Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Heat Induced Amnesia

My brain appears to be disturbingly affected by the heat. I've lost whole days. Ask me what I did this weekend and I will tell you--with a slight note of panic--that I don't know. Somewhere in there I'm pretty sure I walked the dogs, read a book or two, ate food, tossed and turned instead of slept...but I have no concrete recollections; it's all based on routine, not fact.

I know Monday was fraught with errands and tasks, and three trips up and down the mountain in 100* temps.  I had to fill the bird baths twice--morning and evening--because the water just evaporated, and vaguely remember watering the garden late at night under the stars, the air so hot and humid I felt lightheaded by the time I was finished.  But a clear memory of the day?  Nope.

Yesterday I worked on the Dark Wind serial sitting on the cool tiles of the kitchen floor with a dog on either side of me, a big box fan blowing a sirocco breeze over us.  The dogs crunched ice cubes and I sucked down glass after glass of iced tea as my fingers madly tapped the keyboard.  Eventually my butt got sore, the dogs got bored and I had to stop for the day, but at least I wrote a solid chunk and hope to finish the latest installment this week.

Well...assuming my HIA disorder doesn't continue and I forget where I left the plot, the characters, my mind.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Just One Little Thing...

One simple task...four hours gone.

When I get deliveries for books and/or other stuff, if the box is the right size--usually small--I will toss it into one of the storage cupboards that divide the kitchen from the rest of the living area. I like having a choice of sizes. I send my mother and sister little things now and again, and just the other day sent the BFF her birthday present.

Yesterday I got a box and realized whilst trying to shove it into a cupboard, that it wouldn't fit; too many boxes already wedged between other legitimate storage items. So, after lunch today I decided to take a minute, break down the boxes and stack them neatly on one shelf to save space.

Uh huh.

Three hours later, crap everywhere, I managed to clean out four cupboards. I ended up sorting through everything, then making piles for the Goodwill, the bin, and to save.

After the winnowing, came the organizing. I was feeling pretty good until the laser from the skylight beamed across the floor and just about fried my ass.

I stopped for a break, had a cold glass of iced tea, then plowed on for another 45 minutes, rearranging, hauling bags downstairs, Goodwill things into the Blazer...until...

Ta da!

Office supplies and toolbox, vases and containers, computer crap and photos and way down on the right side, bottom shelf, the neatly stacked boxes.

But here's the coolest thing. Look!  An empty shelf!

Funny how one little ten minute task turned into a four-hour, sweat-soaked chore. Still, I managed to make a serious dent on something I've put off for ages even if it was too hot and totally not on the agenda for today. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Art Flash

This morning, still gloriously overcast, I decided to pop into the Art Center after walking the boys.  A new exhibit opened last Friday--a reception event I had planned to attend before the heat burned the intention out my brain.

Walk finished, I settled the boys in the car after drinks and treats, grabbed my camera and went into the quiet, empty gallery.  I love it like that: no people, time to really look at the art, take photos of whatever captures my fancy.

Vase -  Cheryl Weese

This vase was quite tall, over a foot.  I could just picture a few elegant Calla lily or Gladiola stems...

Crocodile Tears - Ashtine Rieke

Cool Mr. Poole - Maureen Bell

I loved this...he was about the size of an average, real cat  Too bad he wasn't for sale...

Untitled - Victoria Carnate

Oh this was beautiful in person.  The mysterious, serene face (to scale with human), surrounded by actual pheasant feathers, made her appear like a nature spirit or goddess of the forest.

Bacchus - Marie Rasmassen

This guy was fat and funny and very cleverly named...

Cairn - Susan Roden

Interactive art.  The stoneware, porcelain and wood pieces were on a long steel rod so if you owned this, you could build the cairn to any configuration you wanted.

Stegosaurus Bottle - Laurie Morris

This was just totally cool.  His head came off, like a cork, and this wonderful piece became a bottle.

Whilst making my way through the galleries, I could tell the clouds were burning off.  At this point in my viewing, the sun was just beginning to blaze through the windows--I had to stand off to the side to block as much light as possible to take this shot.  It was my last photograph; the boys, though in the shade with windows open, were still out in the car with rising heat.


Home now and the sun is back, at full nuclear power, the heavenly chill of rain and damp air has vanished like dreams in the smoky haze of wakefulness.  Ah well.  For a moment...just a short, wonderful moment...I wasn't sweaty or cranky or sleepless.

I'll take what I can get...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Yes, it's rain!

Early this morning an odd sound nudged me half-awake.  At first I was disoriented by the
Winter-like darkness in my bedroom and the fact I was snuggled deep under the covers because it was chilly. In my grogginess I imagined it was a perfect January morning and marveled for a moment at how nice the rain sounded on the roof.


Rain?  Rain?

I came fully awake then and rolled onto my back to really listen.  It was like hearing angels singing, harps and all.  Such wonderful music to my parched ears, that gentle fall of raindrops.  Smiling, I nestled under the duvet and drifted off to sleep, hoping this wasn't just a cruel dream.

It wasn't.  It's been raining in fits and starts all day.  Occasionally the sun breaks through and steam rises, but the clouds are dark, strong and dominant and quickly block that relentless nuclear orb.  The wind swirls, the rain beats down and I grin every time it goes from wretched bright to sublime gloom.

However, today is just an aberration in the whole weather scheme of Summer, here at the southern Gates of Hell; by Friday it's back into the 90s.

Still.  I'm content with this tiny foreshadowing.  It's allowed me to breathe; to burrow into the depths of my bed with the duvet tucked under my nose; remember what it feels like to have cool, fresh air caress my face as I walk the dogs.

Although I might have to struggle for another month or so with the heat, the humidity, the toss and turn of restless sleep, now, at last, I have hope that better days are coming...

Monday, July 21, 2014


So Friday.  It's brutally hot.  I've walked the boys, done chores, it's early afternoon.

Now what?

Maybe I should blog, or work on the third installment of the serial.  I sit at the computer, the sweat rolls, I zone out, staring at the screen without a coherent thought in my head.  Honestly, when it gets too hot, I sort of lose the plot.  Okay, I totally lose the plot.  I'm just so not wired for heat.

I read some email, follow an Amazon link to a recommended book series and--glory hallelujah, the book gods are smiling--it actually sounds interesting enough to wake me out of my stupor.  I download the first book to my Kindle, shut off the laptop, pop the cap on an ice-cold bottle of Dos Equis and join the dogs on the cool tile floor in the kitchen.

Immersion ensues.

I stay up way past midnight to finish the book.  It's good, maybe even great and I want to read the next three books.  I toss and turn in heat sleep, dreaming of Seattle and mysteries, dragons and myth.

Saturday morning, first thing, I download the remaining books in the series.

[Brief aside here...

I am totally a real book person.  I love the feel, the smell, the snick and rustle of paper pages being turned, the joy in holding the soul of a story in my hand.  I have three gigantic bookcases full of this truth.

But the ease and availability of my wee Kindle is awesome.  I live in a small town, the nearest bookstore is over an hour away.  I download the books in under a minute.  I can't help it peeps...that's a pretty cool thing.]

Over the weekend, while the heat escalates and the planet continues to hurl toward global Armageddon...

...I wasn't here.  I was there.  I forgot about the unprecedented weather raging across our beleaguered Earth; politics that negate the horror of shooting innocents out of the sky for a man-made political construct; murder and mayhem on every news channel.

We don't live in peace, dear readers.  To our shame.

However, I wasn't here.  I was there.  Lost in another world, another time. Walking familiar streets in a place I used to call home.  Seattle.  Cool, rainy, often foggy and damp.

I was totally immersed...and it was a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


I'm sure I said in an earlier blog--maybe last month or so--that I wasn't going to piss and moan about the unrelenting, nightmarish heat.  I lied.  I can't help myself. When the sweltering Northwest makes national news due to mind-numbing temps nearly 20 degrees above normal...well, I feel justified in my whingeing.

And now the fires have started.  Vast tracts of land are burning in Oregon and Washington. Old growth forest is turning to ash; trees that are older than anyone living today are vaporizing in the firestorms and we haven't even gotten to August--the worst month for heat and fire.

My house--greenhouse effect in full force--has made doing even the simplest task seem monumentally difficult. I'm watering in late evening, only walking the dogs in the mornings and definitely no afternoon strolls to the mailbox.  Sleep is a fond memory--the humidity rising with the temperatures--and what little I get leaves me fitful and headachey.

I tried to write the next installment in the serial yesterday, but just the movement of my fingers on the keyboard had the sweat dripping.  So, rather than struggle and curse...I stripped down to bare bones, put on a thin cotton shift, made a tall glass of iced tea and laid on the floor next to the big box fan to read a book.

It's also hard to muster up an appetite for anything other than sorbet or smoothies. Although, I discovered this amazing cheese the other day at the store, bought some Italian salami and crackers, and have been munching this light fare for dinner all week--of course washed down with very cold Lambrusco.

The cheese is made in a small village on the Oregon coast.  I was drawn to the name, but now have fallen in love with the product.  It's very garlicky with an excellent medium cheddar tang that blends just right with the salami.  Perfect meal when it's almost too hot to breathe.  And so far, no vamps...


The BFF and I have finally worked out details for a visit.  Next month I will drive north to my sister's; she has--graciously, wonderfully, I will owe her big time--offered to doggy sit the boys whilst I fly further north into the wilds of Idaho, just shy of the Canadian border. I'm flying to save hours of time and money: I can fly for half the cost of several tanks of gas and almost two days of driving which will give us more time together.  August is probably the worst time for such an adventure, but it was the only month my sister, the BFF and I could mesh our schedules before Idaho gets snowed in for the Winter, usually around Hallowe'en.

I can't wait to see her.  Though we talk almost every Sunday, I haven't physically seen her in about six years; the time before that it had been nearly ten.  It's strange and very cool that we have remained so close while never actually seeing each other.  We're trying to change that, especially now that I'm back in the States, and I'm hoping she'll come my way next Spring.

I'm leaving the laptop, tablet, my phone and wee dogs behind.  It will be just me, my camera, my best friend and the wilderness.  Oh, and lots of Glenlivet.  Our friendship began over a bottle of that lovely, smooth whiskey and ever since, whenever we get together, Glenlivet is in the glass.


Well, the sweat is dripping and my brain is beginning to percolate, so I will leave you, dear readers, with this picture of a cotton candy sky.  I took it last night from the front porch; the actual sunset was off to the right of the shot, but I liked this view better...

Monday, July 14, 2014

For The Greater Good...

On Saturday, while out watering the flowers in the back garden, I noticed a big bumblebee resting at the center of one of my Cosmos.  I got my camera, carefully focused...then realized the bee was frozen in place.  Like paralyzed.  How totally weird. In looking for the reason, I found a creepy looking albino spider with red stripes on either side of its fat body on the underside of the flower. I've never seen a spider like this before, but the stripes surely had to mean something dire.

Between the heat, lawn mowing and a quick walk to the mailbox, I forgot to research the spider.  I wanted to know specifically if it was capable of killing a bumblebee...or poisoning a human.

Sunday night--watering by moonlight to avoid the unrelenting sun--I find a frozen, dead honey bee in the center of the same plant.  And buggers, look there, under the's that damn white spider again!

I do an internet search and discover that indeed the crab spider is the bee killer. She--because of course, with those red stripes, it had to be female--has a paralyzing venom, loves her some yummy bee juice, which she sucks out of the poor frozen creature, apparently while it's still alive.  Gross. Totally vampirically gross.

This morning, while it's overcast and slightly cooler--though only until the clouds dissipate and the temps soar back into the high 90s--I do some quick yard chores, water the pots and planters...and find this:

Another honey bee murdered.  Sadly, it was covered in pollen, just doing it's job and the killer spider nailed the poor thing.  This makes three bees in as many days and I can't have that.  I deliberately have plants in my garden to draw the bees, not invite them in for a grisly death.

Nuking creatures that have as much right to exist as the rest of us isn't something I normally like to do...however, honey bees are far more crucial for the environment than a life-sucking spider.  I didn't use a sharpened stake, garlic, or holy water, but I did dispose of the thing, no details necessary.

I just can't have my guests slaughtered when they come to visit.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Magpie Tales 228...Lost

Beneath tattered beauty
worn tread endures
Ghostly footsteps echo
of stories long forgotten


Prompt from Magpie Tales this week...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

It's Just A Mystery

The summer before we left Scotland to come to America, Alan surprised me for my birthday with a holiday to southern Italy. We stayed in a beautiful little village outside Sorrento, called Sant'Agnello. Our hotel was perched right on the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean, Mount Vesuvius visible from our bedroom balcony with Naples sprawled beneath.  At sunset, we could see Ischia and Capri glowing in the red-orange light like magical islands floating on the sea.

It was the best holiday ever.  So romantically Italian and wonderful that we decided it was more than a holiday; it became our second honeymoon.  And though our first honeymoon in Dublin had been most excellent, we agreed Italy was, well...more.

I took over 200 photos.  Everything caught my eye.  It was a wonder I didn't burn up my camera.

Fast forward...

Those of you who've been following me for awhile will remember a few years back that my computer was hacked and pretty much destroyed.  I had to buy a new one, and reinstall and/or repurchase everything that couldn't be saved by the techies. I lost over 500 irreplaceable photos--road trips around Britain, Scotland in all it's glory, moments in time from parties, events, gatherings.

And all of my Italy pictures.  Every one.  I cried for days.  Alan was gone by then so the loss felt even worse.  One of the best times of my life, with him...erased forever.

This week is the same date in July that we spent in Italy, so that holiday has been on my mind lately. Memories are so nebulous, and often get lost or misplaced in the vast archival space in our heads, but a photograph...a photograph can illuminate those dark corners and instantly bring certain moments back to life.

But not Italy, for me.

Fast forward...

This morning I had to take the boys to the vet for their annual checkups, shots and rabies/dog license stuff.  It was grueling with two shaking, freaked out--don't make us go in there--dogs, but in the end, with extra treats, it all worked out. Except for the bank account part.

I keep the paperwork on the rabies and dog licensing in the car in case I need to prove they're legit to someone, but the actual tags--too big for my wee dogs to wear--I keep in a small compartment in the incredibly beautiful music box that Alan bought me in Italy.

The boys have lunch, I balance my checkbook of dwindling funds--seriously, it was close to $300 today--and head for the bedroom to put the tags away.  There are other things in the music box and with the new tags, it's a bit crowded, so I take everything out and sort through stuff, seeing what I can get rid of.

At the bottom, tucked into the blue velvet lining I find a small disk, the kind you use in a digital camera. I frown, turn it over a few times in my fingers, but nothing rings a bell; I don't recognize it, there's nothing to identify it, I don't get it.  A mystery.

Setting it aside, I clean out the music box, listen for a poignant moment to the tune, Torna A Surriento, that never fails to transport me to that narrow little back alley in Sorrento and the wonderful old Italian guy who made each box by hand in his little shop.

After watering the plants in the back garden, the heat rising and sweat dripping, I make a tall glass of sun tea and sit down at the laptop to figure out what's on this unknown little SD Memory Card.

Is it okay if I just say that I burst into tears?  You guys will understand, right?

Because on that card were my Italian photos.  I don't know how it got into my music box, or why I would have taken the little disk out of my camera.  I always download my pictures to my photo program, then erase the card--start with a clean slate and all that.

So, let's take a moment, peeps, while I share this inexplicable mystery with you.  Here are a few random picks, in no particular order other than the joy I have in remembering them...

The village of Sant'Agnello...and our excellent hotel--the coral and white building--which is the beginning of the mile-plus cliff walk that eventually takes you into the heart of Sorrento, off in the distance...

We went by boat one morning to Capri; I took this shot at sea.  Our hotel is there, on the end of that jutting bit of cliff.  I never knew the south of Italy was so mountainous...or so truly beautiful.

Coming into Capri.  Once past the harbor it was like Beverly Hills--every famous designer you can imagine had a shop along the ancient narrow streets.  For me it wasn't the famous shops, but the famous Limoncello, potent and delicious...

Another day and a drive down the Amalfi Coast.  That white building in the center of the picture is where Sophia Loren lives.  And I wish I did...

My favorite place: Ravello.  A village way down the coast and high above the Amalfi highway, with cool mountain air and a breathtaking view.  We drove up the mountain and stopped at a little cafe, then sat for an hour or so with our Italian coffees...and seriously discussed moving to Italy.


What a strange day it's been. A startling turn of events that I can't begin to explain, tears--both joyful and sad--and vivid memories that can now shine outside the dusty corridors of my mind.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Summer Week

It's been a singularly hot and humid week here at the southern edge of the Gates of Hell. Unseasonable, scorching, and no end in sight.  So it goes.

During the week I've taken the odd photo here and there as I've gone about my chores, dog walks and late evening plant waterings. Since I don't have anything pithy or interesting to blog about, thought I would just share a few of them.

Wednesday, early morning across the valley...

Same day, sunset.  I love how the wind plays with the clouds...

This shot, Thursday I think, was my favorite sunset.  Not only were the colors beautiful, but the wind swirled wisps into strange shapes, like cloud snakes or dragons...

One evening I tried some macro shots with the new lens on the bumblebees flitting around in my front garden.  This guy was totally absorbed in his pollen gathering; he's gripping that lavender blossom for all he's worth.

I made an attempt to take some photos of the fireworks on Friday, though I screwed up and had the shutter speed too slow; I was concentrating more on keeping the dogs calm through their version of Armageddon, though actually they did better this year. (And thanks Rob, for the Rescue Remedy suggestion--I think it worked!)

Very blurry underwater sea flower...or, 4th of July fireworks...

This is a terrible photograph, but in a weird way, I really like it.  What happens when a wee dog tries to crawl into your lap and bumps the tripod?  Behold...

Walking the boys around the VA compound yesterday, I saw these really cool grass flowers. They look like little woven spirals...

This pair of mourning doves were just hanging out on the back garden steps. The male (right) kept trying to talk to the female, but she blatantly ignored him, then when he tried to edge closer, she pecked him before moving away. Wonder what he did to make her mad? Guys...always in trouble for something...

Heat, humidity, fireworks and flowers, birds and bees. gotta love it...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

July 4th

Happy Independence Day !!

Have fun, stay safe, care for your animals.  
And take a moment to think about what we're celebrating!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Heat and Heart

Off the grid for the past few days, mainly because I've been too stunned by the incredible heat and humidity to do much more than whimper.  Up early to walk the dogs, then I try to accomplish shopping and appointments and chores before my brain explodes inside my skull like an egg in the microwave. It's way too hot, too early in the Summer, which doesn't bode well for what the weather will be like in August.

Ah well.  Other than move back to Alaska--or the Antarctic--it's just a matter of sweating it out. Eventually, that sharp tang of Fall will be in the air and all this nuclear torment will be over.


Yesterday, whilst grocery shopping, I had a very...odd, poignant thing happen.  I'm still thinking about it today; the lump in my throat is just as hard to swallow now as it was yesterday in the checkout line...

I've unloaded my groceries onto the conveyor belt thingy and am just pushing my empty cart forward toward the clerk when this woman and her son get in line behind me.  The woman is tiny, barely reaching my shoulder and looks tired, careworn. Poor.  The boy is about ten or so, cute, with blond hair, blue eyes and a big smile. He's carrying a box of tennis shoes like it's the Crown Jewels and he's about to present them to the Queen.

The box is the only thing they have, so I step to the side and tell them to go ahead of me. They both stare at me like I've said something in Swahili, then the woman shakes her head and says, "Oh no, we couldn't." I laugh and say, "Oh yes, you can," and move my cart out of the way and wave my hand for them to pass me.  The clerk looks at me like I might be slightly deranged.

Here comes the first throat lump.  Why are these people so shocked at something so small and--let's face it--meaningless?  So I have to wait two extra minutes in line.  So what? It made more sense to let them go first since they had one thing and I had many.

They sidle past me, almost as if it's a trick and I'm going to rescind my offer. The boy hands his shoes to the clerk as the woman quietly thanks me--as if I've done something wonderful.  I smile, then pretend to be digging in my purse for my wallet because I can't talk around the frigging lump that is, for some damn reason, also making my eyes burn.

What kind of world do we live in that letting a person go ahead of you in line it such a big deal?

The store is in the throes of a big, whopping 4th of July sale.  Coupons, 50%-off Summer stuff, yada yada.  So when the clerk tells the woman the shoes are $9.95, I say, "Wow! That's a really good deal!" I can see the tag on the box that says $50.

She smiles as she hands the clerk her $10 and coupons, then murmurs, almost under her breath, "He's wanted these shoes for a long time."  The boy is now holding the box like it's the best Christmas present he's ever gotten in his life, a smile stretching practically from ear to ear.

I can't help smiling, too.  "Really cool," I say.  The mom thanks me again for letting them jump the line and as they walk away, I happened to glance down and notice the shoes the boy was wearing.  Old, tattered, broken laces, a rip in the toe on the left foot.  No wonder he's so happy.  It is Christmas, to him.

Second throat lump.  I can't respond to the clerk when he says, "That was really nice, what you did." I wobble-smile and once again resort to purse digging while I try to get a grip. And honestly, I was struggling with my feelings. Holy crap, all I did was let these folks ahead of me in the frigging checkout line and you'd think I'd given them the winning lottery ticket!  I'm borderline embarrassed for getting praise and doing so little.

So, again, peeps, I have to ask: What kind of world do we live in?  Is it so out of our ken that a little act of kindness is regarded like something inexplicable?  I'm sure there was a time when it was common to let people go ahead in line if they only had one or two items; I remember it, surely.

Our world is so out of kilter that sometimes I just can't help it, my heart gets sore. I cried on the way home. Not sobs, or wailing...just a few tears and a good nose blowing.

But then...

The boy has a new pair of shoes, and I'll never forget his smile...