Apex

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Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

This is how magic happens.

I had signed up for a night hike with the Sierra Club at Apex with a friend. At the last minute the friend couldn’t come, but I decided to still go. I checked my info and arrived at the Heritage Club parking lot at 6:15 and then waited. When no one appeared I realized something was wrong. I went back to the Sierra site which confirmed date and time, but when I called the organizer she said it had been arranged through meetup.com and they’d changed the time to Sunday night. I never got the notice. So there I was with my nifty head lamp, hiking boots with duct tape on my heels and nothing else to do on a Saturday night. I decided to be bold and go on the hike anyway.

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Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

All my previous night adventures had been in open space and parks near or in town. Wildlife would certainly be present, but lions and bears much less likely. Apex would most definitely afford the possibilities of such encounters and the prospects left me terrified and exhilarated at the same time. I stood at the entrance for a minute assuring myself I was ready for this and headed off.

I passed the last stragglers coming down from earlier hikes leaving the trails mostly empty, except for a single trio. Clearly they’d been smoking weed and laughing like that caterpillar was the coolest thing they’d ever seen. None had proper gear on and they all reminded me of my former self. They became confused as which side of the trail to stand on to allow me to pass, so they kept darting from one side to the other trying to get all three to one side, which lit their laughter up like a Christmas tree. I laughed with them. Who needs weed? You just need three young weed smokers, the memory of your former ridiculous self and it all becomes a wondrous joke.

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

With so few hikers or bikers the thickets were alive with movement. Rabbits, moles, voles and mice scurried beneath the foliage as I approached. The sky above my head was thriving with dragonflies dashing about catching bugs, riding the warm gusts traveling up the valley from town. As sunset moved into night, wildflowers that I thought were gone this late in the summer were fully open all over the hillsides. The cooler night temps seduced them out of hiding and graced my view with lavenders, fresh whites and rich yellows.

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

I have hiked Apex before so knew the trail. Up the valley, through the forest, over the high glens and back down the other side of the valley to connect with the lower trail to the lot. I came upon several bridges that crossed streams and waterfalls I’ve crossed before, but in the dark they got me thinking of the old children’s story, “Billy Goat’s Gruff”. I pondered the trolls gnashing their teeth hoping for dinner. Though the sky was light, the creek beds had now fallen more into dark and the prospects of a snotty-nosed creature underneath suddenly seemed very real.

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

I passed out of the valley into the Enchanted Forest that was anything but Enchanted in the dark. Weird screeches from birds I’d not heard before assaulted me once beneath the canopy. Several wails of animals whose lives were cut short pierced the darkness, startling my step. A pale sky could only be seen in rare patches, but instead of offering comfort, they seemed apparitions of ghosts floating above me. Water trickling came as a sick seeping to my ears rather than the lovely babble of daylight hours. The cute scurries of furry beasts in the thickets now set my nerves on edge. Hansel and Gretel came to mind only to be replaced quickly by the Blair Witch Project and I wondered often about turning back. In the dark a bear could be in front of me and I would hardly see it. Turning on my headlamp felt like a beacon to the nefarious and so I trudged on in the dark. Often I looked back along the trail, fearful of something following me only to have my eyes trick me on what was there. Clearly, I was spooking myself in the worst way. My step picked up faster and faster as I climbed quickly to the open, high glens.

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

At the far end as the wood gave way I found myself furtively casting about for large game. The forest had left me edgy and my luck didn’t feel quite so true. My bold steps of earlier were now constantly shifting to look about me.  All I saw were deer who were as surprised to see me, as if I’d just walked into my neighbor’s living room. The deer eating so casually encouraged me that no larger beasts were about and I stopped to drink, orient myself and draw my courage back out of my belly where it appeared to be hiding under my liver.

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

It was then I came upon the most spectacular patch of yellow wild flowers. I stopped to gaze on them and take some photos. When I looked up the sky had grown much darker it seemed. It was as if the light of the flowers had sucked out the rest of the day into their bloom. Even my eyes could see little after gazing upon them. I wondered at their magic and though the night seemed darker by their brilliance, I felt lighter and safer as I turned for home.

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

The trail headed now due east and with a more steadfast step I began my decent. Having survived my own fears in the forest I once again felt bold and outrageous to be out on the hillside in the dark. I turned on my new and nifty headlamp, but this obliterated any view outside the scope of the light. Though likely foolish I turned it off. A twisted ankle would’ve been fateful for sure, but I felt more a raccoon with eyes meant for the night and trusted my feet to find their way. There may be a fool’s power in that happy, downward step when one feels they’ve escaped greater mishap, but I was seized by it all the same. I’d made it through the forest and crossed the fields without trouble. The golden wildflowers assured me my way home would be clear.

The moon rose over Green Mountain as I came close to the end. I watched the city sparkle and felt the cool mountain air at my back. I find I feel the adventurer again, courageous and true. All weakness and fear now left in the dust. The golden flowers must have sucked it all up with the light.

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Apex Park: Photo by Noelle

Lakefront Easy

Lakefront at Chatfield State Park: Photo by Noelle

Lakefront at Chatfield State Park: Photo by Noelle

Exhausted from almost eleven straight days of work I headed off to Chatfield. The three-day weekend promised at the end of the work run was now upon me, but the vestiges of long days dragged at my heels. The lake seemed the perfect place to begin my unraveling and as hoped, on a Friday after school had started, it was comparatively empty. With the exception of a few people I had the entire lake walk to myself. My gratitude for this would be hard to express.

Lakefront path at Chatfield State Park: Photo by Noelle

Lakefront path at Chatfield State Park: Photo by Noelle

Lately, I have found being deeply present with others in my work, almost easier, but then my need for silence and less stimulation when I leave work has grown with it. I needed the trails to myself, which in an urban metropolis isn’t easy to find. I wonder at times if this is what all our country’s rage is about. All the easy frustration, road rage and disconnection. We all need more silence. More peace. Less bells and whistles. Less demands on our time and attention. We are overstimulated to the point of chronic irritation. I slowed my step to sync my mind with meditative awareness.

Flooding throughout the spring has left the trails still disrupted. Some areas remained washed out while others were littered with logs. The start of the hike was hot with little wind and I remained close to the shore. Millions of dead leaves, now mere carcasses of their former selves, covered the sand. Each a curious art form in their rotting down to skeletal state.

Sections of the wood were immersed in sand, clearly demonstrating how high the waters had come off the lake. In some places the beach and wood were now almost one. Huge trees had been ripped from their moorings and now laid humbled upon the beach. My feet sunk down as I walked among the trunks listening to the buzz of cicadas. This is their last hurrah. Fall will nip our heels sooner than the dead heat would ever give away.


As I walk I must weave in and out of the woods or traverse huge mud flats and shallow inlets trying to find the original path or one now made up. Walkways have washed out from all the lake flooding and I slug through in sandals, delighted to be wet. There was a time when I would dress in such tight gear to not be touched by the elements or get too dirty. I laugh just to write this, as the thought of not allowing my feet to get wet seems insane to me now. I walk in hiking sandals that have plenty of holes for water to rush in and I donned them just so. I stand in a stream and let it cleanse me of hours of busyness and demand.
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I see how the small ways in which I blocked myself off have been eroded and washed away like these flooded inlets. I am permeable, I am porous, I am wearing away my former self as the wind bleaches the exposed roots of these lakeside trees.

Lake trail at Chatfield State Park: Photo by Noelle

Lake trail at Chatfield State Park: Photo by Noelle

Three

Photo by Noelle

Photo by Noelle

I have a fascination with the number three. I see it everywhere or find myself grouping things in threes. In numerology “….the number 3 resonates with the energies of optimism and joy, inspiration and creativity, speech and communication, good taste, imagination and intelligence, sociability and society, friendliness, kindness and compassion. Number 3 also relates to art, humour, energy, growth, expansion and the principles of increase, spontaneity, broad-minded thinking, synthesis, triad, heaven-human-earth, past-present-future, thought-word-action, demonstrates love through creative imagination…”
(Taken from http://numerology-thenumbersandtheirmeanings.blogspot.com/2011/02/number-3.html)

image Photo by Noelle

All sounds so lovely and there does seem to be something to this. Even in my art work there are patterns of three. I can’t seem to find a balance with a piece without it. The trinity often comes to mind, and in the bible it is the second most referenced number and its sacredness is second only to the number one. One being the totality of God. In Buddhism it is one of the pillar numbers and has far more references than any other. The three refuges: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The triple Gem and the three worlds or realms of existence: desire, form and formless. The three bodies of the Buddhas: truth, bliss and emanation. The three pillars of Zen, and so on.
(Taken from: http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma7/numbers.html)

In Islamic traditions, Allah was said to be odd, and thus, loved odd numbers. The first number to indicate the multitude is three and therefore was considered sacred. “The Golden Ratio” in art is a segmentation of three that is natural to the eye’s movement and means of rest. Da Vinci used it extensively but then, interestingly enough, it was called “The Divine Proportion”. I can’t help but feel we all have some pattern of three within us, as certainly mind/body/spirit lives in us daily.

Photo by Noelle

Photo by Noelle

These images of an immersed dock are beautiful unto themselves, but the three posts provide an odd sort of peace I can hardly explain. I believe spirit and the universe have a universal language that is found in math and numbers. I don’t really understand it, to be honest, I just know in these images harmony resonates deeply for me. Three gives me a sense of balance, as if my inner world sat on a tripod.

Story in Mud IV


Photos by Noelle

I spend an inordinate amount of time staring at mud. My love affair often draws the attention of the neighbors. I squat down over huge mudslides, a mud vulture surveying for something to eat. I love the way it swirls and forms after a storm. New channels spring up where none had been before, each with a story. The mica glints in the sunlight flirting with me and only furthering a feeling of dark, gem-like sculptures.


Photos by Noelle

Life unfolded on the planet in these rivers of mud. Plant life germinated from seeds carried by water and mud far upstream. It picks up everything in its path and absorbs whatever it can. Thus, the same streams of mud can appear with different colors and hues, depending on where in the river you find them. As with water, only slower, it moves down paths of least resistance allowing whatever is to come, to come. There seems a spiritual lesson in this for me.


Photos by

In Jewish folklore the golem was often an evil creature made of mud. In recent times the most famous might’ve been the golem in the X-Files episode on the creepiness of HOA communities. Very funny, but I can’t imagine evil in mud. It feels the most life giving of substances with changing patterns, new tributaries or old ones made anew and in that, I find solace and hope. I can transform, change, become something else, travel new paths, with just a little rain. So I dance my rain dance and wave at the neighbors. They cannot help their ignorance of mud. Few people are schooled in this magic. I may, in fact, be the last one.

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Photo by Noelle

Algae II

Why do we all try to be the same? Wear the same clothes, drive the same cars, go to the same movies. Why do we work so hard to erase our uniqueness when it is clear that nature thrives on diversity. Each moment she is someone else entirely.

If you have time, click on each photo and tour the goo.

Rendering of Fat

Painting by Gregory Summers

Painting by Gregory Summers


The first stages were huge rents and gashes in my inner landscape. Hurricanes that tore away known shores and earthquakes that ripped open the well-tended lawns and careful cities I’d built to hold in, both what worked and what didn’t. Just in nature where such events alter the courses of rivers, so too, they altered the course of my deepest waters. Changing direction caused dams to crack open and field breaks to give way, no more than twigs. Tributaries formed for miles filled with mud, fertile and rich that would be ready for life. But in the beginning I only saw snapped off moorings, crushed homes, barren lakes and sandy shoals with little more of life than minnows.

Hundreds of suns, snow and autumn leaves have passed hence. New sprouts have broken through, green and lush. Like tree buds hungry for life, I turn toward the sun. It warms and stirs long forgotten pools of energy, but it’s impact has nurtured more change, subtler and more curious than the first. As shorelines ravaged by storms reshape and build new dunes and forests spring up on land once scorched and burned, I am someone else strange and new, yet never wholly stable. I am melting, it would seem, as rendered fat, strained for impurities without seeking perfection. An alchemical mix of old stories retold, cleaned of sorrow and guilt. Still more floats to the surface to be skimmed off, detritus of costumes torched and gone. Each round less to find and the oil grows more golden and clear. There is a tension, but less struggle. Resistance half hearted that dissolves more quickly to surrender. Each day more leaves me with little fanfare or grief. Even as I weep comes joy and welcomed release. I ponder how easily I have come to the ocean, nearly naked and with so little in my hands. It seems odd how much we carry to define who we are, when what we are can never be defined.

Night Heron

Free Bing Photos

They surprised me. Two nesting black crowned, night herons. They lifted off together, circled around me and landed in a tree stand a few yards off. They make nests in thickets by rivers and streams and cattail beds in marshes. I was just turning the corner on the walk toward the marsh and they suddenly appeared in the air. I’d never seen this bird before and the trail took me right beneath them. I had my camera but took no photographs.

When I am so fortunate as to stumble upon wildlife, especially that which is rarely seen, I feel almost an intruder. Here they are at twilight building their nest and preparing for a night’s hunt for food and I stumble in, a party crasher in pink and lavender. No different than a juggler walking into my bedroom at midnight. So I left the camera in my pocket and just observed.

The breast of the male is a curious greenish yellow, but irridescent in the late afternoon sun. His mask has a slice of rich lapis blue. He peers at me as I walk past. I silently apologize for the intrusion. The female is deeper into the tree and is seen as just an eye peeking around the trunk. Once past, I turn and bow. Always be grateful for such moments. They are spirit taking hold of your heart.