Be present. Show up. Stay focused. These are the watchwords for living in modern times. But, I’m bucking the advice and attempting to disappear into the Coast Miwok landscape at Point Reyes. Here two of my favorite entities meet: forest and ocean. Together they create an ever-changing topography of contrasts: light and dark, marine and sylvan, deposition and erosion.
I’m letting my body soak in this scenery of opposites. Lying on top of a hill I sink into the yellowed grass until my membranes adapt to its prickliness. I watch the gulls glide and glide over the ultramarine waves until my eyes absorb all that swirling blue. I amble the woods until my nostrils can pick out the smell of heat even where there is no sunlight. I’m also allowing my mind to wander through itself…sloughing off life pieces from the past…trying on different identities. Now I’m an explorer newly landed on shore. Now I’m a nomad living with the seasons. Now I’m the wind racing through the cypress trees, now the cricket hopping from stalk to stalk.
Over the years I’ve ascertained that as much as I try to vanish, I can never escape from myself. As I put on and discard each of these snakeskin selves, I discover I’m more human than I’d like to believe. I can’t be otherwise. There’s no way for me to dissolve into the tides or dematerialize into the redwoods while I breathe. I dwell in this frame and must continue within its limitations.
As ever, nature offers counsel in unexpected methods, revealing portals where walls once stood, providing opportunity in the face of uncertainty. I come upon a whale bone bleached and rotting on the beach, evidence of natural balance. Algae settles firmly upon exposed rock, a haven of symbiosis. And a sign warns humans to keep away with the promise of baby seals in the future if we heed the notice.
I think of the Coast Miwok who tread lightly upon this terrain, learning to gather and release with the changing climates, and to set their testimonies alongside the nettle, the bear, the oak, the elk, the abalone, and the hawks they lived amongst.
A lot is made these days about being authentic on social media, about presenting one’s true and messy self online. Which, perhaps, goes some distance towards accepting our frailties as a species. But there’s something to be said about limiting the accounts about ourselves too. For decentralizing our narratives as hero, as savior, as protagonist.
So much of our detritus is preserved exhaustively, there’s very little space for nonhuman tales outside of children’s entertainment. Yet, there’s a reason we persist in returning to these chronicles for the next generation. They acknowledge our need for our fellow animate and inanimate creatures, they admit our identity as alien in a universe filled with beings other than us.
I’d like to begin that pilgrimage towards storytelling transformation. I’d like to make my anatomy a map of connections. I’d like to be a citizen of Earth even while citizenry itself is fraught with dissension.
So I straddle the outdoor and the virtual worlds precariously, in discomfort of both, struggling to memorialize that which is not me. I walk in reality pursued by the dream life, hoping its alternate perspective will present strategies which allow me to accommodate my humanity to a wider coexistence. Like the gulls above me, I circle several turns around an ancient, gnarled pine in a desire to be imbued with its sacredness.
Nothing is wasted in nature. Build-up and destruction, birth and death, it’s a succession of cycles. Can the same be true about my idleness?
The day drowns along the coast, but I continue to lie awhile above the cliffs fantasizing what sort of guidance I’d receive from the Miwok spirits as they prepare their evening meal. The lowering sun gathers up all my shed memories, the deluded identities I’m leaving behind here, and performs a vanishing act with them where the sea meets the copses. Another me remains to proclaim a new chapter.
Rising sea levels are threatening Miwok burial sites and archaeologic locales along the Point Reyes National Seashore. To learn more about their culture, take an escorted ranger walk to Kule Loklo and visit the Miwok Archeological Preserve of Marin.
What are some of your favorite stories centered around nonhumans? I’d love to hear about songs, books, poems, and films which focus on protagonists other than us in the comments below.
Your idleness also wastes nothing. It’s refreshing to promote the idea of limiting our endless accounts about ourselves, I appreciate that! But in a larger sense, accounts about the world we perceive are very much about ourselves. I think that when you “straddle the outdoor and the virtual worlds” – just as you do the forest and ocean – it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable at all, if you aren’t struggling, and don’t imagine that you’re memorializing anything, but rather, are expressing that which is “me” and everything else, being all interconnected.
As you do with your photos, you’ve given me a new way of viewing my belonging and of how I wish to move forward with my storytelling. Thank you.
🙂 Thank YOU – I do always enjoy your posts!
Very nice and thought-provoking post. I struggle with the whole “authentic” thing when it comes to social media. I’m pretty much content to let that just be a reflection of one part of my life. There are plenty of things I’m just not interested in sharing with everyone.
I’m right there with you about the social media sharing. I’m happy to be on it when and how I want and know that for me it will never be the marketing tool it’s meant to be. I see your posts as being very authentic, sharing with the rest of us how you see the world around you rather than following any set rule of ‘branding’ or ‘aesthetic.’
Thank you very much, that comment means a lot to me because that’s pretty much what I am trying to be in this space.
Interesting perspective. I can relate, insofar as such a personal experience is relatable. I suppose those alternate identities can be best shared if you look beyond the physical entities and consider the spirit behind them. There, perhaps, some communion may be found.
Interesting. I hadn’t thought of my other identities in this way, so I thank you for this new perspective.
I just love the beautiful melancholy of your words and images. No, we can’t escape ourselves, but we can learn to love ourselves. Nature holds the key. I spend most of my free time alone in nature, and it’s getting to the point where I can lose myself in the wind, the sunlight raining on the river, the clouds, the sunrise. No better medicine.
Your comment about citizenry really resonates. It’s so trendy to call oneself a “citizen of the world”, but this has always irritated me. Why is it necessary to be a citizen of anywhere? I was talking to my family about flags recently. A couple of us thought it would be awesome if every individual had their own flag. We are citizens of our own souls. Radical idea, but fun to contemplate.
Thank you for another stellar post. Happy Autumn to you.🧡
I like your family’s idea of individual flags! How fun that would be and what a creative way to attempt to represent ourselves. Thank you for your beautiful insights and may the coming season be full of nature’s bounty for you. 🍁 💛
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/2019/04/maori-river-in-new-zealand-is-a-legal-person/ Here is the link I mentioned in my previous comment.
It’s hard to leave out the human or our own being from the narrative. Perhaps the best we can do is tread lightly on it or along side it. I can’t recall any stories focused soley on non humans but I am fond of China Court by Rumer Godden where the house is the central character. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1993-04-06-vw-19626-story.html Another tale of what many might consider non-human is that of our Whanganui River which is now (rightfully) a legal person. I think you will enjoy the article on the personhood of the River. I will put the link separately.
You are so right. I reveled in the beauty of the National Geographic article on every level! I hope, like the reporter, this won’t be just words but a return to mutual obligations, to mutual respect for what has always been so sacred to all humans. Thank you, thank you for two wonderful and intriguing links.
🙂 🙂 🙂
I enjoy how your words always make me pause briefly and contemplate about things I rarely think of. Modern trappings, i.e. social media and all the jargon about mindfulness, can feel suffocating at times, that’s why every now and then we need to reconnect with the nature which gives us life.
Thank you for that! You’ve put it so well. More and more I find myself escaping from all the ‘must-dos’ of today into the company of trees, meadows, rocks, and shores I so loved growing up. Wishing you a happy monsoon!
After months of dry season, we are really looking forward to having lots of rain — but not the flooding.
Point Reyes is one of my favorite places in California. Your photos (and the way you framed and portrayed them) provide a mythical atmosphere around that beautiful and diverse area – as if the Miwok spirits are somehow represented in them. A layer in the photo we can just make out or just not.
Nature is my refuge as well and lying in the grass (together with my husband and dog) gives me a lot of pleasure. Alone, my thoughts would go anywhere as well, but they are more self-centered usually than yours. 🙂 That’s probably why I don’t know stories about non-humans…
Thank you for such a beautiful compliment on my Pt. Reyes photos! I know you and I share a deep love of the outdoor life and I feel you understand so well the nuances of such an existence. As for non-human stories, I’m sure you can remember a few from your childhood that have stuck with you… 🙂
A vivid depiction of a period of soul-searching – that paradox we have of being part of nature yet being apart from it…
I’m so grateful to be able to continue to soul-search in this exquisite environment. Thank you so very much for stopping by to read my rambles and keep encouraging them.
Your words are both peaceful and thought provoking. Nature is where I go as well to decompress and reflect. I think when one is involved in blogging and with social media accounts there is no right or wrong way to be or an amount to share. I think it becomes a personal balance that will be different for each of us. I hope you are able to find a comfortable spot for your self.
Thank you. It’s often difficult to find that balance and to maintain it as well, but I feel very fortunate to be able to not only have access to places like this but also be able to share them with others in thoughtful and sustainable ways.
Somehow you take all the usual haunts around Sonoma County, combine them with your story and make me want to take a second look. You are indeed an introspective story teller and a photographer that makes one take a closer look…Beautiful…
Thank you Deb, I so treasure your remarks coming as they do from such an evocative artist’s eye! I’m always thrilled if I can make a familiar place to someone else develop new layers.
Lovely images that take one to a quiet place for contemplation. Still, your thoughtful words reveal so much more. Your inner work is a precious goal.
Thank you for your uplifting words. They greatly help as I continue on this journey.
Fabulous thought-provoking post. Love the way you write, really prompts a different way of thinking and considering a visit somewhere. Lovely photos too.
I’m so grateful to know that the post inspired you in this way. Thank you for such a lovely compliment.
What a beautiful place. Thanks for taking us there and the introduction to the Coast Miwok people. It seems their numbers are quite small, but they still survive and that is something to cling to.
Thank you for coming along on this journey! Yes, the Coast Miwok are once again a federally recognized tribe and many members live not too far from their ancestral territories in Graton Rancheria.
As is likely quite obvious, the virtual world has almost slipped my grasp, and I am generally more than happy to let it go. The natural world is a haven for me – whether it be to seek knowledge, challenge my body, or just “be” in it.
You note that “… there’s something to be said about limiting the accounts about ourselves …” and that’s the part of the virtual world that vexes me: how to share my joy in the natural world without the insertion of too much me. When it becomes difficult, or when it’s too easy and it gags me with its egotism, I just want to quit. I admire your effort to get the struggle out in writing!
So we’ve been wrestling with the same problem! Excellent to know. Tell me what solutions you come up with as you try to share that same joy.