Fountain On, Gate Closed

IMG_3950When we put up the fence last year the atmosphere changed. No longer exposed to anyone driving or walking past, it was nice to be outside and feel protected from view. I am trying to explain the feeling I have around that experience and freedom is the best word I have. It was like being inside but I was outside.
For over nine months, we have enjoyed the fence and the many projects we started inside it. The buildings, transformed to meet the needs of their new functions, as well as new structures, have grown up within the cedar walls that protect and surround us.
Two significant events came together yesterday. A beautiful fountain that once graced the courtyard of the Spa at Warner Springs Ranch found its way to the center of my patio. We turned it on and within thirty-minutes, six hummingbirds were having a party. They hovered and dove, perched on the edge and drank, bathed and fluttered about, delighting us with their miniature grace and beauty. In native tradition hummingbirds represent joy and love for life. The hummingbird’s initiation of the retreat’s fountain feels auspicious. I am looking out my window and a hummingbird is drinking from the fountain as I write!
The second event was the installation of the gate. The fence has had a wide opening at the driveway for vehicle traffic to enter and leave the retreat. Yesterday the gate construction was completed. After the workers left, G and I closed the gate and then walked back and sat on patio near the fountain. As we sat, enjoying the sound of the falling water and the gentle breeze coming down through the valley, we remarked about the difference we were feeling with the gate closed.
It felt like the feeling the fence gave me multiplied many times over. G agreed that he felt very relaxed and cozy…like the feeling he has when he is inside the house. I added, “It feels like our house just expanded into the whole property.”
I stood up, pulled my dress off over my head, and spent the rest of the afternoon working outside on various projects without any clothes on…why not? No one can see me. The fountain is on and the gate is closed. I am as happy as the hummingbirds.IMG_4250[1]

Hot Springs Peak

Today is the last day of May. Summer is on the next page! Just the word, summer, brings up the feeling of freedom, a pattern formed in my early childhood when summer signified the holiday from school. Day after day for three months I could sleep late in the morning, living out a whimsical day of play with my neighborhood friends, creating our own circuses, lemonade stands, building tipis and playing Indians, never coming inside except to find something to eat, until the moon was high in the night sky and bats were flying around the streetlights. Only then would I surrender to the urge to sleep, crawling under the covers with a flashlight and a book and reading past midnight when my eyes would stay open no more.

Yesterday felt like the summer days of my later childhood and teens. I moved beyond the few blocks of my neighborhood, discovering what lay beyond the boundaries of our small western town. Summer became the time to ride horses on the trails in the forests, to hike and explore the hills and canyons, to water ski at the nearby lake, and to spend afternoons swimming at the community pool, trying to impress the boys as I perfected my jackknife dive.

hot springs peak hot springs peak view Hot Springs trees

My house, at 4000 feet, is a ten minute drive from Hot Springs Mountain, which at 6533 feet is the highest point in San Diego County. This mountain is in the middle of the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation, which borders the Cleveland National Forest and Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Yesterday G, Joel and I drove the 4-wheel trail that winds up the mountain to an old fire look-out at the peak. There we hiked the huge rock outcrops that push out of one side of the peak. The wild flower bloom is at its best and we enjoyed all colors of the rainbow. The pink manzanita was especially magnificent. From our high vantage point we could see the Pacific Ocean to the west, Mexico in the south, the great Salton Sea and desert to the east and nothing but green to the north. The trees included huge evergreens: pine, spruce, fir and redwoods and blooming manzanita. The sage, chaparral, creosote and many varieties of cactus and desert plants that we are familiar with at our lower elevation were sparse. The only wildlife we spotted was squirrels and lizards but birds were plentiful. Big raptors soared on the ridge lift rising from the sides of the mountain. A white sailplane circled the peak as we sat enjoying the spectacular view. The temperature was a perfect 75 degrees F.


Hiking with friends in the evergreens brought back that feeling of summers in the Black Hills. The wind whistling through the pines is a sound that is music to my ears. The smell of tree sap, the camaraderie of friends, the dust of the trail, the warm summer sun…these elements of my experience transported me back through time and I danced again along that neural pathway that was deeply grooved into my brain so many years ago.