Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hodgepodge 214/365 - Iceland

I've been seeing posts on Facebook these last couple of days by writer friends who are off to Iceland for a writing conference, Nonfiction NOW. Lucky dogs.

It reminds me that I was in Iceland once. A few lifetimes ago. I can't even remember exactly under what circumstances. I believe it was when Icelandair was offering the sweet deal of a stop in Reykjavík for no extra charge between the States and Europe, on a ticket that itself was a sweet deal: less than $300 r/t is my recollection.

It probably was 1975 or 1976, when I spent a couple of months traveling in Europe: starting in Turkey for a cruise along the coast with a colleague of my father's; stopping in Rapallo, Italy, to visit dorm neighbors from my junior year at Berkeley (while he prepared pesto, she and I went shopping for pasta: I had never even imagined there were so many kinds of pasta in the world!); and attending my good friends Ulla and Emile's wedding in Brussels. I'm pretty sure I met up with a penfriend I'd been corresponding with, via the Christian Science Monitor (they used to have a penfriends column), since a decade before, Christine Buxton, who lived in Devon at the time. And yes, I think I also visited a German friend, Carina Kötter (now Wreesmann), whom I met at boarding school in Bavaria in 1969 (the same year I met Ulla, in Liège, Belgium).

Ayhan, as I remember her
The Turkish colleague, Ayhan Ulubelen, I have just discovered (yay Google!), is now 85 and still lives in Istanbul, having had a long career as a professor of analytical chemistry at the University of Istanbul. My father met her when they were both on sabbatical in Germany; they were  phytochemists, specializing in plant flavonoids. The Italian friends I lost contact with long ago. He, Sergio Guarro, was studying nuclear physics at Cal, though it seems he went into the aerospace industry; his wife, Clorinda Donato, now teaches romance languages at Cal State University Long Beach. (Gee, Google is fun! Though it certainly helps that I remember their names.) Christine I have tenuous connection with, via the very occasional email—but not now for several years. I should drop her a line . . . Ditto Carina. As for the Belgian friends, they divorced a while back, and I've lost touch with him (he moved to France, remarried), but I got to see wonderful Ulla—she's lived in northern Italy for decades now—just this last March. I don't need no stinking Google for her!

But back to Iceland: I stopped there to visit another schoolmate from my year in Germany. Edda Herbertsson was her name, and she was studying German during my school's summer recess, the summer I arrived. We hit it off well enough and stayed in touch. So when Ulla and Emile invited me to their wedding, and this Icelandair deal appeared, I thought, why not?

I remember very, very little of my stop in Iceland. Edda ran a shop, family owned, in the high street, as I recall. Just what sort of shop, I can't say: stationery? maybe? I stayed at her family's house—it was her parents (no recollection of them: maybe her father had died?), her brother, and her. I do remember the thermal heating in the house: the idea that we were sitting atop boiling water and that it could be harnessed for heat was a revelation to me. I don't remember spending much time with her—she was working—but her brother took me on a drive into the countryside, which was impossibly green (to these California eyes), and we stopped a while to watch Icelandic horses cavort in the fields.

I believe that main street is where
the Herbertsson shop was
I also vaguely remember having been set loose downtown to sightsee on my own, and needing to find the shop again. I had a general idea of where it was and asked a stranger, probably another shopkeeper, if he knew where Edda Herbertsson's shop was. He gave me the strangest look (I'm imagining piercing blue eyes and shaggy white eyebrows for some reason, maybe a pair of silver-framed glasses) and asked if I didn't have the name wrong? No, I was sure: Edda Herbertsson. He shook his head, said he didn't know.

Only later did I realize, her last name was all wrong. Icelandic women's names are appended by -dóttir, not -son. She should have been Edda Herbertsdóttir—if, that is, she wasn't in fact going by her father's surname, which I now think maybe she was. In any event, the poor man I asked probably thought I was—oh, just another confused young American, most likely. Of whom they'd been seeing a lot lately. Thanks to Icelandair.

I vaguely remember the beautifully colored buildings of downtown Reykjavík. But nothing more, not really.

Clearly, I need to go back. I think I'd like to go for a self-guided month-long photography and hiking tour. A little bit of a return to forever. David wants to go to Iceland too. It'll happen. I do think it will.

But for now, this was an interesting little trip down memory lane. For me, anyway :-) I hope a little bit for you too, though I'm sorry it was really more about my memories than about Iceland. And now: to get in touch with Ulla (just to say hi) and Christine and Carina. It's been too long.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Hodgepodge 213/365 - Dessert

I'm feeling a little down in the dumps (the state of the world, mainly), and I thought maybe a good dose of dessert might help. Here's what I am having:

Ben & Jerry's French vanilla ice cream with golden raspberries from our garden and rhubarb syrup.

It may just be a small-scale, temporary fix, but for the moment: it's doing the trick.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Hodgepodge 212/365 - Quotes

I like to share the occasional quote on Facebook. In the past, they would show up to the side on my page—but that was many years ago, before a multitude of site restylings. Now, they just show up on my "About" page / Details About You / Favorite Quotes—and I've stopped "archiving" any new quotations, though I still like sharing them, when I stumble on a good one.

Since nobody's going to see them where they're squirreled away now (I didn't even remember what was there), I thought I'd copy 'em over here. Because I can, and because I'm lazy with nothing much of my own to say today.


Do I contradict myself?
Very well then, I contradict myself.
I am large.
I contain multitudes. 

—Walt Whitman

We have to get through, and if we’re really lucky, we can find somebody to get through with. To share the map.
—Ron McLarty

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.
—Thich Nhat Hanh
When you have come to the edge
Of all light that you know
And are about to drop off into the darkness
Of the unknown,
Faith is knowing
One of two things will happen:
There will be something solid to stand on or
You will be taught to fly.
—Patrick Overton

Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.
—James Baldwin

Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours.
—Ayn Rand

I'll tell you one thing: I like getting better than wanting.
—Jan Beatty

A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving.
—Lao Tzu

Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself, and if I accept myself fully in the right way, I will already have surpassed myself.
—Thomas Merton

Travel is a creative act—not simply loafing and inviting your soul, but feeding the imagination, accounting for each fresh wonder, memorizing and moving on. The discoveries the traveler makes in broad daylight—the curious problems of the eye he solves—resemble those that thrill and sustain a novelist in his solitude.
—Paul Theroux

I wish with all my heart that every child could be so imbued with a sense of the adventure of life that each change, each readjustment, each surprise—good or bad—that came along would be welcomed as part of the whole enthralling experience.
—Eleanor Roosevelt

Your life is like a pebble
dropped into a pool of water,
creating ripples endlessly.
You do not know the end of a word,
a thought, an action.
—White Eagle

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.
—Thich Nhat Hanh

People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That's what it's all finally about.
—Joseph Campbell

[Describing a performance-art piece:] It parallels those stages of attaining complete emptiness. In the end, at ground level, you are the most powerful, though empty and vulnerable. The most important breakthrough for me was the idea to go from up to down, and not down to up. It’s about humility. Our culture is so much about building up the ego of the artist. But it’s not you who is important, it’s the work. The ego is actually an obstacle to the work.
Marina Abramović

+       +       +       +       +

I am checking out my FB posts and transferring some quotes that I've included there, here. When I get enough, maybe I'll have a Quotes II post—since I doubt anybody will come here to read these before then. Consider this a pre-archive.

Poets, like detectives, know the truth is laborious: it doesn't occur by accident, rather it is chiseled and worked into being, the product of time and distance and graft. The poet must be open to the possibility that she has to go a long way before a word rises, or a sentence holds, or a rhythm opens, and even then nothing is assured, not even the words that have staked their original claim or meaning. Sometimes it happens at the most unexpected moment, and the poet has to enter the mystery, rebuild the poem from there.
—Colum McCann

I don't know if this is a dream. Perhaps it is. A dream of palm trees and noise-headed birds. This dream that I call my life comes with a message I must learn to understand. It is not in a language I recognize. Then I remember that life is not a language I recognize, and that learning life is the purpose of the visit. We are all from some other star, pretending rights when we are just seekers. I am glad to be a seeker. Glad to be reminded of how unfamiliar life is. Always.
—Jeanette Winterson

 The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then--to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.
—T. H. White, The Sword in the Stone (1938)

Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.
—Jack Kerouac

When I write, I don't think in terms of themes — or think in any terms, really. I'm making what T. S. Eliot called 'quasi-musical decisions.' I'm just improvising and adapting, and in that case I suspect the story's course reflects the process of trying to make it. . . . . I get in a teacup and start paddling across the little pond and say, "In seven weeks, I'll land on Mars." Five years later I'm still going in circles. When I reach the shore in spitting distance of where I started, it's a colossal triumph.
—Denis Johnson

You think it'll last forever. People and cars and concrete. But it won't. One day it's all gone. Even the sky. 
—Dr. Who 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Hodgepodge 211/365 - Brian Doyle

Brian Doyle, a writer beloved of so many, died yesterday at age sixty after being diagnosed with brain cancer in late November. His "Final Prayer" started circulating on Facebook, and I posted it as well, and have reread it many times. It epitomizes his joyous life force so perfectly. I'm lazily including it here today because I will want to keep on rereading it, and I'll be able to find it here.

Here is a fierce piece called "On Not 'Beating' Cancer" (written in 2009, not about his own illness).

And here, one called "Dawn and Mary" (2013) about Sandy Hook and heroic courage.

"A Prayer for Our Daily Murder" (2015) evokes his deep religious faith and passionately seeking nature.

On a lighter side is "The Place Where I Write" (2012).

And finally (you can go find others: there are lots, many of them very short, though he wrote books also: he was prolific), "Joyas Voladores" (2003), about hummingbirds, sort of. Also whales. Mostly, though,  about heart: the red thread that binds all his work.

Which brings me back to his

Final Prayer

Dear Coherent Mercy: thanks. Best life ever.

Personally I never thought a cool woman would come close to understanding me, let along understanding me but liking me anyway, but that happened!

And You and I both remember that doctor in Boston saying polite but businesslike that we would not have children but then came three children fast and furious!

And no man ever had better friends, and no man ever had a happier childhood and wilder brothers and a sweeter sister, and I was that rare guy who not only loved but liked his parents and loved sitting and drinking tea and listening to them!

And You let me write some books that weren't half bad, and I got to have a career that actually no kidding helped some kids wake up to their best selves, and no one ever laughed more at the ocean of hilarious things in this world, or gaped more in astonishment at the wealth of miracles everywhere every moment.

I could complain a little right here about the long years of back pain and the occasional awful heartbreak, but Lord, those things were infinitesimal against the slather of gifts You gave mere me, a muddle of a man, so often selfish and small. But no man was ever more grateful for Your profligate generosity, and here at the very end, here in my last lines, I close my eyes and weep with joy that I was alive, and blessed beyond measure, and might well be headed back home to the incomprehensible Love from which I came, mewling, many years ago.

But hey, listen, can I ask one last favor? If I am sent back for another life, can I meet my lovely bride again? In whatever form? Could we be hawks, or otters maybe? And can we have the same kids again if possible? And if I get one friend again, can I have my buddy Pete? He was a huge guy in this life—make him the biggest otter ever and I'll know him right away, okay? Thanks, Boss. Thanks from the bottom of my heart. See You soon.

Remember—otters. Otters rule. And so: amen.
From his Book of Uncommon Prayer (2014).

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Hodgepodge 210/365 - Wedding

Today my SAR friends Miranda and Tim tied the knot, after having met ten years and two weeks ago. They met in Search & Rescue, and it was so nice to get to celebrate their marriage along with several other of my favorite fellow SAR team members—and dozens of other folks, many of whom I've heard about over the years. The ceremony was held in Carmel Valley high on a hilltop with a killer view, and the reception was at a favorite spot for parties and concerts, Hidden Valley. Innovative cocktails (I had the "blushing bride," made with bourbon, grapefruit juice, red clover, and rhubarb, with a sprig of elder flowers as bitter garnish—yum), delicious salmon and chicken with all the fixins, and dancing to the Sanddabs, a really good cover band. Miranda and Tim throw a great party.

Miranda asked me to take pictures, but I totally fell down on the job. It was okay, though: plenty of people had their cameras poised. I hope someone got the beautifully appointed arbor that Tim built, draped with white and sporting a large spray of white flowers. And Miranda's bouquet, which featured dried flowers, supplemented by a few turkey feathers. Here's one decent shot I managed to capture. She looked stunning. But then, she typically does. Even when she's grubby after a SAR mission.

Here are a few other photos I've taken of Miranda over the years. She's lovely, and although we don't see much of each other lately, for various reasons, I'm so glad to count her as a friend.

Miranda is a search dog handler, and her
amazing border collie Marcy specializes
in human remains; occasionally Miranda
scores some interesting stuff to train with.
Marcy when she was still a pup, in training (2008). She's
still working hard—in fact, Miranda and Marcy are
about to set off on what might be the adventure of a lifetime:
searching for the possible remains of Amelia Earhart.
Yeah, they're that good.
Man-tracking training
With her now departed search dog Izzy—being silly
Miranda makes slacklining look easy. (It's not.)
That's Tim behind her. I figured I should include
a picture of Tim here too . . .
Okay. Here's a better one.
At a ropes training. With our now–team leader Jesse.
A couple of goofs :-)
With Tim's border terrier, Doc (age 15 weeks)
On a search in Gilroy: that's Marcy in the shadows
Vertical rescue training in Big Sur
A quiet moment at Nepenthe in Big Sur

And finally, here is a little video I took at Salmon Creek Falls—mostly the falls, but you can see and hear Miranda at the end. She's a firecracker. I wish her and Tim consummate joy as they continue on as husband and wife. No worries there, though: they know exactly what they're getting into.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Hodgepodge 209/365 - SFMOMA

We went up to San Francisco for the afternoon, to see the SFMOMA special exhibit on Henri Matisse and Richard Diebenkorn, which closes on Monday. Last chance!

It was a great exhibit, both to see the span of Diebenkorn's works over the course of his career—from abstract expressionism (not my favorite style, in anyone's hands, though Diebenkorn's use of paint and color did at least make me look) into figuration into his divinely light-filled abstract Ocean Park series—and to compare his work to that of one of his greatest influences, Matisse.

No photos allowed, so: no photos. Though I do find a few here by googling, of course.

Urbana #5 (Beach Town) (1953)
Cityscape #1 (1963)
Coffee (1959)
Ocean Park #79 (1975)

But I did take some pictures of the newly renovated and expanded (by 170,000 square feet!) building: it's now seven floors of big, beautiful galleries, a couple of cafes, several outdoor sculpture gardens. Just spectacular. And I took a few photos of only a few of the works that gave me especial pleasure as well. (Missing are Anselm Kiefer, Chuck Close, Emmet Kelly, Agnes Martin, oh, and a whole bunch of other artists whom I enjoy and who are so beautifully featured in these new roomy spaces. Such a treat!)

The atrium, the centerpiece of the old SFMOMA, is now
a bit sidelined—at one edge of the expanded museum—
but I still love it
Balcony onto the frontside of the museum;
in foreground: Dan Graham, Double Cylinder (The Kiss) (1994)
The fifth-floor sculpture garden with a view
of the new building's backside
(architect: Snøhetta)
Alexander Calder, Untitled (ca. 1940)
Alexander Calder, Big Crinkly (1979)—with the
fabulous fern-studded living wall as backdrop
Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing 1247 (August 2007)
Dan Flavin, untitled (in honor of Leo at the 30th
anniversary of his gallery)
Richard Serra, Gutter Corner Splash: Night Shift (1969/1995)
Rex Ray, Untitled #107 (2013)
Self-portrait in Brancusi
(Antonin Brancusi, La Négresse blonde, 1926)

There's a wonderful photography section, which we breezed through without looking too closely, but which I'd like to return to, especially to see a show called "Good 70s" featuring the 1970s work of conceptual artist and photographer Mike Mandel. Part of what we did see today was a huge array of baseball trading cards (on top), with, below, made-up trading cards featuring photographers like Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham striking baseball poses, together with quotes (e.g., "Photography is more interesting than baseball"). It's called the "Baseball-Photographer Trading Cards" (1975) and is brilliant.

We will be going back. I loved SFMOMA in its old iteration, but I absolutely adore it now. The works really get the space they need.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Hodgepodge 208/365 - Milo!

Yesterday David and I had a little misunderstanding about Milo.  

My dog Milo.

Not really. He's definitely both of ours.  

He (Milo) knows it, for sure. Whenever the three of us go out for a walk, if one of us wanders away—to throw his poop in a distant trash can, for example—he gets almost beside himself, wondering where to be: with the poop person? with the one close by? It is such a dilemma.

When we're out on an open trail, sometimes one of us will hang back, and then we'll start a grand call-and-response game whereby Milo runs lickety-split, back and forth between us. It's great exercise—for him, if not for us.

I am told that when I go away—Israel and Italy recently, for a month, and then not much later, the Sierra foothills for a week—he mopes.

Well, I'm told they both mope.

Though I don't believe it, at least not 100 percent.

Because . . . they have each other. Here's a photo gallery of their bond. It is wonderfully strong.

David has gotten to be Milo's regular companion in the early morning, before David's 8 a.m. class, out for his (Milo's) first walk of the day. And every evening around 10, it's David who takes him (Milo) out for "Milo time!!!!" (Yes, we yell when it's Milo time!!!! It's so exciting!!!!)

The Frog Pond just the other day
Every afternoon, both Milo and I wait with some anticipation for David to come home, so the three of us can go on our afternoon walk. We most often just set off from the house for a once- or twice- or sometimes thrice-around the Frog Pond local walk (one and a half to three miles, let's say). Sometimes we head farther afield: locally, the cemetery walk (i.e., the new VA cemetery on former Fort Ord), Eucalyptus (a closed road that leads nowhere but has some pretty fancy streetlights for all that), Monterey Dunes State Park. Or a little farther still (over Laureles Grade into Carmel Valley): Garland Park—all of ours' favorite. Garland is a great place for off-leash dog walking, it's got topography, it's got many different environments (maple canyons, cottonwood meadows, oak savannahs), it gives good exercise—and it's beautiful. What's not to love?

So yesterday, the misunderstanding came about because David has been busy with music. He's often busy with music: I try to get used to it. At this very moment, for example, he's off playing with his rock 'n' roll band—and I'm glad: he loves it, and they do make some awfully good music (blues rock).

Yesterday, his musical obligation meant that he had to leave the house before 6, and he didn't get home until 4, and I was busy finishing something up, so we ended up with a 15-minute walk.

Which later on I got snarky about, and then he said something that he didn't mean, and . . . I felt bad. He felt bad. It was . . . well, it was one of those things that happens in a relationship. But aside from feeling a little hurt at what he'd said, I also felt not just a little guilty because of all that David does for Milo.

I mean, sure, I'm around the house during the day, and I say hello to Milo when he's not in his "cave" (i.e., the walk-in closet: his self-selected corner ever since he was but a pup, six years ago). I also let him out when he asks to be let out.

But David is the one who typically feeds him and takes him on that morning walk and evening "Milo time." I know that I rely on David too much in the dog department.

So today: I took Milo for a walk. A grand walk: Garland up the Waterfall Trail, all around the Mesa meadow, and when we got to the Mesa pond—I let him off his leash and told him, Go! And boy, off he went. He loves the Mesa pond, and right now it's full of water, without a hint of scum or algae. We even found a nice big stick, which I threw over and over and over again. And he fetched, over and over again. And kept asking for more. I think I wore him out. He's sacked in his cave as I type (I just checked: dead to the world).

So yeah: it could be that Milo and I will be getting out for some more walks just the two of us. Or, if David's musical obligations lighten up, that won't be necessary. But at least I know I don't need to wait for David to get me—and the dog himself—some good Milo time.

Here's a few photos from today:

Plus, there were polliwogs (of the bull frog variety: we heard the dad barking from across the pond):

Fully four inches long: these are big suckers . . .
and there where many dozens of them