October 28, 2013

Something's Watching!

Sunday was a beautiful day. The sun was glorious. It's the end of October.  Knowing the aspens in Lassen National Park would be shed of their bright leaves; stunning in white against the deep blue of the mountain sky, I jumped into the car with husband, cameras and my I-Pad.

The drive was simply gorgeous.

Sunday afternoons in Shasta County has 80% of the population screaming at  their televisions...Go Football!  My plan had actually been to stay in pajamas, watching a game or two myself. The day had other plan!

We made the drive To Lassen Park in record time.  There  were only three other cars on the road not counting ours us; two going in the opposite direction.

In the park, we head for Devastation Area. Once there, a short hike down the south side of the hill next to the parking lot will take you to a lovely cluster of Aspens.

The wind was cranking; gusts almost knocking me over.  I don't usually shoot with a tripod so after a half hour of incredibly blurry shots of Mother Nature, I called it quits.  Die-Hard-Tripod-Sportin'-Husband continues hunting for the perfect picture.

I climb back into the welcome warmth of our car, clicked on the IPad and begin reading one of my 800+ books.

Our little Malibu was facing Mt. Lassen's peak. It was the only car in the parking lot.The sun gently warming the interior. I was alone. Cozy, indeed.

I begin to read a Terry Pratchett novel, one of his Discworld series.  After a chapter or so, my neck started to get that not-quite-an-itch itch. You know, the one where you could swear you are not alone and the "one" making you "not-alone" is watching you.  I looked around.

Just me, mountain, rocks, ash and trees. Tried to shake off the heebie-jeebie bumps on my neck. I continued to read.  My neck whispered to my scalp, a bad habit the two of them have, being neighbors as they are. My scalp starts to get that prickly feel, hinting that we might possibly have company.

Honestly, I tend to listen to Scalp just a tad but more than Neck.

I look around again, a little deeper into the shadows this time. I start the engine and ease the window on the passenger side up, just in case a hungry mountain lion tries to squeeze in.  Another quick peek around....nothing....back to the book.

A couple of pages later my toes are shouting to me the way only toes can!  I am not alone.

I listen to Toes, they have never been wrong.

Supremely failing to appear nonchalant, just short of a 360-exorcist type my head swivels, scanning the surroundings. No one.

Okay, a couple of little birds and a squirrel but my toes have never been bothered by birds or bushy-tails.  A couple of not-so-nice grumbles about my die-hard photographer husband's continued search for photographic excellence escape my lips.  Doors locked, window zipped all the way up, I try to focus on the book.

Oh, Oh!  Neck, scalp and toes! Goose-bump City!

Jumping out of my seat, I see it!  I am being watched! Right there in my IPad is the transgressor's reflection! It is staring right back at me! Green, like an ogre and at least 60 feet tall, it is humongous; as big around as my car!  A behemoth Douglas fir has silently, gently been sneaking up to my car.

I don't often use the word frantic, but, as I frantically turn my head (what the hell) I realize that the heuristic tree is not alone. She has several Lodgepole Pines and a Cedar with her. The howling wind has blown away all trace of their tracks from the thick ash covering the ground.

I love trees but my tolerance for sneakiness is, basically, non-existant!

I threw the car door open. (Well, I opened the door and the wind yanked it away from me but don't tell the trees.)

I jumped out of the car; feet apart, hands on hips!

"What is the meaning of this?" I yell to be heard above the wind.

Who would have guessed that such sneaky timber could be so shy?

Mute! Nothing!

"There will be no more of this tip-toeing around, do you understand? You scared the begeezus out of me!" It is hard to howl harder than the wind at the 6000 foot elevation but I believe those delinquent trees heard me.The hung their heads in shame, even though it was in the same direction as the wind, I am sure it was more shame than moving air that caused the droop.

I lift a foot to return to warmth of the car, their heads droop again, in impeccable unison. I tried to get into my little Malibu three more times; three more perfectly timed head drops. If trees were known for choreography, I would advise this group to catch the next lumber truck to Radio City Music Hall in New York City.They were good.

I reach into the car to shut down the IPad and the heads bobbed again, real low. I am well aware that trees, even evergreens, do not have knuckles, nor do they employ knuckles, but I could swear that I saw them do some knuckle dragging in that moment. Hmm!There seems to be a hint of sadness in their little droop, bob and drag dance.

My neck whispered a little message to my scalp. My ears, being large for my head and very efficient, picked up bits and pieces. My toes confirmed what I thought I heard.

"Do you want me to read to you?" I asked the swaying, droopy trees.

It could be a gust or two of wind but I swear they were jumping for joy, except that their roots never left the ground. I can understand that, as I've had a knee replacement and I, too, can jump for joy without my feet leaving the ground!

Really, you can't blame them. There is nothing like a good story and I bet they don't get read to a lot high up on that mountain. I don't imagine that squirrels, bears or mountain lions read much, not out loud anyway.  I'm not sure about Bigfoot's literary competence and that is a mystery I am willing to let remain a mystery.

I perched myself on one of the picnic tables after the trees promised to let me know if any of the aforementioned species should come up from behind me or for that matter, behind them.

"Except for the squirrels!" I said.

"Rabies!" said one of the trees in back (or could have been a Bigfoot), so I agreed that they should warn me about the squirrels, too.

The trees gathered around to protect me from the wind and I caught them up on what was happening in the story. Luckily, I was only two chapters in. I read. They listened. I believe the Cedar fell asleep.  There was a slight rumble from the back row.  I was hoping it was snoring and not the volcano waking up. The others listened intently. A giant Ponderosa  joined our group after he made me promise not to skip any pages.

In spite of the noise cause by a group of motorcycles zooming by made it necessary to repeat a paragraph, all in all, it was a very pleasant experience. The trees had problems with the words "artificial" and "Epicurean". There was a little philosophical banter regarding the definition of "artificial" but with a little prompting, we returned to the book.

The sun was starting to set. I knew it was fast approaching time to head home.

The park will be closed soon fir the winter, snow and all, but I promised to return in the spring with a book about Redwoods, maybe a story or two about enchanted forests (they love biographies). They absolutely didn't want any stories about Milkwood, apparently a dark, scary forest in Norse mythology. The Douglas fir said it would give her nightmares. She's not fond of science fiction.

Frank returned. I introduced him to the trees but, as they are known to be, they became shy. They really don't like to talk to strangers.

We drove off to take pictures of the mountain in the glow of the sunset. I waved goodbye to my new friends and they waved back.

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