Sunday, September 30, 2018

End Of September Photos

It's been a while since I compiled a few photos that we haven't shared here yet. It's always fun to take a look back and see what we had already forgotten. The sunlight lit it all up for us.

This last photo is Roger at the top of Trinidad Head. We hiked up there on the day we went to scatter roses in the harbor for my mom on her birthday. After the foggy summer we had, it was delightful to have a month of light. And now rain is in the forecast already. Looking forward to rainbows!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The First Birthday Without Her

One of my favorite photos of her taken six weeks before she died. Hanging out in the administator's office at the assisted living facility.
Today would have been my mom's 93rd birthday. This is the first one without her. Just last week marked six months since she died on March 18th. Not a day goes by that we don't think of her.

I saved the last two messages she left on our answering machine. I just can't bring myself to delete them, even though she said on one, "Hi Robin, this is your... Aunt Bea..." and on the other, "Hi Robin and Roger, this your... cousin Bea... I can't remember why I am calling you."  Alzheimer's can make you mix up nouns. Cousin? Aunt? Mom? She knew it was some relationship that she loved with all her heart, that's why she was calling.

We are going to cut roses from our front yard and drive up the coast a bit to Trinidad Harbor. We're going to hike Trinidad Head and then go down to the docks and toss those roses in the ocean to her. I've always tossed roses in the bay for my dad, and now we have a new date to add to the tradition.
Fully capturing her playful spirit.
Before my mom died she asked me to keep telling her what was going on in the world. She wanted to stay informed. She knew that I kept a diary and always wrote notes to my dad in it to tell him all that was happening in our family and in the news. The latest news coming out of Washington though is so heartbreaking and brutal to the spirit, that I'm not telling her. So...sshhh... let's keep this latest news cycle a secret from our dearly departed loved ones.

The sadness of such a loss persists, but something I have learned over the years is that love lasts forever, and I am so utterly grateful for that. Happy birthday, Mom! We love you!

Monday, September 24, 2018

New Friends

No, these three are not our new friends!  We did see them out at the marsh last Wednesday. I think they must have heard the story about Trump calling the hurricane wet, from the standpoint of water. One is laughing so hard, the other two are just angry that such a lunatic is president. Or, maybe they heard about the Kavanaugh debacle. It could be so many things. The news makes us crazy; we could laugh hysterically or manage our rage. We try to do both.

But we really do have new friends. Remember the post I did the other day about meeting two people out at the marsh, a woman and her elderly dad named Hy? Well, I really wanted to see them again. So, I asked a friend who is a cashier at the local co-op if she may have heard of Joanie and her dad who had just moved in with her. She said she thought she may actually know who I was inquiring about and would send out some messages. Well, sure enough, she did indeed know Joanie, and was able to get us in touch with each other. On Saturday Roger and I met them out the marsh, and we took a lovely long walk together. Hy is 96 years old, and he kept up with us on our three-mile loop. Joanie told me that he stays fit and healthy because he has always walked and hiked. What a role model he is for aging well.

We all enjoyed the walk so much we plan to do it once a week. We talked politics and family, our shared eastern European histories, and bird watching. I'm so glad I tried to find them. Our lives our already richer for it. I just wish I had thought to take photos. Too much talking and laughing to turn the camera on. Next time!

Monday, September 17, 2018

First Steps

In responding to a comment on the blog the other day, it sparked a memory. From the time I was very young my parents told me this story. When I was nine months old they had taken my older brother, my twin brother and me to the beach. They said when I saw the ocean, I stood up and took my very first steps toward the waves. My twin followed crawling along behind me. It made me happy to remember how much I have always loved the ocean.

There are so many political things we could be writing about here, but you know how we feel about all of it. So instead,  here is a balance to all the madness swirling about. The very simple beauty of it all.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Words On A Wednesday: Harbor Seal

You probably remember the faraway photos I've posted here of Harbor Seals lounging along the mouth of the Mad River. We often stop at a vista point to see them when we are heading south from the short trip up the coast to hike Trinidad Head or Houda Cove. Well, we made a little trip north the other day to run some errands (nothing exciting at all) and thought it would be a good idea to stop at the vista point on the way home, walk down to the beach and try to get a better look. So we did. Except when we got down to where the trail is, we saw this.
Oh bummer. I seem to remember the gate was closed the last time we ventured down this way. Well, I still thought we should try to get down there. We weren't going to go to the sandy beach, which this gate was trying to prevent. We wanted to hike the trail along the hills there above the river and ocean. Luckily other people had the same desire and had long ago done this.
Yes, we were scofflaws. We saw a chance to get on to the trail, so we took it. We just wanted to see the Harbor Seals just a little bit closer.
One thing we hadn't thought about, though, was the tide. Why even consider checking the tide chart when you're just heading to the store? So, I didn't. Turns out that the tide was coming in in a very big way, heading up to a significant high tide of +7.4 right then. There wasn't very much sand left on the other side of the river for the seals to be lounging on at all. We weren't deterred though. We still wanted to walk the little trail above the river.
It was quite beautiful walking along there, looking up river. We loved the calming peace of it all (and the blue skies and the sunshine).
And then, because sometimes timing is everything, this little seal decided to pop up and say hello. I think it must have heard us talking as we were walking along. We waved and said hello back. And yes, we were so glad we had ventured down the trail to take a look.

PS-- The first two comments on the post made me realize I need to explain why the gate was closed. It's to protect Western Snowy Plover habitat. We knew we were not going to be walking on the beach at all, but on a narrow wooded footpath on the hill side of the river.  Plover season ends in September, but I think the gate is never opened anymore. Not sure why. Here is a link to some interesting info about Plovers on the north coast here and what has devastated their numbers.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Back To The Usual Stuff

I really enjoyed writing down my memories of the first 18 years of my life. It was good to look back and piece it together. I realized after all the posts that there are many things I left out. There are more stories to tell, and when I think about it, the 1970s was a truly wild decade for me. So maybe in the future I'll tell you those stories. It'll be fun, I promise!
In the meantime something amazing happened here. THE SUN CAME OUT. We have been living under the foggiest dome of a sky for several months. I'm not sure how we put up with it without losing our minds, although it's possible I did lose mine, it's pretty hard to tell anymore. But that beautiful sun and blue sky made an appearance for a few days, and we went out to enjoy every moment of it.
I had been a little worried that without seeing atmospheric optics that I had lost my love for the sky, that I had moved on to the grim task of just growing old and not being drawn to run out and take photos anymore. Well, then there was this sunset. It made me fall in love again with the sky. I kept running outside to take a look. Love had truly been awakened.
The next day we went for a walk at the marsh and saw even this hint of crepuscular rays. I was shooting photos out of the car window as we went zooming by, shouting for joy at the sight of it.
While we were out at the marsh we ran into two people, a woman with her very elderly father who were slowly walking along bird watching and enjoying the day. We stopped to say hello, and she asked us if we were bird watchers. We said, yes we are. She told us that there were some juvenile birds in the pond that she thought might be Mergansers and were definitely not Mallards. So, I took a few photos to ID later. (I do think they are juvenile Hooded Mergansers.)
We moved on around the big pond. The woman and her dad were walking around the pond in one direction, and we were walking in the other. So our paths crossed again a while later. There she was pointing out to her father the beautiful Long-billed Curlews that were finding food at the pond's edge. We talked a bit more, and she introduced herself and her dad whose name she said was Hy. He had just  come north from the central coast and had moved in with her. I asked him where he was from originally and he said "Brooklyn." Ah, I thought I had recognized that familiar east coast accent. I told him that I was from New Jersey. He said that he was born in New Jersey, in Newark to be precise. I shouted, I was born in Newark too! We kept shaking each other's hand and smiling at each other. Then we all agreed we hoped we'd meet again in the future walking around the marsh ponds. It was like running into family, it felt that good.

So, that's the story of life when the sun comes out.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Memories Part 5- 1969-1970

The title of this post should be "It was just a dream some of us had..." We really wanted to change the world, make peace not war, become enlightened, get high, listen to good music, and most seriously make a difference. How does a 16 year old with so much passion about all of it learn to live in a time when Richard Nixon had just been sworn in as president? We took to the streets. We learned about draft counseling for our friends and neighbors who faced being drafted. My older brother was still in college and had a 2S deferment. He was safe, but there were others his age who were not in school. We met with a network of people who could make referrals, who understood the fear. How did we do this without the internet? I have no idea. I think there must have been flyers, ads in newspapers, word of mouth.

If you google anti-war protests 1969, you get an idea of how energized and non-stop it was. The first listing says "The whole year major campus protests take place across the country." Even those of us still in high school marched. We raised our fists. We chanted "No More War." We went to Newark or New York City for the biggest marches. I remember a cop on a motorcycle nudging us along on one street so we would stay within their marked boundaries. It was confrontational and not pleasant. Still, we we would not be deterred; we were utterly engaged and committed to ending the war.

Back on the home front my parents were planning their first big trip to California. It was the first time my mother was ever on an airplane. She and my dad flew with my aunt and uncle to San Francisco. They rented a car and drove the coast highway to Los Angeles. Oh what a time that was for them. It was July 1969. They had plans for selling our New Jersey home and moving west after my twin brother and I graduated from high school in 1970. I remember the dates they were gone because my grandmother came to spend the week with us while they were out of town. And, the reason I remember that is because my grandmother and I watched the amazing Apollo 11 moon landing together on July 20th. I sat with her, a woman born in 1892 in Galicia Poland, who came to this country in 1921, who lost her family in the Holocaust, who was as smart and strong as any woman I had ever known; we sat together and were blown away by what we were watching. Ah, it was a promise fulfilled, that walk on the moon. I remembered that the only other time I had sat with her and watched a compelling live broadcast was back in November 1963 when my sister, my cousin and I were in her apartment watching the funeral procession for President Kennedy. Oh we all cried our eyes out together that day. This was an uplifting bookend to the promise, "…before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." We watched.

That summer I had a job. Imagine this: A friend's father owned a small factory that made neckties in a nearby big town. He needed a payroll bookkeeper for the summer. I said I could do it, and so I did. It was not a typical payroll job. The 20 or so employees got paid by piece work. They did not speak English. They sat at their work station sewing machines sewing sewing sewing. Everyday they brought me the tickets, which I calculated to determine the number of products they had made. I kept a record of it all. They were paid weekly, and they were paid in cash. The day before payday I had to calculate how many $20s $10s $5s and $1s I needed, in addition to the quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. It was interesting and tricky stuff. I would give the data to my friend's father and he would take it to the bank. On payday he would come into my office with the cash. I had to make up the little envelopes for each employee with the exact amount they had earned. When I look back on it now it makes me wonder if this was not entirely a legal thing to be doing. I'm really not sure. Quite the summer job for a 17 year old!
A photo of me in the 1969 high school literary journal
But as a17 year old with a free spirit (youthfully irresponsible) would do, I quit that job the second week in August and went to the Woodstock Music Festival with my siblings and a friend. We were as utterly unprepared for the event as suburban kids who had never camped, didn't own a sleeping bag or tent, and didn't even bring food could be. We joined the throngs of people on the street that Friday afternoon and walked and walked to the concert area. There we laid out our borrowed sleeping bags and heard the music begin: Ravi Shankar, Melanie, Arlo Guthrie, and Joan Baez. We only stayed for one night and realized that our plan was not well thought out at all. We slept in that open field in front of the stage, and by Saturday morning knew that we'd have to head home. My brother Marc went to find us food for breakfast. He was gone a long time. He came back, and we ate whatever it was he had found in town. He said the whole town was overwhelmed.  We knew it was time to leave. We walked and walked back to the car, amazed that we could even find it. Marc started the 120 mile drive home. Midway we stopped. He took down the convertible top of his old Ford, and we all napped on the side of the road. We were tired and truly elated that we had made it there and experienced even that wee bit of Woodstock!

Then my senior year of high school began. It was the first year that the dress code for girls which required us to wear either dresses or skirts was finally dropped. I took the money I had made bookkeeping that summer and shopped for really cool clothes in Greenwich Village. I actually wore bell-bottoms on the first day of school. It was such a moment of freedom for us. I was taking all my college prep classes and planning on going to school in California. The backdrop of war and unrest was everywhere. The big plan for fall was two marches both called Moratoriums-- one on October 15th and one on November 15th. The first march drew 100,000 protestors, the second one in Washington DC drew a half million. The crowd chanted "All we are saying is give peace a chance..." That was our mantra back then. We sang the same lyrics on the streets where we marched in smaller gatherings. The anti-war marches went on all of my senior year. And then, on May 4, 1970 four students were killed at a protest at Kent State.
We were somewhere in this protest in Washington DC May 1970
Just five days after that horrific shooting 100,000 people demonstrated in Washington DC. My brother Marc drove my siblings and me 200 miles to that march. It was a crazy chaotic time. My sister remembers seeing armed military on the roofs of buildings. We went to make our voices heard. While we were marching my sister got very sick. She suffers from migraine headaches, and she suddenly had one on the crazy streets of DC. I started walking with her to find someplace for her to quietly rest. A very lovely young man came to help us. He introduced himself, told us his name was Doug and that he lived in Washington. He said he was a student at Howard University and had gone there to know what it was like to be a white minority among a black student population. He knew of a place where Lynn could find quiet. He brought us to a small cafe where there was a couch. He brought her ice for her head. While Lynn rested Doug and I talked. Surprisingly it turned out he was from southern California, spending a year at Howard. I told him we were moving to California in early July. So we exchanged addresses. He gave me his parent's phone number, and we promised to meet that summer in California. Lynn eventually started to feel better, so we found our brothers and made the journey home.

Six weeks later a friend of my brother's named Chris, my sibs and I began the long drive across country to California. We had never been further west than Pennsylvania in our lives! We had planned our camping trip well with a Rand McNally guide that had campsite listings in every state along with descriptions of facilities and amenities. This was going to be a cross-country adventure for suburban kids who were going to camp out for the very first time. My mother told us years later that when we pulled away from the house to start the trip, my father threw himself on the bed and wept. He was so worried about us. Such a soft-hearted man he was.

It was a great journey. We learned how to put up the tent and cook on a Coleman stove. We did make one stop on our way west that was not at a campground. Chris knew some people who were living on a commune outside of Longmont, Colorado. So, we stopped there for a few nights. That is when I fell in love with our planet, when my dreams became bigger than the stories of countries and boundaries. We had driven across the Great Plains.  We saw the Rocky Mountains. We experienced an expanse of our earth that took my breath away. We sat at a table with loving, lovely people who were gardening their land. We talked of the future in a new way. We held hands around the table and chanted OM before dinner. My siblings and I decided to stop eating meat and chose to become vegetarian. I suddenly had a new dream. I wanted land and a garden. I wanted to build my own cabin. I wanted to protect our earth.

But first we had to get to California, which we did. Here is what I remember about my first days there. My eyes teared all the time from the smog (thank you Clean Air Act for somewhat fixing that). I had never experienced anything like it. You could see the dirty air, but not the valley and mountains that were right there in front of us. But we were finally in California.  I had a new dream and a lovely man who had rescued us in Washington to call. Doug was only there until winter before heading to Evanston, IL to seminary school to become a Methodist Minister. He was the kindest support to me when I was sexually assaulted by a stranger in September 1970. We kept in touch for a few years after he left for seminary, and yes, I broke his heart. He took this photo of me before he left. I will always remember him with great affection for how he helped us in Washington DC and in California to make the transition to our new life. (Years later he came to my parent's house and performed the wedding ceremony for my sister and her husband. When we called to ask if he would, he said "Yes, I marry and bury people all the time!")

And that, friends, is the condensed version of the first 18 years of my life. What a time to come of age. My love for the earth has stayed with me all these years. In 1970 the population of our planet was 3.7 billion. Now it is nearly 7.5 billion. I checked, earth hasn't gotten any larger to sustain that growth. And now we have a President who has created a time more horrible than the years that have come before. I am truly afraid, and I know I will march again.

Thank you for reading and letting me share these stories with you. I was inspired to write all this down by a comment someone left on the blog a while back. It reminded me that we sometimes make assumptions about people's lives without knowing really a single thing about them, except for what they write on their blogs and the pretty pictures they take. We have all lived long lives before these internet ones.