Sunday, May 31, 2009

Climb Down at Low Tide

The low tide on Saturday was around 10:30 in the morning.
We set out for the rocky shore below the garden, down the repaired ladder on the ocean cliff , across a granite precipice as gray as a storm cloud. Other faces of the rock are white marbled with golden butterscotch streaks or peppered with black speckles.

We climbed down to the rocky floor of an outdoor room; it is no lost City of Atlantis, but it is nearly the size of an average American house. There is no ceiling but the sky of soft gray morning fog floating above us. To the north of us the water was still, a pool reflecting the colors of the sea's dark vegetables, captured in tall stone walls like soup in a pot.
pictures (c) & courtesy of Mark

At the stone floor's southern edge we could see the open waters windowed through an arch carved by the waves in the native granite buttress over which we had walked. The rock wall is gray above the water line, but below where life clings, the wet walls are a purple red hue. Cypress trees grow atop the bluff of the steep cliff to our east and the west side is protected from the ocean waters and wind by a wall of rock. At one point small debris tumbled down the cliff and struck near where I was exploring. Do you know what I think caused this? A gopher above me tunneling near the edge and dislodging stones and dirt. As far west as I'd come, I couldn't get away from gophers.

Have you ever encouraged a child to use their words, or admonished a frustrated toddler yourself, to talk instead of wail? I feel like a verbal toddler without pictures to share, it's hard to imagine I can summon words that can bring you the glory of this particular place where land meets sea. I was wearing gloves and as I often needed my hands to complete the stability of my sometime crab-like crawl out to this glorious spot, it was a good thing I didn't have anything else to be responsible for. I'm sure there are folks who could make the same journey (I can think of two to whom I am most closely related), and be graceful in every move, but I was simply glad to arrive and later explore the further domain of these beautiful walls of rock that jut out into the ocean where I live and return safely with a little cache of shells. Constant postural grace was not an option I encountered. .

We found the empty shells Haliotis rufescens Swainson, Red Abalone and Haliotis cracherodii Leach, Black Abalone. One abalone I found is oddly turquoise blue but it is still called black abalone. Here is the photo that I took of the shells once back home. Driftwood and a few striated tumbled smooth stones found their way into Mark's backpack too.

We saw colonies of various kinds of limpets living on the rocks. The most common ones, shield limpets are shaped like rice farmer hats with a little pointy apex near their center. We also saw flat dark plate limpets with their fine little stripes and checkers of color.

Ah...a new development, my partner in fun is offering to share some of the photos he took. We will see if I use them, if they have me in them, I might not want to spoil the view. (Well, as you have seen I did use some of his pictures...with a little cropping.)

There were of course barnacles on the rocks, lots of barnacles. I saw several live Chitons. Their shells are often called Coat-of-Mail. They are odd leathery life with eight butterfly shaped plates of armour. I think the ones I saw, attached to the rocks just below the low tide line, were Red-lined Chiton or Gum Boot Chitons. I only saw one cast off butterfly shell and it had one chipped wing.

Below the tide line are long thick groups of different life forms, brilliant pinkish treelike forms that I think are called nudibranches, black mussels, white and pink tiny volcanoes of barnacles, and tangles of kelps and seaweeds. These colorful bands of colonies ring the side of the cliffs like a woman wearing all her jewels round her neck at once.

The Mussels were plentiful. I recently read that one mussel lays several million eggs per year. I think the species I saw were Mytilus califonianus Conrad, California Mussel.

We saw acorn sized black snails with pearly knobs and crabs no bigger than a fifty cent piece that preferred to stay scuttled under the rocks. Depending on how you cock your head when you look at them, you might decide they are a murky brown or a motley array of iridescent glows. The tidal pools house purple spiny urchin and green pulsating anemones. The starfish were some of the bigger residents and orange and wine red were the colors of the day. There were groups of pointy white shells, I should learn what these are. Maybe one of my readers knows?

Not knowing at first that I would have pictures to share has helped me work harder to describe some of the sights of our low tide climb to you. I hope you got at least a glimmer of the beauty from this missive and had some fine adventures yourself this week.


In Memory of Lillian...who loved the mountains and the shore.

I don't think she ever saw a rock she didn't admire.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

A short short story

Gophers and moles in the garden have been a big topic with neighboring gardeners lately and it reminded me of a short sketch, I wrote for a fiction class many years ago. Tonight I decided my little tale needed, rather gopher like itself, to be popped out of it's dark slot in the drawer and be exposed to the light of day on my blog. I can't imagine where else it could make a debut... well, I'll let you be the judge. Here it is:

a clip art picture from here.

Constance couldn’t finish her thought. When the pain gnawed into her left side, words fled her mind like small animals scattered by a predator. She watched the baby gum the bread and egg yolk. The pain passed.

“That’s right, Honey, you eat so Momma won’t have to nurse you,” she said to the fair skinned baby.

“Where does it hurt, Ma?” the older child asked. “Your face is all wet again.”

“It’s deep inside, Rosie,” Constance answered, "but I'll be okay."

Constance leaned against the counter and made an effort to wipe away the spilled honey.
“Ma, there’s ants on my chair,” Rosie hollered as she drew her arms and legs up in disgust.

“It’s cause yer messy,” Constance said as she moved slowly toward the child. “Ants like messy girls, they do.”

"Wouldn’t be no use calling a doctor. Don’t have the money to pay. Couldn’t lie down like he’d tell me anyway. Be good to get something for this pain though,” she spoke aloud to herself. “Pa always said keeping busy cuts pain. Plenty to keep me …," she stifled a gasp and reached to knead her flesh.

“Ma, can’t I have more egg?” Rosie asked.

“There isn’t more. Chicken don’t lay more than one a day. Want more bread and honey?” she asked, already smearing another slice with the viscous amber.

It hurt too much to straighten up, but hunched over the chipped enamel sink, Constance rinsed dishes and sought to fix her mind beyond her body. She set her gaze through the window onto her garden. She worked hard in the garden but every morning she would find some damage. Often there were vines chewed off at the root; the squash and melons still small, hard and inedible. They were perfect for their age, but cut off from their roots, they’d lie on the ground unfinished.
“Don’t even want to go see what varmints might have done last night,” she spoke again to herself.
With a wet soapy hand, she rubbed her side in a tenuous fashion. “Like to know what this is.”
She tried to distract herself by focusing on the view again. She was sure she had just seen a small dark cone of soil rise in her garden. “Well, I’ll be,” she said. “Dirty vermin. Stay inside and watch the baby, Rosie.”

At the back door she thrust her bare feet into some oversized cracked boots left by her husband. “Stay put now,” she told the girls.

She wrapped her hands around a shovel that she had left leaning outside the back door and moved toward the shifting mound of soil. As she approached, she saw brown fur and stiff whiskers appear and then dart back out of sight. Constance posed herself with attentiveness worthy of a hunting cat, the shovel raised above her shoulder. The soil moved and bright beady eyes surfaced. She swung the shovel. The wounded gopher clawed madly to return to the safety of its underground tunnel. Constance gasped as she again lifted the weight of the tool to her shoulder and again smacked the animal with the flat side of the shovel. The gopher lay still on the ground. Shiny fleas bounced in its short fur.

Constance thrust the nose of the shovel into the soft earth and leaned her wooden weight upon the handle. She felt her breath draw in deeply and her heartbeat quicken. She straightened herself slowly. Just at the moment, she couldn't feel the pain.

******************* (c) 1984 Jeannette
This incredibly artistic fictive story aside....there are many pages on the web extolling the role gophers play in the landscape suggesting that gardeners should learn to live with gophers. Having raised vegetable beds with wired bottoms sure helps me feel more philosophic about gophers.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sunset in the Morning

Of course this is yesterday's sunset, but I felt like posting it this morning just to remind myself that another one is coming, is in fact, already on it's way. What would I like to do with today? This morning is grey and a little cold, but that, like the day itself, won't last. Ah, I used the word "like" what would I "like" to do? I would like to be done with all the things I have to do, the things I should do...yikes, what an attitude. So if I want to, I won't have to. Well I do like having clean clothes to wear so off I go to the laundry room. Naw, you don't need a picture of that, just enjoy this shot of a split second, one moment of yesterday's sunset and think of what you would like to embrace in this day. This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made, I will be glad, I will be glad and rejoice in it and rejoice in it.... Are there music notes in webdings? Well I better not look for them this morning...better get cracking.

A lovely day to you!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Music Making Friends

Here's how it started. We were just taking a walk. Mark had his guitar in the car so he brought it along. I had my camera and asked him to pose at the anchor for me.

Fred was sitting in the sun nearby and told Mark he needed to smile for his picture. Mark turned his lovely smile on Fred and that got Fred on his feet. We welcomed him. An amiable man of 98 years, we enjoyed what Fred shared about his life. He tells a good story and cares deeply about his family. I asked if his family has ever asked him to write any of his memories and he says one of his sons plans on writing a book.

Mark was playing for Fred and then all of sudden three more men ran up. One minute they were at the fountain, and then zoom we were surrounded with smiles. The three are cousins, Joe a married man who lives in town and John and Leo who are students from the bay area. They had two guitars with them and pretty soon we were treated to some guitar and singing from their native Tonga. And then the jamming began.

When these guys are famous, just give them a little time, I will remember when they were members of the impromptu band on a Sunday in May.
Here are The Anchorboys.

A fine time was had by all and we might still be out there if the sun hadn't lowered in the sky.

That's how it happened.

And Fred wants copies of the pictures.


Love in the Mail

Second Sunday in's Mother's Day...

It's fun to get presents in the mail, the hand drawn card and the schedule of an upcoming visit made my heart glad...RR.
Thank you for my San Francisco Cable Car...SB. It might have originally been made to snag tourists, but it made me smile hugely when I unwrapped it. I like the shells you gathered too, from your beach to mine...

Will I be setting a bad example if I ask you two to think of this as your thank you card?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Be Watchful, and Strengthen the Things that Remain

Monterey calls itself the most historic city of California. It has preserved some of the oldest structures in California and the State Historic Park tour of adobes is a worthwhile adventure.

In an effort to get acquainted with my new neighborhood, having lived most of my life in my native northern California, I visited the many adobes, gardens and small museums and began rereading various California histories.

In an old book shop I picked up a copy of an out of print volume of LOVE STORIES of Old California published in 1940 by noted scholar of the period, Cora Miranda Baggerly Older. She presents 24 stories in chronological order beginning with "Love Rides into California," the story of a 20 year old widow and her two small children, who made the 1600 mile journey in Don Juan Bautista de Anza's 1775 expedition into Spain's northern territory. Older ends her collection in 1880 with a story about Robert Louis Stevenson.

Amatil and Olana, 1799, is the story of the star crossed love of the daughter of Chief Matilija and a man from a neighboring tribe. Today a cross above Matilija Hot Springs near Ojai, the Nest, still marks the spot where Amatil and Olana died.

"It is said that after the passing of the lovers the gray sage disappeared from the canyon slopes. And now they cradle the majestic Matilija poppy named for the chieftain, with its robes of snow and its heart of gold."

I've never been to Ojai, but as I read the story, I suddenly realized that there were Matilija Poppies growing in our garden. Above is a picture I took this morning. The heavy blooms are a bit droopy with yesterday's rain.

Native to southern California and Mexico they are genus: ROMNEYA, species: coulteri. Tall and showy, they caught my eye the first time I entered the garden that was to become my current home and I took their picture that hot July day even though they needed some tending and were perhaps a bit past their prime.

In my defense, there are many things I need to focus on here that keep me more than busy, but I admit that it took a story to learn the name and propensities of these flowers. Stories abound all around us, and sometimes it is the stories of old that can help open our eyes to what is now. Why did the gray sage pass away to be replaced by the Matilija Poppies? The New Western Garden Book suggests a less romantic possibility than the story I read and yet if the grave of the lovers were garlanded with these flowers it may have been all that was needed to repopulate the area with a new species.

Sunset Garden says "Invasive, spreading by underground roots; don't place near less vigorous plants...Tolerates varying amounts of water, varying soil types..." So these lovely flowers, like so much else in our world, must be placed carefully with an eye toward the future.

It's strange how often topics intersect. I have recently been reading some rather alarming statistics about demographics. It's a clear example of how today's choices form tomorrow's world. But I think that's a topic I'll save for another day, or least until after another cup of coffee and a chance to learn more. But think of this fact of demographics...a culture that does not replace itself can pass away in less than 25 years. "Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain..." that's a very old quote that retains great application for today and it too can intersect many realms.