Friday, December 26, 2014

Ever the Estate Sale

Almost every weekend here, as is appropriate in a senior community where some folks become death statistics every week, there is a well staged estate sale. I'll be toddling off to a massage or shopping, and seeing the sign, clamp on my brakes. Half the time I convince myself that I need to accelerate once again for after all, I'm trying to get rid of accumulated trivia, not gather more. But sometimes, like last week, I can't resist the impulse.... What the other shoppers don't realize, I think, is that I'm more interested in learning about the mystery of who lived in the house and their life story, than I am in purchasing their treasured possessions. Of course, there is the eerie feeling, "Someday it will be me and my treasures they are pouring over; who will buy them and what will they think of me?"
A couple of weeks ago I stopped on impulse at a sign about a mile away. It was only about half an hour after the sale opening, and I could see many shoppers exiting the front door, arms laden with treasures, their faces half masked, half smiling, clutching their special finds. It took me five minutes to latch onto a large hand blown glass bowl with exquisite colors and designs (later Catherine and Mary's Christmas gift) and two very old Chinese Foo dogs that seemed to be calling my name. Not that I couldn't easily have spent $5,000 in five minutes, such were the art objects there, many from Bali and Asia. But what I really wanted was to learn was who had lived here, and what were the stories behind their treasures?
I brought the dogs home and put them on my kitchen table. Later I learned
from friend Elaine who has travelled to China many times that the Foo dogs I bought were male; a female dog has her paw raised with the ball in her paw. Hmm. I might have been less interested had I known. Or maybe not. Anyway, I already knew that they are supposed to guard the throne. So now they sit contentedly in front of my  fireplace, assuming their new role. I feel safer already.

 What I learned subsequently from Bonnie-type sleuthing was that the former owner had been placed in a care facility and died the day after the sale, and that in an earlier life she had worked for the CIA. I hope she passed on some of her luck and intrigue to me for I could surely use some going into this new year.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Brief Break In the Rain

Between the rows in the vineyards now water is standing in pools and the grasses seem to grow overnight. The maintenance staff here had to scoop frogs from the outdoor pools which were overflowing. Everything is so clean and shiny! Drought plagued Sonoma County has currently received over 1.37% of our normal rainfall. Over 6" fell in a 12 hour period or so they claim. Fortunately my house is dry and warm though other parts of Oakmont lost power briefly. The only malfunction I've experienced is a row of tiny ants in my bathroom.
Yesterday during a brief lull friend Ann and I put on our water wings and motored to nearby Sonoma to view a spectacular photography exhibit by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. It closes at the Sonoma Valley Library Jan. 3. Well worth the trip. The photographs, mostly taken at great depths, are mounted on aluminum so they glow with color. There was one I really coveted of swarms of fish and rocks and sponges. It was just the right color to go over my fireplace! On the way home we brunched at the Creekside Cafe which was folksy and quite enchanting. I ordered a single fruit pancake. In the middle were strawberries, raspberries and bananas. I was still full at dinner time...
Today I meet with the instructor for a new class I'm setting up here in January: Ikebana. Another adventure in the unknown.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Post Storm

No sign of sunshine yet but what few flowers are left are shaking off the excess raindrops. They say (who is "they"?) Santa Rosa had over five inches of rain in one day, making up for what we have missed in the last two years, and exceeding the bay area, though still not ending our drought. The Russian River peaked this morning and in Marin County some shops and homeowners are navigating on air mattresses. Quite a sight.
On Oakmont Drive we never lost power, though I was expecting it. Today the sky is pale grey and looks like it has been through a wringer. No juice left! In my role as a board member of the art association here I schedule all the classes and workshops.It was a humbling experience to discover last night I had scheduled two meetings in January on the same date and time. Aaagh. My brain must be waterlogged. Heretofore, I thought I was perfect! Happy advent.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Plethora of Persimmons

Besides the palette of autumn leaves which tickles my creative juices, I love late fall for the abundance of persimmons. Last week when visiting my old digs the new owners gifted me with a large jar of frozen pulp from my very own tree. Well, its not my tree any more, having passed it on to the new admirers, but I like to think it has my initials in there somewhere. It was a gift from Lee about 15 years ago, and it thrived from the day it was planted.  I like to think it has some of her spirit in it too. I have no room in my yard here for a persimmon tree, but lots of my neighbors do, and they thrive in Santa Rosa as well. So on my counter I have at least a dozen ripening. They will provide persimmon bars all year round.
Having painted the lush

orange globes so many years I thought I'd try something new this season. I'm experimenting doing a kind of free form on hot press paper. Who would ever think the models on the left produced the blur on the right?

It was playful and unpredictable, I'm going to try lemons next from Catherine's and Mary's Santa Rosa yard.

At this time when our nation is torn apart by police killings and violence and nightly demonstrations in the streets, including Oakland, perhaps it is good to have a few minutes of

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Shimmering grey cumulus clouds changing in shape so rapidly I couldn't count,  multiplied each mile Friday as weary me wended her way home from four days in the bay area. Catching up with friends and writing colleagues consumed my energies: not nearly enough time to make a big dent in my wish list of friends to see and things to do, but at least a few. The new owners of Cathy Lane invited me to see how the property looks minus the demolished green house and jewel corridor. (Great, really, just very different.) The storm held off until just a few minutes before I arrived home at Oakmont. There I found that my two Japanese maples decided on a wardrobe change while I was gone. Hundreds and hundreds of little colored petticoats covered both my front and back yard. Out my bedroom window they are over a foot deep in places. They now glisten in our much appreciated rain. The forecasters predict we will get more percip in the next seven days than we have had in a year. Triple rejoicing. 
Catherine came yesterday and took me shopping to Whole Foods and a funky little Ace hardware for an odd sized light globe. She goes to Washington DC next week to testify at the Senate Finance Comm. on Women's Health. 
My breathing is still problematical so I am on oxygen most of the time. I feel conspicuous when I go out, but few people stare, or if they do, I don't notice. On this Thanksgiving week I am most thankful for loved ones, and for the assist of portable oxygen. Now I can't wait to see what December brings. 
Meanwhile, I'm reading up a storm, as well as painting a little. Hope you are warm and toasty wherever you are. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

So Many Gratitudes

It was a bit scary yesterday as the  skilled and personable techie, Craig,  added the radioactive juice to my i.v. to see if I had any blood clots ready to pop. "You'll feel flushed and then you may get a headache" he confided, "but the whole process will only take four minutes". This was after fifteen minutes of being scanned with my arms in a swan dive position, by a big rotating camera in another room. Guess what? No blockages, no naughty gremlins ready to jump out at me. The whole process took about an hour an a half, and yes, was followed by a headache. However Craig confided, "We don't know why, but the headache is alleviated by real caffeine....would you like me to get you some from the nurse's lounge because whats in the waiting room is decaf.?"
Wow, it really worked. Later the cardiologist met me and my dear driver, Joyce, and we celebrated the good news together: no need for an angiogram and a stint.. I'm still on oxygen part of the time, and now I return to my dear pulminologist to see if we can figure out what's ailing in my lungs. But this is terrific news and my first gratitude.

My second gratitude is that we have had a little rain. Not enough, of course, but sufficient that plants once brown are starting to flirt with green. The photograph on the left is of Hood Mountain taking on its winter color. I can see the mountain from my back deck, but not this much of it until neighbors trees loose their leaves, a process just starting.  I took this photo standing in the middle of Oakmont Drive about three blocks away. When my hiking friend Jamie from Colorado came out to nurse me after my broken hip she climbed this landmark, imagine.

My third gratitude is for all the friends who have helped me make this transition to Santa Rosa in the last two years. Friends, both new and old, are what make my world go around. I'll be spending Thanksgiving in Hayward with my dear old friends Stace and Andrea, and Jac from San Leandro (and Belgium and France) will be joining us, as well as the usual gang. For Lee and I, Thanksgiving would have been our 58th anniversary. How lucky am I!

Not that I'll ever run out of gratitudes, but a special place in my heart is reserved for my art buddies. They prod and poke and inspire me to keep painting. Right now I'm playing with abstracts. I'm pretty awful at it, but it is creative and playful, something I want more of in my life. Below are three I presented to my Oakmont Critique group last Monday. They see things in them I don't, but I'll hold off adding them to my scrap pile until the radioactivity gets out of my system.

 Maybe this is what my stomach will feel like next Thursday after the second piece of pumpkin pie. They are created by holding stretched paper over the sink and dropping watercolors on them, in a variety of patterns. Then the artist fills in the spaces to try to make a painting. I just let my imagination go. One has no choice but to be playful.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Change of Season

Its 4 pm in the afternoon and even though the wall thermometer says 70  I can't seem to get the chill off my spine. For the first time this morning, heading out to an 8:30 am Art board meeting, I donned a long sleeved tee and a light jacket. About 2 pm I rose from my comfy recliner  where I'd been reading for two hours and put on a light undershirt under the long sleeved red tee. Still chilly at 3:30 I checked the deck thermometer and it read 62. But somehow I can't get rid of the chill.  Its as if the house walls don't want to absorb the heat from the long unused furnace and are still splashing cold on me. So I made a cup of hot chocolate and put fake whipping cream on top. Maybe that will help. I know tonight I will put on my purple sweat shirt over my other layers when I go to friend Judy's for take-out Chinese.
The two large Japanese maples in my yard have been reluctant to shed their leaves; this cooler weather should shock them into action. Meanwhile, nearby friends Steve and Chuck have a persimmon tree bursting with fruit and brilliant leaves. They kindly share with me and the frozen pulp makes persimmon bars all year to the delight of my new friends. See their bounty below.

 Since I am kinda known for my persimmon paintings I think its time to get out my brushes and go to work.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Snap, Crackle, Pop!

Fall is a magical time in the Valley of the Moon. Snapped this picture Friday from the parking lot of the cardiologist's office
as I was parking for an appointment. Each tree seems more magical than the next. No wonder Luther Burbank picked Santa Rosa! How is it in your neck of the woods?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

The Delehanty Ranch in Fairfield, otherwise known as Mt. Vernon because it is an eight bedroom home constructed to mimic it, was the setting for a three day abstract paint out last week.   Five of us, under Sandy's tutelage, managed to turn the lovely living room into a watercolor zoo. Liquid paint and masque and stencils were flying everywhere, as were our imaginations. We hardly stopped long enough to eat, but we did manage to take in the last two Giant games as they won the World Series pennant.

 My friend Margaret, below, has kept me chuckling through three trips with Sandy, two to France and one to Belgium. Likewise Sylvia, left  in front of the fireplace, has trekked France and Belgium with me.

Most of us were new to abstract painting but none of us are inhibited, so it was a gala event. Sylvia is probably the quietest of all of us, but her creation which I dubbed "The Source" turned out to be the wildest and most expressive.

It may not be finished so I'm not showing it.

Who knows what  we will come up  with next. Jan Matsuoka, my watercolor friend from Castro Valley joined us and was blown away. All are planning to attend the Celebration of Arts event here at Oakmont on Feb. 6 when three famous watercolor portrait painters are doing an all day demo of the same model. I've been instrumental in putting this act
together and you are all invited as my guests. I can hardly wait. Contact me if you are interested.

Happy painting! Happy creating, whatever your media.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Rain and Smiles

All of California is still in drought but finally some gentle rains blessed us yesterday and all the parched flowers in my back yard

started to smile. Soon the doorbell rang and it was my two old friends, Shirley and Dolores. They brought lunch as well as a bucketful of memories and smiles. Old? Yes, We have been friends for 66 years and are all cuddling 84. We take turns with our infirmities now. My lungs are acting up and I am once more on portable oxygen for a while, hence the gathering at my place instead of a fancy restaurant. Shirley drove from San Jose navigating with walker and cane having just had half a knee replaced. We think we are pretty incredible. Hope you agree.

Dolores, left, who was a Home Ec major in earlier days, munched on  the pumpkin and carrot cupcakes while Shirley, right, who was a nurse, educated us about ebola and communicative diseases. I didn't do much except tell funny stories and rejoice at the rain. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Shake Rattle and Roar.

Where were you twenty five years ago at almost this moment? I was sitting in my therapy office on Franklin St. in San Francisco. a two story brick building erected in 1903, awaiting my next client. I had just heard the rumble of the Loma Prieta but thought my five o'clocker would show up. I was the only one in the building and had no idea what was happening, other than we had an earthquake. I waited about ten minutes and then decided to go downstairs and walk around the block. To my horror as I walked the block to Van Ness I saw devastation everywhere. Glass was all over the place as well as hunks of concrete and bricks. It was growing dark. "Oh my," I sighed. "Guess I'd better get home".
So I hopped in my '64 bug and headed for the Bay bridge. Within a block the car radio reported the Bay bridge was down. So I debated. "Should I return to my office and sleep on the floor, or should I head for the Golden Gate Bridge, then the San Raphael bridge and through Berkeley to Oakland?" I decided on the latter. The San Francisco streets were pretty empty of moving cars. At a few intersections residents had gone out to direct traffic, as there were no signals or lights.
The toll booths were empty, and I was perhaps one of two or three cars on the bridge. It was eerie, but I said to myself, "If this bridge collapses on me, what a glorious way to go." No kidding, I really did.
Arriving finally safe in Berkeley I stopped at my office there and called Lee at home, where she was mighty glad to hear from me.  Folks in Berkeley were out and about, looking pretty normal.
That is only part of the story, though. The next day when I went back to my Berkeley office for scheduled appointments I found the front door crashed in as well as all the inner doors in the converted home which served five therapists. We were about five blocks from UC. From my office the telephone answering machine was stolen and papers scattered around. I learned later that day when the police came that the Berkeley druggies were terrified they could not get to San Francisco for their drug buys, and so raided many offices where they thought doctors might have drugs.
So much for how the Loma Prieta affected me.
When I got the call that afternoon to volunteer at the Berkley free clinic because so many druggies were upset, I declined. I'm sure you understand why.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Moving Into Flu Season

Tuesday as I got my flu shot at the local Safeway (ahem, the higher dose for those old enough to be at higher risk) I could't help but reflect on the great flu epidemic of 1918-19, which killed 20-40 million people world wide. My arm is only slightly tender now, very slightly, and I can't decide if the lethargy I feel this week is my imagination or not. Ever since I visited a genuine replication of a WW1 trench in Belgium with Jac on a French Escapade trip a few years ago I've been obsessed with what it must have been like for those soldiers thus housed, sometimes for over a year. No wonder we had a pandemic.
Yesterday was session 5 of my Lifelong Learning Class on the Great War and next week we are to bring personal mementos of it, if we have any. I'm bringing for display Aunt Celia's journal of her year in France as an army nurse. Although I've had it in my possession for many years I didn't sit down to read the entries until yesterday afternoon.
The family story goes that she fell in love with a soldier patient who died, and therefore never married. I'm not sure if it is true or a myth. She lived to 97. I should have asked her before she died which wasn't that long ago, but we always had a bit of a strained relationship, partly my fault, for I resented that her baby brother, my father, died so young, and that I was left with a dependent and
critical old aunt instead of a beloved father.
But back to the flu. My mother was 13 when the flu hit Canada. My grandfather having fought with the Princess Pat regiment and been wounded and hit with mustard gas, was still in a hospital in France. I remember her stories, which were frequently exaggerated, of course. Apparently the only hospital in Moosejaw, Sask., was overflowing, like hospitals everywhere. I think her mother ran a kind of rooming house. She told of coming home from school and finding the hall lined with cots of flu patients.  My mother said that everyone in town with a little space was expected to do this. Hard to imagine. The horse-drawn hearse which would collect bodies daily had a hard time keeping up with the task. Most of the victims were between 20-40 years of age, and death came very quickly.
So here we are this week frantic to stop the spread of another virus, the ebola, a virus far more lethal.
Lets hope we have better luck this time around.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Tree. Anyone?

My creative writing group here is getting hard up for topics. Last night we wrote about "If I were a tree, what tree would I be?" Here's my contribution.

 If I were a tree---

This is a ridiculous stretch of the imagination. Because I am unpredictable, I could never be a tree. Sometimes I am a liquidamber, sporting my fall colors in all their glory. At times I am cranky, like a prickly pear. Other times I am a shy dogwood, exposing just a little spring color. Unlike me, a tree has genes that predict its behavior. It may be sturdy, or graceful, or decorative. It may even be edible. I, on the other hand, have a thick torso but skinny foliage on top. No tree species, native or domesticated, would have me. 
I am neither decorative nor edible though in childhood I vigorously chewed my fingernails. I shed no leaves nor produce any seeds. For the record, I seldom sweat and produce hardly any ear wax. A tree, on the other hand, is a vital living thing, with sap generously flowing in all its arteries. 
Perhaps someday I will be reincarnated as a tree, and then look out. I will shelter baby owls and ladybugs, invite dogs to pee on my roots, and support anyone’s hammock that comes along. But I will be the funniest looking tree in the whole universe. 
And, since I can rarely keep my mouth shut, I will be a talking tree as well.  Want advice on budgeting, child-rearing, addictions or neuroses? Just cuddle up to the nearest tree and listen attentively. It may be me spouting off once again.  

So, what tree would you be? 
Driving around Hope Valley last week, my friend Joyce and I thought this tree made a statement all its own.  It looks like it could defend itself against the most severe winter storm. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Smoke Or Not

That was the question as friend Joyce and I headed out last Tuesday for Hope Valley, a little south of Tahoe on the back side of the Sierra. Burned trees could be seen on both sides of Highway 50 but we encountered little smoke, even in Pollock Pines, which was clearly suffering physically and emotionally from the King fire. At Sorenson's resort (my fifth trip there in 14 years) the air was crystal clear and in the seventies until the last morning, when rain slid in. The hot summer and warm fall produced little color in the aspen. The peak is probably two weeks away. Disappointing, but still beautiful.
One day we explored Markleyville and another we wound our way up to Lower Blue Lake.
I had forgotten how lovely cold mountain water tastes. We cooked all our meals in our neat housekeeping cabin, only indulging once in Sorensons's famous berry cobbler.
It was nostalgic for me; three times I had been there with Lee, and always before with Kodi, for he loved to wade in the West fork of the Carson River.
Even though my cardiologist said I would not be bothered by the altitude, I found my energy level
depleted. I think I'll try the seashore for my next vacation.  Meanwhile, I hope I got some photos for inspiration for painting.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Up in The Air

The photo at left is from fourteen years ago. Fall is late in coming to the mountains this year.

My long planned trip to Hope Valley Next Tues. through Friday for photos of the quaking Aspen is still up in the air---literally. To date the King fire above Sacramento is only 10% contained and last night football games in Reno were cancelled because of the smoke. Meanwhile there is plenty on my plate to distract me.
Sessions on the Great War in my Osher Lifelong Learning class the past week have coincided with the Ken Burns story on the Roosevelts. I can't help but recall the day FDR drove by my public grade school in Seattle which his granddaughters attended. It was a spring day and he was sitting in the back of his convertible, slowly waving his cigarette and holder at the assembled student body. From my place on the steps I was about six feet away and I'll never forget it. We had practiced vocal tributes for months. We didn't understand why he wouldn't come in and greet us.
Several years ago at a conference in Atlanta, Lee and I took a tour to Warm Springs. FDR's actual crutches were on display in his tiny bedroom there. I gasped when I saw them. They were monstrous and so heavy and ugly. I couldn't hold back my tears.
Is this Ken Burns documentary the best ever, or is it just that I am old enough to have lived through much of the Roosevelt dynasty?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Little Girls and Little Kids

My household was overflowing with excitement last week as Lee's great nephew and four and a half year old daughter honored us with a visit from far away rural New Hampshire where they lead a very different life than in busy California. How lucky am I. Charlotte is fascinated with water, like most kids her age, and never wanted to leave the Santa Rosa Children's museum where they have many water features including a child sized pond with plastic fish and little nets.

 She liked my back yard water fountain too. The only thing that troubled her was the Golden Gate bridge. Her Daddy promised she could close her eyes when they went back over it. 
Beth ( left, below) arrived shortly after they departed to join our photo group for a tour of the Two Rock Valley Goat farm in Petaluma. 

A delightful older lady also named Bonnie enthralled us with the story of getting two nubian goats for her kids, a pastime which has grown into over 200 goats, each of which seem to be her babies, mostly raised by hand. 

These babies are taken away from their moms at two or three days old and fed cow's milk, far less precious than the goat milk, which is preserved for the cheese making. In my excitement with the goats I hardly took any photos. If you haven't held a two week old baby goat in your arms you haven't lived! They are like puppies wanting nothing more than to be held and cuddled. I was ready to sell my home and buy a 

goat ranch.  Fortunately my delirium didn't last, but I don't think I will ever forget the ecstasy. 
Most of our small tour group bought goat cheese made right there by a true Swiss farmer. I passed on the goat cheese. I just wanted to take a little kid home. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Out and About in Sonoma County

My prices have gone down. My learned advice is to get out and about in Sonoma County right now. The weather has cooled off to make for a delightful early fall. The Valley of the Moon has so much to  offer. My friend Jan (visiting from Oakland) and I had a delightful visit to the Charles Schultz museum. What a feast for the eyes and mind! Definitely more for adults than children. 
Midweek my photo group trekked to the QuarryHill Botanical Garden in Glen Ellen, only about fifteen minutes from here. This vast garden preserves endangered species from Asia and has rotating exhibits, currently of gigantic wooden sculptures. I got to do a test run with my new camera, as well. 
The local veggie markets are still overflowing with heirloom tomatoes, but I wonder how long that will last.  Some vineyards are already crushing. 
Today and tomorrow I will host Lee's four and a half year old great niece, Charlotte, and her Daddy from New Hampshire.  We hope to stretch our toes and minds at the local Children's museum. My calendar is bulging with meetings and trips, mostly new adventures. How is yours? Come see me. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Organized- Almost!!

Since I promised an upbeat blog this week I won't dwell on the earthquake which damaged so many buildings in nearby Napa but spared me, except for one large picture frame and s dozen or so ceramic objects. I'm now back to sleeping serenely and counting my blessings.
The exciting news is that my garage storage cabinets are now assembled and completed, that is except for filling them with all the trivia in boxes pushed against the other side of the garage. Finding a handyman to do the job was a challenge and I ended up firing the first one when he was half finished.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Death and War

With the deaths from ebola in Africa soaring and so much else painful happening in the world today I’m not sure why I have been hit so hard by the news of the beheading of American journalist Jim Foley. It consumes my waking hours. I imagine I am him, and try to speculate how Id have the courage to face the inevitable, as he did. And with such grace.
What does it feel like to know you are about to be beheaded? At what point does one finally give up hoping for a miracle reprieve? A minute before death? An hour before? A day before?  As terrorists  demand higher and higher ransoms, and sometimes succeed, it seems this vicious practice of torture and kidnapping just accelerates. 

In psychology we call it transference and counter transference, that is when the patient so identifies with the therapist that feelings are merged. I think back to when I was a senior in a country high school, the editor of the tiny school newspaper. I thought I was pretty big stuff. I had vague dreams of being a photo journalist and travelling the world writing stories of far off places and things. I kept these dreams to myself even though I entered the University of Washington in 1948 as a Journalism Major. That dream lasted less than two weeks, as I realized I could never compete with the other 749 freshmen who had elected the same major. Flunking out of school was not my passion. 

Yesterday and today I weigh two thousand pounds. My legs drag., even on the treadmill. Whether I’m shampooing my skinny locks, reading a book for pleasure instead of the one assigned for Book Club, having an ultra sound of my heart as I did yesterday or attending a board meeting where as usual I express too many of my liberal opinions, I can’t seem to shake my obsession. Old as I am, I think of death often, and almost playfully imagine it coming with a gentle ending of the breath followed by quiet oblivion rather than such a violent insult to the already tortured body of an innocent human being as it was for Jim Foley. 

For many years I wrote a Christmas letter ending with 
“and my hope for the new year is one without war”.  Finally discouraged with that, I, an atheist, tried to be a Quaker in my heart, committed to a personal life of peace. I’m afraid I’m pretty much a failure at that, as well. Right now I’m filled with anger and retribution. 

Wednesday afternoon I attended the orientation session here for the new classes to be offered by the Organization for Lifelong Learning from Sonoma State. I may or may not take the one on the First World War. The fine lecturer promised that session six would be on lessons learned to prevent future wars. Hah! 

Sometimes I imagine a world in which testosterone were a hormone exuding peace, and all men (as well as women) would be born with an innate drive against violence. Wishful thinking, Bonnie, wishful thinking. And so I add this protesting  voice once more. What can we do to end war? 

Two weeks of dwelling on death in my blog seems over the top. Next week I promise to be upbeat! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Entering the lobby of the activity center at Oakmont one sees two attractive tables spread with zigsaw puzzles. 
Like other folks coming or going  from cards, the gym, the library or the art room stop I often stop and add a piece or two to an unfinished puzzle. But as I studied the  puzzle on the left hand table two weeks ago I let out an audible gasp. 
The uncompleted face of the dog depicted was a mirror image of my last dog, Kodi. I studied the full picture on the box. It was as if Kodi had posed for the artist, and as I gaped at it his eyes sought mine with a heart-tugging look.  For the next several days I avoided looking left as I exited the building, for each time my eyes drifted in that direction tears would spring to my eyes and it would take an hour or so to regain my composure.  Well, now the puzzle is completed but not so my memories. So I am writing the story in hopes I can transform my personal puzzle into a more loving , accepting one.

I think the story goes back to the dog that preceded Kodi. Having lost Gus of cancer at age 13, we desperately wanted another dog.  Gus was unique: all white, except for brown drooping Labrador ears. Fifty pounds of lap dog.  Part pit, part English bull with the classic protruding jaws, and a tail no bigger than a belly button.  Her bulging chest suggested Marilyn Monroe while her abbreviated legs suggested doxie heritage in there somewhere. She was one of those dogs so funny looking folks melted in laughter at the sight of her and she responded by Sinatra-like wiggling of her narrow hips. 
While we knew we could never find another Gus, we thought we could find one who looked like her. Haw!
We searched for a replacement for three months, to no avail, sometimes driving fifty miles to different SPCA’s and dog shelters. At the time I was 70 and Lee 75, both of us struggling to accept Lee’s steady progressing dementia and heart disease; perhaps too old to adopt another rescue dog, but we did have three acres fenced,  had not lived without a dog for over forty years, and did not lack in the ability to give love.
One noon as we were eating lunch in Alameda after yet another fruitless search Lee said, “Maybe we’re barking up the wrong tree. “ “Maybe” she suggested, “ we get a dog that looks the opposite of Gus instead of trying to replace her”. 
Well, the Oakland SPCA was putting out three new puppies at 1 pm. We skipped desert and high-tailed it there, arriving at 1:04. Litter mates, all male, purported to be half registered Siberian Husky and half travelling salesman. Seven week old balls of wool. One had two blue eyes, one two brown eyes, and one had an eye of each. We’d had lots of very large dogs, but knew little about huskies, especially that the command “come” was not in the Siberian language. . So we brought home the blue-eyed darling, a male we dubbed Kodi. We were advised he might 
weigh 40-50 pounds at maturity. 
From the onset, Kodi was a challenge. He had little appetite and so it was impossible to train him with food. His legs seemed to go through a wringer every night so that the next morning they were three inches longer than the night before. He grew to 100 pounds by six months. His coat and posture were magnificent and his wolf-blue eyes certainly terrified every stranger at the gate, something we appreciated living in a remote area of the Oakland Hills. 
Even though I was the one to groom him, feed him, and pacify trainers who kept quitting in despair, it was Lee he bonded with. It was a special love affair, and he would lay for hours by her recliner, nose just touching her toes. As her dementia progressed she fixated more and more on him. If he was out of her sight for more than a few minutes she would call plaintively, “Where’s my puppy?” (the “puppy” word drawn out into three syllables) and several times each day she’d comment “Isn’t he beautiful?” Grateful though I was for her joy in his existence, sometimes I felt jealous. In retrospect, I think I was still grieving for Gus. 
After Lee died, Kodi grew more difficult. Much of the time he was consumed with anxiety. He developed many gastrointestinal problems and cried a good deal. Many specialists were unable to diagnose his problems, though they surely tried. He had always slept by the side of my bed but now he wanted to sleep outside under some bushes. He would have moments of pleasure, but they were few and far between. 
I knew his life expectancy was short but even so when I bought a house in Oakmont I bought one that had a fenced yard to accommodate him. 
It was only six weeks after the move that I made the decision to end his life. I struggle with that decision almost daily. Should I have tried longer? More specialists? Should I never have moved? 
It haunts me. Or does he haunt me? Or does Lee haunt me for having destroyed her little puppy?  I wish I knew how to make this feeling go away. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Collapsing from the Weight Of it All

August sees an explosion of flowering everything in Sonoma County. Even the giant stalks of the sunflowers bend with the accumulation of weight. It makes for fascinating flower watching, I predict this one, about a quarter mile from here, will groan loudly and collapse in about a week. It must be twenty inches in diameter. I'd collapse as well.
I'm headed into a wonderful, busy weekend, are you? Meanwhile, high smoky skies from the fires in N. California are making all of us breathe a little harder.
Sandy Delahanty my friend and painting teacher is arriving this afternoon to spend three nights and teach a painting class, "Moving Your Painting to the Next Level." It will be her first visit to my home and to Oakmont students.
I can hardly wait. I expect that next week I'll collapse too.

Friday, August 1, 2014

So Much To Celebrate

A profusion of  celebrations! July abounds with color in the Valley of the Moon. In my own garden the cone flowers (echinasia) are peaking as are the yarrow and white daisies. Veggie markets abound and are overflowing with heirloom tomatoes, which I adore both for painting and eating. (Its a tie which I like to do best with them.)

Monday I graduated from Heart Works the 4 month program of cardio rehab I've been doing and yesterday I graduated from portable oxygen. To celebrate I ordered a new point and shoot Nikon camera I've been wanting for eons. What followed was the good news that Sandy Delehanty's class on Moving Your Painting to the NextLevel which I've been organizing to give here for the first time filled up and there is now a waiting list. Yeah, Sandy. She will be staying with me for three nights and French friends Jac and Valerie are driving up a week from tonight  to join us for dinner. I'm so excited. I stopped at Whole Foods to buy healthy and unhealthy snacks and gave the young volunteer outside $5 for Planned Parenthood saying "I thought we fought this battle 30 years ago". Driving home from the Dr. I flipped on the radio to hear the stock market had dropped 300 points. I turned off the radio quickly  and finished the beautiful drive home past the bulging grape fields humming happy songs. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hoo's On First?

Besides the cupboard space, one of the things I miss the most about  my former home in the Oakland Hills is the sunsets, which up here, even on tiptoe, I can barely see at the end of my front walk. Another is the call of the Great Horned Owls who hung out there. I was fond of standing on the deck and calling, "Hoo Hoo, ...hoo, hoo, hoo. I am not a very good mime but they would always answer. Last Sunday I trekked along with the Oakmont Photography Club to the Raptor Rescue Center, which is really only about twenty minutes drive from here, but in a remote and rather creepy place. Volunteers there treat about 200 birds a month  in the summer months. There are only four large raptors in residence, ones too injured to live on their own or in some way habituated to humans. The guy on the left would not make up to me, no matter how hard I flirted with him.  The handler said they are fed frozen mice five days a week, and fast on two days, as that resembles a natural diet. Perhaps it was his fasting day and that is why he was so cranky. 

Great Horned Owls  have an enormous wing span and can lift
mighty weights. I always suspected
that my missing pet cat, Fat Cat, was the victim of one.
Anyway, as I turned to leave the critter above rotated his head
and glared at me as if he would like me for dinner.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Science Fiction No Less

Last Monday the weather here turned bizarre, the thermostat soaring up  almost fifty degrees to 102 in less than eight hours, and then back down to the mid fifties by the time the moon rose. When I viewed the Eastern sky from my deck about 6 am it looked like aliens from space were arriving.  Guess what! The alien was probably me.
Diagnosed with mild sleep apnea, I'd just been fitted with a full face mask for sleeping. If Kodi were still around I think he would have cowered in the bushes.  I almost did myself.

  Meanwhile, my writing group decided to try a little science fiction, not my forte for sure. I started the story Wednesday and then after yesterday's tragic news I changed the ending. I got a bit carried away, but I hope it gives you a chuckle. 

My Second Science Fiction Effort

She glided under the water effortlessly, stirring neither the grasses nor the lily pads, such was her skill. Sometimes she chose to make herself invisible so as not to disturb the mating salamanders. Her skin, softly dappled to camouflage  her presence,  glowed golden when the sun touched it. 
Like all Komodo dragons, she was born male, but elected in adolescence to become female, and needed no male sperm to fertilize her eggs. With a flick of her forked tongue she could smell prey up to a thousand feet away and her special venom could paralyze any living creature up to 300 pounds. 
On this day she set out to obliterate the terrorists in the Ukraine who shot down the Malasian flight on July 17 from Amsterdam to Kualalumper. 
Her ability to smell was so acute that she could sense evil hiding, wherever it might be. Silently she slithered up to the deserted looking warehouse. She could hear drunken voices coming from inside. Patience was her greatest asset.  She posed motionless by the closed door;. ten minutes, twenty minutes, a full hour. Finally the door opened. Making herself invisible once again, she crouched. As the occupant 
stepped to the bushes to relieve himself of his bursting bladder,  she flicked her powerful tongue aiming for the heart.. The poison acted immediately, leaving  him paralyzed.. Her giant jaws clamped on his flesh, ripping, tearing, ravaging, devouring muscle, tendon and bone, until naught was left. except a small  flaccid penis, which was not to her taste. She pushed it aside and waited for the next victim, until she had exterminated the fourteen celebrating inside. Too bad for them, but at least it was painless. She wished she knew another way to do it, so that they would likewise experience the terror their human airplane victims did. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Happy Eighty-four!

 Last week was a blur of happy memories as I celebrated  not one but three happy birthday parties. At left, from friend Carol's deck. a shared birthday desert party. At right, lunch at Sea Thai Bistro with my sorority sister roommates, Shirley and Dolores, from the University of Washington sixty-six years ago. What stories we can still tell!
We took a vote and decided Shirley looked the youngest. I am the oldest by a few months. Perhaps that's because Shirley has been raising her grandson since he was knee high and he now is starting college. What energy!
Dolores just lost her younger sister of pancreatic cancer. One of the things old friends do is help one another in times of grief, so we worked together on writing her sister Dorothy's obituary. obituary.

Here in the Valley of the Moon they are beginning to harvest the lavender. Tuesday I went with my photo group to the Matanzas winery near here where they were just starting to harvest it .After it is cut it is hung in the old barn, shown above, to dry.
The owners have made the vineyard a magical place but I'm not sure those tools adding to the ambience are as old as we are.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Final Leap Perhaps Not So Final Now

Today the Golden Gate Bridge Authorities vote of whether or not to fund the suicide barrier. In the larger scheme of things, I understand both the pros and cons. Yet I surely hope they vote to make the decision positive which will not only prevent some of the death attempts but will provide added safety for bridge maintenance employees.
I've actually never known anyone who made the jump, although I had one client in my years as a psychotherapist who planned it, and for her it was certainly the choice death venue, and the only choice; it called out to her like a magnet.  Ive had two other clients who made serious impulsive attempts however, one from drug overdose and one from climbing the north tower of the Bay bridge. Each of these women were precious lives as far as I was concerned.  Last I heard all three are still alive and in their own ways contributing positively to their families and community. I hope I played a positive part in their recovery from depression and hopelessness. Sometimes the urge to jump is situational, a broken heart from a love affair, for instance. Sometimes it is despair, as in a financial crash. Other times it is genetic. Whatever it is, the Golden Gate seems to hold out its finger beckoning, like the worm on a hook. We need to intervene in every way possible, including continued suicide prevention services. About 80 people per year are taken off the bridge who go there with the intent to end their lives.
Of the 1600 confirmed suicides from the Golden Gate since it opened in 1937, the number is probably misleading. Even if an abandoned car is found in the parking lot, a death is not confirmed until the body is recovered, and if you've navigated the "potato patch" on a fishing boat (I turn green and hang over the rails)  you know how treacherous those waves are. Often bodies are carried quickly out to sea never to be found, or to be washed up somewhere down the coast. The saddest to me are the teenagers, bodies and souls not yet fully formed. Lets prevent some of these needless deaths.

Postscript: It passed unanimously! I was shocked this afternoon when I spoke of it at Current Events here which is attended by fifty or so thoughtful, well-read residents. My guess is that ninety percent
of the members disagreed with my position and that of the Golden Gate Bridge Authority. So I'm curious. What is your position?

Saturday, June 21, 2014


When I lived in Oakland I sometimes went to the Walnut Creek DMV to renew my driver's license though I felt guilty about it; the lines were shorter, the clerks more respectful, and the floors cleaner. So it was with some trepidation I signed in for my appointment at 2:40 pm in Santa Rosa yesterday. I noticed the lines extended way out to the hot parking lot and the population was probably 80 per cent latino. Most everyone looked tense. I felt immediate compassion. Approaching 84 in three weeks  I was tense as well. Did anyone notice? My lips were sealed softly but firmly, for since my big dental surgery Tuesday I am missing my four front teeth. (Hopefully by next Tuesday I will be able to wear my "flipper" which is a temporary partial that will do me until December when my implants will take over.) After signing in they called me within three minutes. I had just started reading the DMV handbook, although I had studied the test questions provided on line. At the first counter they took a thumb print, instructing me the machine was slow and to hold it down hard for a very long time, changed my address (hmm, I thought AAA had handled this two years ago) took my $33, and instructed me to follow the yellow line to the next counter. The clerk could not have been more articulate or courteous. When I couldn't read the letters on the third line on the eye chart which was posted high in the air, the clerk allowed me to look into a lighted box sitting on the counter. I could read that fine and pronounced the letters quickly and confidently, aware she could not see my knees shaking. I noticed a beautiful patriotic display in the distance and was informed the office manager did it. It might have gone in a fancy bank or winery. The display made the very worn and soiled carpets look even worse.
In the second line I only waited one or two minutes before I was standing in front of the camera and instructed to remove my glasses. "Oh, no," I winced to myself. "Now my slightly black and watery right eye from the dental extraction will glare at me for the next five years." Nevertheless I complied, trying to hold my sealed lips just right. Then she handed me the test and I proceeded to the counter to answer the questions. Only one perplexed me. I guess I have been driving so many years I know everything by heart. People around me looked in various states of anxiety, but all nervous."Anyway, "
I thought, "I am allowed to miss three questions." I advised myself not to analyze them or read things into the questions."
Nine minutes later I was rewarded with a perfect score. I told the clerk I had puzzled over question number seven and she agreed with me that it was worded strangely. The only other senior citizen I could see among the 300 or so people there was much younger that me. She was wringing her hands since she missed five on the exam.
 I was out of there in 22 minutes, and once back in my own car allowed myself a giant toothless grin.
Above, Thursday night's sunset from my front yard, which does not compare with Cathy Lane but is kinda nice none the less.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Art from Junk

Nearby Sebastopol is not only a tourist jumping off place to the Russian River and the ocean, it is a center for all kinds of art, including the quirkiest. There an imaginative artist has transformed old junk like batteries and dented fenders into art objects. One can read about it on Google, of  course. He lives on Florence Ave., a four block stretch along which almost every front yard displays his work. I took a break from appointments this week to play tourist. How fun! In half an hour one can walk both sides of the street. No matter how cranky you feel, you come away smiling.

I hope I remember this next week when on Tuesday I surrender to the new dentist in Santa Rosa who is extracting the broken off roots of my two front teeth and starting the implant process,
The damsel on the right is my favorite. Her tail seems to be made of old tin cans.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Stand on Your Tiptoes

Left, Celia, with friend Abbe, France, 1918

 Exactly seventy years ago today 160,000 Allied troops stormed German-held western Europe from the bloody beaches of Normandy. France. I was thirteen, living in a rooming house in Seattle with my father and big sister, so I vaguely remember the headlines in the Seattle Times and Post Intelligencer. My sister would soon marry a handsome Ensign in the Navy, who would serve in the Pacific theatre on the heavy cruiser St. Louis. My father, too old for active service, was serving in the Coast Guard Reserve, as well as helping the government in various secret ways regarding radar and underwater communications, his professional expertise with the telephone company. Most all of my male ancestors on both sides served in the military, and my father even served in the US Cavalry. Patriotism was in my blood, one might say, and yet it never enveloped me..

It was some thirty plus years later when I would first meet my father's older sister, the most patriotic person I ever met. Veteran's Day was the most important day of the year to her. Aunt Celia was already retired at this time from her later career as a public health nurse. She was living alone in an apartment in Los Angeles, and soon to move into a US Army domicillary.
I would probably never have met her except Lee guilt-tripped me into it. "Your Aunt Celia is all alone" she commented regularly. "You should make an effort to meet her." And so I did.

From the beginning it was an awkward association. She loved me because I was her little brother's child, and because she needed me, but she never understood me, nor I her. I found her high squeaky voice, judgmental attitudes and Republican mentality off-putting. She found my informality and life values beyond tolerance. Lee and I supported her financially and somewhat lovingly until her death at age 96. At times I suffer guilt that I never truly loved her or got past our differences. Perhaps I could have tried harder.

In the  downsizing  before I moved up here I eliminated almost all of what was left of her earthly possessions. Yesterday, the anniversary of D day seemed like an appropriate time to go through the one shoe box left: her war records, diaries, and photographs, not of Normandy but of the first Great War. I hold in awe the stories of her service in France, some of which she told me in the years we knew each other. And so for my creative writing group last night I wrote the following. I have written in first person, in the hopes it would bring me closer to understanding her. I've taken some liberties in creating dialogue.
 With beau, (I think) Richard Preston in Paris, 1918

My favorite photo, Public Health NurseTexas,1922, What model car is this?

Stand On Your Tiptoes

Even though I knew none of my family would be there to see me, my pious aunt and uncle who raised me the last few years being too poor to make the trip from Northern Maine, I stood on my tiptoes for the photograph of our graduating class of June, 1918, from the Boston School of Nursing.  I was nineteen, and it was certainly the proudest day of my whole life, or so I thought.
Shortly thereafter  the Great War was declared and I enlisted with the American Red Cross.. With 750 other nurses we were  loaded on a troop ship to France.
The crossing was rough, and so it was with surprise that on the 7th day the ship’s captain ordered all of us on deck. “A U boat has been sighted,” he announced over the loud speaker. “The president has ordered all nurses to be inducted into the army.” He continued without a pause: ”Raise your right hand”. After the oath was administered we were once again ordered below deck, this time for our mandatory physical.  All four foot eight of me was quaking in my bare feet. When the doctor got to me he frowned. The army required inductees to be five feet minimum. “Stand on your tiptoes” he commanded. I did. “Passed” he said.

What followed was four years in rural France staffing field hospitals, often in the trenches. Without chloroform, which was scarce, I would hold the hand of soldier as his arm or leg was amputated. We were often standing in water, so my tiptoe practice came in handy.

I nursed and fell in love with a Brit. My beau, as I called him. He didn’t make it.

When the armistice was declared we were sent to Paris for mustering out. A giant parade was scheduled and all of us nurses were given an allotment to purchase a new uniform for the parade. Mine, like the rest, was filthy and in tatters.  I was not about to spend money for a new uniform  that would only be worn for a parade. So I took the money and bought a beautiful French chapeau with lavender and pink silk roses. And yes, I got in trouble on the day of the parade, but it was worth it.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Claiming My Space

In the wake of Maya Angelo's death, the Santa Barbara massacre and the corruption at the Veteran's Administration its hard to comment on trivia, but perhaps its just as well to be distracted for a bit.
May and June are house and garden project times here and much is scheduled for this new home-owner on Oakmont Drive. As I write, Paul, my handyman is here repainting the deck boards and railings that withered over the winter. Kelly, my housekeeper, offered an old garden bench for front porch decor, and Paul is painting the sides of it orchid color to match the lavender color scheme in my new front garden. I want every one driving by to know an artist lives here.
Tomorrow an electrician is supposed to come to install the overhead light and fan in my bedroom and a week from today my new front door is supposed to arrive. I'll hardly recognize the place. Its a good feeling to make it my own.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend

While all over America citizens are bumper to bumper on clogged roads, this citizen is once again staying home and enjoying the old car show here on the grounds (see June 7, 2013 blog). This year I hope to coax some of the proud vintage car owners to tell their stories.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning these days I go to Heart Works for cardio rehab. It is a good program, populated mostly by old men, usually with zipper scars down their chests from bypass surgery, and round tummies (I should talk). The thing that distinguishes them the most, however, is their constant telling of war stories. We are not allowed to read while working out, so I guess that gives the veterans among us full permission to recount their personal experiences in war. I get pretty exasperated waiting for a treadmill while two old codgers, feet not moving,  try to outdo one another with their personal horror stories. This week, however, I found myself listening  patiently, even genuinely, to some of their stories, and feeling gratitude for their sacrifices.
My maternal grandfather whom I adored, at sixteen lied about his age and after enlistment was sent from England to Africa. He never talked about it, nor did he talk about being wounded in France, and a victim of mustard gas. I remember sitting on his knee and saying "Grandpa, tell me about the war..." He would always reply, " I fought in three wars: the Boer War, the first World War, and the war with grandma, and the hardest of the three was the war with grandma!"  I would giggle, and beg him to tell me the same story over and over. I just loved it.
Below are pictures from last year's vintage car show here. I note with regret I

never got around to painting any of them. Hope I do better this year.