Monthly Archives: August 2011

California Mountains – Snow in Springtime

Spring was a happening thing in the high Sierra. Last winter extended well into June, and on at least one date that month the snowpack was the highest on record. This means that at the end of July when we were there, quite a bit of snow was still melting.

Leopard Lily

From our trailhead at nearly 10,000 feet, we only ascended another 1,000 feet or so, but the difference in the flora was notable. Higher up, the flowers and shrubs were still in bud; the snow hadn’t been gone long.

Willow buds
Mountain Pennyroyal in bud


The violent weight of snow had deformed this cluster of trees in such a symmetric way as to be artistic.


Spearhead Lake


Rosy Sedum with Buttercups

At the highest elevations, every lovely bloom seems like a miracle, when you consider how much of the year the plants are just roots or seeds under the snow, how quickly they are required to respond to the light and warmth and come into their glory.

In some places they were sprouting out of a puddle where snow had likely been lying a few days previous, like in this low place I had to hop over to reach a spot overlooking Long Lake. You can see Mr. G. in the distance ready to spread out our picnic of cheese and crackers.

Around us and at our feet hot pink penstemon was making for a brilliant contrast with the midnight blue water and the granite rocks.


Spiders, Perfume, and Hot Lips

Technically it is summer, and we do have days above 80°. The summer squash and Blue Lakes are producing, and we even picked a Persimmon orange tomato, so I shouldn’t complain. But it’s a good year to notice features of the garden other than vegetables.

The manzanita was peeling magnificently a short while back and we stared with unbelief at its ability to hold on to the peeled bark with some kind of magical glue.

fennel between manzanita and snowball

It’s in the part of the yard where over a year ago I planted a tiny fennel bush that has now grown into a mighty giant. Spiders have taken over that end of the garden this summer and they really like building webby bridges from the fennel to the manzanita and over to the rhododendron and the pine tree.

…also to the snowball bush, and back to the fence, and including the wisteria, and….if Mr. Glad hadn’t taken the broom to a dozen squatters yesterday I’m afraid they’d have wrapped it all up and out of my reach for good.

This morning I got entangled in the sticky threads just going through the door to take more photos in the mist. The red sedum is in bloom, and one of the two types of rose geranium that share a pot in the middle of the patio where we are sure to bump the leaves frequently and release that heavenly scent.

The hybrid verbena lived all through the winter, and the New Zealand Spinach self-sowed abundantly, so they make lush neighbors to the summer squash at the other end of the yard.

In the Spring I planted a new salvia, called Hot Lips, if I remember right. Each little flower is a half-inch across. 

Do they make you think of a kiss? Well, then, I send them to you as a greeting on this summer’s day.

California Mountains – Directions and Points

Mr G. with shooting stars

The point of going to the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada was to take a hike out of South Lake, above the town of Bishop. When my husband first proposed this trip, I liked the idea of driving to a trailhead that is already high up there; I knew that our day hike would likely not be too strenuous.

After spending the day driving down from Tahoe, mostly on Hwy. 395, we stayed at a nice motel that made luxuriating possible. Making the most of our relaxed schedule, we didn’t get to the trailhead until what was to us an embarrassingly late hour, and I’m not going to publicize it here. When we left Bishop, though, it was already 80°.

shooting star

A mere 22 miles up the road, the temperature had dropped to 60° — because we had gone in the upward direction 5,760 feet. We got nice and warm, hiking for six hours close to the sun, but the thermometer never rose above 75°. When we stopped to cool off or take a drink, we could quickly do that in the shade of a boulder — but the mosquitoes liked the shade, too.

I couldn’t begin to photograph all the flowers and many of my pictures came out too bright owing to that midday sun. Anyway, Mr. Glad and I had made a deal that I would leave some space on the memory card for his shots of larger landscapes and peaks, so for ten whole minutes at a time I would try hard to pretend that I didn’t have a camera with me.

I did think many of my readers would appreciate the one mountain picture I took myself, of this brown peak (at right). Now ladies, does it remind you of anything? How about…a heap of cocoa powder, maybe? It’s called Chocolate Peak.

It was odd that I didn’t feel a need for the boost a dark chocolate bar might give me, hiking along a trail that continued to ascend in the direction of Bishop Pass for our first few hours, up where the air is thin.

I did need to stop pretty frequently to catch my breath, but all in all I was exhilarated, and my mind was composing about 20 different blog posts in an effort to process all the beauty and excitement of the dramatic topography.

When we got back to the car I quickly wrote a few notes to work from when back home in front of the computer. Sadly, when that time came a few days later, I found that without the context that stimulated such a fervent response in me, I couldn’t even recall all the main points that were to flow from the title of this installment.

Since he was a young boy my husband has liked to hike up to mountain tops or mountain passes where he could get a view, and know that he had reached a specific goal. I, of course, would be happy to sit by a field of flowers and work on taking close-ups while getting whiffs of pine needles on the breeze.

That’s partly because I long ago found that orienteering is not my thing, as was well demonstrated on this hike. During the outward bound portion I felt, without thinking much about it, that we were hiking in an easterly direction, but looking at the map later, I learned that our path led pretty much due south.

And every few minutes the mountains change position relative to one another, as it seems when you are getting closer to one and seeing the other side of its neighbor, so I never learn to recognize them. This is one reason to hike particular trails until they become familiar.

paintbrush and columbine with granite

That is probably not going to happen, considering how our hikes are less frequent these days. As for reaching a panoramic viewpoint or summit of anything, on this hike we didn’t try to accomplish that goal. At an unremarkable spot along the trail, Mr. G. merely said, “I think we should turn around now and go back.”

Of course, he knew that the next day he’d get fantastic views of many of the particular mountains he’s come to love during his life. And that is a hint as to the upcoming posts on California Mountains.

(Previous posts in the series: Getting Over,
Tahoe, Rivers and a Song )

Journaling about footling

When I’m writing in Word, the program often tells me that I am spelling a word wrong, or that it doesn’t exist. So I head on over to and check it out for myself. Today it was journaling, which even they tell me doesn’t exist. Oh, yeah? Just look at my blog and you will see that it does indeed exist, though I of course did not invent it. Even can’t keep up on everything.

While I was on that page, I noticed their Word of the Day on the left sidebar, and footle seemed to me a curiously cute and appealing word (which Word also does not know), so I took the time to read about it. This is what I read:

footle \FOOT-l\ , verb: 1. To act or talk in a foolish or silly way. 

noun: 1. Nonsense; silliness.


Sometimes, on a good day, I would go upstairs with my duster and footle around the parlor, adjusting paintings and straightening cushions, knocking them into shape with such military precision that even my mother would have saluted them.
— Marion McGilvary, A Lost Wife’s Tale: A Novel 

“I say, Charlie, for any sake do play up tomorrow, and don’t footle.”
— Rose Macaulay, Abbots Verney; A Novel
Footle has an uncertain origin. One candidate is the French se foutre, to care nothing.” Another possibility is the Dutch vochtig, “damp or musty.”

Not much to go on here, and it’s confusing. What the narrator in McGilvary’s book (I wonder if she is the Lost Wife…that might pertain to my discussion.) is doing doesn’t seem to me either silly or foolish. It just reads like housework, done with energy.

I don’t quite know what “play up” means, in the other quote given, so how am I to infer the meaning of what is given as the alternative behavior?

(One thing is clear, that people who add the subtitle “A Novel” to their book titles are more likely to use the word footle in the text.)

This all matters to me, because I’ve long been on a quest for a word for what some of us housewives do sometimes, on those days when I’m not under a deadline or working doggedly on a single big project. Instead, I do a little of this, a little of that, one thing leading to another; I am not in a rush, nor do I have urgent goals for the day, but I end up accomplishing quite a lot.

Do we just call this “housework”? I used to call it puttering, until I learned that there is too much of aimless, ineffective, and loiter in the definition of that word. When I am engaged in the behavior I am trying to find a word for, I am never aimless, and if I am not getting any physical work done for a few minutes, I am at least thinking hard or praying. And another question: As my computer and word processor are in my house, shouldn’t I consider the work I do using those tools “housework”?

It gets complicated. Keeping the housewife healthy and able is part of the maintenance of the house, just as taking care of tools is a necessary part of the work of a carpenter’s shop. So all those things I do that restore my soul are also housework. Voilà!

Once I was discussing this issue with my friend Herm, and told her about a word I coined to describe my style of puttering. It is serendipping. But it hasn’t proved terribly useful to me, since only two of us in the world know it. I don’t often need the word anyway, do I, if I am busy doing it?

Anyway, it appears that footle will not yet be of any help. Discovering it was part of my serendipping today, but did it accomplish anything? It gave me something to think and write about, and whether it was work or play, it was not aimless and it was fun!

Soul-nourishing gift from Mr Glad