Living in a tall person house
Saturday April 30th 2011, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Family

Michelle’s home, Michelle’s home!

And she came home by way of visiting her brothers for a few days (they live about an hour apart), reporting from my aunt that her granddaughter Abby loves loves loves her purple cabled hat. (Abby told me too.)

It was Michelle’s first chance to meet Parker: she swoons over his adorableness and his fine manner of pronouncing “Goo” towards all things agreeable.

We were talking away in her room this evening, catching up, and in the conversation I mentioned hey, we should consult a dictionary. Got a paper one in here? (We looked at each other and laughed; we’re so old school, you know.)

Sure, Mom, to the right, top shelf up there.

Okay, I knew immediately what was coming but it didn’t occur to her: I grinned, went over there, stood on my tippy tippy toes, the ends of my fingers brushing but barely as I tried to grasp the bottom of the book’s spine. No can do.

She giggled as she realized she’d forgotten that small detail–Mom’s short.

Give Parker another ten or twelve years and he’ll tell me I am too. I can’t wait!

Meantime, he is demonstrating for the Pappa-razzi how to do this hat thing in the proper royal style.

From tree to shining tree
Friday April 29th 2011, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Life,Lupus,Wildlife

I had a tree service person here twenty-odd years ago, and given that so much of the Californian vegetation was so exotic and so new to me, when he was done with the job at hand I pulled him around the yard and had him name everything in sight for me. I knew I would never remember it all, but at least some of it would stick.

He was delighted at being able to be a teacher in the moment to someone interested in everything that his life’s work revolved around.

We had an elm? I thought all those were dead!

No, this was a Chinese elm. They’re not affected by Dutch Elm disease.

Oh cool!

Once a year I participate in the UCSF study of lupus long-term outcomes; this year’s  didn’t involve traveling to San Francisco, I only had to spend an hour on the phone answering questions. Easy enough.

They always insist on giving me a $25 gift card as thanks. I always try to tell them not to and that I’m certainly not in it for any kind of payment; they always say it’s already a done deal, sorry, take it.

And so an Amazon card arrived in the mail. I’d already forgotten about it and it took me a moment to put context to the envelope. Ahhh. Yes.

David Sibley is quoted on Amazon saying that after all these years studying birds, well, you do see a lot of trees in the process. And trees hold still while you’re trying to sketch them, and they seemed the logical next subject somehow…

Eight-three cents on my credit card to bring up the difference (a few cents cheaper in tonight’s listing), and “The Sibley Guide to Trees” showed up on my doorstep yesterday, two pounds four ounces’ worth of them right there in person.

How many books are that potentially useful for your whole life? Did you know there was such a thing as an ape’s-earring tree?


p.s. Did you see the little three-year-old bridesmaid in the picture, a millisecond before the first royal kiss, holding her hands hard over her ears with a face clearly demanding at the cheering crowd, “It’s too loud! Make it stop!”

Second p.s. The resident female Cooper’s swooped at something clearly on the roof above me as I looked out across the patio from inside, and I suddenly got a notion of what it must be like to be on the receiving end of that speed. Wow. (Speaking of which, I added a link in yesterday’s post to Eric’s photo of Clara strafing Glenn as he climbed back up City Hall; don’t miss it.)

And third p.s. The squirrels eating the calcium-rich fire brick? They’ve not only started again on it for this year, but they’ve carved off two big chunks. One ran up a tree with one, looking for all the world like it had a large pastry in its paws as it happily nibbled away.

And… One squirrel has been gnawing away at the metal barbecue grill. Iron deficiency, maybe? Sharpening its teeth for the hawk? (It wishes!)

Maybe we need a forest animals book next.

Banding together
Thursday April 28th 2011, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

(Ed. Friday to add this link, with thanks to Eric for the picture.)

I loved the moment where an eyas stopped screaming, looked way up straight at the face of the human holding him and suddenly stopped in wonderment, a scene straight out of the children’s book, “Are You My Mother?” And the classic recoil, “You are not my mother! You are a Snort!”

Three males, one female. The baby falcons at San Jose City Hall were banded today by Glenn Stewart, the biologist from UCSC behind the peregrine recovery effort. The video is here, with the parents swooping and circling and then at the very end standing guard together, almost touching, side-by-side above their babies in the nestbox.

What it doesn’t show is that all four eyases learned that the world really is bigger than inside there. All four of them tumbled or landed somehow onto the runway area later in the day and all of them figured out how to jump/flap/somehow lift just enough to get safely back home again.

Just wait till they stand on one of the ledges of that HVAC unit for the first time and look 18 stories down!

Big Birds
Wednesday April 27th 2011, 8:00 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Nope, no knitting. Another sore throat,  another fever, more resting, fourth round this year, kinda gets old.

But. I got to see one of my hawks, tail and wings wide, swoop down from above the awning–and its nemesis, the taunting big black squirrel, instead high-tailing it for cover under the table. Meantime, a dove freaked, ricocheted off the window then the awning, shedding a few feathers, and then flew a bit lopsidedly out of there–straight to the waiting hovering Cooper’s.

They both gained just enough altitude before surely the last moment that I didn’t have to see, nothing but two birds about to become of a feather.

By the way, if you ever need a project frogged, get the beginnings of the ball going and I’ll be glad to experiment with playing catch out there sometime…

Meantime, Clara (peregrine wingspan 41″) was seen today at San Jose City Hall decisively escorting a juvenile golden eagle (wingspan 79″) away from her babies and the heck out of there. You don’t mess with the mama.

I’m saying that loud enough for the germs to hear.

Now I can finch the job
Tuesday April 26th 2011, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

A chance conversation today led to my finally spelling out the thought behind my standard phrase of, it all works out.

Meaning, not just that something was meant to be, but more specifically that despite all our human efforts vs our failings, our sacrifices vs our screw-ups, God can make good use of it all when our genuine hope is to do right by each another. And sometimes He even makes use of the worst in us (about halfway down there)–pretty humbling stuff, that.

I got stymied and stopped on a project about a year ago. I wondered what on earth was wrong with me when I’d put so much effort into designing it; getting it to feel right shouldn’t be so hard.

And today I knew why.  I’m so glad things worked out the way they did!  (This female house finch let me come right up to it today, holding still for me as it studied the yard at long length like I’d studied those stitches; I managed somehow not to scare it off even in opening the door and going back inside.)

I’ve put the knitting down for the night now and am sitting here marveling at… More in a few days.

A good knitting day
Monday April 25th 2011, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

I finished it I finished it! I had a new idea I was working away at and really wasn’t quite as sure of as I wanted to be the whole time. You know how lace does this crumpled tin foil act while you’re creating it.

Today it was dry. Done. I picked it up, put it around my shoulders, stood in front of the mirror, and marveled, oooooh. *This* is exactly what I’d hoped it would be when it grew up! But you never really entirely know till that point. It not only worked, it taught me a whole new thing in the process and I find that deeply gratifying.

It was Abstract Fibers’ Picasso yarn in the Valentine colorway. (Baby alpaca. Anyone surprised? And Picasso–being an art dealer’s daughter, how could I not knit that?) I’d told my husband it was my big splurge at Stitches West. Bright bright bright and the perfect celebratory thing to be knitting away on to celebrate Spring and, on Easter, the rising again to Life.

And another reason I’ve been so happy today: I wove in ends that had long needed it and mailed off a project that the recipient knows nothing about but that sure made me feel good anticipating the look on her and her parents’ faces that they’ll see, even though I won’t. I knew the color was right and the yarn too. This is what all those stitches we do are for in the first place: showing others that they are well loved.

The squirrel update: I’m a creative meanie. I had a now-empty 20-lb bag of birdseed, all safely poured into the metal can but the bag still smelling highly of sunflower.

I threw a few very stale cashews way down in it. (I’m certainly not going to eat them.)

As the day progressed and this unknown object sat there on the patio, I watched the progression: scared squirrels, then nosy squirrels, then squirrels anxious not to have me be around seeing them while one of them tried to chew his way in from the side, apparently not liking the inner liner, though, and then finally, at last, when just one was there, a tail disappeared, fluff by cautious fluff.  The little thing had to have crept clear to the very bottom of the bag–whereupon I stood up and opened the back door.

Furry black lightning. In full zigzag/eaglesighting mode. Wish I could breakdance like that.

And then since I’m nice I walked out of its sight so it could come back and have a snack. Chocolate, me, cashew, you. Thank you for the entertainment; fair enough of a tip.

Happy Easter
Sunday April 24th 2011, 4:09 pm
Filed under: Family

A blessed and happy Easter to all who celebrate it, and a lovely, happy Sunday to all who celebrate.

Snagged a sneak preview
Saturday April 23rd 2011, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Wildlife

So I’m walking into Trader Joe’s for some quick Easter-dinner shopping and the person walking in right behind me as I’m putting my car keys in my pocket I recognize a moment late as someone who occasionally shows up at Knit Night, although my brain blanks on her name.

She stops me, admires the scarf I’m wearing, and asks if it’s one of my designs?

You know, sometimes you kind of want to look halfway dignified. But just then I was suddenly trying to figure out why I was entangled on myself sideways and then trying to extricate a stitch from the end of the scarf from the ring on my keys which were not coming back out of my pocket because I couldn’t see because the rest of the scarf was in the way, and having your scarf snagged out of sight but immovable and you don’t want to snag the stitch even worse and you know it is and you’re trying not to be distracted when someone’s being nice and you know your hair looks terrible today anyway and–

What can you do but laugh and say yes it is and thank you?


(Notes on today’s pictures: there’s been this one male house finch I’ve been trying to snap for awhile whose side feathers look like Isaac Asimov’s sideburns from the ’60s. I have no idea why. It can fly just fine, but boy do you notice that one, it’s three bird-bodies wide!

The tree photo, taken by zooming and which you can see especially via embiggening, is of a flock of small birds at the top; I think finches but I was able to make out a crest of a titmouse way up there too. I’ve seen crows on that tree before; Glenn Stewart of SCPBRG has spoken about how families of crows will gang up to harass a predator that’s bigger than them, particularly a more vulnerable young one. The Cooper’s hawks’ nest is tucked about ten feet below this picture–and the small birds have always stayed well away from there before, maybe an individual passing by but nothing like this. Curious.

I did see one of the Cooper’s two days ago, so they seem to be fine. Maybe the house finches were throwing a coming-out party for this year’s fledglings? Mi casa es su casa. Oh–wait…

Senator Barbara Boxer
Friday April 22nd 2011, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Politics,Warm Hats Not Hot Heads

A letter that arrived today, and I’m sure she won’t mind my sharing it:

Dear Ms. Hyde:

Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding civility in Congress and for the very thoughtful gift of a royal baby alpaca knit hat as part of your Warm Hats, Not Hot Heads campaign. I apologize for the delay in responding to your letter.

I appreciate learning your thoughts and of your desire to carry out change in the way members of both chambers of Congress communicate. You will be pleased to know that members of both political parties are discussing ways to bring more mutual respect, and less hot rhetoric, to our discourse. We need individuals in public service who love to serve the people, who value fairness, and who have the courage to make an objective decision after listening to all sides of an issue.

Again, thank you for sharing your views with me and for your very thoughtful gift. I commend you for your efforts to promote sensible public discourse through your Warm Hats, Not Hot Heads campaign. Please do not hesitate to contact me again about this or other issues of concern to you.


Barbara Boxer

United States Senator


She apologized for the lateness, but I would say it arrived on a day when that lift did me much good and I am delighted that she took the time. Well done, Senator, thank you!

Dawn it
Thursday April 21st 2011, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knitting a Gift,LYS

In today’s patio news: you remember yesterday’s was curses, foiled again. And that Pam vegetable spray had apparently become tasty as well as entertaining.

I discovered that my parchment (porch-meant?) baking paper, which is silicon-coated, is quite wide, enough so that a single long sheet could wrap all the way around that pole up and down. Tape of course wouldn’t stick directly to it, but I could wrap it tight around corset-style, half a dozen places. Worked just fine. You could see the squirrels checking it out, grumbling under their breath.

In other news.

A line for Don’s list: I wondered if morning was ever going to come, and then it dawned on me.

I was trying to figure out the math on a pattern today after being awake from 4-6 am. Note to self: don’t spend an hour whining that you don’t want to get up–when the bag breaks, the cradletime will fall, get to it before it does skin damage. But you don’t think clearly at that hour.

Richard drove my tired self to Purlescence tonight. He’s a peach. (And while there I finally got something useful and working right out of my day with that pattern working out the way I’d envisioned; it felt good.)

Penny was there, hoping I would show up. When I did, late, she stood up, wrapped her new shawl around her shoulders wanting me to see how absolutely perfect it was, and then wrapped her arms around me in the most heartfelt embrace. She told me that when her Richard had brought it home last week, “I was just…stunned!” And she hugged me again. And again, a few more times. She looked radiant.

I know I shouldn’t need that kind of gift in return for knitting something nice for someone. But I have to tell you–it sure helps me cope with the dumb stuff better. And it sure motivates me to go knit for another someone else.

I do have a fair amount of yarn squirreled away to work with.

And maybe a little knitting time later, oh wait, tomorrow
Wednesday April 20th 2011, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Wildlife

A house cleaned, baking done, presents bought, a birthday celebrated: angel food cake! Phone calls coming in. One, unexpected–looks like things’ll be okay.

A Skype chat waving at our son and grandson, four months old today.

Clara the mother peregrine nesting on City Hall has deemed her eyases old enough and warm enough now not to need her cuddling them in under her wings anymore and has taken to standing sentry through the dark hours on the ledge above them–but tonight she is tucked down in the nestbox for the night close in with her babies. It’s a comforting image.

And while we ate spinach lasagna and Ataulfo mangoes with strawberry puree and yogurt and then that angel food cake–oh and potato chips: it was a birthday, after all–

–with us out of sight, the squirrels pushed the Pam-sprayed foil they must have just ripped off the post right up to the back door. Thanks for the slip-n-slide, we’re all done with this.


With love to June
Tuesday April 19th 2011, 11:24 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

I hadn’t seen June’s daughter Mariel in awhile, and she had her hair done up somewhat like her mom’s used to be; I did a doubletake when we saw each other. It was as if I were walking in and seeing (almost) the June I met 24 years ago. I saw someone else a few minutes later looking like they were having the same reaction.

She marveled afterwards as memories were shared at how she’d laughed… But of course she had, we all had. It was our June they were talking about. There was Hank, who’d had eight kids while June had only had one; “You have too many grandkids and I don’t have enough. I’m taking yours!”

And so June would have one over for a day with toys and attention one-on-one. The kids loved it. June loved it. They loved each other.

And I’d had no idea I had competition for my chocolate decadence cake. I’ve been making mine from its original iteration and beyond since 1990. And she never told me?

Hats were worn. Two of the women who’d helped June feel special with her new scarf that I blogged about? Theirs were twins, classic pillboxes with black netting and a great big black bow.

And to my delight, the woman sitting behind me during the service was my kids’ old middle-school art teacher. She asked after them all and I showed off pictures of my daughter-in-law and my son Richard holding Parker. She knew Kim’s parents and grandparents and was thrilled at the small-worldism that Kim had met and married her old student.

Her late mom, Virginia, an accomplished organist, used to tease him: if he goofed playing in church, she would tell him, “Great improvisation, Richard!”

So maybe that keyboard hat I doodled and improvised and came up with was just the right one to run into Virginia’s daughter with. It’s all good.

June day
Monday April 18th 2011, 9:41 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit,Life

I’m putting in a picture of Parker; June loved babies and she was a friend to his great grandparents and all four of us grandparents.

There was an earthquake today, the 105th anniversary of the great San Francisco quake that ripped the entire San Andreas fault and was felt from Oregon to Los Angeles to Nevada, but this was only a 3.7 and I completely missed it. A baby quake. I had to laugh when I heard about it; that’s supposed to happen tomorrow, not today–tomorrow’s June’s memorial service and we had one during Al’s funeral. Can’t let Al beat her at this waving goodbye with the chandeliers stuff.

It took me the longest time to find this post–I couldn’t remember what pseudonym I’d used for her.  Jo.  I stole her photo with her new hairstyle from her memorial page.  For all the time I knew her before that, she wore it in a high bouffant which, in her later years, showed off her leopard-print hearing aids better.

An email went out today: June had always loved to wear a nice hat, and wouldn’t it be cool if we women all showed up wearing hats in her honor. Oh honey you bet.

June Darby, the first woman to get an MBA at Stanford, passed away two weeks ago, just shy of her 90th birthday. She is missed. And I am printing out that old post to give to her daughter, thinking of that bouffant white hair and that old, classic, muscle-car Mustang of hers and how she laughed and laughed at the doubletakes of the young men pulling up alongside her at the light who suddenly didn’t want to drag race after all.

Letter from Greg Mortensen
Sunday April 17th 2011, 9:07 pm
Filed under: History

Greg Mortensen, author of Stones into Schools and co-author of Three Cups of Tea, sent out an email today in response to the 60 Minutes show that was about to air. If you’re interested, that email is here in his Message to Supporters. He responds to the written questions exactly as they were given him by the show only late last week, not knowing what they might say on air.  Hopefully all publicity is good publicity, and if in the end it improves the organization in some way if it needs it, all to the good.

His Central Asia Institute has provided education to 60,000 people so far in remote areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan that previously had no schools or at best, madrassas, and aims particularly to provide opportunities for women; his aim is to build CAI up to the point that it is self-sustaining whether he is in the picture or not.  Some of the donations that 60 Minutes seemed to be implying he was not spending on the schools, CAI was banking to be able to pay the schools’ ongoing costs into the foreseeable future and to be able to build more schools.

He is having heart surgery this week. I fervently wish him well. The world needs the work of peace and empowerment that he has devoted his life to.


Ed. to add in response to my Dad: I did read the Bozeman Montana paper’s and the New York Times’ stories on him last night, which had quite a bit of criticism; the Bozeman one quotes their reporter, who did not work on that story but has covered Mortenson for years, as saying, “Greg is difficult to work with, he’s stretched too thin, but he is not a liar.” I’ve now read the transcript of the 60 Minutes piece as well as Mortenson’s rebuttals.

If 60 Minutes is right and indeed only 41% of the donations currently go directly to the schools, I would ask: and what percentage of our war dollars in Afghanistan has created a lasting chance towards peace through goodwill and empowerment of the poor and illiterate? Especially, the women? What other game is there in town? I’ll go with Mortenson any day, and if the scrutiny tightens up the financial end, then all to the good.

Flying on a learning permit
Saturday April 16th 2011, 11:04 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Knit,Wildlife

(Parker saying Gooo! Qiviut! to the baby in the mirror.)

1. Today there was a newly-fledged Oregon junco, the little bird’s colors pale and its landing bouncy and uncertain. What seemed to be a parent, a tad larger and rounder, flew down a small space behind it. (Mother! I can’t be seen in public with you!) Not coming to eat too, but just keeping a careful eye out as the little one hopped around a bit on the box, found the food, and scooped it up rather open-beaked.

Good job, well done, honey, and they turned in tandem and the little one followed his mom back up into the air a split second behind.

2. In case others don’t know why the federal Tax Day isn’t till the 18th this year.

On April 16th, 1862, with the Emancipation Proclamation still eight months away, Abraham Lincoln declared slavery over in Washington, DC, paying $300 for the freedom of each one.  Your big government at work. It became a holiday in the Capital, and, to quote the Washington Post, “By law, local holidays in the nation’s capital affect tax deadlines the same way federal holidays would.” Most states changed their date to match.

April 16 being a Saturday this year, DC’s holiday is being celebrated the 15th.

3. I spent a lot of time winding yarn today, and found myself thinking, if I’m going to wind merino to have all ready to go then I just have to wind that qiviut too. I can’t let unwound hanks ever stop me from diving in at the right moment.

And so I got out the bag of 50/50 qiviut/merino from As each delicate strand passed through my fingers, I realized that soft as these felt in skein form, actually handling the yarn was a revelation. Wow, this really is what I’d hoped for.

But I completely did not expect that it would also tell me in those minutes playing with my eyes and my sense of touch what pattern it wanted to be among all the lace swatches I’ve toyed with and what story it needed to tell, a story I love of people I love. It came to me, it took me by surprise, and it was and is going to be perfect.

Now I know. All I had to do was let the yarn come closer to hear it speaking its own language.

Parker could tell me all about that one.