Monthly Archives: July 2015

While the bread rises

I was in a serous mood, having just read some thoughtful, intelligent writing, and so inspired, started writing this post. It was about how I have been kidding myself that there’s a Reality, after all, beyond subjective interpretation. That there are time, and space, and atoms, and biological and ecological imperatives, and even something above all that and both superior, higher, and, sadly corruptible at that higher level, resulting in detestable, shameful, manifestations of human free will, and fates worse than death! But that I would, by choice–faith, if you like—continue to believe in  this Reality, or Truth, because I can’t think of any beliefs that I like better.

I took a break, noticed that my store of tomatoes and zucchini were growing, and decided to get on Facebook to ask a friend for that vegetable chowder recipe. Facebook, which I had abandoned over a year ago for reasons of principle as well as personal weakness. I set up an account again a few days ago, because I missed being in contact with some really old friends I couldn’t reach in any other way. Told myself I’d just get back on for a month or two, post a minimum of information, find friends enough to build a network, then say good bye and invite them all to try out MeWe, the private, no ad social network alternative I use.

I got sucked in. Yes, Facebook worked its magic, and soon I was clicking Send Friend Request on names of people I lived near, saw often, or was related to, instead of just my long lost. I started reading, remembering, laughing, deciding which old friends I still might have enough in common with, trying to remember which ones to avoid because they were always liking commercial links and posting photos of their meals, political and religious videos and news items, and rescued dogs. Or because there was am uncomfortable mutual memory I wasn’t ready to hurdle yet. A never ending list of “you may know” names got me scrolling, looking for familiar faces.

Then I came back to WordPress, and my words here appeared to be in a foreign language by comparison. Facebook by its very nature calls for cheery, impersonal, generally acceptable images and phrases, and anything unique, flavorful, provoking, personal must be shared with caution, for it’s bound to irritate, cause concern, or confuse some. Posting for the kind of group I’m now connected to is a strange and artificial act. Maybe the best strategy, besides saying almost nothing and sticking to personal messages, would be to mimic a certain farmer friend who posts gorgeous photos of farm life and landscapes, with a few of his children playing and working. Seems like everything else could irritate or worry the folks on my friend list. On the other hand, it could be a wonderful challenge, like a game with lots of rules, which necessitates strategic thinking and creativity. Would it be possible to get a hmm or a smile (a like?) from both the conservative Christian relative and the beer-happy former school buddy?

That’s enough of that. I think I’ll be okay. It’s good to be back. I haven’t sat down at the writing table much because I’ve switched to food growing mode. My garden is now overflowing with beans, Swiss chard, tomatoes, beets, berries, herbs, and some flowers, and everyone knows about that sort of thing–its just the turning of the seasons. Every year I get more in the swing of this, less likely to neglect the plantings, prunings, feedings and thinnings needed to keep everything growing strong, better at keeping up with the harvest and preserving so not much gets wasted. I’ve also come to terms with the fact that the youngest half of the family prefer microwave popcorn and quick snacks when there isn’t a full course meal on offer. For the rest I cook up or cut up two or three vegetables or put out salad ingredients, and now and then bake some muffins or bread. Every day I dump the kitchen compost pail, pick a big basket of beans and a few tomatoes, and stop to watch the hummingbirds zip over and rest on the wire fence, and admire the honeybees and other pollinators who sip at the ever blooming borage and crocosmia. The spring plantings are at the maximum, early summer plantings coming on, and the next phase of planting is here, the fall crops that will be set in the ground as soon as the summer crops are done. Chard, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cilantro, carrots, beets and salad greens will stand well into fall and some overwinter. Meanwhile it’s almost time to take a child or friend or tow to a hedgerow to gather wild blackberries, and after that I’ll pick my first crop of apples from the new trees i planted year before last, as well as the golden sauce apples and Italian plums from the older trees. I never get tired of this–it’s the same, but also new every time, and I can become more and more in tune, more in harmony, if am given and make the opportunity.

This Reality that I spoke of before has to do with this cycle, as reflected in the seasons, but also with something linear, a journey of learning, with an option of growth. In my education days, and before that studying biblical exegesis, it was represented by a spiral, each lesson or concept being revisited in turn at a higher level, with the general trend being cumulative and integrative learning. I turn away from that option of growth often enough, as if there is no purpose in this after all but to amuse myself and keep from letting my circumstances give me too much trouble. I certainly resist being shown the error of my ways by anyone close to me, preferring approved, and impersonal, sources. Still, I hope, I hope and try and try to yield, if that makes sense.


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California Trip Part 1

California Trip Part 1

Last week I left my home town for a drive to California and back with my daughters, me the sole driver and lots to do on the ground, so not much time to write. I  feel like I’m seeing too much too fast, and at a shallow level, that I can’t do any of it justice in print. For once we’ve arrived at our stopover before bedtime, so here I am.

As for schools, so far we’ve toured Santa Clara University, University of California Santa Cruz, Occidental College, and Chapman University. We will do our duty and visit the appropriate home state campuses later, as well as several in Canada. We’re trying to see what each offers and discern the mission and priorities of each and see if the ones that cost so much more would still be worth applying to. Of course Canada’s the best deal by sticker price, but my daughter so wants to study in California. #1 pick so far is UC Santa Cruz, second Santa Clara. More on our impressions later.

I spent all of a day and a half planning the itinerary before leaving, which took care of the first four days: basically a straight run south on the interstate, munching baby carrots and listening to audiobooks to stay alert, a stopover at Grant’s Pass, then down to Santa Clara, where we started our campus tours. Between Santa Clara and UCSC we had booked a rare open campsite at Manresa State Beach near Santa Cruz, where we slept to the sound of surf and woke to the shriek of a frustrated hawk. As I sat by the tent in the morning I discovered that the whole area under the campsite had been colonized by ground squirrels. Right after a posse of kids finished their umpteenth bike race down the sandy trail, up popped a little head and paws started tossing sand out of a tunnel that had been crushed–industrious little thing, though maybe short sighted. The night before I was reminded of my need to restrain my tendency to complain and snap at others when I’m tired, can’t find my flashlight or toothbrush, and feel like I’m doing all the hard work. Especially when I’m supposed to be an example to young’uns feeling the same things. Welcome back to camping charm school.

A treat for the girls was a two night stay at USA Hostels of Hollywood (intro to world youth travel). It looked a little sketchy on arrival but turned out to be very clean, very comfortable, and very conveniently located. My daughters really noticed the jump in the “cool factor” of their fellow guests. We strolled down the Walk of Stars (realized it was no big deal after all), visited Madame Tussaud’s, had excellent service and burgers at In ‘N Out, went to the Hollywood Bowl for an L.A. Philharmonic concert, and experienced the creativity and weirdness of walking back to the hostel down Hollywood Boulevard at 11 pm. It was nice not to have to pack up after that first night, and I was able to find some time to start planning the northward journey.

When my daughter proposed this mother-daughter trip I found the idea intriguing but overwhelming, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that even with one driver and a last minute itinerary, things can work out so well. So far not a bad accommodation, other drivers have been easy to get along with, and it’s amazing how many cool places we’ve been able to see. The night drive through the pass into L.A. with everyone but the trucks going seventy-five mph or more and occasionally drifting into my lane was intense—I couldn’t let the girls talk to me or play music because it took so much concentration.

We’ve eaten well from groceries, free hotel breakfasts, and local eateries along the way, and even picked up a few bargains (clothes in a cafe!). Yes, the world seems smaller, more accessible to all of us. With fewer fellow travelers (than our last family trip to CA), planning is simpler. The actual travel has worked out well—the van navigation system (“Bridget”) worked great and we had no trouble finding our destinations. On the way back we’re taking a more windy route–once we got to Sacramento we headed into the mountains and stopped to swim and picnic at Lake Tahoe, then zigzagged down the other side, drove up through citrus and nut groves and then wheat and ranch acreage, bought cherries and peaches by the roadside, and stayed in Yuba City (another well-kept, East Indian-run, independent motel). Today we crossed into Oregon and drove up to Crater Lake, where we saw those fabulous views, interacted with the local chipmunks and Clark’s nutcrackers (gray, back and white birds), and were then shrouded in mist and pummeled with rain down the other side of the pass.

Tomorrow it’s to Portland (hopes of getting in on a tour stand by at U of Portland) then out to the Olympic Peninsula (We’ve never been there), where we hope to snag a first-come, first-served campsite, and then home, where we’ll be back with the boys, and it will be back to morning swims, regular chores and responsibilities, picking berries and beans, and the job search.



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