Friday, April 28, 2017

On The Road Again

I'm on the road again, headed to another season in Yellowstone.  Left Park Sierra, had tires rotated, and headed to a rendezvous with Nancy and Tom Vineski, RVing friends of old.  They drove from their place east of here and we had a three hour lunch.  Yes, it did include an old fashioned vanilla shake.  The lot around this diner, which is in Yermo, CA just of Hwy 15, near its split with 44, has a huge parking lot around three sides.  RVers and truckers are welcome.  Since it was fairly late afternoon by the time we finished and wind was predicted to kick up soon, I spent the night.   

Continue to the previous post for an update for the last few months.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Catching up


My site, with a few of the poppies showing

The blog has languished.  Tonight I sit in a small county campground off Hwy 15 in the southern California desert, waiting out a blustery wind storm.  It’s time to get things caught up to date before I arrive back in Yellowstone for another season.

I’ve been working on my lot to encourage wildflowers, but not all the other grasses that create a fire danger.  Rather than weed whacking, which sets my allergies to full alert, I weeded small amounts all winter, pulling around the obvious poppy, lupine and woodland violets each time I walked up or down my hill.  Doing it in tiny increments kept it from being a big chore.   One area I planted with a local wildflower mix….I only weeded out the things I knew I didn’t want, like fritillary, fox tails, burr clover, and some awful stickery little stuff.  One of the things that came up is a beautiful red blossom on a dainty stem.  We haven’t identified it yet.  But I hope it reseeds profusely for next year.   Last year only one poppy bloomed before I left although my neighbor Joyce said she enjoyed the later show.   This year quite a few were in bloom my last week.  I’ve included a few pixs. Creek ran high most of the winter.  No flooding at the sites, all of them are high above the creek, but it was impossible to cross to the wild area of the park.  Last year I did a couple wildflower tours over there, led by a couple park residents who are knowledgeable, not only about the flowers, but where to find them in the park.  Creek is down now, but I am away.

Mystery flower

California poppies and curve of an oak tree next to the road into my lot.
This was New Years Eve, coming home from the dinner and dance at the park community hall.  It was foggy and a spot light lit up one of the oak trees.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I spent most of the winter on my lot in Coarsegold, getting more involved in the activities there and in the “city,” which is Fresno.   This was the kind of California winter I remember from my youth and young adulthood, with lots of rain, swollen and flooding creeks.   I made several trips to the Bay Area and got to see old friends including Ed San Diego and his wife Heike.  Ed hired me for my first career path position many years ago.  I saw Linda Keelin, the girl next door.  From the time we were toddlers we shared a common front yard and back yard fence we quickly learned to climb over. We walked on stilts, roller skated, rode bikes, and spent summers with the California hills equivalent of snow sledding, using cardboard on the slick, long golden grasses.  We shared some mishaps as well.  Her mother was not happy when we played “barbershop” and I cut Linda’s long blond curly locks, or the time we rolled the antique car her dad was working on down the driveway and into the street, or the time we were spraying cars with the garden hose as they drove by and got a woman, on her way to church, in the face.  Linda and I hadn’t seen each other in years so this was great fun.

Pat Wright Henery’s family and mine were good friends.  Although Pat was older when we were kids, today we are contemporaries. Pat  stayed in touch with my folks, visiting several times after they moved to Humboldt County.  We reconnected one day a decade ago when I was working at Bodie State Park and she was visiting.  This year we had a long lunch together in San Anselmo.

Chris and I made visits back and forth.  We are fans of Amtrak as we can easily travel between Fresno or Madera and Martinez, relaxing, working (in his case) or reading and looking out the window in mine. Visits sometimes included other members of his family, often with four generations in attendance.

I visited Jacque, my late husband’s daughter who lives in Petaluma.  Dungeness Crab was in a season and we each had our heart set on a crab louie at the coast.  After checking road conditions I decided we could do it.  The week before our date, major roads were closed.  But, despite one small detour, we made it to Bodega Bay with no problems and loved our lunch.  We drove out to the point where we scatted some of Lin's ashes.    We were supposed to get together that evening with her kids and their families and thought we had it all set up, but they had conflicts so I missed seeing them.

I spend a great day with my second cousins, Bonnie and Sharon.  We always have a good time together. Bonnie lives in the Bay Area and Sharon was up from southern California for a visit.   Later there was another family reunion.  This time it was Bonnie, Dick Dilley from West Lafayette, Indiana.  Dick and his wife Jan were out visiting their son and daughter-in-law, John and Gayle who live in Silicon Valley, and me.  Bonnie hadn’t seen Dick since she was a young teen (at which time she was quite smitten with this handsome, fun-loving cousin, her second cousin).  At that time her family made a car trip from Western Colorado where she was raised to Lacota, Michigan where most of my Mom’s family lived.

This was a short reunion at outdoor seating at Starbucks in Martinez, a short walk from the Amtrak station for me, 35 minutes from Bonnie's house, minutes from Chris' office, and on the way home for the Dilley's after an overnight wine tasting trip to the Napa Valley.  It was a good, if short visit before Bonnie headed home as she had a concert performance that evening and Chris was on his lunch break.    I continued with them to John and Gayle’s house for an overnight, great dinner, and more visiting.  John is a docent at the Technology Museum in San Jose and took me for a tour before putting me on the train back to Fresno.

From left: My cousin Dick Dilley, wife Jan, daughter-in-law Gayle, son John, our second cousin, Bonnie Bogue, and me.

I had great plans for this winter.  That included finding some classes so I could learn more about Lightroom and photo processing.  Between experiences last summer photographing with friend\co- workers Jackie and Rod, plus the Barefoot Contessa photo workshop on the Outer Banks in the fall, I was fired up to do this.  Then lethargy set in.  I felt disconnected, unable to get started, and apprehensive.  Finally, talking to friends in my park, I realized it wasn’t just me.  Since then I have read reports that counselors, mental health professionals, medical doctors were seeing this more frequently than usual, an impact of the November election.  By the time I learned this, I had already taken steps to bring my equilibrium back, although I never quite got classes started.   I began doing Qi Gong with a group here in the park.  This ancient Chinese breathing, meditation, stretching, movement practice has its roots in Chinese medicine, philosophy and marital arts and is thought to balance life energy.   I found it relieved stress, helped with balance (physical and mental), helped circulation and blood pressure, and gently used lots of muscles.

I reconnected with my Unitarian-Universalist roots.  I went casually at first to church in Fresno with Leah, a woman who is also a member of Park of the Sierras, the RV co-op where I have my lot.  Quickly I found myself drawn in.  It is a dynamic congregation with an exciting, warm, minister.  Services involve many members in a variety of ways.  The congregation is active in social and spiritual concerns in the community including but not limited to earth day\environmental  and  refugee\ undocumented resident issues.   I went to a day class on becoming a member and shortly thereafter formally joined the congregation.  Thru the U-U newsletter I learned about an interfaith weekend program focusing on Islam.  A friend from the park and I attended.  Then I heard about a program to help some of the Syrian refugee families.  The help is financial and a way for them to know they have support in the community, and to let the community-at-large meet them. They prepare a large dinner once a month and serve it in the community room of a local church.  I am including a piece I wrote for a group, called the Purrsistahs (it formed after the Women’s March) which I belong to in my park:  

I want to share my experiences at dinners prepared and  presented by Syrian refugees in Fresno.   I hope, if you have not already done so, you will go to at least one of these in the near future.This email may be long and a bit rambling, but I feel emotionally charged and touched by this experience. 

I went to my first of these dinners in February.  I was looking for ways to find positive activities to deal with the depression and rage I was feeling as a result of the current administration.  I wanted to find healing ways to look at my world, and I wanted to personalize and put faces to some of the issues.  

While so many issues confront us now, and I am worried about the environment,civil rights, civil liberties, education,health care, and all kinds of things that are happening,  something about the refugee crisis hit the most responsive chord for me.  No, I am not an immigrant, nor were my parents.  I have to go back to great-grandparents to get that.  But, I grew up believing that America held hope for so many people; that its greatness, its creativity, came from the infusion of new ideas from all around the world.

Okay, off the soap box.  What I wanted to share was a bit about these dinners.  

The idea for these dinners came from a delightful college student named Maraika. Her family has a restaurant and she realized that food preparation, catering etc. might be an opportunity for some of the refugees.  But to get a start, she thought if they could prepare food for a crowd it would give them some much needed income, experience, as well as opening communication and understanding between the existing community and the new refugees.

The first dinner had 30 guests in attendance. The second dinner, which Linda Tarsky, Lorna Dunham, Tom and Cara Barnhill and I attended had 160 on attendance.  Several of you wanted to go but the hall at the Methodist Church could not accommodate any more people.  The Catholic Church stepped forward and offered their Newman Center for the March dinner and for dinners into the future.    Last night they fed a crowd of 260 people.

Each time the menu is different.  But I haven't had anything yet I didn't think was wonderful.  I love Mediterranean style cooking....great spices, not hot ones, but aromatic ones.    So, if for no other reason, attending would be great from a culinary standpoint.  

Although the group from Park Sierra sat together, we had extra seats at our table. We welcomed (after all, we are SKPS  so welcoming and starting conversations with strangers is not difficult) two members of the faculty from Fresno State and another individual ( I got involved in another conversation and can't tell you what he does).  But it was a good way to not only support the refugee families, but to meet people from the Fresno, Clovis area.

Not only was the menu different from the last dinner, so was the format.  In February, Maraika held a question and answer session, telling us a bit about these refugees.   This time, it was far more personal as two refugees told us their personal stories.  I can't speak for everyone else, but I had tears in my eyes several times.  And the translator had to stop at one point as she was finding the story difficult to tell.

The first gentleman (and I am terrible with names so I cannot share it) spoke in Arabic.  A young woman did a translation, not verbatim, but giving us the gist of his story.  But having him speak it was important.  He was eloquent, his body language, his voice, his teared eyes, his courage in standing before us to share was emotional, and his smile as he came to the end and opened his arms to show he was talking about embracing all of us.     I won't give the whole story, but he was shot, three times, in his car, at a checkpoint, along with numerous others and was left for dead on a hospital floor where his brother found him. Several hospitals later, and in terrible danger, he and his family fled to Jordan and lived in refugee camps.  The second camp allowed them to be closer to medical services for his young son who had some serious issues but that night was happily running around the hall after dinner.   Eventually the family was cleared by UNICEF and sent here. Unemployed, though wanting very much to work, his family is living in a tiny apartment, but he is grateful to be here and appreciative of all the people who have helped his family, thankful that his children can go to school and play safely.

The second speaker, did not actually speak.  Being in front of a microphone with her harrowing tale, was too much.  Instead, she had given her story earlier and the translator read it, translating, from her laptop. Although she did not speak, she stood near the podium and her face spoke for her. The woman's daughters barely escaped rape.  Another time she was offered money if she would sell her 11 year old daughter.  Instead, they escaped, also to Jordan. After a few months of insecurity, they came to the attention of a Catholic Relief Charity that paid rent for them to live in an apartment.   

We were asked to not take photos, for the privacy and safety of these families.

It is hard for most people who grew up in this country to imagine what it must be like to live, to try to protect your family, in a war zone.  I don't want to demean the violence which occurs here, the  Columbines, the church bombing in Charleston, the decades ago bombing of the Birmingham Church, the killings that have brought on the Black Lives Matter movement, or recent attacks on police officers. Yet they are still isolated events compared to daily, wholesale violence of living where war is part of your daily existence.

The Syrian families at these event are real people, theirs are real stories of war torn countries, demonstrations of the palpable, tangible costs of discord, military actions, political manipulations, and hatred.   

I encourage all of you to go to a dinner.  And perhaps we can encourage others, people not part of Purrsistahs, including all kinds of great, caring men in this park, to go.  I'd love to see us reach out to people who may not think as we do politically, but because they are SKPs, will find a caring place in their hearts for these new residents of the area.

The piece ended with particulars of where, when and how to make reservations for the dinners.  I will skip that here.

In Park Sierra  I attended a five-session program called NEXT STEP FOR ME .  This was designedorganized and facilitated by park members.  They ran session beginning last summer and have completed about a dozen of them.  The idea was to help people look at issues of aging, of what we should plan for now in terms of quality of life, potential care when we need it, wills and living trusts, medical power of attorneys.  It began with a discussion of BEING MORTAL: Medicine and What Matters At The End, by Atul Gawande.   It is an excellent book, one I read when friends Nan and Chuck recommended it to me several years ago.  I re-read it for the class and I highly recommend it to everyone.

Since Park Sierra is a co-op, I’ve found a couple niches where I can help out   I help with clubhouse cleaning on Friday mornings, grill hot dogs for the Wed. night movies, have written a couple articles for the monthly newsletter and now have the assignment of picking a piece from the archives to feature each month as a link to the past.   I assist with mail forwarding.  That job is one part work, 4 parts laughing and getting to know the other volunteers.  I helped out on several things for the annual fund raiser, and, while I would never volunteer to put on one of the many meals that happen here, I have no problem doing grunt work like scrubbing out the pots from the corned beef and cabbage dinner, serving at meals etc.  Last year I was going to join the weed whacking crew, part of our fire abatement work.  By the time I did my site, even wearing a mask, I knew that one wasn't for me.   My allergies kicked into high alert.

I love the writers group which meets once a week.  It is a small group, but we encourage each other.  I am amazed at the gifts these people have and eagerly await hearing what they have written during the week and what they write during our prompts at the meetings.  As time goes on I will find other places to help.   Our attempts to get a photo group started have been only partially successful.  But I did plan a field trip to a nearby wildlife refuge.  I did some scouting on a trip to the Bay Area as it is, sort of, on the way.  Then we got rained out, twice.  But here are some of those shots.

Snow Geese wintering at Merced National Wildlife

Reeds and  reflections in the marshland water.  Lots of clouds and the light kept shifting.

In April Chris and I attended a weekend photo workshop led by Gary Crabbe and held at the Lifeboat Station at Pt. Reyes National Seashore.  I have included a selection of those photos.  Up before daylight there were some photos shot in the early “blue light, followed by the warm light which begin shortly before the sun actually appears.  We shot in the evening.  We had sun, we had lots of haze over the water, we had some fog.  We slept to the sound of hundreds of elephant seals, mostly young ones on the beach next to the boat house.  We even saw a weasel.  They move so fast, they are hard to photograph but I did get one photo in which you can see it.  

This has been a long entry.  Thanks for sticking it thru to the end.  Here is a sample of Pt Reyes images.

Near the Lifeboat station with sun coming thru the fog.

Blue hour at Drakes Beach

Drakes Beach, shortly
after sunrise.

Drakes Beach at sunrise, opposite direction of
two photos above
Warm light as the sun rises, Drakes Beach

Headlands, evening shot, lots of ocean haze

Rails to lower lifeboat into the water

Young elephant seal.  Adult males have the
large, trunk-like nose

This one is peacefully sleeping in the
sun, but during the night their noises
could be easily heard in our boathouse accommodation.

Now, go back to the first photo, double click and see the photos in a larger size.  Captions won't show, but the photos will be easier to view.