Written by Gentle Jeffrey Pine.
Written by Gentle Jeffrey Pine.
Early in July of 2017 I visited my homeland region of the San Joaquin Valley and Sierra Nevada Mountains. It’s something gentle to my heart, a mystery why this place keeps calling out to me with such love over such distance, across time and space. The Sierra Nevada mountains of California, I have long held, are what a heaven shall be like when the great celestial places come to settle their love on our small and intimate Earth, it is told, in the life of the world to come. How I love this cathedral range, mountains of gentler snow and light and love.
I journeyed into these mountains of mine for two days, alone with my little car and a quietness in me, on July 6th and 7th. I stayed at extraordinary Mono Hot Springs, where I wish the likes of me could somehow live with my sweet husband, our two cats, and a sure chosen family-community for the rest of our lives. Of course, this magical little town of a dozen-or-so is seasonal, arising out of the glitter-snows of winter for half the year in hotter days of late spring through early autumn. There are real true springs, there: warm, lovely scented (a good smell of the washing and comforting earth!) sulfur springs welling up from the high meadow paradise grounds. It is said the Original Peoples ventured there, the Mono and Miwok and other ancestral, indigenous travelers from over the range. I speak prayers of thanks and friendship to them while I walk, barefoot and lightly clothed in rectangular fabric, the paths of the little mountain meadow hillsides where these springs of warm renewal rise.
Walking this land, this place I love likely more than any other I have tread or even seen depicted by the captured frames of light, my heart jumps in happy greeting at the sight of familiar specie-friends. What a happy revelation to find that the days of searching and studying the knowledge of these plant and animal species truly does create clearer eyes in humans who go walking int heir homelands. At various times in this visit to the Sierras I was, at turns, lovesick in my heart for feeling, at once, such a great love for this place yet missing my husband and our two little cats back in my current home of the Puget Sound. I wanted, with longing, that all my loves would be gathered together –as we hope for in heaven. No wonder that the images I have dreamt of my original family resurrected to life is of our meeting in these Sierra Nevada mountains.
And here, friends, I speak your names once more, a litany of love and homecoming, of belonging to the profound and sacred heart-comfort of this place. I recorded your good names in a notepad to remember you, that I should not forget I have seen you again. I shall see you again.
Western Juniper – Juniper occidentalis
Douglas Fir – Pseutotsuga menziesii
Ponderosa Pine – Pinus ponderosa
Jeffrey Pine – Pinus jeffreyi
Western White Pine – Pinus monticola
White Alder – Alnus incana
California Bay Laurel – Umbellularia californica
(Up and down the way through Oregon:) – Interior Live Oak – Quercus wislienii
Mountain Dogwood – Cornus nuttallii
Oregon Grape – Berberis aquifolium
Poison Oak – Toxicodendron diversilobum
White Stem Raspberry – Rubus leucodermis
Thimbleberry – Rubus parvifolus
A Gooseberry Unknown
Manzanita (Greenleaf, likely)
also Pinemat, Whiteleaf
Bracken Fern (whom I thought was Lady Fern, mistooken)
Pteridium aquilinum variation. pubescens. Rounded lobes.
Lady Ferm pattern: little tufts along her spine,
Athyrium falpestre var. americanum
Lupine – type? Who, among so many names.
Miner’s Lettuce – Claytonia perfoliata
Paintbrush – Applegate’s, Indian? – Castilleja applegatei species.
Jepson’s Pea –a brilliant pink of hearts! – Lathyrus jepsonii
Gay Penstemon, happy, joyful – Penstemon laetus! –Laudete!
Animals, Animalia, Kingdom
– the Ones through Whom God looks out through all eyes.
Golden Buprestid, a Beetle of Brilliance
Sierran Blue-winged Grasshopper
“Northern & Boreal Bluet”, Common Blue Damselfly – Enallagma cyathigerum
and female var. E. boreale
Western Fence Lizard! Blue-Belly!
Sandpiper (almond orchard, down in the San Joaquin Valley)
Turkey Vultures (different from Condors, the greats)
Mourning Dove, whose song I love, who greets the hot day
and makes her mourning into singing.
Northern Mockingbird, the scout-flapper-flier.
– Do not all these deserve the same love?
American Robin – Turdus migratorius – steady on laws to remind us, to cheer us
Saw somebody with a yellow belly, not sure of his name yet, fine feathers of turmeric.
Stellar’s Jay – his eyebrows stripes of vertical white are different here
than in the Puget Sound. Two light-blue
eyes stripes vertical!
Dark-eyed Junco – Junco hyemalis
California Ground Squirrel (distinct white back)
Raven – Corvus corax –
harbinger unto the end
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.
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 © Gentle J. Pine. All rights reserved.
I have dreamt the mountains are so close to my house in the city, the whole long range spanning the Cascades down to the Sierras, huge and magnified, their icy caps leaning over small neighborhoods in primeval protection. American Cordillera. In my dreams, the mountains spell the nearness of God. They are the mother mountains where clean waters come down and angels go to live in animal bodies a while. From the car driving by the foothills it looks sometimes like you can jump out of the car and run up there to catch fish in clear waters. Glitter white-gold sand, burnt-sienna Ponderosa pine needle trails, my California; wet Western Redcedar mossy deep green curling ferns, my Cascadia– I turn to the great land and the land turns in closer to me. A banner of turquoise in lakes, Milky Way trail of spirits –Inland Pacific! Lands of my birth! And the Range of Light is always at the edge of my mind, moving mountains in dreams.
image: Creative Commons CC0
An excerpt from the book
‘Deeper Than Gold: Indian Life in the Sierra Foothills’
a story from the Maidu Nation of California
In the early days of this world, there was no death. When someone was killed or died, it was always possible to bring them back to life. It was Worldmaker who had said:
“When people die, after they are dead, they will be laid over into the river, and, when they have lain there, they will come to life again.”
However, Coyote disagreed:
“When people die, they shall be dead, and they will be buried under the earth. Indeed, the dead will not be going here and there in the morning. When they are dead, they will be dead.”
After that, Worldmaker did not speak. Instead, he gathered his things together and left. He soon came upon a small creek, whereupon he set two horsetail rushes on either side of the meandering little waterway.
Soon after Coyote asked his son, who he loved dearly, to fetch some water. When he reached the edge of the creek, the two horsetail rushes had turned into rattlesnakes, and they bit him. Then it was that Coyote’s son died. It was then that Coyote pleaded to reverse the outcome of death he had argued for. But it was to no avail; it could not be undone. He chased after Worldmaker, pleading for his son to be brought back to life. Worldmaker ignored him, continuing to travel about the country. And so it is today: when people die, they stay dead. The horsetail rush continues to live by the stream. And sometimes they do indeed turn themselves back into rattlesnakes, there, by the water’s edge.
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,
Image © Gentle J. Pine. All rights reserved.
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.
Through a dense forest I walked in the wintertime, called to share my knowledge for some purpose, and ostensibly to investigate an abandoned fairy playground. A horse wanted to come with me, but I could not get her over the very high fences. Thick snow covered the path but, my way, I could see clearly through it. All was frozen but I wasn’t cold.
Before me there was a magnificent giant bird; in all dreamworlds I have not seem anyone like him. He was a behemoth Wren, but a shock of blood-crimson color against the snow. Unlike a Wren in every way but that he was shaped liked one. I followed him and he led me through an abandoned barn.
On the other side were giant trees, a hundred times taller than the Giant Sequoias, and the snow was gone, and my breath was drawn from me. The trees breathed in place of my lungs and I became a part of them, sharing in their respiration. Horse found her way in the end.
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.