Communing With Redwoods on the California Coast


Summer time brings with it a sure set of rites and rituals — and everybody’s are private and distinctive. For our weeklong ode to the season, T has invited writers to share their very own. Right here, the poet Barbara Jane Reyes describes a street journey taken yearly down the California coast.

My summers for at the very least the previous decade have discovered me and my husband fleeing the unlawful firework spectacles and screeching sideshows in Oakland, Calif., and heading into the Santa Cruz mountains, right down to the Monterey Peninsula and throughout the long-lasting Bixby Bridge into Large Sur. In coastal redwood groves I listen in on youngsters marveling on the oldest of the timber. “It’s so tall, it’s as tall because the moon,” one says to the opposite. I feel, “That line will find yourself in a poem I’ll write quickly.” I can’t assist however hug these big timber and are available away with my hair and arms coated in spider webs; I thank them for sharing their area and whisper, “Excuse us, we’re simply passing by means of.”

Loggers reduce down lots of the eldest redwoods over a century in the past, however the timber’ daughters develop in circles, or fairy rings, surrounding the stumps, and fallen trunks are coated with moss and mushrooms — turkey tail, pink-edge bonnet. We surprise what creatures or spirits reside within the hollowed-out trunks. Alongside the virtually dried-out creeks, the blackberry bramble is thick and painful, however it gives the right place to be nonetheless and spy on swallowtail butterflies. We climb uphill, the terrain beneath the redwood canopies gentle and funky, coated with branches and needles. Their root methods sprawl and push up earth into staircases. Nonetheless additional uphill, we clear the tree line, and the terrain is now advantageous white sand, what stays of an historic ocean. Redwoods have given method to aromatic sagebrush, to twisted, easy purple bark manzanitas, to ponderosa pine, and we watch the woodpeckers wage turf warfare upon each other.

On the Monterey Peninsula, we discover sea otters floating on their backs within the kelp — off the coast of Pacific Grove and Level Lobos, and on the entrance to Moss Touchdown Harbor, the place they roll their our bodies round within the water, huffing and scrubbing their fur. We sit on the rocks and watch them, not more than two meters away from us, unbothered by our presence. On the opposite aspect of the breakwater, an otter dives into the surf and emerges with shellfish to crack open on its furry stomach. The harbor seals are actually pupping on the shores, and the salt air is stuffed with their barking. Within the scrub of the Salinas River Seashore dunes, we depend the tiny brush rabbits darting into their burrows.

All of this stuff inform me one thing about poetry — observing life sprouting from fallen, burnt, lifeless issues; the stillness and silence required to look at a single hummingbird consuming the nectar of monkey flowers; our smallness underneath the 200-foot-tall, thousand-year-old timber; recognizing a kestrel or a Cooper’s hawk hovering above us on the peak of a mountain. I consider that Gerard Manley Hopkins poem, “The Windhover” — “the hurl and gliding / Rebuffed the massive wind. My coronary heart in hiding / Stirred for a hen … ” As a lapsed (failed) Catholic — eight years at Holy Spirit Faculty in Fremont, 4 years at Moreau Catholic Excessive Faculty in Hayward — I feel, “My church is right here, on the mountain, underneath the redwoods, by the ocean.”

WHEN I WAS rising up in suburban Fremont, not too removed from all this magnificence, shade and texture, I didn’t know the names of timber, or flowers, or creatures. I’m certain I requested my dad and mom, and I’m certain that they purchased me and my sisters books, and took us to the general public library as their approach of telling us to look it up ourselves. The pure world was a faraway place, past what we might see from the automotive window on household street journeys — to Cannery Row, to Hearst Citadel, to Solvang and, in the end, to Disneyland. Discovering the paths main up into the mountains, away from protected and tame vacationer sights, memento outlets and public restrooms, was not one thing we did (I didn’t know we might). What number of painstakingly composed household pictures do I’ve, of my three sisters, my dad and mom, my cousins, my aunts and uncles, sporting clear white sneakers and clear bluejeans, cameras slung round our necks, American place names printed throughout our newly bought T-shirts? I discovered so many of those pictures in my grandfather’s residence within the small Philippine city of Gattaran, a harrowing 12-hour bus journey northeast of Manila. These had been the keepsakes we despatched “residence,” to point out our giant prolonged household what our “American” lives had been like, our summers stuffed with consolation, leisure and security.

I want to assume my grandfather would acknowledge me now, not because the pristinely clothed teenager safely distanced from buzzing, crawling, skittering issues however as his 50-year-old American granddaughter, rising from the comb coated in sweat, burrs, bug bites, scratches and cuts from a lot bramble, rocks in my socks and footwear, my legs coated with mud and dirt, smelling just like the solar, with a head stuffed with poems ready to be written down.

Barbara Jane Reyes is the writer of “Letters to a Younger Brown Lady” (BOA Editions, 2020), “Invocation to Daughters” (Metropolis Lights, 2017) and others. She is an adjunct professor within the Yuchengco Philippine Research Program on the College of San Francisco.

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