Snow in California- Spring, March 2011

Gorgeous moss on black oaks

Pigs in the woodwork, sprinkles of wildflowers and doggies in need of a complete laundering.

Delicate eyelashes of green leaves suspended on dark, glistening stems among murmurs of sun in the incessant rain.  This day, March 24 snow again graces the dark hills while the river overflows its banks in the valley near our house. It is still time for cardigans and wool scarves.  Yet, spring it is: shooting stars, Indian warriors, Western hounds tongue, saxifrages, lomatiums, Tritelias, butter and eggs, nemophila, ceanothus, manzanita, willow and oso berry reject our idea that it is still winter and invite bumble bees and small native bees to visit during the briefest glimpse of sun, signaling that life is surging around us while we huddle inside.

Up the valley towards the Peak

Spring walks are still journeys of discovery with wild flowers sprinkled sparingly among grasses- needing discovery, not visible at a distance.  They appear as from nowhere from day to day- one day just a scene of grasses- but the next woven with delicate spring flowers.  The new leaves of buckeye, creek dogwood, ash and the brilliant chartruese yellow of the willow blooms contrast with dark almost black branches of dormant oaks festooned with pale gray lichen. The scene appears ancient and new at the same time and pushes and pulls ones emotions up and down from introspection to the beginnings of spring joy.

Some of my favorite winter/spring scenes are the nearby hillsides of dormant, black oaks draped on the north side with thick carpets of soft, emerald moss.  The bark glistens black with white flecks, and the ground underneath is carpeted with short grass and forbs.  It is a mythical scene of stillness and contemplation, of looking deep within, and where the rest of the world drops away- vanished. The tree trunks are like swift, black strokes of a Japanese brush against the matt grasses, but draped with brilliant moss like treasured steeds.

Among these scenes rampage the wild pigs, churning the turf of new grasses into mud, changing a quickening landscape into desolation in endless quests for food.  Their rooting is everywhere- under oaks, all around the newt pond, in the native grass and wildflower fields. We rarely see them on our walks, and they must wait for darkness to begin their campaign of destruction much like dictators everywhere.

We can see their hiding places but the dogs are on high alert each time we go out, and scared up a huge, ugly Russian boar that leapt across the road in front of us in a silent instant and disappeared into the scrub. The dogs stopped at our feet, obviously taken aback by what their fantasies had conjured up.  They had to be taken home for a complete laundering.


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