Tag Archives: granite

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.