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Friday, September 21, 2018

Surviving A Stress-Filled World

I have felt unusually stressed lately.

I don't get stressed easily, but things have been piling up lately. Health issues keep me busy with doctor appointments that seem to bring continuing bad news. My house keeps having problems, mostly with the air conditioning system. I have been feeling very alone (not lonely, but alone). 

So in an attempt to regain my typical upbeat nature, I have been looking for things to get the stress under control. I am using several strategies to get myself back to normal.

I listen to classical music on the radio, which avoids most of the noisy, in-your-face commercials common to commercial radio stations.

I limit my time on social media, which these days is filled with anger-inducing stories about the current administration's efforts to further destroy the environment, kill wild animals and foment discord among the citizenry. And my news feed has so many stories of animal abuse that sometimes I just can't handle it. So I step away for a bit.

I read a lot, which is both educational and a wonderful distraction. I continue to walk a minimum of  3 miles every day. I listen to a new CD of song birds singing. And I have been keeping busy with editing the photos I took during a recent trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. There is nothing like enjoying the beauty of nature to lift my spirits.

I chose 13 images and created a wall calendar for my office. Later, I will create a second calendar with different images of nature for my kitchen. If I can't always be outside enjoying nature, I can at least look at images of some of Mother Nature's creations. Being in nature has been shown to be a mood booster. 

I 'm looking forward to a trip that will combine my two favorite things -- nature and photography -- so that should help greatly with the stress as well. Temperatures are cooling and the leaves are changing colors -- great things for outdoor photography.

A certain amount of stress is good for the body. Too much can harm our minds and our bodies. Now it's time to leash up the dogs and walk away some of my stress!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

What Really Bothers Me

You know what really bothers me (among other things)?

What bothers me is when people talk about “harvesting“ animals.  We harvest crops. We harvest wheat and apples and corn. We kill animals. Animals are not harvested. Here in New Mexico, where I live, we talk about the chile harvest, and we harvest pecans. We don't talk about the elk harvest or the deer harvest. We don't hear news reports about the elk harvest or the deer harvest.

To me, using the word harvested rather than killed is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to soft-pedal the fact that animals are being killed. It implies that we own the objects of the 'harvest,' which in the case of wild animals, we certainly do not. Why do people use an agricultural term -- harvest -- when referring to the killing of animals? This objectionable term is in widespread use, not just by hunters, but also by wildlife managers and wildlife biologists. I have no idea where this term originated or how long it has been in use. But it is time to retire it to the dustbin of history. Do those who use this term really believe they can control wild animals as they control crops such as wheat and corn? Do they think the wildlife are sitting in a field like a field of wheat, just waiting to be 'harvested'? Humans control their crops. They provide water and fertilizer and pesticides. With wildlife? Not so much.

I have always found this attempt -- whether deliberate or not -- to avoid the reality of hunting and wildlife 'management' to be both fake and disingenuous. So hunters and wildlife 'managers' and biologists, it's time to own up to the fact that what you are doing is killing wildlife. Stop trying to sugarcoat it and pretend it's nothing more than sending a combine into a field to pick crops.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

My Yellowstone

I am just home from my ninth trip to Yellowstone National Park. 

You might think I would get tired of going to the same place time after time, but Yellowstone never disappoints me. Each trip is different. I see different things. Sometimes I see a lot of wildlife; sometimes I see little. 

I go at different times of year (except summer, when the park is overcrowded with people and vehicles). The light is different each day. The weather is different. Animal sightings are different. No two days are the same.

This is my Yellowstone, a huge place (2.2 million acres) that includes some 500 geysers and 10,000 thermal features.

This is my Yellowstone. Close to 100 gray wolves live here. Thousands of bison and elk call this place home. Black bears, grizzly bears, cougars, bobcats and foxes live in the park. Trumpeter swans, bald eagles, golden eagles, bluebirds, red-tail hawks, beavers and mountain goats inhabit Yellowstone's lands.

This is my Yellowstone. DO NOT TAUNT THE WILDLIFE. Yes, bison, elk and other animals are wildlife. They are not domestic animals. They are not there for your entertainment. Yellowstone is their home. It is not yours. Act appropriately.

This is my Yellowstone. When the signs say to stay on the boardwalk, STAY ON THE BOARDWALK. Boardwalks are there for a reason. Stepping off a boardwalk can damage fragile soil.  It also can put your life at risk should you fall through the fragile soil. 

This is my Yellowstone. You will not walk across the fragile ground, stand at the edge of Old Faithful geyser, and urinate into it. 

This is my Yellowstone. You will not toss shoes and other items into or onto thermal features. 

This is my Yellowstone. I don’t care what other country or culture you come from. You can do as you please in your country. But while in Yellowstone, you will respect this park and obey its regulations. If you are from another country, you are a guest in this country. Act accordingly. If you are an American, act like it!

This is my Yellowstone. You will not chase after wildlife, try to pet a bison on the head, or surround any wild animal so you can take a picture with your selfie stick. 

This is my Yellowstone. I love this park. I will not stand by and watch you deface it, harass its wildlife, or damage it through your careless, self-centered behavior.

This is my Yellowstone. I will yell at you and tell you to stop what you are doing if you are breaking the rules or acting recklessly. I don’t want to hear your excuses. 

This is my Yellowstone, a park with wild animals, thermal features, beautiful rivers, mountains and fields. It is visited by more than 4 million people every year. Every visitor must treat this special place with respect, and work to preserve its beauty and resources for generations to come. 

Enjoy Yellowstone. Let it fill your heart with peace and your eyes with beauty. Discover animals and things you have never seen before. But do nothing to harm this wonderful land.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Ugliest Person in America

Meet the ugliest person in America.

Can you guess who that might be? Who represents the antithesis of what America should, and used to, be? For me, there is only one choice.

I'm not talking about his bleached blond hair, or his need for a haircut, or his toupee. I'm not talking about his orange skin with the white rings around his eyes. I'm not talking about his flabby, obese body. I'm sure by now you know whom I am describing. I refuse to say his name. He could be drop-dead gorgeous on the outside, and he would still be ugly on the inside.

No, physical attributes aside, this is the ugliness I'm talking about.
  • his lack of a soul. 
  • his mean-spirited, hate-filled personality.
  • his pettiness
  • his vindictiveness 
  • his lack of compassion 
  • his misogyny
  • his frequent inciting of violence against others he perceives as 'enemies.' 
  • his public mocking of a disabled person. 
  • his willingness to allow immigrant children to be separated from their parents and locked in cages, and to deport the parents while their children remain in cages.
  • his support of white nationalist individuals and organizations
  • his frequent attacks on Muslims
  • his ongoing attacks on immigrants, both legal and illegal
  • his ongoing attacks on any news media that don't effusively praise him, calling them "the enemy of the people"
  • his refusal to honor Sen. John McCain upon his death, and his petulant act of not keeping the White House flag at half staff, until he caved to a public uproar
  • his disrespect of the American military, including a soldier who died in defense of the US
  • his insults toward foreign political leaders
  • his sucking up to tyrants such as Putin and Kim Jong Un 
  • his incessant lies (4,229 confirmed lies as of Aug. 1, 2018).
  • his ongoing efforts to divide the country
  • his refusal to give an annual cost of living increase to federal employees because the government 'can't afford it,' while spending more than $77 million on his weekly golf trips.
  • his incessant berating of certain cabinet members and the American intelligence community
  • his name calling of political leaders, members of Congress, etc.
  • his incessant need for approval and adulation as evidenced by his frequent 'rallies' where his adoring followers cheer wildly
  • his use of his position to enrich himself and his family, despite a Constitutional prohibition on doing so
I'm sure there are many more examples that show the ugliness of his soul. His entire administration is rife with corruption, greed and misuse of taxpayer funds. But the supreme leader wins the title of 'ugliest American' hands down.

America deserves better. America is better.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

One of Life's Greatest Gifts

Everyone thinks they have the best dog. And none of them are wrong.  

Think about that. Don't you think your dog is the absolute best one? 

I found the quote above on Facebook. It wasn't attributed to anyone, so I don't know whom to credit.

The same day, I read a tribute by a man whose boxer was about to be put to sleep due to the ravages of old age. The sentiments below are inspired by what he wrote.

Dogs are one of life's greatest gifts. They don't judge us. They are always happy to see us, no matter how long we have been gone. Returning after a 20-minute absence gets the same welcome home as returning home after a week's absence. Their love is unconditional. It doesn't matter whether the dog is big or small, young or old, expensive purebred or a rescue dog.

Dogs listen without judging or interrupting. They don't check their watch and secretly hope we are about finished complaining or being sad. A dog's love is pure, with no expectation of anything in return

Dogs seem to have an innate ability to know when something is wrong. My second golden retriever, Toby, was particularly skilled at this. If I was crying or sad, he would  put his head on my lap. I'm not sure my current dogs would do anything, but like people, certain dogs are more empathic than others.

Dog lives are so much shorter than human, which is one of life's greatest tragedies.These kind-hearted, forgiving animals deserve a much longer time on earth. How painful it is to have to say goodbye to a beloved canine companion after just a few short years. Sadly, some dogs don't even get to live a normal lifespan due to cancer and other terminal illnesses. Regardless of how much time we spend with our dogs, it never is enough.

Dogs are wonderful teachers, They can remind us to play, to enjoy the simple things such as taking a nap in the sun or going for a walk. They make us laugh, something too many of us do too little of. My dogs get so excited about riding in the car. The words "Who wants to go outside?" get the same enthusiastic dash for the back door regardless of how many times they go out. Every time I go to check the mail or put something in the recycle bin, my dogs rush to the front door when I ask "Who's helping?" Dogs teach us to live in the moment, not to worry, to live life with no regrets, to not hold a grudge. 

Dogs, despite their inability to speak, do a fabulous job of communicating with us through their eyes, their various noises, their behaviors and their body language. If the water bowl runs dry, Bailey will find me and stare at me until I fill up the bowl. I always know exactly what she is telling me.

The worst part of sharing life with a dog is having to say that final good-bye. We all know that day is coming, hopefully later than sooner. In the meantime, it's time to cherish our furry companions, enjoy their company, and get out there and make a lifetime of memories with them.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Can I Please Stay in Bed?

Some days, I wish I could just stay in bed.

Now that sunrise is a bit later, I don't wake up quite so early. I can tell it's getting light outside, but I really don't want to get up and face the day. There is no way to gently ease into the day. As soon as I throw the covers back, all three dogs are up, twirling and demanding breakfast. 

Once up, I get up to speed on the latest news, which is always depressing. The Chinese are hell-bent on driving elephants, both African and Asian, to extinction so they can obtain their precious ivory trinkets. As if it isn't enough that their desire for ivory trinkets is decimating elephant populations, now they are slaughtering Asian elephants for their skin. And don't forget the demand for pangolin scales, lion bones and rhino horns to supply other magic potions.

The United States under the current corrupt and evil administration continues to cement its position as the laughingstock of the world as it withdraws from the Paris Climate Accord signed by 194 other nations. It withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement. The president threatens to shut down the entire federal government if he doesn't get funding to build an unnecessary wall along the border with Mexico. He suggests that he should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for obtaining the release from North Korea of three Korean-American men. And then he brags about his ratings in the news media. Barely one year into his first term, he repeatedly holds campaign rallies for his supposed reelection in 2020. What a leader!

Neo-Nazi attacks continue, with more than 200 headstones in Illinois defaced with swastikas. I guess these are some of the "good people" Der Fuhrer talked about. 

I'm fed up with politics. I'm disgusted by all the hateful, negative comments I read online. I'm tired of people killing animals for fun. I'm tired of hearing about yet another mass shooting, and about the refusal of our elected officials to do anything besides offer their "thoughts and prayers." I'm tired of elected officials treating the US Treasury as their personal piggy bank, using it to fund their lavish lifestyles.

I have trouble sleeping. Some nights it takes anywhere from 1 hour to 4 hours to fall asleep. Many nights I wake up around 2 a.m. If I'm lucky, I will fall asleep again until 4:30 a.m. or so. I'm lucky that my dogs are great sleepers. They don't get up until I do. There are mornings when, after a night of little sleep, it takes everything I can muster to get out of bed. My mattress is so comfortable, my room so quiet, that I would love to just stay in bed. I would like to put the world aside for one day, perhaps make a cup of hot tea and drink it while sitting in bed, reading a book on my Kindle. Perhaps I would put some classical music on the radio. 

Of course, I can't completely block the external world. So I do what I can to minimize its impact on me. I recently had printed several of my favorite photographs. I can look at a head shot of a gorgeous leopard on the wall in my office. There is a new close-up of a sunflower and another photo of my favorite bird, the lilac-breasted roller, in my bedroom. In the living room are large framed prints of a couple of Yellowstone bison and of the beautiful Grand Prismatic Spring. Other new prints hang in the main hallway. Looking at things of beauty that remind me of some of my favorite places is a positive thing.

So is listening to classical music and enjoying a hot cup of tea each morning.I'm ordering a CD of bird songs, something I love to hear. And I often lose myself in a good book. I guess these things are akin to staying in bed without actually staying under the covers.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Change of Season

It's still August, but it definitely feels as if autumn is on the way.

The sun rises later and sets earlier. Early morning temperatures have actually been a bit chilly a few days, until the sun rises above the mountains. Yesterday was cloudy, with a gentle rain falling from time to time, minus the thunder typical of summer rain storms. The angle of the sun is noticeably different. And strangely, I have been feeling like 'nesting' lately. I love sitting in my favorite recliner or in bed, reading one of the more than 200 books on my Kindle.

Soon it will be time for hot soup, baked goods and open windows. During the hot New Mexico summers and cold winters, I keep the windows tightly closed. But for a few wonderful weeks in the spring and fall, I open the windows when I'm home. The house remains at a comfortable temperature without the air conditioner or furnace running.

I have already had the yen to bake some cornbread, or perhaps some pumpkin bread. Both of these are common fall activities. I haven't made any kind of bread yet because I am still enjoying a peach pie made with summer's best fruit from my peach tree. But it won't be long before I will give in to the urge to do some baking.

We don't get the beautiful fall leaves familiar to those who live in much of the country, as our trees are limited to pines, cottonwoods and aspens. While both deciduous trees have beautiful gold leaves, they lack the brilliant reds and oranges of maple trees.  

Another sign of autumn will be the need to add a blanket to my bed, to trade in shorts for capris and short-sleeved shirts for 3/4- or long-sleeved shirts. But that, too, will have to wait until daytime temperatures are lower than the normal mid 80s to 90s.

While I enjoy the transition to fall, I wish the changes would pause right there, without progressing to the dark, cold days of winter. I am miserable in cold weather, and I really dislike the small amount of daylight during the winter months. I love bright sunshine and beautiful blue skies, both of which New Mexico has in abundance. Sitting in the house because it's miserable to be outside, listening to the furnace run non-stop (am I the only person who finds the sounds of the furnace really annoying?) is just too much. 

The only good thing about winter for me is the beautiful sunrises I get to witness as the rising sun lights up the clouds hanging near the mountains.Oh, and the knowledge that warmer weather is on the way.