Wednesday, June 25, 2008

THOUGHTS ABOUT CALIFORNIA

When I wrote about grandson, Joel, and what I laughingly refer to as “la-la land” (California) yesterday, I became overwhelmingly nostalgic about the Central Coast of California which I toured for at least 15 of the 23 years I went out to visit my daughter and family. Here in Tennessee, where I’m living a landlocked existence, thoughts about the ocean overcome me at times. This morning, I read about the recent intrusion of wildfires in the forests on the Central Coast and felt saddened by the destruction occurring there. It’s not often that one can locate in the wonderful place where mountain and ocean co-exist. Here in Tennessee, we can appreciate the mountainous areas but there is no ocean nearby when we want respite from the condition of “landlockedness.”

The central coast of California is foggy, chilly, craggy, its bluffs rivaling the best of TN outcroppings, and it also offers some of the most magnificent scenery I’ve seen anywhere (and that includes travels around the world, living in the Mideast, and brief sojourns in at least 47 states). It’s true that my daughter lives in Palmdale, atop the San Andreas Fault, and I’ve viewed the crack in the earth near Elizabeth Lake -- a puny crack, but nonetheless, a sinister prediction that one day the desert, forests, and mountains will fall into the beautiful Pacific. Yet, I love California and can close my eyes and see the winding mountain road that runs before the Henry Miller Library at Big Sur, the Big Sur Campground with an icy creek coursing through forests of giant redwoods, and those majestic stone outcroppings overhanging the blue Pacific. Many of my poems center on this area, and I feel like Robert Frost who touted the virtues of New Hampshire in his famous poem “New Hampshire,”…Frost went on and on about “how restful just to think about living in New Hampshire,” then ended the poem with the line “at present I am living in Vermont.” I can identify with feeling wistful nostalgia for a place where one is not presently living and suppose that after describing the beauty of the Central Coast, I’d paraphrase Frost by ending my burst of nostalgia with “at present I am living in Tennessee!”

I once wrote 15 poems while riding in the passenger seat of a car en route from a vacation at S. Lake Tahoe to Palmdale, CA, and many of the poems in my chapbook, AFTERNOONS IN OAXACA, center on California. Here’s one about my reunion with brother Paul in northern CA after a 20 year hiatus in our relationship. It’s from a series of poems called “The Journey Back:”

THE JOURNEY BACK

Giant trees loom in shadow,
dust lying on their branches

like the powder of snow,
a forest of ghosts older than our memories.

We stand on a bridge looking down
at a clear stream, seeing through

to islands of pebbles,
unsure of how we will be together

after the desert of 20 years,
yet wise enough to know

nature can be trusted,
will inspire what is needed for connection,

winding through the narrow alley
between redwood towers, making our way

to the ocean cresting, blowing foam of memory,
believing the rock in its center to be redemption,

a solidness we have not known.
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