Friday, August 13, 2021

Cats Cats Gatos Cats

Well, now that I am done documenting every mile and emotion of our two week drive to Portland, Oregon, and back, it's time to see what else we have been up to this summer. To refresh my memory, I turn to the pictures on my phone. And, we have: Cats, cats, cats, mangos, and cats. And a lot of screen shots of memes, and some Live Instagram footage from feeding Grace her bottle. Weaning is going slowly, btw.
Cairo, napping. I missed this. He's soft, warm, calming company at the foot of the bed. And sometimes, early in the morning, he pads over to find my hands, seeking scritches.
Same cat, different behavior. He looks handsome, but he's up to no good. Since lockdown... when did that begin, 2016? 2019? For some time, I have stopped even pretending to discipline the cats. They read my personal emails, take long showers, drink all the liquor, and sit on the counter. It really is disgraceful. Something needs to be done. Soon. But not yet.
Feynman is more of a table cat, than a counter cat.
This must have been when Geoff was away, and Cairo didn't have his usual 9-5 nap lap. He had to settle for my lap, and desk time, instead. It really was an act of desperation, because his favorite spot is wherever Geoff is working.
Mango, and jicama with lime juice and a dash of Tajín. It's so refreshing. I need to do this more often. And I am thinking of bring out the pinole and trying it on pepino.
This was the most attention I could get from Saki while Geoff was away. It's his, "Where is Geoff" face. All three cats went into a kind of renouncement of cuddles, and sweetness, while Geoff was in Wisconsin. I offered treats, and kept the litter box scrupulously clean, and left the best part of the bed free, but they were cold and remote, until their favorite hooman returned.
And even though he misbehaves, Cairo still manages to delight us, and even to inspire art! This is a painting done by Jill Treadwell. We met in art class, a few years ago. When she saw Cairo's picture, she asked if we would mind if she painted his likeness, and of course I said, Please do! I love that she instinctively knew that the whiskers had to be over the top to capture is true essence!
You see? Geoff is home, and the world is right, again. Even Sakamoto has come around, and is making himself at home on my feet.

The End

The closer we get to home, the slower it goes, and the... well, the uglier it gets, to be honest. On a vacation we rest, we recharge, and fill up on positivity, good energy, beauty. It's a gift, a blessing. But. When the vacation concludes with driving through a congested megalopolis that essentially sprawls over multiple counties, and a hundred miles... every bit of the ease and relaxtion can be lost in one day. Thankfully, we have one more stop before we face the beast that is Southern California, from Ventura to San Diego. We had the pleasure of staying over night with Bill and Alison, my nephew, Dominic, and their cats.
Like the visit with my Mom and Dad, the best part of this time was just hanging out, doing regular things. Alison was in a work meeting when we arrived, Dom was at his new job, and Marissa was with her grandparents, enjoying a summer spree. We got some taqueria food, from Bill's old place. We stopped by to see Dom at work, and make him slightly embarassed, which felt like the right thing to do as his aunt. We met the kitties. Talked about Bill's prospecting adventures, and dropped Dom off for some rock climbing. Laid back. Nice. Mellow. Just right.
Probably the highlight, I mean besides that carne asada and bean burrito Bill got me, was when the UPS delivered a package, and Bill was so excited he sang to the delivery guy. Brother has pipes! Both of my brothers were born with adventure genes. And Bill's latest love is prospecting. This thing, and let's face it, I am not going to do it justice, but it's for river diving... it's a floating compressor, so they can use respirators and dive down in water (water... obviously?) I would pay money to hear Bill sing to the UPS guy, again. It was everything, a perfect vocalization of gratitude with eager enthusiasm for his new toy. I could not be happier for Bill. Alison and Dom were happy for him, too. Why am I trying to explain and describe this, when I have video? I can just let Bill show you, in his own words and actions.

Those pipes!

It was like we coincidentally showed up in time for Christmas! I loved it, and I loved learning more about where Bill goes, how he got started, seeing Dom join his Dad, getting excited about diving, trying out this new activity. It was a glimpse into their everyday. I'm glad we had this time together.
This is it. This is the last day of our whole summer trip, adventure. We left early, but I trusted Siri to get me to San Luis Obispo in the most direct way, and we ate up some time taking a very circuitous route just to get to the north end of Salinas. Oh well. From there, it was fast highway driving through the Salinas Valley, all the way to The Madonna Inn. In truth it can seem dull. But I love the rounded, rolling, golden hills, with the dark and gnarled oak trees, cows in slow moving herds, grazing contentedly. Thankfully everything was overcast, and I was spared the fatigue that comes with glaring sunlight. We weren't making great time, but it was going well enough. Breakfast was tasty, and a good break before the driving would get faster, or slower, but for sure more intense.
"Los Angeles is a loosely organized pile of garbage." This was a quote Maria remembered Alex uttering when he and Bambi landed at LAX, after being in Japan. He's not wrong. I love Los Angeles... conditionally, taken in doses, when I can settle into a neighborhood, or include restful respites, off of the 405, 101, 5, 10, 210, 605, otherwise it is kind of awful. This time, sitting somewhere in Thousand Oaks, I checked the map apps, and realized it would have to be the 405, not my favorite, but fast today. Then I could make it to a toll road that I do love. It was all a game, meant to increase my comfort and confidence about driving from Sherman Oaks, past LAX, through Long Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine, San Clemente, and finally into San Diego County. It felt like preparing to be launched. Somewhere around Culver City, then again in Westminster, I seriously wanted to fight my way to an exit, and call for help. Send a helicopter! I'll check into a hotel, then Lyft to the train station, come home on the Amtrak. Can someone just come get me? I am kind of kidding, now, but I found the city driving harrowing, and I was proceeding with taut muscles, and steely eyed focus, and constantly assuring myself that mindful, deep breaths were the key to success. I mentioned before that I had hoped my driving confidence would increase, but I hadn't counted on how much worse other drivers have become since pandemic times and lockdowns. Friends, do not tail-gate. Please. For God's sake, just give the car ahead of you some space, or change lanes. You can change lanes! If I had a dollar for every time I was going the speed limit, or faster, and being tail-gated when the lanes around me were empty? I could buy my cabin in the woods. Go around me, please! was my mantra from Oceanside to Portland, and back. And. There it goes. There it went... all of my banked, happy vacation vibes sucked out into the void between Camarillo and our driveway. Dang it. The End.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Through Half Moon Bay or A Cow In Distress

On July 19th, we said Good Morning, from Corte Madera, at the hotel that I was loving, and plotting to be our future Gateway to the Redwoods rest stop. It will be a long haul to get all this way from our Southern California homes, but so worthwhile when we land. We can have our dinners at Amy's Drive Thru, then take a night swim in the big pool. William and I walked around the place, saw the picnic area with grills, the basketball court, and shuffle board area. I even took a swing on the little putting green, where I hit a hole in one, by the way. This hotel is budget friendly, nicely appointed, and full of fun ammenities. In fact, I seriously considered calling Geoff... "Good morning, Love. I've been thinking. If the young folks and I sit here another day, you and the rest of our young folks could drive up, and get here by bedtime, then the next day we can go into the Redwoods, and live there forever, or a week." This came to mind, and it was hard to convince myself that it wasn't a simple, feasible, reasonable plan. In lieu of staying, I took pictures of the tiled floors and wainscoting in the bathroom, the blue paint, too. (We have some bathrooms that need help, back at the Bird House.) I calculated how many rooms we will need to reserve for when we come back on the Family & Friends Redwood Caravan. Basically, we kind of kicked back and lingered awhile, rather than trying for a pre-dawn departure. And during this causual linger, I devised a plan to get to my brother's by a scenic route. When the van was loaded, again, and we were checked out, I proposed, "Let's get off the freeway, and head down through Half Moon Bay."
As we didn't have far to go, we might as well make it a beautiful drive, and enjoy as much of our roadtrip as possible. It was a good choice. And... I seem to recall making this choice, at least, once before, even staying in touch with Bill, so he knew how we were progressing.
It's all about the views, the California golds, and blues, the soft greens. We've left behind dense forests, which is a shame, but we are also out of the city, and four lane highways, which is a welcome relief. For long stretches, it was as though we had the whole coast mostly to ourselves, and I was happy to stop, for strawberries, for vistas, to look for sea lions. We ran along some pretty bluffs, and shared deep thoughts and other musings about all we had seen, and the last bits that lay ahead.
We like to stop at Pigeon Point Light Station. Ok, it's only our second time coming here, but we like it! There's a good visitor center, and even a hostel. The views of the ocean and coast are beautiful, and so is the lighthouse. Do you want to play a little game? Imagine the sound you hear at a light house, the fog horn. Can you hear it? Can you mimic a low and mournful fog horn sound? Now, have a listen to these, and see which one sounds familiar, or like your idea of a classic fog horn. I love this display, and the samples, the history of lighthouse fog horns.
The Cow in Distress... I feel like I've heard this in an old movie!
"Bee-Ohh" Can you guess what I am going to say about this? I feel like I've heard this in an old movie!
Air Siren. Ok, well, yeah... I have definitely heard this in old movies. For some reason I am picturing Robert Taylor embracing Vivian Leigh, on a foggy street, in London. One more!
Single Note Diaphragm Horn Thank you for playing along. Now these are in my head, and all I want to do is rent a beach house somewhere near Pigeon Point Light Station, watch old movies, take long walks, and paint romantic shorelines, bake bread, and send letters in airmail envelopes.
Who wants to join me? On the way to our beach house, we can pick up some fresh produce, jams, a pie. I know a place I would love to return to... Swanton Berry Farm.

For this whole trip, I had some pretty firm wishes, and an unspoken checklist, which included things like visit a tea shop, get into a river, collect moss, take walks, and find gifts. Because it was Olallieberry season, and Alex loves olallieberries, I became determined to find any kind of Olallieberry something to bring back to Alex. Swanton's Berry Farm turned out to be a highlight stop, the kind of place that is memorable, as well as inspiring, and I felt like I had struck more California gold when I stepped into their farm store. I found Olallieberry jam, and a place that reminded me of ideals I applaud, people I have admired.

Another thing... I was crying, moments before pulling into the parking lot of the Berry Farm. You see, we were driving on the One, between the Pacific, and Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The silhouettes of blackend trees were backlit by the rising sun, entire swaths of charred forest, loss, devastation, climate change, negligence, a point of no return, were all around us. And how could I not cry? Seeing first hand evidence of things that break my heart, our hurting planet, a fire so large and fierce it burned through to the coast, crossed the highway and stopped at the ocean, because it ran out of fuel, is chilling. And where will this happen next? Because it will happen, again. Here. Turkey. Greece. Oregon. Australia. We lost Big Basin, as we knew it. It's not as though climate change will utterly destroy the planet... it will destroy what sustains us, humans, animals, life as we know it. Our damaged climate will cause us to suffer, emotionally, physically. And sadly, this isn't about the future, some later date, because we are in the midst of that grim "future" right now: "It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred." We will lose more homes, and clean air, access to water, we will suffer shortages, disasters, more pandemics, more wars, more strife. Earth will heal by removing as much of our actions and activities as it takes to return to as much balance, and natural patterns as possible on a small, blue planet orbiting around a star. They say it could take a decade before Big Basin is safe to re-open, but there is no timeline, and a lot to be done to reimagine Big Basin "for climate resiliency and equitable public access." And! Who do I think I am, driving around on a whim, buying stuff to haul home, burning fossil fuels, making plans to come back, because I love nature? Oh crud. Oh, existential dread, despair, grief, frustration, and irony.

I feel small, now. I'm sorry.

We can't look at a burnt forest, or read about flooding, and pandemics, and not want to make changes, can we? I believe in small changes, and big ideas. We must vote for representatives that love and respect this planet as a precious, rare place that should be protected, sustained for all people, and generations. Letting private companies and corporations exploit workers and the environment for profit is villainous and deplorable. We have a responsibility to love each other, and our home, this small planet, our sisters and brothers. And... I am speaking, not in a rallying cry, self-assured and bold, but as one human, scared, and unsure, hoping to find resolve and motivation to believe that ideals are solutions that we can strive for, act on, and be saved by.
Wow. Well, there is a lot to see, and a lot to think about, in 74 miles, driving from Corte Madera through Half Moon Bay, then on to Soquel. We didn't take long, eventually getting to Bill and Alison's. I think I will save the rest of this day for another post. I might sit here and play fog horn videos for a while. Or maybe fix a piece of toast and slather it in Olallieberry jam. I have a lot of feelings, and it's hard to face.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Fortuna to Corte Madera

If this is July 18, then we are driving from Fortuna, California, along the Redwood Highway, detouring through the Avenue of The Giants, where I have special plans for a two dollar innertube I picked up in Eureka, and ending up at our hotel in Corte Madera, with dinner plans for Amy's Drive-Thru. I had it all written down in the plans, except for the innertube. The innertube was a spontaneous stroke of inspiration.
The Redwoods. My favorite. The End.
Should I elaborate? Maybe not. I have said an awful lot, recently, and a while back, sometimes with a farm, and really special when we are camping. I know I even write about the redwoods when I am nowhere near a forest, but looking to feel calm, making plans, making wishes. Why wouldn't I love the redwoods? When we are there, we are vacationing. When I am hiking, or camping, or just pulling to the side of the road to look up, and take a breath, I don't have daily chores on my mind, I am not dealing with "real life," so everything can seem particularly charmed, simple. And I do get crushes. I do have a tendancy to romanticize and feel endeared to places. I haven't tired of New England memories, and I still look at Wisconsin homes, Linden Hills homes in Minneapolis. My heart is swept up when I catch some slack key guitar notes. I would love to walk bare footed on old wood floors, slice mangos on the lanai, while listening to myna birds converse with Hamakua coqui. But, the Redwoods. The Eel River. Coastal Redwoods, Humboldt fog. Ferns, clover, moss, and elk. A canopy that hangs mere inches beneath stars. In the Redwoods, I am utterly enchanted, healed.
We found one particular spot, along the river, that I cannot stop thinking about, which I am glad for, because I went back wanting to fill up, to immerse myself, literally and figuratively, so that I could think of it, always, and hopefully feel like I could travel back, in my heart. I sat on the hot sand, inflating the aqua-green striped inner tube. It was the very last one on the shelf at Target, Eureka. It took a long spell of inhaling, then exhaling into the tiny valve, and I quashed every thought of giving up, that I was wasting time. And, finally, I succeeded, and had a good size, well inflated swim ring. At first I tried sitting in it, wearing shorts and a Tshirt. I managed to sit on the ring, for a triumphant moment, before tipping over and down into the river. I came up laughing in splashes, and already resolved on a new strategy. The water felt good. It was clear, like a window looking into a fish's world. I lay face down on top of the ring, and floated. I paddled with feet. I paddled with my arms. I watched a mother merganser lead her chicks southward. Their red heads barely visible as they sat low in the water, quietly floating by. I did not ever want to leave. Not ever. I asked William to take my picture, after I wrestled out of wet clothes, and... well, I am wrestling with my critical voice about how I look, and what I am sharing, but I need to quash those messages, too. Here is a picture of one of my happiest moments, of feeling thankful to be here, to have imagined getting in the river, and actually getting in the river, a picture of feeling a bit brave, and every bit lucky. I felt clean, washed. I felt accomplished, even strong.
It was 101 degrees Fahrenheit in Ukiah. My bra was still damp from the river. I filled the gas tank, and calculated how much longer we had to get to Corte Madera, our stop for the night, outside of San Francisco. I could still feel the river on me, and all I wanted to talk about was when and how we could come back to the Redwoods. We planned things down to very particular details, and spoke with enthused resolve. We can't not do this! We have to come back, and with our friends, and we have to camp. Traffic got heavier, trees and cool valleys became fewer as we traveled ever southward. We discussed transportation options, how far we could drive in one day, what we would pack. I tried not to lose the feel of the river, the pleasure of the woods, as we got closer to urban centers, and congestion. I tried not to let big trucks, and fast cars, concrete malls, road construction, and urgent rush of traffic, take away the memory of feeling well and strong, of being in the woods. I knew, from other times, that the closer to home we got, the further I would be and feel, from the quiet, comfort I feel in the redwoods. How do I cope with this? What more can I do to retain, to sustain all the good?

On the way up, William just happened to notice a familiar name: Amy's, as in Amy's frozen foods, and in this case it was an Amy's Drive-Thru... organic, vegetarian and vegan fast food. We made iron-clad plans to stop on our way home, and conveniently, this oasis happened to be a cross the road from our hotel! What luck! We love Amy's, going way back. We checked into our hotel, and made thorough notes about how ideal it would be as a first stop on our Family & Friends Redwood Caravan! Amy's Drive-Thru was better than we'd hoped... pretty, clean, bright, appealing, and it smelled really good. We were ready for a delicious meal, and this one was tops. We ate very well, and road-trip fun... burgers, fries, salads. I had an iced chai. It was all tasty, fresh, healthy, and a convenient, relaxing end to our day. Again, I must say, Amy's Drive Thru is not a Chickenblog sponsor, and all of my praise is sincere, and umcompensated. We really really really hope they will come further south!

We've got to get through SF, the big city, and first cross that big bridge! Spoiler alert: We did it! A word about driving and big cities and traffic... I have had a hard time with all of that since a certain collision, and this trip was, in part, a self-prescribed remedy for reclaiming my driving confidence, and. yeah. no. it didn't work. By this point I was rather fiercely practicing mindful breathing, affirmations, and all methods of remaining calm, focused, calm. Calm. Breath. It got bad.