Interbeing, the Rhizosphere, and Green Burial

Monday, June 6th, 2022
Interbeing, the rhizosphere and green burial

Cal Poly Foundation, Divest from Fossil Fuels

Monday, May 9th, 2022

Comments to Foundation Board of Directors and Finance Committee, May 7 2022

Seven reasons in three allotted minutes to divest Cal Poly Foundation from Fossil Fuel Investments

1.     To respond to the well-informed, respectful and impassioned student testimony at previous meetings urging you to act on this.  Clearly, today’s students and their children will be more impacted by the Climate Crisis than our generation.  Providing financial support to Fossil Fuel companies that continue to play a significant role in worsening that Crisis is neglecting the University’s commitment to the welfare of its present and future students. (more…)

Nancy Lucas 1942-2021

Sunday, March 27th, 2022

On Sunday attended a memorial service at the Sangha for Nancy Lucas, my age. Retired before me, about 2006.  Lost contact as part of my withdrawal from English department but heard that seven years ago she was moved by her two sons out of SLO to an Alzheimer facility where the older one lives in Healdsburg.  They organized the memorial at White Heron Sangha in Avila because she was an early member who left before I first got there.  The event was announced through the Sangha email list, but not, it seems, through the English Department. I had the impression a number of those folks, who were closer to her than I, had been personally invited, but many others were absent.

This is the third memorial for Sangha members I’ve been to: Barbara Scott, Melody Demerit, the two others.  Women I had special connections with—Barbara my therapist in 1992 and Melody my copy editor in 1998 and 2005.  Those connections were mixed with admiration: Barbara for bravery in dealing with the unimaginable pain of her rheumatoid arthritis, Melody for her steadfastness in serving on the Morro Bay City Council. And affection: Barbara for her ebullience, Melody for her bluff irreverence.

With Nancy it was different.  The most prominent thing about her was a spectacular beauty and grace.  Her head, with its great green eyes and bright red hair, seemed to float with a buoyancy that suspended the rest of her tall body. Her voice, with its slight hint of Texas drawl, seemed to sing recitative rather than talk.  And as so many of the speakers remarked, she fully shared that celebrity presence with everyone who basked in it.  An illustration in that place of a Buddhist aspiration to be fully there for other people.

And a poignant irony that someone so present lived out her life growing steadily more absent. So absent that the two adored and adoring sons who took her in care remembered, in lengthy detail, her rare moments of partially being there in laughter and song.

A picture of her at our house October 1991 during an English Faculty play reading of Sheridan’s The School for Scandal together with Mike Wenzl (1939-2017)


Miss Leo High Sierra Love Song

Sunday, October 31st, 2021

Driving home from City Farm on Friday morning, I recognized the sound of a favorite voice on KCBX, and soon after heard Neal Losey announcing that Miss Leo was having a CD release party that night in Morro Bay.  She and her mandolinist, Andy O’Brian, had played at our last Fall Harvest Festival in precovid 2019, and at the time, the beauty of her voice kept distracting me from the bustle of activities that needed attention.

When I got home for my midday nap I lay on the couch, logged on to her website, purchased and downloaded the new collection of 13 songs, and dropped off to sleep soothed as if by lullabies.

Jan agreed to a date at the Libertine Pub, and after checking out the leftovers of the witches’ paddle in the nighttime fog, we arrived there in time to say hi to Leo, her husband and in-laws during the warm up acts.  Dressed up as a unicorn of sorts for Halloween, Leo recognized me and said she’d noticed that I had bought the album. At the start of her set, she told the audience of her surprise and delight to hear herself earlier on the radio.

The pub crowd was loud enough to have drowned out the earlier performers but when she and the three other band members started “Desert Queen,” the driving first cut on the album, either they quieted down or the music was strong enough to overcome the noise. The combination of original tunes and lyrics square on country music conventions along with honey sweet instrumental and vocal harmonies plunged me into another pre-sleep state of relaxation, but this time fully absorbed by the animated performance.

As she started singing “High Country Love Song,” I felt an echoing recollection: as I had half-consciously heard the song earlier in the day, there was a vague sense that I’d been to the place she so vividly described, in particular its references to pure flowing water and mule trains.

But as its idyllic pastoral unfurled in performance, I suddenly realized she was singing about experiences at a Yosemite Park High Sierra Camp, just like ones I treasured from the summer of 1961, when I worked for three months at Merced Lake as a “Camp Helper” between my sophomore and junior years in college. That was 60 years ago, but nothing had changed, the water, the absence of electricity, the mule trains, the ten mile run to the nearest camp or road, and the young romance.

When the song was done, I called out, “High Sierra Camp Helper,” and she stopped, stared at me and said, “how did you know that?” I don’t remember if and what I replied, I was so taken away.  By chance I’d recently come across pictures from that summer job which I’d scanned and put into my Mac photos library and might be able to access on my phone. I scrolled back through the years and there they were.






At that point the band took a break and Miss Leo came over to the table next to us, where her family was sitting. I told her of the memories the song brought back, and she said that was where she met her husband Mitch, just as it was narrated in the lyrics. I brought out the phone and showed them the pictures.  This got every body worked up and Jan captured the moment.



Mitch said he’d been the cook at Glen Aulin camp and she worked at Tuolumne Meadows. Every Thursday for his overnight day off he would hike the ten miles to see her. He noted that the camp configuration of 1961 was identical to that of 2013 when they met.  Then his mom said she worked at the Tuolumne store in 2017. He showed me a picture on his phone of a Camp Helper Party, and I almost correctly identified the peak in the background–it was not Vogelsang but Fletcher. I immediately recognized the mistake.