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Kitten Quarantine Countdown – Part 3    

May 5, 2020, 9 Weeks Old

Hide and seek! The kittens were now big enough to have free-roam of the barn. They were five blurs running in different directions at the same time. They hid in dark shadows and jumped out to pounce on unsuspecting siblings as they passed. They’d attack, throw a few paw punches, bite an ear and then retreat to hide in a corner. Everything was a fascinating new toy.

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While exploring, the kittens were equal parts daring and skittish. They’d run full speed at something that caught their attention, like a frayed rope, and then just as quickly, spook and scurry to safety under a muck rack. With all the new and exciting props to play with the grey striped kitten still thought my shoelace was worth a nibble. The chewy plastic tip was great for teething. The only time I was able to get a picture with more than one kitten was when they stopped for a quick snack and a cuddle with mama. She was still happy to nurse them even though they were almost as big as she was.

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At home we were trying to occupy our hands and distract our minds from the truth. The virus was spreading like an insidious weed across the country and booming in major cities. May was going to be more of the same quiet chaos. We continued to shelter-in-place and avoided going out for anything other than food, household necessities and tending to Niki’s horse, Glorie at the barn.

 

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The kittens were equal parts daring and skittish.

I suggested another new home improvement project I’d been wanting to tackle for a few years. Since we had plenty of time and nowhere to go it seemed like good timing. We replaced Niki’s old bathroom countertop with new, more contemporary style tile. Joe and I used our art glass skills to hand cut every tile and then puzzle-piece them together to make an attractive, clean looking design. I’m really pleased with the finished countertop and the way it gives Niki’s bathroom a more adult look.

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Like the kittens, we were equal parts daring and skittish about living life in the, new normal, an overused term I love to hate. Several times I wanted to surrender to my inner weakness and fear. I ached to throw a few paw punches, bite someone’s ear and then retreat under the covers. I considered chewing on my shoelaces, but feared they’d taste like you know, horse poop. In the end, I held it together with bailer twine, the endearing love of my family, the compassionate understanding of friends and vodka.

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Texting friends pictures of the kittens became a weekly treat I looked forward to.

On the bright side, when the kittens were one week old, I texted a kitten picture to three girlfriends who live in three different states. Texting them the kitten’s growth and hilarious antics became a weekly treat I looked forward to. My friends and I went from texting annually to reaching out to each other several times a week. We lead different lives, but we have a long history that goes back to high school. Over these past months, through texting, our friendship has grown stronger. We share our stories, our struggles, and our hopes for a bright future. We’re closer than ever before. These amazing ladies are tropical flowers on a volcanic slope. Their friendship is a real blessing and for that I’m thankful.

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May 12, 2020, 10 Weeks Old

Stars were born! As I sorted the hundreds of pictures I’d taken of the kittens, I noticed a trend. The grey striped kitten and black striped kittens were the stars of my photo shoots. Looking back that had been the case from the first photograph. While the other kittens were content to play among themselves these two wanted more excitement and human attention.

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This week the kittens took their shenanigans outside. They romped and played with each other in the yard outside the barn. The kittens were more agile than before, doing skilled acrobatic moves with slinky grace. They hid like mini mountain lions crouched in the bushes where they tracked every jerky move of passing chickens. I saw the maturing essentials of competent hunters in their twitching tails tips and their keen eyes.

It was fascinating to watch them explore new surroundings. I saw ordinary things in new ways. Trees became jungle gyms. Blades of grass were camouflage. There were still some clumsy moments when everything turned upside down, but the kittens were resilient as Jell-O and rebounded quickly.

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This week the kittens took their shenanigans outside.

Photographically, the new settings and vivid colors added a lot of interest to my compositions. The kittens were fast and moved unpredictably. I shot strings of pictures in sport mode hoping to get a few good pictures that were in focus. It was entertaining to watch their bouncy moves and see their expressive little faces while taking their playing so seriously. I managed to captured some exciting actions shots that were rich with fierce kitty character.

At home, we put on brave faces. We tried to build a new routine to help us feel better or at least be a little productive. Meanwhile, the bad news was relentless. More confirmed virus cases. More deaths. Our world had turned upside down.

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I walked every day to get out of the house and enjoy open spaces. I’m fortunate to live in a beautiful wooded area with lots of room to roam safely. I forced myself to entertain only pleasant thoughts on my walks. I focused on my body moving and the lush scenery around me. I listened to the birds and I felt the breeze brush  my face. I reminded myself daily how lucky I was that my family was healthy, and we were together.

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May 19, 2020, 11 Weeks Old

The curious kittens found new places to play in the yard and in the barn. They were flashes of fuzz darting around. A discarded roll of wire was a fun tunnel to roll around in. The tack room, with its clutter of gear made a great wrestling arena. One clueless kitten was brave enough to tug on a lead rope while a huge horse was attached. They were getting increasingly confident and boldly aware of the many entertaining nooks and props they could make their own.

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It was about this time that I questioned my motives and grip on reality. I wondered, why was I so enchanted with these kittens? I spent hours chasing them around the barn taking hundreds of blurry pictures of fur. I asked myself, what makes kittens unique and different from other cute baby animals? It took some time, but I figured it out. Kittens take on the world at full speed. They’re all in all the time. For kittens, there are no obstacles only actions. Despite their small size and inexperience they’re fearless. Their zest for life glows in their mischievous eyes. It’s that blind confidence coupled with reckless curiosity that make them fascinating. I’m now convinced, it’s that fiery vulnerability that inspired Mother Nature to bless cats with nine lives to give adults like me, the gift of childish amusement.

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Despite kittens small size and inexperience they’re fearless.

Like the naïve kitten leading the horse, we were overwhelmed be the enormity of the situation we found ourselves trapped in. We did our best to stay positive by exploring new nooks and props at home. Most importantly, we faced the unknown together and that’s what got us through. I also credit these comical kittens who live each day with enduring optimism mingled with good old brawling.

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May 26, 2020, 12 Weeks Old

Agility training had a whole new meaning this week. The kittens were attracted to a fence behind the barn. They practiced climbing, and falling. Finding balance was a tricky endeavor. Eventually, they mastered the narrow rail and enjoyed the elevated perspective.

Finding balance was difficult for me as well. It was apparent that we’d be living this dysfunctional way of life for a long time. There would be no casual visiting family or friends. Trips to the mall to shop for clothes were not possible. The joy I used to have eating in restaurants was gone. It was time to accept that things I’d previously took for granted were now nostalgic memories of life before. The future looked different. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have a clear picture of where I saw myself in six months or a year. What I did have was love, faith, hope, and occasionally good old brawling.

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Writing about the kittens has been uplifting for me.

Writing about the kittens has been uplifting for me. I procrastinated opening my mind and my heart to my feelings by being silent, by not writing. I was wrong to stay away from writing so long. The logical side of my brain knows the emotional side needed time to come around to where I am now. The inner workings of the soul are complex and fragile; it will not be rushed into action.

What I want you to know is this: I’ve felt less anxious and more at ease since I posted Kitten Quarantine Countdown Part 1. Writing about my fears has made them less debilitating. They no longer have a death-grip on my heart. This has improved my attitude and has had a positive influence on my life as well as my other creative interests like art, gardening, and cooking.

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You know what you need to clear the fog and get out of that dark prison you’re trapped in. Don’t wait any longer. I’m here to give you permission to do something that makes you happy. We need our strength of heart and mind for the long haul.

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Thank you for reading my blog. Sometimes, I feel like I’m throwing shavings in the wind and not making  a bit of difference. I means a lot to me that you are still here. You’re making a difference for me.

Take care,

Lisa

Don’t miss Kitten Quarantine Countdown Part 4 – Follow my Blog!

Week 13- The kittens have names! Meet KOOL-AID.

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Kitten Quarantine Countdown – Part 2

 

April 7, 2020, 5 Weeks Old

Things were getting exciting! The kitten’s different personalities were becoming more evident. It was fun to start identifying them by their color and individual behavior. They were full of energy rolling around and playing with each other. They bounced with ease and started calculating attacks on each other, ganging up on the poor sibling who was on the bottom of the pile. The crate was getting small for the wresting, but there were a lot of ways tiny kittens could get hurt or lost in a barn. The confinement was necessary for their safety.

They didn’t seem to mind as they had playmates. Simple things like shavings or a strand of hay were fascinating toys for the fifteen second attention span of a fur ball. Mama kitty was in the crate less often. She returned regularly for feedings and cuddle time. The kittens were still not thrilled about being held. After a few minutes, they’d squirm and howl as if they were being pinched when all they wanted was to go back to playing.

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The kittens were full of energy. They calculated attacks on each other ganging up on the poor sibling on the bottom of the pile.

At home we were fighting fatigue and the loss of purpose. I’d wake up feeling like my body was made of lead. It was hard to get out of bed. What was the point? Each day was a repeat of the day before. Days blurred together. Every morning I reminded myself what day of the week it was. We were waiting. Doing our part. Staying home to slow the spread of the virus and flatten the curve.

I had plenty of time. I kept thinking, I was squandering an opportunity to get bigger, more in-depth work done, but I couldn’t focus. I wasn’t inspired. I was a dry well. It was wrong to enjoy my work or feel happy. How could I when people were dying, and no one had answers. Solutions were vague as smoke. Without an end in sight, the weeks blended together.

Like the kittens, our confinement was for everyone’s safety. I coped with the loss of my freedom by focusing my energy on being a positive influence for my family. I made tasty new recipes for dinner. I stopped to watch movies in the middle of the day when asked. I organized home improvement projects to keep our hands busy and our minds occupied. We walked the dogs together, planted a vegetable garden and made a paddock in the backyard for my daughter’s horse, Glorie.

Feeling responsible for my families physical needs, emotional well being and mental health depleted my energy. There was nothing left for me. Admittedly, this was a self-appointed obligation. It’s a mom thing. I know a lot of moms were struggling with the same difficulty. I was constantly positive and calm on the outside. While on the inside, I was fearful and quietly dissolving. Finally, I came to terms with the fact that short term, nothing was going to improve. I had to live in the moment. I had to make my own happiness with what I had and who was available. Above all, I had to be grateful we were all healthy. Like the kittens, simple things and the company of my family helped me get through another week.

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April 14, 2020, 6 Weeks Old

I took a few priceless pictures that captured the pure essence of kittens and their perfected balance of innocence and badass.

Oh boy, I arrived at the barn and the kittens had the run of an entire horse stall. They looked small in the huge space, like adorable battery operated toy size kittens. Only these tiny models weren’t slow or limited by a wire leash. These live miniature pets were fast and feisty. They romped and played finding amusement rolling in shavings, batting strands of hay and pouncing on siblings. Fur balls tumbled around and wrestled with each other. When I entered the stall, they charged me, surrounded my feet, and chewed on my shoelaces. Their individual personalities were really beginning to shine. The two striped kittens were the most adventurous. They were the first to run over to me to interact and want attention. They were still a little clumsy, stumbling and rolling now and then as if the floor unexpectedly moved underneath them. A tumble or trip didn’t slow them down. What they lacked in agility they made up for in confidence and enthusiasm for being entertained.

I tried to capture the kitten’s eager little faces and amateur attempts at slinky feline moves with my camera. I’d back away from them to frame a picture, they’d charge me and swarm my feet again. It was a fun game. I walked away. They chased me. Every time I backed up to focus on an action shot, they’d charge me and bite my shoes again. Occasionally, they’d grab hold of my ankle with their tiny, needle sharp claws. I’d bend over to gently unhook them from my legs. They’d roll on their backs and peddle their stubby legs in the air. The invitation to pet their cottony soft tummies was irresistible. It was totally worth the scratches to see their happy kitten faces when I rubbed their bellies.

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My photo shoots became increasingly more difficult. The bulk of my pictures came out blurry because the kittens were in constant motion. The real fun came when I viewed the hundreds of pictures I’d taken. Most were out of focus and trash, but there were a few exceptional images that were dazzling. In essence, I’d captured the perfect balance of innocence and badass that’s perfected only by kittens.

 

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I tried to capture their eager little faces and amateur attempts at slinky feline moves with my camera.

At home we were trying to make the best of a bad situation by focusing our attention on home improvement projects we could do as a family. We designed and built a rustic wooden fence around my flower garden. It’s primary purpose was to keep the deer out so they wouldn’t eat my plants. Of course, I wanted something special with custom woven wood sides and so the project took two weeks to complete.

After the fence was done, we then added new flowering plants. My garden became a beautiful sanctuary for me. It was a quiet place I could go to center myself. Seeing the plants flourish and grow was promising. I loved that the lush foliage attracted all types of native wildlife. Lizards, frogs, birds, and fairies moved into the tranquil space. I enjoyed the peaceful harmony of being one with natural while watching the animals make their new homes.

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My flower garden became a beautiful sanctuary for me. It was a quiet place to center myself.

The state had been shut down for two weeks. We only went two places, the grocery store, and the barn. I felt anxious about going to the store. I hated the tension and not knowing exactly what to do or how to behave around other people while in the store. Do you reach near someone to get the avocados or do you lurk nearby and wait like a produce stalker? I had anxiety when we’d go anywhere other than the barn. The further we drove away from the house the more my insides fizzled like I’d had too much caffeine. As soon as we headed back in the direction of home my heart started to settle down.

I didn’t mention this to anyone as I feared it showed weakness and that I’m not as tough as I pretended to be. I wanted to be the rock, not the gravel in their shoes. I suspect my true feelings were obvious to everyone in my family. They played along without judgment or ridicule. They let me nurture them and in effect it strengthened me. That’s what families do. That’s what this family does.

Again, I said out loud on our weekly drive to Niki’s riding lesson, “I’m so happy we have the barn to go to.” I know what to expect there: friendly people, a productive lesson, fresh air, a bathroom to clean and of course, frisky kittens.

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April 21, 2020, 7 Weeks Old

Attack of the kittens! Yikes. The second I stepped into the stall with the kittens I was swarmed with tiny needle claw love. I had to quickly close the door behind me to prevent an escape. They piled on my feet and grabbed my ankles. The stall was littered with cat toys, but they were bored with the bell filled balls and stuffed mice. Instead, they were deliberately trying to instigate a fight with my shoelaces. I couldn’t get away fast enough to snap a picture.

The two striped kittens easily out-maneuvered my attempts at taking their pictures with speed and agility. When trying new angles I had to watch where I stepped as they darted underfoot in the blink of an eye. When wrestling among themselves their face punches and ear biting was more aggressive and punctuated with little growls and howls. At one point they all swarmed my feet and clawed my ankles. I was the new and interesting toy. I heard Joe and Niki laughing in the barn ally when they heard me yell from inside the stall. “Ow, ow, ow, ow. OW!” It was like being nipped by adorable piranhas. I shuffled my feet and stepped out of the stall quickly closing the door on charging kittens. I warned Joe and Niki, “No one should go in there alone!”

The kittens out-maneuvered my attempts at taking their pictures with speed and agility.

Who could blame them? The kittens were bigger, bolder, and impatient to leave the confines of the stall to seek new adventure in the outside world. Later, I went back in to play with them and take pictures. This time I had Niki for reinforcement and a feather tipped whip for a distraction. The kittens tumbled and played around the stall.

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The four walls of the stall looked the same, but the grey striped kitten knew where the door was. She sat there and begged me with pleading eyes to let her out. There were a lot of dark corners in the barn where a tiny kitten could hide or get lost. It broke my heart to disappoint the kitten, but I had no choice.

Like the kittens, we were equally eager to leave the confinement of our house for fun and adventure in the outside world. Our forced togetherness was getting old. Small comments that we would have laughed at before spurred spiteful retaliation. I worried about the long term effects of our new lifestyle. Introverts must be thrilled that there’s no obligation to make eye contact, shake hands or hug anyone. I missed contact with people. I was tired of our limited surroundings but going out frightened me in a paralyzing way. I suspect I’m wasn’t alone. We all have our own way of hiding our fears for the sake of pride or duty. I craved physical space and mind space to center myself, but there was nowhere to go. No escape.

I retreated outside to my garden and found moments of peace while watering flowers. My garden is a small, intimate space. In the past, I enjoyed looking at the landscaping as a whole. Now, I had the time to look deeper and study the details without distractions or demands. For a few glorious moments, I became one with the space. Like the growing kittens, I was a naïve child of curiosity. I plucked dry blooms off cascading petunias. I was warmed by the setting sun as it lit flower petals on fire. I saw encouraging signs of a budding ecosystem. Lizards used the new fence rails as a superhighway to quickly run from one end of the garden to the other. Frogs took up residence in my fancy bird houses. Songbirds dropped in for a drink from my glass birdbath. My body relaxed. My mind was at ease. Joy was possible if I granted myself time to find it and feel it.

Joy was possible if I granted myself time to find it and feel it.

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April 18, 2020, 8 Weeks Old

Freedom! The kittens were big enough to leave the horse stall for supervised play time. I opened the stall door on sleeping kittens. They perked up, yawned, and stretched the full length of their leggy bodies. The grey striped kitten was the first one to get up. It looked out the open door into the big world with wonder. It stepped cautiously out into the barn ally. The black striped kitten and a black kitten soon followed. The barn was a wonderful playground with fascinating new things to entertain curious little kittens. On this day, nosing a lead rope and batting a leather halter was entertainment enough. The kittens stayed close to their stall. They darted back in if startled by a big noise or quick movement as are common in an active horse barn. It was fun to watch them play with ordinary objects like they were fancy toys.

Their personalities were becoming more obvious. The grey striped kitten was always the first to approach me and play by untying my shoelaces. At one point, it curled up on my shoe and fell asleep. It didn’t like being held though. After a minute of mildly tolerating my cuddles the claws came out and I quickly, but gently returned the kitten to the floor. It was too busy to bother with me for long. It had shadows to chase and hiding places to find. It was at that time that one of the black kittens started coming over to me and asking for attention. It liked to be held. I know because it was as relaxed as a rag doll in my arms. While I stroked it’s soft fur it looked at me with bright happiness in its eyes and purred contently against my chest.

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Photographically, three things changed that week. First, the natural lighting in several places in the barn, outside the horse stall, was spectacular and lent itself to stunning pictures. Lighting is crucial to capturing an emotive image. Artistically, this was really exciting.

Second, the kittens were fast. It was hard to focus on moving targets darting in and out of shadows. I had to change my camera setting from portrait mode to sport mode. Portrait mode gave me crisp focus on the subject with a soft, dreamy background. It’s great for stationary subjects and still life photography, but not rowdy kittens. In sport mode I took pictures in rapid-fire succession to capture the live action as it happened. A huge advantage to this setting was capturing unexpected, spontaneous poses that showed movement and personality.

And thirdly, the addition of props and unique settings added a lot of interest to my photos. In some cases, it helped with scale by showing how small the kittens were. In other instances, it added welcome splashes of color. Photographing the kittens went from passive point-and-shoot to an athletic event. I welcomed the challenge. It was a real accomplishment and thrill to get one or two exceptional shots. At times, I felt like I was on safari documenting the secret behaviors of wild animals. Heaven knows I stepped in, and even sat on enough horse poop to be considered a pro. Really impressive pictures come at a, sometimes stinky price.

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Photographing the kittens went from passive point-and-shoot to an athletic event.

Like the kittens, we were looking at our new world with uncertainty. In the beginning of our sheltering-in-place the days blurred together. Now the weeks blurred together. We looked forward to the end of the month. It had been suggested that things would be different then, hopefully better, but no official report committed to anything.

We were stuck in a perpetual wait and see holding pattern. It was a continuous loop of bad reruns. More confirmed virus cases. More deaths. No answers. No accountability. That’s when it became clear that the nightmare that consumed April was going to destroy May and likely June. Numbness settled inside me. Call it acceptance, call it cowardice, call it survival, or call it defeat. Yes, it was all these things.

There was a glimmer of light. Life wasn’t all bad. The slower pace meant more meaningful family time. We tried new foods and new recipes. I bought my first mango and made mango salsa for a side dish to roasted sea scallops. YUMMY! Let me tell you the mango seed, or pit or whatever it’s called is messed up. You never really see it to know what you’re up against. And the sweet meat of the mango is as slippery as minnows in a bucket. It’s a culinary win to dice one without shooting slick pieces onto the floor.

What have you done for yourself today? Take a few minutes to do something special to improve your outlook and well being. Look at the positive impact tiny kittens are having on me, and now hopefully you.

Wishing you good health and happiness,

Lisa

Thank you, Kiper Farms, for a safe and friendly place to go with horses and kittens.  

Don’t miss Kitten Quarantine Countdown Part 3 – Follow my Blog!

Week 9- The kittens were big enough to roam the barn freely. Everything was a fascinating new toy.

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Kitten Quarantine Countdown – Part 1

For me, writing is like dancing in the rain. It’s blissful time spent spinning my random thoughts into fantastic stories. Creative writing is the carrot I dangle in front of myself. It’s my reward for completing mundane tasks like laundry or updating my mailing list. I haven’t felt like writing anything other than art tutorials in months. I’ve been in an uninspired slump due to my fears about the pandemic and all that it has changed. I was truly surprised that my ability, or in this case inability to write colorful stories that unveil new and artistic perspectives, hinged on my inner happiness and emotional health.

Kittens gave me my voice back.

Tiny kittens gave me a reason to write and reflect on our evolving situation. I first began taking the kittens’ pictures to have something positive to share with family and friends. I wanted to make them smile because seeing the kittens and momma kitty taking care of them made me smile. To date, I’ve taken hundreds of pictures of them every week for 18 weeks. After a few weeks, I recognized parallels between the kittens’ growth and my struggles to grasp what was happening to us. Despite world crisis they were tiny reminders that new life and hope are possible. Each week I recorded their growth with my camera. I witnessed their steady transition from helpless dependents, to adventurous thrill seekers, to lazy adolescents.

The kittens, and the enormous number of pictures I collected inspired me to write. Wouldn’t you know, once I started writing, the words flowed like water from a faucet. What I thought would be a short account has become a complex winding journey of discovery, revelation, and hope. And so, I offer you my story in parts. Please enjoy my Kitten Quarantine Countdown – Part 1.

Taking kitten pictures turned into a physical calendar of sorts. It was a way to track the passing weeks with hope.

Before I go on you should know mama kitty, Sissy Cat and her kittens are well taken care of. The barn owner is keeping them all. She has four young children who love the kittens and give them lots of attention. Horse owners who board their horses at the barn hold them when the kittens are in the mood to cuddle. Mama kitty and all her kittens were spayed or neutered when the kittens were old enough.

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March 16, 2020, 1 Week Old

On March 9, 2020 six tiny fur balls were born in the soft shavings of a horse stall at the barn where we board my daughter, Niki’s horse. The adorable kittens stole my heart on sight. It was their one week birthday when we met. They’d been moved to the safety of the tack room and were snuggled tight in a feed bucket. I took pictures of the squirming pile of fur as they kneaded and pawed for position on momma kitty’s belly. Sissy Cat was a proud and devoted mother from the beginning. She tirelessly fed and cleaned her babies. When visitors stopped by to admire her new family, she’d take a break and circle your legs for attention.

At one week old, the newborn kittens’ ears and eyes were closed. Their physical immaturity and defenselessness against outside threats in a new world echoed my own unpreparedness. Like the kittens, I didn’t want to hear or see the bad news-the certain reality that COVID-19 was spreading across the US at an alarming rate. Like the kittens, we isolated ourselves and found consolation with the comfort of family.

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March 22, 2020, 2 Weeks Old

Sad news. There were only five kittens this week. One was weak. Despite efforts to nurse it back to health the kitten died. Thankfully, the remaining kittens were growing strong. They were more active, but contained by the steep walls of the feed bucket. Still blind and deaf, they struggled to get a grip on the slippery rubber feed bucket. They blindly swam around the bottom of the bucket on their bellies going by smell and feel until they found the security of their mom and siblings.

I reminded myself every day to be grateful that my family was together. We were safe and healthy.

Likewise, we were fumbling around trying to grasp the unfathomable. We were blindsided by the unfolding news about the devastating significance of the pandemic’s long term effect on life as we knew it. We stress-ate comfort foods, having meals of French fries and ice cream, while lettuce wilted in the crisper drawer. We slept longer, waking bone tired from the sustained duress of uncertainty and conflicting news reports. I tried to stay positive and reminded myself every day to be grateful that my family was together. We were safe and healthy.

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March 30, 2020, 3 Weeks Old

The kittens had a home upgrade from the small feed bucket to a spacious crate. Their eyes and ears had opened. They were curious observers now. They explored the corners of the crate walking sideways on wobbly little legs, as if they were on a listing boat. Mama kitty was happy to have human company in the tack room. She was tired of the constant care of five in a confined space. Whenever I entered the tack room she circled my feet and rubbed against my legs asking for attention. She loved being scratched under her chin. When I’d pet her back, I’d be rewarded with sleepy eyes and her soft purring. Meanwhile, the kittens were piled up in the corner of the crate watching and learning how momma skillfully worked the simple human.

In the future, when I look back on that pivotal time, I hope I see myself as a role model to my kids that I’m proud of.

The death toll from the virus was rising at a frightening rate and it showed no signs of slowing. I was staggering on uneven ground gathering as much information as possible to keep my family informed, safe and healthy. I was happy to have momma kitty’s attention. Like her, I was fatigued by the constant care of my family in a confined space. At home, we were all being considerate of each other to a fault. Saying please and thank-you for every small gesture of service. Was our compassion for each other real or an illusion? It’s possible I manifested it to cope with the growing reality that people were dying. Just like that, life as we knew it changed in an irreversible way. In the future, when I look back on that pivotal time, I hope I see myself as a role model to my kids that I’m proud of. I hope I was an unselfish, nurturing, teacher, equal to momma kitty with her kittens.

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April 1, 2020, 4 Weeks Old

Eating and sleeping were still the kittens primary activities. Between snacks and naps they wandered around the inside of the crate investigating the corners. They walked a little steadier, with more purpose this week. Their eyes were bright and curious. They mildly liked being held, tolerating cuddling and cooing for a few minutes, then they’d squirm to be released. They were starting to play with each other, chewing each other’s ears and batting swishing tails. When momma kitty was inside the crate the kittens hungrily climbed all over her, she had no room to get away or space for herself. Whenever we were in the tack room, momma pleaded with her eyes to be let out for a few minutes. She’d circle my feet and rub herself against my legs purring for attention. She was cotton soft and warm in my hands.

April Fool’s Day was canceled. Jokes and clever tricks held no humor or amusement. No one was in the mood to laugh when the Governor announced the state was closing. I work from home and love my living and working space. I didn’t mind having to stay home. I did mind not having the option to go out, or to shop, or to feel comfortable in a store around strangers who no longer make eye contact or smile.

I didn’t mind having to stay home. I did mind not having the option to go out.

We were told to stay home, shelter-in-place. Only go out to buy essential items. This brought up the question, what’s essential? Food, of course. Toilet paper, yes. Hand soap, hard yes. Clothes, maybe. If we’re not going out, I could wear old T-shirts and baggy shorts. Plants? Flowers? Gardening supplies? For me that was a definite, yes. So why did I feel a pang of guilt when I bought those things?

At Home Depot I worried the shopping cart police would pull me over and confiscate my purple petunias. At the checkout I felt judged by the young cashier. I felt bad that she had to work in public while I had the luxury of working in the comfort of my home office and private art studio. She obviously needed the job. No one would work under those conditions, wearing a hot face mask and sweaty gloves in the garden center in 90-degree weather if they didn’t need the income. Then I thought, my purchase was keeping the store in business. In a small way I was helping her.

How did this relate to the kittens? I became pinpoint focused on my family’s most primary needs: food, shelter, and safety. We gathered together and supported each other with kindness and love, and a little ear biting, when necessary. For the most part, I’m proud of how my family was handling the stress and forced togetherness. It wasn’t always easy. Tempers flared, mostly sparked by fear and emotional exhaustion. The looming threat of the virus was exhausting. It’s a ghost in the darkness. You know it’s out there, haunting you; it’s just a matter of time before it jumps out and grabs you.

Horses are to Niki what flowers are for me. Essential. Therapy. Necessary.

Another question came up. Should we continue to go to the barn for my daughter, Niki’s weekly riding lessons? Horses are to Niki what flowers are for me. Essential. Therapy. Necessary for a happy, healthy outlook on life and the future. Heaven knows we needed all the positive energy we could find at that time.

It really wasn’t a question at all. Niki adores her horse, Glorie. If Niki had a choice, she’d live with Glorie instead of me. One day soon, she will. Niki supplies feed and maintains Glorie’s routine care. Of course, we’d continue going to the barn. We’d maintain safe distances, wash our hands, and socialize outside six feet apart.

Being the devoted barn mom I am, the minute we arrive I clean the barn bathroom as well as all the doorknobs and light switches with disinfectant. Just so you know, I did that before the pandemic. Barn bathrooms are the worst! No offense to any barn owners, but barn bathrooms should be painted the color of dirt. Oh, and don’t get me started on the spiders. Warning don’t look up in the corners.

As the weeks turned into months there were many times that I was extremely thankful to have the barn to go to. The only other place we went was the grocery store and there was nothing pleasant about grocery shopping anymore. Prices were high, shelves were bare, the tension between people hangs in air like stale cigarette smoke, and I can’t hear a thing anyone behind a mask is saying.

The barn was a relaxing destination. The drive was nice, just long enough to feel like we went somewhere, and it got us out of the house. It was our weekly routine. We’d get breakfast on the way, then I’d watch Niki’s lesson, then I’d do a photo shoot with the kittens while Niki groomed Glorie. The barn property has huge beautiful old oak trees that cast giant pools of shade. The scenery is picturesque. Horses and ponies graze in green fields. Chickens run around like they have somewhere to go. The barn is a lovely, peaceful, quiet place to enjoy being outdoors. And of course it has adorable kittens. No flowers yet, but I’ll work on that.

Special thanks to Kiper Farms for giving us a safe and friendly place to go when we needed space to breath.

Take a few minutes to do something special for yourself. Small distractions really do improve your outlook and well being. Look at the positive impact tiny kittens had on me, and now hopefully you.

What are you doing to find balance?  

Wishing you good health and happiness,

Lisa

Don’t miss Part 2 – Follow my Blog!

Week 6- I took a few priceless pictures that captured the pure essence of kittens and their perfected balance of innocence and badass.

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Scaly Alligators, Pink Spoonbills and Theatrical Turtles, Oh Yeah!

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Amazing, beautiful wonders waited for me around every turn. We glided upriver with the ease of sharp skates on ice, paddling just enough to keep our canoe’s forward momentum steady. It only took a few minutes on the river to forget unfinished chores, dinner plans and upcoming jobs. As the thumping road noise from the highway faded away behind us, so did my routine cares and concerns. At first there wasn’t much to see. In the middle, where passage was easy, the river was deep and dark. The brewed tea color water hid any aquatic life that might be lurking beneath our canoe. Wildlife that might have been along the riverbank, was hidden in the murky shallows, or guarded from view behind tightly clustered congregations of cypress knees.

Right in my own back yard, a short drive from my home, is a small minimally appointed park. It’s a secluded treasure brimming with a wealth of exotic wildlife and lush, tropical landscapes. You won’t believe the incredible number of mysterious creatures that thrive just fifteen minutes away from downtown Tampa.

I missed the entire thirty minute drive from home to the park because I was nose deep in my cell phone. I was checking important emails and staying up-to-date with social media. When the truck bounced off the pavement onto the gravel road, I looked up. The dirt road was uninspiring. One side was fringed with spotty patches of thin grass and the other side was fenced with a dense stand of sand pines. There was a lot of green and the angular spikes of random palmettos, but nothing of interest to capture my artistic eye.

When you pull into the Trout Creek parking lot, you’re struck by the starkness of the park. At first glance there’s nothing to do. There’s not a playground, or picturesque view in sight. This park, like many in Florida, requires deeper investigation to see their true and unique beauty.

The facilities aren’t fancy, but the amenities are not why people flock there. Nature lovers visit the park seeking peace, quiet and a glimpse of wildlife in its native habitat. Fitness junkies frequent the park looking for freedom from conformity and demanding screens. They visit to get a workout that includes real navigation, rhythm, timing and cooperation with the elements. Families and senior citizens visit the park for the spiritual lift that comes from fresh air, wide open spaces and the free flowing river.

We slid our canoe into the river at the park’s small boat launch. I stepped into the water alongside the boat and was surprised by the cold water temperature. Floridian’s always expect the water to be warm even in winter. Tiny brown minnows darted along the shore around my bare feet. We sat down in our canoe and began our journey upstream.

To the inexperienced visitor the river appears muddy and lifeless. Once you pocket distractions and really look around, you’re transported to a whole new world. If you scan the open water and study the banks, you’ll find plenty of camouflaged inhabitants.

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Once we were on the move, I trained my eyes to look for irregular shapes, like the saw-tooth ridge of an alligator’s back and subtle movement, like the splash of a turtle sliding off a mossy log. The wildlife that call the river home are masters of disguise. Blending in and stealthy maneuvers are key to their survival in this unforgiving wetland. It’s that harsh reality that makes seeing so many different species thriving in their natural habitat such a thrill.

 

Prehistoric looking alligators are in abundance on this stretch of the Hillsborough River, but that didn’t stop me from gasping every time I saw one. On one visit upstream we stopped counting after spotting 30 gators. I found this to be equally exciting and unnerving. In the back of my mind, I know how easily these agile reptiles blend into the murky water and cluttered riverbank. Meaning that while we were spotting them, there were a lot more than 30 alligators watching us. It’s likely, more than double that number eluded our searching eyes.

When I see an alligator my heart jumps and my mind races to conclusions. If they’re sunning themselves on the bank, I’m glad they’re not in the water and can’t approach our small canoe. The disconcerting part is, I can see just how big they are. I worry about the strength of their powerful legs and thick tail. Even though they appear to be docile and bored, I know in reality they’re fast and on high alert.

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When I see an alligator floating in the water, they’re less intimidating at first. You can only see the top of their head and bulging black eyes. Then there’s a gap filled with water followed by the zigzag ridge of their tail behind. Like an iceberg, the bulk of their body is submerged below the dark water line. And so, we guess how big they are based on the size of the head and it’s distance from the tail. I humor myself and guess they’re smaller than they might actually be. While my hubby, Joe is the opposite. He guesses they’re much larger in size which does nothing to improve my comfort level.

The floating alligators present a different kind of angst. They’re not shy. They don’t turn away. They’re not deterred by our presence. In fact, they lock their round black eyes on us in a way that says, I rule here. This is my home. I have the advantage of speed, strength and agility so don’t mess with me.

Whether they’re sunning on land or drifting in the water, these magnificent prehistoric decedents demand respect, and I’m happy to oblige. I’ve seen enough TV shows about these large reptiles to know we should be extremely cautious in their company. Their imposing and majestic presence makes seeing these creatures in their natural environment, in such healthy numbers, so thrilling and artistically inspiring.

A few minutes paddle upstream, the river doubled in size. Ancient cypress trees towered over the banks and accentuated the gradual curves of the dark water and the blue sky overhead. Spanish moss hung from the outstretched limbs linking the trees like a silver chain.

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At the first sign of movement in the sky, I’d abandon my paddle and reach for my camera. We rounded a bend and I caught a glimpse of something in the distance flying in our direction. I thought the sun was playing tricks on my eyes. As the bird flew toward us, I couldn’t believe it was pink.

A sign back at the park entrance indicated this was a birding site. But I expected the ordinary herons, kingfishers and egrets that inhabit Florida’s waterways. I didn’t anticipate seeing a roseate spoonbill in the wild especially here, so close to major city like Tampa. I thought it was a fluke. Perhaps the bird was a clever escapee from the zoo.

I raised my camera, zoomed in and took a rapid-fire string of pictures using sport mode. I wanted to capture the exhilaration that charged through me in that first moment of surprise and wonder. I managed to take a few shots before the bird glided out of range. It was a magical, unbelievable experience, like something out of a fairy tale. It was the equivalent of seeing a unicorn.

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To my delight, it wasn’t an isolated sighting. There were more roseate spoonbills upriver. We spotted groups of three and four pink spoonbills gathered in the trees. Then later, as we floated back to the boat launch, we had the pleasure of casually watching an unhurried group feed in the shallow water along the riverbank.

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It was such a treat to watch those birds. In the time we spent idly floating there, I saw beyond the absurdity of their pastel color. I grew to admire the beauty of their unique physical characteristics. Sitting there I gained a greater appreciation for what it takes for them to survive in such a demanding environment. The roseate spoonbills were beautiful and graceful in their own awkward, oddly designed way.

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Turtles, also known as river cooter, are another fascinating resident of Florida’s tributaries. I watch for bubbles in the open water in anticipation of a turtle’s head breaking the surface. Once in view, they float without direction for a few minutes. Then, as if called to action by a secret assignment, they submerge and disappear back into the brown water. They leave only a ring of ripples behind as evidence they were ever there.

A quiet patient crew can paddle up on these slippery conspirators sunning themselves on fallen trees. Turtles gather on logs that stretch out of the river along its banks. It’s fun to move in close and see how they balance precariously on their bonny underside with their head, legs and tail stretched out to the limit. They look staged like a display at a museum. I find their poses silly and amusing. I love capturing pictures of them with my camera from all their ridiculous angles. As entertaining as it may be, their rigid posture is actually key to the survival of these cold blooded reptiles. Their outstretched extremities act like solar panels; they absorb heat and energy from the sun.

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Vultures give me the creeps. They’re the grim reapers of the animal kingdom, summoned to dispose of bodies after death has collected the souls. Seeing their daunting huddled forms congregating, usually means the passing of an unfortunate creature. Given the chance, I turn away from the flock to avoid seeing the messy details of their cleanup. But here, along a specific stretch of the Hillsborough River, their presence is more fascinating than fearsome. Upriver around a particular corner, turkey vultures gather in mass. They fill the treetops like giant black angles. They soar in grand, synchronized circles overhead. They flap their wings and hop around in a cooperative group along the sandy shoreline. You’d think, like I did the first time I saw them, there must be a huge feast hidden in the woods for so many birds to be together in one place, at one time. Or you might have thought, this unexpected gathering of efficient carnivores must’ve been a random event. We canoed this river for the first time more than 30 years ago, and we’ve glided down its dark, life-giving waters several times since. The turkey vultures have consistently been in that same location in large numbers every time.

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Our presence didn’t appear to alter their behavior. We were irrelevant passers-by not worthy of their attention. The massive birds followed their natural habits as if we didn’t exist. They’d drop to the ground one-by-one and then fly away with an unannounced rhythm that kept the mysterious balance of power in harmony.

Every ecosystem has its unique apex predators, its exotic beauties, its theatrical posers and its shadowy dwellers. However, this river is home to so many more animals than the ones we saw on our afternoon visit. Deer, otters, turkeys, wild boar, squirrels, all kinds of insects and snakes live in the surrounding woods. At the same time, a surprising number of fish species and other water born creatures live in the river itself. Plus, there’s a stunningly beautiful variety of tropical plants that support and protect the healthy ecology.

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The real attraction of this local treasure is the more you look the more you see. It never gets boring. With each visit I’ve experienced a growing and increasingly intimate connection with the river, the land and the wildlife. I’m thankful to have access to this rare, undeveloped slice of heaven, where I can enjoy the natural beauty and wonder of nature.

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It’s a real thrill to share my incredible journey of discovery with you through my pictures. I hope you enjoyed seeing this wildlife up close, with new and different perspectives that reveal their true splendor.

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Do you have a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered in your area?
Check out your local parks to see what you can find. Maybe you’ll see a unicorn too. They do exist.

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About my images.
My first rosette spoonbill sighting on the Hillsborough River reminded me how much I loved taking high-quality pictures of nature and wildlife when I was younger. That single event inspired me to take up photography again. I took over 800 pictures on the trip described here. It wasn’t enough. It never is. But I do feel I captured some really good, rare and unique compositions of several fascinating animals and tropical plant life.

My camera is a Nikon D3500. I use a telephoto, 70-300mm lens to get close pictures of subjects that are far away. For fast moving subjects like birds, I use sport-mode to capture their fluid moves in sequence. Some of the really vibrant images, like the ones of the river cooter and the lily pads, are taken with an effect that accentuates natural color making it more vivid. All of my spoonbill images are raw, without any touch up or effect. The bubblegum pink color you see is all their own.

I mention this because I’m having so much fun that I can’t contain myself. You can take equally as exciting pictures too. It’s not necessary to have a fancy camera. All you need is an adventurous spirit and a curious eye. Just get out there, shoot and have fun!

Trout Creek Park, Hillsborough County, Florida
For information visit here:
https://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation/trout-creek-park

Fun facts about alligators courtesy of this website.
https://defenders.org/wildlife/american-crocodile-and-alligator

An estimated 5 million American alligators are spread out across the southeastern United States. Roughly 1.25 million alligators live in the state of Florida. There are more than 1,000 American crocodiles, not including hatchlings, in Florida.

More fun facts about alligators courtesy of this website.
https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/alligator/facts/

The most recent evidence indicates that crocodilians (which includes alligators) and dinosaurs evolved from a common ancestor that existed subsequent to the common ancestor that they share with other reptiles. So, even though alligators are classified as reptiles along with lizards, snakes, and turtles, they are actually more closely related to birds, whose direct ancestors were dinosaurs!

Alligators are opportunistic feeders. Their diets include prey species that are abundant and easily accessible. Juvenile alligators eat primarily insects, amphibians, small fish, and other invertebrates. Adult alligators eat fish, snakes, turtles, small mammals, and birds.

Fun facts about the roseate spoonbill courtesy of this website.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roseate_spoonbill

Like the American flamingo, the roseate spoonbill’s pink color is diet-derived, consisting of the carotenoid pigment canthaxanthin. The colors can range from pale pink to bright magenta, depending on age, whether breeding or not, and location. Unlike herons, spoonbills fly with their necks outstretched. They alternate groups of stiff, shallow wingbeats with glides.

Roseate spoonbills feed in shallow fresh or coastal waters by swinging its bill from side to side as it steadily walks through the water, often in groups. The spoon-shaped bill allows it to sift easily through mud. It feeds on crustaceans, aquatic insects, frogs, newts and very small fish ignored by larger waders.

Fun facts about the river cooter (silly turtles) courtesy of this website. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_cooter

The river cooter basks on logs or sun-warmed rocks and is frequently found in the company of other aquatic basking turtles (sliders and painteds) sometimes piled up on top of each other.

The species P. concinna is highly omnivorous and will eat anything, plant or animal, dead or alive. Diet seems to be determined by available food items. While some writers feel that this species of turtle will not eat meat, predatory behavior has been observed. Although it can’t swallow out of water, it will leave the water to retrieve a tasty bug or worm, returning to the water to swallow.

If you’re dying to know fun facts about turkey vultures visit here.
https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/birds/raptors-and-vultures/vultures/

 

Thanks for joining me.

Follow my blog for more fun, photographic trips.
Lisa

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Voodoo Queen and Artist’s Dream

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Magic and mystery mingled together in this fascinating city. Treasures and untold secrets were free to discover for the curious explorer.

What inescapable force pulled me down that special side street, I may never know. Perhaps, it was the work of the Voodoo Queen, who’s tomb I’d visited the day before.

It was invisible from the street corner. I was unaware that a delightful surprise was hidden behind store front windows cluttered with ornaments, strings of beads and sequined masks. I came upon the playfully crowded lot by accident. I absentmindedly walked down the street looking for more of the unique compositions, rich textures and interesting subjects I’d come to expect from exploring the city. A gap opened up between two stores, and there it was. A literal wonderland for tourists with a keen eye for unusual finds.

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To the more practical minded person it was a tragic waste of prime real estate. A vacant lot littered with tacky junk that ought to be hauled away. The cluttered array of mismatched merchandise was likely seen as an insult to the majestic beauty and long, rich history of the surrounding area. But to me, a photographer with a new camera and unlimited storage, it was paradise.

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I entered slowly, savoring layer upon layer of adornments piled high around the perimeter of the lot. Street noise faded away. The only sound was the crunch of gravel under my sandals. I expected to be harassed by a salesperson or a resident begging for privacy, but I was left gloriously alone.

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Mirrors with weathered frames scattered here and there reflected bits and pieces of unfinished stories wishing to be told. Discarded doors mounted to the block walls whispered promises of secret passageways to magical realms. I imagined exciting new worlds were waiting to be explored behind each splintered doorway. Antique signs scattered throughout the assemblage screamed for attention. Their messages still urgent even though rust and age scared their faces.

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I wandered around visually striping away the initial chaos digging deeper into the clutter, looking for buried treasures. I tried to make sense of the madness, to understand the designer’s master-plan hidden in plain sight. Because despite the superficial disorder, I knew down to my core, there was a master-plan.

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With every step I became more enchanted by the depth of care, the attention to detail, invested in the meticulous arrangement of such an odd and unusual collection of useless junk. The longer I looked the more purposeful and focused the arrangements became. With every step I fell deeper under the enchanted spell of playful vignettes.

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Time slowed. I was lost in a fantasy-land where dinosaurs and flamingos paired up to drive a snow sled. A peculiar place where a ghostly man impatiently waited, imprisoned in a screen door with an ax in hand. I wondered, what held his cynical stare? What was he going to do with the ax? Chop wood? Behead a chicken? Maybe confront his daughter’s boyfriend when she tried to sneak back in after curfew. Marvelous stories unfolded in my head.

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I took dozens of pictures trying to capture the whimsical essence of the thoughtful scenes displayed so carefully in the secluded lot. Framing particular compositions revealed an artful mischievousness that had previously gone unnoticed. Was it intentional on the part of the designer to amuse visitors with such outrageous poses? Or, had the dinosaurs magically moved around on their own for the pleasure of their own entertainment. In a city where people seek the advice of a Voodoo Queen, believe in ghost stories and celebrate haunted houses, surely anything was possible.

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Roaming the ornate lot, I was strangely energized. It was different from the pounding rush of the Mississippi I experienced while walking along the riverfront. It was unlike the sweet and spicy flavors I tasted in the air while strolling through the French Market. It was nothing like the jubilant flash of horns and the rumble of drums that spilled out of bars onto Bourbon Street. There, in the quiet company of whimsical creatures, rusting signs and cast-away doors I felt the flirty buoyancy of inspiration.

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The elaborately staged lot was a peculiar place that didn’t belong in the middle of a typical city with building lined streets. It was the kind of quirky gem you’d expect to come across in the low-rent district of a decaying suburb. But of course, I should have known, New Orleans was no typical city. This small treasure was just another jewel in the regal crown of a city built on wide ranging influences. This city had a long history of strong traditions infused by different beliefs. The robust blend brewed a hybrid culture and lively ecosystem of acceptance for different ways of life. It was a city where you felt comfortable being yourself in all your splendid, colorful, weird glory. This was my first visit, but thanks to New Orleans’ impassioned vibe for the eccentric, I was right at home.

 

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I entered the cluttered lot to take pictures, but I left with so much more than captivating images. I came away with revitalized inspiration for creating art that challenges my current state of contentment. That dusty lot full of started stories stirred my mind and spoke to my soul. It revealed new pathways and opened previously closed doors that sparked new creative ideas and directions.

I found myself wondering what inescapable force lead me down that special side street and lured me to the magical lot. Was it the work of the Voodoo Queen granting my wish for inspiration? What made a seemingly ordinary event extraordinary, impressionable and so memorable? I believe it was a gift. A mind-expanding experience to take me to new artistic revelations. I was ready for fresh inspiration and it came. It was that simple. I had to let go and allow myself to be moved.

We’re all presented with spectacular possibilities and choices all the time. Will you follow the safe old path at the risk of missing a life shifting thrill? Or will you venture down the path less traveled in search of wild adventures?

Me? I’m looking for more opportunities to go exploring. In New Orleans I discovered excitement lingers in everyday places, thanks to the legend of a Voodoo Queen who revived this artist’s dream.

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Some details I thought were fascinating about New Orleans. 

Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Marie Laveau was a black priestess of astounding beauty. According to legend Laveau wielded tremendous power in her community and rumors of her magical abilities were so persistent that visitors still visit her grave to leave tokens in exchange for small requests.

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Voodoo is as big a part of New Orleans’ history, although it is vastly different from the pop-culture perception. While zombies and dolls do make up part of voodoo beliefs, in reality, voodoo is a combination of West African religions brought over by slaves, the Christianity they adopted, and traditions of indigenous people blended together.

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Laveau’s powers reportedly included healing the sick, extending altruistic gifts to the poor, and overseeing spiritual rites. Marie Laveau was a devoted Catholic all her life, and to her voodoo was not incompatible with her Catholic faith.

“Voodoo Queen of New Orleans,” Marie Laveau, born 1801, New Orleans, Louisiana died June 15, 1881, New Orleans.

Details about Marie Laveau were compiled from this website. Marie Laveau

 

 

 

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St. Louis Cemetery #1 is New Orleans’ oldest grave site. Established by Spanish royal decree on August 14th, 1789, St. Louis Cemetery #1 remains the oldest cemetery that locals and tourists alike can visit.

It’s also considered one of the most haunted cemeteries in all of the United States. In the span of just one block, this burial ground holds over 700 tombs and over 100,000 of the dead–and counting, as it is still an active grave site. Is it any surprise that it is rumored to be very haunted? For over 200 years, there have been reports of people having run-ins with the ghosts which call St. Louis Cemetery #1 home.

 

The most famous ghost which is seen within St. Louis Cemetery #1 is that of  Marie Laveau.

Get more ghost stories here.

https://ghostcitytours.com/new-orleans/haunted-places/haunted-cemeteries/st-louis-cemetery/

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New Orleans is the birthplace of Jazz. New Orleans was the only place in the New World where slaves were allowed to own drums. Voodoo rituals were openly tolerated, and well attended by the rich as well as the poor, by blacks and whites, by the influential and the anonymous. It was in New Orleans that the bright flash of European horns ran into the dark rumble of African drums; it was like lightning meeting thunder.

https://www.neworleansonline.com/neworleans/music/musichistory/jazzbirthplace.html/

Jazz developed in the United States in the very early part of the 20th century. New Orleans, near the mouth of the Mississippi River, played a key role in this development. The city’s population was more diverse than anywhere else in the South, and people of African, French, Caribbean, Italian, German, Mexican, and American Indian, as well as English, descent interacted with one another. African-American musical traditions mixed with others and gradually jazz emerged from a blend of ragtime, marches, blues, and other kinds of music. At first jazz was mostly for dancing. (In later years, people would sit and listen to it.) Jazz spread from the United States to many parts of the world, and today jazz musicians–and jazz festivals–can be found in dozens of nations. Jazz is one of the United States’ greatest exports to the world.

https://americanhistory.si.edu/smithsonian-jazz/education/what-jazz

New Orleans is the city of Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima, Pete Fountain, Harry Connick, Jr. and the Marsalis family.

Read more about the jazz scene here. https://www.neworleans.com/things-to-do/music/history-and-traditions/

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Photo Credit http://mikestravelguide.com/things-to-do-in-new-orleans-visit-saint-louis-cathedral/

The St. Louis Cathedral is one of New Orleans’ most notable landmarks. Few cities in the world are so identified by a building as is New Orleans. The city is instantly recognized by its cathedral and its position overlooking Jackson Square.

The Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France is the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States.

The Saint Louis Cathedral is the oldest Cathedral in North America, founded as a Catholic Parish in 1720 along the Banks of the Mississippi River in New Orleans.

For more on the Cathedral visit here. https://www.stlouiscathedral.org/

For visitor info about New Orleans visit here. https://www.neworleans.com/

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About the photos. These photos were taken at Second Line Arts & Antiques, 1209 Decatur St., New Orleans, LA 70116. Second Line Arts and Antiques prides themselves on having something for everyone! Find a variety of European furniture and antiques perfect for you and your home!

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SecondLineArtsandAntiques/

For more info visit Second Line Arts Website http://codebymatt.biz/secondlinenola/

New Orleans Second Line Arts Listing Website https://www.neworleans.com/listing/secondline-arts-%26-antiques/32439/

I hope you enjoyed this stretch of imagination. Join me on my adventures and look for new and exciting places and people (living or deceased) to inspire your creativity.

Happy Haunting!

Lisa

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