Sunday, June 28, 2009

2:27 on a sunday afternoon in june

Hot and dry and dusty. That was the California of your growing up, when days were cooled by Tang and sprinklers (once the drought had passed) that made lazy arcs in the sky like a jump rump. All these decades on, and California is as you remember it, the air baked as if in a brick oven, and heady with the smell of pine and eucalyptus and lavender and parch.

Driving back home through Hidden Valley in the early afternoon, you dropped off at Foxfield, a riding school across the street. You'd been meaning to come over to take photos, hoping to capture the essence of this hot dry dusty place nestled into a corner of the Santa Monica Mountains, and with little left to do on a lazy Sunday in late June, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

From the road, without the benefit of the sign, you'd never know it was here, would never guess that the place was a hub of laborers and instructors and students and patient horses, large and gentle things that submit humbly to the rider's instructions at the click of the tongue or the tap of a boot heel... well as a few others, whose purpose at the school you can only guess at.

The stables sit under a knot of Oak trees, which is just as well, because without them, the already-oppressive heat would turn the blood in your veins to sludge and melt the marrow in your bones. You're sure of it.

This early into the summer, and already there are fire warning signs on the sides of the hills — advice the stable owners seem to have taken to heart, and with great success, judging by the cobwebs on this fire extinguisher:

At the back of the property, behind the barns and storage units and ancient trucks

and storybook tractors

and tools designed to measure and gauge

stretches this bridge:

a rusty, angular expanse of utility and purpose that tries not at all to fit in with the aesthetics of its surroundings. You love this bridge, this wobbly catwalk of cables and isosceles triangles

love its quiet importance which must ignore the fact of the empty creek bed, below, in order to justify its existence.

You'd think the California earth would protest more, would cry out for water, especially this far into a year with little rainfall to speak of, but it doesn't. Where there may have been desperation is only a calm, patient attendance, an acceptance of what is, a quiet expectation of what is to come. True to its boom/bust Gold Rush nature, California takes things in stride. The rains will come again, and once again, these creeks will be teeming with life-giving water, and the hills will be as green as Ireland's, as impossible as it seems now.

You and your companion don't have as much tolerance for the heat, however

and after a while, it was time to cross another hopeful bridge home.

Along the way, you found the greenbelt dotted with lavender bushes. Their scent always takes you back to another summer, one that folded into memory 20 years ago, the one which your older sister and best friend spent in the south of France, where she purchased for you a harlequin doll stuffed with lavender seeds.

The doll is long gone, but to this day, you can't pass a lavender bush without calling it to mind.

You stopped once more to appreciate this symmetry, purchased with your Home Owner's Association dues

and a neighbor's drought-tolerant yard featuring a gaggle of hens and chicks plants

and then you were home, where you were greeted by the cool of the brick floors and evidence that the rest of the family had already taken measures to beat the heat

as they waited for your return.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

date stamp: 7 p.m. gmt, june 17, 2009

The date stamp initiative is part of a year-long project to capture 2009 in words and images from all parts of the world. To catch up on past date stamps, click here.

She was born in 1936 on the east coast of the United States into the large family of an Episcopalian minister and his wife (a tiny but tough woman who could press her hands flat to the floor while bending at the waist and who lived by the belief that cold showers in the morning set the day to rights) on the heels of The Great Depression, with the shadow of the Second World War looming large.

In her day, she would send her sons into wars and political hot spots and teach her growing family how to conserve in a drought, would make a dollar stretch for nine children on an officer's salary, somehow managing to give each of these children a private school education. In a marriage that has lasted 48 years, she would follow her husband from base to base, criss-crossing the country and even leaving land for more exotic places (like Guam and Hawaii), only to then wait for his return from months-long tours of duty.

An artist, she fulfilled a life-long desire to learn how to dance by taking up ballet lessons at the age of 45, even as she carpooled several of her daughters to their own dance classes. Today, at the age of 73, she will get on a plane to watch two of her granddaughters dance on the stage, scheduled in and around other trips that again see her criss-crossing the country to be with her other sons and daughters, and their children.

There is more, of course, much more — too much to recollect here. But for all that is left out, there is one thing to be said for certain: that each of these 73 years was lived day by day, hour by hour, always with a prayer on her lips and the desire to do good.

What better way to celebrate that life in progress than by taking a snapshot of what the world looked like on June 17, 2009, at 7 p.m. GMT. One moment in time to celebrate a world of moments and a legacy of memories.

Happy Birthday, Sara Jean Kernan Lockwood. This date stamp's for you.


London, England
(7 p.m., local time)

I'm in relaxation mode right now. This is my current needlepoint project - a carpet for a dolls' house. I fitted out my own twelve room mini-mansion some time ago, but there were still so many patterns I wanted to try out, so I've continued making rugs and carpets to sell at craft fairs.

No one else in the family can understand why I find such close work "fun", but there is something calming in seeing a carpet take shape stitch by stitch, inch by inch. Meditation in canvas and stranded cotton.



Manchester, England
(7 p.m., local time)

Note: Peter Spencer took these photos while on holiday just north of London.

Somewhere near Milton Keynes on a summer's evening.

— Peter Spencer

Raleigh, North Carolina
United States
GMT - 5
(2 p.m. local time)

Mike Scherer was also on vacation for this date stamp, reporting in from Manistee, Michigan.

Do guy-birds ogle the females as they work on their tans? Do they fantasize about ‘making it’ with their favorite chick?

Do girl-birds scope out the guys on the sly -- score them on a scale from one to ten -- then giggle amongst themselves?

Did any of this posturing and preening and posing result in any long-term relationships?


All I know: this beach has gone to the birds.

Happy 73rd Sara Lockwood!

Michael Scherer


Louisville, Kentucky
United States
GMT - 5
(2 p.m. local time)

It seems almost no one stayed put for this date stamp. Here's Jeanne Hammond's report from South Bend, Indiana.

Today I am on different turf: the campus of Notre Dame, with a dear friend, Sister Anthony Wargel. We toured the Administration building, viewed the oil paint portraits of university presidents past and wondered what it was like in this quad two weeks ago, when the convocation ceremony drew journalists and protesters to an otherwise peaceful campus. University President Jenkins and President Barack Obama in cordial company, as some students and alumni protested President Obama’s receiving an honorary degree. On what grounds do we etch our stands? How do we divine truth? What do we value in this life? Questions for Catholic university men and women of steady heart. Questions for all of us.

Westlake Village, California
United States
GMT - 8
(11 a.m. local time)

Julia snapped this picture for Grandma, selecting her subject as an honest admission of what life in Southern California looks like on pretty much any given day.

At least from this dog's perspective.

And as far as she's concerned (the dog, that is), there's no better way to spend a birthday than belly-up in the sunshine.

— Pamela Schott
Author, Screenwriter


Tikrit, Iraq
GMT + 3
(10 p.m. local time)

We got socked with a heavy sandstorm last night. We literally had sand drifts inside the building last night, it was so bad. People got lost walking home. One van of our guys, coming back just from dinner, had to put two people out into the storm with their flash lights, just to make sure the van stayed on the road -- you couldn't tell where it was.

Art La Flamme
Blogger/Army Serviceman

Elsewhere in the world:

Australian Station
GMT + 4
(11 p.m. local time)


Abbey Road
London, England

United Kingdom


(7 p.m. local time)


Grand Canal
GMT +1
(7 p.m. local time)


Paris, France
GMT + 1

(8 p.m. local time)

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

father's day #15

Fifteen years ago and some change, we started a family, a home-based business of sorts, complete with its own budget, mission statement, goals and objectives. Going into it, we knew that this company would never turn a profit, not as it stands. But that didn't make it any less worthwhile, didn't discourage us from making investments that, for the most part, won't start to yield dividends for a while still. No matter. It's not like we're flipping real estate or day trading. We're in this for the long haul, betting on futures we are only now just beginning to see the outlines of — just there, beyond the horizon.

We kicked off Father's Day celebrations at Peet's Coffee with pastries and frappuccinos,

then took the long way out to Highway 1, past a riot of bougainvillea lining the road like bull fighter capes, tempting the eye away from double yellow lines that somehow manage to keep order among four lanes of potential chaos.

It's easy to forget, living in a hot and dry valley — where canyons and traffic and the day-t0-day concerns of running four lives, and all that this implies, stand between you and the edge of the continent — it's easy to forget that the ocean is there, constant and faithful and tireless. Also, vast and beautiful and somewhat terrifying. You take the ocean on its terms, never the other way around.

It was windy but warm, and like the pelicans in the above photo, we spent some time perched on Nana Rock, the place where we scattered some of his mom's ashes, almost a year ago.

Then, in keeping with company by-laws, took a handful of Silly Photos to add to our collection of 16 years:

The wind chased us off the beach and back over the canyons, resting only long enough to catch its breath as we snapped this photo of a cactus clinging to the sandy side of a hill just off the PCH,

and these on a turnout on Kanan Road, overlooking Malibu:

Back through a tunnel with K.T. Tunstall on the stereo, the girls holding their breath and a wish

as gravity and gratitude pulled us down into the valley, back towards the home that he makes possible.

Tomorrow we'll get back to the business of running this family, balancing, negotiating, mediating. With little to go on, we'll no doubt be flying by the seat of our pants. But then, that's how we've always done it, and this side of the Pacific Ocean, we're still afloat. When we turn the control of their lives over to them and turn them loose on the world, it's probable that they'll find a way to do it better. In fact, you hope that they do. Because that's your benchmark, that's how you'll know that this whole endeavor was a success.

Happy Father's Day 2009, JMS.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

this and that

Summer. Finally.

Can I say that again? Because right now? Those two words? They are the most beautifulest words to be found in the English language. It's finally summer.

This school year, more than any other in memory, I feel like we crawled to the finish line. But now that we're here, I feel 10 pounds lighter.

In a few weeks, we'll start up with the dancing and the theatre and the driving (again with the driving), but for now, we're sleeping in and eying the pool (it's been cloudy and 70s since mid-May, but Julia wears her swimsuit every day without fail, just in case), going to Starbuck's, and running errands only on an as-needed basis.

Exciting? Not at all. Glamorous? Snort. NO.

But... perfect? Wonderful? Fantastic? Aw, yeah.

Here's what the perfectwonderfulfantastic day called Today looked like:

Jules and I dropped by Westlake High School to turn in the registration form for Orientation Week, which Jo will be attending in August.

(Aside: Is it right that I have a high schooler? That is not a rhetorical question.)

Anyway, while waiting for the office to open from lunch, I found this:

I love the man v. nature feel of this photo.

(Though am not entirely sure what the circle-y concrete thing at the entrance to school is for.)

(Maybe they will explain at orientation?)

(Highly unlikely, but I can't possibly be the only parent that has wondered.)

(Or maybe I am.)

(That's just how I roll.)

And snapped this:

Because this marks the first time in my life when a child of mine will be going to a school where they have to post such rules.

Sur. real.

Still waiting for the office to open:

Nothing much to say about this photo, except that I am crazy about this kid.

Afterwards, I took her for a haircut, and then dropped her back home before going to yoga. And then, at dinner, it was finally time to let them know where we'd be going this summer:

The first envelope read, "I think I'll like..." Leggs McGee opened that one, and found the airline tickets to San Francisco.

Julia's envelope finished the sentence with "...defying gravity!":

but it still took them a couple of seconds to realize that we'll be going up there to see Wicked at the Orpheum.

(You'd think the lyrics reference would have been an obvious giveaway.)

(Especially considering that they were both in a production of Wicked a few years back.)

(And that's ALL WE PLAYED in the car for about three months.)

(Not that I'm complaining — it's my favorite show that we've done.)

(But still.)

Oh, yeah, and stopping by the San Francisco Center for Beard Pappa cream puffs and Peet's coffee (there are no words), visiting the newly-renovated Exploratorium in Golden Gate Park, maybe a day trip north to the Wine Country, plus a stop over at Grandma and Grandpa's, and eating. Lots and lots of it.

And so, the countdown begins. Normally, I'd say that I can't wait, but I can. Because there are quite a few days of doing Absolutely Nothing to savor before it's time to go, and I plan on making the most of every last one of them.
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