Friday, January 30, 2015

An Adventure Tale, by MJR and DDB

 (A listening tale for a young girl learning french. My apologies for the lack of accents. )


                                                  The Lost pink

        One bright winter’s day a pink puzzle piece, eager to see the whole wide world, went riding in a car with a little starry skirted girl. The girl’s name was Marguerite and she did not know the piece had come along. The puzzle piece had slipped from a table, landing in Marguerite's sparkly blue chaussure earlier that morning. The piece was a lovely shade of rose so we shall call it Pink. Pink traveled with Marguerite to her French lessons at Miss Elka’s house and was discovered as they spoke about who brushed Miss Marguerite’s long blonde cheuveux in the mornings.  A stowaway! After being discovered, Pink lay on la table listening to every word that was said. Pink loved the sound of le francais.
      After her lessons, the girl and her Gran-mere met her Mama, her Tante Audra, and her cousins Zaneyboy and Robaby at the Cafe Bonjour for brunch.  Pink remained in the car during brunch, alas. When they were finished eating, Marguerite and her  Gran-mere took a short side trip to a nearby librairie in search of un livre and a music box. 
        When they arrived at  la librairie Marguerite jumped out of the car, accidentally brushing Pink out onto the pavement. No one noticed, then or later. Pink lay on the pavement in the sun, waiting for Marguerite to come out of the store for what seemed like a very long time. Unfortunately Pink had landed on the pavement face down so it was nearly impossible to be seen.
     At long last Marguerite and her Gran-mere did come back, but quickly got back into their car and drove home without noticing Pink was missing. Soon another car pulled into the parking spot. The car door opened and un petite dog named Miss Chein jumped out, sniffed Pink thoroughly, and ran on, chasing a blackbird that hopped out from underneath the car.
      Of course, Miss Chein’s owner quickly clicked her onto a leash and away they went in a terrible hurry. The oiseau returned, picked Pink up in his sharp black bill, and flew up into the blue ciel, up and up, over the tops of le librairie, past St. Elijah’s eglise and back to its nest in a tree with twisted branches which grew behind a house at the very end of Panther Way. The black bird gave Pink to his wife as un cadeau.  The wife, let us call her Bloomflower, tied a bit of string around Pink and wore her as a necklace all that long day.  
       Later, as Bloomflower and her mate were flying above  Angie Debo ecole, a gust of wind suddenly tumbled them over and over and the necklace slipped off  Bloomflower’s  neck.  It floated down, down, down, landing, BANG, on the top of a jaune school bus.  It was bus #50 and Pink hit hard, slid down the roof and in through an open fenetre, landing on the seat beside a tall brown-eyed boy named Brendan.
     Brendan picked up the piece, looked at it, glanced out la fenetre and put Pink into the pocket of his Creeper backpack, along with his Kleenex, Bandaids and Chapstick.  Pink did not feel at all well after the long fall and the hard landing. In fact, it forgot its good manners completely, not even bothering to say bonjour to the bandaids or chapstick. As a matter of fact, it turned its grey back to them both and let a tiny pink tear fall onto the Kleenex.
    What a tristesse little puzzle piece! Pink wished it had never wiggled off la table that morning.  It had wanted adventure but found that it was beginning to miss its pink puzzle amis, as well as les vertesles rouges and even those terribly annoying bleus, un peu.
      The bus ride was long and bumpy. To pass the time, Pink ran through some of the new French words it had learned that morning while hiding in Marguerite’s sparkly chaussure at French lessons: roi, rhinoceros, robot, rat, rose….all words beginning with the letter R.  Finally the bus screeched to a stop.  Brendan hurried down the steps and ran all the way a sa maison. 
     One of the first things he did, after hugging his petit frère, Everett, was to tell his mom the story of the piece de puzzle that had fallen through the bus window. He took it out of his backpack to show her. His little sister Marguerite (yes, the very same Marguerite!) was so hereuse to see Pink that she jumped up and down in her sparkly blue shoes, laughing and clapping for joy. "C'est ici! C'est ici!" she cried.
       Marguerite told Brendan the story of losing Pink and took him over to la table to see the finished puzzle. Sure enough, there was only one empty spot, just the size of the piece he held in his hand.  He quickly slipped Pink into place and it was a perfect fit, bien sur.

       And they lived happily ever after….most of the time.

                                                            The End
  By  Grandma Blakley and Maggie J

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Love Thursday

Sadly, we seem to have wandered away from Love Thursdays. I like them.  They helped to keep me looking toward 'all that is lovely'.  Here is one for you.
    I love homemade biscuits, especially when there are small hands to help. Smiles all around.

Happy Thursday: Hip, Hip

As refreshing as summer rain comes a day in mid-winter, a jewel in a setting of dead-leaf browns and biting winds.  Yesterday, January 27, my Great Grandfather's birthdate, dawned bright with sunshine and warmed into the 80s.  I walked out in search of beauty, as I often do after three months of cold and gloomy days.  I found these two brave souls grinning beside new shoots of daffodil.

In the silent fountain, barely moving, I spied these three golden beauties out for a swim,  looking for something new and exciting to snack on. A bug perhaps? Anything with wings and wiggly feet? Ah, not yet my dears. Patience. Algae and fish food for now, alas.

      There were a few fresh green leaves sprouting from the base of one of the mums, optimists if I ever saw one, and the ballerina shoots of Dutch Iris, always up way too early, frost nipped already.  Each Spring I think to myself, 'I should lift these after they have died back so they will come up later next year.' Every year.  But by the time they have died back there are fresh tomatoes to pick and can, bright yellow squash to steam for lunch and beets, red as rubies, begging to be pulled and pickled. The lifting never happens.  The Iris manage to bloom beautifully anyway, here beside a memory of days long past. They have adapted, apparently. Adaptation... an important skill which it would behoove us all to add to our repertoires.

     There followed quite a bit of walking over crunchy grass, looking for signs or color.  Not much to be seen, I must admit. A few pink buds on the Quince bushes, getting ready. Sparrows twittered in the tangle of Mock Orange, giddy with the fair weather. At this time of year it becomes ridiculously easy to find all the eggs that went unfound during the hunts of Easter last.  The Easter Bunny must of thought this was an especially lucky spot. Here it is, January, and still they lay here, waiting to be spotted and clutched in a small, warm hand. I left them. Who knows?
        The young Morning Glory I transplanted beside the chicken wire Tipi is still green and has one pale green hand reaching upward toward the wire.  Soon the entire structure will be covered and fragrant with honey. A home for bees and a shady spot for someone younger than I to sit with a cat and watch the world go by.  
   The new gardens were crying for water.  I know treated water is not the best for them but it is better than nothing and nothing is what we have been getting from the sky lately.  Every plant and bulb got a good drink, all round the circle.  I see the roses will need to be trimmed but not yet. 

      As I watered and sang, talked to the cats, noticed furred heads of Indian Blanket wobbling bravely in winter sun, this sweet bell played the counterpoint, random silver notes winging skyward.  (The cat plays this bell with her tail as she walks underneath it. I have witnessed her doing it more than once. Love it!)                                                                                   Madame Wisteria, her hair in wild disarray, is badly in need of staking.  I so hope she is able to bloom this year after coming so close last Spring and then freezing on the very night she was set to open. "Don't count your chickens (or your Wisteria blossoms) before they hatch."                   I am eager to see the new tulips my sister and I planted late last Fall.  They are planted plenty deep and not a one is poking its head up  yet.  I hope they make.  Some were tucked in, green with mold, as late as early December. We'll see.  Bulbs are resilient. Bulbs laugh at mold. 
     I decided to brick up the small south opening under the house. A 'Something' as been taking up residence under the south bathroom, much to our chagrin, and I hope this seals it out, as opposed to in.  Much better.  I'll check it again today to see if there are signs of attempted forced entry. 
      Maggie's Wood needed water as well so I watered the east half and will do the other side today. Our friends the beavers have ventured into her wood now and are chewing on the SoapBerry trees.  Those are volunteer and doing quite well, naturally.  All the ones I have planted and babied are wrapped in chicken-wire and show no signs of attempted munching.  I went to town later and purchased some new shotgun shells.  Since I can't seem to get hold of the game warden I guess I'll take matters into my own hands again.  We are west of the Mississippi after all.  Pioneer justice.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Raptors: A lesson in birds

Is it just me or do some of you have this problem as well? Hawks….well, Raptors as a class of birds.  I look them up in my bird book, study their differences, becoming confident in my ability to tell them apart on the branch or wing and then I drive past one, perched on a fencepost, and I'm not sure…..
     Here are five of the most common in my area of Oklahoma. I will try to give you some clues as to which is which and how to tell. Think size, tail shape, head shape and then coloring.
Buteos: These are large, stocky birds with broad wings and wide rounded tails.

Ferruginous Hawk: The largest of the Buteos, measuring 22' to 27' in length, having a wingspan of 4 to 5 ft.  They have either a light or dark morph. They hunt in open prairie, like Red-Tails and will take food from other birds if they choose to, since they are larger.
     Legs are fully feathered, in the same rough mottle as the belly. Light banding across width of tail and dark 'commas' at edge of dark coloring on tops of wings in flight. They fly with slow, smooth wingbeats and soar with wings either in slight V or flat. They are often mistaken for small eagles due to their size.

Red Tailed Hawk: This guy is fairly easy because of the reddish brown tail in the adult.  You can see the red even when they are in flight and the body has the whitish, streaked with reddish brown chest and belly. Red-Tails love the edges of woods, roadways, plains, sit on fenceposts along highways as well as high in the bare trees of the winter landscape.

Rough -Legged Hawk: Similar in size to the Red-Tailed Hawk but wings and tail are longer. This bird is native to the Arctic and winters in our area.   When in flight it will look whiter underneath with a blotched belly and two dark spots at 'wrist' as well as dark outlining of wing edges and tail. Rough-Legged Hawks are one of the few raptors that hover on beating wings as they hunt. They get their name from the fact that their legs are feathered all the way to their toes, one of only a handful of hawks whose legs are not bare.

Accipiters are smaller than Buteos, have shorter, rounded wings and longer, straighter tails. They prefer to hunt in forests and thickets because they are able to make quick, sharp turns. Our two most common are:

Cooper's Hawk  ((10' to 14')                                                                Sharp-Shinned Hawk (14'-20')

      These two are pictured side by side so the differences are easily seen. They are both smaller hawks,  having short wings and long tails for speed and maneuverability. Sharp-Shinned hawks prefer more urban areas most of the time and Cooper's Hawks prefer the open prairie.  You can see that the chest barring is very different; Sharp-Shinned Hawks are a dark grey on the backs and they have a smaller head, although overall they are larger than the Cooper's Hawk.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ten On Tuesday: 1/20/2015

1. Today was Brendan's 8th birthday. As I watched him tearing into presents I replayed in my mind the day he was born.  I flew up to D.C. to be there for Abbey; landed at Dulles and took the rail into the center of town, coming up the tall escalator right at the doors of GW Hospital where absolutely nothing was going on in the labor room.  Jingleboy and I made ourselves comfortable and Abbey began to be more and more uncomfortable. I remember it well and here he is a big eight years later, master of Skylanders and Minecraft, reading on a sixth grade + level, zooming around the neighborhood on his bike, ice skating by himself on the Devon rink, being a wonderful big brother.  A lot has happened in the past eight years. Wow. Good thing we don't have a crystal ball or we would probably go crazy.

2.  I finished my most recent book, All The Light We Can Not See, by Anthony Doerr, an American writer.  I highly recommend it. It is written in a very unusual style: the chapters are extremely short, three pages usually, they are written from the perspective of a young, blind girl in France in the early '40s, a brilliant fifteen year old German boy in Hitlers special school, and, later, an cancer riddled officer in the German army who is searching for a world famous blue diamond with supposed powers to heal. The time in those chapters may be in the past or the present of any of the three main characters.  I loved being able to see the past and the present progressing along side by side. If that kind of thing bothers you you should let this one pass.  The writing is beautiful and full of sensations that would be so important and vibrant if one were blind, like the girl.

3.  I am on snuggle duty with little Rowan today, double ear infections, while mama works.  Zane doesn't feel up to his usual self either so we are all taking it easy and letting the immune systems fight the good fight through sleep. Hot little bodies.

4.  We had a nice birthday party over at Abbey and Brent's for the birthday boy, just family this time.  I like those. Sadly, Grammie was sick and couldn't make it. B chose the menu which was corn-dogs, mac and cheese, veggies and dips and cake and ice cream.  Why not? Before B got home from school
Maggie, Zane, Everett and I had a big lego 'free build' party at the table while Abbey worked on finishing the cake and little Rowan played in the toy kitchen. I like free builds a lot. There are no rules and imaginations run wild.

5.  This week the weather has felt like pre-Spring, upper fifties and sixties.  Such a relief from being huddled against the cold for so long.  The fountains and ponds have thawed for the first time in weeks. When actual Spring comes I will have to get someone to come out and install a couple of new standing faucets since both of mine are leaking now. I have diverted the drips into gardens so the water is not wasted.  I should feed and water my trees in the wood because we have still not received any moisture. It is terribly dry here (this is becoming a mantra) but what can you do.  No rain, snow or sleet, just cold and wind.

6. Spices have been selling well during this month of football bowl games and playoffs. The Superbowl is right around the corner, throwing open the doors to February with Valentines Day up ahead.  The spice business is good so far.  We have gotten in a few new blends, namely the Buffalo Wing Sauce and a Buffalo Bleu Cheese Dip blend. Both are delicious and Able says he wants to stockpile the wing sauce for himself just in case they decide to stop making it….ever.  Yummy.

7.  Oil prices remain stalled in the low position. The new congress is in their seats and the state of the union speech happened.  I have fallen off the Feeder Water wagon again due to my erratic schedule and my forgetting to count birds.  I do notice if any new birds are around…they aren't.  The hawks have discovered that there is a lot of easy food to be had when I fill the feeders. I see them swooping through the yard now and then. The birds have an excellent alarm system however and the hawks usually go away empty handed.

8.  I have succeeded in changing up my diet with many more veggies/fruits in the mix and far less bread, junk food and ice cream.  I am making myself take more walks and am loving it. Well, my feet don't love it but the rest of me does.  I have a goal.

9.  The cats are super pissed at me because they don't get enough attention. What's new?
    I don't like to sit outside in fifteen degree weather with a stiff wind out of the north for any reason, least of all to pet a cat or two. The can just cope until it warms up a bit. No, I am not letting them inside. I can hear your thoughts you know.

10.  I journeyed downtown to the Civic Center Music Hall to see the Broadway touring version of the musical Once. I absolutely loved it. It was odd and wonderful in that all the actors also doubled as the orchestra. When they were not onstage, and lots of the time when they were, they were playing one of several different instruments.

Uh oh…was that a tiny boy cough? Gotta go. Much love.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Day In The Woods

      Went to church today.  Tied on my hiking boots and strode south with the light of our star full on my face. The cats came.  Passing lines of baled hay, waiting their turn, I wondered at all the small creatures that must take wild rides when their particular bale is lifted and carried on the spike to huddled, waiting cattle, hooves stamping with impatience, heads butting others out of the way.  Winter is difficult for calves and for bred cows but they usually make it through.
      I walked  past the tank battery and slip/stumbled my way down an incline and into what I fondly refer to as 'the cathedral', a wide open space with branches arching across the top from all sides.  I can barely see the sky in summer.  Today the space was full of bright air, almost shining with winter.  No snow, but the smell and silence of this frosty season. The creek was running clear, a large stingray shaped slab of ice gliding past, just below the surface, soundless as it rode the current through sun sparked water.
      Praise all that is holy, the water pump was silent as well.  Ahhh…such a relief. I will be happy when that monstrosity is gone for good. There was much more evidence of the beaver family's presence.  Yes, I have called the Game Warden, twice. No answer. I will hit redial and try again tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. The dastardly little beasts (the beaver, not the wardens) are still trying to do some damage on the giant Cottonwoods but not making any progress to speak of.
       I know these woods are full of creatures but saw very few; one white tailed deer, bounding away with a huff, and one slow, supremely unconcerned armadillo. I'm thinking it must be fairly slim pickins for that little guy this time of year. There was another one in my own yard today, a teenager I believe.  Armadillos can't see squat and can hear even less. It's a wonder they survive at all…I suppose the full body armor helps.
      This dead Cottonwood, having lost all its branches still offers itself as shelter to those seeking such. Generous indeed.

     That lower home looks like it was cut with a saw, but it wasn't. This hole reminds me of Rabbit or Pooh's home in the Hundred Acre Wood stories.  There were no honey pots inside. I looked, as did the cats.

    When I wander the woods alone I am usually remembering the many times I have tramped through them with my own children and, more recently, with theirs.  There is always something new to notice, to discover, even for me. Things that rustle in the grass but forever remain unseen.
     The woods are a place where your imagination can run wild, along with your feet. Today I did no singing, leaving that honor to moving water and sentry birds. There are no secrets from the birds and, hence, from every living thing that gives them attention.
     The cats, when they accompany me on these rambles, rarely stay nearby. They wander and hunt, thoroughly sniffing everything and staying extremely alert every second we are among the trees.  They hear much that I, apparently, do not and are always delighted to turn their noses homeward, rollicking along ahead of me, tails arched sideways.
     A quiet day that did me a world of good.  I feel very different in the woods now than I did four years ago. Now I am part of the woods, like the trees themselves and the running creek. Then I was in need of healing and comfort. I'm okay now. I am way around the bend and looking ahead. Being.
Being happy and myself.