Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Last Month

…has been pretty quiet, which is why I haven't posted. It's not that nothing has happened. It's more like a nice series of brief adventures that I've collected enough of to set down.

Jay had his shoulder surgery and spent some time recuperating at Mom and Don's so I used that as an excuse for a "turn and burn," driving up for lunch and back the same day. We had a very scenic walk on the Stornetta Public Lands, which were officially named a National Monument the Tuesday after my visit.
I stopped by Manchester Cemetery on my way up, to visit Jim's ashes. The flowers seem to be growing vigorously.

I couldn't spend much time in Manchester was because our second conference of the year happened the following Monday in San Francisco, and it went well. I had another one of my evening events for women. It was a good sized group and they were all very enthusiastic, clapping and cheering all of the speakers, and that was great. There was a photo booth in the Exhibit Hall, so my friend Monique and I mugged for the camera.

M and I took a long wonderful motorcycle ride last weekend, heading up to Cazadero then King Ridge, then down along Sea View to Jenner and home along River Road. It was so steep and green and lovely. I don't think it will be green for much longer, given the drought. We're back to watering the outdoor succulents, roses, and peach trees with water caught in bowls and buckets in the sinks and shower.

On Monday, I did dinner and a movie with Felicia. I know that doesn't sound very adventurous, but I rarely see movies in the theater these days. I love having her in Santa Rosa.

This weekend, M and I spent 23 hours camping with Caitlin and Sean at Doran Beach in Bodega Bay. Despite the chill, lack of sleep (I didn't pack quite enough blankets, poor M's air mattress deflated on him at about 3am, Rex paced regularly, and waves that were so close they were more disruptive than soothing when it came to shut-eye), and being surrounded by other "campers" running their generators to watch TV while huddled in their Weekend Warriors, it's something we'd like to do again. Though I'm thinking that two nights is really the minimum stay for all the work that goes into packing and then unpacking. We had nice walks on the beach, pleasant hours contemplating the bay from the beach, an excellent beer tasting, good food, and a bonfire.

I will say that I'm also missing Grandma very much lately. I feel like my spring visit with her should be just around the corner. I had really cherished that routine which was also a small adventure to anticipate twice a year. The woman who leads the gym class I go to on Wednesday morning does not vary her music, which is bad enough--if it drives me crazy, how can she stand it?--but there's one song in the playlist by Mariah Carey about saying goodbye and it usually makes me tear up when it starts to play. It is good to remember Grandma, though, no matter how sad I feel.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Culture Continues

The first big conference of the year happened this month, our big data conference in glamorous Santa Clara, and I was glad to get back in the swing of eventing. It was very successful, which of course is always a relief, but also draining.

After recovering, I've since been very happy and humbled too by how much arty stuff I've been able to enjoy in the last few weeks.

Two weekends ago, a friend from work offered us free tickets to a wonderful concert at the Green Music Center, "Sons of the Fjord," featuring works by Grieg and Sibelius, and an American premiere by Orjan Matre, "Resurgence." The premiere was very interesting--the composer had placed musicians throughout the hall, including putting the brass backstage (they left one of the doors open). We weren't too far from an oboist. We had come early to hear a lecture by the musical director and the clarinetist, so luckily we were prepared for it, and it did help me listen to the music. They talked about how placing the musicians in places other than the stage changed how you would hear the piece spatially, just as how where you sat would too. The pianist had been delayed because of bad weather and had just arrived the night before. I wonder what they would have done if he hadn't made it? M was able to bring a friend and there were quite a few people from work there--I sat next to someone in my book and knitting groups, so it ended up being a social occasion as well. Sadly, the seating was even more uncomfortable than our first visit to the Center months ago--hard chairs, I couldn't quite put my feet on the floor, and we were looking hard right. I wish we could have switched seats with the balcony across the way at intermission. Still, they were free tickets--I'm ungrateful to be complaining. Maybe the hard chairs are to help keep you awake.

The following Sunday, we saw a matinee of "Annie Get Your Gun" at a local community theater. An acquaintance I used to work with was in the title role, and it was very well done. Surprisingly good singing.

For Presidents Day, we took a drive out to Bodega Head, thinking we might see some whales. We did not. It was clear but windy, so we didn't stay long. We did visit the campsite we'll have next month. That's a nice activity to look forward to.

Last Wednesday I went down to the City for the day to a developer conference. I had worked with one of the organizers to help put together a women in tech panel. I suggested one of our editors moderate the panel and secured another panelist, and it was really gratifying to see them on stage and how well it went. They were mobbed after it ended, something that hadn't happened to the other speakers I'd seen. I made some good contacts too.

On Saturday, M and I had another epic double date with friends Caitlin and Sean. We had purchased discount coupons weeks ago for a place I'd been wanting to see for years, the di Rosa Art Preserve. I had been worried/hoping it would rain, but we had spectacular weather yet again. We stopped for lunch on the way at the Fremont Diner, which was hopping.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the di Rosa. I figured a tour would be a good place to start since the di Rosa collection is mostly Northern California artists from the last forty years, and I'm really glad we did it. The docents gave some history of the collection and setting, but mostly just let us wander through the galleries, leaving it up to us to ask about works that interested us. The di Rosas were kind of art hoarders and there was so much art, in all kinds of media. I definitely didn't see all of it. 

In addition to the two main galleries, there was a tunnel to the residence, which was also jam packed with art, and had a view of the meadow with yet more art. 

It was a lot to take in. So I can look forward to another visit or two. We added significantly to the Life Imitates Art Flickr set. 

After the di Rosa, we stopped at the new Carneros Brewery and tried some beer, then had dinner back in Santa Rosa. It was great spending so much time with them. We don't see them often enough, but when we do, we make the most of it!

On Sunday I was a little tuckered out from the art overload of the day before, but met Pointy Pal Rebecca for some conversation and a little work, had a walk on Taylor Mountain with Felicia, and made a Test Kitchen recipe that included kneaded kale, a first for me. Life is pretty darn good.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

City Outing

I woke up to an unfamiliar sound this morning, and it took me a while to figure out what it was. And then I couldn't believe it. But finally, it's raining! Raining! Keep raining! I hope it will. It's been falling steadily today, not too much of a deluge, which is perfect, a nice soaking. I'd really been missing lying in bed on a dark Sunday morning listening to the rain falling. It was a lovely start to the day. The birds are very happy, prancing about on the deck, flitting through the oak tree, flying from fence line to fence line. What a relief, even just a brief one. And a surprise, I didn't see any precipitation in the forecast.

M and I did rouse ourselves from our rain-induced hypnosis and got to the Center this morning. The theme this month is meditation, and I'm glad I went since meditation is something I'd like to do more of. I'm also reading a book about meditation, Peace Is Every Step by Thích Nhất Hạnh, so that's nice synergy. Being out for a bit made it nicer to get home and putter around the house. Yogurt is straining in the fridge, keeping a Cook's test recipe of flan company, and a loaf of sandwich bread is cooling on the counter. I have no enthusiasm for the Superbowl. We'll do some sort of stir fry for dinner tonight, so M can master his wok chops.

But, yesterday! Yesterday was an adventure in the City. Felicia and I had been planning to see the Bulgari exhibit at the de Young for months and it was pretty eye-popping.

The exhibit area was kept very dark, I assume to highlight just how scintillating the jewelry is. Each case was lined with sparkly white material. There were more guards than usual, so Felicia couldn't sneak in any photos. There were a couple of "interactive" displays that were really just animated projections. After seeing the Gaultier exhibit a while back with the projections of faces on the mannequins, I wish they would have a technology where you could project your own face onto a display, as if you were wearing one of the designer dresses or the enormous emerald necklace that once adorned Elizabeth Taylor, and then take a picture. Wouldn't that be fun? I bet they'd get a lot of buzz around that too, though maybe they don't need that.

While we were having lunch at the de Young after seeing the exhibit, Felicia remembered that her friend had recommended a park in San Francisco that had incredible views and a mosaic staircase. Since it was a brilliant day and it wasn't too far from the museum, we set out on foot to find the park. It wasn't quite as close as I had thought it was going to be, and the first hill seemed like just a nice warm up. But then we came upon this set of stairs:

I hope you can see how many flights there are in the photo. And then when we got to the top of the stairs, there were a few more uphill streets to climb. Then more flights of stairs once we got to the park in order to get to the top. We paused regularly to, um, admire the views and kept up a "Hawaii" mantra since we'll both be going in a few months and are trying to get in shape for our trips. But it worth getting to the top! It's not much of a park, but the vistas are amazing--definitely earns the name of Grandview. We saw the Farallon Islands on one side, and the bay on the other, filled with sailboats, Pt. Reyes to the north. We could see so many SF landmarks. We lucked out on an absolutely perfect day.

We walked down the other side of the park looking for the mosaic stairs. Here's a shot of just a few flights, but there are 10 or so, all beautifully done. We had no idea what the theme was when we started, we just paused at each landing and looked behind us for the next installment. It was kind of fun coming from the top and working our way down. The water themed mosaic looked particularly beautiful with the blue sky, and blue blooms of the rosemary and pride of Madeira. 

Such a lovely weekend. A wonderful start to February.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The New Year

…got off to a bittersweet start. On January 1, a group of us gathered in Evergreen Cemetery where the Boonville road meets Highway 1 to bury Jim's ashes. It's a beautiful, photogenic spot that has been a part of my travels north and south for the past 40 years, and now is even more special. We cried. We shared remembrances of Jim--well, I listened, others spoke. We passed around the small white box containing Jim's ashes. We put handfuls and shovelfuls of earth over the box.

Alix read a poem that she had written years ago when Peny passed away from leukemia:

Waving Hello To The Dead Just In Case

Sometimes my mind skips, out of the blue
to the thought of my dead,
and I flick my wrist in a little wave
and murmur their names
just in case they're looking down,
leaning out in their angel nightgowns
from the edge of a cloud,
or listening in from some misty cosmic
waiting room where souls assemble
between one life and the next.
It could even be true that something survives,
some unlikely personal spirit that needs me
to remember, holding off the final death
of being forgotten, not counting,
as if they were never alive,
their names and their little ways unknown,
their stories lost to the tongue.

David and Rachel planted bulbs dug from the yard of the Anchor Bay home, bickering a bit which I thought was a real Levine touch, then sang a folksong, "Fare Thee Well My Honey." David poured most of a Racer 5 IPA over the grave and some of us sipped the rest as it was passed around. Peter retrieved a joint from his car and opened it over the dirt and bulbs and beer. We paused for a few moments, then went back to Mom and Don's for potluck, visiting, and a walk to the picnic grounds.

 It was a good remembrance and closure. But I'm still pretty sad about Jim's passing, and Grandma's too. It's hard to let go of beloveds.


In other news:

M and I have started to attend "church"--the Center for Spiritual Living. While we're both 99.99% atheist, I still feel forces, for lack of a better word, in the world and I want to understand that more deeply. I also want to be more mindful, grateful, and intentional generally speaking. When a friend of mine from the gym started going and saying how much she enjoyed it, I figured that it might be something to try. We've attended four services and an evening networking event so far, and have gotten some combination of inspiration, thought provoking conversation, and reinforcement of positive self-esteem at each one. I can't say that my life has been transformed (yet), but I like wrestling with bigger questions regularly. We've also seen people that we know there. Who knows, maybe we'll make new friends, a crazy idea. There's a lot of music, which I enjoy, though much of it reminds me of The Culps from Saturday Night Live. I find myself humming the "Let Go, Let God" song that is played at every service pretty regularly. 

While I resolved not to make any resolutions this year, I did make the intention (splitting hairs, I know--blame the church) to "allow"--to more actively make space for more creativity and joy each day. I don't know that I've really embraced that (yet), but I do think about it a lot and I'm taking that as a good first step.

We celebrated the last of my Christmas/New Year's holiday with an afternoon trip to Doran Beach. There are beachfront campsites there, so we've made plans to go back to camp for a night with Caitlin and Sean in March.

I read a recent news story about how people with plans are happier than most because of the anticipation, and I do have a lot to look forward to in the next few months in addition to camping--seeing the Bulgari exhibit at the de Young museum with Felicia, more rendezvous with the writing partners, and a week in Kauai with M, Mom, and Don in May, among other adventures.

The drought is getting pretty bad, but the weather has been absolutely spectacular. It's hard to imagine anything bad happening when the sky is perpetually blue and the chill mornings warm to 70 degrees. Being mindful of water use is fitting right in with my challenge to use less plastic and throw less away, but it's going to be an awful spring and summer if we don't get at least a little more precipitation.