Saving daylight

SLO panorama

The buzz of electricity filled wires knocked against my eardrums as I stood at a crest midway up the first dale of the Irish Hills. I was standing next to a gigantic steel tower, which had gray beams that crisscrossed against the blue after-work sky. Blue. Not midnight blue. It was about 5:30 p.m. on a Monday, and I was on a little hike.

I took the wrong fork in the wide trail that jogs up the hill a few hundred yards from the Prefumo Canyon Road trailhead and it ended in a wide green swath of grassy hillside that overlooked Laguna Lake Park in San Luis. Pretty sweet, but not the quiet serenity of peace I was looking for—it was louder and more urban than that.

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The Mariposa trail was what I should have followed, but I took the other one. Back on the Mariposa trail, the path shrunk into a narrow mountain bike trail that sunk into the ground like an earthen halfpipe. I saw an older man and his spry pup as I crossed over from the short trail to the right trail, and that was it. The rest of the trail was mine. Mine to watch over and give voice to. Mine to travel up and look out over the valley without interruption. A rarity.

Uninterrupted pensive reflection and footsteps that rolled over unstable rocky footing. Of course, my first thought was that a mountain lion could take me out without anyone knowing, and then I thought, I would probably let the dog have at it and watch the ensuing damage and destruction while being scared out of my mind. But after that, I got down to hiking business; climbing along the path that got rockier as I went higher and then widened out at the top of the first ridge line, a scrub-filled hilltop with low-growing trees and the smell of sage.

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Fog began stealing the late afternoon’s golden light as I neared the vantage point I wanted to reach. There it was, that peace of accomplishment I was searching for, without the buzz I wasn’t.

Incomingfog

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Pygmy life

Impatience eats me up like fire. It controls me, fixating in my limbs like a fruit fly you can only spray organically, because, well, you don’t want to ingest the pesticide. I can feel it in every tense movement. The adrenaline of desire flits around my nerves and carves up the space between my shoulder blades. My temples tingle with the impossible thought that I can fix whatever it is, I can right it, if only I could force it to be the way I want it to be, I could untangle and push through the roof of dead leaves that block my vision.

pygmy branches

Honestly, I just can’t help it sometimes. It seems like I literally walk past the realm of my ability to see things logically. And once I get to that side of reasoning, I get lost in myself, and that’s it.

However, that’s not why I started this post. I actually started this two weeks ago, but since then, I haven’t been able to complete a personal thought and tease it along to a satisfactory ending. My brain broke with a sore throat, sinus pressure, and a cough, and unfortunately, I still haven’t quite got it back yet.

But yes, I’m impatient. It’s a vice, but I kind of like it. It breeds this need to act inside of me, and that’s what it takes to feel alive: Movement in any direction but stagnation.

I can’t quite pinpoint what is bothering me this time, I just know it’s there, and I want to root it out and envelop it with my insatiable need to self-reflect. It’s tickling my neck hairs, but I haven’t seen it take form yet.

All I know is it’s closest to me when I leave my home for someplace else.

Estuarypano

The Elfin Forest is a village of pygmy oak trees with sagebrush villas. A wooden boardwalk snakes between neighborhoods, often moving between sandy steps and clunky ones. Trespassing from plank to plank, slatted sunlight plays with shadows that streak between the green moss that hangs from branches and the naked bark-covered sticks that push toward the sky.

And well, the Saturday I walked through the Elfin Forest, I slipped on hippy grease and fell into its magic mantra with gusto. It feels good, no matter what the casual judgmental feeling about that state of mind is, and it’s hard not to play the part when you feel small like the short oak trees that gnarl into canopies just inches above your head. Peaceful and quiet, it’s another place that’s easy for me to get lost inside myself, until the wind calls upon itself to rustle leaves at my ears’ level into shouting the existence of the rest of the world. Until the squished canopy of elfdom breaks into the Pacific Ocean, which is beyond the estuary of water, birds, and sunken vegetation that paints the space between Morro Bay and Los Osos.

oaks panorama

It’s over

I can’t believe I haven’t written anything to post on this blog since November. I could have sworn I was going to write stuff and I know I took photos specifically for this thing, but I guess I was a little distracted.

I’m so glad 2013 is over. For the last two months, I’ve been counting down the days, and now we’re a full week into 2014 and I feel fantastic. It’s not that 2013 was a bad year, it was just an unusually rough year, one of those year’s where even through all the progress that I made, the hits just kept on coming.

And it ended on a high note too, with what felt like all-out family warfare. That’s what the holidays are for. Reunification with loved ones and you can always mix it up a bit by throwing in some anger, crying, and yelling. It kind of completes the vacation package.

I don’t know, I suppose I’m a stronger person because my brain turned to mush a couple times last year. I was tested and triumphed, however freaking slow those repeated routes to the summit took. I did realize, I am a very impatient person. I like things to happen quickly, especially when I’m ready, and when those things drag out, I go a little crazy on the inside.

Life, mine in particular, is indeed a shitshow at times. It’s a total, complete ball of nondescript brown mess that just keeps on giving until it can’t give anymore, and then—wait for it—it gives again.

Now that I think about it, that’s really gross.

At the beginning of 2013, I had a new job to look forward to, a new place to explore, and a new home to hopefully move into. Although I nailed the last two on the head, that last one was a little tricky. I moved four times in 2013.

My last move was on Dec. 29. I like to cut it close.

For that last month and a half, I slept, not in my home, but in the home of a generous friend. And every week, I would tell myself, “this week is the week, by the end, you’ll have a new place to live.”

Yeah … let me just say, it doesn’t really work that way.

Even more inspiring, was the fact that my dog took up residence at my folks house. And while they were giving and kind to offer shelter to my poor, homeless dog because of his not poor, but homeless mother, it’s not something I really ever want to do again. Let me repeat that—EVER again.

It was miserable. Not because of the outright compassion shown to me by family and friends, but because of my own feelings. Lost like the dog who rented a space on my parents living room floor, I felt trapped and it seemed like the door I needed to open was refusing even to just creak a little on its hinges.

I know, I wasn’t destitute, I was fed, I had a job, blah, blah, blah, but still, it was rough for a little while there. Being dependent on other people stresses me out, it gives me guilt. I had guilt. And still do, a little, but that’s over and it’s time to finally MOVE ON, BABY!

Springsgiving

Thanksgiving is next week and I’m sitting in a house with a Christmas tree in every corner and snowflakes dripping down the front windows. It’s spectacular, but it feels a little off.

Winter won’t make an appearance for me this year. No snow, no cold. No branches stripped to naked bark, with tree trunks outlined by brittle grasses frozen at cockamamie angles or ice-veiled ponds and frozen cubes of water rushing along a river’s current. No pleasant crunch along the bottom of fuzz-lined Sorrels as I step across the porch in the morning. No winter.

Flathead Lake, November 2012

It’s strange to sweat a little in November, to feel the heat and humidity of the day as it turns the corner to noon and continues to gain temperature till the sun goes down. Not to 30 degrees, but to 70. After the sun disappears is when I remember where I am in this year. That’s when the cold air creeps up from the bottom, fog descends inland from the ocean, and cool moisture lays its heavy hand on my face.

But when I think about it, that’s also a bit like Montana’s spring and summer. When the cool air would sweep across the valley, slowly filling in pockets of air with temperature loss until evening out against the hillsides.

Missoulapanorama

Climate urges with it the oohs and aahs of each season. I never really noticed how even keeled it was in Coastal California until I left and came back. The seasons are more subdued here, a little less spectacular. They blend  from one to the next without the epiphany that symbolizes a year’s noticeable move into a different season.

The symphony of colors is mild because they are always there. The moments that made me appreciate nature for giving life are not here. No bursting of spring wildflowers that holds the earth captive for mere weeks before taking leave, no gigantic supernatural burst of fall’s oranges that takes over every tree in sight until the leaves succumb to winter and fall to the ground, leaving the world bare and brown until the snow melts and the world heats up.

Thinking about that now, makes me appreciate that spring follows a barren winter to give the world a reminder that nature shares it’s berth in color.

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Pulling splinters

Looking for a rental is always—always, always, always—a gigantic pain in the rear. However, in all the places I’ve lived, which include Santa Cruz, Aptos, Ukiah, Kalispell, Whitefish, Missoula, Bigfork, and the Central Coast, nowhere compares to here.

It’s like getting a million little splinters in your finger from running it along a carefully sanded wooden plank. And they’re so fine and soft that you can’t grip them to pull them out. And each listing you look at drives the splinters further into your skin.

Perhaps things have changed for me a little. I now have a dog in tow, but I found places in Missoula, Bigfork, and Kalispell just fine. And they were actually affordable.

It seems like every listing I look at on Craigslist.org either says no pets or specifically no dogs. Or if they do allow dogs, the weight limit is 25 lbs and breed restrictions apply. Ok. Great. I can pay you, but because some idiot owner was either A-irresponsible or B-their dog mauled someone and it made national news, my dog and I are apparently not allowed to rent ANYWHERE on the Central Coast.

Not in San Luis Obispo or Grover Beach or Pismo Beach or Arroyo Grande or Nipomo or Santa Maria or Orcutt or even out in the country. And, what makes it all the more splintery is the number of people who have ads in the “housing wanted” section of Craigslist.

They say things like:

“Help Us!”

“Please. Somebody Help Us.”

“Looking for Pet Friendly home.”

Yes, they are families, couples, and single people who have pets—oh my—and are looking for a place to rent.

I’m not the only one, but at least I’m not where they are just yet, I haven’t reached that level of desperation. Yet.

I call bullshit. Yes mom, bullshit.

You, housing and apartment owners on the Central Coast, dying to rent out apartments that I’ve seen posted day-after-day on Craigslist, advertising the greatness of said poop-hole and looking for a renter, could at least consider someone with a pet. “Sorry, no pets considered” is not really an apology, at least it doesn’t sound like one to me.

Some of these ads even say no overnight guests allowed, no drinking, and on and on and on.

Or, my favorite; which allows pets, but, in exchange for a reduced rent of $700 a month, you who rents this amazing place (it’s pretty sweet) also commit to part-time work as a property maintenance person on 5 acres of land, at least 13 hours a week and whatever else the owner sees fit to assign you.

I also saw a room rental listed for $500 a month, where you also are a caregiver/cook/cleaner for the owner of the home. How does that work? I’m sorry, maybe I’m upset, but that doesn’t sound reduced to me.

I’ve seen ads that are still listed (or have been re-listed) from when I first moved here in January.

You people are missing out. There are responsible pet-owners out there who won’t allow their pets to soil your place, who will take their pets for walks, who know their pets well and love their pets, and who train their pets and spend time with their pets.

You are essentially discriminating against them, against us. America is not a land of freedom, when the quintessential man’s best friend is not allowed to step foot in a freaking rental.

This is just one of the things about housing that makes living here so hard. It’s a great area, but are you property owners trying to get all pet-owners to buy homes or leave? News flash: we can’t afford the homes because they’re getting snapped up by investors who bid the price well above asking, and the housing inventory is so low that the prices are being driven up anyway.

I’m sorry if I sound a little callous, I’m more just frustrated. As a journalist, I’m sure I need to see things from the other side of the fence, however I’m so fully integrated onto this side of the fence that all I can do is offer my opinion.

Come on home-owners and property managers. Lets rally for renters who can do what you’re asking and not discriminate against them because they own a dog.

Kick in the pants

Maybe I shouldn’t write about some of the things I’ve been thinking the last three days. I’ve been so angry, upset, and full of anxiety, my body vibrates at times.

That’s not normal, at least not for me.

It’s like this mixture of boiling blood, adrenaline, and fear of dealing with something unsavory all rolled into one gigantic ball of poop. That’s right, I said poop.

Let me tell you a little bit about where my week is headed as I only have about 10 minutes before I have to pick up the phone and call Mr. David Walker at Firestone Walker Brewing Company for a muy importante interview about his kick-ass brewer Matt Bryndilson. But that’s for another day.

Today, between work and soccer practice, I have to—wait, no, I get to—drop two bags of stuff off at Goodwill or the closest thrift store I can find, go purchase a padlock, and finally rent a storage locker. It, by the way, is not near my house because apparently there’s a high demand for those lockers these days. Everyone is full up.

After practice, I will attempt to move some of my boxes into the newly acquired space that will hold all my items for the next month. Practice ends at 7:20 p.m., storage closes at 8 p.m. I will then go back to my house and continue packing until I go to sleep. Then, in the morning, before work, I will attempt to hit the storage place again.

You see, I only have a small BMW with which to transport stuff until Friday, so the trips won’t be efficient or fruitful, but as the tortoise relayed to the hare, I suppose “slow and steady wins the race.” On Thursday afternoon—that’s tomorrow—after soccer practice, I will need to finish my box-stuffing mission and be ready for help to arrive. Friday morning, hit work early, and leave by 11 a.m. Then, with help from my beautiful and talented friendly assistant with a huge diesel truck, I will empty my currently occupied space and fill—most likely to the brim—my newly rented storage facility.

That needs to be done before 3 p.m., because my friend needs to pick up her kids from school. Cleaning comes next, I need to rent a shampooer and go to town on the dog-hair infested carpet, scrape poop—I said it again—out of the backyard, and vacate the property. My hope is to never step foot in that house again.

But wait, there’s more. I will then get in my little BMW, with my dog, and head straight to the Bay Area for a quick visit with my folks and to drop off my pooch for a couple of weeks. On Saturday I will come back down to the Central Coast, and possibly make cookies with my talented friendly assistant, before hitting the sack early because I have to be in Arroyo Grande for a soccer tournament at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning.

If that’s not jam-packed and stuffed full, I don’t know what would be. Why, you may ask, am I doing all of this in such a harried manner? Well, that, my friends is the first part of the story, which I’m not quite sure how to tell yet, but it will be the next installment on my blog…

New news

This week was a week for news of the depressing kind, both nationally and locally (at least for me the reporter). I covered two murder trials, yesterday and today, and watched Facebook users disseminate post after post about the Boston marathon bombing. This week was a week of firsts, or first takes, fresh takes on news and the business of producing news with a criminal bent.

With any major disaster or criminal act that makes headlines, the inevitable always happens: updates, stories, articles, or spots from news organizations that almost always contain kernels of incorrect facts purported to be truth and the shallowness of a story a reporter isn’t able or allowed to take the time to really give it what it needs — double-checking the facts and a little bit of depth.

It’s like the version of news we receive is on crack, steroids, or speed, and I think most news organizations feel pressure to get it out the fastest, to break it first, to give readers that first taste of something important. I don’t blame the news or the reporters or even the editing staff. I do however blame technology and because of it, our (me, you, everyone’s) need for instantaneous satisfaction — even if it means it’s wrong.

Unacceptable.

Are we really at the point where two sentences equals a story? Two sentences is nothing, it tells nothing, it gives a taste of the bare minimum and satisfies a nasty habit that takes all the fun out of story-telling or consuming a story. There’s no nuance, there’s no weaving a story, there’s no talent to it and it’s hard to get it right.

In fact everyone, anyone, can do that with a twitter account and a smart phone, which is why people continue to say journalists are on their way out, journalism is a dying art, news is slanted and incorrect, I don’t trust any of it.

And yet, here we are Facebooking away, staring at blips of thought on a computer screen, anxiously awaiting news of the short kind. And those news organizations are out there, giving us exactly what we want, and telling us their reporting is sub-par, that they haven’t had a chance to really look into it and may have to correct what they’re initially reporting at a later time.

And they did.

NPR did and they are still doing it. Three people died, not two. And the same thing happened with the Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting. The numbers were different at every news organization you turned to. I don’t understand, is it so hard to just wait? To get it right the first time and every time. Isn’t that what we’re here for?

To report the truth accurately.

To tell the story that needs to be heard, not the one we’re asked for.

I think we’ve forgotten.