I was surprised and confused by an unfamiliar sound when I woke up on a Sunday morning. It was rain! And it was real rain, winter-style rain, just a few months early.

Clyde and Dodge were sitting together on the bed, like a matched set, when I woke up that day:

They scampered downstairs, eager to go out and play, until they saw the rain:

I tried to take some pictures of the rain, but it proved to be surprisingly difficult, like my attempts to capture the beauty of the moon. Maybe I need a real camera instead of an aging iPhone 7. This was the best I could do:

Thought it may be hard to tell from the photos, we got almost three inches of rain! That’s a good start to the season.

A YEAR AGO: Some home improvements.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Playing tour guide.

TEN YEARS AGO: Thankful for the little things in life.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A delightful visit to Detroit.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Nearly finished with going through Dad’s things and getting ready to go back home to San Francisco.

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I counted the number of bridges I cross on the way to work, and there were more than I expected: 11, to be precise.

Here they are, in the order I cross them going workward:

1. The one-lane, redwood bridge. It looks flat in this photo, but is actually quite steep. You have to hope you don’t meet your neighbors here. Heading west, toward the ocean, there is a curve as soon as you get off the bridge, and when I go around it, I often find the wild turkey family hanging out there.

2. Salmon Creek bridge. The ocean is on one side, and presumably there is a creek on the other. It has this spectacular view:

3. Albion River bridge. It’s the only wooden bridge left on historic Highway One, and those of us who live here generally consider it to be the symbol of Albion (aka Hooterville in these pages):

4. Little River. The bridge is as small as the river, which is really more like a creek. Blink and you’ll miss it. Here you see it as a hang out spot for Canadian geese instead of wild turkeys. I brake for birds!

5. Big River. This is a magical place to me, where the river meets the sea. When I cross its long curve, I breathe deeply and think, “Big River, fill me with your energy”. I exhale as long as I can as I drive off it. It’s an important part of getting ready for my day, maybe just another of my superstitions, like always carrying my Mouse with me.

6 and 7: The two bridges north of the Village. If they have names, I don’t know them. I do know that you should be careful about both of them if it’s been raining. Drive slowly. They both tend be floody, especially number 6.

8 and 9: The two bridges of Caspar. Again, I don’t know if they have names, but what I said about bridge 6 in the rain goes double for bridge 9, the last one before you hit Fort Bragg, aka the Big Town. Water can be much deeper on bridge 9 than you can tell until it’s too late.

10. Hare Creek. There is actually a trail that goes to a beach, though you’d never know it from the highway:

11. Noyo Harbor. The last bridge before work:

Noyo Harbor is a busy working harbor, with lots of fishing boats going in and out. You can buy fresh seafood in the harbor, and the view is beautiful. All in all, not a bad commute!

A YEAR AGO: Dental pain. In my mouth and my wallet. Hard to say which was worse. Fun fact: I just finished paying off that root canal!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Fun at the Fair, with two Ericas and one Ben.

TEN YEARS AGO: A lovely day in the Village. I still miss Schatzi. And Star.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Seeing signs everywhere.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Heading to Amsterdam to visit my dear friend A.

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The Queen would want us to get on with it, and I have, but I continue to mourn her and wear mourning. My thoughts are with her. I will take the day off on September 19 to watch Her Majesty’s funeral and grieve along with the many millions who loved and admired her.

Even when a Queen dies, life goes on, and even in the darkness, there are bright spots. Jarrett and Kalli, grieving their own loss of their beloved dog Archimedes, came to visit and so some wedding planning. Did I tell you? I’m getting a wedding for my birthday next year.

I arranged with one of my coworkers to rent tables and chairs for 50-60 people. We will use the chairs for the ceremony and then bring them back to Megan and Rob’s place, where the tables will be set up. We need to look into getting a tent and a dance floor. There are so many things to think of, even for a small wedding.

Jonathan brought a bowl of garden-grown, home-made salsa to inspire us:

Also a bottle of garden-grown, home-made raspberry wine:

It was surprisingly not at all sweet, though it smells like summer. Really delicious. It took 5 pounds of raspberries to make that one bottle. That’s a lot of picking. We toasted The Queen and our gratitude for her long reign.

Jonathan said he was experimenting with plum brandy this year, and had also acquired a cider press that did not require cutting up the apples. Yay!

Jonathan grilled up some burgers for us:

Some were turkey, and some were local, grass-fed beef from right here in Hooterville. Jonathan had repaired a neighbor’s machinery and was paid in local beef. Gotta love that.

As the evening went on, the twinkle lights came on:

and the lanterns:

It was a happy time for all of us, especially knowing we have more to look forward to.

A YEAR AGO: Another happy family dinner.

FIVE YEARS AGO: When you have cats, you are not in charge.

TEN YEARS AGO: The loss of two much-loved dogs. And some naughtiness from my cats.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Spending some time in Devon.

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Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II

I was getting in my car on the morning of September 8 when I got a text from a friend in Manchester, telling me that The Queen was under medical supervision and that it was serious. I was on pins and needles all morning, waiting for news of Her Majesty, while life swirled around me. He sent news about 10 am that The Queen was gone, before it hit the US news. I had to close my office door to weep in private as I mourned the terrible, shocking loss of The Queen.

I realize it sounds ridiculous to be shocked by the death of a 96 year old, but I thought she would live to be 100 or more, like her mother. I think part of me believed she would live forever. She has been my Queen my whole life, and it’s unimaginable that she she is no longer there. I feel unmoored without her calm, steady hand on the tiller. I can’t believe she is really gone. Truly, it is the end of an era.

I am grateful that Her Majesty was spared losing her dignity and a long final illness. I am honored to have lived during her long, historic reign. I am thankful that she worked up until the end, and that she is now reunited with her beloved husband Prince Philip, and that “Us Four” are together again.

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My brother once observed that the lights on the car dashboard are not there just to look pretty, and I would add my own observation that they are there to be expensive. No good ever comes of them.

One morning, I was setting off for work in the early morning darkness when the light came on saying “Brake Fluid Low”. I don’t know much about cars, but I’m pretty sure that brake fluid is not something I need to refill, and that it being low was probably bad news.

I drove carefully to work, unable to stop looking at the ominous light every few minutes, even though this did not help and just made me feel even more nervous than I already was. I took Wednesday to my friends at North Coast Tire, where they refilled the brake fluid, checked Wednesday’s tire pressure, and observed that there was a streak of leaked brake fluid on the passenger side tire. Unfortunately, they did not have the manpower to fix it for a couple of weeks, and they warned me not to drive it until the leak was repaired, since it meant that the brakes would work until they didn’t, with no warning.

So I found another place to fix it, and they opined that it would cost about $500 to fix. When they got in there to fix it, they discovered that the brake pad was disintegrating from the leak – they showed me the crumbly remains when I went to pick up the car – and with that and various other things and stuff, it came to $700. But I was grateful that Wednesday and I were unharmed, the problem was fixed, and that the car could stop, since, as my brother says, the most important thing a car can do is stop.

A YEAR AGO: Some successful cooking experiments.

TEN YEARS AGO: The money fairy came by. Come back!

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: There can be such a thing as too much politeness.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: The ideal job.

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The Winner

I was watching the last ever episode of “Better Call Saul” when my neighbor Alex appeared at my front door. Alex lives next door to me and is my landlord Danielle’s son. He came bearing the unwelcome news that Dodge had been in a fight. Alex had broken up the fight between Dodge and an evil white cat who has also gotten into a fight with Danielle’s cat, Kiki, she of the many toes and cute markings. Danielle’s boyfriend Will thinks the situation should be solved with a shotgun, whereas Alex is more of a trap and neuter kind of guy.

He showed me where the fight took place, right in front of his place, and showed me the white fur on the ground. I looked at it, and it looked like it must be Evil Cat’s fur, but I was longing to find Dodge and make sure none of it was his. Of course, he was nowhere to be seen. Alex opined that Dodge was probably under the house, and he was probably right, but that didn’t stop me from worrying.

I went out and called him a couple of times as darkness drew nearer and I considered the Awful Idea of leaving Dodge outside when I went to bed. I went out to call him one last time, and although I didn’t see him, as I closed the front door, I saw his beautiful little face peeking through the glass.

Dodge was clearly nervous and somewhat freaked out, but he did not have a scratch on him. He scarfed up wet food and treats and settled in on the heater. A careful examination showed no wounds or even a scratch, but the next day, I noticed a white patch on his ear that hadn’t been there before. I wonder if it was from the stress? I am just thankful he is OK, and rather proud of him for being such a tough boy from the mean streets of Fort Bragg.

TEN YEARS AGO: Car problems suck. But having good friends to help you with them is great.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Some Rita updates. Oh, and a fire.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Pros and cons of shaving.

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It was time for my annual peach allotment, but sadly, no peaches were forthcoming. The peach trees in the family orchard were blighted this year, maybe by the same mystery blight that took out one of the apple trees last year, which had to be dug up and replaced. The peach trees did not require such drastic treatment, but they steadfastly refused to produce more than around 4 sad looking peaches.

I am sorry to report that the cherry tree, despite being isolated at the far end of the garden in its majestic net cathedral, was also blighty and similarly almost fruit-free. Of course the plague affected my favorite fruit trees. My siblings have acquired a second cherry tree, but it will take years to start producing fruit, assuming it escapes the blight.

So when Megan and I went to the Valley, we stopped in at Gowan’s more than century-old farmstand:

I got two little baskets of peaches:

That was more than enough to make a really good peach pie. Here it is before:

And after:

I usually make a lattice crust, but this time, I made a double crust, which presented a minor problem. When I make a double crust pie, I usually draw the fruit it’s made from to vent the pie. I learned this from my American grandmother. But I couldn’t figure out how to draw a peach which wouldn’t look like an apple. So I settled for a freeform star.

It turned out great. I enjoyed the annual treat.

A YEAR AGO: I got contact lenses again. And I have already stopped wearing them. Again.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Jonathan and Rio went to the wilderness to truly experience the total solar eclipse.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Audrey made her debut. We lost her mother, Quince, earlier this month.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Men and women have different views on fashion.

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Dad and his beloved dog Jesse on Wimbledon Common

Today marks 21 years since Dad’s sudden death. Has my grief matured, at the ripe old age of 21? I would have to say no, much as I have not matured, at the ripe old age of 60. I still think of Dad every day, and I still miss him every day. While I am no longer throwing myself on the floor and howling or having strange experiences like not remembering what my name is when signing a check, or suddenly finding myself at Grace Cathedral with no memory of leaving my apartment, locking the door, and walking up Franklin Street and down California Street, I find I am very sad today.

I soon learned after Dad died that grief is not linear. I thought I would feel a little better each day, but it doesn’t work that way. At all. Some days, you feel OK, and the next day, you feel terrible. Just because today was an OK day doesn’t mean tomorrow will be, and this is also true of bad days. You have no control over this, and it’s scary. Some days you remember the happy memories, and some days you are really sad about your loss and the fact that your life will never be the same again. There’s before, and there’s after, and there’s no return to before or escape from after.

This year is a sad year, and I will just have to accept that and try to comfort myself with the knowledge that, much like in the picture above, Dad and Jesse are together and they always will be. Both of their ashes were scattered on Wimbledon Common, their favorite place to walk together. I like knowing they are keeping each other company. I hope they are watching over me, and I hope that Dad was wrong about their being no after life and that I can tell him so one day.

I love you, Dad. You are always loved, always missed. Thank you for being my best friend and confidant, and for always loving me, no matter what. I was lucky to have you in my life. I just wish we had you around a little longer.

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Down in the Valley

Megan and I headed to the Valley on a beautiful summer weekend.

It was lovely to drive through the redwoods, with the sunlight flickering through the trees, and to emerge into the Valley, with the rolling hills covered with vineyards and deep pools of live oaks.

We went to the furthest point first, beautiful downtown Boonville:

We looked around the pretty shops. I loved a candle called Coastal Trail, lavender, geranium, lemongrass. It smelled amazing. I didn’t buy it, though, and of course, I regretted it on the way home. How could I forget the Suzy Rule that you only regret not buying things? I may have to make another excursion to Boonville…

We stopped in at the teeny patisserie, where I acquired some brownies, Canelés de Bordeaux, and a cone of orange-cardamom ice cream, which was fantastic. I love cardamom. Megan got an iced mocha, and we sat at a table outside and enjoyed the view and people watching along with our icy treats on a hot afternoon.

We headed back to Philo. I have wanted to try the cider tasting at Gowan’s, and so did Megan. It turned out this was the day to finally do it! It was delightful to try the cider under the very trees where the apples were grown:

We tried a flight of six or so, along with a bonus frozé made from the rosé cider. We decided to get a case and split it, six bottles each, and the cost of the tasting flight was refunded. What’s not to love?

We ended the happy day at our favorite seaside bar, with limoncello spritzers:

They are a lovely mix of limoncello, champagne, and a dash of lemon-lime soda. Summer in a glass!

A YEAR AGO: The quirks of my cats.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A loss. After all, August is the Official Month of Death.

TEN YEARS AGO: My 2,000th post.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Working for a living is just too much…work.

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Have you been wondering how much fun one girl can pack into one summer Friday? Well, I’ll tell you: a lot.

My friend Richard picked me up in his fancy Tesla and chauffeured me to a lovely restaurant overlooking the river and harbor:

It was lovely to watch the boats come and go as we enjoyed our lunch and our conversation:

Richard is 77 years old, but he has not slowed down in the slightest. He is still working, but he lives to travel. Future plans include visits to Spain, Portugal, and South Africa. He is such a positive, life-affirming person.

And his car is so fancy. I can’t get over how quiet it is, not to mention delightful features like being able to set it to cool while we were still at the restaurant, to avoid having to get into an annoyingly hot car. Also, I love being chauffeured.

After work that day, I picked up a pizza from Cafe Beaujolais, discovering that you can get it half-baked to finish at home, and also some adult beverages. Megan and I had a craving for Appletinis, but alas, no apple schnapps were to be found, so we had to make do with vodka and raspberry lemonade, and a couple of cocktails at our favorite seaside bar:

We had the pizza with a side of Emily in Paris, which makes everything more delicious, and when it was time to go home, Rob drove me, so I was chauffeured for the second time in one day. Gotta love that.

A YEAR AGO: Acquiring a beautiful apple.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Finding a couple surprises on arriving home.

TEN YEARS AGO: A magical microclimate mystery tour.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A surprise visit from Jonathan and Jed the Wonder Dog. Note: Squat and Gobble is right where I left it 20 years ago. Still open after all these years! And Clayton still lives in/above the Garage Mahal.

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‘Memba the bed I unwillingly bought from Wal-Mart all those years ago? You know, in the bad old days in bad old Oakhampton? It had been growing steadily more and more unreliable over the years, being cheaply made, despite not being particularly cheaply priced, and moving from my old house to my new(ish) one did not improve matters. Some bits and pieces did not survive the move, and lately, the bed tended to sort of fall apart, which tended to be disturbing for its many occupants, including Me.

As usual, I basically waited until it irretrievably broke down or no longer worked, much as I do with computers and phones. It is the Suzy Way. This time, I ordered the bed online. It arrived sooner than I expected, and of course it was unexpectedly rainy and muddy that day, and the box was slightly damaged. It took about all I had to drag it into the house, where it reposed in front of the ancient grandfather clock.

I called in the cavalry in the form of Megan and Rob, and left work early one day to meet them at Chez Suzy. I had already removed the mattress and box spring when they arrived, and the slats, and the zippered bags from under the bed. While Rob took the old bed apart, Megan and I opened up the box with the new one and took the pieces upstairs. Then we took the old bed pieces downstairs.

I knew that Rob was about the handiest person around, but I was surprised by how good Megan was at putting things together with the aid of pictograms and without the aid of her reading glasses. She put the drawers together while Rob worked on the bed frame. I sort of helped.

It didn’t take long before the bed frame and the drawers were ready:

We decided I no longer needed the box spring, and somehow Megan and Rob managed to get it down the stairs despite the beams and slanting ceiling, and set it outside. I’m going to need someone with a truck to drag the box spring and the old bed bits to the dump, but I’ll Scarlett O’Hara that for now.

The new bed looks beautiful:

It’s upholstered in beige linen. I love how clean the upholstery looks (and it is, after I spot cleaned the parts that got muddied in transit), and the drawers will be a huge improvement over the zippered bags under the bed. No more bed skirt to try and hide them! Hooray! I am also pleased to report that it is super comfortable and I am really happy with it.

I don’t know what I would do without my family. I hope I never find out.

A YEAR AGO: Extra fun in an extra-long weekend.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A happy summer Saturday.

TEN YEARS AGO: Filling in various holes, inside and out.

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Getting Ready

I have seen more concerts in the past couple of months than I have in the past couple of years! First, the lovely evening with the legendary Lindsey Buckingham in San Francisco, and then the local Music Festival, at the beautiful WPA Cotton Auditorium in the Big Town.

The first concert I saw was on the first night of the Festival, and also Buddy’s 40th birthday. The program started out with an original composition* by the Maestro, Allan Pollack, called “Phoenix”. It was beautiful, celebrating the victory of life over death and hope over despair. It was followed by Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1, with a young violinist, Yevgeny Kutik, giving a dazzling solo. The evening ended with Beethoven’s bright and delightful Symphony No.7.

The second one started out with the lovely, dreamy “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” by Debussy, followed by Mozart’s light and charming Symphony No. 29, and ended with Brahms’ Concerto for Violin and Cello, featuring the extremely charismatic and talented Jennifer Cho and Jonah Kim on violin and cello.

The last one is the final show of the Festival, coming up this weekend, and it will be big band and jazz, which should be a fun end to the series.

*I was so delighted by “Phoenix” that I asked if they had a recording available, but unfortunately, there isn’t one, so it will just have to be a beautiful and haunting memory.

A YEAR AGO: At the fabulous Flamingo.

FIVE YEARS AGO: You win some, you lose some.

TEN YEARS AGO: An unexpected visit to the country. I never imagined I’d be living in Albion and loving it.

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The 4th of July weekend brings the amazing Flynn Creek Circus to our little corner of the world, its distinctive striped tent and ticket caravan appearing in the Village like magic:

Usually, it is an amazing experience. But this time…

I noticed as I entered the tent that there were earplugs on a table near the concessions, and I thought that was a little odd, since it was a circus, not a rock concert, and in the early afternoon, when the audience was mostly families, including small children.

It all made sense when a trio of guitar, bass, and drums with a screeching singer was unleashed upon our unsuspecting eardrums. I endured the first “song”, played at high volume and low talent, and then there was some of the acrobatics I had come to see:

You can see the Nightmare Trio in the background. They started up again after the acrobats, and I noticed that the small girl sitting next to me was covering her ears and wincing, so I went to see if I could get her some ear plugs. They were (unsurprisingly) all gone, but the guy gave me a tissue she could ball up to protect what remained of her eardrums. I gave it to her, and she put it in and curled up against her mother. When another song started up and there was no sign of more of the actual circus, I actually got up and left. I never thought I’d walk out on Flynn Creek Circus. Hopefully, next year they will be back to their fabulous selves.

A YEAR AGO: Cider tasting in an heirloom orchard, and other pleasures in the Valley.

FIVE YEARS AGO: An intruder.

TEN YEARS AGO: So freakin’ glad to be home!

TWENTY YEARS AGO: On the dynamics of lines.

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Birthday Girl

The Imperious Empress Audrey turned 15 on July 2. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long since she was a little kitten. I am happy to say that she remains healthy, sassy, and grumpy. She has not mellowed with age, resolutely remaining her pre-reformation Grinchy self, a trait she shared with her beautiful mother, Quince.

I use the past tense because Quince died this month, staying true to herself to the end and choosing her own exit. I hope her journey was peaceful and I am glad that Quince lives on in Audrey. My heart aches for my dear friend Pea, now all alone in her little Victorian cottage in the big city.

July is a catty month. My lovely niece Cat turned 40 (!) on the same day Audrey turned 15, and July 9 marked the 40th anniversary of my beloved Buddy’s birth. It was love at first sight for me when he was born, and it was a privilege to be there for his first breath and his last.

Cat celebrated her birthday with a lovely trip to Sydney and other wonderful locations in Australia, where she has now lived for many years with her guy Dave, who is Australian. She is happy there and is currently fostering a cat called Calvin. A Cat should always have a cat, even temporarily.

A YEAR AGO: Having a wonderful time at the circus.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A completely fabulous sleepover with the completely fabulous Jessica.

TEN YEARS AGO: Getting ready to travel to Detroit to testify in front of a Grand Jury.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Musing about mechanics and my Mustang.

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When I last saw Angelika in May, we talked about getting together with Megan at Ledford House. It’s not easy to get our schedules to match, but one afternoon, the stars aligned, and we met up on the beautiful deck overlooking the ocean:

We had much to celebrate: Megan’s birthday, mine, and the successful purchase at last of the property where Angelika and Elijah live. Hurray! Elijah himself stopped by to say hello on the way home, so we could congratulate him, too. We had a wonderful time, and I hope we can do it again soon.

We headed over to Megan’s place, where I did some shopping in the family garden:

I got some arugula, raspberries (red and golden), and snap peas. I love shopping in the family garden.

After picking the produce, we settled in to watch the new Downton Abbey movie, and I am pleased to report that it was as good as the first one. As soon as I heard the opening notes of the theme music, I could feel myself relax.

All in all, it was a great day.

A YEAR AGO: Doing research can be fun.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A fabulous Junapalooza.

TEN YEARS AGO: Being subpoenaed is nerve-wracking.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Megan started her ER career.

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You guys! Jarrett and Kalli are engaged!

While yes, they were already engaged, Jarrett had not yet given Kalli the ring. He spent a lot of time getting just the right ring, and he wanted to give it to her at the family estate, where they are planning to get married next year.

I wondered how he was going to surprise Kalli with the ring, and here’s how he did it. They decided to visit us from Eureka, where they live, to select just the right spot for the wedding. We knew it would be down where my siblings’ land partners, Dave and Jennifer, live, so we piled into the golf cart and headed down there, with Jarrett hiding the ring in his pocket.

Option A was what we call the Vista Viewpoint*, where there is a little fence and a slightly obstructed view over the redwoods towards the neighboring ridge. Option B was the place where Dave and Jennifer will eventually build their house. It has a sweeping view, flat land big enough for 50 or more chairs for wedding guests, and trees that create a natural altar for vow taking:

As soon as Kalli saw it, she said, “This is it! This is the place!”

She and Jarrett sealed their choice with a kiss, and then Jarrett got down on one knee and said:

“Kalli, I love you so much. You enrich my life, and every day that you’re with me, you inspire me to be a better man. I look so forward to living our lives together. Will you marry me?”

Kalli’s response: “Oh fuck yeah, I will! Get that ring on me!”

Here is the ring:

It’s a natural ruby, which is Kalli’s birthstone, adorned with champagne diamonds. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but the band looks like a twig. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and it suits Kalli perfectly.

We celebrated with champagne and a family barbecue followed by a pie Jonathan made from home-grown raspberries:

As the sun began to set and the twinkle lights came on:

I looked around at all the happy, beloved faces around me, the dogs playing together and laughter in the air as we celebrated the past, present, and future together.

*Always reminds me of the Vista Cruiser in “That 70s Show”.

A YEAR AGO: A flat tire is never good.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A camping party.

TEN YEARS AGO: Touring some local artists’ studios.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Mammograms are never fun.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A visit to the County Fair.

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Much as I enjoyed visiting the past in San Francisco, I was glad to get back to the present in Hooterville.

It’s interesting that I love living in the country so much. When I lived in San Francisco, I loved it. I loved living in Pacific Heights, I loved the beauty and diversity of the City, its characteristic sights and sounds. But a lot has changed since those halcyon days, and the City I knew and loved is mostly gone. Even if money were no object – and it’s more like a massive, immovable one – I can’t imagine moving back there. I am much happier in my little wooden water tower, surrounded by towering redwoods, with the only sounds the wind in the trees and the birds singing. OK, and the occasional meow.

It was good to get back home. This is the view from the back porch:

And from the front door:

Clyde and Dodge still hang out on the heater in the living room in the evenings and early mornings before they head out to play for the day:

I love how they are such close companions.

Before I go to work in the morning, I always take one last look before I leave. These days, one of my small pleasures is the light-up Chrysler Building that was one of my birthday presents. I have it on in the evening and leave it on so I can enjoy its glow when I get up in the morning:

I love it out of all proportion to what it is, for some reason.

I guess it’s true what they say: There’s no place like home.

FIVE YEARS AGO: When worlds collide.

TEN YEARS AGO: The birth of a garden.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A midnight dog rescue.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Candi and Brian came to visit!

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I emerged from the Immersive van Gogh exhibit into the dazzling sunshine overlooking Market Street:

I intended to take Uber back to the motel, but it kept saying pick up on Mission no matter how many times I entered the address, so I decided to just take the bus. The stop was right there, one of the new and fancy ones. I looked up the fare on my phone: now $3.

As the bus lurched northwards on Van Ness, an older gentleman struck up a conversation with me. It turned out that he was a Vietnam War veteran, and he showed me, that Memorial Day weekend, the scars on his neck and head, and told me of having bullets removed from his head. I thanked him for his service, and we enjoyed our conversation until I hopped off the bus at California Street. It was just like the old days, when I lived in the City. People were always talking to me on buses and cable cars, and I love that.

I took a stroll down Polk Street, noting what had changed and what hadn’t. The building I first lived in when I moved to San Francisco now has a security gate on it:

making it very difficult to see the “San Benito” in the mosaic on the stoop:

The building survived the 1906 and the 1989 quakes. I lived on the top floor, reached by a sweeping spiral staircase, and the apartment had a wood-burning fireplace. I wonder how much it rents for now?

Bob’s Doughnuts was thankfully the same:

As I joined the eternal line, a policeman emerged with a box of doughnuts, headed for his double-parked patrol car. He said, “I know, I know. Cops and doughnuts!”

TEN YEARS AGO: Festive 50th birthday to me!

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Missing the legendary Ramones. I still love them.

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Going from one extreme to the other, I visited the City twice in six weeks after not being there for almost a decade.

It was a beautiful drive through wine country. The vines were leafed out, and the hills were transitioning from winter’s green to summer’s gold. The fields were replete with wildflowers and baby animals as spring tipped into summer. I even managed to nab this photo of a barn which is one of the landmarks on the journey:

After checking into my usual modest motel in my old neighborhood, I headed out to the Immersive van Gogh exhibit, at Market and Van Ness. I went up the stairs:

At the top of them, there was a slide show giving a brief overview of van Gogh’s all too brief life:

I hadn’t realized that his painting career was so short: he started painting when he was 27, and died when he was 37. He received no formal art training, and he produced so much beauty in so little time!

The exhibit was a wonderful experience. Van Gogh’s paintings were projected all over the alls, floors, and those of us lucky enough to be in the audience. The images bloomed into each other, and in some cases, like The Starry Night, started with what looked like shooting stars:

before changing into the painting:

There was music to accompany the beautiful images:

The show ended with van Gogh’s signature projected on the walls:

a simple, poignant “Vincent”. I left the show dazzled by the beauty and filled with emotion at being part of something so beautiful and so ephemeral, fitting for an artist who blazed so brightly and so briefly.

A YEAR AGO: Enjoying an extra long holiday weekend.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A fabulous birthday week.

TEN YEARS AGO: An amazing 50th birthday: the Beach Boys, Chinatown, shopping, henna painting!

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My Glorious Cake

It was a milestone birthday for Megan last year (50!) and for me this year (60!), so we decided to celebrate together, like we did when we were kids. Here we were, celebrating Megan’s 12th birthday and my 21st:

A lot has changed since then, but it’s still fun to celebrate our birthdays together.

Despite the fact that it was a shared celebration, Megan did most of the work, and the pile of presents was mostly for me:

The glorious cake was from Franny’s Cup & Saucer, and the flowers are from Franny’s garden, dried and pressed by her. The cake was lemon with lemon mousse and fresh berries, iced in lemon buttercream. It was as divine as it looks and sounds.

Getting the cake was a bit of an adventure, though. A propane truck overturned on the highway just a few yards from my road on the day Megan, Rob, and the dogs set off to Point Arena to pick up the cake and play on the beach:

There is no alternative route, so traffic backed up pretty fast. And although it happened in the morning, traffic was still bad when I was heading home around 4:00. I turned off the car and kept listening to Tom Petty while I texted Megan, knowing she had gotten home past the overturned truck. I asked her how long she thought the wait would be. She said they had waited half an hour, and added that they were trying to get the truck back onto its wheels about an hour earlier so it could be towed. As I read the text, the truck was towed past my open car window.

Traffic started moving after that, and it took me about 5 minutes to get onto my road after sitting on the highway for half an hour. An adventure!

A YEAR AGO: A milestone birthday for Megan.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Working at my Saturday job and celebrating Megan’s birthday.

TEN YEARS AGO: Things were weird. And I was in San Francisco.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: We lost our beloved Jed, the Wonder Dog. Never forgotten, always loved, never, ever equalled.

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