Saturday, December 26, 2015

Up the Down Staircase

In my garage here is a pull-down stair. Obviously all of my Christmas regalia is up in the attic, and with two broken ribs I deemed it unwise to go trotting up there. Agreed? So the spirit of Christmas was celebrated at 8824 with hanging a few Russian Easter eggs from a polished Manzanita branch which always adorns my dining room table. Today Lee's niece

Julie, visiting from Virginia with her whole family, gifted me this year's white house ornament, celebrating Calvin Coolidge. It is adorable and now competing for attention with the the Easter eggs. Plenty of Christmas parties paid yo yo with my waistline, but I found the Christmas sweaters and sweatshirts in the cedar chest at the foot of my bed still stretched over my widening waistline. The other holiday coverings, including a quilt I made of three untraditional wise men never emerged from the chest.
Christmas eve I went to a lovely dinner with friends here who had a white elephant exchange of gifts. Catherine was there (see photo) and I happened to draw her contribution to the exchange. It was filled with many of her Mom's tiny pin-on sweater decorations and many Christmas clip on earrings. Like me, Cath is trying to downsize. Well, I have been wanting to learn to make a wreath, so my goal this year is to make one and decorate it with all the miniature white elephants received. It will be a way of honoring Cath's birth mother and I can see her smiling now. 
Yesterday, Christmas day, I bought take out Chinese for two friends who also were alone. One is an ex-nun, one is a no-longer Jew, and then there is me. We laughed and laughed and told stories about our selves and our dysfunctional families. 
Some  of the stories were tragic, but we somehow found joy in sharing.
Pictures:Julie and Bonnie, Catherine and Bonnie,  Julie's husband Ray, and son Jordan, now working for a political research firm in D.C

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Winding Down

Seems like I couldn't disagree more vociferously with Barbara Walters choice of Person of the Year.
Why oh why does she think a spoiled, egocentric, millionaire transexual dressed in seductive clothing
deserves our applause? Come on, Barbara...
On the other hand, I think I deserve some bouquets for having transformed myself.  Another year in my warm and older middle class surroundings, having gathered so many new friends, and still cherished by my old ones. And so does everyone else on my gratitude list. We are sturdy thinkers and survivors relying on Social Security and whatever we have saved. The bulk of my furniture is over forty years old, and some of my duds the same..Lets hope the new year brings some sanity to Washington, and to the world.
As usual, my dear niece Cheari helped me format my Christmas letter, and my good friend Jan helped me fix my computer ram problem over the phone. How fortunate am I! If I could figure out how to add it to this blog I would, but that's something I still have a lot to learn. Yeah!


Christmas 2015.pdf

Friday, December 11, 2015

Bats in the Belfry

With the El Nino rains this past week my garden is in transition. The bird pack in the back yard has changed in population and temperament, many fall birds feasting until dark on seeds of weeds. But it turns out that isn't all that has taken up residence. If you look closely at the photo you will see little black specks on the edge of the rock plaque I made in  1958. Yes, 1958, when Lee and I first bought the house on Carisbrook in the Oakland hills. At that house it perched to the left of the front door. I put it together with rocks and wood from Maacama creek with the help of Willhold glue, and this is its third residence. I almost left it by mistake at Cathy Lane but the new owners rescued it for me.
Now it seems a bat has taken up residence behind it and the little specks are bat guano. Just where either I or my house guest would step in or out of the front door. Now my hair is already speckled black and white but I dont think I want to add bat guano to the mixture. So my trusty handiman Ralph promises to relocate the newest resident next week. He promises me he wont harm it.
I wish I knew if this had some deeper meaning in the Native American culture. Please let me know if you do.

Friday, December 4, 2015

CHANGES

When I left for the East Bay pre Thanksgiving my Japanese maples were a painting onto themselves, stunning. But it seems a very big wind and a three day cold snap transformed them into shiny nude  ladies. The gardener had filled my huge green can to the tip top and an additional pile, two feet high, circled the Asian pear. I was lucky the weather did not get the Christmas cactus, a gift from Marianne when she moved, which greeted me with smiles and bright pink blossoms from a sheltered bench on the front porch.   "Take me in," it screamed.

Its taken me almost a week to unpack, wash clothes, and pamper my broken ribs, which are taking all too long to heal. Could it be that I am getting old? Or maybe I just ate too much while I was away?
Two groups of dear friends had luncheons in my honor. How fun. But imagine this: they both picked the same Chinese restaurant. What kind of coincidence is that?
Its good to be home, even if the yard got transformed in my absence.
I just came from my current events discussion group and am feeling overwhelmed about climate change, as well as the San Bernadino  murders. Looking for  any little sign to give me hope. Then I spotted this leaf.  Its dead now, but I think still mesmerizing.
Remember to keep the things around you that bring you joy.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Some Gratitudes

Pushing 86, I still have some of my teeth, some of my hair, and even some of my savings, so I'm pretty blessed. Then too I have both Cheari and Catherine who watch over me daily by phone. not to forget Kelly, my housekeeper, who nags me when I forget my pills, and does a hundred things around here not on her job description.
But most fortunate of all, I have friends, new and old, that sustain me. Wherever I live or travel I embrace them. I still discover new objects of beauty, and I still have the ability to appreciate them, interpret them, and be inspired by them.
This Thanksgiving would have been 59 years for Lee and Bonnie, if she were still living. I remember our first, in fog encased Tacoma, and I remember most of them in between. How lucky am I.
So thanks, troubled world, for all the tender memories.
There are new ones yet to come. Next week I'll be hanging my hat in the East Bay where two groups of dear friends are having a gathering for me and where I'll get to connect with many old friends and haunts. Thanksgiving again will be with Andrea and Stace in Hayward, where I'll be hanging my hat (and oxygen machine).
Even though our days in the Valley of the Moon continue to be warm and sunny, I spent a pleasant afternoon Thursday painting persimmon greeting cards at the kitchen table. It was cheap paper, so the colors sort of ran in crazy patterns. The persimmons this year are from friend Steve's yard. I am waiting for them to get squishy enough to make cookies, hopefully  tomorrow. Meanwhile, my paint brush can interpret them.
My heart, if unsynchronized, is still overflowing.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Persimmons Anyone?

So many folk have begged for my persimmon bar recipe I decided to put it on my
blog for Friday the 13th, so here it goes:
Bonnie's Persimmon Bars

1 c dried currents (I like Zante)
1 3/4 c white flour (I use pre-sifted)
1 t each ground cinnamon, ground cloves, and ground nutmeg.
1 c persimmon pulp (prox 2 very ripe persimmons)
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 1/2 t lemon juice
1 egg
1 c sugar
1/2 c melted unsalted butter
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves.
In another bowl, beat pulp until smooth. Stir in soda, salt, lemon, egg, and sugar.
Pour in oil or butter.
Stir dry ingredients into wet, one third at a time. Blend but do not overmix.
Add currents, then nuts. Spread butter on lightly floured cookie sheet, prox 10 x 14.
Bake 20-25 minutes at 350.

When cool, glaze with mixture of 1 cup powdered sugar and juice of one soft lemon.
(Some people like more glaze, some less.)

It takes a few tries to get just the right consistency of doneness and moisture, and the right amount of glaze. I tend to never make it the same twice, and follow my impulse on the lemon juice. They only stay fresh a few days, but they disappear fast anyway.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Rise and Fall of Things

This past weekend I travelled to Lincoln, CA, about a two and a half hour drive north, to visit my dear friends Barb and Marianne, who recently moved from Oakmont to Del Webb, Lincoln City in order to be closer to Marianne's daughter, as well as to say good bye to my dear dear friend, Morella, who sold her house in Folsom and is moving to Miami to care for her parents, ages 94 and 95. Will I ever see Morella again? I hope so, but I doubt it, as I have no yearning to visit Florida, but from time to time Barb and Marianne and I will visit, either there or here.
The significant differences between the two retirement communities is size and age, as well as localle. Lincoln is only 14 years old whereas Oakmont is 50, though some houses are still being built.
Many here are bought by  contractors, and rebuilt, whereas up there everything is still shiny and new.
There are few trees there, and not a mountain in sight, whereas here the landscaping is mature and mountains caress both sides of our little valley.  On the plus side, because it boasts over 7 thousand homes, the recreation facilities far surpass ours in size and sizzle, and the Kaiser clinic is five minutes away. Morella and I ate in the lovely dining room which certainly surpasses the golf course menu here. I was amused to learn that in Lincoln City the pickle ballers are fighting for space with the tennis players, just like here. So much for comparing retirement communities.
One thing they don't have at Del Webb is Lifelong Learning. This afternoon was my last class in the course, The Rise and Fall of Civilizations. It compared the Egyptian civilization to the Mayan civilization to our own. it was rather scary to see that they same things causing the fall of a previous civilization are threatening us, environmental changes being the primary cause.
The teacher, though, thinks there is hope; that developing empathy is the answer. I wonder if I will ever have empathy with the Republicans who don't believe in climate change?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Movie Encounter

Sometimes on Sunday afternoons I  entertain myself with the free movies shown in the auditorium here. Such was the case last Sunday as I sought to entertain my visiting cousin Ed from Vancouver, BC. The preview blurb said MY FATHER'S GLORY by a best-selling French novelist, Marcel Pagnol, a captivating recollection of a young boy's life in pre-World War I southern France.
The film turned out to be charming, but the highlight was the dapper gentleman sitting next to me.
In the five minutes before the film started I asked him if he knew anything about the film. "Indeed I do" he replied in an interesting accent I couldn't place, "for Pagnol is one of my favorite writers, not well known in this country because it is written in a patois of the Provence countryside not well translatable  into English."
After he explained that he was raised in that part of France, I probed some more and learned he was really Russian and that his parents had fled Russia following the revolution because they were on the wrong side. They made it to Yugoslavia, where he was born, but later had to flee again, this time to France. He grew up and became an electrical engineer, but later had to flee France, making it back to Yugoslavia, where he married, became the father of twins, and applied to immigrate to the U.S. The waiting list was long, so he opted first for Canada. In Montreal his third child was born. Six years later he was granted admittance to the US, where he has lived ever since. Now his wife and son are deceased and he has made his home in Oakmont for 16 years. "Now," he said, " you know more about me in five minutes than most people know in a lifetime."
"Yours is a fascinating story" I said, "and I'd love to write about it."
"Oh there are already books written," he confided, "but no one can read them for they are in Russian."
I felt like I had only chipped the top of the iceberg and planned to ask his name and if I could interview him more, but the movie started. About fifteen minutes later, in the dark, he slipped out. Alas, I may never learn more. Oh, I forgot to mention, when I asked his age he said 93.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

One-upping the Insurance Company

About two decades ago when I had loose change in my pocket I bought a lifetime annuity from Fidelity, and invested it in various funds. My sweet broker at the time is long deceased. All these years it has been paying me prox $600 a month. Well, at that time my life expectancy was 85 and nine months. Yesterday when I checked I noted the investment will be exhausted next April. So beginning next May I will have outlived the insurance company's formula, and I will be making the insurance company fork over this amount each month from its own coffers. Can you imagine? A good reason to get back on the treadmill and pump some iron.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Working on Patience

Four weeks Thursday since my fall, and I never seem to run out of patience challenges: dropping the soap on the floor, spilling my whole dinner on the carpet, breaking the dishes, struggling to get my walker in and out of the car, etc. But I am progressing. Yesterday I drove two miles in Oakmont, where the speed limit is twenty-five. I think I hit a shaky twenty. Today I am walking mostly just with the cane. Tomorrow I drive to the pulmonologist in town, fortunately located on a quiet street. Each day is a marker. Am I still working on patience? You betcha. Maybe I have progressed to grade three.
Tonite I will watch the first Democratic debates. It will be boring but as someone said on Facebook, only the Republican candidates are not boring, Lunatics are never boring. Wishing you sanity, peace and patience.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Hard Way To Get Attention

In light of the Umpqua college shooting, the threatened close of congress, whats happening in Yemen, etc, its hard to speak of myself.
Two and a half weeks ago I fell and broke two ribs. Have you ever fractured ribs? Six to eight weeks on a walker is predicted. The pain is lessening now.
This is surely the hard way to get attention and see who loves you. I've been humbled with the outpouring. My larder explodeth. Visitors come daily and comfort me, some staying all night.
Since I believe there is always something to learn from every life experience, I try to focus on this.
Oh my goodness, Iv'e worked on patience so many times in my life that I thought there was nothing left to learn. Wrong. I see I'm still in second grade.
The Oakmont Art Show is next week. I wont be able to attend but here is one of three paintings friends are taking in for me: Man with Two Hats.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Curiously Life Goes On

Though no one commented on my blog last week, several persons wrote to me about it. Perhaps I was being too personal?
Some how life goes on. Ashes are not falling now. Iran has not dropped a nuclear bomb. There are still over two thousand displaced by the two big fires near here, Trump is soaring in conservative circles, Oakmonters are fighting over how much money to spend on pickleball court construction, and Catherine is still coughing from a bad bug she got on a river boat trip up the Rhine several weeks ago. My dear niece Cheari has seriously injured her knee. Likewise I'm struggling to breathe in the smoke filled air while also counting my blessings that I am safe. Monday I took myself to Bodega Bay, only an hour from here, and gave my lungs a delightful rest and dose of clear air.
When Kelly, my housekeeper arrived yesterday it was to the news that two of her friends (and poor) had been burned out and she was going to Calistoga today to take them food and clothes. So it was with glee we cleaned out one of my closets. It felt SO GOOD to send four bags of clothes and shoes to someone personally.
Saturday is my friend Judy's 70th birthday. I can't remember 70, but it must not have been a big deal. She is giving a gala party which involves a scavenger hunt. "Judy," I suggested, "why not let me stay home and puppy sit Sage, since I really don't care about the fancy party and you will need a puppy sitter." She agreed. Then I came up with the idea of having Sage's footprint be one of the clues on the scavenger hunt. Last week we tried with little success to get her footprint, using a diluted brown water color. It really looks more like puppy poop, than puppy paw print, but that is what we are using. So Saturday will be a fun day for me too as folks ring my doorbell to collect the booty.

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Different 911 Memory

Today's buttermilk sky looks promising of a break in our heat wave. Fourteen years ago today I had a different awakening. It seemed like a usual somewhat overcast morning on Cathy Lane. I had been watching the news for an hour or so, having awakened early as usual, probably about five.  I saw the live crash of the second tower and worried about everything and everyone, including Lee's great nephew who worked about seven blocks from the trade center. (He was ok, but watched from his office window, and I think it changed him forever.) Eventually Lee came wheeling in on her walker, smiling softly as usual when she saw me.  She plunked in her red chair opposite me, watching transfixed, also. Kodi stretched out in his usual pose by her right foot. Dementia was already taking over her ability to grasp the here and now. Eventually she said, quietly, "something happened, didn't' it. " I was moved at her struggle to grasp what was going on. I think that is as much as she ever understood of the tragedy. It hit me hard. I realized, with heartache, the extent of her loss. On that day, perhaps it was for the best. But for me, it was an additional loss to grasp. A sense of aloneness swarmed over me. 
Later that day I got a call from my friend Mason who was exploring meditation by attending a Bhudist retreat at the zen center in green gulch, Marin county. Mason was near hysteria, begging us to come and fetch him, which we did. He was forced to hang out at our house for several days while arranging to get a flight home to Maine. Let's just say that inner serenity was not on his plate. I think he has regained his tranquility. I'm not sure I ever will for an integral part of me is missing, the part that shared awareness for 51 years with the joy of my life. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Temporary Insanity

In spite of my many art activities, August has seemed to drag, as another year of smoky air has inhibited my galavanting about. Will the forest fires never end? A fourth fire, the Elk Fire, has just hit the Clear Lake area, and for one on part time oxygen that brings snarls and frowns to this old lady. So it was with an attitude of happy expectancy I attended the Osher Lifelong Learning gala preview here this week. We are so fortunate to have these Sonoma State professors bring their knowledge right to our grounds. I usually enroll for just one six week class and they never fail to tickle the grey matter and delight the audience, which usually runs from 50 to 100. So I watched with excitement each presentation: Mondays, the Ebb and Flow of Civilizations (comparing the Egyptian and Mayan with our own), Wednesdays, The Bomb's Early Light, examining the development of the A bomb including anti-nuclear concerns in the present day, and Thursdays, Movement and Style, examining California Art and Beyond looking at 100 artists and visiting galleries in Sonoma County. All three presenters were dynamic, personable, and enticing. In a moment of temporary insanity I put my money down on all three. In addition October brings our big art show, resumption of Ikebana class, and a weekend workshop with Myrna Wacknov I am in charge of. Please send referrals for local psychiatrists for I am imagining I need one.  I'm wondering if the heirloom tomatoes I have been eating every single day are affecting my thinking?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Eating My Way Around the Valley of the Moon

Near Sonoma about twenty minutes from here, hugging highway 12, is a roadside Mexican eating place of exceeding charm but without affectation. El Mollino Central has been there for years, I understand. One thing that is unique about it is that customers walk right through the kitchen to get to the outdoor seating area. A well printed sign on the screen door reminds one  to step UP or DOWN when passing through. The clientele is diverse, but the presence of many hispanic laborers is a clue to its good taste.

Because of its popularity and authenticity the food never fails to satisfy and exudes freshness. Last time I was there I ordered fish tacos which were fresh and munchie. I usually succomb to the guacamole (even the small is a huge serving) and chips (thick but not greasy) for an appetizer. I recently took the  plunge and tried fish tacos for the first time. Yummy. Its hard to know what not to pick. Its not often one sees cooks casually cutting up piles of fresh octopus. Maybe for cerviche? I haven't extended my imagination quite that far yet.
On the other hand, my book club here has taken to going out to dinner once a month, trying to have the choice of a restaurant coincide with the geography of the book we are reading that month. My turn to choose a book (and restaurant) is coming up in November, and I'm drawing a blank. Any ideas out there? So far we've tried German, Indian, Portugese, Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Anchor Baby

After Trump is elected I guess I will be deported to Canada, since my mother and sister were illegal residents at the time I was born in Seattle 85 years ago, my mother having somehow crossed the border with my sister when my sister was two or three. Somehow I don't think she was among Canada's worst criminals or rapists. My sis is deceased now but I'm wondering:
"Does that mean that my sister's four living children and ten grandchildren will be deported with me?" Somehow I don't think I'm up for the weather in Moosejaw, Sask. but Vancouver and Victoria are lovely, and almost no one carries weapons. Gasoline costs more, but there are no commercials on television. I've proposed to my niece Cheari that we buy a big house straddling the British Columbia border (before the fence is built) and she and I can sleep on the BC side while her husband catches his z's on the Washington side. She agrees. And since the West Coast is warming at such a rapid pace, within a few years our land will be producing pineapples and oranges. Come join us

Friday, August 14, 2015

Homeless in America

So far I haven't heard any of the candidates on either side of the aisle address the problem of homelessness, though Bernie Sanders comes closest. Perhaps they just haven't had time with all the  other issues to address? The subject is close to my heart as I have a niece and a great nephew currently homeless in the Seattle area. As well as I can figure, both suffer from mental illness. My niece is said to be in a shelter for older women and my great nephew, her son, an epileptic, is living in the woods but close to a bus stop. This downward spiral to homelessness started when my niece got laid off from a good clerical job at a hospital because they outsourced the whole billing department to India.
A year or so ago I first sighted the man in the picture on a street corner in Sebastopol, a nearby town. Somehow his colorful attire and posture suggests dignity. He is always accompanied by his rather obese white dog. I was told by local residents that he is a fixture, probably moving from park to park. I feel too shy to ask him to pose, though I'd love to. I'm sure he'd love a handout, as that is probably how he survives. Maybe next time I see him I'll get the courage. Is he mentally ill too? Probably. But when I captured this fuzzy shot he was strumming along with his guitar near a band at a free concert.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Nothing Cuter...

Finally a clear blue sky greeted me this morning as I shuffled outside to get my Sunday Press Democrat. Interpreted that means we are back to typical August days in the Valley of the Moon, the Rocky Fire being 86per cent contained. So helpful to have clear air. Thanks to Friday's Current Events session here (my venting venue) I survived the Republican debates, just barely holding on to my sense of humor. The heirloom tomatoes flooding the local markets are worth living for. After months of planning my friend Judy trekked to Seattle to adopt her yearned for apricot laboradoodle puppy.
Sage is just seven weeks. As the saying goes, there is nothing cuter than a new puppy. Judy has promised that I get to puppy sit when she goes to Canasta. I can hardly wait.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Lavender Harvest and Smoky Skies

  This lovely young tourist was smelling the lavender at Matansas Winery a few weeks ago when my friend Jan Jobert came to visit. She was really staring down a honeybee but I left it out of the painting on purpose thinking it would look too contrived. The lavender fields are pretty well harvested now and the grape harvest, quite early, is in full swing. The smoky skies for the last two nights have obscured the full blue moon making it yellow and orange. And for this breathing compromised old lady most days are spent reading and inhaling my portable oxygen.  The Berryessa fire is 95 percent contained, but the Clear Lake one seems to have a drive of its own and now encompasses 46,000 acres.  It would not shock me if we have to evacuate. So for distraction yesterday I went to see Mr. Holmes which was quite brilliant and today Im bouncing over to the Berger center here to see Mr. Turner, another excellent movie which I've already seen once. Pregnant thought: why don't we have some female titles? Well, both Holmes and Turner were a bit of narcissists, and perhaps most women are not that self centered. Happy August.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Summer in Full Swing

Even though I took this photo a few years ago at the Alameda County Fair, I imagine there is a similar scene at the Sonoma County Fair opening here on Tuesday. What is more adorable than baby farm animals? I just may have to paint them...
Meanwhile astronomers at the Ames Research Center in Mountain View yesterday announced a new planet, a close cousin to earth, dubbed Kepler 452B. It orbits its star about the same distance as the earth orbits its sun, so there is  likely water there. I wonder if there are little piglets too? Considering that there are not just thousands but millions of other galaxies, isn't it silly of us to think that we are the only one to sustain life.
Last Tuesday I discovered the quail in my back yard hatched a second clutch of eggs, and nine little furry spots looking like postage stamps took their first wavering steps under a rose bush near my pear tree. They weren't three feet from my dining room chair. What made me discover them? Daddy quail was patrolling the fence and trying with all his wits to fend off the neighbor's cat. I joined him in the task, many times that day. I haven't seen the babies again. I'm pretending mama quail moved them, because I can't cheerfully entertain the alternative.
Last night my book club, which has taken to eating out together once a month met at the Barlow in Sebastopol. On Thursday summer nights they have many free bands in a park like setting, and gourmet food trucks. It was such fun. A treat to see families dancing and kids of all ages jumping around joyfully. The air was cool and full of pollen. I took many pictures. I can hardly breathe today with allergies, but it was all together worth it.
As soon as I figure out Apple's new operating system, I'll be posting many new pictures. Happy summer!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Starting on 86

When Dolores Crowley (left), Shirley Frederickson (center) and I (right) entered the University of Washington in 1948 there were no dorms available for girls. The campus was exploding with WW2 vets attending on the GI bill, so to find a place to sleep a girl had to pledge a sorority. Thus three unlikely pledges from very different worlds were thrown into the same room on the third floor of Delta Zeta sorority. We suffered through memorizing all the names of the founders and sitting every night from 7-10 in the moldy dark basement at study table. We learned to pour demitasse coffee and rules of etiquette for a real lady...I failed at this. We wore white gloves most everywhere, except to classes. At all times we were instructed never to wear more than three points of jewelry at a time, which is to say if you wore a wrist watch and pearls you could wear one ring,  But if you wore earrings (pierced ears were considered vulgar, by the way) that was two points, and you could only add a watch. You got demerits for certain infractions, and after so many points you were confined in the house from 5pm Friday night to 8am Monday morning. Who would have imagined that 67 years later we three would remain dear close friends, all living in California. So last Tuesday I was honored by them at lunch here at one of my favorite restaurants, Sea Thai Bistro. After exchanging aches and pain stories we got down to the serious business of recalling life in the sorority. What seemed so serious then seems so funny now. I confided that one of the house boys, Pat, used to open his basement window so I could crawl in after hours. They remembered different things, all of which seem ridiculous and funny now. It was a wonderful addendum to my whopping big 4th of July party.
That same night my friend Chuck visiting from Guadalajara (and 4 years my junior) took me to dinner here at the golf course. Chuck and I go back about 50 years, so more nostalgia hit the airways. Yesterday my friend Jan Jobert from Oakland spent the night. Jan and I only go back eight years, but we are also dear friends. Last night we viewed the new Pixar film Inside Out. My opinion? With 85 years under my bulging belt, two masters degrees and a doctorate Im still not savvy enough to figure out all the complex layers of it.
Happy aging to you all.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Reflections on Turning 85, almost.


Today along with the country I celebrate my 85th only for me it is three days before the actual date. Who would have ever guessed I'd live so long or that I would also be celebrating the supreme court decisions in the last few weeks to uphold the affordable care act and to allow same sex marraige throughout the country.  When I was little my mother always told me that I would have been born on the fourth of July, except the obstetrician went on a fishing trip over the holiday so I wasn't born till the 7th. I guess I was ten or twelve before I figured out that was another of her fantasies along with the goal that I would inherit her looks (gorgeous)  and talents (arty and sexy)  and ambitions (join the merchant marine and travel the world). Instead I inherited my father's physique (flat footed, webbed toes on both feet, myopic eyes) a home body with simple aspirations including love of books and nature.
When Lee came into my life at 26 I dreamed we would grow old together and magically pass into oblivion in the same breath. We bought the house of our dreams with an indoor swimming pool and a sweeping bay view and lived in mostly bliss for 51 years. How lucky can a girl get. After her death eight years ago I gradually transitioned to acceptance and almost three years ago purchased this house in Oakmont. Of course I didn't know it would coincide with a broken hip and a warehouse flood which destroyed half my belongings. With the special help of my old bay area friends and Oakmont friends Sue Dibble and Jeanne DeJoseph and caring support of Catherine Dodd and Mary Foley I made it through, which is a big miracle in itself. My niece Cheari and her husband Alvie from Arlington, Washington pitched in enormously as well.
So today I thank my mostly new Oakmont friends, 25 of you. If the house were bigger I would have invited a hundred. No kidding. Oakmont and Santa Rosa has been warm and welcoming, especially Rainbow Women. In the old days we would have skinny dipped (lots of us had cute figures) and then gathered on the deck on Cathy Lane, forty or fifty of us, to watch the fireworks and drink champagne. Today we eat hot dogs and drink bottled water and mostly watch our calories. I'm blessed with a big bank of old memories and a heart full of new ones.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bizarre Story

Those who have heard this story say "you've got to put this on your blog" so here goes....
Last Sunday night about 8 pm my old friend Mary Butler arrived from San Miguel Allende, Mexico, for a visit. We reunited joyfully of course. About 8:45 I was showing her around my study, where she would sleep. I was explaining that the overhead light and ceiling fan, instead of working on a wall switch, worked on a remote. To demonstrate I held the remote up close to my face, with Mary standing close to my right shoulder. I clicked the button on the remote and a horrible wailing sound commenced. For those old enough to remember (like me) it sounded like an air raid siren. We assumed it was a smoke alarm, although it was even louder and more piercing. Mary is only about five feet tall but considerably younger than I. Carefully I held Mary's knees while she balanced on the ladder disconnecting every smoke alarm in the place but  the wailing continued. So I disconnected the carbon monoxide alarm. No effect. At this point I called my neighbor Jim who got into some clothes and came over and repeated all of our motions. No effect. Fifteen minutes had ensued. Neighbors doors were opening and they were beginning to gather in the street in front. "I'm calling 911" I said, but the task seemed almost impossible for I had to scream into the telephone to have the operator hear me, so I went out to the back deck thinking it would be quieter, but it was the same. Then Jim and Mary came out to the deck and said it had become quieter in the house. I went back in and the roaring continued again. At this point Jim pointed at me and yelled "Bonnie, its coming from YOU". All I could imagine, then, was it was my pacemaker screaming. I hurried out to the front walkway to meet the firemen, understandably in a state of panic. By this time seventeen minutes had elapsed of this deafening noise. Four fully clad fireman came running up and I announced that we had just discovered the blaring was coming from me so the fire captain said "Take off your hearing aid". I looked puzzled but took off the left hearing aid and held it in my palm. It continued to blast about four more seconds. Then silence. The fireman in the lead told me to turn down the volume on it but of course my hearing aids, engineered in Germany, are preset just for me, and there is no volume control. I was too rattled to explain this to the helpful firemen. What a relief to have the noise end.
How embarrassing to me in front of the gathered neighbors. Eventually we went to bed but I was too wired to sleep, and in fact the next day I could not keep my food down. But I did solve the mystery after I talked to my nephew-in-law in Arlington, Washington. Alvie is an electrician and explained that the radio frequency on the remote for the fan must have been the same as for my hearing aid, and it set up a kind of loop. When I called Dr. Gil, my hearing aid doctor, he confirmed this likelihood. Meanwhile I checked with the electro-physiologist in my cardiologist's office and he assured me that I had not harmed my pace-maker. "If the pace-maker was failing" he said, "you would feel a vibration in your chest, not hear an alarm".  Good to know.
Do these wild and bizarre things happen to everyone, or is it just me?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Serious Contemplation

Returning yesterday from a delightful afternoon of film (French Impressionists) and early dinner at a fun place in Sebastopol, a sense of gloom overcame me as I contemplated the hour's appointment at the dentist today. Seems that the new bridge coming from the lab did not fit, after another hour's effort on Monday. Both the dentist and I bewailed our fate. So we have to start all over. New impressions and everything. Heart weary as I am, novocain and hours in the dentist's chair are not my cup of tea. So climbing the three stairs to my front yard, feeling abused, I was transfixed by this medium-sized  lizard perched on a rock. He or she stopped me in my tracks. Everything about his posture said "patience". I stood there immobile for at least four minutes, waiting for a twitch of an eyelid. But no, it was as if he were carved in stone, his coloration blending artfully with the boulder. I asked him what he was thinking so hard about, but his response was mute. Note how exquisitely his posture blends into the block. The experience transformed my mind set. so I was able to put my dental troubles in perspective.
Well, I survived the dentist today and came home to find a covey of baby quail in the back yard. They were adorable, but too wary to let me get close enough for a picture. What is the moral of this story? When all else fails, take a lesson from nature.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Kitchen frustrations

There are a lot of 65 year old women in Oakmont and I don't think any of them aspire to look like Caitlyn Jenner.  Likewise I  doubt that many of them are rejoicing at the FDA approval of  Viagra for women. But what most of us  65 and plus lament is the lack of strength and dexterity to open jars, bottles, and plastic packages. In this house I have plenty of kitchen drawers. The top one contains a hammer, a screw driver, pliers and a pick . These utensils are not for household projects, alas, but for trying to open containers. Now don't tell me to go to SurLeTab and buy a special opener; I have three of those, and none work. Sometimes I remember to ask the clerk at Safeway to open something. Occasionally they groan "I can't open it either" but usually they comply with tender smiles. Invariably, whether it is mayonnaise or soda pop, I spill it on the way home.

Bt the way, now that Safeway has sold, have you noticed the clerks can have facial hair and visible body art? They are delerious with joy. I appreciate they are happier.
Kelly, my treasured housekeeper, brought me fresh oranges from her tree on Tuesday. I could not resist painting them. I know they don't look as orange as most oranges, but the color I painted them is accurate. It makes me wonder if the oranges I buy at the store have artificial color.
Anyway, these sure are good.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Joy of Writing

Yesterday two friends from my former writing group at the Lafayette Community Center trekked up.
For over eight hours we alternately wrote, ate, or caught up in each other's complicated lives (theirs, not mine although I bragged a bit about all my activities on the Oakmont site.)
Such delight. First we each rewrote an old story, then critiqued it. Then we wrote a new story, and did likewise. Lastly we wrote a story about our own writing. That was a novel idea. Here's my effort.
It's curious to me that I can't write fiction for indeed I love reading fiction. I've puzzled a lot about this, since I am not without imagination, and express myself creatively in painting, gardening, photography, and general mischief making. In fact my friends would say that imagination is the essence of me. And yet when putting words to paper all that comes out is fact (sometimes slightly exaggerated, I confess). 
Why can't I just make up a story from scratch? Perhaps it is just that I have lived so long and have so many untold stories brewing in that word repository inside me? Or is it possible I have some kind of fiction block? 
I tend to write about whatever is brewing for me. Usually it is something stewing on my mind. Something with a kind of discomfort or tension, and once I write about it I feel an immediate sense of relief. Yes, relief is the right word to describe the feeling. It's almost but not quite orgasmic at times. I feel pleasure and fulfillment. Sometimes I feel tickled. Sometimes I feel amused. At times I feel resolved. I don't think my style leads to improving my ability to write, extends my limited vocabulary, or contributes anything significant to the world, but it fullfills me. 

Besides all that, what fun to share my day of joy with you. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Go West, Old Lady

Back in 6th grade (about 1942) a new teacher came to our Seattle elementary school, staffed in general by kindly but stuffy old schoolmarms. Miss Johnson was full of innovative ideas, one of which was to have the whole class recite each day a poem that started "If you can't be a tree on the top of the hill, be a bush in the valley; but be the best little bush....something, something, something."  I'm sure it was intended to make the less high achieving students feel better about themselves. We all adored Miss Johnson, but worried that her chubby legs were the deterrent to her finding a husband.

So, since my problematical heart now prevents me from going to the hills, I'm trying the seashore, my vacation investment for the year
with the goal of producing the best watercolor waves of anyone around.
So, with friend Nancy from Denver, I set out last week for a trek up the coast. I had heard of Mar Vista, in Anchor Bay (about two hours drive North) from Lee's cousins. It is a hoot! Very old but clean cabins are spread around the generous acerage. The spongy ground cover is carefully mowed. Spare blades of grass are manicured by Lola the goat, who took a fancy to Nancy.
 Instead of a golf course, the featured attraction is an estate like chicken coop. The weather was perfect, and for three days I dug my Tevas in the sparkling sand. (Friend Nancy tackled the 100 steps to the beach; Bonnie drove around.)
At Mar Vista one finds two baskets in each cabin, the larger for picking vegetables from the extensive organic garden, and the smaller for fresh eggs, multicolored of course. I accomplished little painting, but I did thrive with the sea air. The whole experience is a treasured memory.
Above, the view from cabin #9.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Persimmons to Chuck

At my urging this afternoon, Steve allowed me to accompany him to the mortuary to make arrangements for his partner Chuck's cremation. I didn't want him to go alone. I'm guessing  Chuck will leave us tonight or tomorrow. Yesterday when I saw him he opened his eyes a crack and tried to mouth "I love you". Today he is in a much deeper coma.
We picked out the cheapest mortuary in the list provided by the Hospice nurse. Entering the long driveway I noted it was a circular driveway."What is this?" I chuckled, "Drive through cremation?"
Chuck is  87, but Steve is about fifteen years younger, and their beautiful life together has exceeded 43 years. Pretty special. I met them shortly after I moved here because I was longing for persimmons to make my famous persimmon bars, and their back yard sports two trees. I never met a sweeter, kinder, or more intelligent couple. Chuck fell in love with my persimmon bars, and  ever since I have treated him when I made them. I wish I had done it more. Chuck was a writer all his life, and what a spinner of tales.
I'm very sad to see this sweet, sweet man leave this planet.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Ah, RAIN

Tomorrow they say, and it it can't be too soon. At Ikebana class this morning Ronn said most of the flowers in the flower markets are now coming in from Ecuador and other countries, California suffering severe drought. Even my  few iris, which generally love dry feet, are looking confused. For Ikebana this morning I picked  arbutalon, which looked stunning in the front garden, only to learn it was a poor choice. By 10:30 it was on its knees. So much to learn....
Painter buddy Beth from Alameda is coming up this weekend so we can practice using the tombow pen . I have a lot to learn there as well. for except for politics I tend to see everything in the vibrancy of color. On the right is the best I have done so far: some small red roses from my schizophrenic back yard. (Tomorrow it will be smiling.)
So what a poor memory I have. Or is it denial? About a month ago my left shoulder started hurting under the shoulder blade. The hurting got bigger and bigger. "How peculiar" I thought. "I've never had trouble with this shoulder before..."
After taking out stock in Alleve, making excuses for my  poor disposition and watching an increasing number of inane tv shows to distract myself, I woke in the night Wednesday screaming out loud. It hurt so bad. I spent the rest of the night flat on the living room floor with ice under my shoulder. I couldn't decide if it was heart, lung, orthopedic or hysteria. So I dragged myself to the family doc Thursday morning. In five seconds he announced that it was a classic case of nerve inflammation, probably caused by my poor posture due to protecting the bulging pacemaker in front which causes me continual discomfort. Three painless shot and fifteen minutes later I was soothing myself with three flavors of frozen yogurt. Since then I've been scratching my grey matter. Its coming back to me with some embarrassment how many times I've seen doctors in my life for that same shoulder, beginning with my freshman year at the University of Washington, hiking all over that huge campus in the cold and rain with stacks of books under my left arm. More and more memories are coming back. And if I looked through my stack on old MRI's in the closet I'll bet I'd find at least two of that shoulder. So I started today

trying to train myself to carry stuff with my right arm. How hard it is to break old habits!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Reflections of the Past

Way back in the fifties when Lee and I and I hung our weekend hats at Dr. Jane's cabin (my blog of two months ago) the rolling hills were all pasture, but last Wednesday when friend Joyce and I set out to see if we could find the old cabin, a little over an hour's drive from here, all we saw were vineyards. Today's Press Democrat says Sonoma County had 59,974 acres of vineyards last year. Imagine! The vines are bursting with new growth right now and look pristine. But how much wine can a population consume? I hardly recognized the landscape, but we eventually found the cabin, now hidden in deep willow and alder. From the west side of Highway 128 where we parked I could just make out the new stovepipe on the cabin, so someone must be using it. One can't see it in the photograph, but somewhat fuzzy is the big black volcanic rock we climbed on hot afternoons to plunge, nude, into the deep pool below. Ah, such delightful memories of sunbathing along the Mayacama creek, dinners over a campfire, and slumbering under a million stars (trying to avoid the poision oak). Leaving the cabin we motored north west through more vineyards to lunch in Jimtown, first built in 1895, now a restored fancy country store and restaurant. Full tummies we skirted back Healdsburg way, marveling at yet more miles of vineyards. I couldn't help but wonder what this land would look like seventy-five years from now. Perhaps they will find some way of growing water!

The poppies above are to attract tasters into a winery. At right, the old truck in front of the now modernized Jimtown restaurant.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Connections?

Besides the recent lunar eclipse (I actually saw it) the pink dogwood in others' yards (I could never get mine  to bloom in Oakland)  is strutting itself in profusion around Oakmont. My three Japanese
maples are coming in a close second in this writers opinion. Yesterday apple came out with a vastly different version of iPhoto, and today the apple watch went on sale for the first time. Meanwhile Hillary is announcing her candidacy for president tomorrow. I can't help but wonder if any of these things are connected? Maybe the honey bee can tell us?
This weekend I do a two day workshop on travel sketching with David Lobenbrg. And best of all, Catherine will be sitting beside me. We can talk politics in between stokes of the tomboy pen.

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Good Friday

Besides our thriving Art Association here at Oakmont (hear the pride and prejudice in my voice) there are several others around Santa Rosa. In January I bit the bullet and joined one called Artists Roundtable. Its an active group of people who seem to do many shows. I've attended a couple of meetings and suffered facial cramps from stifling yawns. They have competition every month, not judged, except by popular vote. I entered my first painting of an iris this week (the theme was "spring") and came out as #1 winner. I do love painting iris! This is one I did from my garden in Oakland. So far, of the few bulbs I brought up here, only one has graced me with a blossom. Its a pale, pale blue with a yellow beard, smiling at me just now.

 Not exactly exciting to paint. Anyway, the bonus at Artists' Roundtable was there is an iris gardener in the group who every year opens her garden to photographers. I can't wait.
For several weeks now I've missed Friday afternoon current events meeting here, my favorite group. But I'm making a special effort to attend today. There is so much juice in the news, I'll be dancing a jig. And it won't be in Indiana. The group is composed of about 47 democrats and 3 republicans, the latter who are very vocal, but usually get royally trounced. Its great fun. Then there is the governor's edict to cut water usage by 25%. Needed. but ouch. We hardly ever get through one third of the topics nominated. I'll be so stimulated I may be awake for the lunar eclipse Saturday morning.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Pet Love

Its not that I don't love pets, just that I don't have one right now, highly unusual for me. Frankly, I don't know if I could manage it. I've just started back at the gym, encumbered by portable oxygen. To relieve my boredom on the treadmill, I call up in memory all my beloved pets, starting with Black Mike Crockett Crosse, the pit bull of my childhood. Mike was my bud for many years, his back fitting snugly into the curve of my knees each night. Next were my mother's dogs when I lived with her the last two years of high school: Duke, Prince, Lady Jeanne, the latter once having sixteen puppies. From her second litter I adopted a blue Merle collie, Skye Blue, my companion the last year of college and early years of teaching. A Siamese kitten, Kitty Roo, completed the pack. Then came Hallo, a stray calico, who appeared on the window ledge of my classroom on Halloween. At the right, me with Sky Blue at 21.

Moving with Lee to California in the wee bungalow in Berkeley three kitties came with the package: Junior, Mister, and Cindy. Later they shared the address at our first Oakland home with our first canine, a miniature schnauzer named Christopher Robin LeBon. Chrissie lived to sixteen, and surely was surrounded by love. A dozen more pets followed, but you get the idea. Calling up in my mind the memories of these pets gets me through fifteen minutes on the treadmill.
Nowdays I entertain myself with my Oakmont friend's pets. Probably two dozen dogs are walked by my front door daily, and all love to be greeted. Recently my friend Karen adopted two teen-age kittens, Shasta and Pixel. They are great characters, as you can see of this photo.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Wearing of the Green

So the story goes, my maternal great grandfather was pure irish, six feet tall, with flaming red hair. This may have been another figment of my mother's imagination, for all I know. Still I celebrate that little part of me that is supposed to be irish, and though I no longer chugalug irish coffee, I proudly wear as much green as I can muster on St. Patrick's day. Here I am with my book group Tuesday night at Cafe Europa, where we all gulped corned beef and cabbage. It was pretty good, too.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

CLIVIA and Marianne

Even when she takes a big breath, Marianne, also 84, only comes to my chin, but like this clivia in her garden, her presence makes a big statement. She's been my friend for a couple of decades now and was one of the reasons I moved to Oakmont. She has been a true friend, and often the one sitting in the hospital waiting room while waiting for me. We've gone on several photo shoots together since I moved here. Tomorrow the "Open House" sign goes on her front lawn. Barb's health is going down hill, and they have decided to move to Lincoln Hills to be closer to family. Its a wise move for them, but a loss for all of us at Oakmont. Good luck, sweet ones. I know you will bloom wherever you are.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Steering Through Life

My book club having just finished embracing Boys in the Boat (my choice) it was with some interest when starting east across the Richmond-SanRaphael bridge yesterday I craned my neck to better see a shell with not nine but six rowers. In profile with the sun behind them I couldn't make out the sex of the rowers, but in today's climate, it could have been either. All were paddling on the same side which I found curious, and they were struggling against the incoming tide.  I hope they made it without crashing into the bridge. In the comfort of the book club discussion, I realized I keep choosing books set in Seattle. Almost sixty years since I lived there, and yet my unconscious keeps drawing me back.
In Oakland to do my taxes, I was once again aware of what I miss most in Santa Rosa: Lee's energy is there, not here. It was there in the Rockridge cafe, (yum) where I had brunch yesterday. It was there in Montclair, where I quickly purchased two bras in a store we knew by heart. It was even there on the busy streets and freeways. I wish I could bring it up here, alas. Even though some of her cremains are scattered in my new back yard, nothing has yet taken root in my being. This is not to say that I don't cherish my new community, for I do, but just that it will never be where my heart is. Like changing direction when the tide comes in, steering through life is a challenge.

From the look on her face, you can tell how seriously
we all take each assignment. Goodness, I had forgotten what its like to follow rules.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Living Flowers

Ikebana, the Japanese art of arranging flowers, comes from ikiru (to live) and hana (flowers and branches), thus meaning living flowers. When there was a teacher showing interest in teaching a class here, I jumped at the chance, and scheduled him quickly. Oakmont abounds with flowers, and learning something new is always good for aging brain cells. Usually the class meets in the Art room, but today there was a big PGE project shutting down all the main buildings so t the class met at my home for our third meeting. Its hard! We are still working on the basic upright, Shogetsu.
Ikebana is also a do, a path or way of self-realization. "To take up ikebana is to embark on a journey of self exploration" says the book  donated to me by my friend Steve, here." Am I ready for that? Hmm...
Every time I think I have it right, Ron gently pulls the flowers out of my frog, clips many more branches, and replaces them at a slightly different angle. I'm surely not used to following such precise rules, and not even sure if I want to. But I must say, the finished arrangements are stunning in their angles and simplicity. Today I worked with iris (Safeway) and privet (my back yard).


Monday, February 16, 2015

Rolling the Climate Dice

I snitched the title from the subject of last Sunday
morning's symposium. The scientist presenting predicted that in 2070 the climate of Santa Rosa will be like that of Santa Barbara today.
It seems that everywhere I turn the climate is changing. When Catherine visited today she shared that Newsom, having officially announced his candidacy for governor of California next time, has changed his posture on California High Speed Rail, now opposing it. I suppose its a political gamble, but I think he errs.
Anyway, six of us watercolorists spent three days at the Delehanty ranch in Fairfield last week painting whatever our hearts desired. It was unseasonably warm, and so it continues this week. I delayed this blog until I had something to share,
With the inspiration of my painting buddies I am trying to learn "abstract". The pouring is fun. The design is beyond me. No matter how I turn this it looks like Felix the Cat with a giant hangover.
Oh well, I had fun, and so far no nightmares. As the Minnesotans say, "It could be worse." On the other hand, maybe "Oof-dah" is a better sentiment. I see a few fish in here, do you?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

In The Larger Scheme Of Things

Just as some 200 Oakmonters were filling the auditorium last Friday morning for our Celebration of Arts, (of which I was co-chair) the heavens opened up and our 36th day of winter drought came to a slippery, sloshy end. Three esteemed watercolorists, of international note, simultaneously painted the same model. I assured them, in the introduction, that the finished paintings would look nothing like one another, and my prediction came true, don't you agree?  This photo was taken by a friend of Jan Matsuoka. Yours truly was too busy thinking she had to run the show to take many pictures.

Artists Christopher Schink, Myrna Wacknov, and David Loberberg volleyed for the spotlight.
Myrna's was painted on prepared textured paper with many layers of gesso and tissue paper. The audience were invited to photograph and sketch and ask questions while the event was in progress. When it ended at 3pm, following a luncheon and power point presentation by each artist about their personal journey and how their art evolved, we were all in an altered state. I paint nothing like any of these three, but respect them all. I found myself most drawn to David's (far) right for capturing the model's expression.

Some fifty volunteers rallied to the call when we got the word that our application for a grant to do this was awarded. How impressive is that?
In the days leading up to the event I fretted: Would all the artists and model and volunteers show up? Would the predicted storm keep people away? What should I wear? What if I forgot my speech?
Then I remembered the program at Sunday Morning Symposium last week, a lecture on outer space by a brilliant physicist. It was there I learned the unrefutable evidence that not only are there millions of galaxies in our universe, but that there are millions of universes. So I said to myself "How important is any of this in the larger scheme of things? " At the end of the day all that was left was to clean up the mess, and volunteers scurried around like little chipmunks making everything near as a pin.
Above, Christopher Schink's palette on closing. You can see he's not stingy with the paint.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Cutting The Mustard

Before the new growth appears, just as the buds begin to swell, wild mustard consumes the rows in the vineyards. It makes quite a spectacle for the eye and quite a burden for the grape grower. I am told it is a noxious weed, but I await each early spring with joy hoping to capture the glowing contrast between the shimmering yellows and deep browns and greys of the root stock--- a feast for a photographer, a ten star metaxa for a painter. 
Last Saturday Catherine and I had such a day. We had set out on this specific journey, never hoping to be so successful. It was getting towards the late sun when, upon pulling into a ranch  to turn the car around, we looked east and saw this awesome sight: mustard that topped the car windows, with even a small pinkish flower at its base. We both gasped. The rancher strolled out, but instead of being rudely ordered to leave his land he invited us to follow him along a tractor trail to a deeper part of the vineyard where the mustard grew even higher.    

Since I've lived up here I note that some vineyards spray roundup between the rows to control the mustard. Others bring in sheep to eat it. But at this particular vineyard, which turned out to be 54 years old as well as organic, the rancher only used a mechanical cutter. He confided that he planned to cut the very next day. The following day, he told us, he would plow in the other direction in the rows. Not only were these grapes organic, it was dry farming. Not a bit of irrigation water was used. 

We revelled in our wonderful fortune. An awesome day. We topped it off with turkey on a bagel and frozen yogurt. Its a day I will never forget. 

My new eye doctor up here tells me this week that I have wrinkles on both of my retinas, which may or may not be worrisome. My eyes were squinting and bulging so at the sight above I would not be surprised if the mustard caused it. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Dr. Jane's Cabin

Jane Paxson was raised Quaker, and though she never practiced the religion, she lived it all her life.
A kinder more gentle, loving soul I never met. When Jane graduated from UC medical school it was the depression. There was no work for most people, let alone women doctors. Still she rented a large upstairs office on Solano in Albany, Ca.
With few patients trickling in, she played solitaire to pass the hours.
With time her practice grew and grew. When she realized one day she had delivered over 2,000 babies, the school population of Albany High, she quit that part of her practice but still had a booming business. I imagine she delivered many babies gratis. That was her style. I was lucky enough to have her as my doctor and my friend for over forty years.
Early in her career she purchased property north of Calistoga on Macaama creek. It was very rural in those days. The creek featured a wonderful swimming hole. The woods were thick with oak and laurel.  The poison oak thrived. The outhouse was decorated with poetic inscriptions. With no electricity or running water, it was rustic as well as secluded. Each July she retreated there for a month to renew herself. The rest of the year it was available to her friends. Lee and I spent many enchanting weekends there, and even once got flooded in. "Macaama" as we called it, is dear to my heart. I hope to travel there this spring and see if it still stands.
In my sketching class Wed. the homework was to draw a house or barn. What better memory to evoke! I miss you, Jane. You touched my life in such a tender and deep way. So did your cabin. When nothing is left of me but ashes, I hope someone will deposit me by the big rock in that creek.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

What Is Your Wall?

This week two Yosemite climbers, Kevin Jorgenson of Santa Rosa and Tommy Caldwell of Estes Park,  having completed the first free climb of the Dawn Wall route up El Capitan, challenged all of us to face and conquer our own walls. Something for me to dwell on. I figure at my age the walls left to conquer are psychological ones, and of those, I have plenty to contemplate.
Last week at a dinner, surrounded by so many lovely new friends, I felt sadness envelop me. A smile was still plastered on my face (curiously exposing my new dental implants of only two days before) but inside I was swallowing my sobs. It happened to be the twentieth anniversary of the death of my dear sister, Lorraine. Death anniversaries carry a special kick, as any sensate person knows. But my sadness was compounded by being with new friends, rather than old ones who had experienced that phase of my life with me. In my mind I found myself judging my new friends for their shallowness and lack of compassion. Of course everyone was oblivious of my feelings. How could they not be?
What I realized, on reflection, was that I needed to look in the mirror. Alas, it is me that is withholding tender and vulnerable parts of myself. To be real, among friends either new or old, I have to choose to take the risk; to be vulnerable, to take the chance of falling. Like climbing El Capitan, this takes courage and perseverance. I hope I have it.

From my deck in Oakland (on the right) I would
often study the winter cloud formations and
find insight and peace. A soothing and spiritual
experience not so available in this valley where
currently hang my hat. Even so, this county is abound with beauty of its own kind, and new friends can become as precious as the old. I have
lots of walls yet to climb.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Not a Happy Coincidence

Last week my memories were wound around Valerie's dear small village in France where I painted with Sandy's group first in 2004, and where Jac and Valerie's wedding will be, probably in February. Valerie is hanging out her upstairs window here, looking out at the small market place directly in front of her home.
 This week my mind can not get off the terror in Paris where at least 17 French citizens were killed in the massacre Wednesday. France is a country where political satire has long been cherished, perhaps in a more intense way than in this country. Though I have never seen the magazine Charlie Hebdo, I understand from Jac that "it makes you think." Jac shares that in recent years she has not often bought it at the newsstand because it has become for her, too vulgar, but that Valerie values it greatly. Valerie shares that a spontaneous rally broke out in the market right in front of her home in the night following the shooting, as I imagine it did in every French community, a rally that might easily have gotten out of hand, and that at her high school she had to get a boy to apologize to a Muslim girl for saying, insultingly, "Now see what your people did to us."
My deepest wishes are that the unity rallies scheduled tomorrow in all the major French cities will go smoothly, and possibly help to heal the wounds. However I can't say I'm not anxious.