Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: A Retrospective from the Wilds of South Central Kansas, Part 1

How should I sum up my last year in this blog?  I've been obsessing about this for several days now.  I want to share a couple exceptional books I read...but they aren't gardening books.  I took the time to go through the myriad of photos that I took, looking for special shots that I hadn't shared or trends or a "one a month, best of" sort of theme, but nothing gelled appropriately.  Most problematically, some months I literally had nothing and other months I had lots still to share.

Then, on Facebook this morning, I ran across NPR's best books of 2014.  As I scrolled through the graphic, I quickly realized that I hadn't read a single book they were highlighting - and there were 250 books on the list.  I don't think I even have a single book they highlighted, despite the fact that we have many, many piles of books sitting around the house, waiting to be read!

What could I do?  What should I do...?

Oh, screw it!  After all this angst and navel gazing, I'm just going to share a few things that seem like they were really good or interesting from my year, whether they have to do with gardening or not.  Thanks for sharing these things with me!

Our Daughter's Wedding:

I've been very quiet about this - partly because it wasn't a "gardening" topic and partly because I abandoned my normal role as photographer and thus, for several months after the event, had no photos to share.  There are many photos I could share now, but one will have to suffice.

Jessica and Kyle pledged themselves to each other at the end of May, in front of family and friends.  They seem very, very good together and we are tremendously happy for them.  We wish them many loving years together...and we will do our best to support them and the family they have decided they would like to have.

How to segue from that news?!  I can't, so I'll just have to change the subject....

Interesting Birds in the Yard:

Of course, the subtext for this section is "...that I was able to catch on camera"!

At the end of January, I noticed this different-looking, sparrow-like bird joining in the flocks at the feeders:  a female purple finch.  She didn't stay around long, but it was fun to welcome her to the group for a brief visit.  I hadn't heard of purple finches in the area and I actually saw fewer northern birds than usual last winter, so having her show up was particularly surprising.

Speaking of brief visits, this male lazuli bunting was a definite first for the yard!  Coming through in May, he didn't stay around long, either, but he'd have been welcome to take up permanent residence.  He's so skinny, though, that I have to wonder if he actually made it to the breeding grounds.

Just as we're saying goodbye to 2014, we've been visited by a deep cold spell, which has brought a couple birds to the yard I hadn't seen all year:

Since this is basically just a female cardinal, she obviously isn't an unusual species, but she is sporting an unusual color pattern known as (partial) leucism or as "piebald".  I've been surprised by all of the oddballs, usually aka genetic abnormalities, that I've seen at my feeders over the last 8 years here.

Finally, the last "oddity" isn't really an unusual species either, it's just the first time I've seen one of these cute birds this year.  Pine siskins are generally a northern bird, but they "irrupt" southwards during many winters.  They weren't here in my yard last winter, but I'm seeing a fair number of them suddenly with this end-of-2014 cold spell.  Sue, of the Facebook group, Gardening with Nature in Mind, asked me for a photo, so here it is!

Good Reads With Staying Power:

I wouldn't be me if I didn't share a couple of the excellent books that I've read this year.  For the last 10 years or so, I've kept a list of all the books I've read "cover to cover" each year, no matter what genre they represent.  If I hate a book, I don't finish reading it any more - there are too many books waiting to be explored for me to waste time on something that isn't intriguing me.  Not all "good" books stay with me, though...and not all books that speak to me need to be shared.   However, some DO need to be shared, and here are the ones that fit this category for me in 2014....

Still Alice, by Lisa Genova:  With a plot line about a highly intellectual woman who develops early onset Alzheimer's,  we read this book for our local book club.  The story is told from Alice's perspective, so the reader experiences Alice's life along with her as the disease progresses and her mind changes.  It is both terrifying and reassuring...and the book seems to be based on a very current understanding of the processes of Alzheimer's.  Our book club discussion about this novel was one of the best discussions we've had yet - and that's saying quite a lot!

The other book that makes my cut this year is A Sting in the Tale, by Dave Goulson, which I reviewed recently.  Definitely excellent, and it seems especially appropriate for anyone who reads my blog!

Sadly, since I've taken up Facebok, my reading seems to have declined.  I used to regularly get through 50 books a year, plus or minus, based on my lists.  This year it was just 31 books.  I think I may need to make some adjustments.....

Well, I think I'll end Part 1 here and continue in another blog post.  Individual posts shouldn't be books, in and of themselves!  Have a great last day of 2014!


Corner Gardener Sue said...

Since I've been spending so much time on FB, I haven't been reading books much at all. I have decided to get off the computer by 9:00 pm. I did a couple evenings ago, and read a few pages of a book on child development. I miss reading, and hope to get back to it.

I enjoyed your bird photos. That pine siskin is a nice looking creature! I like the yellow.

Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

Always good to take time and look at what the year held.
That female cardinal is beautiful! I've never seen one like her before. You get the best bird variety. I read more books this past year than the previous year. Partially, because I did a little free online class that meant I had to read a few chapters each week. I took the class with a college friend who lives in another city and we had fun talking about the topic so that got us both reading more. I have plans to do that again this spring. Happy New Year!! Enjoy 2015.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Sue, I'm glad I'm not the only one in the boat of having FB affecting my reading. I feel like I'm between a rock and a hard spot, though, because I learn a lot on Facebook and also enjoy the community that has developed there.

I'll be curious to know how your experiment with the 9 p.m. deadline works. I'm thinking of going the other direction and not allowing myself to get on the computer until after dinner.

Gaia Gardener: said...

GonSS, Reading for a class and with a friend are great ways to approach reading more, I think. I belong to a local book club and it has moved me into reading some books that I wouldn't have read otherwise. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" was one I really enjoyed that I wouldn't have read without the impetus of the book club, as was "Still Alice".

Have a great 2015!

Corner Gardener Sue said...

LOL, I just read the email of your comment wondering how my experiment will go. I had just closed Firefox, and as soon as I finish checking my email, I am getting off of this thing!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Sue, Timing is everything!!!

(I'm being "good" because I'm working on photos in between checking Facebook. :-) )

P.S. I'm also VERY good at fooling myself.