Tag Archives: manzanita

Melodies play all through me.

I first titled this post “Melodies of life,” then “Melodies play in my mind…” but then I realized that music is more pervasive than that. My heart is full of melodies today. I mentioned last summer how Kate’s husband Tom would sing about everything; I asked him to make up a song for going to the Indian market and he was on it immediately and with a good will.

Now it’s Raj who sings all day, as long as he is in a happy mood. As the weeks went by and he got used to being in Grandma’s house, his mood gradually improved. But the change when his father returned from extended job training was dramatic. Until then, I think he was intuitively ill at ease, what with his nanny and father both “disappearing” and being replaced with Grandma. Once the family unit was restored he relaxed and became much less reactive. The songs increased.

His mother has created custom eclectic playlists of songs to play for the children, including many from her own childhood, when we had our favorites to sing on trips and before bed, and sometimes around the piano. From being fed throughout his whole short life by both the recorded music and the singing parents, Raj seems to have at his disposal a hundred songs to sing as medleys while he is playing.

Rug I just got for my newly refurbished closet.

He has been allowed to watch toddler videos in Spanish, which I found very educational for myself. When I achieved 500 days in a row in my Duolingo “study” a few weeks ago, I stopped; it just seemed like too much with all the world events demanding my attention. So I’ve enjoyed learning some new words and phrases by means of catchy songs (on “Super Simple” Spanish, YouTube) like “Ponte tus zapatos, zapatos, zapatos…”

At his morning naptime the parents sing to little Rigo, and I could hear them from downstairs, especially when Tom returned and took his turns in a man’s voice. “As I Went Down in the River to Pray,” was reintroduced to my own musical repertoire in this way. Other sweet reminders are “You Are My Sunshine” and “I Feel Like a Morning Star.” These melodies have comforted our souls, especially as we were repeatedly recovering from little boy noise — oh, my! The wild energy is exhausting; I’m glad the parents are young.

The family departed this morning for their new home and jobs in Panama. It’s the same daughter whom I visited in India two years ago, where I was able to be present when their firstborn arrived. I’m posting a few more stories and pictures before I move on to the next chapter of my life.

One discovery Raj led me to was manzanita berries as food. He found a funny unused plant stand in the greenhouse that he liked to sit on, and one day I found him in there chewing on something from a cup. He had collected manzanita berries from under the bush. I knew that they weren’t toxic, but I had never heard of any human eating them, so I looked them up and found an article about how you can use the unripe berries to make cider, the ripe berries in baked goods; you can even boil the seeds to make “a sophisticated drink.” No joke!

Well, if a toddler was enjoying them, and going back for more, I must sample one myself. I tried several, actually, and they do taste good, but there is not much flesh to taste! You immediately get to the seeds in the middle, which are basically three little stones filling the fruit. I hope I never am so poor that I need to survive on them.

Their last day here, when Tom and Kate were busy packing, Raj had been informed that the trip was imminent. Finally they would go to their new house in that mythical place called Panama, which he’d heard about for several months. He was as cheerful as could be, working from the essential understanding that they would be on an airplane and an adventure again. Finally he had a personal use for the phrase that he’s heard so often in the last year: “You ‘tay here, I be right back!” He told me this many times, as the move was the topic of the day.

And when in my bedroom he found a stuffed llama toy, he thought he’d like to get in my “big red bed” with it, and he snuggled there for at least a half an hour, leaving and returning with books to read, and more stuffed animals, chattering nonstop. He found a basket of Christmas cards and “read” all two dozen of them; I particularly liked this activity!

What will I do, now that it’s quiet here again? I managed to note on paper at least a couple dozen songs that I heard my grandson sing over the last few weeks, and I’ll try to create my own playlist of cheerful tunes to keep filling my house and heart. ❤

My birthday Christmas in March.

My birthday hasn’t yet arrived, but since I’m unlikely to see any of my children on the proper day, the family I was with just a few days ago gave me a celebration. (Soldier had planned to come here from Colorado with Liam day, but he wisely cancelled that trip.) Presumably we’ll all be holed up apart from one another when I cross over to a new age.

The first special thing Pippin did was to drive me and the children to a succulent farm she’d been wanting to visit. We took a picnic and ate on the way; it took us a while, as it’s in Fort Jones, sort of in the middle of “nowhere,” and not a place that succulents would grow naturally, but the whole operation is in greenhouses. Maybe some of you have ordered from Mountain Crest Gardens. If you like succulents, you would have feasted your eyes on the long rows of charming species and collections.

One of them I did not find charming, only strange:

Pippin wanted to get me a few for my birthday and I chose these that are different from anything I already have:

I put them in my car to keep them safe, and I checked on them one day to see that they weren’t getting too cold. I didn’t notice then that the one on the right had evidently gotten too cold, and no wonder. My car looked like this one of those mornings.

I knew I wouldn’t be keeping that plant outdoors in the winter here, and I don’t know why I didn’t have more sense about how cold it would get in my car. At least, it is only damaged, not killed. Scout also came home with a little succulent, and Ivy collected various leaves and stems off the greenhouse floor which I told her were likely to grow into plants if they were in dirt, so she put them all together in one pot when she came home.

The second birthday surprise was nothing anyone could have planned: a big snowfall of the powderiest sort, followed by a morning when we could easily walk down the road a few paces to a good spot for sledding. That day Jamie had looked out the window and beamed, “It feels like Christmas!” and when I asked why, he said because of the snow.

I realized then how special a treat it was, after their relatively dry winter, that this dumping of perfectly fun snow should happen while I was there, and actually, on the perfect day. I had tried to make my visit other weeks that should have been more wintry. Now, in the middle of March, came my birthday gift from God.

If not for the children, I’d have been happy to look at the snow through the window, but being able to accompany them and watch them literally throw themselves into it was the joy and the gift.

They were thankful for this late snow because when it was Christmas on the calendar their family had just returned from my house and collapsed sick. They couldn’t even eat their Christmas cookies that had been laid by.

As we were pulling on our snow boots and rummaging around for the bibs and gloves, Scout said, “When we come back we can have tea with leftover Christmas cookies!”

Jamie broke trail heading for the little hill alongside the railroad track, and soon the children had smoothed out a sledding run. But after a while they all seemed to like as well merely rolling down the railroad embankment, or in the case of Ivy, just diving and splashing around in the snow, eating it.

Two days before, I had walked through the forest with the children, trying to identify species of lichens, and noticing stages of manzanita growth or death. This day the manzanita blooms were set in fluffy white.

On the embankment next to where freight trains run many times a day, snowballs form on their own, maybe from the wind of the train rushing past?

We did go home and eat those Christmas cookies and drink our tea. The Professor blew a path through the snow for me to walk on back to where I was sleeping, in a sort of guest cottage across the street. The next morning  the scene showed my tracks with no new snow.

Too many of my children have moved to where the winters are cold and snow is common, and the older I get, the more I try to avoid visiting them during the winter. I should try to remember that every visit I have had in snowy weather has been fun; remember the last time when I taught Liam and Laddie to make snowballs? This week’s snow made good snowballs, too! It was another blessed birthday to remember. ❤

 

Wildflowers among the charred manzanita.

Rosy Sandcrocus

Early this morning I had joked with my daughters about hiking alone today, saying that because it was Saturday I knew there would be plenty of other hikers around to see the event if a mountain lion dropped from a tree onto me. (None of them laughed at my joke.) Yes, there were many people on all the trails, but when I did have an accident it was during a minute when I was out of sight of everyone, and I was glad for that.

I couldn’t resist visiting another regional park this afternoon because I was in the neighborhood, having helped to care for my goddaughter Mary and her siblings all morning, a bit north of home. But I had forgotten to put my boots in the car, so I went with just my Merrells that are super comfortable and supportive, but still – they are just shoes.

The fires of last fall ripped through this area — that’s two years more recent than where I hiked on Tuesday, and the damage is striking. So many manzanitas are black, or black with copper leaves. But these wind-driven fires we’ve had will thoroughly burn one bush or tree and leave one right next to it unharmed. In the next picture I was trying to show the flowering bush, and the other close by that is singed and stressed. Maybe it will recover by next year – or maybe not.

Some trails in the park are still closed since the fire; I made note of that when I printed a map last month, but I also forgot to bring the map. So I wandered a lot and ran into two dead ends where the trail was closed, making it seem like I had walked for much longer than an hour. There were plenty of green trees and shrubs, and lots of new ground cover including several low-growing wildflowers. I was surprised to see so many on this last day of February; maybe the warm days we’ve had recently encouraged the bloom.

I made good use of that phone app: Seek, from iNature. I’m excited about it helping me to spend more time outdoors with the plants and less time in my cold corner looking at a screen to do my plant identification detective work. In that short time it helped me confirm the names of or learn for the first time eight plants and flowers. It didn’t matter to the app that the wind was blowing them blurry. It does matter to me, when I am posting pictures, so I will show you the clearest images I got.

Besides the charred oaks and manzanita in the photo above, you can see how the plant pictured in more detail below covers the slopes all over with its wavy leaves. When I pointed my phone at it I learned that it is appropriately named Wavy-leafed Soap Plant or Chlorogalum pomeridianum:

And this sweet thing (with the botanical name impossible to say without spitting) is the Rusty Popcornflower – Plagiobothrys nothofulvus:

The trails were mostly very gravelly, and what happened was, I slid in the gravel and went down. It wasn’t even a steep hill. I got back up and brushed myself off, looked around to see that mercifully, no one was rushing to my aid. I was more careful after that, especially when going downhill.

Besides the plants I’ve pictured here, I saw Blue Dicks; a yellow flower called Pacific Sanicle; Henderson’s Shooting Star; and a tiny and tightly furled white flower among leaves also folded close, but looking like clover — the app could make no sense of that one. But the most interesting meeting was of the Rosy Sandcrocuses. I saw most of them almost hidden in the grass, they were down so low, but this one had opened while still lying in its sand bed. Those long grass blades lying next to it are its leaves, which makes you understand why some people call it Onion Grass.

My favorite for beauty, the Pacific Hound’s Tongue. That phone app is up to date; it knew that the botanical name has changed to reflect what has been discovered about this flower’s genetics. These were smaller plants than what I’ve seen in wetter places, but their beautiful blue catches the eye. I’m thrilled to have seen one today, and reveling in the gorgeous springtime and all my flower surprises – also that I didn’t break a bone!

Pink flowers are not all she gives.


It may not have been fellowship exactly, but my time today with my fellow creatures the plants was intimate and  lovely, and I spent hours pruning three of the trees. That is something God does to us, and maybe that’s why it makes me feel particularly tenderhearted toward my horticultural “children.”

First the plums, for which I had to move up their solstice pruning a week because I won’t be here at the summer solstice. Lots of other weeding, feeding, planting — and naturally, trying to take pictures of insects. I was eating breakfast in the garden when I noticed syrphid flies on the toadflax, and wondered how I could ever have confused them with bees. They don’t have the same flight pattern at all, and they even buzz more like flies.

 

The last thing I did was to spend an hour with the manzanita bush that I’d named Margarita a few years ago, about the same time I told her history. (You can see more pictures of her via that link.) It was this task that brought me into the sweet communion with the plant that is enjoying her 15th spring on the property! I can tell she is happy because she’s putting out lots of new green leaves, while the berries are still mostly green, too. I must never have paid much attention to this tree in other Junes, because I hadn’t seen the contrast of the new growth with the old leathery leaves, many of which are turning brown, which is normal.

In order to survey the wandering branches and find the dead wood and make decisions about how to thin Manzanita while keeping her twisty and graceful form, I must have walked around and around her a dozen times, noticing and snipping twigs and whole branches that were revealed as needing removal, one by one with each changed view. I mused about how she has grown and changed; countless parts of her have died and been cut away, but she gradually has become a little taller. Since her youth when I realized that she wanted to grow northward, time and again I have helped her to do it in a nice way, and every year she gives me pink flowers for Valentine’s Day.

She is a dear.