dreaming in the shadows of the Sleeping Maiden

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Mt. Tamalpais, December 29 2012

Mt. Tam glimpsed by Peggy Butler at Loch Lomond, in San Rafael

Three days left of the year … and of this project. This morning, the skies in Vancouver are densely packed with extra thick layers of clouds. The waters of the bay through the lightly tinted hotel windows appear dulled beyond any hope of teasing reflections out of them. Little seaplanes, but looking much like seagulls on steroids, swoop in and out taxing on the tinned water as they come and go to places on the island. The small forest at the point of Stanley Park is a color I can’t describe, but even if I could, green wouldn’t be one element of it right now. Beyond Stanley Park, Lion’s Gate Bridge, barely visible, but enough of it revealed to suggest an illusion of a shrunken Golden Gate Bridge that has been painted the wrong color.

It is now a little past five in the afternoon and I am ensconced in a chair at the Vancouver airport, waiting to board my flight back to San Francisco. Finally, a less-than-wonky connection to the Internet today, so that I could fetch the lovely photo Peggy took of Mt. Tam earlier today. By the looks of the skies over Mt. Tam, it appears that what I had to say of the landscape in Vancouver is applicable to Marin today as well, except that the waters of that more southerly bay are more coppery and the cloud cover over the mountain a little fluffier….

It has been an odd experience to attempt to post about Mt. Tam while trying to get reacquainted with the winter landscape in Vancouver – not to mention with relatives at holiday time. As I sit here, waiting to board my flight, I keep thinking that I failed a little at each of those things. Even with the wonder of the internets that can make you be in all sorts of places at once, talking to people apart, more than just in terms of geography, it is impossible to fully inhabit all those spaces, not to mention engage with all those people at once.

Mt. Tamalpais, December 27, 2012

Mt. Tam glimpsed by Peggy Butler from Alta Vista, San Rafael

It’s overcast in Vancouver, with thick layers of clouds hanging low and obscuring the wide bowl of sky I recall from my days of living here. To see the picture of Mt. Tam with blue skies and sunshine from where I am now makes for a feeling that is at once familiar and strange. It’s as if I were at home in both places at once, and, at the same time, away from any home I’ve known. The Internet, through which posting this is possible, gives me the illusion that home is always and simply a click away. But, as I am finding, that click can just as easily displace me from any place in which I thought I had solid roots. In fact, that click can just as easily dislodge the idea of place itself….

Mt. Tamalpais, December 26, 2012

Mt. Tam under changing skies, captured by Peggy Butler

Peggy took this lovely picture of Mt. Tam changing colors under fast-moving clouds earlier today while she was out walking with her canine family member, the incredible Cody, who, according to some, walks on paws large enough fit for a Sasquatch. It was great to see patches of blue skies, even if only in pictures, way south from where I am, here in Vancouver, where 50 shades of grey don’t even begin to cover the many ways in which that color comes to life.

Here in Vancouver the North Shore Mountains kept themselves out with view, shrouded in layers of clouds that didn’t budge much through the day … a day that seemed very short, at least in terms of daylight hours.

Thinking of rainbows and sun might just be the way Mt. Tam cast a long shadow over my mind today. A mind that is a bit mired right now in Christmases past, not to mention the bogs of memory of a city the way it was when I used to live here, barely readable now in its reconfigured grids of streets and skyline.

Mt. Tamalpais, December 25, 2012

Mt. Tam glimpsed by Peggy Butler from the Loch Lomond Marina

When I woke up this morning, the first thing I saw were snow-covered peaks. For a split second I thought Santa had brought a wintery touch to Mt. Tam this Christmas morning, but then I realized, I was far north from there and, in fact, staring at the more rugged, and certainly more foreboding peaks of the North Shore Mountains in Vancouver.

Meanwhile, as I watched the layer of clouds descend slowly over the slopes of Grouse, back in Marin, Peggy Butler and Cody, her dog, were braving the elements in the Loch Lomond Marina to bring you this mystic view of Mt. Tam from across the water. She had sent me a series of wonderful pictures, making the choice to post a single one truly difficult. In the end I settled for this one, because of the clouds… Especially the clouds near the mountain that seem to have gathered themselves into the shape of a woman’s profile, as if the spirit of the sleeping maiden had risen from a long dream to join us at the table to share in the bounty of this holiday season that ends with the start of a new year.

Mt. Tamlapais, September 2012

Mt. Tam glimpsed from US 101 in San Rafael

My riding buddy and I met over coffee at our local Peet’s to plot out our ride today. We took things a little too leisurely, since we didn’t “saddle up” until past 1:30 pm. Though we chose a course that had us coasting downhill for a few miles at the beginning of the ride, we realized that coming back that same way later in the day is likely to pose a challenge for which we might not be up (pun intended, I suppose.) Still, we pedaled on along the country roads with small uphill climbs that taxed a little but then gave way to brief descents for sweet recovery. When we finally reached the halfway point of our planned route, we stopped for a very late lunch. From where I called the spouse to come pick us up….

Fair-weather riders, or just a couple of old broads with riding plans for younger legs and lungs…. We were done riding for the day. Which explains the near-afterthought of today’s picture of Mt. Tam caught from the cushy passenger seat of a car taking us the fast way home.

Mt. Tamalpais, September 5, 2012

Mt. Tam glimpsed from 5th and C Street, San Rafael

Those are genuine clouds hovering over Mt. Tam in the distance. I had business in San Rafael at City Hall today, and though the light was gloomy, even in the middle of morning, I thought it perfect for today’s shot.  Fall, falling into our consciousness with a little more speed these days. Not that heat waves can’t wash over us yet and bring that hurried and almost desperate brilliance of late season sun. Back in 1989, at the time of the Loma Prieta earthquake on October 17, it was hot. Last year, too, the end of September had us sweltering. I am sure we’ll be seeing many more sunsets along the creek lighting up the skies with a wide flare. At least I am hoping, even if I am not exactly sure. I could have never imagined that the weather would become a topic of interest for me, but given its tendencies to ignore seasons and averages lately, it has done its best to keep us talking about it.

But enough of the weather and back to the business of midweek and the still-aching hands creaking over the keyboard….

Mt. Tamalpais, September 1, 2012

Mt. Tam glimpsed from Bret Harte Road in San Rafael

It is still summer, but the weather is in full rehearsal for fall. Foggy mornings and cool breezes. Evenings that arrive a little too early, as if they were anxious about being punctual. And the light, so porous, as if it had been trapped by dust kicked up in the wake of summer careening down a dirt road, in a hurry to chase after fresh memories.

Mt. Tamalpais, 2012

Mt. Tam, barely glimpsed beyond Patrick’s Office Supplies, from 3rd Street in San Rafael

According to my gadget that claims to measure the quality of my sleep, I haven’t moved or even stirred for nearly 8 hours last night. Dead to the world, catching up not just on sleep, but also on dreams. After a night like that I was ready to join my friend Diane on a walk through the hidden gems of San Rafael.

Diane, who has lived in the same location in San Rafael for a good number of years, walks just about every day. Her peripatetic outings have made her privy to colorful stories about a good number of houses of different character well beyond the confines of her own neighborhood. I couldn’t have had a better (and more charming!) guide to take me through the maze of streets hidden in plain sight and barely beyond the main arteries of the city.

Who knew that tiny stretches of streets in San Rafael could offer such a wealth of sights, not to mention abodes from ones befitting hobbits to the grander scale of titans, if not the mythical ones, at least those of industry?

I am very thankful to Diane for introducing me to a new city, in effect. I am even more thankful to her for taking my mind off worries and opening up a whole new venue for my next bike ride. I’ll be rolling through those streets in the next couple of days, retracing the 5 miles we covered as we meandered.

I am afraid that Mt. Tam fell out of focus for me today in view of the grander delights of this walk.

Mt. Tam glimpsed through the windshield of the car on Altura Way in San Rafael

There seems to be some kind of trouble requiring road repairs on the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge that had traffic snarling both ways for long stretches along US 101 in Marin, so I took the back roads in the hills to get around. I stopped on a whim atop Altura Way to catch Mt. Tam’s rise into view through the porous haze of early evening, a time barely past happy hour.

I was on my way back from San Rafael Joe’s, where a small group of us has taken to knitting through happy hour on Mondays. I went mostly for the company and the non-alcoholic beer today, since my right ring finger decided to take a break from its usual chores – that is, it’s moving slower than the others, and, at times, gets stuck in place. Which is also why I am not going to write much more here tonight … to everyone’s relief (including mine!)