Friday, April 29, 2011

Things That Go UP and DOWN

Like many around the world I've been up in the wee hours viewing the royal wedding. Like Kate (who prefers Catherine but nobody seems to respect that) I wonder what the future will bring? The terrible tornados hitting the south seem to have taken second fiddle in the news and if I lived in Alabama I think I'd be very resentful. Likewise, though I am half English, I resent the fact that if the newliweds have a girl child first the English laws of progeny will prevent her from taking the throne. Tsk Tsk.
I recently wrote about the implosion of the Naval Hospital down the hill from me. Now in the distance I feel sadness as I see just a pile of concrete. However its hard to frown for long because my garden has exploded with color in the last week. Our unusual spring weather has made the iris and roses explode. I've been so excited about it I've been entertaining a lot (Easter, May Day, etc.) This morning I had a serious conversation with the gopher who has his eye on the flower bed right outside my study window. I found one iris laying flat on its side, stalk chewed off. I explained that there was plenty for both of us as long as he didn't invite his cousins, but I'm not sure he understands English any more that I understand the monarchy. I took the photos above between the replays of the exchange of vows in Westminster Abbey.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Celebrating Earth Day, or whatever

Thank the elements, or whatever, for my spirits are more chipper this week. Breathing is easier. Debilitating allergies have subsided and the outlook for myself, if not the planet, is perkier. Besides, my garden is popping with color.

For Christians today is Good Friday. For Jews it is Shabbat. For 500 million folks in 175 countries it is Earth Day, a celebration invented when I was already 40, so I don’t quite get it. Two different sources claim to have invented it one being Senator Gaylord Nelson a senator from Wisconsin who insisted it be called National Environmental Teach In Day (no one else did, though). The other is a group founded by John McConnell introduced at a UNESCO conference in 1969.

This group settled on the vernal equinox, the moment when night and day are of equal length. That’s today!

And how did I celebrate it? I’ve always been passionate about nature. Part of my life indoctrination by my dad, as well as lessons learned in the Camp Fire Girls and Girl Scouts. (My gospels.) Both organizations were decades ahead of the times, teaching ecology before the Sierra Club heard the name. The older I get the more environmentally conscious I get, although I don’t think it has anything to do with Earth Day. Maybe it’s related to my own immortality? Its getting so I can’t stand to take the life of any sentient creature. When I find spiders in my bathtub I carefully catch them in a clear class tumbler and move them to the rose garden.

On Wednesday I startled a very large garter snake taking a spring sun bath in the middle of the path as I was carrying out the dog poop. Instead of annoyance I found myself apologizing to the snake. Accordingly I spent part of this Earth Day morning relocating garden snails to the bank in the orchard. (Much juicier picking there, I told them.) One had crawled way up my clean living room window. I smiled as I dislodged him tenderly. I have yet to embrace the wood rats, but who knows where I will go next?

A few weeks ago in San Francisco I came across an exhibit by the Long Now Foundation of a model of a 10,000 year clock. The goal of the organization is to get folks to think about the environmental legacy we are leaving not for just our grandchildren but for our grandchildren’s grandchildren, and beyond that. It stirred me deeply.

Perhaps I should shun plastic and my now one year old gas burning vehicle and return to my teenage passion of back packing and primitive camping? Young bracken fern is almost as soft as toilet paper, after all.

On the other hand, I’m loving my new IMAC computer and if I’m adept enough you’ll see above a collage of my garden right now, thanks to modern technology. I’d dearly miss that. For now, guess I'll stay with the now.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Balancing on the Pitty Pot

Compulsive (or perhaps boring) as I am, April 15 holds no dread for me, for I usually have my taxes filed at least a month in advance. Thankfully I have no ancestors who died on the Titanic on this date in 1912. Still April has come to be the hardest month of the year for me. It used to be my most favorite month but now its the month I struggle hardest to pull myself off the pitty pot. Its not only filled with sad personal grievances, including the birthdays of my deceased partner Lee and my niece Jill, it’s the month allergies hit me hardest. Now days, rather than rejoice, I look sadly out the house windows at the beautiful gardens it has taken me four decades to cultivate. Just now there must be thirty iris in bloom (the whites and yellows come first, the darker ones will explode soon) and from my bedroom window I can count at least 100 buds on the roses. I mostly wear a breathing mask just to get to the car port. Poor Bonnie. In desperation for my compromised breathing I’ll be getting a big shot from the doc this afternoon. That will help a bit. This indoor confinement usually lasts till the end of July. What a downer! I remind myself how much I love to read and paint, two activities I can limit to indoors. I think about the contaminated air in Japan right now and those poor folks. I play all kinds of mind tricks, but still my head screams “NO FAIR”.

So it was with pure joy that I welcomed a visit last week from my fun loving friend Nancy from Denver. Nancy entertains me and plays indoor word games with me. Sometimes she lets me win. She even went to watch my pilates class. One of the best things we did was to attend the exhibit Pulp Fashion at the Palace of the Legion of Honor. It featured the Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave, a Belgian painter who interprets early European paintings in paper. Somehow she makes paper look like cloth. Its fantastic, and runs through June 5. A must!

Thanks Nancy, for making my day.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Going, Going, G---o---n---e...

I can't help but wonder what's next. Maybe a hidden nuclear fallout shelter? Now that the dust has settled the big pile of concrete rubble does not give us much insight into the lives of folks who were doctors or nurses or patients there. For that matter, there could be a hidden tunnel from my property to enter the debris. Only the deer and a curious wild cat would discover it, as I've never ventured to the front of my three and a half acres. Too much poison oak, and an occasional rattler. As long as I have lived in this house, which is almost 50 years, the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital has stood as a tall landmark in the valley about two miles to the south outlining the horizon between me and the salt flats of San Francisco bay. I’ve had a perfect view of it, but only occasionally visited sick and retired servicemen hospitalized there. I wonder why? Before that the beautiful rolling land was a country club and golf course which fell to disuse in the Great Depression. In ’42 a military hospital was needed. Needs change as do parties in power. A magnificent hospital was erected on the bucolic 186 acres. It served thousands of wounded. Now empty since the 1993 base realignment legislation, the stately eleven story concrete building has become a victim to abandonment and politics, so that demolition was the only logical answer. Like perfect clockwork, some 800 pounds of dynamite accomplished that task at 12:10 pm today. I counted eights blasts, (though the tv saids 12) and then it was gone in three seconds. As I watched from the deck I thought of what memories those walls must hold. Stationed nearby, my good friend Ruth Talley, now in her nineties, once served in the Waves as a 2nd class personnel officer for service women assigned to Oak Knoll. She was billeted on the grounds in an old psychiatric hospital. “I took care of the girls in the barracks,” she laughingly recalls.

When she was about seven, dear surrogate daughter Catherine, daughter of an army officer, did not want to take a school spelling test for which she was unprepared. Her mom hauled her, over protests, to the hospital. They had at first ignored her complaint of feeling ill until they discovered a high temp. She had put the thermometer in her Oma's tea to avoid school. At Oak Knoll they feared meningitis and performed a spinal tap, not believing her even after she confessed. She was a mighty scared and unhappy kid. No more will she drive by and shudder at the memory.

If you or anyone you know has personal memories with Oak Knoll I'd welcome them.

One day this sixty year old house where I sit writing, like the hospital, will fall from use and be demolished. I wonder if all this land will someday return to its native habitat of redwoods and streams leading to the bay, or if it will become military bases for space shuttles or the like? Perhaps aliens will inhabit it! Its intriguing to speculate.

Enjoy the photos.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Facing Your Fears #2


Lee’s mother was an incredibly brave woman, having left home at 14 to housekeep and baby sit for strangers in order to send wages home to her mother.Perhaps it was not so uncommon in those days.

Hardly the shrinking violet, she married Lee’s dad at 16.Life was hard, but she plunged ahead with courage. Still there was one thing she greatly feared: if she bore children in a hospital the hospital would somehow mix up the babies.So she chose to bear both kids in the bedroom at home. No one was going to switch her babies! If the weather in Berkeley in 1920 and 1925 was anything like today she would have needed all the doors and windows wide open, as I have just now.

Amazing. Its 80 degrees outside and our thirteen days of rain have dissolved into sliding hillsides, gigantic weeds, and pulsating pollen counts. Not only is it April Fools Day but today is the one year anniversary of my blog. It has been a joy, as well as a piece of learning. I encourage everyone I know to try it. As of two weeks ago I have my new 27” IMAC up and running, and I am even learning to use Skype. Thankful hugs to Sheila, Peggy, Beth, Cheari and Jan for all the tutoring.

I dedicated my first story last year to my life partner, Lee, who would have been 86 today (or perhaps tomorrow). Why the choice?When her brother died in his forties she choose to honor his memory by celebrating her own birth day on his birthday, thus giving her both April 1 and 2. I was touched by her gesture, though I failed to comprehend it, since the stories I heard of his behavior in childhood were not exactly to be cherished.Perhaps they were just big brother antics? I never knew what it was like to live with a brother. Things like throwing her china doll through the living room picture window were not unusual. Never having had either a big or little brother such things are out of my realm of understanding.

As I recall my big sister was forever kind and helpful, cooking me special treats, loaning me her doll, and patiently tutoring me in math, my worst subject.

I understand April Fools Day is celebrated all through the Western world but the exact origin is vague. For me in childhood I would begin calculating jokes to play on family members about the third week in March for there was a family tradition to see who would be the first in the morning to catch another in a tall tale. If the victim believed you the game would end with “Caught you!” I would rehearse stories in my mind so they would almost sound real, but end with a whopper of a fish tale. It was such a fun challenge that it tweaked my imagination and delight. And yes, I miss it.

Has anyone caught you in a trick today? If so I hope it was a whopper and produced generous laughter.