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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Chico’s Beauty and Contradictions

The mountains around Chico are full of coyotes. They woke us about 10 days ago at Black Butte Lake, near the Coastal Mts., and again at Payne’s Creek near the Cascades. These two mountain ranges could not be more different: Coastal Mts. were once ocean floor deposits that scraped up onto the North American Plate when the Pacific Plate slid beneath it while the Cascades are volcanic. Still, these two areas had some things in common. Both are covered with grass like flowing tides, and covered with oaks that cast black labyrinth shadows on green ground. Buttercups, silver lupines, white shooting stars,

tidy tips, and eggs & butter are a few of the wildflower species. The bird species are somewhat different: Bullock’s orioles dominate Black Butte right now while meadowlarks sang loudly at Payne’s Creek. But both are full of coyotes!


Kate and I are starting to feel like part of things here. People recognize us on the street, on hiking trails in Bidwell Park and elsewhere. We hiked backpacked with others at Payne’s Creek last weekend and enjoyed the company of some jolly hikers and a dog. We Neighbors are friendly, including one who told me about how he found a bear at the garbage at 2 AM one fine morning. We regularly go to a Spanish conversation group, and will soon be volunteering with Park watch, a group that shares all kinds of info. with hikers in Bidwell Park. I am attending several poetry gatherings with more to come. Onward and beyondward!


Today we went to Envisioning Sustainability, an environmental conference at Cal State Chico conference. I am still amazed by the amount of information we gathered. We learned about the Machoopda people, the Native Americans who have lived in this area for thousands of years, and are part of the community here. The rancher Joseph Bidwell, who is credited with the settlement of this area, was responsible for persecution of these people. 460 of them were gathered and forced to march to a settlement to the west in 1863; only about half of them survived.


Their descendants did manage to get official tribal recognition, but the government took it back. The tribe received recognition again in1972, on the condition that they give up any claims to the land. A land trust was formed in 2014 to work to reestablish their claims, and California State University Chico works closely with them to manage its land holdings.  but Butte County is petitioning the Bureau of Indian Affairs to have recognition rescinded again. The people who presented the workshop speculated this is because the county does not want these people to have any claim to land in the region.


We also learned about threats to wildlands in this area.  Loss of ground water threatens blue and valley oaks, two local keystone species that support a range of local plants and animals. Advancing urbanization threatens local vernal pools, along with associated endangered plants like meadow foams. Grasslands are lost to housing developments. Fascinating as this conference is, it reinforces my long time feeling that life anywhere is bittersweet. The conference continues tomorrow, I will add more after that.


Ok – today I went to a workshop on environmental racism in the Sacramento Valley, the section of Central Ca. from  Stockton to Bakersfield. Air quality is terrible here because of traffic, oil wells, agriculture. The poor air is one factor in peoples’ poor health. Many of these communities are made up of marginalized people, such as immigrants, who do not feel they have enough political power to confront these issues; work and survival are the factors that dominate their lives. Community groups are doing all they can to help; one program funds residents to get smog tests on their cars, to make repairs, and often to buy used Hybrids. Every small action helps! I also went to a workshop on art and resistance that offered ideas on how to find inspiration and apply it to issue related art.


The two environmental education workshops really inspired me. One project engages children’s range of talents to help them understand the planet’s plight and to think of solutions. The other encourages teachers to take children on guided experience on local land. Education is my way of working for environmental change; I will be in touch with both of these projects.


Yesterday, Kate said, “it’s like being in a foreign country here. It’s so different from Oakland: we are hit in the face with native peoples’ issues, with loss of wildlands, and just about everything else.” Very true, but it is a foreign country where we both feel comfortable. People here look for solutions. We will figure out how to work in this community. Much more to come, watch this space!

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Way too long since I’ve written

I was shopping recently at Chico, California’s Saturday Farmer’s Market when this bearded blonde guy came up to me, shook my hand, and said, “Hi. I’m John. I’m your redeemer.”
“Are you?” I asked, somewhat baffled.
“Do you want me to anoint you?” he sincerely said.
“Not particularly, no,” I answered, and he walked away, apparently surprised that I hadn’t taken his offer seriously.

I wrote a lot about the situation of being a bioregionalist who needs to move for financial and other practical reasons. My partner Kate and I have been living in Chico for three months now. It is surprising that many people from the Bay Area do not know this pocket of North Eastern California, but we want to keep it that way… shhh. We don’t want it to be flooded with refugees. We are at the northern part of the Sacramento Valley. The Coastal Mts. are very visible to the west, and the Cascades and northern Sierra Nevada to the east.

The climate and terrain are very different from what we are used to, but there are many animal and plant species that we know well. Bidwell Park, the HUGE  city park abounds with oaks, acorn woodpeckers, California quail, swallowtail butterflies and many other species we know well. Mt. lions and black bears make their way through here too. The geology of this region is really complex and interesting – rock formations include deposits from an ancient inland sea, volcanic flows, and stream deposits. Bidwell Park is well known for its high cliffs, and the canyon dug by Big Chico Creek.

The wildlife populations here change with the seasons, as they do in many places. When we first got here in early December, the wetlands were full of snow geese, white fronted geese, pintail ducks, and many others. The snow geese are very noisy, and when they are disturbed by a predator like a bald eagle, they take to the air by the thousands (literally) until the danger is past. Many of the other migratory birds are more nonchalant, they stay in the wetlands and seem to be asking the snow geese, “What’s with you?” The winter migrants have left, we are now inundated with wildflowers and nesting birds. I will post more.

Chico is a university town with a population of about 90,000. It is a relatively liberal to left town – there was a big Women’s March here in January, and there are more community groups than you can count. There are literary readings, a reperatoiry cinema, a good theatre group, many music venues, and much more.  It is a comfortable and very enjoyable place. It’s hard to know how to sum up  three months in one blog post, but here you are! I will be sharing more observations, and will try to stick with it. So much to reflect on in these times, and it’s interesting to be looking at it all from a new place. Stay tuned.






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Chico, Ca. – Looking good!

We are back from Chico. The impending collapse of our faithful Mitsubishi Mirage, which has taken us on many adventures for 17 years has been the issue of the week since we’ve been back. We’re now the proud owners of a Honda Fitt – it seems like it will last for a long time. We hope.

Chico is looking like a strong possibility for our new stomping grounds. It is about 2 hours north of Sacramento, in the foothills of the Cascade Mts., a volcanic range that stretches through Washington, Oregon, and far northern California. We visited Lassen Volcanic National Park, about 100 miles from Chico. It is a surreally beautiful park – volcanic domes and cones, thermal areas with steaming ponds and bubbling mud pots, vast forests and mountain streams, and late season wildflowers. I will include a few photos later.

Chico itself is a very appealing town. There are work possibilities, and a range of activities – writing and reading communities, environmental groups, ways of taking University classes very inexpensively, festivals, and more. Bidwell Park, a urban park that stretches from downtown to the Cascade foothills is amazing. It will be a great spot for all seasons, and there are swimming spots for hot summer days.  And yes, the town is very bikable.

It will get hot in the summer, but again, swimming will be a relief.It will also be quite different from Oakland. There are some African Americans, but not many; there is a large Hispanic community. Much of the working class is Caucasian, this will be a switch. The town has problems like meth labs, and some bike thefts and break-ins. This will be different from Oakland, where shootings are fairly common. There is sprawl of course, although much of it seems to be in parts of town we can avoid.

It will not be as different bioregionally as other places we have visited. Some of the plant communities and wildlife will be very similar. There are, again, cultural difference. There is a bit more of the feeling of the lonesome  mountainous and desert West among musicians and writers, and less of the Ecotopian West Coast. I know what I mean and will expound more on this if we wind up there, which looks very possible.

We need to look into renting, having some kind of work shortly after we get there, etc. We’ll start making plans soon, and I will report in here.

Here are two  photos of Lassen Park: This first one is a thermal pool in the geothermal area called Bumpass Hell. Heat from magma below the surface is making this water boil. Bumpus was an explorer who wanted to start a business based on mineral extraction here, but he managed to wind up in a thermal pool and lost his leg. There are also bubbling mud pots here – like I said, surreally beautiful! The shot below it is Mt. Lassen, the volcano that gives this park its name.




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Long delayed post

It’s been a while, I’ve been quite bust since the return from Charlottesville. I’ve been writing and submitting work to several places, working a bit,  dealing with the fact that our longtime faithful car may be winding down, and paying too close attention to  the two recent conventions. It is terrifying that Trump is doing so well… if he is elected, home may be especially hard to find in the U.S. I voted for Bernie, like him, and support his program. I do think he made the only choice possible when he decided to support Hillary. I am lukewarm about Hillary, but do not want to live under fascism.

The search for a home continues. C’ville remains on the list, but I have described the possible problems in other posts. We will visit Chico, an interesting town in northern Ca. for a week starting next Tuesday. Among other things, it has a wonderful river/forest park, is close to the Cascade Mts., and has some interesting communities and activities. I will post from there if I can find an actual computer in a library or elsewhere there, working from a pad is a pain.

Meantime, here are the promised pictures of Charlottesville. I miss Charlottesville, we will spend more time there, maybe wind up there one day.. who knows what we’ll do? This is the downtown pedestrian mall.


This is the Rivanna River, in Charlottesville. Shenandoah National Park is below it.

See, westerners… the east is beautiful, too!


And this is just a small part of Charlottesville’s  unique Art Park. We will see you again, C’ville!


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Oakland again

We got back late last night after our flight from D.C., which was supposed to come through Chicago, was cancelled. Southwest placed us on a flight where we had to change planes in Houston. We nearly missed the flight, but are home alive and well, although a bit achey – planes will do that to you.

Ok – the search for a home continues. Kate and I agree that we have to rest and recuperate for a few days, then go over our notes re. Charlottesville. As I have expressed, we really like the town, the people, the region. Here are the hesitations:

  1. Growing development, and sprawl. I have described this in detail, ’nuff said for now.
  2. We are currently a one car family, relying on bikes and public transit as much as possible. The bus service is better than in some towns, but it is pretty mediocre- some busses run once an hour and not on weekends at all. There is no regional transit at all. As for bikes, lanes for them are rare, and they disappear without a warning, kind of like wild fungi in a drought.
  3. The work situation could be difficult. There is currently low unemployment, meaning that jobs that are available are not the best. This is also a town of overqualified workers – many waiters, barristas, and retail folk have Master’s degrees. Besides, work in my field – natural history/ environmental education seems scarce, to put it mildly. There may be ways of adjusting this latter situation, but I have to research it and be creative.
  4. We both want to be connected with a science museum, and do some citizen science – that is, research and other activities that support working scientists’ efforts.  Strange for such a literate/intellectual town, but there are no science museums in C’ville. Again, this situation can change, but it will take some creativity.

So- we plan to watch C’ville, and look at other towns. The romantic dreamer sides of us are tempered with a bit of reality. Today we hiked in Oakland, by Late Temescal, one of our favorite easy hikes. A river otter swam by while song sparrows serenaded us. But- traffic, people walking through markets with headphones unconcerned with anyone else’s presence, and expense… where is home? This theme will continue in this blog.

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Leaving for California in two days

Charlottesville is great, we will come through here more times, and we may end up living here at some point. We feel we have to watch the situation. I have described the things we like a lot in much detail, and have described the things that trouble us. The rapid development is one of the big troubles. Virginia is odd, cities are separate politically from the  counties that surround them.

Charlottesville is full of quiet, homelike neighborhoods, the mall, parks, and many activities. There is a consciousness about sustainable development – although this town really needs a better bus system, and better access for bikes  – bike lanes show up briefly along streets, then vanish like wild mushrooms when drought hits. C’mon, Charlottesville!

The real issue is the madcap development in unincorporated Albemarle County – monster houses, streets without sidewalks, strip malls, traffic, traffic, traffic. The fact that there is more of this nonsense to come worries us. We have seen other places we love lose their character due to this situation – even Portland, Oregon is losing its uniqueness.

One sign of the changing conditions here is that a year ago  everyone in town stopped for pedestrians in crosswalks, now maybe half the people do.So, we will be back in Oakland, where we do not feel at home any longer and will have to take a long, hard look at our options. The question is, where can we find a place where the impacts of globalism and neo-liberal are minimal? Or will we just have to be somewhere and be part of the community that says no to unbridled development?

Again, our problems are slight when you consider the issues globalization brings to many other people, but they remain our problems. I probably will not make it to a computer until we are home Monday night, this ongoing thought process will continue on this space. So long for now, C’ Ville, we will see you again.

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