I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Les Feuilles Mortes

Most people I know say autumn is their favorite season in New York. The air is crisp and clean but you can still get by with just a light coat, putting off the hats and gloves and scarves as long as possible. There are new plays, new movies, new books; the pace picks up after the long sluggishness of summer. The city is beautiful and walking is a pleasure.

But of course, what's brisk now will be downright freezing in a few weeks, the days are short and still getting shorter, and the leaves explode in those brilliant colors because they're dying. This is only an interlude before the dark and drear of winter, so there's a sadness underneath it all, a sense of loss, of looking back, and the occasional urge to wallow in something sentimental over a cup of tea.

This song is the best autumnal pleasure I know, and provides a terrific soundtrack for wallowing. Forget Autumn Leaves -- go back to the original Jacques Prévert lyrics and listen to Yves Montand sing Les Feuilles Mortes.
Mais la vie sépare ceux qui s'aiment,
Tout doucement, sans faire de bruit
Et la mer efface sur le sable
Les pas des amants désunis.
Roughly translated:
But life separates those who love each other
Softly, without a sound
And the sea erases from the sand
The footprints of the divided lovers.

Proving that rue and melancholy, like so much else, just sound better in French.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Welcome to the working week

Here's a truck belonging to Independent Tires of Reno, Nevada, a business that I'm guessing involves tires.

And here's hoping that returning from a long weekend (at least here in the States) isn't as difficult as it usually is.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday bird blogging

Small brownish striped birds are second only to gulls in being difficult to identify -- there are always at least half a dozen possibilities to pick from, mostly endless variations on the theme of sparrow.

I could pretend that I told myself that this bird was the wrong shape for a sparrow, and the head was too plain, and the body too big, and the beak not quite right.

All of which is true, but since this bird was in the same yard in Albany with the trees full of finches, I had the luxury of identifying it as a female house finch first, and reasoning backwards from there to list all the reasons why only an idiot could mistake this for a sparrow.

And I do love the way she's perched, straddling the fork at the top of the tree.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday reflections

The autumn light in New York is dazzling. I love how the gold reflected light makes the pointy roof on the left look like a giant Christmas tree.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I never go to the Thanksgiving Day parade -- floats and marching bands aren't enough of an incentive to get up early on a non-working day and jockey for a decent spot in a big crowd -- but it is fun to catch odd glimpses of the balloons down side streets while you go about your holiday business.

But I don't need parades to make me grateful for this beautiful city, and all the others I encounter on my travels, plus architecture, reflections, birds, literature, good meals with good friends, and the tens of readers worldwide, in Finland and France, Syria and South Korea, Angola and Austria, who stumble on this blog, look at the pictures, and sometimes leave a kind comment. Thank you.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday bird blogging

A house finch, in Albany.

There were so many birds in Paul and Elisa's back yard that even without my good telephoto lens I got enough pictures to keep Sunday bird blogging going well into the new year.

As long as you like finches. There were sparrows and towhees and chickadees, but mostly there were finches, dozens of them in the trees and hanging off the bird feeder next door, and unlike the chickadees, they stayed in one place long enough to be photographed.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Everything Saturday

Reflections, geometries, patterns of light: Rockefeller Center in the light of late afternoon, and I must be back in New York.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday bird blogging

It's back to New York tomorrow, so here's my farewell, one native Californian to another -- a scrub jay in the backyard in Albany. He looks so perfectly posed on that branch I don't even mind that as usual there were thirty lousy shots before I finally got a good one. Sometimes (most of the time?) the lousy shots are all you get.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Imagine what this looks like after a lot of wine

An old tree at the winery obligingly provides another Photography 101 subject.


I've come down with a huge, drippy mess of a cold, so when Paul and Elisa suggested a drive to Sonoma to see the autumn countryside I wasn't as enthusiastic as I might otherwise have been.

But as the pictures (taken at the Benziger winery in Glen Ellen) show, it was a beautiful day and no digital enhancements were required to make the scenery picture-postcard perfect. At the tasting room, I limited myself to white wine, thinking red was bad for a cold, and I intended to have only a few sips. But somehow, after the first three wines it seemed silly not to try the last two, and by the time we left I was feeling remarkably healthier.

Healthy enough to make red wine with dinner seem like a spectacular idea, anyway. And so it proved.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Angel pancakes*

My dear friend and gracious hostess Elisa Kleven read her latest children's book The Friendship Wish at Books Inc in Berkeley this afternoon.

It was great fun to see how enthralled the children were -- Elisa had some major fans in the audience -- especially when she passed around some examples of her original collages. They were so solemn and so respectful as they carefully, carefully, touched the pictures with their tiny fingers.

*My favorite of the earlier possible titles for the book. Who wouldn't want angel pancakes?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

You're just too good to be true, can't take my eyes off of you

Back in the Bay Area, in the home of Bella and her family in Albany.

Bella still believes that if she stares at a ball long enough, with sufficient intensity, someone is bound to pick it up and throw it for her. (Admittedly, experience has given her some basis for this belief.)

I've tried outstaring her, holding the ball and fixing it with my own version of the Time To Play Stare, but I blink first every time.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I shot a bird in Reno just to watch him fly

Bonus bird blogging, because I had to use that title. Here's a goldfinch, probably a lesser goldfinch, enjoying the cold mountain air of Reno, before fleeing at the sound of my shutter.

The wild west

I'm staying with friends in northern Reno, near Peavine Mountain. This subdivision is maybe 15 years old, and from the street it looks typically suburban.

Follow the street around and behind the houses, though, and suddenly you're in the raw high desert, with snow-dusted scrubbrush, dirt roads and an old culvert. No wonder the jackrabbits and coyotes still feel so at home here.

Monday, November 7, 2011


The darkness, the hush, the blank faces parked in front of the slot machines -- you know you're back in Nevada. And that's just the airport.

Words to live by

It's farewell to beautiful Half Moon Bay this morning, and I am grateful for this last reminder of what's really important in life.

French fries. And birds. And dinner with good friends around the table.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday bird blogging

A red-tailed hawk surveys the coast from the treetops.

(Thanks to Dru for pointing it out -- I was so busy looking at the blackbirds and sparrows at our feet I never even saw the huge hawk up in the tree.)

Coast walk

Pictures from a walk this afternoon, along the bluffs above the state beach. It rained last night, and the air smelled of salt and eucalyptus.

I've lived in New York for thirty years this month, but there's something about the smell of eucalyptus after a rain, and the way the fog lies in layers above the coast that still says, I'm home!


This is a little Photography 101, but I love the texture of this tree stump near the beach and, hell, it's my blog, and I can be lame if I want to.

Sand painting

The patterns carved by the waves into the sand make a beautiful abstract.

Sunday morning

I'm staying with old friends in Half Moon Bay, California, just down the coast from San Francisco.

A five minute walk from their house takes you from a typical coastal suburban street on a Sunday morning to the view below:

The waffles and fresh berries afterwards were almost overkill.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Collection: Fire Escapes

Two fire escapes in the French Quarter in New Orleans, at the top, and one from the Lower East Side in New York, right.

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