Category Archives: Through the Lens

thinking in images


When I first started this blog I wrote something every day, then that slowly evolved to once a week. Now it appears I'm at once month! I initially started slowing down the pace because other aspects of my life were becoming more demanding. But lately my blog silence has been simply because words haven't felt like the right means of communication and self-expression. (Even writing this post now feels forced and awkward.)

For the last few months I've found myself thinking (and living) in images. Photos are flowing and words feel stuck. I first noticed this in one of my September posts titled, "no words today." Since then, I've been spending more time on the Flickr account I set up to support this blog than on the blog itself. And by looking at the 50+ recent images in my photostream I see that I actually have been blogging–it's just been photographically.

Like all things, I don't expect this situation will be permanent. It's just part of the ebb and flow of creativity and life. But for now I think I'll be swimming in the sea of images…until I come back to the land of words again.

And who knows what the new year will bring?

Wishing everyone courage, compassion, tolerance, determination and serenity. May you do your greatest good in 2010!

sunlight through a chard leaf


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Earlier this week I was washing chard for dinner when the sunlight streamed through the kitchen window and backlit the leaves. The result was so electric (even more intense than I could capture in the photo) it reminded me of a Dan Flavin fluorescent light sculpture–specifically one I photographed eight years ago at the Chinati Foundation. Love the art/nature connection!

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road trip: LA

I just got back from a weekend in Los Angeles, visiting my good friend Harriet. Even though airfares are shockingly low at the moment I decided to drive. There's nothing that clears my head more than hitting the open road alone–moving forward through changing terrain, uninterrupted in my own little world for hours and hours on end. (Check out photos from some of my other roadtrips on Flickr.) 

Once in LA, the theme of the weekend turned out to be Downtown/Little Tokyo and good inexpensive food. My first night in town we went for ramen at the legendary Daikokuya. This is one of those hole in the wall eateries where people line up for hours to get in. Normally I refuse to participate in that kind of lemming behavior, but I was fighting a cold and really wanted what I'd heard was the best bowl of ramen in town.

Even though we didn't get a table until close to 10PM, I have to admit it was worth the wait. For starters, the broth is not the usual clear fare, it's a dense buttery (and by butter, I mean pork butter) stock made from boiling pork bones and soy sauce all day long. And the pork itself is not just any pork, it's kurobuta (Berkshire) pork. Even the hard boiled eggs are pre-boiled in a secret sauce (the waiters were very cagey when I asked them about it) that impart an incredible flavor. The overall result was the most satisfying ramen I have ever eaten, all for a whopping $8.50. (I'd love to hear about any place that thinks it can top it!)

The next night we tried a much newer spot, the hip "exotic sausage grill" Wurstküche. I liked the simple raw industrial space and long communal tables but was even more impressed to find 24 imported beers on tap (I was very happy with my Belgian Tripel Karmeliet). The next choice was deciding from 21 varieties of sausage. As curious as I was about a lot of the inventive offerings (such as Rattlesnake & Rabbit or Duck, Bacon & Jalapeno) I went for a classic Bockwurst with two toppings (in my case caramelized onions and sauerkraut). My favorite part of the meal though were the crisp double-dipped Belgian fries which came with a choice of imaginative dipping sauces (I was intrigued by the Coconut Curry Mayo but ultimately couldn't pass up the Blue Cheese Walnut and Bacon). Not the finest or fanciest meal, but definitely a good concept, well-executed and fun.

The last notable meal of the weekend (not counting the numerous snack stops at Pinkberry) was breakfast at Square One. They have a great breakfast menu and do a flawless job of preparing the food, but my dining experience was overshadowed by being sandwiched between two tables engrossed in "industry" talk. I guess it wouldn't be a trip to LA if at some point you didn't feel like you were in a scene out of a Hollywood satire. At the table to my left was the idealistic young film student (fresh out of college and new in town) looking for advice from a seasoned screenwriter about how to break in as a writer-director. To my right were two cynical TV sitcom writers whose entire worldview seemed not to extend beyond the backlot. I had a hard time having my own conversation because the eavesdropping was endlessly entertaining.

winter walk

We finally started getting some much needed rain yesterday. Great for the environment, but the dreary gray skies don’t do much for my state of mind. This morning I really needed to clear my head so I went out in the light showers for a quiet walk in the woods near my house. It was so soothing to be alone in the stillness of winter, just the sound of water dripping off of trees and the soggy squish of wet leaves underfoot. It gave me an opportunity to slow down and focus on the small things (in a good way) like water drops on leaves,

moss and lichen covered rocks,

and sculptural rain-slicked trees.

The walk made me think about two different Rilke quotes that I’ve always liked:

“if there is nothing you can share with other people, try to be close to Things; they will not
abandon you”

and

“Being an artist
means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the
storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come.”

Words to live by.

grainy day

Given my (probably foolhardy) attempt to grow winter wheat in the Bay Area, I was thrilled to see an article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle about Bay Area wheat growers. Most of the small organic farms are growing soft Sonora wheat, but I was excited to learn that Eatwell Farm in Dixon is growing hard red winter wheat. The winter temperature averages for Dixon are not that different from where I live which makes me feel a little more hopeful about the success of my crop.

But the really thrilling thing for me in this article was learning about Whole Grain Connection, a local non-profit focused on organically and sustainably grown grains. I wish I had known about their seed catalog before I started my crop. They have so much good information especially about varieties. I would really love to try growing the Ethiopian Blue Tinge variety, not only because of my history and connection with Ethiopia, but also because they say the flour is good for “dark richly flavored whole wheat breads. Yum. But this variety seems to be a Spring crop and I’m not going to sacrifice my regular vegetable garden for growing wheat. If only I had acreage!

Speaking of grains and Ethiopia…when I was in the Ethiopian countryside last year at this time I watched families hand harvesting teff to make their traditional “sponge bread” injera. I’ve always liked this gluten-free grain, not only for its interesting taste but also for its strong nutritional profile–high in iron, calcium and protein; excellent amino acid composition (including all 8 essential amino acids for humans) and lysine levels that stimulate the flora of the large intestine. The problem is it’s not always easy to find locally. One good online source for both the grain and the flour is at Teff Co a company growing teff domestically in Idaho. I definitely recommend trying it, especially for those on a gluten-free diet.

There are more pictures of my 2007 trip to Ethiopia on my Flickr Photostream.

stalked by religion

Like a lot of people these days (at least in Northern California) I consider myself spiritual but not religious. So it's not like I go around looking for religious "signs." But something weird has been going on the past few days.

On Monday I was in the parking garage of the medical building of my kids' pediatrician and noticed this in the ashtray next to the elevator.

Then yesterday I had a breakfast meeting at Cafe Lo Cubano in San Francisco and this was my total at the register:

Then today I was at the Alemany Farmer's Market (BTW, for those of you interested in shopping there, my friend Carla just published a great guide to the market yesterday on her blog Local Forage that I highly recommend.) and on the way back to my car I noticed this:

And is that blood smeared all over the cone? What does this all mean? Weird.