Chicken Blog by Natalie

Bunnies, Rainbows, Kitties, and A Sweet Sixteen - Mon, 11/30/2020 - 10:06

The bunny bed! It's been moved from room to room, and been somebunnie's bed for a dozen years. But I think I am the one who has been the most smitten and enamoured of it. It's got bunnies! So, it's not Suki's, nor Maria's, nor the guest bed, and now Max has decided he'd rather squeeze his mattress on the floor, between the fireplace and the wall, which isn't possible with a bed frame. This is a long history, only to say, It's mine. It's mine! The bunny bed, at last, is mine! Once we had Max's new space figured out, we were stumped about what to do with this bed frame, until I realized that the mattress on the floor of the balcony has been nice but this would be (could be?) a really charming update. And it is. I love it. It just fits, and thankfully only feels cozy and not crowded.

Cairo observed the dismantling of the bed, and naturally he was on hand to help me put it back together. Do cats have a fresh linens sensor? They always seem to know when I am going to make the bed, or change the sheets. In the last picture, Cairo is under the sheet, testing the fit, and in the air are dust motes, because this is a screened balcony, and nothing keeps out the dust, nor the cold. After bedmaking, came vacuuming, and then a deep pile of pillow and blankets, in case anyone is tempted to sleep in 44 degree weather.
I was only testing it out, but Cairo insisted we be thorough in our research.
Rainbows, kitties, and a birthday girl. Geoff hung a prism in the window, and it makes rainbows... lots of them, and they dance on the floor and walls. The kitties were loving the display, and that's why I brought Maria over. She snuggled in, and togther we watched Feynman chase rainbows, Saki watch Feynman, and Cairo watch everything.

Does she look 16 years old? I know. It's a cliche to be in disbelief about the passage of time, about the youngest in the family becoming a young woman, how it feels like only yesterday... Well. I can't believe it. And it feels like only yesterday that she was our Cranbooty, then a fairy derpday princess! Every season, every milestone, each new step with Maria has been a joy, a pleasure for all of us, and we would like to slow everything down, to enjoy today a little bit longer, but we are happy to see all the days ahead, too. We are thankful for the many celebrations we have shared with friends, and family, the themes, and games, fun and surprises. This birthday is a bit quieter, but Maria was no less enthused and thankful, and we had a very good day. Thank you, Collettas, for adding so beautifully to this day.

Excellent Messes - Sat, 11/28/2020 - 11:04
Delia and Ron's Forest, in Oregon. I'll be back to say more, but just know: We have been making some exceptionally worthwhile messes.

Giving Thanks - Tue, 11/24/2020 - 10:20

I am sure, more than once, I have written about being thankful for the Internet, and wifi, for mobile phones, and cameras, for all the devices and technology that keeps us connected. This year, well could we ever have foreseen just how thankful we could be? Last April, Maria showed me how to do live, face to face video chats, helping me get comfortable with the process, and being "out there." And of course I have no reluctance to blog, share to Instagram, and text. More recently, my Mom persuaded me to add WhatsApp to the mix, and now we have regular chats with my brothers, and sisters-in-law, and Mom. I am thankful not only for the devices, methods, and options, but even more for all the people staying in touch, reaching out, connecting. I can count many friends, even near strangers, that have reached out to me, and that I have reached out to. We are all in this together rings so true, when a text appears and someone is checking in on me, asking how I am doing.

I am thankful for our pets, as well as the wildlife that we see around our home. Sometimes, the coyotes yip a little too close for my comfort, and I am not at all happy about the damages rats have done to idle cars, but cute bunnies, countless migrating birds, and resident birds, like owls and wrens, and quail, are dear. The goats are as sweet and ridiculous as ever. I have spent hours in their company, and they do my spirits a world of good. After their initial eagerness for snacks and affection, they will settle into a soothing, mellow pace, and it's impossible not join in, and chill. The hens. Oh, the hens have been just as expected... noisy, bossy, endearing, messy, generous with eggs, and feathers, pretty, curious, and funny. I am glad we had our old girls, the Chicas. I was relieved to acquire the Chiclets. And I could not have imagined a happier outcome than what we have enjoyed since the Happy Campers arrived. And I cannot forget to mention our cats, our cats who live inside, and might as well be small people for their personalities and antics, for the spaces they occupy, and engagement we share with them. Cairo, Sakamoto, and Feynman are good kitties, which is to say, they are soft, warm, scratchy, destructive, affectionate, needy, amusing, hilarious, messy, distracting, playful, curious, and cute.

One of the first things we did when we moved here was to remove a tree that was damaging the house with its roots. It was a shame to take it down, because it looked pretty, and at least one neighbor objected, until we explained about the house foundation. In place of one oversized and domineering tree, we had space to thoughtfully lay out a small orchard, including apples, a peach, plum, and apricot, and a lime tree. We have enjoyed fruit, and sharing fruit, every year since. And yesterday, when I decided to revisit a favorite recipe, I found I had no limes. I visited our tree, walking slowly around, and hoping. I found two, just ripening limes. Small gifts. I am thankful for our home, and gardens, for the improving soil, the native trees, the wild flowers, and the bees. And I am thankful for the lime, because I love to add it to this Cranberry Nut Bread recipe, from Oceanspray. I made a double batch. The recipe only calls for grated orange peel, but I dice up lime and orange, and throw in some of the fruit, too. I use, butter, not shortening, and the nuts I add are pecans.

There's more, but just now I need to take care of the dough rising for bread.

Fun & Games & Cranberry Sauce - Mon, 11/23/2020 - 11:48

It isn't all fun and games, but it helps tremendously to focus on the fun, to look for the silver lingings, and to make the extra push to create good memories, share some joy, distraction, light. When I think about where I wish I could go, what I wish we could do, I feel two ways: I feel thankful that we have enjoyed those traditions, those experiences, and visits, because they were good, or how else could I know that I want to enjoy them again? And then, I can feel terribly sad, even muddled and out of sorts about all of this. This... lock-downs, masks, isolation, distance, staying home, missing loved ones, lost connections, death, the knowledge that so many are struggling, the toll and losses from misinformation, and willful indifference. Stop me. We know, right? It's not far from my thoughts, from my heart, all of the ways this year has been cruel, challenging, frustrating.

We ordered a Christmas tree, and I bought a whole turkey. The tree purchase will help the high school lacross team fund-raise, and we get the tree delivered, which is nice touch for safety. So, even though I debated whether I had the heart to do all that, I'm glad the committment is made, and we can put up lights, and sit beside a tree on quiet, early mornings. Truthfully, as much as I adore this time of year, holidays, and winter nights, it's not easy to muster the energy, the faith in cheery-merry-bright things. Maybe it's not very interesting to read about my internal dialogue and how my attitude swings back and forth between Scrooge, and Buddy the Elf, but if you struggle, too, I hope it helps you to know, you are not alone. Of the seven of us, only five will eat turkey. I could have make life easier and just fix some chicken. But a roasting turkey fills the house with that distinctly Thanksgiving aroma, and I can fix some plates to share with another family, and freeze the rest. And I am prepared to cry, to miss my extended family, to be nostaligic, then frustrated and disappointed, too.

Seeing that nothing of the hard parts of this holiday season will subside, or abate, in my best moments I make plans, take actions, like buying a whole turkey, committing to a tree, decorating our mantle, making yet another holiday playlist, gathering all of the ingredients for the gnarly cranberry sauce that only I relish. And I even made a calendar, something Advent-y, and personal, to remind us, to coax us into celebrating, into planning, anticipating, and participating. I'd like to think this could be pure joy and spontaniety, but sometimes these things require a nudge. I even asked Alex to remind me of all the holidays. I ran out of space to illustrate all of it, but there's also Hanukkah, St Lucia, Twelth Night, New Year's Eve, Boxing Day, and how about Repeal Day, National Fritters Day, Put On Your Own Shoes Day, and Roast Chestnuts Day? I represented Christmas Eve, which should be in Ruth's home, as it has been for a few years, with a bird, like the ones she decorates her birch tree with. We hope for the best, right?

Last May we ordered our first half cord of wood in about seven years,
and this was the night we just about finished burning the last of it! In less than six months, we enjoyed enough social distance fire nights to use as much wood as we burned in seven years! It has been one of the best purchases of the year, and we eagerly called in another order... half oak, half piñon, and now it's cold, we will probably use this order up even faster than the last!

Some nights we watch movies. We have hosted 20 movie nights, and a few nights of simply hanging out. I used to think our driveway was annoyingly big, too big. Now, I see it as a tremendous gift, with lots of room for safe, happy gatherings. Last Friday Leslie wanted to introduce us to a game... a "socially distanced word game," and she assured me it would be easy and fun, because she knows I can get a little anxious about elaborate games. (I rank laughter above competition.) She totally pegged us with this one, and we had a great time! And we can't say enough about how hard Leslie worked to make this, otherwise straightforward game, work for each family to remain distanced, and not sharing anything but laughs. We even used texting. One person has to guess the word that inspired the list of words, like you see on Leslie's white board. Should I go on? I'm never any good at following game instructions! Ok... if you saw "Color, Submarine, Fever, Journalism, #FFFFOO, Amira, and Bellow (Bellow?? I don't understand this clue) what word would you think these clues indicate? We played many rounds, and we want to play again, soon.

Janece, Paul, and I joked about our plans for upcoming birthdays, and special occasions, about how to celebrate them. Because the answer is always the same, "How about a bonfire?" "Well, we could meet in the driveway, have some fires going..." What if we sit around a fire, watch a movie?" We cracked ourselves up with our funny because it's true joke. It might seem like the same thing, but it's special, unique, every time, and I look forward to more.

Last Christmas, Geoff gave me a big box of beautiful colored pencils. I’ve touched them, held them, admired them, and saved them. Recently, I finally played with them. I made a color chart. I labeled them, in English and sometimes French. Bleu. Aubergine. Brûlée. Then I washed over them with a brush, and enjoyed the colors diffusing into tones of shade. I am loving the pencils. They are fun to use, and just brushing my fingers across them, noting each color, makes me smile. I want orange to be the sun, and fruit, and fat hens, again. I want words to have value and meaning, and kindness to be as heartfelt and deep as bleu nuit. I want everyone to have their own box of colored pencils, heath-care, equal rights, hopes that can be fulfilled, and freedom from want. I want everyone to stay safe, and well, to enjoy warmth and laughter, to have some kind of merry holidays.

Thanksgiving Impromptu Talk - Fri, 11/20/2020 - 11:00

We went on our longest beach walk, yet. I am not boasting about how long it was. I am only saying it was longer than the previous walks. And now I say it, I realize it's hardly a meaningful or even interesting statement to make, and just to bring it down a bit further, I will add... I wish I didn't wear the hard, flat sandals I had on.

Well. That entire bit ought to be deleted. I'll leave it, though. Sometimes, in the interest of transparency and being me, I think it reasonable to be unfiltered. What I actually wanted to bring attention to, rather than my superficial first impression of a lovely evening beachwalk, was the beauty of the light, the way waves gently sweeping up the beach can be so soothing. I'm glad I asked Geoff to catch the sun... so fun to play with perspective. I'm glad the tide was out, that we had room to spread out, and stay clear of the unstable bluff. I'm glad Geoff has been determined to get us out, and to the beach. Sometime during our excursion, someone asked about Thanksgiving. A week away, was the reply, and there were some exclamations, a general sense of amazement-bewilderment-resignation... this year needs new fashioned adjectives, because we have new fashioned reactions to all of these new fashioned experiences. How often we are flumoxed, then shrug our shoulders, and confirm, "Well, that's 2020." Answer: Often.

A few days ago I happened to catch an Instagram Live segement from Black Food Folks, which they called "Thanksgiving Impromptu Talk." It was just two people talking about Thanksgiving and food... cooking, eating, traditions, expectations, what's great, what's a hard pass. Adrian and Clay covered it all, and I was riveted, and thrilled. They were serving up just the thing I've been missing... impassioned views on the things that matter to us around the Thanksgiving table. It made me tearful, and I laughed aloud, and I feel oh so thankful to them for sharing this subject. I even blogged about this before, about how much I love to hear people defend their stand on what makes Thanksgiving good, correct, best. It's as true for me as ever, "my own Thanksgiving isn't official until someone has shared an impassioned anecdote about their favorite green bean recipe, or the best mashed potatoes!" (I do believe I've just quoted myself. Is that tacky?) And the talk Adrian and Clay shared gave me that special and favorite flavor of Thanksgiving; something harder to stumble upon when one is staying home... because, you know: 2020.I have a lot of views on, and affection for Thanksgiving, including what and why I celebrate, and the best "kids" table ever. This Thanksgiving, with little choice, I will say, I am thankful for all the celebrations we have enjoyed before... when we could make a big fuss, and gather from near and far, when we could enjoy being together, sharing, and celebrating our love, our lives, and I can't deny it's bittersweet to say so. I wish... well, I know things will be better.

I am tempted to continue the Thanksgiving Impromptu Talk and ask everyone What makes your Thanksgiving dinner good, correct, the best? Is it Stove Top stuffing? Turkey vs Ham? What is your vegan maincourse? Marshmallows on sweet potatoes? Are you in it for the turkey, or are you like Adrian, and in it for sides and dessert? I love the sides. I love it all, and I love love love listening to people talk about all of it.

Life Full - Wed, 11/18/2020 - 11:43

This began as a post about drying orange slices, and limes, about starry nights, sketches, and home. Now, I am gazing at the middle distance, drying tears, and trying to make sense of this full life, of the small and great things that can transpire over decades, and in a single morning.

Our Internet is failing. Geoff is waiting for a technician. I am making a musical playlist to keep me motivated and inspired to continue deep cleaning in the kitchen. Editing pictures goes slowly, with weak Internet, so I am parallel processing... back and forth between music and pictures. Messages cross my phone, with sad news. I fumble around for words... words that console, words that compensate for all that we cannot do during a pandemic, when we care more than we can say. I dive deep into photographs, Christmas music, memories, and nostalgia. I scorch the beans on the stove. Parallel processing is overrated. Countless emotions, and reactions rise, press, inflate, drift around, and I close my eyes, breath. Musn't conflate, musn't dive too deep. And something else? What was it the article said, about How To Stay Calm When You Know You Will Be Stressed? No. Not that one. It was something else I read, or watched, or heard. Something about feeling your feelings, and not surpressing them. I have so many photographs, and so many bits of information... promixmate knowledge of many things. Too many bits of information, not enough access. My brain is a slow Internet.

I dried oranges, and they made the house smell bright, fresh. I've wanted to do this for a long time. Probably since I first picked up a Better Homes and Gardens, or Martha Stewart Living. My life is full, and yet I still find lessons I need to relearn, to take to heart,like trying... go places, touch things, listen, make, test, sample, use things up, speak up, take a stand, be wrong or bad, or silly, but try, start, play. Carol sent me pictures, for more inspiration, of dried grapefruit slices, which are large, and pale, luminous pink, and of dried citrus wreaths, and garlands. Adriana shared a link for ornaments. I am so delighted to have friends playing with me, sharing the fun, even at a distance.

Sunday was a movie night. We watched The Little Prince, which is on Netflix. It's a beautiful movie, by the way, artistically, narratively. It's one I had forgotten, and had only a sense that it was something good. It was the night of the New Moon, and there were no clouds, and it wasn't too cold, but cold enough. After everyone left, there were too many good embers to douse, so I made another plan. I scrubbed potatoes, and wrapped them in aluminum foil. William joined me back outside. We sat on the ground, beside the fire ring, listening to the wet potatoes sizzle. And we looked up. It was such a wondrous star gazing night, that even my phone was able to capture a hint of the magic. We saw meteors, bright blue shooting stars. We watched Orion rise, and then Sirius. Twinkling, Sirius, the brightest star, in the constellation Canis Major. It was flickering its dazzling rainbow. The Pleiades were in great form, I point them out in the photo above. Mars has been bright and visible for months. The Andromeda Galaxy was just overhead, but not so visible. Still, just to say it, Andromeda Galaxy, is pretty heckin' cool. I want to find a lounge chair, or drag out a reclining chair, then watch the sky all night.

Sometimes,often, I start to think of ideas, of people, of causes, and issues, of events, and I want to mention all of it, all of them. Life is full, for each of us. I should feed the chickens, salvage what I can of the beans. I am also thinking of you, dear ones, of your full lives, and the things that make you close your eyes and breath... wordlessly, I am sending consolation, and my best thoughts for some comfort, for an easing of burdens.

Home and Ashore - Sat, 11/14/2020 - 11:13

The goats are alright. The chickens are alright. The cats, too, are alright. In fact, they are better than alright. Our pets have been such bright spots, giving us food, affection, distraction, laughs. I think about this everyday, about how happy, even relieved I am, that we had pets going into this Stay at Home Season, and that their care and well-being has kept us occupied, that their antics, and the narratives we create around their personalities are happily shared between us, and with friends. They have made our lives richer.

I ordered a therapeutic quantity of seeds from Renee's Garden, which I admit probably means too many, but I had fun sharing them, and now I have begun planting our winter garden. I definitely shopped with my emotions, so flowers will (hopefully) out-number veggies, about 2 to 1! I ordered Nigella and Corn Flowers, Poppies, and Scabiosa. Just the names were enough to tempt me... Grandmother's Pincushion, Persian Violet, Love in a Mist. I brought armloads of expired plants from the garden beds to the goats and chickens. Old corn stalks, and bean vines, faded calendula, some dandelions, and raggedy tomatoes. The goats and chickens take it all as a buffet and kind of sensory experience... they scratch, peck, nibble, tug, devour, and for me, the gardener, it all becomes mulch, and compost, and good soil. I love this cycle, and cooperative farming method. With old stuff cleared out, I am making room to get those seeds in the ground, including peas, beets, carrots, spinach, and some of those flowers.
We are making more ventures out into the world... sadly, just as the COVID numbers are rising. We have practiced an abundance of caution, and will continue to keep our distance, wear masks, and take care. It's nice now, though, to have quieter days on the local beaches. We have enjoyed some long, beautiful walks. On this particular outing, I had a hard time moving forward without stopping to take one more picture. We watched a pelican in flight, scanning the water, then dive swiftly into the water. That is awe inspiring, as pelicans are kind of other worldly, and the dive is dramatic. I think the last shot, of the sunset and pelican is other worldy, too... the lens flare, or whatever we call that blue orb, could be Neptune in some improbable orbit. I love it.

More To Say - Fri, 11/13/2020 - 11:23

So, since 2016, I've been wrestling with how much to say on the subject of a former reality television personality, and I admit, I didn't want to get involved, then I didn't want to sound alarmist, and of course I really wanted to believe his bid for the White House could not possibly amount to anything. Some people let me know I did say too much, that I was being alarmist, and disrespectful, naive, a buttercup. Those people were wrong, and in some cases they were the fragile buttercups. I should have said as much as I cared to, as much as I dared, because all the while I have been observant, reasoning, judicious, and earnest, and emotional, and the failed businessman has been genuinely deplorable. That anyone ever gave him a chance, heard him out, respected his points of view is a failing that will cost us for a generation, or more. Probably my biggest advantage as a blogger has been my obscurity, because I have not been trolled (much), nor admonished, unfollowed (much). But if anyone asks, if anyone takes issue with my posts, with my IG account and stories, where I post support of Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ, and I celebrate Indigenous identity, accomplishments, where I am Political, then I hope I would be as eloquent and succinct as Gabrielle Blair is in her post, Hey Trump Supporters: I Don't Make Content For You. The thing is, I must add, so much of this is not actually political, but moral, a matter of justice, decency, and I will not tolerate choices that demean, degrade, and discriminate against people.

"At least this time," I declared to Geoff, as we waited for the election results to post,"I won't waste my time offering olive branches, taking the time to listen to, and sympathize, with those 'poor, white, rural, good souls who have suffered at the indifference of East and West Coast elites.' Because that was utter tripe." Seriously. After fours years of witnessing what this administration and its supporters have to offer, it's evident enough: It offers lies, corruption, treason, impeachment, racism, hate, embarrassment, disgrace, and backwards acts against the environment, human rights, and our health. We are no greater, we are not winning, and every single time he committed a new gross deed, I heard from the people we were asked to care for, and they were pleased, thankful because it was all they wanted, to make liberals cry, to be free to say whatever crossed their brains, however low, base, cruel, or hateful. My time and energy, my concern goes to everyone else... to everyone not being racist, not pushing conspiracies, and hate, to the victims of systemic racism, to the disabled, and uninsured, for BIPOC, and for the environment, for anyone trying to make a living, and letting others live. We have lives, and stories, too! It happens that Rebecca Solnit recognized the cognitive dissonance two years ago. Her essay in LitHub, "Whose Story (and Country) Is This," is another good read. It opened my eyes, addressing the feelings I have carried around with reason, and evidence. I think her article pairs nicely with a newer piece, by Mahshid Hager, "An Open Letter to the Racist Half of America." We are America, too. Yes, and I want our stories told, listened to, respected.

I would like to thank Melissa, of Julia's Bookbag for the links to some of these articles, and for many more leads to thoughtful, inspiring, fun, and good blogs, tweets, recipes, etc. And yes, some of it, thankfully is political!

Small Steps Forward - Wed, 11/11/2020 - 11:45
At first, Maria and I carried down a doll house and boxes of our collected and handmade miniatures and dolls, even her original bumbies, the Calico Critter family she carried everywhere in a small, cardboard suitcase. We set all of this up across the mantle, with Cairo's help. Then! Then I realized that playing with the doll house, moving cows, and decorating the small rooms, will be easier if we move it all to the floor, or a low table. I cleared the mantle, again, and suddenly I had an obsession for evergreen branches. I thought of the storm, and the possibility of fallen branches, so I convinced Geoff to join me on my quest, a second bike ride to find any fallen pine greenery.
Cairo was most insistent... no Christmas wreaths before Thanksgiving. He knocked it out of the doll house every time. I was going to say something about cats being so silly, but we were silly too... so amused about him batting the wreath, and replacing it over and over again.

It's been a while since we do anything with this doll house, and occupants. This makes me want to make more dolls, both the doll house scale ones, and smaller ones. And I miss hand sewing, too... embroidery, clothes making, quilting. Maybe part of what I enjoy about miniatures is the small scale allows me to dabble in many interests at once. Kiki and Ruth Bader Ginsburg have been in this curio cabinet for a few years. It's time to refresh their surroundings, too. Gigi looks as though he would like to come down from the fence. Anyway, I took all the minitaures down, and set them on a small side table, next to the fireplace. We can sit in front of the fire, and play with them there. And Geoff and I rode for ten miles, collecting pine cones, and some really nice pine branches that we found fallen from the wind and rain that came through. Alex helped me arrange everything, with our flameless candles, and the bunny lantern. Jennifer's doll quilt has been in the doll house, but I think it looks very pretty with the evergreens and soft lights.
In my usual fashion, I am putting togther a random, and rambling post. I hope someday to look back and recall that I was both joyful about the election results, and anxious; waiting for signs that the losing candidate will concede, that none of his behavior nor threats will amount to actual treason. I hope to look back and sigh with relief that we overcame these trial, that we have become a better nation, a just nation. It is almost surreal seeing our worst fears daily come to pass. It is almost surreal to play, to wash dishes, to think of the holidays, when terrible things are transpiring, and threatening our democracy. It is deeply concerning how many people I know that are actually immersed in spreading Q-onspiracy Evangelism and cultish ideology. Yes, there is every indication that the healing and reasonable engagement we hope to foster, the path forward, away from hate, and delusion, will be rocky, indeed. I'm sad, and scared. I wish there were fewer hardships and challenges facing all of us at once. I would so like to gather with friends, family, neighbors, and cook together, share our skills, make things, hold hands.

To Oregon and Beyond - Mon, 11/09/2020 - 17:59
"Joy does not betray, but sustains activism." ~Joy Solnit
November 7

Sunset pictures from the seat of my bicycle. Pinch me... this is one of the views I am blessed to enjoy when peddling around on one of our six or ten, or twenty mile rides. Eighteen months ago, if you'd told me I would be riding my bike six days a week, for at least six miles, sometimes at night, a few times all the way into town, to the beach, I could not have believed it, or even wanted to imagine it. It still makes me anxious, and even on the twenty mile rides, it's only many many loops on the same quiet streets, away from cars, and loud noises. But twelve or twenty miles is still a lot, even if I'm getting nowhere. Sometimes William rides with us. Usually it's just me and Geoff. He calls me on the phone, a funny gesture for two people constantly at home together, and he asks "Are we riding?" Or I step into his office, and ask, "Are we athletes?" Our street and neighborhood were once very quiet, but these days lots of people are out, and many of them are riding the same make of e-bike. Geoff has a knack for being one step ahead of these things.

Incidently, and I've been meaning to write about this: I am not getting nowhere, because I am riding to Oregon, then Boston. On paper, anyway. So far, I've peddled 1,737 miles of neighborhood loops. From here, to my Mother's home is roughly 1,059 miles. I spend long spells figuring things out, imagining a typical day, wondering how I would manage the more challenging aspects of an actual bicycle ride to the Oregon Coast. For instance, if I rode twenty miles a day it would take me about 53 days to finish the trip. Of course, if riding to Oregon was my one occupation, I like to think I could get in more miles than twenty. Could I ride 40 miles a day, and sustain that pace for 1,059 miles? Then I'd be there in less than a month. Sometimes, in my wild head, I cheat... like, for instance when I imagine riding a bicycle through Los Angeles, (shudder) so I hop on the train instead, and disembark in Ventura. How would I fair in San Francisco? I think if I mapped the route along the coast, on the Coast Highway, it will be more miles, but wouldn't that be wonderful, I mean the sights? Tecnically I've shot past Mom and Dad's house, even if I do take the long way. And I wonder about riding directly from Oregon to Boston, or if I should begin, again, from home. I'm not sure. And I pull up a map. Oh, bliss. It's clear, on first glance: Riding east from Oregon lines me up nicely for stops in Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and that is irresistible. Wow! Not detouring for my Midwest favorites, and it's still a whopping 3,262 miles from the Oregon Coast to Jennifer's house. I am short by about 2,900 miles. Hmmm. Very well. I am not in any hurry. And it's way more compelling to imagine the stops along the way than just racing to the end. What I would love is a map feature that tells me destinations that are a fixed number of miles away from where I am presently. For example, I am in Coos Bay, Oregon and traveling toward Southborough Massachusetts: Where would I be if I rode my bike 637 miles? Incidently, I am never bored.

Where should I stop? What should I see? And should I bring a tent, and all manner of survival gear, or just a credit card, tooth brush and fresh change of clothes? So many variables. So many possibilities. I still think I will keep it more fun, than daring, so that train ride through Los Angeles is not negotiable.

Possibilities - Mon, 11/09/2020 - 10:23
All of my intentions, and all of my efforts, around not being consumed by the election, by anxiously waiting for the results... were helpful, but not foolproof. That was a hard, long, tense wait. Which night was it, Tuesday, Wednesday? when I went to bed steeling myself for four more years? I couldn't stand the possibility, but unconditional hope is a tough mindset for me to muster, let alone maintain. I am cycnical (yet, almost paradoxically naive. Something in me just can't help looking for good.) I think trauma has made me believe that reserving hope and confidence protects me from feeling crushed by disappointment, but my higher thoughts, the ones I am always trying to live by... they have proven that living half-way, fearfully, doubtfully, is a slow crush, and leaves little room to breath, to let joy permeate. Hope was never going to be enough, though.
Stacey Abrams portrait by Dan Winters, Photographic Systems.

To face corruption, injustice, to call out the bad players and hold them accountable, to meet the challenges of this election, it would take hope and work, hope and vigilance, hope and strategy, stamina, support, intellect, and registered voters. Lots and lots of registered, succored voters for a Fair Fight. We have had amazing and dedicated people acting boldly, conscientiousnessly, for the welfare of democracy and voting rights, most notably, Stacey Abrams. I am looking forward to watching the documentary All In: The Fight For Democracy, and learning more about what she and others accomplished, and to be reminded that the problem of voter supression is never solved for good. Going forward, we have work to do to keep the right to vote in the hands of all citizens, especially Black, Indigenous, People of Color, the poor, anyone without influence. "We should not live in a nation where your access to democracy depends on your celebrity, your wealth, or your ZIP code," Abrams said in an interview with NPR.
And so, while I waited, I thought about what more we could do, no matter the outcome of the election. Four years ago, through shock and dismay, we resolved to counter anti-environmentalism with installing solar, and to meet all of the bad faith, racist, petty, and hurtful acts of 45 and his admiministration with expanding community outreach through STEM mentoring, and Making, and increasing our political activism, education, and support nationally, and locally. Those were commitments we took to heart, and stood by. Yes, I resolutely re-affirmed, no matter the outcome, we will stay this course... defending voter rights, being anti-racist, supporting the causes of justice, and especially continuing to share our personal interests in bringing science, technology, engineering, art, math, and music to our communities, to inspire young people, to recognize their innate intelligence and wonder.Maria came into our room, Saturday morning, tears streaming down her cheeks, smiling, and eager to share a song, a musical anthem she has been listening to... We got the power to be loving each other. No matter what happens, we've got the power to do that. And I was overcome with emotions I had no words for, and it happens that someone else had those feelings, too, and he did find the words for them... Thank you, Van Jones. I feel able to look my own daughter in the eye, see her innate intelligence and wonder, and tell her, We got the power to vote out hate, to register voters, to make PPE, to practice science, to be ourselves, and respect others, and to elect a new President and Vice President of the United States who have integrity, who believe in possibilities. Once again, and as always, character counts. Fellow Americans, our President and Vice President elect, are For All Americans. We the people.

While We Wait - Thu, 11/05/2020 - 10:37
I am sending love, and heartfelt thoughts with care, and compassion to everyone waiting, to everyone hoping for the best. It won't be the same for all of us, but we will all be living, working, dreaming, and hoping, together in this country, whatever happens. I am reminding myself to breath, to drink water, to step away from news, and shocking posts, from dread. My friends remind me to do for others, any kindness or gesture to ease burdens, brighten someone's day. Make art, sing aloud, care for a loved one, wave my arms, jump around! I have been sketching and painting a house, a daydream cabin where there is always room for one more, where we make things accesible, where we welcome new ideas, follow the constellations, walk among the trees, and tend a garden, rest, make, play, share.

Waiting - Thu, 11/05/2020 - 10:06

It's Thursday, now, but we've been waiting since 4 years ago. And some people have been waiting 300 years... for justice, to be counted as fully human, fully respected. Four years ago we squared our shoulders, and determined to put solar on our roof, and expand our community outreach through mentoring in STEM, and creating hands-on activities, as well as assertively supporting the campaigns of progressive candidates, especially in Georgia and Wisconsin. Honestly, it has been a brutal four years, personally, nationally, globally. It would seem that life had one more sucker punch in store for us: Evidentally, wild and absurd conspiracies, lies, a pandemic, an impeachment, racism, crimes, more lies, hateful behavior, insighting violence and lawless behavior, rape, child endagerment and seperation from their parents, assault, bumbling, babbling, cruelty, all of these are acceptable actions and behaviors, so long as white women feel safe, so long as he claims to care about unborn babies, or the Bible. None of the hypocrisy, none of the chicanery, double-dealing, or absolutely transparent truth of his irrelgious life dissuades, and this should come as no surprise, by now, but it is terribly disappointing to know that so many millions find hate and corruption acceptable, that for personal gain and satisfaction, millions of people chose to don the red hat, and ask for four more years. However the election turns out, it's clear that we are a nation divided, and it is not over taste in Christmas decor, or how to balance a budget. This is willful hate and blind allegience, against human beings asking for justice, equality, and opportunity to enjoy freedom and pursuit of happiness.

Coretta Scott King said, "Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation." Very well. We are here, and we will stand firmly, Brown, and Black, Indigenous, LGBTQA, disabled, poor, with pre-existing conditions, creative, hard working, neighbors, children, immigrants, and this is our land, these are our bodies, our futures, and we are staying.

"And while you hold on to your hate and co-sign on our suffering and oppression, we are living our best lives! We are the doctors and healers taking care of your loved ones. We are the scientists fighting in the front lines to make sure you and yours get access to a vaccine. We are your children’s teachers, teaching them about this country’s history, teaching them about love, compassion and acceptance. We are the cops, protecting your neighborhoods, the person in front of you and behind you at the grocery store. We are the lawyers fighting for justice, the engineers building the infrastructure of this country. We are the architects who built your home, the farmer who puts food on your table. We are your LGBTQA neighbor down the street. We are sitting next to you at church and praying to the same God," Mahshid Hager.

Halloween Highlights - Tue, 11/03/2020 - 10:42
Bambi dressed dashingly, as her D & D persona, Dragomir. Minnie, the clouds and setting sun, with the rising moon, and all of the night sky mysteries and wonders, were constantly enchanting. Ready for a fun night... Paul, Janece and Amira. We are Over The Garden Wall, with a pirate, too, featuring The Queen of the Clouds, Ms Langtree, The Woodsman, and Wirt! And Bex sang us Ms Langtree's alphabetic lament.The new deck proved its worth, giving us more room to spread out, and by being ideal for standing with one end of the piñata rope. Carol came with Grace and Bella, and treats, too. We are so thankful to see friends. We can't wait to see the days when we can invite EVERYONE, again. William achieved costume success with a clasic closet grab. He pulls it off, very well. The piñata was just sturdy enough for three children to have turns at whacking it open... I call that a success! The sun set, the moon rose, and we ate our dinners, laughed and chatted around the campfires, beneath a dazzling sky. Alex carved a pumpkin, then William, and Max, and finally, Maria. We were awestruck by the Moonbow. Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter were brilliant. We couldn't tear ourselves away from the light and merriment, and so we watched Meet Me In St Louis, mostly for the best Halloween scene we could think of. As always, we conclude... Good things are better shared.

Happy Halloween - Sat, 10/31/2020 - 10:51
Halloween, and the Blue Moon! I just started soaking black beans, so we can make chili for dinner. Alex is going to make cornbread. We have been showing driveway movies all month, and keeping decorations whimsical and light. Tonight our young friends will have a piñata to break open for treats. Maria announced that this month has gone by too quickly, and she intends to continue Halloween celebrating indefinitely. I see no reason to disagree. She doesn't know that I've planned some treats for her, too, and I hope they add something special to her celebration.Our Thistle was getting abused, right on top of her sweet head. Somehen was pecking her. Thankfully, it didn't go too far, and has stopped, but do you see? The few feathers she lost came back white. It brought to mind articles I've been reading about trauma, recovery, healing, and how we shouldn't dismiss the hard effects of pain from physical injury, emotional abuse, even long term or intense stress can leave a mark on our physiology.
Have you considered how you can help yourself, and others, in the days leading up to the election, and after? I've been checking in with a friend, who is a therpapist, and she is suggesting people take Wednesday off, to rest, to turn to supportive family, friends. In the next few days create options for time away from media, from fretting, feeling overwhelmed. Eat well. Sleep. Walk or play, get to some nature, make room for fun, distracting, fun activities, that give your system time to recover... I am pretty sure I will need to re-read this more than once this week.
Thistle, welcome to the gray lady club. We are wearing our warrior feathers.I've spent a lot of time thinking about how to make Halloween fun, especially for young people. Fun, and still safe, comfortable. Safe distancing, and not exchanging things are the two main issues. I was hearing about people passing candy through PVC tubes, and... sorry, that seemed eh. Fortunately for us, in these circumstances, we don't see trick-or-treaters in this neighborhood, so we only need a one time kind of candy distribution. Trick-or-Treating, let's admit, has an element of mischief, and I wanted to keep that intact. Piñatas have an element of mischief, too. And! Piñatas are ideal for stand back safely protocol! Thankfully, William reminded me that we had leftover papier-mâché forms, so I only needed to construct reinforcements, paint, add decorations, fill with candies (poured, untouched, directly from the bag) and affix with a wire for hanging. After my hands got covered in glue and paint, I stopped taking pictures. This project was really fun, and because I didn't want to make it too precious to destroy, it went quickly, easily. Actually, I am already thinking of making another. A turkey, a snowglobe? Spencer, Bex, and Simon are bringing their own stick and blindfold, and bags to collect their treats. We can all stand back, swinging the pumpkin head from a rope, while the kids strike for chocolates! October 29th, and the Blue Moon is already looking large, beautiful. All week we have been watching Harry Potter movies. I carved one pumpkin, mostly for the roasted seeds. I like how the Jack-o-lantern's face turned out. I think we will carve more today. And last night we watched the final movie in the series. I can't believe I never saw the last three movies! Ok. That was the upper limit for scary, and suspenseful for me. Besides, I'm getting too much of the same in the real world. Walk or play, get to some nature, make room for fun, distracting, fun activities, that give your system time to recover. I freely admit, I am a sensitive buttercup. No shame. I am so glad we have plans for the day, and other good things to look forward to.

Almost Halloween - Fri, 10/30/2020 - 14:02
The Blue Moon is almost here, Mars has been bright and glowing, and we have a giant kitty, Minnie Robo Kitty, peering over everything, and everyone, from the roof of our home. It's almost Halloween. It won't be like others, but we have plans! We can't be sidetracked, and certainly not derailed. We have been sharing movie nights, and whimsical decorations outdoors. Tomorrow night will be a Halloween like no other, but that's basically true of every holiday. As this is a night for make-believe and mischief, we are rising to the occasion to devise new and safe ways to play, to be with friends, to celebrate creativity, and amusements. Minnie came along, in the usual fashion, in coversation. We couldn't help imagining something big on top of the house, and we talked about this all summer. Once we settled on a cat, William started sketching. Then he took all of our ideas and suggestions into the computer, where we made a silhouette to project onto wood. He and I traced the cat, then William cut it out with a jigsaw. Projecting is a helpful method... just remember to adjust the image, to get rid of distortion. It can be a bit tricky. It's the same process we used to create our giant Totoro. Here, I have more details about making, and remaking Totoro.Friends know, we've made some elaborate things... competitive robots, robot parade floats, shelters, costumes, theater props. This project was tough. Our roof is steep, Kitty is heavy. We wanted the eyes to move. I could say more about the complications and challenges, but just know: We wanted to throw in the towel a few times. And all along, facing each new technical obstacle, we knew the trickiest part would be the last part... getting it, safely, on the roof. Kitty has 3D printed parts, and laser cut parts, an Arduino that Geoff wired and programmed. The metal frame had to be welded, and made to fit the exact pitch of the roof. Sooner, or later, we employed most of our collective skills sets, and eventually, all seven of us would have a hand in seeing this project to completion.
Making Minnie was challenging. Getting the cat on the roof was harrowing... or, at least, very intense for at least 20 minutes.

Dear Santa, we hope you are well. Please, would you consider giving us scaffolding? We find ourselves on roof tops, as well as building tall or heavy, or odd things, rather often, and something tall and stable, for standing on, could come in handy. Thank you, the BOoM Nerds.

All week I was on the lookout for rain in the forecast. You know, I am always on the lookout for rain in the forecast. But we did not want to put the cat up in rain, or high wind. And we were also trying to figure out how to protect the mechanics and electronics from rain, or even heavy fog. There was never rain in the foreacast. It was all clear. Only, as soon as the last guy wire was tethered, and Minnie was secure, it did start to rain! And the next day we had freak wind gusts that lifted things across the yard, and broke a few things. Thankfully, Minnie has stayed tip-top!

Sorting, Soothing - Thu, 10/29/2020 - 14:48
When we get any rain, I am going to sow seeds, and ahead of that I need to pull up dead plants, and exhausted veggies. Since the summer garden is all but done, I decided the goats couldn't do much harm if I let them roam. It was such nice weather, and the grass around the old pumpkin bed was tall. Tasha and Ada went right to work, like they were at a salad bar. Ada added peppers to her meal. We all ran around for a bit, me, the hens, the goats. Maybe one of the funnest parts of being a farmer is goats and chickens that will come for affection, for treats, that will sit beside me, or run around the yard, following me. It's fun, too, that we can keep goats and chickens, together. They get along, and make each other's lives more interesting. I miss having bunnies in the mix. I love witnessing and supporting the cycle that we have around the garden, the animals, the seasons. Phil sent us a greeting card, with a photograph he took in France, and a fall leaf. I am guessing the leaf is from Wisconsin, not France. Maybe my New Year Resolution should be to send letters, cards, thank you notes, personal and tangible messages through the post. I owe so many replies. I imagine care packages and handwritten letters, that I am earnestly eager to compose, send off. I was better about all of that, once upon a time. But I won't pretend that I've been any good about mail in recent years. Prior to 2018, I would say that I was simply busy, literally had too much to do, and I didn't make letter writing a priority. Now, since the collision, I have the added challenge of... how to even describe this? I can't manage things very well. Everything is harder, as though even the most basic tasks are veiled and just out of reach. It's a relief to be at home, because the world is big and fast moving, I stutter when I am nervous, I forget things, and cannot recall other things, people I've met, things we've done, movies, books, dates. I can do one thing at a time, then nap, as though I put in a full day's work, focused, intense, demanding mental labor. And none of this is anything I want to admit to myself, to examen closely, because I am constantly questioning what I perceive and feel, and experience, doubting my reality, and willing myself to not be that way.

This was going to be a post about comfort, and cats, about rearranging the space on the balcony, where I paint. I was, I admit, going to say something about those pillows, the fluffy ones on the bed, where Cairo is napping. I've been self-conscious about showing them in pictures, about how fluffy and opulent-extravagant they look. Silly, of me to feel embarrassed, squeamish about them... it's because they are fancy and I am a snob about seeming to be fancy. And this, friends, is about as strange and raw a confession as I can make. But I've resolved to share that I brought home the first pillow, a natural fleece, and soft as can be, after casually touching it in a shop, and feeling utter bliss. It was expensive, and that is something else that I cringe about. In December it will be two years since the collision, and those pillows have been one of the most effective resources in my arsenal to ground myself. I cannot be in a car without a pillow, not comfortably, not without the chance of vomiting, bursting into tears, heart racing, sweating. I sleep with them, I hold them, I touch them and find my breath, stop shaking. I have learned I am not alone, that a friend, also recovering being hit in her car, had the same impulse... we talked about bringing pillows on drives, then I told her I keep two in the car, and then added them to my bed, and she thought this was brilliant. It was reassuring, a kind of relief, to talk about it with someone who gets it, and we agreed that healing and comfort comes in unexpected ways, that we would rather embrace these methods than reject them. If I could, I would give fluffy pillows to anyone in the world that needs comfort, that is recovering, or wants to feel safe... I know that it would be a lot of pillows.

I was composing all of the above in my head, and acknowledging that I am tired of nightmares, tired of unfinished collision issues, weary from being in pain, from the limits and challenges I am still trying to cope with. The recurring thoughts about how this whole event has been intrusive, consuming, life changing, tedious, damaging, hard, and long-lasting, were in my head... I was even thinking not a day, or night has gone by, when I haven't had to deal with what she did to me, and then my phone rang. The attorney is (still) helping me get more of the business of closing the case finished. She called for help with facts, details, photographs. Someone couldn't recall who I was, wasn't returning calls. If it wasn't me, if I was outside looking in, I could see it as another task, another memory jogging, more paperwork, lookng at pictures of a mangled van, twisted wheels. Someday, I hope to forget, and not feel trapped, not shake, not panic. I want to see simple tasks for what they are, do them, move on. I want to turn my head, left and right. I want to sleep through the night, or at least recgnize my surroundings when I wake up. I want to be comfortable, feel comfortable. I was only going to mention those pillows, so fluffy and good, but there's more to it than that, and I needed to talk about it... so, there it is.

More October Days and Nights - Wed, 10/28/2020 - 13:57

October 14

We are still figuring out what Halloween will be in a year when we can't gather as we have before, when passing things between people is not ideal. One thing we have settled is bringing decorations and cheer outside, out front, where we can share it as much as possible with neighbors and friends. William brought out Pumpkin Head, the jolly scarecrow he made last year. And my order of remote controlled candle sticks arrived. Besides our lit Jack-o-Lantern friend, and floating candles, we are working on something really big, and keeping it under wraps has not be easy for me. It's kind of purrfect, and hopefully we can get passed the challenges that have been arising. In the meantime, we've created a magical atmosphere, with lights and blithesome touches.

This is the Before shot. All the debating about what to do with the kitchen is settled. We are having Mike paint the walls. Now that I've taken everything down, and prepared for paint, I can see how very badly these walls need paint. We've been here 11 years, and this kitchen hasn't seen fresh paint since it was built, which was at least 10 years before we moved in. Anyway, this relieves my consumer guilt, and I no longer feel indulgent and decadent. My mood is more well, it's about flippin' time!

We moved some kitchen operations outside, so we could still eat, and maintain social distancing. Mike masked up and stayed in the sealed off kitchen, and we kept outside, or out of the way of the kitchen and painting. Only one disaster ensued: We forgot to turn off the sprinklers. Maria and I were seated at the picnic table, surveying our clever set up, when the automatic sprinklers went full blast, super soaking us and our temporary kitchen. Oh, and Geoff was away, and the on/off for the app is on his phone. We laughed a lot about this.

It took me much longer to get the kitchen ready for painting than it took Mike to paint it! Rather than experiment with colors we settled on two things... 1. Something complimentary to the red of the cupboards, so blue. 2. We know and love Arrowhead Blue, just like the outside of the house. It's a big change from palest green, which is just what I needed. And we love it. It's surprising, but we find it both energizing and soothing. And we love how boldly it frames art, and furnishings. William and I have been diligently, mindfully, putting things back on the walls. I always laugh at myself for thinking that I need to record how everything was before, believing I will do things just as they were. We've changed many things, though, and that's been good, too.

October 15

Have I mentioned the coffee table book William and I are going to have published? It will be entirely comprised of photographs of Feynman asleep on chairs. In chairs. He sleeps in them, sunk in, melded, luxuriant, blissful. The Physics of Sleep, by RP Feynman Cat, A study of the feline in recline.

It's been hotter than summer. I planted the annuals, in the one section of the new garden where I am giving way to flowers and seasonal color. The California native plants I will put in the ground as soon as the heatwave breaks. I brought home manzanita, sage, and ceanothus. I have to own, it makes me feel virtuous and pleased as can be to have this chance... for one thing, I love manzanita, sage, and ceanothus. Those three plants bring me to the local foothills and coastal ranges of California. If I could add a redwood, I would. And if I am successful, if they take to their new home, then we can hope to see more birds, and the plants won't need irrigation, nor fussing over. I love the red bark of manzanita, the tiny bell flowers. I love the smell of sage, its properties and sentiment, the memories it recalls. And ceanothus, in bloom, is a balm for all the senses, and heart. Happily, the nursery was well stocked in annuals and native plants. And now we have pansies, snapdragons, scabiosa, and salvia all tucked in and looking pretty.

October screenings have included, Arsenic and Old Lace, Over the Garden Wall, The Wizard of Oz, and True Stories.
Tia Thalia's paintings made the cut, of course, and are back on the walls. Her still life is always especially appropriate this time of year, with a traditional pan de muertos, and the calénduas.
Bambi, Alex, Max, and Maria, October 17.
It hasn't been too difficult for us to stay home, and possibly we have taken it a bit too much to heart. We finally determined to visit a beach, and couldn't. Our beaches are packed! Close to home it was overcast, even foggy, and yet I have never seen the beaches as full as they were this day. We were astonished. Geoff just kept moving south, until we were all the way to the Glider Port, and even there we had to go clear to the north end of the unpaved lots before we could find space to park. Here we got above the low clouds and fog, we could see clear to La Jolla Cove, over the Scripps pier. Hang gliders were drfting leisurely in the sky. Maybe on a weekday, in the morning, we might have better luck getting on a beach, to the shore. We'll try, again.
We are fortunate to feel close to nature, and open spaces, close to home.

October Nights and Days - Tue, 10/27/2020 - 12:29

Normally I go to great pains to get every photograph in order, by date. These are a jumble. But the compulsion is strong, for order, so... I will say that these are days and nights from early October, Bambi's birthday, up until the 9th or 10th. It's hard to keep it straight. I am learning an entirely new way of posting photos, which is both more difficult, but also easy. Different is not always easy, even if it might turn out for the better. And! Please, recall that the updated Blogger does not help me with autocorrect. I'm sorry. I feel as though I am posting about small things, quibbling with myself. Maybe it's only small things I can manage to notice. Big things are too plentiful, too consequential. Does everyone, anyone, feel thin, fatigued?

Here are many moments to remind me that we have danced by moonlight, lit fires, put out fires, voted, celebrated, cleaned, and made messes. The hens are laying rainbows, the cats are making peace. We have paints, and threads, hammers, seeds, and pots to cook in. Here are good things, and hopes. Next year, I hope to read this post and almost cringe... cringe to recall how scared and sad I felt about the state of the world, politics, a pandemic, apathy, malice. I hope I can laugh, and say, Wasn't I silly to worry? Weren't we happy, and safe, and now we are safe, and happy, and sharing more, caring more? Things are not so bad as we feared.
October 13, when the Moon danced with Venus, before the sun rose.

Deck and Wall - Sun, 10/25/2020 - 11:27

Maybe this is the post where I finally share the whole project, the deck and wall, and more. "More" is the kitchen. I have been staring at this kitchen a lot this year, and it was with sheepish guilt that I finally railed: "Gah! I can't take it anymore! I do not want to look at this kitchen any more!" It began with the compulsion to tear it all out, to gut it. And, objectively, it's a nice kitchen, but COVID madness took hold and something had to be done. We talked about painting the cabinets. We talked about replacing the counters. We talked about building a wizard tower, and digging a basement. We talked about turning the RV into a pontoon, towing our cars and our friends' cars, and landing on New Zealand's shores. So, while Mike plugged away at building the retaining wall, adding stairs, surveying the slope, and framing for a deck... inside I was thinking of options, quick fixes to help me make peace with cooking and cleaning every single day in this same, lovely, room.

The footings for the deck, by the way, are standing on the slope, and the weight of the deck is what we are counting on to hold it in place. The reasoning for this choice was to minimize digging and cutting the roots of the Torrey Pines. The tall posts will serve two purposes... 1. to string lights from, and 2. to hold copper pipes, which will further strengthen the framing and keep it from pulling into itself. We put in a French drain at the back of the wall, installed electric boxes, and added a hose bib. We also capped the irrigation. By watering the non-native plants around the trees, we have been encouraging the trees to grow surface roots, which weaken the trees. We will plant native plants that grow with our rainfall, and the Torrey Pines will root deeper... I say this with the confidence of a researcher, and the hope that evidence and reason prove accurate in practice! Fingers crossed.

I think all technical subjects should be presented with pictures of cats. Here is Cairo. He's trying to look casual, and disinterested, because he's actually plotting his dash out the front door. The more casual and indifferent he looks, the more likely he is to get out.

Ada and Tasha like to escape, too, but their tactics are open, forthright... go, move, push. And if that doesn't work, they butt heads and change the subject.

Diana, and Charles brought Akira for a movie night. We almost, almost, dismantled and tossed that screen. It was made for outdoors, then came inside for many years, and it got kind of junky, but we decided to save it in the attic, and thank goodness we did. We have had more movie nights since March, then in the last 11 years of hosting movie nights. It's been 19! Nineteen socially distanced, bring your own chairs and snacks, Bird House Driveway Theater events! We have fire rings, and we have had singalongs. We've screened talent shows and personalized videos. And we get to laugh and chat with friends. Even in the dark, ten or more feet apart... we have come to love and appreciate every single gathering. We love our friends. We love having a means to be togther, safely, happily.

The stairs might be my favorite part. I love the entire project. It's practically complete, now, so I can safely say, I am familiar with all of its features, and I love them! But the stairs look so cool! Also, have I mentioned it's two decks we designed? I will give credit to Armand for this addition. He was the one that pointed out that terracing would add to the theater experience, creating balcony seating. That was an irresistible suggestion, and Mike constructed this mini-deck above the wall. It's just the right size for a family to sit together for a movie night.

On Instagram I subjected everyone to lots of fall leaf pictures, and I also shared how every picture was from carefully framed views of this one tree that for the first time ever was being truly beautiful. But the framing was critical, because the background includes power poles, and phone lines, a chain-link fence, very dirty cars, a construction heap and mulch pile, an open trench! And then! Then the whole tree went dry and brown in the heat wave we had. 90 degrees F, in October. Ugh. Poor tree. Poor us. Poor planet.

All mention of climate change and global warming should include pictures of cats and fruit from the garden. Here is Feynman, and a pomegranate... which happens to be a low water fruit tree, that just this year is giving us our first delicious fruit. And Feynman, well, he's demonstrating how to self-care during a pandemic. Inhale. Exhale. Nap. Repeat.

Almost to completion... so close! I am going outside to take some more pictures. Oh! And the kitchen. I decided painting the cabinets was a bit rash, and so we are painting the walls. And on closer inspection, my impulse isn't indulgent or extravagant... but long overdue!