Saturday, February 28, 2009

Surpise blooms

And here's something I never knew would happen: blooms on my spider plant. I didn't know this plant would flower.


In the middle of our cul-de-sac is a big, moss-covered oak tree. Some nice neighbors maintain a flower box at its base in the summer, and now early, early in spring. How striking is this--yellow daffodils against the green moss and white snow? Springtime mud in the background.

Isn't it great?

Little cat feet

My mom pointed out yesterday that in the snow you can see the cat prints showing how a cat tried to stalk the birds.

I don't know if this guy was the culprit, but here is a black cat I've seen before. When my dog and I came out the back door for our walk, he crouched down and hoped we didn't see him.

My dog didn't see him, or he would have gone nuts. I saw him but pretended not to, so he wouldn't be scared.

Stellar beauty

I came out of work last night, and the crescent moon was on its back in the western sky with Venus, which has been exceptionally large and bright lately, very near to it. It was so beautiful I tried to take a picture of it with my cell phone camera.

Of course this conveys only a slight idea of how lovely it was, but you can at least see how bright and close the two heavenly bodies were.

Jump for joy

Here's my dog reacting to news that we are going to take our walk.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The "s" word

Yesterday, I heard a radio announcer use the "s" word. You know the one, a four-letter word starting with "s." Snow. I was shocked and disgusted.

Well, it turns out my excitement at the imminence of spring was a little premature. It turned colder last night, the wind picked up, then the rain changed from gentle and misty to cold and heavy. That continued this morning, but then as the day went on the rain changed to slushy, wet snow.

When I drove home from work the roads were really slippery. I got a little sideways while I was still in Bellingham. I was well behind the car ahead of me, as we approached Barkely Village shopping center, when a deer ran across the road in front of that car. They braked, and I braked, and my car started to slide. My nose was toward the left, so I steered right and got straight again.

The whole way home, I never went faster than I was comfortable going, so I averaged about 20 mph. It took me about an hour to drive home. I wondered if anyone behind me was frustrated, but I wasn't going to end up in a ditch out of worrying that someone back there might be in a hurry. I did see a car in a ditch, as well as seeing a vehicle slide around after cornering. In some places along the Hannegan, the ditches are mighty deep and right beside the road.

I hope I'm able to get in to work tomorrow. We're pretty busy right about now.

I put my wind chimes back out last week, and they're bonging and tinging. I guess I'll just go to bed soon and see what I see in the morning when I wake up.

I hope if any hummingbirds were migrating this way, they turned back and decided to stay south for a little while longer.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Eagle's nest

I found an interesting site the other day, Journey North, tracks bird migration patterns and other signs of seasonal changes, especially the approach of spring. I looked it up to find out when hummingbirds will come back to Western Washington (any day now), after I had looked up how to make hummingbird food (4 parts boiling water to 1 part sugar). It had information not only about hummingbirds but other birds, including robins and bald eagles. I signed on and reported my first 2009 robin sighting.

I hadn't realized that eagles were migratory. We have lots of them in Whatcom County, and I guess I haven't seen them much through the winter. Here I thought it was because I only drove through the countryside in the dark (to and from work) all winter. Maybe their prey hibernates and they have to go where the little furry creatures are awake and above ground. Anyway, I have seen some now, but I didn't pay attention to when was my first sighting this year.

The other day, on my way home from the airport and Bakerview Nursery, soon after crossing the Nooksack, I saw what I believe is an eagle's nest. I went back the next day to take a picture. It's in the right side of the tree, about half-way down the picture. You can make the picture bigger by clicking on it. Come back by using the back button on your browser.

In addition to the eagle's nest, you might notice the cloudy sky. It did cloud over yesterday, but that is making the air temperature warmer. Clouds are like a big blanket in the sky that keep things warmer underneath. I'm in favor of warmer temperatures. It's not supposed to freeze all this week, even at night. Hurrah.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Green things

So this morning my brother flew home to Pennsylvania and my sister to San Jose. My parents took my brother to Bellingham airport in the dark small hours of the morning. I took my sister there in the bright double-digit morning hours.

We took the Hannegan to Bakerview, and Bakerview to the airport. On Bakerview, we drove past Bakerview Nursery, which I pointed out to my sister as a place I'm starting to long to visit now that the weather has been nice. I said, though, that it's still too cold to buy plants to put outdoors, so perhaps I'd better not. But we agreed that it would be nice to just walk around among the plants and enjoy them.

So after leaving her at the airport, I did indeed stop at Bakerview Nursery and browse around. Since it's still too cold for outdoor plants, I indulged in a couple indoor plants, both spider plants. I like the way spider plants make "baby" plants on shoots. Also, the card in the pot said they tolerate low light, which is the condition of my living room.

I bought one well developed one in a hanging pot, to hang over my computer desk.

And I bought a smaller one that I transplanted after I got home into a ceramic pot I already owned. I put that one on top of a cabinet that sits behind my couch, between the kitchen and living room. In this picture, it's still sitting on top of the dishwasher. I wanted to make sure no water would overflow before putting it on the wooden cabinet.

So even though it still freezes outside most nights, I was able to indulge my craving for plants.

A jocund company

Last night my parents, available siblings and nephew, and I ate out at CJ's Beach House restaurant in Birch Bay, in honor of my Dad's 80th birthday. I didn't bring my camera, but my sister brought hers, and the waitress took our picture. I think it turned out really nice. I'm on the left in the back, then my mom, then my brother, then my sister. Seated on the left is my nephew, then my dad, then my sister-in-law.

The food and service were great and the company even better. We were in a room by ourselves, the fireside room, which was most pleasant. Dad and my nephew both tend to feel the cold, so they sat on the fireside side of the table.

The title of this post refers to a conversation earlier in the day, that occurred while we were at CJ Wijns in the morning. The talk took a literary turn in the car on the way there. When we got to Birch Bay, someone commented on how calm the water was, and I said, "That's why it's called the Pacific Ocean." My brother was reminded of the line, "When stout Cortez with eagle eyes" first saw the ocean--although he also said the poet Keats got the explorer wrong, that it was not Cortez who discovered the Pacific Ocean. I remembered the poem, but I didn't think it was "eagle eyes"; I wasn't sure what it was, but I did say that when they saw the ocean in the poem they gazed on one another "with a wild surmise." So when we got to the CJ Wijns we had my sister, who is a techie geek and owns a Blackberry, google Keats's poem "On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer":

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

So my brother was right about the "eagle eyes." We continued to have a nice time, good conversation, and my brother said our time together was making us "jocund company," and he had my sister find Wordsworth's poem "Daffodils." I wanted to be literary too, so I quickly added, "Isn't that the one where he wanders lonely as a cloud?" It was:

I wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

We all agreed that we were a jocund company, and that in the future this time together drinking coffee and talking would flash upon our inward eye in moments of solitude. I trust when it does, our hearts will with pleasure fill and dance with the daffodils.

In the evening when we were having dinner, we happened to talk about my sister having gone to Appalachia while she was in college and that one of the things she saw there was a blacksmith's shop. My dad was quite interested in that, so after we talked about it, I suggested that my sister look up "The Village Smithy." I didn't know who it was by, but I remembered the first line, "Under the spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands." Both my parents learned this poem in school. It's by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate'er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.

Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.

And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing-floor.

He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter's voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.

It sounds to him like her mother's voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.

Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begun,
Each evening sees it close;
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night's repose.

Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought.

I didn't want to get political, so I didn't bring up how this would be a good poem to teach today for the line he "looks the whole world in the face,/ For he owes not any man." When my parents went to school, this was a value they learned. Today, our whole economy is built on debt, and that's why we're in a financial crisis. If Americans still strove to "owe not any man" we could look the whole world in the face again. But I digress.

The blacksmith poem reminded my dad of another poem he had learned in school, called "A Psalm of Life," so my sister found that one too. It's also by Longfellow and has a similar theme of doing good work in the time we're given:

What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
"Life is but an empty dream!"
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
"Dust thou art, to dust returnest,"
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act so each to-morrow
Finds us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,--act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing
Learn to labor and to wait.

Later, my dad also remembered a poem by Robert Frost that he thought was called "The Buzz Saw," and it made him think of the buzz saw on the farm when he was growing up. However, when my sister found and read the poem, it turned out to be far sadder and more tragic than my dad had realized, so I won't reproduce it its entirety here. It's actually called, "Out, Out--." The opening lines are probably what my dad had in mind:

The buzz-saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.

My brother said the title of the poem came from Shakespeare's MacBeth, who says, "Out, out brief candle," upon hearing of his wife's death and goes on to give a speech about the meaninglessness of life. If one mis-spends one's life as MacBeth did, one might speak as he did when approaching its end. We were celebrating my dad's 80th birthday, and his fourscore years have been well-spent. So I'll conclude by quoting from another great literary work, Psalm 16. On my dad's actual birthday, which was two days before this dinner, my brother read us an essay he had written in honor of our parents' 55th wedding anniversary, and he quoted Psalm 16:5-6.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
Thou holdest my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
Yea, I have a goodly heritage.

Later he went back to the third verse of the same Psalm:

As for the saints in the land, they are the noble
In whom is all my delight.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Spring keeps approaching

When we got home to Lynden, I noticed how big and fluffy the buds are getting on our neighbor's magnolia tree. We have been having just lovely sunny weather the last few days, though the nights are frosty because of the lack of cloud cover.

Nice day

Looking back toward the coffee shop. My folks are coming out the door.


Here's a nice picture of everyone I was with, Mom, Dad, brother, sister, and sister-in-law in front.

Noonday bay

When we left the coffee shop, at almost noon, it seemed to me that the water was a significantly darker blue than when we had arrived.

Having coffee

We had coffee and breakfast sandwiches at CJ Wijns. Here are my mom and my sister-in-law.

Here is my brother.

Here is my sister.

Here are my dad and I.

Day off

This week was my dad's 80th birthday, and two out-of-state siblings came to visit. Today, Friday, I was able to take off work to be with everybody. In the morning, we drove out to Birch Bay for coffee. Here's the ocean just before we walked inside, at about 10:30 a.m.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

First robins of the year

Speaking of birds, this morning I went to my car to go to church and two robins were fluttering around the Noble Fir tree on the east side of our house. I couldn't tell if they were in love or fighting over territory. My sister-in-law said you can tell males from females because the males' coloring is brighter, but these two had the light behind them, so their coloring was not clear to me.

Whether they were lovers or fighters, I was glad to see them because they signify that spring is near, even though next week the nighttime temps are still predicted to be freezing. The young woman who cuts my hair told me yesterday that she has seen some shoots from daffodil bulbs, and a lady at church has seen some crocus shoots, too. I haven't see that sign yet.

Birds and squirrels

Recently, the lid fell off our bird feeder. Yesterday some birds were feeding there:

A little later, squirrels were feeding there. Two squirrels showed up, one black, one gray. They would get right inside the feeder like it was a decadent squirrel hotel where they could luxuriate right in the food itself. Here you can see the gray squirrel in the feeder; its black squirrel friend is jumping around in the trees in the background; you can see it too if you look for it:

Later in the day, my dad repaired the feeder, so it has its roof back on.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Back inside

When I came back in the house, then my little dog was waiting there for me.

He probably would have enjoyed coming outside with me, but if he were not on a leash, he'd have run off and probably into traffic, and if he were on a leash, he'd have been yanking my arm around. So he stayed inside. He doesn't mind staying warm and comfortable either.

Finishing the backyard tour

Because that movie clip took so long to upload yesterday (I couldn't believe it), I didn't get done blogging my exciting backyard expedition.

Here is my dad's shed. That's a homey sight, flower pots, water barrels, a wheel barrow, and all. Some years, Dad has grown tomatoes in the windowed part.

We have this big bush. Usually one like this is shrub-size, but ours has grown as big as a tree. Birds like to go inside it.

Here's the back of our house. The lower deck is "mine," and the upper deck my parents. You can see my dad's sun room. When the weather is nice, he likes to sit out there to read his newspaper and drink some coffee.

The birdfeeders and bird bath from a different perspective.

Before going in, I checked the buds on my contorted filbert, which is in a pot on my deck. Most of my other potted plants seem to have perished in the cold winter, except some ivy. But the filbert looks fine.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The creek in February

Here's a movie of the creek flowing along.

This little movie took, literally, hours to upload. But it will only take moments to watch.

The creek in winter

The water is fairly high and rapid in the creek right now. In the summer when it's a more shallow trickle, this will be hard to remember.

The water looks redder in the picture than in real life. Unless that's just a a quality of my own monitor.

Looking upstream.

Looking further upstream. If you followed the creek upstream, you would get to Lynden City Park.

Some creekbed stones that are not covered by the water.

Back yard tour

Once in an art class at Calvin, our assignment was to go outside and look up into the bare tree branches and draw the shapes of the spaces between the branches.

My dad has some cement squares set in the ground and during the summer he puts a table there that we use for condiments and ingredients when we barbecue at the fire pit. The squares are almost obscured by the sand the creek deposited.

Here's a ridge of sand, with a few footprints in it.

I was trying to get a picture of the twisty branches of our contorted willow. The contorted willow in our yard has a disease and will die one of these years, but until then Dad has the tree surgeon cut away the sick parts and we keep enjoying it as long as we can.

A few buds on the lilac.

Sunny winter day

I went outside to put some more seed in the bird feeder out back. It was a sunny morning.

I saw this black cat that I had never seen before. I am familiar with a number of the cats that come around our house. It's the birds at the bird feeder that attract them. I know my neighbor's calico, and a tabby that will be friends with me if I'm not accompanied by my dog, but I had never seen this guy before. He sat and looked at me when I talked to him, but he ran away when I walked closer.

After putting the bird seed in the feeder, I looked around the yard. Here is a red twig of our red-twig dogwood.

I took a stick, and I knocked all the water-sodden, rotten leaves out of the bird bath. A little rain will fill the bath for the birds.

Here you can see some of the sand the creek deposited on the yard when it flooded.

See how luxuriant the moss is on this tree. The sun touches it with yellow.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Today is my brother Dan's birthday. If he were still living, he would be 55. We all miss him. We wish he were here, turning 55.

Superbowl party

We had a party to watch the Superbowl yesterday. Here were the members of the party.

My nephew.

My sister-in-law the art student.

My dad.

My mom.

My dog.