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Home and travel, with chickens, robots, cats, and goats, gardens, and gears, sewing, inventing, tinkering, making. Blogging since 2002. Natalie, the Chickenblogger
Updated: 3 hours 28 min ago

Good Things and Courage

Sat, 04/17/2021 - 15:19
Crying does not indicate that you are weak. Since birth, it has always been a sign that you are alive. ~Charlotte Bronte dysania (n.) the state of finding it hard to get out of bed. The temptation is to curl up with these two, which is fine, for awhile. Since the impulse is stronger, like I could stay there for days, I have decided to instead look at pretty pictures of good things and remind myself of good words, and other acts of courage. Maria just finished up the third quarter of junior year, and as she put it, she has "only five quarters of high school left." I knew it would go by fast, but this is ridiculous! She is still happy, learning at home. It's fortunate that she is comfortable, doing well. We are aware that it's not been as easy for others. The other day she came down after school, exclaiming that she was super hungry, that she'd missed lunch. Maria, I asked her, How in the heck do you miss lunch, when you are just upstairs from the kitchen? She laughed, Cairo sat on my lap during second period and he never got up! Everyone knows a sleeping pet must never be disturbed, ever! Geoff has begun the down-shift from crunchmode crazy hours at work, and he's turning his time and energy to more local issues, like spring cleaning, and house projects. He's got me moving and shaking, too. Actually, everyone has been moving, purging, re-thinking, re-organizing. William started painting Maria's room, and the cool changes he started in his own room are almost finished. I think he could charge admission to his museum worthy, artifact curated abode. Alex and Bambi are reconfiguring everything in their room, and Max keeps making improvements on his space. Why a picture of yarn? you might be wondering. Well, I found six skeins of this lovely stuff, when I tidied our bedroom, and I want the record to show that I kept on tidying, even though I wanted to drop everything and crochet a nice, long wrap. I have just the pattern in mind. I require gentle applause and recognition for sticking to the spring cleaning plan.
Oh. Do you know what I did? I got real serious about cleaning the entire oven-stove-hood, and I was putting all of my elbow grease and grit into my mission! Scrub! Scour! Scrub, and don't tell anyone, but I cleaned some of the labels clear off! It's not good. I know. What can I do? Black lettering on stainless steal, and whatever it said, is clean gone. Don't you agree that lettering on a steel appliance ought to adhere well enough to take some deep cleaning? oh dear.

"A friend is one who overlooks your broken fence and admires the flowers in your garden." I have this saved on my phone, but I don't know who wrote it.

I, myself, am entirely made of flaws, stitched together with good intentions. ~Augusten Burroughs

There is no beauty without some strangeness. ~Edgar Allen Poe

We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it. ~Mary Oliver

I want to think again of dangerous and noble things. I want to be light and frolicsome. I want to be improbable, beautiful, and afraid of nothing, as though I had wings. ~Mary Oliver

Letting Go, Holding On

Sat, 04/17/2021 - 11:44

Nearly there, dare I say? I signed a waiver yesterday, and reconfirmed with a D.A., I am not compelled to testify, in any more hearings, against the drunkladydriver. When my attorney, I hear her smiling, even over the phone, says "Now you can put this behind you," and other platitudes, I wince, I want to scream. I thought so, too... that there would be a day when the papers would all be signed, when my head, thoughts, words, and voice would be clear, accessible, when nighmares and panic would be something that used to happen, or that they would be infrequent enough to feel incidental. I imagined that determination, will, and effort would heal me, and put me in control of pain, of fear, of limitations. That, at the very least, I would feel a release, that it would all feel behind me. Nearly there? So many people tried to assure me that it will be over, soon, that restitution will help, told me that I am lucky to be alive, that I don't look injured... I want to be strong and brave, to heal well, and get over it, to be vindicated (Vindicated from what? The last two years and all of the subpeonas, hearings, reporting, even defending myself has played tricks on me, it's like a multi-faceted gas-lighting, so that now, it's as though I am responsible, it's my choice to make it stop, if only I would surrender, sign away any say, quit standing up for myself. Get over it!) It was always going to come down to me to move forward, to be well, but the system... insurance companies, lawyers, courts, the sheriff, the billing companies, they have a system, and they dangle a carrot and call it "Justice & Restitution," then they compel a person to participate, to figure it all out as they go, to be subjected to scrutiny and inspection, to meet law enforcement at the door, be followed home by the defense lawyer, to be cross-examined, to being manipulated, misled, and it becomes clear, little by little, that the only way out, is to let go. Let go of the outcome, let go of ideas about what justice and healing and compensation and recovery could have been or should have been, and then figure out what the new normal is going to be.

Life was never going to leave me unscathed, and something particularly awful happened, and the journey to the end of it was prolonged, protracted, and possibly as traumatic as the collision that started it all, but there's nothing that will make it right, or fair, or undo any of it. So. Perhaps on Monday, or some day in May, I will feel there, a little more over it than today, and I will not think of what happened, or why I cannot turn my head as I used to, maybe I won't want to stay home, stay quiet. Maybe I will go through my day, enjoying my blessings, and not attribute them to being "lucky to be alive" after a drunk drove into me, but to my own choices, efforts, ideas, loved ones, so that I feel my life is my own, and not entangled with someone else's actions. It's frustrating to know what would be ideal and good, yet constantly struggling to live in that knowledge, to act on those ideals. I can say this, though, when I stop getting calls, and emails, when I can be assured that no one will ask me testify, nor promise me "compensation," but withdraw it, add stipulations, deny the offer ever was, it will come down to me, and I will finally have a chance to get over it, as best I can, however I can.

Ok. That's done. I didn't want to have post after post about the collision, then skip the part where it all gets wrapped up. Almost there, I think. And in its own way, crummy as it has been there is good in this.

Sorry. One more thing, and this is... hard. Grace Hopper is back with the feed store, because she is ill, and was even when I brought her home. I was assured that she only needed a little time and a specific regimen, which I followed faithfully, happily, to get her on course. Caring for her was a welcome distraction from thinking about the disappointing, and drawn out collision garbage. When she got worse I asked them for help and they asked me to bring her in, then apologized, because the person that let me buy her should not have done that, and they needed to take her back, get the breeder to look at her, "policy, sorry, it's for her sake, how it should have been done." I was emotional and concerned and did whatever was asked, and to make a short story long... she is with the feedstore, being cared for, and it's a waiting game. They say I will be notified and have her returned if it's possible, but no promises, no assurances, nothing is guaranteed. Boy, don't I know it? Yeah, it's been a crummy, sad, hard week. Please give best thoughts for Grace Hopper. Please say a prayer with me that she will be back here, making us laugh, being her sweet sweet self, again.

One Morning in April

Wed, 04/14/2021 - 10:14

It's day 5 with our Grace Hopper, and I am feeling like we have a routine. If baby goats are anything like my baby-babies were, then I am sure the entire idea of having a routine will be dismantled by the end of the day, simply because I imagine I am getting a handle on all of this! Even though I've become a morning sloth since the start of lockdown, moving as slowly as slothly possible to start my day, I have been getting to Grace with a warm bottle everyone morning at 6:30 am. Okay, today it was more like 6:50. She loves her bottle and leans into me, eagerly draining her breakfast. The chickens look on curiously, Ada and Tasha watch from the furthest distance possible, aghast. I wipe the foamy remnants from her pink lips (I thought, We could name her "Starbuck," because she's like a barista, expertly whipping up milk into a froth!") Then, she and I head out of the enclosure, and explore all of our yard, front and back, 'round and 'round. We hop, jump, run, explore and make discoveries. I water, pull weeds, put things away, talk to her, watch her, and take pictures. Keeping up with a baby goat, even encouraging her to run around by my example, is invigorating, and stimulating, and all of those positive expressions around activity, and it's tiring, too. I am going to bed ready to recover! The first morning session goes for about an hour, and then I do it again around 10 am, then noon, we have another visit and playtime about 3, then 5, and a last romp and bottle around 7:30!

Yesterday it rained. That's news. We are so far behind for decent rainfall, and the light showers, though not forecast, were very welcome. Even today, it seems like it could rain, again. I took lots of pictures, and I want to share them... almost all of them. It's been a good morning, an April morning, and I want to remember this day.
This little flower... it's one in a million! I scattered and tended a huge container of wildflower seeds, and so far this is all we have to show for it! If anyone can identify it, I'd be thankful. It's very pretty. Our scrappy deciduous tree, the one that looked uncharacteristically beautiful last October, is leafing out, and I am reminded of the poem... Nothing Gold Can Stay, by Robert Frost: "Nature's first green is gold."One Torrey Pine, white sage, and the rising sun casting a warm glow on everything. I love our old apricot tree, the lichen, even the hope, that is usually dashed, that we will get one more big harvest of delicious apricots. Every year but one, I tell her, It's ok. You've done your best. She really is a good tree. Purple, violet, indigo, lavender... I am delighted to find all of these shades of lilac and plum, and all of the synonyms for purple! And now, a visit with the honeybees, for GretchenJoanna, whose borage is starting to bloom. She is waiting for the honeybees to arrive, and asked if we've seen bees, yet. Our climate, near the coast, in Southern California, is about as mild as can be, and we are fortunate to have honeybees year-round. I didn't notice, until I saw the pictures on my computer, how tattered this one bee's wings are. Poor fellow. Still, he seemed capable and busy, and, I hope, happy in the borage and nasturtium. If these links work for you, GretchenJoanna, you can watch the bees visiting our borage. And a few weeks ago, I revived a weary little bee that was resting on a window screen, with a drop of honey water. Good morning, friends. I am sending wishes your way for invigorating activities, good rest, honeybees, and time to enjoy all that you love.

Some Happiness

Tue, 04/13/2021 - 09:10
The flower, I admit, is a ruse to lure you in, before I fill this post with pictures of Grace Hopper, our Chapulín! I might have some pictures of a cat, probably more garden pictures, but the rest will be goat, goat, goat! I am a goatherd, an idealized or romanticized rustic maiden in pastoral literature... I could not resist that definition when I looked up "shepherdess." It fits me to a tittle... I am a shepherdess, and not a lonely goatherd. Seeing her in the ivy, I caught an earworm and sang under my breath, all day... Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey. A kiddley divey too, wouldn't you?
Speaking of romanticized and pastoral, Janece noted that our backyard is a vision of spring. A mama bird built her sparrow nest over the door to the backyard, and the mama bunny that lives by the garden bed is as busy as ever, but she always stops to visit. The bluebirds are finely feathered, and flirting. The quail are calling, so are the owls. An ideal, true spring!

My Mommy sent me a gift this week. This patchwork quilt, which has been a dear favorite of mine for many years, and is in my mother's memory since her childhood, when they lived on East First Street, in Los Angeles. She's pretty sure the women of the church made it, using collected scraps. It makes me think of my Grandmother, Eunice, and of a lifetime of hearing my Mom's stories about East LA, Roosevelt High School, the LA River, and trains, the fountain on Olvera Street, Nena, her friend downstairs, walking to the library, the dishes Uncle Steve brought home from Korea. It makes me feel in touch with so much that is sentimental, and I get lost in the prints, imagining was this a dress, a man's shirt? Cairo sensed something good, too, and was immediately drawn to the soft spot. He's hardly left it since I opened it on my bed. It's a perfect light weight for spring, not that he's sharing.

Mother Nature is making it abundantly clear: If I ever want to be a commercial farmer, oregano should be my crop, and Rosemary. Rosemary and oregano thrive here, with very little effort on my part. The calendula came back, but it's not as widespread as it was last year. No rain is to blame for fewer nasturium, and spoon-tomatoes, as well. The borage is thriving, so I assume it's a little more drought tolerant, which is why I am glad I decided to add more native plants to our front yard. The sages, manzanita, and ceanothus are doing well.

If you are wondering, neither Ada, nor Tasha, have budged on their stubborn refusal to accept Grace. Old goats! They couldn't be more cliché! And I, I suppose, could not have been more naive. I didn't think they'd bond immediately, but, yeah... I vividly imagined romanticized and pastoral scenes with Tasha and Ada frolicking merrily with the little one, bringing Grace into the fold, nuzzling her affectionately, and the three of them curled up, beneath a starry night, sleeping soundly, like loving sisters. Well, at least I can enjoy the whimsy and the sweet temperment of our Grasshopper, our funny Chapulín! We weeded, and planted. We dead-headed flowers, watered. We hopped up steps, and leapt from rocks. We walked all around the garden, front to back, and back, again. We tidied spots, and did some rearranging. She's good company, I think.
Grandma Eunice's shepherdess, gazing at me from the sweetpeas, and our peach tree in bloom. I have a new found appreciation for this month of April. Has April always been a pretty month? I cannot say, but this time, this year... it's lovely, and I am glad to be taking notice, and enjoying it. Baby goats, flowerbeds, and heirloom quilts are gifts, real treasures that I appreciate tremendously. I cannot always be in a romantic frame of mind though, and I want to say that the trial in Minneapolis of the murderous police officer, the murder of Daunte Wright, attacks on the Asian communities, the daily evidence that racism, gun violence, hate, cruelty, and indifference, are truly woven into the fabric of this country... these truths devestate me. I turn to my garden, to making and sharing, to celebrating any joy and beauty I can find, in hopes of spreading love, inspiring compassion, and keeping my own fears and grief in check. Good things are better shared, and this must include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, for all people.

In Answer to A Question

Mon, 04/12/2021 - 08:38
There's been a question that, over nine years, has increasingly troubled me. What would we do if one of our goats dies before the other, and the one left behind had no companion? It's a rather inevitable thing, sadly. One day, we will find ourselves with a single, lonely goat, and lately this question felt too urgent to ignore, so Geoff and I did some research, and I even consulted Teresa Kasner, blogging friend and former dairy goat farmer. The consensus... add young goats to the herd. And we could see that this would be an ideal year to do just that, since even in early February it was obvious the Stay Home Season would be going on for at least another six months. From the time we determined to get at least one bottle baby, small breed girl goat, I began making regular calls to the feed store... Hello, it's me again, have any bottle babies come in? Finally, we heard a promising reply, We have a mini-Toggenburg. She's a bottle baby. William joined me for an early drive to the feedstore, to meet this baby. She is a Nigerian dwarf and Toggenburg mix, born February 20th. The hope is she will be a similiar height to Ada and Tasha, and that they will be the best of friends, a goat trio! And yes, I was probably overly, naively, optimistic about goat relations! And if you are thinking... won't they have a similar issue in a few years, when possibly two goats have passed on, and they still get stuck with one lonely goat? Answer: I will think about that tomorrow. Now, can we talk about how cute she is?? She is very cute, we all think so. Unfortunately, her intended roommates do not agree, and have literally no interest, nor mild curiosity, in this usurper! The looks, the body language, the expressions of almost revulsion, from both of our ladies has been tragic, and hilarious. I made a Reel, to announce our new kid on the farm, and the real story is the clear disappointment on Ada and Tasha's faces. In the meantime, and I mean for two days, and this morning, we have been loving this new baby. And doing our level best to give Tasha and Ada all the time and space they need to adjust themselves and come around! She falls asleep in our arms! It's the sweetest thing! I laugh imagining the habits I am forming, and what this will mean when she weighs 70 pounds! Her crate is all set up in the goat pen. I wish she weren't alone, but the nights are not cold, and I like to think the time near the other animals will help with everyone getting comfortable around each other. She's very easy going about her time in there, even overnight. And she was very excited about her 6:30 am bottle the next day. When I shared the pictures of Ada and Tasha, someone had a perfect caption, "Can you believe this... ?" Which is exactly the question Ada must be asking Tasha, as they following the new kid's every move. And the new kid? She seems mostly oblivious to the stir she is causing. Even the chickens are a bit flummoxed. Seeing her alongside the hens gives us a better idea of her size, which obviously is small.Introducing the new kid, Grace Hopper. Aka Grasshopper. She's already had visitors... happily, it's not hard to host an outdoor, socially distant, goat visit! Paul was living with us when the first kids arrived, 9 years ago, and Janece and Amira only got to enjoy it over Skype. This is way more fun to share with everyone. I was looking through some old posts... so much has changed since we first brought home goats! One thing I do remember, it goes fast, and all of this baby goat fun is fleeting. I am going to enjoy this time for all it's worth! The routine is bottle, nap, frolic, repeat. It's a good life, and last night, to my astonishment and relief, we had a tiny breakthrough... tiny, and promising. While Maria fed Grace, Tasha made her first approach and came closer than ever before, even looking kindly on the new kid.

This Week

Fri, 04/09/2021 - 11:45

This flowerbed makes me extremely happy. Everything has been growing well in there, and it's in a welcoming spot, where I can see them daily, and raised enough to bring them even more to my attention, and the colors, and the variety... so much about them has been exceptional. I don't know what else, but something. Something is happening here, that makes me extra appreciative and admiring. I am glad we designed this space and could have it built. I am glad we live near nurseries, where it's practically like spring year-round. I am glad my Mother, and hers', passed along their love of flowers, of growing them, and cherishing them.

I am not surprised that it is Friday. All day yesterday I was thinking it was Friday. I am surprised that I haven't posted since Saturday, though. It makes me wonder what I have been up to this week. The worst, no doubt, was enduring more chapters of A Drunk Drove Into Your Life, the nauseatingly long saga, with unreal plot twists, a cast of dubious characters, and too many villians, a victim desperate to be cut from the whole production, and tedious details that maddingly never seem to move the story forward.

Ok. Moving forward... as best I can. Flowers. Goat walks. Making plans. Making dinners. Making messes. Cleaning messes. Embroidery. Riding my bicycle. Sketching. Coutning chickens. Staring blankly into the middle distance. Geez, I think this is may be the same week I had last week! How about you?
Maria was standing beside me, and what I saw in her pocket made me think of Jeff Goldblum, and his Knot Store...

Max and I were the cooks on Easter. And later we built some fires and friends came over to visit in the driveway. You know, I was looking forward to writing this post, but I am keenly aware that I am loosing orbit here. Yesterday I got my second vaccination against COVID. As I have documented so much of this strange year, it's only fitting to share this happy chapter. Geoff is out getting his shot, now. Anyway, it's just possible that this relaxing activity of blogging might be something to tackle later. My arm is sore, for sure, but I am also starting to feel heavy, drowsy, like a nap could be even more relaxing than sitting comfortably at my desk tapping out deep thoughts and other musings. I am just going to put up a few more pictures, because that seems sensible, even though I am aware that I am almost tipsy with nap readiness, and it's doubtful I know what "sensible" is.

No. No, on second thought: Sleep is winning...

Good Memories & Other Welcome Company

Sat, 04/03/2021 - 10:59
My post from yesterday was written in haste, and finished abruptly. Paul and Janece arrived. I could hear them from my office, which faces the front of the house. When the first lockdown, and our own concerns, relaxed, we added something we call Brekkie Club to our social calendar. Paul picks up burritos, and we hang out in the driveway, sharing breakfast, chatting. We've done this, maybe, once a month. A visit can go for hours, because the company is so nice. It gets so the chance to enjoy laughing and sharing becomes vital. Sometimes we build a fire, because it's almost too cold to be outside, and some mornings we move our chairs around, to get out of the sun and glare. Mostly though, I just feel thankful for our moderate weather, which makes social distancing possible at all. We haven't felt as stuck as people living alone, or in an apartment building, we haven't been vexed by weather, or limited space. Between Brekkie Club, movie nights, and our own in-house social group, the year has been far better than it might have been. Now so many are getting vaccinated, and we have new things to sort about engaging, traveling, being social, and I feel almost as uncertain, concerned, hesitant, as I was a year ago. I am comfortable being patient about all of it, especially if we can count on Brekkie Club, or having company around fire rings, laughing and talking, a movie, or games. As I was looking through my phone, wondering if there's anything worth sharing, I thought about how almost everything I've shared from the last year has been around our house. There have been lots of chickens, cats, goats, flowers, meals, and whatever craft I am immersed in. Right now, it's drawing cats, and adding embroidery to my apron. Out of curiosity I decided to look back... one year, then to 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016. What have we been up to, in one glimpse, at this time of year? April 4, 2020. These are the daffodils, Carol shared from her garden. At this point the novelty of lockdown was wearing thin, and the isolation was leaving a surreal mark on me. I remember her gift was thrilling, and really opened my heart and actions around spring, Easter, making our home ready for a holiday. Bambi was finishing her quarantine in our RV, and we began making happy plans to celebrate bringing her into our home. And we had the new chicks! So much was unknown, and strange, and everything good felt poignant, treasured. April 6, 2019. This was a busy and exciting spring, when Mike came and made all sorts of necessary, and fun, improvements on our home. I even got to make the odd little balcony a favorite new spot in our home, by painting the walls and ceiling, and adding things, like drift wood climbing branches for the cats. Chango loved the sunny space, and with the added screens we had no worries about cats getting out, nor mosquitos getting in. I've really moved in, since then! Now I have a spare bed in there, and it's where I go to work on painting, sketching, and star-gazing. It's as much a favorite spot as ever. March 31, 2018. The BIG Banana Adventure, before Grant moved to Japan! I took a picture of Grant, Paul, Geoff and William, before they embarked, but I never posted about what happened, what they saw, and enjoyed. It definitely included the International Banana Museum, and other desert wonders. April 3, 2017. Here is a memory that feels like a long long time ago, when Maria and I shared another train adventure, and brought Geoff along with us! We went all the way to Portland, Oregon. And on the way back we stopped and saw family in Albany. I have such a crush on Portland. I can't even write anything, because I am daydreaming about walking all day, about amazing flower gardens in every yard, and feeling eager to go out everyday and take in all the sights we could manage. I always feel like every moment is full, vivid, when I am in that city, and sharing it only improves the experience. One more! March 27, 2016. The Young Folks. "Take joy, I wrote 5 years ago, "there is so much of it at hand." What a fine reminder. These young folks, our friends, our family, our opportunities, our ideas, plans, hopes, are wonderful sources of joy. I am so happy to find myself in good, and welcome company.

Ribbons & Flowers

Fri, 04/02/2021 - 08:53
It's taking all of my will (which evidently is insufficient) to not open this post with: Wow! It's already Friday and April! Some days it feels like it could still be March... March 2020. But things are not all together unchanged. I see Maria's hair is longer, again, since I cut it last May. Long enough to play with, trying the tutorial where she uses ribbon to make two braids wrap together. No hair ties or rubber bands! She did the first try all on her own, with a narrow ribbon, then I tried with this wider, grosgrain ribbon. If her hair grows this much in less than a year, I think this pretty style will be even more successful by mid-summer. By the way, to day is her last day of school before she has a week of spring break. Not much is planned, I am sorry to say, but William is going to help her paint her room. And they might trade beds. There has been a lot of shuffling and rearranging, lately. I remarked about the house looking like five families are moving out, and five other families are moving in, all at once... and why? Because I am "cleaning!" Incidentally, I am not going to bother with paragraphs. This post is coming in fast and random, chaotic... like my thoughts! Now, let's talk about rununculus, before I head outside to meet Paul and Janece for a driveway visit: The rununculus I brought home are making me very happy, and Feynman cat is fascinated by them, too. There are flower fields in our part of the county where they grow, and I think I'd begun to take them for granted, hadn't bought any in many years. Well! What I was missing! They are an excellent warm up for peony season, I think. All of those sumptuous petals, the vibrancy of the colors, the daily evolvement as they open. Hold up! I think we have company!

A Little More Prettiness

Tue, 03/30/2021 - 10:34
When I started posting yesterday, there were all kinds of prettiness I wanted to share, but I ran out of time, before I was needed elsewhere. So, I am just popping in, again, to share a little more, and then, don't let me forget to make a to-do list. In the morning light, I can feel almost capable, and level headed about all the things that need doing, but in the wee hours I wake up in a panic! Objectively, rationally, I know that I have too much to do, owing mostly to the fact that under pressure, in trauma, I close my eyes and withdraw... and there's been a lot of that in the last, oh, say four years? Geoff thinks we might open our home again, have company, someday, soon, and the implication is that we might want to tidy up, or we could leave our home, go places, and that would require planning and organizing, too. Either way, it's becoming clear, that some people think that staying home forever, eyes closed, is not an option. It's rather a shame, because I have become very very comfortable in this cocoon. (Well... look at that. I note that I used "cocoon" for my metaphor, and it's staring at me, like a firm friend, as if to say, It is time for your metamorphosis. I am aware, my cocoon is not entirely figurative, you see, but is teetering on literal. I feel myself wriggling, uncomfortably confronting hard truths, growth, resistance.) Just now, anxiously, I'd like to see more of those pretty things, or close my eyes. Ruth spent an afternoon visiting us. The weather was just right for driveway company. It was warm, but not too warm. Cool, but not too cool. We practiced all of the social distancing protocol that is routine by now. It's odd what we are accustomed to, that seemed like a hardship a year ago. Even sitting far apart, not hugging, a driveway visit is far better than a Zoom call, and we even shared lunch. I had a gift I have been waiting to share with Ruth, a little ratty brooch. Geoff had some down time from work, and was free to join the company, the young folks came out. For a time I did a little more stitching on the apron. We talked about travel, about places we might like to visit. We talked about farm houses in Wisconsin, how they tempt us. We talked about tea towels, house projects, school progress, termites, and fences. We moved into the shade, then back into the sun. Look at what I found! After blogging about daffodils, about spring and bulbs, about never planning... and always feeling unprepared, I went to Trader Joes and right in the entrance were potted daffodils, the small ones, like I saw on our bike ride! I felt so lucky, like fate had a gift for me, and I could be part of the spring celebration, after all. And I grabbed some rununculus, too, because why not? If I had been at the market before Ruth's visit, I would have bought her bunches of flowers, probably the tulips I saw. The tulips were tightly shut, which is how I like them, so I can enjoy the whole ride, as they open up. Thinking on this, I'd love to go around all day delivering flowers to everyone I love. It would take a very long day... to get all over California, up to Oregon, over to Wisconsin, then Massachusetts, I'd stop in Georgia, pop down to Florida, then see everyone in Mexico. I'd think of everyone's favorites, and celebrate spring with them. Ruth never comes empty-handed. She had a birthday gift for William, and a spring dish towel for our Bird House... it's covered in darling beetles. Ruth and I are in a Tea Towel Club, and so is Jennifer... you can be in our club, if you love tea towels. Ruth also brought me something special. It's from a shop in Kealakekua. It is precious! For one thing, she's kept it all these years, and thought of me, wants me to have it now. And it reminds me of flowers my Grandmother Eunice embroidered! And the print, with the cottage, and those blues and greens, the old fabric... all so lovely. Is it linen? Was this a kit? Who might know something about these? I have embroidered over fabric I painted. I painted acrylic on muslin. It's an effect I like very much. But I've never seen a sample like this. I noticed there are printed words on the frayed edge. I have to look at the back of embroidered pieces! I have to. I love it almost as much, sometimes more, than the part we are meant to see. It's the rest of the story, the how it was made part, and it gives you a glimpse of the work, of the time and thought, even the struggles, or sometimes the remarkable grace. I love it. The printed words... I can make out The ____ House. The middle word looks like it could begin with an S. Summer, or Spring? What do you think?

Some Prettiness

Mon, 03/29/2021 - 09:45

Yesterday, on our bike ride, I saw a small patch of daffodils, growing in the nearly wild spot, my bit of forest. They are the small flower head kind that make me think of the French name, jonquille, with deep yellow saucers and yolk-orange cups. It's always in the middle of spring that I remember that I do like spring. Fall is my favorite season, and spring always comes last in mind, but that's a pity. It's a pity that in the Fall, when I am in love with crunching leaves beneath my boots, and bringing home too many pumpkins, I cannot be bothered with planting bulbs for spring. I don't want to imagine there will ever be any season but the home season, the brisk weather, and calm evenings season, with warm colors, and softening light. When I saw those few jonquilles, I felt a sharp pang of regret. It's spring now, and I wish I had planted daffodils and grape hyacinth, freesia, ranunculus. I wish we had wisteria coming into bloom, and a trellis for my Cécile Brünner roses. I even admit that I regret buying too many pumpkins... no, maybe not that. Maybe, because I have confessed my contrition, next Spring little daffodils and some grape hyacinth will pop up in our garden, because this Fall I will have saved some room in my Autumn dazzled head for Spring, and will plant those bulbs.

And now for a Liberty report! And another admission, from me: Around October I noticed our dear old hen was doing poorly, and by December I was practically composing her eulogy in my head. She limped, walked in circles, her comb was pale, she even lost her balance and rolled over. I am one of those weak kneed farmers that has never actually culled a chicken, which I know can be a merciful thing. I spared Kamen, after the bobcat shredded her, which, thankfully, turned out to be the right choice. I gave Liberty affection, private space to eat, and extra helpings of treats. I lifted her to the roost, and I brought her in the house during inclement weather. And I kind of held my breath, knowing it could be any day. But, I was wrong, or maybe the doting helped. Because it's late March and she's walking fine, roosting, again, and practically spry for an ol' girl! The other night when all the hens came for evening treats, I saw Liberty already roosting, and knowing what an effort it takes for her to get up there, I decided to pamper her, some more, and I brought her snacks to her. She is, and always has been a favorite hen. Gosh, it's hard loving pets, and caring for them, knowing that sooner or later, we will lose them... and so, it's one of the delights of being a farmer to dote, and comfort, when I can.

About that bee... he, too, was looking sapped and poorly, when Cairo and I found him clinging to the balcony screen. I brushed some honey water where he could drink it, and the little guy lapped it all up, then rallied. And I got to make another Reel for Instagram, which I enjoy doing.

There is lots more to share, like a visit with Ruth, and progress with embroidery. I'll save for those another post, because we are out of milk and bread and cheese, and clean socks. Happy as I am to sit here and revel in all the prettiness, I suppose I should rally! Happy Monday, friends.

Today Is Friday

Fri, 03/26/2021 - 11:18
Before I launch into the paperwork-computer sorts of things I need to manage, I wanted to treat myself to a little blogging. I uploaded pictures from my phone, and started formatting some favorites. A small voice in my head casually, yet pointedly, noted, "Another picture of a nesting hen. Oh, and some eggs. Yes, well, you do that often." I am glad I am not feeling too self-critical. I am glad I am in a mood to note... it is called ChickenBlog, afterall! I don't suppose anyone could be surprised that there are a lot of posts about hens, with pictures of eggs, and chcickens doing chicken things. (Somewhere in my archives I even have a post or two about how I almost always have to fix the way I type the word C-h-i-c-k-e-n, because this is a blog that spans the spectrum of all things chicken, fascintating, pointless, and otherwise.) I am, obviously, infatuated with chickens, with their eggs, their behaviors, their feathers, and lives, and it makes me happy that I ever got to see for myself what having my own hens would be like in the first place, that I have been able to observe them, share them, enjoy them for all these years. And I was reasoning all of this, as I settled on including yet another picture of fresh eggs, when I went to format the next photograph... and would'nt you know it, I have another eggs picture to share! Look at those freckles! I couldn't not take a picture of this very pretty, speckled egg. I've been sharing a lot of eggs in real life, too. I love to share our eggs, about as much as I love taking pictures of them. It makes me happy to give gifts, to pass along my enthusiasm for the egg colors, and having backyard chickens. What hadn't occured to me is how much more I get back... not just the pleasure of giving, but receiving! My friends keep surprising me with their thanks and kindness, with fresh baked goods, treats, produce from their gardens! It's hard to describe, and I feel silly that it always catches me off-guard, but I feel happy and lucky to share what I can, and I feel like it's a complete and satisfying act to simply deliver those eggs, so when a friend bring over warm cookies, or a head of lettuce, it feel like my good fortune grows ten-fold!
Today is Friday. The reminder helps. Blogging helps. It's not as easy to keep events and moments in order, when so many days sort of blend into each other. It is easy to lose track of the day of the week, the things that happened either last summer, or was it the summer before that? I was already struggling with memory issues, even total amnesia, before the lockdowns, and stay at home season(s), and with the added wibbly-wobbliness of days and days and days staying home, time is even fuzzier.

Maria does a good job of staying on track. She's up for school, always on time. She definitely knows when it's Saturday. Saturday is the day when she, Alex, Bambi, Lucas, and Tori play Dungeons and Dragons. She's been diligently, regularly, building her portfolio ahead of the AP exams in May. She has been adding to her skills, and finished works, by mastering Procreate on her iPad. And I am happy for her that she is starting to add after school clubs into her days, again. I think those were a struggle for her to relate to, as she continues to participate remotely. And, for the record, I have loved all of the days with her at home... I know it's not ideal, that there have been losses, setbacks, but I can't change those, and focusing on whatever is good, I am happy to enjoy seeing her, having more hours in her company. Geoff is still in crunchmode, which has meant 16 hour days, 7 days a week. The good news: They are progressing, and the hardwork and expectations are transitioning. I am always happy when this shift happens, because even though they are still working hard, they can enjoy some relief, knowing that tasks are accomplished, behind them. I like to imagine that it provides some relief. Max and Geoff share a room, where Max sleeps, and has his things, and Geoff works. Increasingly, Max is working, too, as he gets ready to begin his internship. He wants to be prepared, to learn as much as he can ahead of the start date. He's feeling the pressure. Yesterday, I masked up, went on a mission, and came back with something we haven't enjoyed in well over a year... fresh sushi! Sushi is one of Max's favorites, Bambi's, too. It was a lot of fun to plate everything up, and call everyone to the livingroom picnic. For us all to have a treat, a novelty, and think of good things we look forward to, and hard things we have made it through, to laugh, to enjoy something different. A break! That's what it's called. Right. It's funny how some ideas kind of lose their meaning... we are almost always home, which implies we are always on a sort of break, but without actual vacations, without going new places, or getting away from routines, it can be easy to forget that we need real breaks, changes, a refresh. It rained yesterday. With Max and Bambi, I folded, aproximately, one ton of laundry. I did a lot of cleaning, actually. And some cooking. It was a gratifying kind of day. And by the time I was ready to head up to bed, I was tired, but in a pleasant way. Then I remembered that the floss I ordered had been delivered. I popped back downstairs, grabbed the baggy, and relished the prospect of getting into bed with the cat, and a cozy shawl, and unwinding the new skeins onto little card organizers. I thought I would only get to a few before I would be too sleepy. I turned my phone to a movie, something I could follow, like an audio book, while winding thread. Listening to the entire movie Juliet Naked, I organized all but three skeins, because I ran out of the little cards. I like Nick Hornby books, and movies. I love floss, the skeins, and seeing them wrapped around organizers. I have my #729, that pretty gold, restocked and now I can add more to my wunderschürze. Plus, I have cat drawings to practice, and there's cardio parties, on Fridays and Wednesdays. Here I am, to remind myself that some structure is good... I appreciate these insights and bits of wisdom that come to light for me. And my, what a kind of random post this has turned about to be... something, I admit, as frequently recurring as egg pictures. Happy Friday, friends. I hope you find some change, or relief, some happy random pleasures, anything to make you feel fortunate.

It Takes Practice

Mon, 03/22/2021 - 13:15

I will always be thankful that Geoff and I took a chance to live in Minnesota. When we moved there, practically newlyweds, and six months into our first pregnancy, I thought, I believed, it would be for always and forever. I committed to our children growing up in the Midwest, to learning how to plow snow, and can fruit, to living with a walk-out basement, and the real, and unsettling, possibility of hockey practice. I hoped some of my family might follow us out there, that the romance of big, old houses, open yards, and deer in the backyard would become my normal. When it didn't turn out as expected, when we moved back to California, after a little more than one year, I admit I felt like I failed, a bit. Now, with perspective, I know it was the right, or necessary choice to come back West, and rather than dwell on what didn't work, I love to reflect on what we gained.

At the moment I am thinking of Seasons. Obviously, seasons are something that are very very distinct in the Midwest, in Minnesota. We were in Minneapolis for the Storm of the Century, the 1991 Halloween Blizzard! Seriously, this gives us remarkable street cred. That snow crushed snowfall records. And Fall! Fall is a breathtaking sight, when entire forests turn from Emerald to Scarlett, and not only red, but orange, yellow, magenta, even purple. Spring was miraculous. By the time it was March, even April, I had lost the concept of fresh green, of shoots, sprouts, leafed out trees, and picnics on lawns. Winter freezes so deeply, so starkly, everything, I could not fathom anything coming back to life, and when it happens, it is a breathtaking sight to behold. And while I was taking this all in, and relishing in the belief that I would have these transitions and moments to enjoy for the rest of my life, I would sigh and regret that all my years, living in Southern California, I had never noticed the seasons. Seasons were marked only by holidays and the new decorations the teacher put on a bulletin board. Cut out apples, meant it was September, and hearts meant it was February. But, walking into an apple Orchard in September is a much better notice of the change from summer to fall than turning a calendar. I loved living a year of changing seasons, the signs, the indications, the newness of the views, and what we could do, what we would enjoy, and I kind of felt sorry for what I'd been missing in my former life, what I had failed to notice, because I thought they weren't there... the signs, the changes.
I was wrong, though... we don't get snow drifts, or frozen lakes, but even in sunny California, on the coast, I have learned to notice the seasons, and it's thanks to the lessons, and time appreciating change, and cycles, that I learned to enjoy in the Midwest, that I can see it is spring here. Our seasons are subtle, and frankly, can be frustrating due to hot, dry days that show up in January, or summer heat that blasts well into early winter. Right now, though, some of the hens are acting a tiny bit broody, like they'd consider raising some spring chicks. Our peas are crisp and plentiful, and spinach is growing. I spotted a Western Bluebird, and his feathers were stunningly brightened for courtship. Our fruit trees are full of blossoms, and even the start of peaches, apples, figs. The light streams in from a new angle, still soft, yet warmer, promising. In spring, I lose track of the hours, and look up from my project, thinking what should I do for dinner, only to realize it's already after 8, and closer to bedtime than dinnertime. Geoff and I drove east a few miles, the other day, and the hills were blue with ceanothus. You don't have to tell me, with a calendar, what time of year it is when the mountain lilac is blooming. I vibrate to those colors, to the sight of the foothills, and roadsides, flourishing in lavendar hues against deep shades of green. Soon it will be jacarandas in bloom, then the matilija poppies will come on. The last weeks of spring bring coastal fog, a deep marine layer that slips into the canyons, and evaporates in the afternoon sun. It is spring in Southern California! We are imagining picnics on lawns, and more... maybe the hope of making plans for summer. I ran out of gold floss number 729 for the apron, so I've set that aside while I wait for a delivery. I thought I would be a little bit miserable having to wait, but something else came up, and I find myself learning how to draw cats. I am super immersed in this exercise, and even enjoying it. Rats, for whatever reason, I was eager and willing to figure out, and I spent the better part of a year drawing, sketching, and painting rats. And all that time, I wondered that I wasn't trying chickens, and cats, but I think those are hard. I am not the most ambitious person, and so I basically, mostly, avoided learning how to depict cats, and chickens. Well, I wasn't wrong: Cats are hard to draw. All that fur! And their eyes, getting those right is critical. And I struggle with the tip of the nose and the curve of those furry lips. And. Yet... I have been trying to draw them, and I have been studying, and some times I think, Oh, yeah, I am getting somewhere! And then, like last night, after hours and hours practicing, I put everything away, and thought, Nah. I cannot draw cats. And nevermind chickens. Then I wondered, How long does it take for an order of floss to come in?My mind had this whole post half composed, and I was feeling in a happy writing groove, when my phone rang. The attorney, my attorney, but maybe you can tell I don't identify with anyone being particularly mine, or on my side? It was a call to let me know that, as ever, this civil case is not going fairly, justly, that any improvement, or worsening, depends on my ambition or tolerance for pain, possibly arbitration, maybe just more haggling. I don't know. I told her I'll call you back. Last week, grappling with this same issue, I wrote, "I need to believe that sometimes surrendering is the only way to win." The only experience I have, after all this time, is that I am fighting a losing battle, with only the hope that fate or justice, or luck, will intervene and set things right, but the evidence that this could be true grows dimmer and dimmer. It will always strike me as cruel, that my worst pain is from trying to defend myself, from doing what was asked of me, from answering to lawyers, and insurance, and the system. I feel alone, I feel small, and ripe for them to proceed, as I imagine they always intended, looking out only for themselves. I wish I could go back into my JettPuff, and hold my own hand. I would whisper, "You are right. This is a horrible thing that's happened, and it will get worse, as you already know, because insurance companies are corrupt, and laws are muddled, so courage! Courage for healing, for nightmares and trauma. Courage for being followed home, stalked, subpoenad, accused. Courage to go through therapies, courage for memory loss, and cognitive damage, for loss of movement, for loss of confidence. You are right to dread everything that is ahead of you, after you get out of your crushed van, because it will be horrible. Above all... courage to live in spite of all of this, because there will be laughter, and cake, and plans, there will be mountain lilac in spring, and meteor showers, there will be resolve, and your own resilience, and countless moments and blessings that you will never surrender. You can be whole, again, if differently, or less certain, without their ideas of justice, without complicated arrangements, protracted settlements. You can walk away from their agendas and game, and take your blessings with you, and that will be enough."
It might be time to throw the ring into the fire. That is an absolute nerd metaphor... I have been holding on to the civil and criminal case outcomes, like a ring of power, believing that I will come out fortunate, vindicated, released of trauma and heartache, healed. But being caught up in bureaucracy, in this Kafkian cycle, in legal tests of will and endurance, is like holding a corrupt ring and the dominion of bumbledom over my life, over my mental health is diminishing my health, my own power. It's so hard to know what is the really right thing to do. I am scared of being wrong, of failing. I am scared of letting go, and I think of poor Frodo, but I always dismayed that he struggled to do the right thing. Where is my Sam?

I wish she'd called after I wrote my happy post, but that's how it is... bad things can happen, when you least expect it. And. And something about dealing with it, and saving room to get back to all of the many good things. Yes, something like that. It all takes practice, I see.

Still Happy at Home

Fri, 03/19/2021 - 13:12
Sakamoto is reminding me of a shop cat, or a library cat. I don't dwell too much on things I miss from traveling, from leaving the house. Geoff wants me to think about all the things you want to do when we can move about, again, and it hasn't been that easy to make a long list. Of course, I'd be happy to hug family, friends, to visit places I always want to visit, like Oregon, Wisconsin, the Redwoods. And my interest in traveling to further places, like New Zealand, Scotland, Hawaii, Japan, hasn't diminished. So far, all I have requested is Let's go to the Madonna Inn and bring home a red goblet. But just now, seeing Saki like this, I want to visit places with shop cats, and explore places with bric-a-brac, eat from a small cafe, then walk all day, moving in no particular direction, like a cat. Like a cat, I enjoy exploring, and like a cat, I enjoy my same spot, cozy, safe, familiar. Geoff came home with a treasure, from a school auction. I should say another treasure from a school auction, because he has success with those. This time it's something we have always wanted, always admired... library card catalog drawers, and from a school we both attended, which is kind of extra special. It's remarkable that I have known Geoff since we were in high school, and we have shared our likes and hopes, our wishes, for all of these years, and everytime we get to make a wish come true, it is amazing to me. William went with Geoff to bring home the two cabinets and all those drawers! And to their surprise, some of the drawers are still full of cards! It's a good thing William went with his Dad, because it was a lot of work loading all of this up! Back home, I was trying to figure out where in the heck are we going to put more furniture?? And this entailed a lot of shuffling stuff, reimagining where we keep things, etc. We feel like there was a little serendipity in the fact that we all watched The Booksellers the night before, and loved it. If you love libraries, book shops, collections, history, oddities, and curiosities, then you might love the documentary, too. Geoff and I were certainly excited for our wonderful aquistion, and when the young people saw what we were bringing in, they joined in our enthusiasm. We all worked at making space, and figuring out the necessary adjustments to make things fit... of course the new toy is getting all the attention and appreciation, and the rest of the house is in need of as much time and fussing to get things back in some kind of order. Ahem. We don't know exactly what we are going to organize, but my art and craft supplies are top of the list, and Geoff is super excited to laser cut labels for each drawer! I wonder if anyone would guess our favorite feature, the one each of us practically squeals over? The number one favorite of our new found treaure is the pencil sharpener that was affixed to the top of the second cabinet! And we are pretty tickled over the pull out tables, as well. But. The. Pencil sharpener! They're still the best kind of sharpener, those hand cranked kind, that we all used in school. I wonder if Geoff has already ordered a fresh box of Ticonderoga #2s? I have certainly been picturing a "a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils." It's no wonder I am happy at home.


Wed, 03/17/2021 - 12:35
My apron... my wunder schürze! It's like wearing a cabinet of curiosities, because I am filling it up with curiosities and favorite delights, like birds, planets, bunnies and flowers. And I just finished the Moon and Sun, and the Morning Star, Venus. Speaking of wonders and curiosities... one of the (many) bunnies that resides in our garden has started collecting the haircut trimmings, dry grass, and soft tufts of clover, in large mouthfuls. Shes' doing this in plain sight, and has the cats absolutely captivated. I became captive to her activities, too, and I just had to know what she was up to. It was obvious this was nesting activity, but she was doing this in such an open spot, and it took a little patience to realize her plan. William has been painting, and after the rain, he spread out his very large canvas tarp, draping it over the garden wall, temporarirly so it could dry. Mrs Rabbit is building her nest in the narrow tunnel beneath the tarp and against the base of the raised bed. The tarp is really big, you guys! But she's commanding a teeny bunny size section of it, and we will never ever disturb her nursery... not until we see her children grown, and packed for college! She is so darling. I made a "Reel" of her working, for Instagram, and I hope you can watch it. I wish I could post the Reels directly on the blog, because I am having a lot fun composing them. This one is of another bunny that was hanging out among the chicas. Can you tell? That I am resolved to make the most free-form, groovy sun ever imagined? I am thinking of seeds and grains, of diatoms, of flares and prominence, of sunspots, and the corona. When it came to the Moon, I drew on actual textures and craters, but obviously very simplified. It's all very satsfying and random, yet intentional. It feels like happiness. I am happy in the moments when the stitches come out, one after another, and things take shape. We are still cooking, still eating in. And Bambi and Alex are still turning to Heroes' Feast, the Dungeons and Dragons cookbook, and Galaxy's Edge, the Star Wars cookbook. Last night Bambi made a spinach salad that I love! And Maria and I helped Alex make Nerf Kabobs. Do you get the reference? Leia, and a certain Wookie? These things are so yummy! Alex makes them using Beyond meat, a vegan choice, and Maria fixed some using ground turkey. I am ordering more metal skewers, because we are all out of wooden chopsticks, and I know this recipe is going to be a regular on our menu! Max is preparing for his internship. Have I mentioned that he got an internship? We are so proud of him, happy for him. He's teaching himself programming, and filling out a lot of forms and documents. And he needed a headshot, something with a white background. I stood him in front of our outdoor movie screen. It's not even remotely white, 11 years after we built it, but I think it worked fine. I miss taking pictures of people. Visitors come in masks, and we sit far apart, usually after dark. And us, here at home... well, I am aware, and want to be respectful of, the intimacy of photography. We don't have the same space, nor privacy, being 7 people in the same house, all the time. And, maybe, we aren't always wearing "public" faces. I don't know how to explain this... are you taking as many people pictures as ever? Have the lockdowns changed your photography habits? Anyway, I think the Grandparents will love seeing someone besides chickens and cats... love seeing a grandson, a familiar face. I know I love seeing him... my baby son. He is a wonder, a joy. I can't help feeling a rush of affection, and awe for this young man. We go way back.

The Apron

Sun, 03/14/2021 - 12:50
Maria and I were talking about tattoos the other morning, after I described how I want to finish my apron. It started with the blue swallow, and then waking up with the idea that I could cover the apron in images and symbols that I love, that might be tattoo worthy. But Maria and I share the certainty that we aren't ready for real, permanant, tattoos. For me it's to do with how much my tastes and interests change. Maria expressed similar concerns. We agreed that in one mood we might choose a flower, but we couldn't feel certain that we wouldn't change our minds two days, or two years, later. I remember collecting teddy bear stickers in high school... what if I got a teddy bear tattoo? I would be full of regret about that. I feel deep awe and wonder for people that know their likes, and dislikes, who stick with a color palette, declare and embrace their aesthetic, from head to toe, from dishes to flooring! It seems, to me, an impossible achievement. Anyway, I can change dishes and bedsheets, collect other sticker themes, but tattoos... picking the right one? Nope. I don't think I could do it. I recently noticed, that without a plan, without deliberating, I seem to have been curating a color palette. I was sitting in bed, with my blue pillows, and blue crocheted blankets and shawls, in my marigold dress, with the red gingham pillows, and trying to settle on color choices for the apron. Trying to be deliberate, mindful, artistic. But was I choosing, or had it already chosen me? It seems this is my embroidery season, and my colors are rose reds, sun golds, and sea blues... for now. I like this. Very much. I wonder for how long? No. It doesn't matter... I will simply enjoy this season, and let it be a favorite, for now. There is almost always a kitty keeping me company. And they (mostly) don't cause mischief. Mostly.I have been thinking about linen floss. Linen floss on linen fabric. I have been thinking about embroidery stands... the wood ones that clamp hold of the embroidery hoop. I have been thinking about the fabric I bought for making a cross-stitch sampler, and wondering what I will do about trying to design my own cross-stitch pattern. I have been thinking about drawing, painting, print-making, quilting, crocheting, pottery, gardening, baby goats, cooking, whipping the house back into shape, and getting vaccinated. And. And, I feel overwhelmed, like time is moving swiftly, and I could stay here all day making little jabs at fabric, and never think of anything else, again. Sometimes I try to think about what a year at home has done to my ideas and beliefs, what a lot of trauma, and unhealed issues are making of my courage, and dreams, but I cannot sustain the thoughts, cannot unravel the essential truths from my fears, from the things that will, finally, resolve, and sort out for themselves, eventually. It's good the cats come and stay with me, even if they do bat at the floss. I welcome the distraction, the company. I am glad for the cats, and the view from our bedroom. I am glad for all of my floss colors, and the fact that I organized them 30 years ago. I am glad I brought home two more boxes of organized floss from the thrift store. I am glad Diana and Martha text me on Wednesdays and Fridays, so we can do cardio, remotely, together, apart, at the same time. I am glad we've had rain, and sun. I am glad that Bambi and Alex cook, and Maria, and William, and that we sit together for meals. I am glad Geoff figured out something to do about the pipes that broke under the new driveway... that the flooded driveway and dread, awful as they were, felt somehow only annoying. It's hard to say whether we are simply objective and calm, or too exhausted to let fly! I am glad we are almost always more likely to laugh than let fly!

Squinting a Little

Thu, 03/11/2021 - 11:33
There can be no doubt, nor denying: This is my embroidery season. I am loving it. I am obsessed. It fills my thoughts and the hours, and makes me practically impervious to needless worry, fretting, doubt, or dread. Ok, it might be tipping the scales a bit much toward utterly oblivious, but desperate times, etc... And, I do try to mix things up a bit. I am still riding, there are washed and dried clothes, I have cooked, and even deleted emails. I have no doubt that the rest of my life, and others, will be spent reflecting on The Pandemic, how it went, what we suffered, what was lost, possibly gained, and how we coped. And in there we will face some sort of reckoning, I suppose, but in the meantime, I am making countless tiny jabs at fabric, pulling threads, and thinking the happiest thoughts I can muster.
These are some of the last of the embroideries I made for the little wood hoops... the hoops that aren't working out, afterall. So I have been turning them into felt brooches, or badges. And, I have to interject: These photos are kind of so good, they're terrible! My iPhone is working like it's here to collect forensic evidence! Do I need to put some vaseline on the lens?? I soften the light, but the phone can pull light out of a black hole. I step back, but the pieces are so small, they look lost in space if I don't get in closer. Anyway, try squinting a little, or pulling off your glasses... they need a softer focus.

Ok. Where was I?

Each tiny ratty, or bunny, or owl, was sewn around a tiny wood disc, and I didn't want to remove those, because I worried it would tear the fabric. It was a small accomplishment to attach them to the wool! But I was determined to not use glue... mostly because the glue is downstairs, and I am firmly ensconced on the bed, upstairs. It would seem lack of intertia is the mother of dogged determination! Anything else? I don't know. I do feel compelled, only slightly, to justify them, or have some plan for them. Maybe I will make a sash and wear them, like a veteran of domestic perils, arrayed in my medals and badges, for valor, for courage, for staying home, for blogging, for watching the planets and learning the names of stars, for ordering groceries on a computer, for remembering to floss. Maybe, it will motivate me... for instance, I could earn a badge for removing the small Christmas tree that is still on the kitchen counter. Then again, the young people have been discussing decorating it for Easter. More recently, I tried small stitches on linen. I have a few swatches from my favorite dressmaker, and some metal pin and pendant settings. The challenge with stitching this small (under two inches) is that everything counts, and shows, meaning there is no forgiveness, room for error. I can embrace my affection for rustic, for perfectly imperfect, and my respect for finer work, and expert embroidery is evermore increasing. I feel humble and very much an amateur, which I am comfortable with, and then I share them on Instagram, and I am honestly so moved and touched by everyone's kind feedback! Seriously, people have been so encouraging about these little creations, and I know I am a long way from mastery, but... well, I can't say enough how nice it is to hear that I am heading in a promising direction, that they hold appeal for more than me, alone, more than just me, trying to keep calm and content. Thank you, friends... thank you.Here's a wonder, for me... I have been doing things over. It wasn't so long ago, when I would say "good enough," even if it wasn't all that good. Or, if it wasn't all that good, I would throw in the towel, throw up my arms, and act as though practice and effort wouldn't help. Geoff has been such a good influence on me. So, now when I see something could be better made, or that it would be worthwhile to start over... I often do. Not always, but often, and that's a big difference! The practice is paying off. I am learning more with each new attempt. But! I need a break from things small enough to hide under my thumb! We've had rain! It's been too dry this winter. I am so glad rain finally came. And I am glad I looked up, prompting myself to notice wide views, and distances. It was refreshing to be reminded that the sky can be so compelling, that I love clouds, and weather. I sketched a golondrina, a swallow, on an apron, then picked a vibrant blue, a folklore blue, un azul de turquesa. This morning, I woke up thinking of an apron covered in things I like, symbols, tokens, birds, bunnies, constellations... stitched all over, like if I were tattooed with favorite images, but a mantle, to ward off worries, and beckon soft, good, hopeful things.

Some Pretty Things

Mon, 03/08/2021 - 10:54
I've sat here for ten minutes, trying to think of something worth stating. My thoughts whirr around what I've done since yesterday, like dish washing and feeding the goats and chickens, I recall all the things I haven't done, too; unfortunately, that is a longer list. The idea that recurs, that pushes all other thoughts aside, is Thank you. Thank you, for commenting, for sharing your experiences and thoughts, for being kind, supportive, for making time to reach out to me. I appreciate those comments, very much. There is always a cycle in blogging, when I wish so much that I had more followers, more connection, that I had managed to achieve some kind of Blog Success, and not for fame, but for the chance to promote causes, ideas, activities, to say, "Here is what I do," and feel, in the eyes of society, like it's been a legitimate career, a worthy pursuit. And the other part of that cycle is tremendous relief that I have stayed low-key successful, quietly accomplished... I would be very uncomfortable in a spotlight, or on the radar of trolls, and I have always thought that it would be sad to have so many followers, and comments, that I couldn't make personal replies, or keep track of connections, distinguish friends from acquaintances, or know who was genuine. As it is, I have lost connection with friend/readers, some totally, and I think of them, and hope they are off on new adventures, not gone for good, and I feel sheepish, too, for the blogs, friends, and acquaintances that I have neglected to keep up with. I have learned to see that life is change... for better or worse, little stays the same, and so it's a good idea to embrace the moments before us. That is one of the lessons that is only recently made clear to me, and I know I will need to remind myself, to make a practice of understanding: Life is Change, and it's a good idea to make an effort to change for the better. Well, now I am just wandering, in my head, at the keyboard. Still, it is worth stating... I am thankful for the engagements I share with friends and acquaintances, here, and in my community. Also, here are some pictures of pretty things I have noticed, enjoyed.

I Wear Readers

Sun, 03/07/2021 - 10:58
This is a silly thing. But, I was thinking about the fact that I started using a pair of reading glasses. I bought them 14 years ago, because everyone tells you, when you turn 40, "You're going to need reading glasses. And moisturizer." I've worn distance glasses since Peter Nakaji prescribed them for me in middle school. "You need glasses," he whispered, authoritatively, in the middle of science class. I looked at him, curiously, wondering what made him say such a ridiculus thing. "Haven't you ever wondered why you have to ask me what's written on the board? Why I can read it, and you can't? You need glasses." That stuck with me... how a genius conclusion could be drawn from such obvious evidence. He was so right, and I got glasses. Another thing that stuck with me is remembering the first time I saw the moon, when I was wearing the new glasses. I happened to glance up, and halted in my tracks. I could see textures, shadows, the craters and details, then I saw the stars, twinkling. I gasped, and teared up. I was 14 years old and seeing these things as though for the first time. The moon and stars are beautiful. I haven't needed the readers until I took up cross-stitching, again. I can see without them, but... well, the genius conclusion from obvious evidence is: I can see much better with the glasses! Now, I am wearing Geoff's reading glasses, because he has a pair on every shelf, through the house, and the ones I bought are flimsy. Ok... I'll get to the silly part: I was thinking, gee, who's going to know I wear readers, now? We should keep up our baby books, the ones our mothers started, recording our milestones, and cute expressions. Birth weight, first tooth, first word, and then later, first sleep-over, first job, gets carded, and much later, wears reading glasses, naps regularly, uses the captions for every movie. What milestones have you hit? Have you accomplished something newsworthy? Please share!Natalie, 649 months, wears reading glasses!And with readers, it's much easier to sew small things. I was super excited about putting my small things into these small wood hoops, but the product I ordered has been not great... about 1/3 of the hoops are ok, 1/3 arrived split, and the other 1/3 split when I add the fabric. Nutz. So, I turned to a new plan, which was my original idea of making brooches, or merit badges. I am having fun! Whooo! A merit badge... for, hmmmm... for watching an owl webcam. I already made another one, but that one is a secret-surprise that I'll share later. Next, I decided to try something with the little hen. After some experimenting, some trial and error, and a lot of hand-sewing, the little hen is part of a sewing case, with needle book and pockets. I am almost finished with it. Here's another milestone for the record... I will do some housework today, maybe cook, too. I think if I did have a lifetime Baby Book, the space for Keeps a Tidy Home would be blank. I'd like to think I could have some gentle comment about my effort, or intentions, but I can't kid myself. I'd rather be wearing readers and sewing small things.

Very Small

Thu, 03/04/2021 - 09:20
After my cathartic release yesterday, I felt better, or at least I was determined to feel better, which is something. Then more things came up. It turns out the State didn't exactly drop me, they just lost me in the lockdown shuffle, and since I tracked down the D.A., and got brought up to speed, I learned that a restitution hearing is still on the table. That's all about the criminal case, but it bears on the civil case. AND... I couldn't cry any more, so I went upstairs, did a Wednesday cardio, in the rain (it blows in on the balcony!) And then I picked up my sewing box and escaped into very small stitches and single strands of floss. Would anyone like to see some very small stitches? Please? I began in my sketch book, looking for inspiration. Then I made a very small sketch on cloth. I am using the same cloth with the rings, and after I have filled in as many pieces as fit, I will cut each of them out for framing, or finishing as part of larger projects. (I only mention this because it's uncharacteristically diligent of me.) Anyway, look! A ratty-rat!And. Yeah, the rest of this post is all about me tucked up in my room, with curtains open, listening to the rain and Edwardian Farm, while I make hundreds of tiny stitches turn into rats, an owl, a bat, and a hen. Sometimes, even very small things can do a lot. I hope you are finding something, to make the days better, to remind you of your power.


Tue, 03/02/2021 - 12:30
"No te olivdes nunca, que eres poderosa," Natalia Lafourcade. I started stitching this line from Mexicana Hermosa, on my handkerchief, the one with blue flowers, vines and leaves, then I made a terrible snag, tangling the floss and pulling up a thread of the cloth. I had all of the dread convictions and conclusions, about this complication, in the periphery of my thoughts, but if I have learned anything in sewing, and life, it is... go slow, even stop if you can, and come back to it later. Fires have to be put out immediately, but tangles, can wait. Many problems, real or perceived, in an exchange of words, or between me and a needle and thread, will be easier to understand, less difficult to resolve, when I am calm, when I am not driven by those dread convictions in my head, when I am not tired, nor anxious. I put the handkerchief down. Somehow, sooner or later, I would figure out a way to fix the mess, but not now. Then I started something new. Inspired by wreaths, and cycles, things that are round, and go around, by diatoms, and the patterns in nature. Again, not much of a plan, but taking inspiration, in the moment.Do not ever forget, that you are powerful. I forget all the time, that I am powerful, and what it means to be powerful. I have had an aching to be powerful in justice, powerful in coming out of trauma with grace and some kind of vindication. That is not going to happen. In every moment since what happened to me on December 6, 2018, I have felt trapped, injured, scared, dissociated, helpless, like a victim, not only from the collision but by the justice system, by insurance companies, by my injuries, and slow recovery. No one outside, no one with authority or the legal means, is going to right what was wrong, or fulfill the obligations I was promised. There will be no justice, nothing fair, no balancing of the forces between right and wrong, no healing compensation. It is down to me. It always was down to me, but I fell victim, not only because of the choices of a drunk driver, but to a system that lead me to believe that by spending 27 months in bureacratic, legal, and emotional negotiations, hearings, and testimony that there would be a conclusion, an untangling, restitution. In all this time, when I might have focused my attention on therapy, on looking ahead, on coping with my new normal, I have been pulled back into the very moment of impact. They make me restate what happened, and what has happened since, over and over, again. Describe, explain it, show pictures, send a statement, give us documents, call this number, go to this office, you're subpoenaed, again, again, again, another hearing, another, another, another, then start from the beginning... What happened? And how do you feel? Are you still in pain? Send us your records. Like this, for 27 months. It will be for little to nothing. Nothing compared with my time, with the pain and suffering caused by the collision, with the pain and suffering caused by trying to do what was demanded of me, then required, then encouraged... and one by one everyone that either demanded something of me, or promised me something, has disappeared, and I am alone, and left to be over it. The State of Calfornia did not follow through, did not complete their stated committment to me. My insurance, SF, will not complete their stated committment to me. It's almost over. But it's not concluded, and I almost completely forgot what it means to be powerful.
While I was deciding how to stitch one of the rings, William came to my room. He had pictures on his phone he wanted to share with me, like this one, of our falling fence, looking down the rail, on the neighbor's side. He showed me others, including some looking through the buckle in our sidewalk, where a tree root has pushed up two slabs and you can peer through. Inside are tiny sprouts, damp earth, sunlight, the otherside. Those images were the inspiration for the last, unfinished ring. Instead of continuing filling the little circle with satin stitches, I left a broken, open space, where I can look inside and see small things are sprouting, and peer through to the otherside, and see light come in.

When I finished the rings, I picked up the handkerchief, with the tangled mess. I gently tugged at the floss, looked carefully at the threads in front and on the back. I measured my options, and salvaged what I could, even cutting floss that was too destroyed to salvage. And then I wove in new floss, wrapped up loose ends, secured them, and smoothed things out as best I could. And I finished each letter, that spells out the message, "No te olivdes nunca, que eres poderosa." It's only now dawning on me that those are good words to put on a handkerchief, a piece of cloth made to dry tears. I've been crying all morning, dealing with insurance calls, and trying to reach the D.A., and awaiting a call from my attorney, when I am supposed to resign myself to more "meaningful" negotiating, by demonstrating my "good faith." Take less than you were promised, in other words. I feel kicked, and powerless. But I won't let it end this way, even if it hurts, if I come out broken... I will come out.
"I'll tell you what freedom is to me: No fear," Nina Simone said. I think about that, and I think about what my power is, what it should be, what I will make my power be. My power will be moving forward and taking joy with me... if the joy is tangled in pain, tainted by hurts, scarred, fragile, imperfect, so be it. I will take my joy, and make more, and I will share it. I will sing aloud, figuratively, at least, and reclaim my freedom, again, and again, and again.