Almost … but not quite

A low off the west coast has blown enough smoke into the mountains for the air quality here in the San Francisco Bay Area to improve. We are now in the “Moderate range.” If you must, you can work, play and exercise outside. However, today is the 30th day of Spare the Air and our Corvid numbers remain in the dreaded purple range (along with most of California), so nowhere to go. Except your garden, if you have one.

The Red Quill seemed to stop blooming in the thick of it but has now begun again. Is this a hopeful sign?

I do not know. It’s so hard to have any hope. So damn hard.

What will happen when the blooming reaches the tip? Will it remain a stalk of spent buds? We will see.

The Sun never came out today

8:30 AM

Whose earth is this, I do not know,
his house … it must be all aglow!
He will not see me stopping here
to watch the ashes fall like snow,

My little kitty’s filled with dread,
and hides all day beneath the bed.
The sun is hidden in the sky,
he is certain we all must die.

(apologies to Robert Frost)

It’s a wee bit strange outside today but I’m not complaining for two reasons: First, thousands of people in the western states are currently fleeing out-of- control wildfires.  Second, I just watched one of those movies that makes you doubt whether you could stand up against tyranny.  Especially if you stand alone and are ridiculed by everyone around you.

Around noon

The movie was A Hidden Life.  The actors in the film are all virtually unknown (at least to American audiences) but the director was Terrence Malick who is known for filming raw dramas in idyllic locations.  In this case, the mountains of Austria.  The plot is simple.  Germany is conscripting Austrian men to serve the Third Reich.  The hero refuses to comply which means death.  He believes the Nazis are evil and that God commands him to resist evil.  

Do you hear those [church] bells? They’re melting them. For bullets.

However, the real agony for the hero is being attacked by the people of his close-knit village who, out of fear or convenience, have decided not to see the truth. Their contempt for the truth-seer extends to his family who are robbed, spat at, physically attacked, and left on their own when they desperately need help. However, after he dies they suddenly awake. It’s as though the town has been cleansed by his sacrifice. This quote at the end seems to affirm that analysis:

“..for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” 

George Eliot

To end on a light note, on my iPhone tonight under Trending Stories: “Man stranded in a lake saved by floating Tiki bar of priests claims ‘Sign of God.'” What the hell do you think that means?

Update from the Planet Pizza Oven

Monday the 7th

The only sign that life remains
are in the moments just before dawn
somewhere down near the creek … the children playing
called quickly indoors before the smoke returns
and suffocates

I linger over apps that promise relief,
which never comes. The first day of triple digits,
I close the windows before the sun comes up,
the house stays bearable until late afternoon.
The second day, I draw the blinds,
the house stays bearable until noon.
the third day … I pray the power stays still on.

Currently it’s hovering between 108 and 110 with an air quality fluctuating between Unhealthy for Certain Groups and Unhealthy, period. The weatherman keeps promising a break but I know what’s going on.  They just don’t want to admit that California has become a pizza oven.  Guess what suckers – welcome to your new reality. 

Even my funky penis plant is suffering.  I had expected the blossoming to have climbed to the tip of the stalk. But then it stopped. 

I’ve actually come to love this funky plant. I think I’ll grow a whole garden full of them.

Jan’s Future Squill Garden

Only they prefer an arid landscape and it does rain in California.  Sometimes.  I hope.  Soon.

Tuesday, Sept. 8th 8:00 AM: The power is back on but high winds are expected. Meaning: charge your batteries and buy ice. It’s 72 and too smokey to see the sun. But, the children are playing in the driveway across the street.

Ode to August

August … you scumbag. You hideous rot of shit.

Choking the moon in the gas chamber created by your dragon breath.

The fog rolls in but traps some poison near the sea,
blowing the rest into the mountains
where we three breathe in gin and vodka and tequila
and dine on mother’s chocolates
but she doesn’t care.

She does, however, mind our laughing,
for it’s a party she cannot attend,
trapped as she is in a morphine maze,
a tear at one point I caused. I am sorry mother.

August, I despise the sight of my green bean plant,
chewed to the ground by those beasts you sent.
Those ugly sightless pirates tunneling through
hard dirt wrung free of moisture,
incapable of providing life …. just death.

Even the buds on the Red Squill,
close quickly after bloom,
leaving me to wonder … what next, September?
And past then … plant, will you disappear
for years and will I want you to return again?

To Annie Mckee 1926-2020. Hold yer horses, St. Pete, Annie’s on her way.


Loved this – enjoy.

tin hats

She was Dutch and I met her at a party. Holland started exploding when she left, one block of cheese at a time. My mountain boots were the perfect match for my yellow checkered suit, the one I’d bought before leaving home. All around us mouths talked and laughed. There was a song about a man being chased by the devil and how his pockmarked face was a dead giveaway.

I had a full pint of Bauer’s apricot schnapps in my pocket. I pulled it out and offered her a swig. Without speaking she took the bottle and tilted her head backward, and I watched her full profile down half the contents like she was ill or something. She looked at me sideways and I said a silent prayer. Perhaps I was not alone in the universe. Maybe the dice and the cards were really songs. Lyrics and melody delivering…

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Sunset today: 7:50

Each day for the next seven is predicted to be the same.  Slightly cooler one day; slightly warmer the next.  Every day, cloudy. Or is it smoke?

Air Quality: Unhealthy.  Chance of rain: 10% Wind: wsw 13 mph.  

I keep singing along with James Taylor:

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain,
I’ve seen lightning strikes I thought would never end,
I’ve known lonely times when I could not find my phone
but I always thought I’d see the fog again.

Been trapped inside by bad air,
checking out the weather app.
Lord knows when the hot wind blows,
it’ll turn your breath to ash.
Now there’s hours and hours on the internet,
talking of blogs to come, sour dreams and flying machines
grind wishes into dust.

Can you spot the critter in this photo?

Okay … ending on a positive note. Although we’ve been trapped inside all day, the unhealthy air has been calm. The firefighters have made some progress and reinforcements from other states have arrived. The winds, which were predicted to be erratic and deadly, so far are gentle. But sunset is at 7:50 which is when the fireworks are predicted to begin.

Packed my bags this morning,
took a picture of my plant.
Now I just can’t remember who to send it to.

(apologies to James Taylor)

Between lightning storms

It feels like the end of the world here in California. And, as if the fires burning largely unabated weren’t enough, another round of dry lightning is heading our way. I just don’t know how we’re going to make it.

Sun rising through smoke

East of us, evacuees are being allowed back to their homes (if they are lucky). However the smoke is still too hazardous to breathe.

The garden is becoming hallucinogenic, perhaps even radioactive.

When the air begins to clear, the hawks circle. Sometimes high; sometimes just over my head. And then …

The magic plant pops to life.


Thursday, August 20: As I write this we are surrounded by fire. Last night one came dangerously close to a friend’s house. The last email we got from him was:

“I’m relaxed and confident up till when the sheriff knocks on the door.”

To which another friend wrote: Just remember to say to the sheriff “I’d like to get some sleep before I travel. But if you got a warrant, I guess you’re gonna come in.” They really love that.

At least we haven’t lost the most important thing: a sense of humor.

Unfazed my mysterious plant continues to grow. The spores I noted the other day:

Have started to blossom:

Friday, August 21, 2020: The fires continue to drive people from their homes primarily north of here in the wine country and south in the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains. There are so many fires in the state, that those in remote areas are allowed to burn. We are supposed to keep our windows closed because of the poor air quality however I was raised by smokers and so far, that’s what the air is like. Stuck inside a tin-can trailer with a chain smoker. On the bright side, the temperatures have cooled. And, there is an outside chance of rain from the remnants of a passing hurricane. So, thank you all for your good wishes! They seem to be working!

Meanwhile Joel’s plant continues to grow and blossom. And we still have no idea what it is.

What a week

Earlier this week I beheld a bright flash of light in the northern skies just as night had fallen. I waited for the ground to rumble and sirens to wail, certain a nearby explosion was the cause (I had Beirut on my mind). But it was quiet. Eerily quiet.

The next morning, as is my custom, I went down to check on my tomatoes. To my horror, although I’d spent hours constructing a metal cage with bird netting around it, some vicious, horrible demon from hell (probably a gopher or a mole) had managed to stick a claw through all my handiwork and uproot the one and only tomato plant that was producing. He killed the plant, but he couldn’t pull its one struggling child through the wire. He got nothing and I got nothing.  Tell me, Mr. Gopher. Was it worth it?

Then I noticed in the quiet part of the garden where my Yellow Rose of Texas blooms in the shadow of towering redwoods, a stalk, coiled as though ready to strike, rising at least two feet high and resembling, ah yes, an erect purple penis.

I ran upstairs and called out to Joel. He took his time, perhaps weary of my visions and fantasies, and then, upon finally examining the stalk, mused: “Perhaps it’s that bulb I planted years and years ago.”

“The one you paid fifteen dollars for?”

“I told you someday it would blossom.” 

I’m guiltier than most of going to the nursery and coming home with all sorts of things I don’t really need but … fifteen dollars for a plant that might shoot up from the ground before your death and look like a giant erect purple penis?  I suspect a really cute and bubbly salesgirl was involved in that purchase. What do you think?

Of course, Joel didn’t remember what the plant was called or even what it was supposed to look like and so I decided to get a second opinion from my friends:

“Maybe it’s one of those stinky plants that blooms once in a century,” Schip suggested. He was referring to the so-called Corpse Plant.  One bloomed in San Francisco a few years back and it did indeed smell like a rotting corpse. 

Corpse Plant

Luckily Joel, gullible though he is, would not allow some cutie pie to sell him a corpse plant. If he had, I would have gladly fed him to it.

Aaron, who’s a poetic soul, suggested some variety of orchid.  I’m no expert but from what I’ve seen, orchids are dainty plants.  This dude ain’t dainty. As I discovered the next morning.

Mary Alice was reminded of the giant rattlesnake I almost stepped on down in Sedona. It does look like snake about to strike doesn’t it?  Everyone agreed I should leave it be and so I went inside to escape the heat and turned on the movie channel. “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” had just begun. 

Oh no, the Pod People are winning!

The message of this movie is clear.  Since the 1970s, human beings have been systematically taken over by spores from an alien planet. First their bodies and then their minds until they have no free will.  Apparently it took a while, but once enough Americans had been absorbed to tip an election, the aliens sent their supreme leader to render Planet Earth uninhabitable to human life. His human name is Donald Trump. Could the plant growing in my back yard contain alien spores?

I got my answer early Sunday morning.

For four hours I watched as the sky danced electric. The temperature in the house hovered in the 100s with 90% humidity and then, the rains began. Unfortunately they weren’t enough and now the state of California is on fire. We have a bag packed and next to the front door. But guess who’s digging the hellish scene? You got it … the Snake Plant!

The heat is starting to affect my computer and so, if lucky, I’ll post more pictures of my rapidly growing Snake Plant tomorrow. Perhaps someone out there will be able to identify it as native to this planet. Meanwhile, California is burning and dear friends are in danger. Please send rain.

Constant Midnight

tin hats

The call came, you waited every night, every day, and then it came, something from an alien ship guided by a million doll eyes

What are you doing, she says, oh, nothing, just thinking about the power of trances, how they might fire cities, or help baby birds push out of egg shells

Are you still inconsolable


She goes back into the bedroom

In the floor is a tiny hole and when you bend over there is a doctor inside giving a seminar, he says, even though the heart stops, the brain knows you are dead and sends signals to the lungs to keep moving, and it is true, you are still breathing, but abbreviated, hyphenated for all the official documents

On the grass, a ball rolled into the night, and the call did not register that, no, it did not speak of the other children or how you…

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