, she could be having fun, taking a jet boat cruise up the Rogue River, or going to a Shakespeare play in Ashland, or...well, you get the picture.

And there's my segue...

Mother's Day weekend Mom brought two boxes with her.  One for me, one for my sister.  In these boxes were photographs, papers, stuff from our past.  Mine went in the garage on a work table, my sister's in the trunk of her car.  I peeked inside my large box, registered lots of things to sort through, then got sidetracked by the get-together.  It wasn't until later in the week that I remembered the box.

I don't read saga-type books.  They depress me with how fast life goes by, how quickly one can go from young, wild and vibrantly alive, to the old woman on her death bed recounting her tumultuous life in 500 pages.

But oh flaming Hell. 

Here was my saga.  In these photos and papers; in my tiny five-year-old hand print pressed into plaster from kindergarten.  Here was my life, spread out on the table, memories filling my head as I flipped through stacks of history.  Here was...ME.

Some of these photos I have never seen.  Dad and I were the photographers in the family.  There are many years where I don't show up at all because I'm behind the camera.  There are just as many where we tried to out shoot each other.  Often I would only see my family a few times a year--I didn't live close, and that was before I moved abroad--so when Dad took pictures I rarely saw the end result.  I remembered each and every occasion, however, as I looked through the photos in the box; I remembered the gatherings, the parties, the events where we came together to celebrate as a family, being a family.

There are two photos of me that I love.  Only two, in my whole adult life.  

This first one I had framed and gave to my parents for Christmas the year it was taken.  I was with Toxic Guy, we were on the road as usual, and had stopped along this deep gorge--high in the northern mountains of Washington State--so I could take some pictures.  I shimmied on my belly out onto a rocky ledge, the river like a thin ribbon of glistening silver hundreds of feet below me.  When I sat up and turned around, he took this shot, my trusty and true Nikon SLR in my hand--a camera I still have, battered and dinged and loved. 

I didn't want to remove the photo from the frame, so it doesn't look very clear here on the blog, though in person it's...well, one of my favs.  The little curvy band to the right of me is the river, the ledge I'm sitting on is literally hanging over the abyss.  I've done far more dangerous things to get my shots, believe me, though right after this picture was taken, as I stood up, my sunglasses fell off my head and went over the side.  They fell for a very, very long time.

My absolute favorite photo is this one.  It reminds me of so, so many things.  I was living in an incredible little place, a converted attic in an old Victorian house at the top of Queen Anne hill in Seattle.  Who needs Paris?  I had my own garret right here in America.  Going out the trap door, I could stand on this perfect little flat section of the roof, all of Seattle at my feet.  I spent many a night out there, under the stars, comforted by the lights of my city, listening to the sounds, dreaming...

The funny building to my right that looks like half of it has been sheared off?  At the time this photo was taken, that's where Jan (BFF) worked; the tallest building behind me is where I did.  Corporate woman by day, rock girl by night.  I loved that leather jacket, my black jeans, chopped hair cut.  And man, did the good times roll. 

[Brief digression here...

Jan and I had our weekly Sunday phone call yesterday.  I was telling her about the box, the photos, many of them of her, too.  She asked if the one of me on the roof was in the bunch. I laughed and said yes. She told me that was her favorite picture of me, it should have been an album cover for a Seattle grunge band. 

We had a long talk about those times--the friends lost along the way, loves who came and went, adventures and experiences filled with drama, laughter and fun as we made our way through it all.  It seems like just the other day, everything clear and immediate, and yet at the same time like someone else's life, seen in a movie.]

After I went through all the stuff in the box, I couldn't help it, I cried.  I stood in the garage, my past in little piles in front of me, tiny fragments of a life, and wailed.  It was one of those awful moments when you want a do-over, or a genie to grant a wish, or just, dammit, want time to slow down, reverse itself, go back.  So many things have changed: the family is much smaller these days without Dad, my youngest sister, my nephew, my husband, and yet their faces smile out at me, forever captured in the photos I hold in my hand.

I came upstairs and called my sister.  I could barely choke out the words to tell her that I'd been going through the stuff Mom had given us and now my memories tightened like silken bands around my heart, my mind.  "You looked in the box?" she asked, disbelief in her tone.

"You didn't?" Voice husky with the dust of time stuck in my throat.

"God no.  I put it on the top shelf in the closet of the guest bedroom and shut the door."

"Without even looking inside?"

"You think I want to feel like you do right now?  I didn't look and I'm not going to.  At least not any time soon."

A few more tears, much nose blowing, a laugh or two at my emotional expense, then we completely agreed that this is exactly why neither of us read those bloody saga-type books.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Eclipsed By Weather...and Wishes

Later today there's to be a solar eclipse, fully visible from southern Oregon/northern California, in a long arc across the Southwest, then partially visible elsewhere around the country. 

I've been waiting all week for it.  Up here, on my mountain, I have a completely unobstructed view over the Valley, to the Coast Range.  The sun is in my face--and windows--from early afternoon until it sets in the evening. The weather has been clear, hot and very sunny for days, if not weeks.

This morning it's overcast and cloudy.  Seriously.  Crap visibility.

I'm hoping, over the next 8 -9 hours, that the overcast will dissipate and I'll be able to at least see a bit of the action between the clouds.

You know that old saying, be careful what you wish for?  I've wished for a break in the unrelenting sun for awhile now.  Isn't it bizarre that the one day I actually want clear skies, it's cloudy?  And that's the catch with a wish.  Yours might be granted, but it won't be how you expected.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sometimes It's the Little Moments...

I've had a series of events happen to me since yesterday afternoon.  Good ones.  Smile-inducing ones.

Just now, whilst outside doing some garden work, I found myself chatting with a lizard about these moments, and in the process came to the realization that truly, it's often the smallest thing sometimes that can change our mood, or attitude, or even the way we look at ourselves.

First Event:

Remember that blasted broken Venetian blind?  When Mom and my sister came last weekend--and I was anticipating their help with the 6-1/2' x 4' shade--we were either having too much fun to bother, or the sun was blazing in that particular window with the force of two million BTUs. 

Yesterday afternoon I got out the drill, screwdriver, screws and ladder, took a deep breath and dived in.  Less than an hour later, I had the old broken shade in the bin, and the brand new, beautiful one installed and working perfectly.  Honestly, it made me smile for the rest of the day.  I called Mom, my sister, Jan (BFF), and my neighbor down the road.  And wouldn't you know?  Not a single person was home.

Still.  I got the satisfying rush, the joy in doing a good job, and the celebratory glass of wine for my efforts...all punctuated with a big, dopey smile.

Second Event:

I had some running around to do this morning after walking the dogs.  My last stop was at Staples.  I had my stuff in hand when I passed through the camera department, and being the photographer that I am, I always have to check out the new ones, compare them to mine, dink and push buttons.

I'm looking at the new Nikon, which I like very much, except for one glaring detail: the viewing screen on the back is always exposed, leaving greasy, gross fingerprints every time you touch the camera.  

Suddenly, this man comes close--close enough to practically whisper in my ear.  He quietly asks me what I think of the camera.  I back away a bit, look at him to assess the danger/weirdness factor--he seems nice, polite, even sort of cute--so I feel comfortable enough to make conversation. 

I blather on, talking about my camera, this camera, and that one over there, until I need to get going, so I abruptly end the conversation and head off to the cash register.  It isn't until I'm standing in line and glance over to see him smiling at me, that I get it: he was hitting on me!!!  My only excuse for being totally clueless:  It's been awhile folks and I am soooo out of practice.

He starts to walk toward me, but it's my turn to pay and more people get in line behind me.  I don't look again, quickly finish paying, then--and seriously, I couldn't help it--run for my car.  Holy crap.  I wasn't this inept in junior high.  I did laugh most of the way home though.

Third Event:

Before I came in the house to write this, I was doing some gardening in the front yard.  I have a rock garden that I built last year, several plants randomly growing between the stones.  The deer ate most of one plant in the early Spring (a Rock Rose) and though I have nursed it back to health and spray it faithfully every week with deer deterrent, there are several dead branches I've been meaning to prune.

I'm out there, in the shade of the Birch trees, gentle breeze blowing, temperature in the mid-70s--perfect to my mind--when I see this very cute little alligator lizard sitting on one of the rocks. 

(The photo is one I took last year; the lizard about 7".  And really, don't they honestly look just like alligators?)

The one sitting on the rock, watching every move, was just a wee baby, about 3" long.  He still looked like an alligator, just a tiny one.

I started talking to him, telling him about my day as I kept pruning.  Every now and then he would cock his head like he was really listening.  It made me smile each time he did it. 

Which led our discussion--albeit a one-sided one--to the point of this post...

Sometimes it's the little moments, the ones that bring a smile, that truly count.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Some Moments...

On Monday I had to go to an eye doctor because I had scratched my eyeball really bad last Friday (self-inflicted, don't ask).  Over the weekend the irritation came and went, but Monday it felt like I had a 2 x 4 under my eyelid.  Once the home remedy stuff fails, I eventually have to concede defeat and bow to the experts, so I get my eye checked out, and yes, it's really scratched.  I need eye drops, blah blah.  The drops make me half-blind for awhile, though my eye is already better after just a few days.

This morning, I do the drops, then decide to build the last raised bed box because the watermelon plants aren't looking so hot.  One-eyed, I manage to saw, hammer, etc., get the box in position on the bank, fill it with soil, and plant the melons.  What a relief.  Three boxes finished; zucchini, watermelon, tomatoes in the ground.  Because my place is on a mountain ridge, I have steep slopes on both front and back sides of the house.  I have to drag the hose up the steps to water the higher ground.  The effing crap hose is heavy, always kinks, and is a total bitch to maneuver without wiping out the plants that grow on both sides of the walkway.  I have worked out a technique that runs the hose on the edge of the steps, allowing me to drag it, keeping it away from the plants.

I get nearly to the top of the slope and the hose gets stuck.  I do a rodeo lasso twist movement that should have unhooked the hose.  In a perfect world.  Instead it flies in the air and smacks down right on top of my four beautiful, lush and happily growing Snapdragon plants.  Seriously.  What are the flaming odds?  I just stood there, looking at the destruction, the sound of the sharp snap as the stalks broke off still resonating in the air.

Much cursing followed.

After I watered--and lowered my blood pressure with many repetitive mantras--I brought the seven stalks inside, and now have a nice bit of color on the kitchen counter.  As soon as I can enjoy them and not think how much prettier they were attached to the plant, I'll feel better, I'm sure.



This afternoon I had to do some of my international banking.  It always makes me nervous and tense, though I'm not sure why since I pretty much know what I'm doing.  I have to factor in fluctuating exchange rates, add and/or subtract the variables in the two week period between my request, the bank's receipt, business handled.  If I could just walk into my bank in Edinburgh, do my business, smile and walk, how much easier things would be.

But no.  I have to send letters, there's no margin for error, I have to fall back to my high-powered corporate days and write the perfect, intelligent correspondence with facts, details, accounts and rates.  It exhausts me.  I've actually put off doing the letter for three days.  Which is about my threshold for things hanging over my head.  This afternoon I sucked it up and got it done.  Hopefully, I won't have to deal with this again for another six theory, at least.


On a happier note--hoses and banks behind me--I bought this totally cool garden folly at the co-op on Sunday.  Mom and my sister looked at me like I had maybe lost the plot, but I just couldn't resist.

I stuck it in the ground by the bird bath.  My own little universe, with planets and stars.  I really love the whimsy.  (I know it's hard to see.  No matter how I tried, I couldn't get a photo that didn't sort of blend the ornament into the background.  Click on the pic, it might show up better).

Okay, you're out there thinking, what's cool about that?  This is what's cool about that:

It glows in the dark!!  I can look outside at night and see the universe in my garden.

And yeah.  I'm smiling.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Backtracking the Moments...

Had a great weekend with Mom and Gail.  My sister arrived about 1:30pm Friday, then Mom rolled in around 4:00.  Unpacking and talking and wine pouring ensued while I made the Cornish pasties.  I loved making them again, and they tasted just as great here as they always did in Edinburgh.

Saturday, the three of us hit Kruse's Farm.  My sister and I had given Mom carte blanche for flowers and plants for her Mother's Day present, and I think she pretty much cleaned out the place.  It was really fun.  My sister found a beautiful hanging basket (that I should have taken a photo of, but didn't) and a few other plants; I stuck to produce and pastry bits.  My trusty Blazer was stuffed to the ceiling by the time we were through.

After dropping off all the greenery at the house, we went back down the mountain and had a really nice lunch.  It was blazing hot outside so the cooler air in the restaurant saved me.  As did the root beer float.  For once it was okay to be the designated driver.

For dinner, Gail and I made this new pasta recipe, and wow, was it good.  I modified it a bit as I don't like prosciutto, so subbed pancetta instead, and cut back just a tad on the Dijon mustard.  It was a truly delicious recipe.  Anyone want to try it?  The recipe.

And here's what it looked like, with a salad on the side, and the monastery bread (also yummy).  Only thing missing from the photo was the wine, a nice sparkling Lambrusco my sister was pouring when I took this shot.

Later that night, the sunset was lovely across the Valley.

Sunday we all took the dogs for a walk.  I had to get more deer spray, so we went to the Co-op, where my sister found the bush bean plants she wanted, and I got some watermelon sprouts, two San Marzano tomato plants, and this very whimsical and funny garden ornament.  (I will post a photo tomorrow...after I take it tonight, in the dark...)

And then, as always happens, the weekend was over too soon.  Early afternoon, after packing both cars, lots of hugs, and waves, they drive off and I turn to look at the boys in the sudden silence.  We stare at each other for a moment, then they walked upstairs and flopped down like they were exhausted from all the carousing and wine drinking and delicious food, and didn't move again until hours later at dinner time.  It's apparently very tiring to be petted and fussed over and fed treats, poor wee boys.

I thought about planting my zucchini (bought a few weeks ago) and watermelon, but that meant I had to build the raised bed boxes.  It was really hot.  I didn't want to.  But I also didn't want the plants to croak.  So I made two of the boxes, filled them with dirt, then planted the zucchini and the tomatoes before I dropped from heat stroke.  I grabbed a bottle of water and sat on the deck for a minute before lugging the hose up the bank...just as Mr and Mrs Quail came through the fence.  I had the camera outside with me, and very slowly, and quietly, managed to take these two shots.

He had that funny little topknot male quails have that wave and bob when they walk, like a peacock feather stuck in a hat band, though in this picture you can't see it.  He looks like he has a Mohawk...and needs to get on the StairMaster.

Then, as I sat very still--they're so flighty and timid--the Mrs came through the fence.  And isn't it strange in the bird world how the males are the fancy ones?  (If you click on the photo, you might be able to see his head feather).  I watched them for a few minutes longer, but then had to get on with things.  When I moved, they both leaped through the fence rails and dashed down the slope.
Later, in the early evening, I noticed this exquisite Iris growing under the Birch trees in the front garden.  It's just stunning, isn't it?  Very Georgia O'Keeffe: sensual and alluring and so...enticingly feminine.

It was a great weekend.

Friday, May 11, 2012

In the Moment...La Mia Famiglia

I'm getting bored with the In the Moment header.  Let's just figure every post starts with that and call it good.  And yes, I'm still determined to follow through until the end of May.  Except for maybe not this weekend as the Mother Ship and my sister are due shortly for a wine-fueled gathering of the female portion of the clan.  

I'm making Cornish pasties for dinner tonight--a delicious treat I haven't made since Edinburgh--then Saturday night will be a combo celebration of Mother's Day and Mom's birthday so my sister and I are making Pasta Primavera with pancetta and asparagus, with a loaf of sourdough bread baked by the Trappist monks who live out in the valley, and a nice (big) bottle of Lambrusco.  I made a carrot cake this morning (hey, it's healthy with all those carrots!!), so between the wine, women and, I plan on having a great weekend.  It will be so nice to have people around for a change rather than just the boys.  No offense guys, but really.

The weather is supposed to be hot and sunny all weekend, and we have lots of plans for spending our time, other than drinking wine.  But now I have one more chore to take care of before they arrive--mowing that frigging lawn again--so in order to totally enjoy myself once they get here, I'd best get it done.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there...past, present and future.

(BTW:  The Iris is from my front garden.)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

In the Moment...Right or Wrong

This morning--a sunny, though very breezy one--the boys and I went out to the County Park for the last time until Fall.  I really don't understand this prohibition, or how it became law to forbid dogs in a park paid for in part by my tax dollars, but hey, who am I to question??  Though I do.

Signs were posted all over the place today.  And frankly?  I agree with the top part of the sign:  This is definitely the wrong way to deal with things.

The river is on the left (in the photo above). We walked to the edge of the drop-off, about ten feet down to the water.  It was really rushing today which seemed odd as there hasn't been any rain for awhile.

After the river section of our walk, the path winds into the grass, trees and meadows area.  There's a wire fence that separates one part of the park from a Master Garden, managed by the University of Oregon. The biggest pumpkin I've ever seen was grown in that garden.

I love when "domestic" plants escape and start a wild, new life elsewhere.

I had parked in the trees, under a thick canopy of leaves, to keep the car out of the sun.  After giving the boys their water, I was taking my camera from around my neck when I glanced up into the leaves overhead.  I could clearly see the veins in each leaf as the sun lit them from behind.  Just as I snapped the photo, the breeze shifted...and I got this sunburst instead.

Right or wrong, our walks at the County Park are over for another season.  I'll miss the quiet, and the diversity of river, meadows, trees.  Fall seems so far away from this sunny day in May...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In the Moment...Times Two

The heat wave has backed off a little today, which is an unexpected surprise.  The boys and I had a great walk this morning through the park and along the river, a slight breeze keeping things really pleasant.

The pines all over town--and up the mountain--are heavy with pollen right now, no doubt making hay fever people miserable.  Occasionally the dogs will sneeze several times in a row, shake their heads really hard, and make weird snarky noises.  Thankfully I have avoided the whole allergy thing, other than a stuffy head every now and again.

As we wandered this morning through a long avenue of pine trees, I could see tiny, ethereal puffs of a yellowish dust drifting in the breeze.  Stopping, getting closer, I realized it was pollen wafting off these big pine flowers.  (I don't know what these are really called, but pine flower works for me).  The pollen was coming from that center part of the flower.  And how exotic and cool is this?  Nature is just amazing.

We continue walking until we reach the river, where I usually unleash the boys if the coast is clear: no people, no lawnmower man, no other life forms.  Running willy nilly, sniffing every tree and blade of grass, it gives the dogs a few minutes of freedom.

I'm meandering ahead of them, watching two crows take a bath in a small, rocky pool down the river bank.  As I raise my camera for a shot, they take flight, so I turn to whistle at the dogs, then begin walking up the hill, heading back to the car.  I'm soaking in the scenery, eyes open for possibilities, when out of the corner of my eye, I see something in the bushes directly in the path the boys are taking.

Holy Crap. 

I quickly backtrack, call the dogs to me and leash them before they catch sight of this:

The Demon Cat.  It was bigger than Ozzy--probably somewhere between Ozzy's 8 lbs and Max's 18.  Glaring at us from across this grassy sward, eyes yellow and fierce, I'm pretty sure it was feral.  I couldn't see any kind of collar and he/she seemed very comfortable in its territory.  And didn't look like it had missed any meals.  It probably eats small animals...and little children.

I dragged the boys away, hoping they wouldn't notice, but as usual, hopes dashed.  Max went stiff, tail quivering, ears fully upright, straining against the leash.  Ozzy started this low-throated growl and began hopping like a jackrabbit.

The cat watched us with a cold and absolute disdain.  I managed to snap this picture as I hustled out of the line of fire, walking backwards so I could keep my eye on it.  This wasn't the kind of animal you wanted to turn your back on.

I was most definitely in the moment today.  And it was a very good thing, too.  Imagine the wee dogs wouldn't stand a chance against a demon.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In the Moment...Flip Flops

We're in another heat wave, temps to reach 90 degrees by tomorrow and continue to scorch into next week sometime.  This is what happens here.  Last year, the heat started in May and there wasn't a drop of rain until November.  I think it will be the same again this year.  Crap.

Laying on the floor with the dogs this afternoon, all three of us panting, I thumbed through my latest magazine from Colorado, this one from Pagosa Springs.  I gazed longingly at the cool mountains, the people on inner tubes bobbing through town on the San Juan River, read the chart that shows night temperatures never go higher than the 40s.  (Last night it was 79* in my bedroom...and no, in case you were wondering, I didn't get any sleep).

So, because of the heat I went shopping early today.  Walking down the main aisle at my grocery store I saw display after display of Summer stuff: sunglasses, suntan lotion, flip flops.  I stopped to admire the variety in these cheap, expendable rubber shoes. 

And I just had to have a pair.

Flip flops have been the official shoe of Summer since...ever, I guess.  When I was a kid, as soon as school got out, the flip flops went on.  With three girls, it was the cheapest thing in the world--other than barefeet--to outfit us for the next few months.  Even when the toe separator piece would break, Mom wouldn't grouse.  For a buck, she would just pick up a new pair next time she went to the store.

I haven't worn a pair of flip flops for ages; I moved on, sliding my feet into designer sandals instead.

Today I bought these:

The first thing I did when I got home was put them on.  They fit perfectly, the cushion is springy, yet firm.  But it's the snap.  It means Summer to me almost more than anything else.  With every step, the rubber snaps against your heel, the sound clear and distinct; one that can only come from a pair of flip flops.

Summer has come to southern Oregon.  The snap says it all...

Monday, May 7, 2012

In the Moment...Ticket to Ride

I've mentioned before that there is a Harry Potter-type train permanently stationed at the park where I walk the dogs.  This morning, camera in hand, I thought it would be really cool to actually board this train and take some photos from inside. 

My inner child was jumping up and down with glee.  When I was a kid, one of the things I dreamed of being when I grew up was a train engineer.  At the time I wasn't yet hip to the limitations imposed by gender.  That knowledge came much later, in a variety of ways, though I clearly remember my Psych 101 class imploding when reading Freud's words for the first time: anatomy is destinyThat pompous, moronic rat bast--

Oh, sorry, sorry.  I digress.

Back in the moment.

It's a beautiful, sunny morning.  I'm eager to get to the other end of the park and climb aboard.  I have visions in my head of leaning out the window, pretending to pull the cord for that long, lonesome sound of the train whistle.  (There isn't actually a whistle on this doubt a good thing when you factor in the volume of kids that clamor all over it on weekends and holidays).

As we come down the path toward the train, there isn't a soul in sight to thwart my plan.  It's a quiet Monday morning.  I stop for a moment to take this:

On the other side of the train are metal steps to the engine compartment.  My heart was beating a bit faster with excitement as I anticipated going up those steps and looking out that window.

But then.  

Just as I round the front, a school bus pulls into the parking area and 40 kids spew out, yelling and jumping and shrieking and laughing, heading straight for the train.

I gaze wistfully at those metal steps, look up and catch a small glimpse into the stuff of a girl's childhood fantasy, and walk away.

Maybe only children get a ticket to ride...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

In the Moment...Supermoon

My hope for a great supermoon photo didn't pan out quite as I expected, mainly because I'm on the wrong end of the mountain to see the moon coming over the horizon.  It wasn't until after 9:00pm last night--when the moon crested the ridge--that I was able to take any photos at all.  Though it was still really large, and very bright, the moon wasn't as enormous as when just rising.

In case you didn't know: this full moon is the biggest of the year; 13% bigger actually, and 30% brighter because its orbit is closer to Earth than at any other time in 2012, hence the supermoon designation.

I took this picture from my front deck, through the Birch trees, on a beautiful, warm Saturday night, a tantalizing hint of Summer in the soft breeze. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

In the Moment...No Direction Home

Walked the boys in the VA compound this morning.  It's just beautiful right now, with the flowers blooming, the colors, the quiet.  I love the architecture of the buildings, too--so Thomas Jefferson Federalist.  I took some photos of a window that I really like, though that's not what I'm posting today.

As the boys and I make our way around the outer edge of the complex, heading back to the car, we always finish the walk by going through this overgrown, lush area with old rose bushes, very large trees, and a neglected gazebo.

Dylan came to mind when I snapped this...

How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone ?