Last year’s tulips

I try not to be like everyone else, but it’s April and this week’s Photo Challenge is Color. What’s a girl to do?


I intended to hit the tulip fields today and take close-ups of individual tulips in different colors, then run them in a circle gallery like the above. But it’s so cold and windy, and I already was chilled to the bone from my earlier assignment. I didn’t feel like getting out of the car.

I decided to use last year’s pics instead. This year’s crop isn’t in full glory yet anyway. If this challenge were next week, I’d probably tell you a different story.

Happy Spring!

Who hates the snow? Honestly!

Every year, when snow is in the forecast, I hear murmurings (and read them on The Facebook and The Twitter) of “Oh, no, it’s going to snow. Oh, I hope it doesn’t snow!”

I always think, “Seriously? I loooove the snow. How can you not love snow?” Saying you hate snow is like saying you hate sunshine or rainbows. Maybe you hate driving in it, or you hate having to shovel the driveway, but those are just the effects of the snow, not the fault of those frosty diamonds from heaven. Same as, maybe I hate it when it’s really, really hot out, but I wouldn’t say, “I hate sunshine.”

Today is my fourth day at home with the doggies, with 7-plus inches of snow in places. It’s a brisk 25 degrees outside. While I’m looking forward to it warming up tomorrow, I will miss the glorious sparkling snow when it’s gone. We’ve been taking magical daily walks through the white woods. Moonlight reflecting off the snow-covered backyard makes it bright enough to play out there after dark.

On my walk today, I thought of my childhood in Los Angeles. My family had a cabin in Lake Arrowhead, and relatives in snowy places like Indiana and Michigan, so snow wasn’t a complete novelty. It was a source of entertainment we sought out deliberately. We all have fond memories of the Thanksgiving it snowed in Lake Arrowhead. What I don’t get is, when do children make the transition from “Yay! Snow! No school!” to “I hate snow”? Maybe those people grew up in places where it snowed in the late fall and the ground stayed iced-over until spring. Maybe they had parents who grumbled all the time about snow tires and chains and black ice.

I still take childlike delight in seeing those fluffy flakes fall and am thrilled when it’s cold enough for the snow to cover everything. But then, I’m lucky to be able to hunker down and wait at home until the roads defrost. I don’t have to go anywhere. Rob, on the other hand, has to work. He hasn’t been able to enjoy this snow at all during daylight hours, and I think it’s going to wash away by the weekend.

So, if you do have to drive the icy roads, or walk knee deep through the snow in frigid temperatures, and you hate snow … I am sorry. I hope you can find something to enjoy about the weather. Hot cocoa, perhaps?

Trapped at my house with my two best friends

Seems like lots of people already are having cabin fever thanks to Snowpocalypse 2012: Pacific Northwest. Not me. Remember, I spent two straight weeks in a chair without going farther than 20 steps out the back door. We had Christmas lights on the front of the house for more than a week before I even saw them.

I’ve been waiting eagerly for snow for months and I’m so happy that my trip to Hawaii last week didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of this weather.

Here’s where I was a week ago:

I’m not sure when exactly I became one of those ladies who can’t travel because she doesn’t want to be away from her dogs, but I had a hard time leaving them for a whole week. Rob’s parents usually dogsit, but since they were the ones taking us on this trip, that wasn’t possible. I kept telling myself I was being irrational. Like, would I REALLY rather stay in freezing, gray Washington and go to work instead of spend a week in Waikiki? No, of course not, but it took me a full day of vacation before I could let myself relax completely, give in to paradise. And oh, my, was it a wonderful trip. We all got along so well and it was absolutely worth leaving my doggies for seven days, although really, I think we should give some thought to going to a beach resort that accepts German shepherds.

Rob took these pictures the day we left and I looked at them longingly every day:

After we got back last week, I worked from home for a few days, went into the office Friday, had yesterday off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And now…Snowmageddon! Mind you, I have my computer at home and I can get as much done here as I would if I braved the icy roads, so technically, I’m still working. Everyone else in the universe is playing. Snow Day!

Also, I have a new camera, so it’s actually my JOB to learn how to use it by taking these pictures:

Felt + Snow = Bad

The chronicles of inappropriate footwear continue.

A few years ago, when I was shopping for the waders and boots I need for my job taking pictures while waist deep in rivers, I was under the impression I wanted felt-soled boots, to keep my feet from slipping on wet rocks. I have since recognized that rubber soles would be better in sandy marine environments, but most of my work is done in rivers.

I was a little nervous about today’s excursion because it was supposed to be 32 degrees and perhaps snowing. Last night, I laid out my fleece long underwear, sweats and wool socks to wear under the waders. I set out my North Face winter jacket. Yep, it’s time.

I also packed some snacks for Leo, who would wait in the car during my river walk. And made sure my memory card was in my camera and that my camera battery was charged and inside the camera. (Because one time I discovered after getting on a boat that I left the camera battery in the charger.)

But I forgot to bring my North Face jacket.

I worried nearly the whole way upriver that I would freeze to death, but actually, that wasn’t the problem. I was perfectly comfortable with a raincoat over a fleece jacket. The problem was the snow speckled on the creekside grass.

We didn’t spend as much time walking in the river channel as on the snowy grass. Within 10 steps, I had a thick accumulation of snow on my felt sole. My companion said, “Felts are the worst.”

Really? I thought I was supposed to have felts!

It was rough going, walking on frozen “rocker soles.” Like, if Lady Gaga wore fishing boots and then attached a rounded sole made of ice. That’s what these felt like.

My flagging cedar

We have a long driveway. One of my favorite features about my house (literally, one of my favorite things, I’ve said it out loud more than a few times) is that the branches of two cedar trees on either side of the driveway converge to create a canopy over the driveway. This creates shade, cooling the house, and obscures the view of our house from the street, creating privacy.

Also, it’s pretty.

Since it is one of my most favorite things, you would think I’d have a picture of it in its glory, but I do not. Here it is during last winter’s snowstorm, seen from the street.

Here it is today, seen from the front porch.

The other day, I noticed that some of the branches had turned brown all the way up to the top of this 50-foot-or-taller tree. Seemingly overnight. Surely I would have noticed if this were gradual, I look at those branches every day.

With a little internet research, I came to the conclusion that this was called “flagging” and is either:
  • The normal result of an extremely hot dry spell, combined with a few nicks to the trunk caused by construction vehicles over the past 10 months. The brown branches will blow out in the fall and winter, and the tree will “resume its healthy appearance.” (from, or
  • A sign the tree is dying because construction vehicles have repeatedly driven over the roots and banged into the trunk. The tree may survive, but will “never look good again, with lots of dead branches and gaps in the crown.” (from UBC Botanical Garden forums)

To look at the trunk, yes, it would appear that this tree has suffered some abuse. I’m not too happy with the construction folks who dinged up my tree.

Someone on the UBC forum corrected me to say this is Thuja plicata, not a cedar, but we here in the Pacific Northwest call that a western redcedar, even though it’s technically a cypress. Deal with it.

Someone else said, “Driving over the roots of a tree (and running into its trunk) are a way to kill it.” Yeah, well, that makes me look like a big idiot, doesn’t it?

This tree has probably been here for a hundred years. A driveway was built on top of its roots. Could our little backyard construction project be killing it?

Ch-ch-chains, chains of fools

As it turns out, my cute little car is crap in the snow. I miss my Honda CR-V for the first time since gas prices skyrocketed to $4-plus (oh, how smart I felt back then).

It’s not a huge deal, as there aren’t many days when snow is on the ground around here. But I’ve never been scared to drive before.

Don’t remember when I first drove in the snow. Maybe in high school during a trip to Lake Arrowhead? I think I was given some tips about turning into the skid or whatever, and was driving my dad’s Jeep.

I had my own little SUV by the time I lived in Chicago, and had nary a problem that winter. Nor in D.C. the following year. Nor when I drove to New York City for New Year’s 2000, leaving earlier than planned from my apartment in Alexandria, Va., so as to beat a forecast blizzard. My friend’s father moved my car from the street into the parking garage at his building in the middle of the night, to save me from getting snowed in. But no trouble driving home.

This is my 6th winter in Washington, the second without my CR-V. We didn’t have any snow to speak of last year that stuck around very long. Alas, this year, we’ve had a doozy and are expected to get more snow tonight and tomorrow. (Have canceled plans to go to the company Christmas party Monday in Olympia, even though I can take the company — i.e. government — Ford Explorer to get there.)

Last Sunday, my car wouldn’t go up a very slight incline to Rob’s parents’ house. They told me later that no one can get up that street without 4-wheel drive. They assured me that I’d have no trouble in my own driveway. Still, I hadn’t moved my car since Tuesday.

I did shovel the foot of snow off of it on Thursday, as I contemplated going to the grocery store, but then chickened out. What if I slid down and couldn’t get back up? I am fortunate that I can work from home and had a swell ol’ time on Wednesday and Thursday, taking occasional breaks to attempt a snowman and throw snowballs at my dog, who caught them in her mouth.

This was working out great, I thought. I’m never going back to the office! But someone called Friday morning, telling me that she needed someone to let her in, because she was scheduled for a video-conference meeting. Couldn’t get a hold of the one other person who was supposed to be in the office that day, so I went ahead and backed out of the driveway.

No problem at all. No problem, even, pulling into the parking lot at my office, which was still piled high with snow, because apparently no one else in the neighboring offices had come to work since Tuesday either.

A few minutes before I planned to leave, a maintenance guy came in and asked if I could move my car to the other side of the lot, as there was a leak and they were going to be pushing all the snow from the roof to the place where my car was. No problem whatsoever; I backed my car out and parked it in a new snow drift, next to the aforementioned Ford Explorer.

This time, when I backed out, my wheels spun and didn’t want to go. How embarrassing. The maintenance guys would see me and laugh. I had a set of chains in my car that I was going to have to ask them to help me assemble. Or…I was going to have to leave my car there and clear the snow from the Explorer and take it home (then worry about getting in trouble for using the GSA car for personal use). But I pulled forward and back several times and got that sucker out.

The slope of my driveway on the other hand, was not so easily conquered. I can only get halfway up it. See? I was right to be concerned. Never should have moved my car in the first place!

Closer to home

I’m sorry, little blog, how I’ve been neglecting you. That Facebook thing sure takes a lot of time. (Scrabulous, especially). Then there’s the processing of my India photos, which got sidelined last week as I actually tried to do my job.
Here I am, working hard at my job.

We haven’t had many of these beautiful days yet, although last Saturday and Sunday were two of them, and again today.

Both of these pictures were heavily photoshopped, as the sky was covered in spots. Apparently, the grime in India is so pervasive that it coats the internal organs of a camera, even if you never take the lens off. (Seriously, how did it get in there?) Actually, my photoshop skills aren’t that great, so if you click on the top picture of the bridge, you can see little bits of India above the cars and in the sky near the mountain.

I took the camera to a camera shop. (Did you know they still had these things? People used to go there to develop film.) The nice folks looked at my camera’s innards with a magnifier, cringed and then gave it a good $65 scrub-down.

Recurring theme

Yesterday, I took a look at my second novel(la), which I have retitled “Unbridaled.” Have decided all my works will be titled with homonymic plays on words.

My first novel(la), “Czech Mate,” has a scene in which the heroine goes on a hike in the woods with her dude and is freezing cold, wet and miserable. “Unbridaled” has a scene in which the heroine goes on an eagle float with her dude and is freezing cold, wet and miserable.

When I’m dead and they teach my books in college lit classes, students will write essays elucidating this well-crafted symbolism.