Thursday, March 6, 2008

If Ever I Would Leave You

There is a song that has always touched my heart and made me cry. I always thought it had to do with a fear of losing the one I loved . . . and maybe it did at the time. But I'm thinking now that all the anguish that song engenders finds its focus here, in this canyon. When would I choose to leave?

At this moment, just as I'm preparing to go, golden California poppies have decided to cascade down the hillside behind my house. I can almost hear them giggling, they look so happy, as though they're rushing to be first to reach bottom. How can I leave them? Surely I ought to wait until midsummer's heat when the flowers have faded.

Yesterday the cattle arrived to eat the brilliant green grasses that have grown up since the rains. They cross just beyond my back fence, single file. Their strong, solid bodies and stolid manner make me feel safer somehow. In days to come these beautiful, many colored mother cows will give forth little ones. Each morning I'll look for new additions and watch them learn to play with one another, their pure white baby faces and leggy antics a perfect springtime show. How can I leave them? Surely I ought to wait until midsummer's heat has dried the grasses and the cows have all gone home.

And the creek which only floods and flows after especially wet winter storms. It locks us up within our cozy homes until the flood abates, making us feel like pioneers at the mercy of Mother Nature. And then, when it slows and allows us passage once again, how exciting it is to ford a flowing river. Setting us apart from humdrum life. It makes the blood flow faster and warmer, participating in the doings of nature. How can I leave it? Surely I ought to wait until the waters' flow has slowed and slowed and the crossings have dried and I have once again become an ordinary person.

The song says, "If ever I would leave you, it wouldn't be in springtime . . . summer, winter or fall." The reason why the song hits such a tender place? Because sometimes one must. . . .

I know I'll be just as joyful and captivated when Tennessee gives me pink and white dogwoods in the spring and snow in wintertime and the companionship of loved family members. Just now, though, I'm entranced by golden poppies and mother cows.
So, use your imagination and see my canyon where Andy Williams sings of a lover.

If Ever I Would Leave You

Artist: Andy Williams-from his "Warm and Willing" LP
Music by Frederick Loewe and Words by Alan Jay Lerner
from the Broadway musical "Camelot"

If ever I would leave you, it wouldn't be in summer
Seeing you in summer, I never would go
Your hair streaked with sunlight, your lips red as flame
Your face with a luster that puts gold to shame

But if I'd ever leave you, it couldn't be in autumn
How I'd leave in autumn, I never will know
I've seen how you sparkle when fall nips the air
I know you in autumn and I must be there

And could I leave you running merrily through the snow
Or on a wintry evening when you catch the fire's glow

If ever I would leave you, how could it be in springtime
Knowing how in spring I'm bewitched by you so
Oh, no, not in springtime, summer, winter, or fall
No never could I leave you at all

Transcribed by Ronald E. Hontz

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Flora and Fauna

Well, as you might imagine, my days have been filled with packing boxes with books to go to the library or wherever.  Day of work . . . day to recover.  And I'm not even doing the hard stuff . . . no heavy lifting.  My canyon angel, Roberta, has done that part for me.

But, to get to the heart of the subject matter here, I have to talk about plants and animals, don't I. 

First, the ones I will leave behind.  The oaks that dot these hills are the signature of these oak woodlands.  The ones in this canyon are mostly tremendous old grandoaks, like the one in my yard, broad of girth, tall and stately.  Some, on the steep hillsides are less tall, as their tendency to hug the lay of the land makes their tops broader and lower.  Many of the long old limbs finally go-to-ground and rest while continuing to grow  outward from their centers.

Then there are the sycamores, light in color, tall, reaching for the sky.  The ones here in the canyon are ancient and awesome.  There's one along the road, our ever-changing road which is constantly being washed away and regraded wherever the last flood will allow.  At some earlier time, the creek washed away the soil from its roots, so that it almost stands on its tiptoes.  I never pass it without sending it a silent hurrah for its great spirit that keeps it standing and thriving.  Across the road stands an agricultural pump, about six feet above ground level, where once it sat on soil that was washed away by the creek.  Geology in action.

And, of course there is my great, magical California pepper tree that has been "sculpted" by time so that it's three great trunks lean out from the center to rest their limbs on the ground.  It played hostess to a covey of quail one year, and I watched them come to roost at night, one by one coming out of the tall pasture grass, single file, leaping straight up into the branches, filling the tree with quiet little chortles as they settled into sleep.  The window over my bed would be open when, in the early dawn, first one and then a second and a third little quail would wake and make it's morning greeting to the day.  Soon, the whole tree would be full of beautiful sound, then, one by one, they would drop straight down and scurry off into the tall grass.  Better than a concert.

And then the cats came to live on the ranch.  The pepper tree is one of their favorite hunting grounds and my tree is now off limits for roosting birds.  (sigh)  But the rodent population has been decimated which is a great boon for the ranch.  And these cats are precious and beautiful and endlessly interesting. 

Anyway, I do have several "baby" pepper trees that I've been growing from seeds for years and have had planted in my garden since we moved here.  I hope, with Edward's help, to prepare them for lifting by the time I leave and then to take them to Tennessee where I'll create bonsai trees of them.  They'll have to be protected in the winter, but it will be a great experiment.

So, I've kind of mixed my flora to fauna without intending it.  The fauna I will take with me are my cat Princess and my nine cockatiels.  Three of the birds have already made a trip to Tennessee with me, Walter, Miss Punkin and Turtle.  Turtle was two weeks old when I started driving, a scrawny little thing with beginning feathers that felt like porcupine spines, still encased in their protective sheaths.  By the time Michael and I drove back from Tennessee to California, three or four week later, she was a beautiful pearl cockatiel with soft dark gray and yellow feathers.  It will take some planning to keep caring for nine of them on the road.  But, Nina, or possibly Michael, will be along, and they're both bird experts.  (smile)

As for the flora I hope to take with me . . . or which I have to reconcile myself to leaving . . . are my little mother's irises and roses.  Edward (whom I really hesitate to designate an angel, who frequently calls forth an "oh, you devil" but whose behavior seems to indicate angelhood at times LOL) . . . anyway, that Edward . . . has said he'll do what he can to recover some of them for me.  Let's hear a great big cheer for him.  And if you're wondering why I don't just leave these and buy some more in Tennessee, take a look at the beginning paragraph of a letter my little mother wrote not long before Tony and I moved back to California and into her home.

Hello!  I send you California sunshine before it goes away.  It is so bright I came back in the house to put on my blue blockers and out again to see my little irises that had bloomed for the first time of their life!  Several others are budding to bloom that had been there so long I kept hoping.  And I'm going out often to be sure they are real.
So, that's why it matters so much that I have these flowers that she loved so much.  She would go out in the dewy morning and kneel down to kiss a flower that had just bloomed for her.  And that's truly the way she felt--that every bloom was a compliment to her.  Now, I don't kiss the flowers, but I do speak to them at times.  You know, stuff like, "Mother would be so proud of you."  (smile)

Well, I gave short shrift to why it means so much to me to take along my little birds.   They are like my little babies.  Anyone who has loved a pet of any species will understand, even if they shake their heads at the great number of my little birds.  LOL  Imagine if I couldn't bear to leave the little sparrows I feed or the magpies who hang around looking for handouts.  I will miss them.  And I'll miss the occasional concert of yelps from the coyotes in the foothills around  about and the hawks and kestrels and the two pairs of golden eagles who now and then show us their aerobatic flair.

And, I'll miss my Lucy-girl.  I have been fortunate to be able to pretend now and then that Lucy was my dog.  (smile)  How I loved having her asleep in my little house or hanging about in the sun or shade, just knowing she was around.  What a sweet girl!

Okay, I guess that's enough for now.  I'd better get back to sorting stuff from the BBB (big black bookcase).  More later.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I Want To Go, But I Don't Want To Leave

Well, the time has come for me to leave this beautiful canyon that has been so much a part of my life. Health issues and a growing desire to be near my Tennessee sister and her three sons have conspired to send me away from here but toward a new and wonderful phase of my life.

I just now walked out front for a moment. And this unbelievably beautiful day just wrapped itself around me, the warm sun and the cool and gentle breeze making me feel as though I'm embedded in this place. I pivoted slowly, and the sight of the green hills and white shale cliffs and the oaks and the magpies and sparrows . . .

And the friends . . . so many heart friends who have shown me in a hundred ways that they love me. I have become so emotionally identified with this place and its people that leaving will feel like ripping away some of my heart, I think. It does already feel that way.

But I can't dwell on the pain, since there is so much pleasure ahead. Nina is my dear baby sister. (Sorry, Nina, it's just true. Now you can call me your old sister if it'll make you feel better. LOL) I left home when she was only eleven, and in the intervening years I've mostly spent limited times with her for most of our lives--visits for a week or two from states across the continent and sometimes from across the sea. And I think now, how can it be? How can it be that this so dear person whom I've cherished since the day she was born, is so little "known" to me? To think that I will now be with her, to enjoy her company whenever I want, gives me incredible joy.

And her sons . . . wonderful men who have grown up loving me and with whom I've shared adventures and ideas. How can I not be overjoyed to know that I will be seeing them and spending time with them?

So I guess I'll have to learn to hold onto these two tremendous emotions somehow . . . until time resolves them.

Sometime soon, when all the work that is necessary before moving has been completed, my cat Princess, my nine cockatiels and I will hit the road for Tennessee. I will continue this blog, though it will no longer be a communique from the canyon. I'll try to have my emotions under control next time I write so I can tell you about beautiful eastern Tennessee.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Watching Birds

As you know by now, birds have become a favored company of mine these days. I've gone through a canine period, during which I had a Doberman pinscher and several miniature pinschers and later groomed dogs for many years. And then there was a feline era, when I married Tony and had to share him with his old cat Itmay. Eventually, we took into our lives Yin and Yang and, later, Miss Girl and then, when all the others were gone, Princess came into my life. Cats notwithstanding, this seems destined to be my avian era.

I am literally surrounded by birds. Not only the crows and bluebirds I've spoken of already, an occasional kestrel or hawk and even a pair of golden eagles, now and then an owl in the oak tree, and not even just the flocks of magpies and sparrows or the turkey buzzards soaring ceaselessly above the hills . . . not only all of those, but I have to have nine birds in the house!

A couple of mornings ago, I watched two western bluebirds checking out the living conditions in the bluebird house Jeff put up for me. It's positioned on top of a metal pole several feet high, so no cat can climb up to it. These birds took turns looking into the hole that constitutes the entryway--one waiting on the fence while the other looked, then exchanging places. They seemed to be excited. Then, from out of the blue (sorry, couldn't resist) another pair of bluebirds flew in. They had a short exchange of impolite "words" before they all flew away. I haven't seen any more inspection going on. My fingers are crossed. Maybe I need to contact a realtor.

Then there's the little towhee who's fascinated by his reflection in the truck mirrors, sometimes practically tipping upside down to see his face.
At other times he flings himself at the glass, in an effort to drive the other little fellow away. He's been seen doing the same with reflections in the bumper or wherever else he sees another little towhee. I can't help wondering where there is real little towhee to keep him company. It would be nice if he could abandon his fruitless efforts.

As I began to say, this seems to be my avian era. I don't know why I should even think to divide my life in this way. I might as easily say this is my hermitess era, since I am living alone, enjoying activities that require an absence of the usual expectations of life. I take care of the animals who share my life and living space. I keep piles of books on my bed because I never know just which one will suit my mood when I turn on my little reading light, put on my spectacles, take that great breath that readies the body for rest, and reach for a book.

Some mornings, after the cat and birds are fed and cleaned, I sit down at my new electronic piano for a time of music. I can play for five minutes and then go tend to something I just remembered needed doing. Or I can play for two hours. Nothing tells me I must or must not please myself. It is a wonderful feeling, in a way. And I can play anything I want to play. Sometimes it's songs from movies: Candle on the Water from the movie Pete's Dragon and Can You Feel the Love Tonight out of The Lion King. Or old favorites like the one Tony especially liked, Vincent; or the one my dad thought I played and sang better than anyone in the world, Peace in the Valley (sorry Red Foley). And sometimes I get out the Broadman Hymnal and just play and sing some of the old church songs from my teen years at the Whosoever Will Mission.

While I play, the birds react by quietly listening to the more soothing music or becoming lively and noisy when I play something like Sunlight in my Soul Today or Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue. When the music is right, Turtle, the bird closest to the piano (whom I call "my gorgeous little fat girl") closes her eyes and makes herself into a round feather ball. But when I stop, she opens her eyes and makes one commanding chirp. When I play again, she goes back into her trance. Where would I find a better audience? I should mention that after I've been playing for a few minutes, I often feel a soft movement beside me and look down to see Princess lying on the piano bench with her little paws tucked beneath her chest, quietly just being with me.

So, what, I ask myself, am I really doing at this time of my life? Enjoying my solitude. Yes. Enjoying my creatures, tame and wild. Yes. Learning as fast as I can from books and lectures on DVD and internet research.
Yes. Maybe I'm kind of like the little towhee, trying to find myself in a mirror. And, like the towhee, it certainly appears that I am enjoying myself. But, I ask again, what am I really doing? I can only say, in one of Tony's frequent sayings, "I'm working on it!"

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Going to Town

One might think going to town is a simple act. You just grab your purse, make sure you've got your cell phone and car keys. And after that it's just a matter of getting into the car and driving. However, those of us who've chosen to live in a secluded canyon where the seasonal creek carves out a new bed each time it floods . . . well, we have to think hard about whether we can, whether we ought to wait a few more days, whether we've stocked up on essential supplies ahead of time and don't need to take risks. And, we have to listen to stories told about those who tried and got stuck, where the worst crossings are, and we have to incorporate that information into our decision process.

So far, several people have been stuck in the creek, all at the crossing just up canyon from me, fortunately. And, the creek has been a little kinder to us this year and/or the road placement has made for fewer crossings that before.

Here is Dave's truck starting to enter the water at the first crossing.

That leads to my point, which is that I went to town yesterday.
I followed Dave's truck as he and Marcia left for town. The two actual water crossings were not bad at all, and we splashed and sloshed our way across them without incident.

It does make me feel akin to the pioneers who crossed the continent in wagons and forded many a river of greater consequence than this little Alamo Creek. Maybe it gives me just a tiny inkling of what they thought and felt.

Here is Dave's truck dipping into the channel at the first crossing. Bear in mind that the creek is much lower than it was at high water mark.

After the water crossing, this left the main obstacle we had to confront--the mud pit.

And here he is coming out on the high side.

Speaking of feeling akin to others, this mud pit reminded me of the monster truck events, where tackling the mud pit separates the men from the boys. (Did I say that? Surely not!) Anyway, you get the point. In our

This is a photo of BigDawg coming through a mud pit at a competition. (Just to prove to you some people do this for fun and to give you some idea of what we did yesterday.)

case, Dave went first and taught me where all the bad spots were. I followed, paying attention to the lesson, and got through without mishap. It's a strange feeling to have so little control while driving a vehicle and somehow making it through.

After all that, my time in Santa Maria went smoothly. Breakfast with Dave and Marcia at Baker's Square was good. We had a nice, long conversation, always something interesting with those two. We won't mention anything about Starbuck's and purses full of spilled coffee. No, it wouldn't be politic to be too explicit about that. (smile)

Lunch at Baker's Square with Nancy (my sister with the new diamond stud earrings) and Kim (a very dear friend) was, as usual, wonderful. Lots of family news and stuff. If you don't like spicy food, don't order the Italian sausage sandwich. Whooo! It didn't say spicy on the menu. I can't remember ever returning food at a restaurant but, with a little encouragement from Nancy and Kim, I returned that. There was some discussion between the waitress and manager, but eventually the dust settled and I got a replacement sandwich.

In between those two meals, all the errands kept me running back and forth across town. And I didn't get home until after 7:00 p.m. Made it through the mud pit alone, and
in the dark, and scared. LOLOL No, just a little literary license there. It was fine. I felt confident, calm and composed. (smile)

I began all this to talk about the difference between living in town and living out here in Alamo Creek Canyon. And now I'm not sure I can tell you what it is. I've been watching pairs of blue birds inspect the blue bird house in the back yard and hoping someone will choose it to raise their babies this spring. But I watched birds in Little Mother's back yard when we lived with her and waited daily for the mocking bird to sing. So why is this so compelling?
Maybe it has to do with the immense sweep of unpeopled hills, where a flock of a hundred or so crows can come winging up the canyon and disappear over toward the Huasna.

Maybe it's the immediacy of a flock of magpies that keeps a lookout near my house at all times to signal the arrival of the goodies I'm about to strew around. Or the numerous little white-crowned sparrows that wait in the brush pile for the same largesse. Or it could be the anticipation I feel for the imminent arrival of mother cows who will daily trek back and forth just beyond my back fence, feeding on the green grass in the pasture on one side of my house and then going for the water in the trough by the ranch house on the other side.

The thing is, I know these birds and can sometimes even recognize individuals by their white wing markings. Of course I don't know the sparrows in the same way, but I'm enchanted by their cheeky way with one another. And the cows . . . they are absolutely wonderful. When they first arrive it's birthing time, and mornings often reveal a new calf or two . . . and what can be more engaging that watching young calves begin to play together.

Well, I'm asking myself, what does all this have to do with going to town? I suppose you're asking the same thing about now. Going to town is not like the old feelings I used to have about going to the circus or even going to the Saturday matinee. Going to town is more like a chore these days. Town hasn't changed--well, not that much. But I have changed. The canyon, with all its beauty and majesty and the uncertainty of the creek, has changed me.

The best part of going to town is coming home.

Friday, January 25, 2008

We Have a Creek!

The rain has finally soaked the ground beyond its ability to hold its water. This is actually about the third day water has been flowing. The rain is still falling sporadically. I just checked the NOAA map, and it shows us on the top end of the rain area and at the bottom end of the high winds forecast. We could get either, neither or both.

Anyway, the main thing is that the creek is a river. I walked out across the road from the ranch corrals and took these pictures.

Looking Downstream toward the Highway

It's an odd but exhilarating feeling to have the roads out of the canyon blocked by a flowing creek. I had a doctor's appointment today. Marcia used their satellite telephone to call and change it. I wonder sometimes how the old saw: The good Lord willing and the creek don't rise goes over. I've enjoyed being able to say it now and then. LOLOL

Looking Upstream toward the Head of the Canyon

Here is almost the same view upstream from January 2007.

So, while I'm here, thinking about so many things, I'm considering the process of whittling down the tons of stuff I have stored in the stone house. If (and I can only say "if") there are 365 boxes, one box a day would clear out the stone house. I'd better get started. (smile)

The piano is bringing me (and my birds) (and even my cat) so much happiness. I'm playing (I should say "practicing") songs from the 1940s. My favorite so far is How Are Things in Glaccamorra. I don't follow the music exactly, but as I work on the chord combinations, I see relationships that had just never struck me before--how changing one note makes one chord change into another. This, I'm sure, was what my dad was trying to teach me. I got the part about when to change to a 7th chord, for example. But I think now about how he sounded when he played the guitar in his younger days, how he went through all these chords I'm learning about now, and I'm sure there was more I just didn't catch. It was quite a gift he gave me, and I need to remember those good things now and then.

Well, before I break into tears, I'm going to call it quits.


Thursday, January 24, 2008


What is there about a rainbow that evokes the visceral appreciation as we feel? I know some people will relate it to the promise in the Bible that God will never again destroy the Earth by flood. But for those who don't refer everything back to the Bible, there is still the thrill that comes from seeing that stupendous splash of color. It does seem like a gift that Nature has presented. And here is this morning's rainbow as I saw it through my back window.

Of course, we know that there is an explanation . . .

Scientific explanation

The rainbow's appearance is caused by dispersion of sunlight as it goes through raindrops. The light is first refracted as it enters the surface of the raindrop, reflectedangles, with the most intense light at an angle of 40°–42°. The angle is independent of the size of the drop, but does depend on its refractive index. Seawater has a higher refractive index than rain water, so the radius of a 'rain'bow in sea spray is smaller than a true rainbow. This is visible to the naked eye by a misalignment of these bows.[2] off the back of the drop, and again refracted as it leaves the drop. The overall effect is that the incoming light is reflected back over a wide range of

The amount by which light is refracted depends upon its wavelength, and hence its colour. Blue light (shorter wavelength) is refracted at a greater angle than red light, but because the area of the back of the droplet has a focal point inside the droplet, the spectrum crosses itself, and therefore the red light appears higher in the sky, and forms the outer colour of the rainbow. Contrary to popular belief, the light at the back of the raindrop does not undergo total internal reflection and some light does emerge from the back. However, light coming out the back of the raindrop does not create a rainbow between the observer and the sun because spectra emitted from the back of the raindrop do not have a maximum of intensity, as the other visible rainbows do, and thus the colours blend together rather than forming a rainbow. (with lots of photos and more information)

I've included the entire physical explanation taken from Wikipedia, because I want to see if that explanation increases my pleasure when I see a rainbow. And, the answer is, that I see there are more kinds of pleasure than one. It gives me intellectual pleasure to know . . . to understand . . . the processes that create a rainbow. This has nothing to do with the great wave of joy I feel when I look out and see that a rainbow has come to live out its short life just beyond my back yard. Yet, I am glad to have both kinds of pleasure. Here is the left end of the rainbow.

We're all familiar with the Irish belief that at the end of the rainbow there is a pot of gold. But looking at this full arch of rainbow I can't help wondering whether there is a pot of gold at both ends!

I found a website that explores the different ways people have thought about rainbows, all really interesting to read. The last two short paragraphs kind of sum it up for me:

The rainbow is a bridge between the real and imaginary. It is looked at as a magic bridge on one hand, but on the other hand, people say a project doomed to fail is one built on a rainbow. A person who chases rainbows is someone who never accomplishes anything. I wonder what people think about us, rainbow makers.

People all over the world have different beliefs and different ways of looking at and understanding the same thing. We can be sure when a rainbow appears everyone is struck by its magic and its beauty. There is no doubt of that. What is the real meaning of the rainbow? Go look at one and you will know. Without words, without pictures, with a feeling inside you. Yes, there are things we just know and those are the important things in our life. The things that do not need words.

So, now I need to take a walk down to see if the creek is still flowing. Oh . . . I didn't mention that it was? LOL I didn't find out myself until after dark last night. Now, it's already 10:20 and I'm sitting here at the computer. I've taken care of my little critters, including the outside birds, and even though mine are clamoring to be let out to fly, I'm going to take some time to go see the creek. (I looked for the batteries to my video cam and, so far, haven't found them. So, no video--just still shots. Oh, well.)

Thanks for joining me here. Sorry if I'm not consistent about posting something, but I have to follow how I'm feeling and what's happening to stir my imagination.


And they have rainbows in Tennessee, too. (smile) Here's one sent to me by my nephew Douglas, taken at his work place.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Notes on a New Year's Resolution

It has been decades since I even thought of making a New Year's resolution. Too many failures to carry through taught me it was pretty much a bootless effort. Who needs to feel bad about something they invented themselves?

However, this year I spoke up, in public, about something I definitely was making my #1 resolution this year. I recall the feeling of earnest sincerity as I told my three cousins and one sister about this. I can even picture myself saying it, as though I'd sat in that extra chair at our table, watching myself commit to accomplishing something seriously significant to me.

Yesterday, a little more than two weeks since my extravagant pronouncement, I had a thought, to wit: I haven't begun to make that resolution a reality. My next thought was, "What was my resolution?" For the life of me, I cannot recall what I said at that table at HomeTown Buffet. So far, I've checked with my sister, Nancy, but she doesn't remember either. (One would think she would have remembered if for no other reason than to give me a bad time if she saw me slipping! LOL What else are sisters for?) I haven't yet checked with any of the cousins. In the meantime, I'm truly flummoxed at forgetting something that was so clear . . . and clearly important at the time.


Okay, I've been skirting the issue of Guinevere, but today seems like a good time to bare my soul. I have learned the meaning of a love-hate relationship. That term applies to my feelings toward a cat named Guinevere. She lives on the ranch and is the progenitor of all the ranch cats. She is absolutely the most gorgeous feline I've ever seen. (My apologies to the cats I've loved and, sometimes, lost. I'm sorry Yin and Yang and Missy and Princess, but it's true.) Guinevere is so beautiful she seems unreal.

So, you might ask . . . that's the "love" part. Where does "hate" come in?

Well, I'm going to hedge a bit now. I don't exactly, well . . . hate her. Let's just say I try my best to not be in the same place she's in . . . er, anywhere near . . . uh, preferably in the next county, maybe. LOL I know her people-parents won't mind if I recount my experiences with Guinevere.

Guinevere is, I think, not quite right in her pretty little head. She wants to be loved and held and petted. Right? But you'd better be wearing armor or at least a Kevlar vest when you pick her up. She gives a whole new meaning to the word "cling." She twists and turns and grabs and holds with every little claw on every little paw. "Now," she says once she's got you in her clutches, "Pet me!" So, although I've been known to have lapses of consciousness during which I picked her up, it is not something I do when stone cold sober!

This next part, I know, is just cats being cats, so I harbor absolutely no ill will toward Guinnie on this account. Being head honcho (honcha?) of the ranch, Guinevere has come to stake her claim on the little stone house in my back yard which, by extension, includes the entire yard. Makes sense. So what if Princess, who is delicate of build and meek of manner, has had to back off any tentative claim she had for a while. "Dose is da breaks," said the old prize fighter when he lost his crown. So what if I had to rescue Princess out of the pepper tree or off the roof a few times. Dose is also da breaks. Of course, my feelings just might have been slightly less philosophical those times when Guinevere had Princess staked out in the tree . . . way out on a limb and Princess couldn't have answered my call if she'd had a mind to. Or those nights when I had to stand outside holding the lawn chair up to the eaves trying to coax Princess down off the roof. That part wasn't entirely Guinnie's fault, since Princess may have just enjoyed the situation as she purred and rubbed her cheeks against the roofing material while I did everything but scream at her, "Princess, get in the chair!" But I do hold it very much against Guinevere the night she charged at Princess, causing her to fall off the roof into my barely-surviving lilac bush.

Finally, I have to admit that I'm scared witless of Miss Guinevere. If ever Princess talks me into allowing her to accompany me outside, I'll remember the time Guinevere bit me.

You see, once two cats actually SEE one another and the growling begins, that deep belly gnarl that only a cat can generate--once they've reached that stage, there is no such thing as stepping in to separate them. Nevertheless, I tried. With the two cats crouched a foot apart. I knew disaster loomed, but what's a mommy to do? The instant I moved to pick up Princess, Guinevere attacked.

I still have nightmares about the look on her face (well, I would if I had good sense!). If you ever saw the horror film about devil cats attacking people, you'd know exactly what I mean. But the movie people had to use special effects people to create those looks! Anyway, that's how Guinevere looked as she missed Princess and bit down on my hand.

Do you understand now? Do you get how I can love this cat for her beauty and her great survival instincts but "hate" her because she is so scary? I'll try to get her photo . . . when I can locate my Kevlar vest.

I'm trying to work my thoughts about Guinevere into some kind of philosophy of relationship. But for now, I've got to go see about my little birds.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Well, I Have to Complain Sometime!

Have you noticed that the number of free website are diminishing?  I do a lot of both surfing (following my nose online) and research (directed searches for specific information).  It hasn't been long since it was possible to go just about anywhere, retrieve information or source references, and make it back to home page without a pecuniary scratch.  These days, the story has changed drastically, and my sense is that the changes "ain't over yet."

I remember, back when we lived in Maryland, there was a huge discussion about whether commerce ought to be allowed on the Internet at all, as it was just becoming publicly available.  What's happening today is what was foreseen by the wiser heads back then.  Now, even if a payment in coin of the realm is not exacted, most sites require you to "register" which raises issues of privacy.  I wager most people do not take the time to read those service agreements and privacy policy statements and, therefore, have no idea how their information will be used.  It is that private information that becomes payment.  And this is coming from one who is skeptical of almost every kind of conspiracy theory.  (Now, the real stuff is another matter!  LOL)

The Internet has been the most freeing, the most connecting, the most enlightening "entity" most of us will ever have the good fortune to meet.  To see it gradually bound and gagged by those who will extract their pound of flesh before we can use it really makes me mad!  

Well, complaining is going to do me diddly squat good, I know.  The wheels of unchecked economic forces will restructure the Internet to its most advantageous form--to the economic powers that be.  But, rats!  I was just hoping it wouldn't happen while I'm still around to see it.


Friday, January 11, 2008


It's exactly 9:00 a.m. as I begin to write, hoping my brain will kick in before it becomes apparent I don't know what I want to say. It's hard to think when nine cockatiels are vocalizing. Of course, that's putting it mildly. I can be pretty confident where most of the noise is coming from. Henny Penny who is an assertive female, much like Turtle, except that Turtle expresses her assertiveness in ways other than vocally.

By the way, don't even try to correct my syntax. There is no way I can speak or write without ending a sentence with a preposition. Can you imagine what you would all have thought if I had written:
I can be pretty confident from whence comes (or even cometh) most of the noise? And that's a pretty mild example. There will be more, and I hope now that you'll notice every one of them.

There is hardly a morning (or evening, for that matter) when standing in my doorway to check out the day does not bring a tremendous sense of well-being. The air is fresh and cool. The sun is about to lift above the hill horizon. (Yes, I know it doesn't really lift . . . the Earth turns this part of it's beautiful face toward that life-giving, nuclear fusion, conflagration that is our own personal star.) Always some bird or other has preempted my firstness to greet the morning. Today, it was the little towhee who has been hanging out at my house for months and months. He's alone . . . never has another of his kind with him. He acts like part of the white-crowned sparrow crowd I feed beneath the pepper tree every morning. I haven't seen him, though, for several weeks, and today he decides to return. I wish I could ask him about his adventures in the meantime. Was he scouring the canyon for his soul mate? I feel quite sad that he's so alone in his world, though pleased that he's found some comfort hanging out with the sparrows. I think we call this anthropomorphizing. That sounds about right. (smile)

Anyway, this towhee has put on quite a show for us in the past. Ask Nina who took a bazillion photos of him battling with the bird in the mirrors on my truck. I'm sure he used up all his fat reserves on his relentless and pigheaded insistence that that other bird leave his territory. I'll have to watch to see if his return today also means a resumption of his quixotic romance.

What has all this to do with interruptions? I realize I did get off the track. (I hope you caught that.) I've just been super aware this morning of how often I veer away from my intended course of action and am asking myself whether this is something new or have I always been this way--and, what's more, are other people just as prone to it as I am? I'm going to try to recreate the path I followed this morning. (It reminds me of the Family Circus when the entire day's cartoon shows the path followed by one of the kids while going from Point A to Point B. Not a straight line!)

Awake at 6:00. On the way to the bathroom, stopped to say good morning to the birds. Remembered I ought to put on water for coffee, so put off uncovering the birds. In the kitchen, decided I'd better get Lucy's water bowl out of the dishwasher and fill it in preparation for her arrival about 8:00. Decided it was really, really time to head on to the bathroom. Made it through the morning ablutions without interruption, except for Princess trotting through on her way to the utility porch potty box. Refreshed and ready for the day, I turned on the computer and started dressing while the machine slowly booted up.

Half dressed, I remembered that I needed to start a load of laundry, since I had muddied a couple of pair of jeans while planting acorns yesterday. Got the machine started and soap in the water but noticed that the cat's potty box needed cleaning and stopped to do that. Went into the bedroom to get a couple more things to go into the wash. Stopped to respond to computer stuff required to complete the boot. Put on my socks and shoes as long as I was sitting down. Decided to check email. Answered one from Chris.
Remembered the clothes on my lap that needed to go into the washing machine. Managed to get those in on time. Decided I really ought to go to the dresser on the sun porch and get a T-shirt. Half-dressed doesn't really work. On the way through the kitchen, noticed that I hadn't put on the hot pot for coffee, so stopped to do that. Went on to get the T-shirt. Looked for a moment at the cards I want to send to someone who's had bad cancer news and a letter from old friend Lowell that I haven't answered yet. Resisted the temptation to do those two serious things as simple interruptions from trivial tasks.

Dressed, finally, I uncovered the birds, made sure they had clean water and food (will clean cages in a short while), and opened the blinds, the process that begins their day. (Bird food residue crunches underfoot, so I stop to sweep the floor, a chore that has to be repeated several times a day.) That's when I see Quixote (yes, I just now named him) scratching for food among the pepper tree detritus. You can always tell when there's not a lot there, because the little birds scratch and look, scratch and look, but rarely peck. So, I stopped sweeping to take out a cup of wild bird food. He flew away, but he'll be back.
When I got back in the house, I noticed I hadn't spread up my bed clothes, so I did that and turned off my reading lamp. I started to go to the computer again but remembered the hot pot steaming away. Made coffee. On my way through the living room to the computer, I set the coffee cup down and finished sweeping. Then remembering the spillover of kitty litter next to the potty box, I went to the utility porch to sweep there.

By now, it's time for Lucy to arrive . . . and she does. Marcia doesn't come in as she's got to be on the road, but Lucy goes right to her water bowl and does her usual search for any tidbits of cat or bird food of interest. I spend a little time making her welcome and hearing her latest news--delivered as aarrroooo rowwww roooooo arrroooowww. She's quite accomplished in her linguistic abilities. In the meantime, my coffee is still on the little table. I forget about going to the computer and start searching for one of the six pairs of reading glasses I now own. Finally have to steal the ones I keep in the bathroom for doing crossword or sudoku puzzles, which means I'll eventually be looking for them again. (sigh) I sat down beside my coffee and picked up the Cockatiel magazine I bought at PetSmart on Wednesday. Coffee was really cool by now. After reading a couple of short articles, I remembered that I had begun this blog article. So, now I'm here with my nearly-iced coffee. And, by the way, I haven't even thought about breakfast yet.

I do enjoy these rambles and hope you do, too.

PS I know I've changed tenses several times. Would you believe it was part of my scheme to match my tenses with my theme? . . . I didn't think so. (smile)


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Okay . . . What's Next?

The rains came and went. Today the sky has lost its early morning blues and has settled down to muted gray. Without the sunshine, the bright green mini-grasses lose their struggle to be seen among last year's residuum.

Just so you'll know I chose the word residuum carefully as the one most nearly conveying my meaning, here is the explanation from Mr. Roget himself.

[R]emainder is a general word for what is left over, while residue (and residuum) is the remains at the end of a process; remnant is a part left after the greater part has been removed[.]

Roget's New Millennium™ Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.3.1)
Copyright © 2008 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

I hope you don't mind that this blog is one of my ways of increasing my own knowledge. I love rummaging around in information the way a dumpster diver loves delving into other people's residue.

Back to the grasses, Marcia commented yesterday that this year the green is not as brilliant--and, I think, as noticeable--as in years passed. (Correct me if I've misrepresented what you said, Marcia.) The hills still look gray with the chaparral and dried stalks of mustard plants. I think we'll have green soon, though, as the grass begins to realize it had better make the best of each rain . . . 'cause there may not be much more coming.

So, Lucy's parents are home now and I am one less in my little yellow house. She is a warm presence here, such a lady taking her place, asking politely for what she wants, sleeping like no one I've ever known before on Little Mother's bright afghan.

Yesterday, Henny Penny (my young cockatiel who looks like a Barred Rock chicken) swooped down and directly over Lucy's head.

Lucy raised her nose, and a tiny soft feather sailed right into her left nostril. She made no move toward Henny. She's a phenomenal dog--especially considering her lineage of pit bull and Labrador retriever. I can only think that she understands that my cat and the birds are family. She also understands that Princess feels timid around her and honors her desire for distance (this even though she has a rough-and-tumble relationship with the ranch house cats).

As I started to say . . . (hey, I'm 71 now!) . . . Marcia and Dave are home. The ranch house will have lights and the stove will be glowing warm, and I will go down soon to hear all the details about their marvelous vacation in Hawaii.

Going through my picture drawer (sigh), I found a bag with two books I bought at a sale somewhere. They're both written by the same person, Randy Howe, and the titles are: Why I Hate Democrats and Why I Hate Republicans. I wouldn't have bought either one alone, but I'm looking forward to reading both together.

Okay, I finally managed to work in a political statement. Some of you won't be surprised. Some of you may be thinking, "What took her so long? She must be slipping!" As long as you think of me with affection, go ahead and think whatever you like.

So, birds have finally quieted down. Don't know what I'm going to do with Miss Punkin and Walter Pigeon-Toe. They are looking everywhere for a nesting site. This morning they went behind my countertop convection oven and made so much noise--chortling and "talking" to one another, as well as making some alarming mechanical-type noises--that I had to get them out and put them back in their cage. I half expect to start finding little eggs tucked away here and there. (But then I would regret putting Punkin back in the cage, knowing she wanted to be with her little egg. There is no escape from guilt in this life.) (smile)

This is Teensy, the last hatched baby from Punkin and Walter's latest brood.

The five I had before the four babies came on the scene.

Front: Walter Pigeon-Toe (yellow-on left) and Miss Punkin; Middle: Birdie (notice, no flight feathers) and Turtle (named before revealing her beauty); Top of fan: Sweet Beau Peep (named because he peeped at me from inside the shell)

Definitely enough for now. I'm back to waiting for the rain.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Sun Has Returned

I realize, of course, that the rising of the sun of a morning is not an unusual occurrence. What I want to convey, though, is how it feels here, in this little canyon, in the aftermath of days of rain, to see and feel those first tiny tendrils of sunshine. Sitting here at my computer, I watched individual leaves and fronds in my pepper tree change color from a muted unawakened green to a dazzling wide-awake splash of chartreuse, with bright pink clusters of pepper corns jumping for joy among them.

And what is that feeling of being engulfed in the Earth's moisture simply by stepping outside my door? The hills are saturated and, no doubt, feeling the same thing I'm feeling about the whole thing.

My flock (sorry, but I just can't help feeling proprietary) of magpies swooped in to finish off Princess' rejected cat food, greedily grabbing several pieces before flying off to wherever they stash their loot. They are so elegantly attired and so crude in their actions that I just enjoy the ambiguity . . . and their beauty, of course.

I watched the flatbed pickup carrying a huge roll of hay as it headed up the canyon earlier this morning. The cows, a dozen or so black angus, some with calves, heard the truck coming and began to moo in anticipation. The tiny green grass shoots are not yet sufficient to sustain those lumbering bodies, but it won't be long. And then rancher Reyes will bring back his beautiful multi-colored cows to pasture around my little house, bringing movement and beauty to grace my days. I'll watch the morning's revelation of calves born in the nighttime. Can anything possibly lift the spirits better than that?

So, everything is still utterly soaked, but road repairs have already made travel possible. Even when the creek doesn't flood--as it hasn't in this series of storms--cascades of water and mud cut through the dirt road in places. From what I learned, until this morning's repairs even my pickup would not have crossed the cuts in the road. Now, all is well when I go to town to return my overdue videos, most of which I haven't yet watched. Time to cut back on the number I check out.

Lucy's parents return home today. She will be overjoyed, and I have to adjust to being without her. I love knowing she's sleeping in my little house. I'll miss her . . . though I can visit often since they are only a short walk away. One day soon, I'll tell you about Guinevere. Not today, though. (smile) Enough for today.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Morning After

I went to sleep last night to the music of slashing rain, groaning tree branches and howling winds. Quite a concert, coming through the barely-open window at the head of my bed. This morning quiet lies upon the land (if I may be so poetic), noises damped against the drenched earth . . . and Earth.

The windows in my little house are wide, and each one frames what amounts to a painting. Morning light has gradually brought the hills up from bare outlines against a barely-blue sky to dark mounds against pale grays of sky and cloud. Trees are already distinct. All happening in a half hour.

In the time it took to type that paragraph, the crows have crossed my window, high up today in a rip tide of air carrying them almost without effort toward the Huasna canyon just beyond my hills. Too many to count (though I remember the old joke about counting the legs of the cattle and dividing by four), yet I can estimate how many loosely-connected groups of about twenty-five birds passed by, adding up to several hundred individuals. And, just as I wrote that, some stragglers appeared--another thirty or so--and are gone the way of the others.

I just stopped to take some seeds out for the sparrows. The ground is squishy as a sponge and, in fact, my back yard is like a sponge, riddled with squirrel and gopher holes. It takes care just to walk there, as the ground sometimes gives way when a tunnel collapses underfoot. I'd like to terrace it, with mini-walls of shale and leveled gardens. Just listen to me! Where does this urge to civilize the wilds come from? As much as I love the natural oak land, here I am dreaming of conquering it. (smile)

The sun is not up yet, but already the temperature rises and steamy fog rises from the hillsides. What a spectacular vision!

Friday, January 4, 2008

And the Rains Came

Okay, I said the rain arrived already, but it is really, really, really raining now. The air is white with the sheets of driven raindrops. The pepper tree limbs have been waving frantically, as though signaling for help from somewhere. It's too dark now to see any other trees, but even the sturdy oak limbs have been known to move in such gusty winds. After refusing to go outside three times during the afternoon, Lucy finally had to be physically coaxed out. It hardly seemed fair to push her out alone (I'm more sensitive than that), I went with her into the big back yard. We stood in the downpour, but no amount of encouragement got her to go out a ways and do her business. I could tell it was on her mind, though. She's very expressive, both face and body language. Finally, when we were both totally soaked, she lowered her head and tail and, in obvious distress over the weather, disappeared around the stone house. I don't know what she did over there alone, but I have to hope that when she returned the deed was done. It took some towels and effort to dry both of us off. I had to change all my clothes. Now Lucy is fed and dry, cozy on Mama's multi-colored afghan (well, sometimes she's on the couch), and my crockpot mulligan is beginning to smell quite edible. Enough for one day.

(Oh, if you've been praying for rain . . . I think it might be time to ease off for a while.) (smile)
Love by the bucketful, SilverBee

Crows and Raindrops

While I was waiting for the rain, watching the clouds speed northward as though intending to pass us by entirely, the crows came swirling and looping up the canyon. I have yet to learn why so many crows choose to live here or even whether they go elsewhere at times. But when they are here, they number in the hundreds, engaging in raucus conferences while strutting on the hillsides or perching like so many black Christmas decorations on the tip of each branch of a single tree. This morning a flock of them came all in a rush, riding the currents of stormy air, putting on an aerial show to rival the Blue Angels (or is it the Blue Devils?). Quite a dance that went on for an hour or more. Then the rain began about 11:30 and the crows have gone for cover. Well, they may be bird brains, but they have sense enough to come in out of the rain, I guess. So, rain is definitely falling--more than the customary drizzle that we boast is rain but not yet the "one inch per hour" we've been led to believe will come at times. The soaked earth is no longer dusty gray but has taken on the color and texture of a rich milky chocolate. The windows are painted with drops that run and gather and fall along pathways fixed by the laws of physics and fluid dynamics. The world . . . well, the canyon, at any rate . . . feels primitive, as though the rain is washing away the thin veneer of civilization we impose, supposing it means we've conquered the wildness. I feel the presence of the ancient native tribes who might once have huddled against the chill, here on this land, and waited for the coming of the waters. If I should go, in the rain, to that high shale cliff, would it feel as though they walked all around me? Thoughts that come when the canyon is wet with the first real rains of winter.
I've played my new electronic piano (thank you, so much, my dear friends), trying out the Fisherman's Hornpipe and Turkey in the Straw and doing not so badly, trying to expand beyond the favorites that I usually play in company (all of which are wonderful, mind you). What a pleasure it is to sit down at the piano, facing the rain-wet window with the blurry image of my gorgeous pepper tree just beyond. Life is just pretty darn great right at this moment.

(Here are the notes I'm playing, all lined up on the staff for me.)

Thanks for listening to me. I hope it's not blathering drivel to you.

Waiting for the Rain

Here in the canyon we are used to waiting for rain that doesn't always come. Winter is the season of rain and greening here in Central Coast California. While others across the country are hunkered down before the fireplace, watching snow pile up around them or waiting for spring to bring those first tender green leaves to the tall gray tree skeletons, here in the canyon our winter green begins. A couple of small rains have started the tiny spikes of bright emerald grass, hopeful symbols that more will come . . . if only the rains come on time.

The canyon floor is made up of the silt and sediment from millenia of floods that scourge and then gently deposit the residue washed from the surrounding hills. The creek has meandered around from side to side, building here and tearing away there, but now that ranchers and farmers live here, it is hoped that meandering can be controlled. Who needs to see their hay fields inundated or to see a really big storm year wash away small plateaus where grape vines are growing?

The creek doesn't flood and flow every year. Our last flood was two years ago when for two weeks the creek roared and raged, wiping out the graded road and depositing rock and debris where it hadn't been before. After that two weeks, a few hardy souls with 4-wheel drive vehicles ventured to ford the waters, finding purchase where they could and forging a new pathway to the paved county road beyond. Then, emboldened by those pathfinders, I made my first attempt.

I have to say it is exhilarating to live in this living canyon, where geology is not a word in a textbook. My own little rented cottage is safe, crouched as it is beyond a beautiful upthrust of shale that diverts the flood across the canyon and down the other side for a short way before it once again chooses its own way, finding the path of least resistance.

And so, this morning I am waiting for the promised rain, for the three sweeping storms off the Pacific that will drop inches and inches of rain in three or four days, enough to wake the creek dragon. When that happens, I will open my front door of a morning and listen to the roar that fills the canyon, reminding me that we are insignificant in the face of even this rather limited display of nature's power.