Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ringing in the New Year

Many holiday parties later, we are now poised on the edge of 2010. What a year 2009 has been for our family! Sometimes, I go a few days without visiting our new house, and then I go wander through the rooms, and marvel at all we have created. And at the end of this giant push of energy, we still like each other, and have a nice energy going between the three of us. I think that may have something to do with Karl's presence, balancing out our energies. Thanks for helping preserve our marriage, Karl :)

The photo I post today is the output from my new exciting photography tool, Photomatix. I took this photo of Apple Tree Ridge, looking to the north from our property, on a lovely, post-drizzley June evening, when the grasses were in full bloom, the hills were still green, and the scotch broom was blooming bright yellow. I can hardly wait to play with this software some more, if only the rain would let up. (I need to get out and shoot some new photos) Photomatix is software that lets you digitally crunch together multiple exposures, so that you can get landscape photos that have the correct exposure in the shadows, highlights, and midtones. How come no one ever TOLD me about this yet?! This is just a sample of what's to come. This photo is the only series I've yet taken with a tripod, which makes the results a lot better. Expect even more dazzling images in the new year. I can't wait to explore the edges of this!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Solstice-Birthday-New Year

It's been an appropriately moist late December, as we've rolled into the holiday merry-making. We've had a school program, a white elephant party, the Volunteer Fire Department Christmas party, my birthday, and the solstice gathering to come tonight, yet another Christmas party on Wednesday, and tomorrow night, caroling. And we have yet to celebrate Christmas with Drew's family, too. Lots of gathering together.

I've been reflecting on what all this gathering is about. It seems that the solar/pagan holiday of solstice has been divided into several Christian-related celebrations, but really what it's about is reflecting on the year just past, honoring those we appreciate by offering small gifts of appreciation (while simultaneously practicing the spirit of generosity and giving), and considering what we would like to cultivate in the coming year, either in our outward or inward life. I love this meditation! It is extra significant for me, as I celebrate my birthday the day before solstice.

So this year as the light rounds the bend and begins to rise in this sky again, bringing longer days, I am grateful for my family, and all the progress we've made on our house this year. I'm so grateful that I have so many dear friends who support and love me. I've made some great healing work this year, both assisting others, as well as looking inward to move old stuck energy out of the way.

Yesterday on my birthday, while wondering what focus I wanted to choose, I received the answer, "COURAGE". So this year shall be the Year of Courage. As in, a year-long meditation on what it means to choose the path that creates a greater state of balance, even if it feels harder or uglier in the moment. It involves honesty, and choosing personal integrity. No easy thing. But I'm looking forward to it.

So many blessings to you all in this darkest, reflective time of year. May you each find the appropriate path for your year, and feel blessed by all you received this previous year. May we all see each other as our higher selves.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Real Rain

At last, today, we are having a true rain event. There have certainly been bigger and heavier ones before, but take a look at this radar image from the National Weather Service...

All that yellow and red stuff is HEAVY RAIN falling right on top of us!

After a nice drizzle-y morning, things have turned to earnest rain, allowing our fresh road gravel to get watered in, giving the newly MRC-planted fir trees a drink, and I suspect bringing the water in the creek up. It does make yurt living a little loud, but since I'm going to work in a moment, that doesn't bother me so much. Besides, when it's been so long since we've had the real stuff, I admit to a feeling of excitement when that rain pounds the tent roof we dwell under. Here's to running rivers and happy frogs...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Secret Life of Meadow Voles

Today was a beautiful day, high popcorn clouds heralding a coming storm, but mostly sunny and a little warmer. After Ella came home from school, I suggested we go on an "adventure" to see if we could find anything interesting. Sometimes Ella is a little hard to enroll in such an undertaking, but today, it didn't take too much influence.

When she stepped out and noticed the clouds, she insisted we bring an umbrella because "I think it's gonna start to rain soon". I obliged, and we set off down the driveway. I offered that we might head out into the grass, and see what we could find. So we ambled freely for a while, following Ella's whims. We sat for a bit by an old scotch broom plant, where Ella peeled old straw stalks to chew on, like Drew does. Then she was drawn to an area she called a pond, which is really just a depression in our land.

When we arrived there, we found several areas of blond, lying-down grass. They made a nice, soft, comfy carpet of grass, and we laid down and remarked that it was kind of like a bed. Then I began digging down to the dirt, because sometimes, in this way, you can find a whole, tiny universe you weren't aware of before: insects, tiny mushrooms, miniature plants. I parted grass here and there, and found an animal runway, and there were droppings in it. Hmmmm....let's follow this and see where it....ACK! I found a mouse carcass. All that remained were its incisors, its spine, and its tail. Well, now I was really intrigued. Who killed the mouse and ate it in such a fashion? Why was it in this runway? Was it the original inhabitant? Or did it just end up there, deposited by the eater? Or had it died of natural causes, and decomposed? So many questions!

Now that my curiosity was piqued, I began uncovering a vast network of tunnels all throughout the grass. Just like our streets, there were crossroads, where the paths lead off in several directions. I found a hole, with some grass and broom branches sticking out. And I also found some cut grass lying in the pathway.

On researching, I find that I am likely uncovering the runs of the Meadow Vole, a grass eating rodent. So that answers that question, but not the wondering about whether the carcass was a vole, a mouse, and in either case, how did it die and who ate it? I had thought there was a carnivorous small mammal that might eat mice, but I'm not finding reference to it. Maybe it's not a mouse but a vole? Maybe I won't ever know...such is the mystery of natural history.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow at Sea Level

On Sunday night, Drew and I were awake in bed talking, while Ella snored away beside us. Being in a yurt, we are privy to each and every nuance of precipitation that passes this way, cringing when the winds pepper the sides with rain, and dozing off when the light, wispy, misty rains fall. In our talking, we didn't notice right away, but a moment after it began, Drew said, "That doesn't sound like rain." I agreed, and Drew said he wanted to have a look. So we grabbed flashlights, descended the creaky ladder, and opened the door of the mudroom out to the north.

AH! Our breath caught in our throats, as we saw with our own eyes that it was, indeed, SNOWING. I suppose it's really not such a big deal. It wasn't really more than a light dusting. We definitely see it on the ridges surrounding our home at least once a year. But it is a little unusual (though not unheard of) to have snow down here at our lowly elevation. It's so unusual that I found myself feeling the thrill of the first snow of the season that I remember when I was a kid. For those of you growing up in many snow-free California locales, this won't mean much for you. But for those of you who lived in snow country, the first snowfall was like magic, speaking of exciting things to come: snowed out school days! sled riding! snowmen! mom making hot cocoa! snow boots! ice skating! and white christmas! Bonus points for that.

We are still in our little cold snap here, with lows in the 20's the last several nights, and daytime highs in the 40s. We've had to keep the water running at night to prevent broken pipes and so we can have kitchen water in the morning before the day thaws. I've had to scrape the car windshield to take Ella to school. The cats are very unhappy. And we've been running the woodstove most of the time. But I have to admit that it feels kind of nice, encouraging a cozying up inside the house, drinking tea and reading a good book. Our mild winters here in California kind of cheat us out of the purpose of winter, to hole up and reflect on the year that has just passed. Normally, it's not nasty enough outside to warrant retreating indoors, and we feel guilty snuggling in slippers and scarves, because there is so much to be done. I mean, what about all the stuff we were too busy to handle in the summer?

So here's to snow and cold, frosty night, and to each of you who will hibernate a little, and enjoy the memories of your past year.