Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lin Jensen: Deep ecology through Buddhist eyes


Author Lin Jensen, the founding teacher of the Chico Zen Sangha, and now teacher emeritus there, writes that "as both a Buddhist and a student of deep ecology, I'm struck by how much the two have in common, each exacting of the follower a genuine paradigm shift in perception. For the Buddhist the shift is an awakening to earth as an extension of one's own body wherein the dichotomy of self and other dissolves. For the deep ecologist the shift is a similar awakening wherein earth is realized as one indivisible body comprised of all beings of any sort."

Deep ecology is more than the study of ecosystems. "It's a perception that recognizes the right of all beings to exist simply because they do. Nothing is left out, nothing excluded." Jensen draws on the work of Arne Naess, the founder of deep ecology, and others, in showing the deep ecological concerns of Buddhism, even from ancient days. "Deep Down Things: The Earth In Celebration and Dismay" ($15.95 in paperback from Wisdom Publications) takes its title from words of the Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, who observed that, in the midst of industrialized blight, "nature is never spent; / There lives the dearest freshness deep down things. . . ."

Jensen is scheduled to be interviewed on Nancy's Bookshelf tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. on KCHO (Northstate Public Radio, 91.7 FM). He will be speaking on Tuesday, October 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the 1078 Gallery, 820 Broadway in Chico. Hosted by Lyon Books of Chico, where "Deep Down Things" is available locally, the event is free and open to the public.

Jensen writes of places where the earth lives, and places where it can hardly breathe. "On the east side of town prime orchard land lies buried under Chico's South Mall, but on the west side of town the fields of a young and thriving organic cooperative are green with new life." Jensen's Buddhism is local and practical; "the proper scale for human endeavor," he writes, "is that of the household." Finally, "my prayer is that to the very last of this planet's brief tenure in the vast cycle of the universe someone will remain to say 'earth' and to say it from the heart's core."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Book event for kids Saturday at the Chico Library


"Nini was a plain white tom cat," writes Mary Nethery in an author's note, "who lived in a caffè, or coffee shop, in Venice in the 1890s and became a national celebrity. Calling upon Nini and signing his guest book was the thing to do. When Nini died, many important people paid tribute to him."

That set the Eureka picture-book author to thinking. "No one knows why Nini became such a star. So I asked myself the question 'What does a cat have to offer that no other creature possesses?' The answer? A purr, one of the most primal and soothing sounds in the universe, a gift that only a cat can give. That's what led to this story. All of the notable visitors were real people who came to see Nini, but the events in the story didn't unfold in the same way that I have presented them."

The tale is told in "The Famous Nini: A Mostly True Story of How a Plain White Cat Became a Star" ($17 in hardcover from Clarion Books).

A book event featuring Mary Nethery ( will be held this Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the Chico branch of the Butte County Library, 1108 Sherman Avenue. Especially suited for children aged 4-8, the reading is presented through the courtesy of Lyon Books of Chico, where copies of "The Famous Nini" are available.

Beautifully and whimsically illustrated by John Manders (, the book tells the story of Nonna Framboni and her little nineteenth-century coffee shop. It's so small everyone seems to pass it by, until one day "Nini the Stray" shows up at her door and follows an obviously agitated man into the caffè. The man was Giuseppe Verdi, in search of just the right note. "Nini meowed. 'Ah, puss!' Verdi cried. 'You have given me the exact note I need!' He danced around the caffè with Nini in his arms."

More visitors followed after Nonna put up a sign in the window, including the King and Queen of Italy and Pope Leo XIII. The Emperor of Ethiopia visits, and Nethery imagines how Nini's soft purr changes the heart of the the Emperor's daughter.

Nethery takes delight in her story, and readers will find it the purr-fect tale.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

An encyclopedia of Durham


Adriana (Rian) Farley, the untiring chronicler of Durham, has compiled what might be called a Durham encyclopedia: "Durham Locations, Landmarks, Lads & Ladies" ($30, spiral bound, available from the author at 1384 Durham Dayton Hwy, Durham, CA 95938; please include $3.50 for postage and handling). Though Farley first thought to put together just a listing of Durham street names, the book now includes groups and organizations and festivals and even "Prof England's Desk."

Farley is scheduled to be interviewed this Friday at 10:00 a.m. on Nancy's Bookshelf on KCHO (Northstate Public Radio, 91.7 FM); an archive including this and previous interviews is available at And the book will be available at this Sunday's Durham Harvest Festival at Durham Community Park.

There are over 200 maps, diagrams, illustrations and black-and-white photographs complementing the entries which range from Ackerman Avenue ("west off Lott Road," name origin unknown) to Zorka McDonald Tree (a memorial planted by the Durham Women's Club). Farley's sources include historical records, books and periodicals as well as personal correspondence, and each source is documented.

Farley's book also resolves several mysteries. "Why is there a cleaver and steel embedded in the sidewalk just north of the Empire Club along the Midway? Just a few steps further along the sidewalk are a cleaver and knife. The location marks the spot where in 1917 the Johnson and Openshaw Meat Market was opened for business." Durham was also home to "Death Curve" when in 1920 Highway 99E forced an almost 90-degree turn "over an elevated rail line."

There's an entry for the Durham fire station and the grange hall but also one for the group of quilters known as the Awesome Blossoms (who have made "patriotic wall hangings that we've presented to local military families").

Now to Ewin G. "Prof" England's desk. England was teaching principal at Durham Grammar school from 1929 until he retired in 1963. The desk then was used by second and third grade teacher Nancy Druley "who loved its nooks and crannies." Later it found a home in the elementary school library and now resides in the Drylie Reading Room (named for James Nesbit Drylie) of the Durham branch of the Butte County Library.

Farley's book is essential reading for residents and a delightful guide for visitors.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Moving to Igo - an affair of the heart, with plenty of laughs


London-born Peter Edridge got a poor start when he landed in San Francisco in 1971 looking for "sex, drugs and rock-n-roll"; "by my mid-thirties I had reached the end. I was broke and broken." But "sometimes God smiles on the truly stupid" and he became a computer programmer. The small company he worked for provided an "idyllic" life. Yet after a decade and a corporate takeover, he was out. It was 2002 "and the dot-com bomb had just wiped out the entire tech industry." What to do?

Well, you buy 30 acres of land near Igo in Shasta County, and you move. With encouragement from his wife Sheila, you start over. "Sheila's not my first wife," Edridge writes, "(the exact count is unimportant and it's not excessive for California), but, as she likes to remind me, she is my final wife. . . . She also likes to remind me that she's married to a very lucky man."

The story is told in "Burning Bears Fall From the Sky: My Amusing Story About Relocating From a Desk in San Francisco To a Remote Mountain In Northern California" ($15.95 in paperback, self-published; available at Lyon Books in Chico or write Edridge's self-deprecating humor at his attempts to fix the dilapidated A-frame on the property (dubbed "the mouse-house") and his acceptance into the community (involving lots of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale) are often laugh-out-loud funny.

Edridge will be signing copies of his memoir on Wednesday, September 15 at 7:00 p.m. at Lyon Books.

The title comes from the story of a frightened bear cub that climbed a power pole, was electrocuted and caught on fire, and in turn set a field on fire. "It seems in part to be a metaphor for the unpredictable world found outside the well-planned Zone of Civilization." But life also thrives on the unpredictable. Though he and Sheila have learned plenty in their years in Igo, it boils down to character. "The little community of Igo brought me face to face with a different world; one that is unimpressed with importance, or years spent in school, or diplomas or credentials, or careers, or salaries."

"We've changed," he writes. Call it the journey from ego to Igo.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Chico area writer continues his history of Navy minesweepers


"Wooden Ships and Iron Men" is a multi-volume history of minesweepers, meticulously researched by Cdr. David D. Bruhn, USN (Retired). The first volume told the larger story: "The U.S. Navy's Ocean Minesweepers, 1953-1994"; the recently-published second volume focuses on "The U.S. Navy's Coastal and Motor Minesweepers, 1941-1953" ($32 in paperback from Heritage Books; see for details). The book is available online and at the Chico State University bookstore.

Bruhn writes me that the book is intended primarily for veterans of World War II and the Korean War, but anyone who appreciates military history can profit from the author's work. There are more than 15 appendices, including a list of "unit awards for the assault and occupation of Okinawa" and "mine force personnel casualties." Also included are maps and historical photographs.

"When magnetic mines were encountered at the onset of World War II," he writes, "the U.S. Navy, having no wooden ships on hand to perform minesweeping, scoured waterfronts and procured fishing vessels that it fitted with sweep gear, manned with reservists, and assigned to Naval Districts to keep ports and harbors clear of mines."

But they weren't enough, so "the Navy designed and built seventy wooden-hulled 97-foot Accentor-class ships based on the proven fishing vessel model" which were then used "very far from home waters in every theater of war." All told, they earned "nearly 700 battle stars." (The Accentor, the first in its class, had a "221-ton maximum displacement" and "could make a speed of ten knots.")

Bruhn notes that "the cover art depicts the sinking of the steel-hulled minesweepers USS Pirate and USS Pledge at Wonsan, which served as the impetus for construction of the post-Korean War wooden-hulled ocean, coastal, and inshore minesweepers."

Encyclopedic in scope, the book places the story of the minesweepers in historical context, noting that the crews have not received due recognition, probably because the many reservists among them returned to civilian life and lost track of the "splinter fleet." After World War II the media concentrated on the fighter pilots, the "glory boys." Bruhn writes that "whatever type sweep they rode, these men deserve the tribute this study intends them. When asked about their naval service, they can say with pride, 'I served aboard a minesweeper!'"



A tabby cat turns up in a Paradise neighbor's yard, and such is the stuff of a sweet little story by Kaye D. Owens. "Turn-Up . . . . Turns Up" ($5 in paperback, including postage, self-published) "is mostly factual, with a few lines of 'author's prerogative' to fill in the unknown events." Folks in the neighborhood keep leaving, and Turn-up has to find new lodgings again and again. "She survived the horrendous Northern California fires of the summer of 2008" spending most of her evacuation "under a bed." Today, she "has her family pretty much wrapped around her paws."


Watsonville writer Al Cunha was a recent visitor to Chico's Barnes & Noble. His novel, "Dancing With Daffodil" ($10.95 in paperback from Infinity Publishing), tells the story of a homeless woman living in a cardboard box in a San Francisco alley. Befriended by a young female reporter and a French baker, Maggie May Salokavich keeps singing about "the sweetest little girl in the world--Daffodil." Daffodil "is the song that I hear . . . the dance that I dance." But Officer McGuinness is determined to get her off the street. Brutality ensues, but a surprise birthday guest changes everything.


Chico therapist George McClendon, in "Heaven's Call To Earthy Spirituality" ($14 in paper from Dog Ear Publishing), writes in intensely personal terms about leaving the Benedictine Abbey in Shawnee, Oklahoma, in the 1970s. Seeking to reconcile spiritual discipline required of a monk with the "earthy" experience of sexuality and an inclusive spirituality (his heroes include Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama), the author finds joy in marriage and his practice of psychotherapy and spiritual guidance. It's the story of a "St. George" who meets the "Dragon Lady," an integration of opposites, of past with present. Now: "Time to move on."