“Take time to be an impartial observer of life,
particularly when an ending is causing despair.”
— Lao Tzu

Sugarloaf Hike Springtime

Sugarloaf Hike Springtime

Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain

Yesterday, Wendy Gross led us (group shot below) on a four-hour, seven mile hike on Sugarloaf Mountain that was very steep. Halfway through the hike we were on a beautiful, seldom-used trail that was steeply up-and-down alongside a flowing creek. There were several stream crossings which were easy, even though Laura Tighe just walked through the water and skipped trying to balance on the rocks. She said, “it cools my feet.” She also commented that the entire group standing on a wooden bridge (below) was an interesting test of the strength of the bridge.

I was ready for the hike to end around noon, our usual stopping time, but it took until 1 p.m. to finish and we reached an altitude where the deciduous trees thinned out and we were seeing healthy conifers with cones so big Jason was marveling at their size and robustness. We thought Jason and Frances would join us afterwards at Midtown Cafe, but the 2 p.m. closing time was fast approaching, so they opted out. To give you an idea of how taxing the hike was, Jill ate the entire Duck Confit she ordered, and Ezra ate everything, too. He enjoyed the strenuous hike, but next time I will make sure that Wendy has actually hiked the trail previously before I follow her.

There were lots of pretty spring flowers in the cool, foggy weather, and we had a vigorous discussion about penstamen. Wendy finally opened up a flower and counted the stamens — five.

Back: Diane, Jill, Ned Middle: Wendy, Ezra, Jason Foreground: Frances, Ulla

Back: Diane, Jill, Ned
Middle: Wendy, Ezra, Jason
Foreground: Frances, Ulla

My Tick and Rash

My Tick and Rash

CDC  Lyme Disease Rash Pattern

CDC Lyme Disease Rash Pattern

Yikes! I just discovered a tick bite, about 24 hours after the hike. This is what was left after my friend broke off the body, which I will submit to the County for testing for only $31. My doctor dug out the tick’s head on Monday morning and prescribed doxycycline for me, reminding me that the rate of infection of Sonoma ticks is low. She searched the web from the computer in her office to show me the distinctive “target” rash for lyme disease, so I am including the image from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). I am told that Ezra got a tick, too.

Black Mountain Two Night Kayak Camp

Black Mountain Two Night Kayak Camp

BlackMtn360wFor our traditional Mothers Day Campout, Lori Parmalee selected Black Mountain, a boat-in only campground in Lake Sonoma which was full for the first time in several rain-sparse years. She booked all four of the campsites on the peninsula and we had six campers on Saturday night. Friday morning, Lori and I paddled in with Liam O’Flaherty and had the lake to ourselves. It was raining lightly when we launched but it stopped quickly and the water was smooth as we crossed the four miles to Black Mountain in about an hour.

The drizzle began again when Lori took this picture of Liam and me at the table in the distance. I am on the left in my green plastic poncho I bought 25 years ago when I started boating. This is the first time I have used it. I also purchased my tent at that time, and on this trip, the raccoons tore a three-corner hole in it to get to my sun-block lip-gloss. Grrr. But they greedily went after my headlamp first which got stuck in the hole, so they didn’t get the lip gloss.

The table in the foreground was probably moved from my campsite which is the farthest away. Liam theorized that it was moved when the water was low, last Autumn, then inundated by the Spring rains.

ViewFromLatrineIt was great having the entire campsite to ourselves. One of the reasons Lori likes Black Mountain campground is that this is the view from the latrine (left).

Even though it was raining lightly on Saturday morning, we were joined by Brent, Deb and Louie and had a great campfire on Saturday night. I left my little chair in my car because I was (unnecessarily) worried about a too-heavy boat, so I had to stand for the campfire. Won’t make that mistake again. We had fun sharing food and an excellent bottle of Gundlach Bundschu wine compliments of Liam. Louie shared some excellent craft stout. My massaged kale salad was not the show-stopper I hoped.

It rained briefly both Friday and Saturday nights, which served to keep the weekend very restful and meditative. I enjoyed the women’s magazines Lori brought to leaf through and use as kindling. They stayed dry while my cotton pants sopped up the condensation in my tent.

Lori and I paddled back on Sunday morning while the others explored farther up the water. I learned her trick to find her way back to the boat launch — stay to the left on return and always take the left choice. Many of the openings are hard to see until you are right upon them. Even though Sunday was Mothers Day, there were few speed boats on the water and our paddle back was uneventful.

I had been fretting about organizing and preparing for a two-night campout, but it was very successful. I am tired but happy. Here is my picture on Friday afternoon after the three of us arrived.
BlackMountainKayakCamp

Peas, Dance, Marilyn’s Farewell

Peas, Dance, Marilyn’s Farewell

Delora Porter offers sweet peas to classmates in Marilyn Smith's International Folk Dance Class

Delora Porter offers sweet peas to classmates in Marilyn Smith’s International Folk Dance Class

At the break in Marilyn Smith’s International Folk Dance Class, Delora Porter said, “Anyone want a pea?” and opened her container of snappin’ fresh peas from her garden. Marilyn Smith (green v-neck on the right) had just announced that she was planning not to teach Dance 40 next Autumn in the face of cutbacks at SRJC, after 46 years of teaching (doesn’t she look great?!).

At the far right is Julie, and flanking Delora are Sandy, who delighted us with her belly-dancing, and Beverly in the center of the photo. You will notice some Santa Rosa H.S. students who take this class as a P.E. credit.

Marilyn will continue to teach in the area, and her classes at Monroe Hall can be found on her website Razzmatazz.

Paddled The Gualala River

Paddled The Gualala River

In 2000, I was looking at houses in Sea Ranch and discovered a steep road to a put-in on the Gualala River.  This hard-to-find road leads to the fabled “hot spot” and I learned that the river is runnable when the water is high in January and February.  At a planning meeting for North Bay Kayakers, we decided to plan a trip and I reserved Campsite 10 at Gualala Regional Park, the first time I have ever been able to get this prime site, and was delighted to discover it had a little beach.  Paul Hutchinson and Louie Mattarelli had already arrived and taken an adjoining campsite.  I shared my site with Lori, Liam and Howard.  We all drove up in the rain on Friday went to dinner at the Gualala Hotel.

IMG_2446

Vince Kreger, a great leader, and his cousin Andy grew up in the area and knew the water.  The Gualala River separates Sonoma county from Mendocino county.  We put in at twin bridges in Annapolis.  There were 10 boats including our tandem.

GualalalRiver

 

The rain had been steady all winter and we had three days of good rain immediately prior to the Saturday paddle, so there was very little “paddle and drag.”  Howard and I are in the tandem at the bottom of the photo below.

HGS-AKD-GualalaRiver

Even though our canoe was missing the whitewater flotation, we did fine and stayed dry.  The boaters in the little kiwi boats did best, slipping lightly over the shallow sections and avoiding the boat-flipping elbows in the river.  Kathy Turner and Amy (photo below) had good, small boats.

KathyAmyAnet

I want to buy a little kiwi and use that next time I paddle the Gualala which I am told is the cleanest river in California.  It was beautiful, like the upper Russian River, but much cleaner water and riverbanks.  A fine day.

Know Breaks

Know Breaks

Rick Hanson Ph.D., author of Buddha’s Brain, teaches at UC Berkeley. His Positive Neuroplasticity trains your brain to turn passing experiences — like self-compassion, mindfulness, grit, gratitude, and self-worth — into lasting inner resources that are encoded in your nervous system.

His Just One Thing weekly newsletter suggests a simple practice for more joy, more fulfilling relationships, and more peace of mind. Today, the message was to PAUSE.

When the mind is running fast, it can feel like a juggernaut with no brakes. When in a heated discussion, it is important to be able to PAUSE the flow of words so we may consider better responses. Know to take a break. Rick Hansen says:

nobrakesIf need be, PAUSE the interaction altogether by suggesting you talk later, calling time out, or (last resort) telling the other person you’re done for now and hanging up the phone.

Before doing something that could be problematic — like getting high, putting a big purchase on a credit card, firing off an irritated e-mail, or talking about person A to person B — stop and forecast the consequences. Try to imagine them in living color: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Then make your choice.

He recommends that we stop for a few seconds before starting a new activity and tune in to what’s going on, especially our physical feelings, so that we can briefly touch what Richard Miller calls our “inner resource.”  To know breaks give us a chance to regain our center, to calculate the consequences of actions, to compose ourselves, and to know peace.

Training Your Brain

Wendy Sullivan, LMSW, a licensed social worker, developed a set of Just One Thing downloadable cue sheets to help people to structure their efforts to train their brains to feel more peace and joy. Find out more about the Just One Thing book.

Death Rate Jumps 22% for Middle-Aged Whites

Death Rate Jumps 22% for Middle-Aged Whites

NYTimesDyingMiddleAge
The New York Times reported in a front page article that white Americans without a college degree are dying at an accelerated rate due to suicide, fast and slow.

The rising annual death rates among this group are being driven not by the big killers like heart disease and diabetes but by an epidemic of suicides and afflictions stemming from substance abuse: alcoholic liver disease and overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman called it “Despair, American Style” in an op-ed piece today.

In a recent interview Mr. Deaton suggested that middle-aged whites have “lost the narrative of their lives.” That is, their economic setbacks have hit hard because they expected better. Or to put it a bit differently, we’re looking at people who were raised to believe in the American Dream, and are coping badly with its failure to come true.

About a year ago, two of my brothers drank themselves to death on opposite sides on the country. Dave (on the right in the picture below) died on Oct. 5 in Virginia and Greg died on Nov. 17 in Oregon. Both were in their 50’s, both had retired a few years earlier, neither retirement was completely voluntary, neither had finished college. Neither had a strong plan for retirement, both slipped in to spending a lot of time with their best friend, beer. This photo was taken one year prior, on a vacation in Florida.

DaveGreg

In the days following the publication of this alarming data, there was some pushback over methodologies, so Angus Deaton released this drill-down info.
chart

My brothers, who grew up in the 1950’s, rode the post-WWII juggernaut where men were men and drank to prove it. They lived their lives as if everything was going to take care of itself, which was the prevailing assumption in the days of Ozzie & Harriett and Leave It To Beaver. What was different about these two, however, is that they were musicians who became stalled at the “talented amateur” stage. They didn’t pursue enough training to focus their minds or to hone their talent. They never developed a commitment to their art.They never even learned to read music. But their artistic temperaments were difficult to live with, and they numbed themselves. To death.

blackoutSarah Hepola, author of “Blackout: Remembering the things I drank to forget” attributed alcohol addiction to heredity and culture. My brothers did not live in a culture that encouraged thinking in healthy ways. They did not see their father, another talented piano player, take an active part in creating healthier emotions, minimizing emotional suffering and maximizing joy. According to Debbie Joffee Ellis in a letter to the NYTimes, “To create healthy [emotions] requires willingness to think in realistic… ways and to recognize when we are catastrohizing, and then to dispute such thoughts. Don’t worry, think wisely, be healthier and happier.”

The New York Times review of her book says:

Ms. Hepola’s electric prose … has direct access to the midnight gods of torch songs, neon signs, tap beer at a reasonable price, cigarettes and untrammeled longing.

She may have squandered her early carreer
and now is back in Texas, finally publishing her first novel at age 40. I enjoyed the book and I think she is going to beat the odds in the charts above because she finished college, and knew she was a good writer. She made a living at it while she used alcohol as “the gasoline of all adventure.” Now she has sobered up and found her path. I’m so glad.

Station Eleven

Station Eleven

station11The
\NYTimes
loved this bestseller which opens with “King Lear” and moves on to a traveling Shakespeare company with a Star Trek line painted on the truck, “Survival is insufficient.”

The line is from a Star Trek: Voyager episode written by Ronald D. Moore. I enjoyed the book. It’s interesting to read a book that isn’t structured as a movie.

NPR review,

author’s website.