Friday, December 29, 2023


The Five Signs of Life: Square, Triangle, Circle, Cross, Spiral

                                       What events in the last year stand out to you?

We can all think of wars, extreme heat, and the recession of democracies as important events that occurred in 1973, but three anniversaries speak of some pretty strong cultural influences. Disney and Warner Bros. celebrated their 100th anniversaries. The Hip Hop music phenomenon celebrated its 50th. All three of these have had a tremendous impact on American culture. The reminders of these anniversaries brought me back to 1973 to see what else happened that year. Going back to 1923 will have to wait.

I scoured online for 1973 and discovered two lists, one from the Saturday Evening Post (I didn't even know that the SEP still existed) and another from the Houston Defender, a now-online news source focused on Black information (I didn't know this news source existed until I looked online). These two publications are other echoes of our culture along with the anniversaries of Disney, Warner Bros, and Hip Hop.

The Saturday Evening Post began publication in 1897 and came to our house every week, often with its covers designed by Norman Rockwell, and full of mainstream American stories. It is still available in print six times a year and digitally. The Houston Defender started in 1930 as a physical paper that has transitioned to online with stories centered mostly on Black American life.

I combined some of the events on their lists for 1973:

Roe v Wade ruling
Motorola introduces the first cell phone
Gerald Ford became Vice President after Spiro Agnew resigned
Watergate scandal continues
Vietnam War ends
OPEC oil embargo
Occupation of Wounded Knee
Passing of the Endangered Species Act
Billie Jean King v Bobby Riggs tennis match
DJ Kool Herc invents Hip Hop
Films of the Year: Exorcist, Enter the Dragon, American Graffiti, and Blaxploitation movies such as Detroit 9000 and Cleopatra Jones
Books: Carrie by Stephen Kin, Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam, Sula by Toni Morrison, There is a Tree More Ancient Than Eden by Leon Forrest

Which of these items on this list do you think has had the biggest impact on us today?


Something to think about:  Thanks to the writer
Rebecca Solnit who posted this photo this week from the Science Photo Library
of the earth taken from the point of view of the Pacific Ocean.

Check out the Houston Defender:

Link to Saturday Evening Post:

Friday, December 22, 2023


After too much coffee? by Bill Slavin

2023, full of tragedy and tumult, has been in a personal way something to treasure.  Just like everyone else's, my smile disappeared behind a mask during the pandemic. I would smile as I talked with people, but my facial expression remained hidden partly because of the mask but because I also shielded my eyes by wearing large sunglasses. The glasses covered my eyes and most of my face quite well. With a mask and adding a hat, all my facial expressions vanished. With a mask on, I struggled to let people know that I had empathy for them. I removed my glasses so they could see my eyes, but that was not enough. My muffled voice behind the mask didn't carry the emotion I wanted to express. Body language became more important.


Merry Christmas Shout-Out

I rarely see someone with a mask on now. I am one of the cautious ones who still places one on my face when I know I will be in a crowded place for a long period. Most of the time. Until cold weather arrived, we continued to eat at restaurants on their patios instead of inside. We appreciate the wonderful dimension created by outdoor seating in a restaurant space. We are going to sporting events and other crowded activities that would not have been on our list during the pandemic. By pure luck, I haven't had Covid yet.

"Peeking at you"

People have often made comments about my wide smile, a family trait. My favorite came from a student at the end of the day. He said, "When I walk into your room and see your smile, I know I am okay." A smile has been my way to assure people of my good intentions, that I'm friendly, and that I appreciate the work they do.

Smiles, though, can be full of contradictions. In other cultures, a smile could be an indication of someone's poor mental health or a sign of danger. In our culture, women often are told they smile too much or they are told to smile because they look too stern.  Smile and a woman is too girlish. No smile and she is too severe. In 2023, I found that someone's smile was extra special to see.

Though I valued the mask for protecting me from Covid, I discovered one more unexpected consequence. Wearing a mask not only guarded against Covid, but affected how I communicated with others. 2023 has been a year of getting reacquainted with the smiles on other people's faces and seeing the other facial clues we express that signal how we are all feeling. I am glad.

Thursday, December 14, 2023


Rusting water pipes

Stepping out of our apartment building, I hurry across the street to my quick respite from concrete: a walkway lined with trees and bushes. Several alleys of trees in our neighborhood give me the chance to walk underneath their welcoming limbs away from the streets lined with buildings. Bill and I also live a short distance from the canal behind Oracle Park where kayakers paddle during baseball season in hopes of catching a home-run ball. The canal is alive with seagulls, herons, and cormorants who roost along the edges. The canal is also the entrance to Mission Bay, a former industrial area, where we live. Walking around the neighborhood, I have been hard-pressed to find new drawing inspiration. Instead of my usual trees, acorns, people, and birds, I find lots of buildings and massive steel beams. Some artists love to portray this industrial look, but I'm not one of them.

Steelworkers of America

While we lived in Danville and Aptos, I could walk out the door and find natural objects to pick up and take home to draw and paint. Not so here in the city. As I walked around the streets what first interested me were the rust-colored street plates that dot the pavement. They aren't plain; instead, the surface is covered with wave-like patterns, perhaps an interpretation of the water that surrounds the area. The covers are the color of rust or Burnt Sienna, one of my favorite colors. I began looking for more rust.

Along the waterfront, we walked part of the San Francisco Bay Trail, which circles the Bay. The trail comes off the Golden Gate Bridge, runs on the Embarcadero, and continues south beyond Mission Bay, Dogpatch, India Basin, Bay View, and Hunter's Point where slaughterhouses, the Naval shipyard, warehouses, lumberyards, and steel mills once were located. For a long time, this area was the backwater of San Francisco where early immigrants pitched their tents and irradiated ships after atom bomb testing in the 1950s docked. Now the area is rapidly transitioning to condos, tech and medical offices, parks, and athletic facilities though Hunter's Point still has a superfund site where toxic waste keeps being found even after the initial clean up.

Abandoned buildings at Crane Cove Park

When Bill and I walked the trail, we came to the surprise of Crane Cove Park, a small beach and playing field named for the two monster metal cranes at the side of the park. I saw a feast of rust across  from the small beach behind chain link fences that surround the Union Iron Works National Register Historic District. The park is part of a tribute to its previous history as an industrial area and to the workers who built ships and loaded freight on to barges, especially during WW II. Beyond the fences sit abandoned brick and sheetmetal buildings ready for redevelopment. As we walked past the fences to 20th Street on Pier 70, we saw the beginnings of reclamation of the area. Restoration Hardware has moved to the former Bethlehem Steel Building at the entrance to the pier. Inside the brick buildings that line the street, we saw room after room of computers. The area is trading heavy industry of the past for the modern tech equivalent.

In just a few spots along the trail, we watched the remains of the natural world with shore birds circling the water to come in for a landing and to dry their feathers in the sun.


Read more about the Mission Bay area here:

John King's 2019 article about the Pier 70 project:

What Mission Creek looked like in the 1920s:

San Francisco Parks Alliance:

Tour of the Blue Greenway (taken 7 years ago) which gives a full view of what the rehabilitation includes. 

Friday, December 8, 2023



During the holiday season since high school, I found fun in decorating our house and making cards and holiday ornaments. 

When I was in high school, I learned to make a paper sculpture ball out of two pieces of full-size (about 20 X 30 inches) metallic paper. On each sheet, I would measure out one-inch marks across the page, and meticulously score those marks along with the diagonal lines that crossed the pages. I carefully folded each scored line until the paper turned into half of a ball-shaped ornament. I would repeat that process with another piece of paper. When I did the ornament right, it was a beauty to behold.

When Bill and I were first married, we made our own holiday cards. He would cut out the shapes I had designed from a linoleum block, I would spread printer's ink across the finished block,  and then press it on a piece of colored paper.

A few years ago, I made some cards to add to the ones we now make using Bill's photographs. I wrote up the instructions for them on this blog. Several people have requested the instructions for making my holiday tree cards. What makes this card special is how easy it is to make with whatever supplies you might have to create a simple homemade card.

Supplies you can use:

Painter's tape and hole punches

Sturdy paper such as Strathmore postcard paper or smooth Bristol board

Watercolors, watercolor inks, watercolor crayons, or watered-down food coloring

A clean sponge or brush and the end of an unsharpened pencil

Water, scissors, glue, and a ruler

For tree variations: collect holiday-colored paper scraps and round stickers

Sequins, crystal stars, go with what you want on the tree!


Tape off an equilateral triangle on the postcard-sized paper you choose. Make sure the inner edges of the tape are secure. Using the color agent of your choice, fill the triangle with green. Let it dry. Using the end of a pencil dipped in red paint or ink or red dots made with a hole punch, scatter red dots over the tree.

Add another small triangle at the bottom for the tree trunk.

If you like to do hand lettering, use either pen and ink or markers to add holiday greetings to your card. If you aren't confident about your writing skills, you can make a copy of the phrase from the original cards or find other phrases from other cards or magazines, cut them out, and paste them in place.

Variations on the holiday tree:

Card made with round stationery stickers and a crystal star

Decorative paper cut to fit the triangle shape

Friday, December 1, 2023


I grew up in an LA suburb. We never had snow for the holidays, maybe a little rain. We still gathered for holiday meals around a long maple table and at the children's tables nearby. My mom prepared the usual Thanksgiving meal: pickles, olives, turkey, mashed potatoes, overcooked vegetables, Waldorf salad, rolls with lots of butter, and pumpkin and mincemeat pies. At least that is what I remember.

Along with my sisters' children and our granddad, I sat at the children's table. Our granddad was never embarrassed to join us and made us laugh. My grandmother showed me how to set a table and told stories about her siblings back East. My parents didn't drink alcohol except at holiday meals. Sometimes they would have a glass of wine and let us have a spoonful and then laugh at our scrunched-up faces in response to the taste. Boyfriends and my sisters' husbands joined the table over the years, and then their children took over the children's table.

I continued the holiday traditions when I married and moved away. We had a smaller gathering, just my in-laws and sometimes a stray friend, and then our son Theo. I love to cook and used the Sunset Magazine's version of roasting a turkey -- upside down until it reached almost done. The white meat was juicy and tender because the juices followed gravity. I pulled it out of the oven, poured a mix of alcohol over the bird, and lit it aflame. I put it back in the oven for a short time until the top skin was brown and crispy.

Our holidays changed when we moved to Japan. Turkey was not a meat that was eaten there and to order one was extremely expensive. We joined with other ex-pat families either around their table or at Roy's Restaurant in Omotesando (the same restaurant found in Hawaii).

Our move to Paris changed our holidays again. The local butcher shops prepared turkey along with rich pate. Somehow, no matter which French person cooks the food, it tastes better than anything I can conjure up. I had to walk several blocks home lugging the turkey and pate on a platter. I was always grateful to make it home in one piece. We would invite an African friend to dinner to celebrate friendship in a different place than our American home.

Once we came back to the U.S., I returned to our holiday traditions until about 10 years ago. Theo graduated from college and he and his long-time girlfriend split their holiday times between two families. We meet a couple of times during the holiday season and recognize that the holiday day doesn't have to occur on the nationally designated day. What is important is getting together.

This year, once again, our holiday is different. We have moved and had lunch at Farley's, the pub at Cavallo Point, a hotel that is situated at the old Ft. Baker site on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge from the City. The hotel has a beautiful view of the San Francisco Bay. We have never been there when it is foggy. The lawn in front of the hotel allows us to walk before dinner. We can sit in the rocking chairs that line the porch. We had a quiet early dinner, a green salad with chicken added and Parker House rolls served hot in a small cast iron skillet. We had a wonderful day by ourselves and texted messages to family and friends.

What I've learned from our many changes is to enjoy the tradition as well as the change. There is happiness to be found in both.


A friend recently lost one of her sons to suicide. Her blog posting here includes her husband's response to the tragedy. It's a beautiful thoughtful response to a tragedy: