Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Why we fight....Part IX

I am the world's worst photographer. I am also the world's worst swimmer, and I can't carry a tune in a bucket despite years of attempted piano lessons. I have failed to learn how to swim, despite marrying at least two licensed swim instructors, one of whom was even a Royal Swim in licensed to teach actual royalty, or at least Cypriot immigrants in a Royal Ghetto.

I put it all down to genetics. I am Irish. Immersion in the Irish Sea....or the relatively warm Irish side of the a death sentence in twenty minutes or so. I have witnessed seventy foot storm surges on the Kerry coast, and the futility of learning to swim became clear to me. My relatives on both sides were sea-captains. No one can swim for shit. What is the point?

I fought this genetic thing for a long time.....witness two marriages to swim instructors. I also became a rescue diver. It turns out that wet suits will float matter what, for no matter how long. And, with a generational propensity for sinking to the bottom of any available salt water body at hand....I was already fully past-life experienced with functioning under salt water, albeit for however short a time. The fact that the twentieth century gave us sinking micks alternative breathing devices on our way to the bottom just made the whole experience absurdly comfortable and easy.

My friend Phil Sammet trained me past the no-swimming thing....and even got me down to 230 feet in Bluefish Cove at Point Lobos. In wetsuits. The famous deep-dive nitrogen intoxication never affected us, as the foto below shows.....

Who better to save you than this guy.....a non-swimming Irish guy. If you GET saved by this grateful that Darwin missed you.

And, as a rescue diver.....I actually saved some folks. Amongst the many proofs of the existence of an ironic diety is the fact that one of my saved souls now lives a hundred meters from The Store, is less than robustly clean and sober, and makes a daily, annoying and time-consuming appearance in all of our lives.

Photography, though.....It ain't happening. We worked for Ansel Adams, Tom Millae, Rod Dresser, Kim Weston, Cole Weston, Andre Kertesz. I can't get the fucking image when I see it.

I have friends who can, which makes it all the worse: Bennie Spiedel, Brian Buck, son Conall Jones....or Jacek, a blog-friend. These guys, left alone with light and some silver oxide can capture all you need to know about any given moment in time and light. Effortlessly.

This brings us back to the whole "a picture is worth 10,000 words" thing.

This time of year finds us trying to rally from Seasonal Affective Disorder.....and Seasonal Bridal Disorder......and Seasonal Tax Disorder. This is why you buy dogs.....who drag you up the mountain twice a day, no matter what. We have twelve acres of poison oak on the cold side of the mountain...even marijuana won't grow here.....but the dogs religiously drag us up and down the mountain in the early morning and the late light at dusk.

The morning hike goes down mountain. Old Morgana....the half-wolf with the bad hips....struggles as I do on the way back up. She still goes religiously, even though she falls a lot. Her job is to protect me from mountain lions. No matter where I go, she is a couple of yards upwind, vigilant. Grandpuppy races through the woods like a maniac, while Floyd (the Tassajara Monastery reject) and Sparky paddle around aimlessly.

I take machetes and cutters and save my absentee neighbors' oaks from giant poison oak vines. I steal the neighbor's Herald on the way down to try to blot out the whole Nature thing. That lasts a minute or two.....

This morning, with the Herald fully read.....on a twenty minute walk over half of which was on a paved driveway.....I counted 28 varieties of wildflowers. This is without bending over and looking closely. Each new iteration of each wildflower called for my attention, and I fought it....except to register the ordinal.

Then I came around a turn and was faced with this view....apologies to Bennie and Jacek and Conall.....none of those guys would have the phone line in the shot....and they would have gotten the colors right. Colors that almost stopped my heart.

The dim bell went off in the back of my head: "Pay attention, dipshit!"

Life is going on around you......and your eyes are closed. Fuckhead!

Somewhat inspired, I went back to my desk......and eight hours later the dogs dragged me back outside. This time up the hill.

We thrashed through the brush....did some clearing of the trails. Every time I pulled out some poison oak I felt guilty.....We are right now during Work Period at Tassajara, and I am responsible for keeping their trails clear of poison oak. What am I doing working my own piece, when the monks have nobody?

Grandpuppy Xabi came barking up to me......trailing a long gown of purple vetch. He was thrilled.....he had found a deer antler, and it had somehow become entangled with vetch and baby wild daisies.

I followed him off the trail, trying to catch his flower-train. We ran through the deer mint.....the high notes (square stemmed lavender, basil, mint, etc) of fragrance ricocheting off the dangerous earthy tones of the crushed poison oak.

We came out in a clearing where the poison oak had killed a wild oak. In front of us was a quarter acre of purple vetch, monkey flower and deer mint relaxing in the shade of the surviving wild oaks. Out beyond was Rancho Chupinos....same view as in the morning....but with the purple lupines going off, and the California poppies picking up the setting sun.

The view exactly matched the fragrance of the woods. Even the dogs stopped in their tracks.

Where is Bennie, or Jacek, or Conall....when you really need them.

Or Robert Frost, for that matter.

Tomorrow to Tassajara. Gotta start paying attention.


Blogger kathy said...

Yep indeedy - we live in paradise. Even us natives realize it and smile....

8:11 AM  
Blogger jacek walicki said...

Here is to you, Sir

12:35 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The second picture is very much like an Eyvind Earle painting; he liked to have tree branches hanging in front of a spectral vista. And the lighting and colors make me feel like i'm floating, so ethreal and yet so intense...

even a blind pig finds a truffle sometimes :)

9:52 PM  

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