Wednesday, May 31, 2006

It's the second to last week of the school year, as far as my job is concerned anyway. I initially thought I'd be working as an instructor this week, but we're host to fewer kids than initially expected. Even so, I filled in for a coworker yesterday and this evening. Yesterday we visited the incredibly predictable Rattlesnake that lives under a log near one of the trails. He's been in the same place for nearly a month now. Nearby was a less expected Rattlesnake. It was so well camouflaged that one of the kids nearly stepped on it.

Today I spent a good deal of time evicting Black Widows from the pool furniture. The odd thing about this is that they were all males, which are a bit more colorful than the females. I've never really seen male Black Widows before, so I went to pick one up and stopped when I saw the tell-tale hourglass shape underneath. I don't believe they are dangerous (okay, I just did a quick bit of research and it seems I am correct...) but still decided to play it safe by not picking them up with my hands. Instead, I got them to crawl onto a stick or blade of grass and dropped them on the other side of the fence surrounding the pool. Then, after all of the spiders were safe, I pressure washed everything. Pressure washing is a most excellent way to get rid of bird shit.

Our facilities manager, who directly oversees the maintainence projects I'm doing this week, is a new father. Unfortunately, his wife had preeclampsia and their daughter was born prematurely, weighing less that two pounds. She will most likely be in the hospital until her due date sometime in August. I have an idea of what they are going through because of Willow's birth, but this baby weighs less that half what Willow weighed. There is not much more terrifying than standing helplessly by while your newly born preemie child struggles to gain weight and develop outside the warmth and safety of the womb. Things are looking as well as can be expected at the moment. I hope this trend continues. I still vividly remember how it felt for us when Willow was still in the hospital - how wonderful and scary and awe-inspiring and stressful and overwhelming it all was...

But back to the present.

After a day of cleaning and weed whacking, I took a class out for a night hike, which at this time of year is more of a crepuscular hike. One of the girls disturbed a bird that was nesting at about eye-level in a small Redwood tree. We never would have noticed the nest if the bird hadn't lost her nerve and burst forth in a panic, giving away her location. After she'd left, we peeked into the perfectly camouflaged nest and saw three almond-sized eggs. Not sure what kind of bird it was - it left too quickly.

The darkened trail we followed back to camp had a pinpoint of light upon it, and sure enough it was a glow worm. We all knelt down around it and marvelled at its luminescence for a bit before hurrying back to camp.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Waking the Pigs

Waking the Pigs
Originally uploaded by Corbie.
I took Willow to Hidden Villa earlier today, where she did her best to wake up the pigs. They ignored her efforts.
We had a good time around the farm and down by the creek where Willow repopulated the creek bed with expatriate rocks. For some reason though, when we left the farm and entered the woods, she got scared. I think it started around the time we came across a pair of Whiptails (pretty leopard-spotted lizards that act like they're jacked up on about fifteen cups of espresso). She's been acting like a chicken more often lately. It seems that all of the scuttling noises in the underbrush combined with the dark shadows under the trees convinced her that it was time to magically teleport back to the farm. She wasn't happy when we couldn't teleport, and let this be known as we walked back.

While all of this was happening, Jen was getting her hair cut. It looks great, and maybe if I say it to her enough times she'll believe me. Right now she's up in Oakland watching Faun Fables perform The Transit Rider. There are a variety of people doing short sets beforehand, including my brother. I went last night and got to see a different bunch of people kick of the proceedings, including M, who did a hilarious song pieced together from the mad ramblings of people he's met while taking public transportation (or hanging out in front of Blake's in Berkeley last New Year's Eve). It went over really well with the audience. Faun Fables performed a road-honed and slightly reorganized version of the same show we saw a month ago. The stage at the Oakland Metro, which apparently was built for an opera production, was interesting, with multiple levels and not a whole lot of space. They made it work though.

Willow, who I thought was asleep, just walked into the room, so I'm going to convince her that it's well past bedtime now. Silly girl.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Pacific Giant Salamander Exiting Stage Left

Just when I was wondering to myself why I hadn't seen any Pacific Giant Salamanders in nearly a year, I roll over a log and there one is. It sat still while all of the kids crowded around before getting tired of all the attention and disappearing into an old Redwood stump. One of the kids thought it was so cool that he changed his nickname to "Salamander" on the spot.
Since then, our group has found a Garter snake, two Ringneck snakes, a juvenile Rattlesnake, Scorpions, Alligator lizards, mice, a rabbit... the list goes on. It's been a busy week.

Earlier tonight we all headed down to the boys' school to watch the glee club, featuring Alex, sing some songs. I ended up missing most of it because I was chasing after the girls outside, but I was inside for the national anthem. We were asked to stand to honor America. I decided to focus my honoring on Argentina, since America, divided as it is into North, Central, and South, is a pretty big place to honor as a whole.

During the whole anthem, Willow screamed, "SIT DOWN! SIT DOWN!"


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Rain is singing outside and Bohren & der Club of Gore's "Geisterfaust" is playing gently on the boombox in the corner. It is somehow Sunday night again. A weekend of park visiting and party going (the former with the girls, the latter for work) interspersed with the usual child rearing stuff that goes on around here, is over. The rain, which has fallen on and off again since Friday afternoon, reminds me that my brittle, tattered windshield wiper blades need replacing. That said, it's a nice change after the heat directly preceeding it. It never takes me long to get sick of hot weather.

I'll get off the computer now because Jen needs it.

Friday, May 19, 2006

When asked what he'd learned during the week, one of the kids in my class said he'd learned that being at camp was better than playing video games.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Letting the Snake Out of the Bucket

I've been over at our second site this week, where the chaparral outweighs the forest and Spring flowers punctuate the foliage. I removed a small Rattlesnake from the vicinity of the cabins and released it out behind the corral, taking a few pictures as I did so. It is quite hard to get from one side of camp to the other carrying a snake in a bucket without getting stopped every five feet or so by hordes of children wanting to take a look. I gladly let kids see it, only once having to prevent a boy from trying to reach into the bucket. Floundering in the gene pool, that one.

As for the rest of the week, things have gone much better than I expected them to. One of the schools sharing the camp this week left a less than stellar impression last year when they brought up a number of wanna-be gangsters who all got kicked out mid-week. This year's batch is much better, although the principal, who visited for dinner last night, said that he was a bit worried about the kids slated to come to camp next year.

I worked the astronomy program last night, and we all got to look at Jupiter through the telescope. It was well above the horizon at 8:00, and all one hundred and twenty-something kids got to see it and a handful of its moons. At one point, as I was looking through the eyepiece to adjust the scope, a satellite passed across my field of vision.

Today a small rabbit froze in place mid-trail and all of the kids got to see and photograph it. Very cooperative of the little fellow.

Tomorrow is my last day at this site for the season. Next week I'm back at our main site. Summer lurks around the far corner.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A woman I know just lost her first child during birth. When we choose to become parents, we become so frighteningly vulnerable. We extend ourselves out beyond ourselves and sometimes this leads to unimaginable pain. I can't pretend to know what it must be like to have my worst fears become reality, but that possibility is always with me, especially considering the scares we've had with Willow over the last three years.

Think healing thoughts for those left behind. Words are not good enough. This is hard to write about.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Here's a silly little website about one of my favorite little creatures. We found two or three of them today, along with snakes, scorpions, a small tarantula, and various lizards. In gleeful tabloid style, it displays the more common reaction to the types of critters I like.

Gotta get a shirt.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

the week of site maintainence ended with a truly epic mowing of the lower field that left me sore and sunburned. Over the weekend we went and visited friends up the peninsula. We hung out and hiked, which is a very agreeable way to spend a Saturday, or any day for that matter. Sunday found us in the driveway with a bunch of old bags filled with a mixture of dirt, dead weeds, and lava rocks. The task at hand was to extricate the rocks from the dirt and weeds, and then place them on top of the freshly laid weed-buffer plastic laid along the parking strip. These bags and their contents have been squatting in the garage for about three years, like a suspicious lump under a carpet that people pretend not to notice. We meant well when we dug it all up from the parking strip. We meant to plant Rosemary plants and have the bags hauled away on a free trash pick-up day. The Rosemary plants didn't make it. The city refused to haul away the bags. The garage is a good place to shove things. Now we're admitting defeat and putting the rocks back. Maybe we'll complete the task next weekend.

Last night, we met Jen's aunt and uncle at Aqui, a nice Mexican restaurant in Willow Glen. Jen already blogged about this. I'll only add that Willow brought her pet rocks in a little cage meant for bugs, and Sophie decided to wear a bridal veil for the occasion. The boys sulked and picked at their food, only brightening up later when we passed a costume shop with some really expensive lightsaber replicas in the window. They instantly became the most recent in a long list of must-have items.

At camp this week the weather is warm and the animals are everywhere. Snakes and scorpions are out, with the amphibians keeping a lower profile. Purplish swathes of Forget-Me-Nots cover the hillsides. Tender Spring leaves cover branches. The pond is full of wriggling and swimming things. The kids are well-behaved and knowledgable. As much as I like the rain, I'm glad that it has gone elsewhere for the immediate future.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

This is the week that the vacant portable office building that has been taking up space on one of the lawns at work gets turned into a space that people can actually work in. The building was assembled in the rain a few months ago, allowing all sorts of water to seep into the insulation. The plastic covering the insulation had blisters of water bulging out all over the place, some with the remains of hapless invertebrates suspended in them. One of our first tasks was to puncture all of these blisters and let the water out into a motley assortment of buckets and wastebaskets on the floor below. This was followed by removing of all of the waterlogged insulation and replacing it with old insulation from the building slated to be torn down. After that, random acts of painting and cleanup occurred, followed by the knocking down of a rotted fence. The fence, we soon learned, was home to quite a few Carpenter bees. Fortunately these bees just fly away rather than attack. In a way, this is a welcome break from having a hundred and fifty loud kids at camp. The work isn't too much more tiring either, although I could do without all of the fiberglass insulation residue clinging to my skin and clothing. It manages to get around safety goggles and breathing masks too. At least we've put that part of the job behind us now. Tomorrow I think we'll be up on the roof, and maybe laying carpet.
I'm working with another field instructor and the camp cook, both of whom couldn't pass up the chance to earn a little extra cash. My fellow field instructor is trying to save up so he can walk from Montana to New Mexico this summer on the Continental Divide trail. Sounds fun, if you've got several months to spare.

I got a call from a friend down south today and learned that she just narrowly missed being killed. her truck somersaulted on a desert road, going end over end before landing right side up. The impact burst all of the tires and knocked all the glass out, but she walked away with not much more than a cut on her head. The good thing about this little incident was that it reinforced for her just how concerned and caring members of small communities can be. I've heard this from other friends who have fled the cities - there still is a sense of community in small towns. I think people were never meant to live so close together in such numbers as we find in most modern cities. It is too overwhelming and scary. You can't possibly get to know so many people, and of course when you don't know people, you don't know what their intentions toward you are, which leads to fear and the sudden desire to lock your door and peer suspiciously out through the little spy hole in its center.

The only way to get out from under the clouds of suspicion is to abandon the big cities and venture forth into the sunny neighborliness of the small towns. Okay, maybe it's not always that simple, but I like the idea of it nonetheless.