QUAIL MUTTERINGS #49. Begging For Water (February 2018)

When is the rain coming? Soon, I hope. None in the foreseeable forecast though. Singular blades of grass have pushed up through the soil, thanks to the downpour that came weeks ago. But now, as dry as everything is, I’m afraid the tender young greens will just wilt and die. There goes the food supply for the local wildlife. I feel like I should do a rain dance and chant powerful pleadings to the powers that be. Or go sit on a rock and silently meditate – becoming open for ways that I might be of service to this plight.

I miss last year’s walks through the soggy creekbed. Wading through running water with grandkids in rubber boots. Watching leaves float down the current, pretending they’re boats. Witnessing the horses splay their front legs and reach down to drink from the cool, fresh spring. And then, in the evening, listening to the symphony of frogs from the pond further down the canyon.

Ribet ribet
please it, please it
may the heavens open
and bring replenishment.

May we do no harm
In the way we farm.
And not consume more
than we’re really made for.

Pass it around
everything we’ve found.
Help those in need
instead of filling our greed.

Expand our minds
and share our rides
both far and near
for all are dear.

Yeah, yeah – corny, I know. But I couldn’t help it. Sometimes I just gotta go with the flow – the stream of consciousness – if the stream of water is not available.

The nights have been chilly however. That’s why our yard looks like “White-trash America” with the car hoods up. This practice can save us literally hundreds of dollars. You see, the little wild critters – like rats, mice and squirrels – love nice warm, cozy spaces which a sheltered engine can provide. At least, by lifting the bonnets at night, we lessen the comfort of these dwellings and hopefully prevent expensive chewed-through wires and shorted-out connections. And now that the days are unseasonably warm, we lift the hoods each morning to deter the confused birds from building nests in there during the dead of winter. Yes, this is southern California. But really – it’s a little unnerving, don’t you think?

And vine-ripened tomatoes? In February? What’s that about? Yup, we’ve got that going on in our garden right now. Pretty spooky, huh?

What can each of us do to make a difference and help preserve what we still have? Mother Earth is a beautiful place. It’s where we call home and it’s all we have. Let’s nurture and do our best to sustain her. Each one of us can truly make a difference. And then it becomes the ripple effect. Just like in water.


Chi Varnado’s memoir, A CANYON TRILOGY: Life Before, During and After the Cedar Fire and her children’s book, The Tale of Broken Tail are available on www.amazon.com. Her collection of essays, Quail Mutterings, can be found on www.chivarnado.com. You can follow us on www.Facebook.com/gnomewoodcanyon.

QUAIL MUTTERINGS #48. A Caribbean Jaunt (December 2017)





A Caribbean Jaunt

Monkeys and lizards and frogs, Oh my!

The place is exotic and foreign and nice.

White sands, warm weather and beautiful seas

Don’t have to remain such an elusive tease.

Just a few thousand miles

But don’t get too riled.

You’ll make it to the alluring Caribbean.


Pirates and sailboats and snorkeling galore

Bring pleasure, excitement and dreams of more

Sunbathing and drinking incredible rum

Can leave one a bum

But only if succumbing to a snore.


So much to soak in

From those tropical rays

Where they follow you into the aqua marine.


Locals selling their handmade wares

Haggling prices is never that rare

And then you’ll be caught in their invisible snare.


Musical languages heard all around

From vendors to surfers to waiters then bound

To bounce together in a grand tide of sound.


Singing frogs serenade throughout the night

And continue long after you give up the fight

Chanting their chorus toward the Southern Cross.



An After Thought

Beautiful beaches,

Red reefs submerged in crystal clear waters,

Warm, easy breezes brushing over tropical islands

Dotted with Palm trees.

Friendly hellos and helpful advice

And breadfruit prepared into numerous delights.

What’s not to like?

About visiting a place so peaceful and welcoming?


Oh, and by the way –

Dorothy was right after all.

That there’s really no place like home.

There’s no place like home!



Chi Varnado’s memoir, A CANYON TRILOGY: Life Before, During and After the Cedar Fire and her children’s book, The Tale of Broken Tail are available on www.amazon.com. Her collection of essays, Quail Mutterings, can be found on www.chivarnado.com.

You can follow us on www.Facebook.com/gnomewoodcanyon



QUAIL MUTTERINGS #47. Writing: Navigating the Obstacles (September 2017)

I must admit that I’ve been negligent about writing Quail Mutterings lately. My excuse is the same as everyone else’s: no time. But the fact of the matter is we all have the same amount of time available to us in a day and, for the most part, we simply decide, either consciously or unconsciously, how to spend it. For me, besides following my usual “to-do” lists, I’ve chosen to work on my other writing for the time being.

After retiring from The Dance Centre over a year ago, I’ve begun writing a fictional series about a dance studio. Each novel will focus on a different story ballet and include the adventures of some of the dancers. There doesn’t seem to be much available, in this vein, for eight to fourteen-year-old ballet-obsessed girls. There are plenty of books for horse-crazy kids so why not for dancers? They’re just as rabid for stories about their passion and so, I figured, who better to tackle this project than me? Thirty-seven years of fodder ought to keep me going for quite a while, I should think.

Last spring, when I had the rough draft of the first few chapters done, I met with a group of young dancers at a local elementary school. Each followed along on their pages as I, or a former student of mine, read aloud. We had the best time. Some of them contributed ideas about things they would like to see included in the story or ways to make it more interesting. It was a win/win. I got tips from my target audience and they got “extra credit” for participating.

Since finishing the full rough draft of the manuscript I, once again, am attending writer’s groups and classes. Having my work read and critiqued is essential in this process. The endless details to address in the re-writing and editing phases, such as believability, character point of view and arc of plotting, are next to impossible to get right without other’s feedback.

So now, back to the quail for a moment. I can only afford brief visits to mental wanderings while entrenched in my chosen endeavor. There are literally hundreds of quail in the canyon these days. Yesterday morning, during my run, I accidentally flushed out dozens of them from the sumac bushes lining the trail. I panted my apologies and carried on. After cooling down I took a cold shower. Not by choice, just no hot water. I suppose I’ll have to turn away from the writing project again and attend to the demands of a no-longer-functioning water heater. Things were going so well! Why now?

This morning, after a short writing session, it was time for a break. I headed down to the kitchen for a drink of water. Before taking a sip I noticed a fairly large bird lying in the dirt outside. It reminded me of a Porwil, but it was late morning, so that wasn’t right. I guess it startled when I went outside and it took off. Through the leaves of the Red Berry bush I noticed movement on the other side. I held still and watched. It was a big, beautiful doe. While watching her walk toward the trail I looked around for the two fawns who usually come around with their mother. Perhaps this was a different doe. Anyway, she made my day.

Since I’ve committed to this writing project for now, I’m not going to lead any of the docent-led hikes out at Ramona Grasslands Old Survey Road this fall. I will, instead, take walks on my own when I feel the need to break up the writing concentration sessions. Power hikes, walking meditations, trail running… whatever it takes. Plus working, of course. That goes without saying. And then, after looking up the mountain at the wet boulder beneath our water tank, I hiked up there to play detective. Great. It’s just what I thought it was. Our water storage vessel has sprung a leak! The fun never stops. The writing goes on hold once again.


Chi Varnado’s memoir, A CANYON TRILOGY: Life Before, During and After the Cedar Fire and her children’s book, The Tale of Broken Tail are available on www.amazon.com. Her collection of essays, Quail Mutterings, can be found on www.chivarnado.com.

You can follow us on www.Facebook.com/gnomewoodcanyon