V is for…

Vision.

I am and always have been a very visual person. If I had to choose between losing my hearing or my sight, I’d choose to lose my hearing.

Which makes the fact that as I age my eyesight is getting worse a cruel joke.

To be fair, it’s not as bad as so many others, but for someone who has gotten used to being able to read everything, even the tiny script used on so many products, it really sucks. So far it’s just my close vision that’s affected and not my distance. But I’m sure that’ll happen too.

I hate that I have to have glasses at hand at all times — while shopping, looking at maps, on my phone, reading books and magazines, viewing and editing photos. And my eyes are not equally bad so I can’t just pick inexpensive reading glasses off a rack. Even with insurance, a decent pair of glasses can be a bit costly.

I have a Nook so I can adjust text size, which is nice, but I still have lots of paper books to read. I’ve bolded what text I can on my phone, enlarged it in those apps that allow me to. Use larger text and such on my computer. And when I have my daughter along with me, it’s not unusual for me to hand something to her so she can read it out to me.

Anyway, it’s a pain and a hassle and it sucks. But what can I do but adapt ~sigh~

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U is for…

Useful/useless information.

I am full of it. I mean the above kind of information.

I believe I’ve mentioned before that I’m a readaholic — I read all sorts of things, fiction and non-fiction. This means that when I’m checking out Twitter or Facebook or other things, I click on a lot of links to a variety of articles on a wide variety of subjects – politics, science, nature, current events. And often I read or hear about something that piques my interest further so I do some research on it.

One of the results of all this reading and research is a brain full of tidbits of information, not always really useful.

Sure, sometimes it’s useful — writing stories, knowing what I’m photographing, knowing what that unpronounceable ingredient just might be and how bad it is, knowing what that word or phrase means and its etymology. And so on and so on.

But more often it’s really useless information that will never be used that’s just taking up space in my brain. And it can be terribly distracting as these bits of info buzz around my brain when I’m having conversations, reading, watching TV or a movie….

~sigh~

I like to think I manage to keep most of it bottled up so I don’t come off as an obnoxious know-it-all, and I do try to preface anything I might say less as an ‘I know’ and more as an ‘I think I read somewhere’ or ‘if I recall correctly’. If someone shows me I’m in error, I have no problem admitting, accepting, and moving on.

Anyone else have a head full of useful/useless information?

T is for…

Traveling.

I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to do some traveling – domestically and internationally. The actual traveling to the destinations is not necessarily my favorite part… Sometimes it’s really just a necessary evil. So I won’t talk too much about that.

As a child, we often took car trips, sometimes just for hours, driving random roads up in the mountains, stopping when we felt like it to check out views, rivers, historical sites. Sometimes the drives were longer. When we lived in California, every other summer we would drive up to Washington to visit family, taking our time, exploring and camping on the way. When we moved to Washington, the trips were then back down to California, usually every other Christmas. And then when my sister and I were old enough, our grandparents would fly us down to visit. Occasionally we were the only passengers on the small planes that flew into the local airport.

When I was 16 I went to Germany and Denmark, traveling there by myself then staying with friends and family while there. The best thing about traveling without parents and staying with locals was the freedom and ability to really see things — not the censored version I otherwise might have gotten. I still plan to someday get back there.

During our marriage we’ve done quite a bit of international travel, some with the kids, some without. First to Pakistan to meet my husband’s family, then two Mediterranean cruises, trips to Wales, England, and France, a cruise around New Zealand and Australia, and another along the Pacific coast of Mexico. I loved the Mediterranean and would gladly go there again, as much as possible. New Zealand and Australia are so large, that one cruise/trip was definitely not enough. And I know our kids would love to travel some more too.

Ultimately I’ve been to 24 states — living in 6 of them. And I’ve visited 14 countries so far, with a few more on my ‘to see’ list.

One of the things I’m excited about with living in the South now is new states and places to visit. Lots of Georgia yet to see, we’ve made one quick trip to South Carolina, but still need to see more Atlantic states as well as the Gulf. I’ve already been doing some random driving around just to see what’s here. And I’m hopeful that maybe we’ll add the Bahamas and Caribbean to our list of cruises.

S is for…

Seasons. As in Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter.

Do you have a favorite? Supposedly lots of people do. I can’t say that I have a favorite but I do prefer Spring and Autumn, the transitional seasons.

Not that I hate Winter and Summer — they have their good points.

I love the singular crisp and cold days of Winter, when the sky is a bright clear blue and it is so cold that there are ice crystals shimmering in the air. Or the days when I can stay tucked warmly inside while large clusters of snowflakes float softly down — it’s like being in a snow globe. The rest of it is too cold, too grey, too messy, too damp, too chilly…

And Summer. Summer is great when it’s hot, but not humid, with a breeze, air conditioning , and easy access to a swimming pool/lake/ocean. BBQs — BBQs are a nice part of Summer. Hanging out in a hammock or on a shaded porch with lots of chilled beverages at hand. Late clear nights staring up at the Moon and stars. Sitting around a fire with hot dogs and s’mores. But like Winter, those days seem far too rare while most of them are too hot, too humid, too sweaty, too sticky, too many insects…

Spring and Autumn. Transitional. One when the world is returning to life, the other when it is returning to rest.

Everyday can bring something different — new leaves, buds, flowers; sweet floral scents; birds returning from their Winter away; baby animals; weather that varies from beautifully serene to stunning storms. The stripping off of the heavy Winter clothing for lighter garb. Ostara. Passover. Easter. Earth Day. Beltane. May Day (remember delivering flowers to neighbors?). Mother’s Day. Memorial Day.

Or conversely, each day the world slows down, bringing us closer to Winter — more colored leaves; fewer leaves on the trees and more on the ground; fewer birds and thicker coats on the animals that stay; cooler temperatures, during nights first then extending to mornings and then all day; that special smell that happens only in Autumn, of damp and rotting leaves — which is more pleasant than it sounds; the ripening and harvesting of so many crops. Bringing the warmer clothing, sweaters and boots and coats, back out of storage. Mabon. Oktoberfest. Rosh Hashanah. Yom Kippur. Sukkot. Diwali. Samhain. Halloween. Dia de los Muertos. Thanksgiving. Lots of family birthdays.

So, do you have a favorite or preferred season? Why?

R is for…

Reflection.

Both in an image and as careful consideration.

It is not unusual, especially when taking photographs around water, for there to be reflections in the final image. Reflections I’m often not even aware of until later, when I’m reviewing the pictures. Like the photo I chose as the header image for this blog. My focus was on Mount Maunganui and making sure I got some of the beach in the shot — I had no idea I was catching any sort of reflection. Unfortunately, it’s a bit cropped in the heading ~stupid header formatting~ so here it is with the full reflection:

20140421-212221.jpg

I find that sometimes how I go through life can be a lot like these photographs — I’m so, or too, focused on just one point of view, one image, that I fail to see or experience the whole thing. It’s not until later, when I’m reviewing what happened, that I realize there was a lot more going on that I just wasn’t aware of.

And this is where reflection as careful consideration comes in. Instead of waiting until “after”, I have to take (or make) the time to see the whole picture, see all the little details that affect the final product. With all the distractions in the average day-to-day — family, friends, pets, jobs, bills, TV, books, etc. — it can be so easy to just go-go-go without anything but the briefest of pauses to check off the items on our to-do lists before tumbling exhausted into bed. But taking the time to sit quietly and reflect, particularly positively, on the day/week/month, etc. — before/morning, during/noon, after/night (suggestions only) — can actually help reduce anxieties and stresses, and make it easier to fall asleep at night.

I’ll be the first to admit that I myself am not always the best when it comes to positive reflection, but when I do take the time, I often come away with a new outlook, a new plan, and better point of view.

P.S. The original word that came to mind for the letter R was “rumination” however, looking it up kept leading to “ruminants” and ruminating as an unhealthy psychological disorder — neither of which were where I wanted to go. ๐Ÿ™‚

Quiet

Quiet. Solitude. Alone time.

Most of today was that way for me. Everyone else took off for several hours while I stayed home, relaxed and running errands.

I’ve always valued my quiet, alone times. When a teen and in college, most of my quiet times were spent out walking – through the woods, around campus – or sitting and enjoying my surroundings – along the river, in a park, in a library. Now they’re often spent at home with TV or a book, in the car, or out running errands.

There were several years, when children were small, that quiet time was mostly something wished for, dreamt of, but rarely seen. Not even the bathroom was a refuge.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago — oldest was away at college, hub had already made the move south, and the two children still at home with me were out as often as (or maybe more than) they were at home. And it took a lot of adjusting for me to get comfortable with being all by myself. Sometimes it was downright uncomfortable. It was too quiet, too still, I was too alone. Every unknown sound was frightening simply because I was all by myself.

Eventually, I did adjust, enjoying that I could choose for myself what I would do, without interruption. I watch TV; read books, magazines; go shopping; go exploring; take photographs; research whatever is interesting me; listen to music; get online; write…

And sometimes I just sit in the quiet, breathing it all in. Just… Being.

Pets

My life would feel emptier if I didn’t have at least one pet. Currently, not counting the fish, we have three – 2 cats and 1 dog.

Some of the earliest photos my patents took of me are of infant me lying on the bed with our poodle Coquette lying near me. My parents for her in Germany while my father was stationed there and brought her back to the States – along with my sister and me.

Then there was Kitzel, an orange tabby; Sammy, Coquette’s daughter who took after her father Sam – some sort of terrier; Suzie was next after Coquette died — Sammy wouldn’t stop crying, so one night Dad surprised us when he came home by pulling a poodle puppy out from under his coat. An Irish Setter adopted us for awhile – hopping into our van when Mom dropped us off for school and staying for a few months before heading out on his way again.

We always had at least one cat and one dog growing up and I’ve always had at least one cat. Over the years there were others too: a ferret, iguanas, a tortoise, horses, bunnies, chickens, birds, fish.

Personally, I’m more of a cat person. Not that I don’t like dogs — if I didn’t, we wouldn’t have the ginormous puppy we do. Probably has to do with me being a more solitary and quiet person, rather than the high energy extrovert who seeks company and attention.

I also think cats are, for the most part, easier than dogs. However, the two we currently have are not always easy. Charlie is the scaredy cat who hides at the slightest strange sound or whenever any one comes over. But then he becomes very demanding and quite literally in your face when he wants your attention. Caesar is a prissy boy who wants the litterbox just so and his food just so and his water constantly freshened. He’s a nighttime snuggler, waiting downstairs for me to go up to bed. He’s also a mighty hunter, catching mice, birds, chipmunks, shrews, cicadas, flies…

There is something so fulfilling and special when an animal chooses to spend time with you, coming to you for attention, snuggling, kneading, purring, head-butting, tail-brushing, bouncing around to get you to play, stops-drops-and-rolls to show their trust, talking to you (and you talking back – yes, in the crazy pet lady).

And I love hearing others per stories – the cute and stupid and annoying and smart things they do.

Going to wrap this up now as Caesar is waiting for me to head up to bed so he can follow and join me.

O is for…

Oceans.

Ever since I was a small child, I have had an abiding fascination with the ocean. I even went to uni to study fisheries biology, including marine mammalogy. And up until the past decade, I never lived more than a few hours away from the ocean, specifically the Pacific.

My childhood was in the East Bay area of California. We often went to San Fransisco, to the bay and the beach. It was my first introduction to the sea.Visiting Marineland/Africa USA further introduced me to a variety of sea life.

When I was about 8, my mother’s parents rented a boat, motorized, and we cruised around Puget Sound, through the San Juan’s, and up to Vancouver (or Victoria – I was young, memories have blurred). During that trip we ate fresh caught crabs, explored multiple islands, watched the tide rise and fall around us as we anchored in coves, saw a submarine go by (very close to us), saw the currents form a debris path on the surface, and I got to go out in a rowboat – sometimes with others and sometimes by myself. It was such a memorable experience, that even now, just recalling it makes me smile.

When I was 11 we moved to the mountains in Washington State. No longer as close to the ocean as we used to be, we were still just a few hours from Puget Sound. We spent plenty of time at the Sound. Des Plaines Salt Water Park was a favorite place to visit, especially during low tide, when if you stepped just right, something under the sand (clams?) would squirt, and we’d stick fingers in anemones to feel them close around us. The Seattle Waterfront was another favorite — the aquarium, Pike Place Market, Myrtle Edwards Park, waiting at the Ferry Terminal to take a ferry to one of the many islands (Vashon – where my great-uncle lived; Bainbridge Island – where one of my uncle’s lived for a while). Or maybe we’d go down to Tacoma, visiting the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium and then walking along the beach in the park. Or taking the Tacoma Narrows Bridge over towards Gig Harbor, but then turning south to go visit my mom’s best friend who lived on Fox Island.

When I was in high school, twice I went to an art camp held over on the Olympic Peninsula, in Fort Worden State Park. The fastest way to get there was to drive up to Mukilteo, take the ferry to Whidbey Island, drive to the other end of the island, get on another ferry and take it across to Port Townsend. One of these trips was made in a storm. It was pouring so much on Whidbey that it wasn’t even certain the ferry to Port Townsend would still be running. We made it on to the last one, the Rhod0dendron (or as we referred to it, the Chrod0dendron because it was old and grody and cruddy). Side note: I just looked it up and they only just retired her in 2012! The amount of clanging and groaning the ferry made on that stormy crossing… It sounded like she could go down at any minute. It was actually more comfortable upstairs and outside than in one of the passenger rooms. But I loved the storminess of the crossing. And during my time at the art camp, I escaped down the beach as often as I could.

After high school graduation, we took a family trip to the San Juan Islands. I could have stayed so much longer than just a week. Unfortunately, I never saw any orcas while we were there. I loved the way the trees grew down as close to the water’s edge as possible and the deep turquoise-green of the water. And then we spent a week on the northern Oregon coast, with its fantastic haystack formations.

A couple years later and I was back in Seattle for university. Again spending as much time at the waterfront as I could. An uncle had moved to Alki Point and a boyfriend’s family lived in West Seattle so I spent time there, looking out over the water, watching submarines go by (mostly at the boyfriend’s). I studied Fisheries Biology, going out on boats for lab work, going back up to the San Juan’s for more lab work (where I got to hold just hatched itty bitty baby octopuses, watching their chromatophores pulsing and changing color — talk about adorably cute). Those years at the university were pretty wonderful.

My first real job after college was as an observer on fishing vessels in Southern California. I was living in a coastal town, working out on the water in all kinds of weather, eventually moving just 1-1/2 blocks from the cliffs overlooking the Pacific. I was there for almost 10 years — it’s where I met my husband and all three of our children were born. I used to love walking along the cliffs, looking out over the ocean, especially at sunset. When the two oldest kids were old enough, I’d take them to the tidepools (when it was still free) and we’d look at anemones, sea stars, sea hares, hermit crabs, tiny fish, tiny crabs, snails… And we’d usually find a few shells to bring home.

And then we moved inland, all the way to Illinois. I only got close to oceans (or seas) on vacations — to California, Washington, Oregon, Wales, cruising the Mediterranean, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico. I crave these trips, to stick my toes into the ocean, to try to dodge the waves, watching the tide rise and fall; the pelicans, gulls and other birds; the surfers; the open vistas to the horizon; and if I’m really lucky, a variety of marine mammals.

We’re a little closer now, 4 – 5 hours from either Atlantic or Gulf, but we’ve only made the trip once. Any time the topic of vacation is brought up, I always respond with “beach”. Someday, hopefully, I’ll be living within walking distance again.

Sorry this is so long. If you made it all the way down here, thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

N is for…

 

Night.

It just seems to follow naturally after Moon, doesn’t it?

I have always been a night owl. I would much rather stay up until the wee hours then sleep until noon or so. On an average day, I might start to feel sleepy about 9 or 10 pm, but if I stay up past that I get a second wind. Not a bad thing when I can sleep in or nap the next day — not so good when it’s an early rise and a day full of activities facing me. And unfortunately, most businesses are open during the day, not the night, requiring at least some daytime wakefulness and activity.

As a child, we lived in the same town as my grandparents and they had a ranch a few miles outside the city limits. We spent many nights on the ranch and with so little man-made lighting, the expanse of stars and the view of the Milky Way were impressive. And certainly made an impression on me. It’s where and when I started learning the constellations.

Over the years since then I’ve lived in towns, big cities, out in the country, and I always look at the night sky.

But it’s not just the night sky. It’s the changes in vision and sounds that happen when the Sun goes down. Colors are no longer apparent, everything appears mostly in shades of grey. The man-made sounds — vehicles, voices — fade away, as do many bird and animal sounds. To be replaced with other animals and insects that you don’t hear or notice during the day. Cicadas, owls, bats, foxes, some frogs. Fireflies. And without the cover of man-made sounds, the rustles and crunches in bushes and trees are more obvious.

I see well outside at night. I was told years ago that I have larger than normal pupils, allowing more light in — nice at night, not so good with sun and bright lights. In high school I was a camp counselor. We camped out in the woods, with areas connected by narrow paths, not paved or edged or anything like that. I don’t remember why, nothing hinky, but a friend and I were making our way back to the counselor camp and he couldn’t tell which way to go. All I had to do was look down and I was able to clearly see the path. I was surprised he couldn’t see it, while he was surprised I could.

Night is not silent or necessarily peaceful, but I find it moreso than day. I prefer the cool shadows of the night to the harsh light of day.

Let me just end with the words of “Late Lament” by Graeme Edge and a 2 videos of “Nights in White Satin”, one with the lament, one without.

Late Lament

Breathe deep the gathering gloom
Watch lights fade from every room
Bedsitter people look back and lament
Another day’s useless energy spent

Impassioned lovers wrestle as one
Lonely man cries for love and has none
New mother picks up and suckles her son
Senior citizens wish they were young

Cold hearted orb that rules the night
Removes the colors from our sight
Red is grey and yellow white
But we decide which is right
And which is an illusion

With:

Without:

 

M is for…

Moon.

The Moon.

Our Moon.

Not that I have anything against the Sun. I love a nice warm sunny spot on a cool day. I love sunny days when I’m on vacation. I’m not, however, a big fan of sunburns, excessive heat or sweating.

But I digress.

Why does the Moon hold such fascination for many people, not just me? I think because it has a greater air of mystery and magic about it. Unless you know your science, the “purpose” the moon serves for earth is not really clear (except if you pay attention to the tides).

Think about it — it changes size and shape, is not always visible at night, is sometimes visible only during the day. Sometimes it’s bone white, sometimes butter yellow, and just this morning was blood-red with the eclipse. Scientifically it is predictable, maybe even constant, but to the casual day-to-day observer, it isn’t. It is different every single day.

And unless you have the right equipment, getting a good photograph of the Moon can be difficult, elusive, if not downright impossible. I know, because I’ve tried many many times ~sigh~

Right now, I was just out in the cold walking the puppy before bed. The Moon is white, still rising, just starting to the clear the tops of trees in our neighborhood. It’s beautiful, glowing strongly in the clear night sky.

I can’t help but look for the Moon any night I am outside, and I will notice it when it’s visible during the day. I can easily tell whether it’s waxing or waning, even just a day or two either side of full. I have an app on my phone — Star Walk — that I frequently pull out so I can find out what the bright lights — planets or stars — are that I see near the Moon.

Is the Moon magical? Is it mysterious or mystical? I think, as with so many things around us, it is what you personally make of it. If you like to sit out in the moonlight, gazing at the Moon and following moonbeams, go for it. I’ll be right there with you.

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