Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Week 31 of the 52s...Namaste'

Namaste' is a Sanskrit word with many interpretations.  In some cultures it's a gentle greeting, with prayer hands and a slight bow, in others it's an acknowledgement of the soul in one by the soul in another.

Here is a longer explanation.  And how incredibly amazing--to me--that one word can encompass all that is (or should be) meaningful to us as human beings...

The definition I prefer, and the one I try to keep in the front of my mind, is very simple:

The divine in me honors the divine in you
And now, dear readers, you're probably wondering where I'm going with all this. Hang on, I'm getting there...

But first, a photo of my wee floating Buddha, a tat I've had for several years on my left forearm. (I took the shot through the mirror, so it's reversed)...

After much thought (two years) and many graphics, drawings and discarded scraps of paper, I finally found the perfect complement to my Buddha.  It's not only the Sanskrit symbol for namaste' but is a very unique design, enclosing the symbol within the shape of a heart.

This afternoon I went to the local tattoo emporium and got this...


I asked Josh, the tattooist, to match it as close as possible to my Buddha--in color, placement and size on my right forearm. He did a most excellent job. The colors are perfect and when I hold my two arms together, the two designs couldn't be more aligned. I wish I could take a photo showing the two side by side, but I had a hard enough time trying to get these two shots with my left hand.

It goes without saying how pleased I am. And maybe the visual will help in my struggle to remember we're all in this together peeps, for better or worse. A little love and peace would go a long way...

So far, this has been one of the highlight adventures in the ongoing saga of the 52s.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Snap...Shots and Dragons

I've added a page to the blog.  Over on the right there, see the photo of my old tried and true Nikon?  If you click on the camera, it will take you to the new page where I'm going to start posting my favorite shot of the week.  We'll see how it goes.  I'm failing miserably at keeping up with the serial writing, and adding another thing to my plate might seem totally ridiculous, but hey, I'm always taking photos anyway, so it shouldn't be much of an effort to post one in the course of a week.

Yeah, okay, I hear you.  Famous last words...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Anyway.  Remember when I pruned all the Snapdragons a few weeks ago and stuffed them in a big box to dry out so I could harvest all the seeds?

As the stalks dried, every few days I would stomp them down like I was smashing wine grapes.  It's actually helped that the weather has been so hot and dry because the seed pods were popping like firecrackers.  This morning I figured it was time...
So, I got out my handy strainer--not one I use in the kitchen anymore--and slowly sifted my way through stalks and pods and debris.  I'm pretty sure I have about two million seeds in my little pint-sized Mason jar.  I also had another one that was nearly full, but I scattered those over the back slope and across the road at the front of the house.
There are so many, I could become a Johnny Appleseed person--well, maybe a Susie Snapdragon--and travel across America, covering the land with orange, purple and yellow flowers...
That would be a really cool job, wouldn't it?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dreams, Dogs and the Decade Plan

I'm sure everyone is pretty tired of the pissing and moaning I've been doing about the frigging, endless, mind-blowing heat wave that has overcome the western states this Summer, so I will say no more about it.  First, because whingeing changes nothing, second because I'm even boring myself.  If, however, I lose days between posts?  Then you'll understand that I've been overpowered by the sheer force of the inferno pouring from the Gates of Hell and couldn't sit at the computer to write.

My dreams of late have been filled with visions of snow and polar ice caps and blizzards that rage outside log cabin walls.  And for just a moment--before I wake sweaty and headachy with the heat--I can feel the chill, see the beauty in the flakes as they swirl, revel in a sky laden with a frigid white cold instead of a burning yellow fever.

Somehow I have to get through August, and probably most of September, before there is a hope of taking a breath of fresh, cool air; of waking up one morning and knowing I survived the blistering torture of an extremely hot Summer.

I chant, this too shall pass, and try to believe it...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Last night, or I guess really in the early hours of this morning, Max woke me by crawling up my chest, his whole body trembling as he squished against me.  I couldn't figure out what was going on, until I heard the deep, long rumble of thunder in the distance.  And really, I mean long.  Each rumble seemed to go on and on, far beyond a normal roll.  I got up and pulled back the bedroom drapes...and couldn't believe I was hearing an endless barrage of thunder in a cloudless, star-filled night.  Is that even possible?  Don't there have to be clouds, or some kind of obvious, visible signs of a storm? 

Well, unless I was sleepwalking/dreaming, I was listening to rolls of thunder in a clear sky.  And since Max, usually not bothered by fireworks or thunder, had turned into a quivering mass of doggy distraughtness, it was pretty apparent I wasn't dreaming.  It took about an hour for the "storm" to pass, then another half hour or so until he settled down.  Course, by that time I'm wide awake and too bloody hot, so after tossing and turning for another hour, I just got up.  Whatever.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This is my birthday week.  I'm on the Decade Plan these days, so this birthday doesn't really count as it's in the middle of a decade.  I had a great chat with a dear friend in Edinburgh yesterday, and have gotten some wonderful cards from other friends and family over the week, but still.  I don't find much celebration in getting older.  Now, if I were Benjamin Button and started to get younger, well, that would be cause for drinks all 'round, no doubt.  But birthdays, like some other holidays, are more important for the kids; milestone years, like that little boy at the store the other day who had just turned seven.

Milestones for me:  My first bicycle at eight, first watch at ten, driver's license at sixteen, graduation just before I turned eighteen, hallelujah I can legally drink at twenty-one, then how the hell could I be thirty?  After that?  Pretty much a blur.  I had some great birthdays in that blur, don't get me wrong, but once beyond those great milestone moments, I'm not so eager to watch the birthdays flit by like fireflies.

Ah well.  There's no stopping the inexorability of time; it passes whether we fight or accept, wish or want.

Even so.  I'm sticking to my Decade Plan...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Week 30 of the 52s...Unnatural Creatures

Due to the hideous temperatures--the fiery 90s crossing the line into triple digit nuclear meltdown--I've been hard pressed to come up with an adventure for the 52s this week.  I can barely walk the dogs in the early mornings, let alone go out later in the day on a quest, and trying out a new recipe is totally off the table since lately I've been living on cold salads and fruit smoothies.  There's no way I'm using the stove or turning on the oven.

This morning, while staggering strolling with the boys along the river and attempting to organize the week in my head, I also pondered what I could possibly do for something new.  I don't think Creative Ways to Lay on the Kitchen Floor, or Living Undetected in the Lawn Furniture Department of the Air Conditioned Grocery Store, would really count.

Then, driving home, the dogs panting loud enough in the back seat to drown out the radio, BookCrossing flashes into my mind.  And the book I've already chosen, waiting patiently for me to remember, on the middle shelf of the bookcase in my bedroom.

Here is the perfect book to release into the wild...

I love Neil Gaiman.  One of my favorite books of all time is American Gods.  When I first saw this book, and his name, I didn't hesitate to grab it off the shelf at the store, and even though I quickly realized it was a book of sixteen short stories and not a new Gaiman novel, I still had to have it.  Because how amazing must these stories be if he was the one to select them?  Very amazing, as it turns out.
Part of the blurb from the back cover:
     ...herein is a collection of rare and magnificent species.  Each one will thrill, delight, and quite possibly unnerve you.
     Selected by master storyteller Neil Gaiman, the sixteen stories in this menagerie will introduce you to a host of strange, wondrous beings that have never existed anyplace but in the richness of the imagination.
Not only does Neil introduce each story, but there's one of his own in the collection too, Sunbird.  To me, Unnatural Creatures, is like discovering a lost, almost forgotten book of fairy tales...written for adults.
So, tomorrow morning after walking the boys, I'm going back to the college (where I had my basket class a few weeks ago), and somewhere on the campus--perhaps in the cafĂ©, on a bench in the quad, or maybe by the auditorium or near the theatre--I'm going to release this most excellent book of stories into the unknown...
I hope the journey is a magical one.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mountain Living

I've had a series of wildlife moments, starting last night whilst out watering the garden in the gloaming of a brutally hot day.  Even as I watched the setting sun over the mountain range far across the valley, I was sweating in the intense humidity.  Frankly, I don't know what I'm going to do in August, usually the hottest of the Summer months.  Ah well, I won't borrow trouble by dwelling on next month...I'm having enough bother with this one.


I bought two of those new hoses, the kind made from lightweight fabric that winds itself up once the water has been turned off.  It's changed the misery of watering with the heavy, always tangled hose into an easy, no hassle, effortless way to water.  I have a large area in the back and had to connect the two hoses to reach the top of the garden.  At the join, I can't get a tight enough seal so a small puddle of water leaks out onto my path.  Keep that in mind...

I'm up at the top of the slope filling the bird bath, when my resident Hummingbird pops in for a visit.  He shows up every night, darts circles around me and occasionally flits near the spray of water from the hose.  It makes me nervous when he does this because what if I accidentally move and drown the wee thing?  Last night, however, I think a good dunking was just what he was looking for.  He hovered at eye level as if to make sure I saw him, then he carefully bobbed toward the stream of water.  I had the nozzle on full blast, but eased back to a gentle trickle as he delicately took several drinks--and wow, what a long tongue!--then, to my amazement, he dashed back and forth through the water until he was soaked.  By the time he was done, the sound of his wings had gone from a soft whirr to a loud brrrrrr, like playing cards pinned to a bicycle wheel.  He spun around my head one more time, then disappeared into the trees.

I continue down the slope, watering as I go, until I reach the bottom edge of the deck where I have to walk along the stone wall to reach my five hanging baskets.  I'm still thinking of the Nat Geo moment with the Hummingbird when I get to the last basket.  I'm mindlessly watering when suddenly something flies out of the foliage and lands on my arm. 

What can I say.  I shrieked like a girl.  For a minute or two, I even think I hopped up and down, flapping my hands, shooting water everywhere, yet still it stuck fast to my forearm.  Nervously I looked down not knowing what to expect...and saw the tiniest little frog I've ever seen.  The poor thing was so scared, his little fingers were clamped like octopus suckers to my skin.  He was a soft earthy color, with big brown eyes and was only about the size of my thumbnail.  Very carefully I raised my arm to the basket and brushed him into the flowers where he immediately hopped under the Lobelia and out of sight.

Watering done, my thoughts still bouncing between birds and frogs, I'm walking along the path toward the spigot when I register this the puddle of water that has leaked from the hose.  It's nearing the end of the gloaming now, sun long set, the sky turning into that light-dark of a hot Summer's night.  I'm about ten feet away when my brain registers that I am not seeing a large stick across the path, but a snake.  Crap, hell, damnation and holy shit.

What is it about snakes?  I froze like a statue, my heart nearly bursting out of my chest and my breath caught painfully in my throat.  I'm not exactly afraid of snakes, but the way they can always so startling.  After a moment I gather my wits and can see it's just a harmless garter snake, though not a small one.  Then I see that it's actually laying in the water and his tongue is flicking out like he's having a drink, and cooling off at the same time.  How hot does it have to be that a snake will try to cool off? 

I drop the hose and casually back away (what? like you wouldn't?).  Then I head into the garage, open one of the bay doors, walk up the drive and reach my arm through the gate to shut off the water.  The snake is still wallowing in the puddle, though when it twists to look at me, I'll admit I sort of ran quickly retraced my steps and closed up the garage faster than normal.  Later, when I went back to wind up the hose, it was gone.  But crap, now I know it's out there...somewhere.

Then, as if this hasn't been enough with the wildlife adventures...

My neighbor round the bend asked me the other day if I'd seen the new fawns.  I said yes, because I had just that morning seen a new pair.  He asked if I'd seen the mother.  Again, I said yes, though she was down the slope and the babies were in the middle of the road.  He was relieved because twice he'd seen them, but not the mother and was concerned they were orphans.

This morning I opened the blinds and spotted two tiny babies hunkered down under my rhododendrons in the front yard.  These were not the two I'd seen in the road the other day.  No, these twins were far younger, practically newborns.  They must have heard the slight jangle of the blinds, because they looked up at me, then jumped to their feet and ran into the wilderness across the road.  Running on unsteady, gangly new baby legs.  I went outside and scanned the shrubs, the road, the forest, the tall grass.  No mother.  Oh man, I think my neighbor was right and these so incredibly vulnerable wee creatures are alone.

I can appreciate the beauty in a friendly Hummingbird, return a little frog to his hidey hole in my flowers, even grant a snake some private time to enjoy the coolness of a small puddle on a beastly hot day.  But to know that two tiny little orphan fawns won't stand a chance of surviving on their own?  That part of mountain living just breaks my heart...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Week 29 of the 52s...Anything Goes

Last night was the reception for the Annual Membership Show at the Arts Center.  Being an "open" exhibit--the works aren't juried or judged--means anything is accepted.  The only criteria: the artists must be members of the Umpqua Valley Arts Association.

It was a very eclectic show, from wood to textiles, oils to watercolors, pottery to sculpture.  Here are a select few that caught my eye...

This oil painting was gloomy and mysterious and really beautiful in person.  Regrettably my photo doesn't do it justice.

Living History by Judy Nigh

Lovely watercolor, especially without the overhead spotlights glaring onto the glass.
Pelican Wall by Renee Richardson

A very cool piece, though not being a Viking myself, I have absolutely no idea what the significance is in the coiled snake thing on the top.
Vikings Rule by Marie Rasmussen

I loved this.  Perfectly folded pages, crisp and sculptured.

Wave of Thought by Gabriel Harrington

When I came around a corner and saw this little wooden carving, I smiled.  And then I read the name of the piece and laughed out loud.

Iggy the Lion Hunter by Byron Vosika

This was food for thought.

One Crazy Hour by Richard Worthy

So whimsical and charming.  Something for the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, for sure.

Tea Pot by Cheryl Weese

I've seen this artist's work in previous shows; every time I'm in awe of her skill with clay.

Pod #3 by Laurie Morris

This small textile was done on silk, which I know from experience is a most difficult medium to work with.  Her stitches were perfect, as is the name of the piece.

Walkabout by Sally Zehrung

It never ceases to amaze me when I wander from room to room at these exhibits and see the work on display, marvel at the cleverness and talent of the artists.  Even in the smallest town, in the middle of nowhere, art is alive and well...especially when anything goes.

Friday, July 19, 2013

For Love

Photo by Hannah Stonehouse Hudson

Remember this story from last Summer, about John Unger, a man with a deep abiding love for his painfully arthritic dog Schoep?  This photo of John cradling Schoep in the lake to help ease his pain made me cry last year, and it makes me cry today. 

Schoep passed away yesterday.  He was 20.  What an amazing thing for a large dog to live to such a great age.

The awesome power of love...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


I have been crushed by the heat of late, dear readers, with temperatures averaging 12 degrees above normal in my part of the world.  Doesn't seem like 12 degrees would make much difference, but believe me, it does.  Day after day in the mid- to high 90s has taken its toll on my brain, hence why I dropped off the grid for a wee bit.  It's hard to type when you're laying on the cool tile of the kitchen floor, whimpering panting louder than the dogs.

And, sometimes there just isn't much to say/write/think, is there?  Sometimes a day in the life is just...a day.  No more, no less.

Still, as today has yet to reach meltdown stage, I have a moment or two for some random musings...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sunday morning when I took the boys to the VA for our walk, I realized that in one area of the complex there is a beautiful, very tall, pine tree.  I learned in the basket class that the taller the tree, the longer the needles, so I wandered over to see if that notion held true.  It did, but better yet, scattered on the ground around the trunk were several fallen clumps of needles.  It was like finding a cache of treasure, so after the walk I gathered up the fronds and brought them home to dry...

It might not look like it from the photo, but once I've dried these, and removed the caps, there are just enough needles here to make a basket.  From forest debris to useful pine basket.  I love that.

On my back slope, I have four pines that I had planned to utilize for my basket making, so on Monday I went down the ridge to see what might be available.  I don't want to take the needles directly off the trees--being a tree hugger that would be tantamount to pillaging and plundering--but surely there had to be plenty of needles on the ground?

Oh yeah.  Under the trees, though precarious to gather on the steep drop off, is a thick blanket.  It appears I could make baskets until the end of time.

And speaking of baskets, unfortunately I ran out of the sinew from the class before I finished my first basket.  I had to order a roll online, which I hope arrives soon as I don't want to lose my momentum.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I have--yet again--been struggling with the blasted serial.  I've learned much from this exercise, the main lesson being that once the installment has been posted, I'm hosed, no matter how much I want to change something.  In an odd twist, it feels like every single time I post, I've painted myself into a corner.  When I finished episode 29 (and yikes! that was clear back in June!), I reviewed my outline and notes, and realized I had totally screwed one angle of the plot.  I have been mulling and musing to find a solution ever since.  I know where I want to go, just not how to get there.  It's frustrating beyond words--pun intended.

Normally when I'm writing, I get all absorbed in the story and write like a maniac, all the plot threads wound between my fingers like a Cat's Cradle.  With serial writing, there are long pauses, different POVs, and weeks between each character's installment, which means I can drop threads and sometimes forget to pick them back up.  When I realize it, then I have to either write around the gaping hole or find a way to weave it back into the plot.  And also, in all this finagling, I try to remember *Chekhov's Gun, a writing construct that sometimes gets lost in the quagmire of my thoughts.

It hurts my brain, and the heat doesn't help.  Or maybe the heat hurts and my brain doesn't help.  Either way, I've been stalled on the serial.  Those of you who have been following the story, rest assured, I'll be back shortly.  I can almost see the pieces falling into alignment...

...unless that's a mirage in the heat haze.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
*Chekhov's Gun requires every element in the narrative to be necessary.  If you say in the first chapter that there's a rifle hanging on the wall, at some point in the story it absolutely must be fired.  If it has no purpose, it shouldn't be hanging there.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Week 28 of the 52s...Pine Needles

I've had a most excellent adventure for the 52s this week.  Remember last month when I posted about the Arts Festival?  I mentioned seeing the beautiful pine needle baskets and how much I would love to know how to make them. 

Well, serendipity being what it is, the next day--Monday--I got the Summer Class schedule for the local community college in the mail.  And, of all things, there was a Native American Pine Needle Basketry class being offered for July 13th, from 9 to Noon.

I signed up immediately.

This morning I got up at the crack of dawn to get the boys walked, fed and settled, then dashed off to the college which is on the opposite side of the valley and northeast of town.  I've never been that direction, so it seemed a bit complicated to first find the school, then the building. 

I left home early in case my map reading skills failed me, though as it turned out, I had no problems and arrived 20 minutes ahead of time.  What a beautiful place.  The class was in a building on the outskirts so I didn't see the whole campus, but I'm going back at some point just to look around.

This is the view from the Technology Center where my class was.  Though the valleys are filled with forest fire smoke, you can still see how cool the scenery is...

A small display of the instructor's baskets--which I will never be able to duplicate in a million years...

A selection of pine needle bundles, mostly Ponderosa and Long Needle.  Paulette (instructor) had dyed several of them, so along with the basic pine color, we were able to choose another color if we wanted.  I chose a wonderful reddish shade.

So, after talking about pines, soaking the needles, trimming and prepping, Paulette took us through the types of sinew and the needles we would need to weave everything together.  Then it was Step One: gathering a few needles, wrapping the sinew, bending and lashing to make the center of the base for the basket.  This simple step was harder than you might think...and I'm not being a wuss.

So, the first hour flies by and this is what I have to show for it:

Next we learned different weaving stitches and how to bind one row into the next...another hour and this is what I have to show for it:

There were a few hiccups along the way--I started over twice--and it was hard to grasp a few techniques at first, plus who knew those clever Native American women had such upper body strength?  But at last I found my rhythm, and all nine of us ended up spending the last 45 minutes or so just weaving away and chatting like we knew what we were doing.

We got to take our pine bundles and other bits of equipment and sinew with us at the end of the class, so with any luck at all, I will keep working on this totally amazing craft...

...though, this is all I have to show for nearly three hours of weaving:

I figure at the rate I'm going, I ought to have the base done by next month, and maybe the basket finished by, oh I don't know, next year sometime?

Still.  It was a very fun class, and I have the rudiments now, so I'm hopeful that I can retain what I learned this morning and will actually complete my very own Pine Needle Basket.

Just writing that is cool...

Thursday, July 11, 2013


I had a bunch of errands to run this morning, including taking both the dogs to the vet for their annual health checks and yearly immunizations.  All is well...except for my bank account.  By the time I was finished it was too hot for the boys to stay in the car while I did the grocery shopping, so I drove back up the mountain, dropped them off, then headed back down.  Any wonder I've begun chanting for an early Fall...?

So.  I walk into the store, get my trolley, and as I'm digging in my purse for my list, this little voice chimes out: "Today's my burfday!"  I turn my head to see this manchild looking expectantly at me, the huge grin on his face clearly showing the gap where one of his front teeth should be.  There's a scattering of freckles across his nose, and a serious twinkle in his deep brown eyes.  This is one truly adorable kid.

I smile at him.  "Really?  Today is your birthday?"

"Yep," he tells me, "and I'm seven!"  He sort of puffs up a bit when he says seven, like he's almost a grown up now. 

"Seven is a very good number for a birthday."  He's beaming at me, glad I can appreciate his achievement.

I look around, but don't see anyone who might belong to the Birthday Boy.  As I'm scanning the flower displays and lawn furniture in the area where we're standing, a couple comes in the doors and he immediately says, "Today's my burfday!"  And I'm telling you, this kid's voice is so full of excitement and joy, it's totally infectious.  The couple smile widely and wish him a happy birthday, then he turns back to me.  I know his face is going to hurt pretty soon...those smile muscles are being stretched to capacity.

"Where's your mom, or your dad?" I ask.

He comes up close and whispers, "Mom said to stay right here cuz she has to pick up my burfday cake!"

"Ah, so it's a surprise."  He nods and starts to dance from foot to foot with an overflow of energy.  The bakery is at the opposite end of the store, so I figure the mom has left him sitting on one of the chairs in the lawn furniture department, no doubt with instructions not to move.  Apparently she didn't factor in birthday exuberance.

Two more folks come through the doors and he repeats his mantra, the happiness never wavering as he alerts all and sundry to this monumental occasion.  And amazingly, every single person stopped, smiled and wished the kid a happy birthday.

I give the boy my own wishes, then walk around the furniture and into the floral area.  They have Mylar balloons behind this big counter.  I find one in bright blue with red letters that says "Birthday Boy."  I buy it and walk back to the entrance.  The boy is pushing himself back and forth in one of the lawn swings, but still smiling for all he's worth. 

There's something breathtaking about unadulterated joy, seeing the completely happy moment on the face of this child.  It just melted my heart.

His eyes widen as I hand him the balloon.  "There's only one time in your whole life that you turn seven years old," I say.  "It's a very special day."  He thanks me quietly, eyes fixed on the balloon bobbing over his head.

Then I went to the bakery.  I spotted his mom right away.  She had some birthday wrap and ribbons in her basket and was watching one of the bakers boxing a colorful cake.

"Scuse me."  When she turned, I said, "I just gave your little boy a balloon, I hope you don't mind."

She gave me a funny look, like do I know you?

I smiled.  "Your kid is totally cute.  He's so excited it's his birthday, he's telling everyone who walks into the store."

Rolling her eyes, "He's been like this all morning.  It's like this is the first birthday he's ever had or something."

"It's okay I gave him the balloon, though, right?  Like I told your boy, you're only seven once in your life."

She looked at me for a minute, then laid a hand over mine on the trolley handle.  "Did he thank you?" she asked.

"Yeah, he did."

We grinned at each other.  "Add my thanks to his," she said, "and it's more than okay that you gave him a balloon."

"He's the cutest kid I've seen in a long time," I said.  "I hope he always keeps a small part of being seven in his heart."

"Me too," his mom said, then the baker was ready to hand her the cake, and I meandered away into the vegetables to get on with my shopping.

By the time I left the store, my face hurt from smiling...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Along The Way

Six days a week the boys and I hike a mile to the mailbox, rain or shine.  In the Summer heat, however, I wait until it's nearly sunset and a bit cooler.  Cooler being relative.  There have been a few days so far this year where the temps have been too high as night falls and I skip the trek, though usually the boys grouse.  One day last week Ozzy really got antsy for the walk, so I leashed both of them up and headed out.  We made it about the length of a city block before Ozzy stopped dead in the road--tongue hanging--then abruptly turned around for home.  Nobody listens to me...

My mountain is covered in trees--mostly White Oak and Long Needle Pine--so there is much to look at as we meander to the mailbox.  Sometimes I take my camera, like last night.

Amongst the oak and pine, there is also a small grove of Pacific Madrona and I've noticed that around 8:30 or so, as the sun begins to lower behind the ridge, it lights up the trunk of one particular tree, highlighting the beautiful orange-red color...

Further along the route is this wonderful White Oak.   I've been meaning to take a photo through that odd little viewing space for ages...

After getting the mail and retracing our steps, we came around the bend at the house...and there was my favorite tree, the one I see out the front windows, the tree every bird on the mountain perches on at one time or another during the day, the dead oak I call the Halloween tree.  It doesn't look scary at all in daylight, but at night--especially when there's a full moon--it looks twisted, sinister and creepy.  I love this tree...

I might miss looking in shop windows, watching people go about their day, but in a way I'm looking through nature's windows, watching wild things go about their day.

And on that note, just as I was finishing this post, I looked out the front window to see this handsome fellow perched on a limb of the dead oak...

Pretty cool, huh?


Sorry about my last shot.  I know it's blurry, he went from zero to sixty in a heartbeat, way too fast for me to focus.  Still...

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Screen Saga...

Sunday, and only one thing left on my week's list of chores: repairing the dreaded bedroom window screen.  Every day I wander past the frame kit, the screening, the tools...and keep right on going.

Though it was excruciatingly hot in the garage by early afternoon, I decided to just do it anyway, though I half hoped the hack saw might not work, giving me a reprieve until a trip to Lowe's on Monday to buy a new one.

I set up the sawhorse, got the tools, and made my first cut...

And the hack saw worked like a dream.  In fact, the easiest part of the whole deal was cutting the frame--the part I was sure would be the worst!

In less than ten minutes...

Next I assembled the pieces....
Well dang. This is too easy, I think...  

...thereby jinxing the project.

I follow the directions on the screening package: Cut screen material one inch larger than frame and pull taut as you run the splining tool in the groove. It's working really well, and I love the tool I got from the guy at Lowe's, and though by the time I get to the fourth side I have barely an overhang of screening to hang on to, I get it done and it's taut enough to bounce a quarter...and wow, why did I procrastinate on this project?

Now at this point it's about 107* in the garage, sweat is pouring down my face, but I'm so happy about having built the frame and screened it, I don't even care.  I pick the frame up off the floor and lean it against the wall...and frown.  Why isn't it straight?  I squint, I turn it upside down, I take it outside, up the steps, onto the deck and try to insert it into the window frame.

It has an hourglass shape.  The top and bottom fit the window, but the middle is concave.

I groan.  The long pieces of the frame are 58"; the metal has a bit of flexibility.  WTF?  Why did the instructions say to make sure the screening was taut?  Of course it would pull the metal inward.

I take the whole bloody thing apart, to no avail because I have already trimmed the screening and once it's taken out, it won't go back in.  I could have screamed in frustration.  Except the heat had sapped whatever energy I had left to shriek.

The end of Sunday's project.

So, this morning, bright and early before the Gates of Hell open for the day, I go back to Lowe's for more screening.  And I have a plan.

I buy a dowel, cut it to fit between the frame to hold the shape, then cut the screening larger than they said on the package so I have wiggle room...

Ta da.  Here it new screen.  (And is it any wonder the birds fly right into my windows?  What a reflection on a sunny afternoon...)

Though it took me two days, and much sweat and aggro, I'm really pleased.  The project is done and it wasn't that hard, though I'd really like to run into that window guy again--the one who gave me the tool that day at Lowe's.  I want to know how you can put the screen material into a long, flexible metal frame and not have it torque. 

Still, the dowel idea worked just fine...necessity being the mother of invention, after all.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

HBO, Seeds and Softball...

Yesterday was the first day in a long while that started out overcast and fairly cool. Okay, fairly cool isn't quite accurate. It was still in the 80s, though there was a stiff breeze that tricked you into thinking it was fairly cool...because the sweat dried faster.

I've had to put off lots of outside chores--and yeah, inside ones too--due to the very real possibility of nuking myself with heat stroke, dehydration or brain boil. So I spent the better part of the day mowing and weeding and edging and pruning. I even hauled the ladder out and refilled the hornet trap with the attractant stuff--not one of my favorite things to do. By the afternoon the clouds were gone and even the breeze wasn't helping, so I gave up, went inside and had an icy cold beer.

I had planned to write, either the blog or the serial, but I discovered something as I plopped down on the couch like a rag doll. When I get too hot, my mind doesn't work. Well, it works, I can still function and make decisions and all that, but the creative part of me just shuts off. Most folks get energized in the Summer then slow down and sort of hibernate in the Winter. I do the opposite. I'm worthless for the better part of June through early September and have to struggle to do stuff until Fall, when suddenly I come out of the coma, all raring to go with energy to burn.

So, instead of doing any writing, I stayed on the couch like a melting lump, watching the first season of The Newsroom, which is the best thing I've seen on television in...I don't know when. Jeff Daniels is totally, compellingly brilliant. I'm really glad I decided to watch the replay because now I'm caught up and the new season on HBO starts Sunday, July 14.


This morning, another cloudy start to the day, I took the boys down the mountain for a really nice walk at the VA, then came home and finished up the yard work--though when is gardening ever really finished?

I've been waiting several days for the seed pods on the Snaps to dry before I pruned the stalks for the second blooming.  These plants are just my favorites.  I started with just five wee plantlets and two years later I'm working toward a Snapdragon forest...

After the pruning...


I had so many stalks just bursting with seed pods, though many hadn't turned brown yet so I tossed everything into the lawn mover box my new machine came in--I knew there was a reason I kept it.
Then I went back to clean up my mess and couldn't believe what was strewn all over the path...about a million little black seeds, which means I must have a billion if you count all the stalks in the box!  I gathered up a dustpan full, then sprinkled them all over the slope; the rest I swept into the soil around the existing plants.

One of my favorite pots this year...the Lobelia is a beautiful shade of bright blue and is growing like a weed. I thought the Nasturtiums would be overbearing, but no, the Lobelia is almost crowding them out...

Whilst scattering the seeds along the slope, I turned to see how my three veggies were coming along, and first Zucchini of the Summer! It's only about 5" long, but still, there it is...

I also have a few tomatoes, so far only about the size of marbles, and a tiny little squash has just begun to grow from the first flower.  I'm hoping it will be a good plant as it's one I haven't tried before.  It's round and about the size of a softball when it's fully grown and supposedly tastes like an acorn squash.  I'll be curious to see how it works out, though if it doesn't, lobbing it down the ridge should be pretty easy.  I used to love a good baseball game...

Thursday, July 4, 2013


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, 
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Over time, I think the meaning of July 4th has gotten lost in the frenetic burst of fireworks.  The true reason for the celebration has dimmed with the years, and perhaps the intent has been forgotten as well.
Imagine the amazing feat of those thirteen small, fledgling states in taking on the entire British Empire.  Imagine believing in men with integrity, vision and purpose, the indomitable leadership of that new America.  Imagine having such faith in liberty and freedom that every man, woman and child would join in defense of that ideology.  And then imagine winning.
I wonder what our forefathers would think of us now...