2. Summer Lake

My last post was about the cabin I stayed in during my residency at Playa. This one is about the beautiful landscape of Summer Lake that makes the eastern border of Playa. Right out the windows of my cabin, I could see the wide, flat basin of Summer Lake with a foreground of tall grasses, a few trees, and the dry, cracking shore.

A day at Playa begins with the clouds spreading color like jam onto the lake. Maybe that’s why coffee tastes so good in the early morning.

This is the view from the deck of my cabin. It is remarkably relaxing to sit with a cup of coffee and a book or journal with this landscape as a backdrop.

To get to the paths near the lake, it’s best to walk past the large pond that has a dock and a canoe. The pond is full of fish, and you’ll see ducks, muskrats, herons, praying mantises, and other creatures near the pond.

Short prickly grasses grow along the edge of the wide dry shore.

A line of black rocks, an art installation, greets visitors as they enter the cracked summer landscape of the lake’s drying bed.

Up until the lake’s beach turns into muddy clay, it is a pocked with cracks and crevices, fissures and things that get stuck in them, like moths, seeds, feathers.

The cracks are rather deep in places. The seeds of prickly grasses sew themselves when a breeze blows them into these natural furrows. The awns of the spikelets hold them in place.

Windblown sage, or other plants, create an alien landscape on the flat mirage of the shore.

This is a late afternoon view of the Playa grounds as viewed from the lake side.

Dragonflies and grasses are abundant in August.

The clouds are as dramatic as the sky. The lake is large, but shy in summer. No one can actually walk to it in August. The mud acts like a moat, and the grasses are like brambles, they are so thick, spiky, and sturdy.

With the shore so flat, the sky becomes its own terrain. The hills in the distance support the vastness the sky describes.

I’m not sure what sort of grass this is, maybe a type of bunchgrass, but it came back home with me in every pair of socks I wore near the lake. The lines they draw between themselves create wonderful abstract artworks.

This Preying Mantis was as curious about me as I was of this creature. His head swivels and tilts, making this insect almost as cute as a puppy.

The walk near the shore is quite flat, but the hill on the other side of the road from Playa is one that can take your breath away in more ways than one. The cabin you see there is #6, the one I stayed in.

Those two trees standing together like tourists are in a lot of photos that crept into my camera. They must be best friends.

The dragonflies rest neatly at the tops of the tall strands of grass. This one has a green sheen.

Dusk brings forth a violet hue. The small dots of shorebirds speckle the shore.

The serene sunrise is something you wouldn’t want to miss very often at this place. The slowness of the climb above the line of horizon is awe-inspiring.

The tall grass grows in a wide swath before the shoreline. Paths are mown for easy walking, for exploring the environment, and to gain access to the lake shore.

Sometimes the paths will take you on a straight and narrow journey. It’s almost as though you’d end up in the sky.

This is the Playa setting under the foothills viewed from the cracked bed of the August lake shore.

A person could walk for miles on the fractures of the flat lake bed. This is mid-August. The lake will refill the cracks with water as the season changes.


Another view of the pond with the canoe and the dock. You can go to the far end of the pond, and then keep going, because the pond is bigger than it looks from here. Fish were jumping all day long in August.

Near dusk, the landscape gathers a dramatic sky.

Walking back to the cabin just after the sun dips below the western foothills sheds a slightly different hue to everything.

Sunset over the hills glows like fire. This is the sort of place that is especially inspiring in many ways.