Last week: A Week with No Internet!
I went up with a friend to her family’s cabin at Fallen Leaf Lake. For her birthday, we went out on the lake in a motorboat and looked at the mountains on one side, the high pine-covered glacial moraine on the other and the fancy houses along the shore. Then we ate a yummy lunch at the store/cafe on a balcony looking out at the lake. Her cabin is up away from the lake, with a view from the deck up to the granite lower ridge of Glen Alpine Basin and down to the little creek running past. The next day we hiked up to two smaller lakes; the one with famous-lemonade-since-1917 had boulders on the far side with kids jumping off them into the water. The two of us drank a pitcher for four, which you have to so as not to get dehydrated. The day after that we walked along the creek to the falls where the water goes over giant rock steps.
But the most memorable sight of the week was much smaller. I’d seen a mouse streaking around the floors a couple of times, so when I heard rustling right by my bed in the night I knew what it was. I turned on the light, looked around, and then down into the wastebasket and there was a lovely little brown speckled mouse with cleverly folded ears sitting perfectly still and looking up at me with its big dark eyes. I could see that Beatrix Potter didn’t have to do a thing to make mice cute; this real one was cuter than any of hers. I picked up the basket, thinking to put the creature outside, but it jumped right out and scurried into its corner. I put the basket in the other room, so it could rustle out there if it wanted to. “little itchy mousies/with scuttling/eyes rustle and run and/hidehidehide”—e.e. cummings.
While I’m here I’m continuing to enjoy A Crack in The Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906.
The author (Simon Winchester) says that the 1906 earthquake was the first natural disaster to be captured on moving picture film. I went to a showing in Berkeley maybe ten years ago of some of this film and it brought home to me, in a way still photographs never had, some sense of what my mother saw. I remember particularly seeing a shot of a man walking past smoking rubble and thinking The world my mother knew, suddenly this is what it looked like. And she was only five and a half. Now I am remembering being surprised when a friend told me how afraid she’d been that there would be an air raid, when she was a child during World War II in Kansas. I lived on the coast, where that might have been more likely, and I don’t remember being afraid. I wonder if our parents’ demeanor was different. So I wonder if my grandparents’ going about the practical steps to recover from the quake was comforting to their kids; their house was unlivable but Malvina told me her parents took bolts of cloth and treadle machines from their tailor shop out to Golden Gate Park and proceeded to sew up a tent to stay in. It sounds like they did not get hysterical. Actually, Winchester makes the point that by 1906 science had progressed to the point where most people attributed earthquakes to forces of nature that could some day be figured out rather than to the unpredictable wrath of God, and there was less hysteria than there had been in previous quakes. He also notes that, though hardly anybody noticed at the time, a whole new age of science had just begun. In 1905, Albert Einstein, then an unknown clerk, wrote the equation that was to usher in the Atomic Age: E=mc2. We are still reeling from that one. I looked in the index for Hotaling and sure enough, in a footnote Winchester quotes an anonymous rhymster of 1906:
If, as some say, God spanked the town
For being frisky,
Why did he burn the churches down
And save Hotaling’s Whiskey?
Time to go home now, both because this is the day we planned to leave and because the rain started in the middle of last night after five days of near-perfect weather. Luckily, it stopped in time for us to load the car.
Now I’m back at home and practicing for a little gig tomorrow for a Bernal Heights History Day in the cafeteria at St. Anthony's School at 299 Precita Avenue in SF. I lived on Bernal Heights in San Francisco from 1965-74 and I'll tell some anecdotes and sing some of my mother's songs about the Bay Area from that period. And one or two of mine from later--I didn’t start writing songs till 1975. Doors open at 11 a.m., I'm on when enough people get there or 11:45, whichever comes first. Refreshments.
Also catching up on email. One about the desert tortoise removal planned in order to expand a military base in Southern California. Shouldn’t move those guys anyway, they don’t take to it, and for a military base of all things. My dad loved the desert and we visited it often when I was a kid. Write a letter.
And next Wednesday I’ll be going to a MoveOn vigil for health care reform at 8pm at the top of Solano Avenue. See ya. Or check the MoveOn site for one near you.
©2009 by Nancy Schimmel
Fallen Leaf Lake, just south of Lake Tahoe but higher. Where we stayed we could see those far mountains covered with snow in this winter photo but bare granite when we were there
Friday, August 28, 2009