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Chicago from the air

Flew to Chicago in the evening, for a trip to Grand Rapids the next morning (to look at items for an international test of teacher knowledge), thence to Chapel Hill (for an advisory board meeting about what has been learned from the Math Science Partnerships). I sat in a window seat for a change. Sun was slanting across grey-green hills as we flew out of Tucson (green from recent rain to the Tucsonan’s eye, probably grey to anybody else’s). Later, as we got higher, there cumulus clouds that looked wispier on top than one expects from the classic pictures, perhaps because of the low evening sun, which caught a grizzled frizzy top of wisps and spikes, and the occasional long Confucian grey beard of rain falling down below. We passed over an area of what appeared to be drying salt lakes, all with crested ridges on the east side. As we were landing at Chicago I took this picture from window with my Treo. Maybe I’ll start taking the window seat more often.

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Devil’s claw

This is what happens to the fruit of the Devil’s Claw (and gives them their name). The marigolds continue to bloom, there’s a whole field of them hidden in a grove in the middle of the wash. Saw a humming-bird driving off the kestrel by charging at him. Also a Road-runner, the first time I’ve seen one in the wash (they are more common on the roads, funnily enough).

Yesterday I saw a hawk, and accipiter, but couldn’t tell whether it was a Cooper’s or a Sharp-shinned. It was soaring in the sun, glowing reddish-brown underneath, banded tail with white edge, finely barred wings, red head, short bursts of flight followed by gliding, wings about as long as its body.

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Desert marigold

The days are getting shorter and the mornings colder, but our late rains have caused the Desert Marigolds to bloom. The hackberry bushes have orange berries and the mesquite’s have lemon yellow bunches of pods. The leaves of the hackberry bushes are being attacked by a parasite that leaves them curled up, edges stuck together, to make a pouch with a white powder inside.

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Another wedding

This time it was Aaron and Amy’s wedding in Bodega Bay. Amy had been there all week, I flew in from Chicago after a CSMC Advisory Board meeting and drove up on Friday evening (nice sunset from the Golden Gate). We stayed in a big house on a golf course (from which it was forbidden to set foot off the back porch … strange to have a big backyard like that and not be able to enter it). Amy and I took a walk around the bay in the morning, and saw an Osprey perched on a harbour marker. The wedding was in a garden, beautifully done and much more expensive than any of our kids are getting. Amy and I danced the night away, but realized when we followed on to the after wedding party that dancing was all we wanted, not sitting around negotiating social arrangements that we figured out long ago. The kids were doing much more of that and much less of the dancing.   The stars were spectacular.

Nell has passed the initial disorienting exhilarating phase and suddenly realized she is in Paris, which is making her a little homesick but also, I suspect, giving her that feeling of being on the verge of a new existence which I remember so well from my early days in Cambridge. She triumphed over the leak in her apartment by getting the gardienne to talk to the guy upstairs.

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Two-tailed Swallowtail

Asterocampa leilia), which I think is the common orange butterfly I see around all the time. The two submarginal black spots and two solid brown discal bars are clearly visible in the photograph. Also some yellow butterflies, one of which seemed to have black wing edges, and a beautiful red dragonfly which posed for me in the sun.

Moss! Under a paloverde, with a low wild lettuce plant sprouting in its midst, and a neat cylindrical hole like a trapdoor’s without the door. The Cooper’s Paperflower is fading, and the Desert Broom is putting out tiny white flowers.

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Clouds on the Catalinas

The remnants of a hurricane swept through. The wash was running quite strongly last night, even down outside our house. The kestrel who has been here the last few weeks was sitting on a saguaro, rich and brown in the emerging sunlight. The hackberry bush berries are starting to change color, shades of orange creeping from the tip to the base over the green. Saw some very fresh looking ant nests, conical volcanoes with lots of activity. I guess they are rebuilding after the rain.

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A wedding

Alan (Amy’s nephew) and Dawn got married in Chicago, in the beautiful large backyard of the ground floor apartment they rent in a gentrifying area. Amy and I stayed in the charming and expensive Blake hotel, and spent Saturday morning strolling the Loop, looking at architecture and the wonderful new mirrored, walk-under bean in the park, which gives multiple reflections of the crowd around in a topologically very interesting way. Chicago is still a smoker’s town, and the young people at the wedding were charmingly raunchy. Amy had gone early to help out, and was familied out by the time we left. I went back to Tucson, she on to the next wedding in California.

Have had some wonderful conversations with Nell. She has made friends from Ireland, Nigeria, Columbia and Germany. Mostly speaks English, except when she goes with the Germans to an Irish pub (!?). Likes her new teachers, for French and Methods. The latter is a class where they learn, I think, the university equivalent of the underlining in colors they had to do in Bures. Has developed new phone skills as a result of having to deal with things like transferring the gas bill (where, after an hour of strange vocabulary words and giving every number she owned, the lady revealed she had spent two years in New Jersey and spoke fluent English). She’s worried that she’s using up all the good teachers now, in the Stage, and will have horrible ones when the year starts.

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Mud-covered twigs

Lots of mud tubes, each containing a twig. The mud is not stuck to the twig, rather it’s a genuine tube with twig inside. My best guess is termites.

Also found a feather, black with white scallops along the edges. Probably a Gila Woodpecker’s wing feather.

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Abby’s dinner table art

Abby constructed this while she and Amy and I sat around having a long conversation about her life and friends. Her friend Leah comes from a very competitive and not very supportive family, and Abby worries about her. She seems to have a new love interest, Benjie, from Vivace’s.

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50s girls

Mum sent me a CD of 1956’s greatest hits for my 50th birthday yesterday. We played it last night while were were cooking dinner, which caused Amy and the girls to don aprons and pose for this photo. We had prosciutto e melone, gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce (good ham and cheese from Roma Imports), and Elizabeth David’s coffee cake.

Amy had asked me earlier in the summer if I wanted a surprise party and I said no (what other possible answer is there, since if you say yes it won’t be a surprise?). But now I wish we had organized something like John’s big party. Oh well, we didn’t do anything for our 25th wedding anniversary either.

I called Nell this morning. She was sitting with Elliot waiting for her Etude Mel appointment. Charles de Gaulle was incredibly crowded, she said, but she got a taxi alright and made it to the hotel. The lady at Bures BNP was very nice, so so far thing had worked out well. We’ll see about the real estate agent.

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