“And like the eagle he renews the vigor of thy youth (oh bless the Lord my soul)”
Sunday February 17th 2019, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

As we drove past the edge of Elkhorn Slough yesterday, a place that draws birders from all over, I saw what was almost certainly an immature bald eagle and did quite the double take, calling out to the others in the car but by then we were too far past.

They’ve been seen nesting in Crystal Springs about fifty miles north of there after a hundred years’ absence.

Back at our house, the plate glass out the family room has taken on intricate stencils of feather patterns these past few days that had not been there before. I need to clean it.

Today in my peripheral vision I saw something big (not eagle big, certainly) move abruptly downward out of sight just past my amaryllises just as a finch dove away from the second bird feeder, the one in the foot of the L of the patio. I figured whatever the first one was, it was long gone–but it turned out it was not. It was just waiting for the finch to show itself again: even if it had to wait a few minutes, there was no way the little thing could escape that space without flying right past where it waited, hidden from my eyes.

And then suddenly the Cooper’s hawk was circling tightly around in that small space just a few feet from my side of the window. The smaller bird bounced off the window trying to make a break for it but its momentum was broken and lunch was served.

Moments later, the hawk flew fast over my yard going the other direction towards where the redwood was till last month, ditching the thieving ravens.

It seems more and more clear that the new Cooper’s has, after trying and missing a few times in the last six months, finally learned what Coopernicus had been a master at: putting in his order for fast-winged food and then picking it up at the check-out window without ever actually touching that window himself. Easier for all involved.

But what a sight to look up to see that forcefulness of nature in action. The redwood and the older hawk have gone the way of all life but the new one, likely with a nest itself by now, has at last learned how to make the most of what is clearly (or rather, clear after I clean it up) his territory now.



Love play work
Sunday February 17th 2019, 12:32 am
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life

Finished the hat during the drive to Salinas for a family get-together.

We went home by way of Mutari for hot chocolate in Santa Cruz, making it back just in time for our niece, who had carpooled with us, to make it to her next thing. (Which meant taking 17 home. In the rainy season between storms of the day. I know one friend who will read that and cringe at the thought, but the redwood that fell across the highway had been cut up and pushed out of the way by then.)

Then daughter and husband fixed the plumbing under the bathroom sink and I can’t tell you how good it feels to have that working again.

Then out to get ice cream to celebrate.

Lots and lots of family this morning, some I hadn’t seen in half a dozen years, and it felt like so much life was all packed into one short day.



Waiting in the window for spring
Saturday February 16th 2019, 12:03 am
Filed under: Garden

Growing inside for now with the others, critter-free. Who knew birds eat cotyledons?

This is a butternut or a zucchini–we’ll find out which are which soon enough. It is amazing how such a little plant can be such a total thrill. Look! A new leaf today! New promises to look forward to!

New food fights with squirrels!



Yesterday, today, tomorrows
Thursday February 14th 2019, 11:33 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Surely there’s got to be some protocol or rule about a trash truck not blocking a fire truck and an ambulance on a call.

But the dang thing came anyway yesterday morning and had all kinds of fun getting back out of their way, and after all that didn’t pick anything up.

Clearly they came back later, though. So why didn’t they just choose to do the other street earlier in the first place?

The storm let up to a misty drizzle at the right time while I hoped, aching to know that my neighbor was still alive, glad that at least the stretcher didn’t have to come outside during the downpours we’ve been having.

After they left I emailed the spouse, having no idea what access to that message they might have at the hospital: I said that I assumed they’d gone together in the ambulance and that I was ready and waiting to be their ride home at any time, any hour and making sure they had my phone number with them (as best I could, not knowing if they would see my saying so.)

The paramedics had foreseen that problem–this wasn’t their first case–and so at their urging the one had followed the other with the car, separated for that brief time when surely what they most wanted was each other right there.

Hours later I did get a return email: a fall. 24 hours observation. Expected home Thursday. Terrible, wonderful news. They are not young.

Their car was gone again today but by late afternoon was back, and neither of them would have left the other alone in that hospital during visiting hours. And so I can only assume that there was recovery enough for the hoped-for discharge.

I’ve already said I would run any errand so they don’t have to. Especially in all that rain.

They know we know, and they know we care. And for now that is enough.



Oooh, seconds?
Wednesday February 13th 2019, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Lupus

Went to my lupus group and offered a bar of my chocolate around the room, fresh from my melanger, I told them. Everybody but the person who can’t eat the stuff broke off a square politely.

We had our meeting, and at a comment at the end someone caught on: Wait. Did you MAKE this??! And suddenly that ziplock was in high demand as it went back around the room.

Photo taken afterwards, coming off the hospital grounds during a break between two waves of the storm.

I’m afraid that tree is just too tall to play jump rope with that rainbow.



The place was really busy
Tuesday February 12th 2019, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

The sky was dark and low but the rain was holding off till evening. The shoppers were not.

I told the young clerk Pegi’s line about this being a French Toast run before the storm: milk eggs bread. He and the bagger cracked up, with the clerk especially looking like I had just totally made his day.

Clearly someone has parents who taught him how to make it. I remember thinking in college that everybody did: you just whip the eggs with a little milk, dip in the bread, pre-toasted or as is, a pat of butter in the skillet and one side and then the other and there you go. Easiest dish ever. (A side effect of our having lived in New Hampshire is that only real maple syrup will do for us. It’s the rule.)

And I remember the friend who watched my every movement like a hawk, trying to memorize proportions, which don’t matter much, not wanting to admit at the beginning that at 21 she’d never learned how to do this. How many eggs?

Her dad had died young and her mother was someone who bought blue cheese dressing but threw it away a day or two later because it had gone moldy. All those little blue bits in it.

And as long as I’m on that subject, my sister-in-law had a college roommate who was trying hard to learn from her how to cook. When my sister-in-law asked her to wash the lettuce she, having no idea, compliantly did: she squirted dish soap on it.



When the rivers fly
Monday February 11th 2019, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Life

That atmospheric river that helped them decide they need to start categorizing the strength of them? You can see the edge right there along the city’s southern boundary line as it was moving in over us this afternoon. There’s a break in the coastal mountains just north of us that lets fog and rain come through, and then we share. It was bright blue skies with small puffy clouds a block from where I snapped this at 3:50 pm, whereas you go up the overpass and look the other way and it was dark dark dark and so low overhead that it looked like you could stand on top of your car and reach into it. There will be flash floods Wednesday.

It is 33F at not yet 10:00 pm as I type and the rain is supposed to start tomorrow night–and 51 will be the low. Cold enough to snow, then warm up, then rain. That’s how it’s done.

Because we have earthquakes and we (very rarely here) have floods but we simply do not have snow days on our calendars. Except that we did last week on that one commute route.

I do need to go buy milk, don’t I (looking in the fridge.) Such a cliche.



The talk
Sunday February 10th 2019, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Family,Life

It printed out to six pages? Well that was way too long anyway.

I tossed my notes halfway through and riffed on what the high school senior had said before me in her talk about hope. I looked across at the young man who grew up in foster care and is now a certified nursing assistant, a huge accomplishment given how his life got started, and without singling him out I wanted to let him know I knew how important his job was no matter where he might be on the totem pole at work. I found myself talking about Noel.

Noel Cortez was a CNA at Stanford assigned to the room I was in when I was near death from my first big bout of Crohn’s. He had lost a niece, a small child, to cancer and kept her picture with his badge to remind him, he told me, of why he does what he does. The care she’d gotten had inspired him to get the training for that job, and when I met him he was applying to nursing schools as the next step.

Noel was both a deeply loving human being reaching out to others in their own pain and one of the funniest people you could ever hope to meet, and since I was probably his sickest patient he spent every spare moment he could with Richard and me, keeping both of us laughing at a time we thought we never could again.

Laughing while the body was trying to ebb away somehow offered strength that I didn’t know was still in there somewhere.

I talked, too, about the doctor who had needed me to live, and who cared just as much and whom I couldn’t let down so I did.

I said, Their kindnesses offered hope when I most needed it. Hope offers life. We can never know just how much it means to someone else when we reach out to them but it is never, ever a small thing when we do.

And with that my time was up and I sat down.



Talk to you later
Saturday February 09th 2019, 11:57 pm
Filed under: Life

I’m at the final edits (hopefully) for my talk for tomorrow morning in church.



Pen pals
Friday February 08th 2019, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Friends,Politics

I’m going to let my dear friend Jennifer, whom I met when she went to law school here, tell this one. And I quote:

“Last summer, a friend I was visiting held a house meeting to find ways we could take action against the administration’s inhumane immigration policies. From that meeting, @Detainee Allies emerged… and today, The New York Times featured our organization and the incredible stories we have been honored to hear, witness and hold.”

Pen pals. They simply wrote letters. To people who had sought asylum and found themselves imprisoned for it, who needed simple human compassion. It made all the difference in the world to those receiving them. Somebody out there knew they were there, and cared.



History on a small scale
Thursday February 07th 2019, 11:15 pm
Filed under: History

I stumbled across an article online that was clearly plagiarized from the original–and they watered it down, which was worse. I went looking. I know people who were there then.

This is the original story. A charismatic young high school history teacher here, trying to answer the question of one of his students in 1967 as to how the Germans could possibly have fallen for what Hitler did, improvised a real-life experiment that spiraled way out of hand to where he and the kids found themselves in a full-blown enforced fascist state–and not just his kids: students were skipping classes at the other two high schools in town to join in.

It was so horrifically successful that Jim Jones, who would later perpetrate the Jonestown massacre where 909 people died, tried to get him to tell him how he’d pulled it off.

And no, that teacher did not keep his job.



Tree hats, people hat
Wednesday February 06th 2019, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift

Two frost covers, one greenhouse, two strings of incandescent Christmas lights plus a heater made it 54F this morning under the covers with the mango tree vs 29F for the outside temp. Three more mangoes have begun to turn yellow, determined to become what they were meant to be.

Meantime, Malabrigo Mecha is proving to be easier on my tendonitis to knit than that fluffy grabby red alpaca was, and I find it very encouraging. It felt good to see something brand new coming to be.



Snow!?
Tuesday February 05th 2019, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Life

Rain, rain, and more rain yesterday.

And then–

We woke up to a community-wide warning that a road going into the hills connecting the counties was closed. I could just imagine putting people who’ve possibly never seen, much less driven in snow on that steep narrow windy mountain path at rush hour, and–just, no.

Turns out we *do* have snowplows here! Or at least one, anyway. Who knew? It was a cute little backhoe-looking thing with a plow blade attached to the front rather than the traditional massive snow truck, but hey. We needed it. The Little Engine That Could got to work and cleared the way.

Photo courtesy of the police department.

Tonight, it was 32F already at 8:40 and going down, but there’s no more rain expected before Friday. That’s more normal here: a cold front just before the less-chilly storm.

 



It’s for sale
Monday February 04th 2019, 11:37 pm
Filed under: History,Knit,LYS

About ten years ago I was having a conversation online with Tina Newton of Blue Moon Fiber Arts. The knitters here may remember the story told by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee of the yarn dyer whose Sock Yarn of the Month Club got yanked without warning after 9/11 by its bank as being clearly a source of funding terrorists, because the idea that people would sign up to buy yarn! To knit…SOCKS!! was just too outlandish for comprehension. And so without asking the customers if they’d been cheated by her site nor letting her know that they were supposedly on to her, her bank abruptly yanked all funds paid for that club out of her account and refunded everybody so as to stop her diabolical plans in their tracks.

None of her customers had asked to be refunded. She certainly hadn’t planned for that to happen to her company’s finances.

Yeah that was fun.

Anyway, so that’s how I heard of Blue Moon, and at one point she had a colorway named Rock Creek. My husband grew up a block away from Rock Creek near the Maryland/DC line. So out of sheer curiosity I asked if there were any connection to the one there.

Tina laughed that there must be a Rock Creek in every state of the Union–but, yes.

Wait, so…

We ended up putting down the computers and talking on the phone. Turns out she and I had grown up a mile, maybe a mile and a half away from each other and almost certainly knew people in common and definitely places.

And about dead center between our homes and familiar to all was the old Magruder’s blacksmith shop, built by a man who died in 1751. (The real estate listing got the built date very wrong.) The family home was a much larger house up the hill. It was this tiny one where his slaves lived, climbing a ladder to the loft above for a bedroom, a sober reminder of the past. If you scroll down on the county’s historical register page about it, you can see where the road to the right used to be that they wanted to tear down that house for so they could widen it.

The outcry was such that they rerouted the road past the back of the property instead and dead-ended the original going up the hill from the house. (You scroll down to the very bottom of that link and you see the spot where my mom turning right at the bottom of the photo got hit head-on by a school bus that had lost its brakes and gone over the center to try to avoid cars waiting for the light. Mom was fine.)

Someone from my high school is into historical structures and posted those links on Facebook.

And I wanted to go, Mom! Dad! This says that place has a basement! I think that thrilled me to read because it meant the poor souls who had no choice but to live there a very long time ago had more space to themselves than I ever knew, and I’m grateful for that.

But all my life I’ve wanted to see the inside of that house. Now’s my chance. Just a plane ride away, right?


Edited to add, one of my friends back home found a video showing the inside!



Maple pecan orange caramel strudel, this time with a little hazelnut too because that’s what was here
Sunday February 03rd 2019, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

A week ago, while we were packing up their house, B&N on the phone told us all food was take or toss and they urged us to help keep it from being wasted.

They had a big box of a dairy-free shortbread. We had a few more of the organic oranges from the neighbors. (Since you zest them, they really needed to be–it’s the difference between bitter and not bitter in my experience.)

Those two being essential to a childhood memory of my daughter’s (the recipe’s in that link) from before her dairy allergy surfaced, the thought kept percolating for her all week, not knowing that it was in mine, too. But she was the first one to bring it up yesterday, and a box of dairy-free phyllo dough soon followed her home from the grocery store.

There’s a point at which you quit resisting a good idea.

At the last minute it seemed I was out of Earth Balance, the one reliably dairy-free butter substitute I could think of but she found a box in the freezer of a coconut oil/cashew substitute for cultured butter for layering the sheets. I was a little unsure but it’s what we had.

The taste was perfect. The phyllo did come out just a bit tough rather than tender, but hey. I marveled at the end that the strudel was a lot easier to make than I remembered, and she laughed and said, You don’t have four little kids running around to try to keep track of at the same time.

Point.

In honor of my late father-in-law’s birthday. He watched me very carefully a few years ago as I showed him how easy it was to make your own caramel sauce–he wanted to be able to do that, too. Sugar, water, boil, cream? That’s all there was to it? Cool!

He had quite the sweet tooth.

Happy Birthday, DadH.