March for our lives


I did not go to the march, and I absolutely should have gone to the march, but instead I helped my friend A lift the canoe he is building off the framework and flip it over and then shave down the gluey bits on the inside.

And that was something else I should have done, so I’m glad that I did that.

Then we sat in their back yard, which is lovely, and pondered what the world is coming to, or really just this country. Nothing good, was the conclusion. And then we had avocado toast for lunch, which was delicious.

After that, I went to the grocery store, and now I’m sitting on the couch. The cat was sitting happily next to me, but I got up to make some tea and that ruined everything. Maybe she’ll come back, but there seems to be something extremely interesting behind the television, so she is investigating that at the moment. She’s busy, but she fits me in when she can.

I suppose I could iron. Maybe I’ll get up and do that in a bit. At the moment I’m reading the Boys in the Boat, which is interesting.

K and I are going with A and A to see Death of Stalin, tonight, and eating Mexican food first. And then I am going to bed, which has lovely, clean sheets on.

I should mention that every muscle in my body is sore from my new program of weight-lifting and circuit training 6  days/week. I’m sure it will eventually result in fitness, but at the moment it’s just making me feel like I’m 80 years old, creaky and exhausted.

And that’s about it.


I’m back!


Well, as predicted, we had a wonderful time.

N has a great apartment in a great part of town. We like her girlfriend. We like her dog. We like her housemate. We like her friends. I worried that we were taking up too much of her time, but she did get a bit of work in here and there. Dinner with her friends was so much fun, and then we went back to their apartment to play trivia, also so much fun.

We stayed in a little air bnb a block away, which was perfect. We could sleep there, and spread out crap around, and be back at their apartment in 10 minutes.

Also, Philadelphia is really nice. I don’t think I ever knew this. Museums, stuff to do, stuff to eat, perfectly adequate transit, affordable. It’s an old city, too. I don’t know why, but I really love that there was a gas station, a park, and a school all within a block of them, plus two garages, a vegan donut shop, a regular coffee shop, two chaat places, a book store, a dive bar, a pizza restaurant, a nursery where they picked up their CSA and lots of restaurants.

And now we are home, and I am scrambling to catch up. That’s ok. I sort of like to scramble.



For someone who travels not infrequently, I really hate to travel. I’m getting ready for a long weekend trip to Philadelphia to visit N, who’s in school there, and all I can think about are all the birds I would like to see in my back yard, and how I really do need to straighten out the basement, and even how there are certain things I would live to knock off my list at work. Plus, the idea of imagining what I might need to wear for 5 days in a foreign climate seems very daunting. And Cora! Someone’s feeing her, but she’d going to be so lonely! She likes having us around.

However, I am exciting to see N, her girlfriend A and their dog Chalupa. We’re going to take all her friends out for dinner one night, which I am very excited about. And museums and parks with Chalupa — I really am very excited to be going, even in spite of the horrors of packing.

Which I really should do, since we’re leaving shortly after midnight tomorrow morning, so it would be good to get to bed.

Lazy weekend


By Peter Massas – Drake Harlequin Duck, Barnegat, CC BY-SA 2.0,

It’s been rainy and cold, which is great since we are in the depths of a terrible drought. Of course, the word always is that any rain never helps (until, magically, you’ve got too much, and then you can be simultaneously in a drought and a flood), but it still is great to finally have some weather. Plus, while it may not solve the drought, it seems to me that at least for a weekend we are not going backward.

The local excitement was that there was a Harlequin Duck at a nearby marina. Because I had nothing else to do, I drove down and walked around in the hail for an hour or so looking for the duck. It was pretty funny, actually. There were birders (we have Golden Gate Raptor Observatory stickers on our cars, and to scuttle about with binoculars or, better, giant scopes on our shoulders). There were also the usual people who hang out at marinas in the rain — 4 middle aged men, for instance, drinking malt liquor in a van with the doors open. They asked me politely what was going on and then said, oh, a duck! I was about to give up and go home (it had stopped hailing, but was still raining) when another birderdrove up, popped up his scope, and asked me if I had seen the duck. He then got a call on his cell phone and yelled out to me, “I just talked to Bob X. It’s on these rocks with some willets!” We got in our cars and drove around to the other side of the waterway and there it was! Sitting on the rocks in the rain in the middle of a bunch of willets.  So that was exciting, and so was the fact that the man’s wife, who had been waiting in the car, turned out to be a woman from my master birding class 2 years ago. We made a plan to go birding together.

We admired the duck for a while and then drove home, after which it took me a solid 3 hours to warm up again.

Today, I cleaned the kitchen, and went for a run down at our marina (north of the duck’s marina) where I looked at the birds but saw only the usual suspects, and now I’m sitting here doing this. I have half a sleeve left on a sweater I’m knitting. I have half of the Immortalists left to finish – which I both like and don’t like. We’re having pizza for dinner, so I don’t have to cook. K is sorting files. I checked in with my mother on my drive down to San Leandro (the best thing about long drives is that they make it easy to call all the people you need to while you’re otherwise occupied.) N is in Mexico on Spring Break and M just moved into a new apartment in Beijing. Laundry is done.

It feels odd and rather pleasant to have a weekend off like this.

It’s a very pretty duck, and I’m glad I went to see it. It’s rare but not unheard of for them to come this far south. It’s sad to see a rare bird who is here completely through some failure of navigation and will never find a mate, etc. This one just came a bit further south than is usual, but will soon head north and lead a happy life. It was great to see him in the middle of a storm, too. “Turbulent northern waters are favored by this strikingly patterned little duck,” says Audubon, so it was nice to see him in the wind and weather and rough water,

I am awfully hungry. Maybe we should have our pizza now —

Oh, and I listened to Five Women, a This American Life episode last night. It was fascinating — it’s the story of Don Hazen, the editor of AlterNet. He had a partner. She was interviewed, as were four women he sexually harassed at AlterNet. The interviewer, a woman named Chana Jaffe Walt, talks to each of them and fascinatingly, what comes up for each of them is some earlier story, with nothing to do with Hazen, of another sexual harassment — maybe each woman’s first awareness of sexual harassment, and then you see how that first experience informs how each woman responds to Hazen’s harassment. His partner views herself as someone who won’t be harassed — she’s too smart and self-confident. Another woman has been led to view herself as too feminist — boys won’t understand her and so she needs to accommodate them (and she does). Another woman views it as just the way the world is. Another won’t give in to it, and she doesn’t, but she also doesn’t get a raise because she won’t, and she views that as a victory.  (I think it both is and is not a victory.) Another woman, the youngest, wants to sue him, but without the cooperation of the others she has no case (before #MeToo), so when she gets a sudden windfall of money, she leaves. I think what’s so fascinating is that, as you listen, you are aware of how each woman is screwed over, in a slightly different way, both by Hazen and really by her own understanding of how the world works, and what sexual harassment is. Though by then end, I think they all see it. I listened to it and thought, wow – that’s messed up. And, how do women even survive in this world? I hope, though, that it is getting better. It is certainly better when you are a 58 year old woman — there is something very freeing about no longer giving a shit, and no longer worrying that one should give a shit, about what men think.  I think that’s the position the too-feminist woman comes to, too, but I can tell you that it takes experience. Or it used to — maybe things are better now.

Thank god. It really is time to order the pizza, now.  I’m starving.



Happy Year of the Dog!

3604F700-4A5C-4B8B-9F05-DE04C6ADE151-25105-00000D5E840ECA20_tmpThat is a little dog named Stone. He’s semi-feral, but hangs out at M’s boyfriend’s mother’s studio in Qingdao. I think he’s lovely. They’ve made a little house for him because he won’t come inside the studio itself.

I’m exhausted.

We’re trying out a new catalog at work — that is very fun. The trainer has gone away, which means I’m trying to make up all the exercise classes I missed over xmas, new year’s, January and February. It’s going very well and I am exhausted.

We went for a wildflower hike on Saturday.

Here are a hound’s tongue and a fetid adder’s tongue for you.

Sunday, I was in charge of an event. We hung out at a local lake and a) had scopes for people to look at birds on a nearby island b) took them on a bird walk c)had post cards for them to sign in support of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

It was a good idea and a worthy cause and we did get 115 postcards signed, which is not nothing. But it was tiring, and I was worried before hand that some terrible unforeseen even would happen, etc.

M made the drawings for the postcards (for sale soon on her etsy site! . I think it went well. It was also complicated because there was a social component. But honestly, it was a success. I’m just tired.

I think I actually learned a lot and would do a few things differently — and we have enough postcards to do it again. I’ll check with my posse and see if they are willing.

Today, though — I have today off! I should clean the house — that could honestly occupy a month. I should call my mother. I should read my book for my book group (The Immortalists).

Honestly, I’m hoping a friend calls and wants to go to the garden store or on a hike.

Anyway, I am sure I will feel much more energized once I have finished my coffee. I do have the laundry underway.

Happy Presidents’ Day! (Present President excepted.)





lynch canyon 1

There is so much going on!

We are exploring a new catalog at work, which I think I like. And, surprisingly, just trying it out is interesting and fun.

I’ve been birding a lot. I went to a great new place called Lynch canyon on Saturday. It was windy and beautiful.

grinding holes lynch canyon

Those are Indian grinding holes — places where native Americans ground acorns into flour. It was a good spot for it — near a creek and a lot of oak trees.

oak lynch canyon

It was a lovely walk.

Sunday I drove over to the coast and met up with a birding group.

trees pescadero creek

We were looking for raptors, and found lots of kites, northern harriers, kestrels, red-shouldered and red-tailed hawks. It was amazing, actually.

coastal prairie pescadero creek

A further walk up the river didn’t yield much more, but it was beautiful.

riparian landscape pescadero creek

Oh! We saw lots of Allen’s hummingbirds, which are a glorious orange. (Sorry, no pictures!)

It was cold and windy. I came home and watched the Olympics and fell asleep — tired and cold.

And now I am still tired. It’s tiring being outside all day in the wind.

In further news, I finally got the Christmas tree out of the house. Shocking, I know, but I think I’ve been really busy.

I’m reading the new Philip Pullman book, La belle Sauvage, and enjoying it very much. I used to be a voracious reader, but in recent times not so much — in the first place, I’m more interested in non-fiction than fiction these day. Secondly, I’m busy, and there’s news to watch and be outraged by which takes an enormous amount of time. It takes a lot to get me wrapped up in a novel so that I’d rather read it than do anything else, but I’m feeling that way about la belle Sauvage. I also listed to it on audible on the drive to the coast and back, and the reader is very good. In any case, I’m going to go eat lunch, now, and read the last part of it.

flowering currant pescadero creek

Happy early spring!


Happy Saturday! I’m off to the post office with 30 postcards for an election in Pennsylvania. It’s warm here, so I’m wearing shorts. Don’t shoot me. It’s also windy. Then I guess I should come home and clean the house, because it really needs it and I’ll be out tomorrow. However, I’m not really feeling it.

Last weekend I was watching M packing up for China. She’s back there now — Alex’s company (he and a friend are starting a stop-motion animation company) is doing well, which means that the studio is expanding, and M and Alex, who have been living upstairs from the studio, will be moving into an apartment. The place they’re in is nice — it’s an actual house (they’re far enough from the center of Beijing that such a thing is possible) in a little neighborhood of houses. It’s got a yard, and it’s fairly big — the studio plus a kitchen, three bedrooms and a bathroom downstairs, and three bedrooms, two baths and a big living room upstairs. M has a nice studio upstairs, and they have a nice big bedroom with another room off of it.  It seems a little sad to me to be losing such a nice, big space, but the apartments they are looking at are in another nice neighborhood (they’re called gardens)  a 15 minute walk away. M says she will go back to the studio for lunch every day (it will be good for her to see people). And it will be exciting for them to have their own apartment and kitchen.

It’s also unbelievable cheap, apparently because they’re outside the 5th ring.

I can’t believe she’s been gone less than a week. We’d got used to having her around. I think we’re still adjusting to being just the two of us. In fact, I’m sure of it. Anyway, I may not get around to all the cleaning up I’m intending, and that’s probably ok. Possibly by next week I will have summoned the strength to face the basement, which is the key to all further cleaning.

There must be a way of balancing what you ought to do with what you would like to do. It doesn’t help that there are so  many things you ought to do — exercise, see friends, clean the house, read books. It’s overwhelming! It doesn’t help that we now have to spend 5 hours a day reading news/writing postcards/calling government officials/arranging resistance events.

But surely leaving the house is the first step, so I’m off to the post office.





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.