Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Real California Welcome

When we were driving down to California I mentioned to Roger that I hoped there wouldn't be an earthquake while we were there. We had been upstairs in this very house for the big one in 1989, and it left quite an impression. So, let's see, we've been in California less than four days, and there was a 5.6 earthquake Tuesday evening. It wasn't nearly as large (7.1) as the one in 1989, but it was still significant and really quite a bit of a shake. It rattled our nerves a bit, but still there is something almost thrilling about feeling the earth move like that beneath our feet. We're hoping it was a stress-relieving quake and not a prelude to a bigger one. Oy.

Tuesday's earthquake was the largest to hit the area since the Loma Prieta quake of 1989. One of the reasons I worry about this 5.6 temblor being a prelude rather than a stress reliever, is that I remember this: On August 8, 1989 we were awakened at 1:00 am to a 5.4 earthquake. It shook long enough for Roger and me to run downstairs and head out into the street. We had a dear friend staying with us. She was in one of the downstairs bedrooms, and she met us in the street. Because Loma Prieta happened two months later, this smaller quake seems to be all but forgotten. Perhaps it occurred on another fault. I'll have to look that up. If you click on the pic, you'll see I've highlighted the event.

First Morning, Second Morning

We drove 900 miles in two days. We've been busy, non-stop since the moment we walked in the door. So much to do to make a space feel like home. This sunrise on the first morning pulled me out of bed and had me running, looking for my clothes and the camera. Back home in Washington, I could head outside wearing nothing but a tee-shirt, but here that kind of behavior is frowned upon.
We're so busy making this house a home, it's hard to remember to take short breaks and head down the little public trail right out the front door, down to the train trestle to take a peek up and down the creek.
We forgot to bring the Sibley's Bird Guide with us (that and a bunch of other important things like the telephone, the modem, the cat's kibble), so the new birds we are seeing in the creek are unknown to us. It's like the good old days, when we just looked and couldn't identify anything.
The second morning was a bit moodier and grayer than the first. There was a hint that the sun would spill out into that blue sky, but the fog and clouds overtook it before that happened. That's not a metaphor or anything, just the way some days begin.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


This is the view from the yard. We're planning a trip to that yard. So, we're very busy and chaotic. We're going to be gone for three months. I guess you could call us snowbirds, and that would be somewhat true. Maybe we're rainbirds or gray-weather birds. Next week we're driving down to Santa Cruz and staying in the upstairs two-room garret of Roger's family beach house. It overlooks the beautiful Monterey Bay. When Roger and I first met we lived there for five years. We know how to live in very small spaces. In fact we prefer it. The house we are leaving is much too big for the two of us to rattle around in the long dark months. We could live in a space the size of our bedroom. The rest of the house is really superfluous. I'm not sure why the McMansion idea is so popular. So much space is a distraction.
This is the view from upstairs. We will try not to think about the cold and gray northwest while we gaze out the windows. We have housesitters lined up and other great caregivers. Someone plans to write the great American novel in our house. Someone else will check in on the garden, the plants, the birds. Someone will be sending us our snail mail. We like to spread out the work, so no one feels overwhelmed. Three months is a long time. Fortunately, there will be a warm body here all the time, so we feel okay about leaving. We are taking the cat with us. He doesn't like his routine disrupted, but we think he'll manage to create a new one in the upstairs garret with us. We imagine he'll like it very much up there. Lots of things to watch flying past the windows: pelicans, gulls, hawks, herons. We're looking forward to that too. That, and the sound of waves every night.

We've already checked the tide charts and noted when there will be minus tides during the daylight in winter. Something we never have up here. We're hoping to find the fossil beds not covered by sand. We'll be looking for octopus in the rocky tidepools. We're planning on taking the camera.

Well that's the plan. So if we're quiet the next few days, not stopping by all the blogs we usually do, or seem more distracted than usual, you know why.

Update: I see why I should not try to write a post when I have a headache. I left the impression that we were leaving sooner than we are. We're busy getting ready for a three-month trip, but won't be leaving until next week. But there's so much stuff to be done in preparation, it's taking a lot of our time. We will have dsl when we get to Capitola, and plan to blog from there. We'll still be blogging from here though for the next few days. Not sure what we'll have to say, maybe... hey guess what... it's raining!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Better Off Without Us

I took this photo of the pond a few days ago. It was a rare occasion that the clouds parted enough to let the light pour through and paint everything in rose and amber at sunset. The image seems soft and warm enough to precede a thought on what the earth might look like without us. I finished reading Alan Weisman's The World Without Us, and I suddenly find it hard to think about anything else. It is not a sad thought, but is actually quite exhilarating to ponder such a thing. How might the world recover if all humans were to disappear on the same day? Weisman proposes just that and takes the reader on an amazing journey to different places on earth and imaginatively discusses the timeline and processes that would occur there, once we have gone. What happens to all the plastic we have dumped? What about the oil infrastructure under Houston? How does a city like New York crumble over time? Perhaps like this:
Roger sez: what can we humans do to lighten our burden on the planet? decrease our numbers drastically and return to hunting and foraging, or go away entirely. neither is likely. what else? conservation, as our darth vader veep said, is a personal virtue. it is a virtue, however, that will lighten our impact if enough of us practice it. so start now. re-use and recycle. get those flourescent light bulbs. you know the drill. what do you eat? how much packaging comes with your food? how far is that food shipped? last winter our local coop had ripe organic tomatoes from israel. how long do you think we can go on this way?

i'll own up to my own dismal opinion that we're sunk, and a large chunk of the planetary flora and fauna along with us, even if every living human became a rabid raw food vegan carless plasticless paperless childless recycler today. we are already far beyond being too many. smart enough to see the damage and not smart enough to do anything about it. i don't think we're bad, just clever enough to push the bounds of biological limits with clothing and sanitation and medicine so that we propagate past the carrying capacity of our ecological niche and so risk destroying it. too bad our niche is the entire planet.

In our combined 120 years on earth, Roger and I have seen and heard enough to believe absolutely that humans will not rise to the occasion, will not heed warnings until it's much (MUCH) too late, will continue to breed in environmentally crippling numbers, will exhaust every resource, will make war on neighbors, will kill to defend myths, will befoul the water and air, will not tolerate economic displacement in the short term for long term planetary health, and will pretend and insist that there is no other way to live.

Which is why we do hope that someday New York City will look like this. It is not a malicious or malevolent thought. It is a desire to let the planet be free from our invasive and insidious damage.

(Two drawings borrowed without permission from the World Without Us website.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Drawn to Life's Underbelly

Lately I've been focussing on the underbelly of life. You might not think that's good thing, but...

when it presents itself pressed right up against the window
or hangs on the field fencing in the early fall rains,
or turns its butt end up defensively on the gravel path where we walk
or barely holds on with the last bit of life...

I find it hard to look away. In fact I get as close as I can and put the camera even closer to get a good look at that beautiful underbelly of life.

Although, I do draw the line at this dark, sordid, and seamy side...
Ewww, that's just plain nasty. Funny though.

Monday is Environmental Blogging Day, so we'll be posting something in honor of the day. Have a great weekend, friends.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


one more post about peppers.............

we harvested our datil peppers. wow. while we could see that the bushes had a lot of little fruits, we didn't expect that there would be a pound and a half. and we left quite a few smaller ones. luckily for us the multi-talented FC posted this recipe, complete with pictures, for datil relish.

i do fancy myself a cook so of course i used his mother's recipe as a guide instead of fixed, immutable instructions.

my recipe (and of course, feel free to improvise):

one can tomato paste
one pint apple cider vinegar
3 Large garlic cloves
one large onion
sugar (maybe a half cup)
some water
about a dozen 2-3 inch datil peppers (seeded, while wearing gloves)

i put the onion, garlic, and peppers through a small food mill, maybe the same kind as FC's. the whole thing cooked for at least an hour. i did follow the instructions for sterilizing the jars and lids in boiling water. i also think that the acidity of the tomato paste and the vinegar, as well as the sugar, should retard spoilage.

we tasted the finished product. quel surprise! the spoon didn't melt! we have a little over a pint of relish. it will last a long time. a little dab'l do ya. tasty! and muy picante! we had some with dinner, a dish of dal and rice called kichari.

we have more than a pound of peppers left. we're going to freeze some and dry some. anyone want some? could we send dangerously hot peppers through the mail? send us an e-mail if you want some. a hint for anyone wanting to grow these interesting peppers. six plants is overkill.

thanks again FC, for the seeds and the story of your family's part in datil propagation.

Monday, October 08, 2007


When I was growing up my mother worked full time for a small medical practice. She commuted to work maybe 15 or 20 miles one way everyday. She would drop my siblings and me off at the school crosswalk on her way to the office. We wouldn't see her again until 5:30 that night. One of the highlights of her day was her lunch hour, but not for the reasons most of like an hour away from our desks. My mother got to have lunch with her mother everyday. My grandmother always made something special and delicious for her, and she and my mom would have their time together. I have to admit I've always been a little envious that they had that opportunity to be together, because my mother and I only see each other once a year. It's one of the reasons that Roger and I are trying to sell our house to get back to California, so I can see her more often.
In the meantime, my mother celebrated her 82nd birthday on September 25th. My twin brother flew down from Santa Cruz to Orange County to spend a few days with her. My sister and the kids drove down for the occasion. I really wished I could've been there, but I don't fly, and 1300 miles is quite a distance to travel for a long weekend. In fact, it's really impossible, unless you're in your 20s and don't mind driving non-stop with friends for over 20 hours. It's been done, I know, I've done it! Older and wiser, I had another plan to try to join them at least virtually. I called my sister and suggested that she buy and bring a webcam down for our mother's laptop. (Did I ever tell you that my mom is very cool, has high speed internet, and reads Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo everyday? She has also just started watching YouTube videos of Big Band music, her favorite.)
My sister thought the webcam was a great idea, and so a unique birthday celebration was planned. I did get to see my mother on her birthday. And except for a cranky computer and few glitches, we are seeing each other everyday. She loves the webcam so much, she bought a new laptop with a built-in webcam, and we joined Skype. On Sunday, while we talked, she read me highlights of an LA Times book review about Arthur Schlesinger (see the first photo). We laugh so loud sometimes, we draw Roger from the office to see what's so funny. We may be looking into cameras 1300 miles apart, but I swear I'm looking right into her eyes, and it's the next best thing to being there.

It's the 21st century version of having lunch with my mother, and I'm loving it!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

We Get Email

We received an email to our newdharmabums yahoo account the other day. I almost just marked it as spam and sent it off into the trash bin, but there was something about it that looked real enough to warrant a closer look.
The note to Roger was from Aidan Delgado, author of the new book The Sutras of Abu Ghraib. He was looking for some exposure for his book, and found us after a google search for Buddhist blogs. When we took a look at his site and read some of the reviews of his book, we wrote and told him we'd be glad to put a link on our blog and write something for him. We're just a small mom & pop blog, but sometimes it takes a lot of moms and pops to get the message out. We're glad to do our small part.
Aidan Delgado became a Buddhist while serving in Iraq. He was in Abu Ghraib during the worst of the tortures. He became a conscientious objector and was granted an honorable discharge in 2004. He has a story to tell about awakening to the message of Buddha and confronting the horrors of war.

Roger and I are only buddhist by nature, disposition, and inclination. We practice nothing but the everyday zen of being regular folks. We try to tread lightly, leave a small footprint, and treat all the living things we meet with a kindness that will make their lives a little better. That's about it. We were so moved to read about the work and deeds of this one young man and how he has become an outspoken critic of this war that we are glad to help him get his message out in any way we can. We feel it's important to hear Aidan Delgado's voice above the political din.

Roger sez:
the e-mail from aidan delgado reminded me of the only vietnam vet i knew really well, and i mentioned him in my reply. aidan, in his reply to me, said that he hoped my friend had found some peace. my friend, jeff, had been a bit of a wastrel before the war. he came home with MS. the MS rendered his legs useless and crept slowly up his body till he could no longer speak or breathe. he died several years ago. he did find some peace in being a good father and husband for many years. he had a grand smile and twinkling eyes. he never felt sorry for himself.

i have two short stories about jeff that i always think of when i think of him. they are not in chronological order because i want to leave you with a picture of his joy in life.

jeff smoked a lot of marijuana because it would quell for a while the tics and spasms of his legs. being a agreeable sort, i partook right along with him. we were mostly jolly, but now and again he would tell me about a firefight he had been in. he told me he went over it a lot, trying to recall exactly how many vietnamese he may have killed. it bothered him to kill and he wanted the number to be low.

jeff and his wife came to visit my wife-at the-time and me in rural northern california, not long after he had become confined to a wheelchair. he could still muscle himself in and out of a car by keeping his now uncooperative legs stiff and standing awkwardly, holding onto anything for balance. hearing our description of our local swimming hole in the creek, he asked us to take him there. we drove the mile or so to the nearest access, parked, and he got into his low-tech hospital era wheelchair. the three of us wheeled and muscled him maybe a hundred yards along a path strewn with rocks and roots. when we got to the nice swimming hole we asked him how he wanted to proceed. to our surprise and delight, he beamed mightily and declared "roll me in!" and we did. he loved it. after a while the cold water got to him and we helped him back into the wet chair and rolled him out, and back along the obstacle course.smiling jeff in his hi-tech, VA-provided wheelchair, with his ever present cup of coffee

Aidan wrote Roger that he was afraid that his war experiences would stay with him the rest of his life. It's true, we thought, they probably will. I look at the faces of the young men in the photo of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and I know they will someday be old men like Jeff, finding the intensity of their pain diminishes over time, with the deep love of a partner and friends to get them through it.

Monday, October 01, 2007

How are the Dharma Bums Like the Desert?

In the desert you have to wander far for water, as far as the distance between our posts.