Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Words On A Wednesday: Autumn Sunrise

I'm typing this on Tuesday in preparation for another power outage expected tonight at 9:00 pm and projected to last until some time on Thursday. We finally had power restored at 4:30 pm on Monday. We are tired, cranky, crazy, and angry. The morning temperatures are literally freezing and we have a lot of neighbors who don't have generators, wood stoves, or fireplaces. The cost of these kind of planned outages goes far beyond just having to live in the dark. Still, we run out to find beauty whenever we can. And, seriously, the best part of the ongoing darkness was being able to go out on the back deck at night and see the Milky Way. Our planet does whirl in a beautiful galaxy, and it's so good to be reminded.

Update Tuesday evening at 6:30-- Phone rings with the ID EMERG COMM-- I answer it and it is a recording from the City of Arcata. The robot voice says, "PGE has determined that the winds have died down enough to not require a 'public safety' shutdown." We had just prepped the house again for the outage, laid out the many extension cords, filled the generator with gas. We're utterly grateful, but this chaos is a bit unnerving.

Power to the PEOPLE! Right on!

Update Wednesday morning at 7:00 -- Phone rings, it's my sister calling from southern California. Uh-oh. She tells me quickly that there is a large brush fire burning near her house and she is under evacuation orders. Her son is there helping her pack the car and get her giant Great Dane ready to head out to safety. Such sad and wild times we are living in.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Ready For The Apocalypse

We ran into one of our neighbors early Saturday morning. We were headed to the local co-op to buy the last few items we needed to really feel food secure. It was 7:00 in the morning. We wanted to get there early before the weekend rush and the power outage that is looming over us this weekend. Our neighbor was out walking her sweet old black lab. We chatted a bit and then she said, "So, you're ready for the Apocalypse?" We had such a good necessary laugh. Yeah, we're ready... sort of. It's looming over us, another few days of no power. I think we're more ready this time then we were last time. This one is supposed to be longer. Oh well.

The local food markets are definitely prepared this time. When we arrived at the co-op we saw this very nice, big refrigerated trailer that they will be using to store their perishables. Yay! There was an article in one of the local papers that described all the efforts the markets are making to keep their stores open and food available. Yay!

California is facing huge windstorms this weekend. There are already big fires in the bay area and southern California. The utility company has decided that the best way to deal with the dry windy conditions is to just cut off power to a million of its customer. It's not a good business model, but it's what we've got for now.

So if our internet service provider goes down without any backup power source, which it did the last time, we may not be around for the next few days to post here or to read your blogs. Now you'll know why. I'll keep you posted.

Yes, we're ready for the apocalypse! Wheee!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Moo Cow Loop

Whenever Roger and I take a walk we give that particular walk a name. We'll say, "Want to do the neighborhood walk? The Big Loop? The Marsh?" Well on Monday we decided to take a new walk right out our front door. We started out on The Big Loop, but made a left turn, heading west towards the cow pastures and walked on the little roads that are behind our house.

It's quiet out there. A few cars passed us by, but for the most part it was just the cows and us for 2 1/2 miles. When we got to the street where we needed to turn left and head east, a mere half mile from our house, the road was literally filled with more than a 100 cows heading toward the barns. We waited for them to pass. I didn't get to photograph them because they were directly in the sunlight. It was delightful to see them. When the last few stragglers finally walked past us, we turned on to the road they had been walking on.
Our house is on a street behind those trees

We had just come from the road by the barn on the right. That's where we waited while the cows took their time walking by. They looked at us. We looked at them. They were curious. We were as well. But we all said our hellos and our moos and walked on.

We named this new walk Moo Cow Loop.  It reminded us of what our little suburban neighborhood must have looked like a mere 30 years ago. It was fun and a great way to forget the ongoing insanity of the news.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Two Anniversaries

(I first wrote this post for the blog in 2005. This is the third time I've posted it. The story never changes!)

October 17, 1989 dawned as one of those clear-sky, lazy autumn days. So beautiful it begged to be filled with hiking, playing, and exploring. I was working as a teaching assistant for Anthro 1 Physical Anthropology at UC Santa Cruz, a course being taught by Adrienne Zihlman. Luckily, the lectures were MWF, and the labs I taught were on Thursdays, so I had this stunning Tuesday to share with Roger.

We started the day by heading to a restaurant out on Highway 9 in Ben Lomond or Felton. It was reputed to make great, hearty breakfasts, and we went to eat something rich and filling. The plan was to leave there, drive up Zayante Road beyond Lompico (way out in the boonies, for those not familiar with the Santa Cruz mountains), and explore the Loch Lomond Reservoir.

All was going well until we reached the gate to the reservoir. Big chains and locks. Big sign saying it was closed due to the drought. We hadn't known, and here we were all ready for a good hike. So, rather than be deterred by gates and signs, we parked the car, next to the NO PARKING sign, climbed over the chain, and walked down to the reservoir.

Oh it was a perfect day-- trees, bugs, birds, and water. Although I can hardly remember a single detail of the things we saw, I do remember that Roger and I looked a lot at each other. We had only been together ten months, living together, and still getting to know each other. That was part of the beauty of the day.

We hiked for hours and hours. Stopped and listened. Held hands. What fun until we heard thrashing and heavy footsteps coming right for us. Sure enough, the park ranger had found us and busted us for being in the closed park, and for parking the car where it expressly said not to. The ranger asked, "Is that your car at the gate, the one with the other parking ticket on the front dash?" Oops. Yes. That was my car with the ticket I had gotten about a week before. I must have seemed like such a little outlaw to him. But lucky for us, he was absolutely cool. He told us he wasn't going to give us a ticket, since I already had one (isn't that amazing?). He hardly ever had people to talk to anymore with the park closed to visitors; so, he offered us a ride back up the hill, about a mile, to our car. We talked on the bumpy ride back. He was quite a pleasant guy. We thanked him, bid him farewell, jumped into our car and headed home.

It took us about a half hour to reach the family beach house in Capitola. It was a bit after 5:00 when we stepped inside and walked upstairs to our little two room garret. Roger turned on the World Series, and I sat down to think about dinner.

Seismogram showing the main shock of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

That's when the house started to shake. SHAKE. One of the biggest earthquakes to hit California in years was rocking that house for all it was worth. Oh My God, that house shook. Things started to fall, I crawled across the floor to be next to Roger. He was holding back the TV and the vcr from falling to the floor. The 5 gallon Sparklett's water bottle tipped over. Water was spilling everywhere. Our bookcase slid sideways. I could hear things falling and crashing in different parts of the house. I thought I heard the toilet flush by itself. There was an ongoing roar coming from everywhere the earth shook. I looked out the window to see what the birds were doing on the beach below. The gulls were circling, circling. Dust was rising from the sand where bits of cliff had already fallen. Fifteen seconds. That was all. Fifteen seconds, and the shaking stopped.
Earthquake damaged homes in San Francisco.
We looked at each other and confirmed that we were both alright. We checked for damage around the house. A couple of small broken teacups. A few new cracks in the stone fireplace downstairs. The brick chimney that vented the water heater had fallen into pieces, bounced off the street and up onto my new car. Minor damage all. That was not true for the rest of Santa Cruz or our neighbors. Fallen fireplace chimneys were everywhere. Glass from broken windows littered the streets. We turned off the gas at the main shut-off valve outside, and went to sit in the car to listen to radio reports of the damage. Learned that the epicenter of the quake was located 70 miles south of San Francisco. That's exactly where we were. They announced the Bay Bridge had collapsed. Other roadways had crashed onto lower roads. People were crushed and trapped in their cars. Buildings were on fire in San Francisco. Much later we learned that the damage in downtown Santa Cruz was extensive. Some of our favorite places-- the bookstore, the bagelry--simply ceased to exist.
Downtown Santa Cruz earthquake damage.
We spent that night at our friends' house. Fifteen of us slept together on the living room floor. There were significant aftershocks all night. We held tight. The earth continued to shake sporadically for days. Slowly we emerged from the shock. Electricity was restored. Streets were swept clean. For months we could bike ride on roadways that had become impassable for cars. Life resumed, and yet it was changed forever.

Roger's family beach house backyard.
Three years later, on October 17, 1992, Roger and I commemorated the quake anniversary in our own way. We had been talking about getting married and had even gone ahead and gotten Marriage License. We woke on that Saturday morning, and said, "Hey, let's get married today." We called a justice of the peace who said he was available at 10:00 that morning. We called my twin brother and sister-in-law to ask if they would be our witnesses. In a matter of about two hours the ceremony was planned and executed. We stood barefoot in the yard above Monterey Bay, where the gulls circled and called. It was as simple a ceremony as you can imagine. We confirmed and committed to each other what we knew was already in our hearts. Afterwards, we celebrated by going to our favorite restaurant for breakfast. Later we walked into town and told the local video store guy that we had just gotten married. He gave us a free video rental for a wedding present. And it's been a charmed life ever since!
Actual wedding day photo of the barefoot bride and groom!
Tonight we will raise our wine glasses at 5:04 and drink to the memory of day that began beautifully, but ended in sorrow; and then to a day that began simply with a marriage that's led us here.

A gallery of Loma Prieta earthquake photos can be found here.

Postscript: We never had a chance to thank that park ranger. Had he not driven us to our car we would have been in the Santa Cruz mountains when the quake struck. No telling when we would have made it out of the hills that day.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Pastels on the Plaza

On the first Saturday in October local artists come to the downtown plaza and transform the sidewalks into huge works of art with chalk. Here is how the local newspaper describes it:
The event serves as a benefit for Northcoast Children’s Services, with local businesses sponsoring squares of sidewalk and inviting artists, who donate their time, to create with pastels that will wash away with the first fall rains.
Proceeds help fund preschool and family services for more than 1,000 children and families in Humboldt and Del Norte counties, according to event organizers.
We walked down there last Sunday to see it in a quiet time. Here is a bit of what we saw. It's quite a colorful and beautiful sight.

There were so many more photos, and even more gorgeous pieces of pastel art that I didn't photograph. It was a lovely way to spend a very sunshiny morning (hence all the shadows!). I have to say my favorite piece is the one with the elephants, and that's only because my mom loved elephants. It made me think of her and smile.

If you want to see more of the art and photos of the artists in action. Here is a link.

Friday, October 11, 2019


I'm sure you've seen the headlines about California's ongoing power outages. They are planned and executed by the very people who we rely upon to bring us our power. It's a new strategy for the utility providers to do these planned shutdowns as a way to avoid the massive fires that begin during high wind situations. Those winds can cause transmission lines to fall or a tree branch in the millions of acres of forests all over our state to fall and hit one of those lines. Our provider here in northern California has had to make very costly payouts for the huge cost of human life and property over the past few years during what has come to be known as "fire season." Instead of upgrading their power line infrastructure, they chose to simply shut down power for their customers.

So, at 1:00 am on Wednesday morning we woke to total darkness in the house. Total. Even the streetlights in front and behind our house were dark. We  had been forewarned some time in the afternoon on Tuesday that there might in fact be a power shutdown. Emails from the company came to our inbox. Texts came on our phone. Then at 7:00 pm it said, "Shut down tonight. It may be as long as five days."

How does one plan for such a long-time event? Well, we had our newly purchased generator ready. We had plans for meals. But really there's no way to keep things powered for five days. That's simply crazy. We couldn't keep the refrigerator running for five days on the generator. Many gas stations need power to pump their gas, so it was unlikely that we could refill our gas cans if we ran out. We saw photos of cars lined up for blocks waiting to fill their tanks the day before the outage.

While the power was out I realized that this was unlike all the other power outage scenarios we had ever been in. We have experienced many days without power because of snowstorms in winter and raging fires in summer. During those times of disasters we could rely on the efforts of the utility company's workers to be out there doing their hard work for us. During this outage it was a disaster of their own making.
So, we waited. It was a beautiful warm sunny day. Our internet service provider had lost power as well, so we had no way to connect and read any of our favorite news or blogging sites. Our cell phone was working, but I never use it to connect to the internet.  We mostly use it for music or for when we're on the road. It was simply a quiet disconnected day. We were powerless. We walked to the co-op to see if there was any bread available. When we got there we were blown away by the number of people in the store. Every check out line had a cashier, and every line was long. The store was dark. There was no bread, no bagels. We left and walked home. We ran the generator a few times during the day and into the evening to keep the refrigerator at a good temp. Then we moved the most perishable items into the cooler with lots of ice for overnight.

At 2:30 am the power came back on. The utility company moved their disastrous disaster avoidance system south to other parts of California that went dark on their command. We walked back to the co-op in the morning sunlight. The photos are of what a good part of the store looked like. They lost so much of their perishable items. Lucky for us, though, they did have some freshly baked local bagels.

Fire season is not over yet.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Kiev and Egrets

My grandparents
I had a post planned, a story I wanted to tell about my maternal grandfather. All the news about Ukraine and Kiev (Kyiv) has sent me down memory lane trying to piece together my grandfather's journey from Kiev to Egypt, a journey he and his brother took in the early 1900s to escape the pogroms. They walked all the way, or maybe they may have gotten some rides with people in horse drawn carriages. They may have walked through the Black Forest.  I called my 92 year old aunt (my mom's sister) who tried but couldn't recall all the details, except that he walked from Kiev to Palestine and then to Egypt where he learned how to be a barber. But the details just weren't enough. There are no photos from the time. The story is short. But whenever I hear the news about Ukraine and Kiev, I think how I have some long ago family history there, how the world is crazy big and crazy small at the same time... and really simply CRAZY always.

So, the weather has been utterly beautiful. We've been walking our 3 miles a day. Enjoying the blue skies and warm temperatures. We headed out to the marsh and saw two egrets walking a long the trail. One took off and flew into a tree.
The other walked down the trail in front of us for a ways, ignoring us and the other egret in the tree.
It let us get pretty close. Close enough that I almost got a photo of the Egret and Roger in the same shot. I was surprised by its calmness.

But then it got tired of us breathing down its long and beautiful neck and flew away.

No photos of that flight, no stories about Kiev.

The end.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

An Unexpected Local Headline

I often check the local newspaper online just to see what's happening around town. When I clicked on the link Wednesday afternoon, the headline surprised me and sent me searching for a post I did back in June. Here's a screenshot of that headline, if you don't click the link. The article is about a B-17 bomber that had crashed.

I photographed that very B-17 vintage bomber when it flew our blue skies in June. Here is the photo.
And, here's a link to the post I did about it back then. I remember it was such a surprise to hear this plane and see it flying over our little town here on the north coast. And now it's really such a sad surprise to see a headline saying it had crashed in Connecticut and that there were fatalities.

What a sad fate.