October 31, 2014


Photo Courtesy of White Flower Farm

Still working on the details of Act III of my life. I was reading Mary Oliver's poem about peonies and their “eagerness to be wild and perfect for a moment before they are nothing, forever.”

I am not looking for perfection in Act III, way too many kinks to iron out and I am not going to spend the last 3rd of my life ironing! I am, however, eager to be wild in my old age. Not the wild of my twenties, which, when I look back, was not wild at all but more a controlled rebellion of my parents rules and regulations, as well as, societies strict guidelines.

Speaking of guidelines, my wildness was strictly within the guidelines of all the other rebellious twenty-somethings and that doesn't smell of wildness to me.

I want my 60's and 70's and hopefully, my 80's to be filled with laughing that challenges my bladder, sights and music and moments that make the hair on my neck and arms dance.

Tuesday evening several friends and I sat in the audience, swaying to the music of Patty Griffin and John Fullbright and it was incredibly difficult not to jump to my feet and dance. Patty moves with a grace and sensuousness from her soul while she sings. She is truly alive up there on that stage.

That's what I want out of Act III. I want my movements to be sensuous, not in the sexual way, but meaning that all my senses are alive and aware of the moment. I want to smell and taste color, I want to hear the sky, I want to feel the visible and invisible. I want my eyes to see, really see what surrounds me.

Our book club read Cheryl Strayed's Wild this past week, it was a second read for me, but it reminded me of hiking in Lassen Park alone last week. Granted, it was not the Pacific Coast Trail (because, frankly, that sounds a little insane to me) but I was alone in the trees and the mountain air. I was alone in the silence that is not silence but an incredible symphony of nature's living instruments.

Act III is beginning to weave itself into reality. I've decided there should be no script to follow; plans, yes, but nothing carved in stone, flexible for changes of the wind, of spirit or calls of the soul.

I will feel the wildness in acts of daily living, feel the joy of water running over my hands when I do dishes, I will dance while I vacuum, I will feel the blessing of warmth with each log I throw into the woodstove.  I will travel, sometimes with and sometimes solo. I will sing with all my heart (except for the tiny bit of heart that has pity for anyone in hearing distance).

In Act III, I believe, I will be a Peony, for a little while.

Peonies by Mary Oliver

"....the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding
all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary,
blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,
with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

October 28, 2014

Cut Paper and Maude WhiteHand-cut

Hand cut paper art by Maude White

I was surfing the World Wide Web this morning....(remember when we really called the Internet the WWW?)...

There are several artists blogs that I follow on a regular basis. They will often refer their readers to other interesting sites. Some sites are storytellers, using prose or poetry.  Some spin their stories through other means.

This morning I was introduced to Maude White. Her work is indescribable! All the paper is hand-cut and one piece.  "Exquisite" does not do the work justice.

After reading her Artist's Statement, she sounds like a friend I haven't met yet. She states that she has always been compelled to see what is underneath things or looking through things.

I have an addiction to the same habits, though my predilection includes looking into the shadows. If you go to her site and study the pictures she has mounted, the shadows will astound you...well, at least they astounded me!

Visit her. I think you will enjoy the trip!

Maude White

October 20, 2014

Mt Lassen Celebrates Autumn

Gold has often lead people to great downfalls. Yesterday, I confess, the promise of gold had me in it's grip most of the day. After dropping my husband off at a trail head just east of Hat Lake parking area, I headed out to capture as much gold as I could.

Returning to wait for Frank to hike back up the trail, I sat on a rock to finish reading my club book selection for Wednesday's discussion on the way to Ashland. 

The scream of a hawk made me look up! No hawk to be seen, but Mt. Lassen was right there, between the trees. How could I have missed taking her portrait the whole day. Now the sun was just about to set, putting the grand lady in a shadow and entirely too much glare.  I took the picture anyway.

They say "a picture is worth a thousand words" and this picture says it all. Gold is still capturing souls. I was so busy looking for the trees, I missed the forest, or in this case, the Queen!

After snapping a couple of photos of her Majesty, I read out loud to her and the hawk, sitting on a large rock. A wonderful end to a wonderful day.

The gold was there to be found, though, and I brought home some nuggets from my day of mining.

The Aspens were dressed in glorious colors, though the wind was blowing and with each picture a hundred leaves would dance around, then fall to the ground.

I found the tree to the left with almost all her branches reaching to the east. An unrequited love for the sun?

The sky to the north was the most brilliant sapphire blue; quite the background for leaves so orange.

Driving around Lassen Park, I would park my car here and there. Then take a short hike to the glimpses of Aspens spied through the green pines.

A devastating fire blasted through the park, destroying so much of the dense forest but thankfully many of the aspens groves survived. There is a large grove just south of Devastation Area; quite a hike in soft lava dust which is extensively undermined my ground squirrels. Not a fun hike for most and certainly not advised for anyone with bad knees or hips.

This is the grove that survived the fire, though right after the fire, the trunks showed signs of being scorched. We worried about them all winter but discovered fresh leaves on the trees last spring.

Here you can some of the trees that didn't survive; a very small part of the horrible loss the park suffered in the fire. The damage follows the road for miles.

For any of you that know me personally, you have to know how scary it was for me to stand this close to the edge of the cliff to get this picture.

Many prayers were said, with great reverence!

Frank hiked up the Hat Lake Trail and photographed another beautiful grove of aspens, then hiked down to this grove from the south side. I wouldn't advise anyone with heart problems to attempt the hike. It's a great hike down but an incredibly challenging hike back up!

When he returned to the car, I told him how easy it was to get to the edge of the cliffs. I found myself back there in minutes as he took the same shots which I will not be sharing with you because they were so much better than mine.  p.s. his camera is much better, his lenses are much better and he is much more knowledgeable about things like ISO, aperture, shutter speed. I just put the little black do-ma-jig to P and aim! 

Isn't it strange how we can be so focused on one idea or goal that we can become blind to so many wondrous things right in front of us?

All day, the goal was to photograph autumn leaves. Late in the day, I realized how beautiful the shadows are as they dance on the white bark. The contrast is lovely, especially surrounded by golden leaves, sapphire blue sky and pine needles.

How many other wondrous and whimsical events had I missed during the day?

I had missed the tiniest inhabitants of Lassen Park.

They were just as beautiful as the Aspens but much more shy, hiding behind the rocks and fallen stumps.

Can you imagine mountain fairies wrapping themselves in these little leaves at night for warmth; maybe using them for frilly skirts to waltz in at the Fairy Octoberfest?

Then, there were the pine cones, probably placed on the rocks by children as I believe they are way too heavy for fairies to lift.

There is a cluster of sisters whispering to each other as the breeze whistles at them.  What secrets do they share with each other? Are they planning their elegant spring gowns? Maybe they are discussing their longing for the coming winter nap when they sleep and dream under their white blankets of snow.

Forest friends. Are the pines promising to keep watch while the solo Aspens slumber?

Have you ever noticed how the aura of one tree will blend with the aura of it's neighbor?

These two trees look as if they are preparing for Christmas.

Can you imagine decorating your Noble Fir only with glistening balls of gold?

Santa would be sure to visit, if not just to admire your sense of style!

All in all, Lassen was beautiful yesterday.

I put the camera aside many times to just be with the trees and the mountains; to listen to the music of the wind. I even made some headway in the book, wondering if the old man ever made it to the mountains.

If we had waited, just one more day, all the leaves would be blanketing the ground. The trees would be bare. There is rain and wind and maybe snow in Lassen Park today. The prefect recipe for stripping the last vestiges of autumn from deciduous plants, rocking them to sleep for the long winter.

We'll be seeing you when the snow is deep enough for grandchildren to sled down slopes. We will make snowmen and have snowball fights.  Uncle John and Uncle Adam will prepare the perfect slide tracks. Auntie Ashley will race you down the hill. Auntie Becky will pull Nana out of the snow that has trapped her....again.  Uncle Brian, will hopefully enjoy the day and not break or twist any body parts. Auntie Nicole will photograph it all.

Nana will sneak back to the car and sip some peppermint schnapps, peel oranges for the adventurous kids and, perhaps, surprise them all with clean, dry socks!

October 14, 2014

October Ritual

"October is my favorite color!"

Have you heard that expression? It's true for me. October is my favorite color and my favorite month.

October is also the time of year that we head to Lithia Park in Ashland to photograph the leaves, check in on the Wood Ducks and stay at our favorite B&B.

We got there a little early this year and beat most of the color, though Lithia Park never disappoints. Even without being surrounded by brilliant trees dressed in yellows, oranges and reds, it is still an incredibly peaceful place to sit with a good book (or a good man).

I found a bench facing the upper pond. Now and then a small gust of wind would blow a little shower of leaves through the air and onto the surface of the water. At least 50 gold fish were swimming close by, darting away from me only when we were disturbed by ducks or turtles.

It was the perfect spot for soul searching. Peacefulness surrounded the space, enough so that an older person, in purple, found a protected bench and snuck a little nap in.  Even the ducks whispered as they passed.

I will be returning this week (depending on rain) or next with women from my book club. We are planning a picnic and discussion of our latest book. It seems to me that to sit on a colorful quilt, chatting away with such wise and loving women while nibbling on breads and cheese and fruit is always, always, a joy. But to enjoy such an event in Lithia Park will certainly grace the occasion, making it even more special.

When I am old I will wear purple and nap on park benches.
We did find some color in a tree, here and there, and captured all we could.

The sun played peek-a-boo from behind clouds all day, making it difficult to get any of the color back-lit, but my husband and I are planning another trip later in the month.

The lower end of the park was closed off to traffic when we first arrived. A concert was in progress and beautiful music floated up to us for several hours. Nice being accompanied with such wonderful energy. Music, trees, water, wind, mountains in the background....does it get any better?

Our annual drive up the canyon, counting the pairs of wood ducks and competing for the best photo of the weekend is always a special time.  Of course, I will never have the best photo but it's fun trying and the smack talk that comes with the competition is some of our all-time best bantering.  I do excel at banter and smack!

I love it when trees get in close and pose for me! 

"Now lean in so I can capture both of you!"
The sun broke out just as we were leaving the park.
Cameras loaded in back seat, tripod in the trunk, we jumped out and clicked a couple of more shots.

Our Motto: Dinner can wait! Photo Op First!

Only two pairs of Wood Ducks had arrived. They wandered all over the pond, chasing the gold fish and diving for other treats. The reflection of one of the bright orange trees made a perfect backdrop for that one-in-a-million duck pic. Do you think any of these guys would swim through it. That would be a "NO!"

One of the elegantly feathered male ducks would head directly to the tinted surface and six inches from the golden backdrop he would swerve left or right, followed by that peculiar wood duck laugh. Don't tell me it isn't a laugh...frustrated photographers know these things.

Surely, as anyone would have wagered, the white duck (not a spot of color in any of her thousand feathers) was in and out of the orange spot.

I believe she was smiling too! She seemed to be the queen of the pack. What does one call a bunch of ducks? Not a herd, not a pack...oh, yeah, a flock! And flocked they were!

All-in-all, it was a good day!
Recommendations for shooting in Lithia Park:
If shooting without a tripod, remember to skip the large blended Dutch Bros Kicker coffee on the drive up!
Watch for deer poop!
Put the camera down now and then and just enjoy!
Don't eat the gold fish!
Don't disturb any nappers, especially the ones in purple; it's their right as senior citizens to nap wherever inspired!

October 13, 2014


Dear Readers,

I love you all. You fill me with joy every time you send me an email or text sharing your disappointment that I haven't been writing.  In fact, even the lectures have been kind of ego-building!

When I retired Wandering and Wondering there were a little over 21,000 views. Since retirement, the views have grown to 22,377. It tickles me; over 800 visits to old posts.  I loved your comments and  the emails asking me to bring it back to life. I dug in my heels, crossed my arms and, basically, cut my nose off to spite my face.

Yesterday, I received a very stern sermon! Basically calling me out for letting a mosquito on a bear's back stop the press. The lecture was not all cliches but it did hit it's mark.

Wandering and Wondering is back on line, though I will still keep the merry troupe alive in my other blog, in spite of my lecturing proponent's lack of approval. (Can't win them all, dude!)

Thank you all, for your kind words and encouragement.