Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Oh, the Weather

a brighter day than usual, with contours in the sky

we're past the darkest, shortest days of winter, and the sun is rising and setting further north every day. the cold morning two weeks ago when we awoke to a sixteen degree freeze is but a memory. we've had a few frosts since at 30 degrees. even though it's generally warmer and lighter now the outside temp rarely gets above forty. the sky has been a dismal grey for eons and it drizzled all last night, who cares about that, and all day, when we care. i'm comfortable working outside in this weather, mostly. i have warm clothes and shoes and nice insulated work gloves. the battery in my truck gave out last saturday, so i got a new one and brought it home to install. i can't wrench in gloves. the tools were all about 38 degrees. brrrrrr on the hands. the greenhouse project is now at the tedious stage of little finishing touches, like making it air tight. well, airtighter than it was. i like working in it when the rain is falling. i don't like walking back to my shop in the rain to get tools or more parts, a trip i make often.

so we are into the endless northwest drizzle season, when the uniformly grey sky sky yields no clue about the time of day. 10 am? 3 pm? who knows. there are small signs of spring like narcissus, crocus, and hyacinth sprouts, but it is hard to stand and appreciate them in a windy drizzle. have i overused "drizzle" yet? even though i have done some garden prep and planted asparagus roots, working outside isn't the same as enjoying a walk outside and we are not drawn to walk in any of our favorite places. RD cleaned up quite a bit of the landscaping around the pond two days ago, while i was weatherproofing the greenhouse. then we retreated inside. we did take our neighborhood walk, bundled up snugly, but the wind was nippy on our ears and we cut our walk short when the grey sky got darker and rain looked imminent.

we are ready for spring.

Memory Lane #17710

I have recently reconnected with a former sister-in-law, my older brother's first wife, L. It has been many years (close to 15) since we have seen or talked to each other. I called her back in January and we've been emailing ever since. L was married to my brother for a couple of years in the 70s and early 80s, but they split amicably and went their separate ways. When L and I first reconnected, I was reminded of a poem I had written about her father, which I shyly sent to her. Thinking about the poem reminded me of the summer I lived with L's parents in Long Island.

In 1978 when I was 26, I was a reckless girl. I had done a dozen or so cross-country car trips, looking for a place to plant myself. I had already bought ten acres of land in southern oregon and built a cabin on it (1974), I had waitressed at a popular cafe in a touristy beach town in California (1975), I had lived in a tipi for a summer on 40 wild acres in southern Humboldt county, living with a pot-grower. I didn't know what to do with myself, and college was out of the question. (Have I ever told you that I was a re-entry student at 29?) So, one day I saw an ad in East West Journal that said something about learning to become a "licensed polarity therapist." Wow. Was that ever for me. In 1977 there were as many shelves in bookstores devoted to spirituality and self-healing as there are shelves devoted to computing now. It was the ambiance of the times. So, I sent letters of inquiry to somebody in New York City, where the program was being offered, and made a decision to go.

It was spring. I moved in with extended family in Teaneck NJ, and learned how to navigate the buses and subways to NY. It was delightful, and very different from the life I had led up to that point. Even though I had grown up in New Jersey, I had been gone for seven years, and I returned a tanned California hippie girl to learn my adult way around New York.

Well, the Polarity Program was a bust. To make a long story short, and suffice to say I decided that a business license wasn't the same as becoming a licensed practitioner, and I told the director so, and left. I also decided to leave my aunt's house and move to Long Island, where L's parents had a business and said they could use my waitressing skills over the summer.

L's parents were caterers, and they specialized in catered weddings on Long Island. Their store front was on a busy road, and their lovely apartment was in the back. I moved into L's old bedroom and spent my time with J & M shaping radishes into roses. We did all the prep work there on the premises. They had a huge walk-in refrigerator and a giant-sized black cast-iron stove with two ovens and eight burners. We ate feasts every day. On weekends, we catered several affairs. I mostly worked the weddings. Going to two or three weddings a weekend was really quite revelatory for me. It was an opportunity to watch humans at one of their most cherished events. Nearly every couple that summer chose as their song "Just the Way You Are" by Billy Joel. I heard over and over: "Now dancing to their song for the first time as Mr and Mrs so and so..." And then those words would come "Don't go changing, to try and please me..." Every couple smooshed cake into each other's faces. Every bride danced with her father. Somebody would always get drunk and stumble. Somebody always made a sexually intimate toast. The spoons knocked the wineglasses and the newlyweds obligingly kissed. I watched all of this, while I served from the left and removed from the right. Unattached ushers flirted with the wait staff. Everyone had a good time.

L's parents were remarkable people. Her dad was from Prague and her mother, if I remember correctly, was from a small town in Slovakia. They were both survivors of Auschwitz. They had each survived their devastations differently and bore their scars in their own ways. L's father was irrepressively cheerful, while L's mom was more reserved. She had had her tattooed number surgically removed from her wrist. They both had lost their immediate families in the camps. What I remember feeling at the time in their house, was that the way this nightmare was reflected in their daily lives was how their house locked up at night. They had locks on top of locks. There were safety bolts on top of their doors that went into the upper jamb, and locks on the bottom as well. When we faithfully locked up at night, we slept knowing that there was no way there could be an intruder. But what I remember most was how their lives revolved around food. It's what they did everyday, all day. My one contribution to their feasts was home-baked cornbread (the Tassajara breadbook recipe that I still use), for L's dad who was diabetic. I left out the honey, and he loved it. We were a fine little patchwork family that summer. I loved them for their graciousness, their solitude, and their resilience.

That summer I met my first husband, and we fell in love. I left J & M's, and we rented an off-season beach house in Connecticut on Long Island sound, while he studied film at the University of Bridgeport. L's parents came up to visit us that fall. It was the only time I photographed them, and the last time I ever saw them. L's dad died in the late 90s, and today her mom has Alzheimers. This is the poem I wrote about L's dad in 1995, and just sent to her.


His wrist with the tattooed numbers
reached across the fine table
over delicate linens
laid with silver and crystal
for yet another serving
of his favorite: chicken paprika

He said he put Auschwitz behind him
refused reparations and inherent entanglements
joked that the indelible blue number
was merely the zipcode for Shreveport, Louisiana
a place he should maybe visit, someday...

...but certainly not before he has cracked every chicken bone
drawn the precious marrow to his tongue,
sopped up the gravy with the remaining black bread,
picked up his dinner plate
and licked it clean.

L told me that the poem definitely captured a part of her father. She said that after he died, she was frantic that she had not thought to write down that number. That tattooed number. The hell writing on his skin that had become an essential part of him. But she found it in a photograph and wrote it down. 17710. His number.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

February- the Longest Shortest Month

Okay, we're sick of February. No wonder it's the shortest month, if it were any longer, people would simply lose their moorings. I know they do that now, but if February were 31 days long, they might become unhinged for no reason at all, other than the number of days in a very long, dark, cold, endless winter month.

Our favorite walking path was closed for ten days as a result of the windstorm we had earlier this month. We finally had a chance to walk it on Friday when the sun came out for a short while. My photo senses seem to have gotten rusty. I was aimlessly looking at the pattern of light and shadow on the bay when a huge raptor was over my shoulder behind me. All I could manage were blurry photos of one of the largest birds we've ever seen. It could have been an immature bald eagle, but it was so big. Our fantasy was that it was a Golden Eagle. It was a dark brown bird. You decide.
We did get to see an American Coot hiding in the reeds in the marsh. What a fantastic white bill on that Rail. Yes, it's a Rail and not a duck, which it is commonly mistaken for. The books tell me that Coots have green feet. Oh, we would have loved to have seen that, simply for the color green, like spring, which we are longing for.
I went out on Saturday to fill the bird feeder. The birds have gotten very hungry. Even with the Stellar's Jays gone, they are going through food faster now than in early winter. Two little brown birds stayed at the feeder long after all the others had flown away at my approach. After they left, and I filled the feeders, I went in the house to get the camera, and back out to photograph them. It was only after I looked at the photos that I saw that they were Pine Siskins with that wonderful hint of yellow on their wings. Such cute little birds. They could almost make up for the lack of warmth, light, and color. Almost.
It was 40 degrees all day on Sunday, a bit of a drizzle, and the light in the cloudy sky never changed, except to turn into night. How was it where you live?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

In A Heartbeat

I was on the phone Saturday night, talking with someone who is in the reading group that I'm in. The phone beeped through to let me know that someone else was calling. I checked, it was my sister calling from Hawaii, where she is vacationing this week. I said to her, Hey, I'm in the middle of something, can I call you right back? She said, "I guess so, are you having dinner?" I said, No, are you okay? She said, "No, not really." I said, Hold on one sec, I'll be right back, don't hang up.

She told me this story.
After spending the afternoon of kayaking and playing with a sea turtle, she and her friend got into his car to head home. They were driving along the coast highway when she looked up to see another car cross the line into their lane, she yelled for her friend to swerve, but it was too late. They were hit head-on. It was the worst car accident she has ever been in. The other car's airbags inflated, the driver bit through his lip. He had airbag debris in his eyes, but he was safe. Both cars were totaled. People ran from their houses after hearing that sound of car metal slamming into car metal.
She and her friend walked away.

Their bodies ache terribly from the damage of being tossed around. She knows they're going to feel much worse on Sunday. Her usual upbeat sweetheart happiness was missing from her voice. She sounded hollow and scared. I could hear how afraid she had been, how close she knew it was for this call to have been placed by someone else telling me that there had been a terrible accident.

Imagine the snap of a fingers here.

Just like that she could have been gone.

There are two people who comment here whose loved ones are battling very difficult cancers right now. They are looking at losing people they love very dearly. Sometimes it is really worth remembering to love those we really love, and to hold them close when we can.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Soil Profile

this is our soil profile. at least in this one place in our two and a half acres. it is the same about 40 feet away. imagine my surprise. i expected rocks. everywhere else i have lived there have been rocks. sometime big ones. often jagged. oh, there are a few rocks here. granite. agate. all worn round. well, irregularly smooth. like stones on a beach or in a river, but in the soil here. there is about six inches of dark topsoil at the top of this profile. i think that the original forest was cleared about 20 years ago and the area around this hole was graded about twelve years ago, and has been a mown grass field since then. the dirt under that is sandy clay, or clayey sand.

click pic to enlarge

this is a picture of a bluff on port townsend bay not far away, looking up about 75 feet to the top. we are looking at about 20 feet of exposed soil at the top, sandy clay with no rocks, a darker layer on top and a lighter, deeper layer just below. this bluff further along, and others we have observed, have thin layers of rounded, water worn rocks. in other local places the sandstone is visible more than 60 feet deep. so we pretty much live on sand stone. or just sand.

click pic to enlarge

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Icy Iris

Remember our harbinger of spring? Some things just can't fulfill their seasonal promise and are surprised by the February frosts of winter. It's been cold.

Wild Things and Human Beings

Our good friend and fellow blogger Lene of Leaning Birch gave up her blog in early February. So imagine how horrible it was for her to learn that some guy calling himself Harry has taken up residence at her blog address and taken two months of her posts (sans photographs, too bad Harry, you jerk) under his own name.
What does a blogger do under these circumstances? Part of me wants to google bomb the only link on that new site -- you know, so when you google schmuck some guy's weight loss ad would come up. But then I'd be participating in his sick little universe, and as much as I would like to cause him some deep humiliating embarrassment, it's really not my nature.
So instead, I'll write about how thoughtless and mean-spirited some people are. To attach one's name to work that is utterly not one's own must imply something about inadequacies, failure of imagination, and a strange heartlessness.
Here in this space where we pour out our own thoughts and visions, fears and dreams we hope for a community of like-minded people to join the discussion. It is disheartening, always, to find interlopers in our midsts.

But still we must persist. Post our pictures of things that spark the imagination and make us glad to be on the earth. We only hope that cretins like Harry will fade away along with all the other lying, cheating, spamming miscreants that walk this earth with us.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Culch Pile

wayne over at niches cleaned out some storage spaces. the stuff he described reminded me of a term from my youth. Culch pile. i googled it. seems to be a new england term for odd stuff saved because it may be useful some day. i think i got the term from my maternal grandfather. that kitchen drawer where you stuff things you can't throw away and can't properly store is a culch drawer.

click on any picture for a really detailed look at culch.

in any case, i am prepared for many eventualities, tho fewer now than before our last move, when i had to abandon most of the larger items i had carefully saved over the years. need a screw or a bolt?

maybe some cables.

more screws and bolts. maybe nuts too

plumbing parts?

some electric stuff. and caulk.

don't we have a national culch pile of old-fashioned but still serviceable things like a responsible press, informed voters, or even possibly fiscal responsibility? i know we used the fiscal thing as lately as 1998. sure hope we kept the idea somewhere. in an earlier era the vice-presidency was referred to as "not worth a bucket of warm spit." (by veep john nance garner. from wikipedia.....Garner, always the character, once described the office of the vice presidency as being "not worth a bucket of warm piss" (at the time reported with the bowdlerization "spit")) can we retrieve that term and at least use it for the current veep? sans bowdlerization!

and really, let's take civil rights and freedom of speech and personal privacy out of our national culch pile, where they have been consigned by the current administration, and hope they still work. i wonder if there is any diplomacy left in there.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

In Motion, At Rest, In Motion

The following three photographs were taken about five minutes apart. The hawk was hunting, and we were watching from the window. We have found it fairly difficult to capture the Cooper's Hawks movements when it flies, because it moves very quickly and adjusts its body to fly through small spaces everywhere. We think this juvenile is a beautiful bird of prey. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

hawk leaps from the ground
like a bullet into trees
hoping for surprise

empty talons wait
eyes scan movement far and wide
persistent hunger

flying from its perch
a blur of feathers softly
belie intentions

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Did you ever wish you could fly? I wish it all the time.

The pirate went clamming on Sunday. There was a nice low tide, so he could get out there and dig to his heart's content. I went with him, to keep him company and photograph the wigeons, seagulls, and crows. Before we went we watched the Crooks and Liars clip of Mary Matalin. She was spinning her insane wheels on the slick excuses she proffers for all the ways Dick Cheney is the paragon of perfection and not the pariah of perfidy we perceive him to be. Listening to her makes me want to fly away. I listen to how she constructs the war against liberals, the war against the press, the war against thinking. She demonizes anyone who does not understand that the hard work the administration does, they do for the American people. It is not about us, she says. it's about the American people.

She casts everything as us and them. She says we live in a parallel universe, the one that cares about hunting accidents (and global warming, melting ice caps, FISA, Abu Ghraib, corruption, I add). The American people don't care about these things. It's all very black and white. They're simply doing the people's business.
But in our way of thinking out here in the parallel universe, where we seem to have been banished to a grey and powerless world, we must rise up on our beautiful liberal wings and yearn to fly again.

Tree Bodies

We drive past this tree every time we go into town. I remember looking out the window one day and thinking how much like a woman that tree looked to me. I've been wanting to photograph her ever since, so Saturday we took a ride to see what we could come up with. I'm not sure it works, but this is the tree.

Then everywhere we looked on this cold day we saw branches spread like the limbs of ourselves.

Even lying sprawled in the creek wearing a blanket of ice.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

What Could Possibly Follow?

All we've got is this sunrise from Thursday morning. It was 22 degrees outside, but the sky was like a crazy magnet. I couldn't resist going out there and waiting for the sky to lighten into this.

And we have this hollowed out shell of a tree. Age rings and heartwood gone. Simple metaphor for the bums who sometimes have not much to say.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Tele Extender

we had some questions about camera, lens, and distance of the bobcat pix in the previous post, so we measured the distance and took some photos to demonstrate the various settings and lens arrangements. all pictures were taken using the auto focus and auto f-stop and shutter speed settings. the first photo was taken at 12x, the maximum optical telephoto power of our camera, a panasonic DMC-FZ20. i am standing where the bobcat was. RD took these shots from the same place we took the bobcat shots. the distance from camera to me is 116 feet.
me at 12x. equivalent to 432 mm lens on 35 mm slr
this picture was taken at 12x with the olympus TCON-14b 1.5 tele extender added. might be like a 648 mm lens.

this picture was taken at 1x. the camera sez right on it "35 mm equiv. 36-432" so this is like a 36 mm lens.

don't try this at home kids! warning! photoshopped image. this bobcat may have been relaxed, but i would not get this close even if he let me. RD, photoshopper deluxe, put the bobcat image taken from the same place and at the same telephoto setting in the image with me. for a visual size comparison.

we also had questions and comments about wild animals and habitat, and the effect of population growth in our locality, bigger questions that will take us a while to address. for now, there is a lot of habitat right in our neighborhood for lots of wildlife. big things up to mountain lions and bears. the peaks of olympic national park are within view. major wilderness there.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Wild Neighbors

Part I
our neighbor called Wednesday morning to tell us that she had seen a bobcat earlier, walking between her house and ours, and that it was right now in her driveway. we had hot food just ready to serve. grabbing the camera and turning off the stove, we ran out the door and towards the neighbors driveway, about 250 feet from ours, thinking, surely it will be gone. we walked cautiously so as not to scare it away, nor give it reason to see us as attackers from whom it must defend itself. (Click on pictures for a close up look.)
RD spotted the bobcat across the road from the driveway in dry grass, about 100 feet (or so) away. it stared at us while we took turns with the camera shooting at various settings and with/without our tele extension lens (Olypus TCON-14B). it stood still and stared at us, looking away casually sometimes. then it walked a bit, seeming to stare at the ground as though it might be hunting. would we see it actually catch a critter? no. it sauntered about 10 feet, sat down, and started licking itself, looking like most any housecat. but larger.
Is it crazy to take 100 photos of one wild cat? How could we not? We stare at it. It stares back. It seems young and doesn't know to be wary of us. It keeps its distance, and we keep ours, but it seems nonchalant. We find it hard to tear ourselves away.
we head home and nuke the homemade breakfast burritos, mentioned above as food, and enjoyed them while looking at pictures of the bobcat.

Part II
after we eat RD prints one of the best shots to take to the neighbors. as we leave to deliver it i grab a yardstick and the camera, with the aim of putting me and the yardstick where the cat was and having RD take a picture as an indication of its size. as we approach the area i'm looking for the exact spot, thinking that surely the cat will be long gone. au contraire! mr or ms bobcat is now lying down relaxing in the sun! i take more pictures, even walking to the edge of the road closest to it. RD fetches the neighbors, who bring their camera and take some pics. RD takes more shots. the cat sits up regally for us.
While we are standing with neighbors, two cars pull up. One an Infiniti SUV, the other who knows what. We realize that the fine little field this cat has been sitting in is really 5 acres of prime real estate fresh on the market. Out of the SUV walks a real estate agent, and out of the other vehicle her client. The bobcat sits up and takes notice. I walk over and point him out to them. I don't want them to traipse into the field in their boundless enthusiasm and scare him away. They look over and agree it would be better to let him be. Of course how long will a bobcat be comfortable in this neck of the woods when we're building houses in all their favorite hunting places. How long before we stop seeing them at all?
as we leave to go home the cat is still there.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Dwarf wild iris

"Blossom by blossom the spring begins."

-Algernon Swinburne
We've been noticing the greens bursting up through the still-cold soil. Many of the bulbs have responded to the sun and warmer temperatures by sending up their first green shoots of the year. But we were really surprised to find this iris blooming by the pond. We're expecting a downward turn in the temps and big freezes over the next few days. Still, it was so fine to see this little harbinger of things to come. (Click on picture to enlarge.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine for Bonny

The pirate and I don't celebrate holidays. Not a gift on Christmas, Hanukkah, or Valentine's Day. We just don't participate in the Hallmark adventures of our culture. But, our cat Bonsai, or as he is known around here -- Bonny or Bonny Boy or even Mr. B-- does. He loves all the big holidays. He thinks they were made especially for him. Just like a typical cat. So for Valentine's Day, we're giving him one of his favorite gifts, his photo on the blog and little story about him. It makes him feel important, right up there with Dick Cheney and Jack Abramoff, and he didn't have to shoot anyone or bribe them to get his 15 minutes. Bonny just has to be his cute self. We've told you how Bonsai falls off the furniture (he has neurological problems which results in seizures when he sleeps). Yesterday rather than flailing his body off his little red window seat, he just oozed off on to the pillow we keep there to cushion his falls. He gave us the look that he always gives when he has just found himself on the floor: Why did you guys put me here?

Happy Valentine's Day, Bonny.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Watershed Redux

Wayne over at Niches has another watershed post dated feb 4. (i'd have a link directly to it here if i knew how. scroll down) and Rurality at Rurality has one also, as well as Vicki at Outside In and FC (scroll down, he has more than one post on watershed) at Pure Florida. so i have updated ours with a new picture and maps. i first did one back when, with a picture of chimicum creek at mid tide, looking downstream. the picture above is looking upstream at mid tide. as you can see from the maps below, water falling on our place doesn't have far to go to reach salt water. the first map has "home" and "photo" marked on it. the map is old and things change so the road by "home" (chez bums) is not depicted accurately. the word "photo" is located about where i took the picture on the earlier post, and where the picture in this post was taken.

the mouth of chimicum creek is where i go clamming. just above where it says Irondale on the map. yes, there is iron ore somewhere close and there was a smelter right on the waterfront.

the red symbol in the center of the map is about where we live.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Darwin's Birthday Morning

the earth's rotation
reveals sun on horizon
stationary star

madrone limbs need sun
so twist in a dance of trees
and reach for the sky

red-breasted songbird
singing in the morning light
Darwin's birthday song
an epiphany
four billion year old earth spins
even without us