Mt. Tam glimpsed from Sausalito
Not exactly a gloomy day, but not quite sunny either. An in-between day. A long time ago, when I was a child on another continent, this was the day St. Nicholas would leave either some candy or a lump of coal in the shoe I had put out on the windowsill with great anticipation. Back in those days and in those parts of the world, around this time of the year there would have been plenty of snow. I would lie in bed, thinking of St. Nicholas crunching through the snow and lugging a heavy sack as he approached our block – we lived in an apartment building, though with a generous yard – and as he did so, going through his list. I worried for him. Thinking that he could easily make a mistake and leave the wrong thing in the shoe. Because one year I did get what amounted to a lump of coal: nearly moldy potatoes. There had to have been a big mistake, I reasoned, because in my heart of hearts I knew I had done nothing wrong. I could not fathom being capable of a transgression that would have St. Nicholas mad at me.
I thought of St. Nicholas during my bike ride around Sausalito today as I stopped to take a few pictures. On the bench, not far from where I had stopped, an old man with a prominent white beard was eating lunch out of a crumpled and obviously much-used plastic bag. His beat-up bike, customized with a homemade electric assist, was leaning against the trunk of a tree. His clothes were rumpled and a little filthy, too. But his smile was clean and fresh and brilliant, and his happiness shone through, like that of any kid out on a ride.
We talked briefly about our bikes and riding at our age. I believe we even flirted with each other – or rather, the subject of our bikes brought a touch of sweetness to an interaction I don’t think would have ever happened had it not been for our bikes.
Perhaps in some fairy tale the old man with the white beard and mischievous smile turns out to be St. Nicholas and the panniers on his bike turn out to be a bottomless source of sweetness for kids of all ages.
Mt. Tam barely outlined behind low-hanging clouds
We live in the clouds these days. Not because we are flying high, or feeling elated as such. Nope. It’s a matter of the clouds taking a risk and coming down to our level.
Life on cloud nine is no seventh heaven, let me tell you. Life on any cloud so within your reach is no heaven at all. It’s a soggy, humid mess that makes for a heady morose brew. It’s a spirit much diluted by what else, but plain old water.
When you live in the clouds, the way we are these days, it seems, you’ll have to make your own sunshine, unless you already have handy a nice stash of moonshine. Life in such low hanging clouds puts a damper on many things, including the effort to make the prose sparkle. So before I bring you all down to the level of the anchored cloud that covers the mountain today, I think I’ll stop right here….
A monochromatic Mt. Tam barely glimpsed at noon from the Bon Air Bridge in Greenbrae and presented here unfiltered and unedited, in nearly black and white
It’s a Tuesday, but it seems to be a day more fitting of a Monday. It’s a grey day, flatly so, which makes it a perfectly blue day – at least in the limited color scheme of that old song, Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down.
I am down, but not in the dumps of any kind. It’s just a few weary bones, the odd sore muscles, and slightly blotted enthusiasm with so much cloud cover hanging low, like the ripe fruit ready for the picking from some deep-rooted tree of depression. Fortunately I am still sated enough on the leftover surge of endorphins from a few very nice bike rides.
It’s understandable, this soggy heaviness. After all, here in Marin, last week brought us over 10 inches of rain, filling the reservoirs to capacity early in the season. As the year winds down and our waters rise, I am reminded of how this project is winding down and the tide of possibilities for new ones rise in proportion. To resurrect my old blog or not. And if so, how to give it new shape? To embrace new means of bringing honey to the hive of the Internet? That is, take the energy I still and contribute to the changing shape of the vessels in which to store the nectar of ideas that power (or at least chart) change….
Mt. Tam glimpse in the thick cover of clouds
Drawing a blank on the page for words. A blank drawing pictured through the lens of the camera. All seems sheathed in snow. But none has fallen. It’s just the blank white of a new Word document illuminated on the computer screen. And it’s just the rumple of fog and drizzle and clouds over the mountain. The mountain that is concealed in so much weather is not the mountain that comes to the fore here. It is fitting that on the first day of the last month of these posts, on which I tried to hang visions of a place older than words or eyes, the mountain I bring to you now is revealed only partially and in broken outlines, with the rest rock-solid in the bastion of mists.
Mt. Tam still unglimsable, even with a break in the storm, along the Corte Madera Creek in Kentfield
A potted plant, a big one, fell over in the garden in the middle of the night. The winds must have snared the spindly branches of the laurel that has been calling the pot home for years, turning it over to play a bit of soccer with it, before shoving the whole deal down some steps, shattering the pot into many pieces. Other than that, all looks intact in the garden and with the roof, if a little worse for wear from a stormy night.
Midday I was out and about. Went to see my cardiologist, just to check in to make sure that if nothing else, at least my cardiovascular system is set to train for an endurance bike ride down the road. Turns out that my cardiologist is also an avid cyclist. He gave me the all clear and set my mind at ease about some of those high heart rate readings I’ve been getting climbing hills on the new bike.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that I should take to my new training plans as this storm is taking to our little corner of the world…. Oddly enough, thanks to the fierce winds and the downpours I am forced to sit still, to savor the recovery from the last couple of weeks of overdoing it as I was trying to find that (to me) elusive golden mean. Much like I had to learn to go with that one picture of Mt. Tam every day here, regardless what I thought of it, whether the image was good enough or true enough or impressive enough, well, I am going to have to learn to train for an athletic performance not as a dress rehearsal every time, but as a simple and already fully contained step day in and day out. A step on a journey, and not necessarily on the one and only road to the finish line…. In other words, just for the sheer joy of it.
Mt. Tam seemingly impossible to glimpse on a stormy day
The storm arrived under the cover of night. Windows rattled, though hardly with even a hint of menace. Rain hit the pane, but it was a steady knock, if not exactly polite. Or an almost mindless tapping to the crescendo of a staid sonata. When morning came, the world was subdued in variations on grey and Mt. Tam swaddled in folds of thick clouds. The rain would pick up suddenly, and then just as suddenly let up.
Still, in between the rain-driven music and the wind-swept folds of dark clouds, patches of blue sky appeared. Yes, as Leonard Cohen has said already, “There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in…”
Mt. Tam glimpsed from US 101 near Richardson Bay
The Thanksgiving weekend is winding down, but not my sense of gratitude for all the bounty of days lately. So much to be thankful for, from family to health to living in a beautiful place like the San Francisco Bay Area. Any of it or all of it could change in an instant, but right now, it’s all here, it’s all palpable. And right here is all that we can have, after all.
We left our home early in the dark of a foggy predawn. Drove through nearly empty freeways and dropped off one son at the airport, where long lines were forming already and traffic was backing up as if it had been rush hour. From the airport we headed south to Woodside, where I joined two other intrepid Velo Girls for a “melo” ride along Cañada Road in plenty more mist and thicker fog, though in full daylight. It was my first bike ride in such conditions, conditions that in general would have had me in bed reading and sipping coffee and waiting for the sun to coax me outside only after the last of the thinnest veils of mist had lifted. I must really like riding the bike because it made no difference to me that my glasses turned into a sieve of condensation through which only bits and pieces of the landscape managed to fall through my eyes or that my fingers were almost too icy to feel the brakes or that my feet were chilling even as I pedaled faster. I just kept going, and in fact, the moisture in the air made breathing that much easier, or so it seemed at the time.
After my ride it was time to hurry back to Marin and head out to Inverness and Pt. Reyes with my friend Toni for the last day of Open Studios, where my friend Cate Olds had some spectacular paintings on show, all of them hinting at the poverty of maps charting the true territory.
And now it’s night and I am exhausted and short on words, but still very long on gratitude.
Mt. Tam, impossible to glimpse behind the wall of rain clouds
Rain, wind. But the well of words is parched. What was left pooled at the bottom, now blown far and wide. Back to the cozy corner, the hot tea, the pile of magazines, the slips of paper to catch the inked trace of dreams. And above all, back to the silence that sings above the wind.
Mt. Tam glimpsed in the rearview mirror, Bon Air Road, Greenbrae
With the sun setting so much earlier these days, courtesy of daylight savings time that finally gave us back the hour it took away in the spring, I feel a lot more pressure to get out there and try to catch the mountain while it is illuminated in a myriad ways. That is not always possible, so once again, I have to make do with the only shot I captured while the sun was shining. And even this single shot of the day is distanced further in vision by appearing only as a reflection within the small frame of the rearview mirror.
What wisdom can be gleaned from a day like this one, spent in chasing chores, working out at an even (almost dull) pace, eating mostly leftovers, sorting through old photos, shuffling papers, carrying out routine bookkeeping tasks, tending to laundry, making lists with almost the same items for tomorrow’s to-do list, and so it goes? Then again, what need is there for that elusive form wisdom, when gratitude, felt deep into the marrow of bones, for the grand parade of the mundane is more than enough?
How wonderful it is to be able to attend (by choice) to the mundane, the near-boring, the habitual, the by-the-rote, the usual, the same old stuff in this world in which so much seems in peril, especially when we glance at through a rearview mirror and then mistake that reflection for a crystal ball….
Mt. Tam glimpsed in a haze with my voting station clearly in focus
Haze hangs over the mountain on this otherwise sunny day. The temperatures have already reached the 80s, at least that’s what my car’s gauge told me. That it’s hazy on the horizon is an apt visual for today, as so many of us are heading out to vote and wait to see the results.
There were no lines at my voting station, just a steady stream of people coming and going, all upbeat and excited to be there, at least the group into which I ran. I am going to spend the rest of the daylight hours outside as much as possible, away from the news and gurgling stream of pundits. Then, tonight, when I turn on the TV, I suppose, between the analyses, there will be the onslaught of new ads replacing the political appeals with ones urging us to get shopping for Christmas. In this, politics is business as usual, for no matter who wins at the polls, the business of business will go on.
Still, if you can, get out there and vote!