We went on Sunday to the top of Mt. Lemmon in the Catalina Mountain range that borders one side of Tucson. Up at about 9,000 feet, the air is so cool and the pines scented with spring. We took the Meadow hike that wanders through fields of pine, low shrubs, ferns (most of which were newly unfurled) and wild flowers starting to bring out their blossoms for show.
There are sections up here (and I say that because you can't quite escape the vertigo of altitude) when walking close to the edge of the mountain path, and display an ocean of low hills, distant mountain ranges. There had been a terrible fire up there about eight years ago and the area is still recovering. There are stark, leafless trees burned grey by the fires, but many have now been cut and left to lie on a greening forest floor to compost and serve as home to insects and smaller creatures. Beneath the shade of the standing trees the grass is so green. I took photos of the place -- the very large and the very small details of the forest returning to itself.
In the photo above, I found a wonderful shelf mushroom, that usually grows parallel to the ground from where it attaches to the tree trunk. But in the cutting and clearing of burned trees, this lovely ear-shaped mushroom landed by itself on the ground. I could resist holding it up to my own ear, hoping to the forest, the way one hopes for the sea in the hollow of a shell. The first photo below looked like a mountain dragon -- his small eye and fierce red grin, with scaled ears.