Archive for the 'adventure time' Category

roads trip

From Barcelona through Chris’s community in Vidalia and over the Pyrenees to Villerouge-la-Cremade, and back again. Cathar castles and Montserrat and the Med.

Even more beautiful: from San Francisco to Redding and up and over the Cascade Range and along the Rogue River Valley to Reed College in Portland. The State of Jefferson, the high desert where my wild horse Lenny was born.

saturday

Riding our bikes to the beach or GG Park used to be An Event, and now it’s just what we do on a sunny Saturday when we have no other plans. All the colorful houses looked brilliant and happy. We stopped at wushu to catch up with Philip and wholeheartedly recommend “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” The dunes were reclaiming Great Highway, and there was a huge party along car-free JFK, a place so joyful that it can make a middle-aged murderbot question her misanthropy.

The Presidio has a new park, Battery Bluffs. We found and explored it, then turned towards home via Crissy Field and Marina Green. There was a Ukraine protest at the Ferry Building, and games at both the ballpark and the stadium. At Crane Cove we lay on the grass by the water, my with my head on Jeremy’s lap. I read a fantastic fic about the gay pirates, got a little sunburned. This city, you guys, my God, it’s so fucking good.

american savannah

Driving home from a fantastic riding lesson with Carrie (Lenny swinging his back and reaching forward into the bridle), I stopped the car by the side of the road to watch a great blue heron standing on the green hill of the horsepasture.

The heron considered me gravely before returning its attention to a gopher hole at its feet. Faster than thought, it struck and lifted out a soft, blind gopher baby.

To my surprise the heron dropped the baby at once. It fluffed out the creamy feathers on its S of a neck, opened its beak, reared back its head and raised its crest, all dinosaur threat. Before I had a second to marvel, a bright shadow flew in the heron’s face. The heron spread its wings and climbed into the air like a pterodactyl.

A golden eagle landed on the gopher, mantled over it to glare at me, then flew away with the prey in its talons.

vignette

A twenty-minute meeting cancelled at the last moment. I snuck outside into the garden; a guilty pleasure of working from home. We’re having a heat wave and the air is flower-fragrant and full of bees, like it is in the south of France.

I took the cats with me. There are rules. Thimble has to wear a collar with a locator tag, because she loves to vault the fence into the neighbors’ gardens. Since last Memorial Day, when she terrified us by staying away a night and a day, her jaunts seldom last more than an hour. But I fret – there are coyotes on our street. The tag lets us play a cheery mechanical tune. Fugitive cat sonar.

Hazel has to wear a harness with a tag on it. She occasionally tries to jump the fence but isn’t as fast or determined as Thimble. It’s easier to pluck her down. The harness is to acclimate her, so that she can be a good college companion animal for kid the elder.

Alice is not required to wear any equipment. She has jumped the fence twice but is mostly an amiable plush bowling ball.

I did some more weeding. There is always weeding. Thimble rolled luxuriantly on the concrete. Hazel sphinxed narrow-eyed on the lawn. I overshot my mini-break by three minutes and had to race back inside. I scooped Hazel and herded Thimble, but Alice was hidden in the Melica imperfecta and I couldn’t locate her in a hurry. I sent Jeremy out for retrieval. He couldn’t find her easily either. When he brought her back in, her fur was brown and hot from the sun, and dusted with pollen.

late ride

It was sunset when I got to the barn. The moon rose over the arena, pale gold against a deep blue and purple sky, so bisexual it might have been a Janelle Monáe video.

Lenny’s a different animal at night, gentler and stranger, made of warm shadows, the moonlight bright on his white nose. Time slips sideways. I might be twenty, calling my red horse by another name, or it might be twenty thousand years ago, and me carving his likeness in ochre onto a bone.

the garden of earthly delights

(As I was thinking about this post and its title, I pulled up Bosch’s altarpiece of the same name and looked at it on my large high res monitor. Did you know that it is a motherfucking masterpiece? I shared this insight with my pocket coven, most of whom, unsurprisingly, were already fans.)

Between coaching sessions with engineers, I sneak outside to pull white-ramping fumitory and Bermuda buttercups out of my garden. It’s the same meditative headspace as doing a jigsaw puzzle, with added sunshine and birdsong. I actually like and respect the buttercups and especially the fumitory, with its feathery leaves and pink-tipped white flowers. But I like the hummingbirds and native bees and the sprouting meadow wildflowers that support them even more.

The first time I remember wanting a garden was reading Kate Llewellyn’s The Waterlily, years ago. While “some outdoor space” was high on our list in hunting for this house, a large, level, undeveloped yard seemed so unlikely it didn’t even occur to me to want it. (Large by SF standards: 25 by 45 feet. A fortieth of an acre.)

The me who didn’t garden seems a stranger to me now.

I’m out here every chance I get. My fingernails are black with loam and clay. I meant to restore a postage stamp sized patch of Ramaytush land. Who’d have thought that the land meant to restore me.

my favorite murder

My garden has been a gift all quarantine. My whole life I’ve hardly enjoyed anything as much as I enjoyed Bic, Emma and Precious, the City Grazing goats who took down the worst of the weeds. After Marco and his team pulled out the raised beds I didn’t want and built a retaining wall and stairs, I started planting, and I haven’t stopped. There’s still one big raised bed at the back for a kitchen garden. So far I have nasturtiums, white sage, rosemary and wood strawberries, plus a young Eureka lemon to complement the neighbor’s Meyer lemon that leans over our fence. The rosemary, lemon and a potted jasmine are the only non-natives I bought.

Everything else is hyperlocal, from Bay Natives, Mission Blue or Yerba Buena nurseries, Annie’s Annuals or Larner Seeds. Ceanothus, ribes, coffeeberry, coast live oak – the keystone species. Bay laurel – much more delicious than dried bay leaves, we put it in all our soups and stews. An arroyo willow. Native grapes, Dutchman’s pipevine for the swallowtails, silver lupine for the Mission Blue butterflies, narrow-leaved milkweed for the monarchs. Hummingbird sage, blue eyed grass, variegated yarrow, coast buckwheat. A bog with sword fern and chain fern and douglas iris. A pond with seep monkeyflower and rushes, which is doing extremely well and which I hope will attract frogs. Yerba buena trailing down the retaining wall. Two elegant Dr Hurd manzanitas that, goddess willing, will grow into sinuous, sculptural rainbow beauties.

It doesn’t look like much yet. I am in constant battle with the Bermuda oxalis, wild radish and those bastard arum lilies. Everything else is barely knee high. But every chance I get I loll out here in a comfy blue lounge chair, listening to contentious crow parliaments in the neighbor’s lillipilli, watching hummingbird aerobatics, loving the sweet descending melody of gold-crowned sparrows. There are fat red-tailed hawks who coast from the hill to the canyon, often with an escort of angry crows. I leave almond offerings on the deck railings for the members of this murder, whom I dearly love. I planted a bog. I am a real bog witch now.

the wow signal

I’ve been riding at the new barn for a year and change now. It’s a serious barn, although not serious about showing in the jumpers (like Glenoaks and McIntosh) or in the Welsh breed shows (like Heather Hill). Not even super serious about dressage shows, although it does that. Serious about correctness, starting with correct position and then continuing through tempo and line to rhythm and bend. An intense, meditative practice, conducted in partnership with large livestock animals.

Russell, who is Heather Hill Rhodri, drew me to this barn in the first place, being literally the dream horse I described to my former trainer Laura: “Rhun, but younger.” Rhun is Laura’s horse, and Russell is his nephew. Laura bred them both.

Russell is exactly what I was looking for. I call him Black Beauty. He has a small, refined head with a big unmistakable fan-shaped star. He likes you to rub his velvet nose and cheek-ridges and fuzzy ears. It’s as tender as petting a purring cat. He’s gentle and obliging and talented and experienced, and he has taught me a lot about how it’s supposed to feel, what it’s like when you get it right, how you know.

Lenny is the horse I didn’t know I was looking for. He is a mouthy, bratty sorrel mustang with a tentacle-shaped white snip licking up the end of his Roman nose. He looks like a little Belgian draft horse, like Ice Age megafauna painted in ochre on the wall of a neolithic cave. I call him, and this is even more embarrassing than Black Beauty if you can believe it, I call him Bright Angel because the expression on his face when he sees me and knows I have sugar in my pockets is like a messenger of God’s grace. I have often been infatuated with ponies but Lenny represents a severe and ongoing case.

I rode Lenny for months when most other people weren’t very interested in him, but as he got stronger and rounder he has started to be a sought-after ride. Of course now other people can ride him better than I do, and we had a few weeks where I was frustrated about this and we lost our groove. But yesterday I somehow got over myself and found my balance again. Maybe it was watching the Spanish Riding School show and remembering to sit like a pair of wings folded into his back.

Whatever it was, he found the round soft trot of his that’s like a Zen monk deep in prayer, and I’m still thinking about it a day later. Holding the reins like I am holding hands with a little kid, dancing like we’re Nureyev. People call it round or collected or on the bit but the best word for how it feels is contact, like a burst of radio waves from a beautiful, friendly alien. The wow signal.

adventure time: the sea, the sea

It was Dad’s birthday on Saturday so I drove over to see him and Mum.

There is beauty even in lost things. Lucky for me!

adventure time: landscaping crew

Because this is San Francisco, a person can rent goats from her local non-profit to clear out her overgrown back garden.

Meet Bic, aka White Lightning, a gentle and friendly fellow.

Bic’s eyeliner game is strong.

His daughter Precious has but a single, dire nemesis: the goat glaring at back her from her reflection.

To all others she is the smilingest of goats.

Mama goat Emma was slow to warm up, but now leans against me and demands scritches.

Emma is topologically unfeasible.

I love them with every particle of my being.

adventure time: neighborhood walks

Everyone’s adventures are appropriately downscaled right now, but our neighborhood is a half mile south-east of where it used to be, and we’re exploring fresh walks. We are now only a couple of blocks away from the beautiful Alemany Farm, with its orchards and running brook and frog pond:

Just up the hill to the west of us are the Harry Street Stairs:

Which lead through fairy meadows:

To the Miguel Street Mural.

Grocery shopping right now feels stressful and unhappy, but walking around the neighborhood at Golden Hour feels like a treat. Everyone is respectful and keeps their distance. We smile and nod at one another, and say: “Stay safe.”

sixteen years and one month

…is how long we lived in the apartment on Eugenia Avenue. On Monday we moved again, into a house half a mile up the road. The neighborhood is called College Hill. No one has ever heard of it. I say it’s still part of Bernal Heights, but the kids insist it’s Glen Park.

It’s two years since we bought this place. It was a very sweet Queen Anne with just a little deferred maintenance (termites, wood-boring beetles, asbestos, a mummified cat in the walls), waiting for a naive tech couple to come along and pour their life savings into it. There are a lotta construction photos, if that’s your jam. Our architect and general contractor are both local, women-owned businesses, and they did such a good job, I can’t even tell you, you would fall off your horse. My Fireclay tiles, let me show you them.

Tonight’s our second night here. I’m hoping to make friends with the crows, but they were distracted today with yelling at a redtail hawk. There’s a toyon full of hummingbirds. Our neighbor Lucinda brought around a basket of Meyer lemons from her tree with a note that said: “Welcome home.”

heron’s head in the storm

The Bay doesn’t always remind you that it’s saltwater, but today there was surf.

If you looked into the wind…

…you’d get sideways raindrops in your eyes.

It was glorious.

by the sea shore

We spent the weekend in Point Reyes, which is so beautiful it almost defies photography. The California Field Atlas describes it as an authentic Pleistocene-era prairie by the sea. Philip K. Dick was also moved by:

this wild moor-like plateau that dropped off at the ocean’s edge, one of the most desolate parts of the United States, with weather unlike that of any other part of California.

The giant camels and mastodon that roamed here in the Ice Age are gone, but if you look closely, there’s a herd of not-quite-extinct tule elk grazing out on this headland.

Jeremy was enchanted by the Marconi RCA wireless station, the first and last of its kind. Now that we are home, he’s in his office playing with software-defined radios and emitting atmospheric bursts and Morse code. For my part, I loved the dairy ranches, and imagined myself quitting tech to become a simple farmer, a man of the people, at one with the land.

Of course I am not the first to indulge this fantasy. It forms the substance of Dick’s Confessions of a Crap Artist, Daniel Gumbiner’s The Boatbuilder, and even Summer Brennan’s The Oyster War. All three are at pains to point out that no matter how lovely the place is, it can’t help you escape who you are.

West Marin has dangled before the white mind like a lure for almost five hundred years. In 1579, the pirate Francis Drake in his galleon full of stolen Spanish treasure christened it Nova Albion and claimed it for Queen Elizabeth I. The visitor center on Drakes Beach notes that people in South America used his name to frighten their children, so that’s nice.

The Coast Miwok survive and now form part of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. Still, anthropologist Betty Goerke calculates that between genocide, epidemic, and aggressive zoning laws designed to maintain high property values, there are fewer people living in Point Reyes today than there were in Drake’s time. It’s a pretend wilderness, like Yosemite and Kur-ring-gai. I’m indebted to its original custodians for how it heals my sore heart.

a genuinely fun thing i’ll assuredly do again

The Bringing Back the Natives garden tour in the East Bay.

Maidenhair and blue-eyed grass. Some of the gardens tumbled down the sides of canyons, but our favorite was this, around a cottage on a flat block. Goals.

Manzanitas, poppies and sages. It was so kind of the gardeners to welcome us into their earthly paradise.

keeping a promise to myself

When I was laid lowest with the busted ankle, I promised myself that when I was up and about again, I’d go to Imperial Spa, Zuni Cafe and Yosemite.

This was a terrific plan.

california in the spring

Can a place be too pretty?

Our experts weigh in.

“how about bright angel?”

c: we should go back to arizona.
j: we can never go back to arizona.
c: why? what did you do?
j: it’s like you’ve never watched frisky dingo.
ja: there are dingos in arizona???

bonsoir bye bye

In news that should surprise literally no one, I conceived a great fondness for Montréal.

So blue, so French, so accessible from San Francisco except in the event that the entire Air Canada 737 Max fleet is grounded. Ah well.

and a cormorant, not shown

I miss Port Jackson a lot; people who say that the Bay is like it don’t seem to know either of them very well.

Last year we went to Cockatoo Island. This year we decided to keep going, as far as we possibly could, all the way to Parramatta. It was very hot and we all got sunburned and this is the cover of our next album.

I expected something vaguely industrial from the Parramatta River. Instead I got mangroves and casuarinas, pelicans and ibis.

Sydney is so enormously full of surprises that I do not think I will ever come to the end of it.