Thursday, December 30, 2010

done, done, and DONE!

Oh yes, the day of emancipation has come at last.  So glad about that, and waiting for a ride from my now-former office to my parents' house for our belated Christmas, a sure-to-be delicious dinner and some celebratory champagne.  Yes!!

It's been a great day, all in all, challenging and long, but how can the day go wrong when it starts with a post on Bay Shakti by yours truly?  That was a great way to mark the transition, and I'm so grateful to Ginger for the opportunity to share my jubilation. 

I'd be lying if I didn't mention that I'm completely fried right now.  This transition has been intense, but leaving here on a positive note has been really high on my list of priorities, and I'm confident that I managed it as well as possible and left a clear trail for my successor.  I do feel like I'm coming down with something -- hopefully not that disgusting stomach flu that our Arizona relatives brought with them for the holidays, and which grabbed first Joe, then LT.  Pretty please, none of that for me: I have big plans for my three-day weekend before the new gig begins.

Slightly subdued Snoopy Dance underway over here, but Snoopy Dance just the same!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Final Countdown: 2 freakin' days!

Liberation is so close at hand!

It's so crazy that I am at the end of this job FINALLY, after what feels like -- and actually, really is -- years of trying to get out there.  I have 12 hours to go, 8 today and 4 tomorrow, and then I'll hand off my keys and parking pass and be done, once and for all, with commuting across the Golden Gate.  Oh hurray for only crossing that body of water when I want to, when I am going to visit family or my beloved Academy of Sciences or something else fun.

This 6-week period of transition has not been easy, to say the least.  Leaving gracefully -- a 2010 intention -- was off-the-mat yoga of the hardest kind.  Grace was sometimes the opposite of what I felt.  But I did it.

Pretty soon, no more 44 miles of pollution per day.  And no more internal pollution either: no more feeling pissed off about this particular set of entrenched dysfunctions, the wide range of unprofessional behavior, the madness at the top.  Done, and on to 2011.

12 hours.

That's it.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wolverines, as in Currently Obsessed With

Ever since we watched Chasing the Phantom on Nature a few weeks ago, I've been more and more obsessed with the gorgeous, fierce wolverine, my new favorite animal, surpassing even Badger and *that* is saying something. Oh, what remarkable creatures!  Look at those big snow-show feet, those enormous claws, that fur!  Members of the mustelid family of carnivores (along with weasels, otters, and beloved darling badgers), they are unusual for their relatively long legs and their habit of traversing insane distances up and over glaciers and mountain peaks, hundreds of miles, patrolling their territories and searching for food.

And their teeth, wow!  These animals eat bones, able to scavenge from whatever's left on the ground.  Bones!  These teeth and the wolverine's ferocity help them to chase grizzlies (grizzlies!) off their prey and defend their own from same.  All of max forty pounds, wolverines stand their ground against much, much larger animals.

In the words of Douglas Chadwick, whose wonderful The Wolverine Way I'm crunching up like a wolverine,

Wolverines don't unnecessarily complicate their lives.  They won't equivocate or trade in partial truths; I call this the wolverine pledge.  Would that it were a policy more widely followed.  More than that, wolverines are the ultimate role models for not taking crap from anybody or anything.
For wolverine researchers, and now me, these fierce little beasts are the ultimate symbol of wildness.And there are only probably 300 of them in the US.  Sadly, even though wolverines are, they say, the land-based equivalent of polar bears when it comes to global warming, the US Fish and Wildlife Service decided earlier this month that they're not quite endangered enough.  Full lame story.  
The Wolverine WaySo beautiful!  How can we not protect them?  If you want to learn more, I am highly recommending Chadwick's book (published by Patagonia, hmmm).  It's so very interesting -- natural history of wolverines and tremendous stories of the researchers who are working so hard to learn about Gulo gulo before it's too late.   I'm thinking hard about a year-end contribution to The Wolverine Foundation.  This research needs to be supported, the public educated and this bold creature protected.  Get on board!
The Wolverine Way - by Douglas H. Chadwick from Wild Collective on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sure, Christmas is about stuff, and also so much more...

Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.
Dr. Seuss, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, 1957
I have always loved Christmas.  We were so lucky as children that our parents made it so magnificent for us.  I remember sitting at the top of the staircase with my sisters, packed across the top step in our bathrobes and slippers, waiting for our parents to finish their interminable ablutions so that we could finally, finally, descend the 20 stairs and see what Santa had done.  The swinging doors to the living room would be, uncharacteristically, closed, so that when we pushed them open and beheld the Christmas morning bounty, it always took our breath away.  Bursting Christmas stockings, colorful packages, sometimes bicycles.  Magnificent.

And so much work!

But really all that mattered was how much LOVE went into that labor, into that creation, and into the sustenance of the illusion of Santa Claus.  I mean, really, think about it: how amazing for parents to do all the work and give all the credit to a mythical bearded being, a god who gets all the glory and none of the planning, shopping or wrapping, not to mention none of the actual parenting?  The selflessness of Santa-giving fills me with optimism about human beings.  The gift, even without Santa, has the potential to be a supreme expression of love.

This year I was so aware of how Tantric Christmas really can be, how it resists the either/or and remains firmly, at least for me, a both/and.  I don't agree with the people who complain that it's just consumerism gone wild.  I'm sure that can be true for some, but that's not the whole story.  It is about the presents and it's about so much more, as the Grinch himself realizes on the day his poor shriveled heart grows three sizes.  For me, there is such deep delight in the searching for and finding the perfect gift, that item that corresponds to some want or taste or interest of the receiver.  And how much deep delight in receiving a truly thoughtful gift.  I think I will keep the three things my son gave me this year always together, arranged together always, as a reminder. My heart was so full considering the time he devoted to thinking of me, what I'm crazy about, what would please me.  That is not consumerism gone wild. It's love.
Oh, Christmas isn't just a day, it's a frame of mind... and that's what's been changing. That's why I'm glad I'm here, maybe I can do something about it.
Kris Kringle, Miracle on 34th Street, 1947
I felt so lucky this year to find myself on the couch on Christmas Eve with Joe, our dinner guests gone home by 8:30, watching "Miracle on 34th Steet," which Joe had never seen.  We turned it on right at the point where Susan Walker, the young skeptic meets Kris Kringle for the first time.  I can't find the specific clip  in which Susan pulls Santa's beard.  But I did find this one, with the little Dutch girl, which was the moment at which I knew the movie had grabbed Joe.  Oh so sweet, the way her face lights up, after her terrible experience in an orphanage in the second World War.

How wonderful that we have a day every year in which to work magic for others, to demonstrate our love for them in a material manner. For me, each item received really is symbolic. Yes, it's a thing, but it's a thing packed with meaning, a thing replete with love.

I'm counting the days already to next Christmas, to the next opportunity for this big Love Blow-Out and its tinsel and packages. Til then, I'm looking around at the traces of yesterday, and feeling all the love and effort that makes the day what it is -- a big opportunity to sing our love to each other, nice and loud, heart to heart and hand in hand.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Yay, Christmas Eve!

Woke up early this morning even though the alarm was off.  I'm too excited about Christmas to possibly stay in bed.  There's a ton to do today with family coming for dinner tonight, and it's Christmas EVE!

I may love Christmas Eve even more than Christmas itself.  Generally most of my work is done (although this year I do need to scrub the house top-to-bottom and hope to get outside for some winter garden clean-up), and I can sit quietly savoring the anticipation.  I love giving presents, particularly to LT, wishing so hard that he feels through this holiday the enormity of my love for him, how he is ever-present in my thoughts.  It's a little silly, makes me weepily sentimental (like the beginning of Love Actually, best Christmas movie ever), but I love it.

I'm especially savoring the Eve right now because everyone else (except Jasper) is still a-snooze, a bit after 7am, as the sky lightens outside.

Best Breakfast of the Year
On Christmas Eve, I treat myself to toasted panettone for breakies.  There's a whole production on Christmas morning at Joe's mom's house, a whole raft of traditional foods (more on that tomorrow), but today it's just me and my beloved Italian sweet bread.  Oh delectable delight, how I wish I could make you last all day!  This year I'm feeling extra super-lucky that I found a personal panettone, just a tiny one, rather than the usual regular size, which then I am required to finish, in the week after the holiday.

A Little Time with the Year's "Tree"
When Laurent was little, we used to go and get as big a tree as we could fit in our low-ceilinged homes.  Growing up in a Victorian as I did, I was used to really tall trees, but since moving to little boxes on the hillside, I've adapted to shorter heights.  But always, as much as I love the smell of tree in my house, I felt terrible about the waste.  Even if they ultimately get chipped up for mulch, there's a little heartbreak for me in all that tree-cutting.  And Joe, who relies on cut-trees for a living, can't stomach the idea of cutting one for fun.  We did living trees, but that felt even more like torture of something living, forcing it inside in the heat.  And really there's a limit to how many pine trees a person should be planting across the street, in the vacant area at the bottom of the cliff.  So we've gotten creative.

Last year, that bad chemo year, we used the bottle drying rack from our home beer-making production supplies.  Not bad!  This year, thanks to Container Store (which I vow only to visit maybe three times in 2011), we have a little "tree" I can bust out every year, although its ornament display ability is nil.  It's situated in the dining area of our kitchen so I can plug the lights in as I am setting my breakfast down on the table.  I am not sure anyone else in the house cares about the tree one whit, but it makes me happy to see that twinkle of little LED lights.

A Little Quiet Before, and After, the Storm
Outside fat drops of rain cling to the bare branches of Apple Tree #2.  That tree's got one apple left on it, small and red, eye-catching just like an ornament.  A jay is darting from fence to tree, tree to fence, chirping, a flash of blue that keeps drawing my eye to the window.  It's quiet out.  I know when I walk later with Jasper, there'll be that hush outside, that lovely holiday feeling of less traffic, more conviviality.  And then, at some point, my work will begin.  I'll make two batches of cookies, prep the rest of tonight's dinner, clean the house, wrap presents, maybe have to go out for last-minute things I've forgotten.  So this quiet right now, the sky brightening, is so sweet, some silence before the hustle-bustle that will take over tonight about 6 and keep up, pretty much non-stop, until about 24 hours after Santa stops by.  Sweet.

With a contented heart full of love, I am wishing you such a merry and bright holiday.  Savor it like a tiny, delicious sweet piece of panettone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Excellent pupil

While waiting for the return of my vision last Friday following dilation of my pupils -- and by the way, no, I couldn't have worked, and yes, it did take longer than 2 hours for my eyes to return to normal, more like 5 -- I realized all of the ways in which I rely on being able to see.  How most every waking moment of my day involves use of the eyeballs: whether it's reading on screen or paper, or writing.  That's basically all I do.

So while I was unable to participate in those beloved activities, here is the list I scribbled, describing how I wiled away four hours on a rainy Friday afternoon when I should have been at work:

Things to do when eyesight fucked up:
- Laundry.
- Boil water, make and drink tea.
- Repeatedly check pupils in the mirror.
- Turn up the heater.
- Empathize mightily with the blind.
- Straighten up the house.
- Make banana bread.  Interesting how standing over a cookbook at the counter makes it a little easier to see.  But was that 1 1/3 cup sugar or 1 2/3? Whatever: it was delicious.
- Repeatedly try to discern texts on phone.
- Check pupils.
- Determine that loss of limb better than loss of sight.
- Try to get these words in focus.
- Wonder how Laura survived 6 months of sightlessness.
- Talk on the phone.
- Be sad that my father's macular degeneration means he can no longer read.  What would I do?
- Feel bad for two minutes about jacking up the work day.
- Misplace readers, at least four times.
- Stare at rain.
- Realize that I really have an addiction to vision.

My glasses with their progressive lenses arrive in a week and I honestly can't wait.  Right now, to be able to see up close, I have to wear readers.  They're not bad, cute in fact, purchased on a lucky whim at the check-out at Borders.  But the putting them on and taking them off drives me crazy.  Better to have one pair, always on.  It'll take getting used to, but honestly, if last Friday learned me anything it's that I have absolutely *got to* be able to see.

It's true that I've always wanted glasses, and naturally, now that I'm about to get them, I'm a little bittersweet on the transition.  Yes, my eyes are getting old along with the rest of me.  But as long as the edges of the words on the pages are crisp and clear, that is just fine.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Really, Moleskin: so bogus that you cause cancer...

I was just shopping for a 2011 notebook on and was about to put a replacement Large Squared Notebook in my cart when I noticed these words, California Residents: click here for Proposition 65 warning.  Since I've always bought my Moleskin in a stationers, I'd never seen such a notice before.  Really not happy to read the following:

WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.

God damn it, the cover is PVC.  That makes me so mad!

The Moleskin has been my go-to for years.  It offers so many excellent qualities: the weight of the paper, the way fountain-pen ink looks on the page, the binding and the way it lays flat when you open it.  Plus, the Large size is just perfect to carry everywhere in my hand or in my bag.  Perfect.

But no more.  

So now begins the search for a replacement notebook that offers all of the qualities I love about Moleskin without the cancer-causing chemicals.

Maybe everyone knows this already and I'm the slow-poke at the back just figuring this out, but damn it, I am so disappointed.  Thank goodness for California, otherwise I wouldn't even know.

Really, Moleskin: could you please get your shit together and do a little better than a PVC cover?  I used the Contact Form to ask them when they're planning on replacing the cover, letting them know how disappointed I am. Alternately, their email is  In case anyone else is interested in sending a good old fashioned letter (which I'll be mailing tomorrow, thanks), here's the address:

The European Paper Company
4775 Walnut Street Suite C
Boulder, Colorado 80301-2579

I've already received an automated reply to my email.  Fingers crossed that they have something great to tell me, like they're changing out the covers...  Oh Pollyanna, what will you take notes in now?

Full Metal Rabbit

As I continue making my plans for 2011, I am thinking a lot about the Chinese zodiac.  Naturally, I love a system that relies on 12 animals.

In researching the coming Year of the Rabbit, I am finding so much delightful information -- i.e., not only is 2011 Year of the Rabbit, but Year of the Metal Rabbit.  Rock on!

Oh, and the English is delightful.  

Sounds like 2011's going to be such a relief, just the year I need after the fierce year of the Tiger.  Looking forward to feeling untroubled and contented, cozy in my little den just like a bunny.

2011 - The Year of the RABBIT

In Chinese mythology, the Rabbit is a symbol of endurance and their essence is said to have originated from the Moon. During the Chinese mid-Autumn festival when the Moon is usually at its best, Chinese children still carry lit paper lanterns made in the form of a Rabbit, and climb the hills to look at the Moon and admire the Moon Hare.
Rabbit Years come fourth in the cycle of the Chinese New Year, and recur every twelve years. The Chinese New Year does not occur on a particular date, so it is vital to check the calendar to find the precise date on which each Rabbit Year really starts. Years of the rabbit include 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999 and 2011. Year of the Rabbit 2011 is February 3, 2011 to January 22, 2012.
The Year of the Rabbit is a peaceful year, very much welcomed and desired after the fierce year of the Tiger. We should go somewhere tranquil to sooth our wounds and get some well deserved rest after all the encounters of the year before. Good taste and enhancement will excel on everything, and persons will recognize that influence is better than force. A time to make sure that we do not become too indulgent. The influence of the Rabbit tends to spoil those who like too much comfort and therefore weakens their value and sense of responsibility.
Law and order will be negligent; rules and regulations will not be firmly enforced. No one seems to be inclined to bother with these distasteful realities. They are too busy having fun, entertaining others or just relaxing. The outlook is tranquil and serene. We will all have a tendency to procrastinate on unlikable tasks for as long as is possible. Money can be made without too much effort. Our way of life will be relaxed and leisurely as we permit ourselves the luxuries we have always wanted. A moderate year with an easygoing pace. It may actually seem possible for us to be untroubled and contented without much infuriation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Durga is my homegirl

Probably because it’s Year of the Tiger, this has been a Durga year for me.  I’ve been living with her image from the start, her picture on the front of my notebook and in front of my eyes every time I take it out to scribble an idea, take some more notes.

Year of the Tiger is my year, anyway.  Born in January 1963, I got in at the tail-end J of Year of the Tiger 1962.  And naturally, I have a tiger-thing, have long dreamed of visiting Ranthambore or some other tiger park in India before my demise.  And that there was a tiger painted on the backdrop of the 7-day long Immersion and workshops with John Friend in SF in February, helped seal the image in.

But more than just the tiger, it really has been about Durga  all year for me.  Every time I saw her now-peeling image on my notebook, she reminded me to wield all those weapons in defense of what’s true and right, for me.  I thought about the work of cutting what’s unnecessary, mustered the ferocity to stay on track.

And believe me, you need all those arms and all those weapons.

I’m still reflecting on everything that happened this year.  Durga served me well.  I am really grateful, humbled and happy and satisfied with how much everything has evolved in one year.  And aware of how much work it was to maintain that degree of sustained focus.

And since we’re here, at the end of 2010, it’s time for 2011 notebook and 2011 goals.   Which means pretty soon Durga and the red Moleskin notebook she adorns will be heading into the cabinet soon to sleep with 2009 and prior yeas.

Thanks to this year’s experience,  I realize that the work of setting a course for the year gets bigger every year. It used to be coming up with New Year's resolutions. Then it became for me a list of goals, in discrete categories, 'cause that's how my mind works. Then, thanks to yoga, I added in the creation of a sutra for the coming year, a word or phrase or couple of lines, to help keep on course, a distillation, concentration of the idea of the year.

And now I see that there's another level, too. There's the image, the visual to help keep me on track, to provide a non-verbal heads-up every single day.

So excited to dream about 2011, to consider where I want this path to take me over the coming 12 months.  Year of the Rabbit, here we come!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Does not get old!

That's right.  It just does not get old to see my name in print in the local paper.  How's that for some narcissism?  Apple not falling far from the tree.  Snap!

Here's the piece if somehow you missed my day-long effusion of shameless self-promotion.

Really, even though I'm the one who wrote the piece, in a rush after a great yoga class and hang-out sesh with my buddies, even though I'm the one who emailed it to the editor of this section of the paper, still I jumped in surprise when I saw it there on Page B2.  It's not a big deal, I am fully aware, just a funny little local paper that I normally deride -- but whatever, I'm enjoying using it as a vehicle for funny little local stories about the people I meet and know.

That's definitely working for me.

This afternoon I was at a bookstore in San Rafael and noticed that Beth Ashley, storied/ancient columnist for the same paper, whose piece this morning was directly above mine, was also milling about the New Fiction section.  The following fleeting insane scenario flashed through my mind: me extending a hand and introducing myself as a fellow writer whose by-line was just below hers today.  Hello Beth, we shared a page in the paper today.  After which she'd no doubt mumble something kind and move swiftly to the exit.  Clearly, I would never do such a thing.  But it made me laugh throughout the rest of my bookstore visit.  What if I were just that nuts?

It could certainly happen, given that the thing I thought would never, ever happen appears to have finally taken place: yes, I think I need glasses.  There is something combination comical/alluring about the thought of perching Readers on the end of my nose, so I can type like hell on my iPhone without holding it out three feet from my face.  The woman at the register when I bought the glasses today said, oh these aren't for you, you're too young.  Hah, I said, actually I'm just that old.

So yeah, probably since the eyes are going, the tenuous grip on boundaries and appropriate behavior will be next.   And then I'll really be in good company.  With more ridiculous stories to tell.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

2010: in the home stretch

Thanks, ND, for sending this gem from Village Voice. 
The crazy season is in full swing. Like most Decembers, I am reaching for lofty goals, hopped up on carols and caffeine.  This year has its special flavor, naturally, as the count-down is not just to Christmas, to time-off, but also to the end of  my current job.  Fifteen days!!  Leaving this job gracefully really has been my #1 goal for the year, the one toward which all other intentions have been pointed, so it's gratifying to know that on December 31st, I will walk out the door there a final time.  Ba-bye.

But in the last miles of what feels like a marathon, I just need to say that this is hard and I'm tired. Constructing the map for the person who will come after me is grueling, but harder still is contending with my own short-timer's syndrome, my impatience to be done, and the accompanying impulse several times a day to just say "fuck it," grab the purse and go.  Making this transition in December -- a super-social time every year, and now I have a final exam this month on top of that -- is also challenging: there's so much to do, so little down-time at home right now.

Naturally, because I'm complaining, my Pollyanna reminds me that I'm also having a blast.  Going to San Diego last weekend for Mammalogy field trip definitely took away from at-home time, but god damn, that was a blast.  Geeking out for 24 solid hours with my classmates and teacher was so good for me, crystallized in such a remarkable way all that we've spent a semester learning, and helped me make an important decision for 2011 (more on that later).

And Pollyanna also reminds that going out to see a band on a school-night, which may not have seemed like such a good idea, was actually an AWESOME plan.  Charlie Hunter Trio featuring the dancer Tamango blew my mind in the way great live performances do -- took me completely out of my own preoccupations, rocked me deep to my core, made me so super-duper happy, face breaking from smiling, Snoopy-dance head to toe.

To try and create a bit of space, I'm cashing in a vacation day on Friday to study for Mammalogy, and also to have the sensation of sitting in my house and staring out the window.  I need some space to continue reflecting on this year, to brood.  

Because I'm tired, I am wondering whether my time will really be more open, come January 1, 2011.  For some reason (fatigue, impending period, most likely), I am now doubting that not spending 1 1/2 - 2 hours in the car will have any measurable positive impact on my life.  Because, truth be told, I could easily fill that time with more stuff -- or with nothing, with OCD social networking.  The key is going to be saying No after a year of saying Yes to pretty much everything, keeping the 2011 commitment to a core simplicity.

So yeah, yeah, I'm tired but still triumphant, still stoked that I managed to make this change this year, even though I'm taking it down to the wire, stoked that I'm doing it in the best way possible.  I can't wait til tomorrow, to take a breather, study and play in my own backyard a bit.  It really is the little things, especially in the crazy season, that make all the difference.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

duh, no wonder they're so foxy

It occurs to me, as I am reviewing this post, that I have always been this person researching animals and writing papers, dating all the way back to the report Medora and I were always writing, when we were probably 8 and 10, for fun, about cats, an animal neither of us could have as a pet, since members of our families were so deeply allergic.  We read and read and wrote and wrote, collaborating on this tome for what felt like years, organizing principle of weekend afternoons.  It amuses me to consider how I have really never fundamentally changed at all. How fun that I now have this place to keep and share all of the reports that I am constantly writing -- once a geek, always a geek.

*  *  *  *  *
Thanks to my more-knowledgeable Mammalogy classmates, I now know that our squirrels -- that is, Natasha, my father's quasi-pet, and my own backyard residents -- are not Western Gray Squirrels, but Fox Squirrels, a non-native.  Which  also answers my stupid question about why our particular squirrel-friends are so red -- duh, 'cause they're not Gray Squirrels, double-duh.  None of the books I checked as reference either listed or depicted the Fox as an option, part of the usual smear campaign against those labeled "alien."  But I digress...

The largest North American tree squirrel, the fox squirrel, Scurius niger, has more adaptive range than our native gray squirrel -- will nest in more kinds of trees, live closer to people, and produce twice as many litters in a year.  Mr. Foxy, therefore, really has a leg up on Mr. Gray counterpart who is pickier about which trees he'll nest in (only oak or eucalyptus) and pickier about the company he keeps.  For more info from my favorite local animal group, WildCare, scroll down to Mammal Bio here.

Note that photo at left also lifted from Wildcare.  That's not me holding that squirrel, though you know I wish it were.  When I volunteered there briefly one Spring, in the wildlife hospital, I did get to hold a baby squirrel once.  Ridiculously cute.  Like this.

For those wondering about the niger in Scurius niger given that our Fox Squirrels are so obviously rusty-red, the animal was named in 1789 based on a black specimen in the southeastern US, where all-black fox squirrels may still be found.  Pretty!

Alsoly, the very word "squirrel" is delightful.  From wiki, "The word squirrel, first attested in 1327, comes via Anglo-Norman esquirel from the Old French escurel, the reflex of a Latin word sciurus. This Latin word was itself borrowed from Ancient Greek word σκίουρος, skiouros, which means shadow-tailed, referring to the bushy appendage possessed by many of its members."

And speaking of bushy appendage, my favorite sentence from the WildCare Mammal Bio pretty much sums up all you need to know to identify this squirrel: "The Fox Squirrel's brilliant cinnamon-black tail can be spectacular."   Make that IS spectacular, and sign me up.  They use their tails in such an expressive way, flicking them up over their backs -- the tail as a flag, warning off other squirrels.  So often it's that whip of color that catches my eye, that waving tail in the yard drawing my attention.

As part of my ongoing effort to domesticate a squirrel, create my own Natasha, I've been inspired by this piece from Tim Friend's Animal Talk: Breaking the Codes of Animal Language -- and have been trying to engage squirrels in conversation.  I can get them to stop, look at me and come closer, but we don't get past that, really.  Still it's a pretty big thrill to have their eyes on me.  Joe has also taken to leaving a trail of unsalted shelled peanuts, hoping we can work up to JP's trick of feeding Natasha walnuts through the open kitchen door.  Some day, with patience...

In the meantime, we'll just keep watching our foxy friends, enjoying their cinnamon brilliance.