Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The summer heat, which has been missing for most of the season, has enveloped the Bay Area like a wet, sticky blanket, making me all the more anxious for the Autumn clouds and wind to arrive. I want to see leaves dancing in the streets, and I want to smell imminent rain in the air.

Right now, it's 11:00 PM, and things still haven't really cooled down. I'm in the middle of a week off, and haven't really accomplished much, although several small tasks have been completed. I bought some pet food, and some windshield wipers. That counts for something, I guess. I've also been attempting to catch up on my reading, my music listening, and my movie watching, which is the kind of thing that truly makes this a "week off", and not a "week during which I accomplish tasks that I've been putting off doing for one reason or another".

Sometimes, doing nothing is important. It's a good way to recharge.

Currently listening to: Mountains "Mountains" CD

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yesterday, as I sat in my dead van while vultures circled overhead, I took a moment to reflect on how lucky I am.

For one thing, I had vultures to look at. I don't usually see Turkey Vultures circling over residential neighborhoods, yet there they were, lazily circling above me. Also, the timing of my breakdown was perfect. It could have happened the day before when we were down in Monterey at the aquarium, or earlier in the morning, before I'd driven Willow to her first day of school. As it was, I had nothing planned for the remainder of the day, so it was a perfect time for something to go wrong.

It's all about the timing. Things are always going to go wrong because that's the way life is, but they are always somehow less wrong if the timing is right.

Now, with more time and money passed under the bridge, all is well again.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Summer is almost over. School doors are yawning wide, drawing children back in out of the sun and fun of what seems to be an ever diminishing Summer break. Willow starts school on Monday with a somewhat heavy heart because she didn't get her first choice of teachers, although her disappointment stems more from the fact that not all of her friends are in her class.

I've got a slight cold, which is unusual for me. I spent my early childhood eating dirt (and apparently anything else that wasn't nailed down) to build up my immune system, so as an adult, I rarely get sick. This just means that it's doubly irritating when I do.

There is one final week of summer camp, but I've decided not to work it. I made the decision early in the season, figuring that it would be nice to have an extra week free so I could engage in more spontaneous activities. Since we ended up taking a mini-vacation the week before last, I'll probably use the week to get things done. They may be fun things, or they may be necessary things, but whatever they may be, next week they'll get done. That's the plan, anyway.

The last week of summer camp flew by like they all have. The unusually cool summer has caused a notable shift in what kind of wildlife we've seen, as well as when we've seen it. This week was more typical, with the only snakes in evidence being Rattlesnakes. I had one of those Crocodile Hunter moments this week - I was standing in the midst of a pile of rocks when something started rattling very close to me. I stood still for a moment, and finally spotted the snake under a rock about 2 feet in front of me. It had just shed, and was sitting next to its old skin. Not one to leave nearby stones unturned, I decided to check the rock between me and the snake, and sure enough, there was another Rattlesnake under that one too. It had also just shed, so I waited for it to crawl away (I knew it would do so quickly, because I'd seen this particular snake enough times to know its personality) and then grabbed the old skin. Back at camp, we used the skin, some strips of paper, and a laminating machine to make some pretty cool bookmarks.

Night fell, and the corner of the building sneezed out bats into the woods. I hadn't noticed they'd been roosting in the attic. Every so often, I'd look up and see a few more shoot out over our heads. It makes me want to go up into the crawlspace.

The last night hike of the season went well, with only 25 kids in my group (Summer night hikes can have as many as 40 kids, but rarely do). We spotted a couple of big bucks early on, and quietly crept up the trail towards them. Every time the nearer one raised his head, we'd freeze. The head would go down, and we'd creep closer. We got within about 15 feet before they relocated to a more inaccessible area. Later, a Great Horned Owl flew over our heads, alighting somewhere up in a big Douglas Fir tree.

We could hear the music from the nearby Mountain Winery venue, which is located in the foothills to the north. As we silently sat in the chaparral, I pointed out the cricket song surrounding us, and then the human song (and sounds of cheering) from the concert. We discussed noise pollution and light pollution. We gazed at stars, contemplating time and distance. Then, we made our way back to camp, where marshmallows and a small fire awaited. Soon, full of marshmallows, the kids were in their sleeping bags.

It wasn't until the next morning that I found out that the music (a band called Swell Season was performing) we'd heard was destined to be a prelude to a tragedy. The night before, one coworker had noted that the concert seemed to end suddenly, and another had heard sirens. I hadn't noticed. Too busy listening to owls, maybe.

A man had climbed up onto the backdrop behind the stage, and jumped off it, hitting a monitor just feet from the band's singer. He died at the scene. Needless to say, it was a shocking end to the concert. It struck me that this kind of suicide (and suicide it most definitely was) was an act of selfishness and rage, because this man made a decision to kill himself in front of a large number of people, thus altering many of their lives forever, especially those of the children present. Killing oneself can be done in any number of ways or places away from the presence of a large audience. My thoughts on this were confirmed when just a little while ago, I read that the man was out on bail for domestic violence, false imprisonment, and assault with a firearm. I'm in no way trying to diminish whatever the man was going through, and I can't say I in any way understand it because I haven't walked a mile in his moccasins, but I just hated to hear that he chose such a public venue for his final act. I wonder if he thought he'd get his (posthumous)moment in the spotlight this way. In our media saturated society, it's almost odd that there aren't more public suicides. Let's hope there aren't copycats.

Here's a link to an article about the tragedy.

Friday, August 13, 2010

We're back from a quick roadtrip down to Anaheim, where Willow and I, along with Jeanine and her daughter Eva, spent a total of 27 hours inside the boundaries of Disneyland and the new(er) California Adventure park next door. Willow turns into a pumpkin at around 11:00 PM, I've discovered, but can be perked up by additional roller coaster riding, fireworks, or light shows of other kinds. We had a fine time hurtling around the parks, and I got to relive my childhood to a certain extent. There is just no beating the nostalgic smell of rides like Pirates of the Caribbean, and even the updating of said ride (to tie in with the movie franchise) proved to be subtle enough to leave its nostalgic power intact. Willow's only real dislikes were the Indiana Jones ride (too "freaky") and Splash Mountain. The latter might have been a better experience for her if we'd done it earlier in the day before she got tired out. As it was, the photo (taken as the boat plummets into the "briar patch" at the end) showed her with a look of abject terror on her face - a fact that somewhat embarrassed her as well. Of course, she loved Space Mountain, which is a high-speed roller coaster ride through a darkened building. Er, I mean space, of course. There is sometimes no telling what will disturb the young.

On the way back, we beach hopped and stopped at the Madonna Inn which, among other things, features a waterfall urinal in the men's bathroom. You can even buy a postcard of it, and I did, although at the moment I'm not sure where it is. Taking Highway 101 back north took longer than our trip down on I-5, but the scenery and beaches made it a worthwhile detour. The crescent moon seemed to be keeping pace with us off to the west, dragging its lower point along the black ridges of the coast range before slowly being swallowed by shadows. The sky turned orange before darkening to night, and by the time we got back into the Bay Area, it was nearly 11:00 and Willow was in dreamland.

We've even managed to make it to Santa Cruz and to the Winchester Mystery House this week, although the latter trip made Willow concerned about ghosts for some reason.

Speaking of ghosts, my mom's house is now virtually cleaned out. There is one small pile of belongings awaiting a final storage run, and for some reason, the broken microwave oven. The people my dad hired to take everything away were amazingly thorough, taking the washer and dryer, the refrigerator, and even some kitchen drawers and medicine cabinet shelves, but not the damn microwave. I wonder why they left that.

It is beyond strange to see the house empty, devoid of all the things that made it a home. There are still traces here and there, of course - the things I carved into walls, and the stickers on my old closet door, plus other tiny bits of personal detritus too small to amount to anything.

The rest is just dust and damage.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Looking back through my old posts, and then looking at the calendar, I have just noticed that I missed the 8 year anniversary of this blog. Time is a funny thing, and lately it just seems to be increasing in velocity. Summer is almost over, although this impression is bolstered by the fact that kids go back to school weeks earlier than I did as a child. Some kids start school this Monday. Willow starts in a couple of weeks. So much for having long, carefree summers.

We're going to try and pack in lots of fun over the next couple of weeks.

I just realized that we skipped dinner! Willow is laughing about it. Time to go eat now.