Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mary Alice and I do walk-about

He heard us say that the bird feeder is empty, waited in the tree for a moment, then zoomed down.  He is a scraggly teen-age Scrub Jay, and learned quickly from parents how to unload the entire feeder in about two minutes in a voracious search for the peanuts.  Hay, wait, maybe I should just put out a little bowl of peanuts just for him, by the fountain so he doesn't have to go far for his after-snack swim.

I have a huge respect for people who catch butterflies in photos.  I took many shots, all of which were extremely blurred.  Of course, the butterflies are fluttering, as is their nature.

We're goin' berry pickin'.

My Mimi.

There are four of them, but one is very hard to see.

Beautiful but prickly, scratchy, itchy.

"When I find a big one, I just have to eat it," says Mary.  "And lots of these are big."

Quickly the heat got to us, since it was foggy and cool this morning, and the house was cool and we had to dig out sweaters, and eat scrambled eggs(so fresh they were warm before they hit the pan) and toast, and we picked apples first, and tomatoes and berries out by the garden, so by the time we got to this spot... we're pretty hot and tired.  

There is some concern that our prolonged cool start to summer has slowed, even stunted the grape crop.  This vineyard looks pretty good to my uneducated eye.  This will be these vine's first harvest, so they are inexperienced.  Two years ago they were planted on the hottest day of the year, watered for 24 hours straight, which made all of our pumps quit because the water level was so low.

It is a great day when Dev comes and brings the girls.  Makes my day!  Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of Rebekah eating pizza, or scrambled eggs, or apples, or berries, or whatever else she found.  I didn't get a photo of her napping, or reading, or of Dev typing on (my) annoying, sticky keyboard, "Do you type on that?  Do you have another one you use?"

Some questions are better left unanswered, don't you think?

Unfortunately, the photo I took of all four of them is blurry, with a fabulous, in-focus background.  I think I need to blow-out my camera again.

Hay!  Happy Day!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A dose of Gratitude

This is a perfect portrait of my life:
Rich color, lush, with lots of hearts.

A sunspot inspires upright napping.  If not napping, certainly thoughtful contemplation while 


for the Birthday Knees ...

no, knot really.  I was being silly.  
Wayne and Steve grilling.

These two get the photogenic award.  PDC.
(Pretty Darn Cute.)

In the Morning Glories I found a blossom subdued by the vine of a neighbor?  Regardless, the color is beautiful.  Will it escape as the morning lingers?  Will it miss being open if/when the sun arrives and the Honey Bees converge in the garden?  It is unseasonably cold this morning.  The clouds are low, it is quiet,  the colors are soft and gentle, as though summer is meditating.  I am reading and writing today.

Pears love cool weather in which to enlarge themselves; swelling, gathered together.

Really.  It is a California Sky.  Just not blue today.  Leaving the blue up to the 'Glories.  Carry on.

My car has been broken.  Generally, I am fine with that, I get around as needed.  It is comforting, in a big way, to not go anywhere.  I am never bored, always have tons to do, to catch up, to sort, to throw out, to weed, to wash, to send out, to apply for, to read, to write, to paint, to organize.  Unfortunately, it doesn't feel so great to be "stuck" with no choice in the matter.

Haha.  Such a dream!

Last night we went to pick up the vehicle, it was fixed, done.  I unlocked it, got in, key in ignition, and presto!  It wouldn't start.  Yes.  I am grateful it didn't get out of sight of Jim's Automotive.  I put the key back under the seat for Jim, and locked the doors, as we have "keyless entry."  This morning, talking to Jim about the state of things, he said, "Bring your key.  When I punched in the code, the overhead light didn't even come on; the battery may be dead."

I panicked.  About what, you may ask.  Guilt!  I lost "my" key, along with all of my keys two or three years ago, and have not gone through the hoops to create a new one, which entails much more than just going and getting one sawed to size.  For this vehicle, I need the code, and the this and the that so that they can re-educate the internal computer, etc etc etc.   So, I am living on the edge:  I go to and fro with one, that's right, one key to my name.  Yeah.  It feels illegal or something.

Now, if the battery IS dead, I'm personally and fatally screwed.

True, that is a little dramatic, but that is what instantly happened when I heard Jim say to bring my key.

This morning I felt completely incapable of maneuvering through this life.  Why can't a car key just be a car key?

Then, Emerson barked, and I knocked over my cup of tea, and now I have to clean off this desk and unstick all of these stupid papers.  See?  I am better suited for staring into space.

There is no ending to this little story.  Jim has solved the mystery and is fixing it.  I am home, with my lists and projects and Wayne's truck so that I can go back into town to an appt. and to work.  All is well.  I will place upon my list:  go to Ford and start the process of getting another key made.

Pretty simple, no?  To change a life-long habit; to take a step on a new path, a different direction... all there is to it is to take a step!   Wheeeee.

I am grateful.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

This mornings' revelation.

Tonight an ongoing, important conversation.

She learned how to open the gate yesterday.
(not necessarily a good thing)
(unless, of course, there is an emergency)

Last night a terrible thing happened.  I was very involved in sleeping through it, as was Wayne, when this 75lb. baby leaped into the middle of our bed, barking furiously.  That was not emphatic enough, he jumped down went somewhere, came back and did it all over again.  I woke up shouting, "Emerson!  No!  Stop!"  My mind was a blur, nothing was making sense, I was intensely uncomfortable in the din, the crazed dog, the bouncing bed.  Wayne yelled, "It's a SKUNK!"  This was true!  Our room (because the windows were wide open) reeked, the air thick and barely breathable.  Emerson was beside himself, terrified, to be honest.  I called him to me, once I had a handle on what was going on, and told him to "Lay down, Little Man."  He threw himself on the length of me, rolled over and slid between Wayne and I, heaving a big sigh.  Rumbling deep in his chest, he cuddled in and went back to sleep.

For tonight I ask that skunks ramble on down the other side of the vineyard, while the moon rises high the coyotes yelp and howl, and Emerson sleeps soundly all night long.

Tomorrow is Wayne's double-thirtieth birthday.
Night night.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New and improved

On my walk this morning I clomped through productive vineyards.  Trimmed and tucked into an elaborate wire and post structure the grape vines are tightly controlled, fertilized, watered, sprayed, monitored.  They must conform to what is given to them so as to be able to yield their fruit to the mechanized picker when harvest commences in late summer.

I walked up and over the levy, which keeps the river at bay, out of the vineyards.  I walked through a thick patch of Star Thistle, an invasive thistle from somewhere far far away.  I didn't really walk through it, I am not tough enough to do so, I stayed on the path made by 4-wheelers.  The thistle is nasty, with hard, very sharp stickers surrounding its beautiful yellow flower.  The Goldfinches love this horrible plant, and they were there, filling the air with birdsong and flashes of more yellow.  Before reaching the open space beyond willow and thistles an unbelievable stench greeted me.  "Oh God!"  There, dumped and left, was a large gray plastic bin with what looked like manure spilling from it, but really, was unidentifiable without going closer, and I was not about to do that.  Nearby the bin was a black plastic garbage bag, with a red twisty keeping it closed.  Some one had cleaned up something.  Right.

My walking took me across a stretch of gravel bar to the edge of the river.  There I discovered two fairly nice office chairs facing a fire-circle made from cinder blocks, a stack of wood, one river shoe and one dog turd from a fairly large dog (not mine).

While I stood there listening to the riffling of the rapids, an osprey surprised by my presence, veered into a wild left-turn and up-leveled to a higher path over my head.  Upriver it cried its Osprey "Scree!"

Meeting the family from China has been very sobering.  Lin Yuhe is young and fresh like the 9 1/2 year olds of my experience.  I found myself, in re-reading my blog post from yesterday, feeling like the words were empty, idealistic-in-a-nutso-way, even ridiculous.  Looking at the pictures of the innocent children is unnerving.  The evening was full of contrast.  At the dinner table were amazing people.  On my left a scientist who lives and works in Davis, CA.  His wife, a lawyer, was born and raised in China, the daughter of a physician in a small village.  The scientist works with genetically altering plants and fascinated me with his passion for moving genes from the weeds to lettuce, so the crops will be hardier, won't be susceptible to mildew.  He was patient with my questions, and reassured me that all is well, the lettuce will reach more people in better shape, and to not worry about the nutritional composition, since the genes have nothing to do with that.  On my right was my son in law, a vineyard manager/firefighter, and just beyond him was the dinner host, a winemaker at a large, corporation winery.  The American (USA) men talked of their passion for guns and hunting the feral pigs which are ripping up wilderness and vineyard and multiplying.

It was pointed out that in China there is nothing to shoot.  The human population do not have guns, and the wildlife is 99% extinct.  The Chinese are not allowed to drive all over the place.  Villages do not exist as they did even a few years ago.  They've been razed.  The population is in a dramatic flux, moving to cities, into high-rise apartment buildings which are rising nearly overnight.  Tourists to China eat a variety of foods while the population eats 95% rice.  The children eat at school, the parents at "work."  Tourists are allowed/taken/guided to various approved places.  The average Chinese person is not allowed access to these places.

The "idea" of all of this piled up, is still affecting my life.  None is "bad," I am just blown away by the vast difference of cultures.  And I find myself worrying about Lin Yuhe.  By the standards of her culture she is very protected.  What will she do with all of these (and more) contrasts?  Will she be allowed to keep and wear her Cowgirl outfit?  Her Mama said that she's shy and doesn't come out of herself at school or on the bus ride home, until she's safe and secure in their apartment, where she is a talkative, vivacious, full of giggles kid.

I'm isolated.  I live and move in tight little circles.  I raised my children in this place of indulgence, excess, an unparalleled lie really.  I do not have the $$$ to visit this place!  I work IN it, not unlike the Chinese workers.  My kids have all grown into workers.  We are part of the web of working people who create places like N. California where the morbidly rich come to wine and dine.

I'm guessing it all works.  Obviously.

I am one who has always looked to betterment: I work for "It," I long for it, I push towards it.  I want to improve my diet, my mind, my environment, the global environment.  I want to improve my neighbor, too, and I want them to improve: for the good of all the animals, and the mountains and the rivers.  I want to improve my vocabulary and how my dog behaves.  I want my cats to improve, the tomatoes and cucumbers to be better.  I want the rivers to run cleaner and cars to be cheaper.  I want to drive a 427 Shelby Cobra, just once rip it up lay rubber on some long, straight stretch of asphalt.  I want my children to be happy and healthy and to work on their own improvements, thus carrying on more and better improvement...

and so, with an eye on the clock, I am going to leave you to your own improvements.

See where this has taken me?  What is with all the improving?  What, really, is improved?  I do not live in a cave, but sometimes I kind of appreciate that possibility.  Saturday I was riding in the cab of the tow truck, whizzing along above the pavement rushing below me.  My discomfort made me acutely aware of how I like to have the engine in front of me, not sit on top of it.  The driver of this truck was a young man, a nice young man.  He was very skillful with the whole towing gig.  As he maneuvered the truck, with my precious, bright red SUV on the bed, through the on and off ramps of the freeway, he simultaneously fielded and sent texts on his (smart!)phone.


Sorry.  I couldn't dream up a photo to go with this post.
I do love you.  Loving you saves me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pen Pals

China is a long ways away from California, but you would never know that watching these two become acquainted.   This was a dream come true for each girl.  They have been Pen Pals for almost a year.  Lin Yuhe writes in Chinese, and her mother translates and writes the letter in English.  Annie writes and draws amazing pictures.  Lin Yuhe is 9 1/2 years old, and Annie is 6 1/2.

My long story for the day was that my car wouldn't start, so after towing, Judy and John gave me a ride to the festivities, where I was to be the Photographer.  They just happened to have picked up the current foster kittens, and Judy brought them in for the girls to see.  Lin Yuhe was not sure what to make of this, as she quickly discovered that the little black cat had claws!

They didn't want to ride in separate cars, so Lin Yuhe climbed into the truck with Annie.  They just wanted to soak up every moment with one another.  It was inspiring to watch the girls communicate with very little shared language.  Lin Yuhe could say "Ice Cream!" clearly; her Mom told us that she had eaten it every day since her arrival in the United States, and this day was no exception.  She also ate at least three S'mores after dinner!

Annie's Mom made the girls bags.  Lin Yuhe's was filled with gifts, including a Cow Girl outfit!  Gifts were exchanged at every turn of event, and I am just now feeling a little inadequate!  I didn't have one gift for anyone!  Not only that, but I forgot, rather, didn't even think to take a photo of the adults! 

The day was long and so full.  We had many discussions of what it is to be American, and Chinese.  A dinner was planned carefully to include typical American food, and of course, since we are in the Wine Country, several wines were included.  The ideas expressed and shared have lingered.  We are still comparing, and looking up things.  It is clear that not only was this an important event in the lives of the Pen Pals, but for the families as well.  

What a day!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

...a deposit left by some former radiance

Keep fresh before me the moments of my high resolve.

Despite the dullness and barrenness of the days that pass, if I search with due diligence, I can always find a deposit left by some former radiance.  But I had forgotten.  At the time it was full-orbed, glorious, and resplendent.  I was sure that I would never forget.  In the moment of its fullness, I was sure that it would illumine my path for all the rest of my journey.  I had forgotten how easy it is to forget.

There was no intent to betray what seemed so sure at the time.  My response was whole, clean, authentic.  But little by little, there crept into my life the dust and grit of the journey.  Details, lower-level demands, all kinds of cross currents -- nothing momentous, nothing overwhelming, nothing flagrant -- just wear and tear.  If there had been some direct challenge -- a clear-cut issue -- I would have fought it to the end, and beyond.

In the quietness of this place, surrounded by the all-pervading Presence of Spirit, my heart whispers:  Keep fresh before me the moments of my High Resolve, that in fair weather or in foul, in good times or in tempests, in the days when the darkness and the foe are nameless or familiar, I may not forget that to which my life is committed.

Keep fresh before me
The moments of my high resolve.

(From  The Inward Journey by Howard Thurman)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Browsing morning

Some may call it foraging:  I love to stroll around the Back 40 for breakfast.  In past lives I was the "Gatherer," and it seems that some one else did the "hunting," anyway, I hope so.  Or maybe I did, because I have an uncanny knowledge of how it is done, the gutting, the skinning, the carving, the curing.  Today I prefer peaches.  Tree-ripened.

The berries are plentiful and delicious this year.  Yes, they make the best breakfast.  This afternoon I intend to begin the picking in earnest.  Last year's 5 gallons was not enough!  I cannot say no to a Blackberry Cobbler request, that is just how it is.

This row of beauties has materialized since yesterday!  They are called "Yellow Leopards" and are an ancient yellow bush bean.  So far, they look amazing and strong.  The packet says to enjoy them in all three stages: green, semi-dry and dry!  I cannot wait.

Of course, no garden is complete without its volunteer zucchini.  Here it is, blooming furiously with many little zucchinis in there.  Some eat the blossoms, but I cannot bring myself to this, it just doesn't seem right.

These last two photos are what I want to celebrate with orchestra and trumpet!  Butternut squash.  I see why in many First People cultures the squash is a symbol of all that is good and well.  The vine is lush, the blossoms prolific, sensuous, laden with sex and pollen.  Have you ever stopped and watched drunken Bumblebees waddling over the squash blossom parts?  Mercy.

Then there is the ever-present spiral.  Tendrils.  Tender tendrils.  Fuzzy.

This squash patch was not looking all that great a few weeks ago.  It was yellowish and feeble looking.  I mulched the hills with oat straw, and very quickly they shed the helpless look and took off.  They are slipping beyond the mulch, looking like they want to head out to the orchard and lay their fruit in the grass.  I am indulgent.  Go ahead, hide Butternut squashed all over the place.

I was going to post about 'hidden beliefs' because that's the subject which has been bonking around in my alleged mind. Seems that the pull of the garden is much more better for now.  Maybe later the bonking will make its way out of there...later.

Happy day to you.  Blessed breakfasts.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Apricot Morning

It is an amazing process to process your own food.  Growing up in the backwoods of Humboldt County, I learned how to can at my mother's elbow, and my Grandma Annie's.  Two different approaches, let me tell you; undoubtedly my own application is a mixture of these two women.  I do remember standing on a chair next to either one of them, leaning over the sink with the heady responsibility of holding a paring knife in one hand and picking up an apricot with the other.  Grandma Annie was lenient, allowing me my  mistakes and awkward arrangement of the halves in the jar.  I loved putting the pit in the bottom, so the whole jar would taste better than if it were left out.  Canning created an incredible mess, or so it seemed to me.  Everything from me to the back door would be wet and sticky, and so hot!  Of course, the fruit is ripe in the summer, and the stove, boiling pots, hot jars and all the activity made for a really hot little girl.

Maybe that's why the long walk down the hill and across the fields to the river didn't seem all that bad.  Seriously, what an idyllic time of my childhood.

I never noticed before, but her head and tail seem to be synchronized:  To the left.  To the right.  My Luna Girl.  Always willing to help out in the kitchen.

She loves to be a part of conversation, the coffee ritual, the snacking ritual.  The only thing she does not like, with passion, is the vacuum cleaner and the fly swatter.  No.  She has never been hit with it, in our house, and she came to us at eight weeks.

Happy Apricots to you!
I have guests on the way... 
Oh boy oboy ohboy!
I love you.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Summer is here!

These are keepers.  The bookshelf is dusted and rearranged.  And I could never part with these old friends.  The craft book is newer, but hey, it's pretty essential.

This morning I went over to my son-in-law's shop and retrieved jars out of his storage.  Mercy!  It was as though I were on a rescue mission.  Curious.  It thought that I'd cashed in the canning ritual.  For what, I'm not sure.  I guess for simplicity.  Or here in California the fruit is so incredibly expensive, and there is no U-pick.  I know when we moved down from Oregon in the spring of 1989, I was still reeling from having lost Dad, moving twice by the time summer arrived, and exhausted from starting our business and tending to six kids, the youngest turned two a month after we'd gotten here; canning seemed tortuous.  Why bother?  Anyways, I moved at least 150 various quarts of stuff from peaches to tomatoes.  And I just never started up again, until last year when I made a few experimental batches of jams.

Picking up a jar is real familiar.  Hello.  Hello.  Oh, look at you, yes.  You held peaches:  Veteran's.  Those were to die for, and I went overboard and picked 200 pounds.  Even the farmer was impressed.  Of course, canning them was a two-day process which involved all of the girls.  That was the day that Seth crawled to the park by himself, two blocks and across a busy street.  Goddess.

Here it is:  #1 batch of apricot jam.  Oh does it smell good.  A new approach to an old ritual, I am noticing that I am liking this morning of putting things by.

It won't be too long before the blackberries are ready to pick!  And the elderberries.  Maybe I will go whole hog, and pick peaches!

I love you.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I love you.

Now let's give energy of love and gratitude to all
the living creatures in the Mexico Gulf by praying like this...

To the Whales and Dolphins,
Fishes, shellfishes, planktons, corals, algae
and all the creatures in the Gulf of Mexico
I am sorry.
Please forgive me.
Thank you.
I love you.

The prayer is from Dr. M. Emoto.  I love the creatures.  Sea Turtles have called to me since the moment I discovered them in an encyclopedia at school, I was about seven years old.  Their faces are what do it, I believe.  Once when I thought I'd die from a broken heart I went to Hawai'i with a group of women, on a quest of sorts in that each of us brought our bruised souls.  At one point we went swimming in the Bay (Oh I wish I could remember and then spell the beautiful name of the Reserve) where dolphins and sea turtles swam and the Hawai'ians keep High Watch.  When I had given up ever seeing one, and was slightly pickled from staying in the Bay for so long, I made my way towards the steps out.  A large turtle swam between me and the steps, turned its magnificent head and looked me right in the eye.  "Come with me.  Let's swim." I heard the words clearly.  I followed it, I could have reached out and touched it, but I didn't.  I swam with it, close to its side.  We swam in the infinite place of no time or space.

My kitchen has been scrubbed within an inch of its life.  The windows sparkle.  The laundry is done.  The cookbooks are dusted and re-shelved.  Two bags of cookbooks, miscellaneous recipes, and pamphlets from the fairs are dusted and packed to take to my girls.  I found one nasty looking black spider which may have been a male Black Widow.  Note to self:  disturb that shelf more often.

This Mosquito Eater is on the back porch, in my little weird palm tree from Trader Joe's, which also was given the once-over (yes, both the palm and the porch).  It's lucky I didn't see it sooner.  Of course I would not hurt it, as I really love things which dine on mosquitoes, yet I have a startlingly crazy jump-mechanism, whereby I go sky-high at sudden sightings of bugs, snakes, etc etc.  

No, don't know who this is.  I love them in the sense that I want them to be safe and happy.  It is odd to have them bopp-bopp-bopping in my back yard.  They appeared to disappear into the fig tree.

I am in love with the Elephant Garlic.  In the next few days it is going to be spectacular, though to me it already is.  This is one of my favorite pinks.  I wish I could draw that, well, maybe not, since photographing it is intensely satisfying.  Accept.  Allow.  Cherish.  Thank you.

And I thought that these wouldn't make heads.  Silly!  Falling in love with a future dinner.  Hmmm.

Figs are singing the get-ripe song.  Long, hot afternoons make for happy figs.

Here is a thought for you.  I found it this morning: our minds have a tiny view of the world, and that view is not only incomplete but also inaccurate.

There are only two or three human stories and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.    ...Willa Cather

Of course they do, since each is an individual, and for instance, I have not experienced Willa's experience, even though her writing at times makes me wonder, or think that I have.

As I am roughing out the outline of my personal narrative timeline, I am at the same time saying the Prayer which is at the top of this post.  While I am speaking to the Gulf of Mexico, the words are clearing me, making me a clean vessel for the vision and image of a restored  Gulf.  This all seems kind of complicated, but I am knowing that this process is the basis for my painting, for my writing, for all of my creative expression and living.  I am compelled.  I am.

Have a wonder filled day.

Thank you.  I love you.
script type="text/javascript" src="">