Reality

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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The Tree Crisis

One of the big issues in Chico right now is the fact that healthy live oaks were accidentally cut down as part of an initiative to remove dead trees from Bidwell Park. A crew of prisoners were cutting the dead trees, and somehow instructions were muddled so that healthy oaks were removed along with the others. The issues are that while the prisoners have done a good job with park maintenance inthe past, they apparently were not educated as to how to tell a healthy oak from another tree with problems. Also, supervisors from the city were apparently absent when they should have been supervising, and it seems that the trees were inadequately marked. The agencies involved have apologized and are working to come up with a plan that will prevent this from happening again.

I was at a meeting last night where many citizens expressed disbelief and outrage. As meetings like this always are, some were more rational and fact based than others while expressing their frustration. This goes to the core of some of the issues surrounding our wonderful municipal park. This beautiful and unique place seems to be near the bottom of the city’s priorities. Funds have been cut and staffing is sparse these days. I’m told that much of city government is more focused on crime and policing than on the park. While violent crime has risen somewhat i  town, I moved from an urban area and do not see it as the issue that some people do, I feel reasonably safe here. Also, there is a huge need for citizens to be educated about our park, there is a lot of ignorance about what it really is. There are picnic tables, swimming areas, a golf course, and more recreational activities, but there are also big parts of the park that are undeveloped and fairly wild. Many of us want these to be preserved.

 

Is this important in these days of crisis” I say yes, the ways we treat the land and other living things reflects on the way we treat each other.The park is a wonder in itself not only as a place for recreation.  It is also a source of comfort for many people in the crazed political situation we find ourselves in.

I just sat down and wrote this, I need to continue writing on the blog, night time is good for this. I will share more soon, happy Tuesday evening..

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Kids and History

Today I worked with a group of fifth graders from Paradise up at Big Chico Creek Ecological Preserve. I volunteer with an outdoor education program there; today we focused on the lives of the Maidu, the native people who lived here until they were exposed to diseases for  which they had developed no immunity. Huge conflicts developed with the goldrush miners who started arriving in 1849. To make a long story short, many of the Maidu and other indigenous people were eventually relocated to a reservation near Round Valley, a reservation west of here; many did not survive the journey. Some did manage to get out of there, and they lived on John Bidwell’s ranch near Chico. Bidwell’s motivations for protecting them can be debated, that is a story for another time.

 

The kids were from Magalia, one of the towns that was destroyed by the Campfire. These kids have been through it. There were two classes on the trip, both have ten students – the others had to relocate. It was amazing to see how these almost adolescents, who had nearly been forced from their homes responded to learning about the Maidu. We didn’t get into the native peoples’ mistreatment by settlers; instead we focused on their relationship to the land and natural resources. I have to wonder if these kids found some kind of comfort  learning how people once had stable communities here, relying on the land. This is pure speculation, but they were curious, free thinking, and full of questions. My thought for the night, good evening.

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Grebes and the Park

Today we went to a workshop on the western and Clark’s grebes that live near us in a part of Lake Oroville. These wonderful diving birds actually run across the surface of a lake or pond together when they are connecting to mate. Sometimes they hide their nests in tules, other times they make floating nests from light aquatic vegetation and support them with tules or other reeds. Both parents are involved in raising the young, who can ride on a parent’s back.  These are very fine birds to have around us.

 

I also spent some time talking to a fellow who has been an activist around Bidwell Park, the wonderful municipal park that is the subject of a book I am developing. One of the big issues has been whether the park exists mostly for human use or to preserve nature. I lean very strongly towards the nature preservation side, it is healthy for the bioregion and its creatures. Humans also benefit – current evidence indicates that healthy green spaces promote mental health in kids and adults.

What kinds of activities should take place in a park? Picnics and swimming seem like they have a place, but our park has also been the site of ORV activity that damages fragile soils and land forms. At one time, people wanted to build an airfield. People continue to find shells left from a rifle range, and a disc golf course has been a controversy, among other issues. The man I interviewed talked about his concern for a plan to extend a paved road deep into the park’s wilder areas. How would this impact on air quality, and on the wildlife that lives there? He feels that decisions have been made without data, and that serious studies are needed before decisions can be made. I am continuing to research these topics and to interview people, so expect a lot more thoughts on this topic.

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Late winter in Chico

Ok, Kate suggests I try blogging last thing at night, I think that is an idea that might work. Nights Anyhow I have been falling asleep too early for a writer. Here in Chico it is raining a lot, many of the roads outside of town have been flooded lately. Apparently the West Coast is experiencing an El Nino event, meaning rain, rain, rain  basically. I worry about friends who live in the hills, after the autumn’s mudslides fires, mudslides are a threat. We are safe in town, although Big Chico Creek has overflowed its banks lately.

It seems to me that there is a sense of sadness in town, and that people are kind of hunkering down, not socializing a lot. This means I may need to reach out a bit more to some folks we know, although some good events are coming up. The town is divided about the presence of evacuees from the fire. Thousands are still in Chico, meaning heavier traffic than usual and more of a demand on an already strained housing market. Some sectors of town are growing resentful over the presence of evacuees, while others realize they really have little choice and this will be going on for the long haul.

These camps are also at odds over the issue of homelessness, taking positions that readers can probably guess. The issue is very unresolved.. People are creating encampments in Bidwell Park, which is a problem – some do well at cleaning up trash, others do not. The city does need to create some kind of shelters, the ones that exist are inadequate. More to come here.

Our town remains a creative and interesting place, just a bit slower in the rain than it has been. Tonight we went to an event called Keep Chico Weird at one of the art galleries. It’s an annual event, with lots of out of the box art – a sculpture of a purple octopus riding a bike, another of a giant metal spider, a map of an imaginary world, a portrait of a guy who looks sad if you stare into his right eye and threatening if you look into his left, and much more.

I am not sure of how to describe the band, they were basically a jam session between an electric guitarist and a drummer. Their music was sort of a combination of psychedelic punk and rave music – not my favorite, but they were actually good musicians in spite of that. The crowd was young, there were people dressed as jesters, lots of tatoos. I thought I would know someone there, some of the writers I know could be described as self defined weird people but none came when we were there. Still, it was fun, just increasingly crowded and noisy, which can wear on us introverts.

Winter is passing into spring in America. Michael Cohen tore into Trump this week, Trump apparently made some rambling speech to a conservative group today where he defined the issue of the 2020 election as opposition to socialism – does he know what socialism means? Tension remains about the non-crisis at the southern border and Trump’s dumb wall. Cohen apparently made a comment about how Trump’s supporters would not go down without a big fight if he is defeated in 2020 – that is scary but we will see how real it might be.

 

Spring is coming though, buttercups and goldfields are starting to blanket the hillsides in Upper Park.  Yesterday we saw two common mergansers continually flying upstream in Big Chico Creek and then riding the frothing currents downstream. It’s not clear what they were doing, but Kate and I agreed it looked like they were having fun. The winter migratory birds are leaving our region, we’ve seen and heard snowgeese and sandhill cranes flying overhead, making a lot of noise for the past few weeks. We have had a good wild fungus season, and saw jelly fungus in the park yesterday. Soon galaxies of wildflowers will cover the hills.

I like this idea of blogging at night, I will stick with it.

 

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Manatees

I will be so happy to be home to my computer with a keyboard that is easy to use. For now – Florida , with all its development has hidden treasures. Yesterday our friends Ben and Susan took us to Blue Springs State Park where we saw at least 50 manatees swimming upstream, amazing critters who are related to elephants, socisl and apparently intelligent. The forest was full of palms and trees with epipyytes, other plants that grow from them and the stream witth huge fish,

. Enough for now, more from home in two days.

 

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Fernandino Beach

This is a charming beach town, wuiet for a Florida tourist place, Fine book stores and a bagpiper on the dock. In the center of the island is a greenway a river place of Spanish moss, palms and  ferns, wood storks, and small red birds in and out of the shadows. Woodstorks perching with egrets, and a multiplicity of hawks fill their spot. The turtles are huge here and I heard an alligstor splashing. Nearby is Ft. Clinch state park, a place of almost tropical forests, trees crowned with spanish moss and ferns. There are t shirts in this place celebrating drunkenness (In dog numbers I have only had one beer), but there are treasures hiding.

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If you remember Pogo

Today we visited Okefenokee Swamp, this cartoon opossum’s turf. It is a beautiful wetland of water stained dark by tannin in the vegetstion, cedars and pines in  the water, some draped with Spanish moss. Woodpeckers on trees, sometimes a range of fungi, small birds flitting about, and yes, there were alligators in the marsh.

After we left we drove into torrential rain for about two hours,there were times when I thought we would be washed into the swamp, but that did not happen. We also stopped in a good restaurant for lunch, it was very deep south. There were posters on the wall where ap guy offered to sell his wife who could tslk for 3 days along with her 54 pounds of makeup. What year is this?

More to come, it is raining here in Coastal Florida.

 

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