Dan Gisvold at Bear Creek

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sayin' Hi to Dodge

Dodge is Dan's great-grandson.

He was the apple of Dan's eye.

When Dan was on the road he would call and talk to Dodge when Dodge could only babble.

When Dodge got a little older he gave Dan a stuffed pig toy for Dan to carry with him in the truck. Dan would take pictures of where he was with the pig in the picture. He would send them to Dodge.

That pig stayed with Dan where ever he was. Truck, apartment, car, motorcycle.  There was the pig.

That was how he stayed connected. No matter where he was.

Yesterday I found another picture of Dan's cabin. The one he bought next to the family cabin. The one he was going to retire to.

Hello, Dodge.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Needles Lookout

There has always been a tradition, a rite of passage, if you will, about going to Camp Nelson.
Camp Nelson Cabin
This idyllic cabin hidden from the whole noisy world had payment to extract for long stays on its porches.

You see, you could sleep on that back porch until the sun or the squirrels awoke you. You could sleep in the hammock in the front yard whenever you wanted. You could catch a nap in the large, overstuffed rocking chairs. You could pretend to read in the shade of its oaks and pines.

But such relaxation must be paid for. In physical exertion.

Over Memorial Day, it is the cleaning of the yard and the cabin. If not clean of leaves, sticks and other flammable detritus the Forest Service will attack. (I was trying to think of a good comparison but none come to mind) They made us cut back the bear clover one year. Not even a sickle can cut bear clover. Trust me on that one.

During the summer, there is other payment to be made. Other physical payment.


Most trails around the cabin are fairly benign. The mountains are meant for climbing and a day trail is just that.

But THE NEEDLES is different.

And all novices to the hill (as we call it) are required to go there.

You can find it on Google Maps. It is the Needles Lookout overlooking the Kern River Valley.

It was built in 1937 as part of a line of lookouts to help with fire control. It turned into a major attraction for visitors who want to view the Sierra Nevada Mountains in all their glory. Rock climbers come just to climb its shear rock base.

Dan loved to go there. He said there was a different perspective on the earth from the top of a rock pinnacle where there is nothing but air underneath you.

The hike is relatively short. By lateral distance.

Horizontal distance is another thing.

I don't recall how many thousand feet you gain, lose and gain again as you hike the 5 miles to the stairs. But I can tell you that it is not as easy as it looks.

Then there are the stairs.

Dan could handle them without batting an eye. I, on the other hand, have found gods of all kinds while climbing the stairs.

Because you can see THROUGH the stairs. DOWN. Down about 1000 feet or so. STRAIGHT down.

For me to make it I had to follow someone and just watch their feet. I could not let go of the railing. And hope against hope that none of the wooden stairs were broken or wobbly.

But Dan would scamper up and down the stairs and just make fun of me.

When I got to the top, each and every time, I knew what Dan meant about perspective. At first, I would stand only in the middle of the little lookout. No walking on the catwalk like deck. But with Dan's urging and (ok, I admit it) his shaming me, I made it onto that deck.

It was something I can't describe. To see Mt. Whitney and the three sisters. To see the Kern River below. To watch peregrine falcons swooping and diving in the summer air. Oh, wow..... To see people climbing the rocks just below me. (They ARE crazy!) Amazing.....

But now it is gone. The government didn't shut it down. They still had a ranger living there. She had been there every summer for the last upteen years.

No. It burned. To the rock bed that it stood on.

 Yes, the ranger got out. And, no they don't know what caused it. At least not yet.

I know it will be rebuilt as it is so vital to the safety of fire crews, backpackers, and residents of the back country. But it won't be the same.

They may get rid of those stairs. And that would ruin all the fun of getting there.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Walkin' n' Talkin'

Jed and I went walking again today.

Early morning fog misted around us as we took to the "Bob Jones Trail" that goes from Highway 101 to Avila Beach. (look it up on Google maps-it is a 2.1 mile walk-one way)

It's mostly flat so we could go at a good clip and really talk the whole way.

And we talked about life.

We talked about Jed's mom and how much he missed her.

We talked about Dan and how much we both missed him.

And we talked about the one night that Jed's mom met Dan. The memory of that night was clearly etched in our brains. Jed was so ill. He had bronchitis and could not sing the solos that he had practiced for so long. Dan wore the same fancy cowboy shirt that he always wore to "dress up" occasions.

The walk was all about that connection.

We walked and we talked. And we remembered. Together.

Family is good.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Little Things

When Dan lived in Montana he had a regular run from Missoula to Seattle. He would drive to Seattle and stay the night in a motel and drive back the next day.

He would always take the little bottles of shampoo and cream rinse. And the little soaps.

He kept them in a bag. He never used them.

Just to be clear, he used his own shampoo and soap. But taking the little bottles and soaps was important to him.

I thought he was nuts. (well, that discussion could go on for days...)

Until I was with him when he would drop off the full trash bag at the local homeless shelter.

That's how he gave back. Little things of soap and shampoo.

So now I do the same thing now. I take them to homeless shelters and women's shelters.

Next time you find yourself in a motel and you don't use all the little things they give you, save them. Put them in a bag and take them to the ones who need them.

Dan would really like that.

Monday, July 18, 2011

It Never Goes Away

I was talking to brother Bill the other day. That is one good thing that has come from Dan's death.....Bill and I actually talk to each other.

We got to talking about patterns of life and how we fall into them. Some pretty serious stuff. Not the usual how's life, what are the kids up to, what's happening to the cabin kind of things that we generally talk about. And definitely not Bill's golf game!

And he started to talk to me about his first wife, Bernadette. She died of stomach cancer when their youngest was only 12. He talked about how little they had in common. He talked about how they made it work. I could hear the pain in his voice.

And then I asked the question.

"It never goes away. Does it."

It was a statement that required an answer.

Bill stopped, paused for a few seconds, and then said, "No, it never does."

The loss of my best friend, my confidant, my brother. That loss will be with me forever. I can't bring Dan back.

I see him in my mind. I remember lots of times with him. But he will never stand beside me again.

I will never drink sassafras tea with him again.

That loss will never go away.

But I am not sad that it stays. I am glad.

I am glad that I will have him in my heart forever.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

He was here

I haven't written about Dan in awhile.

It is not because I don't think about him. I rarely stop thinking about him.

But my thoughts are not conducive to writing.

I see a truck on the highway and I feel Dan in it. I see a motorcycle and I see Dan on it. I hear a piece of music and I listen through his ears.

Everyday as I drive past the expansive view of the Pacific Ocean near where he lived, I think of him.

I don't keep sassafras tea in the house anymore. The constant reminder was overwhelming.

But yesterday I was sitting in my chair watching the British Open (golf not tennis!) and I could have sworn he was there. On the couch. Watching Tom Watson make a hole-in-one.

I could have sworn it.

I felt his presence so keenly. But so fleetingly. Like a soft breeze on my soul.

I didn't move. I didn't look at the couch. I just smiled a little and remembered him. Here.

Not on the road.

Not in the audience.

But on my couch. Those long legs crossed at the ankles on the ottoman. The dogs begging to sit with him.

It was all so clear and so very fleeting.

I hope he drops by again.

Monday, July 4, 2011


I saw a flash mob on You Tube tonight. It was a band in a grocery store playing John Phillip Souza. And the memomy that it brought was....
Well, I wish I had a picture.

There is one in my head.

Dan with his trombone. In his Lindsay Cardinal Band uniform. Tall, lanky, grinning with a gleaming trombone in arm.

It always seemed fitting that he played the trombone. It was as long and lanky as he was. And the uniform was, of course, red and white. You could not miss that tall, stickbird in the back two rows of the band.

He was the reason that I wanted to be in a band. They didn't like to let girls play brass in those days so I grabbed a clarinet. Oh, I am sure I did it to get attention away from him. But to be honest, I envied his ability to play an instrument.

Just like I envied his ability to make friends. I could never make friends like that.

People knew that I was a spoiled little brat. Dan was just down to earth and real. That is what I was so jealous of. It took me years to be real.

But Dan did it from the beginning. It was the trombone that reminded me. And the flash mob being so "normal" in an abnormal setting.

It was so "Dan".

He was really good on that trombone.