Cort Cottage Bed and Breakfast a private guest cottage near Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park

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Almanac Archive 2006

Dateline: Sunday, December 16, 2006,
Elsah reporting in for this week
I woke up this morning to a beautiful snow dusting on all the hill tops around me. It feels so quiet, so calm here.

Every year when we finally get our first rains after the long months with none, a normal seasonal pattern here, it seems that the entire world is changed. Almost immediately green shoots start coming up from the new softened dirt. The green can become blinding at times.

It is cold here, but not too cold. And now there is snow up in Giant Forest, hugging the big trees standing so straight and so present for long, long years. That ancient forest transforms itself when it is blessed by a coverlet of snow.

I say again, as I have written for many years in this almanac (which would now be called a blog, I suppose) that winter and spring are the best seasons to visit here. Yet, they continue to be the times when the least visitors come. You can almost have your pick for openings to make a pilgrimage to the cottage and the mountains and the big trees. Maybe you will change your pattern of travel to come here in a different season for you.... and that will open you for other changes that could inspire you and infuse your life with a joy that has been just barely out of your reach.

I hope so.

all for now..................................................................

Dateline: Saturday, September 9, 2006,
Elsah reporting in for this week

So the temperature has dropped almost 25 degrees since the last time I reported for this almanac. And a breeze has shown up that teases the face with a hint of autumn; again I notice subtle shifts inside as a new season is returning, reinventing itself as it follows ancient patterns laid down in the very crust of the earth.

This week I swam in the river for the last summer surrendering. The water was still cool and comforting, but slightly smelling of fish and algae and moss and high mountain ridges. Now I long for our first rains, coming most likely next month, to drench the garden and the hills and to summon the forces that will awaken the green blades of the spring to come later. This longing for water that comes every year at this time is very strong...............it makes the first rain the most beautiful of all.

Living here is about living on earth in a visible, tactile, visceral way that is not so easy to do in the city. I feel raw here but connected. The full moon rose deep in the canyon again two nights ago, pouring its first light over the edge of mountain top and high trees, like it was granting grace to us all because it had no choice but to overflow its fullness as it touched the earth. Why was it made so round? Why was the earth made to move as it does and not topple us over in its spinning? Why were we given eyes in the same shape as the moon itself to see it all?

all for now..................................................................

Dateline: Sunday, July 16, 2006,
Elsah reporting in for this week

Summer feels like I am living on a different planet; I am noticing how my mind-set shifts during the warmer months. Maybe it is about finally getting to swim in the river for the first time yesterday, although it was pretty cold, still, and gave me a minor heart attack. The first submersion into that cold, melted snow from the high mountains really does wash all your sins away.

We have a late river swimming season this summer because we had prolonged rains and snow that came in late March and April. It is still not totally safe to swim in some of the Park's swimming holes yet, because the current is so swift and cold. It means that August will be good for swimming longer.

I am not a great swimmer but I find that the river washes over me with a cleansing objectivity and equanimity. When I came here in the 1950's to visit cousins, I was a sort-of city kid, not used to being in the "wilds" of the foothills. Going to the river made me nervous, the bottom was not so predictable as the bottom of a swimming pool. So I always wore my sneakers into the water, while ignoring the laughing comments from my cousins. There is a personal story about going to Lake Erie in New York with my parents when I was 5 and finding dead fish everywhere, it seemed to me, floating on the lake and all over the beach. It somehow made my feet leery of walking over un-cemented ground into a river that moved fast and supported the family life of fish. It was good that in those days we had sneakers that could get wet and still be OK for walking home.

For the last 4 years I have had "Camp Aunt Elsah" for a week with my niece and nephew from Los Angeles. They seem to have bonded with the river, too, and jump in with bare feet, diving to actually watch the fish that stay in the deeper areas of the swimming hole. When my niece first came to stay with me around age 9, she said that she thought the city was prettier than these mountains. I was surprised and wanted to know why; because the city has more colors, she said. I said maybe we had more hues here, mores shades of green and gold and blue, and we stared counting all the various shades of color that came into our eyes. It takes practice, both intentional and just happenstance, that keeps the human eye open to seeing color variations, not something that is supported by the limited color selections of computer screen and TV.

I think the human eye needs to have color vibrations coming into it to keep the optic nerve alert and the brain intrigued with being alive. The kids come next week, maybe we will practice looking at the hues that glitter in the sunlit river ripples. We will also keep on the look-out for the bear that saunters through my backyard meadow from time to time, and the raven family that comes with two babies that are only 1 in shorter than their parents and still beg to be mouth fed at my compost pile that doesn't make compost, a repository for the compost that sometimes is found in the recesses of my refrigerator shelves. It could be nice to have some actual compost but I would have to protect it from side to side and up and down from the creature generations that have lived in this canyon longer I have. I just make sure the compost pile is a fair distance from the back door but still with a good view. The bear really is quite stunning.

The cottage is busy again, after a hiatus in the winter for its big makeover inside. Some guests have been shocked that it is hot here now, but this is part of the summer experience in Three Rivers--getting cooked and feeling what it is to be a human physical body living on a planet that responds to our endeavors by heating us up so we can slow down enough to perhaps change our minds about whatever needs to be changed. There is a lot that we have made into patterns of greed, entitlement and just plain taking for granted both on a global scale and on a deeply intimate personal experience that we could alchemically transform. Makes me think of the Rumi poem about the chick pea, so now I will have to stop writing this and go surfing through my Rumi books so I can find that poem to put here for you. Then I am going to hang my laundry on the line outside, do a little garden wandering and go to the river for the my 2nd rinsing out.

Here is the poem, from The Essential Rumi, translations by Coleman Barks and John Moyne

A chick pea leaps almost over the rim of the pot
where is it being boiled.

"Why are you doing this to me?"

"Don't try to jump out.
You think I am torturing you.
I'm giving you flavor.
so you can mix with spices and rice
and be the lovely vitality of a human being.

Remember when you drank rain in the garden.
That was for this."

Grace first. Sexual pleasure,
then a boiling new life begins,
and the Friend has something good to eat.

Eventually the chickpea
will say to the cook,
"Boil me some more.
Hit me with the skimming spoon.
I can't do this by myself

I'm like an elephant that dreams of gardens
back in Hindustan and doesn't pay any attention
to his driver. You're my cook, my driver,
my way into existence. I love your cooking."

The cooks says,
"I was once like you,
fresh from the ground. Then I boiled in time,
and boiled in the body, two fierce boilings.

My animal soul grew powerful.
I controlled it with practices,
and boiled some more, and boiled
once beyond that,

and became your teacher.

I had to make some changes in the word spacing of this poem due to the limitations of the dreamweaver website-making software, but it is essentially how it appears in the book.
all for now..................................................................

Dateline: Tuesday, April 25, 2006,
Elsah reporting in for this week
What an interesting weather pattern we have had with getting on and off again rain in the late Spring months. It has slowed the Spring bloom way down and we have are having one of the best wildflower shows I have seen in many years. Most of the flowers have just begun to bloom now, when usually they would have been going to seed. Everything is lush, lush green. I have been busy in the hillside garden, weeding and weeding. The cottage has not been so busy as I guess many folks are staying home to work in their own gardens.
Maybe you might want to come to see some California Natives blooming on the hillsides. You can take a walk up the canyon on the BLM lands, where cows are not grazing now, and see hills covered with golden stars, frying pan poppies, lupines, owl's clover, chia sage, Ithuriel's spears, blue dicks, and my favorites, the pink fairy lanterns which I call hairbells. Or maybe you could use some weeding therapy, sitting on the earth and getting sweet smelling dirt under your finger nails. I have some pesky thistle and tall non-native grasses I am pulling out.

The cottage is completely rennovated and waiting for you. Call soon, as the summer months are filling up with reservations, but now is the time to come to see what the earth really has up her sleeve..............abundant green renewal and bird song symphonies.

All for now..................................

Dateline: Monday, February 6, 2006,
Elsah reporting in for this week

Little green seedling are popping up everywhere and my favorite time of year is here again, when the hints of Spring are nudging me to sit outside on the earth's skin itself and do some gentle weeding. Instead I am at the computer for the morning and then to the cottage to complete finishing touches for a major renovation project that has transformed the cottage over the last three months.

I splurged in all ways, design and tile selection and hiring a gifted tile installer to move the cottage bathroom from all white tile to a collage of Talovera tile from Mexico flanked by tiny shimmering blue glass squares, and soft gray/green tile walls, and a non skid terra cotta floor made from swimming pool tile. I have learned much about being brave to use color and mix media, at least in the tile world, and to let it be joined with colored grout. I am going to try to photograph it for the website soon, but no guarantees that it will look as it does in real life. All the walls and the sloping ceiling of the cottage were painted and new carpet has been installed.

I see these new colors and textures as part of a new tapestry that is being woven for the cottage experience, where you can come and rediscover yourself, maybe let yourself bring into clarity the reason you showed up here on this planet. I am working on this myself and I will keep you posted on how it is going.

The cottage will be ready for arrivals on the February holiday weekend coming up. Don't forget that there is a three night minimum for holiday weekends and be generous to yourself and send yourself here to see the early Spring sprouting with your own eyes and hearts.

All for now..................................

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