Thursday, July 21, 2011

Shadow of the Giants

A visit to Nelder Grove, Shadow of the Giants trail, evinced moments of childlike wonder this past weekend.

Nelder Grove is a little known home of a few of the Giant Sequoias that didn't get felled at the turn of the century when logging was heavy in the forests above Bass Lake.

A mile long, looped walking path takes you through the trees and the giants.
We had a stupendous day of perfect weather and family camaraderie. Our path included a small bridge where we stopped to take pictures in the midst of the giant sequoias.

Some of the younger computer-and-phone-generation blithely took the path through the trees with quick glances and hurried paces, probably thinking they could pull it up on their iPhone if they really needed to see it.

They waited at the end of the loop for the elders who stopped often to relish each sequoia tree (whether standing or fallen, waiting for the forest to reclaim it), or maybe they were just catching their breath.

Flowers blossomed in the shade on the forest floor and a stream gurgled in the quiet background.

Walking sticks helped traverse the gentle rise and fall of the path. Finding just the right one felt a lot like I was in the midst of a Goldilocks and the three bears story; This one is too short, this one is too heavy, this one is bent the wrong way--until each came upon the one that was "just right."

Under the canopy, the huge trunks of the giants were heavy with moss.

At the end of the walk, I found a small rock that "called" to me and I took it home (if I find myself at a place that holds good memories or have had a particularly insightful trip, I sometimes look for a stone that will carry that energy back with me--how unapologetically hippy-dippy Californian I am).

Nelder Grove info:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cactus Flowers, Green beans and Figs

With all the cool weather we've had here in the San Joaquin Valley, different plants have been blooming in abundance, especially the cacti. On Father's Day weekend, my one-day cactus burst forth with not one, or even three which is the maximum I've ever experienced, but bunches each day for several days. I would run out first thing in the morning when they are at their peak, before the heat starts to wilt them (crazy for a cactus flower, huh?).

The pictures speak for themselves. (I've been using one of the close-ups as my computer's desktop screensaver. I'm in awe each time I sit down in front of it.)

As I watched three black bumble bees hovering around the blooms, the biggest one dove inside the largest flower, working his way as far back as he could get, then rolled around, tumbling and turning (to get the honey all over him I guess). I didn't get a video of it, darn, I was too busy watching his antics.

This morning I was puttering around the garden, my favorite thing to do before the heat drives me inside (104 predicted today).

I saw that the green beans were getting large, and the drooping figs needed picking before the mockingbirds and bluejays took notice. It inspired this post.

Now I have to figure out what I can cook with greenbeans and figs. That will have to be a post for another day.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Spring 2011

The hills around Fresno have been greening up with all the rain we've had this year.

It's as if the trees are dancing with joy.

Streams are full and flowing . . .

. . . and newborns are everywhere.

Even a donkey relishes the fresh grasses.

What do our Stonehenge-like boulders whisper about when they lean toward each other?

Maybe the lazy cows,
or maybe the snow covered mountains to the east.
Or maybe that Spring has arrived here in the valley, wha-hoo!

Monday, April 5, 2010

April Showers

Spring has had some false starts around here, coming in spurts between showers and colder weather. The few warmer, sunnier days got me out into the garden, planting vegetables, weeding and repotting worn out plants from the winter, but then the cooler days came slamming back causing me to huddle under blankets with a good book.

But, another trip to the coast, ala Pismo, Oceano, Avila, San Luis Obispo and Cambria finally convinced me that spring really is here.
I've never seen the hills so green and slathered in wild flowers.

And, the ocean views from atop Hwy 46 from Cambria were magnificent.
Of course, the ocean is always beautiful.

A few weeks ago, when blossoms opened on our ornamental cherry tree out front, I hounded Fred into taking me for a drive on the Blossom Trail, so starved was I for the colors of spring.
Even though the day was cloudy, I got a few nice shots of the San Joaquin Valley coming into bloom.

Since I've been blocked from writing fiction for quite a while now, I decided to swing my artistic tendencies back into painting, while still maintaining the photography, as amateurish as it is. (Nature is not easy to mess up, even in a bad photo taken while driving by at 65 mph, on a cloudy day, through a dirty windshield).

Inspired by the trips we’ve taken lately to the coast, I dusted off my old brushes and bought some new acrylic paints. I found a photo I’d taken in Tulum, Mexico a few years back and painted that.

Spring spurts of sun and warmth in between the darker, rainier days, remind me that there are always moments of beauty around us to celebrate and enter into.
Have a great spring.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Day at San Simeon

More about Milton:

Through the winter I dealt with his health issues (he had a few) but he's been a treasure, every bit of his 4 lbs. His unceasing attempts to bring out Buddy’s playful side has finally worked, and they now rough and tumble (Buddy being surprisingly gentle with the little guy).
Back to traveling off the cuff:

We visited Hearst Castle in San Simeon on Feb. 13. The weather was beautiful and since neither Fred nor I had ever visited the Castle, it was a real treat—one I want to repeat again on a different tour (there being four).

We took tour #1 which included the downstairs and some of the grounds. This picture is a detailed view to the entrance of Hearst's main house. It is reminiscent of churches in Europe.

The outside pool is familiar to most people but did you know that the pillars holding up the "temple" on the far side of the classic Neptune swimming pool, are fourth-century Roman columns (the one on the right being fatter and shorter had to be built up to fit in the structure).

The inside pool was the last room we got to view. Lovely.

(More about the tours at: )

This picture of the coast was from the balcony in front of the front entrance.
After finishing the tour, we visited the ocean and the dock where Hearst had his treasures delivered from around the world.

The surf seemed higher than usual that afternoon. As it turned out, there was a surfing contest up the coast in Half Moon Bay that afternoon and the waves became so strong that spectators were knocked over.
To watch the video of that event go to:

Never underestimate the power of the ocean, both to inspire and to devastate.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Autumn Tale

In October, while the weather still had just a chill in the air before the leaves turned golden yellow, orange and red, we decided to take a day trip to Carmel. Our recently acquired SPCA rescue, Buddy, was raring to “go for a ride in the car.” The ocean was beautiful (I never find a time when it’s not). It seems everyone had the same idea; visit the ocean before the weather turns.

“Go(ing) for a ride in the car” was Buddy’s joy while walking on the beach, getting his feet wet and dealing with other eagerly bouncing dogs—not so much. He seemed to experience it much like a child ready to be potty trained might feel with his training pants full—wet and yucky. He is a people dog and only appears to tolerate other dogs after the initial sniff. So after a few hours we headed back home. In the back of my mind the seed was planted that Buddy needs a buddy to bring out his playful dog side.

We stopped in San Juan Bautista ( for a snack and caught up on dinner, some history, music and ice-cream before the drive back.

Now that the leaves have been falling and we are getting ready for winter (I am never really ready), I’ve been taking pictures of trees—their colors this year seem to be more vivid than ever. For some reason the camera never captures the vivid autumn colors, but I keep my camera ready anyway and snap pictures while driving.

One day after lunch with my aunt, while browsing at the bookstore in Riverpark, she wanted to see the animals in the SPCA shop window across the street.

“You don’t want to buy a dog,” I said.

“I just like to look at the animals,” she said.

“Oh, what a darling Chihuahua,” I said—and then took him out of his cage and held him.

Guess what happened next? I am the proud owner of a buddy for Buddy, meet Milton:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

End of Summer

Now that autumn is here, the cool weather has revived me from the malaise of an extended wave of late summer heat. I went over all the little trips I took that didn’t really lend themselves to a whole blog entry by themselves; a series of little adventures I quietly let slip into the terrine of life’s memory soup, and instead decided to blog about last month’s trip. I went to Laguna Beach for a few days in September to my niece’s wedding. It was a very nice trip, with great weather.

It brought back memories of my days as a teenager in the Los Angeles area, specifically one summer when I lived in a small apartment in Venice Beach with my mother. I loved the cool, moist mornings of a beach town waking up—before the tourists come and the hot sun bleaches everything clean, including the sand between your toes and the salt that licks your body. Oh the joy of sunny days running around barefoot in shorts heading to the beach or coming from it?

Then, in the late afternoon after the bathers have gone and the life guards pack up to leave, the locals come out like house crabs leaving their shells and moving at a leisurely pace or jogging slowly and rhythmically along the waterline, walking their dogs or gazing at the ocean, reflective, as they watch the setting sun.

Early morning before the wedding day, I took a nostalgic drive along the ocean out of Newport. I stopped by the Pacific Whey Baking Company‎ on "the PCH" (Pacific Coast Hwy to the uninitiated—I find it funny to hear everyone call it the PCH instead of Hwy 1) to grab some breakfast (a strong, yummy cup of coffee—best I think I’ve ever had—and a bag of pastry).

I drove down the coast to the pier overlooking Balboa Island and stood watching the ferry take cars back and forth to and from the island while I munched on breakfast and thought about how much the coast has changed.

When I finished, I went to Fashion Island Shopping Center in Newport Beach for a pair of shoes. While waiting for Macy’s to open, I watched the fish in a large Koi pond and the carousel getting ready for the first ride of the day.

The next day, after the wedding, it was time to head home but. . .

The beach girl in me had to make one last ocean stop to squiggle my toes in the sand under the pier in Manhattan Beach and watch the ocean for a while before getting on Hwy 5 for the long trip home.

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