Sunday, December 14, 2008

December's Bounty

As I write this post, it is dark with rain outside. We went to Wilder Ranch for a run this morning. As I ran along the bluffs, the darkness over the ocean moved closer and finally let loose halfway through my trek. I was drenched when I returned to the car but, man alive, I LOVE running in the rain! There is something about being out in the elements that makes me feel so alive. Skiing in white out conditions, hiking in the blazing heat and trail running in the rain all bring that excitement.

Generally speaking, I don't plan to have those experiences. But, if I'm willing to head out, prepared for the possibility, then so be it. Besides, all week it's been pleasant, sunny and mild. The flowers in the garden continue to blossom and the lettuce seeds I planted are happily sprouting. Ski season approaches and we need some water!

The trail I ran on along the bluffs had tire tracks which provided a soft, dirt surface. The space in between the tracks was green with grass. Along this trail, an alcove juts into the bluff. To continue on the trail, I had to go down to the beach and climb the trail back up to the bluff top on the other side of the alcove. There I found the tracks completely covered in grass with gopher holes everywhere. I continued for about half a mile before I d
ecided running in a pasture wasn't what I had in mind. By the time I got back to the tire tracks, they had puddled up and I ran over 2 miles in water. I thought about how cool it was to have an excuse to stomp in puddles.


Returning home, I took a peek at the lettuce plants, glowing bright green in the rainy darkness. I'll need to separate the plants in the coming week. If they manage to reach maturity, I'll be peddling lettuce to my neighbors in January. I also have some carrots out there. Right now they look like two rows of grass. I've never grown carrots before but my partner says that's what they should look like.

While the Begonias have expired, the azalea bushes are going wild. The Mexican Sage, so prevalent in these parts, offers food for the hummingbirds that don't migrate to warmer climes. All around the neighborhood, homes adorned with Christmas lights also have yards blooming with plant growth. On my run, fat little birds bathed in puddles as I ran by and the ranch cows preferred to stand in the rain rather than take shelter; all of us enjoying the bounty December has brought.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hiking

Hiking is one of my favorite activities. I love exploring; seeking out plants and animals, observing the transformation brought on by seasonal changes. When I'm outdoors, whether on the beach or in the woods, listening to birds or critters scurrying in the duff, hearing the waves crash or the creek gurgle, my mind is freed.

Just as in meditation, thoughts drift in and out. Some I ponder further, others I release. Occasionally the trail demands attention because it's rocky or filled with the gnarled, bony protrusions of trees. Creek crossings can by fun and challenging. I once heard it said that hiking is just walking. This is not so. To me, hiking includes elevation change. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Whatever the case, it always offers a change of perspective.

During my most recent hike, I was seeking out signs of the season. Once the rains begin, fungi pops up everywhere in astounding variety. I don't know much about this life form. I've eaten a few types of mushrooms and have enjoyed them. In 2000 or 2001, I went to a conference during which Paul Stamets delivered a scintillating talk about the intelligence of fungi. If I remember correctly he said that fungi could be trained and that it can be used to eat uranium. Anyway, I found several specimens and am really happy with the macro feature on my camera.


My other objective was to find a banana slug. It wasn't hard. This guy was just off the trail, a lovely, bright yellow beacon amidst the duff. Slugs are everywhere, but there's something about a banana slug that makes them so likable. I will usually move them off a trail used by horses or bikes in hopes of saving them from a messy demise.

The rainy season is just beginning. As the winter equinox approaches and the temperatures drop, I look forward to hiking and seeing the changes winter brings.