Friday, July 28, 2023


The Sky is the Limit

What is your favorite summertime reading? Reading for me is more than a pleasure. It gives me a chance to hold the mind of a writer in my hands. I look for lyrical, well-edited writing, but every book takes me into another world.

Mysteries carry me through the year and I'm always looking for good recommendations. I like the character development, the suspense, and the puzzle presented of a who-done-it. Two mystery series I enjoyed this past month:

Billy Boyle, a series about a rookie Boston police officer, who serves in the military during World War II as an investigator. The author James R. Benn puts the reader right in the middle of historical events as well as in interesting places like Tunisia and Sicily.

I've just finished Joe Country, part of Mick Herron's series about Slough House, the dumping place for British spies who have made mistakes and are no longer trusted by their government. Herron's writing reminds me of John LeCarre, with his painstaking minutiae of the life of has-been spies who somehow still get involved in solving crises.

In the last year, I have also been drawn to books about libraries and bookstores. This interest started with The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and The Library Book by Susan Orlean. I just finished The Echo of Old Books by Barbara Davis and The Librarian of Burned Books by Brianna Labuskes, which is especially parallel to what is happening at libraries and schools today. 

Two other recommendations:
Lady Bird Johnson, Hiding in Plain Sight by Julia Sweig, a fresh look at an important woman and
I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys, a novel portraying life in Romania under the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu.

My goal this year has been to complete a blog post each Friday in the midst of packing and moving. Each blog post becomes a way for me to find insight into day-to-day experiences. Though I haven't had as much time to spend working on each post, I find that having a chance to continue even while upturning our lives has been a respite for me as well as a way to understand how I feel each day.

Lighthouse at Santa Cruz

Friday, July 21, 2023


Two hundred years ago, millions of birds took to the air flying in what is called a murmuration. In the fall, I occasionally see starlings take to the sky in twirling masses. A million, probably not. Those millions of birds are long gone used for food, plumage on hats, or poisoned by us because they were considered a nuisance. That is why the birds in our yard seem precious to us. We have had the chance to witness their lives as they fly from the feeders to the water fountain, tend babies, and chase each other around the yard. We've had quail, doves, goldfinches, and robin's nests in our yard over the years, and now we have another nest built within the leaves of a potted plant near our kitchen window. The newest birds, startled when I opened the window near them, haven't been back to tend to their perfectly constructed nest. They left behind one speckled egg.

At lunch, Bill and I watch for the two swallowtails, part of the generations of swallowtails that visit our yard every summer. They flit from one spot to another, hovering, but rarely landing on any plant. There are always two, not three or four, and their offspring come back each year.

Not having enough time lately to do much art, I've been sifting through my portfolio stored on my computer. I found drawings and watercolor sketches of the animals and insects that visit our yard. I also came across a diagram of what has lived on this property since the dinosaurs ventured out of these hills.

We are moving after 40 years in our home. When I think of the things I will miss, besides the friends who have become treasures, I think of the birds and other animals who populate our yard. I watched as one bird picked at some straw that I left out for them. The bird scattered the straw over the porch and bushes and took off with pieces in its beak. Yesterday a small rabbit wandered into our yard and this morning I startled a Jack rabbit who bounded up the hill. We are lucky to see rabbits once or twice a year. Like turkeys or voles they could be a problem; but, for now, these moments leave me with a sense of wonder.

We are moving temporarily to a beach community while we search for another home. The weather will be different from Danville, which just had its first heat wave of the summer. We may experience the morning fog that hugs the coast this time of year. We hope to find other birds and animals around us. We hope to stay connected with friends while we find that new, perfect place called home.


Friday, July 14, 2023


 We've sold our home, sold or donated many of our belongings and packed the rest, put a deposit on a rental house, and managed to still like each other most of the time. Neither of us has had time to pursue our artwork and photography lately, but we find temporary solace outside where we can talk at a table and listen to the birds. We continue our search for a new home.

My filled-to-the-rafters workspace

My workspace after staging

When we began looking for a new place to live, we set perimeters: no stairs, nice neighborhood with a sense of community, hood over stovetop, a small garden, no remodeling projects, room for a workspace for both of us, and character. Not too much to ask we thought. We scoured the internet starting in February. Real estate sales start online with photos of the properties for sale, inside and out. A new neighbor bought their house over the internet without a visit to the property, a complete virtual experience.

We've entered our name with a broker so we get notices of homes coming on the market. We've traipsed through open houses to find there is always something wrong that catches our eye including awkward division of room spaces, posts in the middle of a room, not enough sunlight, or we discover hidden problems after we read the disclosures. We've done all the right things, in between taking deep breaths, but we haven't found a new home yet. As we look on the internet, we begin to question our priorities: do we really need a single story, a hood over the stove (we could add one later?), workspace, how about a balcony instead of a garden?

We will find a home, but it may take longer than we thought.

We realized we needed to rent a place in the meantime, so, again, we scoured the internet in various cities and discovered there aren't a lot of furnished homes to rent in our area. We saw one in Marin County that looked enchanting with a great view of the San Francisco Bay from the deck. One sentence about stairs, but we decided to take a peek anyway. I drove to Marin and as I approached the street where the house was located, I started to laugh. The road was maybe one and a half cars wide with a series of switchbacks that reminded me of the hairpin turns we witnessed watching the Tour de France's cyclists climb in the Alps. We kept going because the leassor was waiting for us. The closer to the house I drove, the more both of us laughed. There was no way we could rent this place. Difficult parking, narrow road with cars dangling half on and half off the road. Then we saw the carport available down the hill from the house and stared up the two-story flight of stairs to the house. We continued to the address, we parked as directed in a neighbor's carport, walked on the uneven ground to the front door, and met the delightful owner. We thought, "If we were 20 or 30, we would jump at this chance, but one twist of an ankle and we'd be done for now." The view of the Bay was spectacular.

We stopped for lunch in Larkspur nearby, a favorite town of ours. We walked around the main street and noticed for the first time the number of stairs leading up the hills away from town. We stopped at a quiet park at the edge of town and decided to look for rentals near a beach (Flat Land!)

It was fitting this morning as posted my blog today, that the reCaptra image to click on was STAIRS.

Friday, July 7, 2023


A reminder of what the flag means

Fourth of July, my favorite holiday, comes and goes quickly. Just a little time to think about the ideals of our Constitution and our complicated history of trying to achieve those goals. I wonder why we are the country we are, why we are admired and hated, and why so many people continue to want to come to this country.

We normally watch the PBS celebration just to see the fireworks. This year, though, I smiled at the thousands of people who crowded into the public space in front of the Capitol. What a glorious time they seemed to be having as they swayed, clapped, and sang to the music by a variety of performers such as Babyface, Renee Fleming, Boyz II Men, and Brenda Carlisle. It was good to see the Capitol grounds filled with happy people, together, waving flags, standing closely, or dancing with each other -- a stark contrast to January 6, 2020, when rioters filled the air with their ugly chants and swung bats and threw objects through the Capitol windows.

I saw just a few masks in the crowd this year. With COVID now more endemic than pandemic, I am mask-free, for the most part, at last. I still gasp at the thought of 1.13 million Americans who died from COVID. I continued to wear masks long after many people stopped and have avoided catching COVID though 3 faraway friends have come down with it in recent weeks. I am less and less cautious now. I stopped wearing masks in grocery stores and other less crowded places. Yesterday for the first time I walked into the pharmacy without one. I still keep them for the few times I've been to the airport and on flights and at the doctor's office. Bill and I went to the reverse boycott of the Oakland A's a couple of weeks ago along with about 40,000 other people and I even walked through the crowded food court aisles without a mask (fingers crossed). Yet we haven't come all the way back. I still see people wearing masks, I've noticed that stores don't carry all the products that used to be easily available, hotels and restaurants aren't staffed as thoroughly as they used to be, and there are still things missing from our lives like civility and responsibility.

I looked at the Fourth of July crowd with hope and marveled that for a brief period, so many different types of people could gather at the Capitol and celebrate their best selves. 

America is a land of contradictions too: July 4th and 5th are dates noted by the Gun Violence Archive for having the most mass shootings during the year. We have had enough this year already. We have more guns than people in this country. Enough already.

Check out the information posted at the Gun Violence Archive: