That first step is a doozy.

I can’t twist the truth, it knows no regulation – Bob Dylan, Eve of Destruction.


Heathcliff weather today.  When Lily and I took our morning walk, the rain was light, but the wind was a fist in the face.  The ocean was all chop and foam and the air tasted salty.  Few people out and Lily was the only dog tough enough, though to be completely honest, she did suggest returning home whenever we came to a fork in the road.  But she didn’t insist.  Because the wind on the cliff was so strong, we turned inland and took the Bethany path home through the neighborhoods.  Flooded gutters below us and sodden crows above.

I have a confession.  The bottom steps at Its Beach have not washed away, because of course they haven’t.  I was operating under the Holmes dictum, when you have eliminated the impossible, etc etc.  This reasoning led me to an erroneous conclusion and once I posted it, I became a Fake Newser.  I don’t like the company I’m keeping.  So here is the real story:  The sand shifted so profoundly that a four foot drop to the beach opened up.  The stairs are all still there.  They just hover above the ground.



                      The invisible hand never picks up the check, notes Kim Stanley Robinson in his wonderful forthcoming novel, New York 2140.

float like a butterfly

We don’t have the power, but we never say never

We’ve had a string of sunny days, beautiful weather, glorious weather. The park is still hard to navigate as many of the paths are now waterways and Lily and I return from our walks with muddy paws. But the sky is full of butterflies and birdsong. It amazes me that, emerging from a series of storms which uprooted trees, killed people on the highways, caused mudslides and road closures all through the county, washed away the enormous concrete steps down to Its Beach, the monarchs are still here, fluttering softly about. No wind so strong, no rain so hard.

On Sunday, many people and dogs were out in the park and along the cliff walks. Locals, I’m guessing, since no one else could get here. On Friday, it took me three hours to drive home from the San Jose airport because I couldn’t go through the mountains, but had to go around. I’d been back in Washington at the AWP where I got to be on a panel and then have dinner with the wonderful Hannah Tinti, the wonderful Jennifer Egan, and the wonderful Ron Charles. All thanks to my wonderful Penguin Speakers Agency.

I flew back via Phoenix and John McCain was on my airplane. He flew coach and had a middle seat, which impressed me. He slept the whole way, which was cunning, as I’d been considered sharing a few of my thoughts with him if the chance presented. At a festival recently in Palm Springs, an author who studies and writes about the CIA, said twice in my company that John McCain and James Comey were all that stood between us and the apocalypse and because I feel both those men have also brought on the apocalypse, I let my irritation prevent me from asking what he meant, which I now regret. I can think of many other people I would rather have serving as my country’s last line of defense.

Meanwhile, Russia! Flynn! North Korea! Iran! Ivanka’s clothing line! In the days ahead, we must all be as tough as butterflies.


Feb 7

Idiot wind
Blowing like a circle around my skull,
From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol — Bob Dylan, Idiot Wind

Here is what I didn’t want for my birthday: the Betsy DeVos confirmation. Can I return it? Can I repeal and replace?
Here is a fact: So-called President Trump could be stopped at any time if there were Republicans willing to genuinely oppose his tyrannical, megalomaniacal incompetence. The Democrats have shown flickers of occasional courage, but they can do little beyond briefly gumming up the works. Only the Republicans can stop this.
We are not fooled by the Murkowski and Collins’ votes today, as these two women could have actually prevented DeVos if they’d wanted to. We are not fooled by McCain and Graham’s intermittent squealings. Until there are actual consequences, this remains a parlor charade.
Many of us have long wondered where the line is past which the Republican party will not go. We are learning that there is no line.

a Groundhog Day unlike any other


Cause it’s all in the hands of a bitter, bitter man
Say good-bye to the world you thought you lived in  – Mika, Any Other World

I attended the Women’s March in Washington, DC. I was nervous as we (the we pictured below) drove in, because I expected traffic jams and difficulties and there were none. This made me worry that, perhaps because there were so many more convenient marches being held all over the world, no one was showing up for this one. Even when we were in the thick of things, I had no sense of how many of us there were. It was a jolt of joy to see the aerial photographs and read the estimated numbers. And to see the turnouts in London, LA, San Francisco, Antarctica, etc etc etc. I spent one evening thinking, they can’t possibly ignore us. We are legion. But waking up the next morning, I remembered that of course they would ignore us. There is much talk these days of the forgotten Americans, but I too have spent most of my political life feeling ignored. One thing I noticed, particularly during and after the Iraq war, was the disappearance of genuinely leftist voices from the airwaves. God bless Amy Goodman, but she can’t do this alone.

Three weeks have passed and it’s been a cascade of horrors, designed by their sheer number and audacity to render us speechless. I credit President Bannon with that shock-and-overwhelm strategy, though I have no way of knowing for sure. Whenever so-called President Trump appears, he appears hapless and bewildered. I wish Frederick Douglass would give that man a good talking to.
Anyone who believed in the myth of the principled Republican Congressman has learned, yet again, not to do that. A few will raise their voices. None will withhold their votes. The disastrous raid in Yemen will never be given the Benghazi treatment. The possibility of collusion between the campaign and the Russians will never be explored with the joyous zeal directed to Clinton’s emails. We’ll learn the truth on the same timetable that has recently confirmed that Nixon cratered the Vietnam peace process. The white supremacists have taken their seats on the National Security Council, replacing the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and no one has stopped it. The despicable Jason Chaffetz has decided that Trump’s conflicts of interest are of no interest. Trump is being treated as the imperial leader he believes himself to be.
I do credit the conservatives in the media and the military and the justice system who are speaking out and speaking plainly against this. But none of these principled conservatives hold seats in Congress.  I am watching those Democrats who betray their constituency. I will remember their votes.
I would so like to talk about other things. The surprising surplus of rain we are having in Santa Cruz. The enormous stone steps that appear to have simply washed away on Its Beach. The pleasures of being up at sunrise to walk along the ocean with a happy dog at my feet and the sky filled with gulls and chevrons of pelicans. But everywhere I look, everything I read, everywhere I go, I see a world in peril.  Except when I look here.  How does anyone without a dog survive this world?IMG_0178

2017: Here we go

I started 2017 in an unlikely place, the Polurrian Bay Hotel on the west coast of Cornwall, storied location of shipwrecks and not too far (but not too close) to Ross Poldark’s Nampara. I know this because we trained into Truro, which was larger and more paved than it appears to have been two hundred years ago. I packed lightly and poorly, so I wore the same clothes all week, which added a piquant 18th century aroma to the whole experience.
The hotel is kid and dog friendly and was packed with both. There were fireworks on New Year’s, which the kids liked and the dogs did not. We’d brought a considerable number of those kids with us, but no dogs. Not for lack of wanting.
Back home our new dog Lily, courtesy of the Santa Cruz Animal Shelter, was being cared for by a friend. Here she is, after an exciting (and lingering) skunk encounter.

lily in mud

Looking ahead to 2017 felt more sober and sad than in any year past now that my government has become an enemy to me. Nothing will stop January 20th from coming. Nothing will stop the extremists now in complete control of every branch. All we can do is protest and resist and support those others who are protesting and resisting.

Waking up

Shhh. The blog is sleeping. The blog is sleeping like a log.
Probably it looks dead. It hasn’t moved in months, even when poked. This was brought to my attention several weeks ago when a friend, having read my own calendar, noted that I was in South Africa. Which I was. In 2015.
Plus I keep being introduced at events as the grandmother of five, when my grandchildren have numbered seven for almost two years now.
This prolonged silence is unsurprising to me (of course, I caused it!) as I’ve always been good at plans and terrible at follow-through. But I read recently that blogs are over, very 2010, really, and this was all it took to make me wish to post again.
That and the soul-killing election. Silence is not an option however desperately we wish the castle was still a slumber. 140 characters is not sufficient to my level of despair.
So it’s more like a slap than a kiss. But my plan in 2017 is to wake the blog up.

stormy seas, hawks, ospreys, and humans

I’m about to go off and live inland for several months and am trying to squeeze in as much ocean time as possible before that happens.  Since the winter storms have finally arrived, the waves have been exciting.  The beaches have all but disappeared and there are places where water and foam splashes over the cliff face and onto the sidewalk.  I’ve never seen the waves so high.

Few animal sightings in this turbulent water, but many in the skies above it.  Beautiful lines of pelicans.  Seagulls, of course.  And a couple of weeks ago, while walking downtown with my friend Joan, my first ever Santa Cruz osprey, a gorgeous bird with a white belly and dark band over its eyes.  It was perched high above us in a fir tree.  Just like the Days of Christmas song: “an osprey in a fir tree.”  That is how it goes, right?

At the other end of West Cliff, out by Natural Bridges a juvenile red-tailed hawk has been hanging about.  Two other walkers have named it — Madge, short for Majesty, obviously female, they told me, though this is less than obvious to me.  I first noticed Madge because she was exciting considerable attention from a group of crows.  They circled, shouted, dive-bombed her in sequence, like rebel pilots trying to take out the Death Star.  She was unperturbed.  She is already larger than they are and likely to become more so.

A final observation on the humans here:

Last Wednesday, I left my purse at the farmer’s market.  I took a pilates class and biked home.  More than an hour had passed before I realized it was missing.

I have a tenuous, temporary relationship with my things — they come into my life, they go out of it.  I’ve probably lost my purse almost a dozen times in the last twenty years, sometimes with large sums of cash, sometimes with all my credit cards, sometimes with my passport, my phone inside.

And every single time this has happened, my purse has been returned to me, contents intact.

I rushed back to the market to find the booths all closed and disassembled.  Also, my purse, being cared for by a representative of Dirty Girl Farms.  ”We kept waiting for you to come back,” he told me.

I know others have other experiences.  But for what it’s worth, this has always been mine.

sooty shearwaters, in great numbers

A few evenings ago, August 4th to be precise, while pushing a stroller, trying to soothe a cranky baby, I found myself on West Cliff Drive just before sunset. I circumvented Lighthouse Field State Park, which meant I walked for several blocks along the ocean. The whole time I walked east, a stream of birds flew west over the water, an abundance of birds, an endless chain. They did not appear to be feeding, though I couldn’t see any individual clearly enough to be sure, just the great cloud of them. I kept expecting to walk past the place where the flock began, but I never did and it’s possible they were moving in a great circle, or it’s possible that the movement originated further down by the harbor or even beyond. I think it’s fair to say that I have never seen so many birds. I was awestruck.
I came home and hit the google and found that they are sooty shearwaters, making an annual visit to Santa Cruz. One online estimate had their numbers at 3000+.
Their migrations are also epic – 40,000 miles, the longest documented migration of any bird — so we are lucky to be on the route. There are pictures on the web that suggest their numbers and resemble what I saw. One can be found here: along with much intriguing information.