Evolution of a suburbanite

It’s that time of year.   Damp and cold…and beautiful.

I’ve never been a fan of winter, or rain, or cold, or wind.    But somehow up here in the Sierra Nevada Foothills it’s much less of an annoyance and burden and so much more the wonderful fabric of life in the foothills.

The ground is still wet from the rain a couple of days ago and the wind is blowing the final dead oak leaves and pine needles from the trees.  The air is bitingly crisp in the mornings only warming  up in the late afternoon, just in time for the sun to go down to repeat that daily cycle.

Once an opponent and vocal critic of cold, wet, and winter  in suburbia I’ve turned into a lover of winter here at the Golden K.  It’s interesting. but not surprising, how a major life change (like packing up 25 years of suburbia and moving to the mountains) can alter  one’s perspective.   Over the past two years I’ve learned to appreciate all the seasons as I sit back in awe of  Mother Nature and all the artistry she so willingly and boldly displays.

I’ve come to know that life is too short to waste six months waiting for Summer to return as I once did as a suburbanite.

So I embrace this season as I will the next, and the next after that.  At a point in life one becomes retrospective more often than when younger.  Perhaps now is one of those times for me.   I want to appreciate all the days, all the hours, and all the minutes.  Many will be far from perfect, some will be sad, and some will be glorious.  One thing that can be said for all of those minutes is they will pass by in just 60 seconds and then the next will come and go, and so on and so on.   If I sit through all those hundreds of thousands of minutes just waiting for the one’s I perceive as ideal I will wish my life away, not to mention missing so many wonderful things.

The Golden K has helped me to evolve personally and to appreciate even the smallest things that life has to offer.  Like 120 foot pines swaying in the wind.  Or seeing the joy and excitement in my oldest Golden Retriever’s eyes when I start up the tractor.  Or a family of turkeys walking nearby.  And other things like my dogs going out to do their business first thing in the morning and watching them with their noses pointed high and low to smell where all the nocturnal critters were the previous night.  Hearing my neighbors horses whinny, looking out to the night sky and full moon with my bride of 35 years in the freezing cold.  Waiting for the return of the black tail deer.

It’s times like these that I recall what Jonathan Larson pointed out so insightfully in the lyrics of a song from Rent, the iconic musical from the nineties:

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles
In laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life
So yeah – at this moment in time this is my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.
A moment at the Golden K
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Sixteen

As I sit here under the pines and oaks in relative peace with my Golden Kali by my side it’s easy to block out the world, the water, the wind, and the hardships imposed by both natural and human means.   It would be easy, given the beauty and harmony at the Golden K.  But it would be wrong.

Wrong because the Golden K is not an island, as is no man.  The Golden K is a blessing not to be taken for granted.   And the Golden K is part of the earth’s fabric, the political landscape’s fabric, and indeed the fabric of life.   So as I sit here with the canine love of my life I also remember.  I remember 16 years ago.  I remember 16 days ago.  And I remember 16 hours ago.   I think of all the first responders who didn’t make their way out of the rubble.   I think of the families and elderly who may have seen their lives literraly washed away.  I think of the domestic animals who had to be left behind or those wild ones who had no time or means to find safety.

Many have been saying that the worst brings out the best in “us”.  It has been wonderful, under these circumstances, to see unity and the collective human spirit rise above the elements that divided us just weeks ago slightly north of Irma.  The 24 hour news cycle has been about humanity instead of political profanity.  About saving lives instead of tearing them apart with hate.  About life boats instead of walls.   Talk about a kick in the teeth and wake up from mother nature.  Is it coincidence that after the beating mother nature has given us over the past few weeks that the memory of 911 presents itself?

I philosophize here on the deck of the Golden K while so many are “practicalizing”  on the porch of a flooded home or at ground zero in NYC with only the memories of someone dear who was lost.   What else is there to do?   Pack a bag and head into the “eye of the storm”?

What do we do?  What can we do?  When can we do it?

Prayers to all the 16’s.  16 years, 16 days, and 16 hours ago.

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Humbled By Nature, WOW

Golden K road trip.

Last week Holly and I ventured beyond the fences of the Golden K to do a little exploring in the Gold Country.   There is so much beauty, recreation, and history in the California Gold Country and we’re fortunate enough to be living right dab in the middle of it on five acres covered by pines, oaks, cedars and a plethora of wild life.

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area both Holly and I vacationed with our families in many areas of the Gold Country.  Especially Holly whose family  explored most of Northern camping almost year round.  So maybe that’s why we hadn’t felt compelled to venture very far from the GK since we moved here in May of 2016.   Or maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a homebody who prefers to stay close to home and close to my routine.

Last week we took a day trip that took us 250 feet in the sky and 165 feet under the earth.    And wow, both experiences were truly humbling.

Our first destination was Calaveras Big Trees State Park.   Located just about an hour north of The Golden K, Big Trees is famous for it’s grove of Giant Sycamore trees.   Growing to  heights of 275 feet with diameters ranging from 20 to 25 feet Giant Sycamores are some of the largest living things on earth and some of the oldest too with many trees living to over 3000 years.

We took a guided tour that began standing on the base of what is known as the “Discovery Tree”.  This is the tree “discovered” in 1852 by a hunter who happened across it by chance in what is now called the North Grove of Big Trees State Park..  Sadly, a year later the tree was felled in an effort to make a profit over it’s magnificence.   It took several men several days to take this 250 foot tree down.  It was estimated to be 1,300 years old at the time.  More information about the Discovery Tree and history of the Giant Sequoias can be found here.

Fortunately there were and still are dozens of other Giant Sequoias in what is now a California State Park.  It was a humbling and powerful experience as we walked the North Grove with our guide viewing and learning about these incredible living giants.   Standing in this natural beauty I took several pictures but pictures can not capture the beauty or the emotion of standing at the base of something so tall and beautiful that has been alive on earth since biblical times.  Wow.

After a morning above ground staring straight up in the air we were ready to go deep underground. So after a stop in the town of Arnold for lunch we drove to the Moaning Caverns located in a small town called Vallecito.   The Moaning Caverns is the lagerst vertical publicly accessible cavern in California.  The cavern was discovered by gold miners in 1851. It is now known that it was a geological feature of great interest to prehistoric peoples.   The cavern has also been an archaeological site where some of the oldest human remains in America have been found.  The cave has a depth of 400 feet and the public can tour it’s 165 foot shaft descending down a spiral staircase.

Early minors would repel down the shaft with only small candles for light.  As a way to make a profit the 1891 discoverers devised a rope and pulley system to lower people down the shaft for a cost of five cents.  Presumably they also hauled them back up…. probably for an additional cost.

Today there are lamps placed along the shaft to provide enough light for safety and to enable tourists to see the incredible formations carved over thousands of years from water and minerals.   Standing on the bottom of the 165 foot shaft and looking up was another humbling and powerful experience.   Thinking about how long – test of thousands of years – it took for these formations to be created drip by drip was mind boggling.  It served to remind me that the length of a human life is but a blip in the fabric of the earth’s history.   It was also humbling to think that the Giant Sequoias we peered straight up at earlier in the day were almost twice as tall as this giant shaft.  When the tour guide turned out all the lights in the shaft (he warned us first) we were in pure and total blackness.  Wow.

Arriving back at the Golden K from wherever we go is always a wonderful experience.  But on this day our trees looked a little smaller and our well seemed a little more shallow.

But my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet was as grand as ever.

Calaveras Big Tree State Park – a humbling look of about 250 up at a Giant Sequoia

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Moaning Cavern – the spiral staircase that took us down 165 feet

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My six inch “Giant Sequoia – purchased at the park’s visitor center. Visitors to the Golden K in several hundred years may discover this little guy has grown to a couple of hundred feet.  Wow…

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GOLD  COUNTY AND THE GOLDEN K

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Back To The Earth

It was like any other morning when Kali and I took the walk down our long driveway and onto the road to get the newspaper.  The newspaper tubes hang along a wooden rail, several in a row for about a dozen homes nearby. It’s quite different than suburbia where your paper is delivered to your door stoop or driveway.  So most mornings Kali and I make the trek down onto the road, take in the sights and smells, grab the paper, and then head up the back side of our property and “take the long way home”.

So Tuesday was not much different than so many other mornings since we moved to the Golden K five months ago.  The air was colder, the ground a little damp from recent rains (thank the Lord for rain!), and I noticed a lot of mud backing up in the drainage ditch.  So as we opened the farm gate I unclipped Kali’s leash and I diverted slightly to take stock of the mud and what I might need to do to clear it out.  I surveyed the drains as Kali foraged and waited patiently  to head up the hill towards the gravel road that circles The Golden K.

A sound of rustling caught my attention.  I looked over and saw a large buck trying to right itself from a laying position.  Kali and I had obviously disturbed the deer, who I initially thought was simply nesting,  and all three of us were a caught off guard.  Kali ran toward the buck barking.  I immediately called to Kali to come back fearing the buck would kick her which could be fateful.  I don’t know if it was all the years of recall training that paid off or if Kali became frightened.  But thankfully she came running back to me.  I clipped on her leash and we headed quickly up the hill towards the house.

My main concern was to get Kali under control and out of harms way.  The deer are regular visitors and have never demonstrated any aggression to any of us including the dogs who from time to time will bark at them behind a fence or through the windows of the house.  But this buck was obviously under duress and I was taking no chances especially with Kali under tow.  As we headed up the hill I looked back to see the Buck still partially down leaning on his front legs motionless and staring at us.

It was the posture of the buck that made me realize he was the deer we fondly called Gimpy.  Gimpy because he had a broken leg and hobbled around on his three good legs.  We hadn’t seen him regularly like the other bucks who make daily visits.   But we had seen him enough to know he was surviving and seemingly very healthy in spite of being crippled. In fact he was the largest of the bucks and probably the oldest.   I now realized why he hadn’t simply bounced off when we we startled him.  He couldn’t.

The image of Gimpy’s piercing black eyes staring back at Kali and I as we moved up the hill stuck with  throughout the day.   Under normal circumstances I would assume that he recovered and moved along his way once we were out of sight.  But my instincts told me otherwise.  So later that afternoon I walked down to see if he was still there.  He was. He had settled himself into a laying position and I stood along the our fence staring back from about 25 feet away.

That was Tuesday afternoon.  Wednesday morning he was still there.  I wanted to believe that this was his new nesting spot and that he was out and about throughout the day.  But I knew better.  I watched him lay motionless staring at me for a few minutes and walked back up the hill.  Wednesday afternoon same thing – he was still there.  I knew that Gimpy was waiting to die and this was the spot he chose to do that. As I walked off I looked his way and made the sign of the cross like I still do when my children or Holly drive off.  A hold over from my Catholic upbringing and my mom who always did the same for me.

Thursday morning I left before sunrise to head to the Bay Area for the day. As I drove past where Gimpy had been I thought of stopping and getting out with my flashlight to see if he was there. But why, I thought and continued to drive on.  Holly text me about 10:00 that morning with a picture of Gimpy, now with his head on the ground.  He was dead.

As I arrived home Thursday afternoon the sun was low in the sky, the air was calm, and the ground was damp from rain earlier in the day.  It smelled and looked beautiful. One of my favorite times living up here on the hill is arriving back at The GK after a day down in the crazy Bay Area.  I pulled over along the fence, got out of the truck and stood by the fence staring at Gimpy.  It made me sad to see him lying there dead.  But it also made me a little happy to know after suffering for some time that suffering was over, and hopefully his spirit was at peace as his body returned back to the earth.

I stood there for about five minutes to, if nothing else, pay my respect.  This grand buck, even with three legs,  was  a majestic animal and part of this hill for for much longer than me.  I was honored to have known him from afar.

Before I turned back to my truck I took one last look at Gimpy and made the sign of the cross.  As I drove up the road and onto our driveway I felt peaceful and happy to be back home at The Golden K.

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Back To the Earth at The Golden K