Sunday, May 31, 2015

Back in the Mountains

It has become the mantra:  One foot firmly in the California mountains,the other firmly in Hawaii.  Not yet ready to give up either one.

Hawaii is home.  My roots are there.  My identity -- or a large part of it.  That identity needs the support of a set of cultural values unique to our little islands in the middle of the Pacific.  We are , with good reason, proud of our history and traditions.

Yet I am forcefully reminded each time I return to California that I have roots here, too.  It is not the cities or the coast that call me.  It is the farmland, the ranching country and the forest of the Central Valley and the Sierras in central  California.  My adult memories are here.  I recognize the orchards, remember when they will bloom in the spring and fruit later in the year.    I commented to myself this year that  certain pastures had been turned to vineyards or planted with young fruit or nut trees.  I mourned the loss of the forests obliterated by the Rim Fire of two summers ago, but celebrate the return of meadows in their place.

Had dinner with friends last week at the Iron Door in our little town of what?  Two blocks plus the adjacent recreational community complete with golf course and airport?  Had known the mother of our waitress -- who herself was several years older than my children.  Faces change, but the memories are constant.  So is the spirit of this place.

Yes, it was 102 in Sonora yesterday.  But the heat is dry so not oppressive, and welcome after last week's cold and damp.  More rain will be welcome, so long as it comes without lightning and threat of wild land fires --  although with so much fire damage around town, there is not much left to burn.  On the down side, the California Buckeye, the first shrub/tree to brown out in preparation for fall, is already beginning to turn in some spots on the New Priest Grade.  That's mid-August weather, not late May.

Clarkia, the wildflower also known as Farewell to Spring, is in bloom along the roadsides and hillsides.  I noticed its lavender blanket on the Hetch Hetchy power line right of way up Moccasin  Peak.  This is its season.  The dogwoods are still blooming in Yosemite Valley, and the golden-orange wallflowers are adding their own bit of color.  It is far too late for the lupine, meadow foam, and that little yellow wildflower that my friend Verna called pee-the-bed (use your imagination on that one!) which blooms in the spots where the shallow puddles form in the pastures and meadows.  Too late for the daffodils, almost too late for the Pacific Coast Iris -- either in the wild or in my garden.

Later this week I will drive up into the burn area, just to be there once, watching the cycle of destruction and recovery.

Don't forget to pray....

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Welcoming 2015

Last year, New Year’s Eve was disappointingly quiet in Waikiki, a result of the newly active restrictions on fireworks use.  Either the City/State has relaxed some of their deep restrictions, or the general population is going back to our beloved Hawaii way of bringing in the New Year. I am sure that the fireworks for New Year’s is a tradition brought with the Asian immigrants, especially the Chinese, who came beginning mid-19th century to work in the sugar and later the pineapple fields.  Immigrant labor.  Hawaii’s variation on the theme of slave labor.    But that is another story. 

This year was a very different story. There were occasional pops and booms all evening, and the flashing blue lights of police cruisers were prominent on Ala Wai Blvd.  I was warned that The Hour was approaching quickly (much to my surprise; I’d become engrossed in a book) when the individual pops transitioned into the steady and unmistakable din of those tiny firecrackers that come in strings of 100 and boxes of 1000. To the west, the Ewa side (towards down town Honolulu and Pearl Harbor) the commercial display at the big, public party at Kaka’ako Park lit the sky.  It was readily visible, but a bit distant.  Much closer to home, but partially obscured by the overly tall hotels and construction cranes now dominating the Waikiki skyline, was the display in the vicinity of the Halekulani, the Outrigger Reef and the Sheraton-Waikiki. Nothing from the Hawaiian Village – they have a brief fireworks display every Friday evening.   There were a few much smaller aerials from the vicinity of the yacht harbor and the Diamond Head end of Ala Moana Park.  Someone in the building next door fired off a lone roman candle from about 15 floors up, aiming it outward so it cascaded over their swimming pool.  The air began to fill with the smell of gunpowder that I always associate (positively) with New Years and lots of fireworks. Much more satisfying than last year’s quiet or Kahala’s relatively new dependence on the show at the Kahala Resort hotel, audible but not visible from the middle of Kealaolu Avenue. Much more satisfying.
I remembered standing, wrapped in a blanket, on my grandparents’ house lot sized lawn in Waipahu, age about 6 or 7 or 8, listening to the noise and watching the sky fill with the offerings of what seemed like hundreds of private celebrations of fireworks around the plantation community. I remembered other years, with my dad shooting off sky rockets and roman candles in our back yard in Kahala, us kids relegated to the “child safe” sparklers – with oft-repeated admonitions to hold only the skinny end, not the hot end! I remembered the smoke, nearly as thick as the spray-fog from the mosquito abatement trucks and much nicer smelling, enveloping the neighborhood. I remembered the year my mother, convinced that my father would forget, went out and bought a dozen or so boxes of those strings of tiny firecrackers to hang in the mango trees.  Then my father came home – with another dozen or so boxes.  We hung all his strings, too, then my father put the old metal garbage cans under the trees.  I don’t know if he was deliberately creating an echo chamber to maximize the sound, or if he really was trying to minimize his work of cleaning up all the red paper.  The back yard was still covered in shredded red paper the next morning, but oh, what fun it was to listen to those firecrackers exploding inside the garbage can!  

I remembered Ray’s amazement in 2005 as, from 23 stories up, a little farther up the Ala Wai and facing the mountains instead of the ocean, we watched the private celebrations on St. Louis Heights, in Palolo Valley, through Kaimuki, Kapahulu and Moili’ili.  He thought it was pretty exciting by 10:00.  At midnight, watching someone setting of strings of firecrackers over the canal from the sidewalk below our lanai, he commented, “This is like being in a war zone!”
To you, dear readers, I wish a blessed 2015 filled with friendships and family, old memories remembered fondly and new ones created. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Too long ....

I have been reminded several times in the last month that a post is long overdue here.  Mike and Nancy, you are two of the most persistent.  Thank you for the nudges.

This has been a traveling year.   Arizona and California in March.  Arizona was warm and friendly, very much the right weather for their annual Aloha Festival.  Winter was still trying to hang on in the California mountains.  Couldn't build a fire in the wood stove (chimney needed sweeping before that could happen) and couldn't light the furnace (it hadn't been serviced for several years) and I wasn't going to be around long enough to make either happen.   Ended up with one of the last space heaters still available at Lowe's.  So now I can at least keep a bedroom at reasonable temperature.

Then a weekend on Kaua'i with Daughters of Hawai'i.  I had not been on Kaua'i  since 1953.  Or maybe it was 1954.  In any case, it had been a very long time.  Wonderful island, with the same small town sense as Tuolumne County.  If one could get between islands without resorting to flying, I'd be moving off Oahu, too.   Wish the ferry folk had done their environmental assessments properly,  worked more closely with environmental groups in the planning process so that everyone could have benefitted.

I know.  Wishful thinking.

Again in California again, heading back to Groveland for another stint of unpacking,  setting up bookcases, and otherwise re-arranging stuff.  In preparation for ??????   Not ready to cut the Groveland ties altogether, but not ready to return full time, either. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

January in Honolulu

It's a cool January morning in Honolulu.   Sky is overcast and the tradewinds are light, keeping the VOG (nasty version of smog produced by volcanic gasses instead of smoke and automotive exhaust) somewhere else. 

The canoe paddlers have, for the most part, given up the park below my condo to the baseball set.  During the week the Old Men (humphhhhhh ... the retired guys!) play in the mornings while it is still cool.    Today, the PeeWee ball players -- the tiny ones who are learning to run bases by playing tag with dads and coaches around the baselines, and whose gloves are large enough that they seem to overpower the body -- are on the field 13 floors below be, cute as buttons even at this distance.     Ah, new running game -- run as fast as you can to the next base, and don't forget to TOUCH it! 

A miniature left-hander is at the batting tee.  Each fielder and runner has a personal coach at his or her side, "Get ready to catch the ball!"  "Run, run, run!"  All this assumes the batter is successful at hitting the ball and that it travels farther than about 2 feet from the tee!  They are so very little....  

 A Hawaiian Airlines flight from somewhare far away is making it's approach past Wiakiki into Honolulu airport  

There have been assorted tourist boats visible in the splotches of ocean visible this morning between the monster hotels and condos of Waikiki. 

The emergency sirents of fire trucks and ambulances are mercifully quiet. 

An unfamiliar pair of canoe paddle by.  These are gold hulls trimmed in blue, perhaps Punahou School teams.  More often I see the white hulls from McKinley High School, conveniently emblazoned TIGERS so it is clear to which school they belong.   I haven't yet decided who belong to the gold hulls trimmed in red, or the other set -- red hulls trimmed in gold.  My father's beach club, Waikiki Surf Club, sports red and gold, but so does Roosevelt High School. 

The resident pigeons, fervently discouraged by our condo management, have been trying to convince me to allow them to roost on the floor of my lanai.   Had to lower the shade screen to discourage them from hopping through the railing an onto the lanai floor.    Am not sure they are actually convinced, but didn't have this problem until I raised the shades to just above the level where the birds tend to perch.   

A part of our park is used as a dog park.  I see a dog and it's person running on the field well beyond the peewee ball players. Both dog and person move in happiness. 

So peaceful. 

Please pray today for Al.  Pray for Jean and her family.  Pray for water in the western US, and for warmer weather -- without massive flooding -- in the rest of the US.  Give thanks for Christie, who celebrates a birthday this week, and for newborn Kaya.  ...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Another December 7

For me, December 7 will always be bitter-sweet.   It is the day of a great American disaster, but that is not what I remember.  Of course, I only remember the event in the stories retold at family gatherings and in history books.    My memories are more personal.

December 7, 1913 was the day that the Raker Act was passed, a federal legislation allowing the City of San Francisco to build a drinking water reservoir within what was already patented land and not long after included within Yosemite National Park.  It has always been associated with Yosemite because of the proximity of Hetch Hetchy Valley to Yosemite Valley and because the headwaters of the Tuolumne River in Hetch Hetchy Valley are in the high country of the Sierras south of Tioga Pass.  The act was controversial in 1913 and is still an emotionally charged issue, especially in the City of San Francisco which operates the drinking water system fed primarily from the reservoir, and some within the environmental movement who want the dam removed and the reservoir drained.

Under ordinary circumstances I would not remember this kind of history in such detail, but part of my job was to understand the Raker Act and explain it to visitors to the Hetch Hetchy system.   It also shares a birthday with my father, making the date particularly unforgettable.

Today both the Raker Act and my father celebrate their 100th birthday.   Faithful friends know that my father did not live to see this day, although he came close.  96 years +46 weeks is pretty darn close.  My brother tells the story in his blog post of this morning, 7 Dec 2013.  You can read it over at  You will also find his transcription of my mother's unfinished letter to her sister written on the morning of December 7, 1941.

Happy Birthday, Daddy ...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Another Fire -- too close for comfort

Rim Fire Incident Status  click here
For the non-professional view of residents, look here.

Refresh these pages each time you go back to it to assure that you are getting current information.

This fire is w-a-y too close for comfort.  It is in the Tuolumne River Canyon at the Clavey, into and around Buck Meadows, in up Pilot Ridge.  The old Pilot Peak fire lookout is readily visible from the eastern intersection of Hwy 120 and Ferretti Road.  My house is on Ferretti Road (a loop) near the Pine Mountain Lake Airport.

Yesterday afternoon, the total acres burned had been upped from 800 to 2500.  This morning it is over 10,000 acres.

That said, I am near the edge of, but still in, a subdivision, complete with hydrants.  The Tuolumne River canyon is approximately 1 mile north of the house, but not far from us makes a little bend to the southeast towards its source in Yosemite National Park.  We are on a belt road.  There is a light plane airport between the house and the river.  From that north side, the lines of defense are the airport and then Ferretti road.  If they loose the line at Ferretti Road, the main part of the subdivision will almost certainly burn.  They will already have lost lots of homes.

From the south, the main line of defense is Hwy 120, then Pine Mountain Drive and Rock Canyon Way.   If they are defending to the south from Rock Canyon Way, a hugely significant number of homes has already burned.

On the east is the Stanislaus National Forest, a camp for physically challenged kids, a small community of manufactured homes,  and several ranches/ranchettes, etc. The forest butts up against state land on our side, against the National Park on another.  Net result?  We have lots of fire response -- the feds in the Park and in the Forest (Dept of Interior vs. Dept of Agriculture), CalFire on state land (even when it is not considered a state lands fire), and our local fire departments, many of which operate under CalFire management.  This does assume that our crews are at home, and not in Idaho or elsewhere fighting someone else's fires.

Other local government jurisdictions pitch in as well.  I am certain that the City of San Francisco has all willing employees in the fire camps and on the lines with heavy equipment, dealing with power lines, and driving.  Yes, driving.  Most of the fire management teams in large fires come from elsewhere and don't know the local roads.  Our Hetchy folk are intimately familiar with those back-country roads.  Even I, who spent far less time in the woods that most of the field crews, know the back country roads better than most fire managers, even those from Sonora ... which is how I found myself working a computer and mapping in the command center for the last fire before I retired.   I know the City paid thousands of dollars in overtime pay (probably hundreds of thousands) to their employees who were out there protecting City property and making the job easier for fire crews.  It's a small community.  Everyone pitches in.

Pray for the communities affected all across the US.  Pray for the firefighters -- we cannot afford to lose another Hotshot Crew, or anyone else.  Pray that some of the rain that is so unwelcome in the eastern US moves over and deposits itself west of the Rockies.  Pray that the rain does not bring lightning with it.

Just pray ...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Life's Awkward Moments

Car key refuses to leave ingition.  At least it could drive to the dealership, where it is now awaiting diagnosis and estimate.   This could be an expensive month.   Think green.  Green car, green cash...

3/4 Front Glamour 2006 Ford FusionIt is now Monday, and my mother's Ford Fusion has been at the dealership since Friday afternoon.  The technician probably got to it about 8:30.  I am still waiting for a response from Honolulu Ford with that diagnosis and estimate. 

Yesterday I had to borrow a vehicle to get to my volunteer assignment at the Honolulu Book and Music Fair at Honolulu City Hall.  Wasn't willing to face the bus in Daughters of Hawai'i whites.  Long white dress, white dress hat, feather lei -- rain promised, all the umbrellas in the car.  Now where else does one keep a favorite brollie? No, Sunday wasn't a good bus day. 

For the rest of the week, as necessary, I will practice using my bus pass. 

Don't forget to pray!