Friday, October 31, 2008

Hometown Celebration #5: Pub Pumpkins

A not-too-scary arrangement of Jack-o-Lanterns and pumpkins line the passage from the Main Street promenade back to Shanachie's Pub. This carved-out variety of winter squash has long been a traditional decoration at American homes on this day. Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hometown Celebration #4: Hubris

As evening descended, and being without reflective gear, I walked Fifi (le Velocipede) home after a fun evening on the upper Main Street promenades. She was impressed to see this bicycle parked across from JD Redhouse, in the manner of a Harley, ready to shoot into the stream of traffic at a moment's notice. And look! It's a girl!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hometown Celebration #3: Family Fun

Kids of all ages had lots to do and see, surrounded by friendly faces in a setting that just brings a community together, in appreciation for where and who we are. I don't know if the business people actually make much money with these extra hours, and outdoor set-ups, but the good will is priceless. The last community celebration had the misfortune to be scheduled at the peak of our thickest forest fire smoke. This was much, much better.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hometown Celebration #2: Lawyer, Miller, Veterinarian?

Across the street from the belly dancers, a band of known characters made music of a different sort in front of Ardella's. One of these days, I'm going to invest in a digital audio recorder to capture such things. There was a nice crowd listening to these folks, and rightly so.

Many thanks to Dido of Edinburgh for naming me Blogging Friend Forever. It is an embarrassment of riches to be noticed by such a fine photographer and witty writer, and she offers another sweet treat in the blogosphere.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hometown Celebration #1: Dancing in the Street

Belly dancing has gained considerable popularity in our neck of the woods, with lessons and costuming available from several local sources. On Friday afternoon, into evening, the Chamber of Commerce organized the Hometown Harvest Moon Celebration, with local shops on upper Main Street staying open late and offering special discounts, food, and entertainment. Mazahar sponsored this performance of "gypsy-style" belly dancers on the sidewalk in front of the shop. This was a sight to see for the highway 101 traffic rolling past, as well as for little girls who had never seen anything like it.

I first saw belly (or beli) dancing in Bursa, Turkey, in a private home. I was among other teenage girls, and one of the daughters of the household demonstrated the subtle and intricate skill involved in the ancient Turkish-style rendering of the artform. Every part of the body seemed to be able to move independently of the others in specific, difficult rhythms that came together in a mesmerizing presentation. And the girl was just wearing an ordinary outfit of jeans and t-shirt. She managed to teach me to shimmy, but I was younger and skinnier then. I think if I tried to shimmy at this point, I'd hurt myself, and take down a few unsuspecting bystanders as well.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Coyote Brush

Behind and beside me, as I took yesterday's photo of the valley, were these Coyote Brush plants throwing off a healthy crop of fluffy seeds. It is one of the many "pioneer" plants that may take root on newly exposed earth after a mudslide, or on a roadside cut into a steep slope like this one on the Willits-Hearst Road. In addition to catching the wind to fall where they may, I can just imagine a deer mouse tucking some of this fluff into a nook or cranny for a clean, soft night's sleep.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Little Lake Valley in Autumn Afternoon Sunwash

With the west side of the valley being too dark too soon, I set out for the east side immediately after work a couple of days ago, to try to capture images of autumn in our native vegetation. Hearst-Willits Road is the old route over the ridges to the east of town, leading to the site of the village once called Hearst on a fork of the Eel River. The initial climb out of Little Lake Valley is steep, winding, and fairly narrow. It's paved, but not quite wide enough to designate two sides of traffic with a line down the middle. A few feet of dirt turn-out space, whenever available, supplements the roadbed for getting past opposing vehicles.

Climbing the hill, I squeezed my little truck into these scant margins whenever a potential photo subject caught my eye. I would set my parking brake, get out, and keep an ear open for motors coming near. It was "rush hour", so about seven or eight cars passed in the course of a half hour. At least five of the drivers asked me if I was "okay" as they slowly rolled by. It was so sweet, because whether I was still sitting in the truck, standing beside it, or wandering down or across the road from it, they checked with me through their open windows, without quite stopping, in case I had engine trouble, or was looking for something that bounced out, or was about to leap off the road cut. They were willing to offer aid. Okay, one of them knew me by name, so I'd have been hurt if Ralph hadn't asked. And I think the two that didn't say anything probably spotted my little camera in hand first. It was reassuring and heartwarming all in all. Or maybe it's a sign my truck looks like it's ready to fall apart.

This backlit view of the valley shows the autumn color of the local ash and oak trees lining the pasture lands and hay fields of the valley floor, as the sun just starts to sink behind the western ridge line. In the lower right, a herd of deer munch on some tender new grass.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sweet Treats

Sara N. of Mashhad, Iran, has given me the Blogging Friends Forever award. She is always so kind, and I am grateful for her friendship through our shared interest in City Daily Photo Blogging. And dear Meead, now of Portland, Oregon, has given me the same honor. He is a prince among men, and was the first to introduce me to his country. Now his challenge is to comprehend mine, and I wish him many angels in his adventure here.

Now it is my turn to give the award to five other bloggers, according to the following rules:
1. Only five people are allowed
2. Four have to be dedicated followers of your blog
3. One has to be someone new or recently new to your blog and live in another part of the world
4. You must link back to whoever gave you the award

My five are invited to pass this award along, if they choose to do so. (Even if they do not, I hope people will visit their blogs. Some visit Willits DP silently, others with many kind comments.):

1) Kelly of Geneva, Illinois
2) Babzy of France/Iceland
3) Afyon of Afyonkarahisar, Turkey
4) Hilda of Manila, Philippines
5) Petrea of Pasadena, California

In addition to the sweet treat of blogging friends, the organic treats in the photo above can be found at Mendonesia Cafe in the heart of Willits.

City Daily Photo bloggers have just been informed by a much admired Turkish blogger that "access to Blogspot/Blogger websites has been suspended in accordance with decision of Criminal Court of Peace in Turkey." This means that their blogs remain visible to the rest of us, but that they themselves are prohibited from logging on to those pages. This is frightening news.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Forever Lost

With daylight shrinking here in the northern hemisphere, I have little time after work to catch outdoor scenes. I ventured up the Highway 20 vale to find some autumn color, but didn't manage to get the kind of light I wanted. However, in one roadside turn-out, someone had placed this bleached old jaw bone on top of a low fencepost. It's about six inches long, and looks like it was a dog, from the shape of the front and side teeth.

Mendocino county is small enough that the community radio station, KZYX & KZYZ, includes lost pet announcements during much of its broadcast cycle. Sometimes pets just go for a wander, and sometimes they try to follow their owners' cars and trucks into town, but can't keep up. Unimagined hazards lurk for even the hardiest ranch dogs in unfamiliar territory.

Jawbone Jigsaw PuzzleJawbone Jigsaw Puzzle

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Star Turns in Contra Dance

Starting up recently, monthly contra dances are held in the Willits Methodist church fellowship hall. I had heard of these community gatherings in Sacramento, where my mother participated, but I had never been to one before. A half hour before the music starts (with a live ensemble), the dance caller instructs beginners in the movements for the dances to be done. Smiles of success filled the room here, as the group executed star turns under her watchful eye.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Roots of Motive Power Steam Up #6: The Best Tractor

This 19th century beauty is as tall as the giant modern-day harvesters, but was used in some logging operations in the 1880s. The rear wheel is about six feet in diameter, and the trolley cradling a log has wheels even larger. The demonstration log is a fraction of the size of the trees this would have been removing from the virgin redwood forests.

More photos of this monster are on my Overflow blog. This post is dedicated to Wayne of Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Anna's Asian House Restaurant Back Apartment

Among the vibrant features that small towns usually already have in place is the classic arrangement of "living above the store". When residential uses and commercial buildings blend and integrate, people mix easily into the pulse of activity that makes a town feel alive. When that happens orgaincally, that is to say, one building at a time, then the textures of the various generations get woven into a distinctive whole. When you see the upper Main Street commercial district, you see a place where old and new lives, and multiple ways of seeing the world, come together to create a unique street history that can only be where it uniquely is: Willits.

Circulating about town without the armor and anonymity of a car means seeing and connecting with people, not just acting out the pre-scripted advertising idea of ourselves with our "stuff" gathered from distantly programmed shopping experiences. Having said that, the irony is not lost on me that the lane running along the bottom of this picture is for the Bank of Willits drive-through teller.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Broaddus Creek

Although we had some good rain a couple of weeks ago, it wasn't enough to get the many streams through town to get moving. Here, Broaddus Creek lies stagnant under white alder trees, as seen from the Main Street overcrossing. The trees should start changing color soon.

For registered CDP bloggers, please visit the members' forums for the December theme poll AND a preliminary January theme poll. I'm counting on you.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Grilled Chicken Salad

I've been pretty busy these last few days, and haven't been in the mood to cook. Here's a plate of Ardella's grilled chicken salad, with ranch dressing on the side. Nothing fancy, but plenty of it. I'll share.

I should be back on schedule by Sunday. Cheers!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Painting for Peace

A multi-artist show at the Willits Center for the Arts includes this painting by Judy Geer, "The Four Horsemen of the DNC and RNC" (Democratic National Convention; Republican National Convention). It combines her experiences and impressions as a peace demonstrator at those events. The show, "Round Too", can be seen until October 26th.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fifi, Le Velocipede

She is a luminous, light, frosted petal pink thing of beauty. Both the hardware store and myself were growing weary of waiting for the fenders that would fit, so she was released into my care last weekend. I think it has been three decades since I last owned one.

There's a saying in the US, "It's just like riding a bicycle", which means if you've learned how to do something that sufficiently trains your muscles to respond to a task without conscious thought, then you will retain that skill even many years later. I found that riding a bicycle is just like riding a bicycle only up to a point. Maneuvering around uneven pavement, or weaving through a gate opening is once again a challenge. All is not smooth with my reflexes, but the bike flows like a dream. No, I have not yet crashed, but I'm taking my time. For one thing, the helmet in my size is on "back order". (I wonder if somebody in China is making the thing right now.) For another thing, I discovered that Fifi comes with some fine print (see above). Now, where did I put that manual...?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008 - Poverty: A Trailer Park

When I first read about Blog Action Day over on a blog called Global Themes concerning poverty, I thought it was an interesting idea. But the more I looked around me in Willits, the more I realized that what looks like poverty here is not nearly the grinding hardship found in some nations, with children living in cardboard boxes on trash heaps, plagued with malaria and malnutrition and filthy water. Could I really make a post appropriate to the small scope of Willits Daily Photo that represents poverty in the global sense of the word? Probably not.

We do have persistently homeless people, who are often mentally ill, or drug addicted, or mentally scarred by combat experiences, but I haven't photographed them, nor have I looked for their encampments. Then there are the drifters-by-choice, who may pursue the "freegan" lifestyle, or ramble through this area hoping to find work in the marijuana underground for a season before hitching a ride back home.

But there are other people who rallied their resources enough at some point, and found a travel trailer or camper to live in, and found a place to legally put it, like the folks in this tiny lot. At least it gives them a permanent address for receiving a small social security check, or to write on a job application. There's a permanent building on site that must have the required showers and toilets. The sycamore trees provide blessed shade in the heat of summer, and there's a billiards table on the other side, next to the street, with a compact florescent light bulb dangling overhead. They are situated right across the railroad tracks from the local food distribution charity. Things could be worse, I suppose. But they surely are below the "poverty line", as defined by demographers and eligibility workers here in the US.

[edit] For more information about advocacy for the homeless, particularly veterans, see the comments on this post by admin/Aron.

Discover Jackson Browne!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

May Peace Prevail

The United Methodist Church architecture is profoundly bland, but the welcome sign is out while the doors are open. A post near the entrance expresses hope for peace in six languages. I'm fairly sure that five of them are English, Spanish, Chinese, Hebrew, and Arabic. The sixth, to the left of the Arabic pictured below, has me stumped. Could it be Portuguese?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pink Puppy

Sometimes, when times are tough and you don't know what to do or where to turn, you just have to hope someone will give you a coat and keep an eye out on things.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Purple Thistle Dinnertime

A young family recently enjoyed an early evening feast at one of Willits' better dinner houses, The Purple Thistle, on upper Main Street. Our temperatures have dropped dramatically in the past couple of weeks, and people are starting to move indoors from patio seating areas and sidewalk tables. Tonight, there's a 26°F freeze warning, with more to come.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Harvest Festival #5: Herbal Households

While community and personal food security skills are crucial in hard times, this home-based business, East Hill House Herbals, produces balms for the skin and cleaners for the house. At the Harvest Festival, they generously demonstrated how they produce a strongly lavender-infused vinegar for household cleaning. I bought a bottle, and now appreciate the difference in the air when I clean the stove top or toilet. No more chlorine gas, or even more mysterious vapors. Lavender oil has a long history of use as an anti-septic, and grows easily in this climate.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Poetry in Motion

I found this purple Schwinn tandem bicycle parked in front of JD Redhouse, fully outfitted with coordinating streamers and handy wire baskets. I'm still experiencing bike envy, for mine has not yet arrived.

The building reflected in the window, from across the street, is the Bank of Willits. I haven't heard any dire warnings about the state of its health, and it was never a free-wheeling savings and loan, but even solid local commercial banks will suffer if money isn't moving. I hope their emphasis on local investments helps them.

Meanwhile, prudent investors will spend some capital on human-powered capability expansion, like bikes, so that when the oil stops moving, and the money stops moving, the people can keep moving. Have I mentioned that mine will be pink? That's almost as good as deep purple.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

All Clear for Another Six Months

I went to the dentist last week for my twice yearly cleaning and yearly check-up. As often happens with me, I was in a hurry to not be late. And I could kick myself, because I forgot my camera. I almost never forget to take my camera when I leave the house, because I never know when I might encounter something interesting out there in wild, wild Willits. Naturally, there were all sorts of opportunities for good images, not the least being my digital x-rays on the dentist's computer screen. I'm happy to report that my oral health is ship-shape. And this picture of his office (a beautifully converted old residence) was taken on another day. Soon, the glorious shade of the walnut tree will be shed.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Roots of Motive Power Steam Up #5: Speeders

These little vehicles are another favorite at the annual Steam Up, and I think some are called "speeders" while others are called "hand cars", and some speeders have covered cabs for weathering the elements. There are clubs for speeder hobbyists who arrange rail excursions together, by prior arrangement with rail operators. Originally, most of these were used for maintenance work on the rails. This orange one has wooden handles on each end for two people to lift it on or off the rails. A Roots volunteer explained its operation and history to a visitor, then powered up its noisy gasoline motor, and sped off to tour the loop track. Others were powered with human muscle alone. Perhaps you've seen the classic lever pump varieties in old movies and cartoons. In fact, you can check out Kermit the Frog, or Buster Keaton on my Overflow blog.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Old Highway Route

Barbed wire blocks passage to the trailing end of the old Highway 101 roadbed at the south end of the valley. The current highway at this point is up where the line of passing traffic is just visible at the top left of the picture. From there, south to just below Ukiah, the highway is four lanes, bypassing the winding path of generations of road trips; families or newlyweds off to explore the pastoral ranches and towering redwood forests in lovingly maintained open roadsters or sedans. With more widespread ownership of automobiles after World War I, daytrips and camping trips brought city-dwellers out to lands of natural splendor with ease and independence. With the travelers came new economic opportunities to serve tourism locally. Such business benefits fueled the interest of north coast counties to contribute to the Redwood Empire Association, and the subsequent building of the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1930s.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Harmless Fool

Well, whoever this person is, I hope they are as harmless as they claim. The truck certainly brightened up an otherwise gray day. Anyone care to interpret the meaning of the artwork?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Harvest Festival #4: Fruit Press

Part of the day-long preparations for the Harvest Festival Dinner was the production of grape and apple juice for the diners. Here, a Grange member adds organic grapes, supplied by Frey Vineyards of Redwood Valley, into the hopper for pressing. Such a process was more commonplace a century ago, but with the convenience of prepared juices, it is now something to be rediscovered for those who seek more self-sufficiency. I saw many of these presses used by families in Hungary a decade ago. They are way ahead of us here. More images of this process are on my Overflow blog.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Lovely Surprises

Some readers of this blog may recall a post I did in August, where I finally scrambled after a horse and rider who I very often saw on weekends downtown, and was able to photograph a few times on its steady trek through our fair summer streets. Yet, the photo I really had in mind still eluded me.

It would be through the window of Ardella's Downtown Diner, as I had seen it so many times before, but passing too quickly to turn on the camera, frame the shot, hold still, and press the button, all in time for it to be directly opposite from me at the dining counter. I had told the diner owners, who had told the staff, what my vision entailed. So for months, they would share a chuckle every time the horse went by and I wasn't there, or even better, after I had just left. But I blogged what I got, and had pretty much forgotten about it.

Then, on a recent Sunday, I had finished my late breakfast and lingered over coffee even as the "Closed" sign was turned, and the table settings put away. The boss always keeps everything sparkling clean, and I suddenly noticed the interesting effect of the lights reflected on the black granite she had just wiped down. She has gotten used to me taking pictures of my food, or other people's food (yes, I ask first... mostly), so it was unremarkable that I was once again taking more pictures inside her establishment. The waitresses were tallying up their tickets and counting their tips and catching their final meals before heading home.

And then, like a miracle, the horse appeared, and I was ready. Completely unplanned, but there it was. We probably gasped, and said a few disbelieving "Nooooh"s. And as if to give me even more time, the horse balked as it started to pass, so the rider had to turn it back out of view before insisting that it proceed back to the south past our window. I snapped her riding away, thinking that would be as good a view as would be coming. But as she came back around, I tracked her progress with my viewfinder, saw her appear in the targeted window, and pressed the shutter button.

"I got it," I said. "I think I got it."

I never know for sure with any of my pictures if they turned out well on the spot, because I can't really make out the quality of the focus on the tiny screen on the camera. So the true test would be how it would look on my computer screen. I paid my tab, and hurried home.

The problem with pictures that are imagined is they usually can't be created by an amateur like me. The contrasting light between the outdoors and the indoors leaves you sacrificing one for the other, or compromising both. I could see that I got the shot, but realized the horse and rider didn't loom quite as large as I thought they would, and the signs and back window reflections interfered more than I anticipated, and the background was all overexposed. But when I looked at the photo before me, I adored it. Not for what was outside, but for what I wasn't even paying attention to on the inside. Not only had they cheered me on, but some of the staff were right there in my picture frame! Completely absorbed in the culmination of my quest, I was oblivious as they looked on in wonder, knowing how much I had wanted that moment! Their faces tell the story. That's why I love this shot.

Hi, my name's Elaine, and I'm a City Daily Photo Blogger. This is my town.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Red Vines

It rained! By the time you read this, it may still be raining. Autumn is here at last.

RedVines Jigsaw PuzzleRedVines Jigsaw Puzzle

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Harvest Festival #3: Community Supported Agriculture

Even as the summer harvest peaks, with sunflowers and peppers and a rich variety of other vegetables, it's time for farmers to plan ahead. A winter produce CSA farm, Mendocino Organics, is accepting subscribers to its winter season produce harvests. I explained more about the concept of Community Supported Agriculture in an earlier post, linked here, and here, and even here, about my summer season membership in Live Power Farm. Most of California is fortunate to have a climate suitable for growing so much food for so much of the year, but anywhere you have farming, people can come together with a farmer, and ask to support his or her growing of an array of vegetables and fruit as dividends for the supporters throughout the growing season.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October Theme Day: Lines

Considering how small and remote we are, Willits is tremendously blessed to have highly rated Howard Hospital, including an emergency room, right in town. But sometimes injuries require the attention of specialists and life-support systems in larger city hospitals, and such victims are usually airlifted by helicopter to Santa Rosa or Sacramento. Such flights can travel through the air directly, in straight lines, to the hospital landing pad at their destination. The non-profit medical air-transport company that serves this area, and uses this helipad not far from the hospital, is called Calstar.

The first day of each month is Theme Day for City Daily Photo Bloggers around the world. Click here to view thumbnails for all 155 participants in this month's theme, "lines".