Monday, October 24, 2016

A Change of Scenery

I am a homebody. I love where I live. I love our landscape and habitats and wildlife. I never get tired of the change of seasons, although I admit I am getting a little tired of Connecticut winters. I especially love our coast with marshes, coves, inlets, water access, and water views everywhere.
Early Autumn is one of my favorite times in terms of light and color and temperature. Even though the change heralds the onset of winter, I enjoy the cooler weather and brisk air for getting out again and working in the yard or on the preserves.

California bound

This month we took a vacation, a whole- family trip out to Yosemite. None of us had been there; I had never even been to California, so we were looking forward to the adventure, and I was curious about the change of scenery.
The rocks seem to rise right out of the valley floor.

Not being thrilled with airplanes, and not being near a window, I never spent time looking out at the changing landscape as we crossed the country. I was unprepared for the view. When we landed in Fresno I was not impressed with the very flat , very dry, monochromatic landscape. Their drought is far worse than ours. The drive toward Yosemite was interesting as I tried to identify trees and shrubs in the landscape. The foothills rose slowly, covered with dry gold grasses and shrubs that were equally parched. These plants, however dead looking, are adapted to their climate challenges and will revive with the winter rains.
A wide open path is always an adventure, anywhere.

Higher into the foothills of the Sierras, the landscape became more tree covered, but barely greener. It was hard to tell if it was just seasonal occurrence or the drought, or both. I tried to remind myself that in a few weeks our landscape here would be pretty barren and bleak looking too, but also still found myself missing the different greens and changing hues of Autumn here. The views were vast there. I missed the comfort and embrace of the trees along our back roads.
The drive into the park was a journey into huge evergreens-tall, erect, and spiky green along winding mountainous roads. It did remind me a bit of Maine with conifers dominating the forests. The mountain meadows were still green but not lush. There was little or no water in roadside falls and seeps.
Ladybugs are the same on both coasts.

And then we entered the heart of Yosemite and wound through mountains and overviewed canyons. We drove through a tunnel and emerged to the most amazing views. Nothing here in New England can really compare with the vastness and majesty of the mountain formations we were viewing. From the heights, the mountains stretched forever. From the valley, you could literally walk up to their bases and touch the rock wall where it emerged from the earth and rose skyward in straight angles, challenging plants to even get a root hold. There was still no water in the falls, disappointing, but it was easy to imagine the strength and force of water as it would spill from great heights in the spring. Yet the valley meadows were serene with a much reduced and gentler river flowing through it.
The river ran shallow and gentle, perfect for picking and tossing rocks.

We also sought out the Sequoias: the ancient and massive trees that have witnessed changes to their earth for over 2000 years. Mind boggling and beautiful.
BIG trees still appreciate a good hug.

What a child sees

Vacationing with a joyous two year old gave me a different perspective. “BIG TREES” and “BIG ROCKS” he announced with his BIG voice. We all marveled at the bigness of the western view. Yet we took time to look at little things as well: Crayfish in the river; pinecones; Milkweed pods; deer along the trails-just like home. And rocks are for throwing in the river no matter where you are.
We also took time to explore the smaller treasures.

We live in an amazingly diverse and beautiful country. Our Government has preserved these iconic lands in perpetuity for all Americans, and visitors to enjoy. We loved the diverse people we met along the trails, from all countries. We are so blessed.
Yet back here in Stonington, the leaves are changing; the air is crisp. The trees hug us close and our big vistas are when we look southward to the water. It is softer and gentler. And there is no place like home.
But there is no place like home.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan.

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