Capturing Spring: Predominantly Pictures!

Last week I mentioned that I was retiring my old Nikon camera because it was no longer reliable, and learning to accustom myself to taking digital photos. In the spirit that practice makes perfect (or at least, much improved), I’ve taken to bringing my cell phone with me on my morning walks and taking photos of the various flora and fauna.

Jacaranda4May and June are very pleasant months in SoCal: mild and sunny, but without the scorching heat that sets in around July and lasts through September. And the gardens are blooming with a will.  When I see the jacarandas starting to put forth their first purple flowers, trumpet-shaped and fragrant, I know that spring is truly here.

California star jasmine is another harbinger of spring. Around here it first begins to flower around late March or early April, putting out a few tiny white blossoms that are easy to overlook. StarJasmineBut when May sets in, star jasmine can be seen–and smelled–everywhere: twining around low fences, climbing up arbors, spilling abundantly over walls. The spicy-sweet scent, especially prevalent on cool, slightly cloudy mornings, is irresistible to me.

Of course, spring wouldn’t be spring without roses, and I see some gorgeous ones on my walks, all varying sizes, shapes, and colors. But this bush of blood red roses is so striking I had to stop and capture it. Roses like these must have grown in the Beast’s garden–no wonder Beauty’s father was so tempted!RedRoses2

Spring mornings also bring the fauna out early. Crows hopping territorially over suburban lawns, squirrels running up trees or across telephone lines–just today I saw a crow dive-bombing a squirrel, first on the grass, then up on the roof (the face-off ended in a draw with both participants heading in opposite directions). Alas, this was one occasion on which I didn’t have my cell phone, though crow and squirrel were probably moving too fast for me to have captured them.

But there are always the local cats, who are abroad and stirring much earlier than the local dogs. P05-11-13_08.12Or not stirring, in the case of this handsome fellow who was dozing on a lawn chair when I crept up on him.

Other felines, less somnolent, can be found slinking under bushes or sidling along garden paths, like this shy tortoiseshell. TORTOISESHELLShe deigned to come a little closer for a brief stroke or two, but preferred to remain aloof. (She had a black-and-white companion who was much less standoffish, but he was too busy stropping against my legs, butting against my hand, and generally making a nuisance of himself to pose for pictures!)

GARDENI leave you with a picture of my neighbor’s front garden, an oasis of color and bloom. (It’s also a favorite hangout of several neighborhood cats, although none are in residence in the photo.) Makes me almost wish I could garden too, but my thumb remains resolutely brown!

Spring is in the Air!

size1Some say that California has no true seasons. As a native Californian I’d dispute that, though I’ll concede that our seasons are less extreme than you’ll find on the East Coast or in the Midwest.  But even here, the transition between winter and spring is noticeable. The skies are more consistently blue, the air has a milder, softer quality, and lawns are starting to show colors beyond green and brown.

While I love many things about summer, I think spring might be my favorite season: the colors, the sunshine–gentler and less glaring than summer, the gayer, lighter clothes on the racks, the more varied fresh fruits and vegetables in the farmers’ markets. And something more . . . the general sense of movement, awakening, and new life that seems to come only with spring.

Fall and winter are seasons for drawing inward, for quiet reflection, for the comfort of familiar things and people. Spring coaxes you to open up again, to look around you with a fresh perspective, to sample new experiences and try different things. To unfurl yourself, in e.e.cummings’ words,  “as Spring opens ( touching skillfully,mysteriously)her first rose.” John_William_Waterhouse_-_The_Soul_of_the_Rose,_aka_My_Sweet_Rose

My sister recently informed me that celebrating spring is a worldwide practice. But whether the celebration’s called Beltane, May Day, Pascha, or Easter, rebirth and renewal are always cause for rejoicing.

What are your favorite things about spring?

Tempus Fugit: The Even More Dubious Pleasures of Daylight Savings Time

Dali21

One of Salvador Dali’s “Liquid Clocks”–and an all-too-apposite image of how I feel when we implement this time change!

Daylight Savings Time

In spring when maple buds are red,
We turn the clock an hour ahead;
Which means, each April that arrives,
We lose an hour out of our lives.

Who cares? When autumn birds in flocks
Fly southward, back we turn the clocks,
And so regain a lovely thing
That missing hour we lost in spring.

–Phyllis McGinley

Sadly, I’ve never quite managed to be as philosophical as McGinley about Daylight Savings Time, which begins this weekend. In fact, to be brutally honest, I’ve never been a fan of DST and sometimes, I’ve flat out hated it. Especially when I was a kid and dragging myself out of bed on cold school mornings was already a challenge. Having to get up when it was pitch-black outside because some arbitrary force had decreed that it was an hour later than it had been the day before felt like cruel and unusual punishment. Even now, with my schooldays behind me, I still greet the advent of DST with a curled lip–and a snarl worthy of the Duke in The Thirteen Clocks.

The_13_Clocks_(Simont)

The clocks were dead, and in the end, brooding on it, the Duke decided that he had murdered time, slain it with his sword, and wiped his bloody blade upon its beard and left it lying there, bleeding hours and minutes , its springs uncoiled and sprawling, its pendulum disintegrating.

–James Thurber, The Thirteen Clocks

To make things even less pleasant, the change seems to be coming sooner every year. Where DST once took place at the end of April, by degrees it’s been creeping back. First to early April, than to late March, and now early March, a good two weeks before spring even begins! When the weather is still freezing, the mornings are still dark, and winter still lingers like a guest who’s worn out his welcome. (Even McGinley might have issues with that.) Artificially changing the time does nothing to counteract this seasonal malaise. If anything, I should think it would make it worse, increasing fatigue as our bodies try to adjust to this change and adding an element of stress as we struggle to compensate for that lost hour.

Spring forward, fall . . . flat on your face.

Granted, having no other choice, one eventually adjusts to the change in schedule. And maybe comes to appreciate in having a longer stretch of daylight, especially in the evenings. But the transition period can still be a major pain in the posterior, and the benefits of this temporal manipulation may be months in making themselves felt.

As someone who personally loves that extra hour, whether spent in sleeping, creating, or simply being, I bid it a fond farewell until the autumn. And hope fervently that no one ever comes up with the bright idea to have DST begin on January 1st!

Hope everyone out there weathers the time change successfully! This too shall pass.

On The Road: The Tour, Week 2

Another busy week of promotion, to be followed by an even busier one. Here’s a quick run-down of last week for those interested in following along.

On December 10, I blogged at Night Owl Romance about dance as the language of the love. Then, on December 11, History Undressed hosted my blog about the allure of the Victorian Age. I also wrote a guest column on twins in romance for Love Romance Passion that appeared on December 12. A blog about the pleasures of writing mystery with romance finished out the week at Coffee Time Romance on December 14. Many of these blogs are also hosting ongoing giveaways of Waltz with a Stranger.

I also participated in a live chat with Grace Burrowes at Discover a New Love on the evening of December 12. For those who weren’t able to attend, but might be interested in what was said, a transcript is available at the site.

Next week. I will be making five appearances on blogs.

December 17: Romancing the Book

December 18: Reading Between the Wines

December 19: Simply Ali

December 20: Cocktails and Books

December 21: Fresh Fiction

Hope to see some of you around the blogosphere!