Thursday, April 30, 2009

Animal Life

As promised, here's a picture of our new addition, Spokey (left)--a five-year-old toy fox terrier. He's standing with Max, our five-year-old Pomeranian mix, who has been in our lives for about three years. This makes dog number three. Our other pup is 13-year-old Rozzie, a Border Collie mix who is very sweet but super-sensitive. When we bring out the camera she slinks away, so we have to do things like pet her and speak softly to her to get a decent picture.

It's too cute how side-by-side, Spokey looks like Rozzie's Mini-Me. We'll have to get a picture of that if we can get Rozzie to go for it.

Even though I was excited about Spokey joining our lives, I was a little nervous, too. Nervous about the adjustment phase. Nervous about the added responsibility.

I needn't have been. Spokey is pure joy. He easily joined the pack. He's very playful but not over-excitable. He loves walking with us. He sleeps with the other dogs on their beds. He climbs on my lap, my legs while I'm seated, the back of my chair, just to hang out with me. At about six pounds, he's even smaller than our cat, Emily.

Speaking of Emily, this morning while I was in the living room, I heard a ruckus. When I went into the kitchen, I saw that Emily had some kind of little being in her mouth. We got Emily as a kitten 15 years ago, and have had to contend with her hunterly ways over the years. We've encountered all kinds of rodent and bird body parts in the bathroom and kitchen that she has proudly displayed for us.

Once, about eight years ago when we were living in Seattle, we came home to find blood streaked on the inside windows and feathers scattered under the dining room table. We sleuthed through the house, nervous about what we'd find. When I opened the door to the guest room, a large starling burst out into the living room. We opened the front door and it flew out.

Today there was a similar happy ending. I grabbed Emily, she dropped from her mouth what turned out to be a tiny brown bird (which may have been a baby), and it flew out the back door. No blood, no feathers, just a little bird poop on the windowsill.

In human years, Emily is a senior citizen. But obviously she's raging against the dying of the light.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Free preview of Complementary Colors

The first two chapters of Complementary Colors, my novel that's coming this summer, are available to those who'd like to preview the book. Email me or leave a comment here with your email address, and I'll be happy to send them to you as a PDF. No strings attached...although if you'd like to blog about your reactions, I'd love it, of course!

Acclaim for Complementary Colors:

Sophisticated and nuanced ... resplendent with the grace and wonder that accompany self-discovery. --Jayne Pupek, author of Tomato Girl and Forms of Intercession

In a way not often found in contemporary fiction, Kate Evans’ poetic prose richly captures the awakening of a woman to what she truly needs in her life: poetry, art, and the love of another woman. --Susan Gabriel, author of Seeking Sarah Summers

Kate Evans has struck gold again with her second novel, Complementary Colors. Gwen Sullivan’s self-discovery and exploration of her sexuality is one of the most realistic “coming out” stories that I’ve ever read. It’s organic, it’s moving and, since both Evans and her heroine are poets, every line sings. – Collin Kelley, author of Conquering Venus

Kate Evans has carefully, firmly, and personally contextualized the ever present dilemma of being a woman poet: millennia of misogynistic assumptions about the worth of a woman’s mind and the honoring of a woman’s body. Through the pages of this engaging, well-crafted novel, Evans delineates the ways in which the language of men degrades the language of women. The good news is that Evans' protagonist doesn’t take it lying down. --Merry Gangemi, Woman-Stirred Radio

As with her first novel, For the May Queen, Kate Evans explores not so much a coming of age story as a coming to terms story in her new novel Complementary Colors. Gwen Sullivan returns to the Bay Area after a stint teaching English in Japan. With nowhere else to go, and mostly only the clothes in her suitcase, she moves in with her boyfriend, Daniel, a genius but self-absorbed scientist who, though inviting Gwen to live with him, makes no accommodations for her presence—physically or emotionally. Along with her increasingly unsatisfying relationship and a job that doesn’t thrill her, Gwen decides to take a poetry class to ease her discontent; it is here that she meets Cat and Jamie, a couple of rollicking rough and tumble dykes, who are as intrigued by Gwen as she is by them. And while poetry may be the medium, a myriad of creative and sexual fires are alighted within Gwen against a backdrop of a widening void between herself and Daniel. As we follow Gwen’s journey for self-awareness, we are not so much rooting for her peace as we are cheering for her to come to terms with and embrace her truest desires. Whether she is imbued with confusion or clarity, we are rallying for Gwen’s appreciation of her creative and sexual self as she comes closer to realizing and living her own truth. A deftly crafted exploration of self-identity as only Kate Evans can achieve. Brava! --Cynn Chadwick, author of the Cat Rising, Girls With Hammers, Babies, Bikes, and Broads, and Angels and Manners.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mom's Alzheimer's Journey #2

This is the second in a series of excerpts from Mom's journal that she began writing two years ago after her Alzheimer's diagnosis. A former R.N., published writer and editor, Mom decided to write as long she could about the experience of the disease. One of her symptoms is the withering of her language abilities. I've kept the spelling and grammar the way Mom wrote them so that readers can have a sense of her abilities but have included corrections and more information in brackets [ ] when needed for clarity.

[End of August and beginning of September, 2007]

I am having more and more difficulty with balance. I feel like I'm just tottering on the egeg (or however that is spelled). I can't spell worth a darn--a symptom of the disease.

My eyes close even when I'm not sleepy. I look like I'm asleep. I yahn, yaun [yawn] a lot--more than I am sleepy. I relay [rely] on my cane more & more.

The typing & spelling have something in commom--I can't figure out what it is--I can't do either ... I can't figure out how words are spelled, so I can't figure out what I have written down--they're all jumpbed [jumbled] up. ... Words are spelled correctly (I think) but I just can't figure them out. I can usually tell when words arent spelled correctly. I can tell words, but I cant figure out what they mean. It's not because they're unfamiliar, and they'y may be spelled correctly, but I cant figure out what they mean.

I can recognize misspelled words but I dont' have the fogiest what to do about them.

I have a writting problem, not just a spelling problem--but I do have a [hand]writing problem --sometimes extreme. ...I make some words large & some small. ... It's so tiny it looks abnormal.

I have lost strength in my thighs. When I kneel down, I need help standing up ... I'm dizzy most of the time--or all of the time--it's not just dizzy--I don't know how to explain it. I guess dizzysome is the word. ... The world isn't spinning around when I'm dizzy--I don't know how to explain it. I feel I am having more trouble walking than most Individuals with AD. ...

(I'm just dizzy--a dizzy dame)

I have trouble finishing sentences--the problem is more pronounced than before. I had trouble saying "raisen toast" this morning at breakfast.

Fortunately, Charlotte was there, which helped (her husband died of AZ).

I can't tell right from left, which promlen [problem] I never had before & up & down & in and out. I know what I mean but it comes out wrong!

I have headaches a lot, which I seldom had. ...I'm forgetful now; I can't even remember when my daughter, Ann fixed my clock to the right time. It's a good thing I wrote that down! because I couldn't remember that, either! I've forgotten other things, too. I'm more corced [concerned] about my memory, too.

I say things 'spontaneously' that I didn't mean--for instance, I say 'yes' when I mean 'no' and I say 'left', when I mean 'right' and up when I mean down. I can't remember what was happening the night Crystal & some friends were playing a game. I knew the answer was 'St Valentines', but I said Saint someone or other ... I don't know why I did that. I never said 'St Valentine.'

A fellow in memory care [the "lock down" unit for people with advanced dementia, on the other side of the assisted living facility where Mom lives] with AZ ... moves very slowly & I'm not sure he even remembers his wife. I dread getting like that, but I guess I will. (He [is] what I'd call [a] vegetable, although he walks & moves.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Writing about Alzheimer's ... Biking an insane number of miles ... Getting a new dog.

I've gotten so much great response here, in my email and on facebook to my post about Mom's Alzheimer's journey that I'm definitely going to post more from her journal--combined with my reflections--on an ongoing basis. Although so many people are hungry for stories about aging, caregiving and dementia, I find it very frustrating that I can't get an agent interested in my project. So I'll just keep posting here--and perhaps one day, an agent or publisher will recognize its value.

Mom read the entry and wrote me this email: "the! blog is beautluf!" [beautiful]. I'm so happy she's pleased that I'm helping her story to get out into the world. Like most writers, she's always had the impulse to tell important stories.

Saturday we did a bike ride with hundreds of other riders, the Tierra Bella--well, the "short" version that was "only" 38 miles. That was long for us, but in a good way. It was a beautiful day, and my favorite part was when we rode around the Uvas Reservoir. The water was still, reflecting the trees like a mirror. There were so many gorgeous spring flowers, and the sky was Technicolor blue.

Tomorrow we are adopting another dog, a little 6-pound, five-year-old toy fox terrier

named Spokey. This is what he looks like, although it's not actually him. I'll get a real picture of him soon. A friend of ours can't keep him, so we've decided to take on, yes, Dog #3. Spokey has already met Max (our 5-year-old Pomeranian) and Emily (our 15-year-old cat):as well as Rozzie, our 13-year-old Border Collie mix:

They got along great. It was clear the Spokey enjoyed being part of a pack. I know it'll be an adjustment to have another dog in our midst. But it's clear that Spokey is smart, learns quickly and has a great personality. He's confident yet not aggressive, and he loves to walk and play.

Rozzie had to have an operation last week to remove two lumps. We'll find out this week if they are cancerous. The doc seems to think so. Rozzie seems like she's in good spirits, though. Perhaps bringing another dog into the fold will make her old age more fun--and ours, too.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mom's Alzheimer's Journey #1

I've been doing a lot of writing over the past year about caregiving, thinking through the long illness of my father and the subsequent diagnosis of my mother with Alzheimer's.

Mom is a former R.N. and a published writer who has slowly been losing her language ability. This is her primary symptom. At this point, as she puts it, she can read newspaper headlines, and that's about it. She can write emails of about a line--and she struggles to spell most words, a sad irony given that she used to be an editor as well as a writer. She struggles to speak, but we still can communicate if she has plenty of time to form a thought.

She has told me that the last thing she hears will often echo in her head. Once when she said that, I said, "Kathleen [the name my family calls me] is beautiful and intelligent; I'd like that to echo in your head!" And we laughed and laughed. Another time she told me that she says things she doesn't mean and that she repeats certain words and phrases for no reason. One of those phrases is "thank you." I told her I'm glad she blurts that out rather than "fuck you." Again, we laughed.

She definitely still enjoys laughter--although she has told me that she often doesn't understand jokes anymore, the ones she knows she would have understood in the past. We laugh when we can and just try to enjoy being together whenever possible because, well, this illness really sucks. Her awareness of her decline never ceases to amaze me. It's as though her cognition is declining but her metacognition is not.

Soon after Mom was diagnosed about a year and a half ago, she began keeping a journal, handwritten in a notebook. Her idea since then has been to write as much as she can for as long as she can. Recently she gave me a notebook, completely filled, and told me to do with it what I wish. She said she'd like me to blog about Alzheimer's, and about her experience, so I'm going to share with you some entries from her journal now and again.

As I read the journal, I realize how fast her decline has been. She wrote the first entry a year and a half ago. She wouldn't be able to write at this level now, but she is still writing sentences whenever she can.

To understand this first entry, you need to know that just a few weeks after my father died, Mom fell, dislocating and breaking her shoulder. She was in and out of the hospital and rehab facility for a couple of months, during which time she contracted c-diff, a tenacious and horrific intestinal bacteria. (For a while there, I was beginning to understand the biblical Job at a level I never had before.) She lived hours away from all three of her daughters and so we set up caregivers to help her at home. After a while, Mom didn't like that. She decided she wanted to move into an assisted living community in the Bay Area where she'd be close to my sister Crystal (who lives just 2 minutes away) and me (I'm about 30 minutes away). My other sister lives in San Diego and comes up quite often.

I've kept the spellings and grammar the way Mom wrote them so that readers can have a sense of her abilities but have included corrections and more information in brackets when needed for clarity:

[August 23, 2007]

Even before my husband died, I remember having symptoms of Alzhemer's Disease--for instance it was difficult for me to finished a sentence and find another. My husband was concerned, but what could he do?

Also, I had trouble typing. My fingers just wouldnt cooperate. Then I had balance problems after my husband died. Formerly steady on my feet, I wasnt any longer. When I saw a PT [Physical Therapist] when I came home, the p.t. gave me a cane, which I relied more & more on. (I've always been active, joined a gym and exercised regatarly [regularly]) -- daily.

Then There was the day I couldn't remember how Hammel starter [started; Hammel is the last name of a friend of Mom's. She was trying to look up her friend's phone number]. I have an index card with all the letters on it, but I still couldnt figure it out. Finally, I did

The neurologist said I had an atypical case of Alzehermier's. My memory seems to be intact. Usually, the first symptom was memory loss, but with me it was something different. He wanted to see me in 6 months -- it was finishing sentences. My writing isn't wat it used to be--My spelling isn't either--I have trouble spelling simple words that I never used to have trouble with before & it's not just trouble spelling but it's trouble spelling words that used to be easy for me.

One time I didnt recogognize a particular place--there was like a blank wall before me--this was when I had caregivers but it hasn't happened sence [she corrected this to "since"].

My eyes closed [she fixed this to "close" and wrote "example of my spelling"] of their own volition, although I'm not sleepy.

I also mix up lt [left] & right, which I never did before--my caregivers say "the other right." (When I had caregivers)

My daughters have been wonderful. They planned the memorial service for my husband, which turned out wonderfully. Ann [oldest daughter] takes care of my bills--Crystal [youngest daughter] has been my "personal shopper" and fixes things, and Kathleen takes care of doctor visits and she goes into the doctor's office & takes notes.

For some reason, I have had the urge to unlock my safety belt when I am riding in the car. I havent told anybody about this, but I wonder if it's a percuor [precursor] to wandering away. This has been going on for sometime--even when I had caregivers.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Accepting the things I cannot change (or: Just Say e-Yes)

As of yesterday, we have the internet back in our house. We've been without it for four months, an experiment in saving money and detoxing from too much online time since Facebook, Goodreads, blogging, emailing etc. are addictive as crack.

So the question is: Will I be able to moderate? Will I be able to continue to prioritize my writing and reading time, rather than sucking up hours online? Will I be able to stop, for god's sake, before my wrists once again swell up like Pop N. Fresh?

Not having the internet at home has had its advantages and disadvantages. No monthly internet bill has been nice. There have been many ways I've accessed the internet for free during these months, such as in my office at work, at a cafe (which can be a pleasant experience that I don't think I'll be giving up completely), and at the library (but too often I'd have to hold my breath when a kindly but odoriferous person who lives out of a backpack would sit next to me).

I also used my friends' and relatives' computers. This was a money-saving advantage but a social disadvantage because, like any good addict, instead of visiting and conversing, I'd be distracted by surfing the web (or thinking about when I'd be able to sneak off into their home office to surf the web). This tended to wilt what used to be lively social intercourse.

It was a pain in the ass (and probably not very secure) to pay my online bills on a laptop in a cafe. And it was awkward to hide from the other caffeinated patrons how many credit card bills sat in my stack. Evidence of over-extending yourself is less humiliating in the privacy of your home.

When you don't have the internet at home, you can't take advantage of the "Watch Now" feature of Netflix--so you get less bang for your buck. I doubt paying a monthly internet bill equalizes that cost-savings, but I can fool myself about it while I gorge on movie after movie, with buttered popcorn of course.

Not being able to Google whenever we wanted to was tough, as well. If we were having an argument about what year The Mary Tyler Moore Show was cancelled, or how many zeroes there are in a trillion, we'd actually have to call someone and ask them to Google it. In other words, we treated everyone we knew as a Phone-a-Friend Lifeline.

The deal-breaker, however, had to be Mapquest. Because I have an abysmal sense of direction, lack of easy access to Mapquest has been like Mary without Rhoda. I've been imbalanced and anachronistic, driving while simultaneously trying to decipher an actual map. Remember those? Those things that unfold like one of those tiny toy sponges that, when put in water, expands into the Taj Mahal? And when I hit 46 recently, my eyesight shot to hell on my birthday. One day I was 45 and could read the teensy list of multisyllabic, poisonous ingredients on a package of gum, and the next day at age 46 I couldn't read my birthday cards without the help of Dr. Dean Edell. Try reading maps when that happens.

So here we are, plugged back in. If I send you back an email within two seconds every time you email me, please gently remind me that I am powerless over my addiction and need to go outside for a walk with my dog.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Question authority

Amazon is now claiming that the ranking debacle was a "mistake." More like a bad policy gone viral, if you ask me. I wonder when the ratings on my book will be reinstated? As of now, they haven't been.

I've also noticed that when you search from the Amazon main page under my name or the title of my novel (For the May Queen), the Kindle version of the book appears, not the paperback version. It's hard to even find the paperback version when you search (unless you're searching under the "books" drop-down choice). It's very Orwellian--makes me feel we're vulnerable if someone at Amazon (or a hacker) decided to upload a censored or changed version of books.

And another censorship-related item:

Annie's in San Antonio, Texas. At the hotel, she tried to access my blog at a hotel computer. However, it was blocked for containing "inappropriate content." Okay, Texas, wtf?


At lunch today, my friend Kelly asked me what I thought about the fact that there are Somali pirates but not, say, Kenyan pirates. I said I hadn't thought about it. She enlightened me, and here's a little bit about what I found out:

In 1991, the government of Somalia - in the Horn of Africa - collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since - and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury - you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply. When I asked Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: "Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention."

At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish-stocks by over-exploitation - and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea-life is being stolen every year by vast trawlers illegally sailing into Somalia's unprotected seas. The local fishermen have suddenly lost their livelihoods, and they are starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal waters."

This is the context in which the men we are calling "pirates" have emerged. Everyone agrees they were ordinary Somalian fishermen who at first took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least wage a 'tax' on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia - and it's not hard to see why. In a surreal telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali, said their motive was "to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters... We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

For the May Queen nixed from Amazon's ratings

When I read in the L.A. Times that Amazon has removed sales rankings of books that have been determined to have "adult" (read: queer) content, I checked out Amazon to see if my novel, For the May Queen, has lost its Amazon rating...and sure enough, when you look under "Product Details" you can see that it has.

So have my other two books: Negotiating the Self (a study of lesbian and gay teachers) and Like All We Love (my poetry collection).

The irony is that For the May Queen is a novel with very little queer content. The protangonist narrator is a straight woman. I found that The Hours has not lost its rating...and neither has the nudie pictorial Playboy: Redheads.

The L.A. Times piece points out the hypocrisy of this move that's clearly intended to censor queer content by equating it--and not straight sexuality--as "adult."


UPDATE: Sign a petition against Amazon's censorship here.


UPDATE #2: When you search Amazon for "homosexuality" the first book that pops up is A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

From the Bookshelf & Gay Rights Abbondanza

We have no idea who the woman pictured on the book cover is, but we do know the author is the very talented Kate Evans, and we know that we love the novel, For the May Queen, and not just because it has a lot of sex in it. No, we also love it because the title comes from a Led Zepplin song, and because it is such a great novel. Listen in here.

Gary Shapiro interviewed me for his radio program, From the Bookshelf. He's a very fun interviewer: spontaneous, playful and surprising. I learned a lot just watching him in action. It was fun to go down to Santa Cruz one evening and sit across from him in the studio. It felt like we were riffing. Watch out Terry Gross.


I'm blown away at all that has happened in the gay rights front recently. First, Iowa legalizes gay marriage. Then Vermont. Now DC has announced that it will recognize out-of-state (out-of-district?) same-sex marriages.

Also, President Obama is inviting gay couples to its Easter Egg Roll. My hope is that he will get clearer and clearer that supporting same-sex marriage is the right thing to do.

And did you see that Tony Blair gave the Pope a head-slap about homosexuality? Go, Tony.

Of course, homophobes are frothing at the mouth about all of this. I won't provide any links because they don't need more attention than they already get, but check out Joe.My.God, who always posts the latest "PhoboQuotables" and features the crap being spouted by wacko haters.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sisters and quakes

Here's another picture of my sisters and me in Hawaii. Crystal, on top, is the baby sister. Ann's on the right, and I'm on the left. Yep, I'm the middle sister. What do they say about middle children? I just Googled it, and image that: there's a middle child syndrome. One of the effects is that "the middle child usually has to fight harder for the attention of their parents and therefore crave the family spotlight." Ah, must be why I'm a lesbian. That sure has been quite the attention-getter.

Yesterday we hiked for 3 hours in the redwoods in Nisene Marks state park, awed by the towering redwoods. My lungs gobbled up that amazing air. Max, our Pomeranian, is such a trail dog, following us happily off-leash the whole time.

We were walking in the area of the epicenter of the 1989 earthquake, notable given today's horrible news about the earthquake in Italy. Because we live in earthquake country, hearing about such an earthquake hits close to home. In 1989, I was a graduate student at San Jose State, sitting in a Shakespeare class on the third floor of a campus building when it began to shake. Someone said, "Oh, an earthquake," which is what we Californians say in recognition when there's a small temblor. But it didn't take long for us to realize that this was no tiny event as the building began jerking and swaying. The professor, a very tall man, was the first underneath the seminar table. The rest of us joined him. When the shaking stopped, the building kept swaying. That was good, though, because swaying keeps a building from turning into a pile of rubble.

As of now they are reporting 130 deaths in Italy from a to 6.3 quake. Our 1989 quake had half as many fatalities (63) and it was quite a bit stronger, at 6.9. Yes, we may have more earthquake preparation here, but Simon Winchester, author of A Crack at the Edge of the World (which is about the 1906 California quake) once said to me that people were basically crazy to build as we have in the Bay Area. In other words, he believes at some point we're goin' down.

I know Japan is at risk, too. The Kobe earthquke was horrific--1500 people died--but if that same earthquake had happened in Tokyo, one can only imagine ... I thought about that once in a while was I was living in Japan. I'd be in a tiny restaurant on the 10th floor of a building that was crammed between other massive skyscrapers in the midst of thousands and thousands of people, and I'd think, What if it happened right now.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Day of birds and bikes

Serendipity abounds ... This morning I sat up in bed with my coffee (ah, Saturday) and read more pages in the book I'm currently gobbling up, Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams. It's one of those newish classics that's been on our bookshelf forever, and I finally took it down. Williams is a Utah naturalist who, in the memoir, loses her mother and grandmother to cancer, which seems likely to be connected with the military toxic waste in the desert. In conjunction with telling those stories, she writes about the Great Salt Lake and the bird refuge, the marshes, and the human impact on that world.

In the afternoon, Annie and I decided to go for a bike ride. She'd heard about a route we'd never taken before, so we hopped on our bikes and the next thing I knew we were headed out toward the San Jose Municipal Airport, which we rode through on an unpaved side-road, and then followed a gravel trail for miles. The next thing we know we are in Alviso, a town north of us, which we'd never before explored--and shortly after that we are in the bird refuge there, a marshland with salt ponds. All around me I see the same flora and fauna I'd just read about in Williams' book that morning, including:

avocets galore

TWO of these amazing birds, great blue herons

Several of these gorgeous white egrets, with stunning wing spans

a huge falcon that landed right next to us on the bike trail (I'd never been that close to one before)

a lot of gulls and many other birds I couldn't identify.
What's amazing is that there is a trail all around the marsh and salt ponds (which were a gorgeous orange color from all of the minerals) that you can walk or ride bikes on. Because it's a marsh environment, there are hardly any trees; it was a crystal clear day so we could see three mountain ranges surrounding us.
85% of California wetlands have disappeared in the past 100 years. Thank god for the people who've cared enough to put so much time and energy into preserving places like this. Otherwise, the birds would have "failed migrations"--meaning they'd have no place to rest as they migrated and would become extinct.

We ended up riding 26 miles, a good training ride since we're doing the 36-mile Tierra Bella in a couple of weeks. We're going to enjoy spring and get strong for summer adventures if it kills us.