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August 21, 2003: Even the squirrels got their say

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I went to bed last night around 9 because I was so tired, which meant instead of waking up at 3am this morning I woke at 1:30; time enough for me to stare blankly at the ceiling and then dose on and off fitfully until the alarm clock went off at 6 and I had to finally get out of bed.

The air smelled of rain all day; no great surprise since it's been raining on and off all morning. There was an air of exhausted excitement today, mainly, I suppose, because we all knew we were almost done. A steady collection of bags and suitcases slowly accumulated behind the screens covered in construction plans and artists' renderings of final products as the day wore on.

I did manage to get a little bit of the Yosemite experience last night. We walked up to the base of Yosemite Falls (a rocky bed for the river that only flows in winter and spring). It was almost a bit of a disappointment, because at the base, you cannot even see the top piece of the falls. That's only visible from further away. It was a quick 20-minute walk, hardly enough to call a hike, but at least a brief taste of what it's like out here, when you're not in day-long meetings during the prime nature-experiencing hours of the day.

The meeting itself has been an experience. The previous few months of head-first immersion into the murky world of construction costs have at least given me enough of a background so I haven't been hopelessly lost in the discussions, and even better, I'm not the only one who's never done one of these workshops, so I'm learning the process along with the bulk of the room. And for the most part, everyone here is interested in seeing where it leads us. Granted there are the requisite few who come in with chips on their shoulders, determined to have their say and get their way and be as negative as possible in the process. But luckily in this case the number is few, and the majority of the group seems not so interested in humoring them.

Today had the potential to be more serious, due both to the fact that it was the last day and we had a lot to still cover, as well as the fact that we were hitting some pretty volatile discussion topics. But it didn't end up serious primarily because of the squirrels. The room we were in tended to get pretty warm during the day and if there was air conditioning, it wasn't very good. So to avoid getting to warm (and thus putting everyone to sleep) we left the doors on either end open to allow the breezes in. It wasn't a problem Tuesday and Wednesday, but for whatever reason today the squirrels could just no longer resist the invitation. So every once in a while throughout the day someone would leap from their seats and scuttle, laughing, towards the door, half-bent at the waist and flapping hands wildly to shoo out a squirrel. I wanted so badly to be able to get a picture especially of the rather fat one that came in and was only noticed when it meandered out from under my chair (!!), but unlike when they were outside, the squirrels that came in to join the meeting didn't feel the need to stop and pose for the camera.

Meeting finally over, we took a quick detour down to Yosemite Village and I got a disappointingly foggy shot of Half Dome. And then we headed home, listening to the 5th Harry Potter book on tape, each of us lost in our thoughts, glad we went, but even more glad to be done.

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