Monday, November 19, 2012
Arriving in Fort Bragg a few days ago, I got to enjoy a much welcome pelagic view after being mountain locked for over eight months. Benignly soporific waves far below cast their foam far up onto the rocks and a lonely gull posed for a few cliff side pics, some gnats flying around its head which didn't seem to perturb it in the least. A guy in a pickup truck scanned the kelp ridden bay with some binoculars and I went over to chat it up with him.
"The herons are eating gophers." He said. "They pick them off on the fly. I watch them wriggle in their throats. Stomach acids finish them off eventually. Fishing isn't as good anymore."
I had heard the same while in Nova Scotia a couple of years ago during a boat tour of some bird islands near Stanley. The weary tour guide pointed out the anorexic seals warming up on the rocks-a hard to ignore reminder of the plight of our depleted oceans and the toll its taking on all living things.
Heading north I pulled into a deserted state park just outside of town and after setting up camp, soon found that the beach is not a good place to traipse with one's head in the clouds. While examining a bit of flotsam that looked like a French tickler, a 'rogue' wave nearly pulled me out to sea in its undertow. Soaked to my waist and my boots filled with salt water, I slushed my way back to the camp site, musing on Fukushima, wondering if the sea flora was some mutant offspring of the disaster.
Awakening around two a.m., I turn on the flashlight and see my shoes floating in a pool of rainwater outside the tent. A cold awakening and a needed ablution for my feet the next morning. . None of the other campsites around me had any standing water. Perhaps something needed to dissolve in me via alchemical solutio.
At dawn, I headed further north and after much serpentine effort, road wise speaking, eventually arrived at Sinkyone Wilderness Area-still looking for some kind of peace. The camp host sat at a park bench reading and I walked over and sat down with her in the semi-sun, sharing an ad libbed synopsis of my blog travelogue and how I had come to arrive at this fairly remote place. She took me to my brook side campsite and after setting up, I walked along the Lost Coast-admiring how plate subduction had contributed to creating such a remarkably beautiful place. Waves below seemed to rebuke my errant thoughts and I found myself standing on the edge of an eroded bit of trail-the drop down to the beach would have been nothing short of fatal if it collapsed. Warnings given to me by the head of the Juneau search and rescue team in Alaska a few years ago came to mind and I promptly backed away.
The next day out on the porch of the visitor's lodge we sat. Rain clouds loomed and I had to be ready to evacuate lest I be stranded for days. Sophia poured over a field guide to sea life, pointing to a pictures of some species of kelp she used to make a salad. I couldn't get the island of plastic debris floating in the Pacific out of my mind. Eventually, the island will become a country once it melts into something more cohesive. Perhaps some protracted lightning storm will fuse it all together, rendering it into some kind of gulag for dissidents around the world. I reach for a geology book inside the lodge and page through it, a more bedrock endeavor IMO considering the surface plight at hand. The rains eventually came while we talked about aborigines and I sped my way back up the treacherous road and back to the highway, passing through a pot town called Garberville.
After more winding roads the next day and the day after, I eventually arrived in Calistoga and soaked in some hot springs. While contemplating my feet in the whirlpool jets, a mish mash of different languages melded with the sounds of the waters. A bald woman with Pierre Cardin sunglasses flaunted her buffed body speaking, with her friends in some eastern bloc language I’m guessing. A woman at a table read, The Servant Class,doing some vicarious salt of the earth living while she flipped through the pages, munching on a cucumber sandwich. I’m reminded of a scene in the Bunuel movie Belle de Jour where one of the idle rich says, “I often think of the working class when it snows.”
Lulled by the bubbles, dreaming of netting some hippy heiress, I look up only to see a rather plump woman to my right wearing a tie dyed crepe gown stuffing her face with a salad at one of the tables. I wished I had some flower child lens to see the world through at that moment.
My head swirls a bit and a slender woman soaking in the same springs looks at me with calculated distance. I try to weave the steam into an invitation since there is not a varicose vein on her body. But she looks away, her ready eyes trained on some jet set retribution far beyond the springs.
I pass through Calistoga and feel the presence of the living vine there. Is this some kind of soul recollection or a lost part of me that needs to be reclaimed? Or echoes from the wedding feast at Cana? Only the lord would know, I suppose. Perhaps if I drank some vintage Chablis the region is famous for, it would evoke such a thing, like Proust biting into a Petite Madeleine and the remembrances the dessert inspired in him. Passing vineyard after autumn hued vineyard, it is all blue ruin to me though. Perhaps just a sip? It would have to be the rarest of vintages indeed, some private reserve locked away in a Rotshchild vault. The bottle has my real name written on it, that I can see, with all sorts of intricate filigree etched into the glass which serves to weave the circuitous travails of my life together. I would never cork it open though, but if I did, I’d embrace this place and the people here with my heart, wine holding the key to its full opening. I’d embrace their BMWs and Porsches too. More importantly, I’d look at myself more objectively-opt for Botox injections, get the crow’s feet buffed away and my graying hair dyed into something more attractively conducive. Perhaps the wine, even if I spit it out like a professional taster, will impart some healing powers and I’ll be able to erase all signs of weathering in the moneyed class that have staked a claim to this region. How liberating would that be? Cosmetic surgeons would be put out of business and have to move elsewhere. Yoga instructors too. As I speed down the highway with such prospects fading, a silk theater curtain woven by Tuscany handmaidens descends to the valley and backstage, they siren call me into a 12th century past, where my troubadour inspirations could stand a better chance, that is if they’re not dashed against the rocks of the wine inspired illusions written above.
Now my hands chill in this campsight as I type this out near my backpacker’s tent. Dark coming fast as we approach the solstice.