Sunday, July 25, 2010

Jack in the Beanstalk Land

All right then, the fog is back. At this point, we'd welcome the bugs that come with hot, sunny days in the country. The ridge is wrapped in cloud, all is quiet, even the birds' dawn chorus is silent.

All edges soften, as if we've burrowed into drifts of cotton gauze, and shapes on the horizon blur. Up close, the colors of the garden pop with intensity. Condensation falls like raindrops from the trees, damp cobwebs shimmer in the grass. Today we can watch a movie, drink hot chocolate, play scrabble. Yet, we are longing for the sun.

Yesterday morning, we had a few delicious moments above the fog, one of my most favorite experiences here. It's as if we've become residents of a mystical archipelago, with ridge-top islands stretching up and down the coast. All we have to do is summon a golden boat and sail over a sea of clouds. So felt the lucky few who made it to the top of Mount Olympus, home of the gods.

Grandiose metaphors aside, the one we prefer in our rustic, hobbit-home, is the story of Jack in the Beanstalk. We must give credit for this romantic, fairy-tale vision of Big Sur to the gentleman who owns the property we live on. Witnessing the fog-blanket phenomenon some years back, he exclaimed, "It's Jack in the Beanstalk land!"

Yes, we can imagine happy Jack emerging from the clouds at the top of a giant beanstalk. The great green stalk sways in the muted light of a foggy day as Jack steps across the fog-carpet to the hillside below our house. Like us, he had no idea what his impulse buy of those mysterious beans would bring. He's curious and determined to explore this magical land.

Sometimes doing the eccentric thing, like trading a cow for beans or jumping off the merry-go-round of mainstream modern life, can bring unexpected riches. The goose that laid the golden egg, the talking harp, and the giants (minus the fee-fi-fo-fum bit) are all here, on the top of Partington Ridge.

Photo by Linda Sonrisa

Jack in the Beanstalk illustration by Jackie Willcox Smith

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bug Sur

After what seemed like months of depressing drippy fog, we in Big Sur are opening our hearts to the joy of these past sunny days. The smells of sun-warmed roses, wild-flowers, sweet-peas and sage fill the air around us, up the ridges and into our gardens. Ahhh, finally we have our Summer.

We dance on the grass, we work on our tans. And we bring out the mosquito nets and bug spray. If we're feeling really vicious, out come the electronic tennis racquet thingies that zap the nasty little monsters into oblivion. As I write this in the early morning, sitting outside on my blue Adirondack chair, gazing down at the fog-banketed sea, I'm about to get up and saturate myself in OFF! Deep Woods Insect Repellent VII. West Nile Virus be gone!

There are lots of bugs in in Big Sur, and they tend to be larger and more omnipresent than they are elsewhere. Big, hairy tarantulas crossing the road signify rain. Multiple scorpions in your house tell you to "wake up!" Wolf spiders (which no longer scare me in the middle of the night) scramble across bathroom tiles, while the dreaded "No-see-ums" attack our scalps on warm summer evenings.

Recently a neighbor introduced almost a hundred beehives onto the ridge right above us, a truly daunting colony of fierce honeybees. They are apparently very thirsty and spend most of their day racing at great speed up and down the mountain from the hives to our pond, where they hang out above the water lillies, freaking out the pond's resident fish and visiting dragonflies (not to mention us.)

The bees' industrious buzzing mimics the South African Vuvuzela horns of the recent world cup soccer matches, especially in their incessant quality. To date we've received a total of three painful stings, one on the tender bare foot of yours truly. Unfortunately, one cannot herd bees, but since their sheer volume is annoying to many, we're told they will be leaving soon to make their honey for other brave bee farmers.

Coating oneself in bug spray is not conducive to love-making (think kisses followed by grimaces) and yet, to be indoors during this time of year would be absurd. Thank goodness for cool breezes, slightly lower temperatures, and for natural repellent oils, patches and sprays.

Yesterday evening, as we alternately sprayed ourselves and smashed mosquitoes between our palms, we heard news of a genetically modified mosquito that would not carry malaria. "But what will it do to the birds that eat them?" we wondered. How are we impacting the whole chain of life by tinkering with genetic material? Big questions about a little bug.

"Why did god make mosquitoes?" I asked someone recently. "To piss us off," he replied. If anger and irritation is our teacher, a way to learn non-attachment, then mosquitoes are profound instructors. The Buddhist perspective here would mean not becoming Alpha Mosquito and waging war on them, but on co-existing with them peacefully. To have compassion towards all sentient beings includes extending it to the tiniest of insects, which flee from their impending deaths at our hands. Spiritual awakening through mosquitoes? Well, why not?
Dragonfly photo by Linda Sonrisa
others courtesy of