Tamalpais

Mt. Tamalpais from Richmond

Mount Tamalpais from Rosie the Riveter National Park. Robin L. Chandler, 2018.

Living in the East Bay, our gaze draws westward, and this is not hard to understand. In the west looms San Francisco, our imperial city; our iconic bridges, the Golden Gate and the Bay Bridge; winter rainstorms are born there; and the sun, traversing the north-south longitude, sets in the west. And quietly, holding up the sky, Mount Tamalpais anchors my western horizon. Tamalpais is always there, grounding me; at times just in the corner of my eye, and other times commanding my full attention, whether near or far. My love for Mount Tamalpais has grown deep over the years – many chapters of my story feature this mountain. In the 19th century, the ukiyo-e artist Hokusai captured his love for a revered Japanese mountain with his famous series of woodblock prints Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.

Inspired by two books, Opening the Mountain: Circumambulating Mount Tamalpais A Ritual Walk by Mathew Davis & Michael Farrell Scott and Tamalpais Walking: Poetry, History and Prints by Tom Killion and Gary Snyder, I persuaded my dear friends, to walk from Muir Woods to East Peak, the top of Mount Tamalpais. At the end of March, we covered a distance of approximately twelve miles, spanning a range of plant communities, including redwoods, mixed evergreen forests, grasslands and chaparral, as well as plants, such as ceanothus, endemic to the mountain adapted to the Serpentine soils. Our journey gave amazing views of the greater Bay Area and we saw Mount Tam’s sister mountains: Black Mountain (west), Mount St. Helena (north), Mount Diablo (east) and Mount Hamilton (south). The artist Tom Killion began his love affair with Tamalpais as a young man, and inspired by Hokusai, he created beautiful prints of the mountain from multiple viewpoints, many of them featured in Tamalpais Walking.

Last week, cycling from Oakland to Richmond on the Bay Trail, I travelled a diverse landscape featuring mudflats so alive with plants and animals coexisting with trucks and cars speeding by on asphalt and cement highways. This is nature – mankind a dominating part of a community of flora and fauna; this is not wilderness. Throughout the journey, there was my friend Mount Tamalpais, on the horizon, a guidepost measuring my progress, a signpost holding close my memories.

 

 

embrace and see

 

Seebeyondmask

Robin L. Chandler, 2018

Some memories are like small towns on country roads;

once well travelled, now enigmas signifying an interstate exit.

Sister reminded me Mom’s favorite perfume was Faberge’s Tigress.

Dad bought her Tigress every Christmas.

Tigress: the sleek bottle containing the amber liquid crowned with a tiger skin stopper.

Unconscious memories no longer a mystery.

“Comprehend without your head

and without your ears, listen

to noiseless, un-mouthed words.”[1]

My mother was a Tigress – that was no mask.

She comprehended the noiseless, un-mouthed words of others.

Listening without her head and ears she always saw the truth behind other’s masks.

No matter how deep it cut-to-the-bone she always spoke her truth.

See suffered no fools.

And she always gave herself away for the benefit of others.

Across time and space I see you.

I embrace you.

I love you Tigress for all you did and hoped for me.

Namaste.

Written while listening to Caetano Veloso singing Cucurrucucu Paloma en Vivo inspired by the lyrics translated from Portuguese to English.

[1]A quote from Attar’s poem The Conference of the Birds, translated by Shole Wolpe

Arc (reveal)

ARC (reveal)

Robin L. Chandler, 2018.

The room is charged. His eyes two points that arc, revealing his story. He has fought the pain.  But there has been a price. He is so tired and there is so much he has forgotten.

“I sit with this room. With the grey walls that darken into corner. And one window with teeth in it. Sit so still you can hear your hair rustle in your shirt. Look away from the window when clouds and other things go by. [Ninety-seven] years old. There are no prizes.” [1]

[1]Michael OndaatjeComing Through Slaughter

mend (adjure)

Mend (adjure)

Robin L. Chandler, 2018.

 

Spring has roared awake.

Last Friday’s fervent downpour.

New leaves brilliant greens.

Soft. Supple. Hopeful.

 dear companions, follow Gary Snyder’s footprints:

Hiking Muir Woods to East Peak Tamalpais.

Day born in fog, climbing above misty clouds through rainy redwood rainforest.

Dappled sunshine coastal oaks and bay laurels; woodlands and meadows;

warmth on my skin.

Ridgeline a soft blanket enfolds the city, ocean sleeps

 cozy quilt.

Winding serpentine swale, wild turkey shares stories.

Manzanita blooms humming honey bees.

Twisted Pacific Madrona mark dry north side trail.

Paradox: Winter rains; little fog. A dryland.

Oasis of redwood trees, quench their timeless thirst by a spring.

Summiting: St. Helena to the North, Diablo to the East, Hamilton to the South.

From Tamalpais guardian of the West.

My mind locked in the winter of my Father’s illness. Naked and cold, not yet open to the thaw.

Will the hot sun of New Mexico burn winter away?

William Carlos Williams writes in Spring and All:

“Dead, brown leaves under them

Leafless vines –

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish, dazed spring approaches-

They enter the new world naked,

Cold, uncertain of it all

Save that they enter. All about them

The cold, familiar wind –“

slough time

 

Edison Slough

Edison Slough. Robin L. Chandler, 2018.

Sloughs are narrow, winding waterways where fresh and salt water mix with the rising and ebbing of the tides – a cycle of life, death and rebirth. When the tide recedes the muddy, marshy banks are exposed teeming with life; crabs, shrimps, worms, snails, clams make these flats their home. When the tide rises, these creatures feed on a nutrient rich “soup” created by decomposing plants and other small animals; when the tide ebbs, these shellfish and mollusks become a feast for birds and fishes that also call the slough home. In their time, these birds and fishes provide nourishment to yet other predators. Sloughs are a place measuring time by the absence and presence of water. It is a place for the soul to replenish and connect the tidal rhythm to the rhythm of sustaining our energy and our breath: give and take, in and out, give and take, in and out. Buddha was a gentle human seated amongst the world’s phenomena, contemplating life’s multiple rhythms.

Recently we visited Edison in Skagit County Washington. Walking along Edison’s slough, I was mindful of Gary Snyder’s words in The Practice of the Wild “walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind…the exact balance of spirit and humanity. Out walking, one notices where there is food…there are firsthand true stories of ‘your ass is somebody else’s meal’ a blunt way of saying interdependence, interconnection…give-and-take…what a big potlatch we are all members of! To acknowledge that each of us at the table will eventually be part of the meal is not just being ‘realistic.’ It is allowing the sacred to enter and accepting the sacramental aspect of our shaky temporary personal being.”

enchant and attend

enchantattend

Robin L. Chandler, 2018.

Myths and fairy tales are replete with enchantment; tales of magic, witchcraft and sorcery abound. Spells are cast and masks or disguises adorned. Beauty loved her beloved Beast, and Baucis and Philemon opened their home to Jupiter and Mercury disguised as mortals. But what are these disguises but masks, some donned purposefully, others worn in punishment.  My mother was a tiger; she donned her mask daily fighting with purpose. She fought to keep us safe, fought to keep us fed, and she fought to get her children all we deserved and more.  She donned her mask to attend to her duties as a mother and wife, but sometimes she fought with those she loved. The mask protected the sensitive intelligent woman underneath. We must all don masks to survive. Writing about the Mesoamerican mask traditions, Octavio Paz states “while we are alive we cannot escape from masks or names. We are inseparable from our fictions – our features. We are condemned to invent a mask for ourselves and afterward to discover that the mask is our true face.”*  With that insight, I understand why, unfortunately, after a while my mother forgot to remove her mask.

*from Alberto Ruz Lhuillier, quoted in Peter T. Markman and Roberta H. Markman, Masks of the Spirit: Image and Metaphor in Mesoamerica (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), xxi; Octavio Paz, Posdata (Mexico City: Siglo XXI, 1970), II.

Round Midnight

roundmidnight

Robin L. Chandler, 2018.

 

bittersweet

hope tinged with sadness

lonely cup of coffee with Hopper’s Nighthawks

searching for something; wishing to share

rounded body of all things in one

painting

rough and smooth

wet and dry

loosing yourself in the the act, life emerges

rounded body of all things in one

 “things that gave way entered unyielding masses,

heaviness fell into things that had no weight.”

From Ovid’s TheMetamorphoses, Book I, translated by Horace Gregory

Written listening to Thelonious Monk and Gerry Mulligan play Round Midnight on Mulligan Meets Monk recorded in New York City; August 12 – 13, 1957