Category Archives: Flora, Garden, and Landscape

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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Arkansas, America, and Art

Last week I told you about the great restaurant we found in the Ozarks, along the White River bank. But we did more than go to that restaurant. We kept my uncle going every day! It had been decades since we had been to northern Arkansas. When we last visited, there were so many ancient Ozark-style log cabins tucked into the woods on the side of the road that the flavor of the land was everywhere you looked. If you don’t know what those are, they are small slightly rectangular box cabins with a peaked roof and a front porch with roof (imagine a wooden rocking chair and Pa with a corncob pipe just about now). Typically, the cover to the porch is a different pitch than the main roof–and best yet, the roof is generally tin. There aren’t very many left, but the remains of the ones being slowly claimed by the forest can be seen. Also, some have been refurbished with aluminum siding. Some new houses are built in the same style, to reflect the traditional architecture.

The reason I don’t have photos for you is that most of my Arkansas photos are crap, having been taken through a car window. It was too hot and humid to keep rolling the window down–and the so-called highways (NO freeways at all) are winding and long. It’s way out in the country, y’all. Anyway, the gardener drove, and it exhausted him so I didn’t want to distract him by rolling the window up and down–or asking to stop where we could have been run over IF someone else had driven there just then (that’s a big IF).

This part of Arkansas must be well within the Bible Belt. In Mountain Home (population 12,448), the Wednesday newspaper had a listing of churches in the immediate area.

I counted FORTY-ONE Baptist churches. There are also a lot of other denominations, including LDS, Jehovah’s Witness, and even Bahai! There is no synagogue, and I don’t think there is a mosque. Also, there are only two Catholic churches–one in town and one in a nearby town. The one in town is my uncle’s church. You might wonder then how my uncle ended up in Arkansas. He was born and lived in Chicago. After a horrible crime touched his life (story coming tomorrow in thefamilykalamazoo.com) he moved his family to rural Illinois–and eventually to Arkansas. He wasn’t alone–there is a whole “expat” group of Chicagoans who live there. They like being away from the hubbub–and a lot of them like to fish. That–and some Californians who have escaped the west coast–probably makes up the majority of people who attend the Catholic churches.

Let me mention that my favorite church names are the cowboy churches. Notice that this listing shows Bar None Cowboy Church. We flew into Tulsa, OK, and drove to Mountain Home. On the way, we saw other cowboy churches, like the Cowboy Gatherin’ Church in Inola, OK, and Crooked Creek Cowboy Church in Harrison. Apparently “cowboy churches” are a thing and are scattered across the country. Who knew? Well, I sure didn’t.

Speaking of Harrison. It’s only 48.4 miles from Mountain Home, but there’s a big difference. Mountain Home, as I said, has attracted people from Chicago and California and is close to reknowned trout fishing near the Bull Shoals dam which links Bull Shoals Lake with the White River. People think of pretty Ozark country when Mountain Home is mentioned. Harrison’s reputation comes from being known as the most racist city in the country. I got that from Wikipedia. So who knows the accuracy. Apparently, between 1905 and 1909 white citizens threw out all the African-Americans who lived there and established their city as a “sundown town.” That means just what it sounds like: no non-white people in town after dark. You think things have changed?

The city has been dubbed “the most racist city in America” because of its high presence of white supremacist organizations. Kingdom Identity Ministries, a white supremacist organization, was founded in 1982 in Harrison. Thomas Robb, national director of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, maintains his office near Harrison in the outlying town of Zinc and uses a Harrison mailing address for the organization. Combined with the history of the 1905 and 1909 banishment of unemployed railroad workers and all other African-American residents, this incidental connection to the KKK has given the town a negative image.

The article goes on to say that there are people who are trying to combat that image by speaking up against racism. Of course, all this just made me want to visit. The writer in me, you know. But that’s an easy call as a white woman. As the white mother of Asians, I would not have suggested we visit if they were with us.

When we got to town, I saw the pretty historic theatre where events are still held.

Love the neon sign!

Harrison is quite a pretty small town, and there wasn’t much to hint at a dangerous undercurrent of racism. Then we stopped at an antique shop for the gardener.

My eye was drawn to certain things. I started to feel uncomfortable.

I realize people collect Mammy this and that. Raised in Kalamazoo by my northern relatives, I will never feel comfortable with this stuff. In fact, in Arkansas, I had to keep reminding myself it used to be a slave state. I’ve never lived in a state where slave-holding was legal.

And then there was this little section.

Don’t you love the juxtaposition of items? The Rise and Fall swastika, desperation, a book called Rifles and Shotguns, Rhett Butler, and the fragility of that ruffled porcelain atop the stack. I figured we’d been in town long enough. Time to go!

Next day we visited my cousin’s home in the mountains. He is an orchid farmer by trade, and they live way out in the middle of nowhere (yup, it’s probably even called that). He always loved cacti and orchids, and it’s kind of cool that he’s made a living all these years doing what he loves.

He’s got such cute grandchildren, too. So much fun playing with them!

One day we visited Mystic Caverns. I guess northern Arkansas has a lot of underground caves. Many have probably not even been discovered yet.

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Close to Mountain Home is a tiny town called Norfork. There you can find the Jacob Wolf House Historic Site.

The site includes the main house, which was the territorial courthouse, built 1825, as well as some outbuildings. Seeing how the men “roughed” it even inside the courthouse really made me think of what the settlers went through. During the day, court was in session, and at night, the men spread out their bedrolls where they had been sitting in court earlier.

As we left Arkansas, the gardener and I stopped at the Osage Clayworks because the area has been known for pottery for quite some time. They had some good buys on “seconds,” and I bought my daughter a garlic thingie to use for her rings on her dresser.

 

The Photography of Justin Hamm

If you like seeing small towns and the fading past of America, you need to check out the photography of poet and photographer Justin Hamm. He’s also the editor of the museum of americana. I love Justin’s photos. Rustic images of old cars, barns, that kind of thing. Gorgeous. Click here for his Instagram. Here are the photos on his website. Look at this photograph of an old Ozark barn, care of Justin. He’s been in the Ozarks recently so I am watching for all those shots I imagined but couldn’t pull off.

 

The Art of Len Cowgill

On the subject of beautiful American art, I want to tell you a little update on the work of Len Cowgill.

Many, many years ago, when Len, the gardener, and I were all very young, Len gave us a series of three pieces as a gift. This was before he knew about archival materials, and over the years in the hot sun of California, the drawings faded. Here is one of them–see HOW faded.

Upon hearing about the fading, Len kindly offered to repair all these drawings. Look out great they turned out! In the first one, he changed the static brick wall to Allen Ginsberg’s poem “America” and then followed the theme for the rest of them.

I’m so blessed to have such thought-provoking and breathtaking art in my life. Thanks to Len and thanks to Justin both for sticking with your passions and making the world more beautiful.

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Multicolored ~ nonfiction by Luanne Castle


A big thank you to The Disappointed Housewife for publishing my piece, “Multicolored.”

The Disappointed Housewife

GREEN surrounds me as I enter the butterfly pavilion. The leaves of the trees and flowers create an oasis in the Sonoran desert. All seems still inside, protected from the dry winds, until I notice the undulant motion of butterflies winging above me, swooping down to sip at the nectar of the blossoms. The guide warns visitors to watch where we step, what we touch. Fragile life whirls around us. After all these years, I think I understand how they feel. One has to go through so many changes to get to full flower. Now is not yet the time to die.

BROWN fur nestles under the leaf. I’m here anew, peeling the caterpillar off the green veins and stem which define the underside. I curl up my fingers, cupping the bug in my palm. It tickles me and then plays dead inside the tent of my hand, as I…

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Saguaro Fruit Season

This was the first year that I’ve lived in Phoenix that all  the saguaros blossomed with white crowns. So this is the first year I’ve seen so many white blossoms all turn into juicy red fruit. An animal must have eaten some of this one!

Check out the bird sitting on the top. Birds seem to love saguaros.

Here’s a good article about the harvesting of the saguaro fruit.

A couple of the cacti in our yard, thanks to the gardener.

One of the most inspiring people in my life has been a gorilla–namely, Koko, lover of cats and poet of sign language. Sadly, she died last week at age 46.

This image by a fan of Koko was shared on Koko’s Facebook page with a request to share it, so here it is. RIP dear Koko. I just don’t understand how little her death has been on the news. The people whose lives we celebrate on national television when they die have not done as much for our future and our planet as Koko has done.

#amwriting #writerlife #writerslife I had two beautiful acceptances this week. One publication coming out in a day or so . . . .

HAPPY NEW WEEK!

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From Japan to Lebanon to the Hummingbird’s Nest All in One Day

Recently the gardener discovered the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix: RO HO EN. We visited the other day for the first time. I was so taken with the size of the pond, and this spot of beauty nestled under the tall condo buildings near the Central Arts District (theatres, museums, opera, and arts schools). If you haven’t been to that area, it’s a must see–so active and vital.

 

The garden resembles a lovely park more than it does a Japanese garden of the sort I am used to (Portland, the Huntington, etc.). They offer tea ceremonies to the public on the third Saturday of every month. The fee is $30 ($25 seniors). Imagine living in one of those condos with a view of the garden all year round.

 

 

The pine cones were fun because they aren’t a common sight in Phoenix.

 

The park did not have flowers or too many bells and whistles, so the gardener was not impressed with that aspect. For me, the park-like environment was fabulous. But it did come with a $7 price tag ($6 for seniors, $5 for students, and free for little kids).

 

The pond is loaded with giant carp, and when you check in they ask if you want to buy a little bag of food for the fish. The way they all gather to eat a few crumbs was a little terrifying for me. I thought it might be stressful for the fish. The upside for them is that the pond is so big that their environment is better than that of many pond-living carp.

 

This big guy in the middle was truly enormous.

Ducks live at the pond, too, and the mothers all were watching over their ducklings. One duckling imprinted on us and tried to follow us until we discouraged her. This is a short video of a baby duck, just in case you want to see cute right now.

After the garden, we went to one of our favorites, Middle Eastern Bakery & Deli. The owner Isam is so nice, the gluten-free options are diverse (pita, tabouli, and more), and the Lebanese lemonade to die for.

 

This time a tray of turnovers sat on the counter. They looked intriguing. Isam told me that he makes them for Ramadan every year. He is Christian, and though he makes them on behalf of his Muslim customers, he admits to loving them ;). He explained that on Ramadan, because of the fasting, people need the quick energy this sweet treat provides. He said he starts with a pancake and fills it with a cheese or walnut filling, turns it over, and deep fries it. It’s then covered with a rosewater syrup. I cannot tell you how much I LOVE rose flavored food and drink. I keep two bottles of rosewater in my fridge! I brought home two kataif–a cheese and a walnut. The gardener told me I was consuming 1,000 calories each. Hahaha, I just grinned as he was saying it because these are obviously not a gluten-free treat!

 

Click on the link to find out more: Atayef (Kataif)

Now for an update on the hummingbird mom and her babies.

They are growing up so fast. The gardener watched one fly away already. I wonder if their mother is the child or grandchild of one of the hummers who hatched in our backyard a few years ago.

Since I restructured my memoir, making it more of a hybrid genre in structure and style, I have debated adding a few poems to the book. This week I revised a couple of poems I am contemplating for the book.

Happy week, everyone!

 

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I Love “May” in Blog Titles (with a Publication in Longridge Review)

Desert Rose, Arizona

I give up. OK, I don’t really give up. But I’m cutting myself a little slack. I had all these great plans for May, but we’re already over 2/3 done with May, and I haven’t accomplished the writing I had planned. It just wasn’t possible. I let slip so much other stuff in April to work on #NaPoWriMo, that I had to catch up–or at least try. I’m so excited that Kin Types is a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. I didn’t dream it would do so well in a prestigious national award like that. But it did take up more time as I had to take it to social media. That’s the way of today.

And then I watched the price of the book slide back up on Amazon to its original price. Funny how that happens.

BUT I haven’t been doing nutten. Today Longridge Review published a short memoir piece, “The Secret Kotex Club.” Their focus is on memoir about the childhood experience–with adult reflection to give it some heft. I hope you enjoy it!

May. I have used it in many blog titles, but I’ve also used it in several poem titles. It’s such a beautiful month to write about. Spring is here. I don’t want to miss it entirely. The gardener noticed that the hummingbird eggs have hatched because he saw the mother feeding them. She has tucked the nest into the leaves of the oleander so well that we can’t really see the nest, but he saw her hovering above and dipping her beak down as if she were feeding. I just watched her defending her nest against three wren-type birds. She chased them away. Pretty amazing to see that tiny fierce mama take on a whole gang to protect her babies.

Every saguaro in the valley is still in bloom. I caught this one in front of someone’s house. I thought they might call the cops on me . . . .

 

We have flowers blooming on the ground, the outdoor tables, the bushes, and the trees.  Perry watched a roadrunner behind our house, content to be inside, safe and well fed.

This one is not at my house, but I liked it!

And it’s not too hot out yet. Hot, but not too hot.

Pretty darn beautiful.

To go with the new season, the gardener has allowed me to throw away his old gardening shoes, and he will wear the new Rainbows that the kids gave him.

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