Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Some Silly Facebook Questionaires (turned into poemettes)

1. What was the last thing you put in your mouth? Tea, and a pencil.
2. Where was your profile picture taken? In the back yard, a selfie of me and the mirror moon.
3. Do you play Pokemon Go? Why?
4. Name someone who made you laugh. Neil when he's not trying to be funny.
5. How late did you stay up last night? 4AM.
6. If you could move somewhere else where would it be? Another country: Costa Rica, Portugal, Spain, Greece?
7. Ever been kissed under the fireworks? Nope.
8. Do you believe ex's can be friends? Yes, many of my exes are my friends.
9. How do you feel about Dr. Pepper? I don't. Why do you ask?
10. When was the last time you cried? Yesterday.
11. Who was the last person you took a picture/video of? Neil.
12. Was yesterday better than today? Jury is out on that.
13. Can you live a day without TV? I've managed to live decades withohave it.ut TV.
14. Are you upset about anything? Always something on the horizon.
15. Do you think relationships are ever really worth it? Yes and no.
16. If you could have any career, which would it be? I think I already have it.
17. Are you a bad influence? On what? The weather?
18. Can you tag two friends who you think will do this? Nope, not interested. Besides, they're adults.

Tea, and a pencil. As I write.
In the back yard, a selfie of me and the mirror moon.
When Neil's not trying to be funny, he makes me laugh.
I gotta break the 4AM  to sleep habit.
Burning the candle at both ends
means the middle's in danger.
I want to live in another country:
Costa Rica, Portugal, Spain, Greece.
I want to run away from home.
Never been kissed under the fireworks.
Not even on the 4th of July.
Most of my exes are friends. They know me best.
The last time I cried was yesterday.
Yesterday is no better than today. Because POTUS
I've managed to live entire decades without TV.
Always something on the horizon to fret over.
I already have the job I dreamed I'd have, writing.
Am I a bad influence? On what? The weather?
Nope, not tagging anyone.
 Besides, they're adults.
They know what to do.

1) Your real name: Maureen
2)Your soap opera name (middle name and street you live on): Viola MacArthur
3)Your Star Trek name: (first 3 letters of last name, first 2 of middle, last 2 of first): Hurvien
4)Superhero name (color of your shirt and the item to your right): Purple plaid mousepad
5) Goth name (black + name of one of your pets): Black Winky
6) Rapper name: (lil' + last thing you ate) Lil' Cookie

They called me Maureen whenever I was in trouble.
But I was really a drama queen, Viola Barranca.
In deep space, I was known as the Hurvien.
My friends called me the Hurleybird.
Purple Plaid Mousepad, not exactly superhero material,
but the pen is mightier than the sword.
I'm Black Winky when I'm feeling a bit Goth-icky
Just don't call me Lil' Cookie, the rapper.
You young whippersnapper.

List ten realities you have seen, some of which are lies:

1. I watched the moon landing from a bar before I was 21.
2. I either passed or failed the electric acid Koolaid test.
3. At the Human Be-In Timothy Leary gave my mom a hug.
4. I climbed the tallest mountain in the continental United States
5. I once swam with penguins. Or rather, I was buzzed by one.
6. I shook Bob Dylan's hand. And didn't do the dishes for a month.
7. I shook Joan Baez's hand and Eric Idle's hand in the same day,
and Robin Williams gave me a sweaty long-lost hug after his performance.
8. The inside of Carlos Santana's Mercedes, fawn leather seats,
he was wearing his white drawstring pants down low enough for me to be nervous,
when I was hitching a ride to school.
9. I went up Half Dome twice. Third time's not gonna happen.
10. A bear once slept on me while I was camping.
11. Van Morrison once had to give me a ride home because his mother told him to.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Rose Rose (photos)

This pink rose was a reject from the mother of all Long's Drugs, a vast store at Rockridge, open until midnight and you could get just about anything you wanted there. Including Alice. I even bought Jaz tempera paints, and Jacquard silk dyes there when I ran out of teaching supplies. A friend dubbed it Schiaparelli after the Italian designer famous for her indecipherable pinks. Another compared it to raising a child and named it Perseverance. It was an unmarked bareroot in a plastic bag that cost something like $3. I took a chance on it, never expecting it to live. I nursed it back to health, tended it for nearly two decades. It was always spindly, and touch and go. I thought I'd lost it during the drought. It only has one bloom a year but oh, what a magenta. My only complaint was that it had no odor. I'd dutifully sniff the solitary blossom each year. And was disappointed. Nada. Well, this year, it has a sweet scent like no other. It was only after the center fully opened. A rose rose. Come into its own after so many years. I think it liked all the rain too.

Friday, April 21, 2017


A friend who lives alone, writes of finding MOAHBs (the mother of all hairballs) in her shower drain. Of course I read it as MOABs, and wondered how the mother of all bombs found its way into her drain. It could've been worse, it could've been found in the cat's stomach, or on the carpet, for example. She could've been barefoot. In the dark. Today I've been re-homing the mother of all dust bunnies (or as Neil says, oose) in a rare vacuum cleaner exploration of the house. Entire warrens of oose herds bite the dust as my trusty dust guppie slithers and slurps, hoovering them all up like a deranged Anthony Hopkins over a plate of fava beans and a nice bottle of chianti.



The outskirts of Las Vegas
at the base of Sunrise Mountain
a trail lead to nowhere.

Looking for the Great Unconformity
in all the wrong places, I found
mountains turned on their heads

Like barnacles upside-down on
their noggins, kicking food into their mouths
with feathery feet for eternity.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017



In Ferryland, on the aptly named Avalon Peninsula,
the southern shore of Newfoundland's coast,
a massive iceberg dropped by Iceberg Alley
to show off her spring calf. They are stranded
in the shallow backwater of the bay.
On Good Friday, tourists swarmed the shore,
they clogged the road causing a traffic jam,
eager to capture one last glimpse
of all that ephemeral frozen beauty.
They snapped selfies with her, with photo frames,
or held her, god-like, in the palms of their hands.
From the side she looks like an island, 
with a glacial mountain 15 storys tall, 
a peninsula, and a tower at Land's End, 
dwarfing the houses along the shore.
The biggest iceberg ever to visit these shores,
she was driven by relentless winds.
And now she is too soon, and too far from home.
All that castellated azure beauty 
trapped beneath her skin will stain the ocean 
with the silken promise of summer skies
that she will not witness.
To think she is nine times deeper
than that summit, underwater.
Because she arrived weeks too early,
it is cause for celebration
for iceberg season officially opens in May.
The tourists will flock here to save this town.
They always do. When she collapses,
they will make cocktails with her body—
15,000 years of ice—to claim its medicinal benefits.
See, there are bubbles of sweet pure oxygen 
trapped within the folds of that archaic ice.
She is on their bucket list. A once-in-a-lifetime event.
The lucky ones will hear her talk.
They will witness her hissing a cat chorus,
singing odd notes without words or form.
Perhaps they need a translator to speak her tongue.
Who will speak for her kind, who will tell their stories 
trapped within the ages of ice when they are all gone?
As the days grow warmer, and spring arrives too early,
she and her young one will waste away.
Soon, there will be no more of her kind.
You can feel her chill breath in the air,
and sometimes she hisses and sighs,
this siren of the sea, with her mermaid tail,
perhaps knowing there is no resurrection in sight.
She is risen. The sea is her legacy.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

TAX DAY looon (haiku)

Tuesday: both death and taxes
So I missed the deadline twice over
The Ides of April and today.

Either way, I don't care
The taxman cometh, and he taketh away
No money to pay him.

Empty pockets, broken piggy bank
There's no money to fix my teeth
My car running on empty.


Instead of doing my taxes
I researched Arabic words embedded in Spanish
mostly civic/legal terms: incarceration, irrigation, taxation.

Arabic oddities embedded in Spanish:
pillow, carpet, bedspread, textiles, alcohol, and alms.
Iberians had no bedding, blankets, or clothing?


A  looon, a type of haiku championed by John Oliver Simon, is 5/7/5 words, instead of syllables.


Houris riding camels in paradise. 15th-c Persian ms. WIki


Where are the sloe-eyed houris,
those dark gazelle-eyed women,
those lovely ones of modest gaze,
with lustrous onyx eyes inlaid in pearl,
their faces as bright as full moon,
their faces as bright as the shining stars,
their invisible legs, transparent
right down to the marrow of their bones,
their gossamer legs glimmering beneath the flesh,
the marrow of their bones 
like the insides of pearls and rubies,
like red wine in a white glass,
those pure ethereal beings of paradise,
those splendid musk-scented companions 
always of equal age no matter what their age.
The mere thought of those nubile women,
those perpetual born-again virgins
who would never dare shit or bleed or spit,
make men hard as rock, but who would want
women with dry alabaster labia hard as stone?
Were they only figments of the imagination,
those pre-Islamic ginnaye, those angelic
creatures of free will, made of smokeless fire?
Once they were shapeshifters, demoted to djinn,
now mere vessels of thought who perpetually enter 
the eight doors to the garden of Jannah,
those countless tribes of 72 celestial virgins
recreated anew in the hereafter
awaiting each martyr so willing 
to die for a name.

a somewhat found poem from Wiki entry on houris. Today I wrote an essay on Arabic words in Spanish, and became saturated with words from the Arabic. I was enthralled with the word houri. Gazelle-eyed. FWIW, I did not expect to go there.

Though I did not look at the April Poem a Day prompt, it happens to be on life and death, so it fits the challenge.

Spanish words from the Arabic

I watched a video on Facebook, from USC Annenberg Media, claiming how so many words in Spanish were loanwords from the Arabic. I have no quibble with that statement, but I did have a quibble with the fact that half the words used to illustrate the similarities between Spanish and Arabic were of Latin or Greek origin.

Had the video not insisted that these words came from the Arabic into Spanish, I would've given it a pass. I am no linguist, but I've done time with language, translation, and word origins.

Because I have a smattering of Indo-European languages under my belt, words careen like racing pinballs in my brain. Boing! Kaching. Roll. Boing. Score! So the video examples (and all the gooey sheeple comments posted under the video), rankled.

Spanish arose from the native Celt-Iberians (cousins of the Gauls) and other indigenous tribes attempting to speak some form of Latin—Galician, Asturian, etc. Arabic speaking Moors were very late on the Iberian cultural horizon. They did not invent Spanish, an Indo-European Romance language.  Some form of Latin was being spoken on the Iberian peninsula for centuries long before the Moors arrived. It evolved into several Spanish and Portuguese dialects. Then the Moors arrived.
Spanish is derived from a dialect of spoken Latin that evolved in the north-central part of the Iberian Peninsula after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century. Castilian Spanish originated after the decline of the Roman Empire, as a continuation of spoken Latin in northern and central Spain. It borrowed words from Moorish Arabic and was influenced by Mozarabic (the Romance speech of Christians living in Moorish territory) and medieval Judaeo-Spanish (Ladino). A reader of Modern Spanish can learn to read medieval documents without much difficulty. —History of the Spanish language
This video would've also been way more interesting if USC Annenberg Media had actually used more Arabic words as examples. Any Spanish word what begins with the article, al-, is a shoo-on, and is usually of Arabic origin or a loanword, like azúcar*/sukkar; or aceite/ az-zeit. But half the words used as examples are not from the Arabic at all.

*The word for sugar* is much older than Arabic, it's from the Sanskrit sharkara (Persian shakar. Medieval Latin succarum), Sanskrit and Persian are Indo-European; or Indo-Iranian languages, not related to Arabic, a Central Semitic language, which suggests it was an Arabic borrowing.

However, the Arabic borrowed word, sukkar was also borrowed into Italian zucchero, and Spanish azúcar, replete with the Arabic article firmly attached. So, sugar may have entered into the Spanish via Arabic, but it's not an Arabic word.

Scorpion: Latin scorpionem, from Greek skorpios. The Spanish alacrán is from Arabic al-'aqrab. Clear lineage.

The preposition, hasta, or until, may or may not come from the Arabic word hata, or ḥattá. But it could also have been influenced by Latin phrase, ad ista. Or even Hebrew ad עד! Not definitive. Why? Because a foreign preposition wouldn't bump a similar term in the original language. New, technical nouns and verbs, yes. But not prepositions. They're conservative buggers.

Guitar is from Latin cithara, from Greek kithara. Aramaic – qipārā. The Arabic word is perhaps derived from the Spanish or the Greek. Or maybe vice versa, depending upon who is arguing the point. No clear link. Lute/laúd is clearly from the Arabic: al-'ud. It would have been a better example.

But the word music is not an Arabic word at all; it comes from the Greek word for muse. What a silly word to use by way of example. Nor is the word blouse; but an argument could be made for Egyptian origin. In Medieval Latin, it's pelusia

Nor is the word pantaloon, named after a favored (if not, silly) Venetian saint whose name was of Greek origin. Nor is the word camisa, or chemise, from Late Latin camisia which means shirt, or tunic (also the source of Italian camicia); camisia was originally a soldier's word, probably via the Gaulish. Ahem: Gaulish. Wonder what the Celt-Iberian word was?

After I painstakenly looked up each word, I found this nifty link: Arabic language influence on the Spanish language, which is enlightening. Suffice to say, most words that have to do with law, commerce, irrigation, or imprisonment, are of Arabic origin. 

I do have a quibble with a few words on that list, most notably the words vacarí: supposedly from the Arabic baqari (بقري)  which means bovine. Wait! Hold your goddamn horses: the cattle-raiding Celts of Iberia didn't have a plenitude of words for cow? Give me a break. And the Latin vacca, is not the origin of vacarí? Maybe the case ending is not Latin? It looks tempting, but no. Make me lose my shit here. Old Galician-Portuguese: vaca, from Latin vacca, from Proto-Indo-European wokeh.

Bovine comes from the Indo-European root *gwous, meaning ox. Old Greek: boũs, Doric: bõs (bo(w)ós) cattle, cow. Old Irish: , (bóu/báu). Latin bösoxbovis; Late Latin bovinus. —from Indo-European vocabulary. BTW, b/v are interchangeable sounds in Irish and Spanish.

Giraffe, aka jarraf, ziraph, and gerfauntz, came from an African language, possibly Egyptian, via the Berber, and possibly to Spanish via Arabic zarāfa. The origin of the Arabic word may be from Persian zurnāpā (flute-legs). An alternate word, Camelopard (leopard-spotted camel) from Greek kamēlopárdalis confused countless Europeans for centuries.

Then there's zanahoria: carrot, presumably from Andalusi Arabic safunariyya, Classical Arabic: isfanariyya. But a little sleuthing takes it right back to Greek originAncient Greek σταφυλίνη (staphulínē) ἀγρία (agría).

And zumo: fruit juice. From Arabic zum. Stretching it a bit. Suk in the Slavic languages came to mind. Indo-European continuum.
Portuguese sumo and Spanish zumo come from Greek ζωμός, though sources disagree on the intermediate stages—while DRAE says it's through Arabic zūm < Spanish Arabic zúm, Houaiss says it's through Iberian Latin zumu, with the influence of Latin sucus. —Unilang
It's sloppy scholarship to suggest that these words entered Spanish via the Moors. Then there's the problem of all those North African Berber words, that get lumped into Arabic/Spanish, via the Moors, but are not of Arabic origin.

The Berbers who call themselves the i-Mazigh-en (Greek: Mazices), or the free people, who speak Amazigh: (Tamaziɣt, or Tamazigh), too were Arabized like the Spaniards. How many of their loanwords are claimed as being of Moorish origin?  But that's a tale for another day.

The blog post English Words from Arabic, has a better handle on it:
Some words are borrowed directly from Arabic; but most of these words have taken the scenic route, through Spanish, Italian, and/or French; or through Turkish, Persian, or Urdu; or through Hebrew or Latin.
It is estimated that about 8% percent of Spanish vocabulary is of Arabic origin (6% Portuguese) but they are mostly uncommon, archaic verbs, including derivations and compounds. Just to confound things, many Arabic words were already in use in Spain long before the Muslim invasion.

Many of the Spanish-Arabic words took the same route as Arabic words into English. At least notes the Latin and Greek origin of several Arabic words. The OED may list over 900 words in English from the Arabic, but there are also many words borrowed from unspecified Semitic languages (cumin, myrrh, sesame) from ancient times.

 I'd suggest that budding Spanish scholars carefully examine the (pre)historic "scenic route" that traveling words tend to take, before leaping to conclusions and claiming all those Spanish words as being Moorish in origin. And don't forget the Latin f- becomes the Spanish h-; or o-; so all those words that begin with f/h/o need to be carefully vetted. Some other words hide behind the definite article al- which most Arabic loanwords tend to begin with.

A smattering of of the six dialects of Afro-Asiatic Berber, the extinct Guanche language, and Celto-Iberian languages might also be of some linguistic use to budding Spanish scholars, as well as Arabic to source out some of those word origins. And it would help if they were also conversant in Portuguese, Galician, Astur-Leonese, Basque, Aragonese, Occitan and Catalan as well, before posting such claims.

Monday, April 17, 2017

International Haiku Poetry Day; I NEVER DANCED

Today is International Haiku Poetry Day. National Poetry Month. April 17, 2017. very 17ish. A prime number.

April poetry
month, 17 syllables
& counting it's a wrap.

Word dance, a two-step
a slow waltz, counting the words
towards fruition.

Counting syllables
for haiku day, didn't say

(It's an old haiku joke). See some of my haiku.


No, I never danced with my father
No silly daddy-daughter dance,
where I stood on his feet
like a marionette
as he swooped in giant strides
across the dance floor
no father-daughter wedding dance.
Nor did I do the solemn two-step
down some church aisle
to be passed off as chattel
to another man. Or three.
I was never a bride to be given away.
No, I danced to my own rhythm,
I freely gave myself away
to men dancing on the horizon
only to find that it was
a chattel world after all.


PAD challenge: dance

Saturday, April 15, 2017



It's quite buzzy in the side garden.
Skippers, as curious as cats, flit about
and check me out, tasting me
as if I were an exotic flower.
I didn't realize a purple plaid flannel nightie
was such a butterfly magnet.
A small blue dragonfly cruises by, 
no pond in sight. Wonder where his home is? 
The noisy bumblebees are still trying 
to pollinate the wrong end 
of the pineapple sage flowers. 
All that red drives them crazy. 
Dark tuxedoed suitors romancing 
the tight-lipped blossoms, red devils in heels. 
They ignore the wide snowy thighs and veils
of the sweet honeysuckle and lemon. 
The European honeybees, all business,
and no pleasure, show the bumblers 
how to do it right, but they're terrible 
students. All ADD and Ritalin. And sex.
The tattered flowers are worse for wear.
Even the beeflies energetically get into the mix. 
You'd think there was a string quartet 
warming up in the wings.


Back Spasm 2.0

Most of my trapeizius/rhomboid back spasm 2.0 is dissipating (probably triggered from too much coughing). Just talking about coughing makes me cough! My T6-T8 vertebrae are acting up. A realignment would be good. Still hurts to take a breath, but at least I can roll over and get up out of bed.Vast improvement from Thursday when I couldn't even get up off the couch. Thought I was having a heart attack!

Luckily I have strong core muscles, but negotiating around a hysterical spazzy back is tricky, at best. Everything's all Danger, Will Robinson. No talking a proper spasm down out of the tree when it goes off.

First round was after a spate of coughing two weeks ago. I thought I was so over it. I managed to hike up Loma Alta, while trying to sip air through lungs that didn't want to cooperate. Reminded me of the time I had a punctured lung, where every breath was a losing battlefield.

Oh, to be able to take a full deep breath without it overreacting. I'm definitely winged, or is it de-winged? Wearing my electronic muscle stimulator 24-7; the minute the spasm shakes its sabre at me, I turn the sucker on and zap it. Best $200 I ever spent. IREST Massager uses goo-covered electrodes to jiggle the muscles into submission. But this isn't a muscular strain. It's a systemic reaction from sitting too long in proper chairs. My back goes out. Probably from Neil's gig last week.

I am getting rather tired of lying flat. But that's the only position that brings prolonged relief, and thus, the end of said spasm. Haven't had a decent spasm in years. Stupid things trigger it: coughing, sneezing, farting...just wanted to see if you were still reading this. Needless to say, the anti-tax march is happening without me.

Getting mad at it doesn't seem to work. Nor does stretching. Sun feels good. As does a shower. The heating pad helps, chiaropractor is & tomorrow. Trying to do this cold-turkey, Advil upsets my GI tract lots, but brings relief. And I hate Flexeril, what it does to the brain. Binge watching Aussie medical drama, All Saints. All that soft porn talk of morphine drips has me mesmerized.

I think the original trigger was sitting too long in regular chairs—it usually is. I'm ok if I sit all cockeyed, and slouched over like a PIcasso painting, but the minute I sit all organized n a rigid chair, my spine pays. Stationary stress syndrome from an old car accident resurrects itself, pays its last respects.

April showers

Where did the bleedin' sun go? Feels like rain again. Rain on (deferred) Tax Day, I get, but Easter? Ugh. It raining on more that a parade. Think of all the hidden Easter eggs. A friend quips, Yes, rain falling on my head like a memory.... Easter means you can put the truth in a grave but you can't keep it there. —Anne Lamott. Ain’t dat da truth. So kind of the rain to only rain last night, and not today.

From a Facebook post, expanded

Wednesday, April 12, 2017



I rode my red mare to the back of Kent Lake
for the first swim of the season. Sweet May.
Far from civilization, I had the lake to myself.
I climbed out onto a wide stump,
a relic from the drowned ghost forest
from when the dam was made,
in order to dive into the ink-dark water.
(I was skinnydipping. Who needed a suit?)
I launched, a perfect arc, mid-way in the air, 
I realized, it was not deep water, but the sky
and scuttling clouds reflecting off a mudflat.
I had to flatten my angle to pull off
a shallow bellyflop in a foot of water
in order to save my neck, literally. 
No one but my indifferent horse witnessed 
how I hit the mud hard, while the lake 
clapped a one-handed encore
that reverberated in the deep canyons.
My belly and breasts were scraped raw,
my neck and ribs hurt, I was winded.
So I lay in that mud incanabula, taking stock
wondering if I could ever move again,
wondering who would find me weeks later
lying face down in the mud. All that exposed flesh.
Shame drove me. I crawled out of the fine silt,
a mud monster, garlaned with red ribbons,
and lucky to be alive... foolish, impetuous youth.

My horse turned a blind eye, 
tearing at the tender new grass
as if it were her last meal.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Stopping to Sniff the Poison Oak Flowers

Used with permission Jeffrey Szilagyi photo

I've always been a little leery of sniffing the poison oak flowers. The small clusters of yellow-green flowers have such a sweet, heavy, resinous odor, it's almost narcotic. As I watched the native bumblebees frolic in their blossoms on Loma Alta Ridge, I wondered if the resulting honey might make one rather itchy. Or would it offer some homeopathic resistance? Or would it be a bit like the dark mad honey made from azaleas (or oleander) and make you crazy?

Luckily, I don't ever catch poison oak, unless I pet a stray dog, but I'm also not foolish enough to tease and taunt the bitter herb.... A neighbor once burned a scrub pile and wound up in hospital with severe double pneumonia.

After riding double with me on my old horse, my childhood friend Micaela got it internally in her bloodstream and we had to razor shave the volunteer pustules off her skin. It was like she was sprouting weird puffballs or something. Poor Micaela was on Prednisone tablets for weeks. Itchy doesn't even begin to cover it. I didn't even get so much as a blister.

My horse adored trail-side snacks of fresh sprigs of tender poison oak shoots. It's a wonder I escaped it...her slobbering all over the bit like that. All that prime-time exposure, and I manage to sidestep the evil weed. Deer too are fond of the tender shoots. But the likelihood of my trying to pet the deer is next to nil.

Sunday, April 9, 2017


When the wild azaleas bloom
in the fields along the Sonoma coast,
the air is laden with the odor of spice:
cinnamon, and nutmeg, and decay.

Sonorous European honeybees buzz in,
dizzily, they roll on their backs in ecstasy,
such sweet mead madness in morning meadows. 
Then they drunkenly port their poisonous booty 
back with them to share with the hive.

In Anatolia and Iran, bountiful bees gather nectar
from the rhododendrons and azaleas. Blood-red
rose-of-the-forest Deli bal honeycombs
were planted along the routes of the invading armies
of Xenophon, and Pompey. Roman legions,
after eating the mad honey, were delirious.

They swooned, light-headed. The narcotic
bitter honey was both a term of endearment
and a weapon of mass destruction. 
It was such sweet surrender as they fell,
into their camp beds and on the battlefields
fringing the shores of the Black Sea.

Meanwhile, our bouquets of Diogenes lanterns
blossomed on empty Syrian airfields. Shells,
and sarin gas, like breathing knives made of fire,
our funereal sweetmeats for the dead.


Palm Sunday, Gallagher Ranch, Theo the bull, photos

Theo the Bull, Gallagher Ranch, Palm Sunday ©Maureen Hurley 2017

Theodore the Bull, was no Ferdinand, he was all bull, and that's no bull. When I rounded the bend to the upper pasture, he pulled his pink pecker in, and began to threaten me....I thought he was bluffing, but apparently not. He got all prancy like a horse but I didn't take him seriously until he began to drop his head and paw.... It was sort of like a two-step as I had just passed the last fencepost, expecting to sneak behind him. Not. It was more like a do-si-dos. He didn't take kindly to my trespass. I didn't know I could dive through barbed wire that fast. Ripped my favorite down vest to shreds. He is rather handsome. Angus cattle are so docile I wasn't expecting Mr. Testosterone to turn me into a Minoan Vapio cup dancer. Threat averted. I submitted, that's all he cared about. He was a bit turfy. And no, I had no designs on his harem. Theo was nothing like the old bulls I knew when I was a kid. They were rather gentle, seasoned hands. When I was a kid, Ole Grandad, the Herfie in the upper pasture on Mt. Barnabe, was friendly, loved to be itched...not that we wanted to as he always pizzled on his own head. I guess. Old Grandad was very nonchalant about spring and all. Maybe a bit too nonchalant. I always thought the rampaging bull was a bit of a myth. Only one young bull ever treed me up a poison oak laden telephone pole. It could be because we named him Thelma. We ate his heart wrapped in bay leaves.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

AT THE BAR haiku

Look how the barman
carefully tends to his flocks
a benediction.

Again, I was interrupted mid-line. I was Neil's roadie for the night at the Irish Cultural Center gig. As I was wrapping up the mike cords, onstage, looking down, everyone's attention diverted from the stage to the bar, I felt like a voyeur in time watching Jim the barman, dressed in black, such gentle supplication he applied to his flocks. He was very much like a priest. I know it's a bit of a cliche, but the image was so very real.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Summer of Love, etc.

You know the Robin Williams line—even if he didn't say it: if you remember the 60s, you weren't really there. But we were really there. What my classmate Robin should have said: Remembering the '60s is tricky, at best.

I grew up between worlds and times in the San Geronimo Valley, a rural enclave in West Marin which was rapidly becoming an alternative lifestyle destination. A lot of interesting folks who shunned the cities and suburbs wound up in The Valley, as it was called. It was an uneasy marriage of radically different worlds.

I attended Lagunitas School District—LSD (I know, 'splains a lot). I was straddling the old redneck ranchers' world (living with my Irish Victorian grannie), and the Flower Children dancing in the dawn of a New Age—and me, trying to toe the mutable line. Not an easy task.

During the late 60s, I attended Sir Francis Drake High School—the only high school (emphasis on the word high) in the nation to shut down a local draft board.  We were a pretty radicalized group of kids.

Our student body president was Jared Rossman from Fairfax. That last name should ring a bell—as his older brother, Michael Rossman, was a key figure in the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley in 1964. On the eve of The Summer of Love, we marched to town and shut down the San Rafael Draft Board. Our school made the cover of Time Magazine and the 6 O'Clock News. And we gave the FBI a new client list.

When the school district took away our buses, I was the roadside kid hitching home from school. This is how I met most of the rock musicians of that era, Ken Kesey and his cast of Merry Pranksters, and boarded Further, etc.

During the Summer of Love, I was pretty straight, I was also very young. I was 14—a mere 'tweenie. Between worlds. What I remember most from that era was the original 1967 "A Gathering of the Tribes Human Be In" in Golden Gate Park. It was a protest gathering to counter a new California law to make LSD illegal. Timothy Leary famously said from the stage, "Turn on, tune in, drop out" and then came tripping out through the audience to give my mom a hug.

A Beatnik and a Project Artaud painter, my mom was one of the first artists to embrace the hippie movement. She was at the epicenter of The Summer of Love. Mom dragged me through the Haight early and often. Sometimes our worlds intersected. I was a wide-eyed kid trying to take it all in. A vicarious bystander. Sure, there was fallout, growing up like that in unchartered territory. But I survived the social revolution more or less intact.

I didn't know it at the time, but I was meeting future mentors of our generation: Richard Alpert ("Ram Dass"), Allen Ginsberg, who chanted mantras, Gary Snyder, Lenore Kandel, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Jerry Rubin. Most of the bands who played in the parks were our near neighbors in West Marin: Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Quicksilver Messenger Service.

For some reason, though we lived in the epicenter of this sociological turmoil, it's hard to write about it so, from time to time, I whittle away at it, in search of the through line. Memory's always a work in progress.

I told former Sonoma County poet, Colorado Arts Commissioner Art Goodtimes, a mushroom aficionado, that I had a wild mother who claimed I was an amanita child. As if that explained things. We laughed and blamed the drugs.

I was living out in rural West Marin and commuting into the suburbs to go to school, holding onto a dual life between worlds while most of my friends were defecting, tuning in and dropping out, and running off with bands or the circus. It was some crazy times. Somehow we grew up between the Be-in, The Summer of Love, and the Kent State Massacre. This was our legacy.

Yes, we were really there. And we do remember. Robert Frost wrote: The best way out is always through. We survived the 'tween years—we could see no other way out but through. What a long, strange trip it's been.

Thursday, April 6, 2017


I too have stood at the edge of the precipice,
stared down into the maw of the Bibi Yar,
and it is surely haunted with unspent grief.


Again, I was interrupted and this was all I managed to write down before I was distracted.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

TURKEY haiku

Thomas the turkey
courts his hens in the meadow
fandancing the wind.

Shit! I came up with a good haiku, while driving, said I'd remember it, but I didn't write it down, and now it's gone gone gone. This is a very poor placeholder... a real turkey.

It began with Tom Turkey... and I cheated the count by calling him Thomas the turkey, as the other lines all fell into place, in perfect count. So, the only line I remember is the flawed construct. Figures.

Tom-tom the Turkey
he's fandancing with the wind
oblivious hens.

Hens get on with it
hunting grubs in the flowers
Tom's fantail blossoms.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Hiking up Loma Alta Trail (photos)

I wrote a blog about hiking up Big Rock in 2010, the last time I went up that ridge trail. It took me ages to recover—because I wore rubber crocs with holes in the bottoms. Not very bright of me, I know, to hike nearly 15 miles in crocs. But I was mesmerized by the trail. It led me ever onward. And I never went back.

I realized that I prefer to hike up the trail on the western side of Big Rock, the Loma Alta Trail, but I never seem to get around to writing about it, other than this lone 2010 post: Long Way Home—Hiking Loma Alta Ridge.

I injured my left knee in 2013, which put an end to hiking up the ridge. My right knee, having to bear the brunt of the work, also began to fail. An attempt in 2015 was too painful. I despaired. Last year, I noticed my knee was healing—despite the fact that my doctor wanted to give me a new knee. The cortisone shots have paid off. But it took long enough.

I am fussy when it comes to footwear. But I wouldn't get far in my latest version of rubber crocs, or flipflops. So, wonky sneakers it is. Maybe I should dig out my old hiking boots but I can't stand the weight of them. Besides, my knees are compromised, to say the least. The weight would just exacerbate my knees.

My big toe is recovering from my latest jaunt up the Loma Alta Open Space trail. The nail is turning the color of purple irises. I had washed my trainers, running shoes, or tennies—whatever you want to call them—and they shrunk. The toes curled up like elf shoes, but I wore them anyway. They were fine going uphill, but not for going back down again.

Fields of fil-filaree, fil-filaree, fil-fil-filaree.

Loma Alta Open Space Preserve, near Big Rock, Lucas Valley, is part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. At 1592 feet, this “tall hill” is one of the highest points in Marin, separating the San Geronimo Valley, where I grew up, and West Marin from urban Marin, or "town" as we called it. It also divides the four major watersheds of Marin.

Looking north from Loma Alta

The quickest way to the top of Loma Alta is via the steep Gunshot Fire Road off White's Hill, just outside Fairfax. But the gentle grade from Big Rock is the most rewarding approach—especially if you're on the hunt for rare wildflowers as there are vast tracts of south-facing serpentine meadows.

I did not make it to the summit of Loma Alta this year either. I had already started the morning off compromised: a coughing fit, from that dread virus 2.0, threw my back into a spasm, so it was hard to draw a full breath. There were some rough moments, but I worked through it. No chance of mountain-goating this go-round. I was content with that, slow-poking up the hill. My knees were holding, but I still had to come down the mountain too.

When we got to the first cattle gate, near the top of Loma Alt, my new hiking companion, whom I had just "met" on Facebook, suddenly stopped, and said she didn't want to go any further, but told me to go ahead.

I woefully eyed the crest of the hill, so near, yet so far. I rounded the cheek of the hill to hit the bushes for a wee loo break, and was startled by a serenading meadowlark. I finished my business, snapped a quick photo of the lark, and hoofed back down to the fire road to also take a last photo of Elephant Mountain. My spasm had eased up when I was walking, but because I had stopped, it slammed me again. Breathing was a chore. But the view took my breath away.

A meadowlark fo sorts, a horned lark?

My new hiking companion at the cattle gate, was champing at the bit, and decided I was taking far too long on the ridge. She bolted down the mountain—leaving me alone on the hillside, with a gimpy knee and a bent ski pole—the lyrics to a Beatles song rampaging through my head. TIming is everything. When I later looked at the time stamp embedded in my photos, less than ten minutes had elapsed. I was the fool alone on the hill.

I tried to catch up to her, but my knee determined the snail's pace. I caught up with her in the parking lot at Big Rock. Apparently it was a migraine setting in. She was also miffed because I didn't immediately turn around when she shouted at me (I didn't hear her).

A misunderstanding, a slow knee, and that photo of Elephant Mountain (below) have cost me a potential hiking partner. Unfortunately the experience didn't set a good pace for the rest of the journey. At least she didn't abandon me at the parking lot. it could've been worse.

The iconic Elephant Mountain, aka Black's Mountain.

Shockingly my repaired knee held up fine (despite the fact that it took some abuse, I had to take it slow coming back down off the mountain), but the rest of me didn't fare so well, nor did my new camera. Close up is not its friend. I have no decent photos of many other species I saw: woodland stars, bluedicks, blue-eyed grass, yarrow, goldenrod, or popcorn. The photos posted here are what I could salvage from the remains of the day.

I originally posted some of these photos on the Marin Native Plants group page on Facebook. So this blog is a bit of a rehash. Or a draft. I didn't want what I had learned to disappear and sink back into the void.

Panorama looking west towards Bolinas Ridge; Mt. Barnabe, and our hill, dead center.

Botanist, photographer, and retired science teacher Doreen Smith, who hails from Bristol, UK, coordinates the Marin Native Plants group on Facebook. She also coordinates the website for the Marin chapter of the California Native Plant Society (a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of California native plants and habitats). Doreen was instrumental in helping me get the correct Latin names. My knowledge is spotty, at best. All mistakes are my own.

And of the few Latin names of plants I do remember from the 1970s, most plants have changed their taxon address. So, I'm all in a muddle. I joined the Facebook plant ID groups just so I could update my knowledge base. Such as it is. Slow going, but I've "met" many nice people, especially Doreen, and her husband, Vernon SmithSam Gilbert and David Greenberger are also knowledgeable folks. Mrs.Terwilliger, or Mrs. T, as we called her, may no longer be with us, but they are the next generation.

Lupines, poppies

Tall Silver bush lupine, or Silver lupine (Lupinus albifrons var. collinus), a perennial lupine named for its silvery leaves, California poppies  (Eschscholzia californica), and their close cousins, some lovely hairy cream cups (Platystemon californicus), some little red clovery bits, some yellow vetchy, or lotusy bits, and vast lavender swaths of invasive longbeak cranesbill weed (Erodium botrys), so thick, it looked like heather.

Sky Lupines (Lupinus nanus) poppies, cream cups.

Sky Lupines, poppies, cream cups, popcorn.

The small lupines are Sky lupines (Lupinus nanus), poppies (Eschscholzia californica), and their close cousins, cream cups (Platystemon californicus), with vast swaths of filaree, or invasive longbeak cranesbill weed (Erodium botrys). I feel like I should break out into a Robin Williams routine: Lupinus nanus nanus nanus.

Cream cups, Platystemon californicus
Cream cups, poppy cousins, Platystemon californicus
Lupinus albifrons var. collinus, a perennial bush lupine.
Lupinus albifrons var. collinus, see also Wiki

poppies (Eschscholzia californica)
poppies (Eschscholzia californica)
Owl's clover. Castilleja densiflora
The owls have it.
There is another purple owl's clover that is similar, Castilleja exserta, but the nested owls are much smaller, and it's more tufted like Indian paintbrush.

So the beaked yellow owl's clover is butter-and-eggs! I kind of thought so. I found a link that gives a different Latin name, also yellow owl's clover aka butter-and-eggs, is it a different species, or reclassified?

One yellow fellow among the purple owls.

The plant ID groups frowns upon using Wiki links but I find them useful for finding out about common names and folklore. Calflora, the wildflower bible is rather dry by comparison, but it's less likely to lead you wildly astray than Wiki. So, whenever possible I defer to using Calflora links. Wiki links are added as secondary backup.

Castilleja densiflora and the yellow Triphysaria versicolor. Wiki entry for butter-and-eggsWiki entry for Owl's clover.  Another link from

We never called these owls Indian paintbrush—only the tall red ones. There's purple owl's clover, purple Indian paintbrush, Indian paintbrush, escobita, formerly known as Orthocarpus.... Will I ever get it straight?

You can see why it's called butter-and-eggs

What is it? Not gillia tricolor, or gilia or splendens. It seems different than bird's eye gillia you see in deep summer. Nearly 40 species in California alone! I found: Leptosiphon rosaceus, (which, despite its name, is not pink!), and  Leptosiphon androsaceus, (Wiki) which seems to be the right plant. A little searching and I found that it was once aka a Linnanthus, a phlox. Aha! That much I recognize.

I learned the Latin names of these plants so long ago, and so many have been renamed! It's like starting out from ground zero. Or worse. I think I would be better off if I didn't know some of the old school names. At this point, I'm lucky if I can remember the common names. Poco a poco. False babystars, or Stardust (I do love the common names).

Doreen Smith noted that "the Wiki article has a picture of "L. parviflorus "French hybrids"a cultivar. The name has been revised for many years from when the two spp. were considered the same. i think Plantsusda still has them confused."

AUGH! Yes, the Wiki photo is a red herring. Which is why it's a good idea to cross recvference from several sites:,, If you can make it to the first bend in the road, there' a very thick patch above the bank.

 A rather pale example of Phacelia distans
 They were all pale Phacelia distans
Nemophila menziesiiCalochortus umbellatus.

Pale Baby blues eyes (the white-eyed kind!) (Nemophila menziesii), and an endangered pink Oakland star-tulip, Calochortus umbellatus, like the kind you see on Ring Mountain (Wiki). Sorry about the lack of definition, my camera was not cooperating. Perhaps it was blinded by their beauty, despite teh fact that it was partial shade.

Doreen Smith said: Oakland star-tulip, Calochortus umbellatus (CalPhotos) and plain old Nemophila menziesii (Wiki). Like with wild iris, you can't go by color alone to ID either of these flowers.

Another botanist, David Greenberger said: This is regular old Nemophila menziesii var. menziesii. N. m. var. atomaria is typically all white and it will always have black dots running from the center out across the petals.

The Calochortus genus contains four distinct floral syndromes -- cat's ears, mariposas, star tulips, and globe lilies. C. umbellatus is truly a star tulip (spreading petals that lack dense trichomes) and not a mariposa lily (showy, bowl-shaped corolla typically with dramatic spots).

Nemophila menziesiiCalochortus umbellatus.

Larkspur and buttercups

Red Columbine, Aquilegia formosa

Red Columbine, Aquilegia formosa, aka Scarlet, or Crimson columbine, Sitka columbine, Western columbine. The flower of Columbkille, with its five doves.

Bowltube, Ground, Long tubed iris. Iris macrosphon 

I thought this was Iris douglasiana but I couldn't find a definitive link. And I sure can't key out the flowers. Since I couldn't find an ID for the purple iris, it threw me off. It was much lower to the ground than a Doug iris. I was not expecting two subspecies of Iris. Doreen Smith says it's Iris macrosphon. It loves serpentine soil. Apparently finding any blue-flowered Iris douglasiana is uncommon in East Marin.

Iris douglasiana...and spider.
Doreen Smith says It is the local (Lucas Valley) variant / color of Douglas' iris.

She also said: There is a "complete" plant list for Marin Chapter of the California Native Plant Society website. Only a few spp. are not yet mentioned on that pdf. The Big Rock to Loma Alta trail's populations of Leptosiphon androsaceus are magnificent this year.


And then there are the weeds, the interlopers. The bane of native plants. Oddly most are from South Africa, or the Mediterranean.

Filaree, (Erodium botrys), and poppies

  Erodium botrys

Filaree is a cranesbill. AKA longbeak stork's bill, Mediterranean stork's-billl and broadleaf filaree. Filaree is more lavender than the Geranium molle (common cranesbill). Long-beaked cranesbill, or stork's-bill gets its name (Wiki) from the shape of the carpel, which resembles the head and beak of a stork (the Latin Erodium is derived from the Greek. Not native to California; it was introduced from elsewhere and naturalized in the wild. Lovely weeds!

Doreen Smith said: Lysimachia (was Anagallis) arvensis, Scarlet pimpernel, an alien weed. This was a rather well-behaved invasive weed. Only two clumps. Not like the cranesbill (Erodium botrys) which was everywhere. 
The origin of the name pimpernel comes from pympernele [1400–50]; late Middle English, derived from Middle French pimprenelle, Old French piprenelle; Vulgar Latin *piperīnella= Latin piper pepper + -īn- -ine + -ella diminutive suffix. —Wiki
Rosy sandcrocus, Romulea rosea
This one looks a bit like pink blue-eyed grass. I'd never seen it before. Charlie Russell says it's Rosy sandcrocus, Romulea rosea, (Wiki) a non-native from South Africa. Invading Romulans from South Africa? Sort of like Sparaxis tricot, or harlequin flower. Beam me aboard, Scotty.

Romulea rosea is a herbaceous perennial in the family Iridaceae. It is endemic to the western Cape Province (Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape) in South Africa and is naturalised in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and California in the United States.[1] [2] Common names include Guildford grass, onion grass and rosy sandcrocus.  Wiki
More on Romulea rosea. And the best revenge is eating those weeds.

Buttercups, Elephant Mountain in the distance.


After Loma Alta, my hiking companion wasn't ready to call it quits, so we took a jaunt over to Mt. Burdell, but her migraine ad not eased up, so she was not up for another hike, so we detoured the backroads out to Abbot's Lagoon in Point Reyes for an odd, hurried visit. My cousin met us enroute for coffee at Tobey's Feed in Point Reyes Sta. In hindsight, I should've bailed then and there, but I didn't realize how awkward it would all become.

As we headed home again to the East Bay, my hiking companion's migraine got the best of her, her meds weren't working, and she just wanted to get home and didn't want to drive on the freeway (I get it), but she dropped me off at the El Cerrito BART Station. Whoa Nellie!

I was a bit shocked as my new hiking companion had originally offered to pick me up at home, so I expected a ride back home as I was on foot (and very tired). Our place, though near Highway 580, is not near a BART station. Also, after paying up for gas, I only had $2 to my name. The Magical Mystery Tour coda was pulsing through my brain: they're coming to take you away....

My partner Neil wasn't home and I didn't have taxi money to get back home from BART, and it's too far to walk. My abandonment issues intensified. A sour note to an otherwise glorious outing. If we ever go hiking again, I will meet her at the trailhead in my own car.

Luckily my friend Dulcie, who was catsitting in San Pablo, was home, and she came and got me. Chips and dip, a bottle of wine and a sleepover on the couch with the cats nicely finished off the remains of my day with a flourish.

More of my Bloggy bits:

Hiking up Big Rock Ridge

Long Way Home—Hiking Loma Alta Ridge