dreaming in the shadows of the Sleeping Maiden

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Mt. Tam glimpsed from the path by Core Madera Creek at Cape Marin in Greenbrae

A few days ago the grass by the banks of the creek was green and heavy with dew and fog. This morning, when I rode my bike on the path, men and machines were busy cutting the ribbons of meadow. The air was resplendent with the twined perfume of grass, hay, and wild fennel — all of which was salted slightly with the brine of tides.

By this afternoon, when I went back to take this picture, the shorn banks looked like they have been parched for the better part of the season, as if this were high summer already. I went back at this hour because I wanted to contrast the way the mountain looks on this day with how I captured it a year ago, when I was walking here not just in unsettled weather, but also in the midst of stormy passages we had to navigate back then as a family.

It was a newsletter from foursquare that reminded me where I was on this day last year and what was in my focus. And so the momentary impulse to “mark the territory” with the check-ins on foursquare turned into a trail of crumbs, whittled stale bread.

Mt. Tam glimpsed from the parking lot of Bon Air Center in Greenbrae

It’s barely past 7 pm, but it might as well be midnight by the looks of the empty parking lot. There is not much to do in a shopping center at the hour when the heat of the day gives way to the breeze coming over the mountain from the Pacific.

I hope the absence of cars here means the presence of bikes on the trail up the mountain or on the paths by the water’s edge, from the bay to creeks.

I hope this emptiness speaks of presence and clamor in other places, such as sidewalk cafes or terraces of pubs and restaurants. And if not that, at least conversations in gardens over a meal or a drink.

I hope it doesn’t speak of other empty spaces in the experience of people in front of their TVs or computers asking themselves where life might be. Empty spaces in the small recesses of the mind so deep that they can dwarf even the mountain….

Mt. Tam glimpsed with specks of fog

The crows were silent this morning. Maybe it was the clear skies or the light bursting forth a little earlier each day that left them with nothing to caw about. Come to think of it, there were few birds at the feeder this morning as well, as if the long weekend had sapped them all of song.

Or maybe it was the hours that I spent lost in double-entry bookkeeping tasks today that wiped my memory clean of the comings and goings of birds.

Mt. Tam glimpsed from the parking lot of the Town Center in Corte Madera

It’s Memorial Day, which might explain the absence of traffic on a main road in Marin on a Monday afternoon during what would be rush hour. There was something in the long shadows on the empty streets that called to my mind the paintings of de Chirico, the founder of the scuola metafisica art movement. In particular, I was thinking of his The Disquieting Muses. Not a single tree in sight in that picture, with the industrial landscape closing the horizon and fencing in the relics of classicism, which makes it very unlike the lush hills and slopes of Mt. Tam in the spring-filtered light in my photo. Still, the road, the way it cuts through seemingly to nowhere and flanked as it is by the lawns and hedges in the dark shadows has an unsettling quality for me. Hence the disquieting muses this afternoon….

Mt. Tam glimpsed from the San Rafael/Richmond Bridge

Today is the Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th Anniversary. A big day of celebrations, of crowds, and of civic excitement. We here at our house had much smaller, and more private, excitements; not exactly what you could call a crowd — but plenty of celebration over the last two days that brought the surprise visit of two dear family members from afar. With the Golden Gate Bridge closed tonight for fireworks and with our guests having to catch a flight back to their respective abodes from the San Francisco Airport, we thought it best to go to the East Bay for a quick dinner before they were to head over the San Francisco Bay Bridge, the only option available to them.

And so it came that today’s post of the mountain had me glimpse the peaks from the bridge, albeit not the bridge that’s in the news…

Mt. Tam glimpsed in wind

The winds howled all through the night and are still hard at work at a few of the more troublesome chords in their odd paean to spring giving way to summer. It’s that undertone of winter in the edged chill of the gusts that is beginning to reverberate on our nerves around here… Still, in spite of the chill and the bounty of pollen shook loose from trees and weeds, the skies are a spectacular blue, and the mountain in all this unfiltered light, it seems to me, stands a few feet taller and that much sharper in its peak.

Mt. Tam glimpsed from the Panoramic Highway, Mill Valley

A sudden chore took me to the Panoramic Highway today and into the territory of the Mt. Tamalpais State Park.  Since my chore didn’t allow for lollygagging, the photo opportunities for capturing the the peaks from the other side for a change were rather limited. There was just that one mad dash out of the car quickly parked by the side of the road. All that frenzy netted me 2 shots with the mountain still just distant scenery past the bend in the road. Which brings me to my own small sinister “bend in the road” of posting the photos of the world of Mt. Tam as I see it from where I stand: the photo I posted today has been <gasp> altered in Photoshop — and not just to make it look a little prettier in tone or contrast.

Turns out that the first photo I took didn’t have enough of the mountain in it, since I was trying to follow the red-clad cyclist heading for the curve in the road to add a shot of color to the picture. By the time I shot the next frame with more of the mountain in it, the cyclist receded, taking all that red with him. And so I was tempted and then gave in to the temptation to play with time. After all, all photographs play with time, slicing through the continuum, creating a lie of sorts about time and place.

And so I took the cyclist and had him backpedal to an earlier spot in the road, stitching the time I lost to the space I found later.  Sure, saying that photos lie doesn’t let me off the hook of having altered the picture. But I have disclosed it, and below is the evidence: the original pictures as I took them:

And there you have it …

Mt. Tam glimpsed from the side of Bon Air Road in Greenbrae

It seemed like the wind was blowing from every which way today, gusting then suddenly dying into a breeze, only to pick up force and speed again. I don’t know about other people, but for me, on days like this one it’s hard to hang on to a single thought — never mind the sheltering tent of an argument staked well into the ground of reason. Images, words, ideas, bits of prose and poetry — and even some code — all swirled around in my head making the notion of direction or progress just another passage in the choreography of confusion.

Mt. Tam glimpsed from the intersection of Corte Ramon & Via La Paz in Greenbrae

Apparently, Aristotle went on record to say that “we are what we repeatedly do.” Well then, this “daily photo of Mt. Tam” business of mine, does that make me a photographer? After nearly 5 months of doing this repeatedly, I can safely say that snapping that picture has become a habit. Whether the art of seeing the mountain anew has become the habitual practice of an art or just routine inhabited by the same vision, is hard for me to to tell. That I have been venturing out late in the day to capture a shot might be saying something about a little weariness on my part — or it may just be that around this time of the year, and from this side of the mountain, the light goes into high gear in the hours before the sun sets.