Saturday, December 31, 2016

Final Post of the Year

I suppose I could have gone somewhere or done something noteworthy over the break, but I chose to stick close to home. I didn't even go hiking. The closest thing to that was the walk to downtown that Jeanine and I did yesterday. That said, I guess I walked around Berkeley a bit too, when Jeanine and I went to meet up with Greg, my cousin Peter with his twins (recently turned 4), and aunt Marilyn. This is the first time Marilyn has been out to California since before I was born, and Peter has been showing her around. We managed to cross paths twice while she was here, once at home, and then in Berkeley, where we spent most of the visit in bookstores.

Christmas came and went. Greg ventured down. Presents were exchanged and food was consumed. Eva's present arrived just in the nick of time, and one of Willow's is still not here. If it shows up, she'll be getting it for her birthday instead.

I got Eva a colony of Dermestid beetles, which are mostly used for cleaning animal skulls. Come to think of it, I might borrow them from her if I find anything interesting at work. So far, the beetles have only eaten cat food, but a couple of days ago I found a dead rat on the lawn, so we'll see how that goes...

Oh, we might have a new cat. A couple of days ago, I spotted a fluffy, white cat in the yard. It was too busy watching the chickens to take notice of much else. Jeanine went out and brought it in. She took it to the vet to see if it had a chip, and it does, but the chip was never registered, which essentially makes it useless, meaning we have no efficient way of finding the owner. So far, no bites on Craig's List or the local community forum either.

This will undoubtedly be my final post of the year. Willow is here this weekend, and we don't plan on going out anywhere tonight. Jeanine has a couple of gigs, but should be home well before midnight. Tomorrow, I plan on going to Gilman for the first part of the Lookouting festival, which is spread out over this weekend and the next. Eva was there last night and her friend's car got broken into, so she lost her phone and an expensive make-up kit. A parting kick from 2016? I guess that neighborhood has never been the best, but I always felt perfectly safe parking there. Until now. Jeanine had the foresight to insure Eva's phone though, so a replacement is already on the way.

But I ramble...

Willow has a plan to try going vegetarian, at least for the month of January. Today, she wants to go out and have a burger though. I'd laugh, but I spent yesterday buying a crapload of music online in preparation for my plan to buy none during January. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, I guess...

2016 definitely had some lowlights, none of which I'll recap here. One highlight for me was that 2016 was the year that I finally started to learn how to play guitar. It's also the year that I ended my time as the night supervisor at camp and went back to being a field instructor. We got a new boss too, and she's a breath of fresh air after the interim director we were briefly saddled with.

Politically, I despair. Personally, I'll keep doing what I do. Yeah, I have some so-called resolutions in mind. Maybe some of them will stick this year. In addition to my annual attempt to cut down on my unsustainable music spending habits, I'm going to try and severely limit my time online at the start of the year, at least when it comes to Facebook and such. Recently, Willow actually voluntarily deleted some of her social media apps, so she has finally (independently) come to the conclusion that she spends to much time on social media as well. This way, we'll be able to benefit from mutual support.

Here's to the coming year. Let it be a good one.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Final Week of Work for the Year...

We only had around 70 kids attending the final week of science camp for 2016, which made camp seem kind of empty. My hiking group was composed of 17 campers and one cabin leader. We only had two volunteer cabin leaders this week, with two staff members filling in as cabin leaders for the other two cabins (we usually have 11 cabins full of kids). Thursday brought a deluge, and the road to camp was briefly blocked when a large Madrone tree fell across some power lines. It was still there when I drove out, looming ominously above the asphalt, propped up by nearly nothing. I'm not sure why the utility people were allowing us through at that time, but probably because they'd turned the power off.

On Wednesday, I took the kids on my favorite winter route for the all day hike. The forest is beautiful when the weather is rainy and foggy.

During the rainstorm, on a whim, I had the kids dig around an old Mountain Lion kill site (without telling them what it was) to see what they could find. This is all that remained:

Below is a photo taken the first time I visited the remains a couple of years ago. It was pointed out to me a day or two ago that felines will usually go for the brains and hearts first because they contain high levels of taurine, which feline bodies don't produce. Canines, on the other hand, will eat the stomachs because they can benefit from the plant nutrients but don't have the enzymes to break down the cell walls of plants. Due to this, a girl in my group actually stepped on the stomach the first time we visited the carcass. If coyotes had been about, she wouldn't have.

This weekend, my cousin Peter's twin daughters celebrated their fourth birthdays. I went over and celebrated with them, and then headed up to the city for a Neurosis show, which was excellent, as usual.

Willow was out with her girl scout troupe this weekend, having a sleepover. Jeanine has been busy with work, and Eva has been out with friends (she rarely seems to be around on the weekends at all these days). I have two weeks off now. I usually have all sorts of plans to get things done, but end up not accomplishing much. Will this year be different? Time will tell...

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Suddenly December

The weather has gotten colder and rainier over the last couple of weeks, with mushrooms burgeoning into colorful existence along the forest paths. I spent one week at our second site, which is primarily oak woodland, and this week at our main site among the redwoods.

The Death Caps seem to be everywhere this year. I've seen them at both sites.

At our second site, the ground is alight with Jack O'Lantern mushrooms, which are also poisonous, but not quite at the level of the Death Cap. I read that eating one will make a person "open up at both ends", but at least one will live to tell the tale. The other interesting thing about this mushroom is that the gills of fresh ones are faintly bioluminescent. I have yet to see this though.

The wet weather also inspires the newts to be out and about. I don't often photograph them these days, but when I find one in an interesting location, I can't help myself.

I got my car back in the middle of the first of the two weeks chronicled above. The fuel pump was under warranty, so I didn't have to pay much. Last weekend, I took part in a craft boutique masterminded by my friend Bat. Awhile back (years ago, actually), I had the inspiration to make some cards out of some of my old photographs. At the same time, Willow drew some cards as well. More recently, I carved some rubber stamps, so I quickly made some cards using those too. Jeanine, of course, had a stash of Christmas-themed cards that she had made, so I added them to the pile. Between the three of us, we made a whopping $24.00. I also traded some cards for a nice collage made by my co-worker, Acorn, who was selling them at the table next to mine.

Oh yeah, it was my birthday last weekend. Jeanine arranged a set of clues for me to follow in order to find my presents. One was even in the chicken coop. It made me smile.

Putting a damper on the day was the news of the Oakland Ghostship fire, which claimed the lives of 36 people, and obviously exponentially affected the lives of many, many more. In addition to the immediate tragedy, the fallout from this has arrived in the form of the shutting down of DIY art spaces. Being an artist, especially one who (rightly) steers well clear of the mainstream, is hard when it comes to finances and basic survival in the world we find ourselves in. Being one in an area that is rapidly being gentrified is even harder. Moving out to the country isn't an option either. Can you imagine trying to attempt anything provocative in a red state? It's a catch 22. It's hard to live where you can thrive, and you can't thrive where you can afford to live. People are forced to live illegally in spaces that aren't zoned for habitation.

As for the immediate tragedy, my brother lost a friend, and so did a lot of my other friends. I'll share what I wrote on Facebook in reaction to all of this:

I find myself spending my birthday reflecting upon the Oakland Ghostship fire, and the people who headed out to the show without realizing that their journeys were almost done. A good night out quickly became something other. For me, this magnifies my usual birthday thoughts about mortality. We celebrate our beginnings, but never know where it all ends. The clear conclusion is to not put off those things we plan to do. Don't wait until tomorrow. Live. Celebrate lives. Tell people you love them. Be kind. My heart goes out to those who are left behind. I don't think I knew anybody who went to the show, or if I did, they were people I might have met briefly, but ultimately, it makes no difference. A lot of people are never coming home from the show. Sure, this kind of thing happens every day around the globe. People die in great numbers, either by accident or by design, but I feel like these were my people - many of them, although I didn't know them, were in my network of friends, attending the kind of show that I might have attended (I didn't know the artists involved, but I've been to plenty of shows like this one). We pick up the pieces as best we can. Love to all.