Winter wind

Blow, blow, though winter wind. Thou art not unkind in intention, really, and that veiling effect of driving snow makes all the old red brick of this neighborhood mysterious and inviting rather than chunky and boring, but I’m not sure the little flying shards of frozen water you’re flinging into people’s faces at 20, 25 mph were the most fun I’ve ever had. Did I mention, it’s cold? Also the sidewalks and streets are sketchily cleared if at all and there’s a fair amount on the ground, only 3″ so far but drifts of 5-8 in spots (it’s windy in Bay Ridge, we have the ocean right by us), enough to make for some adventurous guessing of where sidewalks and curbs end.  Weirdly fun but I’m glad to be back from the post office — 3/4 mile at snow walking speeds is enough my face is still tingling and I’ve been back 1/2 hour. Safe evening commute, people. Next fall, I WILL remember to order a balaclava and silk glove liners.

politics, rice pudding, & the ocean: also, science 101

I’m going on holiday soon and was thinking what to take to read. This morning, I decided: mathematics. A long time ago, I was a math/physics student, and then a NASA science drone. Mathematics, unfolding, is as beautiful as the ocean, alive, intricate, complete in itself. Physics unfolds mysteries, and I don’t mean the God-particle nonsense that people have been getting excited about but the even more wondrous daily mysteries: wind, weather, why there is that odd-shaped shadow on my ceiling, how to park on a hill so your car doesn’t roll away…

Physics enchanted me, as a girl, because it the fundamental rules were essential simple, and clear. Water rolls downhill, ALWAYS. Stuff like that. Studying physics was a way to allow my mind to be simple, and clear. It does not contradict itself. Subtlety exist, but there is always the real to measure against.

For some years now I’ve been a writer. Fiction, mostly cross-cultural, dealing with social, political, and emotional issues. My community is now mostly writers, artists, activists, and nothing is simple, or clear; or rather, much of it probably could be, but people cultivate complexity. To include ALL the data — by which I mean all the facts, not all the opinions — on something, or as much data as one can get, and look at it all in balance, is not a popular sport. Balance, as best I understand it, requires calm. But the troubles of our times, from tars sands to Islamophobia to economic class warfare, call for concern. And most people don’t find concern and calm coexistent within themselves, especially in American culture, which says, subliminally, that we should be able to fix anything. So there is tumult, and shouting: a noise of long-winded thoughts and exhortations that seem to be saying, ‘Care more, care more! Don’t relax, don’t spin down, not for a minute, the world will cease to be if you do, the battle will be lost…’

I’ve tried to get people to care about some of these issues, particularly the race-related ones, without stirring anxiety. I think I have failed. Caring deeply while being staying as calm as we can is an emotional reality in daily life for most people, else we’d never let our loved ones go out the door, never mind become skydivers or firefighters. I think it’s okay, even essential, to deal with political issues the same way — do what you can, everything you can, and then let go and fix dinner. I talk a lot about politics, but I’ve never said this before, and I apologize for not doing so.

I am going to read, on my vacation, not a novel, full of sculpted emotion, or a nonfiction book full of argument, however just, but mathematics: to find a state of clarity in my mind again. It will be like eating fresh fruit, or rice pudding, after too rich a diet. Cleaning, and strengthening. In-between, I will go to California farmers markets, which are a paradise of grounded goodness, and I will cook dinner. I will look at the ocean.

I will be simple.

Hooded mergansers

Hooded mergansers in the micro-pond outside the window. 4 males, 3-4 females. tipping back and forth and under the water to washing, bobbing up out of the water unexpectedly for all the world like rubber ducks in a bathtub. Hoods up and down. The white hoods of the males look larger in life than on a nature show (!) and the sensible mouse brown of the females looks adorably soft. males are chasing and bobbing up around females. A male with hood up and moving across the pond looks rather like a small toy boat, especially with the cute racing stripes on either side of his white tummy. I think I’m in love.

Wetlands night walk

Solitary night walk at the wetlands by the SF Bay. A dozen species of invisible shorebirds singing. A couple some distance away on the path, we cannot see each other. She is singing, an untrained contralto warm with love, eros and agape both, by the richness. There are stars overhead, and lights bejeweling distant hills. I walk to the end of the levee talking to my father. He was a great traveler. He would have loved that moment.

Extraordinarily difficult to leave and return to civilization.


Wetlands restoration area by the San Francisco Bay, walk-score: 1 great blue heron, many yellow-slippered & snowy egrets, California clapper rails, brown pelicans, mourning doves, 1 plump jackrabbit, curlews, coots, hooded mergansers, assorted ducks (mallards, and some sort of micro-mallard that shrank in the wash), dowitchers, some flavor of sandpiper, avocets, possibly snowy plovers, coots… Going back tomorrow with binoculars and telephoto lens and hope they’re all there again.

Best of: territorial argument between the great blue heron and a large snowy egret. Stares from the heron, a rather astonishing hoarse noise from the egret. Egret won. Have seen birds here before, but not quite so many at once. Only the cormorants seemed not to be out today.