Vacation, really, is now over


The youngest member is now on a flight to China.

She was home for over a month, and it’s now a little difficult to remember how we used to live before she was here. I have particularly enjoyed her visit — she will look at birds with me, she helps around the house, she likes to play games, and she makes me watch TV shows I would not otherwise watch. Midsomer Murders, Jane the Virgin and One Day at a Time, for example.  It’s a change from my otherwise steady diet of Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell.

Anyway, I enjoyed having her here. I think she feels like she did not get all the things done that she wanted to get done, but it seems to me we did a lot – though what we did, endless rounds of cribbage in Anza Borrego, for example, was possibly not on her list of things to get done.

So, now the house is pretty quiet. I need to pack up the remains of Christmas (apparently I have until Candlemas to do that, and that’s February 2. That’s manageable.) I need to get back to work out in the yard, although it’s possibly too muddy to do that yet. I need to exercise more and get outside more.


I have been reading this nutty and beautiful book, and it makes me want to go exploring. There are lots of wild, amazing places I have not been and want to go.

I’m in the middle a sweater, and in the middle of a quilt. I’d like to finish those.

Other than that, — I don’t know!

Maybe a nap.



Ferruginous hawks!

M leaves a week from today. It has been so nice having her here. I think having her live so far away (Beijing) is bearable because she comes home and stays for a while, though I think she’s eager to get back to her life. I think she’s done nearly all the things she wanted to done while home. There were a lot — mostly doctor, dentist, eye doctor appointments before she turns 26, and then a bunch of administrative things. We usually visit museums, too, so we’ll have to fit that in as well. Hmm.

The weekend before last we went to the Salton Sea. This weekend we went to the Women’s March in Oakland, and then I drove up to meet a birding field trip near Willows, while she stayed home.

The march was excellent. We dithered about going, but I’m really glad we did. It was smaller than last year’s, but still big — 50,000 as opposed to 100,000 last year (which was phenomenal and massive).

Birding was phenomenal. We hit up two big National Wildlife Refuges, Sacramento and Colusa, then the Maxwell cemetery where we saw the resident vermillion flycatcher, and stopped on the way back in Woodside near the Plainfield elementary school to see  a field of hawks, including at least three ferruginous hawks, standing on the ground eating voles. Three people from my master birding class were along and it was nice to spend time with them.

I absolutely love driving through the central valley, driving through agricultural fields, driving in winter when the trees are bare and you can see everything, flooded fields full of ducks, being outside in the cold then coming in, exploring places that most people don’t ever go, finding the secret bird life that goes on in those places, getting to know this whole state, including, again, places most people don’t go.

It reminds me of the landscape in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, where birds write magic across the sky —

“The sky spoke to him.
It was a language he had never heard before. He was not even certain there were words. Perhaps it only spoke to him in the black writing the birds made. He was small and unprotected and there was no escape. He was caught between earth and sky as if cupped between two hands. They could crush him if they chose.”

There are other quotes that are better, but that’s the one I found easily.

Anyway. It’s a slow Monday here. I’d better get to work.


Salton Sea


M and I are just back from a birding trip to the Salton Sea.

What a very strange place! It’s got a fascinating history, but it’s now shrinking, and becoming increasingly saline. Because there are now fewer fish (too salty, there are fewer birds than there were 20 years ago, but it’s still a place that attracts rare migrants. It’s also in the south, and so of course has birds I don’t usually see. So we spent Saturday birding around the lake with a group of bay area birders, and we saw a lot. They’re also really nice people.

Sunday we drove over to Anza Borrego State Park, another amazing place, where we met up with my brother and his wife, and hiked into a desert canyon. We spent the night and the next morning there, and then drove home that afternoon, running into some hellish fog along the way so we got home late.

It was nice, though. Not only was it warm and sunny, there were interesting new birds and odd new landscapes. Also, after what seemed like a very short Christmas break, it was nice to take another mini-vacation. I think I may have shaken the torpor I’ve been existing in since I went back to work, unwillingly, on January 2.


M goes back to China is a week, so it was nice to spend some time with her on vacation. It was also nice to have a partner on a birding expedition. The birders are mostly, but not exclusively, an elderly group, and they’re always charmed when someone under 45 comes along. They are sweet.

Life seems pleasant at the moment. I walked home in the rain to our cozy house and am now propped here on the couch under a blanket, listening to the intricacies of how the NRA colluded with the Russians to funnel money to the Trump campaign. Cora, the cat, has taken over my knitting for her napping spot. M went out to dinner with a friend and  they’re now home, talking upstairs. We’ve got plans to visit N in Philadelphia in March.

It’s good.



Every day I wake up and think, I don’t want to go to work!

I have a thousand things to do — sweaters to knit, puzzles to finish, birds to observe, blog posts to write, closets to declutter, huge rose bushes in the backyard to tame, cats to spoil.

In part, the fact that I will retire in a few years makes this feeling stronger, but to tell the truth I have been feeling this ever since I had kids. Though, with kids, the prospect of a quiet lunch hour was some compensation.

Anyway. It has suddenly been raining, which is a good thing because we were teetering on the edge of a drought. M is with us through the end of december, so we’ve been watching Jane the Virgin and puzzling every evening. I AM knitting a sweater. And we are taking a trip down to the Salton Sea to look at birds — so life is not all bad.

And there you have it —

Holiday recap

Back at work. (I can’t believe I have to be back at work.)

What a busy holiday! It was kind of great.


  • Watched the Marvelous Mrs Maisel (great)
  • Played games — Ticket to Ride, Secret Hitler, Cards Against Humanity — games are great, actually. Younger daughter M’s boyfriend A had not really spent time with older daughter N and playing games is a great way to get to know people pretty quickly. It was a way M and A could spend time with my brother D and N’s friends — we could all be together and interacting. Fun. Also, at a New Year’s Eve party we played poker, Chinese checkers and something called Codenames, which were also fun and useful in the same way.
  • Went to see the Hard Nut (which the girls rejected — turns out they are Nutcracker purists.)
  • Went to the Sound exhibit at SF MOMA — the Visitors by Ragnar Kjartansson was amazing. M had seen it at Kenyon when it was new.
  • Had 3 parties — solstice, xmas eve and xmas day. Went to a few others.
  • Built two puzzles.
  • Baked some cookies, but probably not enough.
  • Watched Coco. We cried.
  • Watched Jane the Virgin, which is great.
  • M and I went birding on New Years Day and saw 42 species (great jump on 2017 count!) including a short eared owl, which neither of us had ever seen before.
  • Oh! I did the Christmas bird count and went to the party after.

I’m sure there is more, but I can’t remember. We shopped and opened presents and gave presents and sent presents across the continent. We cooked food and ate food and cooked more food and ate more food.

M is still here through the end of the month — getting in her final medical visits before she turns 26 and doing other life-administrative tasks. It’s great to have her here, actually — not least of all because she is also a birder and it is really nice to have someone to go birding with. We’re a good team, too.

N is back on the east coast, staying with her girlfriend A’s parents, visiting my mother, returning to Philadelphia pretty soon for classes to start up again.

I am really enjoying having kids who are adults. They have their own lives. They seem to like to come and hang around ( ) and then they go back to their own interesting lives (and then they send me pictures! mostly of their pets). I don’t know why, but I never anticipated how great this would be. The fact that they have their own, interesting lives — why does this surprise me? But it’s the best thing!

In other news, I love January. It’s like November, I think — both cold, bleak, underappreciated months. I love that it’s dark and very empty outside. M and I went up to an old ranch off the north bay yesterday to go birding. It is so beautiful, with the rusty marsh plants and the looming dark mountains and the quiet bay in the distance. I love every season, but I do particularly love winter.

And, since she’s here, we’ve got another few birding trips lined up — to the Salton Sea and the Central Valley.  And March is really busy — we want to go camping in the Carrizo Plain, to Nebraska to see the Sandhill Cranes and to Philadelphia to visit N. And then it will be summer. I’d love to go back to China in the fall — So that’s all a lot.

I’d also like to build a shed/office in the back yard. K needs a place to keep all his files. I think it could be really nice. So we need to think about that. And I have sweaters to knit and a quilt to finish.

Lots of projects.

Happy New Year!