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: http://www.mobileranger.com/santacruz/migration-madness-the-sooty-shearwaters-are-back/ along with much intriguing information.

primates, human variety

Just a word to anyone noticing — I am currently in beautiful La Jolla, California where I’ll spend the next week teaching at the Clarion Workshop. I’ll be doing a reading Wednesday at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego.

We (the Clarion Foundation) are currently running our annual fundraiser for scholarship needs and I’m also part of that. If you wish to feed a hungry science fiction writer, go to http://clarionwriteathon.com and throw us some love.  Many thanks!

Rabbits not wild but brave

Yesterday my husband called me outside to see the rabbit making its slow way down our street. It was being stalked with intense vigilance by our neighbors’ ginger cat, though it seemed unaware of that. They were about the same size — the rabbit fancily colored and tame enough to let me get close, but not so tame I could pick it up. I was able to dissuade the cat, but could manage no more. When last seen it was headed into the state park where the grasses are high and its odds of survival low. It died, if it died, a free rabbit. I don’t imagine there is much consolation in that, but I’m trying to pretend that there is. Like the end of Braveheart. Sort of like that.

Pheasants, labradoodles, and, eventually, pot-bellied pigs

I’ve spent the last week in the wilds of Barcombe Mills, England with my husband.  It’s been a sort of writing retreat slash dog sitting gig with lots of rain and mud and quiet and several little tasks to clear off my calendar.  As I look out the window, a large pheasant is running up the garden path toward the house and the bird feeder.  There is something comical in the way it runs — rude of me to notice. There is probably something comical in the way I run as well. Let’s assume as much.

It’s lovely to be here.  There is a river to the front of the house and two beautiful swans on the green.  Out the back is a pond the shape of Africa, a metal ostrich, a wooden warthog. The birds at the feeder are all exotic to me, even the ones I know must be ordinary — the wood pigeons, blue tits, wrens and wagtails.  There has been copious rain, which I’ve enjoyed since we are getting so little of it back home.  I am trying to send it in the direction of California with only the power of my thoughts. Let me know how that works out.

It’s wonderful to have dogs again, even temporarily, even when I have to walk them in a blistering gale.  We’re sharing the house with two labradoodles, one large, one small, one light, one dark.  They are sweet-tempered, well-behaved dogs and they have the good life a dog has when there are no children in the house to eat up everyone’s time and attention.  Two walks a day, treats, and attention.  They are well-behaved, as I said, thoroughly lovely, and yet it has been a full dog experience – muddy paws, grass and horse-dung eating, humping, farting, snoring, barking in the night. But also the snuggling, the licking, the moment to moment concern for my well-being.

There is a horse barn next door, loads of rabbits.  I’ve seen no foxes, but of course they are here, and one night there was a tremendous row, both dogs carrying on, and in the morning a sad pile of wood pigeon feathers in the back. This is England the way I picture it, not what I see when I’m in London, but the green fields, the public pathways, muddy streams, the stiles I climb through, just like Elizabeth Bennet, my petticoat, six inches deep in mud.

And then this over my email!  I’m thrilled to direct you this morning to an article written by a brilliant member of my Santa Cruz writing group.  The topic is pot-bellied pigs.  Find it here:  http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/23/the-manifestation-of-senor-bacon/


I’m clearing up the Christmas debris and bracing for New Year’s. Hoping for more rain. Hoping for more time. Hoping for more words, more pages, more posts.
In the meantime, please notice the following: Researcher Matt McLennan is trying to raise $30,000 by January 5th on IndieGogo for his project to save chimps and help Ugandan children.  He has less than a week and about 20,000 dollars still to go.  If you can help out, please do so. The campaign is here:  https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-bulindi-chimpanzee-community-project


Second, and more self-servingly — the application period for the Clarion writing workshop, San Diego version, is currently open and I will be teaching there this summer along with Christopher Barzak, Saladin Ahmed, Jim Kelly, Maureen McHugh, and Margo Lanagan.  Details to be found at http://clarion.ucsd.edu.