I’m usually proud of my false humility but I won’t engage it here. Some of you may remember how two winters ago I invoked a pantheon of rain gods, trying to spur them into action. Nothing but dribbles. But this winter, abundance. It seems that the gods have a backlog of prayers to answer so there was yearlong delay before they got to mine and were seduced. I take credit for our clean streets and green hills. To those flooded, my sympathies. Talk to my lawyer.

Meanwhile, back in my red-as-the-South home state of Kansas, prairie fires rage. The winds whip the flames from county to county, down into Texas. They need rain bad. I’m available for hire. I promise not to offend sensibilities. I’ll call it climate weirdness.


conducted in less than an hour while tending a sidewalk garden on Precita Street

number of passersby –18

number of those under 40 with ears unplugged –1

number of those who said good morning –4

number who did so without a prompt– 1

approx. percentage of passersby with dogs –70 %

approx. percentage of those with big, strapping dogs –40 %

number of unpleasant surprises related to above found in planting –1

number of the ways I am relieved –countless

number of delivery trucks that arrived –5

number of which were UPS –3

percentage of which double-parked even if there was a space –100 %

number of available parking spaces –1 for three minutes

number of toddlers –3

percentage of toddlers suspicious of muddy gardener –100 %

percentage of toddlers justifiably suspicious –indeterminate


When Jennifer was eleven in boarding school, she and an older girl were very affectionate with each other. The made a booklet they called their kiss catalogue: there was the Butterfly (done with the eye lash) the Airplane (landing and takeoff) the Eskimo (nose to nose.) The school burned down, and the catalogue was alas, lost to history. Who knows what other varieties were listed. The Snail. The Sponge. The Spelunker.


San Francisco public libraries. I bow to the many who created our libraries with all their services and all their beauty. I venerate the tree that produces so much ripe fruit. Every little branch is great.

The Mission branch is as dear as a family member. I order books, they appear on the shelf by the door. Check-out is a breeze. I always remember my PIN.

Books. I palm their heft. Mine for three weeks. The library sends you an electronic notice just before they’re due. Isn’t that thoughtful? And when they are overdue, the fine is what, 10 cents a day?

I dive into books by people I never heard of. They are free to be masterpieces. They are free to be duds. I look at picture books of Elizabeth Taylor. I nibble on Kafka’s Collected Works and take a lick of Proust. I get a 6-CD set of Pema Chodron that I listen to in my truck as I’m driving so I don’t call other drivers dumb #*!#heads. At least not as often.

Beneficent library, acme of civilization, I hope you know how much you are appreciated.


A side trip…



Now I understand the dog that attacked my rake. I had no idea my rake was so noisy, its tines a tinny tintinnabulation. Geez even the leaves I am raking are noisy. This is going to change my whole relationship to pruning.

My second day with hearing aids. I got them so that you, dear reader, will not have to honk down my ear canal in order to be heard. What’s that you say? Right, that I’ll get used to them, that the clever old brain will adjust and I’ll stop hearing what sounds like a hailstorm of ball bearings. What about the jackhammer or that big truck tweeting ear-piercing back-up farts? Will I stop hearing them too? Really? From your lips to God’s good ear.


This morning I was raking ginkgo leaves when the heavens, a gray lid leaking a deceptively dry rain, opened and an angel sashayed forth in quite a bit of splendor. The angel, in a unisex leotard, alit on the branch of the rubber tree and bent down. I was, quite humanly, all astonishment but the angel beckoned so I approached. Like a magician’s trick, a gold medal appeared in the angel’s hand. Inscribed on the medal was the letter Q. “This is for you,” the angel said handing it over. Before I could admit my confusion, the angel said, “We in the celestial ranks acknowledge that you have just raked your quintillionth leaf.”

this was it

this was it

I don’t believe you, I hear you, good reader, protest. Show me the medal. Like Joseph Smith and his golden tablets, I’m afraid I can’t. Somehow it must have gotten swept up with the leaves into the recycling bin; same size, same color. I am naturally distraught, though I assure you I had no intention of starting a new religion or taking up polygamy. But not all is for naught. I have been gifted with the knowledge that in a world on fire, there are worse things to do than raking damp leaves on a drippy day, especially if you get occasional recognition for your persistence.