Thursday, April 30, 2009
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
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...
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
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
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:
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:
The richest things are those which have no value.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
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.
"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
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).
Thursday, April 23, 2009
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.
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
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.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Sunday, April 19, 2009
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
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
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
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
"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
Monday, April 13, 2009
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
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.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
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
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.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
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."
Saturday, April 4, 2009
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.