Saturday, November 27, 2010

For the Record

There are many strange and terrible things going on the world but, for the record, I wish to acknowledge a truly marvelous day.

My son is visiting from Chicago. Yesterday was bright and sunny. We decided not to drive directly north from Denver to Loveland. Instead, we headed northwest through Boulder into Lyons where we browsed a wonder-filled (if chilly) antique shop, finding amazing treasures at amazing prices. Continuing northeast, we arrived at the magnificent Stanley Hotel in time to get a great table for a late-ish, and quite delicious, lunch. We then drove into Rocky Mountain National Park absorbing mountain and meadow beauty.

If you ever drive in Colorado and see cars pulled over to the side of the road, pull over. Inevitably, there will be wildlife to view. We passed the first clutch of parked cars and found a stopping place in time to see two female elk dance/prance across the snow among a small group of more sedate fellows. Driving slowly on, we realized that there were great clusters of elk, on both sides of the road -- perhaps 75 or even 100. Many were sitting, apparently absorbing sunshine; others strolling majestically; and every once in a while, one or two dance/prancing grace notes.

Further on-- into the meadow where I usually view elk-- we saw a coyote! The first I’d ever seen in the park. We parked within a few yards of the creature – close enough to see how magnificently his multi-colored coat blended into his botanical surroundings. We watched him trot across a road then field then under a fence.

On the way out of the park, we saw a herd of white tail deer peering back at us with their consummate grace.

Are you counting --elk, coyote, deer? That’s three major mammals. Then as we drove down the mountains toward Loveland, we saw more cars pulled to the side. We stopped and peered at the cliffs across the road. Finally, we saw it: a splendid big horn sheep, climbing perpendicular rocks to pose briefly on a succession of precipices.

If I had planned for months to arrange a perfect day for a visitor from major metropolis, I could not have topped the day I had. I needed to go on record; to thank every single major mammal and the occasional flutter of magpies. You were wonderful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Eve

Sometimes, American society is embarrassing. Especially as it is reflected on television. Especially recently. First it was the political ads – unrelenting and unrelentingly vicious. Now it’s the holiday shopping ads – unrelenting but not so vicious. And all the blood and gore on most of the programs. And lingerie ads. And ads for products enhancing the sexual experience or performance.

I’m not a prude – not really. But sometimes other societies’ criticisms: that we’re all about money (getting and spending -- politicians and whiter teeth) and violence and sex sometimes seems all too accurate.

But what they (other societies) see, as reflected on television or in movies or in revenue-generating headlines, is not what we are. Certainly not my life. Certainly not today. I’m sitting in my study with two cats on my left – one on the windowsill, the other in an open desk drawer. They’ll move soon, when the November sunshine gets too hot. My car is packed with the food I’m taking to a family gathering – mostly tomorrow but starting tonight. My son is flying in tomorrow. (Hooray!)

Nine of us will gather tomorrow: my son and I, my brother and sister-in-law, my nephew and his wife and two wonderful daughters, and a friend who has nowhere else to go on Thanksgiving. Plus, Camille, the dog. (That makes ten, I guess.)

And yes, we’ll have a feast but mostly we’ll just celebrate each other. And when the pandemonium subsides a little, we’ll remember how fortunate we are. Fortunate to live in a country where we can complain about politics and commercialism, where we can work to change things without fear of reprisals, where we can go (or not go) to any house of worship we choose, where most of us have clean water and doctors and friends and food … and some of us even have cats.

So, however flawed the result, I have to admit. The Pilgrims did good.


Sunday, November 21, 2010


It’s snowing. Earlier today, I deposited the almost-last-of-the fallen leaves into my now-battered yard waste container. Winter is creeping up on us.

Except for extensive raking and various attempts to compress the thousands upon thousands of leaves into the container, I didn’t really play with autumnal bounty. But I did enjoy walking through the crunchy terrain and kicking an occasional botanical flounce.

This time of year, there are interior transitions mirroring the weather changes. About two weeks ago, I replaced my summer-weight blanket with a comforter.

[Is there anything with a name more appropriate than comforter?]

The first night it was on the bed, my cat Guinness was intrigued. He sniffed it and eyed with just the slightest suspicion. We generally have a little play session before lights out and he seemed just a bit more circumspect than usual.

Sometime during the night, he got over it.

First he pounced on my toes, then my knees, then on anything that moved under the comforter. He’d go away for a while then return and pounce again. And again. I swear he was purring.

He only did that that one night (thank heavens). I guess I could have thrown him out of the bedroom but he seemed to be having so much fun.

It was, I think, the equivalent of jumping into a pile of leaves … for an inside cat. As long as it happens only once a year, it is okay. At least one of us played.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It Ain't Necessarily So

I got them almost a year ago, to serve as a centerpiece for a dinner party. They were the only flowers available that coordinated with the tablecloth and place settings. During the course of the evening, I bemoaned the fact that African violets were so fragile and virtually impossible to keep alive. I was immediately corrected, in tandem, by two of my guests.

“Nonsense! They are the simplest possible plants to keep alive,” said one.

“All you need to do is put them in an east window and water them every once in a while,” said the other.

I did not believe them. I distinctly remembered being told how difficult it was to harbor and nourish African violets. I had learned this at my mother’s knee, then waist, then shoulder, then eye to eye. She was unwavering in her conviction that these were the most vulnerable of all houseplants.

Still. I put the little plant on the ledge of an east window and watered it when I thought about it. It didn’t die. It didn’t flower but it didn’t die.

And now – look!

How many of the things we believe are impossible, aren’t? How many of the things we were told growing up are fallacy? How many of the things we believe we cannot do, we can?

Good questions all. And all answered by a blooming African violet.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Insufficient Comic Relief

Generally, I start reading the newspaper by reading the funnies – the comic strips. This practice eases me into the day. It avoids beginning my day with reports of atrocities and disasters. It is just a brief diversion. I go on to scan the local and national news, absorbing what I can.

There are days when this practice seems more essential than others. Take Friday, Nov. 12.

In Section D of my local paper there was an article about Anglican bishops converting to Catholicism “in part over their opposition to the Church of England’s decision to ordain female bishops.” In their official statement, they spoke of their distress about developments in the Anglican Church that they deemed “incompatible with the historic vocation of Anglicanism and the tradition of the Church for nearly two thousand years.” According to the item, the Vatican will make new arrangements for the defectors “upset by the acceptance of female priests and gay bishops.”


The headline of the next article: “Focus on the Family takes over program on sexual orientation.” The conservative Christian group will sponsor a day of dialogue in schools promoting “the message of freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ.”


The last item in the column reported on the early retirement of an openly gay Episcopal bishop. As reasons, he cited the strain of constant controversy, including death threats.


Why is acknowledging the spiritual authority of women such a threat?

What is the disparity between homosexuality and spiritual authority?

When are we as a species finally going to discard narrow, bigoted views about our fellow humans?

Sometimes comics are not enough.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Saved by a Large Box

Often, after breakfast and morning chores, I’ll enter my study to find my two cats waiting for me. Sometimes they perch, one each, on the windowsills. Other times they will have found good vantage points on my desk. I turn on the computer and wait for them to go through their individual rituals.

Herbie may approach first, introducing the encounter with a head butt. He stands in front of the computer keyboard, expecting (and getting) caresses. [Both cats learned long ago that the keyboard itself is forbidden territory that, trespassed, transforms their usually mild-mannered human into a screaming terror.] It usually takes only a few moments to persuade Herbie onto my lap so I can at least see the screen and even maneuver the ‘mouse’ enough to check email. He’ll arch into my hand and sometimes stretch out his legs to brace himself against the desk so I can rub him harder. He is a very sensual creature.

Guinness has a slightly different technique. He’ll walk in front of the keyboard [cats remember] and then fall sideways toward my shoulder, prompting me to catch, hold, and pet him there. Purrs are my only reward. Eventually, I ease him onto my lap, first scratching his tummy then, eventually, coaxing him into a curled configuration that allows me to get to work.

This morning I began unobstructed. This morning a large box containing their new scratching post was delivered. Other contents included the spray that I use to protect my Christmas tree and some catnip. Which had spilled. They were, I believe, in the feline equivalent of hog heaven.

I decided to allow their orgy since it allowed me some unhindered computer time – time to write a new entry for my blog.

This is it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Pelicans have been passing through this area for a month or so now. They stop to rest (or sunbathe) at the north end of Lake Loveland. Every time I drove past them I thought that I really must photograph them. Illness and general busyness seemed to make that impossible. Their numbers were dwindling (as, I presume, the majority have already gone someplace south) and I was afraid I had missed my opportunity. But on a recent morning when I drove past the lake to an appointment, it looked like they were still there. I came home and did some dutiful computer stuff then just stopped, grabbed my camera and headed out.

From the shore, they mostly looked like big white lumps. (I was afraid for a moment that they might be geese.) Then one stood and was indeed a pelican. I was still far away from them. Lake Loveland is really a reservoir for Greeley's water supply. Evidently Greeley's been thirsty lately so the water level had dropped and there was a big swath of (mostly) dry lakebed. I eased down and walked on, taking pictures every four yards or so as I got closer and closer.

My approach awakened most of them. They got up, stretched, and moved closer to or in the water. There, they stretched and preened.

Every once in awhile, one of the pelicans would extend its amazing beak. That happened really fast. I was lucky to get a picture. I got pretty close but I didn't want to scare them away (or sink into the mud) so I stopped and walked back to the shore and my car.

It was the best hour I've spent in a long time.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Praise for Petunias

Some of you may know that Mother's Day is hard for me since I pretty much flunked motherhood. But this year (see May 24 post for corroboration) the day was brightened considerably when a little girl presented me with a small pot of petunias during the after-church coffee hour. The petunias came with a note: "I love you, Grandma". (I still have the note). I planted the petunias of course. 

The amazing thing is that today, Nov. 3, those petunias are still flourishing. We've had frost. The dahlias and morning glories and tomatoes have died, slimed, and been buried in my giant plastic yard waste container.

But the petunias are still blooming. Like pansies, they don't seem to know when to quit.

They are islands of summer in the midst of frost-bitten (but beautiful) autumn. They are, somehow, inspiration.

So this simple little posting is a small celebration of everything that keeps on blooming in spite of all logic and common sense.  May we all go and do likewise.