Sunday, December 28, 2008

Get this book NOW!!!

I don't think I've ever recommended anything during the life of this blog.

Today is different.

Run, don't walk, to your local bookstore and get this book. I am not kidding. It is the most amazingly touching book I've read in a long time.

The book is about life from Shreve's point of view and how she ended up with her family--Eli and the wondrous Charlie. Mike comes along after awhile and rounds out her life, giving it the balance she was missing (and she for him). The story is an ongoing one of growth, enlightenment, and humor; of hard times in the frigid Wyoming winter and outdoor naps in the warmth of the sun. A life rich--with life, and a coyote.

Her photographs of Charlie and the Wyoming wilderness will give you pause. From puppy to full grown coyote you won't be able to help falling in love with him, or the photographs.

Go to Shreve's The Daily Coyote website. You can get your daily dose of Charlie there.

What? You're still here? GO GET THE BOOK!!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

What I did on my Christmas break-- A Pictoral

Sweet Rocky

Sweet sweet Reina








white wing dove tree

daddy daughter walk

Thursday, December 11, 2008

it snowed. it really really snowed.

While it may not be the awesome deep, fluffy, powdery, snow of the Great North, THIS, friends was as snow as we get down here in south central Texas.

We're still speechless.

Friday, December 05, 2008

No photos, just memories.

Today on the drive home from work I listened to NPR. Two scientists were being interviewed and while I couldn't entirely grasp why they studied the distance an ant steps, what did catch my attention was the story of one scientist talking about a photo when he was 9 of him outside holding a butterfly net and looking into it. The other scientist had a very similar story about a similar photo at near the same age. They grew up almost a world apart and met one another and began doing research together.

Their stories got me to thinking--what was my earliest memory of being outside with animals? I remember being six living in Lubbock, Texas and playing with big red ants. I would play with them alone, mastering my technique of picking them up one at a time, without being bitten. It was huge competition between the other kids in the neighborhood of who could pick up ants and not get bitten. Apparently the honor of winning was huge to get me to practice as often as I did.

I then remembered being nine and being with my friends and climbing up ivy that grew on the side of a neighbors house and taking a nestling sparrow home to raise. I thought it fascinating holding a real live bird and one so tiny was miraculous. I remember the smell of the ivy and thinking of how thick the woody stems were and how they could hold my body as I climbed without breaking. I remember hearing the adult sparrows giving what I know now their distress calls. I remember hearing the nestlings cheeps as their parents sounded the alarm. I also vividly remember my mom telling me to go put the baby back, and I did. But that didn't stop my finding critters.

During that same time frame we lived in San Angelo, Texas and apparently horney-toads were abundant. (For those not versed in the Texan vernacular, 'horney-toads' aka horned lizards are small lizards that have virtually disappeared from the landscape because of the prevalence of residential pesticide use.) I remember collecting a coffee can full of horney toads of all sizes. I had been in my mom and dad's room, laying on their bed playing with them. As happens, I lost interest and went outside to play with my friends. I was across the street and two doors down when I heard my mom scream. I knew immediately what it was all about and raced home to collect the now free roaming reptiles. I still remember my mom finding me to rescue a rogue lizard and take him outside when she vacuumed inside.

I do have other vivid memories growing up but I wanted to remember my very first critter encounters. So that would explain why I do what I do today.... and love.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

7 random things about me...

Over the last 3 years I've tried to keep this blog about what I see, hear, experience... I've just been tagged to list 7 random things about me and truly it makes me think. As a mother, I rarely think about me in the big picture--it's usually a spur of the moment gotta-have-this-it's-so-me (think Halloween stuff on sale, a really cool something something at the craft store...) to validate that I have a desire for something other than what the kids may need.

I figure everyone knows my love of critters, dirt, plants, magic, etc... so I'll try to dig deeply and see what I come up with.

1. I absolutely love religious iconic art. I collect what moves me--Catholic prayer cards, illustrations in old bibles, missals--they all just leave me speechless. Early on I wanted to be an illustrator like the monks that used to hand write and illustrate bibles.

2. Infants are magic. I love the smell of babies and admire their tiny pudgy fingers and their puckered cherubic lips...

3. I collect coats, jackets, hoodies and sweaters. Though it rarely gets cold enough to wear them all here, I won't be caught unprepared!

4. I have a favorite pillow that I never leave home without.

5. I found and was able to keep my very first dog, Sandy, 6 years ago.

6. I am shy in crowds. I am gregarious, outspoken, witty, flirtatious, and often smart one on one. But get me in a room with more than one person I don't know and I'm looking for a way out without being noticed.

7. I love looking for old religious relics in antique stores. I recently stumbled across a small white marble font that would be mounted at the entryway of a catholic church or rectory. It was beautiful. It was hugely overpriced and I kick myself for not getting a photo. Someday I will collect them!

This was tough and took more time than I thought. I like these tests of self knowledge. Perhaps I will find more and pass on the challenge to you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another day, more Grace.

So I was off today and was out front taking pictures of the butterflies when I heard what I thought was a distress call of a rabbit? A hawk of some sort? An owl??? (in the daytime???) I was still in my flannel jammie bottoms and long sleeved t-shirt and Brent's flip-flops--to die for I know. I walked across the neighbor's front yard and across the street and stopped in front of the little cemetery. I for sure thought that whom-ever-it-was would be up in the trees inside the locked gate. Then, of course, there wasn't another call. Walking back to the house, camera in hand, I saw the girls had tippy-toed to the front yard in hopes of a hand out.

Ok, they got one. As they hung around snacking, I sat on the bench and documented the drama.

The feline girls made a tight formation in order to check out what was going on. They are fond of the dry dog food I sprinkled in the grass and I could tell they were wondering if they could take down the large ungulates that were feasting on their treats. I suppose they realized their folly so they faded into the garden only to observe--and make sure if there were any leftovers, they would taken care of.

After a dry food snack, a doe gets a little thirsty. Between the 6 deer that showed up, I had to fill and refill the birdbath because they all drank deeply. This drought has been hard on them but somehow they manage.

With just a little help from the herd cat.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Grace lives.

You know, all it takes is to walk to the front door and see the front garden teaming with butterflies--handful after handful--to relieve one of the day's (week's, month's) burdens. Because we all know there are days that life's burdens are overwhelming .

Among and around the differing tones of greens, lavenders, and grey, bright bursts of gold, yellow, and black swirl, flutter, and still in the blink of an eye. The sheer energy from the little flashes of life melted my foul mood. I was able to stand a little straighter and smile.

What perfection!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Portland loves....

(Bunny spray painted at ground level at the corner of a building on Aberta Street in Portland).

My journey is nearly complete. I am exhausted and yet I can internally reflect on the last 4 days in the middle of the chaos that is the Portland airport. My flight leaves in less than an hour and yet my day was full before noon.

This day began earlier than the last few. A 4am text from Brent asking if I knew where Lillie's backpack was... yes. This really happened. This was after my alarm went off (I have no idea why) and I had talked myself into going back to sleep and not going to the coast. The Oregon coast, the coast that I had told just about everyone I talked with over the last 4 days that I was going to visit. Yes, I had chickened out. Then the text.

So I got up. 4:30am. Showered, packed every single thing I had collected (and it all actually fit!!), checked out and off I went in total early morning darkness on my journey-to the Starbucks down the street from the hotel. No adventure should be attempted without a serious dose of manna--Triple Venti No Foam Latte.

I was set. The caffeine boost was enough to send my fears of the unknown into the dark corners of the itty bitty rental car.

It was a little tricky to navigate a city I do not know, in the dark and rain, and on the phone with Misty. Something had to go so I could drink my latte!!! Just kidding--I made it with NO turn arounds!! (unlike my arrival!)

Somehow, the directions held true and by full daybreak I arrived at Seaside, Oregon. Led by my gut, I found the exact cul de sac I had been told about. I parked, grabbed my camera and off I went.

It was so cold and windy and rainy that had I not been on a serious mission to touch the western coastal waters, I might have ducked into the bakery I parked in front of to wait it all out (like I had even seen the sun since I got here!!)

Looking for shells to take back to my family, I came across this partial sand dollar. And another. And another. The only shells on the beach at this time were partial sand dollars... amazing!!

You know something's up when the residents are all fluffed up and look miserable.

Walking along snapping shots of whatever I came across, I found this perfect heart, minus the wings. The chest plate of a crab--who would have known crabs carried such beauty so close?

I was in the land of crows! Walking into my hotel, one serenaded me from the roof. Driving along the roadways, I saw their dark shapes on the light posts, in the fields, on the sidewalks... I was in heaven!!! I shared my coffee cake with a crew--a murder of crows. First one, then two, the six... there was a trio on the beach as the area warmed a little. This one let me get pretty close before he fled.

Too quickly my time at the beach was over. On the way to Seaside, I noticed a natural area and found it on the way back to Portland. Driving down the single lane paved road, I was transported into the land of long ago. The area was quiet, the only sounds were the running water--in the creek and through the branches of the trees.

I would never tire of this view.

I will return. I have to!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The girls from Mississippi

They came in this huge trailer. No one seeing the long white trailer on the road could possibly know there were two lives inside who were being taken to a new home, a better home, than the one they'd been living in for so many years. They had been part of a 'collector's' menagerie for the past 15 years. We really weren't able to find out a lot about their previous circumstances except the person was getting rid of the animals.

The girls had been loaded up in Mississippi the night before and had been on the road the entire night. They had no idea that when the back doors of the trailer opened, their new lives would begin.

The trailer arrived early in the morning and pulled up to the rear of the lockouts. Our single male African lion was curious of the company as he only sees humans when being fed.

He could see the trailer and everyone walking around, but, when the back doors of the trailer were opened and the girls began talking, he really perked up.

The back doors of the trailer were opened and the girls blinked from the brightness. They were in huge wild hog traps with hay and water bowls. It had been a long journey and it was almost over.

I'm sure the person who had them before had named them, but, to tell them apart, I call one Girl and the other one Sister. Girl is the more aggressive one. Even though she had been on the road for almost 24 hours, she was still very vocal about her situation and a little more than sensitive to every one's movements.

Both cages were offloaded and on each girl's terms they entered their lockouts. They had an entire enclosure to check out and make their own. In the meantime, the male lion was watching every moment. Here is his fist look at Girl.

She didn't seem to be too impressed with the slobbering boy on the other side of the fence, and, he probably wasn't so sure more lions were a good thing. After all, he had been king for awhile now and his 'only child' status was slipping rapidly.

The girls were left on their side of the enclosure for several days so they could get used to their new environment and get used to their neighbor, who would eventually be their room mate (remember Three's Company??!!!).

The day came for the guillotines to be lifted between the enclosures. We gathered around the lockouts preparing the plan and preparing for anything that could go wrong. There was no way anyone would be able to enter the enclosures if there was a disagreement between the lions, so we enacted safety precautions and called on all things powerful to watch over this introduction.

The guillotine between the yards was raised and the boy lion was lured into his yard and the door was closed to his lockout. He had never seen the guillotine opened before so wasn't aware he could squeeze through it to gain access to the neighboring yard.

After time had passed, it was agreed that the guillotine between their lockouts would be raised so that he could walk through. The girls by this time had walked into their yard. The guillotines were raised and he walked from his yard, through his lockout, through the guillotine that separated the lockouts to the girl's lockout. He then walked into the girl's yard, past the girls and zeroed in on his prey---

a plastic ball used for rats and guinea pigs to roll around in. In this particular instance, the ball had been washed in a bleach water mixture and given as enrichment to the girls several days earlier and, from what Mike said, he'd probably been eye-balling it since he put it in there.

The girls walked near him and he ignored them preferring to play soccer with and claim the ball. The one I call Sister laid nearby, guarding him. She looked back as if to tell Girl that she had the situation under control.

Girl's reaction was to wrinkle her nose as if to say "Ewww, a stinky boy" and strolled back to her lockout.

Boy lion kept playing soccer with his ball and the girls watched from a distance. He ended up in the shade beyond their play structure and they watched him alternately from their lockout and underneath the structure. There was one little skirmish (just voices, no contact) between he Sister. During that time Girl strode quickly back to the safety of the lockout. After, Sister went to comfort Girl in their lockout.

The girls stayed in their lockout and Boy lion stayed in the shade beneath the trees with 'his' ball. We all decided it was a good time to retreat from the area and allow them to adjust to one another.

There was just one more skirmish between the three. It happened later that evening. No one is quite sure exactly what happened, but it was plain the girls were still a little stressed and that the boy lion was probably more than a little confused. So the group was separated during the night for the following few nights and then were allowed to be together at all times after that.

It's exciting that our boy now has girls to keep him company. Or more to the point, to keep him in line--whatever that entails.