Sunday, June 30, 2013

Grab a Lawn Chair

Early Morning Sun on the Slopes
Swatting Flies
It's Sunday. Grab a lawn chair and come sit with me until the rising sun drives us indoors to pull the curtains and seek shade from the heat. It's coming; summer that is. Time to eat cucumbers and cottage cheese for breakfast. Time for squeezed fresh limes in ice cran-water (as if pure cranberry is not tart enough). Time to cook without the oven. Time to watch the garden grow.

The horses shelter in their barn as the morning sun casts light against the trees of the western slopes. It's still dim enough that their eyeballs glow for the camera. A few hours later and they are still hanging by the barn. Last night Bootsy nearly caused a dog-riot, greeting me and two GSPs at midnight on our front porch. The dogs got so worked up they wouldn't pee. I tried to explain to
Chillin' on a Hot Day
Bootsy thay GSPs are hunters, but she just sat on the tree stump and purred loudly.

I seek out birds; the dogs long to chase cats and horses. But it's hot enough today that everyone with four legs is chilling. Pistol is swatting flies with his male horse part, long enough to deter belly-pests. The mare uses her tail, swish-swish.

Pelicans Flying South
Feathered Sky Diamonds
Pelicans on Display
Hole in the Clouds
High on the thermals a flock of white pelicans soar, heads tucked to their shoulders. As if they see me in the pasture far below, camera aimed at them, the pelicans tip their wings and perform aerial acrobatics. Tipping towards the sun in the east the flock glitters like white diamonds spilled upon blue velvet. Their black wing tips stand-out, as does their sheer size. I want to chase them, to see where they land.

Sitting on the south porch before the sun gets too hot, I call my Mom. Dad answers. What a treat. We talk of lawn chair birding and he tells me of the pelicans he's seen on Wild Horse Reservoir in northern Nevada. How he could get close enough to them in the boat to see their black top-notches that look like wigs. We laugh and call them bird toupees.

The idea of being a lawn chair writer occurred to me when I visited my parents at their Tonkin Springs camp near Eureka, Nevada. While my parents have always been hard workers, they never worked so hard as to miss the day's beauty. Dad is a mountain man and Mom is the only reason he's not a hermit. They've always noted birds, flowers, animals, trees, weather and history. From a lawn chair (or seat of an old 1960s open-top Jeep) you can watch the world unfold. And a gathering of lawn chairs is perfect for telling stories.

This appeals to a writer.

The pond is shut off from view for now, until evening after the sun dips behind the hills. I'm cooling the house the old-fashioned way--closing curtains. The lawn chair is now inside. But I leave you with a few parting shots.

Ring-necked Duck Sun-bathing

Blue Heron Impersonating Pond Reeds

Elongated Neck for Hunting Frogs

That is ALL Neck; Body Hidden in the Grass

May Your Day Be as Beautiful as a Butterfly on a Pink Rose

Ho Hum Jolly Ball

June 29 Early Morning Pond Report:

Sun bursts bright over the Cabinet Mountains to the east, casting long shadows of pine trees across Elmira Pond. As if standing center stage in the pond, the sun spotlights Blue Heron. He is bird-bathing, neck fully extended like a vacuum cleaner hose, picking at feathers with his long beak. He preens this way, then that. What a neck.

The sky looks like blue-steel to the west. Rain? Probably. It seems like as good of a time as any to toss the lady-rose-pink "jolly ball" to the horses. If looks could say, "whatever," that is the glance Snapper and Piston cast my way. They continue to munch, living lawn mowers of the pond.

I wait. Blue Heron has taught me patience. If I wait, something will happen. At last, the horses meander, still munching, toward the ball. Snapper takes the most interest, nosing, rolling and even pawing at it. And, like the flap-flap of my favorite blue bird departing, the moment is over.

Rain, Strawberries, Pink Sky & Mist

It's as if the ho-hum jolly ball experience set the tone for the day. Not...much...happening. But the rains do come, the roses cup sky-water, a ripe strawberry reddens to be the first, the clouds scatter into pink shards and mist breathes from the pond. That is the day, and despite the lack of bird visits, it doesn't really feel so ho-hum, after all. Just peaceful.

Dawn Casts Pine Shadows & Sunlight
Blue Heron, Center Stage
Picking and Preening
Fully Extended Neck
What's This?
Sniff, Snort
It Rolls...
It Doesn't Really Do Anything
Soccer Kick
Not Very Jolly, Pink Ball

Looks Like Rain is Chasing the Dawn
Rain on Roses
Cupping Sky-Water
Pink Skies at Dusk
Rising Mist
Summer's First Strawberry

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Roses and Pincher Bugs

Welcome Home
Stately Blue Heron

Daisies That Hide Me
Ring-necked Ducks
Pond Hunting
Fisher Hawk

Blue Heron welcomes me home, whether he admits it or not. I find him on the Lady Merganser log. Ever so stealthily, like pond paparazzi, I step through knee-high clumps of daisies and meadow grass to hide behind a pine tree. It's as close as I have ever come to Blue Heron. Legs straight as dead sticks, neck tucked into a tight s-shape, wings folded down like a resting angel, orange sword-bill pointing north, he is my pond statue. The patron saint of bog birds, hunter of frogs, feathered masterpiece in a bandito mask.

Ah, it is good to be home on Elmira Pond.

June 28 Early Morning Pond Report:

Blue, blue is the sky. Deep blue is the pond. Black and white are the two male ring-necked ducks. Their cinnamon-colored female companions troll the reedy shore. It seems as if Lady Merganser has moved on and I am disappointed, having hoped to see babies on her back. But such is the way of migratory birds; they migrate to and fro. The pond is never the same from day to day and like a foreign hostel, it is open to travelers.

I yawn and untangle dog leashes, casually turning back to the pond after a meandering through the pasture, letting two GSPs follow their noses. Osprey!

On my trip to Helena this week, I saw two osprey in the Queen City of the Rockies. Driving home along the Clark Fork River, an osprey rose up from the river and looked right at me, fish in his talons and flew off as if carrying a heavy bag of groceries. Closer to Lake Pond Oreille where river is so wide as if to be more lake, another osprey pumped his wings, feet loaded with a trout to make his lady osprey proud. Once home, Todd and I drove to Dover Bay for dinner on the big lake as it narrows more river-like and, of course, we saw an osprey with a fish. Living in northern Idaho inflicted me with the osprey buzz.

Seeing one hovering at the pond just now, my yawns evaporate and I tug the camera off my shoulder, holding back two leashed dogs in one hand. His colors are so striking against the blue canvas of the morning and he completes two dives, the second resulting in a little fish. A morning snack, perhaps. I go back to the house and do the same (yogurt, not fish).

June 28 Rose Update:

Drying Roses
Snipping Nae Roses
Drying Petals
Osprey...Oops...a Seagull
Relaxing in the Pond
Horse Goodies
Introducing Bootsy
New Garden Buddy
Roses and pincher bugs. Who knew? The roses have burst with blooms and the air is fragrant. I'm snipping full blooms with the intention of drying the petals for potpourri. With  waxed pink string once meant for sewing satin ribbons to point shoes, I find that using it to tie roses is appropriate. When my daughter danced ballet, we always bought her roses. But as I tip the roses upside-down, squiggling pincher bugs fall from the blooms.

This discovery certainly changes my mind about drying the roses in the laundry room. So I hang my first clutch upon the welcome sign. My second discovery is that ants apparently love to eat pincher bugs. A swarm of workers descend upon the pincher bugs, carrying them off to the anthill meat-locker.

Once again, I am reminded that life is not all roses and roses. I knew about thorns; now I know about pincher bugs. Yet, the rose are not less for either. It's just the way it is. I'm sure there is a purpose, for certainly there is a plan, but it's not known to me in the moment. And, that is okay.

Continuing my tasks, I snip dozens of Nae Roses, depositing the burgundy heads into a crystal bowl. Pincher bugs scramble over the bowl's rim. Ants? Hey ants...The bowl sits in the sunshine drying petals for a special potpourri blend intended for the Mills-Gerry-Jacox women of Nae's life. I have all summer to collect and dream up a blend.

A little weeding, a little snipping and the rose buds are ready for pincher bug guests.

June 28 Late Afternoon Pond Report:

Blue Heron bursts from the reeds and flaps across the pond, gronking. It's the first time I've heard him utter a sound. He sounds as if he's taken lessons from the bull frogs. A strange white osprey flies over and scopes out the pond. I get excited, thinking there must be such things as albino osprey. It's just that I have osprey on the brain; the bird turns out to be a seagull. I feel silly for mistaking a seagull for an osprey. In my defense, he didn't squawk or act gull-like, and he flew around the pond once in osprey-hunting fashion. The ring-necked couples are spent, resting on the log. Earlier they had splashed in the water like toddlers.

Speaking of toddlers, I'm married to one. As a couple we are the rose and the pincher bug. I'll let you guess who is the pincher bug, and like one he is really harmless, but annoying. After 25 years of marital bliss and bust he still can find new ways to pinch me. His latest antic began at Yokes two nights ago, shopping for groceries. He followed me through the store slapping his shoes loudly, talking in his "monster-truck" voice. If I tried to distract him by assigning him fetching duties, he merely returned announcing, "I'm bring you chicken in my monster-truck voice."

He also embarrassed me at Big R, pointing out that I turned red. So, as he talked in his monster-truck voice and looked at fencing material, I casually picked up horse treats, horse "jolly ball," curry comb and brush. When the cashier stated the amount, all sense of fun fled. He thought it was a mistake until she pointed out the horse goodies. Yes, I am a rose, but can poke back with a thorn or two.

But I am not the only one to take an interest in the ranch animals at Elmira Pond. Todd has fallen for Bootsy, the owner's barn cat. We hardly see her, but feed her in the garage. Todd has coaxed her into pettings and can find her when he's home from working in Moses Lake.

Today, Bootsy is hanging out. Unusual. Todd calls and asks about her so I tell him that she's been sitting outside the garage or by the truck. Yes, he'd noticed that before he left yesterday (a point he thankfully does not make in his monster-truck voice). He thinks either she is frightened of something or wanting love.

Although I'm not a barn-cat fan, being a bird nerd, I hope for love over fear. If a barn cat is scared of something, then I might be, too. And, I miss my cat I left behind in Minnesota. She has a good home and it makes me feel better about our parting. I can't help but think that the owners miss Bootsy, and it would help to know that she has accepted the newbies into her territory.

However, we live with two cat cujos. The GSPs were fine with our cat indoors, but if she got outside she suddenly became prey. Grendel's face is pressed against the living room window. He sees the cat with her striking black and white fur, complete with four little white paws. She has moved from the garage to my garden. Bootsy has discovered a way in and I'm not sure how I feel about this. My garden is not a litter box.

So I go out there to tell her so. We meet at the potatoes and she brushes up against my finger tips. I show her the peas swirling with baby vines and tender leaves, and she rolls in the dirt. We explore the the beans together and find another pumpkin seedling poking out of the ground. She meows as I talk and is now standing on her hind legs. I can be a pincher bug and chase her out of my garden, but instead, like Blue Heron, like the roses, I welcome her.

Enjoy some extra osprey shots! 

Soaring Above Elmira Pond

Osprey Markings

Scoping the Pond

What a Wing Span


Cutting a Distinguished Sky Figure

Preparing to Dive