My Mother Turns 90

On March 5, 1928, my Grandmere gave birth to her first child. She named her Janice Helene. As the story goes, my Grandmere’s favorite novel at the time, Janice Meredith, inspired the baby’s name.

To continue the literary inspiration into the next generation, my mother named me Meredith. I have a sneaking suspicion that my mother never read Janice Meredith. It’s a novel about the Revolutionary War, George Washington (we lived on Washington Street), and lots of shooting back and forth between us and the Red Coats. Rockets red glare, snowy battlefields, and bloody uniforms. Not really my mother’s reading interests.

My mother loved sunbathing and icy Lime Rickeys on our chaise lounge as she read her Book-of-the-Month Club selections, novels by Graham Greene, Katherine Anne Porter, or Mary Renault.

She loved to play “Don’t Mess with Bill” and “Finlandia” on her granny Nellie’s piano, a 1905 Steinway, set in the northwest corner of our music room. As a child, my mother had a big collection of porcelain-faced dolls. I have a picture of her when she was about six or seven with her dolls all around her.

So Happy Birthday, mom. My daughter reminds me you would not have enjoyed turning 90; you left this planet for the heavenly realms shortly after your 70th birthday.

Twenty years later, we’re all still sad about that. But in a poetry workshop a few years back I wrote a poem about your favorite way to be in the world (for all of us still here):

“Always be mysterious,” you instructed. I think I have tried to be mysterious . . . as well as I can do within my limitations of not being you. The world misses you, mom. But this evening we will all raise a glass of champagne in your honor. Love love love . . . m

I guess I’m glad the novel’s title was only two words long; otherwise, my own children’s names may have been characters in the novel too. Or I might have stayed with the literary theme and named my son Huck Finn. My daughter? Well, that’s a mystery.


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Hurricane May Reach San Ignacio is reporting a hurricane heading towards Cabo San Lucas today. The edge of the storm may reach San Ignacio Lagoon by early next week. Keep La Laguna in your hearts and hope the storm passes! Visit for updates!

And on the East Coast of the United States, Hurricane Jose may reach as far as Cape Cod with its 80 mph winds, as early as next week.

One of the beloved dogs at Antonio’s Whale Camp in San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja California Sur.


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New Energy, New Blog Posts

Retirement is an open field where you wander around, maybe followed by a few cows wearing (of course) cowbells and mooing now and then so you know they are still behind you, or you might prefer goats who love to eat poison ivy and would eat your jacket buttons if you let them.  In other words, until you can find a way to focus on what day it is, you’ll call every day Friday, a Robinson Crusoe choice. The six other choices don’t really stick with you, floating off on a wisp of a breeze, never to be thought of again.

So what day is it?? That’s right! Friday! Unless your phone calendar convinces you it’s Monday and you believe everything it tells you!


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2017: Update on San Ignacio Lagoon

For 2017, the month of March found us at Antonio’s Whale Camp for the Vernal Equinox with some stellar company and a bit of a wind and waves churning up La Laguna for our panga rides out to the observation area where only 17 pangas from each of the 6 whale camps are allowed in at any one time. These are the stickers I created last year . . .

So far in all the years visiting the gray whales and their babies, I remember only one time when we had to wait for the okay to enter the area. Maybe twice.

My daughter, Erin, joined in the celebration along with a car load of friends from 4 years ago driving down from Baja North to revisit the whales.

DSCN0483DSCN0499Because of the wind, the whale mothers helped their babies stay up above the waves and held them near to be petted. Then both mother and baby would swim under the panga and give us a bounce for fun.

As the babies swam around us, the mothers kept a watchful eye, and sometimes took time to stretch out so we could see the size of their awesome bodies. Because this was Erin’s first trip to San Ignacio, I thought it would take her a while to get used to moving from one side to the other in the small space available between the seats . . . but she balanced her camera and made her way around every vantage point to get a chance to pet a baby whale. Meanwhile, I did manage not to fall overboard at any point in our laguna rodeo ride — pretty rough out there!!!

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Happy October

Welcome to a bright cool lovely fall day here in Takoma Park! And yes things are happening . . . Takoma Park’s annual street festival happened on Sunday, October 2, and a big thank you to the rain clouds for rolling back the deluge for a couple of days so that our folks could enjoy the local arts and crafts, and some cool temperatures to enjoy the day.

For those who stay up late into the wee hours, the festival romped on until evening, leaving no excuse to stay in bed.

Roscoe the mascot for the town of Takoma Park is now featured on the town logo! We might wish for a little more detail and a little more color, but this is a start!!

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Gray Whales 2016

The trip to Antonio’s Whale Camp in mid March 2016: In a word, amazing!! Enjoy the photos! Front left is Moises. He took the photo of me petting the mama whale. Daniel is our guide and panga driver. I’m on the left behind Moises in the brown hat!!

6 whalewatchers in a panga

whale watchers take a moment for a photo.

San Ignacio Lagoon is a protected area. Gray whales here are treated with respect and reverence.

Here’s me reaching out to the baby gray whale, hoping she will swim over to greet me.

San Ignacio panga ride

The big mama whale rolls over on her side so I can touch her. Gray whales like having their gums rubbed! But they have to open their mouths for a human to do that!


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A Day for Poetry and Groundhogs

Groundhog Day is more than shadows, although preposterous darkness is usually back there in the cave where the fat, little creature is yanked out of by the Punxatawney mayor. Blessings on their fuzzy heads: Mayor with top hat and rodent with button nose. 🙂

On this bright mid-winter day, February 2, we also celebrate the Irish saint, Brigid, patroness and muse of poetry, keeper of bonfires, and protector of white, red-eared cows. Somehow Brigid magically rolls back the cold stones January holds at the nape of our necks. Blessings and thanks for her warm, kind heart. She and St. Patrick were friends.

My connection to St. Brigid is my love of poetry, the celebration of the visual return of the earth’s light on this day, and the fact that Brigid was the name of my Irish ancestor, the matriarch who set sail in April 1864 from the port of Cashel and landed two months later in America.

That’s how the Irish side of my family (the O’Briens) arrived in Providence, Rhode Island. Brigid and two of her sons — Patrick and J.J. — set their fearless feet down on the dock at Providence harbor.

I wonder what type of ocean-going vessel could possibly take two months to cross the Atlantic? Surely, the Saint herself kept watch over them.

And as I write a poem today, Brigid can watch over me too.


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Getting Ready for March 2016 at Whale Camp

Is it too early to start planning for a February or March or April visit to San Ignacio Lagoon to visit the gray whales and their new babies? Actually, this is the perfect time to choose a date for your visit!

You have many whales camps to choose from, including Antonio’s, Pachico’s EcoTours, Campo Ramon, Campo Cortez, Kuyima, and Camp Discovery. Each has links online and USA-based phone numbers to call to make your reservation and place a small (10%  or 20%) partial payment to hold your cabin, tent, or other camp accommodations.

This is the way to go!

In the next few days, I’ll post more information about my favorite camp–Antonio’s Whale Camp. Antonio’s has cabins, all meals, two rides to the Observation Area daily, and Happy Hour before dinner. Evenings are saved for presentations about the gray whales’ great migration each year to the birthing areas (whales only) in the Laguna and then back North again.

Where Are the Gray Whales Right Now?

Summertime means we can find many of our beloved gray whales feeding on ghost shrimp and krill up North in the Arctic in the Bering Sea or the Chukchi Sea. But, depending on the weather, food abundance, and their instincts, some gray whales stay in the Pacific waters off Northern California, usually close to the shore. As a matter of fact, I read that some gray whales travel no more than 600+ miles off the coast of the Baja!

More soon . . . Happy Summer!


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Winter, A Season for All Snowflakes


Ah, the light is back! Well, Winter Solstice is less than 24 hours ago, but I can feel the days growing longer. There’s some chatter on the Internet that it’s actually darker after the Winter Solstice . . . but who believes anything they read on the Internet, right?

As far as we know, everything is under scrutiny in one way or another . . . Why did Gauguin paint the sky in Tahiti pink? You can search the Internet to make sure you are pronouncing his name right. Webster’s Dictionary is correct on the Internet, but it’s better to flip through the pages of it, than fish through the Internet ads, don’t you think??



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How’s the Baja After Hurricane Odile?

Ancient whale bones. Did they make it through Hurricane Odile?

Looks like the Whale Camps around San Ignacio Lagoon will be in good shape for the upcoming arrival of the gray whale mothers and their babies in January. The hurricane battered the lovely paved road back to its previous “rough road” status.

A 4-wheel drive is this year’s preferred vehicle, I think.

Many people are working very hard to make sure it’s ready for January — April visitors . . . I’ll be there in March this year travelling with the Ocean Conservation Research folks and their fearless leader Michael Stocker.

There might be a spot open for you, so contact Michael by writing to P.O. Box 559, Langunitas, CA 94938.

On one of my first trips to whale camp, we endured the full 40 miles from San Ignacio town to La Laguna on an unpaved  washboard of a road. The good thing besides rearranging your insides was that we stopped often to enjoy the desert landscape, the mesas, dunes, plants and cacti.

At this point, I’m grateful that we will be able to get to San Ignacio and the whales at all.

The local folks who live in the villages near La Laguna are making their way into town for supplies without too much inconvenience. I talked to Jose at Baja Expeditions and he says that everybody there knows all the shortcuts and back roads all around the area.

And was there one little date palm tree that Odile spared in the town of San Ignacio? And what about the mission? I guess we’ll find out!


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