Archive for the 'little gorgeous things' Category

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.

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.

lucky just to keep afloat

I’ve had the Split Enz song “Six Months In A Leaky Boat” on constant replay this trip. I wasn’t at all surprised to find out Tim Finn wrote it after a nervous breakdown. I complained to Jeremy that everything I want to say about the legacy of settler colonialism and consequent mental illness, this song says in five minutes.

Aotearoa, rugged individual
Glisten like a pearl, at the bottom of the world
The tyranny of distance, didn’t stop the cavalier
So why should it stop me? I’ll conquer and stay free

Ah c’mon all you lads, let’s forget and forgive
There’s a world to explore, tales to tell back on shore
I just spent six months in a leaky boat
Six months in a leaky boat

An old friend tried to argue that Doctor Who isn’t a modern King Arthur myth because “no one cares that much about stories.” And yet it moves. In case you’re not convinced that this song is a miracle of subversive irony, I’ll just point out that Thatcher banned it during the Falklands War.

the green flash

Almost a year after I thought it might, my accidental sabbatical has come to a definitive end. This morning, Laura and I rode Gemini and Bentley around a Horse Park almost violently green from the winter rains. I went to therapy for my weekly ugly-cry, spent the afternoon folding laundry, then dragged J and J to the beach to watch the sunset.

The sea had carved the sand into a cliff three or four stories high. We stood at the brink, inadequately dressed against an Alaskan wind. Just as the sun disappeared beneath the horizon, its light turned a pale celadon. I’ve never seen the green flash before! Conditions have to be perfect. Julia was blinking and missed it. I told her she is young and will have lots more chances.

It’s hard to sum up this long career hiatus in any narratively pleasing way. I wrote less than I thought I would, and did a lot more political organizing than I’d ever imagined. One business venture has yet to bear fruit, but the other two are the most beautiful and gifted startups ever to occupy San Francisco office space. I made some amazing new friends and grew closer to some old ones. I think my kids are doing pretty okay? I continue to love my mister more than I love sunbeams, or meadows, or tea.

Tomorrow’s big adventure is to get up early and take BART to work!

watershed

Honestly though this was a devastatingly hard year, politically, professionally, and personally; and it was the fifth such year in a row. Breaking my leg was the least of it.

It was too blustery to ride today, but too sunny to stay inside, so Jeremy and I went for a walk in Heron’s Head Park.

It’s the site of a never-completed shipping terminal, next to the decommissioned Hunter’s Point Power Station, not far from where Islais Creek, our local watershed, meets the Bay. Back in the 90s, citizen activists spearheaded wetlands restoration and now it’s a sparkling salt marsh, a magnet for pelicans and sandpipers. There’s an eco center with a living roof.

We walked and talked for a long time, and then dropped by Bay Natives nursery and bought some eggs still warm from the nest. Reclaimed Industrial Landscape is one of my top three aesthetics, and my hope for the new year is that the same transformation can happen in my cold dead heart.

proposed staycation-jaunts

ETA: success!

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.)

self-medicating with art

The world is on fire, and everything seems to be about death right now, but some things have dealt with death in a way that makes me feel less terrible.

Nights are endless because you wake at the softest cough or sob, then lie awake listening to her breathe so softly, like a child. – A Manual for Cleaning Women

This book encouraged me to go back to the stories I’ve already told that still haunt me.

I took the kids to see an all-woman production of Jesus Christ Superstar. It was fabulous, all Resistance and bisexual lighting. Jesus was so good she almost upstaged Judas. Between my parents loving the Sydney production and the Spiral Oasis staging at Burning Man in 99, I have such an odd relationship with this play. It’s puzzling that Lloyd Webber could have written this one decent thing, in a career otherwise so very full of crap. Maybe Judas is his Mary Sue, as Doctor Horrible is Whedon’s.

He rubs his fingers over old scars. – I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

Michelle McNamara and death fought one another to a draw.

the horse park in spring

Laura and I have taken a liking to the gallop track. The horses love it. We ride out behind the barn, where this week we interrupted two very young jackrabbits eating their lunch. The meadow in the oak forest is waist-high in wildflowers: camomile, sky lupin, red maids, Indian paintbrush, dandelions, thistles, miner’s lettuce, California buttercup. There are cicadas in the oak trees, ground squirrels galore, stately blue herons and a hummingbird fiercely defending his sage scrub. It is impossible, how much I love this place.

what a weird day

Our mayor Ed Lee died very early this morning. He was shopping at the Safeway on Monterey last night when he had a heart attack. The doctors at SF General were unable to save him. He was a complicated, good man.

We rode out at the Horse Park, bright green after the winter rains. “Where’d all the geese come from?” asked Kristen. “Canada,” I said. A coyote swaggered across our path. The sun shone pinkly through its ears. It had a wise and pointed face.

I’d steeled myself for a loss in the Alabama special election. More fool me. The NAACP robo-called Black voters, and Black pastors set up voter registration booths at church events. America is so deeply in their debt, I even can’t speak of it.

a walk on the beach

“How can it not be fun? It’s Fort Funs-town!” “I hate you.”

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.

arizona road trip

Meteor Crater. Exactly what it says on the tin. Super impressive.

Grand Canyon. The Coconino sandstone at the very bottom of the crater? Is the pale band right at the top of these cliffs. Nigh-unfathomable.

perspective

Alain’s going home next week and this distresses me, so we climbed Mount Tam about it.

I love that mountain. It’s a magical island above a sea of Karl the Fog. From up there you can see San Francisco as it really is: a city made of dreams.

We also took in the usual suspects: the Japanese Tea Gardens, Cal Academy, De Young, Japantown Mall and SF MOMA. Al had seen most (all?) of these before but it’s always nice to look at things from a different point of view.

The city is a spaceship, and a time machine.

goings on about town

Hashtag best summer ever continues. We went to the Berkeley Kite Festival, where Alain and I flew a kite in memory of our Dad. Dad made this particular kite for me – it must be nearly forty years old – and it ran up into the wind like it was impatient to fly again. Then we ate spicy spicy food at Vik’s Chaat House and ran over to the Oakland Museum of California. “It’s inside out,” Jeremy explained to the kids. “Inside the building is where you buy tickets, and outside is all of California.”

It’s a jewel of a place and we’ll be back, but y’all should hurry up and see the Dorothea Lange exhibit that closes on August 27. Migrant Mother is there, of course, but so are a dozen less-well-known images with the same power to cut you to the bone. Especially painful is the series on the Japanese internments, so humanizing of its subjects that despite being commissioned by the government, it was suppressed for the duration of the war. An accompanying film remarks on the behavior of the internees: “They were trying to be good citizens.”

Yesterday we visited the Cable Car Museum which, like La Brea, is a great big overdone metaphor for its hometown. To start with, there are the vast wheels turning underground, drawing citizens inexorably uphill. San Francisco, clockwork city. But it’s even worse than that. As in LA, auto, oil and rubber interests tried to get rid of urban transit systems after the war, but in SF this sparked a citizen’s revolt. Furious activism saved the cable cars and now they are protected in perpetuity, to be an overpriced tourist attraction.

Ridiculous city, how I love you. This was a Pyrrhic victory maybe, but one that paved the way for the future citizen activists who tore down freeways and helped find treatments for AIDS. They say it’s science fiction that’s the fantasy of political agency but it’s also true of the other SF.