Tag Archives: outdoors

One fish two fish red fish blue fish.

HEEEY! How’ve ya’ll been? ? I haven’t been at the Magic Bus Stop for a spell — did you notice I was gone? I sort of went out and got me a LIFE and all — you know, doing things like being a cheerleader at a mud race and taking a cross-country road trip and serving beer at beer festivals  and eating free pie at a school that gives you letters to attach to the end of your name like you’re SOMEBODY — that kinda stuff.

But I’m treading water between gigs this week, and guess what I did? Guess! Guess! Go ahead! I MADE A HUMMINGBIRD FEEDER!! I am so damn awesome (thanks for noticing that too!)!

Now I remember I once said that I’m no photographer and that’s still true; even more so now than before. I’m also appalled that I’m writing about having made a thing, an object, a gee gaw, since I’ve pretty much tossed out the concept of ownership of mostly useless stuff.  But I have to show you this feeder. So, enough of the self-flagellation and on with the exposé.

This fish-shaped wine bottle has been traveling around the yard for a couple years while I mulled over what I could do with it. This morning the veil was lifted from my sleep-refreshed eyes and veritable working drawings rolled out on my mind’s drafting table.

I filled the bottle with sugar water dyed red. I cut a synthetic cork to about half its length and made a hole through the center length of it by twisting a drill bit into it (it was too much trouble to fire up the Dremel to drill the hole). I narrowed the end of the cork a bit (with scissors or utility knife) so it could be wedged easily back into the bottle opening. Then I inserted a piece of Evergreen styrene tubing through the hole in the cork and into the sugar/water solution about an inch, leaving a quarter inch or so protruding at the opposite end. This tubing is available at any hobby store or I bet you could probably also use a narrow straw. The tube has to go all the way through the cork and well into the liquid because the liquid has to rest in the straw so the hummingbird can get to it. The liquid will drip occasionally from the straw. A piece of yellow tape slipped around the protruding straw end  simulates a flower.

To hang the feeder, I made a bottle harness from fishing line. Did you know that fishing line is the new duct tape? I could probably hang from it.

And, behold, the whole gizmo worked. The resident hummingbird has been kissing the fish all afternoon — look for yourself! Tell me this isn’t just too cool? Now go make your own!

Kiss the fish!

Kiss the fish!

(Special thanks to Dr. Seuss.)

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It’s not always what it seems.

Winter marauder Pax vomited knee-deep snow, packed us in it and rolled us like a bowling ball. As our momentum grew, random flotsam and hapless jetsam became embedded — a two-dollar bill, Anita Bryant, chunks of Puerto Rico, pink marshmallow … Continue reading

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Weekly photo challenge: Layers

I hiked above cloud layers today at Shenandoah National Park.

Layers of mountains and clouds

Layers of mountains and clouds

 

Clouds rolling out to their mates.

Clouds rolling out to their mates.

 

White blankets, blue bed.

White blankets, blue bed.

 

 

It’s a nice place to visit, but I don’t want to die there.

I hate drinking water. Trying to drink it before noon makes my lips purse tightly together, my eyes scrunch shut, and my head swing away involuntarily like a baby trying to get away from a medication spoon. Hot weather and physical exertion make water more palatable to me, but otherwise I am as a camel. Or a cactus. My mother nagged me regularly to drink water and Mike has tried to convert me in the past, though he has mostly given up now. He and I are oceans apart on this: he gulps water in huge quantities as though each drop might be his last.

Recently I’ve been hiking much more, including carrying weight in a backpack to build up my strength. (Containers of water make excellent weights, incidentally.)  For as much as I hate water, I love hiking. It’s the perfect activity for me. There’s no canoe to portage, no bike to drag up the too-steep hill, no horse to saddle or shoe or stable. There’s just me propelling me forward according to the laws of the earth and nature. And hikers are, almost universally, friendly, happy people. There’s hardly anyone I meet on a trail who doesn’t have a hello or a smile at the ready. The end of a hike leaves me with a sense of accomplishment and the feeling that I’ve earned a seat at the brewpub and the reward of a dark beer.

Though I’m officially not participating in autumn, winter, or spring over the next several months (I’ve decided that those soon-to-be naked trees, endless cold rains, and murky dark hours don’t exist in my world this year), the weather has lately been purely glorious for hiking. Even the !@!!**& government got its act together and reopened the National Parks, so this past Saturday we hiked the Dark Hollow Falls and Rose River trails at Shenandoah National  Park. Along with being nearly hydrophobic, fully leafed trees make me claustrophobic (no humility here — am I special or what?). The leaves at higher elevations in the Park are past their color peak and have leapt to their anticlimactic  deaths, allowing the extremely late summer (recall my nonparticipation in autumn) sunlight (which I crave like an illegal drug) to filter onto the hiking paths, showing the hand of Midas on the lower trees’ leaves. I didn’t try to photograph that magic. I might as well have tried to swallow the sun.

The Dark Hollow Falls trail drops steeply for about a mile beside a capricious clear stream before connecting to the 4 mile loop of the Rose River trail, which is an up and down affair with rocky and slippery patches. Our pace was steady and felt comfortable. Mike figured later we were walking at slightly under 2 mph. I dutifully sipped water on the way and shed my layered clothing as I built up steam and soaked up sun and huffed determinedly up the inclines. Have I mentioned how glorious all of this was? It was. Glorious.

In seemingly no time at all, we finished walking the loop and re-joined the Dark Hollow Trail for our victory ascent, parts of which are as steep as a Grand Canyon trail. After briefly watching other hikers photograph the falls, we started up that final stretch.

And there I faltered. The beat of my heart was too big for my chest, I rapidly became nauseated, and my body heat evaporated. Light-headedness swarmed over me. I looked sideways to the trail to be climbed beside the falls, at the sunlit glow between the trees, bright and benevolent and beautiful. Yes, it was beautiful. In those few moments as I vowed to stay upright, I could acknowledge and appreciate how beautiful it all was and that I could drop dead in worse places.  But I knew in that instant, too, that I didn’t want to die there, no matter how beautiful it was. I’m pretty good with the matter of dying. There’s no way around it. Death by hiking isn’t the worst I could do. In my opinion it beats death by monotony or boredom, the method of death that insinuates itself quietly and insidiously and with little notice while one lives in bland ruraburbia, that Realm of Nothingness, where nothing changes, nothing happens, nothing moves forward, nothing rules.

I told Mike I needed to sit down and a flat rock at just the right height obliged me. I pulled out the water and started on it. My family history is lousy with heart disease — my mother died early of it and after that my father’s broken heart endured more attacks than I can remember. I banked on simple dehydration for my case, though. It made sense. I’d had coffee before leaving the house and insufficient water and food to see me through our hike. After a short period of rest and consumption of more water, all my systems were once more a go. Mike and I continued up the steepest part of the hike, ate lunch in a sunny spot overlooking a meadow, sent a couple of freeloading ticks to their deaths, and walked another two easy miles on a flat trail.

If I’m lucky, I think, the place where I leave this earth will be wide open with a staggeringly beautiful and endless blue sky and long, long vistas, somewhere in the majestic and harsh emptiness of the  Southwest. A pleasant temperature would be nice, one that would allow for the wearing of shorts, short sleeves and sandals. And I’ll be on a hiking path, suitably wide and not too rocky, with enough challenge in terrain that I could have that sense of accomplishment while loving where I am and what I’m doing. But that’s starting to sound more like heaven, I guess.

So, here’s your chance — tell me, where is your death-wishing place? Where is your golden spot on this earth where you can begin eternity with a smile on your face? Where is it that you want to begin the fulfillment of the often-quoted, “Man thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return?”

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No Parking.

This gallery contains 31 photos.

While the boys in Washington, DC figure out who has the bigger penis, I thought you might like to join me in a virtual tour of a few National Parks I’ve visited recently. Just in case you haven’t heard, the … Continue reading

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Biking.

My idea of a happy bike ride doesn’t so much involve physical fitness, but rather mental fitness as I see what the city’s up to  — leaving the Magic Bus behind and exposing my senses to all the stuff of living that’s on my route: sporadic dog barking, the gentle cacophany of vehicle traffic, the crunch of the bike’s wheels over dirt and gravel, leaves overhead applauding my progress  and splashing me with blobs of sunshine as I ride beneath them.  So after what seemed like 50 years of being away from it, and being graced with no rain at last, this morning I pushed my old bike into the driveway and pedaled off to see what was new in the ‘hood.

I needed the full experience of the wind through my bird’s nest hair, so I took the bold and dangerous step of riding without a helmet — ah, authority-defying bliss! The erratic breeze fingered my scalp like an invisible masseuse.  Around the corner I wheeled, past the watermelon pink crepe myrtle blooms and onto the boulevard.  The bike’s rock-hard, ancient seat squeaked its own commentary as I glided past the coffee shop that lay in silent wait for its late rising patrons.  My wrists took a jolt as I bumped through a pothole — ouch! — and I wobbled down the imperceptible slope of the wide, wide road. Joggers huffed down the center path in all manner of attire, including the shyly smiling older man with stringy shoulder-length hair wearing a pink tutu. The bungalows, with their porches doubling as bibs as they waited to nibble a tender morsel of visitor, slid from front to side vision, each displaying their exterior finery of ripe mulberry, silvered sage, pale blue and sunset gold. There went the simple iron sculpture of the man being held up by a handgun, then the empty doghouse that barked at me as I passed its hidden eye; there was the ordnance being used as yard art in the two-story’s shade garden. Velvety Mexican sage and lime green ginger and periwinkle morning glories extended friendly blossom-hands to me through wrought iron fences. The parking lot of the taco joint where I could get a beer before noon was filling up, but I didn’t stop. Later, maybe. Live oaks stretched a thousand leafy arms across the side streets to form shady arches and pushed their feet up against the sidewalks to create small peaks and valleys to keep walkers on their toes. Condensation frosted the old library’s windows. A single file of casual bikers flowed easily, unhurriedly, in the opposite direction, each bike customized with a low-rider frame or chrome fenders or a sparkly seat,  each rider resembling his ride.

The sun was higher now and the shade was heading for its own siesta as I rode out from beneath the oaks. Sweat loosened my sunglasses as I passed the thrift store. I could almost smell the universal second-hand store odor as its door swung, and see the clothes arranged by color and style, rack upon rack. Bargains to be had, assuredly, though not right now. I continued on. Faint strains of “Turkey in the Straw” sifted through the breeze as a nearby ice cream truck trundled along. A parrot squawked. Wind chimes tinkled. Cicadas whirred. A raccoon scuttled into the sewer.

Past Mexican landscapers hanging onto mowers that bucked like fractious mules I coasted, along the familiar grid of streets where no two houses were the same — each one stamped its own footprint and flaunted its favorite color. Lead and stained glass windows glowed, yellow and purple and red doors lounged insolently atop gleaming wooden stoops. I slipped past a church, an auto repair, the se habla espanol lawyer’s office, the vet’s house. It seemed like I would have to ride off the end of the world before finding two alike of anything here. Truly, there’s nothing like riding a bike in the city, this city, where everything changed daily, like the specials on a restaurant menu.  I’ll have the unexpected, please, with a side of surprise.

The heat had gathered quickly. Already it was time to wind down the ride, find a glass of water. I should have started earlier; next time I would. The too-short spin had been magical, leaving me with a smile.

I opened my eyes, and the tableau disappeared.  The occupying army of identical trees surrounding our ruraburban house closed ranks. The lid of silence slammed down. I got off the bike and went into the brown house to get the water.

 

BIKE

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: The World Through My Eyes

This gallery contains 8 photos.

I rarely go anywhere without chalk — it’s in my purse, in the Magic Bus’ glove compartment, outside my front door, and in a plastic container where my driveway meets the road. I started chalking when something very dear to … Continue reading