With the temperature dropping and the wind picking up speed, we had a decision to make. The first three days of our annual trip to Death Valley had been low key, pleasant, and still. But the forecast showed a monster winter storm bearing down on the area, and our window for a safe exit was narrowing quickly. We broke camp in record time by the last stand of daylight, jumped in the car, and made our way back to the Owens Valley.
Approaching Highway 395, we could stick to our original plan and go north to Lake Tahoe, threading the needle through impending road closures. Or turn south and do an end-run around the Sierra, traveling hundreds of miles up I-5 during a gnarly rainstorm. We chose north (to the kids’ protests, they’ll have you know) and reached an impasse in Lee Vining, along the shores of Mono Lake. Road closures to the north, and now to the south, trapped us in this tiny town with (literally) no room at the inn. We found a gas station parking lot, pulled out our sleeping bags, and rang in the new year huddled inside our car, as snow dumped all around us throughout the night.
It was an inauspicious start to the year, but also a moment to be grateful for the light that shines through: the safety of our ad hoc shelter, our proximity to each other, and good news later the next day that we could escape to the south and find our way home.
With gratitude, our other travels this year were exciting and much less dramatic. In February, we traveled to Japan with our friends, the Schultzes, to ski in the Hakuba Valley and explore the weird and wonderful neighborhoods of Tokyo. Tonkatsu and Japanese powder shots each find their way to warm the soul. Later in the year, we took Carson’s lead in selecting our summer vacation destination, traveling to Kauai for a rare low-key week exploring new beaches and new ice cream flavors every day. Regular trips to Tahoe through the winter and summer provided a relaxing escape from city life. A holiday road trip took us through Corvallis for an OSU home game, a quick stop in Portland, and Thanksgiving with the Chinapens in Boise.
In the spring Carson decided that more horsepower was necessary for his interplanetary expeditions. He researched, spec’d, bought, and built a custom gaming PC from the ground up. His favorite games these days are Star Citizen and Kerbal Space Program (KSP) 2. He does emerge from his room regularly (usually when he hits his screen time limit) to play with Cali, watch movies with Dad, and take weekly parkour classes at Acrosports.
Not content to wreak havoc in the digital world alone, Carson entered his 1 lb combat robot Blood Rush in the junior antweight class at Robogames. He went 2-2, holding his own against some high-kinetic energy robots with impressive driving skill and build quality.
Carson continues to play viola in the Presidio Middle School Orchestra. Their recent winter concert was one of the cultural highlights of the year in San Francisco (check it out here – Carson’s group starts at 20:55). When he’s not trying to convince the family to watch one more episode of For All Mankind, he’s happy to keep you up to date on upcoming launches and landings from NASA, SpaceX, ESA, and their cohort.
Favorite Class: Math
Career Aspiration: Aerospace Engineer
Autumn wrapped up her freshman year at ALHS and took on a four-week internship this summer at a local art studio as a counselor-in-training for youth art classes. She loves thrifting, and no article of clothing is safe from her scissors and seam ripper. She continues to draw, paint, knit, and crochet. She attended her first concerts this year, catching the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs with Dad at the Greek Theater; Outside Lands with Mom; Hozier with the whole family; and Ha Vey at a neighborhood club with friends.
This fall she returned for her sophomore year, with a more challenging course load and a goal to get more involved in activities. She reunited with her friends in the theater tech crew, working on both set design and costume design. For the fall play (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) she designed and sewed an original costume for one of the characters, receiving a shout-out from the director at the final performance. Autumn recently made the varsity soccer team and is getting regular play time as a defender for the Mustangs.
Favorite Class: Chemistry
Career Aspiration: Fashion Designer
In her own words…
Every once in awhile we choose those years as adults to shift our paradigms – or maybe they choose us. 2023 was one of those years for me and it wasn’t just the introduction to reading glasses. I set out to prioritize fitness and mental health, time with friends new & old, and to try my hand at storytelling. Travel highlights included summer “away camp” with a women’s group camping along the Yuba River, a weekend away in Mexico City with longtime friend Sandi, and a week-long salmon fishing trip at Langara Island, British Columbia complete with a shotgun ride in a helicopter.
As part of a mental health journey, I began exploring my voice and pursing the art of storytelling in song. I’m a member of an online songwriting circle with women in five different countries, taking singing lessons, and just purchased my first guitar. I enjoyed several live shows this year including Outside Lands, a trip to LA to see two RTJ shows with Matt, and a concert at my favorite venue, the Greek Theater in Berkeley. I’ve set an ambitious goal for myself to write 18 original songs in 2024.
Favorite Book of 2023: The Creative Act: A Way of Being, Rick Rubin
Favorite Album of 2023: 717 Tapes The Album, Warren Zeiders
After 23 years of grinding through a career that has been equal parts stimulating, challenging, exciting and frustrating, I decided to give myself a break. With the love and support of my family, I started a one-year sabbatical in April to focus on my health, my family, and growth outside my professional life. I’ve been thinking about this idea for years, and with careful planning the time was finally right to take this step. It’s been exciting and terrifying in all the right ways.
I’ve taken advantage of an open calendar and spent a lot of time outside, traveling about one week a month to destinations across the western U.S. I’ve been beach camping along the Lost Coast, explored slot canyons in southern Utah, tagged some high points along the Sierra crest, and floated down the Deschutes River. I’ve visited about a half-dozen National Parks, camped anywhere I could find an open patch of dirt, and stared down many miles of open road. This fall, Jody and I escaped to Banff for a long weekend, and a few days later, I took a camping trip to Pinnacles National Park with my brother, Scott. My time outside this year has been exciting, challenging, familiar, and therapeutic. It feels like a return to form in many ways.
As summer faded into fall, I dedicated more time to craft and creative work. I love my time in the workshop. Focus can be challenging for me, and this creative manual work encourages me to take my time, learn from my mistakes, and appreciate the product of my learning and labour. After a trip to Amana, Iowa in September, I was inspired to finish a leather working project I started years ago, and since then, have been slowly working my way through some hand-tool woodworking projects of a smaller scale than last year’s dining table. This year, I also started learning piano with an approach that suits my goals. My brain is learning faster than my hands, and it’s a struggle that I deeply enjoy.
Musical Highlight: MTT Conducting Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at Davies Hall
Career Aspiration: I’ll Keep You Posted
Cali continues to love everyone at full throttle. She experiences the world through her nose and a simple walk around the block can be a 20-30 minute olfactory adventure. She will turn three in a few weeks and generally passes her days sleeping, snarfling, and taking walks in Mountain Lake and Golden Gate Parks.
Favorite Greeting: Muzzle Punch to the Crotch
Favorite Way to Relax: Belly Down in the Snow
This has been a year of reflection — taking stock of the life we’ve built, the patterns that burn-in over the years, both those that bring us joy and fulfillment, and the parts that no longer serve us. It’s been important for us to fight inertia and make thoughtful strides toward the life we want to live going forward, as individuals and as a family. It hasn’t always been easy, and often lays bare the atrophy induced by comfort and complacency. But also exposes the opportunity to grow and build something new and vital. With credit to Leonard Cohen, “It’s a reminder that there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
We’re stoked about 2024 and what it holds in store. As ever, we hope the new year brings more opportunities to explore and grow and create — to see you and make new memories together. We love you and hope to see you soon. Peace be with you and yours, this season and always.
Matt, Jody, Autumn, Carson (& Cali)
San Francisco, CA
CODA (family playlists from 2023)
Summer 2023 Playlist on Apple Music and Spotify