Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Forget I asked."

       I recently attended an international conference on fundraising, hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. There were a multitude of workshops and presentations one could attend and some exceptionally thoughtful and inspiring presenters, some filling huge halls at the San Diego Convention Center. I spent three days there hunting and gathering (and planting). In part, I am gathering the so-called "tools of the trade," the trade being a sort of sales and marketing with heart. It's a novel use of the cold, unfeeling tricks of marketing, the intended result being that donors agree to give their money for a good cause. At the conference I was as amazed by the degree of ethics that infuses the philanthropic trade (or, as I called it, the philanthropic industry) as I was by the number of fundraising professionals (duh, this is a fundraising professionals convention).

TWC Bluff Lake Reserve
       There are tens of thousands of fundraising professionals working on behalf of nonprofits large and small, scattered throughout the world. Universities, hospitals, shelters for the abused, services for the down-and-out. If you can think of some area of the human experience that could use some help, there's likely an organization with a mission to bring help, light, education, love, and money to it. It is, in a way, the ultimate "redistribution of wealth," socialismo. I've thought this for many years, that western capitalism presents us with the best opportunity for human transformation. Communism represents some notion that individuals in a society must be forced to share, that no individual should benefit at the expense of another. Of course, we know this is a laughable idea, that this system, however it may be well-intended, has never worked. It is as much a breeding ground for greed as any other; more so because greed in that setting is an even greater travesty.

       Communism—and to an extent, socialism—as a system of governance will always fail, because our extraordinary greatness as human beings requires that we have the opportunity to give of ourselves [and our wealth] freely. Giving, philanthropy, is perhaps the single greatest opportunity in our short lives, the most golden of opportunities for transformation, as much for the donor as for the recipient...maybe more. To be deprived of this opportunity, as with communism, is an injustice. The great argument rages these days (and has for decades, of course), how much socialism can we tolerate in our society? Most enlightened souls agree we are all in this together, and some lesser or greater degree of government-guided social welfare is appropriate. Because we humans are still wrestling with that "deadly" sin, greed, we agree that some degree of wealth redistribution is acceptable. Trickle-down economics is a wonderful, watercourse, idea but evidently a bit before its time.

TWC Jenner Headlands Preserve
      Of course, every religion under the sun reflects what we already know inside, that we are indeed all in this together. I believe the Buddha said something to the effect, no one enlightened until all are enlightened (with apologies to scholars of Buddhism). Bear with me here—I'm trying to wrap back around to my original thought for this post. Let's see, fundraising professionals, communism, greed, enlightenment...ach, maybe I'll simply cut to the chase and see how it fits.

Friends on top of Galena Peak
       "Forget I asked." Ever hear that phrase? It's usually uttered when someone else has either ignored our request or just not heard us in some way or another. Like the phrase "judge not lest ye be judged," I'd like to turn this one on its head. I'm asking you to give to support The Wildlands Conservancy...now, "forget I asked." Here's what I mean (and why): I invite you to discover your own giving heart. To give, not in response to my asking, but in response to your own desire. You truly deserve the credit, the "points in heaven" for your generosity. Really, it has nothing to do with me, at least that's how I hope it will be. All I can do is hint to you what is already there inside of you. Consider this: your generosity changes others' lives, gives support, lends a hand, builds a community. Supporting The Wildlands Conservancy helps to preserve treasured places where you and your family and friends and their family and all of us can walk, camp, picnic, and connect (or reconnect) with an essential goodness of nature.

       Whether or not you contribute to The Wildlands Conservancy, I thank you for reading this. Let's find the time to go for a walk. Yes, soon.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Judge not...

TWC Wind Wolves Preserve shade structure (photo Dave Clendenen)
       Not always, but often I meet my muse when I'm out on my runs or hikes. She sees me honoring my health, raising my awareness of breath and footfall, and she seems to approve by offering sage advice and new ideas. Take this morning, for example. I was thinking about my own generosity (and lack thereof). As long as I can remember I've felt uncomfortable with panhandlers, or those who stand patiently in front of a store checking with us when we pass by to do our shopping. Something about being asked for money. Maybe I suspect the money they gather will not actually help war veterans (example), or in the case of the one holding the cardboard sign that reads "Out of work, need HELP," maybe they'll just go buy beer or cigarettes with my loose change. I never think these people are lazy, or losers, or that sort of judgement, but I judged them nevertheless.

        I've changed a bit inside over the past year. I now carry a few folded dollar bills in my wallet, and give one to whomever asks for money. A dollar is not much, of course, but it probably helps a little. I think that Buddha said something to this effect, and I know it's found in the Bible (Matthew): Give to the one who asks you. I know could give, no questions asked, and yet still be judgmental. Problem is, this only allows for half of the giving equation—in a way it's robbing oneself while giving to another.

        Judge not lest ye be judged (again, Matthew). Here's where my muse stepped in. I thought, there's an alternative interpretation to the phrase "...lest ye be judged." It's not that I am judged by others as a result of my having judged someone, but that I am judging myself. This was what I'd been doing all along when I was judging those who were asking me for help, those who were asking for a "handout." Being judged is not a good feeling, is it? This might well be part of the discomfort I felt when I saw someone panhandling. 

TWC Whitewater Preserve (photo: Jack Thompson)
       Have you ever walked a few feet out of your way to avoid "the ask?" to avoid feeling troubled? How does my interpretation of "judged by others" strike you? I walk a bit straighter on my path now, and when someone beside me asks, I'll give. It feels right this way. Mostly because I don't make a big deal about it anymore. Maybe it’s a way for me to avoid getting involved in the difficulties of the one who asks (by simplifying the transaction I don't have to stop and help further). And I wish I could give more than a dollar, but I think I can't afford more. I guess that even with new clarity comes new questions.

       Not sure what all this has to do with 24n24, save that I continue to ponder the art of the giving heart, starting with myself.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Translation of values

      I used to own an antiquarian bookshop in Redlands, buying and selling old and unusual books and autographs. I would regularly happen across something entirely unique—I couldn't find records of any similar copies having sold at auction, in booksellers' catalogs, or online. Whatever it was—book, manuscript, or artifact—it presented a challenge of translation. How did the language of its intrinsic value translate to a numeric, monetary language? Because as a merchant, I needed to "find a new home" for the item (in other words, sell it). But the language of an [unusual] object's intrinsic value has no obvious translation to a numeric system. One is a language of feeling, of memory, of beauty or inspiration; the other a language of numbers (and the mantle of power that accompanies money). What was it worth monetarily? I had to decide if I were to offer it for sale. I could describe how special it was, how important it was, how rare it was, but none of these things translate easily to dollars and cents? The value of stuff is often determined in comparison to other like items—this is true for everything that is bought and sold. But without these comparisons, it's that much more difficult to make the translation.

     What most interests me nowadays are other kinds of translations, like what is the value of building a  trail to an overlook? What is the value of preserving a pristine swath of nature? What is the value of going on a walk with a friend, or alone, in a place of beauty? Thankfully, there's no need to place a hard numeric value on these things. None of them have to be translated to anything—they can simply be left as we find them, mysterious and moving. What I am up to, these days, is immensely different from my former work, it is seeking ways to entice the giving heart in others (more on that to come)....and finding it in myself.

       I woke early this morning, concerned for the success my 24n24. I was pondering "what if after all this preparation, writing this blog, speaking to everyone her uncle about it, as it were, tooting my horn in hopes that people will support me through giving to The Wildlands Conservancy, what if only a very few people are moved to contribute?" But I cannot make the success of one thing (the run itself) depend on the success of the other (philanthropy for TWC). It does matter, of course...it matters a lot to me that my Epic4Epic experiment is a success. But it also doesn't matter, because I won't hang its success on how much is generated, or how many contribute. And as far as climbing 24 peaks within 24 hours is concerned, I set out to challenge myself on the 24n24. I know I am becoming a better man, and truer friend because of it—this is neither diminished nor increased by how much or how little much money I generate for the Conservancy. It is an experiment of sorts, to find out how this Epic4Epic thing works (not just how well it works). And it's an adventure.

       I think here of you, dear reader, and wonder: What's your next adventure, your upcoming Epic? I wish you were here now, to tell me about it.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Dragon's Head and many hats

Looking east past Bighorn and Tosh Tarn, to the Mojave Desert
     On Saturday I climbed San Gorgonio and then bushwhacked over to Bighorn and Dragon's Head, the last two peaks on my course before dropping down to the Mill Creek Jump Off. Along with several of the peaks between the Dollar Lake Saddle and San Gorgonio, these two were on my get-to-know list. Although I anticipate not reaching them before sunrise, I've been wondering how I would make my way between them. In the image below I'm on top of Dragon's Head and the camera's facing east toward Bighorn and Tosh Tarn (the wide, sandy basin between Bighorn and San Gorgonio). It was a good day, and I felt better than I'd felt in the fall when I last climbed up top San G from the parking lot in Forest Falls (in about the same time, 3h 20m). There were, no surprise, many others who climbed it that day—the weather has helped to melt most of the snow from the south-facing access.

      There was a couple up top who had on leashes five dogs, large and small. I was thinking about the small dogs' legs and how each mile for humans must be equal to several miles for them, not to mention the 5500 feet of elevation change. I asked them about it and they said the little ones accompany them several miles on bike each day. Wow! And to think that there are so many dogs who's whole world is inside a backyard fence.

Trail to Preservation Point, San Jacinto in the distance
     Like any great job, my job requires me to wear many hats, so on Sunday we inaugurated a new trail at the Oak Glen Preserve. The trail system there is not long, but it holds much spirit. There is a loop trail extending down 300 feet (elevation) alongside a stream, from the upper ponds, toward a camping area called Hidden Hollow, then returning through Oak Knoll Park to our main parking area. Over the past month I've helped to build this new trail from down in Hidden Hollow. The trail is short (just under a mile) but it packs a punch, climbing up 750 feet. Where do you get to on this new trail? We've named the overlook Preservation Point, in honor of the legacy of land conservation efforts throughout Southern California. From that vantage point we can see far to the south, to Palomar Mountain, to the southeast to Mount San Jacinto State Park, to the west to the Santa Ana Mountains and the Cleveland National Forest, and northward to our own backyard, the Yucaipa Ridge, where Wilshire Peak juts up from the line. We served ice cold apple cider, compliments of Los Rios Rancho, and cookies. All was well.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

4/8 training update

Heading up to East San Bernardino Peak (photo: Charlie Marquardt)
       Last weekend I climbed East San Bernardino Peak via the Momyer trail, with the intention of then making my way over to the western peak and back before returning down to Forest Falls. But while the snow has melted off that south-facing trail, the ridge top was covered in deep snow drifts, obscuring the trail. I skirted the snow to get to the east peak, but because I'd gotten a later start, I didn't feel I had enough time to make it over to the western peak and back. I'd not brought a light with me, and certainly not enough food/water/clothing to spend time after twilight. Too bad, since my plan is to traverse these at night (the first peaks of the 24), and will feel better if I have some sense of the path beforehand.
       There's still so much to be done between now and May 24 that I suspect I'll need to take some days off from work to be fully prepared. Being prepared is essential for something like the 24n24, both for a successful completion and for safety. There will always be unknowns and variables to the best laid plans, weather being the most obvious. For that, some plans cannot be set in place until a few days ahead. If it's looking like a bad storm is going to hit, then I'd have to postpone for several days (or perhaps until the following full moon). If light rain potential, then some additional clothing will suffice. If it looks like the sky will be clear, with temps in the 80s or more up top the ridges ...well, I'll have to have already have enough water cached to take care of hydration. I'm not worried, but I'm definitely starting to give my attention toward these sorts of things. They run through my mind these days.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Wanat and Cuchillo, a tale of two peaks

      Well, the cat's out of the bag. My proposal to name two peaks in the Yucaipa ridge west of Galena Peak has hit the internet. A post on the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association discussion forum introduced them. I spent a long time considering the names before submitting to the USGS for review. I wanted at least one of them to be in the language of the indigenous people of these mountains, the Serrano Indians. The name wanat means mountain lion (puma, cougar) in Serrano, a spoken language—at least according to the last native Serrano speaker, Dorothy Ramon.

      The choice of wanat for the Serrano word was not a given, since a formidable linguist in the language points to another, quite different spelling (and phonetic rendering). This scholar, Kenneth C. Hill, published the definitive Hopi/English dictionary, and has a Serrano/English dictionary in preparation. He was kind enough to assist me in my research, and helped with the phonetic aspects. In the end I selected the word considered most accurate by the local authorities and, as mentioned, the most recent usage. Besides, it was the choice more easily understood and spoken [most accurately] by non-native speakers. In other words, it's less likely to be mispronounced to such a degree as to have no real connection to the Serrano language.

      The other peak naming was for the smaller peak, east of Wanat (both of these are east of Little San Gorgonio). All who have ventured along this portion of the Yucaipa Ridge know that its knife-like characteristics deserve the name cuchillo. This word is Spanish for knife, of course, and recognizes that Spanish was the second language spoken in the region. I believe both names are fitting, and hope that the various governing bodies that will review them will approve them. They are two peaks that [in my mind] deserve to be named.

Connecting the dots

      On Saturday I began connecting the dots of this course. Several times I've climbed Cedar Peak from below in Oak Glen and traversed east to Wilshire Peak, but I'd not tied together Cedar to Birch and since Evan had indicated in his report on his 17 peak challenge that this section had proved troublesome, I knew I wanted to check it out. Especially since this will come late in the course, and I'll be tired and perhaps more easily confused, it was important to "get to know."

      It's a nice trek and includes a short section of the ridge, easily traversed (unlike the knife's edge west of Galena), that allows one to glance down to the Mill Creek valley on one side and Oak Glen on the other. Transverse ranges, like the Yucaipa Ridge, offer some beautiful reliefs as the sun passes east to west, accentuating the deep ravines like the lines etched in an elder's face or hands. They're beautiful in their own way.

      I'd gotten an early start and later on met up with a group of hikers who were guided by the Wildlands rangers, Charlie Marquardt and Doug Chudy. It was clear that the whole group was having a blast up there. Sometimes it's the best to hike with a group; there's no better way to get to know a person than climbing a mountain with them.