Dec 24, 2019

A later Christmas letter:

Dear friends and family,

Today when I was driving back from Walnut Creek, I saw the brown hills just beginning to green, which always lifts my spirits. (Actually, I learned recently that the indigenous grasses were perennial, so the landscape used to be green all summer…until annual grasses were introduced and took over.)

Last spring, when the green hills persisted, full of wildflowers, into May, I drove everywhere I could think of to go, including bayside towns like Tiburon and Sausalito that I hadn’t visited in years, as well as Point Richmond to see the progress they were making renovating the old natatorium where my mom used to swim as a child. (They finally opened in August—a beautiful pool with a huge mural of the local park, its tiny lake and small island, on the far wall.) I got to know my way around these towns—where the best views were, the best restaurants, and, most importantly, the best gelato. Eventually I bought a laptop and spent time writing in cafes all over the place.

I also made my annual trip to the dunes north of Drake’s Beach, bordered by fields of ice plant—blooming yellow and magenta—and dotted with wild purple irises. (At my age, it’s not so easy climbing under barbed wire fences, however. It was also a challenge walking across the lumpy terrain to get to the dunes without spraining my ankles.)

All three of my godkids are taking karate classes now. (The day after Arielle showed me how to get out of certain holds, I had bruises on my arms.) She’s taking a computer arts course as her elective this semester and announced the other day that she wants to go to MIT! (Before she wanted to go to UC Santa Cruz because they didn’t give grades and she loved the boardwalk.)

Just last night I went to hear her chorus and Michael’s band perform at King Middle School (Michael plays the trumpet.) I always feel a sense of wonderment to find myself back at “Garfield Junior High,” as it was called in my day. After Mom moved Doug and me to California, I started eighth grade there. But now it’s so changed I hardly recognize it. There’s an atrium full of greenery just beyond the main entrance and a huge garden out back where the students have a chicken coop and grow all kinds of vegetables. (The garden was the brainchild of Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse fame.)

Meanwhile, I’ve been applying myself to doing my final painstaking colored pencil drawings for The Incredible Adventures of Jix, while waiting to hear—or not—from the latest dozen publishers I sent my manuscript to. (They no longer contact you—no more rejection letters—unless they’re interested in your book.) If I don’t get any nibbles, I’ll have to begin to think about publishing my stories myself.

I hope you enjoy a Christmas and New Year full of good health and good cheer!

In the photo above, I’m drawing on my light table, wearing three pairs of glasses that I used to piggyback depending on the magnification I wanted. Originally, I transformed my sewing table into a light table with a rectangle of translucent plexiglass for a drawing surface and a flat florescent light from Ace Hardware underneath it.

With my back problems, however, I eventually decided it was more comfortable to work on the sofa. And when I discovered Readers in San Rafael, a shop that has beautiful reading glasses for $6 a pair, I started a collection in a variety of magnifications.