No Internet????

Interesting day yesterday. A storm knocked out Internet everywhere served by my ISP, and I was offline all day. As soon as I learned it wasn’t just me and I didn’t need to call a repairman, I settled into the thing and really enjoyed it. I also learned how addicted I am. I think I already knew I wasted a lot of life scrolling through nothing.

The first thing I did was rig up music since I listen to music all day. I have two iPods and they have everything I ever bought. It was really nice to listen to music I’d actually chosen even through two crappy speakers. Then I went to pick up my groceries. When I got home, I prepared the painting I sold for mailing, and I mailed it. The usual stuff went on through the day but more efficiently, stuff like cleaning house, repairing damage done in the garden by the dogs, getting mad at the dogs retroactively. I watered, walked Bear where she loves to walk (the high school), waved at people who waved at me. Other stuff…

The apogee of my achievements yesterday was that I darned four socks thereby restoring three pair proving I am the paragon of domestic science. The last time I darned socks was as homework for my 6th grade home ec class. But as the socks cost $20/pair and 99% of the sock was still good, I mean, seriously?

Sometime around six, the Internet was restored. What I didn’t do yesterday — or see until late in the day — the political idiocy in my country. I had 23 emails all of which I could delete without reading them. Two people had commented on my Facebook posts.

I missed writing my blog, though, and yesterday after noon, I decided to go ahead and write one I have had in mind. I did. I usually write in the mornings with a kind of time-deadline for myself, but yesterday I had no deadline. I wanted to write a post about women athletes, how things changed after Title IX, and what it was like culturally for me as a girl who loved sports.

I wrote, and as I did, I realized there’s a lot there, a lot of culture that affected everything. I am not sure I can even write that blog post! It’s not as simple as women in sports after all.

I plan to continue this “Internet diet” for a while and see if I can kick this addiction.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/24/rdp-wednesday-paragon/

Pushed by Paint

I’ve been cleaning out the “studio.” I feel precious calling it a studio when I don’t work very much and when it is a really beautiful room. Painting belongs in places like a garage, not this little pretty room with two sides of French windows.

It’s one of those somewhat awkward rooms that sometimes appear on old houses. Once upon a time, someone added to the back (this is pure conjecture) and put in a laundry room (barely a room) and pantry. On the other side of the wall they put in this pretty room. It’s off the kitchen and has no closet and no door.

Painting is messy. In Descanso I had a shed built in my yard. It was small — 8 x 8, but wonderful, perfect. NOTHING happened in there but painting. It was cool that it was away from the house, too, OK only 10 or 12 feet, but still. I was thinking of this. I could have a shed built at the dirt end of the deck. It would be really nice to come out of the shed onto the deck and garden and behind the shed? Dog’s world. Since it’s so cold here in winter and hails in summer, Bella needs shelter. I can’t take her garage. Besides, it has no real light, just one bulb hanging from the ceiling, hardly the pinnacle of painting studio design.

But I need to paint and I have two immense surfaces that barely fit in this room…. OH well. I hope this remains my biggest problem today. 🙂

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/22/rdp-monday-pinnacle/

Cloister

When I was a little kid I lived in Nebraska in a town whose eastern border was the Missouri River. This means that “my” Nebraska wasn’t the Nebraska of myth and legend — flat, treeless, grassland — but forest, bluff, and butte. Almost literally across the street from our house was a forest. It belonged to the Columban Fathers, the branch of the Roman Catholic Church that is concerned with books, publishing and missionary work.

The geography was a narrow strip of deciduous forest, a wide open meadow ruled over by an ancient oak tree, then a kind of road. To the right the road went past many strange relics of an arcane faith that had little meaning to a kid brought up American Baptist. At the end a life size Christ hung from a giant cross. Along the way was a “grotto” made of concrete to look like natural rock. Now I know it was meant to be Jesus’ tomb. If my memory is right, there was an angel somewhere on that very convincing concrete climbing wall (how we used it). The passage was lined with trees and, especially in fall, it was very lovely.

My brother took this from the top of the grotto. 1965


Beyond this passage was a real road but I never saw a vehicle on it. It led to the buildings of the cloister. We never went there. Instead we crossed it and went into the REAL forest. This is where things got good. There was a ravine across which we rigged a rope and tire. My brother rode that across the ravine — and I’m sure others did — but it wasn’t my thing. There were mulberry trees from which a friend and I once shook berries. There were my favorite; narrow trails to run on and, in winter, on which we could ride our sleds.

Above: a drawing I did a few years ago of my brother and me sledding at the Mission.

From time to time, we would see a monk walking between the trees, reading from a small book. I never thought they minded us being there, but in time a high fence was erected. We just went under the gate and went on as always. In the intervening years, the cloister has been built up and some of the forest is gone and the meadow is now an area filled with buildings, but…

Years and years later, when I read the life changing book, How the Irish Saved Civilization I learned something strange and wonderful. My “mission” was home to the spiritual descendants of one of the Irish monks who, with St. Gall, crossed the channel to bring books to Europe in the 6th century. Columbanus.

We live in innumerable parallel universes and are oblivious to many of those in which we live. “Here, Martha Ann, this will be very important to you someday.”

“What?”

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/20/rdp-saturday-cloistered/

Bear’s Notion of Time

“No, Bear. It won’t almost be winter. It will be the beginning of summer.”

“You mean summer hasn’t even started yet?”

“I’m sorry.”

“So what’s so good about it?”

“After tomorrow, the days will start getting shorter, and instead of heading north, the sun will appear to go south.”

“I don’t understand anything you said, Martha.”

“It means we’ll be going in the direction of winter instead of going in the direction of summer.”

“How do you know this?”

“It’s on the calendar. It’s how humans know what day it is.”

“Wow. I really don’t understand that.”

“Humans have all these systems to keep track of time so they know when to do something and can make plans for the future.”

“Future?”

“Tomorrow, next month, next year.”

“Sometimes you say ‘tomorrow’ to me. That means ‘no.'”

“‘Tomorrow doesn’t mean ‘no’. It means not right now.”

“I thought ‘later’ meant that.”

“Later does mean that. It’s two words we have to express time in the future.”

“Words are confusing aren’t they, human.”

“Yes, they are very confusing. But you tell time. I can know what time it is by what you do, Bear. You know when I will feed you. You know all the various times when you can expect to go on a walk. You know when I usually wake up. You are a very strict dog about those things.”

“That’s so I know you’re all right. If everything happens when it’s supposed to, I know things are all right and I don’t have to go kill something. It’s not about time. It’s about keeping you and Teddy safe from harm.”

“Oh Bear.”

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/19/rdp-friday-almost/

Rambling Post on Exploitation

I learned a lot yesterday. Today I wonder why I didn’t know it before. So… Looking in my rearview mirror I saw why. No one can know everything and one thing I didn’t contend with a lot back in the day was the news. I shared Thoreau’s view:

I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter,—we never need read of another. One is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications? To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea. Yet not a few are greedy after this gossip. 

Walden Henry David Thoreau

I wondered if EVERYONE knew this stuff and I didn’t because I’d never been interested in the news. I will never know, but throughout my life I’ve felt my first responsibility was to my life and its innumerable imperatives, not to a lot of information I couldn’t do anything about. Now we live in a time when even news is news. Anything a president says is news and this was an item of news I read yesterday, “The President tweeted 30 times in the last hour.” Nothing about what the president said. The news was that he sent 30 messages into social media. The implication was that he should have been doing something else instead.

That’s a pretty significant message. It made me think I should be doing something else instead. 😀

I’ve been puzzled by the term “systemic racism.” It seems obvious enough, I guess, racism built into “the system,” but even the term “the system” is vague. What system? WHICH system? In my little mind, racism is the way people treat each other, but yesterday I watched a video that revealed — defined — systemic racism. It brought back a lot of memories. As I watched I remembered listening to my parents and Aunt Martha back in the early 1960s talking about integrating neighborhoods. They had a LOT of opinions, one of which was that it was the right thing to do but people wouldn’t like it. I took from that the idea that segregated neighborhoods were wrong. “They don’t want to live with us any more than we want to live with them,” my mom said. “Anywhere they go will turn into a negro neighborhood.” (Negro was the preferred term in those days, so don’t jump on me about that.)

I heard a lot of things from those disputes, but since I was a little kid it didn’t mean much. Even while they were having these arguments they were raising me to take every human individually and not take skin color seriously. They were probably prejudiced (or realistic?) but their ideal was better than they were (as ideals should be).

I watched the race riots of the time on the TV news. It was hard to believe what I saw — cops clubbing people, dogs going for the throats of black people, just general inhumanity. My parents were as shocked and aghast as, I imagine others were. From the back seat, I heard Dr. Martin Luther King speak over the car radio. I remember the Black Panther movement. All of that, and all it said to me was, “Be nice to people.” I was naive enough to think that that philosophy was shared by the people in my country. When I was in my 30s, living in a poor, mixed race neighborhood in San Diego, I saw that poverty, lack of education and unemployment were the big problems. Not everyone in my neighborhood was black or Latino. There was a handful of white families living in the same struggling conditions. Equal opportunity was a myth.

I was one of the few who had an education and something like a real job, but even then, like most of the people around me, I had three jobs. Teachers were no longer being given tenure in colleges and universities. I was a part-time teacher at three schools. I didn’t know from semester to semester where I’d have classes or how much I would make. There were months I didn’t earn my house payment.

Sometimes I remembered my parents’ arguments, and someone saying, “What white person is going to move into a negro neighborhood?” Well, I had (minority neighborhood) and I liked it fine. I also believed it was right for me to be there.

For a few years, the neighborhood was violent with lots of gang action and drugs. From time to time a meth house exploded. Finally a police station was built where the grocery store had been, and all of our lives improved.

The cops were awesome. They made it their mission to get to know who should and who should not be in the neighborhood. They went door-to-door introducing themselves. A white Wiccan couple moved in and adopted a little black boy. Come the winter solstice, the Wiccans had a ceremony in their front yard. Essentially, it was a bunch of white people wearing white robes, holding the hand of little black kid. People called the cops to say there was a KKK meeting going on and seven police cars showed up at their house. The next day the cops went door-to-door with a handout about alternative faiths and invitations from the family for everyone in the hood to come for a tea party the following Saturday. People went.

My particular experiences related to minorities and police are relevant to me, but they didn’t change the world. I particularly hate it when someone stands up and says “Well, when I lived in a black neighborhood, WE…” as if it were a universal experience that should define beliefs and actions for everyone everywhere. I know mine is NOT a universal experience, but it all really did happen.

A few days ago I wrote on this in my post, “Life and Learn, Dammit!” and a new reader commented. He has an interesting blog that is well worth checking out, Robert Matthew Goldstein. I have sincerely been seeking answers to my questions and he offered one that, I think, hits the nail on the head. In our conversation he said that the South never accepted defeat.

This guy grew up in Charleston, SC… He added a link to the text he mentions and it was fascinating reading. https://archive.org/stream/reflectionsoccas00acha/reflectionsoccas00acha_djvu.txt

What struck me was the idea of “cheap labor.” As a part-time college teacher I was cheap labor. So all of us in my hood were somebody’s cheap labor and it was in their interest to keep us down, to keep us insecure and struggling. I fought against the part-time teacher thing as much as I could which wasn’t much since it took a minimum of six (writing!) classes a semester for me to hold my life together. My mentality — and that of everyone I knew in the same boat was, 1) someday I’ll get tenure, 2) if I fight against this, I won’t have work. THAT is an infinite loop. If things were to be made fair, tenured faculty via teachers unions would have to fight FOR us and that wasn’t going to happen. Tenured teachers said of us adjunct faculty, “If they were any good, they’d HAVE tenure.”

I could see that the football coach at the university where I taught had a contract that paid him $4,000,000/year and I had a three year contract on which I had to teach 5 classes/semester (tenured faculty taught a 3/2 schedule — 5 classes/year) and was paid $24,000/year. I did get “benefits” including excellent health insurance and retirement. But IF I had not scored that particular part time job?

Then, yesterday, I watched a video (below) that explained how racism is built into the American system as a way to ensure the availability of cheap labor. Cheap labor depends on diminishing educational opportunities, for one thing, but also making it impossible for people to acquire wealth — wealth being, essentially, home ownership. In this I was lucky that my Good X and I had bought a house, my house in the “hood.”

Because it was a minority, high-crime neighborhood (which we did not know when we bought) the house was cheap, especially for San Diego. It was also a mess. It was a two bedroom house built after WW II. In and of itself, it was a pretty little house with lots of light, two large bedrooms, a large kitchen. Because we bought that house, I have a house now.

The people who’d rented it from my X’s friend had trashed it. They had sold drugs from it, had repaired? stolen? cars and the yard was littered with automobiles. It looked like a crack-house/junk-yard. There was a VW beetle literally hanging from the palm tree in the front yard. There was drug paraphernalia all through the trashed house. We went in, cleaned it up, and lived there. During the cleaning process, a guy came by to buy drugs…

We were always afraid that the notorious “William” would return seeking revenge. William was white. The neighborhood at that time was also an enclave of the Hell’s Angels.

We got this wonder for $68,000. I loved living there and those 17 years were among the greatest in my life, but it had its challenges…

This is the house, roughly a decade after I sold it. No work had been done on it since I’d moved out though now it looks very different. A Vietnamese family lives there now.

Everyone in the hood was struggling along with me. I didn’t realize the bigger picture of WHY everyone in the hood was struggling.

Here is the video I watched yesterday. It explains how the system built racism into it to ensure that minorities would find it so hard to prosper that a supply of cheap labor would always be there. It explains what my blog reader meant by the south never surrendering. It illustrates how a system (university, college, factory, government) could benefit by making it very difficult for people to prosper. I got from it — though it doesn’t say it outright — how creating tension between races can keep the struggle alive to the benefit the “elite.” It showed me in no uncertain terms how money is the the whole point of everything in the system. Greed. This means that people like me — who are not motivated by money — are easily exploited. I now understand what is meant by the term “systemic racism” and I’m disgusted.

The featured photo is a cartoon I drew back then depicting life on my street… I am the moose. Next to me is my Venus flytrap that I put outside on a slice of bologna because I needed to draw a fly for my magnum opus sculpture, “Barbie’s Battle of the Bands.” The dog and puppies in the sky are my neighbor’s. Daisy, a little pit bull, wanted to be my dog and would climb the cinder block wall to come to my house. When she had a litter of puppies, she taught them to do the same. If I left the front door open, Daisy and the puppies would come in. The feet to the side belong to my neighbor who had advanced senile dementia and would run away whenever he could to go to a restaurant 5 miles away called “Heidi’s.” We had to watch out for him all the time. The little man across the street is one of the few whites in the hood. He is standing by his little dog. He loved having garage sales, and called the garage the “go-raj.” It was a very strange place to live but absolutely NEVERE boring. Our hood was a family.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/18/ragtag-daily-prompt-thursday-rear-view-mirror/

Transplanted

I think for women of a certain age, the word “cherish” has only one association (ha ha ha). I was in ninth grade and I was moving away from the town where I’d left childhood and grown into a teenager. 9th grade back then was the last year of the arcane thing known as junior high.

We’d lived in Bellevue, Nebraska for six years. My mom hated it. My dad liked it. My brother and I? Kids just live wherever, I think, little kids anyway. I grew into the small town. I liked it. I was active in Rainbow Girls, I was studying piano and getting somewhere, and I was popular in my school, one of the cool of the cool. Most important, I had my first boyfriend. Rex. He started being my boyfriend in fifth grade.

And we were moving back to Colorado.

My Aunt Martha flew out from Denver to drive one of our two cars. By then my mom had her drivers license, but my dad’s abilities had deteriorated and he tired easily (multiple sclerosis) so he wouldn’t be up to driving the two long days from Bellevue to Colorado Springs. The movers would pack our stuff once we were gone. We spent the night before our move in a motel in our very town. I have no idea how the logistics of this worked. At age 14 I wasn’t responsible for anything but me.

We spent a night on the road. In Colorado Springs, my family spent a few nights in a motel and I went to Denver with Aunt Martha. The following week, we moved into a little brick tract house that was a lot like the house we’d left behind. Our stuff arrived and the movers put everything where it was supposed to be.

The family tried to slide smoothly into a new life.

I missed everything. I missed being cool (because now I wasn’t). I missed my piano teacher (but he wrote me). I missed knowing where I was. I missed my small town. My piano teacher (a German Jew who’d fled Hitler) reminded me how much I loved the mountains and explained that soon I would be happy to be there.

Most of all, I missed my boyfriend. At 14 I wasn’t allowed to date and I don’t think Rex was either, but we HAD held hands (I never told my mom). In 9th grade there were two dances and Rex and I had already agreed we’d go together. I saw a whole future of football games and dances with him.

In my anonymous bedroom in a new city I didn’t even like, I cried and thought of Rex whenever the clock radio on the shelf of the headboard of my twin bed played:

Listening to it now, it was totally non-applicable to my situation. ❤

And, through 9th grade in Colorado Springs, I went to all the dances with my brother.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/17/rdp-wednesday-cherish/

Not a Lot Going On…

I used to try to rescue people. I don’t know if I am “over” that yet which is one reason I am dedicated to a solitary life. I think the trait is deeply entrenched in my personality. It’s a fine line between helping someone and years later looking in the mirror and saying to the exhausted image “Good god, how could I have been such an idiot?” Attempting rescue is a highly egocentric act. It violates the “prime directive.” It’s a Star Trek thing but I think it’s very wise.

As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Starfleet personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes introducing superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely. Starfleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship, unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral obligation.


My yard still needs further rescue (it’s OK to rescue a back yard), but I don’t think much more is going to happen out there in terms of construction and pick-action. The dogs have adjusted well to the changes, since they didn’t happen all at once. As far as the season goes, we’re beyond the preparation stage and into the cultivation and maintenance stage. Every year the absurd number of female elm trees let loose their very fertile seeds and gardening turns into the task of pulling out tiny trees before they take over the world. The lilacs and aspen are also trying to take over the world so it’s a war out there.

ALL of the poet beans are doing well so far, even little Liu Changqing — now Wang Wei — in the front yard. His position is exposed to the wind but he’s holding his own. Sadly (though he will not know the difference) I had to change his name to Wang Wei. There are not enough poems in existence (in English? at all?) for Liu Changqing to survive in those great bean poetry competitions.

The tomatoes seem to be thriving, and I think I bought my last “box’o’salad” for the summer. At some point I will have to dig out all the iris and separate them and replant some of them and attempt to find homes for the rest.

In the Hills

FROM dwindling stream white stones emerge;
Frosty the day and few the crimson leaves;
No rain has fallen on the mountain path —
Men’s clothes are soaked by the green solitude.

Wang Wei trans Gladys Yang

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/16/rdp-tuesday-rescue/

Existential Angst

I’ve accepted (really? forever? for now?) that some days are better than others. Not in general — I accepted that a long time ago — but vis-a-vis this virus and the weirdness. Yesterday was one of those days. Zero. Zilch. Damn. “Deal with it!” yammered my psyche.

“Yeah, sure, but WHAT am I dealing with?”

“The fear of death, sweet cheeks. The fear that there is no future. ‘No future, no future, no future for you!!!'”

“Whoa. That’s heavy.”

“Yeah, well, there it is. ‘The future is uncertain….'”

“Shit so those aren’t just deep words in a Morrison song?”

“No, babe.”

Damn. So what do you do when you suddenly realize that you are afraid of death, and you are sure your dead mother is going to come and get you in 8 years? Seriously. This is some disturbed shit. My house isn’t haunted. I am.

Lots of people have said their dreams have been weird and scary since C-19 appeared on the scene. Mine too. Not always but often.

“This is when people need faith, sweet cheeks. You have to have the faith that it is going to be OK. You have to keep doing the things that make life meaningful. Just think, if this had never happened, you’d have been putting together a talk for the Rio Grande County museum to tell people about Swiss immigrants to the San Luis Valley and you would be reading from The Brothers Path and The Price. You’d be doing a timeline mural together with Louise. You’d have learned a lot of new things about the magical place where you live. Faith, Martha Ann, is DOING IT ANYWAY.”

“Denying the uncertainty?”

“Yep.”

Once again the lesson in life is “Do it anyway.”

Tired of the existential questing I asked Bear if she would like to go with me out to the Refuge after dinner. The light was beautiful, the wind was blowing, sure the day had been hot, but it seemed that evening’s angled light might redeem everything.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/15/rdp-monday-zilch/

Quotidian Update 42.iv.b

While I was taking my siesta this morning, aka as sleeping in, the little elves at the supermarket were busy filling the order that I will go pick up too soon because, you know, sleeping in. I think I’m about to shake off the shackles of this virus and start shopping for myself. Wait a minute, I hate that.

In other news…there isn’t any but here’s a cool photo of me talking to the kids. Bear is taking a polite sip from the cat’s water bowl. The wall there supports the 9th hole of the golf course. You can see the tennis court and, in the distance, the weeds along the ditch.

I think today Bear will get a similar walk because it is really her favorite. It’s safe for her to stick her nose into bushes and I think that the scenery dogs crave is that which appeals more to the olfactory than the visual. The scents out at the Refuge are now rather stale and few and far between. The water birds have finished nesting and are hanging out in the water more of the time, so far less goose poop. The carnivores have to work harder for a meal. The deer are seeking shade, the elk have gone to higher elevations. What a drag for Bear!!!

Meanwhile, under the category, “The Passing Parade,” when I moved to San Diego I started listening to a radio station that was all about marketing itself as rebellious alternative music. 91X. The DJ I heard the most was a British guy named Steve West. He came on the air the very moment I was driving home from teaching morning classes. I drove home, ate lunch and graded papers, his voice and playlist in the background. I liked most of the music. He introduced me to my “anthem” because it also often happened in winter that as soon as I got home I leashed the dogs and headed out for a hike. The song is Running Up that Hill by Kate Bush. I’m a radio person and throughout my life it’s been a “thing” in my life’s background.

Decades passed and Steve West moved to another radio station when 91X sold out or something. I kept listening to him. On Sunday mornings he started doing an “oldies” show comprising the music of the 1980s (oldies?? wtf?) and I listened to it even after I moved back to Colorado. He took requests and always played mine. “This is for Martha in the Back-of-Beyond!” he would say, or “For Martha freezing in Colorado!”

During this interval, he fought prostate cancer. One of the things he did on his radio show was a benefit for research. The big prize was going on air with him. In the past year or so he showed up with pancreatic cancer and lost his fight about a month ago. I didn’t know this guy yet he’d had a (pleasant) role in my life for more than 30 years. That’s a pretty long time. I was truly affected by his death as were a lot of other people who, like me, had listened to him for decades — actually I listened to him for more than half my life. His music choices influenced the music I like. Now, the station has rebuilt his very popular Sunday morning show employing an equally “seasoned” (old) DJ. It’s still good and time marches on.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/14/rdp-sunday-siesta/

“Place of Grace”

Prize to anyone who can find the San Luis Valley on this photo.

Most of Colorado is wilderness and I don’t have access to it because 1) much is inaccessible and 2) I have mobility problems, but it’s OK. Where once I thought “I have to see it” now I think, “I have to leave it alone.” I’m happy walking in semi-remote, semi-wilderness areas. I’m happy skiing on a golf course. I don’t think this is all the result of arthritis. A lot of it has to do with working for more than a decade in an urban wilderness park.

In 1988? 87? I first visited Mission Trails Regional Park it wasn’t a park. It was just 5000 acres of emptiness left over from WW II. The main feature was Old Mission Dam which had been built back in the day by the Kumeyaay Indians to supply water to the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala. I didn’t venture in very far — just enough to see the November version of the San Diego River (“You call that a river?” said a Swiss student of the trickle that is the river most of the year)

Old Mission Dam


I started hiking there every day. No one was there. There were some trails but not many. It was just a lump of wilderness surrounded by San Diego and suburbs. It was a landscape I didn’t know and I began learning it, but the first thing I learned was that we never know even the most familiar landscape. I hiked there nearly every day for more than 20 years, in all weather, all seasons, all times of day.

In the early nineties, we started seeing road-graders at work and sticks marking some major construction project. Ultimately we learned that HWY 52 was going to cross the northern boundary of the wilderness because, by god people have to go shopping and go to work.

For a while we made a quest out of pulling out sticks and mildly “monkey-wrenching.” Then, construction stopped for a short time when they found the bones of prehistoric horses. Of course that wasn’t enough to stop progress, so once enough bones has been excavated that they could be studied, it all began again. My wilderness was being cut in two and the former silence was filled with graders and trucks going backwards and forward. Still, once the road bed was graded it was a while before they began real construction. There was a lull in “progress.”

Circumstances led me to the top of South Fortuna in the wee hours of a December morning. That dark night Molly and I danced down a hill, enjoying silence and stars (not easy to see in San Diego). The NEXT day they finally began real construction on the road. After that it would carry cars.

Molly and I were there for the last silent night.

Part of the road deal included “mitigation” — acres given by the city to what would become the largest urban wilderness park in the United States. One Sunday afternoon, pure coincidence, I happened to see a few people wandering aimlessly around a small mesa near the intersection of Mission Gorge Road and Father Serra Trail. I went over to talk to them and that led to me being a member of the board of directors of the Citizens Advisory Council that would build the park. They needed someone who actually KNEW the landscape. I was to be the liaison between the board and the rangers, the board, the rangers and a volunteer organization that I would organize. The visitor’s center I “helped” build became a model for visitor’s centers all over the country. I would have a voice in the educational programs presented in the Visitor’s Center. I would organize volunteer tour leaders who would teach people how to care for that fragile landscape and teach children how to “see” it. To people who don’t know it, the coastal sage chaparral really looks like NOTHING.

“My” park was the first of its kind in this country. When the Garden of the Gods in Colorado wanted to build a real visitor’s center, they looked to ours. When I see signage on trails in my valley, I’m seeing echoes of “my” park. Parks like Mission Trails educate people to love and care for the wilderness. I’m proud to have been a part in establishing it and protecting it. Godnose those acres gave me so much. That they are not now a mall, freeway and water park is partly due to me. That’s the thing in my life I’m most proud of. I helped preserve 6000 acres of “wilderness.”

And it preserved my soul.


Now I live in a truly wild place. I sometimes think of it as my reward for the good things I did during my purgatory years in San Diego. Every time I go anywhere — Penitente Canyon, up one of the Frisco Creek trails, the Big Empty, anywhere — I see what I am able to see because of my apprenticeship at Mission Trails Regional Park. The whole time I was there I thought I was missing Colorado. The reality is that “my” chaparral was teaching me how to see and where to look so I could come back.

“This lovely being, which is alive to its last recesses and understands every feeling, soothed me, it cured me of my pains, and finally, when I had fully understood my love for it, it taught me freedom.” Carlos Castaneda, Tales of Power

The title of this blog came from Beth who left the words on a comment on one of my blog posts.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/13/rdp-saturday-wilderness/