Our last morning the sun rises pink and orange on the tops of the redwoods we see through the skylight in our tiny cabin. Technically the “pool house” the cabin is nestled between 6 enormous closely growing redwoods and feels as though in the midst of a dense forest. The pool sits flat on a hill-side with a view between trees of a sprawling valley, filled with the bristling tops of trees. It is 7:30 am on December 11 and we look around tentatively before stripping off our clothes and plunging in to the pool to glide through the blue sky, orange tree tops, dense green foliage and clear unchemical-ed water. A salt water pool, it smells like a pond, but feels more fresh. We emerge just as the sun has alit on the ground and, giggling a little, the morning sun dries and warms, and fills us with an energy that, difficult to describe, feels like the first time you went swimming, or like pure joy. Though our trip was barely more than a day, arriving in at night and leaving in the morning with a day between, we grinded and glided over the country roads through more bucolic countryside that any one person could take in. The moon almost full lit the nights with a spotlight like brilliance, the sun rose and set gloriously. Wednesday we went to the volunteer workday at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center. The OAEC is a sprawling 80 acre farm and residence that hosts interns, classes, workshops, livestock, and the most vibrant bristling dense gardens I’ve ever seen.
Still kept and organized, the mere amount and diversity of what they grow is overwhelming, looking around there was always something emerging, entangled. We set down our belongings with the other volunteers and as I looked back at Molly, idyllically standing in the sun beneath a yellow brugmanzia flower I noticed the brown fuzzy skin of a kiwi dangling by the blossom. We took tubs and sat together in the sun discussing raw food, meat, tooth decay as it relates to diet, and other nutrition topics while pulling the green and sticky sweet smelling lemon verbena leaves from the branches which had been trimmed back for the winter and in anticipation of new spring growth. Doug, one of the head gardeners for the center brought out a pot of lemon verbena tea. Garbage mike, a 70 year old coot with a penchant for telling big stories and aggrandizing himself would interject when the conversation got too new age or sentimental saying suspiciously “I don’t know, sounds pretty organic to me” and then laughing uproariously. Some of those who worked there seemed to regard him with a mix of tolerance, kindness and irritation, but I thought he was wonderful. Looking like a miner straight out of the 18oos he wore his hair in a bob, his beard thick and full wider than long, a wide brimmed hat, old work levis and a plaid shirt tucked in. His stories almost all revolved around hot springs. After the verbena was harvested we took shovels to mix soil, filled gallon plastic pots and transplanted red sage, geranium, a variety of thyme and a few other varieties of salvia. The lunch bell rang and we washed up and walked down a dirt road, under the tortured looking limbs of some beautiful old oaks to the dining building which fits gracefully in with the hill-side.
OAEC hires a gourmet cook to prepare meals when it is volunteer day, as well as during workshops and courses. There was a beautiful vegetarian meal of butternut squash risotto, beet and fennel salad, celery root with olives and capers, a fresh green salad with walnuts and goat cheese, all grown or made at the center. Olive oil, salt and pepper, vinegar. Large wooden tables crafted following the curve of the wood, under the oaks on a hill in the delectable sun. We walked more of the gardens and then Molly and I decided to cut out and head over the hills and farmland to the ocean.
I don’t know what it is about the country, the broken and leaning fences, the big old barns right on the road, the color, the simplicity, feeling dwarved by a landscape that humans can only attempt to contain while the thrashing exuberant fecundity consumes all. Here the cylces of living and the cycles of dying are not separated out but left to feed each other in a rapturous enthralling tangle. This false dichotomy between life and death that is our de facto reality in the city is striped of its instituional weight and exposed as a naïve and simplistic farse here. Decomposition, death, new growth enmeshed rising together, falling in ebbs. We fly, glide bump and trumble over this road that is not quite half a two-lane. The sunlight looks truly yellow through the trees at two in the afternoon and the old stone walls and green green hills we glimpse from the tops of hills over fields and clearings make me feel like we are on a road-trip in scotland, Molly says the same thing that I’m thinking and how lucky we are to have this secret feeling place so close. It’s all of what you’d expect, and it is still too much beauty to absorb. I understand why country life is slower, the crushing beauty of it would be overwhelming, plus, how could you hurry, I find myslef driving slower. As we crest some of the last hills and ridges the landscape grows more open, there are rock outcroppings and big fuzzy headed cows, the hills are truly green against the gem tones of the ocean and heading down the gully road lined with eucalyptus there are black silhoettes of cypress, arms oustretched into the white sun’s reflection on the water.
We devise a two person tag strategy that involves counting and throwing rocks and enticing with secrets of spiritual enlightenment, we do some acro yoga and roll down some sand doons, manage to get sand in every pocket and clothing item we brought including our underwear, jump across the silvery snake-like rivulets of water, and head into town to get dinner makings. Driving from the setting sun to the rising moon again with the last light and wind whipping hair around in our faces we leave the coast. Dinner is roasted vegetables, meatballs with yogurt sauce and quinoa, wine, and some beer, and a little fire in the stove and Molly and I, Ben and Lauren have lots of fun, but I don’t remember that much this morning except reading excerpts from “English as She is Spoken” which was written by a guy who spoke portuguese, not a word of english, and used a portuguese to french phrase book and then a french to english phrase book. Example:
“Nothing some money, nothing of Swiss.”
“He sin in trouble water.”
“A bad arrangement is better than a process.”
“He has a good beak.”
“In the country of blinds, the one eyed man are kings.”
“With a tongue one go to Roma.”
“A horse baared don’t look him the tooth.”
“It want to beat the iron during it is hot.”
“He is not so devil as he is black.”