Schnitzel

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We found Schnitzel resting on a bunch of spidergrass in the front yard. Throughout the day there had been a racket of noise coming from that corner of our front porch (there are starling nests all over the place) so I wasn’t surprised to discover our little starling had fallen/jumped/been pushed out. He is at an in-between stage where he’s too young to be on his own but old enough to only need a little more help before he’s flying off into the world.

A friend from Springfield, Missouri was staying over last night on a work trip and has fostered all kinds of  baby birds successfully. She gave us some tips on how to keep him fed and happy, at least until he’s big enough to start hopping around in the grass and getting used to being on his own (remember Mr. Grumpyfeathers?).

Schnitzel is a good sleeper, a very good eater, and a good pooper – all extraordinary traits when dealing with baby anythings. In fact, he’s a better sleeper than my baby human was (and still is, at times). If you’re curious about the name, we collectively decided on Schnitzel because:

a) we’re big fans of the cartoon Chowder

b) we’d just had wiener schnitzel for dinner at Ingrid’s Kitchen

c) Mr. Grumpyfeathers was already taken

Schnitzel’s favorite treats? Softened dog food and hard-boiled eggs. Elle is a bit creeped out by a bird eating eggs, but Schnitzel loves eggs. Seriously, he gobbles them up.

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Wildflowers & Creeks

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Elle's first time in a creek

Believe it or not, this photograph shows Elle experiencing the joys of walking barefoot in a creek for the first time in her life. That sounds a little unreal, doesn’t it? You have to remember, though, that she is Florida-born and bred, with the exception of the last eleven months of her life here in Oklahoma, and little girls from the South, at least mine, just can’t walk around barefoot in creeks and ponds for worry of gators and poisonous watersnakes. There was a single reminder of our Florida days, however, when we came across a mound of miniature seashells. Ah, Oklahoma’s Cretaceous Period?

Oklahoma seashells!

The two of us were attempting to make our walk worth at least a couple of miles but I really underestimated the heat and foolishly left my thermos of ice-cold water in the car. After a short stroll around the creek we crossed an old iron bridge and found ourselves near a field of wildflowers. Elle and I snapped a few photographs while getting eaten up by mosquitos and chased by bees the whole time. All those bug bites were worth it, though, at least to me. I am quite enamored of wildflowers, especially the field of Mexican hats I stumbled upon.

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mexican hats

mexican hats

In the Garden

Whoa. Summer came to Oklahoma with a bang. After all those extra months of freezing weather and our recent weeks of rain, it is finally 90+ degrees and dry. Is there no such thing as a happy medium? Or do those days happen fleetingly? I’m guessing the latter.

Those days have come where I now have to check my flowers and vegetables daily. A simply soaking every evening only seems to make my plants thirstier. When I walked past my potted petunias last night I was shocked by the condition of the soil. It was cracking and parched and it made me feel so silly for proclaiming only last week how hard it was to kill petunias! PUBLIC APOLOGY, PETUNIAS – I take it all back.

I never had an interest in gardening for most of my life, although I have had a lifelong interest in eating food grown in other people’s gardens. When I lost my job nearly two years ago and Florida’s economy failed to provide me with another, I decided to turn my spare time into a useful tool. The following spring and summer, I grew tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, carrots, ground cherries, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, herbs, and edible flowers.

Jack, my parents’ piebald dachshund, accompanied me every morning to the garden space. The two of us made our rounds collecting ground cherries that had fallen or thinning out the carrots and nursing the cucumbers back to health. Actually, I did the work while Jack chased squirrels and investigated the deep roots of a philodendron.

Jack, my garden buddy

Jack, looking especially short next to the lettuce patch

Matt and I decided this year’s garden would be a small and manageable one. Everything we hope will be edible is growing in container pots and recycled whiskey barrels. There are three varieties of potted tomatoes, cucumbers trailing on our iron porch rails, and okra being held upright with a metal trellis. All those mornings I tossed the water out of those saturated pots are paying off and things are finally starting to grow.

sunburst cherry tomatoes

sunburst cherry tomatoes

okra is happening!

okra is happening!

It seems I have a new garden buddy these days to go along with my new garden. As I made my rounds this morning redirecting the cucumber vines and marveling at the height of my still-growing sunflowers, Teddy rarely left my side. There is a story behind this dog and I wish I knew what it was, but for now I’m happy to imagine he was treated well by someone who appreciated his constant presence and liked to take him for long walks outside.

my handsome boy

my handsome boy

Bygones

I have been holed up inside for the past two days writing about geologic hot spots, quartz crystallization, and the near-extinction of humans due to a super volcanic eruption at Mount Toba 70,000 years ago. All this newfound knowledge makes me want to visit Yellowstone National Park before it blows up and kills us all.

But that’s a vacation for another year because this summer I’m shooting for Key West where my husband and I can wear flip flops, eat a fresh ocean catch, smell and taste the salty air, and visit all those polydactyl cats at the Hemingway house. This must happen before August when the hurricanes start to show up uninvited. I have priorities, people. Besides, scientists think we have at least a few thousand years before Yellowstone explodes and I’m banking on their expertise.

All this fanciful daydreaming about vacation got me thinking back to one of my least favorite ones – my weekend trip to Asheville, North Carolina, back in 2008, which I know I’ve written complained about before. It was damp and cold, my dinner made me sick, parking was impossible, stores were closed early, and my friend was insulted by two assholes downtown. You can’t blame us for refusing to love on Asheville after all that. But I’m willing to give the city another go. I’m married to a man who has been practically everywhere in the country so I put a lot of emphasis on both of us seeing a place for the first time…together (Key West will be one of them!). Trying to arrange any trip with him is not easy (because of me, I’ll admit this), but we both agree that Asheville is a place we should visit together, even though we’ve both been there separately before. Asheville and the surrounding area is one of his favorite places in the country and it’s time to let bygones be bygones, especially because it’s just so damn beautiful.

Double Decker Coffee Shop

coffee and a courtesy hipster

the town of Lake Lure

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from the top

Little Victories

The other day I received some really good news.

While there is a bigger picture here, at the moment I can only write about it in bits and pieces. This year has been bursting with an ample amount of progress only to be followed by the kinds of setbacks that usually accompany big, big wishes.  This is the reason I accept the little victories with caution.

Matt and I have learned all too well how the good things we work so hard for come with strings attached. I guess, in a way, I have always known this, considering the weight I have carried alone for the past ten years.  And I do remember warning Matt about what I like to call “the circus coming to town” when it was determined that he and I would be pairing together for this ride called marriage. But only when you’re swimming in it, or drowning in it, and trudging through the thick of it, do you realize how tightly those strings are bound to you. In some ways and on certain days, those strings feel like a noose.

The two of us – nay, the three of us (as Elle is aware of only the bigger picture) – are so fervently ready to move on with our lives. These strings that keep me tied to one place are starting to fray, ever so slowly.  I suppose that’s a promising way to help balance the fragility of my frayed nerves, though I do believe in all the reasons why this process needs to hurry up already.

With that being said, Elle and I will be heading to Oklahoma City to be with Matt for a few weeks this summer. This adventure will ultimately become part of our bigger picture I mentioned before, and, with any luck, will help to determine how it all comes together. But for now, it is a little victory. Seeing as my first and only visit so far to the city was during Thanksgiving last year, a week blanketed in chilly rain and bitter cold wind, I am very much looking forward to getting to know Oklahoma City at her summery and sweltering best.

Oklahoma Pictures

P.S. Waking up in the same time zone with the man I love? SUPER AWESOME BONUS POINTS!!!!!!!!!!!

Summer in the South

Summer in Florida is the season that comes earliest and stays the longest. Beach days in January are common, even if they come after a night of hard freezing or heavy frost. Deluges between the hours of 2:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon are to be expected on a daily basis. Floridians know the difference between a cumulus cloud and a cumulonimbus cloud.  Hurricane evacuation plans consist of visiting family and friends up north and finding out which of your neighbors own chainsaws.

We don’t see a lot of fireflies. Mosquitoes take over. The dolphins, manatees, and right whales return to the St. Johns River. Alligators fill their bellies with more food in the summertime than during any other time of the year. Then they lie around with their mouths open. They don’t do this to look any more menacing than they already are. They’re just hot.

The Spring Equinox only arrived last week, but already Florida has started showing signs of summer. Humidity has returned, birds’ nests are already emptying, and kids are wearing shorts to school once again. One recent day reported temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s, only to be cooled by a torrential afternoon thunderstorm.  That is how it works here. That is how we know it’s coming and that is how we know it’s here to stay, at least until late-October.

It’s funny how my childhood Halloween memories involve snowsuits and fitting costumes over that heavy bulk of warmth and fabric and here we are with Elle, a native Floridian, making sure her polyester cape doesn’t make her sweat to the point of dehydration.

As someone who lives on the Atlantic coast, I see the true sunrise. Exquisite as it is as its own part of the sun’s cycle, it impresses me most in the winter. It’s the warmer weather sunsets that really catch me off guard, every single time. For some reason, I am always surprised by how gorgeous the sky can be. If I really wanted to, I could watch the sun come up over the Atlantic Ocean and drive to the west coast to watch the sun go down over the Gulf of Mexico.  It would only take me a few hours each way.

In fact, I think I would like to do this sometime.

While these shots hardly do a Florida sunset justice, it gives you an idea of the kind of closing of a day I get to see many nights during the year. On this particular night, just over the past weekend, I was sitting on the couch watching television. All the main lights were turned off so only a subtle glow came from the TV, that flickering, annoying twitch that commercials often use to catch a viewer’s attention. Except I noticed all of a sudden that my backyard had turned pink.

The white fence was pink, the trees were pink, the pink flowers were a completely new and undefined shade of more pink. It was quite pretty. I scanned the sky and noticed the shades of pink coming from behind my trees and over to the neighbor’s backyard. The peak of his roof sliced through right where the pink ended and a normal sky continued. Over there, the sky just looked meh…but I got the best view.

Welcome back, summer. I don’t care that you are coming a little early this year.

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Summer in the South
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

The oriole sings in the greening grove
As if he were half-way waiting,
The rosebuds peep from their hoods of green,
Timid and hesitating.
The rain comes down in a torrent sweep
And the nights smell warm and piney,
The garden thrives, but the tender shoots
Are yellow-green and tiny.
Then a flash of sun on a waiting hill,
Streams laugh that erst were quiet,
The sky smiles down with a dazzling blue
And the woods run mad with riot.

And, again, while it might still be spring to most of the rest of the country, I am eagerly awaiting summer’s official return. To me, summer is already here.