Once Upon A Time When We Were Social…

What? Needing to turn in a minimum thousand-word essay and opening the blog program instead instead isn’t normal? But, isn’t that the BEST TIME to blog???

How are you?

It’s been a minute, hasn’t it?

We had no idea that we had not, in fact, come through the initial impact of the pandemic with no consequences. (We don’t say “survived the pandemic” – it’s not over.) We are, in fact, natural-born Hobbits, and as such, we live like those mythical creatures. Hobbits are happiest at home. We potter around the garden. We fix enormous and impractical meals. We read a great many, many, many books, and do a great many crafts which include glitter, paint, a lot of muttering under our breath, the occasional swear, or a lot of cutting oil. Staying home 24/7? Avoiding people? That’s playing our song.

While one of us is merely introvert adjacent, the other of us is a full-time introvert who requires at least twenty-one business days to recover from any social outing. Pandemic isolation was supposed to be the crowning achievement of an introvert’s life.

It…was not.

Standing on the edges of a crowd, watching people enjoying themselves is filling the social well. Sitting at a table alone in a cafe, watching people enjoying themselves is filling the social well. Lurking in library stacks, watching mothers try to read while their offspring play around their feet is filling the social well. A meal at a restaurant, a concert, air travel, random conversations with strangers – all of these things with their attendant displeasures and delights give something to us. Normal life – with its reflected light from the sunshine of other people’s lives – fills the social well, and the lack of said all but drains us of our contentment, and worse, our creativity.

(Yeah. That essay. The coding. And the novel that’s due. The technical writing that has to be updated, the PR materials that need to be written. And… And… And…)

It was mostly unnoticeable – and overlapped with T’s autoimmune illness peaking, but the isolation was something which caused both of our brains to atrophy. We realized that we were… too quiet. We usually talk to each other constantly – interrupt each other, exchange ideas with the frenetic energy of sparks on electric wires. Some days we barely exchanged ten sentences between getting up and “pass the salt” at dinner. When we realized that “the worst” was over, and then… it wasn’t, the disappointment was more resignation – we knew this wouldn’t be tidy, but hope is a thing with invasive roots. Now that we know that we need… something to help fix our brains and fill our social wells, we’re in the process of rethinking how we can return to the world in a way that’s safe – considering our weekly outdoor church attendance (more for social interaction than spiritual edification just now) and a socially distanced return to our chamber group, and more activities outdoors, as T’s new meds seem to have pulled her back from brain fog and acute disability. As always, we’re a work in progress… And you?

How are you?


We used to throw tea parties, tasting plate parties and Wine & Cheese (or grape juice and cultured soy milk) parties with the Wees when they were quite small, as a means of introducing them to new foods or just hanging out with the good dishes, and our family in a meaningful way. The last one we had, Elf was eight. Since he’s just turned thirteen this year (!!!!), it’s been a minute. While we aren’t sure whether Elf and Little Man, who are far too cool for our company, would like to come, we’ve been planning a little Taste & See party for a while now. We thought we’d pre-taste one of the offerings, though, just to be on the safe side (and have since decided against having this as part of our taste test). It’s a product we’ve seen everywhere, even a smoked mushroom varietal at our local farmer’s market – vegan jerky.

Having not grown up gnawing on pieces of dried meat at all times, we didn’t at first see the point of this being veganized. But! People who hike and want to pack a quick source of energy swear by these, so we tried four easily available from the supermarket: Pleather in Black Pepper, Louisville Vegan Jerky in Maple Bacon, Gardein in Original, and Noble Jerky in Sweet BBQ.

Our first mistake was buying something called Pleather. Just… no. Both Merriam-Webster and the Oxford Dictionary of Language defines Pleather as a plastic, faux leather substitute, not foodstuff. Our second mistake was getting black-pepper flavored anything: another no. We expected the Louisville to be better, but the maple was sickly sweet, and the bacon flavor was an overdose of liquid smoke. Of the four taste-tested, those two were utterly unspeakable, as in, We Spat Out And Would Not Share With Dogs. The Gardein we thought would be at least okay, because we’ve used Gardein products before, and it was… meh. It’s too moist and has an odd texture. The Noble Jerky is also sweet, but …we immediately wanted to upend the entire bag into a pot of white beans. It’s the exact taste of Boston Baked Beans somehow! Not something you’d want to eat in large amounts without the beans, but …workable. We’re going to cook with both the edible ones and see if they can be redeemed. (We’re not going to try for “elevated,” that’s just asking for the moon.)

So, no winners there, really, but it made us happy to think about doing something as normal as trying weird food and making fun of it.

Small steps, friends. Small steps.

Is this thing on?

It has been an eternity since I’ve blogged anything. Life just seems to roll on, no real change, and here we are with me not having even bothered to pull any pictures from the phones. And did I use a real camera during this time? Nope. Life is kind of narrow right now.

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Here’s what work looks like for me these days. Every client wants me to use their laptop, rather than giving me access through my own system. So, I’ve got a stack of laptops sitting here, which I shuffle around as needed. I’ve just purchased a keyboard/video/monitor switch, so once I go through the setup, I’ll at least have laptops with decent keyboard and monitor!

Do have a look at the latest batch of photos, on www.flickr.com/photos/wishiwerebaking . I’ve taken up a bit of metalworking, primarily making windchimes out of titanium, and there are a few chime photos up there. If you’re interested in something other than the most recent photos, www.flickr.com/photos/wishiwerebaking/collections organizes all of the albums into collections, so it’s possible to navigate. For example:

  • Europe
    • Netherlands (10 albums)
    • Castles (16 albums)
    • England (2 albums)
    • Italy (7 albums)
    • Scotland (2 collections)
      • Around and About (48 albums)
      • Glasgow (47 albums)
    • Traveling About

And on it goes from there, fairly organized. 39,153 photos.

I can’t tell you that I’ll be blogging more, especially now that email subscriptions are being disabled by FeedBurner. We’ll see how it goes.

-D

Desperately Seeking Springtime

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How are you, friends?

It’s been a minute…

So, 2021. So much has changed, but on a personal level, aside from losses of friends and acquaintances to aging and the robbery of this pandemic, change has largely been confined to the pictures on the calendar. The most surreal aspect of the last eleven months “Living La Vida Covid” has been the effect of days turning to amber, and we, like prehistoric insects, hang in suspended animation. What would we be doing, if we weren’t here? That question goes round and round. We certainly would resume plans for our trip to Europe, we’d certainly meet our friends in Victoria for that lovely Canadian getaway we were anticipating last March, we’d certainly go leaf-peeping, flower-appreciating, and to the beach, finding our way away from the crowds. As it stands, we’re really supposed to stay home, and barring that, only do “essential travel” within a hundred and twenty miles of our home address. It is been, for people who used to simply fill a picnic basket and get into the car for a good wander up the coat, a bit difficult. People talk about hitting a “Covid wall.” Yep, we’ve been close a couple of times…

T’s latest book in November was chosen to be a book club selection for Parnassus Books in Tennessee, a prominent independent bookstore which occasionally makes book presentations on Good Morning America, and PBS NewsHour. (After her book was discussed on NewsHour, T is much more fond of Tennessee now, despite never having been there.) Social distancing hasn’t stopped the juggernaut of publishing, however, so she signed a couple hundred book plates, affixed them to a couple hundred books, and turned right around to sign another contract. In December T was pleased to finally get an appointment with the ophthalmologist, and receive her contact lenses! She’d only been waiting since March…

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Himself has continued to work for an expanding and contracting list of clients, who do fun things like requiring separate laptops (3 so far) so he can work on an HR approved machine for each company, and putting meetings on his calendar five minutes before they start, but unlike others, he’s still working, so despite the annoyance factor, we call it another win. T&D have continued a loose relationship with our chamber group, doing a tiny concert to be released on Valentine’s Day, but have mostly shifted to other hobbies which don’t require Zoom. D has continued to do more with metal work, and has machined himself a few metal working tools to use on his small lathe. With a new drill and sander, he is turning out beautifully anodized wind chimes, just for fun, and the garage is full of sawdust as he begins experimenting with wood. T, meanwhile, is missing the feel of physical books from the public library, but is grateful for used bookstore sales, the Little Free Library down the block, and reading for yet more awards so she can share yet more books.

As usual, California has received insufficient rain, and we regret the brevity of the chilly season, even as we are astounded over the bird bath freezing and the myriad freezing mornings. Cold makes cycling and walking something of a chore, and it’s too easy to get lazy during these times and take up baking like it’s an Olympic sport. As much as we dread another year of fires and horrible heat waves, we’re more than ready to battle allergies (already there, actually), gophers and weeds to get back into the garden. T’s favorite gift of the season remains the beginning of her seed and the seed companies have very helpfully sent along the usual enticing full-color catalogs. The annual Going Over Of The Expenses occurs right around tax time, and as the day approaches, T is very reluctant to look at how much she actually spent on plants and flowers this past eleven months, especially considering how many of them the gopher outright ate… no matter if one faithfully grows one’s own carrots, greens, onions and tomatoes, gardening is never going to be one of those things which is actually cost effective, sadly, but it does make us happy, even as we are screeching at the weird beetles and things that eat the lettuce. (Also note: we found what appear to be EARTHWORMS in the fountain. Since most worms DROWN in the lawn in the rain, we’re pretty sure they’re not earthworms, but how bizarre is that!? You learn something new every season, apparently.)

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So, according to the Lunar Cycle, it’s the Year of the Ox… for whatever it’s worth. It’s never a bad time to celebrate stolid placidity, we suppose, especially not during a global pandemic when it takes stolid, placid stubbornness to carry on, so here’s to that – and here’s to you.

Still Life With Greedy Guests

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How are you, friend?

Are you well?

Autumn is truly here – though it took the weather a minute to remember. It seems the whole “it gets cool, leaves fall, birds come and go,” seemed to be a problem, at first! But now that winter is taking crisp bites from autumn’s mellow apple sweetness, frost laces the neighbor’s roof each morning, and the long, slow sleep is coming upon the garden.

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We harvested seventy pounds (!) of Fuji apples, and forty of Granny Smith, and harvested the carrots finally – even eating a few of them roasted for our mini-Thanksgiving. The beet we were counting on roasting – the others having succumbed to some nibbling wretch when they were still seedlings – is still only golf-ball sized despite all of our waiting. It seems the winter garden might fare better than the summer one ever did; the romaine is staging an unprecedented comeback, and the sage is sending up new shoots. The magnolia is blooming joyfully, despite no one being outside long enough to really enjoy the smothering sweetness, and the citrus trees – though struggling under some kind of fungal attack – are producing small grapefruit and tangerines like mad. Certain People have continued to hoard all of the persimmons, though no names will be mentioned in this missive. Ahem.

We have taken the minor risk of singing – fully masked and at three times the social distance – with a church in our area, filming for services well ahead of time for Advent and Christmastime. This has been a delight, even though singing in a mask, yes, even the beaky ones with the underwire boning in them to prevent you sucking wet fabric, is not easy! But, we’ve enjoyed it. Still, we’re mostly home, as you most likely are, so our most lovely and unexpected amusement has been the birds… Continues to be the birds… Always seems to be the birds. We’re turning into full-on bird nerds, just by virtue of being frequently near a window.

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Earlier this summer, we were visited by a roving flock of some kind of budgie-sized parrots – we never got a good picture, or a good look. They squawked at us from the tree across the fence, raided the soft fruit, and were quickly gone. We enjoyed our regulars, of course, including the flock of four rock doves who’ve decided that they’re chickens (!), the trio of crows whose number has now grown to six regulars, and the myriad robins, phoebe, flycatchers and other tiny songbirds and warblers who are around, but we’ve also had a bright yellow oriole come for a week or so, which was also fun – and hard to photograph. But we were thrilled the other day to have an ear-full of cedar waxwings come by – and yes, “ear-full” or the slightly more obscure “museum” is the correct collective noun for this gregariously social bird. The “ear-full” comes from the fact that while they don’t have a song, cedar waxwings have several high pitched whistles that are… a lot noisy once they get going. They’re fruit-crazy, so us leaving the wormy apples on the trees along with keeping the fountain full of fresh water (while attempting to stay ahead of the little porkers scarfing down seeds like there’s no tomorrow) has meant we’ve had far more avian visitors – and the odd opossum – to the yard. Our greedy little neighbors are giving us an excuse to bundle up and stay outside for a bit.

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It’s a mixed blessing that the autumn has been dry so far. We know that come late next summer, this will have been a terrible thing, as it highly increases fire danger, but right now, the cold, sunny weather allows us to be out and about a little bit. Despite positive vaccine news, we know logically that it’s still going to be a very long, very slow slog to get back into a world where we are free to come and go as we please, to hug friends and sing unmasked, and to treat a cold or ‘flu as nothing more than a mildly annoying inconvenience instead of a life-ending threat. For many who already struggle with chronic illness flaring up during the coldest months, the coming winter is a thing of dread. Here, we’re trying to think ahead to what will sustain us throughout the winter – things outside of our normal everyday. We don’t have a TV or media subscription, but are looking forward to watching a ton of old movies and weird stuff while we get back into handcrafts like knitting (maybe we can finally finish Book-Niece’s sweater, and since she’s now fifteen months old and no longer a newborn, it might even fit) and embroidery; we’re making more wind chimes and poking around the edges of doing lampworking (glasswork done with glass rods – with all of these handy mini-blowtorches, it was only a matter of time) and painting more.

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More than finding new hobbies, though, we’re trying to be deliberate about how we think of and speak of and hope for the future. One of the prime, huge, glaring lessons of this pandemic has been learning what judgmental spirits we have collectively. We’re sure that you, too, have heard of the many people who have picked fights with strangers over how they choose to conduct themselves during this time. As a world, we are (hopefully?) learning that we must leave space for other people to make decisions that we don’t support.

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It’s so hard to hear of people who are traveling and vacationing without commenting. Human beings seem to have a hard time disagreeing with the actions of others, and allowing them to be …just someone with whose actions we disagree. Some people feel it’s unacceptable not to let people know where we stand – after all, there’s a such thing as “right” and “wrong,” still. While that’s undeniably true, there is also no such thing as a no-risk activity during a global pandemic. No matter who we are, the shopping still has to get done, people still have to go to work, and even those staying home still have to venture out of the front door to pick up the mail. What I feel is manageable risk, vs. the risks that I consider foolhardy will be different from what you feel – and we all have had to learn to just “shut-up and wear beige”, as our friend Serena says. We’re only in control of ourselves, so many of us have learned through this time to simply step back out of the stream of conversation, and just do what we’re going to do, rather than letting other people’s conforming or nonconforming behavior define – or goad, or influence – our own. (Edited to add: This is not to say that we’re wafting around wholly non-judgmental, nor that we know what to say when people shrug and casually mention things like “herd immunity” and countenance the dying of hundreds of thousands more people, simply because they’re secure in their insurance coverage and don’t fear long-term disabilities and even less of a safety net than they’ve had in the past. That’s… harder to comprehend, but even there – everyone makes their own choices. Here’s hoping that the choices we make for ourselves are not ones which contribute to far-reaching negative results for others.) This difficult yet valuable understanding will hopefully go a long way toward shaping our post-pandemic selves, and maybe even shape how we talk to each other about politics.

(No? Too soon? Okay.)

We hope that as you’re spending days closer to home – or traveling as sensibly as you can – that you are finding a sense of proportion in reference to yourself and the world. It has helped us a lot to celebrate small joys and victories, to create small, achievable goals to meet, checking off of our lists the things we accomplish. Trying to find new traditions to explore and ways to be deliberate and conscious about sharing with others to encourage them helps as well.

It’s a weirdly ambiguous place to be in, creating history. We will remember these days in a number of ways – but I hope one of them is how we rallied, found joy in small things, encouraged one other, and survived. We can do this.

Be well. ♥

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Nostalgia in a time of covid

We miss travel. No, that’s not right. We miss our friends. David is one of our David’s best friends & is in Glasgow. We last got to see David when we visited The Netherlands in 2018. We got to see both David and Laura & spend a few days with each.

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We left Glasgow in June of 2012. We’ve been back a few times, but not since 2016. We desparately want to go back, to feel at home again in the filthy city, and see friends.

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This is hardest simply because we cannot visit. It is not the travel. It’s the people.

Video conferencing just isn’t the same.

-D

The Confinement Chronicles, con’t

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398th July, Year Of Our Lord, 2097, in the Year of the Plague

How are you?

Are you well?

It’s still feeling strangely like a cross between the longest weekend ever… and childhood summer “vacations” (where we still had daily calisthenics, times-tables, chores, and encyclopedia “research” papers to write for our parents), but here we are. Still social. Still distant. Still friends. We hope you’re finding space for silence, time for talking, and the ways and means to do that which you must. We wish you peace.


Another Monday morning… Lather, rinse, repeat. We work, we cook, we read, we sort our far-too-numerous possessions (ETA: some people rearrange furniture. Constantly), and then we work some more. We sleep, we wake, watch some sort of entertainment and wander around our small corner of paradise. We are grateful that we have a roof over our heads, but …well, most of us are very sick indeed of the shape of said roof, and the color of the shingles…


Ah, confinement. It would be easy to say that it’s making people crazy, but it’s not… it’s privileged people encountering the word “no,” some of them for the very first time, apparently. This is less “going crazy” than poorly handled rage. If it were actual “stir-craziness,” wouldn’t all of us confined be infected with it? So far, you’ve limited your toileting to actual toilets, haven’t you? Yep, we figured. In this society, we constantly blame on mental illness people wholly unable to deal with the reality of no: “No, I don’t want to date you. No, I don’t need to hear from you. No, I don’t owe you time, money, or attention. No, you can’t come in here without a mask.” Hearing “no” is hard – but most of us learned to deal with that around the two-year mark without shooting anyone, road-raging with our shopping carts, or widdling on the floor in public. It’s an annoying part of life when kids tantrum, but it’s …unnerving to discover that so many of our fellow humans are only masquerading as adults, and are really ginormous, ill-tempered children. With apologies to actual children.


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Owing to the fact that we know we won’t be hosting guests here for the foreseeable future, we’ve dismantled our cozy little guestroom. We even gave away the bed to a family who needed one, and have repurposed the larger room as our new office. Extra benefits include it being both larger and cooler than our previous office, both absolutely necessary as we continue to share office space during what is obviously the longest summer in recorded history. Work has taken off. T has been privileged to be a part of the reading jury for the NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature – an international children’s literary award which was going to necessitate a trip to Nebraska – and is finishing the novel which is going to come out next fall (the one out THIS November is also done, yay!). D has been juggling clients – one of them having delayed their project by over a year – and trying to wrap up myriad small contracts so that he has time for a larger one, where he’s the primary technical architect for the installation of a manufacturing execution system. That project may take several years, if it gets approval, so fingers remain crossed.


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We had so many plums on our plum tree that it broke two branches, necessitating a lot of running around and propping things up – and rapidly trying to deal with a good eighty pounds of plums. Next year we’re going to thin it a bit better – the poor tree just can’t handle that kind of weight. The garden as a whole has been both a joy and an annoyance… well, rather, the gopher has been an annoyance. It has eaten, by today’s count, two whole tomato plants, two cucumber plants, and three flowering bushes. We’ll draw a veil over the holes in the lawn… people rhapsodize about how lovely it is to see more turkey, coyote, and mountain lions about, and how with the decline of human traffic we see the return of nature, but this is one return we could have done without. Nonetheless, we are butterfly, bee, and bird central with our various flowers, and we’re growing tons of herbs and root veg.

A lot of the hotter weather crops are REALLY slow this year, as nighttime temperatures were really variable through May and June. While elsewhere it’s been sweltering, in our little pocket of micro-climate, we are having foggy mornings and sometimes days that don’t heat up until about 4pm. – which means we still have verrrry hard peaches, though they look beautifully ripe. It’s quite a bit more humid than we remember from previous years as well! Unfortunately, none of that makes our melons and squash grow faster. Oh, well.

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We’re still singing – D has continued his Zoom voice lessons (probably serenading everyone in the neighborhood, because summertime = open windows), and T occasionally threatens to join in. Our community choir here continues to figure out how to maintain a choral presence in the communities and navigate social distancing at the same time. The last week in May, we concluded recording for a virtual choir concert – and while it’s been a steep learning curve becoming accustomed to the technology involved, we’re hopeful it will release soon. It’s hard to imagine the winter season without music, so we… don’t. That’s seemed to be working for us so far. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, and all of that.

This week someone commented that life is a series of things falling apart, and coming together. That seems… accurate. Regardless of the many things we have believed that we can count on, there has always been an element of risk, and the opportunity for abrupt failures. Many people just now are discovering this – and some feel that they’ll never survive this falling apart. But here’s a secret: we already have. It’s done. The past is gone. The sinkhole has opened and we are at the bottom, and now… now we are going to sit in the ashes of the disaster for a bit (until people properly begin to understand the whole mask thing, perhaps?) and know that we cannot fix it. At all.

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And then…? Then, things will come together.

This isn’t meant to be magical thinking, or some kind of faith-in-magic trick. Obviously, there’s no timetable on this, no way to pinpoint the date when we stop thrashing against this frustrating reality, and re-emerge into “regular” life. This is the reality: ambiguity. There’s no cure, no fix, no answer, so the disaster sits here, and we sit, being reminded that wholeness and safety has less to do with us than we previously believed. So, the exercise becomes thinking about how we’ll remember these moments five or ten years from now. “Remember when we set up the tent in the backyard? Remember when you painted the rocks with positive words and left them by people’s mailboxes on your walks?” Remember how we learned to sew a lot better, sewing masks for strangers?

Remember how we all kept going?

-t

This, too, shall pass.


‘Tis the Fifty-Seventh of May in the Year of Our Lord 2020, in this, our Plague Year.

How are you?

Are you well?

T was pleased to be reminded of this wonderful quote. By this far into the plague, all of us are showing cracks, occasionally verbally giving way to fear or anger or hiding in the bathtub for extended periods. We’re seeing our older generation slip away, and too much is changing, too fast. If you’ve been veering down into the dumps and back up again, we hope you can get outside – over and over, that’s what’s been a saving grace for us. Even though we’re forecast rain for the next few days, we’re grateful that it’ll be warm-ish and we can still put on a hat and breathe in the air.

How have you been holding up this week? We’ve been introduced to the wonderful world of Odd Products; this week we have toilet cleaner subbed from our grocery order that is… minty. Er… mint feels deeply anti-bathroom for us, but y’know what? Whatever. We make do. We also make do with entertainingly named brands of toilet rolls we’ve never even heard of… Forest Green? Well, it does come from trees which might have been green once…

We remain grateful that things, while occasionally frustrating or challenging, aren’t at all bad at our house. We’re healthy. We are working (occasionally losing what day it is, but remembering when we’re pinged and running late to yet another Zoom meeting). We can pay the rent. Sure, the goods are odd, but the odds are good that we’re going to be okay. Yet, it’s disconcerting when people invite us over or beg to come over, or even just show up to drop things off – and it’s hard to gently say, “Yeah, well… we’d better not come out for a walk,” when we’d love to, but it’s all a process — of acknowledging this unavoidable change, grieving the loss of the “regular” we knew, and trying to get with the program of figuring out how we live now.

We hope you are able to read – some friends aren’t – and some of us can only read nonfiction as we assemble facts into our brains to help us stay centered. We discovered the free Hoopla app with free audio, ebooks, magazines, and apparently films and video games. Along with our Overdrive account – both apps work with our local library – we’ve got plenty of electronic books, anyway.

We hope you’re able to both work, and rest. Fact: the more normalized this current state of living becomes, the more we as human beings tend to expect from ourselves. As a society, we’re so obsessed with (capitalism) output and production that we rarely realize that we can choose rest. Some of us have been working all along, and some of us are being recalled to work in the next few weeks, but as you can, for as long as you can, don’t neglect sitting outside on a blanket, doing nothing. Even if your entire family relies on you, don’t neglect lying down for twenty minutes – you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you help another. Prioritize joy, peace, and rest. Set boundaries. Say no. Remember to watch for your body’s stress signals, drink more water, and rest. If your breath is rank and your children are wilding and the house is a disaster and your hair’s on end, breathe and remind yourself that everyone is alive, the house is standing, thus, you are safe. You are a roaring success.

Cut yourself some slack. Breathe.

You are loved; you are so truly loved.

Forty days and nights…

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How are you?

Are you well?

Do you, like we do, sometimes run out of words? Even in silence, we’re here – we’re doing fine. May we hope that you are, too?


*SIGH*

Wow, it was forty-one days, actually – and no, this is not how long it rained this Spring, but how long it had been since T had left the house/neighborhood/been in a car. The evidence of this was spate of endless cleaning, wherein the car was wiped down in the garage, and apparently the baseboards needed sanitizing. Once it was determined that the paint was coming off, it seemed expedient for one to leave the house, lest individual hairs also come under this extreme scrutiny. (This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last that some of us have removed paint. It is what it is, the house is CLEAN, all right?) (Send help.)

Still, there comes a time when even those of us being ├╝ber-careful with germ avoidance must leave the house, and where better than to the neighborhood year-round Farmer’s Market? God bless those people who drove the three or four hours up from Santa Cruz, Fresno, Watsonville or environs to provide strawberries, blueberries, lettuce, and more. Just behind the Post Office – a mere four blocks from us – we found bakers and bee-keepers – and a woman with terrifyingly sized quail and goose eggs – fresh oranges, onions and greens of all kinds. We were out of the house for all of about twenty-five minutes, but it still just enlivened a gorgeous, sunny day. If you can, please support your local farmer’s market. The food they’re producing, especially if we can put some of it up and preserve it, will serve us in good stead come the end of the summer.


Back home, the weekend’s fun task was to muck out the fountain. Hrafen, Morrigan, and Bran have, somewhere, come across a large store of baguettes and stale white bread. We’re thinking that the big park across the street, which hosts a great many large Canada geese in the fall, has a dedicated few folk who think bread is good for gulls, and the crows, being considerate neighbors, bully the gulls, swoop in and steal it… and then, because it is stale, they dunk it in the fountain, and hold it there until it softens enough to eat. Granted, they also dunk in the odd lizard, vole, or other rodent, then proceed to tear out their entrails, but the bread, believe it or not, is the worst culprit for clogging up the fountain, because the crows have the attention span of toddlers and occasionally just abandon the bread and wander away, thus making our arrival at the fountain to turn it on for our enjoyment… disturbing. The peanut shells, odd almonds, and bits of ephemera (buttons?) aren’t so bad, it’s the decomposing, over which we’ll draw a veil… After a lot of work the bottom of the fountain is visible and the water is clear, and the crows are… nonplussed. We’re hoping they give carbs a break for a month or so.

As happens every year when the weather warms, our interest in cooked food wanes, and we simply want salad and fruit. Of course, these days our food choices are… definitely weirder than normal. We couldn’t find lettuce until we went to the farmer’s market – while other areas are unable to find rice or pasta, produce here has been wiped out pretty quickly. D’s had enough trouble getting dairy milk that he’s started experimenting – though T has very decided opinions on hemp milk, and is crossing that off of the family list of Adventurous Plantmilks To Try In Tea. Bleh. Since we’ve made our own soymilk in the past, we decided to just get a soymilk maker and just make it official. (Happily, it can make oatmilk as well, or nutmilks, or whatnot, if the proper ingredients can be found.) This is a less expensive and easier option for us. Now, if only we could somehow make our four strawberry plants and apricot tree go faster! (And before you ask, yes, we’re rooting the bottom of the lettuce that we finally did find, to plant in the garden. And celery too, which is growing nicely.)

We hope you have a tiny garden – ours, and our wee strawberries, continue to be a joy. The row-marker radishes are all standing tall, the melons and cukes are starting to think about reaching their nearest plant neighbor and strangling them (yard bullies: they’re kind of a theme), and the kale is a sturdy half inch high. The rest of our very slow flower order has arrived as well, and we are loving the newly growing dianthus (think carnations), and more California natives that look like scrubby wildflowers one sees at the beach, varieties of poppies, and other tough, ground-covering flowers that are good for low water gardens and don’t mind getting stepped on occasionally. And they will be stepped on – if it’s not the crows, it’s the other wildlife which has decided it needs to stay in our garden. We haven’t yet seen the skunk this year, but we suspect we’ll play host to even more raccoons and other night wanderers as they revel in our quieter world.


Some of you who don’t like to comment publicly on posts email and say that we sound happy and cheerful. We’re glad that comes through – the garden and the crows do make us happy, as well as spending time in the same space – but as with everyone, there are moments of struggle as well. It’s been difficult to figure out how to “do” death, when the normal gears cannot mesh and drag us through the familiar, with family, church, casseroles and caskets. It’s hard to figure out how much solitude is too much (watch for paint removal; that’s a clue), and how to reverse the inevitable slide into “meh” moods. Many of us are far too busy, and are finding that working from home means overwork, and not giving ourselves or our children enough breaks and away-from-screens time. This is undeniably tough – so, give yourself the gift of a break, a walk, a water fight, a puddle stomp. Give yourself the gift of downloading a birding app, and trying to identify the songs, and do something to lift up someone else. Cards and letters and painting rocks or drawing the day of the week on the driveway with chalk – whatever will bring a smile to a wider, equally glum and conflicted world. The heart you cheer may just be your own.

Be well. Remember what is yours and cannot be taken. Remember to open your hands and share (from an acceptable distance) what you can.

Remember you are loved.

…they long to be close to you.

How are you? We hope you are well.

It is interesting to observe how we function in a slower world. We watch the rain, and genially complain that we would put a few more seeds in the ground, but as it stands, that time is not now, so we make do, hoarding egg cartons and watching the slender sprouts within lean toward the muted light. We make do.

Meanwhile, we’ve both somehow gotten involved in the question of what is going to happen with our choir and the last two concerts of the season. We find this choir’s solution utterly lovely – and here’s to those of us wanting to be closer than we are to friends and family far away.

Be well.