Coastal California joins the fun of chilly winter weather. This is the first time that I’ve seen this kind of frosty freeze on my car windshield in the morning. Of course it isn’t like the brutal Midwest cold that I grew up with — Dakota drifts of snow that cover houses and small buildings, not is it like the icy Indiana roads that would send my car careening into the yard of one of the good folk of Winona Lake, Indiana, if I took a turn just a wee bit too fast — but it’s something, notable enough for a photo op.
Activism is good for the soul. I want to change the world, like anyone else, but for me activism is also extremely therapeutic. It reminds me that there are other people who see injustices in the world and believe in their bones that things don’t have to be this way. That’s especially true of big activist events like the Women’s March. It’s kind of a beautiful thing, to be surrounded by smiling faces and to snap a hundred pictures of the explosion in creativity that surrounds us: all the catchy and colorful signs, the carefully crafted costumes, the music, the chanting, and the chalk art on the streets. Yet in the midst of this exhilarating experience of solidarity, opposition and hostility can sometimes come from unexpected places and from unexpected people.
My new accounting gig is in downtown Santa Cruz. In order to avoid paying for parking, I prefer finding street parking up the hill, in the Mission district, an area with a beautiful Catholic Church and an old mission building. It’s a nice little walk, from the Mission district, but not too far, and I get a pretty view of downtown Santa Cruz, when it isn’t pouring rain. We’ve had a lot of rain — it’s the rainy season — but this morning it was clear and I caught the last little bit of the morning sunrise.
When we arrive in McCarthy at the beginning of the summer, we all ask each other about our winter. At the end of the summer, the topic of conversation is what we are doing for the winter. I always seem to talk to one or two people who are considering working on the North Slope, at the top of the world. A friend of mine working the Slopes recently sent me these two pics:
After a morning meadering through Arches, I drove an hour or so, to Canyonlands National Park. Whereas Zion had been overrun with buses and cameras and all their many peoples, and while Bryce and Arches were pleasant but still felt a bit crowded from time to time, Canyonlands was like hitting the paydirt of personal solitude. Of the four Parks I had inadvertently save the best for last. Canyonlands was my fave.
After viewing the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, I drove for a while and spent that night at a rest stop on the Interstate, which probably doesn’t sound particularly appealing, especially since I was sleeping in my tiny Fiat 500 (converted into a little camper-car), but the views from the rest stop were quite phenomenol. At this point, I was in the heart of some of the grand scenery of southern Utah — and most significantly, I was well off the beaten path, so I could take in the views the way the writer Edward Abbey and other writers and desert monastics have always talked about: as a reflective, solitary endeavor.
After my day at Zion National Park, I was a bit uneasy. Zion was completely overrun with tourists. I couldn’t even find an open parking place at the Visitor’s Center, even though the parking lot capacity was like a shopping mall. I had three more Parks to visit, and I wondered: would they all be crowded out with homo spaiens? I spend my summers in McCarthy, in the middle of what is the largest National Park in North America. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is also fairly empty, and I often have the sense that I’ve got the whole damn Park to myself. Was I just spoiled by the unspoiled Alaskan wilderness?