You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2008.

I’ll pop in briefly here before even more time slips away without a post.

First of all, Spring really does seem to be coming now, and fast. The snow is nearly gone and the birds and bugs are already making an appearance. There are tiny buds on some of the trees, and the croaking of frogs can be heard as an accompaniment to the roar of the river, engorged with snow-melt.

The first hints of Spring arrived last week, but I kept my hopes to a minimum because we all know that March can be a capricious month with weather extremes. Even now I remind myself that snow is still very possible before Spring arrives for good.

Yet my spirits are buoying optimistically in spite of themselves and I do feel an increase of energy with the sunshine and rising temperatures, so I am going to hold positive thoughts that Winter is pretty much done here!

(Ah, one of the good aspects of living in California…)

James and I have been busy with the recorder group; we rehearsed for the second time on Wednesday, down in Nevada City. Then we had another rehearsal at a junior high school in town early this morning.

All week, we had prepared the assigned pieces and were then thrown a curve-ball with several new selections at Wednesday’s rehearsal, so we were sight-reading all over again! (Everyone else had played the music.)

Although no-one seemed to mind that we weren’t quite on top of things, WE didn’t like being put on the spot in such a way, and prevented from putting our best foot forward. Especially since we’re brand-new to the group.

Today’s one rehearsal with the kids — who are doing a few Renaissance dances at the Miners Foundry in Nevada City on March 6th — went fairly well, even with a few miscommunications in our group about repeats in the music. (We call it the “road map”. Repeats and “da capo” etc. can be confusing.)

We played on stage at the auditorium which doubles as the cafeteria. There were seven of us, chairs arranged in a semi-circle, and our audience consisted of about a hundred seventh-graders.

There I was, giving a demonstration on the tenor recorder, playing a two-octave C scale on an instrument that I’m not acquainted with all that well yet!

I made the mistake of thinking about this while I was playing. I brashly sight-read the tenor part to the piece of music that we had just performed (I had played alto, which is in a different key and has different fingerings) and I ended up skipping a line on the page of music. Pretty lame! But the kids applauded anyway.

James was smarter to play just a few notes and talk briefly about the alto recorder.

It feels good to be volunteers-of-sorts in the community. This is an excellent way for both of us to contribute to the musical life of the area. It is also nice to be able to play with other recorder enthusiasts, and stimulating to play in public.

Other news: tomorrow we are going to San Francisco to hear the Symphony, followed by a late dinner at a rather “fancy” restaurant near the concert hall. We are sharing this special occasion with L. & D. from Nevada City, and my violinist friend R.A. from Lafayette.

James and I are driving to Lafayette, then going with R.A. on BART (public transportation) into the City to meet the others shortly before the concert.

After dinner, we’ll take BART back to R.A.’s house and will stay overnight.

Then on Sunday we head over to Sacramento to join my brother and family for a special brunch at the family home; one of my sister-in-law’s sisters is visiting from the East coast and a cousin of hers from San Francisco is also coming with his family. Quite a gathering!

We’re looking forward to this unusual change-of-scene and social interaction with these various people, but you can rest assured that we’ll be even more glad to get back home to our shack in the Woods.

Our little part of The Woods is located in a bowl-shaped valley, ringed by mountains on all sides.

Whenever we descend the six miles of county road down to town, it feels like going back to the womb, enveloped by comfort and warmth.

The county road begins at the top of the ridge at 4500 feet, then wends its way down in a corkscrew fashion through many hair-pin turns to the Yuba River and to town, at 2600 feet.

That’s quite a drop in elevation.

James uses the term “micro-climate” to describe our environment, and it is true. These mountains often protect this area from the ice and snow which hits the surrounding geography, as is happening with today’s storm.

“Hey, look at this!” James said a few minutes ago. I went over to his computer which showed a radar weather map of our current weather conditions.

You can actually SEE the bowl which encompasses our immediate area, which is colored green to indicate rain. It is surrounded by pink, which is ice.

This is where we live! Pretty amazing.

After our recorder adventure in Nevada City on Wednesday, we stayed at home to rest yesterday.

We knew that snow was expected today but thought that we could get our grocery shopping finished back down in “Big Town” before the first of two storms hit.

We left The Woods at 10:30 this morning. It was raining as we headed up the county road to the state highway, then changed to snow as we neared the summit at 4500 ft.

The road conditions into Nevada City were fine, although as we passed Five Mile House (aptly named since it’s five miles outside of town) we noticed that the highway department had set up a chain restriction checkpoint in the opposite direction, heading towards Reno.

This was still in place several hours later when we came back up after our errands. It was snowing a little harder then, but only a dusting of accumulation was on the ground.

The road looked fine to James and me; we really didn’t need chains, especially since the turn-off to our town was well before the elevation truly climbed.

I suggested asking the officer if we could pass the checkpoint without chains since we were local residents, but James figured that the road would get more snowy as we neared our turn-off, and the chains might be necessary.

He installed them on both front wheels with increasing skill and speed; he’s already done this on several occasions this winter.

There was a hand-printed sign at the side of the road which stated: “Buy and install chains $50. Install chains $30. $15 to remove”. Wow, what a racket!

One young woman in a large SUV needed chains. The highway worker busily installed them on the vehicle’s huge tires; he had a large pair of heavy-duty shears which he used to cut the chain links to fit the wheels. James remarked later that these $50 chains were probably cheap and wouldn’t last more than one trip.

We clacked and clanked along the nearly snow-free highway at 25 mph. The groves of pine trees flanking the road were dusted with snow — so pretty. It looked like spun sugar.

Gradually a line of cars accumulated behind our slower-moving vehicle. It seemed to take forever to reach the turn-out to let the cars pass.

At such a slow speed, I pretended that it was 1910 and that we were rattling along in our Model T, which would have been a rather brisk pace in those days. This fantasy kept me entertained and less impatient.

Other than one short stretch of roadway that had a hint of snow, chains really weren’t needed. Both James and I thought it was “overkill”, but then again, it was better to be safe than sorry.

We also knew that Five Mile House was the only wide spot in the road which could be utilized for chain installation and removal, so today’s excursion was really just a minor inconvenience.

As we turned onto our county road, we recognized the owner of the General Store approaching the intersection in his truck, ready to enter the highway. We asked him how the road was down the hill, and he said that there were a couple of slippery spots.

So we decided to keep the chains on for a while, but as the elevation dropped quickly, the road was suddenly free of snow. We pulled off to the side and removed the chains, and shortly thereafter, the snow flurries abruptly changed to rain. Not a snowflake to be seen in town.

It’s fascinating to see how quickly the weather changes according to the elevation. A few hundred feet along the road can be the difference between rain and snow.

Once home, we unloaded our groceries with a sigh of relief. A bigger storm is forecast to blow through here tomorrow afternoon. It’s projected to be not quite as severe as the one Northern California experienced on January 4th (when our power was out for eight days) but there will probably be strong winds, lots of rain, and snow in the upper elevations.

It’s great that we don’t have to be anywhere until next Wednesday, our second rehearsal with the recorder group. We do so enjoy being at home, just the two of us.

Last night, James and I got together with a group of recorder players in Nevada City. There were seven other players in attendance at their weekly meeting on Wednesday nights. They hail from all around the area.

There were a couple of occasions in the past when our friend M.A. joined us in playing recorder trios, but this was the first time that we’ve connected with a group of other recorder players.

James and I were both a bit nervous to “be on display” at this first meeting. I had contacted the director a few days previously, who asked us to play a couple of duets for the group so they could hear what we could do.

This was an audition, of sorts. But as I reminded James as we parked the car and toted our big bag of recorders into the rehearsal room, we were auditioning THEM as much as they were auditioning us.

In addition to James and me, there were three men and four women. Everyone was friendly and welcoming.

The youngest member of the group was a rather “unusual” woman who looked like she might have been in the punk scene in past years. She was very nice but shy.

The rest of us were middle- to late-middle aged. Lots of gray hair and beards!

This group plays occasional concerts in the Nevada City area, including the schools.

In fact, they are preparing a program for a junior high school’s annual Renaissance event coming up. James and I were invited to participate and we accepted. We’ve got one more rehearsal next Wednesday night, then a rehearsal at the school at the end of the month. This program will also be repeated in early March in downtown Nevada City.

The director led the group by beating a large drum to keep the rhythm, as we rehearsed four Renaissance dances.

It was quite fun to play with a group of recorder players for the first time. James and I have always wanted to expand our playing experience beyond the two of us.

As we progressed through the rehearsal, I started to relax and thought that perhaps we weren’t going to be asked to play our duets, after all.

But suddenly the director DID ask us.

James and I performed reasonably well, although we were both a bit on edge. It’s interesting to think that although I’ve performed many times in front of very large audiences with the French horn in orchestra without being nervous, I was somewhat nervous playing the recorder in front of seven receptive people.

Everyone liked our original compositions. We played one of mine and then one of James’.

James later asked if anyone was interested in trying out his composition to play themselves, because no-one else has ever played it other than us. A couple of the women agreed to do so. It will be interesting to see what they come up with!

Hopefully, our participation in this recorder group will open up possibilities for composing and arranging pieces for at least nine recorders — something we’ve wanted to do for a long time.

I’m glad that James and I have finally taken the plunge to reach out to other recorder players in the area. It will stimulate us to write more music for these funny, rather off-beat little instruments — which actually have a great deal of potential.

We’d like to expand the traditional Renaissance/Baroque recorder repertoire to include more “modern” pieces in the pop, jazz and classical styles.

The director had written an arrangement of Petula Clark’s 1964 song “Downtown” which we read through last night. I chuckle now to think about us middle-aged recorder fuddy-duddies GROOVING on this pop hit. It was fun!

For over two weeks now, the sun has shone brilliantly and unfailingly here in Northern California. Ever since the last snowstorm earlier this month, in fact.

The blanket of white recedes a bit more each day, as temperatures reach 60+ degrees when the sun is at its peak.

The meadow shows half-bare ground now. It’s interesting to see just where the sun shines the most and where it shines the least — very easy to determine with the snow patterns.

I’m somewhat surprised that the blanket of snow on the south/southeast side of the barn is nearly unbroken; that area must get less sun than I thought.

Cat Rupert picks his way gingerly around the remaining snowdrifts, which is funny to watch. He spends more and more time outdoors each day.

James and I have gotten into the habit of eating our lunch on the back patio, which he calls the “Sky Deck” because of the excellent view of the meadow, the mountains in the background, all framed by that glorious big sky.

It was quite warm on the Sky Deck yesterday. After eating, we removed our shirts and soaked up the sun for half an hour. We’ve been doing that for a week and think that our dispositions have improved as a result of getting more vitamin D lately. It also seems to be boosting our energy levels.

The sun doesn’t dip behind the mountain until 4 p.m. now; during the height of winter it disappeared by 1:45.

But is winter really over? I don’t think so.

In California in the first part of February, we often experience what residents call “false Spring” or “faux Spring”. This often happens after severe storms at the end of January. Suddenly, the sun comes out and STAYS out, day after day. Temperatures rise, along with hopes for winter to be over.

If the period of sunshine and warmth is protracted enough, buds appear on the bare trees and daffodils arrive early.

But Mother Nature can play tricks by suddenly bringing on a freeze, perhaps accompanied by snow. Back to winter for another month, maybe as long as six weeks.

According to the weather forecast, we’re about to experience colder weather this week. Today is the first day it’s been overcast, and snow is predicted on Thursday.

James and I took a walk around the area yesterday afternoon, noting that all the snow is gone under the stands of evergreens. As we wandered along the trails, whiffs of pine needles assailed my nostrils. Occasionally we encountered pockets of warm air, as though we were entering a “hot spot”.

But it doesn’t feel like Spring just yet. I ain’t got the fever, so to speak.

Tell that to the meat-bees and stink-bugs which are already making an appearance! Please go away and come back some other day.

But you raucous yet beautiful bluejays — you can stay! It’s nice to see y’all again.

A year ago today, I played my final two shows of “The Phantom of the Opera”.

Middle Bro’ had called to tell me about Dad’s passing at 11 p.m. the night before. I was rather in a daze when I dragged out of bed the next morning, as I didn’t sleep very well. I had the vague but persistent feeling that my father visited me in my dreams.

As James drove me to the theatre in downtown Des Moines for the matinee, my emotions threatened to bubble to the surface and I must admit that I tamped them down, in order to get through that long day of performances.

I decided not to spread the word in the Phantom company about my dad’s death. Everyone was busy packing up to leave for the next city; the final show day is always chaotic and people’s nerves are frayed as they throw everything into large hampers and the stagehands load the seventeen 53′-long semi trucks with the many sets and costumes. It requires a monumental effort to “get the circus out of town”, and I just didn’t want to add to the general confusion and drama.

Besides, I was about to be laid off for six months (along with a few other traveling musicians) and knew that I might not return — so why share this news? I simply wanted to slip away without a fuss.

However, I did tell my horn colleague (I played 2nd chair) who I could trust to keep mum. E. knew that my father had been in and out of hospitals for the past six weeks, so it wasn’t a shock to him. I will always appreciate his tact and understanding.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a full year since I’ve played the show. Time has gone by so fast!

Well, it’s been an extremely busy and eventful year with many changes. When James and I drove out of Des Moines that night after my final show, we assumed that we would be spending the rest of our lives in a certain small town in southeastern Arizona.

It sure didn’t work out that way and we’re glad! Our current situation In the Woods is ever-so-much better on all levels.

It’s taken me nearly a year to regain my “horn chops”, which had been somewhat limited by playing the same show over and over again. I estimate that I played 3,500 Phantom shows over the ten years I was with the company.

So it is no surprise that I’ve had to practice and perform other music extensively in order to crawl out of the show rut. I’m just now starting to feel better about my playing.

I am grateful for the opportunities to play the horn in Northern California — I wouldn’t have performed on it nearly as much if we had stayed in Arizona.

The Phantom company will be in Sacramento from mid-May to mid-June, and I am actually going to play the last two weeks of the month-long run! I’ll be subbing for my replacement, who is taking a short vacation.

I’ll be doing sixteen shows in a row from June 3-13, with no days off. This is happening because the trucks need an extra travel-day to haul the show to their next city, Tulsa. The company crams in the eight shows-a-week quota into one less day.

It will be very nice to see my old colleagues again, but even nicer NOT to have to pack up and go to the next city with them when the Sacramento run ends!

Playing Phantom for ten years was a very interesting experience, but I am so thankful that I am off the road.

My dad died a year ago today.

It is still so strange to be in the world without him in it. I had the privilege of having my father in my life until I was fifty-two (and he was nearing 91) — for which I will always be grateful.

Many of my friends have lost their parents when they were younger than I.

It is also fortunate that Dad lived a good life to the end. His final year may have been a bit less “enjoyable” because his body was starting to give out on him, but for whatever reason he continued to grace us with his presence. He rarely complained and his mind continued to be active; he was always interested in the family’s doings, read books and enjoyed watching sports on TV.

The last time that I saw him was the previous October. Somehow I think that we both sensed that this was to be our final visit, although I will never know for sure. But I believe there was something unspoken between us that intuited we were spending our last time together on the physical plane.

We sat companionably in his living-room watching baseball on TV. I’m not a huge baseball fan but I wanted to spend time with him.

Dad was past the point of verbalizing any unfinished or final business — not that we had any, really; all was good between us. We just sat there sharing the space of companionship in front of the TV. During commercials (which he always muted; I think of him whenever I do that now!) I told him little bits and pieces of what was going on in my life, and he would nod his head in acknowledgment.

The game ended and I went over to Dad’s chair and kissed him, saying, “I love you, Dad”. He smiled and got a little misty-eyed and replied, “I love you too, Cam”.

Yes, I miss my father very much. But I am happy that he lived such a full and interesting life, the world was a better place for his presence, and that he lives on in our memories.

In fact, his spirit emerges at the most unexpected times with me and my two brothers these days. Words and phrases uttered in his inflection. Certain facial expressions pop out on the faces of his progeny. Familiar gestures suddenly remind me of Dad.

So in this way, he will always be with us.

…but Poetikat tagged me, so I will try to rise to the challenge.

You can visit her meme here: Poetikat’s Invisible Keepsakes: 10 Things you’ll never hear me say.

My version of “10 THINGS YOU’LL NEVER HEAR ME SAY”

“You’re the worst conductor I’ve ever worked with!”

“I need a cigarette”.

“I’m going to blow your friggin’ head off!”.

“I love my 3000 square foot house!”

“I’m upgrading to a bigger yacht”.

“I’m jonesing for a fix”.

“Let me slip into my walking shorts”.

“I’m just going to throw it out the car window…”

“You’re a terrible musician!”

“I love my pet monkey!”

* * * * * * *

I can’t believe I actually did this. But there ya go.

My four-day playing stint with the Modesto Symphony is now over, so we are back In The Woods.

Whenever I return home after the intensity of playing in an orchestra, it feels anti-climatic. This usually lasts for a few days until the rhythm of my tranquil home life settles back into my bones.

I am living a very rich and varied life, really. But this feeling of let-down is unfamiliar to me. In the past, my work has been much more regular, going from one concert to the next in quick succession. This new freelance routine, playing in orchestras about once a month, is new and different.

I maintain my “chops” (lip muscles) with daily practice at home. This is essential for brass instruments in particular; it’s all-too-easy to lose muscle tone if a few days go by without playing. It’s amazing how quickly I lose strength if I don’t practice every day.

I usually practice at least an hour, sometimes two. This keeps me in reasonable enough shape to play strongly in the orchestra, although the demands of performing in an ensemble are much greater than sitting alone in the practice room.

It was especially stimulating to play in the Modesto Symphony for the first time. It was a whole new musical environment, new people, different concert hall, different conductor.

I put out a lot of energy to fit into this new musical family. Yes, orchestras are families of a sort. Each ensemble has its own group dynamic (no pun intended!). I’m amazed at the variety of “vibes” in each ensemble I play in. Just like real families have their particular group flavor.

The Modesto Symphony is currently in an upswing. What was considered to be a rather backwater, almost-amateur orchestra for many years now has a new conductor, who is very exciting and demanding. There is also a brand-new Performing Arts Center with excellent acoustics. I would say that it’s one of the best concert halls I’ve ever played in. This is the orchestra’s very first season in the new hall.

It was very nice to be immersed in an environment with such positive energy. I made sure to mention this to the orchestra’s General Manager as I headed out the stage door after my final performance on Saturday night.

This building was underwritten by the Gallo wine family. This part of California’s Central Valley has many vineyards, and the Gallos have certainly made their mark in the region. I was very pleasantly surprised to see this new concert hall; no-one had told me about it.

I wasn’t expecting the Modesto Symphony to sound as good as it did. The ensemble has some local players, as well as commuters from the Bay Area and Central Valley who have played in the orchestra for many years.

Then there is the “Freeway Philharmonic” phenomenon that I described in a previous post. These musicians work in a variety of area orchestras and the freelance scene is quite competitive, so the overall playing quality is quite high. Subs are expected to fit into the ensemble immediately, as though they had been a part of the ensemble for years.

This is a new and exciting way of playing for me, although I’ve felt over-stimulated occasionally. It’s a challenge to be “on” all the time.

I have been freelancing for four months now, and am gradually getting used to the rhythm of it. I am starting to become a familiar face on the Freeway Philharmonic circuit, which will hopefully lead to more work.

This initial orchestra playing season as a “sub” hopefully lays the foundation for more playing opportunities in the future.

Fortunately I have acquitted myself well in these various ensembles so far, and my musical colleagues have expressed interest in having me return.

James and I drove down to Modesto on Monday for the first rehearsal.

It was somewhat a shock to delve deeply into the Central Valley, which is such a different world than where we live!

It is one of the nation’s major “bread-baskets”, an important agricultural area which produces much of our country’s fruits and vegetables, as well as beef. Those of you who hail from the Midwest would feel quite at home in California’s Central Valley. The soil is rich and the land is flat as a tabletop.

Along with the geography, the demographics of the region couldn’t be more different than the Nevada City area. The valley has always had a large Hispanic population, and now many Asians, while the area in which I live hardly has any at all. There are many more rich retired white folks in Nevada City/Grass Valley.

So Modesto has a very different atmosphere, both literally and figuratively, than out here In the Woods. I could catch the faint whiff of cattle and hay while walking the downtown streets of Modesto. There are bilingual signs in the stores. Staccato bursts of Spanish can be heard on the sidewalks.

The town seems very laid-back, much more so than cities in the Bay Area. People are friendly and don’t seem to be in quite as much of a hurry as their counterparts nearer the bay.

On Monday night after the first rehearsal, and from Thursday through Sunday afternoon, James and I stayed at “Yonder House” at my brother’s in Sacramento. I am grateful that Middle Bro’ makes it much more possible for me to pursue my freelancing career by being able to stay at the family “compound”, whenever I have playing jobs in the area.

From his house, it’s just under 80 miles to the Gallo Center in Modesto. It takes an hour and twenty-five minutes to get there, which is not a horrible commute. At least I don’t have to do it every day!

I was fortunate to have James’ company on Monday and again on Friday, when we drove down to Modesto together. He went shopping while I played the afternoon dress rehearsal, then joined me for dinner before the evening performance, which he also attended.

I drove by myself up and back on Thursday and again on Saturday, arriving back in Sacramento close to midnight.

The orchestra sounded good on the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto and on Brahms 2nd Symphony. I played “assistant” horn, helping the Principal by playing certain loud passages to give his lip a rest for his big solos.

Playing Assistant is very challenging, because I spend most of the time just sitting there waiting to play; I didn’t have my own part as the others do. And this particular Principal horn in Modesto didn’t use the Assistant nearly as much as he could have. He’s a very strong player and seemed to want to play as much as he could.

However, I did feel good about my occasional contributions and knew that my presence helped the horn section, and therefore by extension, the orchestra.

As I mentioned earlier, this first season of freelancing is concerned with laying the groundwork for more opportunities later on. Hopefully the Personnel Manager of the Modesto Symphony will think of me first when they need a sub next time.

My white tie and tails are now back in the closet in its suit-bag, probably until the middle of next month when I play with the Symphony Silicon Valley in San Jose for one of their concert sets.

I especially look forward to playing 2nd horn on Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and Richard Strauss’ “Til Eulenspiegel” and selections from his opera “Rosenkavalier”. These are all great horn parts and 2nd horn plays more than any other position in the horn section, so I am going from one extreme to the other — quite a contrast from my sparse playing in Modesto.

This is my life lately: extremes. But it’s all good.

Back In the Woods: The weather has continued to be clear and slightly warmer, so the foot and a half of snow is gradually melting. However, there is still plenty of it around. My eyes are dazzled as I look out at the sunlit meadow, covered in white.

James and I were glad to find that we were able to get back up our dirt roads without chains upon our return from Sacramento yesterday afternoon.

We hope that we’ve passed the most severe part of winter, but it is entirely possible that we will experience more snow and cold temperatures before Spring comes. Who KNOWS, these days? Weather is so unpredictable lately.

It was almost warm in Sacramento on Saturday. There were even a few mosquitoes out on the back patio!

My oldest brother came down from the Placerville area to play his usual weekend tennis with his group, and then stopped by the house afterwards. It’s always great to see him, and I feel very blessed that all three of us brothers live in the same general area now. This is especially important since our parents have passed away.

I wish that a picture had been taken of the three of us propping up a tree in the back yard which blew down in the severe windstorm of early January. The root system was still intact and Middle Bro’ was just waiting until the ground dried out sufficiently to prop the tree back up.

We were assisted by James and by my nephew — in fact, my sister-in-law also lend a hand until she got her slippers wet! It was fairly easy to raise this tree up with the five of us; then Middle Bro’ wrapped rope around the trunk and attached it to stakes which he’d driven deep into the ground, which was still moist enough but not soggy.

So from this day forth I will always think of this tree as our “Family Tree”, because all three brothers were involved in its resurrection, along with the spouses (except for Oldest Bro’s, who is visiting her sister in Alaska).

I am keeping my fingers crossed that the Family Tree will once again thrive. It didn’t seem to suffer much from lying on its side for a month; its leaves were still mostly green.

I truly enjoyed my time with the Modesto Symphony, along with seeing the family in Sacramento, but it is SO nice to be back home In the Woods now!

Our most recent snowfall was last Sunday. The weather has given us a break with sunny skies and slightly warmer daytime temperatures ever since, for which we’re very thankful. The forecast calls for continued clearing over the next few days.

Our “weekend warrior” neighbors C., D. and five-year-old son Carson got stuck in their 4-wheel drive truck on the little dirt road leading from our house on Sunday afternoon, while leaving for their regular house in the SF bay area. It had snowed (very wet and slushy) off and on all that day.

Husband D. tried going up the snowy, muddy path too fast and ended up spinning out, creating deep ruts in which his truck became mired.

His wife C. and Carson walked down to our place to ask for our help. Poor gal! — she was so distraught; truly in an altered state, totally freaked out, even on the verge of tears.

My heart went out to her; I’ve experienced this kind of over-reaction to disturbing events myself in the past. In calm voices, James and I tried to reassure C. that they would get out successfully.

James walked up the road to lend his assistance, while I stayed behind to tend the fire.

He encouraged D. to back up and try going up the hill again, avoiding the worst of the ruts which D. had created, and finally did manage to get the truck out!

Our other neighbors R. and L. were also on hand to help — L. has a Bobcat with a front-end loader (his regular plow attachment was broken) which he used to plow the snowy roads. Thank god for L.!

His wife R. was very helpful also; she had strips of tar-roofing material with sandpaper on one side to help the tires gain traction in the worst spots.

R. suggested that we get OUR car out of that mess at the same time as well, since we needed to leave for the Central Valley the next day. She and D. helped me push our little Scion (with chains) over the bad ruts and James got it safely up the hill.

Whew. What a quagmire!

I was a funny sight on Monday, trudging up the muddy, slippery road through the woods with my classic French horn “snail” case in one hand, and knapsack in the other. James carried our bag of shoes, since we were wearing our Mukluk snow boots. We just had to get off the hill for my first rehearsal with the Modesto Symphony that evening!

This was my first time playing with the orchestra and I didn’t want to cancel because of snow; they might not call me again.

We walked a half-mile to where James had parked the car. This is almost as good a story as the all-too-familiar one about having to walk six miles through the snow to school.

Well, not quite as good, but it’ll do.

After the evening rehearsal in Modesto, we drove up to my brother’s house in Sacramento to stay overnight, and then came back to The Woods on Tuesday morning.

We decided to park the car in the same place at the top of the hill, because the roads were still quite slippery yesterday.

This afternoon, we walked up the hill to the car with my suit-bag containing my concert “uniform” (white tie and tails, to put in the car in preparation for tomorrow’s return to Modesto for the remaining rehearsals and two concerts Thurs-Sat.) to check on the ruts and overall condition of the road.

The road is a bit better today; the ruts have dried out a little and the mud has frozen over somewhat, so we drove the car back down to our place and feel confident that we can get back out in the morning.

It’s amazing how much easier it was to walk up the hill this afternoon, in contrast to our snowy, muddy trek on Sunday.

We’re very glad that we were able to bring the car to the barn today, so that we won’t have to carry our big, heavy cat Rupert in his bulky carrier-cage (along with my horn and a bigger bag with our clothes for three days, since we’ll be staying in Sacramento) a half-mile up the hill tomorrow!

Our neighbor R., who is somewhat of a local activist, suggested to us that we form a “road association” with the other neighbors to solve these issues with our little dirt roads — we could add drainage pipes, some support for the edges and gravel on the worst sections. This is an EXCELLENT idea to which we agreed wholeheartedly.

There are finally enough “cool” people living in this general area now, who can implement these ideas effectively.

I look forward to living the “other” part of my life, my professional symphonic one, over the next few days.

But then it will be a distinct relief to get back up the hill to our little Slice of Heaven In The Woods on Sunday!