I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
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January 29, 2023Posted by on
I wrote at the end of 2022 about taking a new approach to my “goals” for the year. The point of that post was that rather than being hard objective-driven, focusing on numbers and concrete objectives, I was going to shift to “concepts.” In preparation for my 23 for ’23 conversation with my friends, I came up with some words that described some of the concepts I wanted to work towards. Since then, I’ve added four more.
Here are those concepts:
A lot of these concepts are closely related to others on the list. Some seem contradictory. For instance, the last two — variety and focus — I came up with at the same time. And they could be considered contradictory. Also, given my objective stated in that post a month ago, focus would seem to be contradictory to my overall goal with this list. But by focus, in this context, I mean that when I’m working on something or engaged in some activity, that I want my focus to be on that activity and not wandering towards other things I should be, could be, doing. I have a tendency to always be thinking ahead. I want to stop, slow down, enjoy the moment. To be present. So maybe focus is better stated as … presence.
Anyway, in the month since I adopted this approach, things have happened. This approach has compelled me to sign up for a yoga class after thinking and talking about it for years. I’m now doing the yoga thing every Tuesday and Thursday morning at the community center just down the road. There are a number of the concepts a yoga class addresses, including health, peace, breathe, balance.
I also signed up for an arts festival taking place in Elk Grove at the end of April. I’ll have my books there, as well as some of my acrylic art, and my photography. I really doubt that I would have signed up without this change in thinking. I’ve never done something like this. Doing so hits a few of the concepts — no ear, explore, variety.
I’ve continued other things. I still bicycle almost every other day. Currently, only on the indoor bike because I’m a cold wimp and it’s too cold outdoors to do so out there in the world. But … I’m not obsessed with the mileage and the numbers and all that. I’m just more relaxed about the thing.
Which is the best way to describe how I feel after a month of this. I’m more relaxed. More at peace with myself. Less driven. I feel more comfortable in where I’m at and what I’m doing. A lot of this really is about being present. In some way, that is the best way to describe all of these concepts and why I’m trying this change in mental approach.
We’ll see how I feel about all of this as the year progresses and whether I feel the same at year’s end. But, hey, I’m trying.
January 20, 2023Posted by on
For Jon, who would have been pissed at yesterday’s news.
January 16, 2023Posted by on
Where I live in Northern California, we have been bombarded with several weeks of storms. A bomb cyclone and a couple of atmospheric rivers have dropped almost an entire year’s worth of precipitation in those few weeks. The mountains are covered with lots of snow, the reservoirs are filling, and the rivers and creeks are overflowing their banks in all too many locations.
And the chorus from all too many locations, including some who should be way smarter, is “how can California let all this stormwater run off into the ocean?” instead of capturing it behind dams to preserve for future drought years. Yes, this is a real issue here. The last few years have seen such a drought, one that left the reservoirs at very low levels. If we had another dry year year, this year, it would be hard to imagine how the State’s water needs would be met.
Donald Trump, when he was President, famously criticized California for not catching more rain water. Now, papers up and down the state, commentators left and right, and the common man, are asking this question.
But, here’s the deal. I saw a graphic yesterday that identified 17 reservoirs in California. Those are the major ones, I believe. According to this Wikipedia page, California has 1,400 dams and 1,300 named reservoirs. That seems like quite a bit already, doesn’t it?
Yes, around 8-10 years ago, California voters approved a Bond measure to increase water storage in the State and, so far, none of that increased storage has been developed. It can be frustrating watching these things take years, but my God, we have over 1,300 reservoirs already in this State. There are almost no rivers that run free from source to mouth. California is the state that famously dammed an area just north of Yosemite and turned it into the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir — an area that some say might be even more beautiful than Yosemite itself. The two major reservoirs that were supposed to be built with those bond funds, would help, but they certainly weren’t going to be a game changer in any significant way.
And here’s the other deal. It is impossible to capture all of the stormwater that is generated in storms like this. Hell, it’s impossible to capture the water even from one normal storm. Unless of course, you want to turn the entire Central Valley into a lake. Which I’m pretty certain isn’t going to happen.
So … can we please stop with the gnashing of the teeth over all of this “lost” water? It’s not actually lost. Water falls from the sky, fills rivers and streams, runs to the ocean, and then it all happens again. That’s the natural cycle.
January 15, 2023Posted by on
And that’s not even the right title for this post. But it’s all I can come up with.
I’ve written here about my friend Jon a number of times. I met him in Kindergarten. We were friends through high school and beyond. I lived with him for a couple of years after college. He was the best man at my wedding, and he bought my first son his first baseball glove when he was born. And then Jon was gone, felled by a heart attack at the age of 30 — more than 28 years ago.
Jon’s mom passed away around 8-10 years later. But his dad lives on and I’ve tried to maintain a connection with him. It can be a challenge at times. A couple of weeks ago, I received an invitation to his 99th birthday celebration.
I decided to combine my visit with him with a trip to the confluence of the North and Middle Forks of the American River near Auburn. It’s one of my favorite places to go to get away. To hike by myself. To take pictures. To just be. Where the forks converge is usually pretty calm, but when there has been a lot of rainfall, the river at that spot can be raging. I hoped for that, but didn’t get it. While the water level was a bit higher, it was not the raging I expected. Here are a few shots from this morning.
It was a gray, rainy day. Really kind of perfect, as far as I’m concerned. I got to walk around for a bit in the rain.
From there, I went into Old Auburn, had a late breakfast, and then headed to the birthday party for Jon’s dad. It’s pretty amazing how much his physical condition has deteriorated since the last time I saw him. He is just so incredibly skinny now and is incredibly hunched over. His memory, too, is going. Each time he saw me, he had to ask who I was. Which is fine. It’s what happens at that age. But he loved the attention and the presence of family, members of his church, friends, and his son’s best friend.
For years, Jon’s dad has told me how much he loves to sing. He did so at his church for years. This afternoon, he sang a couple of songs for his guests. The first was Shenandoah Valley. I’m not sure what the second was. As he started, his voice broke a bit because he was affected by the weight of the event. He quickly recovered and sang the song in a deep baritone. I videotaped his performance, thinking I’d share it here. It’s kind of amazing to me, watching a 99-year-old man sing as well as he did.
But I’m not. Jon’s dad is a man who has likely never used a computer, never gone on the internet, never had a cell phone or a smart phone. I see no need to put him up here. Just sharing these details is enough of a breach of his privacy.
After he sang his two songs, we all sang Happy Birthday to him. My eyes got a little misty during the singing. I’m not even sure why. Except that it was just so incredible to see Jon’s dad surrounded by friends and family as he celebrated a milestone so few of us see. Jon’s dad was an incredibly good man. He lived a simple life, and has lived the last 30 years, missing his son, and the last 20, missing his wife. It’s hard for me not to feel something about that.
I feel these things more and more these days. The connections we make. The memories we share. Friday night, I went to see a movie with some of my friends that I’ve had for more than 40 years now. We went to see A Man Called Otto. A big part of the movie is built around Otto’s loss of his wife and his memories of her. It connected with me because of these friends I’ve had. Forty years of memories and a connection that has withstood all those years. Those connections and memories mean more and more and more as I age.
Once Jon’s dad passes, there will be a connection that won’t exist anymore. Even as it has been difficult to find the time and motivation to visit with him, it is still a connection I value. To Jon. To the past. To people who were kind and decent and who lived life the right way.
If you have a chance and you’re of the mind to do so, wish Jon’s dad a Happy Birthday. And then go out and make sure you’re maintaining the connections and memories that you value. Don’t let them go. Don’t lose them. Hold them and treasure them as long as you can.
January 14, 2023Posted by on
Released in 2006, Dusk and Summer was my first exposure to Dashboard Confessional. The title song is one of those songs that is a permanent member of my top ten (you know, the list that has something like 148 songs on it). Here is the Wikipedia entry on the album. It’s interesting reading the details and history behind the album all these years later. This is the type of stuff I never pay attention to when it comes to music. I just listen and enjoy what I enjoy. Only occasionally do I learn the story behind the music.
I’ve been listening to the album the last couple of days. Something I haven’t done in years. The album and the title track were in regular rotation for family road trips back then. My boys and I would belt out the title track with everything we had when it came on. That’s part of the song’s history for me. The mutual enjoyment my kids and I found in a song.
Once I’ve had my fill of this album, I’m going to check out some of their other music. See what they’ve done since this album came out more than 16 years ago. It’s not something I recall doing in the years in between.
And she combed your hair, and she kissed your teeth
And she made you better than you’d been before
She told you bad things you wished you could change in the lazy summer
And she told you, laughing down to her core, so she would not cry as she lay in your lap
She said “Nobody here can live forever, quiet in the grasp of dusk and summer”