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


Friday, June 28, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: Lunapalooza

Here are my very humble contributions to last weekend's Super Moon "lunapalooza" :-) ...

Sunday evening's Full Moonrise

As it rose, its bright light illuminated some nearby thin clouds, giving it an ethereal look...


My dress is old, but the moon is kind. 
At night I wear a beautiful moon colored dress.


The Moon and clouds had apparently hit it off, because they were still hanging around together in the early morning's eastern sky...


See more SkyWatching "lunacy" (and various other moments of celestial mania) at...


This will be my last SkyWatch Friday post for a while, as I recently saw this brilliant advice on Pinterest...


... and so decided to follow it - and the open road - with one of the funnest people I know, my husband! :-)


Feels like we forgot something. Oh yeah, our car! LOL (We won't be traveling this light for our two week trip to the Pacific Northwest, believe me! Also, we won't be dressed like this. Or look anything like this. For this, of course, is not us). :-)

So until I return with bazillions of photos from our trip, including - let us hope - many of beautiful skies, have a great July! Happy Canada Day (which we'll be spending in Seattle) to our friendly neighbors to the north, and Happy Fourth of July (which we'll be spending in Canada, for we are nothing if not ironic) to our fellow Yanks! :-)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Charlotte on Steroids

Warning: Any of you askeered o'spiders should just avert your eyes and back away immediately, and come back tomorrow for my SkyWatch post instead! :-)

So this evening I'm in the back yard mowing when I spied some weeds my mower had just revealed and bent down to pull them, which I do all the time (no herbicides for this kid!) so I'm accustomed to very close encounters with earthworms. But imagine my surprise tonight when I suddenly noticed a three-inch spider a few inches from my weed-pulling hand, looking at me thoughtfully with her eight eyes! Even I, who am generally not squeamish around critters, uttered a squeaky little "eek!" and jumped to my feet in record speed. But she just sat there unperturbed. So I got back down for a closer look, and that's when I noticed she had little baby spiders riding on her back! Awww...


My cameras and gear were all packed for our trip but I ran upstairs and grabbed the little Kodak. The quality isn't great with the early evening light (she was actually a dark brown color, not grey like in these photos), but I was glad to be able to get these, and she was very patient about it. I took this one with the toe of my size 8½ sneaker in it for scale...


Turns out she wasn't really Charlotte on steroids, she was a wolf spider (a species that doesn't even spin a web!) I didn't want to mow over her and didn't want the dogs to get her (or vice versa, since wolf spiders can bestow a rather nasty defensive bite), so I caught her and kept her in an old 2-lb coffee can while I finished mowing. Then I took her and her coffee can on a walk out to a big nearby (but not too nearby!) field that never gets mowed and that people avoid. Right after her release I took this photo, which shows her true color and her little yellow-bodied babies a lot better, and wished them happy trails as she scurried off to check out her new digs...

Monday, June 24, 2013

Solstice Photo Safari

On Thursday I took the dogs for one of our regular daily walks, but it was such a cool, lovely morning and we were all enjoying ourselves so much that it turned into a longer walk than planned. And so we soon found ourselves at Kendrick Park, with its newest resident, a baby bison calf who shares her birthday with BW (June 6), and Kendrick Mansion, with its latest batch of beautiful blooming flowers. And me with no camera. :-( So the next morning, which after a night of thunderstorms started out overcast (perfect for taking flower photos), I loaded the girls in the Jeep and off we went on a photo safari! 


First we stopped at Kendrick Park to see the bison calf. She and her family were some distance away and I was kicking myself for leaving my telephoto lens at home, but did the best I could to get some decent photos of her through the chain link fence while she ate her breakfast...


She's so little now that it's hard to imagine her ever being as big as her elders someday!


Click here to see a couple of adorable closeup photos of the baby from the local Sheridan newspaper.

One of the elk ladies came over and hung out with me while I took my photos, and at one point I had a photo op of the distant bison family framed perfectly between her ears as she stared right into my camera lens! But before I could snap it she put her head down and refused to raise it or look at me again. And believe me, I begged and pleaded with her in every language (including critter) that I know! But nope, this was all I was going to get and I'd better be damned grateful for it... 

Not quite a photo bomb, but not without its charms! :-)

After our critter fix we went to Kendrick Mansion's rose garden, whose residents were a lot closer and far more cooperative at posing for photos. :-) And they smelled even prettier than they looked...

Believe it or not, I had to use my editing tools to tone down this color! It really was at least this day-glo vibrant, but in my original photo the color looked fake!

These pretty apricot roses had the best fragrance...



This hot pink one wasn't even in the rose garden, but was hiding by itself in the shade of a hedge in a discreet corner of the grounds. It would have been very easy to miss, but I'm glad I didn't as it was my favorite! I don't know if it was the from sprinklers or the previous night's rain, but I love the water drops caught on its pretty petals...


This has always been my favorite spot on the mansion grounds. I love the old sundial, the beautiful views from here, and the various flowers that bloom at different times in the two tidy rows. Right now this spot is all about irises, mostly attired in bridal white (appropriately for June!)... 


I went back after the clouds vanished and the sun came out to get this next shot. Looks like a great spot for a wedding, doesn't it? (Ha, I first mistyped that "weeding" - well, great spot for that, too!) :-) ...


The irises, not to be outdone by their thorny rivals in the rose garden, were definitely ready for their own closeups...


A wasp visitor plays his pollinating part while enjoying his own yummy breakfast... 


Unfortunately, by the time I finally made my way to photograph the grand finale - the garden's precocious pink peonies (as promised!) - the clouds that had been predicted to last all day ran off to ruin some picnics in Nebraska and the sun shone bedazzlingly. Which made for a lovely day, but not for the best lighting for flower photos! Undeterred, I snapped away... starting with these frothy light pink peonies that remind me quite a bit of some of these tantalizing vegan strawberry shake photos...


And then moving on to these neon superstars with their blindingly bright-colored beauty (the cloud cover really would have made them pop!)...




Whoa. Okay, blink a few times and try to get your normal vision back, because now we're heading down the hill into the main part of Kendrick Park, where I discovered that the remains of a big old cottonwood that was sadly cut down last year had been magically transformed into a trout (by local tree artisan David Peterson)...

I love how it looks like he's jumping up to catch that leafy tree branch 
(which does look a little like a mayfly, especially to a cottonwood trout!) :-)

And finally we wandered by the public pool, still deserted at that morning hour, where I saw another whimsical catcher-of-flies, this new frog slide at the adjacent kiddie pool. Had a little fun with it in editing to blur out the chainlink fence behind him, another part of the huge elk and bison pasture where this post started out (yes, you can swim under the bemused gaze of elk and bison here!), and titled it "The Frog Days of Summer" :-)...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Pink Peonies, Comin' Atcha!

I admired these gorgeous pink peonies by a neighbor's mailbox on a walk one evening last week and so returned with my camera to capture them. Peonies have been bursting out in colorful blooms all over town lately, and though the wind, rain and hail have beaten some of them to the ground, many like these are still holding their gorgeous heads high...


In fact, this photo is just a teaser, as on Friday morning I think I found the Pink Peony Mother Ship! I've been working on that post every time I have a few spare minutes and hope to have it ready tomorrow or Tuesday. :-)

Meanwhile, here are the above pink peonies with their white siblings and some lavender iris friends in front of one of my favorite houses in our neighborhood, due to its charming front porch. Their wicker chairs were the inspiration for the set we have on our own front porch. I coveted their hanging baskets too, but alas theirs are far more sheltered from the screaming prairie winds than ours would be, so I wistfully abandoned that idea...


Back soon with more eye-poppingly pink peonies and other eye candy! :-)

Friday, June 21, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: The Colors of the Wind

It's been a month of almost daily strong winds (and frequent storms), conditions that have wreaked havoc on the local trees and flowers, and in some parts of town on houses and cars as well! Severe thunderstorms are predicted yet again for today and tonight. And while we're very grateful to have thus far been spared the awful heat and devastating wildfires of our neighboring state of Colorado (and others), everyone is weary of the wind, even here in Wyoming where wind is ubiquitous...


But our wild weather has provided (or at least not prevented) many a photogenic sky! Last Sunday evening we noticed an especially colorful sunset developing (photography pun!) so I snapped a couple of photos from our front porch. And then kept snapping. And as the colors and clouds continued to change dramatically over the next 10-15 minutes or so, from soft, striped pastels to dramatic fiery reds and golds that set the horizon ablaze, BW and I couldn't resist putting on our walkin' shoes and heading west for a closer view (and less obstructed photos). 

And so I present the results in "The Evolution of a Sunset" - the photos of our sky in the order they were taken that Sunday evening...







When we returned back home, we noticed the sunset was perfectly reflected in a neighbor's upstairs windows, making it look eerily as if their upper story were on fire...


Got a favorite? Please share it in a comment! 

Wishing you a wonderful weekend, happy SkyWatchingand a joyful


or Winter Solstice to our Southern Hemisphere friends! :-)

Enjoy captivating skies from both hemispheres at

Monday, June 17, 2013

Let's Talk About the (Wicked) Weather...

Most of the time it was probably real bad being stuck down in a dungeon.  
But some days, when there was a bad storm outside, 
you'd look out your little window and think, "Boy, I'm glad I'm not out in that."
~ Jack Handy's "Deep Thoughts" (from Saturday Night Live) :-)

The weather has sure made for a rather savage spring in a lot of places around the country and the world, including our little corner of it! As I mentioned in my last SkyWatch post, our weather last week was turbulent and often violent. We had a series of storms, each one noteworthy for an extreme version of a weather phenom: lightning, rain, hail, and wind. Here's a recap of what dominated local news and conversations this week (along with the awful fire in Colorado Springs)...

The series of wild storms began last Friday night, with the thunderstorm I mentioned in my Post-Yard Sale Fiesta post. I didn't get any photos, but for those of us unable to sleep through the meteorological equivalent of a night of nuclear detonations in our back yard, the intensity and frequency of the lightning and the eardrum-bursting volume of the thunder was the hot topic Saturday morning! 

After a chilly, gusty Saturday, a warm and lovely Sunday, and another very gusty day Monday, an uncomfortably muggy (for this usually dry climate) Tuesday brought more notable weather. We were under such dire severe thunderstorm warnings that afternoon that I grabbed my camera and photographed some flowers I'd admired on my walk with the dogs that morning, figuring they wouldn't survive the predicted weather...

Pretty Poppies
(I saw these again on Sunday - the spunky red ones took a lethal beating, 
while the dainty-hued pink ones were totally unscathed! Just goes to show...)

Not sure what this is called - snowball bush? - but they're quite popular here
 and this is the most impressive one I've seen. I also saw it again on Sunday,
 and though it had a carpet of white petals beneath it, it was still loaded with blossoms.

And then the scary monster arrived...


...turning the sky darker than I've ever seen daytime skies turn when not experiencing a total solar eclipse, and bringing more 60mph wind gusts, an impressive amount of pea and dime-sized hail, and torrential rain that caused flash floods. Here's a quick bit of the local coverage with a couple of photos, and here are a couple of videos I shot through two upstairs windows, mostly for the sound of the hail, which I thought was pretty impressive (having no idea what Thursday would have in store!)...



But after every storm comes the calm. So here is Mr. Peabody, one of our resident pheasants (we call all male pheasants "Mr. Peabody") in our next door neighbor's back yard after the rain and hail stopped, apparently come calling to discuss the storm with his pelican friends. ;-) Despite their stony expressions (*snork*), I think the pelicans probably enjoyed it a lot more than Mr. Peabody did...


Someone told me our rain amount of more than an inch in 15 minutes made the national news. I can't verify that, but at our house the rain came down in blinding sheets for about 20 minutes and, as you can see, filled our rain gauge with 1.6" of water, while the Weather Channel reported a total of just under 2½ inches of precipitation for that day (which would have included some more rain that fell that night)...

Too bad some of this couldn't have fallen on Colorado Springs!

Wednesday brought more thunderstorms, more gusty winds, and another ¾" of rain in our rain gauge, ho-hum. And then came Thursday.

BW stopped by the house as he usually does around 3pm, and when I greeted him at the door I noticed with alarm that the sky was absolutely black. So I got online to check for weather bulletins, and sure enough there was another severe thunderstorm bearing down on us and spotters in the direction it was coming from said it had ping-pong sized hail. I battened down the few hatches I hadn't already battened (and had left battened) on Tuesday, and hoped for the best. But though it did toss a few icy ping-pong balls at us (the half-dozen or fewer that hit our roof sounded like 2x4's dropped from an airplane!) along with more pea-sized stuff, and blew like stink (as usual) and rained hard (as usual), it only lasted a few minutes and then the sun came out and all was calm (I thought).

Not even the loud hail sounds could distract me from the unusual sight out our front window, though... the mist that rose from the hot pavement when the rain started to hit it and was then blown down the street by the gusty winds, looking like fine, blowing snow. I shot one video of it during the storm, and another after the sun came back out...



After it passed, I walked down the street and took some photos of the storm as it moved away from us (one of which was in my SkyWatch post). It was so huge, I could only fit less than half the expanse of storm cloud in my frame...



The rest of the evening was unremarkable until Robyn called me at around 6pm and asked me how bad it was at our house. "How bad what is?" I said, baffled by the question. "The damage from the ping-pong sized hail!" she answered. I told her we only got a little bit for a minute or two, and it didn't do much more than knock some little branches off our little trees, why? Turns out that hail storm cut a destructive swath through Robyn's neighborhood (where several other of our friends live) and the north end of town, while only grazing us and not affecting most of the town at all. Poor Robyn - the hail did enough damage to the shingles (and hopefully only the shingles) on their two-year old roof that it needs to be replaced, punched holes in her vinyl siding, pummeled (and probably totaled) their Honda Ridgeline, broke her fountain, cracked the main pipe from the house to their sprinkler system, dented her greenhouse panels, oblitered her flowers and veggie garden, and even knocked some of the metal leaves off her new faerie cart! :-( She said the hail was piled several inches thick against her fence.

Meanwhile, BW's boss (and many others, no doubt) also has to have his roof, including the sheathing, replaced. In addition, many trees, gardens, vehicles, and skylights in the affected part of town were damaged or destroyed, and even birds were knocked right out of the trees and nests and killed. :'-( Our friend and eye doctor Tim, whose beautifully landscaped house is right near Robyn's and so also suffered damage, normally would have had his car parked at his office in an unaffected area. But Thursday wasn't his day at all, as it was the day he goes to see patients at the VA Hospital - and the VA was right in the path of the hailstorm. He said his little car was "toast." 

But no words can describe it as well as photos can... so here's more local media coverage (check out at least the first several seconds of that second video - whoa!) and here are some of the impressive photos of the hail stones and of the some of the equally impressive hail accumulation and local devastation, most of it at the north end of town.

And even after all that, the weather wasn't through with us. At about midnight, some invisible, fiendish force flipped on the wind switch and the fiercest wind I've ever heard started screaming and roaring around our house. I have no idea how hard it blew, since the airport on the other side of town, which measures the official wind speeds in Sheridan, doesn't get nearly the wind that we do up here. But they still recorded 58 mph gusts that night - I'd guess the wind gusts here were close to 70mph! 

We've been enjoying beautiful weather since that final, epic fit of fury Thursday. But don't think we're not keeping a close and wary eye on the skies these days, and not just for photo ops!

And finally in non-weather news, tomorrow is our Silver (25th) Wedding Anniversary! Our 2-week vacation in the PNW at the end of the month is our anniversary gift to ourselves, but the only silver involved (besides what's in our hair) is the color of our Highlander Hybrid we're driving out there. :-)

to us! :-)


Friday, June 14, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: Skies for Jiroemon Kimura

On Wednesday, the world's oldest man in recorded history, Jiroemon Kimura, died of natural causes in Japan at age 116 years and two months. What does this have to do with SkyWatch? According to the article linked to above, "on his 115th birthday, Kimura told reporters he attributed his longevity to getting out in the sunlight." 

"I am always looking up towards the sky. That is how I am," Kimura said then.

So I dedicate this post and its variety of skies from this week to the long life and SkyWatching spirit of Jiroemon Kimura, and to all of us who make it a habit to look up towards the sky. :-)

But first, some perfect musical accompaniment as you view this week's photos: Kyu Sakamoto's hit song "Sukiyaki," whose first line (and Japanese title),"Ue o muite arukou" means "I look up when I walk"  and which hit #1 on Billboard's pop charts in the United States on June 15, 1963 ~ yup, 50 years ago tomorrow! (Told you it was perfect!) :-)


Given that Japan is known as "Land of the Rising Sun" (its name's Japanese characters translate to "sun origin"), I thought we'd start out with Tuesday's sunrise...





Lupine on a hillside blends with Sunday's cloudless Wyoming sky...


Can you see the wee bee in the upper right? :-)
(Click on the photo to see a larger version)

Some not-so-cloudless skies during this week of turbulent (and sometimes violent) weather...



Sunrise-lit storm clouds clear out after a night of wild weather...


Only to start gathering again each afternoon...


This cloud reminds me a bit of Underdog! LOL

Though beautiful, this is definitely not a cloud you want to see looming over your house, as this was over ours last evening...

This storm hurled ping-pong sized hail and did great damage to nearby parts of town ~ 
we were very lucky to only be grazed by the edge of it!

A striped sunset sky with an eerie red glow on the horizon...



And finally, a "cresting wave" cloud...



Seriously, this cloud looked just like a cresting wave when I first saw it, but by the time I grabbed my camera and shot this picture, its shape had shifted and blurred and a lot of its wave resemblance was lost. Still, I wanted to include it because its original shape reminded me of this famous painting by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" (aka, "The Breaking Wave"), and I thought it was especially appropriate to include in a post dedicated to Jiroemon Kimura-san...



Look towards the world's skies at SkyWatch Friday, and live long and prosper!


Our saddened hearts and concerned thoughts are with the people of Colorado Springs, where I know at least two regular SkyWatchers live (as does my sister-in-law and her family). As they continue to grapple with dangerous, devastating wildfires there (for the second year in a row!), we fervently wish for everyone's safety and the end of further loss of life and property!

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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"