Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Lillian's Daffodils

Granddaughter Lillian cannot resist picking flowers to bring into the house.

The first two narcissi that bloomed were summarily picked and brought in for decoration. She was so pleased by their looks, that I offered to take a picture of them for her. She was very pleased.

The cool thing is that I can print out the picture of them for her. I wonder if she'd like a little scrapbook of her finds and wonders?

Those aren't daffodil leaves, no indeed. I nestled the blossoms in the alstromeria to catch the evening sun.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Amazing Nose Discovery

This is the first year that I can actually smell the scent of the blossoms on the air.

The heavy weight of the pollen on the wind has made me pretty ill in the past, until I just learned to stay indoors while the orchards were in bloom. In recent years my doctor found a drug that keeps me from reacting badly to the blooms, but until this season, I'd not been out much in the fragrant air. What a lot I've missed.

And today was simply beautiful, a blessedly warm day for the bees to work hard and pollinate the trees. In the morning I drove to the store by back roads that led through the almond orchards, and just drank in the glorious explosion of flowers. At noon I opened up the house to let the Winter smell fly out the windows and to allow Spring to venture in.

Some of the orchards are already beginning to show the "snow" of falling petals; some orchards are just beginning to open their blossoms. I hope that my appreciation for the scent of the flowers won't do me any harm -- dear God, it's wonderful, and I'll never forget it now.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Dumb Parasite Trying to Comprehend Primitives

Tonight I'll probably sleep in a comfy chair in the kitchen.

The temperature is supposed to drop to the twenties tonight, so keeping the fire going is a priority, expecially with the wind blowing, which makes the wood burn more quickly.

The power went out for almost two hours a while ago. Whether it was the wind knocking over a tree, or a crackhead busting a pole, I don't know. I dredged some supplies out of a cabinet and got ready for a prolonged outage.

I thought about knocking on neighbors' doors, and offering them shelter if the outage continued through sundown. (Most heating systems rely on electricity.) But the folks across the street had power, when we did not. Hurray for PG&E, who are so vulnerable on the coldest night of the Spring.

We do, however heat with a woodstove, we had charcoal in the garage for cooking, and had lots of stuff for cold sandwiches, anyway.

As Bugs Bunny said, "Unnnnga-bunnnnga."

We can make it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The One

It's him.

Bundled in warmth against the July chill of San Francisco, my husband, Bernie strolls along a pier. He's the Best. After 31 years together, he still can make me roar with laughter -- no way will I go to lunch with him without wearing waterproof mascara for my eyelashes. My eyes squirt tears from the mirth; he has an altogether too-ready and surprising wit.

I love him.

When I put my head against his chest and hear his heart beating, Life makes sense again. When I awaken in the wee hours of the morning, with a middle-aged woman's fears for the future and guilt about the past, I hear him breathing, and all is well.

He is my heart, and without him, I would have no existence.

So Beautiful, So Fragile

There they are, the stars of the stage.

This area is known as the Almond Center of the World. Almond orchards surround us, this being the best climate for them. The spring comes early enough to have them bloom in February; and normally, the spring is dry enough in February that the bees (who come from as far away as Montana --or was it -- North Dakota?) have a protracted date with the blossoms and set tons of fruit. In March rains can come again, after the fruit has had time to set.

Unfortunately, the temperature is dropping rapidly. A couple cold fronts from the north are pushing in, making the wind rise and the air cool. The minimum temperature at which bees will get their fuzzy little asses out of the hive and work is 45 - 50 degrees. If the forecasters are correct, the bees will only have about three hours a day to pollinate all those orchards. And all their work will have been in vain if we get the freeze that is also predicted.

I've been praying that the forecasters are as wrong as they usually are. The almond farmers need a break this year, considering how paltry the crop was last year -- cold rains spoiled the trees at the height of bloom.

The blossoms are beautiful, though, aren't they?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

New Toys

The dogs went nuts when the Fed Ex truck pulled up, and so did I.

There was only one purchase that I was waiting for FedEx to deliver. I waded through the roaring pack of wolves and cracked the door open enough to drag in a heavy package, marked all over with the word "Fragile."

That's it in the pictures. It's a light box, or light table, depending on whose catalog copy you read. This is a very nice one, and I was so pleased to open the box and put the beast on my work table, where I can clutch it to my work space and rework my preliminary sketches and doodles.

The first light table I ever had was given to me when I was five or six. Called a "Draw and Tell", it featured a cheap plastic frame, a translucent plastic top panel, and a 25-watt bulb for the light source, and a folder of line drawings of people, pets, houses, cars, fruits and vegetables, farm animals... The whole point was that the kid was supposed to love tracing the line drawings and coming up with her own compositions of someone else's art. And I did love it. Probably it taught me a lot about eye-hand coordination. I know it taught me a lot about finding source pictures in books and magazines and tracing them for my own use. I used that thing so hard the surface would get too hot for my hand to rest on, hot enough to melt the wax in crayon drawings.

I used it for play, and later for professional work, for the next 30 years.

Eventually it cracked and was dead, honorably worn out. Some time right around the start of the 1990's, we bought a real light box for our daughter. I wasn't doing any artwork to speak of in those days, but she was, and she enjoyed using a good quality machine, too. (She'd also used my old toy one.)

When her daughter was born, her light box came to reside in my studio. (Oh, nice!) Until just recently, when she figured out that her quick wit and artistic talent were more than adequate for drawing engaging cartoons and comics. The light table went to reside at her desk again.

I thought I wouldn't miss it, until I needed it to do a hundred different things, from learning how to draw a particular shape by tracing it, to replicating one of my sketches on clean paper, to repairing a mistake made on another ... so I used my Christmas cash from my dear old mother and bought myself a light table. Gosh, Mom, forty-odd years later, your gift idea still works well.

This is the lovely creature with the dual fluorescents fired up (no more hot hands, no indeedy.)

The surface is slightly slanted, and there is a built in pencil/pen storage in the front. I love it. Thanks, Mom.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Winter's Flowers

These little flowers bloom in the dim, cold months of the year.

We call them "Margaret flowers," after the woman who gave me a few of their bulbs years ago. Year after year, I'd see her pulling them out of her garden in the spring, making room for petunias to be planted. Back then I wondered how she could bear to tear them out, they were so pretty.

I planted my bulbs in a planter out back of my house, and was sorely disappointed that nothing happened ... until the following winter, when familiar green leaves and pink flowers emerged in a sweet little clump. How many years ago was it that she gave them to me? Six? Seven? They took over the planter I put them in, driving out all the other plants. Last summer I had to empty the planter and move it so that the new retaining wall could be built, and I dumped the soil onto the back bank.

When winter came on, the Margaret flowers popped up everywhere. I predict in two years, my back bank will have a solid winter ground cover with pink blossoms. Is that good or bad? I don't know yet.

I do know that I miss Margaret. I stopped seeing her after her husband was a totally rude and obnoxious ass to me. She's retired, and her husband, when he's not out drinking, hangs around the house drunk and thinks of things for her to do. There was no way to continue the friendship, if friendship there ever really was. Maybe she just put up with me.

I keep hoping to see her at the supermarket some day, so that I can tell her I miss her, and that I still have the flowers she gave me in my garden.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Weird Weather Forecast

This is supposed to be the loveliest time of year.

Cool breeze, warm sun, flowers everywhere. Yes. Yes.

I just looked at Accuweather's 15-day forecast for this area, hoping to see dry weather through almond blossom season. After that it can rain, but the blossoms have to have dry weather above 50 degrees so that the bees can work. Everything looked perfect, weather wise (if a little chilly at night) until the 19th of February.

Freezing rain and possible snow???????????????????????

Tell me it ain't so.

It can't be. I must be hallucinating -- Accuweather must be smoking something wonky for sure.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Perfect Spring Day

Aren't they cute?

Lillian curled up in a blanket while playing with her toys in the kitchen and fell soundly asleep last Saturday afternoon. Now and then Babe would lean forward and peek at her.

I think that was the last actually cold day we've had. The temperatures have been rising, and today we were near 70 degrees. I know it's a little early for such balmy weather, but not abnormally so. Last spring was chilly for so long, and last autumn chilly so early -- I'm not going to complain about a seemingly early spring.

The weather forecast sounds perfect for the almond blossom season. I hope they're right. We should have a couple weeks of warm, dry weather so the bees can get their fuzzy little butts to work pollinating the trees.

Today Lillian and I went to the store, driving past orchards where blossoms are just starting to pop, and the field where the geese were. Only one flock was hanging around (about 50 birds) but it was still impressive to see, and I was really glad that Lillian got a chance to see them.

Lil and I also went on a bike-riding foray to a little park around the block, where we played on the slide and merry-go-round for a while. I was served imaginary hot cocoa and we blew out imaginary candles on an imaginary birthday cake. She has discovered speed on her little bike with its training wheels, but is not all that sure about steering, and has not figured out brakes or the need to balance herself. She stops by dragging a foot or running into something, and she wrecked twice today speeding along, singing loudly, and leaning too far side to side to her own music.

After my babysitting stint was over, I collared my baboons and we went for a walk in the last of the afternoon sun. Babe was (unexpectedly) perfect on leash, walking at heel like a gentleman. Howie was fidgetty and kept wanting to walk in front. I think he's having dominance issues these days, which makes for tough times for a timid dog.

To cap off the glorious day, my books arrived from Lulu. The Aser Stories look gorgeous. Seeing them in book form makes them so fresh and new to me. I may have to just sit down and read them all again.