Friday, August 25, 2023


Pages from my sketch-of-the-day sketchbook for August 2023

Bees tell stories by shaking their tails, directing other bees to pollen sites. Elephants mourn their dead. Dogs communicate with us with facial gestures. We show our emotions by moving our bodies to emphasize our stories. We humans tend to think that we are superior to other animals and insects, and that we have special characteristics that set us apart, but scientists keep proving our assumptions wrong. Instead, we could recognize we are all storytellers, and those stories help to build our communities.

Storytellers in my family regaled us with the adventures and escapades of local farmers, of ancestors who arrived in America by escaping the French Revolution or landing in New York City and walking to Minnesota or driving across the country to live in California. Those stories helped to build for me an image of our family's strengths and weaknesses.

Sitting at a coffee shop in a new town watching all the people around us, I start drawing and making up stories about who the people are and what they are doing. If we were in our old neighborhood, the familiar faces would have told their stories long ago. In new places, I can let my fantasy expand. I noticed the young woman busy at a computer with headphones on, talking continuously as if to herself. The young man with a long beard lifts his son up to his shoulders while his daughter grabs his pants for attention. The couple with hoodies sitting in the drizzle from the high fog, his hoodie grimy with dirt, hers, clean. A young man walks by with his head shaved except for the sumo-wrestler topknot. An old woman hunched over a walker trudged past me. All of these people have real stories to tell, but it is also fun to make up a life about them. Together they could be the source of a new story.

Here is a first sentence to start a story: "The wind ruffled Camille's hair. She looked up and watched as her parents stood, pulled their hoodies tighter, stared at her for a moment, and walked away."

Could this be the beginning of a mystery, a romance, or a multi-generational tale? What would you add next to make this a good story? Show me.


The idea of community has been a recent topic for several columnists and essay writers. Check out David Brooks' essay at The Atlantic, "How America Got Mean" 
and Perry Bacon's point of view in the Washington Post, "I Left the Church and Now Long for a Church for the Nones."

Both food for thought of the importance of community and what we lose when we think only of ourselves as individuals.

Friday, August 18, 2023


Did you collect rocks when you were growing up?

I did. My junior high offered a geology course, and I thrived in the class learning about sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks. I loved the long names of each type of rock, and I loved scouring the ground for good examples. As we packed our house recently, I wondered what to do with the rock collections that I had accumulated over the years including some I kept from childhood. I thought of bringing them back to the beach, hills, or pathways where I found them, but like introducing a foreign species, would I be putting a rock in the wrong place? Like salting a gold mine? I no longer collect rocks, just as I stopped collecting insects in high school and seashells when the beaches became depleted of shells. We've all learned of the damage people do to our environment and I try not to disturb the natural world as much as I can. I take photos instead of what remains.

Walking the Seacliff Beach, we discovered piles of water-washed stones brought up to shore by the waves. Further north is Bean Beach, so named because the sand is covered by bean-sized pebbles, again water-washed smooth. The piles at Seacliff didn't cover the entire beach instead they lay in drifts 20 or 30 feet apart on the sandy shoreline. We wondered why the rocks only washed ashore in separate piles instead of covering the entire beach. When a wave came in and then withdrew, we could hear the clatter of the smaller rocks as they bounced up into the receding wave and came down again. 

Among the smooth rocks were stones with holes where shells protruded after being abandoned by a crab or other sea creature that had made it home. Other rocks were compressed around slivers of shells. How did they form? Were they pieces of tar or cement still malleable enough to capture shells or part of the sedimentary process of thousands of years of compression? Many more stones across the sand were sandstone, fine sedimentary rocks that look like granite but with smaller particles of different colors.

The sand itself was pockmarked with tiny holes created by the wave action as it seeps down through the grains of sand. Small sand crabs and other tiny sea animals hide in the sand too. The seagulls made a dance of poking down into the holes before a new wave would come to shore and the gulls would run from the water. We watched their antics until we turned and walked up the stairs to our car. Our day at the beach concluded.


August 18: a day to celebrate the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women equal rights with the ability to vote. We need to hold on to those rights today.

Friday, August 11, 2023


A sketch-a-day for August 6

First, a black nose came out from the table, then two sympathetic eyes looked up at us as we sat at a Peet's sipping coffee. We needed a dog hug and the Retriever nestled right up to our legs. People know me as a cat person, but a dog is a good substitute.

After several months of intense action getting our house ready to sell, we landed in Aptos near the beach for a respite. We've been consumed with dual projects of selling and trying to find the right house, talking over all our options, spending time with friends, and working separately on projects in our offices. In our new, smaller space, and with all the activity quiet and no decisions to make, we keep bumping into each other. We sat down to dinner at a local restaurant, and we both gazed off into the distance. For a second, I thought of older couples I've seen who pay no attention to each other. I've wondered if they are sitting in companionable silence or with boredom. Then Bill said, "We'll make this work out well, won't we? We just have to keep laughing!"

Sketch-a-day for August 2

Moving is right up there with death and divorce as one of the most stressful events in our lives. We readily agree, but we are still finding humor in our day, most of the time. Sometimes that takes a little work to achieve. Moving has stretched our energy limits, and reminded us how each of us recovers from energy depletion: Bill needs to be around the hum of other people, I need absolute peace and quiet. Somehow we have managed to navigate life together as people at the opposite extremes of the extrovert/introvert spectrum. A lot of that means letting go, stepping back, and being sensitive to someone else's needs. (Bill still would like to listen to the morning news in the morning. I cringe at the thought of that noise in the morning.) The radio stays silent, but we found a BBQ place in Aptos with good, loud, live entertainment every night.

Sketch-a-day for August 4 and 5

We are making progress. We've recouped some of our lost energy. We have time now to focus on finding a new place. We are enjoying the break from old routines and discovering new places.

Here are a few:

Good Food in Aptos:

Aptos St. BarBQ:

Mentone, a restaurant created by David Kinch of Manresa fame

Persephone Restaurant:

The Hideout:

Good reads:

Francie Low, fellow blogger, has moved too: 

Carrie Clauson, the wife of one of my favorite cousins, spends several months in Mexico:

Friday, August 4, 2023


A bushy grey tail with dark rings scooted out of the door of the downstairs bedroom as I walked in and turned on the light. We had left the bedroom door open to allow in the fresh air. The door let in something else as well. A raccoon, I'm sure, who came to check out the new residents. I didn't see the animal's face, but the rings on the tail let me know what kind of bold creature had visited our new place.

The backyard of the rental where we are staying for a couple of months leads down to a lagoon and faces west so the sunset is blue, yellow, and shadows. I thought of mosquitoes as the sun disappeared, but no insects buzzed around our heads. The doors don't have screens like they would on a Minnesota lake where at dusk everyone comes inside, listens, and watches the bugs surrounding the porch lights.

A new place and a perfect time to make a sketch-a-day diary of what catches my eye. We've already found the local corner shopping center just a short walk away with two restaurants, a small grocery, an exercise studio, and a coffee place where we hope to spend some mornings.

We've driven to Santa Cruz to one of our favorite bookstores and snagged a bag of books to keep us reading. We found another set of shops in Aptos with two excellent restaurants, the Red Apple Cafe, for breakfast and lunch, and the Bittersweet Bistro for dinner. We haven't gotten organized enough yet to start making meals at home. 

With each box I unpack, I sigh, "Did I really need to bring this?" And then I remember why. If I had left the box in storage, the contents would have been what I really needed. Packing light has never been my forte. This time, we left screwdrivers and pliers in storage since we rented a furnished place and thought we wouldn't need them. We could have used those tools when I opened a kitchen cabinet door, which fell out of its top hinge leaving me to hold on to the door until I could get it realigned with the base and back in place. No tools needed!

I don't have my watercolors out yet, but I've decided to use marking pens and colored pencils to make my diary. I've pulled out the templates made by Nico Ng that I bought earlier this year and hadn't had time to use. I'm ignoring for the day the rest of the stuff that needs to be unpacked. I am ready to begin.

Nico Ng and all his helpful products can be found here:

The Red Apple Cafe in Aptos:

The Bittersweet Bistro:

Cafe Cruz 
Don’t be fooled by the entrance on the street side: