Tag Archives: Yosemite

I ask this much.

IMG_5657crp Tenaya

When I think of the possibility that I might go on living on the earth another two or three decades without my husband, it seems preposterous, like a steep mountain I’ve been asked to climb after my feet have been amputated. How could Anyone ask me to do such a thing?

The truth is, He isn’t asking me to climb a mountain, and I am not so crippled. I have enough strength to do what the next hour and day demand, and that isn’t actually very much. A mountain may in fact be there in front of me, and the road does lead upward, but what peak I will eventually reach is certainly unknown and unimportant.

As long as I keep to my usual fashion of delighting in every flower and singing bird along the path, and while I enjoy the company of the Sweetest Companion on my walk, the time will continue to fly by and life will be good. Yes, I feel weak, and I am going at a snail’s pace. Sometimes I just sit down on a rock and bawl for a while, but I do get up and put one foot after the other again.

And every day, I feel a great Love surrounding me, like the pleasant air that holds me and gives me oxygen even while I am having those pity parties. Or like the sun whose heat is keeping me alive and giving me energy. This poem was the catalyst that brought all of these truths together for me.


O mighty, powerful, dark-dispelling sun,
Now thou art risen, and thy day begun.
How shrink the shrouding mists before thy face,
As up thou spring’st to thy diurnal race!
How darkness chases darkness to the west,
As shades of light on light rise radiant from thy crest!
For thee, great source of strength, emblem of might,
In hours of darkest gloom there is no night.
Thou shinest on though clouds hide thee from sight,
And through each break thou sendest down thy light.

O greater Maker of this Thy great sun,
Give me the strength this one day’s race to run,
Fill me with light, fill me with sun-like strength,
Fill me with joy to rob the day its length.
Light from within, light that will outward shine,
Strength to make strong some weaker heart than mine,
Joy to make glad each soul that feels its touch;
Great Father of the sun, I ask this much.

–James Weldon Johnson 1871-1938




(Both photos are from Yosemite – upper one is Tenaya Lake.)

Clouds rain and vanish.

GLP1120486 explosion crpWe got a little rain today, but it was pretty much over by early afternoon, and while driving home from an errand I was feasting on the fantastic cloud formations spread all over the sky.

It might have been nice to go to a hilltop to capture them with my camera, but what turned out to be good about staying on the flats, standing in the middle of the street or in the back yard, was that I didn’t have to take all the pictures at once. I shot a dozen, did some laundry and kitchen work, and then it occurred to me that the clouds would have changed, and I could get different views, so I went outdoors again (also noticing flowers).

GLP1120492Several times I did this and out of the batch I kept a few that are sort of interesting, but really, what is a cloud if you can only experience it out of time, flat and tepid and in the still air of another place not its own?

I took Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being off the shelf so I could look up all the sections labeled “CLOUDS” that are scattered throughout the book. The first one is this:

CLOUDS – We people possess records, like gravestones, of individual clouds and the dates on which they flourished.

In 1824, John ConGL P1120493 cotton & treesstable took his beloved and tubercular wife, Maria, to Brighton beach. They hoped the sea air would cure her. On June 12 he sketched, in oils, squally clouds over Brighton beach. The gray clouds lowered over the water in failing light. They swirled from a central black snarl.

In 1828, as Maria Constable lay dying in Putney, John Constable went to Brighton to gather some of their children. On May 22 he recorded one oblique bluish cloud riding high and messy over a wan sun. Two thin red clouds streaked below. Below the clouds he painted disconnected people splashed and dotted over an open, wide coast.

Maria Constable died that November. We still have these dated clouds.GLP1120480 freesias rain

I don’t think so. Maria and John were made in the image of God; they were from the beginning, and I believe they remain, more Real than clouds, the paintings of which are paltry substitutes for what the real things so briefly were.

On another page Dillard quotes John Muir, who while exploring the Sierra Nevada in California in 1869 wrote about several cloud formations he saw, and mused,

“What can poor morGL-P1120516tunnel & peakstals say about clouds?” While people describe them, they vanish. “Nevertheless, these fleeting sky mountains are as substantial and significant as the more lasting upheavals of granite beneath them. Both alike are built up and die, and in God’s calendar, difference of duration is nothing.”

The poor mortal John Muir certainly did say something about clouds when he made that striking comparison…and some things about God and the nature of earthly and heavenly materials — it’s too crazy much for me to think about at the moment.

But if you like to look at clouds such as Muir would have seen in Yosemite, you can do as I have and visit the Yosemite Conservancy page that features several webcams with frequent gorgeous cloud shows. The Park Service also has these cameras. It’s best to visit when you know a storm is brewing up there, not like today with its view (below) of drifty vapors.

GL turtleback webcam 2-28-15

I liked what my godmother said about clouds when I told her about my cloud pictures. She had just read a Lenten meditation by Elder Nektary of Optina, who was speaking of how on the Last Day we will be “carried on the clouds.” We read the same thing in the Bible in I Thessalonians 4:

…For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

I will indeed comfort myself with this word from the Father, so that in the future the cloud shows I see will not only be thrilling but remind me that as fleeting as this life may be, at the GLP1120478 ranunculus rainResurrection of the Dead I will be transported splendidly to my permanent and eternal and most substantial home.

Flowers last a tiny bit longer than clouds (but not nearly as long as granite). This afternoon I “recorded” some of them as well, still sparkling with raindrops.

It turns out that Kim was spending her afternoon in a similar fashion but she was speedier than I at filing her records of blooms and clouds. I hope you all get to enjoy your own living, breathing shows of earth and sky whether or not you try to memorialize them.

GL P1120520 sky 2-28-15

Mountain Air – smoke and writing

GJ in the Tuolumne River

I returned this week from a solitary trip to the mountains, where I stayed in a cabin off the grid for four nights. I could easily write a book about my five days of journeying and lodging, probably a philosophical novel. Or would it be a how-to treatise with packing lists and suggested activities and prayers?

I’m always saying, “I could write a book about ____.” And it just occurred to me that I am always writing, as I endlessly analyze events as to their significance, and organize my thoughts, composing and reworking the lines in my mind. If I have a pencil or keyboard handy and hands free I might scribble down some of it, often in a notebook or in the margin of the book I’m reading. But the process has begun long before that.

It wouldn’t be a lie exactly, when people ask me what I do, to say, “I write.” Because I’m a process-oriented type, I can’t see a book ever resulting from my work, but no pressure — no one is clamoring for a discussion of the things in my pocket or the interrelatedness of the last ten books I read.

I thought I might do some sort of scribbling during my getaway, but I didn’t make much visible progress on my “books.” Many things that are fascinating to my self-centered self consumed my hours and my thoughts, and I do want to reflect on some of that here, hopefully without rambling on and on.

Evening with brown haze in north

Today I just want to mention one sad thing about my experience: Smoke. The brown cinders from that horrid Rim Fire, the largest wildfire on record in the Sierra Nevada, had drifted south and made the air murky around Our Lake. One day was so bad that my eyes and throat and head hurt from the pollution. But I didn’t have to come home early, because it cleared up a little by the next morning.

Another bad air day

I can’t imagine what the landscape will look like, the next time we visit our beloved Yosemite and drive through the scorched forests. One thing I know: On August 25th the fire destroyed the Berkeley City Camp Tuolumne where my sisters and I as children vacationed with our grandparents.

It has been many decades since I did water ballet in that swimming hole in the Tuolumne River, or even visited the camp, and it won’t change my life that it is wiped out. But what a heartache for the people who spent dozens of formative summers in the context of that special place, and those for whom the rustic cabin life in an idyllic setting was a very recent tradition and expectation. I’m very thankful it was only smoke that invaded our family’s lake and village.

Camp Tuolumne in the old days