“But this old town just seems so hopeless. I ain’t really sure, but it seems I remember the good times were just a little bit more in focus.”

I always loved that Tom Petty could rhyme hopeless and focus. Miss you Tom.

Maybe I’m just getting old, maybe things just kinda suck in the world right now and maybe life is trying to send a message, most likely, it’s a combination of all of those things but man is it time for things to get better.

The schoolyear was COVID bananas other than graduating a record 43 students at Creekside High School, we survived and thrived which means that the end of the year signified success and growth and rebirth and rest and all those normal year end things. Unfortunately, this year it also meant that our superstar English teacher moved to Tennessee and our superstar history teacher is moving on to greener pastures.

But I was excited to be interviewing for both of the two vice principal positions at SVHS. I mean, 23 years in the district, years coaching two different sports, creating innovative programs for student success (how to turn the Sonoma Developmental Center into Bhutan was my final cross-curricular grading period project in Physical Science and Geometry), getting into good trouble because I push back on important issues like environmentalism and health, being outspoken and encouraging students to be the same. And isn’t it time to change some things in how administration supports teachers and students before more teachers protest or quit or worse? Yes, it is.

And I had the summer bases covered. A new job at the diRosa art preserve, some house projects, a week in San Diego and camping and fly fishing for three days on the Stanislaus River. Not a change-your-life summer but enough to feel good and possibly rested for next year.

After morning orientation on Tuesday at the diRosa, we packed up the car and dog and headed east to site 124 at Oak Hollow in Big Trees. I love everything about camping, love the planning, the packing the setting up, and after many years, we kind of have it down to a science.

So, at about 6:00 pm the camp was all setup, dinner was prepped, Kate was ready to break out her book and I had a free hour of fishing time. I b-lined it to the River Picnic Area which is where both my parent’s ashes were laid to rest, put my Orvis rod together, tied on a bumble bee fly which is like trout crack this time of year, then headed down to the river. Since I am very familiar with this area, I walked a straight line from the road, jumping up on a downed log but misjudging it and quickly moving my left leg back to steady myself.

One of my favorite parts of fishing on the Stanislaus River is jumping rock to rock and log to log. I spent hours doing this as a kid and as I got older, I realized I kind of have an aptitude which leads to a confidence which unfortunately, sometimes, leads to overconfidence. My left foot landed squarely on a three-inch stub of a branch about half an inch in diameter. My running shoe was no match for the weight of my falling body on the stick and so the branch went directly through the sole of the shoe and into the center of my foot. Just a freak accident, no big deal I thought as I pulled out the piece of wood and continued to walk down to the river.

Fortunately, my shoe started to feel squishy and when I looked down, I could see red pooling on both sides of the shoe. I say fortunately because had I done what I was planning to do, soak my foot in the river and continue fishing, I would have been “risking a bacterial exposure which could result in infection and possibly amputation” according to the rather straightforward Emergency Room nurse.

Now, this might not seem like such a big deal but I really needed to be in that river, I made the camping reservation months ago, survived a difficult schoolyear, was excited for a new summer gig, my own kids have kinda figured out their paths, my wife is still tolerating me and so a few days of rest in the mountains was needed. We were in the San Andreas ER till about 10 then slept poorly and left the campsite the next morning with me using a camp chair as a walker. The ER doc had “dug around a bit” in my foot looking for anything which might lead to infection so I was a little sore the next morning.  After driving back to Sonoma, I opened an email from Human Resources explaining that I did not make paper screening for either vice principal position.

And, of course, the bad news didn’t stop there. The supreme court has now become the dream court of the Christian right making abortion illegal and carrying a concealed firearm legal. For those of us paying close attention, next up will be abolishing same-sex marriage and contraception and who knows what else.

Do you wonder why the kids are checked out? At a time when this generation should be looking forward to improving their lives and evolving and cleaning up after my generation, too many politicians are trying to bring back the 1950’s when women were in their place and gay was not a thing and well, you know the rest.

Here’s a perfect example in a text from my 20 something daughter in Portland:

“Really bummed, I feel too afraid to join the protests after last weekend:/ hard to have hope in America right now but easier to find it in myself.” She and some friends had been dancing at a club a week ago when they were told to get down on the floor because of an active shooter. It was a false alarm but it obviously rocked her world.

But grit wins, the little dandelions in life find a way through the cracks in the cement. And that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. So, we should listen to the second part of my daughter’s text and “find it in ourselves” because, well, a strong you makes a strong us and as I’ve been saying for 57 years, LOVE always eventually wins. And really, is it that bad? Especially in California where rights are still protected and our leaders are pushing a democratic agenda which actually, mostly, represents the people.

Losing the right to choose is horrific, having Clarence Thomas and his wife empowered because the lid is still off the sewer is dangerous but not the end of the world (Putin is still threatening that one), catching COVID is still a thing, war is still raging and the ugly list is as long as it has ever been.

But there is a yin to the yang. It takes resilience and accepting things you cannot change, and changing things you can. Make a plan, break your challenges into realistic little goals and get to work because slowly the world is realizing that screen life is not real life. Think about how to turn the SDC into Bhutan, reserve another campsite, connect with an old friend and try something new.

The foot will heal, the country will too.

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