Micaela and I are close and we love each other very much. We are blessed to have each other and to have such a good relationship. And, once a mother it’s hard to stop being a mother. Mica has been on her own for some seven years now– long enough to be released from the doting and watchful eyes of a parent. She sometimes bristles when I make “suggestions” or do things for her that she can do for herself. I do not blame her for this in the least. In fact, I thank her for it because it helps to make me more aware of my own issues. As with everything else, my energy is so much nicer to be around when I focus on all the good things I see in the world. They are so many, and they are so incredibly beautiful.
My timing in coming to Mica’s home in Riverside was perfect, as it was when I visited my sister Susan in Malibu. Mica is a graduate student in Philosophy at UC Riverside and works as a Teaching Assistant, tutor and yoga instructor; she had just finished the spring term when I arrived. Since then, which is over two weeks ago now, Mica and I have taken no less than four road trips. (You may wonder how it is that Earth Pilgrim can even ride in a car. I guess it just seemed to be the way to go with my daughter.) The first trip was to Redlands, where we visited our dear, old friends from our homeschooling days; the second was to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park; the third was to Baja California, and the fourth was to the San Bernadino National Forest. It has all been fun and interesting and in the case of Baja, sometimes distressing, especially for me.
Juan and I homeschooled Mica for her fifth, sixth and seventh grades because I wanted to be at the center of her life, selfishly, while Juan was concerned that she wasn’t getting the math and science preparation she needed at her arts-centered Waldorf Charter School. We took her out of the school she loved against her will. Fortunately, we weren’t the only ones homeschooling at the time. There were many others, and the Pangrazio family was one of them.
Natalee and Nathanael Pangrazio were two wonderfully artistic and generally talented young people who enriched our homeschooling experience tremendously. Mica had fun with both of them and we spent many hours together in our little home-school house on Seventh Street in Monterey. Their mother Linda and I became friends, too.
Natalee now teaches painting classes to adults and children and has a daughter of her own; Nathanael is a Grammy-award winning composer and has a school of music in Los Angeles.(pangraziomusic.com)
Natalee’s and Nathanael’s first exposure to the piano and to singing was in our home, they tell me. Nathanael’s fascination with our piano was sudden and profound; his reaction to our singing was agitated and incredulous. “What are you doing, Natalee?! How can you just sing like that??” He went on to study music at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana and eventually started his own music school. He teaches, composes and conducts, as well as sings opera. Go figure.
Our time in Palm Springs was a nice, luxurious break for both of us, despite the heat. My father and step mother bought a time-share there years ago and Diane suggested we might like to use it sometime. This was the time. Thanks to air conditioning, a pool, and Mica’s air conditioned car we were able to schedule our activities around the hottest part of the days successfully.
Here’s the view from our room, as the sun came up one morning.
The town of Palm Springs reminded me of the Monterey Peninsula in that it is a tourist destination. There’s a long Main Street lined with shops, restaurants, and hotels and they have lively street fairs during the long, warm evenings.
Well kept neighborhoods with distinct desert architecture (stucco, flat roofs, desert landscaping) surround the downtown area, and the tramway to Mount San Jacinto State Park carries hundreds of tourists everyday up the steep escarpment.
We were hesitant to take the ride, but were reassured by imagining that it is probably safer than driving on the freeway (or riding a bicycle cross country.) We were glad we did; the change in temperature and in scenery is dramatic!
Mica very much wanted to see Joshua Tree National Park, and so did I. With the hundred degree heat we stayed in the car most of the time, but we did stop throughout the park to read the interpretative signs and check out the flora and fauna. Who knows what kind of nest this is in the cholla cactus?
We were amazed by this large lizard–I’ve never seen such a big one. Since there is virtually no surface water most of the year, the animals depend on their prey for hydration.
Creosote bushes are common here, especially in the southern part of the park, which includes the Mojave Desert.
Creosote bushes reproduce by growing new branches around the periphery of the crown. Eventually, the central crown dies and rots away and new crowns ring the original. The plants are known for their flowers and for a distinctive odor that is particularly noticeable after a summer rain. Creosote oil used as a preservative for wood is not derived from Creosote bushes, but from tar, in case you were wondering.
The Joshua Trees are beautiful in an eerie sort of way–not my favorite tree, but a tree, nonetheless. And you know how much I love trees.
According to the display below, which I noticed in a chic, Malibu shopping mall, Confucius, the ancient Chinese philosopher, said something to the effect of “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”
I find this advice to be compelling. All my life I have been pretty expert at finding things to condemn and complain about. This is ironic, because I have been blessed with an exceptionally charmed life. My father, who gave me homes in Palo Alto, Los Gatos and Pebble Beach, as well as horses to ride in the latter two places, nevertheless bore the brunt of my fears (as far back as the seventies I was talking about environmental problems) and my general discontent and unhappiness. My husband Juan and my daughter Mica have likewise been subject to my keen eye for the bad and the ugly, and for this I am particularly sorry. They all deserve medals of honor for putting up with me as long as they have. I still can focus on what displeases me and generally makes me afraid. I’m doing my best to turn that around.
In Baja California it was even more difficult for me to apply Confucius’ advice. Let me just say that my appreciation for California and the United States went up a few notches as a result of our short visit to Mexico. It made me glad that the Americans took California from Mexico after the Mexican-American War, though I don’t approve of how it was acquired.
What I especially liked about Baja was the people, who are friendly and extremely industrious; they come up with all sorts of ways to make a living and do not expect something for nothing (as I sometimes do. For example, I have a hard time accepting that I can’t pee for free.)
Mica’s client and friend Laura De Moral, a high school Spanish teacher from San Diego and a native of Mexico, picked us up near our downtown hostel and took us to the border town of San Ysidro, California. From there we all walked across the border, as taking a car to Tijuana is more difficult than hiring Ubers once in Tijuana, Laura explained.
She took us to a nice seafood restaurant in Tijuana and then showed us the gritty part of town, too, which made me realize that much more just how exceptionally privileged I have been.
It makes perfect sense, really, that Earth Pilgrim should come from the Monterey Peninsula and from the privilege of having a caring family. What would my life have been like if I had grown up in poverty, without a caring parent or husband? I may not have had time to even think about the environment at all, so great was my need to put food on the table for my daughter and myself. If I were to ask the young prostitutes in Tijuana or the pregnant girls asking to braid my hair for a pittance why they don’t do more for the environment, they would probably look at me blankly, laugh out loud, or get good and angry. In the current world order, it takes money and leisure to be concerned about such things.
How is it that the Native Americans managed to maintain their environment in such a pristine state while also sustaining themselves? How is it that we in the modern world came to desire so much?
Laura and her Uber dropped us off at the bus station in Tijuana, and from there Mica and I traveled to Ensenada, about a 90 minute ride south on a comfortable bus. We went through country similar to Big Sur. We met another rider who helped us determine where to get off the bus, always a challenge on bus trips in unfamiliar territory. He, like many people we met in Ensenada, spoke English well. It was difficult, in fact, to use our Spanish, so great was the number of English speakers there.
In Ensenada we stayed at the “Ensenada Backpacker,” yet another welcoming hostel. Edgar, the night host, and Rosalba, the owner’s mother, were both extremely friendly, as were the other guests. Among others, we met two young American men who are riding their bicycles from Colorado to Patagonia, in South America. Now that is brave. You may like to check out their entertaining audio blog here: www.thespokentour.com.
Another kind person who we met at the Hostel drove us back across the border, going north this time. His name is Bao and he is a native of Vietnam. He lives in Orange, and has a job training people in some sort of technology (don’t ask me.) He also rents out his home from time to time, and travels to various places like Ensenada when others are enjoying his house.
Bao has a positive, functional philosophy: focus on the good in the world and attempt to find, and encourage, the kind and friendly people there are. That way, we can counteract all the negative media we see and hear. Mexico, for example, gets a bad rap; go and find evidence for the opposite. If you try, you surely can. And indeed we did!
Before crossing the border we stopped at Rancho La Puerta’s restaurant “La Cocina que Canta” in Tecate, Mexico, and were delighted by the beautiful ambiance
and the food, much of which comes from their own organic gardens.
Rancho La Puerta is a retreat and wellness center similar to Esalen and is beautifully designed and maintained, judging by the restaurant.
The San Bernadino National Forest reminds me of the Los Padres National Forest, and made me and Mica homesick for some of our favorite places there, such as Tassajara, the Big Sur River gorge, and Arroyo Seco. We hiked to Deep Creek yesterday and even walked a short distance on the Pacific Crest Trail, which was exciting.
Deep Creek has a good amount of water in it and was perfectly refreshing in the intense heat of mid-day. Many other adventurous people sought relief in the river as well. We saw a few wild flowers and a butterfly or two, but no snakes, porcupines or mountain lions, unfortunately.
We camped together at a beautiful campground called Green Valley Campground, at an elevation of over 7,000 feet.
Hot as we were in Riverside, it didn’t occur to us that we might need jackets or warm clothing on our camping trip in the National Forest. Thanks to a (legal, ringed) campfire, we managed to stay warm.
Mica went home yesterday to get back to her life, and I stayed here in the National Forest to spend a few days in relative seclusion. I have several ideas about my next steps, but am not certain on how to take them, or in what order. Perhaps this time alone with Nature will help me to sort it all out.
Whatever I decide, it will be just right.