Tag Archives: birds

Dogs and Birds

At the end of March 2021, we adopted Bailey from the San Jose Animal Shelter. She is a mostly Malinois (a type of Belgian Shepherd) who is just over a year old. That is, Bailey is a teenager in dog-years. She is smart and active and curious, so John is spending quite a bit of time socializing and training her. In the afternoons our two 10 year-old dogs (Redda and Gilroy) are happy to sleep in their kennel, away from her energetic puppy demands to play.

We have dogs not only as pets but also to warn us when there are trespassers on the Guadalupe River bank that is our back property line. Several times a week there are homeless or random people who think (despite the signs and fences) that our yard is some kind of public park. Some of these transient neighbors decide that our ladders, bikes, tools, or other stuff are just what they need. Our dogs earn their keep by making our yard less accessible to petty thieves and unwelcome sightseers.

Bailey is sweet and cuddly, loves to run fast, jump in her water trough, and try to drink from the hose. Gilroy is teaching her to play fetch but while she will take his ball, she does not want to give it back. On the advice of a dog trainer, we are nose training Bailey – that is, giving her the task of hunting for treats using only scent – to engage her mind. We have to enforce daily naps so Bailey does not get over-tired.

At the same time as managing the dogs, our 15 year-old cockatiel birds (Guapo and Sparky) have developed health issues. Guapo in particular has been falling off his perch. Our vet suggested that we raise the floor of their cage. We also added cotton pillowcases for padding to make his splats softer. Guapo’s tail feathers are already starting to grow back.

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Reading _The Plague_

In 2012, we had a mouse infestation in our home, one of the potential downsides of pet birds. I was thinking of this when our book club read The Plague by Albert Camus  (in which the bubonic plague starts with rats). Plague and pestilence books have been popular during the Coronavirus pandemic, with book recommendations lists being widely published. We read sections of Camus’ 1947 book in last semester’s “God and Suffering” class at GTU‘s Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology (DSPT). Ironically, The Plague was part of the reading list for the class before Covid-19 came upon us. It seems to me that in the months since the pandemic started, we have slowly become like the people of Camus’ town of Oran in Algeria who, “in the very heart of the epidemic… maintained a saving indifference, which one was tempted to take for composure.”

The Plague‘s narrator ends with qualified optimism,

He “…resolved to compile this chronicle, so that he should not be one of those who hold their peace but should bear witness in favor of those plague-stricken people; so that some memorial of the injustice and outrage done them might endure; and to state quite simply what we learn in a time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.

None the less, he knew that the tale he had to tell could not be one of a final victory. It could be only the record of what had had to be done, and what assuredly would have to be done again in the never ending fight against terror and its relentless onslaughts, despite their personal afflictions, by all who, while unable to be saints but refusing to bow down to pestilences, strive their utmost to be healers.”

While our community has become less focused on the pandemic and has turned to other matters, I pray that we continue to honor and support the heroic doctors and health workers who are still fighting Covid-19.

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Images Copyright 2012 by Katy Dickinson.

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London Bridge, Hidden Valley, Desert Botanical Garden

Yesterday, Jessica and I we drove to Joshua Tree National Park and walked the Hidden Valley Nature Trail which is full of yuccas, cactus, and piles of vast granite boulders. Today, Jessica and I started off with a walk across London Bridge over Lake Havasu, Arizona. The 1830s structure over the River Thames was dismantled and rebuilt in Arizona in 1971. We then drove to the superb Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix where the temperature was 107 degrees Fahrenheit. Tomorrow, we go to the Petrified Forest National Park and Santa Fe. In long stretches of desert driving, we have seen shoe-laden ruins, lizards, birds, chipmunks, rabbits, squirrels (and one big snake) but no roadrunners or tortoises yet. Still hoping to see a roadrunner…

Photos Copyright 2019 by Katy Dickinson

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Images of God

1. Basilica of San Vitale - Lamb of God mosaic

This is an online version of a handout I created for my weekly Education for Ministry seminar at Elmwood Correctional Facility (County Jail – in Milpitas, California).  The students in EfM Year 1 (the Hebrew Bible) were reading Genesis 1:27 “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Here are 21 varied images of God, dated from 527 – 2017, plus Bible verses describing God, for class discussion.

Update June 2002: Trinity – Images of God (7 June 2020 Prelude) – images in this post were used in St. Andrew’s Episcopal ChurchTrinity Sunday service. Update 22 October 2021, fixed broken link.

2. Vault mosaic - San Vitale - Ravenna 2016

List of Pictures:

Description More Information Image Source
1. Lamb of God (Jesus Christ) – mosaic in the presbytery, Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy (527 CE) Basilica of San Vitale Basilica of San Vitale – Lamb of God mosaic
2. God in Heaven – mosaic in the apse, Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy (527 CE) Basilica of San Vitale Vault_mosaic_-_San_Vitale_-_Ravenna_2016
3. Christ Pantocrator – All Powerful – mosaic, chapel of San Zeno, Rome, Italy (822) Santa Prassede Mosaic of the vault of the chapel of San Zeno (IX century)
4. God as Architect of the Universe – Frontispiece of Bible Moralisee, Paris, France (1230) Bible moralisée God the Geometer
5. God the Father – painting by Giotto, Florence, Italy (1330) Giotto God the Father with Angels
6. Ghent Altarpiece (detail) – painting by Hubert and Jan van Eyck, Saint Bavo Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium (1432) Ghent Altarpiece Retable de l’Agneau mystique (Altarpiece of the Mystical Lamb)
7. The Creation of the Heavenly Bodies (detail) – painting by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, Sistine Chapel, Rome, Italy (1512) Michelangelo Sistine Chapel: Creation of the universe
8. God the Father – painting by Cima Da Conegliano, Venice, Italy (1517) Cima da Conegliano Cima da Conegliano, God the Father
9. God the Father – painting by Ludovico Mazzolino, Ferrara, Italy (1520) Ludovico Mazzolino Ludovico_Mazzolino_-_God_the_Father
10. God the Father – painting by Girolamo dai Libri, Verona, Italy (1555) Girolamo dai Libri God_the_Father_with_His_Right_Hand_Raised_in_Blessing
11. Picture Bible “Die Bibel in Bildern” (detail) – engraving by Julius Schnorr (1860) Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld_Bibel_in_Bildern
12. Holy Lord Sabaoth – Russian Icon (date?) Russian icons Holy Lord Saboath
13. Kakure Kirishitan Heaven – scroll painting, Ikitsuki Island, Nagasaki, Japan (date?) Kakure Kirishitan The Hidden Christians (at Ikitsuki Museum, Nagasaki, Japan)
14. God as Mother Hen – Dominus Flevit Church, Jerusalem, Israel (1955) Dominus Flevit Church Mosaic_Art_at_Dominus_Flevit
15. God as Dove (Holy Spirit) – stained glass by James Scanlan, Cathedral of St. Mary & St. Anne, Cork, Ireland (1990) Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary & St. Anne Stained Glass at the Cathedral of St. Mary & St. Anne
16. Father (and Holy Spirit) – stained glass at St. Virgil Church, in Morris Plains, New Jersey USA (contemporary, date?) St. Virgil Parish Top Panel, Stained Glass wall depicting Ascension of Jesus
17. George Burns as God, from movies “Oh, God!” (1977), and “Oh, God, Book II” (1980) Oh, God! Classics of the Corn
18. Alanis Morissette as God, from movies “Dogma” (1999), and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” (2001) Dogma (film) View Askewniverse Wiki: God
19. Morgan Freeman as God, from movies “Bruce Almighty” (2003), and “Evan Almighty” (2007) Evan Almighty Evan Almighty Morgan Freeman as God
20. Ethiopian Orthodox Trinity – painted hide (2014) Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Picture by Katy Dickinson – Painted icon purchased in Ethiopia 2016. Icon Pictures and More Icon Pictures
21. “The Shack” – movie (2017) The Shack “The Shack – A Film Review,” Formed Faith, 20 June 2017

Pictures of God:

3. Mosaic of the vault of the chapel of San Zeno (IX century)

4. God the Geometer

5. Giotto - God the Father with Angels

6. van Eyck - Altarpiece of the Mystical Lamb

7. Michaelangelo - Creation of the Sun and Moon
8. Cima da Conegliano, God the Father

9. Ludovico_Mazzolino, God the Father

10. Girolamo dai Libri, God the Father

11. Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld_Bibel_in_Bildern

12. Holy Lord Sabaoth - icon

13. Kakure Kirishitan Heaven

14. Mosaic Art at Dominus Flevit

15. Dove Stained Glass - Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Anne

16. Father (and Holy Spirit) - St. Virgil Parish

17. George Burns as God

18. Alanis Morissette as God

19. Morgan Freeman as God

20. Ethiopian Orthodox Trinity Icon 2016

21. Jesus, Man, God, and Holy Spirit, Trinity from The Shack movie 2017

Images of God in the Bible (Selected):


  • 1 Bear: “I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps” Hosea 13:8
  • 2 Lamb: “This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing. The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” John 1:28-29
  • 3 Moth: “Like a moth you eat away all that is dear to us.” Psalm 39:12

1940 three bear cubs, Smokey Mountains TN


  • 4 Eagle: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Exodus 19:4
  • 5 Eagle: “He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft.” Deuteronomy 32:10-11
  • 6 Bird: “Hide me under the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 17:8
  • 7 Bird: “Let me abide in your tent forever, find refuge under the shelter of your wings.” Psalm 61:4
  • 8 Bird: “For you have been my helper, and under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice.” Psalm 63:7
  • 9 Bird: “He shall cover you with his pinions, and you shall find refuge under his wings.” Psalm 91:4
  • 10 Dove: “And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.” Matthew 3:16
  • 11 Hen: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
    Luke 13:34 and also Matthew 23:37


  • 12 “You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.” Deuteronomy 32:18
  • 13 “From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the hoarfrost of heaven?” Job 38:29
  • 14 “Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.” (God as a midwife) Psalm 22:9
  • 15 “As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until he has mercy upon us.” Psalm 123:2
  • 16 “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.” Psalm 131:2
  • 17 “For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept myself still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant.” Isaiah 42:14
  • 18 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” Isaiah 49:15
  • 19 “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” Isaiah 66:13
  • 20 “Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.” Hosea 11:3-4

Fire and Clouds

  • 21 “The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night.” Exodus has seven mentions, in: 13:21-21 through 33:10
  • 22 “They have heard that you, O Lord, are in the midst of this people; for you, O Lord, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go in front of them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.” Numbers 14:14
  • 23 “The Lord appeared at the tent in a pillar of cloud; the pillar of cloud stood at the entrance to the tent.” Deuteronomy 31:15
  • 24 “You led them by day with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire, to give them light on the way in which they should go.” Nehemiah 9:12 and 9:19
  • 24 “He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud; they kept his decrees, and the statutes that he gave them.”Psalm 99:7

2013 Sunset Beirut Lebanon by Katy Dickinson

See linked pages for individual image copyrights.

Image links updated from time to time. Additional text added 8 June 2020.
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Technology for the Incarcerated

Christmas 2016 Elmwood Jail

I read Dr. Arshya Vahabzadeh‘s recent article “How Technology Could Improve Mental Health in Prisons – But So Far Isn’t” (13 Dec 2016, in Fast Company) and considered other ways in which technology helps inmates.  I lead a weekly Education for Ministry seminar at Elmwood Correctional Facility (County Jail – in Milpitas, California). Here is how I see technology helping the ten men in my seminar:

  1. Because they do not have computer access, I make a standing offer to research topics that arise from our class discussions and bring the curious students more information.  Last night, I delivered printouts on Suetonius, Julius Caesar, prophecy in the Book of Daniel, the Caiaphas Ossuary, Galilee Boat, Ketef Hinnom, and Tel Dan Stele, plus a biography of Pontius Pilate. Wikipedia‘s easy access to vast fields of knowledge means in only an hour a week, I can bring the inmates a richer view into the world of the Hebrew BibleNew Testament, and Christian history.
  2. I was one of the St. Andrew’s prison ministry team who brought worship and song to Elmwood on Christmas Day. When leaving, I noticed a group of lovely deep purple irises blooming next to the back parking lot. Further on, I stopped to take a photo of two ducks on the water behind the jail. Just then, a big white egret erupted from under the bridge where I stood – as if an angel were arising from the water.  Because of easy and cheap digital photography and my color printer, I can show the inmates pictures of how nature was celebrating Christmas with them.
  3. One of my students was transferred from Elmwood jail into the state prison system.  He is highly intelligent and deeply faithful and wants to keep up his Christian studies.  Because prisons and jails will accept book deliveries directly from Amazon, I can use ecommerce to send him better books than are available in the prison library.  For Christmas, I sent him two EfM books: Transformed Lives: Making Sense of Atonement Today, and Care for Creation (a franciscan spirituality of the earth). We hope he will be transferred to a prison that offers an EfM Online course or one with an in-person class.
  4. The Elmwood class asked for song books in both English and Spanish so that they can sing hymns together.  I found Oramos Cantando – We Pray in Song. There are Spanish-only and English-only hymnals but this seems to be the only bilingual song book available. I even checked with our church’s Director of Music – who said he did not know of any.  I was able to locate eight paperback copies in good condition for less than $10/each on Amazon, delivered in a week from eight different used book sellers located all over the USA.

Oramos Cantando - We Pray in Song, 2005
Christmas 2016 Elmwood Jail

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Updated 3 January 2017
Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson


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San Juan Islands, Washington State


We are just driving home from a week with family in the San Juan Islands at the north end of the State of Washington, just below Canada. This is about a thousand miles driving each way from our home in San Jose, California! All along the way, we saw the looming background presence of some of the largest California-Oregon-Washington mountains: Shasta, Baker, Rainier – part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the ring of volcanoes and associated mountains around the Pacific Ocean.

As this was our first visit to the islands, we also saw many of the tourist sights: Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm, Pelindaba Lavender, whale watching with San Juan Excursions, Orcas Island Pottery, the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, Lime Kiln Point State Park, etc. There were a great variety of wild and tame animals along the way: foxes, orcas, a great horned owl, deer, a camel, a black snake, salmon, seagulls, harbor seals and dolphins, sea anemones and barnacles, bald eagles, turkey vultures, quail, honey bees and bumble bees, raccoons and alpacas – and of course, horses, cows, sheep, pigs, cats and dogs. We enjoyed two Shakespeare performances: Much Ado About Nothing (at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR), and Cymbeline (at Island Stage Left, Roche Harbor, WA). A delightful trip!



















Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson


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Public Objects to San Jose Water Company Plan


On 28 May 2015 in downtown San Jose, California, the San Jose Water Company held the first and only public hearing on their Proposed Water Shortage Contingency Plan – that is, how they will respond to Executive Order B-29-15 by the Governor of the State of California (signed 1 April 2015) requiring a further statewide 25% reduction in potable urban water usage through February 28, 2016. The private San Jose Water Company serves over a million people in the greater San Jose metropolitan area (about 230,000 paying customers) – including many in core Silicon Valley cities: Campbell, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Santa Clara, San Jose, and Saratoga.

In his introductory remarks, John B. Tang (Vice President of Government Relations and Corporate Communications, San Jose Water) said that they expected a decision by the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) by 15 June 2015. He further mentioned that there has already been a 17 foot drop in groundwater during the last year (subsidence) and that it would take up to 300% of normal rainfall to retreat from the drought.  Mr. Tang said that San Jose Water is asking for residential customers to cut 30% of their water usage – by average rather than by individual customer usage. There will be an appeal process published later to address issues of medical needs and larger-than-4 family size. Palle Jensen (Senior Vice President-Regulatory Affairs, San Jose Water) and Bob Day (Director of Customer Service, San Jose Water) also spoke.  Mr. Jensen in particular expressed his frustration in only having 25 days to prepare their plan.  He several times blamed the plan’s shortcomings on the short development time allowed and on requirements given to San Jose Water by the Santa Clara Valley Water District and other agencies.

My son Paul and I were among about 350 upset local citizens, landowners, and small business owners who attended the meeting.  All who spoke objected to how the San Jose Water Company has chosen to respond to the Governor’s new water reduction order. Of the dozens who came to the microphone after many hours of patiently standing in line in the auditorium, no one objected to conserving water or minimized the seriousness of the California drought, now in its fourth year. They did energetically disapprove of how the San Jose Water Company proposes to respond.


  • California’s Executive Order calls for a 25% water usage reduction as compared 2013 and directs that “These restrictions should consider the relative per capita water usage of each water suppliers’ service area, and require that those areas with high per capita use achieve proportionally greater reductions than those with low use.” [emphasis added]
  • The San Jose Water Company’s plan calls for a 30% reduction of the average water usage across residential customers.  Apartments and business will only have to reduce landscape watering.  However, private homes will have in addition to conserve inside water usage. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 31% of  City of San Jose citizens live in “Housing units in multi-unit structures” – that is, about a third of area housing that will not have to conserve water under this plan.
  • The single most recommended change requested by the public to the San Jose Water plan was to ask that reductions be based on individual (per capita) usage for all customers rather than by average of only residential customers.
  • The criticism most frequently expressed at the hearing was that no notes were taken by the three executives (other than to record who spoke and what city they came from) and no recording was made – indicating that this meeting was only for legal requirements, rather than to listen seriously.  There was no indication that the San Jose Water Company proposal would be modified before its submission to the PUC.  However, the executives did say that they would consider changes to the program in the future.
  • The size of a residential lot is not taken into consideration in the proposed plan.  Several speakers from the public said that they have many large trees that will die without water this summer.  One woman with a big lot said she had already deeply cut her water use and the new plan would require her to cut 88% of her water usage in addition to paying much higher water rates because of drought surcharges.  She said it cost her over $4,000/each to have large dead trees removed so that they did not create a fire hazard. Another man with a larger property said he had already cut his water usage by 45% but was being asked to reduce even more.  The San Jose Water executives eventually mentioned that the Santa Clara Valley Water District has an agricultural exemption program that homeowners who grow their own food or have orchards can investigate.
  • Some businesses (commercial nurseries, golf courses) are exempt from the restrictions; however, swimming pool and spa companies will not be allowed to fill new pools.  About five of the speakers from the audience identified themselves as being associated with pool or spa companies who foresaw serious job losses.  They said that swimming pools use less water than even drought-resistant landscaping (and one third of the water of a grass lawn), so the restriction on filling new pools did not make sense.
  • One speaker reported that other water companies in the San Francisco Bay Area are being far less strict in their requirements of customers.  For example, the nearby East Bay Municipal Utility District (“East Bay MUD”) is only seeking to reduce water use by 20%.
  • Several speakers objected to San Jose Water encouraging neighbors to tattle on each other. There is even a special webpage to make local spying easy. (Compare this to a southern California community that last month started giving cash rewards to their Water Saver of the Month to encourage conservation success.)

Our own family lives in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose, part of the San Jose Water Company’s service area.  We have a large lot bordered by the Guadalupe River. As I wrote in February, the Guadalupe River in San Jose was dry in summer 2014 for the first time since we bought our house 18 years ago. The river rose this winter but only a few water pools are left now. Our riparian property is home to a large number and variety wild animals, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.  We have dozens of very large trees – old native oaks, cottonwoods, redwoods, ashes, olives and other nut and fruit trees – that are already stressed by the long drought. We have been reducing our water use for many years and are in the process of applying to the Landscape Conversion program of the Santa Clara Valley Water District. That is, we are letting our lawn die and planning to replace the grass with less-water-hungry plants. We will redirect the lawn water to do what we can to save our trees.  Fires set by the homeless who often settle along the riverbank are a big concern for us.  There was a serious fire caused by a campfire a few years ago just upstream from our house.  We are very motivated to keep our trees watered and in good health to reduce fire risk.

From the 9th edition of the New Sunset Western Garden Book: The Ultimate Gardening Guide (2012) p.719:

How to Fight Drought:
When drought comes, and with it the possibility of local bans on lawn watering or punishing hikes in water bills, what can you do? It’s too late at that point to install a water-conserving landscape, but you can take steps to save the plants you have.
Save established trees and shrubs first. These are costly to replace and have the greatest impact on your landscape. (A lawn can be replaced with sod in an afternoon, but a 70-foot-tall redwood can take 20 years or more to replace)….”




Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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