Summertime

“April is the cruelest month.”  Let’s change that to “July is the laziest month.”

Hilltop

Normally I am always busy, but this past year the busy-ness of my life changed to just hanging on because of the work schedule.  In fall, it will resume, with one difference:  I will have Wednesday afternoons off at 3:00 p.m. for 8 weeks, and then 2 p.m. for the remainder of the year.  M, Tu, and Th will remain the same – 9 hour days with a 30 minute lunch.  Sucks!

The result of this constant working is no sense of self or life – and this summer, it is really hard for me to focus on making things or finishing things.  I can start, but lose interest in a moment.  Only a few things seem to keep my interest:  reading (something I haven’t done in years), gardening, photography, and being outside as much as possible, even if it is just to loll around.

Productivity is something by which I measure the value of my time.  Making things in particular.

I guess what I need to do is set a few goals.  Therefore . . .

  • Goal 1:  finish a dress.
  • Goal 2:  finish a small quilt.

That should do.  Life will fill itself in between with friends and family and a contentment lolling in the sun brings.  (Not sunburn – I do wear my sunscreen.)

Here’s to the heat of summer in the heart of July!

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Surprises

Palm & Shadows

Yesterday was a nice day – trip into the San Fernando Valley and then to Glendale and Pasadena with a friend.  We visited the Norton Simon museum.  I haven’t been there in ages, and I think the last time I was there was sometime in the last century (doesn’t that sound great?)!  Walking into the galleries was like meeting up with old friends.  I caught up with Gauguin and Fragonard, to name a few, and met some new friends, too, like Georges Lacombe.

River BW

Others were out in the sculpture garden, Maillot and Moore.  In between, a strong cup of coffee with pastries and conversation, topped off with dinner and home.  I’ve forgotten how much of a wonderful experience a great museum can be!  Oh, we took some photos, too.

Woof

 

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Another Walk on the Wild Side

Toward the River

Meetup groups can be a great way to make connections, to do and learn about new things.  Lately, I have been going on walks with the local Nature Conservancy group, and enjoying it immensely.  I am amazed at what I see and what I learn.  There are a lot of sharp eyes – the leaders spot things I wouldn’t notice, like horned lizards, and mountain lion tracks.  Yesterday, we wandered over to Santa Paula, California, to explore the property the Nature Conservancy has there.  It is up against the mountains and along the Santa Clara river, which is one of the last open rivers in Southern California – “unmolested” as Amy (the leader) says.

Remains

This hike consisted of a group of young men from a church in San Bernardino to a couple of young kids who found a horseshoe with the nails still in it and a feather from a red tail hawk.  All told, there were about 15 of us.  There were people I had met earlier – I expect they are regulars, as I am becoming – and newbies, too, who weren’t “new” to the world of nature, but just to me.  Some had amazing knowledge of plants and animals and the ecosystems involved.

Horned Lizard

Probably the most interesting part of this hike, for me, was to learn about the invasive species here in California, and their negative impacts.  These plants include arundo donax, black mustard, and fennel.  They are everywhere.  The arundo donax is an import from India and was used to control flooding along rivers.  The problem is that it is very invasive and dense, crowding out native species.  Black mustard was spread (supposedly) by the Spanish missionaries as the wended their way up from Mexico into California, using it as way to mark the trail from Mission to Mission.  Finally, fennel (which has a taste similar to anise or licorice) is an import from the Mediterranean.  Each of these plants are very familiar to the California landscape, but extremely, extremely difficult to eradicate.  Each has changed the native landscape in its own way, not for the better.

Heron

Native species along the Santa Clara river include mountain lions, badgers, egrets, herons, coyotes, pond turtles, yucca, buckwheat, cat tails, bull rushes, black walnut, red tail hawks, and a lot of other plants and animals adapted to the dry climate.  The Santa Clara river itself is not a river as one might think – not like the Mississippi – but a seasonal one which varies depending on the rainy season.  Some years we might see it wide and filled, other years a bit more than a trickle.  Where we trekked there were scattered ponds, low areas surrounded by cat tails and clogged by the arundo.

Tunnel

Many people think that everything in So Cal is just a freeway . . . it’s not.  There are a lot of open areas filled with life.  You just have to get out to look for it!  Below is a gallery of images.

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A Walk on the Wild Side

Ormond Beach

California is a land of contradiction.  Los Angeles sprawls 50 miles south of where I live, and yet there are wetlands nearby that serve as rest stops for migratory birds.  Locally, Ormond Beach, which is between the Seabee base in Port Hueneme, and the Navy base at Point Mugu.  Currently, areas of the beach are closed off for nesting birds whose only nest is a shallow indentation in the sand, with eggs speckled to match.

Nature Conservancy Sign

Today, I met up with a number of people for a hike sponsored by the local Nature Conservancy, whose essential philosophy is to preserve wild places by buying land, and keeping people out.  They have bought up and have had land donated for the Ormond Beach Wetlands Restoration Project.  They also have other sites here in Ventura County, such as in the Santa Clara River, which is one of the last – if not the last – river in Southern California that has not been modified between its source and release into the Pacific Ocean.

Power Plant and Farmland

Recycling Plant

Power Plant

Coastal fog and overcast are normal for the California coast in May and June.  It can be wet and drizzly and grey, while a few miles inland sunshine reigns.  This fog is essential to many California environments, and while not fun to be in at times, it is really stunning in its own right.  We live inland, so the sun is usually visible, but today, it has spread to our own valley.  I left a slightly sunny inland valley to arrive to a drizzly, drippy beach.  My glasses and camera lens had rain drops on them (I hope the camera will be okay – seems to be), and soon my clothes and hair were wet.  Our starting point was a local recycling plant, at the end of a road, and we had views of the Halaco property, which is part of Superfund clean-up efforts . . . there are power plants here, visible across fields ready to plant.  It’s a rather dreary place in the gloom.

Halaco Hill - A Superfund Clean-up Site

Our guides were knowledgeable about the area.  While very flat, the plants and such could be a bit of a challenge to trudge through.  We saw various birds, such as great blue herons, great white egrets, horned larks, terns, and snowy plovers,  Flowers such as coastal lupine, beach morning-glory, dune primrose, and non-native species were also in bloom.  We found animal toilets, where this animal and that pooped, leaving behind interesting scat filled with remains of pelagic crabs, feathers, and bones.  Animal trails showed paw prints of coyotes, raccoons, herons, and other small birds.

Spider Web and Raindrops

 

Leaves

Primrose

Raccoon Print

Beach Flower

In a world increasingly damaged, the beauty and delicacy of the natural environment is accordingly threatened.  Places such as Ormond Beach are a refuge for not only birds and animals, but for humans as well.  I enjoyed this hike, and came home like a little kid, covered in mud and muck, soaking wet, and completely refreshed by a beautiful world and fun companions.

Anacapa Island

 

At Ormond Beach with the Nature Conservancy

Here is a gallery of all the photos here, and then some, I took.

 

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Black & White

Not really sure where I am . . . have had a cold for a week, and in this same week there have been anniversaries and parties and graduations and memorials for those who have passed, mixed with all sorts of other things.  Playing in the garden, playing with photos, a bit of this and that, but nothing that just grabs the soul.  Well, not true – we had a wonderful graduation party!  That said, here are some of my forays into processing color into black and white using the B&W channels in the HSL section of Lightroom.  Kind of pleased with the overall results, and maybe learned something . . . what did please me was the simplicity of strong contrasts and subject matter.

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Getting Back Into

Last post was about finding the right word.  That word is integrity.  In art or life, it means an adherence to a principle; of being complete.  My life for the past year has been lived in gasps.  Returning to breathing means living to do things, to be, to become, to live, etc. . . . all those silly things which stop seeming silly once you realize they have slowly – or rapidly – vanished.  I don’t want to take my life for granted, nor feel as if there are only three days a week in which to live – if existing can be called living – as the other four were all blacked out to simply go to work.

And so, integrity is beginning to return to my life.  I’ve been doing, which for me is how I choose to live.  I’m not quite like Descartes:  I think, therefore I am.  Me:  I do, therefore I am.

Ok, so what’s been happening?  This has been happening:

  • coloring
  • writing
  • hiking
  • exercising
  • creating new dishes in the kitchen
  • following recipes
  • calling up friends
  • visiting friends
  • photography – film and digital
  • post-processing images
  • reading
  • knitting
  • sewing
  • finishing things!

This morning, a hike, up and down steep hills, pausing to enjoy the lushness of a California spring – green hills, flowers, blue skies, butterflies, birds.

The pleasure of simply being alive is simply wonderful!  In between, I have been going to work.  ;-)

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The Elusive Word

If you have been following this blog of late, you know I have been – and am – in a funk. Being discontented with one’s life can lead to getting lost amongst the lemmings, or choosing the proverbial other road. I don’t really need to do one or the other, in a way; what I need to do is to make the choice!

Crow

Last night I went out with a friend – one of those great friends where no holds are barred, and you can just ramble and expose your thoughts and feelings without being afraid. We both were into it, and I came home feeling really good – refreshed mentally. So did she. Working so late and so long has prevented my having much contact with people I like, and now try to do something like this on a weekly basis. I’m stealing back all the little pieces of my life that disappeared over the past year.

Sure, the argument can be made that I shouldn’t have let it happen, but the fact is, it did happen. There is only so much time in the day. And there is only so much energy, too. As an introvert, “me time” has to be there before I can deal with people and be a nice person. No “me time” and I have no idea who I am.

Somewhere in the dark recesses of sleep, probably as my subconscious was working through whatever it does in dreams, the elusive word – the one-word description for what I am trying to regain – came to me: Integrity.

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