Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Long and Winding Trail

We parked the car at the foot of the hills. As soon as we stepped out, a flock of finches flew out of the rosemary bushes and disappeared into the evergreen pear trees. Within moments they reappeared and alighted on the bushes, giving us a view of their yellow breasts and reddish heads and charming us with their playfulness. Against the backdrop of the green hills, they represented the stirring life of spring.

We took to the long and winding trail, savoring each step in the wilderness. The sun peeked from behind the clouds and a misty rain fell as well, but soon it was clear and a light breeze blew, rippling the grass in the meadow. The trail was lined with miner's lettuce, monkey flowers and thistles. Coastal oaks sprouting fresh leaves and laurel and olive trees spread their seductive shadows away from the trail.

Just ahead, we saw a group of wild turkeys meandering along the trail. As we approached, they vanished into the thickets. An eagle, then another and yet another, flew over the trees into the open sky, drifting laterally and then circling and drifting again.

When we came to the familiar opening, we saw the two oak trees within whose encircling leaves we had stood so many times before, listening to the birds. Today, we just looked at them and felt their presence suffuse us. They had grown even more beautiful in all the months that we did not visit but we told ourselves they were glad to see us too. A jay perched on a fallen laurel looked down at the sloping meadow that merged into another trail by which the creek flowed. We moved on.

The wind had picked up speed and the tall grasses rippled with conviction. Wildflowers were everywhere, sorrels and lupines and clovers and a few we didn't know the names of. At one point we stopped to marvel at the grace of the green hills resting against a calm sky. From the undergrowth came bird songs of infinite variety, pure music of earth and sky.

We had never hiked this far up the trail, always resting at the eucalyptus grove from which we could see the valley and the city stretching away in all directions. But we were determined to reach the summit of the skyway trail today. We should have brought some water but the air was cool and the thirst did not pose any challenge. Besides, the creek was not far away, if it came to that ...

We flushed a flock of doves from the underbrush, feeling guilty and thrilled at the same time. Finches, sparrows, jays kept up their twitter nonstop. There had been warnings of wild animal sightings, particularly mountain lions, but the fear only added to our adventure. We came in peace for mankind; that's what we would tell the wild animal were we to encounter one .Surely it would understand and leave us alone.

We were now approaching the end of the trail and soon enough we were there, tired and sweating but also exhilarated.

Along with the regular wildflowers, we were surprised to find many daffodils, tossing and turning just as the famous English poet had come upon them long ago and immortalized them in the poem that we had memorized in our childhood. Must be due to pollination. We didn't see why anyone would plant daffodils here. But then, there is no dearth of lovable eccentrics in this part of the world.

We sat on the worn bench and took in the view. After a while, huge bees began to buzz us, the air thick with them. We had trespassed into their territory. A dove cooed and a jay shrieked. But we had seen what we wanted to see and began tracing our way back.

Near the end of the trail, we met two elderly couples tending to their vegetable patches.

"What are you growing?"

"Oh, just some cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, squash, peppers and mint."

"Wow, that will cut down on your grocery bill!"

Laughter all around.

The finchess were still there. This time, they stayed in the rosemary bushes, frolicking and singing with abandon.

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