Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Bufflehead Wednesday

From a distance, we saw this lone bufflehead in the reservoir.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Solstice Sun

I just wanted to post this photo from yesterday morning. It's about an hour after solstice sunrise. The sun is barely clearing our tall cedars and pines these days. Still, we've been having an amazingly sunny and bright December. The local newspaper said if we don't get any more rain by the first of the year, it will be the 4th driest December on record. Interesting since last year was one of the wettest. Of course I don't want to leap to any conclusions about climate change. But it sure is hard to plan for things when the weather doesn't cooperate based on averages.
I'm still enjoying learning about clouds and photographing them. Found there's even a Cloud Appreciation Society in England. Clouds are listed by species there. These may be altocumulus undulatus. Interesting stuff.
I was going through my iPhoto folder, looking through 6000 photos to see which ones I could delete. As I was paging down, I noticed this page of Swallowtails pics, I shot on May 11th. I loved it, so I did a screen grab of the image.

Life is good as the sun begins its return, hope the same is true for you.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Another Year Goes By

This is my father. He would have been 93 years old today. My father wasn't a very social man (I am so much my father's daughter!), so it is particularly good to see him at a party. This photo was taken at his sister's house in New Jersey. I don't know exactly when, but I'm pretty sure it was during one of my parent's visits back east after we had moved to California. That would put it in the early 1970s. The thing about a life is that there can only ever be a finite number of photographs of any one of us. There comes a time when not a single additional one can be clicked through the lens of any camera. That's when the conjuring becomes the work of loved ones' hearts. But here I hold in my hands the photo that captures my father's very sweet smile. A moment in the lifetime of a much-loved man. Happy birthday, Dad.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

I Write Letters

I write letters. Always have. If I read about someone or something that moves me, and there's a way to drop a note, I do. I don't do it often, and that's probably because it takes a lot to motivate me, but when I am really moved, I am really motivated.

When I was a teenager I read in the local newspaper that a young boy had set himself on fire in protest of the Vietnam war. I had already started marching in protest of that war. I could easily identify with that boy's passion and the serious clouding of judgment that filters through a young person's heart. So, I wrote his grieving parents a letter. I wish I could remember what I said. They wrote me back a short note with soft gratitude and sadness. That note is long gone.

I write letters to people whose life's work has enlightened me in some way. There's a long list of people I wish I had finally jotted down the note I had been composing in my head for days or years. Old regrets. But once when I was in my 20s, I did write Bill Moyers after one of his brilliant TV shows. I don't know what I wanted to tell him, but I think I must have rambled on about the joys of finding someone who understood the political world the way he does. He wrote me a short note back. He was the first person who ever used the expression "six degrees of separation" to me, when he suggested that there are some who believe we are all related in some way. I loved that letter. It is long gone.

When I was an adviser to students who published the campus newspapers and poetry journals at UC Santa Cruz, Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and beheaded in Pakistan. He was a journalist for the Wall Street Journal, a newspaper I don't read. But I felt something about that horrific murder that stirred me. Some of the students I advised were planning on careers in journalism, as did Daniel Pearl when he was a student their age. Any one of my students could end up in the midst of conflicts and wind up in the very wrong place at the very worst time. So, I wrote Daniel Pearl's parents a letter. They sent me a card with some very uplifting words about life's journeys. That card may be in a box somewhere, or not.

The other day I read that George McGovern had fallen and hit his head dangerously hard. My heart panged a bit over that news. Oh, George McGovern was a hero to me. Back in 1971 the voting age was lowered to 18, and in 1972 when I was 20, I cast my very first vote in a general election for him. I had registered to vote in southern California, when the right became mine, but by the time the elections rolled around, I had just moved to Portland, Oregon. If I remember correctly, my twin brother and I set out to hitchhike home so we could vote, but several hours on Interstate 5 with our thumbs out proved fruitless, so we headed back to the rental and made arrangements to fly home the day of the election, which we did. A thousand miles for a vote. It was worth it. So, I saw in the news article which hospital Senator McGovern was in, and I went to their website, hoping there was a way to send an electronic note, and there was. I wrote Senator McGovern this story and told him I'd go any distance to vote for him again in a heartbeat. There's been no response, but in my heart I believe he got the message.

I write letters.

But here's the reason for this recounting: Roger and I watched the documentary "If a Tree Falls" the other evening. Such an incredibly moving story about radical environmentalists making very big and dangerous mistakes in pursuit of what they ardently believe is the defense of our earth. The documentary follows one young man named Daniel McGowan. His story is very compelling, as are all stories of passions, ideas, dreams, and bad judgment. Daniel McGowan has a kind face and a loving family. He loved the forests of the Pacific Northwest. His crimes were committed in 2001, when he participated in two arson attacks in Oregon. No human beings or animals were ever physically hurt by the actions the Earth Liberation Front took. They were meticulous about that detail, but they did destroy a considerable amount of property in a six year campaign against the monied interests that destroy our forests. Well, sadly for Daniel his crimes coincided with the terrorist attacks in our country and George Bush's zealous pursuit of terrorists. Daniel was ultimately turned in by a fellow ELF member in 2005. He plead guilty and received a seven-year sentence with terrorist enhancement, which means he is in a high-security prison in Terra Haute, Indiana with excruciatingly limited outside communication. This story haunts me. I did some research and found a support page for Daniel. I joined his Facebook Supporters page. I bought a very cool teeshirt from his supporters website (maybe you'd like to buy one, as well). The website says Daniel likes to receive letters. His address is there.

You know me: I write letters.

I want to write Daniel McGowan a letter, but I am afraid. What list might I end up on, or who may come knocking on our door?

This is our world.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

fungus with dinner

in situ
mushrooms in the wild. under the trees along our driveway. i spotted these as we were leaving to go walking. amazingly enough i remembered them when we returned and picked them.
in bowl
these are boletes, a family of mushrooms easily identified by the sponge-like under side. probably slippery jack (Suillus brevipes). the slimy skin on the cap is removed before cooking. how do i dare eat mushrooms right out of the ground? you will notice that the underside does not look like a mushroom from the store, which has thin radiating membranes called gills. all boletes have a sponge underside and only the ones with red sponge are poisonous. some of the non-poisonous boletes are better than others for eating, but the worst is only bad tasting, not dangerous. so i dare.

in another bowl
i peeled the slimy skin off the caps, leaving a nice white fleshed cap with pale yellow sponge which i sliced into quarter inch thick pieces. i sauteed them in butter, olive oil, and garlic. they gave off quite a bit of liquid, visible in the bowl above. it was full when served but i forgot to take a picture till after i had eaten some directly and put some in my bowl of chicken soup. they had a very nice mild mushroom taste but were a bit too squishy. next time i'll cook all the liquid out, as recommended by my main mushroom reference.

All That the Rain Promises and More David Arora

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What She Knew And When She Knew It

When I was growing up in the 1950s in New Jersey, I learned the names of cars. I could identify a Ford, a Chevy, a Pontiac, a Chrysler just by looking at the tail lights. I remember in the fall there was a car commercial that everyone waited for, the one that showed what the rear end of the new season's cars were going to look like. I think it aired during The Ed Sullivan Show or maybe it was Bonanza on a Sunday night. The anticipation was an event itself.
When I was growing up in the early 1960s, I went to the mall. That's where we hung out and rarely but sometimes shopped. I knew the names of stores. We had Montgomery Wards, Bambergers, Walgreens, Lerners, and Spencer's Gifts, etc. I bought record albums and knew the names of all the new groups. We had The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Herman Hermits, Freddy and the Pacemakers, Moody Blues. I knew all the band members' names and the words to all their songs. I completely immersed myself in the cultural moment.
So, why am I thinking about this stuff? Because over the past few years, I have begun learning the names of new things that were knowable back when I was young. Back when the need to know culture was more important than the need to know the natural world. And today I think it's really such a pity that I wasted so much young and active brain space on "Mrs. Brown, you've got a lovely daughter" instead of learning the names of birds, clouds, mushrooms, insects, flowers, trees, frogs, and lizards. I have so much catching up to do. You get the picture.

Imagine for a moment if I had learned a song about the difference between cirrus radiatus and cirrocumulus undulatus clouds when I was seven. What names of things would I be learning today?

Friday, November 25, 2011

every lump in the forest

we walked one of our usual walks. we haven't done this one for several days. my my. look what has popped up everywhere, hidden by pine needles and oak leaves. little lumps hiding beautiful fungus flowers. in spring and summer we usually stop to check on bugs or flowers or birds. in fall it's the colorful foliage that we admire. but today we had to investigate every lump we saw. many lumps had already been found by deer and nosed open, the boletes or amanitas already eaten. i guess the ones we picture here aren't to the deers' liking.

unidentified mushroom

another mystery

mystery cubed

aha! rosy russula or russula rosacea

here i am exposing some hidden shrooms.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Random Images

1. Oakland Harbor photographed 11/10.
2. Five-point buck in front of the house.
3. The walk we take most often.
4. A young buck after rutting season, taken 11/20.
5. Acorn Woodpecker, taken 11/16.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Season of Diminishing Light

We know we've neglected the blog these past few weeks, but if it makes you feel any better, we haven't been posting much on Facebook either. It's just the quiet season. The light fades earlier and earlier at the end of the day, and the arc of the sun barely clears the tall pines on our southern boundary. This has been a long and beautiful autumn, the kind of season that takes its time unfolding between the hot summer and cold winter. Our deciduous trees are still sporting leaves in reds, oranges, and yellows. The hillsides are dotted with burst of flaming trees, without any discomfort of actual fire. The word beautiful cannot be overused these days.
We've seen some great sights lately, some we were even able to photograph, like this 5-point buck eating right out of our birdseed feeder, as a Facebook commenter said, "like a pez-dispenser." But we didn't get the photo of the large bobcat that walked down our driveway on November 12th. It looked quite a bit like this one. The sight of it was so thrilling, I went back to our bobcat archives and put together a little photo display of "bobcats we have known." Once we've seen one bobcat, we know we'll see them again. Animals are funny and predictable that way about territory. They're here. That's all we needed to know. Not sure when it will come around again, but we suspect as soon as we put up our chicken house next spring, he'll make an appearance. We can't wait, and we plan to make that chicken house absolutely bobcat- skunk- coyote- fox- and hawk-proof as possible.
We've noticed that on a fairly regular basis, Roger and I both think about calling his mom to check in with her or tell her something. We didn't realize how much she was a part of our daily lives until she was no longer in it. We were supposed to have a birthday dinner for her at our house on the 25th last month, and we had planned to spend Thanksgiving with her this year as we did last in her assisted living facility dining room. The calendar is marked with things that will never be.
And then there is Delilah. Fifteen days on the planet and melting hearts while she sleeps.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A Few Words Wednesday

On Wednesday, we're driving over to the coast to see the beautiful little Delilah. On Tuesday, I baked bread to take her parents. When the bread came out of the oven, we went for a walk and saw the fall colors through the trees.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

young and old

the news

spreading the news

now i'm officially old, at least to myself. passing my 60th birthday didn't do it, nor did my 69th. becoming a grandfather did. how interesting i thought to myself. men become grandparents way younger than i am. so now i am old by abstraction. yet i don't feel old. and i dress the same as i did in high school, though my hair is shorter than it was back then. okay, i do have a few semi-permanent aches. maybe elder is the better term.

robin took that picture of me as i was giving the news to my sister. i see both elation and relief in my face. our daughter had a short labor and an easy birth. baby delilah is beautiful, with curly black hair.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Turn Turn Turn

We did the work that needed to be done: cleaned out her apartment; moved furniture into storage; tied up those last loose material ends that tether a life to the living. Then what? We didn't even realize that we were in a daze until we started to rise out of it. We finally took a breath and talked about how it all happened so suddenly. While it was happening, it felt crazy and long, like forever. But then, it was over and the calendar said only a week had passed. Seven days. How is that possible? It felt like years.
So, we resume our regular lives, simultaneously changed and unchanged. I think that's how it should be, or not, what do I know? We went out to the Yuba River on Saturday and took a nice hike. The weather is spectacular, a quintessential autumn, the perfect October day. The river rushes over those granite rocks with a force that continues to shape the canyon. The sound is overwhelming and good.
We've been cleaning up the garden, harvesting dried beans and the last of the tomatoes. We still have butternut squash on the vine, but the delicata have been put away with the potatoes and onions. The nights have gotten very cool, and the days are definitely socks and sneakers weather, long pants and a sweater too.

And for some reason we want to sing, "turn turn turn,"albeit without any heavenly references.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose …
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted...

We read that Steve Jobs' last words were: Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.

And, so it goes.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The View From Hospice w/Update

Roger's 90 year-old mother* is dying. She's been actively dying since last Sunday, October 16th, when she ended up in the emergency room after a fall. We went to the ER, but she no longer recognized us, or Roger's sister and brother. Her mental capacity had been diminishing for several months, but this was a rather precipitous decline into full-blown dementia in a short amount of time. She had a compression fracture, but it was deemed not life threatening. She had bronchitis, also not life threatening. She spent the night in the hospital, and then Roger and I moved her to hospice care on Monday, October 17th. During the ride in the car she was like a child. She said, "Nice car. Pretty day. Nice car. Pretty day." The above photo is the view outside her hospice room. The double doors open and her bed could be taken out there, if she wanted to be in the sunshine. Last Monday, we thought that might be a possibility.

But on that Monday, she ate only four spoonfuls of jello and was deeply agitated. She could see the beautiful outdoors from her bed, but was not lucid enough to know she could go. On Tuesday, she had chocolate pudding and repeated "choo-choo, choo-choo" and "teacher teacher" for several hours. She no longer looked toward the doors or windows. On Wednesday, she had more chocolate pudding and drops of water delivered by a small straw, she said "I like to dress up" for several hours. Since Thursday- NOTHING. No food. No words.

She is on morphine and ativan.

We are waiting for her to die. She is on her own exit plan and timetable. It is an interesting thing to consider-- someone's permanent exit from life. Watching her do this is a lesson for us about utter stress and exhaustion; sadness and anticipation; love and forgiveness. We talk to her quietly everyday. We've read that the ability to hear is the last sense to go. She does stir a bit when people go to her bedside. But so much of her has already been relinquished that her eyes see nothing familiar when they flutter open for a second. She is a heartbeat in a body only, nothing else seems to be left.
And we are waiting for our first grandchild to be born some time in the next two weeks. Reminds us of Bob Dylan's: (s)he not busy being born is busy dying. Ain't that the truth.

*Roger's mother's 91st birthday is Tuesday, October 25th. We're wondering....

Roger's mom passed away Monday, October 24th at noon.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Nineteen Years Later

Today is our 19th wedding anniversary. According to the internet there is no traditional gift associated with this anniversary. So, I guess that means we get to make it up ourselves, which we do anyway (renegades that we are!). We always celebrate our anniversary with a special bottle of wine, not a particular wine, but one that catches our attention by vintage and vineyard. This year it is a local 2008 Zinfandel from Nevada City Winery. I'm making an Indian dish for dinner, a variation of Chicken Makhanwala, a delicious cream curry. We bought a fantastic garlic naan to go with it. This is going to be a very spicy feast. Nineteen years requires this kind of celebration and attention.
We just got back from a very quick trip to Santa Cruz, the place Roger and I lived for 15 years before our life-changing moves to Port Townsend and then to Grass Valley. It's been two years since we've been there. We didn't remember it being so crowded and crazy with cars and people everywhere. Even the short respites on the beach were spent among throngs of surfers, other walkers, and dogs chasing things into the waves. There was never a moment of silence. Not one. Still, we loved sniffing the flowery fragrant air and seeing jasmine and datura, sweet peas and scabiosa in bloom. A complete delight for our senses.
One of the very coolest things about being back in Santa Cruz for those 48 hours was the fantastic coincidental arrival of the monarchs. It's amazing how much we took these sights for granted, and now it has become a rare feast for our eyes to see them again. Lucky for us, they were everywhere.
Then, we were back home. Beautiful skies. Katydids on the old squash leaf, and a lizard in the sink. Nineteen years and the greatest gifts come for free.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Autumn's Other Colors

We had our first rains of the season, and then the quintessential days of autumn arrived. Temperatures are in the 70s, and the air so clear it stuns our senses. The leaves are just starting to turn, and the corn stalks have been laid to rest. The sun is rising farther south perceptibly everyday; an amazing transition is underway with an obvious sweep.
I think the thing that surprises me the most right now is the insect activity. Everywhere I look butterflies are taking in the last of the flower nectar. They go from gaillardia to chrysanthemum, basil to tomato, dandelion to sage. I'm finding caterpillars climbing the outside walls, or making their way across the endless desert of decking, or wandering through the dry grasses down by the pond. The dragonflies are darting in and out of everything and everywhere. They're almost as big as the hummingbirds and hungry all the time.
Of course the frogs and lizards disappeared during the three days of rain, but when that sun came out again the activity was breathtaking. Baby lizards are scurrying everywhere, including in our laundry room (rescued Sunday morning!) and the frogs came out of hiding to bask in the sun on the water iris foliage.
Soon, too soon of course, all of this will end. Bare tree limbs will bend under snow and we won't even see the ground for days at a time. The silence and stillness of winter will bring its own beauty, but I know I'm going to miss these sights, those colors, these wings.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Wednesday's Words: A Change in the Weather

Sometimes a whole lot a nothin' happens. The sun rises in a cloudless blue sky day after day. Temps soar into the 90s, and the tomatoes put out more fruit than anyone knows what do with. We quarter and freeze them. We cook them down into a thick rich sauce. We contemplate oven drying them. We are lulled into the torpor of endless summer dreaming. Tomorrow we'll gather the last of the summer squash. Tomorrow we'll pick the ripest tomatoes. Tomorrow we'll make the final batch of pesto.
Then it happens. The weather gods in the far north blow a fierce wind that gathers storm clouds from the sea. The high temps drop 40 degrees from one day to the next. Rain is on the horizon. The shining green garden looks sallow against the gray skies. And just like that, summer is over. It's not going to be hot hot hot again until next year. Bye bye summer heat.

Hello wood stove fire. It's become second nature now for us to keep an eye on the weather. Even in the long dry months, we check to see if thunderstorms are headed our way, and with it the threat of lightning strikes and summer fires. One day last month, there were 1300 strikes in the Sierra. It happens, just like that.
So, we knew the cold out of the gulf of alaska was headed our way. We took a long look at the nearly five cords of wood that were piled up here and there, and strategized about where to stack it all in the new woodshed (which Roger did not ever write about, bad Roger, bad Roger). I helped a bit with that task, but my stupid crooked old neck doesn't like all that bending and looking around, so Roger did most of it. Took him about 2 1/2 days, but what a great reward followed that great effort. Now when we look out the window we see our woodshed full full full, three rows deep and 16 feet wide of winter warmth.
Come what may… we are ready. Well, except that we still have a ton of tomatoes that we don't really know what to do with… ah well, such problems are the dilemma of bounty.