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First Christmas at home

Dried orange ornaments on a Christmas tree

This is the first Christmas we’ve ever spent at home, not at Sam’s parents’ or mine. Both are just too far away, it wasn’t right to travel and the stress would have been unreal.

Because of that, this is the first time we’ve had a tree. We’ve accumulated ornaments over the years but they’re all packed away, so we decorated with an origami star, popcorn garland, red ribbon, and dried orange slices. Cadbury chocolate ornaments were an added bonus when a box arrived from Sam’s folks. We missed family and friends, NYE could not have been more different from last year, but it was a lovely quiet time.

We did a pretty traditional British Christmas dinner with bread sauce and Sam’s mom’s sticky toffee pudding. Also made a big batch of Cumberland sausage meat for pigs in blankets and then sausage rolls in the new year. We used this recipe for the sausage meat, but just used 20% fat minced pork instead of mincing our own. If I do it again, I’ll just buy dry toasted breadcrumbs instead of making our own. It was crazy simple though since we weren’t planning on stuffing sausage skins or anything. Would definitely make it again, though we’re trying to reduce the amount of meat we’re eating in the new year.

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Anemones and rock slides

Photo of Agate Beach near Bolinas during the Golden Hour with clouds in the sky

A tide pool at Agate Beach with an anemone

Haven’t been feeling great recently so a lot of weekends have been pretty quiet, but we finally got out a bit this past Saturday. Went to Agate Beach near Bolinas, low tide was around 3:30pm so we had lovely light. It had rained hard earlier so we kept hearing mini rockslides from the cliffs. A little ominous.

It was hard to see much since most of the pools were a bit murky, but we did see chiton, anemones, snails, crabs, and one hefty brown starfish. There was pink coralline algae encrusting most of the rock pools. I didn’t know what it was when we were there, thought it was so prevalent that it might be invasive. But it seems native from what I’ve read since. There was also one tiny creature that squirted water a foot in to the air, still no idea what that was…

Related: One of the rental properties at Sea Ranch has some really good tips about being a good tide pool steward.

Also related: Didn’t collect anything since foraging isn’t permitted on most public land in California. I’d love to get to Salt Point at some point though since it’s allowed there. Would probably mainly look for purple laver and nori. Samphire (pickleweed) should be prevalent in April/May, so maybe that would be a good time to go. Also hopefully this pandemic will be on the wane by then with the vaccine…

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Just what I needed

A photo of the North Fork of the American River near Clark’s Hole

I haven’t been posting much recently. There’s not a lot about this year that I’d like to remember. Of course there’s a ton that must be remembered, just not much that I’ll look back on fondly.

But we went swimming in the North Fork of the American River last Friday, that’s something to smile about. The heat radiated up off the path on our walk there and back. There was a big family enjoying the sun and water, and two girls chatting, standing in the shallows and drinking from a wine bottle. They warned us about the territorial crawdad near our toes.

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So dark

Photo of the orange smoke in San Francisco

Taken at 9:40am today. Somehow it seemed to get darker between when I woke up around 7:30 and now. It’s dark enough to be 7/8pm. Apparently ash is falling like snow in Concord.

Soundtrack for this morning: Silver Apples’ eponymous album from 1968. Came across this via @erikinternet’s tweet, didn’t know about Simeon Coxe III before. RIP.

Worth reading: 2019 Guardian article ‘Fire is medicine’: the tribes burning California forests to save them.

Edit at 9am on 10 September

The sun never really came up yesterday. We woke up this morning wondering if it would be the same.

The orange is gone, replaced by light beige smog. The 10 minute average air quality index (AQI) is over 200 in most of the city according to PurpleAir, over 270 in parts of the Sunset district. “Everyone may begin to experience health effects if they are exposed for 24 hours; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.”

Though it looks better than yesterday, the reality is way worse on the ground.

Edit at 4pm on 10 September

Now the air is thick, opaque. AQI is in the 300s in most of the city, mid-300s in the Mission. “Health warnings of emergency conditions if they are exposed for 24 hours. The entire population is more likely to be affected.”

Edit at 9:30pm on 10 September

The AQI has dropped back to the mid-200s in SF. Things are a bit better (still not great) once you get south of Santa Barbara, hovering around 100. In the mid 100s around Tahoe. Oregon is feeling it the worst right now, it’s over 500 in Portland. As Duane King said on Twitter, “‘Airpocalypse’ helps explain why my eyes are burning indoors.

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Slideshow butterfly

I’m so tired of anxiety dreams.

I only remember the end of the one last night.

I was walking down to a cove and spotted a little brown butterfly with a faint checkerboard pattern. It started basking, opening and closing in the sun, revealing that its wings were semi-translucent. They were slidesheets, each square held an image of an acquaintance that I wish I had gotten to know better. People I forgot I knew.

My field of vision zoomed in to each one Powers of Ten-style. When I was fully “in” the image it turned in to something like a home movie. I couldn’t influence anything going on and they didn’t know I was there. Usually the people in the image were older than when I had met them. (How could I possibly know what they actually look like now?) Identical twin boys I knew as a kid in southern California, a friend of a friend from Glasgow.

It was incredibly sad.

Green hairstreak butterfly on the moors in West Yorkshire

A Green Hairstreak butterfly on the moors in West Yorkshire in spring 2020. I need to get a better camera.