Thursday, April 30, 2009

Walk #119: Create!

On my last walk before heading back to the Napa Valley for five days, I rambled past my car. I've always been a fan of bumperstickers--and have had more than my share; most have been political. Some spiritual. Our van that was recently totaled had a "Namaste'" bumpersticker on it.

My most recent bumpersticker speaks to my own empowerment. At 48, I want to (finally) create for myself, what I see as the way I ought to live. That's why we bought this small three acre parcel, in the middle of nowhere, on a gravel road, off the grid, amongst poison oak and rattlesnakes.

My kind of life!

It is my way of shaking off the constraints of full time work. A way to slow down (although Joni says I already had that one pretty much mastered!). A way to have the time for the things I want to do: like take a walk everyday; write a little; watch clouds; sleep under the stars; play with the people I share a home with. An Allan Manifesto!

This isn't withdrawal from life; it is my way of actively engaging in it! This isn't a contraction; it is expansion. Do more by doing less.

Don't listen to the herd. Do you like solar power? Then get those panels on your roof! Like fresh vegetables? Then plant that garden. Tired of traffic? Get that small little condo in the city and live the Green Urban life. Have too much stuff? Get rid of it.

It is time for those of us with Green Tendencies to actually create the life we want to live. Ideals without action is like tits on a bull; useless. Time for all of us to become Creationists.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Walk #118: Mountain Lions, Dogs and Rednecks...

The other day there was a simply awful piece in the Paradise Post regarding a couple of goats who were killed by a suspected mountain lion next to the big park that sits on the edge of the canyon in Paradise, California. This piece quoted the owner of the goats, who said something to the order that: "I'm a hunter, we have too many mountain lions". Rubbish.

Juxtapose that with a visit at my door by the Butte County Animal Control this afternoon, who took a report that there was a dog mauling of a two year old child on my property. The mauling did occur; it wasn't on my property. Where it happened, the folks use our address because they can't get an address given to them due to the fact that they do not have a septic system. They just flush their pooh over the side of the canyon.

But on that piece of property, a two year old was bit (and air lifted to a hospital) by one of the local Redneck's dogs. Luckily, the dog was a gray wolfhound and my dog is a yellow lab. My dog, having passed the Doggy Lineup by the Animal Control Folks, was cleared of any wrong doing.

Back to the Paradise Post (also printed by the Chico paper) story, which was nothing short of hysterical hype over the supposed misdeeds of a mountain lion. Where the mountain lion took it's prey, there weren't any houses. The goats were tethered there (much like that goat which pops up from the ground in the movie Jurassic Park, waiting for T-Rex) and left as bait. Quite secluded. People do that around here to clear brush. No one had tended the goats for a couple of days.

Has anybody heard of a Shepherd?

The last child killed by a mountain lion was (if memory serves me correctly) about 70 years ago. We have had very few deaths from mountain lions. In fact, given how many mountain lions we have killed over the years, the mountain lion has been quite good to us. They rarely take humans. They do take animals in our neighborhood that are left unprotected. Two of my neighbors left their dogs on a leash. They came home and found the leash. On the very property that had the dog mauling, a mountain lion was under the porch one day, when the neighbor came home. The mountain lion stayed for a bit, and then skirted over the edge of the canyon.

The real danger is the Redneck's dog. The Concow Redneck's dogs are aggressive breeds. The photo at the top, I took on my walk today. Gnarly and vicious beasts. Often they are pit bulls, or pit bull mixes. They are bred to supposedly protect the local Redneck's property (which often is a pot garden).

We don't have too many mountain lions. These are shy and helpful creatures. What we do have too many of are the Redneck's aggressive dogs. My poor neighbor's kid learned that today. I don't know what the status of this child is yet.

I also think we have way too many hunters. Let's let the mountain lion take care of the excess deer; let the Redneck eat purina dog chow.

Such is life in Concow today...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Walk #116: Used Bookstore to Used Bookstore...

I went to Paradise today; had to get my car smogged. While waiting the hour for the car to be seen by the technician, I walked up Skyline Boulevard. Paradise essentially has two streets that are the main drags. There is no clearly defined "downtown", just two streets a few miles long, lined with thrift shops, realty offices, fast food joints (ugh!), mom and pop diners (yeah!), doctors offices, multiple flavors and varieties of churches, private churchey schools and the occasional taxidermist.

Paradise sits on top of a butte. Go further up the butte and you reach Magalia. These two towns host a population of about 40,000 people. All of them poop into a septic system. The largest urban population in the United States without a sewage treatment plant.

There are no bookstores within these two towns. My goal was to check out two used bookshops I'd seen while exploring the town.

The first bookshop was quite good. This must be where the towns educated folks bring their books to be sold. I found a nice J.D. Crossan book on Jesus (hardcover--see the book above) for two bucks. The proprietor was knowledgeable and helpful (even though his front teeth were missing).

I walked on.

The second bookshop, a mile or so up the road, was filled with mostly mass market paperbacks by the usual mass market writers. A huge Romance section. But not much else. I didn't buy anything there...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Walk #115: A Family Walk...

On a very nice day, the whole family escorted me on my walk. Kylie and Jazmine on their bikes. Angel on her paws. Joni and myself on our feet.

If you look close you can see a track of (what we think is) a turkey vulture. Joni's hand gives perspective to the size of the bird:

Ed Abbey said that walking uphill was just so needless. I agree. The girls had to push their bikes up hill for part of the walk. Too steep.

Taking a walk with Joni is a delight. I swear she knows the names of every plant (or at least what family they are in). Here she admires some wild flowers in an area that was burned last summer:

And she tried to teach me some new plants. The white, puffy one next to the tree is a Pearly Everlasting.
And we figured out the name of the yellow flowering shrub, that is all over the place: Scotch Broom. Evidently this is an invasive species--like Tamarisk in the Colorado plateau--which is quickly crowding out native flora here in the Sierra/Cascade foothills:

We are so lucky to have chosen to live in such a wild and wonderful area. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that we actually live here. Imagine this, you leave your front door and take an hour hike, never encountering another human or (much worse) an automobile the entire time. What is that worth? What is it worth to investigate a new bird track or a new flower?

The richest things are those which have no value.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Walk #114: Mixing Mortar and Ishi...

I took my walk after working all day mixing mortar. I've been trying to top off this stem wall I've been building so that we can start stacking straw bales. It would be nice to have a house some day. I showed my work to Joni, who said it wasn't good enough. I will try again tomorrow.

So it was a tired walk. But also a walk that had that pleasant feeling of physical exhaustion that comes from actually working with your body.

I read this in a book on Ishi, last night:

"Ishi felt quite sure he knew the chief causes for men's sickening in civilization. They were, briefly, the excessive amount of time men spent cooped up in automobiles, in offices, and in their own houses".

Ishi was the last Native American to come out of the woods. He lived, pretty much, in the area that our solar homestead is. He surrendered in Oroville in 1911. After that, he finished out his days as an aboriginal museum piece in San Francisco.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Walk #113: Riding Out; Walking Back

Lots of heavy topics lately: Christian revisionism, socialist revolutions, forays into pedestrian culture. Time just to take the girls and my dog for a walk:

Angel is recovering from her 5 stitches ($215). She also received her rattlesnake booster when she was at the Vet. Good thing too, as the Vet told us two dogs were bitten by rattlers that day. The girls say they saw (and heard) one coming home from the bus the other day too. The rattlesnakes are active right now (and a bit grumpy).

As we got out a ways, Jazmine's bike broke. I didn't have the tools with me to fix it, so she had to walk home. None too happy about the situation!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Walk #112: A Real Communion...

Joni and I took our walk in Paradise, California today.

Every other week we volunteer to canvass Mobile Home parks, giving away tickets for a free meal at our Episcopal Church. Three evenings a month we give free meals to people who need to eat. Providing camaraderie and nutrition to those who are struggling financially and often physically.

We knock on doors telling folks that they are welcome to come get a free meal. I always add: "with no strings attached". Joni rolled her eyes when I told one gentleman that there is "no holy roller crap" at the meal.

Patrons need not hear a sermon to attend. No testimonies on how Jesus saved them from depression, misfortune, financial disaster, warts, hives, secular humanism or any other perceived calamity. No altar calls. None of that. Just a free meal in a communal environment.

It works.

For me, this is part of the real Jesus Project. I believe "shared meals" goes back to the original Jesus. The real Jesus. His mission was one of free healing and free meals. This program was part of the Kingdom he was announcing.

All that other garbage came later. You know, the Jesus of the blood sacrifice. Atonement theology. The personal savior crap. The redeemer of the sins of the world. The Shared Communal Meal morphed into the sip of wine and bit of bread of an anemic communion ritual.

To participate fully in the Jesus Project, share a meal with the poor, disabled and those filled with despair. Share a meal with your family and friends. Open your hearts and wallets. "Do this in remembrance of me", Jesus would say.

It is a way of taking a walk with Jesus...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Walks #110 and 111: Cut Short (literally)....

Yesterday I got up early before work and took a walk before work. Drove home to a glorious reunion with our beautiful Valhalla.

Today, Kylie, Angel and I headed out for a bit of a walk. Kylie on her bike; Angel on her paws.

Angel has been becoming more of a chow hound lately. She ran off to the neighbors to check out the winters worth of garbage they have strewn about the place. No garbage service up here means that some folks leave their garbage out, which eventually gets chewed up by critters and strewn about the yard.

Angel decided to bat clean up.I called Angel back to me, and while bounding along she got caught on something which cut her side. We cut the walk short to tend to her wound...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Walk #109: One More Day...

Hot again today. Another record breaker: 96 degrees here in the Napa Valley.
I did the social worker gig again, made some soup, did my laundry...and headed out once it began to cool off. Down the hill. Past the Elmshaven Church. Through the big parking lot. And down the wagon road to what we call: the falls. Then back to the Monastic Dorm and CNN and a book. Later to sneak down and record the walk for posterity.

It is a walk we take our clients on often. Much enjoyed by all. Of all the things we do on this psychiatric unit, the daily walk has proven to be one of our most therapeutic interventions. Good for all diagnosis: Depressives, Anxiety disorders, Manics, Psychotics and (the most troubling) Staff.

Tomorrow I shall awaken early. Take a walk. And make the drive back to the Solar Compound after work. I have been gone much too much this last month. Although I was offered a couple more days of work, I turned it down. I need to get my hands dirty with our garden and our building. I need to see Joni and the girls. I miss my dog.

So why not work closer to home? Truth is, I rather like this vagabondish life. I like the travel. And the wages are much higher in the Bay Area. A job closer to home would find me working forty hours a week and making just slightly more than what I earn working twenty hours a week in the Napa Valley.

As for my carbon footprint? By staying at the Monastic Dorm I drive around 640 miles a month commuting. That is actually less than almost all of my peers. And actually less miles driven than if I commuted to a local hospital in the Butte County area.
But it is home tomorrow, at last. I can't wait!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Walk #108: To Be A Revolutionary....

Two walks today. The first, for about forty five minutes in some of the hottest April weather ever here in the Napa Valley. The sun was so intense it was like being much too close to a campfire. I ducked into the shade every bit that I could find.

The second walk was in the cool of the evening after sitting on my butt for four hours watching Che parts one and two at the local theatre. Part one was about being part of an armed struggle that wins; part two is about being part of an armed struggle that gets vanquished. I felt that the second part was much more powerful. You really get to feel what it must have been like to be part of an armed struggle that doesn't receive the support of the local Peasant population.

So I walked after that movie thinking about my experiences in Latin America.

Especially about a Peasant, who told us that the purpose of our education was to make us "good Revolutionaries". I remember meeting a Guerrilla from El Salvador. I remember Revolutionary Nicaragua and the excitement that place had in 1983. Now some twenty six years later, am I such a person? And what is the merit in being such a person?

Times have changed. Obama seems to be thinking about making some changes with Cuba. The Guerrillas have won in El Salvador. Despite spending millions and creating a thug Army in the Contras--Daniel Ortega and the FSLN are in power in Nicaragua. The Red and Pink wave has (for the moment) won the day south of our borders. The list of countries with left leaning Governments grows: Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, El Salvador, Nicaragua. Mexico came within a whisker of joining the Red/Pink wave last year.

But am I a Revolutionary? Did I let that Peasant down? Does having a Sierra Club card and a couple of pieces published here and there that question the American Empire and Private Property count? Building a primitive green structure? Working with the poorest, most stigmatized and most oppressed population in the US for a vocation? Do those things count? And why do I do that?

Things to think about while walking.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Walk #107: A Return to Pedestrian Society?

Two walks today. One around St. Helena to buy a book and a few provisions for supper. The second a sunset walk around the lovely grounds of the hospital. It is a glorious time here in the Napa Valley. Well worth visiting. And if you do, spend some time just taking a walk. Or riding a bike. Get out of that car and get to know this lovely wine producing area.

This got me to thinking about what a return to a pedestrian society would look like. How would it change us? Walking upright was one of those evolutionary milestones which enabled us to grasp things with our hands (such as a hoe or a club). This, some believe, led to a rapid extension of our frontal lobes, enlarging our brains--which made childbirth much more painful. But it also gave us the ability to think, create and reason.

Descartes got it wrong: I walk, therefore I think.

So what would a return to a pedestrian society look like? I just finished a biography of John Muir. The thing that jumped out at me was just how much walking he did. He walked from his parents farm to school in Madison (about thirty miles). He walked from Indiana to Florida. When he visited Yosemite the first time, he walked there--from San Francisco to Yosemite. For non Californians that'd be a couple hundred miles.

If the Peak Oil folks are correct, we will get to create a more pedestrian society before too very long. What changes might occur? Here are some thoughts:

1. Areas of commerce will be much more local. A return of the neighborhood store. Good bye big boxes!

2. We will be thinner.

3. The air will be cleaner.

4. Housing will be more compact. Good bye McMansions!

5. We will get to know our neighbors again.

6. We will be happier.

7. We will have a better sense of community.

8. Egalitarianism will return as a cultural value.

9. We will be less hurried.

10. There will be way less road kill. Feet don't squish critters.

11. Road rage will be a thing of the past.

12. Our refrigerators will become smaller.

13. Our brains might start evolving again, after a period of TV and Automobile induced Stasis.

That is a start. Can you think of ways a return to a pedestrian society will radically change who we are?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Walk #106: Che Comes to Napa

After working the day as a socialist social worker, I wandered down to TrustfunderCentral for a walk. A perfect evening. Warm with a cool ocean breeze. I stopped into my favorite haunt to see if the Anchor Steam still tasted good (it did). I had a burger to protest the vegetarian fare that the hospital serves me daily (the staff gets veggie food as a way of remaining faithful to the one true Adventist faith). Give me a few days of chick pea veggie delight and I get a powerful hankering for a grass fed burger.

While walking in St. Helena I always say hello to everyone I meet. Makes me feel like a village idiot, but I do it anyway. Why have we gotten so anti-social and not say hello to strangers (even if the stranger is really strange)?

Walked past the theatre and saw that on Sunday Night they are going to show both parts of CHE! In between the two full length films they are going to have one of the better restaurants here in Trustfunder Central cater a Cuban meal. There will also be Cuban beverages. The price was actually reasonable, so I bought a ticket.

I work with a Cuban emigre'. She is a housekeeper who left Cuba four years ago. Her daughter is still in Cuba and works as a doctor. The daughter supports the revolution (the Mother does not). This housekeeper (who is named after Fidel) hates the revolution. Why? Because she is Adventist and feels that in Cuba there is no freedom of religion.

But she does brag about the social achievements of the revolution. She boasts of the educational and health advancements made under Fidel. By the way, African Americans in Cuba have a lower infant mortality rate than here in the United States.

I asked her if Fidel fell from power would these achievements continue?

"No", she said. "They would disappear."

I think she is right.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Walk #105: Sliding Into Barbarism...

Got up early and drove the three hour plus drive to work. I was homesick when I left our cabin, knowing that it would be a week before I returned.

Still, it was a special drive. About sunrise, I drove on highway twenty and looked to my right. About eye height, with a wing span as wide as my Toyota Echo, a Bald Eagle flapped--keeping up with my car. As I glanced, I swear I caught his eye, as he flew above the river--through the canyon that we both were sharing. "Hello Mr. Eagle", I said.

The wisdom of Eagles.

As we act towards our brothers and within our economic lives--so shall we treat the natural world around us. That is why I'm not all that hopeful regarding our relationship with nature. Why? Back to walking.

As I began my walk this evening (while I washed some clothes) a new Security Guard stopped and asked me if I knew what building I was in. Obviously, he didn't. You see, our hospital has fired all the old Security Guards. The hospital administration has discovered outsourcing--and have contracted a new security force to monitor our hospital. What does this mean? The old Security Guards lost their decent health benefits and took a huge cut in pay. They had to reapply for their jobs (most said "forget it").

So the hospital saves a few bucks an hour. What do they get in return? I do not mean to put the new folks down. They are just working folks trying to make a buck. But there is an expression: "you get what you pay for".

This hapless Security Guard told me it was his first day on the job and he didn't know where he was. I told him.

When I returned from my walk, there he was again. Lost. Not knowing how to show a family member where to go. And he didn't know how to use the key to the building he was in. I showed him.

So to save a few bucks an hour, we have now hired Security Guards who are obviously less talented than the ones who preceded them. The old Security Guards were loyal to the hospital. And since I work on the Psychiatric Unit, I shared many tense moments with them.

The thought of sharing the same tense moments with the bumbling fellow who couldn't work a key (and sadly, makes much less money with fewer benefits) makes me cringe. It puts my safety at risk.

What does this have to do with walking? Or nature? Plenty. Saving a buck by screwing the worker has become an American Tradition since 1980. When times get bad (or money is to be made) our natural resources and fur bearing cousins also will be sacrificed to the All American Dollar.

I saw an Eagle this morning. Moral outrage stopped this beautiful creature from going extinct. Will we do the same for our brothers who are sacrificed to save a buck? The Eagle gives me hope; my encounter with the new Security Guard provides despair.

Despair mostly wins out: The Eagle was saved because of actions which were done in the 1970's. That was the high point for both environmentalism and for the worker.

I am afraid we are sliding into barbarism.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Walk #104...Discovering John Muir..

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul."

My dog and I took a walk on this brisk, windy spring day. I've been thinking about John Muir lately. I'm currently reading a decent biography of the man. What the biography doesn't fully address is just how good his writing was (even though he only had a few years of school). And how revolutionary his ideas were.

If there is one gripe I have with this culture's dominant religion, it would be that it puts humans as the crown of God's creation. This belief has led to turning forests into "board feet" and mountains into commodities. Strip malls, mountain top removal and suburbs are a direct consequence of this religious belief. Capitalism combined with a Humans First! mentality has led to a new human imposed Great Extinction.

It doesn't have to be this way.

If we are ever to reverse such a perverse notion (Humans First!) as that, it will be because thinkers like John Muir led the way. My hope is that there will come a paradigm shift (and soon!) which will help us undo much of the damage that has been caused by our economic and religious systems.

Thoughts on a walk.

Tomorrow I rise early and head back to the Napa Valley for a week of work....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Walk #103: Tidy Tips, Wild Irises and Little Red Snakes...

Joni and I took time to do our "loop" today. The temperature dropped overnight to the mid 40's Fahrenheit. Joni pointed out these "Tidy Tips" to me. This is a hardy, drought tolerant, native annual. Quite pretty!

And a wild Iris:

And we found this small red colored snake that had been squished in the road. It is a snake and not a worm. Anybody know what kind of snake it is? I haven't been able to identify it yet.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Walks #101 and #102: Beauty!!

I'm still getting my walks in. Yesterday I limped along for half an hour; today I took a bit more time--one hour. The photos above are what I see when I look off my deck. This is the time of the year when it is green here in the Sierra Foothills. Although this is only my first year up here (we've owned the place for two years, but didn't move up until last June), April is fast becoming my favorite month.

Everything is green! Flowers everywhere. The oaks are leafed out.

All this will change. We should be on the tail end of the rainy season. Before too very long, all the grass will turn brown. Dormant. And it will be excessively hot: 110 degrees is not out of the question.

Best to enjoy the perfect weather we are having now...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Walks #99 and #100: Wildflower Knowledge Deficiency Syndrome..

Yesterday, I took a thirty minute walk around the hospital grounds before work. I worked the day and hopped into my proletarian Toyota Echo and zipped back to the Homestead. Today is a work day. I'm building more rock stem wall.

But I took an hour and a half to walk with my pup. It is wildflower time here in the Foothills of the Sierra. I am convinced that the ability to remember (or learn) the names of flowers is located on the same gene that gives me the inability to learn another language. I think it is also very near the same gene that gives me the inability to appreciate poetry.

Look at other nature blogs (you will find many excellent ones if you push the nature blog button to the right) and you will find all sorts of fancy Naturalists stating: "the pink Eggheaded Ranger flower gets pollinated by its symbiotic relationship with the Slow Footed Carpenter Bee who dies an excruciatingly painful death after gathering the Eggheaded Ranger Flower's pollen." Or something like that.

Not that I can't learn; it just goes awfully slow.

Joni knows almost everything there is about flowers, in my view. She is always pointing out some beautiful bud to me. I nod my head, knowing I'm gonna forget what she said.

Joni has a friend who has marketed her own book on Wildflowers of the Rockies. Filled with great photos! Catalogued to species. An excellent book. I pick up her book once and awhile and thumb through it. Such talent!

I got an email from a friend the other day who wrote this:

Walked the east side of Diablo all afternoon today and found abundant and varied wildflowers. I've always wondered about how folks know how to name plants using a book, a description, and a picture. The pictures in my books almost look like the plant I am trying to identify, but then they also almost look like the plant growing next to my subject, except for a little difference which aren't noted anywhere in the guidebook. Its fun though.

I agree!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Walk #98: Back to Napa...

4:15 am. Blare! slap snooze button.

4:20 am. Blare! slap.

4:25 am. Blare! slap. Dutiful spouse starts water for coffee.

4:30 am. Blare! slap. Water boils. Dutiful spouse pours water into french press.

4:35 am. Blare! slap. Turn off alarm. Dutiful spouse brings coffee. Move from bed to lazy boy.

4:40 am. Left eyelid opens. Sips coffee. Spills coffee.

4:45 am. Both eyes open. Dress. Gather keys, wallet, backpack, shoes, books and motivation. Kiss dutiful spouse good bye. Pet the dog. Leave for Napa.

Drive Three hours and fifteen minutes. Watch the sunrise.

Work eight hours as a socialist social worker.

6:00 pm Go to grocery store. Buy soup, bread and a bottle of Perrier water.

6:15 pm Return to Monastic Dorm at the hospital. Make soup. Watch Larry King.

7:00 pm Go for thirty minute walk in the light rain around the hospital.

That was my day. How was yours?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Walks #96 and #97: Watching Marley and Me...

Yesterday all I had time for was a twenty minute walk around the hospital. I drove back to our "off grid' solar home after work. A homecoming! I haven't been home for ten days or so.

Joni had a ham dinner with mashed potatoes and home made pumpkin pie waiting for me. Then we sat down as a family and watched: "Marley and me". What a tearjerker!

I learned it is best not to watch a movie about a cherished yellow lab, when you have a yellow lab yourself. Jazmine (all of 7 years old) cried for half an hour after the movie. "Is Angel gonna die?", she asked? Jazmine went to sleep last night with her arms wrapped around our very own Marley.

We got Angel (our yellow lab) before the movie came out. She is much like the movie dog, without the chewing. The naughtiest Angel gets is to overwhelm visitors with affection by jumping on them. She also likes to scoot down to a neighbor's place to chase their chickens (such fun!).

Today I was able to take her for an hour romp. The sun even came out for a bit. Angel is lucky in that she gets to run free on our walks. And when I do bring out the leash for hazardous parts of the walk, she actually loves it! This dog loves the leash...

How did we get the name, Angel? When we selected her out of the litter (she was the runt), I picked her up and asked her (nose to nose) if she could be a Guardian Angel for Jazmine and Kylie? Would she protect them (from mountain lions) and be with them at all times on our homestead?

And she does that. She runs beside them as they ride their bikes. She sleeps on their beds. She walks with them where-ever these girls go on our property. She watches them get on the school bus. She waits for them at the bus stop, when they get off. She pushes the tire swing for them. She sits patiently by them as they gather rock or create their own garden beds. She watches over them.

No wonder Jazmine cried....

Monday, April 6, 2009

Walk #95: Fear and Loathing in the Napa Valley: Silver Oak and Opus One

Walk Duration: 1 1/2 hours

Every once and awhile you have to do something different. Since I've been marooned here in the Napa Valley for what seems like an eternity, I decided to visit some wineries after work today. That part isn't different. The different part is I decided to drop by after they had closed.

So I drove south of St. Helena and pulled over outside the long driveway to Silver Oak Cellars. I walked down the long driveway; hadn't been there since 2003. Putting in solar panels is all the rage with Napa Valley wineries and Silver Oak is no exception. I walked over and inspected their three long, long rows of panels. I took my finger and cleaned the dust off one of them. Rows of inverters advertised how many pounds of CO2 was saved by the system.

The solar panels are right next to the limousine parking.

The time is 5:00 pm. They closed at four. Workers leave, waving to me as I walk the grounds. A friendly place! They aren't suspicious at all of my after hours tour. The warehouse doors are open and music blares from inside. I can see a few barrels of wine; don't know if they have wine in them or not, but since they are in the sun--I hope they don't. Silver Oak goes for $80 a bottle of Cabernet (maybe more). Cabernet is all that they make. Talk to any wine loving doctor, dentist, computer nerd, trustfundner, executive or any other professional who enjoys the benefits of what Karl Whiskers Marx called "credentialism", and you will more than likely find a fan of this Napa Valley Cab.

I think about touring the warehouse, but decide not to. That seems a little intrusive, even for me.

It was a lovely tour. Time to move on--walk back down the road, hang a left, cross the Napa River and take the back roads into Opus One Winery. I walk around the closed gate. When you read "Opus", most of us probably think of the Penguin character of the Sunday Comics. People who love wine (really, really EXPENSIVE wine) think of the partnership of Robert Mondavi and the Rothschilds of France. This Napa Valley Cabernet retails at $165 a bottle.

I've never tried it. Nor have I tasted at the winery.

I get spooked walking down the road--- in a Hunter Thompson sort of sense. Suddenly I feel like good old Hunter, driving across the desert in his convertible, frightened of imaginary bats. Fear and Loathing in the Napa Valley. I listen to that little voice that says: "You better get the hell out of here now". Paranoia. This winery doesn't have quite so friendly of vibes. And no solar panels anywhere.

I walk back to the car.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Walk #94: Anchor Steam Snooty...

Walk Duration: One Hour...

It is downright hot here in the Napa Valley.

I went to the library after work, and then had a one hour walk around town. Tourists everywhere. All the galleries were open. Mostly I admired the old buildings, since I've been trying to build my own Post and Beam Addition to my itsy, bitsy cabin--I pay attention to the way we used to build before rote industrialization took away all the art and fun out of home construction. I admire any rock wall that is built plum and straight. I admire how windows are set into stone. And it makes my own work look like it is done by an amateur (which it is).

Hungry, I stop in to "Market" for an AnchorSteam and a burger. Only twenty bucks for this. I sit at the bar and comment (once again) how great the AnchorSteam beer is.

The razor thin, Walmartesque Greeter Restaurant Host says in his best hoity toity, name dropping Napa Valley Snooty drawl: "I'll tell the owners of AnchorSteam next time they are in. They own a second home here in St. Helena and they come here to eat all the time. They will be pleased to hear that."

Darned Trustfunders...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Walks #92 and #93: Slowness, Detachment and MBA's

Walk Duration 50 minutes and One hour...

One thing I have noticed the past two days is just how unhurried I am becoming. I don't walk fast. The more I walk, the slower I go. And I'm not quite so interested in destinations. I no longer really set out with any goals. No time goals. No destination goals.

I stop a lot.

This has become more of a sensory experience. I watch and smell. Walking slows things down and I feel sorry for those in cars. I watched a jet streak by with its con trail in the sky and I thought about speed. So much about civilization is about speed. Be efficient! Be productive!

Forget it. We should work harder at being more inefficient. Less productive. Stop and smell more than roses. Stop and smell everything. It is my opinion that the American Economy went south when we decided that productivity was the primary goal of an economic system. Actually, three things have destroyed the American Economy: Efficiency, Productivity and the rise of the MBA.

But I digress.

Today I was trying to get some photos of a couple of groups of California Quail. Darned near impossible to do such with a bottom of the line, Kodak Digital camera. My camera has a delay between when you squeeze the TAKE A PICTURE BUTTON and when the shutter actually responds. These pretty birds are quick. Always in a hurry. Sketchy as hell. And even though I couldn't get the shot, it didn't bother me. I am becoming more and more detached from being linear.

I feel like Ferdinand from the classic children's story.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Walk #91: Armstrong Woods and Goat Rock Beach...

Walk Duration: Two Hours...

At Goat Rock Beach...

I had the day off. Rather than make the drive back to the Homestead for a brief-less-than-24-hour visit (although I am getting quite homesick)--I decided to stay in the Bay area. I called my friend (whom I shall call Hunter due to his devotion to Hunter Thompson) and asked if he wanted to take a walk with me. Being out of work with nothing else to do, he accepted my invitation.

I picked him up at 9:30 am, waking him. He is, after all, out of work. That's what unemployed folks do: sleep in. We gathered our materials (wine and old crow whiskey, sweaters and hats) and took the back roads to Armstrong Woods State Park, passing by Jack London's house.

We breakfasted at a Irish Pub outside the State Park. Guinness and Reuben sandwiches for breakfast.

I'm told that less than 5% of the Ancient Redwoods are left in California. The small amounts left are found in little groves like Armstrong Woods. Still, walking on the paths there, you can get a hint of what it must have been like when we still had the original 100 percent of Ancient Redwoods.

It is trite to say the Woods are like a Cathedral---but I'll say it anyway. You just have to whisper when in the presence of these ancient trees (some are 1400 years old). Respect for these trees is a natural response to their beauty, sacredness and wisdom.

Hard to believe it, but we managed to get lost in the woods! You lose all perspective in a Redwood forest; even with a well marked path and signs. A female Ranger had to guide Hunter and me (two middle aged psychiatric nurses with large bellies and very little sense) out of the woods. Damage done to the ego.

Next we drove to Goat Rock beach to watch a seal nursery and be with the ocean. The seals were on the other side of the Russian River (the beach is where the Russian River meets the ocean). We didn't bother to walk over there. The wind was at a gale force. Cold.

Instead, we found a tree that had washed up on the beach and had a "bump" on a log. The old crow whiskey. We laughed and told stories. A special day.

Speaking of stories, things I've written sure can wind up in the strangest of places. Adventist Today Magazine picked up one of these Walks and featured it on their SDA Blog Roundup. Never would I have ever thought that something I wrote would wind up in an Adventist Magazine's Website. Seems they thought my comments were funny! Or maybe they just wanted to make fun of me? They even got to put in one of those (sic) dealeybobs.