Things you didn’t know you had

The downtime between Christmas and New Year provides temporal space to start cleaning those things that may not merit daily attention, but languish in that to-do list priority category just above “limbo” or “someday.” Today it was a handful of glassware reserved for celebratory use and a compact flash card that somehow found a hiding place in the LowePro backpack.  Among the findings from the latter:

July 12, 2014, supermoon
Supermoon framed by pine trees. Taken July 12, 2014.
Indigo bunting in tree.
Indigo bunting preening. Taken July 13, 2014.
Upside down butterfly.
Butterfly hanging on the underside of an azalea branch outside the office window.



Sometimes, it pays to look back

Advent is a time of looking forward — preparing one’s self for the feast of Christmas. However, after last night’s vigil Mass for the final Sunday of Advent, looking back paid off too.

For almost 24 hours, nature had soaked the state in a deluge that saw nearly 8 inches of rain fall in parts of the Arkansas Delta. The same system also spawned tornadoes in other parts of the state. When the heavy rain finally stopped, those leaving church were welcomed by a fiery orange sunset. En route to the parking lot,  paused on the steps to take a shot or two of the sunset with my iPhone (bottom photo). But something made me look back. And there over the church, the sky glowed with a luminous double rainbow.

The iPhone’s ‘pano’ setting sure  came in handy in trying to capture such a wide view. 
Fiery sunset
Fiery sunset with the old bell tower in silhouette. 

It all started with a misprint

In a few hours, NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, will be tracking Santa’s progress as he makes his way around the Earth–even stopping at the International Space Station. It’s a tradition that spans many generations; from those who readied the house for Santa with in the time-tested analogue way: a tray of cookies and carrots by the fireplace, to the current generation who can follow him live online.

Why does this American-Canadian entity keep tabs on Santa? It all began with a misprint in a Sears advertisement and a little help from the inner children at the Continental Air Defense Command.  See the full story at:

For those who want to follow along, visit

Merry Christmas everyone!

(P.S.-Today is our third anniversary with WordPress. We want to thank you for your gift of readership. Merry blogging!)

Gaudete Sunday

Today is Gaudete Sunday, the next-to-last Sunday in Advent. Advent, like Lent, is a time of introspection; a time to prepare the soul and mind. Advent encompasses four Sundays in anticipation of Christmas and Lent does the same before Easter.

During three of the Sundays in Advent and Lent, the priest wears violet vestments — a symbol of penance. Gaudete Sunday is one of two holidays in the Catholic calendar where rose vestments — which symbolize joy — are worn, the other being Laetare Sunday, the third Sunday of Lent. (A nice summary on liturgical colors can be found here:

In the West, pink is a culturally difficult color. It’s OK for women, but often taboo for men. It takes a big man to wear rose, and they don’t come any bigger than B16. Biltrix has a great photo of Il Papa in his rose vestments. (In Thailand, pink has become associated with the king.)

A trend we’ve been seeing in the pews is parishioners embracing the colors of the season. At the Saturday vigil Mass, the pews were filled with men,  women and children who had worked rose or violet into their Sunday (or Saturday) best. It’s a powerful external symbol of the inner states that  Advent and Lent are meant to touch.

A little birdie told me …

Winter gave way to spring and Lent is giving way to Easter.

Here on the mountain, a little birdie told us it’s time for another seasonal change, from Christmas to, well, now.

For each of the last three seasons, ruby throated hummingbirds have jetted, dog-fought (is this the past tense of dog-fight?) and hovered around our deck to enjoy homemade nectar. Wednesday night, one of the hummingbirds reappeared, having returned from his winter home nearer the equator. We spotted him checking each of the red bulbs on the strings of Christmas lights draped around the deck, probably thinking at each stop that the next one would be a refreshing floral Slurpee. It seemed a terrible (and unintentional) trick to play on the poor little guy. It was time to take the lights down and put the feeder up.

There is something even more ambitious on our seasons-change agenda, something in honor of Easter: taking down the Christmas tree. The Leland Cypress we bought the week after Thanksgiving has, amazingly, remained green and supple. We will hate to see it go, but it will serve as additional cover for our wild neighbors down the mountain slope.

So, what does all have to do with the spiders below? They are the new seasonal deck decor in the absence of Christmas lights.

HE'S GOT LEGS -- Daddy long legs clings to the underside of the railing.
GREEN and HAIRY -- The photo doesn't do it justice, but this spider with tiny tufts of hair was the same pale green of all-things-that-glow-in-the-dark with black accents.
SUSPENSION BRIDGE -- Spider hangs on a silken line from deck table to chair.

Christmas in space

Santa is one busy man today. It’s nice to know that even the crew of the International Space Station is on his Christmas Day delivery route. [We hope Ferndale is one of the destinations on his GPS!]

These screenshots, courtesy NORAD, come from Good place to check if you’re worried about getting the cookies, milk and carrots out in time.

Merry Christmas everyone!

ON FINAL -- NORAD's tracker shows Santa on final to the International Space Station.
DELIVERY -- Santa completes orbital rendezvous with ISS.

Christmas at Fort Rosecrans Nat’l Cemetery

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery is a beautiful, yet solemn, place that bears the remains of America’s military men and women and their loved ones amid immaculate emerald lawns and white and gray headstones, plaques and walls. The cemetery overlooks North Island and the San Diego skyline from windswept Point Loma and the Cabrillo National Monument.

The week before Christmas, the cemetery was filled with wreaths, poinsettia plants and miniature Christmas trees left in tribute to those at rest there.

Sadly, Fort Rosecrans is busy. There are funerals every 20 minutes some days. The cemetery is also getting crowded, with a century separating the births of some of the veterans laid to rest there. The earliest stones we saw marked the resting places of Spanish-American War veterans; the newest interments belong to young men and women born in the 1980s.

On Dec. 23, families, including ours, gathered at the walls, laying flowers, wreaths, toys and other objects; touching the names of loved ones. They will always be missed.

Weaths at Rosecrans
Wreaths grace many of the headstones at Fort Rosecrans.
Christmas tree at Rosecrans
A lone Christmas tree stands among the rows of headstones at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.
Christmas poinsettias and other flowers left in tribute.