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For about ten days now, James and I have been so busy cleaning up the barn and attached buildings up here on the land that I have not had time to get online, except to check e-mail briefly.

This slow dialup connection has its advantages and disadvantages. I don’t like waiting for webpages to load and I can’t send or receive large files, but it’s actually been nice to spend less time on the computer and simply live my life. Especially here on this beautiful land.

There is an incredible amount of work to be done here; we will never live long enough to finish.

I need to learn how to allocate my time more efficiently, so that I can achieve better balance amongst my various activities. Do a bit of work on the land, practice my various musical instruments and compose, AND manage to keep in contact with the world on the computer.

James has made a huge amount of progress cleaning the barn, while I’ve concentrated on cleaning the inside of the studio room (where my grand piano and harps and computer station will be located), the kitchen and the bunkhouse. Since the barn floor is dirt, we track it through the two entrances to the attached outbuildings. The place is dusty and dirty from years of neglect, and it took several days to sweep and then vacuum.

I also washed all the windows and had a deja-vu moment when I realized that I had done the same thing six years ago when we were going to move up here. I’m sure the windows had not been washed in all that time.

I am nearly recovered from my bad case of bronchitis. I’m still coughing up some phlegm (TMI!), but it is increasingly thin.

We go down to the river every day around 3 p.m. when the air temperature is at its hottest (over 90) to wash off all the sweat and grime from working in the barn. Ahh, cool, refreshing, soothing crystal-clear water!

It’s fun to jump in with all our clothes on so that they are washed along with our bodies. We scrub our shirts with a bar of castille soap, and then lay them out to dry on the big rocks on our private beach.

We just bought nice river “booties” along with goggles which will be fun to use for the first time today.

I’ve been practicing horn daily and getting back in decent playing shape. I am about to join the Sacramento local musicians union and have contacted one of the main music contractors in town. He is offering me work with the Sacramento Philharmonic for their opening concert in October: Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. I am excited about that!

James and I will be in Sacramento next week to dog-sit Riley, my brother’s dog, who just had surgery on one leg. My brother and his wife are visiting their daughter up at Humboldt State. She’s turning 21 — so hard to believe! She’s all grown up…

I’ll undoubtedly take advantage of my brother’s high-speed internet connection while in Sacramento. Hooray! Maybe I’ll get some writing done then, and will be better able to read people’s blogs again.

I’ve got a LOT of catching up to do!

Today, telephone service was installed at the barn on “The Land In The Woods”, so after two weeks of disconnection from the Internet I am finally connected to the outside world again.

In a very SLOW fashion — I’m on regular dialup, and the phone lines to this location aren’t as good as in Nevada City, down the hill. My connection speed here is only 26,400 bps!

So it’s back to the Dark Ages. But I’ll just have to deal with this until we can arrange for satellite service.

Phone installation was delayed for a week because AT&T couldn’t locate our service address; they didn’t have a map! We didn’t find this out until last Thursday (after repeated calls trying to find out what was wrong; no one could give us a definitive answer for several days); service had been scheduled to be turned on the previous Monday. They couldn’t come back out until today.

A few minutes ago, the phone company stopped here at the RV park first so that James could guide them up the hill.

I must admit that it is rather difficult to find our place — one of its charms for us, actually — so this delay has been a small price to pay. But it’s been hard for me to be out of communication for so long.

These past sixteen days in California have been a real mixed bag. It’s great to be near family and old friends, where our presence seems to be truly appreciated, and in this lovely (more moist!) wooded environment.

On the other hand, I have suffered from an extreme case of bronchitis that came on just before we left Arizona on July 6th, from which I am just now beginning to recover.

Please hang in there while I vent about the state of my health for a few moments!

I don’t remember the last time I’ve been so sick.

It’s especially weird to be incapacitated in the middle of summer.

After coughing up huge amounts of phlegm continuously for two weeks and feeling like crap, I finally went to a clinic down in Nevada City last Tuesday. They took X-rays and determined that it was NOT pneumonia, thankfully; just a bad case of bronchitis. They prescribed an antibiotic and kick-ass cough syrup with codeine.

I’m on my last day of the antibiotics and probably have two or three more days’ worth of cough syrup, and seem to be on the mend. I hope to be completely recovered by next week.

Without medical insurance, the doctor visit was $180, and the two medications totalled $150!
There was no generic equivalent for the antibiotics, but the cough syrup was generic and STILL cost $100.

Wow.

Thankfully I’m not in the mood to rant about this at the moment. I could easily “go off” about the horrible state of health care, but why bother? It’s not going to change anything in my immediate world. The important thing is that I’m feeling better.

There is much to report about our first experiences in this tiny town nestled in the woods of the Sierra Nevada, but I will leave it for my next posts. I just wanted to write this quick entry to say that I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth and that I will soon be in full writing swing again.

Last Thursday, James and I sat in our scorching hot living room in Bisbee and wondered why we were hanging out there. We have already done as much as we can in the preliminary phase of our move to California.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve packed a lot of our stuff and took a few boxes of more things to the local Thrift store. But the only thing which remains is renting a truck and loading it up with our furniture.

The week following Caroline’s wonderful visit with us, James got sick with a summer cold (or allergies). Then I caught it a few days later.

So neither of us were thinking clearly; we just took things day-by-hot-day in Bisbee. After the fog of illness lifted, James turned to me on Thursday and said, “There’s no reason for us to be here right now — I’d much rather be in California!” I nodded emphatically in agreement.

James added, “Besides, the thought has suddenly occurred to me that we need to get the barn and other buildings prepared for our move. The place isn’t ready for the arrival of our Airstream trailer or the furniture.”

Duh! This is a no-brainer. Okay, then — let’s GO!

So we planned to leave on Monday. Then we moved it up to Saturday. But by Friday morning, we thought “Why WAIT?” and decided to leave that very night.

We threw a few clothes into a couple of suitcases, packed our computers, put Rupert in his cat cage and took off in our little Scion XB at about 7 p.m. Friday.

It was pleasant to drive in the relatively cool darkness through Arizona. We arrived in Blythe, on the AZ/CA border, shortly after 2 a.m. Saturday. We found a Motel 6 (which used to be $6/night but is now $60/night for two people) and crashed until 9.

Blythe is one of those “captive audience” border towns where there are few choices for gas, food and lodging for fifty miles in any direction. So they charge higher prices. Gas is especially outrageous.

We drove through the Mojave Desert in the quickening heat of the day, but it was still a bit cooler than it would be later in the afternoon.

The sprawling Los Angeles metro area began to make its presence known at Indio, about 150 miles east. The pace of traffic picked up noticeably with truly stupid lane-changes, speeding and tail-gating. If these people had been taking a driver’s test, they surely would have failed!

It amazes me how most drivers don’t seem to realize what killing-machines their cars are. All for the sake of arriving at their destination perhaps five minutes earlier! If that. It’s all an illusion anyway.

I sound like an old curmudgeon. Guilty as charged, I guess.

Over 200 miles later, we finally emerged out of the LA traffic mess and went over the “Grapevine” leading down to the Central Valley.

Originally we had discussed taking the scenic route 395 up the eastern side of the Sierras (as we did with the Airstream trailer last month) but we decided to get to Sacramento as soon as possible. I-5 is boring, but half a day faster.

Ten hours after leaving Blythe, we arrived at my brother’s house (the house I grew up in, which has thankfully stayed in the family for over 50 years) in Sacramento.

It’s nice to be in a place with slightly higher humidity. Although the Arizona desert is beautiful, single-digit humidity doesn’t agree with James and me as much as we had hoped. It’s generally between 20 and 30 percent in California; just moist enough to make hair and skin feel a bit less desiccated.

We drove up to the land above Nevada City on Monday. First we stopped at the storage area of the RV park on the main street of the little town nearest the land to visit our trailer, and measured the space where the refrigerator resides — we have to buy a new one. Then we drove up the steep dirt road to L.’s property where we will be moving in a month or so.

In the month that we’ve been gone, all the lupin and cornflowers have disappeared from the meadow. The high grass is now brown and crackling-dry. It is fortunate that L.’s partner recently mowed the area around the barn, bunkhouse and studio.

James and I walked through the meadow down to the cabin by the Yuba River and took stock. One of the first things we have to do is clear out the small space completely of its furnishings for a thorough cleaning. Since there are numerous small holes in the walls, all sorts of vermin have left their mark. The one basic room is also very dusty and the large floor-to-ceiling windows are festooned with cobwebs.

We found a couple of clean towels wrapped in plastic on the dining table and walked down the winding, narrow path — nearly choked with greenery — to the river. Just off this path is a streamlet with a couple of inches of water which goes down to the cliff. We managed to clamber along it without getting too wet.

A heavy-duty pool ladder is drilled into its rocky slate side. A waterfall trickles slowly just behind the rungs, a refreshing view of water, moss and ferns as we climbed down to the private beach below.

This small stretch of sand changes height and shape with the water levels of the river each year. This season, the level of the sand and rocks is lower than usual, so there is a 3-foot drop below the last rung to the beach.

This intimate area of the Yuba River is a little slice of heaven.

The water is crystal-clear, running over huge boulders, mostly submerged just below the surface. It is possible to sit on many of these large rocks with one’s head above water. Many other portions of this part of the river are six feet deep.

It is best to wear some sort of river sandals (Tevas are great) to protect your feet and to provide traction on the slippery rocks.

No one was in sight, so James and I shucked off all our clothes and waded into the cool, green sparkling water.

Ahhhh! Refreshing! The outside temperature was in the low-90s, so the cold water felt wonderful. It was almost a shock at first but we quickly got used to it, and were able to stay in the river for an hour.

A few yards upstream from the little beach are a series of boulders which create small rapids. We swam and crab-walked to this section and lay on our backs as the pure water rushed over us. Nature’s effective massage!

Both James and I felt extremely refreshed and rejuvenated after our time in this healing, idyllic spot. We climbed out of the water and sunned ourselves on large rocks on the beach, then reluctantly put on our clothes and climbed back up the ladder, and up the path to the cabin.

We lay on the small window-seat bed which overlooks the trees through a large plate-glass window, and dozed for a few moments. Being in the cabin is like perching in a tree house. Some of the trees, however, will need to be thinned out because of fire danger and also to open up the view a bit.

We stopped in Nevada City to visit with our friends L. & D. (the owners of the land) before continuing down the hill to my brother’s house in Sacramento.

James and I have been resting for the past couple of days; our summer colds continue. In fact, James was feeling better recently but now seems to be experiencing a relapse, while I’ve been in the thick of aches and coughing up stuff from my lungs for a week.

We did shop for a new refrigerator yesterday, and found a small one in black (to match the Airstream’s interior decor) at Lowe’s.

We shall rest today and then attend my nephew’s concert this evening (he plays bass; is attending a jazz music camp at one of Sacramento’s universities this week) and then we’ll drive back up the hill tomorrow.

On one hand, it’s wonderful to be back in Northern California, visiting my brother and sister-in-law in the house I grew up in. On the other hand, I’m a bit unsettled at the moment, sort of caught between two places. Feeling rather homeless, but I know that this shall pass once we move all our stuff out here.

There are some mixed emotions, but basically we are VERY excited about moving to this area. Many advantages here, not the least of which will be our proximity to family.

I recently wrote the above title phrase in a comment on Hooky Beach‘s blog, and it has stuck with me ever since.

The news is full of “unusually severe weather” stories these days. Excessive rain. Excessive heat. Tornadoes out of season.

A few years ago, I read T. Coraghessan Boyle’s book “A Friend of the Earth” (2000). I am impressed by how accurately he predicted our current climate situation. It’s a very believable book; I highly recommend it. An entertaining read, along with the element of global warming.

I’m not much in the mood to “rant”, after all. I’ll settle for this book plug for now. Plenty of time to rant later.

All of a sudden, it seems that everything has gotten so much more sophisticated on the WorldWide Web.

Since James and I gave away our television to a thrift store in St. Louis in March of 2002 — we couldn’t STAND it anymore! — most of our news comes from the computer.

During most of this five-year period, news videos on the online New York Times and abcnews.com have been cumbersome, awkwardly put-together, glitchy, and stuttering with poor picture quality.

But seemingly overnight, the online news videos are now very polished, sparkly and glitzy, rather than glitchy, with Google Earth satellite maps and more sophisticated graphics. They didn’t seem to be like that a few short months ago.

The merging of television with computer continues apace. It will not be long before we all have just one little box to watch. Later, we’ll probably have implants so no hardware will be necessary.

Just now I saw the United Kingdom from space, a living example of those flat one-dimensional maps we perused as children, suddenly ZOOM IN to show the actual street-grid of London as the announcer glibly and very quickly narrated short bursts of sound-bytes about the latest Terrorist Threat.

Amazing.

I know this is old hat to you veteran internet habitu├ęs, but somehow it comes as a surprise to little old me at the moment. I guess I’m just naive.

It has just suddenly hit me how I’m feeling older, more quickly than I should. I feel like things are racing away from me at an ever-increasing pace these days, as though I’m never, ever going to be able to keep up.

Do any of you feel this way too?

It seems that the world is changing and evolving so rapidly now that we are forced to accept it all, hook-line-and-sinker, just in order to SURVIVE.

And be somewhat coherent about it, and be able to navigate through the ever-more-complicated technological intricacies facing us every moment.

For me, technology has always been a double-edged sword. We have become such slaves to it. We need to buy new computers to accommodate new software every two or three years (at the most!) so we can “keep up”. Americans in particular do not want to be left behind.

Many of us sit in front of computer screens for hours on end, whether at work or at home. Then when things crash, we feel totally bereft. Where have our lives gone? Into electrical gadgets, I think.

Let’s not even TALK about this iPhone thing — except that it’s a four-letter word starting with “H”, ending with “E”.

Yet, part of me wants one.

But there are so many wonderful aspects to being online: communication aurally and visually, and my personal favorite: the written word, exploding in rapidly-multiplying blogs, emails, video conferencing and Instant Messenges.

And I especially enjoy sharing my music, on a much greater scale than I could have ever imagined a few short years ago. I’ve participated in the online musical community at MacJams since 2004. It’s a wonderful bunch of people, mostly. It’s much like the blogging community, except that it has a musical twist.

These online communities are richly interactive environments, bringing millions of people together.

So why am I feeling so conflicted?

On one hand, I hope that I can keep up reasonably well with my online presence, and not be too much of a rube. On the other hand, I am about to move to a place where I will hopefully “get back to basics” in a fashion totally alien to many of us. Kerosene lamps in the river cabin until we get electricity. Outhouse. Chopping wood so we can stay warm in the winter.

My soul welcomes this, in fact yearns for this attempt at simplifying my life. Getting outdoors, using my body more. Trying somehow to recapture something from the past, living life more fully. At least, more peacefully.

Living in the Woods, “with a modern twist”, of course. I am not quite ready to give up modern conveniences like being online. Yet.

We will get satellite, since the land is in the thick of the mountains, no cable, no cell phone service.

Guilty as charged: I am still a slave to Technology.

[Next possible rant: The WorldWide Weather.]

It was a hot Bisbee Saturday night on the last day of June, as I sat down to play the harp in the salon.

For recording, I turned off the air-conditioner and opened the back screen door. The sound of crickets wafted gently to my ears.

I decided to lay down a track anyway; perhaps the little singers would be an interesting addition to the harp improvisations. I hoped, at least, that it would give the listener a glimpse of my world as it was on that particularly warm summer evening, as it did for James sitting on the back porch, drowsing and dreaming as the music came through me.

This is the fourth and final improvised piece I did that session.

It is not really in blues standard form, but has a bluesy feel. There are some rather “far-out” moments, but not too, I hope.

Here is the link on MacJams. I hope you enjoy it! (Feedback welcomed.)

artwork by james joannesson