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Showing posts from December, 2008

Happy Holidays, Y'all!

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... May your most unlikely wishes come true!

Solstice -- The Return of the Sun

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... I took this photo while Robb and I were out on the Bay Trail, yesterday. I must have looked like a maniac, balancing a mandarin orange on the top of a worm-eaten piece of driftwood. Luckily, there weren't a lot of people on the trail, to observe my shenanigans. Today is the Winter Solstice: the longest night for people in the Northern Hemisphere. From here on, the days will get longer, and spring will eventually overtake winter. With regards to winter, we certainly don't have much to complain about in Northern California. We get fresh organic produce delivered to our door all year 'round. And we're not buried under mounds of snow. Actually, with the return of the rains (California's summers are rainless and all our vegetation goes dormant in the "normal" growing season), we are about to enter our greenest time of year. So, unlike our ancestors, we don't face the solstice with a mix of joy and dread. We won't have to worry about s

Two blog themes: Birds and Disability

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... Robb and I went out cycling today, because rain was expected Sunday, and because we wanted to stay as far away from holiday shopping as we possibly could. Robb's bad balance makes being in crowded stores a very trying experience. I have no legitimate excuse -- I just hate shopping. We had stopped along the San Francisco Bay Trail to look at a mixed flock of shorebirds, and one particular Willet caught my eye. It seemed to be a bit more active in its feeding than the other birds. It was jamming its head further into the mud than its fellows, and flapping its wings while the other birds stayed still. I stood and watched this bird for quite some time, and then it hit me. This plump, healthy bird only had one leg. All that movement was this bird's way of maintaining its balance as it fed. I can only imagine that it had to eat more food than a healthy Willet, because all that flapping and hopping around surely used up a lot of energy. And yet, it seemed t

Comfort and Joy

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... I started knitting in the airport, when I was traveling to France to see my dad and stepmother. And a few weeks later, I had a new comforting wooby sweater. The stripes are made of two different yarns, an almost solid green, and a variegated multicolored yarn. I found knitting this sweater, which I designed myself, completely engrossing. Watching the yarn switch color was fascinating, and I took great pains to make the colors on the front and back of the sweater line up. Likewise, the two sleeves match each other perfectly. Most people wouldn't bother with this sort of thing, but I'm a bit of a maniac when it comes to pattern. Robb and I went cycling along the shore of the San Francisco Bay today, and stopped at one of the little cove-beaches for a picnic lunch. Five days before Christmas, and we're enjoying lunch on the beach. That's right, I was enjoying the beach, without a winter coat!

Mistletoe

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... Mistletoe grows wild around here. It is one of those "traditional" Christmas images that are actually ancient Pagan symbols. Mistletoe fruits at the winter solstice, and like the evergreen tree and the holly, it promises that the world will not remain a cold, lifeless place, and that spring will come again. Mistletoe is described as hemi-parasitic. We first noticed the large spheres it formed in the upper branches of oak trees, but it took us a while to figure out what the spheres were. In Norse Mythology, every living creature was asked to promise not to injure the beloved god Baldr, but the mistletoe was thought to be too puny, or weak, or young, or unimportant to make such a vow. The trickster god Loki got wind of this, and made an arrow (or spear) out of mistletoe. Because Baldr was deemed impervious to harm, the gods amused themselves by throwing dangerous items at him, and laughing at the lack of harm they inflicted. (Don't try this at home, kids!)

three THOUSAND miles

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... I wanted to celebrate the fact that since March of 2007, Robb has cycled THREE THOUSAND MILES . In other words, he's cycled the distance from the East Coast to the West Coast of the United States. Not bad for a guy with paralyzed legs!

Birdwatching in the Rain

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... "Air Traffic Control, this is Marbled Godwit. Am I cleared for landing?" Looking forward. Looking back. Looking more than a little bit wet and bedraggled.

Our Watery World

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... From what I've read, scientists estimate that 70% of the earth's surface is covered with water . And of course, depending on how close the moon is to the earth, the water advances and recedes in the form of high and low tides. This weekend was an exceptional tide cycle, and if we hadn't made plans to go birding, we would have been down at the sea-side, checking out the exposed tidepools. We did take advantage of the tides, though, but not to look at sea-dwelling creatures. One of our favorite local spots for bird-watching is Arrowhead Marsh , which is an unlikely bit of nature, located smack-dab in the shadow of the Oakland Airport. This is one of the first places Robb and I returned to when he was regaining his ability to walk . It is also the home of the highly endangered California Clapper Rail , a shy chicken-like shorebird. We are always delighted to spot one of these elusive birds, stalking along the reeds of Arrowhead Marsh. This weekend, the tide wate

Immense

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... You've surely seen those spectacular nature shows, where tens of thousands of animals fill your entire field of vision, and go thundering across your television screen. If you are like me, your thought process goes something like this: Awed: Wow....just....wow.... Curious: How did they ever manage to get those shots? They must have spent months, waiting for that one perfect moment. It must have been a once-in-a-lifetime moment. Wistful: Can you imagine being able to witness something like that? To experience that kind of Force of Nature. If only... I guess I imagined this sort of experience was only for the super rich, who had the time and the money to travel to the veldt or the tundra. I thought I would never be the person who had the face-to-face contact with Nature with a capital N. And, boy was I wrong. Robb and I were invited along on a birding trip, and my heart is still pounding from the thrill. We saw thousands and thousands and thousands

Missives

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... The thing I find so awe-inspiring about blogs is the way blog-writers invite friends and strangers into their lives. Sure there are people writing about where they had dinner , and what the cat did, but there's also a lot of brave, raw, honest thinking-out-loud going on. Thank you to all of our blog readers, and particularly to those who are moved to leave comments. I am unbelievably touched by what you have to say. Robb and I are headed out of town for a couple of days, to see the winter bird migration. My dreams are full of cranes and geese and ibises. (And also that danged sweater that I can't seem to finish!)

Before and After

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... The other day, Robb and I were at a party, and it struck me that there was only one person in attendance who knew Robb before he broke his back. I've been giving a lot of thought to the fact that most of the people we know in California never met the Robb who was an actor, or a hiker. They never went paddling with me and Robb, or ran around on the beach with us. They never knew Robb as the nimble, agile guy who could do anything. As I said, I've been thinking about this a lot. But I haven't arrived at any particular wisdom. My thought process has been more like probing at a sore tooth with my tongue. Poke poke poke. Feels weird and uncomfortable, and I can't stop myself. Obviously, everyone changes over time. And Robb is still changing, as am I. But I guess I'm not entirely at peace with the change that was thrust upon us. I still don't think of Robb as the guy with the paralyzed legs. Sure, that's a part of who he is, but it is only a smal

Winter Wonderland

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... We don't see snow in the San Francisco Bay Area. If we want this kind of weather, we have to drive to the Mountains. Truthfully, I don't miss ice and snow, and I'm thankful that Robb didn't have to learn to walk on icy sidewalks, after his spinal cord injury. Walking zero-miles-an-hour in the rain was miserable enough. At least he didn't risk slipping and falling when his body was knitting itself back together. I think it is really funny how the "traditional" images of Christmas have more to do with the climate of Northern Europe than the climate of the actual birthplace of Jesus. Snowflakes and holly in the Holy Land, anyone? People I've talked to who have lived in the Southern Hemisphere have told me about hanging up the reindeer-and-snowmen decorations in the middle of their summer, and celebrating Christmas with a barbeque. But what I really want to know is this. If the President (or President-Elect) of the United States gets in

First Come the Holiday Parties ...

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... ... and then, inevitably, the Holiday Colds. I totally lost my voice yesterday at my job's holiday party, and today I'm at home, sick. I hope I didn't share my aches and sore throat along with all that Holiday Cheer.

Dying from Mushrooms, and Dyeing From Mushrooms

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... I learned about both topics, yesterday at the Mycological Society of San Francisco 's Fungus Fair . (Robb went cycling. He wasn't interested in attending lectures, because sitting for any length of time still causes him significant discomfort.) At this point I'm much more comfortable with the idea of collecting mushrooms for my dye pot than my stew pot. The descriptions of mushroom poisoning were truly horrendous. Basically, the toxins affect your organs so that on the most basic cellular level, halting their necessary function of cell-replication, and killing you via organ failure. If you are a very lucky victim of mushroom poisoning, you will wish you were dead. If you are a lucky victim of mushroom poisoning, you will need emergency organ transplants. If you are unlucky , you will slowly die of organ failure. And there is no known antidote for this form of poisoning. I'll stick to photography, for the moment. Photography, and pondering dye

Do you see what I see?

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... Robb and I were each driving home, after working on a soooooper secret -- and rather toxic -- craft project at my shop. (Given the list of ingredients we brought in, my co-workers were pretty much convinced that Robb and I were cooking up a batch of Crystal Meth for the holidays.) Since Robb had met me after work, we were driving home in separate cars. About half-way home, there's a big new condo complex and last night they had part of their street blocked off. At first, what caught my eye were the huge beautiful lamps, illuminating the crowd. And then I noticed the Sumi Wrestlers. Quite a crowd of them. Admittedly, a single Sumo Wrestler makes up a pretty decent crowd, all by himself. I think I counted half a dozen. Outside. At night. In December. Robb, amazingly didn't notice these gentlemen at all. He was mesmerized by what he later described as Geishas on stilts. (How the heck did I miss that spectacle????) I swear, we weren't noshing on our afore-m

Reflection

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... I started this blog, back in February of 2006, right after Robb broke his back. To be honest, a big motivation for writing was my need to set up a little bit of a barrier between myself and everyone who was calling to check up on Robb. Telling the same story over and over again was killing me, as were the 6am phone calls. The blog chronicled the process of adapting to life with a spinal cord injury and paraplegia. It kept an up-beat tone, because Robb and I were so hopeful. It documented the tiny day-to-day triumphs, because we quickly realized that every little victory needed to be savored. ( First shower in two weeks? Wonderful. A hospital that allows visits from house cats? Awesome! Visits from friends and family? Oh yeah! Learning to walk again? Oh man, I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.) We also reveled in life's little weirdnesses . Robb and I can always find the humor in any situation, no matter how bleak. When Robb came home from the hospita

Wonderful

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... Robb and I spent several hours at Arrowhead Marsh, cycling around and looking at the birds. We saw the endangered California Clapper Rail, as well as all the bird watchers who were watching this bird. The thing about watching birds is that you have to have patience, and you have to leave yourself open to opportunities. In the case of this gull, I asked Robb if we could stop because the late afternoon light was so perfect, and because the birds were wheeling around and around and around, diving for something-or-other. (Tortillas? Cheese? It certainly was yellow!) Trying to capture a bird in flight is one of those impossible tasks that I keep attempting because I'm more stubborn than sensible. I must have taken a hundred photos of these birds. This more than makes up for Saturday, when I forgot my camera battery.