Summer In the Chaparral

Our three pairs of feet make indescribably delicious crunching sounds on the gravel of the Pacific Crest Trail as we wend our way towards the legendary Silverwood Lake. The dominant sound when we still our own conversation is the scraping, dry rattle of the cicadas. It might pass for a rattlesnake’s warning if it weren’t for the drawn out droning quality that the little chorus insists upon. The tiny musicians hide on either side of the narrow trail, making temporary homes of the buckwheat, Chemise, and bush poppies that grow like wildfire in the arid, high desert climate.

Since this trail, which stretches its arms from Canada to Mexico, passes directly through the forestry land of our back yard, we have been known to hike it not infrequently. However, we have never taken it farther than a few miles towards the lake which remains somewhat mystical, nestled behind several foothills to the east of our home. Today’s trek led us to a vision of the misty lake behind the hills but we never reached it. Despite our nine mile excursion, our pilgrimage ended in contented tiredness by the side of the highway, barring us from our final destination. Maybe next time we will reach the seemingly mythical waters of Silverwood.

Tiger Lily

But for now I look out from our back porch over miles and miles of hill land and from here I can see a red-tailed hawk effortlessly gliding, circling in the invisible spout of a thermal air current. The sun is setting. I love watching the dense blue shadows that settle into the pockets of the rolling, lazy hills behind our home. The green mounds lie like sleeping giants who might stir at any moment under my foot if it touched a too tender spot, slipping into an eye. As the wind whips across the chaparral that covers their bodies like thick, rough, green hair, punctuated by patches of bright orange Cuscuta, “Witches’ Hair”, they rumble from deep within their hibernation, snoring terribly yet quite innocuously. As the sun sets behind Mount Baldy, which clasps the remains of its white blanket tightly around its shoulders and head, the gnats and dust mites are ignited in tiny halos of brilliant orangish yellow by the ball of gold descending behind them. The flight of these otherwise, almost invisible spots is gentle and unhurried.

Sometimes the wind here is more than a little persistent. It whistles through the cracks in the window sills and between doors. I don’t understand the song; it seems rather tuneless to my ears, but that is because it is being filtered by the house. The only way to actually hear what the wind is trying to vociferate is to go out into it where it blows right by your ears. The gust rips through hair and clothes as though it would not welcome me as an audience, but I know that its only because it doesn’t notice me and keeps running around regardless of who or what may be in its way. The wind is powerful. 


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