Anniversary


Our Beloved Star

A year ago, we lost our shining Star. The photo above was one of the last ever taken of her, just four days before her death. Doesn’t she look beautiful, shiny, and healthy? She always looked beautiful on the outside, whatever was happening on the inside.

Her death was expected, but unexpected, sudden, but a process. We knew she had cancer (though we did not know exactly where, and we will never know), and we knew her days were numbered, but we were still surprised when the day came. Maybe that’s the nature of death and how we humans deal with it.

On the last night of her life, Star seemed a little tired, but she was as overjoyed to see me as ever, and walked me to my car with Megan, where I watched them in my side mirror until they were out of sight, and they watched me.

Star died in the garden around 1:00 in the afternoon on the next day. It was swift and merciful for her. I don’t think she knew what happened. She was lying peacefully on the grass and in the sun, in a place she loved, with Stella close by and Rob working near her. She felt safe and happy and I bet the sun felt good on her fur. Stella started barking, Rob took a look at Star, saw the blood coming from her mouth, and ran for Megan, who was sleeping after her third 12 hour night shift of the week. By the time they returned to the garden, Star was gone.

Losing her was the most significant event of 2021 for me. A year after losing her, I am still a little surprised by how huge a hole she has left in our lives. I never realized quite how much she meant to me until she was gone. I took her beauty and love and joy in seeing me for granted. She was part of the fabric of my life, woven into the heart of it. I regret not appreciating her meaning in my life more while she was still here. She was the heart of Megan and Rob’s household, and it will never be the same. I think we will always miss Star’s presence. I still look for her to come running up to me joyfully when I visit. We were lucky to have her as long as we did.

Thankfully, we still have Stella, with her adorable goofiness, and Stella is very happy with her companion Millie, the playmate she always dreamed of. Millie is still nervous around humans other than Megan and Rob, but she has no reticence at all about playing with Stella or climbing all over her or sleeping with her, all of which Stella loves. Stella was so sad without Star that it was utterly heart-breaking to see, so it’s wonderful to see her so happy with Millie. They are a very cute matched set:

It’s so sweet to see them together and see them so happy.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Weather was variable.

TEN YEARS AGO: Miscellaneous news.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Escape from New York was not easy.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A day in my life in San Francisco.

Emily

Megan I had long been awaiting the return of the delightful and delightfully frivolous Emily in Paris. It is escapism at its finest, and we were ready to escape.

I took an extra day off over the holidays so we could watch all the Emilys at one sitting, and it was so worth it!

Arriving at Megan and Rob’s place, I was greeted by Stella and Millie. Millie is still horrified by humanity other than Megan, and occasionally Rob, but she feels better when she is cuddled up with Stella:

Stella has not lost her Mom skills, and clearly loves taking care of Millie.

The deck is now complete, and there is a gravel path leading to it, to cut down on the dust and mud:

Here’s another look at the path, leading away from their place:

Once inside, I discovered that our friend Monica had left me a gorgeous Christmas gift, wrapped in vintage ribbon and including a clear glass ornament with a feather in it, and a sparkly mushroom ornament:

Megan was well-prepared for our Emily Day. She invested in a cocktail shaker so she could make Midori Illusions, and it was worth it:

They are magical concoctions of Midori melon liqueur, vodka, Cointreau, lemon juice, and pineapple juice.

Rob imported pizzas from the Big Town. It was surprisingly difficult to acquire a pizza that day, both of the pizza places in the Village being chiuso in the Italian manner. We were lucky that he was willing to not only drive the pizzas home, but also me, and it was after midnight by the time I left. Season Two of Emily may have been even more delightful than Season One. We had such a great time!

A YEAR AGO: Christmas at the beach.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Happy Hannukah!

TEN YEARS AGO: Christmas aftermath.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Christmas nightmare.

Etc.

That always reminds me of Rhoda’s apartment, which I thought was just about the coolest place ever. I still do. I would love to have that place with the terrace and the Franklin stove in New York City. I also think Rhoda had such great style. But then, you all know that I’ve always been Team Rhoda.

You can file this entry under “Miscellaneous” (though I don’t have a “Miscellaneous” section on this blog. Of course, I don’t file very often, either, other than my nails. I was looking something in my file pile the other day, and discovered that there are some documents in the teetering stack that date back to 2019), since it’s just some random things and stuff that have happened lately.

Rain:

While we were all pretty excited to see the rain, its novelty was swept away in another atmospheric river, which also swept away my power early on Sunday morning, when it still looked pretty much like nighttime, no matter what the clock said. And when the power went out, the clock wasn’t saying much of anything.

Ever since the ordeal of the PSPS, I have found that power outages get old fast, with their coldness and darkness. I definitely feel more sadness and reaction to outages than I used to. I seem to be somewhat in denial, too, since I found I was a little unprepared. I could only find one lantern in the Closet of Doom (spoiler alert: I still haven’t cleaned it out or organized it), and it needed new batteries. At least I could find my book light and it was still functional, allowing me to finish reading Alice Feeney’s twisty and suspenseful Rock Paper Scissors in the dark and silent house.

Outside, it was simply tipping it down, as my stepmother used to say. Megan was keeping track of the rainfall:

As you can see, we got more than six inches (!) in one day, and we are already at more than 12 inches for the season. The good news is that we are at about 300% of whatever “normal” is for this time of year. I’m hoping for a rainy winter, but not more power outages.

Car:

I was leaving work one day when I noticed a sort of scrapy sound as I exited the parking lot. Arriving home, I investigated Wednesday for the source of the noise, and discovered that something had come unstuck or unpinned or something on her undercarriage:

I texted the photo to Megan so she could consult with Rob. His opinion was that he could fix it, so I headed to the property after work one day. On my way, I stopped in at the post office, and on going back to my car, I was stopped by a kindly woman who alerted me to the unseemly fact that Wednesday’s underwear was hanging out. I thanked her and explained that I was on my way to my brother-in-law’s place to get it repaired. I feel lucky to live in a place where people care enough to tell me that something’s wrong with my car.

Rob set to work on Wednesday while Megan and I hung out in the garden and watched Stella and Millie play together. Millie has come a long way since her arrival a couple of months ago. She now plays with Stella, but is still basically horrified by every human other than Megan, and as a Plan B, Rob. The rest of us she eyes with deep suspicion. Not sure if or when she will get over that, but at least Stella finally has the playmate of her dreams. Star didn’t play with Stella, so she’s been waiting for someone to play with for a long time. Star’s absence is still felt strongly, but it’s good to see Stella happy and her goofy self again.

Crime:

So far, no more sightings of Redbeard, unless you count this Halloween decoration on the Ridge:

Let’s hope it stays that way. The police cameras are still active, and there’s also a Ring camera. I wonder if passing deer and other wildlife will cause more Ring notifications than they’d like, but hopefully it help to keep the miscreant away, too.

A YEAR AGO: John’s cat Willow and her kittens! Kittens Daisy and Peach are all grown up now, but as cuddly as ever. John continues his rescue work, neutering and fostering, getting homeless cats adopted as much as he can.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Making cider from our very own apples.

TEN YEARS AGO: My newest neighbor was a horse.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Curious about my readers. It was one of those posts where the comments rapidly devolved into something else. Sometimes, I miss allowing comments.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Getting my beautiful diamond watch repaired. Amazingly, the photo links still work, though they are on the teeny side. Note to Self: I should wear it more often. It’s gorgeous.

Millie


Millie

Faithful readers may remember how depressed the usually irrepressible Stella was after Star’s sudden death back in March. She kept returning to the spot where Star died for days afterwards, and she lost her bounce.

The unbouncedness of Stella caused Megan and Rob to start looking for a companion for Stella long before they were really ready to do so. Stella’s sadness just added to the hole in the household left by Star. I have to admit that until she was gone, I didn’t realize that she was so very much the heart of their home.

It’s just as well that they started the search when they did, because it took a very long time to find the right dog and then to get through the lengthy adoption process. The winner was a 2 year old mini Stella named Millie. Millie was staying with a foster family in distant and sweltering Sacramento, so Rob, Megan, and Stella all made the trek to meet Millie in the 110 degree heat.

Despite the journey and the unreasonable weather, everyone decided that Millie was the perfect addition to the family. There were just a few (dozen) formalities and hoops to jump through, ranging from paperwork to insurance to home improvements, but finally the day arrived when Millie was to arrive at her new home. Mille’s chauffeur was supposed to inspect the premises and make sure they were up to standards before finalizing the adoption, so Megan made snacks, tidied up, and had fresh flowers and a sign ready to greet the new arrival:

However, the chauffeur made the mistake that people often do by underestimating the drive and relying on technology that does not work out here in what my stepmother used to call “the back of beyond”, where cellphones often don’t work and GPS sends you on strange routes that go everywhere except where you actually want to go.

They were supposed to arrive at 4:00, but at 7:30 they had not arrived. They finally contacted Megan from Navarro, and she met them at the Hooterville store after dark. So much for the grand tour of the property, the garden, the snacks, and everything else.

But Millie had arrived!

Millie was/is a super shy dog, and so far, Stella’s dreams of playing with her have gone unfulfilled, at least for now. But they both sleep in the bed, and if Millie isn’t ready to play with Stella yet, she is happy to lounge on her new sister:

Millie is adjusting to her new life. She enjoys the dog beds in the garden and is beginning to explore a little. I really think she has made a lot of progress in the short time they have had her. Stella’s calm and affectionate nature made Star feel much happier and safer, and I think she will have the same effect on Millie.

Welcome to the family, Millie!

A YEAR AGO: Audrey: 1. Suzy: 0.

FIVE YEARS AGO At the circus with our beloved ben. Guess what? Ben is set to become a father around Christmas!

TEN YEARS AGO A midnight call.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Newsflash: detox is not fun! Bet you’re surprised.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: The Rufus Report.

Deck

Things are changing over at Megan and Rob’s place.

They always wanted to change out the stairs they had, which were metal and hard for Megan’s reconstructed knee to deal with, as well as being slippery when wet, but they hadn’t gotten around to it until recently. They had extra motivation to get it done now – more about that later.

Rob and Jonathan made a design, measured, and acquired the wood and other essential building materials, like cement. Stain and sealant are yet to arrive, and Rob is still plotting the handrail, but all in all, it is basically done:

It makes such a huge difference! It is beautiful, for one thing, and it makes it much easier to get in and out of their place. There are plans to put a little bench to the left of the door, where one can put down groceries or one’s handbag, or even put on or take off shoes. As you can see, that part is under an awning, and will stay dry during the winter rains (hopefully we will get our share and more this upcoming season).

They would also like to add a little path to the gate, to minimize the mud/dust being tracked inside. Maybe gravel, maybe paving stones.

It is an exciting development, as is the reason for the acceleration of the project. Megan and Rob are getting a new dog!

Her name is Millie. She is two years old, and Megan, Rob, and Stella all went to meet her in distant Sacramento recently. Sacramento is about 4 hours’ drive and 40 degrees hotter than it is on the coast. During their get acquainted visit, the temperature was consistently over 100 degrees, which is pretty much intolerable to us coastal dwellers. It’s not surprising that we get heat refugees from Sacramento and environs every summer.

The purpose of the trip was to make sure that Stella and Millie got along and that Megan and Rob felt that Millie was the right dog to join their family. Stella has been very sad since Star’s sudden and untimely death. While she no longer goes back every day to the spot where Star died, she has definitely lost her bounce and joyfulness. It’s very clear that she needs a friend and companion.

Every time I’m over there, I realize how huge Star’s absence is. She was truly the heart of their household. And if I feel that way, it must be really hard for Stella. Star was already there when Stella arrived, and they spent every day and night together for many years. That’s a huge loss.

It’s probably just as well that it took so long to find Millie. Megan and Rob weren’t really ready for a new dog when they started looking, but they felt so bad for Stella that they did it anyway. They finally came across Millie, and after a rigorous adoption process, they have almost officially adopted her!

Millie will arrive the last week of August. The adoption team will bring her and take a look around to make sure everything looks good before Millie officially joins the family.

Millie was born without one of her leg bones, as you can see in this photo:

So she could not have managed the old steps, or at least, it would not have been easy. This way, she will easily be able to go in and out. And as you can see, she is a mini Stella, so they will be an adorable matched set.

We are all looking forward to Millie’s arrival!

A YEAR AGO: ‘Tis the season. For naked ladies and peaches.

FIVE YEARS AGO Enjoying family dinner together. And the fruit of the season.

TEN YEARS AGO File under miscellaneous.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: An unusual reunion

Etc.

Not much to report these days. This morning, the moon was huge and orange, peeking coyly out from billowing lavender clouds as I drove to work. We got some much-needed rain this weekend. It poured for a short time. We need every drop we can get, with a total of a mere 20 inches for the season. We should get more like 50. When Jonathan first moved here – which I realize was nearly 30 years ago! – there used to be closer to 70 inches. Climate change is definitely real.

§§§

The search continues for a companion for Stella. It is the first time Megan has had to go out looking for a dog. Usually, they find her, like Star and Stella did, both what we affectionately call “foster fails”. I realized last week marked the day Megan and I took an all-day road trip to pick up Star. I think Star knew that day that she had found her forever home; it just took the humans a little while to figure it out. All our lives changed that day.

I hope we can find someone who makes Stella feel happy and keeps her company.

§§§

I was saddened to hear of Prince Philip’s death. I wish he had been able to make it to his 100th birthday and the Queen’s 95th. He was so close! I watched his service, on a glorious spring day at ancient Windsor Castle. I was moved by the beauty of the music he had chosen and the presence of the military to honor his lifetime of service, including active duty, and dedication to Queen and country.

It was touching to see his family accompanying him to the chapel, particularly Princess Anne, who was known to be his favorite and who shared his love of horses and strong sense of duty and integrity. In her face, I saw reflected the same grief I felt for my own father 20 years ago, and the determination of having to get through the ceremony and the lifetime of grief that follows.

When the Queen arrived at the chapel for the service, I could have sworn I saw her instinctively turn and look where Prince Philip should have been, as if seeking his reassurance before facing the ordeal ahead. She looked so small and alone. She has lost her beloved companion of 73 years, the last to call her Lilibet and to remember her as a young woman, to remember her parents. She has lost so much with losing him. My heart aches for the Queen, woman to woman and mourner to mourner.

§§§

Somehow, Jessica turned 18! I’m not sure how this happened, or how it happened so quickly. We sent her some gifts, which I hope she enjoyed. We have essentially been out of touch since she and Erica moved, though Erica and I text each other from time to time. I guess it was inevitable that Jessica would outgrow her auntourage. I hope that one day, we find our way back to each other. She will always have a special place in my heart.

A YEAR AGO: Weekend routine.

FIVE YEARS AGO: My house was an internet-free zone. It was harder than you would believe to get it repaired.

TEN YEARS AGO: A sad, but loving, farewell.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Just another morbid Wednesday.

Animals

John’s kittens have been growing by leaps and bounds. They are now 6 months old, and were recently spayed. As might be expected, shy little Daisy was more horrified by the entire process than bold and brave Peach, but they both went running to Mom for comfort when they came home from the vet wearing mini cones of shame.

I have never had the experience of having a mother cat and her children in the same household. I think in the wild, the kids would be independent of Mom and possibly each other. But all living inside in the same house, they have stayed close and still cuddle. Willow still keeps a watchful eye on her progeny:

It must be so fun to see that dynamic. I hope it stays that way.

John and I disagree about whether they are still kittens. I say yes, and he says no. I think they are kittens until their first birthday. They are definitely looking more like cats than kittens these days, though.

As for my boyfriend Frank, he visits John daily. Their relationship has grown as fast as the kittens. At first, it was just for food, but now Frank lets John pet him. And gives him head butts, a sure sign of affection. He used to have sore eyes, which John has treated and improved, though he seems to get into fights occasionally, based on various wounds that have appeared from time to time. I think it’s all part of his rakish charm.

We don’t know where he sleeps, but even when it rains, he is dry when he turns up chez John for pets and food (now in that order). A happy Frank makes me happy, too.

Stella, on the other hand, is not happy. She misses Star so much. We all do. Stella did have a happy moment last week when a friend of Megan’s brought her dog Cooper over to play. Stella seemed like her old self again. It was really nice to see.

Megan is beginning to think that she needs to find a companion for Stella sooner rather than later, even though the humans in the house may not necessarily be ready. Megan has a line on a male foster dog who might be right for their household. You know how Stella loves the boys. Stay tuned!

A YEAR AGO: A well-traveled clock.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Nothing like having dinner made for you by someone else, I always say.

TEN YEARS AGO: A was recovering from her 3 month long hospital ordeal. She has never been the same, but I am still thankful that she is still with us. We email nearly every day.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: I still love this vase, made by the talented and handsome Aaron Oussoren. You can see more of his work here. As for the vase, it’s currently residing next to my TV, giving a welcome pop of color to the room.

Updates

The moon was huge and blazing orange this morning. I wondered what the light was through the dark trees, and it turned out to be my old friend the moon. She was so beautiful that I actually gasped out loud. By the time I got to the ocean, I could barely see a glimpse of her as she slid into the fog bank above the water, so I couldn’t take a picture. Not that I have ever taken a good picture of the moon.

As I drove down the darkling Ridge this morning, an owl swooped low in front of my car, perhaps in search of an early breakfast. I instinctively ducked – as if my lowering my head inside the car would help! – and also braked, and we both emerged from the encounter unscathed. I love owls. If I had a totem animal, I think it would be an owl.

I also saw a group of young deer heading home after being out all night. It’s the baby animal time of year. It’s definitely spring now. The trees are leafed out in that translucent green they only have in spring, the California poppies are unfurling their bright orange blossoms by the side of the road, joined by spiky purple irises. The magnolia blossoms at the library have been replaced by lilacs, my favorites.

Despite the beauty of the season and the hopefulness it typically brings, we are still feeling sad at the loss of Star. Stella has been taking the loss of her companion harder than we expected. Stella is normally such a happy-go-lucky dog that we didn’t expect her sadness, though when you think about the fact that they were always together:

And that this change is as big in Stella’s life as it is in Rob’s and Megan’s, it only makes sense that big, goofy Stella is also grieving. For several days after Star’s death, Stella went back to the place she died and sniffed it. She also sniffed where Star used to sleep and eat. I guess we are all adjusting to the After phase of our lives.

Megan is making an effort to take Stella out to meet other people and dogs. She has always been super friendly, but Star was reserved and suspicious of strangers, so it was best for her to stay home, so that meant that Stella stayed home, too. But now she can walk around the Village and enjoy the attention she invariably gets, as well as the view from the Headlands:

Megan is planning to have Stella meet some friends’ dogs and perhaps take some classes as well. You may remember that she passed her Canine Good Citizenship class on the first try, though she might need a refresher course.

Megan and I enjoyed a night of GirlTV™ (Emily in Paris! Where is Season 2 already?) and GirlTalk™ (Tales from the ER!) last weekend. We are lucky that Rob is so tolerant of both these things.

A YEAR AGO: You can bring a girl to Michelin-starred food, but you can’t make her eat it.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Setting up the grandfather clock and remembering its history.

TEN YEARS AGO: Indoor and outdoor flooding.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Jump in the wayback machine with me! We’re going to Italy, circa 1984.

Gone


Our Shining Star

Star died around 1:00 pm on Saturday, March 13.

She was lying in the sun in the garden when she started coughing up blood. Stella started barking like crazy. She is not a barker or freaker outer, so she knew something was wrong*. Rob ran to get Megan, who was sleeping after her third 12 hour night shift of the week, and by the time they got back to the garden, Star was gone. Megan called me and we had what may have been the shortest conversation we ever had:

Me: Hi, sweetie!

Megan: I think Star just died.

Me: Be right there.

It seemed like a long drive over there. I wished it was 2 minutes, the way it used to be, instead of 20. I blew by the 30 mile an hour signs at 55.

I was glad I stopped by to see her on Friday and had that last visit with her. She and Megan walked me to my car, and I watched them in my side mirror until they were out of sight. Megan told me later that Star watched me drive away. I wonder if she knew it was the last time.

Star was still happy to see me on Friday, though she also seemed tired. I thought it would happen sometime this week, but not so soon. I was planning to visit her again over the weekend.

Star looked peaceful other than the blood. She was lying in the garden, near the rows of onions and garlic, her clean fur shining in the sun. Megan and I put Star on a soft, lavender flannel sheet and moved her to the bench of the picnic table for ease of petting. Stella again barked and ran around when we moved Star.

We spent a few hours petting and kissing Star, burying our noses in her silky coat to smell her familiar smell, or just resting our hands on her soft fur as we reminisced and cried, trying to begin to come to terms with this huge loss.

When the time came, Rob took Star for one last ride in the golf cart, in the front seat, of course. I walked behind them with my head bowed and my heart aching. I felt honored that I had been there for the beginning of Star’s time with us, and to be there at the end.

It was hard to say goodbye, and it broke my heart to see Megan so heartbroken. She couldn’t stop kissing Star’s face and holding her in floods of tears. Rob and I tried to keep it together for Megan. I rubbed her back as she bent over Star, whispering her last words of love and comfort and giving a final kiss to that beloved, beautiful face.

Rob laid Star to rest gently, making sure she was tucked in before we filled in the grave, that final service for a loved one, as the late winter afternoon shone down upon us.

I am grateful for the 11 years we had with Star, and for the love, joy, and beauty she brought to our lives. Rest easy, sweet girl. You are forever loved.

*I later learned that even the most placid dogs have been known to bark at death. A friend told me that she was alerted to her mother’s death by their dogs barking up a storm. Maybe they are warning the pack that something is very, very wrong.

Star

Star was feeling under the weather, and then she started gagging and making coughing noises. A concerned Megan took Star to see Dr. Karen, and tests revealed that Star secretly had cancer somewhere – we don’t know where – which has spread into her lungs, which was causing the coughing and gagging.

This was a staggering blow to Megan, who adores Star and assumed she had a few more good years with her beloved companion. Faithful readers may recall the Great Dog Rescue Adventure, eleven years ago next month, when Megan and I spent the day driving to Colusa to pick up Star and bring her home with us. I think it was around 8 hours of driving.

I also think Star knew that Megan was her person, even though Megan didn’t. When we went to get Star, we thought that Megan would foster her until a permanent home could be found. When we stopped to get gas, Megan went inside the gas station, and Star immediately jumped into the front seat, her eyes glued to where Megan had last been seen. They had only known each other for a few hours at this point, but Star had clearly decided that Megan was her mama and that was it. To this day, Star still does the same thing if Megan leaves the car with Star in it.

Star’s original owner jumped off the cliffs into the ocean and Star tried (and failed) to rescue her, despite the fact that the owner was, to say the least, not kind to her. Star was sent to live with the owner’s boyfriend, who kept up the tradition of treating Star very badly indeed, so we were glad to take her away from all that.

She certainly happily hopped into my car that day, and I truly believe that my being there when her bad old life ended and the new fabulous one began has never been forgotten by Star. No one is ever as happy to see me as Star is.

I have been stopping by on my way home to visit with Star while we still have her. She is on Predisone, which seems to be helping. Her breathing sounds a little weird, and she is subdued. She is still happy to see me, her tail wagging excitedly, but she is not as bouncy. I think both she and Stella know what is happening. Maybe they can smell it or something. Star is lying close to Stella, and Stella is bathing her and generally fussing over Star.

But Star is still happy. She is riding in the golf cart:


lounging in the sun with Stella, supervising in the greenhouse as spring approaches:


and providing that all-important quality control when Megan works at home (you can see Stella in the background):

.

We don’t know how long we will have with her, but we will enjoy every moment.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A stormy day.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A really bad case of the flu.

Stella


The velvety Stella having fun in the woods

Megan noticed a bump on Stella’s velvety grey leg. She took Stella to see Dr. Karen, who did a needle biopsy and then said the C word. You know, the one no one wants to hear. The lump had to go, but it was a long two week wait until Dr. Karen had room in her schedule to do the deed. It gave Megan time to scrape together the shocking amount* of money needed for the surgery without knocking over a liquor store or going on a multi-state crime spree. It also gave us a lot of time to worry.

The day finally came. Megan decided that while Stella was knocked out, they might as well clean her teeth and trim her nails, so we knew it would be a long day. Megan joined me at the clinic after she dropped Stella off, thinking she could get in a couple of hours’ work before Stella was ready.

It ended up being almost a whole day. Dr. Karen removed several moles, just in case, along with the lump on Stella’s leg, and also found one “near her jugular”. This did not sound good to me. They did a scan which revealed no other lurking C, to our relief, but we will have to be extra vigilant from now on. Fortunately, Stella doesn’t have a lot of fur and loves to be petted, so that will help.

The poor girl looked in worse shape than Megan’s wallet when she was released. She is the Patchwork Dog of Oz, with stitches all over that somehow have to be kept magically clean while they heal up:

Star, of course, was worried about her beloved companion, and sniffed Stella carefully when she finally got home. She has been staying close ever since. It is sweet how bonded they are and how much Star has come to rely on the calming presence of the younger Stella (much like my neurotic self relies on my much younger and wiser sister to get through life.)

We are now waiting to hear what stage the cancer was at when it was removed, which is nerve-wracking, though it was encouraging to hear that there were clean margins. So we are hoping for the best, keeping Stella as clean as we can, and petting her as much as we can.

*Nearly $1,800!

A YEAR AGO: A neighborly day (and evening).

FIVE YEARS AGO: Terrifying wildfires in nearby counties. They are every Californian’s worst fear, and reasonably so.

TEN YEARS AGO: Making fruit crumble, with apologies to the great Jacques Pépin.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: What I am.

Ginger


Ginger and Jonathan at our childhood home

I came across this photo recently of my brother and our dog Ginger at our childhood home in upstate New York.

The photo gives a clear view of our route to the school bus stop, at the Nagels’ farm, just across the road from the Morgans’ house, on the upper right hand side. Given that our driveway was about a quarter of a mile long, I think it was close to half a mile to the bus stop, rain, shine, or snow. I clearly remember following the path we made in the snow. Sometimes we would walk past the five acres of pine trees, which housed our tree house and the large enclosure for the wounded* Snowy Owl who lived there for many years. We chose a Christmas tree there every year to cut down and bring home.

It was only recently that I wondered why my mother, who never worked, did not drive us to the bus stop, or to school, for that matter.

Ginger did not follow us to the bus stop, though he was never far from Jonathan’s side, and rescued him a couple of times, Lassie-style, from falling through a snow bank and into the nearby creek. Ginger never had much use for females of any kind, though he had a soft spot for the Nagels’ dog Daisy, who was actually allowed to play on our land. Ginger was welcome at the Nagels’ farm, where he obligingly removed the rat population from the barn.

Everyone needs a hobby, and Ginger’s was killing things. He was very efficient, from the few times I saw him in action. A swift neck break and it was all over. He also took his guardian duties seriously, even silly females like Mom, Megan, and me. When Dad was home, Ginger slept on the landing of the stairs, but when he was away, Ginger slept stretched out across the front door. No one was getting in without his knowledge.

Ginger was devoted to Dad. After all, Dad found him.

For some reason, Dad used to load us into the car and take us grocery shopping on Saturday mornings. We would also go to the library and anywhere else that was necessary, like the hardware or feed store. Again, it’s only in the last couple of years that I wondered why he didn’t just go alone, which would have been much easier.

On this particular day, we arrived at the Victory Market to discover that they had animals up for adoption, an arrangement that Jonathan would refer to as a “pity pit” as an adult. Jonathan would adopt the unforgettable Jed** the Wonder Dog from a pity pit on the other side of the country about 20 years later. Dad warned us that we could look at the animals, but we were not, under any circumstances, taking one home.

Of course, we would have agreed to just about anything to go and pet the puppies and kittens. One of those puppies jumped into Dad’s arms and stuck his wet, cold nose into Dad’s neck. Ginger came home with us that day, and was a beloved part of the family. He had his quirks, but we all do, and we all loved him. He was a great dog for kids who played outside as much as we did, year-round.

We were all shocked and saddened when Ginger was accidentally killed by hunters, but it was hardest, I think, for my father. I still remember the stricken look on his face. He immediately set off over the fields alone, where I suspect he wept and mourned his old friend where he could not be seen. He refused to get another dog** until Megan rescued Jesse, the last dog Dad would own, many years later. But that’s another story.

*Like Ginger, the owl was shot by hunters. Unlike Ginger, he survived. He was equally beautiful and fearsome.

**Jed has been gone for 13 years, and Jonathan has never adopted another dog. I don’t think he ever will. Jed was a once in a lifetime dog.

A YEAR AGO: Dodge’s daring (and destructive) escape.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A fun day off with my sister.

TEN YEARS AGO: A long day for my little sister.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Watching TV shows about a fictional hospital in an actual hospital.

Ten

Today marks a decade since I moved to Hooterville! Can you believe it? So much has happened since the day my brothers drove the truck full of my things and stuff up the highway and the curving roads while I followed with a howling and indignant Audrey. It was a long drive.

It was a big adjustment, going from city life to country life, and it was hard at first. But now I wouldn’t move back to San Francisco, even if I were the zillionaire such a move would require. I love living in the woods, with the loudest sound the wind in the trees and bird songs. And the San Francisco I knew and loved is gone.

A lot has changed in the past ten years. I lost no fewer than three beloved cats: the exquisite June (Audrey’s sister); ancient, scrappy little Henry Etta, who I brought with me from Oakhampton; and the irreplaceable Roscoe (Clyde’s brother). It’s no coincidence that my current feline line up of Audrey, Clyde, and Dodge are not allowed outside. That’s where the monsters are, and I am avoiding them like the plague they are.

During the time I have been here, my sister lost her beloved Schatzi, our last link to our mother, and her sweet cat Ramona. She still has Ramona’s sister, the beautiful Harriet, going strong at 18 years old. Along the way, we trekked to Colusa to rescue her dog Star, whom Megan ending up adopting, who was later joined by the inimitable Stella. Star is always so happy to see me that I am secretly convinced that she remembers I was there with Megan on the day she was saved and her perfect life began.

My sister moved away from the property we both lived on to the one where our brother lives. Things were never quite the same. My former landlord moved away without letting me know, and I moved a few months later. I love my new, beautiful, and let’s face it, improved house, but I will always have a soft spot in my heart for my quirky old place, despite all its eccentricities, even though I am much happier at the new place. It still seems like a dream after five months of living there.

My brother adopted his adorable and fierce mini cat, Scout, and fell in love with his lovely girlfriend Rio. He is happier with her than I have ever seen him. And she makes up for our lack of reproducing by having four adult kids and three small grandchildren.

Wells were dug at the family estate, and an epic garden and orchard, now an acre in size, were built and fenced (and then electrified to bear proof it) on the inhospitable pygmy soil. It is now a thing of beauty and a wonder to behold.

Erica and Jessica moved away following a family tragedy, and I miss them every day. The good news is that they are in the process of moving a little closer, to Portland, so I’m hoping to see them at least once a year. I miss them.

I finally got divorced after a long separation. I believe that now John and I have been apart longer than we were married. But he still means a great deal to me and I will always love him. We are in touch nearly every day. I am trying to support him as best I can through cancer treatments for one of his beloved cats. And if he called me at 2 am and needed bail, help burying a body, or a ride somewhere I’d grab my keys and be out the door. I don’t consider our relationship to be a failure.

I got a new (to me) car, which carries me to the Big Town nearly every day. I estimate I drive 250 miles a week, just to work and back. I also have a less new job, of nearly five years’ standing, which I acquired when the business my partner and I built and poured all our time, dedication, and money into disappeared, taking my livelihood and career with it. It was hard to recover from that devastation, and in some ways I am still working on it, but I am grateful I found this job when I needed it. Before the job, I had the jobette, which is sadly long gone now, but the friendships I made there remain.

I wonder what the next ten years will bring? Whatever it is, it will be unexpected. Some of it will be great, some of it will be horrible, and through it all, I will have my family and my friends.

A YEAR AGO: A sleepover with Jessica.

FIVE YEARS AGO: My fifth anniversary in beautiful Hooterville.

TEN YEARS AGO: I think you know.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Getting a call from the dry cleaner. Now I live where there is no dry cleaner.

Ins & Outs

The outdoor flowers may be underperforming, but the indoor amaryllis has been picking up its slack.

The overachiever amaryllis has a third bloom on it, whereas the underachiever managed one blossom and was long ago put away to rest and recuperate and hopefully bloom next year. In its defense, though, it did jump off the shelf in despair – or was it pushed? – and that affected both the lifespan and overall jauntiness. I’m sure being right next to the overachiever, flaunting its seemingly endless and giant flowers, didn’t help either.

The line between indoors and outdoors is always somewhat blurred at Stately Suzy Manor, which is one of the reasons that Mark was performing surgery on the somewhat odd kitchen sink drainage system one sunny afternoon.

My house was hand built by a hippie back in the day. He was an artist and eccentric, who bent all the redwood himself by hand to create its characteristic upside down rowboat shape:

So you will probably not be surprised to hear that the kitchen sink drains into a sort of cement pan under what I rather optimistically call the back porch, though it is in fact just some wooden slats hammered together, seen here being modeled by our lovely spokescat, the Adorable Audrey Grey:

The outside shower also drains into this, and then into a pipe that snakes its way invisibly (which is somewhat surprising) to the nearby woods, where it empties into a ditch. I am guessing that the indoor shower might also hook up to the exit pipe at some point, though I’m not sure. The indoor bathroom was a later addition after the house’s architect went to the great drafting board in the sky.

So occasionally the pipe gets plugged and backs up into the cement pan, which in turn smells less than delightful. Mark basically snaked out the exit pipe and dug the ditch a little longer and deeper and everything was back to what passes for normal around here after he sluiced out the cement pan.

Needless to say, the dogs were extremely interested in the grossness of it all, as dogs are. They spend a fair amount of time at my house, greeting me when I come home from work and cruising by for petting when the mood strikes them, and I have gotten quite attached to whole herd of them, from the grande dame Luna to giant puppy Kovu.

While Mark was working on the drainage system and shooing the dogs away (or attempting to), he told me that he is planning to move to Southern California. He has a thriving business selling succulents on the interwebs, and says the plants will do better in a warmer climate. He is hoping I can take over responding to customer emails and maybe write a blog for him.

I’m happy to do that, but I am really sad to lose Mark and his family:

as my neighbors. I love knowing we are there for each other. Mark’s sister-in-law and her husband will still live here, but it won’t be the same. I will really miss the dogs, too. The thought of their not being there to greet me – and to keep the property safe from monsters, as they do with their patrolling – makes me sad.

I guess we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, I will enjoy my neighbors’ friendship and pet the dogs as much as I can.

Back Up

It took me three tries to get home on Friday night.

Wednesday and I had turned onto the long driveway, with its astonishing collection of water filled craters (or super puddles), and I was looking forward to an adult beverage after a long and crazy week at work of preparing for the annual fundraiser, among other things*. Not so fast, missy!

The driveway is also only wide enough for one car, so when Mark’s wife Citlali came down the driveway headed straight for me, I had to back up. Now, backing up is not one of my special skills. Instantly knowing whether someone is a guy or a girl? You bet. Guessing which piece is the most expensive in “New Yorker” jewelry ads? Absolutely! Choose the perfect wine for dinner? I am your girl. But backing up? Not so much.

My lack of talent in this arena is exacerbated, or possibly enhanced, by Wednesday’s infamous gangsta dark windows. In the spirit of full disclosure here, I will just say that I long ago ceased using my rearview mirror and rely solely on the side ones. So I backed up slowly, hoping that I wouldn’t hear the distinctive sound of huckleberry bushes and rhododendrons scratching Wednesday’s paint. Or, you know, hit a tree.

Whew. I made it to the loop in front of the Front House, and then started drinkward once again. Another car came down the driveway toward me. I said out loud, “Are you kidding me?” and retraced my steps, or tracks. I didn’t realize it was Megan until she was already past me.

I figured I must be through with backing up practice, hopefully for the rest of the year, but as usual, I was wrong. An unknown grey car was the next one to get between me and a now necessary cocktail. I backed into the loop for the third time, and when the coast was clear, drove as fast as I could to Stately Suzy Manor, where Kovu greeted me with a plastic Santa in his mouth. Much like Me, the Santa had seen much better days, but Kovu was very proud of it anyway. I petted him and told him what a good boy he was, and he trotted off to show someone else his prize.

Welcome home!

*One of the “other things” was rodential in nature, if not in Nature. One of the doctors and a couple of the staff had noticed the presence of a rat in the courtyard, and did not welcome the new neighbor. We set a trap, and the new neighbor was smart enough to get the bait without being trapped. But rats don’t seem to have as many lives as cats, and at the end of the day on Friday, I discovered it was also the end of the rat’s days.

I asked Facilities Guy if he could dispose of the undearly departed, after apologizing for the poor timing of the request. He had just returned from his 108 year old great aunt’s graveside service. He laughed and said, “Two funerals in one day!”

A YEAR AGO: The wonders of the fine woodworking show.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The delights of Drybar.

TEN YEARS AGO: The joys of a new library card.

More Cats & Dogs

I think I can safely say that I survived The Plague. I was laughing at myself when I was running around cleaning my bathroom before getting ready for work on Friday. I figured I must be feeling better if I actually cared what the house looked like. When I was sick, I could not care less and anything and everything seemed like a giant effort, from getting dressed to breathing. For some reason, I had a fervent fantasy that day of coming home to a tidy house. I love it when my fantasies come true.

The next day I had a cooking marathon, including Ottolenghi’s mejadra and All’Amatriciana sauce for pasta, so you know I’m back.

Mark’s dogs were back in force yesterday. I was too slow getting out of the car for Kovu’s taste, and he leaped in joyfully. Fortunately for the health and welfare of my work wardrobe, the muddy paw damage was confined to my winter coat.

Usually, they trot off homewards after telling me how glad they are that I have returned, but yesterday, they decided to hang around. They apparently wanted to come in the house, since the whole herd hung out on the back porch, some of them barking, which drew Audrey’s irate attention. She was incandescent with rage that they dared to be on her turf, and she was growling louder than they were barking. She puffed herself up and kept flinging her small but furious body against the sliding glass doors, making them shake. Here she is preparing for another assault:

Note the puffy tail and air of fury.

Clyde withdrew to the stairs, his eyes huge, where he could watch Audrey take on the interlopers while yet being safe. He is a lover, not a fighter*, and of course he is an excellent supervisor. I decided to close the rarely used drapes, thinking that out of sight might be out of mind. This ploy eventually worked, and Audrey depuffed after stalking around the house and looking carefully out of all the windows and doors before going huffily off to take a nap.

*Having said that, I recently noticed that his left ear is slightly shredded. Audrey strikes again? I didn’t mind Roscoe’s torn ear – it seemed in keeping with his wildness – but I don’t love seeing the baby boy with a battle scarred ear. I hope he doesn’t secretly have a tattoo under his fur.

A YEAR AGO: A civilized break in the work week.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The glories of my favorite San Francisco museum.

TEN YEARS AGO: Hockey and Devo. It’s how I roll.

Cats & Dogs

The Plague is finally beginning to lose its death grip on our heroine, but after all this time, I am still not fully restored to health and sanity, though of course I am back at work, having burned through 42 hours of paid time off without the advantages of having fun, getting rest, or restoring my severely depleted batteries.

I also failed to enjoy the short weeks over the holidays, being fully occupied with being sick, and now I’m back to the five day a week grind, staring down the barrel of a 12 hour day yesterday and the ordeal of the annual fundraiser, which is of course this month. Basically I am still living on Vernors ginger ale and Jacob’s Cream Crackers.

Plague: 5,042 Suzy: 0

I haven’t seen Mark yet this new year, but I see his dogs every day when I get home from work, and they greet me with outsized and muddy enthusiasm. The current dramatis personae is sweet old Luna; pretty Lupe; cute little Blue; and super bouncy Kovu. This is Kovu:

For some reason, Kovu used to be horrified by me, but he got way over that stage, and now he has the enthusiasm of the converted. If I don’t get out of the car fast enough to suit him, he climbs muddily in, to the detriment of Wednesday’s upholstery and my work wardrobe. I think he would like to move in with me. I might like that too, but Queen Audrey would object and little Clyde would be scared, so for now, all Kovu petting has to take place outside.

As for inside…I went to dig out some potatoes from the buckets in the studio the other day and discovered that potatoes were not all that was in the buckets.

It appeared that Audrey decided that the potato buckets were her personal litter boxes. Undoubtedly, she considered it very thoughtful of the Staff to have so many of them available for her exclusive use, since Clyde has never thought outside the box in his life.

The Staff, however, was less thrilled. An informal survey revealed that Audrey’s contributions were more than surface deep, so I ended up hauling all the buckets outside in the rain, with plans to empty them into the woods if/when I feel up to it or can persuade the long-suffering Rob to do so for me.

A YEAR AGO: The power was on an extended vacation amidst stormy weather.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Be careful what you wish for.

Miscellaneous

Wondering what’s been happening in SuzyWorld™?

Well, lots of nothing mostly.

The car thing is dragging on into its millionth year. There has been a certain amount of progress, however. The slowdown/lack of power thing has not reared its ugly head again after my brother reset the car’s computer brain (if only he could do that for his now younger sister’s brain!), and I learned that the slowdown thing is linked to the wrench light, not the engine light. Apparently the wrench light is to be feared much more than the engine light.

And the engine light is on again, or still. It seems to have something to do with air hoses or emissions or something not tragic. Jonathan and Rob are supposed to look at it again this weekend and order the necessary parts. I am still waiting for them to change the brake pads and do the oil change, since they want to do everything at once, which is understandable, but also slightly frustrating. In the meantime, Wednesday is still going and stopping, which is all I really require of a car.

The inspectors came out to inspect Mark’s trenching project about a week ago. He said he would fill it in and apply gravel so it’s not a mud bath around my house, but you may not be surprised to hear that nothing has happened. We are going on a year now, and I have to change shoes to take out the garbage or go to the compost pile, and then change them back again, which has gotten pretty old. Needless to say, the driveway is a potholed and puddled nightmare again. Or still…

I have been trying to spend time with my friends in an effort to through off the nebulous malaise, the worry about the car, and the impending doom of the holiday party and annual fundraiser at work. Jim and I met for drinks at Ledford House and enjoyed the sunset, which happens so fast this time of year, like a curtain dropping:

His parents have sold their house in Palm Springs and are moving into a smaller apartment, so he has been helping them go through their things and downsize. So many people I know have aging parents, and some have both aging parents and challenging teenagers, a difficult barbell to balance.

I saw Angelika both professionally and personally. She brightened up my hair one day and we met for lunch on another. She is so positive and inspiring! I am really glad we have expanded our relationship past the professional. Her friendship is a gift.

I met up with the owners of the dog I hit with the car last year – last year! – and we had lunch together. I am pleased to report that the dog is just fine, and you can hardly even see the scar, though it is sprinkled with white hairs, much in the way Clyde’s neck is from where the Slobber Monster tried to kill him a few years ago. It was great to spend some time together under better circumstances, and we have plans to walk my recovered victim in the Botanical Gardens.

And Erin and I finally found time to hang out together over a glass of wine at her lovely house. She got a “new” job a couple of months ago (when I turned down an offer for her old one, which I have had cause to regret from time to time ever since), and this was the first chance we had to catch up and talk about it. Erin’s Mom was there, too, the glamorous Carol. We had a wonderful time and we promised each other to meet up soon. There’s nothing like spending some time with friends to throw off the mysterious malaise.

A YEAR AGO: A day at the beach in beautiful Elk.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Stormy weather.

Perfect Day (Part II)

We hopped back into Megan’s little red car and continued south on Highway One, past meadows of wildflowers dotted with cows, sheep, and horses, tall, rolling hills, tunnels of windswept cypresses, and always, the blue Pacific, its waves crashing against the rocky shore.

We drove through Point Arena, where we will hopefully be seeing more ballets and plays this winter, and as we approached the little campground at Anchor Bay, Megan suggested that we stop in and check it out. Every time we drive by it, we think of doing this, and today was the day!

It’s a charming little campground, with some permanent residents:

And other spaces for RVs and tents. There is a little store, showers, and even a fish/abalone cleaning station. The very helpful gentleman in the office told us that it has been there since 1925. He also let us go and look at the beach without paying for a day pass, and it turned out to the most beautiful beach in the county:

It looks like a southern California beach! Beaches here tend to be rocky rather than sandy. It was a delightful discovery and we will definitely go back.

Just down the road, we picked up Thai food at the ever-delicious Thai Kitchen, now with extra sparkle:

After stowing our dinners in the trunk, we picked up sandwiches and ate them at a little picnic table. Then we headed back north to Manchester State Beach.

Their website says dogs are allowed on leash, but when we got there, we discovered signs showing that they are not allowed at all. Being the only people there, we decided to ignore the signs and plead ignorance if a park ranger turned up and yelled at us.

We took a sandy path:

Past wild lupines and California poppies, to find the sea:

And a huge, unpopulated beach:

It is supposed to be four miles long, and I can believe it. Continuing our scofflaw ways, we let the dogs off their leashes, and it was a pleasure to watch them racing joyfully around the beach in the sunshine, their coats gleaming and ears flying. I love seeing them so happy.

We made our way back to the car through the tall wildflowers and headed home for Thai food and champagne. It was a perfect day, and the perfect way to spend my birthday.

A YEAR AGO: My little guy turned six.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A surprise trip to Willits!

Perfect Day (Part 1)

The great lead up to the great day culminated in a perfect birthday.

It dawned bright and shiny, as seen from my balcony:

I Marilyned* my morning by lounging in bed with the kitties, drinking coffee, reading birthday emails, and feeling blonde all over. Eventually, I got up and headed over to Megan’s house, where Rob presented me with a hanging planter he had made for me. He is looking for a drapy kind of plant to put in it and copper wire to hang it by, so stay tuned.

No one is ever as happy to see me as Star, and Stella has decided that if Star is excited to see me, she should be, too, so I felt pretty special as they jumped around me for joy.

Star always wants to drive, but Megan never lets her.

We headed for the beautiful south coast, and it was a postcard day. The sky and ocean were dazzling blue, and it was warm, but not hot. The rolling hillsides were just beginning to turn from winter’s green to summer’s “gold”, and the wildflowers have reached new depths and heights from all the rain we got this season.

On our many south coast excursions, we have always wanted to check out the cemetery in Elk, where Druids mingle with Catholics:

I suggested that it should be our first stop, which Megan found humorous. “You want to go to a cemetery? On your birthday?” To which I replied, “I’m not there yet.” Those who are there have a stunning view for all eternity:

No matter which way you looked:

We noticed that many of the gravestones noted the owner’s origins, from England, Ireland, Italy, as far away as Australia (imagine getting here in the 1800s from Australia!) and as relatively close as New York:

Many of them also commemorated the months and days of the occupant’s life span, which we didn’t remember seeing before for adults. There were beautiful stones that still looked new after more than a century’s weather:

Hands were a recurring motif:

It is just a beautiful place, almost certainly the loveliest cemetery I have ever seen. It is still in use, with some recent burials, and I noticed that someone had placed flags on all the veterans’ graves for Memorial Day, which was nice to see.

On the way back to the car, I noticed this valiant little flower growing in a gnarled old cypress tree:

There is unexpected beauty everywhere.

Up next: Beaches and Thai food!

A YEAR AGO: A happily uneventful birthday with a surprising détente.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A wonderful milestone birthday with my friends at the jobette. Those were the days!

*Marilyn once confided her daily routine, including this: “I hate to do things in a hurried, tense atmosphere, and it is virtually impossible for me to spring out of bed in the morning. On Sunday, which is my one day of total leisure, I sometimes take two hours to wake up, luxuriating in every last moment of drowsiness.”