Sunday, January 05, 2014
California Leaving on Such a Winter’s Day: Review and Reflections
--> Entry for 4 January 2014:
Two weeks and a bit in Northern California: First, the amount and quality of the light, so much more and more intense than in Scotland at this time of year, dazzled us. Then, the weather shocked us: clear, no rain, day after day after day, with large daily temperature swings: lows near freezing, highs near 70 most days. California is in its second year of abnormally dry conditions but not yet willing to declare itself in drought: The hills are still as brown as in August: only one maybe two inches of rain so far this season, setting records for least amount of precipitation. (In Murray Creek, my nephew Patrick reported more snow than rain so far.) So it is a terrible beauty, this endless wonderful weather that threatens water-tables and the growing of crops in one the major agricultural regions of the world. If rice or nuts or citrus or vegetables or livestock fail in California, the rest of the world suffers. Groceries will cost more in Glasgow.
Still, it’s been an eventful couple of weeks, with many visits with family and others:
Kenneth (fellow refugee from winter, in his case Iowa) and I went on long, almost epic runs; on one, having missed the main path we struggled 1200 feet up still bicycle trails to the top of Pleasanton Ridge and saw the valley spread out far below us and into the distance.
On the Winter Solstice we drove over the Santa Cruz mountains to celebrate with Willy and his family in Soquel, marking the nadir of the year over a blazing fire bowl in his backyard, with sparklers and the passing of a cup of 18-year Glengoyne Whiskey.
For Christmas, Brendan & Mayumi flew down from Seattle with our grandchildren Mizuki (3½) & Yuki (4 months), who charmed and bemused us. Mizuki affectionately called me “Vampa,” making me think of some sort of affable but spooky hyperparent. On our adventure to Mount Diablo State Park she dragged Kenneth along everywhere, pulling him by the hand, up and down the jumble of sandstone boulders in Rock City; the next day he was sore all over.
On Boxing Day (not celebrated in the US as such but noted as the 2nd busiest shopping day of the year), we made a pilgrimage to Murray Creek. We found the place transformed: Late last August, a goat-herding couple named James and Loraina had fled to Murray Creek to escape the Great Yosemite Fire with their herd of 27 goats and other animals. After four months, the goats had (b)eaten back the encroaching army of star thistle and were well along in bringing the undergrowth under control. During the day we spent there, I visited with Joseph and his kids Ayla and Erhan and helped him with creative parenting; we watched James and Loraina herd the goats hither and thither, assisted by their big and enthusiastic white dog (who terrified Mizuki); we met the lonely llama in the upper pasture, mourning her dead partner and recently-miscarried baby; we walked the labyrinth with Mayumi and Mizuki; Louisa and Natasha blew in from Auburn for an intense visit, gift exchange, and meal. Along the way, we discussed the future of Murray Creek: Do we want to fill both houses with people who can help keep the place up and create a community/collective? What happens when the family wants to visit? Does anyone have a better idea? No one really knows what’s best, but in the meantime, I think it’s great to feel the renewed energy and see what James & Loraina have been able to do.
On the penultimate day of 2013, we went into San Francisco to see the extensive and often-magical David Hockney exhibit at the De Young Art Museum, featuring primarily portraits and landscapes, many quite large or whole-room installations depicting the four seasons in the artist’s native Yorkshire. Marjorie, Kris and I were quite taken by the room with the 4-panel X 16-camera video installation, each wall showing a drive down the same forest road in a different season, as if we were a giant gliding insect with many-faceted eyes, each oriented slightly differently from the rest. (This just made Diane and her mom queasy, so they moved rapidly on.) We’ve been following Hockney’s work since the 1980’s so it was very interesting to see the evolution of this protean artist, to be inspired by his continuing embrace of new technologies, and to appreciate his generative cycling between old and new media.
After a quiet New Year’s Eve, on the first day of the new year we drove down to Paso Robles for a brief visit with Anna, Jim and Luke, to catch up and mark the New Year. Anna treated us to tortilla soup, while we brought each other up to date. Once again, I brought along my bottle of 18-year old Glengoyne whiskey, so we passed the quaich to mark the New Year. The next morning we had patitsa, a favourite Christmas bread from our mother, which led to many reflections on times past.
Now we’re headed east again, for a bit of time in the frigid Midwest, dreading the large new snowfall and record-low wind chills predicted for Toledo over the next few days. It’s been cold and rainy in Glasgow, but two weeks in gorgeous California weather have more than undone the winterizing effects of our previous Scottish conditioning, so now we are about to go, as you might say, Cold Turkey into the depths of Winter.
Looking back, there have been many high points to this visit to California, and it has been a surprisingly busy time. No wonder I still haven’t finished reading that 800-page edited book on Gestalt Therapy that I’m supposed to be writing a book review on!
However, the least expected of this winter’s California Adventures was my visit with Ann Weiser Cornell, who had sent me a message on Facebook when she saw that I was in California. Ann is a well-known and highly talented Focusing trainer whom I’ve known for a while and whose formulations of focusing and self-critical processes I’ve found very useful over the years and particularly with the socially anxious clients I’ve been working with in Scotland for the past 6 years. So it was that on New Year’s Eve, I drove over to Berkeley where I spent several hours of highly enjoyable and stimulating talk. Ann proudly showed me her workshop in a converted warehouse loft space. We talked about training, large groups and all the different people who we knew in the Person-Centred-Experiential therapy world. We discussed her new book, Focusing in Clinical Practice (2013), including the role of focusing in EFT and role of emotion in Focusing (it depends on what you mean by “emotion”). After lunch at one of her favourite cafes, she drove me out to the Berkeley Marina; there we walked out to the end of the pier, where we could see the new Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin and so on, and as we walked we talked about our lives.
On the way back to her office, Ann asked me about my sense of the coming year: Recognizing this as a Focusing question, I paused, reflected, remarked that this was a very appropriate question for New Year’s Eve. Then I said: First, to continue to take care of my health by resisting the push to overwork. Second, to progress my long-delayed book Emotion-Focused Counselling in Action, which Les Greenberg and I have a contract to do. And the, third, surprising myself, to move toward the emerging reality of retiring and leaving Scotland in 2.5 years and eventually (we hope) returning to California.
But before all that, of course, there is a concentrated blast of wintry weather to face. Between the drought of California and the frigid cold of Ohio, I’m pretty sure we will be left feeling very glad to be back to the damp but relatively mild Scottish winter. Lang may oor lums reek!