Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday

I could rant about the tragedy unfolding in our country right now. To say we are blown away and heartbroken would be an understatement. What we have become in a few short months is far more devastating and shocking than anything we could have imagined. But instead of going on with all of that, I'd rather post this. A simple photo of my mother enjoying a cookie, because this is what actually brings me some joy (photo taken by my sister on August 13th!).

Monday, August 14, 2017

When Lousy Weather Is A Good Thing

We've had overcast foggy skies for more than  a week. It hung over us with relentless dimness, a shadowless gray that stretched as far as the eyes could see. Day unfolded to night with just a lowering of the gray scales until fully dark. I haven't photographed much of anything for so long, and yet I am not disappointed. What could I possibly post here that could balance the madness that grips our country? I am sitting on a Sunday afternoon typing these words, feeling slightly post-traumatic stressed. I can't think of a single beauty that would balance the unleashed hatred that spilled blood in the streets of Charlottesville. My older brother had talked of going to the rally to protest. We marched together in the streets of Newark, NJ in the late 1960s protesting the war in Vietnam. I called him Saturday morning to check in with him and make sure he wouldn't go. He lives only a half hour drive away. He said he had re-thought it and wouldn't go. He knew it would be dangerous, and it was.

Who are we? Why do we still have these same battles year after year, century after century? I'm tired of seeing arms raised in the Nazi salute, swastikas, torches burning, and the signs of the Klan, alt-right symbols and all the newly adopted signs of hatred of our modern world. Who are we?

On Saturday we went to a garage sale. When we walked up the driveway the woman sitting there gave me one of those looks. What look was that? The one that said "Oh you brown-skinned person, why are you here on my driveway?" We looked around and then left. When we walked away I said to Roger, "I really don't like that woman." He said, "Why?" I said because of the way she looked at me. He said, "Oh yeah, that, she didn't look at you in a friendly way at all." 

 Who are we?

Okay, so here's one photo. I'm pretending that the birds are shouting. "Who are you? Who are you? Please stop with the violence and hatred. Please."

PS:  We had to turn on comment moderation for the first time because some unknown comment-bot was leaving ridiculous comments.

Friday, August 11, 2017

What The Caregiver Said

On Wednesday my mom moved into the next level of memory care at the assisted living facility. It was a hard day. Her furniture did not fit quite as well as it did in the previous apartment. She was a bit frantic. She told my brother that she was anxious and upset. My siblings and I were full of despair over it. We understood that she needed to be there, that her desire to wander required a locked and secured wing. She even said to my brother, "Everything is locked here." We emailed back and forth. We lamented the turn of events. We wondered if there could've been another way.

On Thursday I took a chance and called the facility and asked to talk to my mother. I braced myself for sadness. When she answered the phone she said, "Hello Robin.." in that voice, that calm slightly out of it voice. She was okay. She told me she slept well. She was fine. "Was the move yesterday? I don't remember." Wow, a sigh of relief.

My brother spoke to the caregiver on Thursday and this is how he wrote of their conversation:

The caregiver just returned my call and spoke to me about her contact with mom yesterday. She said she's already developing a relationship with mom. At one point mom saw her in the hallway and mom said, "A familiar face." And the caregiver replied, "I have been waiting for you for a long time." 

Later mom went to her office and "B" invited her to sit down so mom sat with her while she worked.
Our hearts felt calmer knowing that the caregiver was there taking care of our mom. She is in good hands and hearts right now. We can't ask for anything more. Well, we could, but magic and wishes don't make Alzheimer's go away. Sigh.

We thank you all for your kind words and support. Sometimes it takes a virtual village.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Time and Distance: The Physics of Love

In 1970, when my twin brother and I graduated from high school in New Jersey, my parents sold our home and moved the family to southern California. They wanted us to go to college in California, and they liked the idea of not having to put up with New Jersey winters anymore. So, my twin brother, younger sister, and a friend of our older brother's drove one of the family cars across country to start our new life. We had never been further west than Pennsylvania! We had never even gone camping before. It was quite a journey, with well-planned campsites in Ohio, Illinois, and Kansas and a lovely stop over in Longmont, Co at a beautiful hippie commune. We made it to southern California and our eyes began to tear from the smog. Seriously. We had never experienced anything like it. That was in July. I applied for a job at some hippie art shop that was in Topanga Canyon half way between the San Fernando Valley and the Pacific Ocean. I hitchhiked to work. I trusted the world. And you readers of this blog know how that turned out for me. My experience of southern California was not a pleasant one. By May of 1971, I decided to head back to New Jersey and spent the summer trying to figure out what to do with the upheaval of my life. Then, I drove back to California, spent the winter of 1971-2 with my parents and left again moving north to Portland, Oregon. I never lived in southern California again. Why is any of this relevant? Because my parents stayed. And now, I have not lived near my mother for more than 45 years.
My dad helping build the cabin in southern Oregon
My parents and I visited each other every year, sometimes more than once depending on how close we were. They came to see the 10 acres of land I bought in southern Oregon in 1974 and even helped a bit with our little home-made cabin. They visited me in Boulder, Colorado many times, when my then-husband was the videographer for the CBS affiliate, and I was a student. On one road trip, they went on to Mount Rushmore and then across country to see the east-coast family.  A few years later they came to see me in Rhode Island when that same then-husband had a job at the university and I was in graduate school. I like to think that my restlessness helped them see our beautiful country.
Roger's mom, my parents, and us in Capitola 1991
In 1988, I moved back to California and conveniently moved in with my twin brother and his wife in Santa Cruz while I nursed my broken heart after that crazy marriage ended. I met Roger on New Years eve that year, and we stayed in Santa Cruz until 2004. That was the longest I had stayed in one place since I graduated from high school. Sixteen years. An amazing thing for me. This blog has chronicled our moves since then. Santa Cruz to Port Townsend (2004-2008). Port Townsend to Arcata (2008). Arcata to Santa Cruz (2008-2009). Santa Cruz to Grass Valley (2009-2014). Grass Valley to Arcata. Here. Now. Happy. Not moving.

Still, even with all the distance and moving, there is something about love that seems to have bridged all of it. I often think of my grandmother when I am lamenting how far I live from my mother in this waning time of her life. My grandparents came from Germany to this country in 1921. My grandmother left her mother and two brothers and their families in Leipzeig. The only communication they had after that was letters written that crossed the Atlantic. They never saw each other again. There really are things that we can do with pen and paper that carries the heart as far as you can send it. When I think of my mother, I think of all the cards I have sent her in the past three months. Once a week, a love letter and a photo of something beautiful. They were all in her room when we visited last month. She looks at them and re-reads them. Letters are tangible love. Love, love, love in the land of time and distance.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

74 + 1

last year i wrote a post for my birthday labelled “74.”

so. another year older and not deeper in debt.

the decimal system prompts us to pay more attention to numbers ending in zero, and to a lesser extent, ending in 5. but this particular year ending in 5 is surely more worthy of attention than 65 or 55, because it is also 3/4 of a century. i have been alive for 3/4 of a century! and yet, whenever i am it is always now.

some times i think that the weight of the past, all of it, good and bad, is what slows us down as we pass from a now of youth to a now of old. it’s just that there is so much of it. new stuff doesn’t always find room in our memory even though old stuff is almost perceivably fading.

obviously i am no wiser than last year. hopefully not less wise.

my skin has not grown thicker. quite the opposite. i mean my actual dermis. it tears and punctures more easily than it did last year. as i am a bit clumsy my arms and hands suffer continual wounds. on the bright side the very same dermis heals nicely. also my blood pressure is still high enough to warrant treatment. though, despite my doctor’s disapproval, i do eschew meds on days when my blood pressure is close to normal.

i’m not complaining though. working in the garden, walking on the beach or in the forest, seeing my family, and living pretty much 24/7 with my wonderful wife robin keeps me busy and happy.

i just reread last year's post. i will update my conclusion. it has become a much much stranger trip.

and the furry freak brothers are still right on.

Monday, July 31, 2017

End of July Photos

I got my computer back last Thursday. I had a chance to look at the photos I took on the trip south to see my mom. Lots of cloud photos in Capitola, and then birds here at home. So here they are. (The Cooper's Hawk was perched on our front gate, and the rainbow rays were from the highway photos.)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Rebuilding A Mountain

Back on April 26th, a landslide came down and blocked both lanes of Highway 101, the major route in and out of Humboldt County. A traveler that day videoed the event. The winter rains had been playing havoc with the roads for months, which is why there were already work crews there trying to keep the highway open with at least one lane of traffic. This, of course, closed it down completely for a while. When we headed south on July 13th, this part of the highway was still down to one lane of traffic, with up to 40 minute delays while workers attempted to shore up the side of the mountain.
It was a beautiful sunny day while we waited with other travelers, parked along the Eel River. That patch of brown mountain is where the slide came down. While we waited, we heard a helicopter approach and looked up to see this.
The helicopter was bringing metal netted sheeting to be place on the side of the mountain in an effort to secure it and to keep it from rock-sliding down again on to the already beleaguered highway. We watched as it lowered these strips to workers hardly visible on the mountainside.
The pattern seemed to be to do four helicopter deliveries, and then let the traffic go through. So we just watched and waited our turn for the call for south traffic to come ahead. A very nice employee drove along telling everyone, "Get ready to start your engines!"
How's that for a long, arduous day's work?
Our return trip was on a Sunday, so we didn't get to see any work being done. There are traffic lights installed at both ends of the work zone, letting the traffic pass north and south, one lane at a time. The work is supposed to go on until October, when the winter rains could begin again.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Some People Break Computers...

... and I'm one of them. It's true. I have broken every computer I've owned, and I don't know how or why. I am very careful. I turn my computer off at night. I have different passwords for every site. I back up regularly. Still, they break one after another. Last year Roger put a Solid State hard drive in my old MacBook Pro. It worked great for about six months and then it started to do some wacky things. Instead of "going to sleep" it would go into a coma every time. I had to restart every few minutes. It was getting completely unusable. So, we decided to just buy me a new computer. That was in June. It was a nice new MacBook Pro, much lighter than my old one, and quite speedy. I liked it very much. When we were on the central coast last weekend, I was showing my twin brother and sister-in-law some photos on the computer. I looked away for one second and then looked back. Suddenly, there was a vertical pink line straight down the center of the screen. It was weird. So, I restarted the computer, thinking it was a temporary glitch. Nope. It came right back and stayed. Sometimes the line was a light green. Still, it was always there, strangely distracting. So, when we got back home, we brought the computer to the local Mac repair shop. I handed the computer to the guy behind the counter and he turned it on. He said, "Uh-oh." I said, "Uh-oh." He said that looks like a manufacturer problem. "You'll have to leave that with us for a few days to see what we can do." So I did.

All of the photos from the trip are on that computer sitting on a shelf at the repair shop. Yes, I have a backup, but my old Mac, which I'm using now (Roger put in the old hard-drive, and it's behaving for now) won't let me grab photos off of it. I wanted to post some of the beautiful cloud formations we saw over Monterey Bay. Luckily, I did post a photo on Facebook which I'll post here. It's one of my favorite moments of the trip. Anti-crepuscular rays, earth's shadow, and the Belt of Venus all in one shot. And, interestingly I didn't even notice that's what I was photographing that evening at sunset looking east. I had gone out just to photograph the very cool clouds.

Well, if things work out, I'll be able to share more of what we saw, but for now, it's just this photo on my very old computer. So, do you break computers or know someone who does? I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Crossing The Golden Gate Home

We left Capitola early Sunday morning for the long (350 miles) trip home. We leave early with the plan to get through San Francisco and cross the Golden Gate Bridge by 9:30. The city gets so busy, crazy, crowded so fast and we have to drive through it on regular city streets (19th Avenue) to cross the bridge. Sunday mornings are best for zooming, so we zoom along. There is a vista point rest area just on the other side of the bridge. We stop there for some tea and toast that we pack along with us. And we take in the view. It's always beautiful no matter what.
It's just one of those places that takes your breath away, makes you glad that you've come this way and stopped for a bit of tea and toast. The fog was just hanging out over the entire city. We laughed about what Mark Twain didn't really say, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." I really wished he had said that, but Snopes said he didn't. It's true nonetheless.

Thank you all for you wonderful heartfelt and uplifting comments on the post about our visit with my mom. It really helps to share these stories of her journey. I called her when we arrived back in Arcata to let her know we were safely home. She actually answered the phone. She sounded sweet and lovely and wispy and full of love. I told her that I would be sending her homemade cards again, now that we're here. She said, "I love your cards. I can't wait." I think I'll send her this.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Our Visit So Far

We arrived on Sunday and went to see my mom in the Memory Care unit of the Assisted Living facility. She was sitting in her recliner, resting. When she opened her eyes and saw us, she gave us the sweetest smile and warmest greeting. She remembered who we were. She had been having a bad day, the kind of day that worried the staff there.
Roger photographed my mom and me together. I was so happy to have my arm around her shoulders and our hands together like this. So much love, so much love.
I photographed Roger with her. It was a wonderfully playful moment. Roger pointed at the camera and told her to look there. She thought it would be funnier to just point with him. So good to laugh with her.

On Monday the phone rang at my sister's telling us that the facility thought my mother's behavior had changed so much before we arrived on Sunday that it warranted a trip to the ER. They told us, "If you don't take her, we'll call 911." Well alright, we said, we'll take her. And that's what we did.
We picked her up and spent the next 5 1/2 hours in the ER with her. Turns out Monday's are their busiest day, and the hospital we took her to is the local trauma unit. So, while we waited, people arrived in various stages of bloody messes, and others arrived via ambulances and helicopters. It was quite a scene. Eventually, we were put in a room that was also a bit of a storage room where staff came in to get hot blankets out of a large heater, and a giant cupboard full of hospital stuff. One nurse came in to check every item in that cupboard for expiration dates and toss to the floor all the things that were out of date. He was not on duty to be mom’s nurse, but he just couldn’t help himself, so he helped her use the commode twice. He brought Roger and me some food, and after my mom had her CT scan, he brought her pudding, apple juice, and Cheezits. He was THE BEST. We laughed with him and had a good time. That made a huge difference. She had the CT scan to see if she had had another stroke. Negative. So, we waited to be released and took her back to the facility. It was quite a day. 

On Tuesday we brought her to my sister's so she could spend a few hours with her great-grandson. It was adorable in every way. My mom laughed. The baby laughed. There was a lot of cooing and sweetness. What more could we ask for? Not much... except maybe to have my mom back with her full cognitive skills. She's so gone, farther than I thought possible. Still the love remains.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Words On A Wednesday

On Thursday we start the long drive south to see my mom. It's 700 miles (1126.5 km). We're going to stop in Capitola for the weekend and then continue on to the land of blistering heat. Looking forward to spending a few days seeing with our own eyes how she is doing. I did get to talk with her on Monday, and it was startlingly wonderful. She picked up the phone when I called and said, "Hello Robin, I got it on the second ring!" It brings tears to my eyes just to type those words. The week before when she called me, she said in that vague and wispy voice, "Hi Robin, I'm waiting for the man to take me home." That broke my heart in every way. So who will we see when we get there? I don't know, but I know she's going to recognize Roger right away. She loves him so much.
Sea Lions in November 2013
We're looking forward to the few days we'll have at the beach house. We never know what we're going to see out those windows on to Monterey Bay, but we know it is always beautiful in every way. It's the best respite for us to split the trip south and north with time to stare out at the water hoping to see dolphins and whales, sea lions and seals, or maybe thousands and thousands of shearwaters.
Or maybe we'll watch paddleboarders among the pelicans, amazed by the awesome beauty of our planet.

We'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 10, 2017

This Is Our Balance

How are you doing it? Staying sane in these times. Do you avoid the news? Avoid Facebook? Avoid thinking all together? We're having a bit of a struggle these days. We've always liked to stay informed, but suddenly it all feels like too much. Just typing those words reminded me of this cartoon I've seen floating around the internet these past few weeks and months.
One of the things that works for us to maintain our sanity (such that it is) is to take long walks. A couple of miles a day really helps to balance the things we know are going on, but don't really want to delve into too deeply. We breathe in the ocean air and exhale the mind-numbing reality that is our country these days.
A scene like this, the marsh on Sunday, the sky blue, the air calm, the duckweed vibrantly green across the whole pond; this is our balance.
Further along the trail the lake is covered in algae, more than we've seen here over the years. The colors remind me of a map of the world, stretched out before us like a beautiful reminder of our earth. This is our balance, the place we take our steps, our breath. This.

It occurred to me after I put this post together to search the blog on the word "balance." Interesting how often in the past few years I've posted something about seeking balance from the onslaught of the challenging world. It also occurred to me that the other thing Roger and I do to balance the insanity is we have wine, wonderful organic red wine from the wine country of California. Roger suggested our new motto: Wine or whine, that's your choice!

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: One Day--Near and Far

Ctenucha rubroscapus

Beach walk

Monday, July 03, 2017

Sunday At The Marsh

We finally got out to marsh on Sunday for a nice long walk, and it occurred to me that perhaps I haven't mentioned that there is a lot of construction being done out there all week long. The only time for a quiet walk is on weekends. They're building a bike/hike trail from Arcata to Eureka (7 miles) that goes through the marsh. It's going to take until October to get the marsh part done. So, we wait until quiet Saturdays and Sundays to head out. When we arrived at 2:00 pm the foggy mist was rising off the low tide bay.
Yes, as I mentioned in the previous post it has been foggy overcast gloomy here. This is actually a bright moment! Seriously, it warmed up to 61 degrees. We were HOT out there with our wool sweaters and flannel shirts. The sun made a brief and beautiful appearance.

We did get to watch this Egret for a while as it hunted for food.
It was interesting to watch it scratch at the wet mucky sand, stirring it up and causing the inhabitants to become more apparent for a meal.

We hadn't seen anything like it before. We've watched them hunt, but never noticed an action to encourage a meal to present itself. Pretty smart behavior.

Then we came home and the brief hour of sunlight faded to an expanse of gray white skies that stretched on to forever.

Friday, June 30, 2017

End of Gloomy June Photos

Too much sun, as if there is such a thing!

Front Gate and Wisteria
A marsh pond on a sunny day

Cirrus, Halo, Sundog, and hints of a Parhelic Circle
The view from the Top of Trinidad Head looking north

A little earthquake shake-up on June 11th

A slightly bigger earthquake on June 24th
Yes, we live in earthquake country! These are small, but they definitely give us a jolt and a good shake-up call. The blue dot on the map shows where we live and how close we were to the epicenter.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Just The Little Things

Sometimes it's good to just concentrate on the little things and let the world be quiet for a moment or two.

Monday, June 26, 2017


well first i will spare you the boring story of painting two bathrooms. as i forgot to take before photos it would be anticlimactic to show after pictures.

i am sure that at least some of you have noticed that many bathroom paint jobs leave a small unreachable area behind the toilet tank unpainted. we first painted the spare bathroom and i decided to go whole hog and removed the tank so the bright yellow paint would cover the ugly brown entirely. (really! both bathrooms in brown. with white spots behind the toilet tanks). when the yellow was complete i put the tank back on the stool using the same bolts and washers.

so i was as finicky doing the larger bathroom. removing the toilet tank so i could paint that hidden spot. i put the tank back in place, just as i had in the other bathroom. but this time when i turned on the water one of the rubber washers that is supposed to make the tank waterproof failed. oops. small mopping ensued. small problem really. a trip in the am to the local hardware store would fix that with new washers.
the problem area. not the water connection on the left, the bolt on the right, which goes up through the tank. it has a large screw head which tightens on a large rubber washer, which was leaking.

as i fell asleep i remembered that i had a plumbing parts box that might have the exact washers i required.

et viola! the parts box has two bolts and 4 nuts and washers. i need only two washers. i have spares to spare!
 actually a toolbox with some parts.

oops again. wrote too soon. the spares are of course used and no better looking than the original. back to square one. one more try with the old washer.

well ok then. the proper amount of tightening results in no leak! bathroom is operational with bright yellow walls in place of drab brown.

and i really had to show the "raincoat yellow."

PS (from Robin)-- You know how gray it is here on the north coast, so we went with bright bright yellow. Turn the light on in the bathroom and it's like a burst of beautiful sunlight in there.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Photos And Words On A Wednesday

Roger looked out the sliding door to the yard and said, "There are so many feathers falling from the sky, you've got to see this." We walked outside and the yard had feathers everywhere. There were other doves on the wires behind the house and none seemed alarmed. We have no idea how or why feathers tumbled from the sky to us. These came to rest at the top of our summer peas.
 The swallows decided on Tuesday that they should start building a nest right next to our front door. We told them "no," and deterred them by hanging things that we knew they wouldn't like. This is the look we got. We said, "Sorry, we understand it's a great spot, but no nest here by the door, thank you."
The house next door to us has been vacant for five (or more) years. The rainy winter and spring brought forth a new burgeoning ecosystem that the birds, butterflies, and critters all seem to enjoy. I have dreams of the blackberry vines going up over the roof. It really could happen!