Strange Bread Fellows

A few of my favorite cookbooks along with some pumpkin peanut butter bread

Open my cookbook cupboard with caution. If you move too quickly, you’ll be deluged with recipe clippings. Because though I have a good many cookbooks, I’m always hungry to try something new.

My mother had a similar cupboard stuffed full of both cookbooks and loose clippings. An enthusiastic cook with a large family to feed, she loved supplementing favorite recipes from the red-and-white checked cooking bible of her era: The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

My go-to cookbook–The Fanny Farmer Cookbook–was the first gift I ever gave my then future husband. He’d learned to cook from a paperback edition found in a drawer of a Korean apartment he lived in as a young Mormon missionary. Valentine’s Day came around a few months into our courtship and not wanting to play my hand too broadly, I figured a cookbook he’d mentioned with fond feelings might convey just enough interest in heating up our relationship.

After our marriage, Fanny was joined by other staples of the ‘80s – Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins’ The Silver Palate Cookbooks, Martha Stewart’s Entertaining and Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts.

Cookbooks by celebrated local chef/authors like Alice Waters, Deborah Madison and Marion Cunningham (who would revise Fanny) would eventually fill up my cookbook cupboard.

I also added clippings from the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times. Reading their weekly food sections was a treat I looked forward to consuming.

As a new college graduate and young bride, I worked as a receptionist in the management office of the neo-Gothic Russ Building in downtown San Francisco. Across the hall from my office was a spacious “Ladies Lounge” filled with couches and chairs left over from the Mad Men era. Secretaries would retreat there during their lunch hours to nibble on sack lunches and read paperback novels.

I remember devouring a range of literary pleasures there—Pride & Prejudice and The Far Pavilions are two titles that come to mind. But every Wednesday, I would buy the Times at the lobby newsstand and quickly turn to its food section, having already read the Chronicle’s on my morning commute.

One of the recipes that I clipped during that period is still a fall favorite. Its ingredients are as varied as my reading tastes—pumpkin and peanut butter chips. But the result is surprisingly good—like a mix of classic literature and contemporary romance.

I wish I still had the original clipping so I could credit the contributor and discover this quick bread’s origin, but alas, all I have is my own handwritten notes that attribute it to the Chronicle without a date. Seems I wasn’t as devoted to historical accuracy then as I am now.

Over this pandemic year, I developed an increased appetite for newspaper recipes. The New York Times temporarily replaced its Sunday Travel section with a new section called “At Home.” Each week it featured five simple recipes to help us all survive sheltering in place. Once things opened up this summer, the section closed down. I miss that weekly feast.

However, a regular diet of newspaper clippings over the pandemic didn’t keep me from indulging in a few new cookbooks –Joanne Chang’s Pastry Love and Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person are favorites. They came to my attention through reviews and sample recipes in newspaper food sections. Which is why I’ll keep clipping and you should be careful if you ever open my cookbook cupboard.


3 1/2 c. unsifted all-purpose flour

3 c. sugar

2 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 c. cooked or canned pumpkin

2/3 c. water

1 c. vegetable oil

4 eggs

2 c. (12 oz pkg) peanut butter chips

1 c. chopped nuts

1 c. raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pans (or two larger pans.) Blend dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. In a large bowl blend pumpkin, oil, water and eggs.

Gradually add dry ingredients until well blended. Stir in peanut butter chips, nuts and raisins. Pour into greased and floured pans. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool in pan ten minutes and remove from pan to cool completely.

Note: My husband and several of my kids prefer this without raisins. Go figure. It’s still good. Especially toasted and slathered with butter. Peanut butter chips can sometimes be hard to find. Do not be tempted to substitute butterscotch chips—they’re too sweet.


This essay originally appeared on

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A Few Good Things

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling GOOOOOD about the world opening up. Today I had lunch out with my sister for the first time in over a year. This past weekend I helped throw a long-delayed wedding shower for a close friend’s daughter and will soon travel (!) to attend the wedding. And yesterday, my newest grandchild finally came for his first visit. How wonderful to welcome this beautiful boy into my home. Just a little get-together and yet, a very big deal.

Here’s hoping you, too, are gathering with the people you’ve missed for so long.

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A Year of Sheltering in Place

Today marks the first anniversary of sheltering in place here in California. This milestone has me thinking about the last time I strolled into the pool across the street, unannounced, appointment- and mask-less. There was talk about shutting down and I wanted to swim a few laps just in case the pool closed for a couple of weeks.

As I began to backstroke, I noted that the clouds were exceptionally big and ominous. The swim team was in the middle of their workout and I remember how noisy it was—the air filled with the sound of kids laughing and splashing and throwing each other into the deep end. That was the last time I heard a group of kids goofing off.

The pool and most of my world shut down the next day. March 16 became more than a square on a calendar page; it was a stop sign, marking a division between what came Before and what has happened After.

Before SIP, my last plane ride was on February 26 from Washington D.C. to Oakland. I was returning from a legislative conference where there’d been some talk of a new virus found in China. I remember being extra aware of my fellow passengers and thoroughly wiping down my armrests and tray table and that little air vent above my seat with lavender-scented anti-bacterial wipes. Upon my return, I learned that one of the other conference delegates had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Turned out that I was the airline passenger who was a potential carrier.

My last trip to a live performance was on March 11 by way of a ghostly BART car where my sister and I were the only occupants. We arrived to find a nearly empty theater and were soon encouraged to move to the front by Sting, his broken arm in a sling. We were there to see his musical “The Last Ship.” That night the production sailed for the last time.

The next day, on March 12, I met up with friends for a planned outing to the UC Botanical Garden. By then the news was alerting us that we were only safe if we gathered outside and at a distance. We did our best to keep somewhat seperated, but we hadn’t yet learned that six feet was the approximate length of a shopping cart. We spread out for a group photo and nervously chattered about what was to come.

On March 16, when I was taking those few last laps in the pool, my husband went into the office for the last time, coming home with a few files, just in case. We’d soon spend more time together than we’d ever spent in our forty years of marriage. But we wouldn’t celebrate our milestone anniversary with our family as planned.

A friend tells me she’ll never forget her last handshake, but I don’t remember whose hand I last shook. I can’t pinpoint my last meal inside a restaurant. I don’t recall the last movie I saw in a theater. I can’t hum the last hymn I sang at in-person church. I wish I could.

But if I’m counting the lasts, I must also tally the firsts.

Like my first mask, hand-sewn by my sister. The first time I wore that mask to a store and my glasses were so foggy I gave up before acquiring half the things on my list. The first time I sanitized those same groceries before putting them away.

The first time our kids drove up from L.A., not sure what to do now that their baby’s daycare had closed, and they still had full-time jobs that would now happen from home where they were suddenly full-time parenting—so, maybe moving back home would be the answer? At least they could go shopping for us.

(A week of our chilly spring weather convinced them to return to sunnier climes and figure stuff out.)

The first time I had a multi-generational, multi-location surprise birthday party via zoom. The first remote funeral I attended, broadcast from a funeral home several states away.

The first COVID test administered in a Kaiser parking lot; done so thoroughly that my eyes watered for an hour. The first (and thankfully only) time the raccoons got to the DoorDash dinner on our porch before we did.

I think about those early After months of confusion and isolation and want to weep. But I also recall how the fog of COVID-times created space to pursue new things. A Zoom lecture taught me how to sketch the birds that kept me company. A tweet tipped me off to an online book group that spurred me to finally read “War and Peace.” An Instagram post led me to a writing workshop that birthed my second novel.

Speaking of births, we just welcomed our fourth grandchild. He will hopefully be the first and the last baby born into our family during a pandemic. He is one of the gifts of this year; something I will treasure even when I’m once again backstroking to the sound of children at play.


A version of this essay first appeared in the Piedmont Exedra.

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Midwives & Dowsers – Witches of the Wild West?

“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Exodus 22:18


“The witch hunts left a lasting effect: an aspect of the female has ever since been associated with the witch, and an aura of contamination has remained—especially around the midwife and other women healers.”  Witches, Midwives & Nurses, Barbara Ehrenreich & Dierdre English


Though American pioneers would have denounced witchcraft, their lives were filled with practical magic. Planetary movements and superstitions guided their actions; talismans and consecrated oils protected them; and herbal concoctions worthy of Macbeth’s coven healed them.

My own father did as farmers before him had done and employed a dowser to determine where to dig a well. These “water witches” used willow branches to “twitch” for favorable well-digging spots.

But some of the best-known practitioners of frontier folk magic were midwives. Working as both nurse and doctor in the sparsely populated areas of the developing West, these women attended deaths as well as births. Though some of the lay healers who preceded them in Europe and on the Eastern seaboard had been targeted as “witches,” these frontier midwives were too essential to outlaw.

Many brought folk wisdom from their countries of origin, traditions that had been passed down through generations. Others gleaned contemporary advice from newspapers and traveling medical experts. Most invoked a higher power to work magic with humble remedies, though old-world charms and hexes were also invoked.

Traditions varied. Some believed that tucking scissors under a mattress would ease labor pains or placing a rusty axe under the bed would diminish the pain after birth. Not all sharp instruments were welcome, however. Some thought that if a pregnant woman laid eyes on a garden hoe it would kill the child she was carrying.

Anecdotes of visiting angels, either in a form of “light” or “personages” who assisted the midwives, are common. Some of these mysterious visitors came to usher in life, others to take it away or to comfort those left behind.

Magical powers were attributed to readily available herbs. Western midwives were particularly fond of lobelia, sagebrush, sunflower seeds, raspberry leaves and thistles. These common plants were brewed up in teas, ground into poultices or steeped in pots to soak infected limbs or immerse the entire body in a steam bath.

These folkways may seem provincial or ineffectual to us now, but as folklore expert Eric Eliason says: “In considering disconcerting differences we find in the past, it might be worthwhile to try to imagine what common, even indisputable, beliefs or practices today will seem ridiculous, dangerous, superstitious, or even morally irresponsible one hundred years from now.

All three of my children were born with the help of midwives who worked within the modern medical system. Along with the attending nurses and doctors, these women used herbs, breathing techniques, movement and other folk-wisdom along with modern medical practices to bring me and my unborn children safely through the Valley of Death. If they be witches, then I’m grateful they worked their magic in our lives.


Happy Halloween 2020! A version of this article originally ran at

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Cruising with Covid

Seven months of sheltering-in-place and I’m still sailing on the USS COVID-19, where my roles alternate between captain and passenger, head chef and galley crew, entertainment director and audience member. It’s exhausting.

Friends and family report the same pandemic fatigue. Some have more reason than others to complain. Three of my eight siblings or their children have contracted the coronavirus. My farmer brother’s seasonal migrant workers succumbed as they worked alongside him, threatening not only his health but the annual harvest. Thankfully, they’re all on the road to recovery but fighting to regain the energy they once took for granted.

As the oldest one of the bunch, I’ve been more cautious about travel and outside interactions which means I’m healthy but more isolated. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of ways to pass the time. Writing, cooking, gardening, crafting, reading, walking and swimming fill up most of my daylight hours. Broadcasts of concerts, lectures and classes eat up more time. Virtual meetings for my book club, garden club, writing group and religious services fill in the gaps. Zoom, zoom, zoom.

And I still haven’t finished Netflix.

In the Before Time, I longed for life to slow down. What’s that old adage about being careful what you wish for? Now I have plenty of time, but also a schedule so chock-a-block with virtual amusements that I feel like I’m back on the Queen Mary, my one and only voyage on the high seas.

Last year, we booked a Transatlantic crossing from Southampton to New York to return from visiting family in England. I was writing a novel about my immigrant ancestors. Taking the long way home would give me a chance to experience a bit of what they did as they left the Old World for the New.

It would take a week to make our way across the ocean and I looked forward to seven days of lounging in the grand salons while reading my fill from the well-appointed onboard library.

Au contraire. From the moment we woke up until we tumbled into our gently rocking bed, every hour offered competing amusements—early morning yoga, dance lessons, painting classes, lectures, movies, knitting circles, spa services, pick-up choir practices, gala performances, themed dinners and late-night ballroom dancing. (A far cry from my ancestors’ journey.)

I soon learned that I’d have to work as hard at carving out downtime on board as I did on land. I forsook the political musings by the aged ambassador to Qatar and passed on the tropical floral arrangement demonstrations in the bowels of the ship to sit on our small balcony, grateful I’d packed a thick lilac sweater, even though it was technically summer. I happily read the tattered paperback I’d brought from home immersed in the sounds and smells of the sea.

But it’s not the wind-whipped balcony retreats or abundant entertainment offerings I remember best. Instead it’s the unexpected encounters with strangers, like the amiable mix of first-time and old-hand cruisers who were our nighty dining companions at the Captain’s Table–a plum seating assignment that gave us the best view in the expansive dining hall, though alas, the captain never appeared.

There was the buff Eastern European yoga instructor who directed us to clasp our hands and extend our index fingers (a la Charlie’s Angels) for “pistol pose;” the young Irishwoman who was so afraid of flying she always crossed by boat to visit her in-laws in the States; and the vacationing Brits who were transformed once they donned their sequined blouses and bowties for the late-night dances. Their years of ballroom lessons propelled them onto the parqueted dance floor creating marvelous amateur performances for us fumble-footed Yanks watching from the sidelines.

The other thing I recall is the vast, seemingly endless expanse of the Atlantic. The entire week we were on the water we saw only one freighter in the far distance. No jumping dolphins or winged messengers bearing olive branches. Just grey-blue waters churning into alarming aqua swells as we approached the spot where the Titanic went down, highlighting the faint sense of doom that traveled with us. Those were the days of seasickness when it was best to forgo the captain-less Captain’s Table as well as the exuberant retrospectives of Abba’s Greatest Hits and just lie down hoping “this too will pass.”

And it did. Eventually, the waters smoothed out and then the tip of Long Island emerged from the fog. We rose from our beds in the pre-dawn hours, changed somehow, to witness the lights of the Verazzano-Narrows bridge welcoming us back to the world we once knew.

On days when the isolation and uncertainty of this time has laid me low, I remember to take it easy while I wait for land to appear. I step away from the neverending Zoom offerings and into my back yard for some spontaneous entertainment. Yesterday it was a flock of Steller’s Jays swooping from a nearby oak, as though shooshing down a ski slope or taking the final drop at Splash Mountain. Above them the hawks swirled in the sparkling smoke-free skies like sequined Brits tripping the light fantastic in the middle of the Atlantic.

Their antics caused me to breathe a little easier; renewed my faith that eventually we’ll see new life and reach the far-off shores of in-person gatherings, work and entertainment. Until then, I’ll just keep cruisin.’

This essay originally appeared in the Piedmont Exedra, 10/23/20.

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A Sneak Peek of My Novel

As you know, writing is a solitary profession. Writing groups and groups of writers can help combat the isolation and I’m lucky to have both–a weekly writing group as well as a writer’s collective to keep me company and cheer me on. The five women in my Paper Lantern Writers writer’s collective all share a love of history and storytelling but each explore different time periods and places. Today we’re sharing a sneak peak of some of our work through our first First Chapters collection.

Included is Ana Brazil’s Gilded Age mystery FANNY NEWCOMB AND THE IRISH CHANNEL RIPPER, C.V. Lee’s medieval work-in-progress ROSES AND REBELS, my 19th century polygamous homesteader work-in-progress THE CASKET MAKER’S OTHER WIFE, Katie Stine/Edie Cay’s Regency historical romance A LADY’S REVENGE, and Linda Ulleseit’s 19th century Californian family saga UNDER THE ALMOND TREES.

Visit us at to download for free!

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Under Fire

A photo of my local gas station made it into the New York Times this week. It showed a bunch of cars lined up for gas as residents prepared for what’s become the deadliest month of the year. October is always warm and dry, but in the last few years things have gotten worse as “devil” winds fuel firestorm infernos.

In order to forestall another disaster, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) turned off the power to nearly 600,000 residents. We were one of the chosen.

With ample texts and emails this week alerting us that this was going to happen, we couldn’t claim we weren’t warned. But that doesn’t mean I felt prepared when the lights went out.

I’d gathered batteries and flashlights, cooked up some perishables and pantry items so they wouldn’t go to waste, scored some elusive ice to keep everything cool if not cold, filled the bathtub just in case we didn’t have water, charged portable batteries and printed work documents I might need off my computer. I made sure there was gas in the car; did all the laundry.

No stranger to power outages—I grew up in the wilds of Idaho, after all—I still fretted over what was to come.

When would the power go off? When would it come back on again? We were told it could be off for as long as five days. Did I have enough canned tuna and almond M&M’s for five days?

The thing is—we knew this would be a selective power shortage. I could likely drive down a few miles away where there wasn’t a shortage and buy anything I needed. I could drop by my sister’s or a friend’s place and charge my phone. Worse come to worse, I’d go watch Renee Zellweger warble “Come Rain or Come Shine.”

What I couldn’t do was work on my desktop computer or catch up on my DVR listings.  I also hesitated to listen to podcasts or make calls in case I ran down my old iPhone 6 battery.

Stranded in the silence, I made a list of analog activities to fill my day:

Read a book

Read an e-book

Write by hand


Don’t check your phone

Cut out a new quilt

Go for a walk in the woods

Play the piano




Don’t check your phone.

This was starting to look like a list of My Favorite Things.

Add to that some long-delayed tasks like:

Sort out the laundry closet

Clear off your desk

Donate old clothes

Don’t check your phone

It seemed that PG&E was gifting me the Zen lifestyle I aspire to.

The pinch was getting all that done in the daylight. When daylight lasts less than twelve hours, one must ‘hop to.’ The sun waits for no one.

I discovered that being forced to pay attention to the sun meant I couldn’t ignore a glorious sunset. After spending a quiet day reading, sorting, and noshing through my emergency Halloween candy, I was rewarded with a sky aflame as we left the dark house for the back deck, ate rosemary beans on grilled bread, buttered turnips and apple cake, grateful there had been no firestorm to disrupt the silence.


Thinking of all those in SoCal who are suffering the fall fires now. May they be safe and comforted.


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Marie Kondo Made Me Do It

Happy New Year! I launched into 2019 with a bad cold which had me couch-bound in a sea of crumpled tissues. Too bleary to act on ambitious resolutions, I watched other people achieve theirs by way of the popular Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

Kondo is the spritely Japanese organization guru who encourages her clients and readers to only keep objects that “spark joy.” Watching the show, you realize there’s no one-size-fits-all joy.

One episode features a woman who collects holiday nutcrackers (though not all Christmas-themed) that sprawl across her basement family room. Banker’s boxes containing her husband’s baseball collection fill her bedroom. As a viewer, it’s easy to look at someone else’s stuff and yell “toss it all!” But as they say, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

If white knight Kondo showed up on my doorstep with her black squire translator, she’d find our treasure/trash on our bookshelves. MJ and I read a lot. Always have. And though we pared down our books dramatically when we downsized, we keep reading.

Built-in office bookshelves overflow with research and reference books. The kitchen bookshelf is crammed with cookbooks. A large wooden bookshelf in the living room holds novels, poetry, piano books, and display-worthy design books. (Though many live on the floor behind the sofa.) Books are piled so high on our bedside tables they threaten to topple over and bury us in the night.

One woman’s second copy of Middlemarch is another woman’s Darth Vader nutcracker.

I recently Kondoed my night table by separating the books into categories and placing them in boxes in a little bedroom alcove. But MJ’s pile still loomed large. For Christmas, I gave him a white Story Bookcase from DWR. It stood unopened in our garage until MLK Day weekend when it took up residence in the same little alcove as my boxes of books. Empty, it looked like the spine of a small dinosaur.

I was on the road to recovery and  MJ was home from work, so it seemed like a good time to Kondo his night table books. Kondo says to tap books in order to “wake them up” before you begin sorting. MJ didn’t tap them so much as toss them from his night table to the floor. But maybe that helped, as it wasn’t too painful to sort them into “giveaway” and “keep” piles. By the end of the day forty books and a dozen literary journals rested on the new bookshelf’s vertebrae. Looks so good in our new library alcove, I’m tempted to buy another bookcase for my boxed books.

Only one P. G. Woodhouse volume—the one he’s currently reading—remained on his night table. The next morning he woke up energized by the transformation. But he also dreamed he’d slipped out of bed without the book stacks to bolster him.

Kondo says you shouldn’t keep more than thirty books in your home. We’re a far cry from that. But at least we own thirty fewer books.

Of course, new books will always call to us. This weekend we’re looking forward to the International Antiquarian Book Fair happening here in Oakland. On our last visit I snagged a 19th century anti-Mormon novel with a salacious embossed spine showing a man lashing a whip over a woman coerced into polygamy. Given that my own novel explores 19th century polygamy, that sparked joy!

Has Kondo’s book or television series inspired you to tidy up?  How do you stay on top of your books?


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On Turning 60

I turned sixty this summer.  Let’s pause for a minute and recognize the enormity of that statement.  As a workout buddy said, at fifty you can pretend that your life is only half over.  At sixty you’re not fooling anyone.

Other older friends tell me to “jump on in, the water’s fine.” Having known them for years I love that they’re more curious and engaged with the world than they’ve ever been. More secure. Less distracted by others’ expectations. They continue to create and connect in ways that I admire and aspire to.

We’re all a little bit broken which paradoxically makes us a lot more whole. We share recommendations for fix-it folk: doctors, dentists, acupuncturists, nutritionists.  We commiserate over the things that don’t have a quick fix—mostly our kids and the world they’re inheriting. Now that some loved ones are gone, we comfort each other about the things beyond repair.

The older we get, the more we celebrate each passing year.  Not with the perfect dinner party or the splashiest bash, but with spontaneous lunches and casual suppers built around take-out menus.

For my sixtieth, I was lucky enough to have several of these intimate events including a small gathering of girlfriends at my friend Pauline’s incredible backyard built behind a warehouse over train tracks in West Oakland. In lieu of gifts I asked  the guests—whose ages happily spanned six decades—to each bring a single flower to make a bouquet that I’d take home to remind me of my good fortune in having such colorful, entertaining friends.  In return I passed out temporary floral tattoos to signify that I’m sixty and anything goes! (Gabby Blair was one of the guests and did a nice write-up here.)

That night, I enjoyed a beautiful dinner with MJ at Chez Panisse. We first moved to the Bay Area thirty-eight years ago and attended church right around the corner.  My birthday dinner was a pilgrimage not only to the birthplace of California cuisine, but to our own California roots. Opting for something other than the pre-fix offering, I chose an eggplant fritter over a lamb chop having never acquired a taste for lamb since my dad was a cattle rancher.

We would travel home to Idaho for the 4th of July and had plans for a farther-flung birthday trip later on this year, but I also wanted to spend some time on my own around my birthday to ponder how far I’d come.

So, the weekend after I turned sixty, I drove south to Mt. Madonna, a mountaintop retreat center built on ground sacred to the native American Ohlone indians next to a forest where Italian stone masons saw an apparition of the Madonna. I went for a yoga retreat—my first—and soon discovered there was very little time for solitary assessment. What with sage smudging, sound bathing, essential oils tutelage, an astrological natal chart reading, chakra-clearing yoga,  a summer solstice ritual, worship services at the on-sight Hindu temple and heavy doses of Aleve to keep up with the younger yogis, I was practically levitating by the time the weekend was over.  My ayurvedic massage therapist anointed me with so much sunflower oil spiked with sandalwood, lavender and frankincense that it was a miracle I didn’t spontaneously ignite in the 100-degree weather.

Regarding the natal chart reading. . .for weeks I’d been searching for my birth hour in order to find out where the stars were at the time of my birth—a requirement to have my astrological natal chart read. Given that my official birth certificate didn’t list it, the hospital I was born in doesn’t exist anymore and my mom’s recollection was somewhat vague (I’m the oldest of nine children, after all), I was pretty much out of luck.  But then I made one last phone call to the nursing home that had bought the old hospital building and discovered that they were in possession of the records.  Blessings on the staff member who took the time to set up a microfiche machine, hunt down the info about my birth and then called me On My Birthday with my birth time (3:50 p.m.) so that I could become acquainted with my celestial birth map. Gemini Sun/Libra Moon/Scorpio Ascending—that’s me!

The night I arrived at Mt. Madonna, a large turtle emerged from the pond across from my spartan dorm room. I swear he or she was calling to me, though do turtles make noises? I confess to knowing almost nothing about turtles. Still, one of my earliest memories is of a big turtle crawling into my Idaho backyard. It must have been in the summer—perhaps near my birthday—because there was no snow on the ground. Dad said it probably came up from the Snake River about a mile away. I wonder whatever happened to that star-crossed turtle. I don’t remember now if our little black dog was there then but I suspect if he was he wouldn’t have left that alien creature alone as it crawled slowly—silently?—through the stubby lawn. (I bear a faint scar on my palm  from when “Blackie” bit me on what I now know is a very long life line.)

I descended from the mountain well-moisturized and well-versed in practices that have lingered since my Age of Aquarius childhood. I also came back with sore knees and a little turtle trinket from the retreat center bookstore. Inscribed on the back is an admonition for patience–good advice as my flexibility wanes and my goals now take on a certain urgency. I’ve since read that in many cultures, turtles are seen as an emblem of longevity and stability due to their long lifespan, slow movement, sturdiness and wrinkled appearance. At sixty, I’m grateful to have these–and so many other lovely things–in abundance.



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Garden Conservancy Tour 2018

Bay Area Friends,

It’s tour season and two of my favorite tours–the San Francisco Designer Showcase and the Garden Conservancy Tours happen this month.  The Showcase House runs through May 28 and the Garden Conservancy Tours run in May and June in the East Bay, Marin, Santa Cruz and Mendocino.

This Saturday, May 12, take your mom to the Garden Conservancy tour happening in the East Bay. One of the four featured gardens is landscape designer Keeyla Meadows‘s garden in Albany.  Full disclosure–Keeyla is a friend and also designed my garden.  She’s a multi-faceted artist and her garden is always a delight to visit.  Look at these beautiful blooms planted in colorful pots or in front of fabulous sculpture all made by Keeyla.  Think Monet meets Gaudi.




Find out more about Keeyla’s garden and the tour in this recent SF Gate article. I’ll be working as a docent in Keeyla’s garden Saturday. Hope to see you there!

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Kathryn Pritchett

writes about Things Elemental — where we find shelter, why we connect, what sustains us and how we strut our stuff.