Friday, June 30, 2006

Bunny Secrets

Picture innocence
Imagine protecting it
Bunny whisper: Never trust humans
Sorry about that second photo. The momma bunny was moving pretty fast. She was right on top of the baby in an instant. It was really a very sweet moment. She instinctively protected her offspring, and ushered the little one away from our prying eyes.

We're going to have a garden and tomato post on Sunday for the the Great Tomato Contest. Hope to see you then.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

two years into retirement

siskiyou summit
two years ago we arrived at our new home in wa state after a two day trip from santa cruz ca in a big u-haul truck towing a trailer carrying my pickup truck, during a heat wave. robin's twin bro and his wife quite graciously volunteered to drive our car, bringing the cat. the truck had to be the oldest in the entire u-haul fleet. an ancient cornbinder (international harvester, what kinda name for a truck is that?) with lap only seat belts, no radio, and of course no a/c. the truck was crammed full. the pickup truck was crammed full, including the cab. the whole shebang would cruise along nicely at 60 mph on level ground, but lose speed rapidly on hills, requiring much downshifting of the manual transmission. the highest pass on i5 is siskiyou summit at 4310 feet above sea level. the road ascends for about 8 miles (i'm guessing here, and choosing 8 to make the later math easier) and most autos can cruise on up at 60 mph, tho many go faster. now the math. (8/60)x60=number of minutes to go 8 miles@60mph. alternatively, 60 mph = 1 mile/minute. okay. 8 minutes to drive up that hill in a car. our truck slowed down to 8 mph, which would mean that it took us, yes, one hour to attain the summit. big semis passed us.

in the fullness of time, as the cliche goes, we arrived. we survived. the cat survived. our precious stuff survived. we have visited friends and family in ca twice since then, once by train and once by car. the train, as one might imagine, is more relaxing, but the schedule is rigid--always late--and the food is not nearly as good as that which we bring along in the car. while it was fun to see people there, we are not even remotely homesick for it. too many humans moving too fast.

moving on, as the talking heads say to cover a strange segue.

i don't work any more. well, not for money from other people. since we have retired and moved we have built a sauna, fenced a large chunk of our 2 and 1/2 acres, changed big chunks of the garden area, added a large veggie garden, moved a greenhouse, and we are currently partially through the rather large project of removing all the exterior siding and painted window trim on our house and replacing it with shingles and unpainted cedar trim. we have also taken up blogging, which does consume some time. it's not just that we (i bask in reflected glory from my darling robin) produce a post every weekday, we insist on reading many other blogs. my morning is not complete without checking on my blogging friends to see what nugget of wisdom or pearl of great price they have uncovered. no pressure there, you know who you are.

i have read of men, or women, who retire and realize that their entire being is wrapped up in a job, who are unable to fill the long hours of each day with some way to pass time. no hobbies. no intellectual curiousity to be slaked. no solace in relaxation. well. i'm no better at "relaxation" than i am at organized, intentional exercise, but my days are full. i must admit that i have slacked off on reading actual books lately, even tho my list of books-i-wanna-read keeps growing. but the bookends of my day are still reading, nowadays from the glowing screen. the rest of the day is filled with gardening, bird watching (we have two eagle nests, swallows nesting in a birdhouse, and house finches nesting in a cedar in the yard to check on), home improvement projects, walking, exploring our newly adopted state, housework (i do toilets, showers, and garbage. we share the rest, tho robin is always ahead of me about laundry), cooking and eating. we have agreed that it would be marvelous for our health to do a half hour of yoga every morning. so far, nada. too much other stuff to do.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Pale Beauty

Pale Beauty (Campaea perlata)
Roger found this moth on the side of our house. You know what happens after the photographs? The online search begins for identification. I find it very hard to identify moths. There are so many, and really, so many look alike. For this one, though, I actually got pretty close. I narrowed it down to the right family. I found the Emerald Moth from Geometridae family, the Geometrini tribe. It looked right, it's green! But all of the descriptions said how large the wings were. Our little moth was only about an inch and a half, the Emerald is nearly two and a half inches. A nice green moth, but no match.
Emerald Moth (Geometra papilionari)
So, I sent the photo to Bev over at Burning Silo, and she had an answer in just a few hours. I don't quite know how she does it, but she's an incredible authority on insects. She wrote to say our moth is called a Pale Beauty and is in the Geometridae family.

When we look at the moth, it occurs to us that could have named it ourselves. Anyone could have come up with that name after looking at those scallop-edged wings, and that soft pale green color. Pale Beauty, of course. The name just makes me think of all the other animals we see around our house that could be called pale beauties.
Like this moth that we never identified.
Or this bird that we think is the shy Swainson's Thrush, with a song that makes our hearts leap.
Or this White-crowned Sparrow enjoying a moment in the pond, splashing with joyous abandon.

We often see pale beauty everywhere, but now have seen the real thing, that Pale Beauty moth just waiting to be discovered.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tis An Ill Wind That Blows No Minds

California poppies enjoying the heat
The hot winds are blowing in from the east. Off-shore winds are carrying the stifling high pressure temps west from the interior. We're a bit too far north for this to be radiating from the Great Basin, but that's just what it feels like. Sizzling, parched, dry and prickly as cactus. Relentless. We are hiding in the house with the shades drawn on the south-facing windows.

There are many reasons why we retired to the northwest. Some may find this hard to believe, but one of those reasons was the weather. We like it cool, and we don't mind it cloudy and gray. We'd take a 60 degree day over a 90 degree day, any day. Temperatures in the 90s make us lethargic. We struggle with the torpor. We don't get any work done, no shingling, no weeding. We just get out in the early morning to water what needs watering, and then back in the house. It's only been two days, but that's quite enough for us.

While spending all this time in the house, I've been reading about the projected population milestone the US is about to achieve some time this fall. An astonishing 300,000,000 people will be living here. It's hard to really grasp 300 million of anything. Years ago Roger and I read a book called Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences by John Allen Paulos. Quite an interesting read, and one of the things I recall from the book was that Paulos had this fantastic way to convey the difference between a million and a billion.

Think of it this way: One day has 24 hours. That's 1440 minutes, or 86400 seconds. It takes 12 days for one million seconds to pass. It takes 32 YEARS for one billion seconds to pass. I've always loved remembering that. It helps me to understand numbers like budget deficits when they are counted in the billions. When I think about 300 million people in the US, and try to actually comprehend that number, here's what I come up with: If I wanted to look at each of those faces for just one second, it would take me ten years (that's 24 hours a day non-stop). Of course I couldn't really just spend one second on each face, that would never be enough. If I spent five seconds, I would spend the rest of my life life (and then some, I'd be 104 when I was through).
So what I'm saying is it's getting a little crowded and hot here on earth. As an early-on proponent of Zero Population Growth (now called Population Connection), I consciously chose to be childfree. I am glad others are keeping the human race going, but for me, the population seems out of control. We're having a furnace of a day in Washington. Humans are heating up the planet. I feel like I'm in a very small elevator, a lot of people just got on with me, we're running out of air and water, and the doors have just banged shut. A little claustrophobia, anyone?

*Elevator photo borrowed without permission from the webpage of the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

Monday, June 26, 2006

a rose by any other name.....

the first blog we ever read, in 2004, was pandagon. robin, in her guise of advisor to student media at ucsc, had some e-mail communication with ezra when he was a student there, though they never actually met. he sent an e-mail telling her about his blog with jesse, called pandagon (he has his own blog now). we were impressed with their informative, well-written posts on current politics. from there we found eschaton. reading the comments, we joined the discussion. many, if not most, of the commenters used aliases. it was the style. atrios, cervantes, konapelli (changed to woody guthrie's guitar, last i saw), watertiger, thersites! we chose goofy names. following blogrolls and homepage links in comments, we found blogs more about nature and science. blogs about gardening and birds and photography. by then we had "met" other people in comments and kinda "knew" each other, so when we began our own blog we kept our noms-de-blog.

so i mixed cimematic and literary themes, posting as dread pirate roberts on a blog called dharma bums. the pirate is from a movie, "the princess bride." the dharma bums from a novel by jack kerouac. my partner in life and this scheme, the blogger formerly known as rexroth's daughter, from a song by greg brown, has dropped her nom de blog and come out, as it were, and retaken her given names of robin andrea. if you go to the top of our blog and click on "dread pirate roberts" under contributors, and then click on "my birthday" you can learn more about me than you may want to know.

you will not find my given name there, but in some commenting systems i have an e-mail address of aha! a clue. as dread_pirate_roberts was already taken as a yahoo mail name when i tried, i went for the closest thing, using my actual given name. no, not dread_pirate! roger! you may also have noticed my gravatar, which shows up in comments. who is that? i was part of a blog called plato's dialogue, intended to be a dialogue between, roughly speaking, believers and atheists. cervantes, of a very informative blog about public health called stayin' alive, and i were, are, the godless. it didn't work out. i found a picture of a bust of plato to use as my gravatar for that blog. i kept it as it reminded me of a dear friend.

now i'm roger at dharma bums. maybe a new gravatar later. oh. links to referenced blogs, songs, books, etc.? maybe later. this post is about me.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging

We're just going with the flow and joining other Friday cat bloggers. Here Bonsai is giving us that look, the one that says "Don't use me as filler for your silly blog." Sorry, Bon.

Have a good weekend, friends. See you Monday.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Dinner with the Bums

It would be so nice if you had dinner with us some time. It's the time we sit and really talk. We talk about everything. Things that happen to us in the small sphere of our personal lives. Sometimes we read things out loud to each other. Wednesday night I read an op ed by Garrison Keillor that a dear friend had emailed to us. We listen to music. We almost always start with something we both love, and then put the iPod on shuffle. For the past few months we've been starting with the Silly Sisters singing Gray Funnel Line or Miles Davis's Flamenco Sketches. It's interesting how different from each other these pieces of music are, and yet they fit our lives perfectly. When we both worked, we talked about the day we'd had, mine at the office, his at the job site. But now that we don't have jobs away from home, we talk about even smaller things -- what we see, what the birds are doing, where to move the swallow's nest box next year (it's too close to the house and we upset them whenever we do anything), what to plant in the greenhouse and what to plant outside.
We talk about the raccoon that was in the yard at 9:00 in the morning, how it stood on its hind legs and tried to stare us down. I say I'm still disappointed that I couldn't focus the camera fast enough to get that shot, but I'm still happy with what I got. We always talk about the state of the world. How we can't believe the way Iraq reminds us of VietNam. How the premise of our invasion now seems so much like an even weirder domino theory. The middle east states would fall one by one to the lure of democracy because we are such happy role models. We remember when we were young and marched against the war. We talk about being older, and how gladly we'd do it again. By now, though, we're ready for dessert-- We're listening to Steve Earle's Transcendental Blues, we're up and dancing, and scaring the cat.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Say Nothing at All

I had an entirely different post written. It was all about my bones and osteoporosis. It had photographs of hummingbirds with their tiny perfect wings spread and beating. It had an elegiac lament about two young soldiers who were slaughtered mercilessly in Iraq.

I just couldn't post it. It seemed inadequate. There is nothing to be said that will change anything at the moment. So, instead here's a lovely bird that we think may be some kind of Scoter, perhaps a young Surf Scoter. We startled it on Monday as it napped under some branches at the shoreline. It took off into the water and stretched its beautiful wings.

Sometimes it's best to say nothing at all.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

i'm walkin' here *

here is another self portrait. i didn't take the picture, but it was done at my direction so that's self-ish enow. this self portrait thing is an interesting challenge. many of the folks participating have posted drawings of themselves. i gave it a shot. a small shot. a little sketch. i'll stick with photos and photoshop. the photo below shows me in one of my favorite places.
my dear robin and i walked monday morning along chimacum creek estuary. this is not a civilized trail. it is narrow and there are steep, slippery sections. it is a decent short workout. we walk here often. the combination of walking along a trail that requires real attention to avoid a fall and the experience of a beautiful estuary, heavily forested on both sides, with great blue herons, kingfishers, crows, hummingbirds, and myriad other birds flying about tweeting, cawing, and chittering calms the mind and offers respite from the harsh realities of living in interesting times.

out beyond me is the mouth of the creek, where there be clams, and port townsend bay. in the distance across the bay is indian island, the ever present reminder of our military might. the entire island is owned by the us navy. bombs are shipped to the island to be loaded onto navy supply ships to be delivered to, well, wherever the navy is using bombs.

below is a view from the mouth of the creek back into the estuary

a belated thank you to all who offered praise and encouragement in comments on our first self portrait post. tho i did a bit of photoshop self image blurring, and offered the list of icons, robin deserves all credit for her masterful manipulation of images and effects in photoshop to produce my image and hers. my name is dread pirate roberts (not really) and i approve this message (really).

* thank you, ratso rizzo.

Monday, June 19, 2006

"D" Words

Have you noticed how we've had nothing to say since our trip? It's true. I'm not sure why this is. The weather has been so gray and cool, we even took a sauna on Sunday. We've been weeding the yard, pulling all the tansy ragwort and dandelions we can find. We've been thinking about everything. It's not even necessary to list the things that happened last week that seriously made us question why we stay in this country. You know what they are. I look out in the yard where the poppies' petals fall to the afternoon winds, the hummingbirds duke it out on the bird feeder, the last and only light of the day shines on the furthest trees on the horizon. I'm looking for inspiration, but these things leave me without even a spark of an idea.

All my words begin with D: despair, dispirited, disquieted, distress, despondent, disconsolate, discouraged, disheartened, Democrat.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Self Portrait Marathon

Several of our blogging buddies have been participating in a self-portrait marathon. So we photoshopped our photos to play along.

Have a great weekend, friends. If something unexpectedly amazing happens, we'll post it, otherwise see you Monday.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Familiar and The Unexpected

We know we are home when we go for one of our walks and see the things we expect to see. Expectation is not diminished by the comfort of the familiar. To the contrary, that fulfillment is essential to place and grounding.

We skipped a -3.1 tide on Tuesday. It's practically a heresy for us to do that. A minus tide is like a moon-earth-tide sanctuary of ordinary revelation. We were just too exhausted to expend the necessary energy. But on Wednesday we took a long minus-tide walk. We saw what we expected.

An eagle flew from a hidden tree and watched us as we peered up at its nest. We were longing for a glimpse of her shaggy gray babies on the nest edge, practicing with their new wings. Not yet. The eaglets are not ready for that exercise.
We saw a common seagull on the beach, its beak opened wider than our imaginations could conjure. I definitely thought of my mother admonishing her children not to have eyes bigger than our stomachs.
But all walks, and this is also why we take them, reward us with the unexpected. For most of the journey two otters followed along in the bay watching us. I could only photograph a bit of their antics.
They were quite a bit offshore, but their presence was absolutely palpable. dpr watched them through the binoculars and could see that one otter was feasting on large silvery fish, one after another.
The otters seemed to confer with each other, and simultaneously split for parts unknown.
Then, something at the shoreline caught my eye. There was a creature on four-legs and definitely scavenging. My heart skipped a beat thinking it might be one of the otters, but when dpr looked through the binoculars, he said, nope, that's a raccoon in the water. Neither of us had ever seen such a thing, but there it was.
After a few minutes it ran out of the water and hid in some fallen trees at the base of the hillside where it meets the beach. Suddenly it was quiet all around.

We continued walking down the beach. Clam siphons retreated beneath the sand and shot streams of water up our pant legs. We laughed. The clams are like little bi-valve Old Faithfuls, they spout reliably and randomly whenever we walk this beach. It has become familiar, but still that spray of cold water is always a surprise.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Day-Glo Yellow

We were treated to a flash of yellow streaking across my brother's backyard. Its intended target was the Western Scrub Jay that was eating almonds out of my SIL's outstretched palm. The Hooded Oriole (Icterus cucullatus) was having none of that. Not the almonds, nor the jay, nor the hand. The jay flew off in a blur of blue before we had any idea what was going on.
It's nesting season for the Oriole, and this behavior was all about territory. They do not want to share the yard with the Jays or Mockingbirds. Several Orioles gathered, males and females, and flapped around making quite a ruckus. They were claiming territory, and all the other other birds yielded to their insistence.
We had an opportunity to see these birds fairly closely as they flew from tree to tree. They were a flashing yellow light show. Straight out of a day-glo paint swatch.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


After eight days and seven nights on the road, I can safely say for us, life is all about food. In that time we only went out to eat once, and that was to have dinner with dpr's mom, so we could spend some alone time with her. Except for that one meal, we ate home-cooked food every night. And here's what seems particularly interesting to us, we cooked all of those meals.
We cooked for my brother and his wife on Tuesday night, the night we arrived in Santa Cruz. We made a local Santa Cruz favorite Tempeh La La (we have the secret recipe) with Indian spiced green beans and tomatoes, over rice. We even brought our rice cooker with us to make this meal! We cooked for dpr's brother and his wife on Wednesday. We sauteed onion, garlic, red peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, chicken and fresh italian herbs over pasta. We cooked for the big dinner (16 people) on Friday night. dpr did most of the cooking for this. He barbecued a whole salmon. It was served with salad, baked potato and francese bread. On Saturday we made homemade pizza for my family. We buy fresh pizza dough, which dpr rolls out while I saute the veggies. We like pizza without tomato sauce, so when the dough is rolled out, I brush olive oil on it, then layer fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and the veggies which have been sauteed lightly with pesto. Pop it in the oven for about 10-12 minutes, and voila, dinner! We cooked our butts off!
RA's and dpr's family gathering
So, it makes us wonder: Why, do you suppose, we do this? Could it be that hanging out in the kitchen crushing garlic and slicing vegetables is a small reminder of home? Or is it that there's some emotional grounding in being in any kitchen cooking up a favorite meal? Or is it a way to stay creative when you're away from home? Or is it just safe to be in the kitchen while everyone else is talking and socializing, a way to stay apart while pretending to be part of the party? Or are we (really I mean "am I") simply paranoid and wary of road food and restaurant cooking? Whatever the reason, we fed and nourished our families for the past few days, and we truly loved every minute of it.

When you are on the road what food do you miss most? What do you cook when you come home that says, "Ahh, I'm home."

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Long Ride Home

We're going to try to keep our eyes open for the journey home. We're as bone-weary tired as we can be. Oy. Our stop tonight is Grants Pass, Oregon. Half-way point between Santa Cruz and home. It's been a wonderful journey. Lots of photos to post over the next few days.

Today, just a pelican gliding over Monterey Bay.

See you tomorrow, whatever day that is.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Walking and Talking

We're talking in the morning, talking in evening, talking at supper time. We've seen more people in past 48 hours than we've seen in the nearly 24 months we've spent in northwest. I think we can only communicate in one venue at a time. We're talking talking talking in life, so there's just nothing left to say here. We did go for a nice hike today in a place called the Pogonip by the university. Rolling golden hills and deep redwood forest. Quiet.
Can you ever get a sense of the grandeur of these redwood giants from a photograph? I'm not sure it's possible, but that never stops us from trying. (Click on all photos to enlarge.)
There were acres and acres of rattlesnake grass. I think I must have picked up the tic here, the one we found crawling on me when we got home.
We loved this bay laurel, it was nearly as tall as the redwoods.
My twin brother and I walked along noticing birds and everything else that caught our eyes, or our imagination.
We took a close look at the coyote scat and found this tiny jaw bone and teeth. What do you think? What did the coyote eat?

What a nice couple of hours. The quiet was almost like being home. Friday is the big (BIG) party. Wish us luck.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Road Trip Day Two

We made it to Santa Cruz in the mid-afternoon. We're relishing the sultry air, the subtle flowery fragrance everywhere, the delicious moderating influence of the bay. We left Ashland at 8:00 Tuesday morning and drove 400 miles. Here's some of what we saw.
Crossing the border into California from Oregon. The fog lifts.
Mt. Shasta peeks out from behind the hills.
Shasta can be seen for nearly a hundred miles.
Ah yes, California on any day, any afternoon.
Lapis, my brother and SIL's cat, turned 20 years old on April 30th.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

on the road

hawk harrassed by crow. rest stop in wa just north of vancouver.
okay. it's just about 9 pm. we drove almost 500 miles today. not a major trip, but we whine 'cause we're old. we had our dinner of rice and sauteed tofu, cooked at home last night and nuked here in our nice little motel room in ashland, and then drove downtown to walk around in central ashland. it deserves an extra chi, as in chi-chi-chi, but well done! we walked in the stunningly beautiful park right downtown along lithia creek, then shopped for food for tomorrow on the yellow brick road to santa cruz at a very nice coop. below are random pix of our trip, labeled somewhat and not in order as i'm too tired to cut and paste text. love ya all!!!

the bridge over the columbia river, carrying I5

mt mcloughlin, east of medford, ore

the columbia river, looking through the railing on the bridge between wa and ore.

our pile of stuff, ready to load. i know, not in the best focus. also, there was more stuff. taken early this am.

interesting and strange, or, interestingly strange, big sculpture alongside I5 in the willamette valley in ore. some christian symbols, but odd geometric stuff too. who knows???????