They're Cutting Down Trees

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river I could skate away on

 – © 1970; Joni Mitchell

Last weekend Holly and I went to  a local nursery looking for a live Christmas tree.  What was available was scrawny and very expensive.  Then Holly and I came to our senses and remembered that we live on five acres full of trees.  We laughed just a little at ourselves.

By the time we arrived back home at the Golden K it was pouring down rain but we were determined to establish a new tradition of cutting down a Christmas tree from our own property.  So we put on the best rainproof-cutting-down-Chistmas Tree-gear that we had and headed up the hill to the back side of the Golden K.  Back in the days before we went artificial and when we still put up “real”  trees we always had pines.  It wasn’t likely that we would find a pine small enough so we were hunting for a Cedar.

It didn’t take us too long to find a tree that was suitable.  It was a very nicely shaped Cedar about 12 feet high.  We carried it to the shop, cut it down to about seven feet and carried it back to the house.

It felt a little bit like when your kids are little and they cook a meal for themselves.  They eat the meal as if it was the best food they ever tasted because of the gratification of having cooked it themselves.  As we looked at our tree we both felt as though it was the most beautiful tree we have ever had in our 34 years of marriage.  I guess because we “cooked it” ourselves…

So like Joni sang, “they’re cutting down trees” at the Golden K and they are in love and they are grateful.  And if that’s not a romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet I don’t know what is.

First Christmas at the Golden K


Just a dusting

Over the years we’ve vacationed in the snow many times.  I have fond memories of spending long winter weekends in Lake Tahoe with friends who had small children like our’s were at the time.  Three families comprised of six adults and nine children.  The first year of what became an annual event for ten years the youngest child  was an infant and the oldest, one of my sons, was nine.  No snow parks needed for this band of suburban families. There was a fantastic area right outside the house to build our sled run.  There was always plenty of snow and fun to go around.

There were plenty of other times and events in the snow.  One scary and memorable event was a drive to Lake Tahoe with our daughter in what turned out to be a white out.  On top of almost zero visibility from the snow storm and darkness of night our car’s windsheild wipers were badly worn which negated any help from the defroster.  I couldn’t see any road; only white. Thankfully we didn’t fall off the edge of a cliff and we made it over the pass and into the Lake Tahoe Basin area safely and had a wonderful time snowmobiling and sight seeing.

At 3,100 feet elevation The Golden K is just the lower edge of the snow line for normal years in the Sierras.  But with the drought and evolving climate change who knows what normal is anymore. Still, we hoped we would get some dustings from time to time and yesterday was one of those times.  I had driven down to the Bay Area in the morning and was heading back home around 3:00 pm when Holly text me to say it was snowing.  As I got up the hill closer to the GK the rain turned to flurries and I felt my lips spontaneously turn to a smile.  For a moment I felt like a little kid experiencing something special for the first time. Maybe like my daughter felt when she fist saw snow during that first annual trip with our friends.  But I’ve been in the snow plenty of times.  Heck I drove through that white out with nothing but snow all around us. So why do a few snow flurries make me feel happy?   But then at that moment I realized that experiencing something familiar can still feel new when the context changes.

This new context is the Golden K.

By the time I arrived home the flurries had turned to rain and there wasn’t much evidence of snow on the ground or trees because it melted as soon as it landed.  So much to my delight when I woke up this morning to see new evidence of a light snowfall from over night.  I felt my lips smile again as I looked through the windows to see patches of snow on the ground and traces of snow on tree branches.   I quickly fed the dogs and took a brief walk around the house’s immediate surroundings to enjoy the sights.


I realize that it’s easy for me to selfishly want it to snow for the pure beauty and experience of it in this new context.  And I realize that at the end of the storm (s0 to speak) I don’t have to deal with it.  I’m sure anyone reading this who lives or has lived where real snowfall is a real part of life throughout the winter and has to shovel it, drive in it, work in it, and clean up after it will chuckle and say, “Be careful what you wish for Mike – a winter living in the snow is not all sled runs and hot cocoa Hot Totties by the fire”.

It was only a dusting and that’s fine.  Because when your lips spontaneously turn up into a smile, you feel like a three year old seeing something for the first time, and you are for that moment in time at total peace, you just might be at The Golden K experiencing a romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.


You kind of had to be there…

They laid on their backs looking straight up at the night sky.  It had been a very hot day and now a warm summer evening and the stars were emerging and plentiful.

They could have been teenagers at summer camp laying on a dock they had been diving off earlier on the day.  Summer love with a boy doing back flips – literally – to impress the cute young girl he had developed a major crush on.  They could have been newlyweds in Puerto Vallarta at the poolside or on the Captain’s Level of a Mediterranean  cruise ship laying on comfy sofas with their eyes alternating between the stars and each other.

Or they could have been aging baby boomers, still wildly in love with each other after 30 plus years of marriage laying their creaky old backs on the sprawling deck of their new mountain home.  The pines, oaks, and cedar trees that provide much welcomed shade during the hot summer days also present obstruction to star gazing.  So they positioned themselves in such a way that they had a clear view of the stars while laying on their backs, in the dark, with each other and their two Golden Retriever’s laying nearby.

That was us, Holly and I laying on our creaky old backs and staring straight up at the night sky in wonder at the calmness and quiet of the forest and the glitter of the emerging stars.  The view was so much clearer on this night.  After all it should be because we’re closer to the stars up in the mountains than back in the SF Bay Area from which we came.  Right?

Then and now, reflecting on those moments of star gazing, I know that the young refreshingly good looking teenage couple on the dock, and the thirty-something newlywed professionals floating on the Mediterranean Sea will be blessed to have what we had on that night, after 33 years of marriage, laying on our backs, with our dogs, on our deck, looking up at the stars between our trees at 3100 feet.

There is usually a picture here at the end of my posts but you can’t do the sky justice or capture the beauty of the night.l  You kind of had to be there…


Maybe Hooterville

Three of my favorite television shows growing up had rural settings.  These 1960’s sitcoms, The Andy Griffith Show, Green Acres, and Petticoat Junction,  each portrayed a simpler time with down home folksy characters that reflected much of middle America at the time.  Story lines were thin, the humor was corny (and sometimes hilarious), but the characters endeared themselves to viewers with their humble and good natured demeanor.

Tuolumne City is not a Mayberry (Andy Griffith), a Pixley (Petticoat Junction) , or even Hooterville (Green Acres).  Ok maybe a Hooterville… and that’s a good thing.

In those fictitious towns when townsfolk asked how you were doing they were sincere.  There wasn’t a rush to get anywhere, strangers were made to feel welcome, and the general store was where you went to buy “supplies”.  Dinner was called supper, your nice clothes were your “Sunday go to meetings”, and tomorrow was always at least a day away.  Parents worked hard, kids had chores, and everyone felt safe walking home in the dark from an ice cream social at the town hall.

Were these towns from my favorite shows real life in the sixties or just fond memories of the screen writers and producers?  Every American generation looks back at some point and longs for the times when they were younger, America was better, and life wasn’t so complicated.  The sixties had it’s share of turbulence and angst, especially late in the decade.  Rock and Roll had emerged as a powerful force both musically and politically.  Civil rights was at the forefront of our day to day lives and the Cold War impacted our economy and threatened our security emotionally if not physically.  Our lives were rocked  when a popular president was shot and killed in Dallas and the world watched as we grieved.

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area the complexities and struggles of the times were a daily reminder to me that I wasn’t in Pixley.  I wasn’t in Mayberry.  I was in the “big city” and even then, as a young child, I longed for a simpler life.  As a young boy I was anxious to grow up so I could fall in love, marry, and raise a family.

As I sit here at the Golden K at 3100 feet I’m humbled by the beauty around me.  The beauty of my five acres, my neighbors five acres, and the neighbor up the road’s five acres. Nestled in between all the pines and oak trees I can almost see Andy sitting on the porch across the road with Aunt Bee.  Down the road I think I hear Oliver Douglas yelling to his farm hand Abe to hitch a wagon.  And in the distance I hear the Cannonball’s whistle blow as it slows to a stop in front of the Shady Rest.

The Golden K transcends fictitious towns, turbulent times, and life’s complexities.  Up here on the hill the earth spins just a little slower.  I know Tuolumne is not a Pixley, not a Mayberry, and not a Hooterville.  OK, maybe Hooterville and how awesome is is that…

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The Cannonball on a run between Pixley and Hooterville

GK Landscape

Front “yard” of the Golden K facing North