Wednesday, May 13, 2015

To Ring A Bell

In our garden, the earliest south-facing peaches, the ones that live next to the beehives, are a ripe riot of velvet and sweet. It seems that this year, the bees managed to pollinate just about every single flower, so the boughs are heavy and a little too crowded with small but glorious fruits. 


Fruit is made to be enjoyed by the tastebuds of animals, just like flowers are made to be enjoyed by the tastebuds of bees and butterflies and other nectar-lovers. Fruit is made to evoke pleasure, to make the tongue curl with sweet giddiness. Plants offer fruits like a great ringing of wedding bells to the palates of birds and foxes, bears and squirrels, mice and coyotes and humans alike. All of us, seduced by that chiming sweetness, help the fruit by carrying its seed off into the world, into new soil. This is an ancient pact, a primordial relationship; the earliest original fruit trees shaped us as much as we then shaped them. 


Their sweetness—the way a handful of fresh blackberries or the first bite of a perfect apricot is almost indecently sensuous, erotic even—knows us, wants us to enjoy it. After all, as Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells us, the word erotic in its essence means to be in relationship with. This is the original wild wedding: between body, tongue and the fruit of the land.

Apricots, ripening
The taste of fruit rings bells in our bodies older than our species, as old as tongues and stomachs and mammalian milk. It is sometimes hard for me to believe that our bodies have changed very little in the last 200,000 years of our history as Homo Sapiens. Our bodies were made wedded to the land, in deep relationship with the fruiting of fruits, the blooming of blooms, the coming and going of seasons, the calls of birds, the births of fawns, because all of these things were wired deep into our survival. We carry the same bodies and the same brains as those created in such a context; it is no wonder we find ourselves in trouble these days--globally, culturally, individually, emotionally, spiritually, physically. It is also no wonder that certain things ring bells in us older than words; that sometimes we feel our blood or our hearts stirred far deeper than the knowings of this lifetime. 



Certain plants draw us in when we need them (like this collection of friends from a walk in Point Reyes did me last week, a most excellent tea: nettle, horsetail, california poppy, alder leaf, monkeyflower); our bodies know their medicine, even if we've never even learned their names. Certain places—the marshy edges of bays, with a thick cover of alders—make us feel safe though we've hardly spent any time in them. The experience of examining animal tracks in sand--gray fox, river otter, bobcat, vole--makes us feel almost giddy with excitement, not just with the newness of it all, but with the deep familiarity too. 


It makes me feel comforted, safer somehow in this big strange modern world, to know that these relationships are still available all around us; that even if our minds are clouded or forget, even if we are overly dependent on our light switches and sleek computers, our cars and running water and grocery stores, our bodies still, after all this time, have systems of little bells that ring ring ring when an old connection is made, an old friend encountered (poppy, robin, peach), when the primordial beauty of earthen things is near. 

This, I think, is what Dr. Estés means by the erotic. A relationship with the living world that sets the body's bells ringing with memories both near and very far, memories as new as yesterday and as old as the mammalian placenta, or even older-- the bird's egg, the snake's nest. 


A lady anna's hummingbird has made her nest in the bamboo outside our bathroom window. In it, she's laid two eggs. She sits diligently every day, her fuschia throat a tiny jewel. To watch her, to praise her; this rings an ancient bell, an almost painful bell, in the heart.

The black phoebes have had children, now fledged, who sit on fence posts all throughout the garden, looking somewhat confused and cheeping loudly for food. Two very harried parents dart around after bugs and try to keep their children, who flap very clumsily, out of the sights of the cooper's hawk who makes an appearance every afternoon. They ring bells too.


The garden is alive fruit, with eggs, with tiny babies hidden in spidersilk nests (and, I suspect, nests made with fluffy bits of Hawthorn's wool). Sometimes I sit under the apricot tree (whose fruits are still green), and for a moment get this overwhelming sense of the pulse of life, just in this one big garden. It's a great bell, ringing. How many bird families are being raised around me. How many precious blossoms are now on their way to fruit. How many bees.

Kiwi flowers
"When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world."

-Mary Oliver


And so, in honor of bells and fruiting and the wild marriage of humans and land, I introduce June's full moon Tinderbundle, Bell. When Catherine Sieck (the Marvelous Mistress of all paper cut art) first sent me her extraordinary cut, inspired by a series of conversations we'd had about the theme, I was, as usual, blown away. In reply I sent her these words, which seem to touch on something essential about this bundle, something loose and free:


We are the seed of the fruit, stitched with that sweetness, dangling from the vine, the fruit plucked somehow our own heart and hearth...And these dancing faces--- I see them as masks; I see a great dance of humans masked like the giddy spirits of the earth, honoring the harvest, honoring our own many faces, from maid to mother to crone and all the ones between, lover and jester, fool and fiend, fruiting and dying and fruiting again within us. Dancing round fires, wassailing the orchards in masks that blend the worlds. How there is a pear in the heart. The stars as sacred fruit. The monkeys in our own limbs, our fruiting primordial roots in trees. 

So. June's Full Moon Tinderbundle, Bell, is about what it means to be the bride or bridegroom of the living land. What it means to be part of this feral fecund marriage. What it means to give your heart to the world, and your body too, in honor of the sensuous long days of a fruiting summer, in honor of the bells of joy that live inside every single one of our bodies, that ring in sympathy with the bells of all life, when they are first alight and alive within us. In honor, too, of the dying back that necessarily follows the fruiting, that nourishes the next season, and what new, ringing seeds may root there. 



As such, Catherine and I decided to time this Bundle to arrive in time for the full moon of June (the 2nd), instead of the new moon of May-- since the great Strawberry (or Rose) Moon is, in its silver fullness, its own great Bell.


It will be a chiming invocation of the bells that ring in our bodies; it will be a celebration of fruit, of the tales that exist the world over of children born in the pits of peaches, the cores of pears; it will be a love song and an incantation both.



It will also be the last Tinderbundle. 

Don't fear! There are many more things on the horizon, but this will be the last Tinderbundle in this form and under this particular name. Catherine and I have other projects simmering away, similar but simpler; and I have a few collaborations coming up with some beautiful herbalist women this summer... New fruits are ripening on the trees of the imagination as the seasons shift and sway.

So if you'd like a Tinderbundle this June; if you've been thinking about purchasing one but haven't gotten around to it, now would be the time! This bundle will also include, besides a story/poem and two prints, a silk scarf dyed with loquat leaves, a tin of gardener's hand salve made with herbs from my garden, and a tiny bell....

There are only 20 Bell Tinderbundles left! So hurry along here for yours!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Taking Elk Lines to the Elk Lines

Under the Beltane full moon, under the milk moon, I took the nearly completed manuscript of Elk Lines out to a little cabin on the Inverness Ridge, in Point Reyes, to walk it among the real elk lines of the land. It has been a wonderful and enlightening and sometimes challenging experience to send a novel out in parts every six weeks; it's the way Dickens and other Victorian novelists first wrote some of their own stories, and they too learned, long before me, that a novel written thus needs a good tighten once it's done. 


I edited with red pen on the shores of ocean and bay, hoping that I was leaving space, by carrying the manuscript out thus, for the land to have its say. To make sure my words do as much justice as they can to this place. 


There were flowers to be gathered on roadsides to honor the big old moon, and little clamshells to be treasured, for their humble history of nourishment.


The fog was in thick, so thick out on Tomales Point that it did indeed walk with elk hooves, holding everything in a damp palm.



I left bits of juniper from the Sierras in the pawprints of a gray fox I sat beside for an afternoon, pen scribbling away, tightening and cutting and smoothing the story into a new whole. It is a precious place, where a gray fox paw has touched the earth. 


The irises are still a riot of bloom. I don't know how they sustain their delicate purple petals under as much a sun as we've been having. They are so hardy.



I contemplated the three mile, ten foot tall elk fence which bisects the southern portion of Tomales Point, keeping the tule elk in. This fence was erected due to the fact that there are dairy ranches right on the other side, and a tenuous relationship between park land and dairy land, environmental interests and ranching interests... and elk, roaming totally free, eat the grass meant for cows! But something very sad has happened in the last three years, something I only learned in the past week. Over half the 500 tule elk on Tomales Point have died. That's 250 dead elk, in a span of three years. The reason is the drought, but it is a manmade reason-- since the elk can't leave to find year round streams, they're stuck with old cattle ponds that have since gone dry. So over three years, half the elk have slowly parched to death. This is really quiet cruel.  (Note also that the elk that roam free in the southern portions of Point Reyes, near Muddy Hollow and Limantour, have survived the drought in a more regular fashion, since they can travel to find water. In those areas, however, they come into frequent conflict with dairy farms, because they're good at jumping fences! It seems to me that the cows have more than enough room... I'm sure you can guess whose side I'm on here!)

People will argue-- oh, they don't have enough predators out there, some are bound to die in a drought, etc, etc. This may be true. But there's a deeper point--one of relationship, and of responsibility. We make the elk our responsibility by unnaturally fencing them in. And yet a cow, or a dog, would never be left to die of thirst. What does this say about the family of things, and attitude toward it? What is the "value" of an elk, and what is the "value" of a cow?

There is of course the even deeper issue-- who has the right to this land? Yikes. A big topic, a controversial topic. There is a lot of pride around the heritage of dairy farms throughout Point Reyes, and I respect and support this heritage, and all the families it has supported. However, cows may have been here for 200 years, but elk-- thousands, thousands, thousands. Who has the right to this land? It is a question that hurts in me; I love this place deeply, but I don't feel I have a right to it. If I could, I'd give it all back to the native people who cared for it best, people who are almost gone. But then, what would I love? Where would I settle down? It's an unanswerable riddle, but just airing it sometimes feels helpful. And it seems we can only earn our place somewhere if we love and respect all of the beings to whom it belongs, human interests only an equal slice in the pinwheel of needs and niches.


Anyway. I had a startling thought as I studied the elk fence from afar, noting the stark line of shorn grass on the cow side. I wondered if, a year ago when I visited this place with Asia Suler, the first stirrings of Elk Lines just beginning in me, when I first asked the place to guide my writing hand with whatever new project needed to come through-- I wondered if the elk, already dying of drought, had in some way spoken. Tell our story. Tell our story. Asia and I buried a quartz crystal in a patch of iris where we watched a herd of female elk and their calves graze. I knew with certainty on that day that my next story would be about elk. It became very clear. I thought of that quartz often as I wrote, hoping I was writing true. In my story, the elk are dying of disease, spread from the cows. I had no idea the elk of Point Reyes were truly dying in any unnatural way at all, until now. I wonder if this is partly why this story came.

I hope desperately I can do them justice in whatever humble way I can manage. Even if it is "all in the balance," and the "natural order of things," half the population here is dead. Brother elk, sister elk, son elk, mother elk.  Dead too fast. Don't think they do not mourn one another. It is dangerous, when we forget this. When we trick ourselves into thinking animals have no emotions, and therefore death by thirst is no big deal. I read once that when Bernie Krause, a soundscape ecologist, heard a father beaver discover that his dam with mate and babies inside had been destroyed, the keening sound he made long into the night, circling and circling, was the most heart breaking noise Krause had ever heard. It reduced him to tears. He instantly recognized, in the part of him that was no different than the beaver, the sound of animal grieving.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Cup Full of Story


I've been thinking a lot recently about the old adage regarding cups and water-- is yours half empty, or half full?

It started with a rather violent spate of break-ins into my studio space, a little loft down by the train tracks which shook when the freight trains passed and smelled rather badly of tar certain days. A space which was nevertheless richly productive, a sanctuary for my writing and a little altar to the muse, a place to nurture the flow of words alone, away from internet and endless other distractions that come from keeping a home office (time to sweep? organize the spice drawer finally? shear the rabbit?).

I needn't go into the details, but suffice it to say a final break-in, which involved somebody coming and smashing and ravaging the whole space, led me to abandon the studio about a month ago. I was mostly shocked and rather confused by the situation, trying to make meaning out of what really amounted to bad luck. I kept thinking to myself, now what on earth is the silver lining here?


It took a little while (and I'll admit, a few rather sour days), but it turned up eventually, in the form of a dear old friend's street-level basement, up in the East Bay hills. I like sitting beside pieces of wood and a canvas building workshop (she is a painter). The light comes in the glass, and is peaceful in color. It is quiet, save the birds, and the fog loves to settle here, walking on silver feet all the way from the golden gate.



Sitting in the front garden, among lavender and black sage, I can watch it coming, wreathing that faraway red bridge, padding over the water. It took the smashing of one place to find this other, with its new unexpected gifts.


It's an obvious thing, you hear it all the time, how what you focus on, what you water, is the story you live, the plant that grows. The odds are stacked rather against us in this culture of ours, where strung-out-plugged-in-stress is rewarded and taking the time to savor, to drink in the smells of sage on a neighborhood walk, is called an indulgence. Where fighting for a sane schedule and a life of presence—there are always birds in the trees out the windows, there is always something up there in the sky to breathe in and notice, there are always plants, even little grasses in the cracks, to learn from in their essential presentness, their uncompromising and simple joy, just to be here, alive—is relegated to the back burner at best. Or deemed only something for the very privileged. Trying to do all of this while being a working artist, well, forget it. You must be a lazy good-for-nothing!

This is not what I believe, of course. (At least not most of the time--we all fall prey to the inner critics now and then!) I am merely reporting the worst of the internalized voices that I think we all carry to some degree from a young age, given to us not necessarily by individuals but by the whole context of our lives as modern day, 20th and 21st century Westernized human beings. That we'd better get that work done before we savor our lives. That we'd better not show our love for birds or trees in public. That to privilege peace and happiness in a life is unworthy, not rigorous enough, self-indulgent.


A cup half full, it would seem, is a sentimental cup. A romantic cup. When I look around at what is commonly praised as exceptional in literature, in art (in our collective stories) I see an aversion to that which might be considered sentimental, an aversion to the romantic rose tinted glass, to escapes through stained windows into other worlds, an aversion to happy endings of all varieties.



Why this cynicism, when we are all, in our real lives, also seeking a happy ending ourselves? This is not to say that the world, and life, are not complicated, full of true sorrows and terrible losses, heartbreak that seems to much to bear; that life itself sometimes seems the ultimate heartbreak, in its beauty and its fleetness. That everything will one day be lost. Every last thing.



And yet I been sitting often in the garden these days, at the base of this apricot tree. I've been trying to sit every morning, to dissolve for a while the part of myself that is "Sylvia," and simply be the other part, the bit that is essential and unwavering, the bit that is the same as the foxglove and the goldfinch, the cloud and the root. The part that the medieval Persian poet Rabia calls—

{...} a peaceful delegation in us 
that lobbies every moment
for contentment.


And I have her words to be true. I have found underneath worry and rush and the increasing sense in this plugged-in world of ours that there is never time, never time, never enough time that there is a part of me that truly does always lobby for contentment. That truly does understand itself to be the same, the very same, as the calendula bloom and the bee on the borage flower.

Why not water this story, this full-up cup? What do we gain by telling ourselves primarily stories of terror and heartbreak and loss? Why do we celebrate the tragic in our newspapers, in our most esteemed art? I understand that we live in a time of great loss. I understand that we shouldn't sugar coat what is truly awful. I'm not suggesting this. Trust me, I may post photographs of plants and birds and wool and wild, but this is partly because these things serve as my own balm in a sea of what can feel like overwhelming hopelessness. I don't know what to do with hopelessness except become depressed and therefore inactive.


I am put in mind of an excerpt from an essay that I read on Terri Windling's magnificent Myth & Moor (a very favorite internet wellspring) —"Fantasy literature of the high tradition is a song of hope. It whispers a simple message: as long as the spirit is intact, nothing is broken irreparably.  [....]  Gottfried von Strassburg, the 13th century author of Tristan, wrote of his work: ‘I have undertaken a labour, a labour out of love for the world, to comfort noble hearts.’ [...] Fantasy literature is often considered to be simply a form of escapist fiction. Firstly I do not feel that ‘escaping’ is necessarily valueless in itself. As anyone who needs a holiday will attest, escaping can be a form of psychological and psychic regeneration as necessary as sleep. But I would also maintain that anything which encourages dreams and aspirations of a better self or a better world, anything which ‘comforts noble hearts’, is hardly an escape from reality. Rather, it can be an aid to survival and a source of strength, as well as a possible vehicle for improvement. And, as Tolkien pointed out, ‘a living mythology can deepen rather than cloud our vision of reality.’ " --from Myth & History in Fantasy Literature, by O.R. Melling.


I am put also in mind of a fabulous essay by Ursula Le Guin, "All Happy Families," in which she rips up Tolstoy's very famous first sentence: All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. 

She counters: "I grew up in a family that on the whole seems to have been happier than most families; and yet I find it false—an intolerable cheapening of reality—simply to describe it as happy. The enormous cost and complexity of that 'happiness,' its dependence upon a whole substructure of sacrifices, repressions, suppressions, choices made or forgone, chances taken or lost, balancings of greater and lesser evils—the tears, the fears, the migraines, the injustices, the censorships, the quarrels, the lies, the angers, the cruelties it involved—is all that to be swept away, brushed under the carpet by the brisk broom of a silly phrase, 'a happy family?'

"And why? In order to imply that happiness is easy, shallow, ordinary; a common thing not worth writing a novel about? Whereas unhappiness is complex, deep, difficult to attain, unusual; unique indeed; and so a worthy subject for a great, unique novelist?

"Surely this is a silly idea. But silly or not, it has been imposingly influential among novelists and critics for decades. Many a novelist would wither in shame if the reviewers caught him writing about happy people, families like other families, people like other people; and indeed many critics are keenly on watch for happiness in novels in order to dismiss it as banal, sentimental, or (in other words) for women."


What does all of this amount to? This cup of words I am filling here before you? I am a hopeless romantic, a consummate day dreamer, always have been, head in the clouds, woolgathering both as escape and as a very necessary, very real sort of medicine to counter the other stories you cannot help but take in every single day.


A cup half full is a "comfort to noble hearts." How are we meant to go on, shedding as much light as possible, savoring as much of that light as possible too, like the calendula flowers (who despite everything live in an ecstasy of blooming, rooting and blooming again), without full cups, and water to spare?


There are already so many stories of sorrow in this world, so many empty and broken cups. What else is there to do, but fill ours as best we can, mend the breaks, and learn to change the endings? Or start them all over again? For the longer you tell a story, the more true it becomes, the more it is embodied in the world. Starting right here, with the cups in our hands.


P.S. In a rather different way, Rebecca Solnit gets at something similar in her  excellent "letter to my dismal allies on the US Left"

Friday, April 3, 2015

Cloud Nomads

The word "cloud" is a poem, just like the clouds themselves are. I think they may be nearly impossible to gaze upon without resorting to metaphor, and metaphor is shapeshifting, and all of this the root and cause and point of poetry, at least in my mind. (A cloud is a herd of horses, a gathering of ice crystals. The act of relating one thing to others is the essential shape shifting that undergirds art.)

In Old English, cloud, or clud, meant a mass of rock or a hill. The original word for cloud was actually weolcan, while clud/cloud literally meant a lump of earth or clay, a mass of stone, also connected to the word clot, as in blood and cream. This metaphoric usage of clud to describe the great masses of nomadic air mountains in the sky (skie also originally meant cloud in Old Norse and Saxon) was so persuasive, it seems, that by the year 1300 it had travelled through Middle English and had become the official English word used to refer to those great mountains of air in the sky.

Wheat Field Behind Saint-Paul, Vincent Van Gogh 1889

I've been contemplating the clouds a lot recently--from where I sit every morning at the base of the apricot tree in the garden, observing the garden wake up (sun, bewick's wren, crows, squirrels, the pattern and direction of clouds and winds), and from the attic windows. I had one of those ding dong moments recently, wherein the clouds suddenly became alive, and real, when before they'd only been, well, clouds. I suddenly felt in my body, instead of just knowing with my mind, that the clouds are great behemoth nomads come from across oceans and mountains, made of water vapor and ice crystal, each form an almanac of winds, of weathers to come, of temperatures and times. That they are miraculous, almost too beautiful to bear.  


Leonardo Da Vinci cloud sketches
The clouds are such an obvious source of mystical and religious devotion that it's easy to forget about them, cluttered up as they can be in the collective imagination with pearly gates and Zeus with his thunderbolts, etc. And yet, if you pause to look, and reflect on what they are made of, and how, and why, the water cycle you may have learned about accompanied by a silly song as a child, as I did, will suddenly become a prayer, a hymn, a song to the nature of life and how we have never been separate from any of it, not for a moment. Even the minute beads of condensation in our breath when we exhale might one day become part of the clouds. They exemplify that old physics adage-- how energy is neither created nor destroyed, but only changes form. 

I wonder now if some of the earliest human storytelling and daydreaming came from cloud gazing, this act of looking up at the moving sky and using the imagination and metaphor to describe what was seen. For the clouds can seem to contain everything--people and cows and roosters and flowers and goats and whale spumes too.

Red Cow in the Yellow Sky, Marc Chagall

Above the Clouds, Georgia O'Keeffe, 1962-3

But above all things, clouds have been on my mind because of the drought. Day after day, week after week, our California sky is blue blue blue. Some people see this as cause for rejoicing-- an endless summer of 70 degrees! I find it quietly terrifying, even as I know there is nothing to do but surrender like the flowers are doing, and bloom early.  The big storms of my childhood, coming one after another week by week all through December to March, with spots of sun between, are no longer. Instead, when a cloud comes through the sky, I stop, I tip my head up, I adore it with my eyes. I think about how many more need to follow it to bring us rain. I am sad when it disappears.



The Navajo knew the clouds to be their ancestors. Polynesian sailors had names for every last wisp-shape, and divinations to go along with them. As with many of the most sacred things, we leave cloud-storying and its requisite woolgathering to children. Perhaps it has remained safe there, as the fairytales have, with them.

But I think we have to start looking up again, collectively, and dreaming new dreams. I think we have to look up together and face clearly that we are changing the very weather systems of our holy atmosphere, this sheath around our earth that allows us to live and breath at all. I think we have to dream together another way into the future, another path... because the way we're headed; it's not going to work. And the clouds know all about movement, all about changing, all about the great caravan routes of the sky.

All of this is the subject of April's Tinderbundle, CLOUD. I am collaborating again with the inimitable Catherine Sieck, whose paper cut artwork will accompany my tale. The bundle will include as well an herbal cloud-dreaming salve and a hand-felted & embroidered weather talisman.

Cloud, by Catherine Sieck 2015

As Catherine eloquently described this month's theme— "In the midst of this time of crisis for California-- parched by drought, fraught by a broken immigration system-- this month's Tinderbundle collaboration -CLOUD- has Sylvia and I looking to those ancient, nomadic water-carriers for inspiration. We believe in the power of storytelling to create space for imagining alternatives and opening dialogue."

The weather of the world is changing, whether it be by drought or flood, and sometimes the sorrow and anger this brings are too big to hold. The clouds carry all of this, and the old stories too, which told that great imbalances in weather meant that human beings had done something to offend the deities of earth and sky. Oh yes, indeed.

Danae and Her Son Perseus, Arthur Rackham 1903 
I don't know what to do in the face of forces as big as this, nor in the face of the sorrows that rise up, except to write, and share my stories. To dream up visions with others, as Catherine and I have been doing these past months, and see where that dreaming takes our minds, and souls, and where it might take the minds and souls of others. 

Wheat Field With Cypresses, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889
So if you'd like to come dream with us, there are Tinderbundles still left in the shop, but they are going quickly! They will arrive near the new moon of April, the 18th.

In the meanwhile, keep your eye to the clouds. There are always stories there, the kind that heal. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Song of Inverness

We spent the last week perched on the Inverness ridge, at eye level with the aerie of two courting osprey, the incoming fog, a sliver of Tomales Bay below. It is astounding, how much the human heart can love a place; an old ache, bigger than might seem possible. Some places, some journeys, are best kept close to the bone. Not everything needs be shared in this quick-to-share world. But I'd like to share with you a few notes from those precious days with nothing to do but sink into a kind of human baseline (for a bobcat baseline is an overstep walk...), with nothing to do but love the nettles, love the bay, love the fog, love the pine peaks and salt, love each other and this world. 


Taking the land into the body is a way of greeting, of saying thank you. These tea things were gathered from alder shade and coastal scrub, and a bouquet of wild radish as well (because beauty is medicine too).


The osprey, making a home, moving sticks and filling the air with kee kee kee. 



 Gold flecks in the sand at the shore of Tomales Bay. Maybe mica, maybe something else, chipped off old granite. They are a whirl of stars under bare toes.


A whole day drifting and paddling through the benevolent waters of Tomales Bay, that old mother fault zone, another world—an old kind of magic. To be, for a day, as buoyant as any loon.



From the view of osprey and hawk, Tomales Bay is a great blue ribbon, the boundary between two tectonic plates.


On secret shores, the dogwood was a red fire, the marsh grasses long and green, moving under the hands of the wind.


And the ceanothus hung down cliffs toward the bay, a blue hum of honey scent and bees.


On the Inverness ridge, the old granite spine of Point Reyes, made of the same granite as the Sierras long ago, the Douglas firs were constellations of new green tips. (So many cups of tea!)


Just before blooming, the cow parsnips were like the heads of medieval ladies, gleaming and wise, with many secrets and love poems tucked in their headdresses.


The starry solomon's plume opened on the day of the spring equinox, quiet and true.


And a morning walk to the bay shore, with tea and notebook,  a quick secret swim, is my idea of true bliss.





The great blue heron had the same idea for a peaceful morning as I. He flew away at my coming, but left his enormous prints, the size of my hands.


To sit with an iris, and learn some of her secrets: this to me is the same thing as prayer.

I'll leave you with a piece of a poem from my journal, iris inspired—

Meanwhile, in the meadows, on the ridges
the irises stand under the sun. Their bulbs
are ancient,  older than dairies, older than barns.
That's why they will tell you easily
vociferously, demanding you listen—
stand down out of your  own way,
so the purple gleam of Always,
that old ecstasy, may turn you
lush as this ridge, this bay, this matriarchy
of bulbs, all gleaming.

Kee kee, call the osprey.
Time for tea.