Memorial

An obituary typically precedes a memorial, to inform the Community of a subsequent memorial. In retrospect, the memorial was at 3:00 last Saturday afternoon at the Footbridge Service Center, at 150 Felker Street in Santa Cruz. Those of us in Felton only became aware of it two days prior, on Thanksgiving Day. Time was insufficient to gather the information that is necessary for the composition of an obituary.

Besides, it is not easy. It is downright difficult. I will not even attempt to compose an obituary now. It will take a few days.

To be perhaps disrespectfully brief, our old friend, David Lindberg of Boulder Creek, while asleep early in the morning of November 13, succumbed to infection associated with a scorpion bite. He had attempted to meet with a physician at HPHP (Homeless Persons Health Project) during the previous day, but arrived late, so intended to return during the following morning. He had not perceived the infection to be severe enough to justify seeking emergency medical attention at Dominican Hospital earlier. He was fifty five years old, and living unhoused in Santa Cruz at the time.

What began as a single Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree, is developing into a grove too quickly. At the beginning of the rainy season, another Monterey cypress was to be added for another old friend who succumbed to cardiac arrest last year. Now, a third Monterey cypress must be added for David Lindberg. Fortunately, two more Monterey cypress will be assets to the landscape. However, it is saddening that they are necessary. Although death is an unavoidable consequence of life, it seems that too much of it has been happening during the past few years. Perhaps that is a consequence of remembering.

Autumn 2021

Wednesday, September 22, will be the first day of autumn. The nights have been getting a bit longer and a bit cooler for a while already, and will continue to do so for a while more. The rainy season could begin at any time. Although days begin to get longer on December 21, the first day of winter, weather continues to get cooler through the early part of winter. Indian summer may or may not delay the inevitable prior to November.

Most of us will spend more time inside as the seasons progress, perhaps with a fire in a stove or fireplace. Walls and ceilings retain warmth. Roofs exclude rain. The cooler and wetter weather of autumn and winter is generally not a serious problem. It is an asset to gardens and forests, and temporarily relieves the anxiety of fire season.

However, for those who lack walls, ceilings and roofs, the impending cooler and wetter weather can be very unpleasant. Options for generation of warmth, and the retention of such warmth, are both limited. Exclusion of rain may necessitate the use of obtrusively visible tents or tarps, which draw attention to already precarious situations. Those who reside temporarily within the dry spaces below bridges might be displaced if substantial rainfall overwhelms the drainage capacity of the associated creeks or river.

Several families who formerly inhabited homes that were destroyed by the CZU Fire last summer will continue to inhabit their respective properties without their homes through this autumn and winter. Some inhabit campers or similar vehicles, which are significantly more comfortable than tents. Regardless, houseless lifestyles of any sort are certainly not easy. Some who were deprived of their former domestic situations by the Fire are unable to inhabit their respective properties, so needed to relocate, even if just temporarily.

Gentrification

Clients sometimes ask me if I can recommend a qualified arborist, gardener or landscape designer. (I am a horticulturist and consulting arborist.) For many years, I have been unable to do so. Some clients inform me that they spent millions of dollars on their home, so are willing to spend whatever is necessary to maintain the associated trees and gardens. Their expenditure is irrelevant. I still can not recommend qualified horticultural professionals who are not already overwhelmed with the demand for their respective expertise.

The problem is that horticultural industries are not lucrative. Most who are employed with such industries do not earn income that is sufficient to afford to live here or anywhere within practical proximity. (It is rather ironic for a region that had formerly been famous for horticultural commodities.) Consequently, they must live and work elsewhere.

This is one of the few problems associated with gentrification. Those who can afford to purchase expensive homes can not purchase what is not available to them. That is why so many formerly elaborate home landscapes now appear to be inadequately maintained. People who might be wealthy by the standards of other Communities seem to live in squalor locally. Their equity would be more useful and enjoyable elsewhere.

Gentrification also contributes to increasing rates of houselessness, as many more of those who become deprived of a respective domestic situation, for any reason, are unable to procure another. Not only are mortgages and rents prohibitively expensive, but they are reserved for those who are already established within a Community, with exemplary credit and comparably exemplary rental history. Sadly, the loss of a domestic situation typically compromises both credit and rental history.

Gentrification certainly has many advantages. However, those who benefit from it must unfortunately contend with a few of its innate disadvantages.

Live In Fear

“Bars on windows are a sign that I am in the wrong neighborhood.” I heard that a few times when I was a kid, mostly from people of my parents’ generation. It was not intended as disparagement of any particular neighborhood. It meant that relocation was a better option than installation of bars on windows.

I do not remember that anyone who said that actually relocated. Situations just never got that bad. Bars appeared on windows of a few businesses in some neighborhoods, but were eventually removed as people realized that the neighborhoods were not so bad.

Besides, some believed that bars on windows just informed potential burglars that there was something worth stealing within. Others believed that there was not much within their homes that burglars would be interested in. I believed that if a burglar wanted something within my isolated home, that bars would not stop him or her from taking it.

Most of us choose to not live in fear. We happen to live in an excellent place, and intend to enjoy it. It is certainly not perfect, and burglaries sometimes happen. We just do not allow such unpleasantries to dictate our lifestyles.

Those who choose to live in fear have the option of relocating to someplace where they do not need to live in fear. If they fear crime, they can go someplace where there is no crime. If they fear drugs, they can go someplace where there are none. If they fear houseless people, and believe that houseless people migrate to this region, they can relocate to someplace that is unpopular with the migratory houseless people whom they fear. Surely, there must be a place like that for them to go to. It is more practical than expecting those they fear to relocate for them.

Rate of Houselessness

There are more people who lack domestic situations in California than in any other state. Well, that should be obvious. There are more people in California than in any other state. 12% of all Americans live here. Even if the rate of houselessness were the same here as it is in other states, 12% of those who are houseless in American would live here. That is a significant number!

Since the rate of houselessness here is approximately double that of the rest of America, approximately 24% of those who are houseless in American should reside in California, although the actual ratio is approximately 22%.

This is not because houseless people migrate to California. More of the unhoused live in or near their hometowns than those who live within homes. Although the primary causes of houselessness are similar, albeit to various degrees, for most regions of America, the main difference is the cost of housing.

Homes and rents are ridiculously expensive here. It is extremely difficult for those who lose a home to procure another. If houselessness is the result of unemployment, it is very difficult for someone who lacks a domestic situation to procure new employment in order to procure a new domestic situation!

Recovery from houselessness is not nearly as difficult in other regions, even with significantly less income. Furthermore, since mortgages and rents are more affordable, it is not nearly as difficult to maintain a stable domestic situation in order to avoid becoming houseless. Many who live in poverty here can afford to directly purchase a home in other regions.

Not many houseless people migrate to California. More migrate from California to live in homes elsewhere. Unfortunately, they are replaced by more Californians who become houseless. Many prefer to stay in their respective home regions rather than migrate.

New In Town

The significantly declining rate of houselessness here during the past several years has been gratifying to say the least. Somehow, while houselessness has been increasing so substantially in so many other Communities, most who previously lacked a stable home here have procured domestic situations. It is so gratifyingly contrary to the external trend. 

The situation is certainly not perfect though. A few remain houseless because of inability to function within domestic or professional situations, or to exploit very limited resources that should be available to those in such condition. Sadly, some are the most vulnerable of society. Others have potential to inadvertently cause problems for other within society.

Furthermore, although uncommon, a few transient houseless people continue to migrate through our Community. Some have reason to be here. Others are here only incidentally. Most seem to be respectful of society; but it is impossible to know for certain. Even those with good intentions are unfamiliar with the cultural expectations of the local Community. 

While a few more of the local Community were houseless, this minor houseless transient Community was afforded significantly more opportunity for ‘local’ Community interaction. Ironically, this distinctly local interaction is limited by the declining rate of houselessness. Fewer of the few who remain unhoused locally are qualified to represent our Community. 

Some of the transient houseless people relocate to another Community before becoming acquainted with our Community and the associated resources that are available to them here. Those who stay longer eventually become somewhat familiar with our Community, but perhaps less efficiently than they otherwise would, with more Community interaction. 

Community outreach by those who have not been houseless is effective but impractical. Obviously, they have homes, domestic lifestyles, and, most likely, employment to devote their time to. Also, they likely lack adequate familiarity with houseless culture.

Interesting Question

It is perplexing that the local houselessness situation improved so significantly a few years ago, and then stabilized, both prior to and concurrently with such significant increases in the rates of houselessness in so many other Communities. Of course, the rate of houselessness increased drastically as a result of the CZU Fire last August, but then stabilized remarkably efficiently as many of the victims, with the assistance of home owners’ insurance, procured at least temporary domestic situations. Many of those who remain houseless as a result of the CZU Fire are living elsewhere temporarily, so are not as visually apparent as the more familiar local houseless.

This unusual improvement of the local rates of houselessness was questioned at my other unrelated blog, in conjunction with commentary regarding the contrary nature of such information, relative to the experiences of other Communities.

This was my reply:

“That is an interesting question that no one seems to have an answer for. The trend did not coincide with trends elsewhere. But of course, the unhoused Community here involves only a few people, so the ‘trends’ that we observe are much more variable than they are in more significant Communities. (For example,) if two people (of the approximately twenty of the unhoused who reside here) happen to procure a domestic situation, regardless (of) actual trends everywhere else, that is 10% of the entire unhoused Community locally. Several years ago, several of the unhoused passed away within only a few years. (. . .) More recently, some relocated for employment, or for available domestic situations. The housed Community here is very generous with helping the unhoused improve their situations. Not only has the situation here improved, but the fake news about it has not been proliferated as rampantly as it had been. A few years ago, the unhoused were blamed by a few haters for ‘everything’ bad that happened here. Society simply does not subscribe to that anymore. We recognize the few haters for who they are. (. . .)”

Out Of Service

July was when I was last able to write weekly for this blog. Since then, most posts were recycled older posts. I have mentioned a few times that I hope to resume writing new posts here, but so far, have been unable to do so. Other obligations require my attention for now. Realistically, I do not know when I will be able to resume writing weekly posts.

Facebook has likely been more interesting. I have not been there in quite a while. I am not sure I remember my password, or if I am a member of the group. I have been told that there are a few topics that are sometimes discussed there that I should write about here. I do not doubt that. So much has been happening!

I will post a brief article tonight, but it may be the last for a while.

Minimal Turnout

The recycled article below is more than a year old, from a time when groups could gather. It may not seem to be relevant while there are no social events, but it will eventually become relevant again. It will be interesting to see how minimal the turnout for some of our familiar social gatherings will be. It was already very minimal prior to the current situation. So many who had formerly lacked a domestic situation or employment have become too busy with new domestic and professional obligations to attend.

(I am sorry that I am presently unable to write new articles as I had been. I do not know when I will resume. As I mentioned, the article below is recycled from more than a year ago.)

Big crowds are proportionate to the popularity of an event. They are sort of expected at exhibits of famous art, important baseball games, and Aaron Tippin concerts. There was quite a crowd at the Felton Remembers Parade and Covered Bridge Festival.

Smaller events draw much smaller but relatively significant groups. It is always nice to see children celebrating birthday parties in Felton Covered Bridge Park. Community Bridges (Mountain Community Resources or MCR) still does play dates for children there as well.

Our group is very unique. We get good turnout for our special events too, if we plan ahead for them, and extend invitations. Otherwise, for regularly scheduled events, such as lunch at Felton Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, and lunch at Saint John’s on Thursday, minimal attendance is an indication that more of us are doing well, and are unable to attend because we are at work, or busy with other responsibilities.

It is not as if we are an exclusive group that others want to be members of. Although just about anyone can join, most do so only out of necessity, but prefer to move onto better situations.

There were more of us in 2013 than there are now. Those who have joined our group since then have been less numerous than those who have found homes and employment. There are now fewer of us than there have been in a very long time. In that sense, minimal membership is a good thing.

It is unfortunate that this is not a common trend in most other places. Some of the same social difficulties that are less prevalent here than they had been are instead becoming more common elsewhere, particularly in more substantial towns and big cities, such as San Jose, Watsonville and Monterey. Are we doing something differently here?

Campground

Other obligations prevent me from writing something new for this week. I may not be able to write anything new for quite a while. Instead, this old article that was re-posted from my other blog in May of 2018 will be posted again. (I am getting significant mileage out of this article.) The other blog happens to be a gardening blog, which is why this says more about the trees than about the campsite below them. This is the article below:

There happen to be quite a few campgrounds in the region, with one about a quarter of a mile upstream from where this picture was taken, and another less than three miles past that. Both are primarily used by school age children. The vast redwood forests with creeks flowing through are ideal for such campgrounds.

This is a campground too. I know it does not look like it. It is located between a creek and an industrial building, the eave of which is visible in the top right corner of the picture. The herd of dumpsters that is barely visible at the bottom of the picture might include a dozen dumpsters at at time. (I tried to get both the eave and the dumpsters in one picture.) There really are two rows of barbed wire on top of that fence behind the dumpsters.

Nonetheless, it is a campground. You see, individuals who lack adequate shelter occasionally camp on a flat spot next to the creek, right below the big cottonwood tree in the middle of the picture. It is not a big space, so can only accommodate one or maybe two people at a time. No one has been there for quite a while. Yet, on rainy days like today, it is saddening to imagine someone camping there, so close to inaccessible buildings.

Because the area is outside of landscaped areas, I do nothing to make it any more comfortable as a campground. I only cut away the limbs that fall onto the fence.

The trees are a mix of mostly box elders, with a few cottonwoods and willows, and even fewer alders, with one deteriorating old bigleaf maple. They concern me. Box elders, cottonwoods and willows are innately unstable. All but bigleaf maple are innately structurally deficient. Although bigleaf maple should innately be both stable and structurally sound, the particular specimen in this situation is in the process of rotting and collapsing.

I really do not mind if limbs or entire trees fall into the forested riparian zone. If they fall outward, they do not damage the dumpsters. Only the fence needs to be repaired. What worries me are the potential residents of the campground. Part of my work is to inspect trees for health, stability and structural integrity, and if necessary, prescribe arboricultural procedures to make them safe. I just can not do that here.

UPDATE: Just after this article posted at midnight, a very big box elder off to the right of those in the picture fell with a loud but quick crash. It was probably the biggest and most deteriorated of the box elders in this area, and pulled completely out of the ground to reveal that the roots were so decayed, that none stayed attached to the stump. Seriously, you should see the pictures when they get posted next Sunday.