Wednesday, April 29, 2009

No Free Attention

Nothing new to report. It's been cloudy. These cormorants came following a sardine run. The pelicans are sporting a very interesting crest. I have to admit I've never noticed that before.
We're sure the banks are still in trouble, but we can't talk about banks when we're talking about torture, and we can't talk about torture when we're talking about swine flu. As long as we're being whipped into a frenzy, though, the media has done their job.

We'll try to write more, but there's going to be a family reunion here next week. Anxiety and anticipation rise accordingly.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Massachusetts Kits

I like imagining if we could ask them where they live, and if they could answer, would simply say "here." Yet, I still introduce them to you as the kits from Massachusetts, photographed by the very wonderful photographer CCorax, who often leaves us delightful comments on this blog.

In her email, CCorax wrote: At 1:15, I went back out and as I approached I saw a kit at the den. She saw me as well and began to make a quiet barking-chirping sound. I didn't understand what it meant, but I figured I should respond before she took fright... (snip)...then when she settled moved slowly again, I was able to make my way to the tripod at the fence and put the camera in it without her slipping into the den. Along the way, her siblings came out, but they were more shy and hid briefly, while she stayed out.

I was able to take about twelve to fourteen shots through the undergrowth. There are three kits this year. They're very restless, in constant motion, in and out of the den. The fearless one watched me the most and stayed out the most (and chomped on sticks and generally was more engaged with the world than her siblings). Eventually they slipped into the den for good, so I left, tripod in hand.

I'm never really sure how something this wild and beautiful can still live among us, after all we have done to make the earth inhospitable for them, but they do. We are grateful every time for their presence, their wildness, their absolute instinctive ability to be themselves.

A heartfelt thanks to CCorax for sharing these photos and story with us, making this insane world a little sweeter, a little smaller, a little better.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Little of This, A Little of That

We drove south last Thursday about 50 miles to see our friend Ian who is waging a fierce battle against melanoma. It was good to sit with him and swap stories about the delectable virtues of Indian food, and be regaled with descriptions of Indian pizza. Yes, it must be true in America we will pizza-fy just about anything. Although a curried pizza on naan does sound particularly delicious. In our house we curry-fy almost anything we have in the fridge. A little of this, a little of that-- some cumin seed, fenugreek, and dried hot red peppers-- always the beginning of many a good meal.
When we left Ian, he was just about to have a very fine and soothing massage. The first 10 miles or so on our way home winds through the canyon from Carmel Valley to the coast. It's expensive and beautiful horse country surrounded by high coastal mountains. You can just tell there's plenty of wildlife there by the ruggedness and challenging geography. I found this photo on the internet, and think it captures the essence of the valley. While we were zooming along at 50 mph, I looked out the passenger window and watched a large raptor flying low and lazy over a fine horse pasture. I turned to tell Roger that there was a giant-sized red-tailed hawk when the sunlight caught a glint of gold in its feathers, and not a hint of red in the tail. We both took a long look, and can say with absolute certainty we saw our first Golden Eagle. There was no way to pull over to sit and appreciate the moment; a particularly disappointing thing because we watched it land just on the other side of the pasture. What a fine sight though. The kind that makes you even more glad that you took the trip and were rewarded so amply with such splenditude.
In the meantime, it's gotten very hot here on the coast. So hot we don't even want to go out for hikes. In the early evening we'll venture out to savor a cooling breeze off the bay. There we can almost always find a Grebe or two in various states of alertness and rest. A whale sprays every now and then. A single loon calls out in that tremulous way that makes us glad every time we hear it. For a day, everyone talks about the weather. 95 degrees in April is definitely news.
There is nothing new to report on the house hunt. To appease our spring-time instincts we do have a little patch of yard here where we're growing carrots, beets, onions, shallots, kale, spinach, tomatoes, and basil. We couldn't let a season pass without the taste of something fresh and homegrown.

So, what are you planting in your garden?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Latke Eaters' Impetuous Dream

I was going to write a post that sounded like this:

Hello, the blog you have reached is out of service and there is no new blog. If you think you've reached this blog in error, please hang up and try again.

or this:

Hi, you've reached Roger and Robin. We aren't updating the blog right now, but if you leave us a comment after the beep, we'll try to think of something to say as soon as we can. Thanks for calling...
We're floating. Off in our own little world.

We had a day last week without landline, cellphone, or internet service. It suited us perfectly in many ways. Someone had intentionally cut several A T & T fiber optic cables throwing three California counties into virtual black holes. It was, coincidentally, the day we had finally decided to write another offer on the house that we have been so freakin' ambivalent about. We have become desperate about finding a home, now that it is SPRINGSPRINGSPRING. So, we went back, looked again, and decided that we could maybe in our darkest moments put up with a house that has mind-numbingly negative feng shui. But then we found ourselves on a day without a single way to communicate that desire whatsoever, an impetuous dream suspended. I am not a reader of tea leaves, but I kept thinking that if I were to interpret this communication void that we found ourselves in, I would say that the entire universe had conspired to shout at us: DON'T BUY THAT HOUSE.
Well, we ignored all that and wrote an offer anyway the very next day. Desperate times call for drastic measures, right? Once we sent that offer in, we started to have second thoughts. Could we really make a go of it? What if Countrywide actually accepted our offer, that lifeless box with a roof would be ours. Oh shit. But Countrywide in its glorious, infinitely selfish wisdom countered us at full price.
They gave us a huge spectacular out, for which we joyously spread our wings, flew right through and never looked back.

So we went for a celebratory walk in the mountains and found beautiful damsel- and dragonflies out and about. We had a picnic of homemade potato latkes and applesauce in a fantastically quiet meadow. The clouds drifted slowly by, while the breeze fanned the tall spring grasses and purple lupines at our feet.

Such a joy is ours.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Monday, April 06, 2009

It's Not Our Fault

Here's the thing about earthquakes and fault lines. While it's true that California is pretty much vertically split by the very active San Andreas fault -- and most of the state is probably vulnerable to shaking from a major event -- not every part of California rests within what the state or county considers a hazardous fault zone. That is reserved for places that have active faults that are slipping and sliding.

After we looked at the drop-dead beautiful piece of property way up in the Santa Cruz mountains and learned that it is on fault lines, we thought we'd do some online geological sleuthing. What we found stunned us, but also made us question our fear of living on such active earth.
The property sits only 2000 feet from the San Andreas fault. If you look at the above map you'll see the property with a little yellow heart (I put that there), and the very red line (google earth put that there) that is the San Andreas. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake was not directly on the San Andreas fault, but was on a related network of other faults very much like the ones that run right through our dream property.
If that first graphic was not compelling enough, look at the above map and you'll see where the state designated the hazardous fault zones. I outlined the property in blue. It actually has three very distinct fault lines running through it. The orangish lines are those faults. The line that runs from the lower right hand corner of the picture up through Grizzly Flat Rd is the San Andreas.
The state's hazardous designation is different from the county's, which adds a greater breadth of the summit area of the Santa Cruz mountain range. You can see that designation in the orangish pattern overlay on the map above. The entire property, according to the county, is enveloped in a earthquake hazard zone.

We found all of this information intriguing. For some reason, it didn't scare us off. Here's what we considered. When the Loma Prieta quake struck, the greatest damage was actually quite a distance from the epicenter. Property in downtown San Francisco over 70 miles away crumbled; the Bay Bridge also over 70 miles away suffered a calamitous crash; downtown Santa Cruz lost many buildings on its busiest street. Proximity to the epicenter was simply not a predictor of the severity of the damage.

So really, what would it mean to live that close to the San Andreas, and to have those other three fault lines right under our feet? We mused for a while and realized that not having a reliable water source was a much greater threat and deal breaker than the earth's shifting plates. We wondered if our sense of safety is actually illusory anyway? Droughts, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes-- will definitely be in someone's future, like the shaking earth in ours, wherever we live in California.

For some reason, though, I can't get the picture of Slim Pickens riding the bomb, out of my mind. Life on the line where two tectonic plates meet is a little like that, I think. We're not buying the place, but we feel weirdly unconcerned about earthquakes, we've simply stopped worrying.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Like A One Night Stand

We fell in love. We really did. Just like that. We asked our real estate agent to show us this piece of land. Thirteen acres up past the redwoods to where it clears into a breathtaking panorama. It looks like just where want to live. We say, we don't care about the house. We care about the land. Is it beautiful? Oh my god, yes it is. Can we grow food here? Is the light right? We feel it in our hearts, our bones, our very breath... we could live here.

Of course there are a few things that need to be answered. You know, like who owns the crazy outbuilding on the property boundary. It has not one but two posters of four women with thong underpants riding Harleys? We hope it's on "our" property so we can reclaim the space and make it a workshop and garage. But we concede that the land is so beautiful, we'd almost consider putting up with a pervert with a heart of gold who collects scrap metal and fantasizes about make-believe women, to live there.

Our wonderful real estate agent spends two hours with us, as we walk and dream this land. It's on the market for $599,000. We could work that out if my brother and SIL will want to live there. We know they would like it once they drive up the winding ten miles to get there and find the saddle on this stunning piece of earth. It's so quiet there. Perfect for nesting down towards the end of life.

We go home with that sense of love. I tell Roger that looking for land is like wanting to fall in love. We open our hearts. We hope we ask the right questions. We believe in first impressions. Then our agent starts emailing us the news: The garage is owned by some guy who comes up once a week. The water supply is an unreliable hand-dug spring. The septic is handmade and has been cited twice by the county. The property has an earthquake faultline running through it.

Holy shit, says we.

And we are reminded of a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghettii:


it was like this when

we waltz into this place

a couple of Papish cats

is doing an Aztec two-step

And I says

Dad let’s cut

but then this dame

comes up behind me see

and says

You and me could really exist

Wow I says

Only the next day

she has bad teeth

and really hates


1. Top photo, the cabin
2. Bottom photo, the wood-fired sauna building taken from the cabin deck