Sunday, November 29, 2009

Walk #333: Down by Five...

Up to the Monastic Dorm after work. I plop on the bed, close my eyes and...

Three hours later I awaken to darkness. Must have been tired. Off I go for a gentle walk around the hospital grounds. Then, feeling a little refreshed, I head down to St. Helena to take a walk around town. The holiday lights are out. Revelers in the fancy restaurants are making their holiday reveling sounds. I stop and look in at all the doodads in the upscale stores. Things I will never buy. Or even wish to buy.

I stop at one of the Realty offices where they have a large plasma screen giving virtual tours of mansions. Places that have guest houses that are much bigger than my house. The slide show continues with mansions with views; huge fireplaces; large bedrooms all of them painted the same beige color. I live in a house of dirt and straw. That's okay, I'm in good company---Jesus was born with straw and mud all around.

I stop off at the grocery store and buy a piece of artisan bread, some cheese and a bottle of mineral water. No booze! I'm in training! Stepped on the scale this morning before work to find out I'm down five pounds. Five down, twenty five to go. By January 10.

If you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Walk #332: The Old Toll Road

The gateway to a mansion on the Old Toll Road...

I am in training. Finally.

The goal: a couple of long hikes in January--one possible (requiring a passport and not definite)--the other quite definite. Still in the Napa Valley, I have decided to do hill work every other day. Today it is a hill day.

So for this hill workout, I chose the road that Robert Louis Stevenson took with his bride to get to their first matrimonial residence: A shack on Mount St. Helena. Later, RLS would write about the time they spent there in his book: The Silverado Squatters. What I need are roads and paths that go up, the steeper the better, for miles of heart pounding, muscle quivering, steep grade real Earth stair stepping (doesn't anybody else find the notion of using a stair stepper at the gym as bizarre, artificial silliness?). Want to use a stair stepper? Go outside and walk up hill. Tis cheaper, easier and it will get you the one place we never go anymore: Outside!

The Old Toll Road meets my aeobic needs. This is a single lane road that goes up for miles. It is the old carriage road (paved over) now deserted for the modernised highway 29.

This is one of my favorite walks in the Napa Valley. It is deserted. Filled with country estates...the nice thing is that the rich folks who own them, also own houses elsewhere. They are rarely lived in, almost never there, which means there is very little traffic on the single lane road. People who have lived on the Toll Road? Robert Redford. I've heard Madonna had a house here too.

And the views! The rocky Palisades on your right; the 4,000 foot Mount St. Helena on your left. And lonely. Fall colors! I even found a huge maple leaf.

Never hike alone in mountain lion country, they say. For most of us, to never hike alone means we would never hike. I'll take my chances!--and this year, the only mammal who actually did try to kill me was another homo sapian. I'm safer hiking alone than being at work.

So it was up the hill at a Seabiscuit pace for forty minutes. Then a turn around, admiring the views on the way back.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Walk #331: I Meet a Monk...

Off to the Monastery!

The inside of the Monastery's church. The Monks sit on the other side of the fence...

The old Monk, walking with his cane, goes to the Church after talking to me...

After work.

I head down to check out "Oakville Grade". This is the road (in the middle of the Napa Valley) that Robin Williams lives on. I've never checked it out---so I am here to walk.

Raining. I don't bring an umbrella, but don't mind, as the rain is refreshing. I walk by some vineyards--as the road has no shoulder.

On the hill ahead I see what looks like a mansion. Check it out.

I get closer to the mansion and see a sign: A Carmelite Monastery. Seeing as I have a rather monkish haircut, I decide to investigate.

I walk up the hill to the Monastery, with the stations of the cross every twenty yards or so, carved in concrete ,set up as artwork on the side of the road.

When I get to the top of the hill, there is a church. Beautiful! Refreshing that the church is open--I go inside. Cathedralish, with tall, tall ceilings. A crucifix hangs from the ceiling. The church is divided in half by an iron fence. Interesting. I take a few photos and say a few prayers. The larger half is restricted access.

I leave.

Outside there is a man walking with a cane. I go over and walk with him a bit: him, with his cane; me, with my walking stick with turkey feather.

I find out he is a Monk (sans robe). He entered the monastery in 1945. We talk. He states that this Monastery earns money by giving three day seminars on prayer.

"How much does it cost", I ask?

He states that it is $75 a day, including room and board. I think about the "Hoffman Process" (a White Collar Cult whose grounds I had visited earlier this year) with their six thousand dollar fee for a week long seminar. This feels much more authentic to me. A sign advertises a lecture by one of the Monks on St. John of the Cross.

The Monk and I talk some more. I tell him about my admiration for Henri Nouwen, and his excellent "Genessee Diary" whereby Nouwen describes his one half year in a Trappist Monastery. He tells me about the cathedral. They wouldn't build things like that anymore, the fence that divides the church is to make sure that visitors don't interrupt the Monks when they are saying their daily psalms.

This Monk moves slowly. He walks with a cane and I join him for a bit. He tells me about the Monastery: seven Monks live there. He speaks with an Irish accent. He tells me about Monastic life: "We have our first mass at 6 am; we can go to bed whenever we want to".

I ask him one last question? This Monk is elderly--- I ask him: "Did you have a good life being a Carmelite Monk?"

A twinkle comes to his eye and he says "Oh yes, this was the best of lives"....

I believe him.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Walk #330: Ed Abbey Was Wrong!

Calistoga...with fall colors....

I once found a fresh deer kill here...

Time to get serious.

Thanksgiving Day. Ed Abbey wrote that "walking uphill was just so unnecessary". Wrong. It is necessary--for me to do the things I want to do, some uphill training is gonna be needed. Or necessary.

I like my gentle jaunts up in Concow. I love my mischievous pranks annoying the hoity toity wineries and trustfunders of the Napa Valley. But these are not the things which will get me into proper hiking shape.

We have to go uphill! Every other day! With enthusiasm!

The Oat Hill Mine Trail is on the edge of Calistoga. It goes up (for four miles) into the mountains where a quicksilver mine operated for nearly 90 years. The road itself took 20 years to build and was completed in 1893.

I've done this hike before: up Oat Hill Mine road to the Palisades trail and then to Robert Louis Stevenson State Park (11 miles or so). Through cooperation of private groups (the Sierra Club, A local Napa land preservation group and the State Park) the trail has been improved and is more user friendly.

The hike itself is splendid. The views are stunning! With the waning light, I headed out after work, and made it a goal to head up (and I mean up!) the trail for thirty minutes. Then back down.

When living in Calistoga, I did this trail frequently. One time I found a fresh deer kill that had been dragged into a patio like dining area cave. Probably a cougar. Joni has found cougar tracks on this trail. A warning sign at the beginning of the hike declares the dangers: poison oak, rattlesnakes, fires, cougar and (probably the worst) other hikers. Must we start all endeavors with fear in this country?

As for how I did? Better than I expected. The muscles groan going up hill at first--but after getting warmed up, I was able to sustain a reasonable pace up the hill. My goal was to sweat; I did.

So now we start a new stage. To make these things more of a challenge. A physical challenge. I'm thinking every other day I must work up a sweat on these adventures.

Doesn't mean I won't hit a winery now and then though. Balance--saith the wise man: Balance!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Walk #329: Doggy Camp Incarceration

A busy day today. I over stocked the chickens, bunnies and cat with food and water. They will have to survive on their own until Saturday. I then cleaned up the place, made sure everything was buttoned up, sealed up, plugged up, belted down, covered and unplugged. I then packed the car and took Angel for one last walk.

After the walk I had to get the dear dog into the car. She wouldn't budge. She could do the math: "No humans here--and he packed the car: Oh no! I'm going to doggy camp!"

I tried treats to get her into the car; wouldn't budge. I tried pulling her into the car; she resisted. Finally I found an old dirty sock that I (somehow?) managed to get her to follow into the car. A dirty sock as a prized possession?

I dropped off Angel at the doggy camp where she will be incarcerated for the next four days. I paid extra money for her to have the "pond walk". Eases my guilt. I left the sock with her for company (she seemed to like it). Brokenhearted, I left the doggy camp prison--and drove to the Napa Valley.

My neck is healed. I now have to work for a living again.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Walk #328: Blustery!

An e-mail from Joni (who is in San Diego helping her Mom) buoys my spirits...Joni wrote, in part:

Also enjoyed your 'but is it fun?' piece on the other blog - even as i'm sitting around in central heat, enjoying hot showers and running water, all the TV I could ever want to indulge in, even walking around outside in sandals and short sleeves--I'm missing our clear, crisp mountain air, our star-filled skies, our whispering pines, creaking oaks, howling coyotes - the traffic noise here never ceases! Paper tells of two pedestrians mowed down on sidewalks by intoxicated drivers, one at 7am! Too many blasted people moving around way too fast....and I miss you, Angel and Rocky -

I forgot to take pictures on my walk with Angel today. I was too busy listening to the wind blowing through the trees. A warm day, but the wind is blowing. I can hear it as I type this.

A sensuous experience, listening to the wind. A sign of Spirit--which is often called a wind. I love it!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Walk #327: The Sutter Buttes...and Will There Be A Second Year?

Today I hiked down the ridge to get a view of the Sutter Buttes. A longish hike on a beautiful Autumn day.

In the distance you can see the Sutter Buttes. Fifty to sixty miles away, as the crow flies---this bump of rock on the Sacramento Valley floor was considered sacred by the local Native American population. They believed that when they died, their souls went to the Sutter Buttes to rest.

Of course, they had another name for them (which I can't remember as I type this). The Sutter Buttes are the Anglo name.

As you drive north on I-5 you can see them on your right. About sixty miles to the north of Sacramento. For me, this starts you on a sacred journey of the northern Sacramento Valley. First you have the Buttes; then Mt. Lassen; finally you get to Mount Shasta--where thousands of spiritual seekers gather to feel that holy mountain's power.

Quite a few legends have risen up about Mount Shasta (at the northern terminus of the valley). Some say the first Goddess descended to Earth there. Others say that a group of Lemarians live within the mountain. Others state, "nope--not the Lemarians---it is Atlanteans who live there". Elizabeth Clare Prophet has had summer pilgramages to Mount Shasta. Some say there are space ships that visit Mount Shasta when lenticular clouds guard it's peak. There are Buddhist shrines there. Monasteries. Gary Zukav lives within its shadow. Definitely a destination point for White Collar New Agey types.

Frankly, I love that mountain---and most summers Joni and I go there to camp at 9,000 feet in a free campground (where St. Germaine is said to make an appearance once and awhile). I don't think I've seen a more beautiful mountain.

And now for a question you probably haven't been thinking about: Will this blog end when the year is over?


I have very much enjoyed how having this blog has gotten me outside most days of the last year. For the second year, I hope to expand it a bit. You see, it will be my fiftieth year on the planet...and it is time to get moving a bit more.

So I plan on expanding this blog to: 365 Walks, Runs, Hikes, Bikes, Floats, Peaks, Reads and Wines!

I never did Half Dome this year; next year I hope to bag that. I didn't climb any mountains this year; next year I hope to remedy that. I didn't float any rivers. I didn't get on my bike once (as Ian has so admirably done). Frankly, walking has been good---but I eat and drink too much to get in shape.

So next year I will (get in shape). And I will write about it. I also will write about the books I am reading--and all the tragedies and triumphs that befall me during my fiftieth year. And let us not forget the wine!

For those who have followed this year I give a heart felt: Thanks! I won't be disappointed if you don't follow along next year. You have my blessing to dump me. Hell, I get sick of me too!

However, an invitation: Join me as I make my fiftieth year my most active ever. Write about your adventures and hikes, runs, bikes and other things you do that get you outside. I'd love to hear what you are up to!

Life is too short to be spent indoors!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Walk #326: Tim DeChristopher--A Real Hero!

Joni has been gone for a tad more than 24 hours and I have already trashed the place. Amazing what a slothful, 48 year old can do in such a short amount of time!

Angel and I head out for a meandering, longish walk. Along the way I think about direct action: My own admiration for Joni's tree sit; I'm currently reading Mike Roselle's book: "Treespiker"--which I am enjoying.

And then there is Tim DeChristopher, whom I called a hero when he crashed a bidding orgy for gas and oil leases near Arches National Park. Last night, I was happy to hear Amy Goodman praise this brave young man--who is facing some very serious charges regarding his impulsive act.

Commit a crime against property rights in this country and you will pay for it. And as I predicted, the Feds are throwing the book at this brave young man. DeChristopher is facing years and years in prison for sabotaging the lease sale.

What was the result of DeChristopher's action? The Bush administration pushed this sale through as a last minute gift to oil and gas developers. This was in the midst of the "Drill, Baby, Drill" hysteria. The Obama administration ruled the sale as invalid, due to DeChrisopher's brave actions. Tim DeChristopher, basically, saved 110,000 acres of some of the most beautiful land in the United States.

There is a place for creative direct action. Bravo Tim DeChrisopher!

Walk #325: Amy and Me...

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and I flash a peace sign...

A nice sunny day..

This morning I kissed Joni good bye as she drove off to spend another week in San Diego with her Mother. The girls went with her, leaving me alone with the cat, dog, bunnies and chickens for the next week. I hope they live!

I had a busy day planned. First down to Chico to have coffee with some spiritually challenged nerdy friends. These discussions have a way of lasting for hours---and this one did too. The topic of conversation: Bruegemann's 19 thesis.

Then back up the hill to walk the dog. My walk for the day.

After playing with Angel, it was back to Chico to attend a "meet and greet" with Amy Goodman (host of Democracy Now!). I managed to talk with her briefly, had her sign a book and lastly she posed with me for a photo.

I wore my "Crocodile Dundee" vest--thinking that would impress her. It didn't seem to. I asked her to sign my book with "Sorry there wasn't any wine". (They were supposed to have wine at this event--but they didn't come through with that. A travesty!; just some organic fruit juices were available--Lefties really need to lighten up about the health thing and have a good time now and then!). Amy chuckled and then signed it with her standard: "For Allan...Keep Democracy Now!"

Oh well.

Book signings are uncomfortable affairs anyway. Usually the author is paraded out like a piece of meat. Cameras flashing. The fan has all of ten seconds to say something witty and make a connection. If the author has a following (as Amy did) there are about one hundred people standing in line--waiting for their fifteen seconds with the author. In this case, Amy looked exhausted--as I was towards the end of the line. You can only play the part of the approachable author for so long before your fame (and the hundreds of fans) gets the best of you.

Or maybe she didn't like my vest?

At least Amy flashed a peace sign for the photo...and I reciprocated.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Walk #324: Rain and Fog and Foucault

Raining today. I bundled up and traded the walking stick for an umbrella. The fog gave the walk an ethereal quality: sort of like trying to read some French philosopher like Sartre or Foucault; you know what they are writing is important, but the text is too dense to comprehend.

But walking in fog is more than that. It gives a mysterious, sinister quality to the walk. What lies ahead? Yes, I've walked this walk more than a hundred times--but it still seems unreal. Every step a new step for Allan.

And then back home. Oh, to have a woodstove to warm me after a wet and foggy walk! I can smell the smoke from a few neighbors. What they are burning, I can't tell, but it smells sweet. Someday very soon, I hope to return from a wet walk with a warm woodstove glowing. A place for the dog to dry off and plop down in front of. A place to dry socks, mittens, shoes, jackets. With some sweet smelling wood burning. Glowing. Warming.

Someday soon?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Walk #323: Game Trails and Lust

After a day of tin, door knobs and breaking water lines--I figured I'd done enough damage for one day. I took a longish walk with my dog. I noticed this game trail...

And then another one...

And I was happy to find some scat on a rock...

And later, I sat with my dog and watched the sunset...

The photo has three layers. The trees are immediately in the foreground. The darker bottom layer is a mile away or so, across the Feather River canyon. The cool part is the bluish layer. That is the Coastal Range...some sixty miles away. In the winter they are snow capped.

Tie it all together, Allan.

Inside all of us resides that person who wants to roam. To investigate. To walk freely and enjoy vistas small and large. Follow a game trail, investigate what a critter is eating from their scat (lots of red berries), say good bye to the sun. Watch birds sometime. You will notice they watch sunsets. If a bird brain does that, why don't we do it more often?

Pity the person at the gym (as I type this). Running on their treadmill--listening to their Ipod while a television set looms above them displaying Kouric, Anderson Cooper, Rachel Maddow. About the only wild thing you can do there (at the gym) is to lust after that pretty twentysomething on the treadmill beside you. That instinct to roam has only one place to go: Infidelity.

Within our domesticated, computerized, cubicled, 9 to 5 at the office, panic stricken that we might lose our mind numbing meaningless jobs, non-lives--lust is the last wild human behavior. The last wild frontier.

Save your marriage; take a walk in the woods!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Walk #322: A Family Walk...

Joni had the idea of taking a family walk after school. When you walk with three young ladies and a female dog--guess who is ready first?
I always strike the same self important pose for these sorts of photos...

And there they go...

Can you find the girl in the tree? And who is it?

And find the other girl in this tree? Who is it? I quipped to Joni that she was teaching the girls civil disobedience--given that Joni did time in a prison for a tree sit.

And what does a family talk about while walking? Christmas, of course. Specifically--what the girls want for Christmas. Here Jazzie sulks after being told she probably would not get a Pug puppy for Christmas.

In case you are wondering, here is what the girls want:

Kylie: an mp3 player with speakers; a Zip line from her Fort to the house (that will be encouraged);and her own bedroom (makes me feel guilty--gotta get on that).

Jazzy: A Wii (absolutely not); a digital camera (good choice); a lap top (maybe a couple for the whole family); a cell phone (no way!); a pug dog (telling her no caused tears) ; and a hamster (maybe).
And Joni: More chickens...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Walk #321: Redneck unDevelopment...

My walking stick (still with turkey feather attached), crew cut, dog and stiff neck headed out for a walk on this warmish November day. Glorious!

I let Angel run for a good part of the walk. She seems to mind better the first day or two that I am home. The novelty of having me around trumps the delicacies of a Redneck's garbage pile.

Lately I've been thinking about the uproar over the zoning changes for the Foothills. The zoning changes are of a "no growth" variety--that takes into account such unheard of things as "winter deer migration critical habitat".

At odds with the large landholders are the size of lots that can be sub-divided. The new proposal puts it at 20 to 120 acres (Foothills conservation zoning). What the large Landholders want is a "Foothills Recreation" zoning--which allows parcels to be divided up in 2 to 10 acre lots.

Our Ridge was divided up twenty years ago into the 2 to 20 acre allotments. Twenty years later there are exactly ten households that live here full time. Off the grid. The majority of the lot developments sit empty (good!). Or with absentee landowners. They are mostly in states of disrepair and follow the progression I have set up below.

I picked just two properties to highlight--but there are many more.

I accidentally loaded them backwards, but in the photo below you see first the small trailer that a Redneck moves into. Followed by the mobile home.

Large mobile home on this property (trailer two)

Trailer one on this property.

And now a different property with the large mobile home.

And the smaller trailer to match. The starter trailer.

By my best guess, 75% of the lots that were divided up are abandoned. Most have trailers (like these) in various forms of disrepair. A few were burned up in the fire two summers ago.

This is what I call "Tin Can" development of our beautiful foothills. This is what happens when an isolated rural area (25 miles to the nearest grocery store) is opened up to 2 to 10 acre parcels.

So what happens? A Redneck buys a property and immediately moves a small trailer on to it. They don't have the money to dig a well. But dreams are big. "We will get to it" is commonly said (I know this from experience).

Later, a bigger cheap mobile home is hauled in. Electricity is provided by an older, run down, loud, polluting, held together by duct tape and chewing gum generator. No septic system. Human waste is (in some cases) flushed off the side of the canyon.

After a few years of living this way, the Redneck abandons the property. Usually they abandon the property because they are sick of driving thirty miles to a job site. Or they enter into a relationship with a woman who they can't talk into living "off the grid" with no water or a sewer system (women are kind of funny that way). The other thing that happens in this kind of development is that the Redneck ends up in prison as their pot growing operations get busted, have too many DUI's or they get into one too many bar fights (this happened last year on our Ridge--we shall see him back in a few years).

Butte County is wise to end this sort of parcel breakups in the Foothills area. This sort of development most certainly has not worked out for our Ridge. It would be better to have these "tin can" eye sores separated by 20 to 40 acres, rather than the current arrangement.

Leave the majority of the land to the deer, mountain lion, skunks, possums, bear, rattlesnakes, tidy tips and the mariposa lillies. We don't need any more ugly trailers!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Walk #320: Back to Concow...

Before the haircut....

After the haircut (nobody can grab this hair!)...

Well, the good doctor decided that I need a week more of recovery. So back to Concow...

Got home in time for a sunset walk with the for the haircut? Yuk....but nobody yank my hair anymore. I consider it a monastic cut...
Some slightly less frightening photos have been added to a few of the previous posts. Check em out...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Walk #319: At the Beach with Hunter...

The hippy dippy bakery...

Hunter--doing his best to look intelligent.

Allan. In Jenner, California. With hair...

My neck feels okay; my back is a little sore.

I met one of my psychiatric nursey friends for breakfast at 6:30 am. We then hopped into his car and drove to the ocean. We drove some back roads through Marin and Sonoma counties. Visited some Redwoods. Stopped at a hippy dippy bakery shop.

Hunter listened as I talked about being attacked. This felt like a warning sign: Get in shape Allan! Start taking better care of yourself!

We talked and walked at one of my favorite beaches near Jenner, California. Hunter was in an especially good mood.

Psychiatric Nurses, who are often times in dangerous situations armed with nothing but a bit of muscle and a needle, bond with one another. You learn to rely on each other. It takes years to develop such teamwork--and even when you no longer work at the same job together, the emotional attachments continue.

If you want to know whether a psychiatric unit is any good, ask one question to a nurse: "Do you like your colleagues?". If the answer is "yes"--more than likely that unit works well.

Walk #318: On Injured Reserve...

I had a workplace injury yesterday.

Never, in my career, have I had a patient grab my hair. Until yesterday. This is not an experience that I would care to repeat. Ever.

When someone angrily grabs your hair, you are in a very compromised position. You do not have control over your own destiny. The client had my hair by both hands; clumps of hair torn out of my head. As a result, I ended up with a neck injury--and will be out on workman's comp until, at least, Tuesday.

My friend, and coworker, R. saved me. This was quite a brawl. The psychotic client bested me with street smarts. I've never been in a fight in my life. At one point, I felt that my neck was going to snap and that I very well could die there, then, on the unit. A total surprise attack.

It happens.

I'm gonna get a haircut!

My walk was with R. at his house. After visiting the ER and getting pain killers and muscle relaxers---R. and I de-escalated by having a bit of dinner. We took a walk and processed this very violent day. He took good care of me.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Walk #317: Stags Leap District and Stelzner Vineyards

Inside the wine cave...

A walk around the vineyard...

This is the area that put the Napa Valley on the Vinticultural map: Stags Leap. When the Stag's Leap Winery beat the French in a blind taste contest back in 1976--a new destination was born for the Cultural Elite: The Napa Valley.

I've never been to the winery that started it all, so after work I drove down to check it out. My intentions were to take a walk and to have a taste of wine.

I missed the turn for where the visitors are supposed to park, and ended up parking where the workers park. A good mistake because I could walk around the grounds and winery where I wasn't supposed to be. "No Admittance" signs don't say that on the back of the sign.

I managed to sneak into the wine cave of Stag's Leap. An opulent wine cave if there ever was one. Still, I feel like I am violating a law (I was) and I stay for only a minute to take a quick photo.

After fifteen minutes of sneaking around where I wasn't supposed to be, I managed to make it over to the tasting room. The place was packed; too many people. I leave without having a taste.

Instead I found a nice little road still in the Stags Leap district. I drop in to a small winery to have a taste. Steltzner Vineyards has been around since 1965. A small vineyard run by a farm family.

I bring out my hospital badge and manage to get a free tasting. The wine is good with a variety of wine I have never heard of before (the name escapes me as I type this). Pinotage, I think. The star of the show was definitely their Cabernet Sauvignon---which has the appropriate big bold Napa County taste. Their Claret is made of 65 percent Napa County Cab--at a very reasonable price. The host tells me that Food and Wine Magazine picked their Claret as the best bargain of Napa County Wines. I agree---and buy a bottle.

Just before I leave, I ask the host if he minded if I left my car in their parking lot, while I took a walk around the vineyard. He politely tells me: "Go ahead"...then he adds---"just watch out for the coyotes and the rattlesnakes".

Wow. Permission to walk the vineyards! And done with a smile.

I walk the perimeter of a vineyard...enjoying the coolness of the day as the sun begins to set. Stelzner Vineyards is a class act in my book!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Walk #316: The Tree Guy

Joni is home!

She pulled in last night at 6:30--just as I was setting up a feast of barbecued pork loin, mashed potatoes and a salad (with a few tomatoes from our garden). We feast, chat a bit and later fall asleep to the sound of rain tinkling on our recycled tin roof.

But it will be a short reunion, as I'm about ready to drive to the Napa Valley for five days. I squeezed in one last walk this morning...with the sun fully ablaze.

I stopped to talk with one of the neighbors on the Ridge. This gentleman lives down the road a bit--in an "off grid" cabin that he built. He makes his living by traveling the world collecting seeds from various species of trees. There isn't a tree that he can't climb. He is by all appearances a soft spoken, simple living, in shape, pony tailed, "back to the lander" with a subdued smile; a forestry expert--whom I am told has a world renown reputation. He likes the progress on our house made of mud (I'm receiving more and more complements from those who view our structure from afar).

I tell him that his name came up at the histrionic planning meeting the other night.

"Did they say I was for or against the plan?"

We discuss the plan and find that our views are in agreement--and that the Butte County Plan is a good one. Since C. is on his way to San Francisco, we talk about the possibilities of doing some ride sharing to the bay area and agree to have dinner sometime.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Walk #315: Abandoned Trailers and Gary Snyder

Either my glasses are dirty--or there is smoke in the air.

Foothills residents worry all summer about fires then, as soon as it is wet enough to burn things--they start burning. All the summer's trash goes up in smoke. All the building materials, unwanted items and stuff to burn just for the fun of it--are tossed in piles and ignited. A pyrophile's dream.

I found a new abandoned trailer on my walk today. Sometimes they burn too.

I let Angel run free through out the walk. A rare day when she decided that she would be mindful of my directions. Could be that she heard me say that Joni was coming home today. This dog understands much--and she seemed especially happy and playful on our walk.

And lastly, a friend sent me a Gary Snyder quote:

Practically speaking, a life that is vowed to simplicity, appropriate boldness, good humor, gratitude, unstinting work and play, and lots of walking brings us close to the actual existing world and its wholeness.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Walk #314: The Slow Building Movement!

A walk down the road outside our house. Cloudy today. Looks like rain.

Ran into a neighbor who gave me a proud tour of his house. He then gifted me with a sackful of pomegranates. These "off griders" are a hardy lot. He told me of the early years living up here, when he would stop at the creek to wash up before work (they had no well).

"We would just roll up our bedrolls in the morning, since we only had one room in our trailer."

Through all of this, he managed to stay married to the same woman and raise two children. Eventually he built a house around the trailer...adding on bedrooms, a family room, a kitchen and lastly--a master bedroom (not quite done yet).

"Only took 15 years", he said.

Long live the slow building movement!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Walks #311, 312 and 313: Marooned...

I found this bug yesterday. A quick internet search identifies it as a Dark Jerusalem cricket. This is a frightening bug: Two inches long and ugly as sin (in a beautiful sort of way); can hear the thing walk across a wood floor!

As for walks? Yes, they are happening. I am marooned here in Concow with the girls. Joni is still in San Diego, helping out with her Mom.

Yesterday, a large coyote crossed my path on the walk. Unlike the bug above, the coyote had a graceful beauty to him. He crossed the road about thirty yards in front of me. The trickster stopped and briefly our eyes locked. He then bounded on...

I'd rather be eye to eye with a coyote than a Dark Jerusalem cricket (somehow this name seems both rascist and anti-Semitic in one foul swipe).

Friday, November 6, 2009

Walk #310: Cold Noses...

Dogs aren't dumb. They know who they can rely on.

Angel's first preference for her six a.m. walk is Joni. Seeing that Joni has been with her Mom in San Diego this week, I guess I am the second choice for the early morning walk.

It is dark. We are all sleeping in the cabin when Angel walks up to me and stares. I awaken to see a white, anxious, seventy-five pound dog looking at me from the perspective of about two millimeters from my nose to hers.

"Go away", I moan and roll over.

Dogs who have to pee are persistent. Angel climbs on to my bed and sticks her cold nose on my face; she begins to lick me. She wins.

Out we go...
taking her silly time...
dogs like rain...
the dog is happy....
the owner of the dog isn't.

And Joni does this every morning without whining.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Walk #309: Get Outside!

It is neither sunny nor cloudy. Not hot or cold. An in-between sort of day.

Angel and I did our customary walk along the Ridge. We are waiting for the rain that is due in any minute now. I just got an e-mail from an old high school friend who said he likes to "hike" rather than walk.

What is the difference? Apparel? Intent? Economic status? Location? Age of the participant? In the UK they call it "rambling". Doesn't matter what you call it. For me, it is just important to get outside once a day, for at least a few minutes, preferably someplace non-urban (but urban areas can be wild too), to enjoy this planet that is our home for way too short of time.

That is what I try to do. That is what this self-absorbed blog has made me do: Just get outside. Pay attention to what is.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Walk #308: T-Shirt and Shorts...

November 4 and it is downright hot outside.

Joni is hanging in the air someplace in California right now; I hope her Southwest pilots aren't taking a nap. As Joni flew to see her Mother in San Diego, Angel and I took a two hour hike on the Ridge. An awesome day which reminds me why I live in California.

I wear a T-shirt (from Fallen Leaf Campground at Lake Tahoe) and shorts. Angel wears her leash. We are joined on the hike by one of the neighbor's dogs (Grady). The dogs romp. I walk. Good for both human and dogs.

Not much to report. The Killer Bees and their hive have vacated the Ridge. One of my "off grid" neighbors was playing their stereo. There was a huge mound of bear scat on my driveway (gotta tell Joni about that when she comes home).

I returned from the hike sweaty and happy. The two seem to go together. A friend of mine once told me that a person should sweat, at least, four times a week. Agreed.

Walk #307: Moonlight Decisions....

Drove home last night, across the Sacramento Valley with the "Comanche" nearly full moon on the rise. I swear this is the largest moon I have ever seen; the orb beaming it's blessings on the Earth.

Along the way I stopped at an ATM to take my financial vital signs. Looks good! That turkey feather that I found a couple of months ago has certainly pointed the way to greater abundance in our lives. Been working hard--and with the debtor wolves at the door--I've been able to distract them a bit.

I'm lucky really. When so many other folks have been out of work, I've been blessed with extra hours galore. A perfect situation. It is hard to find a part-time benefited position with the option of adding hours as needed. I am thankful.

And it is good to take advantage of opportunities when they come your way, as you never know when trouble might be on the horizon. When I got home, I found a deeply troubled Joni. Her Mother is ill and in the hospital.

First I take a moonlight walk with Angel (our dog). Walk home. And then Joni and I take another "Comanche" moonlight walk, as the girls slept. We make the decision that she should fly to San Diego to see how she can help. I will stay home with the girls, dog, cat, bunnies, chickens and the uncompleted house.

We process and plan as we walk--all the while blessed by the light of the moon.

Joni is having one of those: "Should I really go?" moments--as she thinks of her obligations to her two part time jobs and her Grandchildren. I tell her to go...

The photo above is of Joni driving off to catch her flight. Go with Angels wings...

Now, what the heck am I gonna make for dinner?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Walk #306: Where the Napa Valley Starts....

Still in the Napa Valley.

Cheered by a call to Joni at the end of a really ugly, awful, hellacious day--I head down to Trustfunder Central: St. Helena.

What a dumb time to forget taking the camera with me! The light is perfect. Fall colors everywhere. I take a walk through a vineyard of old vine something or other--I think Zinfandel. The gnarly trunks of the vines combined with the reddened grape leaves are painfully beautiful.

For me, the Napa Valley doesn't really start until you get to Yountville. Everything south of Yountville doesn't count as the Napa Valley. The city of Napa has all the charm of stinky tennis shoes (although they are trying to elevate things a bit). But to really understand the Napa Valley, you have to experience the small towns beyond where highway 29 goes from four lanes to two.

The towns where 29 merges have the most character. The best restaurants. The best wineries. The best wine. The best Yuppie watching. Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena and Calistoga are the crown jewels of the Napa Valley. And I get to hang out in all of them. Lucky me!

Tomorrow, after work, I head home finally. Big plans: Work on the Cabin; put in a wood stove; build the last strawbale wall---and of course mud work. Lots of mud work.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Walk #305: Daylight Savings Time...

An extra hour of sleep, due to this strange habit we have of turning the clock back one hour during the winter months.

My walk was after work. Short. Around the grounds of the hospital. Working 24 of the last 32 hours tires me.

Back to Daylight Savings Time. Seems to me that the hour should be lengthened more towards the end of the day. This sudden change of one hour less of sunlight in the evening pushes anyone with a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder towards the depressive abyss.

Yes, I meeting school buses should wait in the morning in daylight. I get that. But to lose an hour in the evening? An hour when, after work, we could be out walking, playing, running and carousing outside? Daylight Savings Time is skewed towards those industrious morning folk. People who actually enjoy the early hours (and are productive during them).

The early bird gets the worm (and the sun).

Walk #304: Another Double

Saturday. Halloween. Worked another sixteen hour shift, which exempts me from a walk (by my own self stated rules).