Feeds:
Posts
Comments

1978663_10153161808111928_7666657526912481160_nAnyone who knows me or follows me on Facebook or Instagram is familiar with my love of sunsets. I post loads of photos of the show on display as days end, each new, all different and spectacular in their own way and worthy of attempts to capture at least a fraction of the show.

“When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, ‘Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner.’ I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.” ~ Carl R. Rogers

I doubt there are many people who can have such a display in front of them without it triggering that awe and the deep thoughts that should, by rights, follow the experience of the sky sharing its glory with us puny humans. Dropping into the horizon, we become acutely aware of the Earth’s rotation and can be dizzied by how fast we’re spinning. The changing shapes of clouds prompt notions of animals, faces … and the occasional Starship Enterprise … to pop into mind, stirring imagination and rumination. Colors shift constantly and dramatically, often fleetingly causing wonder if this shade or that hue has ever before been noticed.

10996037_10153174300731928_6012042621209276529_nI can easily understand the compulsion of the ancients to come up with wacky theories about the why and wherefore of the setting sun: a god driving a golden chariot across the sky daily; Navajo people of the American Southwest portray their sun god as a worker named Jóhonaa’éí, or sun bearer. Every day Jóhonaa’éí laboriously hauls the sun across the sky on his back; myths of monsters or evil spirits that steal or devour the sun or stories of the sun falling from the heavens or withdrawing its light for a time. How else to explain something so huge, so life-impacting, so spectacular at a time next-to-nothing was known?

It’s with emphasis on the spectacular that I am confused, disappointed and outraged by the fact that people in 2015 continue to chalk up this marvelous daily spectacle to mundane, simplistic and tattered ideas trotted out 2000 years ago by illiterates. They’re missing out on so much.

What I have done is to show that it is possible for the way the universe began to be determined by the laws of science. In that case, it would not be necessary to appeal to God to decide how the universe began. This doesn’t prove that there is no God, only that God is not necessary. ~ STEPHEN HAWKING

That we live on a planet with water and atmosphere enough to create a sunset is wonder enough for anyone … or should be. We revolve around our sun and rotate on our axis, so planning for sunset appreciation is easy. What could possibly motivate so many to opt out of the amazement the natural world provides in favor of acceptance of the moves of some cheesy magician trick? “Watch me pull a rabbit/sunset/rainbow/whatever out of my hat … or ass …”

11012937_10153167014596928_3107568570031190133_nHow believers cheat themselves out of true appreciation for the world around us! Dodging knowledge, learning, thought, wonder, for the sake of convenient indolence is an offense to humanity and our struggle to reach personal pinnacles of fascination and surprise during our lifetimes, and how can that struggle not be better than the shoulder shrug that is “God did it.”?

It may be — I hope it is — redemption to guess and perhaps perceive that the universe, the hell which we see for all its beauty, vastness, majesty, is only part of a whole which is quite unimaginable. ~ WILLIAM GOLDING

As yet another power cut finds me with time, and no little sweat, on my hands, it occurs I actually have something to write about. (Yeah, yeah …)

Getting ready for a feed.

Getting ready for a feed.

While perspiration gets the better of me I’m watching adult fodies on the feeder teach their second clutch of chicks how to take advantage of the easy sustenance, the occasional myna bully notwithstanding. The dogs are flat out and panting. The cat has long since lost interest in the poor skink he tortured to death earlier. Even the plants have thrown in the towel, or the leaf, or whatever.

The only member of the household with any energy at all this early afternoon is Sparky, the tenrec. At the moment she’s scampering around behind me on the couch and trying to skootch her way up into my lap, a position not terribly comfortable for me when hunching over my Mac on the coffee table in front of me.

You see, tenrecs are pokey; not in the move-real-slow-and-slug-like pokey, but rather the ouch variety. They have quills. In fact they’re covered in short, sharp pointy hair-like structures meant to ward off the many animals that would enjoy making lunch out of them.

Unlike British hedgehogs, tenrecs cannot roll themselves into a ball for protection, so along with the pointy body armor comes a mouthful of tiny razors that can make hash of absurdly large centipedes and yank giant African Land Snails from their baby-shoe-sized shells.

Some scale on size.

Some scale on size.

The most fecund of all mammals, litters of tenrecs can number well into double digits, 32 little ones being the known max with 10 to 20 the norm. Mom leads them from the birthing nest into the wild very early and protocol dictates they follow her in single file, so it happens that those at the end of the line sometimes take a wrong turn and end up where they shouldn’t be, like in the mouth of a dog or cat or at the bottom of a ridge they have no chance of conquering. This would be the reason I’ve ended up raising 11 of them over the past few years.

The first that came to me was a little guy we called Riki. He was somewhere around two weeks old and very obviously not in a good place for a baby tenrec; along the side of the road trying like hell to scale a 12’ tall sheer wall of rock. Stopping the car to pick him up was a reflex action on my part, having no idea how I would care for this odd, spiky dudelette or if it was safe to handle one.

I had, of course, seen them in passing here and recalled a pair who lived at the Sacramento Zoo when I worked there, but those were kept in the Education Building and out of my sphere of knowledge.

Google being my go-to source, I went to and was surprised to find the top search results had nothing to to with caring for tenrecs and everything to do with cooking them. Although a recipe for wine sauce sounded nice, it was certainly not helpful under the circumstance. (Native to Madagascar, they were introduced into Seychelles by settlers from Reunion as a food source. They still eat them there and in Mauritius. In Seychelles, no.)

Further digging eventually led me to articles on basic care and feeding, as well as sites that sold tenrecs as exotic pets in the US, the UK and other lands far distant from all tenrec roots in the Indian Ocean. They were, however, helpful and informative and I was happy to learn that due to import restrictions and such tenrecs had been tested for just about every ailment known by and contagious to mankind. They neither get nor carry rabies, foot-and-mouth or leptospirosis, and although it wasn’t mentioned I quickly found out they’re not even popular with fleas.
Successful raising and eventual release of Riki was followed by the same for Rocky, Rinny, Tiny, Tango and a handful of others, some with me for short times, others longer, depending on how big they were when rescued and how adept they were are sorting things out for themselves. All were released in my garden, which may account for an increasing number of babies needing help right at my doorstep, but given the benefits of tenrec control on snails, centipedes and baby rats, it seems a fair trade.

Plus, each has been different in its own way and all have taught me more about their care. I’d syringe fed all at the beginning, so none were ever aggressive with me, but it was clear being handled stressed them and it never occurred to me that actually taming might happen, which was fine. They’re primitive creatures, one of the oldest mammals on the planet, and haven’t changed much at all since they shared the Earth with dinosaurs. Their evolution happening before there were humans, it made sense that my species would hold about as much significance for them as a column of sentient light would to me, just blending into the general scenery and only scary in cases of direct contact.

IMG_0045_2

Cozy time.

Then came Sparky.

It may have been the case that the dogs discovered a nest. When I glanced out the kitchen window and saw my dog, Flee, playing with something on the drive it seemed too small to be anything but a rhinoceros beetle or some other big bug, but I went for a look anyway. (I do like rhino beetles, so would have saved one of those, too.)

What it was, of course, was a baby tenrec about the size of my thumb, probably less than a week old, and, thankfully, not worse for the wear it had experienced as a squishy toy. Flee dropped her at my feet and I brought her inside for what was now the usual treatment.

I keep a small wire cage just for the purpose, so kitted it out in banana leaves and other browse and half a coconut husk as a den, then put the baby in, closed the door and let her recover from her ordeal. (You’ll note I’m referring to Sparky as ‘her’, but at the time I had no idea of the gender. Sparky actually started out as Spartacus, dubbed so by my son, Sam. He’s 12, so no surprise there.)

A few hours later, she took well to the syringe … I feed yogurt with a bit of egg yoke to start with and provide water … and continued to settle in nicely. I worried a bit because she seemed a bit less robust than others I’d raised, less skittish, so watched her for any signs of internal damage Flee have have caused.

She loves being petted.

She loves being petted.

All of the other tenrecs extended great effort in evading my hand when retrieving them from the cage for feeding. Most would rifle under the leaf letter, then climb the wire to monkey-bar along the top in brief panic as I wrestled them out, only settling when enclosed in my palm. Sparky didn’t do this. In fact, it was only about a week before I noticed her actually approaching me.

I must admit I went a bit Sally Field for a while … She likes me! She really likes me! … but it was a tremendous privilege to have this amazing little creature respond in ways even a puny human like me could interpret as a connection.

That was five months ago, and the connection continues. When I walk up to Sparky’s house now she wakes up, gives a big yawn, then waddles from her coconut husk, or wherever she’s been lounging, and greets me at the door. She wanders on to my open palm when the door opens and we cuddle on the couch for a while. She loves to be petted and scratched, so I dig my fingers into her quills and give her skin a good tickle, removing loose spines as I go, then stroke her soft underbelly as she closes her eyes and gets into the mood.

In the evenings she joins Pat and me on the couch for movie time and meanders back and forth between and behind us, occasionally pushing the cat out of the way to do so. Her nose perpetually sniffing the air, quills raised on the back of her head when she tries to climb up the back of the sofa and always grateful for a hand up.

She even likes the cat ... sort of.

She even likes the cat … sort of.

I don’t know if anyone else has ever enjoyed the honor of tenrec love, but would not be surprised to learn that Sparky is one of a kind.

She’s five months old now, growing as she should, and just as sweet and funny a critter as I could have imagined. I’m hoping this continues and, with a potential lifespan of 8+ years, that she’s with me for a long, long time.

(Sparky’s diet consists of just about everything, her favs being cherry yogurt and roast chicken. She also gets egg, liver, papaya, banana, fish and whatever else we have on hand. She also always has fresh water and a small dish of dirt that she enjoys. Minerals! She may be a bit spoiled, as she has no interest whatsoever in snails, but, then again, I’ve never cooked them in garlic for her.)

Tootling Blighty: Dorset

There’s no doubt I’m behind in this account of tootling, but will backtrack at sometime and tell all about London, Surrey, Gloucestershire, the fab peeps who hosted me and adventures encountered along the way. For now, however, it’s Dorset.

Dorset

Dorset


I lived in Bournemouth some years back, and this has been my first visit back to the area. Thankfully, one friend from that time is still in the area so a very enjoyable reunion has been happening this week. Martin is pretty much the only person I still speak to who knew me well throughout my time here, so being able to share thoughts has been a gift.
PrettyPlace
Martin and his husband, Ciaran, live in the village of Pimperne just outside of Blandford Forum, and with the luck of (mostly) glorious weather, walks in pretty places with their Westie, Boris, have been a hoot.
The Boys at Studland

The Boys at Studland


A day at the beach at Studland had Boris introducing us to dalmatians, poodles, spaniels of all persuasions, various herding dogs and the occasional manic pointer. There was even one Dogue de Bordeaux that was every bit as sweet and drool-producing as a Hooch should be.

A day out in Bournemouth provided proof that things change a lot in two decades, although the building whose top floor was my flat looks pretty much as it did. The price has gone up by about £100,000.00 since I sold it, so, yep, things are different.

Had a good time down the pub last night with a couple of Martin & Ciaran’s local friends and had a laugh with some of the young lads drinking around the snooker table. I was, however, surprised to see them walk out carrying two-pints-to-go containers. They weren’t driving, but it still seemed an almost New Orleans thing to happen.

Elves like us ...

Elves like us …

Since ’tis the season, we shopped for, then decorated, the boys’ Christmas tree, which was a hilarious venture with a good outcome. They’re all set for the holidays now with plans in place and the house tarted up in festive fashion so the clear sky and bright sunshine feel as Cris-cringley as a blanketing of snow.

No lasers handy ...

No lasers handy …

Ta-Daaaaaa!

Ta-Daaaaaa!

Heading off tomorrow and, as I have with everyplace I’ve visited this trip, I’ll miss the place and the people that make the world special.

Going no place, no how ...

Going no place, no how …

I doubt I’ll see another bin as secure as the one attached to the log at the bottom of the page again …

Sandra Hanks:

Sharing this again as I’ve noted the day without the time to give proper consideration …

Originally posted on Paradise Preoccupied:

Yesterday I wrote about infamous dates, an appropriate topic on Pearl Harbor Day.

Today is another one of those. Although not on the same scale of lives lost or immediate consequence, December 8, 1980 saw a moment that defines a generation, and world, thirty years after the fact of an act of murder.

The death of John Lennon put paid to an era born in the sixties and dying with John.

It could be the timing was coincidental … another decade had closed and the 80’s loomed large and voracious. Flower-power was giving way to the darker, disenchanted tones of Goth, Ronald Reagan was White House-bound and the 80s stretched before us like a ladder to be climbed one pricey rung after the other.

Could it be, however, it was the event that instigated at least some of the changes?

The violent death of a gentle musician and poet…

View original 308 more words

CowThe drive from Cornwall was very pretty with hedgerows, sheep-covered hills, sea cliffs and such, and a bit of adventure when we were stopped by a farmer herding his cows down the lane and one … a very handsome, curly beast stopped to poke her head by the car window and say, ‘howdy’.

I’ve admittedly been a bit of a slug the past few days, so haven’t actually seen much of Paignton yet, but have until the end of the week to check out more than the view of the bay. It’s so comfy and warm here in Pat’s mum’s house, as it would be for a 92-year old who runs her own home in style.

Not often finding myself in the company of someone so intimately familiar with a Britain that’s now hard to find, it’s been fun hangin’ with Pauline. Her sense of humor is still well in place, and the fact that she does snarky so well … veddy, veddy British snark, of course … has had me cracking up. Pat’s dad had been a pilot with the RAF and Pauline an encoder in the WAF, so she has terrific tales to tell that I’m lapping up.

She, being interested in new things, allows me to feel as though I’m doing my bit entertaining her with bits and pieces about Seychelles and animals, which went well with my trip to the Paignton Zoo, which was a great day out.

Isn't he gorgeous!

Isn’t he gorgeous!

Not only was the weather mild and dry, the bachelor group of five gorillas had me grinning like a … well … a baboon? Not large, the hilly setting makes for a lot of variety in enclosures and a number of water features for flamingos, pelicans, a variety of ducks … including whistling tree ducks, which are a big fav for me … and setting off islands for the orangs, adding atmosphere.

PaigntonPaignton, being an English seaside town, is the usual mix of Victoriana and kitchy, touristy stuff. The bay is full of boats, the town rife with arcades, bars and chip shops and is a busy place even on an off-season Tuesday afternoon. There’s a steam train and a paddlewheel boat, so I envision major fun here in summer.

The "English Riviera"

The “English Riviera”

We’re cooking in, so I’ve nothing to say about restaurants, but can recommend the Paignton Sainsbury’s … but I have been known to be overly impressed with supermarkets lately.bcdca111-2c1a-4782-9f39-3a613b908427.1

With more miles under the belt, there’s more to yack about and more photos to post, and now that I’ve re-entered the swing of this again, here ya go …

Well, hello ...

Well, hello …

Cruising from North Devon to Cornwall is a beautiful trip this time of year, even with the bit of fog that crept in just before the sun set … at about 4pm. The leaves still managing to cling to trees are every shade of gold, red and yellow and there’s interesting fauna to go with the flora: pheasants wander, sheep that are outstanding in their field and the occasional hairy cow stopping by the window to say howdy … or, more likely, “good ahftahnoon”.

Rescue me! (Sing it!)

Rescue me! (Sing it!)

Although far less attractive, the highways even manage to keep me amused with the ubiquitous cones-by-the-bazillion and signage. I’ve yet to figure out how in hell a lay-by can be closed or why a road might have delays until the end of December. (That’s seems excessive and I’m hella happy I’ve not caught it when it’s THAT bad as I have places to be before then and no inclination to sit in the car for a month. ;-), and, yes, bad jokes travel with me.) The ones that offer “Free Recovery” crack me up every time and put me in mind of friends who really could use that on a regular basis.

Destination: Eden Project did not disappoint, although the hemp exhibit I was supposed to shoot had been pulled out weeks ago. That glitch was almost made up for by the butternut squash soup and freshly-baked bread I had for lunch.

The Eden Project. It's warm in those domes.

The Eden Project. It’s warm in those domes.

The tropical warmth and smell of cinnamon was a welcome reminder of home, but I did spend time wondering why my garden doesn’t look just like the inside of the domes. EdenSign

I’ll be posting more on the Eden Project in future, but must share the very Seychelles-like Christmas decor I spotted …

Just like Seychelles ...

Just like Seychelles …

LyntonWakeUpIt may surprise some to learn that a small English village could have a world of options when it comes to dining, but that’s very close to the case in Lynton, my home for the last week.

Nothing like a good, old pub ...

Nothing like a good, old pub …

Not only is there an ancient pub with higher-than-standard pub fare (The Crown) and a typical English Tea Room (Lacey’s Tea Room), coffee shops abound and pasta, pasties and pizza are easily had.
Lacey's Tea Room

Lacey’s Tea Room

Yum!

Yum!

A bit more deliciously surprising is the option of great Thai food at Nartnapa , a family-run establishment named after the Thai half of a couple whose other have is Lynton born and bred.

Another import, this one Russian, and her Exmoor-born hubby run the Vanilla Pod, an establishment that offers great food any time and really scores big on their occasional “Russian Nights”.VanillaPodRussianNight

Tapas and Spanish wines on the menu here.

Tapas and Spanish wines on the menu here.

The Oak Room does Spanish cuisine with tapas, full meals and wonderful Spanish wines, and although closed for dinner this time of the year does do lunches.

If it seems I’m encouraging visits to Lynton … well … I am. I LOVE the place, the people and the food!
CoffeeShop

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,197 other followers