Carla Brennan's Blog

Reflections and Photos from The Big Trip and Beyond . .

DAY FIVE – Henry Coe State Park, CA


Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Sitting at a shady spot in a nearby campsite, under a canopy of small oaks, I meditate and listen, gazing into the greenery and the twisting, lichen covered limbs. Occasionally acorns drop with a threatening whack while the diminutive oak leaves fall gently and silently. There is much fluttering and chirping of small birds in the trees and on the ground. Many of them are western bluebirds and they perch nearby in the oak above, often watching me. Acorn woodpeckers chatter and fly in and out of the upper branches in a great hurry and flurry of busyness.

They said it would be 10 degrees cooler today but it is oppressively hot by 8 AM. Then a half-hearted breeze arrives, offering some hope for relief. With the heat come the flies, the size of small house flies or large gnats. They don’t bite but aggressively fly in your face, buzz in your ears and crawl on any exposed skin. Possibly the bluebirds are munching on them.

This is something I learned long ago. Find any spot in nature, just sit quietly – attentive and patient – and the local residents will reveal themselves. In Massachusetts, there were beaver ponds I would frequent. At first, all would seem still and uninhabited. Then gradually creatures would appear, a wading great blue heron, a pileated woodpecker on the white skeleton of a drowned tree, a robust water snake swimming by, then another, a beaver with his nose just above water doggy-paddling to his lodge, mallards and mergansers serenely floating, a leopard frog’s form suddenly separating from the green muck he rests in.

Sitting in joy, I am happy doing nothing and remember why I came on this journey. The hot springs, as mellow as they were, now seem like too much activity. As the morning progresses, the birds are less active, perhaps also relaxing in the cooling breeze.

Later, I sat on dried grass in the shade of a large oak, shifting between gazing at the surrounding hills and sky and rereading, Nyoshul Khenpo’s Natural Great Perfection. He said about Tibet, “In the spring and brief summer there was a profusion of bright wild-flowers and all kinds of birds singing . . . I well remember those idyllic summer days of my childhood when the weather was lovely and I was totally delighted, sitting outside in the sun, completely at ease and relaxed, while the sheep munched grass and I gazed up at the intense turquoise sky and simply let my mind be. That was the natural, unfabricated beginning of my meditational development.”

I came with great enthusiasm for seeing tarantulas in the wild. But, as it turns out, the height of tarantula seasons is a little later, after the first fall rains – which have not arrived yet. Also, the excessive heat is keeping many of them underground. Hoping to see at least one more and get a photo to prove it, I set out at sunset for my last opportunity. I knew I would at least enjoy the changing evening sky. In the distance lowlands the fog was rolling in like a slow-motion tsunami.

One tarantula kindly obliged me and posed on the shoulder of the road. It was getting dark by then so the photos aren’t great, but you will be convinced of their dramatic presence. (This guy was about 4-5 inches long.)

3 thoughts on “DAY FIVE – Henry Coe State Park, CA

  1. Breathtaking photos and wonderful reflections. Keep it coming! Thank you!
    Stay cool…peace with tarantulas.

  2. LOVE your attention to the tarantulas. Reminds me of a motorcycle ride I took years ago with my husband down in the Hollister area, in the fall. We saw one of the black lumps ahead in the rode so, of course, stopped to make sure s/he didn’t get crunched. We picked him/her up (we were wearing gloves) and moved him/her to the side of the road. Really something to hold a spider big enough to have discernible weight! The spider, incidentally, wasn’t at all sure about being picked up — acted a little perplexed.

    • Nancy, not everyone is enamored with these creatures so I appreciate your appreciation of tarantulas! So big and unexpected. I’ve wondered how many don’t make their street crossings due to traffic so I am glad you helped one to safety! They say you can pick them up bare-handed and they won’t bite, unless agitated, but I would prefer gloves, like you did. Be well.

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