A Good Friday Walk

We strolled down the logging road behind the corral at sunset with the dog. Friday after work, and a few days off coming up. Time to shake off the harness.

The old logging road is one of the few places the dog can run free, as long as we wipe him down for poison oak afterwards. It’s actually on our neighbors’ property, but they don’t mind. The road is bordered on the left by a deer fence, which only has to be 5 feet high because the land slopes down steeply on the other side into the valley. At the end of our neighbor's field, an even steeper cliff of chamise chaparral rises on the right. So the dog can’t go far.

Before we set off, I took pictures of the huge eucalyptus tree that we’re going to have removed. It overshadows the corral where our old horse lived out his last years. I want to start growing things there. Maybe keep a few chickens, who knows.

Eucalyptus trees are incendiary bombs waiting to burst. This year up and down our road, you can hear the buzz of chain saws as people remove the worst fire hazards on their properties. We were all sobered by last year’s rash of wildfires, whose huge plumes of smoke were visible from our homes. Huerta’s Tree Service has been doing great business in our neighborhood.

Just beyond the gate that opens onto the logging road from the back of the corral are three more huge eucalyptus trees. They will live for a while longer, because the budget only goes so far, and they are harder to reach. They are beautiful trees. Too bad. (The picture on the right glances back up the road, towards the gate.)

Soft sandstone, the bedrock hereabouts, breaks through the surface of the dirt road, yet still it is lushly overgrown with grass and French broom and other weeds after the recent rains.

On the chaparral slope above us, a wild ceanothus is in full bloom and lots of monkeyflower stems are reaching up succulent and symmetrical and perfect, with here and there an early orange blossom.

The theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek believes, along with John Keats, that 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.' This belief guides his studies in string theory: Nature is supersymmetrical. The lodestone of reality is that it is beautiful.

Looking around, I do believe he’s right.

As the sun was setting we headed back up the road. Now on our right, beyond the deer fence, the deep wooded valley that lies behind our house darkens to a black green. The Douglas fir that marks the end of our property rises high into the blue sky. And a shameful flag of exotic pampas grass shines bright, right at the deepest and most inaccessible part of the valley floor. I should get down there. But I should do it in the sleep-time of summer I guess, not in spring, when so many birds and other creatures are nesting, raising families, having their joyful moments, their loving time (and their succulent eating time, both predator and prey).

I looked up and over the valley two silhouetted birds hung in the last warmth of sunlit air above an outline of spiky redwood and curling madrone. They swooped slowly about each other, wreathing like doves on a Victorian card, and caressed each other in flight for long moments.

Playing in the gentle updraft, softly scalloping the air, very gradually they receded over the rise.

They were probably crows. They were definitely in love, and I still say that despite conversations with my harder headed other self.

If ever a celebration of joy was visible in nature, that was it.


lostlandscape said…
Ah, to be surrounded by such amazing country!

I love the Keats quote. As all the current economic turmoil causes many of us to reexamine what's truly important, those words from two centuries ago seem even more important and true.
It's always so interesting to read about trees as fire hazards in CA blogs. We don't have that danger here in Michigan (but we do have a dying auto industry, crappy roads, and a bad economy! ;-) Hope you had a happy Easter!
Michelle said…
Your horse corral must be incredibly well fertilized, the perfect spot to install a vegetable garden! Thanks for sharing your lovely walk, how fortunate that you have such spot so close by.
Steve said…
Really gorgeous pictures of country I know very well. I lived in Santa Cruz for a few years and explored Gilroy, San Jose lake and just about everywhere, the truth is. It is hard to get enough of California, in so many ways. Your post and the ambiance brought that all rushing back. Thanks! Love your blog.
I love "The lodestone of reality is that it is beautiful." I'm putting that one in my commonplace book (with proper accreditation of course). It is too bad that some of the most beautiful trees are also the most fire-dangerous; here we have native manzanitas and the decidedly unnative and highly combustible scotch broom.
Country Mouse said…
Thank you all for your comments - I wrote this post after finishing "Hardy Californians" a book written in the 30s by a woman called Lester Rowntree - black and white pictures, but such color in the words. So I thought I'd have a go at a word picture (with pictures!) of a lovely moment. Steve, I'm so glad to have brought back good memories of the Santa Cruz area for you - that made my day. Pomona - I'm honored to be added to your commonplace book. lostlandcape - thanks for enjoying Keats - "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is a longtime favorite of mine along with his other great odes.
Katie said…
The last piece of your post reminded me of the Secret of Nihm where the crows fall in love.

It's such a shame that Eucalyptus cause such issues here in California. They are beautiful and smell wonderful, but at a steep cost to the ecosystem around them.