Tuesday, November 24, 1987

ON TURNING 35 IN CABO



On turning 35 in Cabo, I reflect back.
In this life, I've stood on pahoehoe and aa,
new lava at the crater of Kilauea, steam forests and ferns.
I've watched the sunset from Haleakala,
a volcano that rises 30,000 feet above the sea floor.
I've seen the tongue of the ocean from the air,
swam in the Caribbean where a shark followed me home.
The aurora borealis glowed, but I didn't understand
northern latitudes when the sun set at midnight.
At the end of California, El Arco,
I watched frigate birds with 8 foot wingspans soar overhead.
I walked in rain forests of Kauaii and the Olympic Peninsula.
From Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain
in the continental US, I witnessed a forest fire.
I stood barefoot at Badwater, 282 feet below sea level,
and I followed worn trails in the salt flats
to hidden streams where pupfish from an earlier sea
still swim.
It took me 20 years to get to Tenochitlán,
the ancient lakebed of Mexico City,
And in the Yucatán, I climbed the pyramids
and crawled inside El Caracól, the observatory
during the winter solstice. The sun danced.
I rode to the stars while on ether, farther than
the combined distance of all my horses.
In Switzerland I climbed the Jungfrau,
rode the highest cog railway in the world
to crawl inside a crevasse in the glacier
to see the layers of ice and striations of every blue imaginable.
At the Columbia Ice Fields, I listened to the growl and hiss
of the great wall of ice that created its own cloud system.
I bathed in the Skeena River on an Indian reservation
where the glacial river numbed my skull til it cracked.
A week in the Sierras, a black bear slept on me,
I was too tired to get up and run. Probably saved my life.
I stood on the lips of Glacier Peak
and Half Dome without a rope or harness.
Half Dome I climb twice because
I forgot what it was like the first time.
At Loch Ness I didn't see Nessie
but I crawled through a dungeon in an abbey.
I had tea with the governor's wife in the Bahamas.
I didn't know that when Taikaido drummers danced
my relationship was about to end
but it took me two years to find out.
My first abortion at 24, my second at 27.
I meddled with nature, paid the price, lost the men,
stayed sick for two years, kidneys, uterus,
then a whiplash. My body weakened. My knee tore.
It took me eight years before I could ski again.
I rode an Icelandic pony called Helgar,
fiercely primitive, like a Celtic pony.
The fossils of clam shells in Central Valley cliffs
convinced me of an inland sea, but at 10,000 feet,
there are freshwater clams, how do you explain that,
or the reef fish in the sacred cenote well at Chichen Itza,
trapped miles from the sea, or hidden rivers.
The circle of candlewax in front of the stela at Cobá,
With the odor of sacred copal we welcomed the New Year.
We saw he two cuatemundis cross the road,
we ran over another one that night,
running over an endangered species.
Third time's a charm. I won't mention the turtle steak.
I saw the edge of night, the bell curve of the earth,
I saw stars and a daytime sky all at once,
sunset from an airplane flying over the North Pole.
From the air, the rift of the Grand Canyon
looked like a vast crack in the earth.
At Tikal, the temple of the Jaguar,
the howler monkey kept hidden in the canopy of trees.
Soldiers stopped our car searching for undesirables,
800 peasants have disappeared in Chiapas.
All for agrarian reform.
In downtown Mexico City, armed guards
in bulletproof vests direct traffic.
And the blood that didn't come with the moon
and the question rises once again.
The end of another relationship.
Few couples can survive the guilt.
Until I return home, I won't know if the slow bleeding
is a sign of division or multiplication.
Guerillas hide in the forests of Tikal,
the Indians, stoic in the face of soldiers,
On the Harmonic Convergence,
we celebrated at the Mayan church of Chamula,
all these roads less traveled,
but the universe unraveled....
November 24/1987
Cabo San Lucas
It looks like a page and the ending was lost, I found this in my sketchpad.
added 10.16 minor revisions.

Saturday, November 7, 1987

Andes Dream Sequence


ANDES DREAM SEQUENCE


We had almost missed the walruses who put in a sudden, rare, unexpected appearance, beached and shining like seals. We mistook them for seals until someone pointed out the glint of enormous tusks, like horns. They weren't quite like walruses. They became seals too.

I galloped my pony down to the creek but there were only some loose sheep trotting and browsing under the trees. I had some trouble with his gear. The places of this dream world are like home only grander, wilder.

At first I mistake them for familiar places. There is fear, death, creativity, flying, the horses we ride—everything is magnificent. The very weather is a force to be reckoned with. The large volcanic peak rises up thousands of feet above the sea. We took an overland short-cut over the summit of the mountain to the bay.

The road or path with its many gates and switchbacks is a bright red zigzagging gash, like warpaint against the pale green chapparal and mist-covered grasses. It faces west.

We passed between twin volcanic peaks--cones covered with bright red dirt and strange plants. Bromeliads. Sometime we'd take strenuous hikes to the top just to see the silver glimmer of the sea and the distant specks of islands and the coast. It was as if the sky were a huge inverted bowl and the islands reached up the sides until they seemed almost eye level with the mountain we were on.

We returned home to reconnoiter and pack for the journey. A young woman on horseback with a chestnut filly on a lead, galloped north up the box canyon. The filly's tiny hooves clattered on the gray cobbles. The coolness of stones like water, the secret spots sun-warmed beneath our feet. I yell at her for galloping on pavement but she doesn't hear.

There were many people who came and went in the dream. Some were like family, others were like long lost friends. Some we never saw again. Our walrus hunting party contained a collection of beings who drifted in and out. Some were constant companions like the Siamese cat perched on my backpack. He was a scout, with his cheek rubbing the back of my neck. He'd confide in me, telling me the best trail to take. Any wrong trail would loose us the chance to follow the walrus.

We reached the shore uneventfully and began to climb a steep ridge to the south. I seem preoccupied with direction in this dream. The early morning sun was to my left shoulder and the receding shadows to the west quickly crawled into their lairs to hide from the day. At dusk they crawled quickly west but the sun was an inexorable task master.

We know they reach those distant shores because we have dreams and are able to walk upon this landscape again and again. My psyche is very much tied to this place. I live in another place. Perhaps even in another time. It is an extraordinary world like through the eyes of a child with the memory of an adult.

All this time we were hurrying at breakneck speed toward the world like runaway trains. The clatter of wheels. Steel rails humming and screeching. Breathless. Vanishing point of tracks in the distance.

Each evening at sunset I feel the loss of something unnamable. Twilight. Anything can happen then. Perhaps this is why my grandmother chose to die dreaming towards evening-- the hour when long shadows form a bridge between the islands. New moon with its silver crescent resting on the tops of trees.

The cat was making sure we didn't wind up in another place, or we'd lose the thread of this dream. The trail up the ridge was extraordinarily steep. I would look up to the skies trying to follow the progression of the trail.

An occasional hiker above us like a small dot gave me some idea of scale. We climbed those ridges in search of those walruses—they were more akin to narwhals and unicorns than walruses. The ridge was steep, nearly a sheer drop into the turquoise sea.

The mountains are volcanic, scoured by glaciers in some cases. But the sea is bright turquoise blue. Tropical water like Big Sur or Hawaii. Not northern water. Odd. I stopped to rest, lying with my face buried in the close cropped dew-soaked grass because the Siamese cat was whimpering. I thought he might be thirsty, or needed to pee. Or even a bit motion sick.

His head would bob and sway, his blue eyes narrowed to slits, fixed on some distant horizon. His mind (such as it is) intent on keeping the horizon in place. We stopped on a narrow ledge. He said, you didn't even invite me to the ocean. You left me here, alone, worried." I said, "cat, I remember how much you hated the sauna. How miserable you were with your fur coat while we sweated and laughed. Some things a cat can't do because he is a cat." He sighed and said, "perhaps I'll enjoy snorkeling. At least invite me."

We could see shapes in the water. Shadows of whales and seals. I said, "can we continue our conversation in a safer place? I want to take a photo first. Could you move the backpack up a bit where it's safer and not in the picture?" He dragged the pack off the trail and he turned into a slender furry young man, his graceful markings elongating his legs.

I fumbled with my camera. At the top, we forgot the conversation. He was just a cat again. At the crest was a mountain hostel/hut of stone. Perhaps a former fort or bunker, ancient reminder of when there were terrible wars. The scars on the hill have long since healed.

A tall, gray-headed man hummed louder and louder until the hall was filled with the resonance of rubbed crystal glass. Someone spoke. I made an outrageous pun about poets. A woman who looked like Sara was there laughing. leaving my backpack on the bed with the cat, I grabbed my camera and ran down the corridor leaping into the air until I flew, feet first wobbling a little out of control because my coat I'd found on the trail was flapping out behind me like a cavernous black bird trying to fly the other way.

There was the ever-present danger of falling off the cliffs. In fact, during most of this dream I was having to be extra careful because I was afraid of slipping off the edge. It was like Switzerland at sea level. People were there from other countries. Canada, I think. lots of accents.

It was as if the clock had been turned back to the migrations of the 60's and 70's when we all traveled without fear. Women were dressed in full skirts like the peasants of the middle ages. They had red prayer rugs among their sleeping gear. They sat in alpine meadows as if they were outdoor living rooms. I was amazed by their casual use of something so valuable as a rug to go trekking.

The rain, or a thief might ruin all this loveliness. When the rugs were spread out against the pale winter grass it was lovely. The women left their possessions freely scattered about. It was difficult to tell the difference between someone's personal belongings from those who had already left—who no longer needing them, leaving them as a gift for those yet to come.

I wanted to gather up all those rugs (mantas?) and take them home. I found a small fragment of material, a rug so worn, a weft of daylight was sewn through it. The steep hillside meadows glimmered like the green of the Guatemalan highlands. On a crag, at the crest, for warmth, I used the greatcoat of heavy wool—the color was of distant forests so full of green they appear black. It was like trying to name the deep blue of nightfall before the stars pierce it through.

For the lava tunnels, I found a Duracell flashlight. Black and orange with AA batteries. We practiced leaping and flying through the tunnels that opened to the north. I think the cat wanted to join us. This time I remembered to invite him. He was appreciative and bounded along in that silly rocking horse way of cats.

Later, we went to observe the southern ocean on the other side of the terraced cliff. I was amazed by the steepness of the hill. Even the trail sloped downward enough to keep us walking deliberate and careful. The point jutted out enough to make a shallow cove protected from the northerly winds.

The mammoth flukes of a whale rose up and silently slipped into the sea without a sound. Dolphins and seals everywhere. Fumbling for a shot I nearly drop my camera. A lone rust-colored submarine (or sunken ship?) devoid of crew, drifted in the turquoise waters like a phantom ship. We hear familiar gurgles, groans and clicks. Did they come from some Argentinean shore or were they all dead inside, their bones entombed in the hull of a floating iron ship never released from their journey?



rev 11/7/87
some of this was from before I knew I was going to South America, or the Galapagos




This is probably the first draft. Note the first line leading in is what drove the piece. Seals swim upriver to steal souls & sing memory to sleep. Lost in the revised version:

DREAM SEQUENCE INVOLVING MY GRANDMOTHER'S DEATH 

Seals swim upriver to steal souls & sing memory to sleep. We almost missed the seals who made a sudden, rare appearance from the creek at the foot of my grandmother's land where it butts up to Barranca Road. Beached and shining, we mistook them for rocks until someone saw a glint of enormous tusk, massive, like the bleached horns of my goat skull. (Walruses?)

I wanted to see more of those strange beasts, and galloped my pony down towards the Stone's place, but there were only some loose sheep trotting and browsing in the shade under the creek trees. We returned home to reconnoiter and made ready for the journey. My cousins and my niece Tiffany saw us off. My aunt Toddy was in the house with my grandmother talking about the past, their arms soapy from the dishes as they dried them on the dishtowel. 

A girl riding a chestnut mare with a sorrel filly on a lead galloped north, the fuzzy baby with her protective cream undermarkings along the mane and tail would later turn to a bright red, the color of embers. I began to shout at her for gallopintg on the pavement but the horses' hooves were making that satisfying dull crunch on the small, sharp roadside gravel that brought no injury to the delicate navicular bones in the hoof. 

The filly's hooves clattered on the crushed rock pavement in a tiny tattoo drum roll. The road was made from a bed of asphalt or tar with small grey rocks the size of fingernails pressed into the soft surface. Country roads in summer are wonderful to walk on barefoot. In the shade, the coolness of stones is like water, and the secret soft spots of sun-warmed tar oozing under our scorched feet, was a legacy from our childhood. 

The filly was so young, so small and light, the brief gallop on pavement would probably not damage her legs. Besides, the young woman with the loose hair was in a hurry to get to the fireroad leading north from the box canyon of Barranca road. (Was she me?)

Following the trail of the seals, we knew they slid down Barranca Creek to Papermill Creek and out White House Pool into Tomales bay. We decided to take a shortcut up the arroyo over the summit of Mt. Barnabe to Tomales and the sea. 

Mt. Barnabe looms, a dream image of a large volcanic peak rising a few thousand above the sea. (It's not volcanic). The fire road, with its many cattle gates and switchbacks cut a bright red gash like war paint against the pale greens of chaparral and mist covered grasses. (The land formations and plants were all wrong—I suppose I was making similies in my sleep).

This place of dreams, of fear, death faces west toward the mythical Tír na nÓg, the land of enchantment. Sometimes we'd hike to the crest just to see the silver shimmering sea and the distant specks of islands. The coastline floating in the huge inverted bowl that the islands seemed almost eye level with the mountain top. 

In this place of dreams, time is skewed. The siamese cat perched atop my backpack was a scout. With his cheek rubbing the side of my neck, he'd whisper the best trail to take. Any wrong trail would lose us this chance to follow the seals. We climbed a steep ridge facing south. The morning sun beat down on my left shoulder and the receeding shadows from the west crept back into their lairs. Each night, they stretched west toward  Tír na nÓg, the blessed isles, the land of the ever-young, the land of the dead. Another country from which no one returns.

The top piece was revised 11/7 87, but I think it was written in 1985...

DREAM SEQUENCE INVOLVING MY GRANDMOTHER'S DEATH—with minor syntax revisions and last few sentences (it ended abruptly—something was lost in transition...)  on July 14, 2014. Amazingly, when we got to the Andes, it really did seem like being on the ridges of Mt Barnabe. Many similar plants—but the chaparral and grass was a strange pale green—just like in the dream. Seal/walruses? I've no idea. I am the walrus? Koo koo katchoo. Unicorns? Llamas, maybe.

WILD CANARY


The cat dragged in a wild canary, a finch really. Its tiny beak opening and closing. I rescue it, knowing it will die of shock but at least, it will be easier this way. Soon, he grows quiet in my hand and I know I will paint him for all those yellows and delicate tracings of white. And in this way he will live forever.

11 /7/1987 ? no date
(written at the same time as my weird walrus dream sequence piece)
added 9/15/2016
last line was added. I meant it, but never scribed it.