Connecting to the past

My parent’s house, the one I grew up in, is filled with images of family. I don’t usually spend a lot of time thinking about my family history, but here I’m steeped in it. Today my mom pointed out a picture of my great aunt, Janet, with my dad as a boy. She made it possible for him to build a life here in the US. A picture of her friend, Eunice, who she asked to sponsor my dad has a prominent place on the wall. As kids, we always called her Amah, grandma.

pendant and letter
Pendant and letter from my grandmother.

On this trip, my mother gave me a pendant that my grandmother left for me along with the note that she wrote. Add it to the list of reasons I regret not knowing how to speak, read or write much Chinese. Fortunately, my mother translated it for me so I know that in the note she describes how my grandpa gave this to her when she went to the South Sea to meet him in 1930, and says that she wanted to pass it along to me. The note itself is brittle and already torn from being unfolded in many places. I wish I’d known her better.

There is a faded picture cube on the desk downstairs with a picture of me at 1-2 years old astride my favorite stuffed yellow bunny. I remember that bunny, and it makes me think of the stories about my imaginary friend, Cackle Sue. I have no idea if she cackled, or where that name came from, but my mom tells me she spilled milk and got me into trouble a lot.

One of my brother’s favorite stuffed animals was sitting on my bed below the headboard that I always imagined was a guardian owl. I still do. I can’t help it. This old picture of me as a kid is sitting on the bedside table. Theresa as a girl

At some point, when I was a few yeas older, I lost one of those pigtails to a friend who was playing barber. I had short hair for a long time after that.

There is still a painting hanging from the closet door that my super talented next door neighbor friend made for me at some point when we were growing up together. I wish she’d thought to sign and date it. Her parents still live next door. My parent’s wedding photos. Cousins, aunts and uncles smile out from every surface. Pictures of me and my siblings playing on the swingset, blowing out birthday candles and posing for portraits in our high school letter jackets.

It’s good to be home.

Hospital Stays

No pictures today. Dad took a fall and wound up in the hospital. At first, the most worrisome thing is that he’s been getting dizzy a lot lately, and there didn’t seem to be a good explanation. But then, once we got to the hospital and they did a battery of tests, they discovered that he had hit his head (he said he didn’t), and that there was some intracranial bleeding. This is of particular concern because in the last few weeks he’s been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and prescribed a blood thinner called Eliquis. So, although the amount of bleeding wasn’t extensive, there was significant worry that with the blood thinner, it could get worse over night.

As near as we can figure it, the fall happened around 9am. We initially called the Mayo Clinic to see what could be done about his dizziness, and the nurse on call recommended a trip to the ER. It seems like we got checked into the ER shortly after 11, certainly before 11:30a. Then, we spent the day there waiting for tests, test results, a room to open up in the ICU for them to monitor him overnight. If we are lucky, the evening’s CT scan will show no additional bleeding, and they will be ready to release him tomorrow.

MN gardens

Mom and Dad have been growing orchids for a while.

It’s been too long since I’ve been back to MN to visit my parents. This morning, we went for a walk around the yard to see all the new things since I’ve been here last. There are so many things. There are more flower gardens than there used to be, and more things in the gardens. At this point, most of the flowers are past, but we admired the ones that are still blooming, talked about the ones that will bloom again this spring, the ones that are quickly taking over the shaded areas. I learned which flowers are the deer’s favorites to eat, and which ones were successfully saved with all kinds of crazy effort.

Most of the leaves are gone, but there are still some flowers blooming in the gardens.

Earlier this year a deer died right next to one of the flower gardens. There were no wounds or anything, but it was so big they thought that maybe it had simply died of old age. When they found it, it was frozen to the ground and looked like it had been there for a while. What does one do with an old rotting deer corpse anyway? They started calling around, but no one seemed willing or interested in doing anything with it. One person suggested that if they dragged it out to the road, the city would come to clean it up. Not only was that too far for octogenarians to drag a large deer, my parents were afraid of what the neighbors would say.

Finally, someone found out how big the yard was. “Oh,” they said, “well just leave it there. Nature will take care of it.” So with a neighbor’s help, my parents eventually rolled this deer onto some plastic sheeting and dragged it further downhill into the woods. There aren’t any big predators in this area, but they were surprised at how quickly it disappeared. They saw a fox, and a lot of black birds. It was gone in a matter of weeks. I went to find it today.

deer skull
Remains of a deer who ate my mother’s flowers. She’s tough, people. Don’t mess around.


Traveling and Lessons

The alarm went off this morning at 4:00 am after a later night than I had intended. I’m beat.

I’ve spent the better part of the day traveling across the country, and hoo-boy is this one-post-per-day challenge turning out to live up to its name. Here’s something short that I’ve been thinking about for some time.

happy kid

I’ve been lucky enough to spend a bit of time lately with this kiddo and his mama. They’ve been teaching me some very important lessons.

  1. Celebrate everything! Every achievement, no matter how small, is better when you take time to recognize it. At some point, I decided that certain things would/should happen, and I stopped celebrating the moments that they did. This is a mistake. You can totally keep celebrating things after you’ve done them twice, or ten times or more.
  2. The world is filled with wonderful things. Yes, there are giant cliffs and waterfalls in Yosemite, but equally amazing are the leaves that fall in the path, milkweed seeds blowing in the wind, the fact that you can drop small stones and pine needles through holes in the boardwalk, and puddles. OMG, puddles. I should really spend more time thinking “Whoa! Look at that!” about the common things.
  3. Making noise is fun. Cool ways to make noise include: stomping on bridges and boardwalks, rocking loose manhole covers, pounding on railings with a stick. Hitting keys on a piano is pretty fun too, but cool noises go way beyond that.
  4. Dance more. Music optional. Enough said.

[There’s more. I feel like I learn a lot about wonder and appreciation from time spent with those two. But, I’m tired. If you read this and feel like you have learned stuff from young kids, feel free to help me out in the comments.]

First snow of the season

Dogwood leaves covered in snow
Dogwood leaves covered in snow.

The first snow of the season at our house in Yosemite West is always a treat, and worth a quick mention. After a few years of drought, it’s even more welcome. The dogwood leaves at 5000-6000 feet elevation in our neighborhood are still turning, and I loved seeing the contrast of the bright colors against the snow.

Badger Pass is reporting 9 inches, which is also a good start. My co-worker, pointed out that the first snowfall of last year was about the same date, so this in itself isn’t going to get us very far, but hopefully it’s just the first taste of more snow to come. The storm wasn’t cold enough for snow to fall in Yosemite Valley itself, but from the valley you can see the frosty rim all around.

Neighborhood cedar in snow
My favorite neighborhood cedar
shaggy mane mushrooms in snow
Shaggy Mane mushrooms from our yard, surprised by the dusting we received.
Bridalveil Fall
The water in Yosemite valley is no longer gushing the way it was while it was raining, but it is still nice to see Bridalveil Fall flowing again.

Enjoying the Rain

Lower Yosemite Fall
Lower Yosemite Fall is back in action!

It started raining today before dawn and rained steadily throughout the day. I’d made plans with one of the coolest people around to catch up over lunch, and wondered how that was going to go. On a sunny day, we’d head out to the river, or someplace like that, but with the weather, I worried she might prefer to stay inside. I was eager to get out and explore, but it’s also nice just to catch up, so I was also prepared to find a dry spot.

I shouldn’t have doubted. When I posed the question, she immediately suggested a walk. In addition to rain jackets and umbrellas, I pulled out my new rain kilt, R borrowed a trash bag skirt, and we headed out into the pouring rain. I don’t know what the fashionistas would have to say, but I thought we looked pretty cool.

rainy day fashion
Rainy day fashion with R. Pictures courtesy R Santiago

In Yosemite, never let the rain keep you inside. We had an incredible walk. Not only were the normal falls rushing again, but there were dozens of ephemeral falls cascading down the cliffs that I had never seen before. Plus, the clouds highlight cliffs in ways that make the familiar magical. I didn’t do a good job of capturing it on camera, but my memories will make me smile for a long time.

The cliffs near Yosemite Falls are magical in the rain.
The cliffs near Yosemite Falls are magical in the rain. Do you see the giant ephemeral fall in the picture on the right?

The rain started out warm, but then the snow line dropped and we could see snow on the higher cliffs peeking out through the clouds. In the office, we had been checking in on the snow falling up at Badger Pass all day via the webcam. I could also keep half an eye on our house in Yosemite West thanks to Bloomsky (You can see a picture of that at the bottom of the Yosemite Forecast site.)

Last week, I was out in the rain with another friend, and her toddler, splashing through puddles and laughing at little kid antics. That was pretty awesome too.

playing in puddles
Relearning how much fun it is to splash in puddles from this little guy.

People visiting the park are often disappointed when it rains during their trip. Little do they know that these are the times that the serious photographers jump excitedly into their vehicles to drive up to the park. The dramatic clouds and lighting show Yosemite off at her best. Plus, sometimes it’s just plain fun to splash around.

Halloween 2015

Halloween office parade
Left: Co-workers alerted the kids will be here soon. Right: Handing out candy to the kids.

So much as been going on this October that Halloween was here before I knew it. Non-costume plans had been made for the weekend, and although those changed, I still didn’t have costume party plans. So, my single whirlwind dose of Halloween festivities was the parade of kids that come through the office each year.

It’s a highly anticipated event in the office. We order much too much candy in advance. Those of us who are more prepared and/or festive dress in work-appropriate costumes, and throughout the day there is a gentle buzz. “When are the kids going to come by?” “Make sure you get me when the kids are here.”

And when they come, escorted as usual by the Yosemite mounted patrol (What other kids get horses in their Halloween school parade, honestly?) People line up at the door to see the costumes, candy at the ready.

There are two waves. The little kids in daycare come first. Some are held by their parents. Others surge forward on their own. One enterprising boy this year held his pumpkin out hopefully to every adult he saw whether or not they had any candy. The older Valley School parade is later in the day. Last year there were a lot of Elsas, but this year there was much more variety.

In addition to this school parade, the kids also make the neighborhood rounds on Halloween night. Yosemite’s small community seems like the perfect place to trick or treat. National Park’s are nice and dark but people know each other here so safety is less of a concern than it might be elsewhere. Besides, I know of one person who makes it a point of pride to offer full-size candy bars.

Those kids must have quite the haul at the end of the event. If their parents aren’t clever enough to come up with a Pumpkin Prince-like story, those kids are probably buzzing on candy right up until the moment that they sit down to Thanksgiving dessert.

Another great Halloween idea to remember – an early October costume exchange party!

Adaptive Climbing

Whee! During their lunch break Mark, Nate and Scott let me try out the adaptive climbing set up they had rigged for the Rock 'n Roll Yosemite group.
Whee! During their lunch break Mark, Nate and Scott let me try out the adaptive climbing set up they had rigged for the Rock ‘n Roll Yosemite group.

The Rock ‘n Roll Yosemite group, organized by Access Leisure  has traveled to Yosemite each year for the last 8 years to explore Yosemite by hand bike and do a bit of rock climbing. It was so cool to see them go out and get it, whether it was biking the Valley Loop to see the sights, or challenging themselves with some rock climbing, it emphasizes to me how accessible Yosemite can be.

I’m ascending here with a 3:1 pulley system, making it easier for me to make progress by giving me a mechanical advantage. I didn’t have much trouble when doing this in the best case scenario – free hanging, short pitch – not to extrapolate to the longer routes that people have done on El Cap. Those ascents are inspiring and humbling.

Most of the others in my group also used the 3:1 pulley, but one of the things that Mark Wellman emphasized was how important it is to customize for each individual to maximize their strengths and give them the best experiences. One super fit and athletic woman ascended without any mechanical advantage, sprinting to the top by cranking dozens of full on pull-ups to get to the top. Rawr! It was so inspiring to see that go. And then, another guy was able to use an ascender attached to his foot and another for his hand to make the best use of his right arm and right leg.

Meanwhile, Paradox Sports just finished up an interview with Katie Couric. (part 2) (They say she’s planning to come to Yosemite with them this fall!) and is getting ready to release an Adaptive How To Climbing Guide. So many awesome things happening in the world. It’s cool to be in touch with people doing such amazing things.

Cycling back around

People like me, people who have a long string of hobbies that would take up several lifetimes, and a list of interests that extends even further than that, end up cycling through things, returning to favorites, and constantly adding a few more cool things to the list. That way the list gets longer and longer.

I haven’t been paying much attention to this blog lately, but that’s because I’ve been playing the piano, drawing pictures, exploring some different social media sites, and trying to keep a steady eye on fitness levels and all the physical recreation that I like to do as well. Lately, I’ve added a new thing to my list of hobbies. Cycling.

I got excited about riding the road bike that my friend, Beth, gave me last year, and over the course of this very dry winter, Tom and I bought mountain bikes. As it turns out, although perhaps every boy rides a bike this way, there are some fundamental bike riding skills, that I never managed to pick up in my girlhood, and I’ve been getting an education riding around the trails behind our house.

Plus, I’ve been invited on a bakery to bakery bike tour this spring, and I’ve been trying to get into shape enough to enjoy, or at least survive, the ride. I’m unused to spending much time in the saddle, but am trying to remedy that. My friend Chris, made the following video with a new GoPro, and although I wasn’t with him on this ride, we’ve done a few loops of the Valley together. It’s a great way to get out and “get the news” as John Muir would say.

Biking Southside Drive from Chris Publiski on Vimeo.

“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news”
― John Muir

First Skate Ski of the Season

I wish I had stopped to take a picture. Really. But sometimes, you’re having so much fun doing what you’re doing, that you just don’t want to stop and dig the camera out… even if you had it stashed in a convenient pocket to do just that.

Skiing was Great

The Cross Country Center at Badger pass opened this weekend, and Tom and I wandered up to see what the skiing was like. The previous storm dropped about 12 inches, meaning that the road had a decent coverage, but there wasn’t enough on the hill for the lift-served area to open. In some ways that was fine with me. I was excited to get a nice aerobic workout in.

The connector trail from the parking lot to the road wasn’t groomed, so we put our striding skis on, but then turned back when we realized that the road itself was freshly groomed, and changed to our skate skis.

With all of the fresh snow, the skating was slow enough that we skated most of the downhills, but firm enough to be fun. We went out past the Bridalveil Creek bridge and up to just before the next section where it starts downhill again. I was feeling surprisingly tired from the P90X workouts I’ve been doing lately, and decided that was a good place to turn around. Tom went a little further and then caught me on the long climb back up to Summit Meadow.

I’m looking forward to more of that!

Watch that Last Turn

We had just pulled out of the Badger Pass parking area, and were getting ready to make the left turn onto Badger Pass road when we caught sight of a green Subaru driving entirely too fast for the conditions. Sure enough, although the driver turned the wheel, his car kept going straight, careening wide into our lane. Fortunately, Tom managed to slow down just enough and the Subaru smacked hard into the snow bank just in front of us. I suppose it’s a no-harm-no-foul sort of situation. We backed up to give him space to back out of the snow bank and he pulled himself clear, wheels spinning and sliding across the ice. I thought at one point he was going to hit us after all and Tom muttered that someone needed to learn to drive in the snow.

Naturally, the guy was very apologetic. He hadn’t had any other issues with handling on the way up, and was surprised to lose control so spectacularly and completely.

That’s the second time we’ve almost been hit at that intersection. The first time was also due to someone trying to take that corner way too fast. That car had chains on the front wheels, and as the front end of the car turned the corner, the back side whipped around into our lane, pulling the rest of the car with it.

It’s a tough corner. During the summer, as you’re driving up, Glacier Point Road actually takes a slight left bend there, and it looks like a hard right turn into the Badger Pass parking lot – the kind of turn you’d want to slow down for. In the winter, the road beyond the parking area isn’t plowed, and if you aren’t paying attention, it might look like just another right turn in the road. And if you aren’t paying attention, you might not realize how steep the turn is. And if you aren’t paying attention, you might not notice that as you continue up the Badger Pass road, it gets more snowy and more icy as you gain elevation.

My point is – pay attention. I love running into friends at Badger Pass, but not like that.