A Hike From Serpentine Prairie / Dream On, But Remember to Enjoy Today

Serpentine Prairie is a wonderful place to be in spring, and I started my hike there today.

It’s an open, hilly field adjacent to Redwood, a regional park in the Oakland hills, among the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and I am so glad to live nearby.

We’re in a drought here in California, but you would never know it from what I saw. The native California grasses are abundant, green and thick (and rare, having been choked out by imported Mediterranean species, but not here: the poor soil, made from the crumbled bedrock serpentine, is inhospitable to all but the native species which evolved to thrive on it), bright green new growth is bursting from branches left and right against the darker trees, and vines crawl, twist, and fling themselves across it all, reaching for the sun. The wildflowers are in full bloom, in shades of golden orange (poppies, of course!), yellow, purple, and white, except for the mottled purple-and-green ones, a little like umbrellas and a little like bells, leaning down to shade and guard their tender inner flowers. The variety of wildflowers is surprising when you look a little closer: just the white ones all look like so many sparky little stars, but are so different in the shade of green, leaf shape, and size of the plant they grow from.

There’s a little plant here and there, a fern I think, with bright lightly ruffled leaves shaped like those of the ginkgo tree in autumn. They hang on superthin stems, almost gossamer, of purplish-bluish-black, and they fluttered and shuddered when I blew on them. Watch out for poison oak! you who suffer from it, because it’s all over the place. I think I’ve grown immune from the time I’ve spent among it all, but it’s best to be careful. It’s all tangled up underfoot, lobed and shiny, among the wild strawberry and miner’s lettuce, waiting to grab at an unwary ankle.

So many kinds of trees grow here: the twisty madrones with their sexy ultra-smooth skin, peeling bark, and little white bells on for spring; the gnarled, ancient-looking oaks with their moss, the exotic eucalyptus keeping the earth in place, and the redwoods, soooooo tall, and so aloof from all the seasonal frenzy going on underfoot.

Daylight savings time has just started, and I’ve been chomping at the bit for it: on my shorter days at work, now that the evenings are long, I made a beeline for the hills as soon as I got off, so I can finish my hike before dark, as I will do every week now that the long evenings of daylight are here. I’m selfish: I hope the farmers lose the argument, and daylight savings time remains our national habit.

Earlier today, I had just realized, once again, that I had lately fallen into one of my bad old habits, born of my impatient and restless nature. I’ve been so irritated at not being able to do all that I want to do right now, that I’ve been forgetting to fully enjoy the things I love to do that I am doing.

My day has job gotten busier and more demanding in the past year, my workload and the hours required to do the job well increased, and I’ve been fretting because the essays I want to write, the things I want to to sew, the books I want to read, the places I want to visit, are piling up, as I have less and less time to give them and still get my rest.

But when isn’t this true, and for whom? Nearly all lives become ever busier, and the days seem to grow shorter, the father away you are from childhood. That’s just the way it is.

We can only control how busy we are so much, when we must work for a living, have families to take care of, and so on. But we have a little more control over how we approach it all, as we struggle to keep up with what we need to do and what we want to do.

I am restless, and impatient, and prone to daydream. This can be good, and for the most part, I think it is. I like it, anyway: these have pushed me to do things I look back on with satisfaction. But when I realized earlier today that I had fallen out of the habit of fully enjoying the good things I could be enjoying now, I remembered to engage in my with so much more of my attention, so as I was closely observing the little flowers, the leaves, and the vines, I was looking closely enough to see the little snake dart across the path and ‘hide’ in plain sight, camouflaged against the stems, just as I was stepping out of Serpentine Prairie and onto Golden Spike Trail. What perfect timing!

I’ll go to bed now, thankful to have my love to cuddle with, and a world to wake to, that I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to enjoy, as long as I remember to do so.

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