Friday, January 31, 2020

Friday Music: Sailing To Philadelphia

We've been listening to this song for many years. It was released in September 2000. We're not sure how we found it, but it's been on our play list for a long, long time. I picked this song for today because it tells the story of two British astronomers/surveyors who set out to draw the border line separating Pennsylvania and Delaware from Maryland and Virgina in the 1760s. They were Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, and the line they drew became called the Mason Dixon line. It is a border that had and still has profound influence in our history and our cultural differences. I'm not sure where our country is headed these days, and we are worried down to our bones about it all. We seem to still be fighting a Civil War that was supposed to have ended a long time ago. Here in the beginning was the line, the Mason Dixon line.

I am Jeremiah Dixon
I am a Geordie Boy
A glass of wine with you, sir
And the ladies I'll enjoy
All Durham and Northumberland
Is measured up by my own hand
It was my fate from birth
To make my mark upon the earth…

He calls me Charlie Mason
A stargazer am I
It seems that I was born
To chart the evening sky
They'd cut me out for baking bread
But I had other dreams instead
This baker's boy from the west country
Would join the Royal Society…

We are sailing to Philadelphia
A world away from the coaly Tyne
Sailing to Philadelphia
To draw the line
The Mason-Dixon line

Now you're a good surveyor, Dixon
But I swear you'll make me mad
The West will kill us both
You gullible Geordie lad
You talk of liberty
How can America be free
A Geordie and a baker's boy
In the forest of the Iroquois…

Now hold your head up, Mason
See America lies there
The morning tide has raised
The capes of Delaware
Come up and feel the sun
A new morning is begun
Another day will make it clear
Why your stars should guide us here…

We are sailing to Philadelphia
A world away from the coaly Tyne
Sailing to Philadelphia
To draw the line The Mason-Dixon line

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

End Of January Photos

Before I looked through my January photos I thought it was a month of endless dreariness, but when I saw some of things that I had photographed during the month, I was surprised by what I had already forgotten.
A hint of a halo in the cirrus clouds
Iridescence in the undulatus clouds

Crow found something yummy in the pasture

Kestrel looking for something yummy in the pasture

Sunrise over the pasture

Radiation fog before sunrise

A thrush standing guard on the gate

A Varied Thrush walks the fence

Life in a rainy upside down world
After Ram Dass died we found this on the sidewalk in early January. Yes.
Silas smiling at his grandpa Roger. I couldn't resist!

Monday, January 27, 2020

Holocaust Remembrance Day

I first wrote this post back in 2006. It's a long story from a long time ago, but I thought I should share it again for Holocaust Remembrance Day. It's the story of the summer I spent with two survivors of Auschwitz.

I recently reconnected with a former sister-in-law, my older brother's first wife, L. It has been many years (close to 15) since we have seen or talked to each other. I called her back in January and we've been emailing ever since. L was married to my brother for a couple of years in the 70s and early 80s, but they split amicably and went their separate ways. When she and I first reconnected, I was reminded of a poem I had written about her father, which I shyly sent to her. Thinking about the poem reminded me of the summer I lived with L's parents in Long Island.

In 1978 when I was 26, I was an unsettled girl. I had done a dozen or so cross-country car trips, looking for a place to plant myself. I had already bought ten acres of land in southern Oregon and built a cabin on it (1974); I had waitressed at a popular cafe in a touristy beach town in Capitola, California (1975); I had lived in a tipi for a summer on 40 wild acres in southern Humboldt county, living with a pot-grower. I didn't know what to do with myself, and college was out of the question. (Have I ever told you that I was a re-entry student at the age of 29?) So, one day I saw an ad in East West Journal that said something about learning to become a "licensed polarity therapist." Wow. Was that ever for me. In 1977 there were as many shelves in bookstores devoted to spirituality and self-healing as there are shelves devoted to computing now. It was the ambiance of the times. So, I sent letters of inquiry to somebody in New York City, where the program was being offered, and made a decision to go.

It was spring 1978. I moved in with extended family in Teaneck NJ, and learned how to navigate the buses and subways to NY. It was delightful, and very different from the life I had led up to that point. Even though I had grown up in New Jersey, I had been gone for seven years, and I returned a tanned California hippie girl to learn my adult way around New York.

Well, the Polarity Program was a bust. To make a long story short, and suffice to say I decided that a business license wasn't the same as becoming a licensed practitioner, and I told the director so, and left. I also decided to leave my aunt's house and move to Long Island, where L's parents J and M had a business and said they could use my waitressing skills over the summer.

J and M were caterers, and they specialized in catered weddings on Long Island. Their store front was on a busy road, and their lovely apartment was in the back. I moved into L's old bedroom and spent my time with J and M cutting radishes into roses while watching the evening news. We did all the prep work there on the premises. They had a huge walk-in refrigerator and a giant-sized black cast-iron stove with two ovens and eight burners. We ate feasts every day. On weekends, we catered several affairs. I mostly worked the weddings. Going to two or three weddings a weekend was really quite revelatory for me. It was an opportunity to watch people at one of their most cherished events. Nearly every couple that summer chose as their song "Just the Way You Are" by Billy Joel. I heard over and over: "Now dancing to their song for the first time as Mr and Mrs so and so..." And then those lyrics would come "Don't go changing, to try and please me..." Every couple smooshed cake into each other's faces. Every bride danced with her father. Somebody would always get drunk and stumble. Somebody always made a sexually intimate toast. The spoons knocked the wineglasses and the newlyweds obligingly kissed. I watched all of this, while I served from the left and removed from the right. Unattached ushers flirted with the wait staff. Everyone had a good time.

J and M were remarkable people. He was from Prague, and if I remember correctly, she was from a small town in Slovakia. They were both survivors of Auschwitz. They had each survived their devastations differently and bore their scars in their own ways. J was almost always cheerful, while M was more reserved. She had had her tattooed number surgically removed from her wrist. They both had lost their entire families in the camps. What I remember feeling at the time in their house was the way this nightmare was reflected in their daily lives, how their house locked up at night. They had locks on top of locks. There were safety bolts on top of the doors that went into the upper jamb, and locks on the bottom as well that went into the floor. When we faithfully locked up at night, we slept knowing that there was no way there could be an intruder. But what I remember most was how their lives revolved around food. Old hungers were never forgotten. It's what they did everyday, all day. My one contribution to their feasts was home-baked cornbread (the Tassajara breadbook recipe that I still use), for J who was diabetic. I left out the honey, and he loved it. We were a fine little patchwork family that summer. I loved them for their graciousness, their solitude, and their resilience.

That summer I met my first husband Gregory, and we fell in love. In the early fall I left J and M's, and Greg and I rented an off-season beach house in Connecticut on Long Island sound, while he studied film at the University of Bridgeport. J and M came up to visit us that fall. It was the only time I photographed them, and the last time I ever saw them. J died in the late 90s, and today M has Alzheimers. This is the poem I wrote about J in 1995, and just sent to L.


His wrist with the tattooed numbers
reached across the fine table
over delicate linens
laid with silver and crystal
for yet another serving
of his favorite: chicken paprika

He said he put Auschwitz behind him
refused reparations and inherent entanglements
joked that the indelible blue number
was merely the zipcode for Shreveport, Louisiana
a place he should maybe visit, someday...

...but certainly not before he has cracked every chicken bone
drawn the precious marrow to his tongue,
sopped up the gravy with the remaining black bread,
picked up his dinner plate
and licked it clean.

L told me that the poem definitely captured a part of her father. She said that after he died, she was frantic that she had not thought to write down that number. That tattooed number. The hell writing on his skin that had become an essential part of him. But she found it in a photograph and wrote it down. 17710. His number.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Friday Music: Moon River (Clapton and Beck)

 I bought this card to send to a friend the other day. It's a picture of a painting by a local artist who we've seen painting out at the marsh several times. His work is quite beautiful. I looked at the back of the card and saw that the painting is called Moon River.  Oh wow, Moon River, that really sent me back to my very young days. I first heard that song when I was ten years old. I still know all the words. It was one of those songs that was everywhere for a time. So of course I went to youtube to hear Audrey Hepburn sing it, and then Andy Williams. But that's when I noticed something that surprised me... Elton John did Moon River live in concert in 2008. I listened. It's lovely. Then I saw another video that truly knocked me out... Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck did it live in concert as well. I would have never guessed that such an old "schmaltzy" (yiddish for overly sentimental and emotional) would wind up being played on two electric guitars so beautifully. I hope you like it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Corona In A Mud Puddle

After all of the relentless rain we've been having, when that sun finally showed its beautiful hot star face, we absolutely hopped skipped and jumped at the chance to go for a nice long walk. We took the neighborhood loop that goes by the big goopy cow pastures now full of puddles. Perfect for spotting the reflection of sky and clouds in the mess. And there it was, the gift of a lovely reflected corona and a hint of iridescence in the muck. Life is like that, especially these days. We have to keep our eyes open for any hint of beauty. Sometimes you actually have to look past the literal bullsh*t. (Whoops I just got sidetracked by the politics of our times... yikes...sorry about that.)

Monday, January 20, 2020

Everyday This Cat...

...stares in at us through the sliding glass door. Several times a day, everyday. We invite her in, but she much prefers (insists, really) that we come outside and pet her while she rolls around on the little deck out there. "Come out" she says, "I am waiting. I know you love me. Come out. Come out." I do go out a few times a day, but sometimes I just look at her and say, "Cleo, if you don't come in, I'm not going out there." She stares at me. She gets tired. She fantasizes about other critters in the yard and in a moment disappears in a mad dash after something that only exists in her mind. She is our neighbor's cat.When they got her a few years ago they said, "We got a cat. You know what that means, don't you?" We said, "No. What?" They said, "You got a cat too." Wow we had no idea how right they'd be about that. She's a very well-loved kitty cat. But sometimes we just have to pull the curtains and be done with it. Bye bye.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Friday Music: 1970

I chose this song for Friday music because it knocked me out to hear young, talented people singing a song from the perspective of someone with Alzheimer's. I so appreciate their music and their sensitivity. Lately I've been experiencing some memory issues, like not remembering all the parts of stretching exercise that I do twice a day for my relentless back pain. I've been doing those exercises daily for three years. Suddenly I can't remember the order. That is as scary as it gets, folks. And, I know that it definitely gets scarier than this.

1970 by Reina del Cid

I got a telephone
But it never rings
I’m just making calls
To memories.
On my better days I know
The last years have cost me dearly

Smoking cigarettes about a pack a day
Waiting for my lover
To come back to me
In my checkered dress I know
It’s been a long time
Since 1970

Pretty Baby…
The kitchen light is on
And I’m dancing
To our favorite song
I’ve been waiting
And I hope it won’t be long.

Don’t know where I am
Or who put me here
But by a trick of light
I'm in my Oldsmobile
See my best days are the worst days
Cuz I'm alive there in 1970

Pretty baby
They got the TV on
I’m watching reruns all night long
I’m still waiting
But I feel there’s something wrong now

They took my telephone
But I still hear it ring
I’m just making calls to infinity
I know it's just static, but I'm listening…

Monday, January 13, 2020

Ideas For Future Posts

I have a folder on my computer desktop called Ideas. I started it back in 2006, a year after we started the blog. Even back then I was wondering what we might consider writing about in future blog posts. I've been looking in that folder at the things I saved. I don't remember any of it at all. Some are pretty interesting stories, like this one I wrote in 2009. It's when Roger and I were living at the Capitola beach house (2008-2009). There must have been some stories on the internet back then about how people thought pigeons were really robot spies. If you google pigeon robots, you'll see that the stories persist to this day. The Audubon Society actually wrote about it in 2018. This is what I wrote back then with some photos from the time. I must have been writing it as a letter to someone we were corresponding with.

"In the law of unintended consequences, I now think of you every time I see a pigeon. I'm fairly certain that is not what you had in mind when you've spoken of these feathery robots, but that's what has happened.

"My husband and I walk down to the Capitola wharf nearly everyday. We always see lots and lots of pigeons there. We have begun to notice that it is now robot pigeon mating season because the males have been wired to puff out their chests, spread their tail and wing feathers, and do a wonderful little dance. We suspect that this ritual must spark some inherent wiring in the female robot, because she responds in some fashion and demurely resists but stays close by, or flies off looking for a more handsome robot with better components.

"We have explored under the wharf and have seen their secret compartments where they hatch out replicants. They've made it look very much like real bird nests, but we suspect a lot of engineering goes into constructing these twig, stick, shell nests to make it look like the work of real birds. We're not fooled though.
"We have been utterly convinced that these are robots, just as you had described them, until this past Saturday. Then something happened that changed everything. We were walking down the wharf when I noticed a fisherman had something on his line and was pulling it up from the water. There on the end was a pigeon with a lure through its wing. It flapped and struggled as the fisherman brought it up on to the wharf and then held it down on the bench. There he worked diligently to try and disentangle the creature from the filament. We approached and I asked if I could help. I stretched the pigeon's wing so the fisherman could unwrap where the line had doubled and tripled around the bird's neck and wing. The bird was completely limp in our hands. It looked at us, but in the way it might look at a hawk about to devour it. Not fear, but that resignation to the inevitable. I felt its soft feathers and the remarkable strength of its wings, so solid in my hands for something so incredibly light. Then the fisherman finished his work and the pigeon was free. He held it in his hands and threw it into the air towards the sea. It took off and never looked back.

"It was then I knew it was a living thing. Full of life and vitality. Or programmed incredibly well to look that way. I did have a sense of its beating heart, but I could have been projecting.

I just wanted you to know."

It was only after reading this letter that I actually remembered helping free that entangled pigeon. Makes me wonder what else I have forgotten over the years. Old ideas with the dust of time waiting to be blown off the faded page.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Friday Music: Second Chances (plus a story about Redwood Trees)

This Friday song post is also a story of how I found the music and fell in love. Facebook friend and former blogger Bev posted this link to a video about a man who has made these last years of his life a commitment to saving the ancient redwoods. It's an 11 minute video and so worth watching. Read the words and scroll down the page to the video. It's quite a story. Ninety-five percent of all the old growth redwoods have been cut down here in northern California. What David Milarch does is go to the redwood forests and find the old growth tree stumps. He collects DNA from baseless growth that the old trees shoot up from their roots after its been cut. He clones the old trees and then replants them. His intention is to give them back their lives. While I was watching the video, toward the end I heard a few lines of this song... Second Chances... Yes, he's giving those old redwoods second chances. So of course, I went to youtube to find the song so I could listen to all of it. It's not about saving redwoods, but it's a lovely haunting song.

After watching the video, I remembered an article I had recently read in the local paper about the largest redwood tree here in our neck of the woods. It was cut down in 1896. I saved the photo from that article because it shows how profoundly big this tree was. Turns out that David Milarch has cloned this incredible tree as well.

This tree is being given a second chance. It makes our hearts sing.

Here are the lyrics to Second Chances by Gregory Alan Isakoff

All of my heroes sit up straight
They stare at the ground
They radiate

Me, I'm mumbling in the kitchen for the sun to pay up
Lonely is a ring on a cold coffee cup
I'm some sick hound
Digging for bones
If it weren't for second chances, we'd all be alone

My hands they were strangers lost in the night
They're waving around in the dusty light
I'm waiting in the wings while the trees undress
Cupping my ear to hear the wind confess
I'm a ghost in the garden
Scaring the crows
If it weren't for second chances, we'd all be alone

I'm running from nothing, no thoughts in my mind
Oh my heart was all black
But I saw something shine
Thought that part was yours, but it might just be mine
I could share it with you, if you gave me the time
I'm all bloody knuckles, longing for home
If it weren't for second chances, we'd all be alone

I'm a shot through the dark
I'm a black sinkhole
If it weren't for second chances, we'd all be alone

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Wordless Wednesday: The First Few Days of 2020

Some kind of cloud...cirro something or other

Two big birds in water

Two gray raindrops on the camera lens with a double rainbow

Iridescent clouds in an utterly rare and unusual color of sky. It may be called blue.

Monday, January 06, 2020

As I Type This Post...

...Australia is burning. A half billion animals have perished in the flames.
...We are living with the sense there will be dire consequences because the impeached President of my country ordered the assassination of a Major General of Iran.
...The prospect of violent retaliation looms across the planet.
...For the first time in my life I am starting to think we'll see a nuclear bomb dropped.
...There are nearly eight billion people on this beautiful earth. We all need water, food, air, and energy. We have become unsustainable and causing damage everywhere.
...There has been a rise of anti-semitic attacks here there and everywhere.

I am afraid. We are afraid.

And yet... I still run outside to see the 22 degree halo around the early morning sun, the sundog, the hint of a upper tangent arc.
Does it balance the madness?
Did it in the moment...
...yes, but not as I type this post.

Friday, January 03, 2020

Friday Music: Song To The Siren

When did I first hear this song? It’s probably been more than 50 years ago now. I may have heard him sing this version while watching The Monkees in 1968 when I was 16 years old. There’s something about this song, these lyrics, that harkening back to a time when Odysseus was making his long journey home that really calls to me… like the Sirens themselves singing. Who is writing lyrics like this anymore? I don't know. I hope someone is Siren-inspired.

Long afloat on shipless oceans
I did all my best to smile '
Til your singing eyes and fingers
Drew me loving to your isle
And you sang
Sail to me, sail to me
Let me enfold you
Here I am,
here I am
Waiting to hold you

Did I dream you dreamed about me?
Were you hare when I was fox ?
Now my foolish boat is leaning
Broken lovelorn on your rocks
For you sing
'Touch me not, touch me not
Come back tomorrow
Oh my heart, oh my heart
Shies from the sorrow'

I am puzzled as the oyster
I am troubled as the tide
Should I stand amid your breakers ?
Or should I lie with death my bride ?
Hear me sing
'Swim to me, swim to me
Let me enfold you
Here I am, here I am
Waiting to hold you'