Vandalism

The little Memorial Tree was found to be askew late Wednesday afternoon.

This would have been an ideal time for a seasonal update on the little Memorial Tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park. Until recently, it had been healthier and growing more vigorously than it had since it was installed a few years ago. It had survived major accidental damage, and was just beginning to thrive. Sadly though, it was so severely vandalized that recovery is unlikely.

About a month ago, someone was seen briefly rummaging about the base of the tree, as if retrieving something that was dropped. Upon closer inspection, the observer noticed what seemed to be some sort of fertilizer, which was not considered to be a problem. A few days later, someone else recognized it as common salt, which is toxic to young plants, and promptly removed it.

Last Wednesday, the Memorial Tree was observed to be askew and separated from its supportive stake, which seemed to be the sort of minor damage incurred by something as simple as a dog getting its leash tangled with it. However, as the tree was straightened and staked, three fresh saw cuts were observed in the trunk. Each cut severed the trunk about half way through.

A vandal is intent on depriving the Community of this Memorial Tree. That is what vandals do. They destroy assets, which are very commonly assets of Society. Of all the Memorial Trees in Felton Covered Bridge Park, this specific vandal specifically targeted the Memorial Tree that was contributed to Society by the Homeless of Felton, who innately have the least to contribute.

We will consult with the Santa Cruz County Parks Department this week about the future of this Memorial Tree or its potential replacement. However, the next Memorial Tree will likely be a Memorial Grove of several coast live oaks, perhaps with cedars to the east and west, in a less accessible but very visually prominent location near the western end of Mount Hermon Road.

Although the Memorial Tree initially seemed to be undamaged, three major cuts were found in the trunk.

Eviction Moratorium

There are no simple solutions to all the financial difficulties associated with the inability of so many to earn their normal income during this current situation with Coronavirus. So many of us simply can not afford what we could previously afford. Mortgages and rents are the most significant expenses for many who are now unemployed, so many of us will be unable to pay them.

The current eviction moratorium protects those who might otherwise be evicted from their homes or commercial properties for their inability to pay their mortgages or rents. However, it is no remedy for the disruption of revenue that those who own the mortgages or rental properties rely on. Many of them also need to pay mortgages and rents. Everyone has innate expenses.

It will take a while for those who own rental properties to recover from any lapse of revenue, but it will likely be easier than renting to new tenants while so few can afford to rent. Similarly, it will be easier for lending institutions to recover from delinquencies of mortgage revenue than to foreclose on so many properties simultaneously. It is no simple solution, but it likely helps.

The main advantages of eviction moratoriums are that fewer businesses will need to vacate commercial properties, and fewer people will become homeless. These are significant advantages! Homelessness is already a problem for those who are currently experiencing it. Society can certainly do without more functional and formerly gainfully employed people becoming homeless.

We are so fortunate to live within a society that is both very generous to those who lack homes, and proactive in facilitating the retention of homes for those who have them. Otherwise, more of us would likely be homeless soon. Recovery from this currently unpleasant situation will be a long and difficult process.

A New Surplus

Yellow summer squash is almost as abundant as zucchini.

Felton is certainly no place to go hungry in. The generosity here can be a bit overwhelming at times. Surplus of perishable food that must be frozen almost exceeds the capacity of the freezers that we use. Some of the non perishable food gets transferred to a somewhat well stocked pantry where it is shared with anyone in the Community who wants it, regardless of need.

Food distribution between 11:00 and noon on Thursday at Community Bridges still helps by providing more variety of food, but what is procured is shared amongst more significant groups. Some of us take what we get to share with those we work with, because some have not been working as much as they typically do lately. Nonetheless, there is still sometimes a bit of surplus.

Now, there is about to be a little bit more. The vegetable plants that some of us started in various small garden plots have been producing a few minor vegetables, and are just about to start producing more significantly. Even vegetable plants that got started late are catching up with a normal schedule now that days are longer and the weather is warming. It is that time of year.

Frequent harvest of zucchini promotes continual production.

Unfortunately, there could be a slight increase in the need for this minor bit of surplus at about the same time that it becomes available. So many in the Community who rely on tourism and associated industries for revenue will be earning less than normal during what should be the busiest season. Although more can return to work now, fewer tourists can afford to spend much.

Diminished revenue limits any expenditure on the necessities of life. A few of those who are so very generous to us might now benefit from the minor surplus that they helped us to generate.

To enhance production, a few bits of corn tassel will get snipped to dust the silks.

Discrimination of Discrimination

Civilization has always been been influenced by various forms of discrimination. Even in modern America, where we like to believe that most types of discrimination have been dispelled, we are regularly reminded that some of the worst remain. Some forms of discrimination get recycled and reassigned, as if they will be more tolerable if applied to more appropriate victims.

Society can be rather discriminating about who it discriminates against.

People of African descent have always been discriminated against in America. Racists who justify such discrimination might consider them collectively to be more innately prone to thievery, as well as violence, vandalism, addiction, exploitation of social services, and any other social transgression that imaginative racists can conceive. It is what justifies racism and discrimination.

Historically, people of Asian descent, particularly Chinese descent, were collectively considered by racists to be more innately prone to addiction (to opium), as well as thievery and squalorly lifestyles. For a disgraceful period of American history, people of Japanese descent were incarcerated merely because they were racially related to enemies of America during World War II.

Many racists still consider Indigenous People of North America to collectively be more innately prone to alcoholism, as well as the many other transgressions that people of African and Asian descent are similarly blamed for. It is a common and typical pattern of racism and discrimination. Behavior that should be attributed to environment is instead attributed to genetics, or race.

It is easy enough to find pictures or other documentation of people conforming to the stereotypes of their respective racial designation. ‘Nature versus Nurture’ need not be mentioned if the objective is to justify racism and discrimination; although disproportionate conformation typically is mentioned. Justification of racism and discrimination rarely involves the use of any logic.

Now that racial discrimination is very slowly becoming less socially acceptable among common American society, some of those who might otherwise be racist are directing more unfounded hostility to other groups, such as those who are wealthier or more impoverished, including the homeless. Because this sort of discrimination is not racist, society is slightly more tolerant of it.

However, modern American society is realizing that unfounded discrimination against some of the homeless is merely a different flavor of the same recycled racial discrimination that is now so stigmatized. The irrational hostility and lack of logic eventually make it obvious. We have seen it all before, continue to see it, and sometimes see it in initially unrecognizable incarnations.

Out In Nature

The forest is doing well.

Felton has certainly changed since my grandparents arrived in the early 1940s. So many more homes have been built around their formerly isolated home on Ashley Street. A supermarket and two big drug stores are within walking distance of Downtown. There are more people and traffic here in Felton now than there were in Sunnyvale when they left.

Wow, Sunnyvale has certainly changed as well.

Yet, nature is still natural. The second growth redwoods are getting to be eighty years older than they were back then. So are some of the old oaks and firs. Otherwise, the forest and all the flora and fauna in it function now like they did back then.

Dogs enjoy nature too.

It has been slightly more than a year since I wrote ‘Fake Environmentalism‘, about the misconception that homelessness is more detrimental to the environment than domestic lifestyles are. That article was more about how domestic lifestyles affect the environment in ways that few of us give much thought to, rather than the relatively minimal impact of homelessness.

We all have seen pictures of the most horrendous of homeless encampments, which are typically inhabited by those afflicted by functionality compromising mental disorder. Encampments such as these exemplify homelessness no more accurately than the White House exemplifies all domestic situations. They are rare, and still less polluting than average domestic lifestyles.

Most homeless encampments are not much to get pictures of. Many homeless people leave nothing where they sleep for the night, but instead take everything with them when they leave in the morning, even if they return at the end of the day.

I could see no evidence of encampments while walking with Rhody through an area where a few homeless people live. I might have found minor evidence if I had looked for it, but that was not my intention. If I had wanted to see evidence of human habitation, we would have walked on one of the several suburban streets in town.

Consider The Source

While most of us are willing to comply with social distancing standards, a few complain vehemently about it. Of these, some blame President Trump for the current situation. Some blame the Liberals. Some insist that it is a conspiracy to destroy the economy. Yet, they all lack the education and experience of those who developed and implemented the social distancing standards.

In other words, they do not know what they are talking about, but they all think that they are experts.

Understandably, many of us want to return to work! Many are frustrated by confinement and want to get out and about like we did prior to this situation. The rational among us do what we must until that is again possible. The irrational sort can potentially prolong this situation by noncompliance to social distancing standards. Society suffers the consequences of their ignorance.

The ignorance of those who lack practical experience with homelessness, but believe that they are qualified to make recommendations about it, is just as irrational. Although such ignorance is rare, we all have encountered it at one time or another. Those who express the most extreme of ignorance and irrationality are too ignorant and irrational to realize it. Consider the source.

For example, some have made the recommendation that homeless people should just relocate to where they would not be homeless, but do not reveal where such a place is. Some homeless people do relocate for a home that happens to be available. It would however be pointless to relocate to be homeless in an unfamiliar situation. Nor should anyone relocate to be unemployed.

How many of those who make such trivializing recommendation had been homeless, and tried to find a home without a deposit, exemplary credit, sufficient income or stable renting history? How many are even aware that many of the homeless lack a combination of these assets? What qualifies anyone lacking such relevant experience or insight to make such recommendations?

What About Everyone Else?

Life is difficult sometimes. It is certainly less difficult for some than it is for others. Nonetheless, no one gets through from beginning to end without some degree of difficulty. Those of us who have experienced significant difficulty may believe that others have better situations, and there are always many who do, but our perceptions of their respective situations really are limited.

Nowadays, many of those who have had better situations than some of us will be experiencing formerly unforseen difficulties. For many, such difficulties will be more stressful than for those of us who have experienced them previously. Most of us crave and strive for stability and security. Many had done well with achieving a better than average degree of stability and security.

So much of that is compromised or challenged now. Some of us with formerly stable employment have been unemployed for quite a while. Some will remain unemployed for a while longer. A few will be without employment to return to. Consequently, some will be unable to pay mortgages, rents and other important bills. Consequences of this are still unknown, but will be severe.

Our minor group has been fortunate for the past many years. So many who formerly lacked homes have procured domestic situations. So many who lacked employment are now lucratively employed. Fewer of us are utilizing the resources that were so helpful to so many more years ago. Fortunately, some of these resources are still available for a different demographic in need.

Hopefully, this current situation does not get as unpleasant as it has potential to. It is already very difficult for some, and in some regards, will likely get significantly worse before improving. Many of us are already doing what we can to help alleviate the severity of this major disruption of normalcy.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

Dedication of the Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree on May 2 brought back memories. That should probably be expected from a memorial. However, the tree is new. The site of the dedication is what we remembered. It was a campsite where Steven temporarily lived while homeless in the autumn of 2012. It has changed significantly since then, but is still recognizable.

Homelessness is generally not a preferred alternative to a domestic lifestyle, at least within local cultures and societies. Otherwise, more of us would be homeless. Those who are experienced with homelessness would not recommend it to those who are not. There are just too many advantages associated with domestic lifestyles. Homelessness is just too challenging and arduous.

Yet, at the Dedication of the Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree, we remembered many of the pleasant experiences associated with Steven’s former campsite back in the autumn of 2012. Homelessness really is challenging and arduous, and can be downright oppressive, but it does not necessarily deprive those who experience it of all opportunities to also experience pleasure.

Homelessness can be incredibly enlightening. It can expose the best and worst of humanity; and just might demonstrate how some of the worst is not as bad as it is commonly believed to be. Homelessness is certainly an adventure, which compels participants to formerly unrealized resourcefulness. It really can be the best of times, right in the middle of the worst chapter of life.

It is worth considering that anyone can attend a concert of the Oakland Symphony, and thousands do; but very few were privileged to attend intimate and exclusive solo concerts by Steven Michael Ralls with his tired old guitar, at his dusty campsite where his Memorial Tree was recently installed. Those uniquely privileged few are among the more fortunate of our Community.

Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree

Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree is happy in its new home.

Steven Michel Ralls was memorialized by the installation of his own Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree this morning on the third anniversary of his passing. Several circumstances coincided to make this event not only possible, but righteously appropriate, much like the original Memorial Tree that replaced a conspicuously missing oak in Felton Covered Bridge Park.

This little Monterey cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa, grew from seed into a situation where it could not stay. There was initially no place to relocate it to, since it will eventually get too big and too shady for most landscapes. Ironically these disadvantages are attributes where it will be added to an end of a row of other cypress that are intended to obscure unappealing scenery.

The location is perfect! It is offset from the adjoining straight row of five Arizona cypress, where it can get bigger and broader than the others, as it naturally does. A larger and bulkier tree is preferred there to compensate for a slightly lower elevation. What is even more ideal about the location is that it is precisely where Steven Michael Ralls camped while homeless late in 2012.

Steven Michael Ralls did not live there for long, before relocating to comfortable homes in Murphys, and ultimately Aptos. The site has change significantly since then. The upper portion has been buried by excavation for the expansion of the adjacent utility yard that the cypress are intended to obscure. A perimeter fence was installed around the yard. Vegetation is diminished.

It was gratifying to install the new Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree this morning. It will need to be irrigated occasionally by bucket through summer, but will need nothing after the rain starts next autumn. It knows how to grow up fast to become a big and prominent asset to the forest.

Another Memorial Tree

There are big plans for this little tree.

Felton will be getting another Memorial Tree next Saturday. Unlike our small Memorial Tree valley oak in Felton Covered Bridge Park, which is a Memorial Tree of several people, among several other Memorial Tree redwoods, this new Memorial Tree will be for a specific person, in a specific locale. It will be planted on May 2, which is the anniversary of the deceased’s death.

The little tree is a Monterey cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa, that grew from a self sown seed too close to a building, and within a landscape that it could not have stayed in. When pulled out of the ground last autumn, it came up with an intact root system. It was too exemplary of a specimen to discard. It instead got canned, recovered through winter, and is now starting to grow.

Monterey cypress is endemic to a very confined range on the coast of Monterey County, between Point Cypress and Pescadero Point, and on Point Lobos. However, it is naturalized where it had been planted locally, which is why this particular specimen grew where it could not stay. It should be happy where it will be planted, and has plenty of space to grow as big as it wants to.

Ideally, this little tree should have been planted directly into the new location immediately after it was removed from its original location. It could have settled in through winter, to be ready to resume growth now. Since it is instead being planted now, it will need to be watered occasionally until rain resumes next autumn. Once established, it will need no supplemental irrigation.

Although not horticulturally ideal, delaying the planting until May 2 is very appropriate. The location of planting also just happens to be very appropriate. The appropriateness of it all will be explained next Saturday.