Archive for the 'san francisco' 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.

dreaming of you, a novel in verse, by melissa lozada-oliva

I crave a ferry to San Francisco and a dead phone full of messages.

farewell to spring

My niece and her excellent husband safely married, we flew home (via shenanigans) to find our little home and our pride of housecats lovingly tended by yarnivore.

Driving to the barn last Friday I had to brake from 65 to a dead stop in the fast lane. The physical shock of deceleration meant I didn’t panic when the BMW that had been tailgating me had to drive up onto the soft shoulder to avoid hitting me. The traffic crawled for twenty minutes around the golf course near Crystal Springs. No one got impatient because as fire trucks and ambulances pushed through us it became evident that whatever had happened was very bad.

The highway patrol was letting one lane through. As I drove past I saw a tarp covering something instantly recognizable in the middle of the empty lanes. I saw a red hatchback crumpled up against the middle divider, and I think I saw the driver’s face, a woman, bereft.

i found a news story afterward that said her passenger had tried to cross the four lanes of 280 to get help, and that he had not survived.

He has haunted me all week. I rode Lenny that afternoon. His coat is like satin over hard muscle. He looks like a war horse. I’d be scared of his vigor if I didn’t already know how to dance with him. My garden is putting on a last glorious show before the heat. My Matilija poppy and hummingbird sage are flowering for the first time. Last night I cut two Frog Hollow peaches into rough cubes and put them in Hendricks and tonics to drink out on the deck while my friends the crows serenaded us.

The world is changing and I have never loved my life more. I feel them all around me, all the dead, and I try to make sure their deaths mattered. I feel him too, trying to get across the freeway to Crystal Springs. What they whisper is that this coffee, this little garden, this breath of wind, life, is a gift.

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.

lanark, by alasdair gray

…life in a city near the sea or near the mountains where the sun shines for an average of half the day. My house would have a living room, big kitchen, bathroom and one bedroom for each of the family, and my work would be so engrossing that while I did it I would neither notice nor care if I was happy or sad.

more

After a pretty good run of books, including two history/biographies each of Imperial Rome, the First Fleet, the Donner Party and Hollywood in the seventies (spoiler: it’s settler colonialism all the way down), I have come to an annoying halt. You know when you pick up this book and that and you KNOW they’re good and if you were in another mood you would devour them, but today, eh? That.

Mostly, I think, it’s that I want to read more books exactly like Emma Southon’s Agrippina and A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Imagine I, Claudius rewritten by Tamsyn Muir: hilarious, serious, queer and profane.

I want this kind of telling of my own history, but the closest I found were the biographies of Esther Johnston, my umpty-great grandmother the Jewish convict and First Lady of New South Wales (Esther), and of her contemporary – NOT friend – Elizabeth Macarthur (A Room Made of Leaves). Weirdly, both books end halfway through the story, with Esther’s triumphant closure being social acknowledgment by Elizabeth, while Elizabeth’s is feeling a sense of connection to her Paramatta farm despite knowing perfectly well that she had wrested the land from it’s traditional custodians.

I mean, those narrative choices make sense when you consider that Esther died an alcoholic widow and Elizabeth’s entire life was mythologized to justify the attempted genocide of the indigenous people. The true stories are kind of a bummer and don’t fit traditional (imperialist) Chosen One story structures. But this is where Emma Southon is so fucking good. Agrippina’s story is also embedded in histories of violent dispossession and oppression, but Southon embraces the ambiguity and complicity and tragedy. Plus there are jokes and swears.

The Donner Party books – The Indifferent Stars Above and The Best Land Under Heaven – came closer to scratching that itch if only because there is no way to frame that story as anything like a triumph. The worst you can do (and this has been done plenty) is to cast it as a weird aberration, a sort of Californian Dyatlov Pass incident, whereas in fact it’s the logical consequence of white Western expansionism, manifest destiny literally eating its young.

And that’s how you get the US state of California, superimposed (by force) on the Bear Flag Republic and the Mexican Californios and Spanish Alta California and before and throughout all of that a landscape of indigenous cultures and languages maybe as ancient and diverse as those in Papua New Guinea. I went on to read The Mighty Franks and Hollywood’s Eve, both of which have to reckon with the titanic legacy of Joan Didion, the ur-pioneer. And look, back in the 90s I venerated Didion like any other young white woman would-be new journalist, but when you read Roberto Lovato’s Unforgetting and are reminded of her callous line on El Salvador, “Terror is the given of the place,” that veneration turns a little sour. Given by whom, exactly?

Hollywood’s Eve makes a decent case for Eve Babitz – sensualist, humanist – as a counterpoint to Didion’s ironic analyst, but it’s weird and deeply Californian that each in the wake of profound personal tragedy has taken a hard right turn. I can’t think of a neat way to end this post. History, and especially history with white women in it, is just like this: frustrating, messy and inconclusive.

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.

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!

recollections of my non-existence, by rebecca solnit

A Muir Woods park ranger once remarked to me that she saw in these structures the great redwood forests that had been cut down to build them, and so those tall groves up and down the coast were another ghostly presence.

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.

the language of flowers, by vanessa diffenbaugh

All of Northern California was a botanical garden, with wildflowers springing up between busy freeways and chamomile thriving in sidewalk cracks.

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.”

well, that escalated quickly

Last Thursday, Jeremy asked what it would take for us to decide to cancel or postpone our planned trip to Australia. On Monday, we rescheduled our flights. Yesterday, the public schools and our kids’ school all closed. In grocery stores, people are calm and brave, Londoners during the blitz. Online, we take turns being scared and comforting one another.

I’m sitting on my back deck drinking coffee with Jeremy. The gardens are full of birdsong. Hummingbirds are having fierce air battles over the shrubbery. And now I know why the pair of crows I’ve been trying to befriend have been so preoccupied. They’re building a nest.

that feeling when you live in an house

It feels like all four of us have let out a collective breath. The kids were champions during the long wait to move in, and instantly happier after the move. They assembled their own IKEA beds. We have dinner at the dinner table, like dinner-having people. During a brief spat earlier, the big kid said: “Fine. I’ll go to my room,” and she did, and it was glorious.

Children can have little a personal space, as a treat.

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.”

initiated, by amanda yates garcia

…there is no escape and nowhere to run. There is no outside capitalism anymore. Capitalism has contacted all of our tribes.

know my name, by chanel miller

You cannot write out of someone else’s dark place; you can only write out of your own.

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.