Thursday, July 30, 2009

Walk #210: Black Berries, Stellar Jays, Poison Oak and Raccoons...

I'm back at our Foothills home for a brief visit. This morning Angel and I took a rather longish walk. Much needed for my sense of well being and self nourishment. Speaking of nourishing, I stopped to eat some wild Black Berries, which are in season now.

Part of the large Black Berry patch along the walk:

The Poison Oak is turning red. This extensive patch has plants that are five feet tall. I had a patient that had a small rash of Poison Oak on her. In the hospital we were treating her with calamine lotion. Being a Native American, she was quite upset with our ineffective treatment.

She told me the best treatment is to boil some Manzanita leaves. Then you take the tea and use it to clean the rash. I'm going to try this with my next break out (although I resisted the urge to slog through the patch below in order to inoculate myself).

Makes sense to me that there would be a natural treatment which grows amongst the Poison Oak. Cinnamon bark has been found to be effective in lowering blood sugar. Cinnamon is found in the tropics where much of the diet is fruit. The cinnamon helps to augment the fructose.

Nature is smart. Has its own intelligence. We just need to be smart enough to see it.

The Stellar Jays are coming back down from the higher elevations. I found this Stellar Jay feather. I could hear them squawking in the trees. Stellar Jay feathers are magical omens for Joni and me.

And I came across these Raccoon tracks. I've been looking for Bear tracks but haven't found any. Joni tells me that she found some big Bear tracks the other day while collecting Black Berries.

Now I head back to Napa to work a couple of double shifts tomorrow and Saturday. We need money right now and the Universe has obliged with tons of overtime. That is the nice thing about being a nurse; it isn't a fixed income. Need money? Look for more hours (they are usually there to be found in a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week profession).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Walk #209: Angel's Sit Down Strike...

I'm back at the Homestead for a brief twenty four hour visit. Angel and I took a walk this afternoon.

I'm not sure about this dog, but it seems that she has been watching documentaries about non-violent protests. A hot day, Angel decided that we had walked enough. She plopped down in the middle of the road and wouldn't move. It reminded me of the lunch counter sit ins, or Rosa Parks and the bus, or Earth Firsters blocking the gate to a lumber mill---Angel would not move.

"Hell no, I won't go!" said Angel.

I whistle and walk on.

Turning around, I snapped the photo above--then kept walking. I started thinking of reasons for Angel's behavior. Could there be a mountain lion ahead? A bear? Did her doggie sixth sense know something? Am I being foolish for walking on? Spooked me a bit.

Eventually, Angel came running by. Panting. Asking to go home.

We did.

Walks #206, #207, #208: Black Jack...Do It Again...

These were very short walks after work. Not really walks---more of an escape and a sigh, where smelling the fresh ocean breeze was the sensory delight. You see, I worked three "double shifts" back to back. Sixteen and a half hours locked up inside. Sleep a couple of hours and, "black jack---do it again".

So I staggered out and took some deep breaths of freedom, before retiring to the Monastic Dorm.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I've been working a string of sixteen hour shifts. There hasn't been enough time to sleep, let alone post a walk. I shall catch up soon...

But for now, I have my nose to the grindstone.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Walk #205: Postage Stamp Sized Parks and George Yount's Grave

Here in the Napa Valley again. I only worked an eight hour shift (which has become a short rarity lately); hopped in the car after work, playing George Harrison's last album on the CD. Brainwashed is the title of the album, and also the title of the last song. George's mantra at the end of that last song is worth the price of the CD alone.

Down the Valley. Turned on Yountville Cross Road and stopped in to explore a nature area. It has one of those binocular brown signs that advertise "Wildlife Viewing". Didn't see any.

Instead I saw a postage sized lot of one simple (and very short) hiking trail. There are some places to jump into the Napa River here. A Mexican family was enjoying cooling off in the river while I visited.

For those unfamiliar with the Napa Valley, this is an Agricultural Preserve. Enviros have also worked hard to save the Napa River by enacting agricultural easements. This means that the vineyard must be more than 100 feet from the river to prevent pollution runoff. Those who own the Vineyards opposed this mightily (the struggle was popularised in two best selling books). After the landowners lost the battle, they quickly jumped on board the Green Bandwagon and now are mostly certified organic vineyards. Ironic.

So this postage stamp sized Nature Preserve was sold by a landowner (cause he couldn't use it anyway) to the county to become a park.

Back in the car and off to Yountville. Took a walk around the Geoge C Yount Pioneer Cemetery and Ancient Indian Burial Grounds. I visited George Yount's grave. Yount was granted the first Land Grant from the Mexican Government back in 1836. He shared the valley with the Native folks (the Wappo Indians).

The graveyard also includes a stone which interns the ashes of the village that was Yountville, before the white folks arrived. All of the towns of the Napa Valley were also the sites of the Wappo Indian villages which existed for thousands of years before we arrived. The Wappo Indians lived in such abundance that they had no term for the word WAR in their language.

And this Valley was abundant. George Yount reported that the skies were black with birds during the migratory season. The Napa River was filled with Salmon. 170 years later, I have seen one Salmon make the journey up the river. They are all but extinct.

Shame on us.

Walk #204: Just Getting the Walk In...

This was a short walk after working a twelve hour shift. I took it around the grounds of the hospital. Then it was up to the Monastic Dorm where I quickly fell asleep.

These walks, after a long day at work, are not quite what I had in mind. But that is sort of what life is like. You do what you can with the perishable moments you have.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Walk #203: More Lawyering...

Today Joni and I met with four lawyers; three against us, one for us. We were doing a "settlement" conference.
We ended up in a "Robed Strangers" chambers. A new experience for both of us. I can't go into the details of the day, but it was quite constructive (in a destructive sort of way). As for working directly with a Judge? She was quite empathetic, insightful and helpful. A good experience.

Our lawyer did a masterful job and was accused of 1. being enmeshed with us and 2. that Joni is enmeshed with her grandchildren. Both of these arguments are hogwash. Offal. A Grandmother should be enmeshed with her Grandchildren. That is called being "family". As for our lawyer? What is that old saying? First they laugh at you, then they persecute you, then they ..... ?

We ended up being offered a deal that we first introduced two weeks ago. Back then, that deal was called "terrible" by those who oppose us. We said that things have changed...and perhaps we should take our time. Investigate more. Go to trial? We turned down the deal and said we want to take our time and investigate things further. Three lawyers left (after three hours) in a huff. Our lawyer looked exhausted.

I took my walk after driving the girls back to our Homestead and then returning to the Napa Valley for work tomorrow. A coolish evening. Restorative.

Walk #202: Pre Lawyering

Joni and I drove down to the Napa Valley. Visited Calistoga (where we used to live). While the girls visited with some of their old friends, Joni and I walked the downtown. A lovely experience for us. We stopped into the bookstore (my intention was to buy Ian's book). The book was gone (yeah Ian!). Instead I bought Michael Pollan's book on building a cabin.

We are in the Napa Valley to do some "settlement" issues. Nothing could make a person feel more unsettled.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Walk #201: The Lollipop..

Brought Jazzy along for the "lollipop" walk. This is a shortish loop walk; one of our staples. Jazzy talked incessantly. Angel follows at her side. Guarding her.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Walk #200: Hot on the Ridge...

After five hours of sleep (half of those hours spent on the floor of the Monastic Dorm, sleeping directly under the relief of the air conditioner), I work yet another shift. A bit half lidded, but full of caffeine, I drive the three plus hours back to our Homestead.

I find Joni and the girls wilting in the heat. 109 degrees today. We refill the cooler above with ice water every other day. Ice water is the preferred beverage on the ridge in the summer.

My dog joined me (not the girls) for an hour walk.

Did I mention that it is hot here in the Foothills? This was our sixth day in a row of 100 plus degree heat. We cool ourselves naturally, as we don't have an air conditioner. We take trips to the swimming hole and the swimming pool. Lazy afternoons. The later evening brings blessed relief with a cool breeze that starts around Ten pm.

We leave the doors open at night. We hope that the bears will skip our abode on their nightly rounds. Angel stands guard. I sleep outside, on the deck--under the stars.

Walk #199: Another Double...

11:00 pm. Just worked a double shift. I trudge up to the Monastic Dorm. Smell the fresh air, and call it a walk.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walk #198: Unexpected...

106 degrees Fahrenheit at the Homestead today. We don't have air conditioning, so I went to Paradise to do the laundry while the girls went to the community swimming pool.

While firing up the barbecue for dinner I got a call from work .

"Can you work a 12 hour shift tomorrow?" the Nursing Supervisor asked. A hint, if you are needing additional hours, never, ever turn a Nursing Supervisor down. They want their staffing problems solved quickly, and will call the most likely person who will work.

So I said yes, and within fifteen minutes I had my car packed, the dog scratched and said goodbye to the women in my life.

Three and a half hours later, I made it to the hospital. Got my room at the Monastic Dorm. Turned on the air conditioner (the room was like a furnace) and went for a walk. I watched a helicopter come in with a patient. The night is very, very warm. Even humid. I walked for twenty minutes around this small community.

Now it is back to the (hopefully) cooler room for a bit of shut eye before my early start tomorrow.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Walk #197: Potty Walk...

I only had time for a short walk with the dog today. Down the road a bit for a puppy constitutional.

We shall do better tomorrow...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Walk #196: Back on the Ridge

A good day. It is hot here in the Foothills. A good day to visit a couple great Socialist Institutions: the Public Library and the Community Swimming Pool. The Library is in Paradise. The Swimming Pool is three miles down the road next to the elementary school. All the Concow kids wile away their summer either at the Public Pool or the swimming hole. These Al Goreian, super hot summers necessitate aquatic adventures.

I took my walk tonight with Angel. The talk at the swimming pool was that two large bears are hanging out. Joni said the one she saw was about five feet tall at the shoulder. The lifeguard said she saw two about the same size. Some very large bears!

Angel and I went looking for our Ursine friends. I looked for tracks. Scat. Found nothing. Maybe tomorrow?

addendum: I added a few phots to an earlier entry...

Walks #194 and #195: Delightful Evenings...

Getting behind on these reports...

After having spent almost all waking hours for two days on a locked unit, I took a nap, and then escaped to Calistoga. I took a delightful walk through town, and then celebrated by having a burger at Brannon's.

Yesterday I worked yet another overtime shift, and then drove home. Took another delightful walk with my dog.

Good to be home!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Walks #192 and #193: The Art of the Doubleback...

These two walks are notable mostly for not really being walks. They were more reminiscent of a Sean Pennesque "Dead Man Walking".

Luck would have it that I have been able to get lots of hours this go around. Sunday and Monday both were consumed with double shifts; sixteen and a half hours on a locked unit. The term Nurses use is the "double back". This means you work a double shift, attempt to sleep a few hours, and then return again to work much too early the next day. The advantages are, of course, the money (seeing as we do still have labor laws, the second half of a double is quite lucrative).

The walks consisted of the early morning trudge from the Monastic Dorm to the Unit. And then at 11:00 pm, the trudge back to the Monastic Dorm.

To go from the working state to the sleep state within a few minutes is not something I have mastered. As I write this, I think I have had an average of four to five hours of sleep over the last five nights.

Normally I would be home now, but luck would continue to persist, so I picked up some more work. Dollars are in need right now, as Joni and I have made a decision which will costs us thousands and thousands of dollars. This will more than likely be a futile effort. But it is an effort that simply must be made.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Walk #191: Overtime and Bears...

Another day; another 12 hour shift.

Frankly, Joni and I have had some very negative events come along lately which have sapped our piggy bank bare. And then some. Take heart though, as I've been able to pick up some overtime. Like today; and, thankfully, a double shift tomorrow (which will make my walk quite complicated).

My walk tonight was a short one. The Western Jays were especially loud. West of the Rocky Mountains there are two varieties of blue jays: the Western Jay (sometimes called the "Scrub Jay") and the Stellar Jay. My favorite is the Stellar Jay (sometimes called Stellar's Jay). Joni and I took our name from a special experience we had with a Stellar Jay. First date romantic stuff. Early on, we deemed experiences with important animals to be mystical events. I believe they are.

Joni called me today at work. Since I work as a nurse, I can count the number of times Joni has called me at work on two hands. Usually such a call is prompted by some major event. That was true today.

"I took the girls for a walk and we ran across a bear!" Joni shouted into the phone. "It was really close. Angel ran up to it. The bear was light colored and about Jazmine's height at the shoulders." This was a big bear.

The kids said it was "Freaky Cool". Evidently they were quite close to this bear. How wonderful!

This isn't good news for those who have been working on domesticating our ridge. With any luck, the bear will tear down some fences, eat some chickens and remind us all of their Ursine Kingliness.

Animal encounters as mystical events: Absolutely!

If the Churches in our nation taught that an encounter with a wild animal was a harbinger from God (which is one way animals do survive in some cultures) then maybe some Wildness might have a chance to survive our boring Box Store economy.

What is a bear encounter worth on an economic scale? I think the MasterCard commercial might say "priceless".

Friday, July 10, 2009

Walk #190: Angwin, PUC and the Color Cream...

Little flags with sayings on them inspire PUC students

Cream Colored Buildings...

So much for the ban on Graven Images...

I worked a twelve hour shift today. Afterwards I drove the three miles up the hill, to what must be the most boring place on Earth: Angwin, California.

Angwin is home to Pacific Union College and its 1500 students. Yet, this town has no coffee shops, bars, dance halls, movie theatres, restaurants or fun. The town is run by its Adventist residents--and is like no other place in the United States. Adventists are traditionally vegetarian; they don't dance; caffeine is frowned upon. They believe Jesus turned water into non alcoholic, grape juice. Hence the lack of all social activities in Angwin.

My walk began through the college campus. Little flags with inspirational messages are flown. One by Ellen White (considered a prophet by Adventists) got my attention: "Thinkers not mere reflector's of other men's thoughts". So these "thinkers" believe the Earth is 6,000 years old, that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible (even describing his own death by some miracle) and that Jesus is gonna return imminently. They have even picked the date of Christ's return a couple of times...leading to "the great disappointment" when Jesus stood us up. Yet, to be Adventist is to believe in the proximal return of Jesus.

All the buildings at PUC are cream colored. Tens of them. Saves on the need to buy another color of paint. The grounds are meticulous. There is no litter. All the hedges are trimmed and in proper geometric shapes. I did find one statue, despite the Adventists hatred of "graven images".

After touring the campus, I wandered down to the business center. I had planned on asking the clerk at the grocery store for a bottle of wine and a piece of steak (ever the social deviant). Alas, it is Friday night (the start of the Sabbath) and therefore, everything is closed. You cannot buy wine in Angwin. Or meat. Mail isn't delivered on Saturdays (must be the only place in the United States that has Sunday deliveries of mail). Friday (or Saturday) is not the day to visit Angwin. Then again, no day is the right day to visit Angwin.

It is hard to imagine 1500 students living in a town that has no restaurants. No place to buy alcohol. No fast food. No copies of alternative weekly magazines on newstands. No advertisements for alternative rock bands. Really, nothing of the bohemian culture to be seen anywhere.

If this is what Heaven is like, give me Hell.

Walk #189: A Travel Day...

Took a short walk after my car trip to the Napa Valley.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Walk #188: Dear Deer

Up early this morning, I took a walk before the girls awoke. In the blur of the photo above is a deer. Black tailed, I believe.

She wasn't all that alarmed at my presence. She stood and waited for me to take this blurry photo before bounding off. I'm happy to share this ridge with the deer and other critters. WE have asked the deer to leave our garden alone. Thus far, they have. Thanks.

Yesterday we were doing some work on the addition. A wasps nest was just a few inches above our heads as we put up a bale. We told the wasps they were welcome there, but please don't sting us. They didn't.

Can you communicate with wildlife? Is there some sort of leftover connection to Nature that industrial living has submerged deep into our subconsciousness? Most don't even ask the question. To do so is lunacy. And wasn't the world created for our own despoiling? Nature is something to be conquered. Can't trust Nature. Cooperating with Nature is treehugging sentimentalism.

But maybe, just maybe...deep in our reptilian brains, there is something which wants to cooperate with nature. Might human nature really be cooperative rather than competitive? Might Marx be correct in that we see the world from the vantage point of our economic system...and that change is possible. Might cooperation with nature really be our authentic Human nature?

I think so. Despite all evidence to the contrary. Delusionally so.

I'm told the root of the word "competition" means to strive together.

We are temporary stewards of everything we touch...from the land we live on, to the person we share our pillows with. Take good care of them and do the best you can.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Walk #187: It Was One Year Ago Today...

A Wavy Leaved Soap Plant...

We spent our first night as a family in this Idyllic home one year ago tonight. We celebrated with hot dogs and a salad. Then I took a walk.

A longish walk. Angel cooperated and didn't run off to eat any garbage. I thought about the last year--what we did right; what we did wrong.

In general, this move has been a success. It is nice to have such a beautiful place to live. It is good to have this adventure. I'd do it again. Few regrets.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Walk #186: Allergies and Garbage

Angel has allergies. Weaned too early; the runt of the litter. I don't know if that is the reason for her poor immune system (I suspect it is) but trips to the vet have proven that she cannot eat "absolutely everything" like most dogs.

Nope. Poor thing, she subsists on Lamb and Rice dog food. Organic, of course.

If Angel eats table scraps and various other delights she breaks out in an itchy rash and her skin starts to smell like silage. Uncomfortable for her; smelly for us.

With the higher temps (and no garbage collection on the Ridge), Angel has found every Squatter's garbage pile. She found a new one today. A pile filled with delectable delights: old tuna cans, moldy bread, plastic liners with hints of food left on them. A car was parked nearby...and these situations can be rather dangerous. You never know when you might come across a meth still or a cannabis patch--the Owners of such don't really like to be bothered.

When Angel catches wind of such a refuse pile, she simply cannot be stopped. She is like a Groupie getting tickets to see Mick Jagger. She pants and runs with abandon. She doesn't follow directions, and must be manually collected and brought back to the fold.

Bad dog!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Walk #185: Our Lady of San Juan de Los Lagos

My watch fell off today at work. I was sitting in an office chair and it jumped off my wrist. I looked down---couldn't find the watch.

Instead, this medallion was sitting there on the floor. I put the medallion in my pocket.

A few hours later, my watch reappeared, lying on the floor. I think it got caught in the arm of the chair.

I took my walk after driving home this afternoon. I took the medallion along.

Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos is the second most popular pilgrimage site in Mexico. It got popular in 1640, when a six year old child died. The distraught parents laid the dead child before the statue in the church, when the child came back to life. A nice legend. Since then, the place has become a pilgrimage site for healing (especially for children). The curious thing is that it is a popular WALKING destination. People are known to walk for weeks to get there. Some folks approach the church on their knees.

Seems fitting. Jungian Synchronicity. Comforting. Worthy of a prayer...

Ah, magical thinking...

Walk # 184...Quiet...

July 4. Independence Day.

An evening walk after work around the hospital grounds. Quiet. Serene.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Walk #183: Disaster versus Opportunity....

Spent the morning working on the cabin. Then we got a life changing phone call: bad news. Very bad news. Another life altering change is coming down the pike.

Disoriented and broken hearted, I hopped in the car and drove to the Napa Valley (have to work the Fourth). There, I took my walk. I make my living as a psychiatric RN; been doing this for 16 years. Through out that time I've been through a couple of my own personal crises. It is during times of personal crises that you have to learn to "walk your walk". I find that my compassion increases.

Suffering should increase your own compassion. Suffering and Compassion lead to Wisdom.

All psychiatric nurses have their own standard lines and material in how to deal with a specific patient with a specific problem. I find that humor works. Along with a few pithy gems, said with love and compassion, that make a difference.

One of these is the one that goes like this--when talking to a patient having a difficulty adjusting to a new situation: "You know, in Chinese, disaster and opportunity have the same symbol". I've said that a thousand times in my career. I don't even know if it is true.

I also encourage depressed patients to walk. Getting a vegetative person moving seems to move them out of their own negativity. Gets them out of themselves.

And so I walked in a busy St. Helena that was having a festival. Disoriented. Sad. I lost my car keys on the walk--and later found them. Perhaps that is a metaphor for our current situation?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Walk #182: Easy Does It...

A late evening walk as it gets dark. My dog and I head out after yet another barbecued meal. It is hot here in the Foothills, and cooking outside makes the most sense. We use both our Weber and a propane stove we have set up outdoors. Dinners have been late, as nobody feels like cooking until the sun starts angling down. My walks have been even later--in order to escape the daytime heat and then have a family dinner.

So, right now, it is an "Easy Does It" sort of life. Don't push too hard with the heat. Rest. Take care of yourself. Drink water. The AA folks have simple, little slogans to help with their recovery; snippets of wisdom which makes sense: "Easy Does It", "One Day At A Time"; little pithy sayings.

They work.

So it is Easy Does It for this hot, hot July. No need to risk heat stroke, kidney stones, sunburn, exhaustion or dehydration--just to get a walk in. Or get the house done.

It is Easy Does It.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Walk # 181: Does It Get Any Better?

After a fine dinner (corn on the cob, salad, barbecued chicken thighs), we all headed out for our "lollipop" walk. A nice gentle, short walk--on a warmish evening. The days are oppressively hot. Sunset brings relief.

A good time to talk. Plan the next day. Jazmine rode her bike with Angel running beside her. We all laugh and smile. No cars. No generators blaring.

How much money is an evening walk, with no cars, totally still, totally quiet...while the breeze at the end of the walk kicks up; cool air sliding downhill off the taller Sierra. What is that worth?