Outdoors

Do I Hold On or Let Go?

While out biking a few months ago I discussed the following question with a friend of mine.

“When you’re falling off your bike do you think you should hold on to the handlebars or let go of the handlebars?”

Bouncing the question around got us no where other than she had a story to tell about a friend’s husband who chose to take a steep path downhill when the rest of the group decided to carry their bikes around the obstacle. It didn’t have a very happy ending, short or long term.  I think she said he held on to the handlebars, but that didn’t have much bearing on the painful long-lasting consequences of a plain old bad decision.

I even asked my cousin, the super athlete, for her opinion and she said it didn’t really matter and that it depended. Which at the time I thought was a lame answer.

This morning I came to understand her answer.

FullSizeRender-3 copy 5Woke up long before the sun kissed the horizon today and planned a quick six or eight mile ride to round out the weeks mileage to at least forty. I was on the trail hoping to avoid crowds. A gloriously cool morning after a 100 degree day yesterday, I reveled in my freedom and the glow of the sunrise. I was making good time, for me, and enjoying every minute of it.

Making the transition from gravel onto the sidewalk, which I’ve done hundreds of times, my wheel caught the edge and refused to pop up over and instead threw me to the ground.

It happened in this slow motion super fast way I can’t explain. It’s like being in a dream where your brain just can’t quite process what’s happening because it’s so out of the norm of your experience doing this easy thing.

What I remember most is thinking: this is my face smashing into the concrete. Everything is going to be broken and shattered and I am in deep trouble.

Here’s the answer to the title question. I had no idea where the flip the handlebars on my bike were or where my hands were.

Shock is the first thing that happens. So I just lay there. I might have rolled over on to my back. I could taste blood. And everything hurt, especially my head. I felt my face and came away with a handful of red. Oddly my glasses were still on my face. That’s how I knew my helmet saved my brain and most of my face.

I hoped someone would come along the trail but didn’t have a lot of hope for it that early on a Saturday. Lo and behold a friend of mine rolls up and says, “Hi Kami, what are you doing down there?” Or something equally hilarious if you aren’t the one on the ground. “Stan?” I said. “Am I ever glad to see you!”

He did a quick assessment and pulled me up off the trail of ants I had landed in. (Surprisingly didn’t get bit!!!)  Brushed the ants off of me, got my bike out of the way and told me to sit tight while he rode back and got his truck to drive me and my bike home.

A couple minutes later another friend happened to jog by. When she was sure I had help on the way and was okay to be alone, she suggested I use the ice in my water bottle on my face to keep the swelling down.

Another friend called a mutual dentist friend later in the morning who came by my house and made sure I hadn’t really ruined any teeth even though they hurt a bunch.

Needless to say, I felt like a crew of angels had been dispatched after I learned my lesson to not be so cocky on my bike, be more careful of transitions, and make sure MSH can hear a phone ringing if I’m going out riding alone. Oh, and the lesson to always, always, always wear my helmet.

Everything hurts everywhere almost ten hours after my fall from Grace. (Isn’t that a cute name for my bike?) I feel way worse than I look, which isn’t saying much, I suppose. My knee feels swollen, I have bruises that I can’t explain.

Oh, and the bike is okay. Some scrapes on the right side of the bike even though I fell left. The handlebars must have turned completely around to face me. I’ll get her a nice tuneup at Global Bikes next week, just to make sure I didn’t do any permanent damage. I’m not going to be riding for a week or so, I’m guessing. But I’ll be back out there again, for sure.

For today at least, I’m sucking meals out of a straw and hanging out on the couch bingewatching stuff and alternating Ibuprofen and Tylenol and icing the knee and mouth.

I’m also counting my blessings that I can still walk, and talk and laugh about all this.

Biffing it just aint fun.

So hold on. Don’t hold on. Just stay safe while having fun.

FullSizeRender-4 copy

A Mother’s Day Gift from my Son and Daughter in Law. Perfect!

 

 

 

Categories: Biking, Exercise, Outdoors, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

Foggy and Fifty-Four

Not every day out on the bike feels wonderful. During Monday’s ride I cursed myself for not dressing warmer for fifty-four degrees. Also, it felt like someone filled my front tire with lead. Every single push on the pedal pushed my patience closer to the edge.

This morning I planned better. I wore a long-sleeved t-shirt and covered my legs. Forty-five degrees feels pretty cold when you’re used to eighties and nineties during the day. Still, the humidity seeped in and the wind-chill, even at nine miles an hour, kept my muscles from warming up. I found myself urging the sun to move faster and break over the horizon so I could catch a little heat. Tomorrow I might need to break down and wear a jacket and something to keep my ears warm.

And this time, I’m pretty sure someone filled both tires with kryptonite. Or maybe I just left my wonder woman bracelets at home. That’s probably it. My breath kept fogging up my glasses, too. That makes for an extra hilarious ride. I adjusted my breathing pattern and that problem went away.

It’s possible I need to fuel my body with healthier choices. And I might need to get more sleep more consistently. A new bike would be nice, too. So would a new body, one with less creaks, aches, twitches and padding. Oh well, I’ll do what I can with what I have.

Just me and my shadow, out for a ride.

Just me and my shadow, out for a ride.

Of course after saying all that, most days on the bike rock my world and make the whole day better! That’s the truth.

I’ve set a higher mileage goal for the month of November. On today’s ride I found myself rethinking that goal. How realistic did it seem? Why would it matter anyway how many miles I ride? Who would know but me that I wasn’t reaching the goal? An awful lot of arguments with shoulder angels and shoulder devils happen while riding a bike. I think the shoulder angel won this morning. I did, after all, log eleven miles. Not too shabby.

That abundant self-talk occurs alongside a bunch of anticipation. What’s that on the path up ahead? How am I going to navigate around this four-across walking group? What are that dog’s plans and am I involved in some way? What would I do if I ended up in the canal? Should I carry pepper spray? Why is that jogger going faster than me? It’s a mental workout, too.

I feel lucky to have easy, quick access to so many trails and paths. There are hundreds of miles of canal roads, paved and not paved. My mountain bike can do both, so I’m not limited that way. There’s also plenty of power line trails, with sidewalks and without. There are even some wide paths that follow the freeway in a few places, with a tall wall so I’m not actually seeing the traffic. Sadly, very few people see the landscaping along there.

One reason I’m trying to increase my mileage lies in the curiosity I have about other paths, roads and trails. I’d like to be able to go further, see more, and explore the lesser-seen sides of things. Also, I’d like to kick some butt, get brave and try a few mountain bike trails in the San Tans or Usury Park. That sounds so, what’s the word, youthful and just downright fun. Forget this nonsense of acting my age. In my head I’m still only a teenager. Well, maybe more like a twenty-something.

Foggy sunrise.

Foggy sunrise.

This morning I’d posted a photo on Facebook of the fog today with the comment, “Foggy forty-five degree morning. Perfect for a little ride.” One of my friends replied: “Sounds like my kind of morning! I’m forty-five and a little foggy.” That made me laugh. It also reminded me of one reason I ride. I’m trying to stay clear-headed and happy. I don’t want the fog to move in to my brain and settle there, not for at least thirty more years. Maybe riding my bike will keep that mental fog away. Maybe it will help me feel younger than my middle-aged self currently feels.

I’ll see what I can do about those kryptonite filled tires today. Tomorrow’s ride can only get better, right?

I wish you happy trails and a wonderful journey wherever the path leads.

Categories: Biking, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Still Kami: Bringing Me Back to Myself

Geese making a noisy run for it.

Geese making a noisy run for it.

Friday Letter to my Kids – January 16, 2015

Dear J, J, L and L,

I read this book about five years back called “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova about a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s. (It’s coming out as a movie soon, but of course, the book is better.) Since then, and since my Mom’s stroke, I’ve thought about getting older and memory loss a whole bunch.

Frost lace on a December morning.

Frost lace edging the leaves on a December morning.

Some days I already feel ancient and ready to call it a life. I never dreamed that by this age I’d feel old already. Creaky, slow to get going in the mornings, aches, pains. Some days thinking about living another twenty, thirty or forty years just about puts me over the edge. I know this is tough for you to grasp since you’re all still really young regardless of how old or mature you might feel.

Anyway, the real point I want to get to is this. If I start to forget stuff, or get a bit of dementia, or if I just need lots of physical care, could you please make sure I get my daily fix?

I know for some people that’s a morning cup of coffee, or a diet coke, or some chocolate, or maybe a certain news program, a half hour of Jeopardy, a glass of wine, a good laugh, prayer, meditation or a zillion other possibilities.

Mid-january leaves carpeting the pathway.

Mid-january leaves carpeting the pathway.

For me, my daily fix comes in the form of nature. When I start to forget who I am a walk at the Riparian always brings me back to myself. If I can’t fit in a walk then just sitting on the porch swing can kickstart the old psyche. Even as a kid in midwinter with the temps hovering at minus ten, I’d find a way to get my daily dose of sunshine, usually curled into the shape of the sunlight coming through a window.

If you have to put me in a nursing home or care center it’d be best if they had a sunroom, or a little garden. If, heaven forbid, I have to live in an apartment I’d really really really need a patio or porch and some plants with a hummingbird feeder and maybe even a bird feeder.

Indoor plants don’t cut it. I always manage to kill them with kindness and attention, or inattention, I’m never sure which.

What is it about a body of water that's so soothing?

What is it about a body of water that’s so soothing?

A daily walk or stroll will keep me from tipping the scale from sanity to insanity, even as my legs and eyesight and mental capacity all wither away.

Yup, I count nature as more important than books, if you can believe it. Of course, I wouldn’t say no to an audio book or large print novel to read while I sit outside in the shade or the sun.

That’s all for today, I guess.

Oh, except, I hope you know what your daily fix is. What’s that one thing that gives you daily energy, fills your morning bucket, floats your twenty-four hour boat or keeps you moving forward every day? If you don’t know I hope you find it soon and then make sure it happens regularly. It can help keep you cheerful even in tough times.

Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. Nature isn’t all that little, but a tiny bit of it every day keeps me steady and strong.

Loving you in a big way,

Mom

Yesterday's sunset at the Riparian.

Yesterday’s sunset at the Riparian.

 

Categories: Friday Letters, Nature, Outdoors, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pay Attention to the Signs: or My Grand Grand Adventure

Grand doesn't begin to describe it.

Grand doesn’t begin to describe it.

It’s Gratituesday! I found out that you CAN go home again, after a fashion, and I’m thankful for that.

At thirteen years old I experienced the grandeur that is Grand Canyon. At the time I had two less siblings than I do now. So Mom and Dad only had five of us to keep track of. It’s a good thing back then that my Momfear genes hadn’t kicked in gear yet or I’d have been a total wreck.

We visited the North Rim, the less traveled and higher side. Ponderosa Pines line the roads all the way in to the edge. I love, love, loved my experiences there. Sunrise and sunset at the canyon invites heavenly choirs and every other supernal hyperbole one can imagine.

And then I never went back.

Why? Fear of heights kicked in for one thing. And living on the other side of the country presented obstacles for a while. But for the past eighteen years, living a mere three or four-hour drive away, I had no good excuse. Except I didn’t think I could survive having my children standing on a precipice with a mile drop off. Nope. I’m pretty sure I’d have died of a heart attack or anxiety attack or both.

Dad and Mom, spring chickens on an adventure.

Dad and Mom, spring chickens on an adventure.

During Dad and Mom’s visit here in November they decided they wanted to take me to the Grand Canyon. “Of course!” I said. “What am I thinking? I must be nuts!” I thought to myself. I can’t say no to my parents. (Oddly, it wasn’t a problem when I was a kid.)

I found it a bit ironic that the first time I visited the Grand Canyon and the only other time I visited a few decades later involved my parents taking me there. I am a grownup, after all.

I didn’t feel so very grownup next to the edge of that massive, gaping fissure in the earth. Even with fences and railings my legs turned to jelly and my stomach did this rollercoaster thingy. That’s a perfectly legitimate guttural response to danger.

Do you see this sign?

Important sign.

Important sign.

Here, look closer!

Important sign.

Very Important sign.

Yes. This sign. It’s in multiple languages! For good reason! This is an important sign. (Oddly it’s only about twelve inches wide and sits low to the ground. You’d think it’d be the size of a billboard with flashing lights at eye level. Government operating at it’s best there, folks.)

And yet millions of visitors go hang out on the edge every single year. Why? Because this place defies AMAZING! And logic seems to vacate brains in the face of such wonders.

White-knuckling it even with a fence and railing to keep me safe.

White-knuckling it even with a fence and railing to keep me safe.

A couple of people there had brought their dogs on a leash, and the dogs, bless their little palpitating hearts, did not want to go anywhere near the edge of the canyon. Smart animals!

One of my coping mechanisms of dealing with the terror I felt involved noticing the people around me. I can’t tell you how many different languages I heard spoken. And this wasn’t even during tourist season. We’re talking a Monday in November! And still the place teamed with humans from all over the planet. This made me feel really silly for not taking advantage of this stunning world wonder in my backyard. People fly from Tibet and Russia and Argentina and literally everywhere across the globe to my little desert state to visit this hole in the ground.

Layers and colors galore.

Layers and colors galore.

It’s a bit more than a hole. It’s epic. It’s Grand. It’s stunning.

The Grand Canyon defies description. I know people have tried. I’ve read some of the attempts. The place boggles my brain. How did something like this come to be? Was it really some gradual etching away by a tiny river? I have a hard time believing that. Seems like some massive flood of an interior sea had to have carved out such intensity. Or perhaps a cataclysmic earthquake pulling and pushing from the very center of the earth birthed such a wonder and then, rain and wind and erosion worked its slow magic on the fissure.

Crayola has nothing on the color spectrum that Grand Canyon provides. Every hue of red, orange, tan, green, gray, brown, gold, black, white and yes, even blue and purple began its life there. I could spend a week or more in that place and not get saturated with all it offers in color, sight, sound and smell.

Look close and you can see the virga.

Look close and you can see the virga.

While we were there a thin veil of clouds hovered at eye level between the south side, where we were, and the north side. The cloud released raindrops that evaporated before falling very far. Meteorologists call that virga, I call it art. An hour later the temperatures had dropped enough that the virga turned to tiny pellets of snow dusting the heads of visitors while the sun shone bright through the thin clouds. It felt like a moment of magic.

That's MSH in the bright orange sweatshirt on the edge, no railing whatsoever.

That’s MSH in the bright orange sweatshirt on the edge, no railing whatsoever.

Then, breaking the spell, MSH wandered out past the danger sign on to a ledge with a few other foolish souls. I told him I’d kill him if he fell. He had previously been saying how jealous he was of the birds who could fly out over the edge, swooping around, riding the columns of air. So I was more than your average nervous at this point. I couldn’t breathe while he stood out there, no fence to stop him or others from oopsing off the edge.

Getting me a bit sidetracked, Dad took up a conversation with a small group who spoke something Spanish sounding. Nope, he doesn’t speak Spanish, but they managed to communicate nonetheless. One of them pointed to herself and said, “Machu Pichu.” We understood that to mean she’s from Peru! Dad also overheard someone talking in a Russian dialect and yes, he does know a little Russian, so he chatted briefly with them. Boy were they surprised that an American could do that!

Finally after what felt like hours, MSH wandered back from the edge of death-by-falling-four-thousand-feet and I could start breathing again. He joked that it wasn’t the fall that kills you, but the landing that does you in. Not funny in the least.

Elk are big animals.

Elk are big animals.

We almost literally ran into a herd of elk. I, of course, jumped out of the car and ran across the road to take a closer picture. Those critters stand really, really tall, and foolish me stood only ten feet away. I’m sure they had a conversation among themselves that involved the words, stupid, human, squash and extinct. But I don’t speak Elk so I didn’t worry too much. I did get some great photos of these magnificent creatures.

In my younger years a part of me wanted to hike the canyon to give me a different perspective. I had set what seemed like a reasonable goal date, which has sadly come and gone. Part of me knew I was crazy and being unrealistic. Part of me still wants the experience. Visiting there renewed that desire.

I plan on going back again soon and staying longer, exploring more. Wouldn’t a Colorado River trip give The Canyon a whole different feel? Sounds fun to me. No potential falls involved.

Thank you Dad and Mom for helping me experience the Grand Canyon, both times. I loved sharing something so spectacular with two of my favorite people!

 

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 ~~~~~

“The glories and the beauties of form, color, and sound unite in the Grand Canyon – forms unrivaled even by the mountains, colors that vie with sunsets, and sounds that span the diapason from tempest to tinkling raindrop, from cataract to bubbling fountain.” ~ John Wesley Powell

 

 

Categories: Family, Gratitude, Gratituesday, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Black Inner Tubes and Snowy Hills: Or How I Survived Childhood Winters and Lived then to Learn to Ski

“Skiing combines outdoor fun with knocking down trees with your face.”  ~Dave Barry

Photo by MHBowden

Photo by MHBowden

I grew up practically on a mountain, with snow five feet deep in our front yard every winter. (Except for that one inversion year when nothing but fog accumulated.) On the other side of the mountain lived a ski resort. A tiny one, but a place to ski nonetheless. The closest I ever came to skiing as a child or a teen involved black rubber inner tubes, defective ones apparently, because they always inflated lopsided.

Have you ever ridden an inner tube down the side of a mountain on the snow? If not, I have just given you a perfect bucket list item. You might want to save it as the very last item on your bucket list, though, as possibility of severe injury seems rather high.

On an inner tube you have absolutely no control over where you go, how fast you go or if/when you stop. (Why does it feel like I just described life? Hmmm.) The most likely outcome involves bodies splayed across the snow or wedged against objects or perched atop bushes and rocks with the inner tube still rocketing off into the distance another half mile or so. (Life metaphor again? Weird.)

Death Spiral

Photo by Iain Laurence

Photo by Iain Laurence

The advantage of having to hike so far to retrieve the inner tube comes in the contemplative time one has to reconsider the wisdom of perching atop the tube once more for another possibly life threatening ride to infinity and beyond. Unfortunately, screams of joy and terror, (which sound eerily alike to a youngster) push all logic and sanity out of ones frozen head and you find yourself yelling “COWABUNGA” as you leap on  the tube and launch yourself once more into a death spiral of epic proportions.

For that extra measure of danger we often careened in the dark, which added a sense of insanity to an already thrilling adventure. Surprisingly I and my siblings survived many winters participating in this sport.  Oddly, tubing hasn’t risen to the stature of an Olympic event yet. I suppose scoring could present a problem. Highest points for furthest launch from a tube? Extra points for landing in a tree? Bonus points for spinning more than ten times on the way down? It ought to rank in the X-games at least.

Back on Topic Now

But I meant to speak of skiing. My first time. Oddly enough riding an inner tube and using a set of skis and poles have frighteningly similar outcomes, especially those first few times down the hill.

Having slippery sticks attached to cement encased feet does not provide one with a sense of security or control. Neither, surprisingly, does having sharp pointy objects in either hand lend a sense of comfort or assurance. In fact, I wondered at first if MSH had grown tired of marriage after only four months of “bliss” and had found an easy way to dispose of me, à la Robert Redford in a mafia. Whoops, there she goes off a cliff. “I told her not to go down that black diamond run, but she insisted.”

Nah. MSH just wanted to share something he loved with the love of his life. Little did he know what an adventure he’d signed up for. (Life metaphor again?)

Evil Trees

Much like tubing down a snow-covered hill, my most vivid memory of my first day skiing involved a people-eating tree and my limbs hopelessly entangled in the branches of said tree. One leg pointed north while the other leg seemed wedged more south-southeast. Meanwhile one ski pointed down. The other ski had somehow become one with the snow. The poles, miraculously, didn’t shishkabob me, for which I was ever so thankful.

I tried my best to untangle and disengage to no avail. MSH “helped” by explaining which leg to move where, which didn’t help at all since I’d lost most feeling in my legs and couldn’t identify left from right. If I recall correctly I threw my poles his general direction along with a few select words, which I won’t share here. He finally helped by physically moving one of the skis. Once both legs aimed approximately in the same direction, after five minutes of struggle I managed to reach an upright position.

I think I threw a tantrum after that. Or maybe during that. In no uncertain terms, I let MSH know how unimpressed I felt with this sport of skiing. I also may have mentioned that I’d never, ever participate in such nonsense again.

Chocolate Saves the Day

Photo by By Baileypalblue

Photo by By Baileypalblue

Of course, after some hot chocolate in the lodge, and watching people shoosh and swoosh effortlessly for an hour, and getting bored beyond reason I found myself attempting to hitch a ride on a lift, all skiwampus, with my pride firmly buried in a snowdrift.

I eventually, somewhat mastered the art of something beyond the pie wedge style of beginners. I’m happy to report that as a family we enjoyed some great times on the mountains in the snow over the years.

To this day my son (who learned to ski with no effort whatsoever at age three) still puts himself to sleep at night by imagining snowboarding down his favorite ski run at his favorite resort. He says it’s the most relaxing thing he can think of, as natural as walking but way more fun.

It’s been a few years (a decade?) since I last threatened my poor knees with such reckless behavior as skiing. All for the best I’m sure. I’m satisfied to have the occasional falling dream and waking to memories of my youth careening down the side of a mountain on a black inner tube.

Ah. Those were the days.

Photo by Dbenbenn

Photo by Dbenbenn

~~~

There are really only three things to learn in skiing:  how to put on your skis, how to slide downhill, and how to walk along the hospital corridor.  ~Lord Mancroft

Categories: Fun, Humor, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Bunny Hop, Hop, Hop

By Masteruk (Own work)

Contemplative Bunny Photo by Masteruk (Own work)

I’ve observed this fun play at the Riparian on my morning walks over the past few months. Two rabbits face each other, then one hops straight up while the other one runs under it. The hopper turns midair and lands facing the other rabbit who turns almost immediately upon running under. They repeat this behavior taking turns on who hops and who runs. It’s a bit like watching popcorn popping when several pairs are hopping and running in the same general area.

This fun behavior seems to have ramped up with the cooler weather. I’ve wondered what it all means.

At first I thought it was some form of Bunny Jousting. Or perhaps it’s where the name of the popular wedding reception dance “The Bunny Hop” came from. (Could be.) But I did what any self-respecting blogger would and engaged in a bit of research before making a fool of myself online.

Turns out it’s part of the mating ritual between a male and a female. Looks fun!

Since my video attempts came out grainy and unclear, I’ve included video someone else shot of the same behavior.

Given the amount of such frolicking and the frequency of the hopping going on over at the Riparian a bumper crop of bunnies ought to make a huge showing in about a month.

Apparently there’s good reason for the anonymous saying, “Let happy thoughts multiply like rabbits.”

~.~.~.~.~

(If you’re really into Bunnies and all their nuances, this website has more information than the average person would ever need or want to know. But if you’ve got a son working on his rabbit raising merit badge, it’d come in really handy.)

Categories: Mondaze, Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Home Again

After my acrobatic stair performance and subsequent recovery, coupled with a too long battle against Zombie’s taking over my lungs, I’m finally back to my morning walks.  I had missed that quiet time, I just didn’t realize how much I’d missed it until I stepped out of the car and set foot on the trail this morning.

Stunning, yes?

Stunning, yes?

The biggest difference? Twenty degrees cooler! Last time I went for a walk the pre-sunrise temps hovered at eighty-three. This morning? Sixty-three! Glorious! Even once the sun’s southern-leaning rays reached my skin I didn’t feel overly warm or wish for a water bottle. Summer seems almost behind us now. (It still hits ninety-something during the day.)

Other differences I noticed included:

'Shrooms!

‘Shrooms!

Mushrooms? Not normally in the desert! But yeah, two major rainstorms, nearly five inches the first time and two inches the second. A year’s worth of rain in one month did a number on our little dry patch of earth. Fungi popping up all over the place.

Green! More than normal. Every plant seems intent on growing faster and bigger than its neighbor.

Fewer rabbits. Not sure why. Too cold? Coyotes perfecting their hunting technique? They’re sleeping in and waiting for warmer late morning temperatures?

Three little birds…singing a sweet song…a melody pure and true.

Three little birds…singing a sweet song…a melody pure and true.

The birds seemed extra cheerful and more willing to sing out. Maybe that’s just a result of being away so long I’ve forgotten their sounds. I think they’re every bit as happy about the cooler weather as any other desert dweller, human or otherwise.

More night herons out and about. I had wondered all summer long if they’d moved on to other feeding grounds forever, but I saw more this morning than I’ve seen in the past four months combined.

Things that stayed the same:

My coyote friend still frolics in the tall brush of the dry ponds and watches from a distance as I watch back. I’d like to think we share a sort of connection, but I’m not fooling myself with that idea.

Yellow hollered for attention, too.

Yellow hollered for attention, too.

That creosote and mingled dust smell still permeates the air. Some people don’t care for it, but to me it’s the scent of wildness and quiet. Some days I go out of my way in the car to drive past with my windows open just to get a whiff of one of my favorite places.

Peace abounds and wraps itself around me as I walk. That, more than any other aspect of my morning ritual summarizes best what I missed the most this past month. Lacking a brush with nature, I stumble around off-kilter and unfocused. It’s not something I ought to neglect.

 

 “This early piece of the morning is mine.” 
~Wallace Stegner 

Categories: Nature, Outdoors, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Mosquito Host

Dinner time gorging.

Dinner time gorging.

With nearly a year’s worth of rain falling in less than one day our little desert morphed into a mosquito breeding factory.

Just answering the front door lately requires rapid-fire reflexes and a quicker than a kid selling wrapping paper open-shut technique.

The last thing you want is a mosquito or two wafting about the room you’re sitting in. Very seldom do you hear the high-pitched warning zzzzzzzzz as they move in for the kill. They’re usually silent as they sneak in for a landing behind your knee or elbow or ankle. By time you realize you’re losing blood it’s too late. The itching commences.

Growing a massive army. (Image: James Gathany, CDC) - A New Model for Predicting Outbreaks of West Nile Virus. Gross L, PLoS Biology Vol. 4/4/2006, e101.

Growing a massive army. (Image: James Gathany, CDC) – A New Model for Predicting Outbreaks of West Nile Virus. Gross L, PLoS Biology Vol. 4/4/2006, e101.

I’ve read books that describe swarms of mosquitos so thick in some regions of Alaska that an animal or a human can suffocate in a cloud of them. I kid you not! Relatives of those little monsters must have caught a jet stream and landed here, troops amassing by the millions daily.

I’ve wondered, ever so briefly, if they’re indirectly related to the flying monkeys from Wizard of Oz. Mean little things carrying off young girls and small dogs. Don’t laugh, it’s possible. Mutations in evil creatures take on hideous transformations. Think “Alien” or “The Green Hornet.”

Forget taking the littles with their oh-so-succulent-soft-skin to the park for swinging or sliding or building sand castles. That is unless they like pink Calamine lotion and you don’t mind them looking like they have the chicken pox.

When someone walks a dog around the park I now recognize the arm flailing they’re doing not as a frantic wave to a friend, or a signal for help, but an actual life-saving maneuver to keep from getting carried away by swarms of flying blood drinkers. Zombie apocalypse scenarios are so passe’ nowadays.

I have no idea who to give credit to for this amazingly accurate photo.

I have no idea who to give credit to for this amazingly accurate photo.

To guarantee total terror, I’m dressing up as a mosquito this year for Halloween. Even Dads will run screaming in fright. I expect that haunted houses will sport a few of the evil black winged buzzing terrors for that extra horror factor.

Oh sure, I soak myself in some top of the line brand of mosquito repellant before I venture out on my morning walks, which helps only slightly. I feel a bit like a movie star with miniature mosquito paparazzi in my face, and around every corner, waiting for a vulnerable bit of skin to show itself so they can go all crazy over it.

I also suspect they’ve developed a liking to citronella scented anything and actually use it as a way of pinpointing vulnerable human targets.

repellants

These just aren’t repulsive enough to the little terrors anymore.

What we really need is a new breed of mosquito repellant, Nuke Em Howitzer 4000 sounds ominous doesn’t it? I’m sure the military could come up with something sufficiently deadly and give it a great acronym: BSA: Blood Sucker Annihilator. Or maybe KILL: Kreepy Insect Life Limiter.

Costco could market their own brand of Mosquito repellant/poison and call it West Nile Begone Extra Lethal in gallon sized spray bottles. Sure you might feel a little woozy for a few minutes, but at least you’d be able to reach your car without inhaling more than three or four of the pests.

Where did the helicopters raining down insecticide overnight disappear to? I’ve heard them in years past. Probably grounded by mosquito hordes weighing down the wings or filling up the engine compartment and gumming up the gas tanks.

More menacing than Zombies and flying monkeys.

More menacing than Zombies and flying monkeys.

I just want to take the garbage out without “Jaws” theme music running through my head as I dodge the little blood suckers.

Never before have I wished for the dry heat to return like I have this year. I suspect the mosquitos have something to do with the trajectory of that hurricane that’s pumping even more moisture into our normally dry state. You laugh, but these little dudes have conniving and vicious written all over them. I wouldn’t rule out weather manipulation as part of their arsenal.

A mosquito’s been hovering around the room for a while now. Probably taken a half a pint out of me already. Too bad we can’t harness their evil powers for good and turn them into phlebotomists.

I’m itchy. I think I’ll go hide under a really thick blanket until mid October.

 ~~~~~

Joke of the day: “I sprayed a mosquito with mosquito repellent and now he’ll never have any friends.”

 

Categories: Humor, Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Certain Angle of Light

photo 3-5 copy 4Moisture pushes ahead of the straggling remnants of hurricanes limping far inland from the Pacific, bumping up against the northern and eastern mountains.

photo 1-5 copy 6A traffic jam of clouds fills the sky with swirling masses of whites, grays and blues.

photo 4-3 copy 10Cloud sculptures twist and swirl while light plays a melody in concert with the sound of distant geese calling out their imminent arrival.

photo 2-4 copy 3Dozens upon dozens of rabbits rush around drawing too much attention to themselves,  making use of the cooler morning hours.

photo 1-6 copy 3Sun breaks through the tangled muss of fluff with bits of light but little color.

photo 2-3 copy 5

Small birds twitter, tap, chatter, sing, peep, mimic, flit, flutter, flap, hum and tweet.

photo 4-5 copyLarger birds sit in silent patience.

photo 3-6 copy

A pair of hawks sweep low and silent along a path searching for the unaware and unwarned.

photo 1-5 copy 6I walk, finding more than animals, birds, sky, water, shades of green.

photo 2-2 copy 22I listen for solace and a different kind of silence.

photo 5 copy 4I look for something within myself as I walk the dawn.

photo 1-4 copy 20Thoughts clarify with each step I travel through this oasis.

photo-24 copy 29I gather courage and hope as I pass the creosote, palo verde and acacia.

photo 4-4 copy 2Each morning I claim sanctuary, and emboldened, face the day.

Categories: Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Few Fab Finds and Some Fun

Found myself in serious need of ramping up my energy levels and changing the mood this past week. So I’ve tried a few different things to shake up the routine and shake off the blues.

DANCE

First, I mixed in more music with my days. The best way I know to ramp up the tunes involves that lovely free app called Pandora. I tapped on something new called Bossa Nova. Much more than the simple label Brazilian Jazz, it’s music that makes you want to dance but leaves you feeling mellow and laid back. Perfect while prepping or eating dinner. I think MSH and I need to learn some new dance steps.

ROAD TRIP

Turns out Pandora also has this thing called “Browse All Genre Stations.” It lists thirty-six genres, or types, of music you can explore. So I tapped on Road Trips. That gave me some options like Country Road TripFamily Road Trip, Road Trippin’ and Classic Commute.

So far I’ve only tried out Family Road Trip. Instantly addicted! I didn’t want to try any of the other stations because this had EVERYTHING!  Fifties to this year, Elvis to One Republic, Billy Joel to Rascal Flatt.

Can’t wait to explore the rest of the Road Trip stations. Then I plan on making my way through the other thirty-six genres and all those possibilities.

TAYLOR

Taylor Swift doesn’t fill everyone’s teacup, but I stumbled on her latest music video. What a bunch of fun! She dances and sings her way through all sorts of trends in “Shake It Off.” Mostly she’s laughing at herself, not taking things too seriously. But there are some seriously good dancers highlighted in the video. Made me want to dance, and  I laughed out loud. My favorite thirteen-year old laughed, too. That’s a good sign. Best of all it kind of makes me feel younger, which I consider a major plus!

DOG POETRY

Have you heard of Billy Collins? If you’re the kind of person who says they don’t like poetry, then you just need to spend four minutes with this video of Billy Collins in a TED talk sharing two poems (the second one is my favorite) about dogs. Yes. Dogs. Hearing his dry wit makes all the difference if you’re iffy about poetry at all.  Turns out I checked out one of his collections last week at the library without realizing who I’d stumbled on. What a great find!

TWITTERPATED

I think I might have gotten hooked. For those of you still fresh from the womb, i.e. forty years or younger, you might not recognize the term twitterpated. It’s a word that debuted in the Disney movie “Bambi.” It means infatuated or obsessed or smitten. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Twitter, the social media app.

Although, oddly, it’s how I’ve found myself feeling about Twitter recently. There’s something about “tweeting” that feels different from posting status updates. Maybe it’s the challenge of a limited number of characters. There’s a sense of immediacy on Twitter that I find fascinating as well. Whatever it is, I’m tweeting, like a newborn baby bird, uncertain of my wings and voice, but willing to learn to fly.

NOT INTERNET ADDICTED, HONEST

Lest you think all I do involves the internet, here’s evidence to the contrary.

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  • Thursday I danced with my favorite three-year old and favorite one-year old while MSH played the piano. We’ve all got some sweet moves. Really!
  • The desert sage burst into bloom overnight! Check out those purples in my slideshow above. And while you’re at it, take in the yellow blossoms, too. And don’t forget the neon orange Bird of Paradise that brightens the view outside one of my windows.
  • The sunrises this past week left me breathless and glad I got out of bed more than a few times.
  • Enjoyed a candlelight dinner in the cool (yes, cool) evening air outdoors with MSH, music wafting out to the patio from the stereo inside. Tasted better than any five-star restaurant. Nothing tops the view of the night sky either.
  • Did I mention the mile and a half walk home last week in a rare morning rainstorm? I’d recommend it the next time you have a chance. Ditch the umbrella, point your face towards the clouds and let the sky wash life’s dust from your shoulders.
The view just before the downpour.

The view just before the downpour.

Hoping for more rain later today and tomorrow. Either way, dancing’s gonna happen because I’ve got my new tunes on.

~~~~~

Have you found anything new and fun that adds energy to your day?

Categories: Fun, Music, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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