Tuesday, December 31, 2013

End Of December Photos

Thought we'd end December with some photos we hadn't posted on the blog yet.

Just a hint of cirumzenithal and supralateral arcs

A bit of iridescents and a starry, starry sun

The best use of the satellite dish with atmospheric corona

Cooper's hawk hunting the yard
"The Dharma Bums put out delicious birdseed, and they don't mind if you eat it."

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dinner Conversation

Rim Fire from NASA Earth Observatory
I read a news story in the LA Times last week about a guy named Tom Steyer. I'd never heard of him before, but it turns out he's a billionaire who is spending some of his fortune on environmental issues (which makes us very happy). One of the things that struck me in the article was this quote about climate change, "If you're not talking about it at the kitchen table, you don't really care about it."

I think the reason it struck me is that Roger and I do talk about it at the kitchen table. We always have very serious conversations at dinner. It's one of our favorite times to just sit and talk. We have a glass or two of wine and wonder about the future of the planet. We think about where we should move, where there might be adequate rainfall and enough water, where the temperatures won't be too unbearably hot for summer gardening of cruciferous vegetables. We think about what our grandchildren will have to contend with in thirty or forty years, or less depending on who or what you are reading.

Our smoky yard in August
I have to confess here. I am obsessed about climate change. I read crazy long articles about it and shorter ones that compile statistics and data. I just finished reading this article in Salon that summarized weather and climate events of 2013. I was left with trying to imagine a tornado 2.6 miles (4.2 km) wide. The author mentions the Rim Fire, but I don't have to even imagine that one. The smoke from that blaze darkened our skies and choked our air for weeks this past summer. Right now, California is about to have its driest year on record. A rainless year will only mean more fires, among other crazy big problems.

I am on a mailing list of a local grain farmer. He sent an email yesterday in which he wrote, "In what's looking like our third year of drought I have been thinking about what it will mean if this is what the future will be like. In my region it very well could be unpredictable winters of very dry or very wet as the climate changes.  I've been reading Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land by Gary Paul Nabhan, the ethnobotanist, historian, and writer about desert dwellers. It's about how people have adapted, or not, to extreme dry conditions and how we might think about the situation for ourselves. How will we feed everybody if California's salad basket or the corn belt no longer have predictable water supplies? At least, food for thought if not for our stomachs."

Roger and I believe that we are facing a dire future, and we don't think there is any will whatsoever to change anything. Sadly, we also are starting to think it might already be too late. This is what we talk about at dinner. We wonder if you talk about this too? What do other people talk about at dinner? We'd love to know. We'd also like to know if there has been any sign of climate change in your neck of the woods. Do you have a sense what the impact might be where you live? Drier? Wetter? Hotter? Colder? Just curious about your personal take on how things are going to change for you in your lifetime. Tell us your climate change story, join in our dinner conversation. Please!

And, Roger just reminded me of this interesting website about another important conversation we should be having at dinner.

More good reading to be found here and here

Sorry to end the year with such a somber post. Well, at least we can celebrate that my mom is doing well!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Thousand Mile Journey

We drove round trip a thousand miles (1609 km), south to see my mom and back home again. It's quite a journey. Heading south we drove through the Salinas valley, and partly down along the coast. It's always beautiful in every season, and we have never been disappointed with the views out the window of our zooming car. This trip down was a bit different because we saw iridescent clouds and sundogs for 50 miles.
I photographed the sundog through the open window. I photographed the iridescence through the windshield, the sun hidden by the visor. I told Roger that it was a good thing I wasn't behind the wheel at this part of the journey. I'm not sure I could have kept my eyes on the road. We had a good weary highway laugh about that.
 We spent four days with my mom, who you can see from this photo is recovering incredibly well from the stroke she had on December 9th. She has already regained all the things that had been effected: speech, smile, left hand strength. Her resilience and joie de vivre is a truly wonderful thing. We were so happy to be with her and watch her confidence grow everyday. This is why we travel all those miles. Love is such good medicine.
The drive home wasn't nearly as beautiful as the drive south. We took an inland route, Highway 99. The above photo shows you the nearly palpable air we were about to enter as we approached the San Joaquin Valley. It's an interesting thing to actually see the USG (Unsafe Air for certain Groups) spread before you. That's 300 miles of (482 km) of really BAD AIR.
This is a screen shot the Air Quality Map in California. We're home now in the slightly better air of the Sierra foothills. I can't help but think it is pretty interesting what we have come to accept about our modern world.
And here is Bonsai, our very old kitty cat, sitting in the sunlight on our first day back. He was well cared for by our neighbors, and very happy to have his favorite servants home. (Thanks to Arkansas Patti for reminding me to post this photo and a Bonsai update.)

So, the utter joy of having my mom feeling well and our kitty cat surviving our journey over-rides any of my disappointment with the air we have to breathe these days.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas, friends.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Where We Shouldn't Be

We were supposed to be on the road Monday, driving 450 miles (724 km) south to see my mom. She was discharged from the hospital on Saturday and is home recovering fairly well. We were going to spend a couple of days with her to be part of her care giving team.
You might be wondering why we're not there. I'm embarrassed to admit that we stayed home to look after our aging cat Bonsai whose health suddenly took a precipitous drop over the weekend. We called the vet to talk about euthanizing him, but had second thoughts when he rallied and moved about more steadily on his wobbly legs. We felt bad asking our neighbors who had already agreed to do cat care to check in on a cat that may be dying. My mom was absolutely adamant that we look after Bonsai a little while longer before we headed south. When I called her Monday morning, her first question was, "How's the cat?" I said, "No way, first question is how are you?" She sounded really well, much stronger and truly like herself.
But still, I think it is absurd that we are here and not there. It seems crazy to be taking care of a cat instead of my mom. But making the decision to end Bonsai's life now so we could leave was much too hard to do. My family was quite insistent that we stay a little while longer.
So, we stayed. It was a warm and beautiful day here. Lovely things happening in the sky. Things we would not have seen had we been on that long drive south. But as beautiful as this amazing atmospheric corona is, I'd much rather be looking into my mother's eyes.

Road trip planned for Wednesday, whether Bonsai survives or not.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Few Words on Wednesday

On top of the overwhelming stress of the broken furnace and the arctic blast, just when we thought we couldn't stress out any more, my wonderful mother had a stroke Monday morning. It came as a complete surprise because she has been in very good health. The left side of her body has been effected. She is in the hospital and will be there for a few more days. My sister lives just a few miles from her (we are 450 miles away), and has been at her side. Her grandchildren have been there as well. We skyped with her Tuesday afternoon (my thoughtful sister brought her computer to the hospital so all my mother's far-flung children could see her face). It was good for our hearts to see her, to laugh with her, to hear her talk about her experience. We are hopeful.

The furnace repair guy came and the furnace is working at the moment. If it continues for 24 hours, we'll breathe a much-needed sigh of relief over that.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Arctic Blast, Snow, and a Broken Furnace

Yes, it's beautiful, those raised garden beds blanketed in pristine snowfall. The shadows, the light, the hint of a moody sky... what's not to love? This: We woke Thursday morning to the sound of the furnace turning on and turning off, turning on and turning off. The temperature outside was a chilly 22F (-5C) and inside was 58F (14C). And there was a weather forecast of an even deeper cold and a foot of snow headed our way.
The furnace repair person came Thursday, spent an hour or so with the furnace, and declared it repaired. We were delighted with the news. We do have a very dependable wood stove, which we use everyday to heat the house, but we rely on the propane furnace to keep the house warm over night and into the morning. So, we were deeply unhappy Friday morning when the furnace did not come on again. The furnace repair person came back and spent two hours tinkering around and said that a part needed replacing, which he couldn't get until MONDAY. Uh-oh. Those deeper, colder temps were coming soon.
So, when we woke Saturday morning to find nearly seven inches of snow and our furnace actually working, we were elated. Not sure why it worked all day, but it did. We were able to let the fire burn out in the wood stove, clean all the ashes, and get it ready for a day of wood burning on Sunday. The predicted temp for Sunday morning was 8F (-13C).  Of course, the furnace stopped working again and didn't turn on Sunday morning. The temp was only 15F (-9C), but those few degrees were our only respite. Roger built the fire at 3:45 am, which we'll have to keep burning through the night until Monday.

So, yes, the snow is beautiful, especially on Sunday morning with the sun shining through the pine and cedars, and the glint of light that has sparked poetry forever. But, on a morning without a working furnace, it is more of a hassle than anything else. Bah humbug.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Archiving The Blog

Screenshot of Table of Contents
Roger and I have been blogging since late 2004. It's been nine years, although our archives only go back to January 2005. Not sure what blogger did with our posts from late 2004, when we were lamenting George W Bush's win over John Kerry, and just settling into our first winter in Port Townsend, WA. They are simply gone.

Screenshot of a post from 2009
Back in October we thought about archiving Dharma Bums just to have a complete record of it, and just in case something crazy happened like blogger deciding on a whim to pull the plug on the whole endeavor. So, we did a bit of online sleuthing and found this wonderful and easy website BlogBooker that converts several different kinds of blog domains into pdf files. We had to export the entire blog to an xml file (that's done under blogger settings). That took some time. Once the file has been completely downloaded, it can be uploaded onto BlogBooker. That also takes quite a bit of time (well our upload speed is embarrassingly slow). BlogBooker then converts the xml file into a pretty fine book of the entire blog.

Screenshot just because I love this guy!
We have plans to eventually print the whole thing. It's a huge file and would probably take five or six reams of paper and a lot of ink. At this time, blogger doesn't have a way of setting date parameters. So, we think we'll probably create a new pdf of the entire blog once a year. If you're thinking at all of keeping an archived file of your blog, we highly recommend checking out BlogBooker. It's free, but they will also take donations. We gladly donated some EUROs through PayPal for this excellent project.

PS-- If anyone out there knows how to convert old Haloscan comments into something readable, we have 20 files of ridiculously unreadable xml stuff that we would love to actually read again. All of the comments from the beginning of our blogging days until 2009 are archived in this absurd format. 

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Last Bit of Color in No-Horse Meadow

When we first moved here in 2010, one of our neighbors showed us a few good walking trails. One of those trails took us through the woods and then up to Three-Horse Meadow. The three horses were almost always there, unless we found them gathered in the woods on the way to meadow. They were the friendliest and sweetest horses we'd ever met. They would come to us just for a little tender scratching and soft talking. We never remembered to bring carrots or apples with us, although we always promised them that we would.
Maybe it's been two years already that we noticed the pretty light-colored horse was gone. She was a big, beautiful horse. We thought she looked old. The hair around her soft brown eyes was already quite silvery. We are not sure whatever became of her, so, we started to call the place Two-Horse Meadow.
Roger has had some lovely interactions with these two over the years. They always come to him like he's an old friend, and then follow us up the trail, or stand there just watching us leave. Their gentleness was lovely thing to encounter in the woods.

The last time we saw them was when they took a little walk with us back in August. I videoed them with Roger. We have not seen them since, and we have no idea what became of them. We truly miss their friendly presence out there.
These days the meadow is rich with the last of the fall colors. It is so warm and lovely, but there are no horses. Now we sadly call the place No-Horse Meadow.