Monday, June 1, 2015

About the Journey

“It’s all about the journey,” people say, and I find that deeply irritating. But this February I took a day trip from San Jose to Monterey, and the bus ride along Route 101 was, astonishingly enough, an experience in itself.

The very light is revelatory. As I gaze out the window, I feel as if I am somehow both consuming the view and serving as a conduit for it—that it is flowing through me with such intensity I have no room for other thoughts or ideas—that I have been possessed by my own eyes, my vision.

The area is a landscape of curves and rises, folds and dimples and divots and creases and bulges—a soft landscape, smoothed in its lines as if blurred or melted.

In the midst of the hypnotic curves there are sudden surprises: the patch of yellow flowers bright as spilled paint; cows scattered along a hill, the sun turning two of them brick red among their dark fellows; an egret perched at the very top of a tree like a figurehead.

The light here becomes it owns character, with different moods that alter the landscape and create waves of drama as cloud shadows vaster than whales drift over the fields. Behind them, thin sunbeams spotlight and make majestic a single tree, a ridge, a row of artichokes whose spiked leaves appear burnished.

In the tilled fields rich shades of sienna and brown lie in row upon row, as if an artist had taken all her earth-toned pastels and stroked one after another, in wide lines, across a page. Their richness and variety is never-ending.

For a while we pass through low, low clouds, not as pervasive as fog—more confined—but so close that they seem personal, intimate, choosing to cover this particular field, this precise portion of road. And yet their cover is imperfect, so the sun is able to come through in radiant fibers, as if it has been strained through a fine mesh. It too seems closer and more tangible, made of threads of light, reaching down to a shadowed landscape.

The trees have their own personalities. The live oaks stretch sideways: broad, majestic, mysterious. The eucalyptus are sprung from an impressionist’s brush: long trunks made of streaks of white and grey and red, slashes of leaves shivering. Sometimes a row of saplings, pale and slim as soldiers, line the side of the road like solemn guardians. Sometimes a scrub of tangled branches, live oaks and brush and who knows what, form a low forest in the space before the fields: a small secret grove carpeted with russet leaves, in which the practice of ancient rites by ancient, unseen people seems entirely possible.

Near the coast the land changes: now there are great sweeps of gold and silver dunes, banded with beach plants in deep green and bright green and strips of rusty orange. The sand of them is tempting in the way of pristine snow—it draws you—you want to touch.

And finally, glimpsed in snatches from behind the dunes, the sea: layers of color and clarity that make the stomach drop. No other colors are the sea’s colors, no other smell the sea’s—which rushes in with an energizing chill and zest, a tang of brine that scours away all dullness and lethargy and lures us, addicts to our fix, to this, the land’s—and journey’s—end.

{A note: I do write all text and take all pictures. Please do not reproduce either without my permission.}


Anca said...

Lovely blog!

biobabbler said...

oop! So, that was summer of last year & I'm finally seeing it? =) It's very interesting to hear someone not from here describe my homeland. Thank you for your poetic words. =)

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