An Intriguing Lack of Illumination

Illumination. I love that word. It feels good to say it. Illumination.

This is a post about limited illumination. You might also say it is a post about dim light. In fact, I almost did opt for the latter phrase, because as I writer I find that fewer syllables are usually better. But dim light just doesn’t sound as good.

I don’t remember where I took this photo, nor what it portrays. It failed to capture whatever I had intended to capture. The light was so poor that what was there worked overtime, streaking and bending, struggling to be seen – and in the process, creating a mystery image, full of intrigue. I don’t know what it is but I like it:

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(The Weekly Photo Challenge topic is Refraction.)

Jewels of the Sea

Don’t tell my daughter about these photos. Every time I go to my favorite beach in Santa Barbara, I take pictures. She thinks I should stop. She’s right, I do have uncountably vast numbers of photos of the same half mile stretch. But nothing is static there, not even the eroding sea wall I’ve shot a bizillion times.  On this trip, I discovered a piece of kelp tangled on the wall:
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Things got interesting when I moved to the other side of the wall. Sunlight shining through and around the sea vegetable converted it to a fairy tale:

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Now I saw a cascade of jewels, or maybe a despondent princess, silhouetted in the window of a castle tower.

I know a scientist who makes music on the side. He has a single CD that he keeps reissuing with new and revised songs. I’ve teased him about this but I’m doing a version of the same thing, aren’t I? A single beach, reissues of new and revised views.

My daughter is wise, but I will continue to defy her. Sure I’ve got lots of images with this sea wall – but with every visit it’s a new wall. Certainly, there’s never been a princess there before!

Anyway, it’s not like I’m wasting film. Which makes me uncomfortable, realizing that younger readers may not know what film is.

 

(The Weekly Photo Challenge topic is Refraction.)

Adventure Is Always Present Tense

A sister-in-law: “Have you read Wild by Cheryl Strayed? I think of you as I read it, because of your adventurous spirit.”

Me: “No, but I am thrilled that you think I have an adventurous spirit. Wonder if I agree.”

A sister-in-law: “Are you kidding?”

Adventurous? Moi? I wish! I do like to try new things but I generally fall short of earning the honor of that adjective.

I can be a big chicken, but that’s not what prevents me. It’s my tendency to dwell in the past and on the future. I know I’m not the only one with this problem. It afflicts most adults of our species.

Adventure can only be had right now, in the present. Kids are good at living in the present tense. So are critters. It’s a skill I’m trying to re-acquire.

When you first learn to walk, every moment is an adventure:

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A few years later, adventure is as close as your next idea, such as this tandem go-cart constructed of cardboard boxes, plywood, and skateboard wheels:

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Red and Luna would head out each morning to patrol the yard and explore anything that might be new since yesterday.

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And of course, when you’re a dog, like Shadow, adventure is always in the air – especially through a car window:

Waiting for the next walk.

Shadow and I go for walks twice a day. I vary the route but we’ve lived here for years. No matter which way we go, we’ve done it before. Many times. Yet, each time we step out the door, Shadow’s enthusiasm is as fresh as ever, and she’s always in a hurry to get going. It’s not that she needs to go – she’s got a backyard, she’s not cooped up inside. She’s eager because you just never know what might happen next.

That’s the attitude I aspire to. Except without the affinity for cat poop.

Nica, the main character of my latest novel, is completely comfortable with adventure. I’ve never written another character that I want so much to be like!

Perhaps I Bore Them

Do people yawn when we are bored, or does that only happen in fiction?

Do cats yawn when they are bored? Do cats get bored? How could we tell?

My cats yawn at me pretty frequently. Should I take it personally?

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(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge said to juxtapose two photos to engage them in dialogue. I remain clueless about what that means even after it sparked several posts!)

When Metal Frays

Everything weathers or wears or frays, each according to its materials. It is such a commonplace process yet produces so many extraordinary results, including the intricate silhouettes of mountain ranges and beach sand that massages your feet as you walk.

I am especially fond of rust, provided it is not my stuff that is doing the rusting. A stairway in the U. Colorado, Boulder, athletic stadium is doing the rusting here. The pooled water is surely causing yet more rust, plus an artful reflection of a railing that was boring in real life:

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Nearby, the stairs come with cartoon faces (I promised myself I wouldn’t mention beings from other dimensions again):

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And these stairs suggest star nebula images from the Hubble telescope (if you ignore the yellow non-skid tape):

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Out in West Hollywood, CA, I’m pretty sure this brand new sidewalk tree root cover is not supposed to be rusting already, but I’m glad that it is!:

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This rusting sea wall in Santa Barbara, CA, looks very much like my daughter’s knee after a horrendous scrape, but let’s not talk about that and I will resist the urge to post a comparison photo:

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Here is the sea wall with a little more context:

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In the low-slung light just before sunset, even a rust hater would have to enjoy this view of the same sea wall:

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The WP Weekly Photo Challenge is Fray.

Shadow Worlds

Which came first, the idea or my belief in it? I’m not sure. I am deep into writing of the second novel in the FRAMES series, in which seemingly inanimate objects like books and buildings are sentient beings. And – guess what? Everywhere I look I see objects that appear to be more than objects.

Is this a new perspective? Or did I always see things this way but have no reason to think twice about it? Certainly, I’ve always been fascinated by shadows and reflections and silhouettes – their ability to reproduce while distorting, maintaining the familiar within the strange.

Case in point. Below is a staircase banister at the Egyptian Theater, a deco movie palace in Hollywood, CA. In silhouette, the banister’s reptilian underpinnings become apparent. I see a head in profile, facing right. The iris bisects an eye that narrows to a point, into an elongated snout that slopes down and to the right, out of frame…

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You see that too, right?

Right?

How about this one? The ocean has carved creatures in this eroded beach wall. You see this furry guy with the long nose, right?:

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In this post-apocalyptic sunset, the creatures line up looking frail:

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You see them, right?

This WP Weekly Photo Challenge was Silhouettes.

Campus Wildlife Resort

What do Caltech and Tony Soprano’s swimming pool have in common? Ducks.

In the middle of the Caltech campus is a shady oasis for people and some unexpected wildlife. Here, deep in suburban Pasadena, California, there is a small Japanese garden with a pond full of turtles and crayfish, a few ducks – and the occasional heron. Geese cause trouble nearby.

The flow of the pond’s water creates intricate zig-zagging reflections, so it might be hard to find the ducks at first. There are two males with green stripes, and one female, in the foreground of the photo below. Also note a few turtles on the rocks in the middle of the pond; most of the turtles prefer the other side of the pond – not enough sun here.

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I am lucky enough to work near this campus and often walk there for lunch. Any day becomes cheerier if I go past the pond and see a duck snoozing with a beak tucked under a wing.

The ducks have been around for years. Lately, in a nearby reflecting pool, some geese have sporadically appeared. The geese leave poop all over the walkways, and chase people. I’ve yet to get close enough to the geese to photograph them. Goose drama. I don’t need it.

The ducks are better neighbors than the geese and more consistently on campus. In fact they are around so much, it seems they have ceased to migrate. Obviously, they like this safe, comfy pond, but there may be another, more persuasive reason for them to stay…

In the back of the photo, do you see those stairs? One day I spied a duck waddling around, behind the stairs. WTF, is that duck going into the building? I detoured to investigate and found the duck munching from a bowl of cat food placed behind the stairs. So – the primary reason the ducks stick around may involve Friskies.

Why the cat food? Well, there are feral cats on campus, and people feed them regardless of how many cease and desist threats the campus security issues about this dastardly practice, which exposes us all to terrible dangers. (If you re-read this paragraph carefully you may be able to detect whose side I am on, regarding the feeding of the feral cats.)

Every once in a great while, a heron appears and lurks at the pond for a few days:

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Okay, maybe it’s not a heron. Egret? Anyway, it’s a large white bird that menaces the crayfish.

Campus folklore has it that the pond was first populated with crayfish and turtles (and frogs; alas, the frogs have vanished) when scientists completed experiments and released survivors into the water. Unlikely, but a fine story!

Across the pond, beyond the heron, is a sign that says don’t feed the wildlife. If you stand near the sign, turtles will flock to you in anticipation of being fed. Those Caltech-ians are a rebellious breed!

The WP Weekly Photo Challenge wanted to see Zigzag.

Transformation by Moonlight

I have always been a cat person, but these last few years, here I am with a dog. My kids knew the right buttons to push. If we didn’t take Shadow she was going to the shelter. Right away. Next week. And she was too old to be adopted, once there. I said we could take her until we found a home for her. I’m sure you can finish this part of the story without me.

Waiting for the next walk.

Waiting for the next walk.

Shadow has been in the family for about 5 years now. She is either 7 or 12, depending on which murky version of her past is correct. All my experience is with cats, and rabbits, who are a lot like cats, except in two dimensions – they don’t usually go high above the ground.

Dogs are not like cats. Shadow doesn’t want to think for herself. She wants me to tell her what to do. I want her to figure it out for herself. Not sure how long it might take to re-train me about this.

Shadow is a sweet soul who had difficult early years. It was before my time with her, but some effects are permanent. She has fly-strike bald patches on her ears (indicating neglect, the vet says), she is afraid of young children and petite women (abuse, we speculate), and she is unpredictably psycho around other dogs. She might be friendly, she might attack. She can switch from one attitude to the other in an instant.

I walk her twice a day, and sometimes she will lunge at a dog who barks behind a fence, with such force I am lucky to remain standing. She knows the lunges are forbidden but sometimes she can’t resist. No doubt my lack of dog savvy contributes to the problem. My aging joints are getting more brittle and someday I may have to stop walking her to avoid these jolts.

During a walk I am quite willing to reverse direction, or take her to stand on the far side of a parked car, when another dog and walker appear. Neighbors who have friendly dogs are oblivious, or amused by this. Neighbors with kindred dogs have similar tactics. There was one night when I stood behind a car forever, waiting for the other dog to walk by, then finally looked out at the same time as the other dogwalker – who had moved behind a car across the street, waiting for me to walk by!

I know all the routes that let me see whether another dog is coming around the bend, I know all the streets that are wide enough to let dogs pass by without incident. And I know the times of day when the streets will be heavy with dogs, or empty of them.

One benefit of psycho dog walking syndrome is that I have discovered the pleasures of a dog walk by moonlight on a summer night. When all the other dogs are inside for the night, Shadow becomes a lovely walking companion. When I can be comfortable strolling in shorts and sleeveless top around about midnight – that makes the daytime heat worthwhile. And when the moon is bright enough to cast shadows, magic ensues. Usually the shadow images aren’t dense or defined enough to show up well in my photographs. But one night recently, they were.

The photos below show the moon-shadows of a tree and a chicken-wire fence on a yellow garage door, transformed from mundane to mysterious. The dog was reasonably patient about my stopping to take the photos. There are things we need to accept about each other on walks. I stop to take pictures. She stops to sniff every frigging molecule in the universe. (One of us is more accepting than the other.)

Anyway, here are the photos:

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The WP Weekly Photo Challenge was Summer Lovin’.

But It’s Not a Dry Heat

I once left southern California because of the summers. Three months of baking heat, plus smog and wildfires, plus people saying at least it’s a dry heat. I had enough and I moved to Oregon, where the summers brought morning dew, long warm days, late evening sunsets. Yes, Oregon summers are delightful, but the other three seasons are atrocious, and the sun disappears some time in October then does not return until May. Only people from Michigan and North Dakota like Oregon weather; in Oregon, they are trading up.

At some point I realized I had swapped 3 months of bad weather for 9 months of bad weather, and I returned to southern California where I belong. Nowadays, I no longer mind the long hot summers. I can even sort of tolerate the humid days, with the mantra sweat is a good thing. Southern California is usually in single digit humidity, so when we’re at, say, 70% humidity for days in a row, everyone fusses and the weather becomes the lead news story.

With high humidity come more interesting cloud formations than we usually get.

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And of course clouds can do such nice things to a sunset:

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The WP Weekly Photo Challenge was Summer Lovin’.