Mother Moves Again

When Mother decided to move from her apartment to the health care center in the wake of her 98th birthday, I pitched in to give her a hand. I went down the week of the move and here is my story.
Sunday, March 1, 2009

a field of windmils generating electric powerOn Sunday I took a leisurely drive down I-5 on a stunning day through miles of blooming almond groves. I by-passed the Grapevine and L.A. in favor of the Tehachapi Pass, crossed the desert, and landed in Redlands for the night.
On Monday morning I passed through the windmills outside of Palm Springs, crossed the many desert miles to Phoenix and arrived around 2 p.m. My only regret was that I did not get up early enough to stop for a date shake in Palm Desert.

Mother sitting in recliner in her new room

Monday and Tuesday

I had planned ahead and talked to various people at Royal Oaks. The room that Mother was moving to was ready to be occupied, so I hoped to talk her into going there to spend the night. There were chairs, a bed, and a TV there already. The next day we could orgainize the rest of the move. She agreed. I stayed in her apartment. On Tuesday I took over clothes and furniture and tried to make things comfortable. All went very smoothly.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday

Another view of Mother in her new roomThe rest of the week was spent walking a million miles between the assisted living apartment and the new room, which are at opposite sides of the campus, as we made sure the right things were moved.

What was left, I took to the Thrift Shop (six or seven trips), a shelter for battered women and children, the local food bank, or sorted through and kept, shredded, or discarded. And, of course, there was the paperwork and plenty of conversations with Mother’s friends and well-wishers.

As you can see, everything fell into place. The staff even brought Mother a beautiful quilt for her bed after she had explained that she did not have an appropriate bedspread.

All has ended very well.

Mother Moves – not all moving events are in California

When Mother decided to move from her apartment to assisted living in anticipation of her 96th birthday, we all pitched in to give her a hand. My brother from Texas spent the weekend before the move helping her decide what to take and what not to take, as well as making several runs to the thrift shop, UPS, and various stores to both rid her of excess and find items that might come in handy in the new place. I went down the week of the move and here is my story.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

Taking close up of a bee on a flower On Friday I took a leisurely drive down 101 on a stunning day. The Salinas Valley has never been prettier.

On Saturday morning I did a 5K in Woodley Park in Van Nuys sponsored by the Valley Trauma Center. In the afternoon I decided to see the famous Huntington in San Marcos. Talk about overwhelming! The 207 acres includes over 100 acres of gardens, a conservatory, a huge library of ancient books, and an art museum (once a residence!) that is closed for a three year renovation.

When I ODed on visual stimulation, I turned to photographing people taking photos.

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Saturday, after leaving the Huntington I drove on to get a head start in the morning. I soon learned it was Bikers’ weekend in Palm Springs. There were thousands of them having what looked like a good time.The Hyatt was headquarters. I would have joined in, but sadly my Saturn did not let me qualify. Looked like there was good food and good music. I continued on to Palm Desert leaving the action behind.

I had my usual AZ trip date shake breakfast at Shields Date Ranch after spending the night in Palm Desert and arrived at mother’s about 12:30. We had lunch as usual with the regulars. The rest of the afternoon was spent with last minute details in order to be ready for the move in the morning.

Monday, October 9, 2006

The moving crew arrived as promised promptly at 7:00 a.m. and Mother and I vamoosed to eat breakfast in the dining room, something she had done only once before in all the years she has been here. We spun it out as long as possible, stuffing ourselves on omelets and drinking plenty of coffee.

When we arrived back at 9:45, everything had been moved, or close to it. Mother was invited to the new place at 10:30 to find that the furniture was all in place, the boxes were being unpacked, and it looked ready to live in.

And it was by 1:00 p.m. with bed made, closets in order, towels in the bathroom and all pictures hung.She was dumbfounded.

Ben moving the sofaOn Tuesday the main event of the day was when my nephew’s good friend and best man arrived with his roommate to take the furniture that had remained behind. He has a new house in Tempe but no furniture, so it was a good deal for all.

During the rest of of the day, I got know all the volunteers at the Thrift Shop after making six trips (one of which was to retrieve things Mother decided she wanted after all)

When all was loaded (except two casters for the bed, which had fallen off the frame, and the remote for the TV), Ben dropped in to graciously thank Mother. She was entertaining two of her friends and all were delighted.

I mailed him the casters and remote.

Ben and MomI had left my camera behind and had a chance to try the one I have in my new cell phone. As you can see, I have finally figured out how to get pictures out of my phone and onto my computer. Here is a picture of Ben and Mom




Assisted Living dining roomWe ate in the dining room that night after a brief housewarming and sip of champagne for Mother’s friends who who could hardly wait to see her new place.

Of course, Mother knows almost everyone there already. The menu is the same as the one in the big dining room so life goes on as usual.


Mother's new living roomFor those who have been there, the new living room does not look much different from the former one. The only thing that did not come was the wing chair that Mother said was uncomfortable anyway (Ben has it.) and the sofa that was so soft that no one could get out of it once they were down. (Ben has it too.)



Mother's new kitchen The kitchen occupies a corner and has ample cupboards, a microwave, but no stove. Although the refrigerator is dinky, Mother feels it may be adequate. We shall see.




Thursday, October 12, 2006

After a day and a half of taking care of loose ends, I headed back across the desert. I had to stop in Palm Desert again to pick up the clothes I left in the closet of the motel I stayed at. (Dumb) I have become good friends with the new owner, a woman who has just opened up and with whom I can talk “hotel talk” again.

I finally stopped in Pasadena around 7:30.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Now that I am back in highspeed internet territory, I am posting this from my motel room in Pasadena while waiting for the morning commute traffic to ease up a bit–I hope.

I will stop at Harris Ranch on my way home and pick up steaks for dinner and rest easy knowing Mother is settled at last and no longer has need to endure the anxiety of anticipation.

All has ended very well.


Ben has sent pictures of the furniture that has found a home at his place. See for yourself!

Ben's new sofa Ben's patio Ben's recliner Ben's table

March 2009 Update

She’s moved again! Click here for the latest


Looking High and Low

A view of the Acoma pueblo perched on a mesa in the Arizona desertNone of our families has been here forever. Most of us, or our ancestors, settled in the West when the land was much like it is today. Life may have been different, but the land and the people were not. A few of us have forebearers whose trek to this country is measured in more than decades or centuries. But as long as people have lived on the land, they have suffered the realtors’ curse. Location is all. And always, it seems, something better is out there.

Life was not different eight hundred years ago when someone in the Southwest, in what we now call New Mexico, decided that the mesa–the Sacred Mountain, “the place that always was”–rising six hundred feet from the flat of the desert around it, was the best of locations.

For one thing, it had a great view. From its height the majestic mountains, snow-covered in winter, were fully visible. Thanks to a scarp running straight as a level that cut off the view, those mountains could barely be seen from the desert below.

And it was safe. From the top one could see for dozens of miles in all directions across the sparsely covered plain. It was not a place where one could easily be taken by surprise.

And it was, after all, the sacred place.

The people of the surrounding pueblos were sold on the property. They would live on the Sacred Mountain. Never mind that it was rock and that it had no soil for growing or water for drinking. No matter that the nearest timber was twenty miles away. For a location this grand these could be brought in from below. And thus the city began–a city still lived in today. Acoma arose on the mesa.

Then, as now, grand locations were in short supply. Developing them for human habitation required ingenious problem solving, heavy labor, and rigorous social structure. And then, as now, once built they became targets of envy.

In the fifteen hundreds, Spaniards who had settled in Mexico turned north seeking rumored gold. For reasons sometimes political, sometimes religious, and sometimes too human, they clashed with the inhabitants of the heights. It was not a pretty fight. Death and deceit dogged both sides in a feud that still lasts to this day.

A new religion was brought to the town in the sky. A church was built high on the mesa with roof timbers carried from afar. And in order to properly bury the dead, a cemetery in the churchyard was carved out of the rock. At first filled with earth hauled up from the desert below, it was then filled with those who had hauled up the earth.

None of our families will be here forever. What is our claim to the earth? Do we own it? Does it own us? Can we each have a piece of it? When is it worth fighting for? When is it worth dying for? When is it sacred? What can we know from Acoma?


The Acoma Pueblo, the oldest continuously occupied city in the United States, is located fifty miles west of Albuquerque and fifteen miles south of I-40.

Star Struck

a large meteor crater in the Arizona desertThe desert stretched to the horizon and beyond. The Interstate ran straight, unrestricted by any obstruction. Leaving the snow-covered slopes–the stage set of Flagstaff–gleaming brightly under the sun, I headed for New Mexico. The storm two days earlier and the chill of the late March air preserved the patches of white the storm had deposited between the small hummocks on the flat desert floor.

Off to the southeast a small mound arose from the desert around it. I passed an exit to Two Guns (I thought, San Jose should be so lucky–or did that mean per person?) and continued hurtling east when I spotted the sign that said Meteor Crater.

I knew in a flash I must see it, given my bent for such matters. I turned south on a small road through the desert leaving the traffic behind. The seeming flat of the desert vanished. The road undulated like waves on the ocean following the gentle contours of the land. A friendly sign caution drivers to “Please Slow Down. Calves May be Present on the Road”–this country’s equivalent to “Drive Slowly, Children at Play”. Miles passed. The mound I had spotted grew larger. As I approached it was clear; this was the meteor crater.

At this very spot in the past a projectile from space had touched down. Fifty thousand years ago a space-raindrop had left its mark on the earth, its force making a mound that could be seen for dozens of miles. A mere 150 feet in diameter–reaching no more than the fifty yard line–in an instant it excavated an arena large enough for gridiron warriors from forty colleges to compete on twenty full-sized fields ringed by a grandstand of millions.

Now more a mountain than a mound, I approached. Four stories up and barely started, I climbed as rocks towered above me. I continued up and up and up. At last an observation deck gave a view of the crater below. Measuring a near-mile across, the depth of a sixty-story building had been blasted out of the floor of the desert sending the rim I stood on high above the now seemingly flat floor of the land.

This meteor had assaulted the earth. Its metallic core had penetrated deep into the earth’s surface. Traveling 40,000 miles per hour, it vaporized and melted rocks on impact, hurling boulders, some the size of a house for miles in all directions, creating clouds of molten nickel to rain down on the face of the desert. In a flash small bits of rock were turned to diamonds, such was the force of the blow.

But this isn’t once-in-an-Earthtime. Space-rain will happen again. A million, a billion, a trillion, space-drops drench all that exists. Earth cannot avoid them forever. What will they do to our planet? What have they done in the past? Questions as vast as the desert that will only be answered by time.

Thanksgiving Day, Phoenix, Arizona

(I have not yet located the photo that accompanied this article.)

Someone else was tending the turkey, setting the table, and fixing the feast. So I set out on Thanksgiving morning with camera in hand.

Thunderbird Park stood out on the map at the northern boundary of Phoenix as a destination close enough to permit me time to get back for dinner at 2:30. I knew nothing about the park so wasn’t sure what to expect, but it looked large enough to ensure plenty of photographic possibilities.

I have never been one to take a lot of pictures preferring the images imprinted in my memory to the ones recorded on film. But recently I have been lured to try my hand at recording scenes that reach beyond the “trip to Phoenix” shots—ones that capture the rhythm, the beauty, the essence of a place and distill it into a few shapes, colors, or faces that reflect an inner pulse. I have found this is not easy.

The Park turned out to be a perfect example of the low desert peaks that punctuate Phoenix and radiate out from it in all directions. I parked the car and set out on foot across the desert toward the base of a rocky compound ridge dotted with cholla, sage, and stunted palo verde. The slope sported an occasional saguaro, the unwavering symbol of the low Arizona-Sonora desert. Jumbled outcroppings of blackened lava, a few splotched with vivid orange and chartreuse lichens, testified to volcanic disturbances in former times.

I stopped, considered photographic possibilities, clicked, chronicled, clicked some more and lost myself in time and space.

A few people materialized hiking down a well-camouflaged trail on the rocky slope. Never having been able to resist a trail leading out of sight, I began climbing.

The going was rough. This cone materializing from the desert floor was a gigantic pile of mid-size rocks. Without watching every step even a mountain goat would trip and fall. Back and forth the rough path led up the slope with the ridge always beckoning, always just a little farther away than it looked. I climbed and climbed up the north side of this heap, one eye on my watch wondering if I would reach the top before I needed to turn back to meet the dinner deadline.

At last the path leveled. I had reached the ridge. There to the south beneath me Phoenix stretched for miles, the air as clear as it was when it lured the first immigrants to its stunning vastness.

The trail continued, promising even more if I followed it; but I turned back knowing I would try to return. What is there about a path that compels me to follow it? Whether it’s a path up a mountain or into a forest, or a path to learning a camera’s magic or how to make words say exactly what I mean, I am always seduced by the promise that there is more just beyond the bend, just behind the lense, in the blank page ahead.

The trick is to get back in time for Thanksgiving.