Tuesday, August 17, 2010

California Dreaming. . .

Bound Outward, from Sausalito

the winds know the Pacific
and have pulled it within their very essence,
when they get to know the headlands here in northern California,
they react, and mist weighs down on us,
whips and speckles wet drops on us all,
the hills are sharp-sloped, the bay deep,
age-old uplift met carving glacier until the globe warmed
and now the ocean reaches fat flat fingers into the land,

great trees and luxuriant landscaped flora
surround us here on the slopes above the bay,
we’re in a comfortable house designed
for the outer to flow seamlessly into the inner,

the plants love the land, the air, and to soak in the blowing wetness,
below me white slips of sailboat joy in the wind,
the white tripods of their sails billow full or tack hard,
and I love it when they bow deep to the side with the power they ride,
views come and go at the whim of the mist,

it’s quite cool here in early August
while back East the heat tests our temper,

on the hike today along the coastal range
I need long clothes and not sunblock for my skin,
a few seals and more wet-suited surfers brave the ocean
while we enjoy the hike up
with wildflowers, birds, and mist for company,
the rock along the way is twisted, faulted, fractured,
almost as if it’s frozen in a final wrenching scream
like that Edvard Munch painting that can haunt you,
one morning wakes particularly wet outside
and the clouds stream over us as if to keep us sealed in,
to the east lighter paths open first here and then there on the water
to remind me there is a bright sun somewhere out there,
overhead blue shows itself behind cottony clouds,
grey streams just overhead as the Pacific bids us “morning. . .”

I bring my 5 1/2 year old granddaughter up to high in the house
and the actual circle of the sun floats in the clouds before us for a wondrous moment,

and then the mist forgets it,
later sunlight breaks through upon some of the water
as if the Bay itself generates the light,
while so much of the rest of this world remains leaden grey,

soon we drive up the slopes of a half mile high mountain
and meander the dewy trails on its steep slopes,
the ocean breeze loves to roll the clouds in to these sharp valleys,
great rough-barked Douglas fir
and soft-barked arrows of redwoods
reach into the fog-whirled sky,
ferns remember the great evergreen old growth
that for countless years dwarfed all other living things,
mosses and lichens drape themselves over surface after surface,
and the whole forest both enchants and elders me
with its righteous age,
it bids us remember that we should be careful in our shaping
for the Earth is our partner and not our slave.

the next day the ocean calls us back to a lighthouse
where the land follows sharp-edged rocks to a place where the light can shepherd ships to a safe passage through the shifting strait,

a great hawk flies into a conifer 25 feet from us,

and she, like the lighthouse, commands the view
and seeks to control its world,
while below seal after seal takes a break
and rests upon the rocks

while the ocean waves below.

the next day redwoods call us again
and we spend near 3 miles being dwarfed and eldered
by trees older than the country,

so large and old that all of us are as children at their feet,
we suffer as a species when we lose our ability
to even hear their words, let alone understand their meaning,

the little children with us can help us reopen ourselves
to learning how to hear and think in the most ancient of tongues.

the coast--raw, elemental reality gusts into us,

intricacies here are understated and subtle,
while the basics of ocean, rock, and wind shout at us,
intricacies of the flower, the soaring bird,
the teeming abundance, of plant and animal
just below the surface, is there,

yet what we see is raw and elemental,
though not less grand for the simplicity of its affect,
on the bayside, below the brunting headlands,
soil and plant conspire together to flower abundance and diversity,
frost never visits here to challenge and prune the possibilities,
people huddle in their houses
and, at their best, they let the Earth hug us with a bounty
that can release itself enthusiastically
and remind us of the dream of Eden.

the final hike of the trip,
a long stroll down a gentle valley,

rounded beige hills to its side,
eucalyptus and acacia trees, grasses, and flowers by the trail,

some quail quickly absent themselves into thickets along the way,

the layered, faulted rocks almost shout of enduring,
and the ocean breaks white upon their resistance,
sea-gulls drape their own white upon the rocks,

we venture between ocean and cliff,
thinking ourselves safe from the waves,
our feet get soaked as they learn different,

my granddaughter and I pick up trash washed ashore
as a way to protect the seals we saw the day before,

on the way back she hands me a treasure of a dry eucalyptus nut:
4 holes in a perfect cross,
as if to hold everything:
the cardinal directions,
the Cartesian plane,
the way up, the way down, the way to each side:
all held as one,
a beautiful symbol to hold at the endof our California dreaming,

so like the chiastolite crystal from back East
over which native people and Puritans seem to have fought.

by Henry H. Walker


Bill said...

Hank, these poems and photos from CA were a real pleasure to read and look at. Thx.

hollybee said...

love how you intersperse the writing with your breathtaking pictures. and yes, how children help us reopen ourselves.

thank you for sharing these. they are moving to me.

holly b.