Breeze from the Past

w Goffs rusted out truckWe are at the Goffs Schoolhouse Museum in the middle of nowhere. Nowhere is a very large place.

There is a state-of-the-art climate controlled library here where many maps, journals, books, documents and even an aural history of the desert pioneers are stored. The old schoolhouse has been restored and two working stamp mills are on the property. There is a dedicated group of about 250 volunteers who give countless hours and money to try and save our early desert heritage.

We have electricity and water for the RV and that is luxurious. But when it comes time to do laundry there is just a washing machine—cold water only—and no dryer. As I was toting my wet laundry out to the clothesline I was hit by numerous time bombs from the past. It all seemed so familiar as the voices of my mother and grandmother buzzed in my mind during my sandy trudge to hang clothes.

w Goffs laundry on line

“You can tell a lot about a woman by the way she hangs out her laundry.” That meant you could tell she was of good character if she hung up her underwear inside the pillowcases, matched the socks on the line, and followed a particular order for hanging clothes. Helter-skelter wash hanging was a sign of a disorganized airhead. But a wash hung out “by the rules” was almost patriotic.

I discovered it is also an indication of OCD!!! Pretty soon my socks didn’t just match but all the heels were facing the same way; Mr. T’s t-shirts were arranged along the color spectrum; towels, then tea towels, then wash cloths all according to size; undies were nicely tucked away inside shirts hung upside down. Whew! But it was a thing of beauty when it was done.

I remembered my grandmother’s wringer washing machine. Chug chug chug with the wash cycle. Hand feed the clothes through the wringer and into the washroom sink while I was told the story for the 100th time about the time my aunt got her arm caught in the wringer. Then back into the washer for the chug chug chug rinse cycle and through the wringer again. Then the laundry would be carried down the back steps across the desert dirt to the clothesline. I was always impressed that in the desert there were many times that the wash would be dry by the time it was hung out. My grandmother would hang it up (in the proper order) and just turn around and take it down again—all dry!

w Goffs schoolhouse street signsIt smelled good to hang laundry. I felt like the only person on the planet with that light breeze blowing the clothes while I remembered how to work a clothespin.(Just a footnote—it didn’t feel that great to put on jeans that have been line-dried instead of run through a dryer with a fabric softener sheet.)

It was a little thing, hanging out a wash on a beautiful day in the desert. But the avalanche of memories was welcome indeed.

https://www.desertusa.com/mnp/mnp_goff.htmlw Goffs 2 old cars

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Desolation

Fish Lake Valley from Middle CanyonAttention Mapmakers—we have discovered the middle of Nowhere. It’s called Dyer, Nevada in Fish Lake Valley. Death Valley is a Vegas suburb compared to this forgotten place. No trees, no sage, nothing but sticker bushes and dust. Amazingly there are a few little creeks coming down out of the White Mountains but nothing flourishes on the banks. It’s as if any little plant seed that landed there looked around and gave up.

w Dyer dust storm beginningWe woke up this morning and it was NINE degrees outside. Single digit. Then a windstorm began. Time to go. It was appropriate that it was Sunday because the drive was  Scripture made visible. A desert. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Handel began playing in my head.

w straight highwaySinging that snipit from Messiah was good for a bit until we hit the most massive earthly desolation I’ve ever traveled. Let me tell you, dear readers, I have been to Trona and I know desolation.  Trona is off the list! This was desolate.

w Dusty desolation road to TonapahWhere does the word ‘desolation’ come from? All I knew was from a Byrd motet I had sung with the word desolata repeated over and over. In Church Latin it means the condition of being ruined or wasted; also sorrow, hopelessness, despair, grief. Stuff like this could get a person down!

Now I had a new earworm going—that beautiful motet by Byrd, Civitas Sancti. And it stayed in my head for about 2 hours. Let me give you the text in case you decide to listen to one of the links below.

Civitas sancti tui facta est deserta.   (Your holy cities have become a wilderness)

Zion deserta facta est.                         (Zion has become a wilderness.)

Jerusalem desolata est.                       (Jerusalem is a ruin.)

Whoever wrote that text must have seen landscapes like this one today. I think the text could also apply to many things besides geography. Politics, our nation, contemporary church worship, modern culture. Desolata.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pySTHOJKIlA

The King’s Singers, shows the score, one male voice to a part, very clean but uses musica ficta of which I disapprove. Still, probably the best performance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWiQDqm-8a8

The words are  on the monitor in both Latin and English, faster tempo, cock and hen choir. Pretty good—too fast at the Zion deserta est and I thought it a rather cold performance.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCiimeZv3QY&list=RDWCiimeZv3QY&t=4

Trinity College Cambridge cock and hen choir at Stanford. This is a nice performance, good tempo, no musica ficta, but the acoustics make for a bit of a mush.

Happy Listening!

w DV dead trees East Side Rd colored pencil filter

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Line Shack Blues

Now that I’ve figured out how to work WordPress again, I find I have absolutely nothing to say. We’re on the road again. But, as the song says, I’ve told myself every story I ever knew.

I find myself looking at the other folks in the RV parks/camps we frequent. I no longer see them as ‘other campers’ but as people plus their memories. This time of year we don’t run into families with children. We see mostly retired folk like ourselves. Next to us right now is a man alone. He has a smallish trailer and an immaculate Dodge pick-up truck. I wonder if he used to have a wife who shared his road adventures. As he goes about his business of hooking up, leveling the trailer and the other chores of making camp for the night, I wonder what the stories are that might be running through his mind. Does he remember happier days? Does he still look forward to making new memories or is he just driving down the roads of the past?

The desert makes me both melancholy and rejuvenated. It’s a delicate balancing act. The eternal vastness of the desert contrasts with the inanity of bathing a 65 pound labradoodle within the constraints of the RV. Both are part of the same trip.

Maybe I’ll just some post some photos and wonder what it’s all about.

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As I was saying…….

………before I dropped off the planet for a little over two years, the politics of the nation and especially of California caused me to lose my sense of humor. Gone. 100% disappeared. Let me bring my faithful 12 readers up to date–if they’re still around. The weasel poodle Talus is still with us. He’s deaf, half-blind and has dementia but still hanging in there. The multi-generational Australian labradoodle, Purple, or The Perpster as she is known, is turning into a good dog who does well in the RV. However, we were too old to get a high energy, high maintenance puppy and she has aged us considerably. She has also brought a great deal of entertainment value and contributed to my very slowly returning sense of humor.

My mother passed away in August of 2016. She was 93, the age of choice for the women in my family to check out. She was my dearest friend and the loss has been great. For those of you who have gone through this, you know what I mean. If you haven’t held a loved one while that last breath expires, there are not words to describe it.

We traded in our old Winnebago for a newer Winnebago. Some things are better; more are not as good. But we still go. Last year we tried to drive to Wisconsin, got caught up in the beauty of Texas and their fantastic state park system and we never quite got out. After 3 weeks we were still in Texas. We had a ball! The folks were wonderful, I embraced my inner Redneck, had wonderful food and finally forgave Mr. T for being a Yankee.

This Fall we were evacuated for two weeks while 5000 homes in Santa Rosa burned…to the ground. Miraculously, we were spared while all the neighborhoods around us were not. I grabbed my external hard drives which held my back-up photos and our best company bath towels as we fled. Don’t ask…..I couldn’t tell you why.

I took some photos which can be found at www.pbase.com/toccata/sonoma county wild fires 2017. 

We are now in Shoshone, CA, preparing to go back to Death Valley after an 18 month absence. The last time we were here the puppy got into a bottle of Advil, threw up all over everything and the refrigerator in the RV broke. We know when to call it quits.

So now, after the political shock of Trump getting elected, a cautious optimism is beginning to take root. It was after his remark about “shithole countries” that I let out the first real laugh for many years. Okay–we try to pick it up again.

w Eddie's World cone

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Is This Blog Still Working?

Purple, Labradoodle #2, 18 months old. She likes duckies!

w Purple with duckies

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Anything to Avoid the Facts

Teachers don’t teach; students don’t learn; illegal immigrant children clogging the public schools are dragging scores down. This can never be interpreted as factual so the obvious path is to change the rules! A town near here has decided to give the Emperor new clothes.
This is taken from the local rag, The Press Democrat.

Rohnert Park, Cotati schools rethink grading scale

BY JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
October 21, 2015, 4:55PM

by Taboola
A new grading scale that redefines what constitutes an “A” or an “F” is causing strife and confusion in the Cotati-Rohnert Park school district. Some teachers and officials say it lowers the bar for student success, while others say it encourages students to succeed.
The new system is called the equal interval scale. Essentially, it makes it harder to get a failing grade. It departs from the traditional A to F scale in which students receive F’s for scores below 59 percent. Instead, the scale awards F’s only for scores below 20 percent.
“My mentor teacher, she’s not enjoying it. She’s got issues with it,” said Adam Green, a Rancho Cotate High School math teacher who likes the new system. “I respect her and I respectfully disagree.”
Under the new policy, grades rise in 20-point increments. For example, scores of 20 to 40 percentage points earn D- through D+ grades — and so on, up the ladder. Students get an A- for scoring between 80 and 85, which traditionally is low B territory.
Some teachers have tried to hang on to the traditional grading system but have been tripped up by a blanket new policy that students, even if they do not hand in homework or take a test, get 50 percent. Under the new rule, it’s possible for a student who skips a test to receive a better grade than a student who takes the test and does poorly.
“This is just incomprehensible. I don’t have words,” said Lanny Lowery, who has taught English at Rancho Cotate High since 1980.
To her knowledge, said Jessica Progulske, curriculum coordinator for student engagement with the Sonoma County Office of Education, Rohnert Park is the only district in the county to have implemented such a system. Some departments at Elsie Allen High School have a somewhat similar system, said Chris White, director of the Santa Rosa City Schools district office of curriculum and instruction.
Cotati-Rohnert Park school administrators say the change reflects a national movement to encourage students to strive rather than demoralizing them with low grades that make success seem out of reach.
“They’ve still flunked, but they don’t have as much to do mathematically to climb out of the F range,” Superintendent Robert Haley said. “It doesn’t eliminate the F; it doesn’t lower the bar.”
But opponents of the new policy say it does exactly that.
“Anytime you lower the bar, it hurts. You just let people do a more mediocre job,” said school board member Leffler Brown, the only trustee to vote against the change in June, when it was adopted over vociferous teacher objections.
“When you don’t set expectations higher, you get lesser results,” Brown said.
The issue also has become a labor dispute. The Rohnert Park teachers union, saying the changes weren’t negotiated, as their contract requires, and teachers weren’t properly notified that they would be implemented, pressed the district to negotiate the changes.
The district last week agreed to sit down at the bargaining table, said Maha Gregoretti, a sixth-grade math teacher and president of the Rohnert Park Cotati Educators Association.
Meanwhile, some teachers at Rancho Cotate High, both supporters and opponents of the new policy, have been meeting to see if the new system can be refined to address some of the concerns.
“We don’t all have the exact same opinion about the scale, but we do all agree that we want to find a way to support kids to make sure that they’re always able to get support to pass their classes,” said Valerie Ganzler, an English teacher at the high school who favors the new system.
The new grading structure reflects an honest desire to help the district’s students, said Ganzler, who acknowledges that initially she was not sure about it either.
“Absolutely, I had concerns,” she said. She overcame those doubts in informational meetings organized by the district with staff, administrators and other teachers, she said.
She has noticed a difference already, she said.
“I would see students in my classroom who for whatever reason, they would see themselves get further and further behind and at some point you would see some give up and check out,” Ganzler said. “Having grades that are equal intervals, it is always possible for those kids to catch up.”
But other teachers say they have seen the downside of the new system.
Lowery, who has tried to retain the traditional grading system, said he has a student who early in the semester had a grade in the 80s range and another in the 25 percent range, but then stopped coming to class. Because his missed assignments all received a 50 percent, the student has a 49 percent average, instead of the 3 percent average he would have under the previous grading system, Lowery said.
“It’s a lie, that’s all it is,” he said.
Tech Middle school math and science teacher James Gregoretti, who is Maha Gregoretti’s husband, said he has math students who normally would be failing earning C’s. He has a science student with a 23 percent grade getting a D-, he said.
“This isn’t giving a student hope,” he told the board in September, “it is lowering standards in order to raise grades.”
Haley shows little patience for such complaints, or for stories about students whose grades don’t reflect their dismal performance.
“I think those teachers are picking out extreme examples,” he said. “There are a minority of teachers who seem to find a way to flunk students who have demonstrated that they have achieved at least a certain level of passing — I don’t subscribe to that.”
And Green, the Rancho Cotate High math teacher, says the new system allows students to concentrate more on what they are learning than what their marks are at any one point in time.
“I found a lot under the old system that they were worried about the grades and less worried about the material,” Green said. “Within the new system, it gives more of an opportunity for them to work their way toward an understanding of the material.”
But Peter Dudik, a Lawrence Jones Middle School math and science teacher, says students are wise to the difference and, as well, parents used to the traditional system are baffled.
“Most of the kids that I talk to, who know of the new inflated grading scale, think that it would make a lot of students not try as hard because they know they don’t have to,” he said.
“And parents are confused as to why scores around 50 percent are getting C’s and above.”
Ganzler said one refinement to the system that teachers may propose is that instead of receiving a 50 percent for work that isn’t done or turned in, students would receive an incomplete and be required to work with their teacher to achieve a passing grade.
“Instead of just being an ostrich and sticking your head in the sand and getting 50 percent, you have to go check in with your teacher and your teacher will help you catch up,” she said. “It’ll be a better skill for our students, and it’ll feel better as a teacher.”
Staff Writer Jeremy Hay blogs about education atextracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach him at 521-5212 orjeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jeremyhay.

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I Forgot to Mention Something………

w Jeep Rubicon

Oh yes, baby. Mama got a new toy! The old Jeep gave us 10 wonderful years of boondocking but got a hitch in its gasket. Trust was broken. Since I’m not getting younger and big clunky necklaces are sooooo yesterday for trying to look like a cool grandma, I “forced” myself to visit the local Jeep dealership. Well, well, well……what have we here? A Ruby.com!!!!! I believe this is something I’ve always needed but just didn’t quite realize it.

I know those first desert pinstripes will hurt me to the quick but then it’s over and we can get on with more exploring. Beatty Wash and Area 51(thereabouts) need much more exploring. Ol’ Ruby looks just like the right gal to have along to do it up right.

Just one problem:  Number 3 grandson is doing the math to figure out how many years he has to wait before he can drive it! (Thanks to the Jeep ad for the idea)

w Jeep ad and grandson

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