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Vernal Pond Filling Up

We've had 3 years of dry winters, but this year the pattern has changed. We have these big zones of low pressure blowing in from across the ocean, not being blocked by high pressure, and it's been raining bountifully. I'm in heaven. During dry years I fret sub-consciously about the dryness of soil and plant life. But now, there's a joyousness in the hills. The plants they are lovin this! Creeks are rushing. The air is perfumed with energy. Yesterday I ran on a cold windy afternoon along the coast to an old ranch where there are a couple of lovely ponds with tules and water lilies, where for a few months in springtime I can slip into the pure green water and glide around.

Ian Siegal's Broadside

Boy is this guy good! To me, he was out of the blue. Heard "Hard-pressed" on radio, ordered CD. Tight 3-piece band, blues and rock n roll, he sings with a raspy powerful voice every bit as good as Joe Cocker in his prime. "…drawing on influences such as Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Son House, Junior Kimbrough and Tom Waits."

"You'd be hard-pressed to find another man like me,
Standin' on the ground, wide as the sea,
Soul of a pirate, heart of a saint,
Evil incarnate, but the devil I ain't…"

Powerful Oakland Graffiti

Oakland is tough and real and got soul. This shot two days ago at Foothill and 46th…

Stormy Night Run/Flashlight Fails

Three of us took off about 6:30 last night, heading up the cliff-climbing trail south of Muir Beach. We've had a wonderful 5 or so inches of rain the last 4 days with powerful storms roaring in from the Pacific, The night was clear, but the next storm was hovering, so the air was supercharged. Up at "my" point, a finger of cliff aimed at San Francisco across the water, the wind was howling. A thousand feet down to boiling foaming crashing waves on rocks. My chi meter was maxxing out. Talk about feeling good!

I was dawdling and my two friends went on ahead and of course my light goes out when I'm still a mile and a half from the inn. There was a 1/4 moon and barely enough light for me to stumble along the trail. I got into it after a while, my eyesight sharpened and pretended I was a coyote; they don't have no stinkin lights! It was kind of a thrilling experience, what with the storm energy, negative ions -- and lucky, because if the clouds had covered the moon I 'd have been on a cold hillside on a black night with no idea of direction home. My guiding spirits pulled me through (once again, thanks guys!) and I made it to my truck and warm clothes, pint of Guinness and the lads at a candle-lit table at the pub.

Chest Pains in the Night

Que experiencia! A few weeks ago I went paddleboarding in the lagoon late in the day. The water was like ice and as I came back toward the town dock, some people were watching me. My (racing) paddleboard is really fast, it seems to skim across the water and people are invariably surprised to see its speed. And so what do I do, being the mature person I am, but showboat it, sprinting, paddling as hard as I can. I should add that I hadn't paddled for some time. Things were OK until I got into bed that night. I felt chest pains and had trouble breathing. Never happened before. 911-time and the full rescue experience. A roomful of local firefighters, an IV in my arm, the EMTs, and then a ride to the hospital. There was also a helicopter, which I declined: "No way!"
I ended up spending the night in the ER of Marin General Hospital, where they ran test after test. I saw 4 doctors, got spritzes of nitro-glycerine, the whole catastrophe. The ERs are geared for serious stuff; a dumbass condition like mine isn't on their radar. Too simple. One doctor was pissed at me because I wouldn't get a chest X-ray (by that time I knew I was OK). The next morning a cardiologist put me on a treadmill, and said, "I didn't know you were a runner." Everything was fine. Sheesh!
Home never looked so good. Got into my own bed with a hot water bottle and bowl of homemade chicken soup. Paradise!
Conclusion, later talking to my own doc: chest contractions from overexertion, muscles constricting lungs, brought on by showing off. I know, I know...

Avatar: Wonder at Life

One thing I loved about the movie (intensified by the 3-D) was the feeling that I was moving through the woods with the tuned-in natives. And the flying was like a short time in my life when I dreamed of flying night after night. I tried explaining this to someone, but didn't get the idea through. But in today's NYTimes, biologist Carol Kaesuk Yoon writes a rave review (rare for the NYT) about "…the pure wonder of seeing life" in Avatar:
"Please excuse me if I seem a bit breathless, but the experience I had when I first saw the film (in 2-D, no less) shocked me. I felt as if someone had filmed my favorite dreams from those best nights of sleep where I wander and play through a landscape of familiar yet strange creatures, taking a swim and noticing dinosaurs paddling by, going out for a walk and spying several entirely new species of penguins, going sledding with giant tortoises. Less than the details of the movie, it was, I realized, the same feeling of elation, of wonder at life…." http://bit.ly/50tAHW

Stewart Brand on Wade Davis

Stewart Brand hosts the weekly "Seminars About Long-term Thinking" in San Francisco. Last week it was Wade Davis, who wrote The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World. Here are a few excerpts from Stewart's write-up:

"He began with Polynesians, the wayfinders who mastered the Pacific ocean in the world's largest diaspora. Without writing or chronometers they learned 220 stars by name, learned to read the subtle influence of distant islands on wave patterns and clouds, and navigated the open sea by a sheer act of integrative memory. For the duration of an ocean passage "navigators do not sleep…."

"In the Andes the Incas built 8,500 miles of roads over impossibly vertical country in a hundred years, and their descendents still run the mountains on intense ritual pilgrimages, grounding their culture in every detail of the landscape…."

For more, go to this link and click on "Hide Stewart's introduction," and you'll get Stewart's synopsis of Wade's (sold-out) talk: http://longnow.org/seminars/02010/jan/13/wayfinders-why-ancient-wisdom-matters-modern-world/

Japanese Antiques in Berkeley

The Zentner Collection is a retail outlet in the San Francisco Bay Area (5757 Horton Street, Emeryville). Here's how they describe themselves: "The Zentner Collection has been dealing in Asian antiques for more than 30 years with a special emphasis on fine Japanese antiques. We offer one of the largest tansu collections in the world offering rare examples of Karuma, Fune, Choba, Gyosho, and Kaidon Tansu from the Edo thru Meiji Periods."
We went there on our Berkeley trip last week to look at tantsus. This is a beautiful (if pricey) collection of all kinds of Japanese antiques.

Steam-Powered Burning Man Victorian Tinkerers

Last week we went to Berkeley to see Avatar (in 3-D) (which I liked a lot). We also went to the gigantic used materials place Urban Ore (check it out if you live in the Bay Area) to pick up a used door and in the next yard over was a whole bunch of interesting constructions. Went in to meet Shannon O'Hare, who is not only a 3rd-generation Californian, but leader of a Victorian-era-minded "…Do It Yourself (DIY) group of tinkerers, gearheads, and steam bohemians who fabricate steam-powered art pieces out of repurposed industrial detritus." Check them out at: http://www.neverwashaul.com/
Photo is of a working steam-powered wagon.

SunRay Kelley at WaterWoman Festival

The WaterWoman Festival was held at Joshua Tree National Monument in November, 2009. SunRay can go anywhere in the world and frame a beautiful building from whatever wood is lying around. He was one of the 3 featured builders in Builders of the Pacific Coast. Click here for a slide show from the book, including SunRay's beautiful natural-materials temple at Harbin Hot Springs in the Northern California hills. Also, pic of SunRay at work. Look at those arms!
-Photos by Chris McClellan