Toad in the Hole June 2007 Archives

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June 20, 2007

On a Lighter Note

Consumer alert: The DVD of Planet Earth that Costco is selling for 50 bucks has the Attenborough narration. I blew half the month's entertainment budget on it. Hm, maybe all the month's entertainment budget. Never mind, it was well spent.

That series is so gorgeous I can hardly contain myself. It barely scratches the surface of the systems it covers -- grasslands, deep oceans, mountains, etc. -- but the footage is absolutely amazing and it's beautifully composed.

This stuff is what TV is for.

Posted at 05:55 AM | Comments (1)

June 15, 2007

The Way Out

Last weekend we heard a concert of Hawai’ian choral music at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland. It might seem odd to have concerts in a mortuary but this one has been hosting them for a few years now, several music styles including a jazz series. Great acoustics. Julia Morgan designed the place.

Some of the old hapa songs are sentimental as all hell, and performers of all ages sing them without irony; I think the culture’s beyond irony, one thing I like about it. Damned if I didn’t break down and snivel over one of them.

Not for the obvious reasons; usually this stuff makes me smile. The song, in its English stanzas, repeated the line “You were a beautiful baby.”

In Miami, I spent time standing next to my sister Jeanne’s bed, holding her hand and telling her just that. We’d all been saying “I love you” to each other consciously and rather more often since Dad died, and maybe even more since Mom died, having all been reminded that the chances to say that are finite. I was just elaborating, I guess.

I told her how beautiful she’d been when Mom brought her home, how beautiful she’d always been to me, that I’ve loved her since the day she was born. She was unconscious as far as I could tell, but I know that apparently unconscious people often hear what’s said around them. So I said stuff like that for whatever it was worth, just in case she could take it in.

I said that at her funeral, too. I talked about how beautiful she’d always been, what a great baby, how eager and cheerful. How she’d had a milk allergy/sensitivity/lactose intolerance, who knows? that took a few weeks to diagnose, and then Mom had had to feed her a canned formula called Mull-Soy. This was in 1959, and the stuff was the only soymilk formula available, apparently.

Lord, it was nasty.

I tasted it, of course. Yeugh. I was not impressed. The baby, however, was hungry and she guzzled it as if it were real food. It gave her indigestion (though not nearly so bad as regular milk) but she thrived on it nevertheless. Just a hint of nutrition, the most grudging bitter fake improvised food, and she took it and grew and blossomed on it. It didn’t take much. She was a beautiful baby and stayed beautiful, and I wasn’t sure anyone had told her that lately… I guess I was the only one left in a position to say so. I don’t mean just looks.

There’s something else I know, though, that made it all seem more futile—and that made it hurt more, during and after. The pros call it “decathexis,” and it’s something dying people do. I’ve seen it. I think it’s a bit of biological mercy; I think it’s physical, like shock… but then I think mind, whatever that is, is physical. Nothing “mere” about that.

I’ve seen it before of course. I was a nurse back in the day. My first year out of school—that year when you learn more than school ever taught you—I was with a few dying people. And one man, an old guy dying in spite of radiation treatments for lymphoma (which treatments left him with radiation burns, and I have my own opinion of that incident), dying alone except for us because his wife was herself too ill to be with him, died while I had my stethoscope on him. Listening to his heart beat and then stop beating.

That was back when I was in the habit of writing bad poetry, and a year or three after it happened I wrote this. I’d write it differently now if I wrote it al all now, but I’m letting it stand as I wrote it thirty years ago. Never did title it.

Dying, they seem to forget
A little at a time.
He was forgetting how to breathe.
Watching a ceiling, walls, for weeks,
He had long forgotten seeing.
I touched his hot yellow paper arm;
He turned head a little, politely;
blinked but never focused.
I spoke; he nodded.

Another slow bewildered breath
When I turned his arm, exposed
The lymph map in red ink,
The radiation carbuncles strung on it.
These were scrupulously clean and dry.

I wrote his numbers down
but there’s no way to chart
The heart’s hollow, placid echo.
Another breath, whose music I described; another effortless wait.

I gave back his cool, bent hand,
Straightened sheets, dimmed the light
As if he would sleep.

All night long he labored to forget.

In mortal chivalry
Or accident, or humor,
He waited for my third return
On pointless orderly recording rounds.

That heart never stumbled.

As I listened, counted, listened,
It merely did not sound again.
The nothing I heard then

Rang behind everysound
For days.

Rings still.

Posted at 06:43 PM | Comments (16)

June 14, 2007

Quote of the Day

Mary thought, "It's like millions of not quite invisible fairies coming into my garden. You can't see one of them, but the millions change the color of the air."

from John Steinbeck'sThe Long Valley

Posted at 04:03 AM | Comments (1)

June 10, 2007


When you're walking along a certain trail in Briones Park, it's a good idea to look twice at a certain hole in a certain madrone.



might be looking back.

Sometimes someone might even


step out onto her wonderfully sculpted front porch for a breath of fresh air.

Someone might be a western screech-owl.

(Enlarge by clicking on 'em.)

Posted at 04:24 AM | Comments (6)

June 08, 2007

Friday Kyoot

I wonder how Matt the Cat would like a new accessory.

Posted at 09:49 PM | Comments (1)


My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Very Lady Ron the Scintillating of Biggleswade by Biscuit
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Twisty's is the place for good silliness too.

Posted at 04:17 AM | Comments (9)

June 02, 2007

Last Weekend

We took a stroll through Guadalcanal Village with our friend Sally and her workbud (now our friend too, hey!) Linda. The place isn't open to the public. It's a CalTrans mitigation site, a former patch of housing on the Mare Island navy base being turned back to tidal marsh. Sally has been photographing it for a few years now, and has official permssion to be there; she got permission for us too.

Hayfield tarweed.JPG

The place is engagingly off-color.

Hwyside canal.JPG

By that I mean just a little spectrum-challenged.

Euc leaves.JPG

It's the chemistry of the place -- not all toxic, just... tidal marsh and associated strangeness.


Talk about yer sea change.


Part of it is the intersection of fresh and salt waters.

Green ditch.JPG

Part of it's, well, I don't know what the hell it is. Not particularly an industrial site, as far as I know. But there's some strangeness in the waters


just a bit beyond the usual saltmarsh parameters.

peasoup ditch.JPG

If you look close, you get those colorful denizens too.


And some of its inhabitants are perfectly normal; they just look Martian in this place, like this purslane.


That's a common garden weed, edible (tasty, IMO) and evidently tough as all hell.

The place has that life-and-death thing going on,


that old slow dance,


and some of that's just a matter of seasons


or tides.


We had the place pretty much to ourselves, except for a couple of brief incursions: science

plant surveyors.JPG

and commerce.


Lots of birds too, but I'll have to do some cropping to make any of them visible.

Thanks, Sally!

Posted at 04:55 AM | Comments (3)


I'm turning into a doddering old bat.


Posted at 04:50 AM | Comments (7)