Tag Archives: trees

I explore the north country.

Yes, another road trip! My first stop, as often works out best, was at Pippin’s. The children doted on me and I on them, and well, I like the parents a lot, too!

I drove through the rain the last couple of hours of my first day, up through the top center of California, and arrived in town just in time to catch the last ten minutes of Ivy’s ballet lesson. She is a beginner ballerina but was fun to watch.

Everyone was surprised that all three children and I could spend so much of the next morning coloring pictures I had brought, as we watched birds at the feeders. We colorers chatted about how it is way more fun to do coloring with other people, and we were proving the principle.

Between rain storms and frost the next two days we went on a couple of splendid nature walk expeditions, first to Lake Siskiyou where the Sacramento River comes into it.

Pippin remarked at this point, “From here we tend to make slow progress because there are so many rocks to look at.” Indeed. And to bring home!

Indian Rhubarb

On my second morning I stood at the kitchen window while eating my breakfast bowl, and watched four deer eating their breakfast of willow leaves off the back lawn.

And that afternoon found most of us along the Sacramento River Trail near Castle Crags. The last time I’d been here my husband was still feeling healthy and we were here together with Pippin’s family.

This time was lovely, too, nearly four years later, during fall instead of winter, with bigleaf maple leaves covering the paths, oaks and firs and Port Orford Cedars and more kinds of trees…. The children had a ball on the rocks jutting out into the river and Scout named one spot after me: Pearl Point, because I had told him the day before that Gretchen means little pearl.

Jamie was missing his nap but you would never know it by the way he marched along the trail and climbed cheerfully for hours up and down banks and over countless large river stones.

On our drive back home Scout’s mind was busy planning the evening’s activity and chattering about all his ideas. His mother and I were not enthusiastic about the first ambitious projects he came up with, so he said, “Well, then, Grandma, what would you like to do?” It shows a developmental leap, I think, that he was showing this willingness to consider what other people’s preferences might be.

I thought a bit, and answered, “I would like to do something that wouldn’t require thinking or talking, or being on my feet.”

“Is reading considered talking?”


“Well, then, would you like to read that book about Kit Carson that you gave me for my birthday?”

I surely would love that, and I read three chapters while dinner was being prepared by other people on their feet, and Scout colored another picture while he was listening.

Now I’ve moved on to Oregon, where Walt has found and started restoring the truck he was only dreaming about back in September when I was here.

Oregon trees and their knock-out gorgeous fall colors
are competing for my designation of Favorite.

So far I think I like the last one best.

I’m not halfway through this road trip. Before I get home I’ll have slept twelve nights not in my own bed. I’ll have seen five friends and ten family members, staying in five homes. It does feel like a little much for an old lady, but I’m enjoying myself and will try to check in at least once more to tell you more about my northern adventures.


Nothing of all these exists anymore.

Today we celebrate the Veneration of the Holy Cross, “planted” like a tree in the middle of Great Lent for our refreshment and encouragement, and as a foretaste of Pascha. We haven’t completed our Lenten labors, but the fatigue of them is lightened by the joyous hymns of this feast, such as this from Matins:

“Let all the trees of the forest dance and sing, as they behold their fellow-tree, the Cross, today receiving veneration: for Christ, as holy David prophesied, has exalted it on high.”

This quote from the shining Mother Gavrilia also reflects that joyful mood:


“Think and see only the Light. Everything else is irrelevant and should not affect you in any way… By reliving regrettable incidents of the past, you cause much harm to yourself… We should take all our sorrow and place it at the Feet of Christ. Because He suffered on the Cross for our sins, and for our sorrows, and for our problems, and for all the gloom of our souls. For everything! And when you remember that the Blood of our Lord is cleansing us from everything, that’s the end of it! Nothing of all these exist anymore… Place them at the Feet of Christ… and then go forth as a joyful person.”

~Mother Gavrilia, The Ascetic of Love

Breathing in quietness.


At about 5,000 feet up into the mountains I usually turn off the radio or story, open all the car windows, and breathe deeply of the pine and cedar scents that are so exhilarating. They make me think, “Why oh why have I stayed away so long? How will I bear to go back down to the air of the flatlands?”

wallfower Dinky Ck 7-17-15

But this summer — it didn’t happen that way. At about 3,000 feet I got lost, or at least confused, by taking a couple of wrong turns. When I realized my mistake, it took me a half hour to get back on track. At 4,000 feet, even though it was still 86°, I opened the windows under tall pines, but all I noticed was my shirt hanging in the backseat, as a sleeve started flapping in the rear view mirror.

And I watched the thermometer drop 20 degrees in 20 minutes, as I climbed into the forest. I saw the elderberry bushes in bloom, those tall and friendly plants I’d learned about two years ago, and more than one upland meadow with black cattle grazing. Maybe it wasn’t late in the day for summertime, but I’d forgotten how the sun would go down early, because the trees are so tall, and the valleys deep.P1000783 I discovered that my jaw was sore – evidently I’d been clenching it, so there must have been some anxiety about the time underneath my excitement over all the irresistible photo opportunities.

Where the road crosses a bridge over a creek I stopped to catch the fishermen in the twilight, and found an orange wallflower, that lacking a wall, made do with a post.

P1000799 leopard lily crp
Leopard Lily

The thermometer dropped another twenty degrees in the last hour of my drive, as I got higher and higher and still obeyed the call of the wildflowers to stop and take their pictures — because after all, they might be gone the next time I passed their way! Their glory is short-lived, except for the Pearly Everlasting that seems to hang on and on making a white border by the roadside.

Leopard lilies bloomed in the wetter areas, but the penstemon and paintbrush grew right out of the granite gravel next to the pavement, where they also get the maximum of sun exposure.

paintbrush & penstemon
paintbrush & penstemon


And then, after a journey of eight and a half hours (it “normally” takes me six) during which the temperature ranged from 102° to 57°, I arrived at the door of our beloved cabin! I had by this time forgotten the advice of one of my friends, when I told her about my anxiety: “Breathe deeply when you get in the mountains.” I’m sure when I was sitting at home in the morning and read that message I must have thought, “Well, that comes naturally!”





When I unlocked the door and walked in, I noticed a new sign on the wall:

breathe at cabin 2

I obeyed that word, too, but I was only thinking of how I needed the conscious inhalation to help me relax. It wasn’t until I was lying in bed an hour later that it dawned on me I hadn’t smelled the trees. Was it the drought that was making them hold every droplet of moisture in their needles? Was I to spend several days in their company and never get that mountain perfume? Two years ago when I last was last here, smoke from a huge forest fire in Yosemite was filling my senses with the scent of burning trees.

view from deck

It was the bone-penetrating, soul-healing quiet of the mountains that most affected me during this visit. I was completely solitary for my first evening and morning, and that turned out to be enough time for an intense healing session.

I sat on the deck reading in the morning. Two birds twittered a call-and-response from one Lodgepole pine to another. Up there the sun is baking, and the altitude takes your breath away – or more precisely, takes the oxygen from your breath – and everything combines and causes a heavy sleepiness to fall on you…. Before noon I had to lie on my bed to take a nap. But in the cool of the bedroom I revived and didn’t sleep. I read more in George MacDonald’s Phantastes, the book that C.S. Lewis said “baptized his imagination.”

The protagonist of the story, who is exploring Fairyland, encounters a lovely and deep blue pool: “Led by an irresistible desire, I undressed, and plunged into the water. It clothed me as with a new sense and its object both in one. The waters lay so close to me, they seemed to enter and revive my heart.”

When in my imagination I experienced that Living Water with the swimmer in the story, it was as if the silence of the mountain morning were the pool of God’s healing presence for me at that moment. Then I knew another reality I had read about a few pages before in that book, “Tears are the only cure for weeping.”P1000831

One doesn’t like to imagine breathing water, and I hadn’t yet managed to detect that comforting mountain aroma in the air that I drank hungrily, but stillness and peace were in plentiful supply, and were oxygen for my spirit. That sort of peace is so unfamiliar, it is at the same time both soothing and thrilling.

I was soon to have more good company, both human and atmospheric, and I will tell more about that next time.

Refreshed by a thousand things.

P1110460Rain was forecast for both days that Mr. Glad and I had planned to be on California’s North Coast for immersion in the sights and sounds of the sand and waves. But we were undaunted; we just packed extra clothes in case we got soaked on our beach walks, and noted that our hotel room had a (gas) fireplace we could sit next to and cozy up.

P1110483The drive over was only drizzly, and by the time we arrived and ventured out on the bluffs and the shore, the clouds only threatened and did not drip. All the rain fell when we were eating dinner, and while we slept. Wasn’t that a sweet gift from the Father?

We spent our first day in the town of Fort Bragg. This small town did start out as a military fort in 1857, established for the sole purpose of maintaining order on an Indian reservation.

Lumber milling is part of the town’s history, too, and of its presenP1110486t. The old railroad trestle left from when logs came by train from the north evolved into a road and then into its current use as a pedestrian bridge over Pudding Creek where it empties into the Pacific.

At the southern end of the trestle is Glass Beach, another attraction with interesting history. According to the man who has set up the Sea Glass Museum (and store) in town, it has been common through the ages for seaside communities to have garbage dumps at the beach, and much of the garbage would wash out to sea. At Fort Bragg, he says, the ocean currents were atypical, and kept the garbage close to shore. The broken glass was kept in the swirling seawater-tumbler close at hand.P1110494

We didn’t take the time to visit the beaches with the most abundant fields of sea glass, but even the little cove we did examine was thick with fragments of colored and frosty white, what started out as clear, glass.P1110592

MacKerricher State Park is just north of Fort Bragg, and there we walked on the boardwalks that get you out to the beach with as little damage as possible to the coastal plants. We spent most of our time gazing out at the surf, and walking along the bluffs. We looked into tidepools and watched seals bobbing in the waves. This map of the whale migrations may also help some of you simply to get an idea of where we were.P1110579


I found myself this far behind my husband because I made so many stops to shoot photos of little wild radish flowers that were in the lee of the boardwalk and not blowing too wildly.




At this time of year the dominant colors are blue and brown and grey, and it’s easy to overlook points of contrasting brightness.


Back in our room resting before dinner, we were able to leave the door open to the breeze and the cool, damp air, to listen to the surf and watch the gulls swooping past. Below our balcony was the nearly 10-mile long local section of the California Coastal Trail, this part stretching from Fort Bragg to MacKerricher Park. Under the roar of the surf we could hear voices of people walking or bicycling by.



Even in the middle of the night Mr. Glad opened that door and the instant refreshment invigorated my dreaming.



But I must backtrack and show the one food picture I took. Cheesecake is somewhat conventional and boring as a photographic subject, but we wondered how the stellar rasberry decoration was created – shot from a gun, perhaps?


Our breakfast was delicious but even more commonplace. It was the compact little restaurant that was unique and appealing; we had eaten here once years ago and wanted to return. The place is called EP1110518gghead’s, and the theme is The Wizard of Oz. The room is about as wide as Dorothy and her companions standing in a row, and all its decor relates to the story: red shoes, posters of the movie or play, photos of Judy Garland.

Above the kitchen door at the back is a sign: “Nobody Gets in to See the Wizard, Not Nobody Not Nohow.” But actually, to use the restroom one must go through that very kitchen out the back door, where one finds a Yellow Brick Road leading to this shack:

P1110521…where even the comics taped to the wall keep to the theme.

We left Oz fortified for our remaining day of explorations. In addition to more beach time, there were art galleries to peruse, a visit to the Mendocino Headlands and a lunchtime experience that requires a separate posting.

Last, the long drive back through Anderson Valley where we hadn’t been in so long. When we turned away from the coastal bluffs the scent of the air lost the elements of kelp and salt and moisture. Suddenly the smells of the dry conifer forest, with its spicy bay tree accents, filled my senses. We drove along like this for an hour, and I was contented.P1110650crp1

Except for a bit of queasiness from the windy road, which forced us to stop and get out for a few minutes, but it was at a comfortable and lonely place featuring aromatic oaks, a fence overrun with moss and lichen, and the glossy leaves of madrone trees. The leaf mulch under these trees was incredibly thick and spongy. If we’d had a picnic, and preferably a picnic table to go with, it would have been the perfect place to prolong our mini-vacation.

But lacking those amenities, we continued on our way back to civilization, and here we are again. We may look and feel pretty much the same as we did a few days ago, but our quiet adventures have changed us. At the least, we have a thousand more things to thank God for.