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Happenings off the homestead: city days

January 5, 2011

“Is this a traffic jam?” Col asks, pointing to the snarl of angry red eyes, blinking on and off ahead.

******

“Who are those guys, Mama?” Rose asks about the many white billboards plastered with the four Beatles, circa 1970, gazing down at the freeway.

******

“Why does he talk funny?” Col whispers about the Indian man whose head is wrapped in a turban.

******

Oh city life, as rich and filling as the chocolate cheesecake buffet. The kids and I walk around goggle-eyed over billboards, jewish delis offering salty-brothed matzoh balls and kosher beef tongue, enormous public buses that roar like barges past a sea of Priuses, and the fact that if you want some baklava, you just go down to the Iranian bakery and get yourself some. The Iranian bakery!

The kids, bless their adaptable hearts, are partaking from the metropolitan buffet with gusto. They’re here to love life in all its forms: the bustling crowds, the mind-boggling freeway maneuvers (the kids are getting used to me saying “you can’t talk to me for the next three minutes because I’m merging”), the the potpourri of skin tones and accents.

And even though Rose says that “wonderland” is a place that’s pink and filled with rainbows, there’s a good bit of wonderland here in Berkeley, California.

They say it’s winter, but I’m not so sure.

Anyone know what these are? Moonflowers?

In addition to waist-high lavender plants, trees swelled with citrus fruits, and our Colorado, summer birds spotted kicking it like Florida retirees in the eucalyptus, there are many and bountiful year-round farmers markets:

Total produce porn, if you’re into that kind of thing: (also, I got grapes at the farmers market, which could make you cry with gratitude and happiness, if you’re into that kind of thing)

There’s the amazing children’s science museum, in which two visits barely scratched the surface:

On the earthquake simulator, where Col finally gets to tower over his sister.

The puzzler getting his brain tickled.

We looked for cormorants, seals, whales, pelicans and other exotic marine life:

Turn those binocs towards the water girlfriend

Cormorants spotted!

Col and Rose had so much fun playing with my cousin’s four children while my dear cousin Janie and I strung bits of conversation together:

Counting and trying very hard not to peek during a game of Hide and Seek (Jasper is hiding).

Four generations with Grandma Joyce

Time with the grandparents has been wonderful as usual. Col and Baba have been doing puzzles and launching nerf rockets; Rose has been following Nana around, keeping up a cheerful monologue and asking unanswerable questions like “Is the day we leave going to be this day or that other day?” Rose has been accidentally calling her dad “Nana,” and last night Dan finally said, “Rose. I’m that other person that takes care of you. Daddy. Remember?”

I had a reunion with my high school girlfriends and our assorted 8 children. Some of us hadn’t seen each other for over a decade, and yet it was almost like we were back at Provo park, finishing up a cigarette before hustling back to remedial chemistry (except now any smoking is hidden from our children, not our parents). My friend Jessica posted pictures of us to Facebook, calling it The Nothing Has Changed Reunion (which is so true, except er, the iphone thingy that allowed Jessica to blast a picture to the world wide web before we had even hugged goodbye). Of course a million things are different, like circumstances, but who we are? The same, which is completely comforting and awesome.

The nothing has changed reunion, thankfully.

********

Now that we are soon to leave the city and return home, I am thinking about what my children will miss, growing up many hours away from anything resembling a city. Usually I am aware of what they gain living in a small town surrounded by wild land—you know I think it’s paradise—but today I am thinking about what’s lost.

They’ll miss rubbing elbows with humanity in all its forms, which seems the most direct way to build tolerance and comfort with diversity. Perhaps also, they’ll miss that buzzing groundswell of creativity that spreads quickly, like fire or a contagion, ricocheting off inspired minds.

Like many things, there’s a trade off – street smarts traded for coyote howls, access to top-shelf artistry in concerts, museums, theatre and food traded for the opportunity to walk through the woods not seeing another soul.

I’m happy with our choice.

How about you? What’s gained and lost in your geographical location?

 

 

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35 Comments leave one →
  1. January 5, 2011 11:12 am

    Wow, those bunches of carrots and asparagus are making my mouth water. And grapes grown locally? Don’t taunt!

    Geography? Ours is about to turn upside down and food is one of many concerns. We’ll gain public transportation and lose … bananas? Who knows? That’s part of the adventure. Yes, that’s it. :)

  2. January 5, 2011 11:40 am

    Wow – even here the farmer’s market has been put to bed… I can’t imagine all that produce was really LOCAL!? Probably shipped in from so-cal… and I didn’t know citrus grew in the Bay area!? Well, I hear ya! My hubs and I are pretty well city-saturated, having grown up in LA, so nothing beats an empty Humboldt beach. Alas, what I love most about NOT living in LA – is the general kindness and attention that people give one another. I wouldn’t trade anything for that feeling of community. Knowing that, heaven forbid, my child were to be lost in town, he’d be recognized immediately for who his is – as opposed to being lost in a swarm of bustling people who probably wouldn’t notice.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      January 5, 2011 1:01 pm

      Yes, the general kindness of strangers and closeknit community is hugely appealing. And that produce was grown in the Bay Area!

    • January 7, 2011 2:53 pm

      Long Beach is full o’ kind folks. Much like a small, working class midwestern town. Sadly, it is surrounded by LA. :( And I work in LA.

      Feel free to shower me with pity. :P

  3. January 5, 2011 11:45 am

    I grew up in Northern California and spent 6 years in the San Jose area. It gave me a taste for city life, despite the fact that when I lived there all I wanted was a cabin in the woods where there were NO people. To this day, I sometimes fantasize about having a studio right in the heart of a great city (usually while I am planting endless onion sets or processing piles of kale).
    The flower is some kind of datura. Can almost guarantee that the grapes were not local. It is December/January, even in California. Wine grape harvest there is generally late September/early October. Assume eating grapes is similar. One of the best kept secrets of large farmers markets is there is often no requirement for the products to be local. Was out in CA in October for a similar reunion with girlfriends. Isn’t it great when you can just pick up a conversation where you left off, sometimes decades ago? While I was there I visited a day care while my friend was picking up her daughters. There was a sign for the sink, at kid height, in 6 languages. Now THAT is an indication of diversity.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      January 5, 2011 1:11 pm

      Oh, I’m a little heartbroken thinking those grapes weren’t local, but you may be right. Anyone else know? Audrey? Janie? Ellen? I know that you have to be certified organic at the Berkeley market, so there are some rules. Love the six languages at the day care! Our little friend sang us her school’s rendition of “we wish you a merry christmas,” which included kwanzaa and hanukkah!

  4. Jane Jaber permalink
    January 5, 2011 12:03 pm

    So funny Rachel, I just had the same experiences and feelings about city versus country…i’ll tell you what, i’ll take here…

    Could you believe the Beatles I tunes billboards? My kids would name each one, and then state which ones were alive or not alive..

    On our one and only day in the city, we were verging on hunger meltdown, so I wisked the fam to and old lunchtime standby…3rd floor of the Crocker Galleria…Emma looked around, and as she was trying to decide between Japanese, Chinese, Indian, kosher deli,mediterranean,etc., she looked at me and professed,”mom, there are more food choices in this one place than in our whole town!!

    One of my dear girlfriends has a 2 and 5 year old, and she is at a crossroads, as she is the breadwinner in her family, and her kids are entering the school years. Having grown up in a very alternative Big Sur childhood, she has very specific ideas about how she wants her kids educated.
    This meant driving her 5 year old from her house on top of Mt. Tam to a Waldorf school in BOLINAS and then going to work on Fillmore St. in the CITY!!! OMG!!! When i told her about the half a block school commute followed by the 7 minute work commute, she just gazed at me in disbelief.

    I think when we go and peek in at that bay area life, we see all the good things we miss about the place, and forget about what it takes to make it happen there on a daily basis. Good thing we are fortunate to have good family friend connections there to let us experience the area when we choose to.

    As for flavor, I grew up in the whitest of the white midwest, people, food, you name it…and once I discovered the bay area, I was out of there…our kids already get to experience it, so they are fortunate for that.

    As wonderful as the bay area is, my vote stays with durango,but most of all SIMPLICITY…i feel so blessed to be here… jane

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      January 5, 2011 1:22 pm

      > I think when we go and peek in at that bay area life, we see all the good things we miss about the place, and forget about what it takes to make it happen there on a daily basis. So true! And as much as I love eating authentic Thai food here (and Japanese, Vietnamese, Indian…), sometimes the lack of choices in Durango feels like part of the simplicity – in a GOOD way (plus it keeps me cooking at home instead of spending money at restaurants).

  5. January 5, 2011 12:33 pm

    Yes, I am very into that kind of thing…bring on the fresh asparagus in January (that has not logged more international travel miles than I ever will) porn. I do know the exact feeling… the tradeoff of being able to snowshoe right out our back door and through the woods to throw things at an almost-frozen river to see if the ice is safe, and sometimes come home late in the evening to see an owl in the tree overhead, who deposits a pellet on top of the car which freezes in place, so that it’s still there after the car has gone for a spin the next day but having to drive nearly an hour to see a middlin’ performance of The Nutcracker and eat some meh Mexican food (Iranian bakery? Fegetaboutit)…where the parking lot of the chain sandwich shop is packed at lunch time while you could have dined completely alone at the Japanese restaurant that couldn’t survive in that same location. Also, there’s that tradeoff between my heart’s home and where I actually live for way too many reasons to get into in a blog comment. Oh and those flowers? Are they some kind of cultivated variety of datura?

  6. January 5, 2011 12:37 pm

    i think those flowers are datura.

    as far as what’s gained and lost geographically…you’ve already nailed it, seeing as we live in the bay area. i pine away constantly for my lost former life of cowboys, coyotes, space and simplicity. but on the days when i am at peace with our current locale, i really notice what my daughter does gain from being here…contact with people from all walks of life, from the homeless to the owners of our local cafe…everyone is her friend and goes out of their way to say hi, with love, when we are out on our walks. i also can’t forget my teen age self who D.I.E.D. from the boredom of living in a small town and would have sold her parents just to go somewhere COOL. little did i know i would grow up to live the cliche “don’t know what you got til…”

    so glad you are getting a little homeopathic city dose, and that it has been so much fun so far. as always, love your pictures and stories. xo

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      January 5, 2011 1:05 pm

      Marygood, I like the homeopathic reference, that’s exactly how I see it too – I can handle the city in those sorts of doses. And I do worry some about when my kids hit their teens in a small town (not that I was always safe and smart as a teenager in the city, but at least I could feel wild and adventurous by taking BART to SF with friends).

  7. Rachel Kohnen permalink
    January 5, 2011 12:54 pm

    Um…diversity? 80% of the people that live in rural Iowa grew up here and don’t travel. Ian ran into a door last week staring at the lovely Hispanic women speaking Spanish at the Asian/Mexican market – so at least we can go SOMEPLACE and see and taste SOMETHING that is interesting unique and delicious.
    The bonus to living in rural Iowa is that I don’t worry about my kids getting run over by a car while crossing the street (just maybe a combine during harvest) and I fall asleep to silence (but I still miss the coyotes giving me a lullaby).
    Reading your journey to Berkley makes me want to hop on a plane. Grateful you share with us so eloquently!!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      January 5, 2011 1:20 pm

      Rachel, I was thinking more about diversity after writing this post and realized there’s a different kind of diversity in rural areas. For instance, I hadn’t met a republican until I went to college, and not a hunter until after I graduated college. Even though I don’t always agree with the diverse politics in my county, I appreciate the different viewpoints (or at least I try to) :)

  8. Melissa permalink
    January 5, 2011 2:14 pm

    Rachel, it’s true that it takes A LOT to raise kids in the city. We are struggling with it right now. Today, our nanny is picking Avi up from school because even though with my new job I get to be home all day Monday and Tuesday, Wed and Th I have to be here til 5 and it sorta sucks. He’s anxious about it and so am I.

    How wonderful that you can give your children doses of vibrant city life (believe me, you don’t have to sell me on it–I freaking love this place!) while grounding yourselves in the simplicity of Durango and offering them a true connection to the earth.

    We are trying to figure out a big picture plan that doesn’t have us staying in our (albeit beautiful) little city apartment too much longer . . .

    I love this post–it’s especially sweet to hear about your reunion with old friends–sometimes I think that’s the best thing about Facebook, the reconnection with people we knew when we were young . . . xo

  9. January 5, 2011 2:17 pm

    I love and relate to this, as we’re growing our family in the rural Ozarks, not far from the more remote place I grew up. We’re 30 miles from a college town, which offers some diversity of experience, but certainly not a global sampling of the senses. We love to travel, and we do miss many things that bigger, more populated places can offer. But our country situation has its own culture, one I’ve always found worth appreciating (if sometimes – or often – with laughter).

  10. January 5, 2011 2:17 pm

    Oh – and almost forgot! Those look like what we call trumpet flowers.

    • January 7, 2011 2:56 pm

      Jes. Trumpet flowers. I have a degree in biology and plant pathology, yet I can’t remember any of it. That’s what living in concrete will do for ya!

  11. January 5, 2011 3:06 pm

    Those farmers market carrots look amazing, wish mine would grow that straight. It sounds like your kids had a great time, it’s good to see both sides.

  12. January 5, 2011 10:14 pm

    Oh, are you making me miss northern California! Living in the city, we’ve gained and lost pretty much the opposite things from you. I love that my children don’t bat an eye at people from all walks of life. I love that they are learning to use walking as a form of transportation at a young age. And I love that there is always a full menu of options for things to do if we want to leave our humble abode.

    I dislike, of course, that they don’t regularly experience the massive expanses of green and the overwhelming sensation of being in the middle of a forest, no sounds but those from nature. Montreal has tons of parks, but a city park…is a city park. You still know where you are, and you’re not in the middle of the wilderness. We don’t have farms close by, we don’t have the ocean, and we don’t have mountains. But you can’t have it all, right?

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      January 6, 2011 11:26 am

      No, you can’t have it all. It’s good to make peace with wherever you are and take advantage of what it does have to offer. “A full menu of options for things to do,” is a great benefit in raising kids.

  13. January 6, 2011 11:03 am

    I grew up in Half Moon Bay, California, and one thing that was hardest for me to adjust to moving to Colorado was not having something growing all the time. Fresh produce was just what we ate, and there was never any discussion about eating frozen, etc. Of course, there was not much talk about canning, and putting by either, which I have come to really enjoy in these past 8 years.

    I love in a very small town now, and when we travel into Denver, I can tell my kiddos feel a bit overwhelmed. They will say things like “I call this Crazy City Mama!”. The change can be dramatic for little ones, and even I feel more tired at the end of a day in the city. There are so many advantages, but it is wonderful to come home to the peace of a rural farm town.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      January 6, 2011 11:29 am

      “Crazy City!” That’s funny. Sometimes kids say it best. :)

  14. January 6, 2011 11:33 am

    *Disclaimer. This may become somewhat lengthy.

    We have lived so many places with kids… each one has gains and losses for sure.

    @ Jane Jaber
    Dear god. Mt. Tam to Bolinas to Fillmore St?! You could not more succinctly describe my personal idea of hell. Just that commute alone…

    I have to say, I am in the minority here on the Bay Area. I lived there, I left there, I cannot stand it there. Went back in 09 for the first time in several years. Hated just about every minute of if (the minutes that involved not being with old friends), and could. not. wait. to leave again. I will be very hard-pressed to be convinced to go back ever. I probably will… my mom is getting older. That’s the only motivation I have. Ugh.

    After living all over Northern California, from SF to Arcata, and several places in between, we moved to Seattle to be in a city that wasn’t SF, as I was adamant I was not raising kids there. We had an okay time there, but it was very expensive, even prior to the surge in housing costs, and we couldn’t afford to take advantage of the wonderful resources the city had to offer. We visited the art museum once in 4 years. We went to good, ethnic restaurants less than a dozen times. My husband worked about 80 hours a week, I worked 50, our kids grew from 5 and 7 to 9 and 11, and we spent almost no time together. My husband and I literally saw each other 4 hours a month, on the one Sunday afternoon that he didn’t work, and I worked day shift most Sundays. Other than that, I went in at 2 or 3, he got home at 7. The kids hung alone over the gap. That was a huge and unacceptable sacrifice of living in the city. The amount of time one has to work to afford to remain indoors and fed. We left in ’01.

    Long winding road to Grand Rapids, MI. It’s okay here. Geographically, we have sacrificed city stuff. We have a population of nearly 200,000, but we have lots of the bad stuff, not much of the good. We have an awesome farmer’s market, but stuff does not need to be homegrown. When you see bananas at a market in Michigan, you know something isn’t right. We have very few decent restaurants, little music, lots of bars, but few of them at all conducive to patronage by the over 27 set, plenty of crime and of course, it’s Michigan. Nearly the worst economy in the nation. It’s ethnically uninteresting on this side of the state, mostly standard black, white, hispanic, and the white is mostly Dutch reformed, so religiously it’s pretty closed and homogenous. We are not in that category. We scare our neighbors. Literally. When we go out with our grandson, neighbors take their kids inside or into the back yard. We wear tie-dye, my husband has long hair, mine is often purple. We are apparently quite terrifying.

    Our kids’ experiences have been a mixed bag. Our daughter is largely at this point lost to the party life. She started going at 14, had a child at 16 (whom we are raising) and has been just all over the map since. She’s now almost 21. But I think how much worse of stuff she could have gotten into in, say, Portland, city known for its large teen heroin addicted population. Our son has gone the opposite direction. This has been a great place for him. He’s 18, third year of college, musician, living on his own, been continuously employed since he was 16, never a moment of trouble. There’s a great underage music scene here, which has really given him a focal point. Also by moving here, we were able to live really comfortably on the equivalent of one full-time income, so we were able to increase the time spent with our kids tremendously. Obviously it didn’t help the daughter too much, but she’s kind of an adrenaline junkie, and I think now if she’d been in a more rural area where she could have participated in extreme outdoor sports, rock climbing, white water rafting, stuff like that, she might have been able to meet that need in healthier ways.

    We have also lost geographic diversity. It’s flat here. There’s a total of 400 elevational feet of change in the entire state. People ski here, but the ski parks are on tallish sand dunes. Hahahahahahaha!!! I never learned to ski, granted, but I’m from Colorado, birth to 16. A 200 foot tall sand dune is NOT a ski area.

    We have gained marvelous beaches. The sand is fine, the water is warm, clear and fresh. My sister in Seattle says she’ll never move to where it snows because of the salt on the roads and the damage it does to cars. I point out that the air in Seattle has salt 24/7, and in snowy places you just drive through the car wash every couple weeks and it washes off! It doesn’t permeate the engine block and wheels. So, traded daily saltiness for seasonal saltiness. We have snow, and warm rain, and thunder and lightning. We have no mountains.

    After our travels of ’09, and our exploration of various places we considered as potential relocation places, I can say with absolute certainty it is not anywhere on the West Coast. Largely this is due to what comes across to me as the pretentious attitude of the coastal dwellers.

    I mean no offense to anyone. I love lots of people who have this attitude. I remember having it myself! It goes kind of like this… ‘I live in California (or Oregon, or Seattle). This place is soooooo great and cool, there is no place better, and thus the people who are smart enough to choose to live here are better, and cooler. And I live here. And you are from ‘inland’. You are landlocked. This presumes lower intelligence, lower liberalism, and lower coolness factor.’ It is haughty about place, this attitude.

    My sister summed it up beautifully when we were talking about her dilemma of being married for 5 years now, nearing 30, really wanting kids but knowing she can’t afford to raise them or educate them in the way she wants while remaining in Seattle. When I suggested she look off the coast, the woman who has never been further east than northern Idaho replied, “Hell no. I will remain childless before considering leaving the coast. You know, as far as I’m concerned, there is the West Coast, and the rest of the country can go f*** itself. There is nothing east of the state line in which I have any interest.” That, to me, is the general energy and atmosphere I encountered on this trip. While I have close family and dear dear friends in all the coastal states, and in the major metropolitan areas from Seattle to LA, I remembered the attitude from all those years ago. I don’t like it, I don’t want to have it again. I felt alienated and unwelcome, from Bend, to Portland, to Mt. Shasta to Arcata, most especially in Guerneville, and downright claustrophobic in San Francisco.

    We’ve decided on western Montana. Enough city, plenty of wilderness, no shortage of mountains or rain storms, and a welcoming, friendly attitude that we’ve found nowhere else we’ve been. If we really need a city fix, we can still get it, as Seattle is 8 hours away. One long weekend, I’ll be set for months! Lunch at Pike Place Market, a visit to the the Pacific Science Center, a ride up the Space Needle… yup. Bases covered. Leave the traffic and the dampness behind, go back to higher elevations, lower density, manageable stress levels. Sounds geographically pretty okay.

    Again, sorry for the novelish length. This is one of those things that I think about a lot, and have experienced in both directions many times. Giving up city, leaving small town, living in a bus on a mountain top completely off the grid. They all have plusses and minuses, and finding the balance of what is lost and what is gained, what is offered and what is definitely not available is a real challenge.

  15. January 6, 2011 2:38 pm

    Yes, that’s exactly how I view it too: It’s always a tradeoff. If you take B, you usually can’t have A. It’s just a matter of what’s more important to you for you to be happy.

    Looks like a wonderful trip home. I’ve not been to Berkeley but I did enjoy San Francisco when I visited once. Close enough?

    Oh and welcome back. I for one am eager for more of the call of the wild from your part of the world.

  16. January 7, 2011 5:27 pm

    We went to the city this week. Had to pick up supplies for the shop and hit the “Shooter’s Choice” store for more ammo selection. The kids were so funny:
    “Why does it smell so bad here?”
    “Why is this parking lot so big?”
    “Why do so many people need office supplies today?”

    Couldn’t pay me a meeeeeelion dollars to raise my kids in a city.

    I miss the diversity, I miss ethnic food, I miss art galleries and museums. But I can roll my own sushi, and we make our own art, and will continue to travel and also to appreciate the art created within our own communituy.

    I don’t miss the crime, the consumption, how crass everything seems.

    Travel there 2x a year, great. That’s enough for me.

  17. January 8, 2011 5:15 pm

    cool

  18. January 9, 2011 5:54 am

    I am definitely into that kind of thing, and quite jealous of your visits to the farmer’s market – something that is quite lacking in our geographical area. While we have roadside produce stands and one small farmer’s market, all of the local farmers use pesticides, and due to our proximity to mainland Asia and the lax standards on about everything, it’s rumored that some have smuggled illegal pesticides like DDT in from China. Yikes!

    Aside from the organic, local produce, what I find myself missing most on days when there are errands to be run is efficiency. What is gained from living on “island time,” however, is a much more relaxed state of being much of the time, which can be wonderful for a person. It was culture shock when we first arrived, but I think we’ll experience the same in reverse when we move back to the states, and most likely, to the big city for awhile. Love your perspective on the differences between raising the children in different kinds of communities.

  19. Emily permalink
    January 15, 2011 5:13 pm

    Rachel, the pictures of that fresh produce is pulling at my saliva! amazingly, more than a chocolate-cheesecake buffet ever would : )

    Being in DC area is kind of like that too. It took me a couple times going to the near-by international market to see another white person. Access to almost any kind of music or dance party if you search. Any kind of food from any part of the world. Great museums. And I REALLY miss home! Having been in San Francisco and taking advantage of many of its glories in a short day or two, I personally think that the area there is even mo betta than our nations capital. So my conclusion is that your kids are really lucky to have their main roots in the home and region they do, with anything they could imagine in the wide wild realm, and they have intimate access to such a lovely concentration of anything they could imagine in the human realm. They ain’t missin out on a thing! If you like I can talk in funny accent with a turban on my head now and then so they can practice being in the city. I do OK, memsab (see my head bobbling in the gorgeous non-commital way that is the answer to every question!)

  20. Lisa permalink
    January 17, 2011 4:26 pm

    Angel Trumpets. The neighbors have a tree. The stems, roots, and leave contain narcotic/hallucinogenic compounds. So, don’t let the kids munch them (M is prone to eating random pretty plants…)!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      January 17, 2011 4:31 pm

      Thank you. I hope I told Col to stop licking them in time.

  21. January 18, 2011 2:52 pm

    The body has naturally seeks balance. The mind looks for equilibrium, too (& what counts as balance for one isn’t necessarily the same for another). If you’re a fortunate soul, you live in A, but are able to visit B, or even C and D, to counterbalance what is missing in A. Maybe not as often as you’d like… That’s part of the wonderfulness of travel. Sometimes there’s nothing like experiencing the stuff in person. And what a bounty to share that experience with your kids!

    PS I think it’s a Datura, too. Refused to plant it here because of the horses, random dog, etc.

  22. January 23, 2011 12:31 am

    There are trade offs. I think about them often. I love love love the diversity here.
    Wish I had known you were here. It would have been fun to meet you!
    Were you here for any of our cold snap? For we Berzerklians, it was chilly, really!
    Of course, I think it was nearly 70 today.
    :) Nicola

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