Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Last Breath

One of my dwarf African frogs died this morning. I knew it was going to happen soon; it had a bacterial infection for which there’s no cure, and I could see it was getting weaker every day. I felt helpless, which is a condition I have trouble with, especially when it pertains to my pets.

Unlike my cats, I have limited interaction with the frogs who live in my 12-gallon aquarium. They are physically fragile and spend most of their lives under water, rising to the surface for air only several times a day. However, this frog in particular always waited by the side of the tank, like a dog or cat, when feeding time neared and attacked its supper with enthusiasm. I enjoyed its presence.

I thought it had died last night. I lifted the aquarium hood and reached in, scooping it up gently in my hand. I raised it above the water line and watched it for a moment. Then it surprised me by taking a breath. And then another. I continued to watch it as it clung weakly to my index finger, and the world around me disappeared as I watched this tiny creature struggle to live.

I also debated what to do. I could put it in a smaller bowl where it might reach the surface easier, but I felt it was already too weak to accomplish even a short swim. Removing it from the water was out of the question; already its skin was drying. In the end, I decided it might want to spend its last moments in its home. At least, that’s what I would want in its place. As I lowered it to the bottom of the tank, I realized it had taken its last breath on this earth perched upon my finger. I hoped I had given it a kindness. I felt privileged to have maybe given a small gift to a gentle creature I had enjoyed seeing and feeding every day. And I felt truly sad this morning when I removed its lifeless body from the tank and buried it, wrapped in a paper towel, outside beneath the plumeria.

Even the simplest creatures cling to life.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Weekend Getaway

This is a winter photo of Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It has lots of good places to hike, picnic, or just relax and watch the deer.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Weekend Getaway

Of all the places I've traveled, the Salton Sea has to be one of the strangest. It's literally in the middle of nowhere, with huge sand dunes to the southeast, snow-capped mountains (in the winter) to the west, and Palm Springs way to the north. It's a lake in the middle of the desert. And it stinks...of algae and farming run-off and the resulting fish kills they produce.

Salton City, on the shores of the lake, is a town right out of an X-Files episode...every time I'm there, I expect to see Mulder and Scully pull up next to me at the convenience store. Empty houses line the remote roads, looking like their inhabitants were collected by aliens only moments before. The one gas station in town closes at 4 p.m., and you'd better have cash because they don't accept credit cards. Intersections with 4-way stops that never have more than one car approach at a time (or perhaps all day). A place created to be a bustling lakeside resort that never was with residents looking weary of waiting for their ship to come in.

But it's a haunting place, too. Because of its remoteness, and no doubt its smell, there aren't many people around. It's one place in Southern California you can actually have some breathing room, if you can stand to breathe, that is. But you can hear the wind blow and the calls of migrating water fowl. You can walk the shoreline for miles, each step crunching crusty barnacles and fish bones, and never meet a soul. You can stop and think for a moment or an hour or a day, and no one interrupts your thoughts. It's one of my favorite places.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Weekend Getaway

While we're visiting Wales, we'll hang out for a weekend in Caernarfon, a lovely town on the Menai Strait. Caernarfon is best known for its magnificient castle, a legacy left by King Edward I during his campaign to subdue the Welsh (Cymry). Edward's men are long gone, and the town is left with unique architecture, interesting shops, and a plethora of pubs and restaurants that cook up mouth-watering treats such as Welsh cakes (a favorite of mine!).

Caernarfon sits at the entrance to the beautiful Llyn Peninsula and is a gateway to the western edge of Snowdonia National Park. It's not a rip-roaring party town; it's a peaceful spot, convenient to everywhere, where one can catch their breath and enjoy walks along quiet lanes and nature trails.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Weekend Getaway

Okay, to visit this weekend getaway, you have to either be visiting Britain already or have your own Lear jet. I'm going to assume you don't have a Lear jet.

This is a photo of Snowdonia National Park in north Wales. I took it while hiking to Mt. Snowdon, or Yr Wyddfa, its Welsh name which means "burial place." Legend has it that a particularly fierce giant named Rhita Fawr is buried beneath. Snowdonia is the epicenter of much British mythology from the Celts to Arthurian times and was the stronghold of the last true princes of Wales.

The ascent is brutal; no switchbacks like you often find on mountains in the United States...the trail goes straight up the side of the 3,560-ft. mountain. But it's worth the effort. The views are outstanding, and on a clear day you can see the curve of the world...and sometimes the Irish coast and the Isle of Man.

There are numerous small towns with very reasonable lodging near the park, all having excellent transportation via bus to the various trailheads. I stayed in Bangor and took the short bus ride to the Llanberis trailhead. For more information on Mt. Snowdon and Snowdonia, visit this Web site.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


I watched the Stevie Nicks interview on Sunday Morning on CBS last weekend. It's hard to believe that she's pushing 60 (that means that I'm, never mind). Seeing clips of Fleetwood Mac concerts from the 1970s really brought a flood of memories from that time...mostly happy, some sad, a few bittersweet when I remembered friends who have died and friends whose lives took different directions from mine.

Later that night, I watched a PBS special on Doo-Wop music that was popular in the mid-1950s and early 1960s (before my time). The audience was comprised of grey-haired, pant-suit wearing people 10-15 years older than me...people who were the "hippies" when I was young. The format of the show...bands and singers from that era introduced by an emcee...reminded me of the Lawrence Welk Show, of which my grandfather was a fan. Then a cold chill ran down my another 10-20 years, Fleetwood Mac and Elton John and Pat Benatar and Blondie and Steely Dan would be performing on a show much like that, emceed, perhaps, by Peter Frampton or Donna Summer. YIKES!!!!!

But time makes you bolder
Children get older
Im getting older too

Well the landslide will bring it down

Artist Alert

I've really fallen in love with the jewelry of Santa Monica artist Virginia Miska. I bought a necklace last weekend at the Americans West Cat Club Show designed by her, and if I had had more cash with me, I would have purchased several more. Check out her Web site sometime.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Weekend Getaway

This is Lake Erie from the Canadian shore a few miles east of Point Pelee National Park. Believe it or not, this was a weekend getaway for me once...I drove there from Knoxville, Tennessee, on Labor Day Weekend 1991.

I pitched a tent behind a cove that faced this little hill and walked the shore early in the morning. It was wild and wonderful, like being on the edge of the world. Later, during that same weekend, I drove to Port Huron and through the marshlands near Point Pelee. That evening, I shared tea, beer, and stories with other campers. I fell in love with the place and have always yearned to return. Someday I will.