Fur coat weather this day — but the daffodils are soldiering on, and some flowering bushes are showing their own bravery in the face of uncomfortable cold. Nature can be resolute, often in the face of great odds.
Even so, there are problems that humans have to take care of, such as trees which have become dangerous and have to be cut down. Such was the case with the second, and larger, of the two tall silver maple trees that beckoned me to buy this house and property in the first place. The first tree left us about a year and a half ago. Rotting from the bottom, it had to be cut completely down. This tree rotted from the top down, and so I could be consoled with a five-by-five stump which will make a great place for some potted plants.
The tree was generous in its demise: Glen Robison, known for the beautiful items he makes from wood, had first choice and went home with two burls, among other pieces; two families got firewood, and Second Son got some pieces to cut into small boards for use in building things like birdhouses. Also, my gardener got a supply of wood chips to be stirred into soil-some of it in my own garden. (N.B. Glen showed me the two hats he had made out of wood: one a Western cowboy style, and one a droopy-edged fisherman's hat; both were made out of the same liquidamber log. Magnificent examples of his skill.)
Last column, I mentioned friends from newspaper days who have passed on. There have also been people from San Joaquin Delta College and University of the Pacific whom I knew in the late '60s: Bill Anttila, Nancy Greenwood and Louis Leiter.
Bill was a superb water polo coach for some years and Nancy a great teacher, both at Delta.
Dr. Leiter, whose earlier death I read about in the Pacific alumni publication, was truly a mind to reckon with. He taught a class in formalist analysis that was a true mind-bender. Not only did he teach us how to strip Shakespeare, Milton and Donne's poetry to the bare symbolical bone, but he also led us in an interpretation of Thomas Mann's "Magic Mountain" in terms of Nietzche's philosophy. Both Mann and Nietzsche are formidable in their own rights; combined, they were a real analytical strain!
Can't believe I forgot to mention that DeGrande's monthly Saturday brunches begin on Mar. 12, with seatings at 9 and 11 a.m. Call 365-6500 for choice of entree, price, and reservations.
What a pity three people had to be so selfish — or maybe so desperate — that they had to rob the thrift store on Sacramento Street that provides for the homeless and the poor.
Fortunately, there are counterbalances, such as the group I just learned about, Central Valley Neighborhood Harvest. These volunteers gather all the fruit from unharvested trees and use it to provide for the poor. If you have or know of such a situation, call 518-1801 or e-mail them at email@example.com.
I think this is great. It is so sad to see fruit just hanging or falling and not being picked.
I have been having a pretty thorough education lately in the making of Scottish tartans and in the symbols and numerical values of the Jewish religion.
My friend, Rabbi Dr. Raphael Paso, has had a special kilt made for himself as a rabbi bagpiper. Woven in Scotland of virgin wool, the tartan pattern for the kilt was designed by Gary Berreth, once of Lodi, now of Portland, Ore. Gary, who is a master kilt maker as well as a master tartan designer, incorporated colors with symbolic meanings into the military style kilt. (In this style, only vertical lines show among the pleats in back; the front shows the sett, the plain open square that is part of the design. A dress kilt shows the sett in back, also.) Where the average kilt has 24 to 30 pleats. Raphael's has 56, making it very heavy indeed. It was hand sewn, using a gold needle.
Colors include royal blue, emblematic of the priesthood; black, symbolizing the ashes left after a burned sacrifice; red, emblematic of the blood of the animals sacrificed to atone for the sins of humanity; and silver, gold, burgundy, and white, each with its own meaning. The numbers of threads in each color are also symbols of special events and meanings.
All the fascinating details of the design and making of the tartan, as well as a color picture, are included on a special link on Raphael's website: www.californiabagpiper.com. There are also references to Jewish and Scottish history and comments from all kinds of people interested in the tartan and the kilt. It is very interesting reading, and something quite out of the ordinary.
And here's a closing thought: Not all who wander are lost.
Gwin Mitchell Paden has been around these parts since 1957 and writing this column-in various forms-since 1999.