Sunday, May 2, 2021

Navigating Out of the Pandemic Shell: April 2021

April got off to a somewhat ominous beginning when I was awakened on April 1 at 4:00 am by Syd growling downstairs. I found him growling at a very large raccoon who was standing on the other side of the sliding door. My appearance spooked the raccoon who shuttled off the porch and headed down the hill of our backyard. Syd followed along inside going from window to window until he was satisfied that the four-legged trespasser was long gone. The rest of our April nights were quiet although sleep doesn't always come easy to me. 

In April our daily lives moved toward a more normal level of activity. We celebrated Easter with my brother Leonard, his wife Kristin, and their youngest son Wesley (18 now). They came up from Antioch on Saturday evening so we could spend more time together on Sunday. What a joy to be able to do something as simple as having family visit and celebrate a holiday together again. They hadn't begun their vaccinations at that point but have since.

Syd gradually introduced himself to this part of the Clark family and made himself the center of attention. Pandora lived in our closet both days. Besides Kathy, their cat sitter, they haven't had interaction with other humans for more than a year.

We took a number of drives to enjoy spring wildflowers. After seeing a photographer friend post photos of California poppies, we headed to Jackson (Amador County) to see for ourselves. We found them but getting decent photos involved walking up a very steep driveway (the land was for sale and no gate) to get to the top of the hill. 

The view from the top


Several days later we bought tickets to the vintage Crest Theater in downtown Sacramento to see the Oscar-nominated documentary shorts. We saw five absorbing movie shorts and spent 2-1/2 hours in the theater. Tickets were limited to the first 100 persons but there were only about 20 of us present and distanced on that Sunday afternoon. We began the day with brunch. Brunch and movies - that's definitely a bridge crossed. 

A couple of months ago I had two photographs in the Humor in Photography show sponsored by Yolo Arts and Viewpoint Gallery. As a result, I was invited to an Art and Ag Farm Visit to Hungry Hollow Olive Ranch in Capay. Capay is about 1-1/2 hours due west from where we live. It is almost to the coast range. With the Art and Ag Farm visits, artists are given the run of a participating farm two mornings a month. Dan came too and we enjoyed being in an area we've never before visited. 

The olive trees are still young but they were in bloom and stretched almost as far as the eye could see. Meadowlarks sang from the tops of the olive trees while we looked for interesting photographic subjects.

The colors were soft and there was a little moisture in the air that further softened the colors. 


We concluded our trip west with lunch at the Alamar Restaurant on the Sacramento River. When I was younger, stronger, and had a friend with a boat, I waterskied this part of the Sacramento River on many summer afternoons with a group of work friends. It was a nice memory.

Between our wildflower wanderings I did a few freelance photo jobs for our local paper the Mountain Democrat (the oldest paper in California). The first two were people events: the Fishing Derby for kids under 18 and an Earth Day Celebration. The last assignment was to photograph the glorious lupins blooming at Folsom Lake State Park with the caveat that I take some photos of people enjoying the lupins. We visited the park at Peninsula campground at the end of Rattlesnake Bar Rd on the day after a much anticipated "storm" that yielded a disappointing 1/10 of an inch of rain. Happily, the sky was filled with lots of fluffy clouds and we were the first to visit the lupins. We took photos. I took one of Dan enjoying the lupins just in case we never saw another person. We hiked and took more photos of lupins. When we finally returned to our car there were a handful of people in the lupins. I took their photos and got their names for the paper. None of the lupin peepers were local. A group of four were from San Francisco, and there were two women photographers one from Banff, Canada, and one from Arizona. Success and a memorable day of purple haze.








Folsom Lake is currently 64% of normal for this time of year when the lake is waiting for the snow melt to bring the level up. Unfortunately, our snow pack is about 45% of normal and this is our second drought year. The present lake level is about 1/3 of its capacity. The water is so low that from the normal beach one must walk about 200 feet to get to the water. The boat launches are high above the water level. Boats that do get into the water are restricted to 5 mph due to the lake's low level. While our water does not come from this lake, the western edge of El Dorado County does get some of their water from Folsom Lake. We are already having "red flag warning" days because of the dryness of the vegetation and high winds. 

Stranded driftwood at a former high water mark
Clumps of Lupin growing on the newly exposed shore below the boat launch

As a consolation, the lupins have carpeted much of the area that would/should be covered by water in a normal rainfall year.

One Saturday we enjoyed a lunch hosted by one of Dan's former co-workers. Also invited were several other lawyers whom Dan once worked with from the U.S. Attorney's office. We were all fully vaccinated. When will we no longer care about vaccination status?

When at home our lives still revolve around our cats, walking them twice a day, our yard, and photographing the changes in both. Walking cats is not like walking a dog. There is a lot of time for photographing, weeding, listening to podcasts/audiobooks, and searching for your cat after your attention has strayed to something more interesting. I've documented an entire year of cats and yard and it is getting boring.

Pandora and our yard lupins
Our yard is at its best in April when spring bulbs are still in bloom, the purple wisteria blooms and as it begins to wane, the white wisteria takes over with its waterfall of white. Between the wisteria and the lupins, the fragrance is heavenly.





At the end of April we began making plans for future travel. The end of June, we're going to Tanzania for 12 days. Our fellow travelers on this trip have been vaccinated. That is not the case for the people of Tanzania. Presently, there are no travel restrictions to get there. Of course, that could change before the end of June arrives. We haven't been on an airplane since the pandemic began so this is another big bridge to cross. 

Committing to travel internationally led us to consider returning to our local gym. Last week, we returned to gym exercise and yoga for me. We are going during the less busy hours, but our friends who returned well before us said that the gym is never very busy anytime now. Working our way back to normal and staying healthy involves so many leaps of faith and luck. So far, we have been.

There were a total of 9964 positive Covid cases and 110 deaths at end of April. April's increase in positive cases was 516 and there were two additional deaths (65+ category). Our county managed to slip down into the orange-moderate tier from the red-substantial tier. Our governor has floated the possibility  that California's tier system will disappear mid-June ready or not.

In April, the City of Placerville managers voted unanimously to "lose the noose" from the city seal and stationery. Those not in favor of this move have begun a recall campaign to remove all five managers. There have been protests against the removal of the noose, and those who insist that Placerville is ignoring its history, but the noose is not part of the city's history. The 1849 miners who came for gold named it Dry Diggins. After 3 men, rustlers or claim jumpers, were hanged, the city became known as Hangtown. In 1854, the city name was changed to Placerville because the residents didn't want to live in a town called Hangtown. The noose didn't show up until the 1970s as a way to attract tourists. 

I like the words of the Vice Mayor: “I know a lot of people want us to stand up and fight this battle against change, but our job at the city is not to fight change — but to navigate it. The welcome to Placerville/Old Hangtown sign will remain. Seems like an intelligent compromise.  

Navigating our future-carefully.