Friday, May 31, 2013

Back Home...

My baby hummingbird is getting ready to fly away... but not yet.  The Mama bird will know when it's time.  The chick sits on the edge of the nest for most of the day.  Mama flies in to feed the chick, but mostly it just sits and waits.  I'm careful while getting the pictures not to startle the chick.  It seems to know we're friends.

I didn't report earlier that one of the birds didn't thrive.  Apparently nature has a way of ensuring the survival of the strongest.  A couple of days after the chicks hatched, when they were both just scrawny grotesques which only a mother could love,  I noticed as I walked past them that one was dangling by a little claw from the edge of the nest.  I didn't know what to do.  I didn't want to touch it, afraid I might leave a scent the mother would  reject.  I got a spoon from the kitchen and carefully lifted it back into the nest beside its sibling.  The next day it was gone completely.  I'm sure it wasn't taken by an animal or the other would have been taken, too.  I'm guessing the mother bird has a way of knowing when it's clear that only one can survive, and she puts her energy into taking care of that one.

I'm in love with this little creature. I'm guessing that it will be able to leave the nest within the next week.  We are blessed in my house to have been privileged to see it grow from the virtually hairless, helpless breathing thing it was three weeks ago into this magnificent youngster waiting to be fed and biding time patiently until it is strong enough to fly away. In spite of everything... YES!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

After a serious triage session, Helen (who refused to have her picture taken with hair in rollers), Cleo (the member of the family searching for dropped crumbs of anything on the floor), and I decided Don is definitely well enough for me to go home to San Diego.  Not even two weeks after serious back surgery, the man is racing around the house with tennis balls on his walker.  It won't be long before he is batting those tennis balls around a court...  Actually, it's a golf course he longs to visit, but Helen is going to be sure he is fit enough for that.  He is in good hands.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Our Town?
Well, not exactly...

The way I see IT depends on how much of IT belongs to me--not to possess or to own-- but how much of it I have drawn into myself so it it part of me...whether I’m talking about my family or the house where I live or my town or my state or my country. When I say, “our family” I can mean only the people who are closest and dearest to me, or I can include in my meaning  a reference to all those first and second cousins whom I haven’t seen in years or ever and probably wouldn’t recognize if I met them on the street. That’s the way IT is. 

I got today’s pictures in Yuba City, which was once "my town."  A very long time ago I was part of the community... and the community was part of me.  To some extent the community defined me... to myself and to others. When I look for myself in the old familiar places, I discover that Jerral Miles has moved on, and so has the town.  He is irrelevant to this place. 

I was a Honker once... and proud of it.
I knew what it meant to be a Honker.  Now I have no idea.

John Birch Society signs have been replaced by Tea Party signs.
I don't remember what the Ammo Outlet replaced on Plumas Street.
Whatever it was, I think I'd like it to come back.

At ten o'clock this morning a guy was asked to walk a straight line on Queen's Avenue.
He couldn't.

...some Good News: The old Sutter Theater on Plumas Street has become an Art Center.

Magnolias bloom the same as they did the year Nancy was born at Fremont Hospital.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Continuing a Sentimental Journey

I went out on my bike this morning to find places I knew a long time ago.  I wanted get a another picture of the Sutter Buttes... this time from the high point of the 10th Street Bridge that spans the Feather River between Yuba City and Marysville. I crossed the bridge on the north side to get up-river pictures and pictures of the Buttes.  Riding back from Marysville along the south side of the bridge, I enjoyed views of both cities.  

I rode south on the Yuba City side to the 5th Street Bridge and headed back to Marysville to find the spot where I saw President Harry Truman, his wife Bess, and his daughter Margret when they passed through the area on the Presidential train. Facing a tough reelection campaign, he crossed America in June, 1948, on his way to accept an honorary degree at the University of California in Berkeley.  Along the way, Truman made a series of what came to be known as whistlestops--quick stopovers in cities and towns along the path of the railroad.  At each whistlestop, the President made a brief public appearance, often speaking to crowds from the back of the train. His train stopped at the Marysville depot. I was there, a thirteen-year-old boy whose parents believed America owed the man respect and support.  I’ll never forget the moment when he came out onto the platform of the last car and spoke without a microphone to the small crowd.  I liked him immediately. The impression I got was that he could be trusted with a second term as the leader of the “free” world.  This was a time before the Civil Rights Movement, and Truman had angered conservative Southerners, led by Strom Thurmond to form the States’ Rights Democratic Party, by declaring his support of civil rights for all citizens. The majority of the defectors from the Democratic Party soon allied themselves, sometimes uncomfortably, with the GOP.  In the middle of Truman’s first term the GOP won solid majorities in both houses of Congress. The prospects for Truman in November were considered by almost everybody to be grim. In what was supposed to be a private conversation, even his wife predicted that her husband would probably lose in a landslide to Thomas Dewey, the popular governor of New York.  Journalists predicted he would lose, but Truman wouldn’t give up and surprised everybody, even himself, by winning the election. 

 A third destination on my bicycle ride today was to go to the old train depot in Marysville where I had first seen a President.  The train no longer comes to that part of Marysville. The tracks have been removed, and the old depot has been turned into a shelter for the homeless. I imagine Truman would approve.  I walked my bike across the old bridge which is falling into disrepair.  A guy below the bridge got out of a county truck and yelled up at me to be careful.  

Monday, May 27, 2013

I won’t be offended if you hurry through the first couple of quite personal paragraphs after the railroad picture, but I’d like you to read carefully my fantasy cure for the gridlock that infects Congress. 

Don't expect the photographs to match the writing...  Marysville is one of California's oldest and most "American" towns.  Located at the confluence of the Feather and Yuba rivers, Marysville is a twin city with Yuba City.

This week I’m in Yuba City, California, where I taught English in the High School from 1957 to 1969 -- with a two-year break for graduate school from 1959 to 1961. In the two-year break from teaching,  I attended classes and wrote papers during the day, and worked as a guard at San Quentin Prison at night... and I read and thought and read and thought some more...  Of course, I couldn’t read while I was on duty at the prison, but sometimes when duty required standing or sitting alone in a dark tower or on a wall post, I learned to be an active thinker to keep from falling asleep.  Having sometimes worked in cell blocks and having managed to stay awake through lonely eight-hour shifts in dark prison places,  I am convinced that the San Quentin experience surely informed my work as teacher and administrator every bit as much as those years of graduate study... and, looking back on it, I recognize those years at Yuba City High School as invaluable learning years for me.  I owe a lot to this place... to those people who were my students in those years and to my colleagues.

I put out the flags in front of my Sister’s and Brother-in-law’s house in Yuba City on Saturday to begin the Memorial Day Weekend.  In addition to the usual military and governmental heroes, I’ve decided to pay homage this year to literary heroes as well.  I’m remembering what Steinbeck, for example, taught me... and through his writing what he taught my students at Yuba City High School in the sixties and in all the subsequent schools...  about the great migration of economically depressed and distressed people from the Middle Dust Bowl states who poured into California in the 1930s.  Some of America’s greatest writers, especially those from the middle of the 19th Century forward, described hardscrabble life in the great Central Valley and the Salinas Valley and in the foothills and mountains of central and Northern California, a very different world, then and now, from the lower third of the state where I live today. 

Friday, driving up from San Diego, I listened to Trevor White reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night.  Wow... I’m tempted to say, the way old men who love literature tend to do (knowing that it can’t be true), that America’s writers like Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Dreiser, Faulkner and many others were the best writers making the best stories the world is likely ever to know.  Of course, they developed their craft out of that long history of great writers with whom they shared a clear sense of the importance of literature learned from reading the stories of other writers who lived and reflected on their thinking... and invented stories to describe what life is all about. 

I’m wondering if our people in government know American literature at all... like the letter of Chief Seattle (correctly, Seathl) in response to an offer from U.S. Government to buy Indian land (  If I could make a required reading list for people in Congress, I’d include on it Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath and Dreiser’s An American Tragedy. I’d like them to know that Steinbeck, raised an Episcopalian, made clear in what he said and in what he wrote that his spiritual sensibilities were not found in established religion but in nature; and I’d make sure they know that Dreiser’s parents were German Catholic immigrants who lived in abject poverty after they came to America. I’d make sure they learn to recite the homosexual poet, Walt Whitman’s “I hear America Singing...”  and Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”  I’d require them to know by heart Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago” so they’d understand what responsibility goes with being hog butcher to the world. I’d like them to sit, or perhaps stand at attention, and listen all together, Democrats and Republicans, to the music of Aaron Copland and learn by listening to his “Fanfare for the Common Man”  to be grateful for simple gifts and to value an Appalachian spring. I’d like them to remember that Copland was the son of conservative Jewish immigrants from Lithuania.  I’d introduce them to the American Armenian William Saroyan,born in Fresno, who could teach them that loving American doesn’t mean giving up love and respect for another country (Half of his ashes were buried in California, and the other half in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia). 

I’d try to hammer into Congressional heads the importance of recognizing how very long it took in our country to recognize the at-least-equal participation of women in building our nation, and to acknowledge intelligence and wit in their literature and their importance in the processes of local, state and federal government. I’d like them to get reacquainted with Emily Dickinson, that quiet cheerleader for women who choose to stay mostly at home and think and write.  I’d require them to write an essay explaining what Louisa May Alcott, Sojourner Truth, Betty Friedan, and Hillary Clinton have in common besides their gender identification. I might follow up with a required essay on why Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin don’t belong in a category with Alcott, Sojourner Truth, Friedan and Clinton.  I’d give them a pop quiz every Monday morning, no excuses accepted for absence from the floor... beginning next week with a list of women to identify by naming at least one title: Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Emily Dickenson, Elaine Showalter, Frances Harper, Louisa May Alcott, Anne Bradstreet, Edith Wharton, Phyillis Wheatley, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Margaret Fuller, Gwendolyn Brooks, Toni Cade Bambara, Kate Chopin, Sandra Cisneros, Harriet Ann Jacobs, Willa Cather, and Sylvia Plath. I would try to be kind by allowing them with no loss of points to leave two of the women off their list as long as Edith Wharton is not one of them.  For anybody who can’t identify Edith Wharton I’d come up with a special detention. 

Attempting to solve the perpetual problem of gridlock with this Congress around the need for immigration reform, I’d require each of the members of the House of Representatives and each senator to write sixteen sentences explaining the contribution of each of the following immigrants, one sentence for each:  Albert Einstein, Ieoh Ming Pei, Madeleine Albright, John Muir, Joseph Pulitzer, Felix Frankfurter, Hakeem Olajuwon, Marina Navratilova, Subranhmanyan Chandrasekhar, Irving Berlin, Edward M. Bannister, Saint Frances X. Cabrini, “Mother” Mary Harris Jones, Rita M. Rodriquez, David Ho, and Ang Lee.

Thinking again about the great world of stories,  I am wondering who were the teachers of  the people serving now in the Senate and the House of Representatives and why so many of them seem not to know what it is like to be desperately poor in America. I’m wondering if they know about Emma Lazarus’ poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty... or, indeed, if they know any of the stark, clear literature from the world’s great religions.  Could the teachings of Jesus, for example, be any clearer about the importance of taking care of people, especially of those who have great need. 

I’d like to organize a field trip for members of Congress to find and study in Washington museums the photographs of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans.  

After viewing the photographs, we’d end the field trip by going to the White House where we’d ask the First Lady to lead the group through James Agee’s directions for reading Now Let Us Praise Famous Men, the book he wrote in collaboration with Walker Evans to accompany Evans‘ photographs.   She’d begin by quoting  what Agee said about what he had written. “What I have done is not art, don’t call it art.  It is something else again-- perhaps a disease, perhaps a fury, and if you are to understand it, you are to listen to it by putting Beethoven’s Seventh or Schubert’s C-Major Symphony on the phonograph and turn it up loud and then get down on the floor and jam your ear as close into the loudspeaker as you can get it and stay there, breathing as lightly as possible, and not moving, and neither eating nor smoking nor drinking.”  

Then she’d ask us all to lie on the floor the way we’d been instructed to do when we get around to reading Now Let Us Praise Famous Men, but instead of reading we’d hear Michelle Obama announce that she had asked her husband to come in and read Agee’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915.”  She’d tell us to lie comfortably and quietly, and she’s say that while her husband reads she wants us to hear Samuel Barber’s piano reduction of the choral work which Agee’s poem inspired him to produce.   Without fanfare, the President would come in, and while we are all still lying on the floor resting, he would begin to read softly...

Now, dear friend, if you've come this far in this BLOG post, please read the poem out loud.

It has become the time of evening
when people sit on their porches,
rocking gently and talking gently
and watching the street
and the standing up
into their sphere of possession of the trees,
of birds' hung havens, hangers.
People go by; things go by.
A horse, drawing a buggy, breaking his hollow iron music on the asphalt;
a loud auto; a quiet auto;
people in pairs, not in a hurry,
scuffling, switching their weight of aestival body, talking casually,
the taste hovering over them of vanilla, strawberry, pasteboard and starched milk,
the image upon them of lovers and horsemen, squared with clowns in hueless amber.
A streetcar raising its iron moan:
stopping, belling and starting; stertorous; rousing and raising again its iron increasing moan
and swimming its gold windows and straw seats on past and past and past,
the bleak spark crackling and cursing above it like a small malignant spirit set to dog its tracks;
the iron whine rises on rising speed;
still risen, faints; halts; the faint stinging bell;
rises again, still fainter, fainter, lifting, lifts, faints forgone: forgotten.
Now is the night one blue dew.
Now is the night one blue dew,
my father has drained,
now he has coiled the hose.
Low on the length of lawns,
a frailing of fire who breathes ...
Parents on porches: rock and rock.
From damp strings morning glories hang their ancient faces.
The dry and exalted noise of the locusts from all the air at once enchants my eardrums.
On the rough wet grass of the backyard my father and mother have spread quilts.
We all lie there, my mother, my father, my uncle, my aunt, and I too am lying there ...
They are not talking much, and the talk is quiet,
of nothing in particular, of nothing at all in particular, of nothing at all.
The stars are wide and alive, they seem each like a smile of great sweetness, and they seem very near.
All my people are larger bodies than mine, ...
with voices gentle and meaningless like the voice of sleeping birds.
One is an artist, he is living at home.
One is a musician, she is living at home.
One is my mother who is good to me.
One is my father who is good to me.
By some chance, here they are, all on this earth;
and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth,
lying, on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of the night.
May God bless my people, my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father,
oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble;
and in the hour of their taking away.
After a little I am taken in and put to bed.
Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto her:
and those receive me, who quietly treat me,
as one familiar and well-beloved in that home:
but will not, no ,will not, not now, not ever;
but will not ever tell me who I am.
After a while, we’d all get up and thank the President and Mrs. Obama and then go on about our business of being good, responsible Americans.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

I started a journal writing two days ago that isn't finished yet... but I'll bet back to it and post it early this week.  The writing is the result of remembrances and emotions churned up inside me as I reconnect with places and people from fifty to sixty years ago.  Today I talked with a fellow who was a student of mine forty-nine years ago. I remember him well.  He was bright... and earnest when he was seventeen.  I can see that he is still bright... and earnest.  After university and medical school he came back to his home town to spend his life doing earnestly what he had been trained to do.

I thought about him as I rode my bicycle today out toward a little range of hills people here like to call the shortest range of mountains in the world.  I don't know if that's true or not.  I climbed all over the Sutter Buttes when I was an adolescent, and I've been wondering today if that boy who became a surgeon after being a kid in my class ever climbed those mountains... and if he didn't, why not? ... and if he did, what was he thinking as he scrambled up the dry sides of the hills. Did he long, as I did, to find out if the world beyond out valley would be a better place to live than here... and did he come back to practice medicine here because he decided this is definitely the best place on earth  live brightly and earnestly?  I wonder.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

At 11:45 p.m. I'm hurrying before midnight to post my Niece Alicia's wedding pictures from her big event today.  Her wedding to Tyler took place this afternoon at my sister's backyard in Granite Bay.

Friday, May 24, 2013

On I-5 at 4:30 in the Morning

Sometimes it’s the picture I didn’t get
that finds a permanent place in my mind...
which is exactly the way it was/is today...

I won’t forget the full moon over the ocean
dropping closer and closer to the horizon
while I looked for a place to stop the car
on the highway between San Diego and L.A.
I found the perfect spot to turn out and stop;
but by the time I got to it, the moon was down.

It’s O.K. 
It’s sometimes better to think whatever is
is what should be.

So I settled for a bottlebrush flower, straight on with color subtracted, in Yuba City... as substitute...
Didn't seem right to leave the color because I'd have liked the moon in black and white.
That's the way I will continue to see it in my mind.

...which reminds me of the picture I took yesterday at the Museum of Photographic Arts
as I was coming down the stairs... No question about it: black and white is right.

I tired the portrait of Cleo.  She's not sure about black and white,
but I like it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I was out again today on my bicycle with only my iPhone for pictures...
...riding and thinking and stopping to be amazed that a world with so much chaos in it can be beautiful.

It's jacaranda time again in San Diego...

chaos is a game with no rules...
the storm splinters houses,
interrupts everything...
hindsight alternatives
don’t comfort...
it doesn’t help anybody to insist
that my father
shouldn’t have started smoking
in the first place...

the trick is keeping the faith,
whatever form it takes...
it has to be enough to hope
that order will come eventually
and not give in to despair 
when solace is brief
after the fire in dry brush
comes roaring through...

...and something called Brazilian Coral or Parrot's Beak.

The house at Upas and Sixth...

...and the Marston House at the edge of Balboa Park.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

On Assignment:  My friend Marilyn suggested I go to the corner of Quince Street and Sixth Avenue to take a picture of a tree which she saw there in full bloom. The tree is actually a short block away at the corner of Quince and Balboa Drive.  I’ve known that tree for many years, so finding it again this morning was like looking up an old friend.  Actually, it was like going for a meeting with a young friend because the tree isn’t very old.  I remember when it was just a sapling. The Latin name of this tree is Bignoniaceae.  Native to Taiwan and South China where it’s known as 青玉龍血樹, this deciduous tree in  San Diego is called “Sapphire Dragon Tree.” 

The only camera I had with me on the bike ride was my cell phone, which continues to amaze me.  I won’t ever say disparaging things about cell phone photography. Remembering that Shakespeare had Hamlet famously say to catch the conscience of the king, “The Play’s the thing,” I’m determined to get rid  of my snobbery about cell phones and iPads and little point-and-shoot cameras and admit  The image is the thing.