The fog, patchy as it may be around the mountain, persists in my view, long after it dissipates and gives way to another of the last of this summer’s days that feel too much like autumn already. The seasons have already changed for me, or so my bones tell me. And so do the enthusiasms of old, when I was younger and believed every challenge was an opportunity….
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Today’s picture was taken in passing through, on my way to an appointment late in the day in Mill Valley. With traffic thinned enough, it was easy to decide on a moment’s notice to swerve into the parking lot of Frantoio, the restaurant that gets its name from the working olive press on its premises.
You don’t even have to squint your eyes from this angle to convince yourself that you just might be in Italy, perhaps somewhere along the border between Umbria and Tuscany. I’ve traveled in both of those places myself. The funny thing is that there were times during those visits when I stood looking at the views thinking how I wouldn’t even have to squint my eyes to make myself believe that I could be in California.
As for Frantoio Ristorante … I’ve had a few fun meals there in the company of family, that movable country that always is home.
They are there, the peaks of Mt. Tam, even if barely visible above the line of trees and the slip of fog. Of course they are, always in view, even from the shelter of Emporio Rulli in Larkspur, the place of choice for morning coffee and breakfast pastries for my friends from New York.
Maybe Mt. Tam is getting shortchanged in my post today, but there is my increased sense of appreciation of Larkspur as seen through the eyes of my visitors. That is one delightful aspect of having guests: rediscovering one’s own place. It’s almost as good as travel, without the hassles of that enterprise.
Tonight we are heading out of the range of Mt. Tam. Our destination is The French Laundry in the wine country … a gastronomic mountain of its own.
I rode my bike for the better part of an hour and a half this morning. I wanted to take to the road to face my fear of traffic, even of the lightest kind, head on. I also wanted to practice climbing hills in different gears. Throughout my 13-mile ride around Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur and Corte Madera the mountain stayed pretty much in view–not that I kept it in my view, considering that I needed my eyes for spotting hazards of the road directly ahead. But there were moments when I stopped on parts of roads less traveled to look at the ridged profile of the Sleeping Lady, capturing its shifts from my perspective with my cell phone camera.
One such stop I made was at Redwood High School, eerily quiet on a Sunday morning that also happens to be Father’s Day. There was a game of sorts in progress in the field across the distant parking lot, but over by the cafeteria there was I and my reflection and that of the mountain … seeming scalable.
I have no plans to bike up the mountain, even if it looks scalable from here. These little jaunts that take me further afield in already well-traveled increments provide plenty of adrenalin and endorphins to keep the delight of discovery on two wheels rolling on. At least for now….
It’s rare for me to be out walking at 7 in the morning, but here I was today, out walking at 7 in the morning. Woke to plenty bird song and the hint of heat in the air, so to beat the triple-digit temperatures given in the forecast for later, I went out this morning as soon as I rolled out of bed. Didn’t even bother with the coffee, without which always thought I would be, well a witch.
The morning light was sheer, as if freshly laundered and lightly pressed by loving hands. All along the streets and for the better part of the path along the creek, a balmy silence, which made the light all the more brilliant. The water in the creek, usually churning in a tidal dance, was calm and coolly glassy.
To this shore I brought my slight shadow as I took the picture of the mountain in the distance, still glowing slightly amber from the kindle of dawn.
In a landscape of rolling hills, ragged trees, spindly bushes, and gently bending creeks, the buildings on this street are all strictly angular, framing and reframing the views both outside and inside. Through the myriad of frames the eyes are driven to halt only at points that cross and recross. If one does manage to break the spell of frames and rest the idling eyes on the world beyond, it wouldn’t be uncommon to think, for a moment, that the mountain looks askew, almost unnatural.
Summer is not yet here properly but a spate of grass fires have sparked a few alarms already. The one barely visible in the right side of the picture seemed to blaze up fast in the winds, but firefighters quickly went to work on extinguishing it. Further south, on another slope, other firefighters were busy fighting a vegetation fire.
I hope these fires aren’t portents of a summer of conflagrations.
Yesterday shortly after dawn, I caught a glimpse of the mountain all aglow and smoldering in the first rays of the sun. This afternoon, in the glance I gave it from the Village Shopping Center in Corte Madera, it seemed smoky to me again. This time, though, gone was the shine of promises the likes of which spring up with the freshness of the morning sun. Instead, what I saw was the settled haze of the afternoon, the day nearly spent … as was I from the drudgery of shopping.
I used to like shopping. Years ago, when I weighed considerably more and finding clothes in regular stores was quite the challenge, I carried on until I carried home the bags filled with stuff. Nowadays, a lot more clothes fit me … which makes it just as challenging when it comes to making a decision what to buy, especially when I really don’t want to fill the bags, because I also don’t want to empty my wallet.
Is it any wonder than that my focus today is the haze?
Though the first rays of the spirited June sun struck the mountain swiftly along its east-facing slopes to set them aglow, what followed in the so-sparked embers was hardly the fires of yesterday’s heat. Small bands of fog pouring in from the Pacific put a damper on the temperatures. In the wave of fog-drive wind, trees and bushes are now singing hymns.
And through the changing reflections of the light, the shifts of fog and the sway of vegetation, only the ornery calls of crows have been the same today as yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that…. And so it goes.
What the cell phone camera didn’t catch from this angle was the ghostly bowl of a moon hanging near the ridge of Mt. Tam. I was riding with a friend in the midday heat– just as I did yesterday –but we had plenty of shade along the miles of paths and bike-friendly streets.
I never tire of getting around Larkspur, which is not only a picturesque little town, but happens to be also a great place for getting around on foot or bike or bus. Though the “downtown” is small as far as downtowns go, there is plenty to do there. Within a few blocks there are boutiques, restaurants for every taste and budget–and covering a few continents in terms of the cuisine in which they specialize. There are cafes for lighter fare, theaters (live shows and movies, along with special screenings), grocery stores, fitness facilities and clubs, a martial arts studio, a florist, a stationery store, a bike store, beauty salons, a library and an art gallery. And there is even a church (St. Patrick’s) and a bar (Silver Peso) to be found here, nearly on the same block. Pretty much all these businesses are locally owned. A few of these shops have changed hands and wares (and interior decors) several times over the last 10 years; others have been there and in the same business, and looking much the same, ever since I moved to the area a couple of decades ago.
Though I live in a different zip code than the one assigned to Larkspur, it is Larkspur’s city hall I go to for permits — and it’s where my taxes go as well. On days like this one, when I spent the morning running errands and hanging out with friends, and getting exercise, all on my bike around town, I wish I lived in Larkspur proper, within walking distance of all this bounty at the foot of Mt. Tam, which, at times and from certain places, would look at home in the grander ranges of the Alps.