Friday, November 19, 2021


A quick glance at some of the pictures I've been taking lately, and the idea Layering came into focus. We can't begin to declare that we have anything like a real winter here. It won't snow. We won't risk frostbite, or slip on ice. But it's colder than usual, and that's enough to inspire us, to turn to thoughts of cozier things, snugglier, warmer, softer, comforting things. We are layering... inside and out, physically, metaphorically. I've banished any and all critical voices around Official Holiday Start Times. Little by little, as suits my mood, or opportunity, I am layering Christmas threads, sometimes interweaving them with Thanksgiving. My theme is: Well, this brings joy, and I am ready to bring all of that out.

And, for the record, if I hadn't long ago redefined Thanksgiving, painfully aware of the history and implications of colonizers running amok, and to this day, greedily erasing our culture, our existance, our land, and resources, I would not celebrate the day. Thanks Giving, for me, is gathering with family and friends, recalling the ancestors, declaring our best intentions, with grace, hope, and loving kindness, a day for Giving, to emphasize the graitude and respect that we are called to demonstrate every day, for all people, and this planet, our home.
Beach Chair Book Club does it again! This time they shared a potluck and hula hooping. They are done with The Hobbit, and the crafts that went with that book. And after a vote, they are moving on to Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones. I am grappling with this choice, since I read the book years ago. As otherworldly and strange as the movie can be, I had a much harder time keeping the plot straight when I read the source material. It was weird. Weird is ok, but it was confusing weird, which is a weirder weird. I am hoping these young folks will discuss it, and maybe there are clues and insights I can gain from their understanding of it.

Bambi and Alex made okonomiyaki, a dish of layered foods, including a crepe, cabbage, yakisoba noodles, and an egg. Alex even tried his hand at making an egg substitute from mung beans.

Something compelled me to prepare some cream of wheat. It was only ok. I think it was something else I was actually craving. Avena? Atole? I wish I could ask my Abuela, "Dime, Abuela, por favor, que me serviste para desayunar?" I could sleep through the mooing of cows greeting the day, I could dismiss the donkey's long lament, however urgent, loud, but I would always rise when I heard my Abuela's hands softly, assuredly patting masa for tortillas de maiz, and I always loved the mornings when she made the hot, creamy cereal. But, it wasn't cream of wheat. I don't think.

It's not just layering socks, and flannel, and cats on our laps. It's not just layering wreaths, and ornaments, garlands and lights. I find myself pulling back layers of memories, nostalgia, fragments of time recalled by scents, notes of music, traditions, a flickering light. I have such a longing to revisit places, and moments, to be in the company of the people I knew, who knew me when. It's sentimental and bittersweet, moreso as time erases the particular details that no one can confirm. It seems like an old person's pastime, this misty eyed reflection, but I have always gathered memories, held fast to impressions, ingredients, narration. It was, before, comforting, reassuring that I had my cache of observances. It made me happy to recall moments when I felt sublime joy and graitude, affection, comfort, and I was confident that those good memories, my appreciation, would be banked away for happy reminiscing. I would not give them up, but they afflict me somehow. I miss what was. I miss family. I miss things we did, and laughed about, ate, heard. I miss driving to an Aunt's home, Grandmother's, arriving after dark, and being embraced and pulled into a home softly glowing from the outside, lively and bright inside. I miss having my hair brushed, then plaited, tied with ribbons, wearing new shoes. I miss aching to open a present, the smell of tamales, cousins everywhere, hugs, besos, cariños, cuentos, coros, the red and white lights in the lanes of freeway traffic, riding home with my arms around a new doll. I miss sitting, unobserved, or so I believed, listening to the grown-ups talk, and wanting to have perfect recall of their stories, their faces, and voices. The memories aren't quite enough, and I wish there were more.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

All of the Particles of Light

To be brief, my camera is too good. It's an iPhone 12. I am lucky. We pass down phones between the 6 of us, and Geoff always lets me have the latest model. I wouldn't be a blogger if I told the short and sweet version, so I must elaborate.

Last night we got the urge to trek out and find a spot to observe the bioluminescent surf. We parked at the top of Fletcher Cove, and walked down to the beach. It was dark. Really dark, even with the almost full moon behind us. But when I started to take pictures, with the long, slow exposures that my phone takes, the results looked like strange lighting on a movie set, like I collaged palm trees against a dusky sky. Invisble details, like the railing, the squares on the quilt Maria had wrapped around her, are as clear as day (almost.) Movement creates a soft focus, like oil paints gently brushed on canvas; detailed, yet blurred. That amazing little pocket technology gathers every last photon and makes visible a world we cannot see. I can't decide if it's a feature or if it's a little too good. Do you know what I mean? It's more like I used effects or filters, and these are not true depictions of what we saw. I didn't touch up or modify any of these.

The brightest figure in the sky is Jupiter. Far south of the bluff are the lights of La Jolla. We watched the waves for a long while, and maybe our eyes needed time to adjust, before we began to see really good bursts of luminescence. Green or slightly blushish light would peel from the black, cresting waves, and as the waves broke, bursts of colored light would appear.
Looking north, as though through night vision goggles, we see the bluffs of Solana Beach, to Cardiff Reef, and up to Swami's and Noonan's Point.

When I showed her some of the shots I was getting, Maria was astonished, and said "They're in color!" We were looking at a black and white world. White stars, and moon, bright Jupiter in the dark sky, black waves breaking into white foam, with flashes of green, sparkles of blue... magical, fleeting bursts of color, and everything else obscure, mysterious. The iPhone was picking up all of the particles of light, and it was hard not to be surprised at seeing the golden bluffs, green plants, the blue in the sky, even our faces, and details of our clothes.

As amazing as the effect is, a camera that can illuminate dark places, Maria and I were even more impressed and awestruck by the black and white world, by the calm quiet of darkness. We studied the horizon, learning to distinguish the subtly distinct small waves, from the more distant and larger blackest waves. Those blackest waves were the most likely to peel out in flashes of luminescene. Light came rolling out of a void, like something tearing open, expelling bursts of energy, clouds of churning water propelled in streams across the horizon. I wish I could take you there. I wish there were a way for us to be this happy in darkness, and to gather all of the particles of unseen light, to bring us calm, quiet awe, and wonder.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Happily At Play

A nap. A stretch. And go go go! We have been doing things. Lots of them.
Maria volunteered with her friends at the JNHS Movie Night, where they screened Kiki's Delivery Service. The whole event was held outdoors, and there were some technical glitches, but I don't think it dampened anyone's mood. In fact, given the huge turnout, I think everyone is thrilled for the return of movie nights with the Japanese National Honors Society. The next day, she was back at school, with FIRST 2102 Team Paradox, to help with the First Lego League Qualifying Tournament. I have the best memories of volunteering for FLLQTs in 2019. I loved it. Maria was glad she could participate this year, and she made a new friend! After FLLQT, she got home in time for the regular Saturday night D&D game.
Sunday morning, we all made our way to Skate World, and Spencer's birthday celebration! It was family and friends only, as Leslie and Ido rented the whole joint, and did we ever have fun! By the way, I already checked, and there are no openings in December, so I won't be able to have my birthday at Skate World, and believe me, I am disappointed.
After skating and foosball and birthday reveling, we picked up ramen and went to see Tutu Ruth. She and Holly had a surprise to share with Bambi and Alex. I can't say more, but collecting tea cups has been the inspired activity of the year, in anticipation of forthcoming nuptials. We shared lunch and a first visit in Ruth's home since December 2019. (I have to say it: Thank God for science and sensible acts of kindness and rational action. Vaccines and masks work, they are helping. And if more people would participate, we could do more of these activities, gatherings, celebrations, without increased risk of illness, and deaths.)

What we did the latter part of the weekend was mostly at the request of Max. He has been gently campaigning for the last hold-outs to play some Dungeons and Dragons. Geoff, William and I are the only ones not gaming... or, we were the only ones! Sunday night, with a light dinner served picnic style, and a fire going, we all gathered in the living room to start talking some game theory, and character development. Technically, Geoff and I have played. In the 80's... how cool and old school is that?? We aren't going to jump into the game they play Saturday nights. There isn't a table big enough for that! They have been playing this same storyline and adventure for at least three years. So, Bambi, our Dungeon Master, is getting us ready for a smaller, more introductory campaign. All the books were out, and the twenty-sided die. Alex, Max, and Bambi were on hand with online forms, and old school paper character sheets, and they were making new characters for themselves, as well.

Maria and I were raised in the same clan, though she is a Gnome, and I am a Rabbit creature, a Harengon... you know, a humanoid rabbitfolk that orginated in the Feywild. I was raised by Gnomes. My name is Parsnip Fika Folklor. I play a flute, and have pretty keen powers of persuasion. You guys, this is so much fun! Maria even started a character sketch of the two of us! We might squeeze in a sort of dress rehearsal over Thanksgiving, and hopefully campaign some more over winter break. In the meantime, I need to reach out to Calamity Kim, and ask her about patterns for red wool Gnome caps! Hashtag Obsessed.