Angels on the Mountain

There is a mountain behind my house. In these 30 years I’ve walked up there many times. It was a get away and think place for my kids. It’s granite boulders provide a place to sit and be anchored to the ground while you look off to distant real mountains beyond the faint rooftops. So we’ve gone there alone or together. Just to be there.

There was a notice of a hike up Two Bit, if any kids wanted to go, leaving from the library, taking the Southern route. Seeing that, and my wife having gone off to knit with the women, I decided this might be the time for me to go back, there would be company.

But I always take a Northern route. So I drove my car around to where the trail is wider, more open, and with the winter rains green growth is everywhere, hanging over narrow trails. How long since I’ve been here? Three years? Four? I headed out and up mindful of the springtime rattlesnakes that would rather crawl away but are cranky if wakened.

The trail is just a track, not maintained or groomed. The decomposed granite base is solid but a layer of tiny rocks like ball bearings is a continuous challenge. I carried in my backpack a sweatshirt, some water and a little folding stool with a canvas seat which I used so often eventually I carried it in hand and looked for flat spaces to rest my hip.

Years of adjustment and cure have left me with a scar in my cerebellum from metastasis and radiation. This affects my balance. The lower spine was weakened by radiation to bone metastasis and back muscles sometimes can’t handle simple standing. The hip now has avascular necrosis, which sounds frightening but even though it sometimes pains it’s good to know this at least is not more cancer.

So I pick my way and no one knows what I’m doing, where I’m going or where I am. I am on my own. But I know the mountaintop is small. If the kids show up I’ll see them.

At the top I sit among the boulders and look out at my neighborhood. This is where I first found home and new friends when a divorce landed me in this place. Down there is my house, high on the hill, framed by three large trees, a pepper, an oak and a pine.

There is the house I’ve shared with she who took me in, who eventually took in my children and brought me two more. Together we raised five kids in that house. They all graduated college, have good jobs, are good people. They are gone their own way so I wait for what will come.

Then the transfiguration. As quiet as deer they come. From among the boulders and bushes came the angels, alone or in twos they came until a dozen stood there quietly considering this place, the view and this old man.

They looked down at their campus home, found their dorms and the buildings that held their classroom life. They are quiet. I introduce myself and ask if a couple of them might accompany me down to my car. The trail is sometimes more treacherous on the way down than up. “I can drive you back to the campus.” I promise.

They excuse themselves and go over to another stack of boulders to have a little meditation. When they return they tell me they will all go down with me. I find that some of them have taken a class from one son, others have been counseled by another in the student success program. And so we walk on. Some ahead, some behind but all together we move down the trail.

Along the way I point out Poodle Rock that Jim and I found a few years ago. I try to do other grandpa things; I describe the way the granite rocks are weathered, the way calcite pokes through in places, I draw attention to the abundance of yellow blooming mustard and challenge them to name the abundant purple-blue flowers. We wonder at the tiny black butterflies and very busy bees. We pause for a moment to consider two redtail hawks soaring and flirting

Back at my car I point them to the level trail leading back to the streets. “I’ll meet you there and let you through my property. It’s a short cut for you.”

In my yard they gather citrus and pea pods. In the garden my wife catches up to me and my guardians. They are her people, she has seen three generations come and go. And she knows how to honor them.

It’s getting dark now. The lights of the city are coming on. The mountain is turned over to the night creatures. I will rest well.

Breathing

6:40 am, February 25, 2017: The sun is very very bright, yet looking over at the mountains, 35, 40 miles away, they appear indistinct, hazy. The sky is not pure blue, it is whiter. And the haze takes away the sharpness of things in the valley.

Friends have visited here from various parts of the country who would look out at such a morning and comment smugly and knowingly about “the smog.”

But they were wrong. I first came here to live in 1978. I worked that year on a building that took me up to tie steel, place forms, pour cocrete and remove forms. Each morning there in the San Bernardino Valley would be clear but a tan cloud hovered to the West. As the morning came on it moved East until by noon the mountains, which there were only ten or fifteen miles away were completely hidden. “The Smog” had come out to engulf us.

This is Southern California, we are on the edge of the “Los Angeles Basin” For a long time that brown cloud hovered over LA. But as population grew it became larger and came this way. This is a large natural basin formed by the Pacific on one side and mountains. Real ones, The San Gabriels to the North, The San Bernardinos here in the East and the Clevelands in the South. The air moves around trapped in this basin.

When the earliest Spanish settlers arrived they found native campfires combining with the frequent common fires in the mountains and the normal coastal fog to create a natural “Smog. It was here long before cars and freeways.

Cars and freeways, industry, trains and buses all just made it worse. For many years now California and the Air Resources Board have sought ways to reduce air pollution. Sometimes it seemed nit picky, micro-managing, but it added up. With documented success. We pay a little more for our cars with more controls, we pay a little more for gas. Industries of many kinds must have a plan to reduce effluent. And today smog is largely a thing of the past. Compared to 1978 and my memory, this is not smog.

With the changes in Washington that set the weight toward “Big Bidness” and “Freedom” legislators would remove the very protections that have given us 12 million or so Southern Californians better air to breath. All this so a few diesel trucks can roll a little cheaper, a factory can pollute a little more with the promise of “jobs.”

It’s a lot of people, freeways can be a beast, but it’s our beast and we are working on it. We’re California and we know California. And those mountains over there? That’s humidity, haze, water vapor and we’re glad it’s there. “From the mountains to the sea” it comes together here.

Over the Mountains

Wrapped in clouds today I know that Mt. San Jacinto is still over there. We’ve seen all these mountains from our front room for 30 years. Yesterday, in the middle of the storm the Obama family plane landed here in Riverside and drove on to the other side of San Jac to a rainy, windy Palm Springs.

It will be clear soon, the air will be clean and Palm Springs has gotten used to movie stars and leaders. They’ll treat you fine. Barack said the first day at least he won’t set his alarm clock. Besides they’ve come West: three more hours.

I know a couple nice Mexican food joints. And there’s a great ice cream place on the main drag; great shakes. But people there will know even more options. There’s time.

I have this image of Barack padding around in his bathrobe while Michelle makes pancakes….or visa versa. Try the Boysenberry syrup.

Women’s March

Women’s March:
Of course we know that ‘Rump cannot be reached. You can’t break through. BUT… others are watching. Congressmen, Senators, state legislators, governors; literally thousands of elected officials around this nation are sitting up and taking notice when millions of citizens take streets against hate, THEY are the key.

There will be those who try to dismiss you as paid agitators. Agents of George Soros. But it ain’t gonna work this time. I myself have enough friends and relatives who braved the cold and rain and stood up for morality, and against outrage. And I know George Soros has never had tea at your house.

The key now is the many many ‘Rump enablers who must be put on notice. They are being watched by tenacious citizens. Elections are coming. Demogogues, wannabe dictators, liars and bullies like Mr. ‘Rump won’t succeed alone. America must isolate him and send him slinking “alone” back to his tower in Gotham city.

Gaslighting

“Gaslight” was once a gen-teel term referring to that pschic manipulation in an old movie. It is becoming now those boys gathered behind the woodshed giggling as they demonstrate the combustion properties of human produced methane.

Risk

The Miracle of Science:
Anxious to turn loose the dogs of pollution, all sorts of the ‘Rumpsters have been and will continue to attack “Science” They are doing it by casting doubt among the uneducated, Kristianists and others who would cling to ancient superstition. They will do it by withholding data, casting aspersions on Scientists, spreading doubt, cutting off funding for all manner of research that would make America Smart Again. All to benefit the polluting industries.

One man’s story:. Last year I was blind from cataracts. Medication brought it on. The loneliness of a blindness coming so quickly cannot be described.

But my daughter, working with ophthalmologists, found me a top notch doctor and a few incredibly simple procedures over a couple months brought back sight, better than ever. The Miracle of Science.

Someone taught that opthalmologist. And he studied. Someone researched until they invented just the right anaesthetics to numb an eye for a few minutes, and created a tiny knife that could slit the edge just so. Someone made the little vaccuum that pulled out the clouded lens. And someone invented the unfolding acrylic implant that could be teased into place so that the instant it was unfolded I could look up…up at the ceiling, the surgical lights, the nurses….. And on the way home I could grill my wife “When did they build that?” and “Those vines have really grown on that wall.”

I was so pleased and proud yesterday to hear my son, who is researching and teaching DNA describing the anomolies that can affect people from birth. My Developmental Psychologist wife also explores a world that tries to tease out “Nature and Nurture” in the human world. I could say the same for my psychiatrist son. Not to be left behind are the rest of these wonderful offspring who live a life of curiousity about so many things.

I am far from a scientist but I am so greatful to have them close at hand. The Motto at City of Hope. A National research and cancer treatment center, “The Miracle of Science with Hope”

The Miracle of Science With Hope

The Miracle of Science:
Anxious to turn loose the dogs of pollution, all sorts of the ‘Rumpsters have been and will continue to attack “Science” They are doing it by casting doubt among the uneducated, Kristianists and others who would cling to ancient superstition. They will do it by withholding data, casting aspersions on Scientists, spreading doubt, cutting off funding for all manner of research that would make America Smart Again. All to benefit the polluting industries.

One man’s story:. Last year I was blind from cataracts. Medication brought it on. The loneliness of a blindness coming so quickly cannot be described.

But my daughter, working with ophthalmologists, found me a top notch doctor and a few incredibly simple procedures over a couple months brought back sight, better than ever. The Miracle of Science.

Someone taught that opthalmologist. And he studied. Someone researched until they invented just the right anaesthetics to numb an eye for a few minutes, and created a tiny knife that could slit the edge just so. Someone made the little vaccuum that pulled out the clouded lens. And someone invented the unfolding acrylic implant that could be teased into place so that the instant it was unfolded I could look up…up at the ceiling, the surgical lights, the nurses….. And on the way home I could grill my wife “When did they build that?” and “Those vines have really grown on that wall.”

I was so pleased and proud yesterday to hear my son, who is researching and teaching DNA describing the anomolies that can affect people from birth. My Developmental Psychologist wife also explores a world that tries to tease out “Nature and Nurture” in the human world. I could say the same for my psychiatrist son. Not to be left behind are the rest of these wonderful offspring who live a life of curiousity about so many things.

I am far from a scientist but I am so greatful to have them close at hand. The Motto at City of Hope. A National research and cancer treatment center, “The Miracle of Science with Hope”

Smugness

I sat with a friend called as a witness in a felony trial. She was a little frightened and just wanted someone there with her.

As we waited in the courtroom with people coming and going, around the corner came Ruthie, my classmate in grades 6-9. I had not seen her since we both left school. I left for grade 10 because of boarding school. She left at the same time because our high school had stairs. I hadn’t known where she went. Ruth rolled around in a kind of cage and that made her even easier to recognize. She had gotten polio like so many kids of the 1950’s.

Ruthie had gone up to fifth grade by an open telephone line five miles from home to school. Something very unique in those days. But her mother was tenacious and persuaded the telephone company and the school to work together.

When our baby boom bubble moved to the Lincoln Bldg. Ruthie joined us in her cage. There we had separate rooms for separate subjects and Ruthie chugged along with her books on the rolling seat taking her place in the hallway throng.

I thought of her recently when I heard an outrageous story of a girl who suffered a medical emergency and finally back at school, on cruthes, was met with taunting and bullying that calls out her disability.

I’m sure there must have been some nasty comments directed at Ruthie. But in those four years of grade school I never heard it. She was one of us.

I did not get a chance to talk with her there in the courtroom. But I did learn she had succeeded. She was in the courtroom because she was an Assistant District Attorney.

In my own career in architecture I have had to explain to owners why the code requires their new building to have ramps, wider halls, an accessible bathroom, why the doors must swing a certain way, why the parking lot must have a certain number of handicap dedicated spaces.

It’s about bringing the Disabled out of the shadows. It’s about ability. Giving people a chance at success and independence.

Abilities

I sat with a friend called as a witness in a felony trial. She was a little frightened and just wanted someone there with her.

As we waited in the courtroom with people coming and going, around the corner came Ruthie, my classmate in grades 6-9. I had not seen her since we both left school. I left for grade 10 because of boarding school. She left at the same time because our high school had stairs. I hadn’t known where she went. Ruth rolled around in a kind of cage and that made her even easier to recognize. She had gotten polio like so many kids of the 1950’s.

Ruthie had gone up to fifth grade by an open telephone line five miles from home to school. Something very unique in those days. But her mother was tenacious and persuaded the telephone company and the school to work together.

When our baby boom bubble moved to the Lincoln Bldg. Ruthie joined us in her cage. There we had separate rooms for separate subjects and Ruthie chugged along with her books on the rolling seat taking her place in the hallway throng.

I thought of her recently when I heard an outrageous story of a girl who suffered a medical emergency and finally back at school, on cruthes, was met with taunting and bullying that calls out her disability.

I’m sure there must have been some nasty comments directed at Ruthie. But in those four years of grade school I never heard it. She was one of us.

I did not get a chance to talk with her there in the courtroom. But I did learn she had succeeded. She was in the courtroom because she was an Assistant District Attorney.

In my own career in architecture I have had to explain to owners why the code requires their new building to have ramps, wider halls, an accessible bathroom, why the doors must swing a certain way, why the parking lot must have a certain number of handicap dedicated spaces.

It’s about bringing the Disabled out of the shadows. It’s about ability. Giving people a chance at success and independence.