Friday, September 28, 2007

More Autumn

Doesn't this rosehip look like a bobbing court jester?

By the end of summer, morning glories ramble everywhere in the back gardens. It's odd that I have an over abundance of them in the back garden and yet for reasons unknown I can't get them to grow at all in the front gardens!

The setting sun through a golden yellow prayer flag. Does this mean the light that has passed through it is blessed? A nice thought, isn't it.

Around here, with out short growing season and cold, high altitude nights, it takes until the end of the summer for my chrysanthemums to be this prolific. Late, but enthusiastic.

This is the dried leave of a sunflower. So high up, it looks like it might have caught a near frost. But no, I think the weight of these large leaves cut off their supply of nutrients and they dry before the stalk and flowers. I think it looks like suede leather.

We're off to the coast. A six hour drive, but an away football game (yes, we play a school six hours away!) has pushed us on the road. We're going to make a weekend of it and I hope to squeeze in a beach walk or two. I'm looking forward to rock hunting, the sound of the surf, and a couple meals of fresh-off-the-boat seafood.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

When Did Autumn Arrive?

I've spent the last month trying to wrap up everything that I started in the spring and assumed I'd have finished long before summer came to an end. I've spent the last several weeks feeling autumn was closing in fast and that I needed to pick up the speed. In the last few days I've come to the realization that autumn is going to arrive before I finished anything I wanted to have finished.

But what I hadn't realized yet was that somehow autumn is already here. Yeah, I know, I know. School started. Summer clothes are on clearance racks everywhere. Even I, Menopause Heated Woman, decided it's too cold to keep the windows open at night. (Okay, maybe one window in the bedroom open just a sliver.) Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks. Real pumpkins stacked in front of the supermarket. There was an equinox there a week or so ago. All clues that an ordinary person might have picked up on before now.

Yesterday I drove past a tree and did a double take - was that a bit of gold mixed in with the green leaves? Today I looked across the street and saw another tree aflame in red and orange. It finally sunk in - autumn isn't bearing down on us, it's zoomed past weeks ago and I didn't notice.

I've got to get back to my long To Do list but I felt badly that I haven't been posting lately. So, I thought I'd share a few photographs I took today, proof of autumn's arrival.


Firs, foliage, and bare branches


Virginia Creeper


Normally I'd post this type of thing over on Laume's Studio, artsy y'know, but I had to post there today about my new library treasures. Go see!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Working Hard or Hardly Working?


William was the one hardly working. But it's not because he's a typical teenager (although on another day that could easily be one of his excuses). No, the poor guy was laid low by some throat and achy bug. He took over the couch and remote. I brought him tea and pizza and blankets and tried to keep out of coughing range. As you can see, Nurse Rosie is in charge of the close up care. She stayed close to her patient most of the day.

I was the one working hard. I got quite a bit done. Doesn't look like I made a dent in the boxes yet, but I definitely did.

I would have gotten even more done but I had a friend stop by for a cup (or two) of tea. I'm not very good at multi-tasking anymore (guess I used up my share of it over the years with five kids at home). Usually if the phone rings I think I can talk and do... something, anything... but soon I find I'm sitting on the couch and the conversation has my entire attention. But I was good, I switched to something relatively mindless. While my friend regaled me with stories of her son's wedding (bride's Southern Genteel family meets groom's Granola California family!) I cleaned up the kitchen.

And then there were all the phone calls. But I don't really want to move in the middle of the night and get an unlisted phone number. I like my friends and family. Besides, I can't miss important updates like Lisa's call today to tell me that Joli finally broke her first tooth! So, I'll sacrifice my efficiency for more important things like keeping in touch.

I can't really blame anyone for the hour I detoured and spent burning a couple of new compilations of songs for the season. One with lots of moody, reflective songs for Samhain, another with silly Halloween ditties. But I even got credit for that as hubby and son are anxiously awaiting the day when I'm done clearing my files out of the desk computer and burning some of my music is part of that task. So, win/win. And I had new music to work by for the rest of the evening.

Last but not least, I finally finished making my new hanging lamp. I put up my lamp making story and photos over on Laume's Studio tonight. There's also photos of a few of the new additions to my decor. Go see!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Sick, Stress, Sandstorm, Sunset

Been busy. Been a bit under the weather. Got laid low by a migraine a few days ago and it took a day and a half to shake off the head pain and a few accompanying symptoms. I've risen out of my self made quagmire of feeling overwhelmed, ready to tackle my mess, only to be sideswiped by family obligations and tasks. The weekend has arrived and usually that's my best bet for unchallenged time. Maybe I'll have a chance to play catch up in the next couple of days. Knock on wood.

If I don't get sick with whatever William seems to be succumbing to - sore throat and general unease. Of course he might just be falling ill from being stretched thin with his own teen worries - "My English teacher just doesn't understand that football players don't have that much time!" Uhm, yeah. Obviously somebody has their priorities skewed. William? Or the English teacher? We'll have to work on putting this one into a bigger perspective now, won't we.

Today was committed to an out of town football game. The drive was two hours south and east of us and the traffic was insane all the way. Out here in the "middle of nowhere" and yet I haven't felt so stressed out by a drive since my last trip to Seattle or San Francisco. I'm not sure what it was but clearly something was "in the air". Even a couple of hours spent in Reno halfway through the drive, people were either confrontational or confuddled. It felt very odd - in a "what's going on here" sort of way. And not fun. Okay. It went way past not fun. It sucked. Is something going on astrologically? Solar flares? Alien transmissions on a frequency too high for human ears driving everyone insane?

The football game was exciting. We lost by one point in the last minute of the game, which was a bummer, but the kids played well. Surprisingly well considering that they played in a bitter cold wind and a sandstorm that was so strong that sometimes it looked like it was snowing! Even bundled up inside a hat and hood in the bleachers, my eyes stung and my teeth were gritty with sand. I can't even begin to imagine what it was like for the players down on the field. Adding insult to injury, the host school had turned off the hot water so the kids had the choice of no shower or an icy cold shower. It's something that happens more often than you'd think - petty "pranks" against the visiting team. Last week, traveling through the visitor's town in the school bus on the way to the game, the team got flipped off by people in the community. Come'n people, what ever happened to good sportsmanship!? One thing I appreciate about our coaches approach to the game, this sort of thing isn't tolerated by our kids and I don't think (at least I certainly hope) our community doesn't stoop to this sort of crap.

Moving past the negative - I managed to swing through Reno and run a few errands I couldn't manage in our small town. And the sunset at the football game was unbelievably fairy tale beautiful.

I wish I could have shown you more than just a small stretch of the painted sky. It was so pretty. And all over, from start to finish, in about a half hour.

Hopefully I'll be busy this weekend with my own projects. Wish me luck that I don't get waylaid by family - including myself.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Potatoes - For Lisa

I did a post a while back labeled Chocolate - For Laura. Because Chocolate made me think of Laura. Well, this time around it has to be "Potatoes - for Lisa" because of a hysterical conversation about potatoes (and other fruits and vegetables) one afternoon spent at Toucan Charlie's, the best buffet I have ever, or probably will ever, sample. But that's beside the point here. This post is about potatoes. Well, it's about more food than just potatoes. An alternative title for this post could be "Food". And Toucan Charlie's is definitely all about food, so maybe it's not beside the point. But the fact that it might not be beside the point is beside the point.

Moving on....

The key part of the conversation, without embarrassing Lisa too much (although if I could remember the dialogue word for funny word, I would probably have no hestiation whatsoever embarrassing her to a much greater degree) is that Lisa had just that afternoon discovered that vegetables came in more than one color. She hadn't known that beans could be not only green, but yellow, white or even purple. Most amazing of all to her was the idea that potatoes could be purple. How, she wondered, did they get the purple into the potatoes?

So, when I saw some purple potatoes at our supermarket the other day, I had to buy them. And while I was at it, I also bought some white and some red potatoes. I wasn't sure if the purple potatoes might dye the other potatoes, so I cooked them separately. (they don't - or at least, they don't color the water they were cooked in). Here they are all together.

The purple potatoes are more blue than purple inside, don't you think? So I was inspired to make a very patriotic looking potato salad out of it. There's a bit of yellow, black, and green in the extra ingredients, but America is really more than three colors anyway, yes? And just for the record, it's really YUM.

I had finally managed to make it to our local farmer's market on the very last Saturday they were open, bringing home several bags of vegetables with the best of intentions to make it all into a half dozen healthy, fresh meals. I also have a small but lovely harvest from my own backyard garden. Best of intentions never materialized and it was time to use it or lose it. As it was, a handful of tomatoes and some celery were already fit for nothing but the compost bin. But the rest of it was still fresh, just plenty ripe, so everything went into the pot and voila, minestrone. Even all the herbs were fresh from the garden. Doesn't it look yummy too? I haven't had any yet, but William the Soup Hater just announced it edible, so that means to the average person, it's probably downright dee-lish.

More kitchen activities - I know, what's gotten into me!? I bought a tin of extra large silky tea bags, more like tea purses, really. They are so pretty. I don't know if you can see from the photo but, when you handle it, it feels more like fabric than.... whatever it is. I wish they were reusable. The tea blend inside looks pretty too, with all those herbs, stems, leaves and flowers. It's called Goji Berry Pomegranate Green Tea. I can hardly waste to taste it.

And one more food pic, while I've got your attention. Here are two of the lovely thirteen peaches my front yard peach tree bore this year. I know, thirteen peaches. That's so cool. I was going to make a peach pie but so far they haven't made it past breakfast, where the peaches to cereal ratio is about 2:1. So sweet.

I lost one peach to a deer. I think it was a deer anyway. I don't think my cats have taken to eating peaches. It had fallen onto the grass and I forgot to bring it in. I found it half eaten the next morning and a depression nearby in the grass under a rose bush that looked just large enough to have bedded one of the half grown deerlings I've seen around the neighborhood recently. No, that's not right. Fawn. Half grown fawn. But deerling seems to fit the idea of a half grown deer more, doesn't it? Yearling? But these little guys aren't a year old yet.

It's rather telling that my lawn is so overgrown that you can see a "depression" in it. No one has mowed it for months. Hubby has been working doubles, William has been schooling and footballing. It hasn't been a priority. I've been.... well, I could mow it. In fact, there was a time when I would have been furious at the idea that a woman is any less capable of mowing a lawn than a man is. But I've had decades of handy and available young boys to mow for me and I have to admit I've grown rather fond of the "I'm a girl, how do you turn this machine on?" excuse. I know, lame. Hmmm, another good excuse. I could affect a limp. Effect a limp? (Why do we have TWO words that are so confusing!?)

Although, it's rather fascinating (though I doubt my neighbors share that opinion) to watch my gardens turn into wilderness. I'm actually rather proud of the fact that we have enough soil and water and plant variety that it can turn into a wild retreat. This is a harsh climate and geography and many places around here that are disturbed by humans, when abandoned, only turn into dusty fields of dirt with nothing but noxious non-native weeds.

But now we've moved past the subject of this post - food. Unless you want to eat weeds. Which is entirely possible. In fact, I have been known to eat weeds on a rather frequent basis. But maybe I'll save that for another post. I've worked up an appetite. Time to go get some soup.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What Time of Day Are You?

I saw this quiz over on Red Shoe Rambling today and took it. Is anyone surprised by my results? I'm relieved not to be told I'm 3 a.m., but I'm totally good with being Midnight.

You Are Midnight

You are more than a little eccentric, and you're apt to keep very unusual habits.

Whether you're a nightowl, living in a commune, or taking a vow of silence - you like to experiment with your lifestyle.

Expressing your individuality is important to you, and you often lie awake in bed thinking about the world and your place in it.

You enjoy staying home, but that doesn't mean you're a hermit. You also appreciate quality time with family and close friends.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Jumble

I have lots of ideas for posts but I don't have the focus or energy to work on them. Instead, I've just got all these small comments I want to remember to make. I was trying to think of what to title the post and thought of the word jumble. Did you know in England a garage or yard sale is called a jumble sale? I like that usage. It makes more sense, really. I mean, no one is selling their garage or their yard. They're selling that jumble of stuff they've dragged out and displayed.

It's definitely autumn. I've heard and seen the Canadian Geese flying overhead several nights this week. The other day I was standing in a parking lot in town when a beautiful formation of geese flew overhead, lit from beneath by the setting sun. I just stood and stared and then realized I should have grabbed my camera. Another set of stragglers flew over shortly afterward and I manged to snap a photo or two of them. They were a bit less clear on the whole "V" making formation. Maybe they were the dyslexic geese. But still pretty with the sun on their wings.

I made a minor mention of some birthdays recently. August and September in our family is a huge string of birthdays and anniversaries and I am sad to say that as the years have gone by I've gone from being the one who remembers and creates memories to being the one that says "Yeah, I suppose I should do something about that. Maybe I'll call." I'm not proud of my celebratory inertia but, there it is. The one positive in all this is that hubby has taken it upon himself to be the official birthday rememberer and cake maker. A role I did fanatically for several decades. Where I was just going through the motions in recent years, he seems to be enjoying the role. So, that's a good thing. As women, particularly as mothers, it's so easy to buy into the unwritten rule that we have to be the one to plan the parties, write the thank you notes, buy the gifts. I have to remind myself that someone else can do those things without me feeling guilty about it.

William is the tallest helmet, on the left. His buddy James is the shortest helmet, in the middle.

Football is taking up a lot of time. It's one of those annual activities that I both love and hate. Sort of like camping. Or traveling. It takes a lot of time and money and planning to make it all happen. But then once the planning is planned, the money is spent, the driving and schedule times are carved out, the campfire/the holiday/the football game make it seem all worthwhile. Until afterwards, when all those activities generate a lot of laundry, and you start to question things again.

The Moonlight Fire is finally winding down after almost two weeks. The incident website calls it 99% contained, full containment expected on Monday. The smoke cleared out a day or two ago. Today I smelled smoke again when I was out running errands. William pointed out the window of the car - it was only coming from someone sitting in a parked car next to us, smoking a cigarette. I have to say it was the first time I was happy to have it "only" be a smoker.

The fire trucks are disappearing from motels, the clusters of tired, charcoal smudged fire fighters are disappearing from restaurants up and down Main Street. (There hasn't been a motel room, a baked potato or piece of pie left to be ordered for weeks!) Signs thanking the fire fighters are being displayed all over town. Everyone has been commenting on the fire, or lack thereof (knock on wood), with voices full of relief. Some people were certainly affected by the fire more dramatically than others but I think we were all suffering, to one degree or another, from a bit of crisis fatigue. Others have mentioned how, they too, have been fuzzy minded and unable to focus. William said he was really started to feel it in his lungs, running during football practice, even on days the smoke seemed barely there. October is usually the end of fire season. I sure hope so.

I've been doing something odd lately. At least, odd for me. I've been watching "Disney-esque" movies. A few weeks ago I watched High School Musical on the Disney Channel. I haven't watched the Disney Channel since William was two feet shorter than me! Tonight, much to William's distress (I noticed however, although he turned his head and pretended not to watch it, he didn't actually leave the room) I watched A Cinderella Story with.... that blonde teen star. I'm not quite sure what's gotten into me. Maybe I'm just craving some "sugar" in life.

I haven't really watched a lot of television all summer. Mostly I've been reading. I've caught the occasional new Jon Stewart. I have managed to watch all the new episodes of Eureka, which started a month or so ago. I've only caught a couple shows of the new season of Monk and Psych. Hopefully I can eventually find all the new episodes in rerun. I'm woefully behind on the new season of Doctor Who but I've got them all recorded so I can eventually find time to watch them in order. I'm so far behind that I'm deliberately not watching the new ones until I can catch up.

In a few weeks the new fall season returns, with all the shows we like to watch - Ghost Whisperer, Numbers, Medium, Ugly Betty, Supernatural.... am I forgetting any? And I don't really want to know about any new shows. Do I really need any more shows? But I'm, in about equal measures, both excited at the return of the new season, a consolation prize for losing all those extra summer hours of evening daylight when one can be outside, and dread at the prospect of keeping track of all the nights and hours. I am so ready to be a Tivo family. All that's left to do is convince my hubby, the quasi-luddite, how much easier our life would be if we could be in charge of our television hours.

I'd like to say that I'm intellectually above scheduling my life around the boob tube but alas, that would be a lie. "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!" - See! I spend time reading Shakespeare as well as waste time watching Family Guy. And then there's that whole angle I could argue, that there's intellectual validity to the idea that one should be as fluent in "pop"culture as one is in "classic" knowledge.

I think I rather prefer this latter defense, if for no other reason that it will annoy my husband. We enjoy a rather active game of "Who's smarter?" with each other. His favorite argument is.... well, maybe that's a topic for another post. It's late. Time for me to be off to bed and a book. The only question is - fast paced, fantasy whodunit or intellectually stimulating, philosophical, New York Bestseller? Oh puh-leeze. It's too late to think that hard. I'm going for the vampires.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hiding Between the Pages

It's been a rough week. I've had all sorts of gloomy, philosophical, deep, and yet somehow inspiring, posts swirling around in my brain, waiting for me to WOW you with them. Fortunately for you, I didn't have the energy to actually write them. So you're safe. At least this time 'round.

I've been dealing with .... oh, just nothing. Big things but not big because it's not like I can do anything about them personally. Happy but ignored birthdays and sad but not ignored anniversaries. Smoke. Lots of smoke. From our little backyard forest fire. Just 62,000 plus acres so far. Nothing big.

Mostly I've been hiding in other worlds, other lives. Books. Hey, maybe not tackling my overwhelming to-do list or real world issues but, better to creep off to live vicariously in a book than to hide in drugs or alcohol or .... or.... promiscious sexual encounters or bouts of eating sixty hamburgers at one sitting. Yes?

In fact, being that I'm so overwhelmed and have so many things I'm behind on, I've decided a good use of my time the last couple of days, when my head was not stuck in a book, has been to become immersed in Shelfari, an online "book club". I've been creating a bookshelf, reading other people's book lists, and finding new books and authors I haven't heard of before. A great, fun distraction for a bibliophile like me.

I'd originally heard about Shelfari over on Deb's blog. She'd mentioned both Shelfari and Library Thing, deciding that Library Thing was the better fit for her. I had planned on mosying over there but never got around to it until another friend sent me a Shelfari invite the other day. I checked out both sites and think Shelfari is much more user friendly. I signed up on both, but I've been hanging out over at Shelfari. So, if you're signed up on either, send me a friend invite.

One quick story before I close this laptop and wander around the house aimlessly -

For most of our seventeen years of marriage, my hubby has brought me coffee in bed. There's been a few gaps in that tradition because of work schedules or circumstances. Even a few "strikes". But he still frequently does this very small but amazing act of love for me every morning.

So yesterday morning he comes in the bedroom. "Here's your coffee honey." I look up from my computer and see clenched in his big paw the teensiest cup in our cupboard. It's part of a small tea set. It's about the size of an espresso cup. Two good sized gulps and you're finished. Still, it's the thought that counts, right. Maybe he thought I'd think it was cute.

"Thank you." I take the cup from him.

And then I see he's got something in his other hand, and he's turned a bit unnaturally to avoid showing it to me as he tries to back out of the room.

"What's in your other hand?"

He stops and pulls his coffee mug into view. It's a new one I bought him this summer. A huge oversized 16 oz. BUZZ cup. And it's filled to the top.

We have a lot of coffee and espresso makers, but we most often use a small "four cup" drip brew maker. (which is really only a two mug coffee maker.) It used to be mine back when hubby drank only caffeinated. He owned a ten cup coffee maker and he'd make and drink several pots a day. At the time I only drank decaf, so I bought the little coffee maker for just me. Now that I drink a mix of caf and decaf, and he's broken his caffeine addiction, the big pot is in the pantry, brought out only when we have company, and the small pot serves both of us. But it only pours two regular size mugs of coffee.

"I'm sorry" he muttered sheepishly. "I was feeling greedy."

(Ignore messy nightstand. And this photo makes the wee cup look bigger than it really is!)

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Monkey Purse is Found!

An Afternoon or Two

Hubby's days off have changed and the last couple of days he's accompanied me on some of my regular errands.

Wednesday we went to the library to pick up a couple of inter-library loan books. While there, I spied an interesting book in the Book Sale rack, an English/Chinese phrase translator. The binding was shot but I thought the pages, densely packed with both English words and Chinese characters, in a dictionary style, would make great collage material. It cost a dollar.

I dug around on the bottom of my purse for change and hubby checked his pockets. We managed to find enough change but on the way out the door, as we were passing a cluster of people standing in the foyer, hubby explained the reason he didn't have much change on him was because he'd lost his little change purse. It's a really cool beaded change purse my mom gave him.

"You LOST your MONKEY PURSE!?" I exclaimed loudly. All heads turned to assess the tall man who apparently owned a monkey purse.

"Oh. NO! He doesn't have a monkey purse! I mean, he does but it's not a purse, it's a little monkey change purse. I mean, not a purse. It's just...." Hubby was steering me in the direction of the door, muttering that we didn't need to continue to bother these nice people.

We walked out the door as another man, who apparently works with hubby, followed us out. He'd been walking quickly so he missed my first comments. No matter. I turned to hubby as we cleared the door and said "What!? You wanted those people to think you carry a monkey purse!? I was just trying to explain that it wasn't a purse!"

The man chuckled and nodded a hello at hubby.

Hubby nodded back and said. "Don't mind her. We're on our way home. It's time for her medications."

"Yes" I added, as I opened the car door. "my medications. It calms me."

I figured it was the least I could do to balance the damage.


Yesterday we went out for lunch and hubby mentioned a few more things he wanted me to pick up at the market. I suggested we go to the market together after lunch. He agreed that would be nice. So we did. We parked and went in.

We shopped for over an hour because it was a major list, which of course was still attached to the pad by the phone at home. Hubby kept asking if we were done yet. He kept asking me, as I was standing in each aisle trying to remember everything we needed in it, what I was thinking, what I needed. He kept reminding me that he thought this was gonna just take ten minutes - pick up the five things he mentioned, leave. Easy. Yeah. Like I wanted to do that and then come back again for the rest of the groceries later. By the time we made it to the produce section all I reall wanted to do was apply duct tape somewhere on his face. It was like trying to shop with a bored, restless, ready-for-his-nap toddler. But at last we finished and took a full cart back to the car.

It was really hot outside compared to the air conditioned store but it seemed exceptionally hot near our car. I wondered out loud why.

"That guy in the car next to us is sitting there with his car running so he can have his air conditioning on, depleting the world's oil reserves and adding to global warming." Hubby says as I open our car door, handing him groceries from the cart that he loaded into the back seat.

The car next to us backs out of the parking lot. The car windows are open.

"No, he's got his windows open. I think it's some sort of fan blowing hot air from off the building." We both look up, can't see any air ducts.

"I've filled this side of the car. Why don't you open the door on other side so I don't have to reach over." So I pull the cart to the other side of the car and we continue stuffing it with bags.

"It's really hot over here."

"It's the guy sitting in this other car. He's running his car. No one cares about gas prices." Hubby decides.

"There's no one even IN the car."

Hubby, curious, shuts the car door and walks up to peer in the car next to us. There's no one in it. "It's not running." He looks up at a small drain pipe on the building in front of us. "Maybe it's coming from there." I explain that's a water drain. He suddenly gets very still. Looks at our car. Tips his head to listen. Sticks his head in the driver's side. Looks at me. "It's our car. Our car is running!"

We'd left the car running for OVER AN HOUR with the KEYS IN THE IGNITION and the WINDOWS DOWN and


Sometimes it's nice to live in a small town.

And for the record. I have never, ever, ever, ever done that before. Ever. Hubby said, in my defense, it's really hard to hear the car idling. It doesn't make a sound and it doesn't make the car vibrate. And, in my own defense, hubby walked way from the car too. Still, I can't believe I did that. And, mea culpa. I'm really sorry about the global warming.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Moonlight Fire

That's the official name of this fire. Isn't it beautiful? It's because the fire started in a place called Moonlight Valley. Although I'm sure Moonlight Valley is no longer beautiful in the traditional sense. Despite it's destructive force, I have to say that the smoke plume was awe inspiring yesterday. It was the most impressive I've ever seen, and I've seen more than my share. It was almost sentient. At twilight it took the form of a Chinese dragon, smoking and curving above the valley.

I tried to put photos together to show you the length of the plume in the afternoon. This was the best I could do. To get even the smallest sense of what it felt like to have this giant above you, you have to click on these photos to enlarge them.

That white spot in the photo is an airplane.

What I couldn't photograph is how the smoke owned the southwestern sky while a storm formed in the northeastern side of the valley clinging to the the smoke tail. All afternoon the storm grew and grew swooping around towards the front of the smoke plume until it looked like the clash of the titans overhead. Eventually the storm met the smoke and instead of fighting they merged into a swirling ourobouros in the heavens.

After twilight, the sky glowed orange above the mountain ridge for half the night. Not some little foothills, this is THE mountain, Diamond Peak. The intensity ebbed and flowed like the coals of a forest campfire until finally cooling to blackness in the cold of early morning.

This morning the statistics say the dragon has consumed 5,000 square miles and only 15%, it's tail, contained. The smoke this morning is flowing low and farther south and unlike the drama of yesterday, it's only a giant "fog" bank peaking from behind the southern edge of the mountain range.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

It's Clouds Illusions I Recall

The last week has brought a lot of beautiful cloud formations. Which seems appropriate as it's felt like my head has been full of clouds as well lately. Or perhaps cobwebs, a seasonal touch. Or fog, one of the lovely symptoms of menopause. Or maybe the clouds outside really were creating the clouds inside, some sort of sympathetic high pressure/barometer thing.

I spied these wispy pulls of cotton candy driving home from the the market and coffee several nights ago. They were only there for a few minutes, by the time I got home they were gone.

Already late for a dinner date with my friend Shelly, I still couldn't resist pulling over to snap this gorgeous formation. Click to enlarge it to better see how hard it is to tell where the mountain ranges leave off and the clouds begin, the cloud bank seems so substantial.

While I was taking photos here, a covey of California Quail rain behind a small dirt pile a few yards away, posting sentries who bobbed their heads and kept watch until I was safely back in my car.

We drove home from Reno on Sunday through a series of storm cells. We passed under every type of cloud one could imagine from the fringes, on deep into the heart, and back out of the storm on the other side. For a long time we passed these storm ships sailing majestically into the fray. The sky darkened, the clouds filled more and more of the sky, sunk heavier and lower above us until, without warning, water fell not as rain, but as if in a waterfall pouring from a jagged rip in the storm. It hit with force enough to shake the car, the windshield wipers thrashing ineffectively and blind. We passed through, barely able to see the road and then just as suddenly as it began, the water stopped and the windshield wipers were beating furiously against nothing but dry glass.

The storm wasn't moving as fast as us but it did eventually follow us home and this is what we got - about a half hour of spotty downpour surrounded by sun. If you turned and looked down the street the other direction at this same moment, the sky was bright blue with rainbows dancing across it. Unfortunately it also has all sorts of aerials, telephone lines, poles, and rooftops chopping the view into bits and pieces, so I didn't get a very good photo of of it.

When the storm cleared, it seemed as if the storm inside my head had also spent itself, gone to brew in locations and psyches unknown. All I know is that for weeks I've stared at the boxes that have turned my living room into a warehouse with feelings of dread and complete terror at the thought of deciding where to begin. The day after the storm I walked out into the living room, looked at the clutter and thought to myself - This is it? Just these few boxes and piles? That's ALL? What in the world was all the fuss about?

And I started in on sorting books and discovered I had no trouble whatsoever deciding what to keep and what to toss. All the emotional stickiness of the decisionmaking had dissipated with the storm. Or at least 95% of it. I love the feeling of a fresh new start after a storm. The dust washed away. The pugent scents of green, growing things filling the air. Well, it feels that way in my head after a storm too.

Of course, life never pauses long in any given mode. The clouds disappeared and left a mountain sky empty of everything but blue and the occasional hawk. Abhoring a vacuum, a strong hot wind roared in and midday yesterday two things happened simultaneously. I smelled woodsmoke and a dozen fire trucks and other emergency vehicles went screaming by my house as fast as any I've ever seen. A grass fire had broken out in a heavily populated valley just a few miles away.

It tooked like they'd gotten the fire out, the white tower of smoke disappeared and fire trucks started driving back the way they'd come, some of them in as much of a hurry as they'd been on the way to the fire. I kept sorting books but eventually the smell of something burning returned. I stepped outside to discover more smoke, this time taller, darker, heavier, no longer just a cloud on the horizon, but a huge black river of smoke that rose up in the west, filled half the sky, flowed up and over the the edge of town, and disappeared past the mountains to the east.

In the early evening I dropped William off at football practice, ran a few errands and then, almost time to pick William back up, stopped at a local restaurant for a tostada and the company of a new book. Someone clued me in that the new smoke was from another fire, this one about twenty/thirty miles away from town as the crow flies. I came back out outside about a half hour later confused to find it snowing. Hot "snowflakes" of ash fell from the sky, quiet and surreal. So thick I had to use my windshield wipers to clear my windows before I could drive.

Football practice was still going strong when I arrived to pick William up, so I walked out to the bleachers to sit, wait, read. The sun set and the wind died down. The temperature dropped from furnaced wind to damp, quiet and chilled. "Snow" continued to fall onto the pages of my book so every three or four sentences in I had to blow it away. While I sat there the sunset turned the smoke bank a spectral yellow followed by a woodfire orange and eventually an ember red before the night swallowed it up in black. Doesn't it look like a face to you here? Two skeletal eyes and a mouth just starting to open, considering the possibility of swooping down and snapping off a few stadium lights?

When it got too dark to see, I followed the team back to the gym. I sat in on the grass, turned so a big spotlight perched above a nearby walkway illuminated my pages. More light spilled from the open door of the weight training room, as did loud, heavy music and the shouts and laughter of young men, pumped up and overflowing with the strength of their youth. I sat in the dark outside reading about walking the ancient streets of Paris. Occasionally one or two or six players wandered out on their way to the parking lot. The spotlight pulled their shadows from them and splashed them stretched and grotesque across the wall of the gym so that it appeared as if a trail of ogres and gargoyles were marching along in the grass behind me. Eventually one of the monstrous shadows stepped out of line before me and settled into the shape of William. I closed my book, stood up and we went home.

Last night the smell of smoke permeated everything. It's hard to sleep when part of your brain keeps poking at you, insisting "Wake up! Something is on fire!" Today the wind has picked up again, bad for the fire but clearing the air for us, the smoke has shifted to the southeast and is now blanketing the Sierras, hiding them from view. The surreal atmosphere has lifted a bit, at least for now, but I'm happy my clarity of mind remains, so I'm off to tackle more boxes of books.

On Laume's Studio I've post a few thoughts on perfection. I was originally going to write about it here but for some reason today it seemed more suited for over there where I tend to put anything about art, creativity, and design. I was going to put the cloud pics there, but apparently they wanted to gather here.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Middle Name Meme Becomes Musings

I volunteered to tag myself for a meme Laura did the other day. I'm supposed to give you a wee bit of info about myself by using each of the letters of my middle name. My middle name only has two letters so I figured, easy peasy! Turns out it wasn't as easy as I thought. What do I tell you that's new about myself? Some days it seems as if I've already blabbered on about every small detail of my life.

Just recently, however, a handful of events led me to realize how much I don't share on my blog or with my online friends. Nothing huge, just a cluster of a few small confusions and assumptions. Curious, I tracked back through my blogs and online communications, trying to figure out how a person might have turned left at my story or idea when I myself had actually turned right. I was surprised to discover how patchy my online persona is in relationship to my real world.

Obviously there are things in everyone's life that best remain private or intimate. (No, I'm not really a man (I had an online friend once who allowed everyone on a list we met on to believe for years that she was a man before admitting otherwise. Although it wasn't like it changed anything about our social relationship, or hurt me in any way I could define, I still felt really really angry about that for a long time.) I'm also not a cereal killer or anything else exciting like that - although I've been known to spill a few Cheerios from time to time. ) Then there are topics that are plain ol' boring. I try to avoid those. Often it's not that I intentionally leave things out. Instead I simply get busy and never get around to posting topics or events or thoughts that I had every intention to share. I try hard not to rant too often. I leave out small passing resentments or frustrations that might be blown out of proportion if I put them into words (family read my blog) because they are just that, small passing emotions.

But I always thought, those exceptions aside, that I'm pretty much a "what you read is what you get" sorta gal. I've always thought of myself as being more open (i.e. blabby) and honest (i.e. blabby) than a lot of people are online. I'm not restrained enough to pick just about one facet of my life to share, like some who choose to only blog about their craft or their gardens or their travels. I blog about all those things and more. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But apparently each post is a puzzle piece, not a whole, and no matter how many pieces I share, there will always be spaces, pieces missing. It was surprising, a bit frustrating, a bit amusing, to realize that people sometimes fill in those missing spaces in unexpectedly false ways.

In the end I decided it was a good realization to stumble into, because it reminds me not to assume I know what's there in the blank spaces of other blogger's lives. It's hard enough in "real" life not to jump to conclusions about others who you know, see, spend time with. How many times have you assumed someone is happily married only to be shocked when they're divorced before the end the year? Or label someone as super committed to their career only to find out they have a painful history of infertility behind them? I've assumed someone disliked me personally only to find out years later they envied me. I'm still embarrassed at how I jumped to the conclusion that one of my son's friends was stupid because he came from a poor family (yes, I know, I'm sooo embarrassed! *Blush*), only to have the kid, a third grader at the time, sit at my dinner table and discuss one of his favorite authors (Tolkien) and his interest in quantum physics. Or the time I struggled to figure out why the new Black (African American?) sports announcer on the television news was talking about vitamins - turned out he wasn't a new sports announcer, he was a doctor doing a new nightly medical news piece. I saw a Black guy and thought - Sports! Fell into that stereotype hole and climbed out of it again with a very bruised sense of pride.

I pride myself on NOT stereotyping but sometimes it happens so fast or we don't even realize we are doing it. And once we fill in the blanks in what we know about someone with what we think we know, and that assumption gets ingrained in the story we carry about someone for a while, it's hard to remember what is true, the dots, and what is what we drew in freehand, the lines between them.

Now, I'm supposed to tag as many people to do the meme as I have letters in my middle name. I hate tagging people so if a couple folk could tag themselves in my comments, I'd be very grateful. 'Cuz, y'know, I don't want to assume I know who'd like to be tagged and who would hate it. I might be drawing it in wrong!