Cleanse ye your eyes, so that ye behold no man as different from yourselves…. See ye no strangers; rather see all men as friends, for love and unity come hard when ye fix your gaze on otherness. ~Baha'i
Death Valley is certainly its own kind of place on Earth. When my daughter and I spent time there back in February, 1998, we were living in New Mexico. Which also features that sort of wide, wide, open, open space that feels as though nobody will ever occupy it on a full time basis. Thus I am intrigued with the way DV felt to a person who lives in upstate New York. She noticed the lack of green. When we were there DV had enjoyed a mite of moisture so flowers had shot up and shoved aggressively colored blooms towards the sky, ready to get pollinated and set seed before the soil would crack open again.
For fun I am reposting this blog. Death Valley is a great spot, wherever we come from to visit. One day I’d like to check in on it one more time. 🙂
The world stretches wide open. Badwater Basin, Death Valley, CA.
Once in my life I could truly say I was at my lowest point. The lowest point in North America, that is, at approximately 282 feet below sea level in Badwater Basin. And it wasn’t a bad thing at all. Instead it was a journey I’ll never forget, a trip to Death Valley several years ago that changed my idea of what natural beauty meant forever.
The desert had never held much fascination for me. I’d been to Arizona a few times as a child, and remembered finding it interesting but so very brown. I love trees and green, growing things. And the arid landscape I recalled in my mind’s eye always seemed to be lacking somehow, in life, in shade, in mercy.
But then I travelled to Death Valley, California. And though green and growing things were few and far between, life was still there, waiting.
The holiday season just ending presented a curious feel to it this time around. There were Christmas lights draped on a large balcony in the building behind ours, while below them stood glowing orange globes on a sturdy little tree — fruit, actually. Oranges, uh huh.
A friend sent a gift of many delicious lemons from one of her trees last week.
Although lots of trees have dropped their leaves and it is pretty cool day and night hummingbirds have been buzzing around our balcony feeder non stop since summer. The species present are mainly Anna’s right now, though the odd Blackchin can’t be ruled out. There’s been a night or two just below freezing, when the tiny birds showed up extra early, sticking around longer than normal. Little energy wasted on chasing one another.
The oleander trees have flower buds, while a tall sycamore flaunts dark yellow feathery flowers three stories above us.
Meanwhile, across the region marches a series of storms, drenching the northern part of the state, piling snow many, many feet high in the Sierra Nevadas to the east. Yosemite is being buried as I write. While I’m used to the West and the effects mountains have on weather I have to admit that the variety of Northern California climates occasionally makes my head spin.
Here we are bundling up as for New Mexico winter to take the dogs for a midday walk, during which we spot …. hummingbirds! …. dashing from one oleander to another. Since there are no actively flowering bushes in our surroundings at present it is good to know that the small creatures also eat tiny bugs, which I hope crawl out from beneath bark in the sunshine. Condo neighbors seem to have mostly removed hummer feeders for the winter.
The most up-close-and-personal change has to do with the transformation of our pleasant condo into a wedding warehouse and assembly line. With Jericha and Paco’s marriage a week away we have 75 pounds of table linens stacked in boxes. That is seventy five pounds of table stuff!! Would the Waldorf Astoria need that much for three hours one day?
There are sheer curtains which my daughter and a small army of friends have transformed with crepe paper strips (on the back side) to offer gentle colors when hanging in the many large windows (with indifferent views) at the wedding venue. More sheer curtains have had LED light strings attached, to hang behind the raised stage at the head of the room, glowing during the ceremony. We have been gluing lovely quotations, printed on vellum, inside three of the six sides of small jars she found to serve as wedding favors. Into the jars go small strings of LEDs, with switches craftily held above view in pretty netting just under the lids, tied tight outside with ribbons.
Earlier today Jericha baked an experimental batch of the cupcakes she wants to have stacked up into a wedding cake shape. We’ve happily been fattening ourselves on the things — which, full of butter and honey, along with fine cornmeal and almond flour — are making their way towards “you can’t have just one” fare.
This evening the kitchen workshop is open for creating huge paper flowers out of gigantic coffee filters.
Hanging bamboo drying rods
Opus and Elf sleepily survey the work
Also this evening we are having rain. So good for this region with a six-year drought, so slowing for getting one’s wedding errands done.
Besides living in my daughter’s dreams of a beautiful wedding in which she imagines and then creates most of the decorations with help from a special wedding planner friend, and many good hands, I’ve continued to get grounded with my new state, and enjoyed reconnecting with several good friends I hadn’t seen or spoken with in a long while.
Amidst this cheerful disarray came along my birthday on the 6th. Not seventy yet, but working on it… That idea brings to my grasshopper mind yet another view of the ways in which my life has changed since last June. Jericha and Shirley, our roommate in the condo, took me for a birthday lunch at a Himalayan restaurant next to the preschool where they both work.
It was Friday, a day when great numbers of tech industry employees love to grab a longish lunch. We had a bit of a wait to get in… In line with Asian men of different ages. After we finally took our places at a small table there was time to look around. Cheerful paper lanterns hung from ceiling beams, bearing the message of a Happy New Year.
While munching my way through excellent Indian food that calm feeling came over me that can settle when I’m in a new, good mind space. Looking around I realized that there were over a hundred people sitting at long tables, mostly in large groups. That we three women were a) one of perhaps five women in the entire restaurant, and b) besides one distant man we three were the only pale faces that I could see. To which it isn’t too much speculation to say that we were also in a wee minority of diners not employed by Google.
These things made me smile, all the more when, as we were leaving, Shirley wished me a happy birthday and right afterwards a friendly hand touched my shoulder, a young man leaned towards me and murmured, “Happy Bird-day!”
That one little gesture lighted me up in the midst of what was already a specially good day.
This was all the more relished since the many changes in life of late may bring happiness to the heart one day, yet sadness will invade the next. Sadness for what (and who) is now gone forever. Making this an appropriate moment, perhaps, to suggest that we not hesitate to offer a smile, a small compliment or bit of help to some complete stranger, randomly. It makes a difference, it really does.
When a blogger friend suggested that as this unusual year, 2016, comes to an end we reflect on our personal positive aspects of it, the idea appealed.
That’s a promise and a threat to me, really. The way I usually meet life, as a series of actions and reactions, causes and consequences needing to be considered before jumping headfirst. Finally, as being what I willfully choose to ignore when inevitably struck by a determination to get right in there.
Early in the year I promised myself that I would at last pull up the gumption and the wherewithal to shut my mouth and put paid to the business of selling my last home, in New Mexico, in favor of the more nomadic life of an apartment dweller, in California. That’s where daughter Jericha has been for some years. This inner discussion had occupied my stew pot of a mind for a long time.
So — we did it, and in 2016, to boot! Never would this have happened without a bit of help
from our friends. Two of them trekked from California to the middle of New Mexico where they labored in June heat loading a mountain of furniture, kitchen gear, clothing, wheelchairs, saved crutches and leg braces, books, bonsai and artwork into what had at first looked like a huge (or is that pronounced “yuge” of late?) U-Haul. Ha! Barely standing room for two humans remained after the truck was packed, floor to ceiling.
Part of my brain had been denying that this packing job would ever be completed.
There was personal sacrifice and faith involved in this move. Jericha gave up her comfortable apartment with same-age friends in order to share rented condo space with her mother and a middle aged teacher friend; none of us could afford Silicon Valley rental rates alone. I sold my sturdy, eleven year old Ford Ranger with its wheelchair lift since it no longer really served my needs. That left me for the first time in forty-six years with no wheels of my own. Flat scary. The trip in a rented Ford Taurus was uncomfortable in many ways, the motels pretty bad for wheelchair-bound me, and the timetable kept us on the road for more hours than my back chose to accept gracefully.
On the super plus side, Elf the Corgi and Opus the Dachs-Terr mix proved themselves to be good travelers, excited about exploring, accepting of their coupled leashes and hurried meals in motel rooms.
As time moved along in the beautiful Bay Area my views of how a life is lived adapted as they generally do. Some things got better — Jericha rediscovered a certain handsome friend whom she will be marrying in two weeks — while I finally decided that saving the proceeds of house selling (meager by California standards) would not make me as happy as getting a used wheelchair van. So I did that — staking out at least a modicum of independence going into a new life in yet another new location — Fresno.
And some things got no better. My post polio syndrome, for one. And I did not lose any of the extra pounds I’ve gained over the three years since my shoulders began acting up. A goal for the upcoming new location.
The significant decisions we made took place against the backdrop of the USA’s most horrible presidential election ever. What seemed a laughable candidacy by a yugely unqualified individual abruptly turned into his victory, so hotly contested by himself and unbelieved in by so many that it first stunned at least half the nation, then plunged large numbers into the kind of darkness that does not quickly ebb. There are still people shedding tears over what is happening to the country on a daily basis.
I admit to having sniffled steadily through election night and much of the following day, off and on for some time after that. Yet… the good in it at first came to me as something along the order of, “Well, at least now we have something wonderful to look forward to — the end of this particular period down the line.” Then, of course, hit the realization that this rise in favor that populism is experiencing is spreading around the world, that things are going to change for many others quite apart from the new regime in the US, the increasing cyber threats we seem quite unprepared for, among other things.
Also striking me, as the currently popular saying that “You don’t know what you don’t know” suggests, there are way more things we don’t know about one another and about our little planet with its complex systems of life than there are that we do understand.
Eventually the reflection swam into consciousness that what is happening represents undercurrents long present, yet not acted upon, bringing to attention long neglected injustices and darkness. There is no longer a way in which we can move forward as the human race without first facing up to certain things. Racism, sexism, human rights including women, LGBT, disabled; jobs lost to unstoppable globalisation; the changing climate; the lack of critical thinking skills that place us in jeopardy from threats we cannot begin to visualize otherwise about these issues, and others.
We look for so many demons now that we forget to look at the simpler things that bring people together, shared feelings and goals, courtesies, looking for the good in others, finding joy in learning about people we have never encountered before, joy in learning about the world, how things open up when we set aside preconceived ideas (little more than prejudices, often) on choose instead to open our minds.
For the USA — indeed, the world — to move forward into a more just, equitable era we must face the long festering issues, work them out — together. We also must remedy simmering resentments towards people who are unlike ourselves, whose lives do not resemble our own in the slightest, of whose life styles and orientations are opposite to our own.
Whoever we are, we need to learn to coexist with differences, to stop belittling, degrading those with whom we disagree. To speak up for what we believe to be just and fair, no matter if agents of the current government seem to be moving us steadily back into 1953 — to pull any old year out of a hat. That was the year when I met my first personal armageddon in the form of paralytic polio. It was also before leaders in the oil industry decided to deceive the public about the hazards posed to the planet by excessive burning of fossil fuels, before widespread deforestation, before civil rights became a front-and-center issue, before women began to speak out so frequently for themselves, with no husband or father standing beside them to explain their beliefs.
It was before excellent means of travel was nearly as well advanced as now, and there was no internet or cell phones in constant use. Before the US had a national highway system.
It was also well before the US, as a nation, lost the ingrained courtesy and respect for most people that made life far more pleasant and comfortable than it now is.
All of us need to inhabit the same world in a courteous manner, to handle differences with grace. Right now in our knock-‘em-when-they’re-down reality TV worldview such characteristics are scarce, indeed.
Someone noted the other day that conditions in the world at present are frighteningly similar to right before World War I broke out. Ah, thought I, that “last gentlemen’s war”. The “war to end all wars.” Right. Since the days of Albert Einstein it is, however, clear and evident that another world war can never be fought if we, and the planet, are to carry on with much semblance of life as we have long known it.
So now is the time when we learn to work our differences through in ways that don’t involve ignoring one another or plotting elimination of people who don’t fit into our ideas of the way our various countries should look. Or it is the time when we knock ourselves into global chaos, potentially involving oblivion.
Many people have commented on the number of special celebrities who died in the last twelve months, what shades of sadness those departures from the world stage have cast into their lives.
Well, I’m no different. I was stricken with the death of Alan Rickman early on, knocked over several times more as months marched by.
While I find his last album too dark I found myself listening to it again this last morning of 2016 — as the representation of the passing of a generation, a way of seeing the world, so familiar to me back in the 1960s folk scene. The song “Steer your way” provides some food for thought, so I include below a uTube of it.
By the time Princess Leia — Carrie Fisher — breathed her last I was all primed to bawl like an infant the moment I read about it. Selfishly I found myself wondering what right these entertainers had to leave us when we need more of their performances. Surely we’ll be seeing more of Professor Snape one day? A retrospective peek into his wizardly espionage career, perhaps? Plus I was touched by the possible last words of Debbie Reynolds, who was Fisher’s mother. “I want to be with Carrie,” she told her son. A tiny part of me understood that, since it wanted to be with at least some of the departed celebrities rather than facing what is beginning to unfold in our world.
So as the last couple of hours to 2016 tick away, here am I with this thought:
… When we consider outcomes in the world of existence, we find that peace and fellowship are factors of upbuilding and betterment, whereas war and strife are the causes of destruction and disintegration. All created things are expressions of the affinity and cohesion of elementary substances, and nonexistence is the absence of their attraction and agreement. Various elements unite harmoniously in composition, but when these elements become discordant, repelling each other, decomposition and nonexistence result. Everything partakes of this nature and is subject to this principle, for the creative foundation in all its degrees and kingdoms is an expression or outcome of love.
Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; rather, it transforms from one form to another, says the first law of thermodynamics. This week’s chaos brought me too much negative energy — which I now offer back to the world, filtered as transformative energy.
A person’s reality depends upon how one perceives a thing. These same iconic California apartment swimming pools, mentioned in today’s haiku up top, by turns might feel exotic, refreshing, cold, evocative of shivers, reminders of dreariness.
This past week gave me pause to consider questions about reality. Reality increasingly settles on shifting sand, to me.
A week back I was anticipating an excellent week to come.
My power wheelchair repairs, eagerly awaited for a record period of six months of Medicare hell, were at last scheduled for Monday. The repair company called me to make a Monday appointment, then misplaced the parts. Without them on Monday, then, the technician left the office. Three calls into the aging day turned up that explanation for why no technician had appeared on my doorstep. I explained politely that my entire week was built around getting those long-promised repairs done that day. Ultimately the tech said he would come very early on Tuesday. As early as 7 a.m.
So up I rose on Tuesday, earlier than my normal 5:30. To wait, and wait… and wait. The man eventually appeared sometime after 9 a.m. In no time it was apparent that this was one squeaky clean tech, brand new to the trade. He was deliberate and careful, but seemed to me to be doing things in the most complicated manner.
Still, I bit my tongue.
Five hours later my daughter and I knew that our planned trip down to Fresno to check out apartments and deliver packed moving boxes was not going to happen. The six hours of driving back and forth wouldn’t give us the time needed.
Plus I had cancelled my Monday appointment at California’s busy Department of Motor Vehicles to both register my wheelchair van and get a California driver’s license. The legal bit about driving… Now I would have to accomplish this complex matter later in the week, without an appointment since no more were available. Using time previously blocked out for other really important matters, such as finding a place to live in Fresno. Time closes in around me.
My stomach got all clenched up, the rest of me kind of hottish and uncomfortable the way things go in the presence of stress.
We thought this way and that way about the proceedings after the tech left us and my beautifully fixed up power wheelchair — deciding that the best thing about the long day was that, well, there it was, the well functioning machine of mine.
That unclenched the stress, for a time.
On Wednesday the DMV visit was in order, with no appointment. Long lines at these various offices are legendary, so — hoping that the upcoming holiday would keep people busy elsewhere — I arrived at the Santa Clara branch twenty minutes ahead of opening only to find a good one hundred shivering people lined up in a long snake across the front door area.
So off to the next closest DMV in San Jose I went, with Google Maps to guide me.
Google Maps, which works so well in my daughter’s Android phone, which kept us flowing unconcernedly along highways, through places we had never been, so many times… Google Maps, almost the gold standard of GPS for drivers.
Lately it’s been a question to me, whether Apple deliberately sabotages Google Maps in iPhones, because whenever I have departed from the programmed course GM has sent me in circles, aiming me at my destination by pointing through infinite numbers of small residential areas and crowded downtowns, not directing me to the highways that I know must be somewhere close by.
The Wednesday trip confirmed the suspicion that, for whatever reason, GM Does Not Work Well in My iPhone. For once in San Jose I missed a turn, kept going in the assumption that I would simply take the next right turn and be right as rain. Ha! GM went off into Rerouting mode and stuck there for ten minutes.
Meantime, the ABS warning light started to show up on the dashboard. Heavens, are the brakes already failing in my new-to-me van?
Eventually I stopped in a parking lot to check the meaning of an ABS light in the van’s handbook, discovered this isn’t an emergency, but should be looked at in due course. Fine, next week. Then I tried resetting GM, discovering that it was only going to send me in loops around the same dozen city blocks until, again, I would have to concede defeat.
So I stayed in the parking lot and did what any sensible mother of a mature daughter might do — I called Jericha, who put up with my sniffles of emoting before she directed me to the DMV.
At which place I rapidly discovered one very nice thing — they have a special line for handicapped clients, and nobody was in it. Once at the counter I discovered one not so great thing — that in these days of illegal aliens and terrorists a person cannot expect to wrest a simple driver’s license and registration out of a DMV as we could the last time I registered a vehicle (2004). Oh, no, I had to have my birth certificate, which I did have with me — alongside documentation of my life’s name changes, which I never anticipated submitting to any bureaucratic process like this.
So I called my faithful daughter again. She rummaged through my file cabinet till she found the requisite marriage certificate and divorce decree, which she drove down to me.
Thinking, oh, joy, home stretch now, off I went to the registrations desk. The DMV website states that any vehicle six or less model years old does not need a smog test. “Yes, it says that,” said the snappy Latina at the desk, “but I still need a smog test from you.”
And, it appeared, they also required that I go to a different DMV for “vehicle verification,” to assure that my van, bought in a different state, was actually the same one as the one in the title and on the purchase invoice.
Off to get the smog test I went. Courtesy of Apple Maps, I found a testing place without much difficulty.
On came Day 4 of the difficult week. Ditching Google Maps in favor of Apple Maps, I chose to use H.S.Highway 101 rather than the more pleasant routes (and their various road changes) for the twenty minute trip to San Jose.“It’s working so well,” I chortled to myself as Apple Maps seamlessly delivered me to the address of the DMV. There was no view of the building as I drove up with the pleasant Siri voice telling me to turn right. Parking carefully in a wheelchair van spot, I made my way to the front door thinking what a warm and friendly DMV! … A burly pony tailed man swept open the door for me, revealing a room…. full of tables where people were eating brunch.
Uh… This doesn’t look like a DMV, I muttered. “Oh, that,” said Burly Man, “The DMV is two blocks in the other direction and on the other side of the street.” Which would have been a left turn, not the right turn Apple Maps commanded me to do.
So much for Apple Maps.
After two hours at the appropriate DMV I left — triumphant! Resisting the urge to kiss my brand new California license plates and the DMV employee who handed them to me, I was so pleased to be in that moment and not some other over the past four days that I barely noticed that I was exiting via the enter-only driveway of the DMV — while two or three “peace officers” were standing around behind me, staring.
Thankfully a polite driver stopped to let me out onto the street before the cops got around to waving me down…
So now here I be, satisfied with the past week after all. My daughter made a solo visit to Fresno to both check out an apartment for me, and deliver a bunch of packed boxes to her fiancé’s garage. Then she brought him back here for a long weekend — so she is happy despite my inability to get myself down there with a van full of boxes. She had been rather glum about that for a while.
Still feeling the spirit of celebration today, while Paco and Jericha were off doing things, I made myself a tea bowl of matcha… Which, once drunk, left exquisite patterns all around the interior of the bowl. Hence today’s photos.
Sure, these macro images show dredges of matcha powder. A different way to read tea leaves. Well — I don’t read tea leaves and don’t ask anyone to read tea leaves. But when I look at these I see that if an avatar of me were to enter the lovely scene in the top photo from below she would be first faced with the option of marching into a dark cave of discovery at the bottom. Should she decide, instead, to climb up a steep wall, before her would roll high and lovely green mountains, from which she could see the world unfolding all around.
And it would be a good, green, sustainable world, thought I. Somehow, people will find ways gradually to unite and rally around the prospect of making it so. I would send my filtered bad, stressed energy back out into the world as something different, transformative.
And with that, I say, happy holidays! May the hard bits make upcoming challenges sweet as we appreciate good results from our collective efforts, as we come to appreciate our differences as strengths, creatively applying ourselves to big human problems.
~Something Wild, Andrew McMahon and Lindsey Stirling
“You’re stronger than you know.”
Good to be thinking.
I’ve generally enjoyed making changes in my life, despite being a methodical person who depends on regular little daily sub-schedules, on things staying in their assigned places so I don’t need to spend time hunting for them. As a handicapped individual with mobility challenges this aspect of organization serves me well.
Sometimes a whole lot of changes show up in a short period… and I do feel something beyond simply dizzy.
Such as now.
Only last June Elf, Opus and I found ourselves squeezed into a rental Ford Taurus that had hand controls different enough from those I’d been using in other vehicles that I barely managed to brake in time to avoid T-boning a big white panel truck. We were accompanied from our long time home in the middle of New Mexico by an enormous rent-a-truck jammed to capacity with three generations of family belongings. Headed for California’s gorgeous Bay Area. Which in short order I learned to love for its glorious trees, land, mountains and salt water, for the tech companies all around, the whizz-bang techie culture, the marked diversity amongst the humans, plus many other things.
Maybe a tad less the super laid-back vineyard-visiting, fine wine cultures that can … once in a while … feel … a bit … removed from normal American life. But hey, I’ve been a middle class person mainly, without time for too much laying back.
Now we are preparing to leave this pleasant, if costly region for the more normal all-American mid-section of California known as the Central Valley. That’s the place where corporate farmers struggle for water to continue growing nut and fruit trees and where over half the fruit, nuts and vegetables in the US have been grown — despite a severe five year drought that depletes ground water supplies alarmingly. Cities are sinking as the water level drops, along with farming acreage.
It’s a place where big issues will continue playing out for a long time regarding global warming, the difficult and sometimes awful choices to be made about what lives and what dies. Endangered salmon versus thirsty almonds.
Occupying a huge section of California between the coast and the mountains just before Nevada, this valley starts around Bakersfield in the south, ends was up around Redding in the north. In the middle near Yosemite, Fresno, at something over half a million people, is its largest city.
My own preparations for this next move began with acquiring my first wheelchair van, a 2010 Dodge Caravan with some 76,000 miles on it. Time to knock off denial of my gradual physical deterioration. My dream was to whizz around in a gorgeous new little Tesla, but the reality is that electric vehicles aren’t ready to provide power for the ramps nor the space that wheelchairs need. Soooo….
Meet the van, which goes under the working nickname WV (Wheelchair Van) for now.
Elf and Opus meeting the Dodge wheelchair van for the first time, in our condo garage.
Here I am, headed up the ramp, with roommate Shirley looking on.
At first HRH Elf was … reluctant … (royals are never recalcitrant!) about going up the ramp into the Dodge.
The locking system that holds my heavy power wheelchair in place while I drive. There’s a pin under the chair that links into the groove, a metal piece that slides into the balance bar in front of the lock.
The waiting area at MobilityWorks in Santa Clara where I hung out while the van was being equipped. I had not been with so many other wheelchair users before. We had fun exchanging tips and tales.
I’ve had it three weeks today, and as of next Monday it will (hopefully) be registered with the DMV and I’ll have my California driver’s license. Such is the busy-ness of the state’s motor vehicle division that it takes that long to get the necessary done, by appointment.
Getting WV all set up with the kind of chair anchoring system you need in order to drive from your wheelchair rather than the usual seat took the entire Thanksgiving week, and then some. Then began two serious learning curves of wheelchair driving — one, figuring out how to position the wheelchair into the lock so that the mechanism would agree to unlock and let me out when I needed it to. Still working on that, though things are improving. The actual driving, if one has been doing it for over forty years, comes back even after six months of inactivity. The second adjustment — for me, anyhow — is adjusting to Google Maps on my iPhone, which must sit in the cup holder just under the right wheelchair arm.
Either Apple makes getting proper directions a bumpy process where its arch rival in smartphones is concerned, or I’m missing something.
My first trips alone in WV were up and down 101, sort of — because Maps would send me off or away from the highway and into useless little residential regions of Silicon Valley. Where I experienced the dull thud mentality of passing streets with names like Semiconductor Way near Texas Instruments in… well, I don’t actually know if that was Santa Clara, Sunnyvale or what.
Alone I also indulged my love of watching salt water riffle in the wind out near the western bottom of San Francisco Bay. Seabirds wove their powerful way through air currents on business only they can understand, sailboats bobbed as pines along the shore bowed to air power. The kind of cool, windy day in the Bay Area that makes me glad to be observing the outdoors from inside a warmish vehicle.
Last weekend my daughter, Elf, Opus and I took our respective spots in WV for an apartment-hunting expedition 160 miles southeast in Fresno. That’s a place, in the midst of the San Joaquin Valley, I had not visited in the past, so it was with keen interest that I took stock of subtle changes in geography as we left the green coastal areas, crossed the Coastal Range east of Gilroy in the rain, to flatten out in what looked just about perfect for New Mexico. Scraggly batches of trees crowded together in corners between tracts of land here and there. Sky, sky, high and all around, so much vaster than what lies below the atmosphere with its burden of carbon, methane and other abnormal quantities of chemicals. It presses down on the endless fields.
At first we were in another natural New Mexico landscape — sheep country. Except here, rather than out with Navajo sheepherders and their dogs in rough chapparal or mountainous terrain the woolies grazed in large, flat, empty-ish square areas. All sorts of sheep in various colors and sizes, with and without horns and black faces. Despite the vast surrounding lots, true to their nature as herd animals the sheep clustered together.
After some miles of them, up popped a few red country billboards. Make America Great Again, some alluding to a contentious water bill then moving through the US Congress — Is Politics More Important Than Food?
For those of you who care about the environment and/or the food grown here for so much of the country (and world) — the bill passed a few days ago. Pitting California’s two long-serving women senators against one another. One favored holding enough water to protect endangered species of fish and other creatures further north, the other was intent on striking a balance — of sorts— between the environment she also has long fought for, and the interests of Big Agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley. The latter was what passed in the bill this week. (And I have much simplified what is in its complexity.)
All of that latter matter served to make getting acquainted with a special Baha’i woman near where I now live all the more inspiring this week. She, too, is deeply concerned with sustainability and other environmental questions, and has come to champion no till farming as an emerging method that does the earth good with every crop. A question perhaps for a different blog, no till or carbon farming has chiefly been adopted by farmers in Great Plains states — notably a “red” region of the USA. Which serves to bring people of differing political persuasions into collaboration when it comes to things so basic to life as agriculture and maintaining a healthy earth.
If I’d thought the acreage around the lovely Gilroy area was spread out enough to be “Big Ag”, my daughter had scoffed at me. As we got closer and closer to Fresno I could see what she meant. That acreage goes on till the earth curves in the distance. Often in all directions. Never saw anything quite like it before, in person. All in a zone of semi desert.
We will be moving to lovely Fresno within the next month. Once landed there we met up with Paco, my soon-to-be son-in-law, to visit a couple of apartment complexes, lunch with Elf and Opus at tables outside a Subway, admire a lot full of Christmas trees sprayed with fake snow, chase the dogs away from an encroaching rat, then to experience a medium-heavy rainfall that discouraged further apartment checking for that day. After a lovely dinner at Paco’s off we rolled into the night, where there was only music to muse about amidst the blackness of scenery during our return trip. The wistful, rhythmic violin of Lindsey Stirling with various pop singers kept us awake.
Altogether it feels like WV and I will get along, assuming that Paco doesn’t mind keeping the removable, substantial driver’s seat in his garage.
With the wedding a mere month away we now begin that awful process known as Packing the Boxes. Moving them south bit by bit. Sorting through furniture and other things with an eye to parting with as much as we can.
Oh — and planning the wedding, creating the decorations that Jericha wants to fill the hall they are renting.
Not dizzy much, me, till I start thinking of moving and marrying at the same time. Thank heaven that it is my daughter and not myself doing the marrying!
And that’s the reason for the song up at the top. When life makes me woozy it’s the Something Wild that restores my belief in the goodness of being alive.
Down time beyond the next month I will love looking back at our days and friends here in Silicon Valley, at the wonderful wedding, at our WV journeys, the discovery of another new home area. While I’m rattled those wild places do, indeed call me home even more powerfully than usual.
Holidays in the Bay Area are not what I have been accustomed to in New Mexico. Early December shows off tall palms waving in the sea breezes, while the streets of Mountain View are a riot of color with trees glowing warm in their fall hues. There may be snow in some mountains, but down here one is sheltered.
Lots going on this season, starting well before Thanksgiving when my daughter became engaged to Someone Very Special — our friend Paco Rendon. AKA Francisco James Rendon, who lives in Fresno at present.
Her loyal mother agreed not to mention the matter via social media till the couple had finished privately telling family and friends, then made their own announcement. So here we are!
Now I am longing for the mid-January wedding so this weekend commuting (nearly three hours each way) between Fresno and Silicon Valley by Jericha and Paco can be done with. Just a teensy little wedding in the works with, oh, not more than a hundred dear friends on hand to witness it.
I was hoping for not more than six people, including the couple and parents — but that was shot down as a miserable excuse of an idea. He grew up in the Bay Area, she’s lived here for years, and both are outgoing with lots of friends. Silly old mom.
Elf and Opus are fortunate that Jericha, who has lived in Silicon Valley for quite a few years, has friends willing to pick up dog walks when she is out of town. And they love their outings with Paco when he’s here. He’s 6’5” and gives those short little legs a great workout.
Here are Jericha and Paco in a not-too-long-ago photo, mugging it up at One Infinity Loop, Cupertino, California. We were visiting Apple’s old campus because of my desire to see it before the big move over to their new donut building on the other side of town. Which won’t be for many months — we also checked construction there. I, too, am off to Fresno shortly and may not get back to this area any time soon.
Our seasonal holidays have been a bit unusual so far this year. There was an early Thanksgiving dinner since Paco needed to be in upstate New York for the actual holiday.
And so, being my daughter of the familiar old habits (not obsessive, but definitely driven) Jericha spent the actual holiday (bracketed by days around it) dyeing her wedding dress in our teensy galley kitchen, till she achieved just the shade she was going for.
I’ll show only the beginning and finished colors (before the dress dried rather lighter than in the photo). This was a long, drawn out and messy process, and Jericha loved every moment, boiling water and all. The dogs… maybe not so enthusiastic since no food was being dropped.
She also set up a living room production line for creating big, colorful paper flowers. Yup, lots of dyeing and drying involved with these, as well.
But those holidays won’t be ignored. Our roomie, Shirley, is involved in theatre and other thespian events, and she gifted us with tickets to a long standing, popular San Francisco tradition, the Dickens Fair. That’s a recreation (of sorts) of the kind of Christmas that inspired Charles Dickens to write his best loved book, A Christmas Carol. Scores of actors in period costume put on shows, sing, run a Punch and Judy booth along with various other shows. Some promenade about the enormous Cow Palace while speaking in tongues … Er, in Dickens style English. With English, Irish and Scottish accents.
Mr. Dickens even makes an appearance from time to time, and met up with my iPhone camera.
Jericha was so enchanted by a jewelry concession that we spent about three fourths of our time there in choosing a wedding ring. They are ordering Paco’s ring separately from a design that he picked out.
There is news — for a different blog — about my new wheelchair van, but since it had not arrived in time for the Dickens Fair Jericha was pushing me around in my manual wheelchair. As we journeyed through the immense, darkened, old London-like Cow Palace I propped my iPhone on my lap, popping off photos of people in costumes going about their business as they would have when Mr. Dickens wrote his Christmas Carol.
The last photo of the day was of Mr. Dickens himself, who graciously posed in front of me even though he did not realize I was taking photos — at least, I don’t believe that he did.
So here are a few favorites from the ones that turned out well enough to survive the mass deletion process. Click on them to enlarge.
Widow weeds meet Highlands kilt at the jewelry shop
Several of the costumed actors at the Dickens Fair
The old printing press
Waitress and customers at the food court
Hard working chimney sweep at the Dickens Fair
Young girl listening to the Zither Man in front of an old shop
Jericha hard at work studying at least a hundred potential hand made wedding rings at the Dickens Fair
Fall colors in December, sailboats bobbing on San Francisco Bay off Shoreline Park, moving boxes everywhere in our condo, a daughter venturing into a new married life, Elf, Opus and me into our separate headquarters nearby — and a whole new-to-me part of California to explore, now I have a wheelchair van. Man, am I dizzy!
Paco is a journalist in the music industry. He probably wouldn’t pick this song for right here any more than Jericha would. But whose blog is this, anyway? I like Ho Hey by the Lumineers and it is about being in love. 😉 This video features seasonal type lights and was filmed in a darkened building reminiscent of the Cow Palace at Dickens Fair time, so there you go.
Hate is a poison Love is a remedy Singing out like the sweetest of melodies Hope is a ghost in the deepest of memories Stronger than ten of me Fear is the enemy In the dark and it creeps like a shark In the coldest sea In the deepest part but Hope is the beat in the oldest heart A hand in a hand and a brand new start ….
Love is the truest of words Love is the last winter bird Love is the only song I’ll sing
~Passenger, Coins in a Fountain
This past week and two days has been a mood swinging period for me. Along with a great many other people, it appears.
We have such crazy hopes going, those of us who were knocked over by recent US election results. Hopes that since the winning candidate flip flops a lot he will eventually “do the right thing” by minorities, women, the LGBT community, understanding the science of climate change and why it is so vital to protect our planet from ourselves.
Then come the cold fingers of realization to remind us of that old Native American story about the person who picked up a snake to carry it away from a danger, only to be bitten by it upon setting the creature down in a better location. “You knew I was a snake when you picked me up…” it hisses.
But, but… Doesn’t each human being have the intrinsic ability to go suddenly beyond themselves, to get a glimpse of the greater good? To be inspired?
It is heartening to see a lot of people hard at work, building bridges with others who may have voted differently yet have much in common. The ones who believe in human rights for people of all colors, genders, sexual preferences, religions, disabilities, who believe in wholehearted support of the Paris agreement, the ones who have lost not only their jobs, but their very way of life that goes back generations in coal mining country, who have had their jobs sent overseas. I was one of the latter back in 2006, when AOL closed down its American call centers, sending all the calls we once took to India.
The ones in rural areas of the country, including the western states where I have spent decades, fed up with universal federal rules applied to their lives and very particular livelihoods…
And those from any subset who reach across ideological borders to say to one another, “We are all Americans here.”
There is no going back, for anybody, to the days when coal was king, women and minorities “knew their place” and LGBT people kept their heads down in public. There is also no going back to the days when Planet Earth kept a normal temperature, species were not going extinct massively, glaciers were ice and the oceans had predictable habits around shorelines.
No, there is never any going backwards for the human race, we are left to pick our way through the present towards other ways of life. We can choose what to honor though there is no choice but to deal with these matters or live in a moribund state of nostalgia. We choose only how much to work together or put ourselves in isolation, stagnation, the trouble that comes from trying to insist that there is only one angle for seeing things in a 360º circle of possibilities.
Maybe it took this one Very Unusual US President Elect in order to vividly bring into the open long neglected needs and set aside aspirations of disparate parts of the US population? As some rise, why are others losing out?
On such bridge building I stake my happiness in life. As a Baha’i woman it is my core belief that the human race is one family, with a common God, on one small planet among countless galaxies with endless suns, many of which have their own planets — and possibilities.
But for over a week I have been subject to periods of very dark near despair in my concern for our minorities who now face an Administration that has placed someone closely allied with white supremacists in its midst, with the prospect of the US going idiotically backwards on the Paris agreements — becoming the laughing stock of the enlightened world beyond our borders. A world in which fossil fuels will be needed less and less as jobs and hopes for a healthy future are shifting fast into alternative energies.
Why is it so hard for some to see that there are jobs and new possibilities that are simply different from what we are accustomed to, to historic ways of life? Change is the only constant of life. What good reason is there to assert that skills we acquired in lost industries can’t be adapted into new ways of living? We must encourage one another patiently in getting through times of difficulties, knowing that we, too, could very well find ourselves in similar circumstances, rather suddenly.
Don’t much care about being a laughing stock for the more scientifically educated nations on earth, but I’m passionate about the need of ALL of us to do our parts in preserving what we can of life on Earth. Doing our parts, to me, means including everyone’s well being, not just our own.
But there have been distractions from these larger thoughts for me, which are buoying my variable spirits.
For one thing, I have at last bought a wheelchair van, now being shipped to me from Georgia. It’s a 2010 Dodge Caravan. When it gets here it will be set up so that the driver’s seat can be removed, allowing me to drive from my wheelchair. It will have hand controls, a thing I have always used to drive. There’s a lowered floor and a side ramp for me and the wheelchair to go in an out. Space for Elf and Opus’s traveling crates.
Plus — and this is very big — it looks as though the lengthy difficulty in getting new batteries and a footrest for my ailing power wheelchair is drawing towards the finish line. More on that as facts come in.
Another source of good humor is the January move to Fresno. January will be the month of several important changes — which I can’t entirely discuss quite yet — and they are very good ones! For my part, Elf, Opus and I will find a good apartment with dog walking opportunities. My dear daughter, with whom I now live, will be nearby.
I hope to learn something I currently have no understanding about — how life is for people whose livelihoods are in the middle of Big Agriculture in the US. This, for me, will also be a return to desert (well, semi-desert) country with extremely hot summers and cool winters. Fresno features a great deal of winter fog, known to locals as Tule fog, a thing New Mexico sees only rarely, briefly. This, too, will be interesting to get used to.
One thing the recent election brought home to me is how very much a bubble the Silicon Valley and greater San Francisco area are, how different lives are here than from most of the US. It has been extremely pleasant, being here from early June among people whose lives center, or have done, on high technology. People who, confronted with some kind of problem, tend to get a thoughtful look rather than a worried, angry or sad look, and go to work on figuring out a solution in their heads or via the web.
A lot of people in the Silicon Valley have their lives so aligned with science that it is difficult to relate to those whose lives are driven by other forces. With those who do not live so close to a place where ravages of climate change are only too plain — California’s Central Valley. Where I’m going soon. Drought country, a place where people driven by science are seeking new ways of getting/reallocating the water needed for growing crops to feed much of the country and other parts of the world.
As a person with an active left brain I appreciate the ascendency of science around here, while my imaginative right brained side has empathy for people who only see the destruction of their traditional lifestyles and livelihoods by the perceived threat of globalization, the need of the human race to deal with man-made changes in Earth’s air that is bringing on a domino tumble of systems.
These things are bigger than we are, that’s for sure.
This is the most comfortable and, I admit, privileged, place I’ve ever lived for all reasons but financial — rents are higher than any other place in the country, and still rising steadily. There is no end in sight for the contributions of high tech to the US economy, so there is no likelihood of affordable housing in this area, either.
In the condos where I now live we have a great many elderly German people, some Russians, numerous Asians and some from India, along with Caucasians such as myself.
In Fresno there will be these and more, including lots more black Americans than are present in the Silicon Valley. Diversity amongst humans is a thing I love to be part of.
That and the lower rents are Very Good Things. Right up there with a wheelchair van and a fixed up wheelchair. Yay!
Meanwhile, here is Opus enjoying a good cuddle with friend Paco.
Life of a Family Dairy Farm. Senior aged husband and wife. The good, bad and ugly of the business. We love it and will try to present an ongoing tale of what happens here. Meet some of our animals and characters born here. Enjoy!