My favorite summer plants ~

This is the first year I’ve ever planted flowers in my planter or in pots on my deck. Some of them actually lived.


The lovely balloon flower (so named for the balloon-like buds; see lower left).



The indefatigable torenia, which keeps on forgiving me for not watering it frequently enough. All the other potted plants I had on my deck eventually gave up the ghost or were hopelessly battered by thunderstorms.



The volunteer calibrachoa, which surreptitiously migrated to my planter from the hanging basket I briefly had on my front porch two or three months ago.



Audrey the giant hosta. Small animals disappear in her clutches and are never seen again. I planted the other flowers here, but I inherited Audrey with the house.

Palette 3/16/2016 ~


I’m calling this one “Crummy Flower Painting.” I’m still winging it, not working from an actual object or copying someone else’s work. The palette photos continue to be far superior to the actual paintings. That’s all right. I continue to enjoy painting, and it’s worthwhile so that I can photograph the palette results.

The Big Trip: A perfect day in Kansas ~

Abandoned building, west-central Kansas: a time-honored photo cliché

Abandoned building, west-central Kansas: a time-honored photo cliché

Ball of barbed wire, Kansas Barbed Wire Museum, LaCrosse, KS

Ball of barbed wire, Kansas Barbed Wire Museum, LaCrosse, KS

barbed wire splices 1335 web

Barbed wire splices, Kansas Barbed Wire Museum

My first helicopter ride. Hoisington, Kansas.

My first helicopter ride. Hoisington, Kansas.

Helicopter view, Hoisington, Kansas.

Helicopter view, Hoisington, Kansas.

"Dalallama Telecomma," dala horse painted by Steve Scott, Lindsborg, Kansas

“Dalallama Telecomma,” dala horse painted by Steve Scott, Lindsborg, Kansas

"Hello Dala," painted dala horse by Gretchen Elliott, Lindsborg, Kansas

Detail of “Hello Dala,” painted dala horse by Gretchen Elliott, Lindsborg, Kansas


Detail of “Blossom,” painted dala horse by Jennifer Krob, Lindsborg, Kansas

Cultivated sunflowers east of Lindsborg, Kansas

Cultivated sunflowers east of Lindsborg, Kansas

This through-the-windshield iPhone shot somewhere between Junction City and Lawrence, on the eastern edge of the Flint Hills, is so out of focus that it has an impressionistic quality.

This through-the-windshield iPhone shot taken somewhere between Junction City and Lawrence, on the eastern edge of the Flint Hills, is so out of focus that it has an impressionistic quality.

Day 13: Colby to Lawrence.

My destination for today was Lawrence, Kansas. From there it would be a quick drive to Kansas City on Sunday. Knowing I had plenty of time, I took back roads much of the day.

My first stop was at an old favorite: the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum in LaCrosse, Kansas. It was my third visit (I’m not making this up). There was a time years ago, before my late husband and I stumbled upon this place, when I no doubt thought barbed wire was barbed wire was barbed wire. Ha! Not a chance of it, and this little museum, which is always deserted, will set you straight. It has hundreds upon hundreds of variations of barbed wire, plus the tools needed to string and tighten it, plus all sorts of auxiliary items. The director estimates that about 500 patents exist for different types of barbed wire. But each patent can cover hundreds of variations; the total is mind-boggling. One Glidden barbed wire patent covers some 2,400 variations, for example. Among my favorite exhibits at the museum are two barbed-wire tornadoes and a huge crow’s nest made of scraps of barbed wire.

Before leaving, I asked the director where I might get a sandwich to eat. He suggested the Dairy Queen in Hoisington, about 15 miles to the east. It was an inspired choice, because if I hadn’t stopped at the DQ and idly picked up a brochure on the counter, I’d never have known that Hoisington was having a Labor Day festival and that one of the activities was helicopter rides, 40 bucks per passenger.

While I ate my cheeseburger I mulled that over. I’d never flown in a helicopter before, or even been inside one. The prospect was scary, yet enticing. When would I get such a chance again? I could at least look. So when I was done at the DQ, I backtracked, drove through (or rather, around) Hoisington’s downtown, and found the helicopter site. The copter looked awfully small. The pilots said they couldn’t afford to take up just one passenger. Okay, I said, I’ll wait a couple of minutes and see if someone else shows up.

Meanwhile I asked a bunch of stalling questions: Do I weigh too much to go? (Not even close; they could take a 300-pound passenger!) Wasn’t it too windy to fly? (No, helicopters love the wind!) I had fallen a couple of days ago and my left leg was hurting; would I be able to pull myself into the helicopter? (They’d help me!) I sat in my car, still ambivalent. Then a black SUV pulled up: father, mother, son, daughter. The son was first out, and it soon became clear that he and his dad were going up. The pilots waved me over, and I found myself plunking down two 20-dollar bills. I and the boy, who looked to be about 10, would be seated in the back, where there were windows. The pilot (a woman! yes!) and the dad would take the front seats, where there were no doors. “I’m scared,” the boy said matter-of-factly, without any visible sign of anxiety. “I guarantee you I’m more scared than you are,” I told him unwisely. “It’s bumpy,” he said (we hadn’t left the ground, but it did feel bumpy with the engines on). “Should we hold hands?” I said. “I’m going to hold on here,” he said, grabbing the bar between the back of the front seats. I did the same. And then we were up and off!

We were all wearing headsets so that we could hear the pilot and each other. “This is awesome!” the kid yelled as we began to fly over Hoisington. I was with him one hundred percent. I believe I might even have added “Woo!!” I was taking pictures like crazy, and the kid and I kept announcing how fun it was. It was wonderful fun. It was even fun when the helicopter banked significantly, though I was grateful I had a window next to me and not an open door. The ride, which lasted only four minutes or so, was far too short. I wanted to keep flying. Heck, I was ready to take lessons. But Lawrence awaited. I waved goodbye to the family, who were in fact from Hoisington, and headed down the road to Lindsborg.

This Scandinavian town was new to me. I got there at 5 p.m., so most places were closed except for an exceptional fair-trade shop called Connected. But Lindsborg hosts a sidewalk herd of painted dala horses. Wikipedia: “A Dalecarlian horse or Dala horse is a traditional carved, painted wooden horse statuette originating in the Swedish province of Dalarna. In the old days the Dala horse was mostly used as a toy for children; in modern times it has become a symbol of Dalarna, as well as Sweden in general. Several different types of Dala horses are made, with distinguishing features common to the locality of the site where they are produced.” In Lindsborg, the paintings on the horses may reflect the business where a given horse is located, or the interests of the sponsors or artist. One thing I noted is that the dala horses, which are chunky creatures, have no tails. I enjoyed photographing details of the paintings.

And then, as I was leaving the vicinity of Lindsborg, serendipity struck. I finally found what I’d been looking for all over Kansas and eastern Colorado: sunflowers! A whole big field of sunflowers with their heads still up (though, oddly, not facing the sun but facing east). I did what I could with my Pentax and my not-so-long lens, trying to get the best photo I could for me and my sunflower-loving friend Dinah.

At Salina I rejoined I-70. The rest of the drive to Lawrence was tedious, but it seemed to me that, all in all, I’d had the best possible day on the Plains.

The Big Trip: Hitting bottom and rebounding…artfully ~

Mini splash park, Pearl Street mall, Boulder, Colorado

Mini splash park, Pearl Street mall, Boulder, Colorado

Rag-dog street performer, Pearl St Mall, Boulder, Colorado

Rag-dog street performer, Pearl St Mall, Boulder, Colorado

Painted piano, Fort Collins, Colorado

Painted piano, Fort Collins, Colorado

Alley mural, Old Town, Fort Collins, Colorado

Alley mural, Old Town, Fort Collins, Colorado

CSU trial gardens, Fort Collins, Colorado

CSU trial gardens, Fort Collins, Colorado

Detail, painted electrical box, Old Town, Fort Collins, Colorado

Detail, painted electrical box, Old Town, Fort Collins, Colorado

Days 7-11:  Boulder, Loveland, Fort Collins.

After my day recuperating in Fort Morgan, I headed toward Fort Collins but found that I would get there by mid-morning on a Sunday. So I detoured down to Boulder first, where I spent far too much time and money at the Pearl Street mall. It was a recapitulation of sorts: I went to exactly the same shops as when David and I were there, and I got a veggie panini at the same place we’d eaten. I was disappointed to see that the contortionist who folded himself into various containers, such as a little, clear plastic box, was no longer among the street performers. I wanted to donate to all of the performers, but my cash is dwindling alarmingly fast. I didn’t stay to watch the torch-juggler act, and I didn’t tip the guitarists or the accordion player, and I arrived too late to see a very popular act involving a performer balancing atop a tower of chairs, and I walked past an older gentleman in cowboy garb painted to look like a copper statue, and I skirted the guy in an African-type mask who was playing the bongo drums, and I felt terrible that I wasn’t leaving money for any of them, but there were just so many.

Eventually I sat down near one of the street performers to drink a lemonade and rest my aching feet. This particular guy—I believe it was a guy, though his act was mute—was impersonating a sort of ragdoll dog. His costume was made of tiers of short, pastel-colored pieces of fabric, so he could shake like a puli. He sat like a dog and looked hopefully at passersby. He’d try to attract children by getting up on all fours, or rolling on the ground. A couple of women with a little boy were taking pictures of him, but not leaving any money. That isn’t nice, I thought. I approached the performer and, looking over at the little boy, said, “I think this dog wants a belly rub, don’t you?” The “dog” promptly rolled onto his back. I reached down and rubbed his belly and he made some appreciative doggie-like grunts. “And maybe some scratching around this ear,” I said, still looking at the little group. I scratched one of his “ears” and he pumped one of his legs the way dogs often do when you’ve hit the right spot and they’re just loving it. “See?” I said. “I made him kick his leg.”

I dropped a couple of bucks into the performer’s bowl and then realized that a number of people had stopped to watch this joint act. In one last attempt to get this endearing performer some tips, I put out my hand, and said, “Shake?” He lifted an enormous foot so I could touch the bottom of it. It was more like a fist bump. Still no action from anyone in the crowd. It was a hot day and the street performer must have been terribly uncomfortable underneath his shaggy costume. I felt like whispering to him, “Well, I tried,” but I wasn’t sure if he could hear a whisper inside the doggie head he was wearing, so I just walked away. Ineffectual! Alas.

On the plus side, I was thrilled to see that the problems I’d had with the altitude in 2012 were gone. Three years ago, I’d walk a few feet, then have to rest. Walk a few more feet, then have to rest. Sit down repeatedly. Lean on David’s arm. This time around, I could walk without resting. The iron infusions clearly get credited for this improvement. I sat down only because my feet and legs began to ache almost unbearably. I haven’t built up my endurance very much yet, and they’re not used to this much walking. Added to that stress was driving much of the day without cruise control (I was on a variety of roads, from city streets to the interstate, and the traffic was very heavy everywhere).

In Fort Collins, I was forced to take yet another rest day on Monday. This time I didn’t even leave the motel. I am frightened of my debilitation and I am ashamed of being frightened. I know why I’m here and at the same time I feel I’ve lost sight of why I’m here. I’m reading a book where a man is being “reprocessed,” via amnesia-inducing injections, over and over; we don’t yet know why. Now he has been reprocessed to the point where he has no ambition or autonomy beyond his basic daily functioning, and he will be left to live the rest of his life in the “reprocessing village” (one of many) because he is considered cured. I.e., he no longer poses a threat. To what or whom, we don’t yet know. (To himself, it turns out; the book is called “A Cure for Suicide,” and the cure involves losing all the complexities and nuances and worries of life. I can divulge this because no one ever reads books that I recommend.)

Probably I should not be reading this book right now. It is beginning to affect me strongly. I think that I am like this man, not living a meaningful life. I worry that I’m breaking down, and that would constitute a great failure in my eyes. My sister suggested something I’d already thought of, that I could fly back home and that there are people who will drive your car back for you. But how do you know whom to trust? I would start driving back tonight; since I’ve slept all day I’m confident I could drive all night if it weren’t for the fact that my legs are swollen and hurt very much.


After this, I didn’t do any more writing during the trip, so I’ll sum things up briefly. On Tuesday I felt well enough to continue. I toured three independent-living facilities for my sister, two in Loveland and one in Fort Collins. Then, during a phone conversation with her that evening, I discovered that she didn’t want to live in the Fort Collins/Loveland area, she only wanted to live in Denver, and not in an independent-living facility. This would have been nice to know before I left Carbondale. I was completely open with her about my ideas and my agenda, so I was simultaneously vexed and confused. The trip now seems to have been misguided and misfocused. I considered heading to Denver for the next three days, then realized that Denver would involve a lot of upfront Internet research in order to focus a search. In addition, everyone I’ve talked to has told me that Denver is much more expensive than Fort Collins. Finally, I realized that my energy and navigational savvy simply didn’t extend to a big metro area like Denver on this particular road trip. So I decided to treat the rest of the journey as a vacation.

On Wednesday I met up with my friend David M., dedicated Marlovian and self-described “world’s oldest white rapper.” We stopped by Colorado State University’s trial gardens, where new varieties of garden flowers are being tested, on the way to the big Campbell’s soup can replica that CSU art students constructed to Andy Warhol’s specs and that he signed on a trip to Fort Collins. Dave kept mentioning some black-and-white photos in a gallery that he wanted me to see. Turns out that the gallery was the Center for Fine Art Photography, one of the very places I’d hoped to visit in Fort Collins. Although we arrived just at closing time, one of the curators kindly gave us a personal tour. Then it was on to an Italian restaurant and a quick drive west of the city and up a steep, winding ridge to Horsetooth Reservoir in an attempt to catch the sunset. We were a little late, but the view was beautiful nonetheless.

The arts scene seems to be thriving in Fort Collins and also in Loveland, just to the south. Public sculpture abounds in both cities. Both have taken to painting those big electrical boxes you see all over the place in fanciful, colorful designs, turning them from eyesores into attractions. Fort Collins also paints old pianos with whimsical scenes and leaves them in public places—even alleyways–for anyone to play. In one of the photos above, Dave is trying to talk me into playing the piano so he can get a video of it. So great is my performance anxiety that when I finally sat down, I began “House of the Rising Sun” in the wrong key and never did get straightened out. (Dave, I hope you’ve deleted that video.)

On Thursday I broke my new “vacation-only” rule in order to tour one more facility in Fort Collins, in the interest of doing a reasonably thorough job of what I’d come more than a thousand miles to do, and then toured an apartment complex just across the street. Afterwards, I headed for Estes Park, where I’ll pick this up in the next installment. The writing will get shorter from now on; I promise. We’re on the home stretch.

God’s name is George ~

Readers of this blog may remember a post I made a few months ago called God in the checkout lane, in which I noted that God is working as a cashier at my local grocery store. I knew that because this man sounds more like God than Morgan Freeman does.

Tonight he was there again.

We said hello. I got up my courage and asked his name, and it’s George. I introduced myself.

I said, “You’re the man with the voice.” He answered, “And you’re the girl with the hair.”

That took me aback. So he was serious in our last encounter when he complimented my hair, which happened, as it so often does, to be dirty and disorderly. After I realized he wasn’t being snide, I’d thought perhaps he was just being charitable. After all, he’s a religious man; I remember he’d said that he sings in his church choir, ostensibly praising…well, God. (That seems appropriate. If the Bible is God’s Word for humankind, then any reasonable person must acknowledge that God thinks highly of himself.)

Anyway, I said, “Yeah, and it’s messed up again.” He said, “No, no, it looks good.”

Woo! God likes my hair. He approves of it. I have at least one redeeming quality.

We chatted some more as he scanned my items and my grocery bill grew to alarming heights. I told him I was hoping to start singing lessons again. He said, “You sing?” I said yes but that I wasn’t very good (you don’t lie to God, I figure). When he looked at the plastic sheaf of hydrangeas I’d placed on the checkout counter and said I had good taste, I didn’t know if he meant that in an aesthetic way or if it was a comment on the price. I quickly owned up that I buy flowers for myself, but that this bunch (seven bucks!) was a real splurge and that I usually go for the two-dollar carnations.

As I was loading the bags into my car, I realized there was something I wanted to know and I hadn’t asked.

Is God married?

If not, would God maybe want to get coffee sometime, or iced tea, or a beer, or whatever God drinks? Is that thought de facto blasphemous?

God is probably married. Or gay. Or too weary to get coffee with some crazy, dirty-haired white woman who, unbeknownst to him, writes about him and would perhaps like to be his friend. (I know God is supposed to be omniscient, but I don’t think he knows about this blog. Shhh!)

The very notion poses problems. For example, it would be helpful to know God’s last name. And can you just blurt out to God “Are you married?” And if I did, could I ever use his checkout lane again? If other people heard me, would God be embarrassed?

Does God have a last name?

Stay tuned.

I had to rewrite the ending of this post because I forgot, or perhaps repressed, the most critical thing. As I was wheeling my cart away from the checkout lane, God said, “Now you behave yourself.” And instead of saying “Yes sir,” I said, “You too.”

Imagine here a cartoon character clapping her hands over her mouth in horror. No one tells God to be good. No one in the Bible even suggests to God that he might be better, that a potential act is not worthy of his righteousness—except for Abraham, in one of the most remarkable passages in the Old Testament (Genesis 18:20-33).

When the next thunderstorm comes, I’m going to be especially wary of lightning strikes.

Orchid encore ~

Orchid 3


A couple of final images from the orchid show. I may have used fill flash on both of these. The orchids are often in shadow, and no tripods are allowed at the show (nor could I have juggled one with my other stuff anyway). The pink flowers are a type of dendrobium. I have no guess about the maroon and white orchids. Since this is the last orchid post of the year, I’m taking this opportunity to recommend The Orchid Thief, the book on which the movie “Adaptation” was loosely based. Susan Orlean is a splendid journalist and it’s a most engaging read, whether you have any particular interest in orchids or not.

Fallen camellias ~

Camellias and Coins

This was taken at the small pool in the Linnean House at the Missouri Botanical Garden. The Linnean House used to be an almost magical place. There’s a slightly winding, brick-lined walkway down the middle, and both sides used to be lined with tall camellia trees. When these were all in bloom, the effect was stunning. In “renovating” the Linnean House, MoBOT removed all of the camellia trees from the south side of the greenhouse, replacing them with potted cactuses and fruit trees. The camellia trees on the other side have been lopped off and many, it seems, removed. No longer is the Linnean House enchanting.

A trio of orchids ~


orchid2 456

Yellow cattleya

These shots were taken at the 2015 orchid show at the Missouri Botanical Garden. As usual, I failed to take notes about genus and species. I think the yellow orchid is a type of cattleya; the red is a type of lady’s slipper. The green and purple wasn’t identified and I have no guess about it. If anyone can enlighten me, please do!