Thursday, May 19, 2011

The beginning of the week transported us back in time to midwinter, with temperatures plunging and heavy clouds blanketing the area. The rain revivified the creeks and inspired fruiting bodies to burst forth. Our hike up the trails at Hidden Villa yesterday was much different from the one we took a couple of weeks ago. The orgy of Spring was replaced by the expectant hush of Winter, and for some reason, the expectant opportunism of ticks. While hiking up a trail that leads away from the creek and into the chaparral, Jeanine noticed that she'd acquired a passenger in the form of a deer tick. When we stopped to inspect ourselves, I found that pant legs were crawling with them. I counted as I flicked them off into the scrub, reaching 18 by the end of the hike. That's a new personal record for simultaneous arachnid infestation. Neither of us got bitten. Ticks look kind of cute when they're waiting for a ride. In fact, they almost look like they're trying to hail a cab. See the picture above. Anthropomorphizing a bit more, I can imagine their excitement when they manage to hitch a ride, and their bitter disappointment as they're flicked back into the greenery.

Now, the sun is back out. I'm taking the night off work because Willow's mom is going out of town again. We're joining Jeanine to play with balloons and eat pizza tonight.

This Saturday, Willow has her last softball game of the season, and I've been hired to bring reptiles to a 10th birthday party after the game. Sunday, the reptiles and I are going to a school carnival. Having Jeanine advertise for me is paying off this season.

Currently listening to: V/A "Tomorrow's Conversations - An Album for Charity Curated by Birds Of Passage" This is a download only benefit album for people affected by the New Zealand Earthquake. Get it here.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

There are four weeks of camp left before the school year ends. Unlike last year, when I got to lead field classes for the last few weeks of the school year, I find myself sticking to my nocturnal schedule. This is the time of year when it gets light well before the official camp wake-up time, which makes it hard on the kids who wake up with the light but aren't allowed to talk while others still sleep. Last week, I partially solved the problem by loaning out a bunch of books so the early risers could quietly read. It's heartening to note that a number of kids brought their own books. I love it when I see kids reading for fun. These are kids who will never be bored.

Speaking of kids, a couple of weeks ago, while out of a bike ride, we happened to notice three kids riding their bikes home from school. They all had bike helmets... dangling from their handlebars by the straps. It's interesting to see what kids do when their parents aren't looking. That same week, I saw kids playing in traffic - walking across the street in slow motion while cars accelerated toward them. When I stop and think about it though, I never wore a bike helmet when I was a kid, and I'm sure I played in traffic too. I climbed fences, rode my bike down precipitous trails and over spillways, splashed in rain swollen creeks, played with venomous animals, walked into extensive creek tunnels with flaming torches created by wrapping bits of cloth around sticks, and for the most part had the run of the city and the hills beyond. I never even seriously injured myself, unless you count the 13 stitches I got in my knee after wiping out on my bike, and the ripping out those same stitches a few days later when I rode by a trash can and tried to kick it over, only to discover that it was full. My miscalculation of its weight spun me off my bike. Instant karma.

I wonder how many kids these days get away with having the kinds of adventures I had. Probably not many. Parents have become increasingly paranoid, forcing kids to have virtual adventures. Come to think of it though, the internet is probably as dangerous a playground as the citywide one I enjoyed as a kid. Maybe more so.

Currently listening to: Owls "The Night Stays"

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Once again, I've been neglecting this blog, instead opting to spend more time writing for my music blog.

We're well into Spring now, although from the gently dancing trees and gray light I can see out my window, you wouldn't know it. I recently purchased a bike, and when I combine the miles I've ridden with the miles I've walked in the last month, I find that I've already logged 93 miles this season. Jeanine has come along for the bulk of those miles. We've found more creek trails nearby, and discovered that they connect to other creek trails that eventually lead into the hills. The hills are carpeted in Spring wildflowers and alive with amorous animals. On a recent hike, we saw mating Checkerspot butterflies, slugs, and a beautiful pair of interlocked Coast Horned Lizards. I haven't seen a Horned Lizard in the wild in nearly a decade now, so this was a happy moment indeed.

The statewide AEOE (California Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education) conference took place last weekend, and I took Willow along. She ended up having a blast, partially thanks to the cool playground at Westminster Woods in Occidental, where the conference took place. When picking which workshops to attend, I chose them with Willow in mind. We met a Great Horned Owl, played in the creek, walked along a bluff overlooking the ocean, watched Harbor Seals, tracked animals, investigated skulls and Dermestid beetles, and looked through microscopes at tiny creek critters. She started the weekend with a cold, but by the end, the fresh mountain air had cured her. Or maybe the oceanside breeze literally blew the snot out of her.

Today marks my second Mother's Day without a mother. I can't begin to relate all of the things my mom did for me over my lifetime, from giving birth to me to instilling in me an intellectual curiosity about the world around me, and... everything else. The last time I saw her alive was early last year, when I stopped by her house to help dispose of her Christmas tree. She wasn't feeling well - a slight cold, I think. Willow was with me, but stayed outside. My mom was worried about passing on her cold to Willow. It was a short visit, and of course I had no idea it would be our last one. You never really know when you'll see somebody for the last time. Remember that. Visit your mom. Happy Mother's Day.

Summer is fast approaching. It's hard to believe that another school year is winding down.

Currently listening to: White Hills "Black Valleys"