Heat Seeker

Our tortoiseshell cat Trixie relaxes near the heating vent of our home in Portland as I play around with the shallow depth of field possible with Sony's 55mm f/1.8 lens

Trixie, like many of the cats before her, loved the wooden heating vent in the living room of our old house in Portland as she could lay on the hardwood with warm air blowing onto her belly. Our rental house doesn’t have any floor vents but it is not an issue as the heat finds you in the Sonoran Desert summer. After a hike at sunrise and a swim in the morning, I took a nap in my chair this afternoon with Sam in my lap and Trixie around my head, the heat not sought was brought.

The Furry Philosopher

Our cat Boo watches me while stretched out on the dog bed with his arms sticking out in front of him

My wife and I were discussing how we’d love to know what Boo is thinking. Like Scout, the black-and-white cat that preceded him, Boo is clever, but more than that he seems to ponder, to wonder, to want to understand not just the what of the world but the why. We’ve had other curious cats but there is a depth to Boo’s curiosity that is unique, so much so that it sometimes takes me aback when he plays with all the joy and enthusiasm of the other cats, even though we’ve had him since he was a kitten and we’ve played together countless hours.

Would that all so desired to understand the unknown, rather than fear it.

The In-Between Time

Our cat Sam sleeps atop the cat tree

I took many pictures of Sam sleeping atop the cat tree over the years and only through the greatest restraint have I avoided sharing each and every one of them with you. It is the day this picture was taken that packs the emotional punch for me, two days before the movers were to pack our things and load them onto a truck, three days before we would leave for Arizona, five days before we would arrive. He knew something was up but he had no idea how much I was about to upend his world.

Our cat Sam wearing a collar with his name on it in large letters

A simple picture of Sam sitting in a chair with his name writ large on his collar. But I know the chair was in my office because the junk haulers took away my old couch that morning and I brought down my old chair from our bedroom, a chair we bought when we moved into the house and which served me well for many years (and serves us well even now). It was a delight to photograph Sam in it as it reminded me of when Templeton loved to sleep there, especially after he lured me out of it so he could steal my spot. The collar though he and the other cats only had to wear in the days leading up to the move, and during, and after, in case they got loose during the confusion.

Thankfully they did not. This story ends in joy not tragedy.

Our cat Sam sleeps on a bed at a La Quinta Inn in Redding, California

A picture of Sam sleeping on the bed, I took many of those too, but it was only our bed for a night as this was the hotel in California on our first night, the in-between place in the in-between time. A reminder of a long trip, especially for the little ones, but a reminder too that as long as we were together we would be all right.

Our dog Ellie relaxes in the backyard in front of the swimming pool on the day we arrived at our rental house in Scottsdale, Arizona

A quick picture of Ellie that I snapped after we arrived at our rental house in Arizona at the end of March. The house will be home for a year, Arizona for much longer, and I am so thankful we found the house and that our lovely landlords accepted all the pets. All of the hiking and swimming has been great for me, I’m in the best shape I’ve been for a long time. The one story house has been great for Ellie as she can now follow us everywhere we go. As for Sam, well, our little snuggler has been putting on weight as he no longer has to go to the basement to use the litter box, the main floor to hang out in my office, and upstairs to join us at night. He’s getting a reduction in food to slowly bring his weight back down. Trixie and Boo are doing just fine, they love watching the wildlife in our back yard.

Time to Relax

Our dog Ellie relaxes near the swimming pool in our backyard

Ellie relaxes by our backyard pool on April 1st, our first full day in Arizona. She was able to relax after a long three day drive from Oregon but I wasn’t so lucky as I was starting work the next day. I was already worn out from the stress and pace of the previous months but since then I have been able to relax on the weekends, my wife has been taking care of the day-to-day stuff at home and we have yard and pool maintenance for the outside and a nice landlord if things need attention on the inside, freeing me up to go hiking pretty much every morning I have off.

Even for that a few weeks ago I hit a wall where I knew I needed to take some time off, but unfortunately it was an especially busy time at work, each week busier than the next, culminating in a week with a couple of very late nights and little sleep. Things are slowing down now so starting on Wednesday I will take a week of vacation, not going anywhere just need some downtime. I still haven’t fully unpacked my office.

One bright side of being laid off was I took Ellie on long walks every morning and not just on the weekends. I started the long weekend walks in her elderly years when she wanted to cut our evening walks short but I realized she’d still go on long walks in the morning. The downside is my hiking took a nosedive during those years as the mornings were my trail time as well, but I don’t regret it, you never know how much time you’re going to get with these old pups and each of those walks was precious to me.

Since my wife has been home in Arizona she has been walking Ellie in the mornings so I’ve gone out hiking most of my days off. I do miss walking with the pup though, the past week I’ve been getting up early on work days and my wife and I walk her together, we walked for 1.4 miles this morning. We should all age so well. We can’t convince her to get in the pool though, she loved to swim when I took her to the rivers in Portland but I think the step into the pool is the issue, steps are a big problem for her these days (thankfully the rental house has none).

I need to teach her to jump in! Maybe I’ll wrap some bacon around my head and stand in the middle of the pool.

Diamond in the Rain

A close-up view of a western diamondback rattlesnake in the rain

It was raining in the desert. Even better, I was out in it. So it was already a glorious morning when I found a jewel beside the trail, a diamond if a smaller one. I put my new Sony telephoto lens to good use although I hadn’t expected to expose it to the rain quite so early in its life as it was only my third time hiking with it.

The rattlesnake was comfortable with my presence as the rain poured down and I wasn’t about to let such an opportunity pass me by, new lens or not. My preference when shooting wildlife is for them to be aware of me and to feel in control of the encounter, usually to minimize the stress to them but in this case also to minimize the stress to me. Beautiful as they are western diamondbacks are both our largest and most common rattlesnake and worthy of respect.

As the rain intensified I noticed it calmly started sweeping its head across its coiled body. At first I thought it might be a sign it wanted to move so I backed even further off but the behavior continued, a slow graceful sweep of its head across its body. I resumed looking through the telephoto lens and realized its mouth was moving, like it was swallowing, and I wondered if it was drinking raindrops from its scales? Or cleaning them?

In the close-up shot you can see water drops on its head and even its eyes. Near the front of its head you can see one of its nostrils, and in between and below the nostril and eyes you can see the heat-sensing pit that allows them to hunt at night. After taking a break for water and food I continued on my way. May all our encounters be so peaceful little one, I pray we never meet in anger.

A western diamondback rattlesnake is coiled up in the rain beside the Chuckwagon Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona