February 5, 2017 – SUNDAY

Calla, Quince & Wreath

Timing is all:  This morning, brief glimpses of sun: Calla Lily and quince blossoms to be observed; wreath on front door to enjoy; and, much seen to be preserved on chip. Gray built on gray, followed by cold drizzle. Because we intended to stay inside, we did not check our computer to learn what would follow what. Yesterday Michael and I went to the farmers market. Our timing was based on JM’s consulting the local weather website. When the best time arrived, we gathered our backpacks and, because we were to be there between rains, we dressed in wool sweaters. At the very moment promised to be without rain, we stepped out of our car. The sky opened up. Rain? Rain had not been predicted, but nature did, as it is often wills to do, what it wanted. Since, it seemed, nature had a mind of its own, one that defied prediction, we downed rain-jackets stowed in the car’s trunk and preceded to the market. We stepped around puddles, tried to duck under umbrella booths where their edges dumped collected water down onto us and down our backs. We packed our backpacks with fruits and vegetables and party  dips until we could take wet feet and driving rain no longer. We retreated to the Whole Foods (roof-covered) Market to finish purchasing the last few things we needed for the party. Today, I spent looking out on nature as opposed to being in it and am the dryer for it.

more Quince

February 6, 2017 – MONDAY

Home 2015

Oak & Bowls

Sounds of the day:  Michael calls it atmospherics, the sounds we can hear of distant objects. Lying in bed on this rainy morning I can hear the sound of tires on pavement as commuters make their way to the City (San Francisco); the squeal of BART trains on their rails; the muffled roar of an airplane; the rumble of a train and its whistle from Jack London Square on the Bay; the deep tones of our chimes; the splashing of fountain water — all at a distance.

There are the sounds heard only by a sleeping partner: the breathing in and out; the clearing of the throat; the sneeze; the utterances of sleep (ohhhhhh; eeehh; ahhhhhhh; ummmmmmm, mmmmmmmuu, nnnnn) before the waking or as part of the waking. There is the Oskar meowing, scratching at the bedroom door doing what he can to wake us. He, put out just after midnight, because of his repeated attempts to wake us for an early meal, is there requesting his far too long delayed meal.


Party bottles

Party bottles

Last night the sounds Michael and I made as we lay down after a long day, a somewhat physical one: picking up after the party; washing of dishes; putting away of party items (glasses, dishes, chairs); sweeping of floors; collecting and recycling of trash; washing of clothes and dumping out of washing machine water resulting from a blockage; mopping up of water; and putting the garage in order afterwards. We make sounds, semi-intelligible ones, as we drift into sleep. If our day had been one of hard physical labor, those sounds more intense, from deeper in the body, deeper in the throat, as if bone and muscle were speaking of the day.

Some sounds made only a partner understands. When I do not have time to formulate a word, or utter one, I ‘cry out’ a ‘aaaaahhhhh,’ oooophs,’ ‘eeeeeeee!’ And JM understands what I mean. “We’ve been together long enough for me to interpret what you mean,” he said of one of my recent non-verbal back-seat-driver utterances. “Thank you. I did not see that car crossing over.” I had seen the wild driver veering rapidly from lane to lane. He may not have collided with us, but my noise, not a said word, alerted Michael to a potential hazard and JM adjusted his driving to prevent an accident.

Oskar the Crying Cat

And the cats, particularly Oskar (the most vocal of our cats), I love his ‘talk,’ even if, early in the morning, it annoys me. He does not speak English, but he speaks a language, one that I have learned to understand. His meows, his crying out, I know what they mean — feed me, scratch my ears, play with me, throw the toy, give me a lap, why are you leaving?, glad you’ve come home….. Sounds connect us with that which is most animal in us. We have minds, but brain is body and body is animal. So, my animal self delights in the sound of the distance unknown and the known animals here at my side making sound, not words, and those sounds communicate at an instinctual level deeper than any word could.

February 7, 2017 – TUESDAY

Bus w/ City Hall & BART

It’s all about …. It’s all about the rain. Rain today, now and here, has taken us out of the drought, at least in this small slice of California. Our part of Oakland, TODAY, reached the seasonal average for rainfall for the first time in 6 years. There is much to celebrate. However, a good part of California, particularly our central valley is still in drought and for them and other parts of the state where drought remains, we remain concerned.

I took Uber to a Berkeley lecture because the on-line bus schedule did not match the ‘Next Bus’ app. Michael swore ‘Next Bus’ is accurate, meaning that my bus which was, according to the schedule, not due for several minutes, had come and gone so to get to my destination on time, Uber was my only option. Uber did get me to my destination on time.

In the evening, I had a cooking class in the City of Alameda and Uber, or rather the Uber app, failed me. The app that worked so well in the morning would not connect properly in the evening. I literally spent an hour trying to connect with Uber. Just when I had gone beyond desperate and given up hope, my cell phone connected with Uber and I was able to get a ride, which got me to class, but a half hour late.

As much as I would like to support our local taxi companies, they have not served us well in the past. We have ordered cabs that never showed up or showed up late. In the aftermath of the Loma Prieta Earthquake and the partial collapse of the Bay Bridge, our shuttle to the airport ‘blew up.’ We were left stranded somewhere in SF Bay marshlands at a desolate gas station with nothing else around. Our taxi showed up but refused to take us to the SF Airport without a huge surcharge. Her attitude, “You either do what I demand, or you get no ride.”   We declined the ride (likely a mistake) but did get another taxi to the airport that charged the 4 passengers the going rate without an enormous destination bonus.

I’ve only ridden with Uber three times. All Uber drivers I rode with drove well while most taxi drivers I’ve ridden with were insane drivers. The driving skills of the taxi drivers were questionable, but they knew their cities and did not have to rely on electronic guidance. My first Uber driver, a right-wing Irish immigrant, talked of Kaddafi, the good and decent leader of Libya, and vilified Hillary (I did not think him to have high regard for women generally); the second talked of the rain and his desire to drive well in it; and the third of geography and his delight in having driven for Uber since it was founded. I’m not sure if Uber is good for local business, but in the past, when I got into a taxi, because of the driving style of most taxi drivers, I felt as if I were risking my life. My Uber rides have not been the knuckle-biting rides I experienced in taxies. I am conflicted because I want to support local business.   We live in a changing world but I am unsure if I should support the Uber change. However, it is a capitalist society, and within reason, better service should win, but if not win at least be competitive and make a competitive taxi monopoly deliver better service. And perhaps Uber (& Lyft) will make drivers of taxies better as a result.

February 8, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Fungi please:  We moved into our home a couple of decades ago. The rains came and there in our front yard, a perfect ‘fairy ring’ popped out overnight. I had read about ‘fairy rings’ but I had never seen one. Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi, sprouting from ‘underground’ hyphae (I could throw in mycelium, but why complicate?). As nutrients are used up, the hyphae move outward. So each year, when sufficient rain comes, new fruiting bodies (mushrooms) pop up and each year the circle (fairy ring / elf circle) is a little bigger than the year before. Since living in our home the ring has grown from a few feet to 20’ in diameter. It is no longer a fairy ring, because when it reached the sidewalk, the circular growth stopped on one edge, but a little of the circular edge remains, although, the number of fruiting bodies / mushrooms has diminished. Still, I feel the magic of the fairy circle and feel privileged to not just have seen one, but to have one present in our very own front yard. 

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We have other mushrooms too. One type I saw just once, when soil was removed to put in a brick walkway. They were thin, flimsy, flattish translucent cups without ‘stems.’ I’ve not been able to discover their kind. Now we have a wart-like dark mushroom growing between the stones under our coastal Oak. At the side of our house, in the area where a wild plumb grew, another type of mushrooms flourish.

Oak mushroom

Mushroom under Oak / ‘wart’ mushroom

My mother’s family collected mushrooms each year by the streams and in the woods of their farm. They knew the ‘safe’ mushrooms and where to collect them. I’m not so knowledgeable. I look at the mushrooms in nature but do not pick. I’ve read too many accounts of people who thought they knew poison from non-poisonous mushrooms, killing themselves and loved ones too because they were wrong, DEAD WRONG.

One year we had a huge puff ball — slightly smaller than a soccer ball — growing in the front yard. I gave it to a neighbor child and encouraged him to take it to school, but before I gave it to him, I squeezed it and watched the spores shoot forth, looking like dirty chimney smoke. As the spores dispersed, I wished them well, but, in this now urban area, I doubt if many or any of them took hold. In our neighborhood we have raccoons and possums and squirrels and bats and birds (and an occasional deer), but much of the natural plant life of our hills, forever gone. Mushrooms and maybe our oaks are a throwback to botanical life that once inhabited our hill before it became urban. We like living where we do, but there is also a little guilt for the nature that was destroyed in the taking of the land for habitation. We try to give a little back, lots of flowers for the birds and bees, Oak trees for wildlife and ground-cover that allows water to be absorbed. How does one balance nature and the city?

February 9, 2017 – THURSDAY

         Rain drops

The dripping:  I find myself fascinated with water, drops of water. In our rains, our steady rain, water clings to the edges of roof fascia boards, to tree branches, to a flower’s petals, to almost any thing and to most edges. The drops glisten, turning the world upside down. I love photographing them and enlarging them and trying to see if I can make out the inverted world held in transparent globes.

February 10, 2017 – FRIDAY

making ready Romanesco Broccoli / Cauliflower and Leeks for soup

The loaf:  This afternoon, the making of an easy bread, ‘black pepper yeast ring’ for supper. A friend is coming. We’ll have cauliflower (left over from Saturday’s party) soup made with my wonderful homemade chicken broth. (I occasionally use store-bought broth, but it is weak, thin and tasteless and I try to avoid it!) I grew up with wonderful soups. Often those were made with a water base, but I’ve always preferred those made with a rich broth and because of that I almost always use a good broth as a base, rather than water. So into the soup, a big leek, cauliflower, white pepper, sea salt and chicken broth cooked together, then pureed. Perhaps I’ll add milk or cream. I’ll decide just before serving.

Recipe box and cards

While looking for the bread recipe I came across other recipes, including ones from my grandmother, my mother and my own. Cooking was a family art: the recording of it, done on cards, scraps of paper and in notebooks. More than the paper records are the memories my senses recorded: Taste, Smell; Sight; Touch and even Sound (sizzling oil; snap of a cookie; the hitting of a spoon against a bowl – always three times). I’ll put the bread in the oven only when our friend arrives, so she may smell the baking of the bread, enjoy the breaking of the loaf, see the melting of the butter on a hot slice and delight in the incomparable taste of freshly baked bread.  Fresh Bread

February 11, 2017 – SATURDAY


Glass containers

The breaking:  Yesterday I broke one of the glass containers we’ve had since JM & I first set up housekeeping in North Carolina. Michael built me a butcher-block table. He cut the legs and trim at Duke University’s woodshop and attached that base to a 4-inch thick commercial kitchen butcher-block top, a custom maple top which we ordered from a restaurant supply house. It was 2’ by 4’. The young man I married, always wanting to impress the ladies, hoisted that heavy maple slab into the trunk of our car by himself as a secretary looked on. A ‘real man,’ he did the loading himself refusing to ask for help from warehouse staff, lest the young secretary think him a wimp. When he got home, he recruited me to help carry the maple tabletop into the house where he attached it to the base. That table I used for making bread and as a side table for cooking until we moved into our current home. Above it JM made shelves on which I placed large glass storage containers (with metal lids and red plastic handles) filled with flours, sugars, cookies, crackers, dried fruits, cookie cutters and more. The butcher-block table, shelving and containers were installed and re-installed in our various homes. Our current kitchen is small and would not accommodate the table or shelves and we gave the table / shelving to a friend, but we still use some of the containers for baking supplies. Those glass containers make my kitchen a kitchen and I see through them to flours, sugar, sweeteners….   Some, before yesterday’s breakage, were broken years ago and some are stored in the garage. From the garage this morning, I retrieved the last small glass storage container to replace the one I broke. Two big glass containers remain in the garage because they are too large for our kitchen shelving. Our glass containers, like me, can be classified as antique, antique, but still functioning.