Saturday, April 29, 2006

Ring Around the Sun

Friday's ring around the sun--not photoshopped.
We're going to try a new blogging schedule: Weekend Rules.
Photoshop adjustment-- increase in contrast, decrease in brightness
We're taking the weekends off to work in the garden, watch birds, take long minus tide walks, and not think about blogging.
Photoshop adjustment-- auto command on Curves
And, we'll be back on Mondays with photos of almost everything we did and saw. We'll see you then. And we hope you have a great weekend.

Friday, April 28, 2006

It Was Just A Dream Some of Us Had

I have been feeling very crabby lately. Some of it had to do with accepting that my lifetime dream of a better world was really just a utopian fugue, and some of it was the current spin coming out of Washington, which had me twirling in a vertigo funk. Rove's appearance before the Grand Jury is a good thing. A ridiculous idea of a $100 rebate for everyone to offset the rise in gas prices (as long as the bastards get to drill in ANWR). Talk of troop withdrawals in time for the mid-terms. Everything is manipulated and manipulable. Apple's Sherlock online dictionary defines crabby as perversely irritable. Yes. I think that describes it perfectly. I'm just now learning to accept that in every era there will always be a percentage of people who live on the fringe, on the edge, who know that life can be lived differently. Better. More compassionately. More enlightened. But that number will just never rise above statistical insignificance. Blip on the screen. It made me crabby.

So I did what Wendell Berry suggests in his poem, The Peace of Wild Things. I went out and took a good look at a something wild. In the moment, for me, it was a crab. I got my feet muddy and wet, mucking through the low tide pools. I found this spineless sweetheart stranded, waiting for the return of the sea. I took a good long look. Then, I came home and weeded a few of the flower beds. Got dirt under my fingernails and found a clearer mind.
Looking deeply into this crab's eyes
I decided if given a rebate, I'll just tell the republicans to take my $100 and donate it to the democratic candidate of my choice. And just thinking about that made my inner crab very happy.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Mothra, part ni *

our immediately previous post included a picture of tomatoes and greens from the garden and several readers commented on early garden produce, so this post begins with pictures of the growing plants, a kinda bleed-through from then til now, and proceeds to an update to a slightly earlier post about a moth, after this introductory, run-on sentence.
in front collard and chard (from starts begun last november!), then carrots, mesclun, beets, all from seed sowed february 12.
this is a cherry tomato started from seed last november. it is a bit unruly. that is a banana tree (?) to the right. it has doubled its size in a year.

and now.....mothra redux

i recently posted pictures i had taken of a moth i found on our window. i spent some online time trying to id it so i could satisfy my curiosity about its life and add some info to a post about it. i was unsuccessful, but posted the pictures because i liked them. both form and content. many people came by with suggestions about its id and also suggestions about where i might look for help myself.

huitzil, of stone bridge, got it right away (Mesoleuca gratulata). and he said he was guessing. i'm impressed.

suzanne, at aufildutemps, sent me this link.

whisker suggested moth photographers, where i followed the links to submit photos and got a nice reply also indicating Mesoleuca gratulata, and offering to publish my photos! i accepted. whisker also sent this photo link.

wayne at niches has actual books. alas, no match.

soccer mom gets the "most relevant question" award for asking, rather sensibly, "how big is it?"

at this site, which i found by googling Mesoleuca gratulata, i see that the moth is posed with the wings spread out. i mean the two wings on each side. my own picture is of a live moth in its own resting posture, displaying only the prominently figured larger wing on each side. i scanned quickly by hundreds, at least, of pictures of moths with their wings pictured as above, because they didn't look like my moth picture. i guess i'd have to convince the moth to pose for me, or kill it and force a pose, to use pictures of moths in unnatural poses for id purposes. science marches on.

the english name is western white-ribboned carpet moth. entomologically challenged as i am, i would expect that the moth, or its larva, would eat carpet, or wool anyway. maybe cotton. the larva eat leaves of blackberry and hazelnut. here are pictures of larva and moth. the author notes that the moths sometimes get nectar from lilies.

thank you all for your help and encouragement.

* ni = two, in japanese. a salute to mothra.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Few Simple Things

On a quiet Tuesday, we looked around the yard and found these small things.
Vibrant red cones on our fir tree
Female house finch gathered fibers from our heart-shaped doormat
A swallow checked out its mate in the nest box
Greens and tomatoes picked from the garden
The house finch returned for more

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Yom Ha'Shoah

Today is Yom Ha'Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. I write this in honor of those whose lives were lost. If you go to the Yad Vashem website and click on their searchable database of Holocaust victims' names, this is the first thing you will see:

I am always struck by his simple request just to be remembered. So I write these names of my mother's family that have not yet been added to the Shoah database of names. Sadly, I have to include family members who are now nameless but who once lived, who were my mother's first cousins, but whose names we have forgotten --they perished in the Holocaust with their parents.

My mother's grandmother Minna Dienstfrey; my mother's uncle Max Dienstfrey and his wife Sophie and their child; her uncle Jacob Dienstfrey, his wife and their two children; her uncle George Shmerel. I write their names so that they will not be forgotten.

dpr adds:
i'm a goy from the white bread 'burbs, proudly an in-law in RD's family, and thankful for their gracious and loving acceptance of me. it is more emotionally challenging to be even a shirttail relative to victims of the Holocaust than it was to stumble upon graphic and textual images of that mass murder, as i did in my teenage years. i am also grateful to my own family for a childhood free of racial or ethnic animosity, and their loving acceptance of RD.

A dear friend read this poem out loud to us today:


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.


And finally, today is the first anniversary (the yahrzeit) of my step-father's Sam's passing. We say your name, Sam. We love you and miss you, and we remember you today.

Monday, April 24, 2006


this fella, or gal, was so nice to let me take a closeup from inside while he was outside.
and then even nicer to allow me to get quite close for an outside shot of its other side. i looked at bug guide and found a silhouette that seemed right, but no match in their list of geometridae. i tried moths of north america, and the subset there of moths of wa state. i couldn't find anything close. it is, to me anyway, a rather distinctive sort of wing pattern.

i like its appearance, and the quality of the photos, so i'll show them to you. i wanted to id this moth because i am curious about it. what does it eat? how long does it live? i like hearing the latin nomenclature, but i enjoy it as a way to know about the subject.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Earth Day Emissaries

We went out to celebrate earth day Saturday, and a beautiful day on earth it was. Not a cloud in the sky and wonderful spring-warm temperatures. We planned a trip over to the Wild Birds Unlimited store where some festivities were planned. There was a whole list of interesting participants plus live music and live raptors from the Northwest Raptor Center.

When we arrived we were immediately greeted by four birds--each tethered to a human who strolled a bit around a lovely courtyard.
There was a Red-tailed Hawk,
a Swainson's hawk,
a Barred owl
and a Great-Horned owl.
It was both thrilling and heart-breaking to get this close to these birds. They are as beautiful as you dream they will be. But after the first thrilling look at their eyes and talons, wings and feathers, we stepped back and took a wider view.
We see that the Red-tailed Hawk has a gun-shot damaged wing. It will never fly again.
We see that the Barred owl is missing an eye. It has been in the shelter for two years.
The Great-Horned owl is also missing an eye. It too has a ravaged wing, and will never fly.
Only the Swainson's is a fully healthy hawk. But, it has imprinted on humans after it was taken from its nest when it was a baby and can never be free.

For us their beauty is absolutely not diminished, only their ability to be free and autonomous is. It is both incredibly wondrous and deeply sad to see them. We feel gratitude and sympathy. They are the broken emissaries from the raptor world.
So, after we left the store we headed out for a walk along the coast. There we watched a juvenile bald eagle soar effortlessly over us. Wings intact. Untethered to humans. Free.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

We have Shingles

tools to remove lap siding and install shingles. table saw and chopsaw not shown, but definitely used.

before we bought our retirement house we paid for a house inspection. i flew up from santa cruz (and boy were my wings tired) to meet the inspector and go around with him. i have many years experience building and repairing houses, but we wanted a professional inspector anyway. one of our concerns was the siding. it is a composite wood product manufactured by louisiana pacific into lap siding. between 1990 and 1998 *some* of lp's siding failed after installation, apparently because it was not really waterproof. the sellers had disclosed that they got some sort of settlement, but insisted that the siding on this house, built in 1996, was not the bad stuff, and the settlement was because they were good customers. the inspector did not find any signs of imminent failure, but did warn us to repaint it regularly, and showed me a few places that perhaps i should caulk, where one board overlapped another and there was a small crack. one had to look up under the overlap to see this.

the paint still looks in decent condition, but it is ten years old and we decided not to wait to repaint til it shows signs of wear. our first thought, since we don't like the blue/grey exterior color, was to paint the house barn red. change the ambience with a warmer, earthy color. as we drove around looking at houses painted various shades of red we noticed that we were both drawn to unpainted shingled houses. i had also noticed that our house's waterproofiness depended on caulk. and that some of that needed replacement or at least more caulk. so, considering the possibility of siding deteroration, the obvious need for caulk renewal, the requirement to repaint every whatever number of years under the best circumstances, and our own preference, we decided to shingle the exterior walls. i thought at first that we could keep the trim, paint it white, and add flashing over the upper trim over doors and windows. well. investigation revealed that the trim is fir, and shimmed out to boot. so we are replacing all window, door, and corner trim with real cedar.

the almost finished wall. the pastel blue/grey walls and blue trim seem cold and uninviting to us.

trim over a window. no flashing! just caulk.

now this is why i really hate caulk as the only waterseal. this is the top of a "greenhouse" window behind the kitchen sink. it has already required more caulk. i did not do this sloppy job. real flashing does not need caulk.

because i'm a hammerin' and nailin' fool and because we are so jazzed by the birds moving into the first birdhouse (pictures here) i built three more. come on down birdies!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Shhh...look there

We really don't turn our brains off when we walk. Oh, would that we could. We are much quieter than most. We hardly talk out loud, except to say, "Look there."
Shhh... look there

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Seeing the Unseen

My sister is feeling some better since last week. She slowed down. She stopped pushing quite so hard to get everything done that she thought needed to be done. She rested. On Wednesday she felt well enough to hike. It was warm. She likes that dry heat. It makes her feel better. So she took off on one of her favorite hikes in the hills of Ventura County in southern California. What kind of terrain is that? Typically dry, arid, semi-desert. Rattlesnake country. Mountain lion habitat.

The phone rang while I was making dinner. It was my sister, breathless. She said, "Hey I just want to give you a heads up. I'm hiking with Jesse (her 10 month old Great Dane) and someone told us that they just saw a Mountain Lion." I realize she's calling me in case she disappears in the mountains alone. It's smart to call, but jeez, I'm 1000 miles away making dinner. I sputter, Okay, so are you heading back down? What are you doing? She says, continuing her uphill climb, "We'll be okay. What do you think Jess would do if she saw a lion?" I say it's no contest. The mountain lion would win. A male can weigh up to 200 pounds. Jesse is a big girl, probably already 125 pounds, but young and not aggressive. I tell her it would be a good idea to walk back down instead of continuing her ascent. My sister is back to her old self. She says she's continuing the hike. I ask her to call me when she gets safely back down to her car.

This isn't a mountain lion post. It's a post about seeing. How much do we see of what's around us? How free is our attention? How safe are we when we take off into the hills? How much do we take in of the world around us? I think seeing is a practiced art. It's about quieting the chattering mind and slowing down to the present moment. No thoughts of the job, the dog, the kids, the bills. Just you and all the sights and sounds around you. What do you see when you look around? Wildlife is quiet. It often doesn't want to be seen. Can you see it?

There is a hawk in this photograph. I watched it for a while on Tuesday when we were out on dpr's favorite clamming beach. It had been riding the winds when it gently lowered itself onto a branch. I couldn't see it after it landed, but I had been watching it, I knew it was there . If you click the photo, you'll see a close up of where it landed.
There's an eagle in this tree. I saw it when I took a solo walk Wednesday. dpr has just started the cedar siding project, so I walked the Larry Scott Memorial trail alone. I almost passed this eagle right by. The photograph is a 12x optical shot. Click on it to see the eagle close-up.

I've always been a proponent of being prepared when you hike miles into the hills: A backpack with matches, knife, plastic tarp, first-aid kit, water, energy bars. And, if you take your quiet, observant self with you, it's more likely you'll have a safe journey. Lucky for my sister, her trip was safe. She did run into other people on the trail who said they had also seen the cougar. What would you do if you were taking a pleasure hike and there was an increased possibility that your path would cross with a cougar's?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Morning Ritual

In the morning when we rise, we have a simple morning routine. If I am the first one awake, I close the wide-open window above our bed. I go out to the kitchen, but don't turn on any lights, fill the kettle with water, measure four teaspoons of English Breakfast tea into the teaball. Hang the teaball inside the teapot, put our respective cups next to it. I look out the slider into the yard to see who is sitting on the feeder.
I open the blinds. Pick up my and dpr's laptops and take them into the bedroom and place them on the foot of the bed. If there's a bird or sunrise that I'm utterly drawn to photograph, I grab the camera and run outside. Sometimes there's a flicker on the top of the feeder post looking so pretty.
Tuesday morning was such a day. Flicker on the post, and then on the ground pecking away at the ants in the lawn. But something else catches my eye. A bird is sitting in the entrance of the new bird house that dpr built last Thursday. Could it be? Has someone moved in already?
The tea kettle whistles. I pour the tea. Let it steep for three or four minutes. While it steeps, I put the lens extender on the camera and go stand by the window to see if I can catch a glimpse of the bird inside the birdhouse. I can only see a bit of color and movement. I think a Black-capped chickadee has claimed the space.
While I'm at the window, a hummingbird flies to the feeder. I'm standing about 36 inches away. I figure I'll just turn around slowly and focus the camera on the hummingbird. I love being this close.
The tea is ready. dpr takes his with milk. I take mine with milk and a small amount of sugar. Even when we worked, we always had our first cup of tea in bed. Now we get to dawdle a bit longer. The day has begun.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Few Words

Sometimes we have a zillion things we want to say, but mostly none at all. So, we'll show you what we saw Monday. That's easier than sharing the things that crossed our minds-- the words we spoke when we walked the minus tide. We had a picnic on a massive driftwood bench. The egg salad spilled from our half bagels on to our laps and to the sand. A cold wind blew in from the Pacific just when the warm sun slipped behind the clouds. Our hands were suddenly too cold to even hold our napkins, or keep our hair from blowing into everything.
The seagull ate a crab for lunch.
This crab tried to hide from everyone.
The juvenile eagle perched quietly, practicing to become an adult.
The beach was dotted and dimpled with hidden life everywhere.
R walked the shoreline looking for secrets.
We came home and warmed our hands.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Territorial Squabbling

They swirled around each other all day on Sunday. Wherever one house finch was, another showed up and insisted on being there as well. From tree to fence, from roof to camellia, they flew around in a blur of wings. We're fairly certain there is a nest in this tree. (Click to enlarge the photos.)