Willa is broody. Deeply broody. She is absolutely convinced that Mother’s Day is going to arrive for her.
She refuses to leave the nest and has to be lofted out of the coop, pecking and shrieking, to coax her into going for food and water a few times a day. And while the other hens enjoy a luxuriant sun bath, all she can think about is getting back on that nest.
She’s got the other hens in a muddle, creating an ongoing gridlock in the nesting box. “Get her out of here!”, pleads Edith, who simply wants to lay an egg and be on her way.
I try to reason with her.
“Willa. Listen. Those golf balls you’re sitting on are never going to be the baby chicks you’re hoping for.”
“And even if you had a baby chick or two, let me tell you, motherhood is tough! It’s relentless. All you do is think about those chicks and feed them and follow them around and watch over them night and day! Just ask Bella – she’s been through it.”
Bella, watching from the other side of the coop, doesn’t comment, but I think she remembers. She’s probably still tired out from raising Willa and Edith.
“Willa”, I plead, “once you have babies it’s never about you again. You sacrifice everything for them. Every little morsel. Every bit of privacy. You’re worn down, bedraggled, plagued with anxiety…all you ever think about is them!
Willa, obdurate, plants herself even more firmly on her clutch of golf balls.
“It never gets easier, Willa. They grow up but you worry about them just as much. It’s endless – first thought in the morning and last prayer at night is always for them.”
Bella shoots me a look. I know what she’s thinking. Mother hens are absolutely devoted for the six weeks or so it takes a chick to mature to adolescence, but then – boom, they kick them right out of the nest. Done. Finished. It’s a concept that seems to elude humans.
“Yes, Bella, I know…if only I’d had you around when I was raising children I would have learned a thing or two from you. But it doesn’t really work that way in my world.”
Willa and Bella are silent but they continue to study me, waiting for my admission. They know.
Their unspoken question is this:
“All the work. All the worry.
All the ways that motherhood tries you and costs you and changes you…all of that…
and isn’t it the truth that you would do it all over again in a heartbeat?
Isn’t the truth that it’s the best job in the world?
Isn’t it the greatest joy of your life?”
Those hens are a lot smarter than they look.
All right. Okay. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. I am so lucky, so blessed to be a mom. It is, truly, the best job in the world and it is, truly, the greatest joy of my life.
Wishing a very Happy Mother’s Day to all the other chicks out there who feel the same way. Here’s to us!
Our friends Tammy and Tom, who do everything with charm and style, invited us over to see the fancy new coop Tom designed and built for Tammy. As I can tell you from personal experience, it’s truly true love when a man builds his wife a chicken coop.
Even with Lily crashing the party.
We offered to bring champagne, but no, they already had some on hand. What to do when you don’t want to show up empty-handed? Meal worms for the ladies of the coop!
There was serious appreciation of the new coop. You can tell the CE is impressed when he leans in like that.
This Buff Silkie beauty was in the nest box delivering an egg:
And this sweet Australorp was having a siesta in the shade.
I think the hens whispered to Tammy that salmon would be a better choice for brunch than chicken croquettes. And indeed it was. On top of everything else that Tammy does well, she is a chef extraordinaire:
And oh, how their garden grows!
It seemed that every inch of outdoor space was planted – snow peas on a trellis, potatoes happily growing in a box, tomatoes and thyme and a little bit of everything else. What a joyful place to be!
(There was just one thing missing…)
Lily tried her best to fill in as family dog but she’s really, really hoping there’s a puppy to play with sometime soon.
It was a magical afternoon in a storybook setting. Once again, I am convinced that chickens (and champagne!) make everything better.
The latest COVID quandary: when is it safe to travel?
After a year-plus of living like cave-dwellers, when is the right time to emerge, blinking and trepidatious, into what we used to call normal life?
The answer is different depending upon whether you’ve made a Faucian bargain or you’re a Berenson Bear (as in former NYT reporter Alex, whose COVID skepticism has been Big-Tech and Corporate Media suppressed to the point where you may not even have heard of him).
The CE has been solidly in the Berenson camp while I’ve wavered back and forth in a gray area somewhere between terror and rebellion. Yes, I am the reason we’ve had seventy-five pounds of rice stored in the garage since March of 2020. On the other hand, I also have moments of clarity when it occurs to me that we were wandering all over NYC for almost a month before the shutdown and didn’t get so much as a sniffle.
The truth is out there somewhere. Good luck finding it. For us, the combination of our double vaccination and cabin fever finally convinced us to get those dusty suitcases out of the closet and get on a plane for the first time in over a year, especially when we discovered that Southwest Airlines was initiating a direct flight from Santa Barbara to Las Vegas. Sweet!
What we didn’t realize was that we were actually booked on the inaugural flight! Celebration party scene at the airport and zero social distancing. Leave your cave and you take your chances:
Las Vegas airport was quiet when we arrived on a Monday afternoon. No wait for a taxi. No wait at the Wynn Tower check-in lobby. Easy room upgrade. Sat right down for a late lunch at our favorite Wynn restaurant, Tableau.
The menu was a miniature of the usual, but who could complain when one of the choices was a sumptuous lobster salad?
We discovered that some of our favorite restaurants are currently only open on the weekends, but things were starting to open up even as we arrived: we were able to book at Bouchon that night, their first Monday opening since who knows when. Steak frites is only half as sinful when you share it:
And thus, after a year of mostly eating take-out, began the restaurant parade. Lunch next day was at the Encore’s outpost of NYC darling Cipriani. You can’t go wrong with a beverage line-up of Pinot Grigio, espresso and club soda:
Or with Cipriani’s famed meringue cake, which we are used to savoring while seated on the rail overlooking Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall at Cipriani Dolci. Made us homesick for NYC!
In the past we’ve avoided the Wynn’s Lakeside restaurant due to exorbitant prices and poor service. But they were open while Sinatra, our Italian standby, was not, and we were pleasantly surprised by a truly fine dinner with excellent service. Yes, the prices are still steep, but how can you pass up a cocktail that is called the Lake of Dreams…
Alaskan halibut with nicoise vegetables and artichoke sauce. Yum.
We had another wonderful dinner at the Wynn’s lakeside Mizumi:
And a lunch at the newly opened Milos at the Venetian – just like our beloved Milos in Hudson Yards. You just have to imagine the view of the river…
Love their lunch prix fixe – best Greek salad!
There were a few service hiccups, mostly having to do with staff shortages at the restaurants. We were told that many employees are opting to stay home because collecting COVID grants and unemployment is easier than going to work. Same story with cab drivers. Your federal tax dollars at work…
But those who are working are cheerful and trying hard. The atmosphere was buoyant and hopeful – dare I say – almost normal!
We settled into our usual Vegas trip pattern, albeit with masks. We’ve largely avoided dealing with them by rarely leaving the house, so it was an adjustment. For the CE, masking up to play Texas Hold Em gave a whole new meaning to the term poker face.
The Wynn’s spacious hallways and mostly sedate clientele made the masks seem a bit superfluous, but them’s the rules and there were extremely polite employees stationed throughout the hotel to remind the forgetful to mask up. There were hand sanitizer stations peppered throughout the hotel so no worries should you experience the horror of touching a door handle or stair rail. Other than not being able to breathe, we experienced zero concern on the Wynn and Venetian properties, or on a brief jaunt across the street to the Fashion Plate mall. Well, there was one moment of concern when I pointed to this and looked pleadingly at the CE:
Lucky for him that Louis Vuitton was limiting visitors in its boutique and I wasn’t inclined to stand in line. Who says COVID rules are all bad?
It wasn’t until our final evening that we ventured out onto the Strip and found an entirely different scene. Basically a mob scene. Vegas is apparently re-opening in a very big way and there were A LOT of people, many of them who seemed to be visiting for the first time and were determined to let everyone know it. Many who may or may not have concerned themselves with bathing before they arrived. And, sadly, some sprawled along the sidewalk lost in a trance of meth or alcohol or despair. I generally hold to the belief that you can’t contract COVID outdoors. But in that crush of heat and humanity, I put my mask on. Hey, I wasn’t the only one…
The walk may have been questionable but it’s never the wrong decision to sit down to a steak frites followed by a dessert of chocolate mousse at Mon Ami Gabi and watch the Bellagio fountain show. A perfect last evening in Vegas…
We even caught the volcano eruption as we walked back past the Mirage.
We had a wonderful week. Vegas is back and everything’s coming up…daisies.
We’re safely home now, giving the trip an A++ and pretty sure that we’re never going back into cave-dwelling mode.
It’s just when you’re gliding along, minding your own business that everything goes wrong. All those insomniac nights, wide awake, worrying about every little thing – that stuff never happens. It’s the moment when all seems placid, contentment within easy reach – and then -boom!
Oh, we’ve got tolerance for a little upheaval. Like the week before last when we got the news that our orchard had developed a death wish, some kind of pestilence that was moving inexorably from tree to tree. It started, apparently and predictably, with the apple tree. It’s always the apple tree. So now, here we are:
But we had no idea how completely we were to be cast out of the garden of Eden for our transgression of sinking into “merrily, merrily merrily life is but a dream” mode. There we were, standing on the back patio, having just made peace with the orchard debacle, professing our charitable acceptance of the little disruptions in the greater scheme and being rather proud of ourselves for our equanimity. Just another little bump in the road, right?
Going back thirty plus years ago, our son Taylor’s first complete sentence so captivated us that it became part of the canon of our family lexicon, pulled out from time to time for our amusement. “The water it-a goes-a down the drain,” Taylor had sagely observed. We applauded extravagantly (and basically sat back at that point to await the eventual presentation of the Nobel prize for something, anything, everything to this brilliant scion of our clan.)
That was the sentence that came to me as we were standing on our patio and suddenly became aware that we were standing in water, the daintiest little ladyfinger of water, that was definitively not a-going-a down-a the drain. In fact, not only was it sitting there like so much spilled milk, it was actually coming up. Up from below. From between the seams of the carefully designed and expensively constructed sections of concrete.
The CE grew very pale.
And hence began a rather long and not very happy week, starring a valiant team of landscape workers digging here,
and digging there,
and digging pretty much everywhere in hopes of finding the leak. Any and all effort would be expended in order that the unspeakable word not be uttered – the word that, in fact, must not be breathed, the word that could not even be forming in the back of one’s mind. That word, a pox upon humanity: jackhammer!
While the CE was out there, up to his elbows in mud, I was envisioning an opportunity. I’ve long harbored a vision of a tidy little expansion of our back courtyard, one featuring wisteria-festooned pergolas and a lavish outdoor fireplace. One that would mean instead of shivering, wrapped in blankets as the marine air turns dining al fresco into dining al freeze-o, we could have a more civilized experience, one that, you know, included heaters.
I made the colossal mistake of thinking this was the right moment to share this vision with that muddy-elbowed man. And, while his bark is infinitely worse than his bite, this week he was growling and barking like mastiff.
It didn’t go over well. It turns out that when a man is experiencing intense anxiety tinged with a dollop of despair, he does not want to turn his thoughts to home improvement projects.
Did I mention that it was a very long week?
On and on it went. Like the drunk searching for his keys under the streetlight, our diggers dug up every inch of exposed soil as the inevitable reality slowly descended: this leak was hiding dark and deep beneath that cavernous expanse of concrete. Since the J word could not be uttered, they turned to the only slightly less traumatic T word, and the tunneling commenced.
I think our resident legion of gophers would be very proud of what was accomplished here. Basically, the CE and a small (but alarmingly ever-growing) army of workers, performed a root canal on our patio. And, like every other root canal, once finished there is very little to show for it but the dim memory of sharp pain and a distinct contraction in one’s bank account.
But they found the leak!
And not a jackhammer in sight!
I was slightly disappointed that China did not come into view given the depth and breadth of that tunnel, but grateful to have my husband back, minus the barking, albeit with a much thinner wallet. Dollar bills went flying into that tunnel project faster than Jerome Powell can print them.
Having been jolted out of our year-long idyll, our “we could just stay home forever” mode has turned rather abruptly to “we gotta get out of here”. We’re packing our bags for Vegas, baby, in hopes that all that dirt magically puts itself neatly back into place by the time we return.
We used to live in and out of our suitcases. But after a year of almost continuous lockdown, a road trip seemed almost daunting. How could we leave the animals? Who can remember how to pack, what to pack, besides masks, masks, masks. Easier to stay home. But we hadn’t seen Tina, John, the girls and Ace since they visited last fall. Time to just get in the car and go. After all, how hard could it be?
Answer: a teensy bit harder than we expected. Tough to get very far when your car is on a tow truck.
The bad news: the dashboard display lit up like a pinball machine with every bright red warning sign imaginable. STOP VEHICLE IMMEDIATELY seemed to be a message we shouldn’t ignore. Also hard to ignore the smoke pouring out from under the hood.
The good news: we were only ten miles down the road from home when it happened. I caught an Uber ride back home to get the other car while the CE took a peek at the situation and called the tow truck. “There’s oil spraying out of a hose onto the engine”, he said, mystified as to how a completely reliable car could have suddenly begun spewing smoke.
I have my theories, foremost among them being sabotage. There are certain individuals who did NOT want us to leave home. And they look guilty as all get out. Never mind that they’ve never set foot in the garage. We all know that cats can simply engage mind control mode and their every whim is granted.
But an hour later we were back on the road. Good news: evil cat plot thwarted. Bad news: we were just in time to catch Friday traffic.
I don’t even know what “tier” So Cal is in these days but it appears no one is staying at home anymore. All in all, it took us six hours to get to Newport. But the welcome made it all worth it!
So, so great to see Tina and John, the three most beautiful girls in the world, and, of course, Wonder Dog Ace:
And no, still no idea what’s wrong with the car but hey, lockdowns, schlockdowns, they’re (hopefully) in the rear view mirror along with that tow truck. It’s a beautiful day in Newport Beach and we are ready to play!
I am probably the wrong person to go on a rant about anything approaching fashion. Disclaimers abound:
For instance, these, for the past year, are what I would call my going-to-work shoes:
And – true confessions here – these are what I would call my dress shoes:
Truest confession: I have worn the same sweater pretty much every day, all day long and all night long for going on a month now. Cringe-worthy, I know. But it’s been COLD here. And I’ve discovered that alpaca is actually cozier than cashmere. And the CE hasn’t actually complained (raised eyebrows don’t count, right?)
Now that we’re vaxxed and ready to roll out the roller bags, it occurred to me that it’s time to up my fashion game ever so slightly. My motivation tends to lag, because I can actually get away with quite a bit. It’s easy to look like the best-dressed one when the CE, who, for decades before the pandemic was even a gleam in Dr. Fauci’s eye, has been famous for his penchant of wearing what we all affectionately call “clown pants” The word “baggy” just does not begin to describe his favored fit.
I guess that when you’re just that handsome
you can get away with anything.
Seriously, if you saw those pants of his from the back, you would instantly forgive my 24/7 sweater.
Anyway, I was about to turn over a new leaf and dig into my closet at least to find a different sweater.
I opened up The Wall Street Journal and was assaulted by their take on post-pandemic fashion.
This, they say, is where we’re headed:
We’ve somehow endured a year of sustained low-key terror and misery, washing down our groceries, donning layers and layers of masks, squinting from twenty feet to say hello to people you can’t recognize because you’re near-sighted and they’re swathed like a mummy, and the reward for all this?
You discover that Ralph Lauren is now taking fashion cues from my husband.
Dear God, please bring back the lockdown. Permanently. I just want to put on my sweater and hide.
Welp. It’s that time again. Someone, somehow, between the wee hours of tonight and tomorrow morning, creeps in and steals an hour from us. I don’t know why a measly hour bothers me after losing an entire year, but I’m already mourning its loss.
I would have known, without the reminder, that spring is sprung. Yes, it’s wintry outside. But the hens always know the score and they’ve announced that winter is over. Last summer’s molt and the short winter days are forgotten and the girls are busy.
Yesterday they spent the better part of what will soon be a lost hour poking around for the most delectable post-rain menu of bugs and worms. Time spent well and wisely, and much to show for it:
What do I have to show for that hour, or, for that matter, the cavernous, quiet year that went before? Hmmmm, maybe better not to think about that. Let’s say it was sort of like a very long molt followed by some short winter days. Let’s call it…resting. It seems to have worked for the hens.
The time change is a good reminder that we have an hour less and it’s time to make more of each and every one. Maybe even start thinking about flying the coop? Spring forward, indeed!
Setting my clock – and myself – forward – there’s a new season upon us!
Finally, something to celebrate! Happy birthday, Lily, my love!
How would we have made it through this past year without this beautiful girl? Thank goodness dogs don’t wear masks because there have been many days when that pretty face is the only thing that buoyed us from lockdown to lockdown.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that we went to pick out our puppy. How to choose? We just knew we wanted the one that would cuddle up, follow us around and lay quietly at our feet.
That, um, is not the one we got.
We got the one that will follow bunnies, follow lizards, follow seagulls, follow gophers right down their holes and end up with a snoot full of dirt and follow treats to the end of the earth. But follow us? Meh…not so much.
And good luck following her…
Somehow, the tables got turned with Miss Lily. We’re the ones obediently trained to serve her and that’s just how she likes it.
She brings us joy every single day and wow, what a gift that has been this past year.
She is nothing we expected and everything we needed.
Today (kind of like every other day) is all about her.
Maybe, just maybe, next year there will be a Lily party.