Right in your own Backyard

We are preparing for a trip to Banff and Jasper in Alberta, Canada, in the next couple of weeks, just as soon as I get the OK to head north after my cervical stenosis surgery. I am hoping that the neck brace can come off in two and a half weeks. The concern is whether the two level fusion took and is healing correctly. It really hasn’t been that big of a deal and I am so appreciative that it hasn’t slowed me down with my photography. As long as I only use the 70-200mm lens with a teleconverter, all is well.

I am also testing out the use of uploading my blog post via laptop. I have been using my iPhone believe it or not and thought since I have the use of the internet now thanks to a next-door neighbor across the street, I would like to see what it is actually like to type on a keyboard and sit at a table. What a difference it is making as far as visualizing what the text looks like, and it is certainly more comfortable on the eyes.

Every morning now I am getting up and walking through the neighborhood in search of birds to photograph for 500px. I am thrilled to say that I am finding more birds than I thought were possible without even getting in the car. My favorite is an Allen’s Hummingbird that only breeds along a narrow strip of coastline in California and Southern Oregon. It has beautiful golden feathers with rust and green and looks very similar to the Rufous Hummingbird. I spotted a Cooper’s Hawk the other day on a power line, and Say’s and Black Phoebes are also numerous. Northern Mockingbirds serenade me with their stolen repertoire and Monarch Butterflies settle down silently on brightly colored flowers that grow in well-tended gardens. It is with great pleasure that I can actually find wonderful subject matter to photograph right here in my own backyard.

Callie will have to be current on all of her vaccinations and I am taking her into the vet at the end of next week. It is necessary for her to have a Health Certificate in order to cross international borders and we will need passports too. I just about have everything in order and am really looking forward to this trip. Our friends, Becky and Fred will be caravaning with us and it will be Becky’s first time RVing for an extended time. We hope to be gone for about a month. Camping can be so much fun, but it is also a lot of work. I can’t believe it has been over 3.5 years since we flew to Huntsville, Alabama to pick up Pipsqueak, our 24 ft Class C Icon. It has given us loads of fun and excitement and an escape route out of the desert during the hot summer months.

 

Living a Life of Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you reading this blog post. I have much to be grateful for and one of my greatest pleasures is to share my experiences of traveling with Callie the cat and my husband in our 24 ft Class C RV. We have recently parked the RV at the Riviera RV and Mobile Home Park in Encinitas, California to give ourselves a rest from being on the road and to enjoy our home in Borrego Springs for the winter. The desert has some of the best weather in the country now and to stay there for weeks at a time is a luxury instead of an inferno!

For Thanksgiving, we decided to go to a local restaurant called: Captain Kenos that provides a meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, candied yams, carrots, corn, stuffing, hot buttered roll, and pumpkin pie to the needy, lonely, and homeless. They welcome all with open doors and arms, and a shout out of Happy Thanksgiving with big smiles on their faces, as guests enter to partake of a delicious feast. If you can afford it, a $3.00 donation is warmly welcomed, but otherwise, it is totally free, no questions asked. We made a small donation so that others could eat, and then sat down to a community dinner that was served until 6:00. The doors had opened up at noon and there was a steady stream of people lined up at the entranceway receiving a much needed meal.

People of all walks of life, most of them poor, stood patiently with plates in their hands, now had a warm and cozy place to eat and to be served by respectful and cheerful volunteers with Christmas lights twinkling merrily and rock music playing in the background. The owner actually sat at the bar and chatted with his guests as if he were rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. It was such a welcoming sight that I just had to go up and speak with him briefly in order to thank him for his generosity. Gerry Sova, the owner also provides another feast for those in need on Christmas Day and he has been doing this for over 36 years!

Michael and I then drove over to Moonlight Beach to watch the beautiful sun set in the Pacific Ocean as people played volleyball and sat around hot, roaring campfires. We listened to Bob Dylan on the radio and reflected on past Thanksgivings we had shared together. Our first date was 41 years ago on November 6th and our first Thanksgiving, Michael braved visiting my entire family of 6 sisters, their boyfriends, 1 brother, and my mother and father and paternal grandmother. He survived that gathering and then we went over to meet his parents and 2 brothers and their girlfriends. And here we are today, 41 years later, still miraculously married and with an adult daughter and an adorable cat we are very fond of.

Marriage is not for the meek of heart. It takes a great deal of love, grit, forgiveness, patience, respect and most importantly, only one of you can be angry at the other at one, single, time. If you survive young adulthood together and merge into middle age and then on to becoming senior citizens, your hormones are no longer raging but you now have aches and pains, disease and the joy of getting old. I can honestly say though that this is becoming some of the best times I have shared with my husband. We have a rich and vast history together and have been through more than most couples would have tolerated. So, I am feeling particularly grateful for hanging in there, at least it is how I feel today; it is always subject to change. Smile!

So Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. Give thanks if you can, for LIFE can be incredibly difficult. It waxes and wanes though, and tomorrow could bring either hardship or joy, pleasure or pain. The act of being alive means to live, get out there and live your life to the fullest. This is not a dress rehearsal! Thanks for reading my blog.

A New Camera

I celebrated my 63rd birthday last month and my husband bought me a new Nikon D850. I have been practicing all day today and cannot believe how fabulous it is. My 500px photography site has taken up a great deal of my time lately but I just wanted my readers to know that Callie is doing well and loves it here. The pond is an ever-ready source of entertainment and she can sit outside on the balcony and lie in the sun. We will be heading to the beach on Saturday and will be staying in the RV for a couple of weeks. I have to go through eye surgery again and this time, I will take super good care of myself.

Our 1991 Tracker

Michael purchased an old 1991 GEO Tracker in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park from an original owner and we had our nephew, Ryan, work on it to get it ready for off-roading. We used to have a Baja Bug named Thumper that Michael stranded us on a sand dune once without water and we had to use our hands to dig ourselves out in 112-degree heat. I have not been particularly fond of off-roading ever since. But this Tracker is wonderful and even has a Kenwood Radio with Bluetooth mounted on the dash that plays Pandora Radio with our favorite Manu Chao and Bob Marley music blasting. I can handle most any situation with good music playing.

Yesterday morning we took it out on our maiden journey to the Kolob Reservoir to see how it would handle. I stressed emphatically to Michael that if we broke down or got stuck anywhere, I would not go out with him again. He behaved himself and the Tracker responded with grit and guts. One particular section of the road had been washed out and boulder hopping would have been our only choice, so we turned around and headed back the same way rather than frighten me again. I could tell that Michael was itching to test the very limits of his little jeep, but turn around we did.

We parked the car next to the shoreline of the reservoir and had a picnic and listened to the thousands of bees pollinating the fields of flowers while we snacked on apples and sunflower seeds and cookies. The wildflowers were out in abundance and the weather cooler at a higher elevation. The temperature in Zion is about 95 degrees but there is no humidity and the sky has wispy clouds sailing past and everything is fresh and alive. It looks like the water level is pretty low but the monsoon season is coming up and I think the rains will fill up the lake again soon. Angel’s Landing and Emerald Pools were washed out about a month ago and are closed to hikers, so the monsoon storms can punish the landscape with torrential amounts of water that causes flash flooding. We want to someday get a permit to explore the Subway, which is a beautiful hike that you can take but only with a guide. I hear it can take up to six months to acquire one.

So, thank you so much, Ryan, for doing such a fabulous job with Tracker. I feel confinement that it will handle itself admirably as long as Michael uses his head and behaves himself and thinks of the consequences before he takes the risk.

Callie doesn’t like being left behind from any of our adventures, but the Tracker doesn’t have air-conditioning and we need to have the windows down. She hangs out in the RV but gets several walks a day. She particularly loves going to the dog park when the dogs are not around. She acts like when she grows up, she wants to be a dog.

Le Papagayo

Le Papagayo is a local bar and restaurant that helps support musicians, especially blues singers. The venue isn’t perfect for performers because they are placed in between guests eating dinner. But it is an intimate experience and I believe that most guests book a reservation for not only the delicious food but to also hear the performers play.

When my sister Gayle turned 50 almost 13 years ago, and I still lived in Encinitas, we were fortunate to hear Steve White perform personally for 5 of my 6 sisters and my mother before she passed away from Multiple Myeloma. It was a joyous birthday party and Steve did a fabulous job of entertaining us while we sat down to eat Pacific Rim and French infusion delights. Francois, the owner was a personal friend of mine and helped make sure that the party was a huge success. I am one of seven sisters, and when my Irish Twin turned 50, it was my responsibility to create a birthday party for her. She did the same for me 11 months earlier at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and sisters are teamed up according to age. We are all in our 60’s now except for one sister, and when the oldest sister turns 70, we will repeat the process all over again. Sadly, Francois has sold the business to another man several years ago and has started a new life for himself in Florida.

Steve White died tragically of lung cancer about a year and a half after this memorable birthday party and he will be sorely missed. I painted a portrait of him as a gift for performing that night and presented it to him after the show. Last night Michael and I went to hear Joe Wood perform at Le Papagayo and was once again impressed by the depth and soul of yet another talented singer and guitar player. Michael and I met Joe who started a conversation with us because of his love for cats and after he had spotted me walking Callie on a leash. He was overjoyed to see me with her, and his usual shy and quiet demeanor became animated and happy at the sight of her. He opened up that he was a musician and that he was going to play last night.

This is what happens when I am out walking with her. Normally reserved individuals can’t help but express their amazement that I am walking Callie on a leash and how bold and proud she is to be out and about. She looks up at me frequently for guidance in how she should respond, and I try to stay calm and steady in return. She expects people to bend down and pet and praise her, and if they don’t, she will meow loudly and demand that they do so. Conversations go from talking about her to opening up about themselves.

So to get back to Joe, he is primarily a blues player and was once associated with T.S.O.L, which stands for The Sons of Liberty, a hybrid of blues/punk music style. He was taught the blues by an uncle who was in and out of jail and before Joe left home at the tender age of 13. Blues to Joe is primarily about women, heartache and a touch of heaven once in awhile sandwiched in between. His voice is deep and mournful and the lyrics, touching and painful. Just my kind of music. The one song that I listened to intently, which wasn’t written by Joe, was recorded for the movie – All the Pretty Horses by the novelist, Cormac McCarthy who just happens to be a favorite writer of mine. I have read every one of his books.

Joe was influenced by Jim Morrison and the Doors while growing up and his voice is eerily similar to Jims. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay for as long as we would have liked to because we didn’t have a reservation and had to stand by the bar. It was enough time for me to identify with and appreciate yet another extraordinary blues singer that has lived the life that gives true meaning and depth to the word, BLUES.

Joe Wood performing at Le Papagayo

Cleaning out the WC

Callie is such a fastidious kitty and she takes it upon herself to REALLY, really clean her litter box after she has used it. Sometimes I catch her standing in the shower of the RV and reaching up along the walls and cabinets with her front paws. It is so funny to watch her grasp and drag a big pile of nothing to cover up her poop. This particular short video doesn’t do her cleaning duties justice, but I thought it was cute anyway.

We are still at the Riviera Mobile Home and RV Park in Encinitas, California and Michael and I love the temperate climate and the community atmosphere of this neighborhood. The park is ideally situated with restaurants and the beach is within walking distance. Steve, the manager is hard working, thoughtful and always lends a helping hand if needed. We have a beautiful pool to swim in and our daughter, Lara has been visiting us for a week. Next Tuesday we head to Yellowstone if all goes well.