Sunday, December 31, 2017

Good Bye 2017

Not alpenglow, but so much like it, ten minutes before sunset.
 I'm not sure if I have ever disliked a year quite as much as I detested this one. For so many reasons, it was the worst year... personally, politically, environmentally. It was just one bummer after another. I wanted to wave goodbye to this year with something more uplifting than "Goodbye and good riddance, and please do let the door hit you on the way out..." but I can't.

I'm not going to go into details about politics or the environment. You all know what's going on, and what the future might hold if things keep at this pace of destruction at every level. I'm not sure what can be done. I guess marching in the streets, political involvement, and getting out the vote will be extremely important in 2018. Otherwise... the future looks pretty grim.
A fogbow over the wires on a suburban street
But, really what I want to tell you is what's been going on with my mom. Back in mid December my sister went to the facility to visit with her and found her in the bathroom in a messy excrement situation. Despite my mom's Level II incontinent care, she often heads off to the restrooms alone. Sigh. We all knew what the poop could lead to... a urinary tract infection, which for people suffering with dementia and Alzheimer's is a serious compromise to their already precarious brain function. Ten days ago I spoke with her and she was more garbled and out of it than I had ever heard her before. She was not only not making sense, she was saying words that weren't really words. It blew my mind. So I set an alarm off with emails to my siblings, and my sister took my mom to the doctor and sure enough she had another UTI. She was prescribed an antibiotic and that was that. Well, not exactly, it was the wrong antibiotic, and a new one was prescribed three days later. In the meantime, my twin brother was finally able to drive down to spend some time with her. The timing of that was both good and bad. She definitely needed the support and company, but Michael once again got to see her at the worst time of her UTI-induced brain fog. On his last day there, he called me while he was sitting with her out in the sun. He handed her the phone. She sounded a bit more like herself. I made her laugh (it's my job!). I told her I loved her. She said, "I love you and Roger tremendously." We laughed and laughed. I said "Tremendously? Did you pick that word up from Trump?" We laughed some more.
A moment of zen reflection
This year of my mom's Alzheimer's has been challenging for my siblings and me. Love can't make any of this different or better. We try. Back in January on the day of Trump's inauguration, my mom's decline began in a big way with a UTI and a stroke. My older brother has said that on that day he lost his country and his mother. So sadly true.

So there you go, 2017. Now get out of here and let us all usher in some much-needed peace.

Happy New Year, friends. Sorry for being a bummer, but at least I showed you pretty pictures!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: The Skies of December

Sunset December 8

Sunrise December 9

Sunrise December 11

The last of the moon December 16

Parhelic Circle, Sundogs, Halo, and Circumzenithal Arc December 17

Rainbow all the way to the ground December 21

Contrail Shadow December 23

Monday, December 25, 2017

And So This Is Christmas

We never celebrated Christmas when I was growing up. Never had a tree or lights in the windows. And even though we were Jewish, we never celebrated Hanukkah either. Never lit candles for a menorah. December always came and went without much fanfare in our house. My father told us from the time we were young that he was an atheist. I always loved that about him, that and all the other wonderful honest soulful things he shared with us. I thought that he may have arrived at his atheistic reality after being a medic in World War II, fighting behind enemy lines at the Battle of the Bulge, or maybe just growing up with an ogre of a father and a brokenhearted and sadly suicidal mother. However he got there, he was there. I didn't mind growing up without a structured belief system, other than sincere compassion and desire to understand the world.

So here it is another Christmas, and I'm thinking of my dad. Last week would have been his 99th birthday. I wish he had been here to celebrate, but he's already been gone for 25 years. Still not a day goes by that I don't think of him, and especially at Christmas because it stirs these long-ago memories. Here is my only Christmas story.

We didn't really celebrate the day, but for some reasaon my paternal grandfather did. So, every year we drove from our suburban home back to the busy city streets of our hometown Newark, New Jersey to pick him up, then pick up my father's younger sister (the one who never got married), and drive to their older sister's house for dinner. When we would pull up in front of Poppy's ground floor apartment, we always recognized his window because of the blinking Santa face in it every year. It always stuck us as crazy hilarious that he would have such a thing, but he always did. He would literally have a huge bag of toys for his grandchildren that we put in the trunk of our car. He had seven grandchildren, and many gifts for each one. Plastic things he bought at the Woolworth's store. Things we never dreamed we wanted because we actually didn't. But we were always so grateful and appreciative of his efforts. We couldn't wait to see what Poppy had in his bag. We would always take it all home and literally never see them again. A yearly ritual was all it was.

Christmas stirs these memories. My father's father was not a kind or good man. He was gruff and mean. Somehow my father resisted his influence and became the kind of man who cared deeply for others. And so this is Christmas, and I think of my father, an atheist who taught me well.

Here is a song a friend sent us that we have fallen in love with. We share it here, and wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: We See You

The furtive American Bittern

Surfaced for just a moment

We see the coot in the corner too

Hiding from ducks that he wants to shoot

Blending in with the reeds

Monday, December 18, 2017


Sunrise December 12
My twin brother Michael was supposed to drive down to see our mom on Sunday, but his plans had to be changed because of the Thomas Fire. This is one crazy huge fire, third largest in recent California history and shows no sign of stopping. It has been roaring since December 4th. Michael isn't sure when he'll be able to hit the road south, because the route goes directly into the hardest hit part of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. This is the second time in two months that trips to see our mom have been cancelled due to fires. I wrote about  having to postpone our trip in October. Who would have ever guessed that in December such huge fires would still be raging? Certainly not us. The smoke from the southern California fires have blown so far north that we woke to a smoky sunrise last Tuesday. That's 700 miles of smoke.

I have been calling my mom every other day for weeks. Lately she's been sounding less and less like herself and more and more far away. Hardly a coherent thought is ever expressed, only the wispy sounds of love come over the phone. I say, "Hey mom would you like to talk to my handsome husband?" She says, "Yes, I'd love to talk to Roger." They have a brief "conversation." Then he gives the phone back to me, and she tells me something I don't understand, and then we tell each other how much we love each other. We hang up. I sigh. I miss my mom. I was so hoping Michael would be there with her. When my mom and I talked on Friday I told her he was coming down and that he's so helpful, he'll be able to solve all of her problems. She liked that. I hope those fires are under control soon.

We're still going out walking everyday, even when the crazy winds are blowing 22 mph and the air is chilling us to our bones. My eyes tear when I'm out there. It's the cold wind I say, those winds that make me cry.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Bull Whip Kelp

We headed out to Trinidad Beach on Sunday for another mind-calming, therapeutic walk. It was a beautiful day, and we saw monsters (!) in the harbor.
Part way up the trail, looking north

Top of the trail, looking north at the same beach
Heading down the other side looking southeast at the harbor

What are those crazy monsters in the sea

Our first look at Bull Whip Kelp, native to the west coast
We've seen lots of Giant Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) in Monterey Bay, but this was our first look at Bull Whip Kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana). Another reminder of the crazy awesome beauty of our earth.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Walking A New Trail

Lately we've noticed that even when we're out walking at the marsh we can't seem to stop worrying and talking about our current political situation in our country. So many things loom on the horizon. Things like Korea, Russia, the Middle East, climate change, tax reform, the Senate race in Alabama. It has all gotten so distracting that the poem Peace of Wild Things seemed no longer true.
That red dot is where we were walking. The Hammond Trail goes five miles along the ocean here.
So we decided to walk a new trail. We drove just a bit north up the coast and walked a short part of the Hammond Trail.
This view is looking across the Mad River and out to the ocean. If you click on the photo you can see the waves. We stood there a while and breathed in the calm ocean air.
This is the view looking north. You can see Trinidad Head and the river making its way to the ocean. It was good to look far into the blue of it all.
The birds flew and dipped into the river. They moved in unison, and their shadows flitted on the river like a ballet in a mirror. No words.

We walked and walked. We saw a harbor seal, or I should say s/he saw us and slipped into the river as quietly as could be. I waited for it to pop up again, and when it did it looked right at us and slipped back under. It was a brief encounter between our two species. And yet it reminded me that Wendell Berry had it right. We can still come into the peace of wild things.

When we got home we both realized and reveled in the fact that we had not thought of politics for at least an hour, and it felt good.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017