Monday, December 31, 2012

Light In Winter

It's an interesting thing living here in the Sierra foothills. Summer is so hot, we hide from the sun. Winter is so wet and cold, we seek warm refuge in front of the fire. That means a lot of time spent indoors. So, we try to find the most wonderful view of our world whenever and wherever we can. Lately, it's all been about the changing sky. Here are three views from three consecutive days.

Roger and I are celebrating the 24th anniversary of our meeting on New Year's Eve. We are delighted to be tripping around the universe on this whirling planet together.

In celebration of our splendid earth, these beautiful colors, and the possibility of love and peace, we wish you a wonderful HAPPY NEW YEAR!

PS-- Here's some information about iridescent clouds from Atmospheric Optics. Such a cool phenomenon.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Connection Junkies

Roger and I don't really feel like we live out in the boonies. We're a 45 minute drive to the capitol of the most populated state in the country. We're six miles from Interstate 80. That's right I-80, the most well-traveled interstate in the country. We're seven miles from a 24-hour Safeway. Seriously. We're not out in the boonies. And yet… and yet… every freakin' time it rains our internet goes down and our telephone line has buzzing static that makes conversation impossible.

Here's the thing about living rurally, you have to be willing to put up with a lot of cranky back-woods stuff that drives us "experienced" city folk crazy. I have to stop myself from calling ATT and saying things I would regret ever showing up in print and accurately attributed to me. Aren't we all living in the 21st century at the same time? How is that things can be this technologically funky so close to the real world of high-tech?

Winter has arrived. We're already 158% above average rainfall, and the storms keep coming. The clouds have darkened the already darkened winter skies, and there has been very little actual bright daylight for a while. Not particularly good for photographing anything, unless you want to see gray winter bleakness at its bleakest best (or would that be worst?).

I have to wonder if our internet disconnect would have been quite as disastrous had it occurred in summer, when we could have gone on hikes in the high country or at least good long walks on local trails. I confess that a few days without our DSL on day-after-day of rain compelled us to seek a similar drug that required a two-year contract and a little device that lets us connect to the internet via cell phone towers. Of course we live in a 3G environment that not even Virgin Mobile recognizes, so our Verizon Jetpack provides a slightly faster than dialup fix. We were absolutely delighted.

Hello, we're the Dharma Bums, and we're connection junkies.

PS -- I did go out the other day to photograph the beautiful big mushrooms growing on the bark next to one of our woodpiles. I looked up at a clear sky and saw a stunningly brief and beautiful iridescent cloud.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Romance of Mistletoe

Ah, mistletoe, the kiss-inspiring greens of the season. What are you and how do you grow?

"Mistletoe plants grow on a wide range of host trees, and commonly reduce their growth and can kill them with heavy infestation. Viscum album can parasitise more than 200 tree and shrub species. All mistletoes are hemi-parasites, bearing evergreen leaves that do some photosynthesis, and using the host mainly for water and mineral nutrients. Mistletoe first sprouts from bird feces on the trunk of the tree and in its early stages of life it takes nutrients from this source."

Wow. Who knew?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Remembering My Father

I think this may be the oldest photo I have of my father's youngest self, at 18 with his sister Mimi. I like thinking of him like this, not yet gone off to war. On December 19, he would have been 94 years old. Happy birthday, Dad. Sending love and remembrance out into the starry universe to you.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Morning Light to Balance Heavy Morning News

Just looking for something beautiful
full of splendid light
to balance the news of the day

You'll have to use your imagination to know the outrage and heartbreak we feel. Sometimes there are simply no words. 

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Yuba River: Before And After The Rains

Summer 2009
December 6, 2012
Summer 2009
December 6, 2012

Not sure what to make of the bottom two photos. They are taken in the same place, but we're not sure where that rock on the right came from. It's not in the upper photo. The two photos are taken from a slightly different angle, but the difference between them seems greater than just perspective.

We've had a ton of rain. I think we've had more than 20 inches since October 1. It's about half of our yearly total. So, we're okay for a little dry weather, if some would come our way. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Deliquescence

These are Coprinopsis lagopus. Hard to capture them in every stage of their very short lives. But, wow, they are an interesting fungus to have around.

Rain is wreaking havoc on our phone and dsl. We're still operating on dial-up speed. It's like the bad old days, only worse. We know how much better it could be.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

The Storm It Did Blow In

 This post may or may not make it to your desktop. It's been rough these past few days with the "atmospheric river" of storms that blew through here. Between Thursday and Sunday morning we had eight inches of rain and lots of wind. It wasn't a hurricane, but it was absolutely a significant weather system. 

One of the things about living out in the country is the general iffy-ness of the internet. That has at least been true here. And when it rains, forget it, you're pretty much reduced to less than dial-up on  your precious 2.5 mbps DSL download speed. Today I clocked in at .05! Whee!

I took a few pics before Thanksgiving when we had our first little storm blow through. Then, the big storm blew in a week later and changed the scenery for good. There's not a leaf between us and winter now.

After the deluge, even with the sky still moody and gray, the sun burst through with a light that made us run outside and look in every direction. It was crazy beautiful.

For a moment, I greeted the sun like it was a harbinger of spring. It was that bright and welcomed. Then I remembered, we haven't even made it to solstice yet. Oy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Iridescent Clouds

Photos from Sunday morning, November 25th. Two hours of spectacular iridescence.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

An Elder-Making Trend

From The Telegraph April 22, 1987
I wondered for so many years if I would ever see current research that discussed a possible cure for the kind of liver cancer my very dear father died of in 1992. Finally, on Sunday, I found an article in the San Francisco Chronicle that reported a new treatment for Primary Liver Cancer using small pox vaccine. It's a sad and interesting story that my father contracted Hepatitis from a tainted yellow fever vaccine administered to soldiers in preparation for being shipped overseas in 1941 for the war. In 1990, he was diagnosed with Primary Liver Cancer.

Liver cancer is not common in the United States, although rates of the disease have been climbing about 3.5 percent every year in the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 29,000 cases of liver cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year and more than 20,000 people die.
But worldwide, it's the most common cause of cancer death, mostly because the primary cause of liver cancer is hepatitis B or C, both of which are widespread in parts of Asia and Africa. More than 700,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with liver cancer each year, and 600,000 people die, according to the American Cancer Society.
Who would have ever thought that fifty years after the tainted vaccine, he would die of liver cancer? I remember being told that he still had hepatitis cells present in his liver in 1991. Does that mean it was chronic? I have no way of knowing. Still it's a little heartbreaking to think his death may have been a result of a long-ago error.  Had he not contracted Hep B, would he still be here turning 94 on his next birthday on December 19th? Who knows?

Thinking about my father getting to be a very old man, and not dying at 73, reminded me of a very sad trend we've noticed lately. Many of our friends are losing their parents, one by one. Just in the past few months five friends have bid a farewell to a much-loved mother or father. That news makes me cherish every conversation and laugh I still get to have with my mother, everyday. And yet it occurs to Roger and me that we are inevitably becoming the elders, and it is a rather sobering and unsettling thought. Roger at 70 is now the oldest member of his family. It seems inconceivable that such a thing is true, but it is. We are the new old guard, keepers of the stories, ad-hoc teachers of what ever experiential wisdom we have gleaned over the years. Sauna builder, bread-baker, gardener, and picture-taker. Handy-man, philosopher, hiker, and dreamers. As old as we get to be, we still plan on singing, laughing and dancing into the twilight of our lives.

PS-- The iridescent clouds have been stunning lately. Click on the above pic, it gives you a big-sky context for the colors.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

bear with us

robin went out this morning, as she does every day, to check on the bird feeders. quelle surprise! they were both on the ground.

and nearby on the driveway the culprit left a calling card.

concerned that we might miss his card he left another. we have never seen a bear shit (verb) in the woods or anywhere else but we have seen bear shit (noun) in the woods.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Small World, Big Sky

My older brother who lives in Virginia called me Sunday morning and said, "Hey Robin, you got a minute?" I said, "Sure what's up? He said, "I have a friend here who I want you talk to. He wants to know what happened to Prop 37 in California."

I thought, Sure, okay, I'll talk to him, but I don't really know anything that's different from what the papers and websites have been reporting.

So, Joel came to the phone, and we proceeded to have a 40 minute conversation about Prop 37, the world, and everything in it. At some point he told me that his youngest son is a PhD student at UC Santa Cruz. Well, of course that completely piqued my interest because I spent so many years there as an advisor. I asked him his son's name so I could look him up and see if I recognized him in any way.

 His son's photo
I looked him up on Facebook. Nope. I never met or advised this person. But that's when I saw it. His Facebook cover photo. Holy shit. Joel's son and I photographed the same sunset in 2007. It was an amazing sunset, gorgeous in every possible way. His son must have been standing not more than thirty feet from Roger and me. I have used this very sunset as my cover photo on Facebook.

 My photo
Is that not amazing?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Iridescent Clouds

All of our Facebook friends have seen these pics over the past few days. I really wanted to share them here too.

The first three were taken on 11/12. I used several "devices" to block the sun (house, tree, satellite dish).  The fourth was taken on 11/13, and the cloud was not in the sun's light, and it was a cirrus cloud. This is what wikipedia says about iridescent clouds.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Election Reflections

The rains came last Thursday, giving us many hours of sitting indoors in front of the woodstove and time to reflect on Obama's re-election. We couldn't believe how quickly the night was over on Tuesday. Not five minutes after the polls closed here in California, Obama was declared the winner. Just like that, our fear gave way to joy. Our minds were blown. Our hearts were elated. Sighs of relief and peals of laughter. Such a moment.

By Thursday I had seen that red/blue election map with its stark contrasts way too many times. Oh yes, that map screams we are a country divided with those hard, impenetrable lines. On that rainy Thursday I had all this time on my hands and a map that totally annoyed me. So, I set out to color the map in a way that better reflects the crazy purple country that we are. It took several hours to construct this crude symbol, but I think it more clearly shows by percentages of red and blue what we we really look like.

OTOH, we really don't look like that purple map at all. We look more like this. Rural areas lean red, urban areas lean blue. I sincerely wonder why that is. I heard the right-wing lament all across the internet, the airwaves, the newspapers oh how they had lost their country. They were "outnumbered." They were overrun by the "takers" instead of the "makers." The country is no longer "white." OH SHUT UP, I screamed at them. It is they who have forgotten the dream and promise of our country, not us.

I had Dylan's "The Times They Are A Changin" in my head for days. It made me glad to remember. It also made me consider that nearly fifty years had passed since he wrote those words. When I was not yet a teenager, I expected those changes to come so quickly. I could hardly wait. As I got older I feared they would not come at all. Now I know and remember that, "the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice" (Martin Luther King).

A quote from Truthout, Rabbi Michael Lerner:
...liberals and progressives do have something to celebrate. The vast majority of Americans still yearn for a world based on generosity, caring for each other, caring for the environment, respecting difference (racial, gender, sexual orientation) and eliminating poverty and war. Though the Democratic Party and the re-elected president will provide few avenues to advance this kind of an agenda, Americans used the only available mechanism they had for publicly reaffirming this commitment.
 It's why we vote, and will always vote, and will protect the rights of all to do the same.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Tomorrow's Newspaper

There have been a million things to write about, but nothing at all jumped out and screamed, "pick me, pick me." But there's been so little to say that I thought I would have to make stuff up. You know, actually create a narrative about something. Impossible. Even the photographic opportunities have been strangely boring. The changing colors of the leaves, so beautiful, so ordinary. The beetle, so lovely and gone in an instant.

Then, I thought maybe we should talk about the election. I've never seen such bold attempts to keep people from voting. This is a rather spooky development. If a political party can't win legitimately wouldn't it be smart to wonder why, rather than steal it? Is this the weirdest election ever? Or, am I forgetting something, a weirder one? I need to be enlightened about so many things. You should check out wikipedia's entry on the history of political parties in this country. Made me wonder what I learned in history class. It certainly wasn't that. What was it? I can't remember.

What I do remember is this: I became obsessed with the 24 hour news cycle in 2000 when George W. Bush stole Florida, when the Supreme Court handed him the Presidency, when the concept of legitimacy became the punch line of "hanging chad" jokes. I was always interested in the news, I was once married to a news photographer more than 30 years ago. But I wasn't obsessed. Really, when you think about it, I couldn't OBSESS about news. No one could. There was a half hour national news show in the evening. The next day there was a newspaper. That was it. We all had to wait to hear what was happening. Your heart didn't have to break every five minutes after reading an internet headline about Attorney Generals changing the rules on Provisional Ballots. You could breathe the day away thinking about other things. NOT ANYMORE.

The 24-hour news cycle, the internet and social media have teamed up to drive us utterly insane. Enough already. Roger and I don't ever turn the TV on during the day. But we spend a lot of time reading the news outlets on the internet. OPINION IS NOT NEWS. Just thought I should scream that. POLLS ARE NOT VOTES. Just thought I should scream that too. Why are we doing this?

Tuesday can't get here fast enough. And, I would just like to read about it in Wednesday's paper.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Change In The Weather

It happens every year. Cool fall temperatures and rain sneak up on us, while we're imagining that the warm balmy weather will never end. An exaggerated "ton" of tomatoes still hang on the vines, and our small "on a whim" second corn crop rustles in the pre-storm winds.
Sunday morning began with a sunrise that we know will be gray skies later. I ran out for a photo just so I will remember these subtle brush strokes of color. The weather forecast calls for rain from now until forever. Not really, just until Friday, but that sounds so faraway from here and now.
We've been wondering what to do with all the tomatoes. We've made lots of sauce that we've frozen in half-pint jars. We've frozen quartered Cherokees and Brandywines, and have bags and bags of Sungold cherries. Interestingly it hasn't been the best year for tomatoes. Started out too cold, then got hot very fast. And yet, prolific they have been, beyond our expectations. We just couldn't bring ourselves to let all the rest just rot on the vine in the coming rains. So we picked them and are letting them "ripen" indoors. We figure this is about the state they are picked in for most supermarkets, so we're experimenting. I'm sure most of this will be tossed at some point, but we always love a good proof of concept moment.
Our first batch of corn was delicious. Sweet as could be, fully formed and beautiful. This second batch was planted late, just to see what we might get. We haven't eaten any yet, but we did shuck a few to take a look. Not spectacular or full of perfect kernels, but we're still hopeful they'll be tasty. We tossed a few of those in the freezer too, still in their husks. We'll let you know how that goes.

In other news, I am taking antibiotics for the first time in more than 20 years. I was experiencing serious pain, the kind that gives the word paroxysms meaning. Finally figured out that some of that pain wasn't related to the pinched nerve in my neck after all. My dentist agreed to see me on Saturday morning at 7:30, and after a few x-rays told me I had an abscessed tooth and will need a root canal after the infection clears up. I have to say this, antibiotics kick some serious bacteria butt! Almost pain free and I am happy happy happy.