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The longer I go between writing posts, the more difficult it becomes to resume.

Part of me resists writing because the blog title “Living in The Woods” does not currently fit my life working in the San Francisco bay area.

Lame excuse, I know.

I keep telling myself that someday we WILL be back in The Woods permanently. But for now, financial necessity requires me to go far afield to make a living. I’m still not ready to retire from active professional horn playing, for personal as well as financial reasons.

I figure that I can continue playing horn at a high level for another five to ten years, if I choose to. But I’ve finally grown smart enough to avoid giving myself a deadline; who knows how I’ll feel in five years (or even two!), and what my life circumstances will be then?

For now, I am thankful to have show work in San Francisco a few times a year. The long-running show “Wicked” has created opportunities for more musicians to be hired to play other shows which come to the City. I have been lucky to play three shows since late November: Phantom, Spamalot and now South Pacific, for a total of nineteen weeks’ employment.

Along with this work is my occasional subbing with Phantom. After the six-week run of South Pacific is over in San Francisco on October 25th, I’ve got seven consecutive weeks of work lined up with Phantom in Tempe, Durham and Ft. Lauderdale. The last city is during Christmas week.

After that…who knows?

My first blog in 2005 was entitled “On The Road”. Should I rename this blog?

After this show closes, James and I will take the Airstream down to Arizona, where I will play the last two weeks of Phantom’s run in Tempe in mid-November.

Before I resume work, we will have two weeks to get our house ready to sell, in a certain small town in the extreme southeastern corner of Arizona. We left there over two years ago and the house has been vacant; we decided that it was too much of a hassle to be long-distance landlords.

We recently contacted a close friend who still lives in the area, to go over to the house and assess what needs to be done. Spiderwebs and dust need to be vacuumed, the fridge needs cleaning (someone turned off the breaker box at some point and the inside of the fridge is black with mold!) and of course the jungle of a yard needs to be hacked down. We’ll probably do at least some of this work ourselves.

We’re going to stay in the Airstream in an RV park on the edge of town while there. The house is livable but our little trailer is really our HOME — everything we need is already in place and we enjoy living in it.

I could write a lot about what’s been going on in my life since my last posting in mid-August — or very little. I’ll opt for the latter, since most of it is work-related, anyway.

James and I have been busy composing and arranging music for recorder ensemble, and have gotten together with a core group of four excellent players several times over the past few months. Our eventual goal is to sell our music online. Someday this will happen when we’re more settled.

The beach at Pacifica has been beautiful for nearly two weeks now; no fog! Autumn is the best season in the Bay area, I think.

We like our little spot in the back, in the corner of the RV park. It’s close to traffic but is actually quite private; most of the short-term tourists rent the spots in the rows closer to the ocean.

We arrived here on September 11th. Here’s a video of our drive from The Woods to The Beach:

Well, this isn’t the most exciting blog post in the world but it will have to do! 🙂

Whenever I’m on the road, time distorts. It either goes by in a flash or seems to stand still.

Or both.

Looking back on the past five weeks, there’s really not a whole lot to write about. Yet, I’ve been very busy.

Eight shows a week is a relentless schedule, especially when half of them occur in only two days, over the weekends.

It is a predictable work routine which I am very comfortable with. Although demanding, I know what to expect. After many years of doing it, I have learned how to pace myself.

I am amused (and gratified) to see how my father’s strong work ethic manifests in my nature. Over the past two years of on-and-off employment, I seem to be happiest when I am working.

As a musician, this means playing. My work is my play and my play is my work!

Lately, it feels good to bring home a paycheck every week too. I’ve been fortunate to sub with Phantom for a few weeks, literally here and there, over the past year.

Here’s a shot of me playing the harp with Ringo and Rupert providing an ever-appreciative audience:

I am now down to my last five days (and seven shows) in Hartford CT. This is the second week of the run here; James and I arrived on April 21st.

I still have a hard time believing that I’m all the way across the country! This is a BIG piece of dirt.

We left the Airstream at the RV park in Kansas City because the northeastern part of the country is not very RV-friendly; there are very few places to park.

So we’ve brought just the truck the 1200 miles to the East Coast, and are staying in a Residence Inn just north of downtown Hartford. In fact, we stayed at this place the last time Phantom played here, back in early 2002.

Thankfully, the dog and cat are good travelers and good sports. They’re doing fine!

We stopped in Delaware on our way to Hartford to visit briefly with our dear friends Caroline and Peter, who had flown from England to stay with their family who moved to the States. It was wonderful to see them, even if for only a few hours.

Backtracking: our three weeks in Kansas City were pleasant; it’s always nicer to stay in our own little space, the tastefully and artistically decorated vintage Airstream. It’s a very comfortable environment, and works well for us.

It was also nice to be able to spend time with our good friends Jerry and Judy. It had been several years since we’d seen them, and we always have a good time together.

This usually involves visiting Kansas City’s fine art galleries, seeing movies, and eating at various restaurants, including KC’s famous barbeque. (Yes, we’re 99% vegan, ha ha!)

Jerry is an enthusiast of the French horn and has a large collection of instruments, hanging from bicycle hooks in his basement. In fact, we originally met in 2000 when Jerry found out that I was selling a horn. We became fast friends.

It’s always fun to play on his instruments, and Jerry often invites other area horn players to his house to play ensemble music when I’m in town. I was particularly gratified that the horn section of the Kansas City Symphony came one afternoon to play through my new horn quintet. They sounded great on it and were very complimentary.

One of the other players at this fun gathering commented that my piece should be in the standard horn ensemble repertoire. High praise, indeed!

This has inspired me to finish the other two movements. Until this latest flurry of activity to finish the first movement of the horn quintet in Kansas City, it has been a long time since I’ve composed any music for horn; all of my energies have been devoted to writing for recorder ensembles.

When we left California on March 27th, Spring had arrived a couple weeks earlier. In Kansas City, the season was just starting to manifest with little buds on the trees and slightly higher temperatures. Three weeks later on our two-day trip to Hartford, we discovered that Spring’s clock was turned back yet again a couple of weeks.

Until a few days ago, when the temperatures soared into the 90s. Crazy!

This morning it is a more seasonable 57 degrees, and the weather is expected to continue cooler through the remaining five days that we are here.

Today I am busy editing video footage that I took on our trip from California to Kansas City. When I finish doing that, I will finally post!

(Later: The total footage was too long to put into one video, so it’s in two parts.)

It’s SO good to be home!

After our extensive time away from home from Thanksgiving through the beginning of February, it is a profound relief joy to be back in the Woods.

This spot has a certain laid-back pace which is best experienced at length. Although it is certainly possible to enjoy brief visits, it takes time to sink into the slower rhythm and deliberate, majestic beauty here.

It took a few days to settle in. At first, the profound silence seemed a little too quiet. Without the usual over-stimulation of the hordes in “civilization”, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had been immersed in the quick pace of the Bay area and of L.A. for nearly two months.

It did feel good to be working regularly, playing the horn, but I expended a great deal of energy.

Gradually I have relaxed back into the slower rhythm of this place. The puffiness under my eyes has receded. My city pallor has been replaced with a warm woodsy glow. The fat around my midsection is slowly melting away.

The first few days were mild and the traces of snow from the storm of January 26th finally disappeared.

James and Ringo and I take walks around the neighborhood every day, choosing new routes each time, passing by all the houses and cabins which are mostly unoccupied during the winter. It feels so good to be outdoors and get exercise, without the distractions of people all around us.

James and I are fortunate to be able to enjoy one another’s company on our own, although we do treasure our associations with family and friends.

Ringo the dog and Rupert the cat provide a surprising amount of company and entertainment. I can’t imagine not having a dog now, especially out here in the Woods.

I practice the horn every day to keep in shape, and have gotten back into playing the harp daily as well. It has taken quite a while to build up my callouses again, after months of not playing.

It snowed about four inches on the night of February 8th and I took some pictures the next day, on our usual walk.

James cleared a path leading from the trailer, parked in front of the barn, to the little road which we call our ‘driveway’. Both James and I have these incredibly warm, thick terrycloth robes with hoods which are wonderful to wear in the winter. Now we’ve started wearing them outside. I suppose that any passerby would think that they’ve encountered a monastery!

This one is of the intersection nearest our barn; the neighbors have probably put this unlikely figure here to guide visitors to their place:

Okay, let’s go up their driveway!

A few hundred feet takes us to their house:

Then we walked back to the intersection and went in the opposite direction, up the road (where we had gotten stuck just before Christmas) towards the main road:

James and Ringo stopped to let me take their picture.

Now let’s walk back home:

This tractor, which dates from 1947, has been a yard ornament for many years.

We walked around the other side of the barn to the north, where I took this shot of the outbuildings of the barn. The section to the right walled green tar paper is the Music Room. The porch on the end, facing west, is a great hangout except during the Winter months.

We went down through the meadow westward towards the river and I turned around to take this shot:

Then I faced the river. Winter is the only time of year that it can be easily seen from the top of the cliff, as the trees are bare. You can see the creek bed, which leads to the metal ladder going down to the little river beach, on the lower right side of the showing water.

We wended our way south along the bottom of the meadow, then continued through a section of woods. Ringo LOVES the snow! He acts very wolf-like in it. He enjoys running through it and eating it. I took a shot of Ringo and James playing frisbee:

We continued south up the hill to where James had arranged some ancient folding chairs (harvested from the treasure trove of the barn) last summer as a “usable art assemblage”. He wanted me to take shots of it in the snow. Here’s one:

Turn about is fair play, so I asked James to take a picture of me, with Ringo. He says that I look either Flemish or Russian in this outfit. Hey, it’s warm!

Last summer, we had moved this bench from the porch to the south side of the barn. I thought it looked interesting in the snow:

Back in the trailer, cat Rupert cried to go outside. Okay, kitty! Do you really want to deal with the snow? Here he is looking just a bit hesitant (but then he decided to proceed).

It snowed again the next day, February 10th. There was now a total of at least ten inches on the ground. I decided that it was a perfect time to take some video! The first consists of snow scenes, and the second is of James playing with Ringo in the meadow.

MORE SNOW: February 11th and 13th!

I’ve been working on this blog post for several days now and the pictures and videos of the snow keep piling up! Hang in there, folks, there’s more to come!

We woke up on the 12th to find that it had snowed during the night. The sky was crystal-clear blue yesterday morning, and the cold temperatures kept the snow piled on all the trees. These conditions made for some wonderful pictures.

Rupert does surprisingly well in the snow. Perhaps the fur growing between his toes helps him stay on top of things!

James encouraged me to take lots of pictures of our view to the south, where the snow had turned the deciduous trees into a sparkling filigree.

A closeup of a bush covered with snow:

Here’s a view of our main living space, the Airstream, parked next to the Bunkhouse. The liquid amber tree is sandwiched in-between the twin cedars:

This shot faces east. A few hundred yards further on is the infamous road where we’ve gotten stuck:

I faced in the opposite direction westward to take this shot of the hundred-year-old barn:

I walked down towards the meadow, then turned right (north) to take a shot of our little home on wheels.

Trudging through the ten inches of snow westward again, here’s the south end of the barn:

I rounded the corner of the barn and faced northwest to take this wonderful brilliant-blue shot:

Turning slightly to the left with each new shot to face more directly west:

I also took some video footage of yesterday morning. James, Rupert and Ringo co-star:

UPDATE:
It snowed yet again overnight, and we woke up to find a foot and a half of new snow this morning! It’s nearly two feet deep now.

I took yet MORE video of this amazing event and will edit it soon. Meanwhile, you have quite enough to wade through in today’s post!

After a very hectic but successful first week of shows, James and I drove back to The Woods yesterday afternoon for our one day off. He’s got a dental appointment in Nevada City this morning and then we drive back to San Francisco for tonight’s show. (We’ve got nine shows this week to make up for having Thanksgiving off last week.)

I am always amazed at how QUIET it is at home. Only the sound of a barking dog, a mile down the hill on the main street, could be heard on the crisp, cold starry night.

The barn feels bare without the Airstream trailer in it. There’s no fully-functional kitchen or shower in the adjoining rooms. As a temporary measure, James has a garden hose attached from the well to the toilet in the barn bathroom, but the sink isn’t hooked up yet, nor is the one in the modular metal sink unit in what we call the Summer Kitchen.

We have a small refrigerator and freezer in the Summer Kitchen, and a toaster oven and a propane cooktop stove with two burners. So James “whipped up” frozen lasagna for dinner last night which was actually quite good.

We slept under a mound of blankets on the bed in the Music Room and I got up a few times to turn the small electric heater on and off throughout the night. It got down just below freezing outside, and in the upper 40s inside.

We also have a kerosene heater which warms up the room nicely. James made a pot of tea on the propane cooktop stove and I am sipping on it at my usual spot at the diningroom table.

It’s time to pack up and head down the hill, but before we do, I am posting a video of our trip to the beach and some shots of the Pacific Ocean. I could not upload the video from the RV park wi-fi, which is very capricious.

Perhaps I’ll bore you with the story of the wi-fi company, TengoInternet (which we “lovingly” call NO-TengoInternet!) in a future entry.

Now that we have a dog, we need to walk Ringo several times a day.

It is a good opportunity to be propelled outdoors and get out of our computer chairs for a change! I am thankful that dogs keep their owners somewhat active.

It’s funny, I’ve never considered myself to be a “dog person”, but I can’t imagine not having a dog now.

Our favorite walk is up our driveway to a fork in the dirt road which leads up to our nearest neighbor’s house, a quarter-mile away. We continue along a path carpeted with a thick blanket of pine needles, an evergreen arbor stretching over our heads. It is quiet and hushed like a cathedral; a perfect manifestation of the higher power of Mother Nature, or whatever you want to call it. I always feel reverent when I walk through this part of the Woods.

Another neighbor, Mike, often comes up from the Bay area for a few days at a time to do some controlled burning in the forest. He clears out tangled underbrush and trims the low branches from the pines, and monitors his little burn-piles. Now that we have seen some rain and the Woods are moist, it is safe to burn on designated days.

In fact, the US Forest Service is doing some controlled burning in the area this week.

We saw a small pile burning as we walked along the pine-needled path. Dog Ringo raised his nose and sniffed the pungent odor of smoke. Mike was nowhere to be seen, but we could see his car parked in front of his cabin near the river.

The house next to Mike is owned by Mr. H., who also lives in the Bay area, and comes up to the Woods even less frequently than the other neighbors. Here he was, burning a few piles of his own on his property this morning.

James has seen him on the rare occasions he comes up here, but I have not seen him in many years. It was nice to experience Mr. H’s positive energy again. I had forgotten what a warm, pleasant man he is.

Mr. H asked if we liked plum jam, and of course we said yes. His wife had made quite a few jars of it last summer and he’s been sharing it with friends. He gave us the last two jars, for which we thanked him profusely.

Mr. H’s wife had insisted that he bring their Scottie mix dog up with him, so “Scruffy” and Ringo got to visit. I am always amazed at how well Ringo behaves with other dogs; he never loses his cool even when the other animal gets excited.

We bid Mr. H goodbye and thank-you and continued on our walk. We passed Mike’s house, but didn’t see him — he’s probably out in the woods burning another pile. He so loves doing that!

As we approached our barn and outbuildings, we were treated with the brilliance of the liquid amber tree which is still showing its vivid Fall colors. There are more yellows than reds or purples this year, as it hasn’t been as cold as it was last Autumn.

We were on a point of the path which afforded a perfect view of the liquid amber surrounded by evergreens, with mountains and blue sky in the background. I went back to fetch my camera and captured the moment:

A couple of days ago, we took what we call the “river walk”, down through the meadow to L.’s cabin, then along the high banks of the Yuba River and back through the Woods to the north of us, accessing the meadow from the other side and then home. (This walk was documented in two videos here and here in a previous post last May.)

Just past the gully leading down to the ladder to the river, we came across the shredded remains of a raccoon. Bits and pieces of fur were spread out over the ground, the tail almost intact. A pile of entrails was not quite steaming, but obviously the kill had occurred recently. Later when I described the scene to L., she said that a bobcat had probably done it.

This is why we bring cat Rupert indoors at dusk!

Perhaps you are thankful that I did not have my camera with me.

However, further up the path was a good photo-op. Several large mushrooms sprang up in a group. I had never seen this kind of mushroom before, and reminded myself to take pictures of them before they disappeared.

So today after taking a shot of the liquid amber, I returned down this path where the mushrooms were still in evidence, and took the following pictures:

… the same two mushrooms taken from the top:

What an interesting size and shape this mushroom has:

Altogether a very nice display:

Near the top of the path leading down to the mushrooms was this clump of dead, browned flowers. I would rather enjoy this dried Autumn flower arrangement in the wild than on my diningroom table:

James and I are savoring our last two days in The Woods before going down to the Bay area for six weeks, where I will play the Phantom show in San Francisco. We are taking the Airstream down to an RV park in Pacifica, right on the beach. So for a while this blog could be called “Living on the Beach”.

James has been busy remodeling the middle space of the trailer, which will make it much more useful for our needs. He recently removed the sofa-bed and is putting in a counter and shelves for our computers and little piano keyboards. He has also upholstered the walls in (guess what?) several types of black&white fabric. I will take pictures when it is done — it’s going to be fabulous!

Although we walk Ringo every day, he hasn’t gotten his usual exercise fetching the ball or frisbee since we’ve been in Spokane, so he’s gained a little weight.

We can’t have that!

So we found a couple of cheap flying discs at a thrift store, which Ringo made short work of. Then we came across a red flying hoop in our favorite vacant lot, which has lasted for two sessions; it’s almost chewed through already.

I took videos of Ringo fetching the hoop yesterday with my digital still-camera, since I didn’t think to bring the regular video camera. The video feature on the still-camera is limited, as I suspect most of them are — one cannot zoom while the camera is taking movies. But you’ll get the overall impression of the fetching, along with the ever-present roar of the highway nearby.

Afterwards we stopped at a tiny park where James indulged himself on the swing-set. We’re thinking of having a large swing-set made for our place in The Woods! We had such fun swinging when we were kids — so why stop now just because we’re “adults”?

A couple of pit-bulls barked as James swung. They were situated in a cage in a nearby backyard, so I captured a moment on video of them as well. Every time we walk down this alley, the dogs raise up such a ruckus that they occasionally attack one another in their excitement.

The month of August slipped by without an entry and I’m thinking back on what happened during that period of time to share here.

I finished the Midsummer Mozart festival on the 4th and came home. It was wonderful to see James again after an unprecedented three-week separation, and it was certainly a relief to be back in The Woods, basking in the peace, quiet and beauty of this place.

August was mostly very hot. This discouraged any real activity for most of the daytimes; James and I ended up going to the river to cool off, then took naps every day during the height of the afternoon’s heat.

I spent many hours at the computer but didn’t feel like writing words. Writing music took up much of my time. I worked on an arrangement of three tarantellas (Italian dances) for recorder orchestra which we will read through at the September 6th rehearsal in Berkeley. I just finished it last week. Hooray! What a relief.

James worked even harder on his arrangement for recorder orchestra, a medley of popular Italian songs. It is a masterpiece!

We drove down to Nevada City every couple of days, where James took care of our friends’ yard and garden while they were away in Ireland.

Another dear friend and her husband are now visiting us from England for ten days! I met Caroline at the MacJams music site several years ago. We quickly became close “on chat”, emails and telephone calls. Then we met in person last summer when she came to visit us in Arizona, and the three of us got on so well that Caroline has made a return appearance, bringing her husband Peter along. The two of them are delightful guests and are enjoying the serenity and “gorgeousness” (Caroline’s word) here.

If you look at this blog’s earliest entries, you can read about Caroline’s previous visit last year.

James and I now have a DOG! Ringo belonged to our former next door neighbor (“Cowboy”, in Arizona) which he reluctantly decided to give up now that he’s taking a job on an offshore oil rig in Texas. A mutual friend brought Ringo to California a week ago Thursday, and we picked him up at her sister’s house in Oakland.

Ringo immediately recognized us and wagged his whole body furiously in greeting. We were extremely pleased that he remembered us.

He’s the most intelligent dog James and I have ever encountered. Ringo is a mix of border collie and wolf, and began his life “cutting cattle” on a ranch in Oregon with Cowboy. Over the years, the dog has been trampled on by horses and cows and run over several times at Cowboy’s car shop, and has a slight limp. But this doesn’t slow Ringo down when he fetches the ball!

He understands and obeys every command. James is keeping him close to his side for the next two months, to ensure that Ringo bonds with his new owner effectively.

He’s about seven years old now — the same as our cat Rupert, in fact.

Rupert’s first greeting to Ringo was a growl and a hiss. As with all dogs, the cat stood his ground; he’s fearless. Ringo respects Rupert’s claws and is very laid-back around the cat, which is helping Rupert accept Ringo into our family. Although Rupert is still very protective of his “personal space”, the two of them occasionally sit close together, as in this shot:

I’ve always been more of a cat person but I really, really like this dog! Ringo is so smart that he’s no trouble around the house, and he’s a lot fun to play with.

He seems to be loving it out here in The Woods, and would be very tempted to explore on his own. But James keeps him close with either leash or commands at this early bonding stage.

This hot phase of late summer has minimized the variety of wildflowers in the area, but I did take this shot of chicory growing in front of the barn:

Caroline just showed me pictures of a couple of different red wildflowers that she recently took (that I will research and identify later). They are growing along the north side of the house:

In fact, Caroline has been taking LOTS of wonderful pictures of the visit, so I’ve been particularly lazy about using my own camera. (All of this post’s shots were taken by Caroline except for the cat/dog and chicory pics.)

By the way, James and I got married last Wednesday at two o’clock.

We took Caroline and Peter to “Trailer Trash” potluck on Saturday night. Caroline has had dreams of mashed potatoes every night since, and pines for more. The locals embraced both Brits with their “interesting attempts at a British accent” (Peter’s phrase). I found Don’s Aussie accent the most amusing. He apparently got it from watching too much of Crocodile Dundee.

Having guests relax in our environment makes it easier for James and I to do so. These past few days are passing by in a pleasant blur, as the four of us sit outside at the picnic table under the shady cedar tree, or kick back on lounge chairs under another cedar at the opposite side of the barn, or hang out on the back porch facing the meadow.

It cooled off enough on Sunday night to light a fire in the Franklin stove on the cement patio. The sky was clear and moonless and sprinkled with stars. It was like camping out. I love moments like these!

Caroline and Peter will be with us until Saturday morning, when we take them to the Sacramento airport for their flight to the East Coast. They will visit family and friends in the Philadelphia area for a week before flying back to England.

The day stretches ahead without any real agenda. Delicious slothfulness. I will feel that I have accomplished at least something by finally posting to my blog!