Nona’s Grandchildren

She had many names, but usually was called Nona. I asked her once what Nona meant and she told me, “The oldest and the wisest of the tribe.” I was young and I had no reason to doubt her, but I later found out that she was just demonstrating her always present sense of humor. It was Italian for grandmother. plate_11She was indeed a grandmother. I think she was everyone’s grandmother – from what I could tell. She was my great-grandmother.  Let me tell you how we met.

My parents married quite young …perhaps because I was on the way. I never asked. My mother was only 17 years old, if I’ve done the math correctly, when she was pregnant with me. My father had just gotten out of the U.S. Air Force and was cutting wood for a living near Yosemite National Park. My mother had been raised by Nona, her grandmother. My mother’s mother also was only 18 years old when my mother was born.  I guess the fact that I didn’t become a father until I was 20 years old is an indication of the progress of family planning…not!

My mother spent much of her childhood living in the “new” Indian Village at the base of El Capitan in the Yosemite Valley. There were a few cabins with common bathrooms/showers in the middle area between them. My mother told me once that she didn’t have a hot shower until she was 18 years old. If she is like me, we tend to exxagerate our childhood a bit, but she probably had very few hot showers, since hot water wasn’t available in those common showers.

Nona belonged to an Indian tribe generally referred to as Miwoks (Miwuks) and anthropologists classified them as Southern Sierra Miwoks. Yosemite Valley had been their spring, summer, fall home for centuries. With the California Goldrush, my ancestors retreated for safety to Yosemite Valley. The Paiutes, on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, also came annually to the Valley and traded with the Miwoks. Nona knew all of the “old ways.” Her parents were both leaders of the tribe, sometimes called the Ahwahneechees.  You can read more about her biography here  .  None of that really mattered to me because I didn’t know her in that way. I knew her simply through a grandmother’s love.

My parents’ marriage didn’t last long and so as a baby I ended up in Yosemite with my mother and our Nona, living in the same small cabin in the Indian Village. (The old Indian Village was at a very desireable location, so the National Park Service took it over. They even built a cabin with a deck over the old grinding rock. Now that is cultural appropriation!) My mother worked fulltime and Nona took care of me. My great-aunt told me Nona adored me as a baby and called me her “Gaid-dee.” At the same time another woman came into my life, Julia Parker.  LO-RES-FEA-Four-Generations-Julia-at-Basketweavers-from-Deb-Kroll

Julia had a daughter, Lucy, who was my age and the two of us spent time in the baby buggy together with Julia pushing us through the Valley. Julia is an amazing woman and here is a link to a brief biography for her. . She only recently retired from the Park Service. The last time I saw Julia was at my mother’s mother’s graveyard service about 4 years ago, but spending time with her is like being in the presence of spirtual warmth, wisdom, and compassion.  According to Julia, our Nona (for she was Nona to Julia too) was the one who was responsible for Julia being accepted by the local Yosemite people. Nona told some of those less inclined to accept Julia, “There is  always room for one more inside the circle.” When Julia told me that story, my heart jumped and I recognized both the deep truth of that statement and an immediate connection to Nona’s own spirit.

However, my time in Yosemite as a full time resident was brief. One day Nona had to be rushed to the hospital, while my mother was at work, and there was no one available to care for me. I believe my mother might have even lost her job over her daycare issues. So as was the custom, the older aunts came back to Yosemite for a family discussion about my future. Unfortunately, my future would not include my mother as they convinced her to allow my father and another wonderful woman, my father’s mother, to care for me. It would be the last time I would  see my mother for quite some time. (Yes, infants do experience separation anxiety issues with long term consequences.)

As it turned out, my father’s mother and Nona were very fond and respectful of one another and so my relationship with Nona would continue with return visits to Yosemite to spend the day with Nona. (By then my mother had moved away and started a new family.)  However, I was never allowed to spend the night there because of the alcoholism  that was part of some of the lives of the remaining members of the village.  Or, so I was told and I pretty much believe.

You know as a child, you are not aware of the branches on the family tree much. I didn’t know that my new stepmother was not my birth mother. I didn’t know how Nona fit on the tree. I just knew her as someone who wrote me monthly letters, often with $5 inside, and asked me lots of questions about school and baseball. Sometimes when I came back to visit, she would be outside with other women making tortillas beneath a tall tree. I would run around and play in the village, jumping from rock to rock. I would come up to the base of El Capitan and bend my neck as far back as it would go and just stare at this huge rock. It felt like home. In one area was acorn prepared to eat and I thought it was so bitter and terrible tasting. Nona would laugh and say, “What? You liked it as a baby!” “No way, Nona. I couldn’t have.”

I was very connected to Nona in a way that I cannot explain.  There was this intense energy of love between us. Everyone felt the same  way about her though. I have noticed that some  people just are tapped into that eternal source of all love. 50185059_1440546936Nona was one of those people. Her life was hard, but from it came a love that was powerful. She also was a very accurate fortune teller.

People would come from all around to have their fortune told by her. I have since wondered about being around that type of spiritual energy as a baby and what I might have been exposed to. Nona, however, would never tell the future of family members. Today, I also wonder if her psychic talent was  connected to that source of deep love?

I always looked forward to my trips back to Yosemite to see Nona. She was a big fan of the San Francisco Giants baseball team and she’d often have their game on a transistor radio. She was fun, she was loving, and  I guess that sometimes as a child you just know someone loves you very much. I felt this from her and my father’s mother. I felt special. In turn, I was very connected to both of them. 50185059_1393220138Nona almost seemed mythical to me…until my last trip to see her.

They didn’t tell me, but Nona had become very sick. They also didn’t tell me that on this trip to Yosemite, my mother would be there. In fact, it seemed liked everyone was there. We walked into the cabin and I looked for Nona, but she was not there. Instead a group of women looked at me and my great aunt said, “Aren’t you going to give your mother a hug.” I didn’t know which one was my mother until she stepped out of the line to hug me.  Still, I was looking for our Nona. I was told that she was sick and she was in the hospital in the Valley. They didn’t tell me how sick she was though.

When we all went to the hospital, I ran to Nona’s  bedside and I found this once sturdy, strong woman to be small and weak. I put my head on her and I cried, maybe the hardest I have ever cried in my life. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I knew death was near. Of course, all of this is happening and my memories of it are all from my perspective. I am certain this was a heartbreaking moment for everyone to watch, particularly for my mother, who had just seen her child for the first time in about 11 years and her own Nona, the one who raised her and adored her, was dying. As we left the hospital, life was different somehow. I felt older and as if I had walked through some doorway into another world.

Nona died not too long after that and I was allowed to make my  own decision regarding attending her funeral services. At the time, I didn’t know that I had attained a bit of a celebrity status on that side of my family…only because I hadn’t been around much, I was – family speaking-wise- an unknown and that made me interesting. 50185059_129904305344They were all waiting for me to attend. I chose not. I am not quite sure why. I remember I didn’t want to cry like that ever again. I was confused about my mothers. I just wanted to forget it all. I was in a new world now, one without Nona. However, Nona didn’t leave me.

Many, many years later. I was wondering what information might be on the internet about Nona and I was startled to find her name listed in Ebay. I opened up the site and there for sale was an unfinished oil painting of her. california-indian-phoebe-hogan-orig_1_f1f0b5cf56af6ab711d6bd94f6fcb70dA woman’s mother had started it when her husband was a park ranger in Yosemite and now the daughter had put it up for sale. I was shocked, offended, and immediately closed the link. But, I was spiritually hounded knowing that Nona’s image was for sale to strangers. I tried to ignore it, but whenever I had quiet time it bothered me, a lot. When I say, “it” I think I mean Nona. I finally gave in after a couple of days and said outloud to know one physically present, “Ok, I’ll buy it!”

I won the Ebay bid because I probably made a bid 1,000% higher than needed be, but I wasn’t going to take any chances of not buying that painting.  I gave the painting to my mother’s mother – Nona’s child.

In 1968 or so, there was the creation of the California Indian Act which created the California Indian Roll. My birth mother made sure I was on that roll. I ended up with a number and some money. We actually bought our wedding rings with it. Am I an Indian? I don’t know and I don’t care because myself, my children, their children, and their future children are something much better.  We all are Nona’s grandchildren.  After all, she is the oldest and the wisest of the tribe.

And for all of our loves, “There is always room for one more inside the circle.”

To Nona’s grandchilden,


Landscaping Up News

Here is a update/news on the landscaping project!

Forgot to show you the two rhododendrons we planted next to the new landing off of the deck.

Oh yes, one more thing…the chicken lived and her neck has gone back to normal. She is running around and acting like a chicken again. Unbelievable! She too looks like…WAIT A MINUTE ON THE VIDEO, I said I looked like “Hell warmed over.” That is just plain stupid.The saying is supposed to be “I look like death warmed over.”

Long, long day.

Hard Thinking

Sometimes, I like to think.  Perhaps, not enough because I find it hard to do. They say when you think hard, your pupils dilate and your blood pressure increases.  Hard thinking is hard on your body. It is easier to just quickly categorize, simplify, and move on.

I am slowing posting my 2nd album on Soundcloud, so I  re-read my message on my first album. Basically, it said that I recorded that album in an effort to overcome a lifelong fear of the opinions of others. When a non-trained vocalist sings, it creates a real sense of vulnerability for most people. When I first started recording, I couldn’t stand to listen to my singing. I have progressed now to the point where…I can’t stand listening to my singing if someone else is listening to it with me.

One really useful thing about blogging is that it also provides one with a record  of their different moments in life. If you get enough of these moments, observations, opinions recorded, you can begin to see trends in your psyche scribblings.  Very, very few people will do such a thing in a public format. However, that public format creates another opportunity at being vulnerable and vulnerability makes one hell of a mirror for self-examination – which provides one with the opportunity for some hard thinking.

Here is what I thunk about. My real problem on that first album was not with other people’s opinions. That was just a symptom. My problem was, and is, about shame. I felt shameful.

Where did it come from? Again, thinking hard, I think shame goes back to the earliest, and even earlier than that, of our ancestors. The story of the Garden of Eden tells of the first appearance of shame when Adam and Eve recognized they were naked for the first time.  Hello shame. Some ancient storytellers were trying to tell us something about being human. I notice that our dog can jump up and grab an entire cube of butter and gulp it down without any visible sign of shamefulness. Even while I am chewing her out, she just sits there and licks around her mouth. I use two tablespoons of butter and I start feeling shameful about it all.

Beyond that though, I think some of us might even be a bit more coded toward shamefulness. Have you ever noticed how two siblings can go through basically the same dysfuntional, hurtful, abusive childhood and yet, can come to oppositie conclusions about their experiences. For one of them, they might concentrate on it for the rest of their lives and the other one seems to be able to move on from it all.  This is not a judgement, just an observation.  Some people just seem to be wired differently.

Combine the previous two possibilities with the constant and emotionally terrifying lessons of shamefulness within many religions and we end up with shameful people who not only won’t sing, but they won’t dance either. Religion can really “seal the deal” when it comes to shamefulness.

It has taken me almost 3 years of writing, singing, and recording to realize that it is not others’ opinions that I am fighting.  It is the Dragon of Shame. The dragon that says, “You’re not good enough. Look at your nakedness! You can’t sing. You can’t write. You are not smart. You are a fool. Get away from here little man.”  What I need to think more about, however, is the possibility that religion also might provide the very solution to my problem. I am not talking about the religion of my youth, at least not in the way it was presented to me. I am talking about something universal, something infinite.

I need to do some more hard thinking.



Not Again

I am not a man who cleans up nicely. The few times I used to wear a suit (coordinated coat/pants) I felt very uncomfortable and like a fraud. When I walked around dressed up, I looked liked a roaming pile of dirty laundry. I felt like I should have been going to a  costume party, “Hey look everybody, Gary’s a business man. …hahahahaha”

I’m very comfortable and feel more like myself when wearing tennis shoes, (They aren’t called tennis shoes any longer, what do you call them? Adidas, Converse etc.) I prefer wearing Levi’s and a white, heavy duty cotton tee shirt. Occasionally I will go on a shopping spree though and buy khaki pants and plaid shirts for work. Nearly everytime I do this, I forget to take off at least one sticker. It is usually the one that indicates the size of my new clothes. Often the sticker is stuck on my ass (if pants) and on the back of the collar (if a shirt). I have also had a couple very embarrassing incidents with the zipper of my pants – but we should get to know one another better before telling those stories.

This past weekend, I  bought a 4 pack of those tee-shirts I like so much and yesterday I put one on and then pulled a v-neck sweater over it. I was nice and comfortable. I even thought to myself, “Well, no embarrassing stickers on these plain white tee-shirts and if there were any, my sweater would cover it up!” Yes, I actually thought this because the size stickers have embarrassed me so many times.

I went through the day meeting with a variety of people, doing my thing, talking, presenting, and that kind of stuff until heading out to lunch with a friend. As soon as he saw me he said, “Hey you got something stuck on your neck…hahaha…did you just get some new tee-shirts?”


The sticker was from the inside of the front collar of the shirt. It had taken a little journey up my neck and I was clueless about it. Isn’t that just wonderful?

Howdy Pardner

Giddy Up!
If I ever was going to make a music video from one of my songs, this would be it. (Old, dusty ghost town…swinging doors open up to a empty western bar…slowly ghost like images appear…some gruff looking old men around a card table, playing poker and drinking whiskey…a mysterious, beautiful Mexican woman appears out of a painting that is on the wall…through the swinging doors enters a handsome, confident, young man, he is not a ghost…soon he begins a sensual dance with the beautiful Mexican woman…Has he finally met his match? Will she absorb him into the ghost world? Or, has she met her match and will she turn into an old woman, who is not a ghost any longer?)


Chicken: The sick little red hen is making a comeback. Her neck is still doing odd things, but she was able to peck at food on the ground today without her neck going upside down! She had a ferocious appetite and it looks like she has lost almost 25% of her weight. Her feathers are also in bad shape. Yet, she ran to me to see if I had any special food for her this afternoon. We put electrolytes in her water along with continuing to give her vitamins through an eye dropper. Her sense of balance is…well she doesn’t have much of a sense of balance yet.

Landscaping: it has been snowing here on and off for the past week or so. It is too wet and cold to be doing much. My old bones hurt in the cold. (3 knee operations from American football as a kid.) However, the new, expensive paint we put on the deck is peeling off already. Now we have to water blast it off. Dang.

Since we got robbed a couple of years ago, ( go back to January 2016 blogs if you want to see the dark side of me. I am still pissed at those assholes.) I installed some security cameras. The video below shows you a bear that comes around the house. He was right outside our bedroom window. There is a mountain lion roaming around too now. Makes you think twice before walking around at night.

Take care!


Sick Chick Update

Well, what do I say?

The sick little hen is not dead. Twice a day, she gets fed a concoction of an internet-advised solution. Selenium, vitamins, crushed layer feed, molasses in water. Her head is now not upside down on the ground. She can hold it up straight for a bit, but when she bends it down to eat, it flops down at about a 45 degree angle instead of being completely upside down.

When I go out to retrieve her in the morning, I keep thinking, “Please Lord, don’t let me come out and  find the entire flock with their heads upside down.”

It takes us about 45 minutes to feed her. She is getting a little bit feisty, where before she just laid down like dirty laundry.

Here’s a short video so you can live it too!

I’ve Changed

Two years ago I decided to get some baby chicks. (I think it is still posted in my blog for February 2016 somewhere here.) Why chickens? Because I like watching them walk, run, eat. They calm me down. They are 100% engaged in being what they are.

When I got the day old chicks, I kept them under a heat lamp and I would occasionally play my guitar and sing to them. One in particular would run over to me first. That little chick ended up being a rooster and I had to find a new loving home for him when he started crowing, but not before I named him Clint and told the new owner that he was fond of country music. She kind of looked at me strange and said, “Ok, I’ll remember that.”

My chickens have lived a very good life so far. I built them a good size run with 4 strands of electric wire around it that I turn on at night. We have skunks, possums, raccoons, fox, bobcats, mountain lions, and bears in our area and I have the pictures to prove it.

We also have an acre of land, so we let the chickens wander about in the afternoons and the weekends when we are home. Every night I lock up their coop where they roost.

This past Sunday, I let them out and Lucy, who occasionally needs to be reminded that she should not peck at my exposed toes when I am wearing sandals, was in bad shape. She couldn’t keep her head up. It was actually upside down with her head touching the ground. I felt terrible for her.

We gently took her out of the coop and put her in some sunshine to enjoy her last moments on earth. I was sad.

I had to get some material for the landscaping project and when I came back, Lucy was still alive. She could keep her head up when walking, but when she tried to eat off the ground, it just flopped upside down.

So I got on the internet to find out what the issue might be. It could be wry neck, some disease, some condition, some virus, some something. I headed down to the local feed store and they just said, “Huh? Beats me.” Finally after more research on the world wide web, some folks said to try feeding the chicken some vitamin E, selenium, baby vitamins, bread soaked in molasses – all with an eye dropper.

So morning and night now, we’re trying to feed Lucy with an eye dropper. We have to hold her upside down in order for her head to be right-side up. I keep expecting her to be dead in the morning, but so far she continues to be in critical condition.

I wonder, how and when I become this type of person? You know, there is so much sadness in the world, so much violence, so much…so much that we can’t seem to control… that for some reason compassion seems appropriate for this chicken. And, this will sound really strange, but when we’re holding her, trying to feed her, she almost seems to know what we’re trying to do. There is some kind of connection there. As I write this, my eyes are getting kind of teary. I am that guy who would laugh at such human behavior toward a chicken. Now it seems to me, chicken, homo sapien, dog, tree, rock, we’re all part of the same source of mystery.

Oh man, have I ever changed. I didn’t mean to.

Just an Observation

A few years ago, I found myself on a stage with a former student of the high school where I was speaking. He had a very popular song at the time and he was there to encourage the students to complete their high school education.

A year or so later, he was dead – the victim of a drive-by shooting. Here is a video of his song:


Like most Americans living in rural areas, I grew up around guns, not a lot of them, and they were not military rifles. They were used for hunting. But since us kids developed more of an apetitie for less-gamey tasting food, my dad stopped hunting. I think the real reason is that he no longer felt good about killing animals. I think it made him cry. But, I do understand why people want their hunting rifles and skeet shooting shot guns. I do not understand why people want, and why we allow, military assault weapons in our country. To be totally honest with you, if you have those weapons, I think you are really a bit twisted.

At the same time I have wondered how much of my tax dollars have gone toward killing innocent people who were among our enemies? Aren’t I part of that killing? It is like some national drive-by shooting. This bothers me very much and so that is where this next song originated from. I know it is complicated, I know good people disagree with me, but it still it doesn’t feel right to my soul.

These thoughts and events and hundreds, no thousands, of other tragedies involving guns, violence, ignorance, revenge is what created this song for me.