Broken hearted over September.

Sneezeweed

From my planter boxes I pulled up and cleaned out parsley, zucchini, chives and Love-in-a-Mist; butternut and pumpkin vines, and a volunteer zinnia. When I went after the sea of overgrown chamomile, its warm and bittersweet aroma comforted me in the midst of that violent afternoon’s work. I don’t think I used one leaf of basil this summer; I just wasn’t home enough to take care of the garden in general, or to use half of its produce.

My pumpkins, grown from seed and nurtured in the greenhouse, were a complete flop! But one plant I gave to my neighbors produced 22 pumpkins, so one morning I found these on my doorstep:

Now I’ve sealed the boxes against winter, and added several inches of good soil. Still to do: organize and plant all those beautiful succulents that my friends gave me in the last few months, and put seeds into the dirt.

Trug full of Painted Lady runner beans.
Succulent stem abandoned and unwatered — and undaunted.
My first spider plant ever!
Nodding Violet I propagated.  If you want it, come and get it!

I had fun with Bella the other day at the community garden where she tends a plot. We always like to look around at what the other gardeners are doing, and to forage along the edges where people plant offerings to the whole community who farm there; you might find raspberries, or cutting flowers, or kale ready to harvest and take home.

Some kind of amaranth…

Some kind of 10-ft glorious amaranth.

I brought home seeds from that community garden, too, of tithonia, in a handkerchief I happened to have in my purse:

These mild days with soft air are a balm to the soul. They always surprise me with their kindness, especially when they turn up between others that are by turn sunless and drizzly, then scorching. For two weeks I’ve had my bedroom and morning room windows wide open to the weather all day and night. A cross breeze rolls over me as I sleep.

Sometimes there’s been a bit of smoke, sometimes heat at midday. At night I often have to burrow under the blankets; I hear the traffic early in the morning, and occasionally the neighbors’ loud voices late at night. But it’s the best way I know to feel alive to the earth. Simply by being open to the weather and the air, I can be In Nature. It’s the most convenient month for that, here where I dwell. September is where it’s easy to feel at home….

But — September is leaving this very week, that change is in the air. I admit to being a little broken-hearted; essentially, I’m being evicted, and that’s harsh. There is nothing for it but to take inspiration from that budding succulent stem above, that will draw on its stored resources, and make the most of whatever sunlight burns through the fog.  Those three little pumpkins will likely come in handy, too, because it’s time to start cozying up to October.

His constant star.

The Church of England remembers Lancelot Andrewes today, a good occasion for sharing Malcolm Guite’s love offering of a sonnet: “The Word and the Words.” Father Guite wrote his Doctoral thesis on this man, one of the church’s “greatest preachers and the man whose scholarship and gift for poetic phrasing was so central to the making of the King James Version of the Bible.” On the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, Guite gave a talk on Andrewes, which audio file is on his site.

Father Guite mentions how influential Andrewes was in his own life; I am no expert and could not talk for five minutes on the subject, but in a previous era of my life his book of prayers kept me going.

LANCELOT ANDREWES

Your mind is fixed upon the sacred page,
A candle lights your study through the night,
The choicest wit, the scholar of the age,
Seeking the light in which we see the light.
Grace concentrates in you, your hand is firm,
Tracing the line of truth in all its ways,
Through you the great translation finds its form,
‘And still there are not tongues enough to praise.’
Your day began with uttering his name
And when you close your eyes you rest in him,
His constant star still draws you to your home,
Our chosen stella praedicantium.
You set us with the Magi on the Way
And shine in Christ unto the rising day.

As large as alone.

Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain, and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as creeks will. The creeks are all the world with all its stimulus and beauty; I live there. But the mountains are home.

– Annie Dillard

Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park – web photo

A granite dome was the focus of my mother’s most memorable hiking experience. She told me many times the story of how, at the urging of my father, she climbed Moro Rock when she was great with child (me). That is, so far, my only experience of it.

On our yearly camping trips decades later, my own children’s father would hike to the summits of other domes of rock with them, and a few of those times I was along. Lembert Dome was long my favorite, looming over Tuolumne Meadows on the Tioga Pass, in Yosemite National Park. Even at two years old Pippin could get to the top of it, with someone to hold her hand on the gradual ascent up the back slope.

Lembert Dome in Yosemite – web photo

In the latter half of my life, my favorite dome is the one behind our mountain cabin. Several features of it make it accessible to me, the most important one being that I can walk to its base in a few minutes. I read recently that one summer, a small group of us climbed to the summit of this dome in the morning and again in the evening of the same day. My late husband took the picture below of our companions coming up behind him, about eight years ago. You can see why I wouldn’t want to try it alone.

During my recent mountain retreat, I set out one morning before breakfast, thinking that I would just walk over that way to get a view of the lake from the other side of what we have nicknamed Gumdrop Dome. Within ten minutes I had changed course and decided to approach from a different direction and to do a new thing: walk all the way around the base. I came through the trees to the north side, and headed to my right, around the west side of the rock. That side is a steep wall, decorated by veins of different colored minerals, and by lichens.

I refreshed my memory just now about different types of clast, or broken rock. I think what lies there at the bottom of the wall would not be classified talus or scree, but is just plain clast. On this side you can clearly make out where the base of the dome is.

I walked along in the clast, it moved under me, and then — whoopsie! Down I went on my behind. While I sat, I thought I should take advantage of the camera angle:

It wasn’t the only time I fell. A few minutes later I stumbled forward, and scraped my hand on some of that sharp granite. My euphoria was untouched; it was such incredible good fortune, that I should find myself completely alone, yet in rich company: God, and a friendly monster of a rock. Still, I navigated more carefully after that. The boulder to the right of the pine cones in the picture below is an example of the coarsest grit of granite imaginable; and the one below it, also.

I began to search for stones, keepsakes of my solitary walk around “Gumdrop.”

On the back side, the line between dome and not-dome is vague, as that granite face stretches away in an ever flattening  grade, down into the trees. There is still lots of rock there, but giant conifers grow out of cracks in it, and their duff lies thickly on top. Granite domes like this are called bornhardts; there are several theories about how they form.

For a long time I gazed at the wide views from my high perch, a flattish boulder-bench, and felt the cool breeze growing warmer as the sun rose to my left.

“O, Lord, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all.”

From here you can see other domes in the distance, but of course you can’t get a good idea of what the dome you are standing on looks like. The best vantage point I’ve ever had is from the lake, as in this picture that was taken some years ago:

This area below I call the amphitheater. It’s a good place from which to watch the show!

If I had brought a snack, I might have stayed hours longer. It was all delicious and satisfying as a feast for the soul, but pure bliss was not going to prevent me getting shaky (elevation about 8500′) if I kept putting off nourishment such as was waiting for me back at the cabin; so I stood up and continued my explorations.

Frosted Buckwheat

This couplet below does not at all fit with the stones that I collected on the dome, as far as their smoothness, or the number of them. But the poet’s metaphor echoes somehow that of Annie Dillard at the top of this post, and they both understand what I left behind on that mountain dome, and what I brought home.

“may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.”
-E.E. Cummings

Here is my last look at Gumdrop, when I had circled around to my starting place. From this angle it seems that it might not be impossible to climb that particular slope. I wonder…. Well, next time I have a companion, I’ll have to bring him or her to this place and give it a try! But for now, Good-bye Gumdrop! Good-bye mountains! Thank you for inviting me. I had a good time!

When the poor and needy seek water.

I drove boldly past many “FOREST CLOSED” signs on my way up the mountain earlier this week. The United States Forest Service has closed them because of the drought and fire danger. Our cabin is one of a group on a little piece of private property in the middle of the forest, so I brought along proof of ownership. There are currently no fires nearby, and the skies are clear and blue, but the air was brown-tinged a few thousand feet lower down, from the smoke that drifts in from fires in the north.

So I saw few other vehicles or people, but the hummingbirds, chipmunks and jays are more to be seen than in my recent memory. This forest family stared at me as I passed:

My sister came up for a couple of nights, and we talked until late. She drove us down to the lake bed in her “mule,” and we walked around for awhile. The part of the lake visible through the trees from our cabin showed a bit of blue water when I arrived, but the next morning it had turned to mud. The water is used for irrigation, so it’s not an unusual situation at the end of the summer, and not surprising that it would be the case this year.

As soon as I entered the forest, on the last leg of my journey, the noise and strain that had been with me on the highways began to be absorbed by the deep silence, and the fullness of presence, not only of living and growing trees and animals, but massive rocks. Those slabs and domes were here eons before the lake, and they comfort me.

Sister Nancy showed me an osprey nest when we were down at the shore/lake bed, and though it was kind of far away, I took a picture anyway. I didn’t see the greater context while I was focused on it, and was surprised when looking at my pictures later, to see what looks like a cloud picture. Just to the right of the odd blue dot is the osprey nest at the top of a tree.

Something has gone wrong with my settings on my devices, and I can’t seem to insert most of the pictures I wanted. I really don’t want to spend any more time up here fiddling with technology, so this may be my only post about my little retreat. I am hardly disappointed that the lake is so low, because The Mountains are where I am, and they are so much more. When I saw this reading for a church feast this morning, it made me think about the living waters that God provides, the Living Water that He is for our souls, no matter how dry the landscape:

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.  Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.  Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it. Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans, with a voice of singing declare ye, tell this, utter it even to the end of the earth; say ye, The LORD hath redeemed his servant Jacob. And they thirsted not when he led them through the deserts: he caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them: he clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out. Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD.  (Isaiah 40:1-5; 41:17-18; 45:8; 48:20-21; 54:1)

Our lake in a wetter year.