Friday, September 27, 2019


The week after our son was born, an exact replica of the birthing experience filled my dreams. The next week was not so literal. By the third week, in my dreams, the doctor arrived dressed in a tuxedo and a chorus surrounded him as they waited for his cue to sing along with the orchestra he was conducting. Memories and dreams are like that, aren't they? The greater the distance from the event the more the memories can change.

I mention this only because as a writer I often draw on my memories. I realize that memories evolve, and I can't remember every detail. As a writer, just like a good storyteller, I am here to tell a story and I may embellish a memory to make it more interesting - much to my sister's chagrin. The two of us often trade stories that we remember from childhood only to have the other sister say, "I don't remember that," or "That's not the way I remember it." Funny how memories play tricks, isn't it?

So, I don't worry too much when I write something about family. It is a story that I am telling, not an autobiography. I am appealing to the universal quality of the story, not for the most accurate recollection of events. What I try to capture is the feelings that created the memory that stayed with me. I couldn't remember all the details completely anyway. Thank goodness for that.

There are people who recollect exactly what has happened to them. They experience what is called hyperthemesia. Give them a date and they can remember the clothes they wore, the weather, every little detail. How do they ever find relief from bad memories? Do they relive them over and over again? I'm glad my doctor became a conductor in my dreams. I would have a hard time living with the actual, intense memory of childbirth otherwise.

Friday, September 20, 2019


Unexpected rain this week made me pull out a fleece jacket before venturing outdoors. I could feel the suggestion of autumn in the air even though I knew we were experiencing California's Fool's Gold, a short burst of fall weather that tricks us into thinking that the hot weather is done here. The helicopter seeds of the Japanese maples cover our back deck. The leaves haven't turned yet, so we all know that we will have a protracted second summer in September and October. But just for a week, I enjoyed the hint of what is to come in late fall.

I've finished my summer reading and here are some books that I found worth reading. Rose Owens, a sometime writer of posts here, Helen Pearlstein, a supporter of libraries and reading, and my husband Bill, also have offered a list of intriguing titles.

My favorite:
American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee
The story of the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone and the constant constroversy surrounding a decision to cull the over-populated elk herds to maintain the natural balance in the park. You will read about the park rangers and naturalists who studied the wolf packs and led guided tours to observe the packs, the trophy hunters who wanted to claim a kill, and the ranchers who wanted to protect their herds and to use the public lands for grazing. The main character, 0-Six, is a young lone female who finds a mate and grows a strong wolf pack within the park. The pack occasionally leaves the park in their wanderings to their peril. Though the author has a point of view, he also looks at the many sides of this controversy.

Our Towns by James Fallow and Deborah Fallow
Traveling by small plane, the Fallows crisscross the United States to towns that show how American ingenuity and determination have rescued places such as Sioux City, Iowa, from hardship and decline. Each town's description makes me want to move there. One idea that the Fallows emphasize: that towns survive through community effort, not just through individualism.

Other good books are pictured here:

Rose Owens recommends:

Book of X by Sarah Rose Etter
A startling, dark, and ominous book about a woman born with her stomach shaped as a knot. (Now don't you want to read this just to find out what happened?)

True Love and Other Dreams of Miraculous Escape by Micah Perks
Interwoven short stories set in Santa Cruz. Micah Perks was one of Rose's writing instructors at UC Santa Cruz. Perks has also written What Becomes Us.

The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein
A set of related stories in the far North (Lofoten in the Norwegian Sea) about love, loss, art, and nature.

Helen Pearlstein favors these books:
The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
A novel about King Alfred's fight to unify his kingdom and defeat the Vikings.

Exposure by Helen Dunmore
Dunsmore story is a spy thriller, love story and immigrant tale. Good read.

Transcription by Kate Atkinson
The past sometimes comes back to haunt you as this spy thriller relates.

And Bill suggests:

Sing, Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward
The story of a family's journey from Florida to the Mississippi State Penitentiary, a story for our times, hard to put down.

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin Diangelo
"A vital, necessary and beautiful book, a bracing call to white folk everywhere to see their whiteness for what it is and to seize the opportunity to make things better now."  (Michael Eric Dyson)

She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kanter & Megan Twohey
Pulitizer Prize-winning story of the long and difficult research by two NY Times investigative reporters as they uncovered the Harvey Weinstein story.

Add to this list!  Do you have some good suggestions? Please comment here or email me at

Check out my page on this blog labeled Book List for more reading.

Thursday, September 12, 2019


by Joan Stevenson

We humans tend to think that we rule the world. After all, we have tamed horses, dogs, cattle, oxen and other animals to do our work. We cut down trees to provide shelter and for energy, we clear the land to grow crops and turn trees into paper. We think of ourselves with great power until we are confronted by hurricanes, far-reaching fires, and other deadly storms. Then we remember how really small we are.

by Martha Slavin

I was reminded of this concept while reading Richard Palmer's The Overstory. Palmer presents the idea that trees are the owners of earth, not the human beings who only travel beneath them. The tale relates how trees are interconnected in a vast network through their roots and branches, how they provide shelter, and turn CO2 into oxygen, and how we abuse them all over the planet.

The book is a good but sobering read. As a voracious reader, I love the feel of books in my hands and pass them on to others to read. As I rub the paper, I'm reminded of the trees that made that book.

We all have stories about trees in our lives. I remember planting the 5-foot sticks that now tower over our house. I remember climbing the maples and alder trees in my childhood backyard. I remember watching as my kite tangled itself in the branches of the one tree on a beach I was walking on.

by Martha Slavin

Pamela Paulsrud, an artist and calligrapher, asks people to tell their tree stories for her Tree Project. She organizes workshops for all ages. Attendees take recycled paper scraps, soak them, mash the slurry in a blender, spread the wet pulp into a circle frame across a fine screen, press the water out and make new paper from the old. Once the circles are dry, each person writes their tree story on the circle. Paulsrud then collects the circles and hangs them on lengthy strings, like a forest, suspended from an art gallery ceiling. Walking through the circles quiets everyone, almost as good as going tree bathing. A couple friends and I completed our circles and they will be included in her ongoing project.

Circle Forest created by Pamela Paulsrud

Other artists recycle books by making them into paper sculptures or repurposed artist books. A book can become a precious memento of a special occasion as Micki Cooper did for a nephew's wedding. Not only did she recover the cover with handmade papers and photos, but she turned the pages in a pattern to create a message for the bride and groom.

Repurposed book by Micki Cooper

You can learn this process by checking the instructables website listed here:

To purchase patterns for folded book art:

For information about Pamela Paulsrud, check out her blog for some beautiful examples of the circles:

Best of all, this weekend, plant a tree.

Friday, September 6, 2019


"Ooooo, OW WOW...... ehhhh"

photo by Bill Slavin

The sounds of a crowd in unison fill the grandstands as a baseball lifts in the air towards left field, farther and farther, until it curves back over the foul line. We all slump in disappointment.

We go to Oakland A's games. We sit on the opposing team's side because we buy tickets from a season ticket holder who finds it easier to sell the opposing team's seats. As we sit in the stands, we are surrounded by colors other than the green and gold of the A's. Bill, a true Giants fan, took a long time to like our team's colors. I gave up the Dodgers when I moved north, but there are a lot of diehard fans from other places who have moved to the Bay Area and brought their loyalty with them. Sometimes because the fans around me jeer and shout at every wrong move, I feel uncomfortable in the crowd.

photo by Bill Slavin

I just like to watch baseball and sometimes find myself jumping up to cheer the wrong team because they make a good play. Recently we were bundled in with St. Louis Cardinals fans, who are different than the raucous crowds of Yankee or Red Sox fans. They aren't there to heckle the players as they come away from the plate and return to the dugout, they take photos of the players in full swing or on the field, they cheer good plays, and banter with those of us who are part of the gold and green wave. Like me, the Cards fans just love the game of baseball. We all stand up together during the seventh inning stretch and sing,

"Take me out to the ballgame...."

The stands reverberates with the willing voices of thousands raised to sing that old tune, a curious tradition that continues and seems to fit with the slow pace of a baseball game. Unlike the agressive chant of "U.S.A" that I hear at other sporting events, this song brings opposing fans together as one.

photo by Bill Slavin