Tag Archives: trees

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:

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“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.

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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?”

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Wallflower

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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

 

 

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

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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.

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

 

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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?

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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.

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Ántonia’s apple orchard

Willa Cather’s novel My Ántonia holds a special place in the hearts of both Mr. Glad and me, perhaps in our conjugal heart ? by reason of our sharing the story together more than once, and reading it on our own as well. When I’ve read it aloud it’s not uncommon for me to start sobbing at places in the narrative where the pathos hits home.

I was surprised to read recently a review in which the reader did not enjoy Cather’s writing, saying it was dry and lacking emotion. Those qualities might be why I appreciate her skill at capturing the story and drawing us in. Cather gives us the perspective of Jim, and we experience with him as narrator the various levels on which he is in love with our heroine and all that she represents, and he makes us fall in love with her, too.

Our differing response from the reviewer above probably has something to do with what we bring to the story. Though we haven’t lived in Nebraska or known any Bohemians, perhaps we are like Jim (and Willa Cather) in our grieving for the past, for the lifestyle of the pioneers and their farm life, for the good hardworking people we have lost; as I understand it, that was a theme that reappears in many of her works, but she accomplishes it without what might be called “emotional” prose. Mr. Glad and I both have farming in our roots, and our love for nature and the outdoors (and for people) is only encouraged and expanded by reading books like this.

I thought to transcribe some passages from the book on my blog, representative snatches for my own enjoyment and yours, as a way to savor again some moments from my reading experience, and perhaps introduce people who haven’t yet made friends with these characters and their world.

In the novel, there is no question but that Jim must leave the country life and go away to school and to city life. The passage below is from the last part of the book when he returns many years later for a visit, and I appreciate the way it conveys something of Ántonia’s character and also the mood of this season of the year.

At some distance behind the house were an ash grove and two orchards: a cherry orchard, with gooseberry and currant bushes between the rows, and an apple orchard, sheltered by a high hedge from the hot winds. The older children turned back when we reached the hedge, but Jan and Nina and Lucie crept through it by a hole known only to themselves and hid under the low-branching mulberry bushes.

“As we walked through the apple orchard, grown up in tall bluegrass, Ántonia kept stopping to tell me about one tree and another. ‘I love them as if they were people,’ she said, rubbing her hand over the bark. ‘There wasn’t a tree here when we first came. We planted every one, and used to carry water for them, too — after we’d been working in the fields all day. Anton, he was a city man, and he used to get discouraged. But I couldn’t feel so tired that I wouldn’t fret about these trees when there was a dry time. They were on my mind like children. Many a night after he was asleep I’ve got up and come out and carried water to the poor things. And now, you see, we have the good of them. My man worked in the orange groves in Florida, and he knows all about grafting. There ain’t one of our neighbors has an orchard that bears like ours.’

“…The afternoon sun poured down on us through the drying grape leaves. The orchard seemed full of sun, like a cup, and we could smell the ripe apples on the trees. The crabs hung on the branches as thick as beads on a string, purple-red, with a thin silvery glaze over them. Some hens and ducks had crept through the hedge and were pecking at the fallen apples.”

–Willa Cather