Category Archives: trees

My view is deep.

pearly everlasting

 

DAY 4: I set out walking alone before breakfast, for back therapy. Yarrow and pearly everlasting flowers line the road, which has recently been resurfaced in places with granite gravel in 2-4 inch chunks. Yesterday when Scout and Ivy walked back from the lake they stopped their father every few feet to exclaim about a new piece that they had picked up, with unique sparkles or shape.

On return, I fry a pound of bacon, because you always have to do that in the mountains when you’re in a cabin where the bears can’t get at you. Scout and Ivy grab a crispy slice in one hand and a pile of blueberries in the other, and go out on the deck to play, waiting interminably it seems for the adults to do something besides talk – like take them out in the boats.

While the other adults are still making plans I decide to walk again, and take Scout with me. We head down to the lake and on the way he schools me in conifers, showing me red firs and lodgepole pines (aka tamarack, his father tells me), the most numerous tree species in this area.

lodgepole pine with red fir behind

As we come up through the forest behind the cabin, I check on the puffball I saw last month — remember, it looked like this:

— and it has puffed itself and exploded into a pile of cocoa powder:

When the canoeing group finally embarks paddles in hand, two-year-old Jamie and I remain in the cabin. This is the first time I’ve ever taken care of him alone. We play with dominoes, and read Machines at Work a dozen times while eating nuts that he holds in little bowl on his lap.

Tonight Pippin, understanding how much star-gazing means to me, does most of the work to set up the chaise lounge on the deck. Mice have demolished the pad so she makes a sort of mattress with blankets and Thermarest pads. Soon all the lights in the cabin are extinguished, the family are in their beds, and I stretch out in the dark darkness, flat on my back staring up.

Black tops of the lodgepole pines ring the patch of sky like a wreath. My view of the heavens is not wide, but it is deep. The first thing that happens is that I feel the stars’ presence like angels hovering over me, and I almost begin to weep. I think about what my friend Art said, that the sky is not empty, but full of angels, and try to remember if that was a reason that C.S. Lewis wanted to call his trilogy not The Space Trilogy but Deep Heaven. Space sounds empty, but like all of Creation, it is filled with God’s presence.

The fullness is overwhelming, but soothing. Cool air blows on my face. I drink and am strengthened. After a long time I carry my sleeping bag into the cabin and soon am sailing into dreamland like Wynken, Blynken and Nod.

Next day’s entry is HERE.

The family celebrates Jamie.

When we were snuggling and chatting on the couch at her house last week, four-year-old Ivy introduced the topic of the faces of her grandmas. After we talked a while about red spots and wrinkles, she pointed to a tiny freckle on her wrist and said with pride, “This is my first brown spot!”

There was a good bit of cuddle time during my visit, because most of the family had colds and weren’t at their most energetic. One day in particular it was uncomfortably chilly outdoors, and snow fell off and on all day.

But my drive up the state had been mostly under sunny skies, which meant that I could stop and take pictures anytime I wanted — and I did want quite frequently. I had dragged myself away from home, wondering what had I been thinking, planning a trip when gardening and Lenten activities are legion. But as soon as I got away from my usual environment and wide views opened up to me, the spring-green leaves and plantations of wildflowers made me glad I was making  a tour of points north.

I saw hundreds of these Western Redbuds along the highways.

And twice, I got close enough to discover a bee enjoying them, too.

 

So many kinds of wildflowers were blanketing the slopes in swaths of yellow, orange, blue and white. I only managed to get close to some lupines. I don’t even know what most of the other flowers were – except the California poppies. I was flying past them too fast!

 

 

 

 

Another bush I saw on my journey was unfamiliar to me. It grows along the creek beds, and when its foliage comes out it is needle-like. It’s a softer, orangey pink compared to the Redbud…

Bear Creek in Lake County

…and its flowers are like beads:

I love the almond and walnut trees when they are bare.
The California almonds have already leafed out,
but the walnuts are still pale gray and venerable:

That freezing cold day at Pippin’s, we celebrated Jamie’s second birthday. His Aunt Pearl and three of those cousins came up from Davis, too, to spend a day and half, which made everything more festive. Maggie helped Scout make a glittery poster to hang near the dining table, and several of us blew up a score of balloons. Cupcakes were baked and decorated. When Jamie finally figured out that he was the center of attention, and that he was the one to blow out candles, he was quite pleased.

I also received a late birthday present from Pearl, with orange blossoms attached to the package by way of decoration. I kept them by my bedside, and then next to the driver’s seat on my way home. One of these Aprils I will go back to the land of my childhood and just live in the scented atmosphere for a few days, for old time’s sake, and for the delicious sating of my olfactory sense.

The next day was a little warmer, and dry. We could take walks, pulling Ivy and Jamie in the wagon. The Professor took the four oldest children to a shooting range for a while – who doesn’t love an uncle who will do that? One day he worked at burning some of the huge number of branches that fell from their trees during the very snowy winter, and Scout helped by dragging them across the yard.

At different times during my stay, both Scout and Ivy asked if I would come outside to see certain springtime happenings in their world. Ivy loves the tiny violets that pop up all over the lawn, dark violet and lavender. I see from an old blog post that I had also discovered those many years ago, but I was sure in the moment that this must have been the first time.

When I found out that Scout (seven years old) knows the names of most of the trees on the property, I brought my notebook outside and jotted down as we walked around the house: oak, maple, hawthorn, red fir, spruce, Douglas-fir, Ponderosa Pine, locust, weeping willow… the ones I didn’t remember, maybe I will next time. He and I examined the thorns of the hawthorn compared to those of the locust.

The time went fast. Soon I was driving back, through the Central Valley that is heating up nicely and made me wish I were wearing something thinner than jeans. I thought about my future as regards expeditions in March. In the last three years I have acquired two grandsons whose birthdays are in March, so I think I better get used to this happy Happy Birthday routine. 🙂 Nothing could be sweeter.

In the glorious elements.

gl P1040981 huge dome & lakeWhen we were up in the mountains last week, my granddaughter Maggie often played a game on her phone, which involved creating things from earth, fire, water and air…  Just now I realized that our experiences during our vacation were centered around a similar thematic group, consisting of Rock, Water, and Stars, with a little Fire and Trees in the mix, too.

A wildfire was burning close to our route up the mountain (Fire+Trees=Wildfire+Smoke), which may account for the hazy look of this top photo, which nevertheless combines in grandeur several mountain elements. (Rock + Trees + Water + Evening Light = Wow)

gl P1040946

 

 

 

We stopped at the redwood grove on our way, because it never hurts to get a dose of the stately and patient mood the giant trees maintain, and Maggie had never met these particular specimens before. She read a sign and reminded us that some of them have been here since the time of Christ. (Trees + Time = Giant Sequoias)

 

IMG_2885gl P1040957

 

Here you can see how tidy is the bundle on top of my car, which early that morning Pearl had helped me wrap envelope-style, before I did my knot work. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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The bundle remained tight and noiseless at freeway speeds (on the way up the mountain, at least), so we were relieved.

As soon as we pulled up to the cabin, Maggie was running, flying down the hill as the bird flies, to “explore.” Just below our place she had to cross this large slab of granite sloping down toward the lake.

gl P1040975 slab below cabin CR

Her mother and grandmother (me) did not attempt to go anywhere on foot that evening, because we were feeling the altitude. It really slows a person down, to be eight thousand feet higher in elevation than your lungs are used to. Maggie also noticed that she was out of breath more quickly, but it didn’t seem to slow her down much! (Activity – Air = Sluggishness)

So that night after dinner we curled up and listened to me read Farley Mowat’s The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, a very funny story that we had also read at the cabin about fifteen years ago. I later saw in The Cabin Log Kate’s account of that previous reading, “We laughed until we cried (seriously!)”

gl P1050083 kayaks

The next afternoon we went canoeing, which we could all three do together, after hauling the canoe down to the water. It was lovely while we were out there, but we only did that once, because the canoe is really too heavy for us little women. After seeing women paddling solo around the lake in kayaks, I have started thinking that I should invest in one of those little boats I could manage by myself, so that I could enjoy exploring the lake when I am up there on my own. If any of my readers has knowledge of this subject, I’d appreciate your input.

The photo above also shows Maggie with one of the friends she made, in the water near the rock that looks like a cracked egg, from which they would leap into the water. Having an almost 13-yr-old with me was part of why this stay at the lake was unusual. She was eager to do everything that could possibly be done, from lying in her hammock under the deck to swimming in the lake that the rest of us had always considered too cold.gl P1050100 CR Fi leap

gl P1040982 M build fire

The days we were there were leading up to a work day and potluck for the members of the owners’ association, which brought many more people up to the lake than I’ve ever seen at one time. This is why tgl P1050006 M w marshmallowhere were children Maggie’s age to play with, and how it happened that on two nights we shared three different campfires with new friends. It was a strangely social time, though not overly so. We all had time each day to be quiet and alone as well. And I really do want to know the families who have cabins at our lake, some of whom have been coming for over 50 years and passing their property down through the generations.gl P1050123

 

We had two campfires at our own cabin, which Maggie built herself. We made s’mores and popped popcorn over the fires, for the popcorn using this venerable device that can also be used in a fireplace. But the weather was so mild, we didn’t build a fire indoors.

One day I took Pearl and Maggie over to Gumdrop Dome which we always have to climb partially or to the top. The views and the photography from up there are unbeatable, but for the last many years it has only been partially to the top for me. I showed them the way that everyone seems to go, and saw them off with a cheery “See you on the other side!”, confident that they would have no trouble getting to the top, young and strong as they are.

But it was not to be. They came down the way they had started up, and eventually came around the dome to find me above them, partway up. I had  been hollering “Hel-looo!” every so often for 45 minutes, and praying that they hadn’t both fallen and hit their heads. This is what it looked like, where I was expecting to see them come over the top:

gl P1050050  O's dome not this steep

In real life it feels steeper than it looks, but I think the angle of this photo conveys the feeling pretty well. And then, there is that lack of oxygen.

gl P1050048 succulent O dome

 

While I was waiting, on the lower sides of the dome, I still had lots of beauty to keep me enthralled. Everything from succulents at my feet to the famous Ant Island across the lake.

 

Water + Sky + Rock = Mountain Beauty

gl P1050038 ant island crp

At night before bed we all liked to lie on the deck and look up at the stars for a half hour or more. What can I say about them? No words are adequate. Each one is energized, is what it is, by God’s Holy Spirit, and there are gazillions of them making an incredibly showy and captivating display that is completely silent. Perhaps it is the silence that helps us become receptive, so that they are able to convey to us some of their spirit. God uses them to thrill our souls, I know that at least. Maggie said she could never get tired of looking at them, and I must agree.

But eventually we had to go to bed. I will leave you with a view of the lake at evening, when we see that Water + Evening = silver glass.

Good-bye, Dear Mountain Air, Rock and Stars, Lake and Trees — all you Mountain Elements — until next summer!

gl P1050070 lake silver pink rocks

 

They rise against their rootedness.

February is one of my favorite months for driving up and down the center of our very agricultural state. I won’t have that pleasure this year, but a few Februarys when I managed to visit family and the land where I grew up, the expanses of almond orchards were to be seen out my window for at least as many miles as it took me to drive one of the hours through what is called the West Side of the Central Valley. They are especially pretty on stormy days when the clouds are also playing their melodrama in the skies above.

The landscape along Highway 5 is never static, and not just because the seasons change. Our drought, and the loss of aquifer, mean that some farms will have to change what they grow, or downsize, or go out of business. One grower recently announced that they will be taking 10,000 acres of almonds out of production this year.

So I will enjoy the orchards I see, and not presume on their future. Richard Wilbur in this poem helps me to see aspects of fruit trees that I might not consider on my own, such as lifespans. Is it old orchards that are being “taken out,” or young trees that will never have the chance to be fully grown? What are the West Side bees meditating about this year?

gl w-side alm nurs closer

YOUNG ORCHARD

These trees came to stay. w-side alm med close
Planted at intervals of
Thirty feet each way,

Each one stands alone
Where it is to live and die.
Still, when they are grown

To full size, these trees
Will blend their crowns, and hum with
Meditating bees.almond-tree-flower

Meanwhile, see how they
Rise against their rootedness
On a gusty day,

Nodding one and all
To one another, as they
Rise again and fall,

Swept by flutterings
So that they appear a great
Consort of sweet strings.

~ Richard Wilbur

gl w-side alm orch clouds