Before we came along, our 55 acres in Sonoma were home to wildlife and occasional hunting parties. This month's fires burned all the trees and brush and grasses revealing what was left behind by the revelers of old; a batch of rusted out old beer cans (not pop top cans, but ones opened with church keys) and this small glass, completely intact, caked with dirt and black ash. I'm imagining it filled with whiskey sipped under a starlit sky under the old oaks on the hill in the middle of our meadow. I think I will keep it as a reminder of survival, and time, and the meaning contained in a simple object.
Perhaps one day I will fill it with Sonoma wine and toast our first night back on the land.
I just might keep painting this place until the rain returns, the meadow fills with wildflowers, grasses grow, trees take root, birds begin to sing, the wildlife returns, and who knows, maybe the iris will bloom.
We will rebuild.
In the meantime we are grateful for what we had for many years, and for what we have, not the least of which is each other.
Friends came to dinner and brought a big bouquet of basil from their garden. Friendship, generosity, and the sweet fragrance of summer's bumper crop fills the house with just the goodness needed during these times.
That and seeing "Ain't Too Proud," the story of the Temptations at Berkeley Rep have kept me buoyant. Don't miss this imaginative, beautiful, gripping production.
I have spent the last month mostly alone, savoring summer in Sonoma; the light, the sky, the grasses, the ancient evergreens, wildflowers, birds, frogs, lizards, bees and the animals whose home this really is.
Last weekend a highly qualified dream team from Audubon Canyon Ranch Mountain Lion Project came over to examine, observe and tag an 11 year old mountain lion and her two kittens who were feasting on a fawn on a knoll in the middle of our meadow. Watching them work way into the night brought me closer than ever to the creatures whose presence is known but rarely seen. They come, they go, as they have done on this land for many generations before and will continue to do long after we move on. It is both humbling and reassuring to feel small and insignificant in the big picture. There is nothing that touches the soul like solitude while surrounded by the natural world.
These weeks of too much horrifying news and an endless list of errands left me feeling dispirited until today, when I happened to hear Calvin Trillin's reassuring voice on the radio. His way with words describing life lifts me up with its simplicity, honesty, humor, and reverence for what is all that really matters - Living, Loving, Laughing, and being true to oneself. It brought me back to myself and I was almost hopeful again all afternoon.
My guest filled the house with fine food, friendship, and this white lily and tulip bouquet. Its beauty and rich fragrance is still wafting through the Sonoma summer air. Enduring friendship. There is nothing like it.
There's a lot to love about Queen Anne's Lace, a wild flower that takes root anywhere, requires no tending, and is one of the most delicate, etherial, elegant flowers on earth. Simple beauty. It speaks volumes to the soul.
Thank you, Maine Heritage Trust, for the magical path through the woods to the back shore where the sea crashes on the rocks. Cranberry Shores Preserve. A gift of light and moss, trees, pink granite and water. The best things in life are free.
I have been distracted. The combination of life's little details and the horrifying world situation has sabotaged my usual optimism. The thought of rowing on a warm summer morning as the fog lifts and little waves lap along the shore is mighty appealing. Being away from all the hubbub does wonders for the soul.
The beauty being served up by Nature this Spring is stunning. Bright yellow iris swim in a sea of green grasses as a gentle breeze blows by in Sonoma. Elsewhere roses are blooming in profusion, and pink rhododendron have never been bigger. All the rain quenched their thirst from years of drought, and there is a celebration going on. Between that and listening to Bach's "Magnificat," I am filled with gratitude for what is right with the world, and more determined than ever to right what is wrong.
I like the idea of "sea change," but the truth is, I resist change as much as possible. I like familiarity and habit and that goes for just about everything from clothes to friends to possessions to daily routines. I have noticed that real change, deep down sea change happens in small increments over time. Little shifts in focus, a slight change of course, and before you know it, you have entered new territory.
Sitting on a beach, seeing the sea change, waves breaking in different ways, creating patterns and coming and going and coming another way again; that is plenty of change for me.
Wrapped up in every raindrop is the promise of the future. Sonoma is soaking it up, saving it for a sunny day. And I, for one, can't get enough of rain splashing on my windshield, water rushing down the creek, and wildflowers popping up on every hillside.
Sonoma is so beautiful this spring it is almost heart braking. If only everyone on earth could hear the birds singing their tiny hearts out, and see the jack rabbits crossing the meadow and, watch the wild turkeys showing off for the ladies, and see the vineyards bursting into bloom on an April afternoon. I am sure there would be less strife and anger and ugliness. If only.
I have been missing the ones who are gone. They touched my heart and soul with theirs, and I carry them with me everywhere I go. Once in a blue moon someone comes along who lights up the world with just being who she is.
Thanks to a friend who knows me well, I recently discovered Amy's writing, words, and brave creative endeavors. What a spirit! "Textbook" and "Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life" and children's books and happenings.
I would have liked to tell her how much her books mean to me. But she is gone. So her inspiration will just have to continue on through me and all the ones she touched, while we wait for another blue moon to rise.
Distractions have threatened to derail me lately. The barrage of news from the outside world, calling my representatives, and the constant list-making inside my mind have been creating havoc. And then there is Mary Norris's enchanting book, "Between You and Me," which has me second guessing every sentence and punctuation I write.
Despite it all, I happened upon the beach last week while walking with a friend from afar. A breath of fresh air in the company of friendship gives one some perspective. The world is big. We are small. Life is short. Live it up.
Last week I took time out from all the sadness at hand to step back in time at the Legion of Honor, taking in "Monet: The Early Years." "The Red Kerchief" has stayed with me. She is so alive in her bright red against the winter chill, fleeting past the window, so like life. The lady in her yellow hat and slicker carrying a red purse is stopped in her tracks. "All part of life's rich colorful pageant" as my dear friend once said. Now you see her. Now you don't. Gone, but not forgotten.
In an effort to escape the news of these days, I have been seeking out books that will do for me now what I remember "Winnie the Pooh" and "Now We Are Six" doing for me in childhood. Anything by E.B. White is as relevant now as it was when it was written. Like seeing an old friend, his words warm the soul. Thankfully, Book Passage has come to Sausalito. Today I picked up George Saunders' "Tenth of December" because I loved his answers to the "By the Book" questions in the February 19th New York Times Book Review.
Question. "What moves you most in a work of literature?"
Answer. "Depictions of goodness that are not fraudulent or sentimental."
Bring on "depictions of goodness" in art and literature, and then let's hope life imitates art.
The vineyards are green, streams are gushing, water water everywhere. Given the constant distraction of man-made disruption, it is positively soothing to be inundated by natural phenomena. The mystery and beauty of water in all its forms has been a welcome companion in recent weeks.
I have also noticed perfect strangers going way out of their way to be nice these days. Like the men who stopped to tell my sister she had a flat tire and then insisted on changing it for her. In the rain. And wouldn't accept payment. Small acts of kindness are powerful antidotes to the cruel mandates emminating from our government. I am holding onto hope. But just barely.
Yesterday being Valentine's Day, we made a pink and red dinner for dear friends. They brought a big bouquet of light pink roses, the sweet fragrance of which has filled the house and lifted my mood all day. Despite the distressing news that invades every hour, along with doing what I can to effect change, I am choosing to focus on the sweetness of friendship, the deep love of family, and the mundane moments of joy that punctuate every day.
Last weekend I took time to savor every word of Kathryn Schulz's beautifully written, "When Things Go Missing" an achingly moving meditation on loss; loss of all kinds, from keys to loved ones.
Lesson learned. Again.
In the end, all we have is each other and this moment.
It blew hard all night and rain is streaming down the streets. The gutters look like rapids and everything is a shade of grey. The power was out this morning. High tide caused flooding at the north end of town, and rock slides closed roads on south side. It's a sign of the times that the ravages of extreme weather come as a welcome relief from recent events in Washington.
Seeing What you See in Stella ('Great Jones Street')
Oil on Wood
After days of distraction from political upheaval, it is a relief to return to the world of Art. Frank Stella's Retrospective at the De Young Museum is still with me. And his statement, "What you see is what you see" is one of my favorite statements by a painter about his art. It is also applicable to current events. Our eyes are open, and what we see is what we see. Don't look away.