I use this site to post random bits of information about my life and to experiment with WordPress so I can help others learn to use it.
Today’s Assignment: Who’s the most interesting person (or people) you’ve met this year?
I was sitting in the lobby of a car dealership waiting for my car to be serviced. I had my laptop and was updating a website for a friend. There was Wi-Fi, TV, free coffee, and a vending machine for snacks. It was the epitome of Silicon Valley comfort. I was oblivious to others sitting around me. With his back to me at another table was a young man who also had a laptop. I was suddenly aware of him when he came to my table, motioned to me, and asked me to watch his things while he used the restroom.
When he returned he inquired about what I was doing. Unlike the others in the lounge I seemed intent on a task. I told him, and he was astonished. We fell into an easy conversation. He told me he was a graduate student at a nearby University and eventually told me he was not sure what he wanted to do with his life. We talked about life and what was important. Obviously he had multiple opportunities. I shared with him that I had had several careers (at least three major ones). And finally he asked me how old I was. (75). He was 25.
Originally from China, he had already done many things. He had been invited to the White House as part of a group of achievers in his undergraduate days. He had worked for a couple of non-profits who helped students in under-served countries. (He was very proud of these connections and showed me the websites on my computer.) Currently he is working on a graduate degree but his heart isn’t into it, and he is uncertain what kind of future he envisions for himself. We talked about the difference between being specialist in one field or of being a generalist in many fields. I confessed my preference and impossible dream to know everything about everything. He understood completely and gestured in the air that this was like a tree: you could be like the trunk of the tree with deep well-grounded roots or like the canopy of the tree with leaves that flutter in the wind but not both. I could see myself in him fifty years ago.
Tentatively he asked me if I was on FaceBook. When I told him I was, he sat down at his computer and invited me to be his friend. I did not hesitate to respond. And then his car was ready.
This fleeting contact has once again brought me in touch with realities we all face. Who are we? What should we do? The lucky ones know. The rest of us still wonder–whether we are 25 or 75.
Today’s Assignment: You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.
It’s so simple. Everyone needs water. But living in one of the most beautiful spots on earth makes one appreciate this simple need.
Our well is not particularly deep. How clear, cool, fresh water can be less than one hundred feet beneath the ground on a mountain top at 2600+ feet is something of a mystery. But it is aptly named a well and has served us well for decades.
On weekends and in the summer we see hikers and bicyclist who sometimes underestimate the power of water and its scarcity when they decide to roam the trails on the mountain, trails which start at the base of our driveway. Many years ago we would sometimes have a desperate soul wander up the drive looking for a simple handout of water. This led me to decide to put water out on still warm days at the end of the drive.
Sometimes there has been a dollar bill tucked under the jug or a “Thank you” scrawled on the napkin. But one message said all: THANKS–spelled out in rocks.
Today’s Assignment: Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more. I am having a hard time with this one. When something or someone was once part of my life, I still consider it to be part of my life, if only in memory.
My friend and colleague Barbara, is no longer here. I knew her back in the 1990s. She was the Education Director for the Youth Science Institute (YSI). I hired her and realized that she did not work for me; I worked for her. I was the Executive Director, but she was the driving force behind the science and environmental education programs we offered to more than 37,000 school-age children every year. She was brilliant and passionate about her role!
She had been a Park Ranger. I later came to find out that she left this position, which had always been her dream, because of a leg injury. We became good friends. I knew she lived alone in a house she rented close to the park where she had worked. But I knew nothing of her family, her friends, or other interests. She had grown up in the Bay Area, so I assumed she had some connections beyond her work life.
The first inkling I had that something was amiss happened when I was out-of-town visiting my mother in Arizona for a few days. I had asked her if she had any plans during the long Easter weekend and she had given me a vague answer saying she thought she might go down the coast to Big Sur with a friend.
While I was still in Arizona I got a call from one of our center managers saying that no one had seen Barbara for a couple of days. We had three nature centers. When she was not at one, everyone assumed she was at another. But he had checked and found that no one had seen her. This was unusual. He called her home and got no answer. Finally he drove to her house. He found her and she told him quite a tale.
She said she had been out on a boat at sea with some people she did not know and could not describe. The seas had been rough but they finally had managed to come ashore and get back home. With the help of a neighbor he managed to get her to a doctor. She was taken to a hospital for evaluation. She would accept no visitors
When I returned, she did allow me to visit. She was to stay in the psychiatric ward for two weeks before she could be released. She had cut off all communications with her family. No one knew how to get in touch with them. I was the only contact the hospital had. The diagnosis was bipolar disorder and they were trying to regulate medications to get her on an even keel. The boat trip she had described was the result of taking a prescription drug overdose apparently in an attempt to end her life.
She returned and continued as our Education Director. All seemed well and she was as good as ever until one day…..
This is a difficult subject for me to write about and I know there are a couple of upcoming assignments where I can continue this. So I will get a grip and continue this later.
Today’s assignment: Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?
My favorite songs are performed live for me daily. There are many and they all are important.
The Song of the Quail
In spring the quail descend the hill outside the window in front of my desk. At first singly, then in pairs, and finally in a flock followed by tiny balls of fluff. Quail cannot be quiet. I open my window slowly so I can hear them. Their calls permeate the silence as they travel down the hill and along the drive as they search for seed and scratch among the leaves. They may chatter softly or call loudly to one another. One or two males carefully hang back, ever on alert and ready to send out a danger signal. The slightest foreign movement can send the whole troop into a noisy flying frenzy with little heed for what they might be flying into. The raucous song of the quail is a sure sign of spring.
The Song of the Owl
The song of the owl is a hoot. Two hoots per owl to be precise for our Great-Horned owls. It happens rarely and at night during mating season. Somewhere outside our window a single owl gives a mellow resonant two hoots. A minute or two later it is matched by a responding pair of hoots of a slightly different pitch from some distance. The duet continues for a while. Then on silent wings the pair selects another site to rendezvous.
The Song of the Coyote
In summer with the windows wide open at night, sleep comes second to listening to the distant howl of the coyote. Coyotes do not sing every night, but when they do, it is a song worth listening to. Sometimes they sing a solo, other times a duet, and occasionally a chorus. The chorus is not always a happy one. It may be accompanied by the screams of a deer. It is part of the fabric of our mountain. Sometimes peaceful and quiet, sometimes cruel and demanding, but always my favorite place.