Tag Archives: lake

The very thing.

Web photo

The hawk dropped down to the shoulder of the road just ahead of where I was driving down the mountain. It was at the elevation where you start to see the elderberries that don’t grow much higher, about 6,000 feet. He carried something in his talons that touched the ground just before he did.

I didn’t see any cars in my rear view mirror, so I slowed to a stop in the middle of the road and looked out the window at him, a few feet away on the other side of the road. He looked calmly at me. I should say, he looked in my direction, because I don’t know… what if I were the first human he had ever seen? Does a bird focus on another creature’s face and eyes, the way a human baby does? I stared and he looked a little bored, for ten long seconds, and then he flew into a tree nearby.

salsify

That meeting was one of the exciting events of my drive down from the mountains this week. I’d stayed at the cabin two more nights after my family departed, and had anticipated that when I finally left I would do my typical stop-and-go meandering for at least the first few thousand feet of descent, say, from 8,000 to 5,000 feet elevation. Because in July there are many more wildflowers than in September, the month in which I most often have visited this part of the High Sierra.

When the rain began to fall, and fell harder the morning I was to leave, it seemed my plans would have to change, and I might only be collecting rocks for my garden, instead of wildflower pictures. I always love rain at the cabin, so I did not complain at all. And it surely wouldn’t be a bad thing if I got home sooner rather than later. But — about the time I’d finished closing up the place and packing my car, the clouds began to break up, so that this was my last view of the lake:

The first wildflower I found, one I hadn’t seen for years, was Mountain Pride, bordering the road. It and Wavyleaf Paintbrush had few flowers remaining, but they provided a bright contrast to the sky, water and granite. This is a picture of them taken four years ago nearly to the day, in the same place. The snow melted earlier this year, as there was not much of it, so the bloom peaked before I got here.

I noticed or met for the first time no fewer than 18 different species of wildflowers that day, most of which I wrote down in a little notebook each time I got back into my car to drive further along the road, going slow and keeping my eyes open for spots of color, or whatever else might appear. Some of the flowers that I won’t show you were:

Spreading Dogbane
Arrowleaf Senecio
Goldenrod
Deer Vetch
Ranger’s Buttons
Spanish Clover
California Aster
Delta Sunflowers
Groundsmoke

My favorite flower of the day by far was Bigelow’s Sneezeweed, a darling thing which I first saw in this area many years ago. I pulled over for it several times, and the last time was the best display, with bees and two kinds of butterflies drinking at the blooms.

One of them was the Field Crescent, of whom I didn’t get a good shot, but here is one I found online of this little insect:

Field Crescent Butterfly [Phyciodes campetris]
Mormon Fritillary

Should Nature at times, on our awakening, propose to us
The very thing to which we were disposed,
Then praise at once swells in our throats.
We feel we are in paradise.

-Francis Ponge

The corn lilies were blooming, and a beetle was on site for that glorious event, seeming to have lost its head over pollen:

Fireweed waved its purple flowers in the breeze. “It earned its name because this plant is the first colonizer in the soil after forest fires.”


This next picture shows an area ripe and ready for some fireweed to sprout and grow; it is a landscape resulting from the Creek Fire last fall.

That was the huge fire that necessitated closing the highway that we use to get to our cabin, the same week that Soldier’s family and I had planned to be up there. We went to the beach and took smoky pictures instead.

Already I saw wild roses blooming among the stumps, and this healthy milkweed:

I often have run across wildflowers with buckwheat as part of their common name. This page shows you how vast is that family, called Polygonaceae, that includes mountain sorrel, curly dock — and rhubarb, of all things. But the strange species I saw a lot of on my drive was Naked Buckwheat.

It has strong, wire-like stems that are tall and bare for most of their length, with white puff-balls at the tip.

Bridges’ Penstemon

I wanted to get a nice picture of the elder bushes in flower, and when I squeezed in close this bright and rather large beetle got my attention:

I began to think of all the fascinating and complex creatures that live their (often short) lives in “obscurity.” I bet no one else had ever seen that bug. God lavishes the earth with life and beauty as an expression of His generosity and love.

As I went down the mountain, it was like an hours-long birthday party with Him saying, “Stop here. See that flower? It’s one of the special gifts I’m giving you today.” Then, “Look there! A red and black bug I chose just for you.”

He gave me sneezeweed because they are my old friends. He introduced me to a hawk for something new. Butterflies fluttered, proposing the very thing to which I was disposed. This place was not paradise, we can tell that by the fire damage, and many other aspects. But there was a little taste of Paradise in my soul, and praise swelling in my heart.

Guests make thank offerings.

Roger and Izzy had to leave early morning to catch a flight in Los Angeles this afternoon. When you are traveling with a toddler you need to give extra time for stopping proactively at places like parks, and time for unexpected events of various sorts. We mostly said our good-byes to them last night. So they weren’t there at breakfast when the remaining six of us gathered for the last time.

During the months that I’ve looked forward to this family time at the cabin, my mind has been buzzing with ideas of things I’d like to say, topics I wanted to discuss with my college-age  grandchildren while we were together day in and day out. I didn’t really trust those ideas, because I’m not the kind of person who brings up topics for discussion! The phrase “some spiritual gift” vaguely expressed what I wanted to give in person, separate from my ongoing prayers for them.

As the week went on, the fantasy faded, and I just enjoyed them immensely, and loved listening to them and being with them. We got to know each other a little better. Philosopher’s girlfriend C. I had never met before; I quickly fell in love with her.

This morning I discovered that the new prayer book from St. Tikhon’s Monastery includes the “Akathist Hymn of Thanksgiving: Glory to God for All Things.” As I read this prayer alone on the deck, it dawned on me that sharing it might be a kind of “spiritual gift.” After Nate blessed the food, and everyone was beginning to eat, I read several portions, beginning with these:

“I was born a weak, defenseless child, but Your angel spread his wings over my cradle to defend me. From birth until now, Your love has illumined my path, and has wondrously guided me towards the light of eternity. From birth until now the generous gifts of Your Providence have been marvelously showered upon me. I give You thanks, with all who have come to know You, who call upon Your Name.”

“O Lord, how lovely it is to be Your guest. Breeze full of scents — mountains reaching to the skies — waters like a boundless mirror, reflecting the sun’s golden rays and the scudding clouds. All nature murmurs mysteriously, breathing depths of Your tenderness. Birds and beasts of the forest bear the imprint of Your love. Blessed are you, mother earth, in your fleeting loveliness, which wakens our yearning for happiness that will last forever in the land where, amid beauty that grows not old, rings out the cry: Alleluia!”

This thankful spirit was expressed by the three teenagers who wrote in the cabin guest book before they left for home. Excerpts:

“The cabin is such a sweet place to simply be, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to do that with so many people that I love.”

“I’ve never seen so many stars so clearly, nor have I been able to see the Milky Way. The Sierras are a wonderful place to be! …This time being up here, I could really take in the smell of the pines, marvel at the granite domes as the sun sets on them, enjoy the clear blue water of the lake, the cool nights and breezy evenings… and enjoy being out in the less-altered land of the beautiful world God gave us….”

“There is so much peace at this cabin to the point where it feels like an oasis. When I figured out that there was no service at the cabin I was nervous. I quickly realized, though, that having no connection to the rest of the world is part of what makes this place so special.”

“You have brought me into life as if into an enchanted paradise. We have seen the sky like a chalice of deepest blue, where in the azure heights the birds are singing. We have listened to the soothing murmur of the forest and the melodious music of the streams. We have tasted fruit of fine flavor and the sweet-scented honey. We can live very well on your earth. It is a pleasure to be your guest.”

“I see Your heavens resplendent with stars. How glorious You are, radiant with light! Eternity watches me by the rays of the distant stars. I am small, insignificant, but the Lord is at my side: Your right arm guides me wherever I go.”

If you look closely at the railing in the second photo from the top of this post, you might be able to see the green fencing that has been installed over it, for the protection of little ones and the peace of mind of their elders. Lora could freely run around in and out of the cabin at will, and she did. I held her up above the railing so she could throw seeds down to the chipmunks that scurry around under the deck.

There have been lots of changes and improvements at the cabin since the last time I was here, including a new generator to replace the WWII veteran, and a new propane stove. The old one I think was the original stove installed in the cabin when it was built in the 1950’s. The thermostat was broken, the burners often had to be lit with a match, and the oven door would fall on your feet if you didn’t hold it up when looking inside.

Pearl made good use of it all week to make fabulous meals including shakshouka, a dish I’d never heard of. She had eaten it in Israel, and brought all the ingredients up to the cabin to try making it herself for the first time. We ate it for breakfast, including pita bread she made from scratch that morning.

And “the kids” made dinner twice. An addictive dish Izzy contributed was rice cooked with butter, lime, and cilantro. This experience of having other people cooking for me every day was pretty wonderful!

Last night Nate and Philosopher were gone fishing for a few hours, and they came back with six rainbow trout. This made Lora extra happy and she hugged herself again. The trout were featured at breakfast this morning while we contemplated God’s providence.

On this departure day of my family, a huge blessing has been bestowed on me in the clarity that this prayer hymn provides about spiritual gifts. I felt and experienced and learned again what I had somewhat forgot, that the most precious gift we can give each other, out of that abundance that has been given to us, is LOVE.

“Glory to You, ceaselessly watching over me.
Glory to You for the encounters You arrange for me.
Glory to You for the love of parents, for the faithfulness of friends.
Glory to You for the humbleness of animals which serve me.
Glory to You for the unforgettable moments of life.
Glory to You for the heart’s innocent joy.
Glory to You for the joy of living, moving, and being able to return Your love.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.”

(If you squint, you might see me walking in the middle of the picture.
Izzy took the shot on her way up Gumdrop.)

Dome, stars and fire.

As a group, we are trying to do All The Mountain Things.

The brothers have fished in the lake several times, off the shore and from the canoe, which my sister and her husband had been kind enough to take down to the lake for us before we arrived. “To the lake,” in a drought year like this, means that one has to unlock the canoe from a tree at the level of the lake at its fullest, and carry it about 75 yards across the lake bed to a place where you can put it in the water. They paddled a total of five miles one afternoon and evening in the process and caught two little trout, which they shared at breakfast the next morning.

All the kids swam in the lake, and the girls floated around in tubes. All five young people slept on the deck one or two nights, and looked at the stars, and woke  to the hummingbirds’ loud zipping overhead.

Our first morning here, people immediately began discussing the granite domes we can see from the cabin, ringing the lake. Which one should they climb first? Where was the trailhead? I told them they must do the quick and easy Gumdrop Dome right behind the cabin, too close to see. Yesterday morning the five young hikers and I started off together in that direction, so I could show them the usual route up. I haven’t tackled it myself in at least ten years, but I like to walk around its base, which is high enough to give a good view.

The little clump of trees just to the right of center of the photo below is what becomes Ant Island when the water level is higher.

This was my first time to see a backpackers’ campsite. That was a cheery sight, unlike the more numerous saddening ones: the many trees up there that have been familiar features of my previous visits and have appeared in my photos over and over, now dead. One of them was what I sketched, that one time I exhausted my mind trying that art form.

In that post I also mentioned the little bent-over tree that I loved. It, too, is dead now:

Normally when I’m framing photos in the Sierras, I try to exclude dead trees, but that is no longer possible. I’m sure Mrs. Bread will recall our philosophical discussion while sitting on the deck one summer, as to the value and possible beauty of creation in the process of decomposition. At the time I think I was unwilling to exert myself in that mental exercise. Even now I am having a hard time with it!

After dinner last night, which four young people cooked — barbecued tri-tip, fried potatoes, sauteed vegetables, baked beans and chocolate chip cookies — an even larger group of us carted  supplies down to the dry lake bed to have a fire and make s’mores. Roger and Izzy did most of the work, and left Lora with her Granddad back at the cabin. Pearl and I came last to the scene, tromping through the bushes and gravel straight down the hill instead of by the road, when Roger was just setting a match to the kindling.

Venus was the first bright light in the sky. We all craned our necks searching the sky for constellations that were brighter every time we looked up. Philosopher made a s’more just for me, my first in decades, I’m sure.

Today Pearl went off in the canoe with Roger and Izzy to cross the lake and get nearer to the base of another dome, which they would climb. I’m eager for them to get back with pictures showing our Gumdrop Dome from that side of the lake. I feel richly blessed by every outing and conquest that each of my family has been making here, even the ones in which I personally am not directly participating. I guess it’s one of those benefits of producing and being with a large and busy family, that I can in this way continue to do (almost) All The Things.

Down to the lake to be alone.

THE COUNTRY WIFE

She makes her way through the dark trees
Down to the lake to be alone.
Following their voices on the breeze,
She makes her way. Through the dark trees
The distant stars are all she sees.
They cannot light the way she’s gone.
She makes her way through the dark trees
Down to the lake to be alone.

The night reflected on the lake,
The fire of stars changed into water.
She cannot see the winds that break
The night reflected on the lake
But knows they motion for her sake.
These are the choices they have brought her:
The night reflected on the lake,
The fire of stars changed into water.

-Dana Gioia

I spent quite a while looking for a nice piece of art, or one of my photos, to accompany the story of this woman’s walk. The trying had the effect of making me love the poem even more; I began to think that only Gioia himself might be capable of creating a visual graphic that wouldn’t actually detract from what he’s already given us in words. There are voices and movement and one thing changing to another….

All the pictures I looked at were still pictures, of course. And none of them could carry half of the feeling of even one material element as expressed by these lines, such as the woods in the dark, or the stars, the water. When there is a stop in the middle of the fourth line, I see her pausing to push aside fir branches. The whole is an elegant interplay of the forces of beings.

Those beings are not only material. For example, the heart and mind of the woman any of us might imagine. It’s a wondrous thing to be able to go with her down to the lake, and yet, not invade her privacy. To have the vicarious experience of being her.  I follow the music, arrive at the lake, and find a solitude as full as the universe.