Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Summertime and the Readin's Easy(with a nod to Gershwin and Suess)

If you are tired of reading about the joy of reading stop here.

Otherwise consider your own favorite reading places and spaces.

Would you, could you in a tree?  

Would you could you read a book ......


Could you there?

Could you read a book in the car or at a bar?  Would you could you at the beach?  Or on a plane or in the rain?

When my kids were growing up they knew they could get out of a summertime chore with the excuse "But mom I was just going out to the porch swing to read."  Even better with a summer shower in the background.

Summer porch reading out loud even when the children were well on to reading on their own was a joy that got me out of my summer chores too.

And that ride across country?  A family of six packed into the van for hours?  Non of the children will forget reading Gary Paulsen's Harris and Me, poignant and funny.  Even the eldest an angsty teen could not resist taking his earplugs out to listen and laugh.

Our last vacation in Hawaii found me reading on the plane(a gripping mystery by Tana French to keep this white- knuckled flyer calmly in her seat).

On the beach (of course) and even in the ocean side bar.

The young woman I spied reading in a tree next to the sea(captured in the photo by Jesse Renna) got me thinking about favorite reading times and places.

In the pool, in a tent, under an umbrella in the bath....in bed.  Hairdressers, soccer games, playgrounds, sandbox.

Here and there and everywhere.

Oh yes I would, I could..... read a book 'most anywhere!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

More Mesa Creatures: Burrowing Owls and a Hoot

Coming from back East I knew about deer mice moving into bluebird houses but I was not prepared for the feathered squatters I have recently met out here on the mesa.  

On one of my regular mesa walks with Reena on this barren land, what  I thought was a small hawk- like creature began dive bombing us.  It was the kind of behavior you would expect from a bird trying to keep you away from it's nest and eggs or young.

 But looking around, where would one build a nest here?

 It took some more dive bombing and another walk or two for me to realize that indeed this feathered creature was protecting it's eggs or young but the nest was not in a tree but underground.  And when I got a good look at our attacker I realized it was an owl...small and cute it wore speckled camo for the terrain and tried to look mean and dangerous.  Every time we got close he or she would flap or hop a few feet away, drawing us away from one of the many prairie dog holes.

 A quick check on the Internet proved that my new find on the mesa was indeed a burrowing owl but would  be more aptly named a squatter owl.  These small birds don't actually dig a home but instead move into holes already prepared by other critters, usually mammals like these prairie dogs that scurry across the mesa and feed in our gardens. They tunnel right under the lettuce, in fact.

And then the lights went on and I remembered a favorite YA read.   Hoot the Newberry honor books by Carl Hiaasen is a story about a young teen who tries to save a colony of burrowing owls from a construction project.  In fact these birds are becoming endangered and often driven from their homes by the expansion of human interests. 

On one of my most recent hikes I suspected that there might be hatchlings about when two owls began squawking and diving as Reena and I approached.  Still, imagine my surprise  when I almost stepped on a  white fluff ball in the tumble weed.  In my frantic attempt to keep Reena from making a mouth full of the young owl, I missed the photo.  But I have that lovely moment as memory and I still return daily to the noisy dismay of the adult birds, in hopes of spotting another young owl before they grow and leave the prairie dog burrows.

And like any curious writer I am left with a slew of questions about owls and prairie dogs living together.  I am certain there is room for another book that features the burrowing owl.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Squares and Circles: Protecting the Environment

Have I mentioned before how difficult it is to battle the elements in Chinle and to keep things alive?   The heat, scorching sun and wind and dust attack the environment with ferocity.  In an earlier blog I have whined about this and my own garden (see photo above) but I decided to see what others are doing to help keep green things alive and to protect their own environments.

The most common is some shade cloth around fences.

But check out this attractive cover.  Note that the entire yard has small evergreens planted around the perimeter.  Hopefully they will grow bigger (as opposed to scorch and die) and will add protection to the house and yard.

This wind and dust protection seems to be helping the corn grown.

Note the sign:  Experimental Sand Fence.  Made out of packing pallets.  For some reason the are all over the place here, the pallets not the fences...yet.   Wonder if works.

Some go for the smaller protection, one plant at a time.  Creative use for milk crates.

Little shade and dust cover and wind protection for a single plant.

But my personal favorite, yet another use of those pallets.  This family built boxes.  There are about twenty all around their trailer home.  Inside each one?

A tree grows!

Which reminds me of the circular stone walls I saw in Haiti...inside each one was a tree.  One way to fight the desperate deforestation there.  This lead to my book Circles of Hope.  Then look what I found in Haiti.

  Perhaps we should start using circles of stone walls in Chinle or squares of woven twigs.  Or packing pallets in Haiti.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Italy: The Real Deal with Ionian Jewel Tours

It helps when the tour guide is your sister-in-law, Nancy Howard but either way Ionian Jewel Tours


will customize your trip to Italy so that you will feel like you are traveling with a friend, not on a tour.

Nancy grew up spending half of every year in her mother's village, Montepone in the hills of Calabria above Soverato in the Catanzarro region of Italy.  She is fluent in Italian and knows all the unique restaurants, inns, and out of the way spots you might never experience.  Best of all she shares colorful stories of life growing up in Italy and she is related to and/or knows many of the locals.

She took us to Memo's cottage where he prepared a meal of fried tomatoes potatoes and peppers cooked on the outdoor fireplace topped off with his own red wine.

The beach is just across the railroad tracks a short walk through a tunnel.

We met other locals too.

At the bakery down the street we bought fresh warm bread from the bread maker.  He's not in the shop?  No problem a neighbor will lead you to his house so he can come open up and sell you huge round loaves.

 The one on the right is Antonio(the other one is my brother).  He is a well known Calabrese poet.  If you are lucky he will read for you.

Maria makes her own cheese and olive oil right here in her basement.

The fish and cheese come fresh to your door.  And of course the vegetables too.

  Listen to the vendor call out, "zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, big ones, round, ones, thin ones, long ones...just the way you like them."  ;-)

And when his truck must maneuver narrow alley ways and cause a traffic jam of one or two cars, the whole village is there for the entertainment and with not a little advice.

Nature hikes and walks through mountain villages provide all the color that is Italy.

Geraniums cascade down cobbled alleyways. 

The cactus in this southern region are huge.

Swallows build their adobe nests under the overhang of roofs and fly into unshuttered rooms.

And always the colorful laundry, knickers and all.

Who could resist Squillace Pottery for color, especially when you can buy it in the nearby village where it is made from the potters working there.

Of course Italy may be best known for the food and we were treated to everything from the simple homemade bread with fresh ricotta cheese and tomatoes to seafood and other dishes from the region.  We ate on the balcony in the mountains, cafes in tiny villages and restaurants seaside.   And always the cappuccino, the beer, wine and pastries. 

 As  writer I look for details.  The Calabrese cut their bread against their chest, a detail I love.

 My favorite end of meal liqueur?  You can only find it in Calabria!

 The young baker, Stephano gets up at two every morning to begin work at his shop.  Where did he learn to make such delicacies?   He was an apprentice to the owner of the business until he died.  "I learned from the master,"  he says with a twinkle and hands us another free  pastry.
We went to an olive oil tasting dinner sponsored by the Slow Food movement.  It began in Italy!  Watch for a future blog on this organization with a Navajo connection.  We would have never known about the event if we weren't traveling with Nancy.  

So if you want a real taste of Italy try a cooking tour or yoga tour.  Perhaps you have roots in Italy.  Let Nancy help you find them.  Or just go enjoy the beach and the history.  Better yet let Nancy show you the magic you don't even know exists in places you never heard of in Italy.   Check out  Ionian Jewel Tours on Face book.