Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Last Light

Last night the sky was glorious, the serene beauty overpowering the light pollution and clutter of our civilization. The horned moon low in the west, almost a true Cheshire smile, cast a mellow light above the skyline, and in the east, Orion rising on his ancient westward trek across the winter heavens. The atmosphere was so clear that red Betelgeuse and blue Rigel were colorful beacons anyone would have recognized had they only looked.

The Pleiades and Cassiopeia were above Ginger's barn, but it was Jupiter, seemingly stationed directly above me, that crowned the sky. It seems a profound evolutionary mistake that human beings only have a few decades beneath the living skies.

I recently learned that eventually the Light will go out in the universe, when all of the hydrogen is consumed by the uncountable stars. I imagined the last remaining burning star, the ultimate ending flame of light in an infinite expanse of utter darkness at the end of time. It made me incredibly sad. Nothing lasts forever - not winter, not life, not sadness, not happiness, not even light.

M74: The Perfect Spiral Credit & Copyright: Descubre Foundation, Calar Alto Observatory, OAUV, DSA, V. Peris (OAUV), J. L. Lamadrid (CEFCA), J. Harvey (SSRO), S. Mazlin (SSRO), I. Rodriguez (PTeam), O. L. (PTeam), J. Conejero (PixInsight).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Moon Feathers

The moon indeed possesses feathers.
It was only after moving to Spirit Creek, with the clear and panoramic views of the sky, that I finally understood the phases of the moon. I knew the moon was traveling around the earth and the phases were relative in relationship to the sun, but I was not clear in my mind how that made the moon appear in phases. When I observed for myself the full moon is opposite the sun in the sky and appears close to the sun at the new moon, I understood at last. It only took a little over forty years. Genius.

Many years ago, I received a Bushnell 60 mm telescope as a Christmas present. Included with the instructions for care and use, I found a newsletter devoted entirely to observing the moon. It contained a marvelous map of the lunar surface and ended with a few short paragraphs regarding an intriguing natural phenomenon known as "transient lunar phenomenon". It encouraged all amateur astronomers to be cognizant of the possibilities of observing a TLP. It included instructions for reporting any observations to NASA. It was before the internet, so people had to commit language to paper and physically ship the information via the United States Postal Service. Barbaric, I know.

This morning as I was scrolling through the full moon photos taken with my new camera, I remembered the request of NASA scientists for observations of the well-known phenomenon that has been witnessed throughout recorded history. It was a mystery to science in the late 1980's and I wondered if that riddle had been solved.

Thanks to Google, I instantly discovered that TLP has not yet been entirely solved by science.

From Wikipedia: "During the Apollo 11 mission Houston radioed to Apollo 11: "We've got an observation you can make if you have some time up there. There's been some lunar transient events reported in the vicinity of Aristarchus." Astronomers in Bochum, West Germany, had observed a bright glow on the lunar surface—the same sort of eerie luminescence that has intrigued moon watchers for centuries. The report was passed on to Houston and thence to the astronauts. Almost immediately, Armstrong reported back, "Hey, Houston, I'm looking north up toward Aristarchus now, and there's an area that is considerably more illuminated than the surrounding area. It seems to have a slight amount of fluorescence."
Though science does its best to suck the magic from our lives as brutally as a vampire drains his victim's blood, some things remain mysterious and wonderful, including the idea of vampires and the fact of transient lunar phenomenon. And, as you can see, I have irrefutable proof that moon feathers exist.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cyberkit's Masterpiece

Cyberkit, a faithful reader of this blog and a long time personal friend, emailed this work of art to me. I believe this is the very genesis of an entirely new artistic photographic style. (The only thing that could have improved this would have been if Ginger was wearing a crown.)

Hold on, Cyberkit - when this image hits the internet, we are going to be rich, biatch!

Seven Billion and Counting

Recently, the number crunchers of the world determined that the human population of the earth surpassed seven billion people. As my daughter says, "Everyone is here!"

We must all be here at the same time for a good reason. Maybe, like Skynet in the Terminator movies, the population has grown to such staggering numbers in order that humans may become self-aware, sentient, enlightened. Oh, my existentialistic soul can dream!

Perhaps a great bursting awareness is soon to rip through space/time, maybe on December 21, 2012, and it will not be the long awaited doomsday predicted by the Mayan, Hopi, Nostradamus, and any number of religions, crack pots, and yahoos scattered across the world and through time. Maybe we will just wake up and KNOW things - like Americans should not be hogging all of the world's resources and fighting wars against people who have a different religion. American companies should not have sold the software to governments to spy and oppress their citizens via the internet. Of course, if they sold it to one government, I assume they sold it to my rich government as well. In America, the religion is profit. It is why we continue to dump uncountable numbers of cubic tons of chemicals into the water, soil and air with no compunction. Our deity expects us to go forth and multiply our profits.

Maybe we will wake up on December 21, 2012 and know that it is madness to believe we can continue to destroy the earth for energy, as if it is a right Americans deserve. We allowed corporate interests to manipulate our law to give human rights to a soulless entity. One thing those old time, savage Indians got right - they warned the laws that took everything from the Indian would one day turn and consume the white man. Silly Indians.

Are the kids in the streets across the country and across the world the stirring of some great knowledge that is reaching a critical mass in the human spirit? Are the numbers of people going to be sufficient to overthrow oppressive governments, oppressive social constructs and oppressive religions by simply being? I do not know.

What I know is that my drivers license is only good until December 21, 2012. It is my own personal Mayan calendar. If the world still exists December 22, 2012, I am going to go out, get in my car, and drive illegally. Yeah, that's right - drive on an expired license!  I am going to stick it to The Man, man!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Mystery of the Gay Meatloaf

My dearest friend in this lifetime was gay. He did not come out of the closet until he was well into his thirties. It was a traumatic and heroic action on his part. He kept his secret so well hidden that I, his best friend, did not suspect. But, at long last, he was out, and the profound change this brought to my friend was a great thing to see. He was happier than I had ever seen him, and I had known him a long time, since high school. Even better, he soon found true love.

My friend and his partner invited my family to Sunday afternoon dinner at their restored farmhouse. It was an important step for my dear friend, and I wanted the entire afternoon to go perfectly for him. My brother happened to be visiting that weekend so he accompanied my husband, my daughter and me on the trip for Sunday afternoon dinner.

We had a wonderful afternoon, admiring all of the considerable remodeling and decorating the two men had accomplished in their home - refinished wood floors, restored french doors, excellent choices in artwork, house plants, fabrics, antique furniture. Their home was beautiful and comfortable. The dinner was a sumptuous feast served on a lovely old restored dining table set with heavy silverware and fresh flowers. It was heartwarming to see my friend so happy, lonely no longer, with someone to share his life and building such a beautiful home together.

When it came time to sit down to the meal, there was a tiny problem. They were serving meatloaf. I absolutely hated meatloaf and never ate it, not even my own mother's meatloaf. I was not about to let a detail like that put any sort of negativity on my friend's day, so I ate the meatloaf and said not a word. My brother and my husband had seconds. My little girl ate a big helping of it, too. It must have been delicious.

We passed the rest of the afternoon in good cheer and took our leave fairly late. It was over fifty miles to our house. It was the end of a long Sunday on a long weekend and we were all tired. We went to bed shortly after we arrived home.

My little girl was the first one to be sick. I heard her little feet running down the hall and got up to check on her. As soon as she was settled and I had returned to bed, it hit me. I ran down the hall to be sick. Goodbye, meatloaf! Of course, everyone in the entire house could hear the commotion of people running down the hall. As I returned shakily to bed, my little brother said something smart-assed from the sofa. I did not hear exactly what he said but I caught the drift. It was just a few minutes later when I heard him running down the hall, and that made me laugh. When I heard him returning to the sofa, I called out, "How instant is that karma?"

Only my brother, my daughter and myself were ill and we felt fine the next morning. I, of course, blamed the meatloaf. Since no one gay who ate the meatloaf became ill, that forever put my husband under a cloud of suspicion. He ate two big helpings of the meatloaf and was never sick. I teased him with great delight about that for a long time.

Amazingly enough, after that, I was able to eat meatloaf and I have enjoyed it since. I had some last night at a fine restaurant in Manhattan, Kansas. Of course, I can never enjoy meatloaf without remembering my best friend and the mystery of the gay meatloaf.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Roaming the Flint Hills With a Camera

Sunrise at Spirit Creek

I love Ginger. Here is the spoiled diva eating breakfast at sunrise.

This old cottonwood lives high on a hill and bears the shape of the incessant winds.

From this ridge you can see far to the south, miles and miles across the Flint Hills. The clouds were shredded and combed by the cold winds. It is difficult to convey the space. It was a beautiful November morning high on the prairie.

Who knew the new camera would lead me into danger? Yesterday I left the house early and took off to the west in search of beautiful scenery to record with my new digital camera. The wind was blowing out of the south with such ferocity that several times it slammed the door of my car against me. Good thing I have lots of padding - and a hard head.

The wind whined its melancholy chords through the tightly strung electric wires wherever I went. It is such a lonesome sound that I can hardly bear it. On the ridges, the barbed wire strands were thrumming in slightly varying keys of sadness, too - a chorus of sadness and solitude.

Several times I almost fell on steep hillsides and deep ditches. Today I am sore and bruised, but such personal sacrifice is the hallmark of a truly gifted photographic genius. I bleed for my art!

At one place, a big dog faithfully guarding his family's front yard barked at me, keeping me in view at all times. I was across a creek, but that was too close. I recognized him as one of the Good Dog Duke's comrade in arms, a good old farm dog, faithfully looking after his family's place.

I spent an entire morning taking photographs but when I returned home, I only had fifty photos. I deleted about one third of them. The best photograph of the day looked awesome in the viewer. I was so excited about it and thought it was going to be an award-winning work of art. I could not wait to get home to see it on the big screen. It was ruined by the inclusion of overhead wires that I did not see in the original composition. In the old days, I would have spent a lot of money getting that ruined photograph developed. I was disappointed but there are a billion more photographs out there waiting for me. Delete, delete, delete!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Another Day on Planet Earth

I did not have to go to the cube farm yesterday because I was "on vacation". Instead, I went to see about a horse. He was a nice looking bay horse, rather a gentle spirit - with wings on his feet. When he was led back in his pasture to the rest of his herd, one of the horses came over and kicked him, in slow motion. The slow kick was in deference to their human benefactor being right there among them. None of the horses wanted to harm her. The kick may have been because the bay was enjoying the carrots I had brought for him right in front of the rest of the herd. Jealousy afflicts all flesh, it seems.

When I got home, Duke and I decided to go down to the creek. I had not been down to the water for a long time. I was expecting it to be almost dry but it was still flowing. In some places it is a mere trickle over the rocks. In the deep clear pools, the little fish were plentiful. I have never been able to identify the fish that live in Spirit Creek. They could be Topeka Minnows, an endangered species found only in the tall grass streams of the Flint Hills. They are probably nothing as rare as that. There are only three kinds of fish that live in the creek here. The most numerous fish look like silver minnows of some sort. In the years when there is a lot of water in the creek, a few will grow to about ten inches long. There is a slightly different type of fish, far fewer in numbers, that seem to be full grown at a couple of inches in length. The most rare fish of all is some sort of little spotted bottom feeder that looks a bit prehistoric. I have to spend a lot of time beside the water to spot one of those as there are so few of them.

It was wonderful to be walking the creek again. In the years I have lived here, the banks have grown into a jungle of brush and vines so it is not easy to get down to the water's edge. To see the little creek in its normal state - a quiet crystal clear stream - you would never guess how quickly it will rise in a heavy rain, nor how loud and violent its rushing waters blasting between the banks can be. There are always trees precariously hanging on the banks, in danger of being washed away in the next big deluge. The banks change continually, in elevation and in appearance. What does not change is the limestone rocks scrubbed white by the rushing water, and the sand full of Permian Sea fossils.

It takes no effort to find the fossils in the soft sand of the creek bed. My favorites are the little clams. It is easy to find perfectly shaped ones and yesterday I found one that was fossilized white instead of the usual charcoal gray. I also found a turkey feather. Duke enjoys snuffling around, checking to smell who has been by. There were raccoon tracks in the soft mud but no other animal tracks I could see.

It was simply a great day on planet earth.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Deer Nation

Years ago, I heard that everyone has animal protector spirits, one on the left and one on the right. Testing that hypothesis, I announced to the Universe that I wanted to know what animal spirit was on my right. "Your move, Universe," I thought.

It took the Universe about a year to convince me that the animal spirit on my right was the deer. After I announced my request, I began noticing that each time I drove out of the city, I would see deer on the right side of the road. Of course I dismissed it as coincidence, like any normal red blooded American. As time went on, seeing a deer on the right side of the road, day and night, was such a constant and consistent event that I could have bet money on it. The more I meditated and prayed about this business of an animal protector on my right, the more deer I saw, and the greater my doubt grew. Crazy that the more proof we are granted by the Creator, the more we indulge our doubt.

I went through all of the rationalizations that my society has dutifully taught me: coincidence - looking for deer when I had not been looking for them before - high number of deer in Kansas so of course I will see them everywhere - "magical" thinking - stupid to believe old pan-Indian myths.

One time I had been earnestly praying about this whole spirit business and admitting it was difficult for me to believe. Later that day, on my way to visit a friend in another town, I spotted a doe with triplets at the edge of a field in broad day light. I have never seen triplets before or since. The Universe was patiently answering my prayers but I was stubbornly dense.

In one prayer Lodge I attended, the people were taught to look into the red hot stones, the grandfathers, for messages, for help. While I always dutifully looked into the stones, I did not know what to expect. Would I see a vision, like a hologram? Would an intuitive answer arise in my consciousness? Would I hear something? I did not know, but I continued to take the elder's word and looked to the grandfathers for their help. One time I closed my eyes tightly and prayed hard about the issue of whether there really were protector spirits for people, me in particular. I earnestly prayed to be shown what my right protector spirit might be. When I opened my eyes, the pattern in the glowing red hot stones was the perfect likeness of a deer facing me. It sent a jolt of joyous energy through me, but only for a moment. Anyone can see anything if they are motivated enough, I told myself. Just as my mother had said to me a million times, "It's just your imagination." I dismissed the gift from the grandfathers like I had dismissed the deer that had been showing themselves to me, like the doe who brought her three precious fawns out into the open danger of daylight. What a dolt. Most of us are dolts when it comes to recognizing the blatant answer to our prayers, whatever they may be.

But, I was beginning to believe.

This entire lesson culminated when I received the first energy work of my life, a Reiki session. I became so deeply relaxed that I was able to still my thoughts entirely for the first time. Into that quiet space behind my eyes, I became aware of a mighty buck with a magnificent rack of antlers standing to my right. A dazzling energetic curtain separated the buck from me. It was so startling that my eyes involuntarily opened. I could still see the buck. A current of gratitude washed through me, and I opened and closed my eyes several times to prove to myself that what I was seeing was real. Whether my eyes were open or closed, I could see the deer spirit.

I wasted one of the most momentous events of my spiritual life by failing to acknowledge the spirit of the deer nation when he appeared to me. Yet, what he brought was the knowledge that the Indians know what the hell they are talking about. The thing is, we do not have to be Indians to have spirits visit us, to have our prayers answered - merely human. Our human prayers are heard and answered. The Creator of all knows our hearts.

No, I am not a deer shaman, not a deer whisperer. I cannot magically entice deer to come to my side. (You, "deer" reader, have been watching too many Hollywood movies!) I cannot call on deer to kick someone's ass, someone who pulls out in front of me in traffic, for instance, but that would be cool. Even so, this was a tremendous lesson for me. Our lives are mysterious. The world is more mysterious than even science can say. There are things we no longer understand, things we have forgotten, and things we absolutely no longer value to the detriment of all sentient beings. Thankfully, there are people who have never forgotten, and are willing to share a little of what they know.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Footsteps in the Dark

The graying Good Dog Duke - still shedding, so he looks unloved and unkept, but neither is true.

I do not know what creature is causing the Good Dog Duke to bark all night long. He barks all around the house, so I am guessing coyotes are circling. Coyotes have been howling around this area for weeks. Ginger the horse cannot eat her hay in peace, stopping every few mouthfuls to step away and listen intently. Last night she was particularly nervous and I felt sorry for her. Something out there is worrying her. A herd animal probably feels quite vulnerable and defenseless living alone all the time.

As I was playing my favorite insomniac marble game, Zuma, in these early morning hours, I heard slow footsteps crunching fallen leaves right outside the window. Having just watched Unsolved Mysteries about people who disappear for no reason, I got a little jolt of adrenaline. Duke was silent. Of course, in my mind, it cannot mean that Duke is right outside the window listening to me cuss as I continually die in the advanced levels of Zuma. It means a crazy redneck high on meth, wielding a skinning knife and a compound bow, is sneaking up on the house to steal my broken down furniture and the 532 pound television. One thing my mother taught me about living in the country: do not sit paralyzed with fear - investigate! I went to the front door, flung it open and hollered for Duke, and added, just in case, "You can have the television but I'll have to help you carry it out, so don't kill me!"

It was just the old Dukenator lying faithfully beneath the window.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Few Miles Down the Road...

This was once Kaw land, as far as the eye could see in any direction.

Winter on the prairie.

Muddy horses. Beautiful.

Steak on the hoof.

This little stream was full of water cress, a sure sign of spring water. I do not know the purpose of this limestone structure. It is one of the largest limestone ruins I have ever come across. As I was taking photos, the incessant Kansas wind thrumming new electrical lines overhead caused a mighty lonesome feeling, a melancholy in my spirit. I left right away.

This limestone ruin was very similar to the first. If this was once a house, it was situated on a long stretch of tableland. The wind howls unimpeded all the way from the Arctic in the winter. I cannot imagine ever being warm within these stone walls.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bonnie Vista

A bonnie vista is a beautiful view. It is also my grandmother's name. She lived to be 99 years old. That is a long time looking forward but looking back it is not much time. She once said to me, "It went by faster than I thought."

She was a beautiful woman all the years of her life. She was opinionated but not in the way I am opinionated. She held her opinions with class and restraint. I often wish I had learned that grace from her.

She believed when people die it is simply the end. I do not know what led her to this belief but I am sure it was her logical, pragmatic mind. Based on what we see, that is the logical assumption. This belief informed her life and lent to her an admirable discipline and strength. She told me a person must not weaken. She remained disciplined until the very end.

She was not sentimental but she was loving. Her sense of humor had a touch of the steel blade in it but it was never mean-spirited. Her house was always spotless, from the big old farmhouse to the small home in town where she and Grandpa moved after they sold the farm and retired. I always had the sense that my Grandmother could have run a company or a school or a government if such professions had been more readily available to the women of her generation. In fact, she did run a successful business. She and Grandpa started with nothing but she was quite well off until the end. She successfully taught four children, eight grandchildren, and as many of the great grandchildren as she had the opportunity to know. Under her rule, the family prospered. She never dominated the people she governed but empowered the people she dearly loved.

By some unknown blessing from the hand of almighty God Himself, I spent almost a week alone with my grandparents one summer. Every single day, as soon as I had breakfast, I could go to the barn. I could ride the horses as much as I wanted. It was the best consecutive run of days in my entire childhood! It was my father's chestnut cow horse that I rode. I loved the red horse and she loved me. It was nothing to the big working mare to carry a skinny little girl around in the pasture behind the barn or on the dirt road following the bend of the Little Walnut River. I have often wondered if a horse, such a sensitive and empathic animal, enters into the imagination of a child and experiences the make-believe worlds, too. Maybe it is the simple pure joy of childhood the horse experiences. I was as safe in the care of that wise old mare as I was anywhere in the world.

My grandmother understood me and never placed any sort of burden on me for being who I was as a child. One day when she called me in at noon I asked if I could take my lunch so I could have a picnic in the pasture with the horse. She took my request seriously and packed a meal in a brown paper bag. Beneath the large cottonwood trees in the beautiful little pasture behind the barn, I gathered armloads of grass for the horse. I sat on the ground to eat and the horse, who could have easily chosen to graze anywhere in the entire pasture, stayed faithfully by my side eating the grass I had gathered.

Even late in her years my grandmother remembered when I asked her to pack my lunch so I could picnic with the horse. I do not think Grandma had any idea what a wonderful gift she allowed me that day.

I was lucky enough to know all four of my grandparents well, and to have ongoing relationships with them that lasted until the end of their lives. My grandmother did not always approve of my choices but I never doubted that she loved me. Even when I did not visit in person, we wrote to one another over the years, so she usually knew what was going on in my life. The older I was, the more remarkable she became in my eyes. The thing about loving someone your entire life - that love does not fundamentally change but it expands, adds on, becomes more complex without ever leaving those innocent, simple beginnings behind.

I do not know where my Grandmother is now. She died at the summer solstice when the sun was at its highest, when the most light was available to her. At the graveside the day of her funeral the sunlight was strong and clear. Off to the left, in an open area away from the mourners, a column of bright light was present. It was only thin air, visibly brighter than the surrounding sunlight, and was as clear and straight and as beautiful as my Grandmother's spirit had been in physical life. I knew it was my grandmother taking her final leave of the family and friends she had loved so well and for so long. Wherever she is now, that is a good place.

Bonnie Vista and Charles Asa

Thursday, November 10, 2011


The hawks, fully reunited, greet the winter sunrise.

By the time I leave for work, the sun is well up. The tiny speck in the center of this photo is a blue heron. Leonard McKinney told me these water birds carry prayers from the tipis. For the last dozen years, there has been a heron frequenting this pond and the creek around my house.

When I am along the creek, even as large as the heron is, I never notice it or hear it until it takes flight some yards ahead of me. It is such a large bird, its presence so unexpected, and its wings makes such a noise that it never fails to make my heart race.

A heron must live most of its life alone in the still places, by quiet water. I understand. My westernized mind cannot always grasp the things the Indians tell me, but when I become still enough, like the water, I know these birds for certain carry the prayers.

Returning home at moonrise.

And at the end of another day, I see the heron feeding in the last moments of daylight.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Crazy Old Crystal Lady

Truly a beautiful crystal.

Some people collect match book covers, or tea pots, or cars. Sometimes old ladies collect cats. I collect something quite similar to cats (without the litter box): crystals. As with cats, you cannot "do" anything with crystals. You simply enjoy living with them. I have a favorite supplier for my crystal addiction, a woman from Arkansas who mines her own to sell to desperate people like me.

I have my favorite crystals, but if I had to give any away, they would suddenly all become favorites. My collection is not to the point that my house is overrun, but if I were to get all of the crystals out of storage and displayed, it would require a lot of shelf space.

This weekend I found a beauty, a Dow crystal, a certain crystal formation considered "perfect" by Sir George Henry L. Dow, III. (Nah, I just made that up.) I do not know who named crystals with three faces of sevens and three faces of three "Dow", and neither do I know why that would that make them any more perfect than any other crystal. This Dow has inclusions and rainbows and unusual smaller crystals growing from it. It also has a huge phantom within it. A phantom is the outline of a crystal within a crystal. Folklore says it represents a progression of lives. Science says it is caused by various minerals present at the formation of the crystal.

I am not sure that even science knows exactly how quartz crystals are formed. For instance, there are naturally double-terminated crystals, meaning they have faces at both ends and therefore did not form upwards from a matrix. Crystals are manufactured in the laboratory, so the process of crystallization is understood. Otherwise, from what I have read, no one is exactly sure how crystals are naturally created - all at once, or do they grow over time?

Some of my crystals have "pictures" of pyramids on their faces and sides, both Egyptian pyramids and Mayan. They do not merely resemble pyramids, they are perfect isometric images of pyramids. And they are not scratched into the surface, but of the crystal itself. Some have strangely consistent geometries that resemble symbols, and appear to be an unknown alphabet. Some have inclusions that look like galaxies and nebulae and star trails. Some have perfectly formed triangles raised on their faces. Some are more subtle, being within the quartz. Some have many triangles nested together. These triangles are called record keepers. It is said they contain the knowledge and history of the world.

To me, crystals are beautiful manifestations of the mysterious physical laws that make our corporeal lives possible within the Great Dreaming of our mother planet. Examining crystals closely, it is easy to understand why they have such a rich mythological history. They are magical to hold in your hand. It is easy to allow your imagination to drift away into them.

I took a dozen photos of this crystal and each one looks different!

This shard is so clear that it did not show up against the dark blue.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Fat Horse Ginger

This is Ginger, the fat horse, the ruler of Spirit Creek. She is not the most beautiful horse in the world, but she is the most beautiful horse I own. She thinks she is the supreme queen of the universe because she bosses me around, and Terrie the farrier, and Dr. J the veterinarian, and anyone else she gets the chance to boss around.

I did not name her Ginger. She came to me already named. There are a million chestnut horses called Ginger in this world thanks to all the people who read Black Beauty as children. My Ginger is like the old time Quarter Horses: short and stocky, with a thin mane and a large jaw. My neighbor calls Ginger "cute" but that does not fool me. It is just her code word for "ugly". My neighbor has no appreciation for the American Quarter Horse. The men who delivered Annie to me thought Ginger was an expensive registered horse. They were surprised when I said she was just grade. They were guys who made their living around horses, too. In all fairness, compared to Annie that day, Ginger did look like royalty.

It is not right to keep a horse alone and away from others of their own kind. I have been looking for a companion for Ginger but have not had good luck. The right horse is out there, I just have to be diligent.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Sun, The Moon and The Stars

The Sun's Halo

The Moon and the Rose

and the Sweet Gum Stars... all in Gage Park.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The AlienThat Forced Me To Spend Money

I took a wrong turn the other day and discovered this amazing entity clinging to a building. I was so intrigued that I went directly to a retail outlet and purchased a new digital camera expressly to get photos of this alien life form.

I have been wanting a better camera for a long time, so this ivy was the impetus for taking the plunge. (No one has to tell me that the photos taken with the expensive camera are no better than the photos taken with the little dummy-proof camera, okay? I am still operating in the "Uhhhhhhh" mode of the new camera.) Eventually I will learn how to use the creative possibilities - maybe. I think. I hope.

The New Camera...

The evening star adorns the last moments of daylight.

Untouched prairie in its radiant red glory.

My beloved Kansas rising against the open sky.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Alpaca Experience

Photo by Anne Williamson - from Topeka Capital Journal, 2011

The sixth annual Mid-America Alpaca show was held in Topeka last weekend. Free admission. Why not go, I asked myself. I have seen an alpaca or two in my day, but I had never seen several hundred alpacas in one place. They are gentle and strange creatures with impossibly large eyes. They make a quiet mewing noise that is comforting the way a cat's purring is comforting. I wanted to put my hands on every one I saw but I restrained myself.

People and their alpacas traveled to Topeka from everywhere in the United States. Apparently, the fair is a big deal in the alpaca industry. I spoke to several people. I was even invited to visit an alpaca ranch in Minnesota. They kept throwing in enticements: wood burning stove in the guest house; timber wolves; Minnesota scenery; lots of alpacas. Visit anytime!

Some of the money raised by the fair goes to support veterinarian classes at state universities, including Kansas State. With only about 150,000 alpacas in the United States, there is not a common pool of veterinarian knowledge available, but that is changing.

Alpacas are not prolific breeders, so building a herd takes some time and a lot of money. A good breeding female costs several thousand dollars. Stud service from a male with highly prized wool is $2000. It is not an industry just any fool can afford to jump into with both feet and that is a good thing. The animals are so gentle that it would be an extreme tragedy for any alpaca to fall into the hands of an abusive or neglectful human being.

I also talked with a lady who has just started a not-for-profit business based on her alpacas. It is "Alpacas for Autism". It seems that by pairing alpacas and autistic children some sort of magic happens. She has a camp for children at her ranch. She is also in the process of establishing classes for fiber work (weaving, crochet, knitting), and marketing and entrepreneurship classes for families dealing with autism. What a brilliant idea.

Since the fair, I have been considering alpaca ranching as my second career. There are only a few years left before I retire. It seems it would be a fun and profitable endeavor. I could freely pet my own alpacas at any time of the day or night. Even if the entire herd stampeded me, I would likely live to tell of it. I would actually be a rancher, at long last. I would not have to worry about selling the animals for food as they are far more valuable as breeders and for their fiber. It would be so much fun when the mother alpacas had their babies. I could go to alpaca shows to sit around talking to people from far away places. Of course, that is just the dream. Reality would quite likely be vastly different. It might be so boring that I would be begging strangers to visit my alpaca ranch - any time, any time at all.