Walking in a Winter Wonderland

On a wintry sort of day, what better place for explores than a lake bed?

During the summer, Shasta Lake is characterized by steep, red clay sides and deep, silent water. Rarely do I go, even though it is the largest reservoir in California and one of the inlets is 9 miles from my childhood home. The artificiality of a giant puddle created from the damming of several rivers makes the whole place feel out of sorts. The trees, submerged half way up their trunks for half the year are pretty grumpy, the hills are annoyed at being water logged and the rocks….well, the rocks are just plain cranky.

Once the water is let out after The Season of Recreation, the whole place becomes it’s true self. Like a tree whose loss of leaves reveals the stark beauty in a silhouette, an empty lake tells its secrets, written in stone.


by Charles Simic

Go inside a stone
That would be my way.
Let somebody else become a dove
Or gnash with a tiger’s tooth.
I am happy to be a stone.

From the outside the stone is a riddle:
No one knows how to answer it.
Yet within, it must be cool and quiet
Even though a cow steps on it full weight,
Even though a child throws it in a river;
The stone sinks, slow, unperturbed
To the river bottom
Where the fishes come to knock on it
And listen.

I have seen sparks fly out
When two stones are rubbed,
So perhaps it is not dark inside after all;
Perhaps there is a moon shining
From somewhere, as though behind a hill—
Just enough light to make out
The strange writings, the star-charts
On the inner walls.

There are local rumors about the giant sturgeon that live under the inversion layer of warm and cold water in the lake. It’s pretty difficult for someone like me with a vivid imagination to not envision the fate of ones toes in the cold clammy lips of a prehistoric fish. I think this rock formation is just waiting for water to animate it. I’m never going swimming there again.

I bought this book for Fern in Colorado this summer.

“When you are looking at rocks don’t let mothers or fathers or sisters or brothers or even best friends talk to you. You should choose a rock when everything is quiet. Don’t let dogs bark at you or bees buzz at you. But if they do, DON’T WORRY. (The worst thing you can do is rock hunting when you are worried.”

“If somebody says, “What’s so special about that rock?” don’t even tell them. I don’t. Nobody is supposed to know what’s special about another person’s rock.”

“Bend over. More. Even more. You may have to sit on the ground with your head almost touching the earth. You have to look a rock right in the eye. Otherwise, don’t blame me if you can’t find a good one.”


by Robert Browning

Oh, good gigantic smile o’ the brown old earth,
This autumn morning! How he sets his bones
To bask i’ the sun, and thrusts out knees and feet
For the ripple to run over in its mirth;
Listening the while, where on the heap of stones
The white breast of the sea-lark twitters sweet.

That is the doctrine, simple, ancient, true;
Such is life’s trial, as old earth smiles and knows.
If you loved only what were worth your love,
Love were clear gain, and wholly well for you:
Make the low nature better by your throes!
Give earth yourself, go up for gain above!

Maybe we should have gotten her the sequel “Everybody Needs a Puddle.”

I send you my wishes for a weekend steeped in the wonder of Now. May your nights have the wise silence sung by stones.

Love to all.


5 thoughts on “Walking in a Winter Wonderland

  1. i love rocks. geology is the only science i really can understand, for some reason. i mean, i love biology but i’m like “duuuuuuuuh” for some reason with all the latin names. geology was for me. rocks are amazing. my two year old is a big rock collector. where ever we go he has to stop for rocks, and fills his pockets. cutie. i used to work at the Los Vaqueros watershed in Livermore. those reservoirs are a trip, i agree.

  2. Man! i never knew so many people feel rocks! I agree with the book, why you love a rock or stone is a secret. it is just something you see and have to take with you. My children feel it too, perhaps all kids do, I’m not sure. Mine are always stowing pebbles in their pockets, and giving them to me as precious as gold. I’m really enjoying your photos of Winter…why is Winter always so desolate seeming? (i know the grammer was bad in that sentence, just bear with me). Thank you sweet lady for your offer to send me those knickerbockers! My waist is 29″…if you wanted to send them, I could send you something in return, do you still have my email add?. Or….I WILL be there next year, NoCal for the final week and half-2weeks of our visit. I’m sure we will meet in person!!! There I go, getting all hyper and excited again.

  3. This is the week of the Stones in the waldorf advent. The children are singing about stones and rock and have made little pebble paths leading to the solstice light and christmas in the class crib.
    I think next week is crystal and then bone.
    Beautiful to see you post this here. And that book looks and sounds amazing. x

  4. i am in love with that photo of you bending over close to the ground.

    i could frame it.

    i haven’t listened to mariee in so long. i want to go on a slow walk soon and listen again. it will be like new.

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