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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It’s hard to know what the word HOME means

I mentioned this in a recent entry, but the concept of home is a big deal in a lot of environmental thinking. Home means a place one knows and loves, a place where a person has a connection to the natural history, the culture, the people. Home, however, is an  always changing place, and it doesn’t always change for the better. Case in point: Northern California, with its amazing natural settings, rich literary and cultural history, is changing rapidly as there is a major influx of residents, rapidly rising prices, and a loss of the rich culture. These are factors to consider when thinking about home.

So here we are in Charlottesville, considering it as a new home. I have written about the many great things here; today we walked by the Rivanna River and found leaping fish, red shouldered hawks, basking turtles, many plants, and fish leaping in the river. Yesterday, though, we tried to walk to a park and found ourselves in an area of expensive superhouses with no sidewalks, screaming traffic, all this and blasting heat. The appeals and big problems are many here. Problems are the way of the world, but the issues I am mentioning in both places are superfluous and not necessary.

How to find a home in a world of contradictions? Here we are in a place where people take refugees into their homes and rescue injured wild animals while others conduct suicide bombings (today in Istambul airport) or beat sea turtles with sticks for the sake of a selfie. Some would say cruelty is part of our genetic and evolutionary makeup, and there is something to this, but there is also evidence that cooperation and kindness are parts of our being. The problem is how to appeal to the latter and discourage the former.

This is a world of contradictions, some inevitable and others less so. We are traveling through it, but secularist that I am, I have no clue of where (if anywhere) we are going afterwards. So this glorious and painful place is our home.We have to figure out which contradictions we need to accept and which must be lived with. And where to we cfind a place to connect with?

So… onward. I will be busy for a few days, but will return to these thoughts. Be well.




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Charlottesville Pedestrian Mall

This four block downtown area rocks. It is brick, with brick buildings on both sides. Businesses are on the first stories, with apts. on the second and third. The middle of the mall includes outdoor tables for cafes and restaurants. Some, though not all of the businesses are upscale – there is a variety, including a homemade ice cream parlor, several book stores, a cinema, a children’s discovery museum, a free speech wall where people can write whatever is on their minds in chalk (it is erased daily), a carousal connected with the discovery museum. There is a pavilion on one end where live bands play, often for free – we heard a great reggae band last Friday. The town turned out, multi-cultural and multi-age, including a number of aging hippies. There are street performers, from classical violinists to acoustic guitar players to an accordionist singing “What do you do with a drunken sailor?” Photos left over from the recent photography festival remain on display – huge posters of wildlife photos, others focusing on the conflict in Syria, others showing the impact of climate change world wide.  The Paramount theatre hosts  many events; we heard a great wildlife photographer speak during the festival, and saw a festival of short films the other night. People flock to this place, anyone who says pedestrian malls do not attract people needs to visit it. There is even a fellow who wears a blindfold and offers indiscriminate hugs, his antidote to the conflicts and alienation in the world today. We are still exploring and considering options for our future lives.I will try to blog when we get to the library and I can use a real computer… travel pads work for email, but are a real pain for writing anything more than a sentence or two. This theme of displacement in the days of globalization, with all that implies, will continue on my blog.

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Oh Shenandoah..

Shenandoah National Park is a gorgeous place. It is considered America’s thinnest national park, it ranges from one to thirteen miles east to west, but stretches a long distance along the crest of the Appalachians. Here, the color green is divided into a huge number of shapes. I can identify maple, oak, and ash leaves, but many others are a mystery. The shade itself is green. Hidden birds call constantly; roses, daisies, and many other wildflowers cling to the ground. The silence roars at city ruined ears. We saw a bear moving quickly away from the trail. Kate caught a glimpse of a cub, I wasn’t so lucky.

We also visited the town of Staunton. This is a beautiful place that has preserved traditional architecture. It is a very artistic town, with many galleries, music venues, etc.A great place to visit when you are in the area.


We are very taken with this region in many ways. People are very friendly, culture and hiking areas abound. One issue is that many people, including many who can pay a lot for housing, are heading this way, with resulting sprawl, traffic, etc. This is one thing we are trying to get away from but it is worldwide.

People of a certain age will remember Ursala K. Leguin’s nonovel THE DISPOSESSED, where people at odds with a culture move en mass to a moon and create community. Anybody know any  available moons? I am dreaming, but you get the idea. More to come.

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Interesting town

This will be a quick entry since I am running out of time on a library computer. This is quite a town. The photography festival is amazing, wonderful nature photos and more. The trails around town are wonderful. I signed up for a writing workshop at a place called Writer’s House, it will happen tomorrow – Poetry and Solitude it is called. Last night we had a picnic with our friends Ben and Susan on a mountain top, live music and lots of folks, we watched a huge electrical storm blow in and left before it actually arrived. Susan recommended that we go to a discussion group today where immigrants practice English, it was quite fascinating. Tonight a band called Lord Nelson is playing on the Mall, I think they are an old hippie group, we’ll see if there is more to report. We also talked to a regional planning group today that focuses on local sustainable development. Many more thoughts and feelings to report, but time is about to go Boom!. We are alive and well, more later.

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Virginia days

Charlottesville, Va. is a beautiful town. We have been here a little less than 72 hours. There is a downtown pedestrian mall with ice cream parlors, a specialty tea store, bookstores, cafes, and other businesses. Today we hiked on the Rivana River Trail through Riverview Park, a delightful place with oaks, maples, cardinals, blue jays, turtles in the water, butterflies, dragonflies, and flowers of all colors. Neighborhoods here are very nice, many with porches where people hang out and socialize.

Sunday night we attended a potluck for a group called the Appalachian Trails Club. Nice, eclectic folks with a passion for exploration. Last night, we went to a vigil on the pedestrian mall for the victims of the massacre in Orlando. About 500 people were there, much of the local LGBT community and their allies. There were passionate speeches, and we walked up the mall quietly with candles. A very moving event indeed.

We are also finding that rents are higher than we realized, and salaries lower. We do not want to work forever but we would probably need to until we were established. This is the experience of people who have no concern with the American Dream, who just want simple, quiet lives without luxurious trappings, community, a feeling of usefulness and fun, closeness to nature, and inexpensive travel experiences. This is becoming a harder and harder lifestyle to keep in todays USA.

It makes no sense to me that the “needs” of people who live for super affluence and luxury become the frame of reference. It would be fair if we who are satisfied with simplicity could be left alone to live that way. Again, this is a first world problem, many people feel the negative impact of globalization far more powerfully than we do. But it is a reality. It very much goes along with the question I asked in the last post: what does it mean to be a bio-regionalist, someone who deeply connects with a place in the chaos of today’s economy? Displacement is real.

Another thing is that we just saw an exhibit of photos of Yosemite and realized how much we will miss it if we move here. But it is also easy to miss the east when we are in the west. This is another issue and problem, I am sure I will come back to it.

Good evening all.



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