Japanese Maple

Lemony Maple

Japanese Maple
Clive James

Your death, near now, is of an easy sort.

So slow a fading out brings no real pain.

Breath growing short

Is just uncomfortable.

You feel the drain

Of energy, but thought and sight remain:

Enhanced, in fact.

When did you ever see

So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls

On that small tree

And saturates your brick back garden walls,

So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?

Ever more lavish as the dusk descends

This glistening illuminates the air.

It never ends.

Whenever the rain comes it will be there,

Beyond my time, but now I take my share.

My daughter’s choice, the maple tree is new.

Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.

What I must do

Is live to see that.

That will end the game

For me, though life continues all the same:

Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,

A final flood of colors will live on

As my mind dies,

Burned by my vision of a world that shone

So brightly at the last, and then was gone.

(New Yorker Magazine, September 15, 2014)


Photograph and poem sent to me by a dear friend, Lemony.

Photograph credit:  Lemony Gregg


Little Lucy loves sitting on my shoulder.

When I returned from the ranch last weekend,

she had the classic stress pattern on her underside.


She wasn’t eating much

and she was spending a lot of time in her cave.

Otherwise, she looked healthy.


I was busy planning for the new chameleon cage arrangement

and consulting with the breeders, the cage builder and ordering

the necessary environmental elements for the insides of the cages.

Since both chameleons will be housed side by side on a rack,

there was a great deal of planning to do.


I tried everything to make her happy.

I added a basking light which usually does the trick.

No luck.  Nothing was working.

Finally, today I took her out of her cage and held her.

The pattern on her chest disappeared.

She turned white with happiness.



As usual, when I sat down at my desk, she climbed down my arm onto the desk

and scooted under the monitor to the back of the desk

where she always sits to look out the window.

Since I felt so guilty for not holding her this week,

I gave her another treat.

She loves her “hot tub” soak.

I keep the temperature at about 100 degrees with the lid on the container.

This hydrates her very well and feels good to her too.

Oh, the things we will do for the love of a dragon!



(Sam is fired up as this display of pattern is called in the Chameleon world.)

Sam hunts insects from among the vines and foliage in his cage.

Often, I am unable to remove the ones that he doesn’t eat in one day.

They should not remain in the cage for several reasons,

among which is that they may bite the animal while he is sleeping.

Here, Sam is climbing around hunting his dinner.

Chameleons can be trained to eat from a cup

but they enjoy hunting their prey

and they get the added benefit of exercise.

They have the ability to stretch their bodies to incredible lengths.

Their tongues extend to twice the length of their bodies.

They are extraordinarily flexible and can contort themselves in any way they choose.


The spoiled little rascal is waiting for his wax worms.

I feed them in a cup, and he knows that he is going to get some

every morning.  So, he often waits to be served!

Initially, I don’t think he noticed the cricket since he was hunting.

Finally, I think he felt it on his back and began to look warily behind him.

This one has no calcium/mineral dust on him, so he has been in the cage too long.


Here, he sees the cricket clearly, but his long tongue doesn’t operate backwards

(at least, I don’t think it does) so he can’t catch it off his nose!

He is beginning to puff out his gutteral pouch in annoyance

 as he watches the dumb cricket.


Ah-ha!  I got you!

That really isn’t why he’s displaying like this, but it looks that way!

Actually, I think this is an amusing threatening posture.

I think he is practicing his adult behaviors as the dragons did when they were young.



 Ah, what a joy little Sam has been for me.

I love watching him and taking care of him.

Chameleons are not pets.

They are not appropriate animals for children.

Their care is not difficult, but it requires constant monitoring and careful attention.

They are not “lap dog” animals.

They are wild, exotic creatures who must be treated and accommodated as such.


Very soon, Sam will be joined by a male Panther Chameleon, Hugo.

(Sam is a veiled chameleon)

The two will be housed in separate enclosures as are all chameleons.

The setup for them is somewhat complicated and has taken several weeks.

 Hugo will not be shipped until his home is completed and approved by the breeder.

Ed and Liddy Kramer of Kramerflage Kreations are the breeders.

(They require very specific proof of suitability from the applicant keeper.)

I am so excited to be receiving him into the Sherwood Zoo

that I simply couldn’t resist posting a preview of him!



Miss Little Britches is Jeremy’s kitten.

When I woke up at the ranch at two o’clock on Sunday morning,

I opened the refrigerator door to fetch a bottle of mocha frappuccino.

I left the door open for a few minutes instead of turning on a light

since I thought I might awaken the kids.

Then I shut the door.

After some time, I opened the door again.

There sat Miss Little Britches on a shelf exactly as she is sitting in this photo.

She looked at me as if being in a refrigerator were a perfectly normal place to be.

I had to shoo her out of the refrigerator!


(Perhaps, I really do need a keeper, as I often joke…)


Okay, so the title is a classic Bait-and-Switch!

I didn’t see one snake or scorpion or tarantula…

This weekend I went with the kids to their ranch in Duval County, Texas.

Although they bought the place several years ago, this was my first visit.

My point about the critter boots is that they make everybody who visits wear a pair of snake boots.

These are some that Charlie outgrew, but they provide a variety of sizes!

As soon as we got out of bed, you headed out to look for rabbits to shoot with your pellet gun.

You normally see lots of them, but this morning you said it must be too cold for them!

You had to call Dad to find out the combination to the railroad car storage building where your gun was on the hunting buggy.

After you walked around the perimeter of the yard a few times, you decided to shoot targets instead.

You’re a really good shot, you know!

I remember when you shot your first deer when you were six years old.

When I asked you about the shoot,

You said, “Dad said to drop him, so I did”, as if that were the most normal request in the world!

I still chuckle about that!

 However, I did see some little does.

If you whip out your magnifying glass, you can see them!

I needed about 100mm more focal length on my lens.

I was dumb enough to allow the flash to go off and scare them away.


This is the deer stand where I was sitting when I saw the little does.

Kelli said I was making too much noise.

So, I moved down to a chair at the foot of the stand and drank my Starbuck’s bottled

coffee frappuccino and watched the sun set!

(Life in the South Texas brush country is hard.)


The cutest thing I saw was a tiny frog that Charlie showed to me.

I could hear them talking in the brush all around me.

There must have been a huge population of them.


I swear this is a family of quail feeding on corn along the trail.

I wish I’d had a longer focal length since quail are so pretty.

I was napping at the house when the kids saw the most colorful birds!


I was sitting on one of the top seats of the “buggy” (whatever those hunting vehicles are called).

There are endless trails just like this one all over the 325 acres.

I have no idea how the kids know where they are since the trails all look the same to me.

I was pretty much too busy looking at the marvelous sky!


These are a couple of the feeder pens for deer.  The wire enclosure is to keep out the wild hogs.

The concrete tanks collect water that gravity feeds into the water troughs for the deer.

They also deliver water to fill them when it is dry weather.

That round light-colored thing is a bale of cottonseed.

Jeremy left Kelli at one of the feeders to shoot wild hogs late one evening.

When he returned to pick her up, he saw that she had shot a bunch of Javelinas.

She said they looked like hogs to her!

He still laughs about that.


Jeremy and Kelli are filling a “hog feeder”.

The wild hogs knock it around to get the corn to spill out of holes drilled into the pipe.

It is attached by a chain to a post.

When they come to eat, the guys shoot them.

The guys from the shop like to cook wild hog.

I’ve eaten it and I can attest to the fact that it really is good eating!

Charlie and Kelli checking out the bow hunting blind.

The thing looked shaky to me and very tall.

Charlie is learning to shoot a bow.

I understand that bow hunting requires a great deal of skill and steady composure.


Clearing brush in this part of the world is an ongoing project.

Otherwise, Mother Nature would take back her land.

Here, Jeremy is moving some brush to a burn area.

The guys from the plant like to go there for weekends to clear brush,

bird or hog hunt, and feast on Jeremy’s cooking!

Jeremy doesn’t allow deer hunting except by family members.

He is most interested in wildlife conservation and photography.

His family ate what they killed and still do.

Recently, Jeremy cooked the best doves I’ve ever eaten.


One of the coolest things I saw was a giant moth.

And, I only had to walk out onto the porch to see him!

The kids killed many scorpions, snakes and tarantulas when they built their camp.

But, they kill every blade of grass within a huge perimeter of the house

so that they don’t have critters moving in now!

They see many of the cutest ground squirrels, cottontail bunnies, lizards, and

a pair of ground squirrels, Chester and Dollie, live at one of the feeder pens.

One morning, the kids sat eating breakfast and watching a silly bobcat wandering

around on one side of the truck while a whole group of bunnies scampered around

directly behind him on the other side of the truck.

Apparently, he never saw them and missed his breakfast entirely!


Jeremy used the coals from the fire pit in his grills.

He grilled the best shrimp, steak, vegetables and corn on the cob

that I’ve eaten in a very long time!

The food there is worth the trip!


Jeremy and Charlie cooking.

Jeremy is wearing one of those cool head lamps

That allow you to see clearly in the dark.

They all carry them in their backpacks.


Of course, there are the stacks of wood for bonfires and outdoor cooking.

I think the guys at the plant cut the dead trees out of the woods there

and haul the wood to the camp.

The whole area is covered in Purple Sage and Texas Mountain Laurel.

And some kind of grass that I never saw before, but I think is really lovely.

I’ve forgotten the name of the grass, but I think it only grows about as tall as it looks here.

It is the most golden color and lines every roadway that I saw.

The first image is the county road leading out from the gate toward the highway.

This place is located in absolutely Nowhere, Texas, I assure you.

The light in this part of the world is magnificent.

The clouds are different too.

The atmosphere reminds me of the light in Santa Fe, New Mexico

where all of the artists congregate because of it.

Such clean, clear light here.

Perhaps because there is no smog!

There were what looked to be almost “crops” of the blue cactus plants along the roadways.

And, the green ones that I am accustomed to seeing.

Of course, there are lots of Yucca plants too.

I always thought far South Texas was flat and sandy and a miserable place to live.

I thought those folks who talk nostalgically about having grown up there were

simply immune to the harsh climate and ugly landscape.

I was badly mistaken.

It is beautiful country with just enough hills to be interesting, but still allow you to see for miles.

I felt as if I could see the world in a very different way than I see it anywhere else.

My apologies to the people of that part of the world!


The ranch is twenty-two miles north of Freer, Texas.

This mesa is fairly long and creates a very interesting part of the landscape.

Bison Teeth


I just might be the only old woman who would buy a bison jawbone!

(Bison Occidentalis)

It is from the Pleistocene period

1,000 to 15,000 years old.

Found in the Kansas River Bed, Wyandocotthe County, Kansas.

It reminded me of a Viking ship.


He appears to have had most of his teeth when he died.

They could have used a bit of dental cleaning, I suppose,

But so do mine every three months!


I teased my dentist for thirty years about needing to keep my teeth until I died.

Well, I almost made it.  Until I broke a molar and split the root.

Now, I have a costly jawbone graft.

Perfectly healed and ready for the metal post implant on which the fake tooth is stuck.

Except that I figure it’s too much trouble since I won’t use it long anyway!



There is an expression in Texas about teeth.

That fellow’s got Summer Teeth!

(Translation: Some are there and some are not!)

Reckon I got Summer Teeth now too!


 I bought a “premium car wash” when I filled up with gas.

Only to discover that the car wash was closed for repairs.

The old number did not work.

finally I got a new number and headed in to endure yet another wait in a car wash.


But, only after I backed all the way out when I saw a truck already in the thing!

Finally, I drove back in and prepared to wait for it to do its thing.

I am not good at waiting.


First, you get the soapy water in your face.

And, I forgot my Kindle.

What does one do in a car wash sans Kindle?

Thank whatever gods may be for reminding me to carry my camera!



You get attacked by the blood-sucking tentacles!

I tried not to look…


Finally, after you resign yourself to living there for the rest of your life

The light turns green and you get a “Premium” stars reward for your trouble!


I think I’ll stick to the hundred-dollar detail shop.

I can sit inside and read my Kindle.

Besides, they transform the interior stench that is reminiscent of an old bar and a garbage dump

into a fresh, linen scent.



Charlie, these are just some random things that I see during the days when I wander around.

Hope you like some of them.

I just wanted you to see what interests me in the garden.

These are the last days of Autumn.


You know, I almost never photograph a butterfly.

I don’t pay much attention to them.

I think it must be because I was always nearsighted and couldn’t really see them well.

This lone fellow hung around the porch flowers for so long that I got the camera

and snapped him from the doorway.


This was the last of the Trumpet Vine blossoms for this year.

There weren’t as many blossoms this time since

I allowed the vine to grow inside the pergola  where it wants to grow!

Instead of on the top where it blooms profusely.

Bromeliad-BlossomThe last Bromeliad blossom for this year is fading slowly.

It has lasted for several months.

Now, it is collecting the falling leaves.


I always leave the dead Bromeliad blossoms on the plants for months

Because I like them almost as much as I like the live ones.


I saw this leaf under one of the umbrella bushes

And was struck by the faint green that remained

as if it were reluctant to give up its color.


And, of course, the wonderful orchid that you and Mom gave me at Mother’s Day.

When it stopped blooming, I set it in the pergola and forgot it.

One morning, when I walked out on the porch to drink my coffee,

I saw a white blur in the pergola.

To my absolute delight, I discovered that it was the orchid.

And it was blooming again!

Ah, Charlie, life is filled with wonders.

You only have to learn to “see”.


Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from ME and Ronald McDonald!


Only treats with a smile!

No tricks, unless you’re George!

Then, a trick is in order from these kids!



You look cute, Julie.

The Ronald McDonald outfit that you designed is clever!

Sam, I am!

Sam is a baby Veiled Chameleon.

His body is about 3.5 inches long.

He is perhaps two months old.

I have had Sam for four days.

And, I am still trying to figure out what he likes best.

In the gallery below, the first photo reveals his displeasure.

I was arranging his vegetation, and he didn’t like my hand in his cage.

Chameleons are shy creatures who should be housed alone and rarely handled.

Sam looks very thin to me, so I took a fecal sample for analysis.  No parasites.

I suppose he simply needs to eat LOTS.

That poses a problem of sorts since I can never know precisely what he eats!

I laughed aloud at his expression when he checked out his feeding cup.

I think he was saying, “You really expect me to eat from that?

I thought it was a clever, on the spot, solution to the problem.


I thought learning about Bearded Dragons was difficult.

Holy Moley!  I hadn’t met Sam yet!


Chameleons are fascinating creatures who move in slow-motion.

Their most delightful characteristic is their expressive faces.

They move their eyes independently making sneaking up on them impossible.


Sam is a fragile baby.

He is sitting on the leaf of a silk plant (from Kelli’s garage box of discarded stuff).

I couldn’t weigh him because he climbed up my arm when I put him on the scale!

But, I can tell you that he is as light as a feather.

And difficult to photograph because he hides among the leaves.

Or climbs to the very top of his cage under the basking light.


Why did I buy him knowing that I won’t live long enough for him to grow up?

The simple answer is that I always wanted a Chameleon.

I will be able to see him into adolescence at the minimum,

And, a friend will take care of him for the remainder of his life.

They live approximately five years, maybe a bit longer.


He looks remarkably like a gargoyle sometimes, as the Coastal Crone observed.

Wish us luck!



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,848 other followers

%d bloggers like this: