Meet our new garden guests…

Mother Gray Fox and pup

These are our new residents who use our deck as an AirB&B.  The first time I saw them, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  What were they?  Since then I have swallowed Wikipedia and discovered that they are Gray Foxes.  They are indigenous to the Americas (with a range from Canada to Venezuela) unlike the red foxes which were introduced from Europe to hunt.  Red foxes are now predominant in the eastern states but our gray foxes are not at risk.

Felicia

Felicia, the mama, is sharing a burrow with the armadillos – I wondered why it was so big…  From our nighttime camera we can see 2 adults and 4 puppies.  Since the pair are monogamous we assume it is a breeding pair with their litter.  I believe that they have recently moved into our area from other green belt areas that houses are being built on.  We live in a protected forest environment and back onto a reserve (behind that fence).

Look at those brushes!

Felicia is about the size of a cat with longer legs.  Their coat is exquisitely patterned and lush.  I have had so much fun watching them play and hunt.  Mama is mostly silent but quietly mewed at the pups when she returned with a baby squirrel from a hunting trip.  They ran out from the deck, one went straight to her teats but she slapped him off to encourage them to eat solid food.  They first appeared in the Americas in the Pliocene Era, about 3 and a half million years ago.  Gray foxes are the most basic type of canine species and are related to Fennec Foxes.

Like cats, Felicia can hiss and climb trees to hunt or escape predators.  She comes down backwards like a cat.  I found a large dead wood rat on the deck – do you think it was rent for the deck burrow?? They are crepuscular in nature so that is why we have some shots in daylight but mostly they are nocturnal.  Now we finally know why our squirrels are called fox squirrels – they have exactly the same gray with amber coloring.

They have provided much needed balm to my fragile soul over the last few weeks but also terrified Katniss our outside feral.  She finally came back after a couple of weeks, very skinny, so I have been feeding her up.  The foxes still come and go, so she has fixed her timetable to adjust.  The foxes are not a threat to her but she doesn’t perceive that.  I guess they all scent where they have been.

My psychiatrist suggested that I should write another post after the last one about suicide and here we are!  I have taken two months off work and am beginning to feel better.  My apologies for my absence around my friend’s posts – I need to relax.  These little foxes have made 2018 a marvelous year, especially since so few people have seen these little critters in our area.  I hope you enjoy watching the video of the pups playing in my plants – so cute!!!

 

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Suicide is painless…

…or is it?  The recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have shocked the world.  How could people with so much money, privilege and opportunities hang themselves?  That method of suicide is very hard for those who loved them to cope with.  Most of you know that I have a chronic mental illness but I have a particularly intimate knowledge of suicide.  Two of my cousins killed themselves, one by gun and the other with medication.  I lived in a village that suffered a contagion of suicide during a ‘dustbowl’ depression.  In the UK I managed a nonprofit project for people dealing with the effects of severe mental illness.  Somehow the last telephone call on Friday night always seemed desperate and you wondered if the person would survive.  Finally, I have thought so often about suicide or nihilism myself that I hope I have talked myself out of it.

The last thing that anyone needs is castigation or judgment for feeling so desperate that you no longer wish to live.  I had my first bout of depression at age 7 and then a more serious illness when I was 20.  I was young and convinced that my living conditions (with a mentally ill mother) were the only contributing factor.  In a future life, I would get a job that didn’t stress me and marry a man who would look after me.  Never did find the former but I did marry my husband who loved me so much that divorce was never an option in his eyes.  Over the years, we both learned that I had a life-long illness that I had unfortunately inherited (why not money, for goodness sake?).

I can’t claim to know Kate or Anthony but from all reports, they were kind, loving, quirky, charismatic humans who had inner, mostly hidden, pain.  I hesitate to use the word demons because it is so generic and unfair.  When I was working in the field of mental health I would give talks to student nurses and social workers with one of my volunteers who had schizophrenia.  Despite all of them nursing or caring for people with severe mental illnesses, they struggled to empathize.  You truly do need to walk a mile in a person’s shoes to know their angst.  What surprised the students the most is that we were articulate, funny, knowledgeable and well-educated.  They rarely had an opportunity to see the hospitalized person after they had recovered from that breakdown so this was an eye-opening opportunity.  We don’t usually recover from a chronic diagnosis – we just manage our illness to the best of our ability.

So let’s talk about suicide.  One of my clients had a very severe mental illness, most likely one of the bipolar illnesses.  Every time he had a psychotic break, delusional and manic, he recovered in hospital but a little part of him died inside.  To make it worse, he didn’t react well to the medication.  Every day he would see a relative, walking the main street, who also had the inherited illness but had retreated into homelessness.  It was as if he were looking in miserable mirror.  He talked to us so many times about his sense of hopelessness.  There were other clients who could bounce back much better.  It was as though our Fairy Godmother gifted us with self-deprecating humor, a sprinkling of fairy dust and charm to balance what ‘Malificent’ gave us.  One day he called the office, having escaped from a locked psychiatric unit, and said goodbye to me.  I knew immediately what was going to happen and called the authorities.  In the weeks following I comforted his family and friends but they found his body in a wooded glade, having taken his life.  Normally, I would feel just deep sadness and regret.  In his case I understood his pain and the relief he sought.

CNN had an expert talking about a contagion of suicide which is an excellent way to reference this.  Was Anthony inspired by Kate or was it just some awful coincidence?  I mentioned living in a village with this contagion earlier.  It was a farming community and the crops had failed for the third year in a row, leaving many of the farmers with huge debts.  It had a knock on effect for other workers such as painters, electricians and plumbers whose invoices were ignored.  One farmer, who I knew, shot himself.  The plumber hanged himself in the garage a few days before Christmas and it continued.  I completely understood – these people had lived in this area for generations.  What would they do if they had to leave their farms and businesses?  For some of them it was unthinkable to live in a nearby town in rented housing when they had always lived on the land of their forefathers, in gentle silence.  Our community was grief stricken and all of us took some blame.  Did we not say hello one day or be over critical about some work?  One wife could not forgive her husband for the manner of his death.  All I could hear was “How could they do that to their family”, “Selfishness”, “Other people manage without money”.  No one kills themselves without feeling such anguish that life no longer seems feasible.  The very nature of mental illness is that it makes you selfish and sometimes narcissistic but that is a symptom not a personality defect.  Not everyone who takes their own life is mentally ill but surely in that moment it’s moot.

So, why do we think about suicide?  I can only talk about my own experience and it doesn’t really make any sense.  Having volunteered all my adult life, I know all too well about the resilience of the human spirit.  People can lose everything, be imprisoned in a concentration camp or tortured and still live a long, happy life.  Last week I had three long days of work and an event.  I managed the work and enjoyed it but I had to leave the event with an anxiety attack.  I stayed in bed for four days with my mood going up and down.  Thoughts of hopelessness and failure were flitting through my head just as quickly as writing a story about fairies.  People with psychoses sometimes hear voices that can be disturbing.  Their illness makes them unable to perceive that these are just delusional thoughts created by the psychosis.  I know what my thoughts are but can’t control them.  On the outside, I just look haunted but with so much psychotherapy, I can switch up my mood in a second so that I can manage an interaction.

Getting older, in my case, is making my illness more difficult to manage.  I suspect the natural drop in estrogen is contributing.  With the help of my doctor, I have been changing drugs, combinations and strength.  Right now it is difficult for me to do the other things that help such as eating well, no alcohol and exercise.  Here is an example of one of my thoughts. “Whales are being found with lots of plastic in their stomachs” “Perhaps if I cooked from scratch I could avert this” “That’s not possible but perhaps I could just eat bananas and avocadoes?” “Life isn’t worth living anymore; do I have enough air miles to go to Switzerland for assisted suicide” “What about Teddy and Toffee – I can’t leave them”.  At the end of these thoughts, which go on for hours, I am utterly exhausted.

Two days ago I felt exactly like that but today I went out to lunch with my friend and we had a genuinely lovely time.  I have gone for a walk, cleaned the house and have been asked to do a really fun job next week.  The job will exhaust me but the accomplishment will help my mood.  Now I can anticipate a good weekend, living for the moment.  There is not much likelihood of a cure or completely successful treatment for me.  When I think objectively, I realize that life is full of beautiful moments and I try my best to avoid stressing myself.  During all of this, I feel so sorry for those people who do take their own lives but pity whatever drove them to it.  I hope that this post might help someone who is considering suicide or those who have lost someone.

If you feel desperate please share your feelings with someone you trust or reach out to –

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

“We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.”

1-800-273-8255

The Brown Fairy


Everyone thinks that fairies have a charmed life but it’s really not that different from Homo Sapiens or other species. This tale is about a brown fairy called Hazel. Like Dragonflies, fairies have an awkward pupa stage. They don’t develop from larva but when younger, they have short stubby wings, their coloring is muted and their flying skills need some work.  Hazel’s best friend Rosa is a typical example of the Roseate species and is the Barbie of the fairy world. Her little wings are perfectly formed with a faint translucent blush tone. Her hair is a glossy burgundy and her violet eyes sparkle. Hazel was so disappointed that her eyes were same as her name – neither green nor brown.

Rosa and Hazel met at their first year of the Texas School of Fairies. There, every color of Texas was represented from beautiful bluebonnet fairies to rather plain tumbleweed fairies whose thorny wings kept everyone at a distance. Texas has more brown fairies than most places as they have to be camouflaged in their surroundings. Some Texan Browns are Sandy blondes from the dusty west to Piney Wood fairies like Hazel, with a mix of brown and green.  Hazel wondered who would want to blend into the endless forests and sediment rich ponds. She thought enviously about rare Azure Fairies from the Caribbean to the Pacific Blue Fairies in California. They were only pictures in books but she was at the age where an exotic boy fairy made her pretty hazel eyes dreamy with longing. Her parents, unfortunately, were rather old school Texan Browns. “What’s wrong with a nice local boy such as Moss or Bark?” Hazel’s eyes rolled dismissively, out of her parents’ eye shot, because you dare not defy a fairy parent.

School was strict too, “Yes Ma’am!” Hazel revered Miss Centaury, who was a native to Romania just like the wildflower – her field of study was the art of camouflage. Her wings were a vivid shade of purple mixed with red; her hair and eyes completely black. Her accent delighted most of the students who were most used to the generic “Y’alls”. So what do fairies study? Everything that will help them achieve the goal of their species – bring joy and mystery to all the other species lives. When you see your cat pouncing on something invisible in the garden, they are likely playing with the Garden Fairies.  The fairy species works hard to keep their presence secret from most humans. Homo sapiens have lost many of original gifts. We don’t believe in Santa never mind the tooth fairy. There is no time to just sit and stare at the daisies so you miss the shimmer of the yellow and white Daisy fairies. Have you ever seen what looks like a fish jumping to the surface of a lake? There are concentric rings on the water with just a hint of a rainbow. Sometimes it is Lake Fairies who love to play Tag with the catfish.

In times long past many more humans could see the Fairies, especially those working the land. Some nations, most famously the Irish, have embraced their ancestors’ relationship with the Fairy species. Leprechaun is the Irish name for the male Meadow fairies that are as green as the old country. Hazel wondered if she would if she would ever travel to Ireland. Maybe it was possible because she was a brown fairy with green camouflage? She had met a visiting Irish History tutor at school. He was so handsome – tall and slender with bright green eyes that sparkled like emeralds. All the little fairies swooned and made rude jokes about his Shillelagh. Hazel didn’t quite understand what that meant but she thought it might be about S.E.X. Her conservative Texan parents refused to talk to her about the breeding habits of the fairy world. She had watched Dragonflies mating on the wing, vibrating with pleasure. This made Hazel blush furiously and her eyes darkened to mahogany with anticipation.

She and Rosa whispered quietly about future spouses. They were approaching their ‘Blossom Stage’. Humans have a similar time when little girls’ busts grow from 28 AA to 34 C and little boys’ voices change from squeaky to manly. Rosa and Hazel knew that they would retreat to their homes and sleep for a few weeks. During the Blossoming, a cocoon of silky fabric would envelop them for a period and when they emerged, Hazel and Rosa’s wings would be fully developed and their coloring would subtly change. It could be deeper, more intense or just different. Since Hazel was a Piney Woods fairy she would likely be shades of brown, green or copper. The little fairies were anxiously excited; Rosa was a little more confident about her blossoming but both girls were worried about such a metamorphosis.

Cocoon Day finally arrived and Hazel’s parents made her a comforting meal of Beauty Berries and Tree Sap before tucking her into her hammock. The fermented Tree Sap gently carried her into a dreamless sleep. The next time she opened her eyes, her parents were anxiously watching her. “Be careful, Honey. You need to get up slowly and let your new wings unfurl”. Hazel blinked the sleep from her eyes. To her surprise her body was much longer with slender long legs. She carefully put her feet on the earthen floor and was momentarily unsteady with the weight of her new wings. Her Pop held her steady and urged her to shake her new wings free of their cocoon. It was the strangest sensation as they unfurled. Her Mom gasped in pleasure and her Dad was smiling. They both took her hands and led her down to the forest pond so that she could see herself.


Tears started to roll down Hazel’s face as she saw her new visage. Her hair had lightened to a silvery brown color; wavy long tresses that framed her beautiful face. Hazel’s eyes were now a shade of Moss Agate, glistening with tears. She tentatively stretched out her wings so she could fully see them and now she gasped. Her top wings were a beautiful shade of creamy peach; those under were a light silvery green and the bottom wings were a pale pistachio. “Oh Hazel” said her Mom, “I think it is time to choose your Forever Fairy name. Doesn’t she look like a Carolina Linden, Pop, with gray and green foliage? What do you think Honey?”

Carolina Linden Fairy, formerly known as Hazel, quivered her wings with excitement, and delicately flew up above the pond to live her new adult life.

A Carolina Linden Tree also known as a Basswood. Rare but present in the Piney Woods area of Texas

 

San Diego Mugshots

…and to another brilliant segue by Kerry – from Folsom to San Diego. There is a lovely little seaside community in San Diego called Seaport. As I was walking about I noticed this fancy schmancy shopping and dining center, The Headquarters at Seaport. Even more intriguing was that this was the original San Diego Police Headquarters built in 1939. What a place to work with magnificent views of the water! As the city increased in size they outgrew the original headquarters and here we are today. Amazingly they kept the original 8 block cell intact with some of the mugshots of the prisoners. This is a link to the history and architecture of The Headquarters.

Since I went to San Diego to research my ancestors, I looked with cautious trepidation at the mugshots. Was one my relative – not to my knowledge? What an interesting bunch they were. Such a mix of ethnicities and most of the crimes seemed relatively minor.

Block of 8 jail cells


The cell blocks themselves looked better than most youth hostels I frequented in my youth. You had a bed, toilet and sink all to yourself – wow! I bet there was even hot water…


As fascinating as it was, I was left with a feeling of sadness that so many of them were drug addicts. How little life changes over the generations. At least they had reasonably sized jail cells with the smell of the ocean just outside the door.

Lest we forget

I received an email from one of the genealogical sites that I subscribe to, revealing that my paternal grandfather, Raymond Dellinger has been drafted for WWI.  This is his draft paper.

I am not 100% sure but I don’t think that he was actually sent to war.  Lucky for him as so many veterans of WWI died of battle wounds and disease.  I was intrigued that he was a bank clerk in Nebraska.  His older sister had married a doctor from Nebraska but the family had previously lived in Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.  My grandfather was born on the Chickasaw nation in OK.

I never had the opportunity to meet this Grandpa and he died when I was a child.  He was so handsome with gray eyes that I would have loved to have seen him in person.  Now I know where the recessive gene for my blue gray eyes comes from.  My father had brown eyes and my mum had blue.

Kerry with dark, dark blue gray eyes

Grandpa Dellinger

As I am looking at the WWI drafts I see that 20 more relatives had been drafted into the war.  I do not know how many actually fought but my great uncle Earl (grandpa’s brother) was a Marine and fought in the Battle of Managua, 1927.  Then an incorrectly spelled name caught my attention, a distant cousin named Tony Ortiga (Ortega).  His draft fell into a strange category of Indians, Insane and Prisoners.  Well, in my family it could be all three….but what awful world categorizes those groups together? It was Folsom Prison in Tony’s case.  I wonder what he did?  Be careful when you open the genealogical closet because you never know what skeleton will fall out.

As I was reading this sad draft, I could hear Johnny Cash playing at Folsom prison.

‘When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry’

Somehow that is the perfect segue from my last post on trains to this one on Memorial Day.

Lest we forget. Rest in Peace.

Texas Trains

Look at that! A Texas sky and an old railroad with no barriers. Us Texans are brave…

I recently had the good fortune to travel to Brenham in the Texas hill country for work.  It is a small country town, German in origin, north west of Houston.  The last time I traveled for work was in the UK, to grim industrial towns in England.  This trip was much better with perfect spring weather in Texas (hot summer weather in UK).

I used to be terribly frightened of railroad crossings but since moving here, I have had to get used to them.  Most of them around me have no barriers so the train uses the horn for miles – a sound I love.  Sometimes on a quiet night I can hear them at night about 4 miles in the distance.  Now I just stop briefly at the railroad and check there are no trains (not everyone stops…)  The crossing above was right in the middle of the old section of town.

Santa Fe Depot

These train company names immediately bring nostalgic memories of old American movies and I dream of jumping on a wagon to travel across country.

Abandoned train line

Or at least I think it is abandoned – it is sometimes hard to tell out in the countryside.  As I child I would have constantly been on these train lines imagining the destinations.

Yellow train

This is just one part of a very long train that had dozens of wagons.  They sometimes are so long that it takes 20 minutes for one to pass.

Wildflowers beside the Walmart

As I was leaving the Super Walmart I noticed this field of bluebonnets, followed by red wildflowers and finally yellow.  The sky was very overcast and it gave a surreal feel to the field.  I attempted a photo watercolor below.

Watercolor created by using Photoscape

What is this?

A mystery…

Those strange markings in a circular pattern; flying saucers or just saucers?  Did a small alien land in my garden?  No…just a very fussy feral kitty called Katniss who decided that she doesn’t like gourmet chicken with tomatoes.  I fed her first and then went in to tend to Toffee who was wailing because Katniss was fed first.  I glanced out afterwards to check on Katniss and she was standing staring at me through the window.  Her dish was missing too, so I went out to see what had happened.

She stared at me with her little round green eyes and I started laughing when I saw that she had covered (the very expensive) food with stones and dirt.  “Would you prefer something else, Princess?” “Yes, please, strange human mummy”  She deigned to eat the crunch but was silently condemning me for my poor grocery shopping.

I suppose she looks rather well fed and spoiled for a feral.  She has a strange psychic ability over me and I can sense she has arrived in the garden waiting for food, even when I can’t see her.  My car noise is immediately identifiable and that often brings her running.  Toffee often knows when her Dad is turning into the street before he arrives at the house.  Animals have amazing sixth senses.

I caught a cold this week, just a regular snuffly nose one, but it turned my brain to jelly.  During a phone call I could not remember my home telephone number which I have had for 14 years.  My recent travel photos are waiting for me to turn into a Postcard from Kerry but they will have to wait until my brain recovers.

My heart goes out to our neighbors at Santa Fe, Texas with another school shooting by a disturbed young man whose father’s guns were available.  They should be locked in a gun case.

My heart glows to see Prince Harry marry a biracial American.  As Teddy knows, all the smart guys marry one of those…❤