Category Archives: Flora, Garden, and Landscape

Mamas in the Yard

It’s been five years since the hummingbird mama grew two babies to adulthood in a nest right outside my back door–and then a few weeks later nurtured a second nest of babies! I was lucky enough to capture on video a baby leaving the nest in flight for its very first time.

Now it’s May once again, and we have two hummingbird nests in the yard! These are in the front yard–one in an oleander tree and the other in a wind mobile.

See her nest right there in the middle of the photo?

Look for the mama in the next photo! It’s a little harder haha.

She looks like she’s trying to blend right in. Here she and the nest are from a different angle.

Right underneath the mobile are a few flats of flowers that we have not yet planted. She keeps going to them for nectar as if we set them there for her babies.

Maybe these mamas are the babies of the ones I saw fly off into their lives!

Cat news: Perry is so stinken smart. It’s become clear that he absolutely knows what “Hold on” means and is willing to do it every time I say it. If we are walking somewhere in the house (he follows me), and I have to turn back for something, I say, “Hold on.” He then sits right where he is and waits for me to come back and then picks up following me again! If I were so inclined I think our boy might be trainable for Youtube.

One last note: I hope these mama hummingbirds and my cute boy Perry give you a little glimpse of hope after a tragic and sad week. Here is Emily Dickinson on the subject of hope:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

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Filed under #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Flora, Garden, and Landscape, Nonfiction, Writing

A Walk in the Neighborhood, Arizona Style

What do I see and hear and smell on a walk near my house?

From the moment I step outside I smell flower fragrance. So I take a big sniff and keep walking. I hear songbirds singing.

Next I see the seedpods. Everywhere. Here are just a few.

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Then I see the pretty Mexican bird of paradise plant.  See how fiery and unique the blossoms are!

I come upon flowering saguaros.

 

Closer.

The sounds I hear are silence, then a rush of cars, then this: babies in their nest–inside a saguaro.

Apparently some baby birds are very noisy when being fed.

On the writing front, I wrote a little essay this weekend. We’ll see what happens with it. Best part: #amwriting

Make it a good week if you can figure out a way!

Leaving you with a wild baby in my yard. This is a baby kingsnake.  They are not only harmless to humans, but they kill rattlesnakes. We have been nurturing a family of kingsnakes ever since we moved here. Isn’t he cute?!

 

 

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Growing Things

On Friday we planted new pentas, vincas, coleus, and marigolds. Daughter and her fiance helped MUCH. We left a lot of the old flowers, although they were a bit leggy, mainly because of the cost and also because we have been so busy that we didn’t have time to do more.

When the pandemic began, I was eager to be a pioneer woman and even froze eggs and lemons in case we had a shortage. Now I am very ragged around the edges, having been overworked by all the dealings with the government and business-in-the-time-of-coronavirus. I am used to always being busy, usually thrive on it, and yet I will say that I am too exhausted at this point. And I don’t see a letup. Plus, when I get this tired, my legs and feet swell miserable (from my primary lymphedema). That aggravates my “hip-leg.” I have a painful condition with my left leg up near the groin that I refer to as my hip-leg. It feels like a twisting nerve and is particularly and suddenly painful when I put my foot down on the ground. The swelling makes it worse. And the exhaustion and work-work-work makes it worser yet.

But I don’t have the virus. And neither does my family. And my kitties are a lot of work, but so cute. And I have new flowers. So there you go.

We also have lizards galore this year. And the quail couple with their single file of bobbing babies. You see, I can keep finding cool stuff to distract myself!

My friend who wrote this very popular essay years ago (Lake Erie) teaches creative writing to seniors. Because of the pandemic, her classes now are on Zoom, and my mom is taking one! I am so happy she is doing so because it’s good for her to interact with others, although it’s on phone Zoom (no video) and not in person. Also, she is a reporter for the community newspaper (used to be an editor for it), but with the pandemic she can’t interview people in person. My mother’s community has a big apartment complex, a nursing home, an assisted living, a rehab facility, and garden homes (duplexes). She lives in a garden home, so she has more space and more freedom than if she lived in one of the other buildings.

I call my mother regularly, but it’s hard to find new things to talk about when you’re not out doing new stuff! And she’s not going to doctors or seeing friends, so she doesn’t have that to talk about. She does read my genealogy blog The Family Kalamazoo, so that makes her happy because I am almost always yapping about her family. Most recently I’ve been working on my 3x great-grandfather who was a “prosperous celery farmer” (according to his obit) in Kalamazoo. I had no idea when I was growing up there that my ancestor was one of the farmers who raised Kalamazoo’s “famous” crop. The thing that interested me most about him was discovering that as a widower he married and divorced a woman after he immigrated to the U.S. It almost looks like he married her so she would help raise his six children. I wonder what he discovered he didn’t like. How I would love to see the divorce papers! I have all kinds of fictional scenarios popping up in my head.

When I was growing up, my dad planted a plum tree in our backyard in Michigan. He used to take pix of us next to the tree, watching the tree and us kids growing, I guess. After my father passed away five years ago (last Thursday), my mom had a plum tree planted on the edge of the woods behind her house at the senior complex.

This weekend I found out I got the Volunteer of the Month award for April at the shelter. Yes, well, so many of the other volunteers couldn’t do their jobs because the shelter has been closed to volunteers for the pandemic. However, my work increased because I make the adoption calls (more adoptions!) and do data entry for those. I also took on the shelter’s Twitter account, which is a challenge right now because just as soon as I get info on a new dog it gets adopted :)! The reason this is occurring is in part because people are stepping up to adopt during this period. But it is also for another reason. Our shelter is a no-kill that functions largely by rescuing e-list dogs from the county kill shelter. (The cats seem to magically appear at our shelter, by the way). Our shelter is only bringing in a limited number of animals because without volunteers, the staff can only take care of just so many hungry mouths.

Take care of yourselves, peeps. If you have Instagram, be sure to check out Bobthewritingcat! That big-hearted curmudgeon makes me happy and teary. As Bob always says, go wash your hands!!!

 

 

 

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Filed under #writerlife, #writerslife, Arizona, Family history, Flora, Garden, and Landscape, Memoir, Nonfiction

Reporting In, Part 2

This week has been difficult for me because the gardener and I are self-employed and our businesses are shut down temporarily for the pandemic. I spent my week dealing with the resulting issues with nobody to call for advice.

So today I am reeling from a week of that. And frustrated by all the stuff I didn’t get to do that I wanted to do. But I did keep up with tweeting for the shelter (takes longer than it would seem to as I have to collect the info first) and other animal work.

I hope that I get to work on my Scraps scrapbook and write and go for walks this week.

On top of the government and bank crap, the gardener has been damn grumpy.  Anybody else living with someone who is grumpy during the pandemic?

Today I will give you a couple of photos of the grump’s handiwork in the yard .

Both these photos are at the wall we share with the neighbor.

The flower wheel was made by my father, and I think I’ve posted a photo of it before. The metal flowers are fading, but I sort of enjoy seeing them become different shades over time.

I sure hope that I get to do some writing before National Poetry Month is over.

By the way, Poetry in the Time of Coronavirus is now available for purchase through Amazon. Why should you buy it other than reading a lot of poems about a Very Timely Subject? Because the purchase price goes toward both Doctors Without Borders and Partners In Health! The poets are from all over the world and from all age groups, even a 7 year old! Makes me tear up to think about it. POETRY IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS

Hope your week is good enough and, most importantly, that you and yours are well.

Sending LOVE!!!

 

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Advice from Pauline

Beginning perhaps on Friday I developed a strong urge not to blog today. Monday is usually my day, but Monday had no appeal any longer. Suddenly, I didn’t feel as if I had anything to say. The news had wrung me dry.

Anything that crossed my mind seemed as if it had already been said in a way that I would never be able to muster with my brain fried, diced, and served.

Then Pauline responded to my comment on her blog The Contented Crafter.

I was looking at a post from you on IG [Instagram] about making elderberry syrup and my phone rang – and I never got back to it. I know you have a very different governmental system to ours and it does sound very hard for all my friends there. Here we have a woman in charge and it’s showing. People and health first. We know it will be a struggle later on when the virus has been held in check, but personally I hope it means we will change our ways of living, our expectations, our emissions, our stuff, our disinterest in those who have less, the generally disadvantaged, the third world countries, the dispossessed peoples of the world. I hope we will plant more trees, use no plastics, clean the oceans and care for our animals better. I hope there will be a new normal and we will embrace the positive in that – whatever it is. In the meantime we will make tasty goodies in our kitchens, from fruits and vegetables grown in our own gardens, to help our own wellbeing – and that of our pets. We will laugh at ourselves and laugh with each other and this will raise our immunity levels. We will strive every day to look for the good things that are being done and enacted and shared – lets walk through this together and share and support and make the world a smaller, friendlier, safer place for a while. I think this will make a great deal of difference. Thank you for coming over Luanne, all the way from Phoenix too – which sounds so exotic to me 🙂 I hope the Gardener is well and all the kitties too. Keep posting – just about what you are making and how you are feeling and what made you happy and laugh, or sad and cry today….. and I will too. xoxo

You see what I mean about somebody else saying it better than I could do. Notice what she wrote at the end: Keep posting–just about what you are making and how you are feeling and what made you happy and laugh, or sad and cry today. WOWSA!!! And she will, too :).

So that is what I am writing about today.

I did make elderberry syrup to boost the immune system of the gardener, the daughter, the future SIL, and myself.

I don’t spend a lot of time or money on “supplements” and other immune boosters or cures, as a rule. Well, not a rule. Haha. When I try something I end up using it once or twice and then it sits in the cupboard. And I don’t usually make it myself. But this time it seemed important to make it myself. That way I know all the ingredients that go into it. It smells quite medicinal when it’s cooking, but the taste was quite good. I used cinnamon and ginger, but I did not use cloves as I am not very fond of cloves.

I felt as if I was channeling my women ancestors while I made the syrup. Caring for my family with my own hands, putting love into the medicine along with the honey.

What else did I make? I made chicken breasts with the lemons from my friend’s tree and the rosemary from my bush. I cooked sauerkraut and, instead of throwing away the juice as usual, we drank it. The gardener’s uncle used to drink sauerkraut juice every day and swore by it as a health drink. It also is supposed to be an immune booster. I admit the cooking of the sauerkraut is just because I love it that way: with natural sugar, paprika, pepper.

 

I

I wish I could say that I made some more pages for my fabric Scrap scrapbook, but although I meant to, time got away from me. Trust me, I NEVER don’t have anything to do. I’ve added sitting out in the sun on every day with sun. It’s helpful emotionally and maybe physically. I wrote another poem this week, but it stinks. I made a little herb garden so that I can have fresh herbs without having to run to the store.

I am learning to need a little less, use a little more of everything, and put more thought into all I do.

What made me happy and/or laugh?

My cats, of course. Perry is especially cuddly lately, and I think he senses my anxiety. Pear and Tiger wants to be with me all the time. The other three are their own usual selves. At least I hope they are. I hope they don’t have hidden anxiety. They all give me lots of love and security, and occasionally, make me laugh pretty hard.

My daughter started an Instagram account for her puppy. You can see Riley at rileysblackbook. Now I get a little dose of Riley every day, although I can’t go over to their place in actuality.

Some of the memes and videos on Facebook that friends share make me happy or laugh. The bunny who wants to be a herding dog was one of my favorites this week. See it here: Bunny has been watching the dog herd

Restarting my “fill in the gaps” project for genealogy that I post over at The Family Kalamazoo blog. It forces me to focus, but I don’t have to be as creative as when writing a poem. And these days, I really want to get a rudimentary structure of family history done and sent digitally to all the younger family members. Just in case.

What makes me sad is watching young people crowding the beaches and parks, sassing the police who try to move them along, and putting themselves and everyone in danger. What makes me sad is that my mom lives alone and has to isolate and to keep from going crazy she still socializes with 3 of her neighbors. Who can blame her?

What makes me sad is watching videos from Italy about the patients and healthcare workers. The doctors who came out of retirement to die at the hands of Covid-19.

But the videos of all the music coming from the people make me teary in a bittersweet way.

Another bittersweet for me has to do with the shelter animals. Mostly, I am terrified for the animals as sad reports come in about people abandoning or euthanizing animals out of ignorance. The shelters had to cancel all their fundraisers. And the staff and volunteers have to risk their own lives to work at the shelters, taking care of the animals. There was a bonded pair of senior kitties I REALLY wanted to foster. But it turns out it wasn’t right for us right now. So instead I took on another task for the shelter. I am now “womanning” their Twitter account. So come follow along at Home Fur Good.

How do YOU feel? What makes you happy and sad these days?

Stay safe and keep growing. That’s my new motto.

 

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Fall into Autumn

Moving from September into October is a delightful fall into autumn in Phoenix. September is still hot. It’s a nasty remnant of summer hanging on past its prime. But October is one of the best months here. Still balmy, but not hot. Sunny days, but sometimes the sky is a little overcast. The snakes are getting ready to hibernate, and the rabbits and quail are old enough to watch out for predators.

The gardener thought it was a good time to put in a couple of new cacti. Within a day of planting one of the cacti developed black spots on it. He ended up agreeing to cut off the limbs with the spots, and they gave him some smaller plants to make up for it. I don’t think that was a great solution. I would have preferred a new plant because I worry about contagion and because now we have a maimed cactus. But he can’t let any plant go to waste. He treats them like the living beings they are.

Then his years-old barrel cactus (it’s not a regular barrel cactus, but some sort of barrel) fell over (it’s fall! it’s fall! sorry). He’s grown that baby into what he says is a $500 plant. But now look at it. So sad. He propped it up, and the man at the landscape store told him it might live. Looks pathetic to me.

What happened, I guess, is that the gardener planted it in the right spot years ago, but a new company came in and worked on the irrigation. They “fixed” it to the point where too much water was hitting that cactus. Because it was near the wash, we aren’t around it when the water came on, so we didn’t know that was happening.

But now that it’s getting cooler (70s and 80s), it’s much easier to work outside, so the gardener is happy about that.

Speaking of fall: pumpkin ice cream bars! I kid you not. I got them at Whole Foods. Vanilla wafers and pumpkin ice cream. That reminds me that I need to look for the pumpkin butter I got last year. That stuff was so good on the gluten-free bakery’s yummy bagels. Don’t try to make me feel bad about pumpkin. I was eating cold pumpkin pie and Cool Whip for breakfast long before you ever thought of it! (News flash: the bars are making me sick which shows me how bad my lactose intolerance is getting).

Felix seems to be ok, but I am taking no chances. I watch for his business on the potty cam every day. Tiger is getting sub q fluids to help her system deal with kidney disease. That makes me feel bad for Pear who is 4 years older and has had kidney disease at least as long as that, but gets no fluids. However, at 19, I think Pear would prefer to just lie in comfort on “her” couch, rather than be hauled off to the vet’s office twice a week. Sloopy Anne does not seem to be throwing up now that I put her on hypoallergenic food (we’ll see if that continues). Kana and Perry are ok for now.

I’ve been puttering (pottering for some of you) around with my writing lately. Continuing to tweak the memoir that looks WAY different than it did a couple of years ago. Revising poems and sending them out.  I might take a look at some old prose pieces, too, and see if anything can be done with them. This feels like where I am right now: refining, not originating. And that’s ok. It takes less energy, but is still rewarding. That is a good thing in this time of much busyness in business, as well as family and cat stuff going on.

There are only three months left to reach my 2019 publication goal. Luckily, I have a new poem up which I posted about on Saturday. Here it is: BEHOLD THE NEEDLE at Thimble Literary Magazine.

If you celebrate Rosh Hashanah, L’Shanah Tovah! If you celebrate fall, Happy October tomorrow. Friday is the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. He holds a special place in my heart. The animals and the environment, you know. Make it a great week.

***

Adding this fun update. Remember when I wrote about my music box? According to Robyn who blogs at Holding to the Ground it was in January. She took me up on my request that you guys write about the secret life of an object! It’s a wonderful piece–enjoy and see if you don’t get ticked off at her mom, too (by the way). The Secret Life of a Clock Radio

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Perry Como and My Mother-in-Law

Now that National Poetry Month and NaPoWriMo are over, I have been revising poems. Mainly, they have been small changes, so either I did better than I thought last month or (and more likely) I am still not seeing them clearly.

Spring is in full swing in Arizona, and everywhere I look it’s yellow, green, and blue.

I’ve been going through some of my mother-in-law’s paintings that were left over after she passed away. (She died 15 years ago, so it’s time to look at them again). The reason I pulled them out is because my daughter moved into her own place, and I am looking for paintings to bring her for her to choose from.

I wrote about my MIL’s art My Mother-in-Law’s Legacy, Part I and My Mother-in-Law’s Legacy, Part II and My Mother-in-Law’s Legacy, Part III

A lot of her paintings are portraits, and those are more difficult to hang on a wall than landscapes. I thought I’d share one of the portraits with you today. Maybe share some more later . . . .

Because my MIL was hired to paint a lot of celebrity portraits, the ones that are left are often “first drafts,” but sometimes she just painted them because they were famous and she hoped to sell those paintings.

Do you know who this is?

That’s right: Perry Como and his family, wife Roselle, son Ronnie, daughter Terri, and son David. Perry and Roselle were teenage sweethearts and were married until her death at age 84.

I love Perry Como’s voice and laidback coooool style. This is one of my favorites:

And this one, of course:

You might prefer different versions, but he’s pretty consistent, so they are all good!

OK, NOW FOR THE BIG QUESTION. Was Perry my sweet cat named after Perry Como?

Wait for it.

Perry the cat was named for Perry Como and Perry Mason!

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The End of NaPoWriMo 2019 and My Subsequent Collapse

OK, well, I didn’t exactly collapse. But it was tough.

The last two poems, for days 29 and 30, were:

  • Meditation on Choler
  • You Are Loved

The very last poem was a tribute to a friend who passed away–a poem that I had promised to her husband for her memorial service. Not sure he even wants it (I haven’t given it to him yet), but she was a fan of my poetry from the very beginning. She was such a good friend that she was a fan of anything I did. Nancy was 18 years older than me and her oldest child was my age. But age meant nothing to her, and I was in college when our friendship solidified into what it would remain. She accomplished a lot in her life, moving through stages of wildness and compromise, always reaching toward a form of enlightenment. I knew I couldn’t write a poem that she deserved, but I did my best, and that would have made her happy.

Mom has gone home, and the rest of my company is now gone. It was 11.5 months of people living here, visiting, etc. This Highly Sensitive introvert can’t take another minute.

The funny thing is that Nancy was an extrovert to my introvert, but that never stopped us both from having fun.

One (sample) memory from my 20s was of us partying at a showing of Reefer Madness. She dressed as Harpo Marx, and I was Carmen Miranda (you can see that carnivalesque switching of roles, right?). I am pretty sure we ended up getting kicked out of the movie for being too loud. Not blaming here, but she had a very boisterous, contagious laugh.

I called Nancy’s poem “You Are Loved” because she always ended every conversation, even every email, by saying “remember you are loved.”

I have lots of poem drafts to go through and revise. I keep thinking NaPoWriMo should be in the summer or fall. If you write all April and revise all May, sendouts in June is a great example of poor timing since a lot of journals shut down submissions for the summer.

Have a wonderful week and remember: you are loved.

***

Spring Arizona during the day:

The bottom one is just budding.

Spring Arizona at night:

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Pick Up Your Pen–It’s April 1 and the Start of NAPOWRIMO 2019!

Last year was a successful NAPOWRIMO for me, so I plan to participate again. Last week I pulled together my poetry prompt and craft books and scrounged around on Google for more prompts. Now I am ready to WRITE POEMS. How about you?!

Click the image to get to the NaPoWriMo site.  Checkitout.

There are other places to post what you write (if you prefer not to submit to journals), too, but I am not posting any of those because I don’t have time to really research and recommend. But put in the search words NAPOWRIMO and “poetry prompts” and look for sites where you can find prompts and even submit your own poems.

Happy writing to all!

In the spirit of poetry prompts, I’ll share with you a pic I took in search of Superbloom in Arizona. Not as successful as I would have liked, but how much joy did I need to find?!

The gardener and I took Mom way out to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. On the way, the roadside was in bloom with a pretty palette of wildflowers, but the gardener wouldn’t stop for photos (as usual). Then when we got near the towns of Superior, Miami, and Globe, the golden poppies were thick along the side of the roads and parking lots. Oddly, I couldn’t see any blossoms on the surrounding hills. But I guess the roadside had a lot more water.

Above is Ayer Lake at the Arboretum, and the photo below is one of the views from inside the park.

What a great place to hike or even leisurely walk.  There are trees and plants from Australia and China, as well as Arizona native vegetation.

For dinner, we went to The Arizona Biltmore hotel in Phoenix. In the ten years I’ve lived here, the only time I ever was on the property was a business thingie to hear Janet Napolitano speak when she was still governor. I had a feeling that chicken dinner wasn’t a proper example of the restaurant food at this gorgeous resort. So we went to the very fancy pizza and burger (and more) restaurant, Frank & Albert’s, for dinner. After dinner we walked around the lobby. Look at this beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass.

Then we walked outside and toured the entertainment and pool areas.

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A Little More Alaska (Sorry!)

Happy Labor Day. I hope your labors are light today, whether you celebrate or not.

When I left Alaska, I was eager to get home and see my cats and return to my routine. My initial thoughts were that I was so happy to have had the opportunity for this Alaskan experience and that I didn’t see the need for a return visit. The sites were beautiful and so different from what I knew, but it is quite remote in SE Alaska, and I like my city pleasures.

But this week I’ve found myself longing for Alaska. I miss the glaciers, the mountains, the wildlife, and the sparse human population.

The gardener doesn’t understand at all. He still feels that it was a wonderful trip, but he’s “done.” He loves warm weather and sun, and while I do like warm, sunny days, I don’t need it the way he does.

I love the way the mist lingers between the mountains. And how a low hanging cloud can transform a hill into a strange shape, even an animal.

Look through the mountains below to see yet more variety of landscape.

 

The next photo interested me because the waterfall is not centered. That way it’s possible to see more variety of topography.

Look at the next. Why is the umbrella over the flowers? It can’t be because someone positioned their umbrella there when they went inside. The flower pot is far from the door of the bookstore in Petersburg.

A phenomenon that I noticed in Juneau was that many people decorate their mailboxes. Unfortunately, with a big rear view mirror sticking out in my passenger side view, I couldn’t take a pic of too many of them.

Maybe I’ll have stopped blabbing about Alaska by next week . . . .

One thing before I go: I finished Ellen Morris Prewitt’s fabulous new novel Tracking Happiness.  I posted a review at Amazon and Goodreads. Here is my Goodreads review, although I stupidly posted it under the Kindle edition, and I read the paperback. It begins this way:

People sometimes ask me for fiction recommendations, and when they ask for a funny book, I remember that my list is very short. Sometimes they ask me for a feel good book, and that list is also pretty short. But since I just finished Ellen Morris Prewitt’s new novel Tracking Happiness: A Southern Chicken Adventure, I am putting it at the top of both lists.

The review is found here. It’s such a feel-good book you will thank me for recommending it :).

Make this week a good one!

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