Tag Archives: ceanothus

Spider Christmas Day

I know it’s their Christmas, because all the spiders in town had been awake all night decorating. They ran to and fro along the creek banks for miles stringing their prettiest threads over pyracantha, ceanothus, grass and star jasmine — the milk thistle was draped extra thick and milky — but clearly their favorite thing to deck with silver and white was the wild fennel, at every stage of its growth, from fine fronds to long-dried seeds.

After a half hour of admiring the holy day celebrations of spiders, I was brought up short by a different sort of beauty. Willow bushes rising from the creek are lifting their buds heavenward; it must be their message of resurrection joy that filled my heart to bursting.

Christ is risen!

 

Weddings and Road Songs

Today is my wedding anniversary! It was sweet of God to arrange for me to attend a wedding last night, in the neighborhood where my late husband and I honeymooned so long ago. I drove down after church yesterday and listened on the way to Alexander Hamilton on Audible. I’m more than halfway through that book now, only 17 hours to go 🙂

The wedding stirred up memories of our own youthful idealism and exuberance. I often think about weddings Then and Now and will probably have enough material for a very irritating book before long, so I will leave that topic, except to say that I am comforted that there are still weddings happening, and that one still encounters couples who have a vision of what a marriage can be.

When we left the wedding hall in the Santa Cruz mountains the sky was cold and clear, and Orion and the Big Dipper were sparkling up there as huge and bright as could be. I had to be careful walking the 1/4 mile in the near dark to my car, hungrily craning my neck at the stars with an eye on the mudholes below. Then it was only five minutes back to a humble Airbnb room where I slept soundly in a good bed.

This morning I made use of the organic coffee in the fridge and a French press to brew it in… I indulged in a carafe full. As I was packing my car and finishing my coffee I got a text from a cousin who lives just up the hill from where I had stayed. Yes, he said, we are home, please come.

The house that he shares with his wife is a mountain cabin only a few doors down from the little place where we newlyweds spent a few nights back then. This very cousin had been visiting his parents’ cabin while we were honeymooning and had stopped in to say hello one morning; I remember it vividly. Now here I was with them in that cabin that has been their home in retirement. It was almost as good as being with my children, to be with this man who knew my husband long before I did and misses him, too. They gave me coffee that was even better than my first cups, and listened to as many honeymoon or deathbed stories as I wanted to tell them.

When I made a pit stop on my way out of town I tried to eat some sunflower seeds; my hand shook and I scattered them around in my car. Hmm, I thought, being this buzzy from coffee might be as bad for my driving as being drunk. I texted my friends and asked for prayers that angels would keep me, and calm me.

My whole eight weeks of traveling to Wisconsin and India, I felt that angels were carrying me on their wings, or God was keeping me wrapped in a protective cloud, or however He handles these matters. I had accidents, things went wrong, but no disasters… For decades I’ve believed that on the highways, heavenly hosts intervene constantly between all the hunks of metal barreling along, carrying tender flesh — otherwise all of our distractions would cause many more collisions than actually happen. So it was natural for me to count on angels to shield me from harming myself or others through my foolish coffee-drinking.

I didn’t listen to Hamilton at first, because I had to drive on Highway 17 from the coast to San Jose, which always feels like a fast slalom course through the hills. I knew it would take all my concentration and I wouldn’t be able to pay attention to American history at the same time. So I let the music play through my phone as iTunes always insists on doing, and it began to shuffle through a hundred or more songs in one folder.

I’ve written before about how my husband had been the owner and manager of the iTunes account; in the last three years I have occasionally sorted through and weeded out, and added new songs. Mr. Glad had several songs by Fernando Ortega, and I heard one of them today. It reminded me of the last weeks of my husband’s life, and the many hours when, wanting to play music that was restful to him while not annoying to me, I settled on the songs of this gentle man.

Nowadays I only have one left in my playlists. It doesn’t come up very often, but when I was just getting in the groove of rapid steering wheel work on the curvy road, there he was singing “Road Song.” I’m sure some of you know this song — don’t you think he is singing about angels? I always do. By the way, I never felt the jitters at any time during the next two hours.

I let the music play, and thought about how the words of so many of the songs expressed my experiences of the last hours, or of my marriage, on this day of remembering it in particular. Gordon Lightfoot was singing about “Rainy Day People” and how “They don’t talk back, they just listen till they’ve heard it all.” That was my cousin and his wife whom I had just hugged good-bye.

Tom Petty sang, “We were built to last, on until forever. The world is changing fast, but our love was built to last.” Yes, the love between my husband and me was “built” by Christ Himself.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (I Cor. 13)

It was not a nature-study sort of trip I was on, but I did wish I might capture some of the colors around me on my way. Driving home I stopped at a rest area south of San Francisco, down the hill from this statue of Father Junipero Serra who in the 18th century founded first nine of 21 Spanish missions in California. I have seen the statue hundreds of times from the highway but never hiked up the hill before for a close encounter.

The friar had a string around his finger — was he trying to remember something? I stood directly under his pointer to get this view.

Ceanothus (California lilac) was at its peak of bloom right by my car,
and I even got a new bee-at-ceanothus pic (top of page).

California poppies also dotted the hillside, but my favorite display was farther up the road. When traffic came to a standstill on 19th Avenue in San Francisco, I saw out my window by the trolley tracks a crop of those orange flowers brightening that drab space.

Now I’m home again and just under the wire getting this short report done when it is still the today I began to write about. Tomorrow is another day, if God gives it to me, another morning when the mercies of God are new again. That has been my experience, and as long as I’m on this journey that will be my Road Song.

Happy Anniversary, Mr. Glad!

March colors, surprises and celebrations.

ceanothus blue so hemI took a long walk around the neighborhood this morning. If I had brought my camera, I’d have more pictures to post, but then the prayer and exercise benefits of my outing would have been greatly reduced, so I don’t regret not thinking of it.

I noticed fuzzy chamomile plants close to the ground, and the cobalt blue ceanothus bushes such as we used to have at our former property. Many types of ceanothus grow wild in California but you can also buy them at nurseries. The picture above shows the color that is blooming around here right now.

pine cone forming 3-15 March is the month of our wedding anniversary, which makes it the month that we have many times made day or weekend trips within northern California to celebrate. Usually some blue bushes are flowering in the places we are visiting, and we are outdoors a lot walking or looking from highway overlooks. Maybe this is one reason that blue flowers have long been my favorite.

For example, Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans), which I first noticed decades ago in Big Sur. It can grow in our county and we even had one on our church property for a while, but they must not thrive here. The picture at bottom I took last year in Cambria.

P1120593 forget-me-not 3-12-15
forget-me-nots in the garden

At home this morning the pine cones that are forming in our big tree caught my eye. It seems to me there are double or triple the number of them that have grown there before — or maybe it is just my imagination.

P1120545crp

Is there some climactic condition that could cause this, say, severe drought that makes the tree feel that it is dying, and ought to get busy and reproduce? I’ll have to ask the children if their memories are different from mine. I still don’t know what kind of pine this is. The task of finding out needs to go on a project list that is buried somewhere here. It will be a small project just to find it.

P1120548 cones

The children I want to consult with, all five of them, will be here celebrating with us this month – we’re letting them do the traveling this year. It’s not like the early years when we had to get away to be alone. Nowadays being alone is the usual thing, and we are thrilled when any kids converge on our house.

Mr. Glad and I sat in the back yard this afternoon, on a bench in the sun. If I have many more days in which I accomplish both a walk beside a creek among the trees and sitting in the sun, I may find that I don’t need the Christmas lights that are still shining around my kitchen window.

sourgrass 3-15 crp

While we were relaxing and facing my potted plants, it suddenly dawned on me that sourgrass was living and blooming in the miniature rose pot. When did he move in? I don’t remember having sourgrass anywhere on our property in all the 25 years we have lived here. Maybe a bird dropped in a seed.

Another new thing is the Christmas cactus in bloom. The story behind my cactus is long: Friend May and I had both admired the mother cactus in our friend Jerry’s house for decades. It was a prolific bloomer and it was a huge potted plant on wheels, taking up a space about 4′ x 4′, with most of that measured out by long arching stems. When Jerry moved to a retirement home 3-4 years ago, May gave me a big chunk of his cactus plant with roots.

But I don’t have the wall of windows Jerry did, or any sunny and convenient indoor place for houseplants, so I moved my piece of cactus from place to place outdoors, and under the eaves in the winter. I made many cuttings from it and managed to give at least one away before they died of neglect. Last month my sister told me that her grandchild of the Jerry cactus was blooming beautifully on the central California coast, which was a big relief to me — my guilt at not providing a nurturing home for my adopted child was assuaged by knowing that the next generation was prospering.

first Thanksgiving cactus bloom 3-15 JerryNot a week later I walked past the corner of the utility yard where my poor peaked plant would have gone unseen as usual if its flower buds hadn’t glowingly called up to me, “Look at us!” I was shocked and blessed no end, and quickly moved “her” to a sunny place. Now that my cactus has shown a desire to perform, I am endeared to her in a new way and have named her “Tylda,” after Jerry’s late wife.

pride of Madeira cambria 14

This site tells how to care for these plants, and it showed me that this one is not a Thanksgiving cactus as I had previously thought, but a Christmas cactus. It also says that they require cold temperatures to spur them into blooming. So perhaps it’s not a bad thing that I left it outdoors. I’m thinking of ways that I can be a better houseplant owner in the future.

But this month, it’s the outdoor plants for me, and I do enjoy whatever colors they are dressed in when they bloom. But especially blue.

I smell roses and bake cookies

When Mr. Glad and I drove north to visit some of our children and grandchildren last week, I didn’t expect to bring home anything to blog about. After all, I have posted plenty of pictures of these places before, and we weren’t planning any outings beyond the immediate neighborhoods.

BUT we hadn’t seen this part of the country at exactly this time of year, and nature with all its surprises called out from every direction, “Look at me! Have you ever seen anything like this before?” No, I’m sure I hadn’t!

We stayed at Pippin’s homestead and were shown around by Scout who rarely tires of exploring and at the same time chatting with himself and/or whoever is around about every discovery.

Some things we took notice of together were the birches in the back yard, and what I think was a moth working the lilacs. I took a long movie of the whirring creature but in it his wings are still moving too fast to see clearly.

Squaw Carpet (ceanothus)

The Squaw Carpet I’d seen at other seasons of the year was in bloom this time. It was covered with pine needles, in the forest just outside the back yard. Off to the right in that photo above is the new garden fence that will keep the deer from eating all the yummy vegetables.


Bright Walls of Water are protecting the tomatoes from frost, a prudent precaution since it snowed here as recently as the day before we arrived.

In the front yard next to the road I found this lovely vine blooming. I had never seen one before, but a little research tells me that it’s a pink honeysuckle.

Golden Celebration

For Memorial Day we drove farther north to Pathfinder’s home in southern Oregon. Right now they are having an unofficial flower show all over town, featuring rhododendrons and roses.

My favorite was in their back yard, a prolific yellow rose with the sweetest scent. I wanted to set my chair up close and drink deeply.

Mardi Gras

When we took a walk around the neighborhood Scout kept the group at stroll speed while he discussed the cattle with his mother and found a red yarrow bloom to inspect.

backyard rose
In the Neighborhood
Something like a broom ground cover was definitely more constant in its brilliance than the sun was that partly cloudy day.
Back at the cousins’ place, there was a wealth of (also yellow) equipment to work with, and a dog to peek in on.

The big kids were playing with Scout, or playing a card game with Uncle Professor, or watching some grown-up boys practice their knot-tying. We grown-up girls kept the food bowls full and did a fair amount of rose-smelling. I was introduced to Annie’s new doll Elizabeth (for whom I have not yet sewn any clothes).

I had made some cookies for the occasion (recipe below), which got scarfed up during the appetizer course. That was a good thing, because Auntie Iris had prepared a dessert finale for our event that included brownies, and an ice-cream cake designed to please the littlest member of the family.

All present seemed to love these cookies that Pippin planned and I baked, with a little Scoutish help. I remembered just in time to take a picture, when all but four had been eaten.

Chewy Lemon Cookies

about 4 dozen

1 cup (salted) butter, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
4-5 teaspoons lemon zest
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3 cups all-purpose flour
about 1 cup powdered sugar for rolling

Cream butter and sugar until light. Add vanilla, egg, zest and juice and beat well again. Mix in all the dry ingredients except the powdered sugar. 

Put the powdered sugar in a bowl. Break off heaping-teaspoon-size pieces of the dough and roll into balls, then roll the balls in the powdered sugar and place on lightly-greased baking sheets. They will be flattish. 

Bake at 350° for 10-11 minutes, until starting to brown on the bottom edges. If you use insulated cookie sheets they may not brown very much but they should still be chewy. Cool on racks.