Yesterday I walked down the hill to feed my ancient, horse, brooding like a storm cloud, when an acorn slammed into the ground in front of me, missing my head by inches. These Valley Oak nuts are big, and they don’t just drop. They shoot out like a stone from a slingshot.
I know Oak trees probably hurl their nuts with such force to propel their offspring towards a fortuitous landing—but I like to think this tree wanted my attention. I just read “The Overstory” by Richard Powell, (amazing) and it clearly affected me.
But what could an old oak have to say to an aging, cranky woman, morose over a pandemic, corrupt leaders, and hot, smoke-filled California skies, day after miserable day?
You probably all know the Zen story: the old monk gets chased over the edge of a cliff, by a tiger. As he dangles from a scrawny vine, he ponders the tiger above, and the jagged rocks below… where two more tigers lie in wait. Just when things can’t get any worse, a mouse pops out of the rocks and starts to gnaw at his vine.
It’s a strange time to do anything– have a baby, get married, start a business – but I know people doing all these mind-boggling things. Meanwhile, I can barely make my breakfast.
This week, I took a hammer and tore into my old barn. It was a small barn, so small that a woman could tear it down, mostly alone. After awhile, my husband joined me, knocking down the heaviest beams, but for the most part, it was me alone.
Shelter: Noun, a place providing temporary safety from bad weather or danger
As I sat down to write about my shelter experience, two bluebirds landed on the walnut tree outside my window, drying their wings from the rain. I always get excited about the return of my bluebirds, cleaning out their nesting boxes and adding new ones. Sometimes I worry that they won’t return, but then they do, bringing with them the promise of another spring. Today, though, I can only tell they’re bluebirds by their shape and size. Due to the gloomy weather this morning, they look like grey birds.
There’s something about the days between Christmas and New Years that are my favorite of all. Not much real work happens. Not much is expected of us. It’s a sort of limbo-land between the holy days of Christmas and the start of a new year.
I haven’t posted for a while, because I was confused about my life, and I couldn’t seem to find the words. I’m not sure I do now, but I’m giving it a stab. I often write about water, because it interests me, how it’s both life-giving and life-changing, and the topics are endless. In my last essay, I wrote about the muddy, swift and pretty damn cold water that was swirling around me.
“Help. Going under!” This would be a good sign, like the sandwich-board kind, for many of us to wear, during times of daunting change. Then, those on high ground could toss us a line, or shout encouragement from the shore. Life abounds with ways to try to sink us. Strangely enough, others can’t usually tell we’re going under. We look pretty good, even while gasping for air.
It’s early November and Central California is still smoking hot, like an overheated griddle, and drier than an old tortilla chip. Our creek is dry, river is dry, well is drying up—and no rain in the foreseeable future. My own wellspring of creativity, optimism, and trust in human decency is as jaded as the news, as withered as the roadside weeds.
My husband and I corralled our three grown sons for a last hurrah before school and jobs claimed them for the year, and paddled for five days through the forest-lined lakes and rivers of the Boundary Waters, between Minnesota and Canada. The fall colors were just beginning to flame, yellow and red torches against the dark green. Every half mile or so, we spotted boundary markers, letting us know where the US territory ended, and Canada began.
Welcome to Streamriffs.com, a place for fellow creek- walkers and nature lovers. Lori Fisher Peelen lives in California with her family.