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Temple Square

I’m in the midst of a two-week break between semesters.  Besides waiting less-than patiently for my summer semester grades to be posted (I’m really only worried about my Math class, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t get lower than a “B” in any of the other classes), I’ve been trying to find things to do to keep from being bored–how in the world did I manage two and a half months as a kid?

Anyway, given my sudden influx of all sorts of time, I’ve had a craving to get my watercolors out. The problem is, I’ve let my sketching taper off, and I didn’t have a clear inspiration for a painting.

To that end, I went to Temple Square in Salt Lake City yesterday. And, because I can’t visit Salt Lake without bugging Sis, I dragged her, G and E along with me.

It’s been a while since I’ve been to Temple Square–and I have to say, going on a Tuesday afternoon in the summer is a much more pleasant than going at Christmas Time. I’m a cold weather kind of gal, but I’ll take 90’s and no crowds to 20’s and loaded with tourists.

The original idea was to do some sketching there, but I threw my camera in my purse as an afterthought.  Which, had I been thinking, I would have just taken the camera–there was no way that I could have expected a 5-year-old and a 18 month old to wait patiently while I sketched. It was hard enough getting them to wait patiently while I took pictures.

I was more interested in the gardens than the architecture, but still:

It’s something of a requisite shot.

At the Conference Center. Not happy that his Mom and Aunt were telling him to stay out of the water.

In the lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Originally known as Hotel Utah, it was built in 1911. Love the Art Nouveau styling.

Now, onto the gardens:

There were lots of gorgeous hostas, which, I think will work well for watercolor painting.

There were lots of gorgeous hostas, which, I think will work well for watercolor painting.

Hostas, or any plant with gorgeous greenery, really, make me think of an allegory once told me. I was taking a religion class, and my instructor was talking about having bought her first house, and putting in a garden. Her mother had suggested only plants that produced flowers or fruits, and getting rid of everything else. The point was we should fill our lives with productive things. In my literal-minded view of the world, I stopped listening to the lesson, and instead thought about all the beautiful, useful plants my instructor would miss out on if she took this advice. Like hostas. I came to the conclusion that it was a bad allegory.

And yes, hostas are technically a flowering plant, but you plant them for the beautiful leaves, not the rather lackluster flowers.

Black-eyed Susan. I’ve got this sketched and stretching, as soon as it’s dry, I’m going to try painting it.

I have no idea what this beauty is. The pink and purple flowers came from the same stalk as the orange and yellow flowers. The leaves look like mint, but it doesn't smell like mint.

Petunias are flowers that I've had to learn to like--but they are so cheerful, and they like the hot weather.

Just a couple of random lilies. I love how everywhere that could grow a flower is growing a flower. G didn't believe that there weren't any fish in the water in the background.

I wasn't the only person taking pictures of flowers--and if I had been thinking like a photographer and not a painter, I would have taken pictures of people taking pictures of flowers. I'm pretty sure I was the only person taking pictures of tree bark, though.

So, I’ve got plenty of inspiration, and for a handful of change for a parking meter, I had a fun outing with my sister and nephews. I think when you live close to monuments like Temple Square, it’s easy to take them for granted.

At least, I realized on the way home that I probably should have just gone to the public garden by my house for inspiration.

In other news, I’ve opened up an Etsy shop. You can find it here. Right now, I just have dog toys for sale, but hopefully, I’ll be able to expand into more artistic territories.  I’ve even already made a sale–a feat made less impressive considering the buyer is my cousin and one of my product testers. (Thanks, Sarah!) Anyway, check it out.

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Nature

I am a country girl at heart. I grew up in a town of less than 4,000 people. We moved there when I was eight, prior to that, we lived in a community with about 200 people–and that’s where I consider home.

Moving from the country to suburbia, where I now live, has brought some advantages–it’s nice to be able to go grocery shopping without worrying about the stores closing at 9, for instance.  However, while I love not having to worry about yard maintainance, I am keenly aware that the area surrounding my condo is far more black top than grass and flowers.

But, at the end of my parking lot lies a dirt road that’s been sealed off from vehicular traffic.  Crossing over that chain is like stepping into a different world. Rather than the oceans of asphalt, you have this:

I like to take the dogs back here, but I’d kinda forgotten about it.  See, it’s only good for dog walking during the spring–in the winter, it’s too wet and slick, and during the summer and fall all that pretty green grass dries up and distributes foxtails in little dogs coats, paws and in one terrifying instance, eyes.

But for now, it’s green enough that it’s a pleasure to walk through. I’m slightly amazed at how much it’s changed since the last time I had been back there.  For instance, apparently, a civilization of tiny plastic people rose and fell, leaving behind only ruins to prove of their exsistance:


One thing about living in Utah, if you’re not right in Salt Lake City, it’s not uncommon to find bits of rurality right in the middle of town.

Besides horses, I have bees, chickens, goats and cows for neighbors.

This year, in an effort to avoid walking a whole-gasp-tenth-wheeze-of a mile-gasp to find nature, I decided to see if I could bring nature to me.  A cheap hummingbird feeder later…

This is Herbert, and he is king.  There is at least one more hummingbird that visits me on a regular basis, but only if Herbert isn’t around. I’ve seen Bogey a couple of times today, but he’s too skittish to hang around when he sees me pulling out my camera. I can understand that, he might be nervous about pictures of him feeding here getting back to Herbert.

Herbert and Bogey are both male black-chinned hummingbirds, by the way. Herbert is back-lit in that picture, and most of the times that I’ve seen him, so it’s taken me a ridiculously long amount of time to figure that out.

It’s true that being out in nature–even just being outside is good for the psyche, good for the soul. It’s easy to forget that–at least it is for me.   So, get out and explore. Even if you go to a park or field or wooded area you think you know, you might be surprised what you find.

Whistling at the Northern Lights.

I’m a geek. More than that, I’m a nerd. I love most things science, and meteorology/astronomy are no exceptions.

My whole life, I’d dreamed about seeing the northern lights. There were times, when the news said that there was a particularly violent storm on the sun, and we might just get some auroras when my dad, sister and I would drive out to the desert to escape the artificial lights, and watch for them. All with no luck.

When I received a call to go on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was ecstatic. I was called to the Canada Winnipeg Mission, which covers Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the eastern third of Ontario. The mission also goes north to the north pole, but (at the time I was there, anyway,) there aren’t any missionaries in the territories.

My first area was in Saskatoon, which is why I chose that as the location, but really, the first time I saw the northern lights was in Winnipeg. It was the second night I was in Canada.

During the summer, the northern lights usually came out after we had to be home for curfew, and it was hit or miss if the apartment I was living in at the time would have a view of them. During the winter–well, we were more concerned about preventing frostbite than watching the pretty lights in the sky.

One time, in particular, I remember well. I was just assigned a senior Sister as my companion (young missionaries are assigned companions, which can change every six weeks. Senior missionaries–usually retired couples stick with their companion for their whole mission. Men can only serve with their wives, but women can come out by themselves or with a friend.) My new companion, Sister Place, had come with her friend, but Sister Hillman elected to go home about halfway through her mission, because her daughter was having a difficult, life-threatening pregnancy.

For a few days, Sister Place, Sister Hillman, myself, another of Sister Hillman’s daughters, and one of Sister Hillman’s grandson’s shared a small apartment. One of these nights, I couldn’t sleep, and looked out the window to see the northern lights. I could hear the daughter moving around so I alerted her to the fact that they were out. The display wasn’t very spectacular, but it was the first time that the daughter had seen the northern lights.

One of the things you learn quickly when working with the people, especially the natives of Canada is to never whistle at the northern lights. The story I heard says that the northern lights are your deceased ancestors coming back to visit, and whistling at them would be very disrespectful.

Although, come to think of it, I never heard what would happen if you whistled at the northern lights…

Family Roots

So, my sister has a problem.

Well, really, my parents have a problem.

And if my sister and my parents have a problem, so do I.

My parents bought a used camp trailer last year, and it was in pretty rough shape.  It is now in worse shape for the winter, as my sister discovered as she came down yesterday to prepare it for the season.  Bad enough that the roof and at least two walls will need to be replaced.

And, as I don’t have anything else to do at the moment, I was drafted into helping.

I got to do deconstruction.

I genuinely enjoyed the drive down.  It probably had a lot to do with the fact that it’s now legal for me to drive my car, so I wasn’t as paranoid about cops, but I’m going to claim it had everything to do with the time of year.

I spotted several largish patches of wildflowers–indian paintbrush and globe mallow. I could see meadowlarks singing their hearts out on fence posts, and saw perhaps a dozen hawks and eagles.  I could smell the sagebrush, and the alfalfa that’s ready to cut, and the rye just starting to bloom.

And then my nose stopped working and my eyes started to swell shut.   Ahhh, spring.

I came into town a different way than I usually, do, mostly because I wanted to stop and take pictures of wildflowers if I saw any more,  and I had a car pass me, that I later passed, and I didn’t want it to see me stopped on the side of the road.  Yeah, I’m insecure like that.

I drove though what I consider my real home town, the place where I lived until I was 8.  It’s been more than 20 years since we moved, but it still feels like home.

I figured, since I was already there, and my eyes were already swelling shut from the rye, I might as well swing by the cemetary, to find the grave of Clayborne Elder. (You can read about him here)

So, here’s the thing.  I know the Leamington cemetery.  I know a lot of people who are buried in the Leamington cemetery.  Heck, I’m related to perhaps half of them.  But I’ve always known that.  I’ve always known that my Mom’s ancestors settled the area, and I’m still related to at least a third of the population in and around this community.

But that’s all my mom’s side.  Clayborne Elder is–different, somehow.

I found his grave, and discovered that it’s very well taken care of.  There’s a fence around it, and the old sandstone headstone was replaced by a granite one at some point.

The plaque underneath says he came across the plains. "Faith in every footstep", and whatnot.

When I saw it, I started to cry.

My roots in this area run deep.  I always knew that they did, but when I was standing there, realizing that this was my family–from my paternal line, surrounded by maternal ancestors, I felt them go even deeper.  It’s weird.  I felt the family connection, and also the connection to place.

This is where I belong, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

view from the Leamington Cemetery

This is why people should love spring

I woke up this morning, and, per my usual routine, checked my garden while I was getting ready for the day.  I know that there won’t much change since I checked it the night before, but the new growth is always exciting and joyful to see. (I really wanted to use the word ‘behold’ there, but that just seems too melodramatic.  Even for me.)

My newest addition, the fuchsia, came from NPS, and when I got it home, it looked like it.  There’s still a trail of dead leaves and blossoms leading from my parking space to my front door.  But, I got it in an environment that the internet tells me it loves, and watered it until it started pouring out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot (just for that first watering, I’ve been much more careful with water since then) and it perked right up.

I’ve even discovered what I think is new growth just since Saturday.   And yes, that’s a “for rent” sign in the back ground, so if anybody wants to be my neighbor…

The clover continues to look more clover-y every day.  Um, perhaps I should explain again why I’m growing clover on my third-floor balcony.

See, I have dogs.  And, in a perfect world, I would be out of the house from 8am to 5pm or longer five days a week. My dogs are 6 years old.  They are good to not potty in the house, but they are getting old, and I wanted somewhere where they could go to relieve themselves when I’m not home.  So I asked my brother-in-law to build me a box that I could plant grass in for my balcony.  After doing some research I decided that clover is more dog-resistant and would require less work.  So, I planted dutch white clover instead of grass.

The package the seeds came in said it was 98% clover seed, with no noxious weeds, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I found a stranger in the yard-and-a-half.

I don’t know what that is, but I know it’s not clover.  I’m torn between weeding it out now, or waiting to see what it grows into.

Someone who reviewed the seeds from the place I ordered them from online said they found cilantro in their clover, so I’m hoping it’ll be a pleasant surprise.

Pansies are pansies, and they don’t change much, but I did get a nice back-lit picture of them:And I guess there are a lot more blossoms since the last time I took a picture of them.

The lily of the valley are getting noticeably bigger every day.  I’m pretty excited about them:

They actually look like plants, now!  Notice the straggling clover that found their way into the lily pot.

The blueberry bush was the real surprise.  It still looks mostly dead, but, new this morning, were ACTUAL GREEN LEAVES!

Hopefully, they’ll get opened up, and start producing enough energy to get the bush back to life quickly.  I want berries in August, dangit!

So, even with the clogged sinuses, the post-nasal drip, the sneezing, coughing, swollen, itchy eyes, and the nose rubbed raw from blowing it so much, I’m pretty excited about spring this morning.

Now, I’m off to play at Midway again.  Sis and I have a better idea of what we want to do today, so it should go better.

Lessons From the Flower Pot

Today (yesterday, I suppose, it’ll be after midnight by the time I get this post finished) was a rough day.  I can’t even really say why.  It was warm enough that I’ve still got a window open and the furnace turned off, the dogs have been behaving, and frankly, I’ve done everything right.  Today should have been a good day, it just didn’t turn out that way.

I discovered something today (er, yesterday) that should have put me over the moon.

A while back, I made the mistake of wandering through the garden section at Wal-Mart, and was dreaming over the seeds and bulbs and gardening tools.  I found some lily of the valley rhizomes; five in a pack for white, two in a pack for pink, and, despite my bad luck with growing bulbs from Wallyworld in the past, I bought some.  Pink–because I’ve never seen pink lily of the valley, and the pot that I put them in isn’t big enough for five rhizomes.

This was about the time that I sowed the clover for the first time, and I’ve been sure to keep the lilies in a place where they won’t be affected by frost.  I haven’t really thought much about them, but I have watered them when I’ve watered my clover and the blueberry bush.  Today (er, yesterday), I noticed a couple of teeny tiny sprouts pushing their way out of the dirt.  Right now, if I didn’t know they were lily of the valley, I’d just be able to identify them as a bulb plant, but not the species.  Again, I’m putting a lot of faith in myself that I’ll be able to keep these baby plants alive until adulthood, and on through next year.

I was thinking about my little patio garden, and how incongruous gardening is in this modern world.  My lilies, for example.  They’ve probably been growing since the day I planted them, but I couldn’t see it happening, so I assumed it wasn’t.

I thought about how things happen below the surface.  We live in a world of progress bars and instant gratification.  It would be nice if plants came with such things, but, unfortunately, we have to take it on faith that, for instance, the Wal-Mart plants will grow and thrive.

Because I do stuff like this I compared it to my own life.  Just because I can’t see progress in the things I have no control over, doesn’t mean that progress hasn’t been made.  Roots need to get established before a plant pokes its head out of the ground.  They need strength before they face the world of heat and cold and dog pee.

It’s hard for me to remember that life very rarely (okay, practically never) runs on the timeline that I would like.  Patience has never been one of my strong suites, and has been one of the constant lessons in my life.

Of course, I realize this analogy completely falls apart if I don’t manage to grow my lilies into adulthood…

Arachnophobes, beware.

Blame it on my father.

I recently freaked out quite a few of my Facebook friends by admitting that I find certain spiders cute–mostly jumping spiders.

I understand the aversion that most people have to spiders–they look alien, there eating habits are not to be observed by the squeamish, and, some of them bite, with painful and possibly deadly results.

Growing up in the middle of nowhere, nature was an effective classroom for Sis and me.  My dad would find spiders and snakes and lizards and show them to us, and teach us about them.  I’ve never seen Dad willingly kill a spider, he’ll catch them–bare handed, mind you, and gently take them outside.

Frankly, I’d rather have spiders in my home than insects.

Overcoming fear is always a good thing, right?  I’d suggest to any readers I might not have yet scared off to learn what the venomous spiders in your area look like, then start exploring the world of miniature.

And remember, spiders, in general, aren’t interested in attacking humans.  We are much too big to eat, so any bites or attacks come because the spider feels threatened.

Okay, the preview function has shown that I have rambled enough that any pictures now posted won’t show up when people open up “The Storyteller Chronicles”, so here are some of my favorite local spiders.

A quick thanks to Amazing Nature, Arachnids of Utah and Wild Utah Spiders for providing most of the pictures.

I was disappointed that I couldn’t find images of my two very favorite spiders, a yellow orb weaver that is not only beautiful, but weaves a beautiful web, and the cute little black and white jumping spider that I’ve only ever seen around my parent’s house.  Anyway, on to the pictures:

This picture, I think, single-handedly proves that spiders can be beautiful.  It’s a goldenrod crab spider, waiting inside a flower (Sis, that’s your cue to tell me what that flower is) for a tasty insect.

Goldenrod crab spiders are amazing, because they can change color.  Here’s the same type of spider in its yellow form:

I love how the red/orange stripe just pops on both spiders.

Okay, on to the jumpers.

Who doesn’t love these?  Besides having an adorable face, they are amazing to watch, and, if you are lucky enough, quite fun to play with.

There eyes fascinate me.  I think the eyes are what draw me to spiders.  The way they see the world is so different from the way we do–but very effectively, too.  If you’ve ever seen a jumping spider skitter and jump in reaction to stimuli from any direction, you understand what I mean.

This is another jumping spider, but the woman who took this picture didn’t know what kind.  It’s a juvenile, proving that even spiders have cute kids.  Here’s another view:

Those rust-colored markings are just gorgeous!

Orb weaver spiders are another showcase for mother nature’s beautiful colors.  This particular beauty was found in Riverton, Utah.  Orb weavers are responsible for the classic circular spiderwebs.  Next time you see one,  I suggest trying to find the architect.  Chances are, you won’t be disappointedOkay, so the cat-faced spider isn’t one that I would consider especially beautiful, but take a look at the markings on her abdomen.  There’s a smiley face!  How can you not love a creature that walks around with a smiley face?

This last one is a neoscona, a spotted orb weaver.  Look at the patterns on her back!  Carol Davis, who took this picture, thought it looked like a Persian rug.  If a four-legged creature had such markings, fashionable ladies throughout the centuries would be wearing the skin.

So have I convinced you not to run away screaming the next time you see a spider?  Or smash it, or flush it down the toilet?

Well, that’s okay too.  Just take another look, and be aware that there is beauty to be found even in the creepy-crawly things of life.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go read Charlotte’s Web again.

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