The A to Z Blog Challenge Theme Reveal – The Bellevue Botanic Garden!

The A to Z of the Bellevue Botanical Garden

Welcome back, Dear Reader, to the Worlds of A. Catherine Noon! I know, I’ve been very, very quiet of late, and I’m doing my best to get back to doing what Noony does best – writing! So in a way, this theme reveal is a way to kick-start my writing life, blogging, and in general just pick myself up by my suspenders and carry myself onto the page.

Why the Bellevue Botanic Garden?

The Bellevue Botanic Garden is a gem, right smack in the heart of Bellevue, Washington State, USA. It’s open free to the public and houses acres of local plants, exotic trees and flowers, and even not one but two Japanese garden features. There’s a suspension bridge and a forest of local trees.

Why the A to Z Challenge?

I’ve had so much fun in years past with challenges. I’ve done “The A to Z of the Zoo,” at Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, Illinois, USA; “The A to Z of Letterforms in Nature and the Built Environment” on my companion craft blog, Knoontime Knitting: One Writers Journey Into 3D, and several other things both with themes and without.

Why a Theme?

Because it’s fun! I had so much fun, particularly with the Zoo and the Letterforms projects, that I wanted to reprise that for this year. I’m only doing one blog this challenge, because I’ve been so mute lately I didn’t want to overdo it, but I do have other ideas. For example, I’m thinking of making the Letterforms project into a book! But for this year, I wanted to ease myself back into blogging and out of the house. The Bellevue Botanic Garden is right here in the town where we live, not far from my office, and it’s open free – all things designed to get me out of my head, into the world, and onto the page.

What about you? Are you participating in the A to Z Challenge this year? If so, please share a link in the comments so I can come visit. And if you’re not, tell me what you’re looking forward to as part of the Challenge. And if you’ve never heard of the Challenge, tell me one thing you’re excited about whether you’re above the Equator and it’s now Spring for you, or below the Equator and it’s now Autumn. Talk to me!

Good Morning!

I’ve mentioned the three sisters, the spiders who live on my balcony? Yesterday, my husband and I did a mammoth cleaning/reorganizing session in preparation both for Spring and the arrival of long-awaited houseguests next week. I moved the two big bins that stay outside, 55 gallon size, from their winter storage spot under the eves and left them, for a while, in front of my trellises (trelli?) on their way to the corner under the light. I have to reconfigure the seating area there and was focused on cleaning inside, as I had to vacuum before my husband shampooed the carpet.

So, big production.

This morning, he’s snoozing away, snug in our bed, and I woke up like I was going to work. My brain said, “Good MORNING!” I grumbled something about it’s not morning, and go back to sleep, and my brain said, “I feel like making coffee! And morning pages. Oh, have you started writing that WIP we were doing yesterday, the one with TJ – and ooh! the memoir one! I remember, I remember, I remember!”

Sigh. Teaching my brain language may have been a mistake, but I digress.

So up I get, coffee I make and dishes wash in the dishwasher. And journal I collect. Warm pj’s put on, and oh, I’d better grab my robe. My brain is bouncing with excitement, so I grab my journal. “And the memoir book!” And the memoir book. “And the coffee!” And the coffee. “And the pen cup!” “Are you done yet?” “Yeah, as long as you have the pen cup. And the planner.” And the pen cup. And the planner.

I walk to the door. Of my nice, spring-prepared balcony.

But, as brains do, mine has a detour – before the dishing, and the coffeeing – actually, while the coffee was coffeeing and the dishes were dishing, come to think of it – I wandered over to look out the window and what do my wandering eyes perceive on our nice, clean, shampooed carpet and washed floor by the cat boxes?

Not only did my cat barf, he barfed in front of this box. And that box. And trailed down the center of the boxes for good measure. Missed the base of the cat tree and only got a little on the carpet, and left the remainder of a truly spectacular, epic barf in the middle of the pee pad we left out for my aged dog.

I swear to dog, I’m drowning in pet effluvia.

I clean all that up, collect the journal, and the coffee, and the pen cup, and my bathrobe because it might be cold outside, and turn off my phone so I’m “tech free for Sunday” (I’m writing this on my laptop, so I didn’t quite break protocol), and my planner, and I walk with relief to the balcony door all ready to do battle with the serenity gods, when I see it.

The fucking spider bitch goddess IS WEAVING HER BLASTED WEB BETWEEN MY DOOR, THE EVES OF THE ROOF, AND THE FUCKING FIFTY GALLON STORAGE CONTAINERS!

Now, I’m a weaver, and a knitter, and a maker, and I know art when I see it.

But I’m ALSO arachnophobic.

And that, Dear Reader, is why I’m sitting, sweating, in my blasted bathrobe with my planner, and my coffee, both journals, memoir book, pen cup, AND laptop, crammed into the corner of my dining room table that still has the stuff that we’re sorting. I’m planning to do my morning pages from here. Because, spider. And himself is still snoozing and can’t relocate her for me.

She’s laughing. I just know she is.

The Secret Forest-Dweller

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This shy fellow is a forest-dwelling creature called an okapi.  From central Africa, they resemble a zebra crossed with a giraffe and are about the size of a tall but skinny horse.

They also have long, skinny black tongues.

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I’m disappointed because I can’t find the series of photographs I took of the mother with a newborn, nor the ones of a single okapi over in the holding area in the back corner of the zoo.  However, on this particular day when we visited, I had my cell phone camera with me.  When we came into the building where the okapi live, there was a volunteer zookeeper there doing some research.  She told us that this okapi had been orphaned and was hand-raised by the zoo.  He will not be able to go back into the wild.

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I thought he was going to go back into his paddock, so I turned away to talk to the zookeeper.  Then my husband softly said, “Honey.”

I turned back to find that the okapi isn’t just shy, but also curious.  Unfortunately, I jiggled my camera when I tried to be sneaky about bringing it up to snap his photo.

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He moved his head when I took the shot, so he’s blurry, but you can see his striped legs.  Skinny little legs, aren’t they?

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Squirmy little bugger, too.  He reached up to see what was up above in the enclosure, so all I got was his ear.  Phooey.

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He decided to wander back inside, and I got this picture of his back and ears in the light.  He has a lovely coat, like a bay horse but with giant satellite ears.

And yeah, I wanna pet him.  🙂


Thank you for joining me for the A-Z Blog Challenge.  If you’re blogging in the challenge, please leave me a link so I can come visit you too.  If you have a moment, please check out these other fine blogs:

My theme on my Knoontime Knitting craft blog is Letterforms In Nature and the Built Environment.  I’ll be exploring my daily round, looking for shapes in the natural world and build environment.

The theme at Noon & Wilder is The A To Z of Chicago.  Since I live here in the city and we have our Chicagoland Shifters based here, I figured I’d share a window into the city, Noon & Wilder style.

The Nice Girls Writing Naughty have a new home, and we’re blogging in the challenge again this year.  Throughout the month you’ll be hearing from each of the Nice Girls, and during the RT Booklovers Convention from April 12th to the 17th, you’ll be getting live convention reports.  Join the conversation!

The Writer Zen Garden’s brand new website is up and running, and we’re bringing you posts from me, Noony; my partner in crime, Rachel Wilder (the Wilder half of Noon & Wilder); the talented Darla M. Sands – a blogger in her own right, see below; as well as Grace Kahlo, Evey Brown, and author Tina Holland.  Check it out!

My friends who are participating in the challenge (and if you’re not on this list, tell me and I’ll add you!):

Write on, and Happy Blogging!

North American River Otters… Were Busy?

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Okay, so, not every photographic expedition is a success.  Take this one, case in point:

  1. My big camera, the SLR, (Single Lens Reflex), couldn’t handle the lack of lighting.
  2. I used the camera in my phone, which has much better performance in low lighting, but even it had trouble focusing on the very dark corner.
  3. The otters were… well…  Here.  Take a look at the sign:

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So we were, like, interrupting.  As I stood there, trying desperately to take a decent picture of them, one of the otters got up and grumpily wandered over to its little den cave thingie to hide.  The other one, clearly wanting to nap, curled up with a smug sort of “And stay out” attitude.

Hmm.  There’s only one problem.

What am I going to use for “N” today?

I know!  The Reticulated Python!

It has an “N” in it, come on!  Granted, it’s at the end, pythoN, but it’s still an N.  Besides.  There’s a story here.

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This isn’t even a fully grown snake.  He’s fricken huge.  A little background:  my husband is what they call a “herper,” short for the word “herpetologist,” meaning someone who studies reptiles and amphibians.  I’ve learned, though him, that the herper community is filled with highly knowledgeable people because if one decides to keep these animals as pets, there’s not a lot of information about them and so one must learn a lot about their care in order to do it properly.  It’s a lot more complicated, therefore, than keeping, say, a puppy or a kitten.

For those of you not familiar with our books, my coauthor Rachel and I have a series with snake shifters whose animal form is a Burmese python.  Burms are very popular in the pet trade because they can be socialized and are quite friendly if handled properly.  They get very large, with the females growing to between sixteen and twenty feet.  In these snakes, the females are larger then the males.

In the pet trade, as I understand it, reticulated pythons, pictured above, are responsible for the largest number of pet-related deaths every year.  They are not friendly, and they are not socializable in the way that Burms are.  They trade off with the anaconda for the longest snake in the world.  Their natural diet in the wild is baboons, among other things.  And humans, you may have noticed, are awfully similar to baboons.  Why someone would want a pet that looks as one as a potential food source, I don’t know, but there you go.

I am mildly afraid of snakes.  I’ve handled them, having grown up on a horse ranch; we had common garter snakes in our garden and rattlesnakes weren’t uncommon in the forest where we lived, though I only ever saw one.  But even a large garter or rattler isn’t all that huge; they certainly don’t get as massive as this guy.  Every time we’ve visited the zoo, he’s been quiescent, either sleeping or… well, waiting.  o.O…

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I asked my husband how big they get, and he said that in theory, they don’t stop growing.

Like that’s not seven kinds of creepy.

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Since I was doing shots for the challenge on this visit, I bent down to get a better angle.  Out of reflex, I started talking to him.

Sue me.  I talk to everything.  Cats, people, dogs, birds, walls…

Okay, maybe not walls.

That I’ll admit.

Moving right along…

Apparently, he realized I was talking to him and started moving.

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My hands started to sweat at this point.  I don’t mind snakes, as I said, but moving snakes are unpredictable, at least to me, and I don’t know what to do.

Understand I’m in absolutely no danger here; there’s a very thick (3 inches or so) lucite barrier between me and him.

There is, however, a thick screen grate thing over on the left front of his enclosure.

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I started talking to him at this point, because clearly he’s looking at and responding to me in some way I don’t understand.  He’s not a mammal; I don’t know how to read his body language.  My husband was off looking at the Galapagos turtles and, to be honest, by this point I was totally engrossed in what this fellow was doing.

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We are, at this point, nearly eye to eye.  I’m 5’8″.  This is, shall we say, disturbing.  My mind kept gibbering, “Retic – highest pet-related deaths – babboons – striking speed of … what’s the number? … damn it, I have crappy number memory… hundreds of miles an hour… that can’t be right… A THOUSAND!!… he’s pretty…”

At which point my husband barks, “Step back.”

My husband never barks at me, so when he does, it’s serious.  I took a convulsive step backwards, still sweating.  Michael came up to me and said, “He was hissing.”

I swear, I did not hear it.  I did hear something hiss-like, but I thought it was a water system in another enclosure.

Michael was puzzled too, and watched the retic for a few moments.  Then he slowly extended his hand.

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They had a long moment of some kind of interaction I didn’t understand.  Michael moved very slowly, and the snake just watched him.  Or at least, I assume he did.  One of the problems I have with understanding their body language is they don’t have eyelids, so they can’t close their eyes.  One cannot tell, or at least I can’t, if the snake is awake or asleep or what.  He never opened his mouth to hiss, which I assumed he would (too many monster movies with really pissed off snakes); Michael said the small triangular black spot between his lower lip and upper lip is an opening through which they can hiss; he said that’s what he heard.  He said the hiss sound was intermittent, though, not continuous, so he can’t tell if that means I angered the snake or not.

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Before we left, I took this one just to show how big he is.  Michael and I talked it over when we left, because I still don’t understand what happened or what the interaction meant.  It bothers me that I didn’t hear him hiss, because I don’t want to irritate him or something.  Michael said snakes have a very good memory, and it’s likely he will remember me now.  After I got over the initial shock of that, I’m curious to go back and see what that means.  Will he come over to see me again?  Did I make him mad?  Did he think I was there to feed him?  Michael pointed out that the screen thing was probably the food slot (you can see the padlock and sliding opening below left in the picture).  I was scared the whole time, but I can’t help but feel … I’m not sure the word.  Honored, maybe?  Something.  I feel honored that this huge animal came over to … what, talk? … to me.  I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t take the pictures to show myself what happened.

And for the record?  This is a big damned snake.  lol

Remember, no post tomorrow for Sunday.  We resume the challenge on Monday with the letter “O”.  This is one of my favorite new-to-me animals, one that wasn’t discovered until comparatively recently because they are so shy.  Stay tuned!


Thank you for joining me for the A-Z Blog Challenge.  If you’re blogging in the challenge, please leave me a link so I can come visit you too.  If you have a moment, please check out these other fine blogs:

My theme on my Knoontime Knitting craft blog is Letterforms In Nature and the Built Environment.  I’ll be exploring my daily round, looking for shapes in the natural world and build environment.

The theme at Noon & Wilder is The A To Z of Chicago.  Since I live here in the city and we have our Chicagoland Shifters based here, I figured I’d share a window into the city, Noon & Wilder style.

The Nice Girls Writing Naughty have a new home, and we’re blogging in the challenge again this year.  Throughout the month you’ll be hearing from each of the Nice Girls, and during the RT Booklovers Convention from April 12th to the 17th, you’ll be getting live convention reports.  Join the conversation!

The Writer Zen Garden’s brand new website is up and running, and we’re bringing you posts from me, Noony; my partner in crime, Rachel Wilder (the Wilder half of Noon & Wilder); the talented Darla M. Sands – a blogger in her own right, see below; as well as Grace Kahlo, Evey Brown, and author Tina Holland.  Check it out!

My friends who are participating in the challenge (and if you’re not on this list, tell me and I’ll add you!):

Write on, and Happy Blogging!

Housekeeping, Under Constructions, Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes! ~la la la~

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We updated the theme on my websites to fix some problems, but in the process it overwrote the widgets (the stuff I have on the right sidebar, over there >>>) and did some other odd things, so we’re fixifying it.  AND, I loaded a new books page but did something goofy, which Dayna fixed yesterday; I just haven’t had time to finish setting it all up.

Point being, stay tuned, more coming!  🙂  (This is the challenge of having a passionate love affair with writing but the reality of having a day job.)  ~crazy chicken dance~

Mexican Grey Wolves Are Sneaky

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Brookfield Zoo has a spectacular habitat for the Mexican Grey Wolves called Regenstein Wolf Woods. I learned something while reading about them on the Zoo’s site:  “All the types of wolves you’ve heard of, like timber, gray, Arctic, and Mexican, belong to the same species: the gray wolf.”

The habitat is large and affords the wolves much privacy; the downside is they’re not always available for photographing.  We lucked out on one of our visits, though.

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Nap time (in the very center of the image).

Again, from the Zoo:  “Mexican gray wolves were considered extinct in the wild until their reintroduction into Arizona and New Mexico in 1998.”  Brookfield successfully reintroduced the female they had to a wildlife park in New Mexico, and last year celebrated the birth of a litter of wolf cubs.  They even held a naming contest on their website!

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They won’t, however, let one pet them.  ~pout~

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This one is, admittedly, difficult to spot.  It’s the center knoll in their enclosure.  If you see the smaller tree in the foreground, travel up along its trunk to where the branches first start on the right of the trunk.  You’ll see the wolf centered in the branches.

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Wolves have a strict hierarchical structure.  Whomever is at the highest point on the knoll is the alpha.

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Another one arrives on the knoll for a nap.

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The other wolves show deference to the alpha pair by lowering their heads and not making direct eye contact.

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It’s fascinating to watch their body language as they move around.

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At first, it seems this one is hiding.  Then one realizes that it is, in fact, capable of seeing pretty much everything in the field of view – me and my husband photographing them by the fence, the front of their enclosure, the pedestrian path beyond that gate, all the way to the bald eagle.

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And when one looks back, they’re nearly invisible.  Camouflage.  ~shiver~

Check back tomorrow for the North American River Otter.  Or… not?  Stay tuned to find out!


Thank you for joining me for the A-Z Blog Challenge.  If you’re blogging in the challenge, please leave me a link so I can come visit you too.  If you have a moment, please check out these other fine blogs:

My theme on my Knoontime Knitting craft blog is Letterforms In Nature and the Built Environment.  I’ll be exploring my daily round, looking for shapes in the natural world and build environment.

The theme at Noon & Wilder is The A To Z of Chicago.  Since I live here in the city and we have our Chicagoland Shifters based here, I figured I’d share a window into the city, Noon & Wilder style.

The Nice Girls Writing Naughty have a new home, and we’re blogging in the challenge again this year.  Throughout the month you’ll be hearing from each of the Nice Girls, and during the RT Booklovers Convention from April 12th to the 17th, you’ll be getting live convention reports.  Join the conversation!

The Writer Zen Garden’s brand new website is up and running, and we’re bringing you posts from me, Noony; my partner in crime, Rachel Wilder (the Wilder half of Noon & Wilder); the talented Darla M. Sands – a blogger in her own right, see below; as well as Grace Kahlo, Evey Brown, and author Tina Holland.  Check it out!

My friends who are participating in the challenge (and if you’re not on this list, tell me and I’ll add you!):

Write on, and Happy Blogging!

The King of the Jungle

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This ferocious young man is the pride of the zoo, the king of beasts, the lion of doom.

Well, I added the, “of doom,” part.

His wife, on the other hand, isn’t impressed.  Snooze city.

He’s actually not all that young, and he’s been at the zoo for a while.  They are seriously threatened in the wild and Brookfield Zoo participates in an international Species Survival Plan to try and conserve these majestic creatures.  They are African lions, mostly nocturnal, though we did get to hear him roar one evening long about closing time.

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Lions spend about 20 hours a day asleep.  Kind of like house cats, really.  In fact, in the book Tribe of Tiger: Cats and Their Culture, by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, biologists liken house cats’ behavior most closely with that of lions.

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Just makes you want to pet her, doesn’t she?

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Um.  Maybe… not?

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Tomorrow, we get to visit the Mexican Grey Wolves.


Thank you for joining me for the A-Z Blog Challenge.  If you’re blogging in the challenge, please leave me a link so I can come visit you too.  If you have a moment, please check out these other fine blogs:

My theme on my Knoontime Knitting craft blog is Letterforms In Nature and the Built Environment.  I’ll be exploring my daily round, looking for shapes in the natural world and build environment.

The theme at Noon & Wilder is The A To Z of Chicago.  Since I live here in the city and we have our Chicagoland Shifters based here, I figured I’d share a window into the city, Noon & Wilder style.

The Nice Girls Writing Naughty have a new home, and we’re blogging in the challenge again this year.  Throughout the month you’ll be hearing from each of the Nice Girls, and during the RT Booklovers Convention from April 12th to the 17th, you’ll be getting live convention reports.  Join the conversation!

The Writer Zen Garden’s brand new website is up and running, and we’re bringing you posts from me, Noony; my partner in crime, Rachel Wilder (the Wilder half of Noon & Wilder); the talented Darla M. Sands – a blogger in her own right, see below; as well as Grace Kahlo, Evey Brown, and author Tina Holland.  Check it out!

My friends who are participating in the challenge (and if you’re not on this list, tell me and I’ll add you!):

Write on, and Happy Blogging!