Sunday, September 29, 2019

A Cabin in the Woods

Since we didn't take any trip over the summer, I suggested to the Geek to spend a weekend further up north at the coast. A friend of mine had told me about a cabin where she had stayed 15 years ago and a short Google research revealed that it was still there. St. Orres in Gualala (pronounced wa-LA-la) is a hotel with a very good (and prohibitively expensive) restaurant - and they also rent a few cabins further away from the hotel for an affordable price. I called them and was delighted how friendly they were. I booked one of the cabins in the woods (they also have a couple "ocean view" cabins, but the ocean is behind the trees by now) and a week later the Geek and I were on our way to Gualala, which is only a two hours drive from here on Highway 1.

We got the same cabin my friend had 15 years ago and it seems that nothing much has changed since then apart from a few updates. We had a nice big room with a sitting area, a private bath and the deck in the redwoods.

It was a charming little place.

 The bottle of good red wine wasn't a service from the hotel. We had stopped at Annapolis Winery on our way to Gualala and bought this bottle after a nice wine tasting.

The view out of the windows into the redwoods.

The deck certainly was my favorite place...

Everything was thought through so well. All kinds of utensils on top of the refrigerator like coffee maker, plates, silverware, napkins, wine glasses; they even provided a corkscrew! An emergency light in case there was a power outage or some other more serious emergency (we are more familiar with those now).

Talking about emergencies: since the coast has ratty cell phone reception at best, there was an old fashioned pay phone in the center of the premises. There even was a phone book!

The premises were pretty, too. The hotel is built in what I call "Russian" style, and so were some of the buildings here as well.

But the best part was the breakfast. It was brought to our door every morning in a box and had fresh fruit, homemade bread, an egg dish, orange juice, homemade granola and milk. We ate it out on the deck and felt very pampered.

I don't think this was the last time I spent a weekend here.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

A Thousand Suns

At the end of summer the sunflowers are still going strong, painting a smile on our faces with their brilliant happy color. I used to grow sunflowers in my garden, but stopped doing that since the squirrels always "killed" them and I didn't like those empty stems stretching into the sky.

But entire sunflower fields are a different story!

While we drove through Turkey last year in July we saw many sunflower fields, and finally we stopped on a little dirt road and took some pictures of this wave of yellow suns.

There were so many fields - and they were huge. They stretched over the hills and down to the water, covering wide areas of land. It was quite the sight.

Where there are sunflowers there are birds and the air was buzzing with the sweet voices of hundreds of birds. Unfortunately I didn't have the presence of mind to make a short video and capture this. I also love how the faces of the sunflowers follow the track of the sun - we were standing just in the right position for the pictures above, but not for some below.

It's amazing how far one can see the yellow color glowing in the distance.

A thousand suns. (well, probably more...)

Thursday, September 12, 2019

On a Mission

Along the California coast there are many missions built by the Spanish and Mexican governments in the 18th and early 19th century to protect their interests in North America. The first one was built  by Jesuits in Baja California in the South and the last and furthest one to the North is the Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma. It is not as impressive and famous as the ones in Santa Barbara and Carmel but more simple and unadorned like the one in San Luis Obispo.

All the missions in California are connected by a branch of El Camino Real (the King's Highway). Many parts of El Camino Real later became modern roads, and in 1906 volunteer organizations began marking El Camino Real with mission bell guide posts. You can find them at many places along the road.

North American territory and resources were attractive to major European countries. Although several claimed parts of the Californias, only Spain and Russia established permanent settlements. Russia created Fort Ross in northern Alta California ('Upper' California) to protect its growing fur trade. The Spanish and Mexican governments extended the mission system north to San Rafael and Sonoma. United States expansion led to war between Mexico and the United States and resulted in division of the Californias.

Since Sonoma is so close to home I used my free summer to visit the mission once again, but this time I went on my own and could spend my time there just the way I wanted.

The mission is built in the typical Spanish style, straight without any fancy additions, with whitewashed walls and wooden beams. The roof has clay shingles - I love this kind of roof since it always reminds me of home.

Of course there is a church - what would a mission be without a church? - albeit a very small church indeed. Plus there's an old dining hall just around the corner from the church (pray and eat...)

Let's take a moment and talk about Native Americans.

When the first Spanish arrived in the Californias in the 16th century they met a diverse population of Native Americans. They spoke many different dialects and languages, and were divided into a multitude of tribal groups.

During the thousands of years that Native Americans lived in the Californias their cultures evolved to coexist with the natural environment. The Spanish introduced European methods of farming and ranching that drastically altered the natural environment and changed the diet of the Native Americans. The missionaries saw their role as bringing their religion to the Americas. The Spanish government used the mission system as a method to colonize its empire. The missionaries were to turn Native Americans into colonial citizens by converting them to Catholicism, and by teaching them the Spanish language, methods of farming and ranching and a variety of craft skills. However, they also considered the Native Americans as necessary laborers, and in some instances forced them to work in the missions. Each mission was to remain under church rule for ten years, and then the land was to be turned over to the people of the missions. This goal was never reached even though the church operated some of the missions for up to 130 years. Diseases brought by the Spanish devastated many tribes, and many Native Americans died before they could assimilate into Spanish society

The missions left a permanent impact on the Californias. The negative and positive results are evident in all areas of our society. Regardless of the intent of the missionaries, the results were devastating to Native Americans. Their populations declined drastically, and the survivors lost a great deal of their culture.

The missions, forts and towns became the new communities in the Californias. Structures were built of local materials such as branches, logs, earth, adobe bricks, clay tiles and stones. Missions were more than a church. They included living quarters, workshops, warehouses, farms and ranches. The forts, or presidios, served as centers of Spanish military and governmental power. Presidios could also house a whole community. Towns, or pueblos, accommodated increasing populations and reinforced Spanish claims to the region. After the secularization of the missions, some assimilated Native Americans migrated to the pueblos.

By 1900 a historic restoration movement began that led to the protection and reconstruction of some of the remaining mission churches.

The mission in Sonoma was the last one to be built and is a rather small one. Today it is part of the California State Parks system. It sits right at the Plaza in the very center of town. It only consists of the church, the dining hall and two or three other small rooms that are made into a museum. The best part (at least for me) is the courtyard in the back.

Under these large olive trees you can find a few benches arranged around a fountain. It's shady and cool here, a perfect place to sit and read or write in a journal or just contemplate life.

When I left this place I had learned a lot about the missions in California. I have always liked the beautiful buildings, but not all of the history is something to be proud of.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Queen Anne and the Wild Carrot

"What is she up to now?" - well, I hope you're not thinking I have completely lost my marbles. Recently during an early morning walk in our Laguna I saw a lot of Queen Anne's lace in all stages of the plant. Fully bloomed, half way gone, seed pods - all are beautiful and fascinating. Definitely worthy to be captured with my phone camera on this foggy morning.

There were so many!

And then I found myself doubting whether these are indeed Queen Anne's lace. So I switched on my nifty Google Lens and was quickly informed that these plants are Wild Carrots.

"Oh boy", I thought, here I was mistaken all along with the name!

But actually I wasn't. This plant is botanically called Daucus carota with the common name wild carrot. However, there are also other names that it is known of - bird's nest, bishop's lace and - you guessed it - Queen Anne's lace. This name it only has in North America and it refers to both Anne, Queen of Great Britain, and Anne of Denmark (who was her great grandmother). It got the name because the flower resembles lace.

No matter which name you prefer (I love bird's nest), it is a beautiful flower that is very popular with bees and all kinds of bugs. It is a beneficial weed that can be a companion plant for some crops; however, some states (Iowa, Ohio, Michigan and Washington) have listed it as a noxious weed and it is considered a serious pest in pastures.

But in the Laguna it is simply beautiful and beneficial for the recovery of the land.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Early Morning at the Lake

After my request for some extra hours of work in September was ignored, I am back to my regular work schedule. Today was my first day off after the craziness of the past four weeks and I was happily walking around the lake. It was fairly early, and it was one of those perfect mornings when the fog burns off soon after seven o'clock, letting us enjoy the warm and beautiful morning light.

I love this light. Everything appears a bit magical and I see things that I might "normally" just pass by.

Even though we still have a lot of summer left in this corner of the world, there already was a hint of autumn color to be seen. The quality of the light was not as harsh and tended to be more earthy.

I noticed more fishermen than usual. The lake was very still, and maybe that's a great condition for fishing. It certainly offered some beautiful photo opportunities.

At the end of the little peninsula I saw a great egret hanging out close to the bench. I was able to get a shot of it before it flew off across the lake to the shore that I had just come from.

What were those splashes in the water that I had heard? Oh, those otters!! These three otters have been residing in the lake for a few years now, but I don't see them very often. It's always very special when I discover them playing in the water. They are a funny little crowd, but usually they disappear when they notice people.

While walking the trails I noticed more signs that autumn is just around the corner.

What a magnificent spider web! These crawlers are fantastic architects; their skill amazes me over and over again.

During the past four weeks I was dreaming of going down to the lake and I missed it so much. This morning was a wonderful treat that I had waited for impatiently. I feel so blessed to live in this beautiful area. I'm certainly not a city girl.