When Jeff’s possessions were dispersed I ended up with a pair of socks. Nice warm wool. No holes. New… somewhat unexpected if you knew what his t-shirt collection looked like. Whenever packing for an outdoor adventure, I started gravitating towards these socks. Soon it became a ritual. If Jeff wasn’t accompanying me on the hike, at least his socks would. This spring, Jeff’s socks wandered through wildflower covered canyons in Anza Borrego State Park and kept my feet warm high up in the New York Mountains of the Mojave Preserve while trying to locate one of the few populations of two-needled pinyon pine found in California. In May they headed over to the east side in search of corn snow, and were on my feet for descents on Esha Peak and Mount Starr. It was fun to reminisce about our ski trips on Mt Lassen and the Carson Pass area while in grad school. They enjoyed hikes to Bingham Lake and South Sugar Lake in the Russian Wilderness, places Jeff surely had been with family in years past. The socks came along on a hike into the Illilouette Valley with Kristin, where we observed two bears, probably recently awoken from their winter slumber, tearing up a soggy meadow in search of fresh green shoots. They helped me escape the Redding summer heat by hiking up French Creek in the Trinity Alps, in search of the perfect swimming hole. Here the socks became a human dispersal mechanism for the prickly Torilis seeds… I spent what seemed like hours picking the darn things out to make them wearable again. They cushioned my feet against the granite on a backpack trip into Young Lakes, the base camp for a climb up the west ridge of Mt Conness. A few weeks ago, I was again reminded of Jeff when putting on my boots to go out on a prescribed burn. One of our last work-related discussions was about fire and goshawks. Would the birds stay when a burn went through, or would the smoke cause them to abandon their nest? What better way to set fire to the woods than to have Jeff’s socks on my feet. Thanks Jeff. Hope you enjoyed being along for the ride as much as I enjoyed the memories that accompany these socks!
As the afternoon thunderheads approached, we ascended the steep trail towards the Dana Plateau... We hiked through forests of larkspur, lupine and columbine, following the laughing dancing creek upwards. It was a late start, and the sky was darkening... A few thunderclaps confirmed that it was too dicey to top out on the exposed plateau.
A lower shelf of glaciated slabs spoke to several people, and we gathered there. Drumming, chanting, crying and hugging. A gorgeous view in all directions on a most dramatic energizing Sierra day.
We gathered handfuls of Jeff's ashes... All his physical remains... Some sprinkled them among flowers and gnarled pine roots. Others stood on the edge of a small cliff, and tossed them up into the breeze. Drifting, rising, swirling, then fading away. More tears, hugs, smiles and stories.
A beautiful place, with wonderful friends and family, on a most outrageous & auspicious day. There were even tasty snacks... Jeff would have loved it!
I visited Yosemite for the first time in a long while, this last weekend with my family. As I enjoyed the magnificent beauty and peace I remembered the visit Michael and I had with Jeff a few years back, bouldering up rivers and bounding off-trail - sitting in the great meadow with beers and a scope to watch Jeff's falcons.
I spent an afternoon meditating along the Tuolumne, listening to and feeling the soft breeze and thinking of him. Thanks for all the beautiful hikes Jeff, and for being still a strong presence in the wild.
I am currently planning a climbing trip to the varnished Sand Stone walls of Red Rocks and it would be great if you could come along. I think that you of all people would appreciate the stark beauty of the high desert in spring time, with cactus blooms, birds singing, and the warm glow of sandstone.
I remember our first encounter at UC Davis in 'Bird Lab', where we were diligently trying to learn the details of these dusty, lifeless specimens that lay before us on the table. You seemed a bit perplexed as to why it was important to study these birds on popsicle sticks under flourescent lights. I definitely remember you because you seemed such an anomaly surrounded by the concrete institutional walls of UC Davis. Your hair was a bit more shaggy and your clothes a bit more thread-barren than your average student at UC Davis. It was also apparent that you had a keen intuition about nature. The 'concepts' of avian ecology that we so feverishly tried to cram into our heads, seemed like common knowledge to you, they were simply 'behaviors' of birds that you had noticed from a lifetime of observations.
Although you always appeared a bit out of place with your gangly frame and leathery complexion at UC Davis, you were definitely in your element among the trees and rocks of the Sierra Nevada. I was fortunate enough to climb with Jeff one day at Lover's Leap, just up the road from Placerville and it was a pleasure just to see how Jeff moved with Nature. We set out to climb the classic route 'The Line' and when we arrived at the base the thin crack leading up the first pitch, it looked a bit intimidating to me. Somehow I think that you sensed my hesitation and you offered to lead the first pitch. I can still remember you gliding over the rock barely scraping your belly with the agility of a lizard. You moved so fluidly and with great ease across the granite face. You demonstrated to me that climbing was more about technique and confidence than gear and bravado. Before I knew it we were at the top of Lover's Leap with our barefeet dangling below- it was glorious day in the Sierra. This is the lasting memory I have of you my friend.
I fondly remember the last meal we shared at Crepeville in Davis and you were the same old happy go lucky Jeff that I remembered. So as I plan my trip to Red Rocks I must admit that I felt some uneasiness when I learned of your passing. But alas, we cannot pass up on living only for fear of dying.
I harvested honey this weekend. It was the first time I harvested honey without Jeff. But I feel like he was there with me, joking with me by blowing leaves into the honey every few minutes. It was bittersweet for sure. But definitely the least messy harvest I have ever done! I got quite a laugh out of that- I always thought it had to be messy, that's just how it goes. Now I think that was just a fact of harvesting with Jeff- cleaning up my kitchen for a week afterward. I miss him and think of him often...... Thank you Jeff for everything, including the messes we used to make with honey.