wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Spider Hideouts

Spider Hideouts

With all the bad weather we’re having, I took a mental trip back to sunnier days when we were in Mexico for the winter about twenty years ago.

Camped at Chacala, 360 kms south of Mazatlan, we often bought our fruit and vegetables from the produce truck.  One day, I lugged home three big bags of fresh vegetables.

“Coming to the beach?” the Captain asked.

“You go ahead. I’ll be down right after I clean these veggies,” I grumbled, slapping at the tiny biting flies. I soon gave up trying to work at the table I had set up outside and brought the vegetables into the bug-free trailer to clean in my little kitchenette.

Done at last! Now for the beach and a cool swim. I hurried outside to bring in my bathing suit from the clothesline we had strung between two coconut palms. I was about to step into it, when I let out a shriek. A furry eight-legged critter about the size of a wolf spider was eyeing me from inside the bathing suit bra.

Anyone passing by must have gawked at the bathing suit flying out the doorway.

I was late getting to the beach that day, and although the water was refreshing, I couldn’t relax. Other swimmers must have wondered at the woman who kept pulling away the top of her bathing suit to look at her boobs.

That evening, we sat at the kitchen table in the trailer, playing cards and relaxing with an Oso Negro gin and peach juice. I tidied up the last few things before getting into bed.

The Captain had just finished brushing his teeth and as he came out of the bathroom he heard me GASP! His eyes followed my arm as I pointed to the corner of the trailer. There, clinging to the ceiling, sat the biggest spider I’d ever seen. The hairy dark brown visitor had a body the size of my thumb, and his legs could easily straddle a saucer. If I had been a screamer they would have heard me all the way to Mazatlan.

“And I’ve been sitting there playing cards all evening with that thing poised right above my head,” I wailed.

I handed the Captain the fly swatter, and, in a shaky voice, told him, “If it gets away, I’m not sleeping in here tonight and I’ll be on the plane tomorrow.”

“It must have come in with the vegetables,” he said, as he tossed its crumpled body outside.

And where had it been while I sat there cleaning them? I wondered. Hiding in the cauliflower leaves? How close had I come to touching it? Shivers ran down my back.

It seems spider experiences run in three’s.

The next day we visited an open air market in a nearby town. I admired the handmade wooden cutting boards and picked one up to study the grain. Something ran over my hand. I threw the board into the air and squealed, “Una araña!” The vendor laughed and seemed unperturbed as I pointed to the gigantic spider running in his direction.

I was having serious thoughts of home. But imagine missing all this fun.


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Everyone Knows it’s Windy

The fir trees in the photo below are used to bending away from the prevailing southeast winds. The bay is loaded in whitecaps, a sure sign that only fools would go out there in a small boat. No fools visible today.

It blew so hard today that the firs in my backyard suffered in spite of being partly sheltered behind my house. When the rain let up somewhat, I went outside to take a picture of the branch that broke in the wind today. Apparently the rain hadn’t quite stopped, as you can see from the big drop that fell right in the middle of my camera lens. I was going to try to edit it out, but then I thought, “No, this is part of the picture. It was wet out there.”

If you look to the left of the tree closest to you, near the middle, you can see that a branch is near the ground, but still hanging on the tree. It is broken and hanging by a thread way up high. See the birdhouse on the tree? Go up about the same distance again as the birdhouse is from ground level and you will see the break.

Here is a close-up of the top of that broken branch.

I guess I could try swinging on the branch like Tarzan and it would come off, but if it broke mid-swing, that might not be too much fun.

Branches flying everywhere,

Look! A sliding patio chair,

Time to get some firewood,

Raining, so put up your hood,

Fir cones pelt the woodshed roof,

Put your hard hat on, you goof.

Quickly, fill that barrow now,

Gusts of wind are screaming – “Wow!”

Push the wood up to the house,

Knowing you’ve exposed a mouse,

Hiding by the firewood stack

She resettles farther back.

Birds are huddling in a shrub,

Dangerous to come out for grub.

Just get through this awful night,

Tomorrow things will be all right.


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Being Thankful

What do we have to be thankful for?

That depends on your perspective. We need food, water, shelter, and enough warmth for comfort. To varying degrees most of us have that and we are grateful for it.

But it is all secondary, if we don’t have our health. For those who are not in good health at this time, we can be thankful to live in the days of modern medicine for making our illnesses bearable. Without modern inventions and medical discoveries, many of us would not even have made it to adulthood. The smallest infection might have killed us in the days before penicillin, and appendicitis would have claimed countless lives before the days of operations and anaesthetics. Childhood diseases would have taken their toll.

This year’s Thanksgiving may be bittersweet. Actually, forget the sweet part – it will be bitter for those who have lost loved ones, many of them to Covid. But we have to muster a positive attitude and continue to strive to beat this virus.

This is one of the hardest times for some of my generation. We missed the World Wars and most of us were not affected greatly by the smaller wars that followed. We have lived fairly free of world scale disasters … until now.

At first everyone was extra careful about social distancing and wearing masks, using hand sanitizers and washing hands, but I see all around me that people are giving in. They are tired of being careful, tired of being isolated. But, as in any battle, if you stop fighting before it’s truly won, the backlash can be devastating.

We are almost there in the push to beat back the virus, so I hope that people will not become too cavalier about relaxing their precautions until we are clear of this pandemic. Take care, especially at times of celebration, like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

One day soon this ugly virus will be eradicated, and we will truly have something to be thankful for.

Have a happy Thanksgiving, America, and take care to stay healthy.


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Schtormy Vedder

When you’re heading for a social situation and you’re worried about what to say, I’m sure you’ve heard the advice, “Don’t worry. You can always talk about the weather.”

That comment assumes that weather is a trivial thing, but on the contrary, it’s a major factor in how we spend our time. We adjust our plans and activities, according to the weather.

Changes in the weather can be dramatic and at times dangerous.

Two days ago our usual wind and rain turned into slushy snow driven by gale-force winds. As the freezing sleet pelted down, coating everything with wet snow, flashes of lightning lit up the skies, followed by the longest, loudest rumbles of rolling thunder I have ever heard. Emma barked to let me know they made her nervous.

That evening’s thunder snow changed to the same old, same old weather the next day. Here is a picture of the same old wind and rain, taken by a friend on his phone.

Well … okay, maybe it was a little bit windier than usual.

I hope those storm watchers who parked in the usual parking area won’t stay too long. That salt water is deadly on all the metal parts of their vehicles. Salt spray and flying sand are about the worst things to shower onto your car.

My friend who took the photo also took some videos. Here are some short clips (a few seconds each) to give you the feeling that you are actually there, getting soaked as he did.

May the sun come out soon and warm us.


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A Little Help from our Friends

The pine siskins are whirring around in flocks of hundreds, landing here and there on the grass, in shrubs, in the garden, and wherever else they might find a bite to eat while staying in the safety of their numbers. Even the odd Oregon junco sits with them for safety from the hawks who will catch any loners or stragglers.

I feel guilty for living in a house with so many windows. I purposely don’t clean them often, so the birds will see that there’s a barrier of glass. (Good excuse for not cleaning them, right?)

But still, in their frenetic staging maneuvers, many of these little birds hit the glass. Many survive, but this little guy looked in bad shape. Broke my heart! You can see that his eyes are nearly closed, and in this morning’s chilly air, he looked to be in bad shape.

I wanted to pick him up to warm him so the cold cement walk wouldn’t sap the warmth from his tiny body, but it would have freaked him out even more and the last thing he needed was more stress.

I watched as he leaned to one side. If he had a broken foot or damaged wing he would die a slow death.

Some of his friends flew in to feed nearby and he perked up ever so slightly. He turned his head slowly back and forth as he watched them. I was glad to see he didn’t have a broken neck.

Then, as his friends chirped encouragement, he straightened so he was sitting up without leaning. He looked up at the sky, over to his friends on the ground, back and forth. He shuffled his wee legs to lift his body off the ground, and then a miracle happened. He decided he was not ready for bird heaven just yet.

Before I could get the camera turned on again, he hopped up into a nearby rhodo, and from there he flew away.

In desperate times, when we feel that all is lost, sometimes all we need is a little help from our friends.


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Composition isn’t Everything …

but it sure helps.

After the snow that, thankfully, stayed up in the hills, I wanted to take a picture of it. As always in photos taken from my house, the power lines ruin the composition for me.

I got thinking about the composition of photos and when I received this photo of my nephew, I had a chuckle over the post that seems to be growing out of his head.

Going way, way back to about 1975, I found this photo of when the Captain and I lived on the Queen Charlotte Islands. My parents came from Vancouver Island to visit us. At the beach,  my mother and I decided to take pictures of each other for posterity. It was one of those rare times when it wasn’t raining and the sand was relatively dry, so she sat on the sand and pointed her Brownie camera at me, and I lay on a log, posing as I prepared to take a picture of her. We laughed when we realized that with the cameras in front of our faces we wouldn’t get much of a picture so we had to take turns. In the photo you see I’ve lowered my camera while she took my picture, and then it was my turn to take hers. We had the giggles and I think that’s why she couldn’t hold the camera steady and ended up taking a picture of her own boots. (For the purposes of this blog post, I’ve taken out my face, but I was grinning a lot in the picture.)

Later she sent me the photo and I laughed all over again. Not the greatest composition, but it was unique.

My mother died in 1982, and this bad photo of her gumboots is one of my special treasures because of the happy memories it evokes.

Don’t forget my other blog, anneli’s place, if you are interested in informal writing tips.


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Rest Area

This broad-winged hawk must have needed a rest. He chose a perch on the railing of our deck to catch his breath and get his thoughts together.

I looked on the internet to identify him and then found, to my horror, that he eats all kinds of little animals, including squirrels.

Run, Lincoln! Run!

OMG! Do you see what I see on Anneli’s deck?

But I think this fellow had just eaten, judging by the bloody morsels still clinging to his beak.


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Surf City Plus One

These Brewer’s blackbirds are enjoying their day at the beach.

Remember the Beach Boys’ song, “Surf City”? Two girls for every boy?

Well, at this beach, it’s three girls for every boy. You may have to look hard for the sixth “girl.”

Black Bart at the bottom right says, “Now listen here, gang. It’s all very fine to cavort around, playing ‘king of the castle’ on this boulder, and leaping off it like you’re an Acapulco cliff diver, but keep in mind these are dangerous times.

“We have to stay in our bubble. Anything up to 23 is fine, but never, never, never be part of a group of 24.”

“But that just doesn’t make any sense,” chirped Betsy Brewer. “If it’s okay to be in a group of 23, what’s one more?”

Black Bart puffed up his chest. “What’s one more?” He shook his head sadly. “Betsy, Betsy, Betsy. I’ll tell you what one more is. It’s blackbird pie!

“Good grief! Haven’t you heard of four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie? Here, I’ll recite it for you.

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened
The birds began to sing—
Wasn’t that a dainty dish
To set before the king?

The king was in the counting-house
Counting out his money,
The queen was in the parlor
Eating bread and honey,

The maid was in the garden
Hanging out the clothes.
Along came a blackbird
And snipped off her nose.

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened
The birds began to sing—
Wasn’t that a dainty dish
To set before the king?”

Betsy felt foolish at first, but she was not to be shamed so easily. “That’s okay,” she chirped. “When the pie is opened and the birds begin to sing, that will be me with my lovely voice, and I will please the king … and who knows? Maybe I’ll be rich.”

Black Bart rolled his eyes. “Yeah, that’s rich, all right. Rich, like a rich gravy is what you’ll be.”

*****

Please visit my other blog, anneli’s place, if you are interested in informal writing tips.

*****

If you need a good book to read, click on the cover images at the side of my blog posts. Romance, plus drama and adventure.


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Bluffing by the Bluffs

Who knew that below these bluffs, a bluffing contest would break out? Meet the harlequins, Harley and his girlfriend, Quinn.

Hey, wait up, Quinn! Want to go sit on this rock for a while? Catch a few rays?

Oh, Harley, this is so boring. And all you ever want to do is take a nap. I need more excitement in my life. Speaking of which, I think I see some arriving, over my shoulder. But three to one … I don’t know….

Back off, boys. She’s mine.

And you two can get off this rock and go join your buddy, or you’ll see what I’m capable of. I’m not bluffing.

Did you see that, Quinn? See how I put the run on them? Now come on. You stick with me.

Okay, Harley, so I was impressed … but just a little bit.

Harley! You’re such a brute. Don’t you know a lady doesn’t like to get splashed? You’ll ruin my feather track.

Sorry, ’bout that, Quinn. Here, I’ll make it up to you. I’ll find you a crustacean for an appetizer. They’re right under here in this shallow part. See them, there, on the bottom?

Well, if you want to get it for me, Harley, go for it, but I’ll have you know I am not a bottom feeder.

Harley loved his girlfriend, Quinn,

Stood by her through thick and thin,

But the bully boys came ’round

Asking where his Quinn was bound.

“Nowhere special, just these rocks,”

Up they scrambled, all these jocks,

Harley shivered and he shook,

Quinn gave him a frightened look.

“Fear not, Quinny,” Harley said,

“We’re just fine, I’ll use my head.”

And with that, he butted them

Off the rocks, to save his femme.

“Now my dear,” he said to Quinn,

“Let’s go swimming, jump right in,

I’ve a rock crab just for you,

Tender so you need not chew.”

“How delicious is this treat?

Little rock crabs can’t be beat,

Harley Baby, you’re my man,

I am now your biggest fan.”

Please visit my other blog for all things writing related. Anneli’s Place


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Blue Moon on Halloween

No, the moon is not blue. More like blurry, because of the clouds. But it is called a blue moon (and many other names) when a full moon happens twice in one month. The moon would have to be full on the first and the thirty-first of a month, and that would make it a relatively rare occurrence.

This time, it happens to be on October 31st, Halloween.

Halloween will be different this year because of the ongoing threat of the coronavirus. Trick-or-treating is being discouraged, and to be honest, I don’t want the munchkins coming to my door, no matter how sweet their costumes are. I don’t want to be picking up the virus at the door and then passing it on to my elderly family members.

The kids can have fun in other ways, just this once, until we get the virus under control. I know that missing out on trick-or-treating is survivable because I’ve done it.

So here is my story.

When I was very young, we lived in Germany. On All Saints’ Eve (what we call Hallowed Eve – or Halloween here in North America), my mother took me by the hand and we visited the town cemetery. My grandfather, who had died of cancer at the young age of 75, was buried there. I loved my grandfather and he loved me, so there was nothing spooky about going to visit his resting place. Several other village people were also visiting the graves of loved ones, and most brought candles in coloured glass containers to place on the graves. The cemetery was neat and well kept up. With the many lights glowing on the graves, the whole place was peaceful. I remember feeling close to my beloved grandfather and in awe of the pretty lights. The hushed conversation of other visitors showed their respect for their lost loved ones.

We came to Canada soon after that, when I was six years old. The following year, on Halloween, I heard about all the kids going out trick-or-treating. This would be fun! But my enthusiasm had cold water thrown on it when my mother laid down the law and said, “No child of mine is going door to door begging for candy.”

“But it’s not like that,” I whined. No amount of fussing would change her mind. For the next four years she stuck to her guns and our family became the weird ones that didn’t believe in Halloween.

By the time I was 11, she relented. She was beginning to understand that it wasn’t about begging. My younger brother and I were allowed to go out to a few houses on the block to trick-or-treat.

On the afternoon of the 31st, the radio told of a severe windstorm that was due to hit at six p.m. We didn’t really believe it. Not a breath of wind. We put on our costumes and got our goodie bags ready. As we tried to go out the door at six o’clock, we wondered why it wouldn’t open. We pushed against it and had to get our mother to help. As soon as she opened the door, it ripped out of her hand and slammed against the side of the house. The big windstorm had hit us at exactly 6 p.m. My mother yanked us back inside lest we might blow away, and pronounced, “You can’t go out in this. It’s too dangerous.”

Fast forward to the next Halloween when I was 12. I had grown into a tall skinny girl, but inside that gangly body lived a child who had yet to experience trick-or-treating. We trooped out with our goodie bags, anticipation ratcheted up into high gear. At the first house, we called “Trick or treat.” The owner came to the door and said to me, “Getting a bit old to be doing this, aren’t you? It’s supposed to be for little kids.”

I was glad I had a mask on so he couldn’t see me fighting not to cry.

I never went trick-or-treating again, and I suppose I have a warped idea of what Halloween is about. When I see scary spiders, monsters, ghosts and vampires flitting around neglected cemeteries, it is not something I find easy to relate to. My grandfather’s cemetery was clean and cared for. It had a manicured hedge and clean gravel paths between well-tended graves. It was not a scary thing to visit him. The North American version of Halloween jarred when I compared it to my first experiences of All Saints’ Eve.

Still, customs vary, and I’ve learned to accept that Halloween is not all bad. Most people love it and they are not easily scared by the horror they conjure up to celebrate this holiday.

I don’t like horror shows. They give me nightmares. I’m a wimp. I don’t begrudge others having fun, but I find it hard to get into the creepy spirit.

A tame Halloween is fine for me. Give me the pumpkin pie and a taste of that chocolate bar from the goodie bag, but keep the spiders away from me.

If you’d like to see posts on copy-editing horrors, please visit my other blog.