Lives of Change . . . Changing Lives (thoughts on the changing of the year)

Two years ago, I had just arrived in the Northern Territory and Justin met me at the airport with a hand-picked bouquet of tropical flora. The air was thick with past and future rain, monsoonal rain, so very different from the cold wintry rain I'd just left behind in California.

One year ago, Justin and I were in New South Wales, enjoying our first (and only) holiday in Australia outside of the NT. We spent New Year's Eve with our friends Waz and Pas (whose lives have changed dramatically since then) visiting his parents' house.

The pace of change does not seem to be slowing down. When I named this blog "Change Junkies" I thought perhaps that it might seem silly after awhile because what were the chances that our lives would continue to change so much? Well, of course, the chances were good as long as we continued to embrace change with open arms. Do we seek it out or do we stumble into it? Are we simply running from boredom and predictability or moving toward our new true lives?

In January 1995, Justin and I moved in together, not sure at all of what changes lay ahead. Who could have predicted that in 12 years' time we'd be living in our 14th home together? That we'd have circled the globe more than once? That we'd be more deeply in love? That we'd be less, rather than more, sure of how best to use our talents in the world?

I don't know what the next year will bring, but I am sure there will be changes. Job changes? Likely for me. Housing changes? Always possible. City changes? I think we'll be here in this area at this time next year. Less easy to predict or even to recognize immediately are the internal changes. In what ways will each of us have changed in one year's time?

At my parents' house on Christmas Eve, I went into their basement study to look for a book. Browsing the bookshelves, I was struck by how many books I'd read and completely forgotten about. Whole series and genres with which I'd been obsessed at certain times suddenly came back to life. Since then I've been thinking of the ways in which my personality, values and views have been shaped by my reading.

I read a lot as a child. I checked out books from the library by the stack. I often read novels in a day or two, and I was never not reading something. When my library supply ran out before we could get back there, I'd head down to the basement study and pick something from my parents' shelves, usually something from my dad's 1950s science fiction collection. I just recently read some science fiction (Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower) and was struck by the clunky heavy-handedness of the genre. Then I remembered that I'd lost interest in fantasy and science fiction in my late teens because the good guys and bad guys were too clear cut, the predictions about the future too obvious. I can't help but wonder, though, who would I be if I hadn't read so much of it?

It's impossible to know our possible selves. If this, if that. Are all our potential selves leading parallel lives in parallel universes? Or do we harbor our alternate selves within us? The selves that made better and worse choices than we did in this world, the selves that were fearless when we were fearful, the selves that were kind when we were selfish, as well as the selves that acted on every emotion when we acted with restraint and foresight. Who would we be without the knowledge of those other selves?

I wish a year of insight, laughter, stimulation and contentment to all of us. May suffering be lessened, may joy increase exponentially, and may love be the prevailing force in the world in 2007.

Back in November...

We spent Thanksgiving down in the desert. The meal itself, a gourmet yet traditional feast, was prepared and served by my aunt and uncle at their house in Yucca Valley, assisted by her fabulous mother. Before the meal and the following day, various members of the clan drove over to Joshua Tree National Park for some rock scrambling and desert hiking.

Some people couldn't resist climbing for a view.

The weather and landscape were spectacular.

After two nights of breathing the crisp desert air, we drove into Los Angeles. We spent the night in a hotel near the airport because one member of our party was flying out early in the morning. The smog reminded me of some sci-fi vision of a dystopic future. The lack of trees (besides palm trees) was also disturbing. I took this picture from the hotel room (non-opening) window.

The Christmas Photos

Nephew K is ready for the goods. Aha! Who knew the goods would be so...chewable?

After the traditional Christmas crackers provided by the Irish relative, everyone was royalty.

A Hike in the City

A couple days ago, Justin and I took a nice hike on the San Francisco coast, part of which was part of the California Coastal Trail. We took a bus across the bay which was itself a novel experience for me, as I'm more used to taking BART which goes under the water. Being up on the bridge and up high in a bus, we were able to see the progress on the new Bay Bridge--pretty impressive! Next time, I'll get a picture.

From the Transbay Terminal, we caught a bus across town. Instead of feeling frustrated by its slowness, we enjoyed the chance to see the city and its denizens in action all along Geary Street.

Although we had intended to start our hike at Ocean Beach, we got off the bus at Sutro Beach when the bus driver announced the end of the line. Here's a map of San Francisco, for easy reference. We started our walk north of Ocean Beach. The trail led us through some beautiful trees (cypress, I think).

After awhile we came around a corner with a perfect view of the Golden Gate Bridge in front of us. (We were willing to turn our backs to it for the sake of the photo.)

Further along, we climbed down through some more beautiful trees, like this one.

I wish the color of these photos represented the truly sparkling blue of the sky that day.

Down at a great rocky shore, Justin went to inspect a mass of mussels on the rocks.
Unfortunately, that's when the camera batteries died. After that is when we discovered that the spare batteries were not in fact charged. So the rest of the trip went undocumented (except of course by the porous net of memory).

Later, the walk took us up through some incredible mansiony neighborhood where all the houses have walls of windows looking out on the bay (the kind of houses that made one of us say "This sort of makes me want to have buttloads of money" and the other of us to say, "It's kind of amazing that the poor haven't risen up yet"). Then we walked back down to Baker Beach and ate the lunch that we'd brought and watched other people also enjoying the beach.

Finally, we walked under the Golden Gate Bridge, across it, and then back. That in itself is an interesting experience. Many people, of many ages, from many lands (and from other parts of this one) were gathered at each end of the bridge, and others were walking, jogging, and cycling across. Even for those of us who grew up seeing and passing over the bridge, seeing it up close really brings into focus its amazing vision and engineering. I came away with a renewed sense of wonder and admiration for people with big ideas who see them through.

Dragons and Quakes

Yesterday, I looked out the front windows to see a dozen or more Harleys parked up and down both sides of the street. The riders all had leather jackets with their club name and logo on the back: East Bay Dragons--Oakland. See pictures and read about them at Soul On Bikes. Beautiful bikes and one of the riders was in full Santa suit. They had a large wrapped box which they carried up to one of the apartments across the street. Meanwhile, Justin and I were desperately trying to find some fresh batteries for the camera. Santa took off his Santa hat and put on a helmet--one of those little half size helmets that don't really cover the ears--on top of his white curly Santa wig. Then they all drove off in a loud cloud of glory. It was really a sight to see and I am so sorry I don't have a picture to post.

We discovered that even in our flashlights we had only weak batteries, the discovery of which made us think more about how prepared we are (not) for an emergency.

Speaking of emergencies...we've had earthquakes the last several days, all centered not far away. Before last week, I had only experiences two earthquakes that I'd actually felt. I was in the kitchen on the phone and the all the dishes started rattling and the floor shook. Justin, in the next room, and I both shouted "Earthquake!" to each other and then when it subsided we walked around to inspect the consequences. A golf ball and a small stuffed animal both jumped off of bookshelves, but there was no damage. I thought maybe we felt it extra much because we're on the top storey, but everyone was talking about it the next day at school. For those who aren't going to go read the article linked above, the earthquakes were all 3.7 magnitude, and centered very near us. Maybe we'll finally finish putting together our emergency kit now: so far I think it contains a flashlight (with dead batteries), a roll of toilet paper, a couple cans of tuna or sardines, and maybe a blanket. Hmmm...

Well, here's hoping that you all are ready for any shaking that might come your way, and that you are enjoying the lengthening days and time with friends and family.

Winter solstice, new school program in works

Winter has arrived. I've taken the bus or BART all week; my poor bicycle sits neglected in the backyard. We wear hats inside (especially to bed) and it takes several days for the laundry to dry in the sunroom.

Seeing a few houses in my neighborhood decked with Christmas lights, I remembered how bedazzled Chico houses always were. Garish plastic Santa blow-ups and Nativity scene plywood cutouts aside, I have to admit I've always been a bit fond of seeing lights up at this time of year (while also recognizing it as a pure waste of resources). It's interesting that there doesn't seem to be much outdoor lighting in our neighborhood.

On the work front, I'm getting excited about a new approach we are planning for the final trimester (March-April). It will be non-classroom based (field trips) and interdisciplinary, while still being somewhat independent study. Students will have a science/math field trip and a humanities (language arts, history, arts) field trip each week, then do independent work on the remaining 3 days. It's exciting to plan and to have something different to look forward to. Although it won't address all the problems inherent in an independent studies program aimed at students who've missed out on a lot of school, it may ameliorate some of the issues.

The themes we're going to address on the humanities side are (a) religious and philosophical foundations of world culture, and (b)"globalization"--meaning the movement of people, ideas, and goods around the globe, but not just in the past century.

Can anyone suggest another term for "globalization" that isn't so loaded? Also, I'm looking for great short literature pieces that might tie in, especially if they have a California connection. I think we're going to read The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, which I have't yet read. My humanities colleague recommended it and it looks good. I was thinking of having a few novels for students to choose from and then doing discussion groups on themes, but I'm starting to think it might be easier to just stick with one novel, especially the first time. Does anybody have any novels they love that are at a middle-school reading level that would fit in here?

I'd love your feedback and suggestions as I move into planning this unit.

I hope everyone is finding the short days and long nights of winter to be inspirational and comforting. There's something cozy about darkness; without the overload of sensory input of long bright hectic summer days, there may be more time to reflect and create. I say this now, but I know that I'll rejoice at every blue-sky-day reprieve throughout the rest of the winter rainy season!