A jackrabbit ate calmly from the path. She twitched her ears at us and didn't run away. Her body was the color of this golden land, dancing with fog.
In the evening, as the sun begins to set, this dry gold grass smells like dry earth and the tenderness of summer dusk.
These golden hills face the Pacific ocean, and the fog rolls against them, full of salt and strange shapes. Sometimes it is a thick veil, sometimes it sweeps in and clears. Sometimes it rushes up fast like a herd of elk. Just beyond, to the east, the forests begin. The shape of the land here is otherworldly, folded sharp by the hands of the San Andreas Fault below, smoothed out by the sea winds that stroke like a sculptor. I feel like I'm moving along the body of a great creature, in these ocean-facing hills, through veins, against bones and hips. The world a great body, paw and belly and tooth, with golden flanks. In the spring, the grass is so green it aches to look at. You want to roll in it, become a deer and feast.
|Bay Area Puma Project photo. She's standing on the branch of a manzanita tree, bark like skin. Up close, her fur looks like the hills above.|
This is the gulch we mapped. Signs of bobcats and a mountain lion moving through those trees to the right, leaving behind scats. I always try to say thank you, and sorry, for tromping around their territory, when we have already taken so much of it away, when wild places like this are a treasure, a fog-wrapped haven.
Our teachers thought this was from a mountain lion. Placed right in the center of a well worn, probably ancestral, deer run, through the Douglas fir and bay tree forest. It is longer than it seems from this photo-- about 10 to 12 inches, dense with hair and large bone fragments. I know it seems unappetizing, maybe disgusting, to examine another animal's shit on the ground. But I'm reminded of Gary Snyder's poem, "Song of the Taste," which begins like this:
"Eating the living germs of grasses
Eating the ova of large birds
the fleshy sweetness packed
around the sperm of swaying trees
The muscles of the flanks and thighs of
the bounce in the lamb's leap
the swish in the ox's tail."
-From Regarding Wave (New Directions, 1970)
I'm also reminded of a beautiful passage in Catherynne M. Valente's magical novella, Yume No Hon: The Book of Dreams, from the section titled "River Otters Sacrifice Fish."
Metamorphosis. It is a long line of bellies, chained together flesh-wise, circling each other in a blood-black smear. The sparrows pick cold red berries from the mud, the hawks pluck the sparrows from the sky. The fish swallow grasshoppers, the otters gulp down fish. The world eats and eats and eats, and stomach to stomach it embraces itself. Hawk is Berry, Otter is Grasshopper, Woman is Fish and Sparrow. (Page 169 of Myths of Origin).
The world is a great stomach. To consume, to absorb, to digest, to excrete, to decay, this is the cycle of things, the great alchemy of life. We eat the ripeness of the world, then turn it into mulch to make more things ripe (though as humans we've gone a bit astray in this regard...). In any case, what a single mountain lion eats for breakfast, where it leaves the remains, how crunched the bones, how dark, how much fur, these are stories, this is the world embracing itself, stomach to stomach. It's beautiful, when you think about it.
This one may be mountain lion too, though slightly smaller, or a large bobcat. There were several pieces this size.
A badger den, far away on a hillside so steep it was almost vertical. I wonder what it's like, inside that sheer gold hill, riddled with mole holes and vole runes, badger dens and gopher mazes. A labyrinth of rodent homes, ancient tillers of the soil, their ancestral dens and thoroughfares, dark as night, with chips of mica for stars.
The long path home, on the Bolinas-Fairfax road, driving into the summer fog. The air smelled of sea and pine and home.