Sunsets, Sunrise and Nature’s Fury

Just ten days back, the sky was cloudy that by itself should not be a matter of concern to anyone. However in northern California, in summer, we are more accustomed to see clear blue skies during summer than cloudy skies, so much so, that to take a photo with the sky as a background one needs to have a good circular polarizer filter to get some contrast. So when the sky is cloudy, it is much easier to take photos with the sky as a background and normally we are rewarded with beautiful sunsets. So on August 13, Thursday, I was up on One Tree Hill near our house to capture a good sunset photograph. But even I was not prepared to see what nature presented. It was awesome.

Sunset from my backyard on the afternoon of August 13, 2020. Someone said that it looked like Martian sky. Maybe it was just the prelude to what nature had in store for us.

On Sunday, August 16, early morning, California was struck by an unusual dry lightning and thunder storm. Within a very short period of time several hundred intense lightning strikes were reported. As per report, during the next seventy two hours, the state was struck by more than ten thousand lightning strikes, though the majority of intense strikes were on early Sunday morning. As expected, fire started to light up around the state with majority of them concentrated in norther California. Rapidly burning fires forced evacuation as well as destruction of properties and natural wonders. The Big Basin Redwood Forest State Park, about forty five minutes drive from our house was burnt. The visitor center was completely burnt down to the ground. The fate of the old redwood trees, some older than two thousand years and two feet plus tall are not known yet.

Not sure if any of these behemoths are still standing after the fire. These photos were taken on August 1, 2015.

The fires are still burning without much of it being contained. For last four to five days now, the sky is covered by smoke from all the fires burning. University of California, Santa Cruz was evacuated. Thousands of firefighters are fighting valiantly to contain the fires. We pray for their success because in their success lies our safety. Please send your prayers for their safety. Already six people lost their lives. As I am writing this, lots of properties were damaged and many had to leave their homes to safety and others are packed and waiting for the dreaded evacuation orders.

As the state burns and the sky is covered with smoke, nature has presented her colors with beautiful sunsets and sunrises. It’s of little solace to all who are affected by the fury of the fire. We were staying at home due to COVID and now hoping that everyone can stay at their homes and not get displaced due to the fires. Though at first the smokes from the fires produced beautiful sunsets and sunrise, now it is only gray sky hiding the sun.

Sunset on August 17, 2020 from One Tree Hill

Sunrise on August 18, 2020 from my front yard
Midday sun on August 19, 2020 from my front yard. Sky covered in smoke.

Tears

tears only you shall get,
being a poet
that’s what in your fate.
if it’s only tears
that I be blessed with,
shall collect all the tears,
yes, I shall,
and treasure them well.
the day when
nature takes her blessings away,
and life becomes a barren desert,
may be, just may be,
my dear,
those drops of tears
shall be most precious
gift of life.

Live your own life

the bird sings merrily

oblivious that it makes

many happy.

does the bird sings

because it is happy?

does it even know

what happiness is?

does it even care?

it sings merrily,

as the hawk up above

eyeing its next meal,

prepares to dive.

as the song ends abruptly,

observer comments

on cruelty of nature.

does he even understand

the bird had lived

its own life?

Deer Encounter- Local Flora (and fauna) – Stay at home stroll – 13

This is a series about the neighborhood flowers and flowering trees that I saw and enjoyed on my walk in the neighborhood during the stay at home months.  Many of the flowers I don’t know much about and depend on Google lens to get a name.  If there are mistakes, apologize for my ignorance.

The title should have have been local fauna but my after lunch stroll was not in search of them.  The day started out cloudy and gloomy, not at all like a normal mid May weather at all.  After a relatively late lunch, I decided to take a long walk in the neighborhood.  Normally during these long walk in the neighborhood I try to complete a loop of about four to five miles.  As I had already done a mile in  the morning with my dog Skooby and would go out again with him in the evening, I decided to cut a leg short and return home.  I was fortunate that I did that.

No one must have told this deer family about the stay at home order.  Either the cloudy weather may have misled them about the time of the day or they may have heard about the new relaxations being planned and decided to try out. Either way, it was my good fortune.  We do see deers from time to time in our neighborhood but mainly during early morning before the sun is high up in the sky. As I took a turn on the road towards my home, this family of deers crossed the road and started walking by the creekside fence.  I decided to follow them along on the other side of the road, forgetting to take the turn to my house.  For nearly a quarter of a mile they kept me company, sometimes hiding by the bushes as they ran daintily along the fence.  I was more worried that they may get tempted to cross the road to taste the green grass on the front yards of  my neighbors and get hit by cars that won’t be expecting deers on the road at this time of the day.  As I reached the end of the road after about half a mile, I decided to turn back by the same road hoping to see them again.  Alas, they have vanished by that time.

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how graceful art thou

nature’s beautiful creation

the unexpected visit 

a poetry in motionaa

And as this series is about local flowers that I see during my stay at home stroll in the neighborhood, I shall finish my post with a photo of flowers that I am sure will not need any introduction.  I am sure the deers will appreciate.

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dandelions, they don’t ask for much

to take their place in the sun

hardy warriors are they

here for the long run 


A Rose is a rose

 

 

 

Crimson bottlebrush- Local Flora – Stay at home stroll – 9

This is a series about the neighborhood flowers and flowering trees that I saw and enjoyed on my walk in the neighborhood during the stay at home months.  Many of the flowers I don’t know much about and depend on Google lens to get a name.  If there are mistakes, apologize for my ignorance.

Near our house there is a small creek that runs nearly dry during the summer months.  The creek is bordered on one side by a road and the other side a gravel road cum trail maintained by the water district.  The creek is fenced in on both sides by chain link fences.  Between the road and the fence are many trees and wildflowers that start blooming during spring.  I am not sure if some of these flowering plants are really wild or originally planted by the developers when the subdivision was  planned some fifty years back. To me it looks wild now, hiding the creek from the road.  There are quite a few bottlebrush plants by the roadside.  For once I can say that the name is quite appropriate as any one can see the similarity with a bottlebrush.  I am happy that the color is not white. Crimson really brings up the contrast.

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Did the inventor 

In a rush

Took the idea from nature 

And named you bottlebrush


A Rose is a rose

 

 

 

Hiking Stile Ranch Trail : A hike during the stay at home, May Day, 2020

Today is May Day, International Workers’ Day or Labor Day all over the world except in a handful of countries including USA.  However due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, large percentage of the population in the world is in some form of stay at home or lockdown with many activities curtailed.

In our home state of California, stay at home is extended till end of May with certain exemptions like walking, hiking, biking, jogging etc., maintaining proper social distancing etiquette.  However I had a much more pressing need for getting out of the house.  I have not even started my car in last month or so and I was afraid that when I need it, it won’t start.

I started the car today after exactly a month. The twenty year old faithful started in one try with a nice hum. I drove around for about two and a half mile to the trailhead of Stiles Ranch. It was past 11:00 AM when I arrived at the small gravel patch of land that can accommodate about ten cars. Luckily there were a couple of spots left. On the other side of the main road, the developed parking lot of Calero County Park was nearly full with few cars parked by the side of the road. Normally I always come here just after the rains when the poppies bloom covering the hillside with blazingas golden yellow color.  I have attached the link below from my previous post of last year.  I was not expecting the same this year and was fearful that I may not find any poppy. The rains had gone long back and it was dry for a few weeks now. My heart sank as I could not see anything except tall grass swaying gently with the breeze. As my eyes got accustomed to the strong sun, here and there I could see some colors peeking their heads through the dancing grass. And then I realized what happened. As it did not rain very much this season and had stopped now for a few weeks; poppies, though blooming in large numbers still, were much smaller in size. I decided to go up the hill and see. Glad that I did not allow my first impression to deter me from hiking up. Even though the sun was very strong and blinding, a soothing breeze made it a pleasant hike. I also needed to ensure that I was not rusted from the month and a half stay at home regimen. Glad to report that the old engine is still humming nicely. The hike up was, pun intended, a breeze. Met only a few hardy hikers daring the mid-day sun and a couple of mountain bikers. It’s the bikers I was most afraid of regarding social distancing. The trail being quite narrow, there is not much space to keep the six feet social distancing when a bike suddenly comes down the hill. It was one of the reason I started late. I was hoping that Friday being a weekday WFH and the late morning would naturally result in less people out on the trail. It turned out to be true . I saw a young couple cuddling and kissing beneath a tree, well hidden by the rocks. Nature had provided them quite a romantic getaway and terrific weather to be out of the restraints of stay at home. Once I arrived at the top of the ridge with the old heart beating a nice rhythm, it was time to head back home. The honey pot was calling.

Though the poppies were smaller in size due to less nourishment and were hidden by tall grass, it was still a worthwhile hike.  The hardy wildflowers along with the abundant poppies were a sight to behold.

StilesRanchCOLLAGE


I also realized that even with maximum brightness setting, cell phone screen in bright sunlight is nearly useless to take good photo/s.  I was clicking blindly with the hope that I shall get a few worthwhile photos to share.  I am disappointed at myself with the result.

Hiking Stile Ranch Trails : A morning with poppies

Spring Blossom- Local Flora – Stay at home stroll – 4

This is a series about the neighborhood flowers and flowering trees that I saw and enjoyed on my walk in the neighborhood during the stay at home months.  Many of the flowers I don’t know much about and depend on Google lens to get a name.  If there are mistakes, apologize for my ignorance.

The photo below was taken during the very early part of WFH (work from home) advisory as a precaution to avoid contracting COVID-19. Stay at home was still a few days ahead.  Since eighteen sixty four, this was the first rainless February in our area and spring came early.  Just to give some space to my better half who was still getting accustomed to the routine of WFH, I used to take long walks in the morning.  The weather was gorgeous, sunny, dry and cool and outdoor was much more inviting than being confronted by an unhappy spouse forced to be confined in an unoptimized workspace.  During one of those walks, mile and a half from my home, I was suddenly blinded by the sight of these beautiful trees in full bloom. I  had walked by this same street a few days back and I was sure that the trees were barren. I took out my cell phone and took few photos.  Sunlight was blinding and I could barely see my cellphone screen due to the glare.  As I was going through my cell phone gallery today, I saw a couple that I could resurrect with a little bit of post processing.  I am still not happy with the end result because the flowers are not distinct enough.  Google lens show this as Eugenia dysenterica but to me it looked more like Cherry blossom.  Ah well, what’s in a name.  Who am I to question what Keats said; ” A thing of beauty is a joy for ever”.   

Stayathomestrol4l-resize

Brightened the season

And dazzled my heart

Your beauty

Worth the wait


A Rose is a rose

 

 

Empress Tree(Paulownia)*- Local Flora – Stay at home stroll – 3

Couple of weeks back, on a weekend, I was taking an after lunch walk with my wife around our neighborhood.  The day was sunny and bright but cool.  Our dog Skooby was with us.  Whenever he goes out with both of us he becomes super excited.  As a result our walks become leisurely because he has to stop everywhere trying to take in all the smells that nature presents.  This particular day I was rewarded for my patience with Skooby.  As we were taking a turn on the road towards our home, my eyes were dazzled with the sight of blooming flowers bathed in sunlight.  It was just one tree among few other non-descript trees near a creek. Behind the creek there was a small meadow with tall grass.  I could hardly see any leaf on the tree.  Whole tree, from top to bottom, was just covered in dazzlingly bright flowers.  Sunlight was quite strong and it was difficult for me to get a photo with enough contrast of the whole tree with my cell phone.  So I had to be satisfied with a zoomed in shot of the flowers.  I had no idea what those flowers were.  My knowledge about flowers are minimal.  So I had to use Google lens to identify what it was called.  Empress tree or one of the members of the paulownia family.  If any of my readers can identify it clearly and update, it will be much appreciated. 

Stayathomestroll3-resized2

Dazzling jewels

Bathed in sunlight

Fit to adorn a regina

Empress of the wild


A Rose is a rose

*  The name Empress Tree or Paulownia was found using Google lens.

 

California Poppy- Local Flora – Stay at home stroll – 2

The state flower of the Golden State, California, is aptly California Poppy heralding the advent of spring. Luckily its enchanting beauty is intoxicating for the eyes and heart and not the source of the drug opium. As the rainy season tapers down and the temperature warms up, roadsides and hills get covered with blooming poppies, opening their hearts to the sun.  In my blog I had written before the enchanting sight of hillside in Santa Teresa County Park completely covered by blooming poppies.  However this season, due to the restrictions I have not gone hiking on the trails of Santa Teresa County Park and had to satisfy myself with local blooms by the roadsides and creeksides.  Though California poppies are planted in gardens, I find them more beautiful in the wild.California poppy (2)

Graceful you are

The California State flower

Enchanting but not addictive

Brighten the hearts of nature lovers


StilesRanchTrail1

A Rose is a rose

 

A rose is a rose by any other name

Stay at home is grinding on. Slowly I am losing count of days and dates. From barely a few infected cases in the beginning of March, the United States of America is now the world leader in number of people infected and deaths. We are in a trajectory to surpass the number of US soldiers who laid down their lives in the Vietnam war. Somewhere the story of make America great again (MAGA) has become the story of make America sick again(MASA). All these acronyms remind me of Indian classical ragas, maga, masa, sani, dhasa etc., etc. Ah, but I digress. Politics is like opium, once one is hooked, difficult to get rid of the bad habit.

Through all these, nature had been busy doing her work. Spring is always beautiful and our valley is at her resplendent best during spring. The medows are verdant and myriad blooms grace the area. It seems nature, unburdened by pollution this season, is at her gregarious best. It’s more colorful, more fragrant and more of every adjective one can think of. Ever house frontyards in the neighborhood been blessed with nature’s beauty. Alas, the owners are all inside locked doors. Not that in general there are people milling around in an American suburb. But normally during spring and summer, weekends and holidays bring people out onto the street. I think Corona or COVID-19 took care of that. However for the brave souls who hazard out of the house to take a stroll, it also offered an uninterrupted opportunity to enjoy the bounty of nature in the neighborhood.

Whenever I am out for a walk with my dog, I have my cell phone with me. The nearly deserted streets invite me literally to stop and smell the roses. And when I am at it, I also try to capture a snapshot to augment my memory. As I was scrolling through my phone gallery today, I realized that I have a large collection of photos of flowers many of which I am not familiar with at all. Now my dear readers, you all may be more knowledgeable than me about flora and fauna of your locality but I have no hesitation of sharing my ignorance. In the process I hope I can brighten your day a little. I promise not to share more than one a day and also promise that all subsequent posts will be brief. So without further adieu, here is the first one.

A rose is a rose by any other name.


What’s in a name

By whatever name call thee

You are one and the same