A Retrospective on Anza Borrego

Here I am in Maui and it is raining steadily and I am writing about Anza Borrego. Now don’t get me wrong, I am loving the rain and it is the perfect envioronment for reminiscing about the hot and arid desert. When I am in Anza Borrego, I either cycle or hike and most of these photographs were taken while doing both. The lighting in the desert is like no other, the background appears flat as if it were cut out and pasted far away and the shadows are sharp, crisp and well defined. When the desert is fortunate to receive enough rainfall, you are given the gift of wildflowers in the spring. Nothing is taken for granted in the desert and what little water falls from the sky, determines what events will unfold later on. This past spring we had enough rainfall to merit a decent display of flowers. It is a photographer’s dream. The season doesn’t last long because the insects that feed on the flowers are prolific and the birds that feed on the insects, voracious and the cycle of life is played out in fast forward mode. What little time is available is used with an efficiency like no other place on the planet.

Callie Van Gogh

During the couple of years that I lived by the sea, I had a studio off of the kitchen that faced east. I lived on the second floor and there was a walkway out front and when neighbors passed by my window, I could wave and invite them in for a look at what I was creating. Manu Chao would be playing on the stereo and dinner simmering in a crockpot. The energy along the coast was very conducive to creativity, and whenever I would settle down to paint, I had a difficult time keeping Callie off of my watercolor paper. It was irresistible to her and when the paint was wet, and especially when I was working with acrylics, it could spell disaster. While I painted, I was constantly keeping one eye on her and the other eye on my work. She would have liked nothing better than to jump up on the table and investigate my latest creation by walking all over it and then plopping down and rolling on top of it. There was something about the smell of the paper that was incredibly enticing! I tried shutting her out, but had to put up with her howls of indignation, sneaking away when I thought she was taking a nap, only to have her discover I was missing, and to finally come to an agreement that she could hang out below my art table as long as she didn’t jump up on my painting. There were times when I worked on a large scale and I would have the painting on the floor in order to add gestural drips and slashes in a free style form of artistic expression. As soon as Callie spotted this turn of event, it would be a call to action and she would rush over in a flash to investigate what it was I was doing. It was like I had whipped out the catnip and was sprinkling it all over the floor like pixie dust. The look on her face was much like an artist in the throes of painting a masterpiece! Some day I will have to collaborate on a work of art that has Callie’s input literally stamped all over it by way of paw prints, scratch marks and fur imprints, and it will most likely be THIS painting that makes me, and more than likely, CALLIE, famous…..

Down a Country Road

Callie loves nothing better than to go on a car ride and hang her head out the window. As long as you don’t drive too fast, she is able to take in the sights, smells and sounds of the great outdoors and derives so much pleasure from it. You can watch her surprise and delight in a world way beyond her daily scope and it is fun for Michael and me too. I always put her harness on because there have been times when she is hanging out so far that she could easily fall out if I wasn’t holding on to her. Her ears get in the way of enjoying fast speeds because they are shaped like small satellite dishes and all the wind funnels right down into them. This causes Callie to shake her head a lot if we go too fast, so we try to take her out to country roads where we can keep the speed down to 25 miles an hour. One day while driving to the coast, we spotted a herd of young cattle that expressed an interest in meeting Callie. As soon as we slowed down and parked the car, they ambled over to investigate this new little creature they had probably never seen before. They showed no interest in Michael or me, but locked eyes with Callie and Callie with them and you could see that there was chemistry between them. Cattle and especially milking cows and horses are well known for buddying up to barn cats and cats seem to love them in return. There are many stories of friendships between the two. Callie would have marched right over to them and touched noses if we had let her, and in retrospect, I wish we had let her. The cattle were living the good life, at least for now, and taking pleasure in being out in a huge pasture and eating grass to their hearts content. This is how bovines should be raised, with lots of grass, space and sunshine. I rarely eat meat anymore because I am trying to do my part in combating climate change and the thought of eating one of these beautiful creatures, is unsettling. Cattle place a huge burden on the environment with the methane gas they expell, but to see this herd enjoying the moment and the beautiful day unfolding was a pleasure to behold. It was a good day for a drive in the country, and even a better day for Callie to meet moo!

The Calla Lily Message on Beauty

I am an artist and photographer that usually paints realistically, and one day I decided to try something new. With a common calla lily flower, I was able to use a kalidescope filter and create all these fantastic images. It is amazing to me how many different angles you can achieve in order to abstract the flower into a variety of forms. I have not painted for over a year and a half and instead have been focusing on photography. I need to get back to painting again soon.

The Calla Lily flowers message is to focus on the beauty around you, and remember that it will return even if it disappears for a season. Hold onto your innocence and grace as you move through the world and conquer your challenges…

Palm Springs and hike to Palm Canyon

It has been almost a year since we packed our bags and with Callie in tow, headed to Palm Springs because our house in Borrego Springs was in the middle of a renovation and consequently not habitable. We found a really good deal at the Aloha Hotel, a historic hotel with old school charm on South Palm Canyon Drive. We convinced our good friend, Fred, to join us and made quite an adventure of it. Palm Springs is buzzing with activity in the winter and we wanted to get away from the crowds, so one morning we took a day hike to Palm Canyon. This canyon has experienced massive flash floods and fires periodically and when you are out on the trail, you can’t believe that you are 15 minutes from the city. Palm Canyon feels and looks ancient and you are left in awe at how such a small water source can provide life sustaining sustenance for so many plants and animals.  The native fan palms are a perfect example of a plant that can survive in the harsh climate of the desert and yet are so majestic and grow to such tall heights that can shelter a variety of animals. The Palm Canyon trail is not strenuous and on this day because of the clouds and filtered light, it was a photographer’s dream. The day that we ventured out, our daughter Lara joined us and we had such a good time walking at a leisurely pace and enjoying the great outdoors and nature. The temperature was crisp and cool but sunny and bright and by the time I completed the hike, I was warm enough to take off my sweatshirt. This is perfect weather for hiking. Callie did not go with us but she did get to hang out by the pool with me and soak up some sunshine and was a respected guest at the hotel. Not all hotels allow cats and because we felt she was so welcome, it was a refreshing and peaceful getaway for the entire family…

A Toast to Sunsets by the Sea

As a photographer, you can’t compete with the beauty of coastal sunsets. All you can hope for is a photo that attempts to capture the essence of its grandeur. Every evening the sun and the sky will cast a different colored pallet on the clouds and water and each unique sunset will tell a story all its own. You get a much better sense of weather when you live at the water’s edge and you can tell when a storm is building off the shore, or that the doldrums will settle in for the long haul. I felt very close to nature during this time of my life, and took advantage of the sunsets with Callie and Michael by my side. Now that I am living in the desert, it is the morning and sunrise that I get to view on a daily basis and it will be very rewarding for me to look back on the contrast of the two oppossing landscapes. When you watch the sun begin to set and dip into the sea, there is a collective sigh that fills the air and a calmness and peacefulness that dominates the landscape. With the desert and the sunrise, anticipation and excitement for the day starts with the noisy chatter of birds and wildlife. The coyotes begin to call to one another to signal that it is time to head back to the safety of the den and hummingbirds and bees make chirps and buzzes to announce that the day has begun. Before the sun sets, the coast is positively electric and filled with a salt-charged energy, while the desert seems to take a deep but quiet breath and exhales with gratitude for the coolness of the dawn…

Ruby Tuesday

Before we moved to Borrego Springs, we lived on the coast in Southern California, and Callie wanted my protection whenever she would go for a walk. I would leave the front window cracked open so that she could explore the gardens during the day, but something happened that made her afraid to go out by herself. I think it was a big, black and white tom cat that would give her a hard time whenever he laid eyes on her. One day we were out walking and she ran past me in a blind panic with the tom cat right on her tail, and I had to chase after them and smack the cat on the butt to tell him to leave her alone! The look on his face was priceless because you could tell he was totally smitten by her and couldn’t understand why I had yelled at him. Needless to say,  I had to keep a close eye out for him whenever we went for our walk because Callie was aftraid of him. Every morning and late afternoon, Callie would circle around me and ask to go out for a walk and we would take a tour of the gardens. She loved the coral trees and would climb up several of them and then hop up onto the wooden rail that bordered the complex so that she could make her daily rounds. Her favorite friend to visit was a beautiful, gentle and kind, golden-doodle named, Ruby. I think the feeling was mutual and whenever they would cross paths, they would touch noses and Ruby would try to follow her back home. Callie must have been raised with a dog in her early upbringing because she is not afraid of dogs at all. But that is exactly what I am afraid of in the desert because I think she would let a coyote come right up to her. She loves dogs but can’t stand the sight of a cat. So, Callie and I would take our walk together with her in the lead and me following close behind and when we would get to the gardens, she would sit back and watch me take photographs of all the beautiful flowers. Ruby would then come out to join us and we would have a little social hour. I miss those walks because Callie could socialize with Ruby and could walk free and in the desert I have to keep her on a leash. Callie and I would also sit outside on the balcony to watch the beautiful sunsets every evening and it would be so fun to listen to Ruby playing down below with her owner, Steve and his young son, Max. I believe one of Max’s first words were kitty-kitty and his face would light up whenever he saw Callie peering over the balcony edge. The sunsets were spectacular with the roar of the crashing of waves and the colors that intensified as the sun dipped into the ocean. Those days are behind me now, but the desert has its own stark beauty and the trade off is that I am surrounded by a quiet serenity that you can only find in the desert. How fortunate for me that I have had the opportunity to experience both…

A Cat Has Nine Lives

I often hear how important it is to live in the moment, to be here and now, stay mindful and be, “present.” Those are wise words to try to live by, and what I have surmised throughout my own life, is that the past continues to haunt you if you don’t learn from it. You are destined to repeat your mistakes until you figure out what the lesson is in order to move to the next step. I have had a difficult time with the lessons of my past and I had better get my act together so that I can enjoy the present and have a future. Writing about Callie and myself may give me pause to reflect and help me to understand the past so that I can live more effectively in the present. With Callie and most animals, any given situation may be a life or death scenario, and that if you don’t learn quickly, you may not survive. Living in the desert, which still has an element of wildness to it, not learning the lesson could be fatal. Domestication has improved Callie’s life as far as food and shelter goes, but she can’t run around free in the desert because of all the predators. Callie has had to learn about roadrunners and scorpions and storms that blow sand and dust devils day and night. I have lost most of my wildness too, and now that I am getting older, it is amazing to me that I have survived to middle age. All the accidents I have had would have been a death sentence for most animals. I would probably not have survived past my 8th year which is young for a human being. Callie ran away from her first family and adopted me when she was 3 years old. She was dirty, tired and very stressed out when I found her meowing loudly by my front door. Fortunately she survived her ordeal and was able to start another life with me. She is always putting herself into dangerous situations that make for good and entertaining stories, and most of you have heard the saying that cats have nine lives. Well, I look back on my past and the five years I have shared with Callie and all the crazy things that Callie has done, and that I have done for that matter, and I am convinced that I was a cat in another life! No wonder Callie and I are such wonderful soulmates. We are both on at least life #7…

Enough About Me-What Do You Think Of Me?

Not having Callie around to write about has drawn attention to myself. I had no idea how therapeutic writing would be for me and have always resisted keeping a journal or diary. Who wants to read about themselves day in and day out? The benefits of writing down your thoughts though, is that you can keep an eye on your moods and when you start to go down, hopefully you will be aware of it. I have yet to figure out what exactly triggers a downward spiral, but I am going to start being vigilant. 

I haven’t painted in over a year because the move out to the desert from the coast has been a difficult transition for me. I love the solitude and quiet of the desert, but it is so far away from civilization that it makes daily life a little more challenging. You can’t just run to the store for groceries, shopping, seeing the dentist, visitng the doctor, etc. Leaving town requires planning and an itinerary to go by. You can’t be impulsive because it is a 2 hour drive to somewhere else.

We had to renovate the house when we moved and my studio is not quite up to par compared to what I am use to. I am off of the kitchen, which is a good thing, but the living room and kitchen are one big room and I feel too exposed. I will have to adjust though in order to create again. I also get too high when I paint. Photography and writing don’t seem to give me the same high that painting does. That is a good thing for me. I need a steady dose of middle of the road energy to thrive. There is a price to pay for creating artwork and becoming too manic!

I am curious as to what the next year will be for me. My goal is to do a road trip with Michael and Callie. Callie is so much fun to travel with because she is so open and curious about every little thing in life. She looks to me for protection and if I am doing well, she marches forward without a thought. When I took Callie around Convict Lake in Mammoth and a pack of horses clomped by, Callie just stepped aside with me and watched them in amazement. She had never seen a horse before that I am aware of. It is so much fun to experience these little adventures and see them through the eyes of a cat.

So for now, I have decided to post some of my paintings and photographs so that I can look back on my artwork and appreciate all that I have created. I was very prolific and may one day be again. Writing and photography will have to suffice for now.

Behind Closed Doors

I risk loosing some of my followers but gaining others in disclosing that I have Bipolar Disorder. Should I start another private blog and keep the lightness and fun of Travels with Callie separate?  I have decided that none of us live lives that are free of insult and injury and I am no exception.There are so many of us living with challenges in so many different forms, that it is worth the risk if I can help just one individual. For me, living with Bipolar Disorder is like driving down the road in a car and I am enjoying the beautiful scenery as it flashes by. You are traveling along and admiring the view but the car speeds up and continues to do so until you realize that the accelerator pedal is jammed and you start to panic. How do you stop the car when the brakes have failed and you are going faster and faster?  Where is the runaway truck ramp when you so desperately need it? I have been accident prone since I was a very young girl. My fist major accident was when I was in second grade and I was on a bicycle and crossed a street darting out of an alley, and was hit by an oncoming car. I can still remember the ambulance ride to the hospital and being asked how to spell my name. I spelled it JAON. I in return asked if Doctor Kildare worked at the hospital where I was being taken. I am 61 years old and this was a TV show that I had watched with my older sisters and I had a crush on Richard Chamberlain. I also remember cringing because I knew I didn’t have panties on under my shorts. I suffered a head injury and my mother insisted I be discharged from the hospital because she would be able to take better care of me at home. I required stitches and it was important that I be turned frequently due to the head injury. My mother insisted that she understood the symptoms of a concussion and wanted me home with her. If I took a turn for the worse, she assured the doctor that she would bring me back to the hospital. I have another vivid memory of feeling very special when my sisters saw my head wrapped in bandages and I became the center of attention. I am a middle child with 6 sisters and a brother. Being the center of attention was a novelty to me. This was the start of many serious injuries I have sustained throughout my life, and I am determined now to focus my attention on self preservation and mindfulness.

It’s often said that a traumatic experience early in life marks a person forever, pulls her out of line, saying. “Stay there. Don’t move.”-  Jeffery Eugenides, Middlesex

I had a beautiful childhood that was full of fun and adventure, but somewhere along the way I learned to hurt myself when life sped up or became too difficult to process. I couldn’t find a way to slow down and protect myself and found it easier to be hurt, seriously hurt, so that I had no choice but be forced to recover or die. This has been a life time pattern of mine and I could use some serious therapy, and maybe some day I will seek it out… again. For now, I have Callie. She has been a tremendous help to me. I watch her navigate through life and all that it throws at her, and she does her best to take it day by day and moment by moment.

Strangers seem uncomfortable when you question them about their childhood. But really, what else are you going to talk about in line at the liquor store? Childhood trauma seems like the natural choice, since it’s the reason why most of us are in line there to begin with. -Jenny Lawson

Last week in Borrego Springs, we had a serious storm blow through and we got a lot of wind and rain. Callie kept wanting to go outside so that she could climb her beloved olive trees and I kept telling her no.  Finally, after much pestering, Michael decided he would take her outside for a bit and promised to keep a close eye on her. I watched from inside as the trees danced in circles and the rain came down in big but sporadic drops. They looked so cute in the backyard together with Michael’s hair blowing all over and Callie prancing around in glee. But all of a sudden a huge blast of wind much like a mini tornado slammed into both of them and almost pulled Callie up into the air. When she was able to get her feet down on the ground and found some traction, she made a beeline for me. If I hadn’t opened the sliding door at the last second, she would have hit the glass and knocked herself senseless. It was so funny to see her loose all sense of courage and make a dash for the house as if her life depended on it!  We laughed so hard about the expression on her face and that she didn’t think MIchael was a good enough protector. She had made eye contact with me when the blast of wind had hit her and she raced toward me in a flash.  Now she is no longer quite as enthusiastic about climbing the olive trees when there is a storm brewing. Callie learned a valuable lesson and I trust that she will be a little more careful next time. 

Life is a journey and sharing it with Michael and Callie in my middle years has been a learning curve. Animals are sentient beings and the responsibility of taking care of them can either overwhelm you or add so much to your life. Callie is this tiny little package of emotion and energy and she really does seem to love me. I have always connected with animals and probably enjoy their company more than humans. She is therapeutic and great company for me and I hope to enjoy many more adventures with her. 

Childhood is the barrel they give you / to go over the falls in.  -Linda McCarriston

I am going to enjoy my life and take that barrel over the falls again with Callie and Michael, preferably a road trip, but this time I am going to slow down and write about my adventures and make sure to reflect on them to try to stay mindful, in the moment and safe!


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