Monday, August 31, 2009

Walk #242: Day of the Coyotes

Early this morning, sitting outside in my camp chair drinking some liquid ambition, a coyote wandered up the road above. I called to Joni, who came outside the cabin in time to see him complete his jaunt up this road. He looked at me and didn't change direction or bolt away when we made eye contact. In fact, it felt like he was checking me out as much as I was checking him out.

Again, around six pm tonight, I was walking near the spot where this photo was taken, when two coyotes wandered up the road. One headed towards the house, and got to the black cistern (in the photo) before my yells made it wander away. He wandered off as if my yells were "only kidding". Took his time.

The other coyote joined him and I watched the two young juveniles playing tag as they scampered out of view.

I think our domestic livestock situation as been noticed by the local wildlife. Especially the young "cheeps" of our chicks. Where there are "cheeps"--dinner is to be found.

I took a short Lollipop walk because Joni is at a meeting and I didn't want to be gone long from our rabbits, chickens and cat. Not with playful, not skittish-at-all, hungry coyotes lurking about.

By the way, manzanita does work to treat poison oak (see my other blog from yesterday). Kylie said that when we put the tea on her skin, the bubbly ulcers didn't itch anymore. It helped her get to sleep.

And other wildlife notes, Joni came across a large rattlesnake lying across the road two days ago. She was driving, the snake was in the road, and she swerved around it. She let the snake live.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Walk #241: Goldenrod...

The Goldenrod is blooming.

This late summer flower signifies the start of school and the close of summer as we head towards Labor day. Here in the Foothills, a new flower blooming is a cause for celebration. This Ridge doesn't have many hardy summer bloomers. How can anything but the hardiest of plants bloom when we haven't had any rain for four months?

I did the Lollipop walk with Angel. Another monstrously hot day. On such hot days, the best times for activity are the early morning (we were in church) and the evening. Forget the hours between noon and six pm. I spent those hours sweltering in my easy chair, reading Jean Auel's "Clan of the Cave Bear".

My 241st walk. How have they changed me?

I got an indication in Church today with a reading from the Song of Solomon. When I heard the words about seeing the "beloved" and the imagery of spring time and flowers, gazelles and the like---I thought: "Now there is a person who is connected with nature".

The Pastor (who hasn't set foot outside in quite some time) went on to describe some metaphoric blather about Jesus and the bride of the church--turning this eco-erotic, racy passage into something it is not. What I got from the Song of Solomon was a wonderful natural description of seeing your lover, from a person connected with nature.

It need not be anything more than that. Sometimes metaphors cheapen the text...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Walk #240: Hot...

Another barbecued dinner. Tummy full, I grab my walking stick and coax my dog for a sunset walk on this 100 plus degree day. It would really be better to do this earlier in the day (before dinner) but it was too hot.

About a forty five minute jaunt. Then home for some ice water...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Walk #239: Who benefits more?

Enough of the psycho/spiritual crap. This was a short lollipop walk. The usual adventure for man and his dog. Who benefits more? The man or the dog?

The dog gets some time off the leash. Gets to sniff around. Eat pooh. Play with untethered friends. Scare up a deer. And run, run run...

And the man? He gets to move. Supervise the dog. He gets time untethered too. Enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors.

Judging by enthusiasm, I'd say the dog gets more benefits.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Walk #238: The Oak Limb...

After a fine dinner of lamb, basmati rice and fresh green beans, I headed out with my dog.

Sometime in the last twenty four hours, this branch of an Oak tree fell. In fact, I took Kylie and Jazzy's photo quite near it yesterday.

The branch sits on top of a phone line. We don't have any power lines up here, so there is no danger of a fire from it.

But still. What if it had broken when I was taking the girls' photo yesterday? Sometimes life just comes down to a matter of timing and luck.
An addendum. (Written the morning after my walk.)

I've been wrestling with figuring out a way to make more money. Before my walk, Hunter called me with praise for his new job. He invited me to write the Director of the Unit, as they are hiring (and gave me the e-mail address and phone number). I've already met this person, as I gave them a tour of the unit I am currently working on. This Director remembers me, and would like to hire me.

Psychiatric Nursing jobs are going the way of the dinosaur. There are fewer and fewer places to practice my craft every year. Jobs are getting tighter. Budgets cut. Part of the slide towards barbarism, in my view.

So to be part of a new unit, with even more handsome pay than I make right now (it would take care of all our unexpected, financial difficulties), is more than tempting. The problem: The new psychiatric unit is with the military. On an Air Force base.

It would be literally, "going out on a limb", to take this job. Sometimes limbs crash. That was what I was mulling over when I saw the limb.

And then a dream last night. Bad dreams rarely happen to me. Most nights I happily dream about this and that. They are entertaining and fun. But not last night.

I dreamt I was sent a letter (the e-mail?) by a serial killer, every time the serial killer had another victim. The letter would be addressed to me. I awoke, in a sweat, having received piles of letters from the serial killer.

Of course, the meaning of the dream is quite clear: Do not compromise your values by going to work for the Empire. Don't take a job with the military. Do you really want to be reminded of death every day, Allan?

The message of the limb across the phone line? Do Not Call. The message of the letters from the serial killer? Do Not E-mail Them.

I won't apply.

It is one thing to surmise messages from unusual events in nature (like a tree limb across your path). It is quite another to listen to your dreams. To listen to what the good ole "subconscious" is telling you. When you have both nature and subconscious telling you something, it is best to take heed. Run. Put away those plans and thoughts.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Walk #237: An Alpaca Baby...

After sleeping til ten this morning, I drove home. Kylie and Jazzy joined me on my walk. One of our neighbor's Alpacas had a baby two days ago. The girls were quite excited to show the baby off to me.

Then we walked some more, with me trying out my new camera (the same make and model as the old one).

I could have bought a much fancier camera. But why? I am an amateur. This way I can continue to pack my camera in my shorts; drop it in the dust; have it be submerged in rain; cram it in my day pack. In short, abuse it without feeling too much guilt.

There is a certain joyful cheesiness in a cheap camera. Real life isn't perfect. Neither am I. My photos reflect that...
By the way, some photos have been added to some earlier posts (from before the old camera died).

Walk #236: A Late Night....

After working a double, I take a brief walk around the hospital grounds. A coolish evening.

Back to my room at the Monastic Dorm to discover that Teddy Kennedy is dead. I fall asleep with CNN interviewing folks about Teddy.

Lessons to learn from Teddy's life?

Don't drive drunk.
Redemption is possible.
If you have money, share it.

Goodbye Teddy...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Walk #235: Dunaweal Lane: Twomey, Sterling, Clos Pegase and Dick Cheney

This is a nice walk.

Start in Calistoga and take the bike trail to Dunaweal Lane. From here you can walk Dunaweal lane--passing by three very distinct wineries. These three wineries represent everything that is currently trendy and conventional in the Napa Valley. Snob Central.

Having lived in Calistoga, I have visited all three. Dunaweal Lane is a short bisector road of the Napa Valley. On Dunaweal Lane you will find: Twomey Winery, Sterling Winery and Clos Pegase Winery.

Fall is in the air. Still warm, but with a cool wind blowing. Blackberries are there for the picking on part of the walk. When I get to Dunaweal Lane, I turn right walking past Twomey Winery.

Twomey is devoted to Merlot. Owned by the same folks who run the cult Winery "Silver Oak", no expenses are spared in the making of this wine. Silver Oak is the Napa Valley Cabernet that dentists, doctors and folks with way too much money and free time, buy a few magnums of to celebrate their fiftieth birthdays (and yes, I will probably be superficially trendy enough to do the same). Twomey Handcrafts (literally) this wine. The Winery itself is simple. A decent sized house without fanfare. I saw a bottle of Twomey yesterday that sold for $100. Too expensive for my budget.

Turn around and walk a bit more and you come to the entrance of Sterling Vineyards. Sterling sits on top of a bit of a hill--so they have a ski lift type arrangement to whisk you up there. Sterling was purchased a few years ago by a mega Canadian corporation that makes Seagrams whiskey (I think they still own it).

Wineries in Napa like to promote the myth that they are a small family owned operation. Sterling attempts to pull this off with no mention of it's ownership on any bottles. In Sterling's defense, they have been a wonderful contributor to the daycare that both Jazzy and Kylie went to. They do share with the rest of the community. In addition, they do make a wonderful Sauvignon Blanc. I've had most vintages since 2002, and I can say that they are almost always very good and affordable.

Walk some more and you come to Clos Pegase. Every winery needs a hook to get you in the door. This winery uses art. Modern sculptures adorn the grounds. And this brings me to Dick Cheney.

I avoid this winery (although I have tasted there once). Why? Because of its snootiness. But the major reason has to do with Dick Cheney.

A couple of years ago, when Dick Cheney was still the Vice President and he was looking for another retirement home, he secretly visited Calistoga (back then he was so unpopular, he had to visit every thing secretly). The Grumpy Apologist for torture was looking for a place to relax. Drink red wine. Shoot another friend. Cheney visited Clos Pegase while doing his real estate ventures, and I haven't set foot in the place since then. Did Cheney buy a house? This I have not been able to substantiate.

Back to Calistoga.

I stop at the grocery store and purchase a bottle of Sterling Vineyards 2007 Sauvignon Blanc. Back to the Monastic Dorm for dinner, and sure enough, this is a decent wine. Full of flavor. A bit of an alcohol burn. But still smooth. Affordable. Those Canadians are smart folks...afterall, they did invent Single Payer Healthcare!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Walk #234: The Death of the Kodak...

Up at five in the morning. Drive the twenty five miles to the hospital and work all day. I had slept well under the stars, but I guess I didn't really know how tired I was. Up to the Monastic Dorm after work and fell sound asleep for a couple of hours.

I crave quietness. So I took a nice relaxed walk in a local vineyard. The light was perfect with the sun going down. This vineyard is one of the older ones, with huge gnarled grape plants. Zinfandel, I think.

I take out the trusty Kodak, only to discover it won't take a picture. I've been having some problems with it. I dropped it in quite a bit of dust last week, and the thing just hasn't worked right since.

Oh well. It has lasted over a year. I have carried it all over the place. It has been spilled on. Dropped multiple times. It has shared a daypack with soggy peaches and melted Snickers bars. It has been rained on and dropped in the dust. I can't say the photos are excellent, but that isn't what I'm looking for. All I'm looking for is a way to express some of the experience I am having.

Farewell trusty Kodak! You performed wonderfully for a Charley Brown Christmas Tree type camera. I think I'll purchase your cousin next...

Walk #233: Whole Paycheck...

After work, down to the city of Napa and to Whole Foods (or "Whole Paycheck" as a friend calls it). The occasion? Yet another barbecue. I park far away in the parking lot, thinking this might be my only opportunity to walk today (besides what I did at work already).

I was right.

This summer, my friends and I have mastered the art of barbecuing. We just announce "a barbecue at so and so's" house---and in Zen fashion, everything comes together. Last night it was steaks, rock cod and tri-tip. Appetizers of decent cheese and (of course) wine. Much laughter.

These barbecues have been fun for us this summer. Work colleagues (or former colleagues) mostly attend. It gets a little rowdy at times, but no police have been summoned to them yet. No arrests.

After the barbecue, I throw my sleeping bag down in R.O.'s backyard. Hunter brings his bag too, and joins my little sleep out. Two grown men, in their late forties, enjoying watching the stars. Hunter tells me that he hadn't slept under the stars for twenty five years before we started doing this after our barbecues.

Twenty five years without sleeping under the stars? How sad...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Walk #232: H1N1 vs. Affluenza

Why I don't own a house in the Napa Valley: A two bedroom, one bath cottage for--

Ran into a Nursing Supervisor walking in the hall of the hospital this morning. "Are you going to get the Swine Flu vaccine?" she asked. This Nursing Supervisor is another "off-grider". Homeschooler. Although she is of the more Christian Right back-to-the-lander persuasion (of whom I think there are many more than us left-of-center, "off griders").

"Of course", I told her.

She went on to say that she was opposed to vaccines, and certainly wouldn't be getting this one.

Continuing my way to the unit, I noticed new hand sanitizers everywhere. In front of the elevators; outside my bosses office (mmmm.....frightened of the hygienics of us lowly workers?). A colleague told me the reason, when I made my way into the report room at 6:30 am.

Evidently, we had our first Swine Flu death. A 25 year old male (already reported by the press, so I can write about it). A healthy male. We are told that this pandemic isn't serious. That over one million Americans have gotten the bug and haven't needed any hospitalization. We are told the bug hasn't mutated yet. Nor will it be a return to 1918.

All I know is that I sure did use the hand sanitizers at work today. And I took my temperature three times!

I thought of these things on my walk in St. Helena. A hot day, I waited for it to cool off by stopping at my favorite restaurant for a couple of pints and some really excellent macaroni and cheese (only $12 for the mac and cheese).

St. Helena suffers from another bug: Affluenza.

I've been reading David Wann's book lately and this has been on my mind too. I walked with an eye towards the unsustainable consumption. I stopped to look at a two bedroom cottage (with no yard) that is on sale for $819,000. I saw a sports car that I had no idea what it was...a t something. Beautiful people with handsome bank accounts everywhere.

Affluenza vs. H1N1... Which would I choose to have? Well, I live in a culture in the last throws of the former. With proper hand washing, I hope to escape the latter.

p.s. As always when in Napa, photos will be added when I return to the Farm.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Walk #231: In Praise of Hiking Boots...

Thursdays always makes Angel nervous.

She can feel the tension in the air, every other Thursday, as I start gathering my materials for the trip to Napa. She stares at me as I fill my suitcase. She whines as I throw some books into a backpack. She moans as I gather my toiletry bag. She follows me everywhere--to the bathroom, to the shed, to the pump house, to the car--as I pack it.

Wanting to get a last walk in with Angel before I head out to make my creditors happy (vis a vie visa)--I took Angel out in the noonday sun. I noticed that she would quickly trot from shade to shade. The rocks on the road look like they hurt her paws. Do dogs feel the heat like Dudley Moore on the sand in the movie "Ten"?

Got me to thinking about my shoes. Decent hiking shoes. I've had them since the summer of 2003. Purchased at REI they have been more than durable. I find that low top hiking boots are best, as your feet don't hurt when you walk on rocks.

This pair replaced the pair I bought in 1996, when living in Reno, Nevada--every weekend a troop from work would choose another peak in the Sierra to bag. Fun years! That pair finally wore out after I moved close to Arches National Park and spent all my free time hiking with friends in the Canyonlands and the mountains of the western slope of Colorado. Glorious years!

My new boots are getting a bit tattered now; maybe they will last a couple more seasons. Hiking boots should be purchased with the same frequency as your family car (maybe longer). They should last and last. Frankly, this $120 pair I bought has been worth every cent. I wear them everyday. They have been up Mt. Tallack. They have climbed Mt. St. Helena multiple times. They have walked every trail worth walking in Napa County. They have been worn on every walk these last 231 days.

Good boots, they are...

What Henry David Had to Say:

A thousand rills...Thoreau's Journal: 19-Aug-1851

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live! Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow, as if I had given vent to the stream at the lower end and consequently new fountains flowed into it at the upper. A thousand rills which have their rise in the sources of thought burst forth and fertilize my brain. You need to increase the draught below, as the owners of meadows on Concord River say of the Billerica Dam. Only while we are in action is the circulation perfect. The writing which consists with habitual sitting is mechanical, wooden, dull to read.

Amen. Borrowed from H. D. Thoreau's blog...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Walk #230: Chico...A Walk on the Old Highway

Took my new Yaris in for its 5,000 mile(!) check up. My cars get more check ups than I do. Since the wait was two hours, I took a two hour walk on the "old highway" into Chico.

Most towns of 90,000 souls or so, have an old way into town. Highway expansion and freeways have made the "old" highways into just city streets. Still, these old roads are almost always interesting. Pure Americana (what is left of it, since the franchises and corporations have taken over).

This $50,000 500 series BMW has a "peace" bumper sticker. An example of what conservative columnist David Brooks calls: "Bobos". Bohemian Upscale Yuppies. Chico likes to think it is a "green" community...hence the bike racks on the Bobos car.

I couldn't resist. Stopped in for a burger and a malt. Anything non-corporate is worth supporting.

Sierra Nevada beer is made in Chico. There are signs for it everywhere.

Jeffrey St. Clair would say companies like this is part of the problem. Fire suppression has destroyed the natural order of the west--and has created larger, tree stand replacing fires. Tree studies show that fire prone areas (such as where I live) should be burned over every 7 to 14 years. Anti-environmentalists always tout "fuel reduction" which means logging. They take out the large trees and don't bother with the under growth, which is what normally burns in a normal fire. Fuel reduction gets it backwards....

An old nut factory. Being a psychiatric nurse, I couldn't resist the photo...

This is a coffee house. I got there too late to stop in and ask about what the name means. I'm thinking it has something to do with the Spanish explorer.

This was a hot, hot walk. Having not showered for awhile, I looked like a homeless person walking the streets of Chico. People gave me wide berths. Way, way for the leper!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Walk #229: Slow...

Didn't make it to Mt. Lassen today. The website said the trail to the peak is closed due to an "accident". It shall be closed the rest of the year.

Plan B was to hike to Feather Falls, the sixth tallest falls in the United States. However, on the way there I couldn't remember if I shut off a pump at home. Turn around. Go check it. It was off.

So with time running out today, I took the girls to the pool. Fine with them.

I took the lollipop walk with my dog. This is the sign we have for the barely hourly traffic we have by our place. Slow! I'm all for going slow. Slow but steady wins the race...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Walk #228: Abundance?

Joni attached the wild turkey feather I found yesterday to my walking stick. Joni (who, having lived in Cocaine soaked Boulder, Colorado during the 80's--studying with the Sun Bear tribe and partying at Stephen Stills house) told me that wild turkey feathers signify abundance.

Abundance! I like that. As long as the abundance stays away from my mid-section and is focused more on my checkbook.

So I took my turkey feather adorned walking stick on three short walks today. I wanted them (the walks) to be longer, but my walking companion (my yellow lab) didn't want to go very far. Angel was much more concerned with all the visiting neighbor kids we had hanging about the place. She didn't want to walk.

And the Fat Lady Sang today. The Robed Stranger made his ruling regarding Jazzy and Kylie. They shall be with us for quite some time. We got more than we wanted.


Joni starts a new job tomorrow (abundance?). To celebrate, I'm gonna spend her wages and take the girls to Mt. Lassen. Plans are for these 8 and 9 year old girl humans who live with me to bag their first peak. About time....

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Walk #227: Them Bones and Turkey Feathers...

Back up into the 100 degree range today. I couldn't talk anyone but Angel (who is always willing to go for a romp) to go for a walk with me. Wearing my new Monkey Wrench Gang t-shirt--which I wear in a constant monotonous rotation with two Beatles t-shirts---I headed out.

I found a turkey feather that Joni shows off above.

And Angel. Stubborn, ill-behaved dog that she is. She ran off into the woods, only to come bounding back with a couple of ribs attached to a vertebral column. I'm thinking it belongs to a Fawn. Angel found it close to where I've seen a mountain lion prowling about.

A long walk today.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Walk #226: 6 Kids, 6 Dogs, 1 Spouse and Alpacas

Joni, Jazzy, Angel and I went out to visit some neighbor's Alpacas.

We were met by their five dogs...

Alpacas are herd animals (much like humans). Watch how they look the same way:

And then all turn to face me. If you want to understand how the corporate media behaves, just watch a herd of Alpacas for awhile.

We finished the walk with the neighbor's five kids joining us. Plus their five dogs. There is something earthy about a rural kid. They join pudgy old farts like me on a walk (lately it seems like they lie in wait for me to walk by--then coming up and enthusiastically joining my walk). They talk excitedly about Alpacas and chickens. They know about composting. I'd say they are rather lucky...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Walk #225: Fire in Abandoned Cars...

Commotion on the ridge the other day, Joni tells me. A fire started amongst one of our neighbor's abandoned car collections. It is a Redneck thing: to have oodles of various (sometimes vintage) cars in various states of unrepair lying about your property. Drives me nuts.

I walked over to inspect the damage. The neighbor's kids blamed the fire on someone who was camping in one of the cars. I sort of suspected as much, as a couple of weeks ago, Angel found the garbage collection from the said Camper (tasted good, she barked).

One very cheap way of surviving in California is the "homeless camp". Since we had a fire last summer that destroyed 205 of the 250 structures in Concow (almost all of them uninsured), there are plenty of former Concowians living in the woods.

This fire is a possible consequence of such rural homelessness. As we descend further into barbarism in this country, we shall see more and more of this sort of creative living arrangement. Collect your GA check through a post office box, or your unemployment check, or your SSI check--squirrel it away and live as cheaply as you can during the eight months without rain that we have in this part of California.

With unemployment still clicking up, despite talk of more hopeful economic news--look for more creative folks to be living in old abandoned cars. Camping in the woods. Eeking out an existence.

What to expect in the next couple of years? With real unemployment hovering around 20 percent, I'm thinking Obama will announce a new WPA program within a year or so. The most hopeful thing he could do is to close down the more than 700 foreign military bases and announce the end of the American Empire. Not the end of the American Dream. (Which is what we are facing now.)

Walk #224: Intentions, Following and Goodness.

This wasn't a walk; it is more a philosophy. Sometimes our walks happen without our feet touching the ground. Walking as metaphor. Metaphysical.

On a day when I finished up work and dropped off a hefty sum to our smiley faced lawyer--I then drove back to our home. Our Solar Homestead. The Farm. Our Valhalla. The Compound.

Intentions and Hope. I think back to finding that medallion a few weeks ago. I gave the medallion to Joni, as it seemed it was more for her than for me. From that moment, in the midst of horrible adversity, we set our intention: to do what was right.

The Universe conspired to help. Suddenly I found myself being asked to work extra double shifts. Money flowed in. We stood firm when Judges and three pissed off lawyers wanted us to settle. We stood firm when we were told that we were going to lose. We were belittled. Our lawyer was accused of being too attached to her clients. Joni was accused of being enmeshed with her Grandchildren.

The medallion spoke to Joni at such times: "Settle in", it said. "Take the long haul". So she did.

Not all times in our lives are such things so magically clear. This certainly wasn't the case for us over the last six weeks or so. But our intentions were clear: Do the right thing.

So this wasn't a walk. It was about walking the walk. To follow your own intentions. To live purposely even when the Herd snorts otherwise. About being foolhardily resolute to do that which is right.

Finally, I am back home with a week off to rest and recover. To take walks without quite so much stress. To enjoy.

Intentions. Make them clear and good--and always follow them. As Larry wrote to me, "Trust Goodness". Amen.

Walk #223: Festivities...

Still in the Napa Valley. Work. Then off to R.O's for some festivities. Two things to celebrate: Vindication by the court (who had to reverse themselves--although not quite a court order yet) and a new job for my friend (Hunter).

So what was the walk? As usual in these shin digs, it was a walk to a corner store with my friend Hunter for a bottle of Jim Beam. I behaved myself. I was along for the walk and not the Jim Beam.

That night I threw my sleeping bag down in R.O's backyard, watching the tail end of the Perseid Meteor shower...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Walk #222: Bennett Lane Blessings...

One of the two does watching me...

Red Grapes (although they are purple)

White Grapes...

Farmworker housing

Wearing my new "Monkey Wrench Gang" t-shirt that I bought in Moab, Utah---I was craving a walk a bit more isolated. Serene. Probably from some subconscious programming, I chose to go to Bennett Lane just outside of Calistoga.

You see, Robert Redford used to own the movie rights for "The Monkey Wrench Gang". My friend Steve has seen Bob twice running on Bennett Lane. Robert Redford maintains a residence (or at least used to--these famous folks change residences to keep the rest of us guessing as to where they live) in Calistoga. One of the places he takes a run is Bennett Lane. My friend Steve called him "just a little dufer" due to his diminutive size.

So I walked on Bennett Lane; nice and shady.

Since I was wearing my new t-shirt (complete with an R. Crumb drawing of a wrench) I was in the mood for monkey wrenching. Feeling radical. Alas, that had already been done: a barbed wire fence had been cut which provides a game trail for deer.

Barbed Wire Fences: Get rid of unnecessary ones is my opinion. But we shall explore that in future walks.

I walked along in my new radical black t-shirt. The Vineyards are heavy with grapes. Soon the white grapes will start to be harvested. The red varieties will take a bit longer to mature.

I come across two does. Black tail I think (but it is hard for me to tell the difference between black tails and mule deer). They watch me as I walk and freeze. I snap a photo.

Two does. Beautiful. Do they promise me a positive ending to our Guardianship drama tomorrow--when our valiant lawyer wanders into a humiliated court which must admit they were wrong? I hope so.

I walk along past the Farmworker housing, where they have a garden and chickens.

But my thoughts were mostly of thankfulness. Thankful to my work for 1. giving me a living wage; 2. giving me the part time benefited position I have; 3. providing me with housing when I work and 4. letting me take four days off with almost no notice to get important documents. I may rag on the silliness of the hospital at times, but honestly, they have treated me very, very well.

Blessings. Blessed by the black tailed deer. Blessed by legs that walk. Blessed by a spouse who loves me. Blessed by a workplace that provides meaning. Blessed by health. Blessed by walking in beauty. Blessed by the simple act of being able to breathe. I am blessed. And I feel such today....

Monday, August 10, 2009

Walk #221: Am I Ever Gonna Get Out of This Car?

A morning walk with my dog and then off to Napa in the new Yaris (that is getting quite a few miles on it lately).

My mission? To bring the certified documents from my Colorado trip to our lawyer. I have been guarding these documents like they were more important than the Magna Carta. And they are. I met with the lawyer for an hour--as we reviewed lie after lie. The documents will be submitted to the court on Wednesday...when this whole matter should be ended--and the Guardianship continued.

After meeting with our excellent lawyer, I took a walk around St. Helena. Still somewhat fearful (and amazed) at the events of the last week. I'd say I'm happy about it, however, it is always sad to see a parent fail.

Work has been kind to me. They gave me the time off with their blessings. In return, I will be working here in the Napa Valley for the rest of the week. I get to put on my Socialist Social Worker hat...

Walk #220: Home for a few hours...

Drove from Reno, Nevada to my Foothills home. A joyful reunion with Joni (the girls are visiting relatives). I took a sunset walk with my dog before Joni and I consumed a fine dinner of wild Salmon, rice and a salad.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Walk #219: Highway 50 Across Nevada...

A driving day. With walks to stretch my legs. Started out in Green Valley, Utah. There are two ways across Nevada: Interstate 80 (boring corporate yuckiness!) and Highway 50.

Most travelers take I-80. That is fine with me. Taking Highway 50 (the loneliest road in the US) is one of the most wild and glorious routes a person can travel. I prefer to keep it to myself. Okay, go ahead---travel it some day.

An example of the water wars in the west:

There are exactly four towns across the 400 mile route: Ely, Eureka, Austin and Fallon. This is Eureka.

And this is what the views are like. There is a place along the route where you can admire 10,000 year old pictographs!!

Walk #218: Ed Abbey's House and Delicate Arch...

Friday morning. I finish up the work at the courthouse, make a few telephone calls and then drive to Moab, Utah. While there I met a knowledgeable man who told me where Ed Abbey lived in the 1970's (of course, he also lived at Arches National Park and near Ken Sleight's ranch). The house below is where he lived in the mid 70's:

It is a simple house. From here he wrote many fine books, including "The Monkey Wrench Gang". By the way, the house is for sale. Joni gave me permission to investigate how much they want for it. Joni said she would love for me to own Ed Abbey's house...

Off to Arches National Park. A petroglyph panel near the Delicate Arch Trail:

Climbing the trail to Delicate Arch should be on everyone's "life list". Climbing the slickrock to the top is sure joy. Yes, it is crowded. It should be. This is one of the best sacred sites nature has ever made.

It is around 4 pm on a hot August day. A person really should hike this trail with sunscreen, snacks, a sun hat and lots of water. Doing it on the hottest part of an August day with inadequate physical training is not recommended.

Oh well. I coaxed my Michael Mooreish body up the trail. Hot sun blazing. On the way, I made sure I had my health insurance card with me.

I did bring water. And two Snickers bars (the best energy bar ever made).

And here I am at Delicate Arch...

Walk #217: Grand Junction...

I drove from Wendover, Nevada to Grand Junction. Got there in time to get half the documentation I needed. Exhausted, I got a hotel room.

I had plans to go hike along the Colorado River. Instead I walked down the street to an Applebees.

Walk #216: Wendover, Nevada

Wednesday. I took an early morning walk with my dog. We were to hear from the court when the trial would be for our Guardianship. Bad news. The trial was to occur on August 12.

At 2:00 pm our lawyer called and said that we had to get some vital information in Colorado. I hopped into the car and started the drive. That night I stayed on the Nevada/Utah border.

In the morning I took a photo of the monument to the "Enola Gay". Wendover is where the crew for the Enola Gay trained to drop the first atomic bomb.

While enroute, the information I was going to get certified copies of was so damning that the motion to end the guardianship was dismissed.

Back in Concow...

After quite the adventure, I am back in Concow. Will be here for around 14 hours and then off to Napa for work and more lawyering. I am too exhausted and burned out to write anything.

Yes, I have been walking. I shall catch up when I have the time and energy to process it all.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Green River...

I shall catch up on these walks later. Just a note to state I am in Green River, Utah. I stopped off at Arches National Park and hiked the "Delicate Arch Trail". I also found Ed Abbey's house when he lived in Moab in the 1970's (it is for sale, if anyone is interested).

Tomorrow I'm gonna drive the loneliest highway in the world (highway 50) and attempt to make it back to Napa. Or maybe just Lake Tahoe...

Reports on the walks to follow...complete with photos of my travels across the west. God I love the west!! Hundreds of miles of empty space....

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Important News...

I write this from a hotel in Grand Junction, Colorado. I drove here (unexpectedly) overnight. The news is that the girls will continue to live with us. The case was dismissed. They will continue to live with us for quite some time.

I had to drive out here to gather some crucial evidence. I can't go into the details, but I can say that our lawyer is a genius. She totally believed in what we are doing. Sometimes David does beat Goliath.

I am off for a walk in the Monument along the Colorado River...

Blessings to all!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Walk #215: Alone...

A nurse told me this joke the other day: "How does a Buddhist order a hot dog?"

The answer: "Make me one with everything".

Every few years a friend or relative sends a last minute e-mail that goes something like this: "I'm gonna be in Los Angeles next week. Is that near you? We could get together." Of course, Los Angeles is a good eight hour drive away from me.

Midwesterners tend to think that California is about the size of Rhode Island. Step foot in the State and you must be close to me.

Tonight I got an e-mail from a cousin. They said they were visiting and they were free tonight if I wanted to come over. They are four hours away in San Francisco (attending a convention). After trying to put some schedules together, it turns out there won't be time for a visit.

Too bad.

That is what I thought about on my walk tonight. What it is like to be an emigrant, far away from family and your space of origin. A self imposed California exile. Why? Cause I like it here.

But sometimes I miss seeing my quirky, weird, stoic Norwegian relatives with their lefsa, funny accents, leutefisk and stubbornly pietistic ways.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Walk #214: What Makes Us Human?

Funny how the change of seasons can sneak up on you. We are in that time now. Hard to put your finger on. The temperature is less. The Stellar Jays are back. But it is more a feeling in the air.
Since I've been working so blasted much lately, a simple walk with my dog is amongst the more pleasurable things I've experienced lately. Very simple. Elegant in its simplicity.

Walking is simple elegance. It is the thing that we most celebrate about a baby around 12 months of age. First step. "One small step for a man", Neil Armstrong said. Walking upright makes us human; led to larger brains.In an age of eating fast food in the car, texting our friends and having our eyes glued to a screen--walking brings us back to the creatures that we really are.

I'd go so far as to say that if we ever want to move towards a Green Ecotopia--walking will be amongst the ways this will be done. It is the most under-rated transportation form we have.And it made us human.

Walks #211,212, 213: Grindstone...

I am, by nature, a lazy person. Ambition doesn't come naturally to me. So working 88 hours in one week was quite a departure from my normal slothful state.

Walks, you say? Just back up to the Monastic Dorm after 16 1/2 hours on the locked unit. They count. So does the casino walk.

Drove back home last night and stopped to walk around the Colusa Casino. Stretching my legs after working a double back, single day shift. Casinos are the last place in California where indoor smoking is allowed. The place was packed. Second hand smoke stinking up the joint. I must admit, as a person who has wrestled with a nicotine addiction in the past, I enjoyed taking deep drafts of the second hand smokey air. It is the next best thing to actually taking a drag.

I dropped some cash into a one armed bandit: lost six bucks.

Onward to Oroville to buy a special bottle of wine, some french brie and fancy crackers. Shared the bottle (a 2006 Cab) with Joni when I got home--as we watched the stars come out on our three acre ranch. Bliss.