Sunday, February 3, 2019

Wild Geese and Cairn Builders

Lordy, I love that photo. Sometimes the sky just stops me in my tracks. It's impossible to capture the full beauty of the sweeping vistas I often see when walking Sgt. Thomas Tibbs, but on this walk, when we spotted this beautiful "horsetail" cloud, I had to stop and give it a try. We had already had a few adventures on our walk (explanation to follow), and we were almost back to the truck, but Thomas was patient, as he always is, when I dropped his leash and gave him the "wait" command. Oh, how glad I am I snapped the photo. It nicely commemorates a truly wonderful walk.

One week before, I had taken my dear friend Liz on somewhat of a wild goose chase--which turned out to be quite literal, in the end--out to Banning, our neighboring town. We didn't find what we were looking for, so on the way back to her car, I turned the Subaru up a remote dirt road to show her one of my favorite places overlooking Bogart Park in Cherry Valley. As we stood on the ridge-line gazing at the sky, she said, "What's that?" We both looked to the south and saw a cluster of something in the air. As it drew nearer, we could make out that it was a small flock of wild geese. "Twenty-two," Liz counted. "But they're not flying in formation."

No, they were not. They were doing something I've never seen wild geese do before; they were riding a thermal, catching the warm air rising from the canyon wall we stood upon and letting it lift their bodies up and around in slow circles. I've seen hawks do this a thousand times. I have never had the opportunity--the downright blessing--to watch a flock of geese do the same, each moving in and out from each other like graceful dancers in a tightly choreographed routine. The sight was astounding. And I had left my phone in the car. So no photo, no video. I could have tried to run back, but Liz and I decided we would just seize the moment and watch. We stood there, nearly silent, for a quarter of an hour, feeling the sun on our faces, watching the spectacular show, each grateful to witness the once-in-a-lifetime show.

It rained in the ensuing week. On the first dry day, I took Thomas out to one of our favorite hiking spots. On that day, for some reason known only to him, he decided to leave the wide dirt road and follow a coyote trail. Since I knew exactly where we were in relationship to the road and we weren't in dense brush, I let him, just following along, letting him meander as he stopped from time to time to sniff. As we came over a hill into an open space, this is what we saw:

Can you see the small white mound on the left side of the picture? I had to wonder what it was; we were far from the road and following a pretty faint trail. Turns out, it was a cairn.

Well, now. Someone else had come this way (unless the coyotes are now using cairns to message each other in some way--I don't know; they're pretty smart).

As we strolled, we saw another cairn--

and another.

I smiled to think that someone else had wandered off the beaten path ("Two roads diverged in a yellow wood" is what you're thinking, no?), probably with a dog or two, and had stopped, potentially to let the dogs run free for a moment, and had used the time to make his or her mark, to place a few stones atop one another to indicate "I was here."

While I try always to "leave no trace," I didn't mind this sort of thing. In some way, it warmed and comforted me to know another human had roamed these same quiet hills, no doubt in contemplation, as I was, of all the beauty.

We walked on. I led Thomas to a fire road that I knew would take us back to the main road to follow back to the truck. We strolled along, Thom trotting along quickly now in anticipation of home and treats. Dense chaparral lined the road on either side of us. Around a bend we went, and exactly where the two roads intersected stood a lovely lady coyote.

She looked healthy, with a gorgeous coat and round belly. And she stood in our path huffing quietly--not quite a bark; more of a "hubba hubba." It is, after all, coyote mating season, and, well, Thomas is one good-looking guy. Interestingly, he didn't seem fearful of her at all, just a bit wary.

We stood. What to do? She was blocking the road. So I took out my phone. Which is when she stepped off the trail. I didn't want to frighten her (or myself) by making any quick movements, so we inched along until we could see her again, standing in the wild grass, watching. One picture. Two. Three. And then she was gone.

I wished her luck in finding a mate with good genes (and a good sense of humor, number one on my own list of 'good traits in a man'). And then we headed toward the truck, stopping one last time to take the photo of the horsetail cloud.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

One Magical Day

...and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain springs
With a soft inland murmur....
From "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey," William Wordsworth

The inspiration for Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” poem was his return home to England after five years in France. I love that one of the first things he did upon his return home was to go hiking. Of course. One always yearns to know if the music of the stream still sounds the same as it tumbles over the stones it has been smoothing for generations, or if that one large boulder still hangs out over the ridgeline, untumbled as of yet, or if the centuries-old oak is still standing strong against every storm. I can relate.

Some weeks ago I needed to take a run up to Forest Falls (a small mountain community about a half hour’s drive from me) as I needed to purchase an annual Adventure Pass. (It’s a parking pass required for many mountain areas.) I also needed a gift for someone, so I went the long way, driving first to the little town of Oak Glen where apples grow. I bought some lovely jam and a cup of coffee, then climbed back into Sky (the Subaru) to head for the mountains. As I left Oak Glen, however, I was surprised to see an entire herd of deer lounging about in one of the apple orchards. Mind you, I’m in Southern California. Most folks don’t see deer very often. When I see them, it’s only when I’m wandering the hills. The most I’ve seen is five. I counted a baker’s dozen in this group. Sorry the photo below is dark and grainy, but it’s the best I could do while pulled over on the opposite side of the road trying desperately not to get hit by other drivers flying past me at breakneck speeds.

And then it was on to Forest Falls… where there are so many memories for me….

I made my first journey to the falls as a high school student with a group of kids I used to hang with at a Christian coffee house. My high school sweetheart was with me that day. (Tarry with me here while I heave a sigh for those days of young innocence.)

A few short years later, I was married—and already a writer. I won a national writing contest and was awarded free tuition to a writers conference at Forest Home, the conference center in Forest Falls. For four days, I immersed myself in all things related to publishing, and I loved every second of it. I learned how to write a book proposal, and I went home and wrote one. By the next year (because I couldn’t wait to attend again), I was seeking a publisher for my first book. By the third year, I’d become a published author. I attended seven years in a row. In those early years of my marriage, when my life revolved around cleaning and child care and trying to placate a chronically irascible husband, those four days I spent away were my annual retreat and re-focus time. All of it was magical—chatting at dinner with other writers, sitting in lectures taking copious notes about what publishers wanted, meeting kind and encouraging people… and roaming about the grounds of Forest Home, with its pond and squirrels and everywhere the scent of pines lingering in the fresh air. (May I please pause here for another sigh in remembrance of all those special times?)

Many years later, after my children were having children of their own (and I had happily disassociated myself from both my former husbands), on a beautiful early spring day, I picked up three of my grandchildren for a day’s outing. Ben, Ellie and Reese were ten, six and four at the time—the perfect age to wander around in oak duff, get dirty, freeze their fingers in the stream, find rocks and sticks that are “pretty,” and marvel at the height of trees. Of course I took them to Forest Falls. They were so young, I doubt they remember the trip. I will never forget it. In less than two years from that day I would be living in a cabin on a mountain myself, and they would come to Nana’s house to do all those same activities (including feeding the bluejays and woodpeckers), but that first time in the mountains with them was priceless.

These are all the memories that bring a tidal flood to my heart when I drive up good old Highway 38—the same route I drove at 16 (1970, if you must know) the first time I went—and follow the narrow winding road that leads into that beautiful canyon.

Each time I do, I am surprised and blessed to find that yes, just as Wordsworth found, “these beauteous forms” and “the sounding cataract" are still the same as they were all those years ago.

I have an old faded photo of the waterfall in Forest Falls from 1970. I could not copy it here as my then boyfriend is in the photo, standing above the falls with his arms outstretched. I have his number… I suppose I could have called him to ask his permission to use the photo… but look, I took a new one! And trust me on this: The waterfall is the same now as it was when I was sixteen.

Oh, the memories are still ruminating! But what Wordsworth was getting at in his poem was that, while the world around us can be fraught with chaos and upheaval, Nature remains immutable (unless Man mutates her), quietly, steadfastly continuing, going about the day to day business of completing, over and over, the cycle of life.

Going back, sitting by that same stream, listening to the sound of the water falling over those same rocks, anchors me to earth again when I begin to feel unmoored.

Oh—and there was snow on the ground that day, but I couldn’t get a decent photo. Next time!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Introducing Jenny

The naming of cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.

T.S. Eliot

(What IS it with cats and bags?)

When Sugar Plum died in May, I started chanting "I don't want another cat." I said it when my beloved little ginger cat, Sweetheart, died in 1988. But my daughter gifted me with Calpurnia anyway. And Cal was enough; I never wanted to bring Boo home, but what else could I do? It was a matter of life or death for him. I said it again when Boo died and it was just me and Sug alone together way up there in the wilderness in Mt. Baldy... but then came Purrl. I tried not to take Purrl, but no one else would and she desperately needed a home. When Sug was gone, I thought it would be enough for Purrl to hang with her best buddy Thomas, but she cried and cried for Sug, going to the door and emitting the most piteous cries of grief.

And so, two weeks ago, I sent up a quick request to Sug and the Universe to guide me, then headed out to Friends of Upland AnimalShelter because the word was out via social media that the shelter had been inundated with kitties. Specifically black kitties, still the hardest to place. (Why?? Who would not want a beautiful mini-panther running around the house?)

I took a stroll through the dog kennels (just to see who was there), came back out to the hallway, saw a little black female cat in a cage, talked to her for about five minutes, took her picture, and told her I'd be right back. The name on her kennel card was Jenny. I made a polite but cursory examination of the other kitties in the cat room, then went up front and told them I wanted to adopt Jenny. (We did do a mandatory "meet & greet" that lasted less than five minutes as she promptly ran and hid under the bench where I was sitting. "I'll take her!" I told the very helpful employee. Twenty minutes later she was in my cat carrier, and we were on our way home.

Despite having a list of cute names all prepared to try on her, "Jenny" stuck because, when I sent my kids her photo, they loved her name. How could I change it? She is "Jenny" when I'm calling her, looking for her all over the house because she's small enough to fit in tiny places. "Jenny-fur" if she has done something naughty like knocking all my pencils off the drafting table or jumping up on the kitchen counter. "The Little Minion" to Thomas, who is still anxious around her, expecting to be swatted or swiped at—because that's what Sug would do. By the time she is old and fat I will no doubt be calling her "Jen" or "Mini" or some other diminutive.

She is "Jennyanydots," of course, when she is being a Gumbie Cat—as described by T.S. Eliot in his delightful book of poetry, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats:

I have a Gumbie Cat in mind, her name is Jennyanydots;
The curtain-cord she likes to wind, and tie it into sailor-knots.

(She definitely has a sense of humor.)

How I knew that Sugar Plum picked her out:

1. The first thing I noticed about her was her long beautiful tail. In my morning meditations, Sug has, on several occasions, reminded me that while she is no longer with me to hold my paw in life, she is quite happy where she is, and she has her whole tail back again. Jenny's is quite lovely.

2. On the second day after I brought her home, I opened the bathroom door (where she was confined for the first few days until Purrl could get over telling her in profanity-laced language to "get out of the house") to find her curled up and sleeping in the sink. One of my favorite pictures of Sug shows her curled nicely in my bathroom sink.

(Sug not Jenny)

(Definitely Jenny; see the tail?)

3. On the first day she was allowed to explore the whole house, all doors open, I was making dinner, listening with one ear to the rustle and bump noises a new cat makes when squeezing in and out of spaces, when I heard a particular sound that froze me in my tracks. We are all aware that a certain sound, just like a certain scent, can evoke deep and vivid memories. On this day, for me, it was the sound of a small, hard rubber ball bouncing on the laminate flooring. I hadn't heard that sound in nearly a year. When I did, I had to stop what I was doing and grab a tissue. Somewhere in the den, way back behind my big writing desk, Jenny had found Sug's ball. It was Sugar Plum's favorite toy. When I lived on the mountain, I would often go up to the loft to read or write. Sug would follow me up, and as I sat on the bed and tried to focus on the material at hand, she would chase that little ball around the room, her stubby little legs pumping, her claws scratching their way across the slippery surface. It was a happy sound.

4. Jenny played with the ball until she finally chased it under the couch. (I had to move all the furniture the next day to retrieve it, but I needed to vacuum under there anyway.) Later that night when it was time for all of us to go to bed, I found my new cat in the den, sprawled across the top of the writing desk (just like Sug used to do), her long tail swishing back and forth across the photos of Sug I've placed there so I can still keep her close when I'm writing. "Jenny," I said. She winked at me.

So here is yet another 'extra add on' cat in my life. Each one I've brought home has had a specific role to play. Calpurnia was my constant snuggler in the horrible year that I got divorced (for the second time) and also navigated through a bout with cancer. Boo was my comfort when Cal passed, just as Sug was my comfort when Boo passed. Purrl came only months before Thomas arrived, but she has only ever offered him comfort, as she offered it to me when Sug died. Since Purrl is only five and Jenny is two, they have the next decade or so to become close friends. I hope they do. Because I don't want another cat.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Thomas, Five Years In

I’m happy to say that when I brought Sgt. Thomas Tibbs home in January of 2014, he did not look like the above photo. The shelter staff at Friends of Upland Animal Shelter had already been feeding him healthy food, treating him for mange and brushing him, so that by the time I brought him home, he had already undergone a metamorphosis into the incredibly beautiful dog that he is.

In fact, this is what his Merry Christmas photo looked like just before I adopted him:

If you’re a longtime blog follower of mine, you’ve read updates on how this once-feral dog has slowly been rehabilitated, learning to accept and trust humans (and cats). But I haven’t posted an update on Thom for a while, so I thought I’d let his fans know, he’s continuing to make progress—yes, even five years in.

Most notably, in the past year, he has finally given in and accepted Purrl as his buddy. She was a young cat, seven months old, when Thomas came to our home. Each night as I sat beside him, brushing him and singing to him, Purrl would creep to the doorway and glare at him. I’m not sure she’d ever seen a dog before. As time went on, she would belly crawl closer and closer to him. But if he so much as twitched an ear, she would shoot out of the room. At some point, though, she realized he posed no threat, so she set about to be his best friend. And boy, that girl kept working on it, rubbing up against him whenever he was captive on the leash, often trying to lie beside him in his bed, only to rebuffed again and again and again. Love is patient….

In May, when Sugar Plum died, Purrl was bereft. She has never been a talkative cat, but she cried daily at the door, wondering where Sug had gone and why she hadn’t returned. It was heartbreaking—for me and apparently for Thomas. If I left the house, I would often come home to find Purrl in Thom’s bed—and he had begun to stay and sleep beside her, whereas in the past he would have gotten up and trotted away to a different spot in the house. I am so proud of him for this, for taking on the role of the comforting big brother.

He even shares his favorite blanket with her.

Something else that has transpired in the past year is a game that Thom made up all by himself. When he first came home, he was difficult to catch. He had to be patiently cornered, and then he would drop his head and turn away from me while I tried to slip his collar and leash on. He still hates having his collar on. But finally, after all these years of daily walks, he almost sort of kind of a tiny bit looks forward to walking in the morning (most likely because he knows he gets a Kong toy full of treats afterward). So instead of getting anxious now when I get his leash, he has made a game out of it. He will trot away from me, but only a few feet. Then he looks back, wagging his tail, making sure I’m following.

“I’m gonna get you!” I tell him, and he’s off and galloping down the hall, sometimes spinning in a circle in the bedroom, dog bowing, his rump in the air like a mountain, flying the flag of his big beautiful tail. We play this game every day, but as he is still a bit camera shy, I’ve only been able to capture small bits of it. If you click on this link, you will find a very short video on YouTube of Thomas happily engaged in his game.

When he first came home, Thom was shut down, barely approachable, as sad as a dog could be. After some months, he had occasional moments in which he relaxed and wagged his tail, but he spent most days curled tightly in a ball, waiting for the “cloak of darkness,” as Shakespeare put it, to shield him from the world. He still prefers only to venture out at night, so taking him out midday is always a conversation that begins with, “If you want a cookie, you have to go outside and go potty….” But as long as he in the house (which he is all day every day), he is happy, for the most part.

And when he is anxious or fearful now, he comes to me. If he hears a car backfire or a firecracker—anything that sounds like a gunshot—he runs to me instead of trying to hide. When he does, I wrap my arms all the way around him and hold him, my face against his face, until he feels safe again. It works better than anything else I’ve found to calm him.

Does he still have issues? You’d better believe it. My cell phone is perpetually on “Do Not Disturb” mode as the tiniest “ting” of a text alert will send him flying out of his bed, trotting anxiously. Even the buzz of silent mode frightens him. If I have to print a document, I must first call down the hall, “Thomas, come here, buddy, I’m going to print,” at which point he sprints for the garage and stays there until several minutes after the printer has stopped making noise. Mind you, I can vacuum or run the garbage disposer or shred paper—none of those sounds bother him.

We still begin our daily walk before dawn, while it’s dark enough for him to feel comfortable, but even then things can get dicey if we see another human out walking. There are certain places here in the park he doesn’t like to go, because perhaps once—and it only takes once—he saw a human come out of a house or start a motorcycle or shout hello while gardening. If he doesn’t want to go, he sits down, and it takes a great deal of persuasion (and some perspiration) to get him to continue. Walking out in the hills, however, is another experience altogether. Since I’ve lived here, he has actually begun acting like a real dog if we’re on the trail—stopping to sniff and sometimes (Good boy, Thom!) peeing on a bush if it smells like coyote or another dog. He will walk miles with me out in the hills or in the mountains, even if that means crossing streams, and I am so grateful for this. I love having him with me when I hike.

As I write this, something is making Thomas anxious, but I have no idea what it is. For the past 30 minutes, he has been trotting down the hall, out to the kitchen, around the island, and back down the hall—non-stop, except when he comes to me for a few brief moments and lets me pet him to try to calm him. Maybe he heard a neighbor taking his trash cans to the curb. Or maybe my computer ‘pinged’ and I wasn’t even aware. Or perhaps he was sleeping and had a bad dream. (He still has nightmares on occasion, but nothing like what he had in his first year with me, when he would startle awake crying out or whimpering. Mostly now he emits soft sighs in his sleep, and I love hearing him if I wake in the night.) Guess I’d better go give him a hug.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Hiking in Oak Glen

I've been trying to hike at least once a week, though my hike today was a short one, given that the temperature was below 40 degrees at 6:30a.m. when Thomas and I headed out. But last week! Last week I drove up to hike on land that now belongs to the Wildlands Conservancy Oak Glen Preserve, and oh, it was a sweet hike indeed.

I arrived at 8:30a.m. (because that's what time the gate opens) and headed up the trail immediately. The temperature was in the mid-60's, with clear skies and no wind. Truly, it was the perfect fall day. Normally, I would do this hike with Sgt. Thomas Tibbs, but since it's apple season, I knew there would be lots of folks on the trail, so I left him at home, snug in his bed.

I did have company, though; there was fresh bear scat everywhere. I didn't see a bear, but I know how they do--climbing steep slopes and sitting behind a tree to watch the humans stroll by. (If you look closely, you can sometimes see their big ears silhouetted against the sun.) The only wildlife I observed was a few ducks and coots on the pond as I passed by.

Further bear signs here: This log was shredded by someone looking for termites or ants to snack on.

The deceptive thing about this trail is that it follows a gentle downhill decline past blackberry bushes and beautiful oak, sycamore and elm trees, into the quiet of the woods where bluejays jump from tree to tree. It's magical. Until you get to the far side of the property and realize that, yeah, you have to go up as much as you went down. Only the ascent is not gradual....

... and going up, up, up for someone with diminished lungs is quite a challenge... which is why this is the perfect hike for me. I do have to stop occasionally and force some air into my poor lungs, but that's a good thing. "Vigorous exercise" is what the doctor ordered back in 2012 when this malady was diagnosed, so vigorous exercise it is. Besides, when you finally top this incline, you end up in the oak grove where the picnic area is.

These early morning photos don't do this place justice. But just trust me: It's really, really lovely. Can't wait to go back! Maybe next time I'll see a bear. 🙂

Saturday, November 10, 2018


BFF Pet Rescue is a small rescue in Cherry Valley. With only a handful of volunteers, they accomplish super-human feats of heroism on a near-daily basis by going to local kill shelters, pulling dogs on the euthanasia list, comforting and socializing them, then getting them adopted. I follow them on Facebook, and I'm always encouraged and amazed by the enormity of the good work they do.

Last week, BFF put out a call on Facebook stating that they needed blankets for the dogs as nights are getting cooler and winter is approaching. (No doubt about that; it was 44 degrees when I stepped out the door to walk Sgt. Thomas Tibbs this morning.) I had an extra dog blanket or two, but I knew they needed, like, fifty. So I put a short post up on the Facebook page for Plantation on the Lake residents, asking for blankets and offering to pick them up. Plantation on the Lake is the senior community where I now reside, and let me tell you, these folks really, really love dogs. There are dogs all over the park, from Greyhounds to Yorkies and everything in between. I posted my request for blankets a few evenings ago, then I went to bed.

Twenty-four hours later, I was close to the fifty-blanket mark I'd been hoping for. People dropped off bags and boxes of blankets on my porch. A few commented their space numbers, and Thomas and I took a happy drive around the park, picking up blankets and also receiving a hug and a helping hand. (I was struggling with a huge box of blankets and a new resident happened to be walking by. "Do you need help with that?" she called. I had no idea who she was; we'd never met. Now I know her name is Carla and she is very kind.) In two days, we managed to fill the bed and passenger seat of Cloud (my truck) with blankets.

I know the photos are dark and not very good, but the wind chill factor was pretty severe yesterday evening and the temperature was dropping quickly as I left to go drop them off.

And what a warm welcome I received! I got another hug, dog lover to dog lover, and many thanks. The volunteer who met me and helped unload explained that their dryer runs all day every day, as they endeavor to make sure the dogs always have clean, dry bedding. Having all those extra blankets will help immensely.

Time spent on this project was less than an hour, total time for everything, including writing the post (60 seconds), picking up blankets (fifteen minutes), loading the truck (5 minutes), driving it to the rescue (10 minutes) and unloading (two minutes).

In a week that saw another mass shooting and another devastating wildfire here in SoCal, it helped to get my mind off all the tragedy for a few minutes. And I am so very blessed to live in a community that can be depended upon to step up whenever asked if there is a need. I mean, these are some seriously nice people. Then again, dog lovers usually are.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Clock Man

The antique "eight-day" clock pictured above was given to me by a very dear friend a few decades ago after I helped him negotiate a business transaction. When I picked it up, I brought it home, plunked it on a table, and set the pendulum to swinging. My kids thought the hour chime was loud and annoying, so I stopped it and just let it sit as a conversation piece (though I can't recall anyone ever remarking on it).

When I moved to Mt. Baldy, I started it up again, but it never quite kept good time, and it seemed to have some other issues as well, so finally, after I became a flatlander again, I had it looked at by a man my neighbor recommended. He was a nice guy, but admitted up front he was just learning the clock repair trade. He took it home, did a bunch of repair and replacement on it, charged me a hundred bucks, and set it to ticking again. When he did, he pointed out that the flag painted on the bottom glass pane had 32 stars. "I was trying to determine how old the clock is," he told me. "If the flag is any indication, this clock was made in the mid-1800's." Oh. Wow....

A month or so later, it stopped working again, which I believe was my fault. While winding it one day, Purrl distracted me, and I wound it too tight. (Wait--then I guess we can blame it on Purrl, can't we? I should have thought of that. It's always the cat's fault.) Anyway, from time to time I would start it ticking. It would go for a few hours or a day, then stop. When I moved here to Calimesa, I found a safe place for it, then just basically forgot about it until I saw someone ask on social media for the name of a local clock repair person. The same name appeared repeatedly, so I wrote down the name and number and finally got around to calling.

"Dan" came out on Sunday. There is something fascinating about watching someone who is really good at what they do. They kind of enter a zone and become fixated. This is what Dan did immediately upon seeing my clock. He also noted (since I had set the pendulum to swinging hours before he arrived and it was still going) that the "tock" was "off." At that point, he hadn't even touched it, just sat on the floor listening to it. "Well, I can tell you right off the bat, it's not ticking correctly," he said. "Hear it?"

Um... no.

But when he reached inside and quickly adjusted some thingamajig in the workings, I did hear the difference right away; it sounded more like a classic ticktock. He checked a few more parts and pieces, and as he did I asked him how he'd gotten started repairing clocks. Turns out that while he was in the Air Force, he was stationed in Germany, where he learned to appreciate the intricacy and beauty of fine clocks and watches. He brought several home with him and decided he should get some tools and learn how to repair them himself. He found someone who happened to be retiring from the trade and agreed to sell him some tools and teach him a few things, and he has continued to learn along the way. When he began repairing clocks in 1993, there were eleven such clock repairmen in a thirty-mile radius of where he lives in Redlands. Now there are three.

"No one wants to do it," he told me. "Younger people aren't interested in old clocks. I have three antique grandfather clocks that were given to me by people who were going to throw them away because they just didn't want them in their houses anymore."


I love my clock. There is something comforting about the constant sound of the old school ticktock. When you consider that this clock works entirely on a few brilliantly designed gears, two weights, and a pendulum, that's pretty impressive. And when I further consider that this instrument has been ticking away (minus a couple of years on hiatus) for 160 years or so, that's just downright amazing.

Dan was here for less than an hour. "It seems fine now," he said, as he made his way to the door, giving me directions along the way on how to correct the pendulum if it runs too fast or too slow over time. He also instructed me on how to velcro it to a wall in the event we have a big earthquake. And then he tried to get away without letting me pay him. "I didn't really do anything," he protested. In the end, because I kept shoving money at him, he did take a few bucks for the gas required to drive the 15 miles from Redlands. He left his card and told me to call right away if the clock stops again. But it's been ticktocking away for 72 hours now, bonging its bong on the hour without fail. And this song has been running through my head for days: "My Grandfather's Clock." (This version on YouTube is a charming one by Doc Watson, though there are many. I've known it nearly all my life as we learned it as a folk song in elementary school.)