Saturday, November 30, 2013

End of November Favorite Photos

Thought we'd end the month with some of our favorite photos that hadn't been posted on the blog yet. Ah November, you were beautiful.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Deerly Beloved

I take the birdseed feeders in every night so the bears can't get them. I go out early every morning to rehang them and scatter seed on the ground for the doves (and the opportunistic squirrels and band-tailed pigeons). I go shortly after sunrise, so there's enough light for me to see if there are bears, mountain lions, or a pack of coyotes out there. I always open the blinds first and look around before I open the front door. It's not fear, but thoughtful self-preservation.
Monday morning when I pulled that blind up this beautiful buck was not more than ten feet from the window. Yes, I startled him, but he didn't go very far at all. Mmmm... I wondered why he stayed around close enough for me to see him. I didn't want to go out and scare him any more than I already had, so I put off hanging the feeders for a little while. When I checked again, he was still out there, and so was his little sweetheart doe, resting in one of the flower beds as calm as could be.

Ah yes, it is rutting season for black-tailed deer, and these two were as cute as lovebirds on a date. I think this female is one we've known over the years. She likes to come by and eat the bird seed too. I opened the door. She didn't move. She just watched me scatter the seed. I always talk to her. I know I'm not supposed to, and I know it's wrong to feed the deer, but I am feeding birds. She just likes to get in on the action. I told my neighbors once, after they complained that the deer were eating all their flowers and plants out in front of their house, that the deer must think they had planted it all for them. Why else would those scrumptious morsels be so attractive and delicious and easy to get to?

The buck hung around and watched the doe eat. It surprised me that he let her eat as much as she wanted before he came by for a nibble. (It reminded Roger of the male mallard's behavior in their season.) Then, she went back to lying down and waiting, and he went to eat something green.

Yes, I went out and scattered more seed.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Mighty Wind

Roger and I went for a walk on Friday. The weather forecast had called for heavy winds (sustained 25-35 mph with gusts of 60-80 mph) both Thursday and Friday, but Friday started out clear and calm. So, we headed up the hill and along one of the irrigation ditches. This particular ditch walk takes us through thick pine and oak forests. We are often serenaded by the crazy calls of the Acorn Woodpecker there. We walk about a mile and a half and then turn around to head back. It's one of those walks that requires backtracking.
On the way back the wind picked up considerably. The roaring sound was disconcerting, and the air was literally filled with pine cones, leaves, pine needles, and little branches EVERYWHERE. It was a swirl of windblown debris. We had a mile and half walk ahead us of during the most intense part of the windstorm. I covered my head with my arms, thinking if a branch came down, it wouldn't completely split my head open, merely break both of my arms. We trudged on. The trail was strewn with broken branches and tree limbs that would have hurt considerably had they come down on us. I told Roger taking a walk at this time was like heading out for a little swim in the ocean during a freak high tide and high wave event. Roger said, he would have felt safer in that ocean than he did in these trees. We trudged on. The wind continued to roar.

When we arrived home the power was out. We still had our internet connection because our dsl is plugged into a backup power supply unit. I checked online to see how long the power might be out. Of course, there was no time estimate. We set out getting the house ready for the long haul, just in case the outage went on for days, and we needed to use the generator. Extension cords everywhere and lanterns. We were ready. Fortunately, the power was restored in just a few hours, but there was extensive damage to PGE flumes that had an impact on water supplies for our neighbors (we're on a well, so we're okay).
On Sunday we took our rakes out to the road and driveway to clean up the pine needles that were everywhere. The pine needles make the road and driveway pretty slick, so it has to be done. Luckily, it's fun to rake the pine needles, way more fun than shoveling snow.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Personal Remembrance of That Day (with an OMG update!)

While I was waiting for my appointment at the dentist office yesterday morning, I picked up the latest issue of Time Magazine to read. The cover story was the 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. I only had time to read this first paragraph before they called my name:

"Five decades later, the assassination of John F. Kennedy remains one of the few utterly signal events from the second half of the 20th century. Other moments — some thrilling (the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall), others horrifying (the killings of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the Challenger explosion) — have secured their places in the history books and, even more indelibly, in the memories of those who witnessed them. But nothing in the latter part of “the American century” defined an era as profoundly as the rifle shots that split the warm Dallas air on November 22, 1963, and the sudden death of the 46-year-old president." (I would have added 9/11 to that horrifying list.)

My 6th grade photo

Because this anniversary was coming, I wrote three of my elementary school classmates on Facebook and asked them what they remembered of that Friday, when we were 6th graders at PS 25 in Fords, NJ. I was glad to see that they remembered the afternoon the way I did. We had been in our classrooms, when suddenly the teachers informed us that we were going to the school auditorium. Such a spontaneous gathering had not happened before. My class had to walk outside to get to the next building where the auditorium was. On the way, I walked next to my teacher Mr. Newberger. He told me that the President had been shot. I felt that news in the pit of my stomach. That was the craziest thing I had ever heard. It made me feel sick. When we arrived, students were seated and teachers were walking around, some with transistor radios to their ears. Everyone was quiet. Teachers were listening. We were all waiting. I remember a teacher started to cry. Then another. Finally, Mrs. Schwarick, a large woman with intense presence spoke out. She told us that the President had been killed. She told us that school was canceled for the rest of the day. She told us to go home. So we filed out of that room and took the walk home. There was a crossing guard at the major intersection at Ford Avenue. She held up her white-gloved hand, and the traffic stopped to let us cross. She fumbled with the whistle around her neck and said, "Pray for our country. Go home and pray for our country."

I didn't do that. I never pray.

I did watch the crowds go to the Rotunda to pay homage and say their farewells to the flag-draped coffin.

I did watch Lee Harvey Oswald get shot.

I did watch that horse-drawn caisson and that riderless horse.

I did cry a thousand tears.

OMG UPDATE:  At dinner Friday night Roger asked me in what year 9/11 happened. I said it was 2001. OMG, that's right, 2001, not the second half of the 20th century at all. A whole new MILLENIUM! No wonder the Times writer left it out. It didn't belong there. Holy shit, my lifetime isn't the parameters of history at all.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Whilst Doing The Chores

I went out Monday afternoon to take our old kitty cat Bonsai for a walk around the yard. He likes to sniff around and stare beyond the gate to the bird and squirrel drama out front. I took a glance up at the sky and saw this:
Ah, a beautifully formed circumzenithal arc (CZA) right over the backyard. I was so delighted to see it, I ran for the camera and took eighteen photographs as it faded. It was gone in literally five minutes. I was so glad that Bonsai wanted to go for a little walk.

About a half hour later, I went out front to toss the compost into the outside bin. I took another glance up and saw this:
Another CZA, just slightly southwest of where I had seen the first one. I ran inside to get Roger to come out and take a look. That's when we noticed that there was another arc.
I ran inside and called the neighbors and told them to go take a look. This is a beautiful atmospheric optic, a CZA with a supralateral arc. I ran back outside to take 22 more photos. It changed quickly.
And then disappeared.
Check out the post I did on Parry Arcs. It was almost exactly two years ago to the day, at exactly the same time of the day (2:57 pm), in that same part of the sky where there was another magnificent show.

PS: It has occurred to us that the sky has been doing these things all of our lives. How is that we didn't look up and see it for all these years?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Reliable Wilderness

We can walk in the woods day after day and not see a single thing that takes our breath away. The ocean, however, is a reliable wilderness that fuels our spirits with sights and sounds almost every time we take a look.

The week we spent at the coast coincided with the end of a month-long feeding frenzy that was absolutely stunning. We did see whales (after I wrote the first post) and more birds and sea mammals than we had ever seen gathered at one time.

I did take a few videos. One of a harbor seal slapping its flippers on the water in a communication display (so I've read) and one of some dolphins making their way to more food.

I tried to photograph a scene that would give the perspective of how many pelicans were amassed in this part of the bay and came up with the above pic that almost does it.

We drove home Saturday and are awaiting the first rains of the season. California is in a drought at the moment. According to the San Francisco Chronicle the bay area has received the least amount of rain for the year in recorded history. Pretty scary stuff. Then, of course, there's always the Fukushima radiation disaster making its way toward us. Yeah, I know, I'm a bit of a bummer but I can't help worrying about this beautiful reliable wilderness.

PS-- I had to make the video resolution low in order to upload it on our slow internet speed. Sorry about that. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Coastal Iridescence

Proof of concept moments:

I wondered if I would see iridescent clouds and sun-dogs at the beach. The answer is definitely yes.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ah, the ocean...

We drove down out of the mountains all the way to the coast. It's a 204 mile trip. We made it in a little over three hours. We came for the week. My mom and sister are driving up from southern California to spend a few days with us. We plan to watch the tide come in and go out. There's a minus tide at the end of the week, so we're going to take a long walk to look for fossils. It's a mini-vacation!
Roger's sister was here at the family beach house at the end of October. She called to tell us she had seen something amazing. There were whales and sea lions, pelicans and seals, dolphins and gulls having a feeding frenzy. She told us that people who have lived here for 60 years had never seen anything like it. It went on for three days, and then she came home. Later, we heard from friends who live here in Santa Cruz that the whales and sea mammals were everywhere in the bay. The sardines were running, and it was a sight not anyone had seen before. I thought, well wait a second, we've seen the shearwaters, we've seen whales, we've seen dolphins. Then we arrived. The whales were gone, but the pelicans and sea lions were still everywhere we looked. The barking goes on and on. The sound of the gulls and pelicans is eerily straight out of Hitchcock.
Even at the end of the run, it was more wildlife than we ever expected to see. Here a raft of sea lions rest together.

Ah, the ocean.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Past Present Future

I was going to start this post like this, "I don't know what compelled me to go back and re-read more than a year's worth of blogging…" but then I remembered. It was a conversation I had with someone about the unbelievable sight of watching shearwaters over the Monterey Bay. I knew I had photographed them and even tried to make a short video of their immense presence, but when? What month was it, which visit to the family beach house?

I found the posts easily enough and was reminded of why Roger and I love the coast so much. I read all of the posts beginning in May 2008 through September 2009. It was a crazy 15 months of house hunting and turmoil, but the natural beauty that engulfed that journey shines on every blog entry. Even the entries where we are banging our crazy heads against the walls and wailing about injustices and politics and insensitive louts and dying sea lions, we are comforted by the sights and sounds of the sea. Well except for when we notice that the ocean is being ransacked within an inch of its radioactive poisoned garbage-strewn life. Still… we love something there.

So here we are in the late fall of what may be our last year here in the Sierra foothills. We go for walks quite often, but have taken to calling the irrigation ditches "fake creeks" and the reservoir simply "fake water." There is some life in these altered liquid landscapes, like the spring-time newts in their amorous pursuits, and the occasional trout that is permitted to live until the district decides to drain the reservoir in an attempt to fix ongoing leaks. Natural is not a word we use often around here. I have stopped taking the camera when we head out on our local walks. Ninety-nine percent of the time there's nothing to photograph, and the other one percent… well we'd be happy to see something beautiful and wild, and only disappointed to not be able to share it with you here on the blog.

Sometimes when people ask us where we want to live I really have no answer about place. I have only an answer about time. I want to live when there were much fewer people on the planet. In 1975 the population of the US was 215,000,000 about 100,000,000 fewer people than there are today. (That's 50% more people in the US than there were only 38 years ago. I don't remember the earth adding any land mass to sustain that kind of population growth.) The 1970s would be a pretty nice time to return to. But we know, there's no going back, and only the crazy unknowable future stretches before us. We would like that future to have a good expanse of the wide open ocean, sea mammals and shorebirds, redwoods and rivers, land for gardening and skies for dreaming. Good neighbors and world peace would be nice too.

PS: Just got back from a walk. We saw the most beautiful reflection of the sun's corona and iridescent clouds in the reservoir. It would have made a lovely photo.