Moment of Beauty: Cherry Blossom Rain by Jane

Fruit Tree Blooming Season here was a bit tricky – we had lots of gorgeous blooms, of course, but we also had rain. Rain rain rain rain rain and heywhodaguessedit more rain. There would be these glorious intervals of sunshine, but they’d either be gone by the time you dug the camera out or they happened when you were otherwise occupied.

It made taking photos nigh impossible. But oh, the result when you could grab one of those moments and run with it! Jane caught a sun break with her new smartphone: a fleeting instant of breathtaking beauty, preserved with such clarity that you can feel the cool, rainswept breezes from the storm clouds and taste a perfect drop of rain on soft petals.

Image shows a cluster of cherry blossoms covered in raindrops.

“Here’s my picture of the cherry blossoms bursting with raindrops taken with a silly phone!” Image courtesy Jane.

You know, I never thought anything would make me pine for rain again now that we’ve finally had a few days without, but all of a sudden, I wouldn’t mind a few drops of the stuff.

…   …   ……….

You know what, let’s settle for a sprinkler instead.

I Think Jesus Probably Hates You

There’s a preacher man on The Ultimate Fighter 19. A lot of MMA fighters are religious; B and I have a good eye-roll at the ones who ink crosses and bible verses all over their bodies, and the ones who fall to their knees thanking God for helping them beat the shit outta that other Christian. But this is the first time I’ve seen an actual preacher in the cage.

Todd Monaghan getting ready to fight Daniel Spohn, TUF 19.

Todd Monaghan getting ready to fight Daniel Spohn, TUF 19.

I don’t think God actually likes this preacher – Todd Monaghan – very much. I mean, sure, Todd got to live the dream by submitting his opponent with an arm bar, thus winning a spot on the show. So far, so “God loves meeeee!” But then he got defeated his very first fight against an opponent who didn’t seem to like hitting preachers in the face. Daniel Spohn (who got into The Ultimate Fighter house by knocking a tough dude out cold in front of the dude’s mom) pretty much just dumped Todd on the ground and kept him there for the entire fight. His corner screamed at Spohn to score some points with some ground-and-pound. Dana White, lord and master of the UFC, nearly puked with boredom. But Spohn just kind of hugged and squeezed, while Mr. Man-o-God did not listen to the excellent advice being screamed at him by the two legendary fighters coaching him. Perhaps he couldn’t hear them over the sound of his praying. It ended with Todd basically being cuddled to defeat and the man who could make-or-break his MMA career thoroughly disgusted with him. God works in mysterious ways, eh, Preacher Todd?

Daniel Spohn hugging Todd Monaghan into submission.

Daniel Spohn hugging Todd Monaghan into submission.

Alas, he’s around for the whole season, because losers stay in the house to watch everyone else win. And he probably now believes God only wanted him there to win souls. Sigh. Happily, most of his preaching appears to have been left on the cutting room floor.

But it’s not the defeat that makes me think that if Jesus actually exists, he can’t stand Preacher Todd. It’s not even the fact Jesus doesn’t seem to want him preaching the gospel on teevee in between yakking to the audience about the other fighters. It’s the stuff Jesus has done for him that makes me wonder.

You see, Preacher Todd is a man who has been blessed by God. We got to hear all about it the Sunday before his defeat, when he gave a little sermon to the guys about how his life had been soooo shitty before God. He told ‘em how he’d been adopted by a white family in Iowa, who protected him from gangs and stuff, but couldn’t do his African-American hair right, so the black kids teased him. So he got into fights, and the next thing he knew – bam – he started “selling things I shouldn’t sell.” His life of crime doesn’t sound at all bad: all that robbing and stealing got him lots of nice things in college. He’d make at least $1,000 per weekend, so he had all the “ladies” he wanted, 5 pairs of gold teeth, more shoes than Imelda Marcos, and apparently no jail time worth mentioning.

Then his neighbor got all up in his face with some bible verses and knowing Christ as his savior, so he decided to do it “God’s way.” He didn’t say what that is, but did assure everyone that God blessed him with a Jaguar for his very first car after converting. Coulda been a Pinto, and “materials” aren’t important, he sez, but God gave him a Jaguar. And he’s not bragging or materialistic or anything, but God’s also blessed him with a camper and a boat and a brand new Tahoe. We weren’t told if the gold jewelry and Rolex watch he wears are also blessings or were purchased with the ill-gotten gains of his youth, but God surely has blessed Preacher Todd with many nice vehicles. That’s what you get when you are, and I quote, “taking care of business” for the Lord.

This is the point where I started laughing my ass off – I mean, seriously, a Baptist MMA fighter spouting all this Prosperity Gospel bullshit? LOLZ.

Now, I’m an atheist, and I really think Todd has managed to bless his own self with all this stuff, both back when he stole it and now that he’s earning it with the sweat of his brow. But something struck me that has never occurred to me before.

If we take this shit at face value, if there is a Jesus and he did say that shit attributed to him in the New Testament, such as:

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God. (Mark 10:25)

and really meant it:

Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:24)

what does it mean if Jesus makes you rich?

Sounds to me like JC can’t stand Preacher Todd and all these other Prosperity Gospel ratfuckers, and is making absolutely damned sure he won’t have to spend eternity with them. I can tell you from personal experience that there is zero chance of any standard camel getting through the eye of quite large needles.

Image shows a dromedary camel standing in profile, with its head turned toward the camera. It appears to be smiling.

Standard camel. Rather too large to stuff even through a needle meant for yarn. Image courtesy Jjron via Wikimedia Commons.

Now, murderers, rapists, thieves, and other assorted assholes can repent and be saved, thus ensuring they end up in Heaven.

But do you really think these Prosperity Gospel greedlords will ever do what Jesus commands in Mark 10:21?

Image shows an orange and white cat lying atop an enormous stack of money, looking defensive. Caption says, MINENope.

Which means, if Jesus is making you rich, you might want to consider what that says about his long-term plans for you and your soul.

Ah, Nature. So Lovely and Gentle: Dinnertime Edition

(Not to reveal the turn before it’s time, but if you’ve got any phobias regarding things with more than six legs and eyes, don’t go below the fold.)

Ah, late spring in the Pacific Northwest! So green and lovely. One thing nice about working in the burbs is that the sidewalks are lined with Nootka roses. You don’t even have to stop to smell ‘em – the heady scent fills the still evening air and swirls around in the eddies caused by your brisk stroll. And yes, you’re strolling briskly rather than ambling, because you’ve only got a fifteen minute break and you want to have a quick visit with the creek before you’re due back.

All right, have I set the scene? Now, imagine you’re bopping along, and you’ve had your look at the creek, and you even have a few minutes left to stop and smell a rose. Only there’s a bee dangling from one.

Image shows a crumpled Nootka rose with a bee dangling by one leg from it.

The bee on the rose.

Now, normally, these little buggers are buzzing around like – well, you know there’s a reason why “busy as a bee” is a cliché. So this is a prime opportunity, and so you unlimber the camera in the soft twilight. And you get to work documenting some bee anatomy.

Bee on rose, extreme close-up.

Bee on rose, extreme close-up.

Poor little sod. You can tell it was busy collecting pollen not long before – see it on the legs, and wings? But you’ve seen those bits of a bee before. It’s harder to get their belly. Heh heh, bee bellies. Let’s see if we can see it.

Image shows my fingers grasping the rose petals, trying to turn the bee a bit.

Trying to turn the bee.

And you’re rather intent on turning your bee without jarring it, so you don’t notice at first exactly why the bee is dangling from the rose in the first place. If only you’d had the advantage of a cropped image and hindsight…

Crop of the previous image. Note the tell-tale strands clutching that pathetic little leg, and the busy white body at top.

Crop of the previous image. Note the tell-tale strands clutching that pathetic little leg, and the busy white body at top.

And just as you’re about to get your best shot ever of a bee-belly, along comes the spider that caught it to see what you’re up to with its dinner.

Image shows a wee white spider with an orange streak on its body coming down from the top of the rose to see what's up with the bee.

Along came the spider…

People talk a lot about being more in tune with nature, being more natural, emulating nature, that sorta thing. And for a long time now, I’ve been thinking, but we’re already all that. I mean, seriously. If someone was rummaging around in your pantry, molesting your dinner, you’d come down to see what was going on, right?

Crop of the previous image, so you can see that magnificent little thing up close. Isn't it precious?

Crop of the previous image, so you can see that magnificent little thing up close. Isn’t it precious?

And you’d check on the food, yeah?

The spider gives its bee a close inspection.

The spider gives its bee a close inspection.

And then, having ascertained that all is well, you’d wander back upstairs to continue whetting your appetite, amirite?

So. Lovely. That’s nature, then, critters paralyzing critters and saving them for later munching, beauty turned to sinister (from the bee’s perspective) purpose. And that’s us. We do this, too, you know: prey on other critters, use beautiful things to help satisfy our more pragmatic needs. The unnatural thing about us, I think, is that we don’t realize we’re emulating nature all the time, whether we’re doing beautiful, gentle things or really gross and brutal things.

So I swear to you, the next time someone tells me I should take a cue from the natural world or emulate nature or some such fluffy nonsense, Ima ask them if that includes eating something several times my own size. Raw.

I’m not very nice sometimes.

As for the bee belly, don’t worry. We got it.

Image shows the bee on its back on the rose.  It's not as exciting as you might expect...

A little bee belleh for my loyal readers. Kinda looks like it’s about to recite Shakespeare, dunnit?

 

A Study in Crane Fly

It’s that time o’ year again. When the weather becomes mild, the kitty loves her quality porch time, but she refuses to have it with the door closed. So we stick a stick of the proper length in the sliding door track, and leave a kitty-sized opening for her to exploit. Alas, kitty-sized openings are also large enough for insects of all sorts to exploit, and the only thing that keeps us from being overrun by every creepy-crawly in the city is the fact we live on the third floor. We host mostly flying fellows. And crane flies are among the first to arrive.

Mind, I lost my shit when I saw one for the first time: it looked like the largest mosquito in creation to me, and I’m not companionable with mosquitoes. Then I discovered they’re perfectly harmless. And they’re generally quite polite. The like to hang about on a wall for a few days until they pop off. They cause no trouble, and since I’m not responsible for keeping the lawn green and lovely, and have no concerns over the quality of cricket pitches, I don’t consider them pests. After a bit, I even began to notice their beauty.

Haven’t you?

Let one of them hang about on the vent hood above the stove and show you.

Image is a crane fly dangling from the edge of a stove vent hood, backlit by the hood light.

Crane fly kitchen companion.

See the light shining through its transparent wings, the patterns of its veins traced out splendidly? Just do ignore that grim-looking stuff on the end of its body – harmless to humans, that. I’m pretty sure it’s just its junk.

Have a look at the light through its body:

Image is a detail of the upper portions of the crane fly. The backlight makes its body appear a transluscent amber.

Transparency is useful in both governments and crane flies.

I can tell you now from experience, it’s much more fun watching a crane fly hang out on your stove’s vent hood and be all pretty in the back lighting than it is to merely wait for your water to boil. My little cooking companion stuck round until the steam reached its haven, then it went off elsewhere. Happily for it, the kitty is far too elderly to care about chasing bugs anymore (and she never plumped for that source of protein anyway). I’m not sure if it spent its short earthly span indoors, or if it made its way outside again, but hopefully it was the arthropod version of content throughout.

Who are your favorite critters to share your abode with? Any creepy-crawlies that don’t creep you out?

Cryptopod: Wee Green Wriggly

There’s a mostly-empty parking lot next door to ye olde day job place, where B & I take a quick walk on breaks sometimes. You’d think parking lots would be rather stark and boring to walk through, but this is a richly-landscaped one, and so there are pretty trees and bushes and things. Sometimes there are wee little living things, like this very tiny caterpillar who was absolutely determined to cross that blacktop desert and reach the insect equivalent of Utopia.

Image shows a tiny green caterpillar on asphalt.

Cryptopod I

Alas, rapid movement and twilight aren’t great for photography, but we had a merry old time watching the little green bugger wriggle its way toward luscious, lovely leaves.

Image shows a tiny green caterpillar on asphalt.

Cryptopod II

So shiny and green! I remember ‘pillars much like this one from my childhood in Arizona. Watching them navigate the leaves and stems on their chosen weed, coaxing them to crawl round on me hand, trying to figure out how they function… they provided hours of entertainment. Shame about what they did to my mother’s tomato plants.

Ah, well. Not being a gardener, I can still take some childish pleasure in ‘em. Hopefully most of you can, too!

New at Rosetta Stones: New Images of Mount St. Helens!

I have, at long last, finished editing photos, and can now reveal to you that I escaped ye olde day job (and unconsciousness) for a day in order to show B around Mount St. Helens. It was a phenomenal day for photos. I’ve many-lots! I’ve put a few up at Rosetta Stones: go enjoy!

And here’s a bonus one for ye: Looking in to the maw of the volcano over the shoulder of a ridge from Coldwater Lake.

Image shows a portion of the crater; it looks a bit like a jagged mountain range covered in snow. A bit of ridge, green with new foliage and covered in stubby stumps, is visible at the bottom of the photo.

Detail of Mount St. Helens’s crater from Coldwater Lake.

I’d stay to chat, but the cat’s already disgusted I’ve got the laptop on my lap instead of her, and 20 year-old kitties get kitty cuddles on demand. See ye soon!

These Aren’t Weeds, They’re Easy-Care Flowers – Plus Daffodils

Later in summer, the boys will have to start mowing their back yard. But for now, it’s a wonderland of tall grass and beautiful wild flowers.

Image shows a dandelion and purple archangel blooming side-by-sideThey’ve got some gorgeous ones in the front yard, too. These daffodils are the strangest I’ve seen in a long while.

Image shows a daffodil with white outer petals, and a shallow corona that's yellow in the center and red on the very outer edges

I’m used to them having coronas that extend out like the bell of a trumpet, but this one’s tiny.  The flower barely seems 3-dimensional.

Daffodil nodding over another plant in the lawn

See – if you look at them from the side, the corona almost vanishes.
Cluster of daffodils

And one had a wee spider hanging out behind its bloom.

Daffodil with a tiny brown spider on its stem behind the flowerI usually don’t think of daffodils as brooding, but this one certainly looks like it’s deeply contemplative.

Drooping daffodil

They’re really lovely, and it’s only just the beginning. The Pacific Northwest spring, summer and fall are all full of flowers. Many of them might be considered weeds by flower bed purists, but I think they’re all wonderful. We’ll have lots.

Mount Si and the Three Rivers

Spring adventuring has begun now that the rain pauses for minutes at a time. B and I buggered off from work on Saturday and headed out to the North Bend area for a little adventuring. Alas, our favorite eatery there has closed, but there’s a Herfy’s in Fall City, and the Three Forks Natural Area is right there. We adjusted plans accordingly.

If you’re ever in the area, do stop by here on a relatively clear day. The views of Mount Si from various spots are sublime. Here’s one across a field of dandelions.

Image shows Mount Si, a field full of bright yellow dandelions, and skies with big fluffy white clouds One day, I will bring my lounge chair, and sit in this field, and just watch the light change on Mount Si. Those cliffs turn cloud shadow and sunbreaks into poetry.

So there are acres and acres of riparian and wetland habitats here, plus an off-leash dog park, plus this field. Part of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail goes through it. The trail is on an old railroad bed, and a railroad bridge is still there. After being startled by a woodpecker working a sign post, we made it to the bridge, and lingered there for a bit.

View of Mount Si up the Snoqualmie River with trusses of the railroad bridge in the foreground.Getting to the river was a bit rough – the overflow channels are still muddy and treacherous – but we found the trail I used last year and got to the water. Mount Si presided over the view just as it did before.

Mount Si from the Snoqualmie River bank

The river chewed up a good portion of the bank this winter. We’ll see how it changes later, as the level goes down, and things settle.

On the way back to the exit, there are amazing views of the mountain from the main trail. Since the leaves haven’t quite come in, it’s not obscured.

Mount Si framed by trees

And then there was this tableau with a white flowering tree.

Mount Si with a flowering tree.

The meadow you’re glimpsing in those shots is the one we were in at the start.

Gotcha a close-up with more of the cliff and the flowering tree branches in the foreground.

Detail of Mount Si's cliffs and the tree

It was one of those perfect spring days, where it’s warm but not hot, and smells amazing (aside from the occasional whiff of horse stable), and there’s a breeze and birds and the whole universe feels like it’s bursting at the seams with life. The endless gray is just about over. And we’ve got plans to flee to the mountains this summer, since it promises to be hot. We’re headed to Mount St. Helens in early May, and we’ll be doing some sweet Cascades action, Mount Rainier, possibly Mount Baker, and if we’re very very lucky, some Olympics. We’re also trying to swing a visit to New Hampshire to see Evelyn. It’s going to be eventful, and we’ll have plenty of gorgeous stuff to show ye.

Spring Life with Kitties

Easing my way back from spring break. This week shall be a little light fare, in which I will share fun and pretty pictures with you, and link to other people’s hard work in order to provide a bit of substance. Sort of like taking you out for dinner, but serving dessert at home. I hope you’re in the mood for sweet, because I have definitely got it.

Spring’s finally arrived. There are dandelions blooming all over the place, and Luna’s enjoying her first spring with them.

Image shows Luna sniffing a dandelion seed head

She was a bit flummoxed by it at first, but really got in to it after the initial WTF.

Image shows Luna mellowing out with the seed head

On nice days, both kitties spend a lot of time in B’s back yard. There are trees and rhodies and other sorts of bushes ringing it, and a nice expanse of wild grass around the deck. We spent a barefoot bit of time out there, watching the kitties play. It strikes me that this is the first time I’ve really run around barefoot in Washington.

I didn’t have to worry about stepping on bees. Luna was on the job, chasing them around.

Luna on her hind legs, trying to catch a bumblebee I don’t think she really understood what she was dealing with. It was bloody adorable – although probably not so much from the bee’s perspective.

Whilst Luna sniffed seed heads, fled the dandelion seeds I blew at her, and chased bees, Kirby inspected the perimeter.

Kirby pacing atop the garden divider.

He’s become the Responsible Adult™. When Luna’s outside, he’s usually nearby, ensuring she doesn’t get in to trouble. He might shop himself out to the neighbors, hoping that laying on the cute nice and thick will result in treats, and he loves a good ramble round the neighborhood, but Luna doesn’t get to enjoy these things. He hovers. He worries. He’s hilarious.

He also doesn’t know how to sniff a dandelion.

Kirby sniffing my fingers instead of the dandelion I'm holding out.

I’m certain he was looking for treats in them thar fingers. Then I tapped him with the flower, and he was all like, “What? What am I supposed to do? WHERE ARE THE TREATS???”

Kirby turning his head away from the dandelion, which is not a treat.

Finally, he posed properly, in hopes that this would earn him a treat.

Kirby finally sniffs the dandelionHe’s only ever about the treats these days. He’s learned how to snooker the household, going to each resident and guest individually, and claiming he has had no treats that day. He works the cute and sweet until he gets what he wants. It’s obvious it’s worked, as he has gained about 5,000 pounds. His kitty daddies are now restricting his treat intake, which means he’s resorted to waking B up by scratching and howling at the door, in hopes that sleep deprivation will break his will.

Meanwhile, Luna was busy stalking the dog next door.

Luna standing on the lower branches of a large rhodie, watching the neighbor's dog from concealment.

She took a few moments out to wonder what on earth I expected her to do with the large yellow tickly thingy on a long stem.

Luna giving the dandelion I'm holding a funny look.

She’s going to look ginormous when she finishes growing, but she’ll vanish if we get her wet. She’s all whisper-soft fluff. It makes her head, which is mostly short-haired (aside from her ears), look ridiculously tiny.

The B household has a new laser pointer kitty toy, which drives Kirby batshit. He can’t understand why he can’t catch the thing. Here he thinks he’s pinned it down on his trackball cat thingy.

Kirby trying to pin down the laser light atop his ball-inna-circle toy.

I drove Misha nuts with the reflection from a Kindle screen on the porch last year. I love how kitties respond to moving light.

Speaking of Misha, she is well. A bit skinny and stiff in her old age, but still able to gallop madly through the house at times, fight, occasionally play with string, and definitely loves getting high.

Misha standing half-under a chair, with very wide eyes.

This was right after she ate a lot of catnip and was staring around the place like there were all sorts of new and bizarre things in it.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time as a cat-bed lately.

Misha lying atop me with her legs stretched out and eyes closed, looking very smug

It’s nice, most of the time. I catch up on reading or sewing or suchlike, and she purrs away, and we are very snug. She even lets me beep her nose without undue violence.

Misha lying atop me, getting her nose beeped.

And she watches Buffy with me whilst I work on the scarves I’ll be selling as part of my home-based business scheme. Sometimes, Buffy even watches her.

Misha lying atop me while Buffy plays on the computer next to the bed. Buffy, Willow and Zander appear to be staring at her in horror.

Mind you, this isn’t always our lives. Sometimes, I have to get up to pee. Sometimes, she does. Sometimes, I go round catching up on the housecleaning, and she follows me around yowling, wondering WTF has gotten in to me. She’s been very curious of late, exploring more than she has in years, willing to try new things. I like this. It’s nice to know her brain’s still ticking over nicely.

We’ve done things other than pal around with cats, but not much. Cats are great for helping soothe away the cares of the world, and assist in the mental recharge that is spring break. I expect the lazy hangout times will continue well into summer. It’s part of what makes life worthwhile.

Floral Interlude

Some of you asked for flowers. It’s not been a good year for flowers. When I have the time and energy to photograph them, it’s been peeing down rain. When I’m trapped doing other things, usually indoors, it’s been bright and sunny and wonderful. I’ve determined the weather is mocking me.

But I did manage to slip away on Wednesday afternoon and catch a few for ye. We’ll start with those, then continue on with some of the lovely flowers some of you have sent.

Green and White Roof

Green and White Roof

I think these are dogwood. They’re on an enormous tree, and looking up through them towards the sky is like having a green and white floral roof. I could stand a house with a ceiling like this.

 

Early Rhodie

Early Rhodie

There’s a little round purple rhodie just beyond that tall white tree. The two of them together make it look like spring, with all their lovely pastel colors. This angle on a few of the flowers shows all the lovely bits that are there to make more flowers. There’s pollen, and there will be pollinators. Butterflies sometimes feast on these flowers, and I’m hoping to catch images of some this year.

Blaze

Blaze

The new growth on some of the bushes is flaming red. You’d think that would make it look like fall, but when it’s obviously young leaves like these, it’s another burst of spring.

Soon-to-be flowers

Soon-to-be flowers

There’s a set of trees that will soon have vivid pink blooms bursting everywhere, but they haven’t gone yet. These nearly-blown buds show they’ll be beautifying the place within days.

Cloud of flowers with cloud of water vapor

Cloud of flowers with cloud of water vapor

I missed the plums, but the cherry trees are still going strong. I think these are cherries. You can tell me. Some of them are more white than pink and bloom later, so I could be wrong about what they are. The white ones are in their prime, plump and full, and the cluster here seems to be comparing itself to the cloud, which I found charming.

White bursts against evergreen

White bursts against evergreen

I like early spring, when the fruit trees bloom while leafless, and virtually the only green you get is when they’re blooming against evergreen trees. You can also see a hint of bashful sunshine here. It kept trying to come out all the way and never quite succeeding.

Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms

These delicate pink blooms are nearly past their prime, but this cluster on a sheltered part of the tree are still bright and beautiful.

Line of lovely trees

Line of lovely trees

One thing I’ve always particularly loved about this street is the median, with its rich green grass and its gorgeous fruit trees. Every spring, they put on a spectacular show. It makes driving along it an uplifting experience. A little beauty every day is definitely welcome.

Blooms against bark

Blooms against bark

Love this little cluster right here, low down on the trunk of the tree. The trunks and branches of these trees are fascinating even when they’re dormant – there’s a vibrant community of mosses and lichens growing on them.

Warding off winter

Warding off winter

Soon, this will be a green and leafy boulevard. Now, it’s still lined with skeletons. The red flush of new growth shows they’re about to come to life again. The crossed branches of white cherry blossoms in the foreground seem to be warding off winter.

So that’s flower season well and truly begun. Lovely!