Writing a book is like making a bowl of oatmeal

You start by preparing either a quick type by the seat of your pants or

One that cooks longer and involves more planning

Once it’s cooked, the oatmeal, and the book draft, may be dull and boring

Writing a book like making oatmeal30April2019

So you spice it up by sprinkling it with cinnamon

A little sweetness will improve its appeal so you add sugar

It could be richer so you add butter

A few unanticipated morsels will be intriguing so you add raisins

Everything needs to blend well so you add a splash of milk

Writing a book like making oatmeal2

You think it’s ready to serve, but you must be certain…

There’s not too much fat and

Just enough sweetness and spiciness

With a few surprising and luscious bursts

That all mix together deliciously

Writing a book is like making a bowl of oatmeal

Siobhan Sullivan

Word of the Day Challenge – Luscious

The Watcher Within: Thursday Doors

Doors with eyes

I took this picture on a trip to the ghost town of Shaniko, Oregon and didn’t notice the watcher within until I edited the photo. I thought it was something inside but realized later it was a reflection of the Shaniko Hotel across the street. It looked like some alien creature out of a Star Wars movie watching me. I found some interesting doors in Shaniko but apparently they were keeping an eye on me.

The Watcher Within doors at Shaniko, Oregon 16May2018

Thursday Doors

 

Clear Lake Underwater Worlds: WPC

Life Beneath the Waves

I saw strange sights while out kayaking on Clear Lake in Oregon. Moss-covered creatures live beneath the waves waiting to enchant you and take you into their liquid world.

Clear Lake Underwater Oregon 30August2016

Weekly Photo Challenge – Liquid

Where the deer and the antelope played

Celebrating a life

After living a life full of leaps and bounds, she settled down in her favorite aspen grove. The bunchgrass waved goodbye. The rabbitbrush shaded her in her final moments. The rosebush provided fruit in celebration of her life. And finally, the aspen covered her in leaves of gold.

Where the deer and the antelope played 2November2017Weekly Photo Challenge – Story

Grounded

Thermophiles Yellowstone NPkLook beneath your feet
And notice

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colors blending Yellowstone NPk

Notice the textures
Notice the colors blending
And bold

Textures Yellowstone NPk

Near Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstone NPk

Bold and brilliant hues
Bold and distinct edges
And patterns

 

 

 

 

 

Ridges Yellowstone NPk

Patterns of cracks
Patterns of smoothness
And transitions

Pebbles Yellowstone NPk

 

Transitions Yellowstone NPk

Transitions moving towards new
Transitions moving in a rhythm
And beat

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstone NPk

Beat into the earth
Beat into your memory
And soul

Antique Thoughts

Things I’ve learned while antiquing that apply to life…

You can find wonderful and amazing things if you just remember to look up.

Imperfections may make things less valuable but they are the most treasured.

The experience is worth more than finding the thing you seek.

Winter Sunrise

Winter Sunrise

Cool snowy blankets
Boldly contrasting branches
Frame an immense sky
Blinking awake in deep blue
Blushing in flashes of fire

Forward

 

Black-tailed Deer. Olympic National Park, WA

Black-tailed Deer. Olympic National Park, WA

As the new year approaches
You can choose to look down and back
Or up and forward

Jays

BlueJayWatercolor

Blue Jay

Jays have insisted on being a part of my life since I was a young child. They are brash, bold, raucous, and not easily ignored.

As a five-year old living on a wooded lot in Maryland, the Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata,  introduced itself to me with little formality. Its loud voice and striking appearance said, “Notice me!” Its frequent companion, the Northern Cardinal, also made it hard for me to look away. I guess that must be why I have a thing for birds with crests on top of their heads.

When I moved back across the country to Washington State, I met more Jays. On camping trips with my family, the Gray Jay, Perisoreus canadensis,  made its kleptomaniac presence known. Otherwise known as the Camp Robber, this gray bird has a way of sneaking in and taking what it wants.

GrayJaysYellowstone 6-5-2015

Gray Jays

I had a boyfriend in high school named Jay. One winter I was out of town for a couple of weeks and when I came back he broke up with me. He told me he had started going out with “Mary” while I was gone. He said he had gone outside in the middle of the night and shouted to the world how much he loved Mary. Like I said, Jays have a way of being loud and taking what they want.

StellersJay BC 11-13-2012

Steller’s Jay

The next Jay played an important role in my life for many years. Steller’s Jays, Cyanocitta stelleri, are a deep azure blue topped with a black crested head. They like to imitate Red-Tailed Hawks and other birds. Steller’s Jays also have an appetite for other bird’s eggs and young. They especially like to prey on the endangered marbled murrelet, a small seabird that breeds in inland forests. While working on a project to preserve a forest where murrelets nested, I learned more about the football-shaped seabirds and their predation by jays than I knew about any pigskin football.

WesternScrubJay 9-22-2015

Western Scrub Jay

The latest Jay in my life is the Western Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica . When we first considered moving to the high desert of Oregon, I remember looking at potential houses and thinking, “What is that bird I keep seeing?” The bird raised its white eyebrows, cocked its head, and regarded me curiously. When we found the place we eventually bought, the blue, white, and gray Western Scrub Jays were in the backyard shouting a welcome.

Jays, with their distinctive appearance and mannerisms, always seem to be a part of my life.

Clouds

Clouds…

Obscure what was once clear

Release things that burden them

Blanket the cold nights

Shine brightness on what’s to come

Surround us in the divine

Flutter

Townsend's Solitaire

A fluttering of wings draws my attention.

Townsend's SolitaireLooking out of my window, I see a Townsend’s solitaire beating its wings and attacking its reflection in the side mirror of my parked car. It has been there for hours. Long strokes of white droppings adorn the side of my car. At first I assume the bird must be a male defending its territory.

Townsend’s solitaires are a drab gray relative of the American robin that most people wouldn’t even notice. They are not showy.

Male birds are usually the ones with colorful plumage but that is not the case with solitaires; the male and female look almost identical. I guess they decided not to follow the theory that a male is more brightly colored to attract females and the female has duller colors so she can sit undetected on a nest.

Solitaire3I watch the bird pause in its attack on my car as it flies into a nearby Western juniper tree. An orange crescent of plumage flashes on its outstretched wings only to disappear again as it settles into the tree. The bird is camouflaged by the gray bark on the twisted form of the tree. Its darker flight and tail feathers blend into the cracks and crevasses of the tree’s bark.  It pulls off some of the juniper cones, tilts its head back, and gulps them down quickly. I see the flash of orange again when it flies up to the top of the tree.

In the fall and winter months, solitaires develop a one-track mind about what they will eat. They feed almost exclusively on the small purplish cones, otherwise known as berries, of the juniper tree.  While we may think of these cones as being good for nothing but the production of gin, they provide all that solitaires need.  The adaptable and much maligned Western juniper tree is being removed in parts of the West but solitaires and other animals often rely on it for food and shelter.

As their name implies, Townsend’s solitaires spend much of their time alone. They are a Greta Garbo type of bird. Solitaires often perch atop a juniper in a very upright position like a guard standing at attention.  The bird will remain quiet and motionless until there is a need for defense.

Solitaire2The bird in my yard opens its beak to sing. The melodious song is surprisingly complex. The clear flute-like notes ring out and fill the sky. It starts calling. The one short note is a loud attention-grabbing whistle that is repeated over and over again.  It’s like a bird version of a smoke alarm.

Male songbirds defend their territory by singing and calling around its borders.  They essentially create a musically-charged “fence” around the boundaries. Townsend’s solitaire females also defend their territory. They will aggressively defend an area long past the breeding season. The females take an active role in protecting a productive juniper patch.

The solitaire returns to my car and perches briefly on the mirror. Its head is cocked to one side as it peers at the image of its perceived foe with a dark eye lined in creamy white.

Solitaire4I have learned to accept the unexpected. Those that first appear drab and dull may surprise you. Their colors may be hidden. Their voices may be quiet. They might be female. Give them a chance – look for the flash of color, listen to their song, and admire their strength.

A fluttering of wings draws my attention.

Fall’s Laughter

Close up of maple

Fall begins with joyous laughter and warm caresses that

Nod and wink as they cloak you with a touch of frost

Standing there entranced, you are enveloped by color

FallLaughs2Cool greens evolving into explosions of vibrant

Yellow, orange, and crimson

North winds swirl about you encircling you

FallLaughs4Wrapping you in the scent of remembrance

Snaps and crackles sound under your feet

Inviting you to grab handfuls and throw them into the air

FallLaughs3You smile as the coolness surrounding you is

Warmed by a shower of brilliant laughing tones

Emanating from falling leaves readying themselves for winter

Stronger than the Wind

CoopersHawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Sometimes you will be happily flying along in life when – WHAM!

A gust of wind comes out of nowhere and hurtles you to the ground.

Pick yourself up, preen those damaged wings, and remind yourself

You are stronger than the wind.

Cheerleaders of Fall

Rabbitbrush

I can always tell when fall is on the way here because the rubber rabbitbrush, Ericameria nauseosa, gets out its bright yellow pom pom flowers and cheers into the wind.

Teenage Birds

Me with a teenage American Robin many years ago

Me with a teenage American Robin many years ago

I have been seeing a lot of teenage birds lately. You can tell they’re teenagers because they appear to be nearly adult size and act like they’re invincible.

Glory

Morning Glory  - Yellowstone National Park

Morning Glory – Yellowstone National Park

Some places just take your breath away with their beauty. The Morning Glory geyser at Yellowstone is one of them for me. Mine eyes have seen the glory…

Small voices

ThermophilesYellowstoneListen to the smallest voices for they often have the most to say.

(Close-up of heat loving thermophiles near Dragon’s Cauldron at Yellowstone National Park.)

Chatter

Black and white and full of chatter. No, it’s not a newspaper; it’s a bird.

Distinctive black and white plumage and raucous calls make this bird easy to identify. Its unusually long tail gives it a unique silhouette. A magpie.

Their loud calls are often heard in the wild places they live in. They are also master imitators. Is that hawk you hear or is just a magpie?

Magpie perched in sagebrush by Siobhan SullivanFrom a distance they just look like a black and white bird. Look a little closer. Their plumage catches every little bit of light and reflects it back in an iridescent glow.

Some see them as smart opportunists while others see them as pests. Are they using their voice and brains to get ahead or get under your skin?

Not everything you see in black and white should be taken at face value. Look for colorful reflections. Listen beyond the chatter. Forgive those who use what they think will get them ahead to their advantage.