Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Walks #88 and #89: Napa Valley Bud Break...

Walk Duration: 30 minutes each...

I'm on an extended run at work. Ten days. Filling in as Social Worker (one of my colleagues calls me a "socialist social worker") and as a Utilization Review Nurse while vacations are had by those who do a much better job at this than I do. But the work is fun and I get to talk on the phone, attend meetings and generally stay away from the mayhem which psychiatric units can be.

When the nine to five part of my day is done, I head down to the library in the snobby, trusterfunder town of St. Helena. After answering my personal e-mails and reviewing this and that--I then walk around a vineyard.

It is "bud break" here in the Napa Valley. A time when the vines are shooting out new growth. It also is the most vulnerable time for these young shoots. All the vineyards have massive fans (like the one pictured above) and frost protection systems. For good reason: only cannabis gets more dollars per ton of harvest than wine grapes. The vineyard folks go to great and elaborate lengths to protect the grapes that will, within one to three years, be the 2009 vintage of some of the most expensive wine in the world.

These fans are loud. When the temperatures start to dip to the mid part of the 30 degree Fahrenheit range, they all start up. It sounds like thousands of helicopters are descending on the Napa Valley. The only time I remember it being louder here was when George Bush stayed overnight at one of the Napa Valley Resorts and they had Jet Fighters circling the Napa Valley all night.

The fans keep the air moving so that the shoots and later this spring, the flowers--won't freeze.
Such is life in the world's first "agricultural preserve".

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Walk #87: Getting the Garden Ready...

Walk Duration: 1 and 1/2 hours...

A short walk with the dog and much more hauling of soaking wet strawbales today. Spring time chores...

I leave early tomorrow morning (4:00 am) for the Napa Valley...

Walk #86: Wheelbarrows and Mushrooms...

Walk Duration: Two hours...
Mushrooms growing out of a straw bale.

I'm back at the Solar Homestead. Just for a couple of days, then it is back to the Napa Valley for (possibly) 10 days or so.

I spent the day yesterday with my wheelbarrow. First I used it to make six batches of mortar and built more rock wall. Then I used it to haul soggy strawbales into a compost pile.

I realize that it doesn't seem like much of a walk; trudging along with a wheelbarrow fifty yards up and down a hill. To me, it counts. Why? Because it is part of the joy of being outside on a lovely spring day, doing grunt work. Before I bought this place, I had a lack of grunt work. I'm talking about the physical work of maintaining a rural lifestyle. Hauling, pruning, digging, moving, scraping, towing, lifting and muttering. These are activities that I love. These are activities missing from much of the modern suburban and urban industrial household.

When we no longer engage in the muscley fun of grunt work, we lose out on much pleasure. Done with the right attitude, it is the same as taking a walk...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Walk #85: A Predawn Walk...

Work Duration: Thirty minutes...

Friday. I awoke quite early (4:30 am) and decided to take a walk before my shower and work. Since I was doing officey sorts of work with bankers hours, I had time. Walking around in the early morning. Too early for the first nurses to show up for their 6:30 am start time. My first obligation was the 9:00 am meeting.

Quiet. Most lights out.

This is unusual for me; I'm not disciplined in any fashion whatsoever. Bedtime is usually when I'm tired and can't hold the book up to read any longer. As a nurse, when working, I have to get up painfully early. That's one thing I do not like about this profession---the early start times, the 24/7 schedules. Weekends are just another workday, potentially. And Holidays? we are obligated to work at least half of them.

But there is another thing that happens with nurses: they become very flexible with their time. Stay up all night? no problem. Get up early and work? no problem. Work extra or varied shifts? no problem. The resilient nurses I know can switch their schedules (and bodies) on a dime's notice. Admirable folk...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Walk #84: Utilization Review, Single Payer and Warm Napa Evenings...

Walk Duration: one hour....

I awoke at 4:30 am and drove the three hours to Napa to work today. Having been in this business for quite a few years now, I sometimes wear different hats. I do the social work sometimes. Today I was the Utilization Review Nurse.

I knew it would be a relatively good day when, while driving through the wilds of northern California, I came across a herd of Elk. Next to the elk were a dozen wild turkeys. The turkeys were all puffed up, looking like they were ready for a Pilgrims Thanksgiving dinner. The elk and the turkeys were sharing the same field. I took photos (to be uploaded later). I could have gotten closer, but I didn't want to spook the elk onto the highway. I like my elk alive and foraging--not dead; implanted into the side of a Buick.

I took a walk around the grounds of the hospital in the warmish evening. The first warm evening we have had. Dressed in shorts and a t-shirt--I thought about my day.

I've never been a UR nurse before. I spent my day talking to insurance companies. Talking to other nurses--except they didn't identify themselves as such--they announced on the phone they were Patient Care Advocates.

Yeah, right!

The other nurses (Patient Care Advocates) were friendly enough: They have impossible jobs. They are there to: 1. minimize stays at inpatient hospitals; 2. find reasons to deny payment of their client's hospitalizations; 3. Move the process along to get to cheaper ways of paying for their client's care.

My job was to justify the client's hospitalization. Of course, most UR nurses never meet the clients. Neither do the "patient care advocates". We read charts; go to meetings; have coffee and browse through care plans. A silly system.

Insurance companies recently started using the term: Patient Care Advocates after a bunch of bad publicity (showcased by Michael Moore) when deaths occurred after insurance companies (and their hired Nursey guns) refused care to some high profile patients. A name change was in order, so now they are Patient Care Advocates. Call it damage control.

I am an advocate of single payer health care. Socialized medicine. To be social is not a dirty word to me; in fact, I find it highly admirable to be sociable. Aren't we social creatures? Those who think that "socialized medicine" results in a lower level of care have never really chatted with a floor nurse. The profit motive is not what motivates a floor nurse. No!

Nurses don't give a rip what insurance plan you have. They are there to care for you! They are there to help! Are MD's as motivated by such pure public good impulses? I think so. So what keeps us from providing decent care to everyone?

I would argue that the lack of Socialized Medicine does such. It is time for a single payer plan in the United States. Medicare for all! Support HR 676! Tell Obama to quit ignoring the one solution that makes sense!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Walks #81, #82 and #83: Domination Systems!

Walk Durations: Two at thirty minutes, one hour today...

A new six foot tall fence dominates a section of my walk now...

I walked in St. Helena on Monday. Tuesday I drove the 158.8 miles from the hospital to my front door. With the evening sunlight lasting longer, I was able to celebrate my reunion with our Homestead with a walk.

More of the same today. Except now my walk is mired by a new fence. The ambitious kids down the road have enclosed their three acres with a six foot tall fence. Last week I stopped and talked to the male kid about the fence. "We have predators", he said. "We like to keep our dog in here", he said. Of course, the dogs are pit bulls, the number one breed of the Redneck in these parts. When I mentioned that his fence interrupts the natural flow of the fauna in the area, he looked at me like I was speaking Hindi. When I went on to state that it is incredibly ugly to have all these individual Fiefdoms on the ridge, he just shook his head and walked away. I am in danger of becoming an ecosocialist leper in this "off the grid" community.

Of course, there really is no good reason to construct such a fence. Any garden he has could be protected with just a perimeter fence around the garden. The same goes for protecting his chickens. And what dog needs three acres to frolic (terrorize?) in? This ridge we sit on is narrow, just a few hundred yards from side to side. All sorts of wildlife meander through these sections of private property. Constructing a high fence restricts the normal flow of deer, skunks, raccoons, possums and other critters.

Wendell Barry writes about cooperating with the land. He wrote that land needs humans to complement it. Stewards. That would be nice if most of us operated from a "take only what you need and share the rest" point of view.

We are products of a Domination Culture. Our religion teaches us that we are the "crown" of creation and we've used this ideology to dominate every thing around us. This has led to Domination Cultures which create not only empires, but also plays havoc with the culture of the Wild.

I read this weekend that 50 percent of the land surface of the Earth is now inhabited by humans, or used for our human economic activity. Of course this is all the best land. We build our cities next to the best rivers. Our farms on the best land. What is left for Wild Culture are sections of mountains or deserts which we have been unable to Dominate yet (or are undesirable).

So what does this have to do with my neighbor's fence? It illustrates once again, our ideology of Domination. "Keep the Varmints out!". "No Trespassing". "This is my land!". In the meantime, the acorns which feed the deer on this ridge top, are no longer accessible from the youngster's property. Jackrabbits will no longer be able to roam and forage on his property. The same goes for skunks and raccoons.

This is where I cheer for the bears of the area. They don't respect fences. It is my hope that they will break down this fence, and harvest our neighbor's chickens. The bears need the protein more than my neighbors. Hopefully, the bears will bat last!

Time to leave our Domination Systems behind. And soon! if we expect our wild cousins to survive. How will this happen? My hope is that a change in consciousness will occur en Mass, much like Cigarette smoking went from expected behavior to deviant behavior within one generation. A good start would be to realize that All Life has a right to exist. Not just humans. Then, we as humans will adjust our behaviors to include all living things.

And fences will be a thing of the past....

Monday, March 23, 2009

Walks #78, #79 and #80: Brain Dead and CNN

Walk Duration: 30 minutes each time.

All good things come to an end.

Looks like my prolificness had to end at some time too. The past few days has found me working with some of the most difficult clients I have ever endured. I managed to take a walk everyday, but only for thirty minutes. And I certainly didn't want to.

I walked in Calistoga once and St. Helena twice. Nothing special happened. Or I was just too brain dead to notice. I most certainly had nothing to write about. So I didn't.

After my walks I crawled back to my Monastic Dorm and promptly went to bed. At 7 pm each night.

The news is bad here. One of the Doctors at our close knit hospital died yesterday, along with his spouse and three lovely children, in a plane crash in Montana. Sad. They were loved by many. The CNN trucks were at the hospital today--looking for someone to speak to the memory of this talented man. Many certainly could do that.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Walk #77: Walking with Larry Norman

Walk Duration: thirty minutes...

I have a long commute to work: around 160 miles. Thankfully, I only do this twice a month. I drive across northern California; been doing it since last July, when my wife and I decided to move to our "off the grid" home. I have a good psychiatric RN job here in the Napa Valley. I like my peers (this business requires teamwork--and you simply have to like your peers) and the clientele. The hospital has treated me well--they have given me a dreamy schedule and a very decent wage. I have a room at the hospital that I stay in when working. I call it my Monastic Dorm due to its austerity and simplicity.

So I made the drive yesterday. A wonderful spring day across the central valley, over the coastal range and into the Napa Valley. I checked into my room at the hospital and went to town to buy a bottle of wine and some cheese.

Usually I save up my laundry for the twice monthly Napa trip. We don't have a functioning washer at the Solar Homestead, so I just bring my dirty pile to Napa. While I washed the clothes at the Monastic Dorm, I uncorked the wine, had a glass of a decent sauvignon blanc and took a walk around the hospital grounds. A deliciously warm evening with a picture postcard sunset. I brought my Ipod and listened to an album from 1973 by Larry Norman (who passed away last year).

Larry was a fundy Christian artist best known for an awful song called: "I wish we'd all been ready". I like him because of his voice. Nobody could sing like him. I also like his social commentary and willingness to walk his spiritual path--even though I disagree with much of what he said and did.

Must all our heroes be like us?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Walk #76: Off the Grid...

Walk Duration: One hour, ten minutes...

After working all day, trying to build a rock wall for my house--I was tired. So the pup and I headed out at a leisurely pace. I've been exploring more of the little side roads and properties of this "off the grid" community. This land was first divided up about twenty years ago. The phone company does put land lines up here; the electric company doesn't.

Most properties are from three to ten acres. Some at the end of the road are being divided up in 100 acre parcels. At 2,000 feet, we overlook a 1500 foot canyon, reminiscent of Utah's canyon country.

The photo above shows a pumphouse. The solar panels run the well pump. This one doesn't have a cistern to hold the water. Nor does it have a house on the property. When people decide to build up here, they do so in stages:

1. Put in a well.

2. Buy a generator and batteries.

3. Live in a small, ugly 1970's era trailer.

4. Buy a bigger trailer (from the 1980's).

5. Buy a mobile home (used, of course).

6. Let the smaller trailers fall into disrepair--scattered about their property. But first, fill them with your garbage (there is no garbage service on this Ridge--and most don't haul their refuse out).

Most people stop there. About half the properties actually put in wind turbines and solar panels.

Some put in septic systems. Only a few of the properties manage to actually get to the more traditional style of housing. Most stay in the trailer stage.

So this "off the grid" community isn't populated by the folks I thought would be attracted to such a life. Most live up here because they are either poor or they expect Jesus to return soon. No granola, left wing, hippy types anywhere on this Ridge. The Lefties all live in the college town of Chico--where they can live the soft life of being a radical professor, go to Whole Foods and agitate on the campus for their various causes (but only after getting tenure).

Up here, it is mostly Rednecks, Potheads and Apocalyptic Christians.

Of course, the common bond is the usual neighborliness of living in more rustic circumstances. Neighbors are quick to share a cutting or bring by a dozen eggs from their chickens (well, at least the non-Christians do). The Christians on the Ridge seem to be too paranoid of those around them to give a hoot either about the environment or to share with their neighbors. They build high fences and dump their excrement off the side of the canyon.

"Oh the people that you meet are in your neighborhood"...as Mr. Rogers sang...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Walk #75: The Van is Toast...

Walk Duration: 20 minutes...

Got the news that the van is toast. Joni was hit by a speeding car--and whereas, at first we thought we could fix it--turns out that the costs to do so are much more than what the insurance company will pay.
So the pup and I took a twenty minute walk. We need another car. What to buy?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Walk #74: Red Bandannas...

Walk Duration: 45 minutes... The Rebels won the executive branch of the Salvadoran election yesterday. A victory for Peasants everywhere--for that is what the FMLN is, and was. Peasants. These courageous folks opposed a brutal government that was bought, trained and supplied by the biggest military power on Earth.

So I grabbed a red bandanna and headed out on my walk--thinking about this unlikely victory by the FMLN. Buoyed by the news. If these peasants could pull this off, maybe other unlikely things could happen to?

Is taking a walk revolutionary? I think so. We always talk about the healthful aspects of walking. But what about the political? Did those FMLN fighters win this election because they were populist? They lived amongst the campesinos for years...walking from camp to camp.

What about Jesus? He walked everywhere in Galilee. He walked to Jerusalem...and then his followers walked to Rome with his message of a new kingdom.

Getting people out of their houses and walking lets you see your neighborhood. No need for "Neighborhood Watch" if the community walks. You keep an eye on your neighbor. Help your neighbor. It is a social act. Socialism?

When Reagan took office he did two things: he declared war on any lefty group in Central America (and used butchers to succeed) and he tore the solar panels off the White House.

I think it is time to put those solar panels back up on the White House.

And it is time to see walking as a political act to reconnect with our communities (and that community could be a forest). When is the last time you walked through your neighborhood and saw it as a political act?

Walk #73: Rollover Beethoven

Walk Duration: Thirty minutes....

Never waste a bath on smelling too good. At least that is what my dog thinks. Two days after getting her bath, Angel ran off to roll in something...so I wandered over to see what it was. A squished mole. Not only that but a monster mole!

How did a mole get squished by a vehicle?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Walk #72: A Walk for Ed Abbey...

Walk Duration: Two hours...

On the twentieth anniversary of Ed Abbey's death, I bought some cheap (three dollars for a fifth), four year old, sour mash, bourbon whiskey (Jim Beam), grabbed my walking stick, called my dog and headed out. We walked to a place on the ridge where I could sit and enjoy the bourbon. Not bad really. Never had Jim Beam before. Most American whiskey is too sweet--this wasn't. Worth the price.

I toasted Ed. Thankful for his books, for his clarity about life and our place on the planet. His humor. His essays. His activism and life.

A turkey vulture circled above. Quite close. Only for a moment and then he was gone.

As I sat, a black tailed deer sped by so fast that my dog missed it. He ran within about forty feet of us, charging on. Bounding the way deer bound. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. Gone.

I sat some more. Had the Jim Beam next to me on the rock that had some old dung dried onto it. Looks like Bear crap--(yes, they really do sh** in the woods).

Ed said that sentiment without action is empty. On the way back to the solar house, I found this noxious sign.

In honor of Ed I tore the thing down. Looks better. Here's to you Ed Abbey!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Walk #71: A Lazy Day...

Walk Duration: Thirty minutes...

A lazy day. A day to read the books that I ordered from the library. One of the first days I could read on our deck; my dog (who got her first spring time bath today) sitting at my feet. Waiting.

Waiting for our walk, of course. And so we did--through the spring time warmth and burst of life all around us. I'm a fan of being lazy; been practicing it all my life. I can scurry away from any sort of work quite easily. I have no guilt over doing absolutely nothing. As a species we are much too constructive, paving over this and destroying that---and calling it "being productive".

The human project is to learn to be less productive. Make less stuff. Do less. Consume less. Then we will find balance. These are the arguments I make to Joni when she is amazed at my laziness...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Walk #70: The Apricot Tree Blooms!

Walk Duration: One hour...

Our one and only fruit tree, an Apricot, is in bloom. This was the first day I was able to walk in shorts and a t-shirt. 64 degrees in the shade. Wonderful! Feels like a real turning point.

Now that I have walked some 70 walks (okay, 2 of them were rather chinsy), what have I noticed about my physical conditioning? Well the scale said last Thursday that I have lost exactly ONE POUND! Not bad, as usually in the winter I balloon out to Jaba the Hut proportions. I carry the remaining 226 pounds more easily. My two hills on my regular route are much easier to climb. I have more zip in my steps.

I feel better. Let's see what happens with the remaining 295 walks...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Walk #69: A Walk with Abbey, part two.

Walk Duration: Forty minutes...

Yes, I'm getting tired of my daily route. Could use some variety. Or at least some warmer temperatures. I can't complain. 55 degrees Fahrenheit with sunny skies is nice. But 70 degrees...would that help my motivation problem?

Back to Ed Abbey. I re-read Desert Solitaire making note of Abbey's references to walking. I found thirteen references to specific walks he took. A couple of those walks last for whole chapters.

Abbey's fourth and fifth walks were in the chapter entitled: "Water". In the desert, there is much talk, and thinking about water. Abbey describes a hike he took in the Grand Canyon--leaving without enough water:

"I took with me only a quart of water, thinking that would be enough for a mere fourteen mile downhill hike on a warm day in August." Dumb. I did something similar once.

Abbey's description of making it to the Colorado River is classic:

"Dreamily, deliriously I waded into the waist deep water and fell on my face. Like a sponge I soaked moisture up through every pore, letting the current bear me along beneath a canopy of overhanging willow trees. I had no fear of drowning in the water--I intended to drink it all."

Later in the chapter Abbey describes quicksand. Specifically how his friend got mired in such on a hike. A hilarious account of helping out a friend. Abbey's fifth reference to walking...

Abbey's enthusiasm for the outdoors is infectious. We want to walk as he did. Head out without enough water, through the quicksand--relying only on our wits and stamina to survive.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Walk #68: Back at the Homestead...

Walk Duration: Thirty minutes...

A quiet walk, near sunset, along the ridge of our home. Love it!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Walk #67: Anti (Eco) Social...

Walk Duration: Twenty minutes..

A group of wild turkeys crossing the road.

Ever receive one of these calls?

"Honey, I had an accident...I'm okay, well, a little sore. I think I'll have to go to the emergency room. It was a head on crash. The other car is totaled. Our car still runs. You don't need to come home..."

So, of course, I had to leave work and drive the three and a half hour drive home. Wouldn't you?

Joni (my spouse) is sore. Whiplash. She got hit by a youngster driving too fast as Joni made a turn. Joni was back from the ER when I got home. I took the kids off to Paradise to get them fed; and to get some pain meds for Joni.

I have a theory that people who take a daily walk drive a reasonable speed. First off, those who walk probably enjoy nature--which means we would rather not squish things that attempt to cross (or gather things from) roads--things like people, turkeys (see the photo above), skunks, coyotes, owls, hawks, turkey vultures, squirrels, mice, possums, raccoons, deer, elk, moose, bear and even cougars (a mountain lion got run over two days ago in the Napa Valley).

Walkers aren't adrenaline junkies. They amble along; admiring this; sniffing that--content to watch clouds and dream dreams.

Tearing along at sixty, seventy or eighty miles an hour in a rural area is an anti-social action. Anti eco-social to all the critters who inhabit such areas. Jail speeders, take their licenses, make them do community service (preferably picking up dead carcasses after they have been decaying in 100 degree heat!), send them to wilderness re-education camps. Enough!

So, after dark, when all the excitement was over, I took a quick twenty minute stroll....

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Walk #66: Walk and Wash...

Walk Duration: Thirty Minutes...

Why the photos of the Beatles? I can't upload any photos from my camera, so I thought I'd throw in a few photos of my favorite group. At least here the Beatles are walking!

Dumb idea to celebrate my birthday with such gusto. Even worse timing to do that the night that the clock "Springs Forward". Lack of sleep and pursuit of one of the deadly sins left me feeling less than Stellar at work today.

An easy walk was in order. As I washed my clothes in my Monastic Habitat where I stay when I work, I just flittered about the grounds of the hospital and the surrounding neighborhood. The hospital owns most of the houses here. I'm told close to 70 houses. It is all part of the communal type setting that used to characterise this Adventist Hospital. A way to be more immersed in your religion, cut off from the dreaded temptations of wine, dancing and the consumption of meat.

Springs run through the area. An old stagecoach road leads to it. Flowers are blooming. Spring is here....

I finished reading Ed Abbey's Desert Solitaire...highlighting all the walking references. My treatise on the subject will show up in the next couple of days.

Walk#65: Happy Birthday Allan

Walk Duration: 2 1/2 hours...

Would you have a beer with this man?

My 48th birthday today. After work I walked down to a gathering of friends. Past the vineyards. A hawk flies out of a tree. The purpose of this walk was to gather at the Silverado Brewery for my birthday celebration.

A good celebration as such things go. We drank beers and cheered my good fortune at living yet another year. Hurray!

I ended up staying much too long. And then walking back to the hospital housing with a bit of a buzz. A friend who I haven't seen for a long time made an appearance with his fiance'. I feel appreciated and loved.

A word about psychiatric professionals; what a weird bunch of folks we are! Always in the forefront of defending the odd and powerless. Quick to disappear when the check arrives. We drink too much and have stories to tell about various folks we have cared for. Personally, I've cared for folks who would have me destroyed to say I have cared for them. No kiss and tell stories here: except when psychiatric professionals gather. When the libations flow, we are free to pat ourselves on the back (nobody else does).

More and more we see our culture descending into barbarism. No avoiding that. My fear is that soon all psychiatric professionals will be gone. Replaced by No one, or by unqualified professionals (Colorado's mental health system being a case in point). Nobody much cares for the least of these anymore.

So it is Happy Birthday Allan. 48.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Walk #64: A Wine Cave; A Walk With Abbey, part one...

Walk Duration: 45 minutes...

I'm back in the Wine Country. Took my walk after work on a country lane. Brought my walking stick along. Feels strange to have it here in the Napa Valley. Out of place. Less of a need for this sort of protection. I came upon a wine cave being constructed. It's the new fad for a winery in the Napa Valley to have their own wine caves. Companies make good money boring out the holes in the sides of the two mountain ranges that enclose the Napa Valley. I walked into the cave, feeling like I was doing something naughty.


The book at the top is the first edition of Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. I'm lucky enough to have one. I brought my old dog eared copy along and read the first sixty pages last night. My quest is to examine Abbey's walks within this classic.

Edward Abbey wrote his own introduction. This is something he did for many of his books...he often quipped that nobody could write a review of his books better than he could. I guess the same applied to introductions. An introduction should concisely condense the themes of the book, without taking away the need to read it. Abbey did that, and he quickly introduces us to how he feels about walking. He writes:

"Do not jump into your automobile next June and rush out to the canyon country hoping to see some of that which I have attempted to evoke in these pages. In the first place you can't see anything from a car; you've got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you'll see something, maybe. Probably not."


His first walk happens on page 12. "I take my walking stick and go for a stroll down the road into the thickening darkness. I have a flashlight with me but will not use it..."

He goes on to say: "There's another disadvantage to the use of the flashlight: like many other mechanical gadgets it tends to separate a man from the world around him. If I switch it on my eyes adapt to it and I can see only the small pool of light which it makes in front of me; I am isolated".

Imagine what Abbey would say about an Ipod!

Walking with a flashlight starts Abbey off on a theme. A beautiful description follows of writing a letter with the generator on. I can relate; I use a generator at times. Abbey subtly introduces us to his Ludditian theme that machines isolate us from the real world. True.

Walk Number Two for Abbey takes up a whole chapter. "I take my cherrywood and go for a walk before breakfast". 15 pages of beautiful description of the Arches National Park flora and fauna follow. Simply marvelous descriptions with vintage Abbey antics and philosophy i.e. killing a rabbit by throwing a rock. Primal.

Walk Number Three for Abbey happens on page 59. A survey crew arrives making plans for a new road into the park. Abbey waits for them to leave and then for five miles retraces the route of the survey crew "I pulled up each wooden stake and threw it away". This is the end of his chapter on what he calls "Industrial Tourism and the National Parks". A crusade against the automobile, which was ahead of its time. I've visited two National Parks where cars are curtailed or not allowed. Abbey had the idea first in 1968.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Walk #63: Take a Walk for Ed Abbey...

Walk Duration: One hour...

The Manzanita is blooming...

The 14th of March will be the twentieth anniversary of Ed Abbey's death. To commemorate this anniversary, I've decided to re-read his classic: Desert Solitaire, with the intention of keeping track of the references he makes to walking.

Feel free to dust off your copy (or head to the library or bookstore--if you haven't read Abbey's classic) and follow along. I'd like to hear from you regarding reading Abbey. Desert Solitaire was written forty years ago; Ed died twenty years ago.

On the 14th of March, take a walk in honor of Abbey.

Why do this? Because I think Ed Abbey got it right. He understood what our relationship to nature should be. And he writes like nobody before him (or since). Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Walk #62: The Right to Roam...

Walk Duration: Thirty minutes...

The young kids who moved in down the road just posted their property. Redneck kids. Energetic. But far, far away from my value system.

You see, I believe that deep within our DNA is the longing to Roam. We have a vestigial instinct left to walk and wander. Cro Magnon has been around for forty thousand years. During the first thirty thousand years of that we exclusively roamed about. We didn't settle down in one place until about 15,000 years ago. For the three million years before that, our upright walking cousins roamed about.

Walking taps into that instinct. It is as ingrained in us (repressed by television, industrialism and --dare I say it--capitalism) as seeking out a mate. When we walk, we declare our camaraderie with our animal past. We need to do that. There are so very few areas left that we just get to be a creature in the environment. Walking should remind us that we are creatures. Equal (and not superior to) all other creatures.

So I am an advocate of the "Right to Roam". Many European countries have laws to protect such a right. I've started a group on FACEBOOK to explore these issues. Take a look at it here. If the link doesn't work, the group is called: Walkers Unite! The Right to Roam. Feel free to join it, if you have a FACEBOOK account. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Walk #61: Miracles and Blessings...

Walk Duration: 45 minutes...

Our soggy wood pile:

Another inch of rain fell overnight. It is still raining. The wind is still howling. Nothing has changed.

Miracles do happen though. I got up early and went to the DMV to renew my driver's license. I didn't bother getting an appointment (doesn't seem to help)--so I brought a book along, figuring I could get some reading done. When I got to the DMV, I discovered there was no line! I walked right up to the desk and within five minutes I had my new license. A miracle!

So when I got home much earlier than anticipated, another bit of good news was awaiting; something which had been clouding my mind for a few weeks. And again, it was in my (our) favor.

So I took my walk in the rain with gratitude on my countenance.

Isn't that like life? When you get discouraged, something always comes along to help. Something as small as no line at the DMV can be a blessing. The real trick is to get to the point where you are neutral about all events (especially the negative ones) in your life --to see the blessings in all circumstances.

Pollyannish? You bet. Sign me up.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Walk #60: Still Raining....

Walk Duration: Thirty minutes...

Three inches of rain overnight. Temperature: 47 degrees Fahrenheit. Windy. The good news is I found my rain slicker.

This is no longer a nice gentle warm rain. A new storm is blowing in from the north. Colder temps. Even stronger winds. I think Maine Lobster Fishermen are drier than I am right now. When will this end?

I debated about going to one of those weather forecast sites. Some news you just don't want to know. But I googled it anyway. The news? Rain expected until one week from today. In one week we shall see the sun. I hope that is the end of this rainy season. I've had enough.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Walk #59: A Sandinista Umbrella....

Walk Duration: Forty minutes...

A vicious, tropical storm buzzed in overnight. This bugger is loaded with moisture. And wind. Strong, strong wind.

Everything is wet. I am wet. My dog is wet. This little cabin has that wet dog aroma. I kind of like it. A homey smell. A gosh-I'm-just-glad-to-be-inside-after-getting-soggy-wet-in-the-rain sort of smell.

I couldn't find my rain slicker--so I traded in my walking stick for my Sandinista Colored Umbrella. There is nothing masculine about using an umbrella to walk in the woods. Umbrellas are used one handed by Yuppies to flag down a cab in New York City. Umbrellas are urban. Umbrellas are for sissies. Fred Astaire might use one to dance with--but a Redneck certainly wouldn't get caught with an umbrella.

Using an umbrella in the woods is like trying to lick spilled pickle juice up off the wood floor with two hands tied behind your back. It just doesn't work; is gross. Unsatisfying. Unnatural.

I prefer rain slickers.

Walk #58: Ponds and Bikes...

Walk Duration: One hour, thirty minutes...

On a warmish, cloudy day,--Kylie (age 9), Angel and I headed out. Kylie has been working on riding her bike the entire walk. This particular walk has a number of hills and Kylie's goal is to ride up all of them. No luck this time. She was quite disappointed when she had to walk the bike up a couple of the hills.

Along the way, we stopped at a pond to look for frogs. We didn't find any, instead, Angel took a swim.