We had a freakish April rain a week ago–April showers are not the norm around here, even in non-drought times. So when I found this almost-disappeared bit of water in the middle of the trail, I had to stick my foot in it . . . one last sploosh of mud until who-knows-when. (Our next rain might not be until November . . . )
As for the overly-alliterative title to this blog post . . . it’s National Poetry Month, and alliteration is a very old Anglo-Saxon poetry technique. So there’s that.
I was going to use “barefoot” in parenthesis (SEO, baby), but then I got a bit obsessed with the “p” constraint, and decided a foot without a shoe has been peeled of an extraneous layer. “Final” had no such p-centric synonyms, so “peculiar” seemed a slightly related word (love my www.thesaurus.com!).
Despite the dryness of our times, we did have enough rain this past season to inspire some lovely native blossoms (“painted plants” is a terrible synonym, but what ya gonna do). Thus and so and here we go: the rest of this post is just. Flowers. California native wildflowers! (From a run in the hills outside of Irvine Regional Park two days ago . . .)
As the very fortunate coordinator of a community garden, I was able to welcome a group of young people today from a local transitional living home to tour the garden and plant corn . . . what fun we had examining roly-polys and spiders, making bouquets, sniffing herbs, and getting messy in the dirt.
What really did my heart good was when, about an hour into our garden time, I mentioned how good it felt to be shoeless, and several of the kids immediately decided to take off their tennies and spend the rest of the time planting corn . . . barefoot!
(Truth-in-barefoot-advertising-fine-print-advisory: after the kids left, I went for a stroll in a part of the garden where we have been battling milk thistle all winter/spring: ouch. Even after I got home, I still felt tiny spears jabbing me, and had to get out my needle/flashlight/magnifying glass kit for a little R&R . . . rout and remove.)
April = National Poetry Month in the U.S.; the third week of April is California Native Plant Week in California.
I’m looking forward to combining both of these favorite subjects on April 18 when I will be presenting a poetry reading/slide show with my native-plant-and-poetry-buddy Chuck Wright. You’ll find us at 2:30 at the Cypress Branch Public Library, ready to share our love for the native plants and wild places of Orange County, CA. (I will be the one without shoes . . . hmmm . . . I hope the library doesn’t have a “no shoes/no reading” policy . . . )
Here’s to National Poetry Month! (The following poem is in response to views like the one in the photo above showing Orange County’s annual bloom of non-native invasive mustard in our local hills . . . a display many folks think is “beautiful” . . . but if they knew how these plants have destroyed so much of California’s native grasslands . . . might they look at these yellow flowers in a whole new way?)
Like a golden dagger inlaid with emerald
and much admired for its gaudy decoration,
so these hills are venerated for
how they light up every year with shiny
grass and brilliant mustard glow.
What if one day you heard the story of
the dagger’s history: “With this weapon
so-and-so stabbed and killed
your great-great-grandfather. And his wife.”
I think about this sometimes after rain
stirs the patient hills back into color:
too-green sheen of noxious annuals,
yellow epidemic of mustard flower—
weapons of death in our Orange County wildlands.
What is in the eye of the beholder?
What a beautiful time of year . . . the days are lengthening, the California native wildflowers are blooming, and Orange County’s wild trails are calling!
The warm temps and wildflowers also make the butterflies happy, and many were out this morning, cruising through the coastal sage scrub, almost crashing into me more than once. How would a butterfly collision feel?
What is more common along the trail than a “Common Buckeye”?
Now it’s time to start another work week . . . in my windowless office, in front of a computer for much of the day . . . distracted by thoughts of dusty trails lined with such plant-and-critter beauty . . . “springing” all through our Orange County wildlands.
A record-setting end-of-winter heat wave these last few days: intense sunshine and temps in the mid-90s have made it a bit warm to run mid-day, but as the shadows lengthened Friday afternoon, I was ready to see how the wildflowers were bearing up outside Irvine Park.
“The Art and Sole of Barefoot Hiking” by John M. Harder: a thoughtful introduction to this most pleasant activity
During a recent bout of barefoot research, I came across John M. Harder’s beautiful introduction to “The Art and Sole of Barefoot Hiking.” I remember reading it with delight several years ago; it moved me again upon re-reading, for which reason I offer a link to it here, as spring approaches–a blissful time to be out on the trails without shoes.
Mr. Harder’s piece “originally appeared in the Healing Options newspaper, Bennington, Vermont, April 1997.
Copyright 1997 John M. Harder.”
Almost 20 years later . . . his words remain timely.
Thanks, Mr. Harder!
The past five years of our annual late winter visit to Anza Borrego Desert State Park, I have been able (blessed! ecstatic!) to spend the weekend camping without shoes.
That’s right: barefoot. In the desert.
And I’m extra-pleased when my grandkids join me in wandering shoelessly around camp and up the Palm Canyon trail. They are smart kids who know when to put their shoes on to keep it fun. No pressure from Grammy, just do what you need to be able to run and climb and have a good time in this beautiful place.
My siblings (we are all grandparents now . . . yikes) still give me a bit of a hard time about it, but I’m the youngest, and have always been subject to this birth-order-inspired ribbing. As the years passed, though, I began to realize the joke’s on them: Yeah, I’m the youngest. Pick on me all you want, ’cause we may all be old now, but I’M STILL THE YOUNGEST.
OK. That’s out of my system.
It’s actually a great legacy our folks left: they first took us camping here in 1962, and this many years later, four of the seven of us were able to return and reminisce in a place that is much older than we are.
Speaking of having seven siblings camping here: our mother loves to tell the story of time (somewhere in the 1960s) the park ranger came by our campsite, counted heads, and solemnly proclaimed that the campground regulations called for no more than eight people per site . . . eliciting this response from Mom: “Which one should I send home, the youngest or the oldest?”
So every year those of us who are able to sneak away from our busy So Cal lives make the windy drive down Montezuma Grade to the Palm Canyon Group Campground (since there are way more than nine of us these days).
We were fortunate enough to witness both wildflowers and gentle rain this weekend; here’s a few images to encourage others to visit one of Southern California’s most beautiful and barefoot-friendly places–the trails are so well-traveled my toes have never been punctured by a single cactus spine (well, almost never: there was that hike to Hellhole Canyon several years ago . . . but we weren’t really on a trail at the time my sole found a fallen cholla cactus branch.)