Saturday, December 19, 2020

Home For the Holidays

This is, by far, my favorite wreath of the season. Carol made one for her front door, from berries, seeds, leaves, and pinecones collected on a walk with Grace. I see sprays of pepper berries, too! It's a truly local, California wreath. Carol's arrangements, her art, is beautiful, a true reflection of her gentleness, and her regard for nature. I was thrilled to see the one she *secretly* left for us! It's so abundant and wild, yet artfully composed. The colors sing out, and I hear the woods say, Be of good faith! Take joy! I hung it in our garden, where I hope the birds will see it, too. Take joy, birdies!

It would be a thrill to see cedar waxwings partake of the wreath. We are having a very dry season, sadly. Dry, and cold. The hummingbirds come around when I water the flower barrels. I make sure to give hens and goats an extra snack before sundown. Liberty is not quite making it up to the roost. She's spending the night on the milk crate. Dear Chica. It's nice we are still getting some eggs, so close to Solstice.
I don't mind the short days, the long nights. It appeals to my nature. And then, sometimes, I imagine that I will be disappointed when the days are longer, and longer, but in that season, I like it, too. And maybe by the time we are enjoying summer solstice, we will have traveled somewhere far north, and we will be out, playing late into the night when it will still be light out. Our annual Winter Solstice celebration, the one I have come to love best of all, will be different this year. I am determined to do something. I can remember when proposing a campfire, would grab everyone's attention, but that is possibly a bit predictable, these days.

On the last day of Hanukkah we were treated to a driveway visit from Leslie and Ido, and chocolate babka! Both were sweet and heartwarming. This year would have been something too lonesome and dull without our pod, all of our friends, but especially the ones we can see on walks, or when we are out for a ride, the ones who will brave cold weather, and janky speakers to watch a movie with us, the friends we can swap eggs or flour or yeast or favors or tp or Nutella with! The friends who haven't found campfires in a driveway too predictable. Whether we are commiserating, trading recipes, consoling each other, or just laughing, it has made a world of difference to see friends.
Pink Martini was in our Home For the Holidays! And seeing them on the big screen... it was almost as good as seeing them live! They were very generous. Just when it seemed they were wrapping things up, and the credits scrolled, Thomas Lauderdale and China Forbes, the band, Sofia VonTrapp, and Cantor Ida Rae Cahana popped back in for a sing-along. It felt like a house party. I can't wait for the Good Riddance 2020 concert, New Year's Eve.

Friday, December 18, 2020


Waiting to visit friends, to sit in cafes, or ride a full train, all the way to Oregon, or Chicago. Waiting to invite everyone over, cook together, break bread.
It's so lovely to have traditions, to anticipate familiar events, like decorating our tree, playing Christmas carols, and opening a a sweet gift... cookies from Aunt Laura and Uncle Gary, a box of memories, affection, love. It's amazing to make unexpected discoveries like a tiered holiday welcome light, as good as new, and left at our Little Free Library. Who knew? That my old, cherished one, stopped working, and I've been looking for another? These gestures, and gifts, are so generous, so kind, and bring to mind, once more, all that has been gentle and miraculous in this hard year.
We are waiting for the last day of school before winter break, so we can make day long plans, and late night plans. So we can bake, and wrap, make crafts, look for lights, watch movies, read aloud. We are waiting for lockdown to be over, for the virus to be halted, for an all clear, so all the schools can open safely. We are willing, and insistent, that this is a patient, mindful wait, because as hard as it is to miss out, to endure the challenges, the consequences of haste are too great.

I am waiting for everything to do with the collision to be settled. Finally, at last, settled. The two year anniversary came and went. It weighs on me so much more than I can stand, I am sorry to admit. It turns out, I am not the sort of person that can compartmentalize one thing from another. Each new phone call, every time I have to unravel some other part of it, or revisit the day, the days, the papers, photographs, records... I am set back. I waste hours, days even, in a heavy fog. I am waiting to go forward, and it's a struggle. "The insurance company wants to know if you are still hurting?" "Every day," I reply.
Welcome light. Our bicycle rides have been finishing in the very last bit of sunlight. We catch a glimpse of the sunset, then ride by homes with lit trees in windows, decorations on balconies. One house has a light up corgi dog on the lawn... it's all wires and tinsels, white and orange, and peering out their screendoor is a real life, white and orange corgi. He looks adorable. This year I am drawn to the warm white lights, and the colored lights that are a bit softer, less bright. Every ride, I think of all the times our Mother drove us to Pasadena, or Whittier, to Alhambra, for Christmas with aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents, to make tamales, and buy new shoes, or go to church. I play it over and over, again, the moment we pulled up to a familiar house, and were welcomed in, the hugs, the good smells, and ramped up excitement to see cousins, to play, to take in all the details and comforts. It's bittersweet. I thought that it would go on forever, at least parts of that time, the places, faces, something of those traditions and family time.
I am not in any hurry, except probably for Maria to be out of school. After that, I wish we could slow it all down. Or would it be better to focus on filling up the time, keeping busy, productive? My energy is low, and comes in small waves, like a choppy ocean, with nothing sustained that could give a nice ride. I think of bears, and how they hibernate, then come out lean and strong, in the spring. That has tremendous appeal.
I am waiting for Winter Solstice, to see the convergence. I am waiting for JPL to tell us to look up, with something new in the heavens to gaze and marvel at.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

One Wren, Two

Sakamoto, Cairo, and Feynman. These are not the wrens. These are the kitties watching a wren. For a couple of months, always in the morning, we have been finding one or two birds darting around our enclosed porch. They cannot find their way out, but have somehow found a way in. Maybe by slipping between the narrowest gap in the sliding door? There are no holes in the screen, the doors are only open when we go in or out, and not at all over night. So, how? I was finally able to identify them. They are Bewick's wrens. They're very small, pretty, and we worry they may be trying to nest on the porch, but then they always seem so eager to leave. Usually we open all the doors and leave them to it. This time I sat quietly, to observe.
Even though I cannot figure it out, clearly it's easy enough for them to get in, and objectively, I can see the draw... our porch is jam packed with curiosities, and nooks and corners for shelter.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Paper Stars

Geoff, sounding curious, called out to me from the garage, "Some paper bags were delivered. Did you order 250 paper lunch bags?" Uh, yeah. Yeah I did. When I see a craft on Instagram, by one of my favorite bloggers, and I know I am all out of paper bags since like 2012, I take action. Also, I am not sure what kind of "lunch" would fit in this bag, because it's the size of a loose fitting mitten. Perfect, as it turns out, for what I am up to!

Julie showed Alicia, who inspired me, and then Maria helped me make a tutorial for you! That's a Crafting Chain. Which reminds me, I would like to make paper chains.


Paper bags... the more you use, the harder it gets to cut. These were made with eight bags.

Glue... I used a glue stick. But white glue, or hot glue would work, too.

Scissors... sharp ones help.

Paper clips or... these are to hold the two ends together when you open the star for display. You could glue the ends, but then it will be hard to store. I couldn't find any paper clips. (Baffling. They are here. We can't not have paper clips.) I used bobby pins.

Some string, or thread... anything to tie to the star for hanging.
Start by counting out your bags... 7, or 8, or 9, or 10. It's your choice. Lots of bags make a fuller star, but I didn't want to be struggling cutting through all those layers. I think 8 was a good number. Face them flat/smooth side up, and make a generous width of glue from the opening end, down the center of the bag, to the bottom, then add an equally wide strip of glue across the bottom. The T should reach the edges of the paper, so the points stick, and the center holds together, too. Now, you are ready to lay the next bag on top of the first one. Line up the second bag, with the folded bag bottom going down.
When you have the two bag pressed together, get out the glue, and make the next T. Press the next bag, and repeat until all of your bags are layered and glued together. I did mine last night, and let them sit for an hour, to dry. I cut two stars, and saved one stack of glued bags for Maria to cut this morning.
This part is like snowflake cutting. And the first cuts are from the edge and up to the center of the bag, to make a point.
Maria is making the second cut to finish the point of the star. Our bags came with a lot of printing, which mostly gets hidden when the whole star is pinned, clipped, or glued together.
Now for the cuts on the sides of the bag, also like cutting snowflakes. The bigger the cuts, or the more of them you make, the more light will come through. We didn't cut near the bottom, where all the layers are thicker with the bag bottoms folded up and glued together.
Time to open the star! And when you pull up both ends and bring them together, use either glue, maybe staples, or if you have paper clips those will make your star easy to store for another day... attach the two ends together, and ta-da! You have a paper star!
William helped me slip this one on the tree. My favorite part? I loved the gentle crinkling sound of the paper bags when I pressed them together. I might have to make a couple more.

Monday, December 14, 2020

The Night of The Geminids

Above our house, last night, I watched the eastern sky, as Orion rose. The clouds moved, too, a thin blanket from off the ocean, that we call the marine layer. This was the sky we watched for the Geminids, the annual meteor shower from comet 3200 Phaethon. Early on we had the awesome pleasure of sighting earthgrazers... slow moving and longer lasting meteors that travel horizontally across the sky.
Using my phone app, I passed time identifying constellations, like Capella... which is a cluster of 4 stars. I love the app, but I still have so much to learn, so it's helpful to cross reference things I was trying to figure out last night. The Internet is amazing! Those four stars are over 40 light years away!
I had a good fire going. William made pasta, and sat with me. We saw many meteors. Bright. Pretty. Some very big, and blue. A friend on Instagram, she lives south and east of us, joined the watch from her home. She shared a chart describing the make-up of different colored meteors. The blue meteors, and they are very, beautifully blue, are composed of magnesium. I saw one that burned brightly, moving toward me then disappearing, and I was left with the idea of having seen a fantastical blue fairy. Is "fantastical" even a word? This Blogger version offers no help with spelling.
Now moved over the house, westward, Orion's belt is almost overhead. And brighter, lower in the sky is Sirius, the Dog Star. A favorite since I met the brightest star visible from any part of Earth, last summer.
Then, more clouds. A darker, and clearer sky would have been fantastic, but it was never dull. The sky was always compelling. Or there was music, talking, and night-day dreaming.
Geoff put my phone on a tripod to see about capturing a meteor. Here is an experiment with long exposure. Light streaking across the image, and the sweeping path of clouds traveling from the coast, inland.
Max watched with me. We listened to Starman, then Laszarus, then Max posed a question. "What do you suppose would happen if for one second gravity had no effect on your body?" I knew he was not speaking metaphorically. He turned toward me and asked, "Would you like to help me figure that out?" To begin, he needed the diameter of the Earth, and I asked Siri. The answer is 7,918 miles. He took it from there, in his head... After one second without gravity a person would move a neglible distance. The Earth is moving, too, he reminded me, and in such a brief amount of time, the event would be almost imperceptible. After one minute without gravity you would be about 193 feet above the Earth. After an hour, your body would be 123 miles from Earth.
I stayed out all night. It was wonderful.
Orion moved west, and Sirius twinkled brightly.
And we saw meteors. Then Geoff caught one, a streak on my phone screen. The silhouette of the tree about to grasp it.
And Orion moved west. Mars dipped beneath the horizon. Venus rose before the sun.

Level Up

In gaming, especially in role-playing games, characters that achieve goals, like solving a puzzle, outwitting a foe, amassing artifacts, completing a quest, level up. When you level up you go to the next level of the game, maybe acquire new tools, skills, a symbol of your growth, like a better hat, a new cloak.

Yesterday, I leveled up! The bike miles, riding 2,000 miles... I reached the goal yesterday! I was only three miles away from hitting the mark, so we knew it would happen enroute of our regular ride. At mile one, Geoff asked, "Do you have celebratory music qued up?" I did not. I couldn't think what song that would be. But I was really eager for something to happen, for the moment to be momentous! Maybe I've played too many video games... having this unspoken notion that stars would spin, lights might flash, a banner would unfurl: "2,000 Bicycle Miles! You Reached Level II Amateur!" Then maybe my helmet would gain a headlamp, or change colors. Objectively, truthfully, I wasn't expecting those things, but I did wish we could celebrate with a platter of tacos. Tacos appearing at the end of the ride, or at the place where the odometer ticked over to the magic mile. That would have been the best. Also, I purposely turned back to arrive at a prettier spot, when I was at about 2.8 miles, because posing for pictures in front of a stranger's house wasn't gonna cut it for my crowning moment.

I don't think it's conventional to give a speech when leveling up. But obviously, I rarely go for convention.

Natalie's Brief, and Heartfelt, Speech, on the Occasion of Riding a Bicycle 2,000 miles Over the Course of About 18 Months, While Going Around and Around, and Around Her Neighborhood.

First, I am astonished to be here, figuratively, literally. I am timid and afraid, and I thought my small attempts at big things seemed pointless. I am glad that I did not act on my beliefs, but instead faced my discomfort, literal and figurative, and rode! This leads me to speak of the tremendous love and gratitude, respect, and admiration, I feel for Geoff, who acts on higher beliefs, with big goals in mind. He saw us riding bicycles, and when I resisted, he persisted, gently, but with conviction. He keeps me charged, and pedaling. He inflates tires, checks brakes, adjusts seats, and daily he poses the question, "Are we gonna ride?" And ride, we do! And even though we go seemingly nowhere, he never pushes me (too much) beyond what I feel safe doing, and he shares, with sincere enthusiasm, my peculiar awe and wonder in finding new sights, new friends, new furniture, craft supplies, and appreciation in those same, daily, neighborhood loops. Thank you, Geoff. And thank you, friends on Instagram, who cheered and celebrated with me, who joined in my vision of an imagined ride, that lately is aiming for Rome, where we understand "... they have made some nice paintings." Michael C, and I think we need to start a caravan. Join us! We are going places!