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Notes from the West Coast

February 19, 2010

Getting to Berkeley for Grandpa Herb’s “memorial party” was a long, strange trip. Long, because it takes two planes to get from Durango to anywhere. And strange, on account of my travel companions:

Col spent a good part of the first flight studying the safety card provided in the seat back pocket.

“It looks like they’re sliding out of the plane on a really long slide.” Col pointed out.

“Mmm, look at that.”

“Are they?”

I explained about emergency landings, which I don’t like to speak of while I’m actually on a plane. It reminded me of when, last summer, in telling Col we were going to the chemical-free park in town, I had to explain that the rest of the parks get sprayed with toxic chemicals because of well, dandelions. And it all sounded so macabre; people put harmful chemicals on kids’ parks and planes sometimes crash. But, never being mired by details, Col returned to his card.

“It looks like this guy’s floating on a little square.”

“Oh yeah. That’s his cushion; it floats, just in case you uh, land on water.”

“You mean if we crash in an ocean?”


The flight attendant announced that if anyone sitting in an exit row was unable to perform their duty, “we may reseat you.”

“Who’s Mary Seatyou?” Col asked.

“She said she may eat you.”


But actually, the flying was easy compared to the several times I’ve flown alone with the kids when they were younger and Col would slide under his seat and pop up a few aisles away right at the moment when Rose had a spectacular poopy blow out. In fact, on this flight, I might even have read ten pages of my book.

Since my parents picked us up at the Oakland airport on Tuesday, we’ve all been drunk on oxygen and the winning ratio of 3 adults to 2 children. Suddenly the kids seem so comical and benign, which I think is how my parents see them all the time. But four adults will be even better and thankfully, Dan will be joining us Saturday, the day before Grandpa Herb’s memorial.

Apparently Dan’s getting along okay without us. Last we spoke, he was listening to a basketball game while reclining on the couch with a beer. A couple years ago after flying alone to Berkeley with the kids, I called Dan to ask how is it without us?” I felt like I was calling a glamorous friend who was sashaying down the red carpet of a 4-star vacation while I took a break from my wheat-threshing duties on the plantation. How has it been, just you, alone, free to live without interruptions or diaper changes, to eat dinner and just simply, eat? I could hardly believe Dan was living in this mystical reality I still haven’t visited, where children do not dictate the stitching together of your every minute. Dan replied “Oh, I don’t know. It’s been less than 24 hours.”

Col and I are sleeping in the same room, and I secretly love it when he climbs into bed with me at 5:00 am, scritches around, breathes heavily on my neck and then falls back asleep, his snoring moon face approximately ½ a centimeter from my head.

Rose is frothing with excitement over helping Nana with her daily vitamins. Each morning Nana dictates “okay, one of the white pills, two of the capsules,” and Rose is almost as gleeful as if she were given the green light to eat the travel toothpaste she’s pining for.

And while the grass at 6512 feet is still snoozing under a rumpled blanket of snow, northern California is the spring green of a black bear’s dream. Even on a foggy day, the grass shines, illuminated, as if the sun resides in those very blades. Col and Rose have been running barefoot, picking sourgrass bouquets, lapping up the warm outdoors like it’s all they ever wanted.

But yesterday, that slow-moving animal endemic to Northern California moved in. The fog gulped bridges and buildings and Col stood on my parent’s deck squinting at the thick grey soup and asked “if we throw water on it will it melt?”

And though the locals groan heartily about this fog, I was intrigued by this meteorological animal that spreads like mold, cloning itself, exhaling moisture in big sighs. I could almost feel the plants sipping off the body of fog, becoming more of their own green selves.

We went to the beach, and though the fog never lifted, the kids—never having any expectations of weather—were captivated by the enormous sandbox stacked with shiny, broken shells, colorful, smooth pebbles and ropy seaweed sprawled about the sand like roadkill.

And then, we went to the Berkeley Farmers Market. And this may be why 6 million people live in the Bay Area:

This is what you can buy–for a song–in February.

It’s like Barbara Kingsolver said in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: eating locally can be hard, unless you live in say, California.

But this is why we came. To see Grandma Joyce, and with family,  to honor the long life of her husband, Grandpa Herb.

Have a lovely, lovely weekend and maybe spring will be tickling your feet soon.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. Ellen permalink
    February 19, 2010 12:41 pm

    Such a small percentage of bay area residents go the farmers market…so probably the reason so many people live there is the weather…no snow, just fog.

  2. February 19, 2010 2:19 pm

    The last time I was on a plane with my children, they offered to bump me up to first class and I couldn’t go because of, well, the children. And my spouse, who would have divorced me if I had gone up to first class and left her with both kids.

    Whenever I get to fly alone I am always gleeful. I wonder when that will wear off.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      February 19, 2010 4:54 pm

      Good for you Susan, on being gleeful to fly alone. When Col and Rose were more high maintenance flyers, I would look around at childless people reading a book and think “what a luxurious privilege” – when really, they probably had a million gripes about the whole airplane scene.

  3. February 19, 2010 2:58 pm

    “To eat dinner and just simply, eat”: We will get to do that again some day, won’t we? (That asparagus looks so, so good.)

    I’m sorry to hear about your loss, and I hope you enjoy celebrating Herb’s life with your family.

  4. February 19, 2010 3:42 pm

    “winning ratio of 3 adults to 2 children. Suddenly the kids seem so comical and benign”

    You are a lovely wordsmith. I bet you completely rock at Scrabble too.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      February 19, 2010 4:54 pm

      Erin, I haven’t had time to play scrabble in years, but I do rock at its baby sister: Boggle.

    • February 20, 2010 8:46 am

      absolutely. this line grabbed me too.

      ~ erin

  5. Barb permalink
    February 19, 2010 5:32 pm

    “the kids—never having any expectations of weather” — that is really interesting when you think about how much time we adults spend thinking about weather, and dealing with weather, and being “tired” of weather (like enough snow already). The kids are much better at just taking it as it comes (of course we know they don’t have to “deal” with the weather as in getting places….)

    Will be thinking of you all this weekend.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      February 19, 2010 5:39 pm

      Barb, I know! Children are just wise. My parents and I had our hands in pockets, huddled against chill while the kids were barefoot and enraptured by the whole beach experience!

  6. Steph permalink
    February 19, 2010 5:59 pm

    I would so LOVE to have a dose of that west coast weather!!! (We are currently getting more snow here!) Enjoy your visit and the celebration of your Grandpa’s life. Please send my condolences to your mom. XOOX


  7. Dan permalink*
    February 19, 2010 8:36 pm

    I love it All!
    This is so sweet, you are a writing maestro!

  8. Amy permalink
    February 19, 2010 10:01 pm

    I am thinking of you, wishing I could join you at the colorful beet display and the glory of la loma park (is that view of the bay for real?!). Back here in Durango, the hole I dug in the yard a couple days ago, just to see the soil, is currently being buried in snow again, but at least I know the dirt is still there. I am thinking of all your family and the long, rich life your grandpa lived. What a blessing to have seen so much and helped create such amazing offspring.

  9. February 20, 2010 8:48 am

    loved this post. every last drop of it.

  10. February 20, 2010 10:03 am

    Nice to know you’re enjoying the peace around these here parts. The early part of the week was sunny and bright and a pure delight. Our hikes to the beach in the fog haven’t been too shabby, either.

    I hope Dan has made it and you are all together again to rejoice in Grandpa Herb’s life.

  11. February 20, 2010 11:16 pm

    that is the best description of fog i’ve ever read! i am enchanted!

  12. February 21, 2010 2:15 pm

    Planes are lots of fun with kids…oh, so much fun. But, to see another place is so wonderful. My kids can’t wait to go on a plane again! I used to live in SF and if we opened the windows, the fog would just flow right through our house! It was pretty cool to watch.

  13. krystal v permalink
    February 21, 2010 6:25 pm

    ‘I had to explain that the rest of the parks get sprayed with toxic chemicals’
    which park is the one without? and how do you find that sort of stuff out here in durango?

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      February 21, 2010 10:25 pm


      Sadly, all the parks/city property get sprayed except the one, designated chem-free park, Brookside park, on 24th and W. 2nd (along Junction creek). However, a little birdie told me there might be an upcoming ballot initiative to suspend spraying on city property, as other cities have done.

  14. February 22, 2010 12:55 am

    How can it be that it’s sunny and 60 degrees here in Portland? My daffodils are blooming and I have grass already, does that mean mowing, already? California looks like a fun reprieve from Winter and routine, enjoy. Cheers to Grandpa Herb and your whole family!!

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