Tuesday, March 31, 2020

pink poppy

Here's a small, fragile little beacon of hope!  I'd forgotten when I planted poppy seeds just before the first rain that I hadn't just planted California orange poppies, but a whole lot of mixed poppies, too.  It looks as though there are plenty of poppy leaves thickening on the bank: it remains to be seen if they actually flower, of course - but this (and her two friends, and crawling precariously up the steep bank to take this photo, I found there were a whole lot more buds in this particular clump) is a wonderfully cheering sight.

Monday, March 30, 2020

jokes in a time of ...

Our neighborhood is getting even more inventive ... now we have jokes chalked on the sidewalk.  Well, a joke.  It's a lot better than the ones that a quick google-search turns up on line (not, perhaps, the easiest topic around which to concoct side-splitting humor ...).

Sunday, March 29, 2020

something weedy?

Does anyone recognize this flowering bush?  It's a bit like a flowering elder, but the leaves aren't in whorls like an elder bush, and they are a bit wider than elder leaves, too.  It's pretty - but almost certainly is an invasive species of some kind ... Alice claims it's a weed, and it probably shouldn't be growing on our bank, all tangled up with the plumbago - but I'd like to know what it is ...  (nb the happy poppies, growing on the slope below it).

Saturday, March 28, 2020

the dinosaurs of Los Feliz

We started to notice them yesterday.  Dinosaurs started appearing in windows, propped up against garage doors, grazing in front gardens.  A sign today explained them: a Scavenger Hunt!  Last week it was hearts.  Next week: Flower.  Then - Bunny; Super Hero; and finally - Disney Character.  "It should be large enough to see from the road and can be hand made or anything you have around the house!"  [memo to self: must check to see if we have any spare dinosaurs ...]. "Kids can spot them from the road and can still practice social distancing."   So now you know.

Friday, March 27, 2020

plum blossom

... from our living room balcony, at sunrise.  Looking from a different direction from the living room, and into Griffith Park - as I do from my study - we've been very aware of the number of people hiking there, even though it's supposedly closed.  This evening, during Eric Garcetti's news briefing, there was the noise of a chopper outside ... and there, on the little box on the right-hand side of the TV, were aerial pictures of Griffith Park - positive crowds at the top, just up from the Observatory.  I exaggerate, a little - but there were people, and then more people.  Apparently - according to the broadcaster - they haven't closed the road up, so people were just using the carpark, as normal, and so far as one could see, breathing on each other ...

Thursday, March 26, 2020

what's for dinner?

This was what we had to contend with whilst making dinner this evening.  It was menacing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

garden abstraction

This reminds me ever so much of those strange photo close-ups that one used to get in semi-educational children's magazines, where one was left to make an intelligent guess about what corner of daily life had been excised from its normal context.  I'll spare you the work of guessing (although, hey, it'd be a more relaxing exercise than listening to the news): this is inside a copper container in which I store the back yard hose.  Correction - in which I would store the back yard hose if I could be bothered to coil it up every time.  I keep hoping for it to become a little less bright, a little more verdigris - and I suspect that painting it with yogurt is the way to go.  Getting plain yogurt into one's Instacart delivery, however, appears to be a challenge that I haven't yet surmounted.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

another morning

Another day, another view of golden and blue sky outside our garage this morning.  Early in the morning is the only really feasible time to go out for a walk, despite the fact that we try to go out twice - far fewer people (not that I want to suggest over-crowding later in the day - this evening, I passed about 8 people and about 12 dogs in the course of 25 minutes).  I firmly maintain that keeping reasonably fit by walking fast up hills is the kindest thing that I can do for my lungs.  And speaking of lungs - there's very noticeably less pollution out there than a month ago.

Monday, March 23, 2020

signs of the times #2

Not ours, this time, but from up the street ... Tomorrow's challenge - how to sign for something successfully (oh, I know ... latex gloves, wipes, wash wash wash ... but it should be worth the effort if it results in the safe delivery of a case of wine.  And yes, to be sure, the problems of the privileged.  But).

Sunday, March 22, 2020

someone else's front yard

This particular floral grouping has all the artificial poise of a cut bouquet, but in fact, it's growing just down the street.  We did the longest immediate, and hilly neighborhood walking loop twice today (that's our 10,000 steps, plus, so far, 68 floors - the hills plus the fact that there are a lot of stairs in our house ...).  We were lucky - not too many people to avoid, unlike Griffith Park, behind us, which looked absolutely packed.  Indeed, now they have closed most of the parks and recreation lands - they became too full today of people failing to self-distance - and the carparks by the beaches, I suspect that they'll soon have to close the Park, as well - so let us hope that our own little neighborhood doesn't become too crowded, and that we're not forced into trotting loops round the garden.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

first poppies

Let me offer you something cheerful - this year's first California poppies in our back yard.  I think they are self-seeded from last year: the new ones are a way behind these, although some others of the copiously sown wild flowers seeds - slightly shy white flowers - have already come out.  Every year this is like an exercise in crazy hope.  In the past, I've rather surmised that birds got to the seeds - this year, I was extra careful - digging miniature furrows for them; covering them loosely with soil; doing this the day before it rained (though I flung out a few random handfuls, just in case, too).  That fuzzy bunch of stuff?  That's wild fennel, which is both pretty and tasty.  Watch for more floral bulletins ...

Friday, March 20, 2020

how we all feel

Let Moth tell it how it is.  {actually, she wanted her 7,351st meal of the day.  She doesn't understand what the point of us being at home is, if we don't feed her on demand).

Thursday, March 19, 2020

when one's front hall ...

... is filling up with boxes: an eclectic combination of cat food and other essential supplies, like soap.  Some of this enthusiastic on-line shopping comes, of course, under the excuse/heading of "keeping small businesses going" - like our favorite New Mexican Sandia Soap, although possibly a soap company is one of the least precarious at this time.  Some of it really is essential, like the package full of Ohori's coffee beans (also from Santa Fe).  Some of it - well, maybe weird, like the long parcel, that contains a long-handled jaw-grabbing device, so that if someone drops trash on the street outside - like the banana skin that we found garnishing our rosemary bush a couple of days back - we needn't touch or get close to it.  Yes, that's a stray shoe: when one changes always from indoor to outdoor shoes, and back again, irregularities occur: we haven't yet reached army inspection line-ups of footwear standards.

Moth is most interested in that large rectangular box, since she has a strong suspicion that it contains a 17lb bag of cat food.  Even before the Californian "Stay at Home" order, we've been taking our - and the cats - possible needs seriously.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

sign of the times

Dependent, as we now are, on deliveries from the outside world, it's useful if people can find one's doorbell, which they seemed to have great difficulty in doing.  So this morning I trimmed back the aggressive wall climber from around the house number, and attached a little notice saying DOOR BELL (with a helpful arrow downward).  All those of you who wonder about the waste of conference badges, and the need to re-purpose those little plastic sleeves - I was grateful for this one.

But.  Door bell rings.  We are trying to be super-nice to delivery people, because (a) they are keeping us going, and (b) their jobs must suddenly have increased in volume, exponentially.  Anyway, we like our postman.  So Alice asks how he's doing, etc.  And his theory?  The Covid-19 pandemic has flown over here as a result of the Australian bush fires, which have somehow dispersed it ... 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

afternoon view

From our self-isolating front door to yours ... actually, it's the view from outside the garage, but the principle is the same.  Wonderful billowing clouds; some sun - which made a huge amount of difference - and look: on the San Gabriels, some snow from the storm that passed through.  We are so unspeakably lucky to have such views.

Monday, March 16, 2020

a fading rose

This seems ready to carry a million metaphors, but I'll let you position them all over this wilting specimen - from this morning's walk - yourself.  I have been enormously cheered by the kindness of one of my English department grad students and her husband, who volunteered themselves, and went out shopping for us today, and - yes! mirabile dictu! - found some onions (among many other treasures on our wish list). It's so hard to admit to oneself, let alone others, that by the US standards that are given, we are Elderly: but if that means that others offer to go out and forage for onions (a feat that neither Instacart nor Amazon Fresh managed to bring off, after all), so be it ...

Sunday, March 15, 2020

morning (extreme social distancing) walk

It stopped raining today! which made for a very pretty early morning.  Here's the street outside our house: empty (which, to be honest, is not that unusual early on a Sunday).  However, it remains empty, alas, of an Amazon Fresh delivery van.  A test: we ordered groceries via Instacart and via Amazon Fresh on Friday.  The Instacart ones came, as they said they would, in more or less in two hours.  Even if there was only an approximation of what we ordered, it was still food.  Amazon Fresh - we were promised it 2 days later, between 5-7 this evening.  Alice is just off the phone with them, at 9.15 p.m. ... they don't know what's happened to it; it'll come tonight or tomorrow ... she pointed out that if it's left outside tonight, the coyotes will ransack it.  She got a refund ...  Now, I'm not sure that coyotes are that keen on kale and leeks and bananas and oats, but we are ... back to Instacart tomorrow, to ward off scurvy ...

Saturday, March 14, 2020

damp wisteria

At least, despite social distancing/self-isolation/self-quarantining/cocooning/becoming hermits, we can still go out for walks, even if it's raining.  And the wisteria is out.  The neighborhood had a few dog walkers staying six feet away from us - or we from them - and a cheerful neighbor (who gave us some fresh grapefruit earlier this week, which formed the basis for tonight's highly successful vodka quarantini) who waved - but other than that, it's curiously quiet.  Strange, unsettling, troubling - but we're a long way off stir-crazy, as yet ...

Friday, March 13, 2020

ready for breakfast

Moth and LucyFur have, in fact, already had their breakfast.  Alice was upstairs before me.  But they try to convince whoever gets up second that they are poor, hard-done-by, starving cats.  Alternatively, they could be wishing that they were packing up to go to New Mexico for Spring Break: we should be half way there by now.  Instead of which, we are answering and forwarding - I am, at least - endless emails and requests and strategic whatsits from the university, whose public communications are full of fortitude and up-beatness-and Fight On! ness, and whose more detailed correspondence with department chairs involves a considerable amount of shuffling plans from hour to hour ... who knows where we'll be by Monday...

Thursday, March 12, 2020

inside, outside

There's an abundance of metaphors here.  It's pouring with rain - we feel decidedly trapped indoors by the rain.  But we're also voluntarily at home - taking our social distancing very seriously; wondering which site will prove best for the delivery of cat litter.  It's a more than a little disorienting: I made one trip out to stock up on food, including some special cans for LucyFur from the vet.  And, yes, I walked into what proved to be the acupuncture clinic next door; thought Oh! They've redesigned this! and asked for the cat food order.  Errrrr, mistake.

Also: does anyone else look at ads on the TV (in between coronavirus coverage) and think that they represent some completely other fantasy universe?  More so than usual, that is.

Also: Moth made her first appearance in an on-line class today - not mine ...

But we do realize how super-lucky we are, being able to work from home; having a house large enough that we can occupy different bits of it in which to do different things; having greenery outside in which to walk when it stops raining... Dinner parties via Zoom, anyone?

Wednesday, March 11, 2020


courtesy of friends and neighbors: this should be enough to get us through a few days, I think?  Plenty of vitamin C, here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

a cheerful view of campus

A cloudy, damp morning (though not the torrential rain we were promised at some point), with a flowering hedge.  No students visible: soon there will be fewer, since we move to on-line teaching tomorrow, and students are advised not to return after spring break, because we'll be on-line that subsequent week, too.  We can hardly be the only people scratching our heads about our plans - what to put in the car on Friday (ourselves; cats - but work and teaching supplies for one week, or two, or ...?)...

Monday, March 9, 2020

you know things are bad when ...

... they bring out the Emotional Support Dog on campus.  But why is he wearing a tutu?  

Being USC, of course, he and a USC spokesperson are also being filmed/interviewed.  Of course, this may be related to Mid Terms rather than the coronavirus - there's also a table of USC parents handing out free granola bars and other snacks ... I resisted the temptation to go and bury my face in a lot of golden fur (or, for that matter, to eat some crunchy oversweet oatmeal), although the level of anxiety on campus today was such that I felt like doing both ...

Sunday, March 8, 2020

where ARE the birds?

For those of you who were wondering why Moth and LucyFur weren't paying attention to the two doves the other morning, by today they'd definitely become more attuned to avian life.  Perhaps it was the time change?  I think, however, that they were intrigued by some rather smaller finches.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

protective gear

Traveling on the LA Metro today (between USC and INCS - Interdisciplinary Nineteenth Century Studies Association conference, admirably run under decidedly sub-optimal crisis conditions by my colleague Devin Griffiths): this fellow passenger had a face mask, a scarf over her face, some kind of head covering, a hat, and a visor.  I'm still not quite sure how she could see out.

In other covid-19 related news, there was a line outside the 99 cent store at 07.53 this morning (it opens at 8), and I swear I saw a USC undergrad wearing a face mask in USC's colors, cardinal and gold.  Now, that's a piece of quick speculative commercial production I'd not thought of ... perfect for March Madness ...

Friday, March 6, 2020

mimicking William Morris wallpaper

These lovely morning doves were sitting on the rail outside one of our upstairs balconies early today, looking just like William Morris wallpaper/fabric material: not the same color as the leaves beyond, but somehow blending their way into the background, with the curves of the railing adding a further kind of organic design.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

a small moment of tranquillity

I think we all need such moments at present, so I offer you our kitchen windowsill this morning.  Yes, indeed, that pretty bee-cork is from a gin bottle ...

I was doing a teaching observation today for a colleague in English, who had the class - and by extension, me - do a guided meditation for 5 minutes before turning to five minutes' free writing on that day's reading (with a prompt).  It proved to be a terrific exercise for centering oneself and calming down one's attention - and indeed, loosened one up to write, if my own experience was anything to go by.  But if my own experience is anything to go by in other respects ... I'm usually very calm when it comes to meditative breathing: count five in, hold for four, let out for seven, repeat.  But today ... my breathing was decidedly ragged, and I took that as a potent sign of (a) the need to do more such exercises on my own [I recommend an app called Headspace, which will guide one through all sorts of things], and (b) a sign that no, we are not living in normal times, and we're stressed.  Of course, the effects were entirely obliterated by going to a ninety-minute chairs' meeting all about covid-19. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

dreaming of travel

Of course I'm wondering when I'll get on a plane again: in the meanwhile, I'll just look at tempting depictions of foreign destinations on my way to work ... (this has long been one of my favorite store fronts).  In theory, I'm heading to England to see my father (and go to a couple of exhibitions) at the end of Spring Break; in practice - who knows?  I change my mind about the wisdom of this every hour or so, and have reconciled myself to saying that I'll make up my mind in two weeks, by which time we - and the UK - will presumably either be in full pandemic panic meltdown, or we won't. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

treats in meetings

I spent a good chunk of this afternoon in a university committee meeting, where usually the refreshment on offer sinks to the level of little plastic packets of nuts (if one's lucky); industrial peanut-butter-cracker-sandwiches; miniature Snickers bars ... But today, a colleague brought in a large bag of Meyer lemons from their yard.  Not that we split them open, raccoon-like, at that point, but in the first place, it was a very rare and welcome blast of freshness and of color; and second, we all got to take some home ...

Monday, March 2, 2020

outside the library

A quick trip to the Huntington today, for a lunchtime meeting, and - well, I'd love to say some research, but no such luck.  But at least it was an excellent change of scene in which to write a couple of reports ...

Sunday, March 1, 2020

camellias by night

Between our house and our neighbors' - a row of tall and spindly camellia trees that are, at the moment, quite magnificently in bloom (or, in other news, I spent much of today writing a 1,500 word review that sapped me, apparently, of the ability to look around me until late, late into the evening).