For my daughters and grandchildren

I’m here.

I’ve shown up.

This is my second time at a small writing group gathering to learn more about writing ones “Life Story” for their children and grandchildren.

What am I thinking?

What am I doing here?

I’m not a writer.

Who am I kidding?

What is driving me to try this? 

I don’t know!

Maybe I can start small, just a short essay, or another blog post.

If I practice, and practice, and practice, and put in my 10,000 hours, could I really become a writer?  I don’t even have a burning desire to write. But I enjoy recording the stories of my simple life observations.

There’s only one way to find out if I can write and that is to start, and then to stick with it.

My parents were actually told to not expect much from me by my high school English teacher, Mr. Bruce Robertson.  He even cautioned that they shouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t make it to college. More on that another time.

So, the next questions are what to write about? What do I love? 

Nature and solitude.

So I’ll start small and close to home.

My quarter acre retreat.

Morning often finds me taking 10 minutes, with my first cup of coffee, outside, observing my garden. 

You see, I’m a “dolphin”.

Oh, that’s my chronotype. Dolphins are rare. Let me transition here before I barely get started.

The dolphin chronotype describe me to a T. Dolphins have a hard time waking up. Stick with me here, we’ll get back out in the garden in a minute. 

The author of the book The Power of When, Dr. Michael Breus, writes about our chronotypes and recommends that dolphins get exposure to bright light to wake up. If you don’t know your chronotype, I recommend reading the book. You’ll learn more about how you are driven by your innate circadian rhythms. Anyway, this is why I’m in my garden observing nature at its finest.

It is an early fall morning. Not too early, but not mid-morning either.  The sun is rising but still low in the sky and the shadows are long as the morning rays strike my California fuchsia from a low eastern angle backlighting the reddish-orange tubular flowers making them appear iridescent. 

The critters that share my suburban community are already up and busy.

A single hummingbird visits the early sunlit red flowers. But only one hummer at a time. These tiny colorful birds are territorial and don’t like sharing.  Within a short period of time, another swoops in on the one feeding. A high-speed chase ensues. In a flash of color and wings, the two birds are gone. 

A few native bees and honey bees are already visiting the same bush. A honey bee lands on the throat of a flower with open anthers and a sticky stigma. It proceeds to climb, wiggle and pull itself into the flower. It disappears into the tube. If you look now, you’d never know there is a full-size honey bee down the tube. I wait for it. The flower begins to jiggle. I tiny bee butt starts to appear. First the black and white stripes, then two long bent golden legs. Finally, a fuzzy body, more legs, and a fuzzy head slide down the stamens. The bee takes flight to its next receptive flower, seeking its reward of a tiny bit of sweet nectar. Payment will be made in full as the bee leaves a bit of pollen behind to fertilize the flowers eggs deep within the bloom.

In the oak behind me, I hear the repetitive rhythmic call of a chick-a-dee. It is echoed by another off in the distance. The crescendo of birds near and far builds like a tuning orchestra. 

Simultaneously, I hear a rather loud and shrill scrapping sound. I had heard this exact same sound the other day.  When I investigated the source of the grinding and scraping, I found a squirrel sitting on the fence, with a 5-inch section of dry cow bone, like the kind one might buy for their dog. It appeared to be sharpening its teeth on the bone and with each gnawing, this odd bone rattling, tooth grinding sound emanated forth. I startled the squirrel that day and the bone fell into my yard.  How in the world did this small critter get this bone up onto the fence? The grinding commenced again this morning as I took another bite of my frittata.

A moment later, a familiar chase sound begins. I turn to look upward to see two common oak tree visitors. With their bushy tails flickering and tiny paws and toenails grabbing at the oak bark, another friendly backyard critter chase begins. The second critter chase of my morning.  The sound of the squirrels fast moving claws on the bark is almost like the tinkling of gently falling glass shards as the two playfully chase each other. The chase ends as fast as it started with a leap into the neighbor’s palm tree. A quick flutter of fronds, then nothing, just the gently barely perceptible cool morning breeze. 

The warmth of the new dawn on this fall morning begins to evaporate the minuscule amount of morning dew visible on solid surfaces. The dew is only slightly perceptible on the plants with tiny hairs. Native plants survive the long summer dryness in this Mediterranean climate of central California by having tiny leaf surface hairs which are capable of capturing the slightest amount of moisture from the air.

My chickens scratch the ground, rustling through recently fallen oak leaves. These first autumn leaves of the season drift downward to become food for the overwintering soil decomposers. 

There is a clanking sound as a tumbling acorn bounces off a solid surface on it’s way to the ground. The magic of that morning sun which heats up and expands a layer of cells in the stem of the acorn just enough for it to separate from its attachment point on the thin twig.

No signs yet of the blue belly or alligator lizards. Later in the day the butterflies and dragonflies will come to visit. The native chaparral sages will release their fresh scent as the day warms. 

I will remain blissfully ignorant of the billions of soil microbes, bacteria, fungi, and earthworms busy below my feet.

And then, my peaceful morning is interrupted by the squealing and grinding noise of a circular saw cutting a 2×4. My neighbor’s contractor has arrived. Pulled back to the reality of my day, it is time to start tackling the never-ending to-do list. The rising sun has done its job in so many ways. I’m feeling awake and ready to take on the day.

What a blessing to be able to start my day in nature. Eating my breakfast frittata and drinking my morning cup of coffee.

To my daughters and grandchildren: never stop pausing long enough to notice and love nature.

Comments and suggestions welcomed as I begin, continue and travel into and along this storytelling adventure

Allergies and oak pollen

If you have seasonal allergies to oak pollen, I would suggest you avoid central California, my yard or stay inside. I know this happens every spring but the coating of pollen seems extra thick this year.

Just a mere week or so ago we had rain and freezing temperatures. Then the temperature shot up to the 80’s the last few days and in the photos below you can see what coats my backyard bricks, tables and chairs. What’s even scarier is I cleaned the yard yesterday and wiped the tables down.

My pet hens are very happy to gobble up the pollen which is highly nutritious and will help color their yolks an even deeper orange.

2017 Year Of Prisma iPhonography

In 2017 I discovered the Prisma App for iPhonography.  People love the images I’ve created and so do I.  I decided my year of photos in review this year would be 12 images edited with the Prisma App. Enjoy.

My year of iPhonography – 2016.

I was surprised to realize one doesn’t need to travel far to find objects or scenes of interest and intrigue. I picked 12 of my favorite images from 2016. Surprisingly, half of my favorites were taken within yards of my house, others from just a few miles away.

How did I pick these twelve shots? I quickly went through my images and labeled ones that were favorites. I then selected ones that created an emotion, feeling or memory for me.  Not just another record shot. I then sorted the 80+ images into sets: black and white, food, landscapes, macro’s, people, animals, insects, artistry shots and such. I then narrowed it down to one or two from each category.

I’m certainly learning what interests me and along the way I’m surprised that my passion in photography turned out to NOT be just macro’s of flowers. It will be interesting to see what 2017 brings as I acquired my new iPhone and DXO camera attachment towards the 2nd half of 2016. I’m just beginning to learn the new phone and camera features. I hope 2017 allows me the time to take more photos and to explore new ways to see life.

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Make Believe Fireflies
Shot with DxO ONE
First Shot
Shot with DxO ONE Image provided to yosemite conservancy limited one time social media use. 9/19/2016 saved Large 820x1200
The Classic Shot
Shot with DxO ONE
Lornful
Shot with DxO ONE
Fireside Light
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Curl
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Toy Life
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Wings Of Glass
Moonlight On The Mountain
Moonlight On The Mountain
Shot with DxO ONE
Evening Layers
Shot with DxO ONE
Forbidden Offerings
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One Last Look

Forest Walk

Day two of our weekend get away to McKenzie River area of central Oregon found us deciding between taking a walk through the forest or riding out near Cougar Reservoir.

We had thoroughly enjoyed a slow morning, plenty of fresh coffee, a delicious breakfast prepared by our BnB host, Sharon, of the McKenzie River Round House BnB.  We enjoyed the company of the host, her husband, the other guests including a pair of cyclists who are riding their bikes across America.  They are a delightful couple from Munich, Germany.  The other guests were a math professor from Rutgers University and his family.  We had the most interesting morning conversations with them.

BnB hosts and German bike tourists riding across America
BnB hosts with the German bike tourists riding across America

We said our goodbye’s to the German couple after exchanging blog URL’s.  You can check out their progress at QuerDurch!!

On our way back from the McKenzie Pass summit ride the day before we had stopped at the local bike shop in McKenzie Bridge to check it out.  I had noted that they sold a good selection of maps.  Not knowing where to hike we stopped in again in the late morning to pick up a map and to inquire where we could hike and hopefully avoid the crowd of folks hiking into the famous Blue Pool. It was now a weekend day and we had heard about the hordes of people that had descended  on the area the weekend before and the overflowing parking area.  Not the kind of scene I enjoy being a part of.

The young man in the shop had some ideas.  One which sounded promising was a hike out Rainbow Ridge Trail leading to a rock outcropping and potential view of a distant waterfall.  Sounded good to us so we headed up the road and made the turn onto a dirt road.  We continued for a few miles and found the well marked trailhead.

The following are a selection of photos from our hike/stroll through the forest.  What was most delightful about this hike is that we did not see another sole the entire time until we drove back out on the dirt road.

Flowers carpeting the forest floor.
Flowers carpeting the forest floor.
Water droplets covered the vegetation from recent rain.
Water droplets covered the vegetation from recent rain.
A true walk in the woods.
A true walk in the woods.
Delicate flowers offset by the darkness of the forest.
Delicate flowers offset by the darkness of the forest.
One of many creatures living on the forest floor.
One of many creatures living on the forest floor.
One of many fallen trees covered in lush moss.
One of many fallen trees covered in lush moss.
Rock outcrop, Rainbow Falls way off in distance, lunch stop.
Rock outcrop, Rainbow Falls way off in distance, lunch stop.
I loved the filtered light through the vine maples.
I loved the filtered light through the vine maples.
An opening in the forest confirming we really were walking along a ridge trail.
An opening in the forest confirming we really were walking along a ridge trail.
Noon light hitting the forest floor.
Noon light hitting the forest floor.
Meandering trail often hidden by the vegetation.
Meandering trail often hidden by the vegetation.
Banana slug, it's Oregon!
Banana slug, it’s Oregon!
Natural moss covered arch.
Natural moss covered arch.
I'm thinking this is a native fly.
I’m thinking this is a native fly.
Another pollinator of the forest.
Another pollinator of the forest.
Sahalie Falls (After our hike, after the crowds had dissipated.
Sahalie Falls (After our hike, after the crowds had dissipated.
Yes, the water was this blue.
Yes, the water was this blue on the McKenzie River.

 

 

Koosah Falls
Koosah Falls

Our McKenzie Pass Ride Photo Essay

Ready to ride, looking forward to the day.
Ready to ride, looking forward to the day.
Beginning in a fir forest.
Beginning in a fir forest.
Stops to enjoy nature
Stops to enjoy nature
Native Rhododendron
Native Rhododendron
Botanizing
Botanizing
We must be on the right path.
We must be on the right path.
Our first view of lava, popping out of the forest.
Our first view of lava, popping out of the forest.
Two more miles
Two more miles
We made it to the summit.
We made it to the summit.
Road was closed to cars and open to just cyclists. View of road from Dee Wright Observatory
Road was closed to cars and open to just cyclists. View of road from Dee Wright Observatory
NE View - Black Butte Mnt.
NE View – Black Butte Mnt.
Incoming Hail. Yep, about to get a facial
Incoming Hail. Yep, about to get a facial
Heading down, with rain, wind and hail, yet we still have smiles because we made it.
Heading down, with mixed snow and rain, wind and hail, yet we still have smiles because we made it.

The ride up to McKenzie Pass from the west side proved to be far easier then either of us expected.  We realize we underestimate the grade and difficulty of Mt. Diablo which we use to train on weekly.  I really felt over prepared which is not a bad thing.  Our original plan was to ride from McKenzie Bridge over to Sister’s and then back the next day.  However, turned out this was the week of the Sister’s Rodeo and I was finding suitable lodging in Sister’s hard to find.  So we decided it would be just as fun to ride up to the pass and back down the same way.  We stayed at a delightful new BnB in Vida, OR called the McKenzie River Round House BnB.  The next day we had planned to do some more riding but instead found a great hike through the forest along Rainbow Ridge Trail with a view of Rainbow Falls.  We later drove to see two more water falls.  I will post pictures of our hike and the falls in the next blog.  This ride convinced us that we will be doing more touring.

Parenting Philosophy

Parenting! Never easy and no two children are the same. Once again, I have been hearing about challenging children and challenged parents, parenting or NOT!  Maybe because last Sunday was Mother’s Day I’ve been thinking about what was my parenting philosophy.

Yes, I had my challenges with my girls. Days of doubt, frustration, anger and disappointment. But, as most any parent will tell you, they will do just absolutely anything for their child.  Parental love is “normally” a very powerful thing.  Parents do their best with the skills they have and the circumstances under which they live. We must be forgiving of the mistakes our own parents made, realize that we are not perfect parents either.  We all just do the best with what we know.  Again, as I’ve mentioned before, if we only could do it all over again, with the wisdom we gained from our mistakes from the first time.

The following is a quote from the book The Training of the Human Plant by Luther Burbank. Even before I discovered this quote, what it conveys was the foundation of my beliefs of what a child needs in addition to the basic necessities.

I recently came across this while minimizing my paper plunder once again. I think I need to get this book from the library. Enjoy!

Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water-bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud-turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb, brooks to wade in, water-lilies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hay-fields, pine-cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets; and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his education.

By being well acquainted with all these they come into most intimate harmony with nature, whose lessons are, of course, natural and wholesome.

A fragrant beehive or a plump, healthy hornet’s nest in good running order often become object lessons of some importance. The inhabitants can give the child pointed lessons in punctuation as well as caution and some of the limitations as well as the grand possibilities of life; and by even a brief experience with a good patch of healthy nettles, the same lesson will be still further impressed upon them. And thus by each new experience with homely natural objects the child learns self-respect and also to respect the objects and forces which must be met.

Earth Day

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Do you choose THIS?

We choose our future?  What choice will you make today and every day hereafter?  EVERY Day is earth day!

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Or do your want more of THIS?

Read the History of Earth Day <——

Why am I taking so may photos of nature?

Looking at the world through a lens gives me a chance to pause and to truly appreciate what I’m seeing.

Sculptural old oak in Sycamore Valley Regional Open Space Preserve
Sculptural old oak in Sycamore Valley Regional Open Space Preserve

Photographing a plant, a bug, a rock, a child, a water droplet, a pet, a pattern or a landscape causes me to stop and to really begin to look and see.

I slow down. I breath deeper. I feel more. I notice more. I feel more alive. Colors start to appear more vibrant and rich. Sounds become clearer and more melodious. Scents become more perceptible. I start to notice associations and repeating patterns in nature. I notice how most of life can and does live in harmony. I find myself relaxing. My compassion and patience for other fellow humans increases.

And, now my photos and observations can have a greater purpose and impact. Through technology my images and limited knowledge can be shared. My photos can have so much more meaning when I share them with databases such as iNaturalist, Calflora and CalPhoto.

With the recent emergence of the field of big data, scientists can make better use of contributions from citizen scientists, citizen naturalists or wannabe botanists like myself.  We will now be better able to monitor biodiversity and the changes which are occurring on this delicate blue sphere we call earth.

Sycamore Valley Regional Open Space Preserve
Wide open grasslands of Sycamore Valley Regional Open Space Preserve

By sharing my images on iNaturalist I give a purpose to my pictures. They are shared with the scientific community and others of like mind. iNaturalist has encouraged me to look and see the small stuff on the trails.

iPhonography and iNaturalist have helped me become a better observer of nature. I have been richly rewarded with what I have seen. May it be the learning of a new species or the sighting of an old friend again.

iNaturalist Project

Check out my local biodiversity project that I have created on iNat: Project: Sycamore Valley Regional Open Space Preserve I have started documenting the species on a few acres of open space preserve near my home.  I couldn’t find good data on the area so I decided to create my own data.  Maybe, someday, this information will prove useful to the surrounding community or maybe even to scientists as they monitor the movement of species caused by climate change.  Or, maybe I will be able to document the natural recovery of this region from the historical aspects of cattle grazing or the impact of modern day humans on this now preserved space.

With advancing age, I continue to grow in amazement of the natural world around me.

So, instead of taking another selfie, think about using your camera next time to collect data about the world around you. You too can be a citizen scientist.

Death Valley Flowers – March 2016 Superbloom

Here’s my photo dump of just SOME of the flowering plants seen on our weekend BioBlitz to Death Valley. Two days was not nearly enough time, but it was all the time we had.

There is, oh, so much that I didn’t see and will never see because there isn’t enough time in life to see it all.

A visit to Death Valley can only capture just one singular moment in time.  The variety of species blooming can literally change from one day to the next.

I have “guestimated” many of the scientific names and added common names.  Several of the flower’s I have just ID’ed to genus.  Without pulling some of the plants apart or waiting for seeds to set I can not confirm ID’s.  Knowing where the plant was observed, the soil type, elevation, associated species and time of year, a pretty good guess can be made in most cases.

For lack of a better way to organize the photos, I have attempted to display them in a color sequence.  Please enjoy and let me know what you think.  The photo’s have not been edited.

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Castilleja chromosa    Desert paintbrush

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Calycoseris wrightii    White tackstem

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Opuntia basilaris – Beaver Tail Cactus

{"focusMode":1,"deviceTilt":-0.007064298787389234,"whiteBalanceProgram":0,"macroEnabled":false,"qualityMode":3}Desert Five-spot (Eremalche rotundifolia)

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Aliciella latifolia    Broad leaf gilia
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Desert Gold

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Encelia farinosa    Brittlebush

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Turtleback (Psathyrotes ramosissima)

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Mentzelia obscura – Pacific blazing star

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Camissonia brevipes ssp. brevipes    Golden sun cup

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Mohavea breviflora    Golden Desert Snapdragon

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Little Desert Tumpet   Eriogonum trichopes

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Little Desert Trumpet   Eriogonum trichopes

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Desert Trumpet   Eriogonum  inflatum

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Desert Trumpet   Eriogonum inflatum

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Malacothrix coulteri    Snake’s head

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Malacothrix coulteri    Snake’s head

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Devil’s Spineflower (Chorizanthe rigida)

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Gilmania luteola  Golden carpet

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Malacothrix coulteri    Snake’s head

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Nicotiana obtusifolia    Desert tobacco

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Desert Rock Nettle (Eucnide urens)

pebble pincushion (Chaenactis carphoclinia)
pebble pincushion (Chaenactis carphoclinia) with Concrete Mites
A WHITE Five Spot
A WHITE Five Spot

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Gravel Ghost (Atrichoseris platyphylla)

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Seaside Heliotrope (Heliotropium curassavicum)

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Brown Eyed Primrose

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Perityle emoryi    Emory’s rock daisy

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Monoptilon bellioides   Desert star

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Monoptilon bellioides  Desert star
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Panamint Cryptantha   Cryptantha inaequata

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Narrow leaved cryptantha

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Eriogonum fasciculatum  California Buckwheat
 Salvia funerea Death Valley Sage
Salvia funerea Death Valley Sage

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Lilac Sunbonnet

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Lupinus flavoculatus   Yellow eyed lupine

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Xylorhiza tortifolia   Mojave woodyaster

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Erodium cicutarium   Redstem Filaree
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Fremont Phacelia
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Fremont Phacelia

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Caltha-leaf Phacelia   Phacelia calthifolia

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 Notch leaved phacelia

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Cylindropuntia echinocarpa  Wiggins’ cholla

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Cactus

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Echinocactus polycephalus  Cotton Top Cactus