Did you know most seaweed is edible? And that it’s a natural thickener? And a source of protein? And MSG? AND that seaweed isn’t even a plant, but algae? Interesting stuff, I tell you.
There’s no arguing that 2016 was a terrible year for the nation as a whole, so I feel almost guilty saying that it was a great year for me personally. Almost every month was full of exciting, fun, or interesting events, and the year felt very full and rich for us.
I mean, 2016 was the year I went up in a hot air balloon. How can I think it was all that bad?
Work went well this year. I attended two artist residencies, completed a draft of a new novel, studied with Paul Harding, was a finalist in a novel contest, spoke on the radio in Ireland and Australia, and published some of my best work so far. Here are my favorite publications from 2016:
- Stealing Books in the Age of Self-Publishing in The Atlantic
- The Forgotten Dust Bowl Novel That Rivaled “The Grapes of Wrath” in The Smithsonian.
- Drought in Tin House’s Open Bar (reprinted in The Guardian).
- In Michael Chabon’s ‘Moonglow,’ Deathbed Confessions Enhance a Life on KQED.
- Church, Abortion and Family Converge in Debut Novel ‘The Mothers’ in KQED.
- How Reality TV Made Donald Trump President in Vice.
We traveled a lot this year. We took a 3,000-mile RV trip to Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, and Vancouver. Kyle spoke at a computer security conference in Amsterdam, and I took smaller trips to LA, Humboldt County, and Monterey. I also went to Cuttyhunk Island Writer’s Residency and to Wildacres in North Carolina, which was a wonderful experience.
Blue Ridge Mountains
Is it just me, or are double rainbows becoming more common? I saw at least 10 this year. The best was a full double rainbow that ended in a Montana lake. I’m not sure why this is happening, but I like it.
I spent a lot of time in nature this year, in the redwoods and the Blue Ridge Mountains, on boats and islands, beside glaciers, in national parks, and near my home in Sonoma County. As such, I had many close encounters with wildlife. I saw a bear, buffalo, elk, big-horned sheep, a bald eagle, two tiny screech owls, a weird spider, deer, chipmunk, and many other creatures.
Look! A Baby Buffalo!
In 2016, Kyle and I worked at home full time and Gideon attended preschool. He’s starting to read and write. We remodeled our kitchen and added two more chickens to our flock, bringing it to a total of four. I got pretty good at baking bread, but of course my husband one-upped me and made croissants. I went mushroom foraging too, although I’m pretty terrible at it. (Don’t worry, I won’t poison myself.)
As usual, I planted a big garden. I discovered that ground cherries are prolific and delicious and that glass gem corn is disappointing, but makes good popcorn. My mulberry tree continue to be the most delightful plant ever. I killed thousands of box elder bugs—no exaggeration—and they still ate all my nectarines, and a raccoon or fox or skunk ate most of my figs.
Next year, I’m going to be more protective of my fruit.
There you go. A New Year’s resolution.
We have successfully remodeled our kitchen.
This is something we’ve wanted to do for nine years, since moving into this house in 2007.
Here’s what the kitchen used to look like:
As you can see, the kitchen that came with the house was probably 50 years old. It was dingy and needed to go.
I mentioned in this post how difficult it is to tear out your kitchen and put another one in. At one point, the kitchen looked like this.
We had people install the cabinets and counters, but we did everything else, including painting, plumbing, electricity, and tiling the backsplash behind the stove.
One day in an antique store we ran into a vintage tile mural of Don Quixote fighting a windmill. It was hand-painted from Spain. I knew right away I wanted it for behind the stove.
Now the house is 90% remodeled.
Nine. Years. Later.
Over at the Superstition Review, check out my essay On Sondheim and Whether Lyrics Are Poetry.
I wrote about why I don’t think Bob Dylan should have won a Nobel Prize in Literature, using Sondheim–another great storyteller through lyrics and music–as an example. An excerpt:
When people equate lyric writing with poetry, they’re often trying to express how meaningful they found a song. The word “poetry” is associated with depth, so to call something poetic is to say it’s beautiful, eloquent, or profound. Thus, songwriters who are adept at language are called poets despite the fact that they aren’t actually writing poetry.
But to say that lyrics and poetry are the same is to discount the role music plays in a song. Song lyrics, no matter how lovely, are meant to work with music. When you separate one from the other, you’re getting only part of a whole. On the other hand, a poem, as poet Paul Muldoon said, “brings its own music with it.”
Here’s more from our trip to Yellowstone National Park. See Part 1 Here.
Yellowstone is the Earth’s largest active geyser field.
We’ve all heard of Old Faithful Geyser, but it is one of hundreds of geysers in Yellowstone. There are so many that the landscape steams with them.
It rained for part of our trip, so many of my geyser pictures didn’t turn out, but they are quite a sight. Some look like the mouth of a dragon. Some look like bubbling mud puddles. Some shoot water hundreds of feet into the air.
My favorite was the Grand Prismatic Spring. Here’s a picture of it from the air:
Because of the fall weather, we didn’t see that version of Grand Prismatic Spring, but what we did see was fascinating. The colors in the spring are caused by heat-loving bacteria. As such, each area is a different color and pattern, often reminding me of stained glass.
I have to stop myself from posting more pictures. I mean, the mud looked like this.
I would definitely go back to Yellowstone. We barely scratched the surface of what there is to see there.
Ominous witch cloud bringing the rain.
In October, Kyle, Gideon, and I went on an RV trip. We rented a Cruise America RV and drove over 3,000 miles through Nevada, Idaho, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Glacier National Park in Montana, Seattle, Vancouver BC, and Portland, Oregon. Here’s the route:
The RV looked like this:
We covered a lot of the country, but the highlight of the trip was Yellowstone.
For one thing, the park has the best wildlife viewing I’ve ever experienced. On this trip, we saw buffalo, elk, coyotes, antelopes, deer, chipmunks, bald eagles, and big horn sheep. Most of these were in Yellowstone.
At one point, a huge herd of buffalo crossed the road right in front of us. The bulls sounded like bears growling.
Speaking of bears, there were signs of them everywhere. For example, these claw marks:
Yellowstone has a varied landscape that includes forests, waterfalls, plains, a huge lake, and even its own Grand Canyon.
Because of all the volcanic activity, the earth was all kinds of cool colors, red, pink, yellow, orange.
The fall foliage was colorful too.
And of course there were the geysers. PART 2 HERE.
I have an essay on Parent.co today! It’s about 3D printing, something I talk about a lot on here. In particular, it’s about 3D printing toys for our son Gideon. Right now, we’re printing him stocking stuffers for Christmas.
Here’s more about that: Read The Joy and Frustration of 3D Printing Your Kids’ Toys