Monday, June 30, 2008

Paper or plastic

An older woman ahead of me in line at the grocery store was paying with a check. It was Sunday. I wasn't in any hurry, but I still managed to be silently annoyed with her. The woman behind me in line started to get twitchy and you could tell that she truly wanted to let out a big sigh.

I don't understand why anyone would pay with a check because it just doesn't seem logical. You can use a debit card and the exact same thing happens - they take the money out of your checking account.

But I can fast-forward 40 years and I know exactly what will happen. I'll be the 80-year-old woman in line who insists on spending all that time to slide my plastic card through the card reader slot and punch in numbers on the key pad. While people behind me in line roll their eyes and sigh because they can't understand why I don't just pass my head through the scanner to use the perfectly good chip implanted in my brain by the Government/Haliburton Conglomerate. Or something like that.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The cat and the dog

Taking care of the big, black dog for a week. I love this dog. The cat is not as thrilled.
What is funny about it to me is that it all comes down to communication. The cat has no idea that the dog only wants to stick his giant head right in the cat's face so he can sniff around a bit. The cat sees 75 pounds of black danger, madly wagging its tail. He makes weird howling noises at the dog and hisses if he comes too close. The dog just really wants to play the way he does with the cat he lives with at home. And there's no way to tell the cat this.

They've developed a tense, working relationship. The cat seems to have agreed that there doesn't have to be any violence between them and the dog has grudgingly conceded that play time is not an option.

The cat did give in to his own curiosity for the briefest of moments. He was perched on the dining room table and I brought the dog into the room a bit suddenly. The dog stuck his face near the cat and instead of backing off, the cat put his face out too. Their noses were almost touching and they both took a few seconds to sniff each other. I see it as progress.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Today's happiness

Hanging my clothes on the line to dry.

My basket of clothespins.

My begonia starting to bloom.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Adventure downgraded

Talked to a Park Ranger today about my animal sighting. I guess they do actually care when people see a wild animal. He wanted to know details because he tracks these things.

The Park Ranger had a touch of laid back hippie in his voice. He seemed to really like the fact that I just stood there and stared at the animal and the animal stared back. He said I was one of the lucky people who actually got to see this kind of wildlife. He was really grooving on the experience.

Turns out I might have seen a Bobcat instead of a Mountain Lion. I'm not completely convinced yet. It is way cooler to say I came face to face with a LION, not a CAT.

The spots that I saw on the face could indicate a young Mountain Lion or any age Bobcat. He asked about the ears, but I don't specifically remember taking note of them. I swear they were not as pointy as a Bobcat's. But maybe that's because he was just hanging out, chilling.

He said that if it was a young Mountain Lion, the mother would most definitely be around. Yikes! He also thought that the Mountain Lion would tend to be on top of the boulders, not lying next to them. They like to hang out in trees and other high places because that is how they hunt.

He didn't seem to think that I needed to tell everyone else on the path when I saw such a thing. He said, "Well, sure, if you want to share the experience with them, that would be great..." in that peace-and-love kind of voice. (A tiny, little bit like that painter guy who used to have a show on PBS.)
It was still a great experience and I'm going to keep my eyes open for more things like that when I take my walks. The Park Ranger told me to look for deer bucks. They've been seen lately.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Doofus in nature

I saw a mountain lion yesterday evening. In the park where I love to walk. I was walking down the paved road that runs through the middle. It's a narrow road, with a one-way lane for cars and the other lane for pedestrians and bikes. It has guard rails on both sides to keep people from walking off the designated trails.

The mountain lion was just about 40 feet away on the other side of the guard rail, sitting next to some big, flat boulders. I wasn't afraid, but maybe I should have been? It was not very big and it was just sitting there. Didn't look like it was in an aggressive mood.

So I just stopped, turned to face it and stared at it for a while. It just stared back. Then I walked away while still staring at it (hoping that I was giving it my best "Don't even think about following me" look.)

So here's where the doofus part comes in. I had no idea if I was supposed to tell anyone about it. I thought maybe they are just there all the time - it's really their habitat, not ours. They have a statue of one at the visitors center at the entrance to the park, so they obviously know that the mountain lions are around.

I kept walking to the visitors center about 3/4 mile away. Looked for a park ranger but only found a large group of boy scouts with their parents. I went up to a couple of Dads (they had tan faces so I figured maybe they were the outdoorsy types and would know what to do.) Asked them if they thought I was supposed to tell anyone. They said YES, not in a condescending way, just a little excited.

There was a phone number for the rangers on a sign so we tried that. They guy that answered the phone said that he was just the guard at the gate and gave me another number to call. That number led to the voicemail of the park rangers. We saw the non-emergency number for the police on another sign and so I called that.

The dispather took the information and asked if I could wait for the patrol car. She asked me to wait inside my car even though I told her how far away the mountain lion was. The police officer showed up and said that a park ranger was at the other end of the road looking for it. I told him where I saw it and said that I could show them exactly where if they needed me to.

The cop had that attitude like "I am so completely in control of this situation and at the same time, so completely bored by the whole thing, Ma'am." He asked me how big it was and I guessed the size of a big dog, about 60 lbs. So that was all he seemed to want from me. He was just going to sit in his car and wait to hear from the ranger.

AND he was also not stopping anyone from walking down that road. I also made a point to mention to him that there were a bunch of Boy Scouts outdoors at the visitor center, but he didn't really seem to care. So I guess it really isn't that big of a deal to them. I did call the park ranger's voicemail and left a message to give him my number in case he needed any more information from me.

And it wasn't until I was driving home that I thought 2 things:

Like an IDIOT, I didn't even think to try to take a picture of it with my cell phone. I use my phone to talk - it just doesn't occur to me to take pictures of everything. But I also think that there is something special about just enjoying that unique moment - staring into the eyes of a mountain lion. Rather than wasting time fumbling with my cell phone, I was really present at that moment. And who knows, weird beeping noises might have spooked him.

Like an IDIOT, it never occurred to me that there might be MORE THAN ONE OF THEM. I remember thinking that the one I saw was smaller than I would have expected. Holy crap, it could have been a BABY and that means the MAMA might have been right around the corner.

I did some reading about mountain lions when I got home. Turns out that I did mostly do the right thing.
(from US Forest Service website)
The following suggestions are based on studies of mountain lion behavior and analysis of attacks by mountain lions, tigers and leopards.

Do All You Can To Appear Larger: Raise you arms. Open your jacket if you are wearing one. Again, pick up small children. Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. The idea is to convince the mountain lion that your not prey and that you may be a danger to it.

Fight Back if Attacked: A hiker in Southern California used a rock to fend off a mountain lion that was attacking his son. Others have fought back successfully with sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools and their bare hands. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal.
So maybe I am not such a doofus. I knew not to run. I knew about making yourself look larger and talking in a loud voice ("I am NOT your dinner!")

At no point during the encounter did I think anything bad was going to happen. I had full confidence that I would be able to scare it away if I had to. I was bigger than it was, for goodness sake. So is that being an unrealistic doofus? Or is it that law of attraction thing - I didn't imagine any bad outcome, so it didn't happen.

The other weird thing was that I had been thinking about mountain lions the whole walk. The road is 1.8 miles one way. I walked to the end and then was on my way back when I saw it. Before that I had been looking in trees wondering if there were mountain lions there. Maybe that statue at the visitors center just puts that vague thought into my head every time I go there.

Or maybe I wished it into existence with my special, super-secret powers.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

One morning in Healdsburg

Sitting outside drinking coffee in the morning.
This is more about the sounds than the visual.
A lot of wind blowing throughout, but can you hear the birds?