“To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.”
~Henri Cartier-Bresson

Monday, September 22, 2014

Being a bad blogger... for good reasons... kind of.

I meant to sit down and write. I certainly had enough to say... about friends, fires, pillowcases from blogging friends, emails from Montana. But... here I sat with this and that... always saying, "I will do a post tomorrow, the next day, this evening... sure did intend to write something ... I just don't know what happen. Well... yes, I really do... last week anyway.
A few weeks back I got an email from my friend Dawn, who lives in Michigan. She said she was going to be out here, with her husband, for a visit and could she come and see me. This turned into the biggest reunion you can imagine. We had not seen each other since we were 16 years old. It's a very long story about how we found each other again after all these years. You can find it here.
So in the hottest part of summer, with the huge King fire to the north of us and my drought ridden garden looking like it was just about to lose its battle with Mother Nature... Dawn arrived. I had replaced some bedding plants, made up the sofa bed, planned a few dinners, had a long talk with the dogs about their good behavior (she was bringing her dog with her.) and I stuck this sign on the screen door.
Her husband dropped her off. He waited in the RV while she yelled "Where the heck are you, Connie Mae." and then she made a big scene... crying and everything. My goodness... it had only been 55 YEARS.
We hugged and cried... then hugged and looked at each other... and hugged and cried more. Two old ladies, with a lot of life and distance between them, finally after all those years, seeing each other again. It was quite something.
Dawn is still the pretty, tall, opinionated, noisy person that attracted me to her when I was a little girl. Well... when we were little I was taller than her. I was shy, she was confident. I was afraid to get on the bus and go to school on the first day of first grade and she came over to me, at the bus stop, and asked me if I wanted to sit with her. That was the beginning of a fun and wild friendship.
In Junior High School her parents got a divorce and by the time we were heading for High School she left to live with her mom and brother in another town. I visited her once or twice... maybe more. We had some wild times. Too much so. My mom found out just how much fun we were having (a letter found in my room) and she told me that I couldn't go visit Dawn anymore. When I told Dawn, she got really angry and we had a very bad "parting of the ways". In the next few years we just let go of each other and even though I looked for her over the years, I never found her. She married and had a different last name. I did too.

We spent last week catching up. We talked all day and into the night. It's a good thing that the Prospector was gone on a fishing trip with friends. We would have driven him nuts.
First thing we did was make sure that the dogs were OK with each other. Little lady, Mugs, was not about to let Carl push her around.
She established her territory early on and let Carl and Cutter know that, under no circumstances were they to get up on the recliner with his Dawn.
Mugs told my dogs, in no uncertain terms, that this was her person and this would be her chair while she was here.
She was always ready for the camera... a star was born.

There were some tense moments but all in all, the relationship between the dogs went well enough that
 Mugs finally relaxed, curled up and took a nap.

The first day Carl watched some TV , like he usually does, but never moved from his position near Mugs. He was very nonchalant about it all. He always made sure that everything was under control and kept a watchful eye on her.
After he realized that Mugs wasn't going to cause trouble, or leave, he move himself to the couch and sat there watching Mugs with that regal "I'm in charge." look.

Cutter spent a lot of time right next to me.
 Then, he followed Mugs around ... like a puppy dog. I think he was in love.

We had a great week.
I showed Dawn what was left of our beautiful Mokelumne River and she even posed for a picture... the only one.
It was kind of sad that this was all I could show her of a river as majestic as the Mokelumne.
...the drought has taken its toll.

We spent one day in Sutter Creek. Had lunch and looked at all the stores and galleries. Most of the stores were closed. Business is not very good right now. There were signs in the windows of some shops saying that they were closed because of... lack of people, slow business and sales.
We had lunch and then hit the ice cream store.
Oh that Root Beer float was so good.
We bought some fudge. We ate fudge for dessert that night.
Dawn just lost 60 pounds. she looks so good. I think she may never speak to me again. But, we sure enjoyed the fudge.

One day we went to Walmart. We both had things to buy. My chickens need their scratch. They stop laying if they think that I'm not taking care of them like the Prospector does. Even a chicken can get an attitude.

At some point Dawn broke her glasses, so we went to an eye clinic in Sutter Hill.
That is when we noticed the cloud. I knew it had something to do with the fire but it wasn't until we got up on Ridge Road that we saw this huge cloud clearly.
I stopped twice to take some images of this massive Pyroclumulus cloud that was being produced by the King fire. Check this out. Massive, scary and getting bigger as we watched it.
It's one of those "worlds coming to an end" images, with smoke and clouds that you only see over a huge fire. It was actually creating its own weather. Amazing, and beautiful. 
We stopped a few times along the ridge. So were other folks. It was a sight to see.
We are about 30 miles from Placerville and the fire was northeast from there. It started in Pollock Pines on highway 50. They have arrested someone for arson.
We drove up to the Jackson Ranchera Casino. It was very busy. (Doesn't anyone work for a living anymore?) We had confined the dogs together in the backyard for quite a while. I thought that we should go home... so we didn't go into the casino and we didn't loose any money.
We drove home and spent another evening talking about our families and living in Pleasant Hill, CA. in the 50's and 60's . It was a great place to grow up.
On Thursday we stretched the day out until it was late afternoon and she had to go. Her husband asked if I could meet him down at the Walmart parking lot. He had gone to visit with his daughter in Alameda. Guess my steep, dirt road was a little intimidating for his RV. on that first trip up, so I drove Dawn and Mugs down town. They had to be in Modesto the next day and wanted to get there before dark.
We hugged and hugged... and she started crying. she cries a lot... but that's OK. 
I told her to text me along the way. She did.
They are heading back to Michigan now, with little Mugs. I think they did an awful lot of driving, but they saw lots of family and Dawn and I got to connect with each other again. That was huge!!
Whats the poem..

Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold.
New-made friendships, like new wine,
Age will mellow and refine.
Friendships that have stood the test-
Time and change-are surely best;
Brow may wrinkle, hair grow gray;
Friendship never knows decay.
For 'mid old friends, tried and true,
Once more we our youth renew.


I hope to go visit Dawn next Fall. We won't lose each other again.

(I'm leaving tomorrow for a week. Sis and I are going to Art Is You in Petaluma. This is our annual creative workshop we always do together.  I will have lots of photos and stories when I get back and some pillowcases to tell you about.)

Sunday, September 7, 2014


I brought the last Gladiolus blooms into the house a few days ago, The bugs were starting to dine on the buds

 I wanted this beautiful flower to last as long as possible...
So I put it in a small pitcher, slicing the stem diagonally to absorb more water. Then I placed the flower on the sink, near the window...  It has been so lovely to have this flower greet me these last few mornings.

Such simple beauty and yet so complicated. If this flower could talk, I'm sure it would have all kinds of wonderful things to say.
The leaves sparkle their "Good morning" to me as I prepare my drink at the counter. The Prospector, usually outside, comes in and says "Good morning" too. The aroma of the coffee, the foamy milk, the coolness of the morning and the little dog waiting, at my feet... It is, I realize, one of the rituals of my life.
 I carry a whole graham cracker and half of a banana, on a napkin, with the mug of coffee, watching that I don't trip on anything. I'm not really awake until I finish my first cup of coffee. This is a risky walk from the kitchen to the living room without caffeine... It's done with care.
 I sit down on the couch and the Corgi boys take their places on each side of me. They get one scoop of foam from my cup. A different finger for each dip. Then they wait for a piece of graham cracker at the end.
This is how the ritual goes.
I slowly wake up.
I think about what we need to do today... where I need to start.
The dogs leave... hearing some invisible noise.
I return to the kitchen and pour another cup of coffee.
As I stand at the kitchen sink, I think about the blessings in my life.
They are many. I say a quiet thank you.

And the gladiolus sits in its little white pitcher.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Sister time...Sharing my world with my closest ally

Sis was here a week ago for a long weekend. Her world and her loves are time consuming and sometimes demanding of her lovingkindness and big heart. So she calls me up, saying ... "Can I come up for a few days. I need a respite." She is always welcome. The only person that never needs an invitation or reason... well there are a few other people I feel this way about, but none that I say "Yes." to without question.
So she came, with her tired body and the anticipation of sleeping in, taking naps and wandering with her older sister.
We, of course, came to the river. We always have to stand on a rock and contemplate the river's beauty.
A cadence of movement and harmony, of fluid peacefulness.

The place that lets you feel its presence.

That asks you to step onto its ancient bedrock and smooth stones...

To walk across its bridges...

To understand where it comes from...

And where it's going.
To find yourself looking at something bigger and older than man's history of it and finding reassurance in that thought.

I watch my sister relax. I see her smile, talking politics with the Prospector... having patience and understanding with a different point of view. I see the little girl who still loves the man I married so long ago.

We also do the things that we always do... going to see Sandy at Country Living in Amador City and having lunch at Andres. We buy one small ceramic piece of art at a gallery in Sutter Creek, by a favorite artist, and we stopped at Wal Mart, on the way home, for some essentials. There are no Trader Joe's or Whole Foods here. We have a good time, laughing at the long lines and watching the interesting people. We are part of the potpourri.

But, always...  there are the long talks. The discussions about life. And...there are the quiet, peaceful naps, in the afternoon, with Carl, who allows Sis to cuddle up with him on the sofa bed and sleep. He thinks that this is his bed and that she is there because of his permissions. He is guarding her. What a dog! I think that this is a mutual admiration and agreement for both of them. I think they have discussed this without me.
She reads a book for hours each day, from beginning to end... a luxury of monumental proportions.
Carl, and sometimes Cutter, are always at her side.

The time goes by too quickly.
She is saying goodbye and " I love you. See you next month. I will call you about the workshop."
The visit is done. The car drives away, down the dirt road.
I wave and return to the house.

I have a sister. 
Life is good.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Deep thoughts...

In the spring I found this beautiful flower on the side of our country road.

This lovely, blue flower was a charming hello on my spring walk.

Tonight I saw it again and its end of the summer appearance is much different than before. 

The seeds are still inside waiting for the winds of Autumn to blow them back into the ground so they can reappear in the Spring of the following year.

This is why I think the concept of reincarnation has some merit.
There would be a seed inside of me that would wait...
In a place that no one can find... for its own safety.
When I die, whether I'm cremated or just put back into the ground, that seed will lay in wait, until the right forces are in play and then...
I will bloom again.
Only in a different way and I'm sure it's more complicated than this.
But, who knows...
Maybe it isn't. Maybe it's just that simple.
Maybe that seed is this flower's heaven...
And its hope.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Finding the heart of our unending Summer...

...One impulse from a vernal wood 
May teach you more of man, 
 Of moral evil and of good, 
Than all the sages can.
 Sweet is the lore which Nature brings; 
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things: 
We murder to dissect. 
Enough of science and of art; 
Close up those barren leaves;
 Come forth and bring with you a heart 
That watches and receives.

( William Wordsworth   'TheTablesTurned', stanzas 6^8.)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Walkin' the dog... down and back... kind of like a yoyo trick.

When we say, "Do the dogs want to go for a walk with us?", we better we darn sure that we are ready to go, because they know what this means.
We harness and leash them. Then off we go.
 They're are so conditioned. First they stick together, looking up the hill and watching for the deer... a little trepidation about the huge outdoors beyond the garden gate.
They start to pick up smells... deer poop, bird feathers, coyote scat, fox fur, turkey, rodents underground, snakes and so many other critters that only they can picked up with their amazing olfactory senses.
And then, they both have to leave their own mark... and so on we continued, down the road.

 This a ritual that they love. I haven't been taking them with me because they pull hard at the beginning of the downhill walk. Since the foot operation, I haven't been able to move at their speed. So, when the Prospector said... you know... those words that the Corgi boys understand... we all went together and the dogs thought they were in DOG HEAVEN. They consider this a great adventure.

The Poison Oak is in its end of the summer doldrums like everything else around here. But, it's pretty when it changes color and the leaves start to fall.
I'm fascinated by this hardy, invasive plant that looms everywhere around here, climbing into the oak trees and spreading into every nook and cranny that it finds. It is a force to be reckoned with. It's just like the rattlesnakes and insects that have a built in survival instinct. It's beautiful but powerful, like so many things in the woods. I have a healthy respect for this plant. It has "bitten" me before.

We continued past the clinging poison oak and walked down to the switch back. We decided to turn around because it was getting darker.
 The dogs found the gopher condos on the side of the road.
They went nose to ground... and sniffed deeply into each hole.  I'm sure that the snakes use these tunnels too, so I always worry about the dogs noses. We moved on.
 The sun was setting making huge thunderheads pink in the distance, as the rain clouds slow moved to the east and disappeared. No more rain for a while...
It wasn't a long walk. Just enough for us to stretch our legs and to let the dogs make their joyful noise.

When we returned to the yard, they wanted to run around the garden for a while. This is their domain, their "familiar".
Cutter was tired. He sat on the steps with the Prospector and waited...
... for the front door to magically open.  He was still hearing animal sounds in the hills. These are fearful sounds to Cutter. His bravery was gone.
He was ready to lay down in the safety of his house. "Can we go inside please?"

Carl, on the other hand, wasn't finished with "outside". He thought he was at first, but then...
He went to chase a lizard who had to audacity to run across the rocks within the corner of Carl's peripheral vision. He didn't catch it and within a few minutes he was back.
"I'm really ready now." and he was.

We all went into the house. The Prospector to read a little, the dogs to rest and dream of their great adventure and myself to spend some time at the computer ( way too much time...). 
It was a good walk. The dogs were happy. 
We stretched our legs and we will sleep better for it.
Outside... it was dark now. 
What a difference a few minutes makes.
We were safe inside our home.
Life is good.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The magic of one sunset.

I have been so antsy the last few days and driving downtown to the grocery store or going to lunch with the Prospector just wasn't enough to rid me of my restlessness. So, this evening , just as the sun was setting. I took my first walk, down to the switch back and then back up to the house, since the operation. I told the man watching the ball game, in the livingroom that I was going for a walk. I took my camera and walked toward the back door.
The Prospector said, "Are you sure?"
I said, "It's time." and he said, "Well, be careful."

I'm wearing two shoes that match now. I feel like a normal person again.
The "black boot" is gone and my very comfortable Skecher's GoWalk slip on shoes, with the great arch support and wide fit, are being broken in. My left foot is still a little swollen and sensitive. It just needs some exercise.
The walk started with a bit of trepidation. I have been walking only on flat surfaces and not very far. I felt a bit off balance, so it's a good thing that I wasn't greeted by any angry animals or snakes. I would not have been able to run... from anything. I thought about that. It was not a good, mental picture of myself... trying to get away from a mountain lion. Worry was following me down the hill. My thoughts ran wild. But there were no predators to be seen... no sounds of rustling in the grass. Even the birds were quiet.

It's the heat. It dulls everything. I'm sure that smoke from the wildfires in the mountains give the wild animals concern too. They are probably all down at the river, thinking that the fires are coming closer and hoping that the water is a safe place to be. I'm only guessing... hoping... as I notice all the different scat on our road. They all come here... at night.
I guess I could swing my camera around by its strap and yell loudly. That's was going to be my plan as I continued walking... No plan at all really.
I walked slowly and carefully. The sun was setting and the sky was so beautiful. Lots of cloud cover today and that always makes for a wonderful sunset. The sky to the west was pink and blue, with grey clouds edged in white. I had to remind myself to pay attention to what I was doing. Looking at the sky while walking was akin to texting and driving.

When I got down to the "switchback", I looked up the hill to the west. It was like the sky in a Maxfield Parrish painting with its saturated hues and glowing clouds.
 I forgot about wild animals, my foot and the fact that darkness was falling fast. I just stood there and relished the incredible moment.
This was just what I needed. The sky was saying, " You haven't been paying attention. You've been wrapped up in your hurt foot and I've been here all along. Where have you been?"
I walked back up to the house and our cat, Annie, was waiting for me. We talked for a short while, Annie and I... and then I took one last, long look, before the darkness took the color from the sky.
Sometimes a prayer is in order... sometimes I see my world and I'm so thankful for being where I am that it brings tears. It's personal and it's needed.
I went for a walk...  I needed to be reminded of this place, again, and that it still holds the magic of one sunset.