Saturday, September 1, 2012

Perfect Day: Big Trees and Big Water

September morning. Catch up on reading? Do laundry? No.

Sometimes, you need Big Water and sometimes, you need Big Trees. As it happens, the 49th Annual Kings Mountain Art Fair is this weekend, with 158 artists and another 30 natives of Kings Mountain displaying folk art. (See All the artists donate part of their proceeds to the Kings Mountain Volunteer Fire Brigade.

Ten years ago, I went to this very art show, which spoiled forever the idea that any art show on asphalt has anything at all going for it. Shopping in a redwood forest with sun filtering through to the ground -- now that’s a spectacular art show.

I decided to leave early, drive for an hour and be among the first to park along Skyline Road and board the shuttle for transport to the show, which opened at 10. Driving along, I realized that may have been a lapse in judgment. “Early” in San Francisco and environs this time of year usually means foggy. And that’s at 200 feet above sea level.

At 2,000 feet above sea level, I couldn’t see a thing but fog-shrouded redwood trees, the kind of place where you would expect a unicorn to prance out of the forest. Or a fine moose. Or at least a deer with a troll on its back. “This looks like a scene from a fantasy book I would write,” I said to myself.

Luckily, I got the last parking spot in a small clearing where the shuttle (designed to resemble a cable car) turns around. I parked and opened the back of the car, looking for an extra jacket. “It’s 50 degrees up here,” said the woman who got the parking spot next to mine. She, too, was digging in her trunk for a fleece jacket, hat and scarf. “Yes,” I replied, “but it will warm up over time. Tomorrow they are forecasting 80 degrees for this location. I don’t do 80.” 

Then it was off to the fair, which drew a fine crowd, early as it was. The Volunteer Fire Brigade booth quickly sold out of all their sweatshirts and the fiber artists selling scarves and gloves were quite popular. Meandering around, I especially liked the big sculpted heads of Buddha, a potter’s canopic jars (“People put their cats’ remains in them,” he said), small coin purses made from antique kimonos, gouache paintings of exotic mushrooms, handmade brooms and stunning photographs of redwood forests.

I also took time to appreciate the one I was in, keeping a sharp eye out for any unicorns among the trees. Even as the temperature rose, the same fog that nourishes the coastal redwoods dripped on my head, my tote bag and my glasses (both sides). At lunch, the fog dripped on my chicken/apple sausage and into my coleslaw. A couple from France sitting at the same table laughed and said the natural moisture made their chili cool off more quickly.

Two young girls and a boy pulled a wagon full of giant cookies along the path, handing out free samples. “Get cookies the size of my head,” the boy called out. And they were. I passed on the cookies, but I did spend some money.

I bought exactly what I always buy at art fairs: A mug with a ginkgo leaf on it and a package of note cards, from the artist who paints the mushrooms. Years ago, I always used to buy earrings, and occasionally outstanding handcrafted rings. Just the sight of a really unusual ring used to make my fingers twitch! But I have plenty of rings. And I finally have learned that I do not need more earrings. Ever. Like everybody else, 95 percent of the time I wear one of my three favorite pairs -- and that’s just fine.

Back at the parking lot, I told the GPS to direct me home, but when I came to the turnoff where I had to choose San Francisco or Half Moon Bay, I chose to dash off to the sea, stopping only for fresh strawberries at a roadside stand. I poked around Half Moon Bay for about an hour and then headed north on Highway 1. The Pacific Ocean looked like a vast gray blanket, all bunched up in spots.

Big Water in the afternoon was a perfect companion to Big Trees in the morning. Welcome, September.

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