Monday 30 May 2016

Forget Me Not

Remember this from April?

Crows in a wood.

Now it looks like this:

No crows. They're all busy raising families.

The ground is blue with forget-me-nots. I couldn't get them all in the photo, but imagine three shots just like this, side by side. That would give you an idea of the area that contains these trees and the flowers at their feet. It's a beautiful spot that I pass frequently on my walks.

Forget-me-nots seem to be everywhere this year. I planted one package of them in our small step-gardens a couple of years ago, and although I pulled the plants out when the blossoms were gone, their seeds had already dropped in enough numbers to produce the next generation. Each year they quickly multiplied. Last year, when I was away from home so much because of my father's health, they jumped into our lawn, and this is what happened this spring:

As you can see, we haven't done any yard work yet. But the forget-me-nots are trying their best to distract people from that fact. Thank you, little blue flowers. You're doing an awesome job. I'll get to those dead leaves soon.
Do you think their ability to explode like this explains their name?

Actually, I'm glad we haven't had time to mow yet. We would have missed this wild beauty completely. These tiny cheerful faces remind me to love nature like my father did.

I'm always secretly happy when procrastination results in something good, because ... Procrastinating Donkey, y'know ...

Friday 27 May 2016

Flashback - May 2015

As the month of May unfolds and the landscape changes from brown to tender green, certain days pull me instantly and intensely into May of last year. My father was battling pneumonia from April until his death in late June, and he was hospitalized several times during that period.

Every time it was the same. I could see that he was becoming unwell as I visited him each evening at the nursing home. But there was a threshold for symptoms that had to be reached before he could be sent to the hospital for treatment. I should have gotten used to the phone calls that always made my stomach lurch and my heart pound - but I didn't; I couldn't. Every time, I dropped whatever I was doing - my job, my home life, my night's sleep - and hurried to the hospital to meet the ambulance bringing Dad to Emergency. I learned to pack my purse with enough snacks to carry me through the long hours while he received initial treatment and waited on a stretcher in the ER for a regular bed or one in the ICU. With low staffing, overflowing patient loads, and Dad's high needs as a paralyzed and frail patient, I did not want to leave him alone in the ER for even a few minutes. To help his breathing, the head of his stretcher was always raised, causing him to slide toward the open end at an alarming rate. He was usually on oxygen and would try repeatedly to remove the nasal prongs which irritated his nose. Doctors and nurses could arrive at a moment's notice with questions about his symptoms, usual medications, and a host of other things that he could not answer. So I stayed with him until he was placed in ICU or on a ward.

Even after he was transferred to a real bed, I spent many hours with him each day to try and ensure that he was as comfortable as possible and got the care he needed. With one side paralyzed, he could not turn himself over and his back and bottom became very sore very quickly. He could not eat by himself. He was often very thirsty because of his medications but could not manage the cup of water. He needed tissues almost constantly to deal with the secretions he was coughing up, but he could not find them on his lap. When he needed a bedpan or other care, he could not seem to grasp where the call button was located. He was frequently disoriented, sometimes delusional, always uncomfortable, and often anxious.

I am explaining these things not to be dramatic but to give you an idea of how much time I spent in a hospital room last May. The winter that had just ended was a long, stormy one, and spring was finally on its way. I could see it arrive from the window of Dad's room. The small median strips of grass gradually turned green, then the shrubs in the parking lot across the street, and finally the trees in the distance. People - including me - went from winter coats and boots to spring jackets and shoes. The air became sweeter and the days longer. I will never forget the contrast between the renewal of life outside and my father's struggle against the dimming of his life inside his hospital room.

And this May, this month I have always loved, the month when my dear father, for many years, brought me a bouquet of fragrant Mayflowers on my birthday - this month of new life in our hemisphere, as the grass takes on its vibrant green, and the trees finally unfurl baby leaves that grow daily like magic - these days, when the breeze is fresh and the light is 'just so' ... these wondrous May days have been bittersweet, my friends.

Monday 23 May 2016

Why Haz I Not Any Thinks? Hmm ...

 So, it's been a couple of months since I began to blog.

At first, the words poured out so fast I figured I'd never run out, and so I committed to posting five days a week.

Then I started to struggle. In hindsight, I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner.

I became over-conscious of what I was writing. All the little (critical) voices in my head, which had been surprisingly quiet to that point, started clearing their throats, whispering behind their hands, and snickering.

Too many pictures! the voices said. Too much weather! they said. Too much humour that relies on being able to see the writer raising an eyebrow or winking. Too many big words, too many simple words, too many words, period.  Too many links, too much use of the phrase "a lot", too self-centred, too friggin' much about the cats ...

The ideas dried up under the onslaught. Self-censoring and self-editing were not improving my work; they were murdering it.

In what was probably a happy coincidence right about then, life became unexpectedly busy and I had less time to think about writing and less access to our home computer. Such is life; I went to twice-a-week posting, and I don't regret it. And I've told the voices in my head to move along, nothing to see here, vamoose now like good little voices.

Still, I am curious about how other people managed their blogs at first. If you choose to answer, you can use the questions below or anything else that springs to mind.

Do you remember your first few weeks or months of blogging?
Did you have a firm goal or purpose in mind when you began, or did that evolve over time?
What advice would you give a newbie?

This free photo was labelled "donkey hitting a wall" which is just what I was looking for, except it looks like the donkey may have been simply interested in resting her head against the wall, not actually hitting it. But that's okay. Some days I feel like doing one of those things, and some days I feel like doing the other. Don't we all?

Friday 20 May 2016

Sunset In May

Last week, Elephant's Child - a lovely blogger from Australia - posted among her Sunday Selections a few photos of a recent sunset (if it was a sunrise, please correct me, EC), and the colours in her photos reminded me of a shot of mine, also taken recently.

If you haven't yet seen EC's photos and would like to do so, go here and scroll to the last three photos to have a peek. And take your time scrolling because the rest of those photos are worth lingering over too. EC has pictures of magical-looking birds and unfamiliar (to me) plants of all kinds.

And here is the photo I took at nearly the same time as hers was taken, but on the opposite side of the world, and in the opposite season (it's fall in Australia and spring in North America):

I was so pleased that the image was true to the real colours of the sky that evening. That's not always the case. I love this shot, partly because of the colours - two of my favourites - but also because of the still-bare trees silhouetted against the sky.

Thank you, Elephant's Child, for the inspiration for today's post, and for all the beauty and comfort I find on your blog.

Wishing you all a weekend with beauty and comfort in it.

Monday 16 May 2016

Spring Is Not Springing; Actually, It's Kind Of Plodding

Here's one of my favourite little poems, by one of my favourite authors, Anonymous:

Spring iz sprung
Da grass iz riz
I wonder where dem boidies iz
Da little boids iz on da wing
Ain't dat absoid
Da little wings iz on da little boid

I must admit that I only ever recited the first three lines, because it gets complicated right in the middle there. But I knew there was more, and thanks to Mr. Google, I was able to find it.


Spring izn't springing very fast here at all. Our temperatures have been staying cool for the most part. My starflowers aren't getting enough sun, and they are still hanging their heads, even as they grow past middle age and head into their golden years (as we humans laughably refer to them ...):

My crocuses lasted about three days before the deer cleaned them off. But we have these pale violet-coloured bulbs flowering and they must be a flavour the deer don't care for, because they haven't disappeared:

Note to self: buy more of these, whatever they are.
Our butterfly bush, which we planted last summer and pruned back in the fall, per the nursery's instructions, survived the winter:

All you good gardeners out there, please don't look too closely at my pruning job. Focus on the sprouting leaves.

And our adorable little boxwood shrub, which is about a foot high, survived the winter as well. Seriously, this thing is so cute I just want to put a little hat on it and take it for a walk in a pram:

 The trees haven't made a whole lot of progress putting out leaves, although they're starting to bud:

I don't mind that spring is slow, though. The cool days (and cooler nights) are my idea of perfect weather. Good thing it comes twice a year. I can't imagine having two summers or two winters - that's like Goldilocks and the porridge that's Too Hot or Too Cold - but spring and fall are like Baby Bear's bowl of Just Right.

Mmmm ... porridge. Another thing I like. And in this cooler weather, it's my daily treat.

How's the weather where you are?

Friday 13 May 2016

Flight Of The Bumblebee

There I was, just minding my own business, taking photos of our meagre blooms in the garden, and BAM - there was a huge bumblebee right in front of me, busily gathering nectar from those blooms. I like to think that he was a frugal bee. "Not much here, but I'll take every drop so it won't go to waste ..."

Or maybe he knows that, in a little while, if he can survive on dandelions and the neighbours' flowers as well as our puny offerings, he'll have more of the good stuff than he knows what to do with. We have a twenty foot row of spirea bushes along our backyard deck and it's a popular spot for bees in late spring when it blooms.

Hang in there, BB. Better days are ahead.

Here's the little (big) guy. I particularly like it when he sticks his whole head in the bloom. It's like he's trying on a bunch of hats, with mucho gusto:

I hope everyone has a bloomin' good weekend!

Monday 9 May 2016

Juggling All The Things

Just a quote today that pretty much describes the past few weeks in my life:

"I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me all at once."

(Author unknown.)

 Work - plus non-work work - have been crazy lately and it'll be awhile before I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But humour always helps!

How do you cope with excessive workloads?

Friday 6 May 2016

A Cold Bath and Cold Chills

I was lucky enough to experience two small but powerful events during my walks last week.

The trail I walk on runs along the river and fairly high above it, but at one spot there is a small open shelter which projects out over the bank and gives a nice view from a safe vantage point. There are trees on either side, and often there are jays and geese and gulls in the vicinity.

One day, a crow flew into a tree right next to the shelter and perched there. Almost immediately I heard splashing sounds coming from below me. Looking down, I saw a second crow bathing in the shallows at the very edge of the river. It fluttered its wings in the water several times, reminding me of a person throwing water over his shoulders. Then it quickly bobbed its head into the water three times, shook the water off, and then bobbed three more times and shook.

It seemed clear that the crow in the tree was watching out for the crow in the water. I've often seen sentry crows in trees or on utility lines, watching while other crows look for food or have a drink from a puddle below. They are quick to warn their friends when a dog or cat - or a person - is approaching.

They aren't the only birds to do that, of course.

And the danger is not always on the ground.

A few days after the cold bath, while walking on the same trail, I saw a bald eagle some distance away. I hurried to follow it as it looped in lazy circles far above my head, hoping I would get a chance to take a photo or a video of it. However, it was travelling far faster than I was, following the river, looking for a meal. I slowed down as I got to the shelter, and went in for my usual look up and down the water.

Suddenly all hell seemed to break loose. Gulls and crows and geese and smaller birds of various kinds burst out of nowhere, it seemed, honking and squawking and cawing, and took cover in the vegetation and trees around me. Then everything went eerily quiet. There was not a bird sound of any kind. I watched for a minute but there was no activity and nothing to see, and so I was about to leave when I looked up ... and there was the bald eagle, swooping, looping - very close indeed. It continued to loop up the river and eventually was out of sight.

Only then did the smaller birds start to come out of hiding. The gulls and geese flew down and settled on the water. Chirping and cawing resumed.

I wonder if the birds felt the same cold chills that I did when I looked up and saw that huge bird of prey. It's fascinating to watch them in the sky, but that day was a fresh reminder of why they're up there and what they're looking for --- and what it means when they are successful.

Monday 2 May 2016

Thoughts on Donkey Walking

Although "Donkey Walking" may sound like a new and amazingly awful dance step, what I mean is that I've been thinking about the things I've learned about walking and about myself, Procrastinating Donkey, since I started pounding the dirt in earnest last January. I've learned that ...

- if I don't walk for three days in a row, it is surprisingly difficult when I get back to it on the fourth day - you'd think the benefits would last longer

- taking my camera with me increases my enjoyment and motivation by at least fifty percent

- I cannot lose weight by calorie restriction alone, or by exercise alone; I need both

- I am always hungrier on the days I don't walk - this one really surprised me; even though I've read that exercise suppresses the appetite, I was convinced it would be the other way around

- I'd rather walk in the cold than in anything even approaching warm-ish weather ... actually I already knew this - summer brings me to my knees in every way but especially in the ways where I have to work up even more of a sweat than I'm already in

- I love the lacy canopies and gnarled fingers and crew-cut looks of trees before they get their leaves more than their eventual leafiness, but I also know I'll love the shade they give when they're fully leafed out, because by then it will be getting warmer, and did I mention how I'm not a warm-weather person?

- if my walking mojo flags, I only need to remember how desperately my father wanted to walk after his stroke, and how lucky I am to be able to, and it gives me a burst of energy along with the constricted throat and blurry vision

- I think someone, maybe even me, needs to invent a dance step called Donkey Walking. It will be the Next Big Thing, and we can say we were in on it at the beginning ...

Did someone mention dancing? Well, did you know that you can dance twice as fast with four feet? It's true. Ish. Oh, all right, it's not true at all. In fact, I have four left feet, and in case you're wondering, that's not a good thing. It's the complete antithesis of a Martha Stewart good thing. But I have great hair. See photo.