It Is The Time Of Flowers…


… And flowers have arrived.

I used that Dogen quote on my shuso ceremony invitation, and it came inexorably to mind at Wilbur last weekend. I knew that conditions would be different from my last visit a few weeks ago, but I hadn’t completely adjusted to the change in the weather. I remember days in March during practice period at Tassajara when it would be up to 80 degrees, and we would leave the zendo at lunchtime to take off our robes and jump in the creek; this year it feels like I was bundled up in layers until last week, when I was digging out my lightest T-shirts again.

The Capay Valley was lush and green on the way up on Friday, even if I had missed the redbuds after all, and it was pushing 90 when I arrived. I waited until it had at least started to cool, and then ran the smelter trail to confirm for myself what I had already been told: that the trails were just blanketed in flowers. Lupins, Chinese houses, blue dicks, with occasional yellow mimulus and a few banks of orange California poppies to break up the lilac monopoly; I don’t even know the name of the most abundant flower, but it was everywhere on the hillsides. The combination of colours, with the vivid green of the grass, in the low sun was magical. I could not have been happier.

It was 90 degrees on Saturday as well. I started the day going down the road a little way to where I had seen plentiful flowers around the oaks below the gate, and got completely enraptured taking pictures as the sun started to rise about the slopes. After a well-attended morning sit, I didn’t want to run again, but instead took my camera out with me on a hike to the terraced springs and Coyote Peak  – although instead of going the full distance over the ridge and down by the cemetery, I tried a short-cut that I suspected might be possible from a little side valley. It brought me out way closer to the buildings than I had imagined, though I had to navigate a ravine and bush-whack through a few yards of chamise to get to a clear route back…

The breeze kept things cooler on Sunday. I went out again first thing with my camera to catch the low sun on the smelter trail, which, like the previous two outings, was mesmerisingly beautiful and completely peaceful. Well, there were ticks to pay attention to – I brushed a number off, though one ended up biting into my belly button, and another latched on to my armpit, both of which were sore for a while. I was almost disappointed not to see one of the rattlesnakes that had been sunning themselves around the property.

Although the crowd were extremely nice this time around (including someone who remembered having met me at Zen Center when we hosted a wonderful musical event a few years ago), I enjoyed the late afternoon quiet on Sunday when most everyone had left. In the morning, with stars and the new moon, I set off back to San Francisco, where it was not nearly so hot, but just as sunny.

DSCF6886.jpgSaturday morning below the gate.

DSCF6992.jpgThe terraced springs valley, which I had all to myself, as usual.

DSCF7014.jpgThe terraced springs themselves.

DSCF7046.jpgA bank of larkspur further up the valley.

DSCF7057.jpgThe view from Coyote Peak, showing the road, and, in the distance, the hills of Cache Canyon.

DSCF7188.jpgThe smelter trail on Sunday morning.

DSCF7200.jpgStepping through the flowers.

DSCF7179.jpgMimulus by the smelter trail creek.

DSCF7278.jpgFrank was good company as the sun set on Sunday.

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