Spring has sprung

John and I were walking in the park this afternoon, chatting, enjoying ourselves, and then he nudged me hard in the upper arm.  I lost my balance and windmilled a bit to keep from landing in the muddy grass, and DUDE. I barely tapped you on the arm. Overreacting much? (or some such) went through my head.  I didn’t fall on the grass, I did get my feet under me on the sidewalk, and then John yelled, “No, SNAKE!”  You would have been SO impressed by my high-stepping prancing moves.  I leaped OVER the teeny tiny TERRIFYING snake that I was thisclose to stepping on and landed on the far side of the path.  Then I came back to look.  Now maybe it was more scared of me that I was of it, but if it had made any sudden movements I would have been up a tree.

I’d like to show you what it looked like, but I didn’t take a picture of it, and there’s no way in hell I’m googling snakes.  I don’t google bugs, either.  I don’t need those images in my brain.

I haven’t met any singing mice. Yet.

The wildlife in Oregon is straight out of a cartoon.  John and I both get distracted by squirrels peering in our office windows during the day, that damn turkey keeps showing up on our front porch like it wants to come in, and today I saw a gray squirrel and fat red robin having a conversation on top of a tree stump in the park.  I wasn’t fast enough to get a picture.  I saw them, they looked at me, I swear I heard “Cheese it, it’s the fuzz!”, and then the squirrel scampered off.  The robin stuck around and gave me the evil eye as I ran past.  Maybe slightly more Adult Swim than Disney Channel.

NOPE

No.  Uh uh.  Not gonna do it.

Look, a puppy cam! Gosh, they’re cute. But now they’re napping.

Ooh! Donkey cam! That’s fun, but they’re not really doing anything.

Holy shit, penguin cam!

Maybe today’s not so bad after all.  For those of you not into live-streaming animals, have some random adorable pictures from the internet instead:

You’re welcome.

Moving on up

Guys, I jumped over 2 feet today! Well, the horse did, but I stayed on! Things are progressing on that front.

The jump looked like this, but not as fancy (there’s not much fancy at this place):

I have no idea if Tigger and I look like that horse and girl. We probably don’t look that cool. And actually, that might be higher than 2 feet, so you know? I probably don’t look anything like that.

I got a glimpse of my future today, too. I shared my lesson with Daisy, a 14-year-old who has been riding for half her life. (I don’t think becoming a 14-year-old is in my future.) We were basically doing the same things, but she was doing them better, faster, and then Wendy had her jump the same course WITHOUT STIRRUPS. What kind of leg muscles do you have to have to canter a course of eight 2-feet jumps without anything to brace your feet?

Someday.

Learning quickly

My horseback riding lesson is the highlight of each week.  I started on Willow, learning to catch her, groom her, saddle her, etc.  Around week 4 or 5, I switched to Tigger, a younger and occasionally more difficult horse.  He has opinions, and I’m learning how to show his stubborn ass that I’m in charge.  I switched back and forth between the two for a few weeks, re-learning how to post, learning two-point (prep for jumping), and trotting courses through and around the jumps in the arena, with all the horizontal poles on the ground so I could get better at directing the horse where I want him to go.

All of that was going well, and I was really enjoying it.  Then one day, lesson #9 I think, I had just finished a course with the poles on the ground, and then Wilhemina (name changed to protect the innocent) set one of the jumps up to one foot and said, “How do you feel about jumping today?”

SUPER EXCITED was the answer.  So I did, and it was awesome.

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The middle of that X is a foot off the ground.

From there, she set up all the jumps like that, and my courses around the arena have included LOTS of jumping, and I just can’t tell you how much fun it is.  (Hint: SO MUCH FUN!)

A couple of weeks ago (lesson #11, maybe), she had me pick up the speed a little so Tigger starts to canter when he lands the first jump, and the week after that (or maybe it was the end of that week?) I could canter the whole course (starting after the first jump).  It’s incredible.

So then this week, she was describing the course she wanted me to take, no different than the others that I noticed.  She had me going over two jumps straight down one long side of the area, making a wide turn, and then taking the jump at the far corner on the way back and angling diagonally across the arena to another jump, then stopping at her end.  It’s about half the course and pretty typical of what we’ve been doing.  I did the long side, took the one in the corner on the way back, and when I was about a horse-length in front of the last one, my brain went HOLY SHIT THAT ONE IS HIGHER.

It looked kind of like this one, except not nearly as picturesque.  No uprights on either side, just kind of a dirty white low wall.

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The jump went fine, and weirdly, it didn’t feel any higher than the other jumps, which is the first thing I said after stopping.  She swears it’s 2 feet high, double the size of the jumps I’m used to.  So then I did it again, and THIS time, it felt higher, which is also the first thing I said when I stopped.  Turns out I’m not crazy or imagining things just because I knew it was higher.  Wilhemina said that the first time we went over it, the distance perfectly matched Tigger’s stride, so he just cantered over it.  The second time, the distance wasn’t perfect, so he jumped it, and yes, I actually went higher that time.

I’m jumping two feet!  Okay, Tigger is jumping two feet, but I’m not falling off!  It’s so cool.

Also, I’m riding Tigger all the time now because he loves to jump, and I guess Willow doesn’t.  It means I get more practice enforcing my will, which is something I really need to be better at.  There was one point last week where we took a jump because he wanted to, not because I wanted to.

This past week was lesson #13, and it’s wonderful, and I love it.

Pesky little rodents

I saw two little birds taking a bath in a puddle today.  It was adorable, of course, the way they hunker down and fluff up and shake all over.  I could watch for hours.

Not so cute are the squirrels digging up our yard.  It’s like we have dogs, only the holes are a little bit smaller.  I don’t know if they’re burying something or digging something up, but they’re ruining the sod in the backyard.  I don’t care so much for myself, but the landlords put fresh sod down right before we moved in.  They’ll probably notice if the yard is destroyed when we move out, and I don’t want to be responsible for replacing it.

Damn squirrels.  Get off my lawn!

Our fine feathered friend

So…this happened today.  (Apologies to those of you who saw this on Twitter already.)

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I’ve been meaning to write about the turkey in our neighborhood.  We think it’s someone’s pet, but it seems to have the run of the block.  We’ve seen it in the alley in the middle of the block and on each of the four streets surrounding us.  And it’s definitely bigger than it used to be.

I hope it doesn’t turn into someone’s dinner.

Birds and creepy stories did the trick

I was a little blue when I left the house for my run today, but being outside (or running or time or podcasts or ducks) lifted my mood.  My run was chock full of what passes for excitement during the week.  First, I freaked myself out.  I ran on a new part of the path, and just as I entered this very cool tunnel of trees, where it got darker and atmospherically creepy, a character in my podcast started describing the time she saw a little boy at the end of her bed, and you know what?  I’m not going to keep telling that story because I’m in bed now and I’m freaking myself out again.  Trust me – it was scary and I was in a scary part of the trail that I didn’t know existed and now kind of want to avoid.  Except it was cool.

Later, I saw a heron/stork-type bird (skinny legs, long beak) staring intently into the rapids of this little creek.  He looked like he was fishing, like he might dart forward and grab a fish any second, so I stopped to watch.  He gave me a look, went back to staring at the water.  Gave me another look, stared at the water.  After the third look, I left.  I was cramping his style.

On my way home, I saw a family of four feeding dozens of ducks while leaning on the sign that describes the harmful effects of feeding the waterfowl.  The ducks didn’t seem to mind.

That’s it.  That’s my exciting afternoon.  Don’t mock – I felt better.

Taking advantage of the rain

I mentioned the rain the day we went to Epcot, right?  Well, I forgot I had proof on video. While everyone with any sense was hiding out under every structure with a roof in the park, one duck took the opportunity to scout for food.

We were hoping for a break in the rain so I could make a dash for the nearest bathroom. Over the course of our four days in Disney parks, I got very familiar with the bathrooms. Surprisingly, the one in fake Canada was the worst. Fake Morocco’s was great.

Poor lonely slightly cross-eyed cat

I heard the loudest cat in the world the other morning.  I was sitting at my desk working when some cat started meowing.  It was so loud I thought it was in the room with me for half a second.  (It wasn’t.)  I checked outside both office windows, but didn’t see a cat.  I checked the backyard – no cat (unusual, considering how often we see cats in our yard).  I eventually found it, sitting on the hood of our neighbor’s car, facing our living room window (which is as far away as you can get from my office), yowling its head off.

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I meowed at it.  It meowed back, and that was the end of the conversation.  Maybe it just needed someone to acknowledge its existence.  You exist, kitty.  Now shut up.

Soggy routine

I get up, work, go for a long bike ride.  While I’m out, I get rained on, and I see a wild animal.  Today, it poured for seven miles, and I saw a fox.

This is my life now.

I miss running, not least because I didn’t feel I had to do it for an hour and a half to burn any calories.  You’re less likely to get rained on if you’re not out for 90 minutes.  I need to join that gym.  I’ll get a pool, weights, classes, no rain, and no wildlife.  And eventually, I’ll be able to run again.

Too close

I saw a raccoon on my bike ride, right in the middle of the highly-traveled, well-populated park.  It was the middle of the afternoon, not dark, not all that overcast, and in the spot where I saw it, there were half a dozen people running, walking, and biking in both directions on the path RIGHT NEXT TO THE RACCOON.  There was also a guy on a bench nearby watching it.  I sent him a “Was that really a raccoon?” incredulous look, and he gave me a “Seems to be.  What can you do?” shrug in return.  I know Eugene is in the Pacific Northwest, and by definition, that makes it closer to nature than anywhere else I’ve lived, but I think today’s encounter (fine, “encounter”) took it a step too far.

The raccoon was in the grass between the sidewalk and the trees (with the river on the other side of the trees), and it was barely in the grass – less than a foot from the sidewalk, I think.  It was HUGE – bigger than Roxy, smaller than Riley – and it had its front paws on the ground and its back arched like a cartoon cat.  Really big head.  I didn’t have much time to think about it, but if I’d been any further away when I saw it, I might not have ridden by it so close.  I whizzed by with no more than 3 feet in between us, I think.  It happened so quickly I didn’t have time to be nervous.

Fact: raccoons don’t look so cute when they’re that big and that close.

Caught in the act

I spent most of this afternoon reading in the backyard.  It was peaceful for a while, but then the neighbors starting chatting in their yard, a blower and a lawn mower started in another yard, and that cat traipsed through the rear flower bed.  Too much traffic.  I gave up and went inside.

Not long after, John called me to the window to see the same cat hanging out on our gravel path, settled in and acting like he owns the place (as cats do).

Photographic evidence:

From the door

From the door

From the edge of the deck

From the edge of the deck

Leaving after I got too close

Leaving after I got too close

Angry with me for making him leave

Angry with me for making him leave

Of course, he left the yard, I went inside, and he came right back.  I don’t really care if he hangs out in the yard.  I just don’t want him to treat my yard like a litter box.

Under attack

The universe may have been trying to tell me not to ride my bike today.  Before I left, I had to convince a fairly large spider to get off my front tire.  I convinced it by wheeling my bike around.  The spider wasn’t on the tire anymore, but I don’t know where it went.  I didn’t crush it.

Worse than that, I saw a snake.  It was slithering frantically off the bike path and into the tall grass, and I saw it at the last minute.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t run over its tail, but I did shriek and nearly fall over and crash my bike.  It was a small snake, but it freaked me out.

THEN, last but least scary, a dog charged me, growling and snapping.  It was on a leash, and I was racing by, so I was probably in more danger from the spider that went missing, but still, I flinched.

It’s amazing I didn’t crash my bike today, actually.

Not my cat

There’s a neighborhood cat who uses our backyard as a shortcut several times a day.  This cat, the one we see the most often (not the only one, though), is probably the one responsible for all the cat poop I keep finding while weeding the flower beds.  That’s not a fun discovery when you’re on your hands and knees.  Good thing I wear gloves.

I’m pretty sure he has claimed our yard as his own (I’m not sure he’s a he, but whatever).  The other day, he was sitting on the gravel path when another cat wandered through.  There was no hissing, no spitting, and no fighting.  Just glaring.  There might have been growling.  That other cat hurried on out of there.

I’ll get a picture one of these days.

I’m like a mountain goat

I saw a podiatrist today, and while discussing what is wrong with my foot, he referred to my deformity.  Apparently, I am deformed.  Really.  (Mildly, but really.)  The doctor pointed out (although I will be getting it checked out for real) that my right leg is longer than my left leg by enough (no measuring occurred), and that I have been overcompensating for it when I run (he can see by the callus pattern that I roll outwards on my left foot and inwards on my right), and that overcompensation finally caught up with me.  The pain I’ve been feeling is a spasm.  He taped up my foot to help relieve the spasm, and he says I can go back to running pretty much immediately, as long as I ease into it.  If it still hurts by the end of this week, or if it changes how it hurts, I should come back, but there’s no sign of a stress fracture right now.

YAY!!

He also gave me a lift for my left shoe to help make up the difference, and I should wear supportive shoes (like my running shoes) or get supports to put in my other shoes (like my Chucks, which have ZERO support), and only wear shoes like that for the next 6-8 weeks.  I should stay away from flats, sandals, flip-flops, slippers, and any other shoe without support until the spasm is all better.  Oh, and I shouldn’t even wander the house barefoot, so I’ll be wearing supportive shoes ALL the time for a couple of months.

Blah.  But treatable!  So blah is okay.  But now I’m all concerned about how I’ve never noticed I’m uneven.  I have a regular doctor’s appointment in two and a half weeks, so I will be asking about that FOR SURE.

I never knew I looked this:

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Either of these would be okay, though:

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GOATLING!

Derby Day!

I tried the 14 Hands red blend today because they had a Kentucky Derby label, and since today was Derby Day, how could I resist?  It wasn’t half-bad, actually.  Not my favorite, but totally drinkable.

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I picked Whitmore as my winner.  BAD choice, guys.  He came in LAST.  I would say second to last, but the actual last horse didn’t even finish, so technically, my guy was last.   I switched to Whitmore at the last minute because of the jockey (Victor Espinoza, who rode Triple Crown winner American Pharoah last year).  My original choice was Oscar Nominated, who only finished two ahead of Whitmore, so I wouldn’t have won anything no matter what.  Not a good day for the betting version of me.  Luckily, the betting version of me doesn’t see much action.  She’s not lucky.

More news of the mildly strange

I saw a girl with a rabbit on a leash today.  She and her rabbit were in the park, and the rabbit was nibbling contentedly on clover or thistle or something that was not grass but was green and grew in the ground.  And I assume the rabbit was content.  It wasn’t trembling.  Not trembling is content for rabbits, right?

The girl was dressed exactly like you’d expect a girl with a rabbit on a leash to be dressed.  She was wearing a floppy hat, a skirt, sandals, and a light crocheted cardigan.  (I ran by her twice, there and back, so I noticed.  Also, RABBIT ON A LEASH.)  Something she was wearing (the sweater or the skirt) had daisies on it.  And she had long curly hair.  That’s the girl who takes her rabbit for a walk.

I also met a 10-week-old chocolate lab puppy named Rory (SO cute), but there’s nothing out of the ordinary about that.  The puppy was also on a leash.