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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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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