Monday, April 30, 2007

Lincoln Street Ducks

To avoid the traffic and the traffic lights when heading to Mom's, I often cut off Grove onto Lincoln Street, using the grade level crossing where the two creeks come together. Despite this year's dryness, there is still a tiny trickle across the street and a puddle between Lincoln and the reconstituted footbridge (above). Lo and behold, one day there was a pair of ducks swimming happily in the puddle. I saw them several times thereafter and managed to get one picture of the female of the pair (below.) Haven't seen them for a couple of weeks, however, so I am assuming that they did the sensible thing and headed for one of the nearby lakes.

I've never before seen a duck in any of the local creeks, not even Granite Creek, until this occasion. There's always a first time, of course. This was it.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Flamenco! Ole!

The troupe was exciting! They were really very good! I hadn't expected this level of talent from a local crew. After all, this is just a city of 40,000 or so population.

The occasion was the Rio Flamenco show at the Elks Opera House last night. Gypsy music from Andalusia has been my most favorite for longer than I can remember. My own deepest involvement with the form (aside from bruising the palms of my hands by loud clapping to accompany guitar music played by friends, my husband or WFMT) came the night my daughter was born.

My husband had made a connection with a guitar player whose flamenco style was excellent (though he really wanted to be taken seriously, i.e., Bach partitias). Said guitarist knew a young woman dancer from Guatamala who was coming to Chicago. We had another friend, a male dancer who knew enough of the steps to serve as foil to the star.

All was arranged for the back room of an Old Town saloon: two movie cameras, a sound person, assorted handy persons, guitarist and dancers. One night only. All volunteers.

I was very pregnant. I owed the magazine a column (way past deadline.) My daughter chose that day to arrive. Husband had to leave my side to keep his date.

The baby arrived while the troops were shooting the dancers. Once over, husband showed up to see me and his new daugher. He said, "she's beautiful!" To this day, I've never known whether he was referring to the daughter -- or the dancer!

The sad denouemont of this tale: we were poor at the time; the dance session was shot on war surplus black/white film and it sat around the apartment for several months because of the high cost of professional processing, especially for old film. Finally, my husband (an engineer by trade) built his own processing machine out of wood, film spools, rubber and stainless steel sheets. We processed the film one hot Chicago summer night. The film reticulated and the beautiful dancer had an alligator skin! End of grand plan.

Rio Flamenco has a website (but lacks a smoldering male dancer.) The musicians only will give two shows May 12 at the Sharlot Hall Blue Rose theatre. Mexican and Latin music. Put it on your schedule!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Critter Report

Periodically, the critter pictures accumulate; this is one of those times. Let's start with my neighbors' dog, Cain, who has taken to observing the koi fish as a favorite pasttime.

And, of course, there's always javelina news. Spotted this fellow in the middle of the street up the hill from the library as I was headed over for the PWP meeting last Wednesday. He came downhill past the library, garnering a good deal of attention from the assembled writers...

Meanwhile, back at the ranch ... I tend to leave the door open to air the house out periodically. On one such occasions, this wasp entered -- and desperately wanted out. He was perched on the window when I took this picture.

I don't know if this is an event to celebrate -- or for weeping. Tis the first snail of the season. Looking for munchies.

And here's a triumph, of a sort -- I finally caught a raven with the telephoto, me in the kitchen and Rosco dwarfing the neighbors' bird bath. This, by the way, was a quite small portion of the picture.

Other folk have done far better than I at capturing images of local critters. The last batch of pictures submitted to the Courier's on-line gallery included terrific pix of an eagle in a resident's tree, pronghorns and a fox in a tree. And if eagles are your thing, do take a look at the nest photographs at Ocean and Forest Walks.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Lady of the Night

While speeding down certain highways at this time of year, you periodically see what look like small clusters of discarded pink Kleenex alongside the roadway. Slow down and the sight will almost always resolve into a patch of spent white evening primrose blossoms. Unless it is early morning or an overcast day, in which case the white flowers may still be near their prime.

Fortunately, this plant sits across the street from my house and I was able to follow a single blossom through its one-day cycle. Here at dusk, the tightly wound flower begins to unfurl.

By the time the flower was part way open, flash was necessary. Like most night-blooming white flowers, the evening primrose tries to entice insects with periodic puffs of a lavender-like scent.

Here's what I saw at about 10 a.m. this morning. For some reason, this particular patch of primrose has escaped the notice of the javelina, who love the somewhat fleshy roots -- they almost always destroy any plants I manage to get started up my hillside.

By the time I was setting off for a walk downtown at 2 p.m., the new blossom was completely spent. If you look closely, you'll see that the flower is connected to the heart of the plant by a long tube, rather than a stem; hence, its name -- stemless evening primrose. The seed pods are tight against the center of the plant.Why this species -- native to the Western hemisphere -- is called primrose, I've no idea. No relationship to the Old World primrose, in any event.

In the Prescott area, I've seen the tall Hooker's evening primrose out at Granite Basin Lake and elsewhere; pretty little ground-hugging yellow sundrops occur near Watson Lake and out the Perkinsville Road. For further info about the species, start with Wikipedia.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Writerly Evening at the Library

I am reminded of why I joined the Professional Writers of Prescott nearly 20 years ago when we moved away from our rural digs. PWP was a way for the new kid in town (me) to meet sympatico people. It still is. I went to their meeting last night for the first time in several months.

Here's how it works. First, the greeting table, for signing up, for noting a couple of books to be raffled and for checking out all kinds of writerly handouts, such as those below -- programs, workshops, publishing opportunities, contests.

The evening starts out at six with a networking session. What are they all looking at? In this case, a member, below, had some comments to make on what is and what isn't humorous -- the evening's theme.

After the networking and before the main meeting, a chance to schmooze and/or look over books by members (below.) PWP, by the way, isn't just for successful authors; many, many members are just starting out. Over the years, I've watched individuals hone their skills and become published writers!

The highlight of the monthly meeting: a speaker, a round table or perhaps the Mad Poets. Last night, we heard mystery writer Kris Neri discuss the many ways to weave humor into one's writing. Neri is not only the author of the Traci Eaton mysteries, but, with her husband Joe, owns the Well Read Coyote bookstore in Sedona. One of her points I particularly liked: humor grows out of chaos.

After the presentation, a book signing. Neri, by the way, is one of nine mystery authors who regularly blog at Femme Fatales. And, if PWP sounds interesting, check it out further at the web site -- or come to a meeting, the fourth Wednesday of the month at the new, improved downtown library.

Later Link Notes: A Prescott Courier reporter was at the meeting and did a good job of actually covering just what Neri had to say, as opposed to me all tied up in picture-taking. Go take a look!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My Favorite Succulent

Do you ever dig really, really, really deep into a matter, so much so that you have to learn everything about the subject or collect one of every kind? That happened to me with the plant called sedum. It's a common enough garden plant, tho almost never a feature. Rather, the stonecrop is often used as ground cover or as a rock garden specimen. Fortunately for those of us with decayed granite as our "soil," most sedums need good drainage.

Stonecrops come big and small. For example, the plant above is a large succulent, featuring big clusters of pink blossoms in late summer. Most sedums bloom white or yellow, but that is not their strong feature.

Here are two of the more common varieties (above and below.) My imagination was captured by the many leaf forms of the species and so I collected samples from nurseries here in Arizona and when I was last in Memphis and in Victoria BC. (Yes, I am a common criminal who snuck live vegetable matter and wildflower seeds across the border. Bad GrannyJ.) And if I see an interesting new variation in your garden, I'm likely to snag a sprig, since the odds are that it will easily take root -- and you won't notice that it's missing.

This is one of the better ground covers; a nice grey green.

Only one small variation in leaf form distinguishes this pair: the individual leaflets on the plant above are quite orderly, while those on the form below are more helter-skelter.

This is another large form for covering a lot of ground; the similar plant below is, I believe, a native to this area. It really must be, as it is likely to take over any area where it gets a start.

These two different varieties are a brighter green, which leads me to believe that they need more water. In any event, I give it to them and they prosper.

Here are two very small sedum plants which I'm quite fond of. I particularly like the very small compact guy below, though he gets a bit messy after blossoming.

I am by no means alone in this fascination with sedums. Turns out the Brits have, in time-honored British fashion, formed The Sedum Society, the founder of which wrote the vade mecum on the subject, Sedums: Cultivated Stonecrops. It's a production of Timber Press, publishers who must have my number, because they also publish a beautiful and comprehensive book on another of my favorites -- penstemons.

One final, curious note before I close the book on sedums -- have you ever heard of a sedum roof over a shed or larger structure? Another British concept, much like the old sod roofs cultivated by pioneers in the Plains States:

A sedum roof is like a living carpet. Sedums are low-growing succulents - plants with thick fleshy leaves and stems, which makes them particularly suitable for growing in the inhospitable conditions found on a roof. Native sedums, such as Sedum album, can be seen growing in very hostile conditions such as on dry stone walls, cliffs and Cotswold rooftops. Plants on a sedum roof have to be able to withstand periods of low rainfall, strong drying winds and sun, and they have to grow with the minimum of growing medium.

Oops Note: Just in case you haven't had it up to here with sedums, I did find a site with zillions of photos of stonecrops and other succulents. And while I have you by the coat lapels, here are two very interesting links sent me by the SIL this morning: an Arizona drought map and a site for railroad passengers to trade stories.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Speaking of Stereotypes...

There I was at Costco the other day, contemplating a post about all of the outdoor stuff on display. But then I caught sight of this bike. And while I tend to be reasonably mild-mannered in my dotage and not given to Politically Correct Cause-Think, my BQ (Bile Quotient) went up several notches when I saw this confection of a bicycle. Lord spare us from the unrelenting shower of pink and lavender that drenches today's young girl-creatures.

I should have guessed that this wussy product was labeled "Barbie".

Sitting right next to the pink horror was this other modern commercial stereotype: the boy as daredevil, done up in R.E.D. Only one false note: the safety helmet.

Honest, guys, I'm far from the modern, true blue feminist sort Pretty Lady wrote about today. But when I was a kid, I would have picked the R.E.D. package over the pink any day -- it promises a lot more adventure, though I'm completely aware that we are dealing with yet another stereotype. Yes, I would have been disappointed. Adventure can't be boxed!

There will always be a marketing man. AAARRRGGGHHH!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Bull, Elk, Owl

When that great, shiny sculpture of a bull was first installed on the hospital side of Whipple near formerly Five Points, the editor of the Courier expressed nothing but disdain. That was back in the early 90s. Myself, I've been fond of the bull from the beginning. I think that editor was pining for one more heroic Salon Borglum western piece. Not to be.

Here's another of Prescott's critter sculpts, one with a much fancier pedigree than the bull. Named Bill, he dates from 1905 when the big Jerome mining company donated copper to the Prescott BPOE #330 to have the W. H. Mullins Art Metal Works Company of Salem, Ohio create a sculpture to top their new building. In 1971, the group moved out of the city and over to Prescott Valley, taking their prize elk with them. After much negotiation, the statue has been returned to his original post. A lot of restoration work was involved, as well. Day's Past reports that "Over the years, 'Bill' had been shot numerous times, had been painted silver, had received a large dent in his side, had nearly lost his antlers, which were still barely perched upon his head, had sprung numerous leaks and was generally in poor condition."

As for the owl, it sits atop another of the old downtown buildings. Probably made out of plastic. No doubt he claims some magical powers, such as scaring pigeons away. I've always been intrigued by those funny little faddish architectural add-ons. Down in Sun City one day, I noticed that every third house had an owl perched on the roof or TV antenna. Possible an owl salesman had passed that way. Maybe the son of the guy who used to canvass Chicago's ethnic neighborhoods, selling up-to-date doors with three little windows cascading down the top half.

Afternote: A few of my recent posts have been included in special blog round-ups that you might find of interest. My ghost cars made in into the Carnival of Cars ... the discussion of Prescott's media mix was one of the featured posts over at the Carnival of Cities ... while the sad tale of Max cat and the monster balloon was cited at both the weekly Carnival of Cats and the Carnival of Family Life. Each of these sites features a collection of links that sound very intriguing. Well worth a visit or two.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Shelved Cats

The Max cat has never seen a door that he doesn't want to open nor a shelf he doesn't want to occupy (nor a keyboard that wouldn't be improved with a proper coat of cat hair.)

This time, this morning, I was lucky -- the little Sony, now my back-up camera, was handy. I caught my DC (Dear Cat) as he was cramming his body into this small, jam packed shelf in my office.

After a couple of cartridges and a can of fixative were pushed off the shelf, there was apparently room for DC to ensconce himself. He purred.

Like all cat critters, he got bored fast. Time to get down?

Yep -- he made it without a problem...

...ensconcing himself once again in his standard nest between computers and backed up by the fax machine, which he regularly knocks off the desk. The FedEx envelope is not a blanket -- it is a barrier between Max and the keyboard as his pillow.

In the meantime, my little gift siamese from over 25 years ago looks on all this excitement without a change in expression! Thanks, Judy.
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