Monthly Archives: July 2009

Names for a Flying Insect

As we departed Yosemite via Wawona, we passed through Mariposa County. There was a Ping! in my mind’s word bank as I recalled my delight on first discovering that this word means BUTTERFLY in Spanish. I think it is a very showy word, as is butterfly. But years before I learned the Spanish word, I was taken with the French: papillon, pronounced roughly, pap-ee-yón (with that nasaly French on.) How fancy! Schmetterling is the German, pretty much phonetic as it looks, and a happy word that is to say, with its ling at the end. That’s as far as I can go with the comparisons. When I look up the word in other languages, either they are not so flamboyant or I don’t know how to pronounce them.

I find it charming that these several words from different people groups hint at some particular quality of this insect, a creature that should belong in its own category far removed from cockroaches or houseflies–too complicated for just one or two syllables, and worthy of taking a little extra trouble with the tongue, in order to give honor to its glory. Mariposa has a second meaning I just found in my dictionary: night light. Now isn’t that a lovely evolution?

Rather than give you a repeat picture of a butterfly in my garden, I am posting here the Butterfly Nebula. Way out there where the fragile flutterer could not survive, the image of its elusive beauty can still be brought to mind.

July in the Mountains

This month during Mr. Glad’s time off work, he and I took one trip to two mountain destinations. First we camped in Yosemite National Park, but not in the valley as we used to do. There aren’t many sites available there anymore.

We stayed at White Wolf for the first time. Here is my husband hammering in the tent stakes. You can see the dark brown bear box in the background behind him. It was large enough for an ice chest and three other largish camp boxes. All food and smelly things have to go in there, NOT in your car, and certainly not in your tent, and then you lock it with a special kind of latch that bears can’t work.

Our set of pots and two dishpans, inherited from our parents. We come from a long line of campers! And generations of these people have favored Yosemite for their camping.

As I was starting dinner, thundershowers broke. We quickly put everything away and waited in the car for a while.

Our first night we had Tuna and Bulgur with Green Beans, an old favorite–well, I don’t love it myself, but it was a good one to make for the crowd through the years. Camp food should not require too much cooking time, or you run out of fuel. And it should not be too weird or fancy, because you want the children to eat. It also should not have too many ingredients that need to be in the ice chest, because the ice chest is never big enough.

This time we accidentally left the green beans at home, so I chopped up the remainder of the raw vegetables I’d been snacking on in the car for a substitute.

Here is a view of Tenaya Lake and the eastern mountains of Yosemite, from Olmstead Point, on the Tioga Pass Road, Hwy 120. This highway is the only road that goes all the way through the park to the eastern side of the Sierras.

Olmstead Point is one of my favorite places in the world, because there are so many fun and strange formations of granite, and very accessible for scrambling around on. Of course, the views are great, too! Here you can see Half Dome in the distance, center. To the left, rising out of the picture so that you can’t see the top, is a hunk of granite called Clouds Rest, which my ambitious Other Half climbed while I sat in camp all day and read books. It was seven miles up, seven miles down. Then he swam in Tenaya Lake.

The pale flower that I am holding steady against the breeze with my hand, I believe to be a collinsia. The hot pink one I haven’t identified yet. Any ideas? [update: It is Scarlet Gilia]

The second night I made some buttermilk biscuits to go with canned soup. I brought the dry ingredients and butter already mixed and in a bag in the ice chest, along with a jar of the right amount of buttermilk. The biscuits were definitely the best part of that meal. We’re not used to canned soup; my man kept saying he thought it needed more salt, and I said I was sure they had already put as much salt as possible in it to try to bring out what little flavor was there.

California Coneflower at Crane Flat

We went up the road to Tuolumne Meadows in the evening. That’s Lembert Dome sort of lying against the hill. We climbed it several times over the years with the children. Pippin did some of her earliest hiking there, at the age of 2 1/2 I think it was, running from rock to small boulder to hoist herself up on to, and saying, “Won wock,” and then again, “Won wock….,” learning to count to one as well.

Another thing that makes Tuolumne Meadows special to us is that when we were here with my in-laws almost 38 years ago, before they were my in-laws, we got engaged to be married! My in-laws to-be took this picture of us when we told them. It’s the only “engagement picture” we have. 😉

Next to the Tuolumne Meadows Bridge, I took many pictures of these does and their two buck friends who were close by. The lighting was poor, and I was too far away, but I had to try. You know I love deer.

I waded in the Tuolumne River, where two streams came together over a slab of granite that wasn’t too slippery, if I were careful. I was.

Large bushes of lupines were everywhere! Everywhere, that is, where we were driving by and couldn’t stop to take a picture. Or everywhere that the wind was blowing them wildly. I became obsessed with finding the right bush in a convenient photographic place. Finally, as we were leaving Yosemite, at Crane Flat there were hundreds of them among the trees by the store. From looking at six wildflower books I’d say these are Flat Leafed Lupines, but don’t ask me the botanical name. They don’t have hairy leaves, and they are tall!

We left Yosemite and drove south through the foothills to my family’s cabin high up above Fresno. Thirteen of us gathered to hold a memorial service for my father.

The cabin overlooks this lake. I love this picture, taken from a dome behind our cabin, because it shows quite a bit of the dome itself. The lake is surrounded by domes. Several of them have been climbed by various of us.

The house can only be used about four months out of the year, because it lies at 8200′ and sometimes gets buried in snow. It is the cabin with the brown roof. The owner of another cabin went in on snowshoes and took this picture.

It is a man-made lake, for the purpose of generating hydroelectric power. Sometimes they pump water out of it and the water level goes way down, exposing a lot of smaller boulders as in this picture taken of Kate about 15 years ago. Then we call it a Mud Puddle.

This is another long-ago picture of some young sprouts above the lake.

My dad bought a canoe soon after he acquired the cabin almost 20 years ago; it’s a great tool for enjoying the water and the surrounding domes. I was out this time with B. and H., paddling for an hour, almost to the creek inlet. It was glorious to use my muscles after so much time out of commission lately. Songs fairly burst out of me when I am in a canoe, I get so excited by the pure romanticism of it all, the Canadian/Indian canoeing songs that we somehow learned when the children were small. As we were skimming across the lake I told about Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling C. Holling and how that book has been made into a movie that I am eager to see. But this pic above is from the past, with a different daughter.

On one work day we built a fire ring just below the cabin. Weak-armed women stood on the deck and took pictures of their shadows.

My dad was invited once to take a plane ride over the Sierra Nevadas to see all the places he had hiked so many times. They flew over Our Lake and he got a picture.

After many of the extended family went home, there were five of us who stayed the night. The guys had a challenging game of Risk, or World Domination (?) We girls were not into it.

Pippin baked a tart on our last morning. It was good she didn’t need a pie plate, as we discovered there was not such a thing to be found up there. One never knows what to expect. From now on we will be adding some of those items that we women want. But the nearest store is 3,000 ft. down the mountain and an hour away. We avoid making that trip for all but the most extreme needs.

My father, in a characteristic cabin pose, ten or so years ago. There doesn’t seem to be a way to fix this picture so that you don’t see the hand towel he always used to protect the arm of the chair! He thought it was perfectly appropriate for cabin living, even if he would never do such a thing at home.

It doesn’t feel the same up there, knowing that he won’t ever join us again. Thank you, Daddy, for giving us this family-nurturing place in a soul-nurturing mountain haven.

Indigestible Sightseeing

The time for summer vacations and traveling is upon us. I myself will be departing this week for the first of several outings short and long. So it was timely to discover words from G.K. Chesterton, my favorite philosopher, on the subject of sightseeing.

In an essay he wrote in 1931 he contrasted what he called the “age of monuments” with the “age of museums,” and found modern sightseeing problematic in that it is “not meant either for the wanderer to see by accident or for the pilgrim to see with awe. It is meant for the mere slave of a routine of self-education to stuff himself with every incongruous intellectual food in one indigestible meal.”

He hit that nail on the head as far as I am concerned. When H. and I were in England and Scotland I felt such an aversion to the museums, especially the ones with vast expanses of vertically-mounted text. Now GKC has explained what put me off: too much of the wrong food. I hunger for the monuments before which I can stand in awe, or the small discoveries, a few of which I wrote about and pictured here.

This photo shows one scene I expect to be enjoying very soon, not a monument, exactly, but evidence of and testimony to the Creator. I took the picture when on a solitary retreat two years ago, but it’s nice to know the spot will be essentially unchanged.

Monkeys in the Forest

Rudyard Kipling turned me against monkeys long ago, when I was reading The Jungle Book to the children. As I recall, all the other animals of the jungle despised the monkeys for being foolish and emptyheaded chatterboxes. Add to that the rumors (as I’ve never known a monkey firsthand) that they are in real life dirty and infested with vermin, and the result was my assignment of them somewhere around the level of cockroaches.

Perhaps 15 years ago I took one of the first of the quizzes that have since become ubiquitous on the Internet. This one had you rate animals according to how much you liked them, and at the end you were told in turn something about your character or personality. I think it was based on some Oriental tradition and valuation. My results came back with the assessment that I disliked children. Oh, I’m sure there were some other points to my identity, probably equally misread, but all I remember is my horror at being so unfairly pegged in regard to that one aspect, I who was joyfully homeschooling my several children and praying for more. I figured out eventually that it was the dismissive attitude toward monkeys that did me in.

You know how children behave like little monkeys much of the time? I guess I never thought of mine as resembling monkeys, but if I had, I’d still think that educating them, training them to be grown-ups with good manners and character, would transform them from monkeys into human beings.

In my last post I shared “A Psalm of the Forest” with you, with its descriptions of trees and monkeys honoring and delighting in the Lord with whatever gifts and personality they have. In the scene described, the monkeys can’t be considered foolish, as they are giving glory to their Lord. The fool says in his heart that there is no God, and lives as though he were the center of everything. But the monkeys of this forest are all consumed with excitement over God. They are more like innocent and lively children who have no fear of offending Him.

My heart is softened nowadays toward monkeys, not that I think of them very much. I think the change was happening even before I discovered these lines from Paton, but he in his forest psalm has helped by reminding me how much every creature plays a part in bringing praise to the Creator.

We have the redwoods that amazed Alan Paton growing in our backyard, and have often camped near where he wrote these lines. The same feeling of awe and reverence has come over us in these forests, but nothing so playful and raucous as in the scene he describes. I love the fig tree, the waterfalls, the leaves showering down on their Maker, and the monkeys standing in for all of us children of our Father.