Friday, September 17, 2021

Love Letters to My Life #39 - Do I still need a migratory life?

Acorns with acorn weevil grub

(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my death day: the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my incredible life.)

Pinezanita Cycles
the poplars are turning yellow;
one red leaf glows on my favorite maple;
ravens are soaring, always watching;
woodpeckers fill their granaries while
acorn larvae wriggle free and fall
to the ground from a perfectly round hole 
then burrow into the soil for two years 
before re-emerging as adult acorn weevils
in order to begin the cycle anew.

Climate change shifted my own cycle of migration, bringing me back early to what is supposed to be my winter residence. Dixie, a monster wildfire, largest in California history and covering almost a million acres, raged through my summer place, consuming homes, towns, landmarks, and businesses. Fortunately for me, it left my lakeside trailer unblemished, other than a refrigerator that went rancid while the power was off.

While the debate ranges about who or what to blame for the devastation, one fact stands out for me: the moisture content for processed lumber averages 15%. Northern California’s forests average about 5%. We are in the midst of a mega drought which is drying up the state’s key reservoirs and turning forests into standing kindling. Climate change experts say this could be just the beginning.

Choke cherries - I got to watch the cycle from bloom to berry.

Last week I logged 1400 miles, driving to Lake Almanor for what I expected to be two or three weeks of enjoying the lake after almost a month of being evacuated because of the fires. I awoke my first morning there to a power outage and no information about cause or duration.

On the second morning, my patience had thinned and I wanted information so I headed for a Chester coffee shop where I found that all of the small downtown area was running on emergency generators and the expectation for return of power was 20 days. The local power station had been destroyed by the fire and apparently the back-up substation had just been knocked out.

Even after a monster fire, the lake is still stunning

With that information, I decided to shut down the trailer for the season and return to Julian, grateful that I had a place to return to. On the return trip, a friend texted that the power had been restored. Who knows where the 20 day estimate had come from? However, I was already packed up and decided to continue toward Julian.

Driving through the heart-stopping beauty of the Eastern Sierra

Something happens to my head when I’m on a long trip. Having nothing better to do, it builds castles in the air and I, thinking they are real, move in and start rearranging the furniture. As always, this trip ended and the castle poofed. 

It was a fun ride though and now I get to sort out the grains of reality from the toppling pile of fantasy.

One jewel of reality is being back in Julian in the oak woodlands of Pinezanita RV Park in my cozy RV where the woodpeckers screech through the clean mountain air. They remind me that they build granary trees so they don’t have to migrate. And, I wonder: do I need to keep wandering south to north; north to south? What would nourish me enough to stay put in this embracing land all year round?

Maybe this is the beginning of my wisdom years ... 

Fall begins in Pinezanita

Been There Voices: Ruth Ann Hattori - Reflections on Japanese Internment

When I think of “been there,” I automatically think of the end of the cliché, “done that.” In the Done That category…

Marriage: I’m happily married to my 4th and final husband. Regardless of what happens in the future, there will be no more weddings.

Kids: My two wonderful kids are finally married off – to absolutely spectacular spouses. True to form, they are entrepreneurs, so not expecting any little ones soon. Our local family unit has grown recently as my stepdaughter and family have moved nearby. The three grandkids are really nice, respectful people (20, 18, 17)…it’s no wonder they worry about our influence on them! They will fit into Texas well, as “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am” are in their vocab.

Jobs and careers: After running my own company, multiple Marketing Director, Product Development Director, Training Director positions, it’s hard to believe that I’m in the non-profit world. It’s eye-opening and thankfully fun as the team I’m with is mostly young, energetic and full of ideas. The marketing part is second nature, it’s the challenge of helping the Museum to reach the next level that’s exciting. Of course, there’s that thing about not really being “the boss” that is a bit of a rub every so often.

It’s the most recent Been There that has made me stop and think. Just one year ago, I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, so my 2020/21 has been quite a roller coaster. I kept working – and boy, I have to say, that my work really got me up every morning and to my computer to keep my mind off of dark thoughts. But, because of my work, I probably didn’t spend as much time reflecting as one should.

Prior to cancer, we lost Mom to Covid in April 2020. I guess she was one of the early deaths in our country’s many. She was 96, suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and was actually fairly healthy and “with it” except for her short-term memory until the end. Fortunately, she did not suffer for many days with Covid. Even before her death, and thanks to the National Museum of the Pacific War and our Day of Remembrance program, I had been thinking about her internment during WWII. More on that later.

I am truly thankful for the ups and downs of the last year. They do give me some focus on what to reflect upon and what to pursue. One thing I want to pursue is ensuring that all Americans do have a good sense of what happened during WWII – about internment, our initial awakening about racial bias in our culture and the stories of all of those millions of people who fought, supported and lived through that time. It is really true that WWII has shaped us as a country, and as time passes, we are losing both the stories and the lessons that we should have learned.

My mother was 18 in 1942, (shown in photo above) when after the attack on Pearl Harbor, both the US and Canada interned people of Japanese heritage on their west coasts, whether citizens of their countries or not. I always admired that Mom reflected upon her experience as positive. She told me that she would have never been a teacher, and certainly not a school principal had it not been for her internment. She was one of numerous young, Japanese Canadians who became teachers in their camps. Many years later, a book titled “Teaching in Canadian Exile” was published which were, essentially, oral histories written by many of the women who taught, including one of my mother’s sisters. As I have read the passages, my mother’s recollection that her internment experience was probably not nearly as terrible as most Americans’ internment experience is probably true. However, the fact remains that they lost their family home and property, and left with nothing post war, like their American counterparts.

The Museum has over 5000 oral histories in its collection. As our population of WWII veterans dwindles, soon we will only have these oral histories to hear the stories in their own words. 

One of my goals for the Museum is that we find a way for these stories to be shared widely. 

-- Ruth Ann Hattori, Fredericksburg, TX, ideas unlimited entrepreneur

Click here for more about Ruth Ann and other Been There Voices  


Been There Voices is about us, our lives, our successes and failures, our joys and sorrows, our lessons and our gradual, hard-won wisdom. We have survived and thrived throughout whatever has come our way.

The reasons are arbitrary and not intended to dismiss half of our population, however, this project focuses on the stories of women, and begins with fourteen women, well-polished grains of sand on the beach of life, tumbled by the waves of time until their light shines through, offering their stories, joys and sorrows, to the ocean of wisdom.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Been There Voices: Anita Perez Ferguson - Poetry

Huichol Art ala Anita Perez Ferguson

I used to be older, very discouraged, and certain life’s summer season was done. It was then that I wrote these lines:

Am I writing or praying?

Am I writing, or praying, 
when I create a character 
and give her life?

Her ordinary moments 
reflect the hopes and fears 
that herd us toward 
divine guidance and shelter.

Am I constructing a plot, 
or meditating on her 
purpose and perils?

I listen to her heartbeat 
and see a creative spark 
reflected in her eye.

Am I writing or praying?


Summer Past

Summer past

Appears to be

Forever gone.

Never to come again.

Not to be annually recurring,

But spent.


It’s company


-- Anita Perez Ferguson, Santa Barbara, CA, young adult historic fiction author

Click here for more about Anita and other Been There Voices  


Been There Voices is about us, our lives, our successes and failures, our joys and sorrows, our lessons and our gradual, hard-won wisdom. We have survived and thrived throughout whatever has come our way.

The reasons are arbitrary and not intended to dismiss half of our population, however, this project focuses on the stories of women, and begins with fourteen women, well-polished grains of sand on the beach of life, tumbled by the waves of time until their light shines through, offering their stories, joys and sorrows, to the ocean of wisdom.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

These things ... these joyous things

These Things ... These Joyous Things

elegant, long-needled, sunlit Jeffrey Pines,
clinging rabbit brush draping shadows
across the sparkled and crevassed granite rock,
Walker River riffling through the canyon,
Shingle Mill day use area inviting 
passing travelers to stop, rest, 
admire these joyous things...

these joyous things,
waiting for you,
hoping you see them,
wanting your heart to open,
feel the connection,
feel the eternity 
flowing between you.

9/12/2021 driving Highway 395 through Walker Canyon, stopping to do my gratitude journal in one of my favorite places.

I miss the Eastern Sierra.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Announcing: Been There Voices ... stories of wisdom from women who have lived long and learned much

From diversity comes wisdom

"I wanted a perfect ending. 
Now I've learned, the hard way, 
that some poems don't rhyme, 
and some stories don't have 
a clear beginning, middle, and end." 
 -- Gilda Radner

Few of us have fiction-perfect stories; all of us have struggles and joys, lessons learned, lessons forgotten and learned again. What we have after decades of surviving the ups and downs of life is Wisdom. Hard-earned wisdom stories that can be shared with others and, possibly, help them on their own journeys. 

The purpose of Been There Voices is to create an ongoing series of stories and thoughts from a diverse group of women who have lived long enough gather wisdom and are caring enough to want to share what they've learned. 

To start the ball rolling, I invited several women friends who have had varied lives to join a loosely defined process of sharing our stories and our wisdom. The ball is rolling slowly as we gather biographies and ideas into the Been There Voices tab shown at the top of this blog. Click here to meet the women who are sharing their stories.

Early in the pandemic, Barbara Gaughten-Muller, one of the voices of this project, invited me to be a guest on her peace podcast. It was a chance to share some of the thinking I had been doing about gratitude and generosity and their role as two sides of the same coin. I had been fascinated by so many of the pandemic scenes: generosity -- a pianist playing to Venice from a gondola -- and greed -- people stripping store shelves of toilet paper -- and how those actions related to feelings of gratitude.

Barbara suggested I use the podcast in the opening announcement for this new group as an introduction to me as well as to this fledgling process of increasing the number of us who are sharing our wisdom. 

We women who have reached the wisdom stage of life (and some reach it earlier, or later, than others) now live in a world which offers us multiple opportunities for sharing the lessons we've learned; however, sometimes we forget how much wisdom we've gathered, how much we've survived and how we have thrived.

These strange and challenging times desperately need wisdom. I hope we can be an example of shared wisdom and encourage others to tell their stories whenever possible. It is through story that we share our human connections as well as our collected wisdom.

Click here to watch

Please join us … please share your own wisdom in the comments section, or if you would like to be a guest contributor or a contributing member, please send an email to jwycoff at me dot com.

A question and a thought for you:

How might you tell your story ...
and to whom?

"Our species thinks in metaphors 
and learns through stories." 
-- Mary C. Bateson

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Kinetic Wave Sculptures: Reuben Margolin

Another find from my digital attic ... Reuben Margolin, a fascinating kinetic artist who deserved an updated look. I found this in his bio: 
I went to Harvard to study math, but changed majors and got a degree in English in 1993. Maybe, I thought, I could be a poet.
Upon graduating, writing wasn’t going too well and I decided what I needed was a better table to write on. So I built a round table that could drive and set out across the country in search of conversations about the meaning of life. It turned out that the only conversation I was having was why I was driving a table and so I ditched the table in Texas.

 Kinetic Sculpture: Dandelion Wave 

Click Here 

*** 2011 Original Post ... be sure to watch the video ... great studio

Here is a perfect example of the artist perspective (with the talent and skill to translate his perspective into incredibly beautiful reality). Plus, he's very cute.

From the YouTube description:  Reuben Margolin, a Bay Area visionary and longtime maker, creates totally singular techno-kinetic wave sculptures. Using everything from wood to cardboard to found and salvaged objects, Reubens artwork is diverse, with sculptures ranging from tiny to looming, motorized to hand-cranked. Focusing on natural elements like a discrete water droplet or a powerful ocean eddy, his work is elegant and hypnotic. Also, learn how ocean waves can power our future. Learn more about Reuben at

Monday, August 30, 2021

Flying Lessons

Most of us who have been using personal computers for awhile have a favorite software that acts like a junk drawer. Mine is Evernote and it passed the junk drawer stage years ago ... after twelve years, it is now a full on attic.  Evernote is an organizer's dream but can quickly become a tangled mess when discipline is slack. 

Charitably, I would describe my organization as mid-level, although it has been drifting toward tangled mess for awhile. With a little prodding from a highly organized friend, I've committed to tidying up. 

It may take awhile because, like any good attic, there are treasures hidden amongst the dust bunnies. One that appeared tonight was a bit of poetry that arrived a few years ago as I was reading about Unfettered Mind, the title of Kitty Ferguson’s biography of Stephen Hawking, which is a metaphorical paean to a life of freedom.

 While his body was locked in an immovable prison, his mind soared into the far reaches of space and time, unbound … unfettered … by the requirements of ordinary life (in large part thanks to his wife Jane’s constant care.) In spite of his decades of paralysis and continuing loss of physical abilities, Hawking said, “In my mind, I am free!”

I became fascinated by the fettered part of unfettered and wrote the following:

FETTERS are those things that bite and scratch,
Claw our spirits, drain our energies,
Withhold the light that shows us the way,
And, distract us from our path home.

FETTERS are the darts of judgment,
Telling us we’re not good enough,
No one will love us, we’re too old,
Slow, dumb, fat, ugly, clumsy,

Darts thrown by the world.
Darts thrown by ourselves.

FETTERS are our neon limitations,
Blank spaces where there should be
Shapely arms or legs, IQ points, money, time,
Energy, mentors, a degree or certificate,
All the things we lack in order to be enough ...
Potholes, sinkholes, wounds, all the missing pieces,
All the many reasons we can’t do what calls us.

FETTERS are the gathered weight of the world:
Too much and too many ...
Stuff, expectations, pressures to fit in,
Be a success; be right; be normal;
Heaviness driving us into the ground while
The weighty expectation of future continuity
Sucks adventure from our bones.

FETTERS are the dark shadows of fear.
Creeping into the corners of our spirits …
Tendrils of failure, abandonment, pain, loss,
Sickness, poverty, entrapment, death,
Calling us to hide, lash out, freeze … or run!

FETTERS nurture the fear that clutches our heart,
And calls us to forsake the clear energy of flowers,
The kiss of morning mist shifting through trees,
The dance of children,
The frosted nuzzle of an old dog,
Or a slow afternoon of friends and family
Gathered around burgers and lemonade,

Joy traded for the weight of pieces of numbered paper.
For the protective shield of our limitations,
For our own acceptance of the world’s judgments,
For the comforting warmth of our hand-sewn quilts of safety.

Thank them, those many fetters, for their lessons,
And then let them go,
One by one,


-- Joyce Wycoff