California Summer 2017

30 days on a houseboat in Sausalito, California

       Sunrise over my window

The word that sums up my time is Immersion, not just my work but everything around me.

A few days after I arrive, I’m all in, a sweet spot to be. Wide windows bring in light, beauty and joy. I’m wrapped in light as I revise my novel manuscript. This moment turns into ritual, and no words mean more to me than George Saunders on story writing, when he speaks about “Revision as a form of active love, love in progress.”

When it’s time to leave the lovely home and artist residence, I’m grateful for all it has given me: nourishment, groundedness, productivity, company, ease and quiet. But more than anything, I’m thankful for the love.

From my window, I watch two seagulls grooming, necking

quick beak kisses before one bird steps a short distance away,

perhaps to absorb, to have a private moment only to be aroused

to flight by more seagulls making throaty sounds upon seeing a hawk.

treasure

Beach treasure

A series of travel adventures begin, mostly to do with primeval woods and wineries.

This is what I want to ask one of the oldest redwoods in Armstrong State Reserve in Guerneville, Sonoma county: How do you tell 1000 years, 2000 years, 2450 years of living tall without humbling the listener?

trunk2

    Woods

The town of Guerneville itself is a Haruki Murakami story. I’m not sure which one exactly. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World novel comes to mind, so does the short story, Super-Frog Saves Tokyo. As a matter of fact, Guerneville area is home to frog and toad species, because of its wet landscape. So, perhaps, the short story fits this town. Some of the characters for certain are intriguing and unsettling in a manner that made me not want to get too close.

However, tucked away in Duncans Mills is a piece of sky, literally, a fond space called “Island in the Sky” loop that’s part of Willow Creek trail. Flowering meadows and stunning views abound, but before you can get to that, you need to start out on Freezeout Road, which has a parking lot that can only be accessed through a locked gate—yes, you read that correctly. The gate is locked, so you’d need a flying vehicle to park in that lot. I didn’t stretch the truth when I mentioned Murakami’s story.

Fort Bragg, Mendocino county, CA

This town doesn’t look like it sounds. It is soft and has several pockets of sunshine where you can anchor, watch the Pacific Ocean, eat good food, walk along the coastal beach gathering glass treasures, fall in love with the rare pygmy forest, climb the ecological staircase at Jug Handle State Natural Reserve, discover more species of Rhododendrons than you’d remember, visit more redwoods, parks, and wind up at the Botanical gardens that transport you to other places you’ve been before, which for me is home—in the dahlias and fuchsias outside our veranda, the trumpet flowers we blew up as kids, and the Lily of the Nile we didn’t know was beautiful then.

      Nourishment

At the Botanical gardens, even the weeds look happy and healthy—salubrious!

This is the place to pitch camp for a little longer, sit at a table and drink wine, look in the eyes of a loved one, break bread, eat cheese and read coffee cups for remains of conversation, while stories of Rasputin float in the beer that’s aged in whisky barrels. In this place, old and new memories stream in all the precious little moments that make up big moments. How fortunate to be alive, how very fortunate to feel enough. In this place, whatever imperfections of travel, internal or external, that have informed my perceptions crumble into fragments which are now insignificant to this imperfect self that’s pledged devotion to loving an imperfect world.

Caspar

This is a town left behind. Even the ghosts have moved elsewhere. casparRemaining beauty only in the name, which reminds me of the Caspian Sea. There is the Pacific front and might as well be like the sea. When I was a child, I made up fantastical images of two vagabond kids boating on the Caspian Sea. Of course, I was one of those children and perhaps that’s why it makes sense to write about a town that has nothing other than a name and waterfront that reminds me of my childhood fantasies. The more jolting part is that I could be living the fantasies.

chapel

  Sea Ranch chapel

The Sea Ranch, Sonoma county. 

This is pale fire. Understated. Minimal appeal yet tasteful. Subtle wood, light tones, nothing heavy. Novella-like. Short. Small. A young girl whose breasts are forming. Full beauty yet to come into being. In fact, may never happen but the promise, the potential, make up for what’s yet to mature even if it never does.

San Anselmo, CA

The town in-between places. It gives you quick access to Mt. Tamalpais, Point Reyes, Limantour beach, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Marin County Civic Center and other cool spots that may be grounded or whimsical, depending on your interests.

San Francisco, CA

San Francisco is San Francisco.

The Japanese tea gardens make me wonder why I have not yet made a trip to Japan. The art of making tea, pouring tea, drinking tea, making a gravel pathway, greeting a stranger… bleed into everything Japanese aesthetics that demonstrate a keen attention to detail and a dedication to beauty that’s minimal and grand at the same time.

On the way home, I see a beggar in a red checkered sweater and worn out sandals. He looks shriveled, surrounded by pooping pigeons while tourists pass by without a care. It occurs to me that were I to spend a week as a homeless person, San Francisco would not be the city to do it.

The Dog Patch Minnesota Street Project, San Francisco

A lot inspires me in the art galleries and museums that make up this project. But what stands out most is the Expired Books Project. Those books that are no longer wanted by libraries and will therefore be destroyed or…

What does it mean for a book to expire?

A story, A memory

To run out of time?

Is it like a heart that stops beating?

When my dad died, his watch stopped ticking

Luckily for the books, their lives are being documented

Once they reach their finish line, they’ll start afresh in new form

Confirming yet again that creation and destruction are two sides

of the same coin. Therefore, we have nothing to worry about.

dahlia

 

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