Category Archives: nature

Blue skies improve the mood.

Those who aren’t severely affected by wildfires to the point of being evacuated temporarily or permanently from their homes, and who continue to go about their usual work, might still be vaguely or acutely affected by smoke. Some of my family in northern California and southern Oregon have had weeks of smoke that keeps them indoors, makes the sky dark and the air muggy. Even here, my eyes are scratchy. It all has a distracting and depressing effect, though one is not always fully conscious of it.

But this morning my daughter Pippin exclaimed, “Today, the sky is blue!” and sent a photo to prove it. I had recently joined in one blog draft a photo she took in England and a poem, which I’m publishing in celebration of blue skies. They are currently a welcome background for sheep or clouds or what have you.

THE LIKENESS

When I came forth this morn I saw
Quite twenty cloudlets in the air;
And then I saw a flock of sheep,
Which told me how these clouds came there.

That flock of sheep, on that green grass,
Well might it lie so still and proud!
Its likeness had been drawn in heaven,
On a blue sky, in silvery cloud.

I gazed me up, I gazed me down,
And swore, though good the likeness was,
‘Twas a long way from justice done
To such white wool, such sparkling grass.

-William Henry Davies

Pippin Pic of Yorkshire Dales

Seals and pelicans wait for the sun.

At least, that’s what it seemed to me they were doing. At Jenner-by-the-Sea so many Pacific Harbor Seals give birth and rear their young on the sand spits that they call it a rookery or a nursery. It’s where the Russian River opens into the Pacific along the North Coast of California, and the beach there is called Goat Rock. This photo shows them on both sides of the river, the town hidden by fog above the farthest shore.

My friend and I had made the drive to the beach pretty early in the morning, having been told by the weather people that it would be mostly sunny. It was not — but 60° and not windy is pretty good for this coastline, where beaches are not consistently sunny until August or September.

You’re not supposed to get closer than 50 feet to the seals; I think we were a little closer than that, but we stood quietly staring and none of the animals seemed to mind us or change what they were doing. The seals didn’t move much, but their various colors were interesting, and they would go in and come out of the water occasionally, or look up at us.

The pelicans were more thrilling, and even more numerous, flying back and forth or just hanging with the sea gulls and seals. But they were also harder to photograph! In the middle of the middle picture below, it’s pelicans who are forming a flotilla in the river. We didn’t see any diving to fish.

After stopping by another beach where we enjoyed some of that “mostly sun,” we took a slightly different route back inland along a narrow road where bright patches of wildflowers caught my attention, springing up through the dry grass.

clarkia
rattlesnake grass

I especially noticed the leaves on the one just above, because they resembled those of the little native beach plant in my garden, Eriogonum latifolium or seaside buckwheat, that I bought at a local nursery three years ago. It has never bloomed, or even grown very much.

When I got home, I went out back to take a picture to compare, and what do you know? It is blooming right now!! And I do believe…

When a dragonfly meets your gaze…

…it’s magic. Or if you will, a gracious gift of God.

toadflax

Wild animals frequent this space. In the past, I’d seen only the orange type of dragonflies on the property, but now, a different guy was just relaxing on a fig leaf. I walked all around the insect and talked to him, and he didn’t appear to flinch, so I stood right in front and met him face-to-face. His giant eyes did move about cartoon-like, seemingly trying to focus on my face, and his head side to side. Evidently I did not pose a threat; he remained calm, and I went back to work.

But then there was my own cabbage white hanging on a stem of lavender:

tarragon

This next garden animal is so tiny, I am amazed that I even noticed him perched on a helianthemum flower that was an inch across. He came into focus once the photo was saved on my phone.

The birds are not tame. This morning, we were sitting or standing by the kitchen windows when Clunk! a smallish bird flew into the slider, and we looked up to see only a flash of vast patterned wings, as a raptor swooped under the patio arbor and with a whoosh carried off the little bird. That is the wildest event ever.