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Hairer and hairier…with “UP-doos” today.

No, we are not at ALL crazy.  😉

Except preceded by “stir”-  — because this was Day #6 of the power outage up here in The Woods.

NEWSFLASH: The power finally came back on at 5:30 this afternoon. But I will keep what I wrote about it earlier today:

Monday noon: James called the utility company hotline again last night. A woman assured us in pleasant tones that we were amongst 156 other people without power at this point, after the worst of the storm earlier this week. Is this supposed to be reassuring?

We are a select group. It is a dubious honor at best.

She told James the same thing that he heard the day before — that the power was scheduled to be restored by 11 p.m. on Sunday night.

It’s still off now, in the early afternoon on Monday. James remarked that the utility company hotline folks should simply admit that they don’t know when the power will be restored, so we don’t get false hopes.

We are discovering, as we experience our fourth winter out here in The Woods, that during power outages we have every amenity for a number of days (with a small generator), but that WATER is always the first to go.

It’s because we have a well which runs on electricity. It requires a LOT of juice. We would have to buy a huge generator in order to operate the well pump.

So we’ve been getting by on filling the 20-gallon tank in the Airstream trailer, which lasts us a few days with judicious use. But after five days we’ve had to fill this tank (from the well) a second time, and now the tank is empty.

We’ve been using the toilet in the bathroom off the barn, which is hooked up to the well tank by a garden hose! Now that the pressure is almost gone, today James had the idea of filling the toilet tank with a bucket of water from a small “pond” which forms whenever it rains. This is a temporary body of water which disappears once the dry season starts in late Spring.

This water is crystal-clear. If this power outage continues for a few more days, we’ll probably be filling a lot of buckets!

Whenever we get impatient about the power being out, we bring ourselves back to reality by remembering that we have everything we need, and that this outage is actually just a minor inconvenience.

We’ve come a LONG way since that first winter of ’07-’08 when the power was out for nine days and we didn’t have a generator! Luckily we had heat from the woodstove. We did end up running out of water after five days, and reluctantly went down to my brother’s house in Sacramento.

But this time we are better-prepared, and will be even MORE so in the future. We plan to set up an elevated water tank in the barn (there used to be one when the previous occupants tapped into a spring) which will alleviate the water problem during an outage.

There is another spring which one of our neighbors uses, and we’ve discussed the idea of hooking into it. There is a lot of black plastic PVC pipe still on the property.

We will also install the new woodstove (in the Music Room) that we’d bought the first year but couldn’t get running properly, because we tried to use a combination of six- and eight-inch stovepipe. This did NOT work, and the stove smoked horribly. We ended up putting back the ancient Franklin stove with the original 8-inch stovepipe, which served us very well that winter before it finally died (the rusty bottom part dropped out).

We need to look at our living experience out here in The Woods as a process of evolution. The rustic nature of our existence can be daunting. But it gets a little better each day. As a friend recently observed, “Cameron, you are living the dream.”

I hope I never wake up.

After raining constantly for three days, it has now begun to spit reluctant snow. At this stage it is very wet and isn’t sticking. Yet, at any rate.

James and I miss our daily walks on the various paths wending their way past all the cabins around the Woods. There are several differents routes ranging from low- to high-impact, depending on the contour of the land. I tend to like the steeper paths which offer the best exercise.

But since Sunday we’ve spent most of our time indoors because of the rain, and are now going a bit stir-crazy.

Meanwhile, our hair continues to grow.

Yeah yeah, I know this looks like Hair Thursday instead of Hair Sunday, but I’m sure you understand.

It’s been quite an adjustment being home in The Woods for the first time since September, along with continuing to process our dear friend Laura’s sudden death.

It is both reassuring and sad to be on the land that Laura loved so much. I sense her spirit in every song of the bird, sigh of the pines in the breeze and rush of the water over the rocks in the river.

But she is no longer here to enjoy these things and we feel empty. A huge gap has been created in our lives and it will take some time to heal. Life does go on, and Laura would want us to enjoy it as much as possible. But we need to honor the grieving process right now.

After working so intensely since September, it is actually a relief to have some down-time. I can now turn my musical energies towards more creative pursuits. I am currently working on a synthesized ambient piece.

James is putting the finishing touches on a brass sextet (two trumpets, horn, trombone, euphonium and tuba) which is a suite of five movements in honor of our cat Rupert. It is truly a remarkable piece, and will hopefully become part of the brass repertoire. I view James’ progress as a composer with great amazement and pride. I’ll be able to say that “I knew him WHEN!”  😉

Unlike much of the rest of the country, the weather has been unseasonably mild here in The Woods. Now that I don’t have any gigs lined up for a while, I actually HOPE that it snows; we have nowhere to be, and could afford to be “snowed in” for a few days. We missed the one major snowfall around Christmastime. It is so beautiful here when it snows.

We’re now in double-digit weeks with this hair growth thing and I’ve just emerged from the first awkward stage where I needed to use “product”. Now I can get away with going au naturel until the next awkward phase, whenever that occurs.

I know it will happen at some point.


Tonight is the longest night of the year and I take comfort from the fact that the days will start to get longer from now on!

We were relieved to miss most of the big snowstorm which swept through the mid-Atlantic states this weekend. The Raleigh/Durham area received a mix of snow and sleet totaling less than two inches.

It is clear and cool today, which will make for good traveling weather.

We are packing up to leave Durham tonight after the final show. James will pick me up from the new Performing Arts Center downtown at about 9:20 p.m., and we’ll drive for several hours before stopping. We plan to stay at a KOA in Florence, SC which is midway down the state.

This turnaround is not nearly as long as the one from Tempe; it is only 811 miles to Ft. Lauderdale. We don’t need to bust our a** driving as we did last month, so we may stay over somewhere along the central Florida coast tomorrow night and then arrive in Ft. Lauderdale sometime on Tuesday afternoon.

But then again…we might get a wild hair (no pun intended!) and get there sooner! 😉

Ever since Tuesday’s record-breaking rainstorm, it has been unusually mild and humid in the Bay area.

It almost feels like the East coast in the Fall BEFORE it snows (I’ve heard that it’s snowing out there today).

I am amazed at what a difference a few degrees make here. It’s usually in the upper 50s by the beach and a few degrees warmer in the City. But this week it is five degrees warmer, and I can actually feel the change.

The climate here is very temperate, without too many extremes. So I suppose that any variation seems more dramatic.

Now I understand it when local residents complain that 70 degrees is a “heat wave” and that 50 degrees is a cold-snap.

One thing I have not seen around here are Fall colors. The only indication that the season has changed is that the air is slightly more crisp — at least until this week — and the profusion of Halloween decorations.

James and I just arrived back at our Airstream parked at the beach in Pacifica. We drove through a very heavy rainstorm with high winds which has hit the entire region.

The road was often obscured by rain and there were large puddles which cars ploughed through, sending huge jets of spray in all directions. Most drivers were cautious and we were lucky not to be caught in any slowdowns, although there were a couple of accidents in the opposite direction, heading east on Highway 80.

It started raining early this morning in The Woods and intensified as noon approached, and got worse the further we headed west towards San Francisco.

The power has been out here since noon throughout the Bay area. Our big elementary-school style electric clock on the Airstream kitchen wall stopped at twelve on the nose.

My computer is running on battery power and we are lucky to have a “Mi-Fi” 3G card to get on the internet. The card can run for a while if it’s charged up — thankfully, it is at the moment.

I’ll make this short for now in order to save power. The storm is still raging now at 3:30 p.m.; sheets of rain are pelting the stainless steel trailer and the high winds are rocking it gently to and fro.

I haven’t heard anything about the show possibly being cancelled tonight. Apparently BART is running. There are probably areas of downtown San Francisco which do have power; hopefully the Golden Gate Theatre is in one of them!

James picked me up from the theatre immediately after yesterday’s matinee ended at five o’clock, and we made the four-hour drive back home to The Woods for my single day off today.

It took about forty-five minutes to get out of San Francisco and over the Bay Bridge; there was lots of traffic late Sunday afternoon. Hordes of people were leaving two major events, a baseball game and an air show put on by the Blue Angels.

One of my colleagues in the pit of South Pacific advised me to ‘put on my patience hat, there’s gonna be a LOT of traffic this afternoon!’ so I took her words to heart, and felt more relaxed about the stop/start aspect of our crawl out of the City because I was mentally prepared for it.

We arrived home to pitch black darkness at 9:30, and crisp cool temperatures in the 40s. It’s always such a shock to be drenched in such silence after being in an intense urban area. My mind seemed to race even more, against the backdrop of this contrast.

We couldn’t have picked two more different environments in which to live!

We needed to come home once more before we hit the road with Phantom, so that James could winterize the water pipes leading out from the well.

Fall has definitely come to The Woods. Splashes of yellow adorn the deciduous trees, and there are patches of golden pine needles sprinkled throughout the evergreens. The meadow grass is brown and crackly. The sound of birds is curiously absent; perhaps they have already migrated South.

This is the time of year just before the rains and snows set in. A time of waiting for the transition to Winter.

It will be interesting to see if we can bring the Airstream trailer back home in mid-January; it is entirely possible that the mile-long, steep, rutted dirt road will be impassable with ice and snow. It usually snows in early January, as much as two feet in a single storm.

When we get back to California sometime the second week of January, we will call the town postmaster — who is also one of our nearest neighbors — to ask about the road conditions. If it’s bad, then we’ll probably park the Airstream in my brother’s driveway in Sacramento for a week or so, before venturing up to The Woods. We did this last year, and had a lovely visit with the family.

So we are enjoying our brief time at home now, and will drive back to our City Life bright and early tomorrow morning. Back to work!

There are two weeks remaining of the run of South Pacific in San Francisco. I am already waxing nostalgic about it; this has been a wonderful production to be involved with. I will miss playing in this excellent orchestra. It’s very unusual to have twenty-five musicians (with NO synthesizers) in the pit for shows these days. I’m so glad that this full-scale revival of a Broadway classic is being done now!

I am continually amazed at the variety of climates going on in the San Francisco Bay area all at the same time.

This phenomenon is due to the fact that this area is bounded by the ocean on the west and by hills on the east, with combinations of both elements inland in various directions. It’s a complex physical environment which results in many different micro-climates. It can be cool and foggy on one side of a hill and hot and sunny on the other side.

Here at the beach in Pacifica, just south of San Francisco, it is usually foggy and cool. The temperature usually stays in the 50s when the fog layer comes in.

James drives me over a rather steep hill to the north when he drops me off at the BART station to go to work. When there is fog in Pacifica, it is usually at its thickest at the top of this hill. Then we go over the crest and downhill towards the intersection of highways 1 and 280. Suddenly the hills to the east and the City to the north come into view, in blazing sunshine.

This does not always happen, but often enough to be a pattern.

Sometimes the fog stretches northward past Balboa Park. When I ride the train, I’m not sure where the fog ends exactly because BART is underground after that station. But it is frequently sunny in downtown San Francisco when I emerge to street level at 7th & Market.

The fog creates changeable weather conditions very quickly. James told me the other day that there were at least three short periods of sunshine yesterday at the beach, none of which lasted more than an hour, and usually much shorter.

So if you don’t like the weather, stick around a minute!

I was amazed this past summer at the variations of temperature around the Bay area, even when it was sunny everywhere. It would be 60 degrees at the beach and over 90 degrees a few miles inland.

My friend R.A. lives in Lafayette, at the extreme eastern portion of the Bay area. You have to go through the Caldicot Tunnel, which cuts through a major range of hills separating Oakland from the rest of the East Bay, to get to Lafayette. The western side of the tunnel would be 70 degrees and the eastern side twenty degrees warmer. Then it escalates quickly as you proceed further east.

There is often a 50-degree difference between San Francisco and Sacramento (90 miles inland) in the summer.

I have a theory why Pacifica is such a laid-back, unpretentious community. It may be totally off the mark but it entertains me to think that it’s because the area is so foggy. If it were brilliantly sunny here by the beach all the time, it would attract wealthy people wanting to build fancy homes overlooking the ocean.

Obviously, Pacifica residents don’t mind the fog. James and I can tolerate it for a few days in a row, but it gets kind of old after two straight weeks, which happened in mid-July. It was maddening to be stuck in fog all day and then drive over the northern hill to find blazing sunshine, barely two miles away.

So I suppose the remedy is to get OUT of the house and take the train to more sunny environments. In the San Francisco Bay area, you usually have not far to go!

Greetings from Kansas City!

I am here to play three weeks of Phantom. Then on April 20th, James and I will drive to Hartford, CT to play two weeks of the show there.

We look forward to visiting friends in New York City, Boston and Nashville after my five weeks of Phantom work are concluded on May 3rd. We should arrive back home in the Woods sometime during the second week of May.

We are staying in the Airstream trailer at an RV park in Merriam, just south of downtown Kansas City. We have parked here several times before; once with the show in 2001 and other times just passing through. This central location is a convenient stopping-place.

It is so good to be out of the car finally, after three long ten-hour days of driving to get here. On our return home we have decided to take four days to get back to California from Kansas City, which will be less wear and tear on our bodies.

Since my previous post, Winter has receded in the Woods, but it is not quite Spring yet up in the mountains.

The snow melted during the last week of February. The run-off from the higher mountains created a large amount of water rushing down the Yuba River. James and I awoke on the morning of the 24th to the sound of the river, which was positively roaring!

In the month since then, the signs of Spring have been subtle. The new season will intensify while we are gone, culminating in an explosion of lupin and bachelor buttons in the meadow by the time we return in mid-May. We can hardly wait!

In late February I took this picture of ladybugs (breeding?) on a holly bush close to the back porch.

A couple of weeks later, I checked the bush again:

In mid-March, temperatures crept up into the upper 60s during the day. James brought out the patio furniture which we installed on the back porch, and we enjoyed several lunches out there until it got cold again.

Springtime means that we can dry our clothes out on the line rather than in the Music Room (we don’t own a dryer). There’s nothing like the smell of sun-dried clothes!

Cat Rupert enjoys being outside more now that the snow has melted.

The only patch of snow which remained on March 13th was on the north side of the Music Room where the sun does not shine.

You can see the chimney which had fallen after the first heavy snowstorm in December. We didn’t hook up the new woodstove this Winter, as staying warm in the Airstream was much easier.

In my next post (which I will put up soon, I promise!) I will describe our current life in Kansas City, so very different from the one we have in the Woods.

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!