Monday, January 12, 2009


In my growing-up years, when I lived with my family on the west side of San Francisco Bay, we could occasionally see snow at the very top of Mt. Diablo, about 40 miles to the northeast. Until years after I left California in August of 1973, I never walked on Mt. Diablo. When I was a child, it was the highest place in my world and a wonder to me because it was far away and sometimes had snow on it.

Mount Diablo is sacred to many California Native American peoples; according to Miwok mythology and Ohlone mythology, it was the point of creation. Mount Diablo and Reed’s Peak were surrounded by water. From these two islands the creator Coyote and his assistant Eagle-man made Indian people and the world. (from an excellent article about Mt. Diablo.)

As a child living in the relative lowlands of California, I "touched" snow only twice that I can recall, except when we visited our relatives in Minnesota. The first time must have been in the winter of 1955 or 1956, when there was snow in the "Lost Hills" near the town of Taft, which is in the San Joaquin Valley in south central California. Our parents, both from Minnesota, made a special trip from Taft, where we lived, so that we could see snow. The second time was probably in the early 1960's, when there was a light layer of snow in our backyard when we woke up one Sunday morning. I remember my mother waking me and my sisters and encouraging us to look outside. I remember that moment of amazement when I saw the snow. Of course, we immediately wanted to go outside and "touch" the snow. After we had "touched" the snow, we had to get dressed for church. The snow was such a novelty that we were one of the few families who attended our church that day. By the time we returned from church, the snow had melted.

In 1967, when I first read portions of the Richard Wilhelm / Cary F. Baynes translation of I Ching and learned that the name of the 52nd hexagram was translated as "Keeping Still, Mountain," the mountain I pictured was Mt. Diablo. My mountain was a green California mountain in winter, not a snowy mountain.

It doesn't seem that long ago that I read these words for the first time, looking to the I Ching for guidance in that first year that I was friends with R:

"It is very difficult to bring quiet to the heart."

"True quiet means keeping still when the time has come to keep still, and going forward when the time has come to go forward. In this way rest and movement are in agreement with the demands of the time, and thus there is light in life."

Mt. Diablo webcam

360 degree view of Mt. Diablo

It's foggy here this morning. 40 degrees. Yesterday was the first day I was able to take a long walk since December 13, when the snow began. When I looked out the window just now, five Trumpeter Swans flew overhead toward the west!


Dawn said...

Nice nice post today Am, cool about the swans!

Loren said...

Mt. Diablo dominated the landscape when I lived in Walnut Creek for several years, much the same way Mt. Rainier dominated the landscape in Seattle.

Unfortunately, what I most remember about climbing the mountain is the poison oak that seemed to be everywhere, at least everywhere I went.

am said...

Dawn -- Thank you!

Loren -- Poison oak was the bane of the childhood of many children who grew up in California. It was everywhere we wanted to explore. It was possible to get it from our pets who walked through it. Just before I left California in 1973, I had to take some time off work at the pharmaceutical company where I worked because I had gotten a minor case of poison oak from patting a dog who lived in the house where I rented a room.

I was incredulous when I learned, during my first days in Washington state, that there is no poison oak here! That was the second thing I liked about Washington State. The first thing was the rain. After having lived 9 months near Boston, I never wanted to see snow or ice again.

robin andrea said...

Glad you could get outside for a walk and see those Trumpeter Swans. Lovely stories here.

am said...

robin andrea -- Hope you can get out for some good walks soon, too. My parents used to see wild swans in southern Mendocino County. I wonder if there are flocks somewhere near Santa Cruz.

Zhoen said...

I can't quite imagine a childhood without snow. One year in my life without a winter threw me off completely.

am said...

I think I can guess which year that was for you.

The only snowy winter I ever experienced was near Boston, 1973-1974, when I was 24 years old. That was enough to make me want avoid snow for the rest of my life. Maybe it wasn't the snow as much as it was the set of circumstances that changed the course of my life in a negative way for many years after that.