Friday September 09th 2022, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Thirty-eight years later, I think I finally got my answer.

My dad was an art dealer and spent his career trying to help talented French artists find an international audience. I grew up with paintings on the walls and tapestries that took a month per square yard to create. Our living room’s cathedral ceiling and wall of windows looking out on the woods made for the perfect lighting in beautiful scenery.

When my husband and I bought our first house, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but something was missing, like it wasn’t quite a real home yet–despite the fact that we had picked out the model and the lot and watched it being built in a then-boom town in New Hampshire and every thing in it was something we had chosen.

Our second child was born seven months later.

My folks drove up from Maryland to help out for a week.

And then.

Dad opened the big trunk of their car and started pulling out paintings, thoroughly enjoying how surprised and thrilled I was. THAT’S what it had been missing! Art on the walls! Now it could finally feel like home!

One of those paintings had always been a little bit of a mystery to me and now it was mine. Oh, that’s Deer Island, Maine, I was told, like that should settle it.

Okay–but why? I’ve long wondered. Why did someone travel way out there to paint that out in the middle of absolutely nowhere?

The Washington Post just published one of their reporters’ traveling to meet the people and place of the favorite haunt of his favorite author a little more personally.

Now, when I was maybe ten I got a thick heavy book for Christmas full of horse stories. My kind of thing at the time. The further you got into it, though, the darker a turn the stories took. John Steinbeck’s “The Red Pony” is not something I’d give a ten year old, but it was in there.

And then in high school I read “The Pearl.”

That was it. I was done with Steinbeck.

So I was surprised to read that not only was he a favorite writer of this Post reporter, but that rereading him inspired the guy to pack a bag and go learn for himself what the people and place were like where his hero began his “Travels With Charlie” from.

Deer Island, Maine.

The painter was a Steinbeck fan. Clearly.

And I feel like a decades-long mystery has been solved, and not only that, I actually am looking forward to reading that Steinbeck book. Who knew.

Someones’ grandkids
Thursday September 08th 2022, 8:11 pm
Filed under: Life

At 8:15 a.m. we were next on the list for the omicron shots.

At 8:20 a.m. we were doing the required sit-and-observe aftermath.

A dad came in holding a baby almost old enough to walk. The baby wasn’t too sure about being in this strange place at a strange hour with strange people around.

Man, it felt good to be able to offer a handknit Peruvian finger puppet just like the before times and delight the guy. The baby was pretty cool with it, too.

Then a couple with two girls of about two and four came in, and those parents approved of the unexpected distraction, too. Their little ones instantly went to town having a grand game of make believe with each other.

A few minutes in, two suddenly very shy little girls found themselves encouraged to walk ever so hesitantly to where I was sitting. They were not the least bit sure of this. Maybe I might make them give them back? What would I do? I had said Happy Birthday, but the older one knew it was not a birthday and the uncertainty was grabbing at her ankles like a monster under the bed.

“Thank you,” she said in a suddenly very small voice, both of them studying my eyes intensely, wanting to know what would happen next.

I gave them my best, biggest, grandmotherliest smile behind my required face mask (they had them on, too) and told her and her sister, “You’re very welcome!”

They RAN back to their mom and dad, joyfully this time. Yay!!

And with that our time was up and we waved goodbye, easily as grateful to them as they were to us.

Wednesday September 07th 2022, 7:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

(Woke up to a second power failure but it cleared up quickly.)

The CDC had a list by zip code of providers of the new covid vaccine. (Lots of helpful links there.) I started trying yesterday, but the one local entity’s site refused to load, and when I asked Richard about going to Santa Rosa for another provider his reaction was that with our having driven three hours to Antioch in traffic and two hours back for his first covid shot, going even further was not enthralling.

Today, still not able to get through online, I called the local one even though their site said not to.

They said yeah they were scheduling but it was going to be weeks, possibly months before they had any more openings–they were booked.

I realized afterward, well, they are the closest off-campus pharmacy to Stanford Hospital.

Which is also I’m sure why the CDC got it to them first around here.

There had to be…

Today the CDC added CVS: one store in one location and they had openings for one single day, so I grabbed them. But I was still hoping for something sooner.

I checked our clinic’s site and got nowhere, so I called them, too. Oh! They do! But they said you could only schedule the covid shots by phone–just like last year’s first shot in the first weeks.

Turns out you had to wait while someone asked you all your ID information and all the health questions and dutifully entered them in while everybody else waited on hold, with him playing a human buffer in the scheduling that would keep all but the most determined self-screened out for now while the supplies are scarce. The on-hold robot voice kept urging me to hang up and schedule most appointments online, which I knew would just shove me to the back of the line on the phone again and nevertheless I persisted and knit and knit and knit, glad for hold music loud enough for even me to be able to put the phone down.

I got in!

You want them–this week?? Uhhh, let me see…

(I’d figured it didn’t hurt to ask.)

CVS is now canceled, he let me jump through the hoops for the both of us, and we are getting our Omicron boosters in the morning. And our flu shots.

(Edit in the morning: CVS was going to do both shots, but the clinic was only doing the Covid. One down, one to go.)

Tuesday September 06th 2022, 7:06 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I had a mouthful of toothpaste last night when everything suddenly went very dark.


So did that mean that when the Flex Alert said to wait till after 9:00 pm to do your laundry everybody started theirs at the same time? Along with turning on the dishwasher for the night? (Guilty.)

Earthquake readiness says we’re supposed to have flashlights by our sides of the bed. He found his. Mine was AWOL. Of all the things not to be prepared about after all the warnings re the power and the heat, I was apologizing to him that I… Oh there it is. I gave him his back.

He called to report the outage and it turned out no one else in our neighborhood had. What? They were saying 12,000 out, not quite reaching to our street (but it did.) Was everybody else in bed at 10:30? Seems like it.

We read to each other, like we do every night, and doing it by flashlight was kind of fun, like when you read under the covers as a kid and tried not to get caught not going to sleep.

Then we tried to turn off the lights in the dark.

But you know those dimming/brightening switches with the flat rectangular panel rather than a small black piece sticking out? How do you turn one of those off when the power’s out? I asked him. So it doesn’t flip all the lights back on in our faces in the middle of the night?

He confessed he did not know, which sounded to me like, Face it, honey, we’re hosed.

And yet. Turns out the bedroom lights were the ones that didn’t. It was the ones in the closet and the hallway, the ones with the flip-it switches that I’d missed because I hadn’t known which ones to turn off, and, well, we know who the light sleeper is who took care of that.

Let’s not do that again. Which is why breakfast and dinner were both baked at 7:30 this morning, side by side, 25 minutes and off fast, just in time for the dentist to call and ask me, Could you come in a few hours early this morning?

I am writing this several hours earlier than my usual. I’m trying to beat the next outage. And probably so was the dentist.

Oh, and one other thing to add: Happy Birthday to my late Grandmother J and Happy 100th Anniversary to my Grandparents B.

Waves waving hi
Monday September 05th 2022, 9:00 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

Not just roots joining into the bases of the trees: gotta have a redwood in the forest that’s partly hollowed at the bottom by a fire ages ago–creating room to climb up in there and even to sit down in the cool of its trunk. One looks up and marvels at the immensity.

Little by little, it’s getting there. Don’t tell the recipients it looks in this shot like the trees have a frilly skirt–they might have a boy.

(P.S. It hit 103F today. I am exceedingly grateful for air conditioning. I certainly wouldn’t have touched this if we didn’t have that.)

Actually, it’s Apple, but never mind
Sunday September 04th 2022, 9:04 pm
Filed under: Life

If you ever wanted a brain exercise for word retrieval, and the official New York Times Wordle only lets you play once a day–which it does–fear not. The colors are brighter on HelloWordl anyway, and you can play it as many times as you want. Even use it to warm up the brain before going on to the official  version where your wins are recorded and tabulated. No pressure.

I have never been addicted to computer games but this one actually has a bit of self-justification to it: when you’ve got a TBI, anything that helps.

But what I want to know is, wait. How much is this doggy in the Window?

And soon, branches
Saturday September 03rd 2022, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

Part of me wants to ask, How is it only this far along? and part of me is going, Go go go keep going you’re getting there!

There’s the ocean, the waves on the beach, the stair into the hillside and to either side and, away from where the humans would climb, the tracks of shorebirds. There’s the seed stitch (so much seed stitch is there anyone who loves knitting seed stitch I do not love knitting seed stitch) for the roughness of the cliffs facing the water, and then back a bit from there is, at long last, where the redwoods begin.

I had all kinds of ideas of how they were going to go but ripped a little out: the very trees themselves keep it simple.

There were going to be ice plants, but the gauge is wrong for that and the daisy stitch came out as random bits of rocks on the beach for climbing over. And that fits.

The little stick figure of a dandelion because there has to be a poofball for their little one to blow on to watch the little pieces all rise up into the air.

Maybe as high as a redwood!

Mystery gift
Friday September 02nd 2022, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Life

I bought a vyshyvanka for my granddaughter Maddy, who’ll turn eight at Christmas, and it came today with the surprise of a beaded bracelet and beaded head covering with ribbons to tie it on with, because Nataliya is wonderful like that.

And there was this. Made of wood. It could be a small sunflower coaster, sure, and definitely a symbol for a country that grows most of the sunflower oil in the world, but all those little holes are begging for laceweight or beading thread or something and to be used as a tool.

What kind and how, though, I am guessing at because I have no idea.

For that matter you could loop yarn through one of the petals and wear it as a large necklace of about the size of all those VW emblems that were being stolen off cars right and left in the ’80’s. (I’d forgotten about the Beastie Boys and VW offering a free emblem to anyone who asked in order to save their customers’ cars and their future sales figures.)

No but seriously, if anyone’s seen one of these before, what is this? I feel like I should know.

Making a list, checking it twice
Thursday September 01st 2022, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Family

Random thought: pansies, with their big beautiful colorful soft wings of petals, are the butterflies of the flower world.

Meantime, I sent this picture and asked a question because clothing is such a personal thing: Christmas is coming up and these can take as much as three months to arrive, although usually it’s more like two. The rush towards December has surely begun and I imagine there are only so many people (most likely women) available to run the post office in Kiev. And everything seems to route through Kiev.

So now the talented and wonderful Sola Kvitkova (I’m wearing that one, sized up to a large to be sure) has a new order to fill on Etsy, in red as requested.

And once again I am thrilled that I can do that, that I can do my part to support–well, everybody in all of Ukraine, in my heart–and am hoping she and hers stay safe, now and always. That would be the greatest gift.

Mind the gap
Wednesday August 31st 2022, 8:18 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

There is a single tomato plant, in a large pot, kind of spilling over the side but that’s okay because there’s a birdnetting cage over the whole thing with the pot helping to keep it in place.

Turns out if you go to just the right spot there was room for a finch to bop in under there at ground level in its search for weed seeds.

And then it tried to fly up to leave but that didn’t work at all.

There seemed to be a bit of motion going on out there and I looked up to see a small flock of finches coming in: some landed on the ground, several landed on top of that bird netting and then on the strawberry pot next to it, and my thought was, sorry, no crop pecking for you.

Incoming!  Another one.

Only then did my eye catch the flutter of wings that were somehow not on the outside of that netting like they were supposed to be, and I headed out to rescue the poor thing before it mashed its feathers against things any more than it had.

As soon as I got close enough to reach to lift the thing away our intrepid bird suddenly saw its way out before I’d even made one–freedom!


I went back inside thinking about how house finches always squabbled at the bird feeder, always tried to get the uppermost perch, always believed the sunflower seeds up high tasted better than the ones down low and no amount of real-life experience could disabuse them of that silliness nor make them believe there was always enough for them all, right there in plain sight.

And yet.

Here one was in trouble, and its peers, rather than abandoning it to its fate, went out of their way to be with it, to cheer it on, to offer comfort by their presence even if they couldn’t do a thing about it. They anti-Darwinned it, really: they came to where their fellow finch was overcome and powerless instead of fleeing the danger themselves.

We should all be such birdbrains.

Pom Poms
Tuesday August 30th 2022, 9:15 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

I knocked my pomegranate tree over. Partly. My hose and I. It was very sudden: I woke up Sunday and went wow.

It’s juice-making time inside all those bright little reddening balls and clearly Saturday’s watering got slurped right up. There are no fruits on the back where it’s up against the shed, and so all the weight was towards the yard and there you go. See that oversized stake? It and all these branches you see leaning to the right were upright on Saturday. And they will be again once harvest is over.

The new neighbor’s little girl told me about the lemon trees in their back yard and asked to see the fruit trees in mine.

I told her she couldn’t just go back there, her mom had to know where she was. So she and her little brother and their mom all got invited over to see.

They’ve moved quite a few times and expect to again in a few years and the mom was wistful, telling me what kinds of fruit trees she’d like to plant someday–but what can you take with you, you know?

On a more practical note, she told me of a type of Chinese or Asian pumpkin (her description) that you cannot buy here. That she was trying to find seeds for so she could have them again. Like my apricot trees! she said. You want them you have to grow them if you can find even that, right? She was so happy for me that I got to have my Anya offspring.

I wished her all the best–and you know that the search for a source for her has begun. She’s only lived in the area a few weeks, and now I’ve got a list of the various specialty grocery stores she could try.

Not to mention, now I know which of my neighbors adores the pomegranates that we have so many of coming up. I can’t wait.

In this international community
Monday August 29th 2022, 9:11 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Rescheduled twice till the original reason for it was history, I finally got in to see the neurologist today, six months after the fact. We’re still pretty new to each other.

I was knitting that blue cowl when he came in.

We talked about a bunch of stuff and then it was time to do an exam.

He had me try to stand on my toes. I managed not to fall on him but it was a near thing. He had me lift my toes to stand on my heels. Again the involuntary collapse.

He asked me to grab my cane and repeat both of those and with that extra tactility to tell my brain which direction the floor was in when parts of my feet had abandoned it I had no problem, it was as easy as sitting down.

An offhand remark: he wasn’t mansplaining, he was marveling when he just had to tell me that he’d found out that you can’t just knit something–quickly. That things like sweaters and blankets, they take a long time. A *long* time!

I chuckled. Yes. Yes, they do. I did not say, And you’ll get your turn, but I knew his appreciation had just shown me it was so.

He grabbed a pin from a tall box and poked it around. I could feel it in my hands and arms but more as a slight pressure than anything else. Legs and feet? Okay, that’s a prick point.

I discussed a little family history: (sorry for the repeats to those who’ve read these before.) My grandmother never had a headache in her life, she had no idea what it was like to have one. My cousin was born without the ability to feel pain–like the time he got hit by a car, walked home, told his brother, said he was tired and was going to go lie down, and the brother ratted him out to their nurse mom who rushed him to the hospital in time to save his life. I told him one of my kids wasn’t that bad, but definitely on that scale. And also got hit by a car as a kid and tried to shrug it off.

I had started out as normal myself but for years now my own ability has been impaired. I told him of the time my tall husband took off his undershirt, hit the overhead light, shattered it, ducked the falling glass and fell into the oak  hamper while I, still in bed, just heard the loud thump against the wall and leaped out to save him. Like I was going to pull him out of the hamper? I found myself running across broken glass.

And just sat down on the bed and laughed because we’re such a pair of klutzes–and because I knew that in five minutes I wouldn’t be able to feel the pain anymore. And I didn’t. This can be a bad thing, like during the heart attack and not calling 911 because, um, wasn’t it supposed to hurt, but at other times it can be quite handy. It’s like the bod says, Okay, listen up something’s wrong, okay now I told you–you go deal with it.

He (clearly fervently) wished he could offer his other patients a way to not hurt after five minutes and pronounced me as pretty fortunate for that. He’s right.

On my way out I found myself about to go past a quite elderly woman with a head covering I’d guess as Slavic as she was being pushed in a wheelchair, her face a blank. I was wearing my hand-embroidered, very traditional red and black on white vyshyvanka and the effect on her was instant: an energy that hadn’t been there a moment before as my shirt had her full attention and recognition, she looked up into my face in wonder and smiled. No words needed.

And I looked in her eyes and loved her too and smiled back.

I said to Richard later, not for the first time, And this is why I wear these. This is part of why I buy these.


Thick and warm
Sunday August 28th 2022, 8:48 pm
Filed under: Knit

Maybe because the first few leaves–maybe half a dozen scattered across the taller cherry tree and on one peach– have already turned yellow, as if telling Fall to hurry up: making something warm appealed, and besides, I needed a small carry-around project for a doctor appointment tomorrow. I did not want a cone. I did not want to wind yarn.

And so I found myself doing a stash dive this morning and coming up with this baby alpaca/merino/yak blend, one of those online buys that when it comes you think, oh. That’s not what I expected. Oh well. And then it sits there.

Two skeins, ready to go. I surprised myself when I thought decisively, That one. (Really? Curious.)

Since Richard was feeling contagious, we did church by Zoom and I got this started because it’s way more fun to have something to actually show off tomorrow if you’re going to be knitting in public, right?

The color is actually bluer than this, and that is a good thing. Taupey grays, which this has in the mix, are not my thing.

I have no idea who it’s for but I expect I’ll find out soon enough, and that’s the fun part.

For the love of Dandelions
Saturday August 27th 2022, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Food,Knitting a Gift,Life

The Alaska afghans had a dandelion in them because I was so enchanted by the one outside the kids’ door at their old house in Anchorage that was blooming well above knee-high. And because I got to feed some to well-fenced-away elk through the chain links after the farmer there said that that was their favorite food. There were a few blooming just, just past where the animals could reach to and they were happy to grab the ends and spaghetti-slurp them up from us (and thank goodness for how long those stems were; the reindeer over to the left were tame but the elk came with warnings.)


I decided this afghan needed a dandelion, too. A few rows after this you’ll be able to see better where the yarnovers settle into; it’s kind of a stick figure of a flower.

But it got me thinking of Dandelion Chocolate, because they make the best there is and the pastries to match and because bite by daily bite we had just finished off our last bar from them. Chocolate and sugar. Two ingredients. That’s all.

A few people in Ukraine are making, among other things, beaded necklaces with dandelion flowers below and their seed poofs floating off above.

On a whim, I sent them a link. Not that they need to go buy jewelry for all the staff or anything–but sometimes it’s charming to know someone created something both fun and meaningful that’s out there in the world just waiting to be admired.

Of course they loved it, but then, how could anyone not.

After the kids have flown
Friday August 26th 2022, 8:02 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Empty nesters. Maybe they’re talking about going out for a nice Friday night dinner?