2023 & Me – Mark and Karen’s Year In Review

2023 has come and gone. Tomorrow today will be yesterday. The years seem to rush by at a more and more rapid and frantic pace the older we get. Time is limitless, and fortunately it remains priceless.

Spending time with our granddaughter Willow continues to be the brightest highlight of this and every year. She is a delightful, beautiful, smart and curious young girl. She is about to start pre-school near her home in Rockridge in Oakland, after a couple of years of day care in the Berkeley hills. 

Her father Jordan, is a software engineer who recently changed jobs, moving from Homebase, where he had been working for the last 8 years to Plenty, whose goal is goal is to “bring wealth management into the next era: for everybody, not just the 1%.” It is a company founded by one of his coworkers from two previous jobs and is presently a small, well funded startup based in San Francisco.

Taylor is a digital designer for Athleta, a division of the Gap that “designs clothing that integrates performance and technical features for active women and girls.” She says that it is her best job yet.

Karen continues to work for Jewish Family and Children’s Services, consulting with parents about the very complex and ever evolving lives and issues of babies, toddlers, children and teens, because children do not come with an instruction manual.  Most of her work is done remotely from her home office, on phones or via Zoom. She also does daily Pilates and walks 3-4 miles with Zoe, plays Mah Jong and reads with her book group. She also enjoys the local TheaterWorks stimulating and beautifully produced plays.

Mark continues to be an art addict and spends much of his time in the creative modes of guitar playing, photography, making digital artworks and writing. He has published several books this year, links to which are listed at the end of this letter. He goes to the gym every day, does yoga and PT exercises twice a day and meditates daily, to try to keep living on the sunny side of the lawn.

Our little canine family member Zoe is a Morkie, a small, delightful, loyal designer dog who is a cross between a Maltese and a Yorkshire Terrier. It is now clear to me why the phrase “Man’s Best Friend” rings true. Zoe is the little dog on the right at her doggie day care which she attends a few times a month.

We Got Some Traveling In This Year

In February we went to the Big Island of Hawaii and visited our friends Paul and Charley, who live on 35 acres on a very rural hillside outside the village of Ninole, 17 miles north of Hilo. Paul had completed a big remodel project during the Plague Years and we were able to stay in their guest suite rather than in their storage room, a welcome upgrade from our previous visit several years ago. There was snow on the 13,500’ volcanic peak of Mauna Loa, an unexpected weather flourish in the hot and humid tropics. We could have skied and surfed on the same day.

We climbed Fissure 8, a small steep solitary volcano in the middle of a new lava field north of Hilo. Beneath us were dozens of incinerated homes, now under 50 feet of solid rock. Hawaii is the land rainbows, and we saw several every day. We came home with suntans and Covid, in spite of years of hand sanitizer, masking, and endless vaccinations. We recovered in California after a Paxlovid rebound and have since gotten a couple more vaccinations.

In April Karen took a short trip to Portland for a Seder celebration with the northwest contingent of the Friedland family at her sister Nancy’s house while Mark passed over that opportunity and stayed at home with Zoe.

In May we spent a few days in a B & B in Point Reyes Station over Mother’s Day weekend, north of San Francisco, where we hiked in the super blooming flower filled dunes in Point Reyes National Seashore.

Another highlight of the year was the Strawberry Music Festival in the foothills of the Sierras over Memorial Day weekend. We have been going with friends and family for 30 years and this year Jordan, Taylor and Willow joined us for Willow’s first musical camping experience. Hearing James Taylor at Stanford was another wonderful performance of notable notes of note this year.

In June, Karen and much of the Friedland family took a several day wet and wild trip down the Rogue River in Southern Oregon while Mark stayed at home with Zoe.

Karen flew north to Sun River, Oregon twice this summer and fall to help with our sister-in-law Linda’s recovery after having two knees surgically replaced on two different occasions.

In August it was Road Trip time again, this time to points north. We stopped in Ashland, Oregon where we stayed with our friends Sara and Don, with whom we will be taking a river cruise in Portugal in the spring. Then it was on to Portland, where we stayed with Karen’s sister Nancy and family. Jordan and Taylor flew up there and we helped take care of Willow for a few days while they worked remotely, the new universal work option. Then it was off to Tacoma where we stayed with our niece Mackenzie, her husband Wes and their dog Piggie. We then met up with my cousin Tim McAfee and his wife, so it was mostly family all the time on this 2 week motor cruise. Our last stop was in Seattle, where we visited our dear old friends Carlene and David in their beautiful home on a hillside above the Puget Sound, with glorious views of the San Juan Islands. Our drive home was obscured by dense smoke and ash, as fires raged throughout Oregon and California, the new normal for west coast summers.

Our Swiss friend Jenny came to visit us a few weeks later while her intrepid daughters and husband hiked the John Muir Trail. We returned to Point Reyes with Jenny for a few delightful days on the western edge of the continent.

In October we spent a few days at Lake Tahoe (or Lake Taco, as Willow called it) with Jordan, Taylor and Willow and their wonderful friends. The first night we were there a bear opened the door of our Subaru, found nothing inside and did not have the manners or courtesy to close the door. The next night we locked the car doors and the bear ripped one of the handles off of the door and lacerated the paint, causing damages that totaled over $1,000, including repainting two badly scratched doors, which fortunately was all covered by insurance. We climbed a small mountain with Willow and got a grand overview of the entire lake and surrounding mountains. Karen and I then went on to Sierra Hot Springs to celebrate our young friend Lou’s 60th birthday. I taught Lou an Alan Ginsberg poem as we were munching our lunches in our birthday suits:

“A naked lunch is natural to us

We eat reality sandwiches.

But allegories are so much lettuce,

Why hide the madness.” 

After a couple of wonderful December musical Christmas events at Stanford’s Memorial Church, Karen and I had a very quiet, gift free Christmas day by ourselves with a festive red lentil soup dinner.  A couple of days later we drove north to the Sonoma Coast’s Sea Ranch, where all of my Brown family siblings and their children and grandchildren gathered for several days, as we have done since the late 60’s. We had a white elephant gift exchange in which my gift was a bronze elephant lamp with a multi colored cosmic themed  bulb.  A storm was raging for part of the time we were there which featured the biggest waves I have ever seen. Willow, Karen and I had a great time playing with Willow’s cousins,  Aya and Miyari. We returned to bring in New Year’s eve in Mountain View, and continued our geriatric tradition of going to bed before midnight. 

We are considering a move to Lamorinda, the nickname for 3 adjacent cities in the east bay hills behind Oakland sometime in the coming year, in order to be closer to Jordan, Taylor and Willow. Karen had wanted to make the move very soon, but it was too much for Mark to be able to leave the home, yard and garden that he loves and has been working on for 40 years and having to start a new life in an unknown community at age 72 in early 2024. We will reassess our options when we return from Portugal in the spring.

Eleanor Roosevelt, whom I met and shook hands with in New York when I was 5 years old, once wrote:

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” 

When my mother was young, living in New Jersey for a year on furlough from her family’s life in China, she sometimes saw wild haired Albert Einstein on the Princeton campus, walking around barefoot.
His wisdom on getting older was: 

“Learn from yesterday, live for today and hope for tomorrow.”

Prospero Ano to everyone!

Mark, Karen & Zoe

Here are links for books that Mark published this year:

“A Mirror On Main Street” (Street photography):


“Avian Ascensions” (Artworks featuring X-rays, skeletons, bodies, bones, tornados, soaring birds and landscapes.):


“Surrounded by Water”: (Photos and stories of islands):


“Living In Another World – A Young Boy’s Adventures Across the Pond In Caledonia, 1959 – 1960.”
(Stories about my life in Scotland as a 9 and 10 year old):


Many of my other art, photography and writing books can also be seen and read for free here:


Mark’s website and contact info



Karen’s e-mail: