Monday, June 29, 2015

The Flipside of the Same Year

Yes, it's beautiful and cool and lovely here in our own little corner of the California north coast. The small town ambiance with almost everything we need within walking distance of our little rental house. What's not to love?

Well, there's this.
This is a small screen grab of three of the fifty houses on the market here in Arcata. If you click on the pic you'll see what we have been seeing for the past year. Houses that are more than 50 years old and never upgraded, to houses that are new and big and trendy and very, very expensive. There is literally no in-between. There is no land for sale and no lots worth looking at, and there hasn't been any the entire year we have been here. We met a woman the other day who waited out a thirteen month escrow for a house that needs to be completely gutted and remodeled. She works at the university and has a private therapy practice. She told us that she had been looking for a house to buy for FIVE YEARS! This is rather daunting and unsettling news.

And there's also a health care issue here. Because we live 350 miles north of the closest big city and airport, San Francisco, there is very little incentive for excellent health care professionals to venture up this way. There is one little airport here with one airline. Getting here is not easy from any direction or by any mode of transportation. I have to admit, I always suspect that the medical professionals who are here are not here by choice, but by circumstance. I have been trying to find a dentist here for several weeks. I am facing a possible serious dental situation. I went to an emergency clinic two weeks ago. They are not taking new patients but always see people who need immediate attention. The dentist referred me to his dentist in Eureka. I called that dentist. He was out of town for a week, and not taking new patients until October. He has a waiting list to get in. I'm on it. His office referred me to two other dentists. I called the first one, he's only in the office three times a week, and is not accepting new patients. I called the second one, he is out of town until July 7th, but is taking new patients after July 21st. I asked my neighbor, a long-time social worker in the area, who she sees and she gave me the name of her dentist. I called his office. They are not taking new patients. See the dilemma here?

My nurse practitioner, who is leaving the practice in July and moving out of state, told me to take 3000 units of vitamin D3 per day for my osteoporosis, which I have been diligently taking. When I saw her last week for a follow-up, she asked me if I was taking  the 1000 units, as she had recommended. I reminded her of what she had originally said, and she replied, "Well, I think the literature is now saying 1000 units a day is enough."  Roger's doctor at the same clinic recommended up to 10,000 units of D3 per day. That doc just moved here from a southern state so I think he was overcompensating for lack of sufficient sunlight (and probably losing his mind!). But really, that's not good medical advice at all. Can I just say, "Holy shit."

Roger is five years post colon cancer (YEAH!), but he continues to see an oncologist every six months for blood tests and follow-ups. His new oncologist ordered a CT scan for his recent visit. The scan was completely normal. For his next appointment in six months, the doc ordered another scan. We both read the literature on surveillance of colon cancer and the standard protocols recommended by US Health and Human Services. Two CT scans in a 12 month period is considered excessive after three years post colon cancer. After five years it's crazy. Can I just say, "Holy shit" again.

These are very serious issues for us. We are trying to maintain an upbeat attitude, which is always easier for Roger than it is for me, but the outlook is pretty bleak. Half the time I want to pack it in and go someplace else. But guess what, all the beautiful places we love in California have become highly desirable and therefore crazy expensive. The median home price in Santa Cruz is over $700,000. That's simply insane.

So, that's the flip side of our cute little town. We're in the middle of nowhere on a beautiful coast, with lovely neighbors, a wonderful co-op, a fantastic farmer's market and not a house to be found or a good dentist or doctor either.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Year Goes By Just Like That

Roger and I have been in Arcata for a year. I'm pretty sure this is the fastest a year has ever flown by. Not sure how that happened, but perhaps we have been in some time-space-vortex thing, and in a blink of an eye, here we are one year later.

Here's how our life has changed in that year.

We have gotten to know the grandkids and watch them grow and change and become themselves.

We have had more lovely conversations with more people and more neighbors in this one year than we did in all the four years we lived in Grass Valley.

We go out for walks more often. Arcata has a temperate climate. There is no snow in winter and no excessive heat in summer. We're learning how to put up with the persistent fog and wind, and get out of the house for a couple of miles everyday.

We hardly ever use the car. In fact, our new Prius (the one we bought last December) has less than 6000 miles on it. That does put us at 1000 miles of travel per month, BUT in those six months we've gone down to see my mom three times. That is a total in round trips of 4200 miles (seriously), which means we've driven less than 1800 miles in six months.

We have watched a neighbor grow from her state of deeply grieving for her much-loved husband, who she lost just before we moved here, to embracing life again.

We fell in love with our student neighbors who lived across the street. We watched sunsets together and photographed rainbows. We talked about the plight of the world and our planet. They've been slowly moving out over the past few weeks, like all students do at the end of the year, but not before their house was robbed on Sunday night (6/21).

We had lovely talks with a neighbor down the street whose house we passed whenever we walked into town. He often sat outside with his menagerie of ducks, chickens, and cats- and typically had some critter sitting on his lap. Tom always had a ready smile and something nice to say. Back in April we noticed that he wasn't out much anymore, but didn't think anything of it. We later learned that Tom died of pneumonia at the end of March. We brought a lovely yellow columbine to plant in their beautiful front yard.  He was only 56 years old.

There's a wild man who plays his electric guitar in his doorway in the early evening. There's a young couple who walks their very, very old dog named Buddy by our house everyday. They're having their first baby in September. Our favorite dog Chloe rolls over whenever she sees us and lets us pet her belly for as long as we like. The neighborhood cats still come in the yard to visit with us (and poop). 

Can it really be that we've only been here a year and the earth has traveled a full rotation around the sun? Yes, life with all its beauty and all its pain has unfolded on each of those 365 days. Love and renewal, life and death. We still haven't found a house to buy. We've had our ups and downs about it all, but we're here ready for another four seasons to unfold.

PS-- That's a whole big mountain of fog that often sits between us and the sky! I photographed it on the trip home from visiting with the kids and grandkids for the father's day.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Garden Update

this was our garden on dec 10 2014

we wanted to grow stuff and didn't want to dig up any of the lawn even though it is lumpy and bumpy and patchy and weedy, being still confident that we would soon be moving on to a newly purchased house. the empty pots were out on someone's lawn by the sidewalk, a traditional arcata way of giving stuff away. so we took them. filled them with potting soil and seedlings. the chard and spinach grew enough to give us many meals.

we have yet to find a suitable house and the spinach went to seed. we had kale too but it never grew well and also went to seed. time to attend to the garden. out with the spinach and kale, a few more pots. new spinach and chard seedlings. tomatoes nurtured in elena and jason's greenhouse.

 two weeks ago they were as small as the seedlings in the dec 10 picture above

 i couldn't resist putting just one tomato in the ground.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Blogging and Death

I checked in on an old blogging buddy who wrote in his last post of April 7th that his lung cancer and pulmonary fibrosis were definitely getting the better of him and that his docs had given him less than a month to live. He wistfully wrote that he thought he'd be around for his grandson's birthday and Memorial Day. But there were no updates or comments from him. He did say it would be his last post, but still, NOTHING. Roger and I were on his email list, the one he sent to his family and (real, not virtual) friends. The last email was sent on April 27th. Then, nothing.

On Sunday, I remembered his full name. He had once, years and years ago, in an act of kindness and compassionate generosity, made a CD of big band music for my mom. He loved that era of music and so did she. I remembered the emails we had sent, and I remembered his name, so I googled it. I found his obituary. He died on May 17. I went back to his last blog post and typed in a comment. I wanted to let his other blogging friends know that he was gone. I put in a link to his obituary. I ended the comment with, "Rest in peace, Alan."

Ah but poor Alan has comment moderation on, and that comment will sit somewhere in internet dark space forever and never see the light of day.

I know another blogger who has not updated her blog in several months. She was struggling with a difficult illness. Her blog also has comment moderation.

So, it made me think about what we should do at the end of our lives, in the event that we know our demise is imminent. Tell a trusted someone your passwords. Leave word about how to handle these beautiful online journals. Don't just let them languish without closure.

In my heart of hearts, I think we have created a community here in the blogosphere. I want us all to say our heartfelt good-byes in zeroes and ones that will last forever.

So, rest in peace, Alan.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Days of Sunlight

The sun has been shining for the past few days. It's been warm and beautiful. We're lucky because it doesn't get very hot here. High temps are usually in the upper 60s, and on a really hot day the temps soar into the 70s. We had a funny conversation with a cashier and the customer in front of us at the co-op about temps going above 76. We all laughed about how that's just too hot for us sensitive coastal Humboldt County folks. Funny thing, just a few miles inland, the temps are in the mid 90s. Ah, the coastal fog and breezes, truly a blessing and a curse.

When the sun is out, so are we. We go exploring and see all the other people and critters that have come out to surrender to that glorious golden light.

You really have to click on this photo to see the tiny, tiny crabs that were scurrying about in the low tide sands of Humboldt Bay. This photo hardly conveys how small these crabs are. I was zoomed in 60x optical, and I couldn't actually see them, but I knew they were there. They were like pebbles with legs.
It was wonderful to see these two species of Finch hanging out together on such a beautiful day.
But it was this Anise Swallowtail that really caught my attention. This one hardly stayed still long enough to get a good photograph. I was glad that I kept trying though. I would have never noticed those heart spots on the edge of its wing. What a beauty!
The best part of the fog finally burning off after nearly a month of gloom is seeing beautiful clouds on the horizon. It had been so long I had forgotten just how wonderful a cloudscape is. These clouds  pushed eastward and produced some lightning and thunder, and unfortunately a few very early forest fires for the season. Still, we were so happy to see them against this blue blue sky.

We do love these sunny days.

Monday, June 08, 2015

In Honor of World Oceans Day

Today, June 8th, is World Oceans Day. We went to one of our favorite places to gaze out over the beautiful Pacific on a stunningly sunny day. This is what we saw.

Hiking along the north side of Trinidad Head
Looking west
Roger at the top of Trinidad Head

Heading down the south side, watching the fog roll back in

Looking down at the boat dock off the wharf and being surprised by two river otters, celebrating World Oceans Day

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Almost Instant Replay

Yes, you've seen this photo before. It was in the post from May 31st. You're probably wondering why I am reposting it. Well, as usual, there's a story involved.

I didn't identify this bird in the previous post. I just thought it was a juvenile red-shouldered hawk and didn't think much more about it. But on Tuesday morning some friends on Facebook shared a link to a new program at the Cornell website that lets you upload bird photos and help you identify the species. I thought it sounded pretty interesting, so I picked this photo to upload.

Well, guess what, this is not a red-shouldered hawk at all. It's a juvenile red-tailed hawk light morph. What a wonderful surprise that was. Check out that website. It is truly remarkable.

Monday, June 01, 2015

my night in juvie

juvie for me is Hillcrest Juvenile Detention Facility in san mateo. somewhere near the end of my senior year in high school, 1960, three of my pals and i were parked up in the hills overlooking san mateo one fine evening. we were discussing some important something. and drinking beer. we had one (1) sixpack for four (4) of us.

suddenly, from our perspective, there were flashlights shining in on us from both sides. uh oh. the cops. they got us out of the car. took the beer that was unopened and dumped the open cans. then they decided that we had to go to jail so they took us to the san mateo police station. by the time we got there we had calmed down and thought…  beer. big deal.

they took us into the the big cop room and had us stand in front of the guy in charge. sensing that we were not yet properly serious about the situation he began lecturing us. “i’ve seen your kind. punks. you’ll be back here soon enough for something much more serious. no respect for the law.” he went on like that for a while.

as we tried to look serious and even maybe contrite we could see the other cops in the background smirking and laughing and almost daring us to laugh along. that was the hardest part of the whole thing. keeping straight faces.

by and by he ran out of steam and they determined that as we were all seventeen that they couldn’t put us in jail. we had to go to juvie. they put two of us in one car and two in another. i was in a car driven by one of the cops who pinched us. he told us that he would have just dumped the beer and sent us on our way, but it was our bad luck that he was patrolling that night with a sergeant who was strictly by the book. he also showed us that he could go 80 miles per hour on the dark two-lane road up the hill to juvie.

not exactly as i remember, but close enough for dramatic effect

as the place was almost empty they put us each in a cell alone. the place looked more like a mental ward than a jail. concrete rooms. windows with bars. heavy door with a small window. i slept in my clothes. in the morning we were released to our parents.

my father came to pick me up. he looked unhappy but not really angry. it was just beer. and a small amount. when i got my possessions back my father was handed my cigarettes, because i was under eighteen. as we walked to the car he handed them to me.

when i got home i was reminded that today was the day to have my senior picture taken for the yearbook.

ahh yeah. a night in stir and then a picture for my permanent record. nice hair.

Farewell To Agnes

Agnes at the Capitola Beach house
after dinner in 2013

Agnes had gotten dressed for dinner. She was wearing a purple outfit and a necklace to match. She put on some lipstick and had the dinner menu and a teabag in her pocket. She was getting ready to go to the dining room at the assisted living facility. My sister-in-law Kim found her a few hours later, lying on her back on the bathroom floor. Kim had gone over to put her mom to bed as she has done most nights for the past few years. But on Saturday night, Agnes' 98 years on the planet had come to a sudden end. So we bid a sad farewell to a truly lovely woman. We also say thank you for showing us what it is like to have such vitality and presence long into old age, for always having a ready smile and a twinkle in your eyes, and for enjoying life until the very last moment.

PS-- Agnes was 96 years old in this photo!