In 1974 when i was living in Stinson Beach,California i hiked out to the Point Reyes Wilderness area and camped out for 5 days.
There i lived like Robinson Crusoe on the beach not seeing anyone alone with my thoughts and i wrote. I wrote a 20 page story of my time there in the wilderness and my philosophy and beliefs at the time . I was in my early 20’s. I have just found this story and i am in the process of retyping it and seeing if it has merit and also i am curious to see if my values then are the same as now.
Some 40 years have gone by . This has been my spiritual place since that time back in the early 70’s. When it is Yom Kippur i don’t go to synagogue.I come here.
This is half of it and i will add more as the days come on .
In reading it i can see former heroes,Henry David Thoreau ,Jack Kerouac,Gary Snyder were all looking over my shoulder .
” In this moment in time and space i am alone.There are no people around me,there are no human voices to hear.The startling cadences of a multitude of birds,the roar of the sea,the redolent smell and shiver of the wind is all.
I am alone.
Let me start at the beginning as all stories must do and heed well to my thoughts for this goes beyond a personal affair ,it is a minor skeletal story ,an allegory if you will of another world desperately trying to regain what was once intrinsic in Man’s development in the past and has rapidly diminished since with increasing dependence on machines.
At 6 am Steve my buddy and housemate,(we lived on top of the old bookstore in Stinson Beach ) woke up and I made cottage pancakes and eggs and he prepared a pot of strong hot coffee. Heartily we ate with gusto .
Now we were ready for our adventure !
With our stomachs full and our minds awake we hitchhiked heading North of Stinson on Highway 1.
Our destination was Point Reyes ,the 64,000 acre span of wilderness about 15 miles ahead of us up the coast.
Point Reyes or Point of the Kings was so named by the Spanish explorer Don Sebastian Vizcaino in 1603. It was here that Sir Francis Drake in 1579 sailed his damaged ship the Golden Hinde into the bay ,claimed the land for England and Queen Elizabeth ,repaired his vessel and then proceeded his voyage around the world.
I wonder what the natives thought of him staking a claim ,a nebulous one at best. Nova Albion he called it because of the similarity to his native white cliffs of Dover . In 1962 Congress authorized this area a National Seashore as a refuge for birds and other animals to reside without fear from man,that notorious spoiler of wildlife. No condos would be built here.
Presently there are over 300 varieties of birds and 72 types of mammals including bob cat and bear and tule elk and white-tailed deer.
It is here where i am writing from .The land is the same as when the indian tribes roamed these parts .
It is here that i have come to alone with myself and nature.”
Steve and I in one ride got to the trailhead just off the highway and we hiked about 5 miles.
On the way we caught sight of a wildcat or bobcat ,less than 50 years away ,the first i have ever seen.He was beautiful,sleek well rippled and muscular and poised,his coat a tawny dust color and using my binoculars I trained my eyes on him and watched carefully. He was about the size of a medium dog,mush smaller than i imagined and as he caught smell of us he walked carefully with stealth and wariness through the brush .. I had read up on wildcats before i left and was astonished to read that attacks are rare .For what seemed like a breathless eternity we watched as he watched us .Just as he turned to bound off i let out a shrill whistle .He stopped frozen tilted his head and with a surefooted leap disappeared into the wilderness.
A few minutes later as we were about to ford a creek i felt eyes on me and there wa s jackrabbit whose attention was on licking his jambs while watching me less than ten yards away. Lingered and brightened he paid us scant attention as he went on his duties.
That is apparent here in the wilderness where there has never been a shot from a gun heard and humans don’t seem to pose a threat . There is no collective memory of being the hunted. No sharp report of a rifle has been heard .No warm blood oozing on damp ground at least not from man.I hoped then with all my heartbeat they would never have to deal with my race who seems bent to destroy everything in their pursuit of progress. Man whose ineptness to bind passion with reason has proved fatal to environment.We spend our time seeking to know the wherefores and the whys as i am doing now and in the course of his search has pained Mother Nature in the name of comfort and progress and perhaps in our smugness of being the superior animal seemingly ,because of our reasoning capabilities we have missed the mark.We have lost our kinship with the earth.We have built cities that touch the sky made of concrete and steel and we have poisoned the seas and the atmosphere forgetting about simple things and sacred joys.
“When i am alone in my sylvan home
I tread on the feet of Greece and Rome
the sophist schools and the learned clan
the greed and envy and pride of man
for what are they all in their high conceit
when man in the bush with god may meet ”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I memorized this just before i left home at 15.
And what is God i think now as i gaze about me ,the jackrabbit a few yards away ,the mountains and the cliffs ,the rushing creek ,the distant roar of the surf pounding on crystal sand. Does this rabbit get on his knees and pray ,bow down to and live in fear of a God or are animals beyond that in the sense that they re God as their surroundings are as everything is.
The religions of the world all talk of onemindedness ,the Buddhists and the Native Americans and the Jews .They talk in symbols how we ar all interconnected in circles .Here i make my own stick in the sand ,my own interpretation of life and the wonder of it..We who are endowed with a thinking process and to be objective and wonder about purposes and ends and beginnings ,unlike our animal friends who have no such design ,their purpose being in the now and in survival,perhaps our raison dieters is to be in the present ,in the Now ,the Tao of the moment exploring each avenue ,each tree branch of this tree of life.
Out of this tree of life is society with it’s taboos and fears.It is wondrous this tree yet also terrible but that too is what we are doomed to experience in life sometimes.Perhaps in a future time we amy all join together in a dream to be like a circle with a core pertaining to the joy of growth.There is a folly in this life too many fall into and that is getting hung in one path for there are many paths that are waiting to be explored.Throw off your dogma i say.
“Life is a full circle widening until it joins the full circle of the infinite ”
Perhaps we would do well to watch the animals and learn their Tao and learn respect for the environment for are we all not one with the four elements ,wind sky part and water? Are we all not part of the winter of the North ,the summer sun of the South ,the rising and sinking of the summer sun from East to West.
I remember one winter in Canada watching a squirrel eat it’s food carefully and thoughtfully chewing each morsel. Is this not better than gulping our nourishment? I watched and learned ..
The jackrabbit moved on and so did we .Steve and i climbed steadily onwards until the terrain leveled out.
“For every uphill there is a downhill”,i exclaimed ,out of breath to Steve.
He nodded stopping long enough to wipe his sweaty brow and straighten his pack on his broad shoulders.
Steve is from Minnesota ,a sturdy rangy man with a chock full of curly hair ,a full beard and an infectious cheery grin. I tell Steve he looks like a mountain man with his checkered plaid shirt and carrying his walking stick.
I think about how much walking and hiking i can do before i would consider an epic backpacking trip. I had just read a book ,”High Adventure” by Eric Rybackwho set out to walk the Pacific Crest Trail from Canada to Mexico a path that took him 5 months through snow and mountains and deserts to complete. His parents sent him caches of food in six predetermined places and shouldering 80 pounds he completed his vision. When he was nearing his destination in Mexico his emotions were racing. All he could think of was he wanted to be back in the mountains and he cried in pain.
As he saw his family waiting for him he broke into a run until he collapsed into their waiting arms in tears..
The Pacific Crest Trail! The very thought sent shivers down my spine.
We came across a small ravine and spotted a few blue jays flitting about shrilly announcing our arrival.
We came to a beach named Sculptured Beach according to my map,named for the beautiful cliffs carved by nature’s hand through a million years of erosion..We spot seals in the water diving and frolicking with the waves. As we climbed onto a promontory of rocks leering out into the sea we caught sight of a bird perched at it’s end. Excitedly we focused in with our binoculars and examined the black feathers and white yellow bill and webbed feet and thumbed through my bird book and i joyously identified it as a Brandt Cormorant ,a close relation of the ducks and it breeds on the Farralone Island way out in the Pacific from Stinson Beach., 20 miles west of us.
We scrambled over rocks and walked on exploring natural caves a nice place to set up camp if it wasn’t for the high tide. We came upon natural steps of stone leading to a waterfall and sitting on the rocks we were silent and meditative staring out at the Pacific.
“Back to that special place again
we sat starry eyed
silence before our awe
foam of waterfall
and heard the paint of the brush
on rocks we sat
the taste and smell of salt/sea
on high we sat
we looked and saw
the visions John Colter had
before Yellowstone and knew
why he didn’t want to go back
In our heart of hearts
on high rocks we sat
red lichen hugging cliffs
evolvement of old erosion tale
on high we sat
everything we watched at play ”
Davy Crockett was only 13 when he killed his fist bear.Soon I will be 22 and i have just learned of the existence of Old Bear wisdom.
we walk by.
the dirt trails ,deer shit,rocks and scree,
watch silently this is their play ,
and imagine to paint this mountain
trees laugh …
…Mount Wittenberg 1,472 ft high spot 5 deer .one of them is a buck.
“They must have found something good to chomp on.They sure are hanging around ” ,Steve drawls in his Mid Western speak.
windy .clouds and fog coming in .We put on our shirts.
A sputter of frustration hits me as i remember i was going to write story out here or at least some poems. I hope the muse works for me out here
I size up a fallen branch as an appropriate walking stick braking it in half to suit my size.
“Oh the hell with it .If it comes it comes You can’t force it”,I think.
Trees just look back at me with grainy wooden expressions shrug and say “blah”.
Ok blah it is ,i am a vessel,a well if a rush of consciousness in words and thoughts want to come so be it. Haven’t i learned yet it is almost impossible to force the muse.
Why do i want to write this story?
Is that special feeling of white heat that courses threw my brain and surging through my body and nerve endings at breakneck speed ,Casy Jones at the throttle yelling Hey boy shovel me a little more coal are gong to burn this mother into space until we reach the sign that says “Still water ahead. Still but deep”
This is that feeling that makes you realize what poetry is all about, a reflection of pure self,the Godhead maybe…
I walk on contemplating the lack of respect society has for the pretend if money and the pursuit of it endlessly were contained how different some poetry would be.
Poetry is an undeniable expression of self an art like dancing and painting or as making love is .
Some are destroyed by the burden of poverty.
Others use it as fuel to keep going on despite the odds.
They regard this as they would boulders and logs to skirt around like stepping stones .
Steve tells me about Cezanne who had an accident one day on his bicycled since then he developed arthritis and couldn’t paint.That didn’t stop him though.
I was reading last night an interview with Kennet Rexroth for many years the leader of the literary scene in San Francisco..H talks about Hart Crane the poet who spent so much of his energy fretting about monetary problems . The poem to society at large does not have the same currency as a new car,the same built in consumer need.
A poem does not sooth class struggles or appease the public like say a color tv.
When i recently opened a bank account and wrote down my occupation as poet the teller behind the glass scrunched up her nose and looked down on me from her perch and said disdainfully,
“Yes i have an aunt that writes poetry but what do you do young man?”
I don’t know what makes me write .
I have an urge,Blake called it as if from the muse. I cannot help wherever i am if the muse dictates i scramble for a scrap of paper to write.
A lot of times it doesn’t please me but there it is a continuing thing.
I am not a poet of the stature of Ginsberg or Rexroth or of Snyder . No one knows me but when i am alone walking a deer shit trail or staring up at the starry sky and the dark spaces in between i feel deep in my heart it doesn’t matter and i say Blah !
Moving on we again climbed steadily upwards a steep incline .Numerous red tailed hawks ,vultures and deer come within our periphery and we have become adept at scanning always at constant watch for critters . How terrifying it must have been for the woodmen of the pioneer days who would have to have eyes in the back of their heads for enemies and wild animals.
We walk upwards and it is very tough going our leaden feet guided by an unknown impetus. We both marvel at how far we have gotten on very little food except for some nut and date cakes i and made up earlier and little water. But we were not thirsty or hungry as we continued to climb up.
I thought of what John Colter or Jim Bridger might have thought if they were watching us struggling up the steep mountain .Probably would be guffawing in derision at the tenderfeet.
I was tired but didn’t stop.
Steve pointed out some deer gracefully transversing the terrain with ease.
“In my next life i will be deer ” he guffawed. Steve grinned as he wiped his brow.I silently concurred too tired to say anything ..
Finally we reached the top of the mountain and surveyed the descent that would bring us to our destination as we had figured it out poring over maps the night before.
It was just a couple of miles away and all downhill and we figured we had done some 10 miles already ,most of it uphill.
With a hoop and a holler enough to wake up any dozing critter we opened our legs and we fairly flew down the trail past chaparral and nettle ,aromatic sage and tall rippling stalks of plantain .
On we ran our feet telling us where to step and our minds ,joyfully acquiescing and enjoying the ride.
How so lime meditation this running down the mountain ,mindless and deeply entranced in the experience of wind and motion and sweet smell of sage. How curious it is i that our minds take a backseat and does not judge but lets go and trusts and our feet seem to know where to plant themselves even as we are in strong motion.
I start singing an old Pete Seeger song i remember from my childhood.
“From here on up the mountains don’t get any higher
From here on up the mountains don’t get any higher
From here on up the mountains don’t get any higher
but the valleys get lower and lower.”
Now barely a quarter a mile away we surveyed where we would camp for the night and where i would remain alone.
We had been here three weeks ago and that was when i made up my plan to come back and be alone .Steve had agreed to come with me for part of the journey at least hiking me in.
“Home ” i exclaimed.
“Home ” Steve repeated.”You know Steve,I remarked in wonder,
“It seems like we had just left this place yesterday and all that happened in the meantime was just fat on the bone but here is where the magic is”
“Yeah,” he said carefully chewing on a blade of grass ,” It’s like there is no such thing a time here .Thats just another created concept from the city.
Time has a broader concept than a 9 to 5 day or 24 hours .You just can’t measure the time it takes a plant to reach maturity or the smell of the ocean. That can’t be measured. Look there is the lake where we sat and you told me the story about Jumping Mouse the indian tale ,the one about the mouse who because he trusted jumped high and became a soaring eagle . Everything is still the same here,nothing has changed and i i hope it won’t for a long time . Only we have i guess.”
Steve gave a sigh as he pondered.
I reflected back on what had happened in the past three weeks since ewe had last been here. I thought of the girl Star who i had loved who came to visit and of the girl i might have loved who went way and the laughter and the pain and all the drama and now we were back Steve and I to a place we called magically “Home”,a place unlike no other that had been waiting patiently for us to return .
It was almost dark as we reached the beach the sun making a rapid descent to bed,a faint glow etched on the horizon. Hurriedly we threw our packs down by some driftwood logs in front of towering cliffs and made haste to build a fire gathering wood laying about.When we had a strong blaze going settled down and at last stretched our legs. We had hiked some 15 miles that day starting at 9 am with little water and little food save for our early breakfast that miraculously kept us going. We were tired .our feet sore and our bodies aching but we felt great !
“This is peak experience ” I shouted to Steve ,”this point we have reached where we are so hungry and tired that food and sleep seem so beautiful and enticing. This is true living!”
“Yep” Steve agreed ,”There is no bullshit wondering if we are hungry enough.Migod boy i am so hungry i could eat a bear! And look what i got here to set the night off.”
.Steve pulls out a carefully wrapped bottle of Beaujolais .
I had forgotten all about it and indeed it was a great surprise.
With a grand flourish he kicked off the cork and offered me the first swig.
“To life ” i said ,”Lchaim”
After a few more toasts and half a bottle later we brought out the french bread and Fontayne and cheddar cheeses. We broke all protocol s we dived into the food tearing out big hunks of bread and cheese and wolfing it down between swigs of the fine red wine. No talking was heard as we greedily ate our fill.
We sat back finally satiated and content ,the bottle lying empty in the sand.
That night before a blazing fire we nestled into our sleeping bags staring up at the starry expanse of the night ,a million twinkling stars and planets above us .
I remember waking up now and then gazing at the winking night sky and emitting a deep sigh and falling back to sleep.
to be continued..