Tag: California

Just After the Rains

After the Rains

Most of December 2021 saw rain and cold weather – at last! It doesn’t change the drought situation here in California, but it does help. I hope the bits of green here will soon spread over the hills, which have been dead and brown for far too long. Rain in the single-digit percentage points shows up on the weather forecast, but with the climate situation it is impossible to predict anything.

This is from the Chumash Trial area near my house. It is the same area where I spotted the Acorn Woodpecker in yesterday’s photo. I love this area because of the wonderful oak trees down this trail. Sadly, many were lost in the Woolley Fire (I think that is the one) from a few years ago that swept through this area.

One of the fun things about digital images, or digitized film images, is the playing around in post and creating presets. This one I rather like – it gives a sense of the softness that new growth brings to the world. Spring is coming, early of course in my neck of the woods, and the rains are the reason for the rainy season.

Etc.

Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker

Finally a day that is freezing (for SoCal!) or pouring cats and dogs . . . I managed to get out for a hike today down Chumash Trail nearby. It is filled with old-growth oak trees, and it has been a bit since I have been there as the plague and other things limited some of my activities. It felt so good to be outdoors at last!

The trail itself is easy, mostly flat. The problem is that you really cannot go scrambling around the hills as poison oak is not your friend. This can limit where you decide to wander.

As it is midweek, no one was out. But birds and bees and gnats were – and so were a small herd of deer that went bounding through the wood. Sadly, I wasn’t quick enough to catch them on my camera. But, I was lucky to catch this woodpecker, high up in a telephone pole full of acorns cached there by the local acorn woodpeckers!

Woodpeckers are pretty hard to miss – tat, tat, tat! I had no idea what kind this one was at all, so I followed this ink to learn a bit more. I didn’t know there are 15 kinds in my neighborhood. What made this particular one interesting was there was no red to be easily found on his head. His position hid the top of his head, which is where the small bit of red is to be found on the bird. Most woodpeckers have a very noticeable red top or breast or throat, but this one was not at all the usual ones I have been able to see. I had my Nikon z6ii with the excellent 24-200 lens attached, and I had to be quick to catch this guy – even though I was far below, he was canny enough to realize 2 legs, human, time to flee!

I may be wrong. but I am pretty sure this guy is an Acorn Woodpecker . . . he just wasn’t inclined to show me who he really is.

Dry Land to the East

I was in the passenger side of the car, in the back seat. The land was barren and dry, filled with rugged rocks and sparse vegetation – beautiful and lonely.

I like to have my digital camera (here, X100V) set to a fast exposure and point and shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot out the car window. It is always surprising what you get and rather fun, too.

Mess Hall

This is a distance shot of one of the remaining mess halls / dining halls at Manzanar, the Japanese interment camp located in the Owens Valley of California. The Eastern Sierras butt up against with a sort of barren plain between the camp and the mountains. Over 110,000 Americans were forced here during WW2.

Not a lot remains here. Barracks were many, as were latrines, laundries, manufacturing, kitchens, and a cemetery. A hospital and schools and recreation areas kept this from being a dreadful place of extermination, but it did often exterminate self-worth and communities.

Along Hwy 395

I have a lot of fun setting the X100V to A (for “auto”) for everything, and just shooting out the window of the car as we drive along. Sometimes reflections in the car show up, but that is really irrelevant when trying to catch the flavor of a place and it’s over 105F in the shade. Here, a shot through the window which shows the lovely barrenness of the Owens Valley.

In Memoriam

Manzanar was an interment camp for Americans of Japanese ancestry, native-born, citizens, Japanese-born. All of this because the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. This event drew America, at last, into World War II, in both Asia and Europe.

The Japanese are a minority within the US, and like many groups, faced discrimination. Other groups, though, because they were European – Caucasian – were not interred. Did the US inter people of German or Italian descent during WWII? No . . . and for sheerly pragmatic reasons . . . probaby 25% of the entire population of the country would have to be locked up, fed, and guarded.

A friend of mine, who is Japanese-American, said that the displays at Manzanar make it look like it was fun to be there rather than a prison. Granted, it was a concentration camp, but it was not like the camps run by Axis powers in WWII. Another friend, who spent her childhood at a camp in Arizona, said it was like going to summer camp. As a child, it could perhaps be seen as such, but as an adult? I wonder how many adults were “broken” by the experience.

Manzanar is in the Owens Valley along Highway 395 in California, on the eastern of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The land was once a fertile valley, but in the early 1900s, Los Angeles began buying up water rights. The result was the water that kept the valley green was sent to L.A., and Owens Lake and Owens River soon disappeared. As the water disappeared, so did farming and wildlife, and in its wake, a dryer, harsher land emerged. It is still beautiful, but it is also the result of politics and greed.

So, this was a perfect place to make an interment camp for people perceived as “the enemy.” It’s always good to have someone to blame and someone at whom to direct hatred. Governments and political forces do this all the time. We have evidence of it throughout history. The Japanese were the American boogey-men of the 1940s. However, the Japanese servicemen in the 442nd Infantry Regiment were the most decorated fighting unit, “enemies” fighting another enemy.

But I digress. Manzanar was one of many concentration camps to inter the Japanese. Today it is a National Historic Site, located between Lone Pine and Independence. It is dry and hot, cold and windy, depending on the time of year. I have driven through this area in summer, in 105+ F heat. We stayed in Independence, in a hotel with minimal modern conveniences, such as air conditioning. It was around 100F – and we were miserable. I can only imagine what it was like without it, in shacks slapped together in haste, insulated with nothing. Hell in winter. Hell in summer.

Life in some ways was normal – and in many ways it was not. Detailing life at Manzanar would take pages. Simply put, people lived and died and were born at Manzanar. Above is a memorial to those who died at Manzanar – people of all ages, from babies, teens, adults, and the elderly – for a variety of reasons. This obelisk is in the far rear of Manzanar, in the cemetery, set against the Sierras. It’s austere lines meet the sky and the harsh beauty of the land. It seems to say it all.