12 January 2016


 We were at this one beach a couple of months ago, a place well-known for agates washing ashore.

 Agates, semi-precious gemstones, are tiny gifts from volcanic activity long ago. They wash up on certain beaches along the west coast quite commonly.

They hide among the millions of beautiful wet pebbles shining in the sunlight every day.

There weren't many of us searching for agates that day, but there was this one guy who knew what he was doing. We approached him and asked to see what he'd found. He opened his fist and said, "This clear stone here? It is by far the oldest. Only the old ones have clarity." I wish I'd taken a picture. He had a single crystal clear gemstone in his hand. It looked like a diamond, sparkling obliquely with all of its edges rubbed off.

 Clarity. I thought it dissolved with time.

 Things become less black and white, don't they?

 Memories fade.

 I don't know, though. Maybe there's some kind of distillation that comes with age.

The young search for clarity.

  Does it develop with time?

 Meanwhile I watch the clouding eyes of my old dogs. Clarity?

All that really seems to matter is the warmth of an old friend and a soft pillow for one's head.

04 January 2016

Careful now

In a day or two I'll look at the messages for a second time, the little notes my mother wrote six years ago, attached to Christmas ornaments that she knew I would inherit when she died. "Be very careful" she says. "HE DOESN'T QUITE FIT DON'T FORCE DOWN HE"LL BREAK AND YOU WILL CRY."

My mother died in April, and the ornaments were shipped a few months later. When I first read these words a couple of weeks ago it was magic. Like a time machine was switched on. I was instantly transported to my 5-year-old self, my mother warning me to watch what I was doing. Ha! My mother telling me to knock it off, even now! I love it. But why would she think I wouldn't be careful? I'm, like, a million years old now and ostensibly very grown up. Careful.

Today, stuck at home because of an ice storm, I scanned photographs from my parents' house. Wow. Who was that little person in the pictures? The little girl happily tackling the surly boys in the family, oblivious to the not-fun-ness of the situation.

 The cat strangler.

Okay. Mom, when I take the ornaments off the tree (which I hate doing and always postpone) I will be very careful. Promise.

07 December 2015


 Son, never throw a punch at a redwood tree.
Tom Selleck

It's hard to explain how large a redwood is. Photographs can't really capture it.

Some of the big guys are 20 meters (65 feet) in circumference.

And over 90 meters (300 feet) tall, a football field on end.

 This tree was a baby when the Visigoths roamed Europe, and  already about a thousand years old when Marco Polo was exploring Asia.

 A redwood forest is very still most days. No wind.

 No sound.

 The forest floor.

 Base of a tree.


 Clear water.

 An inheritance from long ago, the redwoods.

23 November 2015

Road trip

 That's why I love road trips, dude. It's like doing something without actually doing anything.
John Green, An Abundance of Katherines

 Recently returned from northern California, I've been looking at the 500 photos taken along the west coast's iconic Highways 1 and 101.  It was a road trip for me because I had no real destination, simply a trip. For John it was perhaps a little different because he was heading someplace.

Yorick tribal lands, Requa, CA,
So it was John's destination paired with a dream-like set of places towards which I steered the car.

Prairie Creek State Park: Redwoods on the Rhododendron Trail
 November is a good time to see the redwoods, so moody and majestic. I couldn't stop photographing them and they deserve their own post.

 This is Elk, CA, north of San Francisco.

 The toll online for our passage on the Golden Gate Bridge: $7.25. Do commuters pay this every day? Maybe they get a deal of some sort.

On cannery row in Monterey the window of our room overlooked crashing waves. The water was crystal clear and every day there were sea otters, pelicans, and cormorants.

Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge
 John's destination: a guitar summit featuring a whole menu of overarching guitar talents. It was a lot of fun for me although I am merely a listener, not a player.

I was just along for the ride, but what a visual treat this trip was. 

There are another 492 pictures; which ones speak the loudest? Sometimes it's hard to decide and so nothing gets posted, but I think there may be more to share about this trip. Pretty sure.

07 October 2015

Kind of good news

One's brain contains a teeny tiny landlady. She leases rooms, and although you chat with her on a daily basis, she sometimes goes ahead with contracts that you can't control. The head becomes occupied by strange neighbors.

For the last couple of months a lot of my head space has been given over to the likelihood of donating stem cells to my cancerous brother. Despite all odds, our DNA is identical, and he is in the end stages of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood probably caused by exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam war. I was identified as his best last chance.

So I've been reading up on what a donor might expect, even visiting a helpful doctor last week, at the urging of a friend. There has been a certain amount of tension. I hate needles, but want to do this thing.

My brother called last night, and now the waiting is over. His primary oncologist does not want to give the green flag for such a high-risk transplant, preferring to try a brand new drug that he believes will keep my brother going for another year or two. This is kind of good news.

Oh man. Isn't cancer a bitch? Such a roller coaster. Up and down, up and down. I'm not giving it the time of day anymore. It doesn't even get the back burner from now on. The landlady has evicted it from my head space.

That is, until we deal with it again later. Then I will gather courage and go forth with battalions of healthy blood cells, kicking cancer's ass in my brother's body.

Until then, just carry on. 

Finally, this is a video of a band my husband John plays with, at a recent gig. John is on the left, playing the dobro:

It tells you to love one another
Your sister and your brother
Live right, 'cause you know
That you reap just what you sow

And so to have no regrets
And to find what you're missin'
Bow your head and listen
To this sermonette.

13 August 2015

Down by the bay

"Down by the Bay" is an old children's song popularized by Raffi in the '80's. Remember?

Down by the bay
Where the watermelons grow
Back to my home I dare not go
For if I do
My mother will say:
"Did you ever see a......(fill in the blank with a rhyme...) down by the bay."

We just returned from Netarts bay, Oregon, and here are a few new verses for that old song.

Did you ever see a dune by the light of the moon?

Did you ever see the ocean all in motion?

Did you ever see a bird who had the last word?

Did you ever see a cliff with a rift like this?

Did you ever see a light flash all night?

Did you ever see a path all full of wrath?

Did you ever see an ATV outrun a tsunami?

Did you ever see egrets without any regrets?

Did you ever leave the sand with an empty hand...

...down by the bay.