Picnic At Heart Lake

The next day, as promised, my four new friends assembled in the kitchen of the hostel and whisked me off to a mountain idyll. They discussed at length the pros and cons of ascending Mount Shasta itself. Panther Meadows, famous as the site of the first vision of Saint Germain on Mount Shasta, is still snowbound at the end of June. We would, instead, swim in the crystal waters of Heart Lake, and gaze upon the great volcano from the west. Therefore, they said, I must return to Mount Shasta during the month of August, next time, when the meadows are open and drumming can be heard everywhere on Mount Shasta, particularly on the night of the full moon. But first, we must fill our water bottles at the city park, at the headwaters of the spring.

Apparently many citizens of Mount Shasta come regularly to the spring to fill up
on the abundant, pristine water, which flows out of the volcanic stone at the
central and darkest point of this photograph. It was delicious.

We drove for about thirty minutes into the mountains west of Mount Shasta City and alighted from the car at Castle Lake. Here is the crew, with the Magic Mountain behind them:

Chief, Judy, Kim, and Ariel

Ariel, agile as a deer, lead us up a forest trail onwhich I kept remembering the activity that uses the most calories is climbing stairs. Ah, but the fragrances of the forest and intriguing formations of stone distracted me. Tiny moutain flowers bloomed abundantly in a variety of pastels. Soon we were looking down upon Castle Lake, and out across to Black Butte, an enormous cinder cone directly west of Mount Shasta. I paused to take a photo, and my cell phone rang. It was Teresa, the event coordinator at Bluestockings, a feminst bookstore in New York City, confirming my booksigning there for 7 PM on October 3. Happiness piled upon happiness, like the hexagram Joyous Lake.

Hiking opens vistas of conversation as well. I learned that Kim and Judy both paint. Ariel and Chief love to tell stories and ponder the state of the world. Judy and Chief met over the internet in a Hari Krishna chat room. The afternoon passed agreeably. Ariel bounded ahead, again, and semaphored us triumphantly from the top of a rock outcropping that overlooked Heart Lake.

I, too, felt triumphant standing at the top of the outcropping, which overlooked Mount Shasta and God. Naturally, I whipped out the digital camera...

...and then faced the other direction and photographed Heart Lake, with Kim in the foreground.

Yes, that is snow on the hillside to the west of the lake.

The rock ledge in the notch of the heart provided a launching pad for skinnydipping and a smooth sunbathing deck. Some friends of Judy and Chief's arrived before us, including two toddlers who had made the climb unassisted, and cheerfully at that, complete with teddy-rattlesnake in tow, and a dog. I got into the water very gradually and did not stay long, but Ariel swam laps in the snow-fed waters.

We all presented the victuals in our packbacks and assembled an smorgasboard of finger foods, enought to satisfy everyone, except the dog, who salivated enviously, particularly at my baked tofu. His owners assured me this was no reflection on his actual frequency of meals.

We merrily descended the mountain with more stories and exclamations over the beauty through which we walked, and drove back to town singing along to John Lennon's Give Peace a Chance. We decided to reconvene for dinner at a house just north of Mount Shasta, outside of town, which Judy and Chief were caretaking for friends. On the way, I took a look at Judy's paintings. I loved them.

The Nature of Love by Judy Marie Silverbirch

A Buddhist couple handbuilt this home of wood and stone in the forest looking east
at Mount Shasta. Here we gathered for Judy's feast of garden greens and pasta...

...along with an abundance of occult stories and a talent show.
Judy and Chief are to my right, behind me, central is Joel Dunsany, with wife Susan
behind him on his right, their youngest child, Daisy, between Joel and me, her friend
Mista on Joel's right, and Ariel on the far right.

Susan read from her illustrated book of limericks and sang original songs, all of which were lovely; for twenty-one years she made her living busking in the subways playing an accordion and singing. Joel, too, played guitar and sang original songs, and Daisy and Mista, when not giggling uproariously, danced along to the music. I played and sang some songs I don't usually play at booksignings. Susan and Joel retold the home births of their three children (the older two are twenty-one and eighteen already). They have wilder tales, too. Trapped in a tent by an overnight snowstorm on Mount Shasta, they struggled for three days to escape. Believing they were doomed, they kissed one another goodbye, and then suddenly met what looked sort of like a Maui guy--strolling in shorts and zorries, carrying a child's sand shovel, who led them to a tent with a heater and fed them a delicious hot soup. They fell asleep, and awoke in Panther Meadow to the sound of a snow plough clearing the road and a truck full of friends behind who had come up to find them.


On July 3rd, I received this wonderful poem from Chief.


by chief shoveler of the cowpies

she climbs up the mountains faster
than she does a comin' down
savoring every breath along the way
and her heart shines just as bright
as the sun in the sky

right and wrong turns were the same
all paths led to heart lake
think I was at heart lake
the night before in the cafe
we're there all the time

fifty something and going on ten
kingdom of god is a playground
round and around the many bends
up steep hills with alpine flowers
purple, yellow, rose, blue, orange and white

wind gently caressing the trees back and forth
and hot philosophical topics
"are we A.C. or D.C.?"
"wouldn't want to go anywhere I couldn't fornicate"
and "violet angels in the sky"

a castle of crags loomed far above our heads
and a moat loomed below our gaze
and nature girl gets a cell-phone call from nyc
we thumbed an updraft down
took us all the way to destination's shore

did some skinny dipping
though some weren't so skinny
and the chilly waters
zapped some circuits
that the A.C. hadn't yet reached

ariel was swimming laps
and the dog was lapping too
at whatever food he could find
and the ants were thankful
he didn't find it all

now some folks believe in something
and others believe in everything
and some believe in nothing
and others, nothing is real
I just like swimming in heart lake