This weekend I went to visit my parents, who live about 40 minutes East of San Francisco in the San Ramon Valley. San Ramon is famous for three things: the Ashram which hosts the yearly U.S. visits from Amachi (the female Indian guru who gives hugs and Hershey kisses); spectacular moonrises; and, in my opinion, The Very Best Tree.
It is an incredible specimen of California Buckeye that has multiple arms reaching octopus-like from the earth to cover a whole section of the canyon. In the winter the ground is carpeted in Chickweed, a nutritious food-herb, and in late summer it is thick with the Buckeye leaves. California Buckeye is the first tree to leaf out in the spring, and the first to drop its leaves in the fall, so it is a kind of bell-ringer for the change of the seasons. I used to spend many an hour sitting on these smooth and sinuous branches, playing guitar to the frogs in the seasonal creek which runs right beside it. In fact this is where I learned that frogs will actually sing along with music!
In late summer the Thistles have all dried to the same shades as the grasses... infinitely photographable. Check out the birds perching in the ones above!
Naturally I hiked out there with a bag of clothes and a tripod...
Oak and California Bay Laurel are the dominant trees in Bollinger Canyon... the Bay gives an incredible aroma on a summer evening. Mixed with the pungent Artemesias on the upper slopes, this is the smell of Home to me. Bay Laurel is closely related to the Bay used in cooking, but it is even stronger! And, oddly enough, it is also a relation to the Avocado Tree, which can be seen in the Bay Nuts, which have a distinctly Avocado-like meat and pit. Here is an amazing, ancient Oak, just waiting to be an album cover:
Another view of the California Buckeye...
Bay leaves, foreground:
Another feather! Bluejay.