It’s mid August and the summer is full upon us with torpid day heat and cold north bay evenings, which later brings night fog rolling through the valley dampening all with an obscuring mist. This kind-of weather is perfect for our agricultural rural area dedicated to wine grapes and its accompanying trophy villas resembling mega-morphed, stucco Tuscan hybrids familiar to those adding manufactured quaintness in the suburbs of Las Vegas or the Californian sprawl of over mortgaged bourgeois ‘American Dream’ idealists struggling to make it, even with IT tech jobs.
Oh I know, I sound like so many of the entrenched obdurate, who resist change with the passivity of boulders, whose intractability is eventually worn away by the flow of water and time. But, for some of us, it’s not conservatism that warrants our contempt for the American spectacle, but it’s spectacular failure and embrace of the worst of changes.
I remember a time when the highway out of San Francisco became two lanes past Marin and 101 serviced a half dozen little communities, dairy farms, ranches and funky roadside motels where $25 bucks and a baggie of weed made for a cool weekend. Now those little motels are boutiques, one of which, a half mile from the cottage charges off season $300.00 plus a night—two night minimum. The linens are expensive organic ply made by blind habibies living in sequestered Egyptian Sinai communes. Everything is very humbly simple and unbelievably expensive…the very antithesis say, of the Trump penthouse done in the style of Floosie the XIV.
Worse for the lot of us old timers is that the young tech millionaires are buying up all the little farm houses and cottages in the county for AIRBNB investments. We used to laugh at the reality listings of these places that advertised them as charming and adorable, which to locals was code for converted chicken coop.
Andie lost her beloved groomer, Ms. Judy, because of these changes. Judy was a senior, who years ago left corporate life, bought a little trailer and outfitted it as a mobile grooming salon. Judy informed us one day that she was moving to Texas and staying with family there. Even working full time she could not make enough to afford the rent in our wine country Vallhala. Andie doesn’t know how precarious is life here, but I do and manage so well with her to live in the moment day by day, feeling such gratitude for the beauties of our life that appear to assuage future-shock. Recently, someone asked me how I was dealing with grief and I replied that with Andie as company, time has still stopped, but is paradoxically moving at the speed of light.
For me our evenings are filed with the last fragrant flowers in bloom, particularly the South American Four O’clock’s, which release their esters at sunset.. For Andie, however, it is a vastly different experience and she loves the sniff-trailing around our garden gate, where Gawd knows what skulks, slithers or tentatively makes its way through the foliage surrounding the opening to our magical garden.
The seasonal change seems early this year by weeks, hinting at an autumn soon to arrival. The Chinese Pistache tree, down on the corner of our street and the main village road is already exhibiting bright blotches of fuchsia red. That tree is the village bellwether for the seasons. It is among the first to show its chartreuse translucent leaves in the spring.
Andie and I enter the night several times as she wakes me to take her out. Lately, it’s been exquisitely beautiful and I, as has been my custom for years, look for the Big Dipper, which is so prominent in the skies over our village at this time of year. I have yet to catch the meteor shower which has promised to be spectacular. Maybe it happens when the fog has finally settled around our village. As compensation the fog glows with an enchanting effervescence from the brightness of the moon. The effect is quite beautiful, giving a mysterious, slightly poignant effect to an otherwise purely natural phenomena. Being Irish, however, I always have one foot in magic….just in case and pretend a poetic nature to put an artful patina on what is probably a congenital penchant for Gaelic mysteries.
The August moon is rising and where, only weeks ago a few were caroling, now thousands of crickets are raising a cacophony of music in the atmosphere. I have always loved their sound and leave the window a crack opened to let it fill the house. Andie doesn’t seem to notice them, but recently reacted to a chorus of sea otters on TV, who were fretting over an intruder. Maybe Andie prefers mammal vibrations.
Meanwhile the hot August days find Andie, as often as not, napping on the courtyard chaise, or hunting wood chips as I attempt to garden. Andie explores as usual, while I am busy. For a period she disappeared and I went frantically searching for her. She found a hole in the upper garden fence and I found her on the front door step wanting to get back in the house. It took me a better part of the morning with pliers and chicken wire to plug the escape hatches. All is well now. Andie seems content for the most part to sniff the remaining tomatoes, because having eaten one recently she now has a ‘pash’ for them. There is a lot of work to be done in the garden. I am slow these days, but the joyful immersion in dirt, plants, pruning, clipping, transplanting, water and pond mucking makes mockery of future shock.
I had noticed that all the chives plants had been eaten down to the nubbins. Based on past experiences I thought, ‘that looks like rabbits or deer.’ There are no deer in town and the only rabbit lives next door and it’s name is Thumps. Thumps lives in a very pretty split level house-cage and unless a ninja-bun, could not be responsible. Then one night Andie gave me her goodnight kiss licks and had onion breath. Problem solved. She needs roughage so, I share my salads with her. She’ll even eat carrots if they have the olive oil/Meyer lemon dressing on them.
Finally, Andie and I survived ‘health week.’ When getting a haircut and pedicure at the new place down the road her groomer found that her ears were infected. This is a constant affliction with Cockers, even though every ten days or earlier I clean her ears with a special solution. Worse, the groomer found embedded fox-tails or wild barley in her paws. Fox Tails which grow in abundance hereabouts are a danger to animals because they burrow into skin and are not biodegradable. I took Andie to the vet’s and they found one more, which caused a small infection between one of her paws. She also got some ear medication.
I also found something the size of a large marble embedded beneath my skin and it had been causing me some serious pain for a few days so I went to the ER and it was removed. No worry! It wasn’t cancer, just some infection around a follicle. Ten days on antibiotics for me. Both Andie and I are recovering nicely and agree that health week was totally disagreeable and a pain in the ass. The End