Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Meditation at Pescadero

How many lifetimes standing here, watching
soft layers of sand and siltstone and mangled shale
erode, making an arch the waves pulse through,
sometimes with seals in the river shelter,
or with emergent seabed marking geologic time.
You've stood here before, at least a thousand times.
I keep returning. Not only the eternal return
of relevant reincarnation but each passing through
of a visit to a personally sacred place.
This is the anti-apocalypse. Yes, the rocks get worn down
by waves, but it takes a long time, and they meanwhile endure.
This is the anti-despair of a permanent presence
in one's little, ephemeral life. Make a snake in the rocks.
Make a stand of ovoid-weathered stones, call it a line
and dare the tide to cross it. Must I cease dreaming
merely because my eyes are open and I'm standing
over the edge of the cliff above the rocks here
and their tidal bathe? Must the world come to an end
merely because you're standing at the end of the world?
Ridiculous to believe the claims of the urban angst poets.
They never drive out here to stand and watch the sunset
fade gold and indigo through the eye of a hollowed stone.
I've stood here and watched people miss dreamstones
littering the riprap they step over, never seen, unperceived.
For every stone I find here, a hundred are still buried,
still being carved, gouged, hollowed, prepared for that one day
they emerge into the light, sand scooped away by winter storms,
the river bed inland redefined into a new channel, again
and again resculpted. Time and tide the changing agents.
How many lifetimes I've stood here, each one a year and a day
of breathless vows. How often I've seen the cliffs calve off
another birthstone. You can see the interface here, the line
between ancient spreading seafloor and newer inland sediments,
the muck and glop and mashed-up island arcs
that assembled California. Land of new beginnings at
the end of the world. The dark line of old ocean floor
discontinuous with iron-tinged conglomerates and siltstones
soft as talc, hard as sodden, compressed sand. An afterlife
of memory, polished shards with their evidence of ancient
mountains being worn down, uplifted, worn down again.
Water the most powerful erosive force of a dynamic planet.
How many times I've stood on the failing cliffedge overlooking
the receding tunnel of arch and surf. Light grey in cold mist.
Brilliant gold in clear winter sunset, a tunnel of light into time.
How many times I've waited till dark before going to find my bed.
Catching the last scanning line of the sun's retreat, sensing
earth turning east underfoot. Next dawn, another chance
to do it all over again. The rocks erode into the sea.
Then a new land crashes into the old, building it up again.
Somewhere the skin of the earth's face is stretched so thin
hot boils pop out of it, and lines of stretch-marks make
the basin and range. And again. How many times have I
thought of you, lost lover, standing here in the dark.
Only twice were we naked and free over stone, arch, and parapet.
I have the photographic evidence: skin blends into harder stone.
I make a collage of memory. Some images pull loose
from their roots in time, and become universal.
The mind of the world roots your own ghost into stone.
I'll be here again. Long after that, standing on the memory
and ghost of a cliff over a lost archway, a gate forwards
and back into blue sunsets.

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I found a nice site called the California Coastal Records Project with some hi-res photos of Pescadero. What I found odd was the fact there was so much cultivated land close to the edge. Not typical. I’m afraid I’m one of those urban angst poets though. It’s been many years since I stood on a cliff’s edge like that. When my daughter was born I took her down to the jetty in my hometown and showed her the sea – it was quite rough and my wife thought I was mad. I’m not sure why that mattered to me but my connection with the sea was clearly much stronger thirty-one years ago than it is now. I couldn’t call it a spiritual experience – some might – but it was meaningful at the time, significant.

3:05 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

The CCRP is a great resource. Yes, the State Beach there is on the edge of the ocean, and then there's the marshlands just inside the rivermouth, which are also protected. But you're right, the cultivated lands go right up to that edge, there. That's the nature of California, though; every bit of coastal land is used, if possible. The river at Pescadero makes a flat floodplain valley that is used, while most of the rest of the coast around it is high cliffs and steep valleys, suitable mostly for grazing animals. The plain does flood, too, and closes the road, when the rains are heavy. I've seen that happen a couple of times.

Taking your daughter to view the ocean sounds like one of those private, meaningful acts, like a private ritual, that no one else understands. Good for you, and her, for doing that.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Guzmán. said...

Jiddu Krishnamurti telling a joke...

“There are three monks, who had been sitting in deep meditation for many years amidst the Himalayan snow peaks, never speaking a word, in utter silence. One morning, one of the three suddenly speaks up and says, ‘What a lovely morning this is.’ And he falls silent again. Five years of silence pass, when all at once the second monk speaks up and says, ‘But we could do with some rain.’ There is silence among them for another five years, when suddenly the third monk says, ‘Why can’t you two stop chattering?”

6:44 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Great joke, and s spot on target.

9:54 PM  

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