All posts by GretchenJoanna

About GretchenJoanna

Orthodox Christian, widowed in 2015; mother, grandmother. Love to read, garden, cook, write letters and a hundred other home-making activities.

We sleep and swim and sleep some more.

Except for the hum of my car’s engine, and the sound of rubber rolling on asphalt, the night was still, and pitch black. Pearl and I were driving on curvy roads the last hour up the mountain, at nearly 10 p.m., later than I’d ever done that. There was no moon, but reflectors shone from the snowplow markers on both sides. I kept slowing down as a precaution against hitting deer that might bound out in front of me, then I would forget about them and speed up, my high beams shining Into the darkness giving me some confidence to push on. This was an eerie and unusual way to start a vacation at the lake.

She and I had stopped a ways back to shop for five day’s groceries for nine people, and we suspected that at least one of our group’s three vehicles would have arrived ahead of us. Yes, three people greeted us when we arrived, and two hours later, at midnight, the last carful, in which two-year-old Lora was riding. Her Aunt Maggie had been entertaining her all day, or they’d have been even later.

So, bedtime was very late that night (morning). But then the fun began! This cabin has two bedrooms with two beds each, but there is a carpet and sofa in the living room, and a large deck. The effects of the altitude are laughingly predictable: everyone sleeps a LOT. We sleep late, and various ones take naps morning, afternoon or evening.

Yesterday we found a gloriously deep and green swimming hole down the mountain a short way, plus a redwood grove to stroll. Lora was so pleased with the latter place, she hugged herself. Most everyone swam, and Lora and I reached through the limpid stream to collect sparkling pebbles from the bottom.

Lots of cabins and businesses have a bear out front, carved out of a log. The one at top is next door to our cabin. He never sleeps, but I am going to go to my bed now, and will tell you more tomorrow.

San Diego flowers and freeways.

It’s been a week since I departed on my trip, which took me first to my childhood home and family that I wrote about in my last post. After a very full day there, I drove to the San Diego Airport, where I fetched Annie. She and I spent the night slightly inland, where the most temperate marine breezes blew through the windows that our hosts like to leave open as much as possible. We were wined and dined along with other guests including their daughter whose birthday it was. We slept like logs.

San Diego freeways had a good reputation in my mind, even before I drove them a bit six years ago with my husband. When I’m whipping along where frequently there are four to six lanes — sometimes seven! — in each direction, and merging and exiting and noticing other freeways crossing above and below, it seems that much of the land must be covered with them by now. But no, it’s a large county, and there is lots of the sunniest part of California territory still left to walk on, closer to the earth and at a more human and humane pace.

Our first full day we drove to my cousins’ place in Vista, even more inland and at least ten degrees hotter. I first saw their property six years ago with my late husband, and was looking forward to the tour that Joe might give us again of all the self-started trees that he calls “bird drops,” and the succulents and cacti that thrive in that climate, like the tree-climbing cactus above that found a post supportive enough.

By late Friday afternoon Annie and I had made a big loop-de-loop, stopping by her great-great grandparents’ graves that I had last visited in 2015, and we ended up at the condo where most of the groom’s (my daughter Pearl’s) family from Washington and Wisconsin were staying. We joined a group weighted strongly to the young: five or six of my grandchildren and their significant others between the ages of 17 and 24. Toddler Lora, my great-granddaughter, was the youngest in the group. I slept in another Airbnb close by — with plumeria near the front door — and hung out with them a lot as we got ready in various ways for the wedding that was Sunday.

That first evening in Encinitas the boys had groomsmen events, and the females gravitated to the beach, which we got to by jaywalking across a busy street, picking our way over the railroad tracks, down through a gate…  then a run across four lanes of the coast highway and on to the path descending to the rocky shore. Dozens of surfers were silhouetted against the setting sun. I was the only one of our group who kept farther back from the edge while I took my views and pictures; the others all had fun getting drenched to some degree by the surf breaking right there. The next morning boys and girls alike were out early to surf and swim.

That was the day that I went south again to meet in person for the first time two long-loved blogging friends. Emily’s large family will soon be moved from Coronado where she has been cultivating a beautiful garden for several years. It was one son’s birthday at her house, too, but no one seemed to think it strange to have a strange grandmother drop in. Emily sent me off with bags full of starts of many of the succulents that grow enthusiastically all around the house and pool. It was delightful and really heartwarming to meet in person six of the family who were just as happy and gracious in the flesh as they appear in the tales and pictures I’ve been enjoying for so long.

Sara lives about a half hour mostly east of Emily, on a hill with a wide view, and the perfect patio and small waterwise garden in which to sit and take it all in; huge jacaranda blooms show in the tops of the trees from their steep hillside below. But first, we went to lunch, and she took me to the water conservation garden nearby. I had inconveniently come in the hottest part of the afternoon, but we wore our sun hats and strolled in a very leisurely way among the paths.

The garden has been there long enough for the Australian trees to grow to great heights. There was a butterfly garden/cage where evidently those creatures weren’t bothered by the heat. I took so many pictures! My heart was overflowing with flowers and plants way too many to process or learn much about, but because I was discovering them in the company of my friend I was content to let them remain a somewhat anonymous backdrop to our time together.

I had wanted to sit for a spell on her own patio, too, which we did, and I got to chat a little with her very kind husband. Sara gave me gifts of printed prayers like this beautifully illustrated one:

After I said good-bye at their door, on my way to my car, it was then that I spied this gardenia, a rare encounter for me, and it immediately seemed the perfect emblem of Sara and her blogger’s voice that is such a refreshingly sweet and reserved one in this noisy world, saying, “Here is beauty: look!”

My grandson Pat got married the next afternoon! His whole family was handsome, and we sang all the verses of “Be Thou My Vision” during the ceremony. The choice of that hymn tells you a lot about the bride and groom. May God bless them!

The day after the wedding was our last day of San Diego freeways, at least for a while. I was driving on them for about three hours before we got out of the county and on our way to my mountain cabin. Daughter Pearl rode with me, which made the day pass very pleasantly, in spite of it consisting mostly of driving, at least half of it on freeways, for twelve hours. But as I write, I am in recovery, and composing the report on this next portion of my outing, the vacation part! First installment coming soon: Summer in the High Sierra…

The smell of dust.

About five this morning three things happened. I woke up in my sister’s house, which lies in the neighborhood of my childhood, along one of the thousand plain, unlined roads that make rectangular grid lines of themselves through the orange groves.

A mockingbird began to run through his upbeat repertoire outside my window. I was surprised at this, because I never heard them as a child. I wondered which local species he was imitating at the coolest moment of the day, 73 degrees. He didn’t sing for long.

About the same time that I saw on the forecast the prediction of 108 degrees today, I heard the whole house fan come on and start blowing all the previous day’s residual hot air out of the attic and all the rooms. In the summer my brother-in-law turns it on as soon as the outdoor temperature becomes cooler than that under the roof. It really lessens the need to use the air conditioner.

But tomorrow morning there will not be enough cooling off to work this system. While I was driving away in my air conditioned Subaru and toward a more coastal destination, the Central Valley was turning into a furnace. Most of the next ten days over 100 and four of them above 110. 

As I lingered with my brother’s family over dinner last night, we talked about various people we knew who were leaving California for one reason or another. Somebody’s mother had moved here years before from Missouri but had to go back, because she was always sickly in California. Was it the dust? Everyone around the table agreed that the dust can be oppressive.

After dinner we went outside where the children ran on the lawn, and I admired the way the succulents thrive at my brother’s place, in the heat, yes, but under the shade and frost protection of the patio roof. Certain plants love the climate, and of course that dust blows off the fields that are in between plantings such as I saw on my drive in: cantaloupes, tomatoes, corn, alfalfa, cotton…. That Valley dust feeds the nation!

It’s also a component of the air of which I breathe deeply when I visit in the warmer seasons, the scent of my childhood. That air is like a caress, and a tonic, an atmosphere to sink into. The late evenings are the loveliest time to sit out, after the sun has gone down and air has lost its oven-like personality. One wants to stay up for hours recovering from the day’s fierceness, and not go inside where the air may be cool, but it’s artificially so.

At the end of today’s drive, I arrived  in the southern reaches of the state in a place where the ocean influence is felt morning and evening. Windows and doors are open so that soft breezes can blow through my hosts’ house. I picked up granddaughter Annie at the airport, and this weekend we’ll go to her cousin Pat’s wedding in San Diego. 

Today’s photos are all from my brother’s place, which is the house I grew up in. He has made a lot of changes, but it’s all good, and more pleasing every time I visit. Tomorrow, more family to visit, more gardens! Stay tuned…