Friday, December 29, 2006

The Last Time

This is our last post of 2006. When we write again on Monday, it will be January 1, 2007, and Roger and I will have marked the 18th anniversary of the first time we met, at a New Year's Eve party in 1988. We won't be going to any New Year's Eve parties this year. Would it surprise you if I said we are not party people? In fact, I'll do just about anything to avoid a party. We did have a New Year's Eve party at our house years ago, and we rang in the New Year at 9:00 pm, in California. Our philosophy is this: If the new year has begun in New York, the new year has begun. When Guy Lombardo sings Auld Lang Syne, that's it, baby.

Lately, I have been thinking about "last times"-- like the last time I saw my father and kissed his forehead, while he lay dying. I knew it was going to be the last time I would ever see his face. And it was. Or the last time I saw Jasie, my cousin's husband, he drove me to the Roanoke Airport in 1988, the year my first husband and I split up. Jasie spent the journey trying to lift my spirits. He told me stories all the way to the airport. I loved him so much for his good cheer, but hugged him good bye like I was going to see him again. I never did. He died in 1991 at the age of 48.

About last times, you just never know. I've been thinking about this since we saw the bobcat in November, and I quite over-zealously bolted from the house to get a better look. I scared the hell out of it, and I felt sick about it. I couldn't believe I had acted so thoughtlessly. For days I wondered if that sighting would be the last time we'd ever see a bobcat. How would we know? It could be ten years before another crosses our path, or it could happen tomorrow. There's just no way of knowing. So, really, when we see a wild thing, it can always be the last time. Can't it? I promised myself I would act differently, if I have an opportunity to see a bobcat again, I'll watch it with an appreciation for its wild, wary self. No running out the door, camera in hand.

Life has a way of being kind sometimes. After I made a peace with myself, I let these ideas about last times go. Then, on Tuesday, as the dark rainy gray day was giving up what ever bleak light it had, I looked out into the yard and I saw something moving stealthily. I knew immediately it was a bobcat. It was close too. Close enough that it saw our movements in the dining room window, and turned to look at us. Its perfect wild cat eyes caught us, and we stared back. I didn't run out and scare it. We just took a good long look at each other. It turned toward the orchard and disappeared into the darkness. I know this could be the last time we'll ever see a bobcat, and I'm perfectly content with it. Lesson learned.

We'd like to wish everyone a wonderful and peaceful New Year. Thanks for coming over and reading our blog, leaving comments, and enriching our lives.
Don't forget Good Planets this Saturday being hosted by divajood at Journeys with Jood. Email your pretty pics to jkblue at cox dot net. And, if you're saving something for the new year, send it to Laura of Somewhere in NJ. Her email is lc-hardy at comcast dot net.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

you are my tech support

that is not me at the desk, or standing in the background. i did operate, for 9 months on graveyard shift, a system like this. then they put me on the day shift and set me to programming.

this is a geeky kinda post. i'm asking for tech support. you're all welcome to read everything, but the next three paragraphs might be a bit boring. you can skip down to the line of stars, after which i go for nerd humor.

i'm the volunteer bookkeeper for the local affiliate of habitat for humanity. i had thought that when we retired from paid work i would eventually volunteer to do carpentry for habitat. they build houses. i have built houses. it didn't work out that way. several months ago i saw an ad in the local paper asking for a volunteer to do bookkeeping for them. i responded. they accepted. i go to the office every tuesday for maybe two hours, sometime three. mostly i do data entry. they use quickbooks. the most creativity i exercise with quickbooks is in the area of special reports.

habitat also carries their own mortgages, and quickbooks is not amenable to the record keeping required for that. the previous bookkeeper, who carried the responsibility for eight years, created an excel spreadsheet for tracking mortgage payments. it works, but a spreadsheet isn't really the right, uh, framework?, software environment? to do the job. we agreed that Filemaker, a relational database system with which i have some experience, would work much better, but it costs several hundred dollars to purchase. i do have the, roughly comparable, microsoft database product Access as part of office 2000, so i'm working on a mortgage tracking system using it.

whew! that was a load of explanation. here's the rub. i haven't yet discovered how to manipulate Access to produce new records in a file ("table" in access talk) of transactions. this isn't straight ahead data entry. a mortgagee's monthly check is apportioned to taxes, insurance, reserve, and principal, and partial payments are allowed, so i have to calculate the apportionment. i can assemble all the relevant numbers, properly apportioned, on a screen, or form in access talk, but can't figure out how to build and record a transaction record of that data. i'm hoping that some one, or more, of you out there will be so kind as to lead me out of this wilderness. probably pointing to some way of doing this that every one else sees as obvious.


here's a programming story.........

long ago and far away, in oakland, ca. i wrote a large computer program in a very basic language (autocoder, for ibm 1410) that built and accessed a database on a harddrive the size of a volkswagen. it was encoded on "ibm cards," in hollerith code. there were enough cards to fill a file cabinet tray-maybe 30 inches. over two thousand cards. a lot of coding. the first thing one did with a program back then was to run it through another program called a compiler, which translated it into machine instructions, or not, if there were errors. to stop the program from actually running, should it compile without errors, i put an instruction right up at the beginning to go to the end. time passed while i eliminated errors, generated test data, and worked with other programmers coding other parts of this system.

when it came time to test the whole system of several programs mine wouldn't run. after several hours, and more than one day, of searching in vain for the hangup, in desperation i took a printout of my program to a colleague and asked him to check it. "why won't it run?" i pled. in less than five seconds, about the time it takes to focus on the page, he pointed at the very first instruction and said "oh look, you branch to end right here."

ok. this is chez bums after all, not some geek chatroom. bad puns and cheap humor at my expense will be appreciated. also any hints about my access problem.


don't forget those photos for "good planets." send them to divajood of journeys with jood whose email is jkblue at cox dot net in time for this coming saturday.

laura at somewhere in nj will be hosting good planets saturday photo sharing for january. her email is lc-hardy at comcast dot net.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

New Wave

When I was the print adviser at the university, I worked with students who published the campus print media. Every year I met inspired young people who were simply compelled to produce newspapers, alternative press, poetry journals. They were incredibly bright, energetic, wild people. I felt lucky to work with them. Every summer a handful of these students stayed in town and committed themselves to putting together the back-to-school issue of the campus student-newspaper of record. They produced a high-gloss cover with an 80 page newsprint compilation of things that might be of interest to new and returning students. Often I was the only adult on the premises, so I became their confidant, their parent, their nurse. It's just the way it was.
One summer there was a shy student who was wearing two hats -- he had agreed to draw the cover art, and to manage the press production. Having one of those jobs is a lot of work, but two was really overwhelming. I watched him struggle with deadlines and the indifference of his production team. He was a bit awkward, not comfortable in his role, or even in his own body. Just that kind of kid. He would often come in and talk to me. I would have to remind him over and over to work on the cover art. It was my job to do that. He understood. We spent many a day together at the Press Center.

One afternoon he arrived in my office carrying a skateboard. It was the first time I'd ever seen him with one. He was very upset and stood there, pale and shaking. He told me he had taken his skateboard up to the top of campus and tried to ride it down to the Press Center. On his maiden voyage he had chosen the toughest hill on campus, fallen and slid all the way down on his side. He lifted his shirt and showed me some fierce lacerations and bruises. He had really injured himself, but instead of going straight to the Health Center, which he had walked past, he came to the Press Center. I sensed that he might have been in a state of shock. I went to get the First Aid kit, but realized that he really needed much more care than I could give him. So, I offered to drive him to Health Center. It was a bit of walk to where my car was parked. While we walked, he was in agony. He finally said that his pants were rubbing against other wounds and asked if it would be okay if he took his pants off. I said, "Of course, take them off, I don't mind. Do what you have to do, please." He did. So, there we were, walking down one of the campus sidewalks, a bloody student in his boxer shorts, and me talking calmly beside him. We must have been quite a sight. I took him to the clinic and they took him in immediately. He was pretty banged up and out of commission for a few days. When he finally made it back to the Press Center, he had his cover art drawing. It was a cartoonish, geeky guy surfing big ocean waves while reading a book. A nice image for a campus situated in a surf town, drawn by a young man who was trying to straddle those worlds.
I thought of that cover the other evening after Roger and I had been talking about about the times in which we live. I think we're all riding waves, but I'm not sure we can identify the wave we're on, or its origin. I don't know if there are any organic waves anymore, ones that arise out of the soil of imagination and then wash over the world-- a new idea, a new way of seeing. We live in a time where those kinds of waves have a hard time competing with the mass media, mass-produced wave machines. Little waves ripple in small circles like pebbles dropped on a pond, but most don't make their way to sea. I don't even know if it makes sense to say it, but sometimes I feel like we live in a time without waves. Britney Spears is generated by a wave machine, so is George Bush. Who isn't? I can hardly feel the organic pulse of movements anymore. What marks our time here now? Is blogging a movement? Was Time Magazine right, are we really the People of the Year? Can a few lines typed into into the ethers be a Magna Carta? a Declaration of Independence? a Guernica? Can a new wave arise and change the world, or have we stepped into a time without wave?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Rainy Holidays

We've been trying to think of what to say here for the holidays. We're feeling pretty quiet. It's been raining. It's like living in Ken Kesey's novel Sometimes A Great Notion. The rain has a presence like a well-written character. It dominates the landscape, both external and internal. The 40 degree temperatures do not vary, the light does not change except that day becomes night -- gray becomes black. The rain continues.
The birds teach us a valuable lesson. When it rains they seek out the newly formed puddles and bathe up a storm. It's their own version of "when life hands you lemons." I like their joie de vivre. We try to emulate their ecstasy. We put on music and dance. The rain continues.

What do we say for the holiday that has so many meanings--so many myths-- both religious and secular, spiritual and material. We don't celebrate. We have no traditions other than to acknowledge the sun and its return. It takes the earth a day to make one revolution, and it will do that 365 times to fully circle the sun. We are somewhere on that rolling earth, somewhere far from the sun's rays, waiting for our turn to be much, much closer.
So I searched for vintage Santa images on the internet. What do I know? I'm a Jewish girl who never celebrated Christmas, but I found such artistry in the old cards with a beauty and richness that puts me in the mind of simpler and easier times. They remind me of the utter joy of make-believe, of a conjured world where there is no war and everyone is well-fed, out of harm's way, and free.

These are our holiday dreams, and best wishes to all of our friends on whatever holiday you celebrate. The rain continues, so we dance.

Friday, December 22, 2006

mo' beta blues

robin, using her superior computer skills, "migrated" our blog to beta new improved blogger. so now, when i log into "old" blogger i'm told that dharma bums has been moved to new blogger...."learn more" it entices me with a clickable link. so i get this:

"Team members who have not yet switched to the new version will still see the blog on their dashboards, but it will be grayed out and inaccessible. Once those members move their own accounts to the new version of Blogger, they will be able to access the blog as before."

okay. how do i do that? not a clue is offered. ok, blogger is free, what do i expect for nothing. we do all get to blog fairly well, thank you google. are you a team member of a blog whose "owner" has moved the blog? have you figured out how to move your account? HELP! por favor. sil vous plait. buenos dias. merci.

robin suggested that i take over the rexroth's daughter identity, and change the display name to roger, kinda like a brain transplant.

don't forget those photos for "good planets." send them to divajood of journeys with jood whose email is jkblue at cox dot net.


update-a-roony!!!! we have managed to get the two of us listed as contributors, sans extra identities, up there near the top. all the rest is out of sight and out of mind. so far. except that robin andrea is listed as "posted by" in the little caption just below, and clearly it is the shift key slacker. residue of the identity switch.

happy holidays, all of them.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Beta been bery bery bad

We tried to migrate over to (beta) blogger. It was supposed to be relatively painless, and had I not changed my nom de blog from Rexroth's Daughter (who as it turns out is the queen administrator of Dharma Bums) to Robin Andrea, it might have been a smooth transition. But you know how hard it is to live with multiple personalities, well blogger has a hard time too. Who is Robin Andrea and just how many blogs does she have? Well, three, but only one has a public persona. Yes, well, that may very well be true, but Robin Andrea can not access Dharma Bums from the new blogger, but has unfettered access to the other blog where she has never posted, ever. That's a nice touch, don't you think?
It's really not a big deal. We didn't really have anything earth-shattering to report here on our blog. Winter is finally here. It happens at 4:20 pm (PST) today. We'll celebrate it in our usual fashion. A glass of wine and a toast to the return of the sun. From now until June, we will watch it make an ever bigger sweep across our skies. It barely tops our trees right now. By June it will be lighting the skies at 10:00 pm. We can wait. Short days have their beauty. The angle of the sun through the trees, and the clouds as they break over the Olympics provide some of the most beautiful light we've ever seen. It seems a fair trade for a longer night.

Another windstorm is bearing down on us. We still didn't buy the generator and hope we won't regret our procrastination. We took advantage of a break in the weather and walked down to the creek Wednesday. The wind was relentless through the trees. The tall pines swayed and bent so far, they looked like they were made of things other than wood. Their suppleness is a surprise.

Reminds us that we live on such a Good Planet. If you've got a photo that depicts the beauty of our earth, please send it to divajood of Journeys with Jood. Her email is jkblue at cox dot net. Divajood is hosting for the next two Saturdays in December. And if you're planning on sending something in January, Good Planets is being hosted by the wonderful Laura of Somewhere in NJ. Her UPDATED email is lc-hardy at comcast dot net. So, take a good look around and see what the planet has to offer. Take a photo. Send it to Good Planets. It's that easy.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

No Better Angels

Our neighbor, the one who alerts us to the bobcats in the neighborhood, works at a cool second hand store in town. She brings us stuff from the store sometimes. The other day she came over with a copy of the October 2006 issue of Smithsonian magazine. I put it on the coffee table and didn't look at it until Tuesday morning. That's when I noticed it had an article on Neanderthal DNA. Have I ever told you how much I love Neanderthals? It's true, I do. I don't know why exactly, but I think it's because their presence is so profoundly mysterious. Who were they? Why didn't they survive? Were our more lithe and lissome ancestors responsible for their extinction? I love the fact of Neanderthals, their brutish bodies and pronounced brow ridges, and their bigger-than-ours braincase. These were brainy hominids. What were they thinking at the end of their days? I have always wished for some evidence of co-mingling of their DNA with ours. It meant something to me.

So, I read the Smithsonian article, delighted by the research being conducted at the Max Planck Intsitute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany (a city my grandmother lived in as a child). One of the things that struck me about this article was its conclusion. Not the conclusion that it is unlikely that we share any Neanderthal DNA, and quite probably displaced them-- as our ancestors did all other ancient humans on the planet. No, it wasn't that, but it was the consideration of the impact of DNA research on our sense of ourselves as humans.
The article posed these questions: "Will the knowledge generated by studying our DNA place limits on the human soul? Will people come to see themselves as biological automatons bereft of compassion and morality? Will genetics 'biologize' human relationships so that we define ourselves and others in terms of our DNA sequences?"

I loved these questions. Not because I took them seriously, as they were intended, but because they struck me as utterly absurd. That we humans-- we who have been butchering each other for millions of years, who have beheaded other humans, who have done medical experiments on babies, who have raped women and children, who have murdered nuns, who have set fire to day laborers, who have poured napalm on villages, who have built crematoriums-- that we might find DNA research objectionable because it could make us question our compassion and morality, our humanity. This was an absurdity, no?

The lead DNA researcher Svante Paabo worried about such possibilities. He noted that DNA studies have revealed how similar we are to other organisms, even such lowly creatures as worms and flies. Could such information be "a source of humility and a blow to the idea of human uniqueness." Yes, but for me it is this very information that reinforces my compassion and morality. It makes me feel connected to and stirs my empathy for every living thing. How it could be otherwise? I sincerely do not understand.

Who are we? We humans -- taller, more graceful creatures with round skulls and prominent chins who first appeared in the fossil record in eastern Africa 200,000 years ago. The article noted that, "The apparent lack of interbreeding between archaic and modern humans means that we are a very young species-- brash upstarts that overran the older and more established species of humans." We overcame all the other human species that lived on the earth. I wondered, aren't we still on that same path, except now we make war with each other. Why do we wonder who we are? Haven't we always been this? Brash upstarts. If only there were evidence that Neanderthal DNA had co-mingled with ours, then we would know that we could live with others, could make peace, could co-exist. It would be written in our genes.

Nothing makes me question the limits on the human soul more than the ways humans have treated each other since the beginning of time. Ask a Neanderthal about it, if you can find one.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

rub a dub dub

two veggies in a tub....

we had planned to leave dec 15 for a visit to california, possibly staying a month. there was family business to attend to and we could see old friends and enjoy the ocean. didn't work out. we will go sometime in january for a week.

we are homebodies and have adopted various living things, all of which require some tending and attention. ok. a cat and a bunch of plants. the cat was going with us, and we hoped the trip and return wouldn't make him any nuttier than he already is. the houseplants would be fine with the neighbor coming over to water once a week. we also have 4 pots of tomatoes and one of basil, all of which we started 2 months ago, a year old tomato still giving us fruit, and a 6 foot banana tree. these all wanted more care than we felt comfortable asking someone to take.

so we rigged an hps (high pressure sodium) yard light over a bathtub in the guest house for the basil and new tomatoes. the banana and old tomato were in another room with a south-facing window, and all were on a timed drip watering system (ette, a small system). i know what some of you are thinking. check the foliage carefully. tomato and basil.....exclusively! in hindsight this arrangement does seem a bit overboard, but my solid packrat/collector background provided all the big pieces. i did get some new drip emitters.

baby tomatoes!

we look forward to eating these when they grow up, with fresh basil, in March!

we will bring the lovely banana tree back into the house, and the senior tomato, which has given us quite a few tasty cherry tomatoes. the others may stay under the light for a while at 14 hours per day of light.....6 more hours than the sun provides. also, i will start datil peppers again.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


The storm approaches, Wednesday 3:30 pm
Our friends and family have been emailing and leaving comments asking about the storm. We were spared the brunt of it, but did have quite a lot of rain and fierce winds on Thursday. The Hood Canal Bridge, which is about 20 miles from us had winds at 74 mph.
Hood Canal Bridge, world's longest floating bridge in a salt-water tidal basin
We were lucky. We never lost power, although there was a lot of flickering lights and hints that it could go out at any moment.
The storm finally passes, Friday 9:44 am
Friday was very calm.

We'd like to take a moment to join Wayne and FloridaCracker in sending our best wishes to the Roundrock family Pablo, Libby, and the kids. Libby had heart surgery on Tuesday and Pablo cut his trip to Africa short (where he was visiting their son Seth who is in the Peace Corp) to come home and be by her side. We've been reading Roundrock for quite a while now, and Pablo's family has become dear virtual friends. We wish Libby a speedy and full recovery.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Page 123 Book Meme

Okay, we've been asked by both oldwhitelady of It's Morning Somewhere and Peacechick Mary of Knock Knock to do the Page 123, 5th Sentence book meme. Even though we are seriously meme phobic, we thought we'd comply because we are utterly bereft of stimulating ideas for a serious blog post.

So, Roger's most recent read was Quantum Enigma by Bruce Rosenbloom and Fred Kuttner. His meme contribution is this:

He's now setting up to do the same thing with mid-sized proteins. At a recent conference he was asked: "What's the limit?" His answer: "Only budget."

I like the question. It reminds me of the question asked of Dan Rather before he was hit on the head by an assailant, many years ago: "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" Yes, indeed what is the frequency? What is the limit?

My meme response is from a book of poetry by Maude Meehan entitled Washing the Stones. It is the fifth set of lines in her poem called Further Questions:

This person who carries
age and pain in her face,
whose black-winged hair
has turned the colour of your bones,
whose body has doubled,
will you know me?

I see a pattern in our meme. Today is a day of questions, for which we have no answers. What's the limit? What's the frequency? Will you know me? Perhaps tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

An Uncentered Sun

So many shades of gray
Our trip to California was to begin on Friday. It was all planned. We were even taking our kitty cat Bonsai with us. It was to be open-ended journey. We were going to stay at Roger's family beach house as long as we wanted-- three weeks, four weeks. I have to admit I was ambivalent. I don't really like to travel, but I liked the idea of being in California. Blue skies, sunshine, warmer temps, the beach. What's not to like? Well, there's always this: As many people live in the bay area as live in the entire state of Washington. Or this: There's so much traffic there that it's pretty much gridlock all of the time. But I digress.

We had plans. Big plans. We were going to go to Elkhorn Slough to watch birds. We were going to toss roses in the bay on my father's birthday, where we had scattered his ashes in 1997. We did that every year while we were still living in California. We were going to the cemetery to say hello out loud to Kent. We were going to see friends and family, people we love. Big plans.

But plans change. Sometimes it's hard to explain, but suffice to say, families have mysteries, miseries, and histories. So, we're staying home with our crazy gray skies. There should be as many words for gray in the northwest as there are for snow in Alaska. There should be as many words for family, as well.

I know we can't be alone in our weird family holiday blow-up. Can we?
On the brighter beautiful side of life, if you've got a photo of that depicts the beauty of our good planet, please consider sending it to divajood of Journeys with Jood. Her email is jkblue at cox dot net. If you haven't already gone over to see what great photos she's posted these past two Saturdays, go take a look. You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Potluck Potlatch

Indian visitors arrive at a potlatch in Alaska
Roger and I went to a potluck dinner Saturday night. Good food and great company. The hosts made a fantastic Spanakopita with portabello mushrooms. Another guest brought delicious greek-influenced stuffed zucchini. We brought a big salad with lettuce, spinach, avocado, tomato, homegrown carrots, and hearts of palm. Oh what a feast. After dinner, the plan was to settle in for a game of dictionary, but I told them I had an idea of what we might do instead. Roger and I had been talking about what it is we feel that we have really learned since we've been alive. I thought it would be enlightening if we could write down five things we know to be true, things we might confidently impart to children. So we each wrote our lists, and then folded our paper, and put them in a pile. Then one by one we picked up a folded sheet and read someone else's list out loud. The game became to guess who had written which list. I was most interested in the content of the lists, but it was a fun game to be sure. Here are some of the highlights of what eight people, whose collective years on the planet number over 450 years, thought they'd learned.

Listen to your intuition.
Kindness kindness kindness.
Do what you love doing, what brings you the greatest joy.
The greatest richness in life is love.
Garlic is as good as ten mothers.
We must always care for our planet.
There is no difference in young children from any culture.
When you mix blue and yellow it makes green.
Humans are not as smart as they think they are.
Enjoy sex.
Don't step in shit, and don't go over your credit card limit.

These are just a sample of what we came up with. We laughed about the funny ones, we thought wistfully about how simple most of life's truths really are. Many of the same things showed up lists, although "enjoy sex" and "don't step in shit" showed up only once. We wish you could have contributed to our potlatch. What have you learned? What would you write down on your list?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Have You Ever Been Afraid?

My dad came up to hammer a few nails in the homemade cabin in the Illinois River Valley, Oregon. That's me supervising, circa 1974

I dreamed of tigers
growling and prowling
everywhere I looked I saw them
in the hallways at school
on the sidewalk paths
scaring students
and administrative assistants
I hid in corners and behind doors
photographing their gaping mouths
and massive teeth
I dreamed if they saw me
they would devour me
and so I awoke afraid
of the dark
of the woods
of the wilderness--
where innocents walk
and lose their way.
I awoke afraid.

There was something about James Kim's death that struck me deeply and reminded me of something I don't usually let percolate to the surface. I have always been afraid of getting lost in the woods and not being able to find my way out. I don't think of it often, but sometimes when Roger and I have hiked on not very clearly marked trails, I can feel my anxiety rising. I have run blindly in a panic in the woods, stumbling and falling over rocks. Isn't that unbelievably embarrassing? It's true though. I just don't think of it often, but fear of being lost in the wide open wild, where I can't find my way, is just as suffocating to me as a darkened airless tomb.

I bought ten acres of land in southern Oregon in 1974 when I was 22 years old. It was in Josephine County, the county where James Kim lost his way. When the news showed photos of his ordeal, I recognized that iron red soil, the pines and firs that rise up out of the Rogue River Valley. My land was in the next watershed south, on the Illinois River, in the Illinois Valley across the 2-lane highway from the Kalmiopsis Wilderness area. A true wilderness--it's called Bigfoot Country (I'm not kidding). I am at once drawn to that wilderness and afraid of it. It's not a fear of the unknown. I have never sensed a lurking malevolence in the woods. The mountains don't care a whit about me, and have no plan to swallow me whole. It is a fear of what I simply and literally don't know about being out there and being lost. I don't trust my sense of direction. I am not sure I could make a shelter, start a fire, know which way to follow the river, or find food. I know all of these things are what make the difference in the struggle for survival, I just don't know if I could do it. How many of us could? Could you?

I grieved James Kim's death because it stirred my most primal self, the part of me that loses sleep over what I can't control or contain. He reminded me of how afraid I have been. It made me wonder if everyone is that afraid.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Winter Light

We're down to eight hours of light a day. And some of those hours look like this. Does this look like a sunset to you? It does to us, except that this was 11:30 in the morning, and we were facing east. I have no explanation, other than we are living pretty far north. That must be it, right?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

kale and coconut

we don't have recipes here. we have a list of ingredients. i'll add some commentary. the picture above is raw stuff from the snow-covered garden, including a large beet, which was peeled, sliced, and diced and steamed. below is the kale after the big stems in the leaves have been cut out and then the remainder chopped, medium fine. also some chopped red bell pepper.

so. the red pepper goes into a hot skillet with some olive oil. after a bit the kale goes in. when it has cooked down a bit some shredded coconut goes in. let this all saute for a while--while stirring. add some dry vermouth. water also works. just a dash. put a cover on. let it steam. taste it. salt? pepper? sugar? the kale should be tender. it won't get limp ever, far as i can tell.

we're also having rice, cooked with raisins and sliced turmeric root (the orange bits in the rice, which should be removed before serving). oh yeah, and a chicken curry. we took the quick route to the curry: thai kitchen brand green curry paste and coconut milk added to sauteed chicken and onions. the beets have salt and pepper and a dash of olive oil. and we each got a cherry tomato from our more-than-one year old plant!

bon apetit

good planets saturday photo sharing is being hosted by the incomparable divajood at Journeys with Jood. send your pictures to jkblue at cox dot net.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Rubber Sole

I think Roger and I have become like a broken record. We take the same walks down to Chimacum Creek to Port Townsend Bay, or we walk the Larry Scott Memorial Trail along the bay's edge. Still, we are always enthralled by the familiar views. We are recording the sunrise and sunset of our days, and all the things that fall and fill in between.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! We bought new boots! Thick rubber soles on leather Converse hiking boots for him, and rubber soles on new Keen Dakota boots for me. Warm. Toasty. Filled with things constructed in China. Our happy feet walk the trails in a newfound freedom.

We walked down to the creek in our new boots to see the snow melt, and to check if the ice was gone. I confidently stepped down a few yards off the trail to see this snow-covered log. And while I was down there I saw this on the shady side of the creek:She spread and fanned her wings for a long time, and I was far enough away so that from a distance she looked for all the world like a cormorant drying her wings.

We walked on. The low angle of the early afternoon sun didn't top the trees, but broke through every now and then and lit up the water. The eagle flew on. The ducks took off in unison-- their wings beating together and their flapping leap out of the water sounding like a song. When we got down the to the bay, we heard a loon. A loon. As pretty a sound to come off the water that you'd ever long to hear again. The Cornell bird website describes it as a tremulous wail. Yes. It's a sound that pulls every cell in your body to its origins and reminds you of things you never realized that you already knew.

When the sun was setting the other afternoon (I just can't call 4:20 pm night), we watched a small flock of geese race across the sky. It's an image that always makes me want to cry. I love their purposefulness and grace. Ten thousand years ago no one stared at a computer screen; but this, a flock like this, I know they saw. We live on that same earth.

So yes, here's our broken record. It's a beautiful planet. Protect it. Lay your body down and protect it, so ten thousand years from now someone will see a flock of geese or hear a loon and think, with a tremulous wail, of us.

Monday, December 04, 2006

the garden in winter

the snow came and settled in for a while. these pics were taken saturday morn. the snow has been here since the previous sunday.

the big view. with a silhoutte of the photographer. kinda boring. the snow on the roof of the greenhouse is great insulation. keeps the inside safe from the heat of the sun.

kale, reportedly sweeter after a freeze. this should be like candy by now. we'll be having kale and coconut some night soon.

can't beet these.

a broccoli flower.

datil pepper update: i brought the two plants in from the greenhouse before the first freeze. they were, unfortunately, infested with whiteflies. the red bell pepper plants and the datils were both heavily infested while in the greenhouse. i cleaned them daily. i tried to clean the datils in the house. i gave up after several weeks, not wanting the pests to spread to our other plants. i have more seeds.

i'm finishing this post sunday evening as the sun sets. the temp outside is a balmy 35 F. the snow still blankets the ground.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Good Planets Update

A winter sky over a winter yard-- Sundown 4:00 pm
Roger and I started Good Planets last August after a dear friend of his living in Australia sent us a wonderful photo of a lorikeet. We wanted to post her photo, and then it occurred to us that it might be a good idea to invite other folks to submit their photos. We didn't plan on starting a "carnival," we just love looking at photos of our beautiful planet. We thought it could be enlightening to turn our blog over on Saturdays (since we weren't using it!) for photos that depicted the beauty of our earth.

We were absolutely delighted with the results, and now Good Planets has its own Flickr site, thanks to the incredible work and diligence of Pam at Tortoise Trail. She uploaded all 264 photos with quotes and attribution, in easy accessible sets. It was quite a labor of love, and we are absolutely grateful for her generosity of spirit and time. I hope you will go over and take a look. It's quite a sight to see all the photos assembled in one place. The artistry is magnificent and the views of earth absolutely stunning.

For the month of December, divajood has graciously agreed to host Good Planets on her blog Journeys with Jood. I hope you will send her a photo or two of the beauty you see outside your windows, on your trails, in your yard, or anyplace else you take a good long look around. Send your photos to jkblue at cox dot net for Saturday's post.

We'd like to express our gratitude to everyone who has contributed to Good Planets. Our lives have been enriched by what you see. A special note of heartfelt thanks to Pam for hosting in November and sending Good Planets into the stratosphere, and to divajood for her willingness to take it on.

If you're interested in hosting Good Planets in January (or any month!) please let us know.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Coldest Day Ever

We have been surprised by how the snow pulls us outside to play.
No matter how cold it is, we go. We walked down to the creek in the morning even though the thermometer still said 20 F (-6 C) at 9:30. We don't have proper footgear for this kind of trudging around on icy terrain, but we didn't let that stop us. Two pairs of socks, one heavy wool, helped keep us warm-ish. I had slight case of frostbite 20 years ago, so I tend to be very cautious about these things. (Actually the doctor said I had chilblains. For a moment I thought I had become a character in a 19th century british novel.) The only treatment was to exercise that one poor toe until it was back in the pink. It took a while, but it definitely came back.
So we bundled up, put on the boots we had warming up in front of the heater, and hked down to the creek. It was as beautiful as we hoped it would be. Quiet too.
We walked up through the trees and along the top of the bluff and found a pair of eagles in a snag above the water. We heard them before we saw them, whistling and trilling to each other. They looked so grand sitting there, with Port Townsend behind them and the bay at their feet.

Kate Wolf sang, "Days like flowers bloom and fade, and they do not come again. We only have these times we're living in."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Weather Report

Morning rosy light on snowy garden

Finches waiting for their turn at the feeder

Hawk hiding in the snowy branches

Shades of white, gray, and black in the late morning

We've had two days of snow, which have accumulated somewhere between six and seven inches. This is our third winter in the pacific northwest and the most snow we've seen here. We've heard it's unseasonably warmer in other parts of the country, in places where it should be cold by now. My older brother is having 70 degree (F) in Charlottesville, Virginia. I think we're having some unusual weather, how about you?

morning update at 6 am. it is 20, yes, two zero, degrees outside. brrrrrr. yesterdays slushy roads are gonna be solid ice today. we will not be driving. i don't think we can even get out the driveway.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Black and White

We seem to have entered a period where we have nothing to say. No, that's not quite right. I think there is so much to say that it seems absolutely overwhelming. It is plain crazy to write a post and not mention all the things that are confronting our planet, our world. But to actually consider all of that, and then write something about the beautiful snow and the heron in the yard, is insane.

I could never play the game-show Jeopardy. Contestants need to have all the answers the moment they read the clue. My brain doesn't work that way, that quickly. Answers take time. Connections require thinking, percolation, a glass of wine, maybe even some laughter or tears. Oh yes, here's why Alexander Litvinenko's death is so outrageous, and outrageously horrific. Did we need to know how Polonium 210 can kill so quickly? That there is something so lethal and small, that it's like a tiny nuclear bomb going off in the body? How would it be if someone were to drop some of that into the water supply of a major city? Did you know that there is Polonium 210 in cigarette smoke? Or that one gram of Polonium 210 can produce 140 watts of power. Pick me, Mr. Trebak, I know the answers about Po.

The Washington Post told us that despite what our administration is ignoring about global climate change, fauna and flora are taking their cues from the planet, and there is a trend to move northward. And those things that already live north, well, there's nowhere else to go. There is the inevitable death and species extinction. "The magnitude of impacts is so overwhelming that many biologists are now calling this the single most important problem they need to work on," said Parmesan. "You can save all the habitat you want, but if it is not any good climatically, what is the point?"

We watched a documentary on Global Dimming. It claimed that soot and pollution have actually masked the real impact of greenhouse gases and global warming. There is a good and important environmental movement engaged in cleaning up soot and pollution, but the impact of that newly clean air may ultimately reveal the true devastation of how hot our planet has become.

We are thinking about all of this.

And, notice, I have not even mentioned the debacle that is Iraq or Jordan's King Abdullah's comments about three civil wars in the mid-east by 2007.
Heron perched by the pond in snow
We had snow all day on Sunday, and it really was beautiful. If beautiful is a stark black and white snapshot, which of course, sometimes it is.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Clan of the Bobcat

Sunrise Thanksgiving Morning
Our plans for Thanksgiving changed a couple of times in the days before the holiday. We made plans with friends, we broke them. We made other plans and those changed as well. We settled in with the idea of staying home just the two of us. We've done that before. We like each other's company. We cook for each other like we're cooking for our favorite beloveds.

The day before Thanksgiving, I called our neighbors, the ones who see the bobcat too. We often communicate with each other when there's been a sighting. I asked Karen if she had seen the bobcat lately. She said that she had a fantastic sighting last week on the night after the big storm. She had awakened at around 4:00 am to the sound of something knocking against the house. She turned on the outside lights and saw the bobcat sauntering past her window. It was quite nonchalant when it stopped by the bushes, sat down, and began licking one paw. Not a care in the world. She surmised that the sound that woke her was the cat chasing something and not paying particular attention to where it was heading. She said it then walked the path between their house and ours, and disappeared into the woods.

Our neighbors have adult children who live in the Seattle area, so I assumed they would be spending their Thanksgiving with them. Turns out, they were staying home, just the two of them too. Mmmm. So, Karen proposed that we combine our Thanksgiving feasts and eat together at their house. What a wonderful idea. Just pack up our dinner and walk the path between our house and theirs, the bobcat path. That's a fine, low impact commute.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. There is much to be grateful for-- our beautiful planet, the wildlife we see, the food we grow, the open-hearts of good neighbors and friends. We agreed that in our tiny corner of the world, here on the peninsula, we're a little four-person tribe. We are the bobcat clan. Works for me.

Today is the last day to send in your beautiful earth photos to Pam. If you're planning on submitting something for Good Planets Saturday, please send your photos to tortoisetrail at gmail dot com.

Thanks everyone, have a great weekend, and we'll see y'all on Monday.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Northwest Thanksgiving

This poor Northern Flicker was nearly upended by the wind Wednesday, but still held on. I was watching her through the telephoto when the wind kicked up. I clicked the shutter, and here's what she looked like. I love the fanning of her tail, and those soft reds. No turkey here today, but an acknowledgement of all the things we are grateful for. There really are too many to list. Ain't life grand?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Surprises in Light and Shadow

There was a huge shadow of wings as a bird landed in the yard, not more than fifteen feet from our windows. I jumped up to look out. I don't know what I expected to see. With that wingspan--an eagle? Wouldn't that have been something. But there it was, a big ol' Great Blue Heron stopping by to see how yummy our goldfish might be. As I watched, it suddenly took off in quick flash of blue-gray wings. I didn't think it had seen me, but perhaps it had.
Our cat Bonsai was staring lazily out the sliding doors into the yard. He likes to sit there and watch the birds coming and going. He doesn't like the rainy, wet weather we've been having so he's quite content to just sit and watch. I watched him for a moment, and and then settled back down on the couch, to work on a post about the amazing sun showers we've been having (click on the above photo to see the shiny rain!). Suddenly Bonsai was staring with some alertness and obvious agitation. I teased him a bit, "You're silly, Bon-boy, that big heron is gone. So goofy, always seeing what's not really there." Like all cats, he does respond to cues that are not always visible, or let's face it, real.

Bonsai got up and slunk across the living room in that way that he does when something really does scare him. Was there something out there in the yard, more than his feline imagination? I looked out. There were no more herons to be seen. What was it? What was it? I scanned the edges for details.

Oh, there it was, sitting just inside the border trees, looking right into the yard, the thing that scared away both the heron and our kitty cat, the wild thing that I love the most: a beautiful bobcat. My heart leapt. We hadn't seen one since last April. There it was, perfect little tiger face golden and black striped, barely discernible in the shadow of the trees. I was up again fumbling with the camera, but that cat was out of focus, and moving. I tried, but it was gone.

I ran outside anyway, just in case. I ran to the left toward the garden and flushed a Cooper's Hawk from the trees. No cat. I ran back over to the right, and saw it again hightailing on the other side of the fence.

How much time had elapsed? All of five minutes, if that much. Full of joy and adrenaline. A twinge of disappointment that I didn't get the shot, which was easily assuaged by the image of that wild little face.

Within minutes the heron returned and spent some hunt time by the pond. Bonsai decided it was safer to hide in the bedroom for the rest of the afternoon. I rewrote this post, wondering if you can get excited about this bobcat sighting without the photo? I hope so.
Pam of Tortoise Trail is hosting Good Planets on Saturday. She's asked if people would please send photos early, because she will be busy with festivities on Thanksgiving. If you know what you'll be sending in, send it today! Her email is tortoisetrail at gmail dot com. This will be Pam's last weekend hosting Good Planets, then divajood of Journeys with Jood will pick it up December 2nd. Thanks everyone.
Photo from the original post about sun showers!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Photos Lost and Found

After the rain and wind stopped last week, and the power was restored, we turned on our old PC, the one that Roger's been using like mad lately to do his Habitat for Humanity database, and found that the computer was dead. Mmm. The first thing Roger discovered when he took the box apart was a fried power supply. The computer had been turned off, but not unplugged. The power surge must have really surged in a big way. We went to the local computer repair shop and purchased a new power supply. It turned the box on, but the monitor stayed black. We rigged a way to test the monitor by wiring it to his old mac Powerbook. The monitor worked, which meant that the hard-drive must have been fried as well. That was really a shame because I've been using the PC as my backup for photographs. I just put 2000 photos on it about two weeks ago, and deleted them from my Mac iBook. Bummer.

Not every picture is worth saving. I really know that. I just don't know how to sort out the good from the bad, unless the photo is completely out of focus. I think any photo has potential. So, I save them, all of them.
Even this picture, which really is about as non-descript as it gets, provides a really fine background for an experiment in Photoshopping. We took a walk Saturday and were surprised by the sight of Mt Rainier on the eastern horizon. It really didn't seem like a clear enough day to have that kind of 100 mile visibility. But there it was, looking so much like Mt Fuji bathed in soft pink sunset light, even at 11:00 in the morning. I snapped a few pictures just to see what details I might find with the zoom lens.
I started Photoshopping by selecting just the mountain and playing with the hue and saturation, trying to see if I could bring out any information that was hiding in the pixels. Unfortunately, nothing interesting was to be found. Just more gray.
So, I gave up trying for enhanced realism, and plunged headlong into color. That green mountain is what Photoshop gave me when I did an auto-curve on it. I thought it was dazzling. So I auto-curved the sea and the island of trees. It was stunning to find this brilliance in such a dull photo. So, I kept at it.
The sky now seemed much too muted and understated for these new colors. A simple auto-curve adjustment added this brilliant wash of blues, greens, tangerines and pinks.

Suddenly, I wanted to see birds. So, I took this mallard pair from another photo, and sent them flying through this image.

Yes, I was finally satisfied.

See why I save even the dullest photos? Well, I mean saved. I'll just have to start anew by adding to the 2700 I still have my iBook.