Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Twelve Days of Christmas: The Sixth Day

Apparently, the Sixth Day of Christmas is also New Year's Day Eve.  Who knew?  I woke up early, fed the cats and brought my coffee back to bed where I got crawled back in (still warm) to read and sip in comfort.  Bliss (after I retire, I plan to start every day this way).

The book in my hands this morning was A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle.  The blurb on the back of the book describes it thus:  "I know it will give great consolation to ordinary people who sometimes wonder why they bother to get out of bed in the morning." -- Jean Kerr

Even though I knew why I'd bothered to get out of bed on this particular morning (e.g., to feed the cats before they attacked and to get my coffee), this author's words are a consolation and a revelation.    She says that some things can only be understood intuitively rather than in terms of provable fact.  "An infinite question is often destroyed by finite answers"  is one sentence that sang true.  Another was, "The deeper and richer a personality is, the more full it is of paradox and contradiction."  These quotes don't seem to mean much out of context...or do they?

Anyway, when, three cups later, I got out of that toasty bed, I felt consoled.  Enough, in fact, to get dressed and go outside in the frosty morning to take pictures of the last sunrise of the year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Twelve Days of Christmas: The Fifth Day

Another tradition that will be staying;  living Christmas trees strung with a few lights and placed in front of the glass of the double doors.



For the past few years, we've gotten California incense cedars.  They're native to this region and don't need much summer water so they do very well at Frogpond.  If it isn't too cold, my plan is to get them in the ground on New Year's Day.  I'm certain that the dogs and Max will be right there helping.


The Twelve Days of Christmas: The Fourth Day

Actually, today is the Fifth Day of Christmas: I forgot all about blogging yesterday until I was in bed ready to fall asleep.  This is what comes of not doing something for so long.  So here is what I would have posted for the Fourth Day, had I remembered.

Arby planted himself on my apron on cookie-making day and I didn't have the heart to move him.  So he supervised from his perch while I stirred up a batch of spice cookies.

I must admit that I took little joy in Christmas festivities this year.  For years I've tried to keep alive the magic that I'd felt as a child, but have felt it slipping away as the decades passed.  I remember the long ago winter evenings of lying under the Christmas tree with the room dark except for the blinking of colored lights in the branches and the sparkle of tinsel.  For a brief time, the mundane world was transformed into something infinitely glorious and mystical.  

This year, as I plodded into the Christmas season, I finally realized that I no longer wished to force myself into these rituals any longer.  As a child, feeling as I do today would have been inconceivable and heartbreaking.  But trying to keep this fire lit in the old ways has become fossilized and meaningless.  So this year I tried to steer away from the old ways of celebrating winter and worked to reinvent how I approach the season.  This attempt had mixed results, but I think I'm on the right track.

The good news is that the activity of baking spice cookies with my cat is a keeper.  We'll build around that.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Twelve Days of Christmas: The Third Day

Today I read this poem by Canadian poet P.K. Page.  I think that my dear husband, bird watcher and admirer of Corvids everywhere, will like it.  So:

                                                              The Crow

By the wave rising, by the wave breaking
high to low;
by the wave riding the air, sweeping the high air low
in a white foam, in a suds,
like a churchwarden, like a stiff
turn-the-eye-inward old man
in a cutaway, in the mist
the crow.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Twelve Days of Christmas: The Second Day

Today was a day of little action and almost no accomplishment.  Strangely, it sped by and the afternoon had arrived before I'd barely greeted the morning.  On this second day of Christmas I was once again crippled by the anger and hopelessness that comes over me at odd intervals since Becky's death.  It's disheartening to still feel so low.  Must be twice so for poor Bruce who must bear with me.  And he does, with surprisingly good grace.

So, on this second day of Christmas, I am grateful to have pulled out of my low spirits by this evening.  I can go to sleep feeling more like my old self.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Twelve Days of Christmas: The First Day

Hello, Blog.  I've missed you.  So much has happened that the longer I stayed away, the harder it was to gather the energy I thought I'd need to get caught up.  I would walk around, living my life and experiencing things, all the while with my writer's eye hard at work catching the action and setting it into words.  But these words would stay in my head for a short while and then get booted out by the next event that caught my attention.  That's what happens when I don't write things down.

I was drifting away from writing here since last spring.  For some reason that I can't quite nail down, keeping up the posts became less of a pleasure and more of a chore.  The writing kept dwindling until by July it stopped altogether.

Then on August 5 our daughter, Becky, died by suicide.  She was only 31 years old and had bipolar disease.  I wasn't surprised when I got the call about her death, but it still shocked me to the core.  It's been about five months since that day, and I'm now certain that I'm going to be ok.  But I'm never going to be the same.  And that's not a bad thing -- it's just the way it is.

So, Blog, I'm back.  Now I'll be seeing the world through a different lens.  This is unsettling, but also interesting.  I'm glad to be back.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Wharf to Wharf

Santa Cruz.  Back when the girls were little, my first husband, Geof, and I used to stay here for a magical week every summer.  Like wisps of clouds, memories trailed through my mind of those far-away days when we played in the sand, dined on fish and chips and lifted our arms to the sky as we plummeted downwards on the roller coaster.  When looked through the lens of days-gone-by, it was hard not to feel nostalgic - even a bit melancholy.

But in the here and now, Sue and I were set to participate in this event - this run - along with 15,998 people.

I wonder what Geof would have thought to see me holding my race number.  I think he would have been surprised but delighted.  And then he'd probably have made a joke about me being in a police line-up or something.  I say this because this is what I think we look like (aside from the proud little smiles).

Sue and I were not in the first corral which is where the elite runners reigned.  Way back were we stood, we never even saw them, but later online photographs showed them; whipcord thin Olympic caliber athletes in peak racing form.  They wore teeny-tiny briefs and brightly colored shoes that were like elf slippers.

We were not in the second corral either -- serious runners who worked out and looked buff.
We were not in even in the third corral  -- all the people who were  obviously not Olympic or even all that buff, but who did not want to be at the back of the pack.

We were in the fourth corral.  The group placed at the very end of the line -- the older, more out-of-shape, heftier bunch.  We wore hats and some of us had fanny packs around our middles because we knew that a couple extra pounds of weight would make not the slightest difference in our times.  Because we were walking -- as quickly as we could make our legs go, but it was still walking (although, I must add for the record, that I jogged down the hills).

The mile 2 marker

From the back, Corral 4 looked like this.  I admired every one of my fellow corral members, but my humble mission was to pass as many of them as I could so as to be as far away from last place as possible.  It was a fun game to play.

The Bagpipers on the Hill

One of the best parts of this event is that there is a crowd cheering you on  the entire way.  It's hard not to feel silly and proud when the bands are playing and neighbors sit in front of their houses to shout encouragement.  They could not have been any more enthusiastic for Corrals 1-3 than for those of us in 4.

I don't remember their music, but I do recall their smiles when I passed

It's amazing how music can motivate your feet to step more quickly.  Bagpipes did it the best, but the Japanese drumming, hard rock, brass band, ukulele ensemble and folk group did a pretty good job too.  Even kids pounding on pots helped move us along.  I suppose that the elite Corral 1 runners were going to fast to hear much of this.

I found it touching that they stayed to play on for all of the corrals.  Hopefully the music continued until the last one of Corral 4 passed.  I'll never know if they did because I was too obsessed with  hustling past as many of them as possible.  My new goal was to pass as many Corral 3 people as I could.

I'll never know how successful I was at this because by now I was too tired to look at people's bibs to see what corral they were in.   But I'll bet that I left one or two of them in the dust.  Just saying.

Sue and I at the end of the race

My statistics:  I finished in 1 hour 24 minutes and 53 seconds.  I came in at 9,524 place.  If my math is correct (and it may not be), I believe that this means that I beat 6,476 people.  Sweet!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Another Busy Day at Frogpond

This is me weeding, raking and pruning dead branches (sadly, the shot doesn't include the bottle of hard cider in my hand).

One chair over, Multi-Pass was equally engaged in our beautification project.

The lilies actively did their bit too.

This is what we call teamwork.

Meanwhile, back in the linen cupboard...

...Arby the slug couldn't be bothered to help in the least.  Is it any wonder the whole damn place is falling apart?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Kindred Spirit

Just eight more days before Sue and I walk/jog the six-mile Wharf-to-Wharf race.  Yesterday we met at the Copper Town Square parking lot and walked the bike path together.  She's had foot problems, so we weren't sure if she could make the pace of 15 minute miles for the distance.  She could -- and this was with the two of us yapping happily together the entire distance!  Imagine our speed when we focus just on forward motion.

Afterwards we sat out in the town square, sipped iced coffees and talked for about two more hours.  In all of my adult life I've had no friend as close as Sue.  I don't form fast friendships easily.  I like many people, but drift away from most of them without even thinking much about it.  I have little desire to keep in touch and have an active dislike of parties or any other contrived way for "having fun".  So having a friend like Sue (social, kind, funny, ethical, extremely intelligent) is a blessing.  In many ways we are opposites -- she's analytical with a love of numbers and moral causes while I'm a touchy-feely, poet sort who loves animals.  Yet by some wondrous chemistry we're kindred spirits and I'm grateful to my core that we found each other.  My life is enriched by hers (and hopefully hers is by mine).

Changing the subject; the island is almost a peninsula.  The pond is continues to shrink, but this has slowed with the slightly cooler weather we're having.  I'm beginning to think that maybe - just maybe it will last (at least as a puddle) until the winter rains arrive.  That is very optimistic thinking.

Friday, July 17, 2015


I hung a load of my shirts out to dry:  three guesses what my favorite color is.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Summer Lunch

Only about two weeks before I must get back to school, and I'm only now getting into the swing of summer:  I've actually begun reading a book that has absolutely nothing to do with teaching children (but has a lot to do with teaching me about life, the soul and the beauty of words).  Not only am I reading purely for pleasure, but my book, several animals and I are sitting outside with a cup of tea and some fine cheese.  On the plate there are four fig crackers, each with its own dollop of luscious Brillat Savarin (a most heavenly triple cream cheese).  On top of each dollop is a teaspoon of a rich tomato marmalade with a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel to finish it off.  Heaven.

You will notice that the book is still shut -- there was no way that I could both read and do justice to the four tasty jewels on my plate.   I sat in the dappled sunshine and enjoyed my lunch while my furry entourage slept or bathed nearby.

So when, in a few weeks, our school staff rejoins and the talk turns to the topic of "what I did on my summer vacation" I'll happily share that I ate cheese and crackers and read a book that had nothing to do with teaching.

I'll be smiling.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wharf to Wharf/Woof to Woof

I'll be wearing bib number 13844 and am still incredulous that I, along with 1,600 others, entered this (my first!) run/walk.  This is supposed to be a fun event -- six miles along the coast from Santa Cruz to Capitola, encouraged by music and hundreds (thousands?) of enthusiastic spectators.  The only requirement is that you must be able to go at a pace of 15 minutes/mile.  I suppose that the other requirement is a willingness to put up with the huge crush of humanity that will be there.  However, nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I'm going to do it.

I researched on the Internet for instruction on how to train for walking this sort of race plus got tips from experienced members of my Fit Bit group.  In the end, the only advice I took was to buy good running shoes and to be sure to do stretches and warm-ups before doing a fast walk.  Oh, and to take short powerful strides to prevent shin splints.  Other than that, I'm just walking, walking, walking.  Most of my walks are of the shorter and slower variety, but I've done the full six miles three times now.  I'm relieved that I can make this body of mile travel at a 14'17" pace -- I'll break no records, but will very likely qualify to pick up a free t-shirt at the end of the race.  A modest (but extremely satisfying) accomplishment.

On Monday morning, I invited Chance along for my third six-miler.  I figured that with his boundless energy, he'd love it.  Our route was along a well-marked bike path along a divided highway through the rolling hills behind our town square.  It's very pretty countryside, in a California-drought-July sort of way.  We started early enough that it wasn't too warm yet.  Chance was a good walking partner, although he had to be reminded from time to time that we couldn't slow down so he could sniff interesting spots.  We did stop once in the shade so he could take a breather and get some squirts from my water bottle at our second mile.  I was out-walking my Border Collie/Queensland Heeler!  Okay, he's only seven months old, but still...

This picture is how we looked when we got back to the car.  I'm thinking that he's panting a bit more then I am.

When we got home he jumped in the pond for a good long paddle to cool off then slept on his dog bed on the porch for the next few hours.  But by early afternoon he was fully recharged and back to racing about chasing feathers, digging holes and gnawing on poor Murphy's ears.

I, on the other hand, was up for none of those things.  Sitting on the deck, sipping tea while turning the pages of my book was the extent of my energy level for the rest of the day.

I believe that the point goes to Chance.

Monday, July 13, 2015


The red bucket in the shower has more uses than just the conservation of water as Zelda has taken it over as her own personal water bowl.  Sometimes I'll hear the lap-lap-lap sound of water and it will take me a moment to figure out what's causing it.  Yesterday morning I thought (for a fleeting second) that it was raining.  Nope - just the cat getting a loud and slurpy drink.

We recently had Zelda clipped at the vets to rid her of her heavily matted coat.  Masses of pointy stickers were so tightly knotted in the fur that it was impossible to brush her and she was very uncomfortable.  It took sedation, but it was worth it.  She came home with a ruff around her neck and a poof on the end of her tail.  She makes quite the fashion statement.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Waiting for Godzilla

Great news for California: there's now a 90% chance that a very large El Nino event is brewing out in the ocean and this will result in massive amounts of rain here this winter.  This El Nino is different than the one predicted for last year (now dubbed "El Wimpo") -- it's massive and becoming stronger by the day as the ocean warms.  It's still not a sure thing, but I'm all aflutter over the increasing probability that we'll have a deluge of rain this winter.  This El Nino has already been called "a Godzilla El Nino" by meteorologists.  How wonderful is that!

Here is a link to the official NOAA website (not sure if it will work):


However, Godzilla is still a long way from sweeping over Frogpond.  Here things are still as dry as a bone and getting drier with every passing day.  The pond continues to shrink, although this slowed a bit with the cooler weather we've been having.

The cottonwoods along the dam are gradually dying as their roots lose their source of water.  The whole area there looks dismal and very messy, but we've decided to let it all stay as the birds nest in the dead branches.  Tidiness isn't always a good thing -- and it's a relief to have a reason not to do something.

I predict that the pond is dry by the end of August.  Well, we'll all get through this.  Godzilla to the rescue!

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Perfect Day

Clouds overhead usually means smoke and wildfire -- the darker the gray, the closer the blaze.  So when I awoke this morning to gray skies, I half expected to hear the sound of Cal-Fire helicopters overhead.  But no -- it was actually raining.  RAINING!!!    All right; sort of raining.  I'll admit that in other parts of the world this gentle pattering of drops on the dust would be scarcely noticed.  Heck,  this event probably wouldn't even be considered rain.  But during a four-year drought in Copperopolis (in the month of July, no less!),  I'm calling it rain.   What a wonderful surprise!   I'm beside myself with delight and keep going outside to stand in it.  Loving the dampness of my bathrobe...

This is where we stand with our water situation.  Our well is very slow in replenishing due to the lower water table.  This means that we truck in our own water once a week to fill our water tank.  It takes about three trips to the water treatment facility to do this, but we are very grateful to have this resource available.  Frankly, I don't know what we'd do if we couldn't.

So we're becoming increasingly careful of the water that we use.  We now have four new red plastic buckets in the bathrooms that we use to conserve the water that would go down the drain while we wait for it to warm up.  When the bucket is full, I move it aside and shower.  Later, I cart the bucket outside and splash it on something in the garden that looks like it could use a drink.  I'm not sure that this is of much use in the great scheme of things, but I'm not going to stop doing what I can.

Tomorrow Bruce is taking a day-long workshop in the Bay Area on how to recycle gray water from the washing machine.  We'd like to eventually (hopefully soon) put in an underground cistern plumbed to our kitchen, laundry and bath.  With filtering, we'll be able to use this to water the gardens around the house.  Even without this dire drought, this seems like the logical way to go.

In the time it took to write this, the rain has died away.  But there is a cool breeze and dampness in the air and the birds are having a party in the trees.

A perfect summer day.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Wildfire is coming. ARE YOU READY?

In a word, no.  In two words, sort of.  In three words, working on it.  Back to one word, eternally.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Considering Lilies

I woke up this morning and realized that it was a Monday and I didn't have to go anywhere school- related.  This hasn't stopped me from thinking about school, planning lessons and piling up the teaching books that I optimistically hope to have read by summer's end.  I am my own worst enemy.

What will I do after I retire?  I've realized that this is my last summer planning for the next school year.  For the past 31 years, I've told people that I refused to be defined by my career.  I'm here to say that I was wrong -- teaching is in my bones, my heartbeat, my breath.  I'm already consumed by regret that here at the end of it all, I'm finally getting a glimpse of the teacher I always longed to be.  I'm a slow but steady learner.  Part of me wants to dig in and keep at it for a while longer, but I know that it's time to stop.  My aspirations have always been a moving mark well-ahead of my skill -- I can pat myself on the back that I've never given up trying to improve.  I'm defined by that as well, and hope to carry that quality with me when I begin my new life next summer.  What that new life will look like is still a mystery.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Walk

School's been out for three weeks, but my workload didn't let up.  I helped conduct the writing workshop for the first two weeks and then attended a science institute the third week.  So my summer break officially began this past weekend.  I celebrated my liberty by taking the dogs for a walk on Saturday.  My momentum for walking has been ebbing away as I've gotten busier and tireder.  I had great reasons for not making the effort to get the steps in, but in the end I felt so disappointed in myself that this feeling got me moving again.  So on Saturday morning I decided to tackle Gopher Ridge.

From our road, Gopher Ridge just doesn't look like that big of a deal.  It's a big bump of a hill that lulls the uninitiated into a false sense that it's an easy walk.  The dogs, the horse and I know better.  It makes for a lovely view, but it's not nicknamed "Buttbuster Hill" for nothing.

It's starts out gradually enough, but it just never lets up and keeps getting steeper.  My Wharf to Wharf run I'm entered in is at the end of next month and my legs know that they've been slacking off.  So I walked at as brisk a pace as I could muster.  The dogs hated me for this.  They stopped at every clump of shade and sat and panted sadly at me.  I cracked the whip (metaphorically) and kept them moving.  A sixty year old lady should not be able to outwalk her whippersnapper dogs.  Have they no pride?

The answer is that, no, they don't.  As the road became steeper, I could hear them grumbling under their panting.  I ignored the lack of enthusiasm and kept the lot us going.  The sun got hotter and the ascent began feeling like a trek up Mt. Everest.  I told the dogs that we were having fun.  They didn't believe me, but (since they are dogs), they went along with the charade.  Reluctantly.

The view from the top is amazing.  Our home in the foothills is in a pretty but unremarkable location.  But from the top of nearby Gopher Ridge, one can see the soft blue of Sierra Nevada Range waltzing across the horizon.  Every time I stand in this place I'm struck by the fact that nothing separates me from them but air.  If I could leap high enough, I'd be there in an instant.

Needless to say, the dogs didn't notice any of this.  All they knew was that they were hot.

At the top, we rested for a few minutes and then turned around and went back down.  Gravity was our friend and we picked up the pace.  We startled a small herd of deer and they leaped up the hillside with no trouble at all.  The dogs didn't bat an eye -- too much effort.

Everything is so dry.  How many years of drought is it now?  Four, I think.  The trees and bushes are hunkered down, intent on surviving.  I love this place so much but am powerless to conjure up a rainstorm  So I drink in the beauty and hold the thought that we'll somehow make it through these dry times.

The dogs survived their own dry times.  When we got home, they made a beeline for the ever-shrinking pond and splashed right on in.


In another few weeks the pond will be gone.  Enjoy it while you can, sweet puppies!