weekly photo challenge: infinite

“Someone” asked that I post a photo of a field of tulips. I said I would…

 

To view the brilliance of colors…click on the photo…ENJOY!!!

………hugmamma.

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october monthly mini competition: an unexpected journey

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ESCAPEES

“How did we get ourselves into this mess?” wondered Juneau, his stomach growling in anticipation of the next meal. Making his way through the tall stalks of bee balm, bending under the weight of an earlier downpour, this little fraidy cat seemed on the verge of a total meltdown.

Sitka, on the other hand, sauntered along the winding path ahead of his brother, intent on smelling every petal…leaf…twig…and clump of mulch. You name it; he smelled it. “This is heavenly,” he thought.

As he continued along, gulping in as much fresh air as his lungs would allow, Sitka meowed for the world to hear…”Free at last! Thank God Almighty! We are free at last!”

Meanwhile, Misha, the leader of the pack, ambled confidently ahead of the others. His swagger seemed a challenge, as if daring one and all to…”Try and stop me! Just you try!” He it was who had made a beeline for the back door when it was unwittingly left ajar. He’d peered at the outside world through the window panes on the French door. Now he was determined to experience all its delights…firsthand. No more playing like…”Alice through the looking glass.”

“If only those two slow pokes wouldn’t have come with me” thought Misha. “I’d have been into the next yard by now.” Muttering to himself, he added “I don’t even like those half-breeds.” Not being purebred Maine Coones like himself, Misha tended to stick his nose in the air when the three boys found themselves in one another’s company. Although Misha did need to check them out from time to time, by way of sniffing…their butts.

“I can’t go any further!” complained Juneau to his fellow escapees. Moaning to himself, he added “There’s nothing to eat out here.” He had to admit that even his bowl of bland, diet kibble was better than nothing. “If and when I get back inside,” gulped Juneau, “I’ll be ever so grateful. I won’t try to sneak a few bites of Sitka’s food. I won’t body slam Mocha. I won’t pick fights with Misha that I know I can’t win. I won’t drive Hugmamma crazy with my constant meowing.”

Juneau prayed hard.

Unfazed, Sitka lay down on a piece of slate warmed by the noonday sun. “Oh, this is just divine,” he purred to himself. Oblivious to his partners-in-crime, Sitka bathed himself, licking his silky coat to undo some of the spider webs he’d encountered.

Suddenly out of nowhere, a red squirrel was in front of Misha. At home on his own turf, the rodent raised himself up on his haunches as if threatening to lash out at Misha. Neither blinked. Seconds passed.

And then…Misha bolted! Without looking back, he squeezed through the door which had nearly slammed shut in an unexpected gust of wind.

Juneau followed in hot pursuit, leaving Sitka to wonder what all the commotion was about. Little did he suspect that there’d be a huge fuss once Hugmamma learned he was missing.

” SITKA!!!

 

weekly photo challenge: simple

Snapped this photo in the Queen’s garden at the Palace of the Holy Rood in Scotland. When visiting, Queen Elizabeth resides here.

The simple majesty of this lone tree toward the back of the garden, alongside the castle was magical.

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…grand need not be grandiose…simple can be just as grand…

………hugmamma.  😉

air…give me air…although…

That seems to be my dog Mocha’s daily plea. Wish there was a spot of yard for her to roam unattended, like she does when visiting with our friends Sylvia and Jim and their dachschund, Gretchen. Living in a retirement community, they have a charming, enclosed backyard where the dogs can relax on the patio, luxuriating in the outdoors unchaperoned. When they’re indoors and want to “go potty,” all they need is a helping hand to open and close the door.

I must admit when I exited our yard a short while ago, heading out into the neighborhood, Mocha pulling ahead on her leash, it felt good to breathe in the great outdoors. Viewing the lush foliage everywhere as a result of our area’s penchant for rain, Mother Nature never fails to overwhelm me with wondrous awe. Towering evergreens, hence Washington’s other name, The Evergreen State, dwarf the homes that peak out from verdant landscapes, some neat and orderly, others wild and overgrown. Mine is somewhere in-between. I’ve been going for the English garden look, not always with success.

Mocha pays no heed to anything above ground level, maintaining her focus at what’s at the end of her nose or under her paw. None of which satsfies my aesthetics, except that whatever makes Mocha happy, makes me happy. Well…not everything.

I’m definitely against her desire to chase down dogs taller and heftier than her, or small ones with teeth as sharp as razors. I’ve had to pick Mocha up once or twice, transporting her, and me, away from the snarling grins of unleashed dogs who looked ready for their next meal. In such situations my heart is pounding looking to escape its confines, while my brain is willing me not to move a muscle for fear that I’ll become mincemeat in seconds. More often than not, a yell emanates from deep within, finally tumbling forth from my mouth with a venomous “Get away! Shoo! Get out of here!” As if our transgressor could care less, staring me down without so much as flinching a muscle.

Scared? Me, scared? You bet your life I’m petrified of untethered dogs wandering about. I can’t tell whether they’re friendly or not. Nor is it obvious whether or not they’ll start something with Mocha. Just as I don’t want her torn to shreds, I don’t want to get caught up in the milieu either. A year or so ago, when I was out running errands, a neighbor who regularly walks his dog, came under attack by 2 dogs living in the house above mine. His dog was badly injured, requiring surgery that cost $1,000. He had a commendable attitude, saying that “dogs will be dogs.” Of course the owner of the attacking dogs expressed great remorse and paid the vet bill.

A German Shepherd Dog.

Image via Wikipedia

There is a leash law in our city, but not everyone heeds it. The Center for The Preservation of Wildlife has also erected a sign in our neighborhood, and elsewhere, stating that dogs should be kept on leashes so that they don’t attack the wildlife. There are hiking trails at the end of our road. The warning sign stands at that juncture, and so do 3 houses whose owners allow their dogs to wander freely pretty regularly. One of them looks like those I’ve seen on the Discovery Channel, that live in the African wild. Its owners were present once when their dog confronted Mocha. I told them how I felt, which seemed to upset them. They didn’t smile back at me when I saw them later. I understand people don’t like criticism, but when it involves my safety, and my dog’s, well…so be it.

Port-a-Potty on My Land

Image by joanna8555 via Flickr

My next door neighbors have always allowed their labradors to run freely through the neighborhood, even when they use to walk them. I didn’t appreciate the dogs making my yard their personal “honey pot.” Still don’t. Fortunately, the fence we erected, and the hedge that grows between our side yards have kept their pets from trespassing. But recently when the owners were combing the neighborhood in their car in search of one of their dogs, I advised them that it had wandered through my yard and then scared Mocha and me as we went around a bend. Standing taller than my waistline, the labrador, growling,  circled Mocha, nudged my backside with its nose, pushing me forward, before it wandered off. That was a first for me. That was one nervy dog, I thought, before I collected my wits, and Mocha her’s, and moved on.

I love pets, cats and dogs, of which I have 3 felines, Sunkist, Sitka and Juneau, and my Mocha. But there’s no telling what will set an animal off, domesticated or not. They’re not human, and no amount of wishing will make them one of us. So when they act out of character, I have to hold the owners accountable when an innocent bystander, or a restrained pet, is injured. I don’t really put a lot of stock in the words “But he’s such a sweet dog. He wouldn’t hurt anyone.” My thought is, there’s always a first time. So why take a chance…

Dobermann Dog

Image via Wikipedia

I think my fear began when a Doberman Pinscher raced across its yard, as I walked by pushing my daughter’s stroller. Gnashing teeth within inches of us, it’s owner finally heard my yells and came to the front door to save my toddler and me from being mauled. That feeling of dread remains embedded in my subconscience. But I try my best to suppress it, when Mocha wants…  

…a breath of fresh air…hugmamma.  

spring’s arrived!!!

 

Springtime flowers.

Image by beamillion via Flickr

I think it’s safe to say that the Pacific Northwest is finally beginning to experience spring. The sun’s been out all day; it’s warm. Perhaps it’s time to think of storing away cold-weather clothing…or maybe not. One can never tell here, it could be dry and in the 50s and 60s one day, wet and in the 30s and 40s the next, or even later the same day. But I won’t jinx it. It’s spring!

I’ve been cleaning and refashioning the rooms in my house, preparing for the new season. Now that it’s April, with summer right around the bend, hopefully, I like to keep the decor light and airy, and colorful. Although the primary color palette remains pretty much the same, shades of blues, greens, roses, and mustards. Country colors. “You can take the girl out of the country, but you can never take the country out of the girl.” That’s me to a tee! I love cities, and fit right in with city-folk, as long as I know it’s not a permanent arrangement. Being an island girl, I always go back to those small town roots for sustenance and recharging.

When The Red, Red Robin Comes Bob-Bob Bobbin' ...

Image by Fozzeee via Flickr

Having redone my daughter’s bedroom so that I now have a small, computer table stationed in front of the window, I’m sitting here typing away on the keyboard. Where I use to roam between my husband’s office, thereby throwing him out without intending to do so, and sitting uncomfortably at the dining room table, I’m now occupying prime real estate. Gazing out at the back yard, I can watch red robins digging in the dirt for insects, squirrels scampering up the big cedar tree trunk making their way nimbly out along the large, drooping branches, and leaves swaying ever so softly as the breezes drift through the boughs of the lilac bush and the low-lying roses. What with all this day-dreaming, I may not get a whole lot written.

Actually, sitting here I’m reminded of all the work that needs to be done in the garden, weeding being my least favorite. I can already feel the arthritis acting up in my lower back. Oh me, oh my…getting old’s no fun when I’m still doing the work I use to do in my 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, but haven’t the same agile body I had back then. No complaints though, at least I’m still moving around, indoors and outdoors. I’ll just be taking my time, that’s all.

I’m just glad the warm weather’s here. I can do anything when I’m not shivering just standing still.

i age less when the sun’s out…that’s for sure…hugmamma.

“sun’s out!,” time to plant?

What a difference a day makes, even here in the Pacific Northwest! The sun’s rays are showering down on all the tree tops; glistening raindrops hanging ever so delicately from the twiggy branches of the apple tree. It feels like spring. Yet I have to remind myself that the calendar on the desk top reads January 19. No scurrying out to weed or plant bulbs. I did that when we first moved from the east coast 13 years ago.

Having left icy winters behind whose last dregs were not gone until Memorial Day, I was elated to find that here in the Seattle burbs my garden began to show signs of new birth in February. So I got outside and sloshed around in the mud, oft-times kneeling in it to pull out unwanted stuff, and replace them with finds I’d discovered at Molbak’s or Squawk Mountain Nursery.

I wallowed in early spring, in the sunshine, in the sweet smell of new growth. I loved the sun warmly beating against my bent back, as I toiled away in the dirt. I am my mother’s daughter, I’d think to myself. She left me her “green thumb,” and she’d be proud at my constant use of it, even when I lived in Redding, Connecticut.

Friends, neighbors, and passersby would often comment upon the lovely cottage garden that surrounded our small, Victorian farmhouse. I strived to outdo myself each year. But my loveliest memory is of the abundance of wildflowers which grew from a packet. I sprinkled its contents on either side of the walkway leading to our front porch. Never one for math, I overlooked the explanation that the seeds were to be spread over a larger area than where I’d chosen.

It seemed forever before the blooms all emerged. But as they filled in, overwhelming the space in which they grew, I was like a child experiencing nature’s glory for the first time. Every morning I’d bound out the front door, which slammed shut with a loud bang. I’d walk the path, oohing and aahing at the varieties, the colors, the scents. I couldn’t count the number of wildflowers peeking out from behind one another. I tried picking favorites but gave up, because en-masse they were all beautiful!

Soon the bees came calling. And the butterflies, tiny ones and Monarchs, began congregating in my garden. Nearby, robins and finches twittered and chirped in the massive, overhanging, rhododendron shrub. Being careful not to get stung by a busy bee, my husband, daughter and I would plop ourselves down on the porch steps or an outdoor bench. Gazing upon Mother Nature’s handiwork, we were enthralled by what she could do with one inexpensive, little packet of seeds.

Those among you who are gardeners, probably know the ending to my story. Yes, it didn’t take long, perhaps a few weeks, before happiness turned to sorrow. With the first heavy downpour, my glorious, little garden nearly drowned in the onslaught. Hardier flowers were able to lift their heads once more, but the more fragile were too frail to pick themselves up again. I tried for a time to help, leaning some against others for support, propping others up with twine and stakes. Before long I too gave in, digging up the whole mess, save for a few that didn’t “throw in the towel” like me.

I replanted with specimens that were tried and true. Though the results were lovely, they never recaptured that brief moment when our house and its front path looked as though Cinderella and her fairy godmothers lived there, or Snow White and the seven dwarfs, or Red Riding Hood’s grandmother.

Throughout the first decade of her life however, my daughter loved the first home she ever knew, and all the flowers that grew in its gardens. And so, while I could never replicate my cottage garden fantasy, I’ve continued to make my garden here my own. I try very hard to follow planting instructions, but I’m still inclined to want every plant that I fancy to have a home with me. Grumbling to dissuade me, my husband is usually won over, and moves plants to make room for a new neighbor, or two, or three.

But thank goodness my energy’s maxing out as the years pass, for my garden space is maturing as well, meaning that it’s maxed out too. Although there’s still that wild, unkempt patch of brush at the top right of our driveway. I Wonder what I can do there? Hmmm…

it never ends…nature’s beauty, i mean…hugmamma.

“moments” of unsurpassed beauty

I find great pleasure in gardening because I can work the soil and create my own special “magic,” by melding ground covers, vines, grasses, perennials, annuals, bulbs, shrubs and trees, according to their individual “personalities,” colors,  fragrances, and textures. My finished “masterpiece” may never be picture perfect, since it’s always a work in progress. But each “snapshot” captures a moment of breathtaking beauty.

I feel blest when nature graces my garden in the form of butterflies and birds, particularly the elusive hummingbird. I may see one or two through the growing season. So when a friend sent me the following, I was amazed. I’m certain you will be too…hugmamma. 

autumn, on the east coast

I’m back visiting with my daughter in the east where Fall is happening, if only somewhat. Walking around the surrounding neighborhoods and nearby park, it felt like summer had made a comeback. I wished I’d thought to pull a baseball cap down over my brow, for the sun was beating down relentlessly. Whenever  possible I’d wander down tree-lined streets, reveling in the overhead shade.  Every now and then, a passing breeze cooled my cheeks. Only then could I gaze about, observing the stately homes that sat in the midst of lush, green lawns, as though they were holding court.

Here and there, chrysanthemum filled planters  emblazoned front stoops with autumn hues of reds, golds, oranges. Flower beds were weeded, some sporting dried hay, ready for winter. I felt a momentary sense of dread, as I thought of the overgrown garden awaiting me at home. It’s been in need of some serious TLC for several months.

Right or wrong, I’ve always favored a garden where plants grow in close proximity, like good friends and neighbors. Eventually, weeding is down to a minimum, a great benefit. Bending over to pull bits of unwanted green from the soil is back-breaking work. Regardless of the gizmos and gadgets I’ve invested in through the years, weeding is still a pain, worsening as I’ve aged. Heavy weeding in early spring, means regular visits to my chiropractor for adjustments.  I’ve finally heeded her advice to take periodic breaks while working in the garden. No more all day benders.

The disadvantage of growing plants too closely is that my garden eventually resembles a mini jungle. Making my way down the pebbled path that winds its way through the midst of the garden, I often think I should carry a machete to lop off overhanging branches from the Buddleia (butterfly) bush and the pink flowering dogwood tree, and cut back tall stalks of Rudbeckia daisies and overgrown Sedum. But pruning 2 or 3 times during the growing season, more than compensates for weed control throughout. So I’ll gladly keep my mini jungle.

I often think my daughter has the best of both worlds. She lives in an apartment complex with lovely landscaping, cared for by a team of maintenance men. I’d love to supervise my own caretakers. But I’m biding my time, for when my husband retires he promises to tend the garden, leaving me to manage the house. Great! No more weeding. And no more worrying that I’ll come face to face with a bear, as I round the corner of my garage. Until then, I’m still weeding, pruning AND worrying.

autumn, hugs for…hugmamma.

cemetery scavenger hunt

On a recent trip to California’s Orange County, to see our daughter perform as part of the National Choreographer’s Initiative, my husband granted my only wish for my 61st birthday, which occurred while we were there. We visited Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. I wanted to see Michael Jackson’s burial site, but also glimpse where stars of Hollywood’s “Golden Age” were buried. I’d picked up a thick paperback from Barnes and Noble, which was like an encyclopedic “map” of historical celebrity sites, hangouts, studios, homes. Hollywood: The Movie lover’s Guide – The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie L.A. by Richard Alleman, even detailed the specific locations where the famous were entombed. Book in hand we went on our very own scavenger hunt, seeking out dead people.

Pulling through the enormous wrought iron gates of Forest Lawn Memorial Park, we were taken aback by the serenity that greeted us. Yes it’s a resting place for the deceased, but it looked like a park with acres of lush, green grass. It seemed like an oasis in the midst of Los Angeles, for right outside the gates were strip malls as far as the eye could see in all directions. Just inside the entrance was a Tudor style building which lodged a combination floral/gift shop, as well as an information desk and restrooms. From what little I saw during MJ’s private burial ceremony on TV, I expected more security and less warmth from staff members. To my amazement there were no security guards patrolling the compound, and the few workers with whom I spoke, were pleasant and forthcoming with answers to my questions.

Driving on in our rental car, we meandered along tree-lined roads that wound their way through the verdant landscape. I could not stop “oohing” and “aahing.” Along the way we saw a few cars and other tourists, but luckily nothing compared to the likes of Universal Studios and Disneyland, which we vowed not to go near. In his book, Alleman describes Forest Lawn where “there are no rows of ordinary tombstones. Instead, there are acres of gardens and courts, with names such as Slumberland, Lullabyland, Everlasting Love, Inspiration Slope, and Babyland, where flat stone markers scarcely alter the smooth contours of the green lawn. There is a swan lake. There are two mausoleums—one of which resembles a great sprawling Medieval abbey. There are churches that are full-sized reproductions of churches in England and Scotland. Not only used for funerals, these are sometimes the scenes of weddings. In 1940, for example, Ronald Reagan married Jane Wyman in Forest Lawn’s Wee Kirk of the Heather.”

After visiting a couple of the churches and a museum showing works by artist Paul Gauguin, we finally went on the hunt for movie stars, albeit dead ones. At the Court of Freedom, we viewed a 20-by-30 foot mosaic replicating John Trumbull’s famous painting, “The Signing of the Declaration of Independence.” In the nearby Freedom Mausoleum I spied my first celebrity crypts, those of Alan Ladd, Nat King Cole, Jeanette MacDonald and Clara Bow. On the lower level, Gummo and Chico Marx were laid to rest, as was Larry Fine, one of the Three Stooges. Back outside I went in search of Walt Disney’s resting place without success. According to Alleman, “Whether Disney is here or not (and it appears highly likely that he is at Forest Lawn), it seems fitting that he should be remembered in a place that has the same fantasy/reality quality of the great park that his own dreams created: Disneyland.”

The “piece de resistance,” Jackson’s burial site was off-limits to the viewing public. Set apart from the main section of the Great Mausoleum, his body rests in an annex with a guard posted outside the wrought-iron gate. Keeping watch with him the day of my visit, were 3 women in their late 30’s, early 40’s. They seemed contemporary counterparts of the women who watched and prayed on the ground outside Jesus’ tomb. Their eyes hid behind dark glasses. One had brought sunflowers, placing them against a column at the corner of the building where they would go undetected by the guard. I inadvertently drew attention to them when I asked if I could snap a picture, knowing they were MJ’s favorite flowers. Flummoxed, the guard nodded his assent, but added he would need to remove them to another area where well-wishers left keepsakes in memory of the entertainer. I think the woman who brought the flowers was upset that I had pointed them out. Turning on my heel, I heard her plead to have them remain put.

Inside the Mausoleum we were directed to a viewing of the gigantic stained-glass version of The Last Supper, “which is unveiled several times a day at regular intervals complete with special lighting effects, music, and ‘dramatic narration.’” In the same room are reproductions of Michelangelo’s Pieta, Madonna in Bruges, Medici Madonna and Child among others. With a handful or more in the audience, I listened to the beginning of the narration. Antsy to hunt down the stars, I quietly stepped away into the nearby Court of Honor. Unfortunately a metal link chain kept me from moving through the hall for a better view of the names inscribed on the bronze plaques, vertically lining the walls on either side.

Scared that someone would come along, particularly the woman standing at the entrance of the building, I paced the length of the chain struggling to make out names as far as I could, squinting my eyes. I made a preliminary attempt to go around the chain but thought better of it, and returned to where I’d stood. Extremely frustrated to be so close, and yet so far, I tiptoed back to peek at the audience still seated on the other side of the wall from where I was. Hurrying back I sucked in my breath, passed around the chain and raced with determination through the narrow hall, glancing furiously at all the bronze plaques. At the other end was a smaller, separate room where “Gone with the Wind’s” famous director David O’Selznick was buried. Slowly retracing my steps I almost leapt out of my skin with joy, for in front of me were the names of Clark Gable and his wife Carole Lombard. I was in Heaven, absolute Heaven! I raced back out to where I’d left my husband, heart pounding, grinning from ear to ear. He, of course, was not surprised at my antics, but playfully scolded me nonetheless.

As we all moved to leave the building I stopped at the nearby Sanctuary of Benediction where I could see, leaning over the chain this time, the crypts of Red Skelton and Sid Grauman (of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre). I was unable to see around a wall to the crypts of Jean Harlow and others, who were mentioned in Alleman’s book. During the few hours I was at Forest Lawn, I felt I’d made a special trip to Heaven to meet some of my favorite Hollywood movie stars.

Except for the traffic, I had a “maavalous” birthday,“daahhling”…hugmamma.