Nearing Ukiah


I’ve written before about my teenaged years in rural northern Virginia, and my fascination with the Real Goods catalog at that time, which became known to me as I was undergoing my environmental awakening in the late 1980s. The company was headquartered in Ukiah, California, a place unknown and exotic to me at the time. The catalog at that time—paper only, of course, since websites and online shopping didn’t exist in my or the public’s consciousness yet—read a bit like a magazine, and often featured northern Californians living off the grid, in cool structures like geodesic domes, running their 12-volt DC refrigerators and washing machines off solar panels and using composting toilets. Wow.

So, Ukiah has always held a bit of a special place in my heart. I’m looking forward to visiting it for the first time tomorrow.

My first step on that journey was to accept a ride from Kitty down their treacherous-but-staggeringly-gorgeous road, and then a few miles farther on Hwy 101 South, to the small community of Redwood Valley, where I am staying in the Airbnb suite of a celebrated local musician and visual artist, Spencer Brewer, and his family and small community here.

One last view of Kitty and Creek’s Japanese garden yard, this time after the overnight rain

It is small-world territory in these parts, so although I had connected with Spencer as a friend of a friend of my McCloud friend and host Michael, it turns out that he and Kitty and Creek were acquainted as well. I bid a fond farewell to Kitty, and began to explore the beautiful setting of Spencer’s place, which includes a friendly elderly cat and two horses, as well as his amazing retired recording studio (in which I’ll be sleeping tonight!) and a converted barn filled with old musical instruments and other odds and ends to be turned into wonderful works of art.

In the barn, I met a tenant, who is a longtime forest activist, and as we played a game of 9-ball pool, he told me about some of the work he has done over the years, and about some of his friends who are actively protecting local forests through tree-sits. I hadn’t heard about tree-sits for probably a decade or two, back when I was doing environmental political work through OSPIRG, and people in Oregon (and undoubtedly California as well) were putting their bodies on the line to protect ancient forests. The conversation reminded me again of my reinvigorated purpose for this journey, and I’m hoping I might be able to see some of those forests, and/or connect with some of those people, when I visit Fort Bragg, on the coast, in a couple of days.

Both Chris and Spencer’s wife Esther have psychology backgrounds (Esther is a practicing therapist) so I feel right at home here on that level as well. We had a wonderful home-cooked dinner of tofu and vegetables. Esther makes her own savory crackers, as well as “Graham” crackers, which both played a part, and I also got to sample avocado ice cream for the first time! Yum.

Spencer and Esther had just finished reading a book about an extremely ambitious bicycle tourist, who biked all the way from Oregon to Patagonia. I plan to take a look at that book while I’m here.

But now, I should rest, because I’m meeting my Ukiah friend Henry tomorrow; he will take me to the local co-op, and also on a hike in the redwoods. I’m so happy to be here in this region right now!

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