Sunday, August 9, 2009

My Home Town

I am visiting my home town, Arcata, CA. Anyone who grew up in a small town and returns many years later, must share a similar experience. It is a bit disappointing. The distances are much shorter and the buildings much smaller than I experienced them as a child. Jones Variety, the store that once attracted me because of its shelf of new-smelling plastic dolls and a candy counter where fifty cents went a long way toward a bag of chocolate stars, is now a thrift shop. The smell of used clothing wafted out as I walked by the open door.

But my home town still has something special-- it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Here the majestic redwood forests descend to the edge of the dramatic and breathtakingly beautiful coastline where huge breakers splash over craggy rocks. The ocean is fed by glassy watered rivers which pool into swimming holes for those hardy enough to brave the cold.

But almost everyone who lives here seems to be in a stupor. This may be because Arcata is in Humboldt County, the marijuana capitol of the world. But I also believe the fierce beauty of this place makes the inhabitants feel that human activities such as going to school or having a career are insignificant compared to what the natural world can provide.

Being dropped back into this place makes me feel lazy. My seven grandchildren, and two of my daughters are here too, so if I had even 15 minutes to myself, I would love to take a nap protected by a sand dune or fall asleep in a mossy corner of a Redwood grove. Instead I am planning how to get my four blocks in tomorrow. I plan to go to the local swimming pool for some water walking and swimming and then see if the local high school has a track that is open to the public. I could of course, walk down the beach. But I am afraid I would be intoxicated by the beauty and end up sitting, drawing my name in the sand repeatedly, or just watching the seagulls dive for fish.

Its really important that I do my blocks because yesterday we all ate at the Home Town Buffet. It is all you can eat, and I ate all I could eat -- fried chicken, mashed potatoes, mushy green beans, and two of the doughiest raised dinner rolls I have ever eaten with a pat of butter each. I followed this by a large piece of lemon pie. Many of the fellow diners were also obese, so I would have felt at home going for seconds, except, that I was stuffed. I actually stopped eating when full. That is good because driving here from San Francisco I ate compulsively: a bag of beef jerky, a small bag of BBQ potato chips, ten or fifteen Hershy kisses and three Milano cookies. Let's hope that tomorrow, when I resume my exercise, I will also resume healthy eating.


  1. I read the article in the Washington Post today re your blog and I want to say THANK YOU! I am also 60 and will follow your "journey" to better health.

  2. I also read the article in the Post and thought it was fabulous! I'm going to point the few that read my blog to read yours. Keep it up, Miriam--you are an inspiration!

  3. Me too (read the article). So I will check in and see how you're doing. I am 59 and started a weight training/cardio program when I retired 3 years ago. Haven't lost a pound, but I am definitely fitter than I was then. Don't be too hard on yourself and forgive yourself the little lapses. Just keep going!

  4. I am 64 and just finished reading the Washington Post article. I love your honesty, sense of humor, and determination. And what a smile! I cannot think of a better introduction to the world of blogging than following your journey to health. Thank you.

  5. Congrats! So many people are in your situation and rather than just taking that first step prefer to say "I don't know what to do" and continue on with their lifestyle.
    Now that you've started, however, please, please, please do yourself a favor and educate yourself about how to eat ( is a good start). A year ago I took the plunge and cut out wheat, sugar, and other grains from my diet after my doctor tried to put me on statins. The first week was hell. Not as bad as when I quit smoking, but close. I was literally going through withdrawal but after the 5th or 6th day I was fine. 3 months later I went back to the doctor. My blood values had improved so much that he made me come back to be retested 3 times because he couldn't believe it. A year later I'm 60 lbs lighter and keep up with the kids no matter what they're doing.

    Whatever you do, don't beat yourself up if you slip up now and again (80/20 rule) and just keep going!

  6. Martha, I really enjoy your blog. I find myself laughing out loud very often!


  7. I saw the article in the Post and said to myself, "I know a Martha Bair Steinbock -- she's a Reedie!" I think we attended a gathering at your house 30 years ago when we first moved here. I have three daughters, and have been fighting with my weight for most of my life, so your blog is a most welcome inspiration.

    Martha Sherman Gerstein

  8. Hi Martha: I remembered that Arcata was your hometown when I stopped there on my return to "civilization" after a few nights of camping and hiking in the Redwoods the year I retired (2005). I had to detour around a determined bull elk who was guarding his harem when I arrived at one campsite in a copse within earshot of the Pacific beach. I DID write my wife Sylvia's name in the sand the next day and I WAS intoxicated by the natural beauty of Humboldt County. I also enjoyed the laid back ambiance of the plaza in Arcata where I enjoyed a couple of relaxed, delicious meals.

    By now, you may have figured out who I am. As a Post Points "Daily Quizz" devotee, you can imagine my surprise when the Washington Post asked me to name the current goal of one of my USDA/OICD colleagues! I thought you were still in California (as it turns out, temporarily you ARE!). Your blog is well written and inspiring. When you return to Silver Spring, please get in touch with another USDA retiree and old friend. Peace, Dick Rortvedt, Arlington, VA

  9. To everyone who wrote how the blog was inspiring, thank you so much. I really had no idea I would reach so many people when I began writing. A lot of you tell me not to be so hard on myself, but please don't worry. I am happy with myself and have a great deal of fun everday (almost). Please keep reading and commenting. You are an inspiration to me! Martha/Miriam