Saturday, December 31, 2016

Hodgepodge 63/365 - Eighth Day of Hanukkah

We decided to light the Hanukkah candles this year, to cast a little more light in these dark times. I really enjoyed the ritual, and then sitting with the light while the candles burned down (which they are doing right now). Instead of a blessing, we read poems—by Rumi, Rolf Jacobsen, Wisława Szymborska, Robert Haas, W. S. Merwin, Mary Oliver, and Kenneth Rexroth, plus the one below, from the first night, by Denise Levertov. It's a reminder to me to remember to heed Mary Oliver's "Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it."

It seemed fitting that Hanukkah began on Christmas Eve and that the last night is New Year's Eve. Happy eighth day of Hanukkah and Happy New Year!


Sometimes the mountain
is hidden from me in veils
of cloud, sometimes
I am hidden from the mountain
in veils of inattention, apathy, fatigue,
when I forget or refuse to go
down to the shore or a few yards
up the road, on a clear day,
to reconfirm
that witnessing presence.

                         —Denise Levertov

Friday, December 30, 2016

Hodgepodge 62/365 - Alphabet Diptychs

Over the years a friend, Susan Mack (whom I've never met in person, sadly, though that may change in January at the March on Washington), and I have undertaken various photography diptych projects. One was on the colors of the rainbow, another was black-and-white photos. And today, we finished our largest project so far: the alphabet. It only took us three years! We started on January 5, 2014, and rocked through to P that year; the next year we only managed to get through Q, R, S, T, and U; and this year, the rest. So, in honor of our achievement, here they all are, A through Z. Huzzah!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Hodgepodge 61/365 - Objects

When I can't think of anything to write about here, I scan my Flickr albums. I have several that are so random I don't even remember why I made them in the first place. Such as one called "Objet du jour." It has eleven entries. Here they are, in most cases complete with the Flickr captions. (The dates suggest that these were all included in my fourth—and last—photo-a-day project, Project 365. I've been that crazy for years, it seems.)

1/9/13. Our garage is still full of boxes—we are taking our time moving in. (Who needs all that stuff?) But I'm trying to tackle at least a box a day. Yesterday I encountered a box with some of the things I brought from my mother's house, including some tools and a few kitchen utensils. This is the ice cream scoop I grew up with. I am very fond of it, and will probably (sigh) keep it. I mean—just look at it! It's beautiful in a fabulously vintage way. [Four years on, the garage is still full of boxes. Project for 2017! For realz!]

Rubber band ball
12/2/13. My husband has been working on this rubber band ball since at least 2007 or '06. I started documenting it in 2008, and it was already 5 inches in circumference then. In 2010 it weighed 2.4 pounds. Today it proudly clocks in at 3.0 pounds and 18 inches in circumference. It's grown! It's also been featured in every one of my Project 365s, which speaks either to a lack of inspiration or to tradition. [I have not seen the rubber band ball lately. I must ask about it.]

Mouse in bondage
11/21/13. I found this travelbug in a soggy geocache in Hawaii. Today he went through the laundry, and now, except for the rust stains (Polynesian tattoos?), he is white and fluffy again. I took his portrait in part because our kitty has gone missing; so this is a symbolic lure to coax her home. (The "bondage" is the chain holding the travelbug tag, which is wrapped securely around this little guy.) [I moved this bug along a long time ago, but it's amusing to be reminded of it. The kitty, sadly, stayed missing . . .]

Patriotic darts
10/16/13. It's just how they came; if I'd had a choice, flags (especially, at the moment, the U.S. flag) would not have been it. I bought the dartboard as a decision-making tool. I find that I have too many interests, so sometimes I get stuck—making NO decision rather than (oh the horror) making the "wrong" one. Now I'll let random chance (since I'm not much of a dart thrower) decide for me! I look at it as a FUN way to get certain things accomplished. We'll see how it goes! [I do not remember what was going on in October 2013 that made me feel unpatriotic. Can't have been much compared to today's black feeling. As for the dartboard—it was a silly idea that remains in the garage. I'm still no better at getting unstuck, but maybe I'm learning to accept it.]

7/12/13. Nothing jumped out at me to take a picture of today—except this little pig. He seemed quite eager to have his portrait done. How could I not oblige? [This little piggy, whose nose lit up with white lights, has moved on in life.]

Golf counter
[Intended for use as a behavior modifier, but I've lost track of its whereabouts.]

Babar Rex
7/24/13. I have a moribund project called "Où est Babar?" He's been giving a look lately, like, "When do I get to go out and hide in plain sight again?" So, to kick off "Où est Babar, partie deux," here is a formal portrait of M. le Roi. ["Babar, partie deux" did not go anywhere. I keep thinking I'll pick up this project again. It's very fun, in fact. Especially the bad French titles!]

8/7/13. Not a photography day today, so here's a "precious item" from our inventory. It's called a kuksa in Finnish, kåsa in Swedish, and guksi in Saami, the language of the herders of the far north of Scandinavia. It's hand carved from birch burl, and often decorated with reindeer antler (as is this one). My brother-in-law married a Norwegian woman—they live in Oslo—and a few years ago they took a trip to the Saami lands. There, they bought us two of these beautiful mugs, which are traditionally used for anything liquid. A sort of Lappish Sierra cup, but much, much more beautiful. When we were in Norway last year, we got a couple of cheap machine-made ones on an outing to a sea cave. The genuine ones are too beautiful to use, but I did take one of the cheap ones this weekend on my wilderness rangering trip. It worked just fine! [The one shown here and its partner are still too beautiful to use. They live on a shelf in the kitchen.]

Nikki & Ewald
8/21/13. This evening a bunch of geocachers got together for pizza. They do this every so often, very randomly. A little icon shows up on the map of the area indicating an "event." I'd actually never noticed such an icon before, but I did notice on a log recently someone asking if someone else was going to be at this event. So I went looking—and found it. Now, geocaching is a funny thing. It's a pretty solitary sport. You tend not to do it in groups. (Well, some do, but they're a little odd.) But yet, you keep running into people—or into their "geonames," anyway, pretty much every time you log in at a local cache. So I was delighted this evening to be able to put faces to such names as coralteach, golfer01, C Major & C Minor, trailreader, Daisy831, and rainbow guyz (who in fact was wearing a t-shirt bearing a rainbow travelbug—a geo-gamepiece, so to speak—and so I "recognized" him right away). Although the sport is solitary, friendships are made. And in fact, this evening we were celebrating the recent wedding of a couple who met... geocaching! Pengvin and Samm99—aka Ewald and Nikki—are also, as it turns out, neighbors of mine. Anyway, coralteach (Natalie), who organized this wingding, also treated us to a geocaching bingo game (find someone with more than 2,000 caches logged; find someone who's solved a Mimring puzzle; find someone who's climbed a tree to log a cache; find someone who went geocaching on their honeymoon; etc.) and scattered treats on the table. Including little bags of pink and white M&Ms with the happy couple's faces on them. What a nice group of folks. [Yes, I have since then gone to other similar events, and even gone geocaching with some of the people I mentioned above. It's a funny and fun little community.]

9/19/13. The book is called Escape—about a woman who did manage to escape the FLDS, the "fundamentalist" Mormon sect that practices polygamy, together with her eight children. Though the story's not quite done, so whether she gets to keep them all remains to be seen. The book, which is plainly written, is horrifying—and riveting. Very hard to put down. [This is the sort of book that makes me very glad I was born into the family I was born into.]

[As seen right here just the other day, together with the rest of my collection.]

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Hodgepodge 60/365 - Geocaching

I've written about geocaching many times: it's one of my favorite pastimes. Today we had a great day outside with a caching friend, "Mimring" (a.k.a. Alastair), hiking up hill and down dale, sniffing out forty-one caches—my biggest day ever. (My last "big day" was all of twenty-six finds, with a group at an event. The group included Alastair. He's a good motivator.)

Today's expedition was in Henry Coe State Park, about an hour's drive from home. (It was 32 degrees in the parking lot when we arrived. Plates of ice on the puddles in the dirt. Just saying.) We walked almost nine "horizontal" miles, but considering we were, as I said, going up a lot (as one wag commented in one of the cache logs, Henry Coe is 85 percent uphill and 15 percent down), I expect our horizontal-plus-vertical mileage was closer to twelve. My Fitbit tells me I walked 29,453 steps today, or, yes, 12.46 miles. I believe it.

So anyway, yes: geocaching can be excellent for getting one out and moving. Today was a splendid day, and we thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie, the views, and all those finds—with only three DNFs ("did not find"s).

Here are some pictures I took. They are SOOC (straight out of the iPhone camera), but I'm too bushed to fuss with them. They'll have to do. (Click on the first photo to see them full screen.)

It was an excellent day!

Not much of a photo, but the glint in the middle is
Monterey Bay: it was amazing to see it so clearly
from so many miles away.
A frog pond: they serenaded us.
David and Alastair heading for that tree there (one of our three DNFs).
That tree (a black or blue oak) from a different perspective.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Hodgepodge 59/365 - 52 Dinners

For a Christmas present for David, I promised to prepare 52 dinners in the coming year. (I seem to be into number-based challenges these days.) That doesn't mean one meal a week—which would be difficult in March and April, when I will be gone for four weeks. It just means 52: a nice organic number that will keep on giving.

I like to cook (well enough, anyway: i.e., on occasion), and I do cook, often enough—but truth be told, David does more of the cooking, and we also go out to eat a lot. And then there's leftovers. So this promise of 52 will be a big bump up for me. Which is fine! As I say, I like to cook. But . . . I can be lazy.

I started delivering on my promise the evening we opened our presents, Christmas Eve/First Night of Hanukkah, with Shakshuka with Feta ☞, an Israeli recipe from the New York Times. It made a great breakfast the next morning too (with additional eggs). And for Boxing Day I made Emeril Lagasse's Turkey Tetrazzini ↙︎ (with the addition of some leftover rabbit and frozen peas)—an excellently tasty use of leftover turkey.

I am going to try to use 52 different recipes, and print them all out (or photocopy them, if they're in a cookbook I own) and bind them, for an end-of-year gift-part-2. This should be fun—and get me more into a habit of cooking.

Wish me luck!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Hodgepodge 58/365 - Book Report (The Polar Bear)

Jenni Desmond, The Polar Bear (2016) (12/26/16)

I am going to continue my practice of reading picture books, not just to bump up the number of books I've read, but even more so because, man oh man, they can be just stunning!

This one sure is. I ran across a reference to it in Maria Popova's list of the best science books of the year (all of which I intend to read). Jenni Desmond is an English picture book author and illustrator, and currently is working on a series about endangered animals (blue whales preceded the polar bear, and elephants are up next). She uses watercolor, acrylic, pencil, crayons, and the printmaking techniques of carborundum and drypoint to make her gorgeous illustrations. In 2016, she was invited to be a Maurice Sendak Fellow, spending a month at the Sendak estate in Upstate New York—and so a little girl who could well have popped out of one of Sendak's own picture books accompanies us here on the natural-history story of the polar bear.

The book begins with a note: "Polar bears are a vulnerable and threatened species. . . . Today the biggest threat to their survival is climate change. This is because polar bears depend on sea ice to hunt for food, but as the world's temperatures rise, Arctic ice has begun to melt earlier in the summer and freeze later in the autumn. This means that polar bears now have less available food during the summer months. Should a bear already be underweight, the length of time it now as to wait for the ice and its food to return may just be too long."

This dire reality is not addressed in the story itself, but it weighs as one reads. It must. That said, the occasional photo of a starving polar bear that takes over social media paints only part of the picture, and polar bears, although listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 2008, and vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (the red list) since 2016, are not all at a critical moment. Of the 25,000 polar bears that exist, in 19 subgroups (by region), some may indeed be on the edge of extinction, but other groups seem to be stable or even growing. Here's an article from a year ago that tells more. However, here's a more recent story that paints a gloomier picture. There is no question that the Arctic sea ice is in trouble, and with it, the polar bear. I would not be surprised if polar bears are extinct in the wild by the time I die, which won't be too long from now.

But back to Desmond: What she takes on is the natural history of these amazing lords of the Arctic, and it's a fascinating life they lead. What really shines, though, is the wit of the story, in which our young protagonist gets lost in a book about polar bears and visits one in her imagination, and the beauty of the illustrations. Here are a few, which are of course much more delectable on the printed page:

If you love a beautiful picture book, and know of a youngster who loves nature, this would be the perfect gift. You can enjoy it together.

And if you care to help in the fight for polar bears' survival, a worthy organization is Polar Bears International.