Saturday, September 6, 2014

Summer Excitement

In continuing to reflect back on which summer memories to preserve, what comes to mind are some of the experiences that offered the most excitement...
(The best shot I could capture between zooming in with my point & shoot & remaining at a safe distance!)

Safely sighting three bears, including a cub, during our visit to Sequoia and Kings Canyon, (without encountering the cub's mother, thank goodness!)


Hiking the Tokopah Falls trail in the company of beautiful wildflowers and curious marmots.

Observing humpback whales from shore and from a whale watching tour boat and feeling in awe of these magnificent creatures.

Finding my first intact chiton (instead of its individual “fairy wing” plates)…yep, I’m proud to be a beachcombing geek!
Beautifully bright bougainvillea at Casa Munras, my party venue
Celebrating a milestone birthday by hosting a once-in-a-lifetime party with family and friends, an event bursting with love, joy and gratitude and a memory I will treasure always.

Which memories of summer excitement will you treasure?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Summer Simplicity

Since back-to-school for us was back in early August, we had already begun saying our goodbyes to summer, but for many, summer’s end just hit this week with the passing of Labor Day.  In the past few weeks, I’ve also been creating fresh notecards and workshop samples based on autumnal inspiration, so I suppose I’m fairly well prepared to welcome Fall.  Before doing so, however, I’m reflecting back on summer highlights and feeling inclined to find, no change that to make, time to preserve some of these highlights not only in my memory and in writing, but in my favorite medium of collage.  Please hold me accountable to sharing this to-be-collaged memento sometime soon!  In the meantime, I’ll devote a few posts to sharing some of my summer snapshots and experiences.
This year’s summer was somewhat low key for us.  Some of the memories I’m anticipating will leave lasting impressions are those that emerged from the simplest moments of discovery and observation.

During our June visit to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, I observed several bumblebees resting atop wildflowers, the first time I’d ever seen bees in such a relaxed state of repose.  I found these napping bumblebees quite fascinating, and after researching online, I learned that this behavior can occur when bumblebees become cold, and they wait until the sun warms them before they fly again.  This behavior may also occur when a bumblebee is dying.  In July, I spotted another sleepy bumblebee in our own front yard, hugging a leaf on one of our Mayten trees.
Another Sequoia and Kings Canyon highlight was the eye-catching display of mountain wildflowers blooming prolifically and beautifully, including some varieties we’d never seen before. 

This summer’s beach walks revealed a few new and unusual sights.  We happened upon this strange and odoriferous mystery which a friend (in the know) guessed to be a whale’s throat and tongue…whoa! 

With warmer than average temperatures in our local bay, sea lettuce, a green algae, was washing ashore in heaps and mounds on Seaside Beach.  On shore, the sea lettuce created what looked like a gigantic serving of seaweed salad and off shore, a “spinach sea” was in view. 

I didn’t snap a photo, but on a couple occasions, scattered along this same beach were velella vellalas (stinging nettles), no longer alive, but resembling mini Chihuly glass sculptures.

We explored hiking trails new to us on two summer visits to Mt. Madonna County Park.  Within the park resides a confined herd of white fallow deer, descendants of exotic gifts given to the cattle baron who settled there in the early 1900’s.  While we admired the handsome antlers on one of the bucks, he seemed rather intrigued by us.  We also explored the ruins of the same cattle baron’s former estate where the forest has gradually been reclaiming the land over the years.  We were pleasantly surprised by these new discoveries less than an hour’s drive from home.
Without leaving home, we also enjoyed a cast of airborne characters visiting our backyard, violet green swallows with their swift and graceful performance in the late morning and the flitter fluttery dance of bats at dusk.  Doves, starlings, juncos, sparrows, finches, flycatchers and other birds, dragonflies, butterflies, honeybees and bumblebees and a yearly visit from the June bugs for a couple weeks.
These summer experiences were low key and simple, yet will likely be some of my favorite memories of all. 
Which enjoyable memories of summer simplicity will linger with you?



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Contemplating The Calendula


I love gleaning life lessons, insights and inspiration from what’s growing in our garden, and one of my most recent insights was inspired by the calendula flower.

Ever since one of last year’s summer work days in Bobcat Garden, my daughter’s elementary school garden, I’ve developed a growing fondness for the bright, edible calendula flower.  Our older plants (originating from Bobcat Garden) have withered, so a few weeks ago, I started new ones from seed (of the same origin) and just planted a young batch of seedlings a couple days ago.  I also scattered additional seeds collected from the faded blooms in the hopes of encouraging a few “volunteers.” 

While our older calendulas were in their prime, I snapped these photos, appreciating each stage of a calendula blossom and recognizing the beauty and value existing throughout its life cycle, beginning with the anticipation of a fresh, new blossom and ending with each faded bloom offering its lasting gift of seeds and an opportunity to start anew.  This cycle can be ongoing then, never really ending.  

Similarly, recognizing the beauty and value found in each phase of any life cycle, plant, animal or person, even the "life cycle" of an endeavor or experience, can be a simple, yet profound exercise in awareness and gratitude.

What examples of cycles have been "blooming" in your daily life?