And I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today

It feels like it’s been raining non-stop in Northern California for a few months now. I know that’s hyperbole, but that’s how it feels. Ordinarily, I love the rain, particularly thunderstorms, hail, and downpours that happen while the sun is shining, which is what’s occuring outside my window right now. However, I’m half-way through my week long spring break, and I was hoping to get a little gardening in, but the weather is working against me. The leaves I neglected raking when they originally fell have turned into a soggy mess, and I will have to wait until they dry out before I can remove them.

Mostly, I’m trying to avoid reading and responding to 150+ seventh grade persuasive essays that I brought home with me. I did just finish reading my first class set today, which makes me feel the need to reward myself with a little computer time. I’m trying to pace my reading, so my comments stay positive and don’t get too cranky. My intention was to read one class set a day, half in the morning and half in the afternoon. I was going to start on Monday and be done by Friday, but I ended up having to visit my father and sister on Monday and Tuesday, and so I’m already two days behind. That means either I’ll have to double-up and read sixty papers over the course of two days or resign myself to reading over the weekend.

Now don’t get me wrong–I love reading my students’ papers–I really do, but reading over one hundred and fifty of them is a daunting task. If I spend just five minutes reading and responding to each essay, that’s twelve and a half hours. Trust me; I’ve done the math. And that’s all done at home, since I don’t have the mental dexterity to try and read their essays during class when I’m supposed to be teaching them something. And my 50 minute prep period zooms by as I prepare lesson plans for the following week, correct other assignments, enter grades, answer emails, fill out forms, etc., etc., etc.

My dad says I should become a P.E. teacher and then I wouldn’t have to grade so many papers. Been there. Done that. In my first middle school teaching job about twenty years ago, my assignment was four periods of English and two periods of P.E. Man, I was a lousy P.E. teacher. Not surprising since I was a lousy P.E. student back in the day. Luckily for my students, my inadequate knowledge of volleyball rules probably did not make them unemployable after graduation. And I was fortunate that the administration saw the error of their ways, and I was soon teaching all English classes. The P.E. teachers at my current school may not have a lot of papers to grade, but they do work their behinds off. Their classes often have over forty students in them. In addition, they’re outside in all kinds of yucky weather or scrambling to find a place to take their classes when its raining, like it’s been doing over the last several months.

I did have one uniquely traumatic moment while teaching that P.E. class, and it didn’t involve the necessity to use C.P.R. on a student. It was shortly before Easter. My students and I were all on the field trying to look like we were exercising. The school’s field was surrounded by houses, many with simple cyclone fences separating us from neighborhood, which made it easy to look into people’s backyards. All of a sudden, we hear a horrible high-pitched wailing noise. We all turn around and see a man in the process of slitting a pig’s throat. Just putting a meal on the table, I suppose. The death throes of that hog were nothing compared to the screams of thirty-five eight-grade girls witnessing this lovely rite of spring. No . . . teacher education just can’t prepare you for moments like that.

One of the nice results of the rain, of course, is that everything is green green green! It’s especially green around my dad’s house. His home is surrounded by forty acres of rolling pastures, scrubby and non-scrubby oaks, wetlands, and blackberry bushes. This is my favorite time of year at his place because everything is so lush. Even the neighbor’s horses enjoy lounging on the field in front of his house and mowing it for us. Things will start to heat up soon enough. The grass will turn brown and the only things that will be green besides the leaves in the trees will be the dastardly star-thistle, which will force the neighbor’s horses to relocate to more friendly terrain.

Cemetery Girl

Sonoma Square

Sonoma Plaza

One day last May I met my sister, Kris, at Sonoma Plaza here in Northern California. It was a cool, overcast day–just right for walking, talking and window shopping. We had a great lunch with cerviche-like tacos and margaritas at a wonderful little Mexican restaurant called Maya right off the square.

Afterwards we walked around, stopping in our favorite shops. We visited Chanticleer Books, which is small and musty in that way that old book-lovers adore (or should I say “old-book lovers?) I found a two volume set of The History of Art filled with beautiful engravings, some of which I added to the Angels section of my new web site, Christian Image Source a couple of weeks ago.

We also stopped into the Church Mouse Thrift Shop, which has a lot of really nice secondhand clothing, knick-knacks, and brick-a-brack.

Next we went into Sign of the Bear Kitchenware, which is packed to overflow with a colorful assortment of kitchen and dining accessories and gadgets that you don’t really realize how much you need until they call out to you from their shelves. For example, I can no longer live without my bamboo toaster prongs, used for safely lifting stubborn bagels out of the toaster with ease.

Afterwards we sat in the square and cooed at the baby ducks in the pond and reprimanded the boys who decided to throw sticks at them.

That duckling on the right has a mohawk!

That duckling on the right has a mohawk!

That duckling standing up on the right has a mohawk!

And we watched families having picnics and young dads pushing their children on the swings. Both our husbands did the exact same thing oh-so-many years ago when our children were small.

Soon it was time for my sister to depart, but I had one more stop to make. If you’ve read my post Angels in Olema, you may have noticed that I am enamored with cemeteries. This fascination of mine creeps-out my husband. Here’s a typical conversation when we’re driving around:

Me: Oooooh! Look at that cool cemetery!! Can we stop so I can take some pictures?

Him: There’s no way I’m going into a cemetery!
And then it’s gone.

My sister, on the other hand, is totally supportive. Our conversations go like this:

Me: Oooooh! Look at that cool cemetery!! Can we stop so I can take some pictures?

She: Sure! Let’s go!
That’s just one of the reasons I love her so much.

So I was sad that she wouldn’t be able to join me in my quest to locate Sonoma’s Mountain Cemetery. I had some sketchy directions and headed towards the backend of town, where, totally by accident, I found a tiny, inconspicuous dirt road that led me into the old part of the cemetery.

On the left side were the backyards of houses; on the right side was a row of crypts, dark and moss-covered, shadowed by oaks. My heart skipped a beat: I was in Heaven.

The narrow road took me to a section that was green and lush with overgrowth from our late spring rains.

I had to park the car and walked a narrow path up the hill. This appeared to be a very old section of the cemetery and prime real estate for these old souls. Just look at that view …

I wandered around on top for a while and then headed back to the car. A couple of teenagers were sitting on one of the crypts, legs swinging back and forth. We waved at each other.

I made way back down the hill and came to the newer part of the cemetery. Fewer trees, plastic flowers, lots of shimmering white gravel. Even then, it still held its charm. I found a beautiful crypt of someone named Count Leonardo Guiuseppe Mario Caprione di Montanaro. I tried to find out who he was by searching his name on Google, but nothing came up.

There was a small children’s section, strewn with little toy cars and action figures.

An old man in an beat-up pick-up truck drove in, eyeing me suspiciously. As he stepped out of the truck, I noticed that he held a bunch of flowers in is his hands, which he placed inside an urn. I suddenly felt like I was intruding in his space and got in my car and left.

You can see more of my pictures in the video below or by clicking this link. The song is “Naked as We Came” by Iron & Wine.

Summer in January??

Friday I got it into my head to go to the beach. The weather had been luscious all week long – sunny and in the mid-sixties. My niece is here visiting us from Greece and my husband hasn’t been to the beach in forever, so we decide to just do it. I invite my sister and her husband to join us and they agree. We meet in Mill Valley and traverse over Mount Tamalpias to one of my favorite places in the world — Stinson Beach.

After we get all our stuff settled, we take the obligatory “long walk on the beach” with the dogs, of course. One of the great parts about Stinson Beach is that there’s a dog section and a non-dog section. I’m always amazed by how well all the dogs get along. They seem to be as happy to be there as the people are. Jodie, my sister’s shaggy black lab, runs after balls, birds, and sticks until she drops from exhaustion. Toby, (breed unknown) won’t come to us when we call, so he’s relegated to leash status, and Fritzi, our mini-dachshund, tootles along right next to us, barking at anyone or anything that happens to come near us.

Afterwards, we head to the Parkside Cafe for lunch. The line for the snack shack seems endless, so we go to the dining area and eat a great meal in the warmth of the patio. All day long, we talk about how we can’t believe how warm it is in January. And although we love it, we feel a tad guilty because we know what we really need is rain – and lots of it. Sadly, water rationing looms in our future.

Back to our chairs again, and I lie down for a little nappy. The air is beginning to have a slight chill to it, so I cover up with a towel. That’s my big bootie on the blanket. I listen to the waves booming along the surf line and the call of the crows and gulls as they scavenge for leftovers.

Before you know it, around 5:30 p.m., the sun starts its slow descent into the sea. People line the beach facing the ocean, cuddling with loved ones or watching through the lens of their cameras. How many sunset pictures do I have from this very beach? I feel like I’m part of a California love-fest; here we all are, drawn to this beautiful spot on this beautiful day. I can’t help but think that probably all of us are feeling the awe and mystery of the moment as we watch the sun slip behind the water.

The temperature drops dramatically, and it’s time to go home. But not before stopping at Maria, Maria for some wonderful Mexican appetizers and margaritas. Live music from a guitarist with a lovely voice plays in the background. My lone margarita goes quickly to my head. Soon we’re saying our good-byes.

A perfect day in paradise!

Tiny Notes

I love old postcards. Not just because of the variety of art work on the front, but also because of the little treasures of text on the back. I love looking at what people have written, seeing where the cards were postmarked, where they traveled to. I like looking at the stamps, and the way the words “Post Card” are written. I love to see the way people spelled words and the appearance of their handwriting. So I decided to share with you some little gems from my collection.

It’s amazing how much information people could squeeze on the back of one half of a 3 X 5 inch postcard. And almost without an exception, they’re all written in cursive. In fact, if you think about it, postcards are really the handwritten equivalent to text messaging. There are little spelling shortcuts, the grammar is horrible but understandable, and getting to the point is of the utmost importance.

Below you’ll find scans of the postcard backs. If you click on the pictures, they’ll open up in a larger window. Beneath each thumbnail, I typed out the text to the best of my ability. If something was undecipherable, I put a question mark in its place.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading these as much as I do. They reveal a lot about the people and times, in some cases, of almost one hundred years ago.

To Mrs. BC. Bartlett
Melrose, Wisconsin

My Dear Sister,
Why don’t you write, all I’ve had is that short letter new years time. We are all pretty well now. Jared (?) has the rheumatism quiet (quite?) bad though.

Your loving Sis.
Shell Lake
April 13, 1911

To Miss M.N. Sullivan
Pacific Gas and Elec Co.
518 13th St.
Oakland, Cal

Dearest Auntie,
Here I am in De Sabla. Went fishing last night with Willis. He is a cute kid. He caught 5 and me 0. Listen dearie will you do something for me? I broke my little barette and my bob is awful. Can you get me one and send it to me as soon as possible. Any kind 50 cents at Maymonts (?) will be great. I’ll pay you when I get home or chg (charge?) to me. Will write today.
Love to all,


To Irene Howlett
Parkville, Mich.
St. Joe Co.

Dear Cousin,
This in haste. We are marketing our Pears and Potatoes now. We had a fine fall. You remember the doily I was working on or finished when we was at your place. Well I have eight to make like six before xmas tow (two?) after. I will have to make my fingers go. Addie adress is 2098 E 93 St. Chevel and ? Sarah. Put our B.D. 33 on my mail. Will get it sooner as there are many Lorvers (?) in Barberton.

Nov 3, 1914
Barberton, Ohio

To Miss Mary C. Lenig
Ickesburg, Pa.

Well Mary, was disiappointed again. This morning Harry was watching for you. Have you got the mumps yet? Wesley has them and Serilda. Thomas thinks he is getting them & he is ordering fish. Don’t know how he will distribute them. Your Pa & Ma was to Markleville yesterday. StellaNoll and her mother started for the west this morning. Aunt Harriet T. fell on Sat. & nearly broke her nose. You ought to see her . . her face is as black as a stove. Her nose is like a rainbarrel. Ha. Ha. Dont laught. Shell (?) said you diden’t get up in time to go along this morning. Harry is crying to go to Gammas(?).
From Mary

April 4, 1910
Wila, PA

To Mrs. Anna Smith
Woodland, Mich

Hellow anna
John & Clara B. hope you are all well. Marian is about the same not able to do any thing.
love to all.

Feb. 19, 1917
Fort Recovery, Ohio

To Miss Florence Shafer
Sparta, Wis.
329 North L. St.
c/0 C. W. Hubbard

Dear Sister Florence:
I will send you an Easter card to remind you of next sunday. I don’t think I will come down saturday. I can’t stay down at nite. If I do come . but don’t think you will see me this saturday. You want to know how you are going to Catarrah(?). I just can’t wait until I can get down town to stay, but I won’t stay in this town very long. I got Mamies letters yesterday. I didn’t go over to help her wash this week. I guess it made her mad becasue I wouldn’t get out of the wash tub monday and go over and help her but I don’t care about scrubbing her old carpets and how so you see it dont hurt me. I couldn’t work around that mut any how. Answer Soon. I am same as B/4.
Your Loving Sister M.E. S.
I have sent 7 Easter cards and another one besides. Home (?) writing today.

April 19, ’16
Sparta, Wis

To Mr. Chas Rice
Pontoosuc, Illinois

Now Charle Please don’t be so mad at me we got a man to work for us this morning we are all well will send Earl a card some of thse days have 25 Banties
Aunt May

June 4, 1908 (?)

To Mrs Ora Wickett
New Virginia, Iowa
R.F.D. #

Mrs Wickett,
I think the 26 is your birthday am I right about it? Just thot I’d remind you of it and wish you many more such days. how is baby Ashton our baby Raymond is doing fine. I haven’t any little chickens yet & only 6 hens setting, have some garden made come over & stay all day all of you. With best wishes your friend Ella Kimmer (?)

April 24, 1909
New Virginia, Iowa

To Oscar Rowlett
Kempton, Ind.
Tipton Co.

Did you read all of that long letter I wrote you?

Dear Papa: I was glad to hear from you and I think that card is real cute. I hope you are having a good time and you must have a good time. Thanks– giving for me too. We are all well.
Your loving daughter,
O. Irene R.
70 D.E. Smith
R.F.B. No. 2

Nov 22, 1910
Maysville, [Indiana]

To Mrs. Mae Thompson
Samoa, Cal

Dear Mae
How are you when you come out we will play you the song silver bell. Ruth got from Anita (?). It for the phonograph. It is a dandy.

Dec. 12, 1910
??tuna, Cal

To Mrs. Gustaf Asherooth
Sargent Co (?)
R.R. #3
N. Dakota

Dear Laura.
At last I am going to write you a few lines to let you know we didn’t quite freeze up. for all we have (?) had such a long winter. I was sorry to hear Emma lost her little girl she surely must miss her. What ailed her. I suppose you have all your summer sewing all done. I am just in the middle of mine. I wish I could run away from it too. Now write soon.
With much love and Best wishes to you, Minnie

April 4, 1912
Fairview, Mont.

To Miss Cementine Meyers
1163 Turk St.
San Francisco, California

Can you decode it???

March 29, 1911
Bakersfield, Cal

To Ernest Patterson
[I can’t read the address]

Uncle Ernest
I will send you a card with the rest of them I would like to come down to give you a thrashing.

Dec. 16, 1908

More Happiness

The Art of Happiness – Page 44

Having last week off gave me a chance to add some pages to my altered book The Art of Happiness and to put the pages on my web site. I really like the way this particular page turned out. The blue woman came about in a happy accident. I had applied blue acrylic paint with a sponge to a stencil to make the little squares in the background. Then I used a baby wipe to clean the plastic stencil. I noticed all the blue paint on the wipe and swiped some of across paint across a piece of scratch paper. I loved the way the paper was tinted with color, similar to when I use acrylic inks. The color is deep and intense but transparent at the same time. So I just proceeded to rub the wipe across the image of the woman. I didn’t think about it until afterwards, but the tinted woman reminds me of one of Joseph Cornell’s pieces — The Medici Princess. Cornell liked to use a lot of blue in his work — something about purity, ocean, sky. I guess he’s entering my subconscious and influencing my art work now.

The Medici Princess
from the University of Illinois

And now for some exciting news for all you S.F. Bay Area people. Daniel Merriam is going to be signing his new book The Art of Daniel Merriam: The Eye of the Dreamer at The Booksmith at 1644 Haight Street on December 6, at 7:00 p.m. He’ll be giving a talk too! His new book is listed on Amazon. (apparently it came out in September), but it’s currently unavailable. You can get more information on Daniel Merriam’s book signing by calling the bookstore at 415.863.8688. I’m going to see if my sister will go with me. I am a tad reluctant to go into the city on a work night, but I might have to make an exception for this. Maybe I’ll run into some of my blog readers there!

The Eye of the Dreamer
from Daniel Merriam’s Web Site