Santa Cruz, I’m sorry I forgot about your bright spots. Siete mares seafood and broth on the wharf. That sea air smell when you step outside in the morning. Your redwood and coastline loops and your early morning swimming pool culture. The strawberries and brussel sprouts, the people who grow them, and the enviably long growing season here. The relojerías that are there when you seek them out, run by the nicest Oaxacans. Taquerías with carnitas and vats of melon juice. Peyton Street and people who took me in when I was adrift.

I never forgot about the friends I came to see here though. The friends that go way back can’t be replaced. I have been lucky enough to see a handful of those folks on this trip. And to walk through their gardens, neighborhoods and offices, learn my way around their kitchens and their firelines, spend time with the little people they are raising. To be an NBA fan among friends, and to sit in the rafters of Oracle Arena while the Warriors walloped the Spurs to secure a #1 seed and home court advantage in the playoffs just up ahead.

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Win #70 for the Warriors and we were there!

Everywhere I go, the news of the formal commitment to remove Klamath dams is ahead of me. Strange to be at the same time seeing this news in the rear view mirror. And that’s how I see it, after more than a decade of pushing and pulling for that outcome. It feels as though we must have made this announcement in slightly different ways nearly a dozen times already. So what will make this one different? What will make this one real? It’s hard to say, but I hope that such public and official declarations by corporate and government officials will at least be so painful and embarrassing to retract or backpedal that the end result will be dams out by 2020, at last. Not needing Congress to move ahead with real solutions gutted out by local people. There’s a bright spot.

Jewell Signs Off On Dam Removal

US Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell signed off on removal of four Klamath dams by 2020 earlier this week.

 

 

 

 

When you finally have a block of feta, black sesame seeds, and sumac in the same house at the same time, your garden yields a few sprigs of fresh oregano in January, and no one else is around to remind you how crazy you (and Bon Appétite magazine) are, you make this.

And if this is what it takes to get me blogging again, go ahead and call me crazy. But try it first.

Tonight, my co-worker Will and I will be in San Francisco to talk about our work to restore one of the wilder places left on the planet: The Klamath River watershed. And Friday we’ll be in Chicago at a similar event.

Even if you can’t be there, consider supporting what we do at the Mid Klamath Watershed Council. You can read about it on our website, or see what we’re up to on our Facebook page. And you can contribute to the cause through our website too!

MKWC offers a blueprint for: restoring our connections to place, changing how we respond to drought and fires, keeping salmon around, Preparing younger generations to be stewards of environment, community and culture, hands on learning, training and adaptation, and building institutions and economic engines that are sustainable.

Thank you for helping us to ripple out and do more!

springerdives

shy springer

flaming snagacornburnKidsatButler

It was an epic long weekend in the back country. Here’s what that was like:

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Descending the long steep trail out of the Marble Mountain Wilderness this past weekend, my mind landed on the way we pick our paths, literally, and metaphorically, too.

We must have at least three levels of seeing the path we’re on. Where will my next foot go? Where will I need to navigate in the next 10 or 20 feet and what is the cleanest line, so to speak? And am I on the right path? Will it get me where I want to go? If not, should I recalibrate?

But sometimes, maybe all that control is just an illusion. Sometimes, a path chooses you. And sometimes, for all the charting of course, you’re not going anywhere very fast. That was the case after I sprained an ankle right near the end of the hike out from this trip. Not the right side, where I injured my foot two years ago – this time my left ankle, leaving me perplexed about which side to refer to as “the good side”.

What a revolting development! And yet, at the same time, this must somehow be the right path, because it’s the one I’m on. I picked it. I’m committed to it. I’ve already been down this path, a part of me protests. Now I have to pick my mental path, one that does not lead to the conclusion that my feet and ankles are weak, but instead takes me to the fact that by virtue of doing things in the world, I will sometimes, inevitably, fall.

Thank goodness for the people in my life who have been down this path ahead of me, and have showed that it goes somewhere good. Especially thanks and much respect to Ann Rants, Heidi Perlmutter, Tammy Lightle, Ippolita DiPaola, Susan Corum, Michelle Krall, and Scott Kingery, who will know what I mean.

Please excuse my extended absence on here. As the weather has gotten better, maybe even too good for April, my mood has improved. Longer days means more possible activity with a broader array of people. IMG_4325

Most recently, and memorably, my niece Emma and I went to Oakland/Berkeley.

Seeing the Warriors play the Blazers in person was her idea. And I wasn’t going to say no. Her basketball team, playing in school cafeterias and neighborhood centers, has gotten leaps and bounds better this season, passing, pulling down rebounds, scoring, setting screens. It has been a remarkable transformation to watch from the utter court chaos that passed for basketball amongst Emma and her peers last year.  So basketball was already on her mind. Since no one else in her family is even nearly as fanatical a baketball/Warriors fan as me, she had identified me as a good candidate for the trip she wanted to make. Plus, as her mom pointed out, it offered a rare opportunity for one-on-one aunt-niece bonding time. IMG_4249

Emma is 12 years old, a wonderful blend of pragmatism and daydreams. She likes pop music, pizza and swimming pools. On the way south on Highway 101, I handed her a map. She looked back, as if to say, “What am I going to do with this?” I need to know where Oracle Arena is, I said. You’re going to find it and tell me how we’ll get there. You’re my navigator, I added. She picked up plenty fast on how to read the map and give rapid fire directions. I’d argue she had better corrective faculties than any GPS unit in a vehicle, but I sensed that modern technology made the exercise seem archaic. I smiled and shook my head as I heard myself say: “People used to consult this kind of map on paper (the ones that take up 2/3 of the front seat and never quite fold back up on their original creases) to get around ALL OF THE TIME before smart phones existed. Reading maps makes YOU smarter. Smart phones actually make you less smart.”

HERE IT IS, she shouted once she’d followed the bay, through the tangle of freeway interchanges, down the Oakland waterfont far enough with her finger. Here’s a pen. Circle it, I instructed her. She did, embellishing with arrows and stars. Then, she moved north on the map, closer to the home of the friends we would stay with. She had quickly identified an aquatics center and the Oakland Zoo as possible things to do, and outlined them in heavy dark ink also. The zoo won out, and good thing it did.

We walked until we got tired, stopping once for ice cream sandwiches. Then we rode the cable car to the top of the hill where the zoo is situated. We giggled and shot selfies. We oohed and ahed over lions, tigers, giraffes, zebras, camels, bison, baboons, chimpanzees, hyenas, sun cats, meer cats and even elephants (which I’m told have some of the more humane captivity conditions – if such a thing is possible.) We whiled away the afternoon. IMG_4288

Then we cued up in line to park outside Oracle Arena, playing rummy and go fish on the dash board while the anticipation built. The arena is supposed to move across the Bay to San Francisco in a few years to attract more and different crowds, I explained. Between that fact and the stellar season the Warriors are having, this was a good year to catch a game.

We parked near the exit, walked across the parking lot and joined the throng waiting to be admitted. Once we were in, Emma found chicken strips, garlic fries and Dip N Dots. I found a fresh barbequed pork Bahn Mi (Vietnamese sandwich). Remember, my goal was quality time with my niece, so I decided not to be much of a regulator and more of an enabler auntie. We were both in heaven. We circled the arena hall, checking out all the swag for sale and in-your-face promotional deals. It was overwhelming and fascinating, much the way I felt strolling through Latin American markets. Somewhere in our loops, I lost track of where we were in relation to our seats. Happily, Emma has been to more live sporting events than me, so she took over and steered her aunt to the right door like a pro.

As the teams streamed out onto the court through the tunnels, the place darkened and then lit with fireworks and fireballs and announcers voices. The thousands of fans undulated like sea anemones. THIS was what I was really after: the home crowd atmosphere you can only know by being there. Emma watched the jersey numbers and dance team closely. And I sat back and tried to soak it all in. The sweaty defense, turnovers and swishes/thunks below, the playbacks after every whistle, the amicable fans in gold and yellow who helped us more than once when our country mouse showed through a little, the chance to do all this with my niece.

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As often happens with the Warriors, a big lead shrunk down to a small one in the last quarter, keeping us on the edges of our seats near the end. But finally, the Warriors persevered, with a 45-point performance from their star player Stephen Curry. The Roaracle lived up to its name and all the hype and fanfare of the Dubs franchise in the past few years.

Maybe most important, I lived up to my title of auntie.

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If I’m really honest with myself and all of you, it’s been a tough couple of months in my reality. There have been some bright spots, sure.

Learning to make mushroom cobbler from the kitchen crew at one of the best restaurants around and then quadrupling its scale and making it happen with lots of local mushrooms in a local brick oven in a friend’s yard to serve to hundreds of locals in support of a local non-profit angling to restore the Klamath River was cool. Grabbing my OCD bull by the horns and beginning to reverse bad habits years in the programming before hearing someone describe me on the radio and self diagnosing – that was empowering. Coffee with my brother and watching the unbelievable rise of this Warriors team has been fun.

But it can be hard to see past the waves when you’re down in the trough. And that’s where I’m at.

In these situations, I remind myself:

Without the lows, we wouldn’t have the highs.

You (and you alone) got yourself through food poisoning on an all night layover through Mexico City. You can get yourself through anything.

How does your pep talk go?

When I was in Bolivia a year ago, I grew mildly obsessed with trying quinoa in any and every possible way…pizza, sandwiches, burritos, sushi, soup, pilaf, beer, cereal puffs, energy bars, creme brulee. The possibilities are endless.

Well, I’ve gotten right past that culinary fling and moved on to a fascination with lemongrass and its uses lately. Last summer this manifested in a batch of lemongrass ice cream. Last month it became lemongrass martinis. And last night it turned into lemongrass martini chicken, using the infused “starter” that I set in motion before Christmas and couldn’t bring myself to jettison. It turns out that soy sauce, vodka and vermouth brown and steam chicken thighs nicely over a bed of halved and smashed lemongrass stalks sizzling away for about half an hour, then served over sticky rice.

See? No photo needed. You can just imagine the sound, smell and taste of that, can’t you? The same way you can close your eyes and summon your own personal picture of what Hobbiton or Rivendell or Mordor are like when reading Tolkien’s books. In fact, wouldn’t you rather do that? I guess it’s a personal goal of mine to be able to write in a way that obviates images outside our brains. Whether I succeed, well, you be the judge… But please, if you’re coming to my house from a major population center, bring some lemongrass! And an appetite.

I might as well have announced I’m moving to Mars with that last post putting a personal moratorium on bacon, based on the reactions I got from friends. But I don’t intend to starve in 2015, or survive eating brown rice on white rice or white rice on brown rice either.