Danger, Will Robinson!

I dropped by my brother’s place on my way home on Friday night. I found the path from the parking area to his place littered with spent shell casings, not a usual occurrence. I picked up about half a dozen of them.

I was greeted by Rio, who was making dinner, and my brother, who was sitting with his hands resting on our grandfather’s cane, much as Hoho used to do. The cane has a brass plate from his American Legion. It was nice to see it and know that Jonathan could use it, but not so nice to know that he had messed up his knee trying to shoot a particularly obnoxious mountain lion.

Apparently this lion has been making a nuisance of himself lately. He makes a peculiar screaming noise, and is completely unconcerned by light and human habitation. Jonathan shone the flashlight right in his eyes and the beast didn’t flinch. My brother fired a couple of rounds over the lion’s head, and he didn’t retreat.

This was the scariest part to me. This creature was deliberately hanging around human habitation instead of avoiding it, and not fleeing from bright lights or loud noises. Rio thinks there might be something wrong with this particular intruder. Jonathan finally shot right at the animal, which is always a last resort, but it’s hard to shoot with any accuracy in the dark, since you need both hands for the rifle and don’t have an extra one for the flashlight.

Eventually the monster retreated into the bushes, but I am horrified by the fact that he is skulking around and also that Clayton and Rio’s daughter Paloma camped out in the garden lately with the monster loitering with intent.

Jonathan did something to his knee pivoting the wrong way in his haste to chase the mountain lion, so he is still crutching around, cursing the mountain lion. Jonathan and Rio were planning to go for a hike on his birthday, which is this Saturday, but unless he has a miraculous recovery, it looks like he will still be caning and crutching around for now.

I contacted a dear friend who is wise in the ways of the wilderness, and he shared some tips for ridding your property of unwanted wildlife, which I passed on to my appreciative brother. Jonathan has contacted Fish and Game to see if they would be willing to do some mountain lion removal, but we don’t know what their criteria are to do this, or how long it will take them to respond.

In the meantime, we are being cautious. I guess this is the side of country life that you don’t read about in Martha Stewart.

A YEAR AGO: A run in (though fortunately not a run over) with a deer.

Back in Black

And it’s back…darkness, my old friend.

Yesterday, I noticed that there were high beams conditions as I left for work at 6 am. Unfortunately for Me, it was also the foggiest it had been in some time, so using the high beams merely threw the glare back at me mockingly. Back to the anemic puddle of light, my friends. And driving slowly, hoping for a deer-free ride.

Human nature – or at least Suzy nature – being what it is, I was once more surprised by how speeds that seem decorous to the point of annoyance in the daylight seem alarmingly fast in the dark. Also how the familiar Ridge, which I drive nearly every day, can sudden seem a completely foreign and scary place.

Speaking of darkness, I was very disappointed to come home last Friday to a power outage. I am convinced that we have had more out of season power outages than we did all winter. It appeared that someone had misjudged the curve at my friend Jim’s road and plowed into a power pole, plunging us all into darkness.

My modest plans to watch “Feed the Beast” with a glass of wine after tossing in a load of laundry were foiled. I still had the glass of wine, but while reading Gay Talese’s creepily compulsive “The Voyeur’s Motel”, about a man who ran a motel in Colorado for 30 years, during which he “observed” his guests, unbeknownst to them. And while reading about his dirty laundry, I was unable to do anything about my own.

The power was still out when I went to bed, so of course when it came back on, it woke me up. All in all, not a great Friday.

On the other hand, our dear friend Clayton came up from the city, staying in palatial accommodations on the family estate:

IMG_3129

He was there partly to visit us and partly to get his van theft-proofed with my brother’s help. Clayton is a painter of houses and buildings, and thieves in his neighborhood have enjoyed helping themselves to his tools in the van and sometimes the van itself. So the boys outfitted it with an epic series of locks, which will hopefully deter the would-be criminals.

Lichen joined us for dinner, with his sweet dog Keeper, and some of Jonathan’s ham radio buddies came too, so it was a busy and happy get together. We grilled up chicken and veggies and made them into fajitas, served with rice, black beans, salsa, cheese, and tortillas grilled by Megan. Ever since she started making grill bread, she has been the griller of all things bread, or bread-ish.

Jonathan’s girlfriend Rio made a gorgeous apple pie with apples from the property. It was almost too pretty to cut into:

pie

But I’m glad we did, because it was magically delicious. And it was a great evening.

A YEAR AGO: Of Dentists, dogs, and James Dean.

Updates

Hi! Here’s what’s been happening the past few days.

Work has been getting in the way of writing, and I expect this to continue for about another month. I am still working six days a week, leaving only one day to get ready for the next six and to accomplish miscellaneous Cinderella chores around the house as well as squeezing in a little time for R&R. And we are up against two audits at work, one the annual financial one and one from our friends at the Feds, who provide a lot of funding. As always, stakes are high when the Feds come to town, and so is the stress.

I must have been showing the pressure, because Megan turned up one day with a beautiful surprise for me:

orchid

She said it was to give me something beautiful, and to remind me that she is always there for me. She really is the best sister ever. And it’s like having a little sunset in my office. When things get crazy, I can look at it and think how beautiful it is and how lucky I am to have such an amazing sister.

I met Monica after work one day at a new restaurant in the harbor:

harbor

I wish there was an “unglare” feature in iPhoto, to deal with those overly sunny California days. Such a terrible problem.

The restaurant has a big, rustic wooden deck overlooking the harbor, where we watched the fishermen come in with that day’s catch on their boats as the sun began to set. We had a great time and promised each other to meet up more often. Monica is always so inspiring.

On a less delightful note, my Mac fell ill with a virus or TEN. I started getting pop up ads all over and new tabs resulted in something unpleasant called Chumsearch with Bing. Bing! I tried disk utility and restarting to no avail. I emailed a former co-worker at the jobette, who is a genius, and he recommended software with a free trial. It took almost four hours, but it found and ate nearly a dozen viruses and things are back to normal. I hope.

You expect this kind of thing with PCs, but not with Macs. I still have no idea how I got it, but as always, I am thankful for my family and my family of friends.

A YEAR AGO: It was a busy time of year in the garden.

Fifteen

sweetpeas
Dad’s Flowers

Every year, we plant sweetpeas in honor of our father. They were his favorite flowers.

We had a little bouquet of them at his memorial service, along with a photo of Dad and his beloved dog, Jesse. Our wonderful stepmother Margaret later scattered Dad’s ashes with Jesse’s on the Common where they loved to walk together. It comforts me to know that a boy and his dog are together always.

And it comforted me that our beloved Lu chose to carry some of Dad’s sweetpeas in her bouquet and her lovely hair when she married her best friend Rik this summer. It made me feel like Dad was there, and I was glad to think of him and his special flowers on a happy occasion.

No matter how long I am without him, I will always miss him. And I will forever cherish the treasure of his love and friendship.

A YEAR AGO: Brian Wilson said it best.

Family Dinner

After work last Saturday, I stopped by the family estate for a small, impromptu BBQ with my siblings.

Summer is not only high season for tourists, it’s also high season for friends to brave the drive, isolation and lack of cell phone service to visit us. So most summer get togethers have guest stars, and it was nice for it to just be me, Megan, Jonathan, and Rio.

Summer is of course high season for the garden, too, and my siblings are firmly in the canning and preserving part of the year. They had also picked 24 pounds of wild blackberries the day before, some of which can be seen here with my brother:

berries

and some of which ended up as jam:

jam

The part that didn’t end up as jam ended up as cobbler, which ended up in our stomachs, along with chicken burgers which were seasoned with basil grown on the property and grilled by our brother, the expert grillmaster:

burgers

and garnished with relish made from cucumbers grown on the property and made that very day.

It was relaxing to sit under the tent with my feet up on a cooler of hard cider to rest my aching back (it is slowly getting better, but still hated me on that day) and catch up with my family. Even little Scout made an appearance. She does seem to have gotten more friendly lately. We made a concerted effort to get her inside at night for a few days after Jonathan saw a very pushy mountain lion strolling around. My brother kept his rifle loaded and ready, but the monster seems to have moved on and Scout is unharmed. I know she is a survivor, but it was hard not to worry about that little cat who has such a big place in our lives.

Jack

Are there time-released bad omens? If so, I think that Steller’s Jay was one…

It’s been another crazy week, and it’s far from over. It seems that no matter how hard I work, it’s not enough. I am fighting serious headwinds of feeling both overwhelmed and inadequate, which is a spectacularly unenjoyable combo platter, especially when garnished with a preview of (possibly inaccurate) old age and infirmity.

What I thought was a mere spat between my back and me has devolved into a lover’s quarrel at best and a complete breakdown in our formerly friendly relationship at the worst. Despite applications of ibuprofen, the heating pad, and unnecessarily long, hot, and drought-defying showers, it remains adamantly angry and is not afraid to express its annoyance, usually at the most annoying times. I don’t know whether to be proud or sad that no one at work seems to have noticed that I have been walking around in pain for a week.

In the midst of decrepitude and despair, I woke up to an email from my ex John, telling me that the last cat we had together, the irrepressible Jack, had died in his arms. She was almost 17.

August being the Official Month of Death, she died on the same day we lost Schatzi (three years ago! How is that possible?). And it was also three years ago that my divorce from John became final. Somehow, losing the last cat we had together makes the divorce seem more final.

Much like Jack came into our lives with a bang as the World’s Naughtiest Kitten, she shook it up when she left with a 5.1 earthquake.

Goodbye, little Jack. You will always be in my heart, where loved ones live and naughty kittens play.

A YEAR AGO: A hole in my head instead of my heart.

Bad Omen

There hasn’t been much time for anything but work this week.

I have been leaving the house at 6:00 am in a mostly vain attempt to get everything done in time, blasting down the Ridge with Weezer to wake me up. I was amused to pull up to the clinic one day as they were singing Do You Wanna Get High?, a cheery little tune about the joys of opiate addiction.

I should have known that it was going to be a crazy week. The weekend that preceded it foretold doom to come, at least in my ever-superstitious opinion.

A Steller’s Jay got in the house and flew up to the skylight. All of the doors were open, so I hoped that my feathered visitor would escape unscathed, but unfortunately it thought that the highest window in the house was the way to go and made for it at full speed. It smashed into the glass with a horrifying thud and fell to the floor. I ran downstairs, but it was clearly an ex Jay.

Oddly, the cats were totally uninterested. Maybe if it doesn’t move, it’s not fun. I told a friend about the Incident of the Jay in the House:

Me: I think it’s a bad omen.
Him: Maybe if you live in a teepee.
Me, looking at the pointy ceiling: I kind of do.

I was less than thrilled to come home from work and discover that a friend of mine had stopped by my house with another friend. The house was not in my opinion visitor ready. Admittedly it rarely is now that I am out of it (in more ways than one) for 12 hours a day, but I would have appreciated the opportunity to pretend to be more civilized than I really am. And of course, the friend in question has made a pile of money in real estate in the Bay Area*.

I later learned that they claimed to love the house and thought it was really cool. As Erica observed, the house is basically a man cave, so maybe they did. And it was all over before I could do anything about it anyway.

The bad omen really kicked in a couple of days later, when my back went out on strike, making getting dressed and in and out of the car more of an adventure than I’d like. Ever since, I have been unwilling to risk the stairs so I have been sleeping on the couch with my grandmother’s restored quilt over me and Clyde beside me.

A YEAR AGO: My fairy godmother stopped by. One of these days, I should try being home when I have company. Though maybe it’s better this way.

*The few people I still know from long-ago high school days are all annoyingly successful. Richard and his pile of real estate money; my ex boyfriend Andrew, who is a vice president at NBC-Universal in London; and my dear friend Alice, who got a PhD in pure math in her 4th language after she finished her modeling career. She is now a vice president at Barclay’s Capital in London. Call me underachieving…

Local Notes

Since you all enjoyed the peek at our local message board a few months ago, I thought you might like another one. As you can see, we’ve been keeping Hooterville weird, and that’s the way we like it.

1. Of bears and garbage:

If you’re about 5 miles out X Rd & the bear hauled off a large bag of your garbage it’s in the middle of the road. The garbage that is, imagine the bear has moved on for the week.

2. Tinder and OK Cupid aren’t just for humans, you know. All bipeds can use a little help in the dating department:

We have one lonely but healthy male quail named Charlie who is about 8 weeks old. We hatched him in an incubator along with his siblings. The siblings ran off but Charlie stayed in the coop. He needs to find his people. Is there anyone out there who could use another quail?

3. We believe in the separation of church and state. Well, some of us do:

Two women put up a rack of religious tracts on the entrance to the North Headlands Trail. I requested that they remove them and respect our separation of church and state, since it is a public space. They refused, and when I asked again on my way out, they asked me to respect their freedom of speech. I complained to City Hall (yes they are violating a city ordinance); if you’re heading to the Trail this morning, please request that they remove the rack and literature, and please call City Hall.

I wonder who won that battle?

4. You will be relieved to know that a cushion lost at the Music Festival and its rightful owner were reunited at last:

Just now the cushion was returned to me by a cellist who said the cushion “appeared” on her chair some time ago (today? yesterday? last week?) and she came by and handed it to me.

5. Wondering what the extra stripe was on the highway:

I saw that it originated at X road, based on the arc of material from said road to the Southbound lane of 1. Another respondent reported seeing a substance draining from ‘an old wooden tank.’Another respondent noted seeing the material in the road up past middle ridge (hence past the transfer station, likely ruling out a dump run).

So a reasonable, harmless?, although not definitive conclusion; a salvaged wood tank made a trip from somewhere on Andiron Lodge road to somewhere out the ridge, giving up the last of its contents along the way.No harms or fouls, just a bit of spilled muddy water.

A YEAR AGO: it was a fiery summer.