in human nurturing vs nature, nature wins

Much has been accomplished since I last was here. The big painting project I’d been planning for ages is done. I didn’t go for the purple I’d been looking at last year. Instead we chose a sedate taupe with an accent wall of dark blue that really shows off the white wood trim. It required packing away all the books and things on the wall–pretty close to moving out except we didn’t–spending about a week before and a week after to pile everything in the bedrooms and back. Four men filled the house for two long days with stepladders, paint buckets and rollers, lots of music (radio) and joking. Hubby and I spent those two days mainly staying out of the way, except for the afternoon I spent in the ophthalmologist’s office getting an eye looked after. It may have been the flurry of dusting door and window framing that caused one of my inner eyelids to puff up and droop down to cover part of my line of vision. I’d wake in the mornings with it glued shut. And boy was I a sight!  :roll:  If you saw the old Charles Laughton version of Quasimodo in Hunchback of Notre Dame, well that was me for a few days! In the midst of all this, the old furnace in the basement had enough of the cold weather and decided to cut out too.

Now that almost everything is done and back in place, the eye all healed (nothing serious as it turned out–just a clogged oil duct in the inner eyelid), a new furnace with a humidifier added this time, it feels as if we’re living in a new house. Everything looks so clean and neat. It’s been exactly the prompt I’ve needed to get going on the massive clearing out of forty-some years of accumulation. Upstairs is practically done, and because the furnace installation mess had to be cleaned before I could do the laundry, that room is looking pretty good too. Next week it’s on to the storage room, my sewing room, and the electronic graveyard. I can just see myself wresting old computer monitors and hard drives and masses of cords and plugs from the hands of a Hubby who never met a piece of technology he didn’t want to hoard.  At the end, hopefully I will have met my goal of everything having its own place to be so that we can get to it when Brrrrrrrh!it’s needed, and if it isn’t likely to be needed, it should be pitched or donated.

Since it’s been so cold here, with temperatures locked into a deep freeze since Christmas, outside has looked pretty bleak. The roofs of just about every house in our neighborhood featured this look.  So it’s been a good time to hunker down and focus on inside pursuits.
In an effort to change the kitchen’s look on the cheap side, I scanned some prize show chicken pictures from one of my books and found some cheap black frames in in the local IKEA. Now it looks like this above the stove:

chickens

I would really have preferred a collection of those fancy ceramic chicken sculptures, but the ones I like best would have cost several hundred dollars. These work as a good enuf substitute and not counting the cost of the ink used in my printer, the total for the dozen frames (there are more on the other wall) came to less than $25, and works for me.

Sadly, a small tragedy took place as well. One afternoon I looked into the back yard during a brief foray of sunshine. Sitting there all puffed up was a small bunny. He looked so cold and lonely and forlorn, I started to worry about him being all alone and hungry. When I was preparing a salad later that day I decided to toss a piece of carrot near the entry under the porch  he’d dug through the snow and ice. Then I began to notice little brown rabbit pellets outside that hole so I felt happy at the evidence that he wasn’t starving after all, but I’d still toss little bits of veggies–I think he especially appreciated the turnip trimmings–from time to time. One evening this week as we were sitting down to supper, there was a loud thump outside the patio door and Hubby jumped up to see what had crashed into the house. Well, sad to say it was a big old owl. Less than hour before, I had donated a few bits of lettuce core and carrot trimmings and created a perfect lure for that owl’s supper! Kinda spoiled my appetite that night. I was pretty mad at that owl, but mostly I was mad at myself. I had no idea there was an owl lurking in the woods behind the house, but I grew up on a farm for goodness sakes! I should have known better. Now I have the blood of that poor little rabbit on my hands. The owl didn’t fare too well either. Hubby said he was dazed so badly he sat for a long time on the edge of the retainer wall. He wasn’t there in the morning, but the remains of the bunny were. As for me, I won’t soon forget that in nature, nature takes care of its own in its own way. It’s just best not to be born so low in the food chain as bunny rabbits.

snowbound!

snow

Today is Friday, it’s January 11, 2013, and we’re about as snowbound as we’ve ever been in the seven years we’ve lived in Utah. We should have paid more attention to the weather predicting turtle who lives nearby here in the shadows of Mount Olympus. According to local news sources, this season’s is the biggest snowfall accumulation in the valley since 1993.  E.T. (Extra Tortoise), 69, is a 17-inch-diameter desert tortoise, rescued by Tosh Kano in 1988 through the State Division of Wildlife Resources during the construction of the Tuacahn Amphitheater. She warned us this was likely to happen back in October. Kano was the public works director for Salt Lake County at the time, and over the years he noticed a correlation between E.T.’s appetite and winter conditions. He was so certain about her ability to predict winter severity that he based his yearly order for road salt according to E.T.’s “predictions.”

Kano said that normally she stops eating in September to prepare for her six-month hibernation, but this year she was eating  kale, mustard greens, parsley, and carrots until mid-October, so he knew something was different. Those are considered “super foods” in a turtle’s diet, thus he knew she was storing up fat for a long and hard winter. Other signs were noted as well. Acorns were bigger this year and there were more of them as well as more 100 degree+ days over the summer. I remember we were forced to take our neighborhood walks long after sundown because of the heat. Then we forgot about tortoises and  went on to Italy, extended our summer for several more weeks.   (In case you’d like to see E.T. and her owner yourself, to this KSL Utah channel 5 television site.)

trevi fountain

It seems like a long time ago looking back now, but this picture proves we really did enjoy a warm interlude at Trevi Fountain in Rome this fall. Ahhh, it looks so sunny and warm. Legend has it that if visitors toss a coin into the fountain they will return to Rome. Should we hear E.T. is eating like a pig again this September, I may have to reconsider my swearing off airline travel if. I’m pretty sure that’s the quickest way to get to Italy, which sounds very appealing now.  :grin:.

For today though, we continue to look out the window to see if it’s still snowing . . . yup! it is, and is expected continue all day. The nearly two-feet snow cake on the back deck may come close to swallowing that yardstick Hubby left in it (above photo) if it doesn’t let up. Did I mention the basement furnace broke down last Sunday? It’s working hard at the moment, but it’s an old old unit we’ll be replacing next week just in case.

I’ll be back with more news in a few days. That is, if we don’t freeze first. Does anybody know how to build igloos? Cháo for now!

the magic of rainy days in Venice

The week in review: It’s been fairly quiet this week along the Wasatch. The snowstorm that swamped us for three days last weekend finally quit sometime Sunday, and we were able to get out of the house and into the city for our bi-monthly lecture from the Forum for Questioning Minds, where Jill B. Jones, author of CASINO WOMEN, shared stories of women casino workers in Reno and Las Vegas.  Monday night I had a longgggg night in the Sleep/Wake Center at the University to learn whether I ever learned to sleep and/or breathe correctly upon birth 70 years ago. In other words, “why do I snore so bad?” More on that when I have results. Also, got good news from my Halloween colonoscopy. No more of that, thank goodness, for three years.  Now all that’s left until January, barring unforeseen maladies, is another blood test. Now let’s go to Venice to see how rainy weather only adds to the magic of the city.

The Grand Canal, Venice (the 8th day): Here our driver guides us along one of the major water-traffic corridors in Venice, which the Italians pronounce Venezia (ve-nit-zi-a) by the way, in a water taxi or water bus, not sure what to call it. The S-shaped canal continues for about two miles, and most of the 170+ buildings date from the 13th-18th century. Rich Venetian families apparently vie with each other to show off their richness with these picturesque palazzos. Most buildings emerge directly from water with no sidewalk pavements, and can only be viewed from the front by boat. And here I am looking and feeling like a country bumpkin all agog in the big city, hardly able to believe where I am… It’s mid- to late-afternoon and we’ve been warned to take along our rain gear as clouds gathering suggest there’s a real possibility of some showers later. At the moment I’m not concerned about getting wet. All I can think about are scenes from movies (like James Bond’s Casino Royal & Moonraker, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and wasn’t there one with Meg Ryan or some other American sweetheart?); all I can hear in my head are the voices of Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, and Placido Domingo, and even Dean Martin pops in with That’s Amore.  Here’s one of my favorite waterfront palazzos. Two things never fail to catch my eye: flowers in flowerboxes and color.

All too soon we’ve covered the full two-mile length, past idle trade ships and and impressive cathedrals (so many we can’t possibly remember all the names; we’ve discovered it’s fairly safe to say either St. Mark’s or Santa Maria’s and be right 30% of the time) and pass through the famous Rialto Bridge to enter the area of St. Mark’s Square where we’ll disembark and get ready for our much-anticipated Gondola ride.

Back at the boatdock, we all line up into six-person groups waiting for our turn. Three or four boats with our groups had already loaded and left the dock when the rain began. It didn’t seem so threatening at first, and then it was nearly our turn to take the next boat. Suddenly the sky darkened and all the clouds overhead seemed to burst at the seams all at once. Someone saw a gondola with our people aboard, already drenched to the skin, trying to make it to one of the smaller canal bridges where they would wait out the storm looking rather miserable. For a change I was really happy we weren’t in one of the first groups, hence we stayed reasonably dry under the canopied waiting dock. When it became clear the rain had no plans to stop, our tour director announced the gondola rides had been cancelled.

If we were lucky we’d have one more chance for that Venetian gondola ride tomorrow, weather permitting. We proceeded to our hotel in Venice’s mainland suburb. While Mestre is modern and industrial and cheaper than its neighbor, the “canals” we viewed from our hotel window, admittedly picturesque in their own way, could not compare to the romantic canals of Venice. On the way to the coach, a dazzling rainbow set against a brightening sky seems to promise our group, many of us understandably disappointed–many wet and hungry–that our chances were very good. (That’s me in the green jacket with the street lamp jutting out from my head.)

Sure enough, the next morning we made it, and, again, I learned the gondola rides featured in movie settings and picture books are a little more complicated. Should my readers visit Venice someday and seek out your own gondola adventure,  be advised that there are different ways to navigate the canals. And I’m pretty sure if you want to snap a digital or two, you’ll have loads of opportunities. The chances are more than even that you’ll encounter a bride and groom along the way. But where were the singing gondoliers from the movies? You know…the ones with the striped shirts and straw hats? The reality is that you see all kinds of boats on the canals used for different purposes, weddings, funerals, pageants, even races. It’s considered a special occasion boat and the current cost of a ride is around €80 for a 40-minute cruise (sometimes with a glass of wine). There are cheaper deals available, but our tour was apparently one of those. Six to a boat instead of two, no serenade. I had to content myself with the voices in my head–Bocelli, Pavarotti, and Domingo, and danged if Dean Martin didn’t pop in again once or twice!

You may be struck, as I was, at the vast number of clothesline you’ll see hanging outside. Seems because of the high cost of electricity, most Italian homes do not have clothes dryers, only about 3-4% from what I’ve read. Most Italians hang their clothes to dry in yards, on folding racks set out on the porch, or clotheslines outside in front of their windows. They reason that it’s not only easy, but economical, an important consideration when you consider how expensive it must be to rent or own a home in Venice.

Lest you think all of Venice as a city exclusively spread out along water canals, I offer this alley view. That’s Hubby waiting for me to catch up along one of the mazes of sidewalks leading back to St. Mark’s Square. Always at a loss for navigating, I’m always asking, Are you sure this is the way out? Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, he’s right, as he was this time, thank goodness!

Back on St. Mark’s Square is  the great church (St. Mark’s Basilica) with its beautiful clock tower. On the top terrace below the winged lion  with an open book are two bronze figures, hinged at the waist, which strike the hours on a bell. One figure is old, the other young, to show the passing of time. They are said to represent shepherds as they are wearing sheepskins, and are giant in size so that their form can be recognized at a distance. Although the clock tower has undergone numerous restorations over the years (originally a statue was kneeling before the lion but was removed in by the French in 1797 after the city surrendered to Napoleon), the bell is the original one.

Now you may have heard or read about the flooding in northern Italy the last few weeks, and of course scientists have been saying for years that Venice is slowly sinking. Every time the rains come, the winds blow, and tides sweep more water in. It’s easy to see from this picture taken along the boat docking area how flooding would be a big problem for Venice.

And it’s no secret that in this 21st century, there are few places a person can’t get to within a day of travel, and more people than ever are now realizing long-held dreams of seeing the world, fulfilling their own “bucket-dreams.” Thus the tourist industry continues to flourish, particularly in Italy. It continues to be an important part of our global economy. Thus, in an effort not to discourage visitors to Italy’s famous city built on the seas, Venetians came up with alternative ways for tourists to get around the square in the (more and more) likely event of flooding. Indeed, you can see the props scattered around the square when not in use although you may not recognize what they are. When they are needed, here’s how they look.

Rather than complain, since you can’t argue with Mother Nature anyhow, nor can we yet agree among us that global warming is real, floods are now a fairly regular part of the Venetian tourism experience. Ever resilient, the tourists have learned to take it all in stride and make the best of it, even thinking of it as an different kind of travel adventure. This picture is from Reuters News Agency, but you can go online and do your own search (floods in Italy) and come up with your own assortment of tourists flopping around straddling floating tubes or surfboarding through the streets. Come to think of it, that’s not a bad philosophy for life. Let me add quickly, however, that in spite of the magic of that Venetian rainbow, I’m glad we saw it while you can still navigate on foot there. We got out at just the right time. Venice, or Venezia, as my new Italian friends would say, still holds a lot of magic.

baby ducks “quack me up” – how about you?

How’s the weather treating you where you live? There are signs of spring here in my neighborhood–people are out walking, trees budding and blooming–the daffodils and hibiscus really putting on a show. In one day’s time we’ve gone from  rain, hail, snow–one or the other every single day–to pretty close to perfect this week. I complained loudly just as most people around me were doing, because we knew that much of the country was faring far worse! So I’m giving in. Rather than continuing my India travelogue today, I’ll be outside enjoying the sunshine while I get my flower beds cleaned up and ready for planting, while I try to resist the temptation to plant too early. You just can’t trust Mother Nature this time of year!

Another sign of spring are the number of videos that feature baby ducks are cropping up. If you think you’ve had weather-related problems, consider the plight of this mother duck as she leads her troop to water during a heavy wind. An adult duck typically weighs between 8 and 11 pounds, so their babies probably weigh mere ounces.

I’m throwing in this one just because I adore watching babies learn about the world. These little ducklings would like to learn to yo yo.

You can watch them both in just 68 seconds, but I’ll bet they’ll make you smile inside all day. Here’s wishing all of you a sunshiny day.

power and the glory

All kinds of things went wrong last week. First off, exactly a week ago we learned the money (big bucks!) we’d wired to India through our bank to the travel agency in India–prepaid to cover our travel accommodations within India in January–had gone awry! Soon after we learned an agent there had given us the wrong account number.

So we had to wait and worry until the money finally showed up there (sometime on Wednesday), then wait again until the bank rejected it due to the incorrect account number, then still more waiting until they redirected back to our account again. Meanwhile, I’m having visions of being on some bureaucratic list that locates anyone is this country and freezes everything up while they investigate international money transactions (so we don’t make cash donations to subversive terrorist groups, one supposes). Hubby suggests we re-send money from savings, there’s no way I’m ready to cough up another pile of money without retrieving what we’ve already sent.  And you can be sure there will be fees all around–for their bad, not ours!

Then, during all this, when we need it most so as to print up documentation of our transactions, the printer breaks down. One minute it’s working fine, the next it doesn’t recognize the ink cartridge we’re using. Some days it doesn’t pay to get up in the morning–other times it stretches out through most of the week.

It was a cheap printer to begin with, we’d had it only a little over a year. We weren’t sure if purchasing an entirely new set of ink cartridge and re-installing would be the answer, as some “experts” suggested. If it didn’t, we would have wasted as much money for the new ink as the printer cost to begin with. So we chucked it, and ordered another printer online–needless to say, a DIFFERENT brand. We have our S**t list of bad printers in case you’re interested to know, but that’s a whole new post in itself.

In the meantime, in case we ever thought we had control over our everyday lives, the weather decided to remind us who has truly has all the power and the glory–like we didn’t already know!

After a very windy Friday evening and all day Saturday, we went to bed Saturday night to the sound of icy rain hitting the deck outside the bedroom.

Sunday morning I awoke to the smell of coffee (Hubby had gotten up earlier as always) and what you see in this photograph of the trees right outside our bedroom window.

Beneath the down comfort I was curled up in, it was so warm and cozy that I debated about even getting up, but eventually the smell of coffee worked its magic.

Here’s what Hubby captured an hour or so earlier while it was still dark. The snow-unholstered chairs seem to be waiting for someone to sit down in them and slice up the giant snow-cake that fills the table. In case it’s not clear, that’s between 12-14 inches piled up. When I look at it, it conjures up the sounds of Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition, don’t ask why…some things just are. In case you’d like to hear it, you can click this link.

There’s something magic about being high up on a hillside, with snowflakes swirling all around, reminding you that whatever plans you thought you had for the day, sometimes nature steps in and makes other plans. And it’s okay. So you do the equivalent of turning on the fireplace (remember when we had to make a fire?), and look for the book you’ve almost finished reading.

The only problem is, for some it’s not about curling up with a book and a cup of coffee, it’s all work. To wit:

A man does get weary. With his renewed wisdom–don’t sweat the small stuff–he tells me later, “It coulda been worse. At least it’s snow and not horse poop.

That’s the way it was.

Today, the bank informs us around mid-morning that the funds have been tracked down and being deposited into our account. The roads are thawing nicely so we can get out in the car and drive down the hill to the bank and take care of the new money draft–hopefully with the correct account number THIS time, and the UPS tracking systems shows our new printer was loaded on the truck in our local terminal early in the A.M. for delivery today.

Since we’re not expecting another major storm until Wednesday, Hubby wants to go see the new Harry Potter movie. It really is all small stuff!

Oh, and just in case you live in a snow-starved area of the world, here’s another couple of choice digital shots–more proof that Utah has the best snow in the country. This is our neighbor’s back yard next door:And this is the neighbor’s house across the street. What you would see if the snow wasn’t there would be the Great Salt Lake (about where that little strip of blue shows up about  midway down).

time thiefs: my hazy, lazy days of summer

So many times in March and April, even into May, I thought winter just wasn’t going to turn loose. Most of Utah was drenched in June with monsoon like rains, double and triple our normal precipitation. It brought us blessings in fruit yield though. For the first time in nearly four years we were able to harvest–what the birds didn’t get first–enough cherries for a pie, a large tart, and a cobbler. The May windstorms knocked out most of the apricots, but later blooming strawberries were just about coming out my ears. And, if things go well the rest of the summer, the almond tree that was so full of blossoms this spring–like a ball of pink cotton candy–will give us a pretty nice yield of almonds in the fall. We harvested pecans on the farm when I was a girl, but this is my first time ever seeing and dealing with almonds, other than those sold in bags in stores.

Spring just fiddled around teasing and tormenting us until one day, summer just upped and took over around the end of June. We went off to Peru with sweaters in mid-May expecting it to be hot by the time we got back in June, but got back to overflowing rose and flower gardens and everything green seemed to be growing crazily, including the weeds. And of course the rains kept coming, until one day I knew they were pretty much done.

It was the afternoon in late June when Hubby called me to come look at the double rainbow over the hills behind our house. Then I knew I could start putting the winter clothes away. You seldom get the chance to see rainbows  this intense, especially double ones, so naturally I grabbed the camera.

Image005 (2)

After the fruit frenzy was finally over, I was able to settle down and make a dent in my long reading list. I’ve been discovering and adding new ones to the list almost daily. Right now I’m on my third book in a series by a new (to me) author by the name of Nancy E. Turner of Arizona. The first one, These is My Words, (read sample pages) is a spellbinding story about a pioneer woman’s phenomenal struggles to make a home for her family in the Arizona territories in the late 1800s. The second one I stayed up and finished just before midnight night before last, is Sarah’s Quilt, and I am now well into the third one, The Star Garden. Both continue to follow Sarah Prine as she ages and begins to discover her real worth as a woman in these two page-turner sequels.

What I love about all three books, besides the characters, is that Ms. Turner adds a new dimension to women who were so instrumental in the settling of the old west, which up to now has mostly been either whores with hearts of gold, or helpless women needing men to take care of them. Women were mostly incidental to the plots. If you enjoy books like Lonesome Dove or Confessions of a Confederate Widow, however, this is a page turner every bit as compelling.

Some more on my book list that look promising: A series published in the United Kingdom by Hodder & Stoughton for older children and adults (at least adults like me) called “You Wouldn’t Want to be…” anything from …”an Egyptian Mummy,” “… Cleopatra,”  to “…a Soldier in Alexander the Great’s Army.” They’re colorfully illustrated and a fun read and you’re bound to  learn something no matter how much you think you already know. I wished I’d had them around when I was studying history years ago; I’d be much smarter now.

I’m also looking forward to another children’s book, “Wesley the Owl, the Remarkable Story of an Owl and His Girl,” by Stacey O’brien. I won’t tell you anymore than that, but I hope you have time to check out the link to these and those links above to the sample pages if you’re even remotely interested.

The other time thief of my time this summer has been the movies–not the ones being released currently, few of which seem worth paying even a matinee price to me, but old ones like the westerns from the 1950s and before, which are being featured during the Osher summer movie series and earlier by the Osher film society–lots of John Wayne whom I think I always under-appreciated as an actor–where I get different takes on history as framed by different directors.

Last week we saw, me for the first time ever, King Solomon’s Mines, the 1950 version with Stuart Granger and Deborah Kerr. What a technicolor story that was! No wonder it won Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Color and Best Film Editing and was nominated for Best Picture that year. (All About Eve won.) Plus we’re finding some great foreign films through the local libraries, and catching up on lots of Bollywood movies. If you’ve never seen one of those, you owe it to yourself to check one out.  Last night we saw a DVD of a great mid-90s precursor–at least in theme–to Brokeback Mountain, Strawberry and Chocolate, that follows the development of friendship between two men in the revolutionary society of Cuba. It was a French movie with English subtitles and outstanding in my opinion, well acted and thought provoking. Gay opponents should be required to watch films like this one!

In addition I’ve been trying to sort our Peru pictures and post the highlights (with pictures) of that big adventure, plus we’re dog sitting the grandkids’ dog while they’re on vacation. That requires long walks early most mornings before the sun warms up and chases me inside. All this has kept me pretty busy. In the meantime, local news has suddenly offered some varied and interesting events.

It’s a well known fact here that several years ago the city did a land swap deal with the LDS church here which gave them regulations power over a large area downtown where the temple and church offices are located, Temple Square. Last week a couple were arrested there and hauled off to jail by the city police. The property belongs to the church, it’s private property, therefore the church can regulate behavior and restrict access there according to the laws.  As long as they pass dress code and don’t look too shifty-eyed, everyone is pretty much welcome there. One of their rules, however,  is that there be no public displays of affection.

The couple in question had been walking theretogether holding hands when one of them planted a kiss on the cheek of the other.  I’m sure that sight is nothing new for most of us this side of the hill, in fact we’ve seen far worse, but what made this case different is that  the couple in question were men, and the church gets really upset about gays period, end of sentence. Never mind many people commonly witness heterosexual couples holding hands or cuddling by the fountain and around the square. Almost any weekend you can watch brides and grooms posing around the grounds.  PDAs between gays, however, is offensive to the church (men can’t produce babies, you see, and two women can’t either without help from a man) and the church is pretty big on reproducing more members.

What was even more exciting, and indeed proves that thousands of Utahns are not LDS in case you are one of those thinking everybody in Utah is Republican and carries guns and eats green jello and believes in Joseph Smith, was the “kiss in” on Sunday in the same area of Temple Square when more than a hundred people, mostly gay but some straight, participated in a light-hearted protest. A second protest is reportedly planned for next Sunday, and some have suggested that the exact boundaries of the plaza should be determined and a weekly Kiss-In staged exactly one inch outside the total perimeter every weekend.If it had been 20 years ago, or even 10 years–maybe even five–Hubby and I might have been there with them, but we weren’t, not yet anyway.

While all that was going on in Temple Square on Sunday, on the day before Buddhists were gathered at another temple, the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple, to honor their dead in a memorial service to  acknowledge and celebrate the continuing influence of our deceased relatives on our present lives. Flowers decorated the altar, incense was burned as an offering, and the festival included a Taiko drum performance, folk dancing, and food (usually in the form of bendo boxes). We missed that, too.

I think I had my nose buried in a book 261091288_8330d283c2_omost of the weekend, so we missed all the excitement. Perhaps it was just as well since I really needed to stay home and wash my shave my legs! (see the picture?)

Oooooooooooh, sorry, bad joke I know! But it’s the only way I could figure out to show off the picture I found last week on Flickr. It was originally uploaded on Oct 4, 06 by chotda, and I’m using it here under a creative commons agreement.

It’s a Bendo lunch box (see how it ties in here because of the Obon festival item above?), albeit a fancier one than I’ve ever eaten, and features a bed of steamed rice, salad, and grilled sardines seasoned with soy sauce and hot peppers. I’m a sucker for food pictures as you’ll discover if you spend much time around here on my blog. I like the title almost as much as I like the picture: The Devil Wears Pirikara.

I guess that’s enough of my ramblings for now. So, how’s your summer going? What are your time thiefs?

mother nature’s critters, not always so gentle, yes?

Yesterday, Hubby and I were driving about the valley on our way home after a little outing and couldn’t help noticing all the beautiful pink and white trees, some juxtoposed against a backdrop of snowcapped mountains in the distance. Now exactly when had that happened? Everywhere I looked there were tulips and daffodils and crocus. It was as though I’d been asleep for a week and just woke up after a long winter nap. Even the bottom or our neighborhood boasts their offerings of those same pink and white trees. One, a tulip tree was practically groaning under the weight of its heavy blossoms only slightly brown-tinged from the effects of last week’s spring snowstorm.

Even at home, sunshine and warmth has invaded our space. The tulips we planted in the fall are beginning to let their colors show through. The cherry, apple, apricot, and almond trees are all in full spring regalia. It was such a fabulous awakening, Hubby decided he wouldn’t wait just one more week to be sure no more snow was in sight before we set the outdoor swingset up.

Just before suppertime, everything was in place and we sat swinging, feeling very smug and  enjoying the last rays of sunshine. Slowly we became aware of a horde of gambel quail sashaying across the back yard to disappear through the fence into the neighbor’s yard. All couples, no babies yet, and we assumed they had come down from the hills behind us to find suitable nesting in the dense oak thatches there. Hubby has been hacking away at our oak thickets so as to let more sunshine in for the fruit trees and wild roses, so they aren’t as private for nesting as they were last year perhaps. Or maybe they liked the new water display over there and prefer it over my old frying pan troughs for their daily summer drinks this year.

Anyhow, we were enjoying the quail parade, watching as they stopped for a few moments to gather the seed droppings from the feeder on the way, when I was reminded of Rima from W. H. Hudson’s classic novel, GREEN MANSIONS (1904), which I have have just re-read, about 40 years since the first time. Despite the writing style, it’s still a wonderful and romantic story. Rima lived with her grandfather, totally isolated somewhere in a Peruvian forest, and consequently learned to speak the language of the birds and animals. As I listened to the clicks the quails were making, and remembered how they’ll use those same sounds to communicate to their babies later on, I was thinking how I’d like to be Rima and understand how one click can mean something quite different from another click, seeing as how they all sounded the same to me.

Suddenly, another bird added to the cacophony, more piercing and menacing than any quail click I ever heard. Magpies! Big, monstrous but beautiful birds (20 inches to the Quail’s 11) came swooping from their perches atop the utility poles and treetops, chasing the quail away, their angry cries only a beak’s length away from the quickly retreating quail. They kept making one and another and another mad dashes at the poor quail who were moving as quickly as they could I dare say, back through the fence, across our yard, and into the waning but better than nothing foilage of our back yard.

Magpies remind me of some people I’ve known. They are extremely intelligent and resourceful opportunists. They flip items over to look for food, follow predators, and sometimes steal food from other birds. AND, they look at themselves in mirrors, bird experts say, and they make me so mad. Of course the bullies will probably be over in our yard, later today no doubt, to chase the courting quail from from our yard.

Plus, now that the swing set is back on the deck with its fabric cushions, I’m sure it won’t take them long to re-discover possible new nesting material they’ll stoop to stealing again just as they did in the fall. I sure wish I could speak like Rima the birdgirl. I’d give those Magpies a piece of my mind.