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Archive for the ‘Sierra Nevada Natural History’ Category

Here is the 13 mile road between Pardee Lake and Jackson, California which is a little used road in the Sierra foothills.

California Golden Hills

California Golden Hills

On a 93 degree-at-noon day the golden hills rest in silence and so do the horses.

Resting Horses

Resting Horses

 

The Oaks spread their majestic limbs and the native Buckeye trees have begun shedding their leaves and developing the green balls which hold their seeds.  They will soon be bare which is an evolutionary strategy to cope with dry California summers and minimize their need for water.

Majestic Oaks

Majestic Oaks

California Buckeyes

California Buckeyes

California Buckeye Seed Pods

California Buckeye Seed Pods

The thistles are dried and ready to fling their seeds to the wind.

Thistle Seed Heads

Thistle Seed Heads

It is August … warmth … lazy long days …

Along this road are stone fences built by the Chinese laborers brought to the gold mines in the late 1800’s … they still stand and define each farm.

Stone Fence built by Chinese laborers

Stone Fence built by Chinese laborers

And at the end of the peaceful, old road there is ICE CREAM!!

D.L. and end of the road ice cream

D.L. and end of the road ice cream

The golden hills of California … always in my dreams …

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Sierra Triptych by Mary P Williams

Sierra Triptych by Mary P Williams

“Midnight at the Oasis” was a love ballad sung by Maria Muldaur extolling the virtues of love. It is now midnight in the Sierras and nothing could be more the reverse.  Here, no warm breeze to tease and tickle the bare skin but a chilly wind out of the North as my “sheik” slumbers wrapped in a down comforter.

There are “traces of romance” in the song and in my heart which remembers many years ago the gambols of young human animals experimenting with their bodies. Seventy five years down the road I cannot “slip off to a sand dune…and kick up a little dust” but I can gaze out the window at a full moon glazing the tops of the mountains and the shining billows of cloud and remember.

Four hours away are the warm sand dunes and cactus of Death Valley and fifty years in the past Maria sang with a pure, lustful voice of the pleasures of the body.  The pleasures change with age and the pleasure of lying next to my husband’s warm, sleeping body and slipping a hand onto his fragrant hairy chest brings a smile to my face. His skin is soft from the hot lavender bubble bath he took two hours ago.  What do they say? “Everything is relative.”

Rising to don a bathrobe, I bare-foot it out to the frosty grass where the moonlight is so bright that only three, or four, stars are able to send their long-ago light into my eyes. The rest are obscured by the brilliance of moonbeams.  Going out with a cup of hot tea and a blanket is a shockingly cold wake-up. It is so silent here at the top of the mountain that my ears ring without noise. Then the tiny night noises begin with the low hoot of an owl and the squeak of a mouse. In the meadow a coyote yips his presence to all of his species. We, the owl, the coyote, the mouse and me, are occupying the same moment together and it is a splendid moment, never to recur.

This moment is all the dearer with the assurance of being able to return to the warm man and his pile of covers.

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or … Butterfly Calligraphy … or Butterflies and Symbols …

The Language of Butterflies I

The Language of Butterflies I

There are several butterflies with names suggesting symbols we are all familiar with. There is the “comma” butterfly and the “question mark” butterfly, the “twin spot” and the “sickle-winged”, the “crazy eight” and the “red-disked”.  Many have eye-spots intended to deceive their predators.   My first painting was an attempt to assemble some of the common symbols and show them on butterflies.

Butterflies II by Mary P Williams

Butterflies II by Mary P Williams

The second was more specific … the patterns seem like graceful, spontaneous writing … if only we could read the messages!!

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The Milkweed is the host plant for the Monarch butterfly!

Milkweed by Mary P Williams

Milkweed by Mary P Williams

In hot August days the pods on the plant mature, dry up, split open and the orderly rows of brown seeds peek out of the pod.  Then a vagrant wind picks them out of the pod and hefts them into the heavens where they float with their silk floss. This wind scatters them to the four corners and they are randomly deposited on fertile soil and rocky, hostile lands.  The lucky seeds will grow into a handsome plant next spring … and once again supply a beautiful sight as they take to the wind the next August. Perfection!

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I have not been idle … just diverted into china painting by my daughter who is doing a bathroom in the cabin she inherited at 5500 feet … she wanted to show the local fauna … fun for all !

Flying Squirrel Tile by Mary P Williams

Flying Squirrel Tile by Mary P Williams

Here is the Northern Flying Squirrel, a nocturnal creature, who flies around the treetops in the Sierra mountains.  He is seldom seen but a tall tree crashed to the ground and there he was … looking stunned and desperate to ascend another tree … A lovely, shy, tree-top-flyer!

Yellow Jacket and Scorpion Tile by Mary P Williams

Yellow Jacket and Scorpion Tile by Mary P Williams

Then the yellow jacket … a wasp with a painful sting. Heaven forbid that a number of these insects should zero in on you … there would be fiery welts dotting your skin. In this same tile is the small black scorpion discovered under a rock .. .he hastened to erect his tail and threaten the world.

American Fence Lizard and Skink Tile by Mary P Williams

American Fence Lizard and Skink Tile by Mary P Williams

The third tile depicts the American Fence Lizard with his showy blue throat.  Below him is the Skink in the juvenile state which means his tail is blue.  In the adult the tail is brown.

Garter Snake Tile by Mary P Williams

Garter Snake Tile by Mary P Williams

Fourth tile has the Garter Snake who slithers around ponds and streams.  He is harmless, beautiful,and will flick his red tongue at you … you may pick him up!

Douglas Squirrel Tile by Mary P Williams

Douglas Squirrel Tile by Mary P Williams

The Chickaree, or Douglas squirrel, is a noisy inhabitant of pine forests.  He notifies every animal in the neighborhood of your presence with his chattering calls.  Not shy or retiring, he is in busy residence in the Sierra foothills and mountains.

The American Kestrel, or Sparrowhawk can often be seen hovering over a meadow or perched on an overhead wire.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel Tile by Mary P. Williams

The next three images are of the Kachelofen which heats my house.

Kachelofen, Front View

Kachelofen, Front View

The word “kachel” (pronounced cockle) relates to “stove tile”, which in material and form is different from ordinary tiles.  The word “ofen” is equivalent to oven or stove.  So it is a heated, ceramic tile wood-burning stove which gives radiant heat.

Kachelofen with view of Sierra Wildflower Tiles by Mary P Williams

Kachelofen with view of Sierra Wildflower Tiles by Mary P Williams

The painted tiles decorating my stove are the wild flowers located on my land in the Sierra’s at 8000 feet.  It is a history for the children and grand-children of what particular flowers grew at this elevation in the year 2000.

Kachelofen Dedication Tile by Mary P Williams

Kachelofen Dedication Tile by Mary P Williams

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Sierra Angelica

Sierra Angelica, or “Rangers’ Buttons”

Sierra Angelica is commonly described as “Queen Anne’s Lace” but it is not … it is a true California plant while Queen Anne’s Lace comes from England.  It is a member of the carrot family and a spectacular sight … delicate umbrels waving in a slight breeze, growing in the shade of fir and pine, intermingled with Crimson Columbine. When finished blooming the seeds are tiny purplish/green packets thickly spread over the umbrel.  Delightful!

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