Sickness and death

Have you heard of the site Caring Bridge? This free-to-use (supported by donations) site makes it easy for a sick person (or, usually, his or her family) to send out updates and news to a member list of family and friends (who can in turn post comments and messages of support). It’s a great site, and I’m really glad it exists. But it also makes me terribly sad.

Yesterday I got an e-mail inviting me to join the page for my grad school advisor, Nancy. She was diagnosed with cancer last winter and has been sending out occasional e-mail updates. But there are so many people in her circle, and writing those e-mails is difficult (taking up valuable time and energy). So, with her approval, her sister has started a Caring Bridge group.

When I logged into the website, I was greeted with a list of other groups I belong to: one for Doug, and one for Melinda. I read the Caring Bridge updates (in both cases, written by their spouses) as each of them went through cancer treatment, suffered pain and loss, and died. I think about both of them from time to time, and mostly I remember them as the vibrant, active people they were before they got sick. Seeing their names on this page, though, reminded me of the unhappy endings of many cancer journeys and made me wonder if Nancy will tread a similar path.

(Click on the image.)



Photography update

The new Photo 365 project started on 1 August, and this time there are four participants: Heidi, Jean, Deborah, and me. I’m less than thrilled with the latest iteration of Flickr’s iOS app (which I use for most of my uploading), so I’m not always up to date with my posting.

Here are the most recent twenty-five photos I’ve added to the group:


Last August 1, my friend Heidi and I started a Photo 365 project together. Every day, we each post a photo to our Flickr group. My photos are here,* and Heidi’s pictures are here.

We’ve both missed occasional days here and there, but for the most part we’ve been pretty successful at charting our year in photos. We’ve enjoyed the experience so much that we’ve decided to start another Photo 365 project together when this one winds up at the end of July, and we’re happy to have any interested friends join us.

There are no set themes—we photograph whatever we like. Some photos just document everyday events; others are more composed shots. Occasionally we comment on each other’s pictures, but there’s not a whole lot of chatting going on, so the “active interaction” component is not demanding at all. Mostly we find this project useful as (1) a nudge to take at least one photo each day, and (2) an opportunity to share photos within a small community.

If you’re interested in participating in this project, let me know! The new Photo 365 starts on August 1!

*(As you can see, I’m a bit behind in updating my photostream. I’m busy with work deadlines at the moment, but I’m hopeful that I’ll have time to bring my current photo project up to date before starting a new one!)


The answer

Here’s the answer to the mystery posed in my last two posts (1, 2):

Sylvia had a friend over, and the two of them decided to play “spies” with these big boxes. They cut eyeholes so they could see out, then positioned themselves on the sidewalk in front of my house. Whenever a car drove by, they’d “stalk” the car by jumping up and running after it.

I’m sure my neighbors now think we are nuts.




Here’s another view



(Click on the image.)



Garden update

So far, this year’s garden is doing quite well, even though it was started nearly a month late. We had a delay because Jan rebuilt our four raised beds, which are now 8″ high (instead of 4″) high and contain strategically placed vertical PVC tubes that let us add trellises, hoops, and other PVC structures wherever we like. The rebuilding and having to wait for our garden soil to be delivered (the supplier had a delay because of the extremely wet spring) meant that seeds for my peas, lettuces, and other cold-weather-loving plants didn’t go into the ground on March 17 as they’re supposed to.

But in spite of the late start—and thanks to a pretty cool summer so far—we’ve been enjoying plenty of home-grown produce! In bed #1, the peas and lettuces are nearly spent, but the mizuna, lovage (a perennial), parsley, and pole beans are going strong. This year I set up the bean teepees directly over the lettuce, figuring that (1) lettuce doesn’t mind shade, and (2) by the time the beans started the dominate the space, the lettuces would be ready to come out anyway. I’m pleased to report that this has all turned out according to plan!



Bed #2 has Swiss chard, carrots (two kinds), basil, cilantro.


Bed #3 has tatsoi, beets, cherry tomatoes, and basil.


And bed #4 has cucumbers (slicers and picklers), pattypan squash, basil, cosmos, sunflowers, and zinnias.





I’m glad to see that science is backing up the need to continue teaching handwriting in schools. Happily, my daughter is learning it in school—our district hasn’t yet joined the ranks of those who are ditching handwriting from the curriculum (though I think she may not get more than the bare bones version of this instruction). I know that keyboarding skills are vital these days, but I’m sorry to see handwriting disappear from our schools and much of our daily lives. The two fulfill such different roles that one isn’t a substitute for the other.

I can type pretty quickly and accurately (except on a mobile device, when I become the World’s Worst Thumb Typist), and for my work I spend a lot of time hunched over a keyboard. But when I want to write something thoughtful and really connect with a far-off friend, I will almost always put pen to paper and write something by hand. The deliberateness of the action, the tangibility of the tools—I value their ability to make me pause and slow down.



Last June I wrote about participating in a wood-kiln firing at the clay studio where I’ve been doing pottery for the past few years. I haven’t done a wood firing since then, but I have been experimenting more with surface treatments for cone 6 firings a regular electric kiln.

Here’s a recent effort that I really like:



I drew the cheetah freehand onto greenware (brown stoneware), carved in the design, then applied yellow and black slip. After the bisque firing, I painted clear glaze over the cheetah, covered the cheetah with aftosa wax, then dipped the whole thing in Dragon Green glaze. (The wax prevents the Dragon Green from covering the cheetah, and it burns off during the glaze firing.)

I love how this turned out! It is my new favorite mug. I have plans to do a lot more experimentation with this decorative technique!

Next »