Tag Archives: Sierra Vinegarweed

Back home in the same direction.

DAY 6: Even though this is our departure day, and I have much to do — or maybe because of that — I linger in bed this morning and savor this cozy little part of my cabin experience. I wonder where that mouse ran to… don’t suppose a mouse would start making a nest in my suitcase overnight… hope not. My lips are really chapped, from the dry air. I haven’t looked at the weather station much but I did notice humidity of 25% yesterday.

We are all up and packing, cleaning, eating breakfast at the same time. The children eat leftover pancakes heated on a stovetop toaster. I have jerky and leftover cold green beans with pesto. No microwave here, so even my tea gets cold and I wouldn’t want to dirty another pan to reheat it.

Everyone ponders when they might next be up here. The Professor is hoping their family might come back every other year; Scout was lobbying for twice a month! But snow prevents us from using it more than three or four months of the year. I might return as soon as next week, but I might not. I may be all tripped-out and too weary from this year’s bounteousness of traveling.

I am cleaning my windshield — amazed that I remembered to do this — when four-year-old Ivy comes up and says, “Can I help you with that, Grandma? I can do your side windows; you can do the high parts and I’ll do this part down here.”

“Well, okay, thank you, Sweetie, that will be nice  to have those clean, too.” I hand her a paper towel with Windex on it and she starts wiping. “Dad told me and Scout to help you and Mom as much as we could.” 🙂

My dear family drives off, after Pippin has accomplished 90% of the cleanup. A few last details… I’m almost out the front door when a chipmunk runs past me into the cabin. Oh, dear! I try to get on the other side of him to herd him back to the open door, but he runs into the back bedroom and disappears. My brother is due to arrive sometime this day — will I have to wait for him to help me?  Mice are always with us, but I can’t lock up with a chipmunk in here.

While I muse over this and check my phone one last time before leaving the wi-fi, the little guy scampers down the hall and out the door. Whew.

I drive away from the lake and down the mountain, enjoying the quietness for one more hour at least — I won’t turn on my audiobook until I get out of the forest — and the smell of the trees. Today it’s the usual piney flavor that they exude especially on warm days, but when I arrived last week in the thunderstorm, oh what a mix of earth and plant smells the rain brought out; just breathing it put the essence of Nature Girl right into me.

That afternoon upon first entering the forest at about 5,000 feet elevation, I’d been puzzled about the smell, which was unfamiliar. It didn’t have any of that piney edge to it, and it was sweet and toasty. I wondered if the thousands of dead trees were changing the chemistry of the aromatics. But after a half hour, the distinctive incense cedar scent came in the window, and I recognized it as having been one element of the strange smell. I suppose that with all the different trees, shrubs and flowers that are blooming and fading, each day’s bouquet in each microclimate is bound to be at least a little bit different.

I stop to take pictures of granite expanses, with giant trees sprouting out of crevices… get back in the car, turn the key, the engine hums, and Bam! the Kinks are blasting, “All day, and all of the night!” What on earth? Why did my stereo suddenly come on, and what station could possibly transmit here? I gather my wits from where they’ve been bounced all around my skull, turn down the volume, the song changes…. I realize it is iTunes playing, through my new stereo’s Bluetooth function. “My” iTunes is 90% my late husband’s collection, which I haven’t spent any time adapting to my own kind of music; I never even listen to iTunes.

shrub I see on the way down

 

I begin to wonder if an angel turned it on, because for the next hour as I listen to the shuffle, it’s a sweet reverie I float in, reminded of times when he would play certain ones saying, “This is for you, Gretchen.” R&B love songs like “Always and Forever” by Heatwave: “I’ll always love you forever.” Atlantic Star’s “Always”  includes a line about making a family who “will bring us joy for always,” something I have just been experiencing these last few days; I think over all the joy Mr. Glad and I shared over our children.

Sierra Vinegarweed

Now that I am thinking about him, I remember the time my husband and I stopped along this very road just to cut some manzanita branches to take home for Mrs. C. What a job that was! We staggered far up the bank through loose sandy soil so as not to uglify the least bit the view from the road, and all the bushes were surrounded by a stickery plant that impeded us greatly. But we accomplished our errand.

Even Kate Wolf’s “Across the Great Divide,” though it is melancholy indeed, evokes for me truths and realities of loss and change, and more importantly, of hope:

Where the years went I can’t say
I just turned around and they’ve gone away

The finest hour that I have seen
Is the one that comes between
The edge of night and the break of day
It’s when the darkness rolls away

And it’s gone away in yesterday
Now I find myself on the mountainside
Where the rivers change direction
Across the Great Divide

Here I am driving on a mountainside myself, thinking on things that have in one sense “gone away” with the years. But Love remains. Though my life has changed drastically in the last three years, its direction has continued steady, thanks to Christ, “the true Light that enlightens every man,” Who will finally roll away all the darkness. I think about this quote, too:

What shall pass from history into eternity? The human person with all its relations, such as friendship and love.
-Father Georges Florovsky

Various things happen to slow my descent, like being stopped while a tall dead pine is felled and crashes in the forest right across my line of vision. Slow logging trucks, road work, my own stopping to snap pictures… I see lots of Sierra Vinegarweed and spend ten minutes watching bees and butterflies drink at the flowers.

Also, I’m very relaxed and wanting to put off as long as possible the moment when I leave the last tree behind me and find myself in the baking and bare foothills. That’s when I will switch to my audiobook, leave my happy meditation, and count my Mountain Diary as concluded.

(I returned home just last night.)

If you missed previous posts in this series, you can go back and start HERE.

Three New Wildflowers

Scarlet Gilia

The last decade of my life has been intense with wildflowers. I tried, before that, to learn some of their names, mostly from my husband, and from nature centers in the forests that we camped in with the children. It seemed too expensive to buy wildflower guides, and the only time I would think of it was on vacation.

Then daughter Pippin turned into a naturalist. Then she got a camera, and we had computers, and wowie, Let the Learning Begin! I now have such a collection of (mostly) her pictures on my computer, taken wherever she may go, but mostly in California. Several times I have been where there were many flowers, and when my husband would let me stop and look at them, so I am learning more.

This summer was a treasury of flowers, and I actually did learn the names of more than three, but to keep this post short I will just tell you about the three that stumped Pippin and me. I looked in six wildflower guides, she looked I don’t know where, and we couldn’t figure them out. My friend Herm put me in touch with her friends who live near Yosemite, visit there nearly weekly, and are cataloging the flowers in the park. They knew right away what these three were, so I give credit to them, and when they come out with a book I’ll let you know.

My picture doesn’t do justice to this plant that makes a soft lavender haze along the roadway, breaking the monotony of green trees and and grey pavement. Somehow from your car the impression and depth of color are more intense, though pastel. As you may remember, I called it purple haze or lavender mist. I just saw it last week in the more southern Sierras.

 

Sierra Vinegarweed

I sent this photo to my experts, and they told me it is Lessingia leptoclada. Wife Expert said that if she were naming flowers she would call it Lavender Groundsmoke. See? we think alike! But the common name, I discovered, is actually Sierra Vinegarweed. Not so appealing.

Sierra primrose

Mr. Glad was the discoverer of this flower on his hike up Clouds Rest in Yosemite. My Experts said it is rare in Yosemite and is Primula suffrutescens or Sierra Primrose. They had just “searched it out” and found it themselves two days before he did, on Polly Dome.

Scarlet Gilia

 

About this bright one they said, “Another favorite of ours…Ipomopsis agregata ssp. bridgesii, Scarlet Gilia (it used to be Gilia aggregata), also called Skyrocket, in the Phlox family. We see it every year along Tioga Road, and it was especially abundant this year.” It’s another one that makes a swath of color along the highway, as in the picture at top.

There you have it, a taste of my beginner’s nature studies.