Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Stone Wall in the Woods

A waist-high wall of greyish green
lichen-stained stones appears as
I walk in deep woods. Flat slabs
of shale, placed in orderly rows,
wind half a mile next to towering
maples then stones fall into disarray.
I admire the artistry and wonder
about the wall’s strange location.

My  forefathers crowbarred these
stones from glaciated fields;
strained as they piled them on a
cumbersome wooden sled hauled
a mile or more by dapple greys.
Plenty of rocks on this farm—
cheaper than barbed wire—horse
and human sweat the only cost.

And why this wall in the woods?
Maybe a century ago cattle
grazed here or the stones set
a boundary keeping neighbor’s
cows out. My fingers caress the
carefully placed slabs that callused
hands put here with no thought of

folk art.              
                                                Norma Wightman

Inspired by visits to the farm in Sullivan County, New York, where I grew up. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

 Mineral King (Sequoia National Park) in July

Spent a few days hiking with friends here and enjoyed a six + mile hike to Eagle Lake--warm enough to swim in! The flowers were still lovely at 8,000'.
We enjoyed views of distant
Sawtooth Mountain (far light colored peak).

Saturday, April 30, 2016

50 Fantastic years to celebrate!

 Wedding day in Gwelo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1965. Note trees growing out of Peter's head--I soon had those knocked off. Nine years in the country before politics got too dangerous and then off to California, first Berkeley and later a move to the Sacramento Valley for 9 years while our two sons grew up in the country. Then in 1988 a move to Morro Bay and the chance to live by the ocean at last--a long time dream.

We think 50 years deserves more than a small celebration, so we took off for Kauai in early March to visit with friends and then took the family to Florida in later March in time to celebrate our first-born son, Paul's 47th birthday at the beach on Anna Maria Island. Glen and Elaine came from Ireland and Paul, Katie and the grandkids, Niko and Savannah, from Calif. Wonderful times and so thankful to have such a great family
Well, there are a few wrinkles, gray hair and sagging bodies, but we're holding up pretty well and are never bored with life. Travel plans will take us back to Norma's family farm in New York State later in the summer. So lucky to still have the property in the family due to dear Brother Bob buying it years ago.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Rocky Mountain High

Our excuse to go to Colorado in September was to attend the Jazz Festival in Vail, joining up with California friends there. We went early to tour through Rocky Mountain National Park after the summer crowds simmered down. The elk were enjoying browsing the local golf course and even some of Estes' Park municipal landscaping. One male bugled his harem across a local bike path I happened to be on early one morning.

Rocky Mountain National Park was splendid--still some alpine flowers out and not totally frosty, but suggestions of fall in the air. We drove to the top of Mt. Evans and took it slow at 14,130' on a cool, but  bright day. Mountain goats and mountain sheep greeted us along the roads. We also passed the northern most grove of Bristlecone Pines at about 13,000'.

After the splendid jazz festival, we headed south to another national park, less well know--Black Canyon of the Gunnison. A 2,000' deep ditch was carved over eons by the Gunnison River through metamorphic rock with dramatic diking running through the rock. The canyon bottom is very impenetrable even today. Driving up a mesa in pinyon pine country, one suddenly comes upon the edge of this canyon for a jaw-dropping experience. Worth a visit!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Springtime in the Pinnacles

Yesterday I spent a glorious day with friends hiking in Pinnacles National Park, San Benito County (east of Monterey County). Shooting Stars (left) were at their peak along with my favorite spring flower, Baby Blue Eyes. Don't miss a moment to get out and explore California's beauty. We saw 40 flowering species in 6 miles of strolling in the park. Chocolate lilies are also at their peak in Morro Bay State Park on the eastside's Crespi Trail. Montana de Oro State Park has a splendid display of  Sticky Phacelia in the burn area off Coon Creek Trail along with more than 50 species in bloom now along Rattlesnake/Coon Creek trails. Get Out!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Basque Adventures

Breakfast with Agnes in large farm kitchen
A Basque adventure was a highlight of September 2014. Using Bayonne as a first stop, Peter started to practice his schoolboy French (dated 60 years ago!). Detailed map in hand and the smallest Ford on the road in Peter's hands we set off for La Rhune, a short distance from Bayonne. The petit train with vintage 1924 cars took us to the top of the mountain for a view of the coast and the beginning of the Pyrenees. We followed our noses to St. Etienne de Baigarry and found a lovely Basque farmhouse for a farm visit. Agnes had spent some months in Scotland in her youth and her English proved better than Peter's French. The house was huge with bedrooms enough for her 3-generations and visitors. The home has been in her family for generations and her husband moved in with her and she keeps her maiden name. Even her husband is known by her surname in the village.

A few miles down the small rural roads we came to Larrau. A beautiful mountain village. Nearby we walked a steep trail to the Holzarte gorge. A suspension bridge over an  850' gorge was impressive. Beautiful wildflowers like cranaesbill, gential and a purple bell-shaped flower were still in bloom. A sharp shower released a deluge later in the day, but luckily we had just entered our hotel and were secure and dry with magnificent views of
the heavy downpour.

We followed roads with more cows on the highway than cars and made our way over Port de Larrau into Spain passing through lovely beech forests. Slowly we descended onto the Spanish plains of Rioja country where we planned to taste the fine red wines. Spend a night in Laguardia which has historic wine cellars tunneled underneath the city. Toured one cellar and tasted two local wines. a Crianza and Tempranillo--both a bit tannic for me and served very cold. I was using all 40 words in my Spanish vocabulary to order dinner and get around in this town. We also saw quite a few pilgrims walking during the day.

Several nights later we reached a small, but exquisite mountain range called Picos de Europa and took a cable car up to the top from the town of Potes. The limestone peaks are not super high--maybe 8,000' at the top, but because of their ruggedness, they are dramatic. We drove a semicircular route around the range in order to get into it from different angles, spending several nights at the base. We walked a short way into the most famous 12-mile walk through the mountains along the Garganta de Cares, a trail following a river that cuts through the range. Spectacular cuts through rock lead you along a fairly level path along the base of the gorge. We met many European hikers, but  few Americans.

Heading back toward the coast we night stopped in Santillana del Mar, a really lovely medieval village. Woke early in the morning and Peter said, "I hear a lion.!" Well, he was right. A zoo is located about 3 miles out of town and it was indeed a lion's roar he heard.  The Altamira Cave museum was a highlight nearby.
Back to the coast where we followed a larger highway up and down over the rugged, pine covered hills, dropping down into red-tile covered villages and some high-rise hotel resorts. Saturday night in Lekeito was an adventure. We patiently waited until 8:30 p.m. to order dinner and were still the earliest to order. Locals lingered over coffee or a glass of wine for two hours chatting with friends before ordering. As we walked through town on our way back to our car after 10 p.m. the streets were jammed with folks chatting and laughing out on the streets, wine glasses in hand, kids running around through the crowded streets--the night was young for them!