california

Exit 226. This kind of thing doesn’t happen here.

Last Thursday night (January 10, 2019), Natalie Corona, a police officer in Davis, was shot while investigating a routine car accident.  A bystander rode by on a bicycle, shot the officer from behind, and began firing indiscriminately in multiple directions. Eventually, the suspect was found in his home, about a block away from the accident, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

This tragedy hit a little close to home for me… literally, because it happened just 30 miles from my house.  Not only that, but as I have said multiple times, I lived in Davis for seven years (1994-2001). I still have friends who live there, and I go back fairly often to see some of them and also for football and basketball games at the university.  I feel more connected to the community than many people who just moved there for school, because I volunteered with a church youth group for over half of the time that I lived there. And I’m going to be meeting a friend for lunch in Davis later today, in fact, for reasons unrelated to Officer Corona’s death.

Since this happened, I haven’t talked to any of my Davis friends (other than finalizing today’s lunch plans), but from what I remember about Davis residents, and from a few Facebook and Instagram posts I’ve read, the community seems pretty shocked by this, as I would expect.  There is a culture among long-time Davis residents that this kind of thing doesn’t happen here in this quiet little town. I’m not trying to say that there is anything wrong with this kind of thinking. Typically, Davis does not have much crime beyond drunken college shenanigans, and people aren’t used to this kind of thing happening there.

I started writing this about 24 hours before I published it, and two important details worth noting have emerged in that time.  Investigators found a suicide note indicating a motive, in which the suspect said that he believed that he was sensitive to the ultrasonic devices used by police to stop dogs from barking, that no one took his complaints seriously, and that he could not continue living because of that.  The suspect had shown no outward signs of mental illness before this, although he did have a recent misdemeanor conviction from getting in a fight with a coworker. Also, a student group at UC Davis (not representing the university as a whole) released a statement trying to stir up controversy about the relationship between law enforcement and certain communities.  I’m not even going to dignify that with any more of a response than this; that might come in a later post. I don’t want to debate the role of law enforcement in a community or in a society right now. It’s not the time.

Even though people tend to think that things like that can’t happen where they are, the truth is that it can happen anywhere.  I lived in Davis during the time of the Columbine shooting in Colorado, and I remember the youth pastor at church saying that he had been to that area before and could see a lot of similarities with Davis, with so many overworked parents and disconnected and angry teens and a culture that doesn’t expect it.  This wasn’t the same kind of situation as what happened in Columbine, of course. This was the act of one adult man with misguided motives.

But one thing is clear to me from all of this: evil is everywhere, and we all need Jesus.

My prayers are with Davis and with Officer Corona’s family (they lived in a rural area in the next county to the north of where this happened), as well as with any anti-law enforcement activists who are using this tragedy to create controversy, because they have been hurt too, and they need healing.  And my prayers are with anyone who disapproves of the concept of prayers, for the same reason.

Advertisements

Exit 224. I need to be patient with myself.

It’s time for another hiatus.

Life is just overwhelming right now.  I’ve been really busy with the usual work responsibilities.  My schedule got disrupted a couple weeks ago, with two days of school canceled because of smoke blowing down from the recent fire in Butte County.  (Just so you know, I’m about 100 miles from any areas that were actively burning, so I was never in imminent danger.  But the fire was so big and the wind so strong that smoke spread all over Jefferson and northern and central California.)  Although those two days gave me plenty of time to relax and prepare for my trip to visit my family for Thanksgiving, it also gave me more work to do this last week to adjust for having missed those two days.  I also have a lot to do around the house.  Laundry and dishes pile up so quickly, and I have a few home repairs I need to address as soon as possible.  Life definitely isn’t all work; I’ve been making time for fun too.  It’s December, which means lots of fun holiday events with friends, in addition to the usual game night group and my Dungeons & Dragons game.  The UC Davis football team is also in the playoffs at their level (NCAA Division I-FCS) for the first time since the school’s athletic program moved up to that level in 2004.  We won, and going to that game was totally worth it, but it also took up half of my day.  (There are eight teams still alive in the FCS playoffs, and there won’t be any more home games for UC Davis, so I won’t have any more games to go to this year.)

I need to take time for myself sometimes.  I need to be patient with myself that I can’t get everything done.  And I need to realize that sometimes it’s okay to spend money to get something repaired, rather than trying to do half of the things myself, and not doing a good job of it, and letting the other half of the things go until they cause worse problems down the road.  That’s especially true now that money isn’t as tight since I’m not barely scraping by on a private school salary anymore.

So in the interest of not trying to do too much, I’m going to take a few weeks off from this blog.  Whatever holidays you might be celebrating during this time of year, I hope they go well, and I’ll see all of you in 2019.

Exit 205. Here is what needs to happen.

This month, a ballot initiative to divide California into three states qualified to be on the November ballot.  One state (still called California) would include the Central Coast and Los Angeles; a new state of Northern California would include the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, and everything to the north; and a new state of Southern California would include Fresno, Bakersfield, the southern Sierra Nevada, the rural area east of the Sierras, the Inland Empire, Orange County, and San Diego.

As I’ve said before (here, here, here) I have mixed feelings these days about my home state.  And on the surface, this three state plan doesn’t look like a very good idea.  Looking at voter trends and recent elections, we would be replacing one liberal state with two liberal states and a swing state that has been trending more liberal recently (with Southern California being the swing state).  It also seems like some of the regions that would be in the same state after this split have little in common.  This plan puts Salinas and Los Angeles in the same state, Fresno and San Diego in the same state, and San Francisco and Redding in the same state.

It should also be noted that any plan to create a new state would also have to be approved by the federal Congress.  Also, the Constitution says that no new state can be formed within the boundaries of an existing state without the approval of that state’s legislature, and some have questioned whether a ballot initiative approved by the voters counts as approval by the state legislature.  Ballot initiatives did not exist in 1787 when the Constitution was written, and this kind of thing has never happened before.  If I remember right, only two states have ever been created from territory already part of existing states: Maine, in the 1820s, whose statehood was part of an extensive compromise to kick the question of slavery down the road; and West Virginia, created during the very unique and extreme situation of the Civil War, by Union loyalists in the mountains after Virginia left the Union.

There has been a movement off and on dating to the 1940s to create a new State of Jefferson in far northern California; historically, the movement also included parts of rural southern Oregon, although the more recent Jefferson movements are much more active in California than in Oregon.  I would support a State of Jefferson, and if it happened I would seriously consider moving there.  The rural parts of far northern California have a very different culture than the rest of California, and the rest of California pretty much only wants them because they have water.  But this current plan is not Jefferson.  This current plan lumps Jefferson into the same state as the San Francisco Bay Area, where the Jefferson conservative voices will be drown out by liberals, just as they are now.

Here is what needs to happen: some kind of convention where delegates from all over the state sit down and spend a minimum of several days, probably more, hashing out very specific details of how to split the state. How many new states? What are the new boundaries? How would the water be divided up? Would any of the new states be entitled to any water stored in reservoirs in a different new state? Would any existing counties be split, or would county lines stay the same such that each county only ends up in one new state? Would any state parks need to be split? Would any of the new states owe each other money for any of the infrastructure that is or isn’t in their new state? Would there be a grace period under which residents of pre-split California will get in-state tuition at all of the public universities that existed in pre-split California, whether or not they end up in the same state after the split?  (I haven’t read the text of the proposed plan, so I don’t know how many of these details have been spelled out explicitly at this point.)

Before any plan goes to the voters, or to Congress, all of these details need to be worked out. And everyone needs to realize that no new state or subculture is going to get everything they want. It will take some give and take among all parties involved, just like the drafting of the United States Constitution did. This won’t be perfect, but if something like this does happen, it is the best way to end up with something that will be somewhat better than what we have now.

I don’t have a lot of faith that this will happen, though. The kind of people who are in power in California don’t want to do anything to give up that power.  And, let’s be honest, the different subcultures within California really don’t like or respect each other, so they aren’t likely to want to make any compromises or concessions.  The liberal populated areas of California kind of hold all the cards here.  If you were to tell someone from, say, San Francisco that there is a people group who are not represented in their government, and that their government oppresses them and steals their natural resources, the San Franciscan would most likely be on the side of increased autonomy for that people group.  But then when they find out that this people group is gun-carrying conservatives from Jefferson, all of a sudden the San Franciscan may say that they don’t deserve autonomy, because they need enlightened liberal San Franciscans to force them out of their backward ways.  The only substantial thing Jefferson really has is water, and since the dams and canals were built by California, Jefferson can’t really cut off Los Angeles from taking their water without starting a violent conflict.  I really don’t want it to come to that.

The big question for me, however, is do I vote for this three state plan?  It isn’t perfect, I don’t know that I’d even call it good, but is it better than the mess we have now?  I really don’t know.  It’s something I’ll be thinking about.  And I’ll have to at least skim the text of the proposal.

Exit 204. I’m sitting on a train from Sacramento to San Jose right now with no idea what to write.

I’m sitting on a train from Sacramento to San Jose right now with no idea what to write.

Someone I know just got on the train in Davis.  I would say that that was unexpected, but maybe it’s not.  Since June of 2017, I have made three round trips on Amtrak, and twice someone else I know ended up on the same train as me.  Maybe it’s just that I know a lot of people.

The Wi-Fi on the train is actually working today.

I made a list of goals for the summer, as I said I would do last week.  I haven’t made much progress on it, but that’s okay, because I have plenty of time.  I did make small dents in the total number of miles I want to run and bike before I go back to work,   I thought about doing one of my bigger goals (go to a Giants game) last week, but I backed out at the last minute on the grounds that I was better off taking some down time, starting my Teacher Summer with a week and a half of dead time, then going to visit my family (hence today’s train ride, which will be followed by a bus ride from San Jose to Salinas), then tackling my big adventures after that.  But after watching the game I didn’t go to from home, I wish I had gone, because the Giants came back from a two run deficit in the 9th inning to force extra innings and win in the 10th.

The aforementioned dead time was just the right balance of fun, relaxing, and productive.  And now I get four days with my parents, not having to worry about things like making dinner every night.

I left a pile of dirty dishes in the sink at home.  Probably not the best idea.  I hope I don’t come home to a big stinky mess.  I was going to put them in the dishwasher before I left, but there were still clean dishes in the dishwasher from yesterday.  And I literally didn’t have time to put the clean dishes away, because I had a train to catch.  Oh well.  It’s not the end of the world.

I’m now somewhere in the marshlands between Suisun and Martinez, and I still have no idea what to write about.  So I guess this is it.  This is your post for the week.  Have a great week, everyone.

Exit 200. Emotional clutter.

As I said recently, I have been wondering again whether or not it is time to cut my losses and start over somewhere else other than California.  This is a very difficult decision, and I have a lot to lose if I don’t make the right decision.  It isn’t as simple as, say, getting groceries from a different store or taking your money to another bank.  Those decisions can be reversed with relative ease compared to leaving a job I love and the only state I’ve really known as home.

I’m not here to announce a conclusive decision.  But in thinking and praying about this over the last few weeks; I have come to one important conclusion: My life is too cluttered, both physically and emotionally.

Physical clutter is easy to identify and remove. Put stuff away when I’m done with it.  Make a place to put things away instead of just tossing them on a table.  Throw away or donate things I don’t need that take up space.  Although physical clutter is easy to identify, it is very time consuming to deal with completely, but this is something I can work on over time.

Emotional clutter is a bit more complicated.  When I say emotional clutter, I mean things that are clouding my head and my moods and feelings that don’t need to be there.  Emotional clutter takes a variety of forms.  All the hundreds of people who I follow on social media just because we were acquaintances briefly in the recent past, despite the fact that they are not the kind of people I would normally be friends with, are emotional clutter.  Situations in which I put myself and stress myself out about, despite the fact that these situations are not enjoyable to me, that is emotional clutter.  Pages and blogs that I follow because I used to know the author, but which cover topics that are of no interest to me, those are emotional clutter.

I have been spending time the last couple weeks fiddling with my Facebook settings, making some tough decisions about who can see my posts and whose posts I see.  I have also been thinking a bit about how, and with whom, I spend my time, and if I need to cut certain activities and places out of my life.  These aren’t easy decisions.  Cutting people out of my life isn’t in my nature.  I spent too much of my childhood and young adult years being lonely and not having many friends, and it hurts me to think of friendship as expendable.

A few months ago, I wrote (part 1, part 2) about having unfriended five people on Facebook in one day, something I don’t believe I had ever done before.  One of these people was SN1604, the girl I dated off and on in 2015.  I made this decision on the grounds that, even though there was a time when SN1604 and I were very close, and there were times that it was looking like we would stay good friends despite our history, her more recent behavior has shown that it was not realistic for me to hope that things would ever be like that again.  The few times we did communicate in 2017, for example, all started with me hoping that maybe we would be close again, and ended a few minutes later with her not replying to a message in a conversation she technically started.  I never see her in person anymore, and keeping her in my life on social media was just causing more disappointment and pain.

I am realizing that I can, and should, apply the SN1604 Doctrine in other areas of life.  Maybe some of the activities that I enjoy aren’t worth it, because the other people involved with those activities are not the kind of people I want to be friends with.  Maybe some people I’ve known for decades aren’t worth staying in touch with, because all they want to do is spew hateful political rhetoric.  These are tough decisions, though, because there are things I enjoy about these activities themselves, and some of the people spewing hateful political rhetoric were a big part of my life at one point.  I don’t know.  But at least I’m asking the right questions now.

Exit 195. I definitely need a new month.

It is Easter Sunday.  Or Resurrection Day, as it is called by those who want to focus on remembering Jesus Christ’s resurrection instead of the pagan origins of the name Easter and the rabbit and egg traditions.  It is also the first day of April.  This is the first time in my lifetime that Easter has fallen on April 1 (the last time was 1956), and it couldn’t have worked out more perfectly.  Both the pagan and Christian traditions of Easter are connected to the concept of rebirth and new life, and I definitely need a new life and a new month after the terrible March I had.

As I posted two weeks ago, it hasn’t been all bad.  But some things continued to go downhill after that post.  I feel emotionally drained and beat up after this last month, and something that has been happening here that has made national news (which I’d rather not discuss right now) has gotten me regretting my decision twelve years ago not to leave California.  I was so mad a few days ago that I even changed all the graphics for this blog for the first time ever, changing the icon and logo from a California highway route sign to a generic US highway route sign, and changing the cover photo on the Facebook page from the Bear Flag to the Stars and Stripes flag.  I don’t know if I want to be Californian anymore.

I wrote in the early days of this blog about my mixed feelings about California, and how I feel like California is home, and California is in my blood, despite not fitting in with California culture.  I’m too conservative for the dominant culture in California, and the state government continues to find ways to express their open hostility and contempt for conservatives and libertarians.  And whenever I share these feelings, my friends who once lived in California but do not anymore always tell me about how glad they are that they moved.

So what is stopping me?  A lot.  I actually do like my job, and teachers are not paid well in the more conservative states, from what I know.  I have this house that I am responsible for.  And I am not convinced that I really would be better off anywhere else.  I fear that in the more conservative parts of the country, I would be out of place for not owning a gun, not knowing how to work on cars, and not being a fisherman.  It would be hard to make social connections in a more rural area without having a family of my own.  And while I am definitely not a liberal Democrat, I am not particularly a fan of President Trump either.

So is it time to leave California?  Would I be better off somewhere else?  I don’t know.  I just don’t know.

 

 

Exit 174. I enjoy traveling by train.

My twenty-five-mile commute to work runs parallel to a railroad track, used both by freight trans and an Amtrak route (for my readers outside the USA, that means a passenger train) that runs twice per day in each direction.  A few miles down the highway, I cross the track, and sometimes, if the timing works out just right, I can see the Amtrak train, and I end up following it for about another 15 miles until my exit.  Then, shortly after my exit, I cross under the railroad track again, and if the timing is still just right, I see the train one last time above me.  Last Thursday, I saw the train following me along my drive, but by the time I got to the underpass, I had gotten stuck waiting at a stop sign, and the train had already passed.

I am discovering more and more that I enjoy traveling by train.  I’ve often used BART, the regional electric commuter trains in and around San Francisco and Oakland, to get to Giants games or other occasional events in San Francisco for which I don’t want to deal with traffic or finding an overpriced place to park.  I went to a concert in the city a few weeks ago, and I took BART and then connected to a local bus, and I didn’t even miss the bus or get on the wrong bus or anything like that.  Me 1, San Francisco 0.  The local light rail in Sacramento is my usual method of transportation to get to Kings games when I don’t have to pick up someone who doesn’t have a way to get to games or won’t use public transportation.  I have also used light rail and buses many times to get home from long one-way bike rides.  And in June, I rode Amtrak for the first time, going to visit my family.

I think I would use public transportation more often, except that it usually does not go where I’m going when I need to be there.  When I say this to many people, they proceed to criticize the public transportation system in this region compared to others, or public transportation in the USA compared to other countries.  But this is not the issue.  The issue is that my commute is not along a common commuting corridor.  It is theoretically possible for me to get to work using three buses, run by three different agencies that do not issue transfers, with inconvenient layovers in between.  I could also just do the long bus route, getting to and from the stops by bike instead of two other buses.  However, that would still be about three and a half miles on my bike each way, which I do not like to do in work clothes or without being able to shower afterward, especially on hot days.  (I am thinking, however, that it might be useful to try this, just to see how it works.  I could be sure to arrive early enough to clean up a little and/or change clothes before the students arrive.  Even if this does not become my daily commute, this may come in handy in a pinch if I am ever without a car for any reason.)  As for using public transportation for trips that are not work, my social life usually involves doing things late at night, leaving me with no way to get home on public transportation.  Either that, or I am rushing from one place to another and do not have time to wait for a bus or train.

I’ve already reserved my ticket on Amtrak to visit my family for Christmas.  It’s longer and more expensive than driving, but to me, not unreasonably so.  And I’ve come to realize that maybe I don’t like driving as much as I thought I did, or as much as I used to.  As a roadgeek, driving is fun.  But sometimes it’s also fun to just sit back and stare out the window at the scenery going by.  And I’m definitely looking forward to doing that on the way home for Christmas.  It’ll be dark on the way back; the city where my parents live only gets one train per day in each direction, and the one taking me home leaves around 6:30pm, long after sunset in December.  But I’ll be bringing my Christmas presents home, so I’ll probably have some new movies to watch on my laptop for when it’s too dark to see outside.

Exit 168. Just part of being an introvert.

I took a week off from this blog… I had a lot going on, and I wasn’t feeling well for a few days.

The stuff I had going on involved seeing Carbon Leaf in San Francisco.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve seen this band many times, including just about every time they’ve toured nationwide.  Usually, their tour only takes them as close as San Francisco, and more often than not it happens to be on a weeknight.  I got home from San Francisco at 2am and got four hours of sleep that night, among the reasons I’ve been so exhausted lately.

I left for the concert right after work, with plans to stop in Concord or Pleasant Hill or Walnut Creek for dinner.  It would be around 5pm when I got there, and I know my way around that area because I lived there briefly.  At around 4:30, I decided on a whim to pull over and post on Facebook and Instagram exactly where I would be stopping for dinner.  I said if any of my friends in that area saw this post and were free, please come say hi sometime between 5 and 6.  I’ve done this kind of thing a few times before, but this one ended up being different, because someone actually showed up and joined me for dinner.  (Not just some-ONE, it was actually a whole family of four.)  It was nice to know that someone actually took the time to join me.

Yesterday, just nine days after the Carbon Leaf trip, I found myself in the Bay Area again, although not specifically in the same place.  This time, I didn’t post that I would be passing through anyone else’s area, and I didn’t invite anyone to join me.  Part of the difference here was just logistical.  The plan for this trip was to catch up with someone I hadn’t seen in a while over lunch, so I wasn’t stopping to eat anywhere.  I also wasn’t passing directly through anywhere I used to live, or anywhere with a high concentration of people I hadn’t seen in a while.  I didn’t want my friend to think that she wasn’t a priority.  And I had plans back home that evening, so while I wasn’t in a hurry to get home, I knew that any additional stops I made might mean less time with my friends back home.

But sometimes when I’m passing through places where friends live, it isn’t that I don’t have time to see them.  Sometimes it’s just part of being an introvert.  Sometimes I’m really looking forward to a long drive by myself, getting lost in the music and the scenery.  Sometimes I feel anxious about trying to make plans with people, for no good reason other than that I’m an introvert.

I just hope that, when this happens, my friends who I didn’t try to stop and visit don’t feel slighted or left out.  I promise that isn’t it.  I have friends spread out all over California, and all over the world for that matter.  Someone asked me once what I would wish for if I could have one wish, and the best answer I thought of was a private jet with an unlimited fuel supply, or some other form of fast and cheap transportation, so I could visit distant friends and family more often.

But sometimes I just feel like being alone.

Those of you who are my friend on Facebook, or who follow me on Instagram, know that I like to take pictures of scenery or landmarks when I’m not home.  If you see me taking a picture of something that is near you, and you’re available to hang out, please speak up.  Let me know if you want me to stop and see you.  And keep inviting me to things.  Similarly, let me know if you’re ever in my area and you feel like hanging out.  But please accept the fact that I might not be able to, and I might not be in the mood for it for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with you.  I really hope that this doesn’t come across as arrogant or selfish, because that’s not what I mean at all.  When this happens, let’s talk about another time that might work out to get together.  Advance notice works better with my schedule.

Thank you, friends.

Exit 165. Torn loyalties.

The current controversy over the removal of monuments of historical figures associated with the Confederate States (for my non-American readers, that would be the rebels of the American Civil War of 1861-65, who lost), as well as a recent trip to visit relatives north of here, got me thinking.  During my travels in 2005, I visited a number of Civil War museums and battle sites, and saw firsthand the perspective that many outside the South tend to forget, that the history of that era was much more nuanced than a simple concept of evil white supremacist racists vs. heroic progressive good guys.  In addition to the issues over slavery, the war was also a battle over the rights of states versus the federal government, and of two different lifestyles and economies competing for a place in the growing nation.

A number of my friends were sharing articles last week about Robert E. Lee and his complex history.  He served for many years in the Union Army before leaving to join the Rebels.  He was initially opposed to a war between the states.  In the months leading up to the war, seven states had formally voted to secede from the United States of America, despite the fact that there was no legal means for doing so.  Shortly after the war broke out, four more states voted to secede, including Lee’s home state of Virginia.  Lee, with torn loyalties, eventually resigned his position with the Union Army on the grounds that he was loyal to his home state and could not fight against it.

I understand completely how one would have torn loyalties.  Since the election of President Donald Trump, there has been much talk here in California about wanting to leave the Union, on the grounds that the current administration does not reflect California values.  Where would my loyalties lie in that case?  I’m not a big fan of this current administration, but I’m even less of a fan of many of these so-called California values.  Would I stay loyal to my beautiful home state, and continue to hope that it might somehow change from within?  Or would I stay loyal to the nation and its Constitution, even if it meant leaving my home behind?

And what if the State of Jefferson were to happen?  In the early 1940s, the counties along the border of California and Oregon began talking about leaving the two states and forming a new state.  A few minor protests happened, but the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into World War II stopped the momentum.  In recent decades, talk of this movement has revived, particularly in the northern and eastern rural areas of California.  It is doubtful that this would ever happen in the current environment.  In order for a state to split, the pre-split government of the state would have to approve (as well as the U.S Congress), and California’s liberal legislature would not approve the creation of a conservative state that would add Senators and electoral votes for things that go against these so-called California values.  But if California were to leave the Union, especially if there were an armed rebellion involved, the federal government may be more likely to accept a new state that broke off of California and stayed loyal to the Union, much as how West Virginia formed during the Civil War.

But if somehow Jefferson were to become a state while California remained in the Union (or was readmitted after a failed rebellion), would I stay in my home and hope for change from within, or would I move north to a state that more reflected my values and did not spend my tax dollars on things that I am morally opposed to?

I don’t know.

Would I still want to move to Jefferson if it attracted the most toxic kind of activists who vote for conservative politicians, like the ones carrying torches and Nazi flags in Charlottesville?  Would it be worth it to find a new home if I had more of those people around?  I don’t know.

Every state and every community has a different history and culture.  Every monument means something different.  So instead of forming a mob to tear these monuments down, what we should be doing is studying history, and learning how people in the community feel about the situation, especially people different from us.  Then, an informed decision should be made, calmly, by the people in the community, not outsiders with an agenda.

 

 

Exit 149. Everyone and everything tells a story.

I went to Folsom Lake yesterday.  Like many of the lakes in California, Folsom Lake is actually a man-made reservoir.  It was created in 1955 by a dam on the American River in the foothills above Sacramento, just upstream from the city of Folsom and the prison made famous by Johnny Cash right around that same time.  (Historical note: Johnny Cash was never an inmate at Folsom Prison; he wrote the song after watching a documentary about Folsom Prison.  He did, however, perform concerts for inmates at the prison much later.)

A friend who moved away a few years ago is in town this weekend, and she invited some of her Sacramento-area friends to a picnic at the lake.  It was a good day.  When we actually ventured out to the shore of the lake itself, my friend’s dog was fascinated with all the sticks and twigs and branches on the ground.  Not only would she play fetch with them, but she would sometimes pick up a stick just lying on the ground in her mouth and move it somewhere else.  It was funny to watch.

But why were the sticks there in the first place?  The entire shore of the lake was lined with piles of dead wood, and there was driftwood visible floating on the surface of the water as well.  I have been to Folsom Lake twice in 2017 now, to two different parts of the lake, and it was like this in both places.  It has never been like this before in any of the other times in the past that I have been to the lake.

This winter has been very wet by California standards, with lots of rain in the valley and snow in the mountains.  This rain has been much needed, after four extremely dry years and one average year.  The water that collects in Folsom Lake is runoff from the mountains upstream from it, and with so little precipitation, the lake level had been dropping for the last several years.  A few months ago, a series of very wet storms hit California, and the lake filled to capacity.  Water rushed off the hillsides into the three forks of the American River and down into the lake, and these streams of water carried with them years of dead wood piling up on the floor of the drought-stricken forest.  Although the lake is still nearly full, it has begun to empty again since those storms hit, and some of the debris floating on the surface was left beached as the waters receded, like soap scum on the edge of a draining bathtub.

Everyone and everything tells a story.  Even something as mundane as a pile of driftwood has a deeper meaning.  Maybe we would understand each other better and be happier if we were more willing to listen to these stories.