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dreaming in the shadows of the Sleeping Maiden

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Mt. Tam glimpsed from the Larkspur Ferry Terminal, Larkspur

Today is a cleaver of sorts, one that splits the year in half, or, if you consider the other meaning of this word, it is also a day that holds the two halves of the year together. Today also marks the halfway point in this project I took on to post a picture a day of Mt. Tam on this blog. I should have posted in the middle of the day to keep to things half done, but at that point, I was out riding my bike mostly at the edge of where water and land meet.

It would have been great to mark the day with a spectacular picture of the mountain, but as I rode by the Larkspur Ferry Terminal and caught a glimpse of Mt. Tam halved by the office building atop Wood Island in Larkspur, it occurred to me that the halves and halved areas in this picture are just what is called for the occasion.

Besides, the second half of the day had me going to San Anselmo to celebrate at the fabulous Half 2012 Gratitude Par-tay that @tamholland of Bean Up the Nose Art hosted to mark not only the half of this year, but also to help remind us of what may be some of the things in life we would like to have more of in the next six months, as well as of those that we would like to see a lot less cluttering our days.

True to the theme of the party and the day, half the crowd spilled unto the street to take advantage of the breeze that took endless joy rides through the cul-de-sac. Some of us hung around until the sun almost set, as if making sure we had a light and festive footing for the second half of the year.

Mt. Tam glimpsed in a morning’s light sometime back in 2005 perhaps, or maybe even 2003

I live in the suburbs. On a cul-de-sac no less. It’s not Wisteria Lane of Desperate Housewives by any stretch of the imagination, but over the decades  of living here with my neighbors, most of whom were already in residence when we moved in, we’ve shared enough stories for another 8-year season of that now cancelled show. We may not be as glamorous or as stylishly desperate as those “wives,” but we certainly can make a party come to life.

Last night, one of our neighbors invited us to dinner on a moment’s notice, the kind of thing few people in Marin do or can do, given their propensity to load their calendars with activities as if these were blue prints for the edifice of a life well lived. Not that I am immune to the charms of staring at a fully marked-up calendar myself, but it so happened that I had nothing planned for last night.

The neighbor who invited us had grown up in the house he now inhabits with his wife. After the passing of his parents he had remodeled the house extensively, but also kept its characteristically 1960s style so evident in the light fixtures, the paneling of some walls, and the general color palette of the décor.

The dinner was a group effort, with the hosting couple providing the main dishes and the drinks, and the rest of us bringing the appetizers and desserts. We arrived at the house of our neighbor with our trays of dips and chips and pies just as the sun was angling itself for lighting up Mt. Tam for its summer evening spectacular. We all have views of the mountain, views we take for granted, as if they were an architectural element of our own houses. When we find ourselves in each other’s homes, at first it’s always unsettling to catch a glimpse of the peaks of Mt. Tam as if they had slipped or moved along the horizon somehow.

As we got into the party mood, nibbling at the appetizers and sipping drinks, the mountain faded from view, or at least from our awareness of its constant presence. As did the sense of time, for me. Surrounded by the echoes of 1960s in the decor, I became aware of how we, too, seemed dressed up in clothes that wouldn’t look out of place at a gathering from that decade. The little black dress one neighbor wore, my capris & sweater set, the makeup on another, the casserole and the pies, and the talk about Manhattans, fishing trips and ancestors, but not much about our kids, of which we all have a few, ranging in age from teens to mid-forties … it all made me think of the world of Don Draper of Mad Men, another TV show that illuminates the world in the glow and heavy smoke of nostalgia, much the same way as the sun paints Mt. Tam larger and softer just before night falls.

Mt. Tam glimpsed from the parking lot of Asher Clinic at Marin Country Mart in Larkspur (across from the ferry terminal)

What this picture can’t carry across the screen for your pleasure is the scent of the lavender in this morning’s mild breeze. The purest of organic essential oils or the priciest designer sachets could not capture or contain the gentle tap of that scent on the senses.

This morning follows the latest sunset of the year, which might explain why it seemed to me that we had such glorious light lollygagging all over Marin last night, turning the Corte Madera Creek into a river of gold and adjusting the shades of green relentlessly on the hills to play up streaks of yellow and tease out new shades of bronze, as well as igniting the dry grass into sparks of light in the wind.

With all that freshness and brand new brightness of the morning and its sweet-scented promise of so much more of this to come, you’d think I’d wait at least into the afternoon to select the definitive picture and then write about the day that was in this post. Instead, I decided to keep the morning fresh for posterity – well, for the day, in Internet time – even if it means that as far as living in the shadow of the Sleeping Maiden is concerned here, I am done for the day.

Which also means that I can now go out and live it up, without having to frame any of it in pictures or words….

Mt. Tam glimpsed from the Town Center in Corte Madera

The breeze is gentle and has no quarrel with the afternoon’s heat. The mountain is clearly visible, even though there is a hint of haze weighing the air down. The day is neither gone, but nor is there enough left of it for fresh starts that could reinvent the day.

In the hour between chores I took myself off to the Town Center in Corte Madera. I should have biked there, but was planning on getting some books, which would have complicated riding my hybrid bike that has no pannier or any other of the gadgets that make commuter bikes so handy for such errands and explorations.

I wish I had the time to sit under that umbrella, near the potted lemon trees at Il Fornaio. Perhaps even sip a glass of red and munch on some olives, all the while scribble away on some important writing project, looking up only now and then to catch a sight of the mountain. Instead, I am hurrying back home to make sure I’ll have time to write the entry for today’s post….

Mt. Tam glimpsed by Celia Graterol while riding on the Larkspur bike path

Today’s view of the mountain is courtesy of Celia Graterol, who captured the peaks on a recent ride along the much-loved and very photogenic Larkspur bike path that links Corte Madera and Larkspur together, providing plenty of opportunities for pedestrians, bikers, skateboarders, and other amblers to get around some of Marin’s most picturesque neighborhoods without getting into a car.

I am writing this post, sitting at the dinner table with Celia and Sally Kuhlman slightly under the influence of the most aromatic roasted chicken mingled with that of sauteing Brussels sprouts, all this laced with the more delicate hint of roasted  potatoes, getting hungrier by the minute. Poncho, the dog, has already sampled some of the fare we are bout to share and he is breathing heavily in approval.

Mt. Tam glimpsed in a wind-patterned dance of clouds

Plenty of wind out there to blow away even the most stubborn cobwebs, but since I spent the day mostly indoors and in a car going to and fro running errands and such, I managed to keep the dust on my brain pretty much intact.

In fact, thanks to an accidental dial turn in my car’s radio, I managed to stumble back into the 1970s. The hits from that decade blared on as I drove around Marin, and for most of the time, I found myself imagining that I was seeing another mountain’s ridge, that of Grouse in Vancouver. Back in the 1970s, when these oldies were brand new, I drove around in a gold Javelin, a 1968 model, which I thought was really hot. What’s more, I also thought I was hot, especially as I was driving around  in my gold chariot … but that goes with teenage territory.

Anyway, here I was in 2012 now, going back and forth on Sir Francis Drake Blvd in my ’90s car, feeling hot … literally, with the windows closed because I was too embarrassed to be caught at stop lights with the music of the ’70s blaring from my car. Mt. Tam appeared and disappeared from view as I drove back and forth listening to the Beatles and to Gordon Lightfoot (good Lord, Gordon Lightfoot … it took me a little time to remember who he was…) and then Blondie, or Deborah Harry singing Heart of Glass.

That last one set the earworm racing in my head, so I thought I’d share it with you, my gentle readers. Here is a YouTube video of Deborah Harry singing Heart of Glass, capped with a hilarious thread of comments, some centering on the dark ages we had to endure before teeth-whitening procedures turned smiles into small flashing neon advertisements for new ways of wasting money.

Mt. Tam glimpsed in the rising moonlight

I took this picture, shortly after 9 pm on Saturday, June 23. Yesterday evening, that is. At that hour, Sunday, June 24, had already burst on the scene in New York. On the western shores of Europe, Sunday was unfolding into the light of day rolling across the continent, while the folks over in New Zealand were about to get ready for Sunday dinner, perhaps even catching a glimpse of the winter sunset coming their way.

When I headed out last night, I tried to stand in pretty much the same spot from where I took the picture for what is now yesterday’s post. I tried to bookend the day, but that proved to be impossible, given that I had this sense that my day never really started yesterday. Sure, there were the cups of coffee and the lists of things I had to do and the list of things I wanted to do. Not much got checked off from either.

Laundry from one list. When in doubt, at a loss, anxious, or even after the ecstasy, there is the laundry, to quote Jack Kornfield of Spirit Rock. As for items from the “want” list, like biking over to the San Anselmo Art & Wine Festival, I got as far as catching a ride with the spouse late in the afternoon, when parking proved impossible and my mood too sour for crowds. So we drove on and bought groceries instead. By the time we got back home, we scrapped the plans for going to the movies, too.

And so it happened that the only moment that both put me fully in and took me out of the day that never took off, was the small gap in the darkening sky through which moonlight threw its anchor … or, in this case a bait for words.

Mt. Tam glimpsed through the play of clouds

There is a chill in the air, an edge honed by winds that are also driving those clouds every which way over the mountain … the mountain that seems to be slipping away from me somewhat. Slight injuries keep me from hiking or wandering across the hills in search of better views, but it’s not so much the physical distance from the mountain that bothers me.

Lately I’ve been perusing pictures of Mt. Tam all over online. Thanks to the proliferation of photo apps, there are plenty varieties of re-visioned pictures of the mountain. Instagram is one popular medium for catching filtered and squared views of the peaks to make them look like dusty gallery finds of the obscure work of a painter from centuries past, or the psychedelic dreams of an eternal hippie, or the faded mementos of days past from a family outing. They all seem to tell a story in a way my daily shots can’t deliver, at least not without the frame of words. Of course, I’ve used Instagram myself for a quick capture of a view that matched a fleeting mood to post instantly to Twitter or Facebook, unable to resist that impulse to share without having to explain myself, or account for my taste.

With so many filtered and altered pictures of Mt. Tam out there (some of those mine, actually) these daily simple photos here seem, well, dull. Pedestrian, prosaic, paltry. The resolve to capture a daily shot and post it without alteration, save for a quick tone or focus correction, now seems like a resolution to perform a series of daily sit-ups or floss after each meal.

Maybe I hit the proverbial wall…. Not that this will stop me from trying to carry on anyway.

Mt. Tam glimpsed (barely) from Sir Francis Drake Blvd. in Larkspur Landing

Fog and clouds with a relentless appetite for blue skies and vistas chopped up the skyline this morning. On a smaller scale, this amorphous alliance powered by wind and droplets of steam washed out the color of my imagination too.  A little bit of January in June, which somehow reminds me of a poem by Robert Hass from a time lost to (ironically enough) time:

To a Reader

I’ve watched memory wound you.
I felt nothing but envy.
Having slept in wet meadows,
I was not through desiring.
Imagine January and the beach,
a bleached sky, gulls. And
look seaward: what is not there
is there, isn’t it, the huge
bird of the first light
arched above first waters
beyond our touching or intention
or the reasonable shore.

From Praise, 1979

Mt. Tam glimpsed shortly after sunrise

And true to form, our first full day of summer burst upon the scene with thick layers of fog and frigid winds whipping them in trailing bits and clumps fast across the mountain and into the bay to come together as blanket over the city. There is a rumor out there that Mark Twain said he had spent the coldest winter one summer in San Francisco. I don’t know if he had actually said this, but I bet a lot of tourists feel much the same way when they find themselves in San Francisco and realize that they have packed only for their dreams of a golden California.