My esoteric ticks that take me into the woods in winter.
There’s a truly absurd play in which two people sit on chairs waiting for Godot to show up. We wonder why they are waiting or if he will show. Spoiler alert, he doesn’t. Sometimes that’s what it feels like to wait for the salmon--the chinook and the coho--to appear. I walk along the bank to... Continue Reading →
Last weekend at the cabin, everything was raggedy: trees were down, nothing was blooming, appliances were acting up, and roads, boots, ditches, and even our faces were running with cold rain. But, or, as Butt the Hoopoe says in Salman Rushdie’s playful Haroun and the Sea of Stories, “but but but.” But but but for... Continue Reading →
My friends, how do I love you? I love you as the vibrant pulse of life. I love you as a wild ginger. A bleeding heart. As cactus, cloven, we know not why. And staghorn ferns, as well . As nettles, with their spines we learn to live with. Veronica seed--a heart that follows bloom.... Continue Reading →
You may know I’m a tree physiologist and that my research has been in how a plant gets water to go up the tree, but it wasn’t until I started making maple syrup that I started thinking about maple sap. The sap we collect comes out of the wood, and it has sugar in it.... Continue Reading →
People believed we did not have common sense. We crawled through the chaparral over sharp rocks barefoot and in shorts. We stayed out exploring until we could not see where our fingernails ended and our fingers started. We asked too many questions and pushed ourselves in environments that were dangerous and mental realms that were... Continue Reading →
Here’s how you shut it off. You leave town with your husband. You rent a place that has kayaks. You concentrate on figuring out how to pull yours through the sand to the lapping ocean, then on how to get into the plastic shell. Then you row, or paddle, or whatever it is that you... Continue Reading →
My husband, the dogs, and I spent last week at his family’s beach cabin. It’s a modest structure with a flat roof and a lot of history—his family’s history; I married in relatively recently. The cabin sits on top of a cliff above a long narrow beach. The beach’s upper terrace is a strip of... Continue Reading →
Today there were flickers of fall. I spied them in the curled leaves beneath our cherry tree, its crown still green. I smelled them in the air, both brisk and sour. I felt them on my feet which brushed against the dew. I wore the flickers in my spine, which hunched today to force the... Continue Reading →
I like our little tractor, a lot, although I like what it does more than I like operating it. All the bits about pre-warming the coils and managing controls in the right order unnerve me. There are clutches, hand-levers, and foot pedals for going forward or backward, going fast or slow, lifting (or dropping) the... Continue Reading →
I have to grease our little tractor. That means I have to skootch on my back, grease gun in one hand and manual in the other. I will concentrate on my three hopes: That the tractor won’t roll. I know it won’t because it can’t: it’s parked on the level and has both of its... Continue Reading →
With our monitoring of first flowering date, we have a feeling of belonging to the world, rather than resistance to it; of concordance, rather than shock.
Last week I attended a symposium on Environmental Arts and Humanities. I listened with creeping discomfort as three speakers talked about “truth” as if it were subjective. One speaker talked about her research on photos, not what is in them, but what observers of the photos take away. These takeaways were the big feelings like... Continue Reading →
I’ve known that feathery plant with tiny green bobbles for so long. It grows between the flagstones. I’ve known the wide leafy thing that isn’t a mint, and the tiny-leaved tiny-flowered spike that grows through lawns like miniature garlands. Bear with me here: I have a point to make. I’ve known weeds and their patches... Continue Reading →
Letter to my boyfriend after my junior year of college. I had just returned to California for the summer from Pennsylvania by Greyhound bus, May 29, 1977. My kids don’t know what a stubbed toe, a stubbed heel, or a scraped knee is, really. They understand the concept, but they aren’t even sure how you’d... Continue Reading →
Some time last year, the plants around our cabin started grabbing atoms from the air and soil. They jammed them together, then used solar energy to stick them into molecules that were no longer gas or liquid, but were solid. For the rest of the growing season, the plants doled out those molecules to whatever... Continue Reading →
When I chose to study the ecology of western poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum, also known as Rhus diversiloba), I knew I would have to learn how to minimize the risk of “getting poison oak” and of causing other people to get it (11, 12, 13, 14). Here I describe the nature and seriousness of the... Continue Reading →
Chorus frogs are peeping, the trillium blooms have turned from white to purple, and leaves of all the deciduous plants are bursting forth in an orchestrated unfolding, filling, and spreading. And among the most beautiful displays is poison oak. Its buds open to crimson or red leaves that uncrinkle and spread. They stop at a... Continue Reading →
Who goes there? I am usually too ignorant to even know someone is passing by. And when I do pay attention, I am astonished to learn the extent of transit, variety of travelers, and breadth of cargo that moves in my neighborhood. I live near a residential home for women in rehabilitation, and I see... Continue Reading →
Great glory, wonderful day! I’m astonished how good it feels when the sun finally shines, when grasses show as mounds in unmown lawns, and cherry petals start to grace the ground, reminding me to look up. Dogs walk faster, squirrels linger with more derring-do, college kids talk louder as their masses move up sidewalks. At... Continue Reading →
Can you conjure the time when you most experienced bliss? Have you felt suspended among bats of down comforters above and below, your body—and your thoughts, or lack of thoughts? That’s how I was.
Challenge: Take photos of all the letters of the alphabet in nature. Do not move except to get the camera into position. Do not alter images other than cropping them. See what I learn from the challenge. Outcomes: A bunch of photos. Pleasure while pondering views and images. Skills in photography. Skills in imagining features... Continue Reading →
He asked me to come see the tractor close up. I followed. He invited me up into the cab. I climbed up and into the one seat with him. What else could I do?
When I was twenty, I took a year away from college. I was a Californian, but I’d been going to a small, extremely intense liberal arts college in the East, and it felt right to leave for somewhere for a while. My first move was to France for a semester abroad. I recall that our... Continue Reading →
Maple syruping: that’s my topic this week, although it had stiff competition with landmark events and astonishing everyday occurrences. Landmark events? Early in the week I finished the first draft of my second novel. I was travelling, but not for work, which gave me the time to concentrate. Another landmark event: My dad turned 92. My... Continue Reading →
This time of year, the natural beauty in our part of Oregon is in the textures of branches and barks, and the patchworks of greens showing through yellows and browns of fallen leaves. It’s in mists that rise and fogs that settle. It’s in sun that glows, white not yellow. And nothing botanical is gloriously... Continue Reading →
We arrived in the morning. We usually arrive the night before. We started the woodstove, and then put together beans and corn and olives and tomatoes and chili powder so they’d meld by dinnertime on the stove. My husband made us each a cup of coffee. It was still morning, after all, and there was... Continue Reading →
We’re back from vacation, and as I’d hoped, my dog and I are overjoyed to be together again. The salmon are spawning in the creek, the chestnuts are falling in the driveway, the jays are emptying them, and the dog is growling, pawing, and barking at their spiny casings. But the topic of this week’s... Continue Reading →
We’ve been on vacation in Hawai’i for two weeks, and in spite of wondrous experiences, I miss my dog. Birds and flowers are impossibly red. Fish, which slosh back and forth in my mind even when I close my eyes, look to be designed by children with fabric scraps and no instruction on practicality. With... Continue Reading →
Out the plane window, Daria considered the resemblance of the wind-whipped ocean surface to a meadow in a breeze. In both cases, the waves and the troughs between them seemed tickled along by the wind. The mechanisms, however, were quite different, as she’d shown with a post-doc several years back. Just for starts, wind energy... Continue Reading →
I found an old friend at the cabin this weekend. I’d known it first from the California chaparral when I was growing up. I would have brought a sprig to the house, crinkling my nose at its medicinal smell. I’d have pored over my field guide, skipped the italics, and called it “yerba buena.” Its... Continue Reading →
“Some of them like it; some of them don’t.” That’s what a future landlord told me years ago on the phone while describing the firehouse he was renting. (It turned out it was a farmhouse; I hadn’t understood his New Hampshire accent. And I liked it.) We had a cold winter this year in the... Continue Reading →
On Friday my dad had to go to the clinic. I took him there. They said his blood pressure was low--really low, and I should get him an ambulance for the ride to the emergency room half a mile away. But I drove him instead. I parked, slammed my door, ran for a wheelchair, rotated... Continue Reading →