Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Good Day, Sunshine"

Photos by Alan Leder

Ah, what a bit of sunshine does to adorn Mother Nature in all her glory and to lift the human
spirit! The flower on the left is from a flowering tree. (I'm waiting for my landscape designer friend to identify it. It may be nicknamed the "Money Tree.") We happened upon the tree in full bloom during a walk around Lake Merritt, a lovely lake on the east side of Oakland. Alan was bad and, while no one was looking, he plucked a cluster of flowers to take home and admire. The sun was shining, the path around the lake was flat, and, once again, I imagined living here all year round. (I think it's currently 12 degrees in Chicago with another threat of snow.)

Last week, we drove from Berkeley to Muir Woods National Monument in Marin County, not far north of San Francisco. Here stand groves of Redwood trees, proud and untouched for an average 5o0 to 800 years. It cranks your neck to stand at the base of one of these magnificent trees and scan all the way skyward. As might be imagined, the trees create their own climate; the forest is generally damp, if not rainy, and several degrees cooler than just beyond the giant Redwoods. We donned our Lands End jackets with rain coats on top and made our way into the sacred realm of the forest.

Because of all the rain, ferns were sprouting from branches where they normally don't grow, and green, fuzzy moss covered lower branches and twigs. It was a scene out of "Harry Potter" or "Alice in Wonderland" --- special, peaceful, overwhelming. To imagine 2 million acres of old growth Redwoods forests before loggers came to California and cut most of the trees down makes the acres that remain even more precious. Thankfully, the area has been federally-owned and protected since 1908, so nothing other than an act of Nature can tamper with it.

We ate a late lunch at the organic, local-farm-run cafeteria and then wound our way down the valley toward the San Rafael Bridge, in my mind the most exquisite of three East Bay bridges. As if on cue, the sun burst from behind the remaining clouds, a half rainbow arched above us, and we were screaming with delight. The San Francisco Bay to our right, the red Golden Gate Bridge in the distance - - we had died and gone to heaven.

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