At least, that’s what it seemed to me they were doing. At Jenner-by-the-Sea so many Pacific Harbor Seals give birth and rear their young on the sand spits that they call it a rookery or a nursery. It’s where the Russian River opens into the Pacific along the North Coast of California, and the beach there is called Goat Rock. This photo shows them on both sides of the river, the town hidden by fog above the farthest shore.
My friend and I had made the drive to the beach pretty early in the morning, having been told by the weather people that it would be mostly sunny. It was not — but 60° and not windy is pretty good for this coastline, where beaches are not consistently sunny until August or September.
You’re not supposed to get closer than 50 feet to the seals; I think we were a little closer than that, but we stood quietly staring and none of the animals seemed to mind us or change what they were doing. The seals didn’t move much, but their various colors were interesting, and they would go in and come out of the water occasionally, or look up at us.
The pelicans were more thrilling, and even more numerous, flying back and forth or just hanging with the sea gulls and seals. But they were also harder to photograph! In the middle of the middle picture below, it’s pelicans who are forming a flotilla in the river. We didn’t see any diving to fish.
After stopping by another beach where we enjoyed some of that “mostly sun,” we took a slightly different route back inland along a narrow road where bright patches of wildflowers caught my attention, springing up through the dry grass.
I especially noticed the leaves on the one just above, because they resembled those of the little native beach plant in my garden, Eriogonum latifolium or seaside buckwheat, that I bought at a local nursery three years ago. It has never bloomed, or even grown very much.
When I got home, I went out back to take a picture to compare, and what do you know? It is blooming right now!! And I do believe…
A couple of weeks before my birthday, which is today, Mrs. C proposed a trip to the North Coast for a walk on the beach, which we planned to do yesterday. A week ago we noticed that rain was on the forecast all the way to the coast, so we thought we might end up taking a sedentary drive, and eat crab on the way.
We met at her house, where across the road I found sourgrass – Oxalis pes-caprae – in abundance. I didn’t know until I looked up the botanical name just now that it is considered a noxious weed around here. Its bright color drenched with rain made it reflect all the midday light.
Mrs. C has peach blossoms by her deck. I’m glad she is the kind of friend who doesn’t mind slowing down while I take pictures of everything. Well, not quite everything.
You can see from these photos how the sky was white or gray with clouds. We had our umbrellas with us when we set out.
After we enjoyed our little lunch, sitting in her truck on a bluff overlooking the ocean, we walked down to Schoolhouse Beach, not even bringing our umbrellas, because there was no sign of rain. I know God held the rain off because He wanted me to have a birthday walk on the sand. 🙂
And not just a walk, but a look at the sand. We sat on rocks and sifted through the sand that on this particular beach is very gravelly. No grain of sand was too small to hold separately in our fingers. Here is a close-up:
Remember when last month I saw the sand display in Pacific Grove? Soon afterward I did buy some small bottles in hopes of filling them with sand from my explorations. I managed to have two with me, and I collected the first sample at this beach. It even contained a piece of beach glass.
You might notice in that photo above the blue sky in the background. For much of the afternoon we were under a clear and blue ceiling, though we could see fog banks and clouds moving in on three sides of us.
Mrs. C didn’t bring a camera or a bottle, but she made her own collection of some of the larger pebbles.
This beach is dangerous for swimming, as are many on California’s North Coast. It has a sharp drop-off that I think is somehow connected to the frequency of “sleeper” or rogue waves, plus undercurrents that are hard to escape from. Just last month a woman was swept off a rock here and drowned.
After a while we drove five minutes south to Salmon Creek Beach where the sand was more like sand. The fog and clouds had covered the sun, and the sea gulls were lined up facing the wind. Those birds must have known that we had no food, because they ignored us on both beaches.
We walked even more along here, after I scooped up “plain” sand into my second bottle. Iceplant and sourgrass and other flowers I don’t know are starting to bloom. This one I haven’t been able to identify so far:
It was growing on the edges of a lagoon that has been receding. Salmon Creek flows through the lagoon on its way to the sea, making always-new carvings through the sand. This was our last view as we reluctantly made our way up the cliff and left the wide views behind us.
It had been a lovely gift of a day. Within a minute of my leaving Mrs. C’s house, thundershowers began, and I drove through ten or fifteen of them before I got home.
I need to put a couple of empty bottles in my bags right now while I’m thinking of it, and start planning my next adventure so as to include sand. 🙂
The air above the beach was cold and still Saturday afternoon when I drove over with a collection of family members for a picnic and a stroll. Our shadows were long, because in the morning I’d kept everyone busy doing repairs and assembly and various other jobs for me. It’s not often one has two handy and willing sons-in-law on the property at once, not to mention their wives whose presence holds me up in every practical way.
But get away we did, and the first order of business on arrival at the coast was to eat our late lunch of sandwiches and Jelly Bellies, on this promontory along the Kortum Trail in Sonoma County.
About seven bodies were squeezed on to a little picnic cloth, so I sat nearby on something passing for a tussock and examined the tiny vegetation around me, plants that get walked on frequently, and have to make do with fog for precipitation these days. Their roots must be even sturdier than their micro leaves.
Thin blue sky, the open and fresh air, wide sweeps of dry grasses and bushes leading up to the hills and down to creek beds….the children scrambling on rocks and cliffs, a centipede in the path, the gorgeous ocean….We walked along the bluffs trail for a while, then returned the same way, and even little Ivy didn’t need to be carried, though she often liked to walk along with me and hold my hand. In her aqua fleece (as at top) she makes a bright spot against the grey-brown landscape in many of my pictures.
Before we got back to our cars, the sun had set.
I used my camera liberally all day, then came home to discover that my lens had a smudge on it, smack dab in the middle where I focused most of my shots. I’ve done a bit of cropping, but that doesn’t always work, so I am sharing some of the smudged pictures anyway. If you see something fuzzy just pretend it is an unseasonable wisp of fog.
Yes, we had gathered for Thanksgiving and this was the overflow. It was the happiest of long weekends, stretching out for me from Wednesday through Sunday, with Kate and Tom coming from D.C. first, and most of the other children and their families gathering for at least the day at Pearl’s new place in Davis. She hosted 22 people for a fine dinner. Kit was with us, and two other extra guests on top of the kinfolk.
Her tables were beautiful, with fresh lemons and limes from the garden, and the lemon tree shining through the window, too.
Before we sat down to dinner Soldier and I stood and read alternate stanzas for the group, selected from the Orthodox hymn of thanksgiving, “Glory to God for All Things.” It made me very happy to read verses like the following with my friends and family who are all of this mind and heart:
I was born a weak, defenseless child, but Thine angel spread his wings over my cradle to defend me. From birth until now Thy love has illumined my path, and has wondrously guided me towards the light of eternity; from birth until now the generous gifts of Thy providence have been marvelously showered upon me. I give Thee thanks, with all who have come to know Thee, who call upon Thy name.
Thou hast brought me into life as 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 flavour and the sweet-scented honey. We can live very well on Thine earth. It is a pleasure to be Thy guest.
Another highlight of the holiday was gathering in the living room after dinner to talk about the dear person who was missing this year, and share stories about him, stories from his sister, his children and their spouses, and from me. This was my idea, because I knew that many of us would be acutely aware of his absence, and it seemed only right and helpful to bring that part of us into the open — I think I’m not the only one who is comforted by hearing other people talk about my husband.
One of my stories was about the apple pies I had baked this Thanksgiving. After we married, it was probably in the 70’s that I made my first pies, for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Early on my husband had told me about how his grandmother, just before she put her fruit pies in the oven, would sprinkle sugar on the tops. So I did it as well, always, and he liked that I kept the tradition.
Last Wednesday I had been running all day, cooking and greeting guests and making gardening decisions. The pies were the last thing to get done, and by the time I was assembling them everyone else in the household had gone up to bed. When I came to that last step, it crossed my mind that the sugary finish didn’t matter now, he wouldn’t be eating the pies. Maybe I shouldn’t bother.
But it only took a split second for me to know that I did want to bother, for his memory and for him. “This is for you, Mr. Glad,” I said, as I brushed on some water, and then scattered sugar from a spoon. When we bit into them the next afternoon we found them to be really good pies. They were a bit lopsided with drooping crusts, but that is also traditional with me.
From Wednesday to Sunday I got help with a slew of household tasks — or more precisely, my family completed these tasks without any help from me! Some of the work that was done:
Watering new plants.
Assembling quilt rack.
Assembling a floor lamp.
Hanging mini LED light strings.
Rearranging bedroom wall decor.
Troubleshooting my laptop, desktop, phone, and Kindle — yes, all of them!
Drilling 2-inch holes in half barrels for strawberry plants, then moving dirt and filling the barrels.
Repairing the curtain rod in the playhouse.
Fixing a door latch.
I’m sure I’ve ungratefully forgotten to list just as many other tasks that they did. In recent weeks friends and family have accomplished many more jobs that could fill out a very long list, too.
Other satisfying recreational and/or heartwarming and bonding activities we enjoyed:
Six women cleaning up the kitchen after Thanksgiving dinner – so much fun and togetherness!
Ten people sleeping in my house for a couple of nights, and children’s happy voices.
Introducing Scout and Ivy to the playhouse. Ivy was overheard saying, “Grandma built this playhouse just for me!”
Pulling the children up and down the street in the new cart, because the back yard paths aren’t ready yet for the kids to play with it there.
Cooking more meals together, and picnicking on the bluffs at the coast. I made another batch of sticky rice and Kit whipped together a rice snowman to delight us and to decorate the table.
Reading before sleep with Maggie beside me in the bed, each of us engrossed in her own book.
Playing dead bugs: When I reminded Kate and Pippin how to do the dead bug position for back health, I demonstrated with my calves resting on the couch. ( I just learned by way of images that no one else does it this way.) Soon the children joined in and lined up next to the grownups. Ivy couldn’t do it properly that way because her legs just stood straight up with knees locked against the front of the couch.
Playing the spoons, with inspiration from Deb “Spoons” Perry. The children continued with the spoons into the next day, and Scout almost took a pair of my best teaspoons home with him.
Clapping: Kit taught us the cups-and-clapping game, which was very satisfying to play or merely to observe. I could have watched all night. The little children were mesmerized by the cups game, but found it far easier to keep clapping their spoons together trying to keep time.
My favorite video that inspired us that evening doesn’t even have cups. It is a clapping song that was very satisfying to me because the message of its lyrics seemed to sum up the net positivity of my first Thanksgiving as a widow. The celebrations were both harder and easier than I expected. If you watched the YouTube video I linked to above you’ve already heard the words, in their upbeat musical context, but here they are plain for posterity.
I’ll think of you as I go, so when I leave, you’re not alone;
and no matter where we are, we will never be that far
‘cuz I will think of you as I go.
I’ll think of you as I dream,
so when it’s dark, you’ll be with me,
and no matter where we are, we can look up to the stars
and I will think of you as I dream.
I’ll think of you when I’m down,
when my heart is on the ground;
and I will never lose my way even when the skies are gray,
‘cuz I will think of you when I’m down.
(refrain) O it’s a long and winding road, but you don’t have to walk alone,
‘cuz no matter where we are, I will keep you in my heart
and I will think of you as I go.
This weekend I had the unusual experience of having separate visits back-to-back with the families of two of my children: one on Friday midday, the other Friday night and Saturday. First Soldier and Joy invited me to meet them at Tilden Park in the Berkeley hills, a place I’ve been a few times in my life, most notably as a Brownie attending day camp there in ages past.
This park covers more than 2,000 acres, which makes it twice as vast as Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, which already is 20% larger than New York’s Central Park. Within its boundaries you can find wilderness areas, a lake and a golf course; ride the merry-go-round or horses, and feast on great views of San Francisco Bay. We only had time to focus on three pleasures.
Our first fun was riding the little steam train that winds around among the oaks and conifers. Liam took careful note with a serious countenance of the scenery going past, but Laddie has little patience for sitting still, so he was glad to get off again and run. We soon were picnicking on pasties and lemon cake that Joy had brought, and then decided to look at the botanical gardens.
These gardens were founded in 1940 and have well established and extensive paths and plantings. Even though it is late summer, we found many flowers and things to look at, but we all imagined coming back in the spring to see it when it is not so dry.
It showcases California native plants, from all over the state, which are often grouped in habitats imitating their natural homes, such as a redwood forest and a mountainous granite slope.
Since a couple of our party were people who need their naps, and I had the nasty three o’clock rush hour traffic ahead of me, we weren’t able to ramble long enough to feel completely satisfied in our explorations, so I think we all want to return another time. Hugs good-bye, and home I went.
A couple of hours after I arrived home, Pearl’s family came to visit, all but one. The oldest is in the process of flying out of the coop, so their numbers are diminished. We had a relaxed visit, especially for the first twelve hours or so, and then we drove out to Bodega Bay for lunch and hiking.
We also couldn’t do everything we’d have liked. The Marine Lab is closed on Saturdays, and we had hoped to visit there. But we did go out on Bodega Head and hike up to the bluffs – what a gorgeous day we had for it! The Northern Coast is foggy a lot in the summer, until August and especially September when you can hit more pleasant weather. Today was not too warm, and the breeze didn’t turn into wind. We could do without our sweaters most of the time.
Out here nothing is getting watered, and the hills were a dull brown. I kept thinking of the sign from the park yesterday. But as usual, I found many specimens of plants that interested me, mostly old friends. Because I’m planting a new garden, and hope to have a greenhouse in it, I broke off some of the crackly seed pods from the big yellow lupine bushes, and dropped them into a pocket of my purse. Maybe I can get them to grow at home.
Pearl and Maggie and everyone departed in the afternoon, and I went to Vespers, which is always a blessing; but on a day when I’ve been out in nature it is especially lovely to hear Psalm 104 which always opens the service, with its mention of the watery depths, the birds and mountains, trees and grasses, and how God lovingly provides for all of us.
All creatures wait on thee to give them their food in due season.
When thou givest to them, they gather it up;
When thou openest thy hand, they are filled with good things.