Saturday June 15th 2013, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Wildlife

The lace shawl is finished. I washed the mill oils out of the silk and tried it on, damp and all, and  it’s blocking now.

But the person I want to give it to and I are at opposite ends of the size spectrum and I did start it for me before I knew I needed to knit for her and it’s pretty clear it’s too small.  So I went stash diving just now and I think I’ve come up with a color she’ll like–or I could, y’know, ask. I guess I’d just needed to know who needed to be next on my needles.


The first time Richard mentioned it, Wednesday night, late, I opened the bathroom window and then I heard it too–an incredible moment of wow! Can you HEAR that?! (Yeah, yeah, I know you can.) I knew I wasn’t getting all of the sounds, but I got the tune!

It had to be a mockingbird. It sang again and Richard sang it an echo–a little lopsidedly, but hey.

The bird stopped and listened–and then sang the new version in response. We had a duet going. Where’s a banjo when you need one, and I wonder how it would respond to our old autoharp.

Then the next night there it was again in the same unseen spot in the tree right outside that window, only this time Richard whistled the tune back. And again got a happy response.

Then last night we just simply went to bed, party poopers on a Friday night, but he was telling me it was loud and singing happily away.

Waiting for its new musician friend to chime in, no doubt.

I went out in the yard at dusk tonight, checking on the plums–more showings of color here and there than yesterday, definitely coming along.

And the mockingbird came close by and sang to me. And I heard it and looked up into the apple branches in thanks.

On a side note: RobinM sent me the link to this guy’s gorgeous wildlife photos. Scroll down to April’s toads entry, and there was this little gem of information: “Ever wondered why a toad blinks when it eats… Toads can use their eyes to help them swallow. They push their eyes down into their mouth to push the food down their throat!”

Wikipedia agrees; they can toadily see it.

I wonder if that mockingbird could ribbit. Or would he say frog-getaboutit.

Feathers fanning out
Friday June 14th 2013, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Heard a loud thump this morning while my hair was wet and my ears weren’t in yet, but I did not see the downed bird from my angle–and in the moment it took me to think, good, it must have been able to fly away in spite of that one, the hawk was suddenly coming straight at me and then doing a U-turn immediately in front of the window; his feet moved fast enough that I didn’t even see it, but when he reached the fence he had breakfast in his talons.

Sleek as a cheetah.

Now, I have had many an occasion where I’ve had a towhee or dove right up close here and they freeze when I move, staring, ready to flee.

No no, it’s okay, and to show them I’m not stalking them I close my eyes for a heartbeat.

They always relax and go back about their business. Always. (Unless something else starts causing them grief, like a scrub jay showing up.) And for a dove, that business suddenly is all about playing blink games back and forth with me, which charms me no end.

The hawk started to pluck but stopped and watched me: would I make a snatch at his food? Any other predator would be a competitor. He had to be sure.

I tried closing my eyes to the slow count of one to see if that would make him relax, knowing full well that he can fly well across my yard in that amount of time.

Breaking the gaze totally did it. I had no idea what type of feathers were flying as he prepared his meal, the distance making the small bird anonymous from here (for which I was grateful), part of the circle of life.

He ate in peace.

And I lifted my mug when he was done and drank my hot cocoa to the day.

Well then I have to. No, need to. And now I want to.
Thursday June 13th 2013, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

I bought the aqua silk for me. It would so show off my favorite blouse.

I’ve been using it to design a new pattern with, and it stalled out for about two weeks between the traveling and trying to decide what direction to go in next with it.

I’ve gotten past that, been knitting quite a bit yesterday and today and am down to 30-odd grams left to work with out of the original 160 g. (Colourmart seems to nearly always tuck a little extra onto their cones.)

But as I’ve been carefully counting stitches, tinking, reknitting, pushing ahead, something has been persistently tapping me on the shoulder, and the name in the thought was a surprise when it first came yesterday–and then near-instantly it wasn’t.

This is not for me. Or if it is, then I need to pay attention to what colors she likes and make her something else, but it is important for reasons that I know, and there are always others that I don’t, that I knit something non-trivial for her. And if after blocking this turns out to be just too tailored to small-sized me than I need to tweak it when I start over, but it doesn’t feel like I’ll be having to do that.

I have wondered since her great loss a few years ago–but that’s her story–if there were anything I could do…if I should put my knitting time out there, since quite honestly not everybody gets knitting and it doesn’t do much for some.

If it might help.

The answer is yes and somehow the answer is now. It sure wasn’t my timing. Maybe the universe was waiting for me to knit the exquisiteness of silk in aqua? But it’s clearly not about me, and if that color silk is not quite it I’ve got a few others at the ready. I’m on it.


Just to let me know
Wednesday June 12th 2013, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

The orange-flowered tree (Grevillea robusta, thank you LA Times) near sunset, the neighbor’s tree that the corvids swamped, as taken through the skylight.  It seems they were going after what the Times called a sweet and drippy nectar, and they must have gotten it all because since that day not a single one has come back. The Cooper’s have the place all to themselves again.

After Anne’s comment about crows, I looked up California ravens–and found that they are genetically identical to the Rio Grande-area Chihuahua ravens, the smallest type, in between crows and regular ravens. Curious. I can tell you that there is a fast food place across the street from Cottage Yarns, and I once sat at the light there watching a crow with a french fry and a local raven staring him down, giving me a good view of the size difference as the bigger bird demanded: Drop it.

The crow did, backing off in a hurry.

I poured the last of the safflower seed into the feeder this morning. I had more sunflower, but I knew the squirrels would empty the thing in minutes if I didn’t cover their version of creme brulee with their brussels sprouts. Time to go to the bird center.

Are you sure you’re up to it? My sweetie asked. (Still fighting that cold.)

I think so–and if I find I’m not, I’ll turn around in a block or two and go home, I promised.

Got there, got my birdseed, chatted a bit. I mentioned my Cooper’s hitting the screen then the window behind it and the woman was relieved that he would have been cushioned somewhat (while I was comforted to talk to someone who knew and cherished hawks, too.)

I drove home thinking about that magnificent bird and how much I wished he would show up and show me he’s okay.

Come late afternoon, a squirrel was quietly grazing on the ground, just where  I like them, but as I glanced up, no birds were to be seen.  The feeders were both nearly empty–not quite but almost–and the safflower was still in the car. Carrying 20 pounds when I’d gotten home just hadn’t been going to happen till I’d rested up a bit.

Long wings zoomed in and landed on the back of the dolly right outside the window–where he was hidden from me by the thick beam at the side of the sliding door. Right there and immediately vanished. He’s so good at knowing exactly what my physical viewpoint is, an essential skill for a raptor. Not like a squirrel, which will think if it can’t see you you can’t see it. Hawks know exactly where they have to be to disappear from the eyes of whatever they’re watching.

I carefully, ever so slowly backed up in my chair.

He kept a steady gaze, okay with that.

And then cocked his head and looked around me and again at me through the window. Pianos never move, computer screens do but this one’s holding still now. He looked over at the squirrel, who was watching him intently and in fear but not quite enough to make him make a mad dash for it–but he did turn his back to Coopernicus for a moment there while trying to decide but turned back again.

Good move–hawks like to come up from behind a squirrel so that those teeth and claws aren’t useful to their prey, from all I’ve seen.

The hawk looked at me again, the sun behind him and his colors in shadow, and in return I radiated love to the best of my ability, thanking him silently for coming, thanking him for reassuring me that he was still flying and that he was alright.

He lifted those wings high, then his feet at first flap, and to the squirrel’s relief, was up up and away.

My grandparents went to Baltimore and I got the t-shirt
Tuesday June 11th 2013, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Family

Sam asked us, while we were at her graduation, to deliver little boy presents to San Diego.

What is it? they later asked as I handed the first out of my bag.

Dunno, your guess is as good as ours.

And so Hudson is the big man on campus (got this picture today). And for Parker, a stuffed plush Happy Pill that laughs when you push its button.  Loudly.

This brought up the family lore of the toy fire truck that my father-in-law admitted to killing the siren on a week after Christmas only when the small recipient of said beloved bright red truck was well into being a grown man.

“Water,” I grinned.

Well, they would see. No need for now, hey, this is cute. Take a shrill pill and call them in the morning.

Nuttall ought to do to make us happy
Monday June 10th 2013, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Saw a Nuttall’s woodpecker two days ago; they live in California on down to Baja with a few into Oregon but overall a small range.

Richard heard it working away this morning, over thataway.

Well then. I was watering the fruit trees this evening and I knew the pattern when I saw it. The background doesn’t show the intense black and white contrast, but the end of the feather there looks as if it were pulled taut, ready to sail into the wind. I like that.

I thought of the days when Richard and I would hold our little ones over our heads (well, mine, anyway) to see mama bird feeding the babies in the crook of the 8′ ash stump the former owners had left for the woodpeckers to carve a home out of–and they had.

That stump has long since gone the way of the earth.

Good to know that whatever this generation of woodpecker needs, it has found.

And. A friend was asking around for advice about her young daughter, and I remembered this article and thought, choose your battles wisely and let go of your pride. But ya gotta love the expression on that eagle’s face on the right in that first photo.


Go airpane. Dooz agin.
Sunday June 09th 2013, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Family

We got to see all four of our kids and our grandsons all in two weeks’ time (not to mention friends dear and far) and now I very much want to run go do it all over again right now. If only.

But meantime, another picture of Hudson at seven and a half weeks and of Parker hamming it up.

(Edited to clarify: I don’t talk in baby talk to little ones, but I have been known to quote them.)

Birds times three
Saturday June 08th 2013, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

First blush on a plum after two days of heat.

1. The little hanging suet cake has always been a safe spot for the birds that like it.

This past week, for the first time I’ve ever seen after four years of feeding the birds, a jay mastered the art of leaping into the air and grabbing out a patch of suet without smacking its jaw on the cage, which is not big enough for it to land on and they’ve never tried.  This one succeeded at his new work-around. Rise, stab forward, fall, fly back down.

And like squirrels, when one can do it they all can, and like squirrels, they only ask for all the amount they can hide as well as eat, so suddenly I had four scrub jays at once.

One was plenty. They have long bills they menace others with and they are the bullies of the yard–even the squirrels run at the sight of them. They don’t tend to stick around long, but that too was suddenly changing. And the suet cake was going down fast.

I watched. The cage doesn’t hang straight up and down: it’s a bit cock-eyed. The jays only approached it from the side where the bottom is further forward, not where the top would lean over their heads as they dove in.

I was working on a new knitting pattern, marking my spot in my notes with a post-it note, wondering how I could thwart their new discovery…

That’s it!

I put a post-it note on their favored side. I didn’t know if it would adhere to the slightly greasy cage; it did. I didn’t know if it would scare off the other birds; it didn’t.

Three days later it’s still up there, the extra jays have left for parts unknown, we’re back to only one at a time and they leave the cage completely alone.  The chickadees, titmice, and finches reach around the paper or go at it from the other side, it’s all good to them. That was easier than I thought.

2. The neighbor’s towering Australian-something tree has big orange blossoms and I’ve been seeing a pair of ravens diving into them, the branches swaying under their weight. Ravens have a 53″ wingspan–they are not small.

Across the house, across the yard and inside with the windows shut, I heard it and then some and went to go look up through the skylights. Now, to people with normal hearing, bird sounds I guess don’t immediately grab every bit of your attention but to me it was such a novelty.

Twenty ravens! The ones I could see, anyway. Wow. They Halloweened the tree into orange and black, yelling over who got the biggest serving. Several minutes later, two by two for whatever reason they left and their Whos in Whoville moment was over.

Maybe because the lord of the yard had shown up?

3. I saw it happen and went straight to Michelle’s room. She was anguished: “Was that the hawk?!”

“Yes, it was. ”

“It was so loud!”

But in its pursuit of the finch it had hit the screen outside her window before it hit the actual window, and that had to have cushioned the impact a fair bit. I wasn’t sure if the finch had hit at the same time, which would have added to the sound (seemed like it to me); either way, both birds ricocheted off and across the yard and away and were still going last seen.

It couldn’t have been fun but I really think my hawk will be alright from this one. He was flying hard and strong.



Good Eve-ning
Friday June 07th 2013, 9:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

There were a lot of sick people in the airport five days ago. We had stayed healthy for Baltimore, which Sam had really needed, still germ-free during our visit with the grandsons thank goodness, but after that last airport and plane filled with coughing people…

Only a bit of fever and cold, nothing too bad. I’m definitely better today than yesterday.

Meantime, we’d met Eve, our grandcat, four and a half years ago when she was still basically a kitten.

While we were in Baltimore, my friend Karen and Richard and I were at Sam’s place when Eve decided to come down and join the party.

We were told she never does that! Never! She stays away from strangers, she’s just not a party animal. But she did, and she let me stroke her soft fur and murmur sweet my-aren’t-you-spinnables at her. Maybe she remembered me?

Sam and I remembered the day she and the other kids had brushed the neighbor’s Persian and I’d spun the fur we retrieved into an 18″ strand, plied it with silk, and made it into a little pin for the very pleased owner of the cat: a 1×2″ knitted rectangle dangling from knitting needles made of toothpicks with pearl beads glued on the ends, ending in a little rolled ball of the yarn. Idea courtesy of Spinoff magazine.

Eve had gotten a haircut for the hot summer, though, other than her tail, so we’ll just have to wait for it to grow back in before we can go all jewelry on her.

But so there she was, seeking/allowing attention from me. A few minutes into it, Sam grinned and passed me a bag of cat treats.

After Eve was too full to really be enticed by them anymore–and we’d startled her by clapping and laughing in the conversation–I caught her rolling her eyes at my requests for one more petpetpet.

Caught her nevertheless giving us the hairy eyeball as she watched us getting ready to leave.

It’s okay, little cat, we want us to come back, too.

Happy Birthday!
Thursday June 06th 2013, 10:05 pm
Filed under: Family

Didn’t quite make Dad’s birthday back in the day, but that way I got Dr. Jeffrey Nathan being the one doing the delivery, back when we lived in New Hampshire.

Meantime, Parker putting his foot down, showing off his Lego shoes. I put a shot of them up on Facebook, where the consensus in the comments was that we need a letter-writing campaign for grownup sizes.  Hey–I’d buy a pair!

A few more pictures of my second baby’s babies to celebrate his birthday by. And to thank him and Kim for being such good parents to our grandsons.


Happy Birthday, Dad/Great-Grampa!
Wednesday June 05th 2013, 9:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

Grandson pictures! Go Richard, he got them to work!

The male Cooper’s hawk arrived in an unrushed swoop this afternoon that declared he wasn’t serious about hunting, more a telling off those persistent ravens as to just who owned this spot of the sky; he landed in the olive tree and regarded me a moment, giving me time to mentally thank him for letting me see him before he raised his wings in farewell and was off.

Right on cue to celebrate the day, too: Happy Birthday to my Dad! And to my niece Laura, who has had impeccable timing from day one.

(And don’t miss Frank Bruni’s “Gift of Siblings” from the New York Times, a beautiful piece in tribute to the family his parents raised and are. Oh, and, nothing is torn on Parker’s blanket; it just has carefully-toddler-worked-out gaps for playing peek-a-boo through.)

A great way to spend a day
Tuesday June 04th 2013, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Lunch with friends, taking the time to take the time, a too-rare thing. Home, then dinner at Nina’s with more friends, some I knew, some new to me. Another friend just arrived in town and is crashing here for the night before flying back.

Tomorrow is going to seem pretty quiet.



The weekend
Monday June 03rd 2013, 4:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Still working on getting pictures on the blog.

We arrived Saturday noonish and found we’d chosen the same weekend as the San Diego Rock’n’roll marathon–and now we knew why the flights were crowded and expensive and how lucky we’d been to get a hotel reservation.

Hudson was waking up several times a night and a tired Parker at about the light of dawn with the transition to summertime brightness, so, giving them all bedtime and waking up times to themselves as they’re adjusting to the new baby was the way to go.

Sunday was the blessing of the baby, our christening ceremony, and afterwards, a luncheon at Kim’s folks’ that was a small family reunion on their side. I so love these good people. I chatted with one of her uncles who did not know I had known his father so well, and as we talked, he showed me the ring he wore that his namesake father’s father had had. Inscribed in it was the date of the Titanic (setting sail, I think, rather than sinking).

I’ve mentioned before, but, his grandfather/my grandsons’ great-great grandfather had had a ticket to be on that ship but had ditched the trip because one of his fellow Mormon missionaries he was going to return home to the States with was too sick to go, and the grandfather, being the one who’d booked the tickets, refused to make the one man travel alone later. Everybody was going together, he said; they could wait. Even if it meant they would miss out on the much-hyped trip of a lifetime.

Al wore on his hand that reminder of how much everything, including his own and his extended family’s very existence, depends on the things that always seem at the time to be such small gestures of kindness. Never let a chance to do right by others pass unseen.

Hudson at seven and a half weeks was struggling mightily to learn to smile back at will and caught me by surprise when he giggled a one-syllable laugh with a big brief smile as we held each other in our eyes with him in my arms. Oh wow!

Parker’s favorite blankie now is the Malabrigo Rios one I made at his birth. He has carefully worked his way into the stitches to make several gaps–nothing broken, just gaps–big enough for him to wave hi at us through. Peekaboo!

As we came past airport security last night, a young man was taking the stairs next to us  as we rode the escalator–lifting each step ever so carefully but clearly painfully but determined to keep on going and not take the easy way out, not now, not after all this. He was wearing a t-shirt: Finisher (and then the name of the marathon.)

I looked over at him as our escalator took us on up slightly faster than he was going. “Congratulations!”

The biggest grin spread over his face along with his thanks in return. I think he forgot his pain in that moment.

Parker, meantime, had learned to look for purple flowers on trees with me (the jacarandas were in bloom), and we saw several as we were on our way to that airport. He cried mightily as we got out of the car and hugged him and his daddy goodbye: he wanted to come airpane too.

Soon as we can, little guy, as soon as we all can.



Transcend incidental editations
Saturday June 01st 2013, 9:27 pm
Filed under: Family

Parker plays the best peekaboo ever now, Hudson melts our hearts. Much cuddling time happened today. Photos to come.

The resident geek found yesterday that it helps if you delete all the individually auto-saved drafts of posts that the system, it turned out, had been hoarding for years–four times the number of actually published posts. Oh.Things should speed up on the site now.