Friday, August 31, 2007

Like Hippies in a Tent

There's a line in the Greg Brown song "Spring Wind" that goes, "We're a cross between our parents and hippies in a tent." Roger and I have always felt that line described us pretty well. It's not a balanced cross, we lean more heavily towards the hippie side than to the parent side. So, when I take a look around at the house we're trying to sell, I see where those sides collide. I often wonder what prospective buyers think when they walk through the place. The house is big, modern, and spacious. People have said, "Your pictures don't do it justice, what a beautiful open floor plan." And I know they are attracted to the very things that made us think more than twice about buying it. We always imagined ourselves in a funky old house, one that we would improve, but one that time would have already made artful and cool. Instead we have these stark white walls, lots of angles, and a cool that is not hip but dispassionate.

I have a tendency to build altars as art. I don't know why. A flat surface is a place for secret artifacts, found stones, shells, snake skins, and feathers. That's the hippie part imposed on the furniture. We have little Buddhas and plants everywhere. When people walk into our house, I think it must look to them more like an ashram than a home. It's really interesting because Roger and I are only constitutionally zen but practitioners of nothing at all. It is the ambiance of meditation without the actual quiet mindful work. Still, the house says this about us. I can tell that some people find it slightly off-putting. They look around like they are hoping for comforting pictures of George Bush and Dick Cheney, or something familiar like the TV tuned to Fox, but find only discomforting vegetarian cookbooks, incense burners, and Indian herbs. I suspect they imagine wild spicy curries and tantric sex under this well-appointed roof. Yikes. Run for the door, they probably laced the water.

We don't have much furniture either for such a big house, and what we do have is unconnected to other pieces in style, era, or fashion. There are no sets of anything. The only things that do match are the kitchen table and chairs. Dressers are oak, maple, and deco veneer. Beautiful hand-me-downs and garage-sale finds. It's how we have always lived. When we moved in, we covered the light sand-colored carpet by scattering warm red rugs from the middle east. We built our altars, smudged the place with sage, ripped out the JennAire glasstop stove, and put in a gas cooker with heavy-duty enameled cast-iron burners. We bang our pots and pans with wild abandon and cook raucously out loud, as loud as our laughter about how absurd it must be to walk into our house. There is a dissonance, a collision. Our beautiful living room has a step down to the tiled sunroom where plants sit on unpainted wood slats held up by cinder blocks. Seriously. Cinder blocks. We are a cross between our parents and hippies in a tent.

I found the cartoon when I googled Buddhism Illusion. The original pic has a blank screen. I took that to mean a place for the projection of illusions. I filled it in with this one.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pine Whites

Doug T of Gossamer Tapestry left us a comment a week or so ago that mentioned we should be on the look out for Pine White butterflies (Neophasia menapia). Well, as the earth spins, the moon is eclipsed, the migrators fly south, here the Pine Whites arrive.
Right on time.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Nature of Nature

I look out the window and see a spotted towhee fleeing the clutches of this cooper's hawk, which is quite literally on its tail. They fly madly into the camellia bush, and I wonder what the towhee might have to say about the nature of nature and illusion.
The heron arrives and stands like a practitioner of Tai Chi at the edge of the pond. Each move a picture of practiced grace. The goldfish are silent and unmoving beneath the water lilies. Their ability to stay focused though, a tad shorter than the heron's.
The juvenile hawk and heron hunt our yard at the same time. So, I take down the bird feeder and put a net over the pond. There are other places for them to learn their skills. I don't have to make it quite so easy for them, do I?

Nothing wants to be prey
This I know looking out my window

(BTW-- I couldn't believe I saw the heron on the workshop roof with the hawk in the tree right behind it. Wow!)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

holy shit

i went to my "welcome to medicare" physical exam. my last exam was in 2004. i was in good health then. psa low. cholesterol low. heart good, etc. i was not in the least concerned about this exam. i'm healthy, i feel strong and good. i didn't expect surprises. the nurse doing intake took my temp. normal. took my blood pressure. whoa!! 175/105!!!

i kinda tossed it off. my bp has always been way normal. 120/75 or something. the nurse says some people have "white gown syndrome," meaning nervousness in medical situations. i tell her, only if you have a needle in your hand. she says maybe i'll check again before you leave. i wait for the doctor.

he arrives. he was recommended to me by a good friend. this worked out well. very nice guy. tres thorough. asks what concerns i had. we talked about what i thought is arthritis in my left elbow and what he applied his knowledge of anatomy to, and suggested is tendonitis --- i have tennis elbow. try aleve for a week while resting that arm, to reduce the inflammation. ok. can do. my other concern is my skin. i have that thin anglo skin that bruises easily and is subject to sun damage. i have in the past had a doctor freeze off bits here and there. medicare is sending me to a dermatologist.

he also asked many questions about my general health and diet and had his assistants schedule two more appointments for me. one for an echocardiagram and one for AAA (abdominal aortic aneurysms) screening.

on the way home i drove to safeway to check my bp on their machine. 175/107. it's official. my blood pressure is way too high, stage 2 on some scales. the doctor gave me a DASH diet printout. (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) it describes fairly well my diet for most of my adult life. certainly the past 30 years. not much room there for DASHing. various places on the intertubes list genetics as a large factor in hypertension, which can lead to heart problems. my father had a major heart attack and both of his parents died of heart attack. that could be a clue.

after i got home i caught on that many of the doctor's questions had to do with hypertension. so now i'm trying not to think of the elephant in the room. more tests will possibly add some info. i don't feel any differently than i did before i had my bp measured. except i'm totally numb and out of my body, and thinking of the worst possibilities. but no physical symptoms.

my new digital friend and my arm. this is after i've plied myself with good wine and good food. the doctor suggested that i monitor my BP for a while, so we got this neat hitech sphygmomanometer. i've gone from no-meds, no worry to aleve every 12 hrs and BP measure every 6 hrs. i've been medicalized. i am back in my body now and back to regular life, but the realities of age and mortality are in sharper focus.

the machine's memory of robin's BP.


i'll add an update here, instead of replies to each.

thanks for your concern and well-wishes and advice. there is scant room for improving my diet. we do use salt, but eat zero processed food. we use salt free tamari. we eat mostly vegetarian. some chicken, some eggs. rice. pasta. lots of veggies. lots of garlic. i checked the Resparate which was recommended by def59485. it is a biofeedback device to aid in breath control. i can maintain a rate of 6 breaths per minute fairly well on my own, which is below the target rate of 10, and that did drop my BP down to 145/96. i'll endeavor to maintain a longer, deeper breath rate throughout the day.

my concern is mainly that my diet is already good and has not changed for many years. i do get less exercise than i did when i was a working carpenter, so i will have to add some exertion somewhere, but i'll wait for the heart and circulation tests to find out if i have some physical problems. drugs are pretty much out of the question for me. i have found on the internet some interesting herbal remedies.

more exercise, slow breathing and sipping wine all day wouldn't be such an onerous regimen.

my best wishes to all of you for your own continued good health.

i did wonder if robin and i could average our BPs and declare ourselves a healthy duo.


another update---cuz i'm trying not to use my left elbow, while taking aleve, which i forgot this am....and i don't sit still very well...

thursday 7;16 pm---- 137/93 blood chem report report from the nurse " the doctor says 'you're a picture of health'" details later.

ok. i won't go on. bp does seem to vary widely! i have a haphazard past to draw on for yoga and meditation. i'm on it. i'll consider meds if required. this doesn't seem to be as bad as i had feared.

good night and good luck to us all.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Pedestrian Epiphanies

I keep coming back to this story in my life. I start to tell it here on the blog, but then give up every time. I want to describe this moment that seemed to change everything, but really changed nothing at all. It was just a moment...

When I was maybe eleven or twelve, my older brother played Senior League baseball. He loved sports and was very competitive. I was not a sports kid at all, and did not really like competition. In fact when my siblings got together to play a card game or a board game, I would always opt out, and they would sing to me: Every party has a pooper that's why we invited you, party pooper. Yup, that was their anthem for me. Ms Party Pooper. Maybe I've already told you all of this before, I can't remember. But this is about a story about a different memory, so I'll get back to it.

My older brother played baseball on long summer days in New Jersey. The whole family would go out to the field to watch him. He was a good ballplayer. We did a lot of things together as a family. We went bowling, or to Asbury Park, or out to dinner at Snuffy's. It was that era in the suburbs when we knew all of our neighbors, and we felt safe to be on the streets day or night. We played lots of different games, some that we made up, like treasure hunts or Baby Face Nelson and the gun moll (that would be me, of course). We put on plays, and played many games of pretend. I liked those the best.

Yet, as all siblings do, we each revolved in our own orbits. I wrote secret poems, and love songs to The Beatles. My twin brother had a paper route and wanted to be a drummer. My sweet little sister followed me around, hoping to catch up to be my age. My older brother played sports and went out on dates with girls. We lived under the same roof, four suburban kids in 1964.

I think it must be the August light that reminds me of this moment, but one August day in that long ago summer, I remember walking into our suburban home and seeing my older brother sitting in the white, curved family-room chair. He was wearing his baseball uniform and was talking animatedly about the game he'd just played. I stared at him for a long time, trying to understand what it was that made him my brother. How is it that this person and I are related as siblings? Who are we? Who would we have been if my mother had not married our father, or our father had married someone else? I found it exhilarating to consider the unique way we were connected. I stared at him, suddenly aware of our cells and how alike they must be. It made me feel closer to him than I ever had in my life. And strangely, at that moment, I felt a kinship with all humans. If my brother and I were this closely related, I wondered who else was I distantly related to; and wasn't I, if I could just trace back in time, related to everyone? How could it be otherwise, my 12-year old mind wanted to know.

That was the moment.

I wanted to break open all the rocks in the yard and look for fossils. I wanted to see the world through a microscope and telescope at same time. I suddenly wanted to understand everything all at once.

When I came back from that long stare, I saw that I was just looking at my older brother in his baseball uniform telling a story. I was just a girl who was giddy about the poetry of life.

Still am.

Do you have a moment that turned on the light switch to the world?

Photograph: Older brother behind the stroller, my twin brother and I being the Buddha twins, and cousin Donna hanging out with the family. Newark, New Jersey backyard of our apartment, circa 1954.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

woodshop 101

as we considered leaving port townsend and our house here we realized that the only physical part to which we had an emotional attachment is the inner walls of our sauna. we did fence in a lot of the yard, maybe an acre. there was also that shingling project and some other little exterior enhancements.

the gardening has been where we exerted the most effort in the most fun and rewarding way. we have created, enjoyed, and passed on many nice gardens in our collective pasts. here goes another. we hope, of course, that the as yet unknown future owners will use and add to the fruits of our labors: a surfeit of annual flowers, herbs, and food plants; fertile beds aplenty for anything that grows; a greenhouse in the sun. and if those putative future owners fence the area and put a horse in there, well clover and grass will grow there too. eat well, silver.

but i digress. about the sauna walls......many years ago i did a major remodel of a family home. the house was so old (how old was it???rimshot!!) that the exterior walls were vertical planks with facing on the inside and shingles on the outside. two inches thick at most of wood. no insulation, indeed no space for it. the interior walls were the same vertical (full one inch by twelve inch) redwood planks. so i put modern two by four stud and plate walls everywhere, with sheetrock on the interior. the planks i removed were mostly usable only outdoors, being quite rough and knotty. the facing though was 3/8" by 12" inch redwood. mostly painted! i kept it.

when robin and i bought a house in santa cruz there was a space for our own sauna. i ran those already thin boards through the planer pictured below to clean them, and found out that old, hard paint is very tough on planer knives. life-ending even. the reward was a small stack of aged, old growth heartwood redwood boards. okay. one quarter inch isn't real thick. but still. we built a sauna and sweated in it for seven years. in preparation for retirement and moving from that house we decided to move the sauna and to buy new wood for the interior of the rebuilt sauna and store our nice redwood for our future sauna.

when we arrived in port townsend at our newly bought home our first project was our dream sauna, with that wonderful redwood. so now you're up to date, almost. now that we want to move, we want to take our redwood. so i bought the same sort of cedar that i had used for the ceiling, door, and anteroom of the by six fence boards. nominal. an important word that...nominal. a two by four is really one and a half by three and a half. so the fence boards are really 5/8" by 5 1/2". was that another digression? anyway, i planed and trimmed and notched those rough sawn fence boards and replaced our beloved redwood. it is still, if i do say so myself, a very nice sauna. we have tested it and found it hot.

this is a belsaw planer, powered by a five horsepower electric motor. it will plane a board twelve inches wide and 9 inches thick. i bought it new in 1972 and i have run miles of wood through it since then. this is an action shot as the 1" by 6"cedar fence boards, two at a time side by side, are actually being planed. note the chips coming out the back end to the left. the boards are pulled through by two rubber rollers.

this is a cedar board going through a table saw to make lap joints on the edges. the near edge has gone through and the other edge, on the down-facing side, is being cut by a dado head, essentially a 1/4" thick blade, to make the same sort of edge on the other side of the board. the two pieces pushing the board against the rip guide and down on the table, held by all those clamps, are called finger boards. there is no power feed so i am the pusher. i turned off the saw to take the picture. i am my own safety committee.

i added this railing to the side of these steps. there was no railing when we bought the house, though it is required by the building code. we thought it would be a nice finishing touch.


in other is a chart of the dow-jones industrial average to help put the current "fall" in the larger perspective of 1989 to now. that's a fairly steep upward trend eh?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Time of Wind-blown Seeds

We drink wine every night with dinner, so most of the time our blog's salubrious equanimity has a 13% alcohol content. It's really much better that way, otherwise you'd hear even more of the squeaky wheels, the random discontents, the philosophical conundrums of life. Who needs that? We spare you the details. We rest our hoarse voices, our staggering outrages, our tragic disbeliefs. We put you, our dear guests, in the spare bedroom and speak in less than a whisper so as not to disturb you. We're here, but our inner door is closed and we retreat from the world. Make yourselves at home, we'll show up sooner or later.
Meanwhile, we photograph the gorgeous parade of butterflies as they come tripping through the yard sipping nectar at the aptly-named Butterfly Bush.
We finally say "screw the prospective buyers who might be confused by sheet strips on the windows," and re-hang the sheets, but not before I bury a fourth bird after it has struck a deadly leafy reflection in hard glass.
It's simply down time in the August of summer, even here where the skies have been as gray as winter. We watch wind-blown seeds sail across the landscape, a hint of fall and then another winter. We're just living life, harvesting veggies, doing crossword puzzles and laundry, feeding the cat and the birds.

All these beautiful wings are slightly torn upon closer inspection.

1. Lorquin's Admiral (Limenitis lorquini)
2. Lorquin's Admiral (Limenitis lorquini)
3. Red Admira (Vanessa atalanta)
4. Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

All The Time in the World

Now that we are selling the house ourselves, we are completely distracted by it. I've been designing ads for the newspaper, both the print edition and the online tile ad that starts today. My wonderful sister, the world's best and most honorable real estate agent, designed some flyers for us and emailed them to me so I could write the copy. Roger assembled the "House for Sale" sign sent by It is now firmly planted in the ground on the roadside of our house. He's also tackling the huge task of cleaning up the workshop. Luckily, he found someone who took all of the siding that he so carefully removed from the house last year for the shingling project. It's great to see that stuff be recycled and put to good use. Despite all the pull on our attention, we still try to make the rounds and read all of our favorite blogs. Vicki of A Mark on My Wall has a fantastic post up about honeybees at her new digs. I don't have a pic of a honeybee, but I did photograph this bumblebee a few weeks ago. So, in honor of all bees, here's a pic of a bee's tongue. It knocked me out when I downloaded the pics and saw that (definitely click on the pic).

We found the time to harvest the last of the broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach. The tomatoes in the greenhouse are finally reliably producing, as are the zucchini and yellow crookneck squash. We've been having almost all of our dinner veggies straight out of the garden. The other night, while sitting down to one of these garden suppers, it occurred to us that except for rice and spices, we had grown the entire plate of food. We were absolutely grateful for those spices too. Fennel, fenugreek, cumin, coriander, dried whole red chili peppers, basil and/or oregano in varying amounts make the difference between Indian, Thai, Mexican, and Italian. The right combination elevates a zucchini and some cauliflower into the sensual realm of flavors. After a single bite, we completely understand how the Spice Trade influenced the early days of exploration on the planet. People probably died for pepper and cinnamon, and I'm sure that seemed as tragic as people dying for oil now.
We try to take a break from real estate a couple of times a day, to walk and take a good look around. We had to thin apples from the tree as the limbs were so heavy with fruit that they were literally bending to the ground. We also discovered that we have five spectacular peaches on one of our peach trees. These five will be treated like royalty until they are ripe enough for consumption. We don't see peaches like this very often in the northwest. Of course, the weather has gotten very cloudy and gray again, so the peaches may take their time attaining their delicious sweet maturity.

We can wait. We often pretend that we have all the time in the world.

Monday, August 06, 2007

On Swallow Time

It's hard not to be inspired by the efforts of a young Violet-green Swallow. I could be wrong, but I think this little one was in one of our nest boxes until just the other day. It still looks so young, and at the moment of this photograph, appears to still be testing its wings.
It wasn't that long ago it was this, an egg in a nest. Now, just a month later, it is out in the yard and fending for itself. But even more remarkably, in probably just a few more days, it will take off with the other Swallows and head south to Central America. Somehow I find it hard to even imagine a thing so small, starting out in a little box in a yard on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, making such a journey. But it shall, and we will bid it farewell, along with all the other birds that come all this way to build nests and reproduce their young here.

So, this last of the Violet-green Swallow nestlings (sibling to the one above) finally fledged on Sunday. Gone. The yard was full of Swallows that all appeared to be trying to coax and tease this baby out of the nest over the past few days. He would have none of their antics. When he would tire of them, he would hide in the box, and only show himself if he thought his parents were bringing him food. He was even fooled a few times, as mom or dad flew toward him, but only came close enough to chase off an interloper. Now this baby is gone, and soon, he'll be wintering somewhere between Mexico and Nicaragua. The yard is disquietingly quiet.

I'd like to extrapolate from these birds, something about their natural rhythm of time and season, but I can't seem to get my mind off of how Congress voted quickly on the important FISA bill, so they could leave town and take their August vacation. Maybe a handful of Democrats didn't want to be branded soft on terror, as if even voting with Bush would spare them the label. I watch the birds, but it's Congress that teaches me the lesson of Swami Beyondananda: The truth shall upset you free.

Friday, August 03, 2007

medicare birthday, 65

today i am an official geezer, medicare and all. last year's picture will have to do. i look much the same. the usual birthday at chez bums starts with a birthday card, then maybe a hike in some forest or along the shore, or maybe a day at home working in the garden. we end with a finer bottle of wine than we usually have and a meal at home. we don't do presents. well, whimsy is good.

imagine my surprise two days ago when robin spilled the beans that something, unnamed, was due in the mail for my birthday. she was concerned that it would not arrive by today. she asked if i really wanted to know what surprise she had arranged. i said no. surprise me. yesterday i picked up the mail. there was a package. i recognized the distinctive handwriting of a dear old friend even before i saw the name, and i knew what must be inside, because the package came from far australia .... down under. we were friends and lovers back in hippie days in the 70's in humboldt county, california, and have remained friends all these years. she moved to australia sometime in the 80's, and visited robin and me in california with her husband in the early 90's. time does roll on. i suppose this is a thing of the 00's.

mmmmmmmmmm ginger-lemon-lime marmalade !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

i first got this at trader joe's and then at a local store in santa cruz called shopper's corner. when we moved north robin found an online distributor who would have a case delivered to our door. i have been eating this on toast in the morning almost every day for maybe ten years. two months ago when she tried to order more the distributor informed us that they are no longer importing it from buderim, australia. moving on, we found other ginger spreads, but none that were quite so tasty. so my wonderful robin, who even found a jar of crushed ginger to add to orange marmalade to replace my favorite morning spread, and it is pretty good, e-mailed my friend and conspired with her to give me a lovely present.

so i have a reprieve. three jars of reprieve. gift wrapped.

the image on the card is most assuredly not my friend. the text in the card says "so much for aging gracefully." she adds "was it really ever an option?"

here's another present. datil peppers. our internet pal florida cracker sent us seeds two years ago. i got them started too late last year for them to bear fruit. this year i was on it. i am proud to have the first datil peppers west of the mississippi. okay, i don't know that for sure.

the best present of all though is waking each morning and having tea and toast with my honey.


UPDATE.... 7 AM .........

robin's homemade bread with our respective spreads. raspberry jam for her. imported marmalade for me.

the update is actually today, august third. the main post was written yesterday evening. i had to change all the "tomorrows" to "todays" after i had written it, because of course it was intended for consumption today, as is the toast.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Perfect Summer Day

The weather has been amazing, perfect actually.How would you describe perfect weather on the perfect day? For us, there would be a few billowy clouds on the horizon, but the rest of the sky is a vast, calm, measureless blue. The temperature is in the 70s with low humidity and a hint of breeze that draws its coolness from the bay. A minus tide entices us to the shore. When we arrive, we are greeted by a Caspian Tern hunting. It flutters and hangs in the sky, then dives into the sea like a pelican and straight up and out of the water.
We walk on collecting bits of polished glass that have been tumbled smooth in the tide and sand. We are looking for blues, greens, and clear, but have to keep reminding ourselves to look up and outward on a day as beautiful as this. Still there are things in the sand that draw our attention, like this little fellow that probably was abandoned by the outgoing tide. We are glad to know something will come along and make a meal of him.
We walk on. A Pigeon Guillemot catches our eyes. It is fairly close to the shore, wrestling with something that seems too big for a meal. It moves back and forth, again and again, trying to figure out how to swallow its prize. It's a shame you can't see its feet, because they are a fantastic bright orange.
We walk on further into the perfect day and see something rolling quietly in the surf. It is so big that from a distance it looks like a mass of reddish kelp in the tide. When we take a closer look we find it is a Sunflower Sea Star. Is there a name of anything else in nature more beautiful on a summer day?

Across the country in Washington D.C., Representative Jay Inslee (D, Wa) announces that he is introducing a resolution to impeach Alberto Gonzales. Yes. Dick Cheney admits to Larry King that he remembers sending Gonzales and Card to Ashcroft's hospital room. Okay, I made that last part up, but it would have been the best end to an absolute perfect summer day.