My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant


Friday, May 28, 2010

"Every sky has its beauty"

One of the things I like about living up here is that I often enjoy airplane views, without actually having to be on an airplane! :-)

On Wednesday evening I took several photos of these developing thunderstorms to the southeast as they grew, morphed, joined and moved south over the course of 30-40 minutes. There were tornado watches in the counties to the south and southeast of us that night... no surprise! Nothing but clear skies where I stood, though the winds were buffeting me so much while I took these I thought they'd come out blurry.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May.
~William Shakespeare

(Wow, did The Bard live in Wyoming? LOL)


First they began as individual twin storms, in an area that's spawned several such storms.*

Then the one on the left really started to build up.

If you click on the above photo, you'll be better able to see some details, like the jet appearing to fly over it. (If it really was flying over it, that's dangerous, because these storms can spew huge hailstones out of their tops just like popcorn flying out of an uncovered popper!)


And then it started to build a huge column.

Eventually, as it moved further south, the two storms merged into one monster storm.

Every sky has its beauty,
and storms which whip the blood
do but make it pulse more vigorously.
~George Gissing

When we were dating and living in west Texas (where they also get some potent storms) BW told me that as a B-52 navigator, he learned that a storm like this is called a Mesoscale Convective Complex. (Frankly, I think he was just showing off). ;-) But since it took me some time and effort to memorize that cool-sounding name for what I'd previously just called "bigass thunderstorms," and I seldom get a chance to gracefully insert it into conversations, I thought I'd share it here. (And yeah, I'm probably just showing off too! LOL)

*This isn't the first time I've photographed an incredible thunderhead at sunset, or twin thunderstorms brewing in that exact same spot... check out these first two photos, taken in the spring and early summer of 2005.

Wishing you clear skies and a happy, safe and "memorable" holiday weekend! :-)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How Green is my Valley


How green was my Valley that day, too,
green and bright in the sun.
~Richard Llewellyn
"How Green Was My Valley"


I took this photo from our deck last evening as the sun was starting to dip below the mountains behind me. I love that time of day, as the shadows throw the folds and creases of the land into relief and everything looks so soft and draped, like a blanket. The valley is very green right now, though the light cast by the setting sun gives it a muted, golden hue.

(I had you in mind when I took this photo, Rose, since you requested I share the morphing of our surroundings as spring unfolds and turns toward summer!) :-)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"Lemon Drops"


Spring has definitely (and finally) sprung around here. Do you remember the little ditty called "Spring in the Bronx" that begins, "Spring is sprung, da grass is ris, I wonder where da boidies is?" Well, I did a "boid" roll call recently. As you know if you follow this blog, the bluebirds showed up already, as have the robins, Western Meadowlarks and barn swallows. The first Broadtail hummingbird made his appearance on May 17th (joined quickly by his friends, so we're already on our second batch of nectar!), and so did the Rufous-sided Towhee at about the same time.

But for the past week or so I've been waiting and watching for one of my favorite birds - the American Goldfinch - to make his first appearance in his bright yellow springtime plumage...


And yesterday he finally did!

Goldfinches are here year round but in smaller numbers, and the males are hard to identify in their fall and winter colors, which are drab and can make them a bit hard to tell apart from the Pine Siskins. I always eagerly await their brilliant transformation into what I call "my little lemon drops!" I just adore them, and not only because we have something significant in common! According to Cornell University's Ornithology Department's web site, "Goldfinches are among the strictest vegetarians in the bird world, selecting an entirely vegetable diet and only inadvertently swallowing an occasional insect." :-) I also love them because they are such cheery birds, and so beautiful... but quite shy. I have taken many photos of them, but all from a distance with my feeble zoom and they don't show up very well on this blog. I gathered some of my favorites and cropped them so you can see the star attraction better! :-)

Male goldfinches remind me of someone's escaped canary.
No wonder another name for them is "wild canary!"

I think he knows how handsome he is, like a little sunbeam!


Given my love of these sweet little yellow birds, you might imagine how excited I was to find this birdbath for sale at my local greenhouse last summer!


They only had the one, and I was so tempted... I wanted it bad. But I thought it was too expensive, so I ignored that little voice in my head that said, "But you neeeeeed it." :-) I went to the greenhouse frequently and every time, to my surprise, that birdbath was still there, still tempting but still too costly.

But at the end of the summer they had a storewide sale. I was sure there was no way that birdbath would still be there, so imagine my delight to find it waiting for me at 30% off! It was a progressive sale with greater markdowns every day, but there was no need to be greedy and have my luck run out so I brought that baby home that day! I put it away for the winter and could hardly wait to be able to put it back outside again, which I did last weekend ~ maybe it's what inspired the goldfinches to change into their summer attire! :-)

All the birds love it, and it makes me smile whenever I fill or walk past it.

Here's one more dose of cheery yellow for you to start off your week. My friend Sue has shared some fun blog posts where each day she focuses on a certain color, looks for that color in unusual places, and shares photos of what she found on her blog that day. (My favorite so far is her green Friday post). What a fun exercise in mindful awareness! When I know what the color is that day, I find myself paying much more attention to the colors around me. Today isn't a yellow day on Sue's blog, but since this post is honoring yellow birds I thought I'd throw in this photo of a matching, flawless yellow rose that I took on a visit to the Luther Burbank rose garden in (appropriately) Santa Rosa, California in Oct 2007. (Oh to have blooming roses... in October, no less!)


Wishing you a bright and cheerful day of sunbeams and lemon drops!

(P.S. I have several posts partially done and waiting to be finished, as well as plans for others, but for a while yet, at least, my blogging will continue to be sparse and my comment replies may be tardy. I have a lot of "stuff" going on offline these days. But I'll do my best, and I thank you for being patient with me!)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Kite Therapy

Youth had been a habit of hers for so long
that she could not part with it.
~Rudyard Kipling
I can't help it, I have yet to outgrow some toys, and kites are my favorites (yo-yos are a somewhat distant second). :-) My dad used to take me kite-flying all the time when I was a kid, rigging up a fishing reel with an outrageous amount of line so we could see how far up we could get our kite to soar. Sometimes it was so far away it was a nearly invisible speck in the distant sky. He even entered me in a kite-flying contest once when I was about eight. I didn't win (altitude apparently wasn't one of the criteria for victory!) but of course I had fun anyway!

Not only do I think kites are beautiful and festive, but find kite-flying very uplifting (haha, punny!) as well as meditative, and it's one of my favorite therapies when I'm in a funk. If the weather is cooperating, flying a kite can really help to banish the blues. (Cue Mary Poppins!) :-)

So it figures that when I was in Boulder last July, one of my favorite stores was Into the Wind, where I bought this beautiful Gunther Butterfly Kite...


I just love flying this kite!
When the sun shines through it, it looks like stained glass!

It's a testament to how easily this kite flies
that I could fly and photograph it simultaneously!

The butterfly kite is great fun and beautiful, but for taking on hikes, to town and on trips I wanted something that I could easily pack or carry (the butterfly's fiberglass spars would require dissembling and aren't easy to pack). So we turned again to Into the Wind and recently ordered their Prism Stowaway Parafoil...

That tail is 18' long! (BW flew it while I took the photos)

An artsy shot. :-)

Of course, I'm not the only so-called grownup who loves to fly kites. Kite-flying, invented in China over 2,500 years ago, is celebrated with annual kite-flying festivals around the world, like this one in Lincoln City, Oregon, which hosts THREE annual kite festivals!

(There are many other YouTube kite-flying videos,
including of other kite festivals around the world.)

I've not yet been to a kite festival, but you can bet it's on my Bucket List! :-)

There are also kite clubs and associations, kite forums, kite designers, tons of kite retailers, kite blogs (of course!) and, yes, even a Kitelife Magazine! (Okay, I'm not that into kite-flying, but isn't it fun that so many people are?)

If you want to take up kite-flying and need a kite-flying tutorial (or just want to hone your skills), check out A Wind of Change's free online kite-flying lessons!

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

Happy Birthday, Ali! I thought this kite post (and the quote that began it) went along with your birthday rather nicely, since it's my opinion that wherever a kite is flying, it's a party! :-) I flew the butterfly kite in your honor today. (At least I did until the wind suddenly came up and started gusting about 40 mph, at which point my pretty butterfly turned into a dive-bombing, murderous beast and I felt like Tipi Hedron in The Birds! LOL)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Grazing


I've been envying those of you who are already enjoying fresh bounty from your gardens, as ours is still buried under fresh snow. Our growing season starts late and "lasses so shortly" (as I'm told I said as a child, only then I was paraphrasing my father's complaint about how long a tank of gas lasted in his Volkswagon bus!)

Although gardens around here won't be giving up any of their harvest for at least another couple of months, our edible wild landscape is more ambitious and cooperative. One rainy May evening many years ago, our neighbor Jennifer threw one of her wonderful vegan potlucks. At one point in the evening she vanished from the party for a while, and when she reappeared, soaking wet, she was holding a large bowl of leaves, which she set down on the table with what remained of the potluck food. I asked, "What were you doing and what's that?" She said, "I've been in the canyon picking Bluebell leaves, which is what those are." "Why?" (I tend to be inquisitive. My parents always thought I'd be a trial lawyer or journalist. Sorry, folks!) Jennifer replied, "To eat. They're delicious and high in vitamin C." Jennifer had taken wild edibles foraging classes with a famous instructor and published author on that subject, whose name I've since forgotten. (Tom something. Tom Brown?) So I grabbed a leaf and nibbled it. Tender, slightly spicy yet sweet, it turned me into a forager of Bluebell leaves every spring since, as I graze on them during hikes and pick them to add to our salads.

Mountain Bluebells (Mertensia Oblongifolia)

According to my Field Guide to Rocky Mountain Wildflowers (a 1963 version, filled with pressed flowers, that my grandmother gave me years ago and that has accompanied me on many a hike), the Mountain Bluebell is a member of the Borage family, and is also called Cowslip and Tall Chimingbell, though I've never heard them called anything but Bluebells. There are 45 species, 35 of which are found in the Rocky Mountain region, growing between 5,000 - 12,000'. Our house is at 5500', and we have a lot of them here.


In addition to the rare and ravenous Jennifer and Laloofah critters :-), elk, deer, bears, sheep and rockchucks (a marmot) all eat them, and pikas cut, dry and store the plant for winter use - something I have yet to try! We definitely enjoy them freshly picked, though...

Normally I mix the leaves in with the rest of the salad,
but I left them on top for better visibility in this photo. :-)

Along with the bluebell leaves my salad that day consisted of Romaine lettuce, radishes, tamari pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, chia seeds, almonds, red cabbage, and avocado, with fresh lemon juice and tamari as my dressing.

Mocha and I both enjoy grazing on tender spring greens!

As I sat on the deck and grazed on my salad, Mocha grazed in his pasture. He was hard to see in this photo, so I drew a heart around him to help you out. :-)

You'll notice I took these photos on Earth Day, a lovely warm day with only a few patches of snow here and there. Good thing I enjoyed it while it lasted... May has been nothing but snow, snow, snow. Here is Mocha in his pasture this afternoon, during our latest Winter storm (which has dumped several more inches on us - though down in town it's raining - but is much worse to the south, closing the Interstate and dumping nearly three feet of snow in southern and central parts of the state. So as I said in my previous post, it could be worse!)


Well, much as I'd love to stay and visit more, I need to shovel the deck, get out the Christmas decorations and wrap some presents. Happy Holidays to me, happy gardening to the rest of you! ;-)


Actually, I do have time to share one more thing before I shovel the deck for what I hope is the last time this spring! My friend Marla wrote a beautiful letter to her little boy on Mother's Day, which she posted on her blog. Marla writes with such heart and such talent, and I found this post particularly eloquent and touching. I really enjoyed it and wanted to share it with you, too.

And now I really must go, there are carolers at the door. LOL

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Could be worse...


For one thing, it could be devastating tornados and floods. So I'm really not complaining, but just acknowledging the undeniable fact that a ground blizzard on the eve of Cinco de Mayo has a pretty strong suck factor. (Or maybe it's more of a blow factor... never mind). ;-)

It's been blowing hard constantly and snowing off and on for several days. We had a brief donut hole yesterday morning that the dogs and I took advantage of by going on an hour and 15-minute hike, which I'm sure glad we did. Last night the wind really got down to business, blowing 40-50 mph with gusts well in excess of 65 mph. It scared poor Tess so badly she took refuge in the basement! The wind eventually subsided, but it also snowed several inches in the night... fluffy, powdery snow, which is odd for this time of year when it's normally heavy and wet. So when the wind picked up again this morning (with the same velocities as last night), and with a temperature of 20º, we had windchills well below -22º (ha! merry, merry month of May my Mehitable butt!) along with a pretty respectable ground blizzard. The skies above were bright blue and sunny, but on the ground and to a height of 8-10 feet, it was a whiteout.

My grandparents, who lived on the Hi-Line on the northern Montana prairie, lost a friend to a ground blizzard many decades ago. He was a local rancher whose mailbox was at the end of his driveway, several miles from his house, and he was in the habit of riding his horse to check his mail. One cold but beautiful winter day with deep blue skies and bright sunshine sparkling on the snow that blanketed the ground, he saddled up and rode to his mailbox. But on his way home the wind came up suddenly, the temperature dropped precipitously, and he was in the middle of a ground blizzard. Completely disoriented in the whiteout, at some point he dismounted and hung onto his horse's tail. And that's how he was found later... frozen to death and still clinging to the tail of his horse, who had found his way back to the ranch and survived. Ground blizzards are frightening in their suddenness and ferocity and are nothing to mess with, especially on the open prairie with few landmarks and nothing to slow down the wind!

It can be scary here just trying to make the short distance from our house down to Mocha's barn in one of these. I took a few photos during some of the worst of it this morning, but how do you photograph a whiteout? I mean, there's nothing to photograph but a blurry veil of white! So I'm posting a couple that at least let you see ghostly images within the whiteness...

Looking out the front window

The "view" from the back deck

...and a few that I took whenever the winds dropped a bit and allowed you to get your bearings.




I took this one earlier in the morning, before the winds had really picked up steam again. But as you can see, they were howling higher up... I thought it was pretty, those plumes of powdery snow blowing off the ridges...


Imagine the wind screaming like a jet aircraft, the snow and ice crystals being hurled against your house and windows, trying to peer through thick veils of bright white and seeing nothing... and then looking again at the calendar that says today is May 4th, and you will have some idea of my little corner of the world (and my frame of mind) today! ;-)

Actually, I'm in the middle of spring cleaning (ironic, I know), and if I'm going to be stuck inside doing that, I'd rather not be missing a lovely day outside! I just hope it calms down a bit before I have to head down to the barn this evening! I remember how BW looked when he got back to the house this morning... like he'd spent the night sleeping on Mt. Everest's summit. Without a tent! I know, I should have taken a photo. But as soon as he walked in the door the ice and snow on his face and hair all melted and then he just looked like he'd been standing under a waterfall, and that look just wouldn't have gone with my blizzardy post theme, sorry. ;-)

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SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

  • INFERNO ~ Dan Brown
  • MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD & EVIL ~ John Berendt
  • MY NOTORIOUS LIFE: A NOVEL ~ Kate Manning
  • ONE SUMMER: AMERICA, 1927 ~ Bill Bryson
  • QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT CAN'T STOP TALKING ~ Susan Cain
  • THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL ~ Daniel Stashower
  • THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY ~ Erik Larson
  • THE SHADOWS, KITH AND KIN ~ Joe R. Lansdale
  • THE TIPPING POINT ~ Malcolm Gladwell
There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"