Thursday, November 30, 2006

Time seems to be compacted into indistinguishable chunks. Every time I turn around another holiday has come and gone. And it's cold! Arctic air mass cold, with crystals of frost clinging to the mornings and slinking away with the shadows as the weak sun ascends.

My week off came with a pair of feasts, the first with Jen's nearby kin, and the second with my side of the family, with Matt included for good measure. Jen's mom put together some fantastic food on Thursday, and everybody except Willow gorged themselves. Willow spent most of her time running up and down the hallway.
Jen cooked up a second Thanksgiving feast on Saturday, with Greg, Matt, and my Mom and Dad in attendance. Unfortunately, this coincided with me getting some sort of disease. My stomach hurt for a few days and the wonderful food that Jen cooked made a u-turn somewhere inside me. I felt pretty bad about this, because my immediate family only gathers under one roof once or twice a year, and this time I didn't really get to enjoy it or help out. Jen and Matt ended up doing most of the work while I slept.

I had improved enough by Monday to be able to go to work, but even now still feel kind of drained. Good thing the kids this week are easy. Catholic school kids again. Last night's night hike was one of the most beautiful of the season, with ghostly puddles of moonlight dappling the forest floor and a magical stillness taking hold. It's not often that a group of sixth graders falls under this spell. Usually they're too nervous and giggly to ever be silent for long enough to really get a feel for the forest. Last night I think they got it. We even managed to stuff the whole group inside the stump of a thousand-year-old Redwood tree. That was pretty cool.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

No More Beard

No More Beard
Originally uploaded by Corbie.
After years of having a beard, I had one of those spur-of-the-moment moments yesterday and cut the darn thing off. The kids laughed and called me, "weird." Jen says I look like a 12 year old. Still, the novelty value of feeling the wind on my chin makes it worth it for the time being. At the moment, I feel energized. I'm sure that in a couple of days I'll think I look like a dork and let it grow back.

One of these days I might even get the courage to get a haircut. My self image has always involved me having long hair for some reason - some sort of left over from childhood when I decided that long hair looked cool. Yeah, it also stems from an obsession with heavy metal and a frustration with, well... I'm not sure what it was a frustration with at the time. Perhaps with the popular kids and their little cliques. Now I have more adult frustrations, but they do run along similar lines.

The bright side of getting a haircut would be that I would never again have to think up a reply to, "how long did it take to grow your hair?" It's a hard question to answer because I can't even remember what year it was the last time I got it trimmed, let alone cut. I think it was sometime in the late eighties.

I'm too much a creature of habit. Sometimes that's a good thing. Sometimes it's not. Grant me the wisdom to know the difference.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Who Dresses A Cat In A Shirt?

Who Dresses A Cat In A Shirt?
Originally uploaded by Corbie.
I looked out the back window earlier today and saw the strangest thing - a cat in a shirt. This cat spends a lot of time in our backyard, but this is the first time that he's shown up with clothes on. Maybe the shirt is supposed to make him more visible to the squirrels he's always trying to sneak up on. Maybe his owners secretly hate him and are trying to embarrass him. Poor thing. Of course, I could call the number on his little name tag (did that the first time I saw him, thinking he might be an escaped indoor cat, but found out he was just new to the neighborhood) and let his owners know that the shirt clashes with his fur.

What next. Squirrels in top hats?

Later, still shaking my head over the bad taste of people who clothe their pets, I went to Tower Records to circle like a vulture around the racks of cds and dvds. Everything is now discounted by at least 40%, which means the prices have finally plummeted below the normal prices of other nearby stores. The world music section had about 5 cds in it. The magazines are nearly gone. All of the other sections are but shadows of their former selves. A couple of things I'd had my eyes on were gone. I did find a few things at bargain prices though, and I wrote down a few other titles that I'll probably pick up if they're still on the shelves next week or the week after. It's a gamble, not knowing if the things I want will be there when the discount is more favorable.


Originally uploaded by Corbie.
I finally sit down to write something and Sophie comes in and whines at me. Sometimes I think the kids have some sort of internal tracking system that sets off an alarm whenever one of the grownups needs a moment to actually focus on something. Their mission: do not allow any actual focus to happen. ...And I wonder why I always feel so scattered.

Now Willow is in here with a dragon mask, repeating, "can I wear this?" over and over again. Hold on....

Okay, where was I?

I did another reptile party this weekend, out towards the central valley in Livermore. Most of the kids were five years old and younger, so we split the "sit down and focus" part of the party into two sections by serving pizza and cake halfway through. I gave out a few of the cool Flickr business cards that Jen got me for our anniversary last month, so I'll probably be out that way again soon. It takes me nearly an hour to get out there, but the money I get for my time definitely makes in worth the trip. Of course, not to sound overly avaricious, the kids make it worthwhile too.

I took the picture of the sunset last night. I stood out in the driveway with Willow in my arms as we watched the colors darken. It was a nice moment.

Greg and Matt are in Boston at the Brainwaves festival. Wish I could have gone. I'm sure they'll have some good stories when they return.

This week marked the last camp week of the year for our second site. The campers came all the way up from garlic-smelling Gilroy, from a school that had never been to our camp before. The kids were so enthusiastic about camp that they yelled at the bus to, "go away!" when it arrived to pick them up on Friday. They were also plotting to disable the engine. They all got shuttled back to their school as planned, of course. Good week though. Three more to go at our main site after Thanksgiving week, then Christmas break. Where did the year go?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Snake Ring

Snake Ring
Originally uploaded by Corbie.
It's finally starting to feel like Autumn around here. Yesterday morning there was a light dusting of frost on neighborhood roofs, and the heater has come on a couple of times. Trees are shutting down for the winter and the air is full of falling leaves. It's breezy and cloudy outside, and the air still smells of the rain that fell overnight. I love this time of year.

Despite the crispness in the air, my hiking group found four Garter snakes on the trails around camp this week. Pictured here is the first find. We also had a minor run-in with Yellowjackets when one of the kids got to close to an underground nest. It might have been much worse if the weather had been warmer. As it was, one boy got stung on the side and one girl got stung on the tongue. I administered vinegar to the wounded and flicked a few wasps off of hats and jackets. It's funny to watch them busily stinging clothing. Talk about wasted effort.
Then, on the same hike, my cabin leaders (teen volunteers) forgot to check to make sure the kids picked up the backpack containing camp journals and the tote bag with the extra water, costing me an extra forty five minute round trip hike to retrieve them. It actually ended up being kind of nice though. It has been awhile since I've gone on a hike without being followed by a big group of kids. I love leading kids, of course, but the solitude of the solo hike helps me recharge batteries drained by the constant chaos of children.

All of the schools this week were private catholic schools. Students from three of the four schools were dropped off by parents rather than by bus, so the week began and ended with a severe parking crunch. On Friday, I actually had to guide the one bus in because there were about two inches of clearance on either side of it due to the sloppy parking jobs of the mobs parents who felt they were entitled to park wherever their SUV driving little hearts felt like. Apparently one parent parked right in the middle of the one road leading up to camp. I've seen this behavior while dropping off our own kids at school, and while manning the bus stop during summer camp. A certain percentage of the population seems to operate outside the realm of common sense and common courtesy.

On the bright side, while talking to the catholic school teachers, we learned that the Pope is now cool with the concept of evolution, at least to a degree.

I ended the week by actually getting to go out and see a movie with Jen - Stranger Than Fiction (which is both the name of the film we saw and very descriptive of our actually getting to go out on a date together, given all of our various commitments and perpetual lack of funds). Very good film.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I used to keep a running log of animals I'd seen while delivering newspapers. It's kind of funny that now that I'm working up in the woods I no longer do that. I think I'll start reporting in on this once a week or so. Here's what we've seen in field class this week:

Jerusalem Crickets - several of them
Banana Slug - 7 or 8 of 'em
One big Harvestman
Clusters of Ladybugs
Black Widow
Crayfish - 2 or 3 of them

Pacific Giant Salamander larvae - 2 or 3 of them
Slender Salamander - out walking around in the rain
California Newts - 99 of them! During one class!
Bullfrog tadpoles

Western Fence Lizard - 4 or 5 of them
Northern Alligator Lizard
Garter snake - one little baby

Scrub Jays
Lots of other little brownish birds moving too quickly to identify

+ rabbit and raccoon scat

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween has come and gone and the kids all have bulging bags of candy to show for their trick or treating efforts. Nate finally got his wish to stay up late and watch an R rated horror film (Alien) but fell asleep 20 minutes into it. Poor guy.

Tomorrow night I get to do Halloween again, this time at work, where we'll be throwing a Halloween party for this week's campers. It's just started raining too, so the possibly of a wet Halloween party has to be factored into our plans. As for now, we're all about to go on night hikes. Wish I'd thought to bring some rain gear. Oh, well.