Even in the last minute Christmas bustle, baking, cleaning house, wrapping presents, doing laundry, the beautiful weather couldn’t be wasted. We finally got out the door around 3:30. The sun had dipped below the hills. Our Hole-in-the-Wall excursion became a Mountain Lion Cave excursion, since the former takes considerably longer than the latter, and we can drive the Jeep almost all the way to the ravine the cave is in.
We have a trail going from the driveway all the way to the cave, but the last hill down into the ravine is about a 40 degree grade and, while possible in the Jeep, gets a little dicey. So we generally park at the top and walk the rest of the way down the trail. Today, though, Sarah and I decided to walk down through the mining pits, since we’d never gotten into the ravine that way before. It was a lovely little walk down the mine, over deadfall, through briars and waist-high dried grasses, in and out of cutaway places where water probably ran during the mining days.
Clumps of woodsorrel and tufts of lush moss clung close to the earth, as green as springtime, glinting through pine needles and scrubby grasses, like emeralds in an antique brooch. Pale grey lichens crusted rocks, subtle and unremarkable, until you look closer. The moss clinging to rocks, like a tiny carpet of ferns, and the lichen crusting rocks, like strange, oceanic life. What variety of textures and color in Creation!
Even in the winter, even when nearly everything has gone to sleep, dormant, and won’t wake until March or April or May, even with all the flowers dead, the petals faded and fallen, nothing but stems, sepals, dried leaves left, there is still a mysterious, ephemeral beauty. Flowers are common to life, something we are used to looking and wondering at. But what about what is left when the flower is gone? That is something we don’t generally take the time to marvel at. But those things that are left are the means of propagating next year’s flowers – In a sense, they are the beginning of the new flowers.
On the way to the ravine, we stopped to get some pictures on a sun-bathed hillside. These silvery stars were fresh and bright in a bed a fallen pine needles and red earth, one of the only living plants still unbitten by the frost. As many flowers as I’ve photographed and identified, I can’t put my finger on this one – I have a few ideas, including Eriogonum pauciflorum, but I don’t think I’ll know until I check on it this spring. Tomorrow, or sometime soon, I’d like to go back to mark the area so I can be sure to identify the correct plant!
The stems of dried grasses and flowers would make a lovely winter bouquet – We’ll have some time before our Christmas festivities begin tomorrow, so I’m hoping to get out to pick a bouquet. Dressed up with some jute and put in a Mason jar, it will make a rustic, festive centerpiece! I forgot to bring a sack on our walk, or I would have picked some things today.
The moon was rising as we drove east towards home. Giant and golden, fading to silver as it got higher. I didn’t have a tripod with me, but as soon as we were home, I grabbed the tripod and Sarah and I headed out again. It will be a full moon tomorrow, a full moon on Christmas. This evening, it was fitting that we listened to the 1968 Apollo 8 Christmas message, a reading from the first chapter of the book of Genesis. What a wonderful world God created, and what a gift to live here.
Tomorrow is Christmas. I’d hoped for a moonlit hike on Christmas night, but we’re expecting snow. So Sarah and I are about to bundle up and head out for a stroll in the moonlight. The frost is thick and diamond bright in the light from the almost-full moon. A perfect night.