Beachy December Festival of Light and Color: Photos

Even though it’s the beginning of December and was the fifth night of Hannukah, here in Southern California we enjoyed a brief summery Sunday before a massive winter storm barrels down the coast from Alaska.

A late afternoon beach walk in Carlsbad with my tugboat man…magnificent sunset, boats, seagulls flying home. Not such big waves though, or he’d be surfing and not walking!

Maybe that’s why I get so excited for the WordPress snow to appear.

It’s the only snow I see unless we go skiing!

These photos have not been retouched. This is exactly what it looked like. AMAZING, right?

Decsunset6

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The Boy Who Is My Heart. So Much Depends On A Yellow Steamroller

Update: This poem was recently published in Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream Volume 34 #4 

The Yellow Steamroller

So much depends
upon

a yellow
steamroller

buried
in the dirt
 
behind the shed
On a bitterly cold afternoon, my tugboat man and I embarked on our annual yard cleanup project. I raked all the pine needles shaken loose during the fury of Alaska-borne winds that roared down the coast to Southern California while he trimmed the eucalyptus and mulberry trees.
Metal rake clanged against metal.
I saw bright yellow igniting the dirt and pine needles suffused it with a gleaming radiance through the brown. steamroller1
I threw down the rake, crouched on all fours, and with bare fingers dug through the wet fecund soil to uncover an abandoned yellow Matchbox toy from the spot where there once was a sandbox that my son’s dad  built for him when we first moved to this house in 1985.
I discover in situ a three-inch wide artifact imbued with all the wonder of my perfect child. 
I gently brushed away twenty-five years of encrusted soil and sand.steamroller2
sandboxI was engulfed in a wave of memory. I was there. I saw him–my four-year-old son in this beautiful huge sandbox filled with fresh, clean sand.  I saw him as I often watched him from the bay window in the kitchen overlooking the backyard where I would wash dishes and keep an eye on him, keeping him safe–always keeping him safe–as he played in the sand with his dump trucks and cherry pickers and this steam roller and his buckets and plastic cups and forks and sticks with his cats and dog always near, and the loveliness of the memory set me on my heels and I cried.
Happy tears for the exquisite soft rosy glow of healthy well-fed cheeks, the deep Imperial jade green eyes, the curls that were my curls, my boy, my angel love.
The boy whose every breath contains a whisper of the intangible all encompassing LOVE I possess for this being who was a part of me before he was a part of the earth and sun and sky and sand.
The boy who is my heart.
I shut my eyes tight to keep the pictures from disappearing, but the ephemeral/evanescent impressions floated away with the tears that spilled out for the remembering of the beauty of a luminous child playing in a sandbox, singing to himself and constructing sand sculptures of the future, or, in his case, building words and spinning thoughts and erratica.
Those grains of sand that between his fingers mashed and smashed into forts and tunnels were the detritus of the granite from whence his brain reformed them grain by grain into skyscrapers of words and sentences that flow like a path from the back door to the sandbox.looking down from the hill
A sort of homage to…
The Red Wheelbarrow
William Carlos Williams
so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white
chickens.

Wordless Wednesday — Moose Tracks — Don’t Murder Animals

Is it really Wednesday already? On my way to a Pilates class, here’s my contribution:

Moose Resting in Tall Grass in Grand Tetons.

moose

He didn’t move all day. He was about ten feet from the trail when we began our hike and four hours later, he was still there. We watched him for a while, admiring his rack (ha ha) and wondered how anyone could kill such a beautiful creature and mount the antlers on a wall for decoration. 

It hurt our heart and soul to think that if this lovely animal wandered off the protected lands of Grand Tetons National Park, he’d be slaughtered.

If I was anti-hunting before this trip, I have become (if possible) even more militantly against animal murder.

At the risk of offending anyone, I’d like to suggest that hunters have sociopathic tendencies. That opinion was derived from an animal rights group and it resonates with me. 

I guess this wasn’t so wordless after all.

How to prepare for a cruise: Tips from a professional mariner

Are you planning a cruise vacation?

Some things you should know before you go–from my personal maritime expert.

My captain’s in an isolated location with no TV or newspapers or internet access (other than simple email) so I include in my daily missives to him local and national news updates.

The Cruise Ship Carnival Triumph

I sent lots of reports about the problems of the broken and stranded Carnival ship Triumph last week–that poor ship ultimately endured a less than triumphant arrival into port amidst horrific tales of sewage-soaked carpets and open decks, with food so limited that passengers were reduced to eating candy and ketchup on buns.

2-14-13-Carnival-Triumph_full_600Since I have my own personal encyclopedia of maritime knowledge at my fingertips (ha ha) I thought it’d be interesting to share his thoughts about it.

People think I’ve been on every boat imaginable because of him–but that’s not true. I’ve never taken a cruise for a couple of reasons; I don’t like boats very much (unless they’re named after meand I’m too impatient. I like to get to my destination in a hurry.

A boat ride, whether it’s in a lagoon or a river or an ocean–is inherently rife with danger.

My captain’s been involved in salvage work for maritime accidents where he’s had to dive and search for bodies. As you might image, it’s impossible to erase those images from his memory.

The Titanic and the Costa Concordia are obvious examples of the worst possible outcomes.

Living in close quarters brings out the best and the worst in people–even without a disaster to deal with. Add an engine fire, backed up toilets, unlimited alcohol, and you’ve got a potential explosion. Some people panic, hoard food and water; some drink too much (the Triumph crew wisely shut down the open bar)–while others step up to the challenge with exemplary leadership skills; share, organize, and deal with the situation in a calm and logical manner.

I’ve listed a few of my captain’s recommendations before you embark on a cruise. This is by no means an exhaustive list; just a few tips from my in-house expert.

  • If you don’t already have one, obtain a Passport Card, which is a separate document from a Passport that you might have to surrender to a foreign flagged cruise ship. In the event that your passports are taken, a Passport Card might give you a sense of well-being if you want to get off the ship in a foreign port and go home.
  • Take a small flashlight and carry it with you at all times. Keep it next to your bedside.
  • Pack energy bars; nuts and raisins, and even protein powder if you have luggage space.
  • Take part in the lifeboat drills, know where your life jackets are and how to put them on. Pay attention!
  • Locate your life jacket in your cabin as soon as you arrive; practice putting it on.
  • Don’t wait for the required safety drill to memorize the location of your assigned lifeboat.
  • Make a family plan. Stay together.
  • Practice finding your way from your stateroom to a stairway to the deck bypassing an elevator. Know how to escape.
  • Find a U.S. cruise line in the inner coastal waters or Alaska or on the Rivers instead of a foreign flagged vessel that might not offer a passenger the same rights and legal protections. Norwegian Cruise Line‘s Pride of America is the only large U.S. flagged cruise ship.

The Boy Who Is My Heart. So Much Depends On A Yellow Steamroller

An homage to William Carlos Williams

The Yellow Steamroller

So much depends
upon

a yellow
steamroller

buried
in the dirt
 
behind the shed
On a bitterly cold afternoon, my tugboat man and I embarked on our annual yard cleanup project. I raked all the pine needles shaken loose during the fury of Alaska-borne winds that roared down the coast to Southern California while he trimmed the eucalyptus and mulberry trees.
Metal rake clanged against metal.
I saw bright yellow igniting the dirt and pine needles suffused it with a gleaming radiance through the brown. steamroller1
I threw down the rake, crouched on all fours, and with bare fingers dug through the wet fecund soil to uncover an abandoned yellow Matchbox toy from the spot where there once was a sandbox that my son’s dad  built for him when we first moved to this house in 1985.
I discover in situ a three-inch wide artifact imbued with all the wonder of my perfect child. 
I gently brushed away twenty-five years of encrusted soil and sand.steamroller2
sandboxI was engulfed in a wave of memory. I was there. I saw him–my four-year-old son in this beautiful huge sandbox filled with fresh, clean sand.  I saw him as I often watched him from the bay window in the kitchen overlooking the backyard where I would wash dishes and keep an eye on him, keeping him safe–always keeping him safe–as he played in the sand with his dump trucks and cherry pickers and this steam roller and his buckets and plastic cups and forks and sticks with his cats and dog always near, and the loveliness of the memory set me on my heels and I cried.
Happy tears for the exquisite soft rosy glow of healthy well-fed cheeks, the deep Imperial jade green eyes, the curls that were my curls, my boy, my angel love.
The boy whose every breath contains a whisper of the intangible all encompassing LOVE I possess for this being who was a part of me before he was a part of the earth and sun and sky and sand.
The boy who is my heart.
I shut my eyes tight to keep the pictures from disappearing, but the ephemeral/evanescent impressions floated away with the tears that spilled out for the remembering of the beauty of a luminous child playing in a sandbox, singing to himself and constructing sand sculptures of the future, or, in his case, building words and spinning thoughts and erratica.
Those grains of sand that between his fingers mashed and smashed into forts and tunnels were the detritus of the granite from whence his brain reformed them grain by grain into skyscrapers of words and sentences that flow like a path from the back door to the sandbox.looking down from the hill
The Red Wheelbarrow
William Carlos Williams
so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white
chickens.

Birds on Boats

Last year, somewhere in Alaskan waters, a remarkable thing happened on my MM’s boat.  A bird crashed onto the deck of the tug, and he thought it was badly hurt and might not survive.  He said it seemed to have been knocked unconscious for a moment or two, but  then shook its head, sat up, and surveyed its surroundings. My captain wrapped it in a towel and put it in a big crate in a protected area near the bow. He called me ‘cos I’m the one everyone goes to to help any kind of animal. He described it as having a crest and webbed feet and we figured it must be a seabird.  I did a bit of research, and based upon his description, it appeared to be a Crested Auklet.

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife (2006), a Crested Auklet is a small, peculiar-looking seabird with a bright orange bill (during breeding season) and an eye-catching crest ornament, which is present in both sexes. Males and females prefer mates with large crests and have a distinctive tangerine odor to their plumage.
During the breeding season, this bird is found only in the Bering Sea and adjacent North Pacific Ocean, and nests in colonies on remote coastlines and islands.
Summer foods include marine invertebrates and less frequently fish and squid. Crested Auklets often forage in large flocks. To capture their food, birds dive from the surface and pursue the prey in underwater “flight”.
In Alaska, Crested Auklets are found in the Bering Sea, on the Aleutian Islands, and on the Shumagin Islands.

He chopped up some sardines and put it in the crate along with some water, and the bird seemed to be very comfortable and even alert. After a day or so, I thought the tug might be getting too far away from its habitat, so I called the Audubon Society and they put me in a touch with a bird rehab center. They suggested creating a bathtub with seawater so the bird could take a dip, and that it probably had a head wound. If the bird did not fly away on its own, when the tug got into a port, they would fly someone down to claim it and bring it to the rehab center to recuperate.

Apparently this happens frequently on boats that crisscross oceans. Most of the time, however, they don’t survive the contact. I’ve been on a few tugs myself and hit my head and stubbed my toe often enough to know how much it hurts!

The happy ending to this story is that the auklet flew off the next day and hopefully has learned to stay away from boats.