|Syd: A handsome hunk of horseflesh!|
|Mr. Gorgeous looking, well, gorgeous.|
|I love how much fun Lady still gets out of life despite being old and arthritic!|
|A (rare) serious portrait of Sweetheart. It wasn't easy to get her to sit still and just look at the camera because she kept wanting to bring me toys!|
|My own dog at play...|
|...and at rest.|
It wasn't just dogs I met in person that brought me pleasure this year; I also enjoyed following the exploits of a number of dogs on the web. Some of my favorites:
|Love and a Six Foot Leash|
|Maddie the Coonhound|
|Betsy & Pups|
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I'm not able to read as much as I used to, but I suppose I still pack away more of the printed word than most folks even though I can no longer whiz through books at pre-migraine speed. These are a few of the books that mattered most in 2012:
Annie Proulx has been one of my favorite authors since I first read "The Shipping News" back when I was in high school, but I've felt that her work has gotten more caustic in recent years and that maybe she needs an editor to say "no" to her from time to time: some of the short stories in recent collections have seemed self-indulgent to me. I wasn't in the mood, therefore, to read Proulx's work when I received "That Old Ace in the Hole" last Christmas. It wasn't until this summer when I finally got around to it, but I'm glad I did, because it's one of her wry, quirky, but loving looks at a seemingly unlovely region, in this case, the Oklahoma Panhandle. (The book was published in 2002, perhaps accounting for the less bitter tone than some of her more recent work.) I love the vividness of Proulx's writing, her utterly original similes, and her manner of capturing the nuances of character, dialect, and place through lively language. This is not a fast-paced book, being much more about creating a portrait of a place and its people than plot, but I found it so satisfying that I started it again from the beginning the moment I finished it. Fans of "The Shipping News" should definitely check it out.
I may have reread both "Gone Girl" and "That Old Ace in the Hole" immediately upon finishing them, but that's nothing compared to the half dozen times AT LEAST that I read "The Plague and I" this year. "The Plague and I" is Betty MacDonald's account of her year spent in a tuberculosis sanatorium in the late 1930's. Earlier generations may know Betty MacDonald's book "The Egg and I," while younger readers may have enjoyed her Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children's series. I grew up loving "Nancy and Plum," her romantic children's story about two orphaned sisters and their escape from evil Mrs. Monday's boarding home, so I was familiar with her name, if not her adult writing. I found myself picking up "The Plague and I" on long, dismal, discouraging afternoons when I was feeling too sick with fatigue and migraines to get out of bed and I found myself longing for an old-fashioned "rest cure" in a silent, spotless, dimly-lit nursing home where the bed would always be the right temperature, the pillows always the right degree of plumpness, and quiet and kindly nurses would massage my temples and be able to intuit exactly what delicacy might tempt my poor appetite. I find Betty MacDonald's humorous account of her months on bed-rest in the frigid sanatorium with the equally frigid nurses to be nearly as soothing as the my fantasy rest cure, despite the fact that she was always cold, had many bizarre and unpleasant roommates, desperately missed her children, and was faced with the terrifying possibility of death. "The Plague and I" has helped brighten many of my worst days and I'm thankful to have it by my bedside for when I'm feeling my sickest.
* * *
Because I haven't felt well for much of this year and reading can be difficult for me when I'm not feeling well, I've ended up watching rather a lot of TV. Since we have no television in my house, I get my TV shows through the internet, either on Netflix or Hulu, which is nice, since I means I can watch older shows. The downside, of course, is that you can gobble up a series in just a few days if you get really hooked on it!
It's absolutely no surprise that I enjoyed "Downton Abbey." I like any book or movie or TV series that gives me a sense of what it was like to live in a different time period and I often watch the marvelous 5-hour BBC "Pride and Prejudice" miniseries when I'm not feeling well. I'm also well-versed in British literature (not to mention Edith Wharton and Henry James), so this series wonderfully brings the world I know from books to life. (I also recommend the 2002 miniseries, "The Forsyte Saga," for its ability to make a bygone age seem real.) I liked everything about "Downton Abbey": the clothes, the houses, the way it clearly illustrated the roles people were forced to inhabit, the drama between the characters, and the way Anna said the name of Mr. Bates!
While looking for shows to watch, I stumbled on the British police drama, "Luther." I don't generally care for extremely dark and violent shows and I don't much care for suspense, either, but I was so impressed by Idris Elba as the title character that I was extremely disappointed that the show only ran for ten episodes. When Luther ran his hands over his head in stressed vexation, I felt like I was watching a real person, not an actor. I also love the way he pronounced the name "Alice"!
Somewhat less dark (or at least more humorous), and therefore even more to my liking, was the new British show, "Sherlock." Cleverly done and well-acted, I am eagerly awaiting more episodes! I haven't read any of the original "Sherlock Holmes" stories in ages, so all of the mysteries are fresh to me and I like the character development very much. The tie-in to the "Sherlock Holmes" stories series also has the benefit of enabling me to keep a sense that the show is fiction. Overly-realistic police/detective dramas can bother me (which is why my enjoyment of "Luther" was so unusual), so I appreciate that slight distance that allows me to enjoy how well-written and well-acted the show is!
* * *
While 2012 might not have been a great year in terms of my health, it was a fantastic year for photography. I continue to enjoy my DSLR, which I purchased in the fall of 2011; I have taken 10,4588 photographs so far! I've taken a great many photos of the plants and flowers that can be found near my home, so it was with delight that I discovered the power of my 100 mm macro lens to take photographs of insects and other animals. It started when I came across a bee on a cornflower. I was amazed by the results and began photographing bees whenever I found one. As fall came on and the local spiders grew larger, I turned my camera on them, too, and was excited to photograph banana spiders and yellow garden orbweavers in Florida. The spiders may have been more intriguing than attractive, but I was utterly mesmerized by the beauty of the blue and red betta at Sweetheart's house and took dozens of photos of sunlight shining through the fish's trailing fins. Getting the opportunity to photograph a shrew-mole in my lawn this spring and successfully staking out hummingbirds visiting our fuchsias were highlights, but I think my very favorite (non-bee) animal photo of the year is the one I snapped of a Florida soft shell turtle sunning itself on a road in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in the Florida panhandle!
|You can find more bee photos here...|
|I've gotten rather obsessed with photographing spiders, but haven't gotten around to posting an album of those photos yet. Here's one of my photos of a banana spider.|
|I have more betta photos in this album...|
|This photograph of a Florida soft shell turtle is one of my favorite animal photos from 2012!|
* * *
I was very fortunate in 2012 to be able to travel. Since the migraines began in 2009, my world had grown very small. Therefore, it was wonderful to have a chance to have an overnight excursion to San Juan Island and then, just weeks later, to travel all the way to Florida! I hadn't thought air travel would be possible with my sensitivity to pressure changes, but with medication I managed and therefore got to see some of my favorite people AND photograph some fantastic wildlife. I'm looking forward to getting to travel just a little bit in 2013!
You could hardly find two places less alike than these two extremes of the contiguous United States, but I enjoyed my visit to both!
* * *
|Striped socks and a|
striped dog can help
make things better!