Saturday, March 11, 2017

11 Los Gatos

Saturday morning, and Mister Foo's expression is exactly mirroring my state of being... exhausted, unresponsive, very sick to my stomach, and overall just meh. I surrender. Seriously though, that stomach thing was wicked.

Cats. Pets. I love it when we have a pet that can channel the things we want to express, can't describe, would like to be or do or state. We assign them quirks, and narratives, we tell their stories, or pretend that they tell our stories. We relate to their personalities, and share with each other a common recognition of each pets' unique behaviors, attitudes, habits, foibles, limitations, endearments, charms... and it gives us a means of projecting our own faults and gifts on these dear beings, so we can better face them in ourselves, with humor and humility. Somehow, blaming the cat for messes and weirdness makes my own messes and weirdness feel more human, more forgivable. Chango has a soft belly, like me. Mister Foo is moody, like me. Cairo loves his naps, like me, too. They are the members of the family that we can, with impunity, point a finger at, blame for anything, dote on, adore, laugh at, tease, deride, and love. Am I making sense? Do you see it, too... that there is something in our pets that can bring everyone together to participate in a communal contract of admiring, mocking, caring for, and blaming, protecting and loving, and that it affords a shared language for feelings and ideas that we might otherwise withhold, or direct at a person who would take it too much to heart?

Chango is indifferent to the fact that we call him Old Man, and Grandpa, that these namesakes are derived from his doddering age, his advancing senility, the long stories he meows aloud at 4 o'clock in the morning, his gentle affections. So long as he has his water bowl on the night-stand, and wet food for breakfast, he only knows that we love him. And thanks to him, we can express pent-up frustration, which might otherwise be suppressed, or directed at any innocent by-stander, when Chango hangs his claw in a pant leg, or waits to go out, and wants right back in.

Cairo may not understand that he is my surrogate baby, or that he helps Max transition from the stresses of the week, when he can hold him and transition back into home. Max doesn't have to say, "Holding you helps me express my anxiety and missing home after a long week away at school, and now I feel calmer, reconnected to the comfort and familiarity of being back here, at home." But it's there, somehow, the opportunity to, without words, acknowledge those ideas, feel those emotions, and relief.

Mister Foo's story is one we each know, and tell. We build our own family story, our connectedness with each other, through recalling that trip, when Foo climbed the walls. The time Foo fell from the second floor. Maybe it's the removal of ego that makes these narratives and connections between us feel easier to share, and retell, that makes them comfortably relatable. By being a proxy, our pets can represent humor, grief, worry, embarrassment, struggle, flaws, bad smells, affection, and thus we can safely express our own qualities and sentiments, without liability, unencumbered by accountability or justification. It's a release.

It's satisfying, however it might be explained, that we all agree... Cairo is adorable, trusting, and silly when he naps so blithely unaware of anything.

I don't want to discuss missing babies, or wishing I could snuggle with a warm, affectionate bundle of mammal cuteness. I have these kitties, though, and I can find relief, quiet contentment in their presence, in believing that here is a fur baby, without saying anything, or even by saying too much, as I dote and nuzzle and shower them with endearments, smother them with motherly fondness.

Being alive, a human, is complicated. It can call for a lot of thinking, acting, understanding, patience. Being part of a family is even more complicated, demanding. It helps strengthen our connectedness, our bond, and our individual sense of well being, to have different ways of relating with each other, and with the outside world. When we can have multiples means of directing our thoughts and emotions, building our history, values, our common story, it eases burdens, reinforces what binds us together, or to common goals, it gives us outlets for our assertions, and facilitates communication.

Something like that.
It's hard to explain.
Here... look at my cats.

The youngster and the grandpa cat don't always get along. Chango and Cairo renegotiate their truce several times a day. But one thing they consistently agree on... when the Chickenblogger leaves the bed, we can take her place, because she thinks we are adorable.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Friday, March 10, 2017

10 California Explorers

From a trail at the Crystal Cove State Park, with sour grass blossoms as far as the eye can see. We can also see a particularly calm Pacific Ocean, sail boats. With Ruth, and her sister Joan, William and Maria, I made my usual trip to bring Max home from school. On the way south, we enjoyed several stops, and sights, including this state park, the Shake Shack, and the Mission at San Juan Capistrano.

Everything is blooming! Almost. Practically. Certainly, more is in bloom this late in winter than I have seen in many years. Our long season of rain continues to delight us, even now that it seems to have come to an end. Pride of Madeira will thrive, even in dry weather. We'll see massive stands of these cornflower colored spires growing up and the down the street we live on. And California poppies, too. And plenty of sour grass, which Maria loves to snack on.

It's such a pleasure being tourists in our lovely California, and it's fun having the chance to share sightseeing with visitors. Ruth and aunt Joan were happy, receptive, traveling companions. I enjoyed making new stops, to see new places, like having a closer look at the beach cottages at Crystal Cove. As though to make this stop complete, we spied a pod of dolphins, without the telescope.

In my usual slow-flirtation with ideas and dreams, I was even more smitten with the charm and romance of the cottages that are up and down the bluff of this pretty beach, after finally deciding to have a closer look. Someday...

We were impressed by the Cultural Center... where we enjoyed one of those moments of synchronicity that life seems to keep in plentiful store for us. They had an exhibition of the history of Japanese Americans, prior to and during World War II, when American families were removed from their homes, and businesses, and interred in camps. Just this week Maria finished a school lesson on this subject with a visit to a California Court of Appeal, where, with her classmates, they reenacted the case of Korematsu v. United State before the Supreme Court. Not only have they learned a great deal about American history, but they have also observed unsettling parallels with the activities and attitudes of the administration in office today.

Here is a spot where you can sit with your burger and shake, and watch the surf, maybe see whales, like that time we first stopped here. We were pretty stoked to find parking today.

Has it been two years? Yes, it was when Maria was in fourth grade, that was the first, and last, time we visited the mission in San Juan Capistrano. Besides the history and cultural experiences that can be enjoyed here, we appreciate the architecture, the patina of time and wear, and the gardens. It's a worthwhile place to visit, for many reasons. {William took this picture.}

{And this one.}


The old walls tell stories.

Admission includes an audio tour. I kept forgetting to use mine. But it's got useful information.

Earthquakes and massive walls don't mix well.

A favorite, Ceanothus.

It smells, I think, like a spicier alyssum, very honeyed.

I remember these from our last visit, the hollyhocks. There were many plants, but few in bloom. There is something for visitors to look forward to.

I called this "the cosmic fish." It looks like a fish sailing through the night sky.

This may be one of my favorite fountains. It's large, and old. It feels like a place in a lost city, a remnant that is thriving. And, I guess, it sort of is some of those things.

This reminds me, I still have images on the camera, too. All of these pictures are from my iPhone.

We stretched out our explore with just one more stop... cool drinks at Pannikin.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

9 Dinner?

Lame dinner. I even bothered to post this to Instagram. Why? I dunno. I guess I was feeling overwhelmed, yet ultimately highly amused. And while it was not my finest moment, I enjoy the moments when I can see that even a lame dinner is not the worst thing in the world.

So, once upon a time, I was too tired or lazy (you choose) to visit a market, or scrounge through our, mostly, well-stocked pantry. I was even less interested in making a huge commitment to cooking. I found two varieties of popcorn, the last few kernels, at the bottom of containers. I felt clever for calculating that I should heat the larger, yellow corn, before adding the smaller, popcorn, as though that were wise, chef-like, sensibility. Unfortunately, I didn't posses the wise, chef-like, sensibility to have the lid to the pot on hand, and while I searched for it, half of the few kernels popped right out of the pot and all over the tidy or disastrous (you choose) kitchen. What remained was oh-so slightly scorched, and/or half-popped. In times of plenty (plenty of energy, plenty of ideas, plenty of ambition, plenty of pride) I would have tossed this dinner, but... no. I added a dash of nutritional yeast, sprinkled a little Tajín, and devoured this fine feast. I have made better dinners, even in the middle of the week, even when I was tired, or lazy, but this one was special, too.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

8 ExploreThe International Space Station

Let's see if I can do this justice, without consulting any of my technical advisors... Alex is wearing the touch controllers that Geoff ordered for the Oculus Rift, virtual reality goggles. I can't remember how long ago Geoff contributed to their Kickstarter campaign, but he was, for sure, an early believer. Now, with this new, added gear our experiences in VR are even more heightened, amazing. In this particular scenario, Alex is aboard the International Space Station, and not only is he exploring, but he can manipulate objects around him, and take directions to perform tasks, in space! We can see a version of what he is seeing, on the monitor. It is virtual, but it's the realism that makes this stuff so thrilling.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

7 Not Easy

This is a post about real life. I am holding a million strands, and trying to weave them into something beautiful, something safe, practical, reasonable, inspiring, worthwhile, functional, and it's not easy. Some days it's all I can do to untangle several threads, or account for missing threads. Most days holding them feels improbable. If this life is a tapestry, with these strands, and what I am trying to build, maintain, imagine, then I say, there are more tangles, knots, skipped sections, holes, and gaps than I'd care to admit to, than I can bear to face. And while I used to find it easier to go back and mend the holes, fill those gaps, and catch up... more and more, I find that the threads are slipping from my grasp, that whole sections of my life are waiting, sidelined, neglected, and entangled. This isn't a declaration of failure, or a plea for pity. These are observations on the complexity of ideas and things, actions and hopes, the movement of time with the weight of a million strands, the unforeseen, the glaring truths. It is an admission of being in the struggle, of owning my weaknesses. I am doing some things astonishingly poorly, with little virtue, no grace. I have spectacular messes. And that's not the most interesting part. The most interesting part is that I still want to keep moving forward, to see what I can make of all that I am holding, to try, again, and again, to step into light, once more, and catch hold of those exquisite moments when something very good makes everything feel possible, or at least worth reaching for. From here, I see more beauty, more value, in a mess, in the struggle, in anguish, or blemishes, in uncertainty, gray, soft places, difficult expressions, hard problems, than in glossy concepts, perfect outcomes, shiny staged vignettes. Show me scars and grit, wrinkles, dust, the grappling, the struggle, the stuff that weighs too much, and tell me that love matters more, that connection, and caring, compassion, and reaching out are what we live for, and I will see our beautiful tapestries, whole, and rewarding. But it's not easy.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Monday, March 06, 2017

6 Late Winter in the School Garden

This time the fava beans and Maria's basil starts, were the stars of the school garden. As were the blueberry blossoms, sage, and variety of seedlings ready for the plant sale. So much goodness is going on with these Junior Master Gardeners, it's not practical to choose one thing that is the star, the best. I pointed my little camera in any direction, and found beauty and inspiration, color, growth, learning, opportunity, community, accomplishment.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

5 Good Dog, Stella

She is darling. Stella. She's like a wooly little puppy-lamb. And when she honored me with her trust and affection, I felt anointed, blessed, conferred with calming, soothing vitality. It's no small thing, I know, to have the confidence and caring of a dog, and I feel quite fortunate to have shared her company... it was good for my hands, heart, and soul.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.