Saturday, July 17, 2021



        The scenes are hauntingly reminiscent, shutter flashes of a pre-millennium sci-fi or political thriller, too absurd to believe. But here we are, witnesses to a dystopian undoing of our own world view and all that we have believed about democracy and the American way.

     Truth is set aside. Delusion becomes contagion. They would rather die than take a vaccine. They've become a Reich, wrecking a Republic. A tidal rise of insanity, a time of vultures.

        The newest revelations of "madness-Trump" do more than confirm, they scare the hell out of us. 
        Joint Chiefs, the Speaker of the House, national security executives, former leaders all in furtive calls and liaisons desperately trying to avoid a nuclear launch, a rogue war, and the use of federal troops on American citizens. Never before has an American president talked of staging a coup!
        Even with all of that, the Republican party is interested only in restricting who can vote, and changing laws to give them control over the count.
        They seek to do what the 1/6 insurrection could not,  divert the course, change the outcome, of public elections.

        It is time to ignore Trump. The Cleveland Plain Dealer has begun to ignore politician's false statements and stunts. All media should do likewise.    
        I am a first amendment absolutist and as reporter was equally absolute about the public's right to know. I oppose any form of censorship, or restriction of media access. Media has no obligation to quote Trump or even give attention to his absurd lies about the election. There is no news in his mental illness.
         Printing or broadcasting his lies does no one but Trump any good. Giving him time and attention is a destructive drumbeat that is a call to damage or destroy the nation.
        History speaks to us. Even the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has joined historians and those who see in Trump and Republican leadership similarities with the Nazi fascists of pre World War II. It's chilling to consider how the German nation was propagandized by lies into following a liar and madman. Donald Trump is observably delusional. Those who follow him and who do his bidding are a public insanity that should frighten us to our bones.

        Despite the monuments that would memorialize democracy, its foundation is not bed rock granite. Democracy is no stronger than its participants are wise. 
        Stupidity, that is a lack of knowledge, ignorance of history and fact has been rampant. Now, zombie like, mass public insanity rises from the septic mass who elect Q dupes, those who refuse to see the domestic terrorism of Trump, or who cynically swindle public trust and trample the truth as does Mcarthy, McConnell and thousands of Republican office holders. "Good Republicans" are being strangled by evil. 

            We are deep into it now. I don't know that historians can find a time so replete with mass lunacy and political imbecility. 
        A war has begun. The Republican party is wholly unfit, anti American and seeks to destroy democracy. They are in league with domestic terrorists.
        Democrats would do us all a favor if they went on the offensive. So too should people of conscience. 

        "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."
                                  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

        Bonhoeffer was a German theologian and pastor who was executed for his role in attempts to assassinate Adolph Hitler. 
        He had said if he sat next to a madman as he drove a car into a group of innocent bystanders he could not, even as a man of faith, simply wait for the catastrophe. He said he must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.
        Not to act, is to act.

        See you down the trail.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

An American Lamentation and A Toast!


        (California Central Coast) Here's a view from the western edge of this old democratic republic as it rounds 245 years.

      Demanding and challenging times are ahead. 

      After the exile of the pandemic we arrive at this anniversary of our noble and declared aspirations only to be confronted by who we have become, or a recognition of who we have always been. Proportion and public acceptance has changed. 

       In the light of freedom from monkhood and the glow of returning to friends and work and life in a nation under a steady hand, we see the enemy amongst us.  


        It is telling the vaccinated can live with assurance, but 30% of the nation will continue to die and suffer because they remain unvaccinated. 

        Two and half centuries of commitment to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, following our revolution against despotism, finds us divided and challenged by a fifth column that no longer hides.

        We have become more divided and more ignorant. 

         A bastion of the nation has been split from our constitutional bedrock. The Republican party, has turned against America, rejecting democracy and republic to become agents of autocracy and authoritarianism. 

        Gaining power is the sole principle of Republicans and they employ lies, insurrection, voter suppression and the abandonment of oaths. 

        We can thank the "Natures God" affirmed in the Declaration, and sworn to in oaths of office, there are more Americans committed to democracy. The majority has the capacity to limit the rise of the aggressive fascist, but "they" have become adept at minority "rule."

        They are under attack. 
        A select House Committee, despite Republican opposition, will draw blood on the insurrection investigation.
        Biden's mastery of foreign policy and his decades of Senate law making, though challenged, are serving him and the nation well. He has bi-partisan support among the electorate. His performance with NATO and especially with Putin boosted his standing and served national interests while exposing what a fraud the previous administration amateur hour had been. 
        House and Senate Republicans represent a minority of American voters, but Congressional apportionment and Senate representation give the minority a big stick. That makes the mid-terms crucial. Recruiting and funding good House and State Legislative candidates is a Democrat must, as is another successful massive vote turn out.
        Trump legal issues will mount. There is likely more coming. 
        The Department of Justice is gearing up to enforce election law, even as a rightist Supreme Court attacks the voting rights act.
        The Biden and Democrat plan for gun control and funding of police, co-opts and shuts up Republican carping about crime.
        Democrats have given Republicans the gallows and the noose on voting rights. They may not carry the legislation because of racist and fascist Republicans including Mitch McConnell and his use of blocking tactics, but Democrats and former real Republicans are betting the majority of American voters favor extending voting rights. Polls validate the belief the fascist Republicans are likely to pay at the ballot box. Despite efforts to making voting more difficult, voting activists say the way is still clear for a large turn out. 
        Expect to see our US Capitol begin to resemble a "green zone," a reflection of the troubled times. It's easy to say this national split can be blamed on the rise of Trump, and he certainly contributed by pandering to our worst strain. But the truth at this passage of another year of "independence" is that it has been ever such.
        Nativisim, nationalism, racism, retrograde simple minded ignorance, demagoguery, and the damage they do have been with us from the beginning. Every inch of progress, every law expanding liberty, guaranteeing human dignity and rights has been a battle. 
        Picket lines, demonstrations, voter drives, confrontations, jail, street fights, political deal making, compromises, and pragmatism have been behind every advance toward our noble declarations and aspirations. Some of us are older, hoping it would not require such hard work, but the truth is independence is a fight, a democratic republic is a struggle. The fight is revolutionary against the totality of deception, manipulation, the power of wealth, the politics of favor and greed. 

        The nation has endured dark clouds repeatedly, finding a way to preserve and even repair and improve the union. It may be necessary for the power of the federal government to be brought against those who seek to destroy the republic, even public officials who seek to countermand what has prevailed since 1776, though war, rebellion, assassination, disaster, struggle for equality, and time. 

        Enough politics. Time to toast summer, good cheer and the truth.
         Here's an unexpected summer scene-

        I was surprised to see a hybrid electric truck, especially one wearing a famed American logo, on Cambria's main street. Progress?

      Here's another piece of Americana-summer gardening. 

You've read here before of our love of fava beans and Lana's considerable labor with them. Case in point..the bowl on the left are the pods, the middle bowl, the inner husk or shell* and on the far right, the bean.  The artichokes are from one of our raised beds and another early summer crop.

            *It's a matter of test about getting rid of the inner husk. I think they add a little flavor. Lana prefers them gone. Here's a secret, I used them, still in the husk, in a recent dish, and she didn't notice, or at least object! 

        We welcome a new member to the blog staff here at world headquarters.
        His name is Sunny. He's been here less than a week and continues to "terrorize" his seniors, Hemingway and Joy. The old cats are learning to accommodate the never ending energy and appetite of the little guy.

        He's got some ears to grow into. Needless to say the grands Addie and Henry, have a new buddy. We all do.


        See you down the trail. 





Saturday, June 26, 2021


     Have you noticed the changes swirling around us as we re-enter life?
    Our friend Marcos, visiting from Scottsdale, watched the walkers, surfers and beach denizens on a busy afternoon in Cayucos and observed "I just can't believe how quickly we have gone from such isolation and carefulness to this," pointing to what could easily have been a pre-pandemic California beach scene.
    Some express a sense of guilt the US has opened while many nations are still gripped by fear and soaring death rates. 
    We've heard the callous, those who are dying now "have it coming" because they have refused vaccinations.
    People talk about  variants, a possible breakthrough, whether to mask again when flu and cold season return. 
    And I've noticed we have some remedial work to do in our social skills. After a year and half of limited social contact, listening, waiting a turn to speak, and sharing the floor can all use some polishing. 
    As we expected, normal is not like it used to be, but we are intent on living it fully.

Photo by Babak Tafreshi
The Great Jaguar Pyramid

        I was fascinated to see the above photo by Iranian science journalist and photographer Babak Tafreshi. He captured the Pleiades above the famed Great Jaguar Pyramid at Tikal, a Mayan site in the jungles of northern Guatemala. 
        An assignment took me to Tikal as I worked on a documentary about Mayan culture and the mysterious pyramids of central America. 
        The Great Jaguar was built in 732 AD and was part of a Mayan capital that existed until 1450. My photos are less sensational, but our videographer captured marvelous scenes.

        Thought to be a funerary temple it is nine levels high, symbolic of the Mayan underworld. We climbed those steep steps, carefully. 
        There is superstition and legend around Tikal, sometimes referred to as the place of voices. I have a theory about that.
        Our crew was scheduled to stay at a camp lodge just a few miles from Tikal, but a few weeks before our arrival it was destroyed by a fire as a result of a gun battle between rebels and government troops. We persuaded the local government to let us stay at Tikal in thatch roofed huts used by archeologists when they were working on the site. The only power was from a generator that had to be turned off by 10PM. 
        When the overhead fans stopped it was hot. We were under triple canopy and the air barely stirred. When the lights were out you could not see your hand pressed to your nose. Complete darkness. And yes we heard the "voices."
        The place is infested with Black Howler monkeys.

    One Guatemalan source says the sound is "like the lament of one of the tortured and bellicose demons of Mayan mythology." It's been described as the sound of the "devil retching."
     My memory of sweating and sticking to damp sheets in the stale air of a thatched hut as the Black Howlers climbed over the top of the roof while howling is vivid. In was in that setting I surmised the "voices" were in fact the monkeys. Others who have spent more time at Tikal say those voices are more spiritual. 

            As Babak's night photo reveals, the plaza at Tikal is a marvelous place for night sky, not so in the dense jungle.
        Cambria is like that too. In the trees it's not so good, but in open areas our night sky views are magnificent. 
        I applaud Claudia Harmon and Beautify Cambria's efforts to preserve the heritage of seeing our celestial neighbors.
        Cambria has its share of astronomical photographers and I wonder how many of us spent more time looking at the stars in the last year and half. 

        How are you and your pod fairing in the changes of reopening? In our case we helped hold on to sanity by gathering with a 4 other masked friends every other week in either a court yard, back deck, garage in inclement weather, or Diane's delightful back garden.  
        It was human contact in a slightly more relaxed context. At a time when we were wary of being too close to others, it was wonderful to be with friends. Now that we can dine out, shop without masks and enjoy being vaccinated, we still like to return to Diane's because it's just lovely. 
        That's another Cambria blessing isn't it? We have so many lovely gardens, meditation spaces, places to sit and enjoy.
        I'll let you in on a little story about surfing these currents of change. Our little pod decided we'd take a lunch out. First week it was grand, and not surprisingly we ran into other Cambrians we had not seen for a while. Emboldened by that we thought we'd try again and at a what had been a neat little place by the water, but out of the village. We arrived to find the afore mentioned Diane sitting on a bench, having gotten there 30 minutes early to put in our names for a "45 minute to hour wait." 
    We all assembled and stood around wondering if we were in a crowd for an amusement ride or maybe kayak rental. After another 20 minutes we were told there were still nine parties in front of us. Enough of that, we bolted for the place we had been successfully the week before only to be told it would be "45 minutes to an hour." 
        Starting this week, we are back to each other's deck, court yard and Diane's garden. 

        Guess we had forgotten that "normal" sometimes meant "the wait will be about 45 minutes, we'll call you when your table is ready."
        Bet there's a table or a bench or chair closer to home and with no wait. And Cambria is as lovely as lovely can be.

        See you down the trail. 

Monday, June 7, 2021



        Up here on the ridge, Top of the World as it is called, we've suffered a loss. It was a mercy killing.

    There's a camaraderie up here, sharing the highest elevation between California Highway 1 and the expanding Pacific ocean. We've all kept an eye on this long time resident, worrying. Death has been stalking the slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountains.

    Drought, exacerbated by climate change, is killing our trees including our rare culture of Monterey Pine.

        Comparing the recent shot above to the 6 year old photo in the header of this post, you can see the deterioration in the regal crown of the hill, a participant in so many of the photos I've shared from up here.        

    She's been ailing, but we've all been trying to will her back to health. These trees have shallow roots, and when Pacific storms gale, they uproot, falling on houses and power lines.
    Life expectancy for the Monterey Pine is 80 to 100 years.

            I asked how old is this tree? The warden of death told me 80.

        The old double trunk Pine stands in the corner of a field, a couple of lots north our home. Someone told the property owner she was a risk, sick and dying and "trouble waiting to happen." So the warden and his crew came back to the ridge. 
        Crows have launched from and rested on these branches for decades. I've see young hawks give flight from them. California Quail have sped around its trunk. Wild turkeys have taken refuge or conducted their warfare in its underbrush. Woodpeckers have been frequent residents. Countless other species of bird have paused there. It is a tower on the ridge.
        She's been an icon of our western vista and one of the elders of the ridge. She and her aviary were here long before us, or the homes that dot the summit, a crown of rock and sandstone.

        Lana and our neighbor Lois, a birder extraordinaire, were talking about how sad it is, how that something that is supposed to be, is gone. I'm ahead of the story.

        What I can do now is show you the end of this long time Cambria dweller. 
        The wardens of it's final day were careful and professional. Their's was to remove a hazard. Ours was to pay respect, to watch to the end.

          Reader alert: what follows is a detailed look at the killing of a tree.

The manpower was augmented.

Excised limbs had no time to rest on mother earth.

They cut and trimmed higher into the old friend who must have sensed her time was running out as she created a prolific crop of cones.

The vivisection was done with precision.
The next three frames catch the fall.

The men match wits with nature, using calculations to undo what stands tall. 
The machine, the final resolution of this life, is beastfully disrespectful.

As we watched we learned more than the double tree was to die.

As limbs rained down the sky grows somber.

The wardens again play the angles like masters.

Branches that took decades to reach the sky, to offer up new generations of offspring in cones, are now merely brush to be moved.

The mercy kill is still incomplete.
There is no shortage skill on display.

Carefully the denuded co-joined trunks were topped, the lines were set and final cuts were made.
The earth shook and cast up rising clouds when at last she fell.

Even in death, the icon of the hill was formidable.

And then there was only this.

        I'm sorry for the birds and, bobcats, coyote, deer, skunk and raccoons who shared this proud old lady in seeking cover, shade or perhaps enjoying its prominent pose. Even in her decline she was lovely.

Look at what we  miss.

        There is a whole in the sky and an emptiness in our hearts. 
        There is no shortage of life to lament these days, so perhaps our sadness at the end of this tree is silly, but I think not.
        She was part our daily life, a presence, since our arrival in California. I worry she is gone before her time. 
        See you down the trail.