Why this blog?

To understand why this blog was created and where it got its name, start here

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Nature's resiliency?

I took a hike this week on one of my favorite trails in the mountains west of Boulder. The region has seen above average rainfall during the last two months and I'd heard that it's an exceptional year for wildflowers. Furthermore, mushrooms have been reported earlier in the season than usual - thanks to the moisture.

I was not disappointed.


I even found a few mushrooms hiding among the flowers.
I felt exhilarated by the resiliency of nature: the ability of rain to restore the potential of the flower seeds and mushrooms spores lying dormant in the soil, just waiting for the right combination of temperature and precipitation to burst into bloom. The rivers and streams too are running higher than usual, with flowers adorning their banks.
All felt right in the world.

Until I reached the end of the trail and found that the glacier for which the trail is named has almost completely melted away. Hiking to the end of this trail used to involve crossing a slippery ice field - of which very little remains. And the river used to flow out from under a huge ice shelf. No longer.

The glacier used to cover the entire rocky area
Finally, I was dismayed to find the glacier lake is 40 percent smaller and 10 feet lower than it was just one year ago. A reminder of the short term benefits of rainfall, but the long term effects of the warming of the planet.
Most of these rocks were submerged just one year ago.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Life as a nomad

I am adjusting to a new temporary home.

I packed up all of my personal belongings and moved out of my Portland apartment ten days ago in order to restore the place to the owner who returned to Portland to reclaim her home for two months.
On the road again
I'm beginning a new chapter in the nomadic lifestyle that I have lived since March, 2008 when I moved out of my Boulder home and began renting space in other people's homes.

For the most part, I have been very lucky -- finding lodging in beautiful homes with wonderful friends. I also lived a fairy tale existence in Paris for four years.

And I continue to insist that this nomadic lifestyle fits me fine. I travel light, taking little with me besides a suitcase or two with clothes and my laptop computer. Each place I have found has come fully equipped with linens, pots and pans, dishes and glassware; even art on the walls. I arrive with my suitcase and spend a few days getting used to a different bed, different pillows, and finding my way around the kitchen and neighborhood. I make do with what I find. I adjust.

I'm doing that right now.

After 2.5 days driving from Portland to Denver, and then a week in my mother's spare bedroom, I am now unpacking my suitcase at my friend Robin's house in Boulder. I'll stay here for almost two months until it's time to pack up again and drive back to Portland in September.

So for today, I'm learning my way around a new kitchen, getting used to a new bed, and appreciating new, peaceful surroundings.
Robin's garden

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Remembrance of Francis Dubourg

I have lost a very dear friend.

Francis Dubourg, owner of La Cabane à Huîtres in Paris, passed away after a long battle with cancer on February 28th, 2015.

Francis was a larger-than-life character, a man with a booming voice, charming accent, and welcoming smile who made each patron of his tiny 16-seat establishment feel at home. I discovered the Cabane in March, 2010, shortly after I arrived in Paris alone. I love the briny sea taste of raw oysters and found the Cabane à Huîtres in a Google search - surprising because Francis never owned a computer and never created a website. But patrons found him, and his business grew mostly on the basis of word-of-mouth.

The Cabane became a second home for me. I went there every week -- sometimes even twice in the same week -- usually at lunchtime with the other regulars, leaving the evenings for tourists. I knew most everyone by name - including Mr. Pons who at 96 years old attributed his longevity to eating oysters and never drinking water!
Francis with Mr. Pons
I celebrated my 60th birthday at the Cabane a Huitres. I invited several friends, including Eleanor Beardsley, NPR Paris correspondent who did a story about Dubourg's oysters. You can listen to that story here. The highlight of my birthday party was a 60-year-old bottle of wine that Francis opened for the occasion. It was still drinkable! You can see photos from my birthday celebration here.

My oyster obsession didn't stop at the Cabane in Paris; Francis invited me to come to Arcachon where I was lucky enough to visit the oyster beds and watch the Dubourg family at work. You can read more about that trip here.

I started dating while in Paris, and the litmus test for any potential partner was: did he like oysters? and did Francis approve? A couple of dates didn't pass the test. Patrice did. We celebrated Frédéric's birthday at the Cabane with friends, family, dozens of oysters and lots of champagne. Later Francis invited Patrice and me to visit the Arcachon oyster park again.
Francis' grandson Théo, son Frédéric, and Patrice
Francis loved the United States and he loved rock and roll music. He had a great baritone singing voice and sounded just like Elvis Presley whose songs he knew by heart. His idol, however, was Buddy Holly. He dreamed of following Route 66 and of visiting Lubbock, Texas to see Holly's birthplace and final resting place. Perhaps it's just as well he never made it - he might have been disappointed.

I miss Francis. He leaves behind his 92 year old mother, his wife of almost 50 years, Regine, his son Frédéric and two grandchildren. The Cabane à Huitres is not the same without him. I fear it will close for good, the end of an era.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cape Lookout

Portland provides wonderful access to both mountains and seaside. I decided to spend a day on the beach to get away from hot weather in Portland. Nobody told me that the Oregon coast can be COLD in June!

I did take a nice hike on along Cape Lookout - lots of beautiful trees with views of the ocean below - but no lighthouse at the end of the trail.
Tall trees, narrow trail and fog!
Glimpses of the shoreline underneath the fog
Sunset on Nye Beach

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Eagle Creek

I met Carole during a hike in Portland. She was born in France of an American mother and French father. We now get together on a regular basis to take hikes, sometimes speaking French as we go. Yesterday we hiked along the popular Eagle Creek in the Columbia Gorge. The hike is not recommended for dogs, small children or agoraphobics as the trail passes along exposed cliffs. The trail is also wet in spots thanks to water dripping from small springs in the rocks above.
If you're slightly afraid of heights, there is a cable in the narrow spots that you can cling to.
After only 2 miles, you can stop and rest or take a shower at Punchbowl Falls.



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Morels

Most mushroom hunting happens during the fall when the warm earth and late summer rains bring out tremendous varieties of mushrooms. However, there is one delicious type of mushroom that only fruits in the spring -- morels.

They are notoriously difficult to spot and are quite finicky. Some years Oregon boasts bumper crops of morels. But not this year. The winter and spring have been unusually dry, so spring mushrooms have been few and far between.  Furthermore, morels grow slowly, so if they have all been collected from an area, they might not return during this growing season.

However, morels like forest fires. And that's where we found them this weekend - at the base of partially burned conifer trees from last year's fire season.

After some intense searching, and with the aid of local experts, we did come up with enough for a tasty dinner.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Birthday present

I recently celebrated my 65th birthday. A momentous one! I am now the proud holder of a Medicare card. And as you have probably guessed by now, I don't mind at all. I've never felt better, or more alive. So I decided to take another big step and buy myself a very special birthday gift. . . . just to show that old dogs can learn new tricks!

I've been a PC user for 34 years. Yes! we bought our first IBM compatible in 1981 - back in the days of 5 1/4 inch floppy drives, 256 K of RAM, with CPM and DOS as the installed operating system . . . No color monitor, no hard drive, no network, no wifi; printers a pain to install -- you get the idea. There were no real applications, word processing was a joke, and there were certainly no digital photos to edit. No Windows, no mouse, no graphical user interface. Yes, back in the Dark Ages of computing. But I learned to use the cumbersome beast - especially after I went to work in 1985 selling computers in a dedicated computer store (do you remember those?) And so my knowledge grew as the industry evolved - later working for companies such as Adobe Systems and Sun Microsystems (I even used UNIX).

But now, after all this time, my Toshiba laptop is on its last legs - taking a full five minutes just to boot up.

So, after hesitating for almost a year, I went to the local Best Buy store and spoke to a young man who condescended to inform me of my computer options. "Sonny, (did I really call him that?!) I've been using a computer since before you were born. But now I'm ready for a change. I want to buy a Mac.

After acknowledging that indeed, he wasn't yet born when I bought my first computer, he went on to answer the questions I had regarding compatibility with my current files and applications. And several minutes later I walked out with my new MacBook Pro with Retina screen (awesome for editing photos).

So far, the experience has been even better than I imagined. Instant synchronization with my iPhone, no problem with document compatibility, and access to all of my photos on an external disk drive is a breeze. Great speakers for music. etc, etc. I love it!

And so I begin my 66th year starting fresh. New toys, a clean hard drive, a new start. Life is good.