Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Summer that Wasn't

 The summer of 2019 was far from the sort of summer I had gotten used to.  It ended with a kind of celebratory hike with my wife up a trail on Sierra Buttes that was new to me. This trail was a steady, uphill hike of about 3 miles along a southern ridge of the Buttes that offers a short side-trip to Volcano Lake.  I had summited the Buttes several times years ago, always approaching from Upper Sardine Lake on the eastern side, and more recently from the Packer Saddle campground, more to the North. Now, at age 78, I don't think climbing the eastern face would be wise.  Our hike, pictured above, on September 21, was a kind of celebration of still being alive, much less able to hike 6 miles on steep terrain, as I began the summer with a week-long stay at Renown Hospital dealing with prostate and kidney failure.  Before that event, which was at the end of May and early June, I hiked with my colleague Dr. Joan Parkin on the Keddie Cascades Trail and spring had not quite arrived.  No flowers or active bugs until the very end when I discovered a little "banana belt" of micro-habitat where a few Leopard Lilies were blooming. Below.  It had been quote a wile since I last posted anything to this blog, and quite a while since I had used my Nikon to take any serious pictures. 

I was looking forward to a summer of exploring and photography and was in denial over some slight symptoms of the medical disaster that lay ahead.

 Another springtime stimulus that I captured with my iPhone camera was the Diamond Clarkia at the edge of my driveway.  These beauties have diamond-shaped petal tips, and the overall shape of the inflorescence is also a diamond, or more mathematically correct, a rhombus.  Thus, the scientific name Clarkia rhomboidea.
 Then an oddball caught my eye.  a specimen with only three petals.  I loved it.  Sort of an inverse of the experience of finding a four-leafed clover when they are "supposed" to have only three leafs - or, more correctly, leaflets.
When the resumption of fall semester at FRC was approaching, and I was still toting around a catheter and pee bag, and wondering if I'd be well enough to resume teaching, I spotted this young and innocent ground squirrel on a little-used path behind the gym. Maybe it hadn't yet learned about birds of prey or coyote and mountain lions that inhabit the forests surrounding the college as it didn't immediately disappear down its hole when I approached.  In fact, it let me approach to within a foot with my Nikon and chattered at me a bit before disappearing down its hole. Very pleasant experience.
So, I've had only fragments of the hiking, photographing, and blogging experiences I'm used ot, but am encouraged.  Further encouragement came from cartoonist/artist Brian Fies who visited our classes at FRC a week and a half ago (find The Fies Files) and commented on this blog's most recent post.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

They're back!

Got these two photos with my phone a couple of days ago on the Feather River College campus. My first sighting of this year, although they might have been around a week or more and remained unnoticed.  I believe they are on the same branch where i last saw them in the fall of 2018. It's the anticipation of such events that stirs me to want to share nature's beauty that is under our noses yet seldom noticed.  Unlike the phenomenon of the swallows returning, on schedule, to Capistrano every year, the return of the Oak Treehoppers does not make me believe in miracles.  It just rreaffirms my feeling of a deep connection with all that lives.
I've written about the annual cycle of the treehoppers in past posts, going back to the year I first discovered them.  When I saw these on campus last week, I had to inspect the Black Oak trees along my driveway.  Sure enough, this morning, feeling confident, I checked a specific branch on a specific tree, with my camera in hand.  I took the photo below and a few others.  Unfortunately, the lighting was bad, so, for a change, the photos I got with the iPhone were better than the ones I got with my DSLR.  I'll keep trying though.  I never tire of looking at the treehoppers, the two very distinct color patterns of the adults and the unique young whose stripes run perpendicular to their body axis unlike the adults.
My blogging habit has been dormant for too long.  I hope I'll find that this encounter with the treehoppers will energize me to resume my habit.  My early-morning walk today helped.  AS I walked downtown from my house in the brisk air, I was newly aware of the full moon, the olfactory evidence of skunk activity and the dozens of tallk sunflowers and hollyhocks hanging on unmtil the weather gets truly cold.  Enjoy the Fall.