Tuesday, June 30, 2020

hollyhock, under siege

I'm hoping that this hollyhock will bloom with the same extravagant enthusiasm as last year.  However, it's been strangely slow, and this image may show why.   Soap and water, tomorrow ...

Monday, June 29, 2020

on the trail

A small, discreet, heartening heart, positioned at a trail junction (between the railroad trail and the path that runs up the green belt parallel to Monte Alto) in Eldorado.  I don't know who left it there, or why, but it's a thoughtful and surprising gesture...

Sunday, June 28, 2020

beans for dinner

Beans for dinner ... the latest beauties from Rancho Gordo which, soaked, as you can see, too on a strange faintly blue tint in parts, like a colander full of tiny edible pebbles (edible, that is, after they'd spent time in the Instant Pot in company of onions and leeks and bayleaf and juniper berries and chile powder).  

Saturday, June 27, 2020

gardening companion

This was presumably very well camouflaged outside: less so on my arm.  It was only about an inch long, and very emerald.  I'm hoping that it manages to make it to pupa-hood, and not get eaten by a bird.  That being said ... it's a cabbage white caterpillar, and it would doubtless love to munch through my germinating herb seeds (arugula, parsley, and chives have so far broken the surface), and if I see it, or its brethren, in the back yard, I'll doubtless ... remove it.

Friday, June 26, 2020

perfect little stars

Delicate, perfect little stamen that belong to a Mexican Hat - aka Ratibida Columnifera - flower, which grow wild all over the place here: this one is outside our garage.  Since this one has lost most of its petals (as I keep remarking, it's exceptionally windy much of the time, for June), its sombrero effect is somewhat muted.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

the center of a gourd flower

So I'm not given to carrying a macro lens with me on my morning walk - clearly I should, and next time, this will be sharper ... The yellow gourd flowers - of the bitter, poisonous, buffalo gourd, Cucurbita foetidissima, are blooming all over Eldorado, but I've never stared deeply into the cruciform innards of one before.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

the feathers of a murderer

I hate house sparrows, as I know I've mentioned before: hate them, that is, here in New Mexico, where they have, once again, taken over our bluebird house.  I knew I had to do something about this ... removed their tall, scraggy, untidy nest (so unlike the delicately woven one that bluebirds make), and deal with its contents.  To my dismay, a couple of eggs had just hatched; a couple remained.  That wasn't fun.

I should say - it's perfectly legal - indeed, necessary - to destroy sparrow nests, eggs, and young (and for that matter adult sparrows) since they are an invasive species, and murder native bluebirds - eggs, chicks, even adults.  But it went against all my instincts.  I consoled myself by admiring the makings of the nest itself, using discarded sparrow feathers, which if you ignore their origins are surprisingly beautiful.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

storm rolling in

The view from our front yard just after lunch.  Only, it being Eldorado, the clouds didn't manage to drop very much rain on our garden - some thunder growls, a sprinkle of heavy drops, and the clouds mysteriously skedaddled off half a mile or so away.  We'll get our turn soon, I'm sure: this really seems like an early start to the monsoon season.

Monday, June 22, 2020

evening light, with penstemon

A particularly golden sunset this evening, shining through the penstemon flowers.  We worry about this plant in the strong winds that hurtle through Eldorado most afternoons (I always associate these with March, but they seem to have become much more of a year round thing): so far, they just wave and bend - which is, after all, I guess what they've evolved to do.  All the same, they have extraordinarily fragile looking stems.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Saturday, June 20, 2020


Sometimes, dinner looks extraordinarily good, as well as tasting excellent ... red and yellow beets, roasted in olive oil with onions and garlic underneath, sprinkled with torn sage leaves, and then sprinkled (ten minutes before they finished roasting), with chopped pistachio nuts and chile, and served with a side of buffalo mozzarella.  Plus a glass of La Crema chardonnay.  I'm not sure why this needed to be presided over by a metal lizard, but it was.

Friday, June 19, 2020

shedding a skin

Someone out there has a brand-new skin today!  I was walking down the drive to get the paper this morning, and found a translucent, recently shed old snake skin - very fragile and beautiful.  It became gradually darker during the day, which emphasized its honeycomb like qualities.  I'm thinking probably a bull snake - consumer of mice: it's a lovely thing.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

a colloquy of ravens

Just a few of the ones on our roof earlier today.  I had quite a chat with them - although I was tempted to try to teach them to say "Nevermore," I stuck to " 'morning."  Eventually one started to try, which was encouraging (there's a talking raven down in the zoo in Clovis NM - called Joe - who says "Hey Joe - the hangman's coming," just like the Jimi Hendrix song, but that might be a bit ambitious).  The two on the right didn't get the memo about social distancing.  Wonderful birds ...

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

guarding the saucisson

I leave a package of smoked Andouille sausages on the side in the kitchen, hoping to extract one, once defrosted, in order to flavor a bean and leek stew.  And then I come back, and find Moth sitting in proprietorial fashion on a folded tea towel, as though she's just caught them, and is guarding her prey.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

instead of a newspaper

One of the endearing features of Eldorado is how, at this time of year, the plastic receptacles for newspapers get re-purposed as safe birds' nests - not too safe from snakes, perhaps, but certainly from the hawks that hover hopefully around.  Here are two young finches: only a few days off fledging, I think ...

Monday, June 15, 2020

a well-traveled orchid

This orchid - and some of its friends - traveled here safely all the way from Los Angeles, apparently without any ill-effects: I thought that it deserved celebrating, even if it looks rather alarmingly like a cross-section of a pelvis.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

cholla flower

The cholla cactus flower is the kind of pink that you'd swear was artificial, until you see it on a plant ... these are coming out right now all over Eldorado: this one's at the side of our driveway ...

Saturday, June 13, 2020

rolling in

The first storm of the summer came rolling in this afternoon: these clouds are a mid to dark grey, and they soon became thicker and darker, and there was a good fifteen minutes of genuinely soaking rain.  Our evening walk smelt wonderful - so very grateful that - not passing another soul on foot in 35 minutes - that there's no need to pull up a mask ...

Friday, June 12, 2020

the sculpture of seed pods

I thought I'd better take a closer look at the dessicated hollyhock seed pods that the crows were stripping apart - and found a set of baroque sculptures.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

more ravens!

... one holding the hollyhock stem in its effective claw, and one - having presumably just launched itself off our roof - flying on past.  The view from my study, in other words, was rather distracting this morning.  At one point, there were three of them in the bird bath.  The cats take a rather dim view of them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

a very large raven

First of all it, and some of its friends, clomp around on the roof, sounding like clumsy workmen.  Then this raven goes and drinks from the bird bath, stands on the wall to snack on what's left of last year's hollyhock seeds (slim pickings there - I planted them all - with absolutely no success, so far as I can see), and then heavily took off.  I love the intelligence of ravens - if you don't know Bernd Heinrich's Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds, you should - but this one was quite preternaturally huge and spooky.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

worth the drive

... sunset from our back yard tonight.  There's a lot of fresh air out there (and coyotes yipping, and a six-some of very vocal ravens).  Even if there was a lot of frenetic USC business today, it's great to be able to take some deep breaths of this ...

Monday, June 8, 2020

stay safe, stay healthy, NM style

Yes, it's a Jack Rabbit wearing a face mask made out of the New Mexican state flag ... a reminder to us all, in a state where wearing a mask is compulsory (as the electronic information boards over the Interstate reminded us yesterday as we drove in).  We saw this on our walk this afternoon - we were the only people out walking wearing masks.  But there again - we were the only people out walking!!  It was such a blessed relief after the endless dodging of others - neighbors, gardeners, housekeepers, work people, dog walkers - around Los Feliz.  As it was, the gale force winds here would surely blow any virus particles away very quickly ...

Sunday, June 7, 2020

the open road

I guess driving in and out of Los Angeles did, indeed, look like this once upon a time ... We, and the cats, left at an early hour this morning - and we're now safe and sound in Eldorado (and now for two weeks state-mandated quarantine.  Should be just like the last thirteen weeks ...).   Since I was driving once we were heading into the beautiful long evening golden light, these are early morning shots - evocative of the course I taught on American Road Cultures - one of my favorites ever.  But so many of those Route 66 wayside attractions are faded and crumbling and deserted.

Just about 13 hours door to door, including stop for picnic lunch; heavily masked, gloved, and sanitized refueling ... and no, I know you're wondering: no rest rooms were entered ...

Saturday, June 6, 2020

silence = violence

On a grey, June-gloom kind of day, our neighborhood sprouts a new set of signs.  Note the owl in the foreground, presiding wisely.  If I'm still much too socially distanced to feel comfortable marching, at least I can put other people's yard signs into wider circulation.

Friday, June 5, 2020

ready for travel

Readier, I suspect, than we are ... or rather, the orchids, just like us, won't be hitting the road until Sunday, because it looks as though it's going to be Wet early tomorrow, and cloudy and windy on the Cajon Pass ... so our attempt to drive to Eldorado in one day, kitties and all, will be deferred until Sunday.  We've done it before, so we know that it's doable (and that time we left Santa Fe a little bit too late, and took an inexplicable detour over a very winding mountain pass (through Prescott, which wasn't a route any sane person would have attempted.  We were younger).  So watch this space for Sunday's attempt.  Oh, and old wine bottle shipping cartons can be repurposed very neatly, it would seem.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

morning glory

and yes, I have, of course, spent almost all of today dealing with, or thinking about, much more important and often troubling things than the sudden, magical appearance of three blooms on the morning glory plant - a plant, I might add, that has shot up like Jack's beanstalk from last year's New Mexican seeds.  But it was good to take a moment to admire and be grateful for it.  And, yes, too, our house was built in 1929 - this plaque, and plant, is by the front door.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Fight On?????

I was on campus today, for the first time since March 11th.  And it was very quiet and peaceful, for the most part.  The cardinal and gold plants were blooming in the flower beds, and .... wait!  Who's looking at them?  Let's hope that this means, at least, that some local, L.A. garden supply company has been kept in business throughout.  You'll note that "for the most part."  In fact, my first impression when I arrived on campus was how busy it was: a student (mask round chin) unloading bags and boxes from a car and moving into a hall of residence; an inter-campus bus idling curb-side (driver without a mask); a happy gaggle of students (all without masks) chatting to some campus security guys (with - yes - masks!); Facilities and Maintenance Services trucks buzzing backwards and forwards (50% of occupants with masks).

And why was I on campus?  To collect (after following strict on-line protocol about permission-gathering) a couple of backpacks-worth of books to start preparing fall teaching, which I'd been assuming would be on line.  Last night, however, our President sends round a chirpy message saying we'll be back - at least in part live!  maybe with hybrid classes! - in the fall.  A knee-jerk part of me wants, of course, to be back on campus: to teach students three-dimensionally face to breathing face; to pretend that we're back to where we were before Covid-19.  A marginally more cautious knee-jerk part is driven to cold terror at the thought of returning to a landlubber's version of a cruise ship; a petri dish full of cheerfully socializing students from all over the country (ah, but their fees are so necessary!).  The way that this has been presented to us - after some feints and lip service to faculty consultation - feels (whether or not this is the intention) as though vulnerable faculty, staff, students, and campus workers are rather too easily expendable.  Oh, to be sure, there was the requisite language about The Need To Protect - details to follow - but many of us would like these details right now - if only to calm our sense of panic and anger.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

black out

FTBL has gone black today.  George Floyd: say his name.  And Breonna Taylor.  And Ahmaud Aubery.  And too many, too many others.  Black Lives Matter.

Monday, June 1, 2020

up the street (and on privilege, gentrification, action and language)

Yes, I know the meme, the maxim, the critique of the neighborhood that has more Black Lives Matter signs in it than it has black residents.  Our area is - as prosperous neighborhoods go - more complexly diverse than some, because it's LA; because of the number of entertainment/music people in the district.  But the question is there: how best, at the moment, to show, publicly, one's support?  I can't help but feel that putting up a sign is a little self-congratulatory; an illusion of doing something (though, of course, I feel solidarity with whoever those neighbors might be).  Yet it does offer visibility - even as contributing to bail funds, or the ACLU, is almost certainly of more use.  The concept of utility, though, seems not quite right, or adequate: "much more effective"?  

Similarly, what can I usefully write - and yet to stay silent is not to bear witness, or at least is to take the privileged (if unacknowledged) position of stepping back, to appear to be choosing not to see - even as I spend whole chunks of the day seething with various kinds of anger; as CNN, in the background, shows people being arrested and zip-tied in Hollywood (and no, during a pandemic, I am not going out to demonstrate: I know I'm more use alive than dead when it comes to working for social justice).  At least, as a result of Unforeseen Circumstances, I get to teach a timely course on Representing Democracy in US art 1750-1893 next semester - that will certainly involve some very interesting choices and emphases to be made, as I have fun constructing a syllabus that may actually, obliquely, count as some kind of contribution ...

(... the above written to the sound of large numbers of sirens, and helicopters, outside ...heading to Glendale??)