Saturday, August 30, 2014

Almost Over...

Fall Leaves - October 2010

Don't you just love a three-day weekend?  It's even more gratifying when the mini-holiday is Labor Day. September begins on Monday, that glorious, wonderful, I-survived-another-frigging-Summer month that gives me hope for cooler days ahead.

Especially as I've spent most of this past week laying in a sodden heap on the kitchen tiles as the temperatures soared into highs I don't ever want to experience again. One of the days--I can't remember which one as my brain was fried-- it was 114* with a sweat factor on the humidity scale that surely had to rival one of the worst circles in Hell.

I got an email from my neighbor that day.  She was prostrate on her living room floor after a three-hour school shopping excursion with her granddaughter.  She was rambling incoherently about prancing naked down the road whenever she was able to get up again. I reminded her that I always have my camera handy to capture unexpected wildlife moments so she might want to rethink that plan...

Though the weather will continue hot and uncomfortable for weeks more, I can't stop the glimmer of excitement that's starting to take hold. My mind revels in anticipation of brilliant Fall colors; sleeping under warm flannel sheets as the winds howl outside; Irish stew and Kentucky biscuits; storing the lawn mower; snuggling under a cozy blanket on a rainy Sunday with a good book, a dog on each side; making a pot of chili that will simmer all day, filling the house with comfort and ease. Socks.

Oh yeah, peeps.  I truly love a three-day weekend...but not as much as I love that Monday is September 1st...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Holy Crap

Gates of Hell...just below my house

It's 110 degrees on my front deck...which is shaded by five Birch trees.  I don't even know how hot it must be in the back where there is no shade whatsoever.

There are no words, peeps...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Georgia On My Mind

No matter how many photographs I take of various and sundry things, I always somehow gravitate back to nature; more specifically the glory in flowers.  I channel Georgia O'Keeffe on a regular basis.

This evening, after a blistering day of heat, I was out back taking some shots of my soon-to-be-finished garden.  Although one could be fooled that Summer will never end--what with the lingering and relentless temps--the plants are more clever and are already making seed pods instead of new buds.

So, for a last hurrah of blooming loveliness, in no particular order:

Delphinium --

Dahlia (see the honey bee?) --

Black-eyed Susan --

Cosmos --

Carnation --

Fuchia --

In the deep, dark of Winter, I'll come back to these photos and marvel at the captivating jewels nature bestows on us mere mortals.  And the best part?  I won't be sweating or miserably hot as I wait for the Gates of Hell to slam shut.

Sounds like Nirvana to me...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Aloha, Konichiwa, Buon Giorno, Bon Jour, Hi Ya

Back from a whirlwind holiday, exhausted, happy and wondering at the speed time flies when you're having fun.

The journey started with a cancelled flight, costing me an entire day of the planned week with the BFF as I couldn't get another flight out until the following day.  Still, that gave me extra time with my sister, so I guess things balance out in the end. Though I won't be flying with that particular airline again, that's for sure.

It was such a grand adventure.  Idaho was hot--as hot as the rest of the NW--but we just didn't care. We drank and ate and laughed until we could hardly breathe through the stomach aches.  I took dozens of photos, but will try to limit myself so you don't nod off, dear readers.

[I asked the BFF what name I could use for her when blogging.  I shouldn't have asked over a bottle of wine.  The names she came up with!?  I'm still laughing.  So, henceforth, the BFF will be known simply as J]

The tiny town where she lives, in the far north of Idaho.  Population 1,751--I might have counted as the 1.  Her house is between the town and that first ridge.

The river that runs through it...wild and vast and beautiful...

One afternoon we stopped at the local historical museum and these lovelies caught my eye, just growing willy-nilly up the telephone pole beside the entrance to the building. Incongruous and cool...

On the day we chose for the Big Hike into the mountains, we also found several amazing things along the route.  The drive began early in the morning as we drove 32 miles north up the highway to Priest Lake, a stunning, pristine place with the clearest water I've seen in a very long time.

We stopped at the forest ranger's post to get a map and discovered there were ancient indigenous pictographs along a trail that edged the lake.  We decided to find them.

I love how those two trees arch across the path.

Our first glimpse of the lake...quiet, peaceful, sandy beaches and gentle waves.  I could have built a small cabin on this spot and called it good...

However, we hiked and searched and backtracked, but couldn't find the rocks or the pictographs. Then we stumbled across this bench, just about where the rocks should have been...

We read the small brass plaque, but it didn't make the least bit of sense...until we turned around.

View from the bench. I don't know what happened to the actual pictographs or the rocks, but we got the message.  What a truly beautiful place...

So, onward we went.  After several more miles, we found an incredible place that was formed after the last Ice Age.  It was called the Quaking Bog.  The land surrounding the small lake is made of peat and seems solid, but it's an illusion.  It floats above the water and if you step on it, you sink like quicksand.  We walked maybe twenty feet or so out onto a small wooden pier built by the forest service, to this square platform that teetered back and forth, making waves that spread across the water...and watched in amazement as the "solid" ground began to quake!  It was totally cool.

Once the water stilled, I took this shot.  It was utterly silent.  We were actually whispering as we marveled that this place has looked the same for thousands of years--untouched, primordial--and it felt like it.

More miles, then we turned off the highway and began 20 miles of washboard gravel. I primed the containers of bear spray, though in reading the directions I learned the spray only shot out for about eight feet.  I told J it was a good thing I had longer legs--I would run for help.  After we stopped laughing over who would get away first, we debated the reach of a Grizzly which, counting those claws, would probably exceed the crummy eight-foot range of the pepper spray by a wide margin.

Just before we left the bone-jarring bad road to begin the climb up the mountain, we came around a bend and saw this rugged granite outcropping perfectly reflected in the crystal clear little lake...

20 miles of gravel took us to five miles of this...straight up, no guard rails, sheer drops of 6-7,000 feet. I did not take photos of the drop.  I was too busy hanging on for dear life and trying to ignore my life flashing before my eyes as the truck bounced and skidded in gullies, washouts and potholes...

After five miles, the road petered out. We still had two miles to the trail head and drove along what I'm sure was nothing more than a deer track, until we finally made it to the designated parking area and the trail marker. A heavy coating of mosquito repellent, bear spray clipped to our shirts, water and protein bars stashed in pockets, and we were off into the wilds.

I forgot to mention that by the time we began the hike--at 1:00 in the afternoon--it was over 100 degrees up there.  Holy crap it was hot.  J said she thought it would be cooler in the mountains.  I said we were closer to the sun, how could it be cooler?

At last.  The view from well over 8,000 feet, Priest Lake way, way off in the distance.  My only regret is the heat haze, making the mountains seem ethereal rather than solid.  In retrospect, probably the best time for this hike/view, would be in the Spring or Fall.  The torturous hell of August just might be the worst time.  Still...

And then, because I said I's a wave to Canada, right where that peak is framed by the two tall pines...

It was a great holiday, beyond wonderful to spend time in the true wilderness--thankfully not a bear in sight--and to laugh and talk and enjoy the company of my BFF, with the added bonus of hanging with my sister, too.

So, even with the crap start of a cancelled flight and a lost day, I had a most excellent adventure...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Aloha, Sayonara, Arrivederci, Bon Voyage, See Ya...

Northern Idaho

I'm leaving tomorrow morning on my holiday. After heading north to my sister's to drop off the dogs, I'll be winging my way to Spokane, then a two-hour drive into the wilds of northern Idaho to spend several days with the BFF.

When I talked to her on Sunday, she'd already planned a six-mile hike up to a fire lookout that apparently has an incredible view of wilderness, lakes and mountains; close enough we can also wave to our Canadian neighbors.  And there will be bears.

We will talk and laugh and drink Glenlivet and reminisce about the good ol' days in Seattle and get maudlin about the passage of time.  Then we'll laugh some more and be thankful we've had each other through the thick and thin of our adult lives.

So, I'll be off the grid until sometime next weekend.  I've decided to take my Kindle--for the books--and my cell--for the bears--but for the most part it will be just the two of us, my camera and days of back-of-beyond freedom.  I can hardly wait for the adventure to begin.

Catch you on the flip side, peeps....

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Stocks and Scars

108 degrees yesterday, the humidity about ten times higher; 92* when I went to bed last night. Needless to say, very little sleep, between the sweating and the panting--that would be dog panting, I was more into whimpering as I tried to imagine the moment when this Hell is over and cooler days arrive.  It's like trying to imagine what it would be like to have wings, or walk on water.  Great in theory, but will never happen.


As I'm leaving on Thursday to head north on the first leg of my mini-holiday, I've had lots of chores and things to do this week.  I knew today was going to be the worst as I had appointments and several errands to run all over town, so I got up really early, not only because of my schedule, but also for the dogs to have a good walk at the park without collapsing from heat stroke.

So, we're about halfway around, lots of trees for shade and near the river.  The boys are off-leash as there is no one else on the trail, or even in sight. Ozzy is on one side of the path, Max on the other when I hear this rushing sound behind me.  I turn just as two moron idiot asshat cyclers come barreling around the curve.  This is not the bike path, that's on the other side of the complex.  The boys and I are on the walking trail.  I shout at the boys to "stay" then stand in the middle of the path to slow down the moron idiot asshat couple--a man and woman--who apparently feel it's perfectly fine to rip along as if they're training for the Tour de France.  They don't brake, but they do ease back slightly on their pedaling and weave around me.

Thankfully, when I growl "stay" in the tone of an irate Kodiak bear, the boys freeze like popsicles and the couple blaze through us without incident.  I wanted to throw rocks at them.

Still.  No casualties or altercations--though I was sorely tempted to point out they were totally in the wrong area of the park.

I turn back to continue walking, release the popsicle dogs, contemplate the crass disregard the couple have shown...and promptly trip over the hump of a tree root in the asphalt.

[Aside: There are several very old, very large trees along this part of the walk.  Their roots have burrowed under the path and buckled it in many places]

I try to keep my balance, but the root is a big one with a long split down the middle of the asphalt which catches the side of my shoe just when I think I've saved myself.  I land on my right knee and skid on my palms until I'm laying flat out on the path.

Suddenly, I am six years old.  I feel the burn in my hands, know my knee is cut, want to scream for my mommy.  Max dashes up, sticks his nose in my face--I guess to make sure I'm not dead--then wanders off to sniff the tall grass under the tree that has tripped me up; Ozzy doesn't even bother to look in my direction.

I roll over and sit up.  The blood is already running down my right palm, the skin is shredded, there are bits of gravel and dirt embedded and it stings like a million bees. The left palm isn't so was easier to pull out the debris and it wasn't bleeding too much.

My knee, however, is a mess. I spent most of my childhood with Band-Aids on my knees. Seriously. Back in the day, my mother should have bought stock in the company. I think the layer of skin might be thinner than normal from all the times I scraped both knees raw in accidents and mayhem.  Right now I have a two-inch gash in my knee that is bleeding profusely.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Throw in some camels and a few sheep.  And a donkey. Ow ow ow ow.

I get up and hobble back to the car, blood dripping off my fingers, and snaking down my knee into my right shoe.  I dig out some bandages from the first aid kit and gingerly grip the steering wheel to drive home.

There's just enough time to doctor my wounds before I have to head back down the mountain for the appointments and errands.  Once everything was cleaned and bandaged, I felt better, though now the right palm stings like crazy every time I wash my hands.  And my poor, ol' knee? It's already bruising around the gash and a bit swollen, and hurts in a dull, achy oh-yeah-I-remember-this kind of way.

Whilst driving around town, groaning as I got in and out of the car, I couldn't help pondering the vagaries of Fate.  What if I hadn't gone walking so early? What if those moron idiot asshat people had stayed on the real bike path?  What if I'd been looking at my feet instead of glaring at the bikers?

Thing is, there's nothing more senseless than asking what if.  And I've got the scars to prove it...

Monday, August 11, 2014

I'll Take What I Can Get...

Yesterday.  Clear skies.  Supermoon.  Camera ready.

I'm out back watering the garden, thoughts meandering, settling on nothing in particular. The sun has set by the time I'm rolling up the hose, the air colored with shades of pink and orange and yellow, across the valley the mountains are turning blue and purple in the gathering dark.

Here, let me show you...

I'm taking some photos, thinking how lovely the colors are against the clouds from the setting sun...



Shit!  Clouds!!

No no no.  There haven't been clouds for days and now they show up when there's a Supermoon rising?

About every half hour or so I went outside, hoping the clouds would break, but the most I managed to see was an occasional indistinct glow.  I was really disappointed, though somewhat sort of not really consoled myself with the half moon shot I took last week.

Later, close to midnight, as I was walking across the dark living room on my way to bed, this silvery beam of light suddenly crossed my path from one of the skylights.

I hurried out to the front deck with my camera, but damn the moon was already hidden. Still, the ethereal glow from the clouds was beautiful and I stood there for a bit admiring the monochrome effect in a world usually filled with color. Then, just as I was turning to go back into the house, the moon graced me with this--in a perfect, brief moment--before disappearing into a dark band of clouds.

So, I might not have been able to howl at the moon, dance in the moonlight or get the photograph I wanted.  But I did get an unexpected moon blessing, and that totally works for me...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Moon Magic

Tonight is the Supermoon, the biggest moon of the year.  Last week I took this shot of the half moon, mainly because it seems every time I want to capture something celestial, the clouds appear out of nowhere and ruin the view, though perhaps not tonight since it's been clear and hot all day. The Perseid meteor showers begin as well, so I'll pretty much be spending most of my evening outside. Living on a mountain with no lights or neighbors has its perks, for sure.

In pagan lore, standing in the glow of a full moon, three months in a row, while imagining true love...will bring it into your life. This would be a perfect moon to start such a enchantment. Throw your arms wide, lift your face to the night sky, and open yourself to the possibilities, dear readers.

The sun bakes and burns, a merciless but necessary evil, but the moon...ah, the moon. Soft, gentle, empowering. And always beguiling...

Friday, August 8, 2014


Back in the days when I sailed the South Pacific, I spent some time in the doldrums, that bizarre confluence between north and south where nothing moves, nothing happens and as you wait for escape, you begin to question not only your sanity, but reality itself.

In college whilst studying the English Master Poets, I fell under the spell of Coleridge--specifically The Rime of the Ancient Mariner--though in an abstract way because at that point in my life, I didn't have any experience with the deep and endless ocean.

Until a few years later...and his words held more meaning than I ever could have imagined:

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
'Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, no breath no motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean

I wonder sometimes, looking back at that twenty-something girl, why I wasn't afraid, didn't think about what could be lurking in the becalmed nothingness of such a foreign seascape. Instead, I took the night watch. The loneliest, darkest watch, where specters came alive in the phosphorescence and strange echoes rolled across the flat, featureless water.  Oh how I loved the solitude, the quiet by myself.

Five nights of imaginings and ponderings under an immense bowl of stars arcing across the sky.  The Milky Way seemed close enough to touch, somehow more real than the teak deck under my bare feet.  I remember musing on my life--anticipation and dread in equal measure--as fanciful possibilities bloomed in my mind.  Some nights the overwhelming vastness of the sky and ocean made things feel surreal, otherworldly and disorienting; being human was meaningless in the grander scheme of the cosmos.

On the sixth day, early morning, a soft breeze began to whisper and by late afternoon we were once again on our way.  It was wonderful to feel the wind, to move, and though the rest of the crew was jubilant, I couldn't help feeling a bit sorry that the experience was over, my solitary vigils at an end.

This week I've been in the other doldrums, the mental ones.  I have felt motionless, no sign of a breeze to fill my sails.  I go about my chores, read books to escape the heavy weight of ennui, struggle to see the beauty in our world, not the ugliness of cruelty and despair. Mostly I fail.

While I was eating breakfast this morning, Ozzy started growling out one of the front windows. When I looked, there was a young buck, one I have seen before, though not this close. He's missing an antler on the right side and has scars on his flank, side and around his face. And he's always alone. None of the other deer will accept him, or tolerate him anywhere near them.

He's eating my lilies.  I usually go out on the deck and gently shoo the deer away, but I hesitate this morning, then decide he can eat what he wants.  He's already had a hard time of it, judging by his body, and rejection from the herd.  I took a few photos through the window, then left him to his breakfast.

As I watched him, I felt a slight shift in my mental doldrums, an imagined breath that just might grow strong enough to blow the stagnate air away, if I let it.  Being kind to the animals is a start, I suppose...

Monday, August 4, 2014

Chit Chat

All day yesterday the sky was a sickly yellowish-orange.  If malaria was a color, all feverish and diseased, the sun was that very color.  Everywhere it touched--car windshields, the streets, faces, plants and trees, my living room--it altered the natural color of things.  It wasn't until later in the evening when the pages of my book turned red that I realized what it was.

Sunlight through the smoke of forest fires.

As it set, the sun glowed a deep blood-red, burning through the thick layer of smoke like the Eye of Sauron.  I tried to take some photos, but when I downloaded them, they were creepy and distorted and not...right.

[Sometimes I think Stephen King should live on my mountain]


After dinner, the alien sun finally dropping behind the mountains, it was time to drag myself out to water the garden.  I had just a few chapters left in my book, it was hot, it was Sunday, and I didn't want to do it.  I actually whined out loud like a kid--"I don't waaaaannnntttt to...!!"

Then I had a small epiphany: I live alone (never mind the dogs), so who bloody cares if I water tonight or tomorrow morning?  If I want to shirk my responsibilities, well, then...I can.  I smiled, made myself another glass of iced tea and settled back down to read.

And here's why my mother was such a martinet and never let me or the sibs whine ourselves out of what needed to be done today, not tomorrow: You. Will. Pay.

I forgot I had stuff to do this morning.  It was a busy Monday with several errands, and after a grueling morning spent hopping in and out of the car in 100 degree heat, I got home, unloaded everything, fixed the boys their lunch...

...and had to water the garden in the scorching heat of high noon. Believe me, I realized the error of my whiny ways as the sweat dripped and my brain fried.


Lowe's was one of my stops, the only place in town that carries the micro-organisms that I feed my septic tank every month.  Another reason living in the city appeals, peeps. Because I live on a mountain, I have a septic--no easy just flush and forget it city sewer system for me--that must be kept happy or bad, bad things will happen.

[Seriously.  Stephen King]

Anyway.  I drive clear across town to buy two little boxes of septic joy and a new shrub for the front garden to replace one that died in last December's two-week freeze.  I found a really cool Ceanothus (California Lilac).  It has variegated leaves and will have white flowers that the butterflies will love...and it has a great name.

El Dorado...

As I was going out the garden center exit, I saw this amazing display of Foxgloves.  I love these exotic, colorful beauties but have never seen anything like these. Needless to say...

...I couldn't resist. I don't know where I'm going to plant this lovely thing--it will have to be somewhere in the back garden so the deer don't eat it--but for the moment, I'm just mesmerized by the stunning beauty and will worry about its new home later.

Friday, August 1, 2014

And So It Goes

There haven't been many good sunsets lately; clear skies are very boring. But last night really made up for it.

I was fine-tuning the latest installment of the serial when I glanced out the living room windows and saw the most incredible sight.  I grabbed the camera and went out to the middle of the road to get the widest shot I could between the trees...

I don't know when I've ever seen such illuminating bands of light.  It was like a scene out of a sci-fi film just before the aliens burst through the clouds...though even more beautiful because it was pure nature and not annihilating space vehicles.

I didn't go to bed until well after midnight, and as I was brushing my teeth--in the dark as I am wont to do--this sudden flash lit up the bathroom.  I straightened, toothbrush dripping, and wondered if I'd imagined it, or was possibly having some kind of medical emergency. When nothing happened, I went back to brushing, but the minute I bent over the sink, the room lit up again like an old-fashioned flashbulb had gone off.

I finished brushing--counted three more flashes--then decided to go out on the back deck to see if I could figure out what was going on.  It was hot, steamy, stars twinkling overhead.  And totally silent. No people, no mysterious fireworks, no explanation.  I was just going back in the house when the whole eastern sky lit up--for a nano-second--highlighting a bank of clouds on the horizon.  I waited for the growl of thunder...hoped for it because thunder means rain, right?  And doesn't thunder follow lightning?

Not always as it turns out.

The silence was eerie.

I stayed outside for a long time, watching heat lightning streak across the sky, the light show equal to any manic rock concert.  Except for the complete absence of sound.

Yesterday's sunset was a pretty spectacular way to close out July.  And a wild, dramatic lightning display seems an appropriate way for August to begin. We should be celebrating these last days of Summer, after all...