Category Archives: nature

Do You Have a Muse?

Do you have a muse? Someone or something that inspires you to create? I guess I do, because it seems that every time I decide to post a photograph, I end up writing. Take today, for example.

I sat here at my desk with the intention of posting a photo of a hummingbird, one I’d seen while out for a walk yesterday. I usually write a few words to go with my photos, so I wondered what I could say about this one.

Before I had a chance to start typing, though, I heard a voice (my muse?) telling me what to write.

“Write a poem,” the voice said.

“About what?” I asked.

“Well, what are you thinking about right now? What are you feeling?”

“Well, duh,” I said. “I’m thinking about the pandemic, what else is there to think about?”

“Okay, but are you sure you want to write about something so intense? Maybe just write a poem about a bird.”

“I have to write about what’s on my mind,” I countered. “Maybe I can work the little bird into the poem somehow.”

“Alright” the voice said, “it’s your blog. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

You see, I’d been lying on the sofa today, feeling a sense of unfocused inertia. I’ve been feeling that way on and off for the last couple of days. Have you been feeling that way, too?

For the past month, I’ve been busy doing things like working from home, writing, making masks, talking to friends, figuring out how to safely get food, and, of course, watching Netflix. I’m not a total nerd. But I’ve also been glued to the news, and that’s okay, because I want to know what’s going on. I think it’s important that we stay on top of things. But sometimes I try to do too much, and then it seems as if my brain just shuts down and all I can do is crossword puzzles. And that’s okay, too.

Anyway, I was feeling very foggy-brained and distracted by (a) my phone, (b) a crossword puzzle, (c) my Spanish flashcards, and (d) thoughts about the pandemic. (The correct answer is all of the above.) I had  just told myself to focus on only one thing at a time when I got up to get something (I forget what) and I found myself sitting here at the computer. I know, I probably need meds more wine.

And while I’d been on the couch, I kept thinking about something Billy Collins said recently in one of his live-from-home poetry talks. In speaking about social isolation, he said we’re  living under a “futureless condition,” not knowing how long this situation will last or what life will be like afterwards. He compared it to being in 4th grade, where the only future you can imagine is “5th grade.” I thought that was a great description of how I’ve been feeling. And again, it’s okay to feel that way. I guess another way to describe it is how Bob Dylan would have put it: “no direction home.”

Then I looked at my little bird photo through the “futureless condition” lens, and I could imagine how that bird must feel, clinging to a tiny branch, swaying in the breeze, not sure why he was there or where he would be heading to next. And I knew I wanted to try and put all of those thoughts and feelings and images into a poem.

I did write the poem, but I have no idea whether it’s “any good,” so I’m going to let it steep for a while before I publish it. Meanwhile, here’s my little muse, the light little bird that inspired all this heavy thinking today.

And before you go, if the spirit grabs you, don’t forget to leave a comment and let me know how you’re doing. Do you have a muse?

Black-chinned hummingbird watermarked

 

 

Zooming and Blooming

Today’s post is about Zooming (video conferencing with my kids) and Blooming (photos I took about a month ago).

I haven’t been outside with my camera for several weeks, for fear of encountering someone on the trail who might sneeze on me. That actually happened to a friend of mine. Maybe my next batch of photos will be of the still life variety, taken indoors.

Let’s see … I could artfully arrange that pile of work folders that’s sitting on a stool in my living room. I might create a colorful collage from the pile of fabric rectangles stacked up next to my sewing machine. Or perhaps the world is ready for a sculpture I’ve created out of my pile of dirty laundry — the laundry I’m hesitant to do in the community laundry room. Then there’s my dwindling pile of toilet paper rolls … I really had better photograph it before it’s gone.

I’m doing okay, though. I just had a fun three-way video chat with my daughters. Tomorrow is the older one’s 40th birthday, so we celebrated by using Zoom. After the initially unsuccessful attempt at connecting, there we all finally were on the screen, looking like a pared-down version of the Brady Bunch (without the makeup, weird hairdos, or fake smiles). Well, in my case, I had put on a touch of makeup. They may have, too, but I couldn’t tell because they always look beautiful to me.

It wasn’t exactly the birthday party my daughter would have wanted, but it definitely made my day. I got to see with my own eyes how they’ve been coping during the pandemic, and it was reassuring. They even hilariously modeled their new masks, which they’ve made by cutting up the many pairs of leggings that they own, and making holes in them to place over their ears. It’s genius!

As always, they made me laugh, demonstrating how the stretchiness of the masks enables the wearer to quickly change them into long earrings, headbands, or a clever way to hide a double chin.

It was also a chance for me to visit with my grandsons. The 4-year-old (who tells his parents every day that he’s “so sick of the coronavirus”) said “I love you” (unprompted) and the almost 1-year-old smiled and waved and blew me an almost-kiss, touching his open palm to his mouth and holding it there for about 20 seconds. I have to say, it might have been one of the longest kisses I’ve ever received. It was definitely one of the best, anyway.

I hope you enjoy these photos of budding life and the promise of spring.

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From My Isolation Outpost to Yours

Greetings from Lori’s Isolation Outpost, otherwise known as my home office. My disembodied voice is coming to you through the wonders of a website called WordPress. It’s an apt name for a space that allows me to figuratively “press” you (as opposed to shaking your hand or otherwise coming within six feet of you).

Isolation Outpost is actually my spare bedroom. It has an old oaken table, a sewing table, a dresser, a keyboard, a guitar, and a fake oriental rug where I do a few exercises each morning. (OK, maybe not every morning.) This is where I do office-y things like writing and editing photos. It’s also where I do non-office-y things like online shopping, checking my Facebook page for likes, watching YouTube videos, and researching important topics like how to copy and send mp3 files via email. No home office deduction for me, not after the IRS sees this post, anyway.

I guess since this site’s called WordPress, it would be appropriate to have a Word of the Day. Well, in that case, my word for the day today is PALPITATION. My heart’s been going ker-thump and ker-thumpity thump on and off for about a week now — in fact it’s doing it as I type this sentence. Palpitations can be brought on by any number of conditions, but in my case, I’m pretty sure it’s stress.

You wouldn’t know it to see me. In fact, you wouldn’t even know it to BE me. I look, act, and FEEL very calm most of the time. But I have a feeling this pandemic is getting to me in insidious ways. It may be my new normal. But I’m going to fight it. I’ll reduce my coffee intake, I’ll meditate, I’ll go for a walk, and I’ll watch more comedy. Yes. That’s my plan, anyway.

And I’ll keep taking photos. Here’s a juvenile vermilion flycatcher. He looks pretty chill.

Juvenile Male Vermilion Flycatcher-4

Adult vermilion flycatchers are brilliant red. (I once wrote a song inspired by one.) Young males like the one shown above look like they’ve been partially dipped in a bucket of orange paint. This one’s spreading his tail feathers to sun himself. Maybe I’ll do that today — sun myself, that is. A walkabout in the Arizona sunshine would do my heart good. And maybe it’ll inspire another song!

Here’s a roadrunner I saw a few days ago, also sunning its tail feathers.

Road Runner Preening

He or she (hard to tell the difference) seemed very content to stand still and preen itself while I took its picture, although it did warn me to stay at least six feet away.

Whatever you do today, I hope it’s relaxing and good for your heart … and soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Jumble of Emotions

Dear friends,

HUGS.

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I hope you are well.

To say I’m going through some weird feelings at the moment because of the pandemic is an understatement. It feels dystopian. Unreal.  It’s a little like the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Some days, I experience all five. This post is going to be a jumble of emotions. So be it.

Two days ago, I think depression was winning. But I’ve been trying to cope by reading, writing, watching TV, going for walks, and taking photos. Here’s a cute black-tailed gnatcatcher I saw the other day :

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I admire his optimism. I hope some of it rubs off on me.

I’m worried, especially when I think about those of you in parts of the world, and in my own country, who are struggling the most. Italy, New York City, nursing homes, hospitals. The unemployed, parents who need childcare, people in prisons, the homeless, the sick, the elders … it’s mind-boggling and I know we’re in for a long ride. I never imagined being here. None of us did.

And I’m sad because my family lives 2,000 miles away. I’ve even fantasized about driving there, sleeping in my car along the way so as to avoid hotel germs, and arriving on their doorsteps with sanitizer in hand (which I don’t actually have because the stores were out of it) … but I’d just be a possible carrier, adding to their problems, so it’s best if I stay away. (Which reminds me: Have you seen Mel Brooks’ video where he tells his son to “go home”?)

I guess I’ll have to rely on texting, calling, and even dreaming to stay in touch with family. I literally dreamed about my two young grandsons last night. They will each have a birthday that I will miss this year.

My city, Tucson, just closed all restaurants and bars today. I think take-out is still an option, but sadly, I’m sure that doesn’t apply to bars. Glad I stocked up on wine, but three bottles doesn’t seem like nearly enough now.

On the bright side, scientists, medical professionals, some political leaders, small businesses, ordinary people are actually pulling together and making sacrifices for the sake of the greater good.

And I’m actually pretty impressed with how many of us humans are acting humanely, and are even finding and spreading humor on the internet. Is there a reason that the words “human” and “humor” are so similar?

By the way, here’s what made me laugh today:

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In the days to come, I hope to continue with my emotional outpourings. In the meantime, please let me know how you’re doing. Are you coping? Do you need a virtual shoulder to cry on? If so, I’m your person. Comment away.

 

 

 

 

The Hourglass

A massive granite boulder stood erect and solid on the shore, gazing at the
distant line where sea and sky collide, deep blue below and pale blue above, azure
edges bound together as if stitched with an eternal thread: a border on a quilt that never
ravels, never wears. And as the boulder watched, it felt the ocean’s salty waves,
until it cracked and crumbled, turning into shards and stones, and then,
like sea and sky, the rock and water merged, becoming sand.
One day a child with pail and shovel scooped the sand
into an empty hourglass. It glittered as it trickled
from past to future, pulled by force of
gravity, swept along
from end to end
drifting
down
in the
one direction
it could possibly
go, without knowing how, or why,
until a wild and random white cap plunged
itself upon the shore. It flipped and tossed the hourglass
as if it were a fish, until it was no longer standing as before,
but now its top was bottom, bottom top, and the unwitting sand began to
travel back through time, not knowing it had made the trip before, not realizing that
the hourglass was its eternal home, neither half-empty nor half-full, only a vessel
carrying moving energy, the kind that’s made when sea and sky collide.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This is a rough draft of a poem I’m working on. WordPress messed up the formatting a bit, and I’m not sure about the title. Suggestions welcome! (I’ve never written a shape poem before.)

This is post #4 for NanoPoblano2019. Click the link to see great stuff by other wild and crazy November bloggers!

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Birthday Breakfasts

My birthday is approaching. I’m not saying which one. That’s for me to know and you to Google. I will say this much: It’s a significant one.

As I mentioned in my recent post, Birthday’s Silver Lining, my birthday is causing me to ponder many things, such as the passage of time, the meaning of life, and … well, I’ve forgotten the third thing.

All this pondering is having an unexpectedly pleasant side effect: I’m finding extra joy in little things, like sunshine glittering on the lake, and the deep green color of the trees. I’m in a spectacularly good mood. Or maybe it’s just because I’m on vacation.

I’m staying in a trendy part of town, a neighborhood that I used to live in during my twenties. The area wasn’t always this trendy. Now it has cute little shops with names like Tru, and Roux, and Roam, and Hemp It Up. It also has a lot of gardens. Two days ago, after a rainstorm, I went out in search of some of my favorite things, like flowers with raindrops on them.

After taking pictures of flowers, I considered looking for more of my favorite things, like warm wooly mittens and bright copper kettles. But instead, since I hadn’t had my coffee yet, I headed to my favorite coffee shop, Glen Edith. It was only a few blocks away, right around the corner from the apartment I’d shared with three other roommates once upon a time.

As I walked past the old apartment, memories came flooding back: the music, the incense, the bell-bottoms, the vodka-spiked Kool-aid. (Just kidding, Mom.)

I kept walking, dressed in the long skirt, sneakers, and hipster sunglasses I’d donned that morning, and I suddenly felt young, energetic, and hip. Or maybe it was the thought of caffeine that was propelling me forward.

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I also felt rich, since I’d miraculously discovered some unexpected cash in my wallet the night before. I’m not making this up. There’s a secret hiding place in the wallet, right behind my driver’s license. I was looking for my Social Security card (don’t ask why) when I felt something wrinkly. I pulled it out and, to my shock, it was several twenty-dollar bills.

The last time I could remember having that amount of cash on me was on my previous out-of-town trip, and since then I’d lost my wallet and had it returned to me, contents intact. Good people still exist!

I went a little crazy that morning with my new-found wealth, deciding to treat myself to not one, but two breakfasts, since, after all, I have a birthday coming up, and life is short.

Breakfast number one was at the aforementioned Glen Edith, where I ordered a delicious cappuccino. It came with a tiny surprise: a mini-doughnut hole.

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And then, another surprise: a bright copper kettle on the counter!

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After the Glen Edith, I moved on to Jines Restaurant, a neighborhood institution since 1971, and ordered my old favorite, creme brûlée oatmeal.

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The creme brûlée oatmeal at Jines is decadent. Come to think of it, the word “decadent” has the word “decade” in it. Maybe “decadent” actually is a contraction, as in this example: “Did you turn 50 last decade?” “No, I decaden’t.”

Having two breakfasts at my two favorite shops in the neighborhood was a small thing that brought me joy. It was all part of my preconceived plan to pamper myself, since, in case you forgot, I have a rather significant birthday coming up.

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!

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:
Saguaro NP Snow 1

Saguaro NP Snow 2-2

Catalina State Park:

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Happy snowy saguaro Sunday!

 

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?

Snowman 1-2

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:

Snowman 2

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:

Snowman 3

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!