Roadrunners in winter, part 3 of a series

Hanging around in between other people’s doings is what I am doing these days.  First my daughter’s wedding, then my move to Fresno, where she has moved with her new husband.  The apartment I have dibs on is not yet ready.  Thus I spend long days still in Mountain View, fitfully packing, chatting with Elf and Opus, and watching Netflix…

So here’s Part 3 of my series from a 1990s blog in New Mexico, about the seasonal habits of roadrunners.  These characters are so much fun to observe, and their interactions with donkeys sometimes almost caused me to choke from laughing so hard…

Lying in wait in the depths of our big wisteria tree, this roadie was so fixated on a bird feeder hanging on a lower branch that he never moved as I filled it.  The sneaky posture is so snakelike it seems quite natural that Roadrunners frequently catch and devour large rattlesnakes…

Roadies in Winter

As the cool days and icy nights of the high desert winter shrivel plants, send the largest grasshoppers and crickets to arid sandy sepulchres and deliver lizards to hibernation recesses inaccessible to roadrunners, the omnivorous birds scout food over widening areas.  They crouch in tree limbs near bird feeders, scoot along fence lines where windblown detritus is most likely to contain torpid insects and snakes, patrol hay stacks for mice,  poke around manure piles for edible larvae and large insects lurking in warm compost.

The first lemon and peach lights of a midwinter’s dawn sky often reveal large flocks of crows gathered in the donkey paddock.  Like a gaggle of pokey window-shoppers in a mall, these somber suited birds meander through dead weeds, pausing to drink at the stock tank.

The long grey sword of a beak brandished by the roadrunner cleaves the flock in twain as crows drop their dignity to squawk and scatter.  Body gliding, legs pedalling, the dashing bird rides an invisible bicycle, shooting into the heart of the crow flock.  Beak aimed for a sleek, black chest, topknot ruffled high, the roadrunner drives like a missile to the target.  No matter that the moment he scatters the crows one will inevitably swoop back to tap his long downcurved tail, causing him to spring to a fence for safety.  He has to pace dogs, spook donkeys and charge crows.


Because it is the nature of roadrunners to indulge in activities which baffle the rest of us.

As the desert sun steams crystal ice off crisp brown weeds in the paddock, the agile roadrunner foots a mile between himself and slow-motion crows, scooting along the dirt side of a drainage ditch looking for breakfast.

What a pity his beak won’t grin.


Over in California’s Bay Area right now, here is a resident rodent (sort of sounds like roadrunner, doesn’t that?) doing what it loves — teasing Elf and Opus during a mid-day walk.


Death Valley: Wherever You Go, There You Are

Death Valley is certainly its own kind of place on Earth. When my daughter and I spent time there back in February, 1998, we were living in New Mexico. Which also features that sort of wide, wide, open, open space that feels as though nobody will ever occupy it on a full time basis. Thus I am intrigued with the way DV felt to a person who lives in upstate New York. She noticed the lack of green. When we were there DV had enjoyed a mite of moisture so flowers had shot up and shoved aggressively colored blooms towards the sky, ready to get pollinated and set seed before the soil would crack open again.

For fun I am reposting this blog. Death Valley is a great spot, wherever we come from to visit. One day I’d like to check in on it one more time. 🙂


death-valley The world stretches wide open. Badwater Basin, Death Valley, CA.

Once in my life I could truly say I was at my lowest point. The lowest point in North America, that is, at approximately 282 feet below sea level in Badwater Basin. And it wasn’t a bad thing at all. Instead it was a journey I’ll never forget, a trip to Death Valley several years ago that changed my idea of what natural beauty meant forever.

The desert had never held much fascination for me. I’d been to Arizona a few times as a child, and remembered finding it interesting but so very brown. I love trees and green, growing things. And the arid landscape I recalled in my mind’s eye always seemed to be lacking somehow, in life, in shade, in mercy.

But then I travelled to Death Valley, California. And though green and growing things were few and far between, life was still there, waiting.

From the…

View original post 587 more words

Hummingbirds and oranges for the holidays

The holiday season just ending presented a curious feel to it this time around.  There were Christmas lights draped on a large balcony in the building behind ours, while below them stood glowing orange globes on a sturdy little tree — fruit, actually.  Oranges, uh huh.

A friend sent a gift of many delicious lemons from one of her trees last week.

Although lots of trees have dropped their leaves and it is pretty cool day and night hummingbirds have been buzzing around our balcony feeder non stop since summer. The species present are mainly Anna’s right now, though the odd Blackchin can’t be ruled out.  There’s been a night or two just below freezing, when the tiny birds showed up extra early, sticking around longer than normal.  Little energy wasted on chasing one another.

The oleander trees have flower buds, while a tall sycamore flaunts dark yellow feathery flowers three stories above us.

Meanwhile, across the region marches a series of storms, drenching the northern part of the state, piling snow many, many feet high in the Sierra Nevadas to the east.  Yosemite is being buried as I write.  While I’m used to the West and the effects mountains have on weather I have to admit that the variety of Northern California climates occasionally makes my head spin.

A sign of my growing bond with the state, a new Sprouts bag!  I like bears, and listen interestedly to plans about reintroducing Grizzlies in remote spots in the California mountains.  Big brown bears such as Grizzles help people keep a perspective that is healthy, I think.

Here we are bundling up as for New Mexico winter to take the dogs for a midday walk, during which we spot …. hummingbirds! …. dashing from one oleander to another.  Since there are no actively flowering bushes in our surroundings at present it is good to know that the small creatures also eat tiny bugs, which I hope crawl out from beneath bark in the sunshine.  Condo neighbors seem to have mostly removed hummer feeders for the winter.

The most up-close-and-personal change has to do with the transformation of our pleasant condo into a wedding warehouse and assembly line.  With Jericha and Paco’s marriage a week away we have 75 pounds of table linens stacked in boxes.  That is seventy five pounds of table stuff!!  Would the Waldorf Astoria need that much for three hours one day?

There are sheer curtains which my daughter and a small army of friends have transformed with crepe paper strips (on the back side) to offer gentle colors when hanging in the many large windows (with indifferent views) at the wedding venue.  More sheer curtains have had LED light strings attached, to hang behind the raised stage at the head of the room, glowing during the ceremony.  We have been gluing lovely quotations, printed on vellum, inside three of the six sides of small jars she found to serve as wedding favors.  Into the jars go small strings of LEDs, with switches craftily held above view in pretty netting just under the lids, tied tight outside with ribbons.

Earlier today Jericha baked an experimental batch of the cupcakes she wants to have stacked up into a wedding cake shape.  We’ve happily been fattening ourselves on the things — which, full of butter and honey, along with fine cornmeal and almond flour — are making their way towards “you can’t have just one” fare.

This evening the kitchen workshop is open for creating huge paper flowers out of gigantic coffee filters.

Also this evening we are having rain.  So good for this region with a six-year drought, so slowing for getting one’s wedding errands done.

Besides living in my daughter’s dreams of a beautiful wedding in which she imagines and then creates most of the decorations with help from a special wedding planner friend, and many good hands, I’ve continued to get grounded with my new state, and enjoyed reconnecting with several good friends I hadn’t seen or spoken with in a long while.

Amidst this cheerful disarray came along my birthday on the 6th. Not seventy yet, but working on it…  That idea brings to my grasshopper mind yet another view of the ways in which my life has changed since last June.  Jericha and Shirley, our roommate in the condo, took me for a birthday lunch at a Himalayan restaurant next to the preschool where they both work.

It was Friday, a day when great numbers of tech industry employees love to grab a longish lunch.  We had a bit of a wait to get in…  In line with Asian men of different ages.  After we finally took our places at a small table there was time to look around.  Cheerful paper lanterns hung from ceiling beams, bearing the message of a Happy New Year.

While munching my way through excellent Indian food that calm feeling came over me  that can settle when I’m in a new, good mind space.  Looking around I realized that there were over a hundred people sitting at long tables, mostly in large groups.  That we three women were a) one of perhaps five women in the entire restaurant, and b) besides one distant man we three were the only pale faces that I could see.  To which it isn’t too much speculation to say that we were also in a wee minority of diners not employed by Google.

These things made me smile, all the more when, as we were leaving, Shirley wished me a happy birthday and right afterwards a friendly hand touched my shoulder, a young man leaned towards me and murmured, “Happy Bird-day!”

That one little gesture lighted me up in the midst of what was already a specially good day.

This was all the more relished since the many changes in life of late may bring happiness to the heart one day, yet sadness will invade the next.  Sadness for what (and who) is now gone forever.  Making this an appropriate moment, perhaps, to suggest that we not hesitate to offer a smile, a small compliment or bit of help to some complete stranger, randomly.  It makes a difference, it really does.

Jericha planning table designs, taking photos for her wedding planner friend

On New Year’s Eve

When a blogger friend suggested that as this unusual year, 2016, comes to an end we reflect on  our personal positive aspects of it, the idea appealed.

That’s a promise and a threat to me, really. The way I usually meet life, as a series of actions and reactions, causes and consequences needing to be considered before jumping headfirst.  Finally, as being what I willfully choose to ignore when inevitably struck by a determination to get right in there.

Early in the year I promised myself that I would at last pull up the gumption and the wherewithal to shut my mouth and put paid to the business of selling my last home, in New Mexico, in favor of the more nomadic life of an apartment dweller, in California.  That’s where daughter Jericha has been for some years.  This inner discussion had occupied my stew pot of a mind for a long time.

So — we did it, and in 2016, to boot!  Never would this have happened without a bit of help

Brian at an early stage of loading our truck

from our friends.  Two of them trekked from California to the middle of New Mexico where they labored in June heat loading a mountain of furniture, kitchen gear, clothing, wheelchairs, saved crutches and leg braces, books, bonsai and artwork into what had at first looked like a huge (or is that  pronounced “yuge” of late?) U-Haul.  Ha!  Barely standing room for two humans remained after the truck was packed, floor to ceiling.

Part of my brain had been denying that this packing job would ever be completed.

There was personal sacrifice and faith involved in this move.  Jericha gave up her comfortable apartment with same-age friends in order to share rented condo space with her mother and a middle aged teacher friend; none of us could afford Silicon Valley rental rates alone.  I sold my sturdy, eleven year old Ford Ranger with its wheelchair lift since it no longer really served my needs.  That left me for the first time in forty-six years with no wheels of my own.  Flat scary.  The trip in a rented Ford Taurus was uncomfortable in many ways, the motels pretty bad for wheelchair-bound me, and the timetable kept us on the road for more hours than my back chose to accept gracefully.

On the super plus side, Elf the Corgi and Opus the Dachs-Terr mix proved themselves to be good travelers, excited about exploring, accepting of their coupled leashes and hurried meals in motel rooms.

As time moved along in the beautiful Bay Area my views of how a life is lived adapted as they generally do.  Some things got better — Jericha  rediscovered a certain handsome friend whom she will be marrying in two weeks — while I finally decided that saving the proceeds of house selling (meager by California standards) would not make me as happy as getting a used wheelchair van.  So I did that — staking out at least a modicum of independence going into a new life in yet another new location — Fresno.

Paco and Jericha

And some things got no better.  My post polio syndrome, for one.  And I did not lose any of the extra pounds I’ve gained over the three years since my shoulders began acting up.  A goal for the upcoming new location.

The significant decisions we made took place against the backdrop of the USA’s most horrible presidential election ever.  What seemed a laughable candidacy by a yugely unqualified individual abruptly turned into his victory, so hotly contested by himself and unbelieved in by so many that it first stunned at least half the nation, then plunged large numbers into the kind of darkness that does not quickly ebb.  There are still people shedding tears over what is happening to the country on a daily basis.

I admit to having sniffled steadily through election night and much of the following day, off and on for some time after that.  Yet… the good in it at first came to me as something along the order of, “Well, at least now we have something wonderful to look forward to — the end of this particular period down the line.”  Then, of course, hit the realization that this rise in favor that populism is experiencing is spreading around the world, that things are going to change for many others quite apart from the new regime in the US, the increasing cyber threats we seem quite unprepared for, among other things.

Also striking me, as the currently popular saying that “You don’t know what you don’t know” suggests, there are way more things we don’t know about one another and about our little planet with its complex systems of life than there are that we do understand.

Eventually the reflection swam into consciousness that what is happening represents undercurrents long present, yet not acted upon, bringing to attention long neglected injustices and darkness.  There is no longer a way in which we can move forward as the human race without first facing up to certain things.  Racism, sexism, human rights including women, LGBT, disabled; jobs lost to unstoppable globalisation; the changing climate; the lack of critical thinking skills that place us in jeopardy from threats we cannot begin to visualize otherwise about these issues, and others.

We look for so many demons now that we forget to look at the simpler things that bring people together, shared feelings and goals, courtesies, looking for the good in others, finding joy in learning about people we have never encountered before, joy in learning about the world, how things open up when we set aside preconceived ideas (little more than prejudices, often) on choose instead to open our minds.

For the USA — indeed, the world — to move forward into a more just, equitable era we must face the long festering issues, work them out — together.  We also must remedy simmering resentments towards people who are unlike ourselves, whose lives do not resemble our own in the slightest, of whose life styles and orientations are opposite to our own.

Whoever we are, we need to learn to coexist with differences, to stop belittling, degrading those with whom we disagree.  To speak up for what we believe to be just and fair, no matter if agents of the current government seem to be moving us steadily back into 1953 — to pull any old year out of a hat.  That was the year when I met my first personal armageddon in the form of paralytic polio.  It was also before leaders in the oil industry decided to deceive the public about the hazards posed to the planet by excessive burning of fossil fuels, before widespread deforestation, before civil rights became a front-and-center issue, before women began to speak out so frequently for themselves, with no husband or father standing beside them to explain their beliefs.

It was before excellent means of travel was nearly as well advanced as now, and there was no internet or cell phones in constant use.  Before the US had a national highway system.

It was also well before the US, as a nation, lost the ingrained courtesy and respect for most people that made life far more pleasant and comfortable than it now is.

All of us need to inhabit the same world in a courteous manner, to handle differences with grace.  Right now in our knock-‘em-when-they’re-down reality TV worldview such characteristics are scarce, indeed.

Someone noted the other day that conditions in the world at present are frighteningly similar to right before World War I broke out.  Ah, thought I, that “last gentlemen’s war”.  The “war to end all wars.”  Right.  Since the days of Albert Einstein it is, however, clear and evident that another world war can never be fought if we, and the planet, are to carry on with much semblance of life as we have long known it.

So now is the time when we learn to work our differences through in ways that don’t involve ignoring one another or plotting elimination of people who don’t fit into our ideas of the way our various countries should look.  Or it is the time when we knock ourselves into global chaos, potentially involving oblivion.

Many people have commented on the number of special celebrities who died in the last twelve months, what shades of sadness those departures from the world stage have cast into their lives.

Well, I’m no different.  I was stricken with the death of Alan Rickman early on, knocked over several times more as months marched by.

While I find his last album too dark I found myself listening to it again this last morning of 2016 — as the representation of the passing of a generation, a way of seeing the world, so familiar to me back in the 1960s folk scene.  The song “Steer your way” provides some food for thought, so I include below a uTube of it.

By the time Princess Leia — Carrie Fisher — breathed her last I was all primed to bawl like an infant the moment I read about it.  Selfishly I found myself wondering what right these entertainers had to leave us when we need more of their performances.  Surely we’ll be seeing more of Professor Snape one day?  A retrospective peek into his wizardly espionage career, perhaps?  Plus I was touched by  the possible last words of Debbie Reynolds, who was Fisher’s mother.  “I want to be with Carrie,” she told her son.  A tiny part of me understood that, since it wanted to be with at least some of the departed celebrities rather than facing what is beginning to unfold in our world.

So as the last couple of hours to 2016 tick away, here am I with this thought:

… When we consider outcomes in the world of existence, we find that peace and fellowship are factors of upbuilding and betterment, whereas war and strife are the causes of destruction and disintegration. All created things are expressions of the affinity and cohesion of elementary substances, and nonexistence is the absence of their attraction and agreement. Various elements unite harmoniously in composition, but when these elements become discordant, repelling each other, decomposition and nonexistence result. Everything partakes of this nature and is subject to this principle, for the creative foundation in all its degrees and kingdoms is an expression or outcome of love.


Steer Your Way, from Leonard Cohen’s last album, You Want It Darker