Monday, December 14, 2015

And the Wall Came Tumbling Down

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fix a failing barn wall.
Jill prevailed
And popped a nail
And the wall came tumbling after.

Marty and I had another episode of Mars and Venus recently. All ended well but there was a moment in the middle when either one of us could have been killed, maimed or destroyed and everything in between. It started when we were tasked to fix a section of the old barn wall that had come loose in one of our ferocious north winds a couple weeks ago.

Marty had a plan as he always does and he set about accomplishing it. I just happened to be in the barn while he started. I wasn't there to interfere. I was just there because I was cleaning up. However, as he began to work I, of course, noticed the proceedings and I, of course, had a thought or two. I always do. Sometimes I have a good suggestion and sometimes I don't. In this case I had some concern because the section of wall in question was quite large and heavy and was all of one piece and if, for some reason, it came loose and fell it would cause a lot of damage and I didn't want the damage to be on the head of my dear beloved. So, of course, I went over and said "I have a suggestion, Do you want to hear it?" And he, because he loves me so and tolerates all of my shenanigans big and small with load and loads of patience, well, he said yes. Sometimes I even have a good idea and he admits it. So I told him. How about if instead of trying to prop it up with the tractor bucket we attach some pulley ropes, lower it to the ground, take it apart, add a cross beam to the barn so there's something to attach it to and then nail the whole thing back up piece by piece." 

Easy peasy, right?

He says that's too much work. 

So I back off. When he says it's too much work that's my cue to shut up and let him do it his way. He always makes it work even if I'm standing over in the corner with the cell phone ready to order an air ambulance to take him to the med center when it all fails. It never fails. Oh, ye of little faith.

So the tractor bucket can't quite reach high enough so he's creative and scoops up dirt to raise the level of the tractor so he can maneuver the bucket into position to push the failing section up to a point where he can nail it back in place. It's looking really good. The hill of dirt under the tractor is a stroke of genius and I'm admiring the ingenuity of my man. What can I do to help?

Over on the edge of the section I see a board that is kind of snagging so of my own volition I decide to go over and help dislodge it while he's got the section teetering on the bucket of the tractor. Off to the side I position a 2 x 4 and push the offending board aside and out of the way.

Immediately and without any warning the whole section of barn wall comes careening down.

 What the hell happened? Apparently this section was held on by one nail in the one board and when I pushed - with good intention - the nail came loose. I'm standing there. He's sitting there. We're both bug-eyed.


He gets off the tractor and comes over to stand by me. Well, you got your wish. Now I am going to have to take it apart and put it back together piece by piece.

Sometimes things don't go the way you thought. 

Or do they?

It's winter for sure. It's cold and rainy. Things are finally getting green. (the conundrum of the Planet California. When everywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere is getting brown and white we're getting green. ) The water in the livestock troughs has frozen over a couple times and all the leaves on the deciduous trees are down. I like this time of year. I like the rain. I'm not wild about the wind but if I have my trusty North Face windbreaker pants on I'm good to go. Christmas is right around the corner and so is the winter solstice. The days will start getting longer and it will not get dark at 4:15 any more.

A view of the hay barn from across the creek.
The creek bed. I think the textures and colors here are beautiful.
The round things are oak galls. There are a lot of them.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

My Friend Anna Dearing

It is with great sadness that I tell you my great friend and teacher Anna Dearing has passed away. We got to be really good friends in the last year after I suggested to her that she teach me how to make old fashioned rag rugs. She was more than just a teacher to me. We shared everything. She was a true human being who had gone through a lot in her life and she never lied or tried to impress me. She didn't hold me at arm's length.

Anna was of the Gabrileno Tongva tribe and she grew up in Santa Barbara county long before it became chi-chi. She worked in the dairies and learned how to cook, quilt and crochet from her sister and mother. She was a strong person then as she was when I knew her. She was vivacious and gregarious and she was "one of the boys". I thought she looked like Patsy Cline when she was young. She met her husband Ed when she was nineteen and they married within a few weeks. Their marriage endured for 69 years. Along the way they had four kids, two girls and two boys. Anna found the Lord late in life. She'd been a heavy drinker. Discovering the Lord pulled her through. Yet she wasn't a Bible thumper. She carried her faith quietly and privately. 

Ed and Anna moved to this area about 30 years ago and built a house on Grindstone Creek across from the Grindstone Rancheria. Their property shared the creek boundary with our ranch. They had livestock and almonds in the early years. She still participated in Tribal ceremonies by affiliating herself with the local Rancheria. She sometimes attended the round house ceremonies. The Indians really liked her. Days before her passing they wanted to hold a dance for her but it was too late. She passed before they could organize it.

As for me it's been hard to make friends out here. People are busy and I think some people are miffed that we got this job therefore taking it away from a local person. Anna wasn't like that. I wish I'd made friends with her when we first arrived four years ago. Some of my loneliness would have been assuaged.

But I'm glad I finally did make friends with her. The time we had together, although short, was really good. After I got good enough to go it alone on making the rugs we'd go to Paskenta together. Every Tuesday I'd go over to her house, pick her up and we'd drive the half hour to hang out and work on our fabric projects with the ladies of the Paskenta quilting group. She had been going there for 30 years and knew some of the ladies when they were teenagers.  I really enjoyed those drives. We had a lot to share and talk about.

Now it's over and I'll have to find something else to fill the space. Anna is at peace and her physical suffering is over. I'll never forget her.

Anna Dearing b. 1927, d. Nov. 24th, 2015, 88 years old.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Blow Wind, Crack Cheeks!

Blow, blow, thou winter wind.
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude.
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot.
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remembered not.

As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7, by William Shakespeare

It started blowing crazy cold last night and it's been blowing ever since. 24 hours straight. I was grateful for my North Face windbreaker pants this morning when it was my shift to feed the livestock. I got those pants in Chicago years ago when I was walking down Michigan Avenue toward the Art Institute. I thought I'd die in the windy city until I came upon the store. They've turned out to be one of my better purchases in this lifetime. 

So far nothing has frozen solid. Not even me. So far no pipes have broken. Everything is well insulated so cross fingers nothing will. It's just crazy cold and crazy windy.

We found a place to walk with the dogs behind the bluff near the creek where the wind was not so fierce. In the sun it was more pleasant but not pleasant. There was not a cloud in the sky. The horses turn their butts into the wind. They don't seem unhappy. They don't seem happy either but they are built for it. As long as it doesn't get cold, rainy and windy all at the same time. I've seen horses huddling and shivering in the cold, windy rain near the best wind breaks they can find. Feed 'em up good. They'll come through it.

Earlier tonight the wall heater wasn't doing it so I sez let's crank up the wood stove. It does do it. Thank you for the good seasoned oak we cut last winter. I think if I was in a tipi I'd be under that buffalo robe and I wouldn't come out. Somebody else stoke the fire.

"Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!" - King Lear, Act III, Scene II, by William Shakespeare

Ari and Keenan in the Blue Oak forest with Sam

Keenan made a miraculous find: an obsidian arrowhead

Sunday, November 22, 2015

What Are You Thankful For?

We went to the local church today. It's a very small non-denominational community church and only a handful of people attend. The new pastor and his wife are both very nice. They're young and full of energy. I have a special regard for the pastor's wife, Anna, who helped get my friend and teacher Anna Dearing get to the hospital last weekend.

Teacher Anna is back in the hospital again with kidney and liver trouble made worse by a misdiagnosis. She has pneumonia. I'm really pulling for her to recover because she is one of my dearest friends. She might even be my only friend out here in the Elk Creek area outside of Marty.

The pastor, Joe, gave a very energetic talk. It's such a small congregation that he frequently calls out to one of the persons in the congregation to ask them a question or to make a comment. Today I almost expected him to leap into the aisle a la Steve Martin in "Leap of Faith" but he didn't. He stayed up on the dais and walked around up there in a most energetic way while emphasizing his points.

He made a lot of good points. I'm not a Bible thumper but I'm open minded enough to know wisdom when I hear it. I've been around the block and been exposed to a lot of different practices. I'd say, by in large, that the basic tenants of most of the main systems of religious thought are remarkably similar. So when I hear it proposed in a specific proprietary way and it seems sensible to me I listen regardless of the source.

Joe (let's just call him Joe without the pastor part. I appreciate he's a person who tries to lead by example and thinks about life in a deep way. What his affiliation is not important.) Anyway, Joe was talking about being positive today. About how to find the positive in whatever befalls you. It was a good reminder to not get mired down in thinking about something in a dogmatic way. Instead to examine it from all angles. Of course, Joe was speaking of it from a Christian point of view and he used a lot of passages from the Bible. One in particular was from Colossians which is a book that was written by the apostle Paul. Still and all it was a pretty good passage and it reminded me how there's a lot of ways to look at stuff. The thing is what it is but how you experience and react to it can be a list as long as your arm. It's your choice.

Wisdom is where you find it. If it leads to wisdom no path is better than any other.

Joe was leading up to this: what do you have to be thankful for? His idea was this: if you can take something in your life that bums you out and make it into something that you can learn from, or that supports you, or has a good use, then you can transform your life into a process that creates peace. 

I'm thankful for: (the short list)

my partner who loves me even when I'm not my best
my daughter who continuously amazes me with her ability for compassion
living in a country that lets me speak my mind
the food on my plate
the air that I breathe
my fingers, toes, eyes, and ears
my sister and friends who are always there for me
this amazing planet full of beauty
people all over the world who fight against anger, hate and violence in their daily lives by their very existence or by their active involvement.

What are you thankful for?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Don't Be Shy

It rained last night. I didn't hear it but when I woke this morning the evidence was all around. It's so nice to wake and see the ground wet and feel the moisture in the air. I think we resonate with water because we are almost all water ourselves. Remember the alien on Star Trek years ago who labeled the Trekkians "ugly bags of mostly water"? Gene Roddenberry had great powers of imagination.

So we look up at the rain clouds and the thought on everyone's mind is "will El Nino deliver?" El Nino is that phenomenon that is not fully understood but the Pacific Ocean warms up around the equator and usually, but not always, delivers plenty of moisture to North America. Folks in Texas and elsewhere are already whining "enough already!" So maybe the kid is delivering.

Just not here yet. We are getting rain but not much different than the other years we have been here. I could easily say this is average for us. Average for drought expectations. I've been keeping records so I know what happened a few years back. If someone asks me I won't look stupid because I have to say "Wuulll, I think we had a lot of rain 3 years ago." This won't fly. I have to know.

No, The Little Boy hasn't brought us anything new or out of the ordinary yet. The NOAA says he's a big boy. Biggest in 12 years. So we'll see. Pray for rain.

In the meantime the Chipping Sparrows like my natural bird bath. It's a derelict garbage can with a hole in the bottom and a large pot tray. They don't know it's not from Pottery Barn. They know what they like and as long as it's wet they're happy.

The next day the Chipping Sparrows seemed to have grown into monsters but it was just the Guinea birds coming for a visit. I'd like to say, "What are you feeding those sparrows?"  I'm glad the Guineas visit even if they squawk something fierce when they're excited. It's drowns out everything including your sense of sanity. The thing I like about Guineas is they love insects and we have an epidemic of these terrible stink bugs. I've scoured the internet and I can't figure out what they are except that they're true bugs. A true bug has a flat soft body, well developed feelers, and, here's the key, they defend themselves by stinking. They really, really stink if you bother them. And it doesn't take much to bother them! I wonder if you can bother them so much that they run out of stink like a skunk but honestly that is one experiment I'm not going to try. I'll let the Guineas do their worst. Eat, little Guineas, don't be shy!

I forgot to add something. Our first snow of the season. Looking southward toward Elk Creek at the juncture of CA 162 and Road 306 we see Snow Mountain (aptly named) with the first snow of the season.