Thankfulness

So what does it mean to feel thankful in a world that is going off the deep end? It’s necessary, of course; without a sense of gratitude, life shrinks. It shrivels. It withers from the inside, and becomes an empty container. Life  is too precious for that. I’m thankful for you, Kate my love. I’m thankful for my family, my friends, for the earth that still has autumn forests that form  yellow tunnels and kaleidoscopes on a cool, damp autumn day that make all parts of me rejoice. I’m thankful for my health and strength so I can still hike, camp, and travel. I’m thankful for music that dances around me, for books I find, for food I love (including some that I cook, like tonight’s vegetarian sauerbrauten – a longtime Thanksgiving tradition. I’m thankful that I can write – people tell me I am good at it.

Is it a privlage that I can feel thankful? I have a roof, food, relative security. I don’t have to worry that I’ll be accused of trying to be a shoplifter in any store I enter. I don’t have to expect that a traffic cop will pull me over for something I haven’t done, that I live in a neighborhood where I can easily find fresh produce and healthy food, that I can possibly expect to live a few more decades, and on. And on. And on. However I might gripe, my life has been far easier than most of the rest of the world’s. Do I have a right to feel thankful for this?

I have an obligation to feel thankful. If I can feel that way, I can contribute more than if I despair and put myself down, or if I accept criticisms from people who know nothing about me. I can be far more helpful to the world if I am grateful, as long as I know all beings have a right to feel as grateful as I do. I’m borrowing a little from Buddhism with this last statement, and I’m not a Buddhist. but I can appreciate the insights that worldview offers. I’m writing pretty spontaneously and from the top of my head and heart here.The world is going off the deep end, but be thankful, all. Have a great day.

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My problem is that so much has happened…

In spite of my desire to write more here, I have been overly busy and tired when I do want to write. Discipline! I will do a quick entry here, and try to stay with it. Autumn in Chico is a kaleidoscope of yellows, browns, reds in a wide range of shades. It’s increasingly cool here, which is nice, autumn is a bittersweet, softly stinging time. Dusks are fabulous, the colors of autumn hover for a while over the western horizon.

Winter migratory birds are arriving here by the thousands, and more. Sandhill cranes wander the rice fields which are flooded to give them foraging turf. Snow geese are still arriving at night, calling overhead as they come. They settle on water at Llano Seco preserve, just outside of town. When something disturbs them, they rise crying in a blizzard and circle the pond, breaking apart in V formations so groups fly independantally of each other until the danger is past, then they return to the water. White fronted geese, pintail ducks, coots, and others take them in stride; they stay on the water quietly as if they’re thinking, “What’s with you?” We’re still waiting for other ducks and tundra swans.

A month ago, Kata and I finally made it back to the Bay Area for my friend Dan Marlin’s memorial. Dan was a great writer, a peace and justice activist, a hiker and world traveler, and more. He had been gone for a few months, meaning the event was a celebration, but still quite sad. Geez, Dan, we need you in these days of Trumpian madness, but if you can’t come back, send us a joke!

It struck us both that the Bay Area is NOISY – traffic, helicopters buzzing, and people everywhere. Still, we enjoyed our stay quite a bit – old friends, old haunts such as Lake Merritt with its own collection of autumn migratory birds, great food, lots of local color. We didn’t feel like we’d ever want to live there again, but that it will be a fine place to visit other times.

 

Ok, some rambling, hopefully this will get me moving again, hopefully more to come. The world and country are, of course, more and more insane, but enough for now.

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Northern California in fire times

Ok, once again – back into blogging. Much has happened, including a lot of writing projects, but I need to be disciplined here. I’m writing from Chico in wildfire times. We’ve been safe, the local fires have been pretty small and contained. The air has smelled a bit smoly for a few days but that seems to be passing too. The situation in other areas is disastrous, especially Sonoma and Napa Counties. There’s really nothing I can add that hasn’t been said, except that in spite of it all, northern California remains strong and beautiful. It’s a glorious autumn in Bidwell Park. Wild grape leaves are turning colors and growing psychadelic patterns, poison oak, big leaf maples, and others are shifting with them. The blasting heat is gone, and Big Chico Creek still holds crashing, tumbling water that will increase with the coming rain. Meantime, the autumn bird migration is on!  Sandhill cranes and white fronted geese are gathering at Llano Seco Preserve, along with hordes of red winged blackbirds and great egrets, who are here year round. The world is bittersweet, both tragic and beautiful. We need to remember both sides of it to have a full  Iife. I will work on writing as much as possible, it’s good for me but have to run now.  Here’s Big Chico Creek in autumn’s light.DSCN0467

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At it again

Ok, so we have been out of Chico much of this summer. Did some travelling in Pennsylvania, a place that I love a lot. Those are the woods I grew up in, the green shade that fills the spaces between trees, the sudden summer storms, the long  mountain ridges like long animals sleeping besides rivers and lakes, the kaleidoscope autumn, the fossilized tree branches in sandstone, the stunning unpretetensiousness  of these places fills me forever. DSCN9908

Youghegheny River, Ohiopyle State Park, SW Pennsylvania

 

back in California in early August, we attended a grebe festival near Lake Almanor in the Sierras. Grebes are water birds that build floating nests from light aquatic plants. Both mon and dad grebes carry babies on theeir backs. These beautiful birds face many threats. If lake levels are too low, they cannot swim – they have difficulty walking, and can be eaten by otters, eagles, and other predators. The festival strivs to raise awareness about them. This was also the time of the eclipse. In this part of California, the world turned orange tan, and a soft chill came to the ground like a blanket as the sun became a crescent.  The world remains a wonder.

These are the days of marching Nazis in Charlottesville and elsewhere, of extreme heat in the west, where ashes literally fall from the sky in Seattle, where hurricanes slam into Texas, Florida and the Carribean, and our leader’s big initiative is to deport a million young people if Congress won’t come up for a plan where they can stay in the U.S. The country is becoming a shriek. But look to the green forests and the birds. The world remains a wonder.

Much more to come.

 

 

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BIDWELL PARK IN SUMMER

It’s hitting triple digits in Chico for the rest of the week. There’s not much to do besides swim and maybe go to see dumb air conditioned movies. Bidwell Park remains a wonder  if you can go hiking in the morning. Our 3000+ acre city park begins downtown and extends towards the Sierra Nevada foothills. Upper Park, the wilder area is a jigsaw puzzle of geological formations, plant communities, and tumbling,oak and pine bordered  Big Chico Creek. We have a big range of wildlife there, including mountain lions and at least one black bear, Lower park is the flatter area where Big Chico Park meanders along its floodplain rather than crashing. This is more developed but still a great place to swim, picnic, and wander.

In spring, the hills blaze with galaxies of wildflowers, and clouds of butterflies drift everywhere. Summer drought is California’s botanically unproductive time. The hills turn from green to brown, flowers are few, and the birdsongs that formed counterpoint with the creek’s roars are a lot quieter. But this is a great time to see the interplay of sun and shadow. WIldlife is still active: yesterday an acorn woodpecker and a squirrel had a screaming match, maybe over a stash of acorns. Western swallowtail butterflies’ bright yellows copy the sunlight. Western whiptail lizards and western fence lizards scurry over boulders, and red shouldered hawks cry “PEW! PEW!PEW! from hiding places. Big Chico Creek brings temperatures down, and cool breezes flash along its streamcourse. The park is as much a gem in summer as any other season. Expect more posts about it, especially as we get into autumn.

 

 

BIG CHICO CREEK  AND YAHI TRAILIN SUMMERDSCN9674

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HOT DAY IN CHICO

One great way to deal with the heat is to kayak for a while. Today we went down to the Forebay, an extension of Lake Oriville and did it. We did not take cameras because they could easily fall in the water. Imagine then a kayak amble along a shore with trees and sbrubs. Black phoebes flew out from branches to grab flying bugs and returned to their perches. Canada geese in large groups stuck their heads in the water and their tails in the air, making me think of the old Banana Slug String Band song, “Butts Up!” Blue mayflies drifted over the water and kildeer yelled “KILDEE!” from the shore. It was easily ten degrees cooler out on the water, probably more… more refreshing than a cold beer!

We went to an interesting forum on education in Butte County last night. The speaker largely compared schools in Chico with those in Oroville, a nearby town. Chico schools are segregated by class and race because people are generally expected to attend a school that is defined as being part of their community. Of course schools in more affluent neighborhoods wind up with more parental involvement (some have free time) and donations.

Charter schools do not have this requirement, but it’s hard for low income parents to get their kids up and across town, neighborhood schools are easier for them. So charter schools generally wind up being white and affluent. One exception is Rosedale, the Spanish/English Immersion school. Its population is largely Hispanic, but there are enough affluent white kids whose parents want them to be bilingual that it is not considered an impoverished school.

One other thing about Chico though is in terms of discipline it focuses more on restorative justice than on suspensions, expulsions, and other punishments. Also, experienced teachers are spread throughout the district, and are not only claimed by affluent schools. Chico  does try to be a forward looking district, but segregation by neighborhood is an issue.

Oroville is another story. It is a community of relatively affluent people surrounded by poor communities, The power that be’s nervousness here contributes to a big emphasis on punishment, suspension, etc. For some reason the city has several school districts, whereas CHico only has one. Each district in Oroville has its own administrators. The money that goes to their salaries is a big drain on resources, and the divisions restrict coordination among different parts of the city. This is one issue Chico does not have.

The proportion of children who have some kind of trauma (neglect, some form of abuse, etc.) is fairly high in Butte County. There is also a fairly amount of homelessness, and drug abuse. The issues are many. Being an educator here will be a challenge.

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So why haven’t I been blogging?

There’s been so much to write, read, and do lately I have fallen out of the blogging habit. Must regain it. Chico is HOT this summer… hot and quiet. It’s still a fine town, very peacerul, and with delights like Bidwell Park. It is quite pleasant here in the 80s, even the 90s, but it gets difficult when it hits the three digits… the direct sun feels like hammer blows, and it is all exhausting. It appears that things will calm down in a couple weeks, and we will be back in the 80s and 90s for a while, looking forward to it. Everybody in town is talking about how this is the hottest summer in years. Lucky us, but the thing is this may be the way of the world right now, at least the way of the western U.S. I gather the east is also getting heat and bad storms. We will make it.

I am active with poetry writing, storytelling, and an article I’m doing on Bidwell Park. K and I just did a 6 day odyssey through NE California – spectacular, but hot, especially at the WHiskeytown National Recreation Area. The Mt. Shasta area and Burney Falls were a lot more pleasant. This area will demand some more exploration. Shasta is a spectacular mountain and region, and also the home to various New Age cults. One group believesthere is a city of several million under the mountain. These eight foot tall spirituallyelevated beings are survivors of a nuclear war between Lemuria and Atlantis. They periodically walk into town to shop and pay with lumps of gold, I am told. We weren’t lucky enough to meet any. I don’t know what we would have offered them for gold, a poem or story maybe, but I tried not to be so corruptable.

We like this town and area a lot, but are ready for cooler temperatures. Now that I remember I can blog fairly easily, I will get back to it, with day to day descriptions of life.

Mt. Shasta from Siskiyou Lake Trail

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