Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Wharf to Wharf

Santa Cruz.  Back when the girls were little, my first husband, Geof, and I used to stay here for a magical week every summer.  Like wisps of clouds, memories trailed through my mind of those far-away days when we played in the sand, dined on fish and chips and lifted our arms to the sky as we plummeted downwards on the roller coaster.  When looked through the lens of days-gone-by, it was hard not to feel nostalgic - even a bit melancholy.

But in the here and now, Sue and I were set to participate in this event - this run - along with 15,998 people.

I wonder what Geof would have thought to see me holding my race number.  I think he would have been surprised but delighted.  And then he'd probably have made a joke about me being in a police line-up or something.  I say this because this is what I think we look like (aside from the proud little smiles).

Sue and I were not in the first corral which is where the elite runners reigned.  Way back were we stood, we never even saw them, but later online photographs showed them; whipcord thin Olympic caliber athletes in peak racing form.  They wore teeny-tiny briefs and brightly colored shoes that were like elf slippers.

We were not in the second corral either -- serious runners who worked out and looked buff.
We were not in even in the third corral  -- all the people who were  obviously not Olympic or even all that buff, but who did not want to be at the back of the pack.

We were in the fourth corral.  The group placed at the very end of the line -- the older, more out-of-shape, heftier bunch.  We wore hats and some of us had fanny packs around our middles because we knew that a couple extra pounds of weight would make not the slightest difference in our times.  Because we were walking -- as quickly as we could make our legs go, but it was still walking (although, I must add for the record, that I jogged down the hills).

The mile 2 marker

From the back, Corral 4 looked like this.  I admired every one of my fellow corral members, but my humble mission was to pass as many of them as I could so as to be as far away from last place as possible.  It was a fun game to play.

The Bagpipers on the Hill

One of the best parts of this event is that there is a crowd cheering you on  the entire way.  It's hard not to feel silly and proud when the bands are playing and neighbors sit in front of their houses to shout encouragement.  They could not have been any more enthusiastic for Corrals 1-3 than for those of us in 4.

I don't remember their music, but I do recall their smiles when I passed

It's amazing how music can motivate your feet to step more quickly.  Bagpipes did it the best, but the Japanese drumming, hard rock, brass band, ukulele ensemble and folk group did a pretty good job too.  Even kids pounding on pots helped move us along.  I suppose that the elite Corral 1 runners were going to fast to hear much of this.

I found it touching that they stayed to play on for all of the corrals.  Hopefully the music continued until the last one of Corral 4 passed.  I'll never know if they did because I was too obsessed with  hustling past as many of them as possible.  My new goal was to pass as many Corral 3 people as I could.

I'll never know how successful I was at this because by now I was too tired to look at people's bibs to see what corral they were in.   But I'll bet that I left one or two of them in the dust.  Just saying.

Sue and I at the end of the race

My statistics:  I finished in 1 hour 24 minutes and 53 seconds.  I came in at 9,524 place.  If my math is correct (and it may not be), I believe that this means that I beat 6,476 people.  Sweet!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Another Busy Day at Frogpond

This is me weeding, raking and pruning dead branches (sadly, the shot doesn't include the bottle of hard cider in my hand).

One chair over, Multi-Pass was equally engaged in our beautification project.

The lilies actively did their bit too.

This is what we call teamwork.

Meanwhile, back in the linen cupboard...

...Arby the slug couldn't be bothered to help in the least.  Is it any wonder the whole damn place is falling apart?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Kindred Spirit

Just eight more days before Sue and I walk/jog the six-mile Wharf-to-Wharf race.  Yesterday we met at the Copper Town Square parking lot and walked the bike path together.  She's had foot problems, so we weren't sure if she could make the pace of 15 minute miles for the distance.  She could -- and this was with the two of us yapping happily together the entire distance!  Imagine our speed when we focus just on forward motion.

Afterwards we sat out in the town square, sipped iced coffees and talked for about two more hours.  In all of my adult life I've had no friend as close as Sue.  I don't form fast friendships easily.  I like many people, but drift away from most of them without even thinking much about it.  I have little desire to keep in touch and have an active dislike of parties or any other contrived way for "having fun".  So having a friend like Sue (social, kind, funny, ethical, extremely intelligent) is a blessing.  In many ways we are opposites -- she's analytical with a love of numbers and moral causes while I'm a touchy-feely, poet sort who loves animals.  Yet by some wondrous chemistry we're kindred spirits and I'm grateful to my core that we found each other.  My life is enriched by hers (and hopefully hers is by mine).

Changing the subject; the island is almost a peninsula.  The pond is continues to shrink, but this has slowed with the slightly cooler weather we're having.  I'm beginning to think that maybe - just maybe it will last (at least as a puddle) until the winter rains arrive.  That is very optimistic thinking.

Friday, July 17, 2015


I hung a load of my shirts out to dry:  three guesses what my favorite color is.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Summer Lunch

Only about two weeks before I must get back to school, and I'm only now getting into the swing of summer:  I've actually begun reading a book that has absolutely nothing to do with teaching children (but has a lot to do with teaching me about life, the soul and the beauty of words).  Not only am I reading purely for pleasure, but my book, several animals and I are sitting outside with a cup of tea and some fine cheese.  On the plate there are four fig crackers, each with its own dollop of luscious Brillat Savarin (a most heavenly triple cream cheese).  On top of each dollop is a teaspoon of a rich tomato marmalade with a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel to finish it off.  Heaven.

You will notice that the book is still shut -- there was no way that I could both read and do justice to the four tasty jewels on my plate.   I sat in the dappled sunshine and enjoyed my lunch while my furry entourage slept or bathed nearby.

So when, in a few weeks, our school staff rejoins and the talk turns to the topic of "what I did on my summer vacation" I'll happily share that I ate cheese and crackers and read a book that had nothing to do with teaching.

I'll be smiling.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wharf to Wharf/Woof to Woof

I'll be wearing bib number 13844 and am still incredulous that I, along with 1,600 others, entered this (my first!) run/walk.  This is supposed to be a fun event -- six miles along the coast from Santa Cruz to Capitola, encouraged by music and hundreds (thousands?) of enthusiastic spectators.  The only requirement is that you must be able to go at a pace of 15 minutes/mile.  I suppose that the other requirement is a willingness to put up with the huge crush of humanity that will be there.  However, nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I'm going to do it.

I researched on the Internet for instruction on how to train for walking this sort of race plus got tips from experienced members of my Fit Bit group.  In the end, the only advice I took was to buy good running shoes and to be sure to do stretches and warm-ups before doing a fast walk.  Oh, and to take short powerful strides to prevent shin splints.  Other than that, I'm just walking, walking, walking.  Most of my walks are of the shorter and slower variety, but I've done the full six miles three times now.  I'm relieved that I can make this body of mile travel at a 14'17" pace -- I'll break no records, but will very likely qualify to pick up a free t-shirt at the end of the race.  A modest (but extremely satisfying) accomplishment.

On Monday morning, I invited Chance along for my third six-miler.  I figured that with his boundless energy, he'd love it.  Our route was along a well-marked bike path along a divided highway through the rolling hills behind our town square.  It's very pretty countryside, in a California-drought-July sort of way.  We started early enough that it wasn't too warm yet.  Chance was a good walking partner, although he had to be reminded from time to time that we couldn't slow down so he could sniff interesting spots.  We did stop once in the shade so he could take a breather and get some squirts from my water bottle at our second mile.  I was out-walking my Border Collie/Queensland Heeler!  Okay, he's only seven months old, but still...

This picture is how we looked when we got back to the car.  I'm thinking that he's panting a bit more then I am.

When we got home he jumped in the pond for a good long paddle to cool off then slept on his dog bed on the porch for the next few hours.  But by early afternoon he was fully recharged and back to racing about chasing feathers, digging holes and gnawing on poor Murphy's ears.

I, on the other hand, was up for none of those things.  Sitting on the deck, sipping tea while turning the pages of my book was the extent of my energy level for the rest of the day.

I believe that the point goes to Chance.

Monday, July 13, 2015


The red bucket in the shower has more uses than just the conservation of water as Zelda has taken it over as her own personal water bowl.  Sometimes I'll hear the lap-lap-lap sound of water and it will take me a moment to figure out what's causing it.  Yesterday morning I thought (for a fleeting second) that it was raining.  Nope - just the cat getting a loud and slurpy drink.

We recently had Zelda clipped at the vets to rid her of her heavily matted coat.  Masses of pointy stickers were so tightly knotted in the fur that it was impossible to brush her and she was very uncomfortable.  It took sedation, but it was worth it.  She came home with a ruff around her neck and a poof on the end of her tail.  She makes quite the fashion statement.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Waiting for Godzilla

Great news for California: there's now a 90% chance that a very large El Nino event is brewing out in the ocean and this will result in massive amounts of rain here this winter.  This El Nino is different than the one predicted for last year (now dubbed "El Wimpo") -- it's massive and becoming stronger by the day as the ocean warms.  It's still not a sure thing, but I'm all aflutter over the increasing probability that we'll have a deluge of rain this winter.  This El Nino has already been called "a Godzilla El Nino" by meteorologists.  How wonderful is that!

Here is a link to the official NOAA website (not sure if it will work):


However, Godzilla is still a long way from sweeping over Frogpond.  Here things are still as dry as a bone and getting drier with every passing day.  The pond continues to shrink, although this slowed a bit with the cooler weather we've been having.

The cottonwoods along the dam are gradually dying as their roots lose their source of water.  The whole area there looks dismal and very messy, but we've decided to let it all stay as the birds nest in the dead branches.  Tidiness isn't always a good thing -- and it's a relief to have a reason not to do something.

I predict that the pond is dry by the end of August.  Well, we'll all get through this.  Godzilla to the rescue!

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Perfect Day

Clouds overhead usually means smoke and wildfire -- the darker the gray, the closer the blaze.  So when I awoke this morning to gray skies, I half expected to hear the sound of Cal-Fire helicopters overhead.  But no -- it was actually raining.  RAINING!!!    All right; sort of raining.  I'll admit that in other parts of the world this gentle pattering of drops on the dust would be scarcely noticed.  Heck,  this event probably wouldn't even be considered rain.  But during a four-year drought in Copperopolis (in the month of July, no less!),  I'm calling it rain.   What a wonderful surprise!   I'm beside myself with delight and keep going outside to stand in it.  Loving the dampness of my bathrobe...

This is where we stand with our water situation.  Our well is very slow in replenishing due to the lower water table.  This means that we truck in our own water once a week to fill our water tank.  It takes about three trips to the water treatment facility to do this, but we are very grateful to have this resource available.  Frankly, I don't know what we'd do if we couldn't.

So we're becoming increasingly careful of the water that we use.  We now have four new red plastic buckets in the bathrooms that we use to conserve the water that would go down the drain while we wait for it to warm up.  When the bucket is full, I move it aside and shower.  Later, I cart the bucket outside and splash it on something in the garden that looks like it could use a drink.  I'm not sure that this is of much use in the great scheme of things, but I'm not going to stop doing what I can.

Tomorrow Bruce is taking a day-long workshop in the Bay Area on how to recycle gray water from the washing machine.  We'd like to eventually (hopefully soon) put in an underground cistern plumbed to our kitchen, laundry and bath.  With filtering, we'll be able to use this to water the gardens around the house.  Even without this dire drought, this seems like the logical way to go.

In the time it took to write this, the rain has died away.  But there is a cool breeze and dampness in the air and the birds are having a party in the trees.

A perfect summer day.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Wildfire is coming. ARE YOU READY?

In a word, no.  In two words, sort of.  In three words, working on it.  Back to one word, eternally.