It’s been cold, my last few walks. I try to walk two miles in the morning, and two in the evening. The creeks have little water left in them, but as they continue to dry up, and as the grasses and reeds crisp up and wilt and lie down in the bed for winter, they give their summer sweetness to me who am walking past. I can’t hold on to it any better than they do.
DAY 5: This will be our last full day at the lake. Mark and Jennie have already left their nearby camp, which leaves the six of us to plan for. I take a long walk in the morning and meet Tom, a man who spends the whole summer up here. “Mine is the black cabin,” he says. He is in his mid-80’s, and knew my father. He takes his canoe out every morning, all by himself, because his wife died only a few months ago. I think when I come next summer I’ll go look for him at his black cabin with a picture of quail on the sign.
I also check out the little library in a cabinet, but don’t find anything up my alley. Certainly I don’t need more books up here anyway – I’ve made small progress in the ones I brought.
I admire buttercups, and eat a couple of gooseberries as I head down to look at the lake, then hike steeply about 200 yards back to our cabin. There is time to read from The Complete Brambly Hedge to the children before lunch, one of the dozen books I brought from my shelves to share with them. We are already familiar with Jill Barklem’s charming stories and the detailed drawings which we study carefully to extract more knowledge about the families of darling anthropomorphized mice.
Then we all head to the lake, even Jamie. His father keeps him lakeside while Pippin, Scout, Ivy and I head out in the canoe for the special spot they found yesterday, an inlet on the other side of the lake where the water cascades over slabs and boulders and sand of granite in a myriad of gorgeous colors. We all enjoy walking up big rock steps through the stream, or along the same slopes that Scout gleefully slides down on his bottom into little pools, where the water is surprisingly temperate.
On return, the Pippin clan all five go in the canoe for a brief outing, while I try out the kayak for my first time. It’s quite fun!
Scout tries paddling the canoe with his mother – then we stow all the paddles and life preservers and kayak seat into the van and return to the cabin so that Scout and his parents can fit in one more Sierra Nevada experience: climbing a dome, just the “little” one behind the cabin. I stay with the younger children and trim green beans from my garden to steam for dinner.
Just before I climb into bed, a mouse runs through my bedroom!
It’s invigorating to get outdoors in the springtime, at least, when we aren’t having cold winds and cloudy days. Last Saturday when Liam and Laddie were here, they collected manzanita berries from my bush and made pies.
Every time I go to church lately, something new is bursting with color. A type of salvia I haven’t seen elsewhere has flowers that glow like jewels:
And the California poppies! I feel that own garden will not be truly complete until these orange poppies are blooming in it — but I am a little afraid to throw out the seed and have them grow like weeds.
This morning, I took a walk by the creek. You might guess from my shadow that I am shaped like a bug. But I assure you, I more closely resemble a human.
From the bridge I heard a toad croaking;
blue jays were busy about something, hopping around in the trees.
Many other birds were singing and chirping. I don’t know who they were.
I had set out before having breakfast, or so much as a glass of water. Uh… forgot that I can’t do that anymore. The squirrel scrabbling up and down a tree contrasted sharply with my slowing gait.
Besides the many wild things growing along the path, there are the backyard plants that have climbed over the fences. Like this trumpet vine:
Oh, the banks of honeysuckle were sweet! But I’m afraid they didn’t make a proper energizing breakfast, no matter how deep the whiffs I inhaled. And I stopped so many times to frame pictures with my phone’s camera, my excursion grew longer and longer…
I think the Queen Anne’s Lace must bloom six months of the year. It is already bearing fully opened flowers, as well as these darling younger ones:
When I finally got home, it didn’t take long to satisfy my body’s need for fuel.
My soul had already had a full breakfast!
Along these lower creekside paths in my neighborhood, maintenance vehicles may drive when they are taking care of things. Recently I had seen one down there that didn’t look very official, an unmarked white SUV, just parked, with no crew around, and I wondered… who? Yesterday I saw it again, driving slowly along, then stopping, then creeping forward, and then at one pause a man got out, and I backtracked so I could talk to him across the channel, as he was lifting away a dead branch.
He said he worked for the water agency, and that as they clean out out the creek beds in preparation for winter, they want to preserve bird nests. He was marking any he found, so they would be spared.
That explains the desecration I saw a couple of weeks ago, seemingly random messes where it looked like elephants had trampled across the streams in places. Now I’m guessing it was humans with some heavy equipment for cutting trees and carrying them off.
These watercourses that flow from the hills are natural parts of the geography, but they also carry groundwater from the neighborhoods on either side, so it is a constant labor to preserve the ecology of the stream and keep it open, while not turning it into a mere drainage ditch. Occasionally they have to dredge out silt, and the stream looks momentarily ravaged, but quickly the willows and horsetail grass and myriad shrubs and vines start to fill in again. The egrets and mallards and frogs don’t get lost.
Darkness hangs on later these days, so I start my walks later in the morning. Today men with chain saws were already down in the dry areas of the creek bed as I walked by. One man was carefully grooming the lower parts of a small tree, getting it prepared for such time as fast waters will flow past. Let there not be any branches on which to hang debris and start the clogging-up again.
It’s been such a gift this summer to walk almost daily on these paths so close to my house. Each morning or evening the views are slightly changed, the birds and flowers presenting new events to witness. As the days shorten and the weather becomes a little less friendly, I hope I can still get myself down there often, and keep learning about this small corner of my world.