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BEING THE ADVENTURES OF A SEMI-NOMADIC POLYMATH ARTIST, MUSICIAN & WRITER
WANDERING THESE UNITED STATES IN AN ONGOING QUEST FOR PERFECT MOMENTS

 

Essays, poems, and collected ruminations are being collated and compiled in a parallel journal at Dragoncave. I never know what I'm going to write about next, so if you desire to keep up with what I'm writing and thinking about, you really need to read both journals. Some overlap may occur without prior warning; sorry about that.

Remember that everything happens in the present moment, right here, right now, and that nothing lingers.

This is only a record of changes.

 


 





915. 15 September 2008, Redwoods State and National Parks, CA

I went up to a scenic overlook and caught video of the fog pouring slowly over the mountains at the shore. Up here it’s hot and sunny. In and out of sunlight, as you go up or down.



I am catching so much great imagery that it’s starting to overwhelm me and make me go visually numb. You can only stand so much beauty. Oh look, another four minutes of video of simply incredibly beautiful scenery! Oh look! Ho hum.

An abundance and embarrassment of riches.

I don’t want to go numb. What it must be like to live here all the time, surrounded by such beauty. Do the locals go numb? Do they start to ignore it, on their hurried way to wherever they need to go? Do they often stop to look and appreciate?





Later:

I just walked back in to the Lady Bird Johnson Grove. I knew I had arrived in the grove when I saw it. This is a sacred grove, a sacred place. The peace and welcoming there are large and powerful; the stillness is friendly. Very beautiful.







Later:

Remember the photo I used for the cover of our DVD “A Day In the Natural World”? The streamsers of llight coming down through the redwood trees, as sunlight backlit the mist moving through their boughs. I just captured video of the same phenomenon, in almost the same location, in the last redwood-covered hills just south of Crescent City. I’m about a mile south of the previous location, still on Hwy. 1. Amazing!





Later, night, Humbug Mountain State Park, Port Orford, OR

I arrived here just at sunset, schlepped the camera gear out to the beach barely in time to capture purple light over the bank of sea fog just offshore, with slow gray waves in the foreground.

I captured great footage and stills of the mist and rays of light in the Redwoods. At Jedediah Smith State Park it was sunny, and I got some good stills, not much video; ditto while driving about ten miles up the Smith River Canyon.

Then when I got back to shore later it was rainy and misty and gray light, chill. I didn’t like much of what I photographed from the cliffs overlooking the arched rocked out in the ocean. And it was foggy and chill all the way up the Oregon coast. I shot video anyway, but I was disappointed in the lighting.

Then the weather got even wore, and so did my mood.

But soon after that I arrived at Humbug, where I have camped before, and the beach at the foot of the mountain was beautiful in the mist, bookending the Chinese-painting photographs made early this morning.

Now the mist is thin and cold. A full moon is floatinf up the mountain’s spine. I’m camped by the creek, and have had a merry campfire. The moon is full and an owl is hooting from the trees on the north side of the river valley. A perfect atmosphere and setting for deep sleep. Traffic on the highway is light, and doesn’t bother me. It’s cold outside but my tent is warm. And the moon is stunningly beautiful; I haven’t seen it in several days, till this third night of camping on the road.

Tomorrow I’ll continue up the coast. Maybe the mists will clear enough to get some good images of the ocean and hills as I go. Tomorrow night I’ll arrive in Portland, and will be there for a few days.








914. 15 September 2008, Patrick’s Point State Park, CA

Morning. I slept deeply but having to get up to go pee. Toxic dumping? Maybe. I feel a little dehydrated this morning, but emotionally good.

Cold and damp and misty. Freezing cold in the tent till I huddled under the blankets again.

Yesterday when I was inland it was hot and sunny, then foggy and cool again once I hit Eureka.

My last sequence of dreams was a little random; but in my dream I chatted about art with Chihuly; I was flying up and down stairs; ending with a sense that the only people who could see me anymore were those who were constantly attacking, while no one else noticed or could see me, or maybe cared to. A little but paranoid and self-centered for a dream, I’m sure, but it’s my dream.

I’m feeling ready to get up and go, but I also want to linger in the warmth of the tent for awhile, before breaking camp.

in the deep night
complete silence
except the sound of the sea
surf white noise
and barking of sea lions

mist heavy and visibily weaving
fog streaming between trees
fading to moon-white in the distance
layers of trees paling
fade to white



moss, dripping mist,
crows calling from all sides,
teasing the dogs





Later:

On a walk out to the overlook, tunnel of trees.
Pine-branch bruches
In front of washed-out trees
Southern Sung style painting

everywhere I turn
the old Sung painting masters
preceded me,
making this landscape

I feel a silent murmur here
only a few other silent folk wandering
in the mist, a quiet, a peace, a tranquil morning
reverent, silent, grace-filled



green-gold on black
racing across the parking lot:
charging banana slug








913. 14 September 2008, Patrick’s Point State Park, CA

I’m camped here tonight in the cold mist. I have a campfire going, and ate a big dinner after a long day. It’s mostly quiet, except a teenage boy over there with poor volume control (he looks maybe twelve, but has the self-mastery of a three-year-old at best).

I spent the morning making video and stills, in and around Russian Gulch. There is a sinkhole open the sea, beautiful windswept pines at the cliff edge, an arch, and more. I spent quite a long time making images this morning.

Then I went to visit my artist friends. We chatted for a long time; talking art with Pat is always a pleasure. Then we went over to the Mendocino Botanical Gardens, where the dahlia garden was stunning, in full bloom with a thousand varieties of flower. I made several good photos there. Nearby there is a small fairy garden under eucalyptus trees, designed for and made by children. There use the natural materials to build gates and homes for the local spirits. I met the head gardener over by the herb garden, which is fenced in against deer, and full of fuolsome smells from the various herbs.

Later I started driving north, stopping only a few times to make photos. I anticipated a bad drive through that stretch of Hwy’s 1 and 101 going north out of Mendocino, that winds up and down nest to a forested precipice through the coastal range. And it was stressful, but not as bad as I had tought it would be based on prvious experience. I made it through in good time, too. After that, the rest of the drive was very easy.



I am here tonight at Patrick’s Point, then I am going to wend my way up the Oregon coastline, making images as I go. I also plan to spend a significant amount of time in the Redwoods tomorrow. Patrick’s Point State Park is the southern end of the string of redwoods state and national parks that stretch up the coast from here to the Oregon border. Tomorrow I’ll try to get as far as Humbug Mountain State Park in Oregon, and camp there for the night. The weather doesn’t look promising.

I thank the luck for two days in a row of getting one of the last campsites in a state park. I followed my intuition again today and made it here, and once again I got one of the last three sites to choose from. I found my spot, site 79, set up camp and registered, while other last-minute arrivals cruised the campground roads.

Now it’s silent but for the nearby surf and my crackling fire.








912. 14 September 2008, Russian Gulch State Park, Mendocino, CA

A little insomnia in the middle of the night, thinking about things. Hard to get back to sleep. I woke up very early, then dozed a few times. A bluejay right overhead startled me when he screeched.

My dreams seemed interesting, but did not linger long enough to record.



I want to get up, break camp, take a shower, and get some video at the shore. There’s a waterfall here, too, I’m told. And I hope to visit an artist friend in Ft. Bragg before driving on. Hope to get to Patrick’s Point State Park, up the coast, by tonight, to camp. Or near there.





My hips were hurting yesterday. I stretched extra in the tent this morning. That’s usually second chakra: money and/or sexual issues.

Practice is not giving a goddamn. Watch me.








911. 14 September 2008, Russian Gulch State Park, Mendocino, CA

Very early morning:

droning of bees
in the wild blackberry tangle
at dawn, as I piss



bluejays peck one
last night’s dinner cookfire—
sorry, friends, all gone

raven croaking
in tall cedars at first light:
morning alarm








910. 13 September 2008, Russian Gulch State Park, Mendocino, CA

In contrast to Great Basin in Nevada, where I camped at 10,000 feet, this campsite is barely above sea level.

Dinner, cooked for myself on the Coleman stove: grilled shrimp with green onions and basmati rice stir-fried together in a hash, with asparagus on the side, and a glass of pinot grigio. Plus lemonade to drink, and chocolate for dessert. I’ve treated myself to a gourmet meal, made for myself alone, as a reward and a blessing.

It’s been a full week in San Francisco. I’m ready to move on. I’m going to take three leisurely days going up the coast to Portland. Partly to take my time, partly to photograph a lot of imagery, partly because who knows when I’ll be back. I’m blowing my budget on this trip. Travel is expensive at these high gas prices, but more importantly, I shopped and ate out a lot in SF. I also shipped home nine boxes to myself. Finally moving out of the house in Pinole for good. I could have carried much of it in the truck, but the truck already feels overfull. Objectively, it’s not. It’s that my “moving day” and “cleaning out the parental house” buttons are being pushed, and it’s tough to deal with the emotions, keep my head on straight, and still have to make all those decisions and actions involved.

The light is failing now, as I finish dinner. Sitting here writing at the picnic table at the foot of a grassy hill, in sight of the showers and bathroom. People walk by a lot. This campground is full: me and the athletic types, all walking around in colorful spandex and windbreakers. I’ve never seen so many sea kayakers in one place before. When I pulled into the park here, the man at the entrance post said that the campground was officially full, but they had set aside three sites that they were now releasing, and I got one of those very last sites. The sign at the entrance had said “Full” but I trusted my intuition, and pulled up and asked anyway, and got in.

Now whole families are walking by my site towards the small beach inlet enclosed by cliffs, with the highway bridge passing almost directly overhead. Perhaps I’ll wander down myself, after cleaning up my dinner plates. No hurry.





Later:

Apparently I’ve crashed an annual gathering of sea kayakers; someone said this is the fifteenth or so annual event here. I just picked the right weekend.

I went down to beach to sit in silence for awhile, to look at the water in the dark. On the way I passed by a huge gathering of folks, of all ages, starting to clump together for an obvious purpoe.



Soon, while I was sitting, the gathering of people came down, processing ritually: drums playing, singing, several people carrying an offering tribute to the goddess of the sea: an effigy of a kayaker in his kayak, to be burned on the beach. So I’m in a miniature situation like Burning Man after all, with drumming and shouting (not very good albeit enthusiastic drumming), fire spinners, sparklers, chemical glow-lights, a hula hoop with battery lights, and so forth. I took some stealh time-exposire photos, and also grabbed a stealth recording.



Now, back at my site, it’s completely silent: they’re all still down at the beach. I doubt many will party too late, as this is an all-ages family event, and there are a lot of family groups here. I like the ritual burning for the sea goddess: that’s a good thing to initiate your children into at those young ages. I’m feeling sea-mist on my hands as I write. I’ve made a cup of hot sweet tea and restarted my campfire. I’m sitting by candlelight in the chill, writing out my thoughts.



I was stressed about packing and leaving Pinole: having flashbacks from moving and sorting. I got pretty emotional sometimes. But I eventually got loaded up and headed up Hwy. 101. It was sunny most of the drive till I got near the coast, when it clouded up. I stopped to make photographs of a beat up old abandoned homestead, and of fallen redwood trees in Navarro State park; places I’ve stopped before.


When I got to the caost, it was misty and cool. My intuition said to come to Russian Gulch, even though I passed other campgrounds where I saw sites available. I pulled in and read the “campground full” sign. But I pulled up to the ranger at the entrance kiosk and said “I see your campground is full.” He said, “Actually I’m just about to open up three no-hookup sites; it you’d like to drive in and look at them, then come back and register, you can have one of them.” I blessed my intuition, and am now at site 19.
Navarro: I need to sample their wine sometime. Mendocino is another newer wine district, and my drive-by intuition said “try me” as I passed their tasting room. No time to stop there today, but someday.


I can hear shouting distantly from the beach. People have started to walk by me going to their beds, some still wearing chem. glow-lights: Purple and green and red alien lights soaring past.


A woman just came by and was friendly. She even invited me back next year! We agreed that this was a Burning Man-like experience.


This is perfect unfolding, effortlessly unfolding the way it’s meant to be. Trusting my intuition, listening to the guidance, trusting that all shall be well. This morning I asked for a blessing, and also for the luck to be with me: and it has been.

I’m feeding dry sticks to the fire.

It’s cold and misty.

I have a tarp prepared to throw over the tend should it begin to rain for real, rather than just this light mist.

Meanwhile the fire is merry.



Later, nightwatch:

A light rain falling through the trees across the road, but not on the tent: condensation from the heavy mist.

It never gets fully dark: there’s a bright moon approaching behind the clouds. A moon waxing towards full.

It’s been mostly silent, except for the occasional person walking by on the road, going to the bathhouse. Very restful, actually. No one right next to me, or really nearby, and those mearest me are in RVs, so are silent are as it goes outdoors.



heavy sea-mist
makes light rain under the trees,
while my camp stays dry








909. 11 September 2008, Pinole, CA

I’ve had a very good day. It’s late now, and I’m tired. But it’s a good tired, after a day of good excursions and good food.

J. and I went into SF this morning, and took the 38 bus up Geary to Japantown. I needed to buy some new Japanese brush pens, for art and calligraphy. We found the stationery store there, and I’m not exaggerating when I say: it’s heaven on earth. An entire aisle of brush pens, including cartridge sumi-e pens, colored brush pens, papers, ink stones, and all the other joys of stationery and origami and fine writing. I limited myself to just a few pens, but I also bought ink refill cartridges for the pens I already have. I could have spent hours in there. And at the back of the store is an entire wall full of printed papers: origami papers, wrapping papers, designer papers, rolls of beautiful calligraphed art papers, you name it. Truly heaven. This is a place I will be coming back to, on future visits to SF.



We ate at a restaurant in the Japantown Mall, a little sit down place, where I had really excellent oyako-don and J. had curry. The food was terrific, and I’ll happily eat there again. It was right across the hall from a store that specializes in Japanese iron tea kettles, which I love. I didn’t dare go in the store, for fear of losing track of time, or of spending money I don’t have on fine objects I covet. Fortunately, we had a time limit. We had to go on, to go to the museum show we had come into town to see today.



We hopped the 22 bus down Fillmore to Church, and transferred to the N MUNI tram, which took us to Golden Gate Park. We had tickets for the Dale Chihuly retrospective glass show at the DeYoung Museum in the Park. While we walked, it got overcast and turned cold again.



The Chihuly show was huge, and amazing, occupying several large rooms in the museum, each room featuring one of his several glass series. I saw bodies of work I hadn’t really seen before, such as the bowls inspired by Navajo and Zuni woven baskets and Pendleton blankets.



They allowed photographs to be taken throughout the show, as long as there was no flash. I took lots of photos. Chihuly’s glasswork is colorful, dynamic, energetic, and tremendously influential. I was overwhelmed with visual pleasure. For example, there was a room of black glass edged with neon colors, very minimalist, very abstract. These led to some incredibly abstract shapes, very beautiful without being formal, which I got down on my knees to make photos of in the dim room light.



What really got my attention were the two walls, in two separate rooms, covered with Chihuly’s drawings and paintings. These are large drawings on paper, often with charcoal and acrylic and markers, mixed media, sometimes crayon, sometimes more. Layered, complex, energetic. These paintings are the sources and sketches for many of the glass pieces. He works out forms on paper, then directs with his glass-blowing team to create the 3D glass forms. These drawings were some of my favorite pieces of the show.



This show was incredibly inspirational. In the museum restaurant afterwards, where we sat to have a snack, I got out my new brush pens and drew several forms on paper that were inspired by Chihuly’s forms. I appreciate the force in his drawings, their messiness, their intuitive sense of shape. They’re Dionysian pieces, not Apollonian. Chihiuly says somewhere that he is an intuitive artist, not a pre-planned one. That’s a real paradox, because glassblowing is an intensely technical art, and one can see in many of his forms the details and shapes and color blends that prove how technically brilliant he and his team really are. I like the art’s exuberance. It’s always bursting out in all directions, never confining itself nicely to within set borders. The drawings seem to be bursting out of the page, barely contained by the paper’s edge.



Another favorite piece, which took up any entire room, was the Persian Ceiling, which is lots of seaforms suspended above the room behind a glass ceiling, with other little Venetian pieces mixed in. You walk underneath, and the light filters down, changing with every step and angle. The lighting in the room, the way the colors splash on the walls and floor, is part of the overall experience. This is really amazing stuff. I appreciate it as a photographer because it’s all about the play of light and form. I would love to make something similar one day.



The dominant themes are water and light. It would have been interesting if the lights above the glass moved, to create ripples and changes underneath the colored canopy. Possibly some viewers would be disturbed by this; it might feel vertiginous to them. But I would love to see it, it would be like being in a tidepool or shallow coral reef, with the sunlight and colors above you.



In one corner of a quiet dark room there were these black glass sea-form abstract pieces. They captivated me, and I worked hard to photograph them. These are all hand-held time exposures using available light, made kneeling before the glass. I love the lines of the highlighted colored edges, which blend into the dark-as-space black, which shimmers with points of reflection.









After the Chihuly show, we went next door to the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. I was in a strange mood by then, so pleased to have seen the glass and also rather overstimulated, rather overwhelmed. I found myself going directly to the Zen garden section, in its simplicity and peacefulness, where I could catch my breath and slow down and just be still. We sat there for a long while, and I made photos I’ve never made or seen before.



The photos I made today at the Garden are unlike most of what I’ve done before; lots more concentration on the details, and the corners of things, shapes seen at the edges, or cut off by the sides of the frame, or hiding behind a tree or a stand of bamboo. Chihuly of course is also very influenced by Japanese art, in form and style, and some of his pieces are direct influences. His work contains wabi-sabi, which is also present in the Garden.



No doubt my eye was affected in the Zen garden by what I had just experienced in the glass retrospective: from overwhelming color and form, to gentle, even austere, simplicity.



Afterwards, we walked back out to the streets, and ate at Masala, a very good Indian restaurant on 9th Ave. next to the Park. Soul food for the long-lost Indian boy, who needed warm chicken tikka masala to warm his insides on an increasingly cold and dreary day.

When we got back to El Cerrito BART station, the sky was purple and pink behind Mt. Tamalpais, with the night deepening to blue above, framed by the last of the clouds. I stopped to snap a few photos before getting in the car to drive home and rest before bedtime.

This has been a very good day. We saw a lot of beauty. The glass show was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. It truly was exciting and inspirational. I expect to find myself doing more forms on paper, inspired by everything I saw there today. Organic curves and lines, inspired by natural forms. I edited through some of my photos just now, and also the jellyfish photos from a week ago at the Monterey Aquarium. The visual comparison, the similarities between Chichuly’s seaforms and the jellies, is obvious, and is acknowledged by the artist. Yet the colors and shapes are amazing, and you can see the inspiration. This is really profound and beautiful stuff. I will be feeding off today’s images and memories for a long time, I imagine.

There is also music in my head, from all this, and from the Indian restaurant. A raga that moves between major, and the minor, to the root. E Eb Bb C. Chords Cmaj Fmin7 Gmin Cmaj. An unusually complex, turning line of flute that circles the root before settling on it. Maybe I’ll have time tomorrow to sketch this on the laptop. I’m a little too tired right now to want to set it up, and I’m also wanting to focus on the images from today’s glass show, which are moving slowly behind my eyes, pulsing as the jellies did at the aquarium, and slowly filtering into my dreams. What dreams may come, we shall see.






908. 8 September 2008, Pinole, CA

Cold and cloudy all day. You always forget how bloody cold it can be here, because it’s always something you don’t expect. But on these cold, damp days, the cold gets into your bones and you ache when you sit and when you move. I’m also sore from walking all over SF yesterday, and walking the labyrinth, and down Nob Hill to Market St. I’m still not back to full strength, assuming I ever will be, and this was a bit of a stretch.

I was on my own all day, though, which I liked. I did some shopping that I wanted to do, and met friends for lunch at an Indian restaurant. I really enjoyed the conversation and laughed out loud a lot. It was very refreshing. Then I went with one of my friends to a huge art supply store, and bought some more good colored pencils, some watercolor pencils, and some brush markers. We had a lot of fun, and both of us were joking that it was a dangerous place for artists: far too easy to blow all our money there. This is the sort of big art supply store you can get lost in for hours, and we played with the brushes, looked over all the pencils and pastels, the papers, and talked over many ideas from illustration to handmade books. I had a great time, and now I have some more good materials to play with.

Then I came back home, sore and tired by day’s end, and took a long nap. Since then, I’ve been sitting and writing and listening to music. I’ve mostly snacked for my evening meal, rather than making something formal, although I might still grill up a slab o’ meat of some kind. Generic meat. It’s good for you. Protein synthesis and all that. But I’ve taken the rest of the day off, a down day, a day of rest and recreation. Tomorrow I have to go through materials to ship home to myself from here, or pack into the truck, or abandon finally. Things from when I used to live here, long left over from the past. But at least some of it is worth shipping home, such as some more of the dreamstones that I have not seen for years, at this point. I’ll do that by morning’s light, after taking the rest of the night off.

I continue to reawaken my deep interest in early music, centered still around John Dowland. Yesterday I found another new experiment in early music that reminds me of what The Dowland Project is doing: countertenor and saxophone quartet versions of some familiar classic Elizabethan music, including Dowland and Byrd. I also found David Munrow’s music for Henry VIII and His Six Wives, the BBC drama from the 1970s; it’s still a great recording, mixing modern and ancient with panache. Munrow was an incredible genius, whose impact on the contemporary early music scene continues to ripple outwards. It’s good to see these masterful recordings being available on CD now, after long searching for them to no avail.

Of course, the other music I’m into right now, especially when driving, is Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and the Traveling Wilburys. Go figure. Great stuff, old and new.








907. 8 September 2008, Pinole, CA

Another meltdown day. I am weepy, tired, now, late at night, after having just returned from the City, where I spent all day and evening. I walked a lot, and my feet and legs are sore, but I feel good except for the pain. I feel capable.



I went up to Grace Cathedral, at the end of the day, after being with friends and shopping most of the afternoon. It was a snap decision. I got there when there were few people there, and the place was quiet. I sat for awhile in the AIDS memorial chapel, just thinking about those friends and family who have moved on. I was at peace. A man came in, sat near me, closed his eyes, and prayed silently. It was very companionable. I went out to look over the labyrinth. The last time I was here, the indoor labyrinth was still a woven fabric carpet on the floor of the cathedral, by the baptistery. But since then, they have finished inlaying the labyrinth in polished stone, in the floor. It’s extremely beautiful. I went up to take some photos, and before I realized it, I was walking the labyrinth, which I hadn’t planned to do. As usual, it just felt right. I moved at a decent walking pace, this time, instead of my usual slow meditative pace, and that felt good, too. This walk was for releasing and shedding things, letting go of what no longer serves me, and releasing myself from old debts and obligations that no longer serve anyone. I reached the center and prayed to the four directions. What I prayed for was help. Just help. Nothing specific. But I’d already broken down in tears today, and have felt raw and emotional ever since. So I prayed for support, and guidance, and help; I think for other things, but nothing I could verbalize. Just help. When I was walking back out through the turns and circles, I suddenly felt lighter. At one point I laid my hand in the air over the center circle as I walked past it again, which felt companionable. Had I been alone in the turns, and in the vast space, I might have skipped my way out through the circle. It felt good. A little later, I was moved to sit by the outdoor labyrinth and draw, with a single brushstroke, the spiral image that had come into my mind soon after I had finished my labyrinth walk. It’s a striking image: a double spiral, hooked by a long line; almost like the Lorenz attractor, because it feels like it’s two spirals in two different orientations in multi-dimensional space.

I am tired after the emotional load of the day. I am tired too from walking, and walking the labyrinth. But as so often has happened before, a visit to Grace Cathedral is healing for me, and reinvigorating. I feel charged, and my direction clarified, after spending time there, meditating, being at peace.



After walking the labyrinth, I also went over to the side baptistry where the icon of John Donne is. I lit several candles each under the icons of Donne, St. Mary Magdalene, and Martin Luther King. This is another of my favorite places in the cathedral, and I always like to visit it. This time, I felt almost joyous as I lit those candles under the icons. Much lighter, as though something really has been lifted away from. Perhaps. We’ll see. After all, it’s been a day of clearing and releasing.








906. 7 September 2008, Pinole, CA

Awoken out of a deep sleep by fear and noise, and unable to get back to sleep afterwards. At some point anxieties and worries become silly, but it’s hard to get past them nonetheless. I need a lot of reassuring, still, because I’m uncertain about a lot of things, and I still don’t trust that all is well when for so long it simply hasn’t been. It can be come a habit, even when it’s nothing you would choose. There are temptations, while I’m here in the SF Bay Area, but some of them frankly are too much work to follow through on; so they’ll be passed by. It’s a matter of free time and resources. I want to devote my time to positive experiences, not ones that drain me or weaken me or seem good at first but drag me down simply because they’re exhausting. I still don’t have a full complement of physical resources; I still tire easily, and when I run out of energy I’m done, flat, period, that’s it; I don’t have the stamina I used to, and I don’t know if or when I’ll get it back. I hate to contemplate the possibility, and this reduced capacity, irritating as it often is, may be permanent; or at least so long-enduring that I can’t see the end of the tunnel, if there is one. It’s all too far off, and I’m still coping with the daily aspects of recovery. How can I think months or years down the road, still? Such distances are unimaginable. One thing still exhausting to me, that makes we want to flee, is the attempts by people, even friends, to impose their systems onto me, whether or not they really are relevant, or really work. I find myself saying nothing a lot of the time, and just quietly rearranging the system to better suit my needs, to make things easier and more logical for me; this is no criticism of the systems of others, and yet there are a lot of habits that have accrued around systems that are not my habits, and make no sense in my universe. It’s not a matter of saying who’s right and who’s wrong, or even of who thinks they have know more than they do, but it is a matter of adapting and editing systems so that at the very least they do not wear me down further, do not sap my strength unnecessarily, and do not create more drama than they solve. I guess it’s really about boundaries and respect. You won’t hear me openly criticize the systems that appear to work for others (although one might often question what systems really do work for all involved, and which are just habitual for no good reason), at the same time you won’t hear me just being silent about what actively does not work for me. I am still learning that conserving my own energy often means not doing things for other people when there’s no benefit in the doing, even for them. There are billions of humans on this planet, and when it comes to ordinary problem-solving most of us are interchangeable. People make assumptions about what other people will for them out of habit, inertia, and expectations, when really they need to keep clear that requests are requests, and not required to be answered with a yes. I can no longer afford to drop everything on my own agenda to meet the needs of others; I stopped being able to afford that when my parents died and I began this process of physical, spiritual, and emotional recovery. The truth is, I’m just not as available for everyone else as once I was. Some seem to understand this, while others do not. I do want to stay engaged, and help people out where I can; but I am not able, and should not be asked, to go beyond my own limits; especially right now. This road trip there has been a pattern of visiting friends only to find myself doing favors for them, helping them out, dealing with their situations and their dramas to an extent larger than my own. Part of me keeps wondering, not necessarily with any angst, so, when do I get to be selfish, too, and take care of my own needs first? When do I get to play at being self-centered and doing what I want to do, instead of constantly being asked to do for others what they can’t or don’t want to do themselves? When do I get to put my own needs first? The truth is, this is practice in doing just that. I choose to be available, to be able to do the right thing, to be able to help others out if and when I can; and I choose to set reasonable boundaries and limits to what help I am able to give because I, literally, no longer have the strength to keep being pulled off my own center to take care of others. It’s interesting to me how often people protest my enforcement of my own boundaries, when it doesn’t serve them; I guess it takes a vampire to know a vampire. It’s amusing although it’s not always funny. Expectations are the root of most misunderstandings, it seems to me, and having no expectations seems almost impossible for most people to grasp. I’ve given up most of my expectations about the rest of my life, if not my desires and demands on myself (there are capabilities I want to recover, and am still in recovery about), and can manage to see the future only dimly, and only in the near term. The far distance seems impossible to envision, much less manage. I’m told this is normal, for where I am in my recovery process; everyone says it will improve eventually, but where it runs afoul of my impatience (which is a form of expectation, of course) is that no one can tell me exactly when it might improve. I’m willing to take my time, and wait, but I have difficulty dealing with the day to day aspects of survival when there is no apparent purpose to them; some days I still don’t care if I live or die. This isn’t surrounded by fear or anger or angst anymore, though, it’s just a fact: some days you just don’t have the energy to care, to put on a mask of affability, to pretend that “all will be well again” when no part of you can see that it will, or might. It’s mostly energy conservation: no pretending to what you don’t actually feel; no wasting of precious resources on fooling oneself, or others, into believing some mask of niceties that don’t matter. It’s about energy conservation. The truth is, there are people who I love who I would still like to visit with, on the rest of this journey, but if it becomes too hard for me to do, too many obstacles in the way, too draining of my own resources to make it happen, then I will just move on. No fuss, no drama, and I can’t be bothered. If it becomes too hard to make happen, it just won’t happen, pure and simple, period. I have plenty of other things to do, and places to see, on this road trip, and I am actually more than content to spend the rest of the trip alone, out in nature, with no one else around. I would be more than content to just disappear on down the road, and leave nothing in my wake.






905. 5 September 2008, Half Moon Bay, CA

Eating at the Main St. Grill. Late morning brunch. Decent food here, but not as spectacular as at the Café Brazil in Santa Cruz. Similar meal, a breakfast scramble, good but not over that edge into amazing.

I find myself reluctant to arrive in the City today—in San Francisco, in Pinole. I saw several hawks in the wind this morning, the usual messengers saying to pay attention to my intuitions. I’m not having an intuition to avoid, as I did at the gates of Burning Man, but I am hearing something say: go slow, don’t hurry. So I’m dawdling here in Half Moon Bay. I’ll dawdle over lunch, then I’ll meander downtown and dawdle in a bookstore or other shop.

The truth is, I’m very tired today. I could sleep all day. I would rather not deal with any more human drama, frankly. Part of my reluctance is about being In The City, rather than about being away from people. I find myself judgmental and impatient with a lot of drivers today. I find myself not wanting to have to gear up and expend that extra energy one needs to expend when dealing with Big City Driving, and too many people around. Raising shields can be a pain, after so much time alone in the desert, and by the ocean. I could stay here, frankly. Even Half Moon Bay feels like a big town to me, at this moment.

There has already been a lot of human drama on this journey. People are way too self-absorbed, way too egotistical, way too focused on their own dramas—which seem to small to me right now—to the exclusion of others, way too unaware of everything and everyone else around them.

The lesson: I like being alone in nature much more than being around people, right now. (With some important exceptions.) My favorite parts of this trip have been when I’ve been on my own, out in the middle of nowhere, with only a few other humans around.



messenger hawk saying
just get ready for those days
with too many humans
around you:
gear up, belt up, get ready
for the onslaught

take your time
ease into it
don’t push, don’t rush, don’t hurry



My emotions are lurking, and I can flash into extremes like a sudden weather shift. But I don’t feel unclean, or near the edge. I feel sunny enough, breezy enough; like the outer weather in this little coastal town. A little bit Mediterranean, a little bit funky Callifornian, a little bit small town resort, a little bit homey, in a good way.



Later, Pinole, night:

The problem with being the smartest person in the room is not that you are, but that there often someone who will try to knock you down a peg or two, just to prove to themselves that they’re smarter than you. It’s a bit of insecurity manifesting as competition. The wise tactic is to let them. Your self-esteem isn’t dependent on their good opinion of you, even though their own self-esteem seems to be entirely driven by externals.

children’s voices out
in the hot night darkness:
weekend play games







904. 5 September 2008, Butano State Park, near Pescadero, CA

My dreams were intense, vivid, but not very profound, not visionary; that all happened last night. My dreams were mostly full of drama and conflict.

But the campground was as dark and amazingly silent as one could ever hope for, and I feel relaxed and refreshed.

In this redwood canyon, dawn comes late and sunset early. Light streaks are filtering through the tall trees, hitting the tent, but I have no sense of time, and I’m going to sleep awhile longer. It still feels early.

Waking in the middle of the night, it was totally silent, totally dark, except for stars peering down between the gaps in the needles of the tree crowns. I love sleeping here.








903. 4 September 2008, Butano State Park, near Pescadero, CA

Another gourmet camping dinner: Kashmiri vegetable biryani with bacon and raisins. Essentially a hash, or scramble of all the ingredients.

After setting up camp, I was hot and sweaty, and had taken my shirt off, and was enjoying the cool breeze on bare skin. Hot and cool at the same time.

The campfire is set, I’ve made and eaten dinner, and will clean up before going back out to Pescadero State Park for awhile. I spent most of the afternoon at Pescadero today, where the rock beach meets the incoming tide. I also explored the grocery store and deli on the main street of Pescadero town, just off the highway going up into the coastal hills. I bought firewood and ice.



I’ve ignored the phone most of the day, only making one or two calls when down at the rocky beach. It’s been good to be in my own head, and ignoring the rest of the world.

There’s been some human drama today, which I could have done without. That’s why I ignored the phone most of the day. I just needed to be by myself, with no one else’s drama distracting me, pulling me out of myself. I did call back later, when I was still down by the ocean, but even then it was a chore, which I somewhat resented.

I made some HD video of the arch at Pescadero, of waves, of seals bobbing in the water, of seabirds covering the offshore rocks.



I climbed down and found some dreamstones. I made land art sculpture when down there, an arrangement of rocks, “Orientation: Direction Finder.” I made some photos and video of it with the ocean surf moving just beyond it. Flat rocks stood on their sides, perpendicular to dreamstones propped up on edge so that you can look through them towards the ocean. I only took a couple of the stones away with me this time, and left the rest. I still think about making a stone garden back home, of dreamstones and rocks, and maybe a water feature. Maybe a small indoor water fountain. It would help humidify the main rooms, come winter.





Later, night:

gold waves mist and surge
through Pescadero arch—
sunset, low tide

naked in evening warmth,
I watch the firelight dim
to sungold embers

It’s dark and private enough here at campsite 9, even though I can hear other campers a ways off, that I am naked as I sit and write at the picnic table near the campfire. Shirt on to walk up to the bathroom, shirt off back in camp.

The sickle moon is aglow through the redwoods, soon to set, the last light in the sky to fade. Then, the blessed dark and silence. The last time I camped here was one of the most restful nights in memory. It was utterly dark and silent under the tall redwoods, and I slept deeply and only woke when the sun had been up for awhile. I don’t expect that to happen again—things never exactly repeat—but I do hope to sleep well, and sleep deeply, as late as the darkness lasts.



Something very primitive about this night, this warm night, in which I am naked by the fire, under the trees, under the moon. Something very powerful and visceral, and as ancient as life itself. An ancient memory of the arousing life-force.

stand with back to bark
of redwood tree, naked,
campfire blazing up
to illuminate a wide ring of trees,
across the fire from here
the sickle moon a white beacon
through thick tree canvas,
setting slowly over the coastal hills,
an hour after sunset;
bright star pinpoints overhead
blink as the uppermost branches
sway in the night breeze;
your back cold against bark,
your flanks glisten with seawater
and sweat in the light wind,
naked breast and belly
warm and orange-lit
by campfire light;

something is being born here,
and ancient, unnamed memory
as old and scarlet as oceanic blood,
your naked flesh feels
vulnerable, atavistic prey fear memory,
while something even deeper,
the power under life, that bears
life up, exults, celebrates, opens
in heart and hands,
blood luck running out your skin
as ancient life, ancient self,
older than time, than anything made,
comes forth, rises up to be born.

sparks shower up as a log falls inward,
sending light-flickers around the circle.
it doesn’t matter if your flesh
is weak, your soul takes strength
from flight, from this rising,
this sap-impelling
this splendor

last horn of moon now gone,
your turn in tree’s embrace,
rooted earth tawny
beneath feet that stand
on redwood roots
at the lip of the canyon
turning
about to be hurled out into orbit

screech owl overhead
then silence
but for flickering flames






902. 4 September 2008, Santa Cruz, CA

A pleasant evening of conversation and sharing. An intense morning, as I departed to drive on. I pause now to shed some feelings before departing, before beginning my day. I will seek out some breakfast in town before heading up the road. It’s pleasant here, cool and quiet, in the early morning.



Eating Beef a Cavalo for breakfast at Café Brazil in Santa Cruz, right on Hwy. 1 on the north side of town. My friend had taken me to this restaurant once before for breakfast, and I very much liked it. So I’m here again, to have a meal, and to settle my nerves. Excellent lemonade. The menu is Portuguese-Brazilian, with exceptional food. I’ve never been to Brazil, it intimidates me somewhat; but the food is outstanding, whenever I’ve encountered it, and the people are beautiful. Many Brazilians are that beautiful milk-chocolate color of mixed-race ancestry, which I find attractive artistically and sexually. It’s a land of much beauty. If I ever do get to visit Brazil, I know I’ll be overwhelmed with beauty, and the contrast of beauty and poverty, life and death, desire and hardship. Meanwhile, the food at this Café is sublime. I can see a McDonald’s across the highway here, out the window by the my table, and I’m chortling inside that I have the better of everyone over there, in terms of great food. My dish is like a scramble, with layers of food over a bed of red potatoes; the way they grill-roast these chopped reds here, till they’re half-crunchy, half-soft, is ideal. Exactly how I like this kind of potatoes.



Transference. I’m not cut out to be anyone’s guru, or master, as I mostly feel lost and adrift myself, most of the time. I’ll be alright as long as I’m clear that I am only standing in for some greater force, allowing it to speak through me; it’s not me at all, really. At most, if I have any insights to pass on to my friends, it’s the grad student teaching the sophomore.



Many of my best moments are moments alone. Which is why Kamo-no-Chomei speaks to me; as do other hermit-poets and monks from the Chinese and Japanese lineage.

Today I hope to spend most of my time beside the ocean, mostly in and around Pescadero and some other local beaches I fell in love with when I lived in the East Bay area. I’ve been to a nude beach here that only the locals know about. Maybe I’ll find some more dreamstones. Maybe I’ll make a land-art sculpture, if the spirit moves me. Maybe I’ll spend some time in the arch under the sea-cliffs, or nearby. I have no fixed ideas. I must see about camping at Butano State Park first. If I can get a good campsite, everything falls into place. Then, tomorrow, after a day and night at Pescadero, I’ll drive on to Pinole, probably stopping to shop a little along the way.

I’m writing out these thoughts at random, even though I have nothing important to say. I’m just sitting and enjoying my lemonade, now, in the cool morning air and hot sunlight streaming down from the sky.






901. 3 September 2008, Sand City, CA

At this point in the trip, I’m feeling irritable with many things. At this point, setting up and tearing down camp is a chore, not a pleasure; although sleeping under the stars is still grand. At this point, my tolerance for human foibles is at a low ebb, and many things irritate me.

I spent a leisurely morning getting to Monterey, where I was to meet a friend at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. She was late, albeit for good reasons. (Remember, the one sure way to irritate me is to keep me waiting for no good reason.) I wandered off down Cannery Row, doing a little casual sightseeing, and eventually we connected. She seems more than usually scattered right now, and I’m not pressing it; and I’m near or past my tolerance limit. We were supposed to have dinner together, but we split up to drive to the restaurant, things got confused, my blood sugar crashed, which always makes me cranky, so here I am eating at a sushi bar/restaurant by myself, writing this out. I got really angry for awhile. There’s no blame on anyone. (Remember, my emotions are still at high ebb these days, still fragile and volatile.) It seems clear that one of the lessons of this entire roadtrip is that clarity in making plans and surety in following through with them just is not going to happen. There is no stability in any of this planning. It all goes to the winds. I’m not eating what I had my heart set on eating, and I hadn’t eaten enough all day, so when my blood sugar crashed, I got very, very cranky. That’s a known issue. The menu in this restaurant is limited, and the portions are too large. And I did want to eat dinner together, not alone. Oh well.

So I’m not very happy at the moment.

And thus I’m venting here, just to get it all out of my system.

The food’s actually very good. I can tell that I’m eating something I shouldn’t eat, though; there’s probably wheat in the soy sauce, most likely.

Well, I knew setting out today that the day might go this way. (My friend is dealing with a lot of bad problems right now, which are very distracting.) I am just trying to manage my own emotions, take care of my own needs, without letting them get trod upon.



I took no vow of silence,
yet perforce observe one,
as I am alone.

—Kamo-no-Chomei, Hojiki








900. 3 September 2008, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, CA

The Living Jellies exhibit at the Aquarium here is stunning. I arrived here to see it near the end of its planned display time. I have gotten some amazing jellyfish photos, some better than any I’ve seen anywhere. The displays are magnificent.

This is an exhibit that combines living jellyfish with art inspired by these unique creatures. The art is often quite beautiful, and the entire exhibit is beautifully arranged, so that you walk through a long corridor with several views and vistas.



There is one room here that is completely magical. I went back to it several times. It is a dark room: when you walk in, you realize that you are facing a huge wall-size tank of dimly-lit moon jellies. To your left and right are mirrored walls, and a softly glowing ceiling. Then you turn and realize that behind you is another wall-sized tank full of moon jellies.



It’s a dark, meditative room, full of soft light, and the softly pulsing jellyfish. I came back to this room several times, and the final time I sat on the floor and just watched the moon jellies move in slow silence. The feeling in this room is that it is a sacred space, like a chapel for meditation or prayer. Sitting there briefly, I felt the most calm I have felt in weeks. Truly a spiritual experience.







pale white drifters
pulse slowly, tendrils floating—
moons in the sea



sea of tentacles
blue, orange, white on the seabed:
mouths to feed, children



the hammerhead shark
cruises close by the tank window,
turns to show his teeth





I didn’t see the whole Aquarium in an afternoon. There’s too much. I didn’t even try. I focused on what I was most interested in, and didn’t concern myself with the rest.

I did go and observe the big circular tank. There’s a porthole window off on a side gallery, where you can stand in a circular inset window and look into the tank. I was standing there watching a sunfish move slowly above me, when suddenly a hammerhead shark passed within inches of the window, making me jump. Have you ever felt like prey before? I’m sure he was checking me out for size.

There is also a restored canning building at the Aquarium entrance: a display of the history of Monterey, during the peak of Cannery Row as an industry along these fertile seacoast. It’s a very interesting display, containing discussions of the costs of commercial fishing and the problems of ecological restoration in its wake. I learned a few new things.








899. 3 September 2008, Tor House & Hawk Tower, Carmel, CA

The house built by poet Robinson Jeffers, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, hewn out of the native granite, at Carmel-by-the-Sea.



The Beauty of Things

To feel and speak the astonishing beauty of things—earth, stone and water,
Beast, man and woman, sun, moon and stars—
The blood-shot beauty of human nature, its thoughts, frenzies and passions,
And unhuman nature its towering reality—
For man's half dream; man, you might say, is nature dreaming, but rock
And water and sky are constant—to feel
Greatly, and understand greatly, and express greatly, the natural
Beauty, is the sole business of poetry.
The rest's diversion: those holy or noble sentiments, the intricate ideas,
The love, lust, longing: reasons, but not the reason.

—Robinson Jeffers



Once again, passing through Carmel, CA, I drove by and paid my respects to Hawk Tower and Tor House, built by poet Robinson Jeffers. This Monterey and Big Sur landscape, his adopted home and source and wellspring inspiration, root of much of his nature-based imagery and observation, remains a soulful point along a beautiful coastline. Now maintained by the Tor House Foundation, the buildings are both a memorial and a continuing inspiration; if you're ever driving by, and feel like undertaking a poetic pilgrimage into the world of a difficult, brilliant poet, I highly recommend a visit.



Tor House

If you should look for this place after a handful of lifetimes:
Perhaps of my planted forest a few
May stand yet, dark-leaved Australians or the coast cypress, haggard
With storm-drift; but fire and the axe are devils.
Look for foundations of sea-worn granite, my fingers had the art
To make stone love stone, you will find some remnant.
But if you should look in your idleness after ten thousand years:
It is the granite knoll on the granite
And lava tongue in the midst of the bay, by the mouth of the Carmel
River-valley, these four will remain
In the change of names. You will know it by the wild sea-fragrance of wind
Though the ocean may have climbed or retired a little;
You will know it by the valley inland that our sun and our moon were born from
Before the poles changed; and Orion in December
Evenings was strung in the throat of the valley like a lamp-lighted bridge.
Come in the morning you will see white gulls
Weaving a dance over blue water, the wane of the moon
Their dance-companion, a ghost walking
By daylight, but wider and whiter than any bird in the world.
My ghost you needn't look for; it is probably
Here, but a dark one, deep in the granite, not dancing on wind
With the mad wings and the day moon.


—Robinson Jeffers








898. 3 September 2008, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, CA

crows caw in trees
around my resting place—
morning alarms


Stellar's Jay. Big Sur State Park, CA


I find myself reluctant to start my day today. A little bit of anxiety? I’m in no hurry. I don’t have to drive 500 miels today, only 100 or so, with plenty of stops along the way. I want to be leisurely and slow. But now I’m up, so I’ll make tea. No hurry.









897. 2 September 2008, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, CA

After several days of respite and fun in Paso Robles—wine tastings, during which I found some very good wines; I’m taking a few bottles home with me; good meals, good company, listening to music—I have moved on up the coast. I needed to rest and recuperate after the first part of the trip, and all the angst I went through for a few days. I left Paso Robles circa 2pm, and have spent most of the day ambling up the coastal highway, not pushing very hard, stopping a lot for photography and video.



I spent a lot of time at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in the late afternoon, one of my favorite places here. Then I drove on up here to Big Sur, a little further north, to find a campsite. I set up the tent, then went back down to Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP to photograph the sunset, gold over the calm waters under cloudless skies. I also pulled into several roadside turnouts, those little scenic vista turnouts they have along the coastal highway here, and made more still photographs and video.

Now I have a campfire going. I just finished dinner—ham steak, rice, a glass of pinot grigio—and am sipping tea and writing by candlelight and firelight.



Not a very long day, nonetheless I’m sore and tired and looking forward to bedding down. This campground is remarkably rather quiet, considering it’s pretty full. I’ve camped next to a small stream, and even though there’s a group of young men—bicyclists doing a long tour ride, I think—camped next door, what I mostly hear is the water’s rush, crickets, the breeze in the trees. If I look up I can see the stars through gaps in the trees.



The sickle moon was in the sky just after sunset, brightening as the sky purpled and blued, after the reds and golds of sunset itself.

calm ocean mirror
reflects the setting sun—
the sickle moon

It’s been a nice respite. Now I’m back to traveling. I have plans for the rest of this trip, but I also have flexibility. (Did I leave some little things behind at Paso? I think I did.)



The campfire is flickering. I went over to the bathroom before going to sleep. The neighbors have all turned in. I’ve set my alarm for morning. (I can always sleep in, though.) I’ve taken my pants off in the evening cool, and am sitting bottomless at the table, writing. Ah, comfort. I have plans tomorrow to go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, then only as far as Santa Cruz, and after that a night at Pescadero. So there’s no hurry necessary.

Some loud people just pulled in, but they’re across the way, and I can probably just ignore them. A family setting up late, after dark.

the campfire illumines the undersides of trees
looking up again, I see the stars




 

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