Getting ready
Wednesday September 30th 2015, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

All in one hour a sudden flurry of incoming plans, emails, texts, phone, of, oh if they’re coming I wouldn’t miss…!

And suddenly I’m ready to start hanging the Christmas decorations right now.

Let me see if I can get that new kitchen flooring done first, at last. I’d needed some major motivation and there you go.

Tuesday September 29th 2015, 9:34 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

A flash of feathers caught my eye–the speed, the size, the color, and it was a Cooper’s hawk swooping down and straight up again in a tight vertical V: it wasn’t chasing, it was herding.

Three potential prey freaked and came towards me and the window. They hit but only barely and ricocheted away–just as a *second* Cooper’s hawk came zooming in after them! Two! Working as a team! Wow!

I went to the other side of the room to where I could hunch down and look up into the camphor tree way to the side. The hawk that was there didn’t seem to have caught anything for all that and as I wondered if I had distracted it too much, immediately it arose, flew across my yard, circled a stand of trees on the other side of the fence line and then back over to near where it had been. More obscured now. Ready to hunt again.

I excused myself to go work on laundry and get out of its way.

Monday September 28th 2015, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Garden

And look at it now. A weekend ago it was shorter than the stake and all those groups of new leaves were each just one fingernail-sized dormant-looking bud at the branch ends. I suddenly have a lot more mango tree.

Meantime, I grabbed Michelle and treated her to chocolate at our favorite shop to share pictures from our trip and catch up a bit. We walked in and suddenly there were dairy-free truffles created on the spot just for her. In an allergic world where food in public can be a difficult thing, I love how good they are at making her at home.

Someday, when they’re not too busy (but I’m glad their shop is busy), I’ll ask the owners about the timing of tipping that top point. They’re the only people I know who once grew a mango tree.

Oh wait, of course! I take that back: Dani grew up with one. In India, though, so not the same climate. Still…

We explored a little
Sunday September 27th 2015, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life

If you ever wanted to see where the Oz books were written, this was L. Frank Baum’s home.

And the children’s section of the library near it, with Dorothy, the Tin Woodman, Munchkins, the Scarecrow and I think the Cowardly Lion is in there somewhere.

There was a tot-sized area to rest in. Genius. The one who was the most tired is a climber like his daddy was and couldn’t resist. (He was helped down immediately–no matter how enticing it was, let’s not, kiddo.)

There was a huge killer whale of a stuffed animal atop one of the children’s shelves; Hudson asked about it, I found one of the librarians, and she thought out loud a moment with, Well, we don’t normally let children play with them–and then she brought it down and held it out and he petted it on the nose in awe. That was all he’d needed.

We ran into a young family who, when I found out who the dad was, I exclaimed, I used to babysit you!

But no–it had been his older sisters, he’d been born just after they’d moved away from Maryland. That’s right. But same idea: I knew his folks and his sisters as little kids, I’d run into the whole family at a wedding fifteen years earlier and that’s where I remembered the son from, who was now neighbors and friends with our son’s family, and it was all quite the small-world moment.

Hudson had been up late the night before but had been so excited that we were coming that he’d bounced out of bed early. It finally hit him when it was time to leave that glorious library: he clung to the railing. He didn’t want to GOooooOOO!

I scooped him up after a minute and asked, You really like this library?

Uh HUH! And as I said soothing and understanding things he let me carry him almost to the car, then his daddy the last few steps. Conked out as soon as the motor turned on and was still fast asleep when it was time for us to leave for the airport. We opened his door and I silently blew a kiss and hoped he wouldn’t be too upset to wake up to find us gone.

It is amazing how tiny little bundles of energy become when they’re run out of all their awake.

On an entirely different note–but in a way kind of not–back here at home tonight, we watched the eclipse, and I have a question: why did both the photos my iPhone took show twice as much moon as my eyes saw? There was just a corner of red, then at 8:32 half of the moon was lit up brightly, no more.

And yet, the camera saw past the shadows cast by the earth to let the moon shine brightly and whole.

I can’t wait to see them again.


There’s never enough of this
Saturday September 26th 2015, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

There was this sweet face today.

And this one. (And somehow no pictures of the baby? There are in my son’s camera, but still, how did that happen!)

When I went to snap these (it’s the only time anyone was holding still) I said something about my camera and Hudson, perplexed, pronounced, “It’s a phone.”

Yes it is, and in camera mode I showed it to him with my fingers wiggling on the other side of it and showing up on the screen. It was the funniest thing they’d seen all day and they let me know it. Hudson: “Way cool.”

This was the first visit where the boys didn’t have to spend any time warming up to us; they were right there right away claiming us instantly, snuggling for books to be read and Legos to be played with. Even Maddy crawled over a few times and sat up against me sitting on the floor so she could. Her big brothers had vouched for us so we couldn’t be too stranger-y.

A lot of history all at once, some yet to show itself
Friday September 25th 2015, 9:57 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

Five members of the Supreme Court, including Catholics Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, turned down their invitations to witness Pope Francis’s address to Congress. I can only feel that they–and we–missed out. There is a power for good in the example of a person of great love, a clarity offered to one’s sense of purpose. Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, Thomas S. Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and any others you might want to name from your own experiences or readings: they don’t just preach it, they live it.

If only….

Breyer was in San Francisco to give a talk and sign copies of his new book–my daughter is in the audience as I type.

After the Pope left yesterday, two reporters stumbled into the best, most human story on what would be Boehner’s surprise resignation come the morning: Boehner beckoned them to the spot he had stood in to try to feel what he had felt, to experience some part of what the day had been for him. The Washington Post, here, and a Q&A with Speaker Boehner today, here.

The salesman, sold
Thursday September 24th 2015, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

So we had a guy out to talk about our solar panels. His company was offering something that I don’t think existed when we installed ours: an inverter that separates out each panel, so that if one gets shaded the others still work.

Ours is an all-or-nothing system and there’s a redwood next door, so it was definitely worth getting a quote to replace that part.

When all that was done he was interested in asking about the fruit trees, and it being early evening I walked back out there with him and Richard. He wanted to know what everything was.

“A mango?!” He thought that was so cool.

Cherries, there and there, mandarins, there and there. “Peaches for June July August September,” I said, pointing one two three four, noting that the biggest was only planted in February but it was standard root stock vs the semi-dwarfs and also had better sun.

A few more steps, then, “That lemon tree looks so healthy,” he said, admiring how loaded its branches were with small green fruit. He reached up to touch one. “Meyers are sweeter, right?”

“Yes, they’ve got some tangerine in their parentage.”

“Wow, you guys could open a fruit stand with all that!”

Except… And then he told us about his plum tree, how the squirrels bit into his plums and then threw them down without finishing and made a huge mess he was having to clean up–with the implied thought of, and they don’t even leave me any.

We know how that goes.

It was clear he’d wished for more fruit trees if it weren’t for that. And we knew how that goes, too.

We were standing in front of my plum tree as he mentioned this and I pointed out the clamshells on the apple next to it and why. I told him about the raccoon that ate the plastic (no shards on the ground anywhere), ate the apple, and then never touched another clamshell again, not last year nor this nor any possible descendant of theirs. It had worked.

“Oh so that’s why…” (Yeah, I know they look pretty. Not. But hey it works!)

And over there… “I *love* figs!”

I told him mine was in a pot to keep the shallow roots from causing damage.

He was clearly eager to learn more. It was great fun. I think some nursery is about to make a sale.

Day three
Wednesday September 23rd 2015, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Garden

Day three and many of the new branches are four inches long already.

It probably didn’t hurt that it was 92 degrees today.

I haven’t done any pruning at all because it came pre-pruned and two-limbed and in the first year of the mango tree I wanted it to concentrate on becoming solid and strong; I knew if I cut it it would trigger clusters of new branches from each spot. And I wanted it to be easy to cover at night for one more winter before I have to figure out something more elaborate to keep it warm.

At the tip of the one branch that gets just a tiny bit more sun than the rest it burst into four new ones anyway.

That means that, given how they produce, there will now be four times as many future mangoes there. I can manage quite happily with that.

My two limbs have become twelve (at least) all on their own.

It feels like putting yarn next to needles and coming back to find a sweater.

Apple season
Tuesday September 22nd 2015, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden

I put my knitting down and went out a moment…

And picked the first ripe Fuji apples of the season. There were three in this cluster, and yes I should have thinned them to one but I had so few this year that I just let them be for the most part.

The guy who’d helped me prune the thing back last winter cut off most of the fruiting wood. Other than asking him not to do that this year I really can’t complain because he did a fabulous job of shaping the tree, now that the weed eucalyptuses that had been shading it were gone, so that it recovered amazingly well and grew back towards the space they had taken over and it became a nicely shaped tree again. I did not know that was possible in a single season. But it meant passing up on most of a year’s crop.

Richard and I shared the biggest one and it reminded me why I chose that variety twenty-something years ago. Straight off the tree, they are fabulous.

They would have gotten redder had I taken their clamshells off and maybe trimmed back a few leaves and let more of the sun hit them directly, but they would have been gone in a minute. This year, for all the critters’ desperation in the drought, they have not been trying to steal fruit out of those covers. The birds did peck as best they could through the small air holes in the plastic but could only leave just the tiniest marks and that was that.

Bowl by my good friends Mel and Kris. Apples by sun, water (not too much!) and love.

That fast
Monday September 21st 2015, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Garden

Mango trees seem to have growth spurts like 13-year-olds. Maybe five days above a hundred degrees in the past week including today told it to grab summer while it could?

(The first photo shows the tree’s stake, not its trunk.)

After sitting there for over a month with no change that I could see other than a deepening of the green as the leaves matured and the daylight hours slowly decreased, this morning I looked out the window and clearly there was something new out there. I found that all but two of the branch ends had new leaves sprouting out where the day before there had been only a small, green, closed, pointed growth tip that I’d thought was in preparation for next spring.

The rest of the photos were taken this evening. The eighth branch has now popped out two leaves and will finish its circle tomorrow. (The red is a limb spacer.) Now only the lowest and most shaded branch is still in wait-and-see mode.

Look at all that! The center branch in the big photo sent out not only beginning leaves but four new branches producing those leaves. We have the word overnight in the language, but clearly we need its flip side: it happened overday!

One by one
Sunday September 20th 2015, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

When our 84-year-old friend Shirley passed away a week ago I wondered when or if we would ever see her kids again, now that their folks were gone.

The youngest showed up at our church today, even though it was an hour’s drive. We had a good chat.

His older brother was two and a half hours away from his home yesterday when we randomly ran into him in Oakland. Instant joy.

It was so good to see those two. And even when it’s been decades when you see an old friend, you pick up right where you left off as if there had been no time between, you just have all the more to talk about as you catch up.

I’m sitting here thinking of several old friends who really could use a vacation to California. Hint hint.

Craning my neck to see
Saturday September 19th 2015, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Wildlife

Our friend Alice was at the wheel, I was on the passenger side, Richard behind me as we drove back from Oakland this afternoon.

Her eyes steadfastly on the road and not even glancing to the side, being an avid birder she motioned towards what had caught the corner of her eye, saying, simply, “Look.” Knowing I would want to.

White dots in the distance and nearer, a single crane standing sentinel, alone. A closer flock appeared as the road continued past the cracked-brown edges of the shore: there in the gray-blue water of the Bay, the white pelicans’ plumage shone brilliantly in the sun.

They circled to play a game of Go Fish and a beak of orange-gold was raised in success.

Tick tick clocked
Friday September 18th 2015, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,History,Life

So apparently there’s a Twitter meme going on whereby former teenage nerds are offering Ahmed Mohamed a show of support by building clocks themselves and taking a picture of wires and all and posting theirs.

My sweetie happened to take his with him to Timothy Adams tonight to show our daughter; thus we have a chocolate shop going on in the background and empty truffle wrappers in front. (And they were very very good.) I wish we could share those with Ahmed, too; maybe Mark Zuckerberg could bring him in after his tour of Facebook headquarters.

Back at last
Thursday September 17th 2015, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,LYS

Finally, finally I got to go to knit night at Purlescence. I almost went last week but felt like, no, after that flu and two days’  break and then a cold, one more week. Just to be sure I don’t give any of that to anyone.

I got the BIGGEST hugs! I tell you. I’d missed those guys so much.

And towards the end I ripped out most of what I’d knit there because I hadn’t caught an early goof. It still felt good because now I know it’ll come out perfect. It’s a shawl that’s been waiting awhile for me to proof-knit it a second time because I do that when I’m intending to publish a pattern. I hadn’t gotten around to it and hadn’t gotten around to it so finally I’d given the second-done one away so I would have to.

Begin. The rest is easy. And it is! Man, that Malabrigo Silky Merino is nice stuff.

Tick tick ticked
Wednesday September 16th 2015, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life,Politics

By now you’ve probably heard of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old who built a clock and took it to show to his engineering teacher at his new high school in Irving, Texas.

Now, being married to a nerd, we have a lot of motherboards and various other parts kicking around here. Lots. He’s actually got my yarn stash beat. (Note which one of us is writing this.)

The Heathkit company of our youth quit making electronics kits ages ago. Even I built some of their kits–it was a requirement in a college electricity course. My clock finally died after 35 years but the alarm in case the standing freezer gets too warm is still at work in the garage.

So into that vacuum stepped the folks who started Raspberry Pi after looking at how expensive gadgets had gotten; few parents would want to let their kid take, say, an iPad apart and explore its innards, and they decided budding nerds needed to have access to electronic parts to tinker with and to be able to make things at a reasonable price–and I mean exceedingly reasonable.

And thus we have, for instance, the controller that turns the Christmas lights on my mango tree on and off depending on the temperature range I set for it. Had we bought such a gadget prefab it would have been prettier but also more expensive and this way my sweetie has made himself a part of that tree’s success. He built that.

This is the hubby who decided one Christmas years ago when the kids were little that the usual setup of chairs across the hallway with blankets draped over it to block their view of the goodies ahead wasn’t enough. The rule was that you wait for Mommy and Daddy and Mommy and Daddy are allowed to sleep till a semi-reasonable hour after trying to assemble that #*% rocking horse till 2 am (second page of instructions, line 17 halfway down: “Before you start, make sure you…” And so forever after it had a screw missing because there just was no way.)

No peeking.

A motion sensor, a tape recorder, and the very unexpected sound of Daddy’s voice: “Go. back. to. BED, Richard!”

And so it was with some amazement that I listened to my ever calm peacemaker of a husband take off on that principal and those cops. “They should be in JAIL!” He was just outraged. In his own youth, he told me, he had gotten permission from the school, made fireworks (me: You *made* fireworks? him: Yes, I made fireworks!) and had brought them in.

They called Ahmed’s clock a bomb and when he confirmed his last name and refused to say that it was a bomb, after having illegally questioned him without allowing him to notify his parents much less in their presence, they marched him across the school in handcuffs, hauled him to police headquarters and arrested him.

Let’s see: false imprisonment, false police report, false charges, under color of authority, lack of parental notification, libel, and even after they found out that it really was just a clock the school still said he was suspended for three days as if he were somehow guilty for embarrassing them–and then they sent home a letter to the other kids’ parents about how their children were being kept safe (from, basically, terrorists by the sound of it) and that there had been an incident but everything was fine now.

Now, if they’d thought it was really a bomb, would they have left it sitting in the school as they blasted this child? But they did.

Would they have evacuated the school? But they did not.

It all comes across as the English teacher and the principal with the cops piling on trying to show that smart brown kid with the Muslim name just exactly who had the power around here.

But then, thank heavens, the aftermath began. President Obama on Twitter: “Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.”

Mark Zuckerberg, NASA (he was wearing their t-shirt when it happened) and a growing number of places: You want to come tour our headquarters/lab/etc? We want smart people like you and we would love to show you around here.

Mohamed’s father, an immigrant from Somalia, thanked all those who stood up for his son: I love America. When we see something wrong we stand up.

The school is utterly unrepentant.

Some lawyer is totally going to clean their clock.