Thanks to all the rain we’ve had this winter, the hills are still gloriously green, just the time for a drive.

As you pass through Tilden Park at the top of the East Bay hills, in the spring you’ll see yellow wild mustard flowers in bloom.

This is one of the trails I used to hike up.

On the far side of the East Bay hills is the San Pablo Reservoir.

You can hike around it on the Oursin Trail…

…or take a drive out Bear Creek Road, which runs for many miles through rolling hills.

In the spring you’ll also see lupin.



One of my favorite outings with Earl—driving to Drake’s Beach in his MGB. Sir Francis Drake Blvd. takes you through varied terrains: rolling hills and redwood forest, past streams and ponds, as well as the Nicasio Reservoir and Tomales Bay. In a haunting, isolated stand of trees near the ocean, I had my first face to face with an owl. These views are the last before you reach the ocean.

Above the beach is a tiny restaurant where you can dine on fish and chips while seagulls peer down at you from above.

This was the first time I took my new camera on one of our outings—so I could record our progress to the ocean and relive the experience any time I wanted to.



Yesterday I was feeling so restless I decided to take a long drive to a place I knew few people would be. After days of grayness and rain, the sky was clear and bright—an irresistible invitation to visit the spring hills before they turn dun and dry.

As I approached the Lucas Valley Road exit, however, I saw that cumulous clouds were piled up directly over the route I intended to take, casting a dark shadow over the landscape. So much for dazzling green vistas. Seeing a deer on the first slope cheered me a little.

Lucas Valley Road winds through a valley between high rolling hills, though they’re mostly hidden by the woods that shoulder the road. A creek runs companionably alongside for as long as the road remains level.

Soon I began glimpsing patches of brightening green through the trees as the road began to ascend. At its highest point, I passed two lookouts and got out of my car, briefly, at a third one, having outstripped the clouds—and felt myself enfolded in the verdant world around me.

Once I was underway again, the twisting road descended in hairpin turns, and at the bottom, I drove through the twilight of an ancient redwood forest, wisps of sunlight filtering between the massive trunks and striping the black macadam with occasional bars of brightness.

On the far side, I eventually came upon the town of Nicasio, with its one-room schoolhouse, single church, and a tiny roadside market where I used to buy Cherry Garcia yogurt bars when they’d disappeared from the rest of creation. (Actually, if I’m being honest, there’s a bigger school beyond the quaint one.) 

A few miles later, I reached the Nicasio Reservoir, one of my favorite scenic spots on the way to the ocean. (I’m always thrilled to see water in any landscape, perhaps because I grew up in Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes.) Today I wouldn’t be driving on, though—through Inverness and Point Reyes Station and past my dune—to Drake’s Beach, because the access road would be closed.

Instead, when I reached the steep wind-swept hillside with the dark green striated canopy, I turned back, heading for home, a two-and-a-half-hour round trip.

Because I didn’t take any pictures, I’ve decided to create a little montage of snapshots from past years, when Earl and I made the drive in his MGB.


The vistas are varied because the reservoir is as serpentine as a two-headed dragon. I know because I looked at it on a map.

Like much of California, the hills are green for only the briefest of seasons. This is a side road we explored on one of our outings.

Here the hills are already starting to turn brown.

Seeing the reservoir on the way home is part of the magic.



In the last miles before Drake’s Beach, I once climbed under the barbed-wire fence in this photo (taken yesterday) and hiked out to the dune in the distance with my camera.

The field was treacherously lumpy—with holes and clumps of brush that twisted my ankles—but there were also wild purple irises growing everywhere! I rolled down the dune just for the fun of it, then hiked the rest of the way to the ocean.

This is a backward glance at the terrain I’d just traversed.

In places the iceplant was in full bloom.

But it was dazzlingly colorful even where it wasn’t in flower yet.

Finally I reached the place where the flora met the driftwood of an isolated beach.

The whole trek was such a beautiful private viewing that I decided to return to this theater more than once in the years that followed.



My friend Betsy, from my Artist’s Way group, had a cabin in Inverness and invited a few of us up on several occasions. On one visit we hiked to Abbotts Lagoon.



I’m not a landscape photographer, as I’m sure is evident by now. I don’t go out searching for the perfect shot—taken from the perfect angle with the perfect lighting in the perfect season. Mine are catch-as-catch-can snapshots, taken on the fly in whatever conditions are at hand, with the result that most of my photos aren’t particularly good. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to include a sprinkling of a few I rather like:



The Nicasio Reservoir—different seasons and times of day.



Miscellaneous beaches




This hillside north of San Francisco is the only one I’ve ever seen covered with heather.

The Berkeley pier with the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.

The view from Euclid Avenue.

The fountain in Marin Circle. The creatures with the Christmas wreathes around their necks are bears, but to me they look more like possums.



The Art Department closed down during the summer, so at the end of the semester I packed my belongings into boxes and stowed them in Celeste’s basement, as though I might be gone for some years. I was ready at last to make my longed-for pilgrimage back to Spain. The only things I took with me, besides a few clothes, were a thesaurus, dictionary, and a satchel full of writing that I hoped to weave into a memoir.



That spring my grandmother Edith died.

One dark overcast afternoon, branches blatting against the window, Seely spread out her palms on the cold glass, extending her fingers across the landscape, and thought of the shabby little mortuary where her grandmother was laid out. She saw herself poised precariously on a soiled rosette on the patterned carpet, beside the open coffin, as though she feared if she moved, she might lose her balance and topple in—into death. She knew she didn’t believe what she saw (her grandmother looked handsome, but not like anyone she knew), though she was trying hard to believe it—to know her grandmother was dead. As she gazed at the corpse, she was suddenly seized with the apprehension that it was about to set ghoulishly up in the coffin. It was then that she reached out, trembling, and touched her grandmother’s folded hands—they were soft and supple, comfortingly real, even with their chill, as though her granny had just come in from the cold.



Like most people with fibromyalgia, I have the sleep disorder that generally accompanies the syndrome; typically, fibromites can’t sustain level-four sleep, when muscles are repaired and the immune system replenished. Instead they pop back into level-one, or Alpha, sleep—or wake up. When I was first diagnosed, I was prescribed a low dose of Elavil, an antidepressant that increases serotonin in the brain, and for the first time in ten years I slept through the night.

Through the previous years of insomnia, however, I developed a technique for getting myself back to sleep. It worked eventually, though it took such concentration, it was exhausting in and of itself. After getting up for hot milk and letting my mind spin awhile—it wouldn’t work if I began too soon—I’d roll over on my back, with my arms at my sides, and imagine I was floating in the middle of an ocean that stretched out infinitely in all directions. Then I’d imagine the water beneath me, infinitely deep, which would bring on a chill, a shiver that lapped over my feet like a wave. With each breath, another wave would lap farther up my body—to my knees, my, thighs, my belly, until I was tingling all over. I would relinquish the ocean image then and lie absolutely still, not moving a muscle; gradually my awareness of my body would fall away and I would feel like disembodied consciousness.

I’d pretend I was looking through a window in my mind—at whatever random images my consciousness raised. At first I’d see only static, which made it hard to stay focused, but gradually I’d start to see fragments of things, then whole images, like a swooping bird or rushing train. And then I was dreaming. Often these were lucid dreams, more vivid that life—a hyper-reality. I would glance at a landscape or a row of Victorian houses or paintings on the wall of a gallery, and I would see every detail in an instant, as though my sleeping mind could apprehend a complexity far beyond what my conscious mind could. “How is this possible?” I would ask myself, wonder-struck.

In some dreams I flew. I’d start out on the ground, flapping my arms, then rise into the air and soar effortlessly, low over the skyscrapers of a city or far above the earth, its details diminishing beneath me. These would start out as ecstatic dreams, but sooner or later, they’d degenerate into nightmares. In one, I remember, I came to rest on my bed, and as I lay there, the bedding beneath me became hotter…and hotter. I had the presentiment then that if I could only stand the pain, I would break through to another dimension of consciousness. So I gritted my teeth, but the heat became so terrible, I finally couldn’t stand it any longer, and I woke myself up at the count of three, something I would do in future nightmares as well.

I’ve heard it said about meditating that there are places that you shouldn’t go without the guidance of a master. And I’ve wondered whether, in dreams, I’ve strayed to the borders of those places.

A friend suggested I might be traveling on the astral plane—that everything I saw was real. In one dream I hovered over a fabulous Victorian house, which had been preserved as a museum. On one of the gables was an extraordinary window. I’ll remember that window, I thought, and if I ever see it in life, I’ll know these places are real. But when I woke up some time later, I couldn’t for the life of me recall what the window looked like. And in the years since, whenever I spot an unusual window on the gable of a Victorian house, I find myself straining to remember.



One morning—I no longer remember the date—I was rereading Karin Fisher-Golton’s charming Amazing May blogs about gratitude and felt prompted to write about something, besides penicillin and the internet, that I’m grateful for:

My writing desk faces a picture window and half a vacant lot where a sprawling coast live oak grows, a sort of grand hotel for squirrels. (Actually, there used to be more than a dozen trees that screened out the properties beyond, so that I could imagine I was living on the edge of a wood.) Throughout the day squirrels cavort up and down the oak’s leafy byways. I’ve seen them hanging by their feet from branches like trapeze artists as they munched on acorns, swinging in the breeze. I’ve also watched them taunting the orange cat that likes to loll around on my car, leaving dirty paw prints all over it. They venture down the trunk of the oak to within a foot of him, then, at the same moment he lunges, they reappear halfway up the tree.

Though my little deck stood one story up from the ground, they had no trouble scrambling up the supporting pole at one corner, so I started hiding nuts for them—to see if they could find them in and around my pots and planters of flowers and vines. They did, of course, even though I took more and more elaborate pains to hide them. In those days, every spring, one or another of my three godkids and I would make a fairy garden in a large terra cotta basin—with tiny flowers, moss, polished stones, driftwood, and a bowl of water for a pond. In the fall when all the greenery died, I’d empty out the basin, leaving just a little soil at the bottom. Throughout the winter, the squirrels could be seen jumping into it and rolling around, giving themselves dirt baths—one of the funniest things I’ve ever witnessed because, like all squirrels, they lived in an accelerated dimension of time.

Sad to say, my deck was dismantled a few years back because the wood was rotting. Then the coast live oak was over-zealously pruned, and all but two of my other arboreal neighbors were felled. Now a cement parking lot covers half the formerly “vacant” lot. But I’ll always be grateful for the delightful memories and the squirrels that still come to entertain me.

Hint: For those of you who would like to make a fairy garden with the children in your life, I found driftwood and polished stones (for aquariums) in a tropical fish store.