We are in the coastal town of Bahia de Caraquez, which is known as an eco town. Also, someone who works for Planet Drum Foundation, a group I’ve worked with, manages a sustainability project here. But this town was severely hit by an earthquake 2 years ago, there is still rubble. This is life in the developing world.We wonder if this impacted on eco projects. We will be here a few days, I will connect with my contact person. We will also hike. Feliz ano nuevo!

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Bussing across Ecuador

The bus ride from Banos to Cuenca took us through high Andes canyons, past crashing rivers, through farm land bordered by high peaks and through some beautiful towns. It also took us through some dust filled towns and a congested, polluted  city that screamed Poverty! People with broken teeth leaned against buildings, apparently  with nothing to do. This of course is the legacy of imperialism and colonialism. The world’s contradictions smack you in the face in the developing world. Some say beauty is a bourgeois luxury that is irrelevant to oppressed people. Others say it is essential to them, that it is their strength and survival, and they appreciate it more than we comfortable ones do. I am with the second opinion, although this may be a naive First World hope. I will explore this question more on this trip and beyond. I know that awareness of life’s bittersweetness sings for me, I have reason to believe it is useful for all. But I must work on this.

We are in Cuenca, a lovely town in the southern Andes. More to come.










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Sleepy but I will try

I used to be such a night person. I tend to get up early now, maybe work got me to do that. Also there is a general agreement that being inactive makes you sleepy. It is strange, we are in multiple crises right now but there seems to be little a person can do. Kate made a good point today though. She noted that Trump came very close to losing the 2016 election – when you get down to it he lost the popular vote so one can hope that American voters will rally and defeat him this time. He does seem to be rallying his base around the issue of trying to have a new supreme court justice approved as soon as possible. In the meantime, migratory birds have started to return to the northern Sacramento Valley. That may seem unimportant, but they are astonishing – sandhill cranes are among the most beautiful, others will follow. We have heard cranes calling from the sky lately. It is wonderful to know there are things we can depend on, that there is still beauty. And lots of it. I think that is what I have to say tonight – oh yeah, happy Autumn Equinox!

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Mish-mosh of thoughts

Skies are clear in Chico today, farmer’s market was more crowded and lively than I have seen it in months, one might almost think all was right with the world. Of course it isn’t, but we plan to take a needed hike today. Ruth Bader Ginsberg died last night. Along with that being a tragedy, it really makes the political situation more chaotic, as the GOP is rushing to replace her before the election. I do not know what to predict, but as I have probably expressed, I am frightened. We plan to go to a vigil tonight.

This may make me a bookish intellectual, but that’s what I am – even in this whirlwind I think we need to be aware of other parts of life. This week astronomers announced that they have evidence of microbial life in Venus’ atmosphere. If this is true, it is astonishing. The question isn’t settled at all, but this is the strongest evidence for life on other worlds. It would also mean that life is tough, that critters can live in habitats that are different from any place on earth, and that even if we continue to mess up this planet, something can survive and maybe lead to new evolutionary lines. That’s speculation, but we need all the hope we can get right now. Hold onto your hats.

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Why are we lucky?

So here Kate and I are in an apartment that is upgraded from the one we just left. I think I mentioned last time that our landlord offered this place at the same rate as the one we just left so he could upgrade that one and raise the rent. Well, it it works to everybody’s advantage. Meantime, people are still fleeing wildfires, Covid still stalks the land, and it looks increasingly like we are rushing towards political chaos. Do Kate and I have good karma, or what?

There were times when I thought the only authentic thing to do would be to reject all comfort and go live in the most difficult situation -yes, guilt has been a companion. I’ve long since realized, though, that it wouldn’t do oppressed people any good for me to do this. I would be competing with really poor people for services, shelter, and resources. The situation might have made me nasty and no benefit to anyone. I have known insecurity and hard times, and I know I am most useful and helpful when I’m not desperate. Kate and I have discussed this for years. and we both know it is ok for us to be in a place that is nice (though not luxurious.) At the same time, neither of us has any illusions about the state of the country or world now. The virus makes it really hard for us to try to be useful in any way. It will pass, in the meantime I will wonder how and why did we luck out. My guess is random luck, that’s how I see the world.But we will see where it goes.

It may rain in northern California in a few days, if we are lucky. Remember us.

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I’ve had legitimate excuses this time

There have been really good reasons why I haven’t blogged in a while. One is that I have been struggling to finish this book I’ve been writing about Chico’s Bidwell Park, and I think I am close to the end. The other is – despair. But I know that writing is a way to deal with that. I feel a need to leave something of a personal record of these times, whether anyone reads it or not,’

What can I say? The pandemic continues. The issue of racism is not resolved. There is authoritarianism on the right, and dare I say it, a fair amount of dogmatic irrationality on the left. Meantime, fires on the west coast. We are not endangered by fires in Chico, but the air here has been bad, especially yesterday – somewhat less bad today. Kate and I are able to move quickly if needed, at this point it doesn’t look like we will have to. But what is happening to our California? Oregon seems worse, fires were approaching Portland yesterday, no word on that today. It is 50 days until the election; we have a nice guy moderate liberal running against a nacissistic bully. I will vote for the nice guy, of course, but I don’t think anything will be resolved if he wins. It will put us in a position of being able to function without dodging crap (don’t pardon my language, but I will tone it down a little here) daily. Anyhow, it is not certain that the bully will accept defeat.

Why am I writing all this? If you are reading this you probably know it. I’m just getting started again. I need to be disciplined, writing at least clarifies what I am thinking and feeling, and gets me started on keeping a record again.

I enjoy writing this whether anyone is reading it or not. Peace.

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Ok, I am in the blogging mood. I really need to go back over the things I have writtensince the pandemic began and respond to them. Where in the world are we now? But the thing that is on my life is that my partner Kate and I did a brief camping trip last week. We visited Lake Almanor, the huge lake near the area where the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges come together. The Sierras formed when underground molten granite forced other rocks upward. The Cascades are volcanic. Both of these processes come from plate tectonics, but they are quite different. Itis mesmerizing to sit by the lake as white pelicans and grebes drift by, and to watch the reflected clouds. We also wandered into Caribou Wilderness, a heavily wooded area at a higher elevation than the lake. This area is heavily wooded, and we passed more lakesthan I counted, easily 15.  It was a restoring trip, to put it mildly.


But some people would call us unethical for running off and having fun during a crisis time. The pandemic is at a higher level than before. Meantime the demonstrations around George Floyd/s death go on, and the president responds by calling white supremacists fine people. Meantime the arctic temperatures exceeded 100 degrees. Is joy ethical?

It seems to me that it is essential if we are to make something of the world. There is Emma Goldmund’s famous line – :If I can’t dance I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” Besides which is this actually a revolution? It is a time of disruption and polarization, and changes may follow. But I don’t see total transformation coming. I may be wrong, this has happened. I am not aware of any group that is actively pushing thing, Camping is for the health of the soul and change will not come if we have no health. This raises other questions that I will make a point of describing as all this goes on. Fut -as they say in Germany, tsao.


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Why Has It Been Difficult To Write?

Maybe it has been difficult to write during the past few weeks because I know everyone would hear the things I have to say online, on the news, in papers, everywhere else. Maybe it has been difficult to write because this has been such a roller coaster, the beauty of seeing massive peaceful protests, the madness of Trump, the unbelievable fact that police brutality goes on in spite of a world-wide rising against it, the knowledge that we have not solved this problem and that the next 5 months, at least, will be a roller coaster of unimaginable proportions. Trump appears to be losing the support of much of his own party. If he does lose the election, nothing will be solved, but at least people will not be dodging rubbish on a day to day basis, leaving progressives space to move forward. Many fear though that if he loses his most passionate supporters will not take it lying down. Many think it is possible that he will not willingly leave office. I don’t know how possible all that is. But I join the ranks of those who are worried.

Why is all this happening now? No one knows, it could be a combination of things. People are sick and tired of the virus, and the tensions and fears it has created. It is frightening that some people say that social distancing is less important than protesting – will this lead to another spike? On top of that, people are angry and scared about the economy, about the fact that black communities are hit very hard by the virus. On top of all this, maybe people just have had it with black people being killed on the street. I wish I knew where this is going, in some ways it is scary. I’m not a utopian, I really think utopias are scary for reasons I can describe another time. But I think we can have a better world, just not a perfect society.

I don’t think I am saying anything that is original at all here. Let me talk about the situation in Chico. Two rallies were cancelled here last week. There were rumors that armed white nationalists were coming from the town of Red Bluff, an hour north of here. There were also rumors that a bus full of “professional rioters” was on its way from Washington state. I dod go to a rally of about 1200 people about 10 days ago. We have had much bigger rallies here, but given the rumors and Covid virus, I was impressed. Another rally is planned for Saturday, but the thread of Covid 19 makes it scary to think about going. Still I am glad our fair town’s kept it together so far. There are fears about a bad scene next week, we will see if they are ek.

Suddenly I’m guite sleepy. Now that I started the blog  may come easier.Nore will come, I will work on making it soon. G’night.

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It’s strange as this pandemic goes on that it feels like par for the course. I find myself thinking about it less than at the beginning as life falls into a routine. I get up, I check the internet and connect with friends, I exercise, eat breakfast, work on my writing projects. Later Kate and I may hike somewhere (we are very fortunate that parks are open here, although you do need to social distance for sure.) Maybe some housecleaning, reading, more writing until one of us cooks dinner (oh yeah we do eat lunch.) After that we may read or play scrabble, then Netflix or another network or a movie. These are  our days right now. We moan that campgrounds aren’t open, that our travel for this year will be minimal, wish we could go to a movie or another event, spend a lot of time ranting about Trump or conspiracy theorists or the “I need a haircut!” crowd. These are our days.

It is a rather dull somewhat numbing pattern. Our health is good, and we both exercise regularly, but we are annoyed. Days go on, but then something hits home that we are in a world crisis. Today NPR had a report on the black jogger who was killed in Georgia (out of respect I won’t misspell his name here) and about a bombing at a maternity clinic in Afghanistan. After these shocking reports I thought powerfully about people who are suffering from this pandemic.  And I remember, yes there is a world outside of my annoyance, one that demands attention. I am privalaged and safe in many ways, there are far more important things going on than my boredom. I must remember this. Writing is a way to remember.

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Summer approaches like a baffled bird

A season doesn’t know why it comes when it does. It’s just a change in the intensity of the solar energy reaching earth, effected by the earth’s axial tilt, and the orientation of each semisphere towards or away from the sun. That simple reality causes spring’s sudden ballet of colors’ summer’s stable and supportive heat, authumn’s final passion of the year, and winter’s calm reflections. None of these seasons knows why they come, and none knows how human activity changes them.

It is earlt May in northern California. We haven’t had enough rain or snow, I just saw an article about how the snowpack in the mountains has shrunk and been reduced as muchas it normally would a month from now. It hit 90 degrees today, in the meantime, the northeast is pummeled sith snow. But spring doesn’t know how off kilter it is, and summer won’t know how unusual its behavior will be when it arrives. People know about the impacts of CO2, still, we who have the power to begin bringing things back to some kind of balance often remain willfully ignorant. Summer will be like a baffled bird who won’t know why its own behavior is so odd as it flies erratically and without a pattern and can’t be called predictable.

I realize more and more that I don’t know what to do about people’s ignorance. When I was young, I thought that as social and environmental policies became more rational and progressive, people’s consciousness would change too. Later, I came  see this as naieve,to understand that education could reach people on a deeper level, and that new knowledge and awareness could flow  from a person like incoming tide, and be carried to everyone around them.

I stick with this perspective – I’m a writer and educator and not an activist. Still, I have to let myself despair sometimes. If I made myself believe that everyone was coming along with the program and figuring out reality, I would be denying myself the right to feel angry and to despair when they didn’t do that. Let’s be real, most of us need to let ourselves collapse before we can pick ourselves up and get back on track. If we can’t get angry sometime, we will just fade away as we see no results that will match our hopes, and get wrapped up in inertia. .

But what do we do with people? A lot of us would just like to go scream at people who refuse to wear face masks, who believe the virus is a fantasy created by something called the Deep State, who insist on their right to decide on their own when it is safe to go back to “normal life”, who think their guns make them the people who should decide how society works.. Screaming at them will only reenforce their ignorance. I have known this for years. But I don’t know what can or must be done.

I hope this crisis will somehow show us the way to overcome ignorance. It better. As Jim Morrison sang, “The Future is uncertain, and the end is always near.” He was talking about the uncertainty in an individual’s life, but this may make as much sense when we think of how a society will survive.  So I will write stream of consciousness entries like this one. Maybe they will stimulate my thinking. I will let you know if I figure it all out.

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Are things changing?

The other day there was a rainbow over a ridgetop in Bidwell Park, our well loved regional park in Chico. It was  rather subtle, more than dramatic and thundrous,  a patch of orange and yellow light that you had to look at  hard  to see.  That may have been a big part of the reason for its beauty. Rainbows have long been a symbol for the resolution of crises, and new beginnings. This one didn’t shout “Triumph!” It was more a hint of hope, a yearning more than a promise, a reminder that success can be distant and imperfect, but still something to  reach for.

Today California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that we are moving towards tbe easing of some restrictions. Some stores, including bookstores (!!!) will be able to reopen. I am not clear on the details, assuming anyone is, but some of the business will take place on curbsides in front of the businesses. Some offices will reopen too, we have to see which ones. Again, the details remain to be announced, and we will see what happens on Friday (four days from now.) The success of this plan depends on peoples’ willingness to keep up safe practices – if they don’t we may have infection and death rates that reach for the sky again. But the hope is there, like a subtle rainbow.

It is terrifying, though to see how politicized this situation has become. What can I say about Trump and his rush to reopen, and the demonstrators, including the armed ones in Michigan who called for the governor to be lynched? Some of these people are terrified of the economic situation, with good reasons. Others are libertarian types, nobody tells me what to do – I’m an American! A few mention they have no responsibility for anyone else’s safety and health. Apparently, most of the people are of the scared about the economy variety, but the lunatic fringe has managed once again to place themselves in the media as hte dominant force, and come off like the spokespeople.

It does stun me to see how many people in Chico are not wearing masks. Kate and I drove through the nearby town of Orland the other day. It’s a charming northern Sacramento Valley town about twenty miles to our west, towards the Coastal Mountains. No one was wearing a mask; I don’t know if they were following Trump’s refusal to wear one, but I got some peculiar looks for wearing mine. It is true that Butte COunty has a relatively low number of confirmed virus cases, but people still need to be careful. I said nothing, though; I bought a Klondike bar and we left.

Still, we may begin to get some relief in California soon.But what is to come? “The future is uncertain, and the end is always near,” as Jim Morrison sang. But we can start to have hope, the kind that looks like a subtle rainbow.


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Tomorrow is the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

Some claim that the corona virus is helping the planet when people are not driving, taking planes, etc. This is highly questionable, since the virus is limiting peoples’ ability to work together on restoration projects, on studying and monitoring wild animals and their needs, on all types of studies. Activities like these have ground to a halt in some places. It is something that the skies are clear in places like LA, but will people just go back to their ridiculous behavior after this crisis has passed? Some will, others will be more thoughtful. Time alone will tell.

Ah Earth Day, a great radical gathering, something that could have led to powerful changes. I remember how some anti-war activists condemned it, saying Nixon was using it to siphon off opposition to the Vietnam War. Friends of mine made this comment. In truth, an awful lot of people who participated in Earth Day were opponents of Nixon and the war, and he was no friend of the environment, just a great manipulator.

Then Earth Day became a corporate sponsored event, one that emphasized taking individual responsibility over movement building. This has been a conflict for many, many years. Some have always talked about taking it back to its roots as a mass movement and I have heard that there were attempts to do so this year, but along came the corona virus. So it goes, and Earth Day will be a bunch of video gatherings this year. I may actually decide to check something out, but… sighhhhh…maybe this idea can return next year.

So here we are. The world stands still, no one knows what day it is, everything is so repetitious. Sometimes this silence forces many people to slow down and focus on what is happening around them, and that is good. Today Kate and I hiked in Bidwell Park, which we can still do while respecting social distancing. It was erupting with wildflowers -purple lupines like candles, fiddleheads with their curling, orange blossoms, poppies that fold up at night then open their petals to grab the sun’s warmth, ping flashes from wild roses just beginning, the whole kaleidoscope dancing across the earth. I don’t know where the world is going. But parts of today were very fine, happy Earth Day!

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