Thankful

There is so much to be thankful for. It sounds cliche, and it is easy to forget while there is obviously so much to potentially be unhappy about. Fortunately, neither is contrary to the other. For example, it is quite normal to be unhappy about the loss of a stable domestic lifestyle. However, those who are houseless here can still be thankful to reside within such a compassionate and proactively supportive Community.

There is no shortage of friends here. Those who temporarily lack employment here are often hired by neighbors and friends, even if merely for minor tasks, and even if merely temporarily until more appropriate employment becomes available. Neighbors and friends sometimes provide temporary shelter to those who need it, and were particularly generous about doing so after the CZU Fire. Neighbors and friends here are innately gracious with sharing their resources with the less fortunate who would likely experience very different reception within the context of another Community.

There is more than Community to be thankful for. The mild climate, which is pleasant to those who inhabit homes, is more of a major advantage to those who lack shelter. The availability of free resource, such as food and clothing, prevent those of us who temporarily lack personal resources from experiencing unfounded hunger or becoming uncomfortably shabby. Tents and bedding are available to those who need them.

We should also be thankful for the rare but aberrant haters. They remind us of some of what we should be thankful for. We should be thankful that we are not so disdainful of humanity that we are compelled to disregard that which we should be thankful for in the diligent pursuit of dehumanizing others. We should be thankful that we are not like haters. We should be thankful to be thankful.

Misconceptions

“Hola!”, was an unexpected greeting from a notably pallid bank teller in Santa Cruz with whom I expected to deposit a check. I paused briefly, and before I could ask if he could speak to me with English, he asked, “Hablas ingles?”. I paused again, and replied, perhaps with a Californian accent, “Yes; do you?”

As he efficiently adjusted his linguistic obligation and conducted the transaction, I felt compelled to mention that, on rare occasion, my complexion generates such misconception. I probably should have said nothing, and avoided the subsequent discourse.

“Where are you from?”, he asked.

“Here.”

“No, I mean where are you parents from?”

“Here, . . . Sunnyvale and Santa Clara.”

“Where were they originally from?”

As I wondered why white people believe that they were here before anyone else, I briefly explained that my very distant ancestors came to North America from Europe while all sorts of other Caucasians were doing the same; and that my complexion was inherited from ancestors who left Italy a very long time ago. None of my ancestors spoke Spanish.

“Do you know people in the ‘Old Country’?”, he invariably asked.

“. . . Well, . . . since just about everyone I know lives in California, YES!”

Misconceptions associated with homelessness are much more bothersome, and are sometimes used to justify potentially serious discrimination and mistreatment. ‘Homeless’ simply describes a lack of a home. It does not describe reasons for such lack. Nor does it describe symptoms of such lack.

Although some stereotypes of homelessness are more likely to apply to some who are homeless than those who are not, they are neither exclusive to the homeless Community, nor inclusive of everyone within the homeless Community.

For example, addiction is more common among the homeless Community merely because so many who are addicted to some sort of ‘substance’ are more likely to become homeless as a result of such addiction. However, many and actually most who are afflicted with addiction inhabit homes. Furthermore, many who are homeless are not afflicted with addiction.

Only a few residents of Felton are presently homeless. If all of them but no one else were afflicted with addiction to some sort of ‘substance’, then such addiction would involve only a few residents of Felton. Obviously, such addiction is a much more significant problem, and the majority of those afflicted with it inhabit homes. Yet, those who inhabit homes are not necessarily stigmatized as addicts simply because they inhabit homes as the majority of addicts do.

Generalizations generally do not apply to everyone they are intended to apply to, and can initiate inaccurate misconceptions. Everyone has a unique story.

The Good Life

We have it good here. It is not always easy, and it sometimes gets difficult, but generally, we have it good.

That is not much consolation for many of those who formerly inhabited homes that were destroyed by the CZU Fire more than a year ago. Nor does it seem like much help to those who were deprived of their former domestic situations for other reasons, or are currently involved with such processes. It might not become apparent until after recovery. 

The potential for recovery might be an early clue to how good the situation here is. The Community is so remarkably compassionate and supportive. That is why so few of us lacked domestic situations prior to the CZU Fire. The Community commonly assists the unhoused with procurement of habitation, even if just temporarily. Also, the Community sometimes assists the unemployed with employment to sustain such habitation.

Furthermore, no one goes hungry for long here. Food Distribution (between 11:00 a.m. and noon on Thursdays) at Community Bridges provides supplemental sustenance for those who have need for it, and is remarkably generous with surplus produce. Although it can not supply all necessary sustenance, it assists those with limited resources by offsetting their expenditure on particular grocery items. Although Felton Presbyterian Church and Saint John’s Church are still (temporarily) unable to serve Community lunches at noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays respectively, both continue to provide bagged lunches at the same times.

Not all Communities are so compassionate or accommodating. Some Communities are unable to accommodate everyone who is in need and receptive to assistance. It is saddening to observe the substantially more deplorable situations that some of the unhoused of Santa Cruz, Watsonville and San Jose must contend with. However, it does remind us that we have it good here.

All Saints’ Day

Halloween is over! Goodness! It is such a weird indulgence of degenerate behavior! Children are actually encouraged and expected to dress in costume, perhaps ghastly or shabby by design, and tour their respective neighborhoods to engage in aggressive panhandling. Some of their parents, perhaps outfitted with comparably inappropriate attire, or worse, shamelessly attend debaucherous parties.

This is fun?! This is socially acceptable?! Well, it should afford significantly more respect for those who request donations on the Pacific Garden Mall because they lack other options. They waste neither resources nor effort on their possibly shabby attire. Nor do they come to our porches at night expecting handouts.

Anyway, it is now All Saints’ Day. It will be All Souls’ Day tomorrow. In many cultures, both days are All Soul’s Day, or something similar with a different name. Regardless of the name, All Saints’ Day is one of only six Holy Days of Obligation. Halloween is merely the day prior to All Saints’ Day. It is what Christmas Eve is to Christmas. However, although almost everyone in America knows what Halloween is, not so many know what All Saints’ Day is.

How many of us are aware of what Saint Patrick’s Day is? Why is Cinco de Mayo such a minor holiday where it actually has some relevance in Mexico, but is just another excuse for drunken partying here? Has partying become so important on the Fourth of July that we forget that it had formerly been Independence Day? Mardi Gras really should be a day for (responsible) indulgences, but has somehow become more important than subsequent Ash Wednesday and forty days of fasting and abstinence from such indulgence during Lent.

Society can be impressively creative with justification for unfounded indulgence. A few in society can be remarkably selective with such justification.

BEST

B-enchlands E-stuary S-tewardship T-eam is the BEST! They remove both trash and invasive exotic (nonnative) plants from the portion of the San Lorenzo River that flows through Santa Cruz and into Monterey Bay. Some team members are residents of the Benchlands Encampment at San Lorenzo Park or nearby neighborhoods. Some are members of the Santa Cruz Downtown Streets Team, which also collects trash elsewhere in Santa Cruz County, including here in Felton. All are volunteers.

BEST was organized in response to concern about the sensitive ecosystems of the San Lorenzo River, and, among other issues, the consequences of habitation by unhoused residents within such ecosystems. Direct involvement of the associated unhoused residents not only utilizes their coordinated volunteer efforts as a primary resource, but also provides them with ecological and environmental insight, which is a collective asset to the local unhoused Community. Others of the local unhoused Community are more likely to respect the sensitivity of the ecosystems in which they reside if they are more aware of how detrimental some of their activity can be to such ecosystems, or if they are aware that others within their particular Community take the initiative to mitigate some of the consequences of potentially detrimental activity.

For a distinctly socially disadvantaged segment of the Community, BEST provides opportunity for social, as well as environmental, contribution and improvement. This is more than socially and personally gratifying. It is healthy!

For the distinctly disadvantaged animal and plant life that inhabits and interacts with the associated ecosystems, but is unable to defend them, BEST does what it can to alleviate various ecological incursion, and promote recovery. So, BEST is not only healthy for the human participants, but is also healthy for the native flora and fauna of the intricate ecosystems of the San Lorenzo River Estuary.

October 10, 2021 – Memorial Tree Update

Memorial Tree – July 12, 2021

November 1, 2020, almost a year ago, was the last update for the resilient little Memorial Tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park. Since then, it began to develop a form that is more appropriate to the park parking lot that it inhabits, with a single straight trunk and a reasonably well structured canopy. (The illustration above is about three months old, from July 12, but the Tree has not grown much since then.)

Of course, the canopy will need to be pruned for continued structural development after it defoliates for winter. For now, lower growth remains somewhat obtrusive within the associated curbed parking lot island. This growth will be pruned up high enough so that no one must duck under it. As the tree matures, limbs that extend into the driveway beyond the curb must be higher than fourteen feet, so that they will not be obstructive to large vehicles. Slightly lower limbs are tolerable but undesirable over the adjacent parking spaces. Since the main trunk divides at about six feet above grade, main limbs must ascend rather steeply to attain clearance of more than fourteen feet above the adjacent parking spaces, which are only about three feet from the main trunk. Fortunately, the roadway is a bit farther than the adjacent parking spaces.

Sadly, the Memorial Tree was damaged as it was struck by a freighter truck that was too large to turn around in the parking lot. Fortunately, the damage is not as severe as it could have been. Only a bit of bark was scraped from the main trunk. The worst of the damage is a basal fracture, which should compartmentalize efficiently as growth resumes next spring. The Memorial Tree was staked and bound with a more resilient stake. Although such binding is not arboriculturally correct, it will be temporarily helpful through recovery. Hopefully, all binding can be removed within a year, but the new stake may remain with a loose strap afterward.

It has been gratifying to observe the Community popularity of the young Memorial Tree through all of its hardships. The Maintenance Staff of Felton Covered Bridge Park (the Santa Cruz County Department of Parks, Open Space and Cultural Services) has been very protective of it, and offered to replace it if it had been too severely distressed to recover from various former damages, as well as its recent altercation. While it was not expected to recover from brutal vandalism in June of 2020, a few members of the Community, including someone who now resides in Southern California, likewise offered to replace it. No replacement is necessary. It survives and somehow thrives.

Bad Journalism

There are two primary reasons why the brief articles that post here have been of less than exemplary quality for the past year or so. Actually, they have been of rather substandard quality. (Okay, they have been downright ‘bad’.) I would prefer to avoid such unpleasant description; but that would merely defer the obvious.

Firstly, the second of the two primary reasons for the compromised quality of posts here is the lack of time to devote to composing them. I am simply overworked. It is a long and irrelevant story. To be brief, I continue to write horticultural articles for a few newspapers between San Francisco and the Los Angeles Region, while also working as many as three days weekly to help maintain landscapes at a local Conference Center. I know that I should retire from such writing, but can not bear to do so. Nor do I want to relinquish the landscape maintenance work, which was actually intended to be only temporary (a long time ago). Both are very enjoyable, but also limit my potential for other obligations.

Secondly, the first of the two primary reasons for the compromised quality of posts here is the lack of subject matter. There simply is not much to write about like there had been only a few years ago. This blog was originally intended to provide insight regarding the homeless and socially disadvantaged Community of Felton. However, so many of those who had previously lacked domestic situations presently reside in comfortable and safe homes, with stable lifestyles. Many who had previously been unemployed are presently gainfully employed, and therefore able to sustain their respective lifestyles. Relatively fewer have become deprived of domestic situations or employment while relatively more have procured the same. The socially disadvantages Community of Felton has been doing remarkably well. Ultimately, this is a good problem to contend with.

Personal Aversion

As much as I want to go, I also slightly dread returning to Los Angeles next February. I have more than four months to plan my trip, in order to accomplish what I intend to do while there. It will be a vacation of sorts, with only limited professional obligations. There are a few touristy follies that I have somehow always neglected, which I will now prioritize. I should be completely pleased with anticipation. I almost am.

However, I do not want to observe the situation with the unhoused Community there. It has become so prevalent. It can be oppressively saddening to see so many people in such unpleasant conditions. Although most other social conditions of many regions of Los Angeles have improved since I first visited in about 1986, homelessness has increased substantially. It can not be ignored.

Some encampments of the unhoused have become somewhat perennial within their respective situations. Some have been established long enough for vegetable gardens to produce vegetables for more than a single season. Although most encampments are reasonably neat, some that are inhabited by those afflicted with severe mental illness are deplorable and hazardous. People should not live like that.

Furthermore, those who work and inhabit residential buildings (such as houses and apartments) in regions where homeless encampments are established should not need to contend with such hazardous and unsightly conditions, especially since living there requires such significant expenditure.

As difficult as homelessness seems to be in our Community, it is overwhelming in more populous Communities. There are no simple solutions.

That is the source of the slight dread associated with my return to Los Angeles. I intend to enjoy my vacation, but I also expect to be somewhat saddened at times. Society should have evolved enough by now to remedy such problems.

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 IV

This is becoming too much like a miniseries. To disrupt the monotony, we could consider the alternative to choosing to living in fear. After all, that is what most people prefer to do. They appreciate the Community in which we live. The climate and scenery are certainly assets also. Actually, there are many reasons why we live where we do. There are a few unpleasantries that occasionally instill major fear, such as the CZU Fire, the Loma Prieta Earthquake and the Love Creek Mudslide; but most of us prefer to fear them only when justified.

Society is certainly not perfect. That applies everywhere. There is always some degree of social problems such as crime, mental illness and homelessness. Few choose to live in fear of these imperfections. Most prefer to enjoy their particular society, and contend with social problems only as necessary. Precautionary measures, such as home security systems, are not necessarily indications of irrational fear, but are generally employed by those who prefer to be less concerned with undeniably present social problems.

Society certainly should not be completely derided for its innate imperfections. It is more than redeemed by its assets. Otherwise, people would not want to live in societies or Communities such as ours. To the contrary, most people in most Communities believe that their respective Community is the best of all, simply because they would prefer no other. That is likely how it should be, in a Community in which most choose to not live in fear.

Those with the least, particularly those lacking a domestic situation (the unhoused), can attest to how exemplary our local Community is. The graciousness and generosity exhibited here is astounding. It is understandable that so many of us believe that this is the best Community in which to live and participate.