Mountain Retreat Complete

As I wrote in my last post, I was departing for a mountain retreat. And I made such a big deal of my delight in anticipating it, I also promised a report.

It takes a full six hours to cover the 300 miles to my destination, and most of that time I listened to various things on tape or CD. As the library didn’t have anything promising on my last-minute visit there, I was forced to remember that we had taped readings of the New Testament in the cupboard. As with books, I took way more CD’s and tapes than I could possibly use….

On the trip down I listened to the latest Mars Hill Audio tape. Please ask them for a free sample if you’ve never heard their interviews with various authors, teachers, musicians. It’s like an audio magazine where you eavesdrop on discussions between thoughtful people. And I heard the whole Gospel of Matthew on tape–what a perfect intro to a prayerful couple of days!

Sierra vinegarweed

My least beautiful photo, but the best of my attempts to capture this flower that graces the roadway, around 5,000 to 6,000 ft elevation, with a misty lavender haze. When you get close, the effect is spoiled as the plants are revealed as dry and stickery, puny individuals. (That sounds like a description of us Christians relative to the whole Church.) I don’t know what it might be, do you? It was the first of my pictures on this expedition.

It’s about this point on the driving, an hour and 3,000 ft down the mountain from Our Lake, I always have to turn off all recordings or radio and have quiet, so I can focus on the smells of the trees and hear the quiet of the forest.

Incense Cedars contribute one of the aromas. As a child with my family, on trips up the mountain it was filling my senses about the time I got carsick, and it took me most of my adult life to get over this association and develop an appreciation for the tree. But I haven’t known just what they looked like, so I found this photo on the Net.

Far in the distance at left you can see a lake that is not our lake. But this photo was mostly for the sake of the manzanita that I love, and in the absence of the wildflowers that catch your eye earlier in the summer, it takes center stage for me, so I made it fill the foreground here.
Ah…the first view of Our Lake. Other than that purple haze, all the wildflowers I saw at high elevations were white. Like this Pearly Everlasting. I just looked up its name this morning.
Ranger’s Buttons along the road going in. I picked up some granite rocks near here for the garden at home.
Yarrow was growing next to the cabin. I saw it when I was turning on the water down the hill. There are various things to do when you first arrive: turn on the water, turn on the solar, turn on the water heater. Bring your stuff in from the car. My legs were so heavy and I felt generally exhausted, so much that I wondered if I could resist falling on a bed and sleeping immediately. It must be the altitude. All evening my brain was slow, and I was so sl-e-e-py.


For that reason I didn’t start right in on heavy reading, but took advantage of the magazines my sister had left. When my father’s mark was more on the place, you would find old issues of California Farmer, National Geographic and Sunset piled up everywhere. Now I find the New Yorker! Well, as I haven’t been on the treadmill for some time, where I used to read New Yorker, it was a welcome change, and just the thing for an oxygen-deprived brain. The most interesting article I read was in two parts, on Siberia, by Ian Frazier. His book on the subject is due to come out next year, and it looks to be worth reading.

This old coffee table caught my eye when I walked through the cabin door, the only furniture from our childhood home that never varied or wore out, and the only piece that we have (just since my last visit) installed in the cabin. Either my father or another ancestor built this table, I’m pretty sure, but none of my siblings can remember, so I guess we will never know its origins.

I brought some candles for indoor prayer times, and then was pleased to discover I had a little icon card of Christ the Shepherd in my purse to display with them. I prayed He would shepherd me through my weekend in the way of the 23rd Psalm, and give me light, and Himself as Light.

Speaking of light, I did lie out under the stars in my sleeping bag the first night, for a couple of hours, until my narrow bed (a lounge chair cushion) made it impossible to sleep. The stars and night sky were comforting, like an angelic blanket. This time little wisps of clouds were decorating the constellations; I could smell the trees, sweet and dry and piney-sharp, with a bit of wood smoke from the campground down the hill in the mix.

Much of the time I spent on the deck, reading this book, drinking tea, and watching the hummingbirds battle over the feeder. If the sun goes behind a cloud, or a breeze comes up, the temperature drops, so you find yourself putting on and taking off your sweater, moving under the umbrella and then back out in the sunshine again.

When I was wearing my red sweatshirt the hummingbirds would buzz threateningly behind my head as long as it took them to figure out that I wasn’t a giant flower.

The Inner Kingdom had been on my shelf for a year; I’m so glad I threw it in the box to take up! The author Kallistos Ware was a convert to the Orthodox Church as a young man in Britain and was a lecturer at Oxford for a long time. I have read other books by him, as a catechumen and since, and was able to hear him speak in 2008, which was pure pleasure.

This one is first in a planned six-volume collection of his works. He is a wonderful writer–so scholarly yet easy to read. I’d say he is more teacherly than devotional in his style, and he treats the subject matter so thoroughly that most every intellectual question I might have was answered; I was spurred on to love the God he so lovingly describes. I finished the whole book! What a satisfaction to finish something so nourishing.

Soldier came up to be with me for part of the time. He also read a lot, and hiked, and played his guitar, everything from Dylan to gospel. It was a rare treat to be just the two of us together.

Here are the books all packed up and ready to carry home again. I only used about half of them, and there is an extra in the box going home, the novel by Jane Smiley that my sister had left in the cabin and that I am borrowing. It looks small enough for reading in bed, but I didn’t take the time to dip into it yet.
On the way down the mountain I had to stop and try once more to capture the beauty of the manzanita. I couldn’t, of course. And those tree smells wouldn’t be bottled up. I could never get a picture of the night sky that would make you feel the weighty silence of the Holy Spirit in it. But you know how it is–I had to try!

7 thoughts on “Mountain Retreat Complete

  1. Yo. That sounds so good. I love the idea of the cabin and the beautiful drive to it. Rangers Buttons picture so cool – I like seeing another part of the world and it's little flowers!


  2. Aha! I just found out from some Sierra Nevada wildflower experts, that my flower is Lessingia leptoclada or Sierra Vinegarweed. The people who told me have identified a couple of other flowers from our summer expeditions.


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