Birthday’s Silver Lining

I have a big birthday coming up. I won’t say which one, but it’s an even number. If you must know, it ends in a zero.

Here’s another hint: my hair started turning gray years ago. Prematurely. Yeah, that’s it.

I used to color my hair until the roots started turning a very light shade of gray (white, actually) and were too “stubborn.” That’s what the hairdresser called them, as if they were recalcitrant children. She’d covered them with dark brown dye and left them in a time-out so long that she couldn’t remove the dye she’d accidentally gotten on my forehead. I walked around with a dark brown border on my forehead for a few days. I vowed to never again color my hair.

When the roots started to grow out, I looked kind of like a mushroom, with white roots and the rest of my hair dark brown. I’ll never forget the high school freshman who passed me in the hall one day and blurted out, “What’s wrong with your hair?” Social skills were not his strength, but then, hair fashion sense wasn’t mine, either.

But now, people, even complete strangers, are constantly telling me how much they love my hair color. Maybe they’re just thinking “at least she doesn’t look like a mushroom,” I don’t know. But I guess gray hair is all the rage these days. And mine is even better: silver and white on top, gradually blending to dark gray underneath. There’s a name for that, but I can’t remember it right now, because … well, you know … birthday.

I looked it up just now. It’s called “ombre,” which means “shaded” in French. I am part French, so in a way, I’m going back to my roots. (groan)

There’s a silver lining that comes with growing older. You learn to appreciate the little things in life more. For example, a nice thing happened to me today as I was out for a walk with my camera. A man passed me on the sidewalk. (No, that’s not the nice part.) Seeing my camera, he asked, “What are you taking pictures of?”

“Flowers,” I replied.

“Well, there’s a whole bunch of mushrooms about a half a block up there, near those trees,” he said.

I kept walking and found the mushrooms.

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I got down on my stomach in the grass and clicked the camera. As I did so, I couldn’t stop thinking about how nice that fellow was to tell me about the mushrooms. Or maybe he just liked my ombre hair.

Welcome to My (Wet) World

My five-week vacation to visit family in upstate New York is off to a cold, wet start. I’m staying near Lake Ontario, where the water level is high enough to create problems for those who live along the shore. I took a drive yesterday and saw closed roads, sandbags, and basements being pumped out. At one point, the water from a pond close to the lake had reached road level and was running across it.

On the bright side, there were the swans, a whole flock of them, gliding along next to the road like royalty in a parade. I stopped and took some pictures of them but only one was sharp enough to keep. I think I need a bigger lens. This could be an expensive vacation.

Meanwhile, here are some other photos I took around the water-logged neighborhood:

  1. Playground needing a lifeguard

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2. Great blue heron at Braddock Bay State Park

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3. Some kind of mushroom or toadstool — can you identify it?

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4. My dream house (if I wanted to live right on the lake, which I don’t). I just like the roof line. And the window. And the garden (see next photo).

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5. The lakeside garden:

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6. Random green things to photograph:

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7. And last but not least:

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Hoping for a sunny day tomorrow, and more photos!

I’m Living in a Children’s Book

My two-week Airbnb guest house in upstate New York comes with ducks and chickens. I didn’t know this when I rented the place, but I’ve discovered that I enjoy waking up to the sound of quacking and clucking in the morning. Sure, I have to be careful not to step in duck poop when I enter and exit the building, but I’m getting back to nature!

It had rained overnight. Good weather for the ducks, who were quacking up a storm this morning as they waddled around drinking from the puddles. Then the sun came out, and so did the chickens, clucking and pecking and watching me with their beady little eyes.

One of them came up to me and circled around my legs. She didn’t try to peck at me, so I put her to work as my model. I felt like a professional fashion photographer as I complimented her fine feathers and jaunty gait.

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The photo shoot continued as we headed over to the chicken coop. I was hoping the door to the nesting box would be open so I could collect an egg or two for breakfast. Sadly, the door was closed and latched. I thought about opening it, but I wasn’t sure all of the chickens were out roaming around.

Just then my model chicken started clucking like crazy. Apparently, she really wanted to get inside of the coop. I thought about opening the door for her until I noticed a pair of eyes looking out from an opening in the nesting box. It was a rabbit.

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What was a rabbit doing in the chicken coop? Guarding the eggs? Keeping them warm? Just hanging out? Maybe the chicken and the rabbit are BFFs. I’m dying to know. Could this be the inspiration for my next children’s novel?

The “Frog and Toad” books were a big hit. Maybe “Chicken and Rabbit” would be even more popular with today’s kids … especially if I include illustrations of duck poop.

Any illustrators out there interested in collaborating? If you act fast, I can pay you in fresh eggs.

My Airbnb Surprise

There once was a woman named Lori

who wanted to feel hunky dory

so she went on vacation

and to her elation

her neighbors were ducks, end of story!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Yes, my suburban airbnb host raises not only ducks, but chickens. And the ducks in the picture were standing by the chicken coop having a conversation with the chickens when I arrived.

My host said I can help myself to fresh chicken eggs while I’m here. She has more than she can use. But how do I get past the ducks? And how do I open the coop without letting the chickens out?

To be continued.

 

Words You Never Want to Hear While Sitting on the Tarmac

“Sorry for the delay, folks … We’ll be here a while longer … There’s a little problem with the fuel gauge.”

I was leaving town on vacation, and I had a window seat. I’d been buckled in for at least twenty minutes, and I was getting drowsy. I was just starting to wonder why the plane hadn’t moved an inch when the pilot’s voice broke in.

“Sorry for the delay, folks,” he said. It’s about time, I thought, expecting him to say, “We’ll be taking off in a few minutes.” But instead, the next words he said were, “We’ll be here a while longer.” Hmm … I thought, sleepily. How much longer? And then I heard his crackly voice again, announcing that “there’s a little problem with the fuel gauge.” I was immediately wide awake.

I knew I’d heard him correctly, and yet what he was saying didn’t make any sense. Why on earth would we still be sitting on the plane if there was a problem with the FUEL GAUGE?

The pilot continued talking, saying something about how they had to use an alternative method to fuel the plane. I pictured a long hose coming from the nearest corner gas station, and the nozzle automatically shutting off when the tank reached the “full” mark. I was aware of how finicky those gas pumps can sometimes be, shutting off too soon. I also knew of some gas pumps that were so slow they seemed to be pumping molasses. I figured that an airplane’s gas tank had to be at least 100 times the size of the one in my car. I calculated that we’d be sitting there quite a while longer — long enough for me to decide whether or not to run for the nearest exit.

Suddenly somebody laughed, and my brain did this strange thing. It told me not to worry. It convinced me that the pilot must know what he’s doing, and that if it wasn’t safe he wouldn’t let us take off.

Looking back, I wonder just how safe it really was … but I guess I’ll never know. We made it from Tucson to Chicago, and on to our final destinations. But I think if I ever hear those words “a little problem with the fuel gauge” again, I won’t trust my luck a second time.

For now, though, I’m going to sit back and enjoy the rest of my vacation. I’ll try to post often and to include photos, too. And if you like trains, stay tuned. There’s a good chance I’ll be taking Amtrak for the return trip.

Seven Ways to Say “Curly”

I am the child of a father with thick, curly black hair and a mother with fine, straight brown hair. So what did I end up with? A head full of not-quite-curly, not-quite straight, fine hair. Thanks, genes! Actually, a better way to describe my hair is “a collection of limp, uncooperative cowlicks that behave badly in public.”

The only time my hair looks good is right after a new haircut. Here’s me straight from the hairdresser’s about a month ago:

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and here’s me today:

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But last week I bought some pomade that smells like limes and makes my wavy, unruly hair calm down and behave. I looked like this for about one day:

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As long as my hair stays exactly this length, I’m happy. I like the simplicity of my current morning routine: shampoo, apply goo, scrunch, and go.

But I know in about two days my hair will reach that stage again where I debate the pros and cons of yanking it back into a pony tail, getting it all cut off, or both.

The reason I’m discussing my hair has nothing to do with vanity, and everything to do with linguistics. You see, the little label that came with my pomade was translated into seven languages, none of which were English or Spanish.

I wondered why the company selected the languages they did (French, German, Swedish, Russian, Italian, Dutch, and Portuguese) and why they omitted English and Spanish. But I was glad to see the less well-known languages included for a change.

Being a language nerd, I decided to take up the challenge of trying to read the label. I still remember some of my high school French, which gave me a head start. The label began with a brief product description, saying it would lend control and shine to curly hair. It talked about how to apply the stuff.

For each language, there was a warning included, which said:

Precautions: Follow instructions. Avoid all contact with eyes. KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN.

After studying the label, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are seven different ways to think of “curly,” depending on where you live.

The French phrase for curly hair is “cheveux bouclés,” which actually means “loopy hair.” If you’ve ever seen a jacket made from bouclé fabric, you know the look. It’s kind of tousled and wild, something like fleece. I like the idea of appearing tousled and wild, so from now on I’m going to ask my hairdresser to give me a “bouclé.” I just hope she doesn’t think it means “blue hair.”

The German phrase for curly hair is “lockige Haare.” That may be where we get the word “Goldilocks” from. And I learned from reading the label and using Google that the German way of saying “control hair” uses the word “geeignet,” which means to make something acceptable. I guess I’d better not visit Germany looking like picture #2 above.

The Swedes refer to curly locks as “lockigt har/god til krollet har.” That means curly/crinkly hair, I think. I found it interesting that the English words for “medium” and “formula” are the same in Swedish, at least on this product label.

Then I came to Russian, a language that completely baffles me. Not only do most letters appear as upper-case, but some like R and N are mirror images of their English versions, and others look more like hieroglyphics. I had no idea which of the Russian words was the one for hair.

However, I did manage to figure out which one meant “Precautions,” since I’d already identified it in the French version (“Précautions”) and it was the only word followed by a colon. So I THINK that the Russian word for “Precautions” is something like this: Cnoco6 npNMeHehNR. I wonder if Donald Trump took Cnoco6 npNMeHehNR when he visited Russia.

Now for Italian. In Italian, curly hair is translated as “capelli ricci.” Rich hair! It makes sense that Italians would think of curly hair as “rich.”

The Dutch translation of curly hair is “krullend haar.” But before you start thinking that Dutch is just a slightly modified version of English, consider that the Dutch word for instructions is “gebruiksaanwijzing.” (It was on the label and I looked it up.)

The last language on the label is Portuguese. The Portuguese translation of curly hair is “cabelo encaracolado,” which almost literally means “hair like a snail shell.” What a great description of my hair! (See picture #2 above.)

The very last portion of the label was a long list of ingredients, and, for some reason, it was in English only. Maybe they didn’t want their readers to understand it. I understood only too well that I’ve been putting something on my hair that’s made with citronella, and is practically radioactive. But it smells good, and it probably will keep the mosquitoes away this summer.

 

 

 

Happy Saguaro Sunday

This weekend, I opened my front door and saw snow. That’s right, SNOW, right here in Tucson, Arizona. And not just ordinary snow.

I saw:

  • snow in the desert
  • snow next to tall saguaro cacti
  • big, flat snowflakes. They were about 1 to 2 inches in diameter and looked like little flying saucers
  • snow on 9,000-foot tall mountains
  • an icy-cold stream flowing down from those mountains, and I waded through it!

Here, have a look:

Saguaro National Park:
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Catalina State Park:

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Happy snowy saguaro Sunday!

 

Sowing Some Song Seeds

Many thanks to d. ellis phelps, who has just published my personal essay, Song Seeds, at formidablewoman.org. The website is a sanctuary of poetry, essays, creative nonfiction, art and photography by women for women on the act of becoming formidable.

Song Seeds is a story about how I came to write a prize-winning song about a cat … and also about my dad, and … well … you’ll just have to read the story.

The song itself (My Name is Romeo) can be previewed and downloaded here.

That’s enough shameless plugs for one post.

But one more thing: I can now proudly display my new formidable woman badge, as seen below!

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Funny Looking Snowmen

It rarely snows in Tucson, Arizona, but when it does, it’s a pretty big deal.

There was a dusting of snow to our north last night, and probably five inches of the stuff 25 miles up the road, in Oracle State Park, which is where I went today to take photos. The place was swarming with “snow peepers,” and some of them were building snowmen.

Here’s one of my snowmen photos. But this snowman isn’t really a man, is it? Because he (it?) has three ears (horns?) and wings (gigantic shoulder muscles?). Obviously, it was built by a bunch of men with issues. I won’t say what their issues are, but what’s that guy in the red jacket pointing at?

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I do think this snowman is kind of lovable. Just look at that expression.

Here’s another snowman. This one is more typical of the ones I saw in Oracle today:

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A 3-foot tall snow person with eyes made from a plant called “desert broom.”

Obviously, we southwest Arizona residents aren’t too good at building snowmen. But then, can you blame us? It only snows one day a year here! We need more practice.

On my way out of the park, I spotted this 2-foot tall model pointing the way:

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Actually, I think its arm fell off.

I think this minimalist sculpture was the best little snowman of all.

If you like snowmen, you’ll probably enjoy listening to my song about them, called “Gonna Build a Snowman.” It’s guaranteed to get you in touch with your inner child, and you can listen now, for free, here:

http://www.pacificbuffalo.com/music

Just click the link, then click “Gonna Build a Snowman.”

Happy Snow Year!