"People from a planet without flowers
would think we must be mad with joy the whole time
to have such things about us."
~Iris Murdoch, A Fairly Honourable Defeat

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Waiting for Clouds

The day after the rain, last week, I went to town. I shop at WalMart. I don't have the luxury of "boycotting" WalMart because I would have to drive 60 miles to find another store that has as good prices. So please don't ask me why I was in this store. I'm ALWAYS in this store... at least once a week.
When I finished shopping I drove up to the end of the road that dead ends in a field above the store. Someday this road will probably have more stores...hopefully a Target or a Kaiser clinic. We need more population and we need an improved economy. It will happen... some day.
The clouds were beautiful. I had to get out and take some pictures. The sky was so blue and filled with the most amazing clouds.
This was looking from the dead end road above WalMart...
 north, toward Sutter Creek. The clouds went on for miles. It was like a painting.

I turned around and took this one toward the south.
There were still dark areas of rain waiting to be released. I think that one on the left was  sitting over my house to the southeast of town. I love the dark ones. Such potential for mother nature to show us her power. I'm sure a good therapist would have something to say about my love of storms. I feel so alive when we have something besides the clear and sunny atmosphere that is so common in these parts.
I love nasty, windy, stormy weather. I love to be out in it. Standing in it. Breathing in its strength and anger. Yep! I'm sure I need a good psychotherapist to help me explain this appetite for storms.

Then I turned to the west, toward the Central Valley of California, where most of our storms come from.
More rain was coming...rolling in on the thermals. Thermals are one of the many sources of lift used by birds  to soar or float up into the sky. Maybe that's what I wish for... to fly with the red tail hawks and the turkey vultures.
I wrote a poem about dreaming that I could fly once. I wrote it in a post about four years ago.
I don't want to be in an airplane up there. I want to fly like a bird... free of the trappings of earth.
A little more about me that you didn't know...

That night the sky reflected the sunset as most of the clouds blew east.
All the clouds were reflecting the last rays of the sunset.
 The TV news was talking about SNOW in the mountains for the first time this year.

The clouds are gone now. The sky is clear. The sun was hot as I sat on the porch a while ago. The snakes must be confused, feeling the warmth in their underground holes. Maybe the cold nights will keep them down there. Hope so.
The clouds will return and the wind will blow again. So I wait, with as much patience I can muster, for Winter to arrive.
 It will be worth waiting for, like the joy of Christmas morning when I were a kid.
It gives me hope and restores my faith in something tangible and new. Winter is the present under my tree... the long waited for gift of Nature.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Finally...

The rattlers have gone back into the earth for a few months.We only had two of them visit us this year. One, found behind the house, overstepped its boundaries, put my dogs in harms way and is now in snake heaven.
 The second one was on the road below the house... a small, but angry little guy, crossing in front of my car when I was driving home. Even the small ones carry quite an attitude. It flipped into a coil and wiggled his rattle-less tail at me. I had to laugh. It was so tiny. I let it pass.
The Prospector says I will regret this act of kindness when it comes back next summer bigger and meaner.
But,I couldn't run over it.
So be it.

Today it's beautiful. Sunny, clear and there's a fragrance of Fall in the air. This morning we worked on the hillside below the house cutting bushes and clearing debris from under them. The Prospector and I don't know when to stop and we worked way too long. We will probably regret this tonight.
The rain arrived a few days ago.  RAIN... glorious RAIN,  and it was cold, by California standards.
After a night of rain, I woke up with a desire for hot cereal. So I cooked some Cream of Wheat with some blueberries in it.
One of my favorite "cold weather" breakfasts.

 Then I went for a walk up to the orchard and our well. It's safe to walk into the grass now while it's wet, but I still watch were I'm walking just to be sure that an arrant Rattler hasn't decided to hibernate yet. I wear boots and long pants as well. You can't be too careful.
You never know what lurks in the grass. 

The hillside was glistening with raindrops. 
I took the low road because it is still a better road to walk on and I can see what's coming. The upper road continues up to the top of the hill and on to a distant farm. This was our escape route in last summer's fire.
The road to the right stops at the orchard and burn barrel. There is a turn around at the end.  It's just a utility road for us. Maybe some day we will have a storage barn there, even though it's quite a distance from the house. The road is good and we can drive it with any of our vehicles... even the "other women", (the 38' Chevy) can make it up there.
The sun was trying to break though the clouds. I felt like I was under a dome of  backlit cotton.
The fence gate had rows of raindrops lining the wire.
Many of the barbs on the fence had drops of water dripping from them.
This one had a complete miniature, upside down, reflection of its surroundings.
And, on the fence gate, I found a cocoon. I wonder what wonderful life force is developing inside that amazing little work of art.
I found a tiny bird egg lying on the ground. The ants had found it too.
I walked back toward the house thinking about the long hot summer that I dread so. I thought about the way that each season comes, with unique gifts, and leaves quietly, with the promise of their habitual return.
I will miss the flowers of summer, the vegetables... the smell of dry oaks and Toyon. I will miss sitting in the middle of the Mokelumne River with a gold pan. I will even miss the snakes. Yes... even the snakes.
But...I will not miss summer now... for a while. I was ready for this day... the cool wind, the cloudy sky and the changing leaves crunching under my feet. The berries of the Toyon are darkening and will soon be my outdoor decorations for Christmas.
   This is what I have been waiting for. This is when all fears leave and my soul remembers why we chose to live in this beautiful place.
I think I will make soup tonight...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Haiku

A pear tree leaf blows...
Onto the rain watered porch...
 Reflecting heaven.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Capturing Pinecrest wildlife with my Nikon D5100

“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~
This crow was captured on the beach using my new camera's continuous release mode (up to 4 frames per second). I'm able to take pictures in quick session when I want a series of the same subject. I love the sequence of its landing, almost like a moving video but more affective because you don't see movement, so it doesn't distract from the other parts of the photo... like the rocks and the shadows.


When the crow landed, I realized that he had a broken foot. It was bent and he couldn't stand on it.  This series of photos show the bird trying to keep its balance while it hopped around looking for food. It fell a few times, but eventually decided that flying was easier and flew away. Again, I love the ability of this camera to take quick photos in sequence. They kind of tell a story.
The first afternoon I saw a squirrel emerging from a drain near the tennis courts. With fast shutter speed and continuous release I was able to catch his bold little move up onto the concrete walk before he saw me and did an about face back into the drain. This all happen within seconds and I would never have caught this little guy in action without the continuous shutter release and subject tracking autofocus.
I need to work on all of these controls. There are so many and I haven't even gotten to the manual modes yet.
This Blue Jay would have been so much clearer with a tripod or monopod. I have both. I hate to admit it but they were left at home. This is another reason to have all your equipment with you. No matter how still you hold the camera you will always get a better photo with a tripod. The crow sequence would have been more difficult to take with a tripod  because I was on sand and moving around. In that case a monopod can be a more flexible choice. I find the monopod is more likely to be used (as compared to the tripod) when I have it with me. It's easy and I can move it faster. I just like my monopod better.  But, both were sitting in my extra room at home... a lot of good either did me.
I love this photo. Footprints in the muddy sand. This was a very large crow or maybe a Raven. I'm not sure. All that was there were its silent footsteps. I love the contrast of the pale rocks, the dark sand and the deep prints of the bird.

Then there was this guy...
protecting its space on the porch of our motel. It had a huge web attached to a fire extinguisher on the motel wall, right next to our room's front window. SOMEONE needs to sweep that porch down once in a while.
 If there was a fire? Do you think I would have reached into that box to use the extinguisher? I think not. Let the place burn. There's no way that I would touch this spider or its web. I know. I'm a wimp when it comes to Arachnids.
That fluffy, gray and indistinguishable mass that the spider was heading for?...That would be me, in my worst nightmare. The spider carried the small insect across the wall and into a hole on the side of the fire box. My spine shivered as I watched. I think it was a moth or small butterfly, but the poor thing's nightmare was over. The moth was food for the spider or its babies now. Eck!

This Daddy Longleg was quietly watching the whole thing.  I decided it was time to go for a walk. Sitting on that porch was like waiting for the next scene in a horror film.
The motel was clean and had no spiders inside. NONE! I checked. It would have been kind of cold and uncomfortable but I would have slept in the car if these guys had been on the inside... or the Prospector would have had to do a Woody Allen /Annie Hall/ "spider in the bathroom" re-creation. He has saved the day before.