Week 26

 June 25, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photos of Halima

There was a clatter: We were awakened predawn by crashing and thrashing. It got us out of bed. I discovered a torn paper shopping bag caught in the opening of the cat door. JM checked in the garage. When he opened the door, Charley came out. Thinking it was Charley who had somehow been tangled in the bag before ripping it off, we returned to bed. I got up shortly afterwards and noticed Halima’s collar on the hall floor. I checked for her in the garage. There on our old Saarinen table she lay crouched. I picked her up. She struggled little. Around her abdomen, the rope-like handle of a brown paper bag. I could not pull it off. I rushed up to the kitchen, grabbed scissors and took Halima and the scissors to the bedroom. JM held his girl and I cut the bag handle loose. She bolted. Several hours later she, still in trauma, walked with her body and tail low to breakfast. Halima is our sweet, gentle, good-natured girl, and it distresses us to see her even a little upset.

Halima slept all morning and far into the afternoon. It seems she got little sleep last night. Who knows how long she had been tangled in the bag as she tried to break herself free. We found the travel gifts we had bought, which had been in the bag, scattered around the living room and beyond. Poor baby. But she, in mid-afternoon, finally seems to have settled down. Cats love bags, small and hidden places. That love of the cave sometimes gets them in trouble.

June 26, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo of bird’s impact tatto

TATTOO: We have put stickers on our picture window, but it appears we need more. While JM was sitting next to the big window, a brightly colored parrot crashed smack dab into the center of it. The stunned bird sat on the porch briefly before flying away. It left behind an ‘impact decal’ (an impression of its body & feathers), something we’ve never seen before. We have done things to lessen bird window deaths. I’m still considering placing a thin net between our columns to prevent future window collisions. The city, except for pigeons, is a dangerous place for birds.

(NOTE: Tuesday. We worried about the colorful bird that hit our window and wondered if it were someone’s escaped pet. A neighbor on the street below us found the stunned bird, posted it on the neighborhood website, found the owner and returned it to them. It seems that the accident of hitting our window saved its life. JM will let the owner know, via website, of the bird’s accident. We suspect it has concussion syndrome.)

June 27, 2017 – TUESDAY

Photo: Halima on silk jacket

Airing: I have more than one bad habit. (“Every day in every way, I’m getting better and better.” I wish.) Some bad habits were formed for good reason. Halima is curled up on my silk dress, a dress I wore last night, then hung out over a drawer I pulled out so it might ‘air.’ I am obsessive about smelly clothes, and if I am not putting an item I’ve worn directly into the laundry, I like to ‘air them out’ before returning them to the closet. So my study has last night’s dress ‘airing.’ After an item ‘airs’ I return it to the closet and typically hang it inside-out so that I know it has been worn and is not ‘clean.’ It’s a habit, maybe a neurotic one.

Perhaps I got my obsession with clean clothes and clean-smelling clothes from my mother. Mother used to say that she did not want her house to ‘smell like an old person’s’ house.’ She said that because so many old people’s houses smell bad. After a college roommate visited me in my parent’s home, she commented on the fact that our house smelled good. My friend said lots of people’s houses smelled ‘off,’ but my home smelled good, inviting. I had not noticed the house’s odor — good or bad. It was simply the smell of home.

One male college friend of mine, a very nice handsome boy with clear face and pink cheeks, smelled. Or as my dad said, “No. He stinks, you smell.” (The saying, “I smell, you stink.” ) I thought he stank because he did not shower. A friend of Michael’s too. After we married, I asked JM about that friend’s hygiene habits and his bad smell. (I had wondered how his wife could have endured the smell in the dating of him.) JM said others also had noticed his bad odor, and the consensus was that our friend showered, but that he returned well-worn clothes to his closet without cleaning them. The smell of worn clothes penetrated every item in the closet. It was not his body per se that stunk, but the clothes on it. When our friend dressed in his suit, the stench was particularly strong. Perhaps, hoping to save money, he rarely, if ever, had it cleaned, or it had kept company far too long with the unwashed.

I prefer clothes that I can wash to clothes that have to be dry-cleaned. I like to wear an outer garment only a couple of times before cleaning it, and I trust water and soap more than harsh chemicals for the cleaning of clothes. There are two kinds of dirt, water-soluble and oil-soluble. If a washable item has oil-soluble dirt, rather than wash it in the washer, I take it to the cleaners. However, sometimes the dry cleaner is not able to get out oil-soluble dirt. Our new Miele washing machine is getting out oil-soluble dirt which dry cleaning did not remove. I always feel that water-washed clothes are cleaner – even if they are not. Washed or dry cleaned, closet clothes are stripped of bad odor before they are returned to it. If I smell, no, if I stink, it is not the fault of the clothes.

Our cats like to experience life vicariously. They like new smells (odors). When we bring in new item into the house, they experience the outside world by sleeping on it. And this morning I found Halima experience my excursion to San Francisco, via the dress I wore. The dress, I suspect, has my secure odor, but more, the odor of where I had been. If Halima could not go with me, she did the next best thing, she visited the place through the odors that clung to my garment. To a cat, the world is a garden of odors and unlike my preference, the smellier the better.

June 28, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo: the tire

The Chilling: It was HOT and now it is NOT. When the FOG rolls in, as it has done since the heat wave, it hardly feels like summer. It may feel like summer to those who grew up with it and FOG means summer, but for those of us who grew up in areas of the country sans summer fog, FOG signals some other season, certainly not summer and perhaps no season at all. I welcome the FOG at night and rely on it for deep-sleeping, but I want it gone in the morning and want the day’s temperature to be ‘just right.’ But, the weather, like nature, is not subject to personal whim. Today, after weeks of not biking, we will bike along the bay in the cold, not cool fog.

Peter is walking with a cane. The pain in his back is causing mobility problems. Before the back pain he typically biked 30 miles a day. Richard, a thin friend of JM’s is in the hospital with heart problems. He walks 10 miles a day, or more, yet his body has not responded to his quality exercise. Even thinner Michael T., who engaged in a lot of physically demanding work in his profession, is literally treading lightly, so painful it is for him to walk on worn knees . JM and I wonder what more one can do. Perhaps it is not just what one is doing now that is causing health problems, but what one did in the past, or perhaps it is the genetic dice that played out, or perhaps it is time. Days will wreak havoc on all. Time claims all, and often before Father Time claims us, the calendar, which gradually gave us skills as we grew into adults, now claims what it gave. Our skills, both those of body and mind, are waiting to be harvested by time. We get ripe, we are ‘perfected’ and then we rot. Mother, who lived past 98, said her friends had been stripped away, her life had been stripped to the bone. That stripping has started in our own lives. We see it in our own bodies and minds and in those of our friends. Entropy, all systems winding down, but why do those systems exist in the first place?

We met Peter at the dog park, started biking. Michael called out that he was feeling unsteady and stopped, thinking he was having some kind of ‘episode.’ It was not him or the ground beneath his feet that was unsteady (no shaking of the earth, no quake). It was his bike, or rather his bike tire, the tire he had filled a few minutes before, gone flat. Relieved he was that it was the tire and not his body ‘gone bad.’ Peter rode off after concerned talk of a friend whose cancer seems to be getting worse and hopeful talk of another friend who is recovering from cancer surgery. Peter’s aged parents are chugging along, while his contemporaries (and ours) are struggling with health issues. The body is a marvelous thing, but in many ways more delicate and less enduring than we would wish.

June 29, 2017 – THURSDAY

Photo: ceiling crack

The opening: The ground beneath our feet seems substantial, yet it shifts and heaves up and rips apart. Earth shakes and reconfigures, but endures. We have spent at least $100,000 structurally upgrading our home. There is more to do. The roof rafters need to be tied down to the walls and a new roof plywood diaphragm installed. Even without that being done, our house is better engineered than most in the area. We have prepared the house, or almost completed preparing it for the big, inevitable quake, but nature is large and what we have done can easily be undone. We live a mile from the gigantic Hayward Fault, one of California’s biggest faults. A quake struck shortly after we returned from our trip. I thought it a small, close quake. It was both. The crack in our living room ceiling we had had repaired has appeared again: opened, expanded and lengthened. If repaired, it will return. The earth will shake and move. There is no stopping it.

June 30, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photo of Santa Fe & St & Innsbrook

UP-KEEP: George is working in the yard. I’m working in one of our studies. Paper, paper everywhere. I sort. I look for information. I need paper, a specific paper, a site survey to help design the replacement hill retaining wall and I cannot find it. As I look I run across an article on Hohensalzburg Fortress (said to be Europe’s best preserved and biggest castle), Salzburg, Austria.   JM & I visited Salzburg a few years ago, and the castle. It is a town of music (Mozart lived there & there is his annual festival), but the physical city, except for a few places, we did not warm to. We loved Innsbruk but found Salzburg wanting. JM & I like to walk, especially in old cities. Innsbruk ‘felt right’ and Salzburg not. I’ve decided that overall I’m not a fan of the ‘Renaissance’ architecture and art as I was conditioned to be. I prefer walkable Medieval cities and the period’s flat colorful art. After graduating in architecture, if one had asked me my preference, I almost certainly would have said, Renaissance architecture /art and that it was of ‘higher’ quality than Medieval. What my head tells me I should like better, I do not. Overall I like Medieval better. And, here in the US, I find I like the Southwestern ‘vibe’ better than that of virtually that of any other area of the country. Why? I like the ‘feel!’

I read the Salzburg article that talks of the castle, local attractions, the Alps in the distance and then threw it away. I’ve been there, done that (lost my new hat at the castle) and was glad to have visited the city, but, except for the music and the cemetery, the city did not win my heart.   Love is a peculiar thing and like beauty “is in the eye of the beholder.”

July 1, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photo: of market

What could possibly be wrong with him?” :  We played poker with Berkeley friends, foodies one and all. The host is a fabulous cook, who combines exotic ingredients in unique combinations, providing his guests with literally once in a lifetime experience. Tonight did not disappoint. His soup, as good a soup as I have ever eaten, his own creation made with roasted tomatillos, onions, corn, tomatoes combined with chicken broth, shrimp. It was a meal in itself. He also had fresh tortillas, plus carnitas and mushrooms and cabbage for filling them for a Mexican-themed meal. Amazingly good. He’s cooked for local trendy restaurants and overseen the kitchen of a Berkeley food establishment, so is no stranger to the making of quality meals, but at home he develops dishes so challenging that few restaurants would include them on their menu.   A meal at his home is always an adventure, something new or a twist on something old. The other players, when hosting, make exquisite meals, and they, unlike me, know their wines and their ‘whiskey.” One friend at the table is making her exit from the poker group and Berkeley, having just sold her 2-bedroom Berkeley bungalow for a few dollars shy of $1,000,000. She has houses and property in the Central Valley, the other California, and will return cash-in-had to her childhood community. She will miss the local food scene and is considering the growing of this or that exotic vegetable on her property, something that would appeal to the Berkeley set.

We talked little of politics, but talked much of food, of the selling of the home sale and about our Grand Lake neighborhood farmers market. The Berkeley foodies consider our farmers market to be the best farmers market in the East Bay, and, in spite of their own good markets and stores catering to their taste / or caring quality foods and produce, they shop at our farmers. Our market, they said, should be treasured and maintained for if management of the market were to be changed, the market would not be nearly as good because our market’s management group is the best in the business. If anyone understands food and markets they do. That is why our departing friend, when she heard that a neighbor is trying to oust AIM as market managers asked, “What could possibly be wrong with him?” What could be wrong indeed? Besides his personality quirks, one thing could be wrong. He likely has no clue about really good food and he has almost certainly never eaten a meal as good or as exotic as we ate tonight. The would-be destroyer of the market, his desire has little to do with the quality of the market, but much to do with his desire to exert power, or in this age of Trump, I should say, his desire to bully others and to control for the sake of control.

And the winnings tonight, Peter’s idea, will all be given to charity. Peter the cook, the big winner will select the charity. I’ll put my money on it going to a local food bank or Meals on Wheels or the like.

 

 

 

 

Week 25

 June 18, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photo (?????? potato salad photo, don’t like?)

Some Don’t like it HOT: It was hot last night and the night before and will be tonight. They predict hot days to come. Where is the cool Bay weather, the weather I need to sleep well? We have no air conditioning. We have not needed it, but now with global warming we will need it. We have some screens on windows, but none on the doors. We need screens on doors because we are not letting this batch of cats out to wander as they will, and because of that we cannot open our doors to let what breezes there are, in. If the heat is to continue, we must have screens for our doors.

Michael and Peter are off to see a A’s baseball game this afternoon. I will boil potatoes and eggs; dice celery, onions and pickles to make my mother’s potato salad for a potluck movie at friends tonight. Mother’s potato salad is the best I’ve ever had and likely the best ever made. — not hyperbole, a fact and not a fake fact.

June 19, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo of linens drying on line

The Wash: How much laundry can one generate? In my case, a lot. I wash our dishcloths, sponges and dish towels separately and hang them on the outside line dry. Hot water cleans them well, but sun and fresh air disinfect and bleach.   Now dried, gathered and ironed, they are stored in kitchen drawers, waiting again to dry dishes, glasses and pots and pans. The cycle repeats.

June 20, 2017 – TUESDAY

Photo: petition for market or market

Trumpesque: Trump now resides in Washington, but our neighborhood is resplendent with little Trumps claiming what they did not do and harming what good things they can, all for the sake of ego.

A decade and a half ago (maybe 2 decades ago) we – a group of neighbors (Nancy Rieser, Caroline Kim, Laural Haas and a few others), Michael, columnist Peggy Stinnett and I – worked together and saved a small park from developers. Our councilman said that park should be given to developers because the park, bisected by an unnecessary soft-turn lane, was little used. To counter that claim, a group started a farmers market in the park, and that resulted in the highest per person per square foot use of any park in Oakland. The farmers market, in effect, ‘saved’ the park.

After we ‘saved the park,’ a man who supported the councilman giving of the land to LA developers claimed to have saved the park and to have started the farmers market. He did neither. The couple that suggested the farmers market as a way of saving the park wanted the ad hoc farmers market committee to select their market friend to run our local market. We selected another market manager because their friend’s market was a farmers market, but hardly a sophisticated one. They were upset with the committee’s choice. Fast-forward: Our farmers market is highly successful, but the couple with the original market idea still want their friend to manage our neighborhood market, and the man who did nothing, but claimed everything, wants to create his own market (& presumably take the profits it generates). For almost 20 years Michael and I never corrected the erroneous claims of our neighbors. The park was saved and the market a success. What was the point? Our market has repeatedly been voted the outstanding market of the East Bay, but THEY do not like it and say it is too busy, that THEY only want farmers and that THEY would give the City more money for running the market on City land than the current management team. Those neighbors seem to believe themselves to have done what they did not do, to represent the community, which they do not represent. They seem to believe that an organization with lesser skills than the current farmers market manager can run a better market. They believe, without experience or expertise, that they can do better than what our farmers market group has done superbly.

I spent a good part of yesterday writing a rebuttal of the Trump-esque groups false claims and today sent off memos to our mayor and council. But one thing for sure, in this day and age, those who make up facts and proclaim untruth to be truth, seem to have the upper hand and are believed when they should be discredited. In spite of the fact that the untruth tellers seem to have the ear of council representatives, JM and I are now working to preserve a good thing, our farmers market. That market has helped to revitalize our neighborhood, and our once empty business streets, every day of the week are busy. The successful farmers market is the primary reason our street once lined with boarded up buildings is now a thriving business district. Why destroy what has been done and done well? Egos or delusion? Likely both! The cause does not matter, but preserving the ‘premier market of the East Bay,’ by preserving the management team does matter because the vitality of our neighborhood depends on it. So after a decade and a half, we are once again trying to save something that we believe is important to our community. The fight is on!

June 21, WEDNESDAY

PHOTO: Gin & tonic

Nothing: A day of nothing, no obligations, no commitments of any type. What will be done will be done. Nothing is planned, preplanned. I will do what I will do and that will be that. I am glad for this day of nothing.

June 22, 2017 – THURSDAY

Photo: photo of patio stones w/ stepables

The doing: Today a busy day. I was to attend an A’s game with JM and his friend. I opted out this morning. I’ve already been to two games this week. George came over and spent the day working in the yard. I did housework and computer work. I had intended to work with George pulling up weeds that have grown between our patio stones. As a child I spent a summer on my grandmother’s farm. A neighbor asked if my sisters and I could help weed a field of beans. Mother said yes, and that day in the bean field taught me that weeds are hardy, hardier than ‘wanted’ plants. My childhood day in the bean field remembered as I make plans to ‘weed out’ the unwanted and keep the stepables. And those stepables, some are a bit too hardy even if they are not weeds and need culling too. Not today. Another day George and I will work a section at a time to cull. It is hands and knees work. I wish I could use a hoe, but in such small spaces precision is needed.

June 23, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photo of fog on the hills

Fogging: Cold at last. Cold at last. After the sweltering heat, I welcome the Pacific fog. “Roll in” I say, “roll in!’

June 24, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photo of singers

Over the bridge to San Francisco for a concert in which Elfrieda Langemann, soprano, performed. The concert was held as part of the Sunset Music and Arts series at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation on 29th Avenue in San Francisco. The voices pure and gorgeous. How does one describe such beauty? It did make me wonder if some humans were descendants of birds. And as I listened, I wanted such talent for myself and wondered what it must feel like to open one’s mouth to song and create the sounds they created. Such talent as the singers (and piano player) possess should at their display be very well attended, but in the Bay Area with so many venues, this performances was missed by many who would have found it thrilling. It was a concert for a few. “Sing on. Bravo! Bravo!” I would hear more.

 

 

Week 24

 June 11, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photos: oasis, pride & buildings

Almost over:  Before we leave for home via Barstow, we spend the morning touring Flagstaff, Arizona. The town is surprisingly delightful, and like San Francisco on this day there is a ‘pride’ parade. After a picnic lunch, we drive though the desert, past a gas station that looks like an actual oasis – gas, it turns out, is a buck and a half more expensive per gallon – and by countless trucks on our way to our destination one sleep away from our own bed.

Where American cars lack color – they seem all white and black and gray – truck cabs come in more than rainbow colors and all bright-shiny. Car colors are boring, but trucks are now the jewels of the road, at least on this almost “Route 66.”

Truck colors:

  • Red: red-pink; red-orange; crimson; fire-engine red; cherry red; chili pepper red;
  • Yellow: Bright yellow; lemon yellow; mustard yellow; gold;
  • Green: Kelly green; emerald green: yellow green; chartreuse;
  • Orange: bright orange; fruit orange; pale orange; terra cotta; rust;
  • Blue: baby blue; pastel blue; navy blue; royal blue; cerulean blue; and
  • Black, Brown; White and Silver!

In one short period in which I counted truck colors, I saw: 52 Blue; 12 Brown; 50 White; 72 Green; 7 Black; 1 Orange; and, 18 Red truck cabs.

The evening brings a pastel sky and a meal at the “Big Bear” or some such place, a restaurant where bad food is piled high. “I’d like better and less of it! Thank you very much.” And those horrible young voices starting with the waitress that are creeping across America, here, everywhere here. Again, “Get me out of here!”

Sometimes my eyes seem a Google camera, taking in all, the good with ugly. Some shots I would keep, but the minds images fade and then I wish for a Google photo.

June 12, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo: or front door, Hills ????

Arrival: Inhale (oh, sea level air and OXYGEN). Exhale (relax, home sweet home).

June 13, 2017 – TUESDAY

PHOTO: bad food on the road & cat

The Return: Yesterday’s descent: Why is the drive north more beautiful than the drive south? Why the difference (or perceived difference) in beauty? How can direction make a difference? Somehow it does.

Yesterday a long drive from Barstow, California, to Oakland. The drive beautiful through golden hills, hills that were emerald green when we entered the state and made our way on a drizzly day to Oakland on March 1, 1980. Over those hills, electrical power towers, between the hills aqueducts full of water, water from dams, water carried, all at taxpayer expense to farmers, farmers who post signs protesting water rationing. They would have all water to themselves and seem to have cared little for fish, the fish that spawn in streams if there is water and then make their way to the ocean, grow and return, providing livelihood for fisherman. As a result of the drought, fish stock dramatically declined. Fishermen did not fish and lost years of income as a result. Yet farmers thought the water theirs, only theirs, and the fact that fish needed fresh water and, because its lack, fishermen lost their livelihood was of little concern to them. During the worst of the drought, the farmers were uninterested in sharing, thought only of themselves, demanded more water, pumped water out of the aquifer with little heed of tomorrow. Their tattered signs attacking the US Congress lined I-5. But as Thoreau said, “Who hears the fishes when they cry?” Farmers did not. Citizens felt the fish’s’ pain (and the farmers) and cut back on water usage so there would be water for farming and the fish. (We reduced our water usage by 50%.) Yet the lack of water was not, it seemed, blamed on the worse drought in over 5,000 years, but the lack of water was blamed on Congress, the very Congress who had built damns and aqueducts so farmers might farm an arid landscape in the first place. What help farmers got from the government was deserved and water for other purposes they resented. They were owed. Others did not count.

We arrived home in the late afternoon. Our cats seemed delighted at our return. Just as we had altitude legs, we now have sea level heads. Both JM and I found ourselves dizzy. I felt as dizzy as I had after I cracked my skull on the edge of my glass desk. The gash was stapled but dizzy days follow the stapling. Today, again, my body felt top-heavy, my head a giant watermelon. Holding that melon in balance took some doing. Neither JM nor I developed altitude sickness on this trip, but altitude did affect us with loss of appetite, dizziness and an inability to sleep well. After two weeks at high altitude, we had not anticipated that adjusting to sea level would be an issue, but both of us feel top-heavy, unsteady. Too much blood in the brain – or less because more oxygen in the blood? And then there are the spots on my abdomen, spots that are between a blood blister and a freckle. I suspect they are the result of broken capillaries. Did they burst at high altitude? Did capillaries burst in my brain, too? That makes me wonder if there is a higher per capita occurrence of strokes at high altitudes?

June 14, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo: Oskar on sofa back ?????seed jewelry; suitcases bath lint???? Seed pot

Joy in Place: Suitcases emptied (& supply suitcase restocked). Laundry done. Cats in need of attention: laps provided; ears scratched and hands clapped for play. Purrs and meows and cats dashing wildly through the house, up and down stairs, all suggesting cats are welcoming us home.

We slept well last night in the cool Bay air. The cats slept with us, and Charlie’s loud purring reassured us that he remembered. “Be it humble, there is no place like home.” And we missed our cats and they us. Through the day cats attach themselves to our suitcases and packages, requiring us to change the order of emptying. We sorted and resorted, but tomorrow more sorting to be done so the cats still have new places to sleep.

We saw many a pretty pot on our trip, but none more beautiful than our perfectly made seed pot that we bought in Northern California. I’ve spent hours (over the last few years) looking for the pot’s artist and finally found her.   She is a Mexican potter, Maria Acosta, a potter in Mata Ortiz, a small ‘art’ pueblo in Chihuahua, Mexico. Borders cross tribes dividing people and people cross borders sometimes understanding that what is now possessed by others was once theirs.

I hold our pot, exquisitely formed, a tactile pleasure, fascinating graphically and a visual delight. On its bottom, a snake within a fish, the artist’s ‘signature’ animal indicating it uniquely hers. I hold the creation and marvel.

June 15, 2017 – THURSDAY

Photo: Hamilton

BIG DAY: We have almost finished unpacking. Laundry completed, but ironing yet to be done. It is good to be home. Routines started: Cats fed; Coffee for JM; Tea for me; Newspapers in and read; E-Mails viewed & sent; Sweeping & Dusting; Flowers watered, and……. life is filled with untold tasks demanding attention, tasks requiring time, but, done, make the living of life more pleasant. Home we are. Here we know where each turn leads. Here we respond to the movement of the sun, opening and closing windows and shades, following the sun about the house through the day. Other places are grander, but none more intimately known than this, our home.

We were going to attend the Warriors victory parade, but the Oakland Museum, where we planned to watch from its roof gardens, was not to open (apparently others had the same parade-watching idea), and that resulted in us deciding to watch the parade on television. I’m not fond of crowds partially because I am short, and I can see only the back of the heads in front of me and little of the event taking place on the street. It’s claustrophobic. In today’s parade, although short, I might have seen the players riding on top of double-decker busses. Basketball is a ‘tall sport,’ but someone thought of the short among us and placed the players high up for all to see, but alas I did not know how players would travel the streets, so decided to enjoy the parade just a few miles from my door on television. JM and I once celebrated New Year’s on Melvin Belli’s yacht. We went out onto the boat’s deck to look at the fireworks on the Bay in front of San Francisco’s Ferry Building. Melvin watched them from the comfort of his chair, in the boat’s living room on his big television screen. We laughed, thinking it odd that he chose to watch on his TV the fireworks just off his bow. But, like him, here today rather than experiencing the event directly we watched the electronic version instead. There is a disconnect between an event and its media portrayal.

Late in the afternoon we dressed for the theater and rode BART to San Francisco for Hamiliton, the musical. (The tickets were expensive and JM said it would have been cheaper to exhume the body.) I’m not sure why it is so good, but it is. There on stage, talent, deep talent. A more perfectly staged production I have never witnessed. It was amazing!!!!! Even the original production of Les Miserables in London paled by comparison. On the stage eminently talented people. Each represents hundreds, nay thousands, of individuals as talented, people who, for whatever reason, never are recognized for the talents they possess, while others claim fame and fortune with lesser gifts, and they spend lifetimes with unexpressed, unrecognized talents. What a waste. Life, we understand, is not fair.

After the show, fans lined up to see the cast members exit. They have talent, and Hamilton provided an opportunity to showcase it. Enjoy the adulation. You deserve it.

Greg and Joanie, Michael and I saw Hamilton because of John and Mary Jane, who, last December, when procuring tickets over the net failed, put their bodies on the street and took turns waiting in line for an entire day to get our tickets. We appreciate your time, your endurance and thoughtfulness. Tonight, I hope you found what you did for us worth your while. Unfortunately, I likely would not have done the same. Thank you!

June 16, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photo of fireworks

Glories of the night: The Oakland A’s beat the New York Yankees for the 2nd time in two days! Goooooo Aaaaaaaaaa’s! And after the game, fireworks, glorious fireworks. If I were rich, truly rich, I’d host them nightly or maybe weekly. Fireworks are ethereal – they burst into beauty – luminous color and light – there, gone. Is it art? Likely. The sky a museum.

June 17, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photo of Vernors

Baby it’s hot outside: We thought we left the heat when we left the Southwest, but here it is. It has followed us home, and we have no air conditioning. What to do? JM suggested a Boston Cooler made with Vernors ginger ale and vanilla ice cream. The one good thing about the heat is the cooler, its taste and its memories of my Detroit area childhood.

 

Week 23

 June 4, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photos: flowers, cotton snow balls, lunch

Surprise in Santa Fe: We had breakfast at a local ‘down home’ eatery, an establishment with ‘real’ art and kitsch. They sold fine wines and hard liquors. It was a cross between a high-end grocery store and 7-11. After breakfast we moved to the Inn on Alameda and walked downtown past open-air markets, and installations of art everywhere we turned. We visited the ‘Indian art market’ located under the covered walkway in front of the Spanish governor’s palace. And walked down side streets and into courtyards with vases full of bright paper flowers, multi-hued umbrellas / doors / windows / displays and even ladders. I bought a ‘rainbow’ hand-loomed poncho. We found a courtyard café, ate a leisurely lunch under a giant cottonwood tree, preceded, of course, with cold cocktails. I had coconut mango cold soup and JM a wasabi crab/avocado salad. We split a 5-way peach dessert. JM kept saying how he loved Santa Fe, loved it because of the adobe buildings, the bright colors, the food, the art …

Five years ago we were disappointed by Hawaii. It had been over-promoted. Perhaps we would have liked it more if the water temperature had been swimmable. We like the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico’s water for swimming, but the beaches of the Pacific we’ve visited have been too cold for a pleasant swim. Hawaii was visually attractive, yet we were not charmed by it. Santa Fe charms us. It is far more than we expected and we feel at home here. Our colorful home, if it were adobe, would be happy with its neighbors. We even have ‘snow’ in June. The cottonwoods drop ‘cotton’ as if it were snow. There are balls of it our on our balcony.

June 5, 2017 – MONDAY

Caterpillars

Down to Earth: We drove to the mountains for a hike, a hike at 10,000 feet. We found hordes of ‘army’ caterpillars pulsating in giant ‘web-nests.’ I tried taking a video, but could not get my camera to record a movie. There were butterflies and flowers and a wide road to the top. We walked less than a mile. Out of breath, we turned around and headed back to the car. A couple we met on the way to the car were from Denver (the mile-high city). They said the altitude was too much for them because they had not yet acclimated to the altitude and they live at half the height of this place. JM and I returned to town, stopping for lunch on Museum Hill, then afterwards visited the Native Art Museum. We exchanged one kind of altitude for another, high meters for high art!

The museum complex on Museum Hill, its buildings, its layout, its sculptures are impressive, but we were more impressed with the exhibits than the buildings. Afterward the museum we visited the museum shop. I found a necklace I loved. It was hand painted pottery and multi-colored. The only color I love more than red is multiple bright colors. I inquired about the artist and the cost. It was selling for 4K. I knew it was nice, but it was nicer than my pocketbook! A table displayed dozens of colorfully painted feathered wood heads & birds. I found one head particularly appealing and photographed it. I checked the price, $200, and put it down without a word. Michael, who had been in another part of the shop, stopped by the table, picked up the piece I liked and bought it on the spot. He had not seen me look at it. I tried analyzing why I liked it more than the other similar pieces and decided that it was the only piece that was asymmetrical and that had drawn me: a horn on one side and ear on the other. I was surprised that JM bought it, but was, of course, glad that he did. It seems that in some ways we have similar artistic sensibilities. One contemporary Native American artist we both liked named Frank Buffalo Hyde painted conceptual art pieces, pieces with iPhone images of images, rather like the concept I conceived just months before at a jazz concert.

We had planned to spend the day hiking, but altitude being what it was we instead exercised our aesthetic natures. Dinner under yesterday’s big Cottonwood tree, selected by JM because the restaurant served sweetbreads — which he loves.   We usually exchange plates during the meal. That way we are able to taste twice as many different foods, but tonight, he shared not a bite saying, “I don’t get sweetbreads often and I like them more than you.” He does not know that, but I did not correct him, the man who, without knowing it, bought the wood head I dearly wanted.

June 6, 2017 – TUESDAY

Photo of $1,000 throw, church

Can this be true? We did our usual touristy thing, walking around town, visiting old buildings and squares, and photographing. We stepped into a Catholic church filled with art, and I thought of my Protestant background where churches had no art. Anti-Catholic sentiment stripped out not just the Catholic rituals but also the art. Life, for Protestants was to be simple and pure, based only on the Bible, that holy book, and so they removed art and complexity from their places of worship. My mother’s family had been high Lutheran (one grandfather a Catholic had priest brothers), Protestant, but not purist, and her childhood church had decoration and color and stained glass. I have an affinity for bright places and enjoy the color and iconography some of my ancestors abhorred.

While walking down retail lanes, I find a turquoise throw I love, a chenille body with a multi-color ribbon fringe. I want it, but we have a sofa in need of reupholstering and a concrete wall to build. I touch the throw – it feels as beautiful as it looks! – and photograph it and get the name of the creator, but do not buy it. It is still on display in the window when I walk past the shop in the evening. Oh, I desire it. Oh, I would have it.

We visit a spice shop to buy Southwestern spices for our cat sitter. It is the nicest spice shop we have ever seen. They have various vanillas, all manner of spices and pre-packaged spice blends and mixes, mixes to make mustards and gin and soups, sauces, nuts, dried corn. Loving foods as I do, the shop makes me want to open my own spice shop.

We walk along the river and notice that picnic tables are placed in a kiva – like shaped spaces. The plan is subtle and likely few notice. We walk on to Canyon Drive, a drive with more art outside of buildings than even the downtown area. There in one gallery JM finds a colorfully designed chest he’d like for our hall. I find tall metal and, yes, bright-colored garden stakes I want. We walk by a several-acre display of fountains and wind sculptures, sculptures whirling in the wind. I want a couple of the fountains and JM a couple of the sculptures. There are huge hunks of petrified wood and stone benches and building corner art and wall art and sculptures of every size and shape and we would have this and that and …. But we have neither space nor cash for the beauty we see and must be content with a photo of the objects we so covet. We’ve never been in a place where we desire so much, where we like the forms and color of building and objects as we do. Halfway up the street, we are overwhelmed and stop by a historic building, sit on a porch swing and look out onto the historic garden. The house and garden are of this place, but of its past. Nothing is for sale. It is a spot to simply enjoy the place and the time and the history and the beauty. We swing in the cool shade, delighting in the yellow columbines, as beautiful as any piece of art. They draw our eyes and the bees.

After a long day, we bath, dress up and meet our friends Matt and Lyle for dinner at the Compound Restaurant. The place itself beautiful, the meal goes on for hours with good wine, food and pleasant conversation. We have spent a delightful meal with kind friends, a delightful day from first to last in a sophisticated place which JM & I both like very much.

June 7, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo of: park @ sunset through flags, street cat & canyon drive…

Our walk continued: Lunch at the Tea House on Canyon Drive under a fruit tree. (Surprisingly, stone fruit trees seem to thrive in this environment.) JM has wine and a pork / polenta soup. I have green tea lemonade with a lox bagel. Starting at the far end of Canyon we walk down the street towards where we ended the walk yesterday. In two days we’ve manage to walk both sides of the drive. In this place both art and architecture appeal to our aesthetic sense. The terracotta stucco palette and the painting of doors and windows are similar to those of our own home. We literally selected hundreds of colors and painted several dozens colors on our house before we got the colors and a combination we liked. We should have visited here first because the colors on Canyon Drive are very similar to those we selected.

For well over five years I’ve pondered staining our porch columns multiple colors. I have hesitated to do so. (Our one neighbor does not like our house colors, and I worry that she’d freak out if we add more color.) But one downtown art museum has multicolored SW columns. I love them and hope these columns have given me the courage to get out the paint! Walking by an old hotel, JM & I admired the lively painted bollards. The parking attendants heard us, invited us into the hotel and suggested we visit the lobby. We wanted to buy a cocktail, but decided to save it for another night.

At sunset we walked downtown. There were moments we could imagine the Santa Fe of centuries ago as we sat quietly in the square eating Haagan Daz ice cream cones bought at the Black Burro Café. Although we love our Oakland and SF Bay Area, California, there are things about Santa Fe we like better. I thrive on color and art and beauty, and here we walk though art and beauty and color all at once. We miss Lyle and Matt, but they did choose a beautiful place to live and perhaps if we had family ties to Santa Fe as Lyle does, perhaps we’d settle here too.

Lyle has beautiful roses. I’ve never been a fan of roses (although some are very hardy and we favor hardy) because, like hearts, I seem them as clichéd. Lyle has beautiful roses, and all over town one finds the beautiful climbing flower. What can I say. Who can argue with beauty?

June 8, 2017 – THURSDAY

PHOTOS of hanging peppers & G Ok

The most famous woman in town (or state): It took some doing but we found Abiquiu and the tour headquarters for the Georgia O’Keefe home. Her home is a lovely sculpted building with a most magnificent view out her bedroom window. To have fallen to sleep or to have awakened to such a scene would have inspired anyone to become an artist, or in her case continue into old age. All over her home, rocks. My artistic mother loved rocks and I do, too. We both had rocks all over our homes, but O’Keefe had even more rocks than both of us combined – perhaps rock indicates an artistic gene? As a child, I’d bring home rocks from trips and got upset when they, out of water, lost their color. I used to write on the rock where it was from, but found the writing did not stick, so as I love a rock, I often love it in spite of the fact I have forgotten its pedigree.

After visiting the O’Keefe home, we visited Ghost Ranch, the location of her other New Mexico home. She had an eye for beauty and an eye for choosing magnificent sites for her homes. She, it seems, needed to be surrounded by out-sized beauty. Even if one were not a fan of her art, surely they must envy where she made it.

My mother, who ended her life in Florida, woke early so that she could walk and enjoy the out-of-doors before the heat of the day. O’Keefe, we were told, did the same and likely for the same reason. In the afternoon, JM and I hiked a couple of miles up a high rocky path, but, as on other hikes since leaving home, we turned around before the trail ended, exhausted by the altitude and heat. We drank plenty of water, but the going still was rough. We met a young man who grew up in the SF Bay Area, hiking with his pre-teen son and he told us his young son would like to have walked more, but they were returning to the car so that his wife and daughter would not sit too long without them. Perhaps he was being considerate. (He did offer us bottles of his extra water, so that is likely.) And perhaps, unlike us, he needed an excuse to cut the hike short.  It was a hot day, hot beyond hot and those of us from sea level found the heat and the altitude together a challenge, and on this day we did not take up the challenge.

June 9, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photos: capital, old church, house, etc

Ending: Our last day in Santa Fe. We met Matt and Lyle at a touchy-feely museum; the objects in the ‘private’ collection are to be experienced up close and personal. They are there to be not just seen but touched. However, we found ourselves hesitant to touch, shaped by the restrictions of other museums, but we did touch some objects. Host Bruce gave us a personal tour of the museum and told us of its history and philosophy. We found him interesting and liked his comment, “Art depends on Audience.”

Earlier in the day we visited the Folk Art Museum on Museum Hill in which an exhibit collected by a single man filled an entire wing. He spent two years arranging the exhibits, folk stuff from all over the world. It overwhelmed us. We left after a couple of hours with sensory overload. My mother could spend an entire day (and I mean from opening to closing) in a museum. My brain cannot handle it. I burn out easily, too much beauty or information for my neurons. If I stayed longer I’d likely develop ‘Stendhal Syndrome’: “hyperkulturemia, or Florence syndrome, a psychosomatic disorder that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to an experience of great personal significance, particularly viewing art.”

Early in the afternoon we took a leisurely walk around the state capital, which like the City it is in, was filled with art: art on walls; art in halls; art in the lobby; art on the grounds, riot of art. New Mexico’s capital makes California’s capital building seem barren by comparison and makes me want to increase our own capital’s art.

We visited the oldest house in the City, which is now a shop featuring art from the state, and the oldest church in the City. The guide claimed that it is the oldest church in the United States because the church in St. Augustine, Florida has not always been a church. Language is a slippery thing. The church is old, may not be the oldest in the US, but it is old and was built on top of an older Native American structure dating to 1300 AD. The structure itself is whitewashed adobe with a timber roof, but the pulpit end has a floor to ceiling brightly painted altar piece as well as painted furnishings.

Our last stop before dinner, a shop of a friend of our friends. It is a place of my dreams, walls of red and green and blue, cabinets of fuchsia and yellow on which are displayed objects of color and whimsy. I wanted the Noah’s ark, the possum with babies hanging from its tail, the long-eared rabbit, the rooster, and the blue cat carrying some strange prey. The shop specializes in Mexican, Central American and South American art, but, like so many places in Santa Fe, it is museum too.

Goodbye Santa Fe and our once Berkeley friends. We found it a memorable visit!

June 10, 2017 – SATURDAY

Frida & Santa Fe & painted desert & petrified forest

Obsessed with Frida: We leave on JM’s birthday, again this year spent on the road – South Africa four years ago, Germany three years ago, Nova Scotia two years ago, Normandy last year – on the road that leads home. YELP helped Michael locate a Flagstaff restaurant for his birthday supper, where we anticipated dressing for the occasion. We had plenty of time and decided to stop by the Spanish Colonial Museum to see a Frida Kahlo photo exhibit. JM is a BIG Frida fan. It did not disappoint, and he could not resist buying more Fridas for his ‘Frida shrine.’

We drove and drove though miles of beauty, beauty of wide open spaces, but the nature of those open spaces varied: vegetation different, soil color different, geology different and the sky in relationship to the earth different in each new ‘environment.’ Lunch was an ice cream cone. Other than that we drove non-stop until we took a detour at the Painted Desert / Petrified Forest National Park. We disembarked at each stop and walked around the overlooks. The vent of an ancient volcano is surrounded by red hills of the Painted Desert and although a desolate landscapes it has been inhabited for at least 13,000 years. Impressive.

We continued into the Petrified Forest National Park, stopping at petroglyphs – Newspaper Rock it was called because there are so many — with its friendly crow. We drive, we walk, we drive, we stop and at windy Blue Mesa we walk, walk for a few miles until we get thirsty. We forgot our hats and water in the car. Otherwise, finally acclimated to the elevation, we would have completed the loop. What were we thinking? How could we have started the hike without water? I suspect the beauty drew us. We followed the path, without thinking, simply because it was there and did so in spite of the fact that the wind blew wild, so wild that JM worried that it would carry some small children off the cliff. (Many of today’s photos displayed my blowing hair.). And the wind also created dirt-devils, spinning mini-tornadoes, which carried red earth hundreds of feet into the air.

We made it to Flagstaff and the restaurant shortly before the last seating. We, who had planned to dress in elegant attire, sat there in our sweaty clothes and my hair, knotted by the wind, gave me an ultra-casual look. JM said if we had ‘dressed up’ we’d have looked out of place. Most patrons were casually dressed, but less casually than us. The food was quite good. In fact, the bread was a good as any I have had anywhere. Well it was almost as good as the bread we ate in the south of Africa. We ordered cocktails and were glad to enjoy a respite after a long day.

The bill arrived and JM told the waiter it was wrong and he might want to correct it. Our drinks (cocktails and wine) had not been included. The waiter delivered the accurate bill prefaced by, “Wow! You are really honest!” We saw no need to ‘stiff the place.’ Thank you YELP for helping locate a great place for a special birthday meal. On the comment card JM wrote, “We are such god awful Cali food snobs, but even by our standards, fine food!”

We had taken more time that we likely should have in the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Parks, partially because years before we had arrived at the park late in the afternoon and a ranger swept us out of the park. If we stopped for a view, he’d come up behind and flag us on and because of that we saw little of the park, but we arrived at the exit about an hour before the park was to close (perhaps he’d had a long day). The ranger, it seemed, wanted all out of the park early maybe because he thought us ‘petrified wood’ hunters, because we were driving a rented car. Today there was no ranger hurrying us on and we stopped and hiked, but if we had remembered hats and water, we’d likely have walked further and never have made it to our lovely dinner. We would have liked hiking longer, but we enjoyed ending the day with Michael’s celebratory birthday dinner. “Happy birthday my love, my dear friend!”

Week 22

No new computer, not yet! 

May 28, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photos of Bay hills / highway & meat

Departure: We made a hurried exit and shortly after leaving home we drove past hills we sometime hike. The green is fading to golden brown. We had hoped to see the hills in their emerald splendor, after years of drought, this Spring, but time slipped away and we saw none of the rain-bestowed glories of our local hills.

The I-5 drive is long and hot, blast-furnace hot! JM described it as ‘the hot empty.’ The sky is enormous. Smog pushes up against the distant hills. We stop at Harris Ranch for lunch, the place we stopped in 1980 when we moved to the state from Georgia. (The smell of feed-lot cattle precedes it by miles.) The food is not as good as it was on our initial foray into the state, and the waitresses now speak with that dreadful valley girl talk – high pitched, nasal and ear-shattering. I order ‘tri-tip’ and get a plate with only tri-tip. Well, Harris Ranch specializes in beef and I got a plate of their beef. JM’s meal was extra large, and I did not go hungry or without vegetables.

The pot-holed road seems endless, and now along that road oil wells pumping and new windmills churning, something encouraged by President Carter to break our dependence on Middle East oil. They have finally been built, but built long after Carter’s presidency and in spite of Republicans.

We are spending the night in Barstow, and the voices of the television newsreaders, all bad. They are from LA, and those in LA seem not to be concerned with what is said and how it is spoken, but concerned with only the view, that of a beautiful young woman. If they would only keep their beautiful mouths shut, then maybe I’d be inclined to watch the news. Get me out of here! I can take their shrill, nasal voices no longer.

May 29, 2017 – MONDAY

Photos of trains, red formations & sunset & motel

The Road Taken: The road goes on. Mile-long trains stretch out across the horizon. We drive through California’s hot dry landscape with its distant jagged mountains rising from low yellow-green plains dotted with sage and cacti under a baby blue sky with wisps of clouds. Those clouds seemed painted lightly with a flip of an artist’s wrist. Around Kingman, the tops of hill-mountains seemed cinched-in by columns. The sky sometimes felt like a blue roof. The towns we did see seemed of a kind, strip malls clinging to both sides of the road, Anytown, USA. JM said following what others have done “eliminates the need for judgement!” One stretch of landscape seemed playful: red rocks tossed about like marbles strewn by some giant hand.

We drive on and on toward Sedona, Arizona in the heat. The highway is testament to the heat. The roadway is littered with huge strips of black shredded tires peeled off of wheels by hot asphalt, and to me they seemed out-sized caterpillars. On one stretch of road there was a miles long ‘back-up.’ Driving on our side of the highway is slow but not stalled. We try finding a place to eat. YELP is no help and there is nothing at the address, nothing ‘there there.’ We thought of ‘Steak and Shake’ that used to have good hamburgers and shakes. JM said of them, “They started doing everything and then nothing was any good anymore!”

The trussed electrical towers along much of the route I though of as giant headless men, while Michael saw them as stylized cat faces. We continue the drive, continue on and on and then on some more. As we approach Sedona, traffic slows to a crawl, traffic heading south to Phoenix, winding its way through Sedona, slowed us down. We finally get to the city, but the Sedona of 35 years ago is gone. In its place a sprawling tourist town, but of its setting JM says, “Oh my god. It’s amazing!” Still the cliffs are as beautiful and red, even if the city seems to engulf them. Our motel, buildings gracefully set in a garden, lies atop a bluff from which we viewed the sunset. We would return to the city to stay again in such a pleasant place. We walked to the airport restaurant for cool cocktails and a delicious meal and just over the fence the airplanes of the rich and famous.

May 30, 2017 – TUESDAY

Photos: chapel & ugly house

Birthday: My older sister Mary celebrates her birthday today. The first time without our younger sister Lois to call with a happy birthday song. Mary’s birthday was always Memorial Day until they changed it to fall always on a Monday. Birthday wishes to you Mary, and Lois is now but ashes.

Money, money wasted on the ugly, the super ugly; money destroying beauty while the owner believes he has created it. On our way out of town (Sedona) we stopped by the Chapel of the Holy Cross, subtly built, gracefully built under red bluffs, and from there we looked out onto one of the ugliest structures I have ever laid my eyes on. The house so completely ugly it should not be termed a house lies below on top of the rounded stone formation it destroyed by its building. That structure destroys the view of the valley and the hills and towering pinnacles beyond. Who could have built such a place? The architect who designed it should have had the fate of the one who designed Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow, Russia, so hideous is it. That architect of St. Basil was made blind by the Czar to keep the him from designing a more beautiful building. The architect of THAT house should be prevented for conceiving of and/or designing another monstrosity. I who love color, I who love rounded forms, could find nothing redeeming about the building below in spite of the fact the structure has curves and color. We were told that the man who had it built invented Lasik surgery. Why improve anyone’s vision to behold such ugliness? The building is hideous. The house is physically repulsive. It is tastelessness without bounds. It should be torn down. The ruins could only be an improvement. Why have money if one cannot spend it well, but then again, the man of no taste might believe that what he had created is lovely. He has eyes to see but created complete, unrelenting ugliness because he cannot distinguish between beauty and not beauty. Good vision cannot make one see the difference. As I view the deformity, I wish the Fountainhead architect would do to it what was done to the ugly buildings in the novel. Atomize it, rid the landscape of that great abomination. They could not have made it uglier, built uglier, if they had tried. They, I believe, strove for beauty, but it was not in the vocabulary of client nor architect. Here in this beautiful place it is a witch’s wart, one that needs to be removed. I would look around at the beauty, but like a wart that draws the eye, the wart-house draws my attention. I must leave and we do and travel around cleverly designed traffic circles with curbs of lovely color as we leave town.

Canyon de Chelly, Navajo Country: No building in this valley ancient or new offends me. We forge streams; travel down rutted roads surrounded by red towering cliffs though a valley once inhabited by various ‘Indian’ tribes. We view petroglyphs and ancient structures and young people camped under a wide overhang near an ancient pueblo dwelling. Just as in the outback of Australia where aboriginal people created outlines of their hands, those same hands (some outlined and some drawn in white) are here, too, painted on red rocks.

We almost missed the tour. Arizona is not on daylight savings time, but the Navajo nation is. JM researched the time zone but failed to catch that fact. Thankfully he left an hour of flextime, which allowed us to arrive just as the jeep loaded up for the tour. The canyon valley, a place of red waters and green trees, is magical. I would have remained longer, but a 4-hour tour is tiring. I did see up close and personal my first cliff dwelling. An emotional experience as we heard the telling of how our American predecessors marched the valley’s inhabitants away, killing them along the way, to claim this land for their own, which chilled me to my bone. It is a pretty place with a sad history. We humans have a great capacity to do damage to nature and to each other.

May 31, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo: Canyon de Chelly & 4 corners & blue valley & tin buzzards

This place reminds me of Carole King’s song ‘Clouds – I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down and….’: We drove around the rim of Canyon de Chelly. How different the cliffs look from above compared to below. Same place (almost), but different. At one stop I bought a piece of petrified wood from a young Navajo woman studying engineering in Texas. We could have spent the entire day on the canyon’s edge, but we had a long drive ahead and left after viewing only one side.

Point Divided: A point is a point. It cannot be divided mathematically, and yet it is divided here at this spot, Four Corners. All at once we are in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. If we were not in Navajo territory we might wonder what law applied. Touch the point. We did. We were in all 4 states at once.

Humans have divided the world by latitude and longitude and surveyed the land, calling out place in relationship to them. The division and measuring done so we might understand the world and literally our place in it.

Place is a construct, not a real thing, but nonetheless survey lines are the bases on it, laws declare it, so it is so. Something that is nothing is something. I am here, but there and there and there and all are here. What a construct!

We arrived at Mesa Verde, Colorado, after passing through the town of Cortez, where steel buzzards topped a tin building, those buzzards dissecting an auto. Who could resist? We turned back to photograph them and were glad we did. The physical landscape gorgeous and, here in the human landscape, a touch of whimsy.

We arrived at Mesa Verde in late afternoon: Above navy blue sky; in the distance navy-colored rain pouring down on a deep navy valley; and this place, not green, but dark blue. Beauty was expected, but not the color.

June 1 2017 – THURSDAY

Photos of pit houses and cliff houses

Bucket List: I had a bucket list long before I’d heard of a “bucket list.” High on my list, seeing the ruins of Mesa Verde. Today we toured the remains I knew existed and those I knew not of. We toured not a single ruin, but several. The cliff dwellings all located on the North face of the canyon, placed there to gather the Winter’s sun and to protect from the Summer’s rays. In a matter of hours we traveled through eons of history. We climbed up and down stairs and rocks and ladders. They must have been an agile, sure-footed people, both those who inhabited cliff dwellings and those who occupied the mesa in dugout huts.

The House as Sacred Circle: Their round houses – kivas – with long thin entrances had plans similar to burial structures in Crete and Greece. As a biologist / architect I thought the ancient Mediterranean structures shaped like a uterus / vagina. These structures, some sacred, are no different and it appears that the ancient buildings I walk among today were once matriarchal communities and each circle contained a spirit hole through which spirits came into this world. The building speaks of creation of life and perhaps of the female body.

Whatever the origin of the building plans, they were built in a singularly inhospitable place, a dry, hot, wind-swept place. Here the ancients hunted and farmed and gathered and built. The remains speak of human labor of unceasing labor. They built. They built burrowing into the ground and in hollows of cliffs almost certainly done to moderate extremes of the climate. They lived almost like animals in dark burrows, and like them brought air in low, expelled it high to provide needed circulation. They lived hard lives. Their numbers grew in spite of their short lives and high rate of child mortality. They were old at 30 (a female’s life-span) and 40 (a male’s life-span) and died with worn kneecaps and rotten teeth.

One wishes for a long, healthy life in which to love and learn, but life’s length is relative. By the standard of those who lived here hundreds of years ago, I am ‘ancient,’ but my knees and my teeth remain strong. And as I stand among the stone and mud dwelling I wonder how many lives were lost to gravity and the stone canyon.

Virtually 100% of the park has burned in the last 30 years. It takes centuries for the trees to grow to any size. A variation of a degree or so in the average temperature does have an immense effect. Global warming is not without consequence.

June 2, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photo: large rainbow & cliff dwellings

Near and Far: We visited the ‘Long House’ this morning, a well-preserved Anasazi cliff dwelling. Last night I dreamt of falling into the canyon as I drifted off to sleep and came to the conclusion that the ancient inhabitants of the rocks had not climbed up and down on a daily basis the shear cliffs using the carved indentions that still remain. If that had been their only means of access to their homes, the stone would have been worn deep, like steps at some Ivy League college. Those handholds, I believe, were there as an emergency escape ladder. There had to be stairs and ladders and rope drops carrying goods and people. I think ropes and hoist were used to transport things down from above and up from below. The energy expended climbing up and down vertical rocks carrying goods would have been too much for a community to sustain itself. There is always an energy balance, and if more energy is required to maintain a way of life than is available, that way of life will cease to exist. The cliff dwellers disappeared. Was their infrastructure destroyed? The burning of rope bridges, the dismantling of stairways, could have made the living in the walls difficult if not impossible.

Today, a young archeologist, spoke of what I had thought was necessary. He said that goods where lowered and raised in and out of the cliff settlements by ropes — down and up the cliff face. A 300-foot long rope has been discovered, and he thought that evidence of a delivery system. I suspect there – somewhere – are the remains of timber hoists (or indications of their existence) planted deep in the ground, which would have aided the lifting and lowering of goods. If I were researching the area, I would do infrared or other aerial photography, to look for them and look too for other evidence of access. I suspect that what the guide thought were water locks going down into the canyon are actually elongated stair paths that lead down (and up).   They were not located near any field but were adjacent to the path we clambered down to reach the cliff dwelling. I think I might liked to have been an archeologist. Alas, life is too short to do all one would like to do.

And then there were ancient trade routes — goods from South America and the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico and from North and East. The cliff people’s numbers were small, their culture might have been isolated, but still it had contact with a larger world.

We gave our afternoon tickets for a tour of another cliff dwelling away so that we might arrive at a decent hour in Santa Fe, New Mexico. On the way we stopped outside Durango at the Kennebec Café because as a child I lived on Kennebec Street. The Café was lovely and we ate the first ‘edible’ food we’ve had in days. The food we’ve eaten since leaving Sedona provided calories and little else. Some of it was on the verge of inedible and some was actually inedible!

On our way to Santa Fe, we drove through low plains, through towering eroding red, white, black and layered hills. I shot photos through windows as we drove. I wish we had had time to stop. Every turn seemed worthy of a thoughtful photograph. And the sky, the glorious sky, dark blue (and sometimes gray) in which a wide, wide rainbow base formed over one hill, the largest swaths of bow color I have ever seen. Green plain leading to white mountain against a black one. STOP! STOP! STOP! Stop to take in the beauty, but we had no time to do so and moved though it as if in some grand gallery were about to close.

We arrived at our friends’ grand gated house (3 to 4 times bigger than ours and certainly more beautiful) and drank refreshing margaritas. They prepared a glorious meal, set it on a wide wood table which overlooked Santa Fe and the mountains beyond at dusk. The table was set with flowers and candles and wine and pottery dishes, one containing 3 small dishes each with a different color of salt. If we had not know it was Santa Fe, we might have thought we were somewhere in the Hollywood Hills.

June 3, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photos: Lyle in her studio, pottery, studio art, side of building, trump with money falling from the sky, …

Unbelievable: JM said of Santa Fe, “A beautiful place to live.” To which I responded, “The sky is a large part of the beauty.” One sees not just the clouds, but also the rain they deliver, which JM likened to clouds “kissing the earth with moisture.” We both respond to the color of the place, its oranges and turquoise and blues and warm browns and light greens. The rounded forms of the buildings and fences and walls reminded me of the forms built from the red earth of my native Congo.

Our once-Berkeley friends drove us around town and to art galleries. One gallery had an installation of ‘salt-glazed’ pots. JM and I instantly knew they had originated in North Carolina. Before we left for Atlanta, Georgia, and my entering the architectural program at Georgia Institute of Technology, the Aumans, N.C. folk potters, offered us a place on their land to create our own pottery establishment. Dot Auman told me of a South Carolina potter who had my surname. I now know that was a relative because the Landreths and the Owens (folk potters) married some generations back, and I am part Owens, so the love of earth goes back generations. If we had accepted the Auman’s offer and become potters, that pottery installation might well have been created by us from that North Carolina clay. Had we become potters, we would have lived a different life, but not necessarily better. We would have made art of the earth of that place, our beloved North Carolina.

I lived in mud houses and was likely born in one. Mud is in my psyche, if not in my blood, and here in Santa Fe the buildings formed of mud (or the appearance of it) makes me feel at one with the place. While a student of architecture, I created sculptural buildings and was repeatedly scolded by a professor who insisted, “buildings are not sculpture.” He made me throw out my sculptural structures because they were not building. He was wrong, so very wrong.

And we enjoyed time with our friends, missed since they left the Bay Area. The money they have they have spent on a lovely ‘modern’ home, a home of light. We’ve known plenty of prosperous people who live in huge ugly homes and fill them with tacky possessions (rather like our now president), who seem unaware of the ugliness of their surroundings. Our friends’ home is beautifully sited, is beautifully built, nestled behind vegetation on top of a hill with beautiful views in every direction: north, south, east, west and above. Michael said of the house, “It is like staying at a high class resort and an art museum combined.”

I’ve visited buildings which photographed well but were experientially ugly, unpleasant to be in, even oppressive to be in. I have often wondered why some buildings photograph well but feel horrible. A building is a 3-dimensional experience. A photograph is 2-dimensional. Because of that, buildings should not be judged as ‘good buildings’ based only on photos. Buildings should be judged and voted as ‘good buildings’ only after those evaluating them have physically experienced them. A photo may make beautiful something that is not. Sight is an important aspect of experiencing beauty, but a building is more than what we see, it is a spatial experience, and as such our whole bodies experience space. That experience is a holistic experience, not one of a single sense. We see it; we feel; we know when we experience a great space, a great building. Surfaces and glitter may be there without a building being artful or beautiful or good in any way. Our friends house (like my parents house) has glass blocks and sliding doors and wood and picture windows. Its spaces flow one into the another and out to the out-of-doors. The home is beautiful to look at and to be in. The house is filled with light and bright colors and beautiful objects. We are glad to see money being used – in our opinion – well, used to create an every day life of beauty. JM & I say to them, “Lucky you to live not just on a grand scale, but to live artfully in an art-filled environment.” The house and its appointments of a piece, beautiful spaces, beautiful design, beautiful art (some visual art made by the owners who were once ‘word-smiths’) and what would photograph beautifully feels good too. It is a place to experience life fully, a place where all senses perceive the surroundings!

There is so much physical beauty in Santa Fe (even the highway overpasses are in color and festooned with art) it hardly seems surprising that a house or the City itself has art at every corner or that the buildings themselves are also works of art and color. We live in the Bay Area with its own kind of incredible beauty, and I want my city also to emphasize the beauty of place by bringing art into its heart just as Santa Fe has done. Our friends lived in a beautiful house in Berkeley, and its garden, rather like an oversized Japanese garden, was strewn with giant native rocks left there by nature. They now live in yet another well-designed home, and we know its selection was no accident. “Live long and prosper,” we say and they do.

WEEK 21

Photos to be added later – computer problems persists

 May 21, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photo of new blue shoes

Steps: Summer heat. I put on sandals or walk in my bare feet. Saturday two girls walked across the stage to get their diploma in bare feet. Michael said he wondered what that was about. I said it was a celebration or perhaps a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, the epicenter of which was only a few blocks away from the university in Golden Gate Park. (Or it might be a statement that the cost of the degree has left them shoeless and in debt!)

I bought shoes for this summer, blue shoes, and both my new blue sandals and blue Paul Green dressy shoes are comfortable and stylish. My feet are stylish outside of the house. We remove our shoes on entering, and some individuals when visiting bring along their slippers. I tell visitors they do not have to remove their street shoes, but many do. Our gardening shoes are just outside our front door. I suppose that declares our habit. My mother had the entire family remove shoes prior to entering the living area of the house. Shoes were all right on the landing and in the basement, but not inside of the house. The practice of removing shoes makes for less gritty floors whose surfaces stay nice longer. When I visited the farmhouses of relatives, there was a ‘mud room’ with a dipper in a pail of cool water and on the floor field shoes in a long line, left there prior to entering the home. I wonder how many centuries the tradition has existed in my family. Shoes are for the wide world and slippers or bare feet for the house.

May 22, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo of flower-flame

Flaming beauty:   Ringling Brothers Circus is no more, and soon those who remember it gone too. Memories of my sister Lois are waking me early. JM has been grading student papers for days, grading all day long. He reads them carefully, comments on them and comments more. He thinks that most students take no note of what he has done. He is likely correct. JM is funny and clever and sometimes I think I should walk notebook and pen in hand when talking to him because funny, thoughtful things roll off his tongue, but I laugh or comment or both, and soon forget his specific cleverness. Life moves swiftly, my recall is limited and if I don’t write it down, its gone!

In late afternoon Michael and I sat on the back patio with our gin and tonics. It’s a restful way to end a busy day. Our dear Raleigh, North Carolina, neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Morse, every afternoon relaxed on their deck each consuming a single cocktail. With drink in hand, we think of them, long dead, and wish that when we moved to Atlanta we would not have lost contact. Mrs. Morse died weeks after we moved. Tom Morse visited us in Atlanta, but he moved, then remarried, and we never saw him again. Tom had been a landscape architect and tried to convince me that, with my biology degree, I should enter his field. Perhaps I should have followed his suggestion. He critiqued and made suggestions on my application to architecture school, but as much as he liked my building designs, he kept encouraging me to become a landscape architect. I, lover of nature, should ‘design with nature’ and create parks, not buildings. He had loved his work. He had been the head of North Carolina State Parks system and later oversaw for the Federal Government the parks on North Carolina’s coast. He told us how he hated the Army Corps of Engineers and claimed that one of his big accomplishments was keeping them out of the state or limiting the projects they did in the state. Mr. Morse started a study of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a study that took several decades to come to a definitive conclusion. That long study revealed that the Outer Banks were basically ocean sand dunes, dunes made to move, to form and re-form and that meant they should not be built on. Dunes would move, and there was nothing that could be done to stop the movement. Any such project would ultimately fail. Nature was enduring. Structures would be destroyed, roads would be washed away and picking a fight with nature was pointless.

Some days seem pointless. In the end, time, nature claims all. I look over the fence, down the hill and there blazing away a flower, bright orange and yellow, a torch of a flower, especially in low sun. The yellow and orange nasturtiums with their glowing leaves cover the lower hill. Life may be short, but beauty lies within it.

May 23, 2017 – TUESDAY

Photo of leeks in sink

Leek-it: Shakespeare made fun of Welsh and their love of leeks. I’m not Welsh but use leeks, lots of them. They are almost always included in the ‘sacrificial vegetables’ I use in making stocks. Recently I made a leek dish for a party, one that I had made often, but the exact same recipe, delicious when made for family consumption, when made for visitors was stringy and inedible. Tonight I tried a recipe similar to my last failed leek dish, but this recipe called for leeks to be simmered in water for eight minutes prior to grilling. If leeks are young enough, the simmering step is unnecessary, but not growing leeks myself, I can’t count on a tender bulb. Our dinner leeks were charred, tender and not fibrous. They were also delicious. Next time I make them, I’ll include the boiling step in the preparation. The boiling step means I can once again, like the Welsh, serve the vegetable to company.

May 24, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo of Charley & Halima

Joy in the morning: I smile at them and JM says their mouths seem to him in a perpetual smile. Our cats delight me. Oskar, naughty boy that he is, always asking for food. Charley seems at times happy and at times grumpy, but Halima seems constantly happy. Halima will sit in our laps in any room of the house, except in the bedroom because Oskar is almost certainly to chase her out of his room, the room where he will sit on JM’s lap. Halima is happy this morning because Charley is letting her curl up next to him. They lick one another and snuggle tight one against the other. Halima follows Charley around the house. She loves us, but she loves Charley more, big Viking cat that he is.

May 25, 2017 – THURSDAY

Photo of handouts

The readying: We are to leave this weekend for a vacation in the Southwest. We are not ready, not nearly ready. This year is Michael’s turn to plan the trip. He has been busy, has done some preparation, but we’ve not talked about the plans yet. It will be a surprise to me and likely a surprise for him also. We had lunch at Dopo’s and talked about mostly caring for our cats, but Michael T. knows of cats and particularly of our cats, but he wanted a refresher nonetheless. I’m to make my list of instructions just in case he forgets something. Our cats like him and even our shy Halima welcomed him when he entered the house. They like Michael T. and when he stays with them, they seem hardly to miss us.

JM is finishing up his grades for the semester, and I am doing the last minute running around that needs to be done in preparation for our exit. Leaving our comfortable home is always anxious-making, but there is much to be seen in the larger world, things that can only be done sans cats. And in preparing for our leaving, we printed out another 500 flyers to save our farmers market and another 110 petitions. I hate that we’ll not be here to let people know of the threat to our great market, but as they say, “It is as it is.” And we start our preparation to leave.

May 26, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photos of dresses Mom made for my doll

Ghosts: “Ghosts are real.” Michael said of my waking early again this morning and continued, “People live in our minds and that part of them is real, is lingering, is the ghost of them.” Why the tears in my eyes when I woke up? They are, I suspect for the Lois whom I miss, for the life she should have lived and for the one she did. I found two dresses Mother made for my Betsy-Wetsy doll given to me the Christmas after Lois was born. The doll and her bottle long gone. I think the rubber Betsy deteriorated, but the clothes, the christening gown and an everyday dress Mother made for Betsy, still among my possessions. I miss Father and Mother and Lois. I remember childhood, my parents and my immediate family. Half of us now dead.

And tonight a wonderful dinner with our friend Caroline at a small Italian restaurant where he had watermelon salad; aged beef tartare; an antipasti platter; pastas of duck, mushrooms and wild boar; a bottle of red wine; coffee; and dessert. It is the most pleasant meal I have had since learning of Lois’ death. I miss her. She would have enjoyed hearing of the special meal. I welcomed a new focus. My day, until the meal, one of overwhelming sadness and tears.

May 27, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photo of market

Ready or not: We spent hours this morning handing out ‘save the market flyers’ at our farmers market. JM and I handed out hundreds of flyers. What we love, a few hate and would destroy if they could, so although we could use the time to prepare for our trip, we have spent time trying to keep an asset we think invaluable to our neighborhood and the City of Oakland.

Our suitcases are packed. We are to leave tomorrow, so this evening we stroke and talk to our cats. We will miss them, but our friend Michael T., a cat lover, will give them good care. They are lucky, as are we, to have someone who will look after them well.

Michael will not teach in China for a month this Summer as for awhile seemed possible. It would have been exciting, but demanding as well. It’s been a sad Spring and we both welcome a break, a chance to relax.

WEEK 20

JM thinks my computer almost hopeless, so next step??? problems w/ photos & … photos to be added later

May 14, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photo of Shasta daisy

Who will mourn her: Mary my older sister called. She spoke of our youngest sister Lois, of her brilliance, of her artistic talent, of her constant battle with health issues. When others would have given up, Lois pushed on. Perhaps it was the difficulty Lois had with coping with her myriad of problems that left her little energy to express her considerable talents or to deal with the living of her life. Lois’ life seemed, for as long as I recall, hanging on a delicate thread. Her body, heart to bone to muscle to mind, endured much. She was physically strong even while her organs were weak. In so many ways she was a contradiction. She with her talents should have made her way easily in the world. She did not. She should have died of heart trouble as a toddler, of smoke inhalation in a fire, in mis-managed medical procedures, of kidney failure and in the auto accident a few years ago that all but took what chance she ever had for a normal life. Michael use to described Lois using an old adage: If she did not have bad luck, she would have had no luck at all.

Mary talked of visiting Lois in her beautiful North Carolina Mountains that she so loved, of seeing in Appalachian Spring’s translucent leaves, leaves capturing one’s attention and the sun’s energy with their chartreuse green. Mary recalled Falls in Michigan with trees of color with that eternal sun making leaves into jewels or panes of stained glass. The sun, the angle of the light in Spring and Fall, created crystallized beauty that left her spellbound. She went on to talk of the inter-consecutiveness of all life, of all things. She waxed eloquent on how humans must take care of our world and not ‘mess with mother nature’ because to do so is to destroy the delicate balance that exist between all things, a balance formed over eons. When Mary said those things, I thought of our similar view of the world, and of the dissimilarity of our personal philosophies. I wonder how, if she believed what she said, she could remain a Republican and even more, how she could have voted for Trump.

Lois was dismayed by Mary’s politics and that of Sam, her husband. I cannot understand with our upbringing how Mary can hold the political views she has. We were raised Republicans. The kind of Republican who, by today standards, would be liberal, believing in: socially equality; racial justice; civil rights; support of first amendment and a free press; public schools; the separation of ‘church and state;’ anti-gun; and sometimes anti-war. Early in our voting lives, all of my parents’ four daughters were Republican.   Esther, Lois and I did not leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left us. Mary is the only one who remains Republican, and, unlike my parents, she is a conservative Republican. The more advanced my parents years, the more liberal their politics. (That has been my tendency, too, and I hope it continues.) Mother at the end of her life opposed her church and voted for gay rights; was abhorred by police violence expressed towards blacks. When she saw the young man Oscar Grant shot by BART police in Oakland, California, she said out loud, and I was in the room to hear it, of the policeman who shot Mr. Grant, “He has a problem with blacks.” She supported Hillary Clinton and voted for Barack Obama.

And at the conclusion of our conversation, Mary reminisced of Lois’ love of the Gulf of Mexico, the birds on its shore, the manatees and porpoises in its water. Because Lois loved it so, she wanted her ash-remains to be thrown into that warm, comforting body of water. I want my body to delivered to the great ocean, not cremated, but food for the fishes – if they would have me. I did not know of Lois’ desire to be dispersed in water, nor did she know of my desire to be dropped into the sea. Perhaps because neither of us had children, we had little need for permanence and desired to be returned to nature to do with what she will.

May 15, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo of answering machine, address book, dwg:

A chill remains: Since learning of my sister’s death, I find myself cold: hands and feet cold, body chilled and shaking cold, even with a sweater. First thing in the morning, the last thing at night I think of is Lois. After my father’s death, each morning for a year I woke in tears. Relationships are partly in the mind, and I find the ending of them, with those I have loved, particularly difficult.

In the past, I have not removed the cards of people who have died from my address book. Somehow to remove them is to symbolically say they are forgotten. I have a recording of each of my sister’s voices on our answering machine. I keep a message from each sister so that, if they should die, I have their voice, ready to hear again. Michael and I still have a phone message from my husband’s good friend Pat, which we did not erase. We have not opened the letters he left us, but his voice there on the answering machine is heard, a lingering reminder of his once person.

May 16, 2017 – TUESDAY

Photo of JM in cap

Habits: JM put on his cap and golfed with his friend Michael T. on Bayfair Island. JM had golfed with his dear friend Pat until about a year ago when Pat died. JM stopped golfing. The sport reminded JM of his friend, but in spite of the memories, Michael, encouraged by his friend Michael T., started golfing again a few weeks back. They now play weekly. It has been good for the two of them getting out into fresh air and sunshine. Both Michaels are endeavoring to play the game as well or better than they had in the past. Scores are less important than the act of playing the game. Death does sometimes result in our changing our habits, of putting things on hold. One’s life is made less by the loss of those we love, but life is there for us to be lived. The challenge is to do it and do it well.

May 17, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo of sweet pea

Blooming: The Sweet pea, the flower of my birth month, is in bloom. Many of our flowers have done well as a result of this winter’s rain, but our Sweet peas (and a few other plants) seemed to have been stunted by the overabundance of water. They are blooming late, the blooms themselves sparse and the vegetation spindly. Still, even in their diminished state, they are lovely.

There will be no bouquet sent to the funeral home where Lois’ remains lie waiting for cremation. She, like the dreams our parents once had for her, will go up in smoke. Flesh is weak and impermanent. My sister Mary said she too wants to be cremated, but she wants a place, something somewhere declaring, like Kilroy, that she has been here. Mary will purchase a stone in a local garden under which she will sprinkle a few of Lois’s ashes. That stone, almost certainly to remain unseen but declaring in some small way, ‘Lois was here. She walked this earth.’

May 18, 2017 – THURSDAY

Photo of cookbooks

I cannot forget: I woke up at the crack of down, actually well before dawn. Thinking of Lois’ death, I could not sleep. Thinking of Lois’ life, I could not go back to sleep. I worked in my study culling papers. JM said, “We have too many papers.” I responded, “We need a full-time secretary.” To which he said, “No. We need a bonfire!”

Michael has his books, papers and teaching notes from his academic years in English Literature. Then there are his papers from his paper years: his years as a journalist (copywriter, writer, editor) in newspapers, magazines and teaching. He has books from two careers and literal paper and electronic ‘paper’ (files) as well. Files and shelves of information. Then there is my stuff, which out-stuffs his stuff: My biology books and papers. (Thankfully I gave away my teaching materials when I left teaching.) My math and engineering books and papers. My energy studies books and papers. My theater books and papers; My books and papers from the study and practice of architecture (a wide-ranging collection of history; design; examples, studies; and technical documents). My cooking library (recipes and files and cookbooks from my mother, grandmother, great aunts; cookbooks on many ethnic cuisines, cookbooks on many food-types; cooking magazines; and, files of collected recipes —- I read on foods and their preparations probably more than any topic. I should have been a chef.) In addition we both have reams of personal things. We have engaged in many activities, but much of what we have done involved research and paper and books. Now to say goodbye to the things that helped us become who we have become and that helped us do what we did is difficult. Our life has been a life of books and papers. Our house is filled with desks. My study alone has three desks; one in the built-in bookcase-file-desk unit covering an entire wall; another against another wall, a single desk unit incorporating the computer desk / files / scanner / printer / architectural files / desk; and my stand-alone segmented glass-topped Herman Miller desk. I love my desk-centric study. Our guest bedroom is no longer a guest bedroom, but has files and, yes, a desk, an original Eames desk, a desk where I study language (Swahili and Italian – good at neither) and sew (infrequently). Our lower study / family room is a contemporary German drop-down desk. That desk was used by JM when we first moved into the house before he relocated to his outside ‘book-room’ with his old roll-up desk so he could work and smoke his pipe. He gave up his pipes long ago, but still does his heavy academic work there. A friend borrowed and recently returned our round Saaranin dining table which now occupies the center of our garage. It too will be used as a desk, but for arts and crafts. Just as we have desks, we have file cabinets, cabinets in my study, cabinets in JM’s book room, cabinets in the lower study. The cabinets in the garage we recycled a few months back, some of the contents disposed of, but others relocated into plastic file containers.

We have far too much paper, but JM now needs some of the files he, thinking he’d never use again, threw away. Trying to cull, he has made more work for himself and lost precious information that he’ll not be able to retrieve. Instead of culling, we should we put our papers into labeled Xerox boxes, put them into storage and let those who ‘clean-up’ the remains of our lives when we die make a bonfire to dispose of what no one else could use. JM and I have given away or disposed of things we thought we’d never need again, to discover that they were needed, needed and we did not have them. We have so much paper, finding what we need is difficult, and we reason that if we can’t find it, it is as if we don’t have it, so we may as well dispense with it.

There are books and objects that have vanished, and we have learned that a book loaned is a book gone. Few loaned books are returned, and when we’ve asked for the return of books we have loaned, even when individuals have signed cards listing the books they were borrowing, they claim they never borrowed them in the first place. JM says we can always go to the library for a book, but libraries do not contain all books, especially books related to our areas of study. Our life has been a life of books (and papers). The pages of those books (and papers) trace our history and our journey of thought. Recycle we tell ourselves, but our lives are not yet ready for the trash bin.

May 19, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photo of JM & the mace & photos of the gathering graduates

The MACE: Michael led the graduation procession for the Arts and Science graduation ceremony. In cap and gown, carrying the mace, he led flag-carrying marchers and youth about to be granted degrees. He was leading them from one phase of their lives to another. On the commons, before and after the march, there were smiles and photos and selfies and bouquets and leis-stacked necks and gathering of groups of friends and family and professors and administrators. It was a symbolic gathering, a last gathering. At the end of each college year, I remember standing and looking out over the campus as classmates were departing, thinking ‘on this arbitrary date, we who have lived and studied together are dispersing. This date changes everything; we leave this place, we leave those we know, we may or may not return and even if we return, we will return to a different existence.’ Today I watched the youth and their parents in the sunshine. Graduation day could not have been more beautiful: beautiful youth gathered in an incredibly beautiful place on a rare warm beautiful San Francisco day. Those no longer children had had the luck to attend and graduate from a school where they received lots of attention (small classes and frequent interaction with professors). I sent into the ether good wishes for their new adult lives. Their yesterdays had been a preparation for tomorrow. Today, their tomorrow has come.

In the evening JM and I attended the Oakland Symphony with friends Peter and Anita. Afterwards we went out for drinks and snacks. In front of the bar, two big young men stood like sentries. I asked if they were bouncers. They were not. They were checking identifications of which I had none. My entry was delayed because I had no proof of age. I thought, “Use your eyes. Look at this line. Look at this sag. Look at this scar. This is from this decade and that is from that decade.” I searched for my wallet. I had left it at home. I believed my physiology declared my decades, but not so: they wanted documentation and my body, it seemed, was not documentation enough. Finally they asked my birth date. I gave it and that surprised them and our companions. Once inside I was the oldest one in the building. We passed by loud-squeaky talking youth to the back room. We stayed until after midnight. When we left, JM tapped the ‘bouncer’ (the one who had delayed my entrance) on the shoulder and said, “Thank you for letting her in. Yes, she is a prostitute, but a working girl has to make a living.” The man who earlier in the day led youth toward their new lives ended his day in youthful fun. We left the bar and walked down the street past an endless stream of celebrating youth. They were on the street, in restaurants and bars, around every corner. This part of downtown Oakland – which only a few years ago had been all but abandoned – was now overflowing with youth. Their joy was contagious, and we wished their vitality was too. We ended the day as we had started it, among celebrating youth.

May 20, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photo of the market

Full Day: Early in the morning Michael and I went to our Grand Lake Farmers Market to hand out “Save our Market” flyers. We talked to market goers, many of whom were from out of town and who had come to our market, to our neighborhood, to shop. The market has repeatedly been voted the ‘premiere farmers market of the East Bay,’ yet egos would destroy one of the best things in our neighborhood. One of those egos walked stern-faced past me. I took little notice of him, and he took no notice of me.

In the afternoon we drove up to Petaluma to celebrate the graduation of Nellie from the University of California. Tom, Nellie’s father, and Michael worked together at the San Francisco Chronicle. Tom, Michael says, is not just intelligent and a good journalist but is a thoroughly decent man as well. Kim, Nellie’s mother and Tom’s wife, died shortly after Nellie’s graduation from high school. Nellie delayed college to spend time with her mother. In the last weeks of her life, Tom bought a series of cards (graduation cards, marriage cards, birth cards) so that Kim might write to her daughter and wish her well when she reached ‘life-marker’ events. Kim wrote Nellie a note for her college graduation, one to be given to her when she marries and another for the birth of her first child. Kim’s notes will remain sealed until Nellie reaches each specific event. With each card, Tom will enclose a piece of jewelry he bought for Kim. When Nellie graduated from college, she received the first card from her mother Kim. Kim guided her child through her early life, but waiting for Nellie, waiting still, words of encouragement for her mother who died five years ago. If Kim were alive today, she would see that her daughter has developed into a kind and gentle adult. Somehow it seems appropriate that Nellie received her degree in Peace and Conflict Resolution. As a psychologist, Kim helped people analyze their inner world so that they might live better in the external world. One might say Kim helped her patients slay their inner demons (conflict), work to build a healthy ego (find inner peace) in pursuit of positive lives. Mother and daughter — careers centered on the other and in creating a better world. And Tom the father, an observer of the external world who wrote of that world and taught students to analyze and describe the larger world, has ushered his lovely daughter into adulthood. Tom had a minor heart attack in December but has recovered. He feared, we suspect, leaving Nellie an orphan before she reached her first milestone in life, college graduation. When we walked into her graduation party, Nellie was holding her new nephew in her arms. She who had lost her mother young was nurturing the next generation, her loving arms providing a secure place for the infant to snuggle. Life is there waiting for Nellie and Nellie is stepping into adulthood supported by a loving family. Next week she starts a cross-country trip with a friend. The big, wide world awaits you Nellie, bon voyage.

Week 19:  A week of sadness

Computer slow, very, very slow – too little memory  —- photos to be added later 

May 7, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photo of baseball game, or birds @ game

Peanuts and Cracker Jacks: A glorious day for baseball. We’ve been Oakland A’s season ticket holders for decades. JM also has San Francisco Giants tickets, but although my cousin played for the Giants, we are more A’s fans than Giants fans.   The San Francisco Giants’ stadium is arguably one of the most beautifully sited in baseball. However, I actually like the A’s stadium because its seats are comfortable and the view of the field from most seats is excellent, better than the SF ballpark. For that reason I think it a better ballpark for the game of baseball. When we arrived in the SF Bay area, the Oakland ballpark was considered one of the best stadiums in baseball. There are things I like better about the SF ballpark – the view, the giant baseball glove and the mammoth neon Coke bottle – but other than that, I really enjoy watching baseball games in the A’s ballpark better than in SF.

The weather was perfect, the game slow and relaxing. We had peanuts and tacos and Coke and Cracker Jacks and Haagan Das ice cream bars and a walk-off win (one last night, too) against my home-town Detroit Tigers. The finale:   Ryon Healy hit in the winning run, got a pie in the face and a green cold shower. I recall the joy of playing ‘baseball’ (actually softball) with neighborhood kids on empty lots. I loved throwing the ball, catching the ball, but there was nothing like the sheer pleasure of hitting the ball hard, watching it fly past outfielders and running the bases my long hair flying. When I watch a professional game, I enjoy the game itself for the pure athleticism of the players, the skills exhibited at the highest level and wonderful timing and teamwork. And when a game is won with a dramatic conclusion, I vicariously enjoy the youthful exuberance: the ‘team hug,’ the pie and Gatorade over the head. Those acts remind me that some of the child remains in me, remains in each of us.

May 8, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo of SF & Book Club & buildings

The domain of the BOOK: I attended a tour of the Book Club of San Francisco, a place of old ways and new ideas, and bought one of their publications, Plate By Plate, California Recipes from the Gold Rush through “California Cuisine.” On that publication, one can feel the imprint made by the press on the page. And it is not so much a book – it is not bound – as it is a series of folders, each containing a ‘dish’ recipe and its history. The book club is not a reading club, but rather a club of those who love ‘the BOOK!’ There, at the club, we saw a 15th century book, tiny books (one no more than an inch square), books incredibly bound, and we learned that the once exclusive club (access to membership, only after a member died) now has an open membership policy. In the past, people were not so much dying to get in the club, but waiting for the death of another so that they might be admitted into the rarefied group, an organization in which they remained, like marriage, ‘until death do I part.’ ‘The Club’ will print a publication on its 200-year-old press next October. Michael would love seeing the press run, so, today I bought him an early birthday present. I think it an appropriate gift for the learned man he is.

— Traffic, heavy traffic as we made our way home through San Francisco’s surface streets (expressway is elevated). There we saw old buildings being demolished, buildings reflecting other buildings and new ones under construction. Gone are structures familiar to me when I worked in downtown San Francisco, replaced by new buildings (not many well designed), creating a city now as strange to me as when I first arrived.

May 9, 2017 – TUESDAY

Photo of Oskar @ computer

Perfectibility, a concept now in doubt: I grew up thinking that human kind, human institutions were on an inevitable path toward perfection. There have been changes in my lifetime of which I am glad to have seen, but as an adult I have seen, especially in government, my hope for better government and a better tomorrow dashed, dashed by ‘bad people, incompetent people, people of small minds’ elected to or appointed to various national positions. Trump’s presidency terrifies me. It terrifies me because I see in him (and his associate and supporters) a threat to our American democracy. Trump fired FBI Director James Comey yesterday. His alleged reasons are specious. Comey was fired likely because Trump and his campaign team colluded with the Russians to make him president, and Comey had recently requested more money to continue and expand the investigation. Bill Moyers, L. B. Johnson’s press secretary, a person I admire because of his intellect and his insights, wrote today of the incident:

Trump is hiding something. Something extraordinary. To keep it hidden there is no end to the chaos he will stir at the highest level of government. Every day he lies lustily, as reflexively as the rest of us breathe, knowing some filth will stick. With each day he edges us closer to autocracy.

With the news of Comey’s sacking, the need is clear and more absolute than ever: We must have a special prosecutor to turn the stones over — or an independent and bipartisan commission with subpoena power and public hearings, like the 9/11 commission. Or both.

Trump’s presidency is deeply corrupted, our democracy is compromised, and the system of checks and balances is failing us.

He’s attempting a coup. No joke. We need the truth. Now.

And so today, I contemplate America’s future and enjoy my curious cat asking for attention as I write on my computer. There is pleasure in my life, even as I live in terror of an unstable man with a limited mind and a vindictive spirit filling the office of president. I wish this nightmare over, or even more that Trump were a dream and not reality. I wish Trump had never been elected, if indeed he was and the Russians did not give us President Trump.

May 10, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photos of paint brushes

Which Century is it anyway? My brain is in one century and my body in another. My brain tells me I am a mere 21 while my body, says, “No, the only 21 is the 21st century,” and I know muscle and bone cannot be relied on to do what they once did.

I fear loss of physical abilities, but probably more I fear the diminution of my mental abilities.   I’m taking a watercolor class. Painting is an art I never mastered, but in some past attempts I created tolerable compositions. Not so today. Nothing is worthy of preserving or even commenting on. JM talks of the ‘learning curve’ and now, he says, it is the ‘re-learning curve.’ I ask ‘Have you ever heard of a forgetting curve?” It seems that certain skills and many memories have left me, dropped out of consciousness as rapidly as one might fall off a cliff. Senility, the loss of mind, the disappearance of an informed consciousness developed over a lifetime, might vanish in a flash or gradually, leaving me not me, but only the rough remains of me.

Today, brush in hand; I try to regain what I forgot. Will it come again or like other important things, will it be ‘unreclaimable?’

May 11, 2017 – THURSDAY

Photo of Lois’ sketches

I will not be able to call her as I had promised:  It was a phone call I have always expected, but when it came I could hardly grasp it was true.  It was a call from my older sister Mary Ellen Iaquinta telling me that our youngest sister Lois Marie Landrith was dead.  Lois had a brilliant mind, a damaged body and a troubled personality.   I cry for her end, just as I often cried for the life, that sad life she lived.  — For the talent she had that went unexpressed.

Our mother’s body was ravaged by tropical diseases during Lois’ gestation.  But beyond that, her birth was a traumatic and damaging birth.  The nurses at Wyandotte General Hospital in Wyandotte, Michigan, when Lois was exiting the birth canal, forced Mother’s legs against Lois’ protruding head, to prevent her birth.  The physician was not in the hospital, so they delayed the birth until he arrived.  Mother told the nurses to let the child be born.  They kept forcing Mother’s legs against the protruding head.  Mother did her best to fight the nurses to allow a natural birth.  The nurses grabbed mother, forced an ether mask over her face and put her out.  Because of that birth, Mother believed that Lois suffered brain damage.  Mother also blamed herself and her own bad health for Lois’ congenital conditions.  Lois had problems from the start, problems related to her delayed birth and congenital abnormalities.  Lois was plagued during her early childhood with spells, spells during which she lapsed into unconsciousness.  I thought those spells related to temper tantrums, but mother said that they often occurred out of the blue, for no reason.  Mother had had a considerable amount of nursing training and, although not a nurse, was competent in administering first aid.  One of my early memories was of Mother trying to revive an unconscious Lois.  I remember seeing my imperturbable mother on the verge of panic just before Lois regained consciousness.

Lois was a beautiful baby.  I remember her in her crib, hands in a tight fist and my uncurling her thumb and fingers to look at her perfectly formed hand.  I remember our Mother patting Lois, rocking her and singing to her by the hour to comfort Lois and stop her from crying.  Mother said of Lois that she was the most curious child she had ever seen, constantly asking ‘Why?  Why this?  Why that?’  She was a chubby beautiful baby.  She was a gorgeous toddler with long blond banana curls, a face like an ivory angel whose cheeks were cherry red.  She was so beautiful that people would stop my parents on the street to look at her, to touch her, to see if she were real.  As a toddler Dad took her to work at the largest wholesaler in the U.S.  Lois fell asleep, and someone who came into the showroom literally thought Lois a doll.  They would have bought her likeness for their stores if she had been one.

I was protective of my sister Lois from the moment I saw her, and I became more so after a visit to the doctor’s office when Lois was 2 and I was 6.  The doctor informed Mother of Lois’ serious congenital heart defect.  After the appointment, Mother gathered her three older daughters around her.  She told us of Lois’ condition and instructed us to look after Lois.  We were never to upset Lois because her bad heart could fail at any time, so upsetting Lois might result in her death.  Because of that, Lois was allowed to misbehave.  We always feared upsetting her.  Had she been a healthy child, she would not have been permitted to behave as she did.  But death was always there, and none wanted to be the cause of her dying.

Tonight, late in the evening, alone with myself I cried.  It was more than cry; it was more a wounded animal howl.  A sustained deep anguished utterance.  I had tried during the day to busy myself, to take my mind off of her death.  She died alone, looking out her window, who knows how many days ago.  They found her decomposing body this morning, sitting at her front window, in Florida heat.  When my older sister arrived at Lois’ home, there were police and an ambulance and the coroner.  Lois is to be cremated.  She made the arrangements after one of her many health incidents (open heart surgery; after her house caught on fire, she almost died of smoke inhalation; after being hit by a speeding car that drove onto the sidewalk and threw her car-lengths through the air resulting in operation after operation’ and after that more heart surgery).  Lois was tough.  She should have died long ago, but she survived decades.  She survived what healthier, younger people could not have survived.  We thought her made of steel and worried that she might die any time, but on the other hand, we thought she would outlive us and there would be no one to look after her.  After being hit by a car, Lois spent a half a year in the hospital, followed by other hospitalizations, but she learned to walk again, even with one leg 6 inches shorter than the other, and Lois was walking miles daily up to the end.  My older sister had called and stopped by her home several times this week, but got no answer and thought her out walking.  But then neighbors had not seen her walking, so called 911 to check on her.  She who had withstood assault after assault on her body died sitting in her chair.

What does it matter what is done with the body after death?  Lois is dead, which means she is gone from this world and me.  I wished I had talked to her at least once more before she died.  It does not make sense, but I wish I had.  Lois called last Saturday, did not leave a message.  When she called, she typically left her name, her location, her relationship, “This is Lois Marie Landrith, your sister and sister-in-law in Venice, Florida.”  Saturday she merely called and hung up.  It was in the afternoon when she called.  I was on another line and when I thought to return her call it was late Eastern Standard Time.  The weekend passed, and then I had a busy week.  I was going to call each day, but did not.  Did she call out to me as she was dying?  As a child, she called out to me in the middle of the night when she took a wrong turn into the closet and ended up in the attic instead of the bathroom.  It was me she called for, no one else.  Had she called for me one more time and I, busy, did not respond?  I wish I had been there.  I wish I had talked to her.  I know it is illogical to think it, but I do.  And the tears and the animal utterances come from deep in my being.

I would have had another life for Lois.  Her immense artistic talent, her brilliant mind, never able to produce, as it was capable of producing.  Harmed as she was by two nurses who insisting the doctor must be present before she was allowed to be born.  They harmed her.  She had not only to deal with her heart problems and other congenital problems, but with the damage those nurses did to her brain.  What chance did she have for a normal life after what they did to her?  Her psychiatrist told me that Lois was brilliant beyond belief, that no one else in the family could possibly come close to her level of intelligence (although my uncle told me when my Dad died, that he was the most brilliant person he had ever know.  Both Father and Mother had extraordinary intelligence and talent.).  Her psychiatrist believed that Lois would be able to use her intellect to overcome her emotional issues.  That did not happen.  Her university psychiatrist also told me that he and his team had deemed Lois the most complex personality they had ever encountered.  If they, experts in the mind, could not figure out how to get Lois to do what was best for her, what chance did we her family have to help her achieve her potential?

One reason I did not want children was because I suffered such pain watching Lois struggle to find ease, a life with pleasure, a life where her gifts might be manifested.  Lois was my sister-child.  I have been told that I have an unusual ability to empathize.  Perhaps I saw what she was, felt her frustration, her anguish, and because of her developed the ability to sense what others felt.  My college theatre professor told me that I had the intelligence and sensitivity of one in a million.   That empathy brings me pain, pain beyond my own pain; I feel the pain of others and sometimes wish it were otherwise.

Since I learned of Lois’ health plight as a child, I have watched over Lois, anguished over Lois, shared with Lois, listened to Lois and tried to help her live the good life.  I tried.  I failed.  Lois helped me.  It is Lois who sparked my interest in color and in architecture.  It is Lois who told me about Cranbrook Art Institute, and when she described the place to me, I said, “No such place existed.”  She was correct.  It did exist and was as she said.  She talked of philosophy as a child.  Some things my parents talked of, but many of her ideas I did not study until college.  I often wonder, if the nurses had behaved medically as they should have behaved, if Lois would have been able to utilize her ability and if her brilliance might have been even greater than it was.

As an adult, I’ve always believed that a life was more important than money and that money spent to help a life was money well spent.  My spending of money reflects my belief.  Michael has accepted me and my commitment to others.  From a financial point of view, JM and I will now have more money to spend on ourselves.  We have supplemented Lois for years, several years spending 60K or more to help with paying bills, medical and otherwise.  We have spent at least a million on her over our lifetime together.  I suppose our helping with her living expenses, her medical expenses, her psychiatric expenses made her life better.  Still, as I cried, I found myself saying, “Lois, I wish I could have helped.  Lois, I wish I could have made a real difference.”  I feel like I failed Lois.  Lois lived with us.  She spent time with us.  We, at least twice, were able to get her psychiatric treatment and medical treatment that saved her life, but we were never able to give her a life of joy, a life of peace.  I did try by caring and giving, but I could not, did not make the difference I would have liked.

I had a profound connection with Lois.  Only in the last year or so would she, when she said goodbye, say, “I love you.”  I loved her and cared for her deeply and said so, but it took her a lifetime to say “I love you” back.

Lois has been my concern, my responsibility, my worry for almost my entire life.  But in addition to my being responsible, she challenged me artistically, intellectually.  We discussed books and art and food – she was the best home cook I have ever known and Mother was a wonderful cook – and philosophy and observations and ….  I miss her.  I will, as long as I have mind, will miss her.  And sitting alone tonight, my animal self cries out for her loss, for her sad life, for her pain, for her sicknesses, for her death and for my loss.  If Lois had not been, it is likely that I would not be who I am.  She demanded much from me, but I learned from her and much of my humanity, I believe, is the result of seeing and feeling her pain.

And, this morning when I heard of her death, I listened, I felt numb and cold and shaky and sick to my stomach, but I tried and did occupy myself and my mind with busy work all day.  But, at the end of the day, what I tamped down has come bubbling forth, and I’ve cried as I have rarely cried.  I’ve uttered deep lonely moans, anguished tones, copious tears for the loss of my brilliant, talented, troubled sister, whom I loved.  I will not hear her talk of beautiful owls and egrets and pink eyes of birds or hear her share how to barbecue a turkey or roast asparagus.  Sometimes when she called, I’d just set the phone down and let her talk as I sorted papers or made a meal.  I feel guilty now for not having engaged more fully.  I no longer have her to engage with.  It will be less trouble, but because of her death I have lost the interaction with an incredible mind, a mind with far-reaching interests.  As my sister Esther Landrith-Hardesty has often said, “We were blessed to have brilliant and ethical parents.  Our parents introduced to ideas and activities, and we had a childhood of thought that few children experience.”  I would add to that, that I have been blessed by having intelligent, creative sisters.  Had I been an only child, I do not think I would have developed into an adult with the capacity I have to love, with the capacity I have to care, with the capacity I have to share, with the capacity I have to feel.  I am the product of those who not only created my being by their coupling, but I am who I am because of my sisters.  It was they who humanized me.  I miss Lois and, I suppose, I am lonely for her and will always be so.  Lois often made my life more difficult, but I was fortunate to have been lucky and to have time and assets to share.  Thought the difficulty, through the sharing, we forged a bond.  She is gone and I will remain lonely for her.  I miss her now and will forever.  Much of the focus of my life has been directed toward Lois.  And without Lois, what of my focus?

May 12, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photo of 4 girls

A life of challenge: Before I was fully awake, our cat Oskar was wooling on me as if I were his mother cat and he was nursing. We’ve had him for almost seven years and he’d never done that, even when he was a kitten he did not. Was he trying to comfort me? I suspect he was. I saw my early morning face in the mirror, sad mouth and sadder yet, my eyes reflecting the pain, the deep sorrow I feel at Lois’ death. If family is a bulb, like an onion, and the self in the center around which members of the family are layered, my family bulb is being peeled away layer by layer. Aunts and uncles died, parents died, followed by cousins. And now with the death of my youngest sister, the once large bulb is greatly diminished. The layer closest to me stripped away. Lois, in a recent conversation, said of our family, of all of Father’s sibling’s families, our family was the only Landrith family in which all children remained alive. All of my parents’ daughters, she noted were in the same decade of life. This past year she had joined her older sisters in that decade.

Lois, because of her traumatic birth and because of her congenital health problems, survived against the odds. She did not thrive, but she did survive. When I questioned the ‘whys’ of life, I came away grateful for my good luck and always sorry for Lois’ bad luck. Often when Lois had to choose between selecting something that would be ‘good for her’ and something that would ‘cause her harm,’ she almost inevitably chose the latter. It was as if she wanted to complete the process her birth had started and would not counter the bad hand she felt she had been given, but did things to insure the bad hand she been dealt would play itself out. Our parents were anti-smoking. Mother fed us a healthy diet with small amounts of red meats, lots of healthy whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and she curtailed sweets and limited soft drinks (a Vernors ginger ale when we were ill to settle our stomach and a Boston Cooler in the summer as a special treat). Lois always ate a healthy diet, but she did not drink healthy. She was a diabetic and understood what Pepsi Cola, not artificially sweetened Pepsi, would do to her blood sugar, yet drank a liter a day. Lois, a nurse who understood the consequences of smoking, smoked. Our mother walked miles daily. Lois, refusing to walk, drove her car everywhere and started walking (as her mother had) only after she was run down and nearly killed by a cell phone-talking driver, a woman who blamed Lois for being on the sidewalk onto which she drove to hit her. After almost being killed in the auto accident, many of Lois’ medical specialists did not think she would walk again, so in defiance, it seems, not only did Lois start walking, she walked miles daily. If anything could describe Lois’ life, it would be that Lois was always in opposition, doing what she was not supposed to do. And as the youngest daughter, she was supposed to be the last to die, but is the first. I did try to help Lois express her innate potential. Wishes are not easily transformed into reality. Lois broke my heart, but she helped make it. I sometimes felt that Lois was my life’s project, and my deep regret was that her abundant, her considerable gifts were never realized. She died. Few will remember her, but I will and I will remember what she has given me and try to forget the pain she inflicted (on herself and others) in the living of her life.

Death is a solitary thing, as is sorrow.

Today would have been Mother’s 106th birthday.

May 13, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photo of oak branches in early sun

Tears: I woke with tears in my eyes. Out the bedroom window warm sunlight on twisted Oak branches. A few years back, Moon shadows from those same limbs cast images on our bedroom walls, images that seemed made by a Gothic Cloister’s carved stones. Hanging on the wall next to our bed, quick sketches drawn by my sister Lois. They were drawn as an art assignment at Arts and Crafts in Detroit. In a matter of minutes Lois had created a five-inch stack of tree images, images of incredible variety. I had recently asked if she’d draw me more. She died before she could draw them for me. Lois is gone and her talent along with it. The real tree and the drawn trees both remind me of her. Lois had an eye for beauty. She had the ability to synthesize it, re-define it, communicate it. And I cry today for her death and the pain I feel from the loss of her. She is no more and that I find hard to comprehend.

I am trying to stay busy. I’m trying to be active. What good are tears? Perhaps they remind us of what we have lost, as well as what we still have.

Week 18

 computer problems 

April 30, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photo of sunburn

Feel the Burn: I’m sun burned. Yesterday I put suntan lotion on my face and only my face. I wore a light blouse, but it was a warm day for gardening. Lacking a full component of pores, I do not do well in the heat, so I took off my gardening shirt and gardened in my cami. I don’t know why, but while I was working I did not think about the sun on my back, although I thought of getting a hat for my head.   My back, shoulders and arms were not covered, and I did not think to put lotion on anything other than my face. Had I been at the beach, suntan lotion would have been slathered across my entire body. Yesterday was an outdoor day spent in glorious sunshine, which resulted in this, my ‘ouch’ day! My sunburn hurts more than my muscles, and I will remember next time to apply the tanning lotion on any part of my body that might see the sun. In spite the gardening aftermath, the day was good for the garden and for JM and me. It was good to work, good to be physical, good to be out of doors.

May 1, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo of outdoor curtain over West-facing doors – to keep house cool

Heat Wave: I feel it. It is in the air, the still quiet air. I felt the day declaring itself when I woke. PREDICTION: “Today will be HOT!!!!” The body know what the body knows.

May 2, 2017 – TUESDAY

Photo of Japanese cream & sugar set

Blossom Art: Today I watered the new plantings, including the tomato, and thought of tomorrow’s flowers and fruit. A kitchen self holds a Japanese cream and sugar bowl decorated with cherry blossoms. For the Japanese, a plant’s utility is not its only value. Some fruiting plants are also valued for their beauty. Cherry trees several hundred years old still flower in that country and are loved today no less than centuries ago. They are loved for the blossom and its scent, for the beauty of the tree in bloom. I have no idea if the Japanese ever harvest the fruit, but I am curious to know if they do. Is the cherry tree grown for its beauty alone? I have read that the wonderful cherry trees in Washington, D.C. were a gift from Japan. I’ve often wanted to experience D.C. when those trees are in bloom — guess that is one of my bucket list items, along with the turning of the leaves in New England in the Fall.

We in California have thousands of acres of cherry trees. It is too late to see them in bloom this Spring (which must have been magnificent because of the rains), but hopefully next year they will be blooming for us to see. An architect I know grew up in what is now Silicon Valley. He talked of walking home from school through miles and miles of blossoming cherry orchards. What a memory to hold. Mother reminisced about her grandparents’ orchard and its blooming and its fruits. I wished it had remained for me to experience, but it, along with the house, was destroyed when the farm was sold. The old beautiful barn still stands and is a registered historical monument, but the trees, those blossoming trees – gone.

May 3, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo of a Jack in the pulpit and lady slipper

A Day of Children:   As we biked today, San Francisco Bay today was colored a deep blue by a bright sun. The city itself (SF) and Oakland and South Bay were draped in low polluted haze. As I rode, one cheek was hot from the sun’s rays, while the other was cool from a slight breeze. The same face, half warm, half cold. After days of record-breaking heat, I’m glad for any part of my body feeling cool. I’m hoping for sea breezes tonight.

The beauty of the bay is always there, but today that was not the beauty I noted. It was those I saw that brought me delight.

  • A father riding with his young daughter perched on the bike’s cross bar;
  • A father riding slowly behind his toddler son, who, without training wheels, was riding the smallest two-wheeled bicycle I’d ever seen;
  • A mother carrying her small child in a wicker basket attached to her handle bars (I’ve seen dogs in baskets like that, but never a child); and
  • A young father walking and watching his two young children darting about in front of him. The children waved and smiled and when I waved back, they jumped and danced more, and they seemed aware how utterly charming they were.

The day was hot. In the late afternoon I watered our newly planted flowers. A woman walking with her granddaughter and dog stopped to tell me how she chooses her route so that she might walk by our house to enjoy our garden. I told her than made me glad to hear. As we were talking, she received a call on her large phone. She sat on our neighbor’s planter so that she and her granddaughter might talk. They could see the son/father on her phone, and he could see them. The child leaned back and forward, moved up and down and twirled as she talked while the grandmother held the phone so that the child might be seen. When the goodbyes came, the child leaned in and kissed the phone saying, “I love you Daddy.” I could not have created a more beautiful scene if I had written and directed it myself. When they hung up, I asked if the girl would like to see a Jack-in-the-Pulpit and a Lady Slipper (which, as a young girl, I read about in Girl of the Limberlost and loved them even before seeing them). She did, and enjoyed them. I forgot to show her the bleeding hearts. She liked hearts, her grandmother said, and was carrying chalk to draw hearts on sidewalks. I made the child a small bouquet of flowers and smiled broadly as they walked away. A lovely walk for the grandmother made even more so by the joy of the child.

May 4, 2017 – THURSDAY

Photo of old letters

Good intentions, not acted on, past due: I’ve spent the day sorting through boxes of cards and have discovered lost letters, letters I meant to answer, but never have. I actually wrote out some cards that were never sent. I wanted to thank teachers.

  • One blank card was addressed to Mrs. Sanford my sixth & seventh grade teacher, the only good instructor I had in all of elementary school – but still, in spite of that , I knew by the third grade, unlike Trump, the reasons for the Civil War and its inevitability.
  • There is the unanswered letter from Arnie Aho, my best-ever architectural professor.
  • There too the imagined letters, written over and over in my head to:
    • Bernard, my World Affairs teacher, one of my best high school teachers, who often had kind, generous words for me and who in my mind-letter, I had thanked him as profusely as he had praised me.
    • The long letter to Dr. James Young, the most brilliant and influential professor of my first collage years, to whom I wanted to say how profoundly he had influenced my life, how, in spite of the fact I had not – as he insisted – pursued a theater career in New York, how his introduction to theater opened my eyes, not just to the life of the arts, but to art and to life.

There too were a few letters from Mother’s childhood friend Jane. I had sent her a few notes, but did not respond, as I had wished, to her last letters. I reread them with sadness for my neglect. I ‘owe’ other people letters, people who still live, whose letters are there in the box, my once, “letters to be answered” file. I found:

  • a 1992 letter from Dr. Claudio Delgadillo, a friend from Duke University, Botany (He was at the Autonomous National University of Mexico. Is he still there?);
  • a 5-year old card from a college roommate telling me she had sold her house, downsizing and moving to be near her daughter;
  • a long letter from friends living in Ireland for a few years, inviting us to visit. (I could not find the letter, so did not respond to let them know that we’d like to visit. They have been back for years and we did see them in Georgia five years ago. I’ve only sent one letter since then. I owe them one.)

There in that misplaced Xerox box containing unanswered letters were my remembered responses, my good, but unfulfilled intentions

AND there were more boxes of letters with other letters I’d meant to write. I’ve promised myself that in the future when I write, I’ll send what I’ve written and will write more than mind-letters. I will definitely send the found package filled with an Elvis Presley CD and Elvis postage stamps bought for a former secretary two years ago.   Those boxes reveal my bad habit of setting aside letters. The boxes collect dust while my good intentions remain.

Things set aside are forgotten, not acted on. I resolve to do better, but at some future date, I suspect, I will find another box containing letters and cards and lists of whom I’d like to write, my good intentions documented but unfulfilled.

May 5, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photos of pillows

Pillow Talk: I like pillows, not because I like pillows, but because I find them creative. We have so many pillows:

  • a felt ribbon pillow , the pillow created by looping the ribbon, loop upon loop;
  • a dyed Mongolian sheep wool pillow. (It’s Halima’s favorite and is now matted because of the attention she has showered on it.);
  • a round flower pillow with layers of petals;
  • a spherical lavender pillow made with rick-rack balls sewn around a ‘ball;’
  • a Mackenzie Childs poppy pillow – part appliqué and part three-dimensional;
  • a yellow pillow bought in Paris whose pattern is formed by small surface folds;
  • and embroidered animal ones from South Africa; and
  • more than I have time to describe

I like pillows designs, their craftsmanship, their range in colors, their diversity of form, their range of texture, their seeming endless variety, and the numerous materials from which they are made. We have a pillow stack in the corner of our living room which are used for seating when we entertain more people than we have chairs. I’m still pondering new fabrics for them. I keep telling myself that I’m close to a decision. I’ve decided and undecided and re-decided, but still not yet completely decided. Those pillows are custom-made, stacked for appearance (color and texture) and on the ready for social occasions. Pillows, I suppose, reflect my aesthetic – bright, fun, diverse and surprising.

May 6, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photo of tomato

Measuring:  George was here today and we worked in the garden. Working in the garden reminded me of the fact that many of my ancestors were farmers. Michael and I, with George – who does a considerable amount of the garden work – grow flowers. George did plant our one vegetable / fruit, a tomato. A few weeks back someone, ‘lifted’ an un-planted tomato plant from our yard, so we bought another. Our yard is not sunny enough for a vegetable garden, but we hope a tomato plant on our sunny patio will produce fruit. But even flowers are demanding. If I were responsible for raising food to sustain my own life, I suspect I would not be alive. Gardening is not just time consuming, it requires knowledge to do it well. And real farming is grueling work.

I am not a farm girl but am a child of farm kids. Both of my parents grew up on a farm, Father in Decatur, Illinois, and Mother in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Their families did more than cultivate fields. They selected crops and where they would be planted, alternating their location year to year. They tended the fields, harvested, stored and sold their crops; raised and butchered livestock, then processed the meats; they grew fruits and vegetables; and had extensive flower gardens. My father’s family did not imbibe alcohol, but my mother’s family did. Her grandparents made wine and beer and cider and vinegars. They made and sold cheeses and butter. My father’s family raised and sold horses. Father did not like the horse. Horses were at one time essential for both farming and transportation, but unlike pigs, they are not born with much wit. Dad was fortunate losing only a tooth to an ill-tempered beast. He knew those who lost more, their lives. Horses had been a source of family income. Still, he was glad for the internal combustion engine and automobiles, believing them safer than the horse. We own a car, whose power is measured in horsepower, and are growing a tomato. Little is left from my family’s farm heritage, but I do appreciate farmers, their crops and the land which sustains. Perhaps that is why I am so proud of helping to bring a highly successful Grand Lake Farmer’s Market (the best in the East Bay) to the neighborhood.

Week 17

Computer problems continue:  Photos later 

April 23, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photo of English Muffins & John’s party or no photo, photo of nothing, of thin air

The abandoning: Making of English Muffins, the rising of which is due to yeast utilizing carbohydrates and releasing CO2, i.e., fermentation. One of the first recipe books I bought contained a recipe for English Muffins, but only last week did I buy muffin rings. Now with rings bought, the muffins must be made. I make English Muffins, the holes the result of CO2. The gas is good for the muffin, but CARBON DIOXIDE’s overabundance in our atmosphere is problematic. If we don’t curtail it, we will have hell to pay.

Michael and I did not march yesterday. We regret not doing so. We had intended to, but over-booked. JM spent the day working on grading and looking at baseball statistics in readying for today’s draft. I worked all day but cannot recall what I accomplished – washing, cooking, cleaning, gardening ….   I assume I accomplished something, did something, but recall little of the day. Last night we did attend a birthday party of a San Francisco friend. Looking out over the Pacific at the setting sun, we sang “Happy Birthday.” We were happy to celebrate John’s birthday, but none there was happy on Earthday that we have a Congress and President creating laws that are almost certain to harm our good earth. Their decisions have the potential to change life on this earth as we know it. That statement is not hyperbole. It is the air that gives life, but the abundance of CO2 is changing climate, thereby taking life as well.

The CO2 clock is running out and may already have done so. Perhaps the cause of Climate Change does not matter. It will be devastating, widespread, long lasting and likely impossible to undo. We live in a finite world, and to pretend otherwise is to be a fool. The invisible world will have visible results. We are wrapped in an invisible cloak of CO2, a cloak that grows by the minute and just because it is invisible to us does not mean that it is not there and that we can ignore it. We breathe in oxygen and exhale CO2. Trump is full of hot air, expels it constantly, directly contributing more than his share to global warming. One wishes that Trump and his allies would die in the rising seas they create, but those rich enough may escape the flood of their own doing, but others (animals, plants, ecosystems, the poor and helpless) will not have that option.

Accidents happen. We had accidents, unthinkable accidents, Chernobyl and Fukushima. Those accidents caused huge swaths of land to be abandoned. Human frailty had a part in both. Global warming is man-made, but it is not an accident. We have had the evidence for a long time. Reactionaries have denied data / are denying data and, if we do not take appropriate action(s), the consequence(s) of inaction will be to our detriment. By not doing what we should be doing (part of which is not doing, not burning fossil fuels), we are knowingly creating ‘areas of abandon’ where the life that has been will be no more, or greatly altered. By not changing, by not acting we destroy our world.

Not an accident, but if we do not act and act with boldness, the result will be as if a Chernobyl had happened on a large scale. We’ll have a world where whole areas will be destroyed. Destroyed by a refusal to acknowledge the truth of reality, i.e., in effect by living in Trump’s world where fact is fiction, fiction is fact, truth a lie and a lie is promoted as truth. If we don’t stop it, we will be complicit in earth’s destruction.

If we ignore what we have done, what we are doing and do not change our ways, ‘just like that’ we will destroy our own world, making it ‘the abandoned,’ our world and its life gone. Taking its place a world as lost to us as Fukushima or Chernobyl. Our new world ineffably desolate, devoid of diversity, the result of no accident but by a mistake of thought. The denial of reality, the willful arrogance and ignorance of our leaders is a choice, a choice that is a destroyer. The last presidential election was about our future, and the results, because of the actions of those elected, is now more than about our future, it is about the future of the world. “Fools rush in where angles fear to tread.”   It is the fear of where we now ‘tread’ that makes me deeply concerned and makes me wish I had been there yesterday walking / marching and saying, “Truth is truth. Fact is fact. You cannot eliminate danger by denying it exists. You want to spend money on a useless wall, on unneeded military equipment, you want to secure our nation by securing our borders, but the sky, the heaven, it is there above all of us and it is to the sky (and its CO2) you should be looking. Buy a gun, build a wall, neither will secure our future.

April 24, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo of shoes dress booties & running shoes

Desire: Shortly after moving to the United States, I recall seeing toeless shoes. I’d never seen shoes without toes and begged for a pair of my own. I thought those shoes the most wonderful shoes I had ever seen. My parents believed in high quality, practical shoes. My shoes had to be worn year-round, and toeless shoes would not be appropriate for winter’s snow. I pleaded, but the best I could do was to get a pair of black patent leather shoes. I cared for them, slathering them with Vaseline, but they cracked and, although expensive, not durable. I think the toeless shoes would have worn better, but I had to wait for adulthood to go toeless.

Currently a large percentage of my shoes are toeless or sandals.   Since childhood, I’ve only had one other pair of patent leather shoes, a red rain boot worn until I outgrew it. My feet continue to grow. I think aging feet actually just flatten out – perhaps weight and perhaps because tendons and ligaments get weak, allowing foot spread. If I see another shiny patent leather shoe I like, I’ll be tempted.

In the summer I wear sandals almost constantly, but in the winter I’m especially fond of simply made boots and booties. I wear my good shoes in good weather and practical shoes in bad. Today’s weather was good, allowing me to wear a pair of my sleek shoes. My sculpted leather boot (bootie) is a simple thing of beauty, but Berkeley types could care less and like so many in the university world chose practical and comfort over beauty. Actually it is unlikely that they consider beauty at all. I like comfort, but also like style, so my shoes, practical and pretty. I attended a Berkeley seminar with others of my age, and it surprised me to see not another nice pair of shoes in the classroom. The professor and virtually all attending wore running shoes. There were a few wearing casual sandals (with & w/out socks).

Mother always said she was a shoe hound. I suppose I am, too. I love beautiful shoes, but almost always wear flats since I find heels uncomfortable (and I’ve always been unstable in them). My mother wore three-inch high heels, because that flattered her lovely legs, until her early 90’s. She, walking in high heels, fell three times in a single week. A friend scolded Mom and called me, insisting that I get Mother to wear flats. Mother outright refused to wear flats for dress. I was able to get her to switch to one-inch heels only by buying her very expensive exquisite shoes. The short heel did not emphasize her leg, but the shoe itself was a piece of art and so she agreed to wear the one-inch heel. Even at 95 she was vain about her legs and if I had had legs like her, I probably would endure the discomfort of high heels to display my gams. Mother would have been out of place in the Berkeley classroom today because no shoe worn by anyone there was designed to flatter a gam and not a single gam was on display because everyone in attendance wore slacks.

April 25, 2017 – TUESDAY

Photos of Halima

Girly, girl: Halima, our girl cat, is a girly cat. She is beautiful, gentle, good natured, timid and, in our opinion, too often defers to the boy cats who frequently bully her. (Although Charley cat seems to enjoy sleeping with her more than he likes sleeping with Oskar.) She is awake more than the boys, is more active, much more playful and is able to anticipate the action of people long before the boys have a clue. The boys may have more muscle, but she is faster and infinitely more agile. Much of what we call ‘gender’ is learned behavior, but, as a biologist, I would argue that much of what we identify as gender-based behavior is indeed innate, gene based. That is not to say that there is not a wide range of behavior within gender roles, but beyond culture, our gender-based DNA does have an impact. I would argue that both ‘female’ and ‘male’ attributes have equally contributed to the survival of our species. One set of traits is not superior to another; they are merely different. And Michael and I hate to admit it, but we both feel protective of Halima, our fierce and gentle cat.

April 26, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Bay photos from bike ride

Overcast: JM and I have not ridden our bikes since Peter left. He’s back and we rode, rather JM rode w/ Peter all the way. I rode part of the way then stopped to photograph the gray bay, gray clouds in a gray sky.   The day, layered gray. When we arrived home, a hole in the cloud. The sun briefly shown on our glorious Spring blooms. I rarely am fascinated by gray, but today – gray or not – the Bay fascinated.

April 27, 2017 – THURSDAY

Sous Vide

The Good, Bad and the Ugly: JM and I are both suckers for style. Back just before computers became the way to write, we bought a gorgeous typewriter. We had the choice between a practical, highly rated ball IBM electric typewriter with memory and a sleek Italian Olivetti one with no memory. We chose beauty over practical. In that case, a mistake. The typewriter was in and out of the shop from the first. When we got our first computer, we kept the Olivetti on the desk to be viewed like the piece of art it was. I told an architect friend that we were about to dispose of it. “NO! Don’t dispose of it. I’ll take it. It is gorgeous.” If the machine had been mere ‘desk candy,’ we’d not have minded, but we needed, because JM is a writer, a machine that did more than look good and take up space.

JM asked if I’d like a sous vide. I said sure. He looked at various options and bought the most beautiful one he could find. It is Joule, a model that must be ‘managed’ from a cell phone. My cell is an old Apple and it would not cooperate in acquiring the module to run the sous vide. My acupuncturist just returned from a trip to Europe. Europeans, she said, keep their phones a long time and don’t like Apple phones because when they get old, they cannot maintain their Apps or acquire new ones. It seemed to be true of mine. JM downloaded the Joule operating app onto his phone making it possible for me to ‘pasteurize’ eggs. I know how to make mayonnaise and other uncooked egg items, but, fearing salmonella, I have not made mayonnaise and rarely make things with ‘un-cooked’ eggs. Using our new sous vide, I pasteurized eggs (cooked for 2 hours at 138.6 degrees F) and made mayonnaise. The mayonnaise was fast to make and better than store-bought and since the eggs are pasteurized, I won’t worry about bacteria and toxins. Because JM’s phone travels with him and I can’t use my phone to control the sous vide, I’ll only be able to use the sous vide when he is at home. We likely should have bought a not-pretty unit with dials and buttons that could be used anytime, not dependant on a phone, but alas, sucker for beauty, we chose, once again, beauty over function. Perhaps a mistake and perhaps, like the Olivetti, the sous vide will be one of those things we merely look at. JM is thinking of updating his phone in the Fall. I’ll get his old phone and then I will be able to cook with temperature-controlled water whenever I like, that is if I can keep the correct app, remember how to access it and how to utilize it. Buttons and knobs may not be sleek, but they are straightforward and, in the long run, easier to use. Again, this time we might have been better off to opt for utility and not beauty.

April 28, 2017 – FRIDAY

photo of Twisted branch

Good Intentions: Our Contorted Black Locus trees have been pruned. I hated for the top-heavy tree to be trimmed. I liked the top-heavy look, but our top-heavy tree is not doing well, and branches, especially the ones I loved, had to go. On the porch now sits a huge pan with filled with flowering branches of the tree. We brought them into the house and as I was making an arrangement, JM looked the plant up on the Internet – the plant and its flowers, poisonous to cat. Out they went in spite of the fact the smell of the flowers was intoxicating, delicious. The blossoms are starting to fade, and the branches will dried blooms will soon be discarded. There is one branch I love, that branch turned back upon itself – forming a loop.   I wish it – a bit of fanciful nature – were still on the tree.

The other day I was driving home down a two-way city street that has a wide median. Across the median I saw a car flipped over, another auto with a light pole in grill stopped at the edge of the median. Several people were gathered, trying to help those in the accident. Two mature women were walking a boy of about 10 years of age. He looked disoriented, confused and, based on his hard grasp of his i-pad, he was anxious.   It seemed to me as if he were on the verge of shock as the women walked him across and down the median. When they neared my car, I rolled down the window and suggested that they lay the child down and elevate his feet. “What!” they screamed in unison. They seemed irritated with me, likely thinking that they were doing the correct thing. A fire truck was about a half block away approaching me in my lane, so I pulled forward out of the lane to make way for the emergency vehicle. If the emergency crew had not been there, I would have stopped, gotten out and asked the women to stop doing what they were doing. They probably have seen numerous movies where injured people were walked to keep them from dying and would not have listened, but I would have tried. The emergency crew likely did what First Aid classes I have taken suggest: after a traumatic event, lay the person down and elevate the feet above the head so blood ‘runs’ to the vital organs (the brain being first among them). The other thing they should not have been doing was walking the child. An injured person should only be moved out of harms way (away from the overturned auto) to a safe place, where they should be kept still because —- who knows what might cause harm???: a broken rib could puncture a lung; a broken long bone might fracture worse and puncture the skin; any number of things could be worsened by walking an injured person The child had no obvious physical injuries to treat; therefore, the women should have made the child comfortable and waited for the emergency crew to take him to a nearby hospital where his injuries and condition would be evaluated. The women were obviously trying to be helpful, although what they were doing with the child could have caused him great harm.

I’ve taken and re-taken first aid classes, and after seeing the aftermath of a fairly bad auto accident, I resolved to take another first aid class, this time with Michael. One does forget and techniques change. Obviously neither woman attending the child had taken a first aid class. They had been good citizens by stopping to help, but being a good citizen also means taking the time to get prepared and learning what to do and not to do in an emergency. That scene reminded me that because we have had new cabinets installed in our garage, we need to locate and re-assemble our home earthquake kit and also update the emergency kits in our automobiles. I made a work earthquake kit for JM, but it’s been years and who knows what’s been done with it, what is in it or what needs to be updated. “Be prepared,” but, at the moment, we are not.

April 29, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photo of wonderful Ixia

Dirty girl: And I was going to work in my study sorting papers and filing, but alas, George was here today to work in the yard. JM and I joined him. All together we spent at least 18 hours hacking, hewing, digging and planting. As with all gardens, the process is never over, and when the Ixia stop blooming, we’ll dig up the entire mid-section of the garden because it is overgrown. This Spring in spite of the rain, in most of the garden the Ixia is not as beautiful as in past years. We think it is because the bulbs need to be dug up and thinned /culled. On the other hand, it might be that there was too much rain for them to be at their best. Ixia is a South African plant that does well in Mediterranean-type climates, and this past winter was more rain-forest than Mediterranean. Our Ladyslippers are spindly, not robust this year. The wild geranium is abundant and everywhere. It has roots as strong and as long (it seems) as a tree’s. Plants like people have personalities/traits. Forget-me-nots we pull up by fistfuls are easy to dispense with; however, those overgrown bunches of geraniums are almost impossible to dissuade, to dislodge Plants remind me that there is more than one way to survive in the world. I’m exhausted and aching. My survival requires a warm, relaxing bath. Flowers are beautiful, but gardening is a dirty business.

 

 

Week 16

Computer problems persist

April 16, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photo of step crack

Soaked:  The rains keep coming. The crack in our lower patio grows. We must repair the retaining wall. The task for this week to send a design to the civil engineer. We’ve had two surveys, neither good and neither agreeing with the other nor with the original survey and certainly not with the information we received from a utility company that surveyed our street from an ‘official marker.’ The second surveyor said he would go back to an ‘official’ marker (which he did not do) and/or use a map a utility company had made (which he did not do).   I failed to alter the surveyor’s contract to include what he told me he would do – shame on me! Both the first and second surveyors took their survey origin points from ‘non-official’ markers. The first survey our civil engineer said was bad, and the second survey is worse than the first.

I hate to paint all of anything with a broad brush, but I have found surveyors irritable, uncooperative and not consistent.   I had called several surveyors to request they make a proposal. Surveyor after surveyor said they would not survey our property, and I got sloppy after one surveyor finally said he’d survey our property. I talked to him about what I wanted, but what he said on the phone he did not do in the field. We probably should have used an early surveyor who gave a price of several thousand more than the cost of our hiring a geotechnical engineer’s soil evaluation. The geotechnical engineer spent an entire day at our home (along with two technicians), sent soil samples to a lab, had them evaluated, did calculations based on the lab results and made recommendations to our civil engineer.   All the soils engineer did was less costly than what surveyors charged to quickly (and poorly) survey our small lot. I have been told that in this state, surveyors have wrestled their profession away from civil engineers who pretty much have to go to college to practice engineering. Most surveyors we’ve dealt with didn’t get a college degrees, and their certification process is, in my opinion, less rigorous than that which civil engineers go through, yet surveyors, with lesser education and lesser qualifications, rule, and they seem to charge more than the registered engineers. It seems that surveyors do less work per dollar charged than engineers. Have surveyors always been as they seem to be today? If so, was George Washington as disagreeable and careless and as little concerned with accuracy as those surveyors we’ve been dealing with?

JM likes a saying by the Japanese director Kurosawa, “If I wait until I am ready, I’ll never be ready.” We have no survey I think accurate, but we’ll proceed with the design, ready or not, because if we wait to get a good survey it will never happen and we’ll never be ready.

April 17, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo: road sign in university hall

“When you see a fork in the road, take it.” Yogi Berra

Jorge Luis Borges class: the teacher talked (lots of ‘t’s there) about today’s text (more ‘t’s) ‘The Garden of Forking Paths.’ In thinking on it – the story and discussion was about ‘y,’ the ‘decision nodes’ or the forks, the decision points, points where when a choice is made and another opportunity is discarded. Borges’ story complexity heaped on top of complexity. The idea of forking Frost simplified.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And being one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Borges’ story was more image poem, a philosophical flight, than story, and is as complex as the result of the living of life. Life, simply put, is a ‘choice path’ (my words). From The Garden of Forking Paths, Borges:

I recognized the name of one of our consults, but I could only disconcertedly repeat, “The garden?’

“The garden of forking paths.”

Something stirred in my memory, and I spoke with incomprehensible assurance.

‘The garden of my ancestor Ts’ ui Pen.” …..

The dew-drenched path meandered like the paths of my childhood….

Existence, if one thinks about it, infinite complexity. Perhaps that is why Trump’s utter simplicity in the way he looks at life is appealing. Simplicity is easier to comprehend than complexity. Complexity, because it is complex, is difficult, often infinitely so, which means, of course, it is sometimes not comprehensible at all. Simplicity by its very nature (by what it ignores) is comforting.

Recently I had been thinking of forking, and how each of my parents had made individual choices (a tree of choices), and how their choices overlapped, coincided, conflicted, and how one of their coinciding choices literally created me and how other of their choices, individual and combined, influenced my life, my choices and that of my siblings. I thought of how each choice tree of each family member twined and intertwined like a messy giant forest where the limbs of one tree grows through the branches of other trees resulting in the fact that each tree partially determines the shaping of other trees, how one tree can not be altered or removed, without effecting those around it. Family is a messy living thing.

Our living, it seems to me, is not the clean, simple thing of a road diverging and a single choice, but of choice leading to unending choices and of choices made and those choices creating an individual(s), a family, a society. I thought how the ‘growth’ (choice/s) of one can thwart another. So the reading of the enigmatic ‘The Garden of Forking Paths” was relevant to me because of my pondering on choice determining future choice determining yet an individual’s future choice influencing future choices of others —- choice an infinite thing, both going back and going forward in time. The choices of my path set, but what of the future? Have the choices of my past already created my future? I had thought of writing on my family’s choice tree and how we (collectively and individually) came to live the life we live.

A few weeks back I took a photo of direction signage in University Hall, University of California, Berkeley. Could it be used to illustrate this essay? I did not know, but I found the naming of hallways of interest. Today, that signage symbolic of paths, nodes, choices, poems, short stories, life, you name it: Two halls diverged in a gray building, and I, being one student, went to the class, the Borges class — And that has made all the difference!

April 18, 2017 – TUESDAY

Photo of book

In class today, talk of books: Books as visual objects (objects to be seen); as textural (objects to be experienced through the sense of touch); as writing (objects of ideas— story, poem, prose…); as a unified object (binding & content); objects made to appeal to more than one sense; and to connect on more than one level. Books have something of permanence about them.

The OLLI Bay Area Publishing class has been interesting from first to last, and today’s class looked at limited run Bay-Area books. Representing that group:

  • An award-winning wood block artist (in the Japanese Style) and publisher;
  • A type designer (creator of alphabets) of print and book covers;
  • A printer who spent months in Venice, compiling and printing a book on Venice. He knows individuals from the old families of Venice. He showed a photo he took looking out from some fine palace onto St. Mark’s Square. He’d spent time wining and dining with and visiting the palaces of some of the half-dozen families who own the city. He said the rooms of their palaces, not infinite, but in the hundreds. He told of the fact that they have dining rooms to accommodate dinners of various sizes: from intimate to enormous banquet-size rooms to everything in between. There is so much room that the palaces are filled with endless possessions, possessions belonging to parents, grandparents, great-grand parents, great-great and more greats housed in one palace, the current occupant in possession of the legacy of ancestors who died and left those objects because children did not need them and because there was room and there was no reason to clear out the old to make room for the new. In such gigantic homes, there is so much room, there is always room for the new.; and
  • A woman who brought in one-off books, one-of-a-kind, books of one, a single copy, a copy handmade, hand-printed book. Those original books were amazing. One book, Turning Into A Pumpkin, was a book whose pages were paper bags, and in the bags were things to take out. Another book the pages were black origami, and inserted into each pocketed page were white cards with writing or drawings; and another ‘book’ a continual sheet (a folded scroll), which on the top edge seemed a single long watercolor, a watercolor, a continual form, rather than a scene.

I wished I would have had time to look at each book carefully and long, but the group was large and time limited.   The experience made me want to collect rare books. I cannot do it. I have too much paper and too many books (mostly ordinary books). I need bigger rooms with a full-time secretary to organize and keep my paper life, my books in order.

The ‘lecture’ reinforced the pleasure of the book. The book is a real thing. It is, as they said, a thing of pleasure, sensual pleasure, meant not just to be read, but also to be touched, to be held, to be seen and thereby to be experienced. The book an object of desire. The book itself remembered even when its cover closed, remembered because of its contents and its physical presence. The book is matter. (First time through this essay I spelled matter as mater, as mother. I like that!) Reading an e-reader (or on any a computer device) one is looking at energy. What is there on the screen, in spite of its beauty, when the computer is turned off, the book vanishes, evaporates – it needs continual energy for image to be maintained. No energy, no light, no book. We can touch a screen, but the screen rarely touches us. A BOOK is matter, ink on paper. It is there ready to be plucked from the shelf, not something that vanishes with a switch. Books are matter. Matter matters.

April 19, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo of bagel

Discovery:  JM toasted a bagel on which he put cream cheese and lox.

During college I worked for the YWCA. I had heard of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and had stayed at in one of their ‘dorms’ on a college outing, but until I applied for a summer job at the Young Women’s Christian Association, I had not known there was a women’s organization similar to the men’s, i.e., the YWCA. I learned that summer of bagels and more.

My junior year summer was spent as trainer of the young counselors. Counselors in Training (CIT) they were called. Since I was management (a supervisor), the horse-riding instructor (a supervisor) and I shared a cabin, which was located on a cliff high above Michigan’s side of Lake Huron. The cabin had a large picture window overlooking the lake. Into that window a Yellow Billed Cuckoo flew, killing itself. That is the one and only Cuckoo I’ve ever seen. I regretted the Yellow Bills death then and still do. Not wanting the death to be a total waste, I took the ‘skin’ to a nearby college. I knew of birds, I knew the science of bees, but I understood little of life, including the birds and the bees. Before that summer, a college roommate had told me that a woman had been playing footsie with her. “Why?” I asked. “She was flirting with me,” she said. It did not make sense, and I did not understand what my roommate was saying until long after she told me of it. During my YWCA summer some of the high school girls complained that two of CIT’s had pushed their beds next to each other. I did not have a problem with that, and I did not understand what they were saying. Finally someone came out and said that the girls were gay and ‘carrying on’ in the shared dormitory. I insisted that they were wrong and only men could be gay, but I did, because several other girls were uneasy with the set-up, ask the two girls to separate their beds so that they conformed to the original dorm layout. It took a while for me to understand that what was true of men was also true of women. JM told me that Queen Victoria had also held my view. It seems I was only a century behind the times.

The college women at the YWCA camp were invited to an evening beach party on the shore of the Great Lake, Huron. I went. I had read Hawaii and thought that beach sex, random pairing and unpairing, was something only a few aboriginal societies engaged in. I imagined the beach party was going to be a gathering of youth around a campfire singing folksongs and laughing and talking about lives and expectations and the roasting of marshmallows. I arrived at dusk and walking through the sand and beach grasses. I found myself stepping over bodies, copulating bodies, and realized that no one was there for a campfire. I immediately understood that the night would proceed as the night had begun. I got a ride back to camp, I don’t recall with whom, but I was glad to have escaped what could have been a very unpleasant introduction to serious sex. San Francisco’s ‘Summer of Love’ was very much like the beach party on the western shore of Lake Huron. As a biologist I understood too much about sexually transmitted disease to be interested in copulating with strangers, but youth that night did do what youth (excluding cautious youth) has likely always done. I, being from a religious family, believed ‘sex’ was not an act to be undertaken lightly, especially outside of marriage. My hormones may have been raging, but understanding my psychological self, I behaved by my own values. I was not interested in abstract desire or in quick pleasure, or the need to feel desired by another, but I learned that summer that others wanted what did not interest me.

Back at the camp one of my ‘students’ was leaving for the weekend. She asked if she could bring me bagels as a treat when she returned. “No thanks. I like the taste, but they always are stale.” She brought me bagels anyway and explained what I was eating was not stale, it was simply a bagel. That was the nature of a bagel, they were not meant to be soft like a roll or a slice of bread. “Oh!!!!!” So yet another lesson that summer, a time much of life was unknown to me. Still, much of life remains a mystery. And although it’s been months since the November election, I cannot understand how any knowledgeable thinking person could have voted for Trump and not have voted for Hillary for president. Trump, for me, is just another version of that lake beach party.

And I did not learn of lox until several years after working at the YWCA camp. I learned of lox when I visited one of my students and his family. What I knew of Jews and their culture I had learned in church and from reading Marjorie Morningstar. The family was of Ashkenazi Jewish decent (and I have DNA commonly found in that group). They asked me if I wanted lox? They explained. I ate and have loved bagels, cream cheese, lox, capers and chopped red onion every since. We are not born knowing.

Just as I did not know of bagels or lox, I did not know of sushi when I attended shortly after arriving in California an event sponsored by female architects. I had a drink and a small cocktail plate. A woman of Japanese descent carried a platter filled with long California sushi rolls around the room. She stopped and held it out in front of me. I knew nothing of sushi and thought the long rolls were ‘Japanese burritos’ and took one. The Japanese American architect commented that she had spent the entire day making her sushi treats. She came back by me several times to see how I was doing with her sushi. Raw fish and a huge amount of it. I ate and I ate and I ate it because she seemed upset with my serving and seemed to want to make sure that I ate what I took. A small bite would have been more than sufficient. I wish the maker had told me to cut a small piece off one roll and that small piece was considered a serving. She had no idea I was ignorant of the topic. Before her plate, I had never seen a sushi roll. I guessed at what it was and guessed wrong. By the end of the evening I finished the roll, but after finishing it felt ill. I told no one of my uneasy stomach, worried that it would offend. Since my first California roll I’ve avoided raw fish. Several years later, I did get sushi as part of a pre-fixe menu at an upscale San Francisco restaurant. JM got ill, but it lasted only a matter of hours. I spent a few days sick, could keep nothing down, became too dizzy to stand so ended up in the hospital. The attending physician said I either got food poisoning from an improperly cooked fast-food hamburger or raw fish. When I told him where I ate the sushi, he could not believe I could have eaten ‘bad’ food at that fine restaurant.   We know many who love sushi, but now, if I go ‘Japanese,’ I eat tempura or steak, anything cooked. I love salmon lox, but not salmon sushi, although they are not so very different. We learn by experience, but sometimes a little introduction to the new, makes the new easier to stomach. A little pre-knowledge is not always a bad thing. Sometimes surprises are delightful, but sometimes surprises lead to experiences that one wishes never had occurred. Some love what I hate partially because of the experience of the ‘first bite.’ In writing class on Monday, we were instructed to write a letter of apology. One writer wrote:

Adam,

I’m sorry I upset the applecart.

Eve

That myth describes the bite of all bites, a bite that affected all of humanity — and —

April 20, 2017 – THURSDAY

Photo of foot & crack

The Cracking: It grows. We must get our civil engineer to design a new retaining wall for the back hill. My task this week, I had said, was “to get sketches drawn so that he might provide the calculations and the civil engineering drawing for the wall.” It needs to be done now, but what I need to do, needed to do, is not yet done. “If not done today, then tomorrow, tomorrow” I have told myself, but days, months, years have passed and the crack grows. The hill, the engineer has assured me, will continue to move. The wall is to be built not to stop the hill’s movement, but to be built so that the hill and wall move in unison. It is to be a wall with a purpose unlike Trump’s wall, and paying for the wall will be money well spent, unlike Trump’s wall. Our wall should be built. Trump’s wall, NOT.

April 21, 2017 – FRIDAY

SF photos

Watercolor class: I do believe that I am the worst student in class. (I am.). I once painted gorgeous clouds and tolerable trees, but it’s been a quarter of a century since I’ve picked up a brush. There seems to remain no fragment of paint memory. Just as my old brushes disintegrated from disuse (or perhaps paint’s chemical remains), any skill I had is gone, disintegrated.

The City/County of San Francisco whenever we go over to visit still seems exotic, like a vacation city. JM said when he retires, we’ll have to play tourist regularly. Beautiful weather, and San Francisco was actually warm this evening. (“The coldest winter I ever spent was my summer in San Francisco,” attributed to Mark Twain.) Tonight, on our way to meet friends at a bar, we briefly played tourist, walked from BART to and through the Ferry Building (where we bought small gifts for our godchildren). We snacked and drank at Perrys’ with JM’s young friends. They are younger, much younger. We are the age of some of their parents and the age of at least one’s grandparents. One couple, both are attorneys at some up-town law firm. The husband has become the boss of the wife. I wanted to ask, “How do others in your group feel about that? How can he not play favorites? Does it make it uncomfortable for you (manager and subordinate)? Does it change the dynamics at home/ and to her, does he now try to play boss full time both at home and at work?” But as nosy as my brain was, I could not ask what I was wondering. We had planned, after drinks and snacks, to eat out at a nice SF restaurant. However, we had more than enough to eat and drink, so returned home to hot chocolate. A tame day in a wild city and pleasant from first to last.

April 22, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photo of nothing; co2

Earthiness, Airiness, The Day of the Earth: It is there. It has always been there. It is in us. It is all around us: look up; look down; look right; look left; look to the front; look behind you. It is still there. It is needed, but just like so many things, it is a mater of degree. Carbon dioxide (a molecule, two carbon atoms joined electrically with an oxygen atom) is odorless, tasteless, colorless. We know it is there, but we cannot see or smell or taste it. It is needed, and without it humankind would not exist. Plants take carbon dioxide in, and with the magic of chlorophyll and sunshine, they release oxygen and create matter, matter from energy and air. It seems impossible, but it is done. Without the apple, created from CO2 and sunshine, Newton would not have ‘discovered’ gravity. (He did not so much discover it as hypothesis its existence.) Nor would Eve, long before that, have tempted Adam. (Is the ‘Adam’s Apple’ from Adam’s swallowing a forbidden fruit?!). We, the living world are here because of CO2, but ironically, human existence, if not doomed, is likely to be limited by an overabundance of it. Humans have deforested the globe, removing the very trees that would have helped absorb some of the excessive of CO2 we’ve created by the burning of fossil fuels. Like a children denying what they have done, we Americans seem to deny what we have done, but denying does not change what we have done nor the effects we have triggered by our doing it. It has been said that, “Ignorance is bliss.” Today, IGNORANCE is DANGEROUS. And Trump’s ignorance and denial of basic scientific facts is a danger to you to me and to the world. We must act to reduce CO2 immediately. Efforts to reduce CO2 may be too little too late, but lack of action is certain to result in even greater worldwide catastrophes. Just like many bad decisions made by corporate heads, Trump may not be there to see the devastating effects of his ignorant decisions, but those bad decisions will result in not just in a mere failure of a corporation, but in failure of large ecosystems and beyond. In making decisions, CEOs (to benefit themselves) often choose immediate returns rather than making decisions that would benefit the long-term viability of their organizations. Trump seems to follow that model. He seeks approval from his base, caring little what his decisions will do to them and to all in the future. He wants immediate gratification. Decisions made (as well as those not made) today will affect life and cycles on this planet. Trump denies Climate Change, its cause and is requesting that government-funded institutions not collect Climate Change data. Trump is wrong, and he is doing what he can to prevent the world from knowing the degree of his wrongness.

Nature is a delicate balance. Trump is meddling with that balance, and he seems to think his mere existence trumps Nature. I regret that Nature had any part in his creation, but Nature is not perfect and it created him, an imperfect man, a dangerous man. The nature of President Trump is likely to cause irreparable harm to Nature. What greater mistake could Nature have made?