November 29, 2022

I have had a glorious two weeks in the Wisconsin northern woods.  The weather for the most part has been warm (into the 40s and 50s) and sunny, and my knee has been able to tolerate longer and longer hikes.

Before leaving California, I had an ozone injection into my knee.   Without known adverse side effects, ozone can stimulate joint repair, reduce inflammation, and may even promote the growth of new cartilage.  Ozone is an alternative treatment and is not covered by most insurance.  It’s quite expensive, so I made sure I did my homework before taking the plunge.   I found solid scientific evidence that backs up ozone’s efficacy.  Now I have my own experiences to back up what I found in the literature.  I can hike!

I am staying in the house where I grew up.  When my parents bought this place in the early 50s, they were surrounded by miles of pristine wilderness.  During an era when kids didn’t have to be constantly monitored or plugged into structured activities, my siblings and I were free to roam wild.  I recall my brothers actually building a log cabin once in the woods.  As an adult, one brother attempted to give my 10-year-old nephew a jackknife for Christmas.  The child’s mother, my sister-in-law (from Chicago) balked, “It’s too dangerous!”

My brother retorted that at 10, he not only had a jackknife, he also owned a BB-gun and walked around with a hatchet strapped to his belt.

I don’t think, that when growing up in such an environment, one is ever able to completely adapt to “civilized” society.  One becomes like an outdoor cat who has limited tolerance for staying inside.  I realized this more than ever over the past two weeks as something visceral ignited inside me.  I am very much a part of this landscape and climate.  The seasons and weather which are constantly changing, speak to me, embrace me, and when hiking in these northern woods, all is well with the world.

The neighborhood where I grew up has drastically changed.  Some forest remains, but mostly it’s been mowed down for new housing developments and businesses.  I have to drive now to find any areas of accessible wilderness.  There is however, one small parcel of public land near my parent’s home where I can still hike.  For many years I have enjoyed the beauty, peace, and solitude of this place.  However, in recent years, this treasure been discovered by the onslaught of a growing population.  Other people want to use these trails and alas, their use involves snowmobiles and ATVs.  It is a mystery to me why some see untouched nature and feel that it immediately has to be occupied with noise and speed.

Yesterday however, as I walked the parcel, there was none of that.  I did encounter one man jogging and a couple walking together silently beneath the trees.  I smiled at these people and said good morning.

November 27, 2022

On this Thanksgiving I have much to be grateful for.  For one thing, I have returned to the rural Midwestern home of my birth.  I am celebrating the holiday with a large extended family in traditional Thanksgiving stye.  I am also able to experience the stunning beauty of November in the North Woods.  Alas, I would be enjoying these woods much more if it weren’t deer hunting season.  Thus, when enjoying the outdoors, I am confined to certain hunting restricted parks.

I have been watching two impressive films on Showtime – both series.  One: Spector about the life of Phil Spector and Gossip, a series on the disturbing, yet interesting history of tabloid journalism. 

What I really have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving is the ability to hike. I have been hiking much further in recent days. It appears that my knee may be still healing after all this time.

November 18, 2022

Well, I have finally joined the many thousands of people who have contracted Covid.  It manifested as a bad cold that lasted about a week.  I think we are all letting our guard down too early.  We are not over this yet, but undoubtedly impossible to get people to put their masks back on. 

I may have caught it while dining in a crowded restaurant at Fisherman’s Wharf.  I had relatives visiting from out of state and they insisted on visiting this location.  As a longtime resident of the Bay Area, I have religiously avoided Fisherman’s Wharf.  I always considered it too touristy.  I was pleasantly surprised however at how beautiful this area is.  I must take my bike down there soon and ride it along the waterfront. 

I later flew back to the northern Midwest for the Thanksgiving holiday.  It’s snowing up here and the rental car company gave me a nice big four-wheel drive truck.  The last time I visited, they had rented me a lemon.  They promised me a free upgrade this time, and did they ever deliver!  Nice to have such a vehicle in this snow and ice.

The Republicans are getting ready to take over Congress.  They are promising an agenda that has nothing to do with what people want or need.  I’m wondering if the bulk of the American people are leaning toward sanity, and won’t be fooled anymore by madness.  We shall see.  Meanwhile, all eyes are on the Georgia runoff.  Sadly, voter suppression is alive and well in that state, as recorded by this recent documentary vigilantemovie.com

October 30, 2022

Over the weekend people were celebrating the coming of Halloween and All Saints Day. There is much partying and fun. We also celebrate the coming of cooler days and the lovely fall foliage. Northern California does have an autumn, although it is subtle and slow.

The election is on everyone’s mind. At least everyone I talk to. People are scared. They’re afraid to even talk about it and that’s why they party.

I had considered spending election night camped in the woods. Far away from any media where the election results will be tallied and finally called. Then I was recruited to help at an election party. I decided to go, so I wouldn’t be alone. And I’ll be working, so if there is a monitor on, I can ignore it.

October 16, 2022

I spent the weekend again on the San Francisco Peninsula.  I’m taking care of some business, but had time to check out the part of the San Francisco Bay Trail that goes past Coyote Point Recreation Area.  Whenever possible, I’ve been bringing my bike to the assorted pieces of the Bay Trail that covers 330 miles around the Bay.  Construction for this trail was approved in 1989 with the ultimate goal of correcting the full 500 miles of completely connected bike trails.

From Coyote Point

I had hoped to take the trail from Coyote Point either north or south along the Bay.  The trail north was not appealing, as it quickly runs into some industrial areas and much of it hugs the 101 freeway.  I turned around and tried to head south toward Seal Point.  Again, much of the trail, although confined to bikes and pedestrians, veers away from the bayshore and runs along a busy frontage road that parallels the noisy freeway.

There are some shorter trails that loop throughout Coyote Point Park itself.  They are pretty trails as the park is festooned with tall eucalyptus and cypress trees along with Monterey pines.  Alas, these trails were hilly and not conducive to my faulty knee.

After today’s visit, I decided that Coyote Point wasn’t worth visiting again, although the area does host one of the rare swimming opportunities on the Peninsula.  The blogger Dylan Tweney offers some hints about swimming at Coyote Point in his post entitled Coyote Point Swimming Notes

I decided to take some back roads from Coyote Point enroute to Palo Alto where I was spending the weekend.  After living in Sonoma County for several years, I was struck by the Peninsula congestion.  I fear that the North Bay will also eventually succumb to this type of over-population, but for now, I’m glad I live in the North Bay and not on the Peninsula or in San Francisco.

Just as I wouldn’t recommend Coyote Point for biking, I wouldn’t recommend anyone trying to navigate San Mateo, at least east of the 101 Freeway.  It is a confounding maze and I quickly got lost.  I was grateful to finally encounter Foster City where I recognized some familiar street names.

Foster City is a pretty place, but it is also a remnant of an endeavor to plug up the San Francisco Bay with landfill. (Foster City is built on landfill).  A remarkable film entitled Saving the Bay documents how greedy developers connived to fill up the entire Bay at one point, but were stopped by a handful of activist women.

I finally reached Redwood City, my old home.  And as what always happens when driving through old stomping grounds, memories bubbled to the surface. One of them made me chuckle…the time that someone posted a billboard stating “Beautiful Redwood City: Palo Alto without the Attitude.”  The city of Palo Alto was enraged about this, and the sign was quickly removed.

These were all good memories of Redwood City, and of all of my time on the Peninsula.  I started thinking about memories.  About how often we suppress bad memories and try to focus on the present and the future.  I seldom savor good memories, although I have many.  As we age, we all garner of treasure trove of memories.  It would be wise to leaf through them at times and be grateful that they occurred.  Perhaps that would buffer the difficult realization that also comes with age: the realization that life moves too fast and is far too brief.

October 1, 2022

October 1, 2022

I’m visiting Tomales Bay State Park this weekend.  I took a blessed kayak excursion from Heart’s Desire Beach to Indian Beach where there stands two Miwok kotchas (houses).  The rock formations along the kayaking route were phenomenal. 

Heart’s Desire Beach

One usually has to drive hours out of the Bay Area to get what Tomales Bay State provides.  That is: swimming in clean water; a beach, that at least on a weekday, is relatively empty; a kayak launch that’s next to parking; an interesting shoreline, and some beautiful hiking trails.

I look longingly at the hiking trails since my knee injury.  I haven’t spoken of the knee in some time, but suffice to say, the disabling pain is still there.  It is much better since a shot of cortisone last month, but the cortisone is wearing off.  It’s taken me this trip to realize that my ability to walk any distance is greatly diminished. 

One trail that was especially tantalizing was the Johnstone Trail which hugs the coast between Heart’s Desire Beach and Shell Beach.  The trail was shady and relatively level.  It would have been an awesome place to take a mountain bike, but alas, none were allowed.

Johnstone Trail

I can’t help but think about Peanut the cat.  About how she is no longer a part of my life.  Her absence certainly leaves a hole in my home.  “My heart hurts from this loss,” I told a friend.

She told me that she has learned to be grateful for the hurt that comes from loss.  “Because it means we have loved,” she said.  “Love always comes with loss.  The alternative would be life without love.” Maybe I did love the cat and Maybe she did love me. Or perhaps she just learned the ways of survival: be adorable and affectionate and they will feed you.

I think of all this after recently watching Island of the Sea Wolves, a beautiful Netflix documentary on Vancouver Island. In watching such a film you realize that this is the world of animals, and perhaps of even us (who are also animals). The birds, fish and mammals of Vancouver Island survive by devouring each other. I’m beginning to wonder if humans aren’t the same.

Anyway, it’s a fascinating and phenomenally photographed film. I am certainly paying more attention to animals these days. I find myself more aware of them – even the squirrels. I guess that was one thing Peanut brought me.

But why does one love a cat?  Because they seem to love us, I suppose.  (Although one wonders whether their signs of affection are just ploys to get some food).  Do we sense their vulnerability and want to protect them?  Is that love?

Or maybe they teach us about our own vulnerability.  Cats are tiny creatures in a world of giants.  We see the pains cats take to navigate that world.  I too have come to think about my own tiny-ness.  I do feel tiny against so many mounting onslaughts and various kinds of giants.  The giants of corrupt politicians and their lies, the giants of the defense industry and the proliferation of guns and wars, the giants of corporate pollution and a planet that is choking on greenhouse gas…. I could go on.

September 29, 2022

I must give an update on the situation with the cat.  A little background – I found the cat (Peanut) two years ago.  She was wandering around my apartment and I thought she was a stray.  I finally found her owner (George) who lives in the neighborhood.  He seemed to take a blasé approach to caring for Peanut.  He basically let her run wild and she survived by begging from neighbors.  George claimed he couldn’t catch her and he described her as an “outdoor cat with a restless spirit.”  Since I see myself in a similar vein, I took a liking to Peanut.  I liked her too because she could be quite affectionate and she was a beautiful cat – a cream tortishell.

The neighbors told me that George in fact didn’t technically “own” Peanut.  He was supposed to be caring for her, and Peanut actually belonged to some unknown woman.  No one knew who this woman was nor why she couldn’t care for her own cat.  It was rumored that she might be in jail.

Like many of the neighbors I couldn’t help but feed the cat.  Before long Peanut started camping out on my patio.  She kept sleeping there every night.

“She’s a couch surfer,” one of the neighbors told me.  The lawn chair on your patio just happens to be her favorite couch right now.  Or maybe you’re feeding her a favorite food.”

Then neighbor then snickered and called me a sucker.  “You have to watch out for couch surfers,” said the neighbor.  “Before long, they might just move in.”

Peanut did appear to be moving in.  The neighbor was right.  I may have been a sucker, or more appropriately, naïve.  I was certainly naive about cats.  I’d never owned one.  And as Peanut increasingly came to call my home her own, I realized that I didn’t want to own a cat.

I told this to George and he just shrugged, “It looks like Peanut chose you.  Cats do that, you know.”

I didn’t want to be chosen, but in time I grew quite fond of Peanut.  I even asked George if I could take complete ownership of her and put my name on her chip.  George refused, not giving a reason.   One neighbor suggested that George kept the cat because he had promised to keep it for the missing mystery woman.

Recently, Peanut (who is 15) became quite sick.  She had three severe episodes since Labor Day where I thought she might die and seemed to be suffering.  I took her to a vet and he said she had cancer.  I then contacted George who said that the cat would have to be put to sleep.  He made an appointment to have her euthanized.

By the time George made this appointment, Peanut had rallied and was much better.  She was eating and purring and exploring the great outdoors.  George said it didn’t matter, as she would continue to go downhill and he planned to go ahead with the appointment. He also said he would take her to see her rightful owner (the mystery woman) before he put her to sleep.

On termination day, he stopped by my place in a rush, and roughly stuffed the (yowling) cat into a cat carrier.  I tried to talk to him about delaying the euthanasia, but he was in too much of a hurry to speak.  Needless to say, I was pretty depressed after he left.

About an hour later, George texted me and said that the rightful cat owner wanted to speak to me.  I couldn’t believe it.  I would finally get to speak to the mystery woman!

The mystery woman turned out to be a recovering drug addict.  She had given up Peanut because she’d been homeless and then had spent a long time in a treatment center.  She had finally gotten into some transitional housing where she could have a cat!  She asked me about Peanut’s medical history and she agreed with me that it was too early to put Peanut down.  Plus, she was so overjoyed to be reunited with her darling pet, she wanted to spend at least some time with Peanut before the cat died.  

I drove over to meet the mystery woman and gave her all of the cat food, cat litter, etc. that I had in the house.  I then spent a long and lovely afternoon chatting with this woman while Peanut sat on the floor and watched.  

Anyway, that is the happy ending (for now) to this story.  I know that Peanut won’t be long for this world, but at least she has a little time left.  And at least she can give this mystery woman the type of joy and comfort that Peanut’s given me over the past two years.

Peanut

September 28, 2022

I returned home to the sad reality of a dying pet.  The cat, whom we’ve had temporary ownership of (for about two years) has been diagnosed with cancer.  The real owners have decided to put her down.  This is especially difficult because even after being quite sick, this feline rallies.  We know she is going downhill and the inevitable is near, but she still gives love and enjoys exploring the outdoors.

Many people in our neighborhood know the cat.  In fact, she’s done a remarkable job of bringing people together. 

I met one of those fine neighbors today by the dumpster.  She was struggling to throw her recycling away and could neither lift up her bag or open the recycling bin.  She is elderly and crippled with arthritis.  I offered to help her and took her bag of recycling.  As I lifted it into the bin, I noticed two empty gallons of Vodka.  My neighbor’s eyes and mine met in that instance and she knew at once what I’d seen.

“My painkiller,” she explained.

“Yes,” I agreed.  “We all need painkillers.

Then she thanked me profusely.  “It’s so hard to ask for help.  I keep telling myself I can still do certain things but I can’t.”

“Ask any time,” I told her.  “We all need help sometimes.  We’re not spring chickens anymore.”

“I know,” she nodded.  “I am an old hen and ready for the stew pot.”

September 24, 2022

I spent the weekend on the San Francisco Peninsula.  Today went biking starting at Baylands Nature Preserve Trailhead in Palo Alto at the South Adobe Creek Trailhead. That trail is connected to the San Francisco Bay Trail , three-hundred and fifty foot and bike trails that surround the Bay!

Shoreline Lake

The trails around Palo Alto and Mountain View left me wanting to explore the area more as there is much to see and it’s easy to get lost.  Most of the trails are paved, thus, one could safely bring a road bike.  Just remember to bring a water and phone with gps so you can find out where you parked.  Fortunately, this is in the heart of Silicon Valley so easy to get a signal.  The routes along the Bay are relatively flat, and even on this scorchy day, the Bayshore was cool and balmy.  The views are beautiful and there are enough people around to feel safe, and few enough to lend peace and privacy.

Later I went to see Buried: The 1982 Alpine Meadows Avalanche.  It was a very disturbing documentary, but engrossing and extremely well done.  I lived in Lake Tahoe just a few years before the avalanche.  I was living in Santa Cruz in 1982 and I remember how heavily it rained that year.  In fact, there was a terrible tragedy that year in Santa Cruz County with the Love Creek mudslide.

September 6, 2022

9-6-22

Washoe Lake State Park Nevada.

Came here to visit my nephew who had business to attend to in Reno.  He is driving to my campsite tomorrow.  Drove through the Central Valley last night and stayed in a hotel in Rancho Cordova.  Would have driven further up into the mountains, but motels started at over $200 a night after one gets out of the Sacramento area.  Even on a weekday.  There are just too many people traveling through California.

We are an intense heat wave and temperatures spiked at 112 in Rancho Cordova.  Fortunately the hotel I stayed in had good, quiet air conditioning.  I stayed there because needed to get close to Washoe Lake early to get a first come first serve campsite.

I got here at 10:00 a.m. and had plenty of campsites to choose from.  The sites are big and private and each has a covered picnic table which is absolutely necessary in this desert heat.  There are free showers here in campground A and water available near the bathrooms. Each site also has at least one sizable tree, but nothing like the trees I drove past through the mountains of Highway 50 East.  Trees that alas in some areas have been scourged by recent fires.  The remnants of fires went on for miles and miles along 50.  Spotted this photo of a California Conservation Corps truck along the way.  A great symbol of the diminishing funding of public services.

Washoe State Park has its own barren beauty.  But hiking, at least until the sunsets is impossible.  The ranger told me that this heat is incredibly unseasonable. 

Washoe Lake State Park sagebrush
Sunset

I fear the fact that these rising temperatures across the globe will only get worse.  How will humans survive in such heat?  And some are already not surviving.  We’ve just been sheltered from much of it in the United States.  And those who vote against measures to stop climate change, along with their wealthy donors, especially have been sheltered.  They all live in shaded, air-conditioned communities with plenty of water.  Or close to the sea.  Not like those who harvest our food or do all the other essential outside work that needs to be done.  Or like those live in crowded sweltering neighborhoods.

No matter what one’s political affiliations or beliefs, shouldn’t every American care about climate change?  Haven’t we all felt the heat or the floods or the fires?  Don’t some of us have children and grandchildren?  Is this what we want for them?  So why would any American vote for a candidate who is not fighting to save this planet?  Why would any American during these crucial times not vote?