Monday, August 21, 2023

Nakata's Smile

The Huntington Library,
San Marino, CA
Yoshimatsu Nakata won me over with his smile.

He was Jack London's valet for eight years, but he was more than that.

He sailed the South Seas with London on the Snark, the yacht that London built to his own specifications.

He embarked with his boss on a trip around the Horn on the tall ship Dirigo.

And he was first mate on the last boat that London owned and sailed on the San Francisco Bay, the Roamer.

The Huntington Library,
San Marino, CA
In early 2022, I found two of Nakata's personal diaries, a real find since Nakata is a central character in my book in progress, a place-based biography about London and the San Francisco Bay. 

Here is my story in California magazine about finding the diaries, the long journey of translation, and my continuing fascination with this young man who London considered more of a son or younger brother.

Nakata's Smile: Unlocking the Diaries of Jack London's Valet

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Food Forests: A vision for the future

Photo by Aleta George
Best friends Nam Nguyen and Natalie DeNicholas graciously welcomed visitors to their "food forest" garden Greyhawk Grove by picking pea pods and handing them out, sharing eggs from their Easter-egger chickens, and answering questions about plants.

Nguyen planted the garden nine years ago with the help of Sustainable Solano, a Solano County nonprofit that helps people create sustainable yards. Along with its fruit, greens, and herbs, Greyhawk Grove has benches for sitting, framed poetry for reflection, and spring bulbs for cheer.

 “We are aware of mental health in this house, and it’s nice to have a calm place in the garden,” says DeNicholas, as a hummingbird fluttered to an apple blossom. 

This spring, Sustainable Solano hosted open gardens that they helped plan and plant, offering visitors a chance to find out just what a food forest is: a garden layered like a natural forest that includes fruit-bearing trees and edible plants.

Read more in Kneedeep Times about this garden and another on the tour that was planted with flood mitigation in mind.

El Bosquecito, or Little Forest, garden. Photo by Aleta George

Monday, May 15, 2023

Eight years after the publication of
Ina Coolbrith: The Bittersweet Song of California's First Poet Laureate, it has a sweet new review!

Ayako Hoshino, an assistant professor at Wayo Women's University in Ichikawa, Chiba, Japan (near Tokyo), wrote a review for Lifewriting Annual: Biographical and Autobiographical Studies.

Hoshino begins by saying, "Although much has been written about California’s rich literary history, the life of poet Ina Donna Coolbrith (1841–1928) seems to deserve a brighter spotlight."

The closing paragraph says, "George gives a sympathetic and comprehensive treatment of Coolbrith’s ambitions and intelligence, recognizing the struggles she faced in a male-centered world."

Thank you for the review and recognition of Ina, Professor Hoshino!

Hoshino, A., (2022) “Aleta George, Ina Coolbrith: The Bittersweet Song of California’s First Poet Laureate. Suisun City, CA: Shifting Plates Press, 2015. 337 pp.”, Lifewriting Annual: Biographical and Autobiographical Studies 5(1). doi:

Dorothy Lazard, My Favorite Librarian

Librarian, historian, and writer Dorothy Lazard has just published her first book, What You Don't Know Will Make a Whole New World (Heyday Books, May 2023).

I first met Dorothy more than a decade ago at the Oakland History Center at the main branch of the Oakland Public Library when I was researching my biography on Ina Coolbrith, Oakland's first public librarian and the nation's first poet laureate. Dorothy quickly became my favorite (living) librarian, and I'm not alone in my enthusiasm. She retired two years ago to pursue her decades-long interest in writing.

In March 2023 I met with Dorothy to talk about her book, her path to the Oakland Public Library, and her passion for writing.

Read my profile of Dorothy Lazard in California magazine here. 


Thursday, June 23, 2022

The Grande Dames of the Delta: Exploring Moveable Bridges

One early Saturday morning I took a self-guided tour of several moveable bridges in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Walnut Grove Bridge. Photo by Aleta George

I drove across four of the narrow, steel beauties on State Route 160, and sat in the shade on the river to watch the Mokelumne Bridge swing open at its scheduled time.

Here's a link to my article in Estuary News, "The Grande Dames of the Delta." Check out the video I took of an opening of the Walnut Grove Bridge below.

Walnut Grove Bridge opening by Aleta George

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Jack London on the Carquinez Strait

The unseasonable rain on June 5, 2022, didn't dampen the spirits of the 30 passengers aboard the Pacific Pearl for a Jack London-themed boat tour of the Carquinez Strait.

Gail Yamamoto Seymour, Tarnel Abbott (London's great granddaughter), and Jack London Society president Jay Williams take in the stories and views from the bow.

As tour guide, I told stories about London and his lifelong relationship with the San Francisco Bay, with a focus on the Carquinez Strait.


The chartered tour started at the Vallejo Yacht Club, where London was a member. We then motored up the Strait to Benicia and back. 

"I learned many facts," said Jack London State Park docent Wendy Byrd. "Best of all, I can visualize my readings of Jack London with a context of where events took place. I, too, will never cross the Carquinez Bridge without thinking of Jack in the water."

This event was planned in coordination with the Jack London Society.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Sturdy Sturgeon

A sturgeon's toothless, telescoping mouth sucks up clams, crabs and shrimp like a vacuum. Wikimedia Commons. 

White sturgeon have been cruising San Francisco Bay’s murky bottom for thousands of years, and the species has been around since before T-Rex. 

Scientists believe that the fish may live to be over 100 years old. For this article I asked the question: What is the life expectancy of white sturgeon in the San Francisco Bay?

Read "Sturdy Sturgeon" in Estuary News to learn more about this fascinating fish.