The bobcat leaping across Highway 1

Three hours of driving to stock up on provisions is not without its consolations. Wending one’s way up the Shoreline Highway, there’s the constant companionship of the stormy, sparkling ocean, and plenty of time for podcast listening (most recently, OPB’s captivating Timber Warsabout the battles to save the Pacific Northwest’s last old growth forests from logging).

Shopping list conquered, we made our way back south. The light was fading, feathering through clouds hugging the horizon. Suddenly, emerging a few hundred yards ahead of me: a blonde beast leaping across the road. Bobcat!

Wild things don’t have it easy in America. In Mendocino, our county, Wildlife Services (part of the federal Department of Agriculture), by one count, killed 112 bobcats, 181 mountain lions, 235 grey foxes, 261 black bears and 4,119 coyotes between 1997 and 2017 (at the behest of ranchers, the county’s contract with this notoriously vicious outfit was renewed last year). This is a drop in an ocean of carnage, though — in 2019 alone, across the USA, Wildlife Services killed roughly 1.2 million native animals.

And so, to see a bobcat going about its business is a heartwarming sight. A sign, however tenuous, of resilience and survival in the face of extraordinary odds.

Smelling salts for the soul

During a somewhat stormy start to 2021, a few recent rays of light:

  • The blizzard of blossoms on the plum tree outside our bedroom window (though isn’t it a little premature for them to be flowering already?)

  • The continued survival of my succulents (the odd droopy limb notwithstanding)

  • Returning to regular yoga practice (with the help of the Down Dog app; if there’s something else you love using for home practice, let me know!)

  • Reading:

    1. Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov: laugh-out-loud funny; surprisingly moving

    2. Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man: reading this for a second time was just as rewarding as the first — rage, melancholy and dark humour are woven together into a shimmering tapestry of grief, loss and hope

    3. Don’t Call Us Dead, the 2017 collection by poet Danez Smith, explores police brutality and black mortality with explosive intensity and searing grace

    4. The lively new translation of Beowulf by Maria Dahvana Headley: As Irina Dumitrescu remarks in her lovely review, published in the NY Review of Books: “At its best, Headley’s verse channels the energy and formal sophistication of hip-hop.”

    5. The personals in the NYRB’s classifieds. Like this one: HITCH MY WAGON TO A STAR — Looking for a bright sophisticated senior stargazer! Eat your heart out, Hinge!

  • Compulsive consumption of tea (favourites are Stash’s lemon-ginger and Numi’s rooibos chai; what are yours?)

  • FINALLY joining the sourdough bandwagon (I know, I know…); my first couple of loaves have proven surprisingly edible — largely thanks, I suspect, to constant, doughy-fingered consultation of the excellent Super Sourdough by Bake-Off alumnus James Morton

  • Speaking of Bake-Off (aka the Great British Baking Show), Matt Lucas’s Boris Johnson spoof in the first episode of the 2020 season was perfection

  • The exhilarating chase scene (involving a villainous penguin no less) from The Wrong Trousers, an Oscar-winning 1993 Wallace & Gromit short

  • Samuel West as a grumpy, bearded vet

  • On Netflix: the new season of Call My Agent C’est magnifique! When do we get more Sex Education, though? Can Ryan Murphy PLEASE retire?! And did anyone actually make it through all seven episodes of Fran Leibowitz ranting in Pretend It’s a City (merely watching the series’ trailer exhausted me)

  • Two wacky, daring, playful South American films:

    1. Dry Wind (“Vento Seco”) — Daniel Nolasco’s directorial debut where the bleak Brazilian hinterland collides with a hallucinatory Tom of Finland dream-world

    2. Cola De Mono — in this Chilean feature, family tensions at Christmas dissolve into a campy, grisly homage to Stephen King

What’s brightened up your day, lately?

You’ve made it to the end of my monthly(ish) dispatch — thanks for reading! I started it because, although I left all social media a while ago, I’d still like to keep in touch. Replies are always welcome (especially if they include film recs, sourdough recipes or your favourite translation of the word “hwæt”)!