Monday, March 30, 2009

Spring Cloud Day


It was a lovely, cloudy day here today. I don't say "foggy" day, because this isn't fog. At this elevation we're actually up in the clouds. When I took this photo yesterday it was sunny behind me, and I was watching the clouds pour over the ridge down into the deep hollow where I live. Last night we had "tree rain," which is what we call the moisture that condenses on the trees, some of them 200 feet high, and then falls to earth.

The silence of a day like today is different from the silence of a snow shrouded winter day. This silence is also devoid of human noises, as in the winter, but not animal sounds. I made a large fire in the fireplace and then opened the windows. My animals always think I'm nuts for doing this, but I like to hear the sounds of a spring "cloud day". The quiet patter of the tree rain dropping down, the creek gurgling along, happy to be free of the ice...
The Red Breasted Nuthatch checks out one of the feeders...





so does the Chickadee.................
















while the Steller's Jay has his peanut!

I can hear these birds, along with the Purple Finches, Acorn Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, Robins and a flock of Song Sparrows calling to each other as they wait their turns at the feeders. Maybe they're sharing the latest news of the day; who saw what, the fine piece of yarn Mrs. Jay found for her nest, and the trouble Mr. Chickadee got into with the Mrs. when she found out he was twittering at that flirty Miss Chickadee!

The squirrels come in for their peanuts after the birds have left. I can hear their little claws on the bark of the trees as they scramble down to the feeder...

I love the sounds and the sights of a spring cloud day, and it always makes me happy knowing that the birds and squirrels who have come here hungry are going back to their homes with full tummies because of the food I've put out for them.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Transformations

Spring is really gaining momentum here... finally! These little leaves on this Pink Sierra Currant bush are about half the size of my little fingernail now, but soon they will mature to the size of quarters. Then the bush will put out clusters of tiny, bell shaped pink flowers that the Hummingbirds adore. In Autumn there will be clusters of small, blue-grey, berries that the birds love. Humans can eat them also, but I'd rather leave them for the birds.

The transformations of spring are always amazing to me, no matter that I have seen many seasons of nature's alchemies. Bare branches magically make little buds that turn into beautiful green leaves, some with flowers among them that will eventually turn into edible fruits for animals and humans. Other plants birth themselves out of hard soil and then form beautiful flowers that will produce nectar for the bees to collect and turn into honey! It's all so wondrous to me, each and every time.

In Spring I am always reminded of this quote. This person must have felt the same feelings of awe and wonder that Spring produces in me:

"If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of the human become in its long journey toward the stars?"

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Delegation

These little Purple Finches were waiting for me when I went out this morning to fill the feeders. I felt like they thought that somehow the snow that fell last night was my fault, and they were the delegation elected by the other birds to let me know they did NOT approve. I told them, "Hey, don't look at me in that tone of chirp; I don't control the weather!"

I know many people would scoff at my anthropomorphism, but I believe that, if you pay close attention, it is sometimes possible to discern what animals are trying to tell us. I believe this is especially true of our companion animals (known in this cottage as "our children in fur.")

And sometimes you don't have to pay attention at all. They make it crystal clear. I remember once, in early autumn, I was sitting in a chair under the apple tree closest to our house and reading a book when a green apple hit me in the head. I thought, "Huh. Must have had a weak stem." Then, about a minute later, another one hit me. This time I picked it up and looked at it. It had had one tiny bite taken out of it. While I was pondering this, another one hit me in the head. I looked up into the tree and there was a squirrel. He pulled another apple off the branch, took one bite and threw it at me! I think he was telling me the apples tasted terrible. Well yeah, they weren't ripe. I caught the last apple and threw it back at him. I have terrible aim, so I missed him and he just smirked at me. He reached for another apple and I yelled, "Touch that apple and you're dead meat, buddy!" I would never hurt any animal, but he didn't know I was bluffing, and he left in a big huff, scolding me as he went.  Hmmmm...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Storm Coming In



The snow is mostly melted now; the Daffodil buds are just about ready to open. However, Spring is the most unpredictable season in these mountains. These clouds are the outriders of a storm that is supposed to dump a half foot of snow on us tonight and as fast as the barometer is falling, I think the weatherman may be right this time.

I find Spring to be a lot like life. The sky is blue, the sun is shining and there are even a few flowers around for a bonus. Then, WHAM! A storm hits before you can blink twice. There are some storms you can prepare for, but some take you completely by surprise and there's nothing you can do but pull up the hood of your coat, tuck your head down and keep on going. And it helps to remember, if you can, that eventually the storm will pass and the sun will shine on you again, even if the storm has left the landscape of your life altered forever.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pansy Tea


                                (Left click to enlarge photo)
"Pansy Tea" is the title of this painting I did a couple of years ago. I used acrylic on 140 lb. watercolor paper, spraying the paper first with a light coat of Matte Krylon to give me more control over bleeding. I still have the cup; I'm drinking tea from it right now (Earl Grey).  And...in the painting, the shelf is straight.  I suppose I tilted the camera when I was taking a photo of it.  Serves me right for not using a tripod!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Couldn't Have Said it Better Myself!




I think this duck is expressing his opinion of AIG and I agree completely. I've had to quit watching television because, the last time I did, I got so mad I pitched my book at the screen. Thank goodness I've terrible aim. It is beyond my comprehension why people who have run a company into the ground should get BONUSES!! And, WHY should we taxpayers have to pay for these bonuses!? If I think about that too long, it causes me to start having really evil thoughts. Plus, I get terrible heartburn. I heard earlier today that the government is going to try to get most of that money back. I certainly hope they succeed. Ok, enough of that.


Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

(Oh look, the little mouse only has a 3 leaf clover, instead of a 4 leaf clover. Poor little guy must have invested in AIG...)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What My Enisi Told Me

Enisi is the Cherokee word for Paternal Grandmother. I had brought my second fiance to her home to introduce him, and to show her my 4 carat diamond engagement ring. Enisi and I went for a walk while my fiance was left to the tender mercies of my mother. I broke up with him shortly thereafter and it was the best decision I ever made! This is the story my Enisi told me while we were walking:


THE GREAT MOTHER’S TEARS

Long, long ago, in the time before humans, the Equa Unitsi (Great Mother) sent the Water Beetle out from behind the rainbow where they lived to bring up a dab of mud from under the water with which She had covered the world. Equa Unitsi wanted a green and beautiful place to walk, so when Water Beetle gave her the mud Great Mother dropped pieces of it on the water and it became land. However, it was very flat land and She did not care for that. So, She sent Raven down to flap his wings; when his wings went down, that made the valleys and when they went up, that made the mountains. Now she had mountains and flat land to walk upon and She was pleased. She sent the animal people and the tree people out from behind the rainbow to live upon Elohi (earth) and each picked the place that suited them best to live.

One day while Equa Unitsi was walking, She thought to Herself, “I would like an Ustiulv (little sister) to walk with me. So She took a bit of the earth, added a bit of song from each of the stars, winds, waters, trees and animals, and mixed them all together. She waited for a night when Svnoyiehinvdo (the Moon) was full and then set the mixture She had made on top of the highest mountain and brought the light of Svnoyiehinvdo into it. She said some magic words and Igvyi Agiya (First Woman) rose up from the mix of the stars’, winds’, waters’, trees’ and animals’ songs and the light of Svnoyiehinvdo. Equa Unitsi was happy with her little sister for a companion, and they walked far over the earth. Great Mother introduced First Woman to all of the animals and trees and they became First Woman’s little sisters and brothers.

All lived in harmony. The air and the water nourished them, and the trees gave them shelter and Equa Unitsi was well pleased.

Then, one day Equa Unitsi looked out from behind the rainbow and saw all the animals having babies. But Her little sister, First Woman, had no babies. Equa Unitsi thought to Herself, I will make a companion for her! So she took a bit of mud, a bit of the song of fire, and set the mixture out in the sun. But before she could say the magic words, Coyote came along, grabbed up the mix in his mouth, and ran away with it. While Coyote was running, he accidentally dropped it into a little pool of blood from a deer that had scraped its leg on a rock. Before Equa Unitsi could do anything, Igvyi Asgayv (First Man) rose up from the mix of mud, fire and blood. He immediately turned to the deer and killed it, roasted it over the fire and ate it.

The Great Mother was filled with sorrow. She could see that Igvyi Asgayv was not the companion she had envisioned for First Woman, but she was too kind hearted to kill him, or to punish Coyote for his part in the making of First Man.

Equa Unitsi knew that the days of peace, with every living being existing in harmony, were gone. She knew that some humans would have more of the traits of First Woman, but some would have more of the traits of First Man; blood thirsty, violent, power hungry.

She wept bitter tears that fell through the rainbow and turned into shiny, sparkling stones of many different colors when they touched the earth. They are reminders to the daughters of Little Sister, and all their daughters’ daughters through all time, never to look for lasting happiness or peace from the true descendants of First Man.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Grumble, Grumble...

I drove down to my sister's today to help her plant her annuals. Her Irises are already blooming, which made me grumble about how nothing, NOTHING, is blooming up here in the mountains yet. Not even my Crocuses or Daffodils. But here we are, planting Impatiens, Pelargoniums, Lobelia, Ivy Leafed Geraniums, Begonias, Zinnas, Lisianthus and just too many others to list. She said that she would love to be able to grow what I have that blooms in the Spring: Tulips, Apple and Pear trees, Lilacs, Dogwoods, and Columbines.



My sister and I do this back and forth grumbling every Spring. But really we both love being able to have the best of both worlds. The soil is still too cold to work up here, so I really like being able to plunge my hands into the earth (ungloved, so my nails are always a mess in growing season, but if I wear gloves I can't tell if the plants' little roots are comfortably settled :D). My sister is always glad to escape the heat where she lives and come up a couple of times in the Autumn and help me plant bulbs and harvest apples and pears.



My sister is in her seventies and I'm in my fifties. For the past several years I've been very aware that my sister may not be able to do these things the next season, so I treasure these times even more.



But as of now, she's strong and healthy (knock on wood) and sent me home yesterday with some Pansies that were beginning to be unhappy with the warm weather.








I put them in a hanging basket so if it gets below freezing (as it most surely will several more times before the end of April) I can just bring them into my studio. When temperatures permit, they hang outside my kitchen window, on the sunniest side of the house, and I smile every time I look at them.

Monday, March 9, 2009

It's On Its Way

Spring, that is. I saw this guy (or girl, who can tell with Robins?) while trudging out to fill the feeders this morning, the first Robin of Spring. We still have a lot of snow on the ground, but today warmed up enough so that the snow is starting to melt off the tree branches. The Ponderosa Pines are, mostly, around 200 feet tall and they collect huge clumps of snow in their branches. These clumps solidify during the various thaws, freezes, and grow a little larger with each snowfall, so when they do finally fall out of the trees they come down as one huge chunk. When I'm inside it sounds like someone is dropping large rocks on the roof, and when I'm outside I feel like I should wear a hard hat!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Visit to My Sister

It's only about an hour and a half drive "down the mountain," as we mountain folk say, to my sister's home in Redlands, but it's a world away in terms of climate. It's already springtime where she lives! She grows oranges and sells them locally. This gorgeous tree (I forget its name) is blooming by her driveway.



and this is the view looking from her back yard.


There are oranges on the trees already! You can see the foothills of the mountains where I live; the actual mountains are hidden behind the storm clouds. My big sister always sends me home with a couple of bags of oranges during this time of year, so my husband and I will be enjoying fresh squeezed orange juice with breakfast for the next couple of weeks.

No matter how many times I make this drive I'm always amazed at the difference in our climates. We both feel blessed to have the best of both worlds. When I just cannot take one more day of cold and snow, I can drive to warmth and blooming flowers, and when the temperatures climb to over 100 degrees F in the summer down where she lives my sister can drive up here and enjoy the lakes, the clean air and temperatures that are 20 to 30 degrees cooler.
Driving back up, the foothill portion of the road starts out as a 4 lane highway but quickly narrows into a 2 lane road. I'm at about the 1,100 foot level right now and by the time I get to the 3,000 foot level the fog (actually clouds) will be horribly thick and I will start to see the first light snow. And, eventually, I'll see deeper snow,


and soon be in by my warm hearth in the living room (this photo was taken last Christmas).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mountain Roads




I had to drive to Lake Arrowhead today. I needed groceries and we only have a small store near where I live, which charges exorbitant prices. I snapped a couple of pictures while driving - just held out the camera and clicked. I was surprised that they came out. It annoys me intensely that the roads that the locals use the most to get around look like the one above and this:


but the roads to the ski areas are totally clean of snow and ice. I guess I shouldn't complain, though, since during the storm before this last one our road didn't get plowed at all. GRRRRRRR.....

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Nearly Wordless Wednesday


Took this last week during a sunny-day walk around the lake. Today I can barely see the trees at the edge of my yard due to blowing snow.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Just DO It!

That's what this red-headed fairy who flits around my painting area in my studio seems to be saying. I have a bad case of the Winter blahs (you can see all the snow on the roof of our garden shed behind her) and I don't want to do anything except blog a bit and curl up by the fire and read. I think my creativity has been buried under the snow. I slogged along the now icy path I've beaten down in the snow to my studio, got out my paints...and just sat there staring at them. Not a flicker of inspiration, let alone a spark of energy to actually do anything if inspiration had actually showed up. It's horribly windy outside and the sky is covered with fast-moving, heavily laden gray clouds that will, the weatherman says, slow down tonight and dump several more feet of snow on us. At least I can see a little green peeking out from under the snow on the branches of the hollies, ivy, pines and cedars. Oh, yawn. I'd fall asleep right now, but it's time to go fill the feeders (again!) for the birds and squirrels.


The squirrels love the baffle I put up to keep the feral cats that I feed from jumping up and snatching the Chickadees and other birds right off the ledge of the feeder. Well, maybe not so much in summer, but in winter it makes a handy perch for them. In summer, they just jump onto the roof and scoop up peanuts and black oil sunflower seed.
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