A Walk to Say Goodbye to the Summer

These sunny days in between the rain are so beautiful. I wish they could last longer.
(Arachnophobes be warned. There’s a couple of them ahead.)

IMG_20190910_164209_548.jpg
Snowberries with residual raindrops
IMG_20190910_164439_983.jpg
Orb weaver spider hiding near her web
IMG_20190910_164818_189.jpg
Harvestman, also called a daddy long legs. They look like spiders, but they’re not. They don’t even have fangs and are beneficial in the garden.
IMG_20190910_164017_217.jpg
Hawthorn branch with the lake in the background
IMG_20190910_165218_163.jpg
Empress tree, I think. The pointy fruits are neat.
IMG_20190910_164553_806.jpg
Ivy growing up a rough tree trunk

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.

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

Getting in Motion

I’ve been walking a lot more, lately. It seems kinda vital to take advantage of these last bits of nice weather before things get truly wintery and unpleasant. Walking is my favorite form of exercise, and it’s been recommended by a surprising number of successful writers throughout history as a form of meditation when inspiration is lagging. It’s peaceful, the scenery provides stimulation for the imagination, and moving around is generally pretty good for the whole system. I’ve known for a long time that people with ADHD in particular tend to have better focus when they get exercise, but it has to be somewhat consistent to be effective, and consistency is difficult when you’ve got ADHD. Somehow, though, I’ve managed to get something like a routine established.

There’s a beautiful bike path around a lake near my place, and I love going out there, even though my dogs absolutely lose their tiny minds at the sight of all the fat and insolent squirrels who taunt them from the sides of the trail. It takes us a lazy hour and a half to go around the lake, and I don’t usually spend the time specifically thinking about anything in particular. I think it’s been helping with my general mental clarity, which makes it easier to choose to keep going out, and to make choices about what to do with my time without getting overwhelmed. I’ve always unconsciously classified walking in pretty places as “the stuff I do when I should probably be doing the dishes or writing.”

That was not great. Jogging around the neighborhood will never be my thing, even if it might seem more efficient, or like a “better” form of exercise, or whatever other judgement I had in the back of my mind about the whole thing. It’s boring, it hurts, and my dogs would rather tie their leash into a bow around my legs than trot faithfully at my side. It just doesn’t work for me, but walking in a spot with some good trees and water does, and I can do it for a long time before I get bored or tired.

We’re often taught a very adversarial approach to exercising our bodies, but healthy movement really doesn’t have to be any kind of a punishment to be beneficial.

IMG_20181108_211232_535.jpg
These shots are all from this evening’s walk. An orange sunset over the lake framed by lacy tree branches.
IMG_20181108_212058_592.jpg
A cute red and white spotted mushroom in leaf litter.
IMG_20181108_212753_674.jpg
A great blue heron carefully ignoring me and the dogs from the water’s edge.
IMG_20181108_210929_571.jpg
Canada geese silhouetted on the lake under an orange sunset.

Writing days this past week: 3

Feeling Distracted

Man, I am really struggling to write this post. It’s not that I’m thinking about a difficult topic, it’s just that I don’t really have anything coherent on my mind. There’s plenty of stuff floating around up there, but none of it seems to be coalescing in a timely fashion. I’ve started a couple of drafts on different topics, but I’m not ready to share those ones yet.

I did go for a really nice walk around the neighborhood this evening, partly in hope of kicking my brain into gear. It helped a bit, I think. There’s a pretty little park a few blocks up from me with a really great view, and the pups and I wandered around in it for a while.

I’m working on weaning myself off using my phone to fall asleep, which is difficult, and a bit scary, because I’ve really relied on audiobooks to help me sleep for a long time. It was what I needed around the time when I started, but I think it’s become more of a distraction than a help as my general mental health has improved. Plus, I hate getting tangled in my earbud cord when I roll over. It’s so annoying.

Keeping myself occupied was a good strategy when I couldn’t generally control or predict my mental state, but I really want to get comfortable in my own head again. If for no other reason than to boost my general creativity. Taking inspiration and learning from other people’s work is awesome, but it can be hard to create your own things when you’re constantly¬†exposed to the creations of others.

IMG_20180816_221431_579

IMG_20180816_221207_669
Right before she started yapping at a neighborhood cat and shattered the serene atmosphere. (You can actually see the cat in the previous photo. He was very sneaky.)

Writing days this past week: 4

I Live in a Chilly Rainforest

I’ve been missing my favorite hiking places ever since we moved to Seattle from the bay area. I’d been hiking in the same spots since I was a little kid, and they were so safe and comforting for me, and provided a really great way to relax and get into a more creative frame of mind. The night I finished my rough draft of Somnolence, I called it done done around dawn and then went for a hike with my dogs as the sun came up. Moving was hard, and I still haven’t found a place around here where it’s so easy and comfortable for me to just go out and walk a trail. I still visit all those same places whenever I go down to see my family in California, but I really want to try to find places around here that fulfill that need.

To that end, yesterday I just googled some nearby trails, picked one kind of at random, and drove over there with the pups. It was absolutely gorgeous and so peaceful. Totally worth it.

Educational Stalling

So, I got totally distracted by Youtube when I sat down to write this post. I don’t even remember exactly how it happened, but I started to watch something vaguely writing related – which I should have recognized as a dangerous trap in the first place – and then a couple of hours later I was learning how mincemeat pies were made in the victorian era.

Apparently, chopped tongue was a classic ingredient in mince pies, although you could use any other leftover meat you happened to have on hand. It wasn’t specified, but I gather that it’s supposed to be made with red meat, not bird meat. Some of the little details about this sort of old-fashioned cooking are really interesting. She boiled the lemons before adding their juice to the pie filling, but I have no idea why. It just seems like an unnecessary extra step to me, but maybe boiling does something special and magical to lemons that I don’t know about.

I am pretty dang tempted right now to try my hand at making some traditional mincemeat pies, so it’s probably a good thing that it is currently 2am and I can’t easily get the necessary ingredients. I doubt I’d actually be happy with the results, I would never get to bed, and it would mean making a big mess in the kitchen that I’d have to clean up tomorrow. It’s bad enough when I get a random craving and have to make late-night rice pudding. (By bad, in that case, I actually mean delicious. Warm custardy goodness with raisins and cinnamon… Yum.) Making mincemeat pies right now would probably end more like that time I tried to make flan in the microwave. As it turns out, microwaving custard ingredients is a really good way to get several mugs full of heavily sweetened scrambled eggs, but not a good way to make anything edible.

Some other random stuff I’ve learned about this evening: How kimono cloth is dyed, the art of Japanese candy sculpting, and also an incredibly expensive iced coffee that is only served in one shop in Japan. It’s barrel aged for 22 years and is served in the owner’s one-of-a-kind porcelain cup.

Oh, I also watched a fun video about annual killifish. Many species of killifish only live for about one year, because they inhabit ponds and creeks that disappear completely in the dry season. The fish lay their eggs before the water goes away, then the adults die and the eggs have to survive for weeks or months in the dirt until it rains again. Because of this cool adaptation, their eggs are extremely easy to transport. People can pick the types they want and have fertilized eggs shipped right to them in little packets of soil. These are then dumped into water, where the fry hatch and begin growing rapidly into these gorgeous little fish that basically look like aquatic butterflies.

A fish-keeper I follow ordered a bunch of different annual killifish eggs off Ebay, but they ended up sitting in his mailbox in the freezing Canadian winter for several days because of a mix-up. Recently, he was doing some spring cleaning and realized that he hadn’t actually gotten rid of the packages, so he dumped them in some water, just to see what would happen. After just a few hours, there were a handful of healthy fry swimming around in that tub, because honey-badgers apparently have nothing on baby killifish.

I choose to believe that all these random interests and distractions are good for my creativity muscles, because they’re not gonna go away anytime soon, so I might as well embrace it.

Last weekend, I went to… Skagit? I wanna say. Not 100% sure where we were, honestly, but I bought a candle that smells like antique drawers and took pictures of a cool old ramshackle building. (Edit: I was in La Conner, in Skagit County, apparently.)

Writing days this past week: 2 (I’m being generous with myself and counting extensive mental planning as writing work done. If all goes to plan, it’ll be written down tomorrow.)