Life In Progress

I will not confuse my career with my life.

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Out Like a Lion

013113 snow pile & wizard melt1adj
The rain and wind have made it to Maine. The haughty Snow Wizard is melted down to a stump of its former glory. When we got a couple of inches of snow Monday night, I shoveled the deck snow onto the formerly fabulous and icy Cabin Fever Snow Pile, thinking that the snow in the tracks would protect the ice in the chutes. Against all odds, I had dreams of races this weekend. Now it looks like sulking will be my major activity.

As I took a few photos a little while ago, I heard a vivid rendition of the Wicked Witch of the West’s line run through my head: “I’m melting, melting. Oh, what a world, what a world.”

It feels so much like late March here. Late March is when Maine finally gets the legendary “in like a lion” aspect of the month. But, January — out like a lion?

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…and Breathe

Every so often, I try to branch out. Put myself into situations to learn and grow. My personal practice has hit a plateau this summer while the professional aspect has begun to gain a foothold — I have been substitute teaching yoga for well over a year and have finally found a place where I will teach on a regular basis. (Yay, but that’s not my story here…) The time was right for a bit of exploration.

I’ve always enjoyed doing yoga in hot weather, but had never taken a “hot yoga” class. So, I signed up for a class at a local studio and attended this morning. It is a gorgeous studio, great location, affiliated with a popular “brand” of yoga and the employees and interns were friendly and helpful.

Obviously, I expected it to be hot, but this room was HOT. A stuffy, closed-up attic kind of hot, but with added humidity. I centered myself, sipped judiciously from my water bottle and prepared for class to begin. The cheerful instructor entered the room and introduced herself (and never stopped talking again until Savasana.) After a few of the modified Sun Salutations, I was mopping my face to keep the sweat from my eyes, but I was actually enjoying the brisk pace and the challenge. There were only a few asana that I found quite challenging (plank, chaturanga and up dog all with one leg tucked high in tree pose position!) but I felt good with the pace and my body felt as though it was responding well to the heat.

The class flew by, my towel and mat were sopping and before I knew it I was back in my car, gratefully blasting the air-conditioning and slugging back water. When I got home, I peeled off my clothes, threw them and my towels into the washer and stood under the water in the shower for a long time. I felt pleasantly tired, but intact and unharmed.

After my shower, I wiped steam from the mirror and looked at my face and realized that the skin around my eyes was dotted with tiny pinpoints of broken blood vessels. I freaked out. A frantic Google session provided good information about this (there are actually yoga forum threads about this situation) and that calmed me down some what. Apparently, I might have been holding my breath during some of the more challenging asana, causing the vessels to burst. I think I heard about this phenomenon on CSI once when a victim had been strangled. Yikes.

I had hoped to breathe new life into my yoga practice and got just what I was looking for. A strong signal to practice renewed compassion for myself, first and foremost.

And breathe.

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Who’s Your Daddy?

Fixated on spiders as I seem to be this summer, they are also decidedly creeping me out. Everywhere I look I see a fluttering moth or some unfortunate beautiful turquoise damselfly struggling to escape a sticky web. Sometimes I try to save the damselflies. Yesterday, my eye got caught just in time to see a spider lunge, pounce and efficiently dispatch the pretty white moth caught up in her web. Drama on this small scale is still drama.

I keep checking the rosemary plant pot saucer, trying to catch a glimpse of the iridescent spider who lives on the front porch, but she’s got two sort of cocoons spun and recently just her shadow is visible in the smaller of them. This is the gal I can’t get out of my mind. I shiver as I imagine these cocoons sheltering dozens of tiny, shiny-eyed predators with iridescent green mandibles. Since I don’t see her much anymore, I have begun to zero in on a spider who keeps adding to a big web in the east corner of the porch. Even though the photo is not crisp, you can see filament jetting from the spinnerets in this shot. It’s a busy web with lots of debris clinging along with dangling mummified insects. I’m sure to be back to that one to watch for gruesome action.

Daddy Long Legs don’t freak me out like their shorter-legged cousins. Maybe because I once read that even though they are technically arachnids, they really aren’t the same as spiders: They don’t spin silk and they can’t bite humans. I snapped the small Daddy pictured above while it rested on top of an echinacea flower bud. The proximity of the camera lens startled him, but he posed just long enough for me to focus in on his way down the stalk.

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Garden Shark

The quartz eating machine glides amongst the Siberian Iris, which by now are long past blooming. Still, they afford essential camouflage for this crafty predator. His destination: the beautiful ceramic toad house Mom Jane sent a couple of weeks ago. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing living in the earthenware abode, but Garden Shark has a sharp nose and a taste for amphibian this evening.

I would go outside with my camera right now to snap a photo or maybe even a video of the rustling iris leaves (fragrant fodder for fellow cryptozoologists,) except I’m afraid of the bulbous she-spider who’s nightly been spinning a web between a corner of the house and the day lilies blooming across the walkway. Thankfully, Will has to traverse that path to feed the birds tomorrow morning and will blithely blaze the way.

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The Fuzz

Encouraged by the fact that I did not get stung when I photographed the hornet, I had the courage to get up close to this spider living in the saucer of a potted rosemary plant on my porch. Brilliantly aware of my fascination, she constantly keeps her face toward me, watching me as I watch her moving about her abode.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll set up the tripod and see if I can get some full body shots as she scuttles about in the saucer. She seems most active when the sun is not directly warming the terra cotta. I resist the shivery thought that crossed my mind just now: going out at night to watch her work. Brrrr.

Although her mandibles appear extremely formidable, especially with the enticing areas of flashing shimmery green iridescence, her eyes are not nearly as calculating as they appear here. That said, I will definitely remember to check around for her the next time the rosemary needs to be moved from that table…


The Buzz

Nothing says “Welcome!” better than a bald-faced hornet’s nest hanging over the bistro set on the front porch. “Pull up a chair! What can I get you?” I’ll say to my guests. “How about a scrabble game at the table here?”

Well, maybe the huge spider that spun a big web right over the storm door takes the prize for most welcoming. At least with the hornets, if you don’t bother them by stomping around or batting the papery nest with a stick, they shouldn’t bother you. The spider? When you approached the door, she’d start doing push ups on the web as a warning that she could jump! “Welcome! Step right up to the front door. Don’t mind Charlotte, she hasn’t bitten anyone. Yet.”

When I researched bald-faced hornets, I paled at the description of their life cycle. A nearly two-inch-long black and white queen emerges from hibernating underground in the spring. The beautiful, alien creature then sets about chewing and digesting wood only to spit it back up to fashion a durable, spherical nest fiber by fiber. I was fascinated to watch her progress on the bare wood of the porch ceiling. But not so fascinated to let her continue for long; I scraped off her two earliest attempts. When she came back a third time, I half-reluctantly allowed her to continue.

I learned that the queen will first lay a cadre of worker hornets which will slave away while she stays inside and rests. There can be thousands of these workers by the time she lays other queen eggs. These newborn queens will then go underground in the fall to overwinter and start the cycle for themselves next spring.

Later that day, after I’d read up a bit more online about our newest buzz, I went back out to check on her progress. I was shocked to see that the nest was already between baseball- and softball-size.

Being the wuss that I am, I asked my husband, Will, to knock the nest down. I think I was lucky she was so busy gathering wood fibers for nest making, allowing me get a few closeup photos of her. She hasn’t made a fourth attempt to nest on the ceiling of the front porch. I admit to a twinge of guilt about dislodging her but it’s early enough in the process that she can find a more suitable location. And I know in my wussy heart that this relationship most likely would not have ended well…

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The Snow Buffoon

Unlike my high expectations, the big Friday storm dumped nearly a foot of non-snowman-quality snow. Driving in it was a wet mess. Shoveling it practically dislocated my left arm from its socket. So, naturally, I was psyched for a little outdoor snow sculpting today: threw on my jeans, fleeces, gaiters and snow shoes and clomped excitedly down the yard to my formerly imposing snow friends (reduced to spindles by now) to investigate the packing characteristics of the fresh white stuff.

Dammit. The snow just wouldn’t hold together enough to repair the Snow Goddess‘ honeycomb neck. Her head snapped off as I tamped in additional snow to reinforce it. After heaving her icy spike of a  head into the yard, I accepted the Hefeweisen that my husband Will brought for me (which improved my mood immensely.)  I reconnoitered.

We clomped north across the yard to the Goat Barn. Sadly, no goats inhabit the Goat Barn these days, but that’s a story for another day. Will brought his snow rake along and scraped down the heavy snow he could reach on the barn’s porch roof. Hmmm: This snow seemed a little more cohesive. Not the best snowman snow, but it’ll do in a pinch. I started shaping, nothing in particular. Then I noticed the direction. A decidedly dorky head and shoulders emerged from the roof snow. Exhibiting a slightly medieval aura, this newest figure cast a decidedly stubborn profile.

The Snow Buffoon must be my inner village idiot. God help me if he’s an expression of a past life! Spit was utilized to keep his nostril snow in form, so I guess he is partly me now. I’m trying to ignore the plaintive voice in my head: I believe he’s afraid to guard the goat barn alone in the dark; he’s so close to the Mountain Division Trail with all its roaring snow machines. Can’t blame him, the snowmobile exhaust alone is probably coating him with dirt.

Tomorrow afternoon, I will conjure a friendly companion for him. Maybe something with eyes to keep watch in the dark tomorrow night. They will likely only last until Monday, when the forecast calls for 1 to 2 inches of …rain.

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More disturbing snow people

As I watched my strange snow creations in the backyard sublimate over the past few days, I realized I had to let them go. Yes, the snow seems like good packing snow again but do I really want to venture out into wild turkey country and plump up the snow bosoms? (The turkey shit that is uncovered as the deep snow melts is unspeakable.) Not so much.

To mourn the irreparable changes in the goddess and her consort, I started looking at photos of other snow families I have created. Last year, all I made were small families. The above photo is a disturbing rendition with a filtered face I snagged from a daguerrotype. These snow peeps look spooky, grumpy and cranky… me, me and me. (I was listening to Norah Jones while I made this composite, ha!) This year, I’ve made several actual snow families of various sizes. Some of them had cool icicles spiking straight up out of their heads.  Some had bottle cap hats and the snow was so dry I had to use spit to anchor their heads onto their torsos. And finally, just like all snow creatures, they either melted or just slowly disintegrated into debris.

Tomorrow I’ll digitally document the decline of the busty snow goddess and her bald partner. Snow is forecast for Monday: there will be a bit more winter to enjoy. Who knows? If the snow packs, this could be a case for reincarnation.

Discarded snow person limbs litter the bench. Check out the drooping orange "carrot" toothpick that once served as a nose...

Icy Spire Choir.

These three were stumbling into the side of the house in the throes of their altercation. Can spring be far with action like this going on?