When life turns up the heat, do you expand or contract?

As a citizen of earthquake country, over a lifetime of shaky moments I have picked up on a few geological terms.

Take “mechanical weathering,” for example.

In the simplest of terms, mechanical weathering takes place when rocks are essentially torn apart by physical force, rather than by chemical breakdown.


Tectonic forces, such as earthquakes, break and shatter rocks in the earth’s crust.

Temperature changes also effect mechanical weathering through slight expansion and contraction, weakening the rock itself.


I think there’s a lot more to it than these simple examples, but the term “mechanical weathering” comes to mind when I think about my personal stress levels. I think we expand and contract, depending on life circumstances, an unlimited number of times under stressful circumstances.

But don’t we all want to minimize our earthquakes?

I will admit that pressures have been a little high as I’ve been adjusting my schedule to accommodate the unexpected and the overflowing.

We’ve had a couple of family hospitalizations–nothing dreadful–just those things that come along and need addressing. When that’s the highest priority, I think I brace myself, contracting just a wee bit.

There are happy times, too. Anticipation of babies joining the family, anniversary celebrations and birthday parties. The calendar feels overloaded, with good things, mind you, but times of expansion are a different form of stress. Our neurons don’t always differentiate the positive from negative.

Perhaps I don’t  experience ACTUAL mechanical weathering, but to be certain, we can allow stress to build up, making an earthquake inevitable.

So what to do?

Don’t do…just be.

Let’s do a reverse energy flow, avoiding those fissures and cracks, if possible, focusing on what brings down those earthquake producing high stress-induced cortisol levels.

I didn’t have the attention span to follow-up on my last post and give the low-down on when John Muir spent time in Pasadena. For those of you who share my love of Muir and other American naturalists, I’m in a reading frenzy. I’ll be back to that very soon.

Instead, wherever I can find them, I’m taking little mental vacations. A few minutes with our workplace turtles, and anxiety lifts off my shoulders. You just have to change your focus. It’s another little law of nature!

Tell me now…do they look stressed?

Earthquake avoided.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” John Muir

Have you fed your household spirits? Word of warning…you might want to think about that!

For more than a week I have certainly been preoccupied. It’s been almost impossible to find even small snippets of available time to post personal updates or spend any significant time visiting others.

Looking back, I think my troubles started while we were still at the beach. I just didn’t acknowledge him.

Broken Chair

I’ll explain.

Last week Kate Shrewsday introduced me to the Domovoi.  This little house spirit, according to Slavic folklore, serves, among his many roles, as the keeper of peace and order in a home. He typically lives under the threshold, or maybe under the stove, but we didn’t know. Apparently he’s sensitive, and sadly we’ve been ignoring him.

Had we been more aware, we might have benefitted from his potential good will. He rewards a well-maintained household. He likes peace and order, you see.  Lately I’ve felt we could work a little harder at that.

Some families who appreciate their domovoi feed him! We often have crumbs on the floor, but looking back I’m thinking crumbs didn’t qualify as an intentional feeding. The domovoi wasn’t appreciative of leftovers.

Stories abound of a domovoi playing some rather nasty tricks. He can have a malicious side to his nature.

My first warning? Walking out the door of the beach house, irritated at some teens yelling outside our door when the rest of the household was sleeping…Kaboom! I missed the step and awkwardly careened right into the plastic patio chair. Crash! Bang! Boom!

Take it from me. You lose a lot of your authoritative momentum when you’re on the pavement looking up at the noisy teen.

I heard my domovoi laughing.

But it’s just as possible he was trying to warn me. “Slow down.” Slavik folklore includes the possibility that the domovoi may serve his household from a more benevolent nature, acting as household guardian.

The bruises HAVE served as a reminder to perhaps consider retiring my sense of uber-responsibility. No one else in the sleeping household heard a thing–apparently they didn’t need my protection.

We came home from the beach to car trouble, a small entanglement with a road cone on the freeway (in a brand new rental car), a dishwasher spewing water all over the floor, power outages on three separate occasions, and a car radio that mysteriously just turned itself off in a borrowed car…the domovoi?

Before our daughter dropped the girls off to spend three days with us she very sweetly implored, “Please don’t break one of them.”

I fed my domovoi!

As the girls arrived on Friday they tumbled out of the car and immediately noticed a hole in the front grass. Right where they like to play, a little stump that serves as their personal perch had simply vanished!

Gone!  Why? It’s been in that spot since before they were born.

Stump Removal

Oh my goodness! It could have been our gardener, but why would he remove it now? After decades? And not ask us?

Was this some kind of warning?

I think my domovoi was appeased this week. I fed him, we heeded his warnings, and I think all is well.

We did find the stump in another part of the yard.

Burled stump

I have only one remaining consideration. I’m not ruling out aliens!

Our household aliens!
Our household aliens!

We have seen a couple of them this past weekend. Fortunately, our aliens are very good-humored!

We have decided to start over again this week with all house spirits appeased!

Here’s to a careful, quiet, peaceful week! But one word of warning–Feed your domovoi!

A fragrant diva’s backyard performance–surely not to be missed

She didn’t know I was watching, but I caught a brief glimpse of her rehearsal. Right before sundown.

She does her best performing before daybreak, but just for me, she stayed up long enough to give me a beautiful Saturday morning showing.

My Brazilian beauty, Arthrocereum glaziovii, is a threatened species, but in my backyard, she is the star of the show.

Olà linda!

She loves to tease! She knows her prickly cactus exterior doesn’t appeal to everyone. She just waits, knowing what she has to offer if they don’t look away.

But for those who know…

I have witnessed her spectacular drama before, but never quite like this! The bees were lured by her strong and extravagant fragrance.

Had she not chosen a weekend performance I might have missed her. You either catch her in the act, or you don’t even know she came to town.

And when she’s had enough, she gently bows, then makes a quick, but quiet retreat. She knows enough to conserve her star power for the next big show–perhaps a few months from now.

She’s only on stage for a brief, but lovely, 24-hour cycle. It’s a rare showing, but so worth waiting for.

Closed buds

At the end of the day, she closes her beautiful petals, but she leaves an impression, softly saying,

“Boa noite meus amigos”.