Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I think I am now sufficiently recharged enough to resume forward motion. Sometimes when I have time off, I really take time off from everything. This leaves me with a vague feeling of guilt which eventually sets in motion a time of somewhat frenzied activity during which I get a lot accomplished. It is strange though, that the desire to hurriedly get lots of things done usually hits late in the evening when I can't immediately get started on anything. Sometimes by morning the desire has once again vanished. Right now, I'm using this little burst of energy to blog. Who knows what I'll feel like in the morning. I did just make a list of things I need to do though, and the list will be waiting for me at breakfast time. Lists are good insurance against backsliding. Ha.

Part of what has me energized is anticipating working another party with Jeanine tomorrow. I'll help with some of the more simple balloon creations, and with anything else that within my skill level that needs doing. It makes me want to further research getting some sort of insurance in place so I can officially do reptile parties. Sure, I've done them in the past, but it has always been rather informal and word of mouth. Stepping up the number of parties I do would definitely help out with finances around here.

Speaking of money, I've also recently sold my first item on Ebay. I got $122 for a cd, which is nice, especially considering it was something I had two copies of. I've got another pile of cds I'm going to list soon. I'm not sure if I have too many more that will fetch quite as much (at least not anything that I'm currently willing to part with) but I should be able to pull in some decent money.

Willow is asleep in the bed next to me at the moment. I've been letting her stay up late recently, but then again she's still on vacation for a few more days, so why not? I've been staying up late too, but I have a number of books that need reading, and for some reason I never seem to really settle down to read until well after dark.

Looking at the clock, I notice that the eve of the new year is upon us. Stay safe out there tonight.

Currently listening to: Popol Vuh "Tantric Songs"

Saturday, December 26, 2009

It is cloudy outside, with a promise of rain. Willow and I are inside, and it looks like a toy store exploded in here right now. I find myself looking forward to the time when she wants presents that aren't big and plastic, and more importantly, don't utter inane catchphrases at the press of a button. Sure, I could just not buy her this type of thing, but right now these presents make her happy, which in turn makes me happy.

This was a good holiday season. For various reasons, everybody is (or seems) happier this year. I know I am. I hope you are too.

This year also marks the first Christmas morning in around a decade that didn't involve me getting up at the proverbial crack of dawn to watch the annual wrapping paper tornado sweep through the apartment. Willow was at her place for Christmas Eve this year, so I slept in and picked her up at noon on Christmas day. She made short work of the presents here, and we followed this up with visits to Jeanine's place and my mom's house.

Now, I feel like I can properly turn my attention toward the upcoming year. I tend to not think past the holidays until the holidays are past. Strange, I know, but the holidays usually become a state of mind that excludes non-holiday thinking.

First though, there will be some reflecting on the year past.

Currently listening to: Kiila "Heartcore"

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Winter Solstice has come and gone, and the light will now return in small increments as we creep toward the Summer Solstice. Today it is sunny, and the wind is wrestling with the trees, causing leafy protests.

Yesterday morning, I woke up at 5am so I could go get Jeanine and be on top of a hill at sunrise. We chose Linda Vista Park because of a convenient hill I remembered climbing during childhood. It was steep and muddy, making for interesting climbing in the dark, but we made it up to the top and looked eastward together as the city lights blinked out and the sky brightened. There was a layer of clouds above the East Bay hills, and a soft wash of fog below them, making them appear isolated. The sun itself was mostly invisible behind clouds, but we could still trace its progress as it rose. Birds called from the bushes as we stood there, and the constant hum of the city was more noticeable than usual - maybe because we were so tuned in to the sounds at the moment.

I'm not sure how long we stood there. Sometimes it doesn't matter. Once we descended, Jeanine danced in puddles to clean her shoes, and we ended the morning in a coffee shop. It would be fun to start every day like that, although there is no way I could get up that early regularly. For example, today I woke up a whole six hours later.

Christmas is around the corner. For the most part, I've managed to avoid holiday crowds. I'm now off work until the 5th, so I've got a couple of weeks during which I can do whatever I want. That's a nice feeling. I'm also done with all of my gift buying, unless of course last minute inspiration strikes (as it sometimes does).

Speaking of Christmas, Willow's class had their Christmas concert at school a couple of Fridays ago. It went well, despite the fact that somebody pulled the fire alarm in the middle of it. A couple of days after that, Willow got to sing to even more people thanks to the fact that her uncle works at a radio station. We visited him while he was on the air, and Willow sang "C is for Candy Cane" live in the studio. She was excited to know that anybody in the world (or at least those with radios and/or computers) could have heard her. Right afterward, I got a call from her brother Nathan. He told me that Sophie had slammed his finger in the car door and broken it. Poor Nathan. Why is it that broken bones always seem to happen during the holidays? We talked for a bit, then I handed the phone to Willow. To her enormous credit, she actually asked about his finger before telling him about how she had just gotten to sing on the radio. That's pretty unusual for a six year old, I think. Good for her!

This past weekend, I went to a memorial for an old friend who passed away a few years ago. Truth be told, he was more of an acquaintance than a friend, and I hadn't seen him in nearly two decades, but some of my old friends were going to be there. It was sort of my version of a high school reunion, but instead of a bunch of high school classmates who I didn't really know, it was a bunch of people from the eighties heavy metal crowd. It was kind of surreal, standing on a rocky outcrop (Tank Hill) in the middle of San Francisco, with city lights glinting below us while Venom blasted from a small boombox. It could have been the eighties all over again, except that we were all in our forties, everybody had digital cameras and cellphones, the word "Facebook" constantly came up in conversation, and the boombox had an I-pod dock. It will probably prove to be the only time that I'm likely to hear heartfelt remembrance interrupted by Venom's "Buried Alive" (the song has a quiet beginning, mostly comprised of the scraping of shovels and the falling of dirt, before swelling into its full abrasive glory). Better yet, everybody heartily approved of the strange sonic juxtaposition. This was a celebration of life rather than a mourning of death. It felt good to be a part of it.

The park was so impressive that I took Jeanine up there the next night, in between a couple of parties she was doing balloons and face-painting for. My role at the parties (especially the second one) was primarily to get beaten about the head by kids with balloon weapons. Nothing makes kids happier than balloon mayhem.

Looking out the window during the second party, we saw a small convoy of motorcycles growl by. They were brilliantly festooned with Christmas lights. Very nice.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

We're going through a cold snap right now, or at least as much of a cold snap as this part of California ever gets. This morning, the pool at work was covered in a centimeter thick layer of ice, inspiring me to spend a small bit of time bouncing small objects off its surface. My fingers were so cold afterward that they hurt, but it was so worth it.

I'm going through another phase of re-listening to old cds in preparation for selling them, and even (finally) put one of them up on eBay to sell. It's sort of an experiment, really, just to see how well it does there. This was more or less motivated by the fact that having to start paying off my student loans has fired upon my budget and caused it to sink before the lifeboats could be deployed. Ha. Of course, I'm loading choice songs onto the computer, so all is not lost. Besides, somebody somewhere will see these cds on a shelf or on eBay and get happy. Sure, it's a consumer sort of happiness, but I support that when it's based on a love of music.

I've been getting a bit more creative in the kitchen lately too, making soup and hummus, and trying my hand at making Tibetan Bod-jha (or Poecha), a tea with butter, milk, and salt added. So far, I've failed at this last task, mainly due to buying the wrong kind of tea. Fortunately, Jeanine and I found a tea place in our wanderings this weekend, so I have a place to go to find the right kind. That said, this particular store is where I bought the wrong kind, but now I have a better idea of what the right kind is. There are all sorts of other interesting teas there too. I had no idea people had made the drinking of tea into a sort of wine-like snobbery. I saw tea in there that was older than I am. Who knew?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Another birthday has come and gone, and I am now 42. Looking back at my blog posts from a year ago, I see that I started my last birthday cleaning vomit. This year, coincidentally enough, there was vomit to clean as well. Fortunately, the job fell to someone else. The food reversal occurred after I was officially off duty. Ha.

Sunrise and sunset were beautifully orange, and Jeanine came over with goodies and movies. We went out to dinner, had popcorn, ice cream, and cake, and watched a double feature of Die Monster Die and Kill Baby Kill. Based on the titles alone, it just seemed like the thing to do. Strangely enough, there are a number of plot similarities in the films as well - reluctant drivers (of the "I'm not driving you there" variety), unhelpful/unfriendly villagers, and shunned houses (the Witley manor and the Villa Graps, respectively).

Monday, November 30, 2009

I read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road over the Summer, or maybe sometime during the Spring (for some reason, I often forget when things happen, sometimes not even being able to pin down certain events to specific years). I got the book for free, thanks to a railroad engineer from Indiana who liked the list of authors I’d posted on my Myspace site (Algernon Blackwood, in particular). We did a few trades, me sending him cdrs (mostly literature related recordings), and he sending me some original art. Not really a fair trade, since I got something unique (and quite good too), but what’s done is done. In one of his letters, he mentioned The Road, and in return I said it sounded intriguing. Before long, he’d sent me an extra copy he’d had on hand. Very nice of him! It has been awhile since we’ve communicated. I’d like to find out if he has seen the just-released film version.

Today I went with Jeanine to see the film, and I must say the film does the book justice. Sure, it adds a little, perhaps unnecessary, backstory to the mix, but I found that I didn’t mind. The music, by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, (I recently missed seeing Ellis’ band, The Dirty Three, play. Damn.) is haunting enough that I’m going to have to shell out some funds for the soundtrack. The visuals are washed out and gritty, smothering the viewer in unremitting grayness – in other words, perfect!

At the heart of it, it’s a heartwarming father/son story, stripped of all the societal fluff and psychological fat layered on by human society. The story leaves us with nothing but the animal need to survive, the need to carry on down the road, but at the same time, it’s a very human story. It’s the story of a father doing everything he can to prepare his son for life on his own. This is what good parents do anyway, but most of us don’t do it with the sense of urgency and desperation felt by the characters in the story. We’re not living in a dead world. We’re not picking though the ash covered remains of civilization, scrabbling for survival in an unchanging twilight brought on by some off stage cataclysm.

As I watched the film, I found myself wondering (and not for the first time) why I find depictions of the total collapse of human society so compelling. It’s partially due to the same aesthetic sense that allows me to enjoy abandoned, leaning barns and rusty railroad tracks smothered in returning plant life. In this case though, there is no returning plant life. All of the plants are dead, and the characters are in constant danger from toppling trees. I think also that this kind of scenario signals an abrupt end to all complacency, and to all of the needless complexities we’ve cocooned ourselves with. Ironically though, if it did happen, it wouldn’t signal the beginning of truly living, but one of mere survival (a distinction made by one of the characters in the story, and one I’ve often seen elsewhere). I say “ironically” because I don’t think many people in our present-day society truly live. Sure, we all more-or-less function, but we’re often so weighted down by fluff and nonsense that we can’t break out of our little routines and habits long enough to actually reflect on our individual situations. Instead, we plug in video games, watch lots of bad tv, check our various e-mail accounts and go shopping online (guilty!), commute, clock in, clock out, watch the clock, listen to the clock as it wakes us up every morning at the same time, worry about what happens if we don’t hear the clock, worry about what happens if a deadline is missed, worry about getting older, worry about not getting older, worry about worrying too much… the list goes on and on down the road. We’re too trapped in the electronic trenches we’ve dug for ourselves to really see the fields beyond the field, or so it seems sometimes. Of course, in this scenario, the fields are all brittle brown and covered in layers of ash and dust, and beyond it there is just the road, stretching south like the path that Little Red Riding Hood must follow to grandma’s house. Except grandma is probably a corpse in a cooking pot, because the wolves are all dead, replaced by roving bands of cannibals who aren’t just lurking in the woods. They’re patrolling the road. So much for being safe if you don’t stray from the path. This isn’t your parents’ fairy tale.

Of course, I realize that the end of civilization would mean more than just a break in our routines. I don’t even think it would inspire the survivors to shine in any particular way. More likely, as the story depicts, most people would simply look for the easiest way out – suicide and cannibalism. Maybe that’s why this story is so touching – because this one father fights against this kind of defeatism. He does absolutely everything he can to see that his son survives. I find that moving and inspiring. It makes me want to be more selfless.

So, yeah. Maybe it is kind of a holiday movie after all. Be of good cheer. Help each other out. Don’t eat people. Eating people is wrong.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fifty dollars later, and I have a new modem. I also have a slight cold, no doubt picked up at the coffee shop when my modemlessness dictated I find free wireless to check my e-mail. Ha.

What else? I think the water pipes in my apartment complex are rusty. The bath water turned an interesting shade of orange during Willow's bath a couple of days ago. It's happened before, but has never approached the hue on display this particular time. Since then, there has been no orange. The modem died the same way - in fits and starts, sometimes working properly and sometimes not.

I'm currently reading a novel I found in a box by the curb on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. There were other books there as well, accompanied by a hand-lettered "free" sign, but I chose one by Andrew Vachss because I once read and enjoyed another book by him. There's a big appeal to finding things on the street and using them. Maybe more people should leave their unwanted items in boxes on the street. So many things gather dust in attics, garages, and storage spaces. For every one of these dust covered items, there is a user somewhere. People just hesitate to give things away for free. Why? Because we're taught to milk everything for money, and that money equals success. Too bad.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I’m still awaiting my end-of-the-month paycheck so I can go buy a new modem. My money cushion has evaporated over the last few months. Time to readjust my budgeting, I guess. It’s also time to start doing some substitute teaching work. I’m in no way distressed about my financial situation – instead, I feel energized at times like this because it forces me to get creative (sadly, sometimes I need to be forced).

I’m still modem-less, so once again I’m writing this as a Word document, to be posted later at a public venue with free wireless. This is almost starting to be a routine. It’s interesting to note that I feel more inspired to write when I can’t immediately post it. This also forces me to spend a bit more time than usual revising my writing. Why is that? Why do I need to be forced to write, or forced to spend more time editing my work? I think it’s because, when given the opportunity, I have a tendency to spend too much time compulsively surfing the internet. Maybe this is the first step towards breaking, or at least taming, that habit.

I just noticed that it’s raining. It looks like the forecasters were wrong again. The forecast called for a chance of rain tonight, but here it is, not even 10:30 in the morning, and the ground is wet. I just had to bring Willow’s bike in and dry it off. The sliding glass door is open to let in the smell of the rain. Very nice.

Fast forward. I'm now sitting inside Peet's Coffee, and it's still raining outside. It's just as crowded as it was yesterday, and the pumpkin spice latte is a bit too sweet. Otherwise, not bad. The one benefit of being here is that if affords me the opportunity to be a people watcher. Why is it though that I don't often have much good to report on that front? Take for instance the woman who scolds her toddler for flinging his cereal to the floor, but does nothing to clean up the mess. Who should be being scolded here? Then there's the dad who carries his baby in one of those plastic baby buckets. Great Mystery forbid that he actually have any physical contact with his offspring! Not all is bad, of course. It's just that, for some reason, it's more fun to write about our failings and inconsistencies (and no doubt more fun to read, as well) than it is to write about all of the good cheer. There is good cheer as well, of course. People are being pretty patient, even though the wait for caffeine is a long one.

Black Friday indeed! I just watched a video online of people actually getting into fist fights as they rushed into some big box store to buy electronics or something. Lots of tripping and falling too.

Happy Holidays.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sometimes you have to step away from something to really get a good look at it. Take for instance a large painting, or sculpture. If you’re right up against it, it’s just form and color. From across the room, its true nature is revealed to the beholder.

Take the internet. My modem is broken right now. At least I think it’s the modem. I replaced the cable, and that didn’t change anything. The computer is working fine, but I can’t get online at home. It’s the end of the month, and with the newly added financial burden of having to start paying back my student loans, and the necessity of having to buy new tires, I can’t very well go out and buy a new modem until my next direct deposit magically appears in my bank account.

So, today I stepped back across the room and viewed my internet use from afar. Despite my attitude about the unfortunate omnipresence of electronic time wasters in modern day society, I waste a lot of time on the internet. Sometimes I’m just surfing online record stores, sometimes I’m reading blogs, or downloading music from mp3 blogs, sometimes I’m looking at pictures on Flickr, or checking e-mail, or farting around on Facebook… the list goes on.

I don’t count my own blogging as a waste of time. That’s me putting something out there for others to see (or me to access later). I’m currently typing this as a Word document, to be uploaded the next time I’m online. Perhaps I’ll swing by work tomorrow, or find myself at a coffee shop with free wireless internet.

For the time being though, it’s nice to step back and take a break. This is the lemonade I make from the lemon of my malfunctioning modem. The temporary closing of my little window to the electronically filtered internet world gives me something to think about too. I can turn my attention inward for a bit. I can ponder my habits for awhile.

Right now I’m happy. I have been seeing Jeanine for nearly three months now, and we’re having fun together. We took our girls up to Hidden Villa today, and wandered to our hearts’ content. Willow, for the first time, ended up being the one to initiate a hike beyond the farm and up over one of the hills. I guess the trick is to let it be her idea. If I had suggested it, the idea would have been met with stubborn resistance. Heels would have been dug in. Trails would have been left untrod. In fact, my main complaint with my lack of internet right now is the temporary halting of the back and forth e-mail banter that we share.

I’m off work this week, so Willow is staying over at my house tonight. Currently, she’s asleep next to me. I’m enjoying the change in routine.

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and I have no plans with anybody. Due to the necessity of juggling schedules, I’ll be taking part in a modest feast on Saturday instead. I’ve never really seen the wisdom behind eating until the buttons pop off my shirt. I do see the wisdom in being thankful though. I sometimes tend to take things (and sometimes, it pains me to say, people) for granted, so it does me good to stop every so often and think about gratitude and thankfulness. I am fortunate in many ways –for the people (new and old) who are in my life, for my health, for… well, I won’t bore you with a list, but I am thinking about it.

I’ll leave it at that for now.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wandering around camp at night, I was surprised by a loud animal cry from somewhere in the trees on the other side of the pool. It sounded sort of like something being stepped on, kind of plaintive and breathless, as if it were trying to say, "won't you please remove your foot from my sternum?". I crept closer, trying to imagine what could be making it. Then, the sound was answered by a more recognizable one - the call of a male Great Horned Owl. The two voices seemed to be in conversation, although in my mind I interpreted the Great Horned Owl to be trying to get the other voice to shut up.

A quick search on this site proved me wrong. The first voice was a female Great Horned Owl. I had no idea they sounded like that.

Listen here.
I've been trying to make it through the month with only one visit to the grocery store, but so far the fact that dairy products have expiration dates has mandated that I have to go at least twice a month, or risk having to eat the milk rather than drink it. I went today for that reason, plus a few other necessities, and to get some more ingredients to make hummus. Once there, I was tackled by the sample-table person and forced to buy some double gloucester. Okay, maybe not tackled, but double gloucester can be powerfully persuasive all on its own. Especially if it has chives in it.

Speaking of nourishment, the AEOE (Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education) northern conference was this weekend. In this case, nourishment for the spirit was provided. On the surface of it, the conference is an opportunity for outdoor educators to share ideas, but it runs a lot deeper than that. I always come away from the conferences re-inspired and reconnected with... well, with why I do this kind of work in the first place. This time out, I was happy to see my old friend (and environmental education mentor, if truth be told) Garth from Hidden Villa among the workshop presenters. His main contribution to my consciousness this weekend was the concept of a "sit spot", and idea he had gotten from author Jon Young. It's a pretty simple idea. Choose a convenient spot in some "natural" area, and visit it as often as possible, in all kinds of weather, and during all times of the day. Once there, sit. Observe. Reconnect. His sit spot anecdotes were amazing. I'm tempted to share them here, but I think I'll wait until I have some of my own. That got me thinking though. Maybe I should have two sit spots, with the second one in a suburban area - just to see the contrast. It might make for some funny posts here, at least.

This was on my mind as I slowly woke from my nap early this afternoon - in general, the whole idea of deeply observing the world around me. I was sleepily thinking of sound maps - about really noticing what I could hear nearby. Today, I could hear somebody thumping a plastic trash can across the street somewhere (that's what it sounded like, anyway) and the hum of the refrigerator. Strangely absent was the sound of dogs from the nearby dog park. Usually, that's pretty much the only sound that impacts upon my consciousness when I'm trying to sleep during the day. Now, I can hear them as I type. I can also hear the sound of city traffic, and of course, I can still hear the hum of the fridge. I can also hear a faint ringing in one of my ears. That one I could do without.

I think I know where my sit spot is going to be. We'll see.

The conference also gave me an opportunity to reconnect with other friends from out of the area. I taught a couple of workshops, and they were both well-received. A friend of mine won the Northern California environmental educator of the year award, something that was very well deserved. He had no idea he was going to be winning it, but somehow I did. I don't think anybody told me in advance, but I just couldn't imagine anybody more deserving of the honor. On Sunday, I picked up J9 on the way to the conference so we could go on an early morning bird walk (first time I've seen a crow dive bomb a raptor!). She stayed for the rest of the morning as well, which was really nice. We went to a workshop together (taught by a friend of mine from Yosemite Institute) and learned (appropriately enough, since it was at the end of the conference) some good closure activities to help enhance students' science camp experiences.

Suddenly, it's Tuesday, and all of the conference attendees are back at their own sites. We've got 6 different schools at camp this week, all private religious schools. I don't know quite what they're teaching in such schools these days, but one of the kids came into the Hub last night to report that he'd seen some large squirrels in the bathroom. Large Squirrels with ringed tails and masks. Sigh. The next kid knew what they were, thus renewing my faith in humanity. He plaintively asked if we had any bathrooms without Raccoons in them. I told him probably not, but when I went to check the bathroom, I discovered that the Raccoons had moved on.

I'm also waiting for the jury duty shoe to drop this week. I'm not sure if they're really going to want me, because I'd have to be there during a time when I'm normally asleep. That'll be me, the sleeping juror.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The wind is whipping in from the west, tossing little cotton balls of clouds through the moonlight, creating moonbows in a magical interaction of reflected light and airborne water droplets. The clouds are swirling and changing as they flee eastward. An elephant appeared for a moment, lifting its trunk in defiance as it drifted backward, pursued by three ever-changing disembodied heads.

It occurred to me as I stood there with my head thrown back, taking it all in - I'm getting paid to do this right now.
I love watching the trees on the uppermost slopes of the hills turn golden as they're bathed in the first light of the morning sun.

It's going to be quiet for another minute, and then I have to wake up 160 kids.
This morning, the phone in the camp office started ringing at 4:45. When I answered it there was nobody on the other end of the line. At that moment, somewhere outside in the darkness, coyotes began to howl.

That's when I knew what must have happened. Coyote crank call. Somewhere there was a coyote in a phone booth, nearly bursting with suppressed laughter.

They don't call them tricksters for nothing.

Now, at 5:45 AM, I can hear them howling again. I'm waiting for the phone to ring.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'm listening to the wind toss the trees back and forth, and watching the orange light of evening slowly make its way across this particular corner of the world. Not that the world can have corners, it being spherical and all, but sometimes the words that fit aren't the most correct ones. Let's hear it for occasional incorrectness.

I'm taking the evening off work so J9 and I can go see Marissa Nadler and Alela Diane up in San Francisco. Looking forward to both the company and the music.

Autumn just seems to be the time when everything happens. Funny the difference a year makes.

Friday, October 23, 2009

This is the kind of sight that inspires me. The sky is a vast, ever changing canvas of light and moisture, and the interplay of the two can be awe inspiring. On days of bland blueness I find myself... maybe "depressed" is too strong a word, but at the very least, unmotivated. There's no expectant energy there when the sky is blue. On the other hand, when dark clouds come roiling in over the hills, it seems that anything is possible. It doesn't have to be clouds either. I can be a bit of perfectly placed fog, or a high, lonely contrail, or just a wisp - a promising little cowlick of vapor waiting for its big dark friends to join in the fun there at the invisible air-mass boundary.

Let it rain! Or at least let it look like it's going to rain!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Yesterday, Willow and I spent a couple of hours playing at Oak Meadow and Vasona Parks, which are pretty much the same park, except that you have to pay to drive into Vasona. It goes without saying that we always park at Oak Meadow, although I'll have to start paying to park there too when I renew my license (my present license has my old address, showing that I'm a park-approved Los Gatos resident).

But I digress. What I meant to write about is the incredible feeling of Autumn inspired nostalgia that hit me as we rode the small steam train, splashed in the creek, and wandered through the park(s). It had something to do with the falling leaves and the autumnal smell wafting through the air - a smell that transported me right back to a childhood spent in creeks and drainage ditches. It was just the right combination of plant smells, humidity, and mud. If I could figure it out, I could bottle childhood! It's funny how memories of scents are stored forever, with near perfect recall.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mmmmm! Blustery, power-flickery, gusty, drippy, torrential RAIN! I love it when the moan of the wind and rain is punctuated by the staccato noise of items crashing to the ground outside.

The power at work went out at about 6:30 this morning, causing the generator to kick in. The power at home flickered on and off earlier, and just to the west of me, streetlights are out.

Currently listening to the sound of the rain, which meshes perfectly with Mountains "Choral" cd.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The wind is gusting up to 36 mph outside. I know this because they finally fixed the wind gauge/weather station affixed to the wall of the building I'm sitting inside. I also know this because I can hear things being blown about camp, and the wind is howling. There isn't a lot of rain yet. Hopefully that will come soon.

Also, hopefully nobody else will throw up tonight. Rain is good. Vomit is not.

My counterpart at our other site saw a Mountain Lion tonight. Some people have all the luck. All I saw was a pair of frogs. Still, frogs are cool too.

The sky is gray and still, with rain perhaps a few hours away. Tomorrow, it's supposed to storm on us, with much anticipated wind and rain finally giving the parched hillsides a chance to swell with moisture. I am more than looking forward to it - I'm fairly singing with anticipation.

This weekend, I went on another long hike up at Almaden Quicksilver park, visiting Hidalgo cemetery, an abandoned rotary furnace, and finding yet another old car in a ravine. The cemetery was perhaps the most interesting, despite the fact that all of the grave markers have succumbed to time and vanished. Wooden markers tend to do that, I guess. The white picket fence, also made of wood, that surrounds the cemetery, will no doubt also vanish in time. That will probably be replaced. It's interesting that nobody thought to do that with the original grave markers though. Did all of those families cease to exist?

I also found a squished tarantula, which made me sad. The poor little guy was struck down while in the process of looking for a mate, so that one death also cut short a whole line of descendants. I just hope that he wasn't killed on purpose. people need to deal with their fears in a more constructive fashion.

Before the hike, I watched Willow's soccer team wipe the field with their opponents. Willow is so fun to watch - she literally dances with excitement sometimes out there on the field. Sophie spent the whole game braiding my hair, which was funny. I'm not sure when she learned to braid. I feel like I'm missing out on her life these days, but on the bright side, it makes the time I do have with her (and her brothers) all the more precious.

Friday night, I went on a very nice date up to San Francisco to experience some music. I'm very happy about the way things are progressing on this front.

I also got a rare chance to lead a field class last week, which in some ways explains why I haven't updated this blog in a while. I've gotten used to having my days free, so when they're suddenly filled, I don't blog as much.

The week was great though. The kids were from four different private schools - all catholic schools, I think. This means that, for the most part, they were well behaved. The cabin leader who hiked with me had been up the week before, so he was more experienced than some, which is always good.

This was the first time I'd led a whole field class for a week since I started working nights a couple of years ago, so of course it was also the first time I've led a field class as a newly credentialed teacher. I did consider creating lesson plans for everything, but ended up not doing it in the end. I've taught all of these lessons many times before, so I just went with what I've always done, with a few little tweaks and variations thrown in. I perhaps spent a little more time focusing on the journal writing aspect of things, and I paid a little more attention to the skill levels of individual students than I used to. They were all pretty evenly matched though, with maybe one or two exceptions. Still, I felt there was a freshness to the week because it's no longer part of my weekly routine. The classroom teachers even commented on my obvious excitement. Of course, we had to visit the Rattlesnake family up in the chaparral. I recently read an article on Rattlesnake parental care brought to my attention by one of my Flickr friends. Apparently the babies usually stay with the mom until the first shed. Of course, the babies I showed my field class are still with their mom, even though they've already shed. I took one of the shed skins and laminated it with a photo of the snakes, making some pretty cool prize bookmarks to give away during the end-of-the-week review on Friday. We also found a ton of small Bullfrogs (as well as a couple of toads) up at Lake Ranch Reservoir. The kids were extremely excited by this. Just imagine 19 sixth graders all screaming and laughing as frogs go leaping everywhere. The cool thing was that they were under rocks near the shore, so we could easily catch them. Some rocks had nearly a dozen frogs hiding underneath. Talk about hands-on outdoor education! It was the first time that a lot of the kids had ever gotten to do something like that. I think that they'll remember it fondly. They didn't even complain about the nearly 5 mile round trip it took to get to where the frogs were.

That said, one of my favorite moments of the whole week was when we came upon a Youth Science Institute group on the trail, and I quickly realized that it was Sophie's class. I hadn't even realized that she had a field trip on that day. The odds against me running into her on the trail are pretty big. First, there are a lot of trails, and second, I'm not usually hiking them these days. We were very happy to see each other.

This week, I'm back in the camp office at night, just in time for the torrential rains to hit.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Things have cooled off a bit, and there's a nice breeze. This makes it much more bearable when I'm sitting out on a sunny field watching Willow play soccer. It also prevents Willow from turning an alarming shade of pink from exerting herself in the heat.

Today, after soccer (damn, I feel like such a soccer dad all of a sudden - I'm still not a fan of organized sports, but the exercise and teamwork is good for Willow, so I'm a fan of that aspect of it at least) we went to the Children's Discovery Museum, a place which is singularly important in that Willow owes her very existence to it. It's where I met her mom, back when I was an employee there.

Nowadays, they still let me in for free, and it's nice to see those among my old coworkers who are still there. One such old coworker was leading a "make a play" workshop, during which participants got to alter an existing story ("The Three Little Pigs", in this case) and act it out. Willow played the brick seller. The three little pigs became two little dragons, and the big bad wolf became the big bad princess. Fun was had.

This coming week, I get a rare chance to be back in the field at work. I traded schedules with a coworker, so he (the appropriately named Bat) will work the nights, and I get to lead a field class. I've got to dig out all of my naturalist teaching supplies, but I'm looking forward to mixing things up a little.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The moon, ghost white
Leaks light through cracked clouds
I woke up this morning to clouds, and now I can hear the trees rustling as a slight breeze passes through. Tomorrow, the temperature has been forecast to stay below 70 degrees, but of course a week ago they were saying it was going to rain. Yesterday, the forecasters were predicting rain for the following Tuesday, but now they've changed their minds. I don't know why I even bother looking at the forecast.

My work week kicks into gear in a few hours. Before that, I'm going to have dinner with Willow. I predict that she's going to want frozen peas. Strange kid. Won't eat them if they're cooked.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A couple of weeks ago now, Willow and I were standing in the middle of Los Gatos Creek, dropping leaves into the flowing water and watching them drift away downstream. Sometimes they would get caught on rocks. Sometimes they would hit the rapids and go bobbing off into the distance. It occurred to me at the time that there was a ritualistic aspect to what we were doing. I began imagining things that I would like to let go, and picture the leaves as an embodiment of those intangible sections of psyche. There was a great peacefulness to the process, and a great relief.

Flowing water is somehow magical, but only if you are open to it.

The one thing that I would most like to let go of is the anger I feel towards my ex-wife. There were some lies told to me at the end of our relationship, and despite the fact that I know, and to a certain extent, understand, the reasons for the lies, I am still angry about it. I still feel that it is a profound betrayal of trust, and it has colored every interaction I've had with her since, and in a way invalidated every previous thing she has said to me. Once I find out that somebody is capable of lying to me, especially somebody that I have opened up to - somebody who at the time I felt love for - I feel that everything they say and have said is immediately suspect.

So I watch leaves float away in the cold creek water.

This soccer season, her boyfriend - the one she started dating before telling me that she was filing for divorce - is coming to the games. I finally saw him, and to tell you the truth, had no real feelings about it one way or the other. One of the reasons I'd been avoiding being in the same place as him for so long is that I thought it might bring up some pretty serious negative feelings. I'm happy that it didn't, because I'm really bad at hiding how I feel if strong feelings are involved. Sure, I'm not interested in interacting with him on any level, but it was nice to not want to go drown him in the creek.

Much better to watch the leaves float away.

After the games, during which Willow ended up being almost as pink from the heat and exertion as her team shirt, and Nate ended up not playing much because he didn't feel well, I decided to go on a solo hike up in Almaden Quicksilver Park. I used a different park entrance than usual, and picked a trail that in retrospect was a poor choice. It wound steadily uphill on the sunny side of the hills, heating the water in my water bottle to the extent that it tasted like warm tea. Still, I ended up in the area of the park known as English Camp, in which several ancient buildings are barely standing. It's interesting to become steeped in the history of the area like this - feeling the silence and solitude of forgotten people and the weathered remnants of their works. Last week, I wandered through an 150 year old cemetery in Saratoga, so this was the second time in less than a week that I found myself reflecting on what life used to be like. People lived and died in these hills, tunneling into the hillsides in search of mercury, and leaving their decaying buildings behind. There were even a couple of old cars among the trees downhill from where I was hiking. One looked as if the tree had begun its life as a sapling in the shadow of the car, slowly displacing it as the years passed.

I almost went back up there today, but ended up staying home and making hummus instead, adding more garlic than was reasonable. I'll try not to breathe on you for a week or two.

Monday, September 21, 2009

In the middle of our annual open house at work, I was leading a hike for about 50 kids (mostly elementary school kids who will be coming to camp later this year) and their parents, when a couple of the girls said they wanted to find some snakes. Not one to disappoint, I took a quick detour to a nearby rock pile where I'd been seeing Rattlesnakes over the summer. I found the cutest little cluster of baby Rattlers there, looking like they'd just been born. I think I even managed to convince the most cautious of the parents that it was a good thing. I then stood between the snakes and the kids, and let them approach to where they could peek over the rock and see the snakes. After about 7 or 8 kids got to see them, the snakes crawled off one by one, heading for the cover of one of the rocks. The rest of the people had to be content with the quick, slightly out of focus photo I took, just like those of you reading this will have to be.

Strange thing though - even though I was standing right there, I miscounted the snakes. If you look very carefully at the photo, you can see there are 4, not 3, as I originally thought. It was almost as if they were remembering being inside their mom, so tightly clustered together they were.

Always know how many snakes you're actually dealing with.

Definitely another snake geek moment.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I found a Wolf Spider last night, and as usual, started taking pictures of it. After a moment, I noticed that there was a rolled up Pillbug underneath one of its legs, making the spider look like it was on its way to soccer practice or something. It reminded me of the Far Side cartoon where all of the attendees show up for a lecture with ducks under their arms, except, of course, the one guy who forgets his. I imagine a room full of Wolf Spiders, all with Pillbugs, except for one hapless arachnid who shows up sans crustacean.

It's funny the way my mind works sometimes.

On another subject entirely, Willow became alarmed while we were talking about eyes. I was explaining how pupils work, about how they expand to let in more light, when she nervously asked, "what happens if my pupils get too big and my eyes explode?"

I sometimes wish that the world was still that mysterious for me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The first night of the 2009/2010 science camp year is behind me now. The air was crisp enough to warrant an extra layer. The usual suspects were out in force - homesick kids and patrolling Raccoons. The Raccoon family was pretty cute, with the harried-looking mother urging her troupe of black-masked puffballs towards the apparent good eatin' to be found in the camp trash cans. I could have done without the anxious kid who woke me from my nap at 3:30 in the morning, but that kind of thing is, after all, what I'm paid to be available for. Sometimes I feel like a psychiatrist though. Maybe I should ask for a raise.

It's funny being back. I feel refreshed after my break from work, but I still remember the end of the last school year when I wasn't expecting to be back doing this for another year. Not that I mind. It's a great job. Still, I'm going to redouble my efforts to find classroom work. Actually, I feel like redoubling my efforts in every way right now. That's what Autumn does to me. I hope the feeling lasts.

Currently listening to Nurse With Wound "The Memory Surface"

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The clouds crept over the horizon at some point while my attention was elsewhere. I awakened to discover that local people on Facebook were talking about thunder and lightning. I wish I'd been awake at 4am or whenever it was that it actually graced the sky.

It's all right though. When Willow and I were at the park a short time earlier, fat drops of rain started plopping down out of the dark gray sky, and soon we were doing some pretty serious frolicking, getting wetter and wetter by the moment as the other park goers rushed for their cars. Only the weather-hardened dog park crowd stuck around - even the ones whose dogs didn't like the rain.

Now, as the sky darkens, we're back inside watching BBC dinosaur documentaries. Life is good.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A year ago today I was moving into my current apartment. Nearly all of my possessions were in boxes, except of course for those things that I just lazily threw on top of the pile.

Today, I'm sitting here with Willow. She's just had her first soccer game of the season. Many of my possessions are in bags out on the patio. No, I'm not moving or anything like that. I've had to quarantine a number of items in order to make sure the head lice that one of the kids brought home from school don't make a comeback.

The day after tomorrow, I start the new school year as night host up at camp. The lumbering, bureaucratic beast that is the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing has finally managed to officially issue me my credential. I guess that means they found the fingerprints that they claimed not to have. For this school year, I plan to use my credential to get some work as a substitute teacher (while still keeping an eye open for something more long-term). Maybe I'll stumble across a permanent position this way.

Either way, I'll be doing something I like doing.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The coin-op laundry machines are working overtime today as I re-wash all the bedding in an attempt to eradicate every last trace of the head lice that one of the kids brought home from school. Homework, yes. Lice, no. I love insects, but I have to say that love doesn't extend to the ones that try to move into the forest of hair at the top of the mountain of me. These particular insects can take a damn hike into nowhere land, and I'm here to issue the maps.

Actually, lice are pretty cute. It's a shame about their eating habits though.

At least the Eucalyptus-based homeopathic anti-louse spray smells nice.

Willow is with me for the next 8 days, which is nice. After Labor Day, it's our in-service week at work. I'm looking forward to it, and in some ways I'm glad I'm still working nights. This won't stop me from continuing to try to land a job in a classroom, but I like my current plan to do some subbing first. I also have to figure out why the California Teaching Credential people don't have my fingerprints. They were sent nearly two years ago, and just now I'm finding out that they've either never received them or have managed to lose them. This bolsters my opinion that bureaucracy is a dirty word. I really don't want to pay to have them redone and re-sent. I'm too busy spending my money on head louse remedies. I like the idea of releasing trained spiders into hair to eat the lice, but I have the feeling that wouldn't go over well with the general public.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Summer is over, its end marked by the exodus of kids out of swimming pools and off of lawns into new classrooms, where they are no doubt fidgeting in the confinement of their chairs.

I'm in the middle of a couple of weeks off. I haven't found a teaching job, so I'll be going back to working nights when outdoor school starts up in mid-September. My plan, for the time-being, is to pick up some work as a substitute teacher while hanging onto my night position. This will give me more classroom experience and expose me to a larger number of teaching styles and classroom plans.

I haven't been writing here much, mostly because summer camp wipes me out, and also because I'm in the middle of a novel reading and movie watching streak. As usual though, with summer once again fading into an idealized memory, I feel the urge to renew my efforts to just get on with things. It's a good feeling, and I feel that I've had a well earned break for the last few months.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The weather turned cold and breezy last night, with clouds pouring in over the hills. This morning, a light rain got everything just wet enough to foil the driving attempts of the unwary.

I love it! My energy seems to increase a hundredfold when the wind picks up, and the rain is a balm to my spirit. It also doesn't hurt that I've been leading a group of kids this week who do nothing but sing and jump around. I'll often discover that the group of 16 (12 boys and 4 girls, all 9 to 11 years old), have divided down the middle, with one subgroup singing a different song from the other. The two favorites appear to be "The Song That Gets On Everybody's Nerves" and "The Song That Never Ends".

To top it all off, the moon is so beautiful tonight that it made me gasp. I first spotted it when I merged onto the freeway coming home. There it was, immensely orange and a day past full, seeming to descend as I barreled towards it down the sinuous, darkened freeway. As my direction changed, it dipped beneath overpasses and cavorted through the treetops.

Stone Breath's "Knotwork" cd provided the perfect soundtrack for the journey.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I kind of feel like I've hit the doldrums. Maybe this is due to the seasonal nature of my job, which makes summer seem like an extended period of slacking off. I feel like I've blinked and while my eyelids were traveling towards each other, June vanished, and while they were traveling away again, July got eaten up. August waits like a torpid beast in a sun-flecked meadow.

We went to the Oakland Zoo yesterday, where I enjoyed watching the sleeping Fruit Bats, and Willow had fun spying on the rollicking Meerkats. Such trips are expensive though, especially when one factors in gas and food, and even more especially when it is followed by a visit to the record store. For once, I bought Willow more than I bought myself, and we're now the proud owner of the dvd version of Totoro. Willow is singing the theme song as I type. Such a magical film. When I watch it, I'm always inspired in way that I can't quite put into words.

Summer camp has been wearing me out. For a job that I don't consider work, I sure come home tired. The sun beats down all day, and if I don't come home covered in duckweed, I come home under a layer of dust and sticky plant seeds from bushwhacking after snakes. At least the Yellowjackets and ticks haven't been as much in evidence this year. It's funny how the Winter months can determine what wildlife is about and about during the Summer. We had a dry Winter this year, and there seem to be fewer animals about right now.

The kids are all being helpful at camp, although I caught Sophie swiping otter pops from the freezer last week. Still, despite minor infractions like this, I'm proud of the way they're all behaving, and happy that I get to spend so much time with my stepkids. In fact, I've been spending much more time with them than their real mom and dad. I had Nathan and Willow along on the night hike I led this week, and later, after I finished up my assigned night duty (herding children down to the lower field and their sleeping bags), I discovered that Willow had decided that my sleeping bag was more comfortable than hers and had fallen asleep in it. I crawled in next to her, and spent a rather cramped night trying not to roll over on her.

So, really, all is well. I just feel like I haven't been inspired to do much lately. It's almost as if I'm going through another phase of the healing process after last year's breakup, one involving lots of reading and music listening, and not a lot of introspection. Oops. I just did some introspection. Maybe the next phase is on the horizon...

Currently listening to Elm "Bxogonoas"

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Summer is blazing by and I find myself enjoying the deceptively lazy seeming days of summer camp. I say "deceptively" because, despite all of the fun, the work day leaves me pretty wiped out. I'm always marching off somewhere with a gaggle of kids behind me, whether it's down to the pond, or out into the meadow to look under logs and rocks. Sometimes I'm down at the ropes course or climbing wall, and sometimes we're adding wheelbarrows full of duckweed to the satisfyingly full compost heaps in the garden.

At home, I find that I'm more likely to pick up a novel or slip in a dvd than do anything really useful (that said, I just finished cleaning the bathtub...). I still sort of miss being free during business hours, but I manage to find time to go to places like the bank, library, and post office anyway.

I've been loaned several seasons of the more recent Battlestar Galactica series, and I'm finding that diverting and entertaining, not to mention occasionally thought provoking. I re-watched Satantango for the fourth time, and still find it just as captivating as ever. I'm reading a detective novel. I'm listening to music. I'm enjoying the slight breeze and noticing that there are clouds drifting by overhead. This makes me look forward to the coming rainy season, which might be a good one, since a new El Nino (one of these days I'll figure out how to type a tilde over a letter) is forming. Tomorrow Willow and I are meeting friends for a playdate and renting a boat (paddle boat or small canoe, probably). Everybody is several shades darker from the sun. At night, up in the hills, the raccoons are squabbling and the coyotes are howling. There's a pair of ravens nesting nearby, and the air resounds with their gutteral croaks. I found a three legged frog in the pond, with the fourth leg ending in splinter of bone. Prevailing opinion is that the rest of the fourth leg provided a raccoon with a fresh drumstick for dinner.

As of now, I have no specific plans for any more summer trips, and I'm feeling like I should make some. To much time slips by when plans are not made. I think that looking forward to certain dates actually makes time go by much more slowly, and sometimes that can be a good thing. I'm not always mindful enough of the passing time. Maybe it's just because I'm getting older. The days are the same, but the years seem so much shorter.

Currently listening to: Onna "s/t"

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Me as a seaweed monster. This is the earliest photo of me posted over on my Flickr page, and I've reposted it here for L, who wrote about doing the same thing with duckweed. Of course I often emerge from the water covered in duckweed too, which just goes to show that I haven't changed much in the last 30 years.

Always be true to yourself, even if it means leaving a trail of mud and causing chronic washing machine problems. Tomorrow I'll be in the pond at work, scooping out duckweed and smelling of summer. Tonight I'm listening to Iva Bittova and typing madly away. Life sure is multifaceted.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It is wonderful to get back out on the trails with kids. I've been hiking with the older kids (mostly 12 year olds) this week, and they're so full of energy and talent, whether it manifests itself in scaling the most difficult route up the climbing wall blindfolded, creating t-shirts, telling stories, or in any number of other ways.

I've already rescued one Gopher snake from the asphalt - it stretched its three-foot length across the driveway to catch some early sun the other morning - and seen a beetle I'd never seen before (a Banded Alder Borer). I'm taking Willow and the three older kids with me every morning too, and they're all contributing to the week in their own unique ways. The girls mostly get by on their cuteness alone, while the boys have been showing their thoughtful and helpful sides. So far, so good.

I celebrated Solstice/Father's Day by taking Willow over to Vasona Park where, as luck would have it, the great charity duck race was happening. We got to watch 15,000 rubber ducks plunge into the creek and "race" to the finish line. Amazing. Afterwards, I went to a BBQ and, later on, a gig, getting home at around 2am - a fitting way to celebrate the longest day of the year. I like the idea of celebrating the length of the day, and the semi-annual u-turn it represents, by participating in a variety of pleasurable endeavors. The musical portion of the evening will be reported on my other blog when I feel like it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

When it comes to music, film, and books, I find myself compelled by that which I don't understand - obscure references, alien lyrical stance, impenetrable plot, or surreal visuals... I visualize these moments of bewilderment as doors that I have yet to open. It's okay if they remain closed too, because there's magic in the unknown.

Over the years, I've noticed that a more typical reaction, most often voiced by children, to this type of bewilderment is, "this is stupid!" Why is it that many people, when faced with something they don't understand, insist on calling the object of their befuddlement "stupid"? Why are we always looking for something or someone else to blame?


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The one problem with shifting back to a day schedule is that there's less time to take care of all the little details that accumulate on an hourly basis for those of us who live "modern" lives. I'm talking about mundane things like washing dishes, cleaning house, and going places like the bank and post office. I appreciated having time to stay on top of all those things.

I could do most of the above after getting back from work in the evening, but even though I consider myself a night person, I always end up reading or watching a movie instead. Or catching up on my e-mail. Now that I don't actually have to stay awake at night, perhaps I should stop drinking coffee in the evenings. I'm drinking a cup right now, more out of habit than anything else. Oh, lets not forget the fact that I love the taste of a good cup of coffee. There is always that.

We've been setting up for summer camp all week. Willow and the other three kids have been coming along with me, and for the most part, being quite helpful. They all love being up there at camp. Hopefully they'll still love it after attending 9 straight weeks of camp this summer. We'll see. Camp begins on Monday.

Willow will be spending Wednesday nights with me for the summer (and beyond, I suppose, if I land a daytime gig in the Fall). Thursday nights too, since that's the sleepover night at camp. Sophie has already decreed that she's going to be going home instead of sleeping over. The boys will be sleeping on the field with the rest of us.

I'm still adjusting to this whole daytime thing - I think it messes with my internal clock a bit. Despite the fact that I've been getting more sleep this week, I feel tired (truth be told, the futon bed my apartment came furnished with isn't the most comfortable - I think the bunk I sleep in overnight at camp is better - maybe I should just live at camp). Once camp kicks in, I'll be fine. I can't wait to hit the trails with groups of kids. I haven't really done that since last summer.

Happy almost summer!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I often create "to do" lists on little scraps of paper. I find that I'm much more likely to remember to do things if I write them down. That is about as close as I get to any sort of organization around here. The posting of the following (ever changing, and always incomplete) list was inspired by a similar list that L posted on her site.

Hike every trail in South Bay parks and nature reserves.
Spend more time near the ocean.
Go whale watching with Willow
Learn to play guitar
Get lost
Visit the desert
Lie on my back and watch the stars spin
Try new restaurants and coffee shops
Aimless roadtripping
Visit friends in faraway places
Learn how to properly plan for the future
Maybe some yoga
Experiment with sounds and record them
Photograph things
Dig in the dirt
Take Willow to new places
Take myself to new places
Watch the moon, listen to the wind
Write (maybe even a novel)
Make things for people
Reread and rewatch favorite books and movies
Sit very still in a tree for an extended period of time
Watch sunsets and sunrises, moonsets and moonrises
Listen to music all the time
Perform for audiences
Explore the possibility of running regularly
Spend lots of time near campfires
Continue to obsess over music - frequent local record stores

Some of these things I do already. Some of them I constantly think of doing. Some I don't do often enough. Now that it's posted here, I'm that much closer to doing the things I haven't done yet.

I recently admitted that sometimes I don't take action because I find the possibilities more enticing than the potential realities. It's a kind of paralysis, really, or perhaps a desire to stay within my comfort bubble. It's also counterproductive, of course. I was thinking about this when I came across a trailer for a film called Mr. Nobody. A couple of lines in the trailer hit home. The first, spoken by a child (if I remember right), was "as long as you don't choose, everything remains possible." This is a distillation of how I feel at times. The last line, spoken by an incredibly aged man (I think) was "I'm afraid I haven't been alive enough."

Time to get cracking on the list. I'm already about 9 miles closer to completing item number one. I'm marking off the trails on a map. Action creates new possibilities. There's magic in that.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

We've got clouds and a bit of a breeze here. The weather forecasters continue to call this kind of weather "bad", but those are just the empty words of people who earn their living by guessing.

I'm listening to the new Nurse With Wound triple cd and sipping hot coffee. Life is good.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

It's after midnight, and the deer are wandering through camp while the bullfrogs grunt rhythmically from the pond.

Children of the night, what music they make!

Monday, June 01, 2009

As of late, I've not been planning enough activities for the weekends that Willow is with me, so this weekend I kicked myself into gear and we went to the zoo so Willow could see the lions (and everything else, but lions in particular). The lions were very obliging, and the lioness actually got up and walked over to inspect us. Next door, a crackling sound alerted me to the new electric fence encircling the tiger enclosure. I'm sure they put that sucker in pretty quickly after one of the tigers took objection to being teased and did something about it. That was a year and a half ago already. Have we really not been to the zoo since then?

They have a Capybara now. I've been fascinated by these humongous rodents since reading the Bill Peet book, Capyboppy, as a kid. Too bad there wasn't a way to get a picture of it without intervening bars.

Back at home, we had a slumber party with my friend Courtney from Portland and her son. Her son was really cool, and told Willow a series of bedtime stories, including a Coyote story. It was great to see a 14 year old and a 6 year old get along so well. It was great to be able to sit back and catch up with Courtney too - the second time in a week that we've seen each other, since I saw her in Portland last weekend. The time before that was 12 years ago. Lots of catching up to do. In the morning, they hit the road to continue their trip south, and Willow and I went to see a play called Tomato Plant Girl, which featured one of my co-workers. Willow laughed out loud many times. The main message of the play, about how mistreated people often mistreat others, was at least partially lost on her, but there was enough inspired silliness that it didn't matter.

Now, it's almost time to start my work week, and there's only one more week to go after this one. Then we transition over into summer camp.

Currently listening to: Mimir "s/t"

Friday, May 29, 2009

I feel more relaxed this week than I have in awhile. No doubt this is attributable to the road trip to Portland last weekend. Despite the fact that I've lived nearly all my life within a twenty or thirty mile radius of where I'm currently sitting and typing, travel is in my blood. I need to throw a bunch of stuff in a bag and go on walkabout, or drive-about, as the case usually turns out to be. I need to experience the subtle differences offered by other cities and other hills. I need to watch the landscape flashing by as I drain a cup of coffee from a nowhere roadside diner or as I crunch on whatever snacks occupy the space between the seats. It's nice to have like-minded friends along for the ride too. We're only as old and settled as we feel, and I'm increasingly finding that my true friends are a lot younger in spirit and a lot less "settled" or "stuck" than other people our age. It's the attitude and the creativity that keep us young.

I also am reminded that suburbia, and the suburban lifestyle, gives me the chills. I have nothing against the majority of the people who live in suburbia (I'm one of them, after all), but suburbia often feels like a cultural dead zone - sort of like those oceanic dead zones spreading out from river deltas all over the world. Suburbia is spreading out from the cities, but instead of taking any of that vital city culture along for the ride, it just takes the cookie-cutter shopping centers and rows of tract housing - and everybody knows those are poison. Maybe it's because most of the "edgy" people either live in the heart of things or far off the grid.

During my years of marriage, we seldom ever did that kind of thing. Hell, we never even had a honeymoon. Not anybody's fault, really - more due to timing and circumstances and all that. Still, I'm enjoying the freedom to hit the road now and then. I plan to do it more often now, if I can manage it.

I'm trying to find the right balance between responsibility and irresponsibility here. It's all about balance, after all.

Currently listening to: Tor Lundvall "Sleeping and Hiding" lp

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I almost forgot to mention Willow's question for me after I got back from Portland: "Did you meet any people that spoke Portlandish?"

I had to tell her no. Outlandish, maybe, but Portlandish, no.

Portland really isn't that far away. When I found out that Amebix were playing there over Memorial Day weekend, I realized that I had three days during which I had no other responsibilities, so I jumped on the opportunity to get out of town for a few days. In the end, only my friend Devon also had the weekend free, so the two of us left early Saturday morning. I picked Devon up at his place in Emeryville and we hit I-5, stopping briefly in Weed for gas and some filling Mexican food, and then again in Grant's Pass to futilely search for a bookstore Devon remembered from a previous trip. In the end, we made in to Portland in slightly over 11 hours.

I had arranged to stay at my friend Howard's place, and stay there we did. It's funny how similar Devon and Howard's apartments are - lots of the same movies and toys and other detritus stacked on overburdened shelves. The two of them had never met, and hit it off pretty much instantly. Devon and I both met Howard's girlfriend, Miranda, for the first time. I like her - she makes multimedia art pieces, and while we were there was involved in disemboweling stuffed animals, turning them inside out, and re-sewing them. Cool. We managed to luck out and eat at some good restaurants too - a place called Paradox, at which a friend of Devon's worked as a cook, another vegetarian restaurant whose name escapes me, and the almighty Voodoo Donuts. A couple of Devon's friends live around the corner from the Paradox as well, so there were lots of new people for me to meet and talk to.

We also went a bit north to visit our mutual friend Courtney, who I hadn't seen in 12 years and Devon hadn't seen in even longer. It was nice to reconnect and wander around in the mild sunshine. I came away from Courtney's with a bit of kombucha floating in a nalgene bottle, which I have since transferred to a large glass container in my apartment. Time will tell if I can inspire it to thrive.

It was great to just hang out and reconnect without having to watch the time (other than to make sure we made it to Amebix in time, that is...). I found myself re-inspired by all of the creativity and life choices evident in the people we spent time with over the weekend. I felt comforted by the fact that many of them (especially Howard and Devon) are also obsessive collectors with apartments full of fascinating piles of books, dvds, cds, and other subcultural detritus.

It was nice wandering into Voodoo Donuts at around 2am and buying strange donuts (there were human-shaped ones pin-cushioned with strategically placed pretzels, donuts covered in sugar cereal, and many other mouth watering treats). It made me realize that in many ways, my life is no longer as free as it once was, but I'm okay with that. It makes moments of nocturnal donut-eating abandon all the more rewarding. We also wandered past the Doug Fir Lounge, where I'd performed as part of on a previous trip. It was interesting to note that across the street from the Doug Fir is a Mad Science franchise - a company that I still very occasionally work for.

The show itself was great. Howard came along after deciding not to go see Windy & Carl perform (The Melvins were also performing that night - choices, choices). He hadn't previously heard Amebix, but came out with a big smile on his face. For more in-depth report on the show, go here.

I always feel more alive when I'm traveling. I love anticipating whatever might be around the next corner, even if it's just another stretch of freeway. The weekend whipped by of course, and we hit the road on Monday afternoon. I made it back to my place in 10 hours and 15 minutes, without even speeding too excessively.

Thanks to the holiday, I came back home to an abbreviated work week. As I type, there's only one more night to go before my weekend begins. Last night, as I drove to work, I had one of those moments of sudden realization that I was about to run over an animal on the road leading to camp. It was too late to brake, so I took evasive action, steering so that the wheels would pass harmlessly by on either side of the hapless critter. I stopped and hopped out, hoping that I wouldn't find it crushed in my wake. Fortunately my evasive action had worked. The Kingsnake was still stretched out on the road. I picked it up, thinking for a moment that maybe our camp Kingsnake had escaped (I was just down the hill from our nature lab), and drove the rest of the way to camp with the snake in one hand and snake poop dripping between my fingers. It had musked me pretty good. In the light, I confirmed that it wasn't our snake. Later, I put it in the garden, away from the road.

Hopefully it will stick around and snack on the resident mice before they snack on our garden.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I just got back from the park with the girls. They brought along a couple of old Mickey and Minnie Mouse stuffed animals (I wish there was no such thing as "popular culture", but I am just one voice against many on that one, I fear), and spent most of their time on the playground wildly hurling them into the air and over the playground equipment. I approve.

Suddenly, Sophie stopped and exclaimed, "A Robin!" Sure enough, almost invisible in the heart of a nearby tree sat a mother Robin. "It's got a worm in it's mouth," Sophie pointed out. As we watched, the excited beaks of a cluster of baby Robins burst upward out of a perfectly camouflaged nest. The girls were entranced.

The spell was momentarily broken when another kid obliviously wandered too close, scaring the mother into flight. Afterward, taking care not to get too close, I put the girls on my shoulders so they could better see the nest. Nearby, the watchful mother hopped back and forth along the fence. I pointed her out to the girls, making sure that they were aware of the bond there.

I love those little moments.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Partial Huun-Huur-Tu

Partial Huun-Huur-Tu, originally uploaded by Corbie.

Sometimes the day presents me with a perfect moment. Sunset definitely provided that moment for me yesterday.

This photo was taken through the windshield on my drive to work. Now I have a little reminder of a perfect moment.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The sun has conspired with the wind to create a beautiful day. A couple of cds came in the mail earlier, and new music surrounds me as I type. I paid the multiple subject credential application fee yesterday, which was the final step I needed to take towards actually getting the credential.

Summer beckons, and I'm feeling lazy. A friend (or two) and I are taking a short road trip up to Portland in a little over a week. We're going to a gig and visiting friends. I've been feeling the need to hit the road lately, so when relatively inexpensive opportunities to do so appear, I'm taking them.


Currently listening to: Osso Exotico "V"

Monday, May 11, 2009

I've been lazily not posting as much this week. Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it's because of one of my indecipherable internal cycles. I don't really know for sure.

I had a relatively busy weekend, and I'm left with some soreness from dancing and tick bites. There was a time when I measure how much fun I'd had by how sore I was afterward. Maybe this is how my midlife crisis is going to manifest itself - I'll once again use physical discomfort as a litmus test for fun. Doesn't sound like a crisis to me though.

Some brief moments from the weekend:

Coming home from the Sleepytime Gorilla Museum show last night, looking out across the bay and marveling at how the moon had painted the water silver. The stillness of the scene formed a startling counterpoint to the freeway traffic.

This morning, opening the front door to find a Fence Lizard on the walkway. I love it when I see reptiles in the city.

Seeing a variety of friends. Always good.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

My friend Devon celebrated his 40th birthday by playing a gig with his band at Gilman St. in Berkeley. I considered getting a babysitter for Willow before heading up to see Devon, but ended up deciding to take her along. After all, she knows Devon and going to the show meant kicking around Berkeley for awhile. It also meant that she got to meet my old friend Wayne (who took the photo above, as well as many others which he nicely shared with me). We made the obligatory record store stop (the evidence of which is on the bench beside me), had pizza (Willow ate a slice bigger than her head), went to the East Bay Vivarium (a reptile store I used to buy pets from, and which Willow was reluctant to leave), and finally wandered out to the Berkeley Marina. Out at the end of the pier, Willow was excited to see a fisherman pull a Stingray and a Sand Shark out of the water. She even asked if I would take her fishing sometime. I thought about it for a moment. Being a vegetarian, I'm reluctant to engage in activities that result in the deaths of animals, but then again, fishing is a lot more direct, and somehow more honest, than buying pre-killed, prepackaged, faceless meat from a grocery store. Maybe taking her fishing and going through the process of killing, gutting, cleaning, cooking, and eating a fish would be educational. Maybe I'd even eat some myself if we went through the process together (the only meat I've eaten in the last 20 years was fresh fish, cooked by a good friend - and that was only once, nearly a decade ago now). Later, I mentioned this to a friend who surfs in Santa Cruz, and he mentioned seeing people fishing there all the time and thinking what a great hobby it was - you got to do something you enjoyed, while at the same time putting food on the table. Food for thought, anyway (pun intended, as usual).

At the club, Willow was excited to get her very own club card (a punk membership card!), and it was cool to watch her signing her name on the back. She was also excited to see Devon and give him a present (I'd burned a cd for him, and Willow drew a cover for it). Willow was much less excited when the first band started. Despite earplugs, she shrank into herself in reaction to the volume.

We went down the street and had donuts instead. I had coffee with mine. Sometimes coffee and donuts just hits the spot.

Afterward, we met up with Greg at our usual coffee shop. Wayne and Greg hadn't seen each other in nearly 15 years, so it was fun to meet up and hang out.

One of these days I'll see Devon's band. They've toured Africa, the Middle East, Australasia, and elsewhere, but I've still not managed to catch them here at home. Oh well. Of course, I kind of figured that Willow would have the reaction she did, and we had fun anyway, so I'll just chalk this up to a partially successful experiment.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

It's almost May, and the skies are turning gray. It was sunny this morning when I hopped on the bus with Sophie, all of the other second graders, and a handful of other chaperons. I'm glad it worked out that I was able to go on this field trip, because I never would have heard the end of it if I'd just gone on Nathan's trip and not hers. This one was a bit closer to home too - a mere half hour away. The second graders, mostly instigated by Sophie, sang loud songs for most of that half hour, including some Christmas ones.

We ended up at a place called Filoli Gardens, which is basically an old English-style country mansion nestled in the hills of the San Francisco peninsula. The gardens are impressive, and we were led through them and out into the forest by a volunteer docent (lots of volunteers - there was one docent for every four kids, and one chaperon for every two kids). He knew his stuff, which is nice because I probably wouldn't have been able to keep my mouth shut if he hadn't. I even picked up a little info along the way myself.

Poor Sophie spent an inordinate amount of time sadly staring at the taxidermied fawn in the nature center, no doubt thinking of the injustice of it all. I tried to explain to her that sometimes animals die of natural causes, but she wasn't buying it. She had this idea that the animals were killed specifically so they could be stuffed and mounted in the museum.

For the most part though, the kids loved it, but before too long we were all back on the bus, headed southward.

Now I'm home, taking advantage of the lull in demands on my time. It won't last of course, but I'm a firm believer in taking a step back and just breathing when I have the chance.

Speaking of relaxing, I've been to a couple of gigs this week, and I've reviewed them on my other blog. Check it out.

Currently listening to: Helena Espvall & Masaki Batoh "s/t" cd

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (AEOE) Statewide Spring Conference at Walker Creek Ranch in Petaluma has come and gone. People from all over the state (and even a few from Nevada) were there to participate in the workshops, network, relax, and recharge their batteries with enthusiasm and new ideas. Around 15 staff members from my school went. A bunch of us drove up in the school van, and others took their own vehicles. Several of us, including me, led workshops too, and I even managed to win second place in the photo contest, with a friend and coworker of mine coming in first.

The weekend flew by in a flurry of workshops, speakers, music, dancing, and beautiful surroundings. Grey Foxes were everywhere, and it seemed I saw one every time I walked up the road to our campsite. Overhead, the crisp, blue sky was full of Turkey Vultures, and the rolling, green hills were dotted with deer and interesting rock outcrops. The rock outcrops often supported little groups of people, sometimes with guitars and singing. The workshops were interesting. I went to one on job seeking, one on DIY car repairs, one on sage bundling, and one that taught us some new ways to teach the concept of energy to elementary school kids. This last one incorporated several fun games involving a creative re-imagining of Capture the Flag. The one I taught was about reptiles and how handle them and use them to teach natural science concepts. It went well, I think, with people giving me positive feedback afterwards. I definitely could have used more time though, since I have a lot to say on the subject.

There was music too, with bands playing in the so-called "Boogie Barn" or the dining hall each evening. There was a DJ on Saturday night too, and I found myself dancing until around 2am, hoping that the people climbing into the rafters weren't as inebriated as they looked.

Our staff did a skit for the campfire/talent show portion of the weekend, as did others. Ours was pretty tied in to the theme of the conference (Education Unplugged) while others took some liberties with their interpretations. One of them was almost dada-esque, perhaps taking the word "unplugged" to be synonymous with "unhinged" - it featured a guy in a giant, yellow chicken suit, a nearly nude fire spinner, a tap dancer, a guy with a Kermit the Frog puppet, a host of musicians, and other seemingly random players. I thought it was brilliant!

It was great to be able to be part of such a big assembly of dedicated naturalists and teachers, and wonderful to see old friends and meet new ones. I didn't get much sleep, of course, both because I stayed up way too late and because the sleeping bag I'd taken from the lost and found at work wasn't very warm. I really should buy a new sleeping bag.

It's almost hard to be back home now. I need to hang onto all of that inspiration and forge ahead in some way, but I find myself wishing that I could live on a commune with all of the people who show up to the AEOE conferences, and I'm looking forward to the Fall when my school hosts the Autumn Northern Conference. I'll probably be teaching in a classroom then, but I'll still definitely be involved in the conference.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We're in the middle of a mini-heatwave right now. The last couple of nights have been T-shirt weather, with attendant mosquitoes. Lots of campers have been complaining of bug bites and making matters worse by madly scratching them. As I slept in the camp office, an incessant buzzing invaded my dreams and I awakened to discover a duo of Carpenter Bees bouncing against the partially open window. It wasn't long before they made it into the room and zeroed in on the lone light bulb, bouncing off the makeshift paper lampshade and pinging off the glass bulb itself. Needless to say, they kept me awake for most of the rest of the night.

I can't turn off the light because it serves as a beacon for kids who wake up in the night and need help. Like I mentioned earlier, the help most often needed this week is with bug bites, although bloody noses seem to be a regular occurrence as well. Not to mention scrapes and homesickness.

I'm gearing up for the AEOE conference this weekend, at which I'll be leading a workshop on working with reptiles in outdoor education. It should be interesting. I'm going to focus in on differing philosophies relating to human interaction with wildlife, and it should make for some lively discussions.

I'm all set to apply for my teaching credential too. I just have to renew my CPR/first aid certificate. There's a way to do that online now!

I've also started dating again, sort of. I mentioned awhile back that I'd met a woman named Terilynn. We went on a few dates but she ended up breaking things off. I don't think it was because of anything I did or didn't do - more about things going on in her life. On our last date, she talked about needing freedom. I kind of know what she means, actually. I'm in a place now where I'd like to make a real connection with the right person, but at the same time I'm in no hurry to make it happen.

We're friends on Facebook now, and we interact virtually, bringing things full circle. We initially met online through one of those online dating sites. It wasn't until relatively recently that I would have even considered investigating online dating, but I got to thinking that it might be a good way to meet people I wouldn't ever meet otherwise. It's also a good way to see how people express themselves in writing, and of knowing in advance if you have enough in common with somebody to pursue things to the next level. That said, right now I'm just looking around and enjoying the possibilities. Spring is, after all, a time of possibilities.

Spring is also a good time to hit the trails and breathe in the scent of all the new growth. I love the way the air smells when the first warm weather hits.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Here's another handful of reptile-related anecdotes. It's fun to revisit these stories, and interesting to note that they're all relatively fresh in my memory, despite the fact that the most recent of them probably occurred when I was only 13 or 14. It's also interesting to note that I can remember specific details of events, but sometimes be years off when trying to recall when the events happened.

A case in point would be the conversation I had with Matt earlier today. He's busy transferring field recordings to digital format, and wondered if I remembered what year we had gone to a friend's wedding in Portland - a trip during which field recording were made. I had, and still have, no idea. I remember the trip well enough, but not what year it occurred.

We're not wired to remember arbitrary numbers on a calendar. We're wired for seasons and events.

That's my thinking, anyway.

Here's the reptile stories:

I can still clearly remember the first time I came across a California King Snake.For some reason, in my mind this snake had become the holy grail of local snakes – probably for no other reason than I hadn’t yet seen one in the wild. It was surprisingly easy to catch.I would soon learn why.At that time, we still depended on bicycles for transportation, so the journey to and from the hills involved a lot of pedaling. Of course, the journey back home was much easier, being that it was all downhill. It was while I was coasting down one of the more significant hills, with the King Snake in one of my hands (we still hadn’t figured out the whole snake bag thing) that I looked down and noticed that the snake was now half again as long as it had been when I caught it. I did a double-take, and probably had a comical look of surprise plastered on my face while doing so. It was on that second take that I noticed that the “new growth” was actually the back end of a Garter Snake being regurgitated by my motion-sick captive.

I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

I’m sure the King Snake would have disagreed with this.

That reminds me of another incident that occurred on the way home from a different excursion into the hills. Since this time the captive was a Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, we had gotten inventive and upgraded our transportation methods.

We put the snake in a paper grocery bag.

I was on a skateboard, being pulled by my friend. Of course, I hit a rock, and the bag went flying. I landed on my back and the bag landed on me, with the open end about a foot from my face. It was one of those moments when everything seemed to freeze. The world narrowed down to include nothing but my face and the flickering tongue of the Rattlesnake, a mere 12 inches away. It probably would have nailed me right on the lips if it had been a little warmer, or if I had moved the wrong body part. As it was, I moved the right body part, bringing my hands up and pressing the bag closed. We laughed it off and kept going.

From there, my train of thought takes me to the shores of the Mississippi, up in Minnesota. The river is relatively narrow there, but it was still a big river to me. Of course, I didn’t really care about the size of the river. What held my attention was the size of the snake slipping swiftly through the tall grass along the bank. I dove for it, and felt my hands close around scaly muscle. When I stood up, I had a five foot Bullsnake in my hands. I held it up to inspect it, and it promptly struck me right in the face, hanging onto my lower lip for a moment before letting go. I was spitting blood for about fifteen minutes after that, but I didn’t care. All of my Minnesotan relatives must have thought I was crazy.

It’s also interesting to note that the Bullsnake holds the record for the largest snake native to North America, surpassing the Indigo Snake. I recently read that somebody in Texas caught a ten footer. I guess it’s good that I didn’t catch a ten foot snake. That probably would have hurt more.