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What I Love About Summer

July 16, 2018


Even though I never got a “real” classroom party due to the late-June-ness of my birthday, summer still means I get to celebrate another lap around the sun, these days with my mostly braided, mostly summer birthday-ed granddaughters:


Other reasons to celebrate include the powerful urge to new growth exhibited by so many local plants right now; on a recent run, I was overwhelmed by all the crown sprouting–new growth from the root crown–growing on:


Elderberry not only sprouting, but blooming!


Cottonwoods recovering from last year’s “Canyon 2” fire


Sycamore’s lovely fuzzy new leaves


Higher up on the ridge: lemonade berry trying to survive


I think this is a chamise shrub; most of them were scorched clean off the hillside.


Laurel sumac sports the loveliest of fluffy skirts.


This looks like a very old nolina (beargrass)–such an artfully gnarled stump!



Prickly pear “ears to the ground*”

* This phrase sprouted into my consciousness as a result of a long-ago rendezvous with Carolyn Forche’s “The Colonel” . . . as vivid a poem as I’ve ever come across.



So many chaparral shrubs were torched into skeletons. No sprouting here.

I usually carry a scrap of paper and a pencil stub in case ideas bubble up during a run. Here’s my notes about “charred trunks,” “silhouettes of elbows” and “peeling crumbling” along with “mustard and cheat grass,” “gopher mounds” . . . just jumbled jotting for working on later, because I’ve discovered if I don’t pause and make notes while I’m out on the trail, all those good ideas last about as long as the poofs of dust my bare feet stir up.

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Every couple of months, our Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society publishes a newsletter; often I will get an email from the editor, Sarah Jayne, requesting a poem. HOW COOL IS THAT?! (Very cool, for those who aren’t familiar with the underwhelming life of a local nature poet.)

Sometimes I have one ready to send, but when I don’t, I take Sarah’s request as a helpful prompt to get my poetic rear in gear and write. Here’s the OC-CNPS published result of the trailside scribbles above (which scribbles I included in this blog post as a hat-tip to Austin Kleon’s helpful book Show Your Work):


What else do I love about summer?


Datura in the morning . . .


. . . and Santiago Creek at the end of the day. (The weird white rope currently lines the post-wildfire trails that are one-by-one re-opening, in hopes folks will stay out of the burned hillsides so they can–if/when it rains–attempt to recover. The Canyon 2 Fire comes far too close on the heels of the 2007 Windy Ridge Fire, which also torched all of these hills in a fire regime that does not mimic the more natural 50+ years between fires, which the chaparral is well-adapted for. Devastation every 10 years? Not so much . . .)

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Wildfire reminiscing–NOT a favorite part of summer, so let’s get back on track: here I am last week, going back to age 10 again and having a blast in the ocean. Heading to the beach was a free way for my mom to get all us wild kids out of the house, so I remember lots of fun time on the sand and in the water, shiny with cocoa butter, listening to “Boss Radio: 93KHJ” on my pocket-sized transistor radio. Ah the sounds of 1969 . . .

Happy (summer-nostalgia-sprouting) trails!



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