Friday, April 1, 2016

In Praise of Ordinary Things

“Sometimes the most ordinary things could be made extraordinary, simply by doing them with the right people. (Elizabeth Green)”

What are "ordinary things" for you?  For us  they are such things as a simple shared meal, sharing tales about the events of the day, giving and receiving comfort for the 'bumps and bruises' of normal life,  planning and laughing together, walking together in a beautiful place.. doing the routine things that make up our lives...
A favorite corner of Quarry Lakes park

 The three pups and I walk for an hour on alternate mornings - other days I ride my bike for an hour... and Judy does just the opposite - so the pups enjoy good walks every day.     As we ride or walk, spring is the season of  daily small surprises - the golden California Poppies and occasional Purple Lupine are splendid,  grass is forming seed heads, Crain flies are out and active, ( with their giant mosquito appearance),  big black stink bug beetles  meander on the trail.  

The 3 stooges - Willy, Roxy, Rusty

Clouds of small male water insects swarm and hold in  a tight  flight pattern hoping to attract a female.   Blue belly lizards have emerged and are sunning  of the rocks, and for days now they have been adding water to the Quarry Lakes to bring them well up to normal... Hurrah!  Flocks of migratory birds come  for a while and then continue on their way...  Right now we have gangs of cormorants  and grebes hanging out  in the lakes.

My friend the Crain fly

Spring in California is a continuous parade of subtle changes –We dont have the dramatic emergence of green sprouts, and the running of the sap, such as they have in New England.  Even in the coldest days of winter there is always green grass, always something blooming,  and signs of growth activity (even days when we have a touch of frost) . But  I know that winter is past by the  return of bursting leaves, fruit trees blooming, and the advent of hay fever... I picked the March avocados, oranges  are ripe and soon we will have loquats.  My spring garden is in: Swiss chard, Romano beans, Zucchini, Cucumbers, Beets, Tomatoes, Manoa Lettuce, and Favas...and all doing well. 

Lettuce and beets from last years garden

I love to visit the coastal forests this time of year  (We go to the neighborhood of Pescadero) – the soil is moist, trillium is blooming (both white and purple) , banana slugs abound...and the small streams flow  over moss covered stones. (Such melodic sounds!)  Birds sing a cacophony of forest songs ... it's still cool and the trails are empty of people.  The coastal redwoods have a special charm in this cool misty air...

Not actually ordinary - but time with family and friends is always great 

I complained a lot  about the rain this winter!   I'm a bit like the farmer who cried "Bad rice" - hoping to fool the weather spirits into giving  more rain... February was terrible - almost no rain.  In March we got hit with a Pineapple express - a steady series of warm tropical storms that did wonders for our rain totals... At the moment we have just attained the season average - but this could well be the end of our season.   For the foreseeable future not a drop more predicted.  And worst of all, the mountain snow pack falls well short of season normal.  Almost all of our rain this year was due to  two rainy spells that gave us 90% of our season's rain.  At this point some of our reservoirs are looking pretty good...But they are predicting a dry La Nina year next winter... Save  keep saving water folks!  Let those lawns stay dry - 

Our hills are actually green - much of the rear they are "golden" 

Judy and I  have a family policy of catch and release when it comes to  insects and spiders in the house: big giant Crain flies with their long fragile looking legs, fast moving wolf spiders  on the floor, and every now and then a lizard will get into the house.  Generally we catch the critter in an upside down water glass and slip a card under a glass to trap them...Then we release them in their preferred habitat out doors.  I have a special feel for releasing crane flies - they are so delicate and beautiful.

Trail lunch at 10000 ft, after a morning's hike

Do you notice the springtime sky?  I am a cloud watcher - great fluffy cumulus - little wispy cirrus - even ice crystal sun dogs when the sun is low in the Western sky.  I watch the changing position of the rising and setting sun.   Now every day the sun follows a path higher in the sky and sets further North.  Sometimes if the dust particles,  smoke, or water particles in the air are just right there are even glorious reds, oranges, red in the sunset.  I understand it has to do with scattering and refraction of light.  We have too many city lights to see the night stars well - for that we have to go high in the mountains  where we lie back on great rocky boulders and watch for shooting stars...
A telephoto shot of the moon in my backyard

This past year we started feeding birds - I built a platform feeder and we buy seed 60 lb sacks from a farm supply store.  With the first morning light the gang of little grey birds in hard at work and we watch the drama of their feeding routine progress... Everyone scatters when a Stellar Blue Jay arrives - and they really panic when a hawk visits- the real marauders are a gang of Band tail pigeons - Judy runs out and shouts and waves something - and they dash off  in fear... And when we go to bed at night the call of the grebes and other water fowl calling to each other from the lakes...Us and our birds...

Lunch at the Zlatnik bird station

These are some of the ordinary things that  make up the mosaic of our lives... Not the sort of things that deserve comment - but they are the things that bring 'salt' into our daily life...

I love the alternatives open to us here - an hour to reach the ocean, 3 hours to the high mountains, 4 to the high desert