Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Wildering Mendocino


    The North Coast of California. A place of deep forest, waterfalls, wave crash & whale spout. A place we have felt connected to for decades - and yet Bill & I have just rediscovered it with eyes cleared by post-Covid solitude, when what we saw most days was the sky through the living room windows. It was as though we had never been to Mendocino County before.

     We are very connected to family, and we faced a Christmas without them, thanks to the pandemic. We decided on an alternative holiday - isolating for four days in Mendocino; wildering - no social conventions or daily habits, no restaurants, dress-up or visits to town, no must-call-and-should Zoom. Letting go of whatever we don't want, and discovering what we do. We would spend as much time in the wild as possible. Our only rule would be respecting nature. Could we arrange it?

    Somehow, just after Thanksgiving, we managed to rent a small house on a ridge above the Pacific, arriving to an unexpected panorama.  

    When we explored, the pines (the Pines!) seemed to step forward, one by one or in mass. And the ocean (the Pacific!) and seashore, forever captivating, as in capture and captive. Our first sight of this beach was through the pines.

 Jug Handle State Reserve
We walk the beach, Bill, with his sharp eyes, finds sea-treasures. A flock swoops and whirls  in. Cormorants forage along the rocks. I once wrote a poem about the journey of the godwit, and I always hope to see one - and there it is.  We listen to the high call of a long-legged avocet with upturned beak and a sleek body-sweep of black and white stripes. He is is too fast for my camera. 

    Jug Handle Reserve has the longest beach we've ever seen, and a sweet cove. I imagine the high carved stern of a Spanish ship. I imagine Pomo hunting seal and sea lion, fishing for salmon and gathering mussels. The old ones seem very close to us as we walk toward the water.  

        Though my beloved & I have hiked together for decades, how different it is to hike through forest now that we know of the Wood Wide Web! Those "Entangled Lives"! The trees connected by miles and millennia of mycelia, fungi fruiting after rain.

On another sparkly day, we hike the magical Ecological Staircase, also in Jug Handle Reserve. We climb wave-cut, glacier-carved terraces, from the beach and riparian zones up to a great community of spruce and fir. We enter the forest and are instantly enclosed in greenness, sheltered in a realm that seems to welcome us. We follow a pine-needle-soft red earth path. A raven’s call accompanies us from beginning to end, a steady rhythmic soundscape.

    Then it poured for 24 hours, a time of reading and writing by the fireplace. At night it storms off the coast, and we lie awake listening to a mildly dissonant concerto of rain and wind. Though I often object when human aggression is attributed to nature, at dawn we 'feel' the word angry - wind lashing saplings in the garden, sea slamming rocks, arcs of turbulent spray, the sea a vast tumult of gray waves, a near blackened sky. And then we laugh and lose our fear of the wildness.

I'm grateful for the rain and wind. I feel that I was receiving the knowledge of all the possible weather on this coast, from sparkle to tempest.  We left enclosure for nature, and it fulfilled us, as culture has not been able to since Covid shutdowns. 

    And there is the neutrality of nature, the lack of clamor and rancor, the lack of judgement, and the silent way that plants live their lives. What it gave us was relief from the grief and anxiety of 2020, providing clarity -  which is another word for freedom, and the beginning of wildness.       

                   Green is the color of gratitude.     

Jug Handle Reserve State Park










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