Sunday, November 19, 2006

Manual labor

This weekend, I again visited Richard Camera at his Anchor Bay home site. He had several debris burn piles going when I arrived. In the evening, we gathered close by one to chase off the evening chill. Thirty years ago, we had worked on some much larger burn piles in the Sierra Foothills.

Told Richard I’d be up to his Anchor Bay property before noon, so that determined my schedule. But I wasn't real eager. I had slept poorly, fitfully.

Pulled out my camping gear, which has become a routine now, and was on the road about 9:30. The Russian River drive was too annoying last time, so I went out highway 12 to Sebastopol. Foggy across the Santa Rosa Plain. Stopped at Wild Flour Bakery for something to take to Richard’s. Purchased four biscotti. A curious establishment, staffed by very “organic-looking” people. The woman who served me seemed to have a German accent. I wondered if this might be connected to a local commune?

Light traffic. A group of motorcycles came south along Highway 1 from the Russian River area. Effortlessly passed every vehicle I came upon. A glassy ocean, with a notable swell today (unusual lately). Nice waves, and many surfers out. Passing a group of cars north of Jenner, I hit a deep pothole that jolted me hard. Waited for some sign of the front tire losing pressure, but it held.

Reached Richard’s around 11:30. He had torched three or four burn piles.

“How long have you been here?”

"Since yesterday," he said.

I was confused. "When did you send that e-mail saying you were going up 'tomorrow'?”

"Thursday night." (But it was dated Friday morning when I checked later. The vagaries of electronic mail.)

Today, we were moving wet topsoil and spreading it over his leach field. Then he would cover it with seed and straw. I worked tentatively, every now and then getting a painful jab from my back.

Out for lunch. Stopped first to look at a construction site in Gualala where they’re using styrofoam building blocks as the concrete forms. Richard is considering the technology.

Went to Bonez Roadhouse again. This time, I ordered a pulled-pork sandwich. All across the U.S., I saw these offered, but this was my first. It was "okay" (too much barbecue sauce, which I don’t like). Good lemonade though. Stretched the lunch out, relaxing, but the days are short, and it comes at a cost.

Today is Richard's neighbor Howard’s 71st birthday. Richard asked what he’s doing for his birthday. “Getting screwed, I hope.”

My back was getting worse by the hour. I was relieved when Richard said “this is the last load for today.” The sun was fading. I put up the tent, gingerly stooping to assemble it.

No run to the showers, or meal in town. We just had some wine and biscotti. I brought a 375ml bottle of “Now & Zin” wine my compatriots and I had made. Surprised that it seemed more flavorful and aromatic than on previous occasions. The spicy, almost olivey oak is quite apparent now. But the wine was not harsh.

Richard pulled out a pipe and smoked some pot. We talked a bit about pot, mushrooms and such. I never tried any of it, but not for lack of opportunities. I guess I chose wine.

It was growing cold, so we stoked one of the fading burn piles and sat near it.

To bed around 9:00, the sea lions barking in the distance.

My lower back was in an electric knot, seeming to clutch my left kidney, almost making me nauseous. Couldn’t sleep. Moved constantly between three positions: right side, back and left side. Only lying on my left side with my knees tucked upward seemed to alleviate the throbbing. But I couldn’t remain long in this position. So it was a night of constant tossing and pains.

So many live with this and worse. Here I’m getting a small dose. I must appreciate that there will come a time when such pain (or worse) will likely be the norm. How will you cope then? One must accept life, whatever the terms, and appreciate it.

But I was losing the battle. Counting the hours. Dreading any movement, and worse if I had to get up to urinate. And I didn’t look forward to telling Richard in the morning that I would be useless. A long night. The slight glow in the sky brought some relief. I intended to go home early. I must have finally dozed, because I recall a brief dream, and it was suddenly light.

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