Coulter Pines

Summertime, and the livin’ isn’t easy, and I do not know about the fish or the height of the cotton…but I do know it isn’t even summer. In late spring, heat has hit the Bay Area mercilessly. I made the rather serious mistake of going out this morning for coffee and shopping. Now I have rectified that error by hunkering down inside, air conditioning on. I am, as things go, a lucky person.

Never mind the boring reality of heat and neuromuscular conditions. What I notice is that hot weather can creep up on me. My brain gets addled. My bandwidth narrows. If I don’t act early, vis-à-vis cooling, things gradually get unpleasant. But I have acquired some wisdom in this, my dotage. I began cooling the house at 12 noon. Conditions had already reached 28°C, 84°F. And this for me is borderline. Or was. Within minutes, the house temperature has dropped to 25°C. Quite livable. Yes, lucky.

The lucky concept is very important to me these days. To think of things in any other terms is to ignore America’s current reality. Not to mention the world’s current reality. To put it mildly, we are all in this together. Sinking, swimming, whatever.

The day began with my morning constitutional. This consists of schlepping back and forth on our redwood deck, an activity that usually kicks off about 7:30 AM. This morning it was already hot at that hour. Furthermore, I made the unintentional mistake of listening to a podcast interview with a scientist from the University of East Anglia who was keeping tabs on the fast melting of one of Antarctica’s glaciers. This bit of geophysical reality is worth noting, because when this glacier does go, the planet’s oceans will rise by approximately two feet.

Where was I? Oh, yes, walking back and forth on the deck, getting too hot too early, and imagining the general inundation of the planet. Much of San Francisco, particularly the newest parts favored by high-rise and high-tech, will be flooded. Unless a high wall protects high-tech and high-rise. This is one of those things I probably will not live to see. My only question: is this good or bad?

I asked this question because at some point an aging person gives up. And in truth, I am not certain about the particulars. But clearly, as things slip well beyond my control, there does have to be a letting go. For here “control” means, more or less, reach. Effective impact. I have done what I can do, and now I look to the larger issues, let us call them. Yes, even larger than the heat death of the planet’s life forms.

Okay, I’m not exactly there yet. But it’s something to keep in mind. I turn up. I do what I can. And soon it’s up to younger people. For a person who grew up thinking, at an age still in the single digits, that he was going to save his parents’ marriage, it’s not a difficult delusion, the sense that my efforts are vitally important to major problems. Just that there is a lot of evidence to the contrary.

A fancy way of saying that one has to pick and choose causes. I guess I have chosen public transportation. It’s something I notice with every exposure. And my exposures are frequent. 

I recently found myself paying a shocking amount of money to fly to Santa Barbara. With Jane’s work schedule, air travel made sense. What I noticed was the actual experience. And it does seem that the cost of flying this particular air route varies in inverse proportion with its comfort. United Express flies small planes from San Francisco. And at either end, passengers walk straight across the tarmac and up a metal ramp. Disabled passengers like me get jammed into something called an aisle chair, the idea being that they can be rolled in between the seats. This involves going from ramp to aircraft on a flimsy metal bridge, barely wide enough for this chair. My elbows kept slamming into the metal supports on either side. The flight itself was mercifully short, barely 40 minutes in the air.

We did spend a couple of hours in the air above Santa Barbara, high atop the mountain ridge behind the coastal city. Our friend Phila guided us up a remarkable road into the arid Santa Inez Mountain range. The distant Coulter Pines visible in silhouette from the coastal plain proved to be exactly what one would expect, big drought-stressed trees, which must send tap roots most of the way to China.

Something to think about on this particular day when it is now more than 34°C in this city with its famously marine climate.. And I’m not giving up.

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