Melting

Come back, Fogust!

Both of my brain cells may have melted yesterday. I didn’t dare to consult the thermometer outside, but it was still 86 in my house when I went to bed last night. My house is so unreasonable. Rob came by to correctly position my Junapalooza swamp cooler gift and attempt to explain the laws of physics to me. It sort of sounded like the Charlie Brown grownups to my non-sciency mind, though.

He turned off all the fans, closed up the house other than the screen door to the balcony in the sleeping loft, and placed the swamp cooler in the open door between the studio and the house, reasoning that blowing air from the coolest part of the house with a concrete floor would help to cool the rest of it. He added in stuff about air layers and other things I couldn’t get, but I was not put here on earth to get it.

I’m sorry to say that it is supposed to be hot’n’heinous™ for the rest of the week, so Rob is going to add attempted climate control duties to cat doorman duties, it now being too dark to leave the doors open for them when I go to work, with the arrival of high beams season. Somehow it seems spectacularly unfair that it’s both hot and dark.

Hope he is successful, especially since this heat wave is slated to go until Saturday or so.

[Later]

Hm. It was 78 in the house and about 80 outside when I got home, despite Rob’s ministrations. Yesterday it was about 90 outside and 86 in. Maybe the eccentricities of my house make the swamp cooler of limited effectiveness. It feels cooler outside than in, so I think I’ll turn off the swamp cooler, open the doors, and put on a couple of fans. Old school.

A YEAR AGO: Well, at least melting in the heat is better than an obnoxious mountain lion. Isn’t it?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Yet another car misadventure that ended up being more life-affirming than disastrous.

Eyewitness

I’m sorry to report that high beams* season is already upon us, as the encroaching darkness starts its long slide into winter, when I will be driving in darkness both ways, instead of just one. Months without driving in darkness (two?) are as short as a Canadian summer and just as welcome.

In addition to the unwelcome return of my perennial enemy, we have been experiencing a true Fogust this year. This is fine with me, but it did make viewing of the eclipse of the century impossible. We should have seen about 80% in the Big Town, but all I saw was a darker shade of pale.

Jonathan and Rio, on the other hand, left the Wednesday before to road trip to a secret spot where there was totality. I mentioned this to my friend C, who is a professional photographer, and this was his reply:

I just hope they are not going to spend those 2 or 3 minutes just to make photos or videos only and not experience the event really. The next day there will be a zillion of that stuff available online anyway. Copy and paste.

My advice: be somewhere where you can see it coming, this is very important, you have to be high up, facing the right direction, have your high quality glasses, and filters for binoculars/telescopes etc. Lie on your back and enjoy.

Make sure just to enjoy the event I would say, unless you work for the National Geographic or so.

He would approve of their methods, I think. They headed out to a secret spot in Oregon on the Wednesday before the eclipse. Not surprisingly for someone who restored a 1958 Predicta and hooked up a DVD player to it, he figured out a way to send emails through his ham radio to keep us apprised of what was happening:

August 19

Another lovely day here in the Aldrich Mountains. By watching the sun during the critical times here at camp we determined that we can see the entire eclipse right here from camp.

We took a hike through the Cedar Grove Botanical Area and found (you guessed it!) a small grove of cedars amidst all the fir and pine. At the center of the grove is a brook with cold, clear water cascading over small rocks, with a baby cedar tree growing right in the middle. We will be returning to that idyllic spot tomorrow with a picnic lunch, our water filter, and bathing items and we still have our sweet little spot to ourselves.

August 20

Well, just another day in paradise here. We hiked back to the creek we found yesterday to bathe and have lunch along the way. Yikes was it fuhreeeeezing! But it sure felt great to clean up after four days on the rough. Such a perfect little stream, with cedars and ferns growing in it and all sort of other wildflowers. Sadly, most of them are long done for the year but must be quite a sight in spring.

We have selected a spot to watch from and will be heading out early in the AM. There were some clouds today that were worrisome but the weather report is still promising clear skies and the smoke has cleared up completely.

So wish us clear skies! I can’t wait for the moment we can take OFF our eclipse glasses and gaze up into the dark skies during daytime. They say it will be a little darker than a bright full moonlight night. We can’t wait!

August 21

Well, the long awaited day and time finally arrived. The day was clear and the spot we were in was perfect. It is a cliché, but words truly do fail me to describe totality. Up until over 80% coverage very little change could be seen. One was sort of asking oneself “is it really getting dimmer or am I imagining it?”. Even at 95% it seemed to still be pretty bright out and it was dimming very slowly.

Then suddenly, in a rush, it got dark. The stars came out, we could see Jupiter and the summer triangle. There was a 360 degree sunset all around us. Light seemed to rise up from the horizon un-refracted. Above this band of brightness was a band of sunset color, and above that the sky was deep blue and purple.

We were in the moon’s shadow, but with a view so wide that we could see beyond the darkness.And the corona around the moon was spectacular! We were with a small group of folks and we were all whooping and exclaiming and pointing things out to each other. Then, as suddenly as it had darkened, day returned.

Wowser, truly amazing and I must say that if you saw even a 98% eclipse you still haven’t seen one. I can understand why some chase them around the globe and am already thinking about 2024!

I am so glad they had such an amazing experience and got to share it together. I am looking forward to hearing about at our next family dinner – maybe on Saturday!

*High beams, which are of limited help in inky black country darkness, are a major disappointment in my adult life, along with painkillers, which do not, as the name suggests, actually kill the pain. Why am I surprised? Adult life itself has been a major disappointment. While it’s true there is no homework, when you’ve said that, you’ve said it all.

A YEAR AGO: Friends, camping, pie. And yes, early morning darkness.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sigh. You can see the white heart on my beloved Roscoe’s chest. I miss you, my little wild one.

Sunset Slipper

A week of fog lifted, and Megan and I decided it was a good time to go to the Ledford House again. Although it is conveniently located right across the highway from beautiful downtown Hooterville, we don’t go as often as we should (or as we’d like).

We were warmly greeted by the beautiful and accomplished bartender, who made us each a beautiful and delicious drink:

Megan’s (left) was a nameless but delightful concoction of fresh raspberries, Limoncello, and sparkling wine, and mine was the charmingly named Sunset Slipper, made of Campari, fresh lemon and lime juice, and sparkling wine, finished with a twist of orange, its oils released into the rosy drink. Unlike me, Megan doesn’t like Campari, but she loved the Sunset Slipper. So did I.

We repaired to the sunny and deserted deck:

with its breathtaking view of the sunset:

where we enjoyed our libations with the attentions of the handsome restaurant cat:

He and his tortoiseshell sister just showed up one day, and the owners took them in. They appear to be quite well-fed on gourmet leftovers from the restaurant’s wonderful kitchen, and to be replete with attentions of the restaurant’s patrons. Of course, he spotted a sucker as soon as he saw one, and wasted no time ensconcing himself by my chair and graciously accepting my petting and compliments. Clearly he accurately assessed Megan as being a dog-lover.

Swallows had built a nest in the eaves of the building, and the parents fluttered back and forth, bringing food to the peeping young in the nest. An occasional raven swooped over the ocean. It was so nice to sit on the lovely deck, as the twinkle lights glowed brighter and the sun slipped into the sea. It is amazing how quickly it vanishes once it gets started. It was a lovely evening.

A YEAR AGO: An unexpected gift, and an unexpected curse.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Farewell to Digit, the adorable office cat. She is still being adored by her (no longer) new family. All’s well that ends well.

Sixteen

It’s been 16 years since that fateful early morning phone call when my sister told me our father was gone and our lives changed forever.

It was 6 am in San Francisco, which is 2 in the afternoon in London, so my sister had already lived with the knowledge that he was gone for almost an entire day. Her gift to me was those last few hours of not knowing, when she already knew.

I will never forget the overwhelming grief when I finally grasped what she was telling me; or the stricken look on my brother’s face as he seized my hand in his strong, work-roughened one and said, “Let’s do it” as we walked together to the plane that would carry us to London; or the undertakers in full morning dress who handled our father’s coffin with such respect and tenderness, doffing their black silk top hats and bowing to him on his last journey.

I think of my father every day, and when I do, it’s more often the happy memories than the sad ones. Similarly, when I dream of him, he is always alive. Sometimes he tells me it was all a mistake, but mostly, it’s as if nothing ever happened and of course we are cooking together or having adventures, as we did so often in real life.

When I look back over the years, I think of Dad coming home from work in his white lab coat, smelling of chemicals when he was a young scientist and I was a young girl, and how he’d roll around on the floor with us before dinner. I think of climbing Mount Cadillac in Maine, to be the first on the eastern seaboard to see the sun rise that day, his blazing blue eyes gazing out over the Atlantic. I think of him reading stories to us as children – and adults. I think of him walking his beloved dog Jesse on Wimbledon Common, just a handful of miles from where Dad used to walk with own beloved father. Dad and Jesse were not parted for long, since their ashes are scattered together on the Common. Somewhere, a boy and his dog will always be playing.

A YEAR AGO: Missing Dad.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Remembering Dad.

Drip Drip Drip

Meanwhile, back at stately Suzy Manor, our heroine was being annoyed by a persistently dripping tap in the kitchen. It’s hard to ignore the repetitive and irritating sound when your house is basically one room and where you live is really, really quiet.

I resorted to leaving the sponge in the sink to catch the drips, which is not a long-term solution for the sponge, or for me. Rob took a look at the faucet, and opined that it was a job for my landlord rather than my brother-in-law. To be fair, this line is often blurred, with Rob doing things at my house which should be done by Mark. But Mark is very busy running the property single-handed, along with his thriving business selling succulents and cacti on the interwebs.

I ran into Mark and Citlali at the post office and helped them to decant dozens of boxes from their truck onto the loading dock at the post office, reminding me of the good old days at the jobette, when I used to wrangle small, yet surprisingly heavy, boxes of visitor guides for a living. My box wrestling abilities are yet another of my (mostly) useless talents. While we box wrestled together, I mentioned the faucet drip to Mark. He said he’d look at it.

He did come by and look at it, and decided that he needed a certain type of screwdriver, either to fix it or to investigate what was ailing my kitchen waterworks. It must have been hard to find, since it took more than a week for him to find it and come back to work on it.

In the way of such projects, things went wrong and parts were needed, so it went on for a few weeks. Finally, Mark said it was fixed. I was pretty excited, especially since he also went up on the roof, cleaned out the gutters, swept away the accumulation of pine and redwood needles, and caulked the roof so I should not have the puddle by the Christmas tree, or the mini lake at the foot of the stairs, or the pool on top of the bureau when the rain comes back, which I hope is not for, say, 3 months.

While it’s true that the new faucet did not drip, it was not without its own set of drawbacks.

I went to wash the dishes and turning the control to the left did not produce hot water, no matter how long I let it run. I went out and checked the flash heater, and it was lit, so I was mystified. It turned out that Mark had installed the new faucet set backwards, so that left is cold and hot is right, unlike every other faucet in the house, and probably in North America.

I thought all I wanted was a faucet that didn’t drip. Clearly I was not specific enough, though that particular wish did come true. On the other hand, what else do you expect in a house where the light switches say “no” when you turn them on, and you turn them on by turning them down?

A YEAR AGO: Family dinner with those I love best.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some parting gifts from Mark and his family. So glad the departure was temporary and they are back home, next door.

A Loss

The official month of death kicked off with the unexpected loss of a coworker, Carol, on August 1. She had been fighting lymphoma, but we all – including, I think, her – expected her to return to work.

She was admitted to intensive care on Tuesday, and because this is not just a small world but a small town, my sister was the one called in to try to revive Carol that night, and she died under my sister’s hands.

My sister takes these things better than I do. She believes that by the time the code team is called in, the patient is no longer really “there”, though she adds that maybe she just tells herself that in order to be able to do what she does.

It’s been quiet at work in the days since, as we all try to come to terms with the loss of someone who always had a smile and a cheerful word, a bright presence who had worked at the clinic for a decade and who left the world too soon.

One thing I have learned the hard way is that you can’t tell grieving people “let me know if you need anything”. They don’t know what they need and they can’t tell you. So you do something useful, like walk the dog, mow, the lawn, or pick up groceries. We have set up a calendar at work so people can sign up to bring the family food, and an account at the local credit union to raise money to get Carol’s youngest daughter here from Alaska and to defray final expenses.

Today was my turn to bring food to the family. I made chicken enchiladas using salsa verde my siblings made from tomatillos, garlic, and onions grown at the property, and Megan picked a fresh onion for it from the garden. Somehow, using food we grew ourselves seemed to make it more meaningful. And I found the process of cooking itself to be healing.

Carol and her husband were an extremely devoted couple, and he is devastated. He did say that these gifts of food from Carol’s coworkers mean a lot to him and to the family, especially since they involve a visit and the opportunity to talk about Carol and share memories. Nothing can really help except time, but in the meantime, they are not alone and our community, as it always does, has wrapped its arms around the family.

Hold close those you love.

A YEAR AGO: More death, with the loss of Jack, the last cat John and I had together. Maybe my friend who told me I should start getting used to these departures was right.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Uh, well…the anniversary of my mother’s death, and other assorted bad news. August, man. I’m telling you.

Teen Time

Our long-time friend Carrie came up to visit from Oakhampton, with her 15 year old daughter Miranda and Miranda’s posse of besties. I was pleased to learn that Carrie asked the kids where they wanted to go within driving distance, and they chose Hooterville.

They were rewarded with the kind of freedom we experienced as kids and which is no longer available to those growing up in cities. They swam at the swimming hole in the river, where there is a rope swing, and in the secret pond known only to locals. They helped Jonathan make adobe bricks from clay dug up on the family estate, destined to make an outdoor pizza oven. There is already water and power in the giant, fenced in garden, and the plan is to make an outdoor kitchen there one of these faraway days.

They hiked in the majestic redwoods and rode our friends David and Jennifer’s (my siblings’ land partners) horses Bella and Charlie, and got in some driving practice, since getting their licenses is not as far off on the horizon as making our outdoor kitchen. They were thrilled to pick berries, just as we had during those long-ago summers in Maine. I have never again had blueberries that tasted anything like those small, dark berries, warm from the sun. They learned to make huckleberry pie under Jonathan’s tutelage, in the pie pan Rob made for Rio’s birthday.

On the Friday night, we had dinner at Rio’s place, which has acquired the name of The Marches. Rio said it’s an old word for wilderness, though I think her compound is quite civilized. As Rio and Jonathan made dinner (Rio’s special deconstructed chile relleno casserole and chicken enchiladas made with onions and salsa grown at the property), my brother put on a record, observing that the young ones would not know what it was. He was wrong about this, since one of them correctly recognized it as Herb Alpert’s classic “Whipped Cream” after the first two notes, adding that she herself owned it, also on vinyl.

I thought that was surprising until these 21st century girls started singing as they did the dinner dishes. They sang John Denver’s “Country Roads” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” perfectly. Clearly they have retro leanings. They were completely enthralled with the Predicta and with “Honey West”, with its glamorous costumes, cool cars, and beautiful, kickass heroine. I have to wonder why “Honey West” is not a cultural touchstone like “Bewitched” or “The Avengers”. Also, 1965, the year of my brother’s birth, was a pretty good one, since both “Honey West” and “Whipped Cream” made their debuts along with him.

On Saturday night, we had a BBQ over at the property, and on Sunday, our guests headed back to the city after a breakfast of huckleberry pancakes made on the outdoor gas hob. It was a good visit.

A YEAR AGO: A bad omen?

FIVE YEARS AGO: A good day at the pool.

Welcome Home

I may have spoken too soon about finding no unexpected appliances or bird intruders in my house. I came home from work one day this week to find a very dead Steller’s Jay lying on the floor and a huge box nearby.

The events did not seem to be related. I also don’t suspect the cats of avian murder this time. My theory is that he flew in through the balcony door and thought the window above the sliding glass doors was open when it wasn’t. I have seen this happen before, though I will never get used to seeing dead birds or disposing of their bodies. The only wound I could see on him was the side of his head, and he must have been lying where I found him for quite a while, since the floor still holds a print of his head and beak. It may be there forever. Lady Macbeth and I have similar cleaning results.

As for the box, it did not contain a phantom tollbooth, but it did contain a swamp cooler, my long-ago birthday/Junapalooza gift which had finally arrived.

I plugged it in and used the hose for the straggly balcony roses to fill its water tank. The instructions said to put it by an open window or door, but due to the oddities of my house, this is not possible. I tried it one evening, but didn’t notice it was really more efficacious than the box fan I usually have perched on a little stool by my bed. I turned it off and wondered if perhaps my house’s eccentricity will make it impossible for it to work properly. I will see if Rob can come up with some clever solution to make it work better.

A YEAR AGO: More from the local message boards.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A little trip to San Francisco.