Monday, March 30, 2009

A Thousand Miles Later

A week and a thousand miles later. A little bit of road weariness, but not too bad. We drove 420 miles Saturday. I spared Roger the worst of the trip by driving north through Orange, LA, Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. It's 180 miles of split second, gut-wrenching, never-take-your-eyes-off-the-road highway. I drove 80 mph in the diamond lane (carpool, two or more passengers) through the worst of it. Still it's insanely intense to drive that fast with other cars hurdling past you on every side at the same or faster speeds. I distinctly recall three moments when it occurred to me that I had drifted in thought away from the highway and driving. It startled me to slip back in and wonder what the heck I was thinking. You know that feeling? How long had I been gone? Was I writing a haiku in my head? A blog post? Imagining some bird? What was it that lured me from that careening lull of speed? I don't know. Gone and back in an instant, like some kind of time traveler.

On the trip south through the Salinas Valley, there were thousands of butterflies crossing the maniac highway. There was no way to not hit them. I can't tell you how many times I viscerally dodged their bodies as they slammed into the windshield. It was brutal. I wished I had a way to not hit them as we drove. There was nothing we could do, and five days later, on the way north they were still emerging. Had we had all the time in the world and my mom not waiting for us, we could have postponed the journey, but there we were.

My mom is doing fairly well considering the rough year she has had. It was so good to be there with her, cooking nutritious meals and having grand conversations. Roger and I made sure that we took good walks everyday. Luckily the Western Bluebirds and Yellow-rumped Warblers were out and about thrilling us with their flashes of brilliant colors. When we showed my mom the photos, she couldn't believe what beauty there was all around her. She told me, after we drove home, that she spent Saturday afternoon on her deck listening to the birds in the trees, marveling how wonderful it was to know they were there.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Looking Into The Distance

I haven't picked up the camera in a few days. The above photo was taken more than a week ago when we were out walking a new trail. We had turned around to take a look at the ocean before heading higher into the coastal prairie and up into the redwoods.

We've had little bit of rain, a little bit of disappointment. We didn't get the house. We thought about countering back, but realized that we wanted to buy the place in spite of the house not because of it. We were willing to put up with a lot: no high-speed internet via dsl or cable; a shared well; extremely poor orientation; but we weren't willing to to spend more than we thought the house was really worth (both objectively and to us). So, we said no. We don't mind really, but it sure was a thrill to think about having a piece of good gardening land under our feet again. One good thing to come out of this experience is that my twin brother realized that he felt a twinge of disappointment when he thought we might buy land without him. He and his wife have toyed with the idea of buying land with us. Not until we had made the offer did it really sink in that we were on a path that would definitely rule that out. So, they are actively looking at property now too, and we are making plans that could help us buy a much bigger piece of the earth to be good stewards of together. That is quite an exciting prospect. So...the silver lining.

We had some fine company over the weekend. Roger's youngest and her sweetheart came to spend the weekend with us. It's the most gratifying thing to spend time with young people who are bright, energetic, earnest, good-natured, and deeply sincere. We had delicious meals together and great conversation. They came with plants, soil conditioner, and mulch. We cleaned up the long-ignored, street-side yard on this ancient, ocean-front house. We worked together in a sudden downpour, with unflappable and positive spirit. Sometimes you just know that the future is going to be in good hands, and it's a truly calming and hopeful thing.

Other than that, we are driving south on Monday to spend a few days in southern California with my mom. There will be updates from those arid southlands soon.

If you click on pic you'll see the Pacific Coast Highway in the foreground, and far far off in the distance well beyond sight at 36 degrees north and many thousands of miles west until it becomes east, Japan in background.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: The Butterfly Edition

The Santa Cruz mountain trails are full of these beautiful, spring-time colorful, butterflies and more.

Our best guesses for these beautiful creatures:
1. California Tortoiseshell
2. Mylitta Crescent
3. Duskywing
4. Western Lady

5. Azure

UPDATE: We thank you so much for all the thoughtful, encouraging, and loving comments you left on our previous post. The latest information is this: The real estate agent, the one representing the bank-owned foreclosed property we made the offer on, asked for a "proof of funds." We complied and were delighted with that development, which we took to mean that they took our offer somewhat seriously. We are very excited, but still holding back the floodgates of pure ecstatic joy.

We'll keep you posted. Ah, spring gardening.

Monday, March 16, 2009

House Hunting

We've been out house hunting, and oh the shit we have seen. Stuff that makes us want to take very hot, disinfecting showers afterward. We're talking creepy, crappy shacks. Here's what's insane about this part of California: These houses all cost more than $400,000. Really. Sometimes it's a half a million for a true fixer upper on sunny acreage, but mostly it's unlivable tear-downs in the middle of dark, dank woods. We go out each time with our agent and have hope, high hopes that the next house we see will be the one. It hasn't happened.
So on Saturday we revisited the only place we've seen in the last six months that had any possibility at all of being livable. We walked around. We breathed the air, watched hawks soaring, and heard a constant tweet and chirp of birds in the yard trees. We listened to the wind rattling the still-standing corn stalks. We stood still and felt what it might feel like to live there. We liked the feeling. We made a ridiculously low offer on Sunday. It still has all the problems it had several months ago: the orientation is completely wrong; the yard needs a major clean up; it's on a community well with fourteen other houses. And still, given all of that, it felt like it could be home.

We'll keep you posted.

1. Roof on the one of the "houses" we looked on March 6.
2. A close up of that roof.
3. The delight of life in the grasses at place we made an offer

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Two Months One Day

Sunrise photos taken March 10, February 19, January 27, January 10

Later, the moon rose ...

Monday, March 09, 2009

whose reality

i had intended to write a post defending my existence. coaxed as i was by robin's friday post to do so. is the lower case presentation enough? too easy eh.

my mood changed sunday afternoon. we went to see a friend whom i have known all his life. the adult son of friends whom i have known for more than forty years. i knew all their children as babies. robin has known them for twenty years. this particular son was at his parent's house recuperating from his second brain surgery in three months. the first took out a melanoma tumor. the second surgery followed seizures he had two weeks ago. he also has inoperable tumors near his heart and will soon begin treatment for those.

he looks fairly good. he's tired of course. the prognosis for melanoma is not the best, but he is ready to proceed. he has a very strong attitude.

i know that many people have friends in such dire straits. this is my first who is younger than i a lot.

we love him.

the picture shows two of robin's favorite things....toast and me. she has been playing with photobooth on her mac. it uses the built-in camera. we still exist. the toast does not.

Friday, March 06, 2009

About Face

What was I thinking? I had just finished writing a post about being a hermit and then plunged headlong into a fast and furious relationship with Facebook for a week. I found and added my best old high school buddy. I connected with new blogging friends. How fun it was to reach out and say hello. Or was it? Fun, I mean. No, not really. Not for an avowed hermit, recluse, misanthrope.

So, in a moment of irrational exuberance I deactivated my account. I was dismayed that I couldn't just completely delete myself. I can rejoin anytime and that crazy homepage with all those words, status updates, and soundless cacophony will still be there.

Roger joined Facebook. He's as active there as he is here. Does roger really exist? Can any of you say with any certainty that he does? Even those of you who swear you've met him, do you really know?

Why is there a photo of an American Coot up at the top of the post and an old coot at the bottom? Because those feet and that smile are the coolest.

Have a great weekend, friends.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Hermits Don't Make Good Friends

We've been back in California since mid September. That puts us here nearly six months. You know how many old friends we've called since our return? We can count them on one hand and still have three fingers left over. Isn't that odd? So it's really interesting when we run into friends we know well, and have to admit that we've been here that long without calling them.

We had that happen just the other day.
We were hiking in Pogonip on Saturday. The rains have brought out some fine new flowers and fungus. We walked the oak-filled canyon, listening to a symphony of bird songs, and photographing cup fungus and flowering trillium.
On this rare occasion there was a couple hiking along behind us. They didn't have a camera, and weren't stopping every few minutes to photograph something. So, while I was bent over photographing this beautiful iris, they passed us by. I watched them walk on ahead disappearing behind trees as the path curved and bent its way through the canyon up toward the big meadow.
We photographed two coyotes in this meadow last month. It's a big beautiful expanse of coastal prairie that overlooks Monterey Bay. I'm always full of excited anticipation when we approach this part of the park. There's a particular snag that I expect to see a Golden Eagle in. It hasn't happened yet, but it's where my eyes go as soon as the meadow opens before us.

On this particular day, the couple who had passed us was now just below that snag, and two people walking in the opposite direction down toward the canyon had stopped them. I could tell from their animated hand gestures and the way they all turned and looked over toward the bay that something interesting was in meadow. Soon enough, the two people moved on down the trail towards us leaving the couple staring out. I could hardly wait for them to tell us the news. When they approached, we were surprised and delighted to see that it was a very dear old friend B and her daughter L. We've known B for more than 25 years, so of course we ran and hugged. B said, "Hey you guys, I heard you were back, how are you? There's a bobcat back up there in the meadow."

There are always those moments in life when you are compelled to make a quick decision. The brain doesn't even register the conflict and consider the pros and cons with any deliberation. It just acts. I knew I should have stayed to talk. This is an old friend we haven't seen in a while, someone we haven't called since we've been back, and here we were running into them in the middle of this meadow. But instead, I just say, "Hey, so good to see you well, I gotta go and photograph that cat. Sorry, I can't talk." And, then, seriously, I turned and ran into the meadow without looking back.
Roger stayed and chatted a bit, but it was pretty obvious I wasn't going to return. So our friend and her daughter moved on down the trail. Roger joined me. He watched the bobcat through the binoculars, entranced by its beautiful white markings on the back of those black-tipped ears. We stayed and watched it hunt, savoring every moment of it.

I felt guilty afterward, wishing I had stayed a minute longer with B and L, and been more amiable. I guess hermits really don't make very good friends, do they?