Just listen…

October 1, 2020. Judith writes:

Just when we thought the human news could not get any worst: this week it did.

Do we really need to make a list to remind how bad it has gotten? The vitriol and ranting during the presidential debates set a new low. Fears are being stoked about the intersection of the flu season and the ongoing Covid epidemic. There is rampant unemployment with uncertainty roiling the financial markets. Fires are burning throughout the West. The air is a thick mix of fog and smoke, laden, claustrophobic. Even wearing a mask, rather than a being about taking care of yourself, and others has been politicized.

It’s hard to not feel depressed. Amidst the gloom of these sad and challenging times we need to find ways to heal from the psychopathic politicians and greedy corporations.

Last evening, the birds did it. The Golden-Crowned Sparrows were right on time. At dusk we heard that familiar trill, whistled notes descending in tone, announcing “hey, honey, I’m back.” Back from their summer trip to Alaska, three thousand miles back to here to winter over; their arrival is so reassuring, reminding that even if the human world is in trouble, birds will continue to sing out. Just listen…

October 1, 2020. Richard writes:

After cycling through a series of calamities—death of parents, surgery, house fire, car wreck, adolescent children, remnants of a divorce, all of which left me an insomniac turning in sweaty sheets. To palliate the anxiety, I began memorizing poetry. With over 100 poems in my noggin, I began a series of public performances dressed in a getup that would remind you of an old Wurlitzer. I thought I was done with the performing and tossed the thing into the cleansing fire of Burning Man. Turns out I was not done. Three weeks later, having written scant little, I wrote my first poem: The Golden Crowned Sparrow Returns October First


As a side note, my sister-in-law sent the poem off to a poetry contest. I won 3rd prize and a bronze medal appeared in my mailbox. Yay! the medal was followed by daily emails asking me why I wasn’t forthcoming with $149.95 to buy the Claret Cup with my name engraved. Then a plea wondering why I wasn’t buying the leather-bound volume including my poem complete with a CD recording of my poem intoned by none other than William Shatner. Oh, Fame you fickle mistress….I did go on to win a couple of cash awards and an invitation to read at the Bolinas Museum. An outdoor venue in the courtyard, where on a branch above my head 3 Golden-Crowned Sparrows appeared as though scripted into the event.


The Golden-Crowned Sparrow Returns October First

Up at dawn.
Dawdling in bed on the phone talking with a birder friend.
The window’s open to the sky opalescent pink and soft green.
I say to my birder friend,
“I’m getting a little impatient for the return of the golden crowned sparrow song” such a syrupy liquid sound
in the October mornings around these parts
a three note slightly off key Three Blind Mice.
They come all the way from their summer of love,
an Alaskan tundra vacation.
All this way to me on a few feathers.
“Gee, I’m taking this personally.”
This sweet,
descent of three notes is a real intimation of the slow coast toward
winter damp, dark, as an uplifting
souvenir of my first morning in this house,
an October 1st landing spot in 1992,
home again after a couple of years
of my own unsettled migrations.

Kidding around with my birder buddy I say
“They have until October 1st or they’ll be trouble, I’ll file a report.”
That song is their bird language
melancholy and a token of life’s renewal.
A trophy for me.
But really their song is for them alone
nothing in it for me
nothing of longing
nothing of heartsickness at mortality
and finally nothing for me but for the fact
that they really did show up October first.

In 2012 Richard wrote Ming’s Return. Amelia returned and once again, so did the Golden-Crowned Sparrows.

So here we are on October 1, 2020 and those little puff balls of zeal showed up.

The Song of Notchie.

WARNING: PARENTAL DISCRETION ADVISED

(BTW Just how is it you become a parent?)


The singular certainty of art and what I am most interested in sharing is the long genetic march that installed me at this point of poetical understanding…How does anyone wind up where they belong? And, we do feel like we’ve landed “right”, as in the old Shaker song, “Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free, tis a gift to come down where we ought to be…til turning turning we come round right.” That’s the philosophical question of the hour. Is right an expansive affirmation or a limiting box?

Notchie and her “Old Man” on the stairway to heaven. Sing it Fred Astaire, “There maybe trouble ahead, but while there’s music and moonlight and love and romance, let’s face the music and dance.”

So the deer broke in again, (not exactly, I left the gate open for about an hour), and they shouted in their silent way, “We’re in! We’re in!” …Stealthing their way along on little pointy double toes. What do they go to first? Ignoring cabbages, and beans, tomatoes and corn to smorgasbord—it’s the roses! You have to admire their taste in the licking up the rose blossoms. How can you not linger on the thought of the deer we call Notchie because she has a divot chunked out of an ear by some blind-panic move through the tough oak brush. It’s Noctchie who for seven years birthed her twin fawns, all spotty and springing, right at the top of the driveway next to Judith’s car, a Matrix Wagon, it happens. It’s where Notchie feels maybe a larger sense of confidence, for every once in a while a coyote or a bobcat will drag off one of the little darlings. Can you see the Matrix, a great metal wall, standing between the fawns and devouring death?

So here it is, the mystery of Art in a nutshell: Spotty Fawns, a driveway, nibbled roses add up to a wash of imagination spilling through you, to float through your mind to land, to make good on the promise that some things cannot be explained but simply exist in a vivid way as true as outside your window.

We’ve been jotting down stories of Notchie since we returned from our African sojourn and saw her as a creature of wonder, not the casual look we give say, a blue jay or a crow or as one of the other ubiquitous deer—as any wild creature. Now, we look at animals and plants with a different sort of lens, the reverent lens of a naturalist and not the casual off-hand glance. Back from Africa, we found a deer, its throat gnawed on, lying still under a redwood. Feeling a longing for the deeply entertaining show of life-in-action we saw on our trip, we dragged the deer carcas out into the field where we could watch from our perch on the “sundowner deck,” Where we watched the clean-up crew have at that bounty of meat. BTW, this obviously was not our Notchie but maybe a second cousin thrice removed.

Just like in Africa, the buzzards entered with their razor-billed heads thrust out on naked necks, (built just for this purpose), right through the anus. Easy access through the softest part. Ravens, blue jays, crows all had a turn, until in five days time, it was pretty much clean of meat, but stinking to high heaven. The stink, the kind you want out of your nose like you want an itch scratched, was wafting in on the prevailing west wind. It was time for interment under the dirt. “Let’s put her behind the shed so we can maybe dig up the cleaned-off bones in a couple of months.” A couple of months turned into 8 years, when grandsons Jude and Aloysius, playing at junior paleontologists, wanted to dig something up. They love digging—maybe a tunnel to China? Why don’t you guys try behind the shed? We had spun a yarn about Smudegy the cat who had died of panic in the Loma Prieta Quake in ’89— discovered dead under the dining table and buried behind that same shed, and rediscovered when we dug a footing for a new foundation under that same shed, disassembled for its new location at our new house in Forest Knolls. Same shed, new location. I know, it’s complicated but here’s the unearthed Smudegy.

Smudgey who caught mice and paraded around with the tails hanging out of her mouth.

I showed the boys Smugey’s skull, “Maybe you’ll get lucky” (…I know we put out a deer behind the shed, but, the shifting tides of grasses and leaves, who knows???)

Aloysius and Jude digging to China

The boys poked around, digging and delving—getting bored and rekindling enthusiasm until first, out came a rib, then a vertebra or two, pelvis bones and finally, in a grand moment of triumph, the prize of the skull. The whole of the deer was unearthed with future plans to bleach the bones for reassembly as a sculpture in the garden. Should we call her Lucy? As a side note, we should mention that Don Johanson, the discoverer of the real Australopithecene “Lucy” in Africa, was a client at our printshop getting some reproductions of his NatGeo images, told us the story of her name. It turns out Lucy in the Sky was playing on the radio when they made the discovery.

So back to the song we were singing: the whole drama of the big buck chasing the doe around the property in a walking waltz, up and back and around our place. The little tease. This dance has been playing for over a week. Then as if the bell sounded for the end of recess, Ole’ Notch stops and squats spreading a bit of uric pherenome, making instinct a reality, “Come on big boy, let’s get this party started…”

Watermelon Man

For years and years (5) we have tried and tried to grow watermelons and for years and years (5) we have been unsuccessful. Yeah, sure one year we did grow one about the size of a softball. Yes, it was juicy delicious but there was not near enough of it.

But this year, with the humidity and the heat, we’ve struck pay dirt!!!

For fear anything would happen to this gem, we coddled it like a
baby … cushioning it with a blanket and singing sweet cooing songs to it every day. Baby … Baby … Baby …

Grow Baby Grow
It may look like a watermelon but, how does it taste?
A N T I C I P A T I O N is making me crazy!
This is no GMO store-bought variety. It’s authentic. It has seeds.
Smile
Watermelon Man
More? Yes, here’s watermelon #2

Five by Five

The slang dictionary defines “five by five” as good, okay, cool, awesome, fun. Here at Rancho D “five by five” takes on a new meaning.  The grandkid names are Reed, Grey, Jude, Aloysius, Clementine and the chicken names are Rudi, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Pepper, Popchan. Richard wants to name all five chickens after his mother Shirlee. Surely a “five by five” idea, since these days it gets harder and harder to remember names.

 

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Valley Days

When an invitation for entries goes out for an online project, we are there, we show up, always eager to participate. The San Geronimo Valley Community Center has long been the center of our community. From the Spring Art Show to poetry readings to musical extravaganzas plus during times of power outages and emergencies its the go-to place to charge up. Interested in keeping folks in our Valley connected they have compiled photos/text/ recipes for Valley Arts Day, Valley Garden Day and Gourmet Day.

Although we are not big Facebookers or Instagramers we are happy to see our posts in the scroll with our neighbors and friends.

Valley Art AnnounceValley Arts Day JSLValley Arts Day RDL

Valley Garden Day

Valley Garden Day Gerald

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Valley Gourmet

C_H_I_C_K_E_N_S

That’s the way you spell________

 

Yep, we got ’em: chicks, kids, and a coop to boot.

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Jude+ chicken IMG_9375

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We have had on our minds the link between birds and dinosaurs; about how the dinosaurs shrank and metamorphosed into creatures who could fly. Although the archaeopteryx was considered to be the fossil connector, Smithsonian Magazine reports that it has been discovered that modern birds C_H_I_C_K_E_N_S descended from the Tyrannosaurus Rex, their closest relatives. Which brings us to Lorna Stevens, who found on the Tahoe trail, a diminutive plastic T-Rex specimen that is the corner stone for the altar/shrine to remind our chickens from whence they came and to inspire them to greatness.
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Every Nose Counts

Feeling pretty glum after the many exhibition delays, reschedules and closures we have suffered since March. The final death knell was the cancellation of the 4th of July Woodacre parade —  a most favorite fun community DIY affair with everyone joining in—kids on decorated bicycles, clowns on stilts, glittered horses, baton twirlers and our fave — a train of stuffed teddy bears in RadioFlyer wagons. One year Richard and his cohorts presented a kazoo marching band.
 
Happy that a team of artists/activists have revved up a roadside art action and a grand car procession — and by uniting it all with the timely causes and messages of Black Lives Matter, the census and get out the vote. Very proud to be a part of this amazing and powerful SGV community.
 
Stay safe.

Stay true.

Taking a cue from Groucho Marx who famously quipped, If you are not having fun, you’re doing something wrong, my sign intends to add a bit of levity to the census conversation that might be stressful or contentious for some people. The classic Groucho nose-and-glasses are instantly recognized as a symbol for good humor so my sign hopefully will not only evoke laughter but will prompt people to “fill out the census.” 
 
 
 
 
 
UPDATE
July 3, 2020
 
The Art Action Committee laid out the 50+ signs and mapped their placement along
Sir Francis Drake Boulevard through the San Geronimo Valley.
 
 
The Lang Gang was here helping with masks and signs.
We are ready-set for Roadside Art Action!
 
 
 
UPDATE
July 4, 2020
 
We haven’t been getting out much but when we do, like we did on the 4th of July for the Roadside Art Action, we whip up plenty of hoopla.
 

WE may not have convinced anyone to fill out their census but we might have inspired them to come to their senses.

 

 

UPDATE
July 9, 2020
 
The Spanish and English versions are both now on display on Sir Francis Drake Drive just across from the San Geronimo Valley Community Center.
 
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UPDATE
July 17, 2020
 
This montage of all of the Roadside images will soon be for sale. Proceeds will go Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland.
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UPDATE
AUGUST 14, 2020

Irving was Later Named Gerald

FYI: Irving was later re-named Gerald.

The time to dig potatos is after the flowering, when the foliage dies back late summer, early fall. We are harvesting ours now because we took a chance and planted in November. We lucked out because we did not have a hard freeze, so they made it through the winter. It was time for a dig ’cause we needed the space for summer tomatoes. Let’s see what we get—always a thrill to dig in the dark earth, discovering what will be revealed, and great lesson for the grands. Clem and Aloysius were out for mask-wearing-distance visit.
Plenty of dirt discoveries around here. Just when you think you’ve got them all — an astounding revelation, our latest and largest potato ever!!! AND, in that little 20 foot row we gathered over 40 pounds. Richard as a graduate art student at U Wisconsin, getting ready to embark on a notoriously wobbly art career, enrolled in the Ag school for classes in vegetable production, as a fallback. All that training is paying off 48 years later, 

 

Measuring 8.5″
Weighing 3.153 lbs.
We have a winner.
Her name is Lyra.
When harvesting potatoes, the great thrill is turning over the dirt, then, with fingers sifting through moist earth, discovering a gargantuan spud. And, in the same mound, finding, a tiny “pea potato” who like the Little Engine that Could, is chanting: “I think I can, I think I can.” Comparisons may be odious, or as Shakespeare punned “odorous.” In this case, we think of the proximity as inspiring greatness.
One Big Potato
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Update June 18
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Update June 20
The stub of Gerald that had started to sprout was ceremoniously planted in a special tub. Look how happy he is to be going back to the dirt from whence he came with the hope that he will go forth and proliferate.
Happy Father’s Day!!!
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Update June 26
It sure was fun to see Gerald on Facebook as our entry for the San Geronimo Valley Community Center Valley Garden Day.
Valley Garden Day
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Update July 2
Sign of life — first greens poking up
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STAY SAFE and STAY TRUE

Dear Friends and Family,

We have been sending out random emails and messages about our status. This report to get ya’ll up to date.

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At the top of our driveway Richard’s Double Dogs stand as Rancho D guardians. Now tied with CAUTION tape — a warning banner about social distancing. Seriously, these days, they are too close for COVID.

Just three weeks ago on March 9 Judith traveled from British Columbia home from a triumphant trip to Victoria where her “Forever” wedding ensemble was installed for the exhibit Castaways at the Bateman Centre. Richard stayed put—first time in 20 years we were apart. He discovered he can get along fine! And… also discovered he has zero interest in doing so again. 

Her flight included a stop-over in Seattle then on to SFO. News of Seattle, King County, WA as the epicenter of Covid 19 in the US was just hitting the news. Needless to say we were plenty nervous, counting the days, and were relieved when 2 weeks of quasi self-quarantine had passed.

Since then we have continued to shelter-in-place, staying close to home, only going out to do our daily walk at the San Geronimo Valley Golf Course Grand Commons. We knew the importance of a “No on D” vote on March 3, but we had no idea how important that vote would be. The new park has become the go-to place during these days of sequester. Space to let the dogs run plus the paths are paved for golf carts so there is plenty of room to keep an easy 6 ft distance. There are kids and oldsters, picnickers and strollers. One evening there were two guys with musical instruments who were in a hurry to get set up so they could play a tune before sundown.

We made one shopping foray but were so badly scolded by Richard’s kids that we promised no more shopping until the “all-clear” is sounded and the restrictions are lifted. We never thought that we would be grateful to be 65+ but at our local TJ’s store it has definite advantages. They have senior “happy hour” from 9-10 in the morning so we can avoid the crowds and easily navigate the aisles. Watch out folks — elders stocking up — keep a wide berth.

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Cooking has always been important at Rancho D as has been growing a large % of our food but lately we are taking both more seriously. A pot of French Onion Soup with a sprinkle of Thyme and a grating of Gruyere shared with neighbors; Look at their beautiful bowling. We are compiling the definitive cook book: Recipes for the Quarantine. Along with a companion planting book Collards in the Time of Covid.

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Our winter victory garden is abundant in brocolli, chard, kale plus we are sprouting varieties we have never grown before: Quinioa, Turnips, White Radishes, Kohlrabi, Popping Sorghum.

In this pic are Brussels sprouts, fava beans, cauliflower, kale. Fava beans!!! Back in the day (1971) Richard took classes while studying sculpture, at U Wisconsin’s Ag school, thinking maybe a fallback in a precarious art career would be growing food. It’s finally paying off 50 years later. Pro tip—“Remember you are not growing plants, you are growing soil”

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These days the smallest things bring us such joy. We are so happy about photosynthesis that we spent a week discussing plants, xylem and phloem and capillary action during our online classes with Noah’s kids, Clementine and Aloysius. Thanks to the Open Library we were able to show and share Eric Carles’ The Tiny Seed.  The kids love reading aloud and they love turning the virtual pages.

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Everyday we receive a notice of a cancelling or rescheduling — our calendar is reeling with all of the changes. We are just now learning to use FaceTime, and other screen apps, while we are working from home. We are navigating virtual exhibitions: Judith’s Clean Sweep at Yolo Arts. We are especially grateful to Yohana Junker from Berkeley’s Pacific School of Religion who brought us across the technological threshold into the vast new room of ZOOM. We had a field trip planned but she and her students were not able to make it, but the show, nevertheless, went on.

Junker class

Fortunately Mike, our carpenter just completed the repair of the barn studio floor. Judith has been using this sequester time to do some much needed spring cleaning, moving things back in to the area where we store our beach plastic. A perfect opportunity to re-sort and re-box our collection that was in quite a state of disarray. Richard is wrapping up his masterwork the Large Hadron Collider. Stay tuned for his upcoming newsletter: Neuroplasticity News where you can follow the LHC adventure…

Our new normal includes bedtime stories on the big screen tv with Eli & Robin’s wolf pack: Jude, Gray and Reed. As you can see, their rapt attention – a real crowd pleaser.   

Our old normal includes such classics as Brown’s Goodnight Moon and Kipling’s The Elephant’s Child, books still rule!!!

Story Time online3

HOWL is the sound at 8 PM where throughout the Valley, doors and windows are flung open and everyone howls together — long and grateful, in appreciation for the healthcare workers who are putting their lives on the line. In appreciation for the wolves (maybe) and the coyotes that roam this special place we call home.
 
Moon Howl
 
HOWL by Allen Ginsberg. Here’s a favorite line from the poem:
 
“who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford’s floated out and sat through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi’s, listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox.”
 
Here’s maestro Ginsberg reading it…

Hydrogen jukebox…indeed
 
STAY SAFE and STAY TRUE
 
With lots of love from 
RDL & JSL

Klaatu Barada Nikto

The 1951 sci-fi drama, The Day the Earth Stood Still seems an apt navigation point for our current condition. A flying saucer lands on the DC Mall to bring the message of planetary cooperation or be annihilated. These days, it’s no alien invasion. It’s a virus that has landed, no flying space craft, to bring us the message: Stop all this childish disinformation, this ravaging of the fragile ecosystem of our planet, denial of a warming planet.

How’s that “ever growing” economy working out for you now? “Let’s get this economy rolling again”, says Dokter Trump, “we can now relax the restrictions.”

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A 17th Century Plague Doctor in the protective garb of the day.

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21st Century Plague Doctor from China

With all the disruption, it seems there is a measurable reduction in the woes caused by Late Capitalism. DIY: look up pollution reduction from Covid 19. Here’s a look at NO2 reduction in China. Do some research and report back to Rancho D Central.

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