The man Ornette Coleman called the greatest tenor player in the world, Pharoah Sanders, has died at age 81.
He may have been the greatest tenor player in the world, but I tend to think of Pharoah Sanders as the master of spiritual jazz. His extended musical meditation on peace, called “Hum Allah Hum Allah Hum Allah” on his 1969 album “Jewels of Thought,” remains a touchstone of spiritual pacifism for me.
At the beginning of this fifteen minute musical prayer, Sanders says:
“Peace is a united effort for co-ordinated control Peace is the will of the people and the will of the land With peace we can move ahead together We want you to join us this evening in this universal prayer This universal prayer for peace for every man All you got to do is clap your hands. One, two, three….”
And then he chants:
“Prince of peace, won’t you hear our pleas And ring your bells of peace, Let loving never cease.”
That simple chant has stuck in my mind (and heart) ever since I first heard it. It continues to support me in a world that’s inching closer to nuclear war in the Ukraine. That chant, in addition to the warmth and deep spirituality of all of Sanders’ music.
The pagan holiday of Lughnasa traces its roots back to old festivals that celebrated the first fruits of the harvest. In northern Europe, early August was the time when agriculturalists would begin to know what kind of grain crop they’d harvest this year. And they’d begin to have fresh grains again, instead of having to rely on what was left from the previous year’s harvest.
When I’ve lived in New England, as I am once again, Lughnasa becomes a bitter-sweet celebration. More and more fresh vegetables make their appearance at farm stands and farmer’s markets. Raspberries are at their peak, and it won’t be long until we start getting the first summer apples.
Yet at the same time, this is the time of year when you first begin to sense that the days are growing shorter. Some birds begin to drop out of the morning chorus; when I went out for a walk early this morning, I didn’t hear any more Willow Flycatchers. In a drought year like this year, you even begin to see red leaves in early August; we took a long walk on Sunday and here and there were Poison Ivy vines with brilliant red leaves.
It’s both the peak of summer, and the beginning of the turn towards winter.
We stayed up late last night singing around the camp fire. Glenn mostly led the singing, with help from Amy, and drumming by Richard. Jon and I helped out where we could with uke and guitar. At Jean-Pierre’s urging, Milene sang us a traditional French Canadian song. Chantelle and some others went to bed at ten, but we kept going until quiet hour. It was after eleven when we got to sleep.
We had a leisurely morning. We packed up our campsite and loaded up the car. I enjoy packing up campsites and loading cars, so this proved to be a pleasurable morning for me. Then we ate an early lunch at a picnic table. Richard happened to be there, and we had a long talk, covering everything from Gilles Deleuze and the relationship between colonialism and religion on the one hand, to updating each other on the details of our personal lives on the other hand.
After lunch, I went out into the woods behind Ferry Beach Park Association, while Carol-the-extrovert went off to talk with people. I took a number of photographs of plants and other organisms which I uploaded to iNaturalist. I was sad to see that nearly all the Eastern Hemlocks (Tsuga heterophylla) were infested with Hemlock Woolly Aldegids (Adelges tsugae), an invasive insect from Asia. Many hemlocks were badly infested, and I also saw several dead hemlocks. I have also noticed that there were almost no Black-throated Green Warblers nesting in the woods this year, in contrast to past years when they were numerous. I wonder if the Black-throated Green Warbler prefers hemlocks for nesting, so that the loss of the hemlocks may mean the loss of the warblers.
On a more pleasant note, I came across a Glossy Ibis in the pond just to the north of Ferry Beach Park Association. I’ve never seen a Glossy Ibis there.
We began driving south at a quarter to four. I asked Carol if she’d mind driving because I didn’t think I was alert enough to drive. It was a good thing she drove, because I slept for most of the three hour drive.
We arrived at our summer rental at a quarter to seven. We got dinner at Lee’s Market in Westport. We met one of our neighbors, a skunk who appears to be living under the house. We feel quite settled in, and now we’re ready for bed.
We’re getting ready to move to Massachusetts, some 3,150 miles away (give or take a couple of hundred miles).
Right now, we’re packing all our belongings into four moving containers that are approximately 8 feet deep, 5 feet wide, and 7 feet high, or 1120 cubic feet. When we moved to California in 2009, we fit everything into a moving container that was 8 feet by 8 feet by 12 feet, or 768 cubic feet. Somehow in the last 13 years we’ve accumulated another 352 cubic feet of belongings. We would be poster children for consumer capitalism, except that many of our belongings have been scrounged or otherwise obtained outside of consumer capitalism.
We’re using a lot of cardboard boxes to pack up all these belongings. I find myself astonished at the number of cardboard boxes we’re packing up, and schlepping out to the moving containers, and then stacking up. After a week of this, my muscles feel a little sore. I don’t like owning all this stuff. But I have enjoyed spending this past week not sitting at a desk, or logging onto videoconference meetings, but instead engaging in constant physical activity. I’ve lost an inch around my waist, and I feel fit and strong.
We’ve also been giving lots of stuff away. Carol is part of the local Buy Nothing group, and they’ve taken some of the stuff we don’t want to move. One woman just came up and mostly filled the back of her small SUV with things she wanted to take away, including a Tree Mallow (Lavatera sp.) we had growing in a galvanized metal washtub. Another of Carol’s friends is coming up this afternoon to take away an eight foot high potted bamboo plant. Carol has also sold some clothes on Poshmark, and we’ve taken other things to Goodwill. There is a thriving network of exchange that exists partly within the dominant capitalist economy (Poshmark, Goodwill), and partly as a non-capitalist parallel economy (the Buy Nothing Project).
Time to get back to working, putting cardboard boxes into moving containers. Watch this space for further updates….
In the 2003-2004 school year, I drove to work every day from Oakland to Kensington along Grizzly Peaks Boulevard. The road winds through the Berkely Hills, rising to almost 1,500 feet above the level of San Francisco Bay, just a few miles away. That commute had the most spectacular views of any commute I’ve ever driven. On my way home from work, I could stop at a number of roadside pullouts, and admire a spectacular view of the Bay, the Golden Gate, and the Pacific Ocean beyond.
Today we went to visit my cousin Nancy, who lives in North Berkeley. Nancy suggested we drive home via Grizzly Peaks. We wound up on the highest point of the road right after sunset. The city has blocked off the roadside pullouts and posted No Parking signs everywhere, but scores of people parked along the road anyway to enjoy the last red-gold light of the setting sun over the Pacific Ocean. We pulled over (right in front of a No Parking sign) to enjoy one of our last views of the sun setting in the ocean. In another month, we’ll be in New England, on the other side of the continent, watching the sun rising up out of the ocean….
At 5 a.m., I got up to make breakfast. The temperature was about 45 degrees — cool enough for a sweater, a jacket, and a warm hat. After eating breakfast and packing up, I spent some time looking at the huge mistletoes growing on a nearby oak tree. Two of them must have been more than fifteen feet long, huge dark masses hanging among the branches of the oak.
I started hiking at 6:25, climbing up and then turning right to hike down the Middle Ridge Trail. In about three quarters of an hour, I passed the junction with Fish Trail, then went up a little knob through a stand of Bigberry Manzanita (Arctostaphylos glauca). The dramatic contrast between the rich green leaves and dark-red twisted trunks of the manzanitas was quite beautiful. More visual drama was to come. As the trail wound down Middle Ridge, every so often I’d catch sight of a huge bank of white fog filling the valleys beyond Poverty Flats.
Walking through such a landscape didn’t leave much room for other thoughts, which was fine with me. I looked at flowers, and walked, and that’s about it.
At about twenty past eight, suddenly I heard the sound of running water, and then rounding a bend I could see the Middle Fork of Coyote Creek. After crossing the creek, I dropped my pack, and spent half an hour resting. An Anna’s Hummingbird buzzed close to my head, and lots of other birds were singing in the brush along the water. A female Wood Duck was startled when I walked too close to her, and flew low along the water to another hiding place.
Poverty Flats Road climbs fairly steeply up from Coyote Creek, rising about 800 feet in a mile and a half. I took my time, pausing frequently to look at flowers, or to admire the view of Middle Ridge across the valley of the Little Fork of Coyote Creek. A couple of state park trucks drove down the road; those were the only two people I saw for most of the morning. Then once I got to the junction of Forest Trail and Corral Trail, at about 11:45, I passed several groups of people — dayhikers and backpackers starting the Memorial Day weekend early.
At ten past noon, I arrived back at park headquarters. While I ate my lunch, I talked with one of the park rangers. Then it was time to head home before the Memorial Day traffic got bad. And as I drove north up Highway 101 to San Jose, I could see that it was already stop-and-go traffic headed south.
Coe State Park is a magical place, and I decided to return there one last time before we move to Massachusetts. I left the park headquarters at 11:50 a.m., and began hiking up Monument Trail. It was slow going with a full pack, but even at my slow pace I overtook an amateur herpetologist who showed my a Southern Alligator Lizard he was photographing. Naturalists walk even more slowly than old backpackers.
After four-tenths of a mile, I turned onto Hobbs Road. As I passed the Frog Lake campsite, I stopped for a moment to talk with a parent and child who were just setting up camp there. I asked the child if they enjoyed Frog Lake, and they told me they liked throwing rocks at the sunfish to “bonk them on the head.” I explained that the Bluegills were probably close to shore guarding nesting sites, and that it wasn’t a good idea to throw rocks at them when they were trying to raise the next generation of fish. The child was not fully convinced, but their parent, sotto voce, thanked me for reinforcing that message.
I climbed up to Middle Ridge Trail, for a total elevation gain of 800 feet in about 2 miles, turned right on the Middle Ridge Trail, and walked down to the Two Oaks campsite. I laid out my ground cloth and sleeping bag, emptied my pack of everything except food and water, then went back up to Hobbs Road. As I walked down the switchbacks of Hobbs Road, I admired the view of Blue Ridge rising steeply up on the other side of the Middle Fork of Coyote Creek.
Although it’s late in the season, there were still quite a few flowers in bloom. Patches of Elegant Clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata) made a faint pink wash on some steep hillsides. Yellow Mariposa Lily (Calochortus luteus), Butterfly Mariposa Lily (Calochortus venustus), and Globe Lily (Calochortus albus) stood out in the dry brown grasses. Dramatic white clusters of flowers covered California Buckeye trees (Aesculus californica). I had hoped to hike all the way down to Coyote Creek, but it was getting late and my legs were tired. Discretion being the better part of valor, about two thirds of the way to the creek I decided to turn around.
Back at the campsite, I could hear Wild Turkeys gobbling up the hillside above, and down towards Frog Lake. One got louder and louder, and a big tom walked within 50 feet of the campsite, stalking angrily along, presumably looking for a rival to confront. I made dinner, walked down to Pajahuello Spring to fill up my water bottles, and then sat and enjoyed the evening. I was in my sleeping bag before dark. I awoke later in the evening to see the Big Dipper overhead, but fell back asleep almost immediately.
We went for a hike in Henry W. Coe State Park today. There were still quite a few flowers in bloom, of which my favorite was the Butterfly Mariposa Lily:
The terrain was the usual steep hillsides of the Coastal Ranges:
The weather was ideal: 65-75 degrees, with a steady northerly breeze. We walked about 8-3/4 miles with 1360 total elevation gain, enough of a workout to make it seem worth while, but we took it slow so we didn’t get burned out. Just about a perfect day.
The highlight of a trip to Ano Nuevo State Park is supposed to be the sight of hundreds of Elephant Seals. But when Carol and I visited the park today, what I enjoyed most was seeing Bank Swallows building nests in a bluff high above the beach. I watched through binoculars as the swallows whizzed around the bluff, and in and out of their nesting holes. Every once in a while, a small shower of sand would come out of one of the next holes, presumably because one of the birds was doing some excavation work inside the hole.
On my way home from a ministers’ retreat this afternoon, I stopped at Ano Nuevo State Park. The reason most people visit the park is to view the Elephant Seals that live there. And what’s not to like about these charismatic megafauna?
Today’s visit was too short. I’ve already convinced Carol to accompany back to the park tomorrow. (Although, to be completely honest, my primary motivation is seeing the nesting Bank Swallows I didn’t have time for today. Don’t tell Carol.)