Monday, February 13, 2012

Adoption complete!

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
-Emma Lazarus

It's official! Papa is a bona fide US Citizen. See? Here he is walking through 'the golden door'...
(close up detail of said Golden Door ;)
What a great, great day this was. It started out in the dark early wee hours driving for an hour through a snow storm, which changed to rain showers by the time we reached the valley, to partially overcast skies (which made driving the next 2.5 hours way easy on the eyes), and ending up with intermittent sunshine and incredible cloud & color displays for the drive home... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The end of the Naturalization journey was near. Feeling so wrung-out after the months of researching and acquiring old documents, hours of studying, worrying about passing the interview, driving so far and navigating unknown cities..well, we seriously wondered where we'd get the mental, physical, & emotional energy to turn around and make another long trip just a few short days later. And watching the weather never waver from the predicted upcoming winter storm, for the night before and day of, wasn't helping.

Consequently we were both extremely surprised and pleased that the day only got better and better after this morning's drive over the snowy mountain.

Knowing that we had successfully navigated the critical application, appointments, correct documents, and testing stages lightened the feeling. We realized today was going to be a joyful culmination of all the efforts we'd both put into the goal!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!' [they] chortled in [their] joy....
(Lewis Carroll, doncha know ;)

Heading south, somewhere between Williams and Woodland, I saw, ahead in the sky, what I thought was the silhouette of a raven. As the bird sailed on the breeze above us Papa says, "Hey! I think that's a bald eagle". And sure enough, there was the white head and tail and powerful outstretched wings of the nation's symbolic icon soaring right past us leading on towards Sacramento!

After arriving in the big city, and getting settled in a parking garage, we hiked the several blocks to the USCIS building. Waiting in the Citizen's Oath room we reconnected with several of the applicants (& their family & friends) that we'd been along with on this paper-journey.

Particularly heart-rending were the stories we heard from Chaum (sounds like 'charm' w/o the 'r') who, along with her husband, has been helping their fellow Cambodian friends and family towards naturalization.

She spotted us when we came in today and came over to visit again in her beautifully accented soft voice. She'd been 4yrs old when her mother, an architect in their native land, had to run from the Khmer Rouge atrocities; changing their names, losing family members, becoming refugees in Thailand, and eventually coming to America and becoming citizens years ago.

We'd also made friends with a couple from Anderson. She was from the Philippines. And then there was the gal from Russia, a young guy from Ukraine, a middle-aged man from Denmark, several folks from India, Mexico, 2 from Canada (including Papa ;), and one from the Ivory Coast. I can't even remember all the places around the world the rest of the group were from.

The Federal employees (2 men/2 women) who directed the program were impressive. Their short speeches were so personal and heartfelt you'd never suspect they do this every day as a part of their job. They asked for a volunteer from all the immigrants to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. The gentleman who raised his hand was from Sierra Leon and had the most rich, beautiful voice.

As one of the speakers stated so eloquently with a most sincere smile (he smiled the whole time, in fact),"..what an awesome degree of diversity we have here today!"

The MC (a woman whose great-grandfather had come from Denmark) was so welcoming. She reminded us that America is a land of immigrants, and how much we need the vital intelligence and experiences they bring to their new country in order to grow and prosper.

Well... I could go on and on. But I won't. Just know that it was a moving experience, one I wish you kids could have been with us for. After multitudes of hand shakes, hugs, and 'Congratulations' were given over and over, we made our way back to the car, had a bit of our picnic lunch, grabbed the camera and hiked back for some shots up at the Capitol building.

I particularly liked the flowering trees along the avenue. Made me think of Abby and Richard over in Hawaii now where flowering trees will be the norm. After traveling through the snow storm this morning the temperate climate, flowers and greenery were really fun to be around:

Walking up to the front entrance Papa discovered 3 embossed seals embedded in the concrete:

All the statuary in, on, and outside the buildings was spectacular:

And look at all the beautifully crafted woodwork and architectural designs. Be sure to enlarge them.. it's a feast for the eyes:

One more incredible part of the day; we were driving home..and as I mentioned at the start of this entry, the shape & color of the clouds and lighting of the passing scenery were gorgeous.

Well, we're heading up I-5, just after Cottonwood, when Papa spots a big ol' bright rainbow off to the East. Suddenly it becomes a complete, and huge, double rainbow! The biggest and brightest either of us have ever seen..and the end of the rainbow is traveling right on top of our car's hood! It was soo spectacular that ALL the northbound cars on the freeway slowed dramatically (and some pulled off) to watch the phenomenal event.
(this isn't the one. just added it for dramatic effect..ours was even wider & brighter top & bottom!)
So, do ya think we had an absolutely GRAND day? ohh ya!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ellis Island West

The news you've all been waiting for... drum roll, please...

Yesterday Papa passed his US Citizenship Civics test and interview in Sacramento!!

Not quite done yet, though. This Monday we will drive back down for his official Oath Ceremony. At that point he will be a true blue naturalized American boy... with dual citizenship :)

I'll get more pics next week.. there are none allowed in the USCIS Federal building, unfortunately, but we're going to tour the Capitol Building right up the street afterwards, so I'll get some there :)


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Frog Pond

I hadn't been to Frog Pond in a month of Sundays. But with it being just down the road from us, and experiencing a bit of winter-time cabin fever, I asked Papa if he'd like to take a late-afternoon walk there. He did. So we did :)

As you can see in the picture it's completely frozen over right now. We'd taken Jenny along, which was the highlight of her week. So many wild (and I do mean 'wild' - more on that in a minute) scents out in the woods to drive her senses mad and get her running around with her nose to the ground almost the whole time.

You know how unreliable an animal she is and may disappear at any given moment only to return moments or days later (Peggie -who ought to know with all those ranch dogs- says it's the Border Collie side of her breeding). But, she'd done so well with you kids camping last year, I was game to see if she'd stick around. So I took a chance, counting on her behaving and, surprisingly, she did (this time)!

Check out this video. You'll be impressed with how responsive she was. Papa was trying to remember how to find the ruins of the old CCC camp.. I saw Jenny had disappeared.. gave a sharp whistle.. your Dad calls and.. she comes! Astounding. Since we've both had such great dogs in the past this goofy canine never ceases to amaze us with her genetic insanity.

Wandering through the woods we found some flicker feathers...

..the old foundations and apple trees: 

..the coal bin and campfire ring: old rusty bucket and a cup handle:  

..and one of the almost obscured paths they'd built back in the 1930's:

But the MOST amazing find of all? Meandering through one area I almost stepped in.. well... does a bear live in the woods? uh huh. And obviously eats dried berries. Both the manzanita and blackberries. Just beyond the scat the woods opened up to this wild berry patch. Doesn't it look like the grasses have been laid flat by frequent visitors? :o

The more we hiked around, the more fresh bear sign we saw. It was quite an eerie feeling thinking how defenseless we were if one suddenly appeared. Made me vow to bring the bear spray you gave me at Christmas, Eli-o!! Ya, ya. I know. You're shocked I didn't have it with me. I promise.. it'll be on the next hike!

While heading back to the truck Papa stops and exclaims, "Wow. Something very big and heavy came through here!" Can you see the imprints in the pine needle pathway? Kinda difficult with these pics. Maybe if you click & enlarge them you can tell:

Here's a video clip of when we first discovered the tracks:

We decided not to linger! But then, under this old tree..

..I discovered a way cool pack rat dwelling & just couldn't resist checking it out. Here are a coupla pictures of it:

Do you kids recall finding the old fountain the CCC guys built? I'd completely forgotten about it:

All-in-all, it was a nice little afternoon hike.. even though we did get a bit spooked by the presence of Ursa Major!


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Oh, The Places We’ll Go!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own.  And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.  

Great resolution for the next 12 months… Go On More Hikes! We've put our feet in our shoes and steered ourselves in 3 directions already. Well, actually, no. Make that 2 directions and 3 hikes. Here, let me show you..

This New Year’s Eve, just at dusk, the neighboring ranch torched off a huge brush pile. Though chilly, it was a beautiful and peaceful evening & being outdoors set the tone for our adventure the next day.

New Year's Day Papa and I drove up to Old Station and hiked the Spatter Cones Trail.

It was clear and cold but the walk was invigorating and warmed us right up.
(not snow- it's permanent frost on the trail's north side)
 I especially liked the way the trail crews lined the path with rocks. 

Besides the splendid vistas...

...I was equally impressed with all the natural rock 'steps':

Though we went twice in 2 weeks I have no idea just how many caves, fissures, and holes there are in the ground; the second trip we found some that we hadn't noticed before. There are so many I have a feeling we still have more to discover...

Both times we saw rabbit, fox, & coyote tracks and scat, an owl pellet, and birds feasting on dried berries, but not another living soul. Had the place completely to ourselves. 

A little ways into the start of our second hike I decided it was going to be colder than the New Year's Day trip, so I told Papa to continue on up the trail while I headed back to the truck for my extra jacket. Got the coat and then started out again. At one point I thought I'd lost my way and couldn't really see the designated path for all the rock and tall overgrown manzanita bushes and sage brush.
I traveled a bit further while searching for signs that I was still going the correct way.
Suddenly, the rockiness turned back into sandy soil and THERE were my favorite set of duck-walk footprints. I'd found Papa's trail :)

As the trail widened I climbed up another cool set of rock 'stairs'...

...gave the family whistle-call, and there he was!
(enlarge to see Papa at the skyline)

Being a huge fan of artistic rock-work (well, ya, and just rocks in general :) I was impressed with the stone bench they’d built along the path.

The exercise felt great and it was a terrific way to spend several hours out in the wilds Between the Volcanoes ;) ..and a plus for hiking in the wintertime? No worries of running into rattlers!

Next entry I'll post pictures and a short video clip or two from our Frog Pond hike.