Monday, April 27, 1987

Politicking Arts Day, NPW journal


This time away from the real world has calmed me in a way that nothing else could. Easter was a bit much, overnight at my grandmother's at Forest Knolls, going to my aunt Canice's for Easter dinner in Petaluma, visiting Ken Larsen's parents in Novato, then going to San Francisco for the final National Poetry Week readings and party with Etheridge Knight. Then back to Novato, overnight at Herman Berlandt's, and then to Sacramento in the morning. A lot of couch surfing.

On Monday and Tuesday Ken and I did some heavy politicking for Arts Day at the state capital. I feel like one of those ancient ones, been in the game a long, long time. People are finally listening to me. It just takes time for the world to recognize and adjust to how you view yourself. Putting oneself out there has a lot to do with it. And for what? This this incredible resource pool I've developed, what do I want to be when I grow up? A good question for sure.

I got congratulations for all my CAC and artist and library grant, and I'm dreading the work. I'm dreading my CEIF grant, working with kids. The burnout has begun and I haven't even put the book together yet. The next two weeks will be incredibly intensive. Why, I've taken the past few days off, to be in slugabed city, just in order to survive.

Actually, it wasn't downtime. I revised several old poems on the computer. More like 50 poems. Oof. Of those 50 poems, a mere handful are even worth revising. The problem is that in my earlier work, I was moved by visual imagery, and the connections I made between my present emotional state of being, and nature were understated. The polar ice caps, volcanoes, and the ocean were my metaphor. I was developing my own mythos and my voice.

Poems that were a page and a half long, were edited down to seven or eight lines. I really learned something of the craft, I think. I hope. And it's never been obvious or anything I could even put my finger on and say aha. I understand. All of these summers at Napa Poetry Conferences, and especially with all my California arts Council grants, literally thousands of kids poems have that I've produced, have taught me the brevity of lines, if anything.

It's safe to say my first work is really awful and padded.

Kids really do write better than beginning adult writers, probably because they don't hate to write. What's missing in my early work is the engaged intellect, what I am, who I am, what is going on in my head, but the creative impulse is wailing away. More like flailing away.

Yes, the muses of my writing have abandoned me; I write less now, but before they were like cotton candy, all bulk and no substance, just sugar and water.

John says that I don't need his poetic critical advice on my work anymore, that I've learned it from him. We argue. I say I've learned very little from him as far as craft goes. He's not gone over very many of my poems. Ever.

Also, it's not something he likes to do. Therefore, to him, it all seems like he's done more than he actually has done. Because I'm in the middle of it all this trying to learn editing, I feel a little abandoned. I never quite got it right. And he's pulling out all the stops claiming turf. He claims he's taught me a lot poetically. And I'm not so certain.

When I wrote Falling to Sea Level, I had absolutely no help from John, everything was placed where I thought it should be, maybe I have learned it after all on my own. And I just don't trust it.

John is very facile at writing. I'm not. Perhaps that's why I never write in my poetry journal. It takes a crisis. Then it's more Dear Diary than poetry—and who wants to read that?

I've done about five or six watercolors in the past two weeks. I've gotten a show and a reading coming up on May 23, and I need more work – except instead of the tropics theme with watercolor crayons, the aquarelles, I'm deviating into straight watercolor and floral design elements. But I don't like most of it. So I've only got one new piece for the show after all that work.

I had planned to do several more pieces when I was in Baja, but since we didn't go, I have no new material. At this point I'm looking through my photographs for inspiration.

Out of the blue, last week, John decided we should break up, without telling me, so we held vacation plans in abeyance. He decided to go to the desert with his daughter and ex-wife. I'm enraged, but that isn't of much use. Jilted is more like it.

John gave me a writing  assignment. I find reasons not to write about it, but tonight my heart wants to burst, to weep all this sorrow into a saline river. So I make long lists. I have a fondness for semi semicolons; I like Philip Whalen's lists. He told me that he was mean to Gary Snyder when they were young; but now Gary's become a teacher. And Phil became a monk because of Gary; I tell Phillip I don't want to be a hermit. I like sex too much. He laughs. Ah, yes, the vagaries of circular writing.

John's more prone to black-and-white decisions. And I'm more ambiguous, knowing these things have their own rhythm ,and cannot be forced.  Like Whalen, I'm more of a Taoist in these matters, I think.

On the long solitary drive home from Fort Mason, the sorrow keeps bubbling up. So I distract myself with Spanish-language tapes. But it reminds me that I should be in Cabo with John. We would've been there yesterday, Ayer, entonces.

Sunday, April 19, 1987

Easter Sunday journal

Easter Sunday –

Dear book, I don't know whether to obsess about John, or to get poetic, or both at once. Begin chronologically. Spent the night at John's Thursday after the reading.

Three galleries want to display my photos, Mama Bear's in Oakland, contact Alice Malloy. Also someone wants to see my di Prima photos with Kush at a new gallery in San Francisco. And Michael Sykes has a new gallery. Print up photos for possible three shows. Mama Bear's wants the big stuff. Ak! How am I going to manage to fund this?

Also, Neeley Cherkovsky mentioned a photo book of San Francisco writers, like Mark in Time. Christie Fleishman also liked my work. I got lots of photographic strokes. I was not expecting any of it. Let's see what actually pans out. Always a radically different story.

I'm at John's house, and I feel comforted.. I spent the day weeding and I dug in the garden and I cleaned the house. It's a mess. How can he live this way and his daughter doesn't do anything, obviously.

There are times when I'm 100% convinced to break it off and I begin to accept it. Then I flip-flop again, I'm 100% convinced that I want to go ahead with the relationship. On Friday I was feeling positive. By Friday evening dinner with Frances, his mother who pointed out to me the repetitive patterns, and my role as an anti-stepmother of sorts, whether or not I liked it. The daughter is moving out next week. If this is the problem then it will resolve itself, somewhat.

Frances's advice was enlightening, though I'm not sure it's entirely helpful. A part of me is so angry over the entire thing. I cleaned John's house because A. it needed it be cleaned. B. it was a gift for his birthday, C. it was a final parting gift, D. I wanted him to miss me, to feel badly about breaking up. E. to make my presence known to his daughter, etc. But the for the last time, so to speak.

Then later in bed, I thought of all that we've been through and had done together, how much I felt mated to John. In one and a half years we've shared a lot of profound experiences. Is this the right time to break it off? Well, we've had a good time of it, but is it a cop out?

The issue of having a kid, is it is an excuse, or isn't it? But I think it serves as a useful tool for not just dealing with what is really happening. But also the future. How can I begin to trust someone who has begun 16 major affairs and relationships in 44 years? Or should I say, in 26 years. That averages out to one and a half women per year, some of which were simultaneous. One major affair for every seven years with lots of affairs interspliced between. John is right. He is a mess when it comes to relationships.

If I break up with John, then the issue of the child is is moot. Will my desire still be there? Most men don't want to start over. But then it's all pretty straightforward. Why bring any more children into this world? Nuclear and environmental threats, population explosion, etc.
In other words, most men I go out with aren't going to want to do it anyway. John's just one of them.

So, if I resolve that issue, what about the quality of life we already possess? What about the sexual ambiguities? Will that change, or am I stuck with someone who is uninspired and/or incapable of satisfying me most of the time? How much of that is related to the kid issue?

My not trusting John, is based on very real conclusions, how much of this is a lack of trust, added to the destruction and the ambiguity of a given relationship. Friday I had resigned myself to breaking up. It was okay. By Saturday I was so depressed the thought of breaking up was much more real, as if I had already accepted it.

Thursday, April 16, 1987


My first time in the desert
I was a small as an ant
carrying one grain of sand at a time.

The moon recounts
these aging ripples in the pond,
growing younger after a rock is tossed in.

Blue edge of water
measures distance
between rock and beach.

Airborne prisms searching for rainbows.

Inyo mountains, jagged teeth
a portal of the sky
orange clouds tease the blue snow.

Shadow and snow,
tree and dance,
what's left over is pure residue.

One more tree defines its role.
Each season, another job.

In the desert night, lights,
a mirage of conquered valleys
This fertile floor and strange harvest.

not sure of the date.
Next poem is dated 5/16.


These things can never be
to hang onto that branch
the way all good apples do
when hummingbirds dance on their wings
and the stars know nothing better than this
the ceiling keeps rising, soft patterns, mute swans
Deep voices of the night keep coming in
but we preserve this craft at a snail's pace
and the grass keeps singing into the night.

April 11-20 (when?)
National Poetry Week
Toby Lurie, CPITS workshop
Conversations with Sandberg's Summer Grass

What would you like to eb for 24 hours? A redwood and a chickenhawk.
Go have a conversation , 2 stanzas, one lonely, another gregarious

Paula Gocker: Draw a line on a paper, now make it into something, and write about it.

Poetry therapy panel Poetry as healer, expressive therapy 
Apollo was the god of medicine and poetry
Dr. Jack Healey
If you were an animal 1) wild, 2) domestic 1/2 group  ea. psychodrama
Find a safe place in nature, visualization, use photos

Wednesday, April 15, 1987



Finding herself well skewered
on the end of a long Jewish cock
the goy girl, afraid of injury,
laughingly called herself a shiksa-bob.

journal Tax Day (photos)


I need to go into the darkroom tonight, and pack up for the next six days. I'll be on the road. National Poetry Week and the California Arts Council Art Day lobbying event. Note to self: Bring Ken Larsen all those Rural Arts Services photos. Darkroom tonight.

The chemicals from the darkroom have hyped me up unbelievably. I couldn't sleep at first, and then I was  glue-eyed and sleepy. I always feel hung over after a long night in the darkroom. I don't know how much of it is being up late at night and the intense activity, or if it's the chemicals. It takes me least an hour to come down afterwards.

I left the darkroom at 12:30 AM and it was 1:30 AM before I was calm enough to think about sleep. Some funny photos of Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen. One of Robert Bly as an old hag. Very appropriate. His fans won't like it as it captures a side of him that the majority of the world does not see. But I know about first-hand.

Sunday, April 12, 1987

Snyder, Whelan, Waldman at National Poetry Week

It's come to this: after an emotionally draining day, I leave John's house to photograph poets at National Poetry Week in Fort Mason. Gary Snyder is good, Will is smutty. I cringe when he reads his raven love poem. Phew, I'm off the hook. Another lover recorded in blank verse. Not me.

Will introduces me to Philip who smiles at me knowingly as I chew Will out for smoking a cigarette. Gary Snyder doesn't remember me. Again. But Phil does. And hugs me. I'm assuming Gary's just being cold. Later, he puts it all together, and says, You're Maureen Hurley who took that photo? I said, I feel stupid reintroducing myself every two years. He said, I didn't recognize you. Grief does that to you.

I recounted, Yeah last time I saw you, you cut off all your hair, and mine was long. Now yours is longer than mine was, and I've cut off all mine. Remember sitting zazen at the zendo? Gary gives my hand a warm squeeze, and says, Yes. And we talk about the nesting habits of peregrine falcons in cities and the plumpness of pigeons.

I hand Gary our chapbook, Falling to Sea Level (John Oliver Simon). David Bromige testily commented, with a bit of an edge: Yeah, I heard you two had connected up. Awkward pause. Makes me sound like a hitching post. Or a fishing rod. He didn't think I was capable of pulling one in, and landing him too? He's always ready with his subtle English digs. Doesn't want me to swim in the big poets' pond?

I was so distracted this morning, I nearly hit a parked car leaving John's house. It was difficult to arouse myself. Sleep, sweet oblivion. How desperate he was, saying, Please please please. We fought in whispers as the girls are in his daughter's room. Quarrels over relationships, and his daughter. How desperate we've both become. We cry, kiss, and cry again. Lunch sticks in my throat. I'm determined to fight it out. His daughter stays central to our conversation. It's all Oedipus and divided loyalties. We both bleed the same time each month. Tonight the full moon pulls it out of me, a few days early.

Ann Waldman knocks me over when she reads a poem called Cracks in the World. I am reeling, stunned after her reading. Imagine Snyder and Whalen and Waldman on one bill! I am already tortured. I feel shaky, in need of a friend. And I seek out my friend Will, who is busy sniffing out poontang, and he slinks off like a coyote in low profile. Duane BigEagle, too is less warm. Why do I expect lasting faithful devotion, or friendship from ex-lovers?

The other photographer at National Poetry Week turns his brown spaniel eyes on me. I want to tell him, I'm not the one. And he is smitten in less than 24 hours. Whereas I'm facing borderline mania. The bubble of grief boils over as Ann Waldman reads. I am in tears at the end of her reading. The other photographer tries to offer solace.

Herman Berlandt gives me a copy of his anthology. It's come to this: I count how many ex-lovers are included in the poetry books before I read them. It reads like a shopping list of ex-lovers. I scrutinize dates, and compare notes. I look for some grain of myself in all that male ego. Of course, John's poem is about Here, a woman, and there, a woman. What was I expecting? That his womanizing past would change?

How we remain faithful to each other is by not using a third-party option as a way out. It's not just fear of AIDS, he says, monogamy is a new leaf for me. I guess I should be honored for reforming John. He is the Bill James Encyclopedia of broken hearts. Ever the statistician, John adds up the various scores. An almost wife, I rank in at #16 in the Here a woman, there a woman, category. A dubious distinction, at best.

Thursday, April 9, 1987

WARLORD: after Kurosawa's RAN

            —after Kurosawa's RAN

Praise to the external Western Paradise.
Time to come alone,
time to come to the garden, in exile,
to go back and apologize.
To withdraw within and to wail outside.
Enough is enough, he said.
Only the birds and the beasts
live in solitude.

Lift an umbrella over the stupa.
Now I understand it was a trap.
We really are in hell.

The sun grows redder with each visit.
A warrior holds up his severed arm and laughs.
At the ridge, a rain of arrows.
The carnivorous ground irrigated with blood
is a silent harvest meat and bone.

He who wears the sun on his back
dies but once a day.
When the father can find no other way
to surrender his castle, he dies.

The yellow and red armies part like a sea before him.
He who can no longer turn back
is no longer a son; no longer a father.

The inland sea of grasses offers
a kinder harvest to the deposed king.
The jester says, In a mad world
only the mad are sane.

Not one day do I forget, not one night do I sleep.
The past comes back in twos and threes
to haunt us—like the melody of a flute, token gifts.

When the widow walks, the noise
of her garments is like the hunger of young birds.

The deposed king wears a helmet of grass and lilies
for plumes, a white fox with nine tails.
The bird who hatched to serpent's egg, died.
We are in the hell, when we've cried enough, we die.

The Azuza Plain is littered with the dead.
The mad old man in the garden thought he was king,
and he asks the trees, why am I here?
The ghosts come back to haunt him are alive.
The jester was found crying on the Azuza Plain.
The gathering dead caught the mad king
and the midst of all the carnage, he asks if he is in paradise.

He had three sons who died on the Azuza Plain.
He had no words to excuse himself,
or to forget the bad dream. He asks, is this justice?

Do not call back his spirit. He has suffered enough.
Are there no gods? Buddha?
They see us killing each other over and over again
and cannot help us to stop this carnage.
The clothing of the dead are flowers in the grass.

The blind prince on the castle ramparts
was the only witness to the setting sun.

added 9/17

Saturday, April 4, 1987

While Reading Essays by Robert Hass

Dear Ones: This old post from 1987 languished for years, literally unread—and suddenly I have an audience, I don't know why, but thank you for stopping by. A little Blogger stats sleuthing uncovered Ron Siliman's blog as a redirect. I am thrilled that Ron mentioned it. Over the moon. But puzzled as there is no mention or link anywhere on his most excellent blog. Or why this particular blog piece—as it's merely an old journal entry, not literary criticism. Ah. the vagaries of the internet. Dear Reader, thanyou for stopping by. Feel free to drop me a note via comments. I won't publish them if you don't want them published. I'm dyin' to know how you arrived here in this remote corner of cyberspace—Maureen Hurley 4/29/12

One April Fool's Day, circa 1985, I was reading a book of new essays, "Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry," by Robert Hass (Ecco Press—a well-respected independent New York press, now an imprint of HarperCollins), but his riverine metaphors contained so many geographic errors, I completely forgot what the poetic point of the essays was. What kind of joke was this?

No typo, the 140-mile-long Truckee River was suddenly emptying out at the headwaters of Lake Tahoe and switching directions mid-stream by running down along I-80 into the Pacific Ocean instead of dying in the alkali sump of Nevada's Pyramid Lake—remnant of prehistoric Lake Lahontan? And my natal West Marin watershed, Lagunitas Creek, was apparently running uphill into the Nicasio Valley instead of by Camp Taylor to Tomales Bay.

At least my grandfather's summer neighbor, Kenneth Rexroth, who had a cabin near China House in Lagunitas, knew which way the creek ran:

   Under the second moon the Salmon come,   up Tomales Bay, by Papermill Creek,   up the narrow gorges to their spawning beds in Devil’s Gulch.

I was far too shy to to say anything to Bob at the time, but poet Sharon Doubiago said, You must write what you know to be true—even if it's hard, or rubs against the grain. It is the poet's job to get the facts right. Besides, it was the fragile beauty of the West Marin landscape that led me to the art of poetry.

So, afraid of the commitment to prose, I scribbled a few dyslexic notes I didn't know what to do with, typed it up, transferred it to my old Apple IIc, and forgot about it— until now, some 20 years later, when prose no longer frightens me off with its insistent tyranny of syntax and logic, and an injured knee is keeping me flattened and couchbound.

A friend gave me a pile of old software with a translator tool that allowed me to (sort of) access the archived floppy disks that imprisoned most of my early work by way of obsolescence, which made my enforced immobility more bearable.

Though I had many opportunities over the years to mention the error to Bob, I never did summon up the courage to tell him that both watersheds would have to defy gravity and run uphill—the Truckee River whould have to reroute itself and climb out of the Tahoe Basin over Donner Pass (even the Donner Party ran into some trouble at the pass), and my own Lagunitas or Papermill Creek would be forced to leap its bed from one valley, and defy gravity to traverse the next valley to Tomales Bay.

Now, Bob Hass grew up in San Rafael, so he should have known where Lagunitas Creek emptied, but then he didn't spend any time in Lagunitas Creek. Not like me.


It was a bit ironic, if not poetic justice, that Bob was instrumental in the creation of the eco-poetic Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival. The last time I read at Watershed, we began with a medicine wheel and a drumming circle at Strawberry Creek at the bottom of the UC Berkeley campus.

Someone (was it my ex, John Oliver Simon?) read some Lew Welch poems, then traced the route of the undeground creek to Martin Luther King Jr. Park in front of City Hall. With a clear view down to the bay, at least Bob couldn't get the creek direction wrong here.

We straddled the millennium with poetry readings, we daylighted Strawberry Creek. Kush of Cloudhouse, who was filming the event, dropped a mike down the manhole cover in the midde of the plaza and the miked creek was allowed to speak in silverine during the readings. Our students read their River of Words poems to the music of the creek.

It was a glorious day—even if Bob got my name wrong and announced to the world that I was Maureen Heaney. Ironic, one of my grandmothers was a Heaney, a fact which once caused Seamus Himself and I to declare ourselves cousins after a tot or two of uisce beatha in an elevator.

Ironic also that Bob now lives near the mouth of Lagunitas Creek, a few miles from White House Bend in Inverness. I wonder if anyone ever told him, or if he ever corrected the error when the book was republished by HarperCollins?


But back to my story: the name of Papermill creek changes according to history and whim and usage. We called it Lagunitas Creek. I know where Papermill Creek empties. At one time or another, I've ridden, swum, and fished most of the entire 20-mile length of the creek from its headwaters in Woodacre to Olema and Point Reyes, and its final destination, Tomales Bay. Except for one last stretch past the Gravel Pits to Point Reyes—a missed opportunity—but the new landowners are possessed by the idea of boundaries and fence lines. Not like the old days when we were left to our own aimless wanderings. As I thought about all the creek names, my memory took the long road home.


In deep summer, we rode our horses bareback down the tree-lined length of Lagunitas Creek, swimming them through dark pools. One hot summer afternoon, I rode the entire length of the creek bed from Forest Knolls to Tocaloma on an elderly white Arabian gelding named Namún. It was well over 100° and he was at least 100 in horse years.

And though we were lazily plodding along, cool and deliciously wet beneath a canope of alders and redwoods, on the way home, my horse broke out in heat welts and began to wheeze and cough. I thought, omigod, he is going to die right there in the creekbed.

How was I going to explain to his owners why their favorite old horse died in the creek? I splashed Namún's body with water, but it didn't do any good. I had to leave the old man cooling off in a deep, sheltered pool near Jewell. I stroked his neck, he nuzzled me, as if seeking comfort, then despondently hung his head dangerously low into the water, and began to buckle his legs, as if to lay down.

I felt I had inadvertantly broken some rule, but, other than distance, what was it? Arabs, renown for their stamina, can go on forever. Namún, don't lay down and drown on me! I pleaded. He seemed to understand. Straightened and locked his legs. Hung his head dangerously low to the water.

I scrambled up the silted embankment to the highway and ran through the hamlet of Jewel, screaming for help—and got someone to call to Namún's owner, horse trainer, Edie Lehman. Jewell had about three houses. Luckily someone was home.

Edie arrived in no time, pulling the big horse trailer with its green Rafter L Ranches logo. They lived down the road from me in the old Berini place on Arroyo Road. I was a stable hand and exerciser for her horses.

She showed me how to inject Namún with the antihistamines and when his breathing stablized, we led him up the embankment and loaded him into the trailer. I never rode in the creekbed again.

Papermill Creek changes its name depending upon which part of the valley one lives in. In the San Geronimo Valley it's called Creamery Creek, the Dollar Creamery is long gone, but the place name survives as a Creamery Road.

In Lagunitas it assumes the moniker, Lagunitas. At Shafter's, the pools are all named. The creek becomes the Inkwell, and China House Bend. At Camp Taylor, where the rag papermill was founded, Papermill Creek winds around the dark side of Mt. Barnabe, named after Sam Taylor's white mule.

Then there are the Gravel Pits, my family's favorite swimming hole. Right before the creek reaches Tomales Bay, it becomes White House Pool—where Teddy Roosevelt was fond of fishing for coho and silver salmon.

No wonder Bob Hass had a hard time with the direction of his rivers. We had a handful of names for the same creek.

I grew up on the other side of Mt. Barnabe, on a southern slope in full sunlight. Barnabe's mule bones have long since slipped back into the earth. We used to loiter by the pools of Lagunitas Creek, Carson Creek, Devil’s Gulch, and Arroyo Creek when the salmon were running, we waited for that flash, coinage of silver, vermillion and green heralded the fall.

Though the Devil's Gulch route was the most direct route over the mountain, and was one of my grandfather's favorite hikes, it was such a long, hot and desolate ride over the summit of Mt. Barnabe to Camp Taylor, we kids avoided it.

Following the flat railroad bed from Lagunitas, or the creekbed to Tocaloma was the easiest route.

There was also a more northerly route over Mt. Barnabe that avoided the summit. It took us along the hogback ridges through abandoned apple and bitter pear orchards down to the deserted settlement of Devil's Gulch. I felt so far from home, thankful for the warm reassurance of my horse under me.

It was in Devil's Gulch where my mother stumbled into a wasp's nest as a child and was nearly stung to death. My grandmother cooled the poor child off in the creek and covered her stings with fine clay mud to draw out the poison. My grandmother said it was always a longer walk home. But when something went wrong, the road home doubled in distance.

Sometimes I made a circle up over Mt. Barnabe and down its steep slopes to Camp Taylor and then return home up the railroad bed to Lagunitas and Arroyo Road. At one point or another, I've ridden most of what's left of the railroad beds from Woodacre to Tocaloma.

Early mornings, we'd race our horses along the flat stretches of railroad bed to the park gate. I always pulled out ahead at the quarter mile, but a two-mile course fatigued my quarter horse, and the nags would always pull ahead. Even Brenda Bullock's Icelandic pony, Helgar, or little Susie Mattsson's plug could beat my mare on the two-mile run.

Soon after that, my mare pulled up lame, but I was 15, and addicted to racing, I avoided the warning signals. Riding her bareback at breakneck speed was an unmatched thrill. She was pure verve and muscle, it was like riding a barrel down Class Two rapids.

One time when Becky Dart ran away with me at Kent Lake, I sawed on the bit until flecks of blood and foam decorated us, her tongue nearly cut in two by the metal snaffle bit. But still she ran, a Three Bars mare at heart.

It was spring, my sorrel mare was out to grass, but foxtails carpeted her wound. Every day I had to tweezer the stickers and oats out of the raw flesh, which I cauterized with silver nitrate. Daily I was reminded of what I'd done to this animal by racing her, she came from a long line of champion race horses, it was in her blood to run.

Granddaugher of the fabled Three Bars, my mare had the thoroughbred lineage of kings in her blood. She was one degree removed from The Preakness, the Kentucky Derby, Sarasota Springs. When my aunt's friend Chuck traced her pedigree, at first, he thought it was forged, but he said, If this proves to be true, you've got quite a valuable mare there, she could beget champions even if her knees were bad.

It was like finding a secret treasure in the woods, or a Vermeer hidden under an artless painting. There wasn't another horse in the valley who could match her at the quarter mile, and no one would race me unless it was a long track.

It was precisely on those kinds of afternoons when you knew spring had arrived. We'd ride and ride for miles on the open road. Time took us on a curious echoing quality. I can still recall the poignancy of late afternoon rides and the dappled roads under tall trees. Bleeding hearts, checker lilies and false Solomon's seal nodding their heads. Trilliums spreading their tripartite wings.

Riding horseback was as natural as walking or breathing. My best friend Stephanie Stone and I rode everywhere. We grew up and lost touch. I hadn't head from her in years. Her brother Eric said she had a horse in Arizona to ride and that helped to keep her sane through a loveless marriage. But that's when the drinking began. She kept it to herself. Held it in until the cancer ate her marrow.

At seventeen, after my mare tragically died of colic, from eating too much new spring grass in the Bianchi's pasture, I worked for the Lehman's training stable. I showed their horses at gymkhanas, I collected armloads of blue and red ribbons, but I didn't want to own another horse, losing her was devastating. She was big and beautiful, there was so more of her to love.

At nineteen, my other interests, my art—demanded that I move into the larger area of the world. I was at odds. Two worlds colliding. I had a chance to travel, a work-study job in Switzerland. I was sorry to leave, I almost didn't go to Europe, but Edie said, Don't be silly! It's a chance of a lifetime. Go! Have fun!

There were plenty of other girls, like Donna Lopez—who once unscrupulously kicked my horse right when I was in front of the judge, costing me the blue ribbon—girls like her were only too happy to step into my coveted job. And so she did.

I felt a crippling loss, separated from the horses like that. There was nothing much left of my childhood landscape. And so I sometimes dream of horses, and wake up with an inconsolable sense of longing. Everyone else moved into bucolic Marin. They came from LA, and from back east, they bought up the valley, they quickclaimed it and put up plywood palaces, they put up electric fences, they dammed the creeks and gated the roads.

They brought their urban nightmares with them. Runaway horses on the precipice.

When the invaders came, we lost more than our right of way. We lost our way.

The wild creature within me has slowly become urbanized with time. But I still dream of following the horses on endless fire roads running along the horizon.

Twenty years later, laid up with a bad knee, I am remembering it all as if it were yesterday. No point, no point of view. Merely Bob Hass's rivers running uphill against memory and time.

© rev. 2007; April 1, 1987, Maureen Hurley

For more information and a bio on Robert Hass, go to Wickipedia.

Note bene: Interesting to note, that according to Wikipedia, Lagunitas Creek headwaters originate on the northern slopes of Mt. Tam, but the Kent Lake tributary enters AFTER the town of Lagunitas, and during my grandparents' day, was called Carson Creek when my uncles used to hike that watershed. There were cataracts and waterfalls, now drowned by Kent Lake. Creamery Creek, San Geronimo Creek, Forest Knolls Creek, Lagunitas Creek are all one and the same creek and it is all upstream from Carson Creek/Kent Lake spillway. So I beg to differ—the Wiki entry is wrong. Or maybe we grew up on the east fork and never knew about the other two forks. Some topographic research is in order. But this piece is about colloquial use of toponyms more than anything else.

I looked up San Geronimo Creek and Wiki lists the headwaters at the TOWN of Lucas Valley. There is no town of Lucas Valley!!! There is a creek from Lucas Valley that drains into Nicasio and the Nicasio Reservior. And another creek that drains the other side of Big Rock called Miller Creek. ACK! They've gone and rewritten history and renamed all our creeks.