Twofer Tuesday: Grackle edition

Grand Island, NE. June 2, 2020

These are hard days and I’m trying to find joy wherever I can. This photo lifts my spirits not only because I love the composition, but also the memory of taking it. I sat outside my little KOA cabin last June, watching the birds and bunnies moving about, and was completely engrossed in my surroundings. I remember the joy I felt aiming my camera at all that activity. So much life on display.

It’s a beautiful planet.

Nostalgia

State Forest State Park.              June 12, 2019.

June 2019 seems like a lifetime ago (hell, February 2020 already feels like historical fiction), and I just spent time looking through photos from one of last summer’s camping/hiking trips. I remember how hot it was in the Bockman Campground when the sun rose in the sky and how happy our doggo was every time we came upon a patch of snow during our 8-mile hike. I remember waking up to a moose grazing next to our tent. I remember photographing this old building, thinking that with a little fixing up, it might make a nice place to spend my days.

We didn’t camp this summer. We’ve only hiked in the nearby open space. Until this country gets its collective act together, it seems I’ll have to make do with memories.

Thankful Thursday: memories edition

We’re still in lock-down mode here in Colorado as the wildfires continue to burn. Air quality is poor (although a bit better after a tiny rain episode yesterday) and I’m staying inside. Instead of walking Emma this morning, I opted for a hoop-dance session in the living room.

Horse Gulch Trail, Durango, CO. July 31, 2019

And rather than going on an actual hike, I’m reliving one from July of 2019 when Zippy, Emma, and I visited elder-son Wildebeest. I remember that hike. It was quite hot that day, but still very nice to be out and about in nature.

I’m looking forward to the day we can do it again.

You Are Here

Your mileage may vary, but today I find this perspective quite comforting:

Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people. ~ Carl Sagan

Rustler Gulch Trail. Crested Butte. July 26, 2018.

Thankful Thursday: hoopla edition

This morning I woke planning to run on the trails. Then I looked out the window and saw tree branches bouncing in the wind. Instead, I opted to hoop inside.

Hooping with my niece D in Ohio. August 15, 2019.

I haven’t hoop-danced in quite a while. I’ve attempted it a few times over the past months, but couldn’t summon enough oomph. This whole pandemic situation and the blatant desertion of working people by the political elite of both parties is exhausting. And infuriating, rage-inducing, horrific, etc. And did I mention exhausting? No dancing for this one.

Until this morning. People, I hoop-danced for 25 minutes and pretty much grinned the whole time!

Take that, you soulless ghouls. I refuse to be broken.

Exuberance

Three years ago today, I arrived in Amsterdam. I was jetlagged and foggy in the head, but still remember the lift I got from the mounds of tulips blooming in a nearby park.

Amsterdam. April 28, 2017.

Such exuberant flowers, unruly in their passionate display. We should all live so boldly.

Pop a quarantine wheelie

Glanced out my kitchen window and saw this guy using his quarantine time to acquire (or maybe, improve upon) a skill. It was great fun watching him.

     

I never popped a wheelie, but did grow up riding a hand-me-down bike with pedal brakes (which involved rotating the pedals in reverse), and by the time it’d passed through three older siblings and gotten to me, the brake action was practically non-existent. Riding downhill was always an “exhilarating” experience.

While this guy did wobble a few times in the cul-de-sac, he never laid it out flat the way I did with my bike once when stomping on the “brakes” as I went around a sand-covered curve at the bottom of our hill. I can still feel the burn of that road rash.

Fortunately,  no gravel in this daredevil’s knees and palms.

John Prine, rest in power

It feels particularly cruel to lose a man of such empathy and wit right now. If there’s one thing the world needs more of, it’s people sensitive to the struggles of others. John Prine left us a catalog of songs that illustrate a deep understanding of people’s inner lives and the moments that often go unremarked. He was a treasure.

In the fall of 2002, President George W. Bush was beating the war drums (with the enthusiastic help of Democrats like Senator Joe Biden) in preparation for invading Iraq. During those months, I played “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore” an awful lot. It was my way of maintaining equilibrium during those days of flag-based jingoism. Because, no exaggeration, flags and flag decals were EVERYWHERE. My family attended anti-war rallies in Denver during that fall and spring of 2003, and I helped the boys make signs that expressed their sentiments. Here’s Zebu in the middle, holding his sign.

Civic Center Park, Denver. October 28, 2002.

That sign was always a big hit at rallies because, once again, John Prine had nailed it.

While digesting Reader’s Digest in the back of a dirty book store
A plastic flag, with gum on the back fell out on the floor
Well, I picked it up and I ran outside, slapped it on my window shield
And if I could see old Betsy Ross I’d tell her how good I feel
But your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven anymore
They’re already overcrowded from your dirty little war
Now Jesus don’t like killin’, no matter what the reason’s for
And your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven anymore
Well, I went to the bank this morning and the cashier he said to me
“If you join the Christmas club we’ll give you ten of them flags for free”
Well, I didn’t mess around a bit, I took him up on what he said
And I stuck them stickers all over my car and one on my wife’s forehead
But your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven anymore
They’re already overcrowded from your dirty little war
Now Jesus don’t like killin’, no matter what the reason’s for
And your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven anymore
Well, I got my window shield so filled with flags I couldn’t see
So, I ran the car upside a curb and right into a tree
By the time they got a doctor down I was already dead
And I’ll never understand why the man standing in the pearly gates said
“But your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven anymore
We’re already overcrowded from your dirty little war”
“Now Jesus don’t like killin’, no matter what the reason’s for
And your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven anymore” 

Well, the U.S. ignored the millions of us around the world who over and over took to the streets to say NO WAR ON IRAQ, and invaded in March 2003 (with Senator Bernie Sanders voting against invasion and occupation). John Prine died on April 7, 2020, and minutes after I’d finally dragged my sad self out of bed this morning, I learned Bernie Sanders ended his presidential campaign.

Today is an especially hard day on the planet. Think I’ll put “In Spite of Ourselves” on repeat and sit in the sun.

John Prine, rest in power.

Sunday Confessional: on becoming a conformist

When I was in first grade, my teacher sent a note home to my parents. Mrs. B was concerned I wasn’t taking time to color within the lines and included a worksheet as an example. I’d filled in whatever blanks were there with the correct words and then scribbled with crayons across each of the pictures I was supposed to color.

Maybe my fine motor skills weren’t that well-developed. Or, perhaps I’d already caught on to the busy-work aspect of school. Either way, I wasn’t interested in coloring inside the lines.

My attitude has changed. Today, I’m sitting in my self-isolating bedroom (upright in a chair, rather than in bed), and just finished this Sea Dragon picture from the coloring book I bought months ago. This time around, I found it very soothing to focus on staying within the lines. No time for anxiety while trying to follow the complex paths of green foliage! I suspect I’ll be coloring more pictures in the days to come. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend.

All its glory

Outside my window it’s cold, wet, and gray. So right now I’m focusing on bright memories, such as a hike last July with my pal, Laura. It was a beautiful day at Centennial Cone Park and the wildflowers were out in all their glory. Here’s one:

Centennial Cone Park. July 10, 2019.

(Confession: I just spent 15 minutes trying to identify this alien-like flower with it’s two budding tentacles, and still have no idea what I’m looking at. But I guess all that matters is the cheery yellow perked me right up. Take that, January drear!)

Thank you, stranger. And welcome to Earth.

Solidarity, old dude!

Wildebeest made this paper mache sculpture in elementary school and it sat in our storage room for years. I finally cleaned out said storage room this summer and took a photo before disposing of the body. I texted the photo to Wildebeest.

Me: Cleaning out storage room. Saying goodbye to your pirate!
Wildebeest: That’s just horrifying.
Me: The pirate? Or saying goodbye?
Wildebeest: The pirate. Get rid of it ASAP.

Now I’m kinda wishing the sad, old pirate was around to commiserate. I think he’d understand.

It was 20 years ago today

Today is Wildebeest’s birthday (which he shares with his cousin…Happy Birthday again, James!) I haven’t yet talked with Wildebeest today because he’s out doing fun stuff with his camera and friends. But here he was 20 years ago,  making a wish before blowing out the candles.

Wildebeest. November 4, 1999

I don’t know whether that particular wish came true, but I do know that today my son is happy and healthy, which means my wish came true.

Happy happy birthday, Wildebeest!

Sunday Confessional: I just unpacked a box from my 1996 move

Today I finally, finally cleaned out our storage room. It’s been on my radar for years, but every time I went in to start I’d immediately feel overwhelmed and quit. A huge part of my problem is that it’s SO HARD for me to get rid of perfectly good stuff.

For example, what was in that box from 1996? The label read “Scratch paper.”

An entire box filled with various types of paper: loose-leaf notebook paper, stationary, index cards, note pads, scratch pads, the LOST DOG flyers we made for a friend’s dog who disappeared on our watch, old lesson plans, brand new folders, labels, classroom handouts, etc.

I’d never been able to get rid of it because every time I peeked inside that box I thought about the woman who taught in the room next to mine telling me about traveling to another country where paper was so precious people would smooth out envelopes that arrived in the mail and write letters on the insides. How could I recycle all that perfectly good paper?

Well, today I got tough. Probably not as tough as I should’ve been (because I kept about one-quarter of the paper), but it was a fine start.

And look what gem I uncovered. I love me some vultures and that little pic on the bottom corner of the note pad cracked me up. But is that joke worth a 23-year stay in my basement?

Stockholm from the bus

May 2017

I’m in the process of deleting gazillions of emails from an old account and just came across this photo. I’d forwarded it after taking the pic with my phone. It’s not a great photo, but it reminds me of the anticipation I felt as we arrived in Stockholm.

 

The next day we’d be seeing son Zebu who was studying at Uppsala. Oh, happy day!

Memory lane

I took this photo with my phone last week and just rediscovered it.

Milkweed plants conjure up many childhood memories. Striped caterpillars with black antennae. Green chrysalises. Monarch Butterflies. Sticky “milk” on my fingers. Splitting open pods to reveal the silky seeds. Throwing said pods at my brothers.

I was so happy to spot this plant and only wish a Monarch Butterfly had also been present to complete the tableau.

 

Terrible feeling of déjà vu

I wore this shirt while camping this week. Its message is just as timely today as it was when I bought it during war criminal George W. Bush’s presidency.

The back reads:
What is the Downing Street Memo?
On May 1, 2005, The Times of London published a July 2002 memo from the head of British intelligence, who had just returned from Washington, to Prime Minister Tony Blair. Written seven months before the war in Iraq began, the memo says that President Bush, contrary to what he told the American people, had already decided to go to war and, even worse, that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” Meaning, the Bush administration was intentionally fabricatinng evidence linking Saddam to WMD and terrorism in order to trick the American people and Congress into going to war. 

The more things change the more they stay the same. The greedheads/warmongers of the military industrial complex can’t ever get enough.

For anyone in need of a smile

I just came across this photo of a young Wildebeest that was trimmed by my mother-in-law. I mean, this has to be her doing. I’ve never had the patience for such intricate scissors-work. I must admit, though, that bib on his head is the perfect framing device for his cherubic face, so good on her!

I smile each and every time I look at my son’s expression.

A tale of two squirrels and Denali National Park

When I lived in Alaska I went to Denali National Park a number of times. You can ride one of the old school buses through the entire park (80+ miles) to the end point which is Wonder Lake. The vistas are magnificent and there’s lots of wildlife to be seen along the way. Moose and Dall’s sheep, maybe a lone wolf galloping along or a brown bear with a cub or two. Ground squirrels and scolding marmots. One of my first rides on the bumpy dirt road was in the company of another visitor who became quite animated at the sight of some moose. There was also a group of park workers on the bus and one of them scoffed at the visitor’s excitement and said something like “You’ve seen one moose, you’ve seen them all.”

I remember feeling bad for that worker and hoping I’d never become bored by what I saw. And so it was in that spirit that I photographed these two squirrels in Kapok Park earlier this month.

I watched in delight as they chased each other around a tree trunk before jumping to the ground where they began to forage. There are certainly more “exotic” creatures in the park such as alligators and anhingas, but these feisty squirrels also caught my attention.

I hereby declare “mundane” be reserved for chores like dirty dishes and suggest that squirrels be viewed as Great Fun! Who’s with me?