These two posts are my first entry in this blog. I will add other thoughts and comments as the mood occurs. Autumn is a reflective time, I expect to be sharing more soon.
August 4, 2013 Redwood Regional Park, Oakland
Mid summer is the dry time in northern California, the resting season. The stream that tumbles and sings through this coastal forest in spring is parched. A few isolated pools reflect the redwoods, but they will soon dry up, leaving dust. The woods are silent except for a chickadee’s manic rattling, and ravens’ “Awks!”, echoing each other as they change places in the grove’s shadows. A hidden nuthatch’s soft, monotonal “Unk! Unk!” provides a bass line. Flowers are scarce, except for tube-shaped sticky monkey flowers that crown their shrubs with shades of butterscotch.
Many folks say there is little to see in this season; a slow, careful look reveals dozens of variations in colors. California hazel trees show lighter brown trunks than they will in winter, when day fades early. Redwood trunks are dark brown in shade, contrasting with the bright copper glow they’ll share on autumn’s afternoons. Sword ferns are jade in shadows; and lemon-lime in direct sun. Even the dust holds variations on the color brown.
Feel the warm breeze. It changes directions, approaches from many angles, bringing the sweet stinging scent of bay laurel leaves. A buckeye butterfly, brown with dark eye spots, darts along the trail as August’s sun warms it. A tan lizard, tiny as my pinky’s nail stands motionless on a rock and dashes into the underbrush when it realizes it isn’t camouflaged. The forest is still, but wild.
October 6, 2013 Redwood Regional Park, Oakland
There’s little wind today. It blasted through Oakland two days ago, bringing fears of autumn’s fires. Today the air is cool and still, a blanket helping us forget the recent heat. There’s an orange glow to the redwood forest today. Bay laurels’ sharp scent fills this comforting air. No flowers fill the autumn woods. It is a good day to use a hand lens to find the dry crinkles and cracks on pale green lichens that wrap themselves around twigs.
It’s untrue that there are no noticeable seasonal changes in northern California. Willows’ long, pointed leaves turn yellow, along with big leaf maples’. Chinese pistachios small leaves turn pink, orange, crimson. Poison oak shifts from green to burgundy. Silence wanders among the redwood’s chocolate trunks.
More birds than I’d expect cut through the quiet day. Ravens’s deep “AWWWKKK!!!” echoes through the woods. A Stellar’s jay follows its squawks with soft rattling. “Pyooooooooooooo!” it calls, imitating a red-tailed hawk. A circling red-shouldered hawk answers, “Pyoo! Pyoo! Pyoo!” Chickadees dangle upside down from redwood cones, chipping with high-pitched voices. Silence flows back when birds stop calling questions.
I’m German/Irish; this is the season when my German tradition celebrates Oktoberfest. We dance the harvest and sing of how we drink beer here because there’s none in heaven.I celebrate yearly by cooking vegetarian versions of Königsberg style meatballs, steak esterhazy, and sauerbrauten for my companion Kate. I listen to Beethoven while I cook, and note how the apartment smells like my grandmother’s kitchen.
The scents of sauerkraut and caraway seeds take me back to the memory of how many family members are now gone.These are reflective days. Kate and I embrace the season’s bitter-sweetness, working Dias de los Muertes in with Oktoberfest as we celebrate our departed. Sadness, we know is a thriving passion, the opposite of depression’s numbness.
The forest’s stillness comforts me as I think of Friday’s wind. This is fire season; the gales delivered smoke from a 40 mile distant grass fire to Oakland. The children I taught that day panicked. Today there is peace. The raven calls from above me. Rest, bird, but pay attention – fire season’s just begun.