Archives for posts with tag: Santa Cruz Mountains
Beltany Stone Circle, from its west side, sout...

Beltony, up the road from where I lived outside of Raphoe, and where I enjoyed walking my dogs Inca and Honey.

I remember my first holiday in Nebraska. I was expecting something out of The Waltons: snowy fields, blustery cold and a roaring fire. What I got was dry corn stubble poking out of dirt that hadn’t seen snow in weeks and unseasonably warm temperatures. It was so warm, in fact, that I walked the fields thirteen miles outside McCook in shirt sleeves. I didn’t know that Mother Nature would more than make up for that first snowless disappointment. Over the next four years – while I attended Doane College in Crete (just south of Lincoln) – we experienced more than our fair share of blizzards and frozen mornings. To keep warm I stole an arctic Army coat marked “Kiln Crew” from the art department and trudged through knee-deep whiteness to campus.

I had a fair chance of a white Christmas in Donegal, Ireland. Although more often than not the snow mixed with rain and then froze. If that happened I wouldn’t dare drive my car the two miles downhill into Raphoe. We were lucky if a truck came by with grit and even luckier if it was plowed. I’d walk and slide to Raphoe if need be but mostly I’d cancel my yoga classes, tell my bodywork clients to curl up with a good book and then I would do that, too, for as long as the ice lasted. During my last winter in Raphoe we had a few days of freezing fog. On the first day I could see Raphoe from my hilltop. As the fog developed (it didn’t ‘roll in’ like it does through the Golden Gate – the fog in Raphoe seemed to simply manifest itself) the town was wrapped in a white cloud that slowly spread and weightlessly lumbered up my road until everything around me was seen through a veil of drifting ice crystals tumbling on air. It was as if we had all turned to ghosts – the horses, the trees, the fields and the sheep – all ghosts. And I was a ghost, too. One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

I prefer my winters and my holidays with a bit of grey. I still feel a tickle of anticipation when the weather forecast promises a dusting of snow on the Santa Cruz Mountains. It won’t snow where I am but that’s a fair trade for the perfect summer days we experience pretty much from April through October.

But I don’t want a perfect summer day today. I want a day that tells me its winter. A day that reminds me of the mountains of plowed sidewalk snow I’ve seen in Nebraska, of the crawling frozen fog in Donegal. I want a day that gives me permission to stay in my pyjamas. And that’s the day I’ve been given.

On this Sunday morning in Northern California the rain is pouring and the skies are dark grey. There’s a fair wind – not too strong but just strong enough. It’s the type of morning that begs for a second cup of coffee with cream and honey. It’s the type of day that calls for warm toast with melted butter and jam. It’s a curling up day.

And that’s what I’m going to do.

550 words (more or less)/about 30 minutes with ten minutes for noodling

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I prefer to walk in silence, enjoying the sounds of nature.  But over the weekend I switched things up and instead of taking myself to Shoreline I walked The Dish.   Shoreline is flat and winding with multiple paths so other people are easily avoided.  The Dish is anything but.

Many moons ago, when I was a runner, The Dish didn’t really exist. The hill was part of Stanford land – still is, of course – but the only path was the pounded rut packed solid by runners who had been there before me. What I liked most about running in those hills was the solitude. All there was to hear were the calls of birds startled by rhythmic footfalls and the swoosh as I broke my way through dry grass.

I disappeared for ten years and when I returned the hill, in its own way, had disappeared, too.  A wide macadam course had replaced the pounded earth.  And now there are signs imploring runners and walkers to not disturb the wildlife and to not stray from the path.

Maybe this is good.  Some might consider it progress.

But what used to be a secret is now a gathering place.  Each day, from the sun’s first light to the moment it falls behind the Santa Cruz Mountains, the macadam paths are filled.  From a distance it resembles an anthill filled with colorful worker ants trailing up and down one after another.  Always moving.  Never straying.

The Dish is a regular thoroughfare for anyone craving a hilly workout – which seems to be most of the Bay Area.  And for the past three mornings I’ve joined them.  Not because I crave hill work, but because of the view of fog lifting from the Bay, the gleam off the Dumbarton Bridge when the sun first catches it and even the Matchbox cars scurrying up the grey ribbon that is Interstate 280.

But it’s far from the contemplative sanctuary I once loved.

It’s downright noisy.

Naturally, being the silent type, I found this disturbing.

But then I began to listen.  It was a struggle at first.  I had to surrender my irritation.  I had to cultivate a new attitude.  I had to accept that maybe, if I stopped judging and began to pay attention – ok, eavesdrop – what I heard might be poetic.  Or funny.  Or sarcastic.  Or wonderful and completely unexpected.

And it was.

But you can judge for yourself.

“Daddy, will you carry me down the dark hill? When we get there, will you take me down the dark hill?” 

“He’s trying to make her happy but she’s not getting happy and he just doesn’t understand.” 

And my favorite – the last line in a conversation between two women joggers, blond bobbed and decked out in Lululemon gear:

“They loved me, of course.  And they were lovely, as most lawyers are in a social setting.”