Thursday, December 31, 2009

21 years

robin's picture of the foggy road ahead

a short version of our meeting. here's a longer version.

robin and i met at a party on new years eve 1988. we exchanged a hello early in the evening. she is the twin sister of a man i knew already. i did not see her again that evening till midnight. we caught each others eye and danced together for one whole minute. it was a good dance. we have been together since then.

21 years!!!

if our relationship were a person it could drink brandy legally, in california anyway. if it were a dog it would be 147 years old in human terms. did i get that right?

robin and i have been together for 21 years. that is longer than i have lived with any one else. we both worked for the first 17 years together. we even worked together at one job for a while! after we cobbled together just enough security, which included selling our house and relocating, we retired. since then we mostly spend all our time together.

it has been a long strange trip from our home in santa cruz apres work: port townsend, wa. arcata, ca. capitola, ca. nevada city, ca. we still cook for each other, very well if i may say so. we walk together. we spend hours together without speaking, each lost in a book or our blog buddies stuff or some new science info or even a bit of political news. then we offer each other what we have discovered.

we both heard and heed james taylor's advice:

Just shower the people you love with love
Show them the way that you feel
Things are gonna work out fine if you only will
Shower the people you love with love
Show them the way you feel
Things are gonna be much better if you only will

we are not cheerfully optimistic about the future of humanity. even on a fairly short scale. we are solid in our love and happy with each other and our families.

happy new year to all. may you, as the buddhists put it, be free from suffering.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quoting Voltaire

Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.

I've been thinking lately how Roger and I tend to make perfection the enemy of the good. That's what the above quote means. I had no idea the quote is from Voltaire, I've only seen it in reference to politics, like the health care bill fiasco. Oh sure the bill's not perfect, but it's good enough... so went the argument.

It's what we're doing now with our home search. Did we tell you we made an offer on a house on ten acres in the mountains? I'm pretty sure we must have, but it's been so long ago that it's hard to remember anymore. Let's see, we made an offer on a house that's a short sale. A short sale is when the house is listed for less than what the owner owes the bank. The mortgage is now what is euphemistically called "underwater." Okay, so we made an offer on a short sale almost two months ago and have not heard a single word from the bank. Not one. They haven't even breathed or nodded in our general direction. We've been getting weekly updates from our real estate agent who has been getting updates from the listing agent. The listing agent calls the bank negotiator who keeps putting off making any decision about whether to let the owner off the hook and sell the house to us at a whopping $150,000 loss. We as buyers are merely incidental to their considerations.
Stupidly, though, the bank has given us all this time to think about that house and let our misgivings mount. The house is located only about a mile up the road from us. We can head up there at any time of the day or night and look around. We've been doing that, especially now that it's vacant. We're finding imperfections. We've discovered that the winter sun doesn't clear the trees until a little after 10:00 in the morning. And, even though we've looked around and found places where we could easily put up solar collectors that would be in the direct sun as soon as it rises, the house will be in the shade until later. So the doubts begin to rumble.

Perfection demands the earliest morning sun, doesn't it?
I wander around the land wondering if there is enough sky for dreaming. This dark forest where we are living now has completely depressed me. We live under a forest canopy where few birds make their home, save the occasional brown creeper and migrating warblers for a day. Enough sky implies open space and meadow where all the creeping crawling critters go to find or become a meal. There is a wonderful two-acre garden spot. It's not range land vista, but it's still some open space.

Perfection demands big sky and prairie land for dreaming, doesn't it?
There is a leaky outside faucet; the fences need mending; the summer ozone comes and sits like invisible heated exhaust spewed from all the cars that trudge between here and San Fransicso. That's over 150 miles away! Yes, it's true for the entire county, but we take it rather personally.

What if we have to live with the pangs of disappointment? What if we make a mistake? Do you love everything about where you live?

Then we remember the good things: two acres of beautiful garden spot where organic biodynamic gardening has been done; feathers on the ground from unknown birds; a daily gathering of beautiful moths; splendid beetles on the screen door; deer poop in the garden (see fence mending). These are good things all, full of promise and life.

Ah, Voltaire.* We wait with the good and struggle with our desires for the best. We don't know whether to say, damn you, Bank of America, or thank you. But if that bank gives any more time to think about it, it'll be f*ck you for sure.

*Whenever I write "ah, someone" I am reminded of Allen Ginsberg's Howl. "Ah Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe. And now you really are in the total animal soup of time."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

From The Middle Of The Road

We are always zooming by on the highways and interstates when we see Red-tailed Hawks on poles. We can't stop, and can only acknowledge them in a blurry haze of speed and destination. But luckily for us, my sister asked us the other day to go look at a house and some property in our general neck of the woods, and we obliged her by driving over with the camera and taking a look around.
Oh yes, the place she is interested in is quite beautiful, like a park of rolling hills with oaks and Acorn woodpeckers. On the way back, on a lazy and lightly traveled country road, we spotted this hawk on a pole. We had to stop, right there in the middle of that road to take a good look. I opened the passenger car window, leaned out as far as I could and took a few shots. It's something I've been wanting to do for all the thousands and thousands of miles we've traveled. This hawk let me take several shots, and then flew off in search of peace and mice. Out of my focus, but definitely in its own. Just as it should be.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas, friends.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Solstice In The Forest

Roger has been working on a post about firewood. I asked him on Sunday around 4:00 pm if he was going to post it for Monday. Nope. Uh-oh, that's disappointing. I was really hoping he would have a post here for you, but he said it just wasn't ready. So, I made this one up.
What is there to write about these days that's not a fist-shaking lament about health care, the environment, or the weather? Monday, December 21 at 9:47 am (PST) is the winter solstice. Living here below the tall cedars, pine and fir of the mountains, we are mostly aware of the transit of the sun like the shadow in Plato's cave. We don't see direct light but only the reflection of it. The reflection is the closest we come to seeing the real thing for what it is. (The above excellent photo is borrowed from the internet without permission.)
Just last year I watched that blazing sun rise over the bay every morning. I marked the earth's journey by the sun's angles day after day, week after week. An intimacy is created by such a ritual. I trusted it. I expected its golden presence to pour through the windows, up over the horizon and through the arch of the sky everyday. This was our reliable calendar. We knew it equally well on the clear days in Port Townsend, Wa. We knew the sun.
Here we are learning something new. We are learning to live where we don't directly see the sun, save for those halo moments from behind the tall trees. We see its light in the morning turning the trees a very warm rose and amber. But we don't even know where on the horizon it actually peeks up and rises. The little bit of sky we do see changes color at the beginning and end of the day. But the thing itself, the sun, we don't see from any of our windows.

Soon it will rise higher and go above the trees, but for today, it is at its lowest point. We only know it is there because we believe the rumors.

Happy Winter Solstice.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Safe Forests, Old Trees

COPENHAGEN — Negotiators have all but completed a sweeping deal that would compensate countries for preserving forests and other natural landscapes like peat soils, swamps and fields that play a crucial role in curbing climate change.

We call this the wise old owl tree. It looks back at us on our walks along one of the ditches.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rain Rain and More Rain

For all of the 21 years that Roger and I have been together, we've lived where average yearly rainfall totals were never more than 20 inches (and that would have been a good year). Now that we're here in the Sierra foothills, we've moved to where the total average rainfall is twice as much. Right now, it looks like we've struck it rain rich and with no let up in sight. We may be seeing the first signs of El Nino since 1998, and damned if it's not right on schedule. NOAA said December, and December it is.

We're talking rain. Days and days of it without end. It amazes me how many people complain about it too. I always ask if they haven't noticed that we actually need the rain? That California is bone dry and shriveling into dust? Yes, it's annoying. But we can't go out and romp in eternal blissful sunshine, and sustain life, can we?
You would not believe the local news. A few inches of rain and you'd think we'd been invaded by martians. Hello, TV news broadcasters, it's only rain. Really, don't be afraid, and quit scaring your viewers. You don't have to stand in a puddle to show us how wet it is. You don't have to pick up snow and toss it to show us that it's snowing. You don't have to treat us like infantile boobs. You could tell us how much rain has actually fallen. How, or if, it deviates from averages. You could, you know, report the actual weather news.

Yes, it's raining, and we desperately need it. Now, get over it. Since when did we become such babies? Anyone remember?

Monday, December 07, 2009

Signs On A Highway

We drove a lot of miles the other day, heading south to see my mom. Now that we're living in the Sierra foothills, we took a different route than our usual Highway 101. Interstate 5 is a challenge in so many ways. Speed limit is 70 mph, which means traffic zooms by between 80 and 90. The land is flat and endless for hundreds and hundreds of miles. If the heartland is the breadbasket, this stretch of earth is its fruit and vegetable basket. Corporate farmlands stretch to the horizon in neat lines that make kaleidoscope a verb in a speeding car. We noticed interesting signage every couple of miles for about a hundred miles, where orchards have been laid to waste and empty acres and tumbleweeds press against field fencing. The signs said: Congress Created Dust Bowl. Mmmm. I said to Roger, well, they also created the orchards, the highway, and the water system. A drought makes everyone suffer. Sometimes someone has to decide who suffers first. These are the times in which we live.

Roger sez: Water supplies in California are an insane hodge podge of claims based on first claim, and on down, seniority. Also crime and bribery, aka political donations. Check out "Chinatown" the movie by Roman Polanski. Also the book "Cadillac Desert" by Marc Reisner.