Manzanita and Rocks

The manzanita in this photo was a destination for Molly and me — a minor destination. The kind where you stop, look in awe at a hundreds of year old immense beautiful plant, sit down, give your dog some water, get up and keep going to a real destination. In this case, our destination was a small spring fed pool in a narrow fissure between some of the earth’s oldest rocks up in the Laguna Mountains.

I’ve known some rocks that are more than 1000 million years old — very common rocks, the bedrock of the Earth, pre-cambrian gneiss. They offered a lot of good lessons in patience through change.

Truffle Swimming

Truffle “fishing” in a seasonal pool in the “Indian kitchen”

These particular rocks had been used by Indian tribes for hundreds (thousands?) of years for all the things Indians can use rocks for — weapons, tools, cisterns, grinding holes, laundry. A person who was paying attention could imagine a small band of Indians doing their chores with the help of those ancient rocks, grinding acorns or maybe releasing the fibers of yucca to make sandals and ropes.

In October 2003 an immense fire — 273,246 acres — swept through parts of Southern California — both of these places, in fact. The ancient manzanita was burned to the ground. The oak trees north of this seasonal pond where my dog is swimming were burned to the ground, too. But the rocks — except for some staining from orange fire retardant — were still there, still the same. And the manzanita? The roots hold a manzanita’s life. By spring, shoots of the future had already emerged. I wonder what she looks like now, 15 years later.

12 thoughts on “Manzanita and Rocks

  1. We have basalt and other old, old rocks projecting from the ground here and there. We have on where our house was supposed to be, but the builder discovered it seems to go down all the way to the center of the earth, or nearly. So instead, he built our house on the neighbor’s property and it took 30 years to straighten out the mess.

    We too have rocks. But no Manzanita.

    • I’m sure you have gneiss, too. It’s everywhere. Generally it’s granite or another igneous or sedimentary rock that has undergone metamorphosis. Around here — the San Juans — is a giant caldera of an ancient volcano and there’s a lot of basalt.

  2. We MIGHT have some kept in gardens, but it looks like several other things that probably grow better in this climate. We used to have much older trees, but they cut them all down when this was more farming and less empty field. The new trees are all about 100 to 150 years old. Every once in a while, often in the cemetery, you see some really old ones. But not like your trees. Your trees are much older.

    • There are dozens of different manzanita varieties. This one just happens to be the one that grows in the Laguna Mountains, one of the tiny ecological islands in California. The pioneers used to harvest the berries and they called the shrubs “lemonade berries” because they tasted like lemonade.

  3. Amazing, isn’t it, “new trees” 100 – 150 years old. With the new construction around us, the “new” trees were cut down. It haunts me to be totally honest. We still have a few on the property and they are indeed massive. Imagine being in the presence of trees much older. Makes you feel truly insignificant in the grand scheme doesn’t it?

  4. Beautifully described. I have my own fascination with rocks. I can’t explain why rocks and wood speak to my soul. Perhaps it’s just an elemental longing or buried collective memory of ancestral culture—rocks providing tools and defensive weapons, wood providing shelter and fire? Perhaps it is just the resonance of sympathetic atoms—we are all made of the same star dust after all.

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