May 8, 2022

Heard a wise bit of philosophy from a friend this week about giving up any bad habits. My friend said that when he decided to quit smoking he told himself, “If I quit smoking I’ll be miserable. But if I don’t quit smoking I’ll be miserable thinking about how I need to quit smoking. Either way I’ll be miserable, so why not go with the healthy option?” That’s how he managed to quit.

I did a bit more exploration this week when it comes to my eternal quest: finding new places to mountain bike with a bum knee. I first tried Howarth Park in Santa Rosa which has trails leading into Spring Lake Regional Park and eventually Anandel State Park. Howarth Park is a pretty little free park that is very child-friendly. It’s also a good place for fishing and there’s a paddle-boat concession stand that was not open. Like most lakes that I’m encountering in California these days, no swimming is allowed.

Howarth Park

Unfortunately, the trail that climbed toward Spring Lake had too much of a downhill trajectory, and I thus feared climbing back up with my knee. I ended up driving to Spring Lake instead.

The first thing I encountered when I entered Spring Lake Regional Park (it requires a fee) was the almost empty Spring Lake Swimming Lagoon. The poor thing looked like a puddle! Pre-Covid I have such fond memories of swimming in that lagoon with my granddaughter. The Lagoon was child-safe and yet I was able to take long laps out into the center of the Lagoon myself. We had visited on a holiday weekend and the place was blessedly quiet.

I don’t know if they fill the Lagoon before it opens on Memorial Day, or if its thirsty state is a reflection of the current drought. And with Covid cases rising all over the Bay Area, I’m wondering if the Lagoon will open at all. I searched in vain for any of this information on the internet. And like a lot of cash-strapped parks these days, there were no workers or rangers in sight.

Spring Lake dried up Lagoon

Spring Lake itself was as beautiful as ever, and perfect for ride-arounds on its paved trail. There were also some relatively flat dirt and gravel trails I was able to traverse with my mountain bike and bad knee.

I have Kayaked this lake before and but I wouldn’t recommend it. The shoreline is boring and the one little Island on the lake, which seemed to house an interesting assortment of birds, had been cordoned off with yellow “no trespassing” tape. Worst of all, the lake is engulfed with a slimy covering of vegetation which was spurred on by some of the early hot days we’ve had this season. The vegetation is harmless and one can Kayak through it, but overall, not a pleasant experience.

Spring Lake

I tried to bike from Spring Lake to Anandel State Park but encountered some daunting hills again and had to turn back. During happier days before the knee injury, I used to enter Anandel from its northwest entrance. If entering there, be sure to bring cash as there is a State Park fee and it’s self-pay. When hiking from that end, the trails and views are spectacular. A few months ago I had tried to mountain bike those trails, but again, due to the climbs and the state of my knee, I had to pack up and leave almost as soon as I arrived.

There are two trails that lead directly from Spring Lake to Anandel (see below) and preferring the more rustic trail, I started out with the one on the left. This trail leads past some lovely little redwood groves and then started to climb high enough to make me turn around and head back. I then tried the gravel trail on the right, where I much sooner than preferred, encountered an insurmountable hill. How I long for a time when this knee is healed!

Rustic and Gravel Roads leading from Spring Lake to Anandel State Park

Spring Lake does have a sweet little campground. The campsites are much closer than I prefer, and like most campgrounds anywhere near the Bay Area, probably filled up in the summer. However, if the Lagoon gets filled and again allows swimming, this campground would probably be a great place to stay, especially with kids. There is not only swimming, there are excellent hiking trails, and mountain bikes are allowed.

Spring Lake Campground

I have discovered all of the parks creek trails in Sonoma County now that allow bikes. I must say, especially in light of my current knee injury, Spring Lake Regional Park is my favorite place to bike. It offers enough level surface for me to bike long distances, and more than that, it offers a wide range of beautiful scenery.

May 3, 2022

Woke to the tragic but not unexpected news of the Supreme Court draft threatening to take down Roe v. Wade. This, despite the fact that at least 70% of Americans are pro-choice. Such a ruling could eliminate other civil liberties such as gays right to marry. Will spend the day as usual, dodging the news and preserving my sanity. Am also continuing to work on increasing voter registration for the upcoming midterms. Considering worthy proposals that we can perhaps only dream of? The packing of the Supreme Court and the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act.

In the meantime, Stanford nurses did manage to win a worthy contract after only one week on strike. This does demonstrate the power of collective action and this contract will surely pave the way for other nursing unions. Nurses, like many female dominated professions, provide the caring work that helps hold society together. If only such work were granted the same monetary compensation as wars and environmental destruction.

May 1, 2022

I’ve been searching high and low for trails that allow bikes.  They are few and far between especially if like me: a) you get exceedingly bored with a trail after the first couple times you use it and b) there are few trails that will tolerate my bad knee.  In other words, there are few bike trails in the Bay Area that don’t require a considerable amount of climbing. 

I had knee surgery about 10 months ago and people keep asking me “How’s your knee?”  I tell them it’s getting better but the progress is super slow.  And I will never declare myself “cured” until I can hike again.  That is the ultimate goal.  As for now, I can tolerate small bouts of hiking when I have to get off the bike and push it up-hill, or traverse an unsavory path.  So – my unending quest these days is finding knee-friendly trails that allow bikes.

I wasn’t disappointed on Friday.  I was delighted to discover some trails at China Camp State Park just outside of San Rafael.  For light-weights such as myself I would suggest catching the Shoreline Trail directly across the main road from Turtle Back Hill.  I took the trail toward the park’s Ranger Station, and had to stop at the hill that led to the station itself.  The hill was too daunting, but I look forward to a time when I can climb it.  I then seek to explore The McNeara Fire Trail and the Oak Ridge Trail that will eventually lead to the Bay View Trail and the park’s walk-in campground.  Actually, the campground can also be reached at the Park’s eastern car entrance.  Campers can then park their cars and for $35 a day hike or bike into the campground.  Campsites don’t require a reservation, at least at this early spring date.  I was also delighted to see that the campground (perhaps due to cold nights) was relatively empty.

Along Shoreline Trail
Miwok Meadows Day Use Area

Accessible camping along with an opportunity to both swim and kayak this close to the Bay Area seems relatively unheard of.  And I must add that China Camp State Park contains some magnificent scenery and plenty of places to hike and bike.

April 27, 2022

I stopped on the San Francisco Peninsula on my way back from Santa Cruz and checked out the Stanford Nurses Strike.  Thousands of nurses and supporters have been standing on the picket line that surrounds Stanford and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospitals.  As a former nurse myself, I couldn’t help but be inspired by energy.  In the least, nurses were celebrating the camaraderie that forms between working nurses, and also having some time off work. 

Time off is precious to nurses.  Most nursing jobs these days, especially if one wants benefits, require full time employment.  However, the physical demands, abuse, and stress that come with nursing do not mix well with full time.  Nurses also get tied to these jobs during crucial periods, such as during the night when healthy and sane people should be sleeping.  Nurses give up weekends and holidays when they’d prefer to be home with their families, or doing all of the fun and important things that provide value to our lives.

If nurses call in sick, their co-workers pick up the slack.  Even now, while the nurses are on strike, it is non-union nurses such as nurse managers or educators who are having to fill in the shifts.  No one at the top who sets the terms in these negotiations ever has to work at the bedside.

I am not privy to the details of the strike negotiations.  It’s my understanding that the nurses want safe staffing, retirement and mental health care.  They want fair wages that can allow them to live in the over-priced Bay Area.  The union works with lawyers, economists and retirement specialists who advise on what is fair and what Stanford can afford.

One might argue that nurses already get good pay.  This is the case when nurses are unionized.   And according to the Economic Policy Institute (2021) when unions exist, they raise wages for both union and non-union workers.  Unions also raise women’s wages and reduce racial economic disparities.

I must say that no amount of pay really addresses the difficulties that nurses face.  This could be why nurses are leaving the field in droves.  In fact, 90% of nurses have considered leaving the profession in the next year (Siwicki, 2022).

In my novel, That Which Wavers with the Night, I present a hypothetical situation at a fictional San Francisco Bay Area hospital.  A subplot of the book is the attempted decertification of a nurse’s union.  Is the story far-fetched?  I hope so.  But one never knows what’s about to go down in this country.  Not when our voting rights are steadily being taken away, books are being banned, transgender people are being demonized, and our reliance on fossil fuels and removal of environmental regulations are devastating the planet. 

In my book I take what’s known as “poetic license.”  I learned that term one night when working as a temp nurse at a local jail.  The nurse who was training me was saying how frustrating it was when inmates had medical needs in the middle of the night.  For one thing, it was usually impossible to get hold of an on-call doctor.  She thus taught me an effective trick when an inmate wanted something for pain.  She used this trick because inmates would often balk when offered Motrin or Tylenol.

The nurse would take red liquid Tylenol and pour it into a medicine cup.  She’d then offer it to the inmate and say “Here, this is acetaminophen.”  (The generic term for Tylenol).  Usually, the inmate had never heard of acetaminophen.  He’d take the drug and then be satisfied, thus illustrating the power of placebo.

“Is that lying?”  I asked the nurse.

“No,” she told me.  “It’s poetic license.”

 Economic Policy Institute (2021, April 23).  Unions help reduce disparities and strengthen our democracy.  https://www.epi.org/publication/unions-help-reduce-disparities-and-strengthen-our-democracy/

Siwicki, B. (2022, March 24).  Report: 90% of nurses considering leaving the profession in the next year.  HealthcareITNewshttps://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/report-90-nurses-considering-leaving-profession-next-year

April 24, 2022

4-24-22

Spent the weekend in Santa Cruz County.  I lived here in the 80s and have always been welcome to come back and visit at the home of Janey, one of my closest and oldest friends.

Time accelerates as you get older.  Especially during Covid, the days seem like a repetitive blur.  You get up, do your morning and afternoon chores and before you know it, it’s time for bed.  You have little to talk about because there’s nothing going on.

Janey has three cats.  One of them, I think, has ADHD.  Lucky for him, in the morning, when the coyotes have gone to sleep, Janey lets her cat out.

This cat needs the outdoors.  He needs to roam and explore and get into a fair amount of trouble.  Just like I did when I lived here.  Santa Cruz gave me that freedom.

I had the freedom that so many young people today lack.  Today, every young person I know under 30 is still living with their parents.  They have to.  It’s an economic necessity.  My generation couldn’t wait to get away from our parents, especially if it meant living in a place like Santa Cruz.  I lived all over this county.   I bounced from place to place.  Landlords would give me notice when they were about to sell or bring in some relative.  Or I’d get into some hassle with a roommate.  It was all part of what I needed to do in order to learn and to grow.  And it’s left my memories of this place so noteworthy and multidimensional.  No, these memories are not a haze at all.  Santa Cruz allowed one to savor life and experience it completely.  It’s sad that young people today don’t have that.

We also had relatively free community college back then.  And you couldn’t beat Cabrillo, my alma mater.  It was rich with interesting teachers.  I’m sure it still is, although the tuition has gone up and admissions are now impacted.

More than anything, we had access to such incredible natural beauty here.  That beauty remains, although the parks and paths have gotten increasingly more crowded.  And you can’t traverse Highway One and most hours of the day without getting stuck in traffic.

New Brighton Beach

Another thing that’s happened to Santa Cruz is the widening gap between the haves and have-nots.  Young people just starting out here cannot afford rent.  My rents here were so low that I could go to school and work part time, and thus have time for the all the other shenanigans that I managed to get into.

I’ve got a bad knee that won’t let me hike.  This prompted me to buy a mountain bike, and I had heard that Santa Cruz was a mecca for mountain biking.  This weekend I checked out the Forest of Nicene Marks which I would highly recommend.  I also drove up the Emma Mccrary Trail, which for me was a little less promising.  Too many hills and dangerous curves. And even at 8 a.m. on a Sunday, the trail was packed with bikers.  They were all men who’d parked their expensive SUVs along the turnouts on Highway 9.  There they unloaded their $5000 + mountain bikes sped up and down the redwood root-knotted hills with remarkable skill and strength.   I could only try and stay out of their way and eventually give up on the trail altogether.  It was too much for my knee and I didn’t want to break my neck.  Nevertheless, it was great being out in the woods and I’d forgotten how much I loved and missed this place.

Below is a poem I wrote of Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz still Holds me

Santa Cruz still holds me

Wraps around me like Redwood roots

Sings me with memories

Driving through after 30 odd years

You know I knew a surfer here

He blew through my life

Like waves and summer wind

One night we crouched on the floor

Of a women’s state park bathroom

On an empty raining beach

Drinking beer and laughing

“This is our private oceanside resort,” we said

That’s how much we loved

This place and each other

The coastal fields look up from their work and nod

Quietly recognizing me

From behind a fog veil

The rhythm of these harvest seasons

Steadfast, unchanging

Santa Cruz still holds me

You know

Time sat down with me once and rested here

Beside sand, pines, and sea

April, 23, 2022

I have finally found the time, courage and inspiration to start writing this blog.  Many things have hung me up and made me drag my feet.  One of the biggest was WordPress itself.  If you are new to blogs and websites you should go with an easier brand.  I am baffled by how difficult blogging has become.  I blogged over 10 years ago on Google and it was as free and straightforward as could be.

One good thing about WordPress, is that they ask for a flat fee out front.  I prefer that over the sites that start to bilk you for additional services.  These sites wheel and deal with you when you call their tech support.

One wonders about the proliferation of technology these days.   It makes life easier but the growing demand to learn various applications comes with a cost.  I say that as someone in the working world.  And I agree with what I believe John Steinbeck said, that inventors should have never improved on the Model T.

Lu (2020) discusses this in a conversation on “Tech Capitalism.”  The author lauds Tech Capitalism as a spark for innovation.  At the same time, it is much about companies getting a market for their product.  One wonders whether market and human needs can coincide.

I don’t want to say too much in my first blog post.  I will say though that I have grown weary of the news.  It seems like the good news is not offsetting the bad.  I wonder in fact if we have already not experienced a coup with the assertion of such authoritarian, biased and corrupt forces gaining power.

Like many I have become numb to the trauma of the past at least 5 years.  Our reality and sense of right have been flipped upside down.  I once was a news junkie, but I have recently descended to cat videos and games of Wordle.  Of course, you still do what you can to influence at least the upcoming elections.

I also spend time close to nature.  That is something that heals and quiets the mind no matter what side of this divided country one is on. 

I’ve even become numb to those who remove their masks. They used to make me so angry, but now I ignore them as I hold onto hope that the virus is subsiding. Praying that the divisions in this country will also with time subside.

Lu, E. (2020, June 5).  Tech Capitalism: Good or bad? Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2020/06/05/tech-capitalism-good-or-bad/?sh=e0b722372c2b