- Sweets of My Labor - December 2, 2013
Amid the craziness that was my Thanksgiving, I forgot to post the “after” shots from my recent cookie-baking frenzy.
- Sweet Distraction - November 17, 2013
Full disclosure: this is not a post about writing. It is a post, rather, about the absence of it. Why?
- Solitude's Reward - November 4, 2013
Welcome to “my” front yard – an area of desert wonder, accessible for camping observing, decompressing, rejuvenation.
- Hair-Raising Hiking - October 28, 2013
In the spirit of the upcoming ghoulish holiday, I invite you on a visual tour of a local Arizona hiking trail, filled with the sinister and spine-chilling.
- Ghost in the Window? - October 13, 2013
Back in August, I posed this question: “Do you think writers - or creative types, in general - are more open to the possibilities of the unknown, unexplained, the unseen, the supernatural?”
- Batty About Bats - October 6, 2013
This is not an early Halloween post, though I suppose it is fitting since we're into October and parents kids are already amped up on the Halloween candy that hit shelves two months earlier. No, this is an update. As you may recall from my last bat post, I’m monitoring bat activity at my hummingbird feeder.
- Red with Envy - September 29, 2013
Now that fall is here, I have a confession: I spent the summer with a bit of garden envy. You see, with Arizona’s summer temperatures in the scorching 100+ range, anything we grow during this season becomes brittle or baked, sizzled by the sun. Well – at least that’s been my gardening experience.
- Missing Branches - September 14, 2013
Once upon a time – I think it was 2006 – I was procrastinating taking a break from work and decided to Google my name, just to see which of my freelance articles would pop up. The usual suspects were revealed: articles from ASU Research Magazine, alumni publications, local Phoenix magazines. But one hit caught my attention: a Melissa Crytzer from Kittanning, PA – not from my native Greenville, PA – and the added bonus… an included email address regarding her upcoming class reunion.
- Seeing the Unseen - August 31, 2013
Have you ever not seen something because you just weren’t looking closely enough?
- Necessary Nuisance - August 24, 2013
The first few times it happened in 2008, it was a mystery. We’d awake to the hummingbird feeder completely drained each morning, nectar splashed against the window.
- Wise Old Soul - August 17, 2013
It’s that time of year in the Sonoran Desert: when we see lots of these guys wandering about. I saw a small desert tortoise last week as I was running one of the dusty trails on our property, and also this larger fella a few days ago:
- Dancing with the Sags - August 11, 2013
I confess to having little coordination when it comes to dancing (which is why I will not be signing up for Zumba classes anytime soon, as fun as I think they’d be).
- The Art of Healing - July 28, 2013
I’ve got a knack for witnessing things in nature that few people see: mating rattlesnakes, baby roadrunners, hummingbird births, suckling javelin babies, a frequently visiting young buck mule deer.
- Powerless (with pie) - July 13, 2013
Monsoon season in the desert is a sight to behold: clouds mushrooming behind mountain ranges, normally placid skies sporting swollen cumulus columns, and dry washes transformed to churning rivers in a matter of minutes.
- Me & Peppermint P - June 30, 2013
Despite my love for the Arizona desert, this arid land is not my native home. I’m a Pennsylvania transplant of 15 years, now far away from the blustery winter days that encouraged my southwestern retreat (I don’t miss having to crawl over the backseat to the driver’s seat – in a dress suit and heels – because the back door is the only one not frozen shut)
- Bucky's Transformation - June 23, 2013
We’ve had our share of critter sightings since we purchased our desert retreat – bobcats, javelina, rattlesnakes, roadrunners, gila monsters and more – but one animal has continually evaded us and our trail cameras. Until recently.
- A Real-Life Mystery - June 15, 2013
I’m not sure if it’s the drug-induced stupor from my recent surgery*, but I could swear that I met Maggie True’s real-life counterpart this past week. Who’s Maggie True? The main character in J.M. Maison’s cozy mystery, Desired to Death. Many of you might know J.M. Maison under a different name – Julia Munroe Martin (a.k.a. @wordsxo on Twitter).
- Three Years: Nature, Writing, Connections & a Giveaway - June 4, 2013
When I started my blog three years ago today, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wrote my inaugural post about bees, then subsequent posts about great-horned owlets, desert chopper rides, prairie dogs and a host of other desert experiences, feeling inspired by my natural surroundings and buoyed creatively. As the theme of my blog implies, I can and do find writing lessons from what I see in my rural corner of the desert. Still.
- Of Legend and Lore - May 26, 2013
Hubs and I had the opportunity to take our first trip “over the saddle” last weekend – an area in the mountains in front of our desert home that clearly looks like … you guessed it … a saddle.
- Help Name the Hummie Twins - May 5, 2013
It’s a damn good thing I didn’t have kids. Given the way I’ve carried on about these hummingbird babies (and driven my husband nuts), I’m pretty sure my own children would have been bubble-wrapped and wearing goggles and protective helmets as I sent them off to school each day (greeeaaatt for self-esteem).
- A Bunch of Buzz - April 20, 2013
There’s been a whole lot of buzz in the desert lately. And if you read my last post, you’ll know that I’ve got a bird’s-eye view of some of the zippity-doo-ing going on at the hummingbird nest.
- My Backyard - April 6, 2013
Yes, I’m still participating in EditPalooza (but inching closer to done – on this round, anyway), which is why you haven’t heard much from me in social media circles... Or here. Even so, I thought I’d sneak in another photo journal of a few backyard sightings – in my real backyard (or should I say, breezeway), and the Arizona desert that is my backyard.
- Time Out - March 16, 2013
Yes – I am still in the midst of Edit Palooza … But I took an editing time out this weekend with hubby and his friends. (I’m really not blogging if I’m only sharing photos, right?)
- Flying South - February 8, 2013
Yes, I’m a bit bird obsessed. My posts about great-horned owls, great-horned owlets, barn owls, hummingbirds, ravens, vultures, hawks and kestrels prove it. To see further evidence of my bird obsession, read my recent guest post with Christy Peterson, over at Tweets & Tree Frogs.
- Happenstance ... Luck - January 27, 2013
A few weeks ago, I thought I was doing my husband a favor by pulling Betty into a different stall under the breezeway so that his work vehicle could fit in one of the bays. But when I shut off the engine, I heard an ominous hiss. Thinking something was wrong with the motor, I re-started the Jeep, moved forward a tad, and shut it off. And again: hisssss. Louder.
- Don't Judge a Book by its Cover - January 21, 2013
The desert has taught me that scary things often come in pretty packages, and pretty things often come in disguised packages:
- Bringing Fiction to Life (in the kitchen) - January 15, 2013
It's no secret that I focus on the natural world here at What I Saw, bringing to life the outdoors through photography, and relating my nature observances to writing and reading. My photos of the Sonoran desert obviously rely on the sense of sight:
- So Long, Farewell - December 16, 2012
Sometimes goodbyes are inevitable. Such was the case last week when I watched a part of my writing life barrel down our dirt driveway, dust plumes exploding behind it, the aftermath of dust settling like brown mist on the nearby prickly pear cacti.
- Let's Get it On - November 24, 2012
If there’s one word to describe 2012, it may just be steamy. And not just here in the desert. First it was the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy that got everyone talking about sex (Well – nearly everyone. I haven’t read the book). Then there was Magic Mike (Yes – I did see that movie and might or might not have been hooting and hollering in the audience and wiping drool from my face).
- Going to the Birds (Again) - November 18, 2012
I’ve done it again (my badgering at its best). Yep – I convinced hubby to build a kestrel nest box. (Remember when I begged him to install hummingbird nests and the hummingbird cam? That was after the first time he built platforms for our nesting roadrunners – all at my insistent whining urging).
- Becoming a Writer - November 10, 2012
I hesitated to write this post because it’s such a departure from most of my stories with their ties to the natural world. But then I thought: maybe it’s not so different after all, because the story I’m about to tell really does relate to the natural evolution of the writer’s world.
- Reflections - November 5, 2012
Road trips, I think, may be a writer’s best friend – mostly because they seem to spur that kind of reflection that doesn’t seem to happen behind a computer monitor.
- Spooky Spines - October 24, 2012
Most of us, during childhood (usually during one of those long car trips, foreheads pressed against the cool glass) have played the cloud game: searching the billowy skies for recognizable shapes ... Discovering objects sometimes hilarious. Sometimes a stretch. Sometimes creepy.
- 'Can Do' Attitude - October 14, 2012
There’s a bit of backstory to my Betty connection, though. And it all started on the outskirts of a dairy farm in rural northwestern Pennsylvania. Read all about it at Julia Munroe Martin’s blog, wordsxo, where I am honored to guest post this week.
- Where's Waldo? - October 8, 2012
I’ve always been struck by nature’s ability to conceal. So many things seem to blend into the other, edges softening and blurring, our eyes unsure if optical illusions are at play. In the desert, this concealment can be downright startling (Yep – I’m thinking rattlesnakes, so invisible their reptilian skin melts into the cocoa-colored earth).
- Betty & Goldie’s Misadventures - September 23, 2012
As we started out on a 4WD trip into the Sierra Ancha Mountains of Central Arizona, a blog angle had already sprung to mind. We were on our way to a town called Young and, of course, I got to thinking about age.
- Long Hike, Long Novel - September 16, 2012
Remember those sweltering summer days as kids – sand between your toes at the beach, purpled bruises on your hips from the Slip ‘N Slide, riding you bicycle until sweat stung your eyes – and then, after playful exhaustion … that first magical lick of a soothing popsicle, its crystals cooling the fire of your overworked little body? Bliss. Life was good.
- Take a Rat for a Ride - September 3, 2012
I’ve become somewhat of a rat chauffer. Not by choice. But it seems that desert packrats enjoy taking rides in my car, up the quarter-mile driveway to the locked gate. On two occasions now, Fievel has accompanied me (okay – maybe Fievel was a mouse, but these rats aren’t the ugly, pointy-nosed Norwegian kind. They are pretty damn cute).
- Cat Tails & Cat Tales - July 29, 2012
I love big, exotic cats, which is probably why I have these. My love of all things “big cat” is probably also why, when I realized a bobcat was walking out under our breezeway, I ran toward it, instead of away from it.
- Natural Instinct - July 7, 2012
Even though I’m still practicing my sabbatical as I focus on fiction, I felt compelled to provide an update on the hummingbird family under our breezeway. In my last post, I shared the building process.
- The Photo-therapist - June 16, 2012
You may look at the photo below and say, "Toto, we're not in Kansas the desert anymore.” And you’d be right. I have the honor of introducing Julia Munroe Martin, a friend, blogger and talented writer from Maine to my blog this week
- Roostin' & Hummin' - June 3, 2012
My husband is a saint. For years, the man has built a plethora of platforms to quiet his wife’s frantic squawking.
- Reunion with Nature - May 29, 2012
It probably goes without saying that nature began whispering in my ear at a young age, taunting and teasing and pulling at my imagination.
- The Bird Has Landed - May 13, 2012
My front yard has been an aviary wonderland the past several weeks: hummingbirds building nests; hooded and bullock’s orioles playing hide ’n seek in the paloverdes, their plumage the perfect camouflage against pale yellow blooms; and fuzzy Say’s Phoebe chicks taking flight on wobbly wings.
- Power of Words - April 28, 2012
I’m not going to lie. I took one look at the shotgun and its giant shells, and I quickly questioned just who I thought I was and what I thought I was doing slipping into the passenger seat of the patrol car.
- Camp Lizard Bowl - April 21, 2012
They say a picture paints a thousand words. So I’m curious ... What words come to mind when you see this? This little (or, rather large) lizard greeted us at our campsite last weekend. Click to enlarge.
- Nature = My Lucky 7 - April 14, 2012
This week’s post is a bit of a departure from my typical nature-as-writing-instructor theme, but in some ways, it actually fits right in with What I Saw. You see, I was tagged by the fabulous debut author, Kimberly Brock (The River Witch released last week!) to participate in the 7–7–7 challenge, which essentially gives a sneak peek of an author’s work in progress (WIP).
- The Nature of Nature - April 9, 2012
As bipedal, thinking creatures, we seem to crave order. Predictability and patterns alleviate apprehension for most and help us get from point A to point B
- Desert Time-Travel - March 10, 2012
Nothing quite says “Wild West” like the dusty streets and bleached boardwalks of Tombstone. Once a year, the Arizona mining town comes to life – much like the spirits said to tromp along the wooden walkways beneath the cloak of darkness, spurs tinging and boots thumping.
- Office Space - March 3, 2012
This was my office chair one day last week.
- Open Range Adventure - February 25, 2012
About five minutes from my house is a remote little road that runs along the San Pedro River. Its tarred and chipped veneer quickly gives way to scraped dirt, the whirling dust of passing vehicles, and the emerald green fields of surrounding ranches. It’s one of my favorite places.
- Jeepers! - February 5, 2012
I was going to wait a few weeks before sharing my first Betty adventures. But I just couldn’t. Seriously.
- Meet Betty - January 29, 2012
I really am a simple gal. I don’t need or want much. Shoes, purses, jewelry, “things” … Meh. I’m okay with the essentials (which includes a stack of books, of course). Except there is this one thing that I’ve been coveting for more than a decade …
- Many-Legged Awe - January 22, 2012
One book, among the many on my now-straining bookshelf, has earned a prime spot on the top tier, where it is easily accessible: my National Audubon Field Guide to the Southwestern States.
- Of Dogs & Prairie Dogs - January 8, 2012
I expected to see dogs this past weekend. Lots of them. Brittany spaniels, to be exact – and one little gal in particular: Pearl.
- Map of Discovery - December 13, 2011
There’s nothing quite like a new discovery. A new favorite author. Music that stirs emotional notes within that you didn’t know existed. A novel that holds you spellbound from page one to 300. A neon orange flower dancing on a breeze along a steep hillside, its colors otherworldly. A bird you didn’t know existed but were lucky enough to glimpse.
- Soft Brushstrokes of the Arizona Sun - December 4, 2011
The southwest’s beauty is perhaps at no time more spectacular than the winter months, when improved air circulation results in pastel hues stretched across expansive sky, the product of the sun’s soft brushstrokes against clouds.
- The Art of Focus - November 27, 2011
I’ve been a bit out of my element lately. Instead of spending time outdoors photographing the southeastern Arizona landscape (or … ahem … working on my novel), I’ve been in the kitchen, surrounded by bags of flour, Tupperware containers of sugar, chocolate chips, toffee bits, butter, cookie cutters …
- Desert Hiatus - October 30, 2011
It seems the creatures of the desert go on hiatus about this time of year. Tortoises no longer tuck themselves into their shells, rather they seek to tuck themselves beneath granitic or volcanic boulders in preparation for the winter months. Tarantulas burrow down into existing mole holes. Rattlesnakes occupy deserted gopher and squirrel tunnels. Giant Sonoran desert toads dig deep into the soil and hide away until the next monsoon season.
- Dazzling Spider - October 23, 2011
Are you the kind of person who carries spiders and bugs outside so that they’ll avoid the sole of a shoe, the vortex of a swirling toilet bowl – or in our house – the fast and furious paws of predatory cats? I am. I know … Big surprise. But I’ve always been that way – not just during Halloween when spiders get a bad rap.
- Raven Rest Stop - October 16, 2011
After encountering a half dozen ravens hopping along in the wash that runs through our driveway (these are big feathered friends, folks – think medium-sized dog), I decided to don my Nancy Drew hat. These black-cloaked birds had been squatting for two days already… What were they doing? Why had they taken over my yearlong raven residents’ residence?
- Glow in the Desert - October 9, 2011
It’s not what you’d expect to see in the middle of a still, starless night in the Arizona desert … Luminescent turquoise and purple paper lanterns rocking in the wind. A family of four draped in six feet of neon yellow glow rope, moving as one like a snake among the outbuildings of a local ranch. A young woman in tights walking the dusty desert soil, an oversized blue-and-white lighted hula-hoop in her hands.
- Seeing: Now & Then - October 2, 2011
Yes, as the title implies, you’re in for a present-&-past smorgasbord this week. This post will showcase what I saw this weekend, and take you on a trip down memory lane, highlighting some of the things I’ve seen since my first blog post in June of 2010.
- Mr. Bacon Sighting - September 25, 2011
It all started back in August. Journalist Patrick Ross introduced his sidekick, Mr. Bacon, to the blogosphere.
- Come to My Window - September 18, 2011
Writers are really window-makers. With words, they construct windows that open out on to the world. When readers gaze through those windows, they’re transported to worlds never imagined or, conversely, worlds comfortingly familiar.
- Into the Skies - September 11, 2011
We Arizonans get a little excited about clouds since our skies are almost always draped in a dazzling sapphire robe, interrupted by nothing but blue. Some of us are so taken by clouds that we take photos of clouds every chance we can (me).
- Open Wings - September 4, 2011
A year ago, I had no idea what this was ... The first time I saw one of these critters during a jog, I thought it looked like something from a sci-fi movie with all its knobs and protrusions. But after some research, I learned that it is the precursor to something beautiful: it’s the larval form of the stunning pipevine swallowtail butterfly.
- Ka-pow! Ker-plooey! - August 28, 2011
How apropos that the sky is growling and grumbling as I begin this post ... that the tink-tink of rain is creating a harmonic symphony on the skylights…
- Desert Portrait - August 21, 2011
The longer I live in the desert, the more convinced I am that Mother Nature is an artist – the raindrops her brushstrokes, the wind her muse, the sun her sculptor.
- Which Came First? - August 14, 2011
I’ll spare you the age-old ‘chicken or egg’ question. Well, kind of.
- Beyond the Beach - August 8, 2011
I once had a boyfriend who hated the beach. He thought it smelled like fish and garbage, and complained how the sand gets everywhere.
- Barren to Bountiful - August 1, 2011
Not even a month ago, this is how the desert looked: barren, brown, but still quite beautiful in its mocha-colored hues.
- Magic Everywhere - July 24, 2011
I nearly broke out in a fast-paced sprint when Neighbor Mark pointed to this rock and announced that he thought it was a fertility rock. Think dust trails floating behind the roadrunner as he zooms away from the coyote. I felt like making that kind of escape. So did my husband.
- Slow & Steady Tortoise - July 18, 2011
Slow and steady wins the race. Each July when the desert tortoises begin lumbering around our rural Arizona property, I’m reminded of this lesson from Aesop’s famed tortoise and the hare fable.
- Wonderful Webs - July 10, 2011
Meet Big Red. She’s our big, bad jalopy of a tractor (and also, oddly, a bit of an obsession with many city folk visitors. Inevitably, after a few beers, the tractor will rattle to a start for the much-anticipated tractor rides. I’m not kidding … And, OK, maybe I am the instigator. Maybe it’s my Pennsylvania farm roots? Or maybe it’s an obscure scientific equation: booze + desert = tractor rides?).
- Idiosyncratic Saguaro - July 3, 2011
Those of us who feasted on a diet of Looney Tunes and Doritos each Saturday morning probably grew up thinking that those funny desert plants zipping past the roadrunner and coyote were all pretty much the same: deep green, trident-looking in their shape, with three equidistant arms.
- Inspiration in Nature - June 27, 2011
Guest blogger and writer Leah Singer shares the ways in which nature - in particular, a rainbow - inspires her writing topics.
- What Are You Doing? - June 20, 2011
What are you doing? It's the rather direct question my husband was asked by a stubbly-faced fellow riding shotgun in a white Chevy Suburban this past weekend.
- Shots Ring Out - June 13, 2011
When I think of the desert southwest (my back yard), I think of these things: javelina, ocotillo and mining trestles.
- Desolate Desert Digs - June 6, 2011
To the untrained eye, a pile of rocks in the desert might appear to be just that: a pile of rocks. In fact, most untrained eyes probably wouldn’t even see that pile of rocks during the height of summer, when the sun glares fiercely off the desert floor and one thing melts into another: the brittle wild grass, the barren light cocoa-colored earth.
- Captured on Cudde - May 30, 2011
Things look a bit more sinister at night, don’t you think? For me at least, living in the true desert (where things go bump – or growl – in the night), the veil of darkness seems to heighten my senses and engage my overactive imagination.
- State of Flow - May 23, 2011
Forgive me, as I may appear a bit obsessed with water lately. Perhaps that’s because our patch of the Sonoran Desert hasn’t received measureable rainfall in the past 41 days (that, while my parents in Pennsylvania think they may need to purchase a rowboat for their front yard). As the scorched desert dirt sends tendrils of earthy smoke from under my running shoes, from beneath my truck’s tires, I imagine it is screaming, “I’m parched! I’m thirsty!”
- Fading Footprints - May 16, 2011
Footprints seem so solitary, so isolated, so lonely. Maybe that’s because they are simply a shell of what once was, a reminder that someone – or something – traveled a particular path once-upon-a-time.
- Oh, Baby! - May 9, 2011
I was told that I was an ugly baby. In fact, my nickname was Jiminy Cricket (see the resemblance below?). Thank God I don’t still have a shriveled insect-shaped face. But I digress… the whole notion of pretty and ugly babies popped up – quite literally – a few weeks ago as I passed by the large, lone saguaro that stands only about 15 feet away from a busy state route highway.
- Life’s Elixir - May 2, 2011
You might look at these photos and think there is nothing remarkable about water on flowers, on trees. Seen it before, you might say. But when you consider that these droplets fell upon the parched lips of flowering hedgehog cacti, the bone-dry petals of desert marigolds, and the smooth pistachio-colored branches of Sonoran Desert mesquite trees, the meaning changes a bit.
- Metaphor for Writing - April 25, 2011
Is novel writing much different than trumpet-vine trimming? Guest writer V.V. Denman shares her insight and images.
- Foggy Isolation - April 18, 2011
Have you ever had one of those days where you feel like it’s just you in this world? I don’t mean a down-on-your-luck day where you’re sure the world will never stop its relentless kicking at the seat of your pants.
- Majestic Crested Saguaro - April 11, 2011
I’ve been on a bit of a scavenger hunt lately. It all started about a year ago when I realized that the misshapen form I saw on a distant hill (from my kitchen window) was a rare crested saguaro.
- Sonoran Liberty Bell - April 4, 2011
I will never stop being amazed at the hidden treasures so near to my home in southern Arizona. Take, for instance, this interesting geologic formation that rests near an ancient Native American Indian site.
- Burst of Color - March 28, 2011
The desert gets a bad rap. It’s brown. It’s dry. It’s ugly. I’ve heard all those utterances from family and friends who, apparently, enjoy digging themselves out from ten-foot snowdrifts every winter (Perhaps not so much after this year?).
- Winner, winner, chicken dinner! - March 28, 2011
Okay … I know we’re not playing poker*. But it seemed a fun title to announce the winner of the first-ever What I Saw Amateur Photo Contest.
- Rock Painting Interpretation - March 21, 2011
What does it all mean? It’s a universal question – one uttered in countless works of literature, rendered in paintings, the topic of many a teenage journal, the theme of Hollywood blockbusters. But for me, as I lay spine-in-the dirt, I was asking the question from quite a literal perspective.
- Purple Protrusion - March 14, 2011
What is that, you wonder? I wondered the same thing upon my discovery. I’ve seen my share of potato “eyeballs,” but never one sprouting purple furry, white-polka dotted protrusions.
- Photo Contest - Week 2 Samples - March 11, 2011
If you haven’t entered your photo in the “What I Saw” Amateur Photo Contest, you still have time. Submissions are being accepted until March 15.
- Goat on a Hill - March 7, 2011
I had probably run past them a half dozen times during my daily jogs before I realized they were even there. Staring at me. That is, until one of them screamed at me in an eerily boy-like voice. Yes, I’m talking about goats!
- Photo Contest - Friday Sampling - March 3, 2011
If you haven't entered your photo in the "What I Saw" Amateur Photo Contest, you still have time. Submissions are being accepted until March 15. Learn more about the full contest details.
- End of Mighty Saguaro - February 28, 2011
I didn’t realize, until I was culling through my photo library, that I appear to have a fascination with decaying saguaros. It seems my camera gravitates toward them, capturing their unique personalities, even in death.
- Racing in the Rain - February 21, 2011
What I saw this weekend was much different than what I see most days … I ran my first race – a measly 8K (5 miles) – but a fairly big event for someone who does not consider herself a runner and who always hated running for the sake of running (I was much happier running up and down the basketball court in high school and during college intramurals. And I pretty much hated running middle-distance during my track-and-field days).
- Home on the Range - February 14, 2011
Home … what defines it? Grandma’s old farmhouse? The whirr of traffic buzzing past the highway in front of your childhood home? Pepsi in a glass bottle from the upright dispenser in Uncle Bob’s auto shop, tugged from its individual, circular cubby behind the swinging glass door? The bleating horns of cabs in front of your urban apartment? The aroma of the Italian bakery on the corner? Family dinners around a bonfire? The dusty smell of soaked creosote bushes after a desert rain?
- Lost Civilization - February 8, 2011
As a kid growing up, I learned from my history teachers of various disappearing populations. Masses of people that just up and vanished. Where did they go? What happened to them? The clues springing from the dusty ground – dried corn cobs, matates, petrified gourd stems, pottery fragments, and crumbling sand-mud-rock structures – always seemed, to me, an unsolved riddle.
- Creative Companion: Cat vs. Dog - January 31, 2011
I grew up with both dogs and cats. And while I am a true animal lover at heart – embracing all animals, including pocket gophers and collared peccaries – I confess that I have always felt a certain kinship with felines. It should be noted, though, that I also am known to rescue and rehome the countless stray dogs that seem to wander in front of our windows, staring helplessly back at me
- Bluebird's View - January 24, 2011
I continue to be amazed by the wonders right in my back yard – or front yard, as it would be, in this case. Of course, you assume I’m talking about the majestic volcanic mountain ranges and creosote-studded rolling hills that surround the place I call home. Yes. And no. I’m also talking about something else. Something with a pulse.
- Rancher Wannabe - January 17, 2011
A few days before Christmas, I had the opportunity to tag along with one of my college buddies to a ranch in southern Arizona.
- Peculiar Pose - January 11, 2011
No, I didn’t say pelican pose. Or peculiar prose (though I’ve seen some of that emerge from my keyboard lately). Peculiar pose, as in, “What is that crazy bird doing?”
- Cactus as Compass - January 5, 2011
I have to confess that the winter season in the desert has made my pursuit of “fun things to see” a bit challenging. This time of year the desert seems to be in slumber, with animals lulled to silence and plants painted by the stroke of the same dull, muffled bru
- Ancient Storytelling - December 20, 2010
I was probably about 14 when my dad ‘planted’ a store-bought arrowhead in our giant vegetable garden, hoping I would find it while hoeing the potato mounds.
- Colors of the Desert - December 13, 2010
I admit that I’m not adept at artistic interpretation (a few trips through the Phoenix Art Museum made that fact abundantly clear, as did my undergrad interpretations of Romantic Era poetry).
- Company of Friends - December 8, 2010
Wow! Wahoo! That pretty much sums up my first hike to Aravaipa Canyon on Dec. 6. Sure, you’re crossing the creek about 70 percent of the time, which means wet, wet feet. But, oddly, that squishy-squashy feeling provided some delight and extra cushion! The unseasonably warm 68-degree weather was also helpful.
- Versatile Nopales - December 1, 2010
What do you see in the photo below? A series of interconnected pathways? An artery-like roadmap? A peeling away of layers? Boring brittle plant remains?
- One Lizard & a Fencepost - November 22, 2010
Since a lot of U.S. blogs this week are going to focus on giving thanks, I’m going to live on the wild side and talk about fence posts and lizards, instead. (Don’t get me wrong … I am thankful!)
- It's a Hoodoo - November 15, 2010
I’m becoming a bit obsessed. With rocks. I admit I haven’t started licking them, like many geologists do (seriously… they do! It makes them easier to identify, and you can determine hardness by biting them).
- Ears Along the Trestle - November 10, 2010
Has your imagination ever gotten the best of you? You know … to the point where the sound of a snapping twig is, no doubt, a mountain lion crouching in the creosote bushes? Or that smell – a thick, musky animal scent – is definitely a band of wild javelina with lots of young, their instinct to protect their offspring so engrained that charging after you is an afterthought?
- The Paths We Choose - November 8, 2010
Even though hubby and I live in the desert “boonies,” I continue to be amazed at the amount of foot traffic along the remote, now-unused mining tracks that border our property.
- Muppet Hair - November 3, 2010
During a hike about a week ago, I was sad to see that most of the vegetation is dying off with the approach of winter in the desert. But, as always, the desert did not disappoint in its ability to produce life amid the most difficult of circumstances (We’ve had no rain, and the unseasonably warm – still in the 80s and 90s weather – has confused many of our dormant bushes into flowering again).
- The Adaptive Katydid - November 1, 2010
I love discovering new things. So, when the striped wings of an unidentifiable insect caught my eye in the dirt yesterday, I ran for the camera. That’s probably of no surprise to anyone who knows me or reads my blog.
- Tarantula Hawk - October 27, 2010
I think most can agree that that prehistoric times – the days of giant dinosaurs roaming the Earth – are pretty darn fascinating.
- Lifesaving Intervention - October 25, 2010
Maybe my title is a little overly dramatic, but not to the little lizard I saved from certain death during my morning jog along the railroad tracks.
- What Lies Beneath - October 21, 2010
I hear you already (knowing you’ve peeked below at the rock photo). Ugh! Boring! Rock licker! Mother Earth! Science geek! All fair shout-outs, I suppose.
- Chance Encounter - October 18, 2010
Have you ever thought about the role that “chance” plays in your life? I thought about it this morning during my jog along the railroad tracks. I just happened to stop at a particular section of the track to catch my breath, only to look up and see a beautiful, bushy-tailed coyote eyeing me from the crest of a nearby bluff.
- Rancher's Windmill - October 14, 2010
In the southwest, you see them everywhere. Windmills. The old-fashioned kind, and even now, some of the high-tech wind turbines scattered about.
- Forgotten Mansion – Lost Town - October 12, 2010
I am a complete sucker for a good story. Add to that the fact that I am like a child in a toy store when I’m in the middle of nature, and you’ll likely understand why my recent quad adventure with neighbors was so memorable.
- Gila Monster Shuffle - October 8, 2010
I’ve been lucky enough to see Gila Monsters in the area on three different occasions this year. Did you know the Gila Monster is one of only two venomous lizards in the world (though so slow as to pose no threat to humans)? OK – so they can lunge…
- Western Banded Gecko - October 6, 2010
Arizona’s Western Banded Gecko is one of my favorite desert critters. This little guy, right outside the front door, almost landed under my foot. In the evening light and on the concrete, he was nearly invisible.
- Survival of the Fittest - October 4, 2010
I had a spectacular and unexpected ‘wildlife’ jog last week that began with the sighting of our resident Harris’s hawks (I had only been seeing one, so I was pretty certain that the mate had been killed. I was quite excited to discover the pair together, and even more excited yesterday, when I discovered that there are three in the family!).
- Railroad Ravens - September 30, 2010
During mid-June, I had the privilege of watching four adorable baby Chihuahua ravens fledge from their large nest that balanced, of all places, about a foot beneath the rails of a train trestle.
- Flutter by, Butterfly - September 27, 2010
I’ve mentioned, before, the lack of luck I generally have in photographing butterflies (and cool moths).
- Friday Photo: Furry Spider - September 24, 2010
During my morning jog (and yes, it was a glorious 68 degrees this morning! Wahoo!), I witnessed something that I didn’t think happened in nature.
- Runnin’ with Rattlers - September 22, 2010
I had remarked to neighbors over the past few weeks how unusual it was that by mid-September, I still had not encountered a rattlesnake. I knew all that talk of “not seeing any snakes” was probably going to bite me in the butt — or the ankle (though hopefully neither)! Sure enough, three days later, as I was jogging, I ran into – quite literally – my first rattler of the season.
- Desert Camouflage - September 20, 2010
I continue to be amazed at nature’s ability to conceal. I nearly squashed this lizard when hiking last week at Smelter Wash. The only reason I saw him was the bright yellow on his back.
- The Train Trestle's Story - September 15, 2010
Where others might see only rusty train tracks atop old asbestos-soaked wood and iron bolts, I see history. And a whole lot more.
- Grasshopper Crunch - September 13, 2010
I took a great trip to Virden, New Mexico last week with a friend – partly a leisure trip to learn about processing fresh, farm-grown green chilis, and partly a “field research” trip for my novel. Along the way, on Rt. 70 – somewhere between Duncan and Safford – I began to notice what looked like debris all over the highway. As we continued, the debris became even more heavily concentrated, like scattered cigars all along the road.
- Devil’s Claw - September 9, 2010
Tell me … at first glance, what do you think this is? When we first purchased our property in rural southern Arizona in 2004 (me and hubby), we found these odd-looking twiggy-looking things all over our property. A friend once glued them to a board and drew a face around them. They suddenly looked like the pinchers of a prehistoric insect.
- The Vulture's Necessity - September 7, 2010
They are U-G-L-Y. I’m talking turkey vultures (And, no, I was not chanting U-G-L-Y as if it were a cheer.) So back to the vulture … Have you ever seen one up close?
- Butterfly Effect - September 1, 2010
I have been trying to capture butterflies with my camera lens for years. But I just don’t have the equipment or luck, I guess.
- Unique Treasure - August 30, 2010
I admit it. I have a love affair with the saguaro cactus (you’ll see I’ve talked about its flowers and fruit in previous posts. But I’ll hold off on future saguaro blogs … well, after this post, of course).
- Giant Jack - August 27, 2010
For a good two weeks, this mama jackrabbit hung out near our house. Even when we drove the truck in and out of the carport, she stayed put. Not sure if the shade from our house provided enough solace to quell any fears, or if she’d just gotten comfortable with the idea of having us around.
- Impaled Bat - August 25, 2010
The phrase “blind as a bat” is apropos for this crazy photo I captured near our cattle gate. The saying is actually a misnomer, since nearly all bats have relatively good eyesight. Even with eyes, they rely primarily on their sonar system (echolocation) to navigate in the dark (and catch their dinner). Their movements are so precise, they’re said to be able to avoid objects no wider than a piece of thread.
- Ahhh… Breakfast in the Desert - August 23, 2010
I know, I know… Everyone’s seen a cool photo of a flower. But take a closer look. This isn’t your ordinary wildflower; it has nine castaways on it. To be precise, they are Tephritidae, of the fruit fly family.
- Light Show - August 19, 2010
I grew up in Pennsylvania, not far from Lake Erie. That meant “lake effect” was part of our vocabulary and that clouds were more common than sunshine. In fact, it was that very phenomenon that spurred my move to Arizona.
- What the #@*! is that? - August 13, 2010
When I came across this guy (don’t know what it is, frankly), he was hanging to a piece of desert grass, and the just-rising sun was illuminating him perfectly. He sparkled like a ruby slipper.
- The Palo Verde’s Plight - August 11, 2010
Logic would tell most of us that, after months of the summer’s scorching 100-plus-degree desert heat, few things could grow, let alone thrive. Seriously. We’ve reached the 110’s multiple times (and the temperature on the desert floor can skyrocket to 130 or higher).
- Cobwebs - August 9, 2010
When I was running this morning, I felt like I was being wrapped in a cocoon. Not sure if the rain has something to do with it, but I got wrapped up in more cobwebs than ever before.
- Emerald Green Beetle - August 6, 2010
“Dorothy! We’re not in Kansas anymore!” That’s what I thought when this emerald green, shiny beetle sauntered along under our breezeway, garnering attention with his vibrant, metallic “bling.” Yes, I said “bling.”
- The Determined Harris’s Hawk - August 4, 2010
This morning’s treat (or should I say, ‘startle’) was two Harris’s hawks that I inadvertently came upon while jogging.
- Visitors @ my Window - August 1, 2010
Like many writers, I have cats (at least it seems that authors have cats … I could be wrong, making such a blanket statement). So, when I heard a “thud” at the window, I assumed it was one of my furry kids batting at a bug or fly that had somehow gotten into the house.
- Javelina Encounter - July 30, 2010
This morning, as I am concluding my daily jog, I come up over a little hill – pushing myself to finish strong as I run faster on that last stretch of desert earth. My shoes are crunching away, I’m breathing heavily, the humidity is kicking my butt, and I “think” I hear something. But I can’t tell due to all the noise I’m making. So I dismiss the strange “bark” that also has a “snorty” tone to it. I figure it’s my body objecting to all the exercise. Or my imagination.
- Mighty Mite - July 28, 2010
My goal yesterday, when I set out with my friend and hiking buddy Kathy, was to show her a secret hot spring in the middle of the desert (shared with me earlier by buddy Roxanne).
- Desert Tortoise Exodus - July 27, 2010
Each summer, we’re lucky enough to see a few desert tortoises waddle on by our house. This year’s first sighting included a little guy no bigger than a cereal bowl.
- Bald Eagles Return - July 21, 2010
As you know from my last post, I spent time in my home state recently. I was delighted to learn that so many bald eagles are making a comeback in northwestern Pennsylvania. I was lucky enough to have seen three gliding along the surface of Pymatuning Lake before they snatched fish up in their talons. Sadly, they were too quick for me to photograph – even the ones nesting near several power lines. I never did get a great shot, unfortunately.
- Baby Skunks - July 19, 2010
Irony of all ironies… I did get close enough to a skunk for photos during my trip back to Pennsylvania (see last blog, Scent of Skunk). Five of them, actually: four babies and mama crossing the road! Enjoy this snapshot. They were smaller than they look in the photo (about four-month-old kitten sized).
- Going to the Birds - July 7, 2010
One of the biggest misconceptions about the desert – especially in June and July – is that “everything is dead.” Sure, that’s when the 100-degree days become standard, and riding a motorcycle or four-wheeler is like having a hot hairdryer blasting into your face. But it’s also when lots of baby birds are born.
- Scent of Skunk - July 5, 2010
Okay. So the image below doesn’t appear to “match” my headline. But really … it does have relevance. This is the setting for my experience this morning. Because, let’s be honest: who wants to get close enough to photograph a skunk? Not me.
- Friday Photo: Bustin’ Blooms - July 2, 2010
Earlier this week I shared a photo of a flowering saguaro cactus, the flowers pristine and crisp in their infancy. Today I share the effects of a month’s worth of 90- and 100-degree heat: wilted blooms and ripe fruit that the birds love to eat. When the fruit starts to burst open, the tops of the cacti along our hillsides become dotted with blood red, flesh-colored fruits – a stark contrast to the browning desert.
- Rhythm of the Cicada - June 30, 2010
Do you have any idea how difficult it is to photograph a cicada? I’ve been chasing these noisy insects around for weeks, and to no avail. How quickly I felt outsmarted! Each time I’d approach a bush or tree – abuzz with the distinctive cicada cacophony – I’d get very close, scanning and scanning, yet seeing nothing.
- Saguaro Flower Power - June 28, 2010
I admit it. I’m in love with the saguaro cactus – from its stately arms, behemoth size and prickly spines to its exquisite white flowers. And did you know that the saguaro is only found in Arizona’s Sonoran desert … nowhere else in the world? How great is that?
- Friday Photo: Kryptonite - June 25, 2010
I’m not well versed in Superman trivia, but when I saw this lichen on a rock during a recent hike, I immediately thought: Kryptonite! It was almost glowing from the rock’s surface; I assume it is “young” lichen, as other nearby rocks sported the less spectacular sea foam-colored lichen. Isn’t nature cool?
- I’m not Furby - June 21, 2010
Okay, so he looks like a Furby. But he isn’t. This is one of two gorgeous great-horned owlets I discovered behind our property. (Yes, it’s owlet … not owlette.)
- To Bee or Not to Bee - June 4, 2010
I’ve always been afraid of bees … You know, the kind of idiot who swerves her car all over the road when she discovers that a bee is riding along with her as an unintended passenger.