Saturday, December 28, 2013

Afternoon at the Opera

I spent one afternoon this holiday season watching Minnesota Opera's staging of "Silent Night," a modern opera based on the 1914 Christmas truce of World War I. The staging was remarkable; the turntable stage made for graceful and seamless transitions between the three battle companies. The projection of a real photograph from the trenches as backdrop was masterful  Costumes were lovely, although it looked like some soldiers were wearing Stone Age-era fur tunics. The line woman, Karin Wolverton, was delightful, with a gorgeous voice and an impressive ability to act, which not all opera singers have. Her solo that began "Anytime, anywhere" was, for me, the highlight of the entire opera. William Burden was suitably Teutonic as her German lover and the 'hero' of the piece, but frankly, I found his acting a bit hammy and over the top (online reviews definitely put me in the minority on this, although I found his voice fine). Far more subtle was Liam Bonner as the French lieutenant.

But I was disappointed. There were several scenes where singers were simultaneously singing in German, English, and French, and the different melodies and languages made my inexperienced ear cringe. Once was a interesting way to highlight the simultaneous human reactions at play; more than once, and it became rather dreary and incomprehensible.

The whole essence of the Christmas truce was that the troops, German and British and some French, sang carols together. Sure, they exchanged small gifts and played football, but it was the knowledge that they had sung Christmas carols together that captured the public's sympathy and tugged at heartstrings. The knowledge that recognition of a beloved carol, even one sung in a foreign tongue by a stranger and enemy, could still move a soldier to abandon the fight, even for a few moments, is why this story remains familiar and poignant, especially so now that the last WWI veterans have died.While carols were sung by each company during the opera, there was no simultaneous singing of the same carol in the different languages, which would have been a magnificent focal point. Maybe that's why the writer didn't include such a scene. But knowing the history of the actual event this opera was based on left this viewer disappointed when that single moment of shared humanity didn't happen on stage, and left me unfulfilled.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Mr. Big's Homecoming Anniversary

Sunday Dec. 8 was Mr. Big's homecoming anniversary. Twelve years ago, Pupgirl and I went up to the Big Metropolis to see a 2-year-old boy our local club's rescue had just taken in, to see if he would suit us. His father and mother were also there to be rehomed, and while mother was inside, father was in the back with us. He was completely disinterested in Pupgirl; I was worried the son would be the same.

He was over at another house, getting a quick bath after a speedy neutering surgery. Suddenly, a big, beautiful boy appeared in the backyard. Pupgirl ran over and jumped on him. I gasped. He instantly started playing and jumping and running around and they fell in love with each other at first sight.

I strapped him into the back of my Civic (and he sprawled over the whole back seat, so Pupgirl had to be strapped into the front seat) and away we went. She kept turning around to see if he was still there and really, really coming home with us. I know MoM thought I was out of my ever-lovin' mind getting a second big dog.

It's been twelve years of joy ever since. Guess who was right?

He celebrated with a special dinner of scrambled eggs and dehydrated chicken and a visit from his acupuncture vet. Hey, small, quiet parties are the thing when you're the equivalent of an 88-year-old human.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Kennel Club Photos

Our local kennel club show was in late November. Of course, the most beautiful dogs are lying at my feet.



video

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I Saw It! I Saw It!

For the past two or three weeks, birders here have been very excited about the unexpected presence of two rare birds for our region: a female black scoter (she's the elegant little brown sea duck you see on the linked page) and a male Lewis' woodpecker. Both have been hanging out in a park just 1.5 miles from my home, and while I'm not one of those bird-chasing birders, heck, who could ignore a rarity in their backyard? I loaded up my hat, my binoculars, my camera, my dog, and went In Search of Rare Birds.

Well, I was able to spot Ms. Black Scoter right away when I went looking for her. She's an energetic diver, popping up and down rapdily and trundling across the pond with all due haste. No evidence of a Mr. Black Scoter anywhere for all these weeks, so I hope she's not lonely. She's clearly getting enough to eat because she hasn't moved on.

The Lewis' woodpecker, however, was much more elusive. I went three times in one day to the corner of the park where he's been spotted, to no avail. Then, on Thanksgiving morning, after a fun romp in the dog park and a successful walk with the two younger dogs, Doodle Bug and I returned to the park to search him out. Doodle is an amazingly good bird dog. He has a super soft mouth (yes, he can carry a raw egg in its shell and not break it) and he stands there very quietly and patiently while I look for birds.

Another couple came up while I was standing there, and we chatted and looked, looked and chatted, and then, suddenly, there he was! He flew to a nearby palm tree, and then another tree, and then around the ball park to a tree to the south, and the gentleman, Dudley and I followed him. He was gloriously handsome, and far, far too quick for me to get a photograph with my small camera. No Ms. Lewis' woodpecker has been spotted, but The Bachelor has been hanging around for several weeks, so he must not be lonely, either. He certainly puts the local gila and ladder-backed woodpeckers to shame with his flashy good looks.

That's a pretty awesome accomplishment for a gal who worked for two seasons in Belize before she finally saw a toucan. All I ever saw was the toucan's tuchus, because someone would yell "A toucan!" and I'd whip around in time to see it flying away. Great birder, I am not, but I enjoy it anyway.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Diode Laser Treatment

Mr. Big with one of his favorite vet techs, Becky, getting a diode laser treatment.



Friday, November 15, 2013

Mr. Big's 14th Birthday!

Someone turns 14 today; that's about 88 in human years. He is my sweet palooka, my Biggie, my Mikusiek, and I love him dearly.










Thursday, November 14, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Winged Wednesday

Monarch butterflies

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)
Arizona red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis arizonensis)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Monday, November 11, 2013

Feathered Monday

Birds in motion.

One of my favorite photos of the year.

Quail can really move.

Believe it or not, this is our state bird, the cactus wren.

Super-fast cleaning

The usual quail photograph looks like this.

Or this, as babies learn quickly not to cooperate with cameras.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Weekend Birding

Some impromptu birding while walking with the dog this weekend resulted in a new bird for my list and 4 miles walked--win, win!

Cooper's hawk
vermillion flycatcher
Gila woodpecker
house finch
hepatic tanager
verdin (new to me)
dark-eyed junco
wigeon
ring-necked duck
common coot
mallard
egret
black-crowned night heron
Canada goose
Ross' goose hybrid

Plus two possibles, but when I went back on Sunday to confirm, they were nowhere to be found.
pine grosbeak
ladder-backed woodpecker

A merganser has been spotted at a pond here in town, and another at a pond south of town, so I went searching for it where I saw it last winter. It's not there yet, but hopefully soon.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Feathered Friday

Look at the colors of these hummingbird feathers. Glorious!







Thursday, November 7, 2013

Feathered Thursday

For the next few days, I'm going to post some recent bird photos that I like for various reasons--they're quirky, or I like the construction of the photo, or the light on the feathers is amazing, or they just make me smile despite not having any artistic merit.

Today's little bird looks like it's about to burst into song, so I include it here, because I'd like to think
that birds and nature can just be happy.

.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

October Hike in Sabino Canyon











October is a lovely time to go hiking in the desert, although it was still quite warm the first two weeks of the month this year. I'd forgotten how wonderful it is to go hiking during the week, when the hiking trails are empty. I'm going to have to take the occasional mid-week day off in 2014 to go hiking, like I used to in graduate school, when M and I would go hiking every Friday.