Saturday, August 23, 2014

Late Summer Already

What did I do with my week off? A little bit of this, and a little bit of that, I suppose. In between attending live music events and writing about them, I made a dentist appointment (it has been far too long), got ready for my upcoming trip to Lava Beds National Monument, and got a few minor things done around the house.

I rarely do as much as I plan to do. Instead, I spend too much time on the computer. After this post, I'm going to step away from here and go do something else. My dentist appointment is in a few hours, and tonight Greg is doing a performance up in Berkeley. I guess I do manage to keep relatively busy.

Here's a photo I took yesterday evening, as the sun filtered through the curtains over the kitchen sink. The smell of smoke was in the air, probably due to the plume of smoke visible to the north earlier in the day.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Summer Ends, At Least In Spirit

The final week of summer camp is always a bit sad, with people standing around in confusion, wondering where the summer has gone. Now that it's over, I've seen at least a couple of people on Facebook already starting the countdown until next summer. Ha. As for me, it was a pretty easy week. I had a younger group than I usually do, but along with the 21 3rd graders there came 7 counselors, which is 3 more than I think I've ever had before. Alex and Nathan were both up at camp as counselors too, and Willow, Jeanine, and Eva all made it up for the final campfire program of the season.

I led my usual activities in the afternoons. 35 kids followed me down to the pond, and around 15 of them followed me into the pond. Since they County Park people are slowly draining the water out so they can make repairs, it was shallow enough for the kids to get to parts of the pond that were once too deep for them to wade in. Two counselors even came in, which is something counselors rarely do. It's often hard to get teenage girls to do things like that, but these two did it with smiles on their faces. On the last critter hunt of the season, around 30 kids ended up going. We didn't find any snakes (the snakes have been keeping a low profile this summer, and I only saw one the whole week - it escaped into a thorn bush and when I grabbed for it, and I ended up with around a half inch of thorn in my palm instead of a snake), but we did find a Northern Alligator Lizard and some good invertebrates, including a freshly molted Calisoga Spider, a Praying Mantis, a Forest Scorpion, and a Jerusalem Cricket.

On Thursday, in the middle of the campfire program, I got a haircut. Early in the week, I'd challenged my group to achieve a blackout on the nature bingo game we were playing, telling them that if they succeeded, I'd cut off my ponytail and donate it to Locks of Love. The succeeded, and one of the kids came up with an idea for a barber shop skit, to be performed during the campfire. We went with it. They had trouble cutting through my ponytail with the trimmers I'd provided, so scissors were retrieved to finish the job. Below are some before and after photos. At least two people (one of them was Willow) got the event on video as well. Yes, it looks like my hair was cut by an eight year old. I'm not sure if I'll finish the job properly or just leave it the way it is. One counselor said I looked like Brad Pitt, and another said I looked like Ned Stark (actually Sean Bean, I guess). They're too kind.

On Willow's last weekend before school started (her first day was today), we did some back-to-school shopping and went to San Francisco with Jeannine, Eva, and Eva's friend Alonzo. At the end of the day, on a whim, we drove west until we hit the beach. It was nice. There was even a raven on the sand, looking cold.

Yesterday, when it seemed like most people were back in school already, I took her and a friend to a movie. Now, the school year has truly begun. I still have nearly two weeks off before the green gears of science camp start turning. What to do? Some work and some play, or that's the plan, anyway.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Through the Dust and Heat of Summer, We Emerge Sweaty and Grimy

The inevitable summer slump has happened. It's funny how my summer camp weeks are often more mind-consuming than my science camp weeks. Then again, science camp is more of a set routine and summer camp encourages more of an "anything goes" mentality. Add to that the fact that for the past month, I've been part of the Trailblazers team. Trailblazers is a summer program that was offered for the first time last year. This year, it was expanded from three weeks to four. Last year, I think I worked one Trailblazers week, but this year I worked all four. Two kinds of kids get signed up for the program: Kids who are really into natural science and related subjects, or kids who couldn't get into our main summer camp program because it was full. It's always pretty easy to tell who is who too. That said, we had a great month of hiking and playing. Everything ran more smoothly this year, and it's pretty obvious we've left last year's growing pains in the dust, although we're constantly improving things. Counselors for the Trailblazers program are provided by yet another summer camp program, Leaders In Training. Leaders In Training are mostly 13 year old campers who are being trained to be counselors. Both of my stepdaughters, Sophie and Eva, came up on different weeks to take part in the program, and they both had a good time and learned things. Willow came up at the end of July for the regular camp and had a fun week too, although she elected to not camp overnight on Thursday (although, come to think of it, Eva opted out of the L.I.T. campout too).

The wildlife around camp has been in short supply. For some reason, I haven't been finding as many snakes this year. I did get a cool infrared motion-sensor trail camera though, and I've got a few pictures of nocturnal and crepuscular happenings. I'm looking forward to using it again next week when I'm back at camp for the final week of the season.

The weeks flew by, and there were a number of profound moments. The campers, mostly third and fourth graders, were genuinely concerned about the world around them, and that always makes me happy. It was a treat to watch the Leaders In Training grow over the course of their time at camp, although there were three who didn't quite make the grade this year.

The last couple of weeks have been hot, although we've had some cloudy days. The air quality has been bad too, and I'm sure at least some of that is attributable to the wildfires burning upstate.

For the past week, I've not been working. I take one week off every summer, and usually that's family vacation week. This year, we ended up not going anywhere. Jeanine's mom, who lives with us, has trouble getting around and needs someone close by, so we had originally planned to take a number of day trips in lieu of a proper vacation, but since my week off got moved around due to the Trailblazers program (they wanted consistent staffing for the duration of the program this year), the vacation week didn't really pan out as planned. Instead, I made a list of things that needed to get done, but that ended up not really happening either. I still need to make a dentist appointment, and I still have plans to get rid of my old van which is gathering dust in the driveway (I'm thinking of donating it, and I may very well once again donate my hair at the same time, which is what I did the last time I donated a vehicle). In short, I've spent the week doing very little. Sure, I brought a couple of art prints to a framer, and I've done some writing (mostly for my other blog), watched some movies (Theo Angelopoulos' "The Traveling Players" and the Marvel/Disney film, Guardians of the Galaxy, both of which were great in their own ways, although at very opposite ends of the filmic spectrum), and gone out to see some live music. Oh, I also raked the yard, but the avocado tree has since dropped enough leaves that it looks like I hadn't. To hell with it. I've never been good at routine maintenance.

Today, Jeanine is out working, and I'm going to head to a BBQ and then up to Berkeley for some more musical entertainment. School already looms on the horizon for the kids. Willow is back to school on the 19th. Where has the summer gone?