scarlettina: (Angel)
This weekend is an emotional journey and a day-to-day journey. I'm going to talk about the day-to-day journey in this entry. While I'll talk a little about the emotional journey, well, I won't write about it too deeply right now; I still have a lot to assimilate and consider. I may write about it at some point, but probably in a locked post and probably not this morning. Some things I don't need to share with the Entire World of the Internets.

Mani-pedis and family bonding
Friday morning, my cousin PL's fiance SS picked up my sister-in-law and myself at the hotel, and we all headed off to get mani/pedis. This was a plan that I had proposed because I wanted an opportunity to get to know SS a little better, and because I know that sis-in-law would have done this before she left Long Island anyway. Seemed like a nice way to bond with the girls a bit. I was pleased when SS jumped at the chance; I knew that sis-in-law would be into it. I still feel like I have new skin, two days later. My original thought was to get a French manicure on my fingers and some color on my toes. I ended up getting a sort of pale yellow/gold on both because it was close to my skin tone. As I've spent time in the unrelenting sun here in southern CA, the contrast between my nails and my skin has intensified. So much for a neutral color treatment! Having never gotten a pedicure before, I felt completely pampered and almost embarrassed by all the attention. My sister-in-law was entertained by my reactions to the whole thing.

We followed that up with having lunch at the restaurant that's catering the wedding on Sunday. The food was fresh and light and delicious. We got to know my sister-in-law much better over lunch. She was admirably frank about her personal history, a harrowing and in some respects horrifying odyssey (not mine to share). The fact that she's so together and so remarkably level-headed and, in fact, so vivacious and charming in the wake of all that left a profound impression on me. She clearly adores my cousin (I am biased in the opinion that he deserves such adoration), and I think they are very good for each other.

Friday evening, my cousin treated 19 of us who had come in from out of town to a dinner and concert at the Hollywood Bowl. The program was Tchaikovsky featuring violin soloist Alexandra Soumm (a positively pyrotechnic performance!), and the evening closed out with the 1812 Overture featuring the USC Marching Band (apparently a big deal around here) and fireworks. The evening was nearly perfect, with the exception of an unsettling encounter with another cousin with whom, well, things were tense, to put it mildly. Two sleeps later, the encounter has dwindled in my perception, but it cast a pall.

Hiking and personal history
Saturday morning, my brother, sister-in-law and I were up early. My cousin PL picked us up and we headed over to Vasquez Rocks for a hike. My brother didn't know where we were going--PL and I deliberately kept it a secret--so when we got there, I was treated to his delight at hiking around the rock formations that featured so prominently in several episodes of Star Trek. My cousin is a docent at another nature center locally, so as we hiked, we were treated to his insights about the local flora and fauna. We are all so clearly related, snapping pictures, examining the littlest things, just sort of soaking up the experience. It was such a great excursion. Unfortunately, the heat took its toll on my sister-in-law, who suffered quite a bit from nausea as a result. By the time we got to a restaurant for lunch afterwards, she was wilting pretty badly. The food helped revive her a little.

After lunch, PL took us over to his house. The place--a 4,000 square-foot mansion which he shared with his first wife--is up for sale. He's staying there until the wedding. This was the first time I'd ever visited the place, and it's beautiful, with skylights and stretches of windows that overlook the entire valley. I've been to large homes before, and the thing that impressed me about this place was that though it's very large, the rooms were of a scale so as not to make it feel overwhelming. Furnished in the pastels that his late wife preferred (the shade dusty rose was a big thing for her; not to my taste but she made it work), it was tranquil even in the lavishness of its furnishings.

As a result of his impending move, PL is downsizing his possessions pretty significantly. At one point, PL said to me, "I have something for you." What he had was a needlepoint that his mother, my much-beloved Aunt Shirley, had made, of a girl reading a book. I've always loved that piece and it will find an honored place on the walls of my home. He also gifted me with one of his late wife's several cameos. I'll be wearing it to the wedding. He gifted my brother with his grandfather's pocketwatch, and my sister-in-law with a beautiful pair of sapphire earrings, again, that belonged to his late wife. I have spent the whole weekend overwhelmed by his love and generosity.

In the wake of all this, I found myself crashing both physically and emotionally. G-d bless [ profile] varina8 for her love and support when I called her to talk. She is smart and wise and knows me very, very well. I was grateful for the time we spent on the phone together.

Barbecue and chillin' out
Saturday evening, a small group of us went over to SS's home for a little barbecue. It was a fairly small crowd and, as I think about it now, a pretty intimate one in that it was mainly immediate family and very close friends. I was honored to be part of this gathering. I spent a little time talking to PL's goddaughters--lovely girls--whom I've never met before, and chatting with SS's closest friends. The day remained warm but breezes cooled things off to a comfortable temperature. The food was basic barbecue fare: burgers, salad, fruit, topped off with a raspberry lemon bundt cake. A nice relaxing way to close the day.

My bro, sis-in-law, and I spent the rest of the evening hanging out together in my room at the hotel, planning for our Monday excursion and catching up a bit.

I have spent most of my life pretty estranged from what little family I have. As I experienced last year with my cousin M's funeral, the reconnection with the family has been a pretty emotional journey for me. While I won't get into specifics, it has provoked a lot of reflection. I received an email from my cousin PL this morning expressing his gratitude for my presence this weekend and promising regular visits to Seattle. I . . . don't know how to express my reaction to such a confession and promise. It feels remarkable to me. I have a lot to process.
scarlettina: (UFO: Believe)
She's on the balcony staring at . . . something. I follow her gaze and hear clicking. It turns out that there's a hummingbird hovering about off the balcony about two feet away from her, studying her. The bird darts back and up; Sophie follows every move . . . and then the bird buzzes away. I didn't grab the camera because I didn't want to startle either one of them. I'm glad I let them both have that moment.
scarlettina: (Default)
Procrastination comes in all forms. When one is creative, one can manufacture any number of distractions to keep one from one's appointed tasks. This morning, I provide you with but two examples (with pictures).

I made a new necklace! )

I've been watching an enterprising squirrel. )
scarlettina: (Default)
It's a little dark, despite my attempts at adjusting it. And they're obnoxious birds, but no one can deny how handsome they are.

scarlettina: (Default)
I'm blue. So it seems like nothing that I want will ever happen. I know I'm being myopic. It's just how I'm feeling tonight. I'll feel better tomorrow, I'm sure. But, for example, if my Green Man story (now on submission at one of your finer fantasy periodicals) ever sees print, you should know that the trees in these photographs were its inspiration. I hope someone buys that story. I really love it far more than I should. Limbs behind the cut )


Dear New Neighbor:

You seemed like a perfectly nice fellow when we met this afternoon. But if you plan on banging around and shaking the building all night long, my good opinion of you is going to be tarnished. Severely. You've made more noise in one evening than the previous owners did in the 6 years they were here.

Knock it off.

scarlettina: (Default)
So last Saturday, after a small celebratory birthday brunch, [ profile] jackwilliambell and I went to the Skagit Valley Highland Games in Mount Vernon. As previously mentioned, we met [ profile] paulcarp, [ profile] mcjulie, [ profile] jkling, and Ivy there, watched sheep herding and caber tossing, poked around the vendor booths, and listened to and watched the pipe and drum bands. Somehow, as interesting and fun as the caber tossing was, I found the bands just thrilling. I may not be an especial fan of bagpipes, but all of these bands were so good. I really enjoyed the music.

On Sunday, we took advantage of the lowest tides of the year to go tidepooling at Golden Gardens park and beach. It was an overcast day, cooler than I expected, but the silvery light made for interesting photography conditions, and made colors pop everywhere. I had a wonderful time poking around the tidepools, seeing anemones, seastars, crabs, and fish. This particular crab, which was about the size of my whole hand, when I approached it, reared up on its back legs and snapped its claws at me! Twice! Raaarrr! I'd never seen that before. I burst into laughter, which I'm sure was not the intended effect. When it realized that I wasn't going to leave it alone, it began to burrow into the sand; that's when I decided to stop harassing the poor little guy. Just a few steps later, a fountain of water about four feet tall shot up out of the goo; I'd been spat at by a geoduck buried beneath the surface! (Actually, it was probably just being a geoduck and its fountaining had nothing to do with me, but it's fun to think of it that way.) Later on, I turned around to discover a great blue heron standing about ten feet away from me, surveying the shallows for snacks. It was a wonderful morning (see the Flickr set here). We then spent the rest of the day sitting on the beach relaxing, and watching a man get his beached sailboat back into the water.

I came out of it all sunburned for the first time in years. While I regretted the burn, I didn't regret the day. It was perfectly lovely.

Today I'm going to take advantage of the fact that I don't have to be anywhere and go to the zoo to finally visit the new meerkat exhibit. I'm so looking forward to it! Then this weekend, it's parties and Foolscap stuff. Busy busy busy!
scarlettina: (Default)
This morning I was awakened by the sound of a Northwest Flicker hammering on wood somewhere west of my building. It's a staccato drumming, and if one didn't know better, one would think it was an artificial, manmade sound. It made me both happy and sad.

Let me start from the beginning.

A month or so back, maybe more, I began to hear that staccato hammering on the metal covering at the top of my chimney like a soprano jackhammer echoing down a pipe. I'd heard it before and didn't really think about it. Then I began to notice a Northwest Flicker hanging around on the neighbor's roof. They're handsome birds with their striped wings, spotted breasts and flashy red bibs, and I was delighted to see it. At the time I didn't make any connections between the hammering and the bird, though if I'd been really paying attention, I should have.

About a week, maybe a week and a half ago, I noticed that Sophie was spending more than the usual amount of time perched on the living room window sill. Finally, I got curious and looked out the window. There, perched at a hole on an exterior wall of my building was a flicker. Beneath him along the line where the roof met the wall, a flurry of insulation was gathered, clearly stuff the bird had pulled from the hole. It looked as though he'd pried off a vent cover and pecked the vent hole large enough so he could crawl inside.

I had a moment of "Wow! Look at that healthy, handsome fellow!" immediately followed by "F*ck, there's a bird nesting in our attic." I immediately went to work with the condo board to get someone out here to eradicate the squatter.

But while I was waiting for National Bird Control to come and evict our new housemate, I enjoyed getting up in the morning and visiting him. Each day I'd find him sitting just inside the hole, his head poking out surveying the neighborhood. If I didn't open the window, he'd sit there placidly. If I made any sudden movements, he'd fly away. Sometimes, later in the day, I'd find him perched at the edge of the hole, as in the picture.

Yesterday, National Bird came, rousted the flicker, and checked for eggs (there were none). They sprayed taste deterrent on the wood around the hole and all the vents along that area. They screened up all the vents, and then hung a scare-eye balloon to keep the bird from returning.

So this morning, when I woke to hear the hammering of a flicker off in the distance, I knew my outlaw neighbor had fled. While, as a homeowner, I'm glad he's gone, I'm sad he's gone as well, because I'd enjoyed seeing him each morning, enjoying his penthouse view. I'm grateful I had a week or so of his company even if he was an invader. Maybe it's remnant guilt from the trimming of the big tree. But I'm sure he'll find somewhere else to nest. I hope it's a less invasive, more reliable location.

Tree mourning

Tue, Apr. 20th, 2010 11:17 am
scarlettina: (Candle)
Longtime readers of Scarlett Letters may remember me occasionally mentioning the large fir tree--nay, the giant fir tree--in my neighbor's yard, home to the family of Steller's Jays that visit me perennially. Well, the biggest problem with this beautiful tree was that the branches on the side closest to our building were actually so long and large that they were pushing up against one owner's window and growing out over our roof. The way that tree moves during storms, the branches struck the owner's windows and brushed the rooftops. It was a safety issue.

Yesterday, an arborist came and trimmed those branches away. Today, what I see out my window is an enormous tree, one side of which has been shorn of its branches for at least twenty or thirty feet. Actually, as I look out the window, it looks like a number of branches were removed from the tree adjacent to it as well.

Now, I know that from the perspective of safety, this trimming was the right thing to do. But my heart mourns the loss of those branches and all the habitat that went with them. I worry that our Jays won't return. The amputation sites of the branches are clean but, though I know trees don't feel pain, they look painful to me. The tree is large and it will survive; the trimming was needful. But I'm sad for the loss. I hope the Jays return; I loved watching them swoop past my window in streaks of brilliant blue or knocking idiotically at my living room window.

On a related note, I've been visited this morning by a house finch and his mate several times now, a handsome fellow with very rich red markings on his head and neck. A starling landed on my balcony to peer in my window quizically. And I've seen several fat, healthy robins pause on the neighbor's roof to say hello. None, of course, are rare or special, but they're the birds I see regularly here (along with the sweet, acrobatic chickadees that come by every summer), and they provoke an affection born of familiarity. They are a comfort in the shadow of our sad, shorn giant.

Urban eagles

Tue, Feb. 9th, 2010 08:27 pm
scarlettina: (Autumn)
One of the things I'll never get over about living in Seattle is how it exists hand in hand with the local environment--lakes and canals through the city, mountains on every horizon, and native wildlife pretty common. Most days--for years now--I've crossed the Evergreen Point Bridge from Seattle through the University of Washington arboretum, across Lake Washington to the area referred to around here as the Eastside (where Microsoft is located). Often, as I cross the bridge through the arboretum, I'll see Great Blue Herons hanging out on the Nellie Cornish Memorial Sculptures on either side of the bridge.

For the last week and a half during my commute, I've seen not only herons, but a big, handsome bald eagle perched either on the sculptures or on one of the streetlamps over the bridge. This bird is gorgeous, the king of the arboretum, regally surveying his domain. [ profile] greyjoy reports that he's seen a pair of birds--I want to see that, too!

I've written to the Seattle Audobon Society to see if anyone knows whether or not these birds are nesting in the arboretum. Apparently, Steelhead salmon run in late autumn and over the winter; I wonder if the eagles were looking for lunch. It would be wonderful to have bald eagles resident inside city limits. I know it's happened before, but this is the first time I've seen the birds so regularly. It's a very, very cool thing.
scarlettina: (Default)
I logged on to read LJ while preparing and eating breakfast. Suddenly, I hear a commotion and look up, out the window over my breakfast table.

Hanging from the gutter are two squirrels madly copulating. She's hanging on to the gutter for dear life with two paws while he's got his front paws wrapped around her waist, pumping away. She looks totally panicked. I wait for it...wait for it...and finally she can't hang on any longer. Thump! Down they go. They scatter to two corners of the balcony.

By now, Spanky has noticed the commotion. He's at the sliding doors that look out onto the balcony, and he's rapt. The squirrels are alternately sitting stock still and grooming themselves. I watched, then finally had the presence of mind to grab my camera and take some not very good pictures. Unfortunately, I missed photographing the aerobatic squirrel sex. This may be why my professional photography aspirations may never be realized....

Spanky on the prowl:

Squirrel, cornered:

Spanky: I don't know what it is, but it sure looks tasty:


Fri, Jan. 30th, 2009 05:31 am
scarlettina: (Huh?)
Did anyone else feel the shaking? 5:24 AM--I have a couple of necklaces dangling from my bedroom mirror that started to knock against the mirror frame and I felt the bed shaking (that's why I'm awake). I've checked the earthquake tracking site but haven't seen a report yet.

ETA: Found it! The quake was near Mount Constitution in the San Juans. See the instrumental shaking record here.

ETA 2: Here's more. Mag 4.6 at a depth of 35 kilometers.

Morning caller

Thu, Sep. 18th, 2008 08:49 am
scarlettina: (Happy Sun)
Over the last week or so, twice I've heard knocking on the window pane in the living room upstairs. This morning it happened again. I had a suspicion about what might be happening, but today I confirmed it. I crept up the steps with my camera and saw a great big Steller's jay knocking on the window with his beak. (It was absolutely a Steller and not a woodpecker of any kind. That color, that crest, can't be mistaken.) I moved a little too quickly. He noticed me, gave me the gimlet eye, turned and flew into the enormous fir tree in the neighbor's yard. He squawked a few times to express his displeasure at being disturbed, and then went silent.

For the last 7 years or so, I've been aware of the family of Steller's jays that nest in that tree. Though they have been known to peer into the apartment from my balcony railing--peeping jays--they have never until this year been assertive enough to call on their neighbor in quite this way.

scarlettina: (Happy Skip)
The last comes first: I had errands to run in Ballard today, so I decided to stop at the locks to enjoy the sunshine and to see which salmon were running the salmon ladder. Today's fish? Chinook salmon three feet long, fat and sassy. As it happened, the fish were extremely active. Not only was the salmon ladder full of fish anxious to get upstream, but out in the bay, the salmon were literally leaping out of the water. I've never seen such activity before. I also learned that if salmon are missing the tiny fin that grows immediately above their tail, they are hatchery salmon, not wild. I saw only two wild salmon in the ladders, not a happy phenomenon.

I also stopped and took some pictures of the flowers in the gardens around the locks. You can see the whole set, fish and flowers, here.

I posted my meager few pix from the Cougar Mountain zoo here.

And you can see pictures of the people I met and the coins I brought home from the ANA show here.
scarlettina: (Lion of Kenya)
If one can say that there's such a thing as a "neighborhood zoo" then Cougar Mountain Zoo might be its perfect definition. Nestled on the side of Cougar Mountain betwixt tidy new housing developments, this small but nicely composed zoo focuses on a strange and interesting combination of critters -- cranes, lemurs, Bengal tigers, cougars (predictably), many species of parrots and macaws, reindeer, alpaca and maybe one or two other sorts of creatures. It also features the largest collection of bronze animal sculptures in the country. A number of the enclosures were surrounded with chain-link fence which I found distracting and a little frustrating.

I arrived in time for the lemur enrichment and mini-lecture. I visited with each of the beautiful macaws (there will be pix) and then sat for about twenty minutes chatting with a sweet alpaca lounging in the shade. I spent time talking with a volunteer getting the inside scoop on the cougar and Bengal tigers, and marveled at the astonishing antlers on the zoo's collection of Siberian reindeer.

The Bengals are about a year old, one a golden (which makes him look like a ferocious, giant orange tabby) and one a royal white. The pictures on the zoo web site are up to date. Beautiful cats. The zoo is building a new, much larger and more natural enclosure for them. It won't be enough to take the zoo to the next level, but it will be enough to make more of an impression on visitors.

Nice visit overall, but I think the park is really geared toward families with little kids. It's small and somehow feels like exactly the sort of zoo one would find on the Eastside: very neat, lots of signs telling kids not to touch or climb on things.

I did take pictures; will upload and share them as time permits. Now, I'm going to sit in the shade and read. It's an air quality alert day today (heat + stagnant air for the urban corridor through the better part of the weekend apparently), and I want to take it easy.
scarlettina: (Science Geek)
The New York Times reports that scientists have discovered what triggers the northern lights. They picked up the story from the journal Science, where you can read the original report. This, my friends, is pretty damn cool.

I admit, however, that the romantic in me is a little sad. Another mystery of the universe is no longer quite so mysterious. It's still cool, though. ::grin::
scarlettina: (UFO)
(This first item comes care of [ profile] grubb_street.) Today is the 100th anniversary of the Tunguska Event, an enormous explosion that occurred near the Tunguska River in Russia, cause unknown. Pictures of the Tunguska Event appeared in many of the books about unexplained phenomena that I read as a kid. At that time, it was the pictures that entranced me, and I didn't really bother to read about the actual event overmuch. Present day theories suggest that the explosion was the shattering of a meteor or asteroid in the atmosphere over the spot. I don't know if any conclusive solution will ever resolve itself, but I like the meteor explanation. It's another reminder that we're still part of an active, changing universe.

This month's issue of The Numismatist includes some really cool stuff. Like every magazine, it has its waves and troughs. This month's issue is definitely a high spot. Among other stories, it includes an article showing a variety of souvenirs of American political conventions (some of these things are works of art). It also includes a large article about the new Arizona quarter. I gotta say: This is the first time I've seen the design and, with apologies to friends in Arizona, this design is a godawful mess. It's such a hodgepodge of imagery and it makes no sense. It includes a scene of the Grand Canyon, a large saguaro and other cacti, and a banner saying "Grand Canyon State". It comes together in no coherent way. I'm disappointed, especially in the wake of the simple, beautiful New Mexico state quarter. The canyon vista all by itself would have made a beautiful coin. I grumble. ::grumble::

This morning, on the way to work, I spied a large bird perching on one of the sculptures alongside the Evergreen Point Bridge. The closer I got, the more recognizable the bird's profile became. It was a bald eagle peering out across Lake Washington. If I have to go to work, that's not a bad way to start the week.
scarlettina: (Science Geek)
February 20, 2008: We'll have a total eclipse of the moon this week. Check the link for complete details and a map of totality. In the Pacific Northwest, if I'm reading the map right, we'll see the eclipse at moonrise, but my Back East Posse will be able to see the whole thing.

I love eclipses. They are magnificent reminders of our place in the universe and its beautiful mechanics. I hope we'll have a clear evening for viewing. I haven't seen a total eclipse in a very long time.

RadCon coverage will resume after I get a little rest.

Little things

Tue, Jan. 9th, 2007 11:37 am
scarlettina: (Autumn Leaves)
Things you notice when you spend the day at home: There's lots of urban wildlife in my neighborhood. Most obviously, there are squirrels. Squirrels everywhere. My condo is essentially the attic of my building, one of the reasons it's so hard to heat in winter and keep cool in summer. It also means there's very little between me and the sky. What's between me and the sky is the roof, which is apparently a thoroughfare for squirrels. I hear them galloping across the roof—thumpa-thumpa-thumpa—regularly. Every now and then, one of them leaps down either to the railing on my balcony, or the roof of the condo beneath mine, and we watch each other through my windows. The kitties peer at the squirrels with predatory concentration; the squirrels peer back, ready to bolt the moment one of the cats moves a muscle. I, apparently, do not figure into this Darwinian equation.

Thumpa-thumpa-thumpa: there goes another one.
scarlettina: (Wonder)
I have to bear this in mind. Sometimes you have to make your upsides yourself. Here's how I made mine:

Last night while I was still at work, I saw the person who may be my most congenial coworker in a sweatshirt and running shorts, which I'd never seen before. He usually wears a button-down shirt and dress pants, sometimes but not often a tie. Last night it was dark blue running clothes and scruffy hair. He hightailed it past my cube and I called him back, insisting I had to behold him in his scruffiness. (This was not the upside, though it was certainly entertaining.) Turns out he'd been running on the trail that meanders around the entire campus where my office is located.

I knew that the trail crossed a stream in a couple of different places, but as Congenial Coworker described his run, he mentioned something I didn't know: salmon spawn in that stream and they were, last night, splish-splashin' somethin' fierce. I promised myself a walk today to go see for myself.

Around 4 this afternoon I took a constitutional to the wooden bridge over the stream. It was remarkably warm for late September, sunny and clear and quite beautiful. The trail is canopied by trees and it's just a very pleasant place to walk. As I approached the bridge, I heard splashing from the stream. Sure enough, five or six salmon—red-bodied with gray beaks and greenish tails and fins—splashed and darted about in the hollow just by the bridge, dancing around each other, kicking up silt and gravel, and pushing their way past the bridge. At least two of them looked pretty engaged in burying eggs. Several others jumped the little rut in the stream and kept swimming past this particular spot.

I've lived in the Pacific Northwest almost 13 years. I've seen exhibits about salmon runs at the aquarium, and I've seen salmon migrating at the Ballard Locks in their salmon windows. But I've never seen this before. Not in person. I wasn't prepared for just how bright salmon red really is, or how almost-electric green their fins and tails become. But there it was before me: the salmon lifecycle at work. Very, very cool.

That was my upside for today.

Tomorrow's upside? Though I'll be working from 2 PM to 6 PM (a haf day when I thought it would be a full day!), I get to have lunch with [ profile] twilight2000 and her daughter Miss K and share this wonder with them. Yay!

Volcano neepery

Fri, Jan. 13th, 2006 10:24 am
scarlettina: (Science Geek)
The Saint Augustine volcano in Alaska cleared its throat a bit yesterday. There's a nice article and an impressive accompanying photograph (apparently taken by SF writer Michael Armstrong, who cowrote the piece). Nifty stuff. They say we may be in for more fireworks before Augustine is done. Kewl.


scarlettina: (Default)

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