What Lurks in the Dawn

5:30 a.m.

It’s predawn as I begin my stroll down the driveway, looking ahead for water hazards (a.k.a. automatic sprinklers) when I spot movement in the dim light. Something, no wait two somethings emerge from the culvert drain.

The culvert on the right is where they emerged. They hustled over to the culvert on the left.

Could that be a pair of cats? I have often seen cats disappear and reappear through this opening to the street. No, they don’t move like cats. They are small like cats, but cats have a lithesome quality. These critters waddle as they scurry from one culvert to the one on the opposite side of the street.

My steps slow as I cautiously draw closer to this pair. I remember the skunk family that waddled down our street years ago. I do not want to alarm these critters if they are skunks. I keep my distance, but have my phone ready for a snapshot.

Click, click, no that’s no good. The phone camera doesn’t like the dark. The images are blurry. I find the flash button. Click, click, their image is captured but their eyes reflect in the light so they have a possessed look.

Two teenager raccoons checking out the neighborhood before returning home to sleep the day away.

I wonder what other creatures lurk in the neighborhood.

Do you have a story to share?

Dewy Morning

The sun rises to reveal the diamonds left in the night.

They glitter. They glint. They glisten as I continue on my walk. With each step, I marvel at the sparkle.

I look closely.

Dew drops of all sizes rest on the petals.

Grass is a slip and slide for each droplet.

Dew is formed when the object is cooler than the air around it. Lately, there has been no dew when I walk. The nights just don’t cool off enough to create the conditions for dew to form. Dew cools the plant down in much the same way that evaporating sweat cools your body on a hot day. I bet the plants around me are wishing for dewy mornings. I know I am.

Don’t you have a story to share?

Sightseeing

I opened the paper to this headline:

I knew it was coming, but here it was in big bold letters staring at me. I know a sigh escaped. We were not going anywhere for a long period of time. 😦

This was supposed to be our road trip summer. East and northwest were the goals of this summer. New areas of our country and Canada to explore were just on the horizon of summer. Then the pandemic landed and we were grounded.

I decided to create my own journey of exploration. This was the land I explored.

As I wandered the perimeter, a bit of blue wedged between the border rocks caught my eye.

Where is the nest?

Was this blown from the nest after hatching or before hatching?

I continued my journey. I looked up to discover a single thread shimmering in the sunlight. Undulating with the breeze, a spider’s highway overhead.

Looking deep into the branches of the arborvitae I find a thicket of limbs no longer living. Has that happened because the sun can’t reach them?

Slowly, I continue to wander and wonder.

This viburnum bush has a branch that doesn’t match the rest of the branches. Why? I looks like someone has been nibbling on the branch.

The branch on the left is a close-up of the branch on the right.

Each pause on this journey has left me questioning. Questions continue. What bird has lost such a long feather? Was this lost when charging at the squirrel? Or did it simply fall out and float gently to land in my yard?

So much of our yard is now shade, these conditions are conducive to grow hostas. Something has been nibbling. An interesting bloom has sprouted. Check out the close-up of the bud. I love the diamond layers.

The journey is nearly completed. I look up. The canopy shields me from the sun, but I see the branches as spokes on a wheel creating connections for creatures I cannot see.

The next time I take this same journey, I know the sights will be different even though the terrain stays the same. No mask required for this trip. I believe I will be spending lots of time this summer here, but I will be dreaming of travels yet to come (someday).

Tell your story too.

Surprise Visitor

You weren’t invited, but you decided to “pop in” to check out the neighborhood. You didn’t think anyone spotted you, but you were wrong. I saw you through the kitchen window.

You sat up, looked around, then climbed the nearest tree. Conveniently, you found a shelf. It was perfect for a rest and to observe the world below.

Soon you became bored and disappeared in the foliage. Will you be back?

Can you spot the squirrel?

We have lived in our house sixteen years and I think this is only the second time we have had a squirrel in our backyard. It was quite a surprise to see it and watch it from the kitchen window.

Don’t you have a story to share?

Changes Abound

Mother Nature is constant and consistent. Spring always follows winter. Some years it is the shortest season, but it is filled with life and wonder. Here’s what I noticed:

Look at the top of this tree. Leaves appear from the top working its way down the limbs.

Only a few leaves on this tree, but look where they are!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby leaf buds on this burning bush.

A few weeks later, the buds are becoming leaves and tiny branches have sprouted.

 

 

 

 

 

This tree does not change much from season to season. It is always green, it just grows taller each year. But this year it has a secret.

This is the view one has when you leave my house. This slight gap became the entrance for someone who was house hunting.

A home was built and a family will soon occupy this space. I am not sure who has moved in. Do you know?

Could this be the new tenant?

Every day, I see a difference in the world that surrounds me as Mother Nature takes over. She has no time for the virus to disrupt her life. For now, I will be content to see what She has in store.

Join me as I share my story at: https://sharingourstoriesmagic.wordpress.com/

Nature Down Under

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

What image(s) come to mind when you hear the word, Australia? I immediately begin to think about all the animals unique to Australia. What a thrill it was to see animals in the wild! Today, I give you a glimpse of the wonders of nature from Australia.

My first koala in the wild! This was taken on Kangaroo Island. Funny thing is we didn’t see any kangaroos.

This lorikeet paid no attention to the oohs and ahhs of the tourists mesmerized by the colors of the bird and the unique flower that was providing lunch.

The Adelaide Botanical Gardens did not disappoint. I wish we’d had more time to wander. I have a video on  my phone that I wanted to put here, but for the life of me I cannot figure out how to do this. The birds were not visible, but their chatter was deafening. Sorry 😦

A highlight of our trip was a tour along a portion of The Great Ocean Road. What a day! The Twelve Apostles were worth every moment of the long ride.

That is a wallaby in the photo on the bottom left. Can you see the baby in her pouch?

I love bird watching in Australia! Their colors are incredible!

The following photos are from several different wildlife preserves.

The top is a goanna. The bottom is a kingfisher, a wombat (I did see one in the wild, but didn’t get camera out fast enough 😦 ) , and a cassowary.

Top left is a Tasmanian Devil. I do not know what the birds are, but those legs are amazing. Bottom left is an echidna and the rock formation is in the Blue Mountains, The Three Sisters.

The butterflies were in the butterfly house in Kuranda. That is a fern growing in a tree (also in Kuranda).; The lizard fellow startled us in the Brisbane Botanical Gardens, it is a baby water dragon. The other photos are also from the Brisbane gardens. The larger one is a fig tree. Those are figs hanging on the trunk. The ground was littered with figs. I don’t know what the other tree is, but I loved the way it looked.

There you have it, some examples of the uniqueness of Mother Nature in Australia.

Finding a Slice

Every Monday, my mind begins to sift through the happenings of the past week to pluck that just right snippet of life to become my “slice of life” on Tuesday. All week long, I am collecting bits and pieces in my mind (and photos on my phone), but none jump out and say, “I’m the one you want to bring to life with words.

I could write about what’s growing in my backyard sanctuary.

 

I could write about the strange shape and color of clouds that appeared after dinner.

The next day, I learned about a tornado that touched down within twenty miles of us about the same time I watched the clouds.

Just as I was thinking there was nothing interesting to write about, I saw my slice, but it happened too fast to get a photo.

My husband and I were on the way to my mother’s apartment. There’s a long stretch of road that has fields on both sides. One field usually has horses. Recently, I wondered where the horses had gone because the field was empty and the grass was long.

All of a sudden, two horses came running from the top of the field. Manes and tails flying, as they ran along the fence. I started to make a comment on how frisky they were when I my gaze swept across the road. A young deer bounded across the road  and disappeared into the wild brush. The horses came to a stop when they reached the fence parallel to the road. A possible new friend disappeared, they seemed disappointed as they stood there, eyes glued to the spot where the deer vanished.

On our return trip, the horses were back at the top of the field. I imagine they were discussing the stranger who didn’t stay to play.

Sometimes, a slice just runs right in front of you and all you can do is catch it with words.

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

 

 

 

This Land of Ours (Part 2)

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

After spending the morning at Arches (which is on the east side of Utah), we traveled across the state (340ish miles) to explore Zion National Park. As we were driving an unusual looking cloud appeared on the horizon.

This cloud was actually a snow storm.

Soon the ground was covered, but it didn’t stick to the road.

Eventually, we made it to our hotel. A good night’s rest was just what we needed before hiking the next day.

We stayed in St. George, so we had about an hour drive to get to the park. Everyone warned us how busy the park gets, so we arrived shortly after eight. We were able to find a parking place easily. After a short visit with a ranger, we had a plan of several short, easy hikes for our adventures.

Zion is rather unusual because the main road is only accessible by a shuttle bus. This bus is like a hop-on-hop-off bus stopping a places near trails. We decided to ride all the way to the end and work our way back towards the car. It takes about forty-five minutes to reach the end.

These canyon walls make one feel so small.

First hike was Riverside Walk (2.2 miles round trip). Canyon walls tower above as you follow the Virgin River meandering through this canyon. Weeping walls create hanging gardens.

Plants grow out of the cracks in the rock walls. Sadly, nothing was blooming when we were there.

 

Walking along the Virgin River. Seems more like a creek here.

A few interesting views of nature along the walk.

When you get to the end of the path, you don’t have to stop, but you have to walk in the water upstream. Of course you have to be outfitted with the right clothes: waterproof shoes, some kind of waterproof pants, and a large walking stick. To get to the Narrows, you need to allow six hours of hiking. Walking in freezing cold water was not high on my “must do” list. However, my husband now has a burning desire to do this hike.

Someone is wishing he could go further upstream.

On the return trip, we walked along the sandy edge of the river. Suddenly, a mule deer crossed the river oblivious of us.

Mule deer nibbling on new leaves for a snack.

Before starting the next hike we sat at a picnic table and devoured our snacks and drank a bottle of water in our backpacks.

This is my view while having my snacks or should I say lunch? Not bad, right?

After a few missteps, we finally found the start of the Grotto Trail (1 mile), which ends at the Zion Lodge. This led us to the Lower Emerald Pool trail (1.2 miles). It was a nice paved path, but it was a gradual uphill walk. I have to admit, I was starting to tire.

The easy section ends with a walk behind a small waterfall.

Guess the green water is why they call this the Emerald Pool walk.

After this walk, I announced I was getting worn out and I could feel some blisters forming on my big toe and heel. It was time to head back to the hotel for a shower and relax before dinner. Another day of great weather and beautiful sights.

A shower was calling my name, but when we got to the hotel, the front desk announced the water was off and they hoped it would be back on soon. I decided to wait for the water in the spa pool. That felt wonderful, however, the water was off another two hours. That was aggravating. Of course with the water off, there was no hot water for a while. Eventually, we were able to get showers and go out for dinner. Our adventures in national parks was over for this trip. Wonder where we will go next?

 

This Land of Ours (Part 1)

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

The two items above (national parks pass and new hiking shoes) have kept me away from my computer and slicing for the last two weeks. Here’s where I’ve been . . .

An open two weeks from work and appointments meant we had some time to head west to visit our son and his family. Instead of zipping out and back, we decided to put that national parks pass to work before our visit. Arches and Zion (both in Utah) were the parks selected for this trip.

Shortly after lunch, we entered Arches, ready to stretch our legs from driving. Incredible rock formations had us speechless as we drove up the switch back road. I cannot imagine the reactions of the early explorers who first laid eyes on this land. These rocks were massive!

Top left is Balanced Rock (total height is 128 feet, rock on top is 55 feet). The top right is Courthouse Towers. Bottom left is Three Gossips close up, then on the right it is in the distance.

Delicate Arch was the first hike. It was listed as challenging. I had my doubts about my ability, but we set off. Halfway into it, I had to give up. It was too steep for me, but I sent my husband on. I slowly made it back to the car. While waiting, I took the map of the hikes and arches and created a plan for the rest of the day and the next morning.

Here are some of the arches .

Top left: Delicate Arch taken by my husband as he fought 50 mph winds. Top right: Landscape Arch, just over 300 feet long, it is the second longest span in the world. Middle right: North Window Arch Bottom left: Turret Arch Bottom right: Double Arch

The Fiery Furnace

A massive wall of rock called The Fiery Furnace is on the left, then turn slightly right and you see the field on the inset picture at the bottom.

Sand Dune Arch

To get to this arch, you have to walk through deep sand and a narrow crevice (pictured on the bottom left).

As we were leaving the park, something caught our attention. We had to turn around to get a closer look. Would you do this? I would not!

Thanks to the zoom on the camera, we could see this ant fellow climbing this rock.

What a fantastic park! I know there were arches we didn’t get to this time, but I bet we will be back. Next week: Zion National Park.

 

Prit-ty, Prit-ty

Cerulean blue skies,

Crisp, fresh air,

Nature’s musicians twittering

As I climb the apartment staircase.

Mid-step, I stop . . . listen . . .

Brit-ney, brit-ney,

Britney?

Silence my steps,

Turn towards the sounds,

Hold my breath,

Listen . . .

Prit-ty, prit-ty!

Who me?

Why thank you!