I’ll tell you about the stars.








The stars made the biggest impression on me, this time at the mountain cabin by the lake, but not in the usual way.

Normally what strikes me at such a high elevation is the brightness, how the Milky Way is huge and obvious, and how even my weak eyes can see the Pleiades. But last week the moon stole the show with its competing lumens. I’ll have more to say about the stars later.

Just below the place that was too steep for my timidity…
Tall and Short climb Gumdrop.

We had friends with us whom I’ll call Tall and Short. They are good sports and happy campers, very resourceful and cheerful when challenges arise. I will only tell you about the most fun challenge, of climbing Gumdrop Dome. I failed to surmount it for the third year in a row, and after I gave up I walked around the base to meet the others coming down the other side.

Of course I found a new plant on my walk, something that looks like a fern and a succulent at the same time, and was growing against a granite boulder, its “fronds” about as tall as my forefinger. I marked it with cairns above and below so that when my camera was returned to me I would be able to find this best of the specimens again.

I have no idea what it is, or how to start researching it. And I need to spend time on other things now, like making small dolls.

Seemingly tiny real people descend Gumdrop.

I took along on the trip my doll project that has been in the works for years without a single doll being born. (More than three years ago what slowed me down was stuffing-wool so dirty I couldn’t bear to tell its story, but that excuse is long expired.)

And while sitting on the cabin deck in the warm afternoons I completed three tiny dollies! I’ll post more photos of them when I have a bigger family to show. But it was a breakthrough that added to my contentment with a vacation that tried to scream “too short!”

More pleasant hours were spent paddling around the lake with my husband, while Mr. Tall fished and Mrs. Short sat on a rock nearby and knitted sweaters for her expected first grandchild.

Gumdrop Dome from the lake

Many rocks are exposed that we normally prefer not to see. It was a year of little snow in the Sierras, so the lake is down. But it’s fun to drive out into the dry lake bed a ways and park in the midst of granite drama, as in the photo at top.

We can’t imagine that there is another Sierra lake that has so many granite domes and peaks encircling it. As we floated on the lake I studied the variously shaped rocks and tried to come up with names for them. Only one is named on the official maps, but I think they all are deserving.

This picture shows at least four hitherto unnamed domes. The one on the left I want to call Glad Peak, because Mr. Glad and Soldier climbed it one time. In the center of the photo are two domes side-by-side, whom I am calling He and She. Between those in this view is a peninsula that is in a normal year called Ant Island, and which we like to paddle to and around. But not this time….

It doesn’t matter if the snow pack was light, or if some trees have died, the sky is unchanged. But on the first night up there I completely forgot to go outside to greet the stars. The next day we all talked about how we must view them together that second night — but the sun sets so late, and half of our party was in bed before the other half of us remembered again. Then I forgot and put on my nightgown, and then remembered again. Almost dutifully I opened the slider, pulled the door shut behind me… and immediately felt myself in Deep Heaven, what C.S. Lewis wanted to name what we coldly term Space.

The stars crowded me, pressing their quietness down. I was alone, standing on the deck barefoot with the cool night air on my legs, but barely noticing the slight discomfort, because of the great company of beings so close — just me and them being familar, and me wondering. It would have been rude to leave after only a quick glance, and besides, they were telling me something.

I walked slowly around in the dark, annoyed by the light from the lamp inside, which I tried to keep behind me. Not a human sound could be heard, not even an animal sound. It was the kind of quietness that is roaring — but with what? I couldn’t pin down what it was, so I stood and listened. The host of heaven with weighty silence conveyed the presence of The Holy, and it was almost too exhilarating, that close to bedtime.

Eventually I had to go inside and climb under the covers. But my exciting encounter with the stars changed me in this way: Years ago I did make solitary mountain retreats here at the cabin, for several days at a time, but I haven’t felt up to doing that again. Now that the feeling has been revived in me, of being alone and at the same time the opposite of lonely, I am hungry for more of it, I want long days and nights of it, and I plan to return in September. I think those stars are angels.

11 thoughts on “I’ll tell you about the stars.

  1. A beautiful post, GJ. Now, I believe the holy and the sacred are available to us everywhere, but I feel more in touch with it when I'm in some wild and beautiful place. There's something about the silence (that's not really silent) and the vastness … it's overwhelming in the best possible way.

    Can't wait to hear about your solo trip back!



  2. A return in September is an excellent thought — you should! Your description of intermingling with the stars is exquisite, GJ. I know that feeling. As you said, it requires of us to wait, calm, be still and don't flee. Seldom do we take time for such meetings. So glad you remembered, and did!


  3. You know when I was young and I read the book by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gifts from the Sea, how I longed for a cabin like hers to retreat to and to be able to think. Now that I have the quiet, the alone time, what I always wanted then, now I find I have to make friends with the silence to learn to be alone. I think there are seasons in life. I thought it was interesting that you are ready to retreat again to the solitude. I love your kinship with the stars on this trip. I think I was at that place a long time ago, the path and the granite seems familiar to me. I used to hike in the Sierras before kids. Lovely photos.


  4. The sky is such a deep shade of blue! This is such a different landscape from anything I am familiar with, it is hard to imagine. I love how varied and beautiful our world is. I can't wait to see your doll family. 🙂


  5. So beautiful, all of it. It's left me yearning for such a glimpse of the stars; I can recall such visions, but it's been far too long.


  6. You live near so many lovely natural places…how I'd love to hike with you. ♥ I know what you mean about the stars. When we were at Crater Lake in OR last month, they were stunning! I wish I knew more of the names of the constellations. It's hard to learn them when you can't see many in your own backyard.


  7. I don't know how I missed this post…and poking around to find it after you mentioned it I see there are others that I have missed as well.

    And what a true love story it is…there is so much for our souls to soak up and hear and it is so easy for us to forget to walk into the quiet. Sweet safe journey and spell out a prayer or two for me in those stars and I will stand on the rocks “down here” and do the same for you, dear friend.


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