Saturday, December 31, 2011

was it all a dream

from the upstairs window, 2011

I just woke up and I'm wondering ...wait, was it all a dream?

Beginning the day with a walk on a beautiful empty beach, the bobcat, the fox, the Dungeness crab on our brunch table, the midday nap.

Either way, I figure it is worth writing down and saving.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Shifting Gears

Winter, 2011

So, we've officially entered winter. I hope you are enjoying it. It feels good over here.

I just walked up the hill with this mound of my favorite citrus, Rio Star grapefruits and satsumas. Stella Pastry is baking the panettone I will pick up this afternoon. I've learned that I will have a small plot for gardening this summer and my beloved Kitazawa Seed Co. catalog has arrived. I feel a shift.

All I need is a novel, one that is light, perhaps funny, but is still good. Does it exist? I don't want trash, unless it happens to be good trash, then please tell me about it. All I seem to adore in the literary world is the beautiful writing that almost inevitably involves an underlying sadness. I still love this work. I'll always love this work, but I need a small break, to shift gears for a brief period of time. Can you help?

I know most of you are busy with the holiday season and all, but if you have a moment and can think of anything old or new that might suit my mood, please offer your suggestion. Just type it in the comments section quickly, don't worry about typos or links, I'll figure it out.

Thank you, kind readers.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


The bus to Rodeo Beach, 2011

Rodeo Beach, 2011

He meant doing things not because we were expected to do them or had always done them or should do them but because we wanted to do them. He meant wanting. He meant living.

- Joan Didion The Year of Magical Thinking

Monday, December 19, 2011

New Traditions

Christmas Whale, 2011

We've added a small tree, clearly inspired by Charlie Brown, complete with felted acorn and papier-mâché whale, to our holiday spirit collection. I also made some cookies. Chris mistakenly bought a mint chocolate bar versus simple dark chocolate, so we just went with it. These cookies are so good and super simple. And almost gone.

Oatmeal Chocolate Mint Cookies
makes about 24 cookies

Preheat oven to 350°F and gather your ingredients.

1/4 pound (1 stick) softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fleurs de sel
1 1/2 cups whole grain oats
1 3/4 ounces (half 3.5 oz bar) dark mint chocolate bar rough cut into 1/2 inch pieces

In a medium bowl mix softened butter and sugar with a fork until creamy.

Add egg to butter and sugar
and mix well.

pour flour, baking soda, and fleurs de sel on top of butter sugar egg mixture, without blending the dry ingredients into the wet.

Stir the flour mixture very gently as it sits atop the butter, sugar, egg mixture. The goal is to combine and evenly distribute the dry ingredients before mixing them into the wet ingredients (no need to wash a second bowl).

Combine flour mixture with butter, sugar, egg mixture, evenly distributing all ingredients.

Stir in oats.

Stir in chocolate pieces.

Place tablespoon size rounds of dough onto cookie sheet.

Bake for about 8 minutes and then keep a close eye on your cookies. You want them to just start to dry on top and be light brown on the bottom.

Cool on cookie sheet for a couple of minutes and move to wire rack.

They are really good warm.


These cookies made me miss you, Marshall Field & Company. I miss your Christmas tree in your Walnut Room and your Frango Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies and your animated Christmas window displays on State Street. Those cold winter trips downtown I began adoring as a little girl just aren't the same without you. Thank you for the memories...

Marshall Field was famous for his slogan "Give the lady what she wants." A wise man.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's like someone's pinched me.

Solo Trip, 2011

I cannot stop thinking about a sentence I read a few weeks ago.
"Women live longer than men because they really haven't been living."
It was something Diane Keaton's mother noted in one of her journals. She read it in a Tom Robbins novel.

I know it was fiction, so why am I so irked? All I keep thinking is what ridiculous crap.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

when I truly pay attention

dust and cupcake, 2011

I thought I was a creator, but when I truly pay attention I realize I'm more of an archaeologist, simply digging to find what already exists, dusting it off, and looking at it in a new way.

Monday, December 12, 2011

One day I brought home a big fat red peony.

December, 2011

It's been good to me so far.

What's new with you?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Joan Didion Notes / 24:

Life, 2011

When I saw Joan Didion in conversation with Vendela Vida I was listening so intently I only made a few notes.

November 15, 2011

Joan Didion

24 - Her mother told her it was her favorite year.

24 - She reads a passage she has written about being a little girl and describing what her life will be like when she is 24. She is wearing a sable coat and dark sunglasses. She will be on the front steps of a South American public building. She will be getting a divorce.

24 - After her husband died she no longer felt 24 because he was the last person who'd known her when she was 24.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Some things just stay with you.

While getting dressed I thought of the conversation last night and how it exemplified the little pockets of
beauty hidden throughout our lives, even beneath the heavy folds of sadness.

I made this photograph and wrote the accompanying words on November 16, 2011. Someone commented on it today, the first Monday in December 2011, and prompted me to return to it and study its contents. It has me thinking back to words that originally moved me in August 2003. Those words were first published in 1974, as part of a nonfiction narrative by Annie Dillard. You glimpse a few of those words in the photograph. I wrote briefly about the words in September 2009.

Some things just stay with you.

The world's spiritual geniuses seem to discover universally that the mind's muddy river, this ceaseless flow of trivia and trash, cannot be dammed, and that trying to dam it is a waste of effort that might lead to madness. Instead you must allow the muddy river to flow unheeded in the dim channels of consciousness; you raise your sights; you look along it, mildly, acknowledging its presence without interest and gazing beyond it into the realm of the real where subjects and objects act and rest purely, without utterance. "Launch into the deep," says Jacques Ellul, "and you shall see."

excerpt from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ten days ago...

Armeria maritima var. californica, 2011

transcribed from my Moleskine, shown above:

November 20, 2011
close to 7 AM

I am 44 years old today, officially in about an hour.

Again, my dreams were filled with wild cats.

The sky is a white tending toward a very light grey tending toward the lightest of blues. There was a little rain, but it has stopped, for now. The tree branches on the east side of the house wave, the branches on the west side are still.

The heat is filling the glass house, the sun is rising, and I sit here upon the Jetsons-style sofa taking it all in through transparent walls, documenting with sleepy hands and thought patterns.

Chris is asleep.

I believe I saw our grey owl again, but he disappeared into the trees before I could confirm.

The large moth was searching for light in the kitchen this morning while I poured my first glass of sparkling water. We've been drinking sparkling water exclusively because the orange-tinted tap water, although promised to be perfectly fine, does not appeal to us.

Yesterday Chris suggested I give the large moth a name so he would seem less menacing. He thought Bernard might work. I agreed. Bernard has now followed me into the living area. Last night Bernard was in my shower. I think he likes me.

The heater pauses and the cold sets in quickly.

This beautiful home was not constructed for heating efficiency. Understood. This is California. But there is quite a chill up here.

The local paper leads me to believe the National Park Service will reclaim this land, along with this glass tree house, in April of next year. What will the park service do with a glass studio perched on stilts, accessible by small tram? A meditation space for rangers?

I think I'll crawl back into bed.

The Jetsons

Monday, November 28, 2011

Another Me

@76-A, 2008

I'm missing her today...

photograph: Christopher Parsons

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Are you preparing for Thanksgiving?

March of the West Marin Wild Turkeys, 2011

What will be on your Thanksgiving table this year? I'd love to know what you're up to today. I'm about to begin shopping. Yes, It is probably way too late, but just think of all of the excitement that will be buzzing around the farmers market, grocery store, and wine shop. I am making my lists and listening to Bob Dylan's Desire album. The song Black Diamond Bay is playing and I'm in a very good mood.

Wish me luck out there.

turkey breast (bone-in - hope I can find one...)*
gravy (toasting my flour this year)
stuffing (inspired by Mom's cornbread stuffing)
cranberry chutney (inspired by Nicole's recipe)
brussels sprouts (roasted w/ pancetta)
carrots (roasted)
pie (sweet potato - inspired by Joy the Baker's recipe - I'm going to try her no-roll pie crust too)
ice cream (vanilla)
whipping cream (a 2nd pie topping option?)
wine (red)

turkey breast - bone-in*
chicken stock - at least 6 cups
onions x 2
apples x 2
cranberries - 4 cups (1 lb.)
ginger - fresh
raisins (seedless) - 1 cup
carrots - nice bunch
brussels sprouts
pancetta - just one thick slice
sweet potatoes x 2
cream cheese
evaporated milk - two 5 oz cans (1 1/4 cups evaporated milk)
eggs - 6pk.
ice cream - vanilla
whipping cream (maybe?)
wine - red

Did I mention this is dinner for two? Plus leftovers, of course.


Back from Ferry Plaza Farmers Market (special holiday market hours today). *Turkey legs at Golden Gate Meat Co. looked better than breast. Bought two giant legs, and a thick slice of their pancetta.
Also, found a beautiful Weck Globe Jar at Heath Ceramics for our chutney.


I did buy the whipping cream. Done.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Making Memories (this one in Brooklyn), 2011

I've been working on cultivating a few new habits lately, good habits, thanks to the blog named habit. Are you familiar with it? It's about making memories.

I want to tell you more about my experience with habit so far, but I'm so sleepy (yes, it is 3pm) and have too much else to do, so it's going to have to wait. Until then, you should head over and take a peek.

I'll be there along with a long list of others documenting special moments in their days. Each person in their own unique way. You'll find me on the posts dated November 14, 15, and 16.

I hope you are enjoying this autumn afternoon moving too quickly into evening, wherever you are.

Take care,

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One foggy morning...

Flowers and Fog, 2011

I woke remembering a good dream. I was attending a writers retreat and hanging out with Vendela Vida. She borrowed one of my spaghetti strapped tops to go out one night (Yes, I writers go out at night while attending retreats? One might assume, no, they are too busy working or fretting about not working, but I haven't attended such a retreat, so I don't really know. For me, the act remains completely plausible). She liked my top. I felt a little starstruck, but played it cool and pretended it was no big deal.

Monday, November 14, 2011

There are only so many.

Simple Stuff, 2011 (also on habit)

“The small things of life were often so much bigger than the great things . . . the trivial pleasure like cooking, one's home, little poems especially sad ones, solitary walks, funny things seen and overheard.”
-Barbara Pym

It was around noon today when I read this quote. I was reading a Sadie Stein piece on The Paris Review blog. I liked the form. Isn't Sadie Stein a great name? I think so. The quote was in her piece.

I like reading about, watching, and discussing the trivial things that happen to people as they walk through their days. I realize Sadie Stein's days are far more interesting than mine, but she inspires me to relive some of my own little things.

Things such as waking up and still feeling the salt in my hair after a long walk beside the bay yesterday. Observing a man in a white t-shirt early this morning, carefully straightening the interior of a closed restaurant. The light he worked in was so beautiful. Too bad they only open for dinner. The feeling of having an unknown person just behind me, nipping at my heels as I descend a hill. Writing with my grey Le Pen because I cannot stand the new mechanical pencils I bought.
The taste of a slice of pear cranberry tart. Like it or not, such small things make up the bulk of our lives.

Lately I've been thinking about the way I sometimes allow my days to happen, to take me away. It can be nice. I want to allow a little of the taking to continue. Relinquishing a small amount of control holds the possibility of being presented with something I wouldn't have pursued on my own. But I also want to make more choices and achieve a balance that makes the regular days feel rich and full and chosen. There are only so many.

A Week in Culture: Sadie Stein, Editor

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Today I read a story about grief.

The story was intimate and fragile. The stiff pages fought against me. I knew they'd rather be closed. The words still unsure if they mistook their need to be set free for value.

And then a poem, about an idea for a poem that vanished.

It reminded me of talking one's writing away. Is it possible? I should cease speaking, until I know. But will I ever? Probably not.

And a few more of her poems.

But I have to leave my table with watery eyes. The words are too real. Especially the imagined meeting with her teenaged self, so close to ending my year.

Teenager by Wislawa Szymborska

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What are you doing today?

Inspired by pages 162 & 163 of The Gentlewoman Issue nº 4, 2011

I believe I've finished a poem, but it is always difficult to know for sure. A celebration will be had in the form of flour, butter, sugar, and such. Thank you, Nicole, for letting me peek inside Grandmother Ruth's recipe box. This afternoon will involve an office with a red chair and strategic branding discussions. Not of my own brand, someone else's. A girl's got to earn a living.

What are you doing today?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Imagined Rendering

Author's Note, 2011

I moved slowly and carefully. I didn't want it to end.

The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje

Monday, October 24, 2011


glimpse through a doorway near 23rd & 9th, 2011


Much is neutral. Not a lot of color, yet as soon as you note it, there it is. A young man in a bright red and white checked shirt, just outside the cafe, smoking a fat cigar. It is 8:30 AM. And there was the beach ball, yesterday. And the young slim bright-lipped barista with the red bandana delicately folded and tied atop her pretty blonde hair.

People know each other here, in this cafe, the cafe where they hide dark chocolate in their pumpkin muffins. It's nice, the knowing each other, and one of the main reasons I've returned. During my first visit I found a disgruntled and handsome middle aged gentleman, weathered jeans and tweed blazer, showering the bright-lipped barista with all of his charm. I could tell it wasn't something he offered up often. Kind of sweet to see her draw it forth. He was sure to tell her when he departed that he wouldn't be back for a week because he'd be off on assignment. It sounded very important. I understand his desire. She hurries no one and elegantly glides to and fro behind the counter. Her description of their carrot muffin is downright eloquent.

I appreciate the comfort of familiarity, even if it is not my own. I'm feeling a little homesick and frankly, adrift. I'm between the place I was born and the place I currently call home. I'll return to that current place for a short while before traveling to the place I called home during most of 2008. I'll be there for my birthday, looking out from a glass tree house. I'm lucky, I know, but sometimes I wake up and have to look around before I know where I am.

Last night I dreamed I had an affair with the young Big Night era Stanley Tucci. I was knitting his wife a sweater. Yes, I said wife, it was an adulterous dream. Oh my. Adulterous, but tastefully edited. One moment I was trying on the sweater for dear Stanley and the next the film jumps straight to the frame where he is laying on my bed shirtless, all else is beneath the pristine white sheets, and I'm exclaiming oh no! what have we done? Next I'm relaying the entire drama to my good friend Isabella Rossellini.

And then I'm awake and trying to recall it all for Chris while laughing hysterically.

They are playing The Big Chill soundtrack in the cafe this morning. A film from 1983. A reminder of how quickly time passes. It's an appropriately cool and crisp autumn day, dead leaves scattered on the street and sidewalk. I'm about to walk back out into it, past three yellow barstools, four succulents, and a waiting scone.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I'd like to think about that.

"I'd like to think about that." How often he has used this simple utterance as a way of granting dignity and validity to the opposing position, without relinquishing or invalidating his own perspective. And note how it isn't a flat submission or commitment: "I will think about that." It's, "I'd like to." As in, I welcome it. As in, I believe it will benefit me to entertain a different viewpoint. To lend my imagination to walking around in your shoes. To enlarge my mental field, my field of consideration and empathy.

-Leah Hager Cohen referencing her father's way of keeping alive difficult dialogue

The rest of Leah Hager Cohen's post here.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Anna Emilia wrapped up with a bow, 2011

To walk in the rain with an old friend (yes, J., I believe we have become old friends -- crazy, I know), to taste warm soup, to open a package, remembering there is still such a thing as real mail.

These are the good things in life.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

your time is limited...

Window, 2011

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life,” Jobs said. “Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

-Steve Jobs, 1955 - 2011


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Back in the Saddle

It's starting to feel like autumn.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

more than the places I've been

Place I've Been (view from Tellaro bus stop), 2011

I feel a pull from the general direction of the Barents Sea, the Nordic countries, somewhere near Sweden, Finland, or Norway. A desire to head toward the open landscape and spare sensibility I imagine.

The raw and honest beauty of Tove Jansson's landscapes and characters. The places that inspired her trim prose.
It is simply this: do not tire, never lose interest, never grow indifferent—lose your invaluable curiosity and you let yourself die. It's as simple as that.
-Tove Jansson,
Fair Play
My vision of the snow covered landscape, the austere cabin, and Per Petterson's quiet and contemplative central character in Out Stealing Horses.
All my life I have longed to be alone in a place like this. Even when everything was going well, as it often did. I can say that much. That it often did. I have been lucky. But even then, for instance in the middle of an embrace and someone whispering words in my ear I wanted to hear, I could suddenly get a longing to be in a place where there was only silence. Years might go by and I did not think about it, but that does not mean that I did not long to be there. And now I am here, and it is almost exactly as I had imagined it.
-Per Petterson,
Out Stealing Horses
And then there is artist Anna Emilia's weather diary. She treads gently on her landscape. Her delicately detailed paintings, a form of contemporary Folk.
The wind and rain outdoors play the most magical instruments. Anything they touch becomes a small echo. Anything they pass, becomes a small note. A cup of tea in left hand, a sketching pen in right one. Light is disappearing, candle flame dances inside shadows. These gray days the color of sleep.
-Anna Emilia,
Weather Diary
Yes, they are all really quite different, but careful observation reveals a definite thread. These are insider views, just a few pinpoints on the map of this vast landscape. A comfortable perspective perhaps only accessible to those born in the region.

Vendela Vida observes the stark landscape of the Sami from a different perspective. She has only visited Lapland three times. In Let The Northern Lights Erase Your Name she writes of a young woman's search for truth in a subarctic climate she is experiencing for the first time, the land of polar night and midnight sun. During an interview Vida speaks of having fallen in love with Lapland in the winter, the subtle gradations in the darkness. She liked the way the physical landscape mirrored her central character's emotional state. I'm intrigued by her exploration of violence and forgiveness in this bleak landscape. My attraction equates to fear and curiosity rigidly standing side by side.
It was three in the afternoon when my plane landed at the Helsinki airport, but outside my window, dusk was already settling in like a bruise. I retrieved my suitcase, its handle cold, and stumbled to the tourist information desk, where a woman with good teeth and bad English helped me find a hotel near the train station. My plan was to take the first train north, to Lapland, after a night of sleep.
-Vendela Vida,
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name
I wonder how it would feel. Could I love it more than the places I've been? This place where respect for the land appears inherent in its inhabitants, where they haven't forgotten the wilderness is wild.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Until She Knew Enough

Montemarcello, 2011

A quiet boat, soft wood planks, and photographic reflections in still water. The first person to speak to me is outside the building just north of the old Sausalito Caffe Trieste.

He is a proud man with grey hair standing beside a younger man. Both of them before a quiet red espresso machine. He, the older man, the one who is clearly in charge, says good morning, and I say good morning too. He tells me they will be serving coffee, soon. I ask him when and he tells me next Monday at 7:00 AM. I smile and say great, implying I will return, and I will. Then he says ciao, as if he were placed here in my day to ease my transition from Liguria back to Northern California.

A block away I notice I've held my smile. The sun is warm on my hair. It is a beautiful day for return. Cibo has photographs from a cooler season in Italy displayed in my favorite room, the glass room with old paint wearing thin upon its cement floor. There is a pigeon in the room. He steps lightly, knowing he shouldn't be here. His manners are appreciated. The day feels good. I don't long for other places.

Close to noon, in the public library, I find a poignant Hemingway quote from The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Now he would never write the things that he saved to write until he knew enough to write them well, and I wonder who is orchestrating this grand plan.

Monday, August 29, 2011

One of Those Things

Self, 2010

It's been a while. Some of you have been around for years and I'd like to thank you for being here, reading, and commenting when the mood suits you. Writing is a fairly solitary endeavor and I enjoy this space, but it's nice to know I'm not the only one. I appreciate your being around for the good stuff and for your patience with my experiments. Much has changed since the summer of 2008, but I believe the important parts remain the same.

This is one of those things I usually do not do, but after some thought I decided it would be a good exercise to go back through the years and see what I've written here. I've thought a lot about the various types of posts I've written. Some make me proud and some duds (yesterday was sort of a dud...) I'm tempted to hide, but I won't. There are themes that repeat and thoughts I've allowed to fade. It's an evolution and it was a treat to look back at the way this space has stretched and contracted over time. Thank you, Amelia and Tracy, for this suggestion. It was viewing your walks down memory lane that inspired me to take my own.

Most beautiful post: February 8, 2011 A Reading
Most popular post: August 12, 2009 Julie & Julia Bruschetta

Most controversial post: May 24, 2011 Adaptation (Theft?)
Most helpful post: August 10, 2010 Who is she?
Success surprised me post: February 10, 2010 Shoot to kill.
Didn't get the attention it deserved post:
May 13, 2010 The Pier
Most proud of post: October 27, 2010 Of Parks and Trailers

The following talented writers and photographers have inspired me. I'd love to see them write similar posts and I hope they do, but until then I highly recommend taking a look at their spaces. Seeing the world through there eyes is something you don't want to miss.

Rachel's rachel eats
Rachael's the slow-cooked sentence
Shari's the art of seeing things
Lecia's A Day that is Dessert
Lucinda's nourish me

Sunday, August 28, 2011

(found) composition

In the Park (remember the slipper?), 2011

On Polk Street, 2011

The Little Room (Greens Restaurant), 2011

com·po·si·tion noun \ˌkäm-pə-ˈzi-shən\

the act or process of composing; specifically :
arrangement into specific proportion or relation and especially
into artistic form

-Merriam-Webster's 1 a :

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Book

Book, 2011

I fear the loss of them and their beautiful imperfections revealed by time and use.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Odd Indulgences

Pink Pearl, 2011

I like to take an apple, any type, but I'm particularly liking these Pink Pearls at the moment, and peel it, then chop it up, roughly, nothing fancy. Place it in a bowl and squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon on top. Next I sprinkle some sugar, just a little, over the lemony apples. This is a particularly puckering experience with the Pink Pearls. I don't believe the combination is a common enjoyment, but I certainly like it.

Do you have a culinary indulgence some might deem odd? Perhaps you'll share.

Or maybe I'm the only one.

Pink Pearl (apple)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sometimes I prefer questions to answers.

Photograph courtesy of Christopher Parsons

I dreamed this,
does that mean it didn't happen?
Does it have to happen in the world to be real?

-excerpt from the poem Castile from the book Vita Nova by Louise Glück

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Leave Me Alone

Blackbird, 2011

I was sitting before the window in a little cafe named Blackbird when I saw a well-read day-old copy of The New York Times. I reached over and pulled out The Arts section. I was first drawn to the striking image and then to Michael Kimmelman's words.

He begins:
Sometimes on a whim I stop into the Bode Museum here to commune with a tiny clay sculpture of John the Baptist.
I'm hooked. It seems we share a definition for the good things in life. When I find someone who believes in taking time out of his day to commune with a tiny sculpture, I want to know more. What else does he have to say?

He continues:
It’s in a corner of a nearly always empty room, a bone-white bust, pretty and as androgynous as mid-1970s Berlin-addled David Bowie. The saint’s upturned eyes glow in the hard light through tall windows. Attributed to the 15th-century Luccan artist Matteo Civitali, the sculpture is all exquisite ecstasy and languor.
And I start remembering what I love about museums, especially quiet museums, especially the rooms that do not have the of-the-moment crowd pleasing exhibitions. Yes, often those crowd pleasers are worth seeing, but the experience is entirely different.

There is nothing like standing in a silent room of a museum with a work that speaks to you. A room empty of people. A lingering museum guard is fine, but no one else fighting to stand before the piece you are admiring. No one bumping into you while they view the highlights with their headphones. No docents. No tours. No all-knowing friends explaining the meaning of the work to their interested and uninterested companions (did you see Midnight in Paris?). Just you and the work.

Before I left Chicago I planned a day of saying goodbye to some of my favorite places, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium. It was a weekday and I walked along the lakefront to reach my first destination. If you are able, I highly recommend visiting weekend destinations on weekdays. It is a different world.

I recall entering the quiet museum. It seemed I was the first visitor. I had it all to myself, at least temporarily. I'll never forget the way the late morning light flooded into the atrium and onto the sculptures.

Later in the afternoon I visited the planetarium's giant dome, sat beneath a simulated night sky, and looked up at bright stars in an almost-empty theater.

I never made it to the aquarium. Still, it was an amazing day, one I hope I will never forget.

Michael Kimmelman's article and my memory of this day in Chicago remind me of how lucky I have been to have had a wide array of such beautiful experiences, all over the world.

There was something about art school that distanced me from this type of beauty. I don't know if it was the way I fully immersed myself in the degree experience by attending every single lecture and exhibition I could fit into my life at the time, or seeing the work of others as well as my own work through an academic and often critical eye, or if it was just too much of a good thing, but I graduated with a feeling that resembled a need for detoxification. The beauty was gone. I just wanted to get away from it all.

It has been about four years now and I've been slowly easing my way back in, learning to appreciate it again. It's nice to be back, but I don't regret the way this part of my life unfolded. The experience reminds me of something I read in an interview with Tobias Wolff.
But it’s good for a while to be dropped through the bottom, to be a little helpless, to have to scramble to make do, because as you get older, you do less and less of that, and it’s good for you, it takes the rust off.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I found a mermaid in the woods this morning.

Inverness, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

Get Back to Work

Desk View, 2011

“Quit your complaining. It’s not the world’s fault that you wanted to be an artist. It’s not the world’s job to enjoy the films you make, and it’s certainly not the world’s obligation to pay for your dreams. Nobody wants to hear it. Steal a camera if you have to, but stop whining and get back to work.”

-Werner Herzog (a paraphrase)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

I still can’t remember all the best things she said

fog, 2011

The landscape here makes me feel small. When the secrets of the thick fog reveal themselves at dusk the mind is transported to a place where anything is possible.

Holding mugs of hot coffee in the cool mornings while looking out at the stillness of the bay, Bob Dylan's Isis in the background. I've been floating, suspended somewhere above my usual reality, drifting back into my past, forward into potential futures, and landing back in the beauty of the limbo present.

I remember walking beside my mom, the young cool chick with long dark hair. We are in the mall and she is asking the clerk in the record store if they have that new Dylan album, the one with Hurricane.

There's the future I'll keep secret so I don't write it away, and the words I'll type, but not say.

The calf has escaped, she's beyond the barbed wire fence, and appears to have done so without bloodshed.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How we spend our days...

Monday Morning, 2011

I couldn't help myself. -Denise

Sheriff's calls

Tuesday, July 19

SAN GERONIMO: At 7:55 p.m. someone reported that subjects unknown had attached a homemade street sign reading "Bird House Way" over an official street sign. The vandals had attached the sign with clothespins. Several unsanctioned birdhouses had also been attached to nearby telephone poles.

Saturday, July 23

INVERNESS: At 4:12 p.m. a man reported that a group of bikers grabbed him on his way to the post office, restrained him and took his picture.

Monday, July 25

WOODACRE: At 1:30 p.m. a woman reported that the garbage man always looks through her window from his truck. Deputies talked to the man, and determined that he was not doing anything illegal.

excerpts: July 28, 2011 Point Reyes Light

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Town or Country?

We're stumped.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What are you reading?

July 26, 2011 . 6:09 PM . page 31

Monday, July 25, 2011

About an hour north of San Francisco...

The Girls, 2011

Sheriff's calls

Thursday, July 14

STINSON BEACH: At 5:30 p.m. someone wanted more information about a new sign in the library parking lot.

Friday, July 15

BOLINAS: At 9:55 a.m. a man reported that $200 and some prescription drugs had been stolen from inside his mattress.

Saturday, July 16

WOODACRE: At 1:54 p.m. a young white man wearing a flannel shirt and baggy jeans was sitting in his vehicle in front of his residence. Deputies found the young man to be "off" but not dangerous.

DILLON BEACH: At 4:05 p.m. a woman reported that another woman ran over her foot after she told her to turn down her music.

Sunday, July 17

OLEMA: At 6:49 a.m. a black and white calf was in the road.

Thought you might like to know.


excerpts: July 21, 2011 Point Reyes Light

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Great goblets of magnolialight.

Earlier on Fillmore Street (2300), 2011

Later on Fillmore Street (2123) I am sitting with a fancy sparkling water from the UK. I did not know this when I bought it. I also bought a book by C. D. Wright. So, a little bad and a little good. I see Michael Ondaatje praises it on its back cover. Like the water, I did not know this when I bought it. I found this book of poetry in a small bookstore (2195) near this cafe where I sit. Sometimes I buy a book just to show the bookstore that they matter. Books of poetry, poetry written by live poets, are not always easy to find. I did not check to see if this book was a part of our library's collection, I bought it on a whim. I am disturbed by its cover. It scares me, but the pages I skim while still in the bookstore reach deeper than my fear. The book is one long poem. While standing before the poetry shelves I flip through the book backward and see lines such as Sunflower blindness and Take a mirror to the river and Great goblets of magnolialight. It all stems from a road trip through the rural South. I push my other books aside and enter her world, this time from the beginning.

Deepstep Come Shining by C. D. Wright

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Valley Named After the Grass

a month later in a year earlier, 2010

Chicago is not the Windy City, it is San Francisco. So we escaped to a valley named after the grass, where the temperature reached up into the 90s, and the heat was absorbed by the pavement. A parade marched down Main Street. I wore a wide brimmed hat and slipped into my new bathing suit. The inn had a tiny pool. I darted back and forth like a goldfish while he watched from a towel covered chair. The days were long and lazy. One afternoon I woke as a child, hungry, and hearing my mother's voice in the kitchen. Something about the air was just as it was back then. Taste and smell are easy, but traveling through time based on the feel of the air is less common, and more luxurious. The cool sheets were familiar too, the way they felt on my hot skin. The ceiling fan was new, but felt old. Half asleep I wondered what she was making for dinner. I woke up alone in the room, turned onto my back, and watched the fan above slowly rotate. A dog barked in the distance and I heard a faint song from a bird who sounded small. A colander of cherries drifted through my mind. Still groggy, I thought of the sequence of our lives, the way it all unfolds. Something to add to my collection.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Simple Food

sweet potato, 2010

Basic unadorned simplicity, it is a beautiful thing.

The mulberries picked from our neighbors tree when I was a girl. Anchovies with lemon in Liguria. A tomato sandwich. Green peas popped from the pod while standing in the garden. A perfect plum. A slab of cold watermelon in the shade of the back porch. A basic salami sandwich. The jambon et fromage baguette I ate beside the Sienne. The pots of flageolets and tomatoes I made in my tiny Paris apartment (thank you Luisa). Avocado toast. Sardines on rye. Fat blueberries stirred into yogurt and drizzled with wildflower honey. Any green sauteed in olive oil, topped with a fried egg, fleur de sel, and fresh coarse ground pepper. Roasted garlic cloves smeared onto slices of crusty bread. Angel hair pasta with chopped home grown tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper (Chris made (and grew) the best). A bowl of boiled new potatoes with butter, salt, pepper, and fresh dill. Cool radishes dipped in good salt. The warm olives Pizzeria Delfina serves as an antipasti. A hard cooked egg, each bite tapped into salt and pepper. Roasted sweet potato slices.

One night when we were in a French-fried potato sort of snack mood my dad suggested sweet potatoes. He cut some thick slices, slathered them with olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and pepper (he might have used a little cayenne too), and roasted them in a hot oven until soft on the inside and just beginning to crisp on the outside. They were so good.

What is your favorite simple food?

Friday, July 1, 2011

If I leave here tomorrow...would you still remember me?

Lost, 2011

I was eating a pumpkin muffin and listening to Freebird. The lyrics had me daydreaming and not giving the interview I was reading fair attention, so I closed the journal and tapped my fingers on the table, swayed to the music, and looked out the cafe window while drifting off into my memory. I like hearing this old song every once in a while and allowing it to carry me away. I'm familiar with two popular versions of the song. The version I like best is not the live version with play it pretty for Atlanta and how bout you? inserted into the original lyrics.

There are certain songs, novels, films, and paintings that do something that jolts me out of the lovely feeling of being lost in the work. It's something that abruptly shifts the mood. In Freebird I find myself lost in the live version until I hear the lyrics shift for the crowd. Maybe if I were there I'd feel differently, but from here, it just doesn't work for me. I'm not in Atlanta. I get transported to some cheesy stadium concert when I prefer being lost. I do get past the disruptions in this live version and I wouldn't turn it off it came on the radio. Perhaps it's because the song is so long. I have time to recover and get back into the music. Does this conflict with the point I'm making? Maybe, but making a clear point is overrated and often the sign of a narrow mind.

In certain novels and films I find myself thrown by the ending. A neatly tied up ending rarely works for me, especially when the story was anything but neat. I never like it, but clearly others do. To me, it feels strange and contrived, disjointed -- forced. I prefer more open endings, such as Sofia Coppola's Somewhere, Amy Sackville's The Still Point, and Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses. You close the book or walk away from the screen and you are still under their spell.

Yesterday the shift (not quite a jolt) was good. I walked slowly through an exhibition of works collected by the Steins and was taken by a small Matisse painting. It was a landscape with cypress trees, a palette of mostly grey green and grey blue. In the lower right corner there was one subtle stroke of a salmon color. The stroke took me somewhere else. I left the painting and imagined the wet paint, the painter, his choices. But then I sunk back into the landscape and ended up drawn even deeper into the work, imagining him seeing that salmon color one day while standing there beside the cypress trees.