Slice of Life – Classical Conditioning Wildlife Quest

2 April 2024 TwoWritingTeachers.org

Today’s slice was born yesterday on a trip to Palm Springs. It’s a 45-minute jaunt down into the lower desert. We do it about every week or two for one appointment or shopping trip or another.

Part of the trip includes going through the Morongo grade, which is a mountainous section, just three miles or so long. There is no cell service, and a sign along the road tells us that there are desert bighorn sheep possibly crossing the road.

I’ve been coming to the desert, driving through this grade my whole life (first to visit grandparents, then my mom, and now because I live here), but I had never seen a big horn sheep in the wild until last month when I saw one, not on the grade, but in Joshua Tree National Park . I wrote about it for my Slice of Life on March 5 here.

Over the years, driving through the grade I have always glanced around the hills (when I’m not driving, of course), thinking I might really see one.

Then, lo and behold, for the first time, ever just a week after I saw one in the park, I saw more. This time there were two or three scrawny, thin, probably young sheep on one a cliff on the grade. I was so excited, but of course, my phone was way elsewhere, so I couldn’t get a picture.

Now, like Pavlov’s dog, I know those sheep are there, so on the last two trips down the grade, I have my phone zoomed in three times, and lying ready in my lap. Then I scan the mountains like a detective. I have yet to see another bighorn, but I keep looking for the reward of seeing these creatures in the wild. Yesterday, I wondered how long this classical conditioning reward would last in my wildlife spotting quest.

I took this picture to show you what the hills look like. No sheep yesterday!
Here are some bighorn sheep I saw at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert

Slice of Life 31 – Easter Vigil #sol24

31 March 2024 TwoWritingTeachers.org
Saturday morning rainbow off my back porch

Paying Attention in the Dark

Who in creation was the first to notice when you took the
handkerchief off your face, folded it up, and set it down?

Did the moon and stars praise your rising?
Did the owls hoot a salute to humility
having the last winning word?
Did the angels do a stepdance when they
realized the fullness of God’s plan?
Did the rainbows plan the palette to
decorate the joyous dawning sky?
Did the mynas celebrate with a
new playlist for Sunday morn?

Who else noticed when you first ventured out?
You left the tomb while it was still dark;
sometimes
it’s hard to grasp
truth in the shadows.

And today, help me to
take notice of you
while it is still
dark down
here.


Thank you, everyone, for a great month of writing, reading, and commenting. You make me a better writer and person. I’ll see you on Tuesday.

For those who would like a National Poetry Writing project, do consider joining us for Ethical ELA’s Verselove starting tomorrow. It is a 30-day poetry writing community that meets daily at Ethical ELA. Each day in April a different teacher/poet hosts by sharing a prompt, which will be posted at the website at 5:00 a.m. Central Time. Some of the Slice of Life friends will be hosting on different days.

  • Kim Johnson – April 1
  • Denise Krebs – April 9
  • Joanne Emery – April 10
  • Barb Edler – April 13
  • Margaret Simon – April 14
  • Donnetta Norris – April 22
  • Glenda Funk – April 28
  • Fran Haley – April 29

Participants are invited to stop by for one, two, three, or all 30 days throughout the month. For more information and FAQs, click here.

Do you have the National Poetry Month Poster yet? Get it here.

Slice of Life 30 – Fear a Narcissist With Many Jars #sol24

30 March 2024 TwoWritingTeachers.org

Today I read Tabatha Yeatts’ Poetry Friday post. She had an idea to use the beautiful poem, “Trust a Woman With Many Jars” by Mackenzie Berry, as a mentor text.

Then while I sat in church tonight, the priest said, “We all have narcissism, some a little (he held up two fingers in a small pinch) and some a lot (he held his arms open wide).”

Yes, indeed. We are all sinful. God died to save us from our narcissism, but we remain vulnerable to ugliness in ourselves, and caught from others, as well. Now, with apologies to Mackenzie Berry, I used her poem as a mentor to write my own:

Fear a Narcissist With Many Jars

Who fills them with disgust and loathing
and makes others weep
as they fall off the train of empathy

Fear a narcissist who can blind others with hatred
whose art is dishonest dealing and grift
Who lacks conscience and skill

Fear a narcissist who says, “How stupid are the people?”
and “You have to take out their families.”

Fear a narcissist who
hijacks democracy
on the pinions of prejudice.
Who reviles truth.
Who projects pathology.
Who makes George Orwell
turn over in his grave.
Who learned twisted lessons from 1984:
“War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.”*

Fear a narcissist who
threatens an experiment
a quarter millennium in the making.

Fear a deranged narcissist
who calls for
total authority
retribution
bloodbaths
and bedlam.
Fear a narcissist who demands
immunity from the rule of law.

Fear a narcissist Bible Salesman, who is a
“liar who takes pride in his nihilism.”**
Who breaks anything he can’t have for himself.

Who cons, who dupes, who fleeces.
Who is a broken promise.
Who spreads narcissism systemically
and without partiality.

We are all at risk.
Fear a narcissist, I beg you.


*1984 by George Orwell
**”Good Country People” by Flannery O’Conner

Stained glass window I was standing in front of during communion

Poetry Friday – Ode to the Western Fence Lizard

It’s Poetry Friday and Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect is the host. She has written a heart-wrenching pantoum about her sweet Cooper.

Thank you to the Poetry Sisters for including us in their March challenge to write a pantoum about an animal. This past week, I spent a few days in the San Diego area, where I met the ubiquitous Western Fence Lizard.

Western Fence Lizard on the trail at Torrey Pines

Ode to the Western Fence Lizard

King of Torrey Pines, Western Fence Lizard
Your deep sunny pushups warm your cold blood
Darting and dashing safely, young Wizard
Horny tight scales keep you dry in flashfloods

Your deep sunny pushups warm your cold blood
Those climbing toes! Longer than your femurs!
Horny tight scales keep you dry in flashfloods
Look at your stunning view, O, Daydreamer

Those climbing toes! Longer than your femurs!
Your dark shadow shows two tails and two heads
Look at your stunning view, O, Daydreamer
If your tail is caught it can safely shed

Your dark shadow shows two tails and two heads
No worries for you where you build your home
If your tail is caught it can safely shed
As human houses tumble into the foam

No worries for you where you build your home
Darting and dashing safely, young Wizard
As human houses tumble into the foam
King of Torrey Pines, Western Fence Lizard

One of the Western Fence Lizard’s views

Slice of Life 28 – The Coaster and Margherita #sol24

28 March 2024 TwoWritingTeachers.org

Today we took the Coaster train to San Diego. When we got to the station, we realized the next train would be coming in a little less than two hours. (Hmmm…why can’t we do better research?) Anyway, while we waited, we got some coffee/tea and I sat and read and commented on some Slices. We then rode the train, got off at the last station, and spent time walking around downtown and near the harbor.

We decided to go to Old Town for lunch, but when we came back to the station, the next train was leaving again in two hours. What? So as we talked to a policeman nearby, he recommended Little Italy and told us how to get to there, which was quite close. We decided on Isola Pizza & Pasta. Keith ordered a gnocchi dinner, and I ordered from the happy hour menu, a salad ($5) and margherita pizza ($7), thinking a $7 pizza would be a slice or a personal pan size. Instead it was the same size as all their pizzas, probably 12-inch. I was thrilled because: PIZZA! And it turned out to be the best margherita pizza I’ve ever had. Keith ate the crust of one piece, otherwise, I ate the whole thing. (It turns out Isola’s might be known for their happy hour margheritas because every other table in the restaurant seemed to be getting the same pizza delivered to them.)

Here are a few photos from our day:

One of the lagoons we rode by on the train
Tilework at the Santa Fe Station in San Diego
U.S.S. Midway, former navy aircraft carrier, is now a museum in San Diego harbor. It seemed weird to see people eating lunch on the deck of a war ship.
One of Hanna’s Murals at Seaport Village
I loved this colorful building on India Street in San Diego.
Keith gave me a red rose again. (I had to leave it on the table at the restaurant, though.)
Yes, please, I WILL eat a whole margherita pizza, thank you very much.
The first three art pieces are at Seaport Village. The fourth is ‘Pacific Soul’ by Jaume Plensa.

A pizza for me

Every chewy and charred bite

screamed delight

Slice of Life 27 – Another Date Redo #sol24

27 March 2024 TwoWritingTeachers.org

Today my hubby and I relived another date, which also took place 47 years ago. This time we went hiking again at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. One difference I noticed between now and then were the amount of people multiplied by decades of population growth. (It is spring break for a lot of people this week.) This week I find myself so thankful for state and federal governments that are committed to preserving natural places like this one for public use. The parks in California get so much wear and tear, but they are still peaceful and beautiful.

Haha, I just noticed the DANGER sign in our picture.
The view from Yucca Point
The oldest building still standing in Encinitas is this schoolhouse built in 1883.
The best taco stand ever, I think. There seems to always be a line out the door.

You Can’t Always Look the Sun in the Face

I had time tonight to sit and
think about how
only at the sunset
in the last moments of
the day at hand, the
sky opens and I
do something
orange and magical
and that is I look the sun
blue in the face and
get filled with peace
along with wisdom to
so not do such a thing at noon.
Well, of course not.


A golden shovel SFD using a striking line “I think only in the sky do orange and blue get along so well” translated from Spanish in a fabulous post that Ana Valentina Patton wrote last Friday.

Slice of Life 26 – Plants and Food and a Lifelong Love #sol24

26 March 2024 TwoWritingTeachers.org

Forty-seven years ago my husband took me on a date to Quail Gardens. Today, for the first time, we returned. Now it’s called the San Diego Botanic Garden. So often today we were reminded of something from our first time here. Just a few of the dozens of photos I took:

Dragon Tree
A staghorn fern. Wouldn’t this be fun to have mounted on your wall?
Peaches and Cream Angel Trumpet – Isn’t that the cutest name?
Just some of the flowers we saw.

The bird-of-paradise (lower left hand flower) was one of the first plants we saw. I told my husband just this morning I had read a Bird-of-Paradise poem, and he asked me to tell him about it. So I looked it up and read it to him! (Written by our own slicer Joanne Emery.) Speaking of birds, today was the first time I confirmed my email on Merlin and used the app to listen to the birds in the garden. Thanks to Fran and Kim, my bird lover friends and fellow slicers. There were a lot of song sparrows, but the most interesting time was when I record this Red-Shouldered Hawk and Yellow-rumped Warbler who seemed to be carrying on a conversation.

Elephant Foot Tree (What?)
We got new hats–mine with a quail and Keith’s with a roadrunner. Notice this is after I lost one of my earrings. I didn’t realize it until a couple hours later.

After this we ate (a sandwich) and ate (a chocolate oatmeal bar) and ate (ice cream) and ate (a made-to-order donut).

It had Heath bar pieces and caramel on top of a warm cake donut.

Then we went to the beach to walk a couple more miles.

The water was 58 degrees. Here are some surfers getting ready to go in.

Inspired by Barb’s recent pantoum, I gave it a try today.

To Keith

Years later and even more I belong to you
One of our first dates was to Quail Garden
It took seven years for you to break through
For you to convince my heart not to harden

One of our first dates was to Quail Garden
You say I had on white shorts and a red tee
For you to convince my heart not to harden
You had to be patient, and you were with me

You say I had on white shorts and a red tee
Don’t know how you remembered what I wore
You had to be patient, and you were with me
Though it took me time, it is you I adore

Don’t know how you remembered what I wore
There’s magic in the moments you give
Though it took me time, it is you I adore
Red roses and quail on a day to relive

There’s magic in the moments you give
It took seven years for you to break through
Red roses and quail on a day to relive
Years later and even more I belong to you

Slice of Life 25 – Dinner in Leucadia #sol24

25 March 2024 TwoWritingTeachers.org

This afternoon we drove to Encinitas for a little getaway. As soon as we got into the hotel room, the rain started pouring. We waited a few minutes for the shower to pass. Then we left to get some dinner.

We ended up at Solterra Winery and Kitchen. It was busy, so we sat at the bar and watched March Madness games. Interesting sidenote, I do not drink. I made a decision early in my young adulthood to not drink. My husband has spent 40+ years with a teetotaling wife, and he enjoys an occasional glass of wine or margarita. I just enjoyed my water tonight with the mushroom flatbread we ordered.

Leucadia, a beach neighborhood, is the “art and soul” of Encinitas. (I read that today. It is a cute little neighborhood.)

As soon as we got back to the hotel room, the rain picked up again for another really heavy shower. We were thankful we managed to get dinner wedged in between those bookends of heavy cold rains.

I wish I would have taken a video of this tree. The bark was so loose; so many bits were swaying in the wind.
A found poem from my first photo
Ever feel like life
is too short to drink cheap wine?
Drink water