More Than Shelter

Starting coffee for the crew in the morning is a mundane task, after opening the gates and turning the heater on in our meeting room. Even after the heater has been off for a night of cold weather, the meeting room and adjoining galley are not too uncomfortably cold by morning. I do not give much thought to the unusually rainy weather right outside. After all, the rain is outside, and I am inside with coffee and a heater.

There is not much view from the window in the galley. The yard below is storage for several dumpsters. It is surrounded by a fence and the Memorial Grove. A busy road and associated bridge over Zayante Creek are just beyond that.

Since New Year’s Eve, some of us have been watching Zayante Creek from the window in the galley. The water is normally barely visible. Because of the storms, it had risen to within only a few feet of the yard downstairs on a few occasions. It will likely be about that high again by morning.

The bridge is prominent within the center of the view from the window. Under its closest corner, on this side of the road and on this side of Zayante Creek, I can see a site that had sometimes been inhabited by unhoused neighbors. It would be very unpleasant to be out there now, in the cold and damp weather, and also dangerous as Zayante Creek rises again overnight. It is very muddy there after getting submerged earlier.

I do not consider that much though. Instead, I remember how homey it was when friends lived there. Although it was not as comfortable as where I now observe it from, to more than a mere few, it was more comfortable than being out in the rain. Furthermore, it was where some people really lived, even if merely temporarily. They did much of what people do in homes, as if homes were unnecessary luxuries. Although I do not party like most, I attended a few celebrations there. I directly witnessed the extreme generosity and graciousness of others of society who had no business under such a bridge. Regardless of how pleased I am that almost everyone who had been unhoused back then presently resides within comfortable and stable domestic situations, I also miss some of how it was in what now seems to be history.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2023!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! The first day of it was certainly better than the last day of last year. It was so clear and sunny, and completely opposite of the torrential rain of the day earlier. The San Lorenzo River and Zayante Creek flowed at normal levels, without indication that they flooded less than a day ago.

Earlier flooding and mudslides were reminders of the potential for instability of stable domestic situations. Most homes within Felton Grove are elevated above such floods, but were evacuated nonetheless. Vehicles there needed to be parked elsewhere. A few roads nearby were blocked by erosion or fallen trees.

More storms are predicted for next week. Now that so much soil is becoming saturated, such storms could contribute to more erosion, mudslides and fallen trees, particularly in conjunction with wind. Additional flooding could also be possible.

Even if familiarity with the risks associated with living here is no deterrent, it makes such risks no easier. Evacuation is difficult. Flood damage or worse is even more difficult.

In some ways, such difficulties are more difficult for a few of those with more stability than for those with less. After all, such difficulties are much more likely to cause more substantial loss for those with more to lose.

Those who lack stable domestic situations may be very inconvenienced by severe weather and flooding, but they are somewhat inconvenienced regardless of the weather. Although most who reside within stable domestic situations are not even slightly inconvenienced by severe weather, a few may be severely inconvenienced, and some even lose their home entirely. It is how some people become unhoused!

Stability is generally preferable to instability. It is never absolute though. We all assume risks associated with living here, and do our best with what we have to work with.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TREE – Christmas 2022 – Memorial Tree Update

Memorial Tree – before and after pruning

The Memorial Tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park is certainly no Christmas Tree, but did happen to get its annual dormant pruning yesterday, which was Christmas Eve.

All of the redwoods that were installed intentionally within the refined landscape of Felton Covered Bridge Park (excluding any wild redwoods) are Memorial Trees for specific people. The solitary sweetgum is a Memorial Tree for a specific French bulldog. The solitary valley oak, which is pictured above, was originally a Memorial Tree for a specific person as well, but became a collective Memorial Tree for a few friends of the originally memorialized and the local Community. The subsequently memorialized passed away within only a few years of the installation of this Memorial Tree, and some were unhoused at the time.

Although the young Memorial Tree grew well since last winter, and is therefore a bit larger, it was pruned less than last year. It simply did not grow as much as it did during the previous year, and did not generate as much superfluous growth. Only a few lower stems were removed to maintain minimal clearance for pedestrians and parking spaces, including a parking space for vehicles used by handicapped people (which requires slightly more than eight feet of vertical clearance). A few more upper stems that developed awkward structure were also removed. So were vigorous stems that would have been likely to compete with more desirable and better directed stems. No growth yet extends over the driveway, but the trajectory of growth that extends in that direction suggests that minimal clearance of fourteen feet will be easily maintained as growth eventually extend that far.

The stabilizing stake is likely unnecessary, but will remain until next winter. By that time, it should be more obviously unnecessary. The trunk remains slightly more pliable than it should be, most likely as a result of previous binding. Contrary to prediction last year, the embarrassing brace between the two lowest limbs will also remain, perhaps as long as the stake. To limit bark disfigurement, it will be adjusted between spring and summer. The mesh cage around the base of the trunk can be removed at any time, so will likely be removed after the last weed whacking procedure of summer. Weed whackers should no longer be a threat to the maturing lower bark.

This may be the last dormant pruning procedure for this young Memorial Tree. After the stake, brace and mesh cage are removed, it should require no additional seasonal attention. Subsequent pruning to maintain clearance can be performed when convenient for the arborists who perform such procedures, which may not necessarily be during winter dormancy, and may not be necessary again for a few or even several years.

Although I know that the basal bark will be resilient to weed whackers, I may continue to remove weeds from around the trunk, so that there will be no need for weed whackers to get close to it. Also, I may apply fertilizer if foliation begins prior to the end of the rainy season, and perhaps subsequently in conjunction with supplemental irrigation, if I continue to occasionally irrigate through the warmest weather of summer. Realistically though, the Memorial Tree needs no more assistance.

December 18, 2022 – Memorial Grove Update

These three young Monterey cypress trees of the Memorial Grove have been doing quite well. Consequently, there is not much to write about them. Two were installed scarcely more than a year ago. The other was installed about two and a half years ago. All three were dinky seedlings when installed, so are less demanding than larger specimens would have been as they dispersed their roots to get established. Although still young, small and vulnerable, their only minor difficulty has been the partial shade of larger endemic box elder and cottonwood trees that have not yet been pruned for clearance. Such pruning has been delayed until the new trees become established, which they seem to have been doing quite efficiently. Although they lack supplemental irrigation, they would likely appreciate increased exposure to sunlight more than shelter from potentially desiccating warm breezes. I intend to increase clearance for the oldest of the three trees this winter for next year. I should do the same for the other two trees by next winter. Adjacent vegetation will subordinate to these three trees as they mature. They are only rarely irrigated by bucket and even more rarely fertilized. Lack of irrigation promotes deeper root dispersion. Since they are a nearly native species from Carmel, they actually require no assistance now that their roots are adequately dispersed. Unfortunately, I did not get good pictures of any of the trees.

The Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree is the oldest of the three Monterey cypress trees within the Memorial Grove. It was installed on May 2, 2020, three years after Steven Michael Ralls passed away. It is now almost six feet tall.

Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree

The David Noel Riddell Memorial Tree was installed in conjunction with the David Fritiof Lindberg Memorial Tree a few days after David Fritiof Lindberg passed away on November 13, 2021. It is the smallest of the three trees, so is only slightly taller than three feet. Monterey cypress is coincidentally an ideal species for this particular Memorial, since David Noel Riddell is a direct descendent of some of the first Spanish people to arrive in California. His ancestors have inhabited Monterey continuously since then.

David Noel Riddell Memorial Tree

The David Fritiof Lindberg Memorial Tree, as mentioned above, was installed a few days after David Fritiof Lindberg passed away on November 13, 2021. It is about four feet tall now.

David Fritiof Lindberg Memorial Tree

These three trees were installed in memory of three members of our Community who, at one time or another, had been unhoused. Actually, this Memorial Grove is coincidentally developing on a former camp site of Steven Michael Ralls. A fourth tree will be installed for another deceased and formerly unhoused member of our Community as more of the endemic vegetation is subordinated. This fourth tree and any subsequent trees may not necessarily be Monterey cypress, but will be evergreen and coniferous, since the Memorial Grove happens to be a component of a landscape that is designed to replace deciduous endemic vegetation with densely evergreen vegetation, and ultimately obscure the view of nearby industrial buildings.

Discontinuance

Discontinuance of my other primary blog will be completely different from discontinuance of this blog last July. Articles from my weekly column will continue to post on that blog on Mondays and Tuesdays, so even without recycled old articles and all that other hooey in the future, some readers may not notice much of a difference. Realistically, that was what the blog was originally intended for.

Actually, I discontinued writing for the other blog quite a while ago. As for this blog, posts there are mostly recycled. Recycling is cheating, but writing occupies too much time that I could devote to other more important interests, such as gardening and travel. If I were to continue to devote so much time to writing, I should write books instead.

What makes discontinuance of each of these two blogs so completely different is that the primary remains relevant while the secondary does not remain as relevant as it originally was. The secondary was intended to “feature articles and insight about the distinguished small group of displaced or socially marginalized people and their friends in Felton”. So, there is not much to feature now that so few remain displaced or socially marginalized.

Of course, the situation is dynamic. A scant few remain displaced, although less socially marginalized than prior. A few others become displaced about as often as those who are already displaced procure domestic situations, although they are likely to encounter less competition for limited resources. Regardless, pursuit to obtain insight from so few would be intrusive.

Insight regarding those who had formerly been displaced or socially marginalized would be more relevant, but eventually, would not be particularly interesting. Many of us inhabit comfortable homes with modern utilities and conveniences. Many of us are gainfully and gratifyingly employed. Others doing so becomes mundane.

Good Times

Goodness!! Because this blog is now officially discontinued, I felt that I could write about anything that I wanted to write about. For tonight, I briefly explained why my other blog is also about to be discontinued. Well, at least the recycling of old articles and other hooey will be discontinued, while the timely posting of articles from my column will continue. By the time I finished, I realized that I wrote more about why this blog is discontinued, and it was not at all interesting. I delayed it until next week, and just might delete it before then.

Good Times seemed to be more appropriate for now. I was reminded of the old television show while in the Los Angeles region in September. My colleague pointed out J. J. in the neighborhood, but I embarrassingly could not remember who he is. Dynomite! Well, I will get over it. Anyway, the show was about the good times of a working class but somewhat impoverished family. I do not remember that their poverty was obvious, but am told that it was a prominent premise of the show. Some of us may identify with understated poverty.

Good Times was a spinoff of Maude, which was a spinoff of All In The Family, which was the show that The Jeffersons was also a spinoff of. That is too much confusing history for me to process, which is likely why I somehow mistook J. J. for a member of a family who lived in a deluxe apartment in the sky. That show was about a prosperous working class family who relocated to a more luxurious neighborhood while maintaining affiliation with their former Community. Some of us may identify with such affiliation for our Community, even after major modifications of lifestyle and possible relocation for such modifications.

So many of us who lacked domestic situations only a few years ago are doing well now. Some are doing remarkably well, and are remarkably prosperous. We know because we remain in contact with them. A formerly unhoused couple from our Community now owns a disproportionately large and unmortgaged home in Fremont, and restored their camper that they formerly lived in so that they can return to Felton to camp on their vacant parcel. They brought unhoused friends back to live in unused portions of their house. Another of our Community is a realtor, and lives in a luxurious home in a scenic region of Sedona in Arizona. A friend lives in another home nearby, but will likely return to Felton, particularly now that real estate is becoming more affordable. Another of our Community resides in a historic apartment in Watsonville, with the intention of returning to Ben Lomond or Felton. These are a few examples of those who are no longer unhoused within Our Community.

There‚Äôs No Place Like Home

Some of us do not get out much. Perhaps the expense is unjustifiable or prohibitive. Perhaps work is too demanding. There are as many reasons for not getting out and about as there are for doing so. We all know that it can be fun, relaxing and healthy. We must also be realistic.

Realistically though, many or most of us realize that we happen to be in the best place that we could be in. Otherwise, we would be somewhere else that is perceived to be better. This is why those who indulge in vacations in other places return afterward. Not only is this home, but it is an excellent home. After all, many other people come here from elsewhere for their vacations.

Yes, this is biased, since most believe that their particular home is the best place to be. Most people who inhabit Los Angeles actually believe that they are in the best place to be; which is fortuitous, since millions of people searching for someplace better could cause this region to become unpleasantly crowded. Obviously, we tend to believe that there is no place like home.

Yet, regardless of obvious bias, it is impossible to deny that, besides being the best place for those of us who live here, this really is among the most excellent places in the entire Universe. The climate is perfect, with just enough winter without too much chill, just enough summer without too much heat, plenty of sunny weather, and only mild storms within a brief rainy season. Scenery is exquisite, with grand redwoods and the coast of the Pacific Ocean nearby. Society is remarkably diverse, accommodating and generous. There are too many advantages to being here to list. Even those who lack domestic situations know how fortunate we are to be here.

Lifestyles

As a casual and almost outside observer, I am fascinated by the lifestyles of others. I happen to be quite pleased with my lifestyle, but can totally understand why it would be unappealing to most. Also, I can understand why others are pleased with their particular lifestyles, although such lifestyles do not appeal to me.

It baffles me though, that some believe that their particular lifestyles should be desirable to everyone else. I would not recommend a lifestyle as simple and primitive as mine to anyone who would not appreciate it. I appreciate the same courtesy. It is presumptuous for someone to recommend a more complicated and modern lifestyle to me merely because it is what most supposedly prefer.

Besides, I do not observe many who are any happier with their particular lifestyle than I am with mine. To the contrary, I observe many who are less satisfied with their seemingly preferable lifestyles.

I do believe that most who lack domestic situations should prefer at least a bit more comfort in their lifestyles. When the weather gets as cool as it has been, warmth and some sort of enclosure to contain such warmth should be preferable. I also assume that plumbing is desirable, even though my own homes are equipped with only minimal plumbing. I really do not know though. Some or many of my presumptions could be partially or even mostly inaccurate.

I also believe that those who live in luxurious penthouses on top of skyscrapers in big cities should be happier with homes on ground level with spacious gardens. It is difficult for me to imagine why they choose to live in such expensive homes that lack so much. Nonetheless, they do so, while they can afford to live almost anywhere. Obviously, their chosen lifestyles appeal to them.

Veterans Day

Veterans Day was last Friday. It was easy to miss. Some people attended Veterans Day parades or other observances; but such events lack publicity. They are not as popular as dressing kids up in offensive costumes to panhandle for candy on Halloween less than two weeks earlier. Priorities are perplexing.

Veterans Day (which really is spelled without an apostrophe) honors those who serve or have served in the military. It is different from Memorial Day, which honors deceased veterans, whether they died as a direct result of their service or afterward. So, Veterans Day is for living Veterans who are still members of our Community.

Yet, so many are homeless. So many can not afford to live here. So many lack social services that they could benefit from. The apparent social apathy for Veterans Day must be discouraging.

Fortunately, the formerly inordinate rate of homelessness among veterans is supposedly declining. Approximately 6.5% of people in America are veterans. According to some sources, only about 7% of homeless people in America are veterans, which is only about 0.5% more than the ratio of veterans within the general populace. In the past, according to some sources, the ratio was almost exactly double, at 13%. The rate of homelessness among veterans is approximately 2.1%. The rate of homelessness among the general populace is approximately 1.7%. The difference is only 0.4%.

Nonetheless, 2.1% of veterans is not zero. Nor is 1.7% of the general populace. The potential for improvement remains.

Only about four veterans had been prominently homeless locally since about 2013. Of these, two have inhabited homes for several years, one procured a stable domestic situation more recently (but is now deceased), but one remains homeless nearby. Regardless of his current situation, he was at least pleased to be honored on Veterans Day.

Declining Homelessness?!

A decline of homelessness within Felton is not too implausible. Felton is not a very populous town. Not many unhoused people live here. If one procures a stable domestic situation, it causes a nearly ten percent decline of homelessness.

If most procure stable domestic situations, as during the past few years, the decline is much more significant for Felton, although less significant regionally. In other words, such a localized decline does not accurately represent a more important regional trend.

However, when other towns and more populous cities also document even minor declines of homelessness, it suggests that such declines could potentially be the beginning of a trend.

Malibu collected statistical data regarding homelessness there last winter to determine that only a third as many as those who had been homeless a year earlier remained unhoused. That is gratifying information for those involved. Yet, as major as such a decline is locally, it is minor relative to the collective population of Los Angeles County. It is difficult to attribute this minor localized decline to a more broadly regional trend.

The possibility of a trend became more evident when cumulative data regarding homelessness within all of Los Angeles County confirmed an encouragingly major deceleration of the formerly rapid increase of the regional rate of homelessness. Like Malibu, a few municipalities confirmed minor declines of homelessness.

Could this be the beginning of a trend? Could the rate of homelessness be declining?

Orange County and San Francisco County also reported declines of homelessness. Statistically, relative to their respective populations, such declines seem to be minor; but even minor declines within such significant populations are surprisingly major.

Perhaps it is too early to recognize these declining rates of homelessness as a trend. It will be interesting to observe statistical data regarding homelessness within other Communities.