Ten Zillion Light Years Away

December 21, 2020

Tonight’s the night that Saturn and Jupiter are closer than they’ve been in quite a while (something like 700-800 years). Their proximity is something to behold and visible with the naked eye… if it’s not foggy. It’s foggy in Davis, so no viewy.

Here’s a picture, prolly not the best, but one a friend posted on Facebook that shows the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter, and I have to admit, it is very, very cool, indeed.

And all this talk of planets got me singing a song by Stevie Wonder that I used to love, absolutely love, when I was a freshman at UC San Diego… gosh… 46 years ago. Gulp.

Heaven is Ten Zillion Light Years Away

They say that heaven is 10 zillion light years away
And just the pure at heart will walk her righteous streets someday
They say that heaven is 10 zillion light years away
But if there is a God, we need Him now
“Where is your God”
That’s what my friends ask me
And I say it’s taken Him so long
‘Cause we’ve got so far to come…

Tell me people
Why can’t they say that hate is 10 zillion light years away
Why can’t the light of good shine God’s love in every soul
Why must my color black make me a lesser man
I thought this world was made for every man
He loves us all, that’s what my God tells me
And I say it’s taken Him so long
‘Cause we’ve got so far to come…

But in my heart I can feel it, yeah,
Feel His spirit wow oh woo…
Feel it, yeah, feel His spirit…

I… can’t say that heaven is 10 zillion light years away
But if so let all be pure at heart
Just to walk her righteous streets I pray
Let God’s love shine within to save our evil souls
For those who don’t believe will never see the light
“Where is my God” – He lives inside of me
And I say it’s taken Him so long
‘Cause we’ve got so far to come…
No people, “where is your God?”
Inside please let Him be
And I say it’s taken Him so long
‘Cause we’ve got so far to come…

But if you open your heart you can feel it yeah yeah
Feel His spirit, yeah
Feel it, feel His spirit, wow oh wow…
Feel it, you can feel His spirit
I opened my heart one morning and
I sho nuff could feel it yeah yeah
Feel His spirit yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
You can feel it, yeah, feel His spirit
You can feel it, yeah, feel His spirit

— Stevie Wonder

Makes me cry just reading them, thinking about Stevie singing it, remembering the feelings it generated, feeling sad for all the hate in the world.

I don’t worry about all the gods in the song, interpreting for myself a deep love, a strong spirit, kindness for all… and that we’ve got so far to come.

I could really use a long moment, lying on the ground, staring at the stars and contemplating life right about now.

How ‘Bout a Duck?

December 20, 2020

As seen on a late afternoon walk with Janet down by the creek…

Wish I could have moved that branch out of the way. But honestly, those bright orange web feet just jumped out at us as we walked past these fellas… requiring a photo, branch notwithstanding.

Not a Christmas Concert

December 19, 2020

Jim and I went to our second concert in three days. It’s the season for music, right? This one featured our cousin Monica, one of sixteen singers in Volti…a San Francisco ensemble of professional singers who “are dedicated to the discovery, creation and performance of new vocal music.”

In tonight’s concert, “Singing Puzzles,” the virtuoso musicians, “

screamed, cursed, imitated crude
sound effects, impersonated turtles, brutally
butchered IPA symbols, sang beautifully, and
conjured up just about every sound the human
voice is capable of into their recorders. Elements
of the choral experience — such as group
rehearsals, coordinated singing in time, visual
cues — remained, but deconstructed in bizarre
ways that only a year like 2020 could deliver.

The director was careful to point out: it was not Christmas music.

Here are a couple pics:

Jim and I assuming the now very familiar position (this is where we sit for all our Zoom events):

I liked this particular number…I won’t go into detail describing it, but just know that each singer, alone at home, sang their part without hearing the others. The director had them close their eyes, turned them into black/white, edited each individual’s recording, added graphics to represent the sounds and then put it all together. The singers heard the composition as a whole for the first time tonight.

There were 7 “puzzles,” in all — some more random than others — all an interesting blend of sounds, graphics and direction.


I think what went on here was each singer gave his/her sound impression of one of the images and the director mixed those in an artistic way.

I’m not exactly sure what was going on with this one….

… but they put those symbols to sound, as only Volti professional singers can.

All the numbers were interesting. The entire 25-minute performance was worth observing… because, number one, it’s our cousin who’s a major musical talent (all of the singers are) and, number two, it’s a style of music that is 100% foreign to me (save that one experimental music class I took at UCSD nearly a half century ago in which we did crazy things with our voices, embellished by skits, costumes, found objects and weird sound effects.. well outside my comfort zone, but a worthwhile class because it broke the ice on my uptight, self-conscious, late-teen self) and there’s always something to gain through that exposure.

One More Time, With Feeling

December 18, 2020

I think it’s safe to say that grassroots activism is finally winding down.. again. We thought we had sprinted to a triumphant end on November 3, but we were wrong. We thought the Nov 3rd election would bring an end (for this round) to our collective, substantial work, and we could just celebrate our victories up and down the ballot. But not just yet.

While we won the big one, and held the house (barely), the Senate did not go our way.


Turns out none of the four Senate candidates vying for two seats in Georgia earned the requisite 50% of the vote, and that forced two runoff elections, scheduled for January 5.

This presents both challenge (ugh! more postcards, calls, texts, money, time) and opportunity (dems could possibly win both seats, bringing the count in the Senate to 50-50.. a much better prospect for the Biden-Harris agenda (and of course a much better world for all of us).

It’s so worth fighting for.

Therefore… we are still at it.

But man…. having spent the better part of this election/pandemic year (not even counting the three before that) writing postcards ’til our hands could barely unfurl themselves, calling ’til our ears had turned to cauliflowers, texting ’til I don’t know what… the idea that our work was not yet done was not that welcome.

I personally have not yet been able to bring myself to make a single call. I’m not altogether sure the voters of Georgia can handle any more calls either. I decided I’d rather send postcards… this seemed less intrusive, less threatening, maybe more effective and, for me, a lot less stressful. I got a good batch out a couple weeks ago, and worked on another 35 today (one batch for Flip the West, one batch for Tony the Democrat).

Just two and a half more weeks ’til the election. We can do anything for just 2 1/2 weeks.. ya? Maybe even a phone call or two…

Add to the long list of things in our life that are different this year: the annual Home for the Holidays concert. The HFTH concert is definitely on our list of favorite annual holiday traditions; glad we didn’t have to miss it! This was the 17th annual, and we’ve been to probably 16, maybe 15 of those… including tonights online version. My old org stepped up and made it happen (good for them) and the production was quite watchable.. and thankfully familiar!

When Jim and I weren’t stuffing our holiday cards into, and affixing stamps onto, envelopes, we were doing this:

(That’s Dave Nochmanoff.)

Because it was online, Bill Fairfield had the ability to add a few musicians from faraway (like Marcia Ball who recorded her segments from Texas). But for my money, and Jim’s too, it was the regulars that we really enjoyed:

Missed Charlie Baty (Little Charlie and the Nightcats), who passed away this year (so sad) and the Mumbo Gumbo women–Tracy Walton and Chris Webster–who mix and match with numerous HFTH regulars, but who were not in the virtual version of the concert for some reason.

Anyway.. t’was a worthwhile couple of hours. Missed sitting in the front row of the Vet’s Theater with the Cavins-O’Hanleighs, (and Peter, of course), as is our tradition. Next year for sure.

We’re Slipping..

December 16, 2020

It’s either Trump or democracy. These are mutually exclusive. It’s time for you people in elected office–who’ve sworn oaths to the constitution–to decide. You perpetuate this myth of a rigged election, continue your dependence on Trump for your political future… and our democracy is over. Because if we can’t even agree on the outcome of an election, we will never move on, we will never unite this country, we will never regain productive governance that will ever be able to address the real threats to democracy: racial injustice, massive income inequality, the climate crisis.. for three. If we can’t even have a functional democracy where elections are accepted as free and fair, where winners are acknowledged and the peaceful transfer of power is a given… there is no hope for addressing the bigger societal challenges.

I’m seriously afraid for us.


From a sweet, less frightful Christmas, long ago…..

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

December 15, 2020

Our little family is struggling here…

On the one hand: Feel strongly we must honor the guidelines around travel. All of us — across the country/world — share in this responsibility. Of course it’s hard and a kingsize bummer. But we need to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. Every health expert and professional says no non-essential travel. We need to bite the bullet. We will look back on 2020 as a year of sacrifices and loss. It’s a history-book-level crisis. We are all in the same storm.

We do our part (not everyone will), we celebrate later. We deserve a great big celebration later. We look back on this year or two knowing we were informed, we were smart, we responded to the problem as asked. That’s a good feeling. It’s the right thing to do.

And we have fun with it. We Zoom a lot, we open our presents together, we play games. We are sending him his gifts, his stocking (at least we’ve got everything boxed and ready to ship)… we’ll do this and it will be a Christmas to remember. A Christmas like no other. Like everyone else.

On the other hand: What if he can get here safely? What if he were to drive, camping along the way? What if, when he gets here, he stays put? His finals end this week, then not only does the campus shut down and everyone goes away for a month, but his coop kitchen shuts down… no prepared meals, no community. He’ll have access to the kitchen, and will be able to cook for himself, but it will be a ghost town. Because of covid, he’s not been able to attend classes and meet other grad students, nor establish activities and social circles (beyond the coop and his small research team). While he’s enjoyed himself these last 4 1/2 months, it’s been different than it might otherwise have been (understatement).

So.. this mom worries about mental health. Is it really necessary to be isolated like that for a month? Before, we thought he was talking about a week-long visit. Now, perhaps, he’d consider an entire month. Does that change things?

He’s deep into finals and doesn’t want to deal. But, when not studying, he is bored and has pitched the idea of coming home after all. And… he’s considerate, smart, brave and willing to hang in his room, if necessary, for a long wintry month. (As, by the way, everyone he knows is able to get to their families.)

We’re in a holding pattern.


Unrelated, here are a couple wintry photos from today’s burry walk around the arb:

I guess we have a lot of evergreen trees around here.. still green out there. But it was cold!!

Happy Electoral College Day!

December 14, 2020

The final, after every state’s electors voted:

Biden: 306

The Other Guy: 232

In honor of yet another nail in whatshisname’s coffin, howza ’bout some memes and political cartoons?

Hee hee.

Not All is Lost

December 13, 2020

Last night’s rant was pictureless.. so here are a few photos from yesterday that remind me that the day was more than its rant:

I mentioned that I’d had a two-plus-hour-long Zoom conversation with Peter. A huge part of the conversation was about math problems and statistics because that’s what he loves talking about, which both amuses and fascinates me. I love screen capturing him in full teaching mode.

We get a lot of info on the ins and outs of his research, and I think Jim and I are learning a lot about fluid dynamics and turbulence. A skillful parent can also sneak in questions about coop life, their kid’s diet, his social circles, pronouns, driving in ice.. All the feels.

Yesterday’s conversation also featured a drama. Like his mom, Peter is deathly afraid of beetles, ESPECIALLY flying beetles. Apparently, there is a particular beetle, native to Michigan, that is quite common, and which flies [grammatical sidebar: I just used that and which in a single sentence and honestly don’t know which one is correct]. He noticed it while we were talking, leapt out of his chair and scurried to find something to contain it. This beetle cannot be smashed as it reportedly stinks to high heaven… so best to capture and release.

The whole chaotic operation of which I got to witness.

This wasn’t the first beetle he had to deal with on a Zoom call. The first time it happened, he had a small jar available (an empty edibles jar, as it turns out), which worked well (it would be way too up-close for me). This time, he had only the lid to a box available. He was so hysterical I’m not sure how he managed, but he got the beetle to climb onto the box lid and then he pitched it out the window (into the 30-degree air). (Then he had to go outside to get the box.) The whole thing was creepy, but entertaining (and hilarious).


The latter part of the afternoon, what was left of it, was also pleasant… decided to bake cookies after all. While I won’t be mass producing and delivering, per tradition, I will make batches to include in packages I’m sending to family members.

T’was a much smaller operation than usual, but made about 7-8 dozen cookies.

And it felt Christmassy and nice.

On Winter’s Precipice

December 13, 2020

It’s raining today, and I just could not be happier. Well.. I could be, I suppose, but I’m relieved. The backyard with its new plants looks all dark and moistily content. We’ve been in a long, record-breaking dry spell. I was reading up on La Ninas–since that’s the weather pattern this part of the world seems to be settling into for the winter–and learning nothing conclusive. Could be colder, could be warmer, could be wetter, could be dryer… I read all of that.

So. Rain today. I’ll take it. Super cozy hereabouts.


Earlier this week, on a walk with Vicki, it wasn’t raining. We took a little time with our cameras at the lake part of our walk. Here’s a shot of me (thanks, Vicki!):

And here are the shots I was working on: