A Walk in the Woods

I’m still doing my best to keep up my walking habit. It got harder over the winter, but there’s tons of beautiful scenery to enjoy now. There are longer gaps than I’d prefer between my proper long walks, but I also try not to let it turn into a source of guilt, because guilt is like ADHD kryptonite. Even if I forget or get busy for a week, I’ll always come back to it because it’s fun and it makes me feel good. Plus, I find all sorts of cool things to take pictures of.

White mushrooms on a log
Pink bleeding heart flowers in front of a mossy log
A fern frond
Cute yellow wildflowers
A little slug enjoying a nice mossy patch
These might be salmonberry blossoms. I vaguely remember them from last year.

The Goose Girl

So, my little sister gave me The Goose Girl ┬áby Shannon Hale many years ago, and then it sat on my shelf and moved from apartment to apartment with me for so long that I completely forgot where it even came from, and I almost tossed it out when she was helping me sort my office. She kindly reminded me that she had given it to me, because she’s a very nice person, so I finally sat down to read it. It’s a little bit slow to start, so it took me a few sittings to get through the set-up, and then I hit the part where the story really takes off and binged the rest in one night. It was pretty great. I totally regret not having read it sooner.

First off, I think anyone who is not neurotypical has a good chance of finding the main character, Ani, highly relatable. She doesn’t connect easily with other humans, but not for lack of trying. She doesn’t have an instinctive grasp of social interactions and protocol, so it feels like everyone around her is understanding and communicating things that aren’t accessible to her. She doesn’t read people super well, so she tends to take what they say fairly literally and at face value. She’s naturally honest and forthright, and has a strong sense of justice. She has a deep interest in animals, and feels stifled when she’s forced to focus on all the things that people think are more appropriate for her. She tries her best to fit into a mold that isn’t made for someone like her, and feels like a failure because she can’t do it. She’s pretty much every autistic or ADHD teenage girl, basically.

I kind of love Ani.

I also love that the story doesn’t frame her as a failure, even though she often feels like one. Her differentness isn’t portrayed as the problem, her unsuitable environment and the people who take advantage of her are. She doesn’t need to change who she is in order to succeed, she needs to find a place where she can heal, grow, and be appreciated for the kind of person that she already is.

The set-up: Ani, short for Anidori-Kiladra, is the crown princess of a small kingdom. Some people in this world have different magical gifts which allow them to understand and speak the languages of animals, elements, or other people. Her mother the queen is a skilled people-speaker, but Ani has a talent for understanding animals rather than other humans. Her aunt helps her to develop this skill when she’s very young, but soon Ani is pressured by her mother to focus only on her future duties as queen and to put aside her “childish” interests.

When it becomes clear that she’s not well-suited to the life that her mother had originally planned out for her, she is sent away to marry a prince from a neighboring kingdom, but she meets tragedy and betrayal along the way. In order to survive, she has to run away from everything she’s ever known and learn to trust her own judgement.

Content warnings after the picture, if you’re interested.

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CW: Emotional abuse, some physical violence, and animal-related tragedy.
(If you’re the kind of person who breaks down when bad stuff happens to the dog in the movie, you’re gonna have a hard time with some parts of this book. There’s no dog, but you get the idea.)

Weekend Projects

Our pond has been having some filtration issues, so we went to a pond and outdoor plant nursery over the weekend. The pups came along and got to see some chickens and peacocks for the first time. Meeting such giant birds kinda blew their little minds. The ponds there were beautiful, and they had so many cool plants and lovely fish. I got a few koi a while ago for our pond, but they’ve been super shy and they spent all their time hiding. I noticed how friendly the koi and goldfish at the pond place were, and chatted with some people there for a while. We ended up bringing a big healthy pair of shubunkin goldfish home and they’ve helped our shy koi be a little braver and more active. It’s very cute.

My office needs some new shelving pretty badly, so in preparation for that larger project we made some saw-horses on Sunday. Sawing stuff is pretty fun, and I only got a little bit of sawdust in my eye.

My home improvement skills are growing, but I did manage to thoroughly bungle an attempt to hang up a towel ring in one of our bathrooms. Turns out, it’s not a good idea to try home improvement projects by yourself when already kind of tired and hungry. There are some new holes in the wall now, but at least I learned a few things.

Not my koi, but they’re so pretty. Maybe ours will be as friendly as these eventually. I can dream.

It’s Been a Buggy Week

I’ve caught so many cool bugs this past week. Since I’ve been kinda hyperfocused on them, I figured I’d share.

I collected some very neat isopods on my way home from California a few weeks back. It reminded me of how much I like bug hunting, so I investigated my yard a little more thoroughly and discovered some really cool stuff.

The springtails we have here are much larger than I’m used to. Springtails are tiny detririvores that live in leaf litter and soil. They’re highly beneficial, and very cute if you can get close enough to see them well. They also hop when startled. Most springtails are smaller than a grain of sand, but these guys are much bigger and easier to handle. I’m calling them werewolf springtails because they have cute fuzzy manes on their shoulders and because I don’t know their Latin name yet.

One of my werewolf springtails

I found out that the cute little pillbugs in my yard are a European species called the common striped isopod. They’re apparently difficult to culture in captivity, but they come in some neat colors, so I’m gonna try.

There’s a red mutation of this species, and I’ve been finding some reds, but I’m not convinced that they’re actually the same species as the rest. I’ll need to see if they grow larger or if they stay this size and reproduce. Either way, they’re really cute.

Different color mutations of the common striped isopod, and mystery red guy.

I also settled all my road trip finds into their own tubs so they can produce little broods of tiny pillbugs in all their pretty colors. My favorites so far are the ghosts, which almost have a lilac or pinkish tinge to them. The calicos are pretty adorable, though. These ones are all a larger and more placid species than the ones in my backyard, so they’re very fun to watch as they trundle around in their new enclosures.

Calicos
Baby calico, a ghost, and a wild type

Anyway, there are some cute bugs. Technically, they’re actually mostly crustatians, actually. Isopods, including all pillbugs and rolly-polies, are land crustatians. They even have little gills on their undersides. So, there’s a thing you know now.

I Honestly Can’t Think of a Title For This

I’ve been a brain-foggy pile of useless since I got home from my trip. I think the disruption to my sleep schedule and somewhat questionable food choices kinda caught up with me really hard. Wasn’t breathing so well at night, and wasn’t sleeping sensible lengths of time, so I tried to compensate with sleep meds that left me incredibly spaced out and weird the next day. So, lesson learned, I guess. I’ll be even more careful about all of that next time I travel, and I guess I need to not use those over the counter sleep aids too much if I want my brain to work the next day for anything other than zoning out to educational dinosaur videos on youtube and then wondering where the hell the past six hours went and why I’m still in my pajamas. It’s a little funny in retrospect, but getting into a shower and then into outside clothes generally shouldn’t use up absolutely all of my mental energy for a given day.

Really makes you wonder why sleep isn’t just a wee bit easier, given how it’s essential for survival and stuff. I know literally everything about modern life fucks with our natural biological rhythms, but come on.

I say this while typing on a white screen at past-my-bedtime o’clock, of course.

Some gorgeous deep pink geraniums a friend gave me because she’s super nice. They rode in my front seat all the way home from California. I thought I didn’t like geraniums because I was used to those eye-scaldingly red ones that smell super weird when you break their leaves, but I was wrong.

California Nature Walk

I’ve mostly been hanging out with family and getting to know my cousin’s new baby, but my sister and I managed to get in some fun nature time. We found many excellent creatures and plants around a vernal pond we’ve been visiting since we were little.

Pacific treefrog
Newt egg sacks with daphnia clinging on the outside. When those newts hatch, daphnia will be their main food source.
Baby California newt
Baby California newts, and a dragonfly larvae. Dragonfly larvae are one of their main predators at this stage in life.
An adult male California newt (Taricha torosa) in breeding conditon. Males swell up and their skin gets smoother at breeding time.
The same male newt. California newts are extremely poisonous, and that bright orange belly is a warning. Do not handle them if you have any open cuts or scratches, and always wash hands thoroughly before eating after touching one.
California slender salamander (Batrachoseps attenuatus)
Another slender salamander
Turkey tail fungus (probably)
More turkey tails
They’re just really pretty mushrooms. I like them.
Some final turkey tails
Western fence lizard who was not at all intimidated by me or my phone. These lizards cleanse the local ticks of Lyme disease. They’re awesome.
Stink beetle
Fuzzy caterpillar. Not sure what species.
Another fuzzy caterpillar
Pretty orange wildflowers
Wild garlic. I think.
Pretty white wildflowers
Wild garlicky thing with a tiny beetle friend
An oak tree that broke since the last time I hiked here
Eucalyptus trees
Oak trees and the bay area hills

More Road Tripping to Come

Spring is really springing here in Seattle, and I’m enjoying it so much. The garden keeps popping up new flowers, and I can go outside so much more. It’s great.

I’m also driving down to California tomorrow to visit my family and meet my cousin’s new baby for the first time. I’m very excited, and I’ve been getting ready for this trip for a few days. One part of my preparations involved making delicious pasta salad to take with me for lunch on the road, because I had a craving and it seemed like a good idea. Another part involved cleansing my very uncooperative dogs. I didn’t budget my time well, which is why this is extremely late, but now I have to go to sleep so I can drive safely, so I’m just gonna solidly half-ass this post and then pass out.

Here are some flowers.

Pink forget-me-nots
Pink forget-me-nots
White blossoms on my mystery tree