Friday, December 31, 2021


 Under the platform that had supported the Robert E. Lee statue in Virginia, excavators found a cornerstone box filled with books and other papers, many with pages stuck together, memorabilia of the times, and a Confederate flag. The historians examining the contents of the box had hoped to find an original photo of Lincoln in his coffin. No photo came to the surface. The box contents were a whisper of the past indicating what people wanted the future to know about their moment in time.

I have what seems a time capsule of my own containing papers and other items from my parents. I keep thinking I've gone through it all, only to discover, nestled within other papers, something that draws my attention. This time it is a pamphlet from 1968 with Abraham Lincoln on the cover. In the top right-hand corner, my father's name appears in my mother's careful handwriting. The pamphlet came from Congressman Glen Lipscom, their representative at the time. The pamphlet smells musty and the paper is yellowed. It contains the Republican Platform for 1968, with the inscription, "We must think anew and act anew," a quote from Lincoln. If you are familiar with history, you will know that 1968 was a turbulent time, much like now, with protests over the war in Vietnam, the loss of the US Pueblo, the killings of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the election of Nixon to the Presidency, and also, Apollo orbiting the moon.

I turned the pages of the pamphlet and found a list of inspirational proposals adopted by the Republican Convention that year. As I read the list, I was struck by how much the GOP has strayed from these intentions. During the last Presidential election, the GOP did not offer a platform of purposes and goals as a party. Trump declared his own.

In 1968, the GOP proclaimed:

We must urgently dedicate our efforts towards restoration of peace both at home and abroad.

We must bring about a national commitment to rebuild our urban and rural areas.

We must enable family farm enterprise to participate fully in the nation's prosperity.

We must bring about quality education for all.

We must assure every individual an opportunity for satisfying and rewarding employment.

We must attack the root causes of poverty and eradicate racism, hatred, and violence.

We must give all citizens the opportunity to influence and shape the events of our time.

We must give increasing attention to the views of the young and recognize their key role in our present as well as the future.

We must mobilize the resources, talents, and energy of public and private sectors, to reach these goals, utilizing the unique strength and initiative of state and local governments.

We must re-establish fiscal responsibility and put an end to increases in the cost of living.

These are lofty, worthwhile goals. They ring true today, with many of the issues mentioned still in question. Wouldn't it be wonderful if, in 2022, we look again at our purpose as a people/country, whether as a Republican, Democrat, or Independent and set aside our cynicism, fear, and hyper-individualism to come together to agree that these kinds of common goals are beneficial for all of us? And then work together to bring about the changes we need?

I would add one more goal: we must protect the freedom of the press, and guard against the distribution of falsehoods and disinformation.

2022 will be an important year for all of us. 

We will have big decisions to make at the ballot box. 

I am not a numbers person, but I thought these numbers were important to consider:

Population of the World:  about 7,846,000,000 people
Number of COVID-19 Deaths in the U.S.: about 822,000 people
Number of COVID-19 Deaths Worldwide: about 5,400,000 people
Number of HIV-AIDS Deaths Worldwide in the last 40 years: about 36,000,000 people

After 40 years there is still no HIV-AIDS vaccine, but the research done on that disease enabled scientists to build on their knowledge and produce a vaccine for COVID-19 in record time.

Bravo to these exceptional scientists. 
Remember where we were at this time last year!

Thank you all for reading Postcards in the Air in 2021! 
Your comments, thoughts and ideas keep me writing.

Friday, December 24, 2021


Bundled up in winter coats with the heater blasting, my family would drive around to view our hometown's holiday lights displays.  My sister and I would ooh and aah over each house covered in lights or at the nativity scenes spread across the lawns. One house had a whole chorus of wooden carolers singing at the top of their voices. (We wondered what their neighbors thought about the continuous entertainment.) That evening out became a high point of our Christmas festivities. We returned home tired and ready for a cup of hot chocolate.

Winters Holiday Parade from Kristine Mietzner

A friend recently sent me a link to the holiday parade in Winters, California, with every vehicle festooned with lighting. Our neighborhood seems to be especially bright this season as well. We took a trip to Filoli in Woodside for their annual holiday celebration, where both the large house was decorated and the gardens were strewn with lights.

Filoli Gardens at twilight by Bill Slavin

The Cambridge dictionary defines light as coming from the sun, a fire, or an electrical device that allows us to see clearly. We have spent so much time "in the dark" since early 2020 that just like we cheered essential workers at the start of the pandemic, putting up lights has been a way for us to show our resilience, gratitude, or thankfulness. 

The Garden House at Filoli with Bill peeking in the window

People from different cultures center this time of year around bringing light into their lives. Diwali in India, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, and the festival of lights found in China, Thailand, Berlin, and France all celebrate with light. By turning on the lights, we join this universal search for warmth, community, and renewal. 

I hope this season of light will give you time to relax, reflect and recharge for the coming year. If you don't have time to take in holiday light displays, step out of your front door and look up at the stars, the original light display.

For a list of holiday displays in different areas of the country, check sites such as these for each state:

or add your own to this list

Friday, December 17, 2021


Do you remember when so many people stepped out onto balconies to sing or clap for essential workers? That grateful emotion seems fleeting. Have you noticed how many people right now are filled with anger, unspecific anger that pops up with the slightest irritation? Do you watch cars swerve in and out of traffic, pulling up close to you or cutting you off? Have people around you forgotten how to say "Excuse me" as they push past you? We see lots of pent-up anger around us. That phrase about life giving you lemons has never been more perfect an expression than in the last couple of years. We're all carrying bags of lemons around. Now we need to figure out what to do with them.

Here's my story:

My workroom faces the street. I see the same walkers go by my window every day. We have a small Meyer lemon tree in our front yard. Two days ago, I watched a man who I have seen walking often, stop, look at our lemon tree, walk over and twist off a lemon, then go off on his merry way.

That's all it took for me to get angry at him for not asking, for being one of those neighbors who could easily pay for a lemon at the store and who helped himself without asking. (In my defense, we usually take a bag of lemons to the Food Bank each year.)

So, yesterday I charged out of the house, and with Bill's help, picked every lemon off the tree. Until we started picking, I didn't realize how many lemons we had. The photo shows the line-up, but the bag next to me on the wall is also full of lemons.

I could have found the grace to give that guy one lemon. COVID times.

We all have those moments in our lives when we come up short. I hope you don't have too many of them and can find the grace to be considerate of someone else in the next weeks. And also, to find some grace for yourself. 

There are lots of good ways to use lemons.

Here are two:

Luscious Lemon Squares (from Ketschmer-brand Wheat Germ)  makes 40 squares

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Lightly spray bottom of 13x9 inch baking pan with cooking spray


1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup toasted Wheat Germ

1/2 powdered sugar

1/3 cup butter, softened


2 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

4 eggs

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1 3/4 teaspoons lemon peel

Powdered sugar

Combine crust ingredients in large bowl. Mix on low speed of electric mixer until well blended. (Mixture will be crumbly.) Firmly press crumbs onto bottom of pan. Bake 15 minutes.

For filling: Combine sugar, flour, and baking powder in large bowl. Add eggs; blend well. Gently stir in lemon juice and lemon peel. Carefully pour over hot crust. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until edges are light golden brown and filling is set. Cool completely on wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into squares.

Or for something savory to keep you warm:

Linguini with Meyer Lemon  (from Sloat Gardens recipes)

Take 1 small shallot, chop and saute till translucent. Set aside.

1 pound linguini

3 Meyer lemons, zest and juice

4 oz of creme fraiche

3/4 cups grated hard cheese (Parmesan, Romano, Asiago)

1 bunch arugula, cleaned, with the largest stems removed

2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped

10-12 fresh basil leaves, chopped

Salt and Pepper

Cook pasta in boiling lightly salted water. Save a cup of the water when you strain the pasta. Fold all ingredients including the pasta and shallot into the pot. Add some of the reserved water to create the consistency you like. Season with salt and pepper and top with additional cheese.

May the next few weeks fill you with grace.

Friday, December 10, 2021


Shivering, I keep walking around the San Ramon Business Park cloaked in the bone-chill of tule fog. The fog, which seeps up from the ground and is dangerous in its density, used to arrive every December but because of our ongoing drought has been absent from our area for several years. The fog, like snowfall, makes the world a quieter place. Large drops of water rain down on me from the trees as the fog hangs in their branches. A harbinger of winter.

The business park covers acres of ground, but as I walk around one block of buildings most of the first floor spaces are empty. It is quiet, and a little weird walking around the edges of the park which used to be bustling with workers. The boundaries of the park have always been open space for workers and casual walkers like me. Push-up bars, benches for sit-ups, and raised, flat bars to balance-walk one foot in front of the other are spaced carefully around the block and add an opportunity to do a little more than just a walk. I see only two other people walking briskly ahead. It is too cold and damp to stop to do a crunch. 

The park includes a pond where coots, unfazed by the fog, congregate at one end and duck under the water to look for something to eat. A pleasure boat rests against a dock waiting for Spring. Canadian geese make the park their home. They hunt among the various ground covers. I do too. In the greenery, I see mushrooms springing up. They are mostly white-capped mushrooms that grow like little armies in Northern California. Their appearance reminds me of the windows of Parisian pharmacies in Autumn. The French are well-known for collecting mushrooms, but even they don't always recognize the difference between an edible and toxic mushroom. The pharmacies remind pickers of the variety of poisonous mushrooms around Paris.

Mushrooms fascinate me. They are beneficial for medicine, food, and for renewing plant life. I remember the fairy rings from my childhood and the warning from my parents not to touch them. Since I don't know the difference between toxic and edible ones, I just take photos and draw them. I watch for them and their surprise appearance overnight. Their cycle is short and gives me a chance to document their existence and their disappearance. 

I think of Miriam C. Rice, a sculptor and fabric artist, who researched the extraction of colors from various fungi to be used as fabric dyes. Her first dyes from mushrooms were shades of yellow, but she went on to discover mushrooms that gave her rose, burgundy, and purple hues until she had a full spectrum of natural dyes.

I walk back to my car past an essential worker raking the leaves that cover the ground. We nod and I hurry on. It is quiet. It is grey. It is winter. But there is always something to see. 


What is the difference between summer fog in San Francisco and the tule fog that arises from the Central Valley? Here's your answer: 

Miriam C. Rice, a fascinating woman:

The International Mushroom Dye Institute founded by Miriam C. Rice:

The institute needs your help. All the copies of the book Mushrooms for Dyes, Paper, Pigments, and Myco-Stix by Miriam Rice were destroyed in the CZU Lightning Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The institute depends on sales of the book. Donate if you can. 

Look through the beautiful photos of various California mushrooms with identity established:

Friday, December 3, 2021


Preliminary sketch for a larger piece

Someone once said that the people who get ahead in life know when to say "No." That may be true but I have tended to say "Yes" instead. Yes often leads to too many choices, all of which would be fun, creative, or challenging. All make me think "I want to do that!" All have led me on a merry path of awakenings, learning new skills, finding shiny objects that divert my attention, and a life that has been full of interesting people, places, and experiences. It has left me in the mode of a beginner's mind, as a Zen teacher would say, with expertise showing through from the repetition of practice, which makes me think of another Zen maxim about paying attention to each detail and to good, slow work.

I digress from my chores and look out the window. It is sunny and warm, no rain in sight, but a beautiful time in California to be in the sunshine with the long cast shadows of autumn. I'm surprised to see photos of snow on the ground in other places. 

We've been taking small steps to prune our stuff in the house to find things we no longer need or can't remember where it came from, or we haven't hung on the walls for the last ten years. We wonder why we still have them. Some things when touched bring back memories of the people who gave us the item or a place we have traveled. I pick up a pottery vase made of two slabs joined together with a small opening for just two or three stems. Cherry blossoms are painted on the front and remind me of our time in Tokyo and the thoughtfulness of the person who gave us the vase. 

I have a collection of rabbits. They have proliferated all through our house and rest under the top tier of side tables, perch on the high shelf in the kitchen, or act as bookends peeking out from my journals. Why did I collect rabbits? It took me a long time to make the connection between them and my dad's drawings. (He drew the Bugs Bunny comic strip for 30 years.) Other objects we pick up puzzle us both. Where did this porcelain lion with a coat of arms come from? We shake our heads looking for a memory to drop out, but instead, it goes in a box with others for the White Elephant Sale for the Oakland Museum of Art in the Spring.

And what about our clocks? Bill found several at Parisian flea markets. They are delicate and mostly keep odd hours. I have one in my room whose shape I love. It stopped working a couple of years ago and the clock repair shop couldn't fix it. It still stands on my shelf, reading the right time twice a day, its smooth metal curved shape adding a simple design element to an increasingly cluttered workroom.

an ornate clock and candlesticks from a Paris Brocante

I stop what I am doing and go for a walk. I look for signs of late autumn on the ground and in the trees though most of the leaves blew down in the wind last night. I am at Osage Park where I find hedge apples. Do you know what they are? They are about softball size and are the fruit of Osage orange trees. I see them spattered over the ground on my walk around the oval park. It is a perfect walk, documented to be one-seventh of a mile around with every 50 steps or so changing the view from a play structure to rose gardens to baseball and soccer fields to the next 50 steps around a middle schoolyard full of kids running track to a memorial rose garden and arbor to a batting cage to a fence that runs along a creek where one year a mountain lion ambled by causing warning posters to be plastered on many surfaces in the park to more rose gardens with each bush carefully labeled with botanical names to picnic tables and a small building which becomes a concession stand during ball games and finally the last 50 steps ending back at the playground. 

The hedge apples fall near the concession stand and are peculiar looking with their lime green mottled skin and a dry interior with seeds clinging to the center core. At first, since I often found them broken open, I thought they were part of a game someone brought to throw back and forth. They don't look edible, though I see squirrels spirit away broken ones. I tried researching them and found they are related to mulberry trees (though if you have ever seen the fruit of a mulberry tree, you would wonder how they could be) and they used to be prolific here. Now, not so much. No one I knew had ever seen one before.

I pull my attention back to my work at hand and look for other small steps I can take to get back to a more normal life. Today has been just another day to say "YES."

Check out the White Elephant Sale, a benefit for the Oakland Museum of Art:

Someone from National Geographic finally has written an article about hedge apples: