Tag Archives: oaks

Rabbitbrush and butterscotch.

Last week was full of rocks and trees and even flowers. Joy and I took the children to Garden of the Gods, where red sandstone in ragged forms towers above the walking paths. Even the littlest guy walked more than two miles among the juniper and mountain mahogany, and wildflowers mostly gone to seed. The Gambel oaks, also known as Rocky Mountain white oak or Colorado scrub oak, had probably displayed more varied shades of orange and yellow a few weeks ago, but when we encountered them the leaves had aged to a rich, mellow gold.

We saw the rabbitbrush in many forms and places, but didn’t know what it was until just before we left the park and saw its picture in the visitor center. I have known of rabbitbrush for decades and I hope that after this extended encounter I will not forget it so easily. We saw its flower, two sorts of galls on the plants, and noticed its needly leaves and how they are softer than conifer needles. One of the galls is cottony gall; the other I haven’t been able to identify.

The very next day the whole family drove up to Woodland Park; it’s less than an hour to this town that lies at 8500 feet. We walked along Lovell Gulch Trail, among several species of conifers and groves of aspens. We suspected they were aspens, but we knew that birch have similar bark, so when we got home I googled around and it became clear that yes, what we saw were aspens, so plentiful in the Rockies and in dry places high up, while birches like floodplains and shade. And the few leaves that we saw  — most had fallen after turning bright yellow — matched the pictures of aspen. I only saw one bright leaf, of another species.

We admired the bark of other trees, especially one that had lots of texture, and fresh sap flowing. Soldier had a sudden thought, came close to get a whiff, and concluded, “Oh, it must be a Jeffrey pine — they smell like butterscotch.” Indeed. Oh, that was delicious! I made up a mnemonic story for myself about a boy named Jeffrey who was walking down the trail and discovered a butterscotch drop on a tree trunk.

The view of the mountains is striking from there, a different perspective from our daily one. We have seen Pikes Peak from several angles now, and don’t know the names of any of the other peaks visible from here. Soldier just read that Colorado has more than 50 peaks over 14,000 feet. Colder temperatures are coming this week, and yes, snow is on the forecast, too. So our views will grow even more spectacular.

I drink and drink…

SEEKING BEAUTY

Cold winds can never freeze, nor thunder sour
The cup of cheer that Beauty draws for me
Out of those Azure heavens and this green earth —
I drink and drink, and thirst the more I see.

To see the dewdrops thrill the blades of grass,
Makes my whole body shake; for here’s my choice
Of either sun or shade, and both are green —
A Chaffinch laughs in his melodious voice.

The banks are stormed by Speedwell, that blue flower
So like a little heaven with one star out;
I see an amber lake of buttercups,
And Hawthorn foams the hedges round about.

The old Oak tree looks now so green and young,
That even swallows perch awhile and sing:
This is that time of year, so sweet and warm,
When bats wait not for stars ere they take wing.

As long as I love Beauty I am young,
Am young or old as I love more or less;
When Beauty is not heeded or seems stale,
My life’s a cheat, let Death end my distress.

-William Henry Davies

Walking with aromatics.

The first scent I noticed on my walk this morning was from the mown weeds, drying up and exuding the remembrance of new-mown hay, which I rarely encounter in my life these days.

There were conifers whose oils were being drawn by the warm sun into the air I breathed… and I forgot for a moment that I wasn’t camping in the redwoods with my family, walking on a duff-y path with gigantic trees towering on either side.

Just on the other side of the creek from the “hay,” was the soccer field with its green and rich scent I used to get once or twice a week, as I stood on the sidelines watching my children run kicking down that lush lawn.

And there were flowers hanging over from the back yards, honeysuckle and potato vine, and other flowering vines, all heady-sweet and making me wonder why I should ever think dessert was anything to satisfy.

I’m leaving this honeysuckle photo large because there seems to be a tiny long-winged fly hanging on to one yellow part right in the middle. Do you see it, too?

The most familiar aromatic of my walk must be the oaks, because they are ubiquitous in all the places in California that I have ever lived. I think these are live oaks, with their thorny leaves that cling to any concrete patio, etc. that you are trying to sweep them from.

I think those two pictures above, taken of two different trees, are both live oaks, but one has much more concave leaves than the other.

The last classic aromatic plant I passed before I left the path was roses, the little climbing pink and white ones that spill over the fence and pull me off the path to sniff them or take their pictures again and again. This morning I resolved to come back later with my shears — it’s only three blocks — to cut a few for the house.

“Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice…”