Wednesday, March 30

Our Tomorrows

Will you still read me when I'm 53? ♪♫ ♪

My new blog link is above.
I hope you'll come visit soon. ♥

P.S. If you can't say your farewells with
a kind of corny poem in your own blog,
then where can you? (See below. ;-)

Tuesday, March 29

Sweet Sorrow

My brain is dead to the truth.
My 52 new things are old now and over.
My mind doesn't grasp it, yet
I am poised to become one year older.
I'm glad I saw the blog through,
But I couldn't have done it without you.
Marylou and Richard, Colleen,
You've been here often, heartened me,
Offered me pleasure and polish and sheen.
Mami and Auntie Gardie, Merissa, Margie, Michelle.
There have been others,
People I know, people I love,
Reading in silence, reading in secret,
The quiet, hidden mourning dove.
And strangers have wandered in, too, though I don't know
If they've stayed to read or have just passed through.
To date it shows 587 page views,
487 from the United States, 8 from Germany, 10 countries all told.
It is more than I can hold.
But with a grateful heart I bid you adieu, and I say
Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.

Wednesday, March 23

Field Guide Gods and Desert Wildflowers (52)

"Does anyone still need to buy the textbook?" I asked. And then my insides squiggled with both an eek and a thrill when one of my classmate's said, "Yes." I was acting on impulse, the words leaping from my throat. I'd already debated this and had decided I would just keep the book, would perhaps use it to look up extra information about the flowers. But I was taking a chance letting go of it that evening. I'd already copied down all the scientific family names, but I wasn't sure if I'd be able to find all the flowers online to study for the final exam the next week. I didn't want to keep the book, though, didn't want to have spent $30 on something I wasn't likely to use again. Another classmate had shown me her little wildflower guide the week before, and I was sending up prayers they might have it at the Joshua Tree visitor center where we'd be stopping on Saturday.

I'm almost embarrassed to admit it, but finding the guide in their little store was the highlight of the field trip for me. Does that make be grasping and bent on acquisitions, mercenary, blind to the glory of the desert in March? Maybe. But I was so happy my hunch, my impulsive leap of faith paid off, so grateful the field guide gods had granted me this gift. And it was only $21.70, to boot. I got to use it right away to identify the one new flower I happened to notice that day amidst all the others being pointed out to us. It looked like the Desert Chicory but it had some yellow at its center and a dab of rose. I used my new book to look up chicory, and there it was on a nearby page: Ghost Gravel. It reached above my waist, delicate and wispy. And it was my first "find." Maybe I would have relished it more, even recognized it as the highlight of the day for me if my instructor hadn't brushed off my questions about it in annoyance. Ah, well. I know I can be annoying at times, though I'm not sure what I'd done that afternoon to warrant his impatience. It may have been a cumulative thing. But still, it is the pleasure of finding the field guide that comes back to me. Even now, I love just holding the little book in my hands.

[Editor's note: I thought I may as well go out with a bang here and show you several of my favorite shots from the day. For those of you who may be curious, from top to bottom these are Wild Heliotrope, Bigelow Monkey Flower, Rock Daisies, Canterbury-bells and a mix of wildflowers in a Box Canyon wash that include Gold Poppies, Chias and Arizona Lupine---possibly more. All the images were taken at the southeast end of Joshua Tree or in Box Canyon, BLM land nearby.]

My New Sparrow (51)

I realized my lament was beginning to sound too much like complaining. "I'm over saturated," I said to one of my classmates. "I can't take in another new flower, can't enjoy this anymore." I'd already said this more than once. I couldn't handle this rapid moving from one wildflower to the next with no time in between to just be. And besides, I was feeling uncomfortable about all twenty-something of us waltzing off the trail and wandering through the desert wash. It felt wrong to me. So, I bid my fellow stragglers adieu and returned to the trail. I climbed up and over a tiny ridge nearby in search of my abandoned center, my sense of awe, my peace. I didn't go far. I only had a little water left, and I was tired. But I needed to feel the majesty of the place. I meandered along the trail for a few minutes. I saw another gorgeous Beavertail Cactus in bloom. I was hearing sweet birdsong, too, and finally got a good look at the singers.

They would dart about a bit, but then a bird would sit still, perched on one long, reaching woody stem not far from the trail. They had white lines at sharp angles above and below their eyes. I guessed they were a kind of sparrow, and I knew their markings were so dramatic and distinctive I'd have no trouble finding them in my California bird book when I returned to the car. (I was right. They were Black-throated Sparrows, and I had that lovely little thrill of having identified them on my own.) I stood in the middle of the trail looking and listening for a long time. I took in the stretch of the far valley and the distant mountains. I felt the sun on my back, heard the cars on the highway, saw two hikers make their slow way down a narrow, windy trail nearby. I listened to the sparrows, and I lost that harried edge. I loved watching them. Their whole bodies sang.

[Editor's note: I can't tell you who holds the copyright on this photo but I can point you to their webpage here: It looks like the photographer has chronicled his or her travels and posted some lovely stuff! I am hoping they won't mind I've borrowed their image of my new sparrow.]

Wednesday, March 9

I Can't Believe I Ate the Whole Thing

Do you remember that commercial? Was it Alka-Seltzer? I can't recall the images, but I can still hear the tone of voice. It's not what I feel now, not overly glutted. But I think the phrase popped into my mind because I do share the stunned quality of those actors, the same shock at the outcome. I only need two more posts to meet my goal of posting 52 "new things" while I'm 52. I guess it shouldn't be surprising to me that once the bulk of the work is done the ending seems to fly by. My school semesters feel that way, too. But for so long this endless line of unwritten posts stretched out ahead of me, and now there are only two left, and endless choices, it would seem, for posting. I begin my native desert plants class tomorrow, so I can easily post two new wildflowers, something to accompany all these birds. ;-)

I plan to do another blog while I'm 53, but this time I will not limit myself to "new" things. I'm considering going with a straight and prosaic "53 Things" for this next one. (Yes, I do hear how dull this sounds. Maybe I'll have an epiphany?) I know it's silly of me to have felt constricted this year by my own guidelines, but I did. I'm hoping I will find a refreshing freedom in the looseness of my next project. I'm imagining I will jot down ideas when they come to me, then have a good list of appealing possibilities whenever I sit down to write. I'm imagining no restraints, sweet creativity welling up and magic happening on the page. I am grinning as I write this, wondering what sort of imaginary blocks or unlooked for troubles I might discover in my new endeavor. Will I be at a loss because there is no imposed structure? But I will hold to the idea of ease and fun and abundance and richness and depth. If the process provides an "otherwise," I'll trust to learn from the experience. What more can I ask for, hmm? Oh, well, maybe to feel good about all my posts? I'd like to have more readers, too. (Or, if I have more readers now, to somehow know they are reading.) And speaking of readers, I will write one more note to you again before I end this blog. I have been very glad you are here.

Sunday, March 6

My New Warbler (50)

I was sitting on the patio Wednesday morning when a bird caught my eye. I don't remember what I had been doing. Maybe I was working and happened to glance up from my laptop. Or maybe I'd been stopped, daydreaming, having just eaten my slice of pumpernickel with goat butter. The bird was on the rocks in the southwest corner of my yard. House Sparrows show up there all the time, finding fallen thistle seeds from the sock feeder, and nibbling on berries that have dropped from the palm tree. I see a Bewick's Wren there often, and White Crowned Sparrows.


Myrtle warbler © Lester Rees


But something alerted me when I saw this bird, though I couldn't see her colors, couldn't tell until I picked up the binoculars she wasn't one of the usual suspects. Oh, but what fun when I focused in and saw her. She was beautiful, with a yellow throat and other spots of yellow on her body that was shades of grey. She had a delicacy about her I admired, and she was kind enough to stay put while I got a good look at her. After she left, I leafed through my California bird book until I found her. Aside from the treat of watching the birds themselves, I get my biggest pleasure in this when I identify a new bird. I felt that way Wednesday, all happy and proud and satisfied, the puzzle solved. Ah, and grateful, too, for both the visit and the intuition that had be picking up my binoculars for a closer look.

[Editor's note: My warbler did indeed have a yellow throat---an Audubon's Yellow-Rumped Warbler and not the Myrtle you see here---but this east coast equivalent was the closest I could come to how mine looked.]

Salvation Mountain (49)

I've known about Salvation Mountain and the man who has made it his life's work, but I had never visited it before. We went by as a "cultural sidetrip" during a daylong exploration of the Salton Sea for my winter birds class at the local community college. The man who created this extravagant work of folk art wasn't there when we stopped by, but we wandered around a bit and I took some photographs. The part that fascinated me the most is what the artist calls the "museum."

It's built from hay bales and "tire trees" and has windows set into it in high places and odd angles. I also loved the ongoing feeling of the project, of adding here and painting there. It lit up the part of me who longs for hands-on artwork, and I marvel at the scope and longevity of this project. I tend to let the biblical verses trip me up, but my sense is this labor goes beyond its base of Christianity. "Leonard just wants everybody to get along," our instructor said. "He's just about the nicest man you could meet." Maybe one day I'll go back to meet him. [The "official" website is here for anyone who wants to peruse this a bit more:]