End-of-year musings

Two surprises and love for the new pope

Last week, in my coverage of the City Council’s final meeting of 2013, I mentioned how Councilwoman Mary Goloff made a motion to extend the meeting past 11 p.m. and then, seconds later, took the unusual step of voting against that motion. I’ve covered many council meetings over the years, but that was a new one.

I certainly wasn’t complaining, but Goloff emailed me at the end of the week to let me know why she’d done so. Evidently, after making the motion, she noticed that Council members Randall Stone and Tami Ritter, both of whom are relatively new parents, looked surprised (in other words, not happy).

She thought I’d appreciate knowing that, since I have a little one at home, too. I do. But I’d have appreciated it more if the meeting had actually ended before 11 p.m. It didn’t. I’ve been told I have the patience of Job, but, for whatever reason, that particular meeting seemed especially long.

In what’s not a complete non-sequitur (see the mention of Job above), I am loving the Catholic Church’s new chief, Pope Francis, aka former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the first Latin American (in modern history) to lead the church. The guy could almost turn me into a Catholic.

I mean, he took the name Francis, the first pope to do so, to honor St. Francis of Assisi—you know, the saint whose statue has birds landing on him (sometimes he’s patting a wolf, which is pretty awesome). That depiction of St. Francis of Assisi, of course, signifies how he was known as the patron saint of animals and a nature lover. St. Francis came from money, but he gave it all up, living for a time as a beggar. He, like Jesus, dedicated his life to serving the poor.

Like his namesake, Pope Francis appears to be an adherent to Jesus’ teachings (which, let’s face it, is really rare these days). He is rumored to disguise himself as a priest and venture out into Rome at night to commune with the needy. I’m pretty sure Pope Francis is the best thing to happen to the Catholic Church in a long time, perhaps centuries. He’s at least the best thing to have happened in 2013.

Update: I told myself I wasn’t going to write anything else in this column about contributor Allan Stellar being cited by a Lassen Volcanic National Park officer. Stellar, for the uninitiated, wrote a fantastic essay—titled “Lassen Solitaire”—about spending the night in closed Lassen Park during the government shutdown. That act of civil disobedience was inspired by Edward Abbey, the late environmentalist who spent time in the park as a fire lookout.

But then, on Friday, a very generous reader handed over a crisp $100 bill to help cover Stellar’s $250 citation. Another came in on Monday with a check for $20. Add that to the $10 another local reader shelled out, and the first donation of $5 from a reader in Southern California, and Stellar stands to recoup a good chunk of what he paid. What a way to end 2013.

Melissa Daugherty is editor of the CN&R