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Left Behind at Point Reyes

Pt-Reyes-boat-BTBe 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. 

Pt-Reyes-road-BTI’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.

Pt-Reyes-lighthouse-BTOver 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. 

Pt-Reyes-beach-BTAs 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. 

Pt-Reyes-cypress-BTSo 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. 

Pt-Reyes-trees-BTNothing 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.

Pt-Reyes-shack-BT


TRAVEL NOTE:

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.


112 replies »

    • You had me looking into the mystery of the bending cypress trees: as far as I was able to determine the Monterey cypress (which is what type of trees these are in the photo) is highly affected by wind. As it gets older it tends to shape itself into having a broad flat crown and bent branches according to the general direction of prevailing winds in the area. The trees are often used as windbreakers and shelter belts on Northern California coastal farms.

      I remember reading “White Fang” as a child and its companion “Call of the Wild,” though I don’t recall much from them except a fascination with the Alaskan landscape.

  1. Beautiful writing. Amazing photos that reflect not just the place but your thoughts. So inspirational. Thank you for illuminating the soul of so many. Your words and images lift the spirit …

  2. You bring this place to life with your photo and words ~ an incredible place, and I can get a great sense of both peace and beauty of this place through both. A great place to weigh the simplicity of nature and the more complex creations we have with modernity. 🙂

  3. Lovely post, it made me feel quite peaceful. My Dad grew up on a beach that suffered from water erosion, his Dad had to invest in lots of big boulders and they used to add small rocks to it to make it bigger over the years to protect the house and wall.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by Charlotte and for your kind comment. You’ve got me thinking about how beach erosion continues to be a contentious topic these days as many more people are affected by bigger storms and rising waters the way your father and grandfather were. There is ongoing discussion about how best to prevent it or whether it should be stopped in certain areas. It’s a tug of war between human needs and desires versus the geologic process!

  4. Amazing pictures of an unfamiliar place to me, and I love how you’ve framed your experience. Like you, I know I can never escape from myself. Being in beauty and nature merely helps me to reset, to realize how small we are in the world.

    xo
    e

  5. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Atreyee. And you are doing so in one of my favorite places on this coast. There is a delicate balance between being in the moment in nature and letting it all go and not letting the expectations of the online world interrupt your appreciation of the moment. I fear that many only see the world through their phones and only to get the IG shot, rather than really appreciating what is in front of their eyes.

    • It is fascinating how so many of our inventions have had such unintended consequences upon society. That balance you speak of is so tricky to achieve for us. I find that the distractions change over the centuries, but the struggles remain the same. Thank you, Jane, for stopping by to read and comment about this.

  6. Slowing down, being in the moment, surrounded by nature: I’ve come to realize that this is the ultimate de-stressor for me. Point Reyes looks like such a beautiful and contemplative spot. Your photo of the endless beach backed by the cliffs is amazing.

  7. Those visuals are calling out to me. I know how you feel! 🙂 It’s the eternal dilemma of being a traveller and a price we pay for choosing to explore a world — different from the one we live in.

    • Thank you dear friend. 😌 The wonderful thing is we don’t have to travel far in order to explore those differences, something you’ve managed to highlight in your blog. I hope, equally, that my posts encourage a closer look at the paths we walk everyday and a curiosity about the neighborhoods we live in.

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