Monday, August 8, 2016

Summer morning

We’re at the height of summer: two months down, two to go. I’ve been so busy with work this year that the first half of summer has zoomed by in a blur. The four days we spent in the mountains of the Eastern Sierra with our Australian friends? It feels like that was a year ago. Before I know it, fall will be here with shorter days, cooler temperatures, and ideal conditions for planting.

But this morning, something completely unexpected and fairly magical happened. We’re spending the weekend with my mother-in-law in Mount Shasta, 3½ hours north of Davis, and since I had forgotten to bring coffee, I drove downtown to get a cup of joe. As is usually the case, my eyes were on the mountain. At 14,179 feet (4,322 m), Mount Shasta is always an arresting sight.

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But what made me stop the car was a profusion of small yellow flowers growing right next to the sidewalk on the edge of a grassy lot:

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Their small yellow-and-brown discs encapsulated the essence of summer.

I don’t know what these flowers are, but it doesn’t matter. They were everything I love about summer, minus any of the things I hate. They were 8 a.m. in the morning when it’s no longer cool but not yet hot. When the light still has that burnished quality to it before it turns to blazing white. When I still feel like drinking hot coffee instead of a frozen frappucino. (My quest, after all, was to find a source of caffeine.) 

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The little yellow flowers weren’t alone. They had friends in blue growing right next to them, common chicory, Cichorium intybus (thank you for the ID, Alan):

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But the real motherlode of summery floriferousness was right across the street in the hell strip:

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Sure, some of the flowers were past their prime (come to think of it, Mount Shasta is past the peak of summer already). But that didn’t matter. Even those that were done blooming looked beautiful.

I snapped one picture after the other, and time seemed to stand still. That doesn’t happen to me very often. As I mentioned earlier, it’s usually the opposite: time running away from me like a thief from the police.

I was very grateful for this moment of unexpected bliss.

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When I arrived back at my mother-in-law’s house, with a large cup of wonderfully fragrant coffee from Yak’s on Mount Shasta Blvd, I noticed these rudbeckias in pots along the driveway (and reflected in the living room window):

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Magic is everywhere. You just have to be receptive to it.

16 comments:

  1. I'm sure that hell-strip gardener would be thrilled to know you enjoyed their flowers.

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    1. I bet it was a bucket of wildflower mix. So easy, and yet so few people bother.

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  2. Floral abundance just reeks of summer, doesn't it! I'm currently helping Annie's Annuals Nursery redo their front entry display garden, going on day four with the final finishing touches of detail flowers. It is so much fun to wander the nursery with huge carts and load up on whatever I want to use, but planting them all sure takes a lot of time

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    1. David, that sounds fantastic. I would love to be able to grab whatever catches my fancy from the nursery. Now I have one more reason to go back to Annie's soon!

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  3. Your photos capture the very essence of summer's exuberance, something those of us in hotter, drier areas don't often get a chance to fully enjoy.

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    1. You're right, a floral display like that wouldn't last into August in our hotter climes.

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  4. Even fading flowers are beautiful in masses like that -- such a beautiful combo of textures and colors! What about insect life?
    BTW, I think that second plant (the blue blooms) is chicory. :)

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    1. Alan, you'Re absolutely right about chicory. ID fixed above.

      Yes, there were bees and some small yellow butterflies. What a wonderful surprise this small hellstrip planting was!

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  5. I live for those moments of spontaneous beauty :-)

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  6. Your little yellow daisies are Madia elegans, showy tarweed. Sue

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  7. What a great find ..Shasta is one of my drive-to-Portland pit stops but I never seem to make it out of the environs of the Best Western ! I love this little hellstrip -does it make you wonder what might be going on in their back garden ?

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    1. Take some time the next time you're in Mount Shasta. It's a beautiful place. There's a road up the mountain that goes to where the old ski area used to be. It's a stunning drive.

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