Category Archives: Photos

Breakfast with the Baby Elephant

Baby Elephant RPZoo

Last week, the Reid Park Zoo held a fundraiser for the elephants, by inviting 100 members of the Zoological society to sign up for an early morning breakfast with our new baby elephant, at long last christened “Nandi” (nahn’-dee). As soon as the email appeared in my inbox, I clicked on the link to sign up — and a good thing. One of the other attendees told me the event was sold out in two hours.

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We arrived at 7:15 in the morning, well before the zoo opened, and after checking in at the gate were directed to the back of the property where the elephant habitat “Expedition Tanzania” was situated. There in the extensive educational area, they had our breakfast waiting for us: fresh fruit salad, orange juice and coffee, French toast with pieces of apple, scrambled eggs with cheese, hash brown potatoes with sweet potatoes, onions and bell peppers (I think) and ham and bacon. The serving dishes were black iron skillets set atop towers of bricks in the midst of which were the warming elements. It was all very nice and very tasty.

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As we finished up eating, the keepers came out to tell us about the elephant project. Our zoo is one of only five in the nation to support a breeding herd of African elephants, making the arrival of a new baby a rare event. They also shared stories of little Nandi — of her birth and how easy it all was, how quickly she was on her feet — within fifteen minutes, I believe they said.  How in the days after her birth they struggled just to get her out of the barn…

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Baby elephants don’t see well and tend to follow the biggest thing around them. So Nandi would start out following her mama in the barn, Semba would walk through the doorway… and Nandi would end up in the corner. They’d walk Semba back through the doorway into the barn area, and try again. With the same results. Semba would walk through the doorway and Nandi would end up in the corner. This went on for 45 minutes before the little one finally made it out through the door!

Thankfully she’s not having that problem any longer…

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Another funny story involved one of Nandi’s brothers, the former baby, Sundzu, now three years old.  Semba has three offspring, all by the same father: Punga, a seven-year-old male, Sundzu, and little Nandi, at the time only a few weeks old. There is also another adult female in the herd named Lugile. She has been fascinated with Nandi from the start and is very motherly toward her, so the keepers have taken to calling her “Auntie Lugile.”

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Sundzu, Mom, Nandi (click to enlarge)

So they’d already introduced Sundzu and Nandi some days before this incident, and he’d been very nice, very gentle, and the keepers were feeling good about it all. But on this particular day, Sundzu was standing beside Nandi in the yard, Mom and Auntie nearby, but not paying attention to the kids. The keeper said Sundzu very clearly looked to the right where mom was busy stripping leaves from a stick, her back to the little ones. Then he very clearly looked to the left over at Auntie Lugile, who  was also occupied with her own pursuits, and seeing he was in the clear,  just like the three-year-old brother that he was, he smacked Nandi with his trunk and knocked her clean over!

Neither of the adults noticed him that time, though of course they came to see why Nandi was on the ground crying. Sundzu, of course, had no idea.   He got away with it so well, he naturally, tried it  again on another day… only that time he was caught and Mom chased him around the yard in discipline for some time!

Another cool thing we got to see is a daily ritual that occurs with all the elephants when the big bull elephant Mabu, (he weighs 12,000 lbs) joins the rest of the herd in the yard. All of them line up and walk over to greet him as he enters:

Punga, Sundzu, Nandi and Mom, Semba

Punga, Sundzu, Nandi & Mom en route to greet Mabu (click to enlarge)

As they all come together, they pass by him in a line and touch him with their trunks, as he in turn runs his trunk over each of them.

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Mabu greeting Semba and Nandi (click to enlarge)

I think Mabu is just awesome. He is so big! What amazes me is how gentle they can be with the baby and how aware of her they are, despite their rather shocking size differential.

Anyway, it was a wonderful morning. I stayed well after most of the other people left, and took something like 287 pictures!

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An Unexpected Hiatus

Well, I did not expect to be away from blogging for over a month, especially after I finally managed to get everything here into at least a semblance of working order. Clearly, though, that is exactly what happened.

My life has continued to roil with chaos ever since the washing machine died, my computer crashed, and my hubby retired. “Highlights” include the sink stopping up over Thanksgiving, the heater breaking, followed both of our cars, one after the other (in one case I was drafted to tow the broken car home from where it had died in a parking lot 3 miles away), all of this happening within a period of about two weeks.

Then it was time to get ready for Christmas, which progressed fairly well, until I started on our annual Christmas letter, had it completed, edited and approved only to be defeated once again by Windows 8.1/Word 2013 when, at the eleventh hour I hurtled headlong into indecipherable weirdness involving not the insertion of photographs into the document, but the attempt to move them afterwards. Heaven forbid you should do that, because once you try it’s over. And since it was close to midnight the night before we were to leave for California, I had to give up and finish it after we returned.

First we went to San Diego, a whirlwind three days full of memory making.

Lily has grown so much! She’s walking, running, climbing, talking in full sentences… soooo cute!  Christmas eve we spent on the beach in near perfect weather. (Click on the photo for a bigger picture.)

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Who are these people? My husband, me, Lily, my son and his wife, their live-in housekeeper/ helper/friend, the two boys, their dog Joey and, of course, Quigley, barking as usual

The day after Christmas we headed up to LA to visit my 92-year-old stepmother who, despite her advanced years still skunked me in dominoes!  It was great to be able to visit with her, but toward the end of the time we had to spend there, our late nights, early mornings and activity packed days caught up with us as we both developed what turned out to be either the flu, or one of the worst colds either of us have ever had. Not only were we coughing, sneezing, hacking and blowing, but we were completely exhausted.

We were twelve days recovering… all of which is why I haven’t been able to get a blog post up in almost a month!

Slowly Returning

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I think.

At least that’s the plan.

I’ve been “on staycation” for about two months now, with posting here pretty sporadic.

A lot of stuff has happened. Most recently the shingles came back to my eye, and for the last three weeks I’ve been dealing with that, complicated by the fact that I seem to be reacting adversely to the antiviral the doctor wants me to take.

We had a wedding here of one of “our own,”,that is one of the members of our local congregation, a young lady who happened to be one of the students in my Sunday School class, and went on to become one of my dear friends.

Friends and family came in for the event, and such things always cram a lot of things into a very short time, where you spend days after recovering, not only from the simple exhaustion of late nights, longish drives and lots of talking, but having your head and heart full of wonderful moments that surface in a disjointed parade of memories afterward. (See my Introvert post, Static and the Need to Recharge, about needing to “process” the sudden high-volume of “deposits” that have been made into your soul)

At the same time as this was happening, my hubby was away elk hunting, and I had full charge of walking Quigley. (I don’t usually walk him every day — we take turns.) Hubby returned successful, so then we had, well, A LOT of meat to deal with. YAY! (We were completely out of wild game and I detest store-bought hamburger, and am not much fonder of ground turkey…) He did most of the work, but the kitchen and refrigerator were commandeered for about a week, I think, which was… distracting at a minimum.

Then there was the matter of my car failing its emissions test, twice, and various  trips to the repair shop, until finally it was decided that we could get a waiver on the whole thing. And all of this pretty much happening concurrently.

So it’s not really been the most “restful” staycation, and it’s not like I’ve had nothing to do but play… though I have managed a bit of that.  In fact, I actually went on 2 Artist’s dates!  And  yes, a month ago or so, I picked up the next Artist’s Way book, Vein of Gold, and started working through it…  only to stop not far in as the Lord took me off in another direction… but that, I think, is for another post.

In fact, I’ve already written a good deal more than I had thought I would. I just wanted to take a tiny step back toward regular blogging, and here I’ve got a full-sized post already. 🙂

Trip to Moab

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that my hubby’s aunt had died and they were having a memorial service for her in Moab which we were considering attending.

Since it was “only” a nine-hour drive (without stops) we decided it was doable and left early Friday morning, heading out of Tucson fairly early. The memorial service was Saturday, and we drove home Sunday. With stops, the trip was twelve hours. Which wasn’t bad, but left both of us pretty tired Monday. I did nothing but lie around and it wasn’t until Tuesday that I began to put things away, try to get caught up on the things that didn’t get done and fuss about my rose bush.

I’d asked the neighbor to water, which she’s done many times before but somehow a soap can lid fell down behind the gate she needed to open and got it jammed so she couldn’t get in. Talk about weird… The result was that neither of the roses got watered for two days, during which our humidity was something like 13% or lower and the dew point was practically zero. One of them was droopy but recovered. The other lost almost all its leaves. It was very, very sad.

But after watering, fertilizing and laying down some mulch, it looks like it will survive… new leaves are now sprouting, so I’m happy about that.

In any case, that along with all the other things, which seem like nothing but end up taking up the minutes, took most of my time last week. Plus, Monday was Memorial Day and my hubby was home… so not only did I lack the time, quiet space and mental energy to write a blog post, I did no work on Sky either. I’m hoping to get back to it tomorrow, however.

For now, I thought I’d share some shots I took from our trip.

Quigley likes to rest his head on my shoulder or Stu's hand looking out the front window while we travel

Quigley likes to rest his head on my shoulder or Stu’s hand looking out the front window while we travel

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Traveling through Monument Valley I was shocked to see the rash of the white trailers and various structures which had sprung up at the bases of the rock formations. From a distance it looked like a scattering of trash. If only they’d painted their trailers and structures a color more like the surroundings… Ah well, I guess there’s no place left that’s immune to development these days. Maybe the Sahara Desert. Or the Gobi…

Redrock cliffs in the waning sunlight as we neared Moab

Redrock cliffs in the waning sunlight as we neared Moab

Driveway and cliff view from the house of hubby's relations where we stayed.

Driveway and cliff view from the house of hubby’s relations where we stayed.

Fabulous log fence and field of yellow flowers nearby.

Fabulous log fence and field of yellow flowers nearby.

Amazing cottonwood tree on the grounds of our hosts

Amazing cottonwood tree on the grounds of our hosts

my poor sad, dried up rose as it looked when we first returned...

my poor sad, dried up rose as it looked when we first returned…

Recon

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If I am to liken writing a book to fighting a battle, or preparing to build or whatever, it is important that one count the cost. To do the recon first. If you send soldiers out into the field and tell them okay, I want you to explore all this region and map it for us, since we have no map, and I want you complete that in three weeks – that would be a ridiculous assignment. No one knows what’s out there. A more reasonable assignment would be to send the people out to map for a particular period of time. Then evaluate what they have and decide the next step. External factors may demand decisions be made on less than complete information, whereupon the outcome becomes far less certain.

Might need to have a number of recon assignments before you are ready to launch any kind of operation.

In book writing, you never really know the terrain until you’ve actually written the first draft. You can stand at the edge of the unknown territory and see there’s a mountain there, a valley there, a canyon there. You can surmise what you will find, and you can estimate a route. But until you are actually down there and walking through it, you cannot know how it will go, where it will go, what you will encounter, etc. So I think it is time to plot the book, try the first trip through the wilderness and see where I end up.

Grassy Quigley

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This is Quigley after he’s gone out and rolled in the grass this time of year. Everything is very dry and staticky, so the pieces of grass stick to his coat and are very difficult to wipe off. I use a damp microfiber cloth but even then pieces remain and often merely transfer from him to my pants. 🙁

 

Now: A Reprieve from Distraction?

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Well, I had another week/weekend filled with distraction, but the Christmas stuff is almost put away, and the colonoscopy went well. There is no cancer there.  My oncologist had recommended I get checked sooner than the usual 10 years on account of the endometrial cancer.

And this time, after the screening, my gastroenterologist recommended a recheck in 5 to 7 years, which is actually the period of time he considers the longest anyone should wait between screenings, even if Medicare doesn’t agree…

Anyway, I have an eye appointment next week, as well as a trip across town to pick up a sunglasses clip that was inadvertently not included with my new glasses when I went to get them… and then maybe… just maybe… I’ll be appointment-free for a while and able to get back to some semblance of regular work on this book.

So far it seems to have been a veritable magnet for distraction.

I know. I’ve said that before. But surely at some point I’ll be left alone to get the work done, right? Right?

Please, Lord???

The Confiscated Dog Toy

Since my eye is still giving me problems — ie, I can’t work on the computer for long without getting it all upset — I’m going to put up some photos for a day or so.

The first is a gift my daughter in law brought for Quigley the first year she met him. He was still a puppy. It’s an adorable dog toy Santa, with a squeaker in the hat and crinklies in the legs:

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Fortunately (for me, but not for Quigley) she was at my mother’s house when she gave it to us/him.  Quigley was still in the tear-everything-up stage at the time, and it was so cute, I decided to wait until he was more mature.

Well, he’s more mature now, and can actually have toys without tearing them to shreds in two minutes flat ( though he still has to be supervised). The problem is, he has weird saliva. It’s very gummy and sticky and thick and once he gets it on the toys… eeeeuwww!  So. I’m not yet ready to turn the cute Santa decoration into the slimed and gross Santa toy, so he sits on our bed. Every now and then Quigley eyes him hopefully, and I know he would LOVE to have him… but…

Maybe next year…

Vulnerable to Distraction

In the middle of when I was supposed to be writing last summer, I saw these bees and decided to run out and try to get a picture!

Well, today, I’m sorry to say that in the middle of doing an “Open Ended Writing” about the book, my hands suddenly went AWOL, started typing the keys to open my email and the next thing you know… I was checking email.  Even as I asked myself what in the world I was doing.

Worse, they went on to type in the commands to open Internet Explorer and…. alas.

Half an hour later I recovered from my fit of rebellion. Even then I had to ask myself if it was really bad. I am very interested in the news these days, and I’m not exactly sure why. If it was just some military guy committing adultery I know I would not be interesting. But this thing with Generals Petraeus and Allen and the Lebanese socialite who has a psychologically unhinged identical twin sister, and the FBI and drop boxes… all erupting three days after Obama was elected to his second term… is so weird, so bizarre, so… unbelievable on the surface… there just has to be more behind it…

But I digress. Sort of. Because all this is perhaps an example of behavior the post I’m about to reblog gives explanation for. Finally!

I was searching my old blog to see if I’d already posted something on a related subject, and found the following post, dated 2007. Since it specifically applies to the need to reduce the distractions in my life, I found it helpful to revisit and decided to put it up again, as another step in the movement I’m making back to seriously working on the book.

Vulnerable to Distraction

Over the vacation, my friend Ed Willett’s science column noted an article on how older adults are more vulnerable to distraction from irrelevant information. Well, being an older adult, that caught my eye at once, though I don’t think it was irrelevant information!

Aha! So there is a reason why I’m so distractable these days. The study, conduced by Canadian scientists at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest and the University of Toronto, “has identified changes in brain activity that begin gradually in middle age – and which may explain why older adults find it difficult to concentrate in busy environments and filter out irrelevant information.”

So it really is age that allows my son to concentrate with music blaring, and me to be totally distracted by it. I used to be able to write with music, but only if there were no words. In the last few words I’ve had to go to total silence, because even the notes distract me. Or worse, sometimes the music generates “scenes”, which seems like it would be a good thing, but isn’t because it’s usually not a scene anywhere near to what I’m currently writing, and it’s always the same scene. So even if I write it down, every time I hear the music, I go back to the same scene and whatever I was doing breaks off.

I digress. Apparently there are two regions in the brain’s frontal lobes that shift into a “seesaw imbalance” (not sure what that is) — causing older adults to become less efficient in inhibiting distracting information.” Instead of focusing on the task at hand — reading, for example, or, writing one’s book — we are unable to resist the sudden thought that we need to go check the mail, or we should see what is on so and so’s blog today, or how dare such and such reviewer make those comments about my books last year.

As younger people concentrate on a task, activity in the region that is associated with concentration increases while activity in the region associated with thoughts about yourself, what happened yesterday, or what’s going on around you decreases. As people age, the activity in the second region doesn’t turn off so easily, and the activity in the region that governs concentration decreases.

By the time we reach 65, it gets really pronounced. So the researchers recommend that “Older adults should try to reduce distractions in their environment and concentrate on one key attentional task at a time. It may be as easy as turning down the radio when reading, or staying off the cell phone when driving a car.”

A cell phone would be a disaster. I can’t even talk to my passengers when driving a car, because I get way too engrossed and who knows where I’ll end up. On more than one occasion I’ve found myself driving home when I’m supposed to be driving somewhere else.

But this does affirm the importance of reducing external distractions and internal ones as well, since it’s not just external monitoring that happens in the region that won’t turn off. Which fits right in with my decisions to start simplifying my life again.

You can read the full article about the study here.