The Circle of Life

Life in the desert is paradise right now. The temperature has stayed below 100 degrees and even though most of the wildflowers have dried up and blown away, there is still ample ocotillo, agave, acacia, beavertail cactus, and so much more in bloom. The Anna’s Hummingbird, Orioles, Costa’s Hummingbird, Verdin, Red-winged blackbird, Killdeer, Says Phoebe, Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons, and White Egrets abound. At night, the pond is filled with the croaking sound of frogs in full throttle mode and dragonflies zip around along the surface of the water. Bats come out in the evening, and this is when Callie gets very excited. She adores watching the bats almost hit the window but somehow manage to veer off at the last second. Her head swivels back and forth as they dart about right before her very eyes. The fragrance of flowers fills the air with a lovely scented perfume and the caterpillars that haven’t been consumed, feed voraciously on what vegetation is left. The Painted Lady Butterflies are so numerous, that if you drive around to take in the sites, they flutter by in droves that many, sadly, are then hit by cars. The circle of life is steadily moving toward the season of summer and soon it will be too hot to live in the desert heat again. Fortunately for us, we can escape the soaring temperature and drive to the beach where our RV is parked.

Callie gets so excited when she knows we are heading for the beach that she stands up in the car to look out the window and starts to meow loudly when she sees the RV. She loves being on the road and is especially fond of the ICON. It is something to look forward to when we have to escape again. We are planning on a trip up the coast to help a friend out who’s husband passed away and she is flying in from Australia to scatter his ashes in May. We will get as far north as Monterey to see the otters. We plan on traveling for 2 weeks. I have much to look forward to.

The Bonds of Friendship are Strong!

Callie has become so bonded to me, that when we are separated, she gets very agitated. I in return feel lost without her. Most creatures experience similar emotions as we humans do, and I am convinced of that without a shadow of a doubt. Animals that have to eat other animals may express less empathy as an emotion, but that is only due to the fact that they have to kill in order to eat. If they stopped to comprehend the act of murder they are committing and feel bad about it, they would starve to death. We, humans, have become so distanced from raising our own animals on a farm to butcher in order to eat, that we hardly recognize our packaged meat, chicken and fish as having once upon a time been a living, breathing, sentient being before it is unceremoniously served as a meal.

I am not a vegetarian and this isn’t about preaching the horrors of how cruel many farm animals are raised and the health risks of eating meat. I love to eat fish and chicken, but it does make sense for the overall health of our planet to stop raising cattle, chickens, sheep, and pigs on a massive scale for human consumption. And to get back to Callie, she wouldn’t think twice about killing a lizard, mouse or bird, but boy does she feel separation anxiety when I am not with her. She developed cystitis a month ago when we went skiing up in Big Bear with my sister from anxiety, and it now appears that she is prone to more and more stress-related illnesses as she ages. As a matter of fact, so am I!

Because we adopted Callie as a stray, we don’t really know for sure her exact age, but we do think it is somewhere around 11 years old. And because she is getting older, she is much more dependent on me than ever before to get through her day. I have had to train her to walk on a leash in the desert due to all of the dangers outside, and she does seem to understand that I am her protector when we are staying in this wild and arid place. When we are camped at the beach in the RV and Mobile Home Park, she is allowed to run free, but because cats are so territorial and love nothing more than to get into a catfight, I have watched her being chased back into the RV at a fast run with her neighbor in close pursuit!

The trade-off is that she is much more affectionate and certainly a lot sweeter than she used to be. I would also have to admit that Callie was quite a handful in her youth and has mellowed out a lot as she has grown older. The same might be true of me, at least the becoming more mellow part of it, I am not exactly sure about being sweeter though.

Today, Michael and I have taken the RV into Temecula Valley RV Service and Sales to have it worked on before our next summer travels. We had to travel from the beach to Temecula in separate vehicles, hence the topic of this particular blog post. Callie had hidden in the upper loft when we were ready to pull out because she loves life on the road and didn’t want to leave the RV. I had to abandon her then and follow behind in the car. When she discovered that I wasn’t in the passenger seat when she finally came down once the engine started, Michael told me she was visibly upset that I wasn’t there. She has to park herself on the dash when we hit the road.

Once we got there, I put her in the car with me and I hung out with her while Michael checked the Rv in for service. I can’t express enough the importance of maintaining your vehicle so that when you are out on the road you can have fun instead of experiencing a breakdown. Blowouts and engine failure are the opposite of fun to go through. It is best to be safe than to be sorry. We have learned the hard way. The three of us, Callie, Michael and I have been doing this for 3 years now, and the learning curve is getting easier, and familiarity, of course, makes it less stressful. But still, there is a lot to RVing that can’t be taught. You just have to get out there yourself and experience it firsthand.

I am now waiting in the car while Michael goes over the estimate of repairs that need to be done on the RV. Callie is resting comfortably on the front seat of the car while I write, and now that we have once again been reunited, we can both enjoy this beautiful day in Temecula. All is well and living once again is easy; at least for the moment it is. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Nature Photograpy

I have been so busy with my photography, and because the desert is now a paradise destination, I haven’t been on the road with Callie as much. We will be traveling again soon, but in the meantime, the super-bloom has become a reality in Anza- Borrego Desert State Park.

Callie is doing very well and enjoys the sound of frogs croaking at night in the pond with coyotes yipping at sunset and sunrise. There are so many butterflies and birds singing in the day, it is really quite beyond description. The scent of flowers fills the air and hummingbirds flit from flower to flower. The temperature is warming up, but I think we have a ways to go before it becomes too hot to stay.

Travels with Callie will begin again someday soon.

Life of Callie

Callie is hanging out the window of the RV while a soft morning rain is falling at the beach. We have the RV parked in Encinitas, California now where we use to live and she can once again run free for supervised time outside. She prefers peaking out and spying from the safety of the kitchen table though. There are too many kitties running around outside for her taste. She does not like her own kind. In fact, she can’t stand them. Another fine day in the life of Callie.

The Trials and Travails of Aging.

I am always delighted to share stories about my travels with Callie but thought that this morning I would interject a short piece on the trials and travails of aging. It is a privilege to grow older considering the alternative, but because I was so accident prone throughout most of my life, I am now suffering the consequences of these past injuries.

Tomorrow I have a neurosurgeon appointment to determine what can be done about the advancing numbness in both my hands and feet.* I suspect that two injuries, in particular, are to be blamed, but we shall see. Both were caused by numerous moves that were made in the past and my desire to do the heavy lifting all by myself. I was gifted with physical strength but not the good sense to ask for help when it was needed. I have wrestled with king size mattresses and table tops that weighed over 300 lbs and must now stare at them and resist the urge to force them into other positions all on my own. Asking for help isn’t one of my better features, but I had better learn to do so soon.

Just the other day I wanted to move my bed about 4 feet over to the other side of the room so that I could make space for a loveseat that once repositioned, would sit next to a balcony overlooking my desert pond. What could possibly go wrong? As I pushed and shoved and nothing happened, I looked down to find out that while the box springs and mattress were on wheels, the headboard was firmly anchored to the floor. I immediately felt a zing in my lower back and the numbness radiated all the way up to my knees. This is a flare-up of the old injury I received when forcing the 300-pound glass table top up and over and onto a rattan stand with my right thigh. As soon as I did it, I knew that I had hurt my back. What an idiot I am and you just have to wonder what it will take for me to once and for all get the lesson in life that I have to be more careful. Since moving furniture injuries top the list, automobile accidents and riding a free horse are much more exciting to talk about though!

Here is a quick rundown of some of the more memorable accidents I have experienced in the past!

I was hit by a car in 2nd grade while riding my bicycle; I came flying down an alleyway and pedaling as fast as I could to keep up with my older sister who was in front of me shouting, “clear if your hurry, dead if you don’t!” I attempted to make it across safely on my bike with a station wagon bearing down on me. Suffice it to say, I didn’t hurry fast enough and I suffered a head injury when the car and I collided and I was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. Yes, my sister got into a lot of trouble that day but I did survive to tell the tale and relish all the attention I received for being a victim of such abuse. We both laugh about it now!

A head-on collision occurred when I was 21 years old and I was trying to make a left-hand turn while returning home from work at a local hospital in my Ford Comet. The road had narrowed from a 4 lane to 2 and I was just far enough over, and daydreaming when the car in the opposite direction collided with mine. My car was totaled! It probably saved my life because it was built so compact and sturdy, but I only had a lap belt on and my forehead hit the steering wheel. This time, my life flashed before my eyes, but I, fortunately, lived to see another day. Once again, I was rushed to a hospital by ambulance and this time, with a serious gash above my left eye.

Many years later, and since I had not learned yet another vital lesson, (listen to your inner voice) my younger sister had heard about a free horse that we absolutely needed to check out! Who could resist a free horse? When we arrived to find out that the horse was stabled in a backyard in the middle of a neighborhood, there were plenty of warning signs that my sister and I both promptly ignored. For example, the saddle was ancient and the leather, stiff and cracked and the owner’s raced inside and closed the curtains as we got ready. I saddled up anyway with Gayle holding the reins and asking me if I was sure I wanted to do this. “Sure, I replied!” Once on his back he pranced around with pent-up friskiness and enthusiasm while I attempted to balance myself properly. We circled around several times as I pushed down hard on the stirrups; this was another fatal move on my part. I was soon thrown off backward of course, still gripping the saddle between my knees because the cinch strap had broken when the horse, just being a horse, had gently crow-hopped with delightful energy. I was not aware that I was going down, but I did throw my arm out instinctively behind me as I fell and when I landed, I heard the snap and crunch of bone and thought that I had refractured my tailbone, ( this is another story for another time!)

Once on the ground, I turned around to locate the source of the loud cracking sound, and noticed that my wrist was in the shape of a U and did not look normal to me. I quizzically looked around to figure out what had happened because I still had the saddle underneath me but the horse was standing on the other side of the pen with my sister. I then looked closer and upon inspection I saw that my sister was staring back at me with horror. I realized then that I had fractured my wrist and got up slowly before the pain descended and brushed myself off with my good hand. We were only told afterward that the gelding hadn’t been ridden in many years and was probably just super excited about the prospect of being rescued and a chance to escape its backyard pen.

This time I didn’t arrive at the hospital by ambulance but only because my sister had to nervously drive me there herself after grabbing a bag of frozen peas off of the stunned owners who were hiding in their kitchen. I am sure they were worried about being sued. She then placed the bag on my horrifically swollen wrist and we set off in a controlled panic to the hospital which was about 40 minutes away.

So the moral of the story is that if you are going to make it to old age and only have aches and pains to complain about, but thankfully not cancer or other diseases, you must learn from your past mistakes and try not to repeat them. I hope that this message becomes loud and clear to me before I succeed in accidentally killing myself. But who knows, only time will tell.

In the meantime, here are some cute images of Callie enjoying her life in the RV as I write and post photographs in 500px!

* The appointment was rescheduled for April. There was a mixup with my health insurance. I am a firm believer in healthcare for all. A healthy society and a strong middle-class are paramount to a thriving economy and country. Why is this so difficult to understand?

Travels with Callie

I am documenting my life on the road with a beautiful calico cat named Callie. My husband and I are sharing this experience with her in a 24 ft Class C Icon RV. It has been a rich and extraordinary several years on and off the road and I look forward to many more to come.

And because I am an avid photographer, and due to the obvious fact that Callie is so photogenic, I have upgraded my site to business so that I can have unlimited storage. I was recently given a Nikon D850 from my husband of 41 years for my birthday, and I am now shooting in RAW. This means that my images will be in a much larger format and they will take up a lot more room.

I want to once again personally thank all of my viewers past and present for following me on this unique adventure. I propose a toast to good health and another fun year of travel and adventure with Callie the cat!

Peeping Thomasina

Callie is very averse to meeting new cats! She does not like them but also doesn’t wish to fight if at all possible. She is bold though and if I am hanging around outside to back her up, she will run the neighborhood beach kitties off of her property. She also screams at full volume if a cat dares to come up to introduce itself. The boys are always smitten by her good looks, and the girls seem puzzled by her anti-social attitude. Shouldn’t girls stick together, they say?

So I have devised a fabulous plan where she can feel safe in the RV, but also check out the goings on of her small town neighborhood by hanging herself out the kitchen table window and spying. Just call her,” Peeping Thomasina” It is a win-win for all!

Life in the Desert

With the Arctic Vortex blasting much of the United States, the Sonoran and the Mojave Desert are a seasonal paradise for many creatures including Michael, Callie and me. There was another lovely rainstorm last night and I am hoping for a super-bloom of wildflowers this spring. I have a pond behind the house that is a temporary home to Canadian Geese, Mergansers, Mallards, American Wigeon’s, a lone, lost Double-Breasted Cormorant that kept looking to the sky for his fellow travelers, a single, male Vermilion Flycatcher that I have affectionately named- Romeo, my darling Costa’s Hummingbird that I have aptly called, Sweet Pea, Say’s Phoebes, frogs that have just started to emerge from hibernation that are croaking out their romantic mating call, and of course the coyotes, desert foxes, and numerous predators that hope to make a meal of all of the above.

Callie has a ringside view of the scene playing out below her from a love seat that I have positioned by the window. She can watch bats swoop back and forth in search of insects at night and the ducks loudly quack and squabble during the day and even one lone male coyote that has as of yet failed to catch a bird in the late afternoon. When it gets chilly out, and it sometimes does, Callie makes short order of the lovingly prepared bed that I have made and crawls underneath all of the blankets when she gets chilled.

Wildflowers such as the tiny red chuparosa shrub are in full bloom already and this is the favorite food for Sweet Pea, the hummingbird. The Painted Ladies, a lovely butterfly which favor the golden yellow brittlebush are unfortunately often consumed by the flycatchers, and the bats and frogs attempt to catch the rest at night. It is quite the ecosystem playing out right before my eyes. It has really inspired my photography and the new Nikon D850 camera that my husband gave me for my 63rd birthday has improved my skills; I rarely take iPhone pics anymore.

We are moving the RV back to the Riviera possibly this weekend after having all the batteries replaced and the loss of hubcaps too! This particular RV seems to like to ditch them on the roadside along with blowouts that we have had with just about every tire. It must be a flaw in the design of the Class C and the fact that Michael has a hard time replacing them if there is still plenty of tread. The weakened sidewall is the issue and a gentle warning to all who RV, don’t be fooled like we have. Blowouts are dangerous and costly, not to mention the inconvenience and discomfort you have to go through in such an emergency. We also had the generator oil replaced and are now ready to park it back at the coast. I am looking forward to another adventure though soon and our first one may be to head up to Lake Cuyamaca or Agua Caliente if it is still too cold. Such is the good life of an aging retired couple and their adorable cat named Callie.

Badd Ass Catt

Callie is doing really well and has adjusted to a life in the desert that only allows her to be walked outside with a leash. There are just too many predators in this wilderness area that could harm her. She seems to know it and has accepted her loss of freedom and not to be able to climb her beloved olive trees. When we take her to the beach where we have the RV parked, Callie will be allowed to explore outside once again. In the meantime, I am taking lots of photographs and appreciating the abundant wildlife that either call Anza- Borrego Desert State Park home, or are just passing through.