Archive for the 'happiness' 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.

another win for the mammalian diving reflex

Me: Well, that was an intellectually productive bath.

Jeremy: Oh yes?

Me: I figured out existentialism.

Jo: Well done!

Me: You know how I was puzzling over Camus’ “one must imagine Sisyphus happy”? It’s not a thought experiment, it’s an imperative.

Jeremy: Right.

Me: Oh so you knew this all along?

Jeremy: Yep.

Jo: It means that Sisyphus has a simple job to do and knows how to do it and even though it will never be finished, that’s all you need to be happy.

Jeremy: No, it means you have to give people agency, even if what they are doing seems pointless to you.

Me: No! It means life is pointlessly hard work that will never be finished, but you have to invent ways to be happy anyway.

In this family we interpret Camus in ways that reflect our highly individual temperaments and perspectives TILL DEATH COMES FOR US

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.

snapshot

The rains started again in earnest yesterday. We had some good rain in November and my garden is brilliant with sprouts, both the sown and desired native wildflowers and my doughty adversaries, Bermuda buttercups, catchgrass bedstraw, white-ramping fumitory and pellitory-of-the-wall. A second soaking will set us up for a beautiful, if weedy, meadow in the spring.

After living for almost twenty years in uninsulated San Francisco Victorians, it feels like a miracle to sit in our warm house watching the raindrops run down the windows. The cats complain about missing their supervised outdoor time but I am curled up with my laptop under a wool blanket my kid crocheted, next to our fragrant Douglas fir Christmas tree. It’s a good week at work, two programs happily completed, a new one in its most exciting nascent phase, my team fresh off meeting in person, energized and seamless.

no one is talking about this, by patricia lockwood

What did we have a right to expect from this life? What were the terms of the contract?

a psalm for the wild-built, by becky chambers

…it is enough to exist in the world and marvel at it. You don’t need to justify that, or earn it. You are allowed to just live.

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.

generation ship

In February I moved to a new barn; in March we moved house and I started a new job. Also in March, of course, the shelter-in-place order came down, and we have been isolating ever since.

All at once, the house was a space station. I don protective gear for away missions, and decontaminate in a scalding shower when I get home. Everyone else stays home and communicates only over network links.

Don’t know when we’ll hug our friends again. Don’t know when we’ll see the rest of our family. But the house is glad to have us here, and I am glad we have each other.

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.

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.”

o happy day

A lazy morning in bed with cups of tea and books and Alice cat, followed by Rebels Within and lattes at Craftsman & Wolves. (Two dogs came in: “Wolves! Truth in advertising.”)

To the house, where Jeremy expressed glee over the extremely solarpunk radiant floor and hot water heating system, while I sat on the stairs daydreaming, only for our starchitect Bonnie to show up unexpectedly for a look around. We all agreed that it is turning out to be a very cute house indeed.

To the barn, for a lazy amble on Bentley. Freya my war mare has a new family, and family photos were being taken in the golden hour. Freya, fat and happy, was striking warlike poses. “This is my person. This is my dog.” God bless the war mares and starchitects and wolves and craftsmen and rebels, every one.

an unexpectedly lovely weekend

Yesterday after my riding lesson, Jeremy, Claire and I went out to Devil’s Teeth Bakery for the special breakfast sandwich (scrambled egg, avocado and bacon on a fresh biscuit). On the way back we visited the new house for some daydreaming. Liz lured me out to the dyke march. I arrived to find her twirling in the intersection at Valencia and 18th. We danced and chanted all the way to the Castro. It was a perfect San Francisco summer evening.

Today after my riding lesson, all four of us went to El Metate for fish tacos, and then to Bay Natives to buy eggs and admire the chickens and goats. We walked to the end of Heron’s Head and saw a sea lion frolicking in the bay. We stopped on Cortland for iced coffee, rainbow macarons and groceries, and when we got home I found a parking spot right on the corner. Now my feet are up and my heart is full of peace.

long overdue catchup

Goodness, it has been a while, hasn’t it? We had a pretty good summer. We went to Los Angeles and saw the Bladerunner building and a spaceship.

We went to Portland and saw some waterfalls.

Oz, obvs.

Then Alain and Ross came to visit, and I dragged them over half of Northern California. Santa Cruz, Monterey, Muir Woods, Yosemite, Calistoga. They were thoroughly good sports about it.


All this and we saw Ray of Light’s Jesus Christ Superstar, the Berkeley Rep’s Angels in America, Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy in concert. I’m so lucky I did all those trips and went to all those shows, because the Monday after the boys went home, I had to do an emergency dismount from this gorgeous and wholly blameless fellow:

Suffice to say that for once I did not stick the landing. Now I have an ankle full of titanium and I’m on crutches till Thanksgiving. Still, though. Worth it.

celebrating pride month 20gayteen

Janelle Monáe
Angels in America
God’s Own Country
Nanette
Ocean’s 8

(Turns out my sister and I watched Nanette on the same night.)

why i love yoz, part 36,422 in an ongoing series

“Of course if you had a robust praxis around intersectional feminism, you’d’ve already figured that out.”

“You’re so right.”

“No. I’m just lucky that your friendship-orientation is towards heinous bitches. I can be my true self.”

fall out boys

Not many people know this but Fall Out Boy is actually four boys: Sing Boy, Drummer Boy, Not Bad Boy, and My Boyfriend.

war mare

I ride Chione, the bright golden Haflinger dressage pony of my heart. I’m holding my arms in a round O now, like first position in ballet, an innovation from the great New Zealand coach Greg Best, apparently. It stops me bracing with my hands and gives me a whole other dimension of range of motion in my arms.

Chione flows forward into my softer contact. I sit to her trot, with my lower leg relaxed and my inner thigh engaged. I shift my inside hipbone forward. She steps forward with her outside hind leg into a perfect canter depart.

Everything is warm and light and nothing hurts.

and then a month passed

Alain went home. I was sad. Cait and her family visited! It was fun! We didn’t travel for the eclipse because the kids started school that day. So far school seems to be going okay. It turns out that being a full-time working-out-of-the-home mother of school age children? Is very difficult. Working a few hours a week is much more compatible with actually, you know. Showing up for your own kids.

Julia and I did a wheel class at Pinckney Clay. We’d already done hand building, which I liked fine, but the wheel is magical. It was like riding, or doing yoga. When the clay centered itself, I could feel the rightness of it. You lean into the vortex of the numinous.

I suppose for the sake of completeness I should add that a newish horse at McIntosh launched me into orbit and I landed on my head and neck hard enough to see stars. I went straight from the barn to the doctor: no concussion, no spinal injury. It did a number on my confidence, though. I’m doing lots of yoga and eating healthy and going for lots of calm, positive rides, all of which I should’ve been doing all along. I also had a glorious massage with a dude whose hands were so big he could hold my entire head in his palm. (The offending horse, by the way, turns out to be an utter sweetheart. I can only assume I jabbed him awkwardly with a spur. Just one of those things.)

I’ve been doing another 50 Books by POC challenge. Best discoveries: Deborah A. Miranda, Hilton Als, Sherman Alexie (I know, I know), Frederick Douglass, and Alice Walker (I KNOW.) Right now, I am listening to Walker read her own The Color Purple on audiobook and it’s so good, so funny and wise and wrenching, I look forward to traffic jams. Best rediscoveries: Samantha Irby, Aziz Ansari, Nnedi Okorafor.

The big world continues to burn. I donate, I yell at my representatives, I march in the streets. It’s been filthy hot and today got more and more humid until the sky went black and the light went strange and a thunderstorm broke over the city like the atmosphere bursting into tears.