Friday, January 17, 2014

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Take Your Serenity Wherever & Whenever You May

A blue sky, birds in the trees, cookies on a pretty plate, and hot chai :: Nothing like my usual, hurried, multi-tasking breakfast. Two minutes deliberately indulging in a favorite treat, sitting in a pretty spot :: Lovely, restorative, sweet, brief...

Only a moment after I took the last picture, the phone rang, and I sighed, in a {to be perfectly honest} self-pitying way. It was Geoff, sounding a bit shaken. Only a bit. A distracted driver hit his car... his poor car was rear-ended. He feels okay, so far, but his car doesn't look so great. I wish he had been home, with me, sharing those cookies and the moment of serenity. He's had a week. First, it was the ER for an absurdly bad migraine, a certain willful goat that literally cracked his right index finger... it sounded awful, and now his right hand is in a splint. Then this fender bender. Maybe one good thing we can say is that he's hit the three bad things in a row quota, and now he can finish the year safely, blissfully, and healthfully. Wouldn't that be a relief?

Now, wasn't I just contemplating the benefits of meditation, finding the calm, the joy, being in the moment? And, too, pondering philosophies and deep thoughts about hard times, making room for grief and joy? The irony of so many fresh opportunities for testing these ideas is not lost on me. Thank you, Life... I get it. Fortunately, Geoff is taking all in fair stride, and maybe two, or more, minutes sitting with my chickens will soothe my nerves, too. Things come together, and fall apart. Well, I guess it's a good idea, then, to enjoy the cookies and tea when we can, yes?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Big Day :: Looking For the Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

Last week as I was returning from dropping Max and Maria off at school, I saw a man eagerly pointing his camera toward the tops of some palms, and other tall hedges and flora. He was conspicuous, urgently snapping with that big camera. And he wore a triumphant expression. Our street is frequented by many walkers, and joggers, stroller pushing fitness moms, dog walkers. It's a quiet, tree-lined street, and we are accustomed to enjoying this steady flow of happy traffic. I knew this pedestrian was exceptional, but wasn't sure why. The next morning, further up our street I noticed four people, spread out, but all facing the same easterly direction, and all with big cameras. Telephoto lenses, binoculars, and eagerly scanning tree tops. A class? I wondered. Two days later I saw another couple, with those same studious postures, and cameras aimed at the tree tops. By now, I am loving the mystery, but frustrated because I'm always on a tight schedule, and it's not convenient to stop and ask, What are you doing??

Then my luck changed. Yesterday, with time on hand, I noticed a guy with a great looking camera, looking east, looking hopeful, looking like someone from out of town. I had to ask. I pulled over, rolled down the window... I've noticed a lot of big cameras and binoculars in the neighborhood... ? He smiled almost bashfully, and confessed, We're birders. A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was reported to be seen here, and he opened up an image on his mobile phone so I could see what a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher looks like. He was very excited. Are you doing a Big Year? I had to ask. And he laughed. No, he replied, adding, I've traveled enough for one, but no.

We see a lot of birds here, in case you've wondered why we call this The Bird House... it's not about the chickens! Quail, Western Blue Birds, Phoebe, Barn owls, and Great Horned Owls, Cedar Waxwings, all sorts of hummingbirds, and doves, Mockingbirds, and sparrows are frequent visitors, and residents. I've enjoyed casually observing, and learning their names and habits. And the summer before last Maria and I were inspired to do our own backyard and neighborhood Big Year, so I was really amused to be witnessing a first-hand bird watching flurry of activity, and living in the middle of the excitement. I told Geoff my happy story last night, and we agreed it was pretty neat. The End.

Just kidding.

Geoff called me two minutes after leaving for work this morning. They're out there! The birders are on the street again. And not a block away, too! It was irresistible. I was going to go Bird-Watcher Watching! I pulled on my boots, dismissed every other urgent task before me, grabbed my camera and headed south in search of Birders! I had one troubling thought as I approached an obvious looking couple standing, well-equipped, beside their car: What in the world am I going to do, or say? Fortunately, I was able to dismiss my rational query. I think I was as eager and curious to see the Birders, as those Birders have been to see the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Their interest and enthusiasm inspired me, piqued my curiosity, and by now, I too hoped to see a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

They turned their attention west, and we saw this bird.

Gosh, I hate to get this wrong, but did they say Cassin's Kingbird? I introduced myself to Jeff and Bonnie. They'd been as far east as New Mexico, and they listed for me the rare and special birds they'd seen there, and in Arizona, and at the Salton Sea. I know they looked for a red-beaked, and red footed seagull at the Salton Sea, and saw a Yellow Bellied Sapsucker, somewhere.

Even as we spoke, they were spying active and plentiful birds in the Cape honeysuckle and pines. And when they were not certain, they opened a much loved field guide, held together with red duct tape. Vireos. Sparrows.
And the one they hoped to spy, the California Gnatcatcher, which strongly resembles the Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, and the Black-capped Gnatcatcher, too, for that matter. I was in complete awe of their prompt identifying of all kinds of tiny birds flitting in and out of the shrubs, alighting in the branches.

It's no wonder Maria and I were so challenged to identify our birds, even when using the zoom on the camera, we were not seeing much. Not as much as Bonnie and Jeff can spy with their monocular. Wow! What an amazing tool. They invited me to see a bird down and across the street, and on a phone line. Through the monocular it was as close as my computer monitor is to me, now. Undisturbed, at ease, the bird sat a good while, and was easy to observe. I could see every detail. What a lovely experience.

Oh dear, I may have acquired a taste for telephoto lenses... I can barely tell this is a Western Bluebird. Fortunately, they sometimes visit our birdbath, and we get a much better look, then.

We walked and shared happy bird sighting stories. I have seen many, from our Bird House, and the year we lived in Minnesota. Bonnie and Jeff were happy to visit some spots I thought might be successful for viewing. And I got to steal a few more peaks through their monocular. I am so eager for them to see their birds. Today they'll be bird watching in Morro Bay, on their way back to San Francisco. I was good and proper and did not drive away with them, but I was tempted! Only a Bird-Watcher Watching Road Trip could top this Big Day.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Good Morning

Here's Maria, winning friends, and influencing chickens.

On this visit with our wee farm, I remarked to Maria that she was clever for naming the three Cuckoo Marans "Thompson," "Thomson," and "Tamsyn." We couldn't tell them apart! But they're changing, and exhibiting some unique and distinguishing features, and we may be close to giving them truly individual names. One of the Cuckoos has a comb that is very tall, and flops over a bit, and we can readily tell her apart from the others, so she'll get her own name. Then there's the Cuckoo with a comb that is comparatively small, compact, and she needs a name, too. The hen with a comb that is in between in size, and very pert and peaked, we are calling Emma. Emma Thompson.

This is all very pressing and highly consequential data. I hope you are taking notes for the quiz.

There's Emma Thompson, in front of Maria, facing the other hens. Write that down.

Also highly significant and of great interest: I finally have a picture that satisfies my obsessive need to demonstrate how tiny Lucky Penny is compared to the new chicas. It's comical, because as petite as she is, she still shows them that she's a boss. And they pay attention, too!

We happen to live in an area with more yoga studios than Starbucks... that's a lot of yoga! Because all around us there are juice bars, holistic healthcare practitioners, mindful surfers, and the enlightening effects of living in close proximity to the Pacific ocean, I've had this assumption about myself... that I should know what meditation is and how to do it. Given this fact of geography, how can I escape the practice of this fundamental skill? Meditation is recommended, advised, suggested, and celebrated wherever I go, but I have not managed to get a genuine handle on what it really is, and the very little I've read about it... about the practice of mediation, and the nuts and bolts of sinking down and really getting into the zone... yeah... it has always led me to assume that anything that "tuned in, quiet, and still" is what I call a "nap." And I do love a nap. Delicious, I say.

Is it wrong to enjoy not knowing? Honestly, I am okay with the time when I simply wonder, when a concise answer is not within reach, and I can speculate, and even be happy with a mystery that is not unraveled. For today, until I find that tidy paragraph that defines and illuminates what is "meditation," I will suppose that to mediate is to sit with the chickens and goats, to listen to them, and see what they do, to stop thinking for some purpose, and simply observe. Watching the bunnies, following the chickens, I slow down, and get a moment to be satisfied. I wanted to say "in the moment," or "content," and I wonder if there's a good way of expressing that state, when even if we are harried and stressed, or hurting, or if we only have five minutes, we still just manage to take a deeper breath, smile, appreciate, recognize something that gives us calm, joy? Funny how such a small engagement, something so easy to oversee or dismiss, can make a difference... a good difference.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Five Good Things

Our weather... oy. It's annoying. The days are gorgeous, the sky is clear, blue, lovely. I promise, I am not complaining about beauty and comfort. So much of the United States is in a freeze, and the rest of the world is enduring record heat, and pretty weather is cause for picnics and mild gloating. Superficially, we have nothing to complain about... except... it's dry. Oh, would I appreciate some rain! Instead, we are bracing ourselves for higher temperatures, and Santa Anas... those winds that blow east to west and fan the sparks, that start the fires, that set us all on edge. It's January, and I am eager for clouds, and moisture, for rainfall, and snow capped mountains up and down the Western mountains.

Anyway... it felt wrong posting these lovely outdoor, January scenes, with what looks like gorgeous weather, without recognizing that this is not the kind of gorgeous we need.

But it is gorgeous. Sigh. The flowers, and goats, and chickens, and green beans think so. Our Rosemary is full of honey bees. The chickens were in such a big dustbath pile-up we could hardly tell them apart. Really lovely. I hope it rains.

Good Things...

1. Geoff earned some down time, and we spent it with the physics class, and outdoors with goats, in the metal shop with FIRST 2102 Team Paradox, sharing the wonderful company of friends and family, enjoying Paul and Janece's generous Hobbit II gift, doing chemistry experiments, and learning MasterCam.

2. Watching Maria and Izzy and Parker completely engrossed and engaged with playing, running, laughing, dancing, singing, and it was easy and natural as though they have always been best of friends.

3. TED... Ideas worth spreading, and being inspired to rethink my beliefs about stress.

4. Time with my friend Anna Banana, and the pleasure of sharing, caring, listening, laughing, understanding, learning, and feeling revived, and connected.

5. Max built a beautiful, and well engineered bridge, and it held a bucket filled with 18 pounds of water, so, together with 17 of his classmates, Max's bridge will go forward to the ultimate and final challenge: Bigger water! (A little boasting. Thank you, Ruth... that felt great!)

I was looking for some words to support conversations I've been enjoying, and found these...

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem,
but the truth is that things don't really get solved.
They come together and they fall apart.
Then they come together again and fall apart again.
It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen:
room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heartfelt Advice for Hard Times"

Good things, even in the midst of things falling apart... do you have some to share?