Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sierra Mountain Cabin Visit

I have been living at sea level for four years.  Well maybe a few feet up, because we live on a granite cliff, not a beach...but still not too high up.
*Note to Grandma Beth: Click the photos to enlarge them, then use your back arrow to return to the blog.

This last week a lovely woman kidnapped me and took me to the mountains for a few September days.  I have beautiful pictures, or perhaps I should say I took pictures of beautiful places.  My photos are but a faint reminder of the beauty in it's fullness, but come along and I'll share what I can.  Here's the area where we headed...a cabin in Courtright Village near the southern tip of this map. This picture I took of the sign at the Le Conte Divide...but I better not get ahead of myself.

Leaving the Monterey Peninsula , the central coast of California, we crossed through the hills that lie between  coast highway 1 and the inland 101 and then headed east through the mission town of San Juan Bautista past the golden grasses, brown soil and green crops of  California's central valley.  The Pacific Ocean now behind us, the air grew hot and hazy.   In the air conditioned car I had a sack of  raw almonds to munch and cold  bottled water.   We passed almond and  fig tree groves and dusty vineyards, as well as many field crops and always there were people, working in the fields. 

 I was delighted in catching up with my friend ( I just found out she linked to this blog, so I've added a link to her blog at the end...no longer anon she is Gretchen) and watched mile by mile the environs change.  At the town of Madera where you can access highway 41 to Yosemite we turned to Highway 168.

This neighborhood of  redwoods, sunflowers, and grasses is in downtown Shaver Lake in the Sierra National Forest, elevation 5500 ft. It's the town of last supplies.
We already had everything, and then some, that we needed for our four nights, 
so we didn't stop in town.
                  We kept heading up the tree lined  roads ...

past little roadside rocks...

     ~And stopped to look back toward the valley from whence we'd come~

      One day we checked out Dinky Creek. I am not kidding, that is its name.

  " Bark," I have read, is not a technical term.

                                ~ what small part of this tree I pictured ~

The foot of a large tree in the McKinley Grove where the biggest Giant Sequoia currently measures  20.3 feet in diameter.

   As we made our way up the road the moon rose in the sky.

 ~young trees on the edge of the road scramble down roots for a spot~

 A wonderful tree that made me read trees books in the night.   While I do know the basic distinctions...
some of the trees I met reminded me that is all I know.

      I did remember that the cones of a true Fir Tree are always upright.

Rocks of immense dimensions roll and slide and slam their way to where they come to rest, the angle of repose.  So many of the rocks on the uphill side of the road demonstrate this law of physics, but other laws could as easily be on display if given variables change.
 Angle of Repose   is the title of a Wallace Stegner novel that takes place in California terrain.  The term lends itself  to much metaphor.

After considering many possibilities

              We decided that the species of small coned pines are Lodgepole.

      This is the southern end of Courtright Reservoir but we aren't quite yet where we are going. I took this picture the second or third day of our visit...that first afternoon we had to keep moving but already snatches of  the American poet Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha", which he wrote in 1855's and that I memorized in part in 7th grade, had been triggered in my memory:     
                                      Dark behind it rose the forest,
                                      Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
                                      Rose the firs with cones upon them;
                                      Bright before it beat the water,
                                      Beat the clear and sunny water,

During our visit we had clear sunny days and

beautiful clouds too.
This is subalpine country...we were at about 8200 feet  elevation.

         Just before nightfall we got to the cabin...we turned on the water, started warming up things up and made our beds.  No fancy cooking the first night. We didn't exactly have to rough it....this is my room as I left it the last morning.

       The first morning in Courtright this is the view I woke to and what one can see from the deck.
                                                          It's a real fine place to be.

                Of course as soon as I got home to the cool coast
I had to take a picture of  the last light of that day on the sweet blue sea. It too, is a real fine place to be.

I took lots more pictures in the mountains...153 to be exact...but I'm not going to show you all of them. But just imagine... rocks and trees and water and sky and trees and rocks ....there's lots of them "up there"and I am glad for that, and glad for a friend that shared her family's special place with me.

Gretchen took pictures too and here's one I took of her.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Morning Blue and Sunset Too...Pacific Ocean Carmel Beauty

                                     A real Saturday... I had my feet up and was reading on the terrace...but light on the water and the myriad changes that I saw each time I looked up distracted me.  I was delighted to realize I had actually stuffed my little camera into the pocket of my jeans.  This first shot was from my perch...but  after that I lay down my book
 and played with my camera.
  The crows needed photographing.  It actually is hard to read when they start scolding, they can be very demanding and persistent, especially when they arrive in droves.  However, these  two seemed to be taking Saturday off too. 

                                             But now that I was on my feet the light on rocks and tree and water seemed a better read. Though I must say, I am enjoying  the novel I've started by Tobias Wolff, Old School.
                                                      Water-Rocks-Tree?  Rocks, Water, Tree?

  Here is :    Tree Water Rocks

Cypress frame the view...

The cloud cover moved in suddenly and the morning sun was suddenly just a memory.

But in the afternoon the clouds had passed by and burned off and just two little puffs remained as the sun set.

It really was a lovely day. Hope you've had a fine weekend too.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Exercise for the Mind...Reading and Writing despite all the distractions.

The longing to communicate, to bring the top of the hill view down to the valley and the quiet of the night into mid day, to capture the beauty of a face ever changing ,is evident in all man’s art and many of his technologies. But if we always, as a people, had the photographic devices we now have, perhaps the gift of verbal description would not have developed as potently in mankind’s abilities.

I suspect part of what got me thinking about this topic is that I have just started reading David Denby's Great Books where he describes his journey, at age 48, of returning to Colombia, going back to school to become a reader again. He read various journals and news but he wrote that he had no concentration for real reading. " My rhythm had changed. I was a moviegoer, a magazine reader, a CNN- watcher. " ( p.36)

Words take using.

Reading, decoding dense pages that are unrelenting visually, except for the variation of small shapes that chisel out sounds and mound up meaning, takes concentration but can yield place, person, happening, history, continuum, or even, that most proximate and yet distant terrain, an internal landscape.

Inner landscapes have no camera but the picture that emerges from the work we lay our hands to, the daily arts of living and the music, the canvases, the literature and the love we are able to make of our lives.

I am a believer in story. I hope the art of reading does not pass away.
Today I posted a piece, with pictures, no less, on my write purpose blog.  I still am not sure why I have two blogs, it's not that I believe in compartmentalizing.  I think of  "Bread on the Water" as the more playful and visual of the two spaces and so I decided to publish the California history, early personal memory, tribute to 9-11-2001  essay there today. These thoughts which I had written this morning would be right at home on "Write Purpose"  but here they are...of questionable fun, no picture, just a little jam for the bread.

Often I write in my journal (my ink on paper journal) and think of sharing some of it here on line, but that means typing it up and then the editorial eye, the more critical eye emerges; the eye that opens up after the first draft ink has dried and the first draft out- pouring has cooled.  Lava is hot stuff, but when it cools, lava rock is often quite light and  porous... you know, full of holes.  That's okay, I guess, holes are good for peeking through. Reading and writing is a joy and it is also work. I  thank you for sharing any of it with me.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Traditions shared: Blackberry Pie Summers and Macedonian Spanakopita

September's arrival threw me into a mini panic, summer weather hasn't quite arrived yet, so summer can't be over. But it is September and Labor Day is coming.  Yikes, fall and winter must be lined up right  behind that coastal fog bank that has blanketed us so consistently.  I knew I had to beat back these concerns so I set out to gather blackberries to make a  pie. Blackberries were the wild free fruit of my childhood summers in Mill Valley and then later a big part of our children's summer day's in Sebastopol. It's family tradition to pick and eat almost just as many berries fresh off the bush as we'd  bring home for jam and pie.  As one of our girl's often said, "I don't really need a bucket, I have my own little bucket right here..." and she'd pop a big purple-blue-black-juicy- berry still warm from the sun into her mouth.

As there are no blackberries ripening in my current neighborhood I set out for the  farmer's market.  You've heard that scarcity and demand can control price?  The organic berry farmer from warmer than Carmel Watsonville was charging more this week than he had all summer for the same amount of blackberries because, he explained, these were the last of the crop, he didn't have any more berries to sell.
I paid the price,  reminding myself that he had not only grown and tended them, he had picked them and boxed them and driven them to market and he would pay tax on the sale and tax on the land and what, after all  was $30 for all that work?  Yes, I  was seeing just how serious I was about having some semblance of summer as I have always thought of it... and that includes a blackberry pie.
 However, before I could get things any further along than mixing in sugar and lemon juice and corn starch to thicken the berries ( and take the picture above), our friend Blagojce arrived with sacks of groceries.  He had been promising to make spanakopita like they do "back home" in Macedonia.  Of course for such an offer I was willing to get out of the way.  As the berries need to sit a bit in their thickening sweetening state.... and as we have a one derriere kitchen in the cottage, I took refuge behind my camera.

Before I knew what hit me...there was butter melting

Leeks were sauteed
and spinach and chard had been cooked...apples had been cut...and simmered

 I mean things were cooking...or I should say men were cooking...

Layers of filo dough are brushed with butter and then feta and cooked spinach an chard and arranged...

rolling it up

When Mark's assistance wasn't required...we had live music

curled up like a snail...

These are oven- ready having been basted with butter and sprinkled with sesame seeds....

One batch baked receiving more butter and another ready to go in the oven...some are leek, some are greens and feta and some are apple...
they all were good.

             And now there was room and time for me to mix up my dough and roll out the crust for my               pie...before dinner was served.

Oh, and corn on the cob was steamed...that's pretty summertime, isn't it?

By the time we had our Macedonian spanakopita, eaten with big bowls of yogurt, the pie was cooling.
How about pie for breakfast?  Now that sounds like summertime.

No men were injured in the making of this dinner.