Friday, April 29, 2011


Here are the last pictures from my early April trip to Arizona. I had fun using some of the SLR features of my new camera, especially the one where I can do manual focusing. When I am taking close-up pictures, a auto-focus often chooses something other than what I want as the main object to focus on.

With the manual focus and the interchangeable lenses of the DSLR, it feels just like taking pictures with a "regular" camera, except that I am not wasting film if I take 15 pictures of the same thing as I try different settings.

I missed that flexibility with our other digital cameras. That, and the viewfinder. I don't mind the viewing screen, but I prefer to use it as a post-picture check to make sure I got what I was trying for. Somehow, it never felt quite right not to have the camera up to my eye while I was shooting.

But I do love not wasting film. Since, I like my father, take way too many pictures at every opportunity, it is really nice not to have to pay to develop all that film just to get a small batch of good photos.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bear with me...

I still have a day's worth of pictures from Arizona, and some of my garden (from a month ago), and now I have a whole camera full of pictures from Bellevue and Seattle. But I didn't get home until 1 AM on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, and zombie-walked my way through the day yesterday. Today I am more awake, but I just haven't gotten my brain into composing mode. Maybe tomorrow.

I haven't actually signed up for the 5K yet, but here is the race I plan to do: the Paws on the Pavement 5k for CARE for Animals. You can walk it too - hint hint to anyone out there who needs something to do on Saturday, June 4th. I intend to run the entire thing, assuming I get my training ramped up in time. I am still trying to analyze my reasons for doing this, but I guess it doesn't matter. Anything that gets me moving and gives me a challenge is a good thing.

We didn't have any damage from the recent storms, apart from some small branches that fell out of the oaks in the backyard. If you want some information about where to give to help, check out my work blog.

Anyway, sorry for the silence this week. I promise to try harder next week.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

OK, I am going to do it

Not a marathon, not yet, but I have decided to run a 5K. There is one in June that is a fund raiser for an animal rescue charity in Little Rock. Benjamin has promised to run with me. I think I can get up to running a full 5K by then - I did more than that on the treadmill yesterday, but that was with walking intervals interspersed.

I'm not sure why I have a desire to do this all of a sudden, although I am sure reading about Chris's runs are part of it. And a need to keep pushing myself. Whatever the reason, I am sure I can do it - heck, I was hiking a 5K into the beach with a 45 pound pack when I was 12. Surely I can run a 5K now!

Friday, April 22, 2011

A matter of perspective,or it's all relative

As I was leaving the gym this morning at 6:30, after running 3.5 miles and doing a weight routine, I first thought "I wish I could convince myself to do something really crazy hard (to me anyway), like run a marathon or go vegan for a month, just because."

Then I thought, "Most of the people I know think I am already doing crazy stuff for getting up at 5 AM to go to the gym."

Nowadays, I don't think I am crazy for doing such stuff, because one of my cousins has decided to train for an ultramarathon (for more about his running and training, check out his blog), and his brother was almost a Navy Seal and loves Crossfit and working out until he thinks he is going to die, as does their sister's husband (who was also in the Marines and served more than once in Afghanistan). But if last January, when I was first trying to get more exercise and had just started getting up at the early hour of 5:45,  you had told me that I would get up at 5 to go to the gym 3 or 4 days a week, and that it wouldn't feel like enough, I would have thought you were crazy.

I have never really thought of myself as athletic, although one of my favorite activities is hiking, and I love playing volleyball, racquetball and tai chi. I always thought of myself as sort of lazy, physically, not able to really push myself. I am not sure where this came from, except that I guess I bought into the idea at some point that I was more of a bookish nerd than an athlete. I didn't fit in with the athletic kids at school, and I wasn't very good at team sports (partly a problem with being told what to do and getting blamed when the team does poorly, partly I am just a really bad loser - although I am getting better at that). It isn't that I didn't have any role models - my dad played lots of sports while he was growing up and he was always there to play frisbee or go swimming or bike riding or hiking with me, and my mom's dad was a champion football player and track athlete in college, who was playing golf until about a month before he died. He and my grandmother also both hiked the Grand Canyon - after they retired. And even my mom, who I don't think of as liking to exercise that much, was on all the early hikes and bike trips, and spends hours gardening.

Now, as I work on being more mindful and treating myself and others with loving-kindness, I am finally shedding that damaging self-judgment and becoming more fully who I am meant to be. A defiant athlete (who happens to like reading books, a lot of books). It feels amazing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sedona Sky

Sedona has some of the most amazing skies. At sunrise and sunset, the light plays off the clouds and the rocks and just makes you gasp.

I know there are other places that get amazing skies, but such things don't seem to happen in the city or the suburbs very often. A proper vista seems to be required for the clouds to have that endless quality, the ability to glow.

Of course, it helps that the area is surrounded by national forest, and thus has fewer houses than it might otherwise, and fewer city lights to get in the way. That is certainly true at night, when the sky is as wide as you expect it to be in the desert.

Here, the clouds almost look like mountains, don't they? Off in the distance, far away. But they are just clouds.

The sky can change color too, depending on the angle of light, the type of clouds, the amount of dust or pollen in the air.

(Taken through the windshield - hence the darker portion at the top) It isn't just the early morning and late evening skies that are so amazing though. The day time ones are pretty spectacular themselves.

And they go on forever.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Almost forgot about you

Is that stick person falling, or just dancing badly?

Slippery - that is what housework and gardening are. This weekend, I would start one project only to find something else that needed to be done, and another and another. And I was just too busy to get to it all. Now, that isn't why I almost forgot about blogging, just stating a fact. No, that was because today I have been recovering from playing a killer tennis match on Friday night in a howling gale, going out to breakfast for my birthday, going to a Heifer Hunger Awareness dinner, seeing a movie - the the theater! - making quiche, and doing all my regularly scheduled chores. Coming to work was like a holiday! Anyway, I shall be back tomorrow with more Sedona pictures.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Style Conundrum

I got up later than normal today, and because I hadn't slept well (thanks, thunderstorms that last for 3 hours) and because I have a tennis match this evening, I decided to skip exercising this morning. As a result, I had a lot more time to do my hair than I usually do, and I used that time to dry it all the way and curl it. It looks pretty darn good. I wish it looked like this more often. And here lies the conundrum - my hair could look like this all the time, but only if I cut back on the time I spend at the gym. Which I am totally not going to do. So, I have to accept that because I am doing what is right and good for my body, to look and feel better, I often have to look less than my best. Or I have to start going to work later and staying later in the evening. Which I don't want to do. Gah!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sedona wildlife (well, a very small portion of it)

I realized last night as I was going to bed that I forgot to give y'all a blog yesterday. Oh well. Means my pictures will last longer! Anyway, back to Sedona for today's shots. All of these were taken in my aunt and uncle's back yard.

Sedona has a rather large population of wild rabbits. I love rabbits. If I didn't have a chinchilla and a dog, I would probably get a rabbit. But I do have a chinchilla and a dog, and three cats, so I will have to content myself with cute pictures of rabbits instead. (Speaking of which, have you seen Disapproving Rabbits yet? It falls into the "cute animal pictures with captions" genre, and is a hoot.)

I, wild rabbit, disapprove of this shot.
Anyway, I saw so many bunnies on my walk around the neighborhood and through the golf course one morning that I lost count, or rather gave up counting. I am a little surprised that so many bunnies survive, because there are a lot of predators in Sedona too - I saw (but didn't get on camera) a bobcat and a very healthy looking coyote while I was there. These come into the town area from the surrounding hills, which are mostly National Forest, and thus undeveloped.

Here the feather looks like a punctuation mark.
There are also a lot of quail in Sedona. I love watching quail - they are so funny. 3 parts stiff English butler, 1 part John Cleese from the Ministry of Silly Walks, 1 part Vegas showgirl (it's that little head feather that does it).

Quail on a mission.

I was using a borrowed telephoto lens and didn't have a tripod, but I am still pleased with the number of good shots I got. Especially since quail don't often sit completely still.

Are you lookin' at me, punk?

Is this a snake? No? Good...

The Sedona area also is home to a wide range of other bird species. I am pretty sure those yellow birds are some sort of finch (no bird book with me at the minute to check). Seen but not caught on camera were hummingbirds, scrub jays, ravens, sparrows...

And this little rock dove. They make the neatest cooing noises early in the morning. No, really - I like hearing birds before the sun is up, makes it less lonely, more alive.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sedona's red rocks

So, last weekend I flew to Arizona to spend a few days with my mother, grandmother, and aunt and uncle. I have been visiting Sedona for maybe 20 years, but I am still awed by the scenery there. The rocks are so red, and so unlike anything you see anywhere else - even at the Grand Canyon - and the skies are so expansive and variable. Digital cameras make it so easy to get a good shot too - you don't have to worry about wasting film, or wondering if you got what you were hoping for, since you can see it immediately. All of this is a way of leading up to the fact that I have so many photos of scenery from this 4-day trip that you are going to get to see it all week!

When the sun hits the rocks at sunset or sunrise, they glow. Seriously. Glowing.

Even though there is a lot of vegetation, you can see for miles, unlike in most parts of Arkansas or Western Washington. It is like the prairie that way. But there are more large landscape features to see than on the prairie. To me, that makes the skies a little less oppressive.

And they are so blue. A blue that seems different from the blue elsewhere.

You can hike to the tops of most of these mesas. I haven't done that yet, but my grandparents did all of them, when they first retired to Sedona. Just look out for the New Agey types and their Energy Vortex hikes.

It is hard to keep your eyes on the road at times, when the vista constantly holds such wonders. Good thing they improved the main road into town.

If there were more employment opportunities for an over-educated librarian and an ancient philosopher, I might even consider moving there some day. 

For now, I will just have to enjoy these pictures. And remember that Arizona is full of wacko politicians, and hot. Very hot, even in the mountains.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hang in there

Sorry for the radio silence over the past week. On Friday I flew to Arizona to visit my grandmother, mother, aunt and uncle. I have plenty of pictures of the gorgeous Sedona area to share, but they are still on the camera, and will most likely remain there until the weekend.

In the meantime, why don't you go do something that makes you happy? Or relaxed - like meditation. I have returned to meditation (I tried to make it a practice several years ago, then found tai chi and figured that counted enough, but now I think I need both) as a way to make myself a happier, nicer person, and to help me deal with some chronic health issues. I just finished reading (for what is surely only the first of many times) Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and I am working on following the 8 week program to develop mindfulness. For more information about the stress-reduction program that the book describes, check out the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. I am at that stage of something where you want to tell everyone you know to do that program, so bear with me!