The Trash Panda King (and Other Tales)

The Teenager came home last night from his nightly biking rounds, opened my door, and laid an offering of river shells before me.

They were big and beautiful even without a good soak and scrub.

…I love that he brings shells home for me because he knows they’re one of my favorite things.

The child went on to tell me they are from his secret spot- one you can only get to when the river is low. And there are tons of shells ripe for the picking.

Naturally, I was intrigued.

In my mind, I pictured my teenager had stumbled upon the shell hoard of a trash panda king. This regal raccoon had gathered all the shells it could find, stashing them in a location devoid of humans and other creatures who might steal his precious treasure.

Like Smaug from The Hobbit.

But with shells instead of gold. Grey fur instead of scales. And no fire breathing.

Of course I had to see this secret spot with its tons and tons of shells. My son offered to take me- I accepted.

We walked to the river, descended into the dry spot of the river bed- walking along it slowly over rocks and mud. Close to the spot he had in mind, shells began appearing where water had dried up. All shapes and sizes hidden among the yellowing river plants growing on a tiny island crafted by the water’s currents.

We drew near to an old dam- shells scattered like gravel. He told me from this area on was where they were the most plentiful.

He wasn’t kidding.

It wasn’t the hoard of an OCD trash panda king stashed under a rock crevice as I had hoped, but still impressive to see the numerous amounts of shells. It was almost as if they had grown from the river bed itself.

Then we reached the area he wanted to show me.

We could hear water dripping from the bottom of the tree.
The edge of the dam.

I wasn’t able to capture the entire beauty of this small spot off of the river, but I think there are things simply meant for us to enjoy in person.

The end of the day was drawing near, so we made our way back to the street and towards home- shells jiggling quietly in my bag.

I was grateful to have had this experience with my son. Not only did he share this little secret with me, but it felt good to share our mutual love of exploring nature. It was exactly what I needed- a gentle reminder to keep finding the joy I have lost through the years.

Little did I know I was going to have another surprise this morning!

But first, time for a quick palate cleanser.

I’m pretty sure I mentioned back in April that my father had acquired a 25lb bag of flour because we weren’t going to go without bread during a pandemic.

…but after he secured flour for the homestead, people stopped hoarding grocery store bread.

And it sat. And sat. And sat.


Not pictured are three more bags of flour that had already made its way into the chest freezer.

The whole time I was dividing it into baggies, I kept thinking about Narcos/Miami in the 80’s. And Escobar’s golden toilet…or was it more than one toilet that he had made?! What happened to it/them?!

Regardless of the fate the golden toilet(s) met, it felt good to get something done…and have the giant flour bag out of the way. We’re a little cramped for space around here.

However, there is plenty of space for my new house pet.

Today was the day I finally got tired of looking at my overflowing trash can. As I went to open the back door to take it out, I saw something move.


My friend, Lauren, got me started on this FB page little while back. Ophelia the Monster.

Ophelia is a regal jumping spider.

And I was in love, which is a big deal because I have always hated spiders.

But jumping spiders warm my heart with their sweet little spider eyes. In fact, they have become my and Lauren’s thing.

A few weeks ago, I was checking on my plants (because I’m that plant mom) when I noticed something over off to the side of the window.


I was so excited- I named her Erlene.

She would sit there, watching me as I watered my plants. It was so cute and I loved it.

As much as I enjoyed her company, I became worried she wouldn’t last long inside- I wasn’t sure if she’d be able to catch enough bugs. So I took her outside, letting her go right off of our back porch.

…and I missed her.

When I saw her today on the door, I was so happy. I decided it was a sign, so I grabbed a jar, coaxed her into it, and took her back to where I first met her- right next to my plants.

She’s camera shy, but I was able to get a picture of her little face.


I’ve considered keeping her in a terrarium, but even if I research how to care for her properly, I don’t know how I’d feel about keeping her, a wild creature, in a cage.

And I don’t like the idea of having to feed her live insects. Let’s face it. I am a softy.

So I will enjoy Erlene’s company as long as she decides to stay with us. And at least she’s inside where she’s warm and mostly safe. I think she should be okay where she’s at, even with other (unwanted) spiders lurking about. I even removed the sticky traps around her little space so she won’t get stuck in them.

In a cage or free to roam among my plants, I will love her just the same. There’s something so endearing about that cute little face of hers. She brings me so much joy.

Who knew I’d become a spider mom?!

More posts to come.

Published by amberalice

I’m not sure how to summarize myself properly (I struggle with simply being human). But let’s give it a try! Spiritual witchy hippie who dreams of three day weekends and human rights for all. Lunch lady to the neighborhood birbs (white breasted nut hatches are the best!). Adore my jumping spiders. Oh, there are also 50 or so plants we share our home with. And some rogue lady bugs. It’s always interesting to see where they show up. Like on toilet paper. This is where I add a heavy dash of queer, neurodivergency, and vegetarianism. Am big on hugs- I give them most generously.

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