Farewell to a rough year

Ann and Cap at Cape Perpetua in near gale winds just after Christmas.

Despite the good things that happened in 2015, I’m afraid the date I will always recall is August 20, the day we learned that my wife Ann had cancer. Stage 4 lung cancer.

Naturally the first thing you do is look it up online, and the information is…terrifying.

No risk factors, clean living, healthy as the proverbial ox, long lived parents. Yet within weeks Ann was winded just walking across the kitchen, losing weight by the day, going down before my eyes.

Long story short, she is on a targeted therapy that dramatically reversed the symptoms–as evidenced by our hikes at Cape Perpetua in the picture–but will have to fight this from here on out, with no prospect for remission. A game changer, we’re still processing it, taking things a day at a time with a sharpened sense of what matters and what doesn’t.

We have been humbled by an outpouring of love, help, prayers, healing thoughts and more. It makes a huge difference, and we thank  you deeply.


Thankfully, this was not the only story of the year. New Year’s eve marked our first anniversary with Cap, the extremely charming and high intensity German shepherd in the above picture with Ann. Cap all but requires that he accompany us when we leave the house, and sits up so straight in the car that he could comfortably wear a seatbelt much of the time. On the other hand, he hangs his head out the window in classic dog fashion too, so we haven’t buckled him in.

Thenardiers dance
wedding dance

In spring I played the vile M. Thenardier in a production of Les Miserables. It was a beautiful show and a wonderful bunch of friends new and old who shared this labor of love. This picture is the wedding scene, where I was no less evil, but a good deal more presentable than in the other scenes.

Woodley and major koa!

Just after Les Mis I traveled to Hawaii to build flamenco guitars with Woodley White and Tom Harper. We stayed at Woodley and Julie’s place in Naalehu, at the south tip of the big island. Working like beavers in his basement shop, we built the best part of four guitars. Woodley set the pace with two at once, while Tom pushed his the furthest. It was very snug, as Woodley also had more than a dozen ukes and one or two other guitars in the shop. It was a revelation for me to work with these guys, and I still benefit from it every day in the shop. Overlooking the ocean as we had fresh mango out on the lanai each morning wasn’t bad either.

Evening thunderclouds fade.

If you don’t hate me now, presumably it’s safe to mention hiking in the Sierra Nevada around Mammoth Lakes. The Sierras were in their 4th year of drought, but relatively heavy summer rains made for unexpectedly good flowers. For some reason this year my hikes often ended after dark. In the picture you can see the shadows lengthening while I’m still miles from the roadend. A teeny tiny flashlight saved my neck more than once.

Among the ukulele building highlights of the year were delivering instruments to two very special friends in my musical life (and beyond), folks who bring joy to a wide circle through their teaching studios and ensembles. Longtime friend and choir mate Anne Loewen conducted a nefarious campaign over several years that eventually lead me to building ukes, and Suz Doyle has been a mainstay of the local musical scene for as long as I can remember. Thanks!

Wishing you (and us) a good 2016!