Luke Rankin was a student in the first Westside Charter School 7th-grade class where I was “teaching head-teacher” – one of my best and most memorable years of teaching. Luke was an excellent student – a great kid in all ways. When his mom Sheila asked me where I thought he should go for high school after 8th grade, I suggested Rio Linda High School and told her, “He will be a star.” And he was, valedictorian of his class; I was invited to his baccalaureate at Calvary Lutheran Church. Luke went off to college in the midwest, then got a Fulbright Scholarship to Russia; back in the USA, he went into banking in the Bay Area. Today I went to his wedding in San Jose at Willow Glen United Methodist Church.Luke with his mother Sheila:I sat with an old family friend, Angi, on my left. It was wonderful to hear stories about Luke and Julie over the past five years since they met. On my right was Javan, who has known Luke since he first started at Chase Bank. When Luke came to our table, he said, “It’s no accident that you two are sitting next to each other. You were both my mentors, one in school and one in business.” While Luke left Chase Bank after a few years, he and Javan stayed in close contact … the mentorship continues.
Today is San Giovanni day, also known as the holy feast day of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist – and it falls right after the summer solstice. Tradition has it that today is also the day to harvest walnuts for nocino, a delicious coffee-brown walnut liqueur. All the ingredients were assembledalong with good friends. The ancient Nocino tradition holds that green walnuts need to be gathered by barefoot virgins. We got the barefoot part right, anyway.Checking out Justin’s lush and perfect lawn. Phyl, “I sink in up to my ankle!”30 walnuts, washed and dried.Cut in half. Not easy, I needed a big chef’s knife. The walnuts are picked now, just before the hard shell begins to form.The final product will now sit in a sunny place for 40 days and will be shaken once/day. According to what I’ve read, the liquid will first turn “sinister green” then “the tea-brown of bayou swamp water,” and finally “black as cowboy coffee”. We visited the pigs.A good time was had by all. The first annual E Nicolaus San Giovanni Day was a huge success!
Just a half mile down the road from our cabin was this almost-life-size metal sculpture. Before leaving, we had breakfast at Sugar Pine Cafe,then a stop in Merced for our traveling drinks. When you’re gone for a few days, the changes at home can be dramatic, like these crape myrtles at Justin’s driveway.
We parked at our first opportunity, unloaded the bikes and rode to Yosemite Fall.As we walked closer to the fall, we heard singing. A choir of Japanese students put on an impromptu 2-song performance – it was beautiful.More riding, to Half Dome Village, which used to be called Curry Village. There are more than 400 tent cabins here – they look HOT to me.Rafters are assisted into the slow-moving river by a park employee – it was clear (and funny) that some rafters had never put an oar in water.We drove to Glacier Point, above the valley. The views were amazing. Nevada Fall, which is above Vernal Fall:Yosemite Valley, Half Dome is to the right:A better view of the valley, Half Dome barely visible at right:In the past, people have gone out onto this point of rock to have their picture taken, but now there is an impassable fence. In the background, Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls.