Thursday, June 30, 2011


Circus Camp is an unusual summertime experience. Kids learn various circus skills and have great fun doing it. The last day of camp, my daughter and son-in-law, and grandson, Austin, visited the camp, watched the kids perform what they had learned, and accompanied  grandsons Owen and Theo while they gathered their belongings and said goodbyes to new friends. Real high wire artists begin by walking the wire just two feet from the ground. The wire is gradually raised as skills improve. Notice the spotter for this young walker even though the wire is only two feet off the ground.

Short stilt walkers do well while walking. But, to stand and take a bow, they must support each other with their spotters engaged to keep them upright.

Wavy Gravy, the camp originator, explained that riding the unicycle is the most difficult task at camp.

Parents watch the unicyclists practice on this track.

Theo demonstrated a couple of magic tricks for us.

Kids all over the park were showing off their skills to parents and friends. Both boys learned enough card tricks to make us dizzy.

Owens greatest skill is stilt walking. While he was getting attached to his sticks, I heard other kids comment on his skill as in, “…oh, there’s Owen. He’s the best.”  A bit of awe in their voices as they acknowledged a champ. He walked the camp over on rough terrain, gravel, puddles. His second year, he is the undisputed hero for now. Dad is making sure he doesn’t fall, needed or not.  The kids wear wrist supports  and are taught how to fall if something goes wrong.

Time to gather belongings and say farewell to tipi mates.

With mixed emotions, a last look around. Leaving. Going home.  Both boys agree Circus Camp is great. While their parents worried about what they were doing, were they homesick?  They discovered the letter they’d written to Theo had gone unread. We all laughed. Question answered.

Later that night, continuing the camp experience,hot dogs, roasted marshmallows and star-gazing around the fire. Austin’s marshmallow caught fire and he likes them that way.  (Me too!)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Every kid knows about poop, but how many know about scat? Well, when you are tracking animals with Virginia, the biologist, you get to the nitty-gritty, as grandson Austin soon found out. We walked the dusty, and in places,  muddy, road to the big river and visited every footprint  we spotted in the early morning. The photo above has a definite long claw, possibly a bobcat. They've been known to climb upon automobiles parked below the cabin here in Mendocino County.

This photo shows the soft pad of a coyote possibly. An older print;  recent rains diminished its sharpness. No scat nearby to make a decision, but Austin learned about turkey scat, raccoon and coyote scat. Breaking the dried scat apart, searching for bones or seeds to help identify what animal passed by is not something he wanted to try, but he watched with fascination. He saw the tracks  snails and a snake made in the dusty road. Quail, deer and a rabbit passed this way  before our morning walk. Signs of bear, and the bear itself, have been spotted on the property but the prints Virginia has seen of them have all washed away.

Late rains encouraged longer lasting spring flowers as the  firecracker...

...and this sunny yellow bloom.  (The name escaped me.)

Off the road, on a wide path, we happened upon  a rattlesnake. It was still cool; the snake was sluggish and slow. Virginia gave Austin three bamboo sticks to carry in front of him as we proceeded.

A deer jawbone with teeth intact,  fairly  fresh killed,   found near the water.

We explored a crude storage structure leftover from the former owners of the property. It proved handy for locking up tools during the building of the cabin and is slated to be burned down come winter.

On our return to the cabin, the rattle snake was still curled up on the path. While we watched  it  slithered away; its home  a cavity beneath  a downed tree.  Look closely. It appears thick in the middle as though it had recently eaten. Then on to the Circus Camp.  More tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Austin and I left the temperate valley and breathed the mountain air where it was cool and beautiful at the cabin. He is a city boy and has few chances to enjoy nature as in catching his first lizard with a net.

And later with his bare hands, carefully caught, so it could be released in good shape.

Looking trepiditiously at a swimming polliwog. Unbelieving that he could actually catch one and that it really, really, really turns into a frog.  He was familiar with “tadpoles” from tv but this is real life. It’s a transition we don’t think too much about for a child.
Waiting for the water to clear.
This is fun!  He soon became an old hand at catching polliwogs in every state of development, with and without tails. Some practicing to breathe air bobbing around the shallow pools of creek water. Others just growing leg nubs. He had the advantage of teacher/biologist  Aunt Virginia to explain the way they grow, and then show him how to catch the small gray, gold and green chorus frogs without injuring them.

He spotted a very prehistoric looking lizard all puffed up and trying to defend its territory.

We spent the morning and afternoon hiking and exploring. At the end of the day, Austin made a list of those things he’d seen. (In the afternoon, we forgot the camera.) He spotted a gopher snake swimming across the river which we later cornered on the opposite bank for a good look.  He found a live clam and crayfish, scads of minnows, bullfrog polliwogs, which are huge, of course;  hard to catch.  He saw several different birds, flowers beautiful butterflies, and various insects. The larvae of dragon and damsel flies. He learned to skip rocks and we called it a day.

He built a fort out of the couch while we cooked dinner. We learned that Austin is quite adventurous. More tomorrow.

Monday, June 27, 2011


On June 23rd, leaving graduations and Las Vegas behind, I flew my youngest grandson to Sacramento with me.  With a seven year old’s sense of adventure, through his eyes, I enjoyed the planes landing at the airport; the monitors, the hustle and bustle.  I enjoyed him while he enjoyed the tube, the luggage loaders, the servers, then the fabulous terrain out the window from the air. Not an ounce of fear for his first flight in memory, just fascination with cars turned to toys,  tiny  buildings, etched roads and patchwork fields.  Once the terrain out the window became repetitious, he tried for a nap.

I watched his eyes widen at the sight of the luggage sculpture. “Grandma, those suitcases are gonna fall!!”

We paused at my daughter’s house to check on  the chickens, cats and garden, then immediately drove to Lake County, North of  Willits, to join them at  their cabin. Its located five miles off the highway in a breath-taking valley with a river running through it.  It’s also a dead zone for phone and internet. Peaceful, quiet, solitude for we adults; fascinating exploration for kids.  To introduce a new experience to a seven year old allows us to be kids again and share their sense of wonder.
I drove back to Murphys;  home for a family reunion.  These pages will be dead spots here and there for awhile as well as I get caught  up.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Stewart Holden Matzek graduated with honors from Green Valley High School yesterday. He got dressed at home for a few pictures before leaving for their practice. Mom adjusted his cap and tassel.

Laurie says:  “Stewart is sooo ready for college.”  He will attend University of Nevada Reno as an English major.

The honors students are awarded this metal to wear with their cap and gown, and also an honors rope and hood for advanced and high honors.

Stew’s younger brother,  Mason was dressed to the nines in his tux since he plays for the high school band.  Both boys went ahead of us to the Thomas And Mack Center, a huge auditorium where many graduations are conducted this week. Weather was in the triple digits, typical for Las Vegas, and graduating ceremonies outside are out of the question.

The temperature on the dashboard reads 113 degrees, but Ken claims it isn’t that hot. The temp plate is simply in the direct sun on a black car. It was only 108.

Stewart paraded into the auditorium with the rest  of his class of 647 graduates.

Taking pictures in this immense room is difficult but they have television monitors just like they do for sports events which guarantees every person in the building gets to see the action and spot their own kid or grandson.

I managed to get a shot of brother Mason playing Pomp and Circumstance with the band.

And, one of Stewart singing in the choir in his cap and gown. The words to the song and the kids speeches were scrolled on the teleprompter for all to see.

After the ceremony, the kids were glad to put aside their regalia and into casual clothing for dinner out with the family. We discussed the difficulty of managing a ceremony for such a huge class and the efficiency with which it was accomplished.  The speeches were short and good. Green Valley High School is rated one of the best in the U.S. and graduates 91% of its students.

Then home for dessert and the chance to study that all important diploma.

Stewart opened his gifts and cards. The most important words of wisdom I brought back to share from this event are these:  “Don’t let any one tell you what you CAN’T do. Only you know all you CAN do.”  It was an eighteen year-long  journey and a new one is just  beginning. Stewart, your family is proud of you and very happy. Congratulations.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


One of the fun things about staying at my son and daughter-in-law's house is bumping into a herd of elephants. Not too many people have a self-portrait of themselves hanging above their fireplace, but in this case the portrait of Suda the elephant was painted by Suda the elephant. A unique piece her youngest son bought for her while visiting Thailand.

Many of her elephants are unusual as this small wooden elephant bowl.  Laurie always tries to make her elephant collection usable, thus they fit in everywhere around the house and garden.

This one holds matches in the kitchen.

A basket by the pool holds sunscreen.

A mirror in the hallway.

These two hold tea on a shelf above the stove.

A pencil box near the phone.
Book ends.

Here the elephant's trunk holds up an elephant ring.

A small watering can for the houseplants.

She has musical instruments, swizzle sticks, cups, tea pots, walking sticks, letter holders, salt and peppers, serving trays, candle sticks, jewelry, knickknacks, drawer pulls...I didn't count them, but approximately 175 elephant objects. Unique and interesting.

Her collection started as a gift when she was in grammar school.  She no longer has every elephant she collected. Some have been broken, she lost key chains, jewelry and so on, but the supply is never-ending. And, of course, she never for-saw the day her son would visit Thailand, ride an elephant, and bring her a portrait painted by one.