Thursday, September 28, 2006

Animal Magnetism

Do you want me to tell you about all the animals I killed as a child? No. Not like that. I would never blow up frogs or strangle kitties. Jeez. What kind of sicko do you think I am? No sicko, but no Horse Whisperer, either. Every single pet I ever had died an early death.

I was never much of a nurturer, a caregiver. My mom loves to tell people about how she got me some nice goldfish when I was 2 and how she though "Oh, what a sweet girl…" when I sat in front of the fish bowl, gazing at the fish. When all of a sudden, I stuck my hand into the bowl, grabbed the black goldfish and tossed it out the window saying, "I don't like the black one!"

The tiny turtles I got when I was 5 died from too much sun (and maybe not enough water?) while I was sick with measles. I had a canary I forgot to feed/water for a few days… I can't go on. It's too depressing.

Big Dog loves to tell the story (what is it about people getting pleasure out of telling stories about how "bad" I am with animals?) about the girl monkey who hated my guts, about normally calm dogs suddenly going crazy when they see me.

"They sense the witch in me," I sulk.

Being disliked by people is okay. There are tons of people I dislike. But when you're hated or feared by animals, that hurts. Which is why it's so nice to be making friends with all the furry and feathered creatures around here.

Pepper and Ty, who live in the back, are a couple of amnesiac dogs who keep forgetting who I am, but Magic and Puka ,in the front, are my buddies now. The three hens follow me around the orchard, adopting me as one of their own, and the two horses, Miracle and Shade (those are their real names but I call them Blondie and Brownie) like me enough to horse around with me and eat the apples I bring them. ("They don't like you, they just like the apples," you might say. Which is why I'm not asking you!)

Brownie is the bold, goofy boy. He makes faces, nuzzles your head, takes a munch out of my straw hat. Blondie is shy and aloof (with people. She's real bossy to Brownie.) She's only just begun eating out of my hand and letting me stroke her face. Apparently she was abused as a child so is still a bit skittish, and it gives me double delight to have her like me. ("She just likes your apples….")

See? Spend enough time with a witch and you'll find that she's not much different from all the other two-legged things.

Monday, September 25, 2006


I've realized what my problem is.
The Ranch really has a hold on me.
I didn't realize it all the time I was here, but last week, when we finally left the area to go to LA, I think the distance gave me a bit of clarity. Made me think about all the places in the world I haven't been to and would like to. I began talking about that apartment in Paris we were going to rent, the houseboat we were going to float through Europe, that trip to Brazil…Tibet…

When I am here, it's as if the rest of the world doesn't even exist. I am so enamored with this land I can't think of any other. Sometimes I can't believe I really live here, I think it's so beautiful. I love it. It makes me feel closer to something divine.

I'm like that guy who's going out with someone he thinks is a total knockout, a Ten, and can't believe his lucky stars.

Big Dog doesn't get it. He's not under the spell. He sees her blemishes, her personality quirks. All he can think about is what needs to be "fixed."

"She's a drain on your money."
"She's not THAT hot."
"How about someone who's not quite so high-maintenance?"

And like that guy who is completely head over heels, I am defensive. When BD makes comments like that, or talks about "getting rid of" this place, I get angry. How dare he! How dare he say anything bad about MY girl!

Wonder if it has anything to do with all the apples I've been eating.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Secrets for Longevity

After an uneventful day in LA, Big Dog and I are in Lancaster, home of the Dog Family, to pay our respects to the DogFather. He's the patriarch of The Family and he turns 89 today. He's slowed down a bit, physically, but is still sharper than all of us combined. I am hoping BD shares his genes because I am losing it faster than a speeding Shinkansen.

The DogFather lives alone, in the same house that The Family moved into in the early 50's. (The same house! For more than half a century! A marvel for someone like me who never lived in the same CITY for more than 3 years while growing up.) It must be an ideal life -- having your own space but being surrounded by children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Maybe that's his secret to longevity.

Both of my grandmothers lived way into their 90's. My maternal grandmother, Waka, was a city girl. Raised in a family not her own, (This was quite common back then. She was "given" to a family that only had one daughter and raised as a sister/playmate) married in her late teens to someone whose face she didn't really get a good look at until several days AFTER the marriage! Bore 8 children, lived through several wars, a major earthquake disaster and the fires it caused, who knows how many typhoons, the devastation of Tokyo during the last war, the postwar chaos, the loss of a husband soon after. She lived with her second son (the first was killed in The War) and his family, so I'm sure had to put up with a LOT. Like the DogFather, though, she was stoic about her place in life. Never complained. Enjoyed her nightly sake and the occasional cigarette. She had problems with her back most of her life, but never had surgery.

My paternal grandmother, Kinu, did well enough in school to go on and get higher education, unlike most girls during her days. Got married to a businessman, moved to China, had a bunch of kids that various nannies raised while she and the other expat wives played mah-jong, moved back to Japan before The War heated up. When her husband retired, they moved back to their home town in Kyushu and Kinu painted, wrote tanka and haiku, and worked on their teeny farm. She grew awesome tasting peaches, never minced her words and was an independent soul til the day she died. SHE didn't smoke or drink but loved fried foods.

So. What's the secret to longevity? I'm trying to find common things between all 3 and I realize that none of them are/were prone to complaining, never made a big deal about much, dealt calmly with life's curveballs. They lived through turbulent times (wars, depression, major social changes.) They take/took pleasure in the small things in life. And they all have/had a strong family network.

I wonder if that's all? Don't complain, don't blame others, get tough, enjoy life, stay calm, be close to family… suddenly it's starting to sound like a lot! I always feel like such a wimp comparing myself to earlier generations.

Monday, September 18, 2006


There's a forest fire raging in Ventura County. It's been going on for several days now and spreading like…well, wildfire. I don't know which came first, but there's also been a change in the breeze last few days.

Thursday was overcast all day and chilly, but instead of going on for a few days like that, we woke up Friday to blazing sun -- quite unusual for us near the coast, which has a foggy marine layer most early mornings. And then it started to roast. Hot off-shore winds brought all that inland heat down into our valley and it's been pretty much clear and hot since then.

The fire is far away enough not to affect us, but today we drove to LA and we noticed a thick haze covering the skies even from as close as Nipomo. By the time we drove through the Gaviota pass, you could no longer see the sun. The fire is up near Castaic but has been growing with the strong winds. First it was 15% contained, now it's only 30% contained and is close to Ojai.

I guess it's keeping people away from this area because the traffic was light enough for us to make the Ranch-Condo run in 3 hours and 15 minutes. But you can hardly cheer the record run when it's caused by a natural disaster, can you?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Meet Fred

Hi. This is Fred, my new best friend. We met as I was organizing the firewood pile between orchards.

"Hi there, handsome. You've come to the right place. We've got tons of yummy-yummy mice just under that storage unit. Oh. You know already. Should have guess by those bulges…" (Does a herpetoid Mae West say "Did you just eat a mouse or are you happy to see me?")

I also met Fred's offspring the next day under another pile of firewood. I am hoping they balance out the mice population near the chicken coop.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Wasted Time

I wasted a lot of time over the last week. Too much time.

I figure we're all marching towards death, one way or another. So every moment that you are NOT enjoying, you are WASTING. Every day that you work yourself to the bone, for some misguided sense of obligation or power or insecurity, you are rushing towards death. I know. I'm a recovering workaholic and I find myself sometimes sliding back to my bad old ways. Guess with all the things to do around the ranch and a series of visitors (more cooking, more cleaning, and way more conversation,) it was easy for me to "fall off the wagon" so to speak.

But today is another peaceful, sunny day. The air is fragrant with dry grass and wild fennel. I still have a thousand things to do, but I can resist the urge and just groove on the beauty of the place again. Hurray for me!

(Of course, part of me is merely postponing the dreaded chore of dealing with the HUGE dead rat caught in the chicken wire of the chicken coop. Eeeeew! I need to get it uncaught from the wire and bury it somewhere before it starts to decompose because if I wait until it does, I might as well wait until the damn thing skeletalizes. How long would that take? And wouldn't I have to see every step of the putrid process?)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Becoming Brian Wilson

When I finally got out of my workaholic life in Tokyo, Big Dog and I went down to the Philippines to get the workaholism out of our system. We spent about 3 months on a tiny island playing in the sand, making up games like "coconut bowling" and "beach golf" and playing Tarzan. It was a gas to do all the things that made me happy as a child, again.

"We should write a book about how to have fun after retiring!"
"Let's call it 'Becoming Brian Wilson -- A Return to the Sandbox!"

Last week, the Horse Girl who lives with her mom in one of the houses on our property came back from Iceland where she was spending the summer with her grandparents on a horse farm. Her ex-step dad (is that convoluted enough for you?) came by to install a trampoline in our pasture as a surprise (welcome home?) present for her. Horse Girl's mom insists it's going back.

"You can't be on Home Owner's Insurance with a trampoline on your property," she said. Sheesh. Welcome to lawyer-centric America!

But before it goes back to the ex-step dad, I've snuck in some jumps on it. What fun! In the middle of the day! When I should be doing a zillion other chores!

I wish we could keep it.

"Please, Horse Girl's Mom!? Please, Big Dog!? Can't I keep it, pleeeeese?" I feel like pleading with them both like a little girl.

Seriously, though, why is it that when we grow up we stop doing the things that gave us pleasure as children? Remember how fun it was to roll down a grassy hill? Why don't you do that anymore? Well, I did. Last year when I was going through a strange depression, we were at a park and the grass was so inviting, I just lay down and rolled down. Wow. It was actually really fast and felt pretty violent. But it was so much fun! Here's a picture of me rolling down that slope. It makes me smile every time I look at it.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Today's Big Dog's birthday. Woof woof!

I think we met around this time in 1979. At that time, I didn't know we were soulmates.
Today, we are many things, but I think that's still the only word that can really describe our relationship.