Kent Winter Adventures

We returned from a near-monthlong holiday in England. We hadn’t visited since Easter 2019, so it’d been a while. There were lots of ups and downs with the four-year-old, but we managed to power through numerous tantrums, and colds, on the trip. We’re back home now — Emilia with conjunctivitis, and me with pneumonia. We’ll just call them souvenirs from abroad.

Challenges and illnesses aside, it was a delight to watch my daughter play with her four cousins, two of which are close to her in age. Her cousins here in the Bay Area are all much older, so it was nice to see them all run around together, making the most of the outdoors (when it wasn’t raining, which was most of the time).

wooden sign in forest that reads "Mushroom Manor"
Sign in the fairy forest at Jeskyns Community Woodland
little girl in the forest, looking at a fairy garden house shaped like a boot, with a long staircase leading up to it from the ground
One of the fairy houses at Jeskyns
five kids playing outside on a sloped play area with two ropes to hang on
Playing in the Gruffalo playground at Jeskyns
landscape of countryside
Family walk in Trottiscliffe

Searching for Fairies

On Friday, I went to Point Richmond with the four-year-old. I’d googled “kid-friendly hikes in the East Bay” and found some trails. But then Emilia said she instead wanted to explore a new neighborhood, and I read that this area of Richmond, tucked away between I-580 and San Francisco Bay, is full of fairy houses. You’ll find them up and down Washington Avenue, on both sides of the street.

When we lived in Sebastopol, I began to collect fairy garden houses, furniture, and other decorations, which I placed in one of our raised beds and under our big oak tree. Here in Berkeley, they’re now in a little wine barrel display on our deck, next to some kale and chard I’m growing.

The fairy houses, stores, and other buildings of “Little Point Richmond” are pretty adorable. I don’t really take photos much anymore when I’m out and about but I couldn’t help taking pictures of everything we walked by.

I know it’s been awhile. I’m still here. Hope you’re all well.

Wish I put an object in here for scale! These are so tiny.
AC Transit sign and little bus stop.
Love how this is a miniature version of the house in the background.

Exploring Monterey Bay

I spent my birthday week in Monterey Bay, one of my favorite parts of the California coast. We camped in Carmel Valley at Saddle Mountain Ranch, a campground with a gorgeous view; then stayed in Capitola Village, a cute little town by the sea. These are just a few images from our trip, from Asilomar Beach in Monterey to Capitola Beach near Santa Cruz.

Tidepools and rocks at Asilomar Beach
The tidepool sprite at Asilomar Beach
Rocks and rocks and more rocks
Walking along the shore at Asilomar Beach
Underneath the Capitola Pier
View from the Capitola Wharf
One of the selfie spots along the pier
Lots of kelp on Capitola Beach
The famous colorful facades on Capitola Beach
Tire tracks and a lifeguard tower in Capitola
Beach buddies in Capitola

Find Me on Substack

26 Hours

My newsletter, delivered to your inbox.

So, I joined Substack and published my first newsletter.

I don’t have much of a monetization plan — I’m just curious and along for the ride. The theme of the newsletter is inspired by one of my blog posts here from years ago, “26 Hours,” and loosely focused around time. Read the welcome message I published last night, and if you’re interested in following along there, please subscribe! Given my typically slow publishing pace, you’ll probably receive the newsletter very occasionally, like every month or two, as I feel out what I want to do with it, if anything.

To be super-clear, this new newsletter is separate from this blog. You’ll need to subscribe to it by going to my Substack and entering your email address, and that content will be emailed to you. That said, am I completely abandoning this blog? No, I don’t think so. But if I make big changes like that, I’ll let you know.

Nick Cave on Shyness

I thought to share quotes from some of the stories and articles I’ve read this week, but they were mostly depressing and/or terrifying (like the Atlantic piece on the election). Instead, I wanted to share a site that I love to explore, especially when the news gets to be too much (which is often). It’s The Red Hand Files, a personal blog where singer/songwriter Nick Cave answers questions from readers and fans about anything from writing to death.

Daniel from Sydney, Australia, asked: What is shyness?

Here is part of Cave’s response:

Shyness is the tentative sound of the orchestra tuning up before the symphony begins. It is a beautiful, fractured piece of music in itself. It is the orchestra attempting to find its shared intent and is over all too quickly if you ask me.

He occasionally combines readers’ questions, which he does here, also answering the question, “What was your first date with your wife like?”

My wife, Susie, has a hummingbird shyness. In social situations she displays herself for a magical, weightless moment then darts away.

The remainder of his response is just as beautiful.

Cave’s writing grounds and calms me. The Red Hand Files is a lovely little space he’s created on the internet. I recommend it, even if you’re not necessarily a fan of his music.

Inside the Chaos of the Immigration Court System in the U.S.

After a long break, I dove back into editing for Longreads, and this morning published journalist Gabriel Thompson’s story on San Francisco Immigration Court, where he spent time last winter observing hearings and interviewing judges, attorneys, and immigrants. Of all the things I do at Automattic, getting to immerse myself in pieces like this is the most rewarding: I’m grateful to be able to work with and learn from hard-working, prolific writers (and fact-checkers!) and share these important stories with a wider audience.

The piece is nearly 7K words; here’s a snippet:

Crowded courtrooms were eventually shut down and most have remained closed to date. But inside detention centers, where some immigrants are held as their cases proceed and where social distancing is virtually impossible, the virus has spread rapidly. To date, more than 5,000 detained immigrants have tested positive for COVID-19, likely a severe undercount since testing has been patchy; and at least five, according to ICE, have died from the virus. Meanwhile, Trump has used the pandemic as yet another weapon against asylum seekers, introducing in July a proposal that would ban people from seeking asylum if they were from countries where an outbreak is “prevalent or epidemic.” 

COVID-19 has profoundly disrupted immigration courts, just as it has disrupted every other aspect of life in the United States. We long for a vaccine, anticipating that it will return us to our previous lives, where some sense of order and routine existed, where life felt (at least sometimes) sustainable. Immigration court is different. The coronavirus has essentially frozen hundreds of thousands of immigration cases. Those cases are now beginning to thaw, as more courts across the country reopen — including San Francisco, which is set to resume normal operations on September 28. When immigration courts return in their previous form, there will be nothing orderly or sustainable about them. 

I created the featured image at the top of the piece, which I display above — not bad for a non-designer, eh?

Do the Right Thing

My friend Angel and her husband Mitya have an outdoor advertising company in Brooklyn called Overall Murals. With their backgrounds in art and advertising, over the past 10 years they’ve built this business from a small hand-painted sign shop to a multi-team, bicoastal company, transforming bare walls into large-scale custom murals. It’s been awesome to watch them establish themselves in their industry over the years.

I love their recent project, Do the Right Thing, painted across their largest set of walls near Domino Park in Williamsburg. I’ll let the photos do most of the talking — you’ll see this massive piece weaves in images, phrases, and messaging that together sum up the clusterfuck that 2020 has been so far. Angel explains more about their process in a recent post.

I’m really proud of them and just wanted to share their work. It will be up for a few more weeks, so if you’re in NYC, check it out. Obviously I haven’t traveled anywhere recently — all the photos below are courtesy of Overall Murals. Wish I could see this one in person.

They’re donating mural-related bandanas and prints on their online shop to the organization Art Start.

You can see more photos on their Flickr account and other work they’ve done on their website — their huge murals on the sides of massive buildings are pretty impressive! #KillThePixel

As the Garden Grows

As mentioned in one of my posts last month, I’ve been thinking about time a lot lately. As we head deep into summer, I’ve been measuring time with the vegetables growing in our raised beds. I love watching our garden transform — it brings me a little bit of joy each day even when everything else in the world has gone to shit.

Some images, from March to now (with the two-year-old making an appearance here and there, usually running away from me):

Early March when the raised beds were still bare.
Lettuce sprouts.
Wandering in early spring.
Lettuce and kale bed on left; potatoes, green beans, and onions on right.
Lemon balm.
Another view of the kale and lettuce.
Exploring the raised beds. Catmint blooming on the right.
The last of the Meyer lemons with the first of the strawberries (and lemon verbena).
Green beans.
Tomatoes in the foreground.
Onions on left; green beans and potatoes on right.
The kale and lettuce (and parsley) growing steadily.
Carrots and beets and overgrown thyme.
Kale and lettuce heads.
Heading to her meeting with the gnomes.
Our patch of lavender. Lots of bees currently buzzing about.
Our first harvest of beans a few days ago.
A quiet long weekend with just butterflies and hummingbirds.


I keep thinking about a recent essay in Popula by Danuta Hinc, “Beneath the Black Rocks,” where she writes about her mother’s death — and how she just left.

 I think of the underground mountain, how it expands towards the center of the earth, how it pushes deep into the waves towards the horizon, and I wonder if she even died.

It happened two decades ago. My father told me on the phone that Sunday that my mother kind of left. This is exactly how he described it, she left. 

It’s a beautiful piece about her mother (and father and family), and I’m drawn to the parts where she also writes about people dying of COVID-19, alone, with their loved ones forced to watch from afar:

I am fortunate to be able to say that none of my friends or family have died of the virus, but when I reach the black rocks on my walks, when I stand there thinking about how much of the rock is below the sea level, I think of those who died, and of how much will never be discovered. Did they see blooming flowers on their nurse’s scrubs? Did roses open for them and spill on their beds? The same unknown that makes me nurse the thought of my mother’s death, makes me think of the loneliness of everyone who died of the virus. 

I’m reminded of a series of tweets I read this week from Laurie Kilmartin, whose mother just died of COVID. I started following her after someone had retweeted one of her tweets to ex-San Francisco Giant Aubrey Huff (who I didn’t realize was a racist, misogynistic asshole):

Laurie basically live-tweeted her mother’s death, which she and her sister watched on an iPad. It’s uncomfortable and devastating and surreal, yet also so quiet and banal — ending with the tap of a finger on an iPad screen. The images she posted — like the iPad open on her desk, with her mother on the screen, or the message on her device after the doctor ended the 69-hour FaceTime call — look so ordinary at a glance, but they’re anything but.

At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about it all — sharing their final, intimate moments like this. They’re very hard to read, very hard to look at. You will probably cry like I did. But people are dying this way — alone, livestreamed — with loved ones saying their final goodbyes virtually.

Her tweets aren’t all sad, and it’s actually her humor through it all that makes it even more poignant.

If you’re on Twitter, she’s an interesting person to follow right now.

The Dream Rests on Our Backs

“Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body — it is heritage,” writes Ta-Nehisi Coates in Between the World and Me, his 2015 book written as a letter to his son.

Thanks to Kate Gavino for the illustration below — she created author portraits with quotes for people who made recent donations to Black Visions Collective. It’s a nice way to raise funds for one of the organizations out there fighting against injustice and police brutality.

So many lines from Coates’ book are stuck in my head — it was hard to choose, but this one, in the beginning of the book, is so haunting and so powerful.

When the journalist asked me about my body, it was like she was asking me to awaken her from the most gorgeous dream. I have seen that dream all my life. It is perfect houses with nice lawns. It is Memorial Day cookouts, block associations, and driveways. The Dream is tree houses and the Cub Scouts. And for so long I have wanted to escape into the Dream, to fold my country over my head like a blanket. But this has never been an option, because the Dream rests on our backs, the bedding made from our bodies.