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Jennifer Forsberg Meyer

The Rural Life: What did I download, then?

My daughter, recently returned from a semester in France, is quite fluent in French. Still, as a nonnative speaker of it, she faces challenges — such as getting her mouth into that poochy, smushy form that makes French sound French. I’m fluent only in English (and sometimes not even that) but I do know how […]

The Rural Life: Cat tales

I have a cat problem. The kitty in question, Locket, is one of two family cats. Locket “belongs” mostly to my daughter, while her litter-mate, Leo, is more “my” cat. Now that “her” human is away at college, Locket has become a problem child. Both our cats are coal black with green eyes. Leo is […]

The Rural Life: Lights out, spirits up

“Oh, no!” <groan> That’s me when the power goes out. Not quite grief-stricken, but close. One minute all is as it should be, and the next my life lurches to a halt. Usually I’m working at my computer— happy, industrious — and then, abruptly, I’m not. I’m decommissioned, stranded without the tools of my trade. Bereft. […]

The Rural Life: Not even a mouse

What is the true magic of Christmas? Making us think mice are adorable. Mice are not adorable — not in your pantry, or under your sink or burrowed into that overcrowded closet in your spare room. They are, frankly, a pestilence when they want to get cozy with you. And yet … there’s hardly a […]

The Rural Life: Humans united

My husband and I watched season 1, episode 1 of “The Andy Griffith Show” the other evening. I’m not sure how old actor Ron Howard was at the time, but as Andy Taylor’s son Opie he looked and behaved like the most adorable 5-year-old you’ve ever seen. Opie is upset because Rose, the housekeeper and […]

The Rural Life: Rewiring your brain

Sometimes in life, things intersect in a way that makes you sit up and take notice. This recently happened to me. It started with some spectacular nature programs — the BBC series available on Netflix. My husband and I love them, and have so far zoomed through “Life,” “Life on Earth,” “Nature’s Great Events” and more. We […]

The Rural Life: We is us?

Much has been said about the messages of Pope Francis during his recent visit here. Liberals feel validated by his defense of immigration and his concerns over climate change. Conservatives are gratified by his emphasis on the traditional family and the sanctity of life at every stage. For me, what lingers is what has inspired […]

The rural life: Of dreamers and ‘quitters’

“Never give up.” These are the words of Winston Churchill, or so we’re told. An online search will net you a million-and-a-half hits, all attributing this or a similar quote to Britain’s great wartime leader. “Never, never, give up” is one variation. “Never, never, never give up” is another. However it appears, his message seems […]

The rural life: In praise of poles

Walking, the best exercise, is now better than ever. Walking has always been easy to do (no learning curve), versatile (do it indoors, outdoors, anywhere) and safe (low risk of injury). Plus, it requires no gym membership, and “free” is always good. Its one weakness? The lack of a rigorous upper-body component. Now, however, you […]

The Rural Life: Got groundwater?

I’ve been a dunce about groundwater. I’m embarrassed to say that, but it’s true. My family’s water needs are supplied by a water well. In fact, how we came by that well was the topic of my second-ever column — “Bewitched, bothered or befuddled?” — in September 2004. It recounted how, as we were preparing to build […]

The rural life: Doing well by doing good

Sometimes what goes around just keeps coming around. I think of that whenever I step into the fragrant interior of Andrae’s Bakery in Amador City. Part of what keeps me and my family finding our way to this little shop are the tempting goodies inside. But an even larger part is the goodwill owner Matt […]

The rural life: Mighty, ‘holy’ weed

Nature can be such a show-off. On a walk the other day, I spotted a seedling that had punched its way through several inches of asphalt. The blacktop was in good shape, too — just a few years old, thicker than you usually see on private roads, and free of cracks and holes. Except at […]

The rural life: Jurassic trees

Augustus Dowd reined his horse to a stop and gaped. Were his eyes deceiving him? There in a small clearing stood a tree three times larger than any he’d ever seen before. (And, as a backwoods hunter in California in the mid-1800s, he’d seen a lot of trees.) The specimen’s muscular, rounded top towered some […]

The rural life: New birds on the block

When the new birds began showing up, I realized how familiar I’d become with the old ones. After 35 years in Latrobe, you can’t mistake that bald, red face of our turkey vulture, for example, for anything else. And I’d never confuse the black phoebe, that petite, two-note songster in black-and-white evening attire, for any […]

The rural life: Treating people like animals

“Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr….” The muffled, one-note growl comes from Sadie, my Pomeranian/Chihuahua. She’s struggling not to bark. She desperately wants to (birds out the window!), but she also knows I won’t approve. We’ve been over this and, like most dogs, Sadie wants to please. She tries to understand what I want, then do it — to the […]

The rural life : Dead bird standing?

I blinked my eyes … was this for real? A small, sparrow-like bird stood motionless on my back deck, a scant three feet from the sliding glass door. No bird in its right mind would loiter there, so near the house and in a spot frequented by our two cats, both (I’m sorry to say) […]

The rural life : Oh! Christmas tree

Is there anything more gemütlich than a Christmas tree? My father loved this German word (“geh-MOOT-lisch”) which defies English translation but to me blends homey and cosy with poignant happiness. Hard to get enough of a feeling like that. Even so, four Christmas trees in one home may be overdoing it. In our defense, I’ll […]

The rural life : Forever young…and deluded

Recently I read something about Taylor Swift that amazed me. It wasn’t that she’s “America’s most important musician,” as this week’s Time magazine cover story calls her. Or that her last tour grossed a record-setting $150 million, or that her new album, “1989,” had the biggest week of sales since “The Eminem Show” in 2002. […]

The rural life : Monica Joy — believe!

I remember her first gig. A fourth-grader who had barely begun piano lessons, she played “Spanish Dancer” flawlessly as her younger sister danced. The venue was the Miller’s Hill School 2007 talent show. Decked out in Spanish vests and wide-brimmed, tasseled sombreros, the girls performed like pros. So much so that theirs is the only […]

The rural life: Beastly crimes

Change is in the air. Starting next year, the FBI will begin tracking animal cruelty as a top-tier offense, categorizing it individually in the agency’s uniform reporting system. Traditionally, animal abuse has been lumped with smaller crimes under a generic “other” category, lessening its priority and making it difficult to find, count and track. Now, […]

The rural life: Having info? Good. Using it? Better!

Have you ever said to yourself, “I’m going to do that,” in response to a good idea you’d seen or heard? Then you got busy or distracted, and you wound up not doing it, after all. Which meant something that might have had a positive influence on your life was lost instead. This happens to […]

The rural life: Life’s little half-halts

Can a colonoscopy make you happy? Having just had one, I can say, unequivocally, yes. I don’t mean the peace of mind that results from knowing your insides are OK, though that’s nice, too. I’m referring to plain old everyday happiness, in general. A colonoscopy can boost that, as well. How can this be? The […]

The rural life: Who’s the real jerk?

“Sorry,” went the headline. “Your Cat Is Actually A Total Jerk. It’s Just Science.” The piece was written by Renee Jacques, a “viral content editor” at the Huffington Post online. It’s meant to be funny and, of course, to go viral, but her claim that “it’s just science” rubbed me the wrong way. Like one […]

The rural life: Walking — wowza!

In a world where health advice changes like the weather, there’s one prescription you can rely on: walking. I’ve quit trying to keep track of which foods are good and which are bad (they keep trading places), and instead just try to walk as much as I can. I’ve sung the virtues of walking before. […]

The rural life: Save the day: Neuter and spay

My neighbor meant well. His e-mail, sent to everyone in our homeowners association, began, “Anyone need kittens? Of course you do!” He went on to explain that two strays at his friend’s house had produced litters that now needed homes. He pointed out that “kittens are great for all kinds of things out here in […]

The rural life : On the fly, grimly

Consider the white, legless maggot. This most revolting of creatures is nothing more than a baby fly. How appropriate! Flies are despicable, and though I’m sure they have some place in the whole circle of life thing, I don’t care. I dislike them and their brood, and suspect we’d be better off without them. My […]

The rural life: Cloud watching

“Not a cloud in the sky.” Sound like a perfect day? Not to me. I think a sky without a single cloud is like a table without flowers, or a neck without pearls. It’s missing the adornment that sets off its true beauty. I’ve always loved clouds. I love gazing at them to see what […]

The rural life: Keeping it rural

Do you appreciate the rural nature of western El Dorado County? If so, I hope you’re aware of the brawl taking place right now over the future of our neck of the woods. The battle lines are complicated, but in this column I hope to encourage you to learn more about what’s going on. I […]

The rural life: Kafkaesque

I knew I was in trouble the first time I saw it, in my kitchen. It looked and acted like no insect I’d seen before. It seemed almost to gasp when it saw — or sensed — me. Then it whirled crazily for an instant before scurrying to the edge of the counter and disappearing. […]

The rural life: Friends with roots

I hear the eucalyptus trees first. On a morning walk, I’ve gone beyond the range of the mockingbird that’s been mesmerizing me; this allows me to notice the whispering of the eucalyptus trees planted along either side of my neighbor’s driveway. The breeze is just enough to set their papery leaves rustling. Now that I’m […]

The rural life: Before you speak (or text or post)

Words can be weapons. They can also be catalysts for great good. It all depends on how we use them. My husband is the principal of a large public high school in the Elk Grove Unified School District. A few years back, he began popularizing a certain expression among his students. His goal was getting […]

The rural life: Savage love

His name was Spunky, but it could just as easily have been Slasher the way he wielded those claws. My hands and arms and ankles were often threaded with tiny scabs back in the day, when my family owned this magnificent cat, from 2002 to 2004. Half Siamese and half Himalayan, beautiful Spunky had medium-length […]

The rural life: Slower living

At the risk of sounding geezerly, I’d like to suggest a new catchphrase for the new year. “Just slow down.” It’s not fancy, but it’s almost as catchy as “Just do it,” and I’ve lived with that one (thank you, Nike) for decades. I use it to rouse myself from my natural state — procrastination […]

The rural life: Gifts of true love

  Usually it’s children who find it hard to sleep the night before Christmas. Two years ago, however, I had this problem myself, though not for visions of Santa and reindeer. My restlessness came from knowing that my daughter would likely be up during the night, busy as a North-Pole elf, baking special Christmas gifts […]

The rural life: Curiouser and curiouser

It was so odd. It happened about a week ago, during my daily walk. I paused at the top of a hill and watched, dumbfounded, as a skunk hurried by me on the left side of the road, passing me just as a car would. Alert and wily as any wild creature, the skunk had […]

The rural life : End of the zipless ‘bleep?’ If only

Now she tells us. Author Erica Jong, whose sensational 1973 book “Fear of Flying” promoted the liberated joys of the “zipless” sexual union, now admits she doesn’t really believe in such encounters. “For the most part, when you fall into bed with a total stranger, it’s a great disappointment,” she told National Public Radio’s Susan […]

The rural life: Achilles’ heels

I could not, for the life of me, figure out what was wrong with her. The young woman and I were both guests at a wedding, and as she made her way to her seat, her halting, stilted gait was like that of an elderly matron. Yet this girl was no more than 15 and […]

The rural life: Lions among us

In the spring of 2012, our Saanan goat and his two equine pasture mates told me an interesting story about a mountain lion. I was returning from my morning walk when I found Buddy and the two horses clumped in a corner of their pasture, standing at attention with ears up, riveted toward the neighbor’s […]

The rural life: Meditate on this

It seemed so easy. Sit quietly, breathe deeply, clear the mind, reap the rewards. I’m speaking of meditation, the ancient technique that’s increasingly in the spotlight as researchers discover more and more benefits of it. What is meditation, exactly? I’m not sure. Its main goal seems to be stopping the incessant chatter that normally fills […]

The rural life: Life isn’t fair

My intent was to save young jackrabbits from drowning. The events of last week, however, suggest I may have done the opposite. A little background. About this time last year, after I saw a baby jackrabbit nosing around our horses’ plastic water tub, I took action. I’d already found a young hare drowned in this […]

The rural life : Linked in or creeped out?

Social media platforms are getting…icky. They’re an entity in themselves, stalking you with “friendly” messages about people you might want to connect with or actions you might want to take to raise your profile in the world. I dislike them. I’m a member of both Facebook and LinkedIn, the latter a Facebook-like site for professionals […]

The rural life: Remembering Rocky

What’s faster than a racehorse and as loving as a Labrador? If you guessed greyhound, a gold star. I was reminded of this wonderful breed when I came across a greyhound rescue organization online. I hadn’t known there was such a group (there actually are several), and discovering it brought two thoughts to mind. One […]

The rural life: Songs my father sang

Our parents influence us in ways that are sometimes mysterious. My late father, Bill Forsberg, was a Renaissance man of sorts, with talents for writing, art, poetry, music and more. He certainly influenced my own love of writing and music, but until recently I didn’t realize how much he influenced the writing of my sister, […]

The rural life: Holy crepes

A few months ago, I did something I felt a little funny about. I wasn’t sure it was OK to do, but I couldn’t stop myself. I used our local homeowners’ association email-address list to send out a message that wasn’t about homeowners’ business. I know. Bad. I rationalized, of course. I told myself it […]

The rural life: Dog’s life … at 60

Sixty is a big birthday. Even we baby boomers, so fond of redefining age groups (50 is the new 30, and so on), find 60 problematic. It’s hard to claim you’re still middle-aged when you’ve reached this milestone. Sixty is seniorhood, or at least the gateway to it. All those discounts and whatnot. I turned […]

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