Sunday, February 28, 2010

In Which a Handmade Cardigan is Completed

Lady Scientist S gave me a gift certificate for my birthday which I spent on some lovely yarn: Elsebeth Lavold Hempathy in lilac.I'd been wanting to make myself milobo's Chevron Lace Cardigan, and thought this might be a perfect match. The pattern is beautiful, but I'm not happy with my armholes or the neckline. The hemp/cotton blend yarn may not have enough give for the pattern. But the color is lovely, and the yarn is soft although a little splitty. Here are some photos, with apologies for the dusty mirror. I look in the mirror about once amonth, so never noticed it needed cleaning.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

In Which More Desert Rivers Run

A stretch of wetlands near the job site I worked in 2009, this represents what our local rivers would have looked like 100 years ago, before attempts to contain them.

And here are images of that same river from my post the other day, but from 2007, when we had a hundred-year flood. Both photos were taken from nearly the same spot. When normally dry riverbeds flood, their power is awesome in the truest sense of that word. Nature's raw energy makes one feel very small and insignificant.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

In Which Desert Rivers Run

Snow in the desert mountains quickly becomes...

...runoff in the desert valley. This is a stretch of the river behind my office, and it was so wonderful to take an brief afternoon stroll along it and hear water gurgling. Sheer delight.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

In Which The Pups Go on an Excursion

Today was our local Animal Fair, an event that was started about 8 years. Both of my dogs usually enjoy going to this event. It's olfactory overload, what with the food vendors and dog product vendors and animal adoption groups and rally and flyball and K-9 demonstration teams, and thousands of people over the course of the day, but even more thousands of dogs. And as there were often 2 or 3 dogs per person, there were more dogs than people there. They were expecting 7,000 people, so I assume that translates into 10,000 dogs.

I wasn't going to take them this year as Mr. Big's leg is not healed, but we had gone for a ride, and were passing the park twenty minutes before the event was scheduled to start, and there was still lots of parking. I decided we needed to practice my using the ramp while holding onto both of them. Easy. The process went very smoothly, and they are getting used to using a ramp to enter and exit the car. Mr. Big doesn't seem to be suffering tonight from too much stress on his gimpy leg. I can tell you, though, it was great for his brain and his disposition. Other than the vet and the very short walks of last week down the street, he hasn't been anywhere in 3 months, and he was so excited to be out and about. And don't they look comfortable in the back of the E? I just wish there was a way to have the seats down and a blanket to protect the upholstery and still use their seatbelt harnesses.

And then it got very cold and the wind started to gust, and after 15 minutes of just walking about, we left. No sooner had we arrived home, then it started to rain. And it's rained off and on all day; a fairly cool rain, too. Great for the wildflowers next month. Not so great for the weeds, which are a visible green carpet 1 mm tall across that part of my front yard not xeriscaped. Yes, another year when I forgot to spray pre-emergent. Yes, another year when I will be battling weeds.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In Which I Hope Edna Ferber Got It Wrong

So I am enthralled with the Kindle for PC app on my laptop. I covet a Kindle. I do. Perhaps not something one should admit the first day of Lent, but isn't Lent about facing your personal weaknesses and failures? Coveting a Kindle sure can't be up there with the top 10 no-nos.

I am enjoying reading out of print books available through Kindle that would be mighty hard to find even in a used bookstore. For instance, I am currently reading Cheerful by Request by Edna Ferber. Oh yes, you've heard of Edna Ferber, Gentle Reader, you just don't know it. It was Edna Ferber who wrote Giant, and Show Boat, and Cimarron, and Dinner at Eight, and many novels and short stories that were turned into plays and movies. I had read one book by Edna Ferber when about 13, courtesy of our local Public Library, and had never found another one. And then, ta da! Cheerful by Request, a collection of short stories from 1918, was available from the Kindle store. For free.

Anyway, in one story, The Gay Old Dog, Edna Ferber describes (tongue in cheek, of course; she's quite the sarcastic author, one reason I enjoy her so much) the "unwed, middle-aged woman: her fussiness, her primness, her angularity of mind and body."

Fussy? Prim? Me? I don't think so. And never, never, angular of mind and body (especially with middle age spreading through the nether regions of my body). At least, I hope never angular. I work at being round and encompassing. You are charged, Gentle Reader, with never letting me become angular of mind!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

In Which I Pause

It's a beautiful day. The sun is shining bright, heralding spring. The air is crisp, with just a hint of the early morning cold lingering behind as the sun rises higher and higher over the bare trees. It's spring early in the desert this year. We've had quite a bit of rain the past month, so in another month, the desert will be bursting with wildflowers. The desert is almost quivering with anticipation of life gurgling just below the brown, dusty surface. Springtime is when Mother Nature explodes out here, with growth so rapid that plants really do grow amazingly overnight. She has to take advantage of that brief moment when everything is just perfect, when everything lines up just so, allowing life to spring forward, push through the hardpan desert surface, and briefly shine before most of life hibernates through the long, hot summer.

So why do I feel that, instead of taking advantage of all this sunlight and fresh air and invigorating spirit, I want to just laze about? Maybe it's latent memories of February winters back East, when this month was one of gloom and drear and ice. Gray days, gray snow, gray faces on weary passersby. When all you wanted to do was curl up next to the fire and read a book which took place somewhere in the tropics.

I really should start on my spring cleaning. I really should finish Anna Karenina for my book group. I really should clean the bathroom, and change the sheets on the bed, and vacuum under all the cushions. Will I? We'll see. I usually have great willpower, but when I feel like indulging myself, I do. Even if it's indulging my laziness.

And may I recommend today's opinion column by Verlyn Klinkenborg in the New York Times? He's one of my favorite contributors because he writes about nature and man's amazement at her intricacies and his humbleness when contemplating his place in it. Today he talks about snow dogs. (See photos of my snow dogs sprinkled through this blog--insert happy smiling face here.) Why do snow dogs run, he asks?

Well, Mr. Klinkenborg, may I humbly suggest, with just my own anecdotal evidence to support me, that snow dogs run simply because they can. Because they love that feeling of freedom. Gentle Reader, you may remember that feeling--of the wind slapping against your face when you were a kid, and ran for the sheer fun of it. For that feeling of escape, for that feeling of being the only person feeling exactly what you were feeling as you raced against time, against nature, against yourself. For that feeling of being alive and in the moment, with your feet pounding and the sweat trickling down your back. For that feeling of if you just ran a little further, a little faster, a little longer, you'd get there, wherever there was, and that what you wanted would be there, whatever that was.

Dogs feel that, too. But unlike humans, they never outgrow that joy of just running for fun till they collapse, panting, filled with triumph and excitement and pleasure. I don't know if their cheeks get cold and their knees ache or even if they really feel joy. But the smiles (and yes, dogs do smile) and the excitement that sparks from their eyes seem to me to convey that yes, they feel joy, and yes, they like fun, and that they don't run just because thousands of years of human tinkering in their DNA has produced an animal designed to run (and willing to pull us along with them) but, because unlike humans, they live in the day, racing their hearts out as fast as they can, as long as they can, so they can feel the wind ripple through their fur, and feel one with Mother Nature, and just because it's fun.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In Which I Walk

I'm a walking addict. We all know walking is good exercise. In addition to the weight bearing of your own body, and the increased heart rate and calorie burning, walking takes you outside. Outside in the fresh air, and, often, outside your head, too. Oh, it's a great time to think over worries, evaluate problems, tease out a new or better solution to same, but often, I seem to literally leave myself behind as I concentrate on breathing, or pumping my arms, or watching the clouds roll across the sky. I'm so addicted to my five-days-a-week walk schedule that if I don't walk, my back starts to ache, I feel run down, I just don't feel like myself. I miss it. It's me time, when I do something that is just for me. I am an endorphin junkie after all.

And this week's confession: I'm enough of an anal-compulsive-obsessive walker that I've kept a walk log for something like 15 years. It's just a sheet of paper on my refrigerator, with two columns subdivided into date, location, and length, so I can record when, where, and how far I walked. Two years ago I bought myself a pedometer (which I dropped last fall and am trying to figure out if it is still accurate; apparently I'm a klutzy walker), so my distances are more accurate than they were. I drove my apartment complex parking lot and used that mileage to calculate distances when I lived in my apartment for eight years. After I bought my house, it was even easier--the major streets that define my neighborhood are 0.5 miles apart (thank goodness for city fathers and a planning commission that decided a grid system was the way to go with urban planning). I don't mind if my distances aren't completely accurate. If I'm a tenth of a mile short this time and write down a figure a tenth of a mile too great, I'll more than likely make it up another time when I record too short a distance compared to what I really walked. In the end, it'll even out.

I'm on page 24 of my walking log. The total number of miles walked is over 3,300 miles. 3,300 miles!! At anywhere between 1 and 6 miles a walk, that's a lot of sneakers and a lot of early mornings. Rain showers or early morning sun, I'm out there. Sniffles or bursting with energy, I'm out there. Dawn or dark, I'm out there. Even those few days when I don't feel like walking and want to snuggle deeper into my cosy warm bed, I'm out there.

Tracking the seasonal changes has become part of my morning walk. I know where the Cooper's hawks live, so I look for them come spring. I know which neighbor always plants a gorgeous wildflower extravaganza on the front lawn, so eagerly await March and alter my route so I can glory in them. I know which houses leave Christmas lights on all night so in December and January, it doesn't seem so lonely out in the dark, before dawn.

Most of the time, for these past nine years, I've been accompanied by first one, then two fluffy dogs. If one dog is on bed rest, neighbors I've never talked to will stop me to ask where the other one is. So even though I didn't know I was part of someone else's early morning routine, I must be. 'Oh, yes, there she goes, with her two beautiful dogs. Must be 6:30 a.m. and I'm going to be late for work.' 'Hmm, wonder what happened to the other dog?' It's reassuring to know that even when I think I'm at my most solo moment, pounding the streets, thinking about what to make for breakfast and completely lost to the outside world, there is someone in the outside world anticipating me, even if only to mark where they are in their morning routine. We singles don't usually expect that.

So lace up those sneakers, and join me for a walk. Your blood pressure will thank you. You'll see things in your neighborhood you never noticed. You'll meet people you never speak to, but exchange a smile with. It'll connect you to Mother Nature and society in ways that enrich each day.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

In Which I Do Culture

It was a dark and stormy day in the desert, and so my friends Tania and Monica and I spent it viewing an exhibit of Ansel Adams photographs downtown at our local Art Museum. The first Sunday of every month is free, and it was very crowded, more so than I have ever seen it. The last day of the exhibit is next Sunday, and I didn't want to risk missing it. It was the perfect opportunity to combine my mantra of living beautifully on a budget with supporting local arts endeavors. It was wonderful! His photos are so breathtakingly beautiful. I'd watched a documentary on him last year on PBS, so I already knew a little about his life. I didn't know until seeing this exhibit how much he tinkered with the processing, to get deeper, darker blacks or greater contrasts or, in one instance, even remove some graffiti from a rock face. Tania says that if the master can do that, she will not feel guilty about using Photoshop.

The rain was nonstop all morning and into the afternoon. It would have been a perfect day to tackle more of Anna Karenina, which I am currently reading for my online book club. It may rain midweek again. January and February have been almost normal for rainfall, and our drought dessicated desert needs it so desperately. I hope we get more, and will just prop my aching tendinitis-afflicted foot up and ponder middle age and nature when the two co-occur.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

In Which I Am Over the Moon

Pupgirl and I have been volunteers with the Delta Society since she was two, and today we had to go for our fourth retest (Delta requires retesting of the dog and handler every two years, which is absolutely essential, I think, to a successful animal assisted activities team). She is quite the talkative girl, and I admit to being nervous every time we get retested. She barks during the test, and I'm always worried they will think she's barking excessively. She is the only Samoyed in our program, and the evaluator is not used to such a talkative dog. Every year we scored well, predictable. But this year we scored perfectly and were given a rating of complex!  Hooray!! I am so proud of her!! We could do actual physical therapy work with this rating, working one-on-one with a patient and a physical therapist, if we wanted to, which I don't. But I am so proud of us both with this score. Pupgirl and I are rejoicing!

I took her home after her test and went back to volunteer as a crowd person (I've been volunteering during testing for the past two or three years, and that probably helped our performance). The other volunteers admitted that they get nervous when they retest, too. But I doubt they feel the exquisite relief I feel right now. So here's my champion Pupgirl. She and I will visit at the hospital tomorrow (to take advantage of her freshly groomed glory, and she does look spectacular today--people were stopping us on our way in to and out of the test to admire and pet her).

Here she is three days before her ninth birthday last week.