Sunday, 25 February 2024

Opinion

Dr. Becky Salato. Courtesy photo.

Last month, the Department of Education released student test results that confirmed what we all feared: the COVID-19 pandemic had devastating consequences on reading and math scores for students in every state across almost every demographic.

Konocti Unified School District was no exception — our students didn’t perform well. Unfortunately, this continues a trend that began even before the pandemic.

In truth, COVID simply revealed more of what we already knew: our kids’ scores reflect a lack of access to the kinds of resources and support available elsewhere. We have structural challenges (like limited internet access) and social challenges (like limited employment and health care).

We’re not here to make excuses or bury our heads in the sand. We understand the problems we face and we’re working hard to address them, but we cannot be successful unless schools and families work together.

For the last two years, everyone was isolated and relationships suffered. Schools and families did not have the opportunities to connect. Just like kids are relearning how to get along with each other and engage in learning, schools and families also need to relearn how to work together.

As a school administrator, I don’t expect you, as a parent, to agree with everything your child’s school does. I even understand the need for you to come in and blow off some steam when you’re frustrated. But then, I need you to roll up your sleeves and work with us to help your child thrive.

When parents and educators speak with a single voice about the value of education, it makes a huge difference. If schools say one thing and parents say another, kids will choose their favorite option. If we work together, we can instill a passion for learning that will allow our students to soar.

Let’s take a look at some of the unique challenges facing our community and school district.

Staffing

First, we’re navigating our way through a severe teacher shortage. This is another statewide (and nationwide) problem, but one that’s hitting Lake County hard. As a rural area, recruiting can be difficult, especially attracting top talent from outside the area. Most California school districts partner with nearby universities to funnel recent graduates into the teaching profession and into their schools, but we don’t have that option. Right now, many of our teachers are in the process of getting their teaching credential. Either they’re on a short-term waiver while they apply to a credentialing program or they’re in a program,teaching and going to school at the same time.

Social and economic challenges

Second, although our community has some wonderful upsides, including its natural beauty and slower pace of life, it also has its fair share of social and economic challenges that make it harder to recover from the pandemic as compared to wealthier communities. It’s no wonder that so many local students are struggling with their mental and physical health.

Growing enrollment

Third, while most California school districts have shrinking enrollment, our enrollment is growing — and fast. That puts a lot of strain on an already overburdened system, making the first two challenges even tougher.

The good news is that we’re on the path to overcoming these obstacles. I’m excited to share some of our plans and progress.

Recruitment and retention

To combat the teacher shortage, we’re focusing on both recruitment and retention. To attract new teachers to the district, we offer the best benefits package in the county. We’ve also become much more strategic in our search, reaching out to teachers from communities across the country that are similar to Lake County but may not pay as well as we do.

To retain our teaching staff, we offer ongoing support from our wonderful classified staff, professional development and training opportunities, and in-classroom mentorship. This is especially helpful for our newest teachers who are often passionate, homegrown locals who simply need a little extra support while they finish their credential and find their footing in the classroom.

Teaching is an incredible career, but it isn’t easy, even for our veteran teachers, so we are always looking for outside-the-box ways to show our teachers how much we value them. For example, to make it easier for our teachers to remain in the workforce, we are in the process of developing a day care program for employees.

Community partnerships and extra support

With all the social and economic barriers we have to overcome, it can sometimes feel like other communities are going over hills while we’re climbing a mountain. To make an impact in this area, KUSD offers a number of programs and initiatives to support students both inside and outside the classroom.

We start by making sure students have enough to eat by providing breakfast and lunch (and snacks). In addition to academic support, we offer a multitiered system to support students socially, emotionally, and physically so they can engage in learning.

We also partner with community providers to meet students’ needs. Healthy Start provides kids with free clothing, and local health care providers offer medical and behavioral health care via an on-site clinic. We’re leaning into health and wellness because we believe that when kids feel better, they do better.

Academic programs

To do better academically, students need to feel supported based on their individual skill and level of progress. To that end, we’ve implemented a corrective reading program to help our third through seventh graders catch up. We’re training our math teachers to make the subject more fun and hands-on, so it’s easier to grasp. Our goal is always to have the latest and most appropriate tools and resources to teach.

There’s no sugarcoating the fact that we’re not where we want to be with test scores. Even so, we’ve made progress through the pandemic. We have more staff with more training. There are better plans in place to measure our progress and we’re establishing the structural and foundational elements needed to succeed down the road. That’s the sign of a good team — that we’re never happy where we are.

I know we can improve test scores — especially when schools and families work together. In fact, I think we’re already on our way. Like I always say, we’re getting better at getting better.

Dr. Becky Salato is superintendent of the Konocti Unified School District.

From left, State Senate Majority Leader Mike McGuire, Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry and Congressman Mike Thompson. Courtesy photos.


LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — Rural areas like Lake County need champions, people who don’t overlook small communities or their unique cultural and economic values.

It’s especially true now, when political stakes seem the highest and most volatile in decades.

That is prompting us to share our support for the reelection of State Sen. Mike McGuire, Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry and Congressman Mike Thompson.

These three leaders, whether on their own or working together, have forcefully championed Lake County, especially as it has endured a decade of disasters and rebuilding.

They’ve consistently been there to find ways to help dust us off and get us back on our feet, whether it was facilitating the rebuild in Anderson Springs, which McGuire skillfully coordinated against seemingly huge odds; finding state funding for the Middle Creek Restoration Project, which Aguiar-Curry did in her championing of improving Clear Lake; or getting repeated disaster assistance from the federal government, which Thompson has facilitated. That’s just a brief sampling.

McGuire, now California’s Senate majority leader, has been a legislative Energizer Bunny, and it’s that seemingly inexhaustible energy that has been critical to helping Lake County as it’s been buffeted by fires, floods and now COVID. He and wife Erika, are now the proud and busy parents of young Connor (shout out to the “Corn Dog,” as he’s known).

Aguiar-Curry, raised in the Sacramento Valley and ever-mindful of the importance of the land and its preservation, has been just as reliable a champion of Lake County, and has always shown a genuine interest in seeing it succeed. She is steady, determined and supportive.

Their efforts for Lake County can’t be fully listed here.

However, with friends like that, it’s hard not to be optimistic, and we are looking forward to how they will continue to work with Lake County in the years ahead. We offer them our enthusiastic support.

Representing a ‘new’ district

On the federal level, Thompson is running to represent the new Congressional District 4 on the November ballot.

The first Vietnam veteran to serve in the California Legislature, Thompson has been a consistent and powerful advocate for veterans, such as advocating for service members impacted by Project SHAD, an experiment conducted in the 1960s that left those exposed to harmful chemicals with years of devastating illnesses. In fact, it was through his efforts that we first learned about that issue.

He also played a critical role in finally bringing a Veterans Affairs clinic to Lake County. The clinic, which opened in 2010, had been on the drawing board for more than a decade and likely would not have ever become a reality had it not been for Thompson’s consistent advocacy. That clinic has been a triumph in a county with one of the higher per-capita veteran populations in the state, at last count about 8%.

Going back to George W. Bush’s presidency, when there was a real attempt to privatize Social Security, Thompson would have none of it. He held a memorable town hall on a Saturday in Lake County to explain the plan, which would have placed the safety net for millions of seniors at the mercy of the stock market — which hindsight shows us would have been just as disastrous as Thompson surmised.

Throughout the years, Thompson has played a key role in many other important projects in Lake County, whether it was funding for the 2002 effort to renovate the Kelseyville Senior Center or the Full Circle project.

Keeping all of those past accomplishments in mind is important. It establishes a track record.

Thompson previously had represented a congressional district that included all of Lake County. However, in a redistricting process that followed the 2010 Census, Lake County was split between Thompson and Congressman John Garamendi, with Thompson representing the county’s southern half as part of Congressional District 5 and Lake County’s northern half combined with areas of the Sacramento Valley as part of Congressional District 3 under Garamendi.

Now, as a result of the 2020 Census, new lines have been drawn. Lake County’s leaders and community members advocated for having the county back in one congressional district, and that is how it turned out.

In December, the 2020 California Citizens Redistricting Commission finished its work, which included redrawing the state’s Congressional District 4 to include all of Lake and portions of Napa, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo counties.

Thompson had vowed to continue to champion all of Lake County even when the county was split 10 years ago, and our observation is that he kept that promise.

As an illustration: Even before the new district lines take effect, Thompson has been working on countywide projects. He’s already secured $3 million in federal funding for the new recreation center project in the city of Clearlake.

Even before the large amounts of money made available in recent years in response to the coronavirus, Thompson has worked hard to make sure Lake County received the resources it has needed to make critical advances in infrastructure and services. He also was there to support county officials as they dealt with the pandemic.

Thompson is continuing to be proactive. Earlier this year, well ahead of taking the Clearlake area back into his coverage area, Thompson reached out to the city of Clearlake about the new recreation center plan. The project is another of the truly transformational projects Clearlake is undertaking, and Thompson has included it in the federal budget for key funding.

Then there was the Safe Routes to Schools project in Kelseyville, which received that same critical federal funding this spring thanks to Thompson’s efforts. That project is making key sidewalk improvements along Konocti Road in order to ensure children get to classes safely.

He and Garamendi also have joined forces to lead a request to President Joe Biden to expand the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument to include the Walker Ridge area. Garamendi and Sen. Alex Padilla introduced legislation to expand the monument. Thompson had introduced the original bill to create the monument, which President Barack Obama created in 2015.

The latest effort will give the Walker Ridge area back its original name, Molok Luyuk, which means “Condor Ridge” in Patwin, the language of the Yocha Dehe Wintun people.

These aren’t useless “pork” projects or ego-driven. They’re meaningful, they are about safety and building community, and about meeting real community needs. Those that have been completed have been successful, and continue to contribute to Lake County.

Thompson also has made himself available to speak about important situations at the federal level.

On Jan. 6, 2021, while he and his staff were still sheltering in place as the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol unfolded, they stayed in contact with Lake County News and other media to let constituents know what was occurring.

It was hard to fathom just what was taking place, but then, as now, Thompson was clear on what was going on: It was an insurrection. He wanted people to know what was happening on the ground, and we remain grateful that he was willing to make himself available during a time of incredible stress and utter chaos.

There are many other issues we feel Thompson has rightly championed, including modernizing and expanding health care and the work to make it truly accessible for all, improved prescription drug prices, continued protection of Social Security and support for improved infrastructure and community recovery.

As he prepares to once again formally represent all of Lake County, we ask that he keep an eye on some specific issues.

One key project we recommend to him is protecting Lake Pillsbury. Efforts to remove the Scott Dam have largely been formulated without Lake County at the table, which is nonsensical considering that Lake Pillsbury is located in Lake County.

This appears to be a water grab by other interests, couched in terms of what’s best for fish. But maintaining the dam while creating better passage options for fish is the more affordable option, and ideal because it avoids pitting fish against people in a zero sum game approach.

Reservoirs like Lake Pillsbury also are critical for fire protection. Lake Pillsbury, in fact, proved a key water source in the fights against the forest-devouring Mendocino and August complexes.

Additionally, Lake County’s state legislators and county leaders will need Thompson’s continued support to get the Middle Creek Restoration Project over the eventual finish line.

That project, which will restore 1,650 acres as wetland in order to improve lake health and lessen flood risk, has been going on for decades. However, between Aguiar-Curry, McGuire and Thompson, the completion of the project finally is appearing likely.

There also is the troubling matter of the levees in Upper Lake, where community members are concerned that the conditions of the levees could result in a breach and a devastating flood.

The federal Natural Resources Conservation Services appears to be a potential funding source to make needed levee improvements. Once the county of Lake settles on the alternative it will pursue for the levees, we believe Thompson’s help will be critical in securing the funds to preserve that historic community and protect its residents.

Beyond that, there are many more causes we anticipate that will require Thompson’s support — whether it’s broadband, historic preservation work, continuing the work of expanding health care, or offering more support for veterans and their families.

In all of those things, we’re confident that Mike Thompson will continue to be a strong advocate for, and friend of, Lake County. As such, he gets our vote.

The Lake County News Editorial Board is composed of Editor and Co-Publisher Elizabeth Larson and Co-Publisher and Site Administrator John Jensen.

Kelseyville Unified Superintendent Dr. Dave McQueen. Courtesy photo.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. — Kindness is something we’re focusing on all year at Kelseyville Unified School District.

When kids are kind to themselves and others, it creates a safe environment so students can learn and achieve at the highest levels. It also makes going to school more enjoyable.

Part of the reason I bring it up is that October is National Bullying Prevention Month. It’s a good time to talk about kindness and the perfect opportunity to shine a light on the work our administrators are doing to prevent bullying and other behavioral problems in the Kelseyville Unified School District.

For starters, we’re leaning into Positive Behavior Intervention Systems, or PBIS, this year. That sounds awfully complicated, but it’s just a fancy way of saying that we’re being proactive about teaching our students how to behave and, hopefully, be kind.

Our educators set clear expectations with students and then provide them with the support they need to meet those expectations. We’re trying to squash problems before they begin. If you ask me, that’s way better than waiting for trouble to show up then scrambling to do something about it. Not that we don’t have plans for issues when they do pop up.

PBIS was the topic of our first Family Night Out last month. If you don't join us for one of these at some point this year, you’re missing out! We host meetings on the second Wednesday of every month from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Student Center at Kelseyville High School. It’s a chance for families to come out and connect with school principals and district leaders around important issues that affect students.

A lot of our administrators attend, including all of our principals, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Nicki Thomas, a couple of board members, and myself.

Our September was such a big hit that I’m really looking forward to the next one. We had a great turnout and some good conversation about what we’re doing with PBIS in our schools. Parents left with some new skills for communicating with their students, so they can help them be successful. We want kids to behave and be kind at school and at home, so getting on the same page with parents is always a priority for us.

Our next Family Night Out is coming up on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at 6 p.m. As always, we’ll provide free dinner and child care to make it more convenient for everyone, but this time we also have a great keynote speaker lined up. Author and professional development trainer Ron L. James will join us to talk about kindness, being positive, anti-bullying, and last but not least, the beast that is social media.

While I’m sure social media was intended for good, unfortunately, it’s been used mostly to stir up trouble. It can be a really big problem in our schools. A lot of the time, when we have behavioral incidents like bullying or fights, the issues start on social media plus, these platforms put so much peer pressure on students.

Those of us who have been out of school for a while were lucky — we didn’t experience going to school in the age of smartphones and social media. These days, we’re stuck with Instagram, TikTok and all the problems they bring.

That’s why we’ve invited Ron L. James to talk about this stuff in a way we can all wrap our heads around. There’ll be plenty of useful information for everyone to take home and put into action. We’ll show you how to monitor your kids’ social media use and talk about some warning signs to watch for.

Afterward, we’ll vote on the topic for next month’s meeting. I hope you join us. In addition to good company and productive conversation, did I mention there’ll be plenty to eat? Do you really want to pass up a free dinner? I didn’t think so.

Seriously, though, it’s important for parents and educators to regularly meet and talk about the issues affecting students. Our Family Night Out events serve exactly that purpose. I really hope you’ll take advantage of these opportunities to meet and speak with Kelseyville Unified’s leadership — and to pick up some skills and strategies for encouraging kindness at home.

And if you can’t make it, don’t worry, there are other ways to stay connected. Please know that our principals and vice principals want to talk to you.

Speaking of kindness, they’re some of the kindest folks around. Reach out to them and keep an eye out for our weekly Principal’s Notes, which include school-specific updates for parents and students.

When we all openly communicate and work together, we can accomplish so much, and we have a real opportunity to make kindness our superpower.

Dr. Dave McQueen is superintendent for the Kelseyville Unified School District.

Tim Gill. Courtesy photo.
Learning a new language is challenging and bridging two cultures can be confusing.

In the Konocti Unified School District, we have a significant number of English learners and Spanish-speaking families who face these hurdles every day.

Because we want every student to succeed, our goal is to help English-learner students learn enough English to fully participate in school. And for this to happen, we need to be able to communicate effectively with families, so students get the support they need at school and at home. When students are proficient in English, it increases their chances of success now and later in life.

This is where our wonderful team of bilingual family liaisons comes in. Marissa Ornelas of Pomo Elementary, Erika Suarez of Lower Lake High School, Karen Santana of Lower Lake Elementary, Liliana Garcia of Konocti Education Center and East Lake School, Vanesa Lozano of Lower Lake High School and Mayra Pantoja of Burns Valley Elementary are invaluable in connecting school staff with families and students. I'm grateful for our liaisons every single day.

Broadly speaking, they provide academic, social, and emotional support to Spanish-speaking students and other English learners. These students represent about 25 percent of our student body — that’s one in four students.

More specifically, our liaisons help Spanish-speaking students communicate and learn, and that starts with academics. In the classroom, liaisons provide a critical link between teachers and students, translating and answering questions so they can talk with one another. Sometimes the most powerful support they provide is simply to lend an ear, which can make all the difference to a student struggling to keep up.

In addition to classroom work our liaisons are trained administrators of the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California, or ELPAC, and as such, they oversee more than 1,000 crucial tests every year.

In short, our liaisons are a vital part of the education we provide to English learners here at KUSD. Without their presence in our schools, a quarter of our students and families would struggle with basic communications with the district.

When I asked a few of them recently about why they do this work and what it means to them, I loved their responses, so I’ll share a few here.

Liliana Garcia said, “The most rewarding part of my job is building a relationship with students. I want to be the person I didn’t have growing up in school.”

Karen Santana has similar motivations. “My goal is to help students like I’ve been helped,” she told me.

Erika Suarez said, “Families and students have become part of my family. My favorite thing is seeing students graduate.”

Our newest liaison, Vanesa Lozano, said, “I take pride and joy in what I do, and appreciate all the trust families give me. The best part of my job is making the education process easy for El parents.”

Marissa Ornelas, our longest serving liaison, feels much the same way. “The best part of coming to work is helping the parents and children. I love my children. I want to be the person parents can identify with.”

In addition to helping students excel in the classroom, liaisons make life easier for KUSD families.

Just because a student is proficient in English doesn’t mean their parents are. In fact, while a quarter of our students are Spanish speakers, about 36% of KUSD families speak Spanish at home.

For Spanish-speaking parents and guardians to successfully interact with English-speaking administrators, teachers, and staff, they sometimes need help from our liaisons.

When a Spanish-speaking parent comes to school to speak with their child’s teacher, for example, a liaison can translate the conversation, ensuring smooth communication.

Our liaisons also work with Spanish-speaking families to discuss their student’s English language proficiency, translate individualized education programs for special education students, and participate in parent-teacher organization meetings.

Each month, we host District English Learner Advisory Committee meetings. They're an opportunity for parents of English-learner students to engage with KUSD around their student’s education, district events, and important English-learner issues. Our liaisons are essential during these meetings, making our time with parents and families more productive and efficient for everyone.

While I’ve been speaking specifically about our bilingual family liaisons, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Patty Voss. In addition to her many other responsibilities, Patty serves as the liaison between the bilingual family liaisons and our district office. In addition to performing much of the same amazing work as our liaisons, Patty coordinates all KUSD English-learner services. Patty has been with KUSD for more than 30 years and is universally loved and respected for her work with our students and their families.

In summary, if you're not a Spanish speaker or the parent of an English learner, you might not get the chance to know these educators, so I wanted to share just how lucky we are to have them.

Whether they work with your kids or not, our liaisons make our school district and community better. And for that, they deserve our gratitude and appreciation.

Tim Gill is director of instructional support services for the Konocti Unified School District.

Extensive clearing on Point Lakeview Road near Lower Lake, California, points out the problems with Lake County’s hazardous vegetation ordinance. Photo by Roberta Lyons.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — An extensive unpermitted grading project at 10919 Point Lakeview Road demonstrates a serious problem with the county of Lake’s hazardous vegetation ordinance.

Last spring I saw a “notice to abate” posted on this property and became concerned that some overzealous clearing may take place.

Then, in April I noticed a substantial part of this property being graded. I called the Lake County Planning Department and was transferred to Tod Elliott, the county’s grading enforcement officer who responded to my concerns.

Elliott went to the site and halted the grading. In a followup call, I learned from Elliott that the grading had been allowed because of a “miscommunication” between the county planning department and the property owners, Jordan Lane Properties LLC.

Only bare dirt remains in most of the graded area. Photo by Roberta Lyons.

Elliott told me that workers were on their way to clearing the whole 60-acre property and thanked me for reporting the violation.

When I asked if any mitigation would be required for clearing of approximately 15 to 20 acres of native California chaparral habitat during nesting season, Elliott told me that he wouldn’t require mitigation because it really wasn’t the property owners fault, it was a “miscommunication,” and he felt it unfair to penalize the property owner.

I filed a Public Records Act request with the county to find out how this was allowed and who gave the permission to grade the hillside. What exactly was the “miscommunication?”

The answer I got was that the only communication was the “notice to abate,” that was placed on the property. There was no other communication between anyone at the county.

Jordan Lane Properties LLC is owned by Bruce J. Myers and Thomas K. Meyers of Colusa. They created the LLC in January 2018 according to the Secretary of State’s Office. They are linked with agricultural companies in Colusa, including a rice mill, California Family Foods.

Elymus Glaucus is a native bunch grass that grows along county roads. It remains green much later into the dry season than non-native grasses and is less flammable. Photo by Roberta Lyons.

As an LLC, Jordan Lane Properties owns over 200 acres of native chaparral in this vicinity along Point Lakeview Road. I sent them a certified letter regarding this situation which they have signed for, but have not replied to.

As conservation chair for the Redbud Audubon Society and someone who has been an active environmentalist in Lake County for decades, I have long been attempting to reveal to county residents and officials the value of Lake County’s main habitat — chaparral.

I understand the need for vegetation management along roads, near property lines, and near homes. I clear shrubbery around my home. I live here too and am as concerned about fire as anyone.

However, if you look at the county’s vegetation management ordinance, it essentially says that any vegetation in the unincorporated areas of Lake County is hazardous.

The ordinance needs to be clarified. When a property owner’s land is posted, they need to understand what is expected and what is not allowed, and not use the notice as an excuse for unpermitted grading.

Piles of brush have been left on the graded property. Photo by Roberta Lyons.

Also, if it is truly a fire concern issue, are we going to grade all of our native vegetation out of existence because of fear of fire?

Chaparral sequesters carbon like any other green living plant. Extensive destruction of vegetation exacerbates climate change which is the driving force behind the catastrophic wildfires we have seen over the past years.

Chaparral is a unique biome, native only to California, parts of Southern Oregon and Northern Mexico. It is home to many song birds like California towhees, wrentits, scrub jays, California thrashers and more.

Small mammals also make chaparral their homes. Songbirds nest in chaparral and the fact that such extensive destruction was done during nesting season is unconscionable.

Along with birds and mammals, chaparral also hosts a variety of native plants, many of them flowering plants that provide nectar for both honey bees and many species of native bees.

On the one hand, the County’s Tourism Improvement District is constantly touting the scenic beauty of this area, while on the other hand the county is allowing uncontrolled grading and other unsightly projects.

More unsightly grading on the Jordan Lane property. Photo by Roberta Lyons.

This isn’t the first time that a property owner has seemingly taken advantage of a vegetation management warning to do wholesale grading of their property. The county grading ordinance requires that no more than 10,000 square feet of native vegetation can be graded without a grading permit. Such a permit often requires some California Environmental Quality Act review and, for larger projects, biological studies.

I’ve been battling destructive grading projects for years. At least when a property owner goes through the process, they are required to do proper studies, including erosion control and biological review.

The Audubon Society has worked with local grape growers and managed to get some concessions regarding wildlife corridor protection and other mitigating factors. When someone just starts grading, with no permit, many environmental protections are not possible.

My concern is that this company will someday be applying for permission to plant a vineyard or a cannabis development. Also, because there is no mitigation, the site is a total eyesore on one of the most scenic roads in the county.

Native Salvia, or Sonoma sage has been completely graded. Salvia is an effective ground cover, not as flammable as non-native grasses, and is a source of nectar for pollinators. Photo by Roberta Lyons.

The property owners were required to do some “cleanup,” but the property still looks terrible, compared to the better-managed shaded fuel breaks around communities and along other roads.

There needs to be smoothing out of the land, replanting of some shrubbery and native grasses and forbes and removal of piles of dead shrubs and boulders.

One of the things that happens when all native plants are removed is that non-native grasses invade. These grasses are highly flammable, light easily and carry flames quickly to bordering chaparral.

The intelligent form of vegetation management along county roads is shaded fuel breaks, leaving the native forbes like Sonoma sage and native grasses in place, to hold in the soil and prevent invasion of star thistle, non-native grasses and thistle.

Since my initial contact with Tod Elliott, I have not had any questions answered or concerns acknowledged.

This causes grave concern to me, and should to other county residents who care about the health and beauty of what remains of our countryside.

Roberta Lyons lives in Lower Lake, California.

According to Five Element Acupuncture we are all a part of nature, and the movement of energy that sustains all life is based on the cycles of the seasons.

Each season has an energetic quality that also exists within each person. Therefore one’s health and well-being are a reflection of staying balanced with the energy of each changing season.

What is the fall season? In the ancient Chinese text, the "Nei Ching,” “The three months of the fall are called the period of tranquility of one's conduct … soul and spirit should be gathered together in order to make the breath of fall tranquil … all of this is the method for the protection of one's harvest."

In fall, everything approaches their completion. Leaves change color and fall to the ground, reflecting the passage of time. Fall reflects the never ending rhythm of life’s transitions, including the cycles of birth and death.

How does the fall relate to us? What is true in nature is true within us. Fall is a time to reap one’s harvest, to conserve energy, and to consolidate and store what will nourish the body-mind for the coming winter.

Fall is the time to acknowledge the quality in one's life. It is time to reflect on the purpose of life, one’s sense of self-worth and the meaningfulness of one’s life.

What is the element of the fall season? The fall season is associated with the metal element. The organs of the metal element are the lungs and the large intestine. They are in charge of receiving and letting go.

The lungs receive the pure Chi, life force energy, through the breath, from the heavens. When one inhales the breath, one can feel the connection to a greater source of life, of “inspiration.”

The large intestine is the great eliminator, in charge of letting go of all waste products. As one exhales one can intentionally release anything that is no longer of value to the body-mind.

What is the purpose of the fall season? Fall is a time to take stock of one’s life, and let “fall away” any patterns that no longer serve one’s highest quality of life. Letting go of old patterns makes room to receive something new that better serves one’s greater purpose.

The emotion associated with fall is grief. The falling leaves reflect how loss is a natural part of life. In times of loss and grief, one can be re-inspired and comforted through each breath. Grief brings one to a deeper place, urging one to allow the next breath, to accept change, and to trust in the ongoing cycles of life.

How can acupuncture help us stay healthy in the fall? Five Element Acupuncture can help prevent and treat colds and flus in the fall. Acupuncture helps to build up the immune system and strengthen the circulation of life force energy in the skin and muscles to help prevent germs and viruses from entering the body.

Seasonal treatments can support overall health, correcting minor imbalances before they become serious problems.

How can I receive the gifts of the fall season? During the fall, nature's brilliant and pristine colors nourish one’s inner quality and self-worth. Walk outside and breathe deeply to strengthen one’s connection to one’s deepest purpose, and the unique beauty in one’s self and others.

Consciously breath, and feel how the breath integrates the body-mind-spirit. Bring awareness to this essential connection through the breath to stay balanced in the fall season. These are the gifts of the fall.

Wendy Weiss, M. Ac., L. Ac., is a Licensed Acupuncturist specializing in Five Element Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. She maintains offices in both Lakeport and the Clearlake Riviera and can be reached for further information at 707-277-0891 or go to https://wendyweissacupuncture.com/.

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