Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Repeat Post: Lizard Love or How Sydney Met Rachael

This is my first repeat post. I have been absent from reading your blogs for way too long and I want to catch up. I also want to work on a couple of future posts. Plus the house is a mess and the outside is calling with the promise of another gorgeous day. I chose this post because it is about Rachael and her animal educational program, Sydney's Legacy. This is how it all began:

I'm holding Sydney and Rachael is holding her other bearded dragon, Adelaide, December 2008.

This story may not be for everyone and before I go any further, I want to say that I am not in favor of keeping exotic or wild animals as pets. I have been to reptile shows and seen all the cute little snake babies that kids and grownups get attracted to and bring home as pets, failing to do their research. And then they get surprised when they realize the snake can live for over 20 years and be 20 feet long. Many of these animals are released in backyards, the Everglades, and other inappropriate places, when they become too large to handle. There has been a 75% increase in the acquisition of exotic animals for pets since the 1990s. Since many people can't even take proper care of their dogs and cats, I feel these critters are better left in the wild where they belong.
That said, once they are here, many need to be rescued and people need to be educated. And this is where my friend Rachael is providing such a great service. She has rescued several abandoned exotic animals and her mission in life is to educate people about pets in general and what you need to commit to before bringing any living animal into your home.
Rachael has named her educational program Sydney's Legacy. A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Sydney. He's a Bearded Dragon, native to Australia and, I know, it may be hard to explain this to someone who's never been totally charmed by a lizard, but I fell hard for him. Sydney is one of the most charming animals I have ever encountered and he has, in the past, inspired me to write a couple of stories about him. I want to introduce him to you here, because in the future, I'll be writing more about Sydney's Legacy. Here is the story of how it all began.

A True Story of the Love of a Bearded Dragon

When Rachael met Sydney, the bearded dragon, he was mad, all puffed up, and displaying his black beard. He sat in his carrier and wouldn’t come out, threatening to bite anyone who ventured close. Rachael, who had been given Sydney by a lady who could no longer take care of him, sat patiently by, waiting for him to calm down. But he wouldn’t have any of it. The trip had been long and scary, even for a bearded dragon. And who was this red-headed person anyway? Why did she take him so far away from all that he was used to? And what kind of place was this? Who lived here? Sydney thought he he'd seen a snake. What a snake, I have to live with a snake? The whole afternoon went by. Rachael sat next to the carrier, talking in a soothing voice, and trying to make Sydney come out. “Sydney,” she said, “come out and I will show you your nice new home. It’s a fine aquarium, with sand and branches for you to sit on. And your dinner is there all ready for you.” Finally, Sydney realized he was hungry and decided to come out and get some food.

After that first day, Rachael explained to Sydney and all the animals that they would never, ever, be sold or given away. Instead, they would all be educational animals, teaching children how to take care of their pets. An educational animal is a fine thing to be, thought Sydney. When she was done taking care of the other animals, Rachael would pick Sydney up. She would pet his scaly back and coo into his ear, telling him how much she loved him, how he was her number one pet. Then she would take him for a walk. Sydney treasured his walks with Rachael and he wasn’t scared of any animals they met, but he always kept a weary eye on the sky. He was a little concerned about the very big hawks that would sometimes fly above. But Rachael would calm him down, speaking softly, telling him that she was protecting him and that she would never ever let anything bad happen to him. Sydney, the bearded dragon, finally realized that he had arrived at a very good home, where he had found his person and true love in a red-head named Rachael.
That was the story I wrote a few years ago. And Rachael has been true to her word and her promise to Sydney and the other animals in her care.
Here are a few of Rachael's animals:

Cleopatra, the Ball Python.
Cleopatra again.
Shackleton, the Savannah Monitor lizard.
Adelaide, the Bearded Dragon lizard.
Gulliver, the California Desert Tortoise, 70 plus years old.

I tried to rotate this photo but it didn't work. Also, please note that Gulliver is at an event here. At home he has a large, beautiful, garden to roam all summer long and a snug place to hibernate for the winter.

Note that Rachael names her animals after important historical or fictional characters, and in the case of the Bearded Dragons, after cities in their native Australia. She then never misses an opportunity to tell the kids about, for example, queen Cleopatra, who legend has it, carried a Ball Python around her wrist as a bracelet.
Rachael's animals are all rescues that will always be cared for and loved. She will take them to meet many kids and adults as well. They will all have a wonderful purpose in life: To help Rachael teach children and adults about compassion for all living things and the five things ALL pets need: A home, food, water, medical care, and LOVE! And a commitment from the owner to provide these things for the life of the animal. And there is no one I know of, or have seen on TV, or any lecturer at any zoo, who is better at this than Rachael. So I wish her all the best and I'll definitely write more about Sydney's Legacy in the future.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

An Update

This morning, I want to welcome two new followers of my blog: Literary Lioness, who did not provide a link to a blog. If you have a blog, please leave a comment on mine and I can link up to yours that way. My other new follower is from New Jersey. When I saw the name of her blog: I knew I had to check it out. I spent most of my 20s in Princeton, N.J., so you know I have an arsenal of New Jersey memories of my own. 

You can almost see the grass grow!

I don't have a book review today, but I plan to work on a piece about Oracle Bones, by Peter Hessler, for next Wednesday. I have a need to get back to a more peaceful place within as the past few weeks have been pretty stressful. My husband, who doesn't want to be in this blog, has not been feeling well since he came up here in February. He saw a doctor here yesterday and while a few things showed up on tests there was nothing conclusive. If he doesn't get better in a few days, we will see his physician, whose office is in Pasadena, which is pretty far  from here. 

Some Texas-size tumbleweeds blew in during the recent storms.

I finished as much as I could on our business and individual taxes and my BIL will have his tax person do them. That's a relief. It seems as if the IRS wants you to have a tax advisor  do your business taxes. It was really difficult to find some forms and information. Other than that, I liked the IRS website, much to my surprise. It was easy to navigate and I could easily have e-filed our individual taxes. I'm glad that's over with though, now all I have to do is clean up the mess I'm surrounded by here. 

The small purple/pink flowers are back, covering the land.

It's a beautiful day in the canyon. I may just go out to the shed and charge up my lawnmower. The grass is growing like crazy and it may be the worst year yet for keeping it and the weeds in check after all the rains we've had. It's so pretty and green though. 

I hope I can rest like this.  

After I clean house a bit, I plan to just rest today and quiet my worried mind. Tomorrow, I want to start my walks with the dogs again. While they always run around quite a bit, they love their walks and I can feel how much they miss them. 

Or like this.

I try to keep my blog half-way cheerful at least, but sometimes life just catches up with you and I don't want to pretend that all is well when it isn't. Looking outside though, I believe spring has arrived and that it will be a gorgeous day here in the canyon. And that will cheer me up, for sure. 

Have a nice day, everyone.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spectacular Clouds

First I want to welcome Jacqueline Howett, a new follower of of my blog. Jacqueline is an author, poet and artist and when I looked up her blog here, I saw that she also reviews books, something that is of great interest to me, as I work on learning how to do that myself. I'm looking forward to getting to know you, Jacqueline.


It was a June evening at sunset, the ravens came home to roost on my wires, and I was outside with my camera. We had no idea what we were about to experience.

The eastern sky was cloudy and gray but

 in the west the clouds became lighter, reflecting the setting sun.

Keeping pace with the sun, the clouds changed to pink and patterns began to form.

A large leventicular cloud took shape in front of our eyes and 

I wondered when stone age people saw a cloud like this would they have had any thoughts of space crafts – just kidding.

Some cloud formations seemed to come at a great speed, hurtling toward earth, 

and it is easy to understand how legends were born around events like these.

Suddenly, the sky went wild  with color and zigzag patterns.

The large cloud came closer

and all I could do was stand in awe

point my camera and shoot a few pictures, but basically just watch this amazing display of sun and clouds.

As did the raven, who said to herself: I've seen some strange and beautiful things in this canyon, but this sunset takes the prize, or in my case, gets the worm.

Some of you saw some of these pictures last summer. I hope you enjoyed seeing them one more time.

Fran, the owner of the house with the elevator and the artist who made the stained glass window, wrote a comment late on that post, thanking you for your nice comments and wondering if anyone noticed the little worm she inserted in the window. Once I found out about it, I went back and looked and, sure enough, there it was, in the lower left corner. I loved it and the idea of putting it there even more.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

This is a Post About a Brilliant Idea, a Designer, a Builder, an Artist, and an Elevator

Art comes in many forms: 

In the vibrant colors of a stained glass window by our friend Fran, 

and in the form of a well-made structure of a more practical nature. The tall structure in the center of the picture is an elevator, designed by Fran's husband, Bud, built by my  husband, and with Fran's art adding enchantment to the finished product.

As you can see there are many stairs leading up to Bud and Fran's front door. And as we get older our knees start to creak and it gets painful to negotiate stairs like these every day. So what is one to do? Well, Bud decided to build an elevator. It had to sit in the right spot, it had to fit in with the house, and of course, it needed gazillion approvals by the city. All this took a long time, but Bud was not to be deterred. Once all the paperwork and approvals were in place, the work could begin and Bud hired my husband's company to build the structure that would house the elevator.

This is a picture of the work in progress back in 2009.  A structure like this needs to be perfect in ways I can only vaguely comprehend and won't go into here. Obviously, all the mechanical parts to be installed by the elevator company and the elevator itself have to fit in there, be quiet, and so on. And there was a concrete deck at the top of the stairs to be drilled through and the placement of several doors to be considered. 

I believe it was a job where inches mattered. And, of course, the structure had to look as if it had been there as long as the house and it couldn't be disturbing to the neighbors.

In the end the idea, the design, the building, and the art all came together here. 

I rode the elevator for the first time last week when we were in Los Angeles. It was quiet and beautiful inside and when you reached the top, you stepped out into this lobby. 

Fran told me she made the stained glass window for their beach house and had it moved to this perfect place.  My husband built the rest of the entrance and installed the floor. Fran's gorgeous window was a finishing touch I bet my husband never got to his work before. What a pleasure it was to step out into this beautiful place. I can imagine it must make Fran and Bud  feel really good to be greeted by such beauty every time they come home. 

Upstairs Fran showed me her art and I took some pictures.

I was attracted to the bright colors of these paintings, but there was so much more to see. I guess I was a bit shy about wandering around taking photos the whole time, but I wish I had taken more. Fran had a whole series of small, delicate pen & ink drawings of Victorian houses that were just wonderful. I love things like that and now I can't share them, but they are a part of my memory.

 I always liked old people's hands and these were beautiful.

And why not end at the beginning with this beautiful window. A great visit with two wonderful people who have been so helpful and kind to us. It was a pleasure to see your work Fran. And the ride in your elevator, Bud, was the highlight of my day in Los Angeles. Thank you both.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Donkeys and Birds

I wasn't going to blog today because we have to go to the dentist this morning. My husband has a toothache and he really needs to have it taken care of. Then I think we will visit with my brother-in-law, who had one side of his wooden fence completely blown away in this past weekend's storms. He has repaired he said, so he doesn't need my husband's help. It's just nice to visit there. 

Anyway, there are two questions I remember from your comments. -- How late does it snow here? -- Last year we got the last snow on May 23rd. We are at a bit over 4,000 feet, so that's the reason it still can get cold even into June. Then it gets so darned hot that I mark the time to October on my calendar. A little over 100 days. Not looking forward to that. Then Jim asked if I had thought about having a donkey. If I were younger and lived here I would definitely have donkeys. After I got to know them, working at the rescue, they quickly became my favorite animals. And they still are. Since I'm going on 71 now, I won't get one at this time in my life. I wish everyone would get to know and understand these wonderful animals, maybe some of the abuse they suffer would stop.

I saw this foal come into the world on a cold and windy December day. I will never forget it.

Some pretty birds came by here after last weekend's snowfall and I managed to get a few photos to share. 

Western Bluebird

With a smaller bird, that comes with a large flock: Dark-eyed (Oregon) Junco, I believe.

And the Western Meadow Lark that sings such pretty songs all summer long. Last year they came early too and started to build their nests. Then a couple of bad snowstorms hit and I never saw them again. I hope this won't happen this year.

I have to get ready -- I hope you all have a great day!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wednesday's Book

Brother I'm Dying
By Edwidge Danticat

This is a powerful book about love, life, and death in Haiti and in America.  Ms. Danticat writes about her love for her father, who emigrated to America when she was a little girl, and her love for her uncle who raised her in Haiti.

At the age of 12, the author moves to America to live with her parents. When the book begins, she is married and has just found out she is pregnant. At the same time she learns that her father is dying. As she tries to come to grips with these two realities, the book moves to Haiti and tells the story of her upbringing there, of her extended family and of life in Haiti. The chapters from Haiti are about family and about life in a country where the political situation, never stable, deteriorates and life gets more and more difficult.

At the end of the book, her uncle Joseph, who raised her, wants to come to America to see his dying brother. He obtains the proper tourist visa for entry into the United States and boards an American Airlines flight on October 24, 2004. He is 81 years old when he lands in the U. S. At the airport, he presents his passport and visa and then adds that he is seeking temporary asylum in the United States. It was not necessary for him to say this, at that time, and the people in charge at the airport became concerned and confused. So what do they do? They detain this 81 year old man and do they treat him well? No, they most certainly don't. He didn't have his medicine, he became ill, but the medic who examined him thought he was faking, so he wasn't treated. As his condition worsened, he was transported to a Miami hospital in shackles. Now, he is 81 years old, ill, and they put him in shackles! What is wrong with these people? He was first seen by a doctor 24 hours after he arrived in the emergency room. Eight hours later he was dead.

Ms. Danticat's father lived to see his granddaughter. The two brothers are buried in a cemetery in Queens, New York, and Ms. Danticat wrote a poignant last paragraph for her book - a spiritual acceptance and remembrance of these two brothers, who were separated for so long, but are now together. This is wonderful book of tragedy, faith, hope and love. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday's Treasures & Things

This Tuesday's treasure is an original painting by Susan Holm, titled "Touch my Grain Bowl and You’re History."

I love this painting: The sweet-faced donkey, who could so easily put the dog in his place; the dog, who is trying to look mean, but is not quite sure if the grain is worth a fight he may not win; and the aloof cat, looking the other way. 

If you want to put some sunshine in your day, if you want to smile a huge smile, if you want to just feel happy, please check out Susan's web site: There you will find paintings from Susan Holm's farm, inspired by her interactions with the animals she rescued that now live on the farm.

I don't know Susan Holm, I found out about her art at a silent auction at the rescue next door, where I bought this painting. But if I had money to spare, my home would be filled with her art.

Monday, March 21, 2011

You Gotta be Kidding -- First Day of Spring!

Welcome Vintage Christine, Flora, and Ioana, new followers of my blog. Click here to see some beautful photos on Ioana's blog from Romania. Christine and Flora didn't put a link on their Follow forms, so I can't link back to their blogs. If you read this and if you have blogs, please leave a comment and I can find your blogs that way. Thanks!

Samson Says: First day of spring? 

You gotta be kidding!

Then a note to my blogger friend, Sandra. I can't leave a comment on your blog. The cursor will not fasten on to the comment box. Sometimes there is a small period in there, other times not. I just want you to know that I do read your blog regularly and I love the way Zoom Zoom is growing up so pretty. I will leave this on my blog most days, until I hear back from you. If anyone can help with this problem, which has gone on for months, please let me know.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Morning Reflections

You whose day it is, 
make it beautiful.
Get out your rainbow colors
so it will be beautiful.

Nootka Indian song
to bring fair weather

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Day Trip to Los Angeles

On Tuesday, we went to Los Angeles. I haven't been there in two or three years and the traffic was really hard for me to take. I looked at all the cars and wondered how I could have lived there for so long and never had a car accident. But get in a serious one up here, where there are practically no cars. Merging from our freeway on to Interstate 5 was a nightmare, but after that I managed to calm down and enjoy my day.
I lived in Los Angeles for 30 years and I really liked it. I'm not one for cities like New York or Philadelphia, two large US cities that I am familiar with, where you live in a true cityscape.  In Los Angeles, you have your garden, your lawn; you can grow oranges, lemons, avocados and all kinds of flowers. In our garden we had hummingbirds, mocking birds, and mourning doves, in addition to pigeons and crows.  Visits by opossums were common and raccoons could be seen wandering down the sidewalks at night. 

I tried to show some of the big city/small town contrast here. Century City skyscrapers are in the background and small, single family homes, in the foreground. Believe me, with hubby driving and on a mission to accomplish a lot of stuff while in the city, I didn't have a chance to take any well-composed photos. 

Spanish style homes in a typical Los Angeles neighborhood.

This is the street where our Los Angeles house is located. We didn't stop outside our house, we just drove by. The trees you see lining the street are jacarandas that are covered in deep purple/blue flowers in the spring. We have bougainvilleas in red, orange, white, and pink covering our 7-foor wrought iron fence there. It is really a very pretty street and neighborhood. And you can't beat the location: right between downtown and the beach, just east of Beverly Hills, it is close to the Farmer's Market, the by now celebrity famous Grove Mall, UCLA, where I worked, and so on. I lived on this street all the time I lived in L.A. and I met both my husband, who was my neighbor, and my best friend, Lin, also a neighbor here. So I will always have fond memories of this Los Angeles neighborhood.

Another view of our street. Again, not a very good picture, I know.

A busy L. A. street. I think I tried to capture the Hollywood sign, but was too far away. I got some billboards though -- they line the streets here.

While we were at a gas station, a blue Santa Monica bus passed by, evoking memories of my years on the west side of town, working at UCLA. I used to take the bus to work the last 10 years or so that I worked. I probably walked a couple of miles each day because I left my car at home and, believe me, riding city buses can be weird, sometimes scary, sometimes touching your heart, sometimes making you laugh. One could write a book about the characters that step on to a Los Angeles MTA bus. Don't know if anyone would want to read it, but that's another story.

After all our errands were done, we headed home.  After a long, tedious, drive up the hill that marks the end of the west side of Los Angeles, we head downhill to the San Fernando Valley. You really feel the difference in temperature as you go over the top of this hill and down into the valley, a very hot place in summer and really warm now.

Here we are on a different freeway, leaving Los Angeles and its suburbs behind. There are places with some magnificent rock formations that I didn't have much of a chance to capture. Here are just a few of them.

They put netting on the hillsides here to prevent the soil from coming down. We had so much rain this winter and that always creates a delicate situation in the hills.

You probably can't see them, but on top of two of these steep hills, and I mean steep, people built a couple of large homes. The house on the right has been there for as long as I have driven this freeway. It looks like the house is all there is room for at the top of the hill. A very, very steep road leads up to it and I think living there would leave me in a constant state of vertigo. 

A lake in Palmdale, I think it may be part of the Los Angeles aqueduct, which is close by in any case.  Don't you love a blogger, like me, who doesn't know a thing about stuff? Anyway, when I drive by here, I always think of the movie Chinatown and the struggle to get water to the Los Angeles basin.

The great Mojave Desert was covered with bright yellow flowers. Again, I have no idea what kind they are. But one thing I know for sure is that this vast desert is beautiful in its own special way.

We know we are not far from home when we approach these mountains and see the wind turbines. It was a very busy day and a tense one for me with all those cars and all that driving that I'm no longer used to. But it was a lot of fun to go on a road trip with my husband and to visit our friends Fran and Bud and ride in their elevator. 

More about this elevator and Fran's art work is coming soon. I also want to welcome a couple of new followers with names and links. And read more of your blogs, I feel like I don't know what you are up to any more. I am still drowning in paperwork here today, so soon. Have a great weekend!


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