pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: May 2010

29 May 2010

Tall trees

Redwood forest
26 July 2004

In addition to sports banquets, migraines, and planning the 8th grade grad luncheon, I have been rampaging around pulling everything out of closets and throwing things away. Because who needs AAA Tourbooks dating back to 1991? And instructions for child gates that one hasn't owned since 1998?


So, AT mentioned to me while we were walking recently that she wants to take her kids on some car trips, and I suggested some weekend getaways. And now, as I purge all this old paper, I'm finding some maps and whatnot that she might find useful. And this from a trip we took a few years back.

It's actually kind of astonishing how much of California I haven't seen given I've lived the majority of my life here. I never even visited Sacramento, the state capital, until I got hauled along on the daughter's 4th grade trip.

You don't forget your first redwood.

Tech stuff: Taken with a Canon PowerShot S110.

27 May 2010

Wild, wild life

27 May 2010

It wanted out! It wanted out a lot.

(You'd think there'd be an easier way. Scaling a six-foot wooden fence repeatedly is pretty labor intensive. Apparently, it hasn't discovered a different exit yet. I think it's young.)

And it's not afraid to gouge with its little claws.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40.

25 May 2010

The birds and the bees

Baby birds
25 May 2010

Okay, all together now: AWWWWWWW!

But you know that's not what I'm saying. You know I'm saying, "Poop machines!" and "Mites!" and "Bird flu!"

This is one of two nests that is actually attached to the house. I think these are sparrows, based on the fleeting glimpses I've gotten of Mom (mostly a hot, beady eye and a frantic, screaming flutter of wings). On the other side of the house, we have a nest full of black phoebes. Both sides are in intense competition to see who can scream the loudest all day long.

The bee
25 May 2010

And you can see how this one played out. The bee was perched happily on the buddleia, making a deep buzzing sound, and no sooner did I have it in focus (see, the place on the flower where it was perched is in focus), then the bee yelled, "No paparazzi!" and took off.

So it goes.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40.

24 May 2010

Bright lights, big city

Universal City, California
5 April 2010

I laugh to think of the stories I have of this place not yet told. My heart flutters to think of the stories not yet written.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. No flash, aperture wide, but I don't remember the ISO. Maybe I should learn to write these things down!

22 May 2010

No words necessary

Birthday cake
22 May 2010

Yes, he got a tiny bit to sample, too.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. Atlanta? Telephoto lens? Both?

21 May 2010

How the bad dog immortalized herself

Dog prints
30 October 2003

It wasn't so much that she walked in the wet concrete. It was that she took such care to walk the entire length of the wet concrete, leaving dainty paw prints as she went.

Tech stuff: Taken with a Canon PowerShot S110. Have I mentioned that the son's first words were "Damn dog"? It's not something I'm particularly proud of, but I can't deny he heard it rather alot.

20 May 2010

Have your cake and eat it too

Birthday cake
22 May 2004

There is a fundamental problem with this cake: NOT ENOUGH FLOWERS!

Because everyone knows that's the best part.

Tech stuff: Taken with a Canon PowerShot S110. Someone must have compelled me to take a photo of this because usually I can't be bothered. I don't remember which bakery this cake came from, or I'd credit them. Usually Takes the Cake in Pasadena is my go-to for special occasion cakes, though sometimes I've been compelled to take a cake from a lesser place. Not willingly, of course.

19 May 2010

Ghost story

Tucson, Arizona
June 1973

I know. It doesn't look promising for a ghost story does it?

I'm not entirely sure what possessed my mother to plant Italian cypress in the front yard. A demarcation, a boundary? A line in the sand most likely, since she wasn't fond of the man who owned the rental properties next door.

Whatever the case, there they were and when they were small like this, it usually fell to me to water them. Which I did and I made up stories about tiny amphibious worlds in the tree well while I held the hose.

I grew, the trees grew. The trees actually got really tall and they filled out considerably, to the point where my arms might have spanned half a tree had I been inclined to hug it, which I wasn't because they were full of spider mites. Probably other things, too.

They swayed in the breeze, they collected snow. They were great to hide behind when we played hide n' seek.

After a few years, I got too old for hide n' seek.

Tucson was a sleepy place in the 1970s (read "terminally boring"), particularly if you were in high school, and there was little to occupy you. Particularly if you had a busy mind.

I had a busy mind.

It was summer. It was boring. My friends were all out of town, and I'd read too many books, and embroidered too many pillow cases and cleaned too many houses and watered too many neighbors' plants.

Idle hands, and all that.

It's hot in Tucson in the summer, and sometimes the evening brings no relief from the heat. But when the monsoons start, the weather becomes interesting. It can be sickeningly humid. But the storms have their own energy, their own lives. Lightning crackles and flashes over the mountains, and if there's been an afternoon storm, the evening sometimes brings a cool night breeze.

It was such a night, that night. Bored and tired of my family, I wandered out to the front yard, and sat on the tiny square of patio, the stones still hot enough to burn through the seat of my shorts. I looked at the stars visible straight overhead, and the clouds and heat lightning over the Santa Rita Mountains. The breeze kicked up, whispering and murmuring through the trees. The cypress tossed and swayed, bending and bowing like shadowy dancers.

I felt the hair rising on my arms, and it was only partly because of the underlying chill in the breeze.

I hurried back inside the house, which felt stuffy and unpleasant after the freshness of the evening, and grabbed a sheet from the linen closet, and my mother's diaphanous white silk scarf.

Our street was part of a fairly quiet residential neighborhood, but it was bordered on two sides by busy main arteries, so it wasn't unusual for there to be rather more traffic at times as drivers sought to avoid the busier thoroughfares. I was banking on the traffic down the street to be a little heavier on a Friday night.

I dropped the scarf onto the top of my head so it unfurled around my face, obscuring my dark hair. It was sufficiently sheer that I could see plenty, even in the dimness of night. I draped the sheet around me so that it covered the front of me, falling in gentle folds to mid-calf, the edges trailing down my back. I stationed myself in the cypress, roughly in the middle of the four nearest the street.

And I waited.

The breeze fluttered and lifted my cerements as I stood stock still, grinning like an idiot, the grass making my bare feet itch slightly. I could smell ozone from the lightning on the air. Eventually, I heard a car approach, but it passed at speed, either not noticing me or not caring. I readjusted my position amongst the cypress so that I'd be a little more visible from the street, and I recommenced waiting.

Another car approached. Unlike the first, it slowed as it reached the cypress and came to a halt in front of the house next door. I watched the red tail lights, trying not to laugh as I heard the murmur of voices. Slowly the car backed up a bit, and it sat idling, the murmur of voices just audible over the sound of the motor. In a moment of unplanned theatricality, I began to slowly lift my arms, and the breeze caught the folds of sheet, causing it to billow satisfyingly. I heard what sounded like a little shriek from inside the car, and the driver slammed down on the accelerator, burning rubber, screeching the tires.

I was giggling uncontrollably, until I heard what sounded like the same engine nearing. The car was returning, driving slowly up the street, from the direction it had exited.

Now laughing out loud, I hurriedly pulled off my costume rather than risk discovery, and ran hell for leather through the trees to the back door of the house, bursting through the screen door, gasping for breath, running straight on to my room.

And as I ran, I heard my mother mutter in exasperation, "Oh God, what have you done now?"

Tech stuff: Taken with a Kodak Instamatic X-15. This roll of film was almost exclusively photographs of the various yards, and I don't remember why I felt it necessary to document the outside of the house. Still, it serves as illustration of the truest ghost story you might ever read. It was the first and last time I ever did anything quite like this, and I'm not sure what possessed me that night, but it still strikes me as incredibly funny. Oh, to have known what exactly was going on in that car.

18 May 2010

The evening of another day

Red Square
Moscow, then the USSR
October 1990

One of my favorite photos of all time, and sitting here, I find it hard to believe that it's been nearly 20 years since I took it. The spouse had been invited to speak at a meeting, and the significant others who had tagged along on the trip were offered a variety of cultural excursions. I think we'd visited GUM prior to venturing back out into Red Square to watch the changing of the guard, and I snapped this as the sun was setting, not really considering the irony that I was witnessing the twilight of the Soviet Union on that visit.

Tech stuff: Taken with an Olympus manual 35mm. This visit came six years after the first time I visited Moscow and what was then Leningrad, and the change was startling. When I was in St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) in 2006, it was nearly impossible to comprehend how the city could still look so much as it had in 1984 and 1990, and yet have bright neon Nokia signs flashing on the fronts of buildings.

17 May 2010

Strange days

Hollywood, California
6 April 2010

Hollywood is weird, and parts were certainly not what I expected them to be when I moved here all those zillions of years ago. Then, of course, I worked at Big Entertainment Company for some years, and the dark quiet buildings that housed labs and soundstages and recording studios and props became a lot less mysterious. When we took the kids down Hollywood Boulevard a month or so ago, I realized that I had been to every major studio at least once, usually on business. It's not something I really think about, but the view from the outside makes the reality a bit weird sometimes.

I don't know when this mall-ish thing was built, fantasia that it is. But it was fun to look at in the early morning.

And weird.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40.

13 May 2010

Fossil flora

Getty Center
Los Angeles, California
6 April 2010

Travertine cladding covers many of the walls at the Getty. The stone is filled with lovely fossils. Even if you don't like architecture, these walls are a treasure trove that beckon you to stop, look and touch.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40.

12 May 2010


King Arthur Carrousel, Disneyland

The daughter will tell you, quite firmly, that never in the history of humankind have I taken her to Disneyland. The truth is that she would still be on the park's carousel if I hadn't forcibly removed her from it that lovely, sunny afternoon.

Tech stuff: Taken with a manual Olympus 35mm, model unknown.

11 May 2010

She knows what she wants

White House
Washington, D.C.
12 April 2009

The daughter is one of those focused and peculiar people--not unlike her mother--who has definite ideas about things. There are places that she wants to see, and she will not rest (and I will not rest) until she sees and does the things that are important to her. When she was 6, she was fixated on seeing Mt. Rushmore. At 12, it was the White House.

Interesting things were going through her brain on this lovely Easter Sunday, her first morning in my hometown. She can be inscrutable when she is busy investigating something, and here she was quivering with an impossible-to-quantify joy and satisfaction. It was emotion that I recognized.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40.

10 May 2010

The speed of souls

Arlington National Cemetery
16 April 2009

It wasn't until my last visit to Arlington that it struck home that most people see it as a tourist attraction. For me, it has always been a cemetery. A lot of my family is buried there, including one set of grandparents, a beloved aunt, and my older brother. My last visit was the first time I wasn't there to attend a funeral.

It was eye opening.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40 in midday spring sunlight.

06 May 2010


Cathedral of St. Paul
St. Paul, Minnesota
22 May 2008

I had a day and a bit more in St. Paul, and I visited the science museum, wandered along the Mississippi (I saw a lot of the Mississippi that summer) and finally, after a lunch of shepherd's pie (for a place that I always thought of as largely Scandinavian, there certainly were a lot of Irish pubs), I wandered up the hill to see the cathedral.

Although I no longer visit churches for religious purposes, I like the cool peace to be found within and the faint tang of incense on the air, which stirs so many interesting memories. And the architecture and history are so frequently compelling. But whether I'm in a Gothic cathedral in Europe or an ancient mission in Arizona, there is something oddly comforting in the vaulted ceilings and the deep quiet.

Tech stuff: Taken with the horrible camera on my Nokia 6125i cell phone. But honestly, I like this photo better than all the nauseous green-tinged iPhone photos that are cropping up everywhere right now.

05 May 2010

A place to read

In the teepee
15 May 2004

When we redid the garden, I promised the daughter that I would build her a bean teepee. I'd seen the plan in a magazine, and she fell in love with the idea. Thus, the teepee was duly built, and we planted scarlet runner beans all around it.

It became her secret room, her little hideaway, and she decorated it with pictures she'd drawn. Finally, she dragged her one of her playhouse chairs inside and sat down to read.

Consider that this is the same child who is now a teenager, and planning to make films to help you while away the hours.


Tech stuff: Canon PowerShot S110. Instructions for building the teepee came from Sunset magazine and are available here.

03 May 2010

North Rim near sunset

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
25 August 2005

I've been to the Grand Canyon many times. I've been to sunrise services at the rim on Easter Sunday. I've camped there. Hiked down the canyon. Flown over it in a helicopter. But this trip was the first time I made it to the North Rim. It was one of those days where the roads were unreliable. It rained. There were diversions. And so, we arrived at our destination, finally, at nearly 5 pm. There was little time for exploration.

Someday, I will park myself in one of the lovely little cabins there, with a bottle of wine and time to just watch the sky.

Tech stuff: Canon PowerShot S110.

01 May 2010

I remember footprints in the sand

White Sands National Monument
10 July 2007

I visited White Sands for the first time when I was 13 or 14. It was pretty amazing: a vast expanse of white sand, gypsum dunes for as far as the eye could see. My family saw it for the first time a few years ago, and the spouse was--not surprisingly--giddy with the prospect of traversing such geologic wonder. 48B2EX43463F

Tech stuff: Canon PowerShot S110. The gypsum sand sparkles in the harsh desert sunlight, and it was fun to try to capture that.