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.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Exactly What I Mean

"Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." - Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill certainly was a person who would have understood that concept. Being at the helm of the British people during World War II must have been incredibly difficult. Of course, everybody was looking to him for leadership and that was a job where you couldn't just sleep in and not show up for work much less throw in the towel if you felt like it. Indeed, he must have been expected to march enthusiastically from failure to failure and never give up the ship.

We lesser and more fortunate mortals have the luxury of spiraling into despair while spending the day glued to the telly doing absolutely nothing about our situation.

I've been in a zone of doing nothing. I can't seem to get anything done. I made myself start a painting because I got disgusted with myself for the weeks of staring off into space feeling a vague je ne sais quoi whatever. I also haven't been writing up to my normal output level. Nothing seems interesting. It's complete poppycock, of course. This I know. There are more interesting topics to write about than there are hours in the day. I don't know what's the matter with me. All I can do is observe and wait for it to go away. I believe enthusiasm will grace my life pretty soon. It's just around that blind corner. 

Who knows how big it is? The blind corner I mean.

When I inventory my life I see many positive things going on. Even with this blarsted ennui. We're living a light carbon footprint. We grow a lot of our own food and what we don't grow we get from local farmers and ranchers. We're water conservationists. It's of necessity in many ways and yet we bow to the discipline and embrace it without any speck of resentment and denial. We're not materialistic in the sense that we don't consume a lot of "product". We make many of the items we need with materials we have on hand, scrounge or recycle. When we need to buy something we choose wisely and nearly all the time we can purchase used. But when we can't we remember that quality is remembered long after price is forgotten. Then we take care of what we purchase so it will last us a long, long time. We're never sick. Living out here we're not exposed to contagious disease.

Yep. It's all good.

And yet I'm going through a period where I don't feel all that inspired or productive. So I guess I'll just hang with that feeling, not beat myself up and keep one eye open and one foot moving (thank you, Ruth F. S.) so the machinery doesn't freeze up and be harder to start once the feeling passes.

I'm sure you all know exactly what I mean.