“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



Saturday, September 4, 2010

Little Miss Muffet faces her Fears

A couple of weeks ago I told you about my visit to Sacramento to see my friend "C".  Then I was off to my sister's for a week and I almost forgot about THE INCIDENT.  First of all, I want you to take a good look at this photo that I took of an exceptionally beautiful Crepe Myrtle tree in the parking lot at "C"s apartment complex. Do you see that dark spot in the upper middle of the photo?
That is a very big SPIDER.
I was walking across the parking lot to my car and I saw this beautiful Crepe Myrtle tree in front of the car. I wanted to take a picture of the tree, so I unlocked the passenger side of the car and threw in everything except my Nikon and walk over to the curb near the tree. This is such an auto pilot thing for me to do that I sometimes don't think about where I'm walking. I just take the lens cap off and start shooting.
I stepped up onto the curb, looked through the camera and walked toward the tree. I often walk with my camera in front of my face and one of these days I'm going to trip on something and fall and break my neck. It's a really bad habit.
The tree was so beautiful with the afternoon sun filtering down through the branches. The iron fence and the stone pillars were behind the tree and I was busy framing the shot. All of a sudden I saw this dark blot  MOVING around in front of my lens. and at the same time I felt something touch my hand. I know the feeling of spider webs. My adrenaline is programed for SPIDER WEBS. I shot back into the parking lot and make a very strange noise. It's seems that I had been so busy trying to shoot this lovely tree that I failed to see this HUGE web in front of the tree and  the HUGE SPIDER preparing for dinner in the middle of it.
A man and woman that were getting into a car across the parking lot asked me what I was doing and walked over. I showed them the spider, pointing with my finger because I hadn't gotten my speech back yet. and he said..." OMG! That's a big spider.".... "Really?" I said as my voice quivered and restored itself. Then he said,. "It's a good thing you didn't run into it." My whole body vibrated at the thought. All I could say was "Yea.". If that spider had attached itself to me I would have been jumping up and down, running around and slapping myself all over that parking lot.... doing my famous Spider Dance. That's the dance I do at home when a spider crawls on me while I'm sitting quietly on the couch.
I was trying to be polite but my heart was beating so fast I thought I was going to have to sit down . I finally pulled myself together and we started talking about what kind of spider this might be. As far as I was concerned it was a BIG SPIDER. They said it was probably an Orb Weaver. They acted like they had studied these things in college. Do people actually study spiders as a major?
I decided to look calm and cool about all this so I took another picture....
 The web was a mess and she looked very annoyed. I guess all spiders look annoyed. I just never noticed before. She was moving all around trying to fix the web and there was a blob of white like a cotton ball above her. That could have been ME.
I do want you to know that I cropped these pictures in my Picasa 3 photo program. I was not this close to her. I'm sure I looked very professional but I was still in the parking space with a few feet between myself and her scary little body.  Then, as I took these pictures, I started to see her in a different light.
She was really quite beautiful. I thought to myself that her life must be a life of constantly putting things back together and looking for food.... and finding a mate....and having babies...and trying to make ends meet, so to speak. Not unlike most of us.
 Her abdomen looked like one of those big reflecting balls over a dance floor with glass pieces all over it that spins and reflects little bits of light on the dancers. She was really quite elegant.
The couple said goodbye and left. I was relieved that I could stop acting like I was all into this spider.... but  truth be known, I was finding her very interesting and maybe that's what has changed since this near death experience. I actually found a spider in the bathtub the other night, scooped it up into a plastic cup (with a lid on it of course) and took it outside. That's a breakthrough. I will even read more about them. But, I still don't want them touching me with their Apical claws or their Chelicerae. See, I looked that up.
I took a few photos of the Crepe Myrtle and headed for home. I think I saw her watching me as I pulled out of the parking space. She was probably glad to see me go. She was probably thinking.., "Clumsy old woman. First it's a bird, then it's a dragonfly and now this. Can't a spider ever get a break?"
So I leave you with two photos of the bottom of the Crepe Myrtle tree (Lagerstroemia Indica) because  I had to take my shot from  UNDERNEATH the web.
Look at the roots. Aren't they amazing? The tree bark becomes textured and slick as it sheds and grows.They are lovely little trees. This is a beautiful specimen.
Ms. spider wasn't attached to the tree. Her web was strung from the light standard to the iron fence. although she did have a neighbor on the other side of the tree that was attached. It's probably a good place at night because of the overhead light standard. Moths love to fly into those lights. I do hope she catches a lot of small insects. See? I understand her and the work involved with being a spider. I just want them to stay outside.... and quit running across the rug on warm summer nights... and never drop on me when I'm in bed.... and to stop sitting in my bathtub. Is that asking too much?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Women that live in my Garden

This is what they have to say....
" I am tired of the heat today. I'm glad I am planted with ivy. It's cooler under it's shade."

"I felt like I was lying on a beach all day today. Then someone splashed water on my face this evening and my complexion has survived another summer day."

"I live under three bushes and  the lavender always makes me smile."

"I'm at one with the garden and the sun shines on me all day. I am my artists girlfriend and I'm in love."

"In dwelling, live close to the ground,
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don't try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present."
~Tao te Ching~




Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Oakland has it all and IKEA too

This was Oakland, California in 1900.
 I think it must have been a beautiful town then.... not as crowded or diverse but with a much more rural appearance. This is still a great city. It's diverse population is an asset to the community because it shows how a variety of ethnic groups can live and work together when there is cooperation and effort. It has it's problems like any city does but I find I feel more comfortable here than in other cities. My oldest son lives here. If you're interested, go here for a bit of Oakland's history.
I have lived around this city all my life, but never in it. When I was a child my father worked at the Navel Supply Center, here, near the Bay Bridge. Because we lived to the east in a very small town (at the time). We went to Oakland for everything. We shopped here, we went to movies here and spent a lot of time at Lake Merritt, Jack London's square, Broadway and MacArthur Blvd (at Kaiser Hospital where my sister was born), and visiting friends who did live here. Now, so many years later, my son lives here. I'm getting to know this town much better than I ever did when I was growing up.
For all of you who know this area here's a trivia question. What's missing in the above picture? I mean besides the thousands of houses that have been built since then. Look out toward San Francisco. Look at the bay area. What's missing?...... Bridges?  There are no bridges. No Golden Gate connecting San Francisco to Marin County (The Golden Gate wasn't completed until 1937). No Bay Bridge connecting Oakland  to San Francisco. There were lots of Ferries, but no bridges. How strange for those of us who always remember the bridges. How different it must have been.
I stayed an extra day so I could go see "M" and the improvements on his little bungalow in the upper Laurel district (now he tells me that it's really in Redwood Heights). I'm not that sure what it's called. I just know how to get there.
This little house is, I think, only about 700 sq. ft. all together. It was built in 1911. It was probably a caretakers cottage on a large estate or farm. There was this scary little bathroom that was added to the back porch a long time ago when who ever lived in it decided to bury the outhouse. I was in fear of "M"s life when he took a shower. The whole bathroom tilted. You had to hold on to the sink when you used the toilet. This little house needed some tender loving care. Now, it's getting some thanks to my son and the man next door who is a contractor, neighbor and very nice guy.
They have added a bedroom and a new bath to the back of the house. OMG! It's beautiful....and a laundry, and a new back entrance. It just so exciting.... so exciting that I forgot to take pictures this time because I were so busy getting a rundown from "M"s neighbor, meeting his wife, looking at paint patches on the wall and helping make decisions about flooring and paint color.
We drove to Home Depot to buy a mirror and towel set for the bathroom.Then it was time for dinner so "M" drove us to Emeryville to the new redeveloped area that had restaurants, condos and very efficient parking.
The weather was cold and windy. I wanted to bottle it up and bring it home with me.  We ate at the California Pizza Kitchen above the "Main Street" and I had a chicken, pesto, artichoke and cheese pizza that was wonderful. We went down onto the "PLAZA" and got a cookie at a cupcake store. Yes, they have stores that only sell cupcakes and cookies. Amazing.
The weather was so beautiful. My son was cold. He likes warm weather. He's a runner and soccer player so he likes "pleasant" weather. I was in my element. Maybe I need to live by the ocean instead of the dry foothills.
Then we drove to IKEA.
I don't even know where to begin, so I guess I'll start with the entrance.....
This is the biggest most entertaining store I have ever been in. You have to experience this store just once. This is my second time and I'm still in awe of the size and volume of things in this store.
When you inter the store you can pick up catalogs....


... a paper tape measure and a pencil....and if you are hungry there is a cafe that has world renowned SWEDISH MEAT BALLS. Even one of my comments mentioned them.
And then the entertainment begins....
There are floors of everything that you will every need to fill the inside of a home....from decor to whole bedrooms....
Everything is set up so you can see what your space will look like.... together and with prices, sq. footage and accessories.
I loved this bedroom with it's pale lavender walls and black and white everything else.



But this one was my favorite...
Very French and La Boheme. I love the free standing closet and the black iron bed. The whole room was just charming. I thought IKEA just had really modern, kind of generic furniture but some of this furniture is really more traditional.... and the best part is that it's not very expensive. You do have to assemble everything yourself.
This was "M"s favorite kitchen. That's the next part of his renovation and he liked this kitchen. It would be on a smaller scale for his space.

The counter tops are granite and the cabinet fronts are bead board or glass. I doubt that he would want this quantity of glass front cabinets but maybe a couple would be nice. The farm sink is really big and the tile backsplash would be very easy to keep clean. 
There was another one that he liked too. It was more modern and sleek...
This kitchen was more the size that would fit the space he has and was less expensive. I liked it too.
Can you believe all of this? There were whole sections with mock ups of different kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms like this. There were areas with just beds and mattresses. A whole corner with chairs, couches and one with desks and offices. Then, they had a floor of children's things. It's all there if your feet can hold up. Mine finally said "Enough" and we headed for the front door, following the arrows,  hoping to make it to the car before my feet gave out completely  and I dreamed of rubbing in some Aspercream later on. 
I hope you get to see one of these IKEA stores someday. You won't be sorry.... but give yourself at least half a day. This isn't just a walk to the chicken coop.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sleepover with the Bambinos.

This morning we set up our annual display at the Jackson Library in town.
All the members bring a couple of finished gourds and we put them on display for a month. It's a good way to show the local folks what we do and encourages anyone who might be interested in joining our club. I think it turned out great. The bottom right photo is of a gourd that will be given to someone in a drawing at the Amador Flower Farm Festival next month. It's an amazing piece of art created by Judy Arrigotti, a well known gourd artist. The theme is about gold mining and specifically hard rock mining which was prevalent in this area. Please click on the above photo for a closeup of what talented people we have in our group.

Now....getting back to my trip down to my sisters.... My son and daughter in law went to the ocean overnight so guess who got to stay with her two bambinos and have a sleepover?
We made forts in the living room....


We played in the backyard....

And I gave them a few chores to do..... which they, surprisingly, really got into.

I let them rest on the patio table and taught them about being silent so they could tell me what they heard with their eyes closed....
It was hard to keep their eyes closed so we just listened....

Then we went to the school playground...
 They rode their bikes, watched the soccer practice on the field, played on the school playground and ran their little bodies ragged.... and Noni too.

Of course we had some "bean" filled moments when they didn't want to do what I asked or argued with each other, but generally we had a great time and even though I was tired, it was a good tired. 
Noni loves her Bambino Beans.   

Monday, August 30, 2010

Breathing a sigh of relief.

This photo of my nephew was taken almost a year ago. I love this photo of him. He and I were keeping company for the day and I decided to take him for a drive out to Saint Mary's College in the Moraga hills. We drove around the campus and then we parked in front of the soccer field to take some pictures.  It was a day I remember with fondness because it was a rare day when I felt like I saw him in a different light. He finally said "Go home?" and so we did.
Ben is 16 years old and has just been through a very confusing week. His operation to repair a detached and torn retina was successful, but the few days after the surgery were very hard on him. He didn't understand why this has happen so it was very confusing for him. He had a couple of really scary days. So did his parents. When I left yesterday he was sitting on the sofa, looking out the window and saying "C go home?" and I said "Yes, Ben, I have to go home today." He didn't want a kiss, but I got a couple of tentative teenage hugs from him when I arrived so I figured I was way ahead of the game. Kisses are for babies, you know.
He has seen the doctor twice since the operation and things are OK. He will wear a patch until he has the lens put back into his eye. Now, he and his parents can, hopefully, get some rest and  at least put the worry of this operation behind them.
Thanks to all of you who sent good wishes to Ben. That will come back to you in so many ways. I really appreciate the sweet comments.  Blogging comments are kind of like candles that are kept lit while you are away dealing with other important issues in your life. Thanks for the lit candles.

I stayed an extra day so I could spend some time with my oldest son "M" who lives in Oakland. I'm glad I did this. I got to see the work that's being done on his house. We went to dinner, and spent a wonderful evening at IKEA....seriously. IKEA is an amazing store. It's an EVENT that you have to experience. It was just the kind of day I love. I will tell you about it tomorrow
 I will tell you about staying overnight with my grand kids. We "builded" forts in the living room, raked leaves in the backyard and rode bikes to the school. It gave my son "J" and my daughter-in-law an overnight vacation at the ocean. They deserve it.
 I drove home yesterday afternoon and was greeted by my Prospector and two wild Corgis. It was all good. So today.... "Noni" is going to sit quietly and do nothing.... for the whole day. Today, Farmlady is going to be "at one" with the farm.