Thursday, April 27, 2006

What's that Glowing Thing in the Sky?

Finally, a truly sunny day!

Bernie has been making me walk all over town to accompany him on his exercise. It's a dreadful chore, moving about in the springtime.

See, this is the kind of thing I'm subjected to: gorgeous fluffy yellow irises in a garden by the sidewalk! How horrible my fate! How cruel my existence!

Fortunately for me, I have a digital camera with which to document the incidents. Otherwise people might get the impression I was just wandering around for hours holding some dude's hand.

I've only got a couple more weeks of this tortuous existence, and then I'm on my own again. Do you think I'll miss being dragged on long walks to look at birds and flowers and lizards and sky?

Oh, come on.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Walk to the River

Okay, I know this is not a good photograph, but it is important.

This bird is the very first Blue Grosbeak Bernie and I have ever seen in our lives. We're in our fifties. That's a lot of time knowing that such beautiful birds existed, and never really expecting to ever catch a glimpse of one. Today, we did.

Bernie suggested a slow amble (sans puffing, pissing dogs) down to see what the river was doing to the golf course, but we went to the far side of the course, where a National Wildlife Preserve has been formed from what was once farm land. For once we remembered to take along both binoculars and the camera. The Blue Grosbeak would have been worth paying out a weekend at a resort to see, and here he was, only a couple blocks away!

The lizard was more mundane, but it was fun to see this one and dozens others climbing around on the rocks on the side of the hill that led down to the water's edge.

The water is standing in not only the Jack Tone Golf Course, but also in the "Riparian Habitat" off of River View Drive. (Heh. Residents of that neighborhood didn't really think they were going to have a river view until the water came up this spring.) Until a couple years ago, the land was farmed. I don't know what kind of transaction took place, but we walked by and saw rows and rows of tiny trees and shrubs planted in place of beans one spring. And then we heard it was a "riparian habitat" being planted. But it wasn't wet until this spring.

I think they may have breached the levee to allow more of a floodplain. We haven't been able to find a way down there to see. Signs say "National Wildlife Preserve" and there are fences to keep people out.

With the snowpack melting, it's likely that this area will stay under water for a while. This is a good thing for us, as it will provide us with endless entertainment watching the lizards, birds, and frogs frolicking in the watery wetland.

Friday, April 21, 2006

More about flowers, and a little about hair.

I didn't plant these flowers. They planted themselves.

I don't think I've planted any nasturtiums for about four years. One year I thought some would look cute in the front garden ... and they took that as an excuse to be fruitful and multiply.

The original seeds were for flowers of orange, red, and yellow. The daughter plants have wide variations in color; some bronze, some sunset colored like these, and every kind of orange and yellow in between. These really caught my eye, especially with their luxuriously almost-double petals.

I've been waiting for days for a sunny evening so that I could take a picture of them.

This second picture is cool. I love the 40X zoom of my camera, an Olympus C-765 UltraZoom. Look at all those delicate structures in the throat of this flower -- amazing.

I mowed the front yard today, keeping an eye on a storm in the southwest. We may yet have a thunderstorm tonight, but I think the rain has missed us this time. I was nice and cool while I mowed. The wind brushed across my shorn head most agreeably.

Funny, the last time I shaved my head I couldn't wait for the time to come to let it grow back. This time it just feels good to have all that mop gone.

And the flowers didn't even stare at me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

This Has Little To Do With Flowers, and Is Mostly About Hair

Last year at this time, the gazanias were blooming everywhere. This year, they're not. It's been too dim and chill. Yesterday, the high was about 63. Today, it was 80-something.

But that's not what this entry is about. What's on my mind is hair.

My friend Lydia says that I am a shaving fetishist, but that's not true. If I was one, I'd shave my legs more than once a winter, and maybe become one of those ladies who remove their eyebrows and paint them on so that they don't show the white and gnarly hairs.

About a year and a half ago, I shaved my head. It was an impulsive promise that I made to a friend who was facing chemotherapy; she was so freaked out by the "disfigurement" of losing her hair that she was buying wigs and hats even before the treatment started. I promised her that having no hair was no big deal, so I'd shave my head when she started chemo.

People have since told me that I was "so brave" and "so loyal" and "so nice/supportive/etcetera etcetera etcetera" but the real truth is that I just got mad that hair is so important to our image-mad society. Number One, I hated seeing my friend afraid. Two, I think I was just looking for an excuse to try life with no hair on my head.

I don't like seeing people in fear. My reasoning was this: if my friend saw me with no hair, when hers fell out, she'd have company, and a (somewhat lunatic) role model. And that was fine. When her hair got so sparse that she had to have her husband buzz the stray bits down to nothing, she called me on the phone, and laughing, said, "Now I look like you." That was good. I liked that. We spent the autumn and early winter with no hair; Christmas her hair began to return and I stopped the regular shaving.

I swore I'd never do it again. People drew away from me and my shaven head as though I had leprosy. They would look away quickly if I looked at them staring at me. There were lots of whispers, but only three persons actually had the nerve to ask me about the new hairstyle. I did feel naked, a freak.

By the following March, I was quite fluffy with hair again; by July, the sweat was trickling down the back of my neck under my mop and I was remembering how cool and breezy having no hair was. I gave a hairdresser a near-coronary by having her shear my hair on the sides and back to 1/2" and just leave me about an inch and a half on top.

I've had some time to think about hair, and the lack of. When I didn't have hair, no one crowded me at church on Sunday. Old men didn't look me up and down when we sat at the bar. When I went riding, I could just pour cool water over my head when I was too hot. Towelling off after swimming took seconds. I never had hat hair, or pillow hair. Or a bad hair day.

Why do women need fluffy hair, or long hair? Or cutely-styled hair? Since when are we People of Hair? Men get too hot or too bored or too busy and shave their hair off at whim ...

Which is all to say that I think I'm ready to do the dirty deed again. This time, no high ideals, no allegedly altruistic reasons. I'm just sick of hair hanging in my face, and not having a regular salon whose artists can be trusted to treat my hair with the care it deserves. I'm tired of going to a bee-yoo-ty parlor and having the hairdresser try to put some old lady cut on me. I've had enough of painful knot-pulling when I comb my hair before leaving the house. I think I'm ready.




Sunday, April 16, 2006

Look, Honey, Another Unseasonable Rain!

What a surprise, it was raining again today.

Yesterday it rained on the shoer when he was working on putting shoes on the Little Duke (I have to get some pictures of that horse in this blog) and it rained on us when we went shopping for water-jars the day before that, and it rained on darn near every day of the past six weeks or more. Yeah, make that the last two months, okay?

Today we just threw open the door and told Lillian to go out in the rain and see what it felt like. At first she was reluctant, but the temps were quite temperate, and after Howie ran outside, and Babe the Big Black Beast followed him, Lil ventured out to shriek with chill when the drops started hitting her -- which shrieks rapidly turned to delight, especially when we allowed her to venture to play in the gutter.

Being Easter Sunday, there was little traffic on the street, and we were right there to keep an eye on Lillian. With surprising savvy, if a car appeared on the street, she jumped to the sidewalk and only returned to the sloshy gutter when the car had past.

In the top picture, Babe is making sure that Howie is not getting Lillian into any trouble. Babe considers himself the arbiter of behavior: if you act too silly around him, he will bark at you with enough volume to make your ears ring. He stood in the rain and watched us for a while, barked loudly at me when I stomped at him, and then joined his Daddy on the porch where the sane people were.

Howie, on the other hand, had a mission to perform: his job? To get Lillian to throw the tennis ball, and then run off with it until he got too bored on his own. Then his job became to bring it back and give her a chance to run with it.

Everyone got nicely soaked, and we're hoping that was the last rain we get until ... how about November or December?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Holy smoley, the water is right here!

Saturday was a lovely sunny day, so Bernie and I took the dogs for a walk.

Having heard that the Stanislaus River was high enough to put the city and county offices on alert, we decided to walk down the street to have a look at the river that flows past the Jack Tone Golf Course.

Well, normally it flows past. Currently the golf course is a back water appendage to the river, as you can see from this picture of the lovely golf course. All but the highest holes are under water.

We watched avocets and geese poking around the edges of the lake, and even saw a fairly large fish swimming around in what is normally the driving range. My guess is that it was a big entrepreneurial carp who saw a great opportunity for rare goodies.

Like any pair of lackwits with a couple big dogs and nothing better to do, after observing the flooding at the golf course, we decided to walk down to the levee and see where the break might be that allowed the course to be flooded. Although we came to no harm, and didn't reach the break, I have to say that I knew it was a stupid stunt to pull, that I knew better than to try to find where a flood was occurring, but that I could no more stay away from the river than I could stay away from the ice on the creek that ran past my parents' property, even when I knew the thickness was iffy. Old habits of curiosity and waywardness die hard.

What we saw surprised me. Normally, from the levee path, you look down some twenty-odd feet to the river. This time, the river was right there, only about three feet from the top of the levee. Across the river, the flood plain fields were all under water, as could be seen in this picture. Where the trees are in the distance is where a farmer's fields will be when the water goes down.

I don't know when that will be. Today has been cloudy, but we've had no rain yet; any rain in the mountains is going to end up down here in the Valley. There is talk of having to release water from the reservoirs so that they don't overflow -- that might put the water in the Stanislaus over the edge of the local higher levees.

Parts of the levee path we were walking on were very spongy and crumbly. They were not quite "wet" though they were damp. Unfortunately those levees are riddled with the holes and dens of ground squirrels. If the water comes up over them, it will eat them away like butter on fresh mashed potatoes.

When Babe started to limp, we turned back to find some shade for him to lie down and rest, and after our break, headed home, back past the golf course and up the street. There are lots of low-lying fields and farms that will keep our little residential area above flood danger ... at least for now.