Tuesday May 31st 2011, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

I did not know when I booked my trip that my aunt and uncle who live in Virginia were going to be flying in to Salt Lake City, where my folks now live, that very weekend–and that they would be joined by three of their children and their families for a celebration of their own. I hadn’t seen most of them since our big reunion for what would have been my grandfather’s 100th birthday in ’98.

I did know that there were cousins coming from my dad’s side that I hadn’t seen since my youngest was a preschooler. And that another uncle was turning 90; one of his daughters flew in from Florida for that get-together.

I did not know I was going to get to see a relative on my husband’s side who’s been fighting cancer; I hoped so, but I didn’t know. She was a good distance away; timing of treatments was an issue; I was not going to have a car.

But my son John and I did get to after all.

I got to see Abby, too–and to see her walking! With crutches, but her dad told me she’d walked a little without, too. And then told me, with her in the room, that she just *loves* it when he talks about her in front of her, totally calling himself on it like a good dad would: he saw her point of view and let her know he knew it and cared about her feelings while trying to fill me in so she wouldn’t have to explain everything to me.

I had introduced myself to her as the one who knit the purple hat.


It was reunion after reunion, joy after joy, love held close, coming in a five-day-long stream rather than an exhausting all-and-then-nothing day. And I got to see my brothers, my sisters, my parents, and of course my youngest son, my nieces… The list goes on.

And to watch the news, rather a novelty now for this non-TV-owner. Remember my staring up at the new white stuff when, come on, guys, this was Memorial Day weekend? A skier on the screen was exulting that this was the best snow all season and the resort operator was saying they planned to keep the slopes open weekends till the Fourth of July.

That ski resort was where we held that big reunion, the slopes properly cool but summery, in August that year.

And–be still my heart. There was a sign telling people to watch out for falcons! I’m just sorry I didn’t get a picture of the sign, much less the birds themselves.

My brother Bryan made a side trip to Arches National Park as part of his vacation and showed us the photos he took; one was of an antelope. An antelope!?

He smiled the happiest smile, affirming, “An antelope.”


I got to see a striking black-and-white magpie, long tail flicking, landing on top of the low stone wall alongside the cemetery where our grandparents are buried. And a dead fox near the airport.

Bryan wins.

Now, if only he’d followed it around looking for any shed winter undercoat for my spinning wheel… G’wan, go back, bro, you know you want to…

Michelle picked me up at the airport this afternoon. It was so good to see her again. There’s nothing like family. We drove home, the post-seasonal rain gradually letting go; we walked in the door, I looked out the window, wondering–

–nothing around. So still. So unusual. (So much food available around here this time of year whether we provide any or not, so while I was gone, the others did not.)

I walked into the family room.

Immediately two towhees hopped in perfect tandem onto the wooden box.

Okay, I got the message. I’ll unpack in a moment. I went out and filled the feeders and one of the little Bewick’s wrens didn’t even wait for me to go back inside before it swooped around, singing loud and close enough by that I actually heard a few notes: Hey everybody! Feederfiller’s back!

It was like a Disney movie in slow motion. A few at first, then more and more, crescendoing till about two hours later, the whole crew was back. And more: a female scarlet tanager flew in, a bird I’ve only seen once and that was a year ago. I went Oh wow! out loud and scared it right off.

They hadn’t gone totally unfed; I’d succeeded in hanging a suet cake long side up where the squirrels couldn’t get it but so that the wrens could stand on it the way they liked to, without having to hang off the sides.  I saw the titmice working at it in twos, too, then chickadees: clearly, that idea had worked well.  And it wasn’t quite empty. Yet.

I put more in there, too.

It was the same old birds, for the most part, but in my absence some of their patterns had changed. It was fascinating to watch, not that I had much time to spend doing so.

A pattern of mine had changed, too, one of avoiding the project that would not be frogged: I hauled out a kid mohair UFO before the trip, abandoned ten years now, a shawl. At 16×50″ it is now nearly done and my seatmate and the stewardess raved over the soft cloud of lace.

I wonder who it finally needed to be done for.  I do know that memories of that trip and of all that love are knitted into nearly all its stitches.

Snow big deal
Monday May 30th 2011, 8:56 am
Filed under: Life

Heading out for another busy day with more relatives but I wanted to stop and say: looking out the window, there is new snow on the mountains right above us. Some of the peaks that were spring-green when I got here.

It’s Memorial Day.

Toto, I don’t think we’re in California anymore.

A good clan
Saturday May 28th 2011, 12:33 pm
Filed under: Family

My brother Bryan, owner of Jeppson Guitars, picked the piano hat that sings in the blues.

My other brother’s daughters each picked out their favorites–but not till one had piled the whole stack of scarves around her neck and all the hats on her head and declared it Dobby style (think Harry Potter.) My sisters picked out something. And my cousins from Nevada are coming soon and their hats are waiting.

Listening to my dad talking last night about his having gifted a fair amount of his art out into the world, I thought, this is where we all get it from: parents who treasure being able not to keep but to give of themselves freely.

Dobby picture coming when I can figure out how to get it online from here.

Set a good example
Thursday May 26th 2011, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

My sister Marian arrived a few hours after I did; much laughing has been enjoyed already. And when I mentioned the single bar left from Morgan, Mom told me she’s already been melting bits of dark chocolate in her own hot cocoa as of late.

Good influence. I haz it.

Packing for the sibling reunion
Wednesday May 25th 2011, 6:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

My brother asked me back in December what I wanted for Christmas.

A chocolate bar. Good dark chocolate. Just one, doesn’t take much to make me happy.

He bought me a case of Endangered Species Chocolate Extreme Dark 88%. And I (and Michelle when she’s been home) have ever since been gratefully breaking off just a little and melting it in our hot chocolate every morning.

I opened the box just now to grab one for my trip and found it was the last one.

“I’m going to take this with me and share it with Morgan in our hot cocoa there.”

Michelle: “Does Morgan drink hot cocoa?”

“He will when I get done with him.”

Happy Anniversary to Parker’s parents!
Tuesday May 24th 2011, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

Happy Anniversary to my son Richard and his wife Kim! More Parker pictures when I can get them to load.

Running in a few loose ends before my trip. I should have saved some of the other snips before I took the picture so the colors could be more representative, in case anyone at my destination is embiggening that and wondering which is going to be theirs.

That done, it finally feels like I can pack and be going.  I have no idea what yarn to take with me or any plan in mind other than to just get on the airplane by myself and go. I can’t wait.

My daughter is a genius
Monday May 23rd 2011, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

The squirrels are discomfited by the quail: they don’t tease it when it’s holding still like they do the Cooper’s hawk and they keep a cautious, mindful distance always. Whatever this weird thing is that showed up a few days ago, they’re not messing with it.

The quail was on the near end of the big wooden box that I put suet on top of for the ground birds that like it. He was singing at one point, for whatever reason, but he wasn’t admiring his reflection; there’s a screen door there. Maybe he just wanted to see in from higher up this time.

I suddenly saw a pair of black ears and the very top of a head leap into sight at the far end and before the whiskers could even surface, push back away just as fast and disappear back down. You could just hear loud squirrel swearing going on behind there–that thing is up THERE, too! Dang, that Feederfiller has her enforcer!

He knew I would squirt him if he jumped up there, but he knows how long it takes me to raise the squirt gun and open the door and he always grabs a bite before he runs. He can get away with exactly so much and he knows it and does–wow, I never got a reaction like that.

Ergo: the quail is scarier than I am. It’s bigger than they are, it’s outside, and it runs fast after them when they run from some random startling noise. And it can go up in the trees, to top it off.

The squirrel sulked and bullied and chased a mourning dove for a moment in retribution, and I thought wow–even a squirrel can get in a bad mood and take it out on some other being unlikely to get the better of them when they do. Who knew.

It reminded me of my kids having their moments towards each other on a bad day and as the mommy, working on getting them to be nice to each other. It is so joyful to see them all grown up now and looking out for each other the way they always really wanted to.

I bet my parents feel the same way. Well. This week, we’ll show them, huh!

Meantime, a box came today. A new cane; my favorite from Karen had been well loved for half a dozen years and was showing it. This one was quite inexpensive, enough so that if it didn’t work out I wasn’t going to cry. But wow–it was beautiful, artsy, and very lightweight. I really lucked out!

But when I tried it out there was just a tiny spot on the underside of the handle where the wood hit my hand wrong–it had a pimple, is the best description I can think of, and I knew it would get uncomfortable quickly if I had to grip it for long.

I wondered out loud where the sandpaper might be. It wouldn’t show if it had to lose its shine there. I showed the thing to Michelle.

My daughter is a genius. “Use a nail file!”

And that was all it took. Done!

Sibling reunion, coming up
Sunday May 22nd 2011, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

I called my neighbors, who used to keep a birdfeeder so I knew they were interested in such things, to tell them there was a quail standing on the fence between us if they wanted to see it.

Oh yes, was the answer, we’ve seen him for a few days now–he keeps looking in our windows. Who would ever have thought a quail would show up!

And as the man was saying that, the little guy jumped off the fence and came running straight to me, again skidding on the patio in his rush to come say hello just as fast as he could. I love it.

I finally figured out what his funky running gait, profile, and staring in remind me of: the penguin in the Wallace and Gromit “Wrong Trousers” movie. Only way prettier.

Meantime, I continue to knit like crazy towards this coming weekend. I just need to remember to photograph all the projects I’m not blogging individually about before then. That closeout-priced cashmere I just finished up–chartreuse? For my family? Teal dye tomorrow, first thing.

I was talking to my older brother on the phone two days ago and said, By the way. Did you get the BYU alumni magazine that just came out?

The one with Jimmer on the cover? Yes…

Go over to it for me, wouldja?

Walking that way now…

Okay, now, open the back cover.

*Opens back.* Ohmygosh–is that?! It IS!!!

Yeah, he grew since the last time you saw him. Been too long. Can’t wait to see you!

(My son entered an essay contest at school and won. It’s now quoted from in an ad for the Independent Study department, along with a photo of him; he took some classes that way while serving as a congressional intern while he was an undergrad.)

Quail.come in Silicon Valley
Saturday May 21st 2011, 8:44 pm
Filed under: To dye for,Wildlife

My husband says I can’t call him Dan nor a derivative of such, that would make him from Indiana and he’s a California quail.


Changing the subject, my mom mentioned once, and I pass the word along for whatever it’s worth, that pouring boiling water down a drain was an environmentally healthy way to unblock it, and that doing so once a month, good maintenance.

Well hey. (I know, there’s a $3500 tree root job needing doing, but it’s just this one sink in the immediate term.) Let’s try at least.

What began as a thought at the first pot of water carried clear across the house quickly became action: why not use that heating-up for something I want? I’d had some yarn and a project that had needed dyeing for some time; a little pink in the sink never hurt anything. And that colourmart yarn that was a tad dark? I simmered it, guessing it to have been done in reversible dyes and it was; my midnight navy is now a happy dark-while-it’s-still-damp royal blue.

The drain is running slightly faster. There is a fine lace scarf blocking in a beautiful new burgundy from the previous taupe-brown and two skeins drying and I am very very happy with how they came out. All kinds of housework got done between water-carrying stints and that Malabrigo hat is finished, too.

We were off after that to a friends’ house for a dinner party.

Coming home, there was my quail, meandering about. Made me smile. I guess maybe this really is where he’s choosing to call home now after all; I like that.

I meandered about too, inside.

Finally, I came down and sat down at the computer a moment, my chair seven feet from the window, wondering where he might be now. That male quail immediately came *running*, so fast that he skidded on the concrete and one foot went right out from under him but he recovered fast and dignity reclaimed came right up against the window at the closest point right there–and looking in a few minutes, his head turning this way and that then facing straight on, the dear little thing sang to me.

When I made mamamama gestures back as if I were singing silently in return, he puffed out his chest and repeated himself.

It was so sweet. I am so charmed. But–dude…

I’m so sorry to have to break it to you. You’re just not my kind.

Angry Birds
Friday May 20th 2011, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

As I knit towards my trip and my sibling reunion next week…

I saw a large crow high-tailing it out of our airspace today, a tiny junco divebombing it again and again with the flicks of its black-and-white tail making exclamation marks in the sky while the crow was dodging out of its way: You stay away from my babies!

That blur near-center of the second photo–our quail came back, singing alone for a mate and fluttering his wings fetchingly. Michelle wasn’t taken with the idea of naming him Dan Quail; how about Mr. Potatoe Head? (Paragraph 6 under Vice Presidency.)

But meantime.  I learned today how spoiled I am by the professionalism of our falcon folks.

The idea that two men went into a peregrine’s nest, wore no protective headgear, went to band her eyases, and–

–the mind boggles.

I’ve been in the eight-story library across the street from our peregrines and watched one go past so fast that I had to ask someone if I’d actually seen what I’d seen; they’re not kidding when they say they’ve been clocked divebombing at 241 mph.

The Fish and Game guys are holding a livid mama peregrine off while they handle her babies (and normally it would be both parents attacking the intruders vigorously).

With a broom. And that broom ain’t lookin’ too new. And there’s apparently only one for two if not three people; I wonder what the reporter who was taking the photos had on their head?

It’s just not the way to sweep a lady off her feet.

Quailing at the sight
Thursday May 19th 2011, 7:18 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Wildlife

I heard–something, this morning, and went to go check.  Looking out the window, there was a California quail on my neighbor’s roof!

I have lived here for 24 years and I have never, ever seen one here before. I was gobsmacked. Gorgeous, even from a distance.

And in the gorgeous bird department, my daily visits from my Nuttall’s woodpecker dressed in vivid black and white stripes glistening like silk ended around November;  I hoped it had maybe migrated, found better food, gone somewhere hawk-free, but I missed it.

This afternoon I saw one, a vivid red spot on its head, going up and down my trees. I have a Nuttall’s again!

I have a friend who’s about to fly out here on a business trip and she emailed asking about restaurants in the area. That got a good conversation going between Michelle and me re our favorites, and I was asking her, What was the name of…?

And as I started to answer my friend, something showed up to try out our own food offerings.

I am typing this with the quail pacing outside my window, looking in at me: why is all the good suet where I can’t reach it? Is that the stuff you don’t put on the menu that only those in the know get to ask for?

Richard walked in the door just now and got to see it.

It has this little deely bopper feather on its head that does the bobble-head shimmy when it walks or bobs for seed. I am utterly charmed. It has spent a lot of time looking in the window at me, and here it comes again.

I am typing this blindly as I’m being stared at. Feed. Me.

…And now I have quietly snuck more food just outside the glass door and it is ignoring it and staring in the window just the same. It hopped up on the outer window sill to come closer, not minding the three of us talking a few feet away. It has never seen people before, perhaps? It’s simply curious and happy to hang out with us.

But then, you can do that after a good meal at a nice place.

Steeriously, folks
Wednesday May 18th 2011, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

My car had major work done on it last Friday. It’s old, the family minivan with its age spots, the kids now off to university; it’s still here in part because our out-of-pocket medical expenses the last two years were more than my husband’s Prius had been.

My daughter and I had an errand we were going to run to Oakland and then San Carlos on the way home, some happy gallivanting with a little bit of bakery bribery to celebrate her being home.

And every time we thought about getting off our duffs and going and actually doing all that the last two days…somehow, Monday, it just didn’t feel like today was the day. Eh, Californians don’t know how to drive in the rain, let’s give it a pass. Nor Tuesday. Hey–let’s see if I can see Shadow take off on two wings and a prayer, I really do want to see him go. I sat tight and wound 2300 yards of a cone into a hank, something that didn’t require looking, eyes glued to the unfolding falcon scene in the afternoon while still doing something useful.

But I really did need to get to the post office, so at least I finally got that done after the fledging. I then ran a quick errand to Trader Joe’s in the opposite direction.  I didn’t hear it the first few miles…

But which is why my car went straight back into the shop. They immediately took responsibility and told me they are not charging me: the power steering pump apparently cracked while they were working on other things and they didn’t notice–they were just glad the fluid had lasted long enough to get it back in there for me to say hey, what’s this new and rapidly growing noise? They told me on the phone this morning that it had completely drained out in their driveway and how glad they were that everything was okay.

Now imagine us on the freeway with all the freeway sounds drowning it out at first and then no place to pull over and suddenly no steering. We might well have been in the middle of the bridge over the Bay.

Someone was looking out for us. Not to mention all the people in all the cars that would have been around us.

The last ledgling
Tuesday May 17th 2011, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Shadow fluttered to the low ledge behind the nestbox yesterday and considered the louver below where he’d so often previously heard his parents as they’d perched (where the kids couldn’t see).  It was close by, an easy hop skip and a jump, but again and again, he turned away from seeing the dropoff also there, down, down down beyond anything familiar. He preferred to be a grounded individual.

But he was outside the runway that had been his entire view but for the sky all his life till the last few days and there was no going back. Still–he slept tail to the edge and head towards the box as he snuggled tight against the concrete wall, facing the home he had known.

Clara stood guard in the night in her usual spot on the high ledge a few feet away. Ready to swoop over to guard and guide him at all times.

Today, mostly back in the runway area again, he practiced flapping a number of times but with intermittent rain for yet another day, seemed in no hurry. One wing would raise higher than another, testing testing one two three how does that wind feel against these newly long feathers am I supposed to move these in tandem or- ? And what do you do with these big feet at the same time? Raising wings and one foot didn’t do it. Shall we dance?

Mid-afternoon, it occurred to me that the rain had stopped and the wind seemed to have settled down out there.

I guess he noticed it too. He flew the length of the upper ledge, came right to the very end past the nestbox and I thought surely momentum would carry him right on over–and he stopped right there.

Looked down.

Okay, well, that’s that, I thought.

And then, suddenly, deliberately, he raised his shoulders high and flew away out of camera sight as if he’d done it all his life. (To the louver, it turned out, just for that first little bit.)

From the reports later, it’s clear he had taken the patience to practice and wait till he was going to be good at it, and then he was good at it. The BOG, ie boots on the ground, the official fledgewatch crew looking out for our birds, reported all five falcons in the air at once as they tried to keep track of who was who going where.

It is night again. All three fledglings accounted for and safe.

And overlooking both the city and the empty box all her babies have hatched from, Clara stands, sentinel and witness.

To life!

I understand, and yet
Monday May 16th 2011, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

San Jose holds a competition every year across their elementary schools to name the peregrine falcon hatchlings around banding time; after the fledgings, the winners get to attend a ceremony with the Mayor and have their names in the newspaper. It is one of those delightfully small-town parts of Silicon Valley.

And so it is that one young child is going to be standing there receiving an honor for having named Unita.

On the peregrine forum, one member wondered out loud if we should even be giving them names, saying, they are wild things, they are not pets; I’m sure he wondered what this was all going to be like for the poor little kid.

This was my response.

When the children are searching for what to name the falcons, they are
considering and discussing not just words and labels but the meanings of
those words and what they might carry and convey well into the future on
the wings of these magnificent birds. They learn about the nature of

When one of our falcons dies, they have a chance, rare for many young
children in our society, to consider the meanings of all that life is.
They learn about the nature of Nature--and that the joys come to
outweigh the sorrows as they watch the living continue on.

And I would add, they learn the compassion that grows up from the ashes of the grief.

There were two eyases who successfully fledged from San Francisco’s nest today–and one had been given the name Phoenix.

To life!

Peregrine falcon watch
Sunday May 15th 2011, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

We had drama day in falconland. The official nine-day Fledge Watch began yesterday, which I thought was too early; only one juvenile had even made it to the upper ledge yet. Usually they check out the lower ledge for a week or so, practice flapping and lifting off a bit (they did do that), make it finally to the upper, and then spend at least a few days chasing up and down there gleefully, seeing all these new things from this new vantage point, giving us watchers heart attacks, even teasing their parents into going off the edge to see them fly–watching, learning.

Not this year. Only Unita, the female, made it up to the upper ledge, just once, her mother keeping careful watch from the roof. They were starting to lift slightly off the ground the length of the the runway area, still spending a lot of time sitting on the lower ledge, often together.

Today was cold, rainy, and windy.

And one of the eyases, flapping and skittering backwards like a newbie, couldn’t hold onto that wet edge.  Over he slipped.

The area below had been papered with fliers, telling people what was going to be going on, what to look for, whom to contact, and a man in a deli and a cop saw the little one land on the sidewalk and made the calls; Ahote’ was rescued and taken back up to the roof, where, if he’s like previous years’ fledglings, he will eventually flap himself back down to home tomorrow to try again later. (The parents bring them food wherever they land as they need it the first little bit.) Eric’s got some wonderful pictures here.

Unita, a few hours later, the only female of the four, took off running/flapping/rising high and whoosh, over the lower ledge and away. Fledged!

Glenn’s student was on duty and saw her and got to her.

Word didn’t come right away. I wondered what was taking so long.

Apparently, a gust of wind that she didn’t yet know how to maneuver through had played a part in her smacking hard into the Rotunda building. The poor thing was gone instantly. It is glorious but dangerous and hard to be a wild thing.

The third didn’t seem to have deliberately fledged so much as misjudged the hop up in the context of the rain, from what I understand (I missed seeing it). Over the low ledge with him, too, and Hermes is now spending the night on a roof on the San Jose State University campus across the street.

The last little one, probably the one that hatched two days after his siblings all did, all alone now, seemed bewildered. Shadow paced the nestbox.  He ran/fluttered back and forth and up and down and even lifted, after much eyeing of distance and flaptime, on up to the upper ledge, searching, looking, up, around, way way down, over and over. He hopped back in the box and examined this corner then that, staring at each feather drifting down stirred up by the wind. Where did everybody go?!

Clara finally flew in with food for her son, feeding it to him in the nestbox as she’d done when he was a hatchling. He settled down; she stood in sentry mode above him awhile, then took off with the rest of the food, probably to feed someone else.

Shadow was right back out of that box and running, flapping, searching again. Finally, his mother came back again and he settled into the corner against two sides of the box if he couldn’t touch his siblings. A bit of white fluff still peaked out of his feathers in just one spot as the wind picked up on it.

Clara is standing sentry in her usual nightly spot on the upper ledge in close sight of the nestbox, a steadying presence. He sleeps.