Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bubble and Froth...

It was time to renew my passport--and where did that 10 years go??--so I send in the paperwork and the money earlier in the month, along with a note advising the passport folks that the old one must be returned to me because it has all my UK documentation glued inside (See pages 9, 13, 23, etc.).  I can't lose my permanent residency permit, nor do I want to lose all the stamps from my travels.

Yesterday, I get my little Priority Mail envelope.  And what do you suppose?

Oh, I got my shiny new passport all right.  But that's all I got.  There was nothing else in the envelope.  (And here's a funny, human thing:  Clearly there is nothing else in that envelope, and yet I looked inside several times, even sticking my hand in--apparently in case my old passport had become invisible).  Bottom line: no passport, no permits, no documents glued to See pages 9, 13, 23, etc.

It's somewhere around 7:30 in the evening.  I didn't walk to the mailbox until it had marginally cooled down, though the humidity was still very high and the poor dogs were panting before we'd barely made it out of the driveway.  My point being, it was too late to call the frigging Department of State.

Which leaves me with hours--many hours--to stew.  I don't like stewing.  I have a vivid imagination.  My brain cooks in all those thick, negative juices, bubbling and frothing with worse-case scenarios.  I haven't as yet decided what I'm going to do--in terms of returning to Scotland, or finding my place here in America--but having the option, the choice, suddenly in jeopardy??  Yikes.  Talk about boiling cauldrons...

Enhance the calm, woman

Eventually I talk myself into settling down, getting a grip.  Even if I've lost my passport with all my permits, I still have the other paperwork: letters from the British government, original documents, proof.  It's all in a big folder, not conveniently located in my handy little carry-it-with-me passport, but still.  I do have what I need. 

First thing this morning, I call the DoS, expecting to be on hold for hours, assuming I can even connect to a real person.  This is the government after all.  Which just goes to show what I know.  I get through straightaway, get a very nice guy to help me, and find out that they mail the old passport separately from the new; I should be receiving the second envelope within the next few weeks.

Total relief.  I felt almost lightheaded, having options again.  Regardless of what I decide to do in the end--and I could very well stay in the States--I wanted the freedom to make that choice.

And now I have it.  Though I could have done without the bubbling and the frothing...

N.B.  Just returned from the mailbox this evening.  My old passport has arrived.  Go figure.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Capturing a Monday...

I'm still looking to photograph my elusive little alligator lizard.  I can usually spot him soaking up the sun on a rock near where he lives, though it might be too hot for that right now.  If he's smart, like I wish I were, he's probably deep in his burrow where it's nice and cool.  I took my camera out on the front deck to see if he might poke his head out of the rockery.

The view from the front, so nice and shady in the early part of the day...

Focus the camera on his home--and hope I'll be able to see him in one of the nooks and crannies.

But no.  The sun has come out in full force, and in a matter of moments it's roasting.  I look out over the other valley, the one in front of my house that I don't often take photos of, with a glimpse of the little town down below--seen through the gnarly skeleton of a White Oak tree.  And a woodpecker preening along the top branch...


I went down the steps to the yard, still hoping to see the wee lizard, but as I walked along the path, I got sidetracked by the large pine tree at the corner of the property.  It was covered in bright yellow...pine flowers?  It looks like Nature is decorating for a party...

Back inside to download the photos, but sidetracked again as I walked past what I call the Wildlife window.  The papa quail was sitting on the fence in the backyard, obviously on guard duty, so I stopped, waiting to see what he was doing.  Sure enough, the female and the tiniest little babies came darting out of the brush below his perch.  Before I could get a shot though, she went into that shadowed area in the middle of the picture.  I waited for the longest time, but she didn't reappear.

Here are some shots of the Wildlife window.  I have an unobstructed view of the back, the ridge as it drops off, and the valley.  Just after taking the last shot, a Turkey Vulture glided right across the yard and out over the trees.  They fly like wraiths: silent, startling, and so large. 

Sort of a panorama.  Reality is ever so much better, clearer, with real depth.  Still, you can maybe understand why I call it the Wildlife window.  On a good day, there are hawks, vultures, and any number of other birds in the skies, or on the ground.

So, no luck with the lizard, or the baby quail, though after watering the back garden, I did pluck some alien pods that defy all scientific logic of normal growth.  Please people, send me your addresses, I will ship these Overnight Express!!  I'll hand deliver them!!  They are taking over my yard, my kitchen.  And this is just the tip of the iceberg...there are dozens more out there, growing bigger by the hour...

They might eat my little dog!!!

Seriously.  Ozzy weighs about ten pounds, give or take an ounce.  Look at the size of the zucchini compared to him.  Oh, and my idea of giving the dogs plenty of vegetables (okay, zucchini), has failed.  After one good sniff, Ozzy walked away in disgust.

I'm doomed.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Magpie Tales 128...On the Wall

Image by Zelko Nedic

One night.   She had a dream about handwriting on a wall.  Words impossible to read.  

Frustrated, she pondered the meaning of such a thing.

Two days later.  She saw an image: dark, deep, perhaps grim.  But this time she could read the words on the wall:

Maybe she will

Frustrated, she pondered the meaning of such a thing.

I find this so strange.  I did have a dream--just Friday.  Then today, of all  things, Magpie Tales 128 had this image as the prompt.  I saw the dog, the man, plant and boot.  And then I saw the writing on the wall.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Possibly X-Rated...

This morning I was out front with my camera looking for the little lizard I chat with occasionally.  I wanted to see if he'd hold still long enough for a photo shoot.  As I passed the stairs, I caught sight of this planter of Hens & Chicks, left by the previous owners of my house.

I haven't paid much attention to this plant.  It's at the corner of the landing at the bottom of the front steps, and I rarely go outside that way.  I don't know if this blatant--dare I say rampant--display is normal.  I've never quite seen anything like it.  It would constitute indecent exposure in most states south of the Mason/Dixon, and at the very least, the flagrant disregard for what is acceptable in polite society is staggering.


It could just be me.  Apparently the French Nun thing isn't working this time around, and it's obvious I'm totally failing.  Big time.  Really big.  Epic even...

Friday, July 27, 2012

3:00 a.m.

Is there a worse time in the span of 24 hours that torments like 3 o' clock in the morning?  No.  There isn't.  It belongs to the damned, the tortured, the regretful.  Even if you've never imagined your life as anything but normal, rosy, pleasant, believe me, lying awake at 3:00 a.m. will make you question everything you've said or done.  I'm sure even Mother Teresa would've paused to regret...something.

So, I have this weird dream.  Someone has written a letter on the wall above my bed.  I'm across the room when I notice this, and the closer I get, the more faded the words become; by the time I'm within inches of the wall, I can only see faint shadows of the writing.  Suddenly, I wake up.  At first, I can't help thinking it's funny.  The handwriting on the wall?  Seriously?   Not too lacking in imagination, and a cliche that only works, as I understand it, if you can actually read the handwriting!!

Closing my eyes, I try to bring the letter into focus, at least to see who it's from, maybe that will help stave off the inevitable, what I know is coming.  But no.  The ghosts, the demons, arrive with the grim snap of brittle wings.  I fight it for awhile, recite my mantras, calm my breathing, try desperately to go back to sleep, but it's 3:00 a.m.  The hour that mocks being human; the hour that reduces thought to the most basic.  The mind plays a cruel game of thrust and parry; victory is called Insomnia.

I debate getting up, to read a book, write a story, dink on the computer, but I'm tired.  I just want to sleep, dammit.  I spend the next three hours not sleeping.  I spend it with ghosts and regrets and angst.  The bed is a shambles of twisted bedding and pillows tossed when I finally give up.

It's too early...and I'm worn out before the frigging day has even begun. Yawning, I stagger into the kitchen, make a cup of coffee, then wander to the big window that overlooks the back garden, and the valley far below.

First, I notice that the bank--where I have the garden beds--is covered in baby quail.  There were at least five mothers, and I swear easily 25 to 30 babies.  I went to get my camera, but just the slight movement--from 20 feet above and behind a window--scared the babies and they ran into the pines.  I only managed to get these two moms, who seem more interested in finishing their breakfast than worrying about the kids.   This is no doubt the quail equivalent of a mom standing at the kitchen sink to gobble down a bowl of cereal before the day starts.

Pretty great camouflage...

I was just turning away, when I caught movement to the side of the back deck.  As RandyG said just yesterday when he was up before dawn himself:  the early bird gets the shots.  Course, I never expected to find myself up all night, or this early in the day, but there ya go.

Twins sharing something edible on the slope...and how cute are these two little Bambi kids??

I stood as still as possible, taking shots with my telephoto, but still this one heard me, lifted her head and stared right at me.  Could those ears be any bigger on such a wee little head?  Aawwww...

Then Mom must have made a sound that I couldn't hear, because suddenly they both bounded over to the side yard to join her where she munched on bird seed...or the sprouts from the bird seed that had fallen to the ground out of the feeder.

Just as I was going to stop and go drink my coffee, one of the twins wandered a few feet away.  A blue jay, very angry that his food source was being invaded--and eaten--by these creatures, flew around the big tree a few times, screeching in that annoying blue jay voice.  When no one moved or even acknowledged him, he landed next to the fawn, hopping mad--literally hopping up and down.  I got this shot of him trying to be intimidating...

Eventually--probably because he was so irritating--the family moved away, went across the road and down the other side of the mountain.

So, RandyG's right.  You can see things in the early morning hours that you might miss otherwise.

Though I would still rather have a good night's sleep, unfettered by weird, senseless dreams and followed by insomnia at 3:00 in the morning.  I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chasing the Moon...

The Summer I was 17, I had a boyfriend named Eddie. He had a rebuilt old Harley that he loved just about as much as he did me, and I was okay with that.  I loved that low-ridin’ black beauty myself.

Eddie was tall, lanky, with dark hair that kissed his shoulders, sapphire-blue eyes that danced with mischief, and softened with warmth when he looked at me. He was smart, funny, and so handsome. I loved him with every bit of my 17-year-old self.

Surprisingly, my parents actually let me ride with him on the Harley, though only during the day, and never for any long journey.  He was respectful of their rules, though would often murmur in my ear that some night, just once, he wanted to take me for a ride in the moonlight.

One truly hot night in late August, Eddie called. I had mentioned to him at some point that I'd accidentally found an easy way out of the house.  One night while looking for shooting stars, I had climbed out my bedroom window to lay on the garage roof.  I realized that I could scoot across the roof, jump down onto the garden shed, then walk along the fence rail to the driveway.  Piece of cake.   

There was a full moon the night he called, too hot to be closed up inside a house, and Eddie wanted to ride. With me.  I was breaking big rules: sneaking out, riding with Eddie at night, throwing caution to the wind.  My senior year in high school was coming up in a few weeks, and I had just enough time left to feel moonlight air caress my face.  He didn’t pressure me. The decision was totally mine to make. He was riding, with or without me--it was that kind of night.

We worked out the details and when the house got quiet around me, and the hour ticked past midnight, I went out my bedroom window and sat under the stars on the pitch of the garage roof, waiting. I could hear crickets, a few frogs, the natural sounds of life on the outskirts of town. The moon was so full, and so bright, I could have read a book by the glow.

And then I heard it.

The low, deep, unmistakable rumble of a Harley off in the distance. Eddie was still a ways off, but in the quiet of the night, the sound of his bike was resonating and clear.

I raced along the rooftop, dropped to the shed and walked the fence to the driveway. The house was on a corner, halfway up a hill. I ran down the road to the bottom just as Eddie came around the bend on a slow glide and stopped next to me. My heart was beating like a drum with excitement, and a little fear. I would be grounded for my entire senior year if my Dad found out, and Eddie would be banned from my life forever.  Was I really going to do this?

He smiled, white teeth gleaming, eyes sparkling with promise. He leaned in, gave me a kiss and asked softly, “You sure?”  I nodded, my doubts melting.  Looking me over, he shrugged out of his leather jacket, holding it out for me to put on.  “Where’s yours?”

“It’s too hot.”

“Not where we’re going,” he chuckled.

I straddled the bike, shoving the sleeves of his big jacket up my arms, and as I tucked myself against his back, I said nervously, “Uh, where are we going exactly?”

“To chase the moon.”

He pulled onto the road and we quietly drove for about half a mile until we came to a four-way intersection. The road behind us led back to the city, left went into the small town where I lived, straight ahead was the freeway. But right? Right was long, winding country roads, old-growth forests, and when you ran out of road, you were at the Pacific Ocean.

Eddie looked over his shoulder at me, his grin wide and irresistible. I smiled back. It was too late to do anything now but go for it. If I was going to get busted, I might as well get busted for taking the risk, having the adventure. I had total trust that Eddie would keep me safe. He raised an eyebrow in question. I nodded.

We turned right.

I have never forgotten that night: The sense of freedom as we sped down the empty back roads; the power roaring from the Harley, eating long country miles; Eddie’s broad, strong back to lean into as my arms wrapped around his waist, my legs cradling him close; the clean, fresh scent of his tee shirt mingling with the warm spice of his skin as I pressed my face into his neck; the wind tangling our hair, binding us together.

We rode past small farms, the occasional lowing of cows followed us like a half-remembered song, ghosts in the moonlight as we passed; driving through dense forests, the sudden chill startling, but such a relief from the heat that came off the bike, shimmered up from the road, swirled in humid eddies on the night air.

Long before there was a movie about a famous ship torpedoed by an iceberg, I took that pose: arms spread wide, knees gripped tight around Eddie’s body like I was riding a crazed, bucking bronco. I laughed wildly, my head tipped back as I looked up into the night sky, the stars bright, luminous and magical, streaming overhead as we rode. Eddie put his right hand on my thigh, pulling me tighter, the warmth from his palm soaking into my heart, staking a claim.

An hour or so later, we turned down a bumpy, curving dirt road. Bouncing along, I asked him what we were doing, where we were going.

“Patience, grasshopper,” he said softly.

I laughed. He was always saying that to me, reminding me to slow down, appreciate the moments.

The sudden silence after he shut off the bike was ear-ringing. I stumbled at first when I lifted my leg over the seat and tried to stand. I felt like I’d just gotten off one of my grandmother’s horses. He steadied me, then took my hand and we walked a short way up a small incline.

I stood in front of him, his arms around me, my body firm against his as we both looked out over the ocean. The moon was huge, ethereal, otherworldly as it glistened and gleamed in undulating silver bands across the water. It was the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen, and I'd been to the beach many, many times before. For some reason I wanted to cry, which embarrassed me.

Leaning down, Eddie whispered in my ear, “It just takes your breath away, doesn’t it?”

I could only nod, the lump in my throat too big for speech. Eddie knew.  He rested his chin on top of my head, and we stood there for the longest time, listening to the sea roll and grumble, absorbing the beauty of the night.

We found a large driftwood log and, using it for a backrest, settled on the sand, comfortable and happy just to be together.  Then, too soon, it was time to go.  We had a long ride back, and I had to climb in my bedroom window, hoping my Dad wouldn’t be sitting there waiting to ground me for life. But I couldn’t, wouldn’t regret this.  Not for anything, no matter what.

Just before I got on the bike, Eddie held me close and thanked me for taking the chance, for coming with him, that he’d wanted to do this all Summer, and if I got into trouble, he would talk to my Dad for me, would take the blame.  I hugged him tight, and said I just wouldn't let anything ruin such a perfect night, so we had to stay positive, hope that no one would ever find out.  It would be our secret forever.

Eddie smiled, kissed me to seal the bargain, and said, “Our secret then, forever.”

On the ride back, the air was cooler, though when I offered Eddie his jacket, he said no, he’d rather feel the morning freshness on his skin. I snuggled into his back, my arms tight around him, and watched dreamily as the moon ran beside us all the way home.

After boosting me up onto the shed roof, Eddie waited below as I made my way across the garage and climbed through my bedroom window.  I had a moment as I stood silently in the dark, a multitude of excuses and apologies rioting in my head, as I waited for my father to snap on the light by my desk.  But no need.  The rush of relief was amazing, capping a night filled with amazement. 

I stuck my head out the window and whispered down to Eddie, where he stood in the waning moonlight at the edge of the drive, "Our secret is safe!"  He smiled, blew me a kiss, and quietly blended with the shadows.  I waited, listening until the last deep growl of his Harley had faded, unwilling to let go of such an experience.

There might be nothing better in all the world than being 17 and in love, chasing the moon down a long, winding country road on a hot Summer night…

Last night I was out in the back watering the garden.  Just getting dark, the air was heavy, sultry.  When the atmosphere is right, the sounds in the valley drift up the mountain.  As I stood gazing at the sunset colors in the sky, I heard the low, sweet rumble of a Harley from somewhere down below.  In less than a heartbeat, I was back in time, with Eddie...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Magpie Tales 127...Charcoal

Figure Eight  1952  Franz Kline

He quickly opened his pen knife, deftly sharpening the charcoal pencil until he found the exact point and slant he wanted, all the while the vision forming in his mind.  He could see her face, the way the ebony flow of hair covered her left shoulder, cascading down bare skin.  Tossing the small tool aside, he studied the blank sheet of paper for a brief moment, adjusted the pencil in his grip, then in a burst of bold, eager strokes, she came to life under his hand.

The pencil shavings lay unnoticed in a small, dark pile on the floor of his studio.  There was no meaning in the configuration of curled scraps of wood at his feet; it was all in the curves and lines and movement of black charcoal on white paper.

(Some see the Figure Eight, others see Infinity.  I see pencil shavings.  It's curious, isn't it?  Magpie Tales 127.)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Beauty and Bounty

I've taken the day off.  No work, no stress...il dolce far niente.**  

After walking the dogs this morning, I came home, dinked a bit on the computer, answered some emails, commented on a few blogs, checked in with my mother, made a smoothie, and went outside to see how my contrary garden grows.

Above is a photo of my beautiful Dahlia.  I'm not usually a pink girl, but I just love this.  The color is so cheerful, especially with those bright yellow centers.

A closer view...


Once upon a time--during my Georgia O'Keeffe period--I shot many a roll of film, just on flowers, with my trusty Nikon.  Several of them I was able to sell, plus I framed a few to give as gifts, keeping just two for myself, which I have hanging right now--one in the hall and one in the den.  There's something so exquisite about a flower.  I find them erotic and sensual and intensely female.

Occasionally, however, there comes a flower that is inherently male, no question.  This is one of a red poppy, the one that hangs in the den.  There is absolutely nothing feminine about this stud at all.  He's bold and flashy, though slighty scary, and very macho.]

So, after the Dahlia photos, I went up the slope to check on my zucchini.  And honestly, I really think these plants should be studied by science.  It's not natural for a plant to grow this fast.  Just a few days ago I had several fingerlings, today I have at least two child-sized baseball bats.

I cut the two largest from the vine before they got even bigger and took over the world.  I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do with them.  Maybe a frittata, a quiche, or just plain ol' fried slices?  Cripes.  I'm only one woman.  How much zucchini can one woman eat?  Guess I'm about to find out...

**the sweetness in doing nothing.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Lost Weekend

I've spent the past few days cleaning the house from top to bottom--literally, since it's a two-story building.  My realtor thought Sunday might be good for an Open House.  I was more or less fine with the idea until I started looking around the place.  Now don't get me wrong: I keep the house fairly tidy.  What I don't normally do is sweep the eaves of cobwebs, wash the wrought iron rails on both decks, or sweep out the two-car garage.  So, besides the inside, I had to tackle the outside.  To say I've had enough is putting it mildly.

Just as the realtor was pulling into the drive, with a car behind her, I was finishing the last little bit of work.   I loaded the boys in the car and headed down the mountain, sweat still running down my temples.  Oh, I didn't mention it's been abnormally hot these past few days?  I didn't point out that the humidity has been acclimating me for my next trek across Jupiter?

Of the people who came for the viewing--whilst the boys and I had to find somewhere to go for two hours--one couple seemed very interested.  He's retired State Police, she's with the DA's office.  (Guess it will definitely be full disclosure on my part then.)  The only hitch?  They're having trouble selling their own place.  Huh.  Really?  Get in line.

Open House over, I'm home, too hot, dogs are laying on the floor panting from the heat, and the excitement.  Cleaning, like weeding, is hopelessly ungratifying and only lasts for a moment, so I'm going now to have a tall, cold glass of Lambrusco, kick my feet up, and appreciate the momentary sparkle of a super clean house.

Friday, July 20, 2012

At Least I Scored Two...

Early in the evening yesterday the sky suddenly went dark and ominous, then thunder began rolling across the valley.  The boys weren't happy, but bribing them with dog cookies always helps to calm the nerves.  As I was turning on a lamp--it really was that dark--I saw this startling, perfectly vivid streak of lightning flash over the mountains.

Lightning is nearly impossible to photograph, at least for me.  With the right setup, maybe time lapse, tripod and a massively fast shutter speed, it can be done.  I don't have that kind of skill, but I went outside anyway, game to pit my reflexes against Zeus, the god of thunder and lightning.

55 shots later--seriously--I was convinced this was a pointless quest after all.  I had decided one more shot was it...and then I got this.  It's not very good, the gloaming was upon me, but hey, if you look really close you can actually see that little bolt of lightning in the middle of the photo. 

Mission accomplished, I went inside, downloaded 56 photos, deleted 55 and called it good.

Later, full dark, I was shutting the blinds in the back of the house and realized the lightning show was still going strong, though the thunder had stopped an hour or so earlier.  Camera in hand I went out to the back deck.  I should have tried to set up my tripod, adjust my camera settings, etc., but honestly, I didn't think I would get anything; the lightning was striking so fast, before I could even react quick enough to press the shutter, it was gone.

I took about 30 shots of nothing then, waiting for just one more chance before I gave up, the most amazing shot in the world flashed across the sky: Two horizontal bolts--one left, one right--struck out at each other over the mountain ridge.  I hoped I got that precise moment...but no.  What I got instead was the aftermath when the two jagged spears of light collided.  Not as dramatic, but still pretty cool. 

Deep in the night, it stormed with a wild fury of wind and torrential rain.  I love being all warm and toasty under the covers as a good storm rages outside; that feeling of comfort, being safe from the elements--unless the wind is blowing the roof off the house, of course.

This morning the air is clean, refreshed, everything is a bit more lush and green in my part of the world after the tumult and chaos of yesterday. 

And though the score turned out to be Zeus = 85, Me = 2, I'll take the two and be happy for it.  I was competing with a god and his lightning bolts, after all.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Love is Everywhere...Or Should Be

You know that feeling you get when you're not in a relationship, and no matter where you look, there are happy, loving couples everywhere?  There's the inevitable surly why them and not me reaction to being left out.

At first, today seemed to be that kind of day for me.

It started this morning when I sat down with my coffee and switched on the world outside my door, and saw this:

Photo by Dallas Nagata White

It's being called The Hottest Kiss Ever Photographed, and not just because of the actual Hawaiian lava flowing in the background.  The couple were taking photos, and at the last frame, he grabs her, does The Dip, and this is the photo.  How brilliantly spontaneous and romantic is her husband?

Next I read Robbie's blog, one of my Daily Fix deals, and he's posted this great story about his woman, their life, both in the past and now in their village in the Colorado mountains.  (No matter what you say, deny it all you want, you are romantic, Mr Grey).

I try not to feel sorry for myself.  I mean, come on, It's not like I haven't been in love, or been loved.  Just because I'm on my own right now, doesn't mean I have to feel bad.  Why then do I feel bad?

The day goes by.  After I take the boys for a long, aimless wander around the park, I come home and get ready for my dentist appointment to fix the werewolf fang.  It turns out to be a bust, proving that, in fact, the third time is not the charm.  I have to go again next week.  Buggers.

Back home, house sweltering--the past four days of great cool days are over--I make an iced tea and sit down at the laptop.  And read this amazing story :

This Navy guy, who has been posted overseas, leaves a letter telling his wife to look for the black box he's stashed at their house.  She finds it, and inside are 241 love notes that he's written to her, one for each day he'll be gone.  OMG.  The time and effort he put into this, the love he has for his wife.  Some of the notes are just...breathtaking.  How truly romantic is this?

I don't know why love, and more specifically romance, seems to be the theme o' the day, but I'm glad, thankful even.  No, seriously, I mean it.  We need more love and romance in our world--buckets and gallons and rivers more.  Today I got three droplets of both, and it's such a glorious thing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sunsets, Birds, Trees and Tom Hanks

The weather has been very pleasant for the past few days: cool, overcast, with the occasional little burst of rain.  Heaven, in other words.  I haven't dreamed about moving to Alaska since last weekend.

The sunsets have been spectacular, especially on Monday night.  I took two shots, the first of the sunset itself, then in the second I used my telephoto and pointed my camera into the heart of the clouds.  The colors, the fire, the beauty of the evening...

I had two Nat Geo moments yesterday, though I'd already blogged twice earlier in the day, so thought I would just wait until today.  As usual with the way the world moves, one of my stories has to do with a Hummingbird, and wouldn't you know, RandyG at Inverted Sky posted the most beautiful photo on his blog this morning, of a wee bird sitting on her nest.

One of my National Geographic moments is my own Hummingbird tale...

Though there's been a bit of rain, it's not enough to truly soak my garden, so each evening I go out, drag the hose up the embankment, and water my raised beds and the flowers.  I have a resident Hummingbird--one I have blogged about before and often see in my backyard...

Photo taken in Feb 2012

So, I'm out watering last night, and I hear the whirr whirr of incredibly fast-beating wings.  I turn my head, and there he is, hovering right off my shoulder.  I smile, and strike up a quiet, one-sided conversation as he darts around me at the speed of light.  Then--and I couldn't believe this--he hovers right at the edge of the water spraying from the hose, and has a drink!  I froze, not daring to move, afraid if I did he could drown in the stream.  He fills up, then darts toward me, dodges around my head, then disappears down the mountain.  What an amazing thing.

Second Nat Geo moment...

My mailbox is about half a mile from the house, so every evening (Summer) or late afternoon (Winter), the boys and I take a walk to get the mail.  Last night, just as we head back to the house from the box, this large quail dashes out of the bushes...

Photo taken in May 2012

He spots us, and starts running away down the middle of the road.  We keep walking, the dogs not really caring about the bird as they're too busy looking for squirrels, and I figure he'll make his escape down the slope any minute.  He keeps running down the middle of the road.  We're catching up to him, so I make some shshing noises, and even flap my arms, to make him get back under cover, but no, he's running the NYC marathon down the flaming road!

This keeps up for the entire trip back to the house.  He stops, I stop, the dogs stop, then we all go forward, repeat, repeat.  It's actually pretty funny and by the time we are within sight of my driveway, I'm having quite the conversation with him, cheering him on, etc.  I expect that he'll keep going down the road once we get to the house.

But no.

He makes a perfect right turn with no hesitation at all, and runs right up the driveway!  Well, now that's poaching into the boys' territory, so they finally acknowledge the poor (no doubt exhausted) bird, and chase him to the fence.  Somehow he mustered up enough energy to fly, just barely, over the fence and down the mountain.  I have no idea why he walked/ran for half a mile when he could have easily left the road at any time, but it sure was entertaining.


Last week I noticed this bizarre tree whilst walking the boys along the river; I didn't have my camera with me that day, so this morning I grabbed it, and off we went to this spot across the bridge from our usual place--which I've been avoiding since the flying debris experience.

This tree reminds me of octopus tentacle suckers, or whatever they're called.  I don't know how the tree lost so many limbs, but on a dark and stormy night, can't you just imagine this tree using those suckers to grab the unwary?  (Have I watched too many Tolkien movies?  Sleepy Hollow?  It's not just me.  Right?)

I had the boys off-leash so I could take a picture without jiggling, and when I turned to see where they should have been...they weren't.  I call out.  I spin in a circle.  No dogs.  Walking past the Octopus Tree, there's an opening along the bank, and I can see the river.  The boys are halfway down.  No, no, a thousand times no.  This is a sheer drop and not one I want to attempt, thank you very much.

Thankfully, dogs, like small children, respond to The Voice.  They froze on the bank, then with a last wistful glance at the water, the mud, the wild abandon, they turned and ran back up.  I leashed them, then took a moment to look at the view.  It was then I saw this:

A Green Heron.  He was fishing and probably cursing the fact the dogs had disturbed his morning.

I made the boys sit and be still, then took a few close-ups.

They're funny little squat birds, not the tall, elegant herons most people think of.  And their feet are yellow, webbed and splay out like a frog's.  I was just bringing the camera down from my face when he struck...and I missed the damn shot.  Still, I got the aftermath, which would have been a true Nat Geo photo if he'd caught the fish!!  Just my luck he wasn't a very good fisherman...er...fisherbird.

And the last thing...really...

There's been this, I don't know, promo-type thing on Yahoo for the last few weeks.  It's usually in the sidebar when I'm looking at stuff on the internet.  I see it, wonder for a second what it means, then move on.  Yesterday, I finally decided to see what in the world Electric City was, and what it had to do with Tom Hanks.
Turns out, it's like a video comic book.  Each episode is only about five minutes long.  Tom Hanks wrote the story several years ago, and now it's been made into this internet animated story.  He plays Cleveland Carr, an assassin; everything takes place in Electric City, long after the world we know has fallen.  At first I thought it was weird, but I ended up watching the first episodes and now I'm hooked.

Not sure when the next installment was coming, I checked this morning and there are a few more posted.  I don't know much else about it, but it's curious, interesting, and I gotta go.  Who knows what's happened in Electric City since yesterday??

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Magpie Tale 126...Alone

Winter's touch on glass

old stones through cigarette smoke

lost in heart of ice

One of my favorite Scottish artists; here's a simplistic heiku for Jack Vettriano's painting "Yesterday's Dreams," at Magpie Tales 126.  (This woman reminds me so much of myself last October when I went home to Edinburgh, alone, for the first time.  I often stared out windows; everywhere I looked was haunted by my loss, and the past) 

100 Words...and then 100 More**

August Moon
From my front porch, Southern Oregon 2012

He kissed her awake. “Come outside with me,” he murmured.

“What?” A glance at the clock. “It’s the middle of the night.”

“Humor me,” he laughed, pulling her out of bed.

Confused, she took in the scene on the back deck: a large air mattress, covered with an unzipped sleeping bag, two pillows. “What’s going on?”

Smiling, he took her hand, drawing her down with him to the makeshift bed.

When they were settled, her head resting against his shoulder, he said quietly, “Look up.”

She gasped, dazzled by the sight of shooting stars streaking across the night sky.


The Wading Pool

July 17, 2012

“Could you bring the hose?” she asked, dragging the plastic wading pool onto the back patio.

“Sure,” he answered, “but what are we doing exactly?”

“I thought the dogs might like to cool off in this heat.”

When the pool was filled, she called to the dogs, napping under a tree across the yard. One briefly looked over, the other rolled to his back, legs in the air, tongue lolling.

She cajoled, begged, then stepped into the water and called them again.

“Not too interested,” he murmured.

“Come in here with me.” He stepped in, the water cold, wonderful, on his bare feet. “Now you call them,” she said.

After every attempt failed, she stomped her feet in frustration, water splashing up his shorts, streaking across his tee shirt. He looked down, then over at her. Grinning, he splashed her back. With a scowl, she bent down, cupped both hands and flung the water at him. He returned fire. Within moments, they were both soaking wet, their laughter sparkling as bright as the water dripping down their faces.

Across the yard, the dogs curiously watched the show, then went back to dozing in the lazy heat of a Summer’s day.

**As hard as I tried, this story just wouldn't be pared down into 100 Words.  So I wrote 100 more and am going to count this as 100 Words x 2.  And, yeah, I can do that...it's my blog.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Jars of Summer

Ah, look how cute they are, those six little half-pints, filled with cherries and blueberries, and just a hint of lemon.

After walking the boys on a wonderfully cool morning, I popped into the store for the missing pectin stuff, determined to make the jam today.  Whilst I was there, I tried to find one of those cherry pitter tools, but no luck.  Maybe they don't make them anymore?  Driving home I tried to think what I could use instead--chopstick, cork screw, pointy end of a potato peeler?

I try them all.  Nothing works.  I have mangled cherries, and juice everywhere.  Resigned, I give up and chop each cherry in half, then use my thumbnail to pull out the pit.  Did you know that cherry juice stains anything it touches a lovely shade of deep red?  It's true.  I have the fingers to prove it.  And the floor, and the kitchen towel, and the sink, and...oh, you get the picture.

After I have the pits out, I then have to cut the cherries into tiny little pieces, about the size of a pomegranate seed.  Surprisingly, this takes a very long time.  I have a moment where I wonder if maybe just mashing everything up with my immersion blender wouldn't be easier, faster, but I don't want to ruin the jam.  And is easier and faster the point of making jam?  Why am I trying to hurry this process?  The recipe says chop fine, so I need to slow down, be mindful.

It was a good thing to do.  As I sliced and diced, I thought about all the women who, over so many, many years, have done exactly what I was doing: preserving a season with fruits and berries to be shared, appreciated, savored, in a different time and season when such bounty isn't available.

I meandered off into my childhood, remembering perfectly that cherry pitting tool, and my sisters, crowding around the kitchen table, the three of us helping Mom make a cherry pie, arguing over who got to use the tool.  I speculate for a few minutes on how many jars of jam and jelly my mother has made in her lifetime.

Next my grandmother came to mind, with all her incredible baking skills.  I loved when she would visit...not just because she was my Gran, but also because at some point in her stay, we would wake up to the smell of her delicious cinnamon rolls--yeasty, cinnamon and sugary, gooey and lip-smacking.  (I'm drooling right now.  Seriously.)  Her crescent rolls are legendary in the family.  No Thanksgiving was complete without those rolls, and Mom's jam.  My aunt (the third daughter of four) has Gran's recipe and makes these rolls often, but to me, they aren't...I don't know...exactly right.  Maybe they have to be made with the kind of love only a grandmother can knead into her dough.

My musings got me through the laborious cherry chopping, and after mashing the blueberries, it was less than 20 minutes later that I had my six little pots of Summer goodness.  As I stuck the labels on each jar, I couldn't help smiling.  Some future morning, in the deep cold of Winter, I'm going to spread my jam on a piece of toast, remember this hot July afternoon, and cherish my connection to all the women who have come before me.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries...

What does that actually mean?  That Life is tart and juicy?  Shiny and bright, though with long stems attached?  Gloriously red and mouthwatering on the outside, sometimes rotten and sour inside?  All of the above?**

The store where I usually shop was having a special Sunday sale on fresh fruits and veg.  Most everything was local, or within the boundaries of Oregon and Washington.  The Pacific NW has an abundance of produce during this time of year--blueberries, apples, apricots, cherries, peaches; plus lots of vegetables from farms in the Valley.  I wanted the blueberries for my smoothies and the cherries because I've got an urge to make some cherry jam.

I found a recipe for cherry/blueberry jam which sounded just perfect, and as the day started cool and overcast (handsprings and shouts of joy at my house), I thought it would be a great way to spend my afternoon.

Too bad, after walking the dogs and shopping, that I got all the way up the mountain and realized I forgot the pectin stuff that sets the jam.   Ah well.  Assuming I don't eat all the cherries--they are absolutely delicious--I have decided to postpone the jam-making until tomorrow because I don't want to go back to the store just for a tiny little box of pectin.

I also bought a rotisserie chicken that I stuck in the oven to crisp up a bit--I like my chicken cooked a bit more than they do it at the store.  It had been cooking for about 20 minutes when Jan (BFF) called for our regular Sunday phone call.  We got into this long, convoluted conversation and it wasn't until I caught this slightly burned smell that I remembered the chicken--more than an hour later.

To say it was done would be an epic understatement.  I may have discovered a new snack food:  chicken jerky.  Crunchy outside, stringy and hard to chew inside, with the unique taste and texture of chicken-flavored shoe leather.  Maybe I could market this as an MRE for hikers and mountain climbers.  I would take a picture and show it, but it's just too humiliating.  

Still, no matter what, I'm not throwing it away.  I will just have to chew on this dessicated old boot until it's gone, or give it to the dogs.  Or make soup.  Or I figure out how to package it for long-haul hikers.  It's probably better preserved than an Egyptian mummy at this point.

If Life really is just a bowl of cherries, I might as well go grab a handful right now since I've totally ruined my plans for dinner...

**Curious about this whole life, bowl, cherry thing, I looked it up.  Turns out, George Gershwin wrote the song. Judy Garland was the singer.   It's long.  The last two lines of the chorus are: Life is just a bowl of cherries, so live and laugh at it all... 
(Still doesn't make sense, but I like the live and laugh part.)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Channeling John Fogerty...

Don't go around tonight
Well, it's bound to take your life
There's a bad moon on the rise...

I couldn't type yesterday, what with all the throbbing and swelling from my sliced-up finger.  In fact, my whole hand was sore.  I even had a minute to two in there where I thought I might just have to suck it in and go to the Urgent Care place.  Thankfully, by afternoon and with more doctoring, I felt better, though there was no chance of fingers flying over the keyboard.

I had to wait until almost dark to water the garden--way too hot otherwise--and managed to pick four zucchini; and my cukes are blooming with flowers.  The tomatoes have been disappointing.  I guess I should have stuck to a regular variety, rather than the San Marcos.  There are a few little buds, but for the most part, they're duds.  So much for my tomato-sauce-for-Winter idea.

So, last night, watching a movie, I drank a few Dos Equis.  I had no choice.  Clutching those ice cold bottles were necessary to reduce the finger swelling.  Really.

This morning, when I opened the blinds on the window that overlooks the back garden, I was startled to see a geyser of water shooting up from the bank.  There's a hole in the tube/hose of the drip irrigation system, and buggers, I can't get all cranky about it really, because if there's a hole, I had to be the one who put it there, probably when I was weeding the bank the other day with my two-pronged, weed stabber tool thingy.   Well, damnation.

The boys and I got a late start for the walk this morning, and didn't get back to the house until almost Noon.  Which means very hot to be fiddling around outside on the slope to fix the irrigation problem.  Still, it has to be done.  

I had to dig up about six feet of the hose in order to raise it above the ground, find the hole--there were two, both prongs apparently--then wrap several lengths of duct tape around the hose.  All went well until I was finished and the blasted hose wouldn't lay back down.  I had the Loch Ness monster hump of black tubing that just totally refused to go back into the channel from whence it came.  Have I mentioned that it was incredibly hot?  I ended up bending (hammering) some metal tent stakes into U-shapes, and pinning the hose down.  I could have gone to Lowe's or Home Base, I suppose, but I really didn't want to go back down the mountain.  Tomorrow when the water comes on I will be very happy if everything stays pinned to the ground, and doesn't shoot water three feet into the air.

I made a big batch of Sun Tea, and as long as I was outside and already sweating, I decided to take a few pictures--and no, not of the irrigation hose.

First bloom on my Canna Lily:

Last year I had planted some bright red Snapdragons where the four rose-colored ones are in this photo.  In the Fall, I randomly scattered the seeds when I cleaned up the garden for the season, hoping I would get some flowers this year.  Look at those orange and yellow blooms, they're tall, and beautiful, and have grown all by themselves.  Strangely though?  They aren't red like the original plants.  Nature is so mysterious...

Between the backyard fence and the deer fence that runs the entire length of the ridge--sort of a DMZ that does no good whatsoever--there is an old, weathered bird house.  This year, I think there might be a bird in the penthouse section, but I can't figure out what all that straw is that's hanging out on the bottom level.  It makes the bird house really look like a barn, though, doesn't it? 

Finished with the backyard chores, and the photos, I come inside and realize I forgot about the zucchini; my plan being to make bread before the heat turns them to mush.  And because turning on the oven to 350* to bake is just what you do on a sweltering hot afternoon in the Summer, right?

Okay, it wasn't too bad really.  And now I have this to look forward to, toasted for breakfast...or maybe for a snack about two minutes from now...

And what does any of this have to do with Creedence or John Fogerty?  Nothing.  I heard the song this morning--one of my favorites by the way--and can't get it out of my head.  Just thought I would pass it on...