I was sitting on the porch of our family home — affectionately called “The River House”. It sits in the middle of the hot 100 degree prairies of the San Joaquin Valley. Luckily, it also sits atop the cool refreshing banks of the Merced River — which today looks tranquil and innocent. I was waiting for that right moment. When the whisper of the plains called for another wandering. To some place I want to call my friend. Take it’s photograph — like the plein aire painter when she chooses a spreading landscape in front of her to paint. Like a fashion designer finding new designs or new style in clothes coming out each season.
I like to go back to revisit places. There is a spot I have been drawn to many times. The different seasons change in light and design each time I return. It sits quite unobtrusively yet calls me back to see what new signs of growth have sprung up that I have yet to see.
I decide to travel to my good spot and I see: new signs of life budding, different lights and shadows, pervading plants with new growth that take on a new appearance, a new mood. It’s early morning and not too hot as yet. If I travel fast, I can take my look and do my wanderings just in time to miss the heat that dries the land with a crackling hot breeze that is too intense for me to linger.
Through winding roads of old oak trees that stand in the grassy earth on their rolling dry hills, soon to bake under the gold-hot sun, I find my spot. This, I have decided, is my spot. I have only taken a few people here in my life. I consider it almost sacred.
I duck under the barbed-wire fence and wander my way back a while until I find the small creek surrounded by many smaller scenes. I look around through my photographer’s eye. There is the familiar rock. It lies near the stream and is gorged with round deep holes where the Indians had ground their corn or washed their clothes. When the past was a very short time away. The creek water slips by and I can see them here. I found this spot as a child when playing along the rocks with my family. There, amongst those deep black holes, was a small black slate arrowhead. It was certain proof the Indians were “real” and that they really did live and breathe. I see them now.
A bit further on I find some wonderful cattails standing before a slab of granite boulder. The rock is decorated by an array of colored lichen painting their way across it with colors of neon red, green and yellow. The rock, a palate. The painting, framed by a landscape of humble stone and moss.
As I progress, I can find so many scenes: a pond with rocks that form a smiling face, the green algae that has fluffed itself from tiny green flowers, and, best of all, a red-orange dragonfly that follows me around. This is a place where John Muir would have stopped to sit and meditate. I am sure of it.