Sienna Acorn Luminance

A journal from 7.18.2016

Sixteen years ago I was here. In summertime in Fresno, California, there is River Camp on the San Joaquin River. The air heats up quickly here, but by the river it is not so bad. The water and the trees make it cooler. This way you can go down to the river at Woodward Park some extremely hot dry valley day –try it in the afternoon, sometime– because you will find water there. You will find beauty you didn’t see before. When you go, be yourself caught in the river’s sienna acorn luminance with cheerful pale green leaves, where living water flows from the Sierra Nevadas. It was on a day like this I was ten years old and Grandma was driving me to this our beautiful river. There would be wonderings I could never forget, owl pellets and river rocks and the feel of the golden silt-sand underneath my bare feet in the shallows of the shimmer-green river. Now I am here visiting without a car, this day as an adult, and it is difficult to get around these parts without a car. Without a car you have to walk to the river because the places where the people live aren’t built like they used to be, how people used to be able to expect to get to the rivers on their own two feet.

This morning I walk the streets of my desert city and I meet an abundance of purple wine grapes planted for the joy of the public on the side of the road, at Blackstone and Shaw. In handfuls, they give themselves to me. The energy of this climate is condensed into these tiny clusters of grapes, a land and air so akin to the Mediterranean, and so the climate is called. These grapes are care-taken by some kind human who comes by to see that they are robust, but mostly the sun does his work and the valley soil does hers, even in the middle of the city. Firm and gleaming, a pale dust settles pleasingly on the ripe curve of each grape, making the backs of my jaws water by the look of them.

Margaret Hudson is a famous sculpture artist from here in Fresno. I went to visit her studio in the month of June earlier this year. It’s very hot in June in Fresno. Margaret wasn’t home because she is very old now and living elsewhere, but her art is still lively and all her sculpted creatures are still smiling who are created by day, by kiln, by the work of her hands. They are formed out of mud and earth and some deep joyful material. It must be the same joy that knows about making a desert a paradise, because the bringer of good words, the great one who forms faces from clay, is in all places in need of good water.

Every time I come back here I love this land more and more. When I was a teenager dreaming of other places, it wasn’t from a lack of love for this place. I wanted to take the pink blossoms of The Blossom Trail with me so they, too, could live in cleaner air by the sea in San Francisco. But that city didn’t really open to me, and I was never at home there, a traveller there for two years. But I always feel at home in Fresno, close to my Sierras, especially in the north by the San Joaquin River, or in the east near Clovis where in spring the Blossom Trail blooms.

 

8.13.2017

I think again of this poem I wrote, Heat Time Dawn

Heat time sunrise Fresno California
roses hum cricket’s continuous singing–
mourning dove’s soft hoot on the terrace
is perched at the edge of the sky

My desert is alive with the spirits of pine needle,
cottontail bounding in sage, to San Joaquin river
white live oak offering incense,
a hanging pot floats magic carpet to red roof

In the lush breeze of July dawn in the valley
listen for Worldmaker sauntering in the garden,
with Coyote and prickly pear he goes in the garden–
run out to meet him in dew drops on adobe

 

Photography Copyright © Amber MV. All rights reserved.

Del Valle

 

 

Looking through old notes I had saved from my time in Anake Outdoor School (September 2012-May 2013), I found a half-finished poem I scribbled at the campfire when our tribe stopped in Del Valle, California, in early February 2013 on our way further south to the Transverse Mountains and the Los Padres forest region of Quail Springs. Here’s the polished poem to better convey that sense of joy.

 

Del Valle

 

Night over the fire, coming down from

the Great North far now

from the land of Sitka and Birch

into Del Valle, hills green and brown

in the early spring evening.

Circle fire somewhere in the latitudes of

big open stars. Song of the clicking insects,

their language. Brother Coyote has arrived

and Sister Crow sets the table,

plates made for the ancestors,

communion of food chains all the way back.

Circle round for stories and songs.

Some are anointed with new names.

Others that were old are new-born.

Skin smells of bow-drill smoke, says

“I will tell you someday”.

Bright color is the work of the sun,

but everything is spilled into

shimmering darkness there

in the Milky Way overhead.

 

 

 

Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

White Spine Mountain

Backbone of the world

feather and spine rock

white mountains bridge

arching downward to stars

 

Place of the great mountain,

I turn to your turquoise

in a necklace of rivers

returning sight to the blind

 

You come from where lava flows

and pink blooms on your banks

in the wake of your thunder

in feather and bone

 

Traversing your old back

and making home in your rib valleys–

Mother! Enfold me in crevasses

unseen by the road

 

In the great places

where sky bends down to dust

I wake up in you, grey mountain,

green pine

 

 

 

Image © Amber MV. All rights reserved.

Remember Me Who Have Not Any Wings

 

Sparrows who come to live in our rafters, here you are welcome to nest. When you fly, will you take with you the undigested weight of the earth? I am not the mighty soul who remembers each one of you falling, but I, I can give you a place for your homes in the hallways above me, welcome your conversations and song into the courtyard in need of trickling water. Your voice taught the stream how to sing. Your Avian voices are water to olive groves, and to orange trees you are the crown. Do you hear all we say here below of you, Sparrows? You follow us into cities to watch over the wanderers, we without wings, who think they must fight to know God. You know a better way, in the trees, travelers of the wings. For you the Creator plucks feathers from Her own breast. Unafraid of the heat or the sun or the winds of the seasons, you are familiar, dear sparrows, to the gardenia of day, to purple jasmine’s desert night. Come, friend of the sunflower, and take with you our prayers and oblations, small birds, those who dip close to the walking world, that we too will find the house of the morning, that we will make our nest in the garden at dawn. Feathers of stained glass, I implore you, remember me who have not any wings, but two legs and full heart to walk to the daybreak of birdsong.

 

 

Written at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno, California, July 17th 2016

 

Photo by susannp4, CC0 Creative Commons Public Domain, Pixabay.com

The Discovery of the World

 

Last night I dreamt of an intersection of cars in the city, but on the corners were green and flowering trees. The sun was rising in the east and it caught the beauty of these shapes in gleaming angles, defiantly shining its light through the cars saying, “look closer”. God was near in this patch of land, unseen by others, hidden among weeds and small trees. Children and my peers were there, and we knew what we were sent out to find. It was as happy to be found by us as we were to find it.

 

 

 

 

image source

The Center of the World

In the old days, the people of Abraham called Jerusalem “the center of the world”. It was the axis of their universe around which every map encircled. In a way, they were right. Though it is not Jerusalem itself in a literal geographical sense that is the center, it is a spiritual place of being which, for a people, is loved above all else: the epicenter of the holy. It is the aliveness of a place.

In my life, the center of the universe is the house where I have slept and dreamt since I was a child, the mountain where I scattered your ashes, the coffee shop where we talked for happy hours of beautiful things. The center of my universe is the sacred fire of my people, the grey sidewalk where I first met you and I knew I already loved you, the welcoming door that is opened to friends with the sounds of greetings and love. Our land, your bed, these bodies, the garden of dark soil, the place where the clear water flows from the sky. This subtle cathedral, the infinite. On the map of our hearts, all the stars surely wheel around here. This is the center of the world.

 

 

image source: pixabay license

Recollection of the Birds of California Route 41

It might be the drive between sparkling, montane Quail Springs and comforting, familiar Fresno which is the most dismal, alienating four-hour drive in all of California. A ghastly expanse of oil rigs puncture godforsaken rock and ash where once were gentle Valley Oak and wildflower savannas roamed by Tule Elk and Bear. Nameless towns of nowhere on dusty highways appear from the no man’s land of big-box fast food stops, gas stations and sketchy motels with blinking neon lights. Any sight of human habitation in the form of neighborhoods are either monolithic tracts of identical mini McMansions, or lopsided old houses supported by tarps and barbed wire appearing to huddle together for dear life (assuming the inhabitants have found strength in community, as I hope). Just to make sure I got the message, I was pulled over by flashing blue and red lights and awarded a speeding ticket for doing a modest 68 in a mysteriously unmarked 55 mph zone, according to the cop, who was just doing his job. And when I, approaching Fresno from a distance still on the lower highway 41, saw that the air was so afflicted by a heavy carpet of smog so as to veil the mountains and the sun’s full shine in a brown haze, I almost no longer believed. At the edge of despair I thought the land was lost forever, when at once, something flashing, flame-shot with gold, caught the corner of my eye. From below the signposts and still grass of the roadside there arose in chorus a great congregation of birds from the earth like a fleet of angels in resurrection. I saw their beating wings catch the morning sun and reflect, in each perfectly synchronized turn of the flock, the red haze of the marred light in a new-made shimmer as if to give unshakable glory to the life eternal which still lives in this world, even in such a time as this. I saw more flocks gather around me as my car traveled on, and they flew overhead and resided there in the air in cadence with my own pace of flight. Their shadow was so dense above me that my sight became for a moment darkened, the outline of each feathered body becoming one. When having passed over me entirely, and, leaving the wake of my movement to myself once again, they seemed to take all darkness with them. And my eyes were wider, restored with light.

A recollection from my time at Quail Springs Permaculture Farm, Autumn 2013

 

image source: pixabay license

Conversations of Mountains and Angels

My friend J: Last night I dreamt of angels at play in the high mountain forests of the Sierra Nevadas, as you and I had spoke of them while we walked there in the groves of light. Now, I can’t think of angels as separate from birds. And the conversations between them and us are sustaining the whole world. May light pour into all of you, always.

 

 

 

Image © Amber MV. All rights reserved.

A Tree of Comfrey and Pterodactyls

Last night I dreamt I encountered a giant tree of comfrey. I thought to myself, “Maybe that’s what I need.” It grew taller than a vine maple. I approached it, and found beside it a long limb reaching out of the forest wall which it was planted near; at the end of this limb was a huge nest. I crawled up the limb and looked inside: it was a pterodactyl nest. The eggs were the size of lamps.

 

 

image source: public domain

It Has Never Been Discovered or Mapped

The following dream has been excavated from an old dream journal, dreamt sometime in 2008, and 17 or 18.

 

Wandering over the mountains, a hidden part of the Sierra Nevadas of California that nobody knows about and has never been discovered or mapped. Towards the east there are people robed in white and singing, and the pink light of dawn is enveloping the people in haloes. They are singing the sunrise into Creation.

 

 

image source: public domain

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