The Last Pine

I am saying farewell to an old tree.

I discovered Saratoga more than fifty years ago. But the tree and its two companions had already been here for more than half a century. To get to the quaint village from where I was teaching, I drove down two-lane Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road toward the mountains I loved, through orchards with apricots, prunes and plums on either side. They are long gone.

The village itself consisted of a Main Street about five or six blocks long. Turning right from Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road into the village, there were three huge pine trees on the left that marked the entrance to the village and marched on to the left down Saratoga-Los Gatos Road shading the historic route to another small foothill town. These pines were, and have continued to be, a source of pride and a symbol of the history of this still small town.

I moved to Saratoga in 1970, living in a small rental house along Saratoga Creek just a block from Main Street and the trees. Two years later we moved to the top of the mountain behind Saratoga. I have passed these pines almost every day since.

The pines have endured and sheltered Saratoga as it has grown from a small foothill town to an upscale suburb. Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road is now four lanes with freeway access and has changed its name to DeAnza Boulevard. In Cupertino where once there was only a grain elevator and a few small businesses, there now is a gigantic Apple campus. Main Street in Saratoga has changed but still maintains a small town feel–in spite of the Starbucks on the corner.

It is right next to this Starbucks where they just took down the last of the iconic pines. Italian Stone Pines do not last as long as redwoods and these have endured many changes. The first to go happened a decade or two ago. That tree was hardly missed because the other two had grown so large. Then a few years ago during a very wet winter the second one started leaning dangerously and had to be taken out before it fell on nearby businesses. But this last tree remained, propped up with huge timbers, shading tables and a Wednesday farmers market.

But at last it has succumbed to drought or perhaps old age. It turned from green to brown. It will return to the earth from which it sprung leaving a hole in the sky and leaving us with a lingering knowledge of the changes that we must embrace both in our world and our selves.

Saratoga tree from CApoppy on Vimeo.


They swirled around in a noisy, buzzing cloud right outside the window where I am writing this. A queen and her court were swarming, looking for a new home to settle down in. I was sure our neighbor could help. She is a beekeeper–a real estate agent for bees who gets paid in honey . I have never known exactly how she gets the bees to live in boxes, but now I do.

Bees from CApoppy on Vimeo.

Moonstruck! No Mistake

Walkin’ on the Moon from CApoppy on Vimeo with music by Mark Humphreys

Where were you? A news broadcast reminded me that tomorrow is the 45th anniversary of man first landing on the moon. I know exactly where I was. Knitting a baby blanket in my apartment on Will Rogers Drive in San Jose, I sat rapt in the moment. It occurred to me that I could not let this event go without sharing it with my friend’s unborn child who, by way of the blanket, could also be wrapped in it. So I made my first on-purpose “mistake”. I knit two “wrong” stitches in a conspicuous spot.

This was the first of several on-purpose mistakes I have made since. It has to be a big deal in order for me to think of doing this. And my “mistakes” are not only in knitting. I have put them in my weaving and even on the exterior of my newly build studio in the garden in 2000 when I was painting it. The board and batten siding was the perfect place to celebrate the life of a friend who had died unexpectedly and another who had married exuberantly. I had a little of the paint tinted ever so slightly. A batten on the back where few see it, and which points skyward, was for my departed friend. A broad batten prominently placed where anyone walking to the studio can see it celebrates a marriage that was meant to be. Now when I sit in the studio I feel surrounded by friends.

I am not the first person to connect my physical world to my spiritual world. Navajo weavers added a “spirit trail” or” weaver’s pathway”–a line running off the edge of the piece that allowed the spirit of the weaver to escape so that she could go on to another. Many cultures and individuals have hooks to events far beyond our everyday lives.

For me right now, I am happy to once again be connected to the moon—and a death, and a marriage. This new way of walkin’ on the moon has helped illuminate my life.

A Visit from the King

The garden was decked out in regal splendor. The roses were at their peak, the daisies were just starting to wane and poppies were everywhere. Visitors and locals abounded. Thrashers watched hourly for a perfectly ripe blueberry, jays cleaned up acorns, band-tailed pigeons visited the elderberries to see if they were ripe, deer grazed on dandelion flowers, tadpoles swam in the pond and coyotes left their mark to trot off to work down the driveway. Rabbits peeked out from the manzanita, avoiding coyotes eyeing the lettuce. Overhead turkey vultures soared on warm currents. It was the perfect time to have the king stop by for a visit. We have been honored.

A Visit from the King from CApoppy on Vimeo.

I turned around and saw him snaking alongside the studio. He was gorgeous! About four feet long slowly making his way along the porch. I happened to have my camera in my pocket. A perfect opportunity! He noticed me, turned, and went into the woodpile. Excited, I went inside to show Gordon the picture. When I came out, he was gone–but not quite. He poked his head out of the woodpile but quickly retreated when he saw me. I backed off and tended to weeding, all the time watching for him. Eventually he emerged, went into the garden, turned and exited into the wilds on the other side of the fence.

Bye Bye Google

Not happy with Google’s new “privacy” policies, so I have cancelled my Google accounts and am going cold turkey without them. You will find some of my videos missing (originally on YouTube). I am giving Vimeo a try. I am sure there will be hiccups, since Google has become so pervasive (invasive?). Bear with me.

Dining with Chef Jeff and Susan

A fantastic birthday gift evening with Jeff and Susan Huff, both of whom worked in our restaurant in the ’80s cooking dinner for us at our house. The food and conversation rivaled each other for excellence. Jeff now teaches at the Culinary Academy in Monterey.