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Updated 12:08pm - Oct 9, 2015

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Vista Point: Who knows what makes a seascape memorable?

A confluence of thoughts and plans has taken my mind offshore, and I find it drifting into unfamiliar waters, well out of its depth.

Time permits only one wave’s recounting today.

I was browsing the website Tumblr.com, a smorgasbord of cartoons and art, both highbrow and low, and paused when I saw a painting by San Francisco artist Kim Cogan, whose work consists mostly of urban landscapes that display a talent for capturing light. He has recently taken an interest in seascapes, and one of them in particular, “Wave no. 18,” struck me in a way seascapes never have before. 

(This painting and several of his other seascapes can be seen at hespegallery.blogspot.com/2012/09/kim-cogan-sea-change-september-4.html.)

Much as I like the real thing, no seascape had given me that spiritual rush, that need to drop anchor and stay awhile that good art or scenery can provide.

I think I got a bad first impression of seascape paintings. The earliest one I recall was a large painting of basaltic rocks in a scummy, raw umber hue upon which crashed an unenthusiastic wave of dull blue and dingy white foam under an excrementally brown sky.

It hung above my piano teacher’s Kimball, where I, a fidgety 7-year-old, cultivated the art of not paying attention more than that of plunking. I spent a lot of time looking at that seascape and perhaps that was the problem. Dull and static, time frozen in a dirty ice cube, it bored me in a way the sea itself did not.

I don’t really know anything about art or art theory, about what separates a great seascape from a meh-scape. All I know is I like what I like, and I can’t even say why most of the time.

Church Notebook: New Life sets potluck for the Fourth of July

The Fourth is almost here!

I wonder what the weather will be like — so many Fourths have been wet, chilly and windy it’s been hard to enjoy a picnic, and at times, so foggy it was hard to see the fireworks. The fireworks booths are starting to sprout up all over, and before long parents are going to be inundated with demands for all kinds of them.

I remember one Fourth past. One of my grandsons — can’t remember if it was Scott, (now 14), or his brother Michael, (now 22) — was just a little guy. It was his first experience with fireworks, and we gave him a sparkler. He giggled and danced around until it was finished, then brought it back to us wanting us to light it again, and just couldn’t understand why when we told him it couldn’t be done. They just grow up way too fast!

Because our town has such a widespread reputation about the wonderful celebration it has, there will be many visitors in the next few days. This includes family members coming home for a visit, and strangers who want to see for themselves if what they’ve heard about us is true. Some folks have made it a habit to come every year — some from several states away, I’ve been told.

People are going to be rushing to get things done, competing for items on the grocery store shelves, and jostling for space at South Beach to picnic and do their fireworks.

California Focus: Calif. fracking: Sensible regulation the way to go

Fears abound as California faces the reality that besides all its other natural wonders, it sits atop an Arabian-sized oil and natural gas bonanza that can only be exploited via the process of hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking.

One fear is that when oil drillers insert the mix of water, sand and chemicals used to force raw petroleum products out of rock formations, they will pollute drinking water supplies and water wells used by farmers atop the Monterey Shale formation. This rich formation, containing an estimated 15 billion barrels of oil, stretches from Monterey and San Benito counties south along the western side of the San Joaquin Valley, roughly parallel to the Interstate 5 freeway.

 So far, there is no evidence in California to back the water pollution worries, although questions have been raised near fracking operations in Wyoming.

Another fear is that Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan for two “peripheral tunnels” to help preserve the delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers while bringing more water south and aiding endangered species is a Trojan horse. The real purpose, some say, is not to slake the thirst of farmers or Southern and Central California cities, but to provide massive amounts of water for use in fracking.

Then there’s the fear that massive new oil and gas supplies emanating from California might destabilize the world’s economic balance of power, bringing oil prices down as it makes the United States the world’s largest oil producer by 2017. This could wreck economies from the Arab world to Russia and South America, where oil revenues now prop up regimes. If oil prices dropped, this theory goes, the governing systems of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and many other places could be upset and no one knows what forces might try to bring them down.

Coastal Voices: Finding links in regional food chain

Exploring Crescent City recently, we made a delicious discovery, the Rumiano Cheese retail store on Ninth Street.

It advertises its cheeses as GMO free and grass-fed. My wife bought some jack cheese.

Now, I’m normally not fond of jack or other mild cheeses, but when she offered me a slice, I was impressed and wanted more. We put the rest in our ice chest for the road home, thinking no more about it.

Then two days later, in Humboldt County, after a tourist stop in Ferndale, we were leisurely making our way back toward Highway 101 on Grizzly Bluff Road when we saw something that rekindled a discussion we’d  been having during this trip.

At a dairy, we saw rows of small white crates, about 3 feet high, with a door hole in one end. My wife was curious about them, speculating that they might be used for transporting dairy products or even branding animals.

She had to know for sure, so we stopped.

The sign on the front of the milking barn said “Mike Brazil Dairy,” and I parked between the barn and the house and waited to see if my wife could find someone to talk to.

Church Notebook: Heaven’s Connection at Lighthouse Community Church

Our community gardens require a lot of work and cooperative effort, people working together with faith in each other and in God for the rain and sunshine to make them grow.

Since the one at Peterson Park is on my regular route to church, I’ve been watching it take shape over the past few years.

In the past, I have been terribly disappointed in the behavior of a few who seemed to make it their mission in life to trample, smash and ruin the work of others. Over and over,  I saw it had happened when I drove by, and I wondered, where was everybody? Did no one see what was happening?

Thursday evening I looked as I drove by — and that garden, thanks to diligent care, looks absolutely beautiful.

Growing things is close to the heart for me — something that enhances faith. To see things destroyed is like trampling on that faith, and my trust in my fellow man.

Could it be that the trend not to discipline our children has brought this about?

I hope that this year, as that garden grows, the folks in the area will keep an eye on it and protect it. It’s a thing of beauty and will be an important source of food. And what a sense of accomplishment for those who care for it!

Coastal Voices: Doctors advise supervisors regarding hospital study

We just mailed the following letter to county supervisors, as they consider their role in the future of Sutter Coast Hospital.  Sutter Health has hired a consultant group to help the hospital Board decide whether or not to transfer hospital ownership to Sutter Health, or cut Sutter Coast by 50 percent to qualify for higher Medicare reimbursement under the federal Critical Access program. 

Had Sutter Coast been a Critical Access facility, the hospital would have been closed to new admissions the majority of days during the past eight months. Patients needing a hospital bed would have been flown by air ambulance, at their expense, to distant hospitals.

Dear Supervisors of Del Norte County:

We write with an update on the status of the Sutter Coast Hospital Strategic Options Study. This is a study about the future of Sutter Coast Hospital (SCH), being conducted and paid for by Sutter Health, using a consultant group (The Camden Group) with ongoing business connections to Sutter Health. As you know, the medical staff passed a unanimous resolution (among the physicians attending our medical staff meeting) that prior to participation in any study, we would like our concerns addressed with respect to  the funding, design, and rights and responsibilities of community participants. The physicians have received no response to our concerns from Sutter Health or the Board of Directors of SCH.

We have also confirmed with two community members familiar with the study that outside funding remains available, as long as the study results are not predetermined. However, Sutter Health Regional President Mike Cohill and Sutter Health study coordinator Traci Van have rejected the outside independent funding.  Thus, although the hospital Board voted to approve a collaboratively funded and independent study, the current study is entirely Sutter-funded and Sutter-controlled.

House Calls: Carry a list of contacts for a crisis

House Calls is published monthly. Today’s article was written by Peggy Castro, case management assistant at Sutter Coast Hospital.

Have you ever thought about who you would want contacted, or how an emergency worker would know how to contact those individuals if you had a medical emergency?

It’s important to carry a list of every medication you take, including over-the-counter vitamins and drug allergies, as well as a list of emergency contacts and how to reach them. It sounds so simple, but can be complicated by circumstances out of your control.

Communications to rescue and emergency workers can sometimes be hindered due to unexpected medical conditions. These conditions may make it impossible for you to speak or write.

Having a list of contacts in your wallet, car or on your cell phone, as well as a list of any known medical conditions, becomes vital in helping emergency workers provide the correct and appropriate care to you.

This information allows your rescue and emergency health-care team to make correct diagnoses and treatments for your possible illness, as well as being able to contact those loved ones who might be looking for you. 

Church Notebook: Several local options for Vacation Bible School

Ever since I can remember, Vacation Bible School has been one of the highlights of summer vacation. Kids — and, I suspect, parents — look forward to it, though perhaps for different reasons.

It’s fun for kids, a chance to learn something different, in an atmosphere that is less restrictive than that of “regular” school. (And, sadly, for some kids, it’s the only place they learn that “God” and “Jesus” are not just words of profanity.)

I remember, when I was in high school, helping to teach VBS at my church in a little town in upstate New York.

My class was 5- and 6- year-olds, and how those kids loved Bible stories! David and Goliath, Gideon and his fleece, Samson — and then, of course, the wonderful stories of the life of Jesus.

The availability of VBS here has varied over the years I’ve been writing this column, but we’ve always had several. I was getting worried it wasn’t going to happen this year, but the information is coming in and the kids are not going to be disappointed. They’ll learn about Jesus, have fun, and instead of complaining about being bored, they’ll be regaling Mom with tales of what was learned that morning.

A lot of our church congregations these days are too small to support a program — and sometimes some of them join together to put one on, and I think that is one great idea.

Coastal Voices: Hard work, adaptability are vital keys to future

Editor’s note: Blair Westbrook originally wrote the following essay as part of a Del Norte Scholarship Fund application.

Every day when I drive the 16 miles home after a grueling day of music, academics, and a sports practice, I pass a weathered, time-tested tractor that sits in the shop yard at our family dairy farm.

This tractor, the oldest in the small fleet of John Deere tractors at Reservation Ranch, has seen a wide variety of uses and has had to be retooled multiple times to fit new jobs or purposes. Although not the smartest nor the most specialized, this tractor is a jack of all trades in a world of specialization and one-track-mindedness.

It was not until just recently that I realized its true vitality. This open-cabbed, unsophisticated workhorse was the one tool that had weathered the years of toil and tortuous conditions of work in an operation that had been living and residing concurrently with the land for decades.

I am that John Deere Tractor.

Growing and developing in a beautiful home, where the Smith River flows turquoise and crystal clear and redwood-covered mountains give way to rolling green pastures, my family has become more and more connected with the land.

For many families such as mine, a century of residence in our beautiful county has rooted us deeply in the land we hail from. This establishment of roots has helped generation after generation embrace a quality that applies to both the physical world and all other walks of life: stewardship.

Vista Point: Nature brings Mediterranean to Del Norte

Climates are funny things. 

Living in Crescent City, I don’t really give much thought to summer. It’s just a calendar marker between when the kids get out of school (good heavens) and when they go back (thank heavens). While here in town we may have four seasons — autumn, rain, spring and fog — none of them is summer. 

But summer is not hard to find. In many parts of Del Norte County, all it takes is a few minutes’ walk uphill or down, inland or seaward, to encounter a different microclimate. Consider the Point St. George headland, where Jack McNamara Field hosts Crescent City’s official weather station. That thing seems to consistently record weather 5–10 degrees cooler, winds 10–15 mph faster, and fog 15–20 percent murkier than anywhere else in Crescent City, to say nothing of the county.

(Perhaps the Chamber of Commerce should look into a way of recording more tourist-friendly measurements closer to where people live.)

During Crescent City’s so-called summer, it’s possible for it to be sunny all day at one end of a street while it’s foggy and overcast all day just a few blocks away.

Often, there seems to be a cold cloud hovering just over Crescent City while all around it the weather is bright and warm, as if to confirm my suspicion that Mother Nature has a grudge against the Tsunami City.

But Del Norte is far more than its quirky coastal basins. If the county had an official summer pastime, it would be repairing to its hot river canyons for sunning and swimming. There, summer in all its bright, hot glory is a reliable presence, proving an otherwise astounding fact about Del Norte climatology.

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