I’m in a good mood, because I cleared the driveway of weeds this morning, and brought sunflowers into the house. My foot feels all better, which had been slightly gimpy merely from wearing sandals instead of boots while gardening last week.
The Monarch caterpillars are thriving on giant leaves of the showy milkweed that I bring to them in their mesh cage almost every day. If they had hatched out on the spindly narrowleaf variety where Mama Monarch had laid the eggs, they’d have run out of food fast. I bought a new tropical milkweed plant when I went shopping for begonias last Sunday, but they don’t seem to care for its leaves. (At the bottom of the page is a milkweed I encountered in the mountains some years ago.)
I’ve been too busy to write good sentences about All The Things. I am trying hard to learn to say NO to myself sometimes: “Remember, Dearest Self, you can’t do ALL the things ALL of the time!” Finally after four months, in the middle of which we think the city lost my application, we got the building permit for my remodeling project that I’ve been preparing for over the last year. It’s taking hours and hours to choose paint and cabinets and faucets and mirrors, and more time to watch caterpillars munch, so naturally there have been fewer hours with which to read, write, and cook.
I don’t know how to apply the principle that wise GKC is telling us about in this quote that I thought was simply lovely when I put it in a draft a while back. The word austerity doesn’t seem to fit with the way I behave, though pleasure and gratitude are the world I live in. I’d like to know what you all think about his twist on these qualities of our existence.
Purification and austerity are even more necessary for the appreciation of life and laughter than for anything else. To let no bird fly past unnoticed, to spell patiently the stones and weeds, to have in the mind a storehouse of sunsets, requires a discipline in pleasure, and an education in gratitude.
-G.K. Chesterton — Twelve Types (1903)
My friend who’d never been to our mountain retreat had a desire to walk all the way around the lake. I told her that would take all day, and I didn’t know if my feet were up to it. So we walked for a few hours (round trip) and got to one end of the lake where a little creek flows in. I’d never done that walk before, so I felt happy about accomplishing a new thing.
It was also fun to get new perspectives on old favorite vistas.
At first I was surprised by the hundreds of dragonflies zipping around us most of the way, but then I remembered my amazement two years ago in this place. When occasionally one seemed to be considering alighting on the ground, I’d say, “Please stop here just a moment so I can look at you more closely!” But their English isn’t very good, and they mistook here for her, and stopped on Myriah’s pant leg. But not long enough for me to get close.
We admired the rocks and grass and moss, and domes across the lake,
and waded in the chilly waters to get to the inlet.
We didn’t see another soul.
Soon after we got back to the cabin, we got our last dinner assembled and cooking.
It’s been more than 25 years since I stayed five nights in a row at the lake. What a relaxing and rejuvenating time this was, and nourishing to the friendship of my companion and me. So I count the whole week as another sort of new exploration. Next time, longer! But now I am home and gathering my wits and strength for adventures coming my way this fall.
Myriah and I were standing on the shoulder of Gumdrop Dome, looking across the lake to the other shore. She said that the trees rising in ascending rows from the water’s edge reminded her of a choir standing straight at attention. I made a note to include that image in a blog post if I could.
Later we were talking about age and getting old and what is youthfulness? and I was looking up a poem by Wendell Berry that I posted here once, when I found this fitting one:
What do the tall trees say
To the late havocs in the sky?
The air moves, and they sway.
When the breeze on the hill
Is still, then they stand still.
They have no fear. Their fate
Is faith. Birdsong
Is all they’ve wanted, all along.
-Wendell Berry, from A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems
The thought of the trees listening to the birds comforts me. I don’t see half the birds here that I see at home, though as Myriah noted, “I’ve heard more birds than I’ve seen.” Yesterday I got the idea of putting some berries on the deck and railing in hopes of attracting a Steller’s Jay. Nope. Not even a chipmunk has found one yet.
But a blue dragonfly just now graced my field of vision with his blue whirr.
I’m in the mountains, at my cabin, with my friend. It’s all lovely.
The sky is free of the smoke that has at times drifted south from Yosemite fires.
Myriah and I drove up earlier this week. She’s never been here before and hadn’t envisioned how remote and un-resortlike it is. We have been talking a lot, catching up on the last 65 years of each other’s lives, including learning how our respective parents met, details of our childhoods and college years and our children’s and grandchildren’s babyhood and wonderfulness.
We’ve been walking, reading, cooking, sitting on the deck. We saw strange large birds our first morning, that we haven’t been able to identify based on our brief glimpse of them thudding into the window and flapping in the trees. That was special enough, to have a close encounter with something other than a Steller’s Jay up here. But this morning while drinking my morning tea I saw a bright bird that quickly flew off, but that had such distinctive colors he was easy to identify from a “Birds of the Sierra Nevada” pamphlet: he is a Western Tanager!
I have no hope of getting a photograph of this fellow, if he even comes near again to sit in a pine tree, so I am showing a picture I found. He has been the highlight of my stay so far. I was as happy as if I had found a bag of gold under a hunk of granite.