Bees, butterlies, and hummingbirds attracted to Mexican Sage

I used to be terrified of bees, until we planted Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha) along the walkway to our house. When it blooms, it is covered with honey bees, carpenter bees, and butterflies. Hummingbirds visit throughout the day.

The bees are so busy gathering pollen, that they rarely notice of anyone standing nearby. And even though my husband and I walk by them daily, we haven’t been stung since we planted the sage five years ago.

The bee visiting the flower (in the above photographs) is a female carpenter bee, which will sting but only if disturbed. The males have a white spot on their foreheads, and do not have stingers. They are the ones that “harass” people by flying at them. The more someone waves their arms or runs, the more the males “attack” because they’re attracted by movement.

Mexican sage loves direct sunlight, is heat and drought tolerant, and requires only small amounts of fertilizer. Next year, I may plant a row  in “the dead zone” of our yard, where little grows because the sun’s a little too intense and the soil’s a bit too dry.

Tips for training an adopted kitten

This gallery contains 4 photos.

A couple of weeks ago, I found something special at the farmer’s market. I heard a cat calling to me, and then spotted this 5-month-old kitten coming my way from across the street. He just missed being hit by a pick-up truck. No one claimed him, so I took him to an animal shelter. They … Continue reading

Glimpsing a buck in our back yard

When we moved into our home, there was no fence around the property. We knew we wanted dogs, and that we wanted to keep coyotes out. So we put up a six-foot chain link fence. There was a well-worn deer path in the back of the property, which we preserved. My husband put out a mineral block. We see does and fawns frequently, but catching sight of a buck is rare.

Please excuse the hazy photography. This photo was taken on a cloudy day, through a plate glass window and using a zoom lens.

One cardinal chick survives a snake

I was busy this morning — forgot that Monday’s my gym day. “Oh well,” I thought, “I’ll do something else that’s physical. I went to the shed and opened a bag of topsoil. I’d walk our half-acre, and fill “ankle breakers.” Ankle-breakers are a hazard of living in the country. Dogs and raccoons dig in … Continue reading

Three-day-old cardinals

Nestled within the delicate branches of our heavenly bamboo, my husband noticed a nest containing three eggs. The eggs  were pale blue with brown speckles.

A female cardinal sat on them each morning; left in the afternoon when the heat was over 90 degrees.

These chicks hatched roughly three days ago. I’ll keep watch — try to keep the dogs away from the area when they fledge.

Captain Kirk, my role model and a great story-teller

Up till Now: The Autobiography

I’ve read roughly 120 pages of William Shatner’s autobiography, Up Till Now. It’s written so that you feel that Bill is in the room, having a relaxed chat with you about his life. It’s full of the whimsy that his personality — and Priceline ads — project. His tales are lively and interesting, and you can sense his zeal for life.

I’ve always had a soft spot for this actor. In college, we had to write a paper on the role models we had while growing up. The professor seemed upset when I included the character of Captain Kirk. He thought it was strange that I’d choose a male, rather than female, role model — and a fictional one at that. But in the era I grew up, there were no strong female leads on television, and few in film. It was debated whether women should be allowed to seek careers, and even whether it was appropriate for them to wear pants. Women were to work their buns off in the background so that their husbands could live interesting and rewarding lives.

As a child, I spent most days playing outdoors. In the summer, my friends and I would go inside and sit on the cool terrazzo floor to watch black-and-white horror movies. It was disturbing to see that grown women had disturbingly weak physiques — dropping to the ground each time they stubbed a toe. It’s a good thing that there was alway a man around to lift them up, comfort them, and laugh at their naivete.

When I first started watching Star Trek, I was really too young to understand the full meaning of its stories. I just thought it was “cool,” and got a kick out of watching something my mother greatly disproved of and that my older brother thoroughly enjoyed.

As I entered my teens, and reruns of the show continued to play, I appreciated the conceptual side of the show.  And Captain Kirk became everything I dreamed of being — strong, brave, clever, and adventurous. The fact that he always survived his adventures probably didn’t hurt either.

Honoring the transition to a new life

Yesterday, my brothers and I went to the funeral home. They showed me the casket they’d selected (as I drove in from Arkansas); the liners; the thank you cards. I could say none of that matters now – to a spirit that’s free of its earthly wardrobe – but it does. It matters because promises were made while she still lived. Promises honored out of respect for the person who cared for us – during all of those years when we were helpless.

But the arrangements are important for us as well. They give us a way to say thank you to our mother – when she can no longer hear our words or feel the warmth of her hands. And they provide a way to work through the grieving together – as a family.

Many services today include a slide-show of the deceased. So yesterday, we searched her apartment for photographs. There were boxes of them. Stacks and envelopes of dog-eared images. We started laughing and smiling; remembering times past — when death was furthest from anyone’s mind.

But today there was no job to be done. No duty to occupy our time. I woke this morning from broken slumber. I drove to Mom’s apartment; packed up a few items for remembrance. And then I sat where I used to sit while visiting. Across from me was Mom’s chair. Pink. Inviting. The arms slightly worn. Where she often slept after her diagnosis of congestive heart failure. Sitting upright kept her from drowning in her own fluids.

I “talked” to her. Told her what a good mother she’d been. How God, when I prayed for her passing some weeks earlier, told me that he’d take her soon – but not quite yet. She was so well loved – so many people had prayed for her – that he was going to put her in a favored place. But that place wasn’t open yet. She’d have to wait.

I don’t know what that favored place is. Is it heaven? Is it a new life – one more challenging and rewarding? One that helps others grown spiritually?

I have to believe that, conditions  permitting, we all transform. I’m sure the caterpillar must feel some sorrow at leaving the life it’s known. Perhaps it worries what the other caterpillars have said. “If you eat too much, your body will swell. Your metabolism will slow down. Your skin will harden and inside you’ll become mush.” And those others? They’re right. But wrong at the same time.