Sunday, February 27, 2011

Microfiction Monday #72

It is time for Microfiction Monday, hosted by the lovely Susan at Stony River. Susan posts a picture and we must invent a short story to go with it. By "short," I mean 140 characters, including punctuation and spaces.

I think the picture should be telling 1000 characters, but in this twitter/texting world, one must do some serious editing.

Below is this week's picture with my story following.

The pyracantha juice nearly killed her. According to pixie legend, putting a shilling in a shoe would zap away the hangover. Please be true.


To sign up for this blogfest, or to see what other bloggers have written, go to Stony River. It is great fun to see how different (or the same) other people's minds work.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cold weather is for the birds

It was nineteen degrees this morning when my car crunched its way down frozen gravel roads in the Vancouver hills, on my way to grab a cup of coffee. There are so many errands to run on a Saturday.
So how I got to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge with my steaming cup of joe and a blueberry muffin is a mystery. I had so many things to accomplish, but instead the Red-winged Blackbird beckoned.
It was his siren's song that drew me in, made me pay the "honor system" fee and go in.
But rolling down windows to get a great view of the wildlife when it is twenty degrees is just plain crazy. Even the Great Egret was hunkered down, his neck tucked in and wings covering his thin legs.
The same with the Great Blue Heron. All hunkered down to keep warm.
It is still too early for most of the birds I saw last year, but there were a few. Some in pairs.
Some were alone.
And in one area, there was a red film over the water. What is that?
And the horrid pest, the Nutria scurried along the river bank.
There were bald eagles in trees.
And the few cars out jumbled up to get pictures. (They must not have them near their house.)
And no one stopped to take the Red-tailed Hawk's picture. They all wanted the eagle's pictures. Some had camera lenses as long as my arm. I felt bad for the hawk, so I opened my sunroof, snapped his picture and thanked him for the lovely photo op.
By the time I got to this Great Blue Heron, it had warmed up to a toasty twenty-three degrees. I snapped his picture and then looked up to see what he was watching.
I think it might have been this.
Further along the Canada Geese rested in shallow water.
And Northern Pintails hunted.
Several Killdeer ran along beside the car, but they were so fast I couldn't focus on them. I finally took this through the windshield.
Just before I left, the Great Egret unfurled himself and began to stroll.
And this Great Blue Heron posed for this beautiful photo opportunity.
I gasped when I looked at my watch, rolled up my window, cranked up the heat and motored to the store before meeting my daughter for coffee in Portland.
By the time I got home, this evening, snow was falling.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Snow Day


Snow is still drifting down and I just realized the chains will not fit on my new car's wheels. I might be able to get down from the hills, but I'd never be able to get home again. And it is expected to get below freezing. My driveway is 150 feet long. I'll have to shovel it so it isn't a big sheet of ice tonight.

We don't get snow very often, so it is a treat for us. I called in to work and let them know I couldn't make it in. If it melts off a little, I might try later. But, really, it will take shoveling just to get up to the top of my driveway.
Front yard

Side yard

Zoom to the top of the tree

I got all dressed and ready to go, but there is nothing saying I can't go take a nap.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Getting Caught

Whoa, there should be a warning on the side of a camera when you buy it. Something like:

"Warning: Initial use of camera may be hazardous and you might get caught."

I mean, really, how was I to know? Every day at lunch I've been trying to learn to use the new camera by firing up my laptop in my car and reading the manual which comes on a CD, not in a booklet. I'm going on a "research vacation" soon and I'm not taking my computer, so if I want to be able to take awesome pictures, I need to practice now, before I go. And what better subject than a bald eagle sitting in a hundred foot Douglas fir in the hushed twilight of a rain/snow shower? Perfect, right?

The bird was in a stand of firs on a side street in the hills on my commute home. It was too late to make the turn when I spotted it as these little country roads have a 50mph limit and folks get mighty cranky if you dawdle. I drove up to a little private road, hung a three-point turn and raced back to the little side street, cranking the wheel to starboard and rushing up a hill. It was still there, but there was no place to pull over. The mini-mansions on that street are all on acreage and the road is narrow. I ambled down the hill to the next driveway and pulled in, ready to back out again, but headlights appeared at the top of the street.

I waited patiently while the champagne Lexus rolled down, slowing to a crawl. I couldn't see the tops of the trees from where I was, but while I waited for the grandma to pick her way down the hill, I got the camera out and pressed the power button. Between the thwacks of the windshield wipers, the whir of the camera signaled the extension of the zoom and a little beep notified me it reached the maximum. Still the Lexus inched down, and although I couldn't see through its windows, I sensed the cell phone open and the 9 - 1 - 1 being punched into the key pad.

My heart did a little somersault. Sometimes if you look confident, people will believe you know what you are doing. I jutted my chin, backed out of her driveway, smiled and gave her a little finger wave as I slipped past. Careful not to look directly at her, I continued to the top of the hill and watched in the rear view mirror as she pulled into the driveway I'd just vacated.
Figuring there was plenty of time before the police arrived, I rolled down my window, stuck the camera outside in the rain/snow mix, and snapped a picture. I didn't take time to focus because I didn't want the camera to get wet. But, even the eagle has his beady eye on me, probably noting my vehicle license.

When I got home, I practiced enlarging the picture. So the first picture is with the 12x zoom and the second is cropped. Considering the tree is about 100 feet, and the light was poor, I think it is pretty good. I wouldn't mind taking a few pictures in sunshine, though, just to see how it works.
So far, there have been no knocks on my door. But I don't know what I'm gonna do, what I'm gonna do when they come for me.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Microfiction Monday #71

Once again, I'm taking part in Susan's Monday blogfest at Stony River. She posts a picture and we must come up with a story consisting of 140 characters or less. That includes spaces and punctuation, which is a great way to force me to give up some of my beloved commas.

Here is this week's picture and my story below.

Bulldozers rumbled outside as she took a last look. Her heels clicked like they had long ago, but now there were no screams, no red ooze.

And if you are up to it, in the post just before this one I posted a picture I took on Friday of two bald eagles and was very disappointed in my little camera. Saturday I went out and bought another, still pretty inexpensive, and today one of the eagles perched in the same tree. I took a picture and posted it below the other. Drop by and tell me if you think it is better.

To read other great entries to Microfiction Monday, stop by Stony River.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Waking Up from a Winter Coma

I love this time of year in the Northwest, when spring's batteries are new and winter is decomposing. After two months of driving to and from work in the dark, it is like waking up after being comatose. And this morning made it all worthwhile.

Each commute brings exciting adventure. Flying past the meadow of sheep, I glance over to see if there are any babies yet. Then on past the horse pasture, where more babies could frolic soon. Then comes the field of cattle, but no babies yet. Then the homeward stretch where deer, bear, raccoons and bobcats scuttle across the road and coyotes roam among the hundred foot Douglas firs. Around each corner could be another breathtaking view of fabulous wildlife.

This morning, coming down out of the hills, just before reaching the flatlands, two birds huddled in a tall tree near a farmhouse set back from the road. As I flew past, the white heads flashed in the dawning light. I slammed on the brakes, hung a U-turn, crept back up the road and pulled into the long, private driveway as far as the closed gates. I bent over, fished my camera up from the floorboards, bit down on my lower lip while I wrestled it out of its case and eased the door open. My arm sneaked out and aimed the camera at the tree and just when I had a great shot, and pushed down on the button, a soft whirring sounded as the camera closed itself up and went dark.

Dang it. They were watching me.

With shaking hands and shallow breaths I snatched up the little case, and yanked out the extra batteries, fought to get the little door to open in a panic. I dumped out the old ones and jammed in the new and glanced up. They were still there. Slowly I eased my arm out again and aimed the camera, careful not to disturb them, and pushed the button down.

Photograph by Melanie Sherman "Bald Eagles"

Twice this week, at lunch time, I've seen bald eagles, but this was my first spotting in the morning and certainly the closest I've ever been. Yesterday afternoon I saw a crane in the field these birds are overlooking. I can barely wait to discover something new tomorrow.

And, yes, I know I should be watching the road.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Windshield wipers in 3/4 time

I'm not a morning lark. There have been times I've had two alarms set; one to beat with my fist until the ringing stopped, and one across the room I cannot reach. The label "night owl" has often been attached to my name, but I consider that a compliment. I mean, how often have you heard of an owl being sucked up in a jet engine?

On the down side, it doesn't take much to put me off my game, at least until I've absorbed a cup of coffee. When I pulled out of the garage the rain attacked in little pellets, pinging into the windscreen. Flipping on my wipers, I began my trip to work, but soon became flustered. The thwack, thwack, thwack of the wipers did not keep time with Mozart's Clarinet Concerto. It was very disconcerting, like the wipers were trying to force Mozart into taking speed.

I lowered the setting on the wipers, but that made it worse for two reasons. 1) I couldn't see out of the window, and more importantly, 2) now they'd swipe intermittently, sometimes on beat and sometimes off until my shoulders hunched in terrified anticipation. Desperate, I punched buttons, trying to find a tune with the same beat, but to no avail. By the time I decided Mozart simply hadn't written anything in windshield wiper time, I was half way to work and my knuckles showed white on the wheel.

I'd have to change to the radio, but what station? NPR. Certainly the tempo of the wipers would have no effect on the news. I jabbed a button and the first words I heard were, "it is snowing." Sure enough, some of the drops hitting the screen splattered like wet flakes. Another couple of blocks and I turned onto the side street near work and the rain eased. I turned off the radio and heard the unmistakable sound of "snow silence" as the rain turned into cheerful white crystals.
My shoulders relaxed, I hauled in a happy breath and all was nearly right with the world. If I'd been in front of a fireplace at a ski lodge, with a cup of coffee in my hand, it would have been perfect.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Microfiction Monday

Microfiction Monday #70

Again, Susan, at Stony River, is hosting the weekly blogfest, where a picture paints 140 characters, or even fewer. One must use the picture Susan posts, and take it from there.

I'm beginning to get the hang of wordy story. I think this week's fiction is good enough to self-publish. Maybe you'll see it on Kindle. I think a dollar for each character, but I'll toss in the spaces for free. (Okay, maybe it wouldn't sell. But the dream is still there.)

Here's this week's picture, and below, my story to go with it.

This would be the last picnic with his wife's loving family. He knew why she was late. In time, someone would find the body downstream.

Click on over to Stony River to get to the other entries. Leaving a comment will brighten the day, and following will fill the sky with sunshine.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Vancouver Lake in March

Have you ever witnessed something so incredible that you wanted to share it with others? Sometimes it is as simple as running your finger over the velvety softness of a purple pansy petal, but other times it is more complex, like the very first laugh of a baby.

Photograph by Melanie Sherman

A few years ago I bought a kayak. It was the kind of sunny, warm March day when you feel spring nipping at winter’s heels. I loaded my kayak onto my car and sped down to Vancouver Lake. I lugged the vessel down to the water’s edge and strapped myself into the life jacket. Squeezed into the little cockpit, I set out on the lake, paddling toward the small island in the middle. A bald eagle circled and I stopped to watch. His wings spread wide to catch the wind, he circled once, twice, three times. Then he glided down, barely touched the surface of the water and lifted again, a fish clutched in his claws. It was magnificent.

Photo by KetaDesign

He flew to the island and with graceful flapping, settled on a bare tree branch. I paddled closer toward the island and then I saw another eagle, perched in the same tree. My gaze swung to the next tree. Two or three eagles clung to the naked branches. I paddled closer until the kayak bobbed twenty feet from shore and my breathing came quick and shallow. Every tree supported at least one eagle, but some as many as five. There must have been sixty or seventy.

Photograph by Andrew (Tawker)

And there, flying helter-skelter between the empty branches in a grove of trees, three juvenile eagles chased each other in a hectic game of tag. Over the gentle lapping of water I could hear the sound of their wings hitting the bark as they weaved through the maze of limbs at full speed, while the adults watched from their perches.

Photo by KetaDesign

When I got home, I sent out emails to kayaking friends. The next weekend, a dozen of us motored into the parking lot and rigged our kayaks, buckling into our life jackets, adjusting our sunglasses, slathering on sunscreen. We set off toward the middle amid the joyous silence of anticipation. But something was different. There were no birds flying, none preening in the branches, no teenagers cavorting. The trees loomed; empty and barren.

I stopped and gazed up, disappointment welling inside. When my eyes lowered to the water, nearly a dozen kayakers surrounded me and stared, one of them plucking little sprays of water from the surface with his blade. “An island filled with eagles, huh?” one of them scoffed.

My mouth dropped open, but it took several tries before the words came out. “They were here last week. Honest they were.” I pointed to the stillness of the island. They stared a while longer before, one by one, they turned and paddled back to shore.

Photograph by Tequesquitengo

Yes, I was sad I didn’t get to see the birds again, but my biggest disappointment was not being able to share it with others, because the wonders of the world are best when shared.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Microfiction Monday

Microfiction Monday #69

Welcome to Microfiction Monday, where a picture paints 140 characters, or even fewer.

I decided to join in on Microfiction Monday over at Susan's Stony River. We are invited to write a story about a select picture in 140 characters or less (including spaces and punctuation). Microfiction means the shortest of short stories, which is quite the challenge for me. Even little notes I leave myself to remember to buy gas are longer than 140 characters.

Here’s this week’s picture followed by my story:

"Even in this dreary second story flat, I must block out the afternoon light, lest the sun infiltrates the clouds to vaporize me."

Now hop on over to Susan's to see the other entries and have a great Monday.

Very Little Sympathy

I did it. I sent it in. Oh, dear Lord, why did I send it? What was I thinking? It is like buyer's remorse. Do any other writers feel the angst when they send in a manuscript?

It wouldn't be so bad except Hobiecat and Schooner give me little sympathy. Hobie was lying on the back of my chair, purring, and I mentioned to him that my palms were sweating. He flopped over and snored in my ear.

Photo by Eddy Van 3000 from in Flanders fields - Belgiquistan - United Tribes ov Europe

So I ran my hands down my pant legs and gritted my teeth, trying to come to terms with my anxiety, but a little whimper escaped, which made Schooner roll his eyes. "Shut up about it, already," he growled.

Photo by Winfried Bruenken (Amrum)

And then Schooner brought out a toy and wanted to play fetch. They really don't understand.