Sunday, July 14, 2013

Fresh Coho

I've started a new edition of Coho Salmon, on marine plywood (seems appropriate).

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Coho Salmon

Andrew got back on the fish this morning. 

Last night I complimented him on this painting he did as a backdrop. 

I'm going to have to watch what I say. Today he got up at 0600 so he could go out to his studio.

Giant Coho Salmon hanging from the oaks visible in the background.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


by Andrew Ward

In the summer of 1994 I was a beach lifeguard on Monterey Bay, for the city of Santa Cruz. It was my ninth season. The abdominal pain began in July. Self diagnosing the pain as a pulled oblique muscle, I tried ice, which was not much help.

In late August during the neep tides we held the Aquaman, a lifeguard biathalon, composed of 10 miles of sand and reef run, with three miles of swimming. It started to the east of the Cement Boat in Seacliff, finishing on the west side of the Municipal Wharf on Cowells beach. A swim, run, swim, run, swim, run, swim, run, swim. The Aquaman historically started at 0630hrs.

My girlfriend Dori was not racing that day so she drove our white Toyota truck filled with lifeguards, both City and State, to Aptos in the dark. What an adventure it was.

The pain in my abdomen was starting to exceed my body’s ability to deny it, but not my mind’s… It hurt to run but swimming felt good. The salty ocean water supported me in a way that reduced the pain.

Dori was our race official, since she would not be competing. She was also our time keeper. The Aquaman is more about staying in shape and comradery than competition, although someone always has the best time (pun intended). Lifeguards like a good challenge. We swam as a group around the Cement Boat, by the dawn’s early light. At the bow of the ship, the Seals and Birds cavorted, as did the lifeguards. We were having the time of our lives!

It was starting to sink in that something was quite wrong in my lower abdominal region. During the first run, along New Brighton Beach, and then below El Salto to Capitola, the tide was as low as it gets, and my lower gut was hurting. A lot. I took it easy. I really wanted keep going, and Dori had left with the truck to intercept us at the harbor. My Lieutenant and friend Mike Slezak, stayed with me for the rest of the race. It was slow going. He could have smoked me to the Capitola Pier. 

As we swam around that wharf, I felt a bit better, so I extended my swim north a little farther than I needed to, toward Sharks and Privates. That way I would have less running to do. Mike was waiting for me when I got out of the water.

The runs in the Aquaman are a bit of a scramble. It’s designed that way. So are lifeguards. We like to scramble. That’s the point. Underfoot, the bottom was sometimes sand and others rocky shoreline. I have always been a good crab crawler, so running under Opal Cliffs past The Wild Hook and Pleasure Point to Rockview really was a pleasure. We took the high route to Windansea, jumped in and swam to the beach and then along the shore to Sunny Cove. We weren’t too far behind the pack, but the leaders were long gone. I was still hurting. Mike was hanging back to pace me. I wasn’t the best athlete in the race that day, but I may have been the most determined.

Swimming around Blacks Point from Sunny Cove is my favorite part of the race. The isolation of the coastal bluff, the blowholes, and the uniqueness of being there kept me going. I stuck it out. Back on the sand at Blacks beach, we ran to the harbor’s east jetty. That year a few of us swam straight across the harbor channel instead of around. Although against the rules (one of the few), it was a shorter distance, so we went for it. Dori was waiting on the west jetty, and I got a kiss on the fly by, for our efforts.

The sand at Seabright beach is always soft, even at the water line. The beach break really churns it up. Very hard going for me. We high-stepped across the San Lorenzo and we were on Main Beach, City Lifeguard home turf. I didn’t have much left. My run down the beast was slow and labored.  

The swim around the Municipal Wharf came next. I hit the drink around Tower 3 in front of the bandstand. The race was concluding, but my workday in the vehicle was just starting. I was a bit behind schedule. Concerned I might be late, I swam as fast as I could. My Australian crawl really resembled a crawl. Not pretty form. I pushed myself around the wharf. I’m sure I was last, but it didn’t matter.

As I made my way to the beach at Cowells, Dori, who is now my wife, was waiting. She was stoked for me, but concerned. I was a few minutes late for my 9:00 work start. In the shower at LGHQ it began to dawn on me that something was really wrong. I wasn’t up for working the vehicle that day, so I traded shifts, and worked HQ.

I iced my abdomen, because I didn’t know what else to do. The denial of something being wrong was wearing thin. In the back of my head a voice kept saying “Something’s wrong. Something’s wrong,” as it had been all morning. So I ignored it. I concentrated on my day’s work.  The day was busy, which helped.

Thanks Mike. Thanks Dori. And whoever covered my shift in the vehicle that day, thank you too. I’m pretty sure it was Britton who relieved me at headquarters when he was done with the break shift. Back then he was the “break master,” which allowed him to continue his career as a firefighter at UCSC, where he still works. 

Soon after, once the season ended on Labor Day, I started making plans to go to Baja with my good buddy Bruce. Dori had to stay home to work, which upset her. Then my lungs began to hurt, but only when I breathed, so I went on with our Mexico plans… Are you starting to see a pattern here?

Then came the night sweats. It was time to go to the Doctor, actually past time. Soon after I was diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma, Stage 4. Dori proposed to me so her vested employment at UCSC would get me the insurance I needed to be accepted to a clinical trial at Stanford Hospital, where I got a Bone Marrow transplant. But that’s another story.


Non Hodgkins Lymphoma, Stage 4, is hard to survive, but with the help of Stanford Hospital, I did. Now I live in in Bonny Doon, where two wildland fires in the last five years have tested my resolve. I'm good to go. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Anteater and the Macaw

Happy Holidays from the Ranch! 

We've been gathering our smoked turkey, cranberries, and yams. The pie crusts are safely tucked away in the fridge. It will frost tonight. We have much to be thankful for.

Dori, Mooka, & Andrew
It is our anniversary, which we celebrate over the course of two weeks-—from the time we climbed the chipped gray steps of the court house and signed the documents…until we spoke our vows on Wilder Ranch, north of Santa Cruz, led by our friend Kat, with our dog Kiwi in attendance.   

This morning we awoke to a message from Chile, from a student of Andrew's father Addison, in 1959 at Yale. It is about the most inspiring reason to put up a new story since his last friend contacted us. 

The first story Andrew picked off the pile was this one, The Anteater and the Macaw. Ironically it is a story about love, but not like you would expect. 

Dig it.

The Anteater and the Macaw  

by Addison Ward

An anteater was strolling through the jungle after a good dinner one afternoon when he fell in love with a macaw. She was a marvelous creature with bright blue wings and orange underparts, a strong aristocratic curved beak, and the strident voice of one accustomed to being obeyed. It was little wonder that the anteater lost his heart; as he gazed at her it seemed to him that his own life had hitherto lacked color and distinction.

For her part, the macaw was simultaneously repulsed and fascinated by the stranger’s long tapering snout, his great claws, and the coarse dry hair of his bushy tail. She was pleasantly surprised by the contrast between his dark uncouth appearance and his gentle manners, and as they talked she felt a sturdy and calm sense of purpose which her other suitors lacked. Before the afternoon was out they had become engaged, and two days later they were married by a kindly old crocodile who wept as he pronounced them man and wife.

For three weeks each of them was an immense world of delight to the other. They talked endlessly of their early lives, and the familiar past took on a new significance by being shared. Their strangeness to one another made each of them feel mysterious and fascinating. They marveled that two such different lives should fuse, and they hunted together through their earlier romances in search of some sign which would help them to understand the miracle of their love. Other times they were content to sit in silence, he brooding on her quick beauty, and she basking in his restrained power. Shared silences, they agreed, were sweeter than all conversation, and this agreement itself inspired new wonderment, new confidences and revelations.

In all this time the anteater somehow made no mention of his work. It was not precisely that he was ashamed—what shame could he have before the mate of his soul?—but to speak of so earthy a matter would have violated the hushed, religious intensity of their communings. At the macaw’s insistence they had set up housekeeping in the jungle not far from the place of their first meeting, and every morning the anteater kissed his bride and went off into the swampy savannah to hunt for termites’ nests, muttering in vague terms about his vital role in nature’s economy. When he returned the macaw would have a heap of palm nuts cracked and ready for his lunch, and he would pretend to eat them, waiting until her back was turned to knock them into the underbrush with his snout.

Then one morning when he returned home he saw from her face that she knew: perhaps she had followed him into the swamp. She looked at him curiously, and when she spoke her voice had a harsh raw edge he had not noticed before:

“Do you know that you’ve never told me what you do? I mean all morning, when you’re away at work in the swamp.”

The anteater snorted nervously. He had dreaded this moment, and hated himself for dreading it. “You might say,” he began, “that I’m in the extermination business. You see, my love, the harmony of nature depends on an equilibrium of forces, a system of checks and balances…”

“Don’t try to fool me,” said the macaw coldly. “You’re an anteater and you know it! You spend the whole morning poking your nose into ant-heaps. And then you come home to me with that same nose…”

“It’s not quite like that,” said the miserable anteater. “First there’s the matter of finding a termites’ nest; it requires a high degree of professional skill, I can assure you. Then I rip open the nest with my great hooked claws. None in the swamp can do it more deftly. And then…” He ran his long, thread-like tongue over his jaws and paused. “It’s a useful trade,” he said feebly; then, as she shrieked with raucous laughter, he continued wildly, “Yes useful! My people have been honest and hard-working for generations! What have yours ever done beyond sitting in the tree tops admiring their own feathers?”

The quarrel surprised both of them by its bitterness; it seemed to have its own life apart from them, so that every effort to recapture their earlier harmony only made them lacerate each other more cruelly. They found themselves saying things they did not know they had thought about each other; she taunted him with his degrading work, his myracophagic*  dullness, his lack of style; he replied that she was vain, flighty, and little better than a common parrot.

They made it up of course, and for a while the quarrel made their love seem stronger than ever. They agreed (and marveled at their agreement) that such outbursts were an inevitable part of deep love. But something had changed and they both knew it. Their moments of passion were intenser than ever, but in the silence that followed each of them felt a fierce and hostile loneliness. They blamed each other, and fresh quarrels started. The anteater now found that the bright feathers that had won his heart were brash and gaudy; her aristocratic beak seemed cruel and cold, and her harsh voice tortured him. To escape from these thoughts he threw himself into wild and foolish efforts to please her: he renounced the society of anteaters, aardvarks and armadillos; he had his bushy tail dyed purple; he even made sporadic efforts to like palm nuts. But all these sacrifices seemed only to deepen the gulf between them. His appetite fell off and his work began to suffer; he watched indifferently while huge armies of ants cut paths through the jungle, devouring everything in their way.

When the macaw announced that she was pregnant all of the anteater’s old adoration flared up. Together they picked out a site on the river bank, and the anteater dug a great hole in the mud with his snout while the macaw stood shyly beside him. When it was finished she went inside and laid two eggs. In the days that followed the anteater danced heavily about waiting on her in an ecstasy of protective love, and the macaw herself seemed softer and more affectionate. Parenthood, they agreed, was the fulfillment of love. Nevertheless, the anteater could not conceal his disappointment when the eggs hatched, revealing two perfectly formed little macaws; he looked in vain for the least trace of a snout or bushy tail. His wife assured him cheerily that their next offspring would be full-blooded anteaters.

Their new intimacy was short lived. As the children began to grow the macaw announced that the dank ground air was ruining her plumage and that henceforth she would sleep in the branches. The quarrels of their early married life now gave way to a cool and distant civility. They even tried going to the crocodile for advice, but he would only shake his head. It was all a matter of maturity, he said, pronouncing it “matoorities.” Such marriages were always a risk. He repeated the phrase contra naturam several times and suggested that they leave the children with him.

The solution came in an unexpected way. The anteater awoke one morning to find his wife’s lifeless body on the ground beside him. She was beautiful even in death, and he remembered that bodies of the parrot family do not decompose. The other birds explained it to him as gently as they could. Her nocturnal activities, they said, had long been the talk of the treetops. Returning home late that night she had flown at full speed into a branch and snapped her neck.

The anteater took his wife’s body into the swamp and placed it on a bush. Gazing at her blue wings he forgot the harshness of her voice and the bitterness which had come between them. He was content to pass his days in reverie before his beautiful dead wife, thinking of the intimate silence they had shared in the first days of their marriage. The ant armies roved now with an unwonted boldness; they became the terror of the swamp. One morning they crossed the areas where the anteater had made his shrine, and when he arrived for his daily meditation he found neither the bush nor the macaw’s body, but only a black swarm of tiny insects. The anteater went insane with rage. He threw himself on the ants, his long tongue flicking wildling and his snout working up and down in a frenzy of destruction.

When he had finished the anteater felt strangely calm. His stomach was full, and he decided to take a stroll in the jungle before settling in to sleep. He had not walked far when he was startled by a harsh scream from the treetops; it was a beautiful green cockatoo. As he gazed up at her it seemed to the anteater that his own life had been colorless and humdrum.


*The closest word I could find to this, "myrmecophagy," is defined as "feeding on ants or termites."
Andrew strongly suspects this word was the genesis of this story.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Man Who Made Bright Things

This is a repost of one of our favorite stories by Addison Ward. This gray morning Andrew wanted to read it, and said, "This is as close to my mission statement as you can come, so I'm going to go glaze something in my cellar. Cheers!"

The Man Who Made Bright Things, by Addison Ward.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Royal Wedding: Ranch Edition

We’re told as many as 3 billion people watched the royal wedding last Friday. 

Meanwhile, at the ranch, thousands of bees (and two humans) were in attendance at the coronation of a new queen on Sunday. Actually two queens—another swarm was reported a day before at our neighbor’s up the hill. It’s that season.  

Image courtesy of "designsbysherry"
On Friday it was extremely windy all day long. Then Saturday the wind dropped and it turned warm. 

On a walk we noticed the leaves are already dry and crackling underfoot, which they hadn’t been before the wind. With wind comes change. 

Andrew heard the enormous buzzing sound when he walked out the front door in the early afternoon.  It is a sound like no other—a steady, insistent hum. It's alarming, but I've been told bees are usually not aggressive while swarming. 

Last season our beekeeper, Jeff, placed two hives in a new spot on the hill outside our kitchen window, and it looked like the swarm came from one of them. The outside of both hives were coated with a layer of bees. 

A huge number of bees were circling in a cloud above the hives, and forming a clump high up in an oak. It looked like there might have been a second swarm happening lower down in the same tree, but we couldn’t see any more clumps.   

In bee swarms, the new queen is usually the one that stays behind in the hive, while the old queen leaves with about half of the hive's worker bees to find a new location to build a hive. 

It is great news that they made it through the winter, and are strong enough to grow out of their hive.  They disappeared an hour or so later. 

For some reason this did not make the headlines like the "other" royal wedding, but it was an important event in the natural world nonetheless. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Western Salmon

Salmon forecasts are looking good this year. The coho are regrouping (we hope).

This morning, as rain approached, Andrew hung a coho salmon and his cohort cut-outs from an oak tree in the meadow.