Renewal Through Creativity and Music

On December 5, we hosted Celebrating You with Creative Writing and Music for our Mary Davey Legacy Society and Stegner Giving Circle. The evening was immersed in the music, inspired by creative energy, and warmed by the feeling of community. It was a special evening with “WONDERFUL PEOPLE” as Mary Davey would say.

The music was thoughtfully curated by Mary Davey Legacy Society member and trained pianist Maureen Draper. Check out the musical playlist below which includes recommendations from our guests as well. The nature-based creative writing activity was led by Stegner Giving Circle member and Stanford teacher Lynn Stegner which allowed guests to communicate their unique experiences in the natural world. Here is a quote from The Sound of Mountain Water: The Changing American West by Wallace Stegner that Lynn shared:

“I gave my heart to the mountains the minute I stood beside this river with its spray in my face and watched it thunder into foam, smooth to green glass over sunken rocks, shatter to foam again. I was fascinated by how it sped by and yet was always there; its roar shook both the earth and me.”

Each creative writing piece that was shared took us on an illuminating firsthand journey of your experiences. It was such an honor to be among you when you were so open and vulnerable. If you haven’t sent us your creative piece and feel comfortable sharing it with the rest of the group, please email it to [email protected] Thanks to all that joined us, you can watch the recording of the evening and look at some of the creative writing pieces share with us below.

Creative Writing Pieces

Sitting in my small backyard at dawn, attempting to erase the sleep from my eyes, smelling then sipping my dark roast coffee from my handmade ceramic mug, watching the smoke rise on this early cool morning.

I am treated to a pair of hummingbirds darting in and out of my newly planted trees and bushes busily seeking the precious nectar to nourish them and maybe others waiting…

Blind it seems to my presence but not me to them

Two very different colored but equally beautiful creations feverishly jutting to and fro but not rushed despite their speed

In a rhythm written only by their creator..

NOW gone as quickly as they arrived, I feel nourished… happily nourished,  like them in this natural MEAL I was so fortunate to witness at the start of my day.

Charles Schmuck

Piece One



Valley Oaks in Mader Valley by Helen Quinn

When first I walked in the oak woodlands of California I noticed only what was missing — no crisp scent of eucalyptus, no tiny orchid plants that I knew, nothing I knew. I felt out of place. All my woodland knowledge lost, gone, meaningless. Today, these same woods are my home, my place, a place I love as once I loved the Victorian bush. The scent of bay trees, or oaks in the sun, the beauty of sun and shadows in the lace-lichen-festooned branches, the spring that comes when it should be winter, the fall with its golden leaves –black oak, big leaf maple and creek dogwood. The joy I feel when I see the morning sunlight in the branches of the valley oaks in Mader Valley is not different from that inspired by the chortling magpie in the Cootamundra wattle beside the path to my school. I learned to love the bushland of my childhood. That readied me to learn and love another, wholly different and yet in so many ways the same.

Piece Two

Cold water in the early morning, the ocean, a river, a lake. A moment’s hesitation, a deep breath, and then the plunge into the shock of cold –and the joy of being awake, alive and in the water. Striking out with a surge of effort and swimming hard,  to reach a rock, or a moment of exhaustion. Leaving the water brings as much shock as entering it. Now the air, that neutral element you did not notice earlier, if it moves at all will freeze you faster than being in the water. Dry yourself as fast as you can, pull on warm clothes, hot tea to warm you inside as well as out. A day well begun!

Helen Quinn

One cool spring morning I ignore the weather reports and bring two unknowing, unexplored children on a Coyote Valley adventure

A proud entrance into fog, blanketing the valley floor, a place they know in words but not by sight.

We tumble out of the car in excitement and charge ahead.

With energy, we ascend to the top of the flush hillside with few complaints as the fiddlenecks, monkeyflowers, and poppies beckon us forward.

Wind whipped hair, peak reached, halfway there and … the rain starts as secretly hoped! Pride and exhaustion carry us down the hillside with giggles. Magpies overhead squawk out the wet complaints.

Down we charge, never-ending, but then! Destination reached. A knowing oak tree who has seen similar joyous faces before welcomes us back again. Soaked to the bone, cherished memory made.

Megan Fluke, Green Foothills Executive Director

Catching a glimpse out the window, I grab my camera and step outside. Still inspired by last night’s reading, I catch my breath in wonder: pink clouds dance above the summit of Windy Hill, a field of light. Still in the Earth’s shadow, the hilltop waits: open, expectant.



Windy Hill, Portola Valley
by Dan Quinn.

The clouds move, reform, and billow. Their colors shift from pink towards orange. Look! Sunshine touches Skyline – a sliver of daylight arrows toward the expectant hilltop. Then sunlight arrives: dawn on Windy Hill.

Silence reigns. The early questioning of the owl has long since faded; the raucous challenges from crow and raven are hushed. No breath of air stirs the treetops. We all silently bathe in the gift of light, a new day spreading from sky to clouds, from hilltop down into our quiet valley. Welcome!

Dan Quinn

The wonder of a cool breeze

I returned to the green foothills late in life after wandering around along the California coast for many years. A walk down a rocky road known as Rapley Ranch Trail eventually led me to greener pastures and a lonely ridge top with a view of the setting sun, all aglow out on the distant Pacific ocean, refreshing and renewing my tired spirit. I felt grateful for the warmth and peaceful feeling flowing through me as I reflected on the wonder of life while gazing at the glowing golden hills of Langley, Mindego, Skyline Ridge, and Windy Gap that lay to the west of the quiet little hamlet of La Honda. As the sun slowly melted into the ocean a cool breeze picked up, lifting my spirits like the soaring red tail hawks, transporting my thoughts to another place, far, far away. Suddenly I was around a campfire with my father in the magical Milestone Basin of the Sierra Nevada. We were laughing and recalling how we tracked and rustled seven skittish donkeys on a frosty morning, leading them back to camp from their perch on a sunny bench miles from camp, and packed them up before our dusty trek over Forester Pass later in the day, which became quite an adventure during a wild summer snowstorm. Not only was he a trail wise packer, but he was also a former student and friend of Wally Stegner, who must have been a great teacher, as my dear old dad also loved the sound of mountain water and had a way with words, weaving them into wonderful stories about a different time, when he was a young cowboy learning the ropes as a packer in Montana, giving me perspective on my life and relative good fortune to have had a chance as a big-eyed child to ride horseback with him on Langley Hill or to pack his beloved big-eared donkeys with him in Kings Canyon, and to hold sacred those fleeting moments, whether they be in the glorious green foothills of the Bay Area or in the majestic high Sierra.

Will Wyman, Green Foothills Development Director

Funny, how annoying I found it when, in the steamy heat somewhere along a jungle trail, or climbing a Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan, a disarmingly handsome young man repeated a line from some EST-like workshop he’d attended: “get some altitude on your attitude”.

Yet that irritating dictum worked its way into my psyche like a foxtail into socks. Always, when backpacking or hiking, I want to reach a peak, not only in hopes of a possible Galen Rowell class view, but – to gain some altitude on my attitude. And to accede to John Muir’s urging to let the mountains bring me their glad tidings. Their vastness, too, eclipses life’s disappointments, salves wounds, and inspire: upthrust, young and jagged, only to be eroded down to softer curves over eons, enduring.

Whatever is greater than I is there, too, giving me hope to carry back down the mountain, like a vial of holy water from Lourdes, into the intrusive loudness, busyness, abrasion of the spirit back in the everyday world, to hold me until I can ascend once again to gain some altitude on my attitude.

Norma Jean Bodey


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