May 29, 2007

Birthday Shenanigans and A Nature Break

Howdy-do! I have returned from the wilds of Ontario (Carrying Place, to be precise, near Trenton) with a spring in my step on this the 43rd anniversary of my birth. Yes, 43 years ago today, my mother spent 22 hours bringing me into this world, so I figured the least I could do was house-sit and pet-sit for her for a few days. Riel and I spent five days enjoying this view from the front deck:

That's Lake Ontario across the street; how close can ya get, huh? Lovely spot to sip your coffee, as I did every morning, watching the seagulls noisily swooping and kamikaze diving for fish. I took a whole whack of seagull action shots, but this turned out to be the clearest:

Turned out very "Jonathan Livingston Seagull", I thought. For you young pups out there, JLS was quite the seminal movie for my generation (I was 9). Certainly one of the first times I became aware of the real beauty of wildlife and our place in this world. Yeah, I know, pretty hippy-dippy stuff these days maybe, but it awakened a part of me I hope still lives and breathes. Neil Diamond's soundtrack just made it that much more indelible:


Lonely Looking Sky

Dear Father


Loved that movie! Forgive the birthday inspired flashback, let's get back to Mum's place, shall we? Here's the view from the other side of the front deck with a small pond in the right corner:

I've pointed out the pond as it was the best spot to get close-ups of the other birds we were all keeping an eye on. Every year some Mute Swans and Canada Geese appear with their youngsters in tow. All together now, awwwww. The numbers change every year and the fate of some unfortunate swans has been sad to hear, but the adults that do make it keep coming back. Here's this year's pair heading for the pond (I only saw two adults and possibly two cygnets paddling close behind while I was there):

Watched the swans and geese glide gloriously in and fly out of the lakeside area from afar. I kept from getting too close to either of their nests or their lake outings (didn't want to startle them into attacking), but the rare pond outings by the fenced off road were fair game for pics, the geese and goslings in this case:

Here's an artsy shot of the geese and goslings just behind some reeds:

Right before the swans spotted 'em, uh oh!

And they're coming for 'em. Look out, geese!

I'm not kidding, these guys got into a few tussles and feather-flapping to-dos when they got too close to each other, but I wasn't close enough to get photographic proof. Trust me, feathers flew!

Here's another fella in abundance in the bird sanctuary that is my mother's front lawn (sheesh, some people have all the luck), a Red-Winged Blackbird:

And here's another artsy-type shot of the lone Whooping Crane I spotted:

After being warned to keep away from the various nests, Riel took Bonnie, Mum and Ray's golden retriever, for a run by the water every day:

And she came with us when we all walked to the local store. I love Riel and Bonnie's nonchalant attitudes in this pic of their encounter with a severely ticked-off kitten they snuck up on:

The other master of the house ... I mean, pet ... would be Apples, seen here posing on the back deck:

Riel's two favorite activities during our visit were reenacting the "Star Wars" trilogy with the closest "giant stick, mother!", as seen here:

And drawing on the front deck. Who can blame him with that inspiring view! Here's the artist at work:

Whatcha drawing, son?

Oh, that would be the Nintendo version of "Star Wars", or at least Riel's version, where Mario and Darth battle it out on horseback:

I have at least a hundred and twenty-two thousand variations of this scene. So much for your inspiring view, Nana! :-)

So, we soaked up the sun and scenery for a few days and, when Mum returned, we attended a terrific evening I wasn't allowed to take pictures of. Inspired by the Famous People Players, we went to see a very entertaining performance by The Light Magicals at the Brighton Barn Theatre. The whole evening was quite the experience and I was inspired by their enthusiasm and talent. The only pic I could grab was before the theatre went dark. Seems we have a chapter of the Red Hat Society in town. Nicely done, ladies!

So, what was she up to while we were watching the seagulls? Why, Nana was suppin' by Niagara Falls:

And exploring the roar on the fantastic Maid of the Mist:

You really need to do the trip just once to *feel* the power of the falls, awesome sight and sound:

Nice pics, Ma! And thanks for nurturing me those initial nine months, and for the rest of my 43 years. My father had a bit to do with it, too, so thanks, Dad ;-) After all, I know I must have been named after him (Rhonda Fleming, yeah right!) and if I had a nickel for every two-bit Romeo that serenaded me with my song back then, I'd be a rich woman today. Enjoy this clip from 1965 of The Beach Boys' "Help Me, Rhonda" (gotta love the tight pants!):

And here's a bonus version I found. Surreal clip from a 1970s TV show with ABBA, Olivia Newton-John, and Andy Gibb (the Bee Gees' tragic younger brother, reminds me of how gorgeous he was), trying to sing "Help Me, Rhonda", "Barbara Ann", and a bit of opera to boot. Obviously not well rehearsed, but that's what makes it fun to me. And the talent contest Olivia mentions in the beginning is the one where my Mum came in second. That was the real birthday bonus for me, cool connection!

I can't discuss my life without mentioning Elton John, it would simply be unnatural. After "discovering" him a few years beforehand, the first album I bought with my own money was 1973's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and the opening track, "Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" was a revelation. Its music still swirls my soul. This version was recorded just this past March for his 60th birthday at Madison Square Garden. Rock on, baby!

In 1975, at the height of Elton's powers, I can remember sitting cross-legged on the floor, mesmerized by this vision in silver before me. From "The Cher Show", enjoy this psychedelic live version of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (he was so adorable then):

Over the years, I've been Ron and Joan's kid, Riel's mother, and many other endearing terms I can't repeat in public, I'm sure, and now I've become Tiny Dancer. So, I'll wrap up today's musical celebration with my man doing my song, again from the 60th birthday party at MSG.

I've also become known as George's wife (although we haven't made it legal yet), and that's alright with me. He has to share in the party as it's also his birthday today, how cosmic is that, eh? I'll never let him forget he's two years older than me, but he'll never have an excuse for forgetting my birthday ;-)

He's not quite up to snuff these days as he's injured himself (he suffered some nerve damage a couple of months back on his upper arm area). He's working on getting his strength back, maybe a month more to go, and here's a lovely shot of the contraption holding his left hand together right now:

Our cat, Doc, doesn't seem concerned:

Here they are in happier times:

I rescued Doc (aka Watson) from a life of misery a year or so before George came along. Doc's brother, Holmes (aka Sherlock), died in an animal rescue center I had to send him to (they were both malnourished after their owner dumped them), but this guy flourished and we soon became quite tight. He's a lapcat, loves attention, and attached himself to George as soon as he showed up. Even sleeps on his side of the bed now. And George loves to demonstrate how they communicate. I've never seen a cat told to come home by 11 that actually shows up at 10:55, it's infuriating! But, don't ask me to explain him ...

I just love 'im ...

As I do both of my boys ...

I'm a lucky woman indeed. Happy Birthday to us, George!

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