Old Ladies Bearing Mint Lemonade, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:12am


It was beautiful in San Francisco yesterday. Felt like the temperatures were somewhere in the low 70s, and the wind came round street corners chipper and brisk. Sky the usual crayon blue.

I’ve been up here for a few days. This morning, I’ll drive back down to my house on what we call around here, “the Peninsula,” meaning the southern side of the San Francisco Bay. I’m hoping to see a small reddening of tomatoes in my front yard. Clearly that should be the word for multiple tomatoes, a “reddening.”

Much of the middle, south, and eastern parts of the US are hot right now. Very hot. Too hot. First of all, I feel for you out there and hope the heat breaks soon. Second, and with sorrow, I think of the weather and the world. As I understand it, the climate change scientists believe these extremes are caused by our behavior.

Of course, here in Northern California, the ocean sends a marine layer to cool down our nights, and the skies stay blue and dry even on hot days. Life is good, I may have a small red tomato in my front yard. Furthermore, Sturdy Gals don’t do apocalypse. We are genetically cheerful, the type to peep out after the tornado and say, “Oh, great, I wanted to remodel the kitchen anyway!”

High-tech Sturdy Gals have particular faith that geniuses can solve all kinds of problems, and we’re pleased by the multitudes of venture capitalists investing in “Green Technology.”

But it would be nice, please, to get started sooner rather than later. We could allow the world to recover. I think it’s possible, she’s a fairly Sturdy Gal herself. I always think of a large paved freeway culvert, down by the bay and its surrounding marshes. Every year silt accumulates on the bottom, over the rainy months, until finally, one day, you drive by on the way to work and the bay has recovered territory. Marsh grasses grow in banks, and a white egret stands on one leg. The flow of water develops ripples as gravel and dirt cover the fixed cement surfaces.

I find political and economical systems so complex I have no hope of deconstructing them into meaning. I cannot extract enough detail to argue. But simply, since we’re talking the ocean, since we’re talking tomatoes, one should take the small possible steps.

I can’t give up paper towels, or Ziploc bags. I am afraid of thrift stores and have friends and family in places I can only reach by plane. Which may explain why I expect to bring home a bicycle in the near future. And complete the transition to chipper old gardening lady, baskets full of organic whatevers, trousers clipped to ankles. Old women to the rescue. Bringing mint lemonade from Braising Hell.

For those new to this blog, Saturday mornings I write whatever comes to mind between early rising and noon. While the content will vary, the attitude is unlikely to change.

42 Comments

  • 07/23/11
    9:33 am

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    valentine said...

    I always enjoy your Sturdy Gal descriptions. Mother Nature herself…very hopeful.

  • 07/23/11
    9:38 am

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    Marcela said...

    I also believe in the power of small changes. I want an eco-house one day, when I have the money to build one: triple glazing, toilets with flush-systems that save water, solar panels, and all. Until then, we use low consumption light-bulbs, turn off the power when appliances are not in use, use a combination of paper towels and cloth ones and recycle. And we hope this can help…

  • 07/23/11
    9:57 am

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    Mardel said...

    I wish we had that cool breeze now, but I am sturdy enough to weather the heat. I like to think that Mother Nature is a sturdy gal herself. Very hopeful indeed.

  • 07/23/11
    10:14 am

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    Belle de Ville said...

    We are extraordinarily lucky to have that marine layer that cools everything off. I usually complain that it is too cold here, but with the broiling heat back east I can accept our below normal temperatures this July.

    As for Mother Nature, I noticed last week in Zihautanejo Mexico that no matter how much building had occured, the jungle of trees and vines just kept growing and overtaking the developed areas. Mother Nature was taking back her own.

  • 07/23/11
    10:15 am

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    hostessofthehumblebungalow said...

    I admire and aspire to having a cheerful disposition. I think that optimism is the attitude that inspires us all to be better.

    What type of bicycle are you planning to buy?
    Do you have helmet laws where you live?

    I would love to ride but I distinctly despise those awful helmets. I would love a reinforced straw hat instead!

    Please show us those juicy red tomatoes!

  • 07/23/11
    10:19 am

    Reply

    Jill said...

    A “reddening” has not happened here. The damn drought and the poor squirrels and birds trying to get some sort of nourishment. I can’t get too angry, but I really miss my tomatoes this year.

  • 07/23/11
    10:46 am

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    Loretta said...

    I love your image of the earth as a Sturdy Gal. I shall keep that in mind.

  • 07/23/11
    10:46 am

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    Town and Country Mom said...

    I loved this. Here in South Carolina the high was around 82 last Saturday (or maybe the one before), but now we’re back to 100+. Like you, I’m trying to do lots of little things, although I can’t give up my paper towels or ziploc bags either. I’m afraid my biggest contribution is resisting the urge to stockpile incandescent light bulbs.

  • 07/23/11
    12:03 pm

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    BarbaraG said...

    Hooray for consistent attitudinal literary expression.
    LOL
    BarbaraG

  • 07/23/11
    12:04 pm

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    materfamilias said...

    Never got into the paper towel habit, but have gradually grown to appreciate the convenience of plastic wrap and ziploc bags in the kitchen, used sparingly and always with a twinge of knowing-better. I do believe in the power of the incremental and hope heartily that if we put your organic growing and bike-riding together with my paper-towel-eschewing and flying-carry-on-only(and yes, truly, I suppose I shouldn’t be flying at all, but that’s an argument for another day), we will make a difference. We make individual choices about our contributions to the environmental cause and inspire each other on. Thanks for the post.

  • 07/23/11
    12:12 pm

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    une femme said...

    I like your image of Earth as a Sturdy Gal. Yes, I do believe she is.

    And your image of the bicycling, gardening woman. Huzzah for tomatoes.

  • 07/23/11
    12:22 pm

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    Mary anne said...

    My mother used to wash her ziploc bags to reuse them. Of course, as a teenager I was both amused and mortified simultaneously. She was a Sturdy Gal of the finest order.

    07/23/11
    7:37 pm
    Priscilla said...

    doesn’t EVERYbody do that with ziploc bags?! (and something comparable with giftwrap?)

  • 07/23/11
    12:31 pm

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    Mardel said...

    I forgot to say that I pulled my ancient bike (circa 1980) out of the basement and have taken it off to be cleaned and restored so that it can go with me to our new home. I am seriously looking forward to riding it again.

  • 07/23/11
    5:14 pm

    Reply

    kathy peck leeds said...

    I’m always sort of amazed how often blog posts seem connected to one another. There’s a very interesting and informative post on “No Signposts in the Sea” with some suggestions in the form of clothing and how we care for it, to help in some small way. I thought I was doing so well that I had given up paper towels – however, it seems that the washing and drying of the cloth towels may do more harm? So much conflicting information, and so much to try to digest and sort out.

  • 07/23/11
    5:16 pm

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    Laura said...

    The earth has enormous capacity for renewal–to wit, an article I read in Scientific American about little protean things six miles down in the ocean rising to chomp on oil from our latest spill, changing that oil into…whatever. But whatever it was, it was something reconstructed and benign. I find this so incredibly heartening. Which is absolutely no excuse not to tread lightly, just a little something positive for when thinking about what our grandchildren will inherit.

  • 07/23/11
    6:08 pm

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    Madeline said...

    Loved this post! Lets do hope that the old gal, mother earth is indeed a sturdy gal. I love you image of old gardening lady to the rescue-that’s what I’m aiming for too!

  • 07/23/11
    6:10 pm

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    Madeline said...

    Forgot a comma and an “r”. Guess that’s me, channeling that old gardening lady, who may or may not be a bit forgetful.

  • 07/23/11
    7:35 pm

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    RS said...

    WHY “fear of thrift stores?” It’s true, the more obviously one has a vingtage of one’s own, the more cautious one should be about vintage wear. [18-year-olds may lack the time sense required to realize that I, at 49, cannot have been wearing this poodle skirt since the 1950s. They just think I don’t get out much any more…) Still, especially where you live, people throw out good stuff ALL the time…

  • 07/23/11
    7:35 pm

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    craftosaurus said...

    Afraid of thrift stores? Oh, but they are one of life’s great joys, full of possibilities. I encourage you to be brave.

  • 07/23/11
    11:14 pm

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    metscan said...

    Why are you afraid of thrift shops?
    The zipped plastic bags ( at least over here ) are much more expensive than the ones, which can be ripped from the roll. I use them and tie a knot on the end : ).

  • 07/23/11
    11:52 pm

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    Jessica said...

    I’m thankful for the mild weather we’ve been having lately too, I’ll take 68* over 105* any day. Feel so sorry for all those suffering in the crazy heat.
    The climate has been changing since the beginning of time and always will, but doing the best we can to take care of and steward this amazing and beautiful planet of ours is always a good thing….those ‘small steps’ are so very important.
    Happy weekend and happy tomato growing…
    xo J~

  • 07/24/11
    1:06 am

    Reply

    Shelley said...

    I used my paper towels very sparingly, only with greasy foods. Otherwise linen or towling tea towels do the job just fine. What’s hard about that? I use ziplock bags constantly…and repeatedly until they have holes or no longer zip. We recycle, thrift, cycle, walk, garden, compost, whatever we can to be frugal and environmentally friendly. I agree the Earth is sturdy. I also think that all living things die eventually and that Earth is one of those. How soon, who knows? Probably not in our life time. I don’t think I can save the Earth, I can only use it carefully in ways that work for me and my pocketbook. In our weather, I have to remind myself that it is not good for growing tomatoes (I keep trying all the same); however it is good weather for running. So I should do more of that. Enjoy your bicycle.

  • 07/24/11
    3:50 am

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    Cate Subrosa said...

    I gave up paper towels, and manage fine with cloths and tea towels. Don’t even miss them now, in fact. Except on the rare occasion I buy a pack (for draining a rare treat of fried chicken, mmm, I should make some more of that…), when I miss them briefly when they run out. Ziploc bags, I try to avoid, not being conscientious enough to wash them out as often as I should, binning them instead, feeling guilty.

    But flying… I’m too selfish to give that up. Not that we do it much, but that which we do is probably enough to cancel out all my diligent recycling, composting, cycling, and use of paper towels.

    Sooner or later economics will *have* to step in, they’ll *have* to make the bag things prohibitively expensive. It’s the only solution, surely. We’re all too selfish, deep down.

  • 07/24/11
    4:29 am

    Reply

    Sarah (Semi Expat) said...

    I also like your image of the Earth as a sturdy girl and enjoy your Saturday morning ‘talks’…. Hope your tomotoes were a gentle shade of blush (or darker)….x

  • 07/24/11
    4:30 am

    Reply

    Sarah (Semi Expat) said...

    or, even your tomatoes!! X

  • 07/24/11
    4:30 am

    Reply

    Ruth Johnston said...

    I loved this post.. it has an old fashioned feeling of summer days and nice people I mean that in the nicest possible way.. it made me feel good xx Enjoy your bike xx

  • 07/24/11
    5:22 am

    Reply

    Ida said...

    Think Summer might have arrived in the UK…18c today!! followed by a chilly breeze…this small Island is at the mercy of weather from around the world!!

    Lots of items seem to be packaged in ziplocks…wonder if they help push the price up…do not care for them never use them.

    Home grown toms yummy cannot beat the flavour. Ida

  • 07/24/11
    8:19 am

    Reply

    Englishvers said...

    Why are you less keen on thrift shops?
    In Europe they are charming little things where one can find fanciable facies. The weather is very capricious here in Paris – rather autumnal than summer.

  • 07/24/11
    9:29 am

    Reply

    Susan Tiner said...

    We rode the full length of the Sawyer Camp Trail and back Friday morning — 6 miles each way — and I thought of you. If you do get your bicycle I think you would enjoy this ride. There’s only one .5 mile hard part near the Millbrae end and it’s really not bad in first gear. I have a car bike rack and could pick you up.

    “I find political and economical systems so complex I have no hope of deconstructing them into meaning. I cannot extract enough detail to argue.” That is exactly how I feel. I tend to just listen when friends and family discuss politics.

    As for the environment, I’m doing my part by almost never going anywhere. My car sits in the driveway, sometimes for days on end.

  • 07/24/11
    1:55 pm

    Reply

    Duchesse said...

    Mother Nature is Sturdy, but like all gals, she ages- and when people don’t treat her nicely, she cannot recover as she once did. I respect and like your optimism; at the same time, things are not getting better, environmentally. The Sturdy Old Gal needs good help- on a large scale.

  • 07/24/11
    7:38 pm

    Reply

    Northmoon said...

    The world had a total population of 3 billion people in 1960, 6 billion in 2000 and we are on our way to add another billion very soon. Most of our economy and our government are based on the idea of growth – always more, always bigger, sell more widgets, make more profit, increase the GDP every year. A different mindset is required.

    It is good to see that your blog is at least awknowledging that the source of this heat wave is manmade. Small steps such as air drying my clothes, riding public transit and not ignoring the problem are things I can do. But I worry about the future of the human race.

  • 07/24/11
    9:18 pm

    Reply

    Terri said...

    I love the idea of Mother Earth as a sturdy gal. I think many of us are trying to do our small part, miniscule as it seems by comparison to the systemic problems at hand.

  • 07/25/11
    1:09 am

    Reply

    Reggie Darling said...

    Apocalypses of various sorts, be they environmental, economic, or pretty much anything else, are much on my mind these days, hence a four am reading of this post. Is it the age, or is it the age that you and I share, having been born in the same year? I wonder. I have enjoyed your recent posts on outfit advice for various events, but have had nothing to add, being a male of the species, except a cheery “Hear, hear, of course she’s right!” when I see what your suggestions are. Keep up the good work, m’dear, it is such a pleasure to know that sanity, grace, and candor can always be found here…

  • 07/25/11
    7:48 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Valentine – Thanks. I suppose one can write best what one knows best.

    Marcela – With any luck, demand will drive the cost of these things down.

    Mardel – Sturdies unite:). On bicycles. I like the idea of the bicycle pointing your way to the new geography.

    Belle – We’re lucky in California, and I can imagine the Mexican jungle coming back strong.

    Hostess – I’ve come to believe that cheerfulness is genetic, at least in my case. We do have helmet laws for children, but I will wear one anyway. I’d feel so dumb if I fell not wearing one:). Tomatoes are still green:(, but I’m hopeful:).

    Jill – Reports of your drought have reached us here. We know about droughts, hope yours breaks soon.

  • 07/25/11
    7:48 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Loretta – Thank you. Maybe she’ll show up in your art somewhere.

    Town and Country – I know. The fluorescents have taken over my kitchen. Thank you.

    BarbaraG – Hehe.

    Mater – My pleasure. I agree, the choices we put out there in the community do encourage others. You certainly encourage me.

    Une Femme – We can only hope. And cheer on the tomatoes.

    Mary anne – Of the Finest Order.

  • 07/25/11
    7:50 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Priscilla – Giftwrap yes. Ziplocs, sigh.

    Kathy – And oddly, I hadn’t even read No Signposts, so it’s a connection outside of the conscious.

    Laura – I find that optimism helps me tread lightly, otherwise I might just give up.

    Madeline – If we old ladies are all forgetful together we can catch the missed bit for each other:).

    RS – The smell?

    Craftosaurus – I am circling the idea. I may use shopping with my son as a way to get my feet wet.

  • 07/25/11
    7:50 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Mette – The smell, the lives of others. I use the ziplocs because I store food that I use over time in them – cheese, green onions, etc.

    Jessica – Glad your weather is mild. Let’s all just take the steps, no matter our political leanings, and I’m thrilled to pieces:).

    Shelley – Wiping pans out when cooking, seasoning them afterwards, wiping up food spills – anything that would make me have to wash a dish towel right away.

    Cate – Good for you, especially with children and their eating and cleaning requirements. I suppose I should try a little harder. Oof.

    Sarah – Tomatoes are still green. Boo. But thank you for listening to the Saturday meanderings.

  • 07/25/11
    7:50 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Ruth – Thank you very much.

    Ida – You had early heat though, right? And I wish more things came in ziplocs, vs. the plastic wrap, which doesn’t survive over the life of the substance:).

    Englishvers – I know you all had early heat, I hope it returns. I will try, on thrift stores, I will try.

    Susan – I don’t know if I will graduate to trails from errands, little steps first:).

    Duchesse – Help is needed. Economics tends to drive the large scale movement, or groundswells of political urgency. We shall see.

  • 07/25/11
    7:50 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Northmoon – I hope everyone, bit by bit, ceases to ignore the problem, and that it happens soon enough to matter. I have hope. It’s my nature, not my thought process that brings me it.

    Terri – Thank you.

    Reggie – I say the same to you. I think at our age we do understand, if we are lucky, the gift of being alive. Makes us want to make the span sweeter by treating our fellow men well, and shake our heads over news of people who do not share our view.

  • 07/25/11
    8:29 am

    Reply

    Stephanie @ La Dolce Vita said...

    we’ve finally cooled off just a bit today and it feels like heaven! And I love that last paragraph and the images it evokes.

  • 07/26/11
    7:56 am

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    Patsy said...

    I love my bike, my scooter, my ziplocks and thrift shops! Please don’t make me choose.

  • 07/29/11
    8:32 pm

    Reply

    Danielle said...

    Re: thrift shops, if you are curious to try, maybe you could check out consignment shops or vintage boutiques or places that are a bit more selective (and possibly cleaner) than the average Salvation Army.

    Thank you for your thoughts on nature. She’s a lot stronger than any of us can probably imagine. But yes, it is good for us to do our part and be a bit less selfish and wasteful. Esp us first world types.

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