Tag Archives: granite

My view is deep.

pearly everlasting

 

DAY 4: I set out walking alone before breakfast, for back therapy. Yarrow and pearly everlasting flowers line the road, which has recently been resurfaced in places with granite gravel in 2-4 inch chunks. Yesterday when Scout and Ivy walked back from the lake they stopped their father every few feet to exclaim about a new piece that they had picked up, with unique sparkles or shape.

On return, I fry a pound of bacon, because you always have to do that in the mountains when you’re in a cabin where the bears can’t get at you. Scout and Ivy grab a crispy slice in one hand and a pile of blueberries in the other, and go out on the deck to play, waiting interminably it seems for the adults to do something besides talk – like take them out in the boats.

While the other adults are still making plans I decide to walk again, and take Scout with me. We head down to the lake and on the way he schools me in conifers, showing me red firs and lodgepole pines (aka tamarack, his father tells me), the most numerous tree species in this area.

lodgepole pine with red fir behind

As we come up through the forest behind the cabin, I check on the puffball I saw last month — remember, it looked like this:

— and it has puffed itself and exploded into a pile of cocoa powder:

When the canoeing group finally embarks paddles in hand, two-year-old Jamie and I remain in the cabin. This is the first time I’ve ever taken care of him alone. We play with dominoes, and read Machines at Work a dozen times while eating nuts that he holds in little bowl on his lap.

Tonight Pippin, understanding how much star-gazing means to me, does most of the work to set up the chaise lounge on the deck. Mice have demolished the pad so she makes a sort of mattress with blankets and Thermarest pads. Soon all the lights in the cabin are extinguished, the family are in their beds, and I stretch out in the dark darkness, flat on my back staring up.

Black tops of the lodgepole pines ring the patch of sky like a wreath. My view of the heavens is not wide, but it is deep. The first thing that happens is that I feel the stars’ presence like angels hovering over me, and I almost begin to weep. I think about what my friend Art said, that the sky is not empty, but full of angels, and try to remember if that was a reason that C.S. Lewis wanted to call his trilogy not The Space Trilogy but Deep Heaven. Space sounds empty, but like all of Creation, it is filled with God’s presence.

The fullness is overwhelming, but soothing. Cool air blows on my face. I drink and am strengthened. After a long time I carry my sleeping bag into the cabin and soon am sailing into dreamland like Wynken, Blynken and Nod.

Next day’s entry is HERE.

In the glorious elements.

gl P1040981 huge dome & lakeWhen we were up in the mountains last week, my granddaughter Maggie often played a game on her phone, which involved creating things from earth, fire, water and air…  Just now I realized that our experiences during our vacation were centered around a similar thematic group, consisting of Rock, Water, and Stars, with a little Fire and Trees in the mix, too.

A wildfire was burning close to our route up the mountain (Fire+Trees=Wildfire+Smoke), which may account for the hazy look of this top photo, which nevertheless combines in grandeur several mountain elements. (Rock + Trees + Water + Evening Light = Wow)

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We stopped at the redwood grove on our way, because it never hurts to get a dose of the stately and patient mood the giant trees maintain, and Maggie had never met these particular specimens before. She read a sign and reminded us that some of them have been here since the time of Christ. (Trees + Time = Giant Sequoias)

 

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Here you can see how tidy is the bundle on top of my car, which early that morning Pearl had helped me wrap envelope-style, before I did my knot work. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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The bundle remained tight and noiseless at freeway speeds (on the way up the mountain, at least), so we were relieved.

As soon as we pulled up to the cabin, Maggie was running, flying down the hill as the bird flies, to “explore.” Just below our place she had to cross this large slab of granite sloping down toward the lake.

gl P1040975 slab below cabin CR

Her mother and grandmother (me) did not attempt to go anywhere on foot that evening, because we were feeling the altitude. It really slows a person down, to be eight thousand feet higher in elevation than your lungs are used to. Maggie also noticed that she was out of breath more quickly, but it didn’t seem to slow her down much! (Activity – Air = Sluggishness)

So that night after dinner we curled up and listened to me read Farley Mowat’s The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, a very funny story that we had also read at the cabin about fifteen years ago. I later saw in The Cabin Log Kate’s account of that previous reading, “We laughed until we cried (seriously!)”

gl P1050083 kayaks

The next afternoon we went canoeing, which we could all three do together, after hauling the canoe down to the water. It was lovely while we were out there, but we only did that once, because the canoe is really too heavy for us little women. After seeing women paddling solo around the lake in kayaks, I have started thinking that I should invest in one of those little boats I could manage by myself, so that I could enjoy exploring the lake when I am up there on my own. If any of my readers has knowledge of this subject, I’d appreciate your input.

The photo above also shows Maggie with one of the friends she made, in the water near the rock that looks like a cracked egg, from which they would leap into the water. Having an almost 13-yr-old with me was part of why this stay at the lake was unusual. She was eager to do everything that could possibly be done, from lying in her hammock under the deck to swimming in the lake that the rest of us had always considered too cold.gl P1050100 CR Fi leap

gl P1040982 M build fire

The days we were there were leading up to a work day and potluck for the members of the owners’ association, which brought many more people up to the lake than I’ve ever seen at one time. This is why tgl P1050006 M w marshmallowhere were children Maggie’s age to play with, and how it happened that on two nights we shared three different campfires with new friends. It was a strangely social time, though not overly so. We all had time each day to be quiet and alone as well. And I really do want to know the families who have cabins at our lake, some of whom have been coming for over 50 years and passing their property down through the generations.gl P1050123

 

We had two campfires at our own cabin, which Maggie built herself. We made s’mores and popped popcorn over the fires, for the popcorn using this venerable device that can also be used in a fireplace. But the weather was so mild, we didn’t build a fire indoors.

One day I took Pearl and Maggie over to Gumdrop Dome which we always have to climb partially or to the top. The views and the photography from up there are unbeatable, but for the last many years it has only been partially to the top for me. I showed them the way that everyone seems to go, and saw them off with a cheery “See you on the other side!”, confident that they would have no trouble getting to the top, young and strong as they are.

But it was not to be. They came down the way they had started up, and eventually came around the dome to find me above them, partway up. I had  been hollering “Hel-looo!” every so often for 45 minutes, and praying that they hadn’t both fallen and hit their heads. This is what it looked like, where I was expecting to see them come over the top:

gl P1050050  O's dome not this steep

In real life it feels steeper than it looks, but I think the angle of this photo conveys the feeling pretty well. And then, there is that lack of oxygen.

gl P1050048 succulent O dome

 

While I was waiting, on the lower sides of the dome, I still had lots of beauty to keep me enthralled. Everything from succulents at my feet to the famous Ant Island across the lake.

 

Water + Sky + Rock = Mountain Beauty

gl P1050038 ant island crp

At night before bed we all liked to lie on the deck and look up at the stars for a half hour or more. What can I say about them? No words are adequate. Each one is energized, is what it is, by God’s Holy Spirit, and there are gazillions of them making an incredibly showy and captivating display that is completely silent. Perhaps it is the silence that helps us become receptive, so that they are able to convey to us some of their spirit. God uses them to thrill our souls, I know that at least. Maggie said she could never get tired of looking at them, and I must agree.

But eventually we had to go to bed. I will leave you with a view of the lake at evening, when we see that Water + Evening = silver glass.

Good-bye, Dear Mountain Air, Rock and Stars, Lake and Trees — all you Mountain Elements — until next summer!

gl P1050070 lake silver pink rocks

 

Mountain Air – I notice some things.

After reading of John Ruskin last summer, how he recommended that everyone learn to draw as a way of learning to attend to God’s creation, I felt it almost my Christian duty to at least make an effort. Normally I don’t want to take the time for a new challenge like that, so I had put it off until I knew I would have these uninterrupted hours at the cabin.

An ant visited my sketch pad.

Betty Edwards, in her book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, was my instructor. I enjoyed some of the exercises one day on the cabin deck, and the next I walked over to Gumdrop Dome and attempted to draw a very complicated scene.

It was a surprising pleasure, concentrating on all the lines and angles in front of me as I perched on a boulder, soaking up one of my favorite venues in a brand new way, noticing with my hand transferring what my eyes processed through my mind — for about an hour. Then suddenly I was done for, too brain weary/bored to finish my impossible drawing.

I picked up my tools and hiked a little farther around the dome where there was a simpler picture in view. This will be easier, I thought. So I sat on another rock and started in on this slope of the dome with a tree growing out of it, photo at right.

But no, granite domes and trees are just way too intricate for this beginner, and I gave that sketch up within a few minutes. It was soothing after my exertions to take out my camera and do instead some more familiar kind of focusing on these natural wonders.

tree bark

My primary goal in taking this little walk was unrelated to my drawing exercises anyway. When we’d hiked here with our friends earlier in the summer, while the other three were on top of the dome with the camera, I’d walked around the side and noticed the dearest little tree growing out of the rock and seeming to lay its “head” down on the stone, in a manner reminiscent of the way we children in First Grade used to lay our head on our desks every day after lunch for Rest Time.

This is how it had looked to me then:

I had tried very hard to concentrate my mental forces and memorize the way that tree looked, so that when I arrived back at the cabin I’d be able to sketch it. The results weren’t satisfying, though, and I’d contented myself with the thought that Next Time I would go locate it again, camera in hand. Here was my next time, a mere two months later.

As I walked around the tree I saw that it’s not resting on the rock at all. But the poor thing must have had its bones permanently bent by snow as a child. It will always be a hunchback, but with the honorable position of pointing to a beautiful granite dome, showing the climbers, “This way to the top!”

Here is another complex arrangement of nature that I didn’t even consider taking pencil and paper to, rock, trees, sky and clouds. This one seems to demand colored pencils:

At last, the picture I know you all have been dying to see, the result of my feeble exploration of the mountainside with the Right Side of My Brain:

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.