Rain Dance

Why didn’t the early settlers to America pay attention to the giant hint about catastrophic weather events on this continent??  The indigenous people had a ‘rain dance’ because we have cyclical episodes of drought all over the two continents.  If I had faith in my ability, I would do a rain dance on my back deck because I am so fed up with watering the garden.  My sprinklers haven’t worked for a couple of years but I decided during the Pandemic that I would use a hose and be the Greta Thunberg of my cul-de-sac.  Our water bill tells me that we are doing the right thing, especially raiding the laundry basket for yesterday’s clothes…that’s my excuse and I am sticking to it.  One of the things I loved about Egypt was that it was really hot, not everyone had access to water or deodorant, the trains were jam packed and you had to get used to body odor.  It was a sharp acclimation moving to the States – why do people get washed before they go out for a run in Texas humidity? I can smell their Gain detergent on their cute little outfits about half a mile away.  Just go out stinky and have a shower when you return.  The only friend who felt as I did was brought up in the South African bush and didn’t wear shoes until she was 12.  She walked the dog with her dressing gown on…my kind of gal.

Like many of us, during the Pandemic, I watched TV until I was square eyed.  I can’t tell you how many National Geographic and Discovery documentaries I ingested.  Any archeological program involving LIDAR gets me excited. LIDAR is an acronym for light detecting and ranging.  Briefly, the technology allows you to scan a wooded area, for example, and remove the trees digitally to reveal the remains of structures. There have been many recent discoveries in central and south America, showing that there were huge Mesoamerican ‘cities’, for want of a better word.  The biggest had hundreds of thousands of people and they were connected to other cities.  The Amazon is not virgin rainforest but more a peek into a post-apocalyptic Manhattan.  Imagine decayed and fallen skyscrapers overwhelmed with a forest canopy.   I was astonished to find out that the Amazon was ‘plundered’ before – once or perhaps more.  Vast cities with complicated infrastructure and agricultural methods.

The reasons for their decline are varied but mostly it was climate change made worse by a huge population.  If there is no rain, you can’t grow crops and you can’t feed the disgruntled people.  At worst war or disease or famine then decimate your population but in the case of the Maya, many of the people moved north into the Yucatan area of Mexico or further afield.  In the title photograph, I am ‘dancing’ at a remote pyramid in the Yucatan, devoid of tourists.  The area was surrounded by scrubby jungle full of structural remains that complete the large city complex.  There are so many pyramids from Mexico to the tip of central America that it is obvious there was, at times, a thriving population.  I can only hope that this is a pattern.  As a species, we spread out of control, depleting Earth’s resources but then Mother Nature or equilibrium takes over.  This is my ‘big picture’ theory and I can’t claim to be an expert just a voyeur of life with a very dark sense of humor. Let’s face it, the other species need a chance.

Recently we had the woodwork painted throughout our house.  In the main bathroom, we had all the cabinets painted.  Our fantastic white Corian countertop now looks creamy if not a tad yellow.  The countertops are 18 years old and I considered getting them coated or replaced.  Then I thought, “Is that sustainable?”  Right now, I am still in Greta Thunberg mode, but I might eventually cave and get new countertops to fulfill my naïve American Dream.  Do I need a refurbished bathroom, though?  I would happily spend all the money on a trip of a lifetime but then you have to consider carbon emissions/tax, appalling airports and the possibility of Monkeypox.  If nothing else, our newest spreading disease proves that Mother Nature is laughing at us.  What else can I throw at the horrible humans??  Monkeypox is a bit like bedbugs – really disgusting but you are unlikely to die from it/them.

I had a colonoscopy yesterday and no one really needs to know that.  That said, however, the TWO day Prep and the anesthetic might explain this post…  Teddy and I went crazy today and had two lattes that had caffeine in them.  I can’t stop writing or talking and poor Teddy had another AFIB incident.  This was a minor episode but revelatory (no CAFFEINE for Ted).  My mum died of a bowel rupture 20 years ago and every since, I have been more aware of what I am eating.  I literally eat like a squirrel – nuts, seeds and fruit.  Curiously, I noticed that the seeds were the last to be emitted from my poor body pre-colonoscopy.  Despite my healthy regime (I could power a methane plant) my diverticulosis is worse than it was 7 years ago.  WTH??  To rub salt in my wounds, the gastroenterologist sent me pictures of my colon with a note to eat more Fiber.  If only it was legal to take the notes and shove them up his backside…  On the plus side there was nothing else of note and the nausea inducing ‘elective’ procedure is free.  More seriously – go get a colonoscopy.  It could save your life even if you can never consume lime Gatorade or Jello again.

Ne’er cast a cloot ’til May is oot

The title is the Scottish version of an English phrase “Ne’re cast a clout till May is out” or in plain English – “Never take off a layer of clothing until the end of May”.  It is an archaic phrase, probably from medieval times, and there are similar phrases in France and Spain.  I was tickled by the Spanish phrase “Hasta el cuarenta de Mayo no te quites el sayo!” “Until the 40th of May, do not take off your coat”.  Every May, even here in the sub tropics in south east Texas, we always get a wee cold snap.  In April our temperatures were heading up to the high 80s and I started thinking of getting the summer clothes out.  On May 4th (Star Wars Day) the high in Houston was 90F/32C and on May 5th it was down to 63F/17C – no wonder I had to wear my favorite fleecy cat socks.  If you live in Canada or Scotland, you might be cursing me, “63 degrees sounds like summer to me…”

It occurred to me that I have very few summer clothes despite where I live.  In Scotland I had a tiny box of summer vacation clothes that lasted for 20 years.  Everything else was clothes that could be layered along with a few polar jackets/sweaters.  Our neighboring village had snow one June – WTH?  It was a cold snap and we lived on a high plateau with nothing between us and the Arctic.  At least our clothes dried quickly – sometimes hard frozen.  My body temperature runs cool like a really good car – the temperature in the house is 76 degrees and I am wearing a light sweater but my feet are cold.

I love warmth but not really strong sunlight.  Living in a forest helps because in tree shade the temperature can drop by 20 degrees.  We have a pair of beautiful water oaks who live in the reserve but their canopy covers our deck giving us delicious shade.  I thank them by spraying them up and down with the garden hose.  I swear that the Live Oak in the front trembles with pleasure when I hose her down on a hot day.  Teddy and I enjoy sitting in our rockers under the Water Oaks although I am always afraid of a Cicada falling on my head.  Their song is wonderful but they give me the jitters.  So, so glad that we don’t live in any of the States who are about to greet Brood X 2021.  For non-Americans, there is a type of Cicada that emerges every 17 years in Ohio and neighboring states.  If you don’t like Cicadas it is like Hitchcock’s famous horror movie The Birds.  In the next few days 1.5 million per acre will be emerging – that is BILLIONS of them. Apparently they taste like shrimp when cooked – I will never know…

Graph courtesy of USDA Forest Service and VOX

Postscript

The Brood X has been delayed a few days by this cold snap making the anticipation even greater.

Old Town, San Diego

Colorado House

Stable Museum

Close to the Immaculate Conception Church is a Pioneer Park with original and replica buildings from the origins of San Diego. As I wandered through the park, I wondered about my ancestors. Was I walking in their footsteps?
This is a quote from Old Town San Diego guide

“Old Town San Diego is considered the “birthplace” of California. San Diego is the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement in California. It was here in 1769, that Father Junipero Serra came to establish the very first mission in a chain of 21 missions that were to be the cornerstone of California’s colonization. Father Serra’s mission and Presidio were built on a hillside overlooking what is currently known as Old Town San Diego”.

I bet it really was cosmopolitan back in the day!

Spice shop

I was fascinated by the huge scale. It made me think of bushels and pecks – such descriptive measurements. When we moved back to the States, I was delighted to find imperial measurements instead of Metric weights. Sometimes you are just to old to adapt to kilos… Then I discovered that American imperial measurements are different to the old British ones. The gallons are different – WTH???

Senora de los Meurtos

I visited just before Halloween and Dia de los Meurtos and loved the vivid color in these displays in the restaurant district. You can tell that it is autumn in San Diego with that fantastic clear light. It was about 80 degrees with NO humidity – yay! I fearlessly ate lunch outside without misting systems and didn’t get bitten by mosquitoes. When you live in a sub tropical swamp, those weather conditions are heaven. As I write this, it is heavenly weather in Houston but there is always some bloody mosquitoes…

Ah, it was a perfect day visiting ancestor’s graves at an appropriate time to honor them and then being able to imagine how they lived.

Katniss and Winter Storm Helena

diy-cat-shelter

DIY Cat Shelter

As most of you know, we now have an outside feral cat – Katniss (picture below). We have a large deck which she uses most of the year with all the other critters but Winter Storm Helena is bringing a hard frost. I need to interject – why do we name every stupid storm? Back in the old days it was just bad weather. As usual, Houston is reacting as though winterpocalypse had arrived. To be fair, homeless people and critters are going to struggle over the next couple of days. What to do?

I checked out cat houses on Amazon and we could certainly get one eventually. In the meantime, I created a nest with an old cat crate covered in a tarp for hurricanes. It is off the deck to feel safer and there is a clean fleecy blanket in there with a catnip toy. Then I went to the supermarket to look for a hot water bottle – the assistant looked at me as though I came out of the Ark. “I don’t think they make them anymore”. Kerry Macgyver thought about it and created this.

glass bottle filled with hot water

glass bottle filled with hot water

Wrapped in two old t-shirts

Wrapped in two old t-shirts

I threw out some 10 year old Pimms (British drink) and filled it with hot water, sealed with the love of my life – duct tape. Then I rolled it in two of Teddy’s old t-shirts and put it under the blanket.

Katniss, the feral cat

Katniss, the feral cat

I doubt very much if Princess Katniss will use this shelter but perhaps there will be a warm family of possums? One of my neighbors kindly allows Katniss to sleep on their covered porch which is warm from the house, so she has some options.  A few days ago, I spotted her waiting for breakfast in the corner of the garden. She suddenly looked behind her, clearly askance but not terrified, into the reserve. To my astonishment, two fat possums (Betsy and Peggy Sue?) came thundering out aiming directly for our deck. It was 8 am so they were late going to bed (under our deck) but they had been digging for grubs by the looks of their snouts. It looked like the scene in the film Fifth Element where the elephantine aliens came thundering out of the pyramid. I burst out laughing and went out to reassure Katniss.

She ran off (to return at a later time) and I startled Possum # 3 – the baby who had been following the other two. I saw him sleeping on the flowerbed a couple of hours later and entreated him gently to go under the deck to sleep with his family. He seemed to understand and went to bed like all good little critters should.

Thank you to Wikipedia for the links – what did we do before Google??
PS
No need to comment about our love of alcohol, with the bottle and 6 pack door… 😆