I did the Christmas bird count yesterday. Oakland has the biggest bird count in the world, and it’s a lot of fun. (Really, go read that article. You’ll see a lot of what makes Golden Gate Audubon so special.) This was my third year, but the first time I made it to the compilation dinner, and I don’t think I’ll miss it again, if I can. You sit at a table with your teammates, and Bob and Dave first go over all the birds which have been seen ten years running. (The only bird from that list which was not seen this year was the Loggerhead Shrike, which means it may no longer exist in our area, which is sad.) Then the birds seen 9, 8 and 7 of the last ten years. Of those birds, a few gulls — Heermann’s and Bonaparte’s — were not seen this year, though they may have been seen by one of the boats. (We have boats!) Then each table reports anything it saw that was not previously mentioned. It’s very festive, and we eat Chinese food, which seems completely appropriate — you can imagine in the beginning, when there were 9 people doing this, they might have ordered Chinese food while they counted what they’d seen. Nowadays we get about 260 people.

No one from my team showed up for the dinner, but I found some people I know from the Master Birding class to sit with. I felt kind of sad that I had not been assigned to one of the crack teams, but I talked with the organizer afterwards, just to let him know that someone from my team was there (the leader had phoned in our results), and he asked if I was okay there, and said that they had assigned me to that team because they thought the leader might need help. And in fact, I was the leader of my little sub-team, which consisted of me, a ten year old bird-enthusiast, and his father. So — if that’s the case, I think I’m going to start birding in that area so I’ll know the whole place for next year, and I’ll try to lure some of my crack birding friends to come with me. Next year, I hope we’ll actually have a table.

Because I really did nothing but bird yesterday, I am playing hooky today to get the house in order for Christmas! and for Nora and Maddy! who are coming home for Christmas! Maddy with boyfriend Alex in tow! Nora’s coming in tonight, and I realized that all I really have to do is to get her bedroom in shape. Because it’s a big room, and because she doesn’t live here, it tends to fill up with detritus. My camping gear, for instance. I went backpacking in late August, I think, but it’s been an insanely busy year and it’s still sitting up there. Anyway, I have now made up her bed. I need to vacuum, and finish the ironing (which also happens there) and haul several boxes up to the attic (which is not easy), and then at least her room will be done.

Maddy comes on Wednesday, but I want to have the house clean enough that I don’t have to worry about it until after Christmas.

We have lived here 11 years now, I think — almost as long as we lived in our first house three towns north of here. We moved here when the youngest went to high school and the oldest was a junior. So that was 8 years with kids still in high school and college, though they’ve both been back for periods of about 6 months in the three years since we’ve had no kids really living here. Actually, if I think about it that way I understand why I feel that we’re only just now figuring out how to live in the house.  It felt so big when we first moved in, but in truth it’s actually pretty small, and if you think about it as a small house it seems to make more sense. In any case, though, I think I’m fonder of it than I’ve ever been. Partly, I think I have reconciled myself to the fact that the  few closets we have are very small, and the only way to deal with that is to have less stuff.

I think part of it is realizing that it is indeed great to have more space than things.  So I’m working on that.

Anyway — off to deal with the camping gear.





Ho ho ho or ho hum

Yikes. I’ve got to go home now and unearth the kitchen table so my book group can come over, and then I have to go down to the Cheeseboard to buy pizza, gluten free and regular, to feed them, and then I have to make a salad. And buy some wine.
I guess I’m trying to get everything done before the kids come home. I’ve been to the dentist, the doctor and the eye clinic. I’ve paid the erratic gardener. I’ve ordered a quarter cord of firewood. 
I actually love this time of year, when everything shuts down and you have a week, maybe two, where you don’t have to do anything. (I know some people have to do stuff, and I’m sorry about that.) But there is a lot of prep to get there. It always feels like you’re running and running and running and then eventually, ready or not, you have to stop. I wish I could take next week off. I have to work through Wednesday. that makes it harder. Trying to get everything ready while also trying to do your job. While calling the wood people and the dentist and trying to figure out the gardener’s erratic billing.
And then I’ve got to clear the excess boxage out of the kids’ rooms.
It’s a lot. I guess I’ll do what I can and forget about the rest. I do have a jigsaw puzzle. I am looking forward to the days when that’s all I have to do.
It’s this balance of having a million things that you want to get done and having that time to do nothing, and at some point you just have to give up on the 75% you have not managed to do. And it’s always ok. No one needed that extra recipe of cookies, and if you don’t get the brakes fixed on that one bicycle it’s probably going to be ok.
This year there’s some underlying sadness, too. There’s Trump and the terrible damage he’s causing everywhere. I think we’re going to turn things around and more people will get involved and we will realize that we don’t want to be a country of fascists and gun nuts and despoilers. I hope. But then it’s still a little sad that there are people who do want to be fascists. What happened to them? I really can’t think that people choose that understanding of the world because their lives have gone well. And then there’s the issue of what he’s managed to ruin in the meantime. If we’re lucky, he will not cause a nuclear war, but I think that’s only if we’re really lucky.  And then there’s family stuff (extended), which will probably sort itself out, but which is definitely sad in the meantime.
Anyway. There you have it. And now I really do need to get home —
I’m actually really tired, which I kind of think is due to the mental anguish caused by the Trump administration more than anything.
But there it is.
I will listen to Pod Save America as I clean. That will cheer me right up.


I am back! Not sure if it’s for real —

  1. It’s crazy windy here today! We’ve had some rain, miraculously, so I think we’re not in danger of massive fires, but it is still remarkable windy. Welcome to the hellscape!
  2. Had a birding class last night. I love birding classes. This is a good one, because it has a lot of people I like in it. Also, it’s led by my friend Megan who is a nut and I like her a lot, and my beginning birding teacher Ann is in it, and I like her a lot. We had a field trip last weekend and I thought, how lucky I am to be on a birding trip with all my birdy friends. I wonder if I could lure some of them to China next fall for a birding trip. Something to think about.
  3. I had a blood test at 7AM so I am at work ridiculously early. Sadly, I’m going to have to stay ridiculously late. Do doctors realize what a pain it is to have to wake up early to go wait in an uncomfortable storefront, HAVING HAD NO COFFEE, for someone to come and extract your viscera? I don’t think they understand what a nuisance it is. However, I did it, so there can be no complaints. Now I have to go get a damn mammogram.
  4. Here’s a joke from my birding class. There’s just a lot we don’t know about birds and why they do what they do. Do pigeon guillemots mate for life? Are they faithful to their nest sites? You would think we could know this, but we actually do not. One population of common murres nest on the Farallon Islands, and their population has had a boom and bust cycle — mostly due to humans and their insatiable need to fuck everything up. So, when the Farallon population is low, it can rebuild kind of quickly, and how does that happen, given that they have one chick a year? Probably birds who nest elsewhere travel down here and decided to stay and nest here, rather than returning to their more northerly place of origin. How do they know? Well, they come for graduate school, never intending to stay, but then they see that it’s kind of nice here so they stick around. Ha.
  5. That is all.



We had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We went down to Carmel with my brother and a friend, and stayed in the friend’s house — it had been his parents’ weekend house. It was so lovely — it’s still full of their things, and kind of perfectly set up for a weekend away. There was lots of cooking and eating and walking and reading and napping — everything you want in a holiday weekend.

We came back Friday night because I had to lead a bird trip on Saturday morning — it’s a requirement for my Master Birding certificate — and I lead it despite the rather dire forecast. In the end, it did not rain, there were 12 participants, we saw 11 species (which is not very much, but honestly, about what you’d expect) and people seemed interested in the history of the change in birds species on campus over time. Also, I had lots of international people, which was great because for them the pretty common birds were actually interesting — life birds, even! So that was good, and the best thing is, it’s over.

Today I have succumbed to the cold I’ve been fighting with for 2 weeks. I’ve spent the day in a chair with Cora napping nearby. She’s happy we’re home. I’ve been reading The Hidden Life of Trees, which is really interesting, although in my head I hear it being read in the voice of Werner Herzog. (We just watched Into the Inferno, which I really recommend.) I’ve finally taken decongestant, since it’s pretty clear this thing is not going away on its own.

And now, I have two weeks to get the house in order before the girls come home. I would really love to get rid of 98% of my belongings. I’m going to see what I can do. This house is plenty big enough for the two of us, although it’s possible the space is not apportioned appropriately. There is no front hall closet, for one thing. It would be great if there was a study-like room on the first floor for Kevin — one we could close the door on. There’s not enough space for things like batteries and lightbulbs. Maybe some of that could go down into the basement — which you can only get to from the outside, sadly. I wonder if it wouldn’t make sense to make access to the basement from inside and then add an office for Kevin down there — huh. That’s kind of appealing.

Anyway. We could certainly stand to get rid of lots of stuff and maybe I will begin with that —

Happy incipient holiday season!


I’m exhausted

Are you exhausted, too?

I went back to the gym yesterday, after three weeks away with a knee injury. And I started riding my bike to work again this week. So that probably explains some of it.

I definitely feel more like myself.

As someone said to me, it feels like a death. You wake up and feel like something is not right and then you remember — oh, right.

It’s Wednesday. I’m going to try to finish all the remaining writing I need to do for my Master Birding class by this weekend. Then I’ll have the field trip, which I am leading next Saturday, and the test, and I’ll be done — except for the volunteer hours.


Some comfort

img_4711It’s been a terrible week.

Book group on Thursday was comforting, just because it was good to be around similarly shocked friends.

Friday I finished assembling my power point presentation for my master birding class, and then gave it in class that night. Eleven of us gave our presentations. They were all interesting, and it’s great because we’ve all become friends — finally, now that the class is about to end. When we finished, out instructor stood up and said that our presentations were all great, and that especially now, when the country is in the dire situation it is in, our leadership will be needed — in many of the ways I’ve been thinking about “Nature is really going to need a friend,” he said. And we felt like Dumbledore’s army.

Saturday I went on a day-long field trip through the delta, seeing beautiful ducks and cranes and geese. It was a lovely day.

Today I have done laundry and cleaned up a bit here and there. In the afternoon, I took the BART over to the lake in Oakland, where we planned to form a ring around all 3.2 miles around the lake. It was a protest, and a very civil one. So, I did that and then came home and now I’m sitting in a chair covered by my sleeping bag while the cat sleeps nearby. There’s soup on the stove, and I made cornbread and the laundry is mostly done and I am cozy and warm and pretty tired.

I think I might actually go to bed pretty soon. The sleeping bag is extremely comforting.