Senin, 27 Oktober 2008


Five days before Halloween, we carved pumpkins. This was risky, considering our greedy population of squirrels. I peeked inside the gaping mouth of one of them this morning, looking for a chipmunk curled up beside the unlit candle. No chipmunk. Maybe we'll capture one when the candle is lit and glowing like a well-stoked wood stove. Here is my magic tractor, which runs on roasted pumpkin seeds, not gasoline.

Rabu, 15 Oktober 2008

This Day

I am baking muffins, and when they are done I will scoop them out of their little compartments and deliver them to relatives who have already begun their day. I am eager to get there and be among them. And when I come home I have this to look forward to:
Blue Lash, by James Armstrong. Published by Milkweed.

Selasa, 14 Oktober 2008


Ahab had his whale. I have my endless succession of lost car keys. My last big search was in June. It ended well, but there are hours I will not recover. Today's search lasted much longer. It consumed me. I had even decided the key must be locked inside the car. I googled instructions about how to break into automobiles. I did not have a rubber triangular door stop, which seems to be highly recommended, so I substituted a variety of rubber spatulas, grouped into something that resembled a triangular rubber door stop. This did not work. I could not break into my car. Part of it was a hesitation to do harm. Mostly, I think, it was incompetence. But the key is back. It was on the kitchen floor hidden behind a door. I am exhausted. I thought only of the key for six hours. I was supposed to drive my son and his friend back from soccer practice. I could not do this. I had to ride my bike to soccer practice and ask the father of another child to take responsibility for my child and for the other child and for his child. I have had enough. Tomorrow I am buying spare keys. 17 spare keys.

Jumat, 10 Oktober 2008

Pigeons and Spotted Owls

I am reading Superdove, by Courtney Humphries, which is all about pigeons. So this sign in Golden Gate Park seemed particularly relevant when I saw it. Humphries acknowledges that no one can agree on the proper relationship between pigeons and people in cities, and her additional notes at the back of the book mention a proposed thousand dollar fine for feeding pigeons in New York City.

There were other interesting things in S.F. too. The Japanese Tea Garden, City Lights Book Store (with a whole floor devoted to poetry), Britex (four floors of fabric), and then, across the Golden Gate Bridge, miles of hiking in Marin County...and a SPOTTED OWL in Muir Woods that flew low 20 feet off the trail and landed in a redwood within easy sight.

Selasa, 07 Oktober 2008

In Memory, In Love

Photo by Doug Vasey

May 6, 1905 - September 26, 2008

My grandpa was not a man of great commotion. He was not hurried or dramatic. He was wise and capable, he loved reading about history and engineering, and he had an extraordinary mind. You sensed, when you were in his presence, that you were with someone rare and exceptional. I think all sorts of people could comprehend this. His grandchildren certainly did. He gave us an orchard to play in, a pasture to roam, work to do that made us feel trusted and important, and patience -- endless patience, along with an early introduction to diplomacy. When I served him soapy bathwater in a Dixie cup and called it lemonade, he couldn’t keep his lips from puckering, but he managed to nod his head and say, “well, say, that’s interesting. Thank you. Thank you very much.” One day I picked wild grapes in the orchard. They were small and tart and nearly juiceless. I spent a good portion of the afternoon crushing them on the picnic table where we spread birdseed, filling considerably less than a Dixie cup with sour juice mixed with a few seeds the squirrels didn’t want. I didn’t think about adding sugar or water. I rushed out to the orchard, following the chug of the tractor so I could flag down my grandpa and present my gift. He stopped -- interruptions were just something else to take in stride -- and accepted my cup with characteristic appreciation, “well say, that’s awfully nice of you.” This show of trust came just a year or so after the bathwater trick, and still he was willing to give me another chance. Again his lips puckered, and again he shared thanks and managed some comment about the color of the juice, the amount of work it must have taken. Not only was he diplomatic, he was unflappable. I remember summer afternoons, days I spent playing Flinch with my grandma and climbing trees. Grandpa spent a lot of those days trying to fix equipment – the sprayer, the tractor…something he was depending on for that day’s work that broke down just when he was counting on it to get a job done. He’d spend a whole morning tinkering with it, and he’d come in for lunch and sit down and still he wouldn’t complain. He’d thank my grandma for the cinnamon apples or the fried apples or the baked apples, and he’d watch her hustle around the kitchen, and I’d watch him watching her, and that was an early introduction to what love looked like in someone’s eyes. We all learned a lot about love from him, and from them, and from the place they shared with us.