There he is!
Saturday March 16th 2013, 10:57 pm
Filed under: My Garden,Wildlife

Gee, we’re getting snow, too, only it just seems suspended up in the air for the moment… (The flowering pear has grown a lot since this post.)

All was quiet for a long time this evening.  He had to be out there somewhere, though I hoped the deserted feeder didn’t mean the ravens were back again. The single raven earlier in the week had become a pair trying to settle in at a prime spot on Friday and I had taken a squirt gun to them: the spray reached nowhere near at all (the supersoakers of the 90’s don’t exist anymore) and they kind of gave me an Are you kidding me? look but lazily flapped away to the next yard.

A chance glance near dusk caught the moment as a burst of big gray wing exploded out of a tree, gone faster than you could catch your breath.

My Cooper’s hawk still rules this roost. Yes!!

Lemon aided
Friday March 15th 2013, 11:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Wildlife

A friend of mine who moved here a few years ago posted a picture on Facebook of her toddler reaching up into a thicket of green leaves (her tree looks much younger than mine) for a big, juicy-looking lemon.

The California life. Her relatives back where it’s cold and snowy commented in ways one might imagine, and I was recounting this to Michelle when she got home, telling her my own crack about, “When life gives you lemons, make–”

“–lemon meringue pie!” she grinned.

“Is that an offer?”

And so tomorrow we shall bake.

(Back to Glenn Stewart’s book. His friend was scooping up sleeping pigeons in the dark from city billboards in the early days of the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group to feed the raptors they were trying to nurse back from near-extinction on a nearly-zero budget–and found himself surrounded by a swat team. The man does have a story to tell!)

The lace hat with the Charlie Brown zigzags
Thursday March 14th 2013, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life,Wildlife

Glenn Stewart just published a book! The biologist whose lifework has been to bring iconic raptor species back from the brink. And I already know the guy can write well. Kindle version so far, and I can only imagine the squinting of the person who said he was reading it on his Iphone, but as soon as we find our Kindle I’ll be reading it too.

And in the meantime.

I kept kicking myself for feeling zero interest in working on the baby afghan this afternoon. I should be putting it first and foremost–and I did want to knit, but not that, and instead found myself picking up the hat I’d been working on at the lupus group meeting yesterday, trying to finish it before knit night.

Didn’t quite make it.

With the one-car situation, I only made the last hour at Purlescence. (They have my book. I sign them. Just mentioning, like I do occasionally.)

And so for forty-five minutes or so I worked those last repeats and decreases. Bound off. Managed to work the ends in far enough with my knitting needles after coming up empty for an eye-of-a- type.  Checked my keys: nope, I’d taken my little Swiss knife off them last time I went traveling and never did remember to put it back on. Well, then.

And with that I walked across the room to Danette, who’d been far enough away that we hadn’t exchanged a word the whole time–I’m too deaf to even try from that far in a noisy room–and thanked her again for the ride home from Stitches. Baby alpaca/merino/cashmere, says I as I’m grinning and walking away while her eyes are up to the ceiling and her jaw down to the ground and the whole room lights up.

Y’know, there’s this whole inner issue of do something quietly, not for show. But dang was it fun just the way it was.

Danette’s got a little girl who’s just starting to be verbal, and so as we walked out at the 9:00 bell I turned to her where she had the hat happily on her head and those two yarn ends hanging down her shoulder, picked one up a moment and pronounced, You’re dribbling.

She guffawed.

High-flying families
Wednesday March 13th 2013, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Meanwhile, in falcon land…

There was a known peregrine nest inside one of the hangars at San Francisco airport. This was great, because airports sometimes hire falconers as a benign way to scare off birds from the runways and theirs had simply arrived of their own. I heard about them last year if not before.

And then this happened, and I quote:

“We don’t really know how that falcon came to be injured,” (airport sportsman) Yakel said. He maintains that the airport has no record of anyone on staff shooting any type of bird that week, including the falcon.

NBC Bay Area wanted to know how it could be that a bird was shot out of the sky over an international airport and no one knows who did the shooting. Are enough precautions set in place to ensure that these live rounds don’t interfere with aircraft?

Does Yakel really want to leave the impression that random people are allowed, rather, to wander in restricted space, unrecorded and unnoticed, to shoot at whatever wherever? It’s like we teach our kids: the lie and its trajectory are always far worse than the goof you’re trying to cover up.

Glenn Stewart is working on trying to rehabilitate the shot peregrine now known as SFO. He can fly a bit, a huge improvement, but not well enough to survive in the wild yet.

And in the more natural world, there was a talon-to-talon battle for territory and the female on the PG&E building in San Francisco has been seen no more. The male has been trying to incubate the eggs alone, while having to catch, pluck, and eat his food, and the presumable winner of the battle is a female whom he gradually accepted over several days and now allows near the nest. She’s even tried out this sit-on-those-eggs thing–but they’re out of sync: he’s not mating with her because he’s too busy trying to hatch his offspring, and while peregrines do readily take to fostering others’, not having mated, quite possibly ever, her hormones haven’t kicked in to tell her what to do or even to be able to do it. She hasn’t developed a brood patch: an area where the feathers fall out and the skin swells with blood to make the warmth available to the eggs as the parent snuggles down over them.

She scoots the eggs around randomly. The male brings them back in a circle. She has tried settling down over them, but it hasn’t lasted for long and she knocked one out of the nestbox. Oops. She looks at them and gives them a teenager’s noncommittal shrug and takes off.

Time will tell, but it looks like this clutch will fail and then perhaps they will make a second one together. It was laid a full month earlier than the first set to appear on that building back when the nestbox began, so there’s plenty of time in terms of the season.

This is all new stuff: as Glenn says, there is nobody now alive from the last time there were enough peregrines still alive to actually have to fight it out much over territorial spaces. We have some nest cams and so our knowledge of the species increases.  Viewers at home tuning in at chance times have filled in some of the gaps of the narrative not just of this nest but of the species as a whole: someone was recounting today a widowed male in another state who tried, for 100 days he tried but the eggs had been allowed to cool just enough just too many times and at last with the season changing he gave in to reality.

Meantime, our San Jose nest had the male ousted by a young male near the end of the egg laying last year, and Fernando had no idea at first how to incubate or what he was supposed to do, even with mating going on, and he left most of all that to Clara but he fed her and did a great job later of teaching her offspring to hunt and fly and soar in the skies.

This year, he’s got the hang of this whole egg thing going on and they are much more a pair.

Stole my heart
Tuesday March 12th 2013, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

Who knew that blueberry flowers look like bluelessberries?

Ellen is the friend who asked to borrow the autoharp, and late this afternoon, her husband called and asked if he could swing by to pick it up?


Allen showed up with the baby in his arms and daughter and son in tow of about three and five. It had been eight years since they’d moved out of our ward so that we no longer got to see them at church every week. I hadn’t met the little ones.

The five-year-old wanted to show me why that autoharp was going to be appreciated for the week it would be at their house. He sang me three verses of a song; I smiled my biggest grandma smile. How often do I get to be serenaded by small happy people? The baby thought this was great and grinned back.

Then the middle child needed to give it her all, too, and she sang me a wobbly I Am A Child of God.  Sweetie, you most definitely are. So cute.

The big brother had another go at it, and all the while I was standing in my doorway ready to walk the autoharp to the car because the dad’s arms were full, while the sun–late sun, but sun–was beaming in.

They had no way to know.  I kept expecting it to be over while not wanting it to be over and the dad needed to be on his way, so coming in awhile wasn’t happening. Had it been noon, I would have said something, but at that hour, I hoped the risk was small–after all, I would be out in another half hour or hour snapping quick photos of my blueberries and plum tree, right?

The little girl held my hand as we went to their car. She asked as she climbed up into her carseat if I would come with them? But no.

We had made friends. I am utterly charmed.

Harp a tune ity knocks
Monday March 11th 2013, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,My Garden

The August Pride peach blooms on, the Babcock joins in.

Back when our older children were babies and toddlers, Richard wanted an autoharp. I had my piano, but he wanted to have something he could play too.

He and I had both had a county music teacher who traveled to our elementary schools and taught us songs to sing while she played one, the happiest part of the schoolweek. Probably the same teacher. Fond memories for both of us.

Autoharps were not found in great abundance in southern New Hampshire in the early 80’s.

And yet somehow we found one. It had been a public-school music teacher’s–perfect!–offered up now at a music store an hour west in a small picturesque old New England town near the Vermont border.

The place was magical. Stepping stones for our oldest to jump along on cleared the way through the last bits of snow scattered about the melting winter’s earth, taking us up to the door of an old building at the top of the hill amongst the trees; inside it was warm with old wood shelves and walls and age and stories to tell.

The shopkeeper hefted and opened the slightly battered case with affection, telling us of this autoharp’s history, glad to see it go to a young family that would appreciate it.

Our kids have grown. The instrument has been quiet awhile now.

I got an email today and forwarded it to Richard at work: a young mom was looking to borrow an autoharp for a week while doing some volunteering in the schools, and if she could buy one, all the better; did anyone know where to find one?

I struggled to remember the name of that shop in that small old town in the mountains in a land far, far away. I wondered if it had continued to remain through the years.

We would not sell. But we could share.

She thinks she has a lead on one to buy, now, but we are her backup plan in case it falls through.

Richard came home from work, and, after dinner, having had it pull at him ever since her query, pulled that battered case out, improved with further age only in our own eyes. He found the tuner. He worked at it awhile then strummed quietly, remembering the chords, the fingering, the sequences.

He came into the kitchen behind me at one point and the music was infectious by now, the only possible response to dance for the joy of making music together again, for all the memories, for making new ones right here right now.

But our outer cases are getting a bit older, too, (Mom and Dad: I can hear you guffawing) and at some point I sat down over here, he sat down in there, and as he continues to play and I continue to listen I write this down for Parker and his little brother and all the other grandchildren to come.

Parker’s parents say with a cheerful smile that they have forgiven us for giving him a Christmas present that was a roll-out plastic pad like the old Twister game, only the picture was not rows of colored dots but of a piano keyboard. Which does indeed play the notes little boys might have fun stomping on to create their own tunes. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye lands!

Start’em young and watch them blossom.

If we want
Sunday March 10th 2013, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Heard today during a heartfelt talk at church: “We all have the capacity to do more good than we have the capacity to know.”

Cell ebration
Saturday March 09th 2013, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Eric’s photos of the San Jose peregrines of late, here.  Four eggs are humming along in the nestbox just out of sight over that ledge.

While we were at my audiologist’s on Friday, the guy talked to the manufacturer of my hearing aids. I had bought wires for the things a goodly while ago, they had been a frustration, we tried it with a bluetooth unit, they still didn’t work, they were useless. They plugged into my Iphone at the other end and the idea of being able to listen to music etc on it like everybody else was so, so–if only!–and all they did was turn off all sounds to everything when I tried. So that I was suddenly wearing $6400 earplugs. Was there anything else we could try.

With right and left plugged into his setup, I saw him say, Oh, okay, and he hung up the phone. He turned to his screen and added a new program.

Richard ran an errand this morning and came home and said, “This is cute.”

“What is?”

“This,” and he held out the new bluetooth unit to go with those wires and I, to my surprise, answered, “Oh, that’s cute!”

And then we plugged the wires into my ears.

And then he walked to the far end of the house, dialing my cellphone. Which had always told those wires, You are dead to me.

Even in speakerphone mode, I have never been able to carry on a conversation with my Iphone. Ever.

His voice sounded higher pitched than in real life but it was clear as a bell. Every word. I about burst into tears. Wow!

Richard said I should call my folks. I reached for the more audible landline out of sheer habit mixed with a little disbelief.

“No, on your cellphone!”

I called them in celebration and had to work at hearing Mom–same old same old–only, since I wasn’t in speaker mode nobody else could fill me in on what she was saying. But I got about half of it. On a cellphone!

It felt like the moment I looked up at a chandelier in a quiet room in a grand old building here not long after we moved to California, and having been entranced in church by the glass of one dancing to its own neverending tunes it was creating in the air currents when I was a child, observing the lightplay in the now-silenced-to-me one all these years later, to my astonishment my brain filled in every sound. It still knew. I heard the chandelier of my childhood again, brilliant and beautiful and alive again.

Talking on a cellphone. It felt like that.

Un-charted waters
Friday March 08th 2013, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

I got far enough past the ribbing to fall in love with how it was coming out.

And then I had to choose: tink or frog? Three 180-stitch rows. Silk? No way. Tink it is.

I want to show off the pattern but I’d like to keep some bit of surprise to it, not to mention that first I have to convince myself I can carry it off. With a brain injury, I don’t do charts well at all, I just don’t. And my first attempt at transcribing this one…

And yet. This is worth it.

But when I found this pattern, there was this one change, just one thing I would have added. And I guess the artist thought so too, because he offered a second chart with a variant in it.

There were no written-outs.

There was no picture of the variant version.

But it seemed to be exactly what my eyes were looking for, and besides, I needed a little extra width on the thing without having those stitches be excessive, yardage-devouring ribbing, even with the new cone on the way; I wanted it done the way I envisioned it. My stitches were set up for that added panel before I even found the pattern in the first place–I’d started the ribbing and launched into the afghan, whatever afghan, here’s the yarn now GO, figuring the rest would fall into place. Because somehow it just felt it would.

And it did. And the second time the set-up row came out right.

I can now delete my earlier draft here where I said I was torn between, shoot me now, and wow, this is going to be so cool. It IS going to be so cool. (Note to self: transcribe with comfortable posture and the stronger light over at the kitchen table, not at the computer.)

Meantime, in the last two days we have been celebrating Kim and John. Happy Birthdays!

Thursday March 07th 2013, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,LYS

No replacement cars yet.

Drove Richard to work for an early meeting. Drove home. Drove Michelle to work (a goodly commute). Drove home, a lot of stop-and-go. Answered email, a quick lunch, just enough time to get a load into the dryer. Drove to get Richard, then while he worked from his Ipad along the way, drove to the audiologist to discuss the newest-technology hearing aids that came out in the last few weeks, drove to Los Gatos Birdwatcher because it was right nearby and I was low on birdseed, drove home for long enough to grab a quick bite, drove to San Jose to pick up Michelle in go-but-mostly-stop traffic, put some gas in the car, drove home long enough to swig a glass of milk and dash back out, drove to Purlescence for the last hour of knit night–

–all of this in the rain–

–and man, did it feel good to stop. Sit. Knit and talk with old friends and get a hug from Juanita and a laugh with Rachel and actually get something done, yarnwise, the hat a portable project that made no demands on my attention, just slowly turned beautiful almost of its own (while unfolding to me what the next two iterations of it are going to be.  Cool. I can’t wait.)

Yesterday, re the baby blanket, I weighed and calculated yardage used so far and realized I was hosed. I emailed Colourmart:  they didn’t have another cone of that blue silk…? Thinking, of course not, I bought all they had and took the risk of it not being enough, and it wasn’t enough.

With the time zone difference to England, I didn’t hear back all day but wasn’t really expecting to; I checked my email one last time before bed. Nothing.

Woke up this morning to two messages: Yes we do. It’s on its way. Oh, and, (an hour later) here’s the invoice.

*deep sigh of grateful relief*

And tomorrow I will knit.

Accipiter vs corvid
Wednesday March 06th 2013, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

Routine doctor appointment this afternoon. Going out the front door to my car, there was a raven perched on the streetlight.

So that explained it! It hadn’t dared land in my back yard but it was near the redwood tree, which would not be allowed–and must have been why I had just seen Coopernicus swoop across my back yard to the redwood, then swoop around again in a loop, not in stealth but dominance. Here, here, over here, too. If I could see it out my back window, it was his.

He took a low pass over that black squirrel that was teasing him a few days ago.

I saw yet another swoop after I got home.

A limb was taken off the neighbor’s tall tree last summer, taking out the big nest that I’m sure was the Coopers’; there is a new one higher up there now, not quite as big–yet. (Someone captured video here of a Cooper’s pair building their nest and it looks just like it. That makes me all the more hopeful that Coopernicus may have found a new mate.)

I needed a portable project to take to that appointment, so, after way too much dithering, I found a forgotten start to a hat in the stash–one single row, hadn’t even joined it into a round yet. It would do.

Finished the ribbing during the wait; another patient was having an emergency, they apologized, I assured them I was fine and please take care of whoever it was–and I started into the pattern part, not a long wait after all.

I considered the thing.

It was a pretty small nestbuilding in my hands but it was merino and baby alpaca and cashmere goodness. Soon to be ready to hat-ch.

Peaches and silk
Tuesday March 05th 2013, 11:52 pm
Filed under: Knit,My Garden

Tonight was the first time I’ve knitted since the hot water heater flooded, and the stitches burst out after becoming so pent up. I had to finally put the needles down for my aching shoulders.

Silk with a bit of lycra knits up doubled quite well, far better than the slipperiness of pure silk. The yarn arrived a week ago, but patternwise, I had too many ideas in too many directions and nothing quite…. Now I know exactly what it wants to be when it grows up. It is such a relief to finally dive in and see it starting to take shape–my daughter-in-law delivered three weeks early last time and I have to assume this little one will be in a hurry, too.

Peach tree #2, meantime. While the plum needs an umbrella against the coming rain even more.

Knitting is lightning fast compared to watching newly-begun trees grow. And yet these change every day. The first peach to bloom has shed nearly all its petals now and is all about the leaves and growth; it’s branching out.

And so am I. And if I stop typing I might get to go do another row before I go to bed. (Glancing at the clock, 180 stitches, hmm. Maybe not.)

The novice
Tuesday March 05th 2013, 12:21 am
Filed under: My Garden,Wildlife

I saw a peregrine falcon today! It was near Stevens Creek (near you, Don) dancing in the air currents and then flying low over my car so I could get a close look. In a blink, I saw details on feathers, that its crop was full; it had just enjoyed a good meal and it was shooting the breeze with me. (I drove safely.)

Meantime: the plum tree on Sunday evening and the plum tree twenty-four hours later.

It’s supposed to rain the next two days.  I’m picturing a giant umbrella keeping the pollen from washing away before its time? How much time does the tree need it for? Yo, bees, quick, wake up?

But it intrigues me that all the blossoms, no matter where they are or whether their branch might seem to block them, are oriented in the direction of the path of the sun.

With the help of a dairy-free maple doughnut
Sunday March 03rd 2013, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

One other thing about Saturday: after the oven shopping, Richard thought, and I happily agreed, that, hey, it would be cool to go for an ice cream about now.

This is a rare impulse for us.

We had no idea where such a shop might be in the town we were in and neither of us felt like walking through the mall that was back thataway.

I fiddled with my phone a moment–how do you get Siri to come up again? I’d been able to hear her in the Verizon store’s demo when I bought the phone, but in real life, not so much. And Siri doesn’t come with closed captions. (Wait. If she actually does, tell me quick!)

But I knew how to get to the local Whole Foods from where we were and so we headed there for some single-serving Ben and Jerry’s. Not quite the same, but. Happened to pass a frozen yogurt shop on the way, actually, but didn’t pull in there but just kept going. Huh.

Found a cart out of habit, and, walking in the door, while Richard turned left towards the freezers I found myself turning right into the bakery section–I realized afterwards in order to have a moment to observe out of the corner of my eye before deciding. Reached for a vegan doughnut to bring home to Michelle, put it in my cart, found I did have the courage by that point, and went back a few steps left and stopped a man a moment.

A new veteran, was my guess. Maybe thirty at most. Not much past the entryway but standing in place, staring at the store laid out before him. Tall, muscular,  close-cropped hair, with a hard-looking face fiercely clenching an unlit cigar in angry defiance of all the preppy-health-obsessed-self-righteous-overprivileged-lifestyle and sticker shock that Whole Paycheck can be to some. (Though it’s great for people with food allergies.)

And coming from his hand was a cane with four very small walker feet at the bottom, like a child’s toy of the grandpa’s version. The cane itself, though, was an unexpectedly beautiful piece of woodwork for something with such a Medicare-suggesting end.

Mine, though nowhere near as nice as his, was carved and stained in two colors of varnished wood candycaning around each other. With the usual thick ugly black rubber tip.

I lifted it a little and looked up into his eyes, and because of what was in my hand, he was willing to meet mine.

“If you’ve got to use’em, might as well be a nice one,” and I complimented him on the woodwork in his.

His face changed entirely. He almost laughed but for that cigar he wasn’t about to let fall.

I don’t know who he was. I knew in my bones he needed that moment and that that’s why we had had to go there, and so, turns out I needed that moment too and didn’t even know it till afterwards.

When it rains, it poors
Saturday March 02nd 2013, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Life

Annnnd… (after the transmission and the water heater last week.)

We need a new double oven.

Lesson learned for the day: always go in in person and see how they feel as well as look. Richard pulled on the handle of one to see the inside and there was a seam in the metal on the back side of the thing, flimsy and rough. On a $2000 oven!

What I’d really like is to tell the manufacturers to ditch the electronics and go back to dials. Plain and simple and far more durable than just-past-warranty. There were some with dials, for hundreds of dollars more, but they were all faking it–the ubiquitous motherboards hide inside. $850 a motherboard part per oven plus labor was the repair quote we got on ours. And now you know why they all make them that way: how else could you get a couple to want a third double oven in 20 years? Electronics in major appliances are the Wall Street derivatives of the industry.

The good part is, one of the stores we went to was Lowe’s and on the way out the door was a candy aisle for grownups:  spring seed packets.  A dollar twenty-eight, a marvelous antidote to sticker shock, and a thousand potential Burpee’s Big Boy tomatoes all packed in those tiny brown dots in there. I haven’t tried tomatoes from seed since we lived in New Hampshire and the poison ivy lurking in the woods somehow climbed and claimed them.

And on a happier note–I loved reading this story. A group of blood donors, asked to regularly contribute to keep a baby alive, who continued to do so month after month; “the John Muir baby,” that was all they knew.

For five years.

And then he lucked out on a bone marrow match, was cured of his vanishingly rare blood disease, and his mother wanted to thank all those unknown good people.

Four of them came. And so they got to meet the little kindergartner whose life they had saved, again and again and again, month by month by dogged, determined, meaningful but anonymous month. To meet that burst of real, happy energy that was all boy and a part of them always.

To life!