December 31, 2016 Annual Year-End Letter

(Written January 11, 2017)

Tom worked his 30th winter at The Ahwahnee and didn’t catch a cold. Diane had two trips to emergency. The first showed indications of an ulcer; the second brought a diagnosis of PVCs (too many heartbeats), partly caused by Zantac in treating the ulcer. Replacing the Zantac with Slippery Elm tablets has mostly solved both problems.  

On April 3rd, Blackbeard (our 20 year-old kitty) lay on her side on Tom’s lap in front of the woodstove; she gave a delicate kick with her hind legs, and with that last little gesture leaped lightly into eternity.

Tom reapplied for his own job, which had been opened to competition from any qualified applicants last January by the new Yosemite concessionaire. Also Tom learned that he has a bum heart-valve that will need replacing in the not-to-distant future. Fortunately he was hired back with medical benefits and is being well-treated by his new employer. On February 29th Tom played the last night in the dining room of The Ahwahnee Hotel under Delaware North. On March 1st Tom played the first night in the dining room of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel under Aramark. Same room, same piano, and for Tom, his third employer in three decades (having started with the Curry Co.).

(Photo, right): Tom presented his annual Roosevelt & Muir in Yosemite program at Le Conte Memorial Lodge in Yosemite Valley.

(Photo, left)

During the closing days of Delaware North's contract in Yosemite, stores offered spectacular deals as they liquidated their inventory of Ahwahnee dishes, ceramic likenesses of the hotel, hats, tee-shirts and the like.

The year brought two highlights to Tom’s career. 

First, he played at President Obama’s visit to Yosemite – see a full account at http://www.yosemitemusic.com/16_06_18.htm

Second, he performed two commemorations for the NPS Centennial, one an exclusive event at the (currently closed) Mariposa Grove of Big Trees, the other a public ceremony in Yosemite Valley. Both included remarks from writer Terry Tempest Williams – very inspiring! – Diane accompanied Tom at both events.


(Photo, right) paths and boardwalks under construction at the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees.

We again listed our Fish Camp residence, and to our great surprise opened escrow within two weeks and closed three weeks later.

Through July, renting back our Fish Camp home from the new owners, we set about moving to WawonaMoon (our home in Wawona). White knuckled neighbors watched our team of piano movers remove Tom’s 7’ grand and Diane’s spinet up twenty wooden steps (which Tom had bolstered with 2x6 stringers and extension ladders wedged underneath). Both pianos made it safely to Wawona.

All year we worked to realize Diane’s vision of re-graded and landscaped grounds around WawonaMoon – now rainwater is guided away from house and garage, nourishing our newly planted garden and trees.

Grading access driveway, installing storage shed. 


Through the year we relished visits with old friends, neighbors and relatives. Tom has commenced his 31st winter performing at the Ahwahnee (dba “Yosemite Majestic Hotel”) after its 4-day flood-watch closure. After taking a second year off from teaching, Diane contemplates whether to take a third year off. As we finish hanging art on the walls of WawonaMoon, starting to feel moved-in and settled, we hope for more time to exercise and to exercise our creativity.

Recently we awoke to earthquakes centered east of here – mountains under construction. Now we feel repeated blows of trees hitting the earth as lumberjacks remove many sad, splendid drought victims. Decades of fire suppression left too many trees per acre; the survivors enjoy reduced competition for groundwater, now replenished with winter rains – Nature’s version of a market-correction.

Our wish for 2017 is that you and we – our friends and relatives and all good creatures – be spared any unpleasantness when nature corrects the activities of human nature.