One Dog’s Tale

This is the story of Gaston – who originally belonged to Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Baby Gaston (2)

Baby Gaston

 

He learned everything he was supposed to do and he was patient with the younger dogs.

 

 

…but this was a bit much. Really? That puppy thinks she’s the boss of me?

Sadie leads Gaston4671qk

Sadie leads Gaston ( who has exchanged his fuzzy pale coat for a curly red one)

 

 

There was just one problem….unlike the other young guide dogs Gaston didn’t really want to work.

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This is the dog who flunked guide dog school because he just wanted to play with his toys.

Hey look guys ..TOYS!  TOYS! pse.1664

Hey here are some more! toys pse_1669want that 1_pse.1665

That one, I want that one ..

Can I have one, can I can I Huh, huh huh?can I pse.1667

I’m not leaving unless I can have one. Just one?

And so Gaston lived lazily….happily, ever after….Gaston n bunny_886ps

 

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With Apologies to Georgia O’Keefe

I love to shoot close-ups of flowers – to look right into their centers a la     Georgia O Keefe.

A macro of a cymbidium

A Cymbidium – one of the easier orchids to grow.

 

These are baby-blue eyes – Nemophila menziesii, a cutie with its silvery anthers and delicate petals – the bifurcated stigma  (center) look like Martian eyes to me.

 

 

Calochortus venustus is a wild mariposa lily.

 

C.leichtinii-xcrp pse7-15 024Calochortus leichtlinii or white mariposa lily.  This is a good one to identify the flower parts : the center column is called the style and is topped by the a 3-part stigma ( the unseen ovary is at the bottom of the style), which in these lilies is surrounded by six white anthers – those are the male parts.

 

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Note the same characteristics: three petals, 3-part stigma  and six anthers. You guessed it: another mariposa lily – Calochortus luteus.

 

Calochortus tolmeii

One more wild lily is C. tolmeii – pussy ears. This is one of my favorite little (no more than ¾ inch across) wildflowers with its blue anthers and fuzzy petals  – it’s nickname is pussy ears.

And I’ll close with a close-up of a Christmas cactus flower.

I’ll save some more for another time…..

Patriotism and Democracy

 

Patriotism isn’t waving the flag and standing for the national anthem – that’s all show. Real patriotism supports our democracy, whether that means giving your time and energy to improve your community and country or paying your taxes to support our infrastructure and institutions. Lobbying for lower taxes, seeking tax loopholes and hiding money abroad undermines the democratic system.

The United States was founded on respect for the justice system and balance of powers – executive, judicial and legislative – and a free press.  Thomas Jefferson once said, if he had to choose between government a free press, he would choose the latter!

We should not court foreign dictators and excuse tyranny,  because we believe in equal rights (including political rights) equal opportunities and tolerance of differences.  As the US flag waves this week, I leave you with the words of  Walt Whitman and a song from Pete Seeger expressing the ideals on which this country was built.

Did you, too, O friend, suppose democracy was only for elections, for politics, and for a party name? I say democracy is only of use there that it may pass on and come to its flower and fruit in manners, in the highest forms of interaction between people, and their beliefs – in religion, literature, colleges and schools- democracy in all public and private life.               Walt Whitman

I got a song to sing, all over this land.
It’s the hammer of Justice,
It’s the bell of Freedom,
It’s the song about Love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.                                      
Pete Seeger

How To Survive Being Stalked By Fictional Characters #MondayBlogs #Writing #WritersLife

When I finished A Place in the World, I found myself wondering what had happened to Alicia and Jorge and wishing them well. I had to remind myself they are figments of my imagination.

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Have you ever finished a story, thanked your cast of fictional characters for their work, wished them well for their future projects, walked away from the story…only to find one or a few characters refuse to leave you alone for WEEKS / MONTHS / YEARS afterwards?

Have you ever had a new character appear in your mind and whilst you spend quality time trying to figure out what the hell to do with them, they set up camp inside your head, watch your every move like a hawk, whisper stuff to you whilst you are busy doing non-writing things and basically stalk you?

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A Few Wildflowers

Here are a few photos of spring from parks in Marin County, California.

Delphinium – or larkspur (note the “spur” at the top).

 

Gilia capitata from Azalea Hill.

 

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Several views of Calochortus umbellatus – a small lily also known as the Oakland star tulip.

 

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Fritillaria sp. – or Mission bells from Mt. Tamalpais

 

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A few more lovelies

 

I came upon a small hill that was like a wild garden, covered with several species. Shown here are annual lupin on the left,  owl’s clover (out of focus) behind and the ubiquitous California poppy on the right.

A WILDFLOWER TRAIL ALONG THE YUBA RIVER

My husband and I drove up to California’s “Gold Country” last week, specifically to hike a trail along Buttermilk Bend on the South Yuba River.

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The dog  scared us by running downslope to swim.  I had visions of throwing myself into the raging water to save him, but he was smart enough to find a pool and avoid the rapids.

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The wildflowers were fantastic – both in the abundance of display and diversity of species.

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For over a mile you could hardly take a step without discovering something.

Even the pipevine swallowtail butterflies were having a field day – they were everywhere.

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The Classroom of Diversity: Expat File #19

My expat guest this week is Tanya Crossman an Australian who lives in Beijing, China. Tanya has written an interesting book about the impact, positive and negative, on children growing up overseas. Here she tells us a bit about her experiences as an expat.

wombat

8 year-old Tanya holding a baby wombat in Australia.

I spent most of my childhood as a local in Australia, and most of my adulthood as an expatriate in China (with time in the US and Cambodia along the way). I recently spent three years in Australia, riding the insane wave that is repatriation after 11 years away. Then I married an American TCK* and moved back to Beijing.                                                                   (TCK = Third Culture Kid, a term applied to children raised outside their passport countries. First Culture refers to countries in which a child has legal standing (passport country); Second Culture refers to any culture the child meaningfully interacts with through residence or heritage; the Third Culture refers to their shared childhood experiences of growing up in between countries and cultures.)

Now I’m experiencing life as a strange mixture of foreign and familiar, while rediscovering what I love about this city.   Somewhere in the middle, I began mentoring teenage and young adult TCKs. Ten years later I wrote a book explaining the impact of an international childhood, and how TCKs feel about their lives. My main focus now is equipping carers of TCKs (parents and teachers, in particular) to better support the young people they work with.

That is the short explanation of my expatriate experience. The long story is, well, much longer. Today I’m meditating on my first year in China, and how that set me up for all that was to come. Living overseas during my twenties had a huge impact on my life’s direction – sending me places I could never have imagined.

At the Great Wall of China

This happened in large part because of the incredible diversity of people I met and befriended. I had a reasonably multi-cultural group of friends growing up in Australia, and I spent two years attending high school in the US. Yet I had never spent time with such varied groups of people – people from different countries, cultures, languages, current socio-economic positions and backgrounds, and separate assumptions about the world.

Living in Beijing I met people from literally all over the world. Even my Chinese friends came from all over the country. My friends included exchange students, post-grads, teachers, business people, musicians, diplomats, doctors, asylum seekers, pastors, and more. They came from a vast range of social and educational backgrounds and incomes. Some were barely scraping by, others had money to burn.

large group

A diverse group of friends, from six continents: Australia, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Guyana, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Nigeria, Portugal, Romania, Sierra Leone, Singapore, UK, and USA.

 

Sometimes I was the odd one out – the only one of a different nationality, the only one who didn’t speak the main language around the table, the only one without disposable income, the only one with any income, the one with either the most liberal or the most conservative views. Other times I was in the majority – whether of ethnicity, language, values, or income. The extraordinary diversity among the people I met and shared life with affected me in many ways. The ethnic nuances and contrasts challenged my ideas about the world – what is right, desirable, and permissible.

Diversity of Beauty
Diversity changed my understanding of beauty – and my self-perception. It became very clear to me that beauty standards are utterly arbitrary – there is no one way to be beautiful. It seems like a simple thing, but I had never seen it so clearly demonstrated in practice.

In Beijing I had girlfriends from literally six continents with all different skin colours, hair colours, body shapes, and attitudes. They also grew up absorbing beauty standards very dissimilar to my own. It was literally impossible for us all to be ‘right’ about what was truly beautiful. Hearing those unconsciously accepted ‘truths’ from their lips made me more conscious of the ‘truths’ I had learned to speak over myself. Not only that, but I looked at these women who I knew were truly beautiful and realized that there was no common pool of features they all had – beauty had to be something less concrete than that. Beauty had to be something far less exclusive than any of us inherently believed when we looked in the mirror.

Diversity of Values
Diversity challenged my values. It led me to consciously examine beliefs I’d taken for granted. I suspect this happens to many people in their twenties anyway – when you move outside your family, your local circles, you are bound to run into people with at least slightly different values. In Beijing, the divergence was amazing.

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At the ancient Temple of Heaven in Beijing

 Around almost every table were people with vastly different views and values on just about everything. I saw people discuss (and argue) their differences of opinion in disparate ways. Most importantly, I saw my own values critiqued. I began to see how my actions might appear from the outside. I began to recognize blind spots in Australian culture, and flaws in my personal approach to life.

There were also friends who lived out virtues I theoretically appreciated, but hadn’t seen so well practiced before. People who were relentlessly joyful, kind, or gracious. People who skillfully balanced both ambition and generosity, both achievement and humility. Watching and listening and considering differences in the way people chose to act and interact with each other was a valuable education.

Diversity of Lifestyles

I came to Beijing with a one year study program, fully intending that a year later I would return to Australia and find a graduate position in some sort of multinational company. My view of what was possible was quite narrow. Diversity changed my ideas about what I could do with my life – and how I could live it.

Surrounded by people who had chosen very different paths, I realized other directions were possible. They might not have seemed possible in Australia – perhaps they really would not have been possible to me there – but living somewhere else, other options seemed open to me.

I didn’t work out immediately what I wanted to do, but I found in myself a longing to see what else was out there. That feeling was enough to prompt me to extend my stay in Beijing and see what would happen.

     The rest, as they say, is history.

Tanya’s book is called “Misunderstood: The Impact of Growing Up Overseas in the 21st Century.”   It explores the impact international life has on the children  – while they live overseas, when they return, and as they mature into adults. This “Third Culture” is described through the personal stories of hundreds of individuals.  It is sold both as paperback and ebook by most online booksellers. (Misunderstood can be found on Amazon; see her website for other venues.) Tanya can often be found online, usually on facebookinstagram, or  twitter and occasionally at her website.

Many thanks to Tanya for sharing her adventures and insights. Don’t be shy – share your own in the comments below!